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About the pre-existence of the Son (2)

20-02-2017 - Posted by Andre Piet

In the previous blog I discussed a question about the pre-existence of the Son. Below the entire question:

I think I heard from you once that Jesus wasn’t there yet before his birth in Bethlehem. As could be concluded from John 1:14 (the Word became flesh…) The question I ask right away is of course: did I misunderstand this….??

This weekend I reread Proverbs 8, where Wisdom is speaking. She speaks about the beginning, the creation of the earth, calls herself anointed (verse 23) and further she says: because whoever finds me, will find life and shall gain hold of benevolence from Yahweh (verse 35). And then verse 22: Yahweh Himself acquired me as the beginning of His way; Preceding His deeds of yore. Isn’t the Wisdom exactly the same as the Messiah? I wondered. I compared it to John 17:5 : And now glorify Thou Me, Father, with Thyself, with the glory which I had before the world is with Thee.

Could you discuss my conclusion that before the world was, the Saviour of the world was there already? I am really curious about it.

In the previous blog I discussed the first paragraph. Overall it came down to (1) Jesus Christ became the Son by his conception from the virgin Mary. And (2) that when John speaks of the Son who “was before”, this refers to “the word” by which the whole creation was made. Jesus Christ is the word that became flesh (John 1:14). So I do not deny a pre-existence of Jesus. What I am saying is that Jesus was “the word” before is conception.`

Proverbs 8

Now the rest of the question. In Proverbs 8 from verse 12 “the Wisdom” is speaking. She is presented as a person who is cohabiting with prudence. Such a figure of speech is called ‘personification’, which means that an abstract concept (like ‘wisdom’ here) is presented as a person. Just about how we speak of ‘Lady Justice’, ‘Daddy state’ or ‘Mother nature’. The Wisdom tells in Proverbs 8 that by her, kings are capable of reigning but also that she was there when everything in creation came to be. She rejoices that she was a beloved foster child for God. The question in the mail is: “ Is the Wisdom not exactly the same as the Messiah?”

That the ‘Wisdom’ in Proverbs 8 is reminiscent in many ways of the Messiah seems undeniable to me. Although the Proverbs poet does not speak in 8:23 of ‘anointed’ (like in the word ‘messiah’) the author of the question lists some clear similarities to the Messiah. And doesn’t Paul say as well about Christ that he is the “wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24)? Yet we must be cautious for a one-to-one equivalence.

  1. The Wisdom here, is in Hebrew feminine (chokmah). Compare the contraposition with Proverbs 9:13 which speaks of “the woman Stupidity”. The Messiah however is masculine.
  2. Not only Wisdom is personified but also Prudence. If Wisdom would truly be a person next to God, then who is the Prudence?
  3. In Proverbs 8 the Wisdom is introduced as companion of God in creation. It expresses (poetically!) that wisdom was always with God as a leading capacity in all His works. But in Scripture the idea never is that God established the creation together with someone else. Because He alone is the Creator, as the Scriptures emphasize.

WHO ALONE is stretching out the heavens, And Who is treading on the high swells of the sea.
Job 9:8

…I am YAHWEH, Maker of all, Stretching out the heavens BY MYSELF, Stamping out the earth and who was with Me?
Isaiah 44:24

When Proverbs 8 narrates that the wisdom helped God during the creation, we should definitely not conclude that God had someone next to him as co-creator. Nor in John 1, where we read that God established all things through the word. Wisdom is a property of God which never leaves him and His word is the result of His speaking. When the wisdom is presented as a separate person, it is a figure of speech. And figures of speech should not be taken literally. Just as we don’t when we hear: ‘the soil yearns for rain’ or ‘danger lurks’. From such language, we do not conclude that the ‘soil’ or ‘danger’ are persons who can respectively yearn or lurk, do we?

John 17:5

Another text that is referred to in the email is John 17:5, from the so called ‘prayer of intercession’:

And now glorify Thou Me, Father, with Thyself, with the glory which I had before the world is with Thee.

Is Jesus praying here for a return to the glory He remembers from His pre-existence? If so, then is the glory he would receive in principle not new to Him? Was He exalted to Gods right hand before? Was He at that time already King-Priest to the order of Melchizedek? No, this was glory he never had before, or even could have had. Because it was glory founded on his suffering. But (and here it comes): for God he certainly had this glory, ‘before the world is’. Because to God he was ‘foreknown’ (1 Pet.1:20). And the glory with which the Son would be glorified, God had spoken about before. In many Scriptures that has been written (Luke 24:26,27). In other words : In the word, Jesus had the glory “from the beginning”. So Jesus received the glory which He already had in and as word.

It is a way of thinking which perhaps might seem strange to us, but which we come across many times in the Bible. Likewise we read in the Revelation 13:8 (also written by John)

 … the Lambkin slain from the disruption of the world.

Humanly speaking, the Lamb was slain, thousands of years after the disruption (= birth) of the world. But for God, the slaughter of the Lamb was already a fact since the beginning of the world.

What applies to the slaughter of the Lamb, also applies to his glorification. So when Jesus asks in the ‘prayer of intercession’ to receive the glory He had before the world was, He refers to the glory God had in store for Him. Because in God’s foreknowledge and intention, that glory was already a fact.