Where The Pre-Existence Comes To Play With The Followers of Jesus

Continued from Part 12

The author of John expounds the belief that Jesus had a prehuman existence as the Word who was “in the beginning with God” and through whom “all things came into being.”  

John emphasizes this belief throughout his entire Gospel (John 1:1-3; 17:5, 24).  He describes Jesus as “an only begotten from a father” (John 1:14) and “the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18; see also John 3:16, 1 John 4:9).  John’s belief in Jesus as “the only begotten Son of God” rests, as does Paul’s belief, on the contention that Jesus is the only being created directly by God.  All other creatures were created through Jesus.  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn, and chief among all creation (Colossians 1:15-17).  He is even higher than the ordinary angels (Hebrews 1:3-13).  Yet, despite the exalted position to which the author of John raised Jesus, he, like Paul, did not consider him part of the one-and-only God.  According to Paul, Jesus became the “Son of God” by his supposed resurrection from the dead:  “And who through the spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by his resurrection from the dead:  Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 1:4).

The New Testament’s Jesus is never recognized as God or part of God, only as the “Son of God,” that is, one who is the first thing created by God and who is in close relationship with God.  In fact, even after his alleged resurrection Jesus is still referred to by the term “Son of God” (Revelation 2:18), nothing more.  This is not surprising, since in the New Testament Jesus always speaks of himself, and is spoken of by others, as separate and distinct from God.  Nowhere in the New Testament, including the Gospel of John, where it specifically mentions the Word becoming flesh, is the claim made that Jesus is God incarnate, a combination of God and man.

Some trinitarian Christian commentators, believing Jesus to be God incarnate, see an important significance in John’s use of the Greek verb eskenosen, translated “dwelt,” in John 1:14:  “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.”  This verb is akin to the noun meaning “dwelling,” “tent,” “booth,” “tabernacle.”  These commentators interpret this word to indicate that Jesus was God in spirit while tabernacling, that is, dwelling in, a human body, this incarnation making him a god-man.  However, usage of this verb, by the author of John, does not imply that Jesus is the incarnation of God.  The author of the Second Letter of Peter uses the same manner of expression:  “And I consider it right, as long as I am in this dwelling [skenomati], to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my dwelling [skenomatos] is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me” (2 Peter 1:13-14).  Does the author of this letter mean, by the use of the Greek noun skenoma, “dwelling,” “tabernacle,” that Peter also is an incarnation, a god-man?  The author most certainly does not intend to express such an opinion.  What the author wishes to express is that Peter would remain alive for a short time longer in his human body, and that is all.  Therefore, word usage indicates that John 1:14 does not support the incarnation of God doctrine.

© Gerald Sigal