American KJV 1 Peter 1:20 says of Christ,

Who truly was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.

It seems contradictory to say someone is "foreknown" before the foundation of the world if that one is alive, existing, and there with you. How could he preexist if he is said to be foreknown? I would never say "I foreknow my son" if he is sitting next to me. This seems absurd. This would seem to go along with the more literal and consistent meaning of the Greek interpretation of Heb 3:2 that says that God the father "made" Christ, which fits with him being begotten in the clear ordinary sense of someone having a beginning. How does this fit with a pre-existent Christ?

  • Hello and welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! Could you please edit to add a notation about what translation you're using? Thanks.
    – Susan
    Jun 17 '15 at 3:38
  • To be saved we need to confess that Jesus is Lord, and have done good to the least of his brothers (and sisters). Thus, our salvation is not invalid if we don’t think that Jesus is God. Although it probably wouldn’t be wrong to think so, since the Son is said to be one with the Father. Thus, Jesus is God in as much as the Father is in him. However, the issue here is not if Jesus is God, but if Jesus existed from the beginning of time. And if he didn’t do so in a physical, or spiritual way, he at least did so in a psychological way, in the mind of the Father; hence being “foreknown”. Nov 12 '20 at 11:28

10 Answers 10


No contradiction

There is not really anything contradictory about stating it this way just because Christ is understood to be pre-existent.1 This can be understood looking at it from two perspectives.

Human Perspective

You make the statement:

I would never say "I foreknow my son" if he is sitting next to me.

Yet I believe you can imagine a scenario for yourself (or generally for a person), where you are sitting with your son and his child, discussing the past, and you might make a statement to your grandchild that parallels the same concept here:

You:   "I knew my son before you were born, so let me tell you..."
          [parallel, only from Peter's third person perspective]
Peter: "He was foreknown before the foundation of the world"
        |               |                   |
        [Christ, v.19  [by the Father     [i.e. before any of us 
        the Son, v.3]  (implied, v.17)]   came into being]

You would phrase it "knew ... before," whereas Greek has a word (προγινώσκω) that includes that idea. Additionally, because a time reference is being given, you could even state a similar idea to your son...

You: "I knew you before you were born."

...depending upon what you meant by "knew" (i.e. perhaps you had viewed him in an ultrasound, observed that he was always kicking mommy at a certain time of the day, or whatever).

Divine Perspective

However, the context in 1 Peter 1 also adds another dimension of foreknowledge that we humans do not have, for what specifically is being referenced as being foreknown of Christ is the work He would do long after the foundation of the world:

17 If you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay on earth;18 knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you 21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (NASB)

Who Christ was yet to become (as human) and what He was yet to do (offer Himself as a spotless sacrifice) on our behalf were foreknown before creation.

I venture that no human father knows for sure what their son will become (as a person) and what works he will do in history beforehand, so in this way, Christ was foreknown by His Father differently than any normal son can be foreknown of his father.


Making a statement of foreknowledge about a person who is already in existence, and even a person one may perhaps be "sitting next to," when done in relation to a specific mark in time, and especially to a third party, does not contradict that person's existence. Nor is an odd way of using language when speaking about the fact that one did "know ... before" something about that person in relation to the fixed-point time reference.


1 The idea of the pre-existence of Christ is of course a presupposition brought to this exact text, since 1 Pet 1:20 does not explicitly state that Christ is pre-existent. Without other Scripture indicating otherwise (e.g. John 1:1 with John 1:14), the verse could as well be saying Christ was "pre-planned" before the foundation of the world. However, foundations for the assumption of pre-existence are still near to the context of the verse, for the "Spirit of Christ" was in the prophets before Christ ever being born—

1 Pet 1:10-11 (NKJV)

10 Of this salvation the prophets have inquired and searched carefully, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, 11 searching what, or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.

So the context already alludes to His Spirit existence prior to His own birth.

Additionally, an inference can be made (whether right or wrong may not be possible to prove) that since Abel fits Jesus' definition of a prophet, and the first prophecy containing any idea of "salvation" and "the sufferings of Christ" was the the protoevangelium in Gen 3:15, Abel might conceivably be included in those prophets who "Of this salvation ... have inquired and searched carefully." If so, the statement of v.11 would at least locate "the Spirit of Christ" existing in a time period just after the "foundation of the world," in which case the 1 Pet 1:20 reference is simply pushing the existence back a bit further and tying the foreknowledge to an existent person, not just a pre-planned person (which also of course matches passages such as Col 1:16, John 1:3, etc. that indicate Christ's role in creation).

In short, while the doctrine of the pre-existence of Christ is being brought to the question under consideration and therefore its assumed relation to the 1 Pet 1:20 statement, the assumption appears to be a valid one, even within the context of 1 Peter 1.

  • Are you equating God's "foreknowledge" of Christ with his having a destiny? As with the believer as well, yes?: Rom_11:2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Rom 8:29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Theologians call this "notional preexistence": 21stcr.org/multimedia-2015/1_pdf/…
    – Ruminator
    Jul 20 '18 at 11:58
  • @Ruminator I would not say foreknowledge equates to destiny, but it does include it in God's perspective. The 1 Pet 1:20 passage links to destiny based on vv.18-19. While the linked article makes some good points, his analysis of some of the preexistent passages is flawed because of his decision to "deliberately choose to read them through the lens of Jewish notional preexistence theology" (p.18). Putting a hermeneutical lens on creates blindness to other possibilities, and so while foreknowledge of destiny may be only notional, that does not discount literal preexistence of the subject.
    – ScottS
    Jul 20 '18 at 16:16
  • It is a difficult passage to view without some bias.
    – Ruminator
    Jul 20 '18 at 16:20

The question implies that that law of non-contradiction is not well-understood. The Un-begotten Only Son and the Only Begotten Son are one and the same.

John calls him the Word (Joh 1.1, 1Jo 5:7 ) and it is by the Word that God created all things. (Eph 3:9, Col 1:16)

In his incarnation, he was formed in the womb;he was begotten. (Joh 1:14 ) Everything the incarnate man was to be and do is recorded beforehand in the scriptures in the mystery which was hidden from the beginning. (Eph 3:9 )

These are not contradictions since a change in time and manner are indicated.

  • Sorry, had I been less lazy and read your post, I would not have written mine, for yours explains all very clearly. Jul 24 '18 at 8:12

The question is based on the (incorrect) assumption that "Foreknow" is the only valid meaning of the Greek word, "proeginosko". A quick survey of versions easily shows that another equally valid translation is "chosen beforehand", or, "chosen in advance", or similar. The difference must be decided on a case by case basis (as usual).


The word προεγνωσμένου (genitive 'having been known beforehand'/'which was known beforehand') in Greek is the genitive form of the word προγινώσκω ('[to] know beforehand'). The word is composed of two consitituent words, πρό ('before;' related to our word 'pre' in English through Latin) and γινώσκω ('[to] know'). It denotes a knowledge or awareness of something which occurs or is otherwise manifest in the future, at any given time prior to said thing or said thing's manifestation; or, in God's case, of something not knowable to creatures not outside of time.

There is simply no indication the word 'foreknow' is meant to make Christ either created or increate, simply that God was not ignorant of what we were until God's designs unfolded in time: "Foreknown indeed [i.e. by God] before the foundation of the world, but manifested in the last times for you." Clearly a passive knowing of all events without respect to time is in view, not an active creation of events; and it's not even an event but a person whose actions and plans for salvation are known before time by God, not an 'event.'

And there is yet another sense to be taken into consideration: if this is in reference to Christ as a man, since His human nature is a creature of God, even "the firstborn of all creation" (Col 1:15), in both the eternally generated and temporal human nature creation sense. Since this can be taken to be the meaning in either the human Christ or the divine Christ view of Jesus, there is no way to read into this verse a preclusion of the eternality of the Son of God.


See also 2 Peter 3:17 (DRB):

You therefore, brethren, knowing these things before [προγινωσκοντες], take heed, lest being led aside by the error of the unwise, you fall from your own steadfastness. 18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and unto the day of eternity. Amen.


The explanation seems too strained. Most probably, the foreknowing of Jesus meant that he wasn't literally preexisting, just as the foreknowing of the saints means that we believers weren't preexisting before the foundation of the world. Why give the foreknowing of Jesus before the foundation of the world a meaning different from the one usually attached to that of saints?

  • 1
    Welcome the Biblical Hermeneutics! For future reference, there are a few guidelines for the site. First, this is not a discussion board. This is an academic site concerned with giving well researched and well reasoned answers to the queries posted by the members. The site expects longer answers citing both biblical and extra biblical sources to give evidence the answer you provide. Please be sure to answer the exact question asked by the member and do not provide other questions as part of your response. Thanks.
    – alb
    Aug 3 '18 at 22:46

There is no contradiction. The world, the universe was made by the Logos, as said plainly in John 1:1-3, or Hebrews 1:2. Thus, since "world" entails everything made, that is to say the entirety of the created order, therefore the Logos is uncreated and co-eternal with Father. But, then what was foreknown by the Father? Of course that feature of the Logos, that was not co-eternal with the Father, that is to say, the human nature of Logos that He adopted in time which did not exist before world, for time is an aspect of the world and is absent in divine eternity prior to the creation. Thus, both Father and Logos foreknew the Incarnation of Logos, that happened through the Virgin Mary. Henceforth, the Logos remained always with His human nature, having deified it. Thus, there happened a change in the changeless Logos in that He adopted humanity in time and remained so forever, and exactly this changeless change was foreknown by both Father and the Son, and surely by the Holy Spirit also.

In fact, 1 Peter 1:20 has a parallel in Colossians 1:26: "the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints", that is to say, the mystery of the Father's co-eternal Son through whom the world was created "becoming flesh", i.e. adopting human nature in order to redeem the falledness of this nature and heal its wounds through His wounds (Isaiah 53:5).


Let's go back a few steps to answer the question from a biblical standpoint - not a traditional one.

John 1:1-3 we all know what it says, but don't really know what it used to say before the Greek got a bit mistranslated. Imagine when John wrote his gospel, the word 'logos' was just a word that describes over 30 NT concepts like speak, word, account, statement, message, news, matter, instruction etc - look them up in a concordance. No one of the day would ever think John was talking about a person! We base our understanding on a false premise that never made any sense - but we just accept it because that's how it has been for a loooong time. The pre-existing belief of Jesus is a fallacy, contradicted by references to being foreknown etc.


1 Peter 1:20 says Christ was “foreknown”. How was he then preexistant?

ΠΕΤΡΟΥ Α΄ 1:20 1881 (WHNU)

20" προεγνωσμενου μεν προ καταβολης κοσμου φανερωθεντος δε επ εσχατου των χρονων δι υμας."

1 Peter 1:20 (NASB)

20 "For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared [a]in these last times for the sake of you.

The word "κοσμου"translated "world" also means " masses", "crowd" and "people",and it is in the latter form that it should be understood.

"Καταβολης κοσμου" (katavolis kosmou) translated "foundation of the world" does not mean the creation of the physical earth, or that Jesus did not pre-exist. The word "καταβολης"( katavolis) literally means "throwing down of seed" or "conceiving of human offspring". God foreordained the appearance of the seed ( Jesus coming and his death, Gen.3:15) following Adam's and Eve's act of disobedience ,but before they conceived offsprings


The term in Peter 's epistle is stating that the foreknowledge was that of the ruling class. Knowing the Messiah is coming it and proclaiming it to the masses is sufficient evidence to assume a political agenda was in jeopardy. Which, in this case was obviously true. The ruling class was quite knowledgeable that the Messiah advent was just around the corner. The previous months were already a stir from Zacariaih's experience inside the temple. People from a crossed the globe are showing up in Jerusalem to find a New King of the Jews. Which they too knew of his prophecies. These things along with their own research knew the high probabilities of the Messiah coming! As political working are today, they where the same then. Secrets,lies,misrepresentation. And, out right deception!

The Samaritans woman even asked in passing, yeah, we heard that a messiah was coming. So what do you think? Jesus set the record clear right there, yeah, he is coming, and yes it is me. The woman must have been amazed. This time the rumours were true. A messiah had come. She heard it across the fence, in some secret place, where the real truth is told. No, the Sanhedron, did not want a savior right now. Hence there was not one Jewish Ruling Class inter-session or rescue. Do you here of any Jewish noses sticking around to rescue this little baby in Bethlehem..not one word of anyone helping the newborn. Do you not wonder why. They knew this. And, I would not be disappointed to hear that the religious leaders in sited Herod to kill all the children in Bethlehem. Not one cry of injustice for the children lying dead in the streets of a tiny town six miles away.1 By way off omission the temple rats were guilty of knowing who had just been born. As in the accounts, Peter, alluding to the true story,says, in effect, "Damned right they knew, and they did nothing but help in his travels into Egypt as a young child. No witness protection program for Jesus. They too wanted him dead at birth. So there was no safe place in the whole valley that stretched for hundreds of miles. To escape the powerful influences of the San Hedon they family ran to Egypt. Where incidentally was under Romans Rule also. Joseph ran to Egypt 's safety away from priests and scribess. King Herod to the blame. Fake news, but Peter tells you outright here, the knew beforhand.


Shalom, For Elohim and the Hebrews, Jesus does not preexist. In the beginning, Elohim sees his son in his "image" that he wants to project into the creation. His son IS the Human Being united to him. In fact, Yeshua is the principle of creation (Rev 3:14). http://www.desertpath.net/Yeshouaeng.htm Hans

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.