One of the great failures of Muslims in terms of their apologetic stance against Christianity, both with regard to the Qur’an and modern Islamic polemics is the absence of any detailed examination of the Christian doctrine of the Hypostatic Union – the dogma that Jesus is simultaneously divine and human whilst yet one person. The Qur’an, it will be seen, never addresses this issue. Among modern Islamic polemicists, there appears to be a definite shyness about investigating the topic. For example, Baagil in his supposed discourse with a Christian presents the latter as stating that Jesus ‘…is both God and man’, whilst the Muslim respondent merely limits himself to rhetorically querying if Jesus actually claimed that? 1 Ahmed Deedat has published a booklet entitled The God that never was,that essentially examines texts dealing with the human nature of Jesus, and presents this as ‘God’ doing human physical functions. 2 Yet Deedat could not have been unaware that the historical Christian position is that Christ was both divine and human.
Of course, the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union is a supernatural paradox – that Jesus could be simultaneously finite and infinite, etc., but then, God’s dealings with humanity are not subject to human patterns of thought. Human beings are finite, and liable both to sin and err. The finite mind cannot fathom the mysteries of God. Ultimately, God can only be known through His own self-revelation. Only the infinite can express the infinite. Yet the infinite must be expressed in terms of the finite because it is revealed to the finite. Hence, the Incarnation is a necessary action because of revelation alone – God, taking human nature alongside His divine nature, expresses the infinite in terms of the finite. Thus, Jesus reveals the divine nature in terms of His holiness, His love, His power, and His revelatory action. For this reason Jesus is the supreme revelation of God – He reveals the Father, John 1:18; whoever has seen Him has seen the Father. He who is God is also the Word of God. He is the climax of revelation, Hebrews 1:1-2. To encounter Him is to encounter God Himself, and thus experience the infallible revelation.
Islam agrees with Christianity that God can only be fully known through His self-revelation, since the finite reason of Man cannot comprehend the infinitude of deity. Left to fallible native reason, human beings would always conceive God in terms with which they could understand, with respect to features with which they were familiar. That is, men always seek for analogy. Analogy has its limits with regard to God, precisely because He is unlimited, and, moreover, incomparable, since there is only one, unique deity – a tenet of faith common to Islam and the Bible. Clearly, the concept of the Hypostatic Union has no consistent analogy in nature.
Another point of commonality between Islam and Christianity is belief in the incomprehensibility of God. This is a consequence of the unique, transcendent nature of deity, and of human finitude. All human attempts to comprehend Him apart from revelation are inadequate and doomed to failure. Berkhof notes that this was the teaching of the Protestant Reformers:
To Calvin, God in the depths of His being is past finding out. ‘His essence’, he says, ‘is incomprehensible; so that His divinity escapes all human senses.’ The Reformers do not deny that man can learn something of the nature of God from His creation, but maintain that he can acquire true knowledge of Him only from special revelation, under the illuminating influence of the Holy Spirit. 3
This is a position with which Muslims are bound to agree. For example, one Muslim writer observes the following about the incomprehensibility of God: ‘But to have complete knowledge of God is beyond man’s ability. Man is finite and Allah is infinite…The creature cannot comprehend the Creator; “They (mankind) cannot encompass Him (Allah) with their knowledge”. Ta-ha, 20:110. Islam preaches that mankind should only refer to Allah as He has referred to Himself. There is no scope what-so-ever for inventing new ideas about Him or thinking of Him in a manner that suits us.’ 4 Similarly, Yusuf Ali comments on S. 112:
The nature of Allah is here indicated to us in a few words, such as we can understand.
The qualities of Allah are described in numerous places elsewhere, e.g., in lix. 22-24, lxii. 1, and ii. 255. Here we are specially taught to avoid the pitfalls into which men and nations have fallen at various times in trying to understand Allah. The first thing we have to note is that His nature is so sublime, so far beyond our limited conceptions, that the best way in which we can realise Him is to feel that He is a Personality, ‘He’, and not a mere abstract conception of philosophy. He is near us; He cares for us; we owe our existence to Him. Secondly, He is the One and Only God, the Only One to Whom worship is due; all Other things or beings that we can think of are His creatures and in no way comparable to Him. Thirdly, He is Eternal, without beginning or end, Absolute, not limited by time or place or circumstance, the Reality. Fourthly, we must not think of Him as having a son or a father, for that would be to import animal qualities into our conception of Him. Fifthly, He is not like any other person or thing that we know or can imagine: His qualities and nature are unique.
The divergence between Islam and Christianity begins when we consider the identity of divine self-revelation. Islam claims it is the Qur’an; Christianity holds that it is found in the Bible and supremely in Jesus Christ as the Word of God. Hence, Muslims can scarcely object to the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union because it is paradoxical and does not conform to their ideas of human reason, for the very reason that finite human reason is incapable of comprehending the divine essence, and thus fully understanding the Hypostatic Union. The great Princeton theologian A. A. Hodge observed that the very nature of the Incarnation does not allow for adequate analogy or comprehensibility:
The Person of the incarnate God is unique. His birth has had no precedents and his existence no analogy. He cannot be explained by being referred to a class, nor can he be illustrated by an example… This unique personality, as it surpasses all analogy, also transcends all understanding. The proud intellect of man is constantly aspiring to remove all mysteries and to subject the whole sphere of existence to the daylight of rational explanation. Such attempts are constantly ending in the most grotesque failure. Even in the material world it is true that omnia exeunt in mysterium. If we cannot explain the relation which the immaterial soul sustains to the organized body in the person of man, why should We be surprised to find that all attempts to explain the intimate relations which the eternal Word and the human soul and body sustain to each other in the Person of Christ have miserably failed? 5
This paper will attempt to explain the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union to Muslims, illustrating how Jesus is concurrently divine and human. It will also study what the Qur’an has to say on the subject, and consider the implications of Qur’anic Christology, both in terms of what it denies, and what it presents as Christian doctrine.
A. The Biblical view
1. The Two Natures
Although this is not the place for an extended treatment of either the humanity or deity of Christ, it is as well to give a short overview of some of the evidence for both these doctrines.
(a) Humanity of Christ
Today, this doctrine is rarely questioned, though we shall see that this was not always the case. We should firstly observe that whilst the conception of Jesus was supernatural, He had a normal human birth, Matthew 1:25, Luke 2:7, Galatians 4:4. Also, He experienced a normal human development – Luke 2:40-52, Hebrews 5:8. He ‘grew’ in wisdom. His Messianic consciousness begins to find expression at the age of twelve, and is perfected at the Baptism – Luke 3:22.
Jesus spoke of Himself as a Man, John 8:40, and is so termed by others – Acts 2:22, 1 Corinthians 15:21. He had a body and soul – Matthew 26:26, 38, Luke 24:39. He was subject to human wants and sufferings – Matthew 4:2, 8:24: hunger – Matthew 21:18; thirst – Matthew 11:19; weariness – John 4:6. He experienced true agony – Mark 14:33-36. Also, He genuinely knew the emotions of love – John 1:5, sorrow, Matthew 26:37, and anger Mark 3:5. In order to be the antitype of Adam, ‘bearer of destiny’ Romans 5:17ff, He must be true Man.
As a true man He worships the Father – Luke 4:16, and prays – 3:21, 6:12. He had, as a man, limited knowledge – Mark 6:38, Luke 2:46, Mark 13:32. However, it must be noted that He was sinless – Hebrews 4:15 – John 8:46, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Hebrews 9:14, 1 Peter 2:22, 1 John 3:5. He resisted temptation. He was not a superman, but a true man filled with the Holy Spirit; His miracles are performed in the power of the Spirit.
(b) Deity of Christ
This is explicitly taught in John 1:1 – ‘the Word was God’; Greek scholars unanimously reject the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation perversion. Michael Bremmer’s article The Deity of Jesus Christ explores the magisterial work of Walter Martin on the Watchtower cult, and their distortion of this verse, a mistranslation that is beginning to be employed by Muslim apologists. 6 The Word was God. The syntax of John 1:1 is instructive in this regard, by virtue of placing the definite predicate before the verb but without the definite article (‘Colwell’s rule’):
‘En arxh ‘hn ‘o logos, kai ‘o logos ‘hn pros ton qeon, kai qeos ‘hn ‘o logos.
Not only does it affirm that Jesus (the Word) is God, it also demonstrates that the Godhead is not exhausted in Jesus, that is, that Jesus is not alone God, but rather there are more persons than the Son in the Godhead. Jesus is called ‘Lord’ – kurios – Jews used this to render ‘YHWH’, and we find it employed in Romans 10:9 – ‘confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord’. John 8:58 presents Him as claiming the personal name of God, ‘I am’ (YHWH). Cf. also Colossians 1:15; 2:9; Philippians 2:6-11; 2 Thessalonians 1:12; Hebrews 1:8-10; 1 John 5:20. Jesus, in John 5:22-23, states that all men may give Him equal honour as to the Father, and since the honour we give to God is worship, Jesus must be God. It is clear from John 5:18-19 that the Jews recognised Jesus as claiming deity.
YHWH is Shepherd of Israel – Psalm 23:1; Jesus is God Shepherd – John 10:11-16. Other texts pointing to the deity of Christ include John 20:28 – ‘My Lord and My God’; Acts 20:28 – ‘the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.’ It is likely that John 1:18 affirms the deity of Christ – ‘No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has revealed Him.’ The Greek makes this more explicit yeon ‘oudeiv ‘ewraken pwpote monogenhv yeov ‘o ‘wn ‘eiv ton kolpon tou patrov ‘ekeinov ‘exhghsato.
Romans 9:5 presents Jesus as ‘God over all’ – the context of sorrow over Israel’s fall precludes a doxology, and such does not usually appear in the middle of a passage. Doxologies usually refer to someone mentioned in the preceding sentence – Romans 1:25; 11:26; 2 Corinthians 11:31; Galatians 1:5; 2 Timothy 4:18. Whenever ‘euloghtov (‘blessed’) is used in an independent doxology, it always stands at the beginning of a sentence, e.g. 2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 1:1; 1 Peter 1:3. As it stands, ‘God over all’ balances ‘concerning the flesh’. Christ is God over all.
Romans 14:10 refers to the Judgment Seat of God, and 2 Corinthians 5:10 ascribes it to Christ. Titus 2:13 speaks of the ‘great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, as does 2 Peter 1:1. If God and Jesus were distinguished, there would normally need to be a definite article before ‘Saviour’, but it is absent, so the texts affirm Christ’s deity. Revelation 1:17, 18; 2:8; 22:12, 13, 16 all refer to Jesus as Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End – used of God in Isaiah 41:4; 44:6; 48:12.
2. Definition of ‘Nature’ and ‘Person’
The Greek word hypostasis ‘upostasivessentially means ‘substance’, hence its employment in Hebrews 11:1. The Christological controversies of the Early Church were often reducible to semantics, rather than concrete issues. Often it was because one word was used in a certain way in one area (e.g. Antioch) whilst a different area employed it otherwise (e.g. Alexandria) that problems arose. Nonetheless, the formula that was eventually accepted essentially made hypostasis equivalent to ‘person’, hence it is said that there are three hypostases in one divine essence – ousia ‘ousia. Probably the best definition is that of ‘the essence of an individual in virtue of which it is itself’. Thus, equivalent to ‘person’.
The Greek word translated as ‘nature’ is fusiv phusis (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:14; James 3:7). This is best understood as a substance (essence, being) possessed in common. Berkhof gives a helpful aid to definition:
The term ‘nature’ denotes the sum-total of all the essential qualities of a thing, that which makes it what it is. A nature is a substance possessed in common, with all the essential qualities of such a substance. The term “person” denotes a complete substance endowed with reason, and, consequently, a responsible subject of its own actions. Personality is not an essential and integral part of a nature but is, as it were, the terminus to which it tends. A person is a nature with something added, namely, independent subsistence, individuality. Now the Logos assumed a human nature that was not personalized, that did not exist by itself. 7
3. The Meaning of ‘Unipersonality’
a) Not Adoptionism
The Second Person of the Trinity does not in a charismatic way endue a distinct human person. There is perfect identity between Jesus of Nazareth and God the Son. Rather, the eternal Word came as flesh on the human scene – John 1:14.
b) Not Bi-Personality
As implied above, there are not two beings i.e. ‘persons.’ in the Mediator; only two natures. Berkhof points out that there is no ‘distinction of ‘I’ and ‘Thou’ in the inner life of the Mediator, such as we find in the triune Being of God, where one person addresses the other… Jesus never uses the plural in referring to Himself.’ 8
c) Not Docetism/Impersonality
The humanity of Christ is genuine, so docetism is untenable; and in order to be truly human, Jesus as a man must possess all that is native to human nature, He had a human mind, spirit, tastes, needs, will and all else that corresponds to the inner and exterior life of a normal man. Thus, the humanity of Christ may be said to be ‘personal’ without being a person – i.e. it does not possess an independent subsistence. We will examine this further later.
d) Not Metamorphosis
We are not presented with a case of metamorphosis whereby God the Son changes into a man, in the same manner as humans change into animals or vice versa in legends or fairy tales, Rather, the integrity of the deity is preserved. Without ceasing to be divine, God the Son assumes another (i.e. human) nature alongside His deity. John Murray observes in relation to John 1:14 ‘…lest we should interpret the incarnation in terms of transmutation or divestiture, John hastens to inform us that, in beholding the incarnate Word, they beheld his glory as the glory of the only-begotten from the Father (John 1:14)… he proceeds to identify the only-begotten in his unabridged character as “God only-begotten who is in the bosom of the Father (v. 18).’ 9
4. The Nature of the Incarnation and Hypostatic Union
The Second Person of the Trinity, whilst remaining God, assumed a human nature alongside His divine nature. This means we are dealing with the same Person who appeared to Moses and Joshua, the same Person who created the Cosmos. Deity being immutable and impassible, no change occurs in the Divine Logos. He remains the Creator and Maintainer of all things. We thus are presented with a Jesus who is at one point designated by the divine title, Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 2:8; Colossians 1:13, 14, and likewise with regard to the human title – John 3:13; 6:62; Romans 9:5. Berkhof clearly presents the Evangelical position on this complex issue:
There is but one person in the Mediator, the unchangeable Logos. The Logos furnishes the basis for the personality of Christ… The human nature of Christ as such does not constitute a human person. The Logos did not adopt a human person, so that we have two persons in the Mediator, but simply assumed a human nature… At the same time it is not correct to speak of the human nature of Christ as impersonal. This is true only in the sense that this nature has no independent subsistence of its own. Strictly speaking, however, the human nature of Christ was not for a moment impersonal. The Logos assumed that nature into personal subsistence with Himself. The human nature has its personal existence in the person of the Logos. It is in-personal rather than impersonal. For that very reason we are not warranted to speak of the human nature of Christ as imperfect or incomplete. His human nature is not lacking in any of the essential qualities belonging to that nature, and also has individuality, that is, personal subsistence, in the person of the Son of God. 10
A. A. Hodge presents a similar picture, emphasising that what has occurred is that the eternal Second Person of the Trinity has assumed another nature, not adopted another person, whilst retaining His deity:
Again: the Scriptures teach us that this amazing personality does not centre in his humanity, and that it is not a composite one originated by the power of the Spirit when he brought the two natures together in the womb of the Virgin Mary. It was not made by adding manhood to Godhead. The Trinity is eternal and unchangeable. A new Person is not substituted for the second Person of the Trinity, neither is a fourth Person added to the Trinity But the Person of Christ is just the one eternal Word, the second Person of the Trinity, which in time, by the power of the Holy Ghost, through the instrumentality of the womb of the Virgin, took a human nature (not a man, but the seed of man, humanity in the germ) into personal union with himself. The Person is eternal and divine. The humanity is introduced into it. The centre of the personality always continues in the eternal personal Word or Son of God. 11
Against all adoptionist positions, this position must be emphasised – that the eternal Son of God assumed an individual human person. Neither was it simply a human body that He assumed, but rather human nature in its entirety – John 1:14 means this. It is usually presented that the human nature of Christ is in-personal, rather than impersonal – i.e. the human nature has no independent entity. It is important to note that this does not mean that the humanity possesses no free will or consciousness. This view is termed Enhypostasia; another view is Anhypostasia – view that the humanity of Christ was impersonal – He assumed ‘Man’, rather than becoming a man. The modern and very able theologian Bruce Milne explains these terms:
This terminology was coined in the 6th century by Leontius during discussions of the identity of the personal centre, the self-conscious ‘I’, of Jesus Christ. If this self-conscious ‘I’ was the divine Word, the human nature assumed lacked a human self-consciousness; this looked dangerously like the Apollinarian denial of Christ’s true humanity and hence of his fitness to act as our redeemer. The contrary theory, of a full human self-consciousness in Christ independent of and alongside the Logos, threatened the integrity of the incarnation as an act by which the pre-existent Son of God became man, and also gave rise to another person alongside and independent of the Logos, i.e. Jesus of Nazareth, who is then not the eternal Son of God and can neither reveal God nor bring God’s salvation to us.
Leontius proposed that, negatively, the human self-conscious ‘I’ had no existence of its own; it existed only within the hypostatic union with the Logos (Gk. an = without, hence anhypostasia).
Positively, he proposed that it is present and real only in (Gk. en) the divine ‘I’ (hence enhypostasia). This permits the assertion of full manhood but retains the biblical recognition that the essential self-hood of the God-man is that of the eternal Son and Word of God who effectually reveals God and brings divine salvation to mankind. 12
A. N. S. Lane has described the difference succinctly, in noting how the Chalcedonian Definition met the challenges of both Nestorianism and Monophysitism: ‘the human nature of Christ is not merely anhypostasic (without a hypostasis), but enhypostasic in the Logos – i.e. the hypostasis of Christ’s human nature is that of God the Logos.’ 13
5. Communication of Properties
The obvious question that arises at this point is ‘what effect has the Hypostatic Union on the distinct natures of Christ?’ An extremely helpful answer to the query and exposition of the relationship of the two natures has been supplied by Stuart Olyott’s book Son of Mary, Son of God, in which he discusses the effects of the union on both natures:
His divine nature, being a divine nature, was of course eternal, immutable and incapable of addition, and therefore remained essentially unchanged. The whole immutable divine essence continued to exist as the person of the eternal Word, but now embraced a perfect human nature in the unity of his person. That human nature became the instrument of his will. In this way the relation of the divine nature to creation changed, although the nature itself remained unaltered. The eternal Son of God was now ‘God with us’ (Matthew 1:23), God ‘manifest in the flesh’ (1 Timothy 3:16). Of course, the divine nature of Christ remained incapable of suffering and death, free from ignorance, and insusceptible to weakness and temptation. It was not a divine nature which had assumed flesh, but the Son of God as person who had become incarnate. He could be ignorant and weak, and could suffer and die. This was because he had assumed an additional nature capable of these things, and not because there had been any change in his divine nature…
The human nature of Christ …never had any existence apart from him, and therefore was exalted from its very inception … its exaltation did not stop it being an unmixed and essentially unchanged human nature. It was not deified by the hypostatical union, but remained pure and separate humanity… Not only so, but his human nature is included in the worship due to him. The grounds upon which we worship him are that he is the eternal Son of God, possessed of divine attributes. But the object of our worship is not the divine excellences in the abstract, but the divine person. That person has two natures. We bow before a man, not because any man as man is to be adored, but because this particular man is God manifest in the flesh. He is the God-Man, at whose feet we fall unashamed. 14
A. A. Hodge makes the important observation of the Unipersonality of Jesus concerning His two natures, emphasising that we are not dealing with a hybrid individual, but rather One in whom the natures retain their integrity, yet what can be postulated of one nature can be ascribed to the Person:
Pointing to that unique phenomenon exhibited biographically in the four Gospels, the Scriptures affirm – (a) ‘He is God.’ Then we would naturally say, if he is God, he cannot be man; if he is infinite, he cannot be finite. But the Scriptures proceed to affirm, pointing to the same historical subject, ‘He is man.’ Then, again, we would naturally say, if that phenomenon is both God and man, he must be two Persons in reality, and one Person only in appearance. But yet again the Scriptures prevent us, In every possible way they set him before us as one Person. His divinity is never objective to his humanity, nor his humanity to his divinity. His divinity never loves, speaks to, nor sends his humanity, but both divinity and humanity act together as the common energies of one Person. All the attributes and all the acts of both natures are referred to the one Person. The same ‘I’ possessed glory with the Father before the world was, and laid down his life for his sheep. Sometimes in a single proposition the title is taken from the divine side of his Person, while the predicate is true only of his human side, as when it is said, ‘The Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.’ The same Person is called God because of his divinity, while it is affirmed that he shed his human blood for his Church. Again: while standing among his disciples on the earth, he says, ‘The Son of man, which is in heaven.’ Here the same Person, who is called Son of man because of his humanity, is declared to be omnipresent — that is, at the same time on earth and in heaven — as to his divine nature. This, of course, implies absolute singleness of Person, including at once divine and human attributes. 15
It is vital to note that there is never any communication from one nature to the other, only to the Person. Olyott’s treatment of the subject is extremely helpful in regard to this issue:
We must be clear that the properties of both the human and the divine natures of Christ are the properties of the person that he is. The person can be said to be almighty, omnisicient, omnipresent, and so on. He can also be called a man of sorrows, of limited knowledge and power, and subject to human want and miseries. But we must be careful to guard against thinking that anything belonging to his divine nature was communicated or transferred to the human nature, or vice versa. Christ shared in human weaknesses, although the Deity cannot. Christ participates in the essential perfections of the Godhead, although humanity cannot. This is possible because he is one person, the God-Man. We do not have to postulate any change in either of his natures, although we are admitting that their union did not leave them unaffected. 16
Christian Systematic Theology has historically explained the relationship of the two natures to the One Person by employing the following grid:
a) Communicatio Idiomatum
The properties of either nature are now ascribed to the Person. Hence Jesus is both finite and infinite, omnipotent and limited in power, etc. – hence Jesus could amaze (and outrage) His hearers by claiming pre-existence and deity – e.g. John 8:58; cf. Romans 9:5; Hebrews 1:3.
b) Communicatio Charismatum
Gratia habitualis – Christ as a man is filled with the Holy Spirit (N.B. this is without limit – John 3:34). He lives and ministers as such – a man of faith, endowed with the gifts of the Spirit. Many theologians speak of a gratia unionis – the ‘grace and glory of being united to the divine Logos’. A. A. Hodge stated ‘The God-man…. is to be worshipped in the perfection of his entire person, because only of his divine attributes’. 17
c) Communicatio Operantium
The One, undivided Person acts continually in all His actions. His work is divine-human. The two natures co-operate, working parallel – indeed act as one, within the qualification of operating in the sphere of its own energeia. There is no conflict between the two natures.
The last word on this subject belongs to the great systematic theologian T. C. Hammond:
…while the two natures were united, they were not inter-mingled and altered in their individual properties, so that there resulted a third type of substance which was neither divine nor human… there were not transfers of attributes from one to the other, such as a human characteristic transferred to the divine, nor was our Lord’s deity reduced to human limitations… the union was not an indwelling such as the indwelling of the Christian by the Spirit of God, but a personal union such that the resulting being was a unit, who thought and acted as a unit. While each nature retained its own properties they were not held together merely as though the hypostatic union was a ring thrown around two incompatible elements. There was a real harmony. 18
6. Kenotic Theories
Philippians 2:6ff, especially v7, speaks of Christ ’emptying’ Himself. What did this involve? Of what did He empty Himself? That question has exercised scholars, particularly Lutherans:
(a) Thomasius, Delitzsch, and Crosby
These scholars distinguished between the absolute and essential attributes of God, e.g. absolute power, holiness, love and truth; and relative attributes – omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience. The latter are laid aside – the argument is that doing so is essential to human nature.
(b) Gess and Beecher
They held that the Logos divested Himself of divine attributes – that He ceased from cosmic functions and emptied Himself of eternal consciousness during His time of earthly sojourn. The depotentiated Logos took the place of His human soul.
As with Gess, Ebrard held that the Incarnate Logos took the place of the human soul in Christ. His life-centre is human, but He continued the exercise of His divine qualities in the Trinitarian sphere.
(d) Martensen and Gore
They proposed that Jesus had two non-communicating life-centres; He continued to function in Trinitarian sphere, and as Creator/Sustainer; but the depotentiated Logos was unaware of His cosmic functions.
i) It is based on a misunderstanding of Philippians 2:7 – ‘ekenwsen ekenosen, aorist of kenoo, is best rendered ‘to make oneself of no account’; other texts employing the verb, Romans 4:14; 1 Corinthians 1:17; 9:15; 2 Corinthians 9:3 clarify its meaning as ‘no account’, ‘no effect’ or ‘no reputation’.
ii) Proper exegesis of Philippians 2 displays that the import of the passage is not the elucidation of either the Incarnation or the deity of Christ, but rather Paul’s admonition to believers to as humble-minded as Christ was, cf. v5. There is an obvious allusion to the First Sin, where Adam ‘grasped’ at equality with God, Genesis 3:5, seeking a place which higher than his own, and not his by right, so that far from being the servant of God, he would be His equal, and rather than being an entity that was dependent upon God for his existence, he would be possessed of aseity. Jesus was divine by right, and was subject of angelic adoration and heavenly glory, yet He voluntarily relinquished such a position in order to take the place of a servant, and for from sinning, He was totally obedient; far from grasping at life, He suffered ignominious death. In this, He was the perfect example to believers.
iii) God is eternal and immutable, so it is impossible for Him to be divested of His attributes. Jesus therefore did not relinquish His divine attributes. We find the disciples in Acts performing many of the same miracles as Jesus, yet unlike them, Jesus accepts worship; thus He remains God even in the State of Humiliation; this is the mystery of God Incarnate.
More to come in the next part: An Explanation of the Unipersonality of Christ for Muslims Pt. 2.