(Douay-Rheims Bible) And now glorify thou me, O Father, with thyself, with the glory which I had, before the world was, with thee. John 17:5

Does the word "world" refer to the actual planet earth, all matter (atoms, energy, etc.) or matter and spiritual places, (atoms in the universe and heaven)?

  • The answer to this question requires an understanding of the difference between γε, κοσμος and οικομενε, in my opinion.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 2:40

5 Answers 5


Indeed, κόσμος may have different meanings in different places, for it can mean, for example, all peoples of the earth (John 12:19), or the entire earth (Mark 16:15), or the entire universe including the visible/perceptible and the invisible (i.e. angels, souls of humans, invisible and intelligible laws of physics according to which the visible universe operates etc.) like in Romans 1:20.

Now, in this immediate context Jesus links the πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἶναι with the notion of "eternal life" (John 17:3) which in turn is linked to God the Father inseparably from the Son (ibid.), thus this "eternal life" belongs likewise to the Father and the Son, whereas κόσμος in the next sentence stands in opposition to the αἰώνιον (eternal) and is, thus, linked to the notions of temporality and createdness. Now, if it is impossible that the Father and the Son were eternally living without this divine life being invested with glory, for divine life is eternally glorious life, thus "glory which I had, before the world was, with Thee" must imply that Jesus speaks about the creation of the entire universe, the visible and invisible, because the eternal life and eternal glory relates to the Father and the Son and not to anything else, for even the angelic hosts, qua created, did not share the eternal life and the eternal glory with the Father and the Son.

However, in the immediate sequel, until John 17:24, when Jesus speaks about the love which the Father had towards Him "before the beginning of the world", indicating the eternal relationship of divine Hypostases, Jesus uses the word κόσμος in a more specific meaning, as the earthly world that is under dominion of evil and uncertainty (John 17:6; 17:9; 17:11; 17:13; 17:14; 17:15; 17:16; 17:18; 17:21; 17:23 and 17:25), thus, I think, only in two instances in this chapter the κόσμος is used in the sense of the entire universe, the visible and invisible.

Moreover, if it is true that the Son was with the Father before the creation of the entire universe, that is to say, eternally or co-eternally (for there's nothing between eternal and temporal, and since the time came to existence together with the creation, then the Son who is before the creation and who is the Father's means in creation /John 1:3; Hebrews 1:2;/, is absolutely co-eternal and co-divine with the Father), then why should Jesus qualify this in His saying that "He had glory with Father before the creation of the world", or that "He was loved by the Father before the foundation of the world" by putting in the term "world" only an aspect of the entire creation and not the entire creation itself?

For instance, just fancy, Nazi Germany invading a Belgian town, say, in 1941, and after some five weeks closing all local supermarkets and building only one supermarket called "Germany"; and after that a Belgian man sighs and says prayfully: "Oh Lord, when shall we get back the freedom which we had before Germany!" - now, he can imply both Germany as the invading country and Germany as the title of the supermarket and both will be justified, for the freedom was enjoyed by Belgians both before the foundation of the supermarket (admitted, not in the immediate 5 weeks' before though) and before the invasion of Germany. However, the context would rather make us suggest that the latter option, that is to say, the country Germany rather than the supermarket "Germany" is more plausible.

Similarly, even if both the entire universe (κόσμος I) and, therefore, also the earth and humans living in it (κόσμος II) is created by Jesus, why should He qualify His saying that He had eternal life and eternal glory and eternal love with the Father before the κόσμος II and not rather the κόσμος I any more than this imaginary Belgian man would sigh unqualifiedly about general German invasion in saying "before Germany" and not about a more specific notion with reference to the supermarket "Germany"?

  • Nicely stated. As you point out, the Greek word used here is "kosmos" (Strong's 2889), which is cosmos in English. This word has some interesting connotations if aska123 looks it up in several Bible dictionaries.
    – Dieter
    Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 1:37
  • @Dieter thanks dear Dieter for reading and estimating my modest contribution. And, yes, Strong's makes a very good entry on the κόσμος! Commented Feb 18, 2018 at 1:55
  • Of late I'm inclined to understand John's use of KOSMOS to refer to "the contemporary Jewish theocratic system". In your example of John 12:19 for example, that seems to make more sense. It also makes more sense regarding the passage in John 17 where certain are taken "out of the KOSMOS".
    – Ruminator
    Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 19:32
  • I wouldn't opt for this explanation, for it would qualify too much the notion. Moreover, this would suggest that pagan people are not to be rescued from the world, but they are in no lesser way than Jews to be rescued from its drag towards sinfulness of our fallen natures and its elements (cf. Col 2:8). Adam's sin is of a cosmic dimension, and so is New Adam - the Lifegiving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45) of cosmic or rather supra-cosmic dimension in the sense of intrusion of the Creator into the created order in order to save it (John 12:44). Commented Apr 10, 2018 at 19:49

Does the “world” refer to physical matter or any creation? John 17:5

Jesus in his prayer to his father (John chapter 17) is asking to be glorified to his previous position in heaven ,before the world existed. Notice the similarities between verses 5 and 24 , "before the world existed" and "before the foundation of the world"

So , what is it? the physical world,matter ,or humankind and what does the foundation of the world mean?

John 17:5 (NRSV)

" So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed."

John 17:24 (NRSV)

" Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world."

Firstly Jesus said : "The world hated his apostles."

In John 17:14 we read :" I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world." (NRSV)

Note ,Jesus said: " the world hated his apostles",obviously the physical world and matter could not express hatred towards them, so he was therefore referring to humankind.

Secondly Jesus said: "Since the foundation of the world,from the blood of Abel."

Jesus also relates the founding of the world from the blood of Abel, referring to the birth of the first humans, the children to Adam and Eve.

Luke 11:50-51 reads;

"50 So that this generation may be charged with the blood of all the prophets shed since the foundation of the world, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it will be charged against this generation."(NRSV) Compare Revelation 17:8


The word "world" in the context of chapter 17 refers to "humankind." We have seen that only humankind can express hatred, and secondly Jesus refers to the founding of the world from the birth of children to Adam. The physical world existed billions of years before.

  • In what way would you say that the apostles were not part of humankind?
    – Ruminator
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 20:44
  • Ruminator it is indeed a good question, so why not set it up as question based on John 15:19. and write it here so that I can track it. There is not enough room here to give a proper answer. Briefly by resisting the spirit of this world . Some verses Ephesians 2:2-3 , 1 Corinthians 2:12, 1 Timothy 6:9-10, 1 John 2:16, 1 John 4:4, and John 8:44 Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 20:46
  • I did as you requested and based my question on John 15:19 however I trust you will seek to provide an answer consistent across the board (the whole of the 4th canonical gospel aka "John").
    – Ruminator
    Commented Apr 12, 2018 at 21:02

There are homographs in many languages and/or it is possible for an author to use the same word with a different meaning even within the same sentence. For example, "people's tongues adapt to speak their own tongues". In that sentence you might say that "tongues" (physical licker) is a homograph of "tongues" (languages) or you might say that the word "tongues" has different "usages". Either way it isn't a sound assumption that the same word must mean the same thing every time it is used.

However, KOSMOS is clearly an important word for the author of the fourth canonical gospel (IE "John") because he uses it 79 times in 58 verses! His usage of the word is clearly loaded and yet it is elusive.

My current take on what John is referring to with the word, at least in most places is "the contemporary Jewish theocratic system" or perhaps "the contemporary Jewish theocratic establishment". This can include the "ways" of the establishment or simply the people of it.

An example might be this:

John 6:14  Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.

The Jews had no reason to look for a prophet coming to the world at large but rather to the Jews:

KJV Deu 18:15  The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;

If that is the case then Jesus, in John 17:5, with little recognition from the establishment takes solace that he has glory from God and with God which he is destined to experience:

KJV Joh 17:14  I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  Joh 17:15  I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.  Joh 17:16  They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.  Joh 17:17  Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.  Joh 17:18  As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world.  Joh 17:19  And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.  Joh 17:20  Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;  Joh 17:21  That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.  Joh 17:22  And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:  Joh 17:23  I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.  Joh 17:24  Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.



The Greek Septuagint (LXX) would have contributed to the understanding of the NT writers concerning the word κόσμος. The most common use of the word is to refer to "ornaments" or "accompaniments".

The first use of κόσμος in the LXX is in the opening verse of Genesis 2, which follows the record of God's creative efforts in Genesis 1:

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host ο κοσμος of them.
-- Genesis 2:1 (KJV)

κοσμος was the LXX translators' equivalent of the Hebrew צָבָא (Strong's H6635 - tsaba': army/host), where the understanding seems to be that it refers to all the things "accompanying" the "heaven" (singular in the LXX) and the "earth".

Deuteronomy 4 refines further the LXX translators' understanding of κοσμος:

... and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even the host τον κοσμον of heaven ...
-- Deuteronomy 4:19 (KJV)

So, given there is the kosmos that accompanied the creation of the heaven and the earth, and here the kosmos of heaven is defined as the host/army of bodies that march across the heaven, then by implication the kosmos of earth is the army/host of bodies that march across the earth.

The apocryphal book "The Wisdom of Solomon" is where kosmos is first found as a reference to "the world", and where confirmation is given to the implied existence of "the host/army of the earth".

13For God made not death: neither hath he pleasure in the destruction of the living. 14For he created all things, that they might have their being: and the generations of the world γενεσεις του κοσμου were healthful; and there is no poison of destruction in them, nor the kingdom of death upon the earth:
-- Wisdom of Solomon 1:13-14 (KJV)
23For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity. 24Nevertheless through envy of the devil came death into the world του κοσμου: and they that do hold of his side do find it.
-- Wisdom of Solomon 2:23-24 (KJV)


Putting all that together.

From the point of view of what the LXX might have contributed to the NT writers' understanding of "the world" (kosmos), it was a reference to ALL the army/host of beings that march across the earth, upon whom death was brought by the envy of the devil. It was not a reference to the universe, or the planet, or matter, or the constituents of matter.

  • It doesn't appear that you have consulted a lexicon. Your ideas are creative but they don't seem to have been subjected to comparison to recognizd resources.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 2:14
  • I'm not sure what you are not seeing, "κοσμος was the LXX translators' equivalent of the Hebrew צָבָא (Strong's H6635 - tsaba': army/host)". If you are going to downvote my answer and make a comment, then please do me the courtesy of identifying where my lack of use of a lexicon might be.
    – enegue
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 2:35
  • @Ruminator Try this, it may be of assistance to you as a useful tool in the future. Go to the Unbound Bible site. Select Greek OT:LXX (A) Unaccented as the version to search, and choose the KJV as a parallel version. Type κοσμο% into the search box, and click "Search". When the results window pops up, search the page (ctrlF on firefox), and type κοσμο. If you choose "Highlight All" then you can scan down the page at the instances of κοσμο and see how the KJV has translated the Hebrew.
    – enegue
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 3:25
  • Thank you, but that is no replacement for Consulting an appropriate lexicon.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 4:09
  • What is an appropriate lexicon? You don't think USAGE is an important hermeneutic tool?
    – enegue
    Commented Apr 11, 2018 at 4:19

The World in this particular scripture does refer to the Physical planet Earth.

You appear be having some problem separating the Spiritual realm from the Material realm. Perhaps the following will help you to separate the two in your mind.

All things which occupy space, have substance, and can be discerned by the five senses; are in the material realm. All things in the material realm were begun at creation. Perpetuation of the Material realm lies in regeneration examples of these are new plant growth, and birth of young in animals, fish and humans.

The spiritual realm on the other hand consists of things which are abstract. Things within the Spiritual realm have no substance and thereby do not stimulate the five senses, with the exception of the Material realm which exists as a component of the Spiritual realm. One main difference between the Spiritual realm and the Material realm lies in the fact that things in the Material realm require a beginning and in most cases an end, these restrictions do not apply in the Spiritual Realm.

The restrictions of a beginning and end are resultant of time, and time is a product of creation. Time is movement, that movement manifests itself in several ways. The passage of the Earth in its rotation in relation to the sun, which designates day and night, the movement of the Earth on its orbit around the sun which designates the seasons of the year and the passage of one year to the next. Also included but not as noticeable is the movement of the solar system in our Galaxy and the movement of our Galaxy in Space.

Albert Einstein purported that if all motion could be reversed time would also reverse. Time itself has a major role in the material realm; it is the cause of the degeneration of all matter. Time does not exist in the Spiritual realm since motion is peculiar to the material realm. Since time does not exist in the Spiritual realm there is no degradation of things not material, and consequently there is no beginning or end of those things only existence.

  • "Time does not exist in the Spiritual realm since motion is peculiar to the material realm. Since time does not exist in the Spiritual realm there is no degradation of things not material, and consequently there is no beginning or end of those things only existence." I read in a Christian forum (in our language), one member say, bible doesn't say that angels are created ... (1) angels are not created (2) angels are not matter (3) no beginning (4) no end, as at the end the bad angels are put in the prison forever because can not be annihilated and they can not commit suicide. :)
    – karma
    Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 14:09
  • @karma Christianity most definitely teaches that angels are created, and as far as I know, most denominations also teach that they are bound by time. Whoever told you that is mistaken about a fundamental Christian doctrine.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 14:40
  • "Christianity most definitely teaches that angels are created", I realize that, curiousdannii :). I'm interested of what Einstein say that Time does not exist in the Spiritual realm, which made me think "maybe that's why that member say like that". (as generally, most people think that angels are in spiritual realm because they are spiritual things not matter).
    – karma
    Commented Feb 16, 2018 at 15:27
  • @karma Einstein's religious views aren't very clear, some kind of pantheist, but he definitely wasn't any kind of Christian.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Feb 17, 2018 at 0:06

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