Is Jesus implying his pre-incarnate existence in John 17:5?
Maybe he is, maybe he isn't. We must not take this verse and the other in v24 out of context and using tradition alone, with its pre-set bias to lead us away from the reality of the broad and harmonious NT teaching.
We can note several things that cannot be neglected in seeking the intended meaning of this verse. Here is a small sampling.
- There is no text that affirms his pre-existence - only by reading in traditional dogma and interpreting accordingly.
- If he did pre-exist he wasn't God - that concept is eliminated by an honest reading of the NT. Namely John 1 - Jesus is the logos become flesh. Jesus could not have been present 'in the beginning' b/c the logos was not flesh yet.
- The logos was in the beginning - but the logos cannot die or be tempted or do anything required of the Messiah to come.
- Simply that Jesus has a God should be evidence enough. Even ascended in Rev 3, Jesus still has the same God we do.
- What we do have is the consistent revelation that Jesus is a man (as the text states repeatedly) and nothing else.
- Jesus is the willing, obedient and loving son who was made perfect or complete (Heb 2:10) to be the required sacrifice. Jesus did not BECOME flesh.
- Jesus (from his own lips) and all the apostles consistently show that there is one God - the Father John 17:3.
- There is ample evidence that Jesus was foreknown and planned to be from the foundation of the world (1 Pet 1:20, Acts 2:23) - even slain from this time. This plan of God - accomplished in and through Jesus, is the crowning glory of what God was doing to overcome evil in His creation. Only in Jesus may humanity be found to be made in God's image. Apart from Christ, we are not yet in God's image. 2 Cor 3:18, Rom 8:29.
Following is a brief snapshot of the passage that says nothing of a God the Son who is co-equal with God the Father and has always existed (somewhere). Rather, it expresses the opposite - that Jesus is totally dependent on and directed by God.
v2 just as You gave him authority over all mankind,
v3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
v4 I glorified You on the earth by accomplishing the work which You have given me to do.
v6 they were Yours and You gave them to me, and they have followed Your word. 7 Now they have come to know that everything which You have given me is from You;
v8 for the words which You gave me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You,
and they believed that You sent me.
22 The glory which You have given me I also have given to them, so that they may be one, just as we are one.
Jesus explained how well he knew the Father - and we can rightly understand that he knew the Father's plan - HE WAS THE PLAN! Without Jesus' grand, yet humble and courageous sacrifice, there was no plan! The glory of God's plan was about to get real in the person of Jesus, and be shared with those who believed in him.
We then question the John 17:5 verse - what can it mean without jumping to personal or traditional conclusions? Firstly, what is a pre-incarnate existence? The very concept is unbiblical! There is no incarnation, so 'pre-existing' it is theological folly.
So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.
Who is Jesus? All that we know for sure - biblically speaking, is he is the result of the logos which became flesh. Jesus would understand this - he knows who he is, where he came from - Mary, but not Joseph, and how he came to be by the power of God's spirit over Mary. The logos was with God in the beginning - at the creation of all things. Like the spirit, the logos represents God in all He does.
Jesus knows the role of the logos and that he IS the logos in fleshly form - representing God. He knew that the wonder and glory of the acts of creation in which the logos was key is part of his roots - well before Abraham and David. This is the glory that is part of his heritage, his origin, his glory too that 'he', the logos become flesh, had.
After his extremely arduous mission to great suffering and death he certainly looks forward to joining the Father and his God and to sit at God's right hand to share in ruling the universe.
glorify me in your own presence
What a glorious reality Jesus was on the verge of enjoying -
looking only at Jesus, the originator and perfecter of the faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb 12:2
Is Jesus implying his pre-incarnate existence in John 17:5? No, not even close!