Bible Articles on the Topic of Preexistence of Jesus

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

And Thou Lord: Identifying the “Lord"

“Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands.”  (Hebrews 1:9-10)

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.

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).

Thomas Jefferson and the Doctrine of the Trinity

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

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.”

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

Is the Trinity in Genesis?

Most Christians believe in the church doctrine of the Trinity, that God is one essence consisting of three co-equal and co-eternal Persons: the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. Many cite three passages in the book of Genesis as their primary Old Testament (OT) support for the Trinity: Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:7. And they often refer to them when asserting that Jesus preexisted. These texts are as follows:

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.

Incarnation and Trinity Give Us a Clue

The Apostle Paul wrote to his missionary associate, Timothy, about those who taught in opposition to Paul’s teaching. He said, “If anyone advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound word, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing; but he has a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words” (1 Timothy 6:3-4 NASB). And Paul wrote similarly in a later letter to Timothy, “Retain sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:13 NASB). So, Paul says to guard the true doctrine by using sound words. Both verses in the Greek text use the words hugiaino and logos, meaning “healthy words.”

The Pre-existence of Christ

The doctrine indicated in the heading to this article is, we are convinced, extensively held among Universalists, and, by some, supposed to be a doctrine of essential importance, and to furnish a sort of necessary groundwork for their faith in the salvation of all men. We have heard it said by some Universalists, who had not eliminated all the crudities of Calvinism from their faith, that the salvation of those who died before the birth of Christ could be advocated only on the ground of his pre-existence; the atonement being ante-dated, and its benefits applied to them by anticipation; though on what scriptural or rational grounds this is maintained, we never could divine. But the larger number of those who hold to Christ’s pre-existence rest their faith on certain texts of Scripture which they know not how to understand if that doctrine be not true. And we have thought that we might do a useful service by calling the attention of our readers to a consideration of some of the passages of Scripture which have been supposed to teach the doctrine of Christ’s pre-existence. We say, which have been supposed to teach it; for we are thoroughly convinced that this doctrine is founded on a misconception of language; as we hope to show to the satisfaction of the candid reader. As preliminary to the examination proposed, it will not be unprofitable to refer to some well-settled principles and rules of interpretation, which must always be followed if we would arrive at a just understanding of the Scriptures.

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)

Did Jesus Come Down from Heaven?

The institutional church has always claimed that the Bible says Jesus pre-existed as God in heaven and came down to earth to become a man, called “the incarnation.” The Nicene Creed says of Jesus, “For us men and our salvation he came down from heaven.”

Did Jesus Preexist in Heaven?

The institutional church has always proclaimed that Jesus preexisted in heaven. And it has concluded that Jesus’ preexistence indicates that he was and is God. But in modern times, the idea that Jesus preexisted has been seriously challenged. One argument is that if Jesus preexisted as a fully developed personality, that does not allow for human development and therefore compromises his being human.

God But Not God: The Angel of the LORD

The most mysterious and enigmatic figure in the Old Testament (OT) is “the angel of the LORD.” It occurs 56 times, and “the angel of God” occurs 10 times. He appeared to Abraham, Hagar, Isaac, Jacob, Manoah and his wife, Moses, Joshua, and many others.

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.

Did Christ Pre-Exist?

“If there is, among the distinctive articles of the Christian faith, one which is basic to all the others, it is this: that our Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, became man for our salvation,” writes a prominent theologian and educator.

On the Jewish-Christian Doctrine of the Preexistence of the Messiah

The view that the Jews who lived about the beginning of our era, and the early Christians, or both, held that the Messiah was pre-existent with God, has been entertained by many scholars. Pfleiderer,¹ Weiss,² Harnack,³ Weizsacker,⁴ Hausrath,⁵ Schurer,⁶ Sabatier,⁷ Edersheim,⁸ Bruce,9 Dodds,¹⁰ Briggs,¹¹ Cone,¹² Gould,¹³ Stevens,¹⁴ Charles,¹⁵ Goodspeed,¹⁶ and Somerville,¹⁷ may all be quoted in favor of this view, and these are but a few of its advocates.

Did Christ Pre-Exist His Birth?

“In (the) beginning was the Word.” (John 1:1)

When Was Jesus Glorified with Honor?

“Now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” (John 17:5)

Whose Borders Have Been From of Old

“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” (Micah 5:2)

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

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?

Wrested Scriptures: The Body Provided (Hebrews 10:5)

“Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, . . . a body hast thou prepared me.”

Wrested Scriptures: Creator of Heaven & Earth (Hebrews 1:10-12

“And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.”

Wrested Scriptures: Heir and Son Made the Worlds (Hebrews 1:2)

“[God] hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.”

Wrested Scriptures: God Addressing God (Hebrews 1:8)

“But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.”

Wrested Scriptures: Without Beginning (Hebrews 7:3)

“Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.”

Bread Come From God

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

Wrested Scriptures: Bread of God from Heaven

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

Wrested Scriptures: Godhood or Unity? (John 10:30)

“I and my Father are one.”

Wrested Scriptures: Not Literally Seen (John 14:9)

“Jesus saith, . . . he that hath seen me hath seen the Father . . .”

Wrested Scriptures: Pre-existence Alongside (John 17:5)

“And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.”

Wrested Scriptures: Jesus Not the Word (John 1:1-3)

“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. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

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.”

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.

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?

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.

Kermit Zarley on the Deity and Preexistence of Jesus

Prof. Dale Tuggy and Biblical unitarian and author Kermit Zarley discuss a number of themes from the book The Restitution of Jesus Christ, including:

Adoptionism

Adoptionism, sometimes called dynamic monarchianism, is a nontrinitarian theological doctrine which holds that Jesus was adopted as the Son of God at his baptism, his resurrection, or his ascension. According to Epiphanius’s account of the Ebionites, the group believed that Jesus was chosen on account of his sinless devotion to the will of God.

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.