Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

A Rebuttal to Shabir Ally’s Response to Dr. James White Pt. 4d

Sam Shamoun

We now come to the second part of the hymn.



The Carmen Christi goes on to mention what God did in response to Jesus’ voluntarily humbling himself to become a slave in order to die on the cross:

“That is why God has now lifted him so high, and has given him the name beyond all names, so that at the name of Jesus ‘every knee shall bow’, whether in Heaven or earth or under the earth. And that is why, in the end, ‘every tongue shall confess’ that Jesus Christ is the Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11 Philips – cf. Ephesians 1:3, 19-23; 1 Peter 3:22

God lifts or exalts to the highest place imaginable, bestowing upon him the name that is above all names, with that name obviously being Yahweh. After all, we are expressly told that only Yahweh’s name is exalted above all else:

“I bow down toward thy holy temple and give thanks to thy name for thy steadfast love and thy faithfulness; for thou hast exalted above everything THY NAME and thy word.” Psalm 138:2

Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.” Psalm 148:13

The hymn’s point is quite clear: He would had eternally existed in God’s form, and who had shared God’s position and glory, voluntarily set aside his divine status in order to come on earth as a slave. After having humbled himself to the point of death, God bestowed on him the very status, honor and glory of Yahweh which is why the very worship which Isaiah says shall be given to Yahweh alone,

“Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me. ‘Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that shall not return: “To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.”’” Isaiah 45:21-23

Is ascribed to the Lord Jesus since he is Yahweh Incarnate!

This also explains what it means for God to give Jesus the name Yahweh, e.g., not in the sense that Christ received a name that he did not original possess, but in the sense of receiving the authority, position and honor which belong to Yahweh, all of which he already had but willingly set aside. 

Once again, we will let the liberal scholars speak to this issue:

9: Highly exalted him, reminiscent of enthronement (Ps 47; 93; 95-99). Entailed here is, first, Christ’s being raised from the dead, and then his ascension to installation in the highest place of honor, the seat of power and might (cf. Eph 4.10). Name … above every name, parallels his exaltation to a place above any other. If meant literally, “name” is Lord rather than Jesus or Jesus Christ (despite vv. 10-11). But more likely “name” is here meant metaphorically (Eph 1.21; cf. 4.10; Heb 1.4), SIGNIFYING RANK, OFFICE, DIGNITY, OR GLORY OF PERSON, as in “seated at the right hand of God” (see Acts 2.33; 5.31; 7.56). 10-11: Every knee … every tongue, drawing on Isa 45.23 (as does Rom 14.11 and, centuries later, the Hebrew “Aleinu” prayer, the prayer of congregational praise in the synagogue that begins “It is incumbent upon us to praise the Lord” and includes “all humanity shall call upon your name” and “to [God] every knee must bend, every tongue vow loyalty”); in Isa 45.24, “LORD” (as distinct from “God”) became typically construed by Christians as the second person of the Trinity (i.e., Christ the Son of God)… (The Jewish Annotated New Testament, p. 356; capital and underline emphasis ours)

“This early Christological hymn portrays THE PREEXISTENT CHRIST as graciously laying aside his EXTRAORDINARY POSITION OF EQUALITY WITH GOD, emptying himself BY INCARNATION–taking on the form of a servant. For this humility, God exalted Christ BY GIVING HIM THE DIVINE NAME; taking ‘name’ not in the modern sense of a generally arbitrary label but in the biblical sense of that which truly expresses character, power, and status (e.g., Ps 8.2 [Heb 8.1]; 20:2 [Heb 20:1])…

“As the earliest extant material underpinning later Christology, the Christ hymn’s closest New Testament approximations are Col 1.15-20; 1 Tim 3.16; and 1 Pet 3.18-22; cf. Jn 1.1-5. The Christ hymn seems pre-Pauline because it is easily detached from its current context, and its superlative style makes it difficult to envision Paul composing it, extemporaneously, amidst the flow of dictating the wider epistle. Rather, he likely incorporated this known hymn as apt for buttressing his admonitions to the Philippians. It is unlikely that Paul composed it himself earlier and only now incorporated it since it lacks a key Pauline motif: the redemptive significance of Christ’s death.” (Ibid., p. 357; capital and underline emphasis ours)


“Further Paul says that, as a consequence of his sacrificial love, God gave Jesus the name which is above every name. One of the common biblical ideas is the giving of a new name to mark a new stage in a person's life. Abram became Abraham when he received the promise of God (Genesis 17:5). Jacob became Israel when God entered into the new relationship with him (Genesis 32:28). The promise of Christ to both Pergamos and to Philadelphia is the promise of a new name (Revelation 2:17, 3:12).

“What then is the new name given to Jesus Christ? We cannot be quite certain what exactly was in Paul's mind, but most likely the new name is Lord.

“The great title by which Jesus came to be known in the early Church was kurios, Lord, which has an illuminating history. (1) It began by meaning master or owner. (2) It became the official title of the Roman emperors. (3) It became the title of the Greek and Roman gods. (4) It was the word by which the Hebrew Yahweh was translated in the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures. So, when Jesus was called kurios, Lord, it meant that he was the Master and the Owner of all life; he was the King of kings; he was the Lord in a way in which the gods of the old religions and the idols could never be; he was nothing less than divine.” (Barclay, pp. 45-46; bold emphasis ours)


“The verb (hyperypsosen), ‘highly exalted/exalted to the highest place,’ emphasizes the magnitude of the honor bestowed on Christ. The hyper element does not necessarily imply ‘higher than before,’ but since Christ makes no claims for himself and is now exalted to the highest position possible, it does, in effect, mean that. He is now universally acknowledged to be ‘EQUAL WITH GOD.’ The idea that the risen Jesus is given a status that he did not have before is implied in Rom 1:3-4 and 10:9 as well as in non-Pauline texts such as Matt 28:18 and Acts 2:36.

To give someone a name is to give him or her STATUS and power. Perhaps the fact that this name is not clearly specified is deliberate. By tradition, the name of God could not be spoken or written. Challenged by Moses to give a name in Exod 3:14, God replies, ‘I am who I am.’ But since the LXX commonly uses ‘the Lord’ as a substitute for the divine name, we are not surprised to find in v. 11 the universal proclamation that ‘Jesus Christ is Lord.’ It is puzzling, then, to find the passage continuing with ‘that at the name of Jesus’ (v. 10). In spite of what some commentators have occasionally argued, the name that is given to Christ at his exaltation cannot be the name ‘Jesus,’ for that is the name he has already borne throughout his human life. Why, then, is it mentioned here? Presumably to emphasize that it is the one who came in the likeness of men (Jesus) who is now proclaimed as Lord. When the name of Jesus is mentioned, then ALL CREATION should acknowledge that ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ (cf. Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 12:3). In the Roman city of Philippi, where the cult of the emperor was so important, the proclamation of Jesus as Lord would be seen as a challenge to political loyalties. But the pattern of behavior that Paul had placed before the Philippians would have been just as much of a challenge to the Roman social ethos… What Adam failed to do, the one who became man and is now proclaimed as Lord is able to do. The exaltation of Jesus, far from diminishing God’s own position and honor, actually resounds to God’s glory. The words ‘every knee shall bow/bend… and every tongue confess’ are taken from Isa 45:23, where they refer to the worship of God. Here, knees are bent at the name of Jesus, and the confession made in v. 11 is of the universal lordship of Jesus Christ–but the end result of offering praise to him is the glory of God. Once again, the final phrase takes us by surprise and forms the punch line of the stanza–and of the hymn. Yet we should not be surprised, for whoever honors Jesus must also glorify God, because in Jesus we see the one who is ‘in the form of God’ and who mirrors God’s glory. (See Reflections at 2:12-18).” (Hooker, The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume XI, p. 510; bold and capital emphasis ours) 

And here is one which takes a slightly different perspective:

“While many scholars have argued that Paul has taken over and even adapted an earlier Christian confession or hymn in 2:6-11, it is not impossible that Paul himself may have written it. Scholars are not in agreement on either the shape of the original tradition or how it is to be divided into strophes as a hymn. There are some words in it that Paul does not use elsewhere, but that cannot be a sure indication that Paul did not write it. His vocabulary was undoubtedly larger than the words contained in his letters. Whether he wrote these verses or is citing them, their point fits well with his theological intention as expressed in his letters, and since he did in fact include it in this epistle, we may have confidence that he found it expressive of the theological point he wanted to make to the Philippians.

“Fundamental to this ‘hymn’ is the contrast between what Christ was PRIOR TO HIS INCARNATION and what he became as a result of it. There has been some confusion on how the unusual Greek word harpagmon in v. 6 is to be translated and understood. If it is construed as a participle, it refers to the act of snatching something away, that is, to robbery; if it is construed as a passive verbal noun, it refers to what is snatched away. Yet in either case, it seems odd that Christ would regard equality with God, WHICH HE ALREADY HAD ACCORDING TO 2:6a, as either robbery or something he needed to grasp. Neither alternative seems to fit the context. In fact, there is another way to construe the word. It is highly likely that Paul is using an idiom referring to exploitation of something for one’s own gain. Hence, v. 6 would best be translated ‘who, although he was in the form of God, did not count that equality something to exploit for his own benefit.’ Rather, as v. 7 says, Christ emptied himself of that God-likeness and took the form of a vulnerable human being. 

“A second humiliation followed: not only did Christ give up his god-likeness, he also gave up his human life on the cross in obedience to God (v. 8). Because of that self-denying obedience, God exalted Christ to a higher level than he had before the INCARNATION and crucifixion by giving Christ God’s own name, ‘Lord’ (‘Lord’ is used in the Hebrew Bible in place of the personal name of God, YHWH, which was never pronounced). As a result Christ has now REASSUMED his God-likeness, and, having been given God’s own sacred name, is now to be publicly worshiped BY THE WHOLE OF CREATION (vv. 9-11).

“What seems to underline the emphasis on Christ’s obedience in both HIS INCARNATION and in his submission to the cross is the contrast with Adam, who, also reflecting God’s image, decided to try to achieve divinity in direct disobedience to God’s command. On the other hand, Christ, who was already divine, nevertheless in obedience to God sacrificed all for the good of sinful humanity. This reflects elements seen elsewhere in Paul’s Christological statements (see, e.g., Rom 5:18-19; 2 Cor 8:9).” (Paul J. Achtemeier, Joel B. Green & Marianne Meye Thompson, Introducing the New Testament: Its Literature and Theology [William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids,  MI/ Cambridge, U. K. 2001], 16. Paul and the Christians in Philippi, pp. 395-396; bold and capital emphasis ours)


“The notion that somehow Jesus, the man of Galilee, had also shared God’s own nature in some mysterious way AROSE VERY EARLY IN THE CHRISTIAN FAITH, as Phil 2:5-11 shows. One of the characteristics that Pliny noted when he investigated the beliefs and practices of the Christians in Asia Minor around the year 110 CE was that in addition to pledging to do no wrong, they also sang a ‘hymn to Christ as to a God’ when they assembled (Letters 110). That was no problem for Pliny to understand, since Romans, like the Greeks, knew of many gods. It was a problem for the monotheistic Jewish background out of which Christianity arose, however, and the problem of how there could be one God and yet Jesus, and later the Holy Spirit, also share that divinity was worked out many centuries later at the church councils of Nicea (325 CE) and Chalcedon (451 CE). Understanding the reality of a God who is triune and yet one remains at the heart of the Christian faith and distinguishes it from other religions, both monotheistic and polytheistic.” (Ibid., p. 396; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Finally, we again end this by quoting from a conservative commentary:

“… Because Christ willingly set aside his glory to totally obey the Father's will, God highly exalted him. God gave Jesus 'all authority in heaven and on earth' (Matthew 28:18 NIV), gave him authority to judge (John 5:27), made him the Lord of both the dead and the living (Romans 14:9), and 'seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church' (Ephesians 1:20-22 NIV).

“That Jesus' name is above every name refers not to Jesus' title, but instead to his name that signifies his person. In the Bible, names often reveal a person's character. Jesus' name is above any other name because his dignity and honor are above all others. Because Jesus did not grasp at his equality with God (2:6) but willingly obeyed God in order to carry out the plan of salvation, God honored that obedience by giving Jesus this name above all names, a name with great power, as the following verses show… Paul purposely quoted Isaiah 45:23 here and in Romans 14:11. In so doing, he applied those powerful words to Jesus Christ. Isaiah, proclaiming the unique greatness of God, had said that the same God who would not share his glory with another would receive the homage of every living being. Paul equated that position of God with Jesus' preeminent lordship. John 5:22-23 says that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Again Jesus' true deity and oneness with the Father are revealed." (The Life Application Commentary, pp. 60-62; bold emphasis ours)  

Now the significance of all this can be seen from the dating assigned to this hymn by biblical scholars. In his most recent assault against the historic Christian faith, liberal Bible critic and skeptic Bart D. Ehrman states that the Carmen Christi was most likely a poem, and not a hymn, which was composed in the 40s which Paul then included in his epistle:  

“Some scholars have had a real difficulty imagining that a poem existing before Paul’s letter to the Philippians–a poem whose composition must therefore date AS EARLY AS THE 40s CE–could already celebrate AN INCARNATIONAL UNDERSTANDING OF JESUS…” (Ehrman, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee [HarperOne, First edition 2014], 7. Jesus as God on Earth: Early Incarnation Christologies, p. 259; bold and capital emphasis ours)

This is quite a significant assertion since this early dating means that Jesus’ original disciples were still around, and would have therefore surely known of this poem/hymn. After all, not only did Paul personally meet with the disciples such as Peter, James and John in order to verify whether his proclamation regarding Christ was sound (cf. Galatians 1:11-19; 2:1-10), there were also so-called Jewish Christians who had been troubling the Philippians (cf. 3:1-7) that would have obviously reported back to the disciples in Jerusalem regarding the things they had seen and heard there. This increases the likelihood of Jesus’ original followers both being aware of and actually approving this poem/hymn. 

Hence, what this means is that as early as the 40s AD Jesus’ original disciples along with their followers were proclaiming the Incarnation of Christ!

In other words, just a litter over a decade after the Lord’s death and resurrection the eyewitnesses of Jesus and those that followed them had already begun preaching that Christ is God Almighty in the flesh!

Finally, the blessed Apostle provides further indications that he and the believers before him believed that Christ is Yahweh Incarnate. Paul makes reference to the day of Jesus Christ, being the day when Christ returns to judge the world: 

“holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.” Philippians 2:16

“And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ… so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,” Philippians 1:6, 10

He also speaks of the Spirit of the risen Lord helping him:

“Yes, and I shall rejoice. For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,” Philippians 1:19

To say that these statements are remarkable would be putting it mildly since the Hebrew Bible links both this day and the Spirit to Yahweh!

“Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord! Why would you have the day of the Lord? It is darkness, and not light; as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house and leaned with his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him. Is not the day of the Lord darkness, and not light, and gloom with no brightness in it?” Amos 5:18-20

“Be silent before the Lord God! For the day of the Lord is at hand; the Lord has prepared a sacrifice and consecrated his guests. And on the day of the Lord’s sacrifice—‘I will punish the officials and the king’s sons and all who array themselves in foreign attire. On that day I will punish every one who leaps over the threshold, and those who fill their master’s house with violence and fraud.’ … The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter, the mighty man cries aloud there. A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements. I will bring distress on men, so that they shall walk like the blind, because they have sinned against the Lord; their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them on the day of the wrath of the Lord. In the fire of his jealous wrath, all the earth shall be consumed; for a full, yea, sudden end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.” Zephaniah 1:7-9, 14-18

“But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.” Micah 3:8

“Then he said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerub′babel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.’” Zechariah 4:6

To, therefore, associate this specific day and the Holy Spirit with Christ is to basically identify him as Yahweh Almighty!

We will have more to say concerning the Day of the Lord Jesus in our discussion of 1 Corinthians 8:4-6.

With that said we are now ready to proceed to the next part of our rebuttal.