Another early Christian oral tradition is Philippians 2:6-11:
Phil 2:6-11 KJV
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.
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of [things] in heaven, and [things] in earth, and [things] under the earth;
11 And [that] every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Even Ehrman acknowledges this passage is early.
The first and most important thing is that it has been widely recognized by scholars for a very long time that this passage is something that Paul appears to be quoting, that it is not simply part of the prose letter.
Philippians 2:6-11 is often referred to as a hymn, song, or poem.
Philippians 2:5-11 is called THE HYMN OF CHRIST, because scholars tell us that this passage records an actual hymn that was sung in worship by the early church.
Many scholars believe that in Phil 2:6-11 Paul quotes an early Christian hymn describing Christ’s incarnation and subsequent exaltation [as Lord]. Scholars who interpret Phil 2:6-11 as an early Christian hymn point out that it contains a rich vocabulary, a number of poetic elements (e.g., parallelism, paradox, climax), and that, with only one or two small changes, it can stand alone as an independent composition.
The verses in this passage are arranged in couplets and they feature poetic devices. This evidence of prose has led scholars to postulate that this passage may, in fact, be the words of a very early Christian hymn, confession, or creed. While we cannot know with certainty which of these literary genres this passage belongs to, it contains aspects commonly found in creeds. It contains dogma, liturgy, confession, polemic, and doxology. (O’Brien 1991:188)
Rather, he expected that his readers affirm the
Christology in this passage based on what they already knew and affirmed about Jesus. If they
did not affirm this Christology, that Jesus was equal in status with God (divine) and humbled
himself through the incarnation, Paul makes a rather ill informed and vain ethical illustration of
humility to the community in Philippi. Thus the Christology in this hymn dates back at least to
the founding of the church in Philippi sometime in the 40s CE. Paul’s own conversion took
place around one year after the death of Jesus (c. 34 CE) and it was during that early period his
Christology took shape and hardened. Therefore, the Christology in this hymn traces back to the
convictions of the earliest Christians.
The first strophe of the hymn from Phil 2:6-11
states that Christ existed in the form of God (en morphē theou) but in the
emptying process He took the form of a slave (morphēn doulou). The
Pauline language suggests an antithesis of ‘God’ and ‘slave’, but the
repetition of morphē identifies the two in the way that John in his gospel
identifies crucifixion with exaltation.