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Every Knee… and Every Tongue (Isaiah in Philippians 2:10-11)

August 22, 2013
"St. Paul Writing His Epistles," by Valentin de Boulogne (17th Cent.)

“St. Paul Writing His Epistles,” by Valentin de Boulogne (17th Cent.)

For the first time that I can remember (after nearly 30 years of reading the Bible) I noticed the connection between Isaiah 45:23 and Philippians 2:10-11.

Paul clearly sees this Isaiah passage as being “about” Jesus.

Isaiah 45:23

English: …because to me every knee shall bow and every tongue acknowledge (=confess) God…

Greek: ὅτι ἐμοὶ κάμψει πᾶν γόνυ καὶ ἐξομολογήσεται πᾶσα γλῶσσα τῷ θεῷ

Philippians 2:10-11

…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.

ἵνα ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι Ἰησοῦ
πᾶν γόνυ κάμψῃ
ἐπουρανίων καὶ ἐπιγείων καὶ καταχθονίων
καὶ πᾶσα γλῶσσα ἐξομολογήσηται ὅτι
κύριος Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς
εἰς δόξαν θεοῦ πατρός.

While Isaiah speaks of tongues’ acknowledging God (i.e., confessing belief and trust in God), Paul says more specifically that every tongue will confess that “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Paul carries over “God” (θεός) from Isaiah, but explicitly names Jesus Christ as the sovereign Lord (κύριος) over all.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. August 22, 2013 11:04 am

    Yes – Paul does take this text and apply it to the risen Christ, the vindicated Jesus. Dunn (Christology in the Making) p 118 puts this into the frame of first and last Adam Christology – that Jesus is installed at the right hand of God as Lord. (Not as Yhwh but as Adon). Thinking this does not help me much – following his pattern of obedience has helped me – death then life. Such is a brief expression of hope within my limited knowledge of reality.

  2. August 22, 2013 12:17 pm

    Also see Paul’s usage of the same OT passage in Romans 14:11 – it seems that Paul has no trouble coordinating YHWH, God, and Kurios.

  3. August 22, 2013 12:23 pm

    Thanks for the comments, Bob and Bob!

    Interesting how Paul seems to leave Rom. 14:11 much more “in tact” (I realize that phrase/assessment is problematic) in that passage.

    • bubaflub permalink
      August 22, 2013 12:31 pm

      Yeah, it would make an interesting Ph.D. thesis examining how this one passage is used in two (slightly?) different ways.

      As a side note, it is a good discussion piece with non-Trinitarians like JWs. It may be easy to offer alternative translations to Jn 1:1, Ti 2:13 or quibble about the comma in Rom. 9:5. It’s more difficult to escape those places where the OT refers to YHWH and the NT is applied to Jesus.

      • August 22, 2013 1:38 pm

        Good point!

        Yes, that would be a really fun Ph.D. thesis! All sorts of angles to explore there.

  4. September 1, 2013 3:36 pm

    Does this satisfy Hays’ criteria for discerning an intertextual echo?

    • September 1, 2013 3:45 pm

      I don’t have his list available to me at the moment. Seems stronger to me than just “echo,” but one man’s allusion is another man’s echo, is another woman’s partial quotation, etc.

      What would you say?

      Thanks for the comment!


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