Theological Impications of the Divine Name in Philippians 2:11

Posted by David Barron October - 5 - 2009 - Monday

In God and Christ I have argued that “Lord” as found in Philippians 2:11 references Jesus’ position as Lord and is not a substitute for the divine name Jehovah.  I suggested that “Lord,” not Jesus, is “the name which is above every name” (Phi. 2:9 NASB), a notion well included within the semantic range of name (Gr. onoma).  I will briefly consider the theological implications of kurios as a substitute for the divine name in this passage, for this is a view for which not a few scholars and apologists argue.

The name Jesus is certainly not the name “above every name,” for the text identifies this as one newly conferred upon him.

Philippians 2:9  For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,

We are told that “the name which is above every name” is “bestowed on Him,” not that his name is exalted so to be the name above every name.  Admittedly, all will bow “at the name of Jesus,” but this does not conflict with the name being one other than his birth name.  I would suggest this points in favor of the newly granted name pertaining to the office of Lord.  From this point we will take for granted that this refers to the divine name Jehovah.

Within the Trinitarian doctrine of the incarnation Jesus would not have divested himself of his divine identity.  As documented in God and Christ, some even consider Jesus’ use of “I am” to be a euphemism for the divine name.  Nevertheless, that the divine name would have been “bestowed” upon Jesus in his exaltation “for this reason”–what he accomplished as defined in Philippians 2:6-8–this text directly contradicts the idea that he was and is ontologically and eternally Jehovah.  To avoid this one would be forced to argue that he gave up being God and so lost or set aside his name for a time, but few, if any, would be willing to make such a leap.

Perhaps seeing the weight of this Bowman and Komoszewski have offered a response:

This objection misunderstands both the nature of God’s “giving” and the point of Paul’s statement.  Although “Lord” in verse 11 represents the divine name YHWH, Paul’s point in verses 9-10 is that in exalting Jesus, God “gave” him the honor of his name being exalted above all other names.  Thus, when Paul says, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend,” he is saying that the name Jesus now stands as the highest, most honored name in all creation. – Robert M. Bowman Jr. and J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2007), 167.

Comparing the text to this response reveals the presented errors.  Nowhere does Paul express that it was the honor of the name given and not the same itself.  He speaks to the contrary by identifying the name as that which was given.  Paul further explains that at the name of Jesus all would bow, but not that the name Jesus was itself the name “most honored.”

The notion of Jesus possessing the divine name is not difficult and would have been easily accepted by an early Jew and therefore the earliest Christians.  As the angel Yahoel in The Apocalypse of Abraham had been given God’s name, Jesus could well have been given the same.  Indeed, that both were ‘given’ the divine name demonstrates how the earliest view of Jesus would have fit within the Jewish concept of exalted divine agents, however much more exalted Jesus may have been than those otherwise so viewed.  At the same time, this stands fundamentally at odds with the Chalcedonian view of Jesus as ontologically identifiable with the Father.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.