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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 Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 8:23
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    @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. Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 12:14
  • See also Matthew 25:34.
    – Lucian
    Commented Jun 13, 2021 at 4:50

6 Answers 6

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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!
    – Steve
    Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 11:48
  • @Dottard this is a great resource for passages teaching this principle, thank you. And nice usage of Micah 5:2 (+1) Commented Mar 2, 2021 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.
    – Steve
    Commented Mar 3, 2021 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
    Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 0:22
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    @user48152 - I did not claim it did - you said it was not so; "He could hardly be sanctified at birth or before". Scripture has a different view.
    – Dottard
    Commented Mar 3, 2021 at 2:57
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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". Commented Feb 19, 2021 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
    Commented Feb 19, 2021 at 23:03
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    @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
    – Steve
    Commented Feb 19, 2021 at 23:16
  • @user48152 - sorry, don't follow your comment about "The whole answer is out of context?"
    – S. Broberg
    Commented Feb 19, 2021 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...
    – Steve
    Commented Feb 20, 2021 at 3:04
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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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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! Commented Mar 2, 2021 at 10:10
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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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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.

  1. There is no text that affirms his pre-existence - only by reading in traditional dogma and interpreting accordingly.
  2. 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.
  3. The logos was in the beginning - but the logos cannot die or be tempted or do anything required of the Messiah to come.
  4. Simply that Jesus has a God should be evidence enough. Even ascended in Rev 3, Jesus still has the same God we do.
  5. What we do have is the consistent revelation that Jesus is a man (as the text states repeatedly) and nothing else.
  6. 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.
  7. Jesus (from his own lips) and all the apostles consistently show that there is one God - the Father John 17:3.
  8. 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!

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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). Commented Apr 1, 2021 at 12:24

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