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"Made himself of no reputation" or "Emptied himself" in Philippians 2:7?

Eκενωσεν in the most basic sense means "emptied," but it is proper to translate it with a more precise word that fits the context.  The context that surrounds this verb is exegetical of its meaning (Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary).  All translations translate the forms of κενόω in various ways according to context.  More dynamic translations exhibit the wide range of ways in which κενόω could be translated.  Consider the NIV:

  • κεκενωται is translated "has no value" in Romans 4:14
  • κενωση is translated "deprive" in 1 Corinthians 9:15

Even the literal NASB translates κενόω according to context:

  • κεκενωται is translated "made void" in Romans 4:14 and 1 Corinthians 1:17.

Thus κενόω does not merely mean "empty" but emptiness in regards to a thing (determined by context).  The NIV in Romans 4:14 translates κεκενωται as "no value" because the context determines that the emptiness is in regards to value.  The NASB in 1 Corinthians 1:17 translates κεκενωται as "made void" because the context determines that the emptiness is in regards to effect.  Likewise, the KJV translates εκενωσεν in Philippians 2:7 as "made... of no reputation" because the context determines that the emptiness is in regards to reputation:

"But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (Philippians 2:7-8)

The point of Philippians 2:7-8 is that Jesus made himself empty in regards to reputation.  Thus "made himself of no reputation" is precise.  The literal "emptied himself" can lead to abuse by people like Jehovah's Witnesses who do not believe that Jesus was God.  The New World Translation has "emptied himself."  One could take this phrase "emptied himself" and suppose that Jesus emptied himself of his divinity.  The KJV translation ensures that the meaning of εκενωσεν is understood according to context and prevents abuse.  Since even the literal NASB translates κενόω according to context and not always as mere "emptied," the KJV's treatment of εκενωσεν is proper and helpful.

Read more articles from: The King James Version is Demonstrably Inerrant