Did Jesus “empty” Himself?


by Shawn Brasseaux

Philippians 2:7 reads in the King James Bible: “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:” Some modern versions read Jesus “emptied himself” in the place of “made himself of no reputation.” Why does this matter?


The Greek word rendered “made himself of no reputation” in our King James Bible is handled elsewhere.

  • “emptied himself” (American Standard Version, Amplified Version, English Standard Version, Holman Christian Standard Bible, New American Standard Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Revised Standard Version, Roman Catholic New American Bible, and Jehovah’s Witness New World Translation).
  • “made Himself of no reputation” (21st Century King James Version, New King James Version).
  • “he gave up everything” (Contemporary English Version).
  • “laid aside his mighty power and glory” (Living Bible).
  • “he gave up his place with God” (New Century Version).
  • “he made himself nothing” (New International Version).
  • “he gave up his divine privileges” (New Living Translation).
  • “but He poured Himself out to fill a vessel brand new” (The Voice).

As you can see, these modern versions are a slippery theological slope. The majority of them want Philippians 2:7 to say Jesus “emptied himself.” Note that even the Jehovah’s Witness version reads this way.

It should be noted that Amplified Bible’s translators carefully inserts bracketed comments lest their wording confuse: “but emptied Himself [without renouncing or diminishing His deity, but only temporarily giving up the outward expression of divine equality and His rightful dignity] by assuming the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men [He became completely human but was without sin, being fully God and fully man].” Of course, had they just left “made himself of no reputation” alone, it would be unnecessary to add the bracketed words “without renouncing or diminishing His deity, but only temporarily giving up the outward expression of divine equality and His rightful dignity.”

The word (kenoo) “he made himself of no reputation” means while Jesus never quit being God, He did not go around demanding people serve Him. He was not the issue. He did not make His reputation as God the issue. As the perfect Man, He had come to serve God the Father. He was equal to God the Father (verse 6) but He chose not to exercise the right of being served as God would be served. Rather than issuing commands (as God), He obeyed them (as Man).

The Bible says in Matthew 20:25-28: “[25] But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. [26] But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; [27] And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: [28] Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

As God, Jesus had a reputation. But He did not make that an issue when He became a Man. Rather, He submitted to His Heavenly Father. “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt…. O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done” (Matthew 26:39,42). As we would say, He did not “go around strutting His stuff.” He did not walk about with a vain, pompous bearing, head held high and chest sticking out, expecting to impress others.

Philippians chapter 2: “[5] Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: [6] Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: [7] But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: [8] And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

Jesus Christ did not “empty himself” as some modern English Bible translations suggest. That would be heresy! Jesus could not stop being who He was (His first nature was that He was God). Friend, you cannot change your nature. However, you can act contrary to your nature. This is what Jesus did. It was not Jesus’ nature to behave as a Man, for He was God. However, He added a new nature to Himself—a human nature—so He could behave as a man. Thus, Jesus had two natures: He was fully God, and, in addition, fully Man. “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).

Second Corinthians 8:9 summarizes: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.”

Also see:
» Is the Trinity/Godhead a Scriptural teaching?
» Can Jews who believe in God, the Father, but who reject Jesus, be saved from eternal damnation?
» Is the Holy Spirit a Person or a force?