The following articles have been compiled and indexed by inWORD Bible software.
"Word” and “Beginning” in John 1
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1, NIV)
Bible Basics: God Manifestation
What follows will not be easy to grasp fully at first reading, but the importance of the subject will become more evident as your studies proceed. We include it at this point so that you will leave this Study having fully considered the Bible’s basic revelation about God Himself.
Preexistence and the Jewish Messiah
Jewish authors and sages had a very specific way of emphasizing the great importance they attached to certain central values in Jewish life and thought: they made statements to the effect that the features in question were preexistent in the sense that they were either actually created in the six days of Genesis or their idea came up before God at that seminal time. Among them they mentioned the Tora, Repentance, the Garden of Eden and Gehenna, God’s Throne of Glory, the Fathers, Israel, the Temple — and the Messiah. Of these various entities to which preexistence was ascribed, the Messiah is mentioned in a much earlier literary source that the others. He first appears as preexistent in the apocryphal First Book of Enoch, which was originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic about 150 B.C.E. From that period on, the concept of the Messiah who was created in the six days of Creation, or even prior to them, or who was born at variously stated subsequent dates and was then hidden to await his time, became a standard feature of Jewish Messianic eschatology. In one version it is the name of the Messiah which was created in the Beginning; in another, his spirit or his soul; in a third, he himself was actually born and even his celestial throne was fashioned.
Preexistence: On the Eve of the First Sabbath
6. Ten things were created at twilight of Shabbat eve. These are: the mouth of the earth [that swallowed Korach]; the mouth of [Miriam’s] well; the mouth of [Balaam’s] ass; the rainbow; the manna; [Moses’] staff; the shamir; the writing, the inscription and the tablets [of the Ten Commandments]. Some say also the burial place of Moses and the ram of our father Abraham. And some say also the spirits of destruction as well as the original tongs, for tongs are made with tongs.
Christology, the study of who Jesus is, has to do with a reasoned statement about the relation of Jesus to the One God of Israel. There is no doubt that for the early Christians Jesus “had the value and reality of God.” This, however, does not mean that they thought Jesus “was God.” It has been held by some that John presents Jesus in metaphysical terms which would appeal to people in the Greek world who thought in terms of abstract ideas familiar to Hellenistic thought. “Orthodoxy” claims John as its bridge to the world of Greek metaphysics — the metaphysics which helped to mold the Jesus of the Church Councils.
Pre-existence From a First-Century Perspective
All the authors of the Bible (with perhaps the exception being Luke) were Jews, and they thought, lived, and wrote entirely within a Hebraic framework. The Bible and the Talmud both provide many examples of where, when a Jew wished to designate something as predestined, the Jew spoke of it as already “existing” in heaven. Thus “pre-existence” statements in the New Testament really have to do with foreknowledge, foreordination and predestination. One of the most prominent scholars in modern christological studies, Larry Hurtado, states that, “There is today a virtual consensus among scholars that the pre-Christian Jewish tradition provides the most important background for the idea of pre-existence in the NT.” In other words, in order to understand the New Testament references involving pre-existence, it is important to read those texts from a first-century Jewish perspective.
The Nature of Preexistence in the New Testament
“Within the Christian tradition, the New Testament has long been read through the prism of the later conciliar creeds...Speaking of Jesus as the Son of God had a very different connotation in the first century from that which it has had ever since the Council of Nicea (325 AD). Talk of his preexistence ought probably in most, perhaps in all, cases to be understood on the analogy of the pre-existence of the Torah, to indicate the eternal divine purpose being achieved through him, rather than pre-existence of a fully personal kind” (Maurice Wiles, The Remaking of Christian Doctrine, The Hulsean Lectures, 1973, London: SCM Press, 1974).
A Muslim’s Reply to Christianity
Christians and Muslims who learn something of one another’s religion find that a crucial issue is the nature of Jesus. The majority of Christians deify Jesus while Muslims say that he was no more than a prophet of God, a faultless human being. The doctrine of the Trinity avows that three distinct co-equals are God. In particular, Jesus is said to be God the Son, or the Son of God. As the Muslim questions details of this theology, the Christian characteristically forms a common explanation for our differences: He complains that Muslims do not understand the Trinity; that we are actually accusing Christians of Tritheism and other heresies.
Adam Clarke, John Milton, Buswell and the Eternally Begotten Son of God
Various voices have been raised in protest against what later became the Church’s official version of the origins of the Son of God. His beginning was supposed to have been in pre-history. He was presented as an apparent rival to the One God, coequal with Him in every way, even self-existent. Because the language of begetting was biblical it was maintained but emptied of recognizable meaning. Commentator Adam Clarke was one of many who protested about the garbled language attributing a non-biblical Sonship to Jesus:
Adam Pastor: Unitarian Mennonite
In 1546 an unnamed Flemish anti-Trinitarian visited the colony of radical Anabaptists who had taken refuge in Poland. G. H. Williams¹ surmises that this may well have been the unitarian Mennonite, Adam Pastor (b. ca. 1510). Pastor, who on joining the Anabaptists had changed his name from Rudolph Martens, was a former Roman Catholic priest. He had thrown in his lot with the Anabaptists in 1533, probably in Munster. He was ordained as an evangelist and soon distinguished himself by opposing the spiritualism of David Joris. At this stage of his career Pastor worked closely with Menno Simons and Dietrich Philips. In 1547, however, it became apparent that Pastor differed sharply from the Melchiorite Christology of Menno. The Melchiorites believed that even the flesh of Christ was not derived from Mary, but had descended from heaven. For Pastor this belief seemed plainly to threaten the humanity of Christ. Pastor declared himself a unitarian, holding that Christ did not exist as the Son of God before his conception, and that his divinity was derived from the fact that God dwelt in him, not because of an “eternal generation.” A meeting to discuss these differences was held at Emden in 1547, and the following year, at Goch, Simons and Philips officially excommunicated Pastor for his unorthodox Christology.
Cause for Alarm!
Scholars use a lot of (I think wasted) energy trying to find out what Jesus said, believing that you have to guess at this, since no one knows if Jesus said things reported of him in our Bibles, or whether the later church put words back in his mouth! You can imagine how devastating this technique is to the comfort and instruction which many of us seek in Scripture and the precious words of Jesus, the Master teacher.
Confusing the Two Lords of Psalms 110:1
This magazine deliberately urges believers to think deeply about the identities of the Son of God, Jesus, and of God, who is the God and Father of Jesus. We encourage a complete rethinking of traditional Christology in the light of the all-important oracle provided by Psalms 110:1. This verse is precious to New Testament writers. It is a star witness, summoned over and over again in the New Testament. New Testament writers of Scripture quote it or allude to it more than any other text of the Hebrew Scriptures, by far. They wanted the voice of Jesus to be heard, since it was Jesus who silenced all objectors by citing the divine oracle of Psalms 110:1. Jesus loved this Psalm because his Father’s amazing immortality plan was revealed in it.
Incarnation Derives From the Hellenistic World
In his great study of pre-existence christology, Born Before All Time?, my Tübingen colleague Karl-Josef Kuschel has been able to show convincingly that the Pauline statements about the sending of the Son of God do not presuppose any pre-existence of Christ as a heavenly being, understood in mythological terms, but must similarly be seen against a Jewish background, namely in the context of the prophetic tradition. As he points out: ‘The metaphor of “sending” (borrowed from the prophetic tradition) expresses the conviction that the person and work of Jesus do not originate within history but are completely the result of God’s initiative.’²² ‘Paul’s confessions are about the origin, derivation and presence of Christ, from God and in God, but not about a temporally isolated “existence” before the creation of the world...”²³
John and Jewish Preexistence: Christology of the Fourth Gospel
The Gospel of John has been a hotbed of arguments, disputes, and disagreements ever since it was composed some two thousand years ago. Even now, modern preachers and theologians have become accustomed to interpreting the Fourth Gospel to the exclusion of the voices represented in its Synoptic counterparts, often going so far as pitting John’s christology directly against what is taught in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. More to the point, christological treatments of John’s Gospel are regularly detached from the vital and necessary context of the Jewish mindset in which the author lived and breathed. The unfortunate side effect of such interpretations results in expositors preferring their reading of the christological texts in John over and against the other voices in the Bible. The historian Roger Haight states that this observation is not simply a modern phenomenon, noting that, “[a]fter the New Testament period, the understanding of Jesus Christ became governed by the framework and language of the Prologue of John’s Gospel. The Jesus who was the subject matter of christology ceased to be the Jesus of the synoptics.”¹ Is this not, in effect, a canon within the canon?
Sophia in Rabbinic Hermeneutics and the Curious Christian Corollary
Canaanite and Israelite tradition celebrated Sophia as divine being or agent in creation, providence, and salvation well into Second Temple Judaism producing two strands of Sophianology which influenced biblical interpretation in Gnostic, Rabbinic, and Christian thought. Enochian apocalyptic tradition shaped Gnostic and Christian hermeneutics; while the wisdom traditions of Ben Sirach and Philo expressed the type of perspective more plainly evident in Rabbinic thought. By the fourth century CE, Sophia, the preexistent deity or deity agent who gave form to the universe and wisdom to the pious and learned, became the immanent human experience of illumination and wisdom, in that, for Rabbinics, Torah became the preexistent source of redemptive divine wisdom and power, and for Christianity Jesus took that place. Gnosticism persisted in an apocalyptic model with a deified though ambiguous Sophia, uneclipsed by a redemptive agent such as Jesus or Torah.
The Word Spoken: God’s Determined Plan and Purpose
John writes about the Word as though it was something separate from God Himself. This helps us to see the way in which those attributes of God that have to do with the communication and expression of His purpose came to their fulfilment in the work of Jesus Christ.
Studies in John: The Prologue
The background of ideas, Gentile and Jewish, of the opening verses of John’s gospel, and some of the associations of the words he uses. The Old Testament shewn to be most essential to the understanding of his words.
From the Foundation of the World
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)
The Authorised Version
While it is true that the great majority of versions produced since 1611 were translated by Trinitarians, it was the King James Version which set the tone by mistranslating John 1:3,4. The rendering of the Greek pronoun autou by ‘him’ is incorrect because, although logos (word) is a masculine noun in Greek, it is a neuter noun in English, and therefore the English pronoun should be neuter, that is, ‘it’, rather than the masculine ‘him’.
The Formulation of Dogma: The Christ of the Creeds
We have examined some of the factors which led to the formulation of dogma in the early centuries of the Christian era and we have seen that the controversies and questions centred pre-eminently on the person of Jesus Christ. To review in any detail the steps by which formal definitions on these questions came to be laid down would require far more space than we have available and might prove tedious. It is proposed, however, to indicate in very broad outline the main periods in the development, so that the dogmas which were formed then and still remain part of the orthodox creed of the Established Church may be seen against their proper background.
The Word Made Flesh
The style of the fourth Gospel has little in common with that of the Synoptics. Luke’s narrative is avowedly historical in purpose (Luke 1:1-4), and the same purpose can clearly be seen in the gospel records of Matthew and Mark.
The Pre-existence of Christ
The doctrine of the Trinity naturally involves the idea of the existence of Christ in heaven before his appearance on earth as the babe of Bethlehem to grow up to be the saviour of men.
The Nature of Preexistence in the Gospel of John: A Case Study of John 8:58 and 17:5
The Gospel of John has been a hotbed of arguments, disputes, and disagreements ever since it was composed some two thousand years ago. Modern preachers and theologians continue to lift up the Fourth Gospel over its Synoptic counterparts, often pitting John’s christology against what is taught in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Furthermore, John’s Gospel regularly gets detached from the messianic expectations and job qualifications set forth by a plurality of passages within the Hebrew Bible. In effect, these interpreters are saying that they prefer [their reading of] John over and against the previous forty-two books of the Bible. The distinguished historian Roger Haight notes that this observation is not simply a modern phenomenon, noting that “[a]fter the New Testament period, the understanding of Jesus Christ became governed by the framework and language of the Prologue of John’s Gospel. The Jesus who was the subject matter of christology ceased to be the Jesus of the synoptics.”¹
Some Wrested Scriptures
Did Jesus exist in heaven as a person before he was born in Bethlehem? The Bible seems to answer plainly, yes; e.g. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . All things were made by him, and without him was not anything made that was made”; “No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven”; “What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where he was before?”; “I speak that which I have seen with my Father”; “I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me”; “Before Abraham was, I am”; “The glory which I had with thee before the world was”; “Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world”. The list is formidable, and the meaning is plain. But why are they all in John? With the exception of Hebrews 1 and Colossians 1, easily dealt with separately and easily shown to have no connection with the foregoing, the “pre-existence” of Christ cannot be even traced elsewhere in the Bible. Was John the only inspired writer to have this truth or to believe in it? This consideration should immediately awaken suspicion, for if this doctrine is true it should be one of the salient features of the Divine purpose and revelation. All the other fundamentals of truth can be found scattered throughout the Book. Why this most unexpected exception? Can it be that John has been misunderstood?
Bread Come From God
“For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven.” (John 6:33)
Wrested Scriptures: Pre-existence and Deity of Christ
Group a) passages are easily explained once it is shown that the creative work of Christ refers to the making of new men and women, and not to the creation of animals, trees etc. of Genesis 1. Christ is the firstborn of the new creation.
Dr. Dustin Smith on Debating Jesus’ Preexistence
On April 9, 2016, Dr. Dustin Smith debated Mr. David Barron on the topic: “Does The Bible Teach That Jesus Christ Literally Preexisted His Birth?” Mr. Barron argued for the affirmative, continuing what has long been a majority view in Christian tradition, that Jesus physically existed before his birth.Dr. Smith argued for the negative position, that is Smith argued for the minority view that the New Testament does not teach Jesus’ literal pre-human existence before his birth.
Dr. Dustin Smith on Preexistence in Ancient Jewish Thought
If a native English speaker says “you have a frog in your throat,” this means that your voice doesn’t sound normal, but is low, broken, “croaky.” It is a mistake to think that he is saying that you literally have a frog in your throat!
Dr. Dustin Smith on the Preexistence of Jesus in the Gospel of John
Does the fourth gospel teach that Jesus existed long before his conception, even before the creation of the cosmos?Most readers think so.But in this episode, Dr. Dustin Smith argues that rightly understood, this gospel neither assumes nor teaches that Jesus “preexisted,” that is, existed before he was a human. He argues that we should read the gospel according to John in light of Jewish assumptions about human beings and the Messiah, taking care to understand the author’s distinctive language and his “misunderstanding motif.”
Thomas Belsham and Other Scholars on John 8:58
“Before Abraham was, I was already, in God’s plan, the Messiah.” Is this what Jesus means in John 8:58?
Pre-existence, preexistence, beforelife, or pre-mortal existence refers to the belief that each individual human soul existed before mortal conception, and at some point before birth enters or is placed into the body. Concepts of pre-existence can encompass either the belief that the soul came into existence at some time prior to conception or the belief that the soul is eternal. Alternative positions are traducianism and creationism, which both hold that the individual human soul does not come into existence until conception. It is to be distinguished from preformation, which is about physical existence and applies to all living things.