Philippians 2:6

Douay Rheims “Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” What does it mean by that?

Definitely look at other translations. Sometimes a solitary translation can be very narrow verbally, and difficult to understand.


NIV “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;” What does it mean that Jesus did not consider equality to God?

It Jesus wasn’t above lowering Himself to our level, “letting go” of His godhood status for His purposes even as He remained God.

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Here is my CPD or Catholic Public Domain Bible:

Philippians 2:5 For this understanding in you was also in Christ Jesus:
2:6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be seized.
2:7 Instead, he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men, and accepting the state of a man.
2:8 He humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, even the death of the Cross.
2:9 Because of this, God has also exalted him and has given him a name which is above every name,
2:10 so that, at the name of Jesus, every knee would bend, of those in heaven, of those on earth, and of those in hell,
2:11 and so that every tongue would confess that the Lord Jesus Christ is in the glory of God the Father.

Douay Rheims uses a more arcane form of English and that makes it a little harder to understand at times.


who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

The word you want to research is “harpagmos”. The above is the Catholic translation (RSV) the usual understanding is that Jesus didn’t use his divinity to gain advantage but lowered himself into our humanity. He didn’t need to steal or reach for divinity as he is already divine.

As a side note it is also a canticle for Sunday evening prayer 1 (Saturday night) LOTH/Breviary

Peace and God Bless

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It means Jesus embraced his humanity, accepting certain limitations of the human condition, even though he did not have to.


The primary thing about Jesus allowing himself to be fully human and not tapping into divinity that Paul references is that he didn’t avoid the pain and torture of his crucifixion.


“no injury to his eternal Father”

Haydock Commentary on Phillipians 2

Ver. 6. Who being in the form[1] of God, (that is truly, properly, and essentially God from eternity, as the ancient Fathers here observed against the Arians) taking the form of a servant, (i.e. taking upon him our human nature) became truly a man, and as man the servant of God, but remaining always God as before, thought it not robbery, no injury to his eternal Father, to be equal, to be esteemed, and to declare himself equal to God, to be one thing with him: as on divers occasions he taught the people, as we have observed in the notes on S. John’s gospel, &c. Wi.

[1] V. 6. In formâ Dei, en morfh Qeou. See S. Chrys. (tom. iv. p. 31. 32. log. 5.) where he shews how many heresies are confuted by these words: and says, h morfh tou doulou, h fusiV doulou . . . kai h morfh tou Qeou, Qeou fusiV. See S. Greg. of Nyssa. . . 3. cont. Eunom. S. Aug. l. 1. de Trin. c. 1. &c.

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It’s certainly a difficult verse. In case you may find it helpful, here is the Jerusalem Bible translation with two accompanying footnotes:

His state was divine,[e] yet he did not cling to his equality with God[f]

[e] Lit. ‘Who subsisting in the form of God’: here ‘form’ means all the attributes that express and reveal the essential ‘nature’ of God: Christ, being God, had all the divine prerogatives by right.

[f] Lit. ‘did not deem being on an equality with God as something to grasp’ or ‘hold on to’. This refers not to his equality by nature ‘subsisting in the form of God’, and which Christ could not have surrendered, but to his being publicly treated and honoured as equal to God which was a thing that Jesus (unlike Adam, Gn 3:5.22, who wanted to be seen to be like God) could and did give up in his human life.

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In the Confraternity New Testament, published in 1941, Philippians 2:6 reads:

6 who though he was by nature God, did not consider being equal to God a thing to be clung to,

The Catholic Biblical Association’s A Commentary on the New Testament, published in 1942, on this verse says:

6. By nature God: literally “in the form of God.” “Form” signifies that which underlies the essential attributes; and in this context means nature, just as the “form” of a slave (i.e., man, 7) stands for human nature. The early Fathers used this text against the Arians who wished to show that the Son was a god of a lower order than the Father. A thing to be clung to: literally “a thing to be snatched at eagerly,” the Greek word occurring only here in the New Testament. The Son of God did not think He must selfishly cling to all His glory and enjoy to the full His dignity, but He laid them aside to become man. Others interpret: although He fully realized His equality with God was no usurpation, yet He put it aside.

The footnote commentary on this verse in the New American Bible, Revised Edition says:

[2:6] Either a reference to Christ’s preexistence and those aspects of divinity that he was willing to give up in order to serve in human form, or to what the man Jesus refused to grasp at to attain divinity. Many see an allusion to the Genesis story: unlike Adam, Jesus, though…in the form of God (Gn 1:26–27), did not reach out for equality with God, in contrast with the first Adam in Gn 3:5–6.

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