Nah, Couldn’t be Paul!

In an essay1on Ernst Lohmeyer’s work on Philippians 2:6-11, Colin Brown says that “Lohmeyer concluded that the psalm was written in Greek, but by a poet whose mother tongue was Semitic.” (p. 10)  When I read that I nearly spit, thinking, ‘nah, couldn’t be Paul!’  It’s not like Paul’s mother tongue was Semitic and he wrote in Greek or anything like that. ;-)  I don’t find the other reasons for non-Pauline authorship especially convincing either, but that’s another post.


1 Colin Brown, “Ernst Lohmeyer’s Kyrios Jesus” in Where Christology Began: Essays on Philippians 2 (ed. Ralph P. Martin and Brian J. Dodd; Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 1998), 6-42.


3 thoughts on “Nah, Couldn’t be Paul!

  1. Haha, your sarcastic response to this excerpt made me smile. But, I have to admit, I sort of think that Paul is not the author of this hymn. The biggest argument for me is the way Paul uses the hymn. Since throughout chapter two Paul’s theme is not christology but how Christ believers should act, it seems more likely that Paul is quoting a familiar hymn to make it address a different situation than completely creating an elaborate hymn about Christ from scratch to only make a point about how we ought to live.

  2. I think it’s weird that people even debate whether Paul is the author of the “hymn” or not. How the heck could we possibly know this (other than it showing up in a document that predates his) and really who even cares?!! Makes me lose interest in NT studies.

    Bryan L

  3. Mike: There’s the question of whether or not it’s a hymn in the first place. I’m not convinced that it is, but even if it is, it obviously suited Paul’s purpose in the context of which he used it. The passage is not solely Christological since it does have practical import for the reader’s of the letter. Paul is urging them to imitate Christ in humiliation, which ultimately leads to exaltation. The fact that Christ exists in the form of God but took upon himself the form of a servant makes his point all the stronger. Given this reading (i.e., a reading that sees the practical import of the passage) I can’t see why it couldn’t have been an on the spot composition. But let’s suppose that it wasn’t composed on the spot; does it then follow that Paul didn’t compose it at an earlier time? Do we have any evidence of Christians singing this alleged hymn before Paul uses it in Philippians?

    Bryan: I get why they debate it. If someone earlier than Paul authored it then it pushes a high Christology back even further than Paul. But you’re right, apart from finding it in a source that predates Paul we’ll never be able to say that he definitely wasn’t the author. For all intents and purposes, since he’s the first source in which we find this alleged hymn, I think it’s natural to attribute authorship to him.

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