Articular Infinitives, Ontological Equality, and Functional Subordination

The second to last paragraph of my review of Denny Burk’s book now reads like this:

Burk shows the crucial difference a right understanding of articular infinitives makes using five texts as examples: Mark 9:10, Acts 25:11, Romans 13:8, Philippians 2:6, and Hebrews 10:31. Among these examples, Philippians 2:6 bears the most theological weight, so the fruit of Burk’s study for understanding this text will be briefly considered here. N. T. Wright follows BDF in the opinion that the article with the infinitive in the final phrase of Philippians 2:6, “the being equal with God,” is an anaphoric article pointing back to the initial phrase of the verse, “the form of God.” On this understanding, “being equal with God” is equivalent to or synonymous with “the form of God.” But if, as Burk argues, the article is not anaphoric but appears as a grammatical necessity, marking the components of the double accusative construction, “equality with God” is not connected to “the form of God.” Rather, the articular infinitive designates “the being equal with God” as the object, whose complement is “a thing to be grasped” in the double accusative construction. Burk thus renders the sense of the verse as, “Although Jesus existed in the form of God, he did not consider equality with God as something he should go after also” (139). The payoff, then, of Burk’s careful grammatical investigation is that Philippians 2:6 affirms the ontological equality of Father and Son while maintaining the functional subordination of the Son, even in his pre-existent state (cf. 139–40 n. 46).

8 Comments

Filed under Bible and Theology, Books

8 responses to “Articular Infinitives, Ontological Equality, and Functional Subordination

  1. That’s interesting. I’d like to read more about that. I’d be neat if Burk could do like a smaller summary article on this topic for those who aren’t ready to jump into a whole book on articular infinitives.
    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  2. Done:

    Denny Burk, “On the Articular Infinitive in Philippians 2.6: A Grammatical Note with Christological Implications,” Tyndale Bulletin 55 (2004) 253-74.

  3. Cool thanks. I’ll pick it up.

    Blessings,
    Bryan L

  4. Sue

    Okay, I admit, I am puzzled about why the ” also” has been inserted into the text in English. Doesn’t adding the ” also” create the impression that there are different kinds of equality, and the Greek does not give this impression.

  5. Sue,

    The phrase including “also” is meant to be an interpretive rendering, not a direct translation. If I were translating the text for Bible version, I would not add the word also, though I think the idea is implied.

    Thanks,
    Denny

  6. Sue

    This is a really fascinating topic, and I would love to have you drop in on the BBB and respond to my post there.

    One of my goals in that post was to make the argument clear in laymen’s terms. That is, I find that using terms like anaphoric and articular are great shorthand for those who know Greek grammar, but they don’t communicate very clearly to the layperson. My challenge on the BBB is to try to demystify some of these terms, but, of course, I would appreciate your comment on whether I have represented your thesis properly.

  7. It may be inappropriate for me to ask a question here, if so please disregard. I have no knowledge of Greek.

    My question concerns James 2:5. I believe this represents the “double accusative” construction with “the poor” being the direct object of the verb “chose” and “rich” being the compliment limiting “the poor” that were chosen to those who are rich in faith.

    My questions are simple: In the Greek, is the verb “chose” one of the ones that “take the double accusative form” i.e does the verb apply both to “the poor” and to “rich”?

    If my guess as to Greek grammar construction is not correct, and a form of the verb “to be” must be inserted, could “who are” or “they are” be inserted and be grammatically correct.

    The who issue I am striving to understand is why do many translations insert “to be” sometime in italics in the verse. Is it really driven by grammar or by doctrine?

  8. Van,

    Yes, this is a “double accusative of object and complement.” You could literally render it “God chose the poor . . . as rich . . . and inheritors . . . ” I suspect that the “to be” that has been inserted is merely an attempt to make the English read more smoothly and be more clear.

    Hope this helps!

    JMH

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