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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.

Is Jesus implying that he existed before the world was created, which would logically entail his preincarnate existence?

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  • Jesus gets glorified on the cross, fulfilling there the protoevangelium of the Bible. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protevangelium Mar 2 at 8:23
  • @Spirit Realm Investigator It is the same as to ask: "When Jesus says "as Father knows Me, so do I know the Father", does He imply that His and the Father's knowledge are equal?" - and the question is wrong from the outset, for it includes error of making ambiguous that which is absolutely inambiguous, for Jesus does not "imply" here the equality of His and the Father's knowledge (and hence asserts His own co-Divinity with the Father), but asserts it directly and unambiguously. To problematize things that are not to be problematized is to rise an unnecessary dust and nothing more. Mar 2 at 12:14
  • See also Matthew 25:34.
    – Lucian
    Jun 13 at 4:50
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I struggle to see how John 17:5 can be understood in any other way but as a testimony to the pre-incarnate existence of Jesus. The same idea is also present in V24. We see this in numerous other places such as:

  • John 1:1-3 - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made.
  • John 1:14 - The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
  • John 1:15 - John testified concerning Him. He cried out, saying, “This is He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’ ”
  • John 3:13 - No one has ascended into heaven except the One who descended from heaven—the Son of Man.
  • John 3:16, 17 - For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. [NOTE - God cannot send someone who does not exist!]
  • John 3:31 - The One [= Jesus] who comes from above is above all. The one who is from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks as one from the earth. The One who comes from heaven is above all.
  • John 8:58 - “Truly, truly, I tell you,” Jesus declared, “before Abraham was [born], I am!"

The same idea is taught in other places as well.

  • Phil 2:5-8 - Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross.
  • Col 1:16, 17 - For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.
  • Heb 1:2, 3 - But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature, upholding all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
  • 1 Peter 1:20 - He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.
  • Rev 22:13 - I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.”

We even find this same idea in Messianic prophecies of Jesus -

  • Micah 5:2 - But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come forth for Me One to be ruler over Israel— One whose origins are of old, from the days of eternity.

Thus, the pre-incarnate existence of Jesus is taught in many places in the Bible.

Back to John 17:5 - it contains another teaching as well in view of two more texts

  • Isa 42:8 - I am the LORD; that is My name! I will not yield My glory to another or My praise to idols.
  • Isa 48:11 - For My own sake, My very own sake, I will act; for how can I let Myself be defamed? I will not yield My glory to another.

Since Jesus claims that He shared the same glory with the Father in John 17:5, this means that, in view of the the above teaching, Jesus effectively claiming equality with the Father by say, "the glory I had with You before the world began".

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  • So many issues here. Just one for now. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world. 1 Pet 1:20 Foreknown by who? God. Jesus was sent before he existed by God's sovereign will - just as we are found in him before we existed. But even still, why can he not be sent when the time was right? Did God send a child to be His Lamb? Did Jesus send the disciples before the right time? Upon such awkward logic of, "God cannot send someone who does not exist!" are several other issues that distort the text. Time for work!
    – steveowen
    Mar 2 at 11:48
  • @Dottard this is a great resource for passages teaching this principle, thank you. And nice usage of Micah 5:2 (+1) Mar 2 at 21:36
  • @Dottard Further to the last comment about sending. 'are you saying of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world' John 10:36 He could hardly be sanctified at birth or before - and then sent could he? The logos isn't being sanctified either.
    – steveowen
    Mar 3 at 0:14
  • @user48152 - that is exactly what the Scriptures say - Luke 1:35 - The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the Holy One [same word as sanctified] to be born will be called the Son of God. Jesus was set apart before birth.
    – Dottard
    Mar 3 at 0:22
  • that is reasonable - it does not require pre-existence then does it?
    – steveowen
    Mar 3 at 0:28
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Jesus is not implying anything. He is simply stating the fact that he was with God prior to all things coming into existence.

John 1:

Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made.

Colossians 1:16:

For in Him all things were created, things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. All things were created through Him and for Him.

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    Good answer. Also that he had glory/substance and was not just a "plan" or "idea". Feb 19 at 23:00
  • @MikeBorden that is an excellent point, thank you. Philo noted the "the word" was the pre-existent "original man" or "heavenly man" - but he said that it was only an Idea. Both John and Paul (1 Cor. 15:49) connect the pre-existent Adam with the person of Jesus.
    – S. Broberg
    Feb 19 at 23:03
  • @S.Broberg yep, things ON earth and IN heaven sounds like the creation of all things to me! -1 The whole answer is out of context
    – steveowen
    Feb 19 at 23:16
  • @user48152 - sorry, don't follow your comment about "The whole answer is out of context?"
    – S. Broberg
    Feb 19 at 23:53
  • ok, your opening comment is unsupported by the verses quoted as they are taken out of context and don't mean what you suggest they do. The grab from John 1 is not talking about Jesus until later in the chapter … the word became flesh...
    – steveowen
    Feb 20 at 3:04
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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.\

Before the world existed, the Son existed because he had glory.

John 8:58

"Truly, truly, I tell you," Jesus declared, "before Abraham was born, I am!"

The context of the Son's existence in John 17:5 is the world.

The context of the Son's existence in John 8:58 is Abraham.

In what form did the Son exist?

This is a different question but there is no doubt that the Son existed.

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    A very interesting point is raised as a question regarding the form before “the Word was made flesh. (John 1:14, KJV). Hope this will be dealt as a stand-alone point of discussion. According to apostle Paul (Heb. 1:2) the Son came into the world at the time set/appointed by God the Father, and a defined dispensation, ‘in the days of His flesh ... (Heb. 5:7)’ Feb 20 at 18:26
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Jesus uses glory as the means to show He existed before His incarnation:

1 When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. (John 17) [ESV]

First, since the Father sent Him, Jesus had to be in existence before He arrived. Second, Jesus requests to be glorified in His Father's presence with the glory He had [in His Father's presence] before the world existed. This is something which He had with the Father before being sent. The Greek is εἶχον, the imperfect tense of ἔχω "to possess." This displays an internal aspect. "That is, it portrays action from within the event, without regard for beginning or end."1

This leads to two conclusions. First, Jesus could not have been created. For if He had been created, He would need to ask to be restored to the glory He had received from the Father. Second, the glory is that which the Father [still] possesses, and so this glory, like the Father, must have no beginning. Therefore, this is not only a statement of existence before being sent; it is made in terms which requires equality of pre-existence with the Father.

Based upon the Old Testament, Jesus' request is consistent with His deity:

8 I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols. 9 Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.” (Isaiah 42)

Jesus is not getting the Father's glory: He is sharing in it. Moreover, the "new thing" was to glorify the Father on earth.

"Glory" also points back to the Prologue:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1)

Therefore, when the Father answered Jesus' prayer and showed the disciples this glory after the Crucifixion, the prophecy in Isaiah was fulfilled:

And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:5)


1. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar: Beyond the Basics An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, Zondervan, 1996, p. 541

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John 1:1-2 says ‘IN THE beginning there WAS THE Word, and the Word WAS WITH God, and the Word WAS God. He WAS IN THE beginning WITH God.’ Given a double reference, the emphasis of this text is about ‘the Word that WAS IN THE beginning WITH God.’ I plead to everyone to respect the context of this text and NOT try to pull anyone phrase out of the sentence creating a disconnect between the phrases for the purpose of preconceived proof-texting.

‘THE beginning’ which John is pointing is the ‘THE beginning’ of Genesis 1:1. According to John 1:14, ‘THE Word’ that ‘WAS IN THE beginning WITH God was made flesh.’ This clearly indicates that BEFORE ‘THE Word was made flesh’ it ‘WAS THE Word’ that ‘WAS IN THE beginning WITH God’ as John confirmed again in Rev. 3:14 saying, ‘... THE beginning of the creation of God’ for ‘THE Word is the beginning of ALL creation.” as written in Genesis 1; John 1:3; Colossians 1:16.

Please note that considering the confusion they create and the associated corruption that follows and based on the strong conviction on ‘The completeness of Bible’ and therefore the absence of the need to add anything to the word of God, I’ve avoided the use of words like pre-incarnate, incarnation and so forth.

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This question is wrongheadedly put from the outset, for it affirms that it is even possible to interpret this passage in a sense that Jesus is “implying” something when in reality He is plainly, without even a particle of ambiguity and equivocation, asserting His not only pre-incarnate existence but pre-universe-creation co-existence with the Father. How can such an impossible interpretative possibility even lurk in one’s mind, on what grounds?! “Imply” means something said obliquely, indirectly; some sentence is affirmed on the basis of another sentence out of a possible logical outcome; none of that is present here! On the contrary, the sentence is said directly.

When somebody says that Pelé won final of 1970 World Cup in Mexico, he is not “implying” that Pelé became a champ together with his team, he is plainly asserting it.

The answer to your question is: not at all! Jesus is not implying His eternal co-existence with the Father, He is plainly and unequivocally asserting it to the Father Himself in presence of His disciples.

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    @Down-voter Oh, my precious anonymous down-voter, would you be so exceedingly kind and generous as to add some reasons and grounds for your “-“, for which I have 0 concern, sincerely, but I wish to know what process within your reflections led you to this salutary estimation. If you deign my request unworthy for even to be addressed, then have a nice and safe day! Mar 2 at 10:10
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Maybe he is, maybe he isn't. We cannot know what Jesus meant by this request of the Father.

But we can know several other things that shed light on this particular verse;

  1. There is no other text that affirms his pre-existence with clarity.
  2. If he did pre-exist he wasn't God - that concept is eliminated by any honest reading of the NT. Simply that Jesus has a God should be enough for a humble student to grasp the reality of such a revelation. Even ascended in Rev, Jesus still has the same God as we do.
  3. We also can know that he wasn't an angel.
  4. What we do have is the consistent revelation that Jesus is a man and nothing else.
  5. As a man, as the text states repeatedly, he wasn't 'in the beginning with God'.
  6. The logos was in the beginning - but the logos cannot die or be tempted or do anything required of the Messiah to come.
  7. When Jesus arrived (the logos become flesh) then we have a man who could be that sacrifice for sin. That willing, obedient, son who was made perfect or complete (Heb 2:10) to be that required sacrifice. JESUS DID NOT BECOME FLESH. The logos did. Jesus is flesh following his birth from mother Mary but with the divine (sinless and holy) nature from his Father.
  8. Jesus and all the apostles consistently show that there is one God - the Father. Why that seems so hard for some to believe is intriguing.
  9. 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.

The glory of what God was doing was known from the start - the glory of God's sovereign will on display, the glory of the plan that required a son to be slain, the glory of the son who would willingly participate in and fulfil that plan. So that when he arrived on the scene - the logos become flesh, the obedient son who put aside his own will to serve the Father's purposes had glory all over it!

Following is a brief snapshot of a longish passage that shows the absurd nature of a God the Son concept that is a co-equal with God the Father and has always existed (somewhere)

Jesus said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, so that the Son may glorify You,

2 just as You gave Him authority over all mankind,

3 And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

4 I glorified You on the earth by accomplishing the work which You have given Me to do.

5 And now You, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world existed.

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;

8 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.

Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, so that they may be one just as We are.

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.

All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Yes, John 17:5 can be read in a way that could show Jesus being with God in the beginning. Fortunately, rather than grasping this one verse to prove a point, there is much clearer and unequivocal revelation that tells a completely different story. Would we ignore the larger narrative to our peril?

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  • What the glory is (the glory of God's will, the glory of God's plan, the glory of God's being) is somewhat irrelevant to this question. Whatever the glory is Jesus uses ειχον to reference it's relationship to himself. The word ειχον is the 1st person single form of the verb. Its tense is imperfect (which indicates action in past time), its voice is active (which indicates that the subject performs the action instead of receives it), and its mood is indicative (which describes a situation that actually is — as opposed to a situation that might be, is wished for, or is commanded to be). Apr 1 at 12:24

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