The Name Above Every Name

Over at Vridar, Neil Godfrey discussed the argument (a point of agreement between mythicist Paul-Louis Couchoud and his opponent A. D. Howell-Smith) that the “name above every name” bestowed upon the central figure in Philippians 2:6-11 is the name Jesus. I concur with Godfrey that this is a matter about which it is possible to reasonably disagree. I will explain here briefly why I am persuaded that Howell-Smith and Couchoud are incorrect in their interpretation of the Christological hymn in Philippians 2. First, one must consider the inherent likelihood that Jews such as Paul and at least some of his readers in Philippi would have taken for granted that the name which is above every name is God’s name. Moreover, Paul emphasizes the ultimate supremacy of God even in relation to Christ in 1 Corinthians 15:27-28. Since “Jesus” is nowhere attested as a name for God prior to the rise of belief in Jesus’ own divinity within Christianity, if the name that is in view in Philippians 2 is “Jesus,” then we would have to understand that God gives a name superior to his own to the central figure of the passage. This scarcely seems likely. Moreover, the bestowal of the name “Jesus” would not account for the application to this figure of reverence described as due to the one supreme God Yahweh alone in Isaiah 45:23-24. The bestowal of the divine name, however, would make sense of it, since presumably the recipient of the divine name could be viewed either as the one foreseen in the passage, or perhaps more likely, as Yahweh’s agent. The bestowal of the divine name upon a principle agent is found in other Jewish texts (3 Enoch and the Apocalypse of Abraham), Samaritan sources (where it is applied to Moses), as well as other Christian texts (the Gospel of John, in particular 17:11). To this must be added as well the fact that the name “Jesus” was a common Jewish name (Joshua) and would not be one to think of for any obvious reason as “the name that is above all names.” And so I respectfully suggest that this passage envisages Jesus being exalted by God to a rank second only to God’s own, as other passages in Paul’s letters envisage. To indicate that Jesus (a common human name that this human individual, who suffered on a cross, already had) had been exalted to the highest status to which a human could attain, God bestowed upon him his own name, as other Jewish and related literature suggested God might do with a supreme agent. This understanding of the name seems to me to do the best justice to the Jewish context, the intertextual echoes from Isaiah, and the comparable ideas in Paul’s other writings as well as other early Christian literature. Needless to say, I think that the attempt to try to utilize this passage as part of a case for mythicism is unpersuasive. But it should be emphasized that this is not only because the other claims made by mythicists are unconvincing, but because the interpretation of this text which some mythicists as well as non-mythicists have proposed is less likely that that which I have offered here. For discussion of the issue of pre-existence in 1 Corinthians 8:6, see the recent post on this subject at Diglotting, which also points out the widespread notion, relevant to this passage, that the divine identity and name could be shared with a supreme agent. For more on the Philippians hymn and other passages that may or may not envisage an incarnation, see too James Dunn’s essay on “Incarnation”. And see too my discussion of this passage and of the divine name in New Testament Christology in my books The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context and John’s Apologetic Christology.

  • http://evolvingthoughts.net John S. Wilkins

    Is it possible that we should see Paul as a kind of polytheist in this text?

    • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

      I
      think that hymn is by the author of ‘Hebrews’ because of the
      similarities (between bold and italics passages):
      Php2:6-11
      “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with
      God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the
      very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being
      found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became
      obedient to death
      .[Heb5:8 "... he learned
      obedience from what he suffered ..."]
      ` …
      Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him
      the name that is above every name
      ,[Heb1:4b "as
      the name he has inherited is superior to theirs."]
      `
      that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on
      earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ
      is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
      Now
      let’s look at Heb1:4-5a “So he became as much superior to the
      angels as the name he has inherited is superior to
      theirs
      . For to which of the angels did God ever say,
      You are my Son; today I have become your
      Father?”
      It
      is clear to me that the superlative name that the author of hymn had
      in mind (but did not dare to say yet) was Son of God.
      I
      think that hymn is by the author of ‘Hebrews’ because of the
      similarities (between bold and italics passages):

      Php2:6-11
      “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with
      God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the
      very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being
      found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became
      obedient to death
      .[Heb5:8 "... he learned
      obedience from what he suffered ..."]
      ` …
      Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him
      the name that is above every name
      ,[Heb1:4b "as
      the name he has inherited is superior to theirs."]
      `
      that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on
      earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ
      is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

      Now
      let’s look at Heb1:4-5a “So he became as much superior to the
      angels as the name he has inherited is superior to
      theirs
      . For to which of the angels did God ever say,
      You are my Son; today I have become your
      Father?”

      It
      is clear to me that the superlative name that the author of hymn had
      in mind (but did not dare to say yet) was Son of God.

  • http://evolvingthoughts.net John S. Wilkins

    Is it possible that we should see Paul as a kind of polytheist in this text?

    • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

      I think that hymn is by the author of ‘Hebrews’ because of the similarities (between bold and italics passages):
      Php2:6-11
      “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death. [Heb5:8 "... he learned obedience from what he suffered ..."]
      ` … Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, [Heb1:4b "as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs."]
      ` that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

      Now let’s look at Heb1:4-5a “So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father?”

      It is clear to me that the superlative name that the author of the hymn had in mind (but did not dare to say yet) was Son of God.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    John, I would say that Paul fits within the boundaries of first-century Jewish “monotheism,” but what allegiance to one God alone meant then was not precisely what “monotheism” typically means nowadays.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    John, I would say that Paul fits within the boundaries of first-century Jewish “monotheism,” but what allegiance to one God alone meant then was not precisely what “monotheism” typically means nowadays.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Bernard, could not the author of Hebrews get it from the hymn rather than vice versa? The author of Hebrews may not have been the only talented Greek speaker in this circle.

    J

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Bernard, could not the author of Hebrews get it from the hymn rather than vice versa? The author of Hebrews may not have been the only talented Greek speaker in this circle.

    James, informative article. I thought about it more in terms of implications for Paul’s seemingly high christology here. We can clearly see how ideas like 3 Enoch and the Apocalypse of Abraham, Enoch, and philosophers like Philo shape the ideas of Christians like Paul and probably the 12. I think it has implications for the majority of Christians by showing the Trinity to be late, and not the intention of the founders of Christianity.

    The argument that Paul does not think of Jesus as God is much easier to make than than Doherty’s. There is no passage that explicitly says Jesus is God in Paul, the few that might be implied that was, can be shown, as here, to be clearly within contemporary Jewish practice, and be considered monotheistic by most Jews. And of course, as we have been showing arguments to explain the several passages that are probably referring to a historical person are rather difficult to explain by MJ’ers and can draw little support from known usages of similar terms.

  • Anonymous

    James, I think I need a point of clarification.  You are saying God gave his name to Jesus; are you saying that God gave the name ‘Yawhew’ or ‘Lord’ or something else?

  • Gilgamesh42

    James, I think I need a point of clarification.  You are saying God gave his name to Jesus; are you saying that God gave the name ‘Yawhew’ or ‘Lord’ or something else?

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Gilgamesh, the divine name is Yahweh. Sometimes “Lord” was and is used as a circumlocution for the divine name. But when ancient Jewish and related sources talk about God giving his name to a principal agent, it is indeed that divine name, YHWH, that is in view.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

      James, I wondered if the reason Paul does not actually say the name that is above every name in the hymn, is because that name was not pronounced and the circumlocution, is not really the name, so there would be no reason to write to include Yahweh in the song.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Gilgamesh, the divine name is Yahweh. Sometimes “Lord” was and is used as a circumlocution for the divine name. But when ancient Jewish and related sources talk about God giving his name to a principal agent, it is indeed that divine name, YHWH, that is in view.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

      James, I wondered if the reason Paul does not actually say the name that is above every name in the hymn, is because that name was not pronounced and the circumlocution, is not really the name, so there would be no reason to write to include Yahweh in the song. But there are times when Paul uses a mention of LORD (presumably written Adoni in Paul’s source) as reference to Jesus, as in all who call on the name of the LORD will be saved. Do you think Paul’s use of Lord as a tittle for Jesus is a way to identify Jesus with the Name of God?

  • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

    Mike wrote:

    “Bernard, could not the author of Hebrews get it from the hymn rather than vice versa? The author of Hebrews may not have been the only talented Greek speaker in this circle.”

    BM: Of course, there is a possibility it is as you said. However, in view of some close analogies with two short passages in ‘Hebrews’, AND similarity of style with the aforementioned epistle, AND similarity with the themes developed all over the same epistle, I think the possibility you mentioned is very small.

  • http://historical-jesus.info/ Bernard Muller

    Mike wrote:

    “Bernard, could not the author of Hebrews get it from the hymn rather than vice versa? The author of Hebrews may not have been the only talented Greek speaker in this circle.”

    BM: Of course, there is a possibility it is as you said. However, in view of some close analogies with two short passages in ‘Hebrews’, AND similarity of style with the aforementioned epistle, AND similarity with the themes developed all over the same epistle, I think the possibility you mentioned is very small.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Michael Wilson, yes indeed, it is not surprising, but important to explain, that Paul in this passage does not write out the actual name of God, just as he does not do so elsewhere, and just like the majority of other Jews in his time who seem to have avoided writing and speaking the divine name.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Michael Wilson, yes indeed, it is not surprising, but important to explain, that Paul in this passage does not write out the actual name of God, just as he does not do so elsewhere, and just like the majority of other Jews in his time who seem to have avoided writing and speaking the divine name.

  • Donald Jacobs

    Very interesting post. I am glad to have found this blog. I have just finished reading “The Only True God” and am now half way through “John’s Apostolic Christology”. Excellent books.
    I think the argument that the name given to Jesus in Philippians 2 is the divine name is a sound one. It reminds me of an excellent article about Jesus and the divine name by Charles Gieschen. “The Divine Name in Ante-Nicene Christology.” Vigiliae Christianae 57 (2003) 115-158. Well worth a look if you have not already seen it.

  • Donald Jacobs

    Very interesting post. I am glad to have found this blog. I have just finished reading “The Only True God” and am now half way through “John’s Apostolic Christology”. Excellent books.
    I think the argument that the name given to Jesus in Philippians 2 is the divine name is a sound one. It reminds me of an excellent article about Jesus and the divine name by Charles Gieschen. “The Divine Name in Ante-Nicene Christology.” Vigiliae Christianae 57 (2003) 115-158. Well worth a look if you have not already seen it.

  • Anonymous

    James, thank you for doing this.  Most often when I look at commentaries, they just say the name is Lord without argument.  Do you also make this case in your books?  (Give me a reason to by them :) ).

    The interpretation you give is a reasonable one, but perhaps it is still consistent with the one Couchoud has.  First, the hymn explicitly says “in the name of Jesus”, and as Mike noted under your interpretation it seems Paul would more likely have written “in the name of the Lord”.  However, it is the case that the name of God is already in the name ‘Jesus’.  In the Hebrew, it is ‘Yehowshuwa’ meaning “Yahweh is Salvation”.  As such, the divine name is given in the name ‘Jesus’.  Compare this to the title given to Metatron.  This would then improve both your interpretation as well as Couchoud’s.

    Is this compromise too much a stretch?  

  • Gilgamesh42

    James, thank you for doing this.  Most often when I look at commentaries, they just say the name is Lord without argument.  Do you also make this case in your books?  (Give me a reason to by them :) ).

    The interpretation you give is a reasonable one, but perhaps it is still consistent with the one Couchoud has.  First, the hymn explicitly says “in the name of Jesus”, and as Mike noted under your interpretation it seems Paul would more likely have written “in the name of the Lord”.  However, it is the case that the name of God is already in the name ‘Jesus’.  In the Hebrew, it is ‘Yehowshuwa’ meaning “Yahweh is Salvation”.  As such, the divine name is given in the name ‘Jesus’.  Compare this to the title given to Metatron.  This would then improve both your interpretation as well as Couchoud’s.

    Is this compromise too much a stretch?  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Gilgamesh, I think bow at the name of Jesus because Jesus has been given God’s unspeakable name, not to replace his own, but as an attribute. While there is a theophoric aspect to Jesus, it was a very common name and while it has a fortunate meaning in terms

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Wilson/1355591760 Michael Wilson

    Gilgamesh, I think bow at the name of Jesus because Jesus has been given God’s unspeakable name, not to replace his own, but as an attribute. When you bow to to Elizabeth, it is not to “Elizabeth” you bow to, but to her title, “Queen of England”.

    While there is a theophoric aspect to Jesus, it was a very common name and while it has a fortunate meaning in terms of Christian doctrine, I think most common Jewish names could be adopted to fit Christian doctrine in some way. I don’t think that to much spiritual significance, though, should be attached to a name that every tenth person had, on the other hand, nobody was named Yahweh, and only a very few people in Jewish society would even know what that word sounded like(my spelling is speculative).

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Gilgamesh, the problem I have with that is that Yeshua was no more a name for God than any other Jewish name that included a theophoric element. John, Jeconiah, Jeremiah, Hezekiah, all have some religious meaning, but all are common human names which incorporate the name of God, rather than themselves being names for God.

    Does that make sense?

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Gilgamesh, the problem I have with that is that Yeshua was no more a name for God than any other Jewish name that included a theophoric element. John, Jeconiah, Jeremiah, Hezekiah, all have some religious meaning, but all are common human names which incorporate the name of God, rather than themselves being names for God.

    Does that make sense?

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Gilgamesh, I almost missed mentioning the most important point – yes, I discuss this text and others like it in my books! :-)

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Gilgamesh, I almost missed mentioning the most important point – yes, I discuss this text and others like it in my books! :-)

  • Anonymous

    @facebook-1355591760:disqus: I don’t think you picked a very good example.  I never hear “bow to Elizabeth” but “bow to the Queen”.  Are you in a first-name relationship with the monarchy?  Otherwise, it seems your example actually makes my point; we should expect one to bow to the name of “the Lord” rather than “Jesus”.

    @jamesfmcgrath:disqus: I understand your point of the commonality of theophoric names and Jesus in particular.  However, I don’t really know now much commonality is a strong argument.  After all, Jesus is called “the Door”, “the Way”, “the Word”, all are common words but given spiritual significance.  And as we had discussed in another comment section, other human names were used for angels of God.

    However, you have the concern that this common name of ‘Jesus’ would be so important a Christological title over any other theophoric name or one invented by the early Christians.  And it’s a very good point.  I had stated how the name means ‘savior’ and that that would be appropriate for one that brings about salvation.  But allow me to consider another point along these lines.  This hymn in Philippians is structured on Isaiah 45, and there it refers to “the God of Israel Savior”.  Only three names/titles are used in the LXX of this chapter, Theos, Kurios, and Soter, and in particular vv. 22-3 uses Theos and Soter.  Thus, the one using Isa 45:22-3 in creating this hymn in Phil 2 would naturally come across the divine name and the word ‘savior’.  This would then more naturally make ‘Jesus’ rather than ‘John’ and the rest you mentioned as the name above all other names.

    The interpretation I give that utilizes Couchoud’s and yours is able to do the best job and avoid the issues you have with Couchoud’s. It also gets past the problem with your interpretation that the Philippians hymn says the name ‘Jesus’ and not ‘the Lord’.  I think my compromise between these two interpretations has the fewest problems, and the only remaining issue you have (the commonality of the name ‘Jesus’) doesn’t seems as difficult as the problem your interpretation has.  Again, I agree with you that this is a passage where reasonable disagreement can exist, so here I wish to reasonably disagree. :)

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      That sounds reasonable. But I disagree. :-)

      • Anonymous

        As long as I can at least be reasonable, that’s fine with me!

  • Gilgamesh42

    @facebook-1355591760:disqus: I don’t think you picked a very good example.  I never hear “bow to Elizabeth” but “bow to the Queen”.  Are you in a first-name relationship with the monarchy?  Otherwise, it seems your example actually makes my point; we should expect one to bow to the name of “the Lord” rather than “Jesus”.

    @jamesfmcgrath:disqus: I understand your point of the commonality of theophoric names and Jesus in particular.  However, I don’t really know now much commonality is a strong argument.  After all, Jesus is called “the Door”, “the Way”, “the Word”, all are common words but given spiritual significance.  And as we had discussed in another comment section, other human names were used for angels of God.

    However, you have the concern that this common name of ‘Jesus’ would be so important a Christological title over any other theophoric name or one invented by the early Christians.  And it’s a very good point.  I had stated how the name means ‘savior’ and that that would be appropriate for one that brings about salvation.  But allow me to consider another point along these lines.  This hymn in Philippians is structured on Isaiah 45, and there it refers to “the God of Israel Savior”.  Only three names/titles are used in the LXX of this chapter, Theos, Kurios, and Soter, and in particular vv. 22-3 uses Theos and Soter.  Thus, the one using Isa 45:22-3 in creating this hymn in Phil 2 would naturally come across the divine name and the word ‘savior’.  This would then more naturally make ‘Jesus’ rather than ‘John’ and the rest you mentioned as the name above all other names.

    The interpretation I give that utilizes Couchoud’s and yours is able to do the best job and avoid the issues you have with Couchoud’s. It also gets past the problem with your interpretation that the Philippians hymn says the name ‘Jesus’ and not ‘the Lord’.  I think my compromise between these two interpretations has the fewest problems, and the only remaining issue you have (the commonality of the name ‘Jesus’) doesn’t seems as difficult as the problem your interpretation has.  Again, I agree with you that this is a passage where reasonable disagreement can exist, so here I wish to reasonably disagree. :)

    • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      That sounds reasonable. But I disagree. :-)

      • Gilgamesh42

        As long as I can at least be reasonable, that’s fine with me!

  • GakuseiDon

    Bernard, I like the idea that the name that was “above all other names” is “Son of God”. It matches what Paul wrote in Rom 1:3-4:

    “[Christ
    Jesus. . .] who
    came from the seed of David according to the flesh, who was appointed
    Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his
    resurrection from the dead”.

    It matches the Phil 2 passages well: “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
    Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name”

  • GakuseiDon

    Bernard, I like the idea that the name that was “above all other names” is “Son of God”. It matches what Paul wrote in Rom 1:3-4:

    “[Christ
    Jesus. . .] who
    came from the seed of David according to the flesh, who was appointed
    Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his
    resurrection from the dead”.

    It matches the Phil 2 passages well: “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
    Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name”

  • Alethinon61

     Hi James,

    While I wouldn’t dogmatically dismiss other possibilities (e.g. Son, Messiah, Logos, Jesus), I tend to agree that God’s own name was bestowed upon Jesus at Phil 2.  However, can you clarify the basis for this aspect of your argument:

    “Since ‘Jesus’ is nowhere attested as a name for God prior to the rise of
    belief in Jesus’ own divinity within Christianity, if the name that is
    in view in Philippians 2 is ‘Jesus,’ then we would have to understand
    that God gives a name superior to his own to the central figure of the
    passage.”

    It seems to me that this part of your argument depends on the sort of hyper-literal reading of verse 9 that one typically associates with fundamentalists.  If Paul’s readers understood the name to be “Jesus,” then I’m sure that they would have had no problem recognizing that Paul didn’t mean to suggest that the name “Jesus” was higher than the name YHWY.  That would have been a given, IMO.

    ~Kaz 

  • Alethinon61

     Hi James,

    While I wouldn’t dogmatically dismiss other possibilities (e.g. Son, Messiah, Logos, Jesus), I tend to agree that God’s own name was bestowed upon Jesus at Phil 2.  However, can you clarify the basis for this aspect of your argument:

    “Since ‘Jesus’ is nowhere attested as a name for God prior to the rise of
    belief in Jesus’ own divinity within Christianity, if the name that is
    in view in Philippians 2 is ‘Jesus,’ then we would have to understand
    that God gives a name superior to his own to the central figure of the
    passage.”

    It seems to me that this part of your argument depends on the sort of hyper-literal reading of verse 9 that one typically associates with fundamentalists.  If Paul’s readers understood the name to be “Jesus,” then I’m sure that they would have had no problem recognizing that Paul didn’t mean to suggest that the name “Jesus” was higher than the name YHWY.  That would have been a given, IMO.

    ~Kaz 

  • anonaccount2005

    I remain intrigued by the idea that Jesus only received his name after being raised to heaven, but I likewise tend to disagree.  

    First, in reference to Gilgamesh42′s comment, I should point out that I’m missing how the LXX uses SWTHR in Is 45:22-23.  It does use SWTHR in 45:15, but that is not connected with the Philippians hymn; only vv. 22-25 are.  And in vv. 25, where those who kneel and confess are in fact confessing, as in the Philippians hymn, KURIOU is used.  

    True that v. 22 does use SWQHSESQE, but that’s different.

    Furthermore in v. 23 God swears by himself, i.e. is swearing on his own name, and that name is unlikely to be SWTHR (and certainly not IESOUS).

    And in the case of Philippians, what Paul seems to be doing is not explaining what Jesus’ name is or what makes his name so exalted, but rather trying to explain Jesus’ equality with God.  In Ph 2:3-4 Paul has just finished explaining to the Philippians how they should all place each other before themselves.  He then says Jesus is a model for this.  He says Jesus didn’t strive for equality with God, but nevertheless by humbling himself he became greatly exalted and received the “name that is above every name”, i.e. the name of God.  This implies that Jesus is in fact now equal with God–and indeed, Paul follows this with Ph 2:10-11, a direct evocation of Is 45:22-23, where God talks about how everyone will kneel and confess before him.  Paul is according Jesus the same honor.  This is quite striking, and it means that Paul regards Jesus as God, or as co-equal with God.  But what name could possibly bestow this equality?  It can’t be SWTHR; there is no way SWTHR had become God’s name for the Philippians.  And it can’t be IESOUS, for there is no way IESOUS had become more exalted than the divine name.  Nor can I really believe that IESOUS was itself a divine name because it derives from Hebrew “Yeho-”, since there were many human persons alive at the time who bore the name   Instead, the name that bestows equality with God must be the ancient divine name, for which KURIOU is indeed the euphemism/circumlocution.  

    In Philippians, we don’t see Paul actually calling Jesus by the divine name–that would be absurd!  Paul certainly knows better than that.  Instead, he uses the traditional euphemism, KURIOU, to refer to it.  Jesus is not worshiped because his name is KURIOU; he is worshipped because he has the divine name, to which KURIOU refers.

    I agree there is a connection with “Son of God” here (in comparison to the “God the Father” of Ph 2:11b), but that is just yet another term for Jesus; it is not the name that is above every other name.  Not even for the author of Hebrews.

    Mike Z. (sorry for using my account name above; I’m still trying to figure out this Disqus thing.)

  • anonaccount2005

    I remain intrigued by the idea that Jesus only received his name after being raised to heaven, but I likewise tend to disagree.  

    First, in reference to Gilgamesh42′s comment, I should point out that I’m missing how the LXX uses SWTHR in Is 45:22-23.  It does use SWTHR in 45:15, but that is not connected with the Philippians hymn; only vv. 22-25 are.  And in vv. 25, where those who kneel and confess are in fact confessing, as in the Philippians hymn, KURIOU is used.  

    True that v. 22 does use SWQHSESQE, but that’s different.

    Furthermore in v. 23 God swears by himself, i.e. is swearing on his own name, and that name is unlikely to be SWTHR (and certainly not IESOUS).

    And in the case of Philippians, what Paul seems to be doing is not explaining what Jesus’ name is or what makes his name so exalted, but rather trying to explain Jesus’ equality with God.  In Ph 2:3-4 Paul has just finished explaining to the Philippians how they should all place each other before themselves.  He then says Jesus is a model for this.  He says Jesus didn’t strive for equality with God, but nevertheless by humbling himself he became greatly exalted and received the “name that is above every name”, i.e. the name of God.  This implies that Jesus is in fact now equal with God–and indeed, Paul follows this with Ph 2:10-11, a direct evocation of Is 45:22-23, where God talks about how everyone will kneel and confess before him.  Paul is according Jesus the same honor.  This is quite striking, and it means that Paul regards Jesus as God, or as co-equal with God.  But what name could possibly bestow this equality?  It can’t be SWTHR; there is no way SWTHR had become God’s name for the Philippians.  And it can’t be IESOUS, for there is no way IESOUS had become more exalted than the divine name.  Nor can I really believe that IESOUS was itself a divine name because it derives from Hebrew “Yeho-”, since there were many human persons alive at the time who bore the name   Instead, the name that bestows equality with God must be the ancient divine name, for which KURIOU is indeed the euphemism/circumlocution.  

    In Philippians, we don’t see Paul actually calling Jesus by the divine name–that would be absurd!  Paul certainly knows better than that.  Instead, he uses the traditional euphemism, KURIOU, to refer to it.  Jesus is not worshiped because his name is KURIOU; he is worshipped because he has the divine name, to which KURIOU refers.

    I agree there is a connection with “Son of God” here (in comparison to the “God the Father” of Ph 2:11b), but that is just yet another term for Jesus; it is not the name that is above every other name.  Not even for the author of Hebrews.

    Mike Z. (sorry for using my account name above; I’m still trying to figure out this Disqus thing.)

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Alethinon61, let me see if I can express myself a little more logically:

    1) Monotheistic Jews would have assumed, in the absence of indication otherwise, that “the name that is above every name” is God’s own name, since it is unthinkable that there is a name higher than God’s own.

    2) If Paul in this passage referred to the name “Jesus” in this way, he either did not really mean that this was the name above every name, or he had departed from the monotheism and from the view of God’s supremacy over Christ expressed elsewhere in his letters.

    Does that make the point a bit more clearly?

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Alethinon61, let me see if I can express myself a little more logically:

    1) Monotheistic Jews would have assumed, in the absence of indication otherwise, that “the name that is above every name” is God’s own name, since it is unthinkable that there is a name higher than God’s own.

    2) If Paul in this passage referred to the name “Jesus” in this way, he either did not really mean that this was the name above every name, or he had departed from the monotheism and from the view of God’s supremacy over Christ expressed elsewhere in his letters.

    Does that make the point a bit more clearly?

  • Alethinon61

    Hi James,

    That’s what I thought you meant.  Once again, I agree with you that it was God’s own name that was bestowed upon Jesus at Phil 2.  That does seem to be how the phrase would have probably been heard.  However, in defense of those who feel that the name is “Jesus” (many of my friends support this view, along with a number of commentators), I just wanted to point out that verse 9 probably doesn’t rule this out.  The context involves the exaltation of God’s agent, and so the “every name” might (possibly) have had as its reference other agents of God, compared to whom Jesus is to be considered the greatest. 

    ~Kaz

  • Alethinon61

    Hi James,

    That’s what I thought you meant.  Once again, I agree with you that it was God’s own name that was bestowed upon Jesus at Phil 2.  That does seem to be how the phrase would have probably been heard.  However, in defense of those who feel that the name is “Jesus” (many of my friends support this view, along with a number of commentators), I just wanted to point out that verse 9 probably doesn’t rule this out.  The context involves the exaltation of God’s agent, and so the “every name” might (possibly) have had as its reference other agents of God, compared to whom Jesus is to be considered the greatest. 

    ~Kaz

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    Why didn’t anyone mention these verses?

    Revelation 3:12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.

    This one shows that God’s name and Jesus’ new name are not the same thing.

    Revelation 19:12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.

  • Howard Mazzaferro

    Why didn’t anyone mention these verses?

    Revelation 3:12 The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name.

    This one shows that God’s name and Jesus’ new name are not the same thing.

    Revelation 19:12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself.

  • Anomynous

    “Jesus” and “Joshua” (i.e. the brother of Moses) were the same name in Greek and Hebrew, it’s only a translator’s tradition to spell them differently so they are not confused.

    Justin Martyr didn’t think it was coincidence that IHSOUS (Joshua) met the “Captain of the armies of the LORD” (Josh. 5:14). ANF 1.227

  • Anomynous

    “Jesus” and “Joshua” (i.e. the brother of Moses) were the same name in Greek and Hebrew, it’s only a translator’s tradition to spell them differently so they are not confused.

    Justin Martyr didn’t think it was coincidence that IHSOUS (Joshua) met the “Captain of the armies of the LORD” (Josh. 5:14). ANF 1.227

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Howard, I’m not sure whether Revelation is thinking along the same lines as the Philippians 2 passage. There certainly was some variation or development in the New Testament, as we see in John 17, with it’s reference to Jesus having been given the divine name not at his exaltation, but before the foundation of the world.

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      @James, First, I have to disagree with you on the connection, a number of translations cross reference Revelation and Philippians. Second, don’t forget that there are numerous variant readings in John 17:11-12 and one of them changes what was given to Jesus, the alternate reading says it was “the men” who were given to Jesus, and not the name, which would be in agreement with verse 6.

  • http://www.patheos.com/community/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

    @Howard, I’m not sure whether Revelation is thinking along the same lines as the Philippians 2 passage. There certainly was some variation or development in the New Testament, as we see in John 17, with it’s reference to Jesus having been given the divine name not at his exaltation, but before the foundation of the world.

    • Howard Mazzaferro

      @James, First, I have to disagree with you on the connection, a number of translations cross reference Revelation and Philippians. Second, don’t forget that there are numerous variant readings in John 17:11-12 and one of them changes what was given to Jesus, the alternate reading says it was “the men” who were given to Jesus, and not the name, which would be in agreement with verse 6.


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