St. Paul: Christ is the Suffering Servant Exalted

Biblical scholar Michael Gorman in his excellent book READING PAUL claims that St. Paul’s Christological hymn in Philippians 2:6-11 is basically a re-interpretation of the Prophet Isaiah’s description of the Suffering Servant in the light of Christ.

Gorman compares Isaiah 52:13, 53:4-5, 12 with the Philippians passage to show how St. Paul sees Jesus as being the fulfillment of the Isaiah prophecy.  Here is the text of Isaiah from the RSV:

“Behold, my servant shall prosper, he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high (52:13)  …  Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed. (53:4-5) …  Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors (53:12).”

Philippians 2:6-11 :

“Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Gorman finds particularly significant the connection between Isaiah’s suffering servant being “exalted and lifted up” and Paul describing Jesus as being “highly exalted.”  Gorman says the exaltation is the resurrection of Christ.

5 thoughts on “St. Paul: Christ is the Suffering Servant Exalted

  1. Greetings Father. I was just finishing up Gorman’s book a few weeks ago and I’m on Wright’s “Justification” now. I was blogging tonight and wanted to end with a status I put up of Gorman’s re-interpretation of Phil. 2:6-11 for I plan to continue the line of thinking on it later on. I couldn’t find my status, so I googled it and came across your blog. Glad to see another Orthodox fan of Gorman. I very much look forward to checking out your blog. Be blessed :)

      1. You’re welcome, Father. Thanks for the blessings. Discerning some hefty things for my future now. I’d love to go on and study theology in grad school, but being new to Orthodoxy there is no telling whether or not my previous discerning in other traditions will end with priesthood as an Orthodox priest. So I’m in a riddle of life right now. But I sure do love reading and studying it. Look forward to going through your blog.

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