Bible Articles on the Topic of Pre-existence

The following articles have been compiled and indexed by inWORD Bible software.

"Homoousios” (Of the Same Substance)

In the 4th century AD the church was embroiled in a bitter controversy over the nature of Christ, and his relationship to the Father. A pastor and teacher named Arius believed and taught what came to be called Arianism: that God was greater than His Son, as a father must be superior to a son, and that the Son in turn had a literal beginning — thus, that he did not exist from all eternity, as had his Father. In general outline, at least, this was much closer to the truth of the Bible than were the “orthodox” views of the time — which should be considered the beginnings of the formulation of the false doctrine of the Trinity.

"Before Abraham Was, I Am"

These words are often misapplied to teach that Jesus existed before Abraham did. However, closer investigation reveals the opposite to be true:

Bible Basics: Foreknowledge And Christ’s Place In God’s Plan

God does not decide on His plans on the spur of the moment, devising extra parts to His purpose as human history unfolds. God had a complete plan formulated right from the beginning of creation (John 1:1). His desire to have a Son was therefore in His plan from the beginning. The whole of the Old Testament reveals different aspects of God’s plan of salvation in Christ.

"I Came Down From Heaven"

The bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world... I came down from heaven. (John 6:33,38)

Preexistence in the “Assumption of Moses"

The Assumption of Moses is believed to be a 1st century Samaritan document, and is one of the earlier references to the usage of preexistence language in Jewish literature. In the passage below, Moses is described as existing “from the foundation of the world”:

Titles of the Christ

The Lord Jesus Christ has many names and titles, including such titles as the Son of God, the Word of God, the Wisdom of God, the first and the last, and the Divine Name represented in his “I am” utterances. These titles and names encapsulate aspects of his identity.

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.

In The Beginning Was The Word

Our subject title is taken from the opening portion of the first chapter of John’s Gospel, which is a much misunderstood introduction. I say much misunderstood because Bible students are very much divided in their interpretation of it. Many claim that if teaches the doctrine of the Trinity and its companion doctrine, the pre-existence of Christ, as “God the Son”, while others are equally emphatic in claiming that it furnishes no support whatever for either of these doctrines, provided it is properly translated and understood. Again, many claim that the Apostle John takes as his starting point the Genesis creation, while others contend that the “beginning” he had in mind was the beginning of the gospel dispensation. It will be our purpose, keeping in mind the principle of exegesis already stated, to show what the apostle had in mind, as evidenced by the context, both immediate and remote.

47 English Translations: John 1

The opening verses of the Gospel of John have proven to be, unfortunately, a veritable battleground and storm center of theological argument. Translators have often edited John to make him fit much later systems of theology. For instance, John, who was a Jew, had never heard of the term “trinity,” the proposition that God consists of three “persons.” Yet many of the church fathers made an appeal to such a doctrine by pointing to the opening verses of John. They managed there to contradict the witness of Jesus himself and present the reader with a second eternal “person” alongside the Father—giving the appearance of two “gods”. This error was achieved by first putting, incorrectly, a capital letter on the word “word” (translated from the Greek logos), giving it the appearance of “personhood.” Having altered the meaning of the Greek word logos by giving it personhood, the next move was to refer to logos with a masculine pronoun “him,” rather than a neuter “it.”

NET Trinitarian Bias

Now I desire to remind you (even though you have been fully informed of these facts once for all) that Jesus, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, later destroyed those who did not believe. (Jude 1:5, NET)

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.

Mashiach Human

Mashiach and the Messianic age are the ultimate end for the world, preconceived from the very beginning, for which the world was created.¹ Mashiach, therefore, is one of the things that precede the creation.² This refers, however, to the principle and soul of Mashiach. On the actual level of the physical world’s reality, Mashiach is a human being:

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).

Early Church Fathers: No Room for Trinitarian Teaching

“The object of our worship is the One God” (Tertullian: Apology, xvii).

Thomas Jefferson and the Doctrine of the Trinity

The following are excerpts from Thomas Jefferson’s Deistic refutations of the Trinity.

Spirit of Moshiach

The second verse of Genesis tells us that “the earth was astonishingly empty, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the water.” On this the Midrash comments, “‘The spirit of God’—this is the spirit of Moshiach.” In other words, God created light and dark—both physical light and dark as well as their metaphoric counterparts: Redemption and galut. And even before that time, He envisioned a time when the light will banish the dark. He envisioned the spirit of Moshiach.

The Hovering Spirit of Messiah

The Torah begins with the well-known, cheery sentence: “In the beginning G–d created the heavens and the earth.”

The Key to Bible Understanding: The Trinity

The Athanasian Creed, which is accepted by the majority of the Churches professing to be Christian, furnishes an authoritative answer. It states:

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.

Does Colossians 1:15-19 Mean Jesus Preexisted and Created the Universe?

Multiple issues arise in Colossians 1:15-19 that have caused many Bible readers to think Paul therein teaches that Jesus preexisted and created the universe. From this they conclude that only God does that, so Jesus must be God. But Paul does not mean any of that. This text, which is about Jesus, reads as follows in the New American Standard Bible:

A Synopsis: Explaining “Jesus is God” Verses

Most distinguished Trinitarian scholars who have written on the doctrine of the Trinity cite the following texts as the foremost biblical support for these beliefs. We call them “Jesus is God verses” for simplicity sake. Not only is this an easy way to identify the verses, but also expresses what Trinitarians believe these verses teach. Alternative ways to understand these verses accompany them below.

Explanations to Verses Commonly Used to Teach that Jesus Is God

Isn’t it interesting how one statement can be shocking and controversial in one setting and totally mundane in another? For example, if someone came into a room of NASCAR enthusiasts and said, “Racing is so boring to watch—all they do is take left turns over and over,” immediately all activity in the room would screech to a halt so that one could hear a pin drop as each person with blazing eyes fixed their best death stare on the intruder. However, if the same phrase were uttered in a room full of people who didn’t care for car racing, there might be a brief chuckle, but then life would go on. So it is with the phrase, “Jesus is God.” Among my own biblical, unitarian¹ brothers and sisters, this statement is not only understood as false and pejorative, it may even trigger memories of ridicule and exclusion from mainstream Christians. Yet, in any other Christian context, trinitarian or modalist,² the phrase, “Jesus is God,” is utterly mundane and doesn’t even warrant raising an eyebrow. Even so, there are at least two instances in the New Testament in which Jesus is called God.³ So, the question we need to ask is not, “Is Jesus God?” but, “What does the Bible mean when it says, Jesus is God?”⁴ But, before we look at the two places in the New Testament where Jesus is called God, it is necessary to build our understanding of a biblical notion called representational deity, in order to give us the required interpretive tools to understand what the Bible means when humans are called “Gods.”

Heterosis: The Past, Present or Future Figure of Speech

God is the Author of language, and the ability to communicate by words is one thing that sets apart man from all other creatures. God invented words so he could communicate with us and we can communicate with each other. Figures of speech exist in every language, and they add emphasis and feeling to what we say and write.

Philosophical Concept of the Logos

The concept of the Logos is clearly important to John. John’s Logos closely parallels Wisdom in the Old Testament, but he would most likely also have been aware of Philo’s concept of the Logos. Perhaps he meshed the two concepts together.

"The Trinity is Like a 3-in-1 Shampoo”...and Other Stupid Statements

Alternate title: “Trinitarian Heresy 101”

Trinity

The traditional Christian doctrine of the Trinity is commonly expressed as the statement that the one God exists as or in three equally divine “persons”, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Every significant concept in this statement (God, exists, as or in, equally divine, person) has been variously understood. The guiding principle has been the creedal declaration that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit of the New Testament are consubstantial (i.e. the same in substance or essence, Greek: homoousios). Because this shared substance or essence is a divine one, this is understood to imply that all three named individuals are divine, and equally so. Yet the three in some sense “are” the one God of the Bible.

Type I, Type II and Type III Trinitarianism

Seven years ago I sat down and drafted a template for debating Trinitarians. As part of this process, I identified three specific Trinitarian methodologies. I refer to them as Type I, Type II and Type III Trinitarianism.

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)

How Jesus Became God

When we meet together each Sunday, at the opening of the service, it is quite common for presiding brothers in their public prayers to give thanks to God for the fact that we are able to meet together in “peace and safety.” That portion of their prayer concerning our being able to meet together in “peace and safety” is something that we can easily take for granted. These prayers remind us that we live in a country where we do not have to worry about being physically attacked by religious adversaries or arrested by our government for simply showing up here each Sunday to worship God according to our consciences. But for many people, for many centuries, in various lands,… for them this wasn’t always the case.

Incarnation Rebuttal: The Word Becoming Flesh?

The following is a transcription of a sermon by Bill Kynes, pastor of Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church, in Annandale, Virginia, given on December 20, 2015. The title of his sermon was, “Incarnation: The Word Becoming Flesh.” I was in the audience listening to the pastor’s message and found myself disagreeing with much of what the pastor put forth. I decided to transcribe Pastor Kynes’ words (found in blue type-face) and insert my comments (found in black type-face) along the way.

By Most Careful Personal Examination

It is a little known fact that no major English Bible translation ever uses the words “incarnate” or “incarnation.”¹ When you hear pastors make reference to “the incarnation,” or that “God was incarnate,” they allude to 1 Timothy 3:16, a text which has been translated in several ways (on account of variations in the Greek manuscripts). The King James and NKJ versions translate the verse in the following manner:

The Word Had Created Him, Not He the Word

It must be observed that John never represents Jesus as God but always as the Son of God. The whole purpose of his writing, he declares, is” that ye may believe that Jesus is, the Christ, the Son of God.” So the separation of Father and Son is always observed and the Song of Solomon always appears as subordinate to the Father: it is, for example, the Father Who sent the Son into the world. Again Jesus never proclaims himself as God but deliberately emphasises his dependence upon God in all things. He can do nothing of himself, and he does not speak of himself but as he has been commanded by the Father; when he claims to reveal that Father to men, it is as the Son of God: and, when he affirms his unity with God, it is a unity which can be enjoyed also by those who become his disciples. The only possible exception to this is the language occasionally used by Jesus which suggests some sort of pre-existence.

Do the Scriptures Teach the Existence of Christ Prior to His Birth?

The human mind is incapable of understanding to the fullest extent the might and majesty of God. Be that as it may, all that pertains to God is logical. “We have not followed cunningly devised fables.” Jesus Christ was the Son of God. He therefore proceeded from God and must have been begotten of Him. Could he then have been “eternally begotten” as declared in the Church creed? In all reverence we ask whether that which was begotten could have been in existence as long as the One from Whom he was begotten?

Figurative Language: “From Heaven"

“And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” (John 3:13)

The Forgiveness of Sins

“And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.” (John 3:13)

Did Signify of Christ

Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow. (1 Peter 1:10-11)

Addressed to God or to Jesus?

“And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thine hands.” (Hebrews 1:10)

"Egeneto” Never Translated “Create"

The A.V. for John 1:10 reads “...the world was made by him...” The Greek for “was made” [Greek: εγενετο: “egeneto”] is elsewhere translated “be done” (63 times), “be made” (69 times), “become” (42), “come” (53), “come to pass” (82), but it is NEVER translated by “create”.

The Creator Made the World Because of the Son

In passages such as Hebrews 1:3, Colossians 1:15-17, and John 1:3, special attention should be given to the Greek prepositions dia and hupo. The former denotes, “through any thing or instrument” whereas the latter denotes, “by any one as an original cause.” Matthew 1:22 reads, “Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of (hupo) the Lord by (dia) the prophet.” More accurately this might be translated “which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet.”

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.

In the Beginning was the Act

‘Tis written: “In the beginning was the Word,” Here am I balked: who now can help afford? The Word?—impossible so high to rate it; And otherwise must I translate it. If by the Spirit I am truly taught. Then thus: “In the beginning was the Thought,” This first line let me weigh completely, Lest my impatient pen proceed too fleetly. Is it the Thought which works creates, indeed? “In the beginning was the Power,” I read. Yet, as I write, a warning is suggested. That I the sense may not have fairly tested. The Spirit aids me; now I see the light! “In the beginning was the Act,” I write.

Things Hard to be Understood

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning, with God. . . . And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1, 14)

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.

One of Many Mysterious Sayings

This is one of many mysterious sayings in the writings of the Apostle John, and it is one over which many young students are apt to stumble. They take it for granted that “the word,” in every case in which it occurs in this chapter, can be substituted by “Christ,” and that here we have support for the doctrine of the Trinity, for if the “word” existed from the beginning and “was God,” and if that “word” is Christ, then Jesus was with the Father in the beginning, and was identical with Him in person.

A Degree of Obscurity Arising from the Ignorance of Contemporary Opinions of the Logos

I come now to a passage which is perhaps the one most readily cited against the Unitarian view of Christ, and which demands the fuller notice. I refer to the Proem or Introduction to St. John’s Gospel.¹⁰⁵ That there is in it a degree of obscurity arising from our want of familiarity with the prevalent opinions of the time, may at once he admitted. To rectify and guard against the influence of these opinions, was in part the Apostle’s object. On the one hand was the Jewish or later Platonism, the leader of which was the celebrated Philo Judaeus, of Alexandria, and a contemporary of our Lord. On the other was Gnosticism, a heresy whose headquarters were at Ephesus; where, by the concurrent testimony of antiquity, the Apostle lived and wrote his Gospel. With the Gnostic opinions which prevailed throughout the regions of Greece and Asia Minor, where the new religion was spreading, the Apostle must, therefore, have been familiar; and Irenaeus—a pupil of Polycarp, who was a personal friend and disciple of St. John, and who flourished early in the second century—declares that the Evangelist wrote expressly to confute them. Between the Neo-Platonic and Gnostic systems there were some coincidences. While the former made the Logos—the Divine Reason or Intellect, in the passage before us translated Word—to be the great instrument in Creation, and gradually extended its significance to comprehend all Divine attributes employed or manifested in the Creation and Government of the world, the latter made it the Chief of the (Œons, supposed immortal spirits holding and exercising different functions or offices, themselves created, but still independent of the Supreme God. To correct these false notions was the purpose of the Apostle; by directing men’s minds to GOD Himself, as the Great and Original Source of all things, the Creator of all beings, Himself independent, they all dependent on Him. In this sense the Logos—“the Word” (the Wisdom, Power, Reason of God—Divine attributes employed in the Creation and Government of the world) “was with God”; inherent, that is, in Him, of course;—“was God,” because belonging to His essential nature. The syntax of the Greek language obliged him to seem at least to personify the

The Great Trinity Debate: Bowman vs. Burke

If you consider yourself a non-Trinitarian believer in Jesus, do I have a challenge for you!” wrote evangelical Trinitarian Rob Bowman Jr. in 2010, on the theological website, www.reclaimingthemind.org.

History of Trinitarian Doctrines

This supplementary document discusses the history of Trinity theories. Although early Christian theologians speculated in many ways on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, no one clearly and fully asserted the doctrine of the Trinity as explained at the top of the main entry until around the end of the so-called Arian Controversy. (See 3.2 below and section 3.1 of the supplementary document on unitarianism.) Nonetheless, proponents of such theories always claim them to be in some sense founded on, or at least illustrated by, biblical texts.

Judaic and Islamic Objections to the Trinity

With rare exceptions atheists and naturalists don’t bother to criticize trinitarian doctrines, beyond the passing joke or dismissal, rightly seeing issues about monotheism generally, and about the teachings and status of Jesus Christ as more fundamental. Serious critics of trinitarian doctrines are nearly always fellow Abrahamic monotheists. Objections by Christians are discussed in the supplementary document on the history of trinitarian doctrines, section 2.2, and the supplementary document on unitarianism; here we survey Islamic and Judaic objections.

Ego Eimi: I Am John, Paul, Jesus and God

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58; see R.V. marg., Greek— was born).

The Great Trinity Debate: Closing Statement

In previous weeks I have shown that my arguments are strongly supported by standard authorities and a broad range of recent Trinitarian scholarship. This week I will be summarising the key elements of the Biblical Unitarian position, identifying key weaknesses in the Trinitarian position, and weighing the evidence against three primary criteria: reason, Scripture and history.

The Great Trinity Debate: On God and Scripture

I would like to begin by thanking Rob Bowman [Jr.] and Michael Patton for giving me the opportunity to present and defend my faith. Before I commence my argument, I’ll take a little time to introduce myself, my beliefs and my approach to Scripture.

The Great Trinity Debate: On Jesus Christ

Jesus of Nazareth is the most important man who has ever lived. Christians are indebted to him for the hope that he offers, the sacrifice he offered on our behalf, and the special relationship with God that is made possible through him.

The Great Trinity Debate: On the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Part 5)

This week I hope Rob will show Biblical evidence for the essential relationship formulae of Trinitarianism:

The Historical Development of the Doctrine of the Trinity

To the ordinary reader it may seem a little strange to commence a review of the history of a Christian doctrine with a survey of the teachings and views of Greek philosophers. But in fact it is impossible to understand the development of the Trinity without this background. It was not mere rhetoric when St. Augustine confessed that he was in the dark about the Trinity until he read the writings of Plato; or when he told some to go and learn the Trinity from the Platonists.²

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

Harpagmos: “Robbery” or “Something to Be Grasped”?

Tyndale and the AV both translate the second clause of Philippians 2:6: “(Jesus) thought it not robbery to be equal with God”. This states that Jesus was ‘being equal with God’, and that he esteemed ‘being equal’ as not an act of seizing.

Views on the “Pre-Existence” of Jesus Christ

This article examines a commonly-held religious view which teaches the literal and personal pre-existence of Christ. It looks at oft-quoted passages, and some less quoted, trying to relate them to the rest of Scripture teaching, and showing that their apparent support for a personal pre-existence is insubstantial. Although a single article of this nature cannot cover all or even most of the detailed questions which can arise, I hope it will provide some help when readers are in discussion with friends.¹

Unitarianism Defined: The Unity of God and the Trinity

If any doctrine can be called fundamental to Revealed Religion, it must be that of the strict, simple, unqualified Unity of God. I take this to be universally admitted, nay, insisted on. There is not a more obvious truth in the Scriptures; none more coincident with their whole tenor and drift, or with their most express and positive declarations. Rightly interpreted, rightly understood, there is not even an intimation or hint of anything else. The language of the Bible upon this point is everywhere plain and explicit. The declaration recorded in the fourth verse of the sixth chapter of Deuteronomy, then so solemnly made to the people of Israel through Moses; and afterwards in the coming in of the new and better dispensation, quoted and so emphatically affirmed by our Lord Jesus Christ in the twenty-ninth verse of the twelfth chapter of St. Mark’s Gospel—“Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is One Lord”—is clear and indisputable. Unitarians, therefore, not only without hesitation, but in perfect harmony with the unambiguous language of Scripture, and on the express authority of Christ himself, affirm that GOD is ONE; in the strictest meaning of the word, ONE; One Person, One Being, One intelligent, conscious Mind. There are seventeen texts in the New Testament alone, in which He is expressly called the One or Only God. In thirteen hundred passages, the word God occurs; in not one of them is there any necessary implication, but directly the contrary, of a plurality of Persons in the Godhead. In but very few of them has it ever been pretended that such a plurality is even implied.

Must Christians Have a Creed: Who Was Jesus Christ?

Of all the official “creeds” of the principal churches of Christendom, none is so largely Scriptural as is the “Apostles’ Creed” of the Church of England. For whereas the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed seem to be the products of professional theologians, imposed on the members of the Church in order to settle (or stifle) controversy, and appear to bear all the expected signs of prolonged negotiation by successive Church Councils, the Apostles’ Creed, in striking contrast, is eminently suited in form and wording to the ordinary worshipper, and makes a delightfully simple Statement of Faith, which is what a “creed” should be.

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?

Ego Eimi: I Am the One (Not God)

Trinitarians argue that this verse states that Jesus said he was the “I am” (i.e., the Yahweh of the Old Testament), so he must be God. That argument is not correct. Saying “I am” does not make a person God. The man born blind that Jesus healed was not claiming to be God, and he said “I am the man,” and the Greek reads exactly like Jesus’ statement, i.e., “I am.”The fact that the exact same phrase is translated two different ways, one as “I am” and the other as “I am the man,” is one reason it is so hard for the average Christian to get the truth from just reading the Bible as it has been translated into English. Most Bible translators are Trinitarian, and their bias appears in various places in their translation, this being a common one.Paul also used the same phrase of himself when he said that he wished all men were as “I am” (Acts 26:29). Thus, we conclude that saying “I am” did not make Paul, the man born blind or Christ into God. C. K. Barrett writes:

Five Major Problems With The Trinity: Approaching the Matter from the Inside

The doctrine of the Trinity is analyzed and carefully refuted, with five major problems highlighted:

Do the NT Authors Assume that God is the Trinity, or the Father?

Were the authors of the New Testament trinitarians, or were they unitarians? Or are they just confused about whether the one God is the Trinity or the Father? This episode is a talk by Prof. Dale Tuggy given on May 26, 2017 at the University of Augsburg (in the state of Bavaria, Germany) at the conference Trinitarian Theology: Confirmation or Transformation of Classical Theism? In this talk it is argued that fifteen undeniable observations about the New Testament strongly confirm the unitarian hypothesis over its rivals. That is, these observations provide strong evidence that these authors assume that the one God is the Father alone.

Shema Pentecostals (Listen, Ye Pentecostals)!

Pastor J. Dan Gill, speaks to his fellow Pentecostals regarding the Oneness of God. This challenging message questions one of the foundational beliefs of the Oneness Movement and was presented at a former Oneness Church in Texas in 2017.

Bread Come From God

“For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven.” (John 6:33)

Wrested Scriptures: Pre-existent Son of Man (John 3:3)

“And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.”

Wrested Scriptures: The Man from Heaven (John 6:62)

“What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?”

Wrested Scriptures: From Another "World" (John 8:23)

“. . . Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world.”

Jesus: “I Am” Who?

“Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.” (John 8:28)

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.

John 1:1 and the Trinity

The first verse of the Gospel of John is almost always used as a starting point to prove the Trinity. However, is there another way to understand John 1:1? Was John, a first century Jew, articulating the completely non-Jewish idea that God became a human being or have we read that into John 1:1? Join Anthony Buzzard as he explains the meaning of John 1:1–14 in its original Hebrew thought context.

Ego Eimi: I Am the One (Not God)

Trinitarians argue that John 8:58 states that Jesus said he was the “I am” (i.e., the Yahweh of the Old Testament), so he must be God. That argument is not correct. Saying “I am” does not make a person God. The man born blind that Jesus healed was not claiming to be God, and he said “I am the man,” and the Greek reads exactly like Jesus’ statement, i.e., “I am.”The fact that the exact same phrase is translated two different ways, one as “I am” and the other as “I am the man,” is one reason it is so hard for the average Christian to get the truth from just reading the Bible as it has been translated into English. Most Bible translators are Trinitarian, and their bias appears in various places in their translation, this being a common one.

Shema Pentecostals (Listen, Ye Pentecostals)!

Pastor J. Dan Gill, speaks to his fellow Pentecostals regarding the Oneness of God. This challenging message questions one of the foundational beliefs of the Oneness Movement and was presented at a former Oneness Church in Texas in 2017.

On the Errors of The Trinity

Since its components began to be officially codified at the Council of Nicea in 325 AD, the doctrine of the Trinity has been a topic that has caused great confusion and uncertainty for many truth-seeking Christians. This 16-hour seminar, by Don Snedeker, is filled with fascinating quotes from many Christians through the centuries who recognized that the Trinity has no biblical basis, and who stood firm against opposition and persecution for not believing it. Don aptly shows how critical it is for Christians to truly understand who Jesus Christ really is and what is his relationship to God, not only so they can make a rational defense of our faith, but so they can experience a relationship with God similar to that which Jesus had.

Is the Trinity Biblical?

Patrick Navas has been a Bible student for the last fourteen years—ever since one of the Gideons handed him a free pocket New Testament and he was gripped by John 3:16. In his quest to understand Christianity he quickly learned that there were quite a few differences between various groups which all claimed to have the truth. This propelled Patrick into long years of study as he researched the biggest question of all—who is God?

How Jesus Became God

Listen to a brief history of the doctrine of the Trinity, how it became part of the Christian mainstream belief system, and the problems associated with the Trinitarian creeds. This lecture was inspired by the book When Jesus Became God by Richard E. Rubenstein.

John 1:1 and the Trinity

The first verse of John’s Gospel reads: “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.” Typically, Christians understand the “Word” to refer to the Son, and “God” to refer to the Father. However, as John Schoenheit explains, this reading owes more to later trinitarian theology than the native biblical context. Instead of assuming the “Word” is the Son, Schoenheit carefully shows how God’s “Word” is His plan for salvation. In fact this is what became incarnate in Jesus in verse 14.

Five Major Problems With The Trinity

The doctrine of the Trinity is analyzed and carefully refuted, with five major problems highlighted:

Is Belief in the Trinity Necessary for Salvation?

During over three decades of ministry, Tennessee pastor J. Dan Gill has observed a tendency within the Evangelical movement to preach the gospel without telling people about the doctrine of the Trinity. In fact, large Billy Graham crusades fail to inform people about the existence of a Trinity at all. Is this modern tendency good news or bad news? Some, in their zeal to uphold their denomination’s traditions have declared that those who do not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, or the dual natures of Christ, are not Christians. Who is right?

A Journey to Monotheism

Nathan Crowder earned bachelor degrees from the University of Florida in Political Science and Zion Bible Institute in Theology and Pastoral Ministry. Throughout his Christian life he has diligently searched to discover biblical truth. This quest began when he discovered that the Bible taught that the destination of the redeemed was the kingdom of God on earth in fulfillment of the promises made by God to Abraham and David. He was surprised to learn while at Bible College that they did not teach this simple truth but instead ascribed to the mythological view that at death righteous souls escape the body to go to heaven. This first discovery prompted more investigation and more skepticism in regard to other teachings commonly accepted in mainstream Christianity.

What Is the Trinity: Thinking About the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit

Do you know what the Trinity is? Could you explain it to someone else or is it just a confusing collection of impenetrable statements hidden under a cloud of fog? In his recent book, What is the Trinity?, Professor Dale Tuggy seeks to clarify everyone’s perceptions of the various Trinity theories so that we can have productive conversation on the subject. He delves deep into the various key concepts like explaining various ways of thinking about persons and essence (ousia) to help you make sense of it all. Whether you believe in the Trinity or not, this interview will help you understand how to have more focused and profitable conversation on this important doctrine.

The Aborted Council at Serdica in 343

The eastern emperor and the western emperor agreed: there needed to be a new ecumenical council to somehow solve the theological disagreements festering from the controversy over Arius in 324-5. The Latin-speaking western bishops were simply not going to accept creeds like the ones from Antioch, even when repeatedly offered.

George R. Noyes’s Explanation of Isaiah 9:6 and John 1:1

Did Isaiah predict that someday God would become a baby? Mainstream Christian scholars have traditionally interpreted the prophecy in Isaiah 9:6 which was to be fulfilled in the birth of Jesus, as a sign that Jesus was God, supporting the doctrine of the Trinity:

Dr. Dustin Smith’s “Socinian” View of Jesus

Dr. Dustin Smith of the Atlanta Bible College, and author of The Son of God: Three Views of the Identity of Jesus, talk with Prof. Dale Tuggy concerning his “Socinian” view of the Son of God. Topics discussed include:

Dr. Robert M. Bowman’s “What about This View?"

In this episode, Prof. Dale Tuggy responds to the interesting article “What about This View? How to Defend an Anti-Trinitarian Theology,” by evangelical apologist Dr. Robert M. Bowman Jr.

Bart Ehrman and Michael Bird Debate on How Jesus Became God

A critical review of a debate/discussion between Dr. Bart Ehrman and Dr. Michael Bird, held at the at the 2016 Greer-Heard Point Counter Point Forum in February 12–13, 2016 at the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

10 Mistakes Apologists’ Make About the Trinity

Apologetics is hard, because it’s hard be an expert on more than a few subjects. There’s a strong pressure to just recycle bad arguments and wrongheaded claims propounded by other apologists. “The” doctrine of the Trinity is a popular subject of attack and defense, and the topic is difficult, so here as much as anywhere in apologetics, we find this sort of recycling.

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.

Two Perspectives on the Doctrine of the Trinity in the Early Church

Is the doctrine of the Trinity articulated in the New Testament? In what ways did the Early Christian Church understand the metaphysics of the Trinity? What motivated the Early Church to describe the Son and the Holy Spirit as distinct persons of a triadic formula on God?

Pastor J. Dan Gill’s “The One: In Defense of God"

Pastor J. Dan Gill was a third-generation Oneness (aka “Jesus only”) Pentecostal. The Oneness movement has historically rejected the mainstream doctrine of the Trinity. Gill was well-entrenched in that community and well-versed in its theology. But over time, he started to notice a disconnect between the Oneness way of talking about Jesus and what he read in the Bible. As a result, Gill began to investigate the matter.

Two Interpretations of Philippians 2

Does Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 2 teach that Jesus is God himself, and that at certain point in time about 2,000 years ago, Jesus became a man, letting go of his equality with God, and thereby divesting himself of his glory, or the use of his attributes, to become a human like us, but obedient to the point of death?In this episode we hear this interpretation, as preached by Dr. Timothy J. Keller, author and pastor of the Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, in his sermon “Imitating the Incarnation.”Afterward, Prof. Dale Tuggy lodges some objections against this interpretation, focusing on the passage’s theology, and on the meaning of two crucial Greek terms.

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?

Before Abraham Was... What?

“Before Abraham, I am.” What did Jesus, or the author of the fourth gospel, mean here? In this episode we hear how some ancient authors interpreted John 8:58, including the famous North African bishop Augustine of Hippo.

A Triad of Book Reviews: What is the Trinity?

Curious Christians rightly ask: what is the Trinity? This question is especially pressing for Protestants, for they claim to base their theology on scripture, and yet when we look in the Bible, there is no passage which clearly lays out this idea that God is three “Persons” in one “substance.” In this episode, Prof. Dale Tuggy reviews three Protestant treatments from three books, all bearing the same title: What is the Trinity?

Do the NT Authors Assume God is the Trinity, or the Father?

Were the authors of the New Testament trinitarians, or were they unitarians? Or are they just confused about whether the one God is the Trinity or the Father? This episode is a talk by Prof. Dale Tuggy given on May 26, 2017 at the University of Augsburg (in the state of Bavaria, Germany) at the conference Trinitarian Theology: Confirmation or Transformation of Classical Theism? In this talk it is argued that fifteen undeniable observations about the New Testament strongly confirm the unitarian hypothesis over its rivals. That is, these observations provide strong evidence that these authors assume that the one God is the Father alone.

Dr. Ravi Zacharias on the Trinity

Dr. Ravi Zacharias is a popular, Indian-born, evangelical apologist, the author of many books and articles, a frequent public speaker, and a veteran of Christian radio. In February 2005, Dr. Zacharias answered a question about the Trinity in relationship to its apparent contradictory nature. In this episode, Prof. Dale Tuggy reviews and critically examines the answer that Zacharias gave, along with a few other of his statements on the Trinity. Some of Zacharias’ statements seem to imply that the Trinity is a self, and others seem to imply that it is a group of three selves.

Flames, Tears and the Athanasian Creed: Peter Abelard and His Trinitarian Troubles

Peter Abelard (1079–April 21, 1142) was a medieval French scholastic philosopher, theologian and preeminent logician. A contemporary described Abelard as “more subtle and more learned than ever.” Abelard’s studies led him to reject the Athanasian Creed, yet in 1121, he was summoned to appear before a council, condemned, and forced to recite the Athanasian Creed. His book, in which he expressed his understanding of the Trinity, was consigned to the flames. He was then sentenced to imprisonment. In his despair, he fled to a desert place in the neighbourhood of Troyes.

A Guide for the Perplexed: Three Incomprehensibles

From prolific philosopher-theologian Keith Ward’s God: A Guide for the Perplexed:

James White’s Case for the Trinity Examined

Some would say that Reformed apologist Dr. James White, director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, is the best contemporary debater on behalf of traditional catholic views on the Trinity. Certainly, he’s had time and opportunity to sharpen his arguments, having debated the Trinity and/or the “deity of Christ” with (among others) a Muslim scholar, some biblical unitarians (also here), a Oneness Pentecostal, and a defender of Jehovah’s Witnesses theology.

The Athanasian Creed: The Place to Start

The Athanasian Creed is the statement most Christian philosophers start with when they try to construct a self-consistent and plausible way of interpreting the claim that God is three equally divine “persons.” Of uncertain origin, the creed rose to prominence in the Roman Catholic through the middle ages, and then in other traditions, including Protestantism.

The Second Sirmian Creed (357 AD)

In this episode we first hear about the years between 351 and 357, including some now obscure councils, the interesting case of bishop of Ossius of Cordova, the religious policy of emperor Constantius II, and his struggles with Athanasius. We then hear the creed from the second council at Sirmium, and why it was labelled as “blasphemy” by some Nicenes. Often derided even today as “Arian,” it did not assert or defend any of the distinctive theses of Arius which had been condemned by many councils dating back to 325. But it was strongly in the two-hypostasis (two being) school of thought when it came to God and his Logos.

Ware’s Outline of the Testimony of Scripture Against the Trinity

Henry Ware, Jr. (1794-1843) was a Unitarian minister in Boston from 1807-1830, and then Professor of Pulpit Eloquence and the Pastoral Care at Harvard Divinity School from 1830-1842. He authored not only sermons and works of theology, but also poetry and fiction.

Predestination

prḗ-des-ti-nā ́shun (πρόθεσις, próthesis, πρόγνωσις, prógnōsis προορισμός, proorismós):

Pre-existence

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.

Trinity

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity (Latin: Trinitas, lit. ‘triad’, from trinus, “threefold”) holds that God is three consubstantial persons or hypostases—the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit—as “one God in three Divine Persons”. The three persons are distinct, yet are one “substance, essence or nature” (homoousios). In this context, a “nature” is what one is, whereas a “person” is who one is.