George Hunsinger’s gloss of the Christ Hymn in Philippians 2

I’ve been reading George Hunsinger’s (my doktorvater, for anyone who might be new around here) entry in the Brazos Theoloical Commentary on the Bible series on Philippians. Anyone who has studied with George will find this book to be a compendium and application of many of his most characteristic and beloved analytical tools and patterns, and I’ve been enjoying it immensely. But one of the things that really stood out to me was how he glossed the so-called “Christ hymn” of Philippians 2.

George Hunsinger, Philippians, Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids: BrazosPress, 2020).

The gloss that Hunsinger provides is not a historical-critical interpretation. Rather, it is an ecclesial, ecumenical, and theological interpretation that attempts to fill in the blanks for how to understand this proto-liturgical formulation in light of the later formulations of the ecumenical creeds. In order to achieve this gloss, Hunsinger engages in “ecclesial hermeneutics” and makes “use of a complex exegetical/hermeneutical feedback loop” (p. 69–70). Additionally, he provides this gloss in four segments as he works his way through, but I think it’s also helpful to pull them all together.

All the formatting is in the original: bold (the text from Philippians), italics (technical vocabulary, creedal quotations, etc.), and brackets (Hunsinger’s expansions / elaborations). I’ve inserted the page numbers. Enjoy!

Christ Jesus [the incarnate Son], who being in the form of God [belonging to the divine ousia as the eternal Son] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped [did not regard the outward form of the divine glory, along with the normal exercise of its prerogatives, which he shared equally with God the Father, as a fixed mode of existence that could not, in all generosity and humility, be relinquished for the good of others]. (pp. 45–46)

But emptied himself [the eternal Son, in becoming flesh, divested himself of the outward trappings of his divine glory as well as of the normal exercise of his divine prerogatives], taking the form of a slave [fulfilling his act of self-emptying in a correspondingly radical act of self-abnegation as the incarnate Son], being born in the likeness of human beings [the eternal Son, having assumed Jesus’s human nature into hypostatic union with himself—without separation or division, without confusion or change—by the power of the Holy Spirit (conceptus de Spiritus Sancto), was born like any other human being, yet of the Virgin Mary (natus ex Maria Virgine), so that in his humanity he was like us in all respects except without sinning]. (p. 53)

And being found in human form [the form of Adam], he [the incarnate Son] humbled himself [putting the interests of others ahead of his own] by becoming obedient [as the suffering servant] to the point of death [for our sakes and in our place], even death on a cross [in the shameful form of a crucified slave, by which his divine glory and lordship were concealed]. (p. 57)

Therefore [for this reason, i.e., on account of his faithful obedience in love] God [the Father] has highly exalted him [the incarnate, crucified Son] and bestowed on him the name that is above every name [the ineffable divine name], so that at the name of Jesus [now equal to the ineffable name] every knee should bow [in a supreme act of worship], in heaven and on earth and under the earth [in a way that is universal in scope], and every tongue confess [by the power of the Holy Spirit] that Jesus Christ is Lord [one of the earliest Christian confessions], to the glory of God the Father [because the Father is not glorified without the Son, nor is the Son glorified without the Father]. (p. 68)



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