Christological Hymn

    Paul’s Letter to the Philippians contains within it a famous Christological Hymn which provides a wonderful summary of the life and redemptive work of Jesus Christ here on earth.  In the hymn, Paul praises the example of Christ’s humble obedience; explaining how “he humbled himself, being obedient to death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:8 NAB).[1]”  The hymn proclaims the divine nature of Christ that pre-existed before the Incarnation.  Paul explains that Christ lowered himself, taking on human nature; he “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped (Philippians 2:6).[2]”  Paul’s choice of language and content within the hymn seems to point towards Jesus being the fullness of the Revelation made by God in the Old Testament.  By his redeeming death, Jesus has atoned for the disorder caused by Adam.[3] 

    Paul’s hymn references one of the common themes found in the Book of Isaiah on the Servant of the Lord, which describes how Christ’s humiliation and death are the cause of salvation for all.[4]  The hymn demonstrates how Christ is the fulfillment of the prophecies in the Old Testament; for in Christ, the new Adam, the salvation promised in the proto-Gospel comes about.[5]  Paul is concerned with demonstrating the humanity of Jesus Christ, along with his glorification in heaven.  He works to simultaneously portray Christ’s humanity and divinity, a truth shrouded in mystery.

    Paul’s Christological hymn in Philippians is one of the earliest texts concerning the divinity of Jesus Christ in the New Testament.  The Fathers of the Church draw out the Adam typology, using the sixth verse of St. Paul’s hymn.  Unlike Adam, Christ did not grasp for equality with God.  When the text says that “Christ emptied himself,” it means that he took the form of a servant, not that he ceased to be God.  His divine nature, the same as that of God the Father, was unchanged throughout his whole life.[6]  Christ’s obedience, even to the point of death on a cross, makes up for the disobedience of the first man Adam.  The only begotten Son of God, the Word and Wisdom of the Father, who co-existed with God in glory before the creation of the world, emptied himself, took the form of a servant and was obedient unto death in order to teach obedience to those who can be saved only if they learn to obey.[7]

Jaime Zarse

[1] The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version (New York: Collins, 1973).

[2] The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version (New York: Collins, 1973).

[3] Jose Maria Casciaro, St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, The Navarre Bible Commentary (New York: Scepter Publishers, 1965), 734.

[4] Casciaro, St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 734.

[5] Casciaro, St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 734.

[6] Casciaro, St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 738.

[7] Casciaro, St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 739.

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