The Preexistence of the Son and Oneness Theology

(Short Outline)

Oneness theology (Modalism) rejects the eternality of the Person of God the Son, Jesus Christ. They claim He had a beginning and He will have an end. Conversely though, Scripture presents unequivocally that the Person of the Son eternally existed WITH (pros, para, meta) the Father (esp. John 1:1; 17:5; Phil. 2:6-11; Heb. 1:2, 10-12). The Son is said to BE the very Agent of creation (e.g., John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17: dia + the genitive). Demonstrating that Jesus Christ, God the Son, was the actual Creator demolishes Oneness theology. Thus, Oneness teachers sacrifice many clear biblical passages that teach the preexistence of the Son at the expense of their unitarian pre-committed doctrine of Modalism.

Hence, Oneness theology dishonors God by asserting that (a) the Person of the Son was a mere creation at Bethlehem and (b) it was the Father who came down and wrapped Himself in flesh (not becoming flesh) and that flesh was called “Son”—Jesus’ human nature.

By Him [en autō] all things [ panta] were created . . . all things [panta] have been created through Him [di’ autou] and for Him [ eis auton]. He is before all things [autos estin pro pantōn], and all things [ panta] in Him [en autō] hold together (Col. 1:16-17; lit. rendering).

In sharp contrast to the Oneness theological position, Jesus, the Son, declared: Unless you believe that I am [egō eimi] you will die in your sins (John 8:24).

NOTE: The full force of Jesus’ assertion is striking: ean gar mē pisteusēte hoti egō eimi, apothaneisthe en tais hamartiais humōn (“For if you shall believe not that I am [egō eimi] you will die in the sins of you”). Hence, “I am” (egō eimi) and not “I am He” (i.e., there is no supplied predicate) is the literal rendering. Jesus clearly asserts here that salvation rests on believing that He (as the Person of the Son; cf. vv. 16-18, 27) is the eternal God. Jesus applied the divine title “I am” (egō eimi) in the absolute (i.e., appearing at the end of the clause) to Himself on seven (or possibility eight; cf. Mark 6:50) different occasions, these would be: John 8:24, 28; 8:58; 13:19; and John 18:5, 6, 8). Egō eimi was a frequent title used of YHWH alone (e.g., Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4; cf. LXX).



The pre-existence and deity of the Person of Jesus Christ was formulated in the early Councils of the Christian church such as Nicea and in the theology and hymns of the Faith. It is the very bedrock of historical biblical Christianity. Jesus Christ made this point clear many times in His life (e.g., Matt. 8:26; 12:6, 18; John 2:19; 3:13; 6:35-40; 8:58; 16:28). In contrast, as we have clearly shown, Oneness doctrine rejects the unipersonality, deity and eternality of the Son. Oneness Christology further maintains that only for the sake of redemption did the unipersonal deity named “Jesus” manifest as the “Son.” Prolific Oneness author and teacher David K. Bernard (1983: 104-5) explains the Oneness position concerning the non-eternal Son:

The Sonship—or the role of the Son—began with the child conceived in the womb of Mary. The Scriptures make this perfectly clear … The Son was made under the law—not before the law (See also Hebrews 7:28) … Hebrews 1:5-6 also reveals that the begetting of the Son occurred at a specific point in time and that the Son had a beginning in time …From all of these verses, it is easy to see that the Son is not eternal, but was begotten by God almost 2000 years ago.

As delineated below, the exegesis of particular passages and analysis of biblical terms proves false the Oneness position of a non-eternal, non-personal Son. Specifically, the biblical presentation of 1) the eternality of the Son, 2) His role as the Agent of creation, and 3) His eternal existence with the Father will be the driving force that demolishes the Oneness theological position.


Bernard (1983: 105) declared, “There was a time when the Son did not exist,” thus rejecting the pre-existence of the Son. This resembles the very center point of the controversy at Nicea. Bernard’s statement here is theologically comparable to the key phrase in Arius’s teaching: “There was a time when He [the Son] was not.” However, the historic Christian church’s belief was quite different, for Arius was roundly condemned for his teachings. As vividly shown, the early church was not tolerant in any way, shape or form towards heresies that denied the nature of God and the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Oneness theology (or Modalism) maintains that God exists as a unipersonal deity. Hence, the fundamental Oneness position regarding Jesus Christ is this: the unitarian or unipersonal deity named Jesus has two natures: divine, as the mode of the Father/Holy Spirit and human, as the mode of the Son of God (though not God the Son). In Oneness thinking, the meaning of “Son of God” (or “Son of Man”) refers primarily to the humanity (viz., the human nature) of Jesus, not to the deity. Bernard (1983: 99, 103) indicates that the “Son of God” may refer to

God manifested in flesh—that is, deity in the human nature … We can never use the term “Son” correctly apart from the humanity of Jesus Christ … The Son always refers to the Incarnation and we cannot use it in the absence of the human element … The Son did not have pre-existence before the conception in the womb of Mary. The Son pre-existed in thought but not in substance.

Since unitarianism is the starting point, Oneness teachers (e.g., Paterson, 1966: 22; Bernard, 1983: 102-3) see Jesus as the Father, not as the Son, existing before time. Only in this sense, can Oneness advocates say that Jesus (as the Father) is eternal in that He preexisted. Therefore, as sufficiently documented thus far, Oneness theology rejects the idea that the Son preexisted with the Father (cf. Bernard 1983: 184).

Oneness teachers (e.g., Bernard, 1983: 103-4; Magee, 1988: 25) further argue that according to John 3:16, Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5,[1] the Son cannot be eternal because the Bible says He was “begotten” on a certain day. Although the translation of monogenēs is subject to translators, Oneness teachers, nevertheless, assume the meaning, of “origin” or “beginning” to show that the Person of the Son had a beginning. However, as pointed out below, the lexical support and contextual meaning of monogenēs militates against this assertion.

Passages that depict the Son’s preexistence (e.g., the “sending” of the Son passages; John 3:16; Col. 1:16-17) are explained away by Oneness teachers as mere references to the so-called future plan of the coming of the Son mode to earth. Bernard (1983: 102-3) explains that the “plan of the future Sonship existed with God [the Father] from the beginning—an idea in the mind of God.” The Son pre-existed as a divine thought, but not as a divine Person in Oneness theology. While this may sound plausible as an explanation in denying the pre-existence of the Son in those passages, it is a hollow claim lacking exegetical support. To adopt such a view is to rip the heart out of passages that specifically speak of the Son as the divine Agent of creation, the very Creator of all things.



As demonstrably established, when Monarchianism (modalistic and dynamic) first emerged early in the second century, it was roundly and universally condemned as non-Christian. What marks Oneness theology as non-Christian, as thus far substantiated, is their denial of the deity and unipersonality of the Son. It re-defines the biblical doctrine of the Son, sinking Him to the level of a mere mode or office of a unitarian deity named “Jesus.” We will also show subsequently that the Old Testament authors, the apostles, the earliest of church fathers, early important ecclesiastical councils and creeds, present-day scholarship, and the people of God directly attested to and positively proclaimed the pre-existence of the pre-incarnate Son.

The Christian church has stalwartly refuted the denial of the pre-existence of the Son by Oneness and other unitarian groups. The words of Christ Himself in John 8:24 should send shock waves through the many groups that deny His pre-existence: “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He [egō eimi, i.e., the eternal God], you will die in your sins.”



Thus far, we have seen the New Testament affirmation of the full deity of the Person of the Son, and hence, His eternality. Here in this article the biblical declaration and establishment of the Son’s eternal existence with the Father (preincarnation) will be the chief focus. Although this presentation will consist of specific passages primarily from the New Testament, the Old Testament provides many references to the pre-existence of the preincarnate Son (e.g., Gen. 19:24; Prov. 30:4; Isa. 6:1ff.;[2] Dan. 7:9-14; Micah 5:2; “the angel of the Lord” appearances [e.g., Gen. 16:7ff.; Exod. 3:2ff.; Judges 13:9-25]; etc.; cf. Morey, 1996: 306-13).

Of the many New Testament passages and terms that exegetically affirm the preexistence of the Son, John 1:1; 17:5; Philippians 2:5-11; and the “sending” of the Son passages (esp. in John) provide a weighty amount of exegetical evidence. Further evidence (viz., John 1:3, Col. 1:16-17 and Heb. 1:8-10) will include passages that clearly designate the Son as Creator, that is, the Agent of creation. In conclusion, there will be a discussion of the theological implications of the participle ōn (articular and anarthrous) as applied to the Son (John 1:18; Rom. 1:3; 2 Cor. 8:9; Heb. 1:3) and the implications of the Son as the monogenēs huios/theos.

John 1:1

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (En archē ēn ho logos, kai ho logos ēn pros ton theon, kai theos ēn ho logos).

From a theological and grammatical standpoint, the three clauses of John 1:1 powerfully and effectively refute the theology of every non-Christian group that denies the eternality of the Son, the distinction between the Persons of the Father and the Son, and the full deity of the Person of Jesus Christ. Consider the three clauses of John 1:1:

John 1:1a: En archē ēn ho logos, literally, “In [the] beginning was the Word.” The first clause of John 1:1 teaches the eternality of the Son. The Greek verb ēn is the imperfect tense of eimi. The force of an imperfect tense indicates a continuous action normally occurring in the past. Hence, the Word did not originate at a point in time, but rather in the beginning of time the Word ēn already existing. Note the contrast between ēn and egeneto (the aorist indicative form of ginomai). The aorist indicative normally indicates a punctiliar action normally occurring in the past (cf. Greenlee, 2000: 49). In the prologue of John, ēn is exclusively applied to the eternal Word in verses 1, 2, 4, 9, and 10, while in verses 3, 6, and 10, the aorist egeneto is applied to everything created. Not until verse 14 does egeneto refer to the Son denoting His new nature—“the Word became [egeneto] flesh.”

John 1:1b: kai ho logos ēn pros ton theon, literally, “and the Word was with the God.” The second clause of John 1:1 teaches the absolute personal distinction between the eternal Logos and ton theon (the Father), as we will thoroughly discuss below.

John 1:1c: kai theos ēn ho logos, literally, “and God was the Word.” The third clause of John 1:1 teaches the deity of Jesus Christ. The deity of Jesus Christ is so stunningly clear that one would have to alter the actual rendering of the clause to circumvent John’s intended meaning.

A full treatment of John 1:1 is not necessary here. Although Oneness doctrine sees the Word as God, they insist that the Word is the Father’s spoken Word or thought/plan, hence denying the unipersonality of the Word and His identification as Son. It is John 1:1b that is particularly relevant concerning the Oneness denial of the pre-incarnate Son: kai ho logos ēn pros ton theon.

In spite of the clear differentiation between ho logos and ton theon denoted by the preposition pros (“with”), Bernard (1983: 102-3) claims:

The Word or Logos can mean the plan or thought as it existed in the mind of God. The Word can also mean the plan or thought of God as expressed in the flesh, that is in the Son. What is the difference, therefore, between the two terms, Word and Son? The Word had pre-existence and the Word was God (the Father), so we can use it without reference to humanity. However, the Son always refers to the Incarnation and we cannot use it in the absence of the human element (emphasis added).

Thus, the “Word” in Oneness theology was merely a plan of the Father. This is the most abnormal application of the passage, thoroughly distorting what John was actually saying. In spite of Bernard’s position, other Oneness teachers have dissimilar views as to exactly what or who the Word was. One group of Oneness teachers (e.g., Paterson, 1966: 29 and Graves, 1977: 35) seems to be saying that the Word was the Father Himself, but manifested in the flesh, while others (e.g., Weisser, 1983: 35; Bernard, 1985: 22) see the Word as merely the thought or plan of the Father. This, however, prompts the question: “Who is the Son in Oneness theology?” As previously recognized, Oneness theology says the Son is the humanity and not the deity of Jesus. They also assert that since the Sonship began (was created) in Bethlehem, the Sonship will cease to exist after time (cf. Bernard, 1983: 106).

Historically, the early church used John 1:1 to show that the eternal Word was fully God and distinct from the Father. Clement of Alexandria (Fragments 3, in Alexander and Donaldson, 1994: vol. 2:574) declares: “The Word itself, that is, the Son of God, who being, by equality of substance, one with the Father, is eternal and uncreated. That the Son was always the Word is signified by saying, ‘In the beginning was the Word.’” Hippolytus (Against Noetus 14, Alexander and Donaldson, 1994: vol. 5:228) likewise comments on John 1:1 to refute the first known modalist, Noetus of Smyrna:

If, then, the Word was with God, and was also God, what follows? Would one say that he speaks of two Gods? I shall not indeed speak of two Gods, but of one; of two Persons however, and of a third economy (disposition), viz., the grace of the Holy Ghost. For the Father indeed is One, but there are two Persons, because there is also the Son; and then there is the third, the Holy Spirit.

In his commentary on the Gospel of John, John Calvin (1994: 15) remarks on the distinction of the three divine Persons expressed in John 1:1b:

We have already said that the Son of God is thus placed above the world and above all the creatures, and is declared to have existed before all ages. But at the same time this mode of expression attributes to him a distinct personality from the Father; for it would have been absurd in the Evangelist to say that the Speech was always with God, if he had not some kind of subsistence peculiar to himself in God. … This passage serves, therefore, to refute the error of Sabellius, for it shows that the Son is distinct from the Father.

Expounding on John 1:1, Warfield (1988: 190-92) remarks:

In three crisp sentences he declares at the outset His eternal subsistence, His eternal intercommunion with God, His eternal identity with God: ‘In the beginning the Word was; and the Word was with God; and the Word was God’ (John i. 1) … He was nevertheless not a separate being from God: “And the Word was”—still the eternal “was”—“God.” In some sense distinguishable from God, He was in an equally true sense identical with God. There is but one eternal God; this eternal God, the Word is; in whatever sense we may distinguish Him from the God whom He is “with,” He is yet not another than this God, but Himself is this God … John would have us realize that what the Word was in eternity was not merely God’s coeternal fellow, but the eternal God’s self (emphasis added).

“The Word was WITH [pros] God”

The modalistic interpretation of John 1:1 is annihilated by both the grammar and syntax of John 1:1b: ho logos ēn pros ton theon. To highlight the intimate loving fellowship that the Word shared with the Father, the Apostle John specifically used the preposition pros, translated “with” here. The preposition pros has various meanings depending on the context (e.g., to, toward, in the presence of, pertaining to, against, etc.; Greenlee, 1986: 39-40). When applied to persons, however, pros regularly denotes intimate fellowship and always their distinction. Of all the prepositions that John could have utilized, which can be mean “with” (e.g., en, meta, para, sun), he chose pros (lit., “facing”/“toward,” with the accusative, theon as the object of the preposition). Hence, pros with the accusative clearly indicates that the Word was “at, with, in the presence of … God” (Greenlee, 1986: 39). In reference to John 1:1b, pros indicates “by, at, near; pros tina einai: be (in company) with someone” (Bauer, 2000: 875).

Robertson (1932: 5:4) elucidates the significance of the preposition pros in John 1:1b:

With God (pros ton theon). Though existing eternally with God the Logos was in perfect fellowship with God. Pros with the accusative presents a plane of equality and intimacy, face to face with each other. In 1 John 2:1 we have a like use of pros: “We have a Paraclete with the Father” (paraklēton echomen pros ton patera). See prosōpon pros prosōpon (face to face, 1 Cor, 13:12), a triple use of pros.

Protestant apologist White (1998: 52) remarks as to the personal intimacy expressed by the preposition pros:

Just as Greek verbs are often more expressive than their English counterparts, so too are Greek prepositions. Here John uses the preposition pros. The term has a wide range of meanings, depending on the context in which it is found. In this particular instance, the term speaks to a personal relationship, in fact, to intimacy. It’s the same term the apostle Paul uses when he speaks of how we presently have a knowledge comparable to seeing in a dim mirror, but someday, in eternity, we will have a clearer knowledge, an intimate knowledge, for we shall see “face to (pros) face” (Corinthians 13:12). When you are face-to-face with someone, you have nowhere to hide. You have a relationship with that person, whether you like it or not.

Commenting on the intimate nature of pros, Robertson (1934: 625) correlates John 1:1b and 2 Corinthians 5:8: “It is the face-to-face converse with the Lord that Paul has in mind. John thus conceives the fellowship between the Logos and God.” Vincent (1973: 2:34) says,

The preposition pros, which, with the accusative case, denotes motion towards, or direction, is also often used in the New Testament in the sense of with; and that not merely as being near or beside, but as a living union and communion; implying the active notion of intercourse … Thus John’s statement is that the divine Word not only abode with the Father from all eternity but was in the living, active relation of communion with Him.

Lenski (1943: 32-33) similarly shows that pros in John 1:1b signified the inseparable communion that the distinct Person of the Word had with the Father:

The preposition pros, as distinct from en, para, and sun, is of the greatest importance …The idea is that of presence and communion with a strong note of reciprocity. The Logos, then, is not an attribute inhering in God, or a power emanating from him, but a person in the presence of God and turned in loving, inseparable communion toward God, and God turned equally toward him. He was another and yet not other than God. This preposition pros sheds light on Gen. 1:26, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”

Pros expresses the intimate and special relationship that Christians will experience “at home with [pros] the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).

In Romans 5:1, Paul teaches that the believer, having been justified from faith (ek pisteōs), presently and permanently has (echomen) peace with God (pros ton theon). Notwithstanding the mass of biblical scholarship, Oneness teachers postulate a unitarian assumption, denying the appropriate and natural meaning of pros in John 1:1b. Evading the lexical denotation and contextual substance of pros in John 1:1b, Bernard (1983: 188-89) states:

We should also note that the Greek word pros, translated here as “with,” is translated as “pertaining to” in Hebrews 2:17 and 5:1 … Furthermore, if God in John 1:1 means God the Father, then the Word is not a separate person for the verse would then read, “The Word was with the Father and the Word was the Father” To make this imply a plurality of persons in God would necessitate a change in the definition of God in the middle of the verse.

Here Bernard attempts to make a grammatical connection, asserting that pros in John 1:1b means the same in Hebrews 2:17 and 5:1. He then commits the fallacy of equivocation when he implies that theos in 1:1b and theos in John 1:1c refer to the same thing: the identification of the Father. First, let us deal with the use of pros in John 1:1b and Hebrews 2:17 and 5:1. Bernard’s assertion overlooks the grammatical differences.

In both Hebrews 2:17 and 5:1 (and Rom. 15:17), the phrase ta pros ton theon appears. Note that the neuter plural article ta (“the things”) precedes the preposition pros, while in John 1:1b, the imperfect form of eimi (i.e., ēn) precedes the preposition pros. The neuter plural article points to impersonal concepts, “the things pertaining to God,” while pros is preceded by the imperfect verb (ēn) in John 1:1b, which points to a personal interaction—the Word “was with God.”

Second, the specific phrase pros ton theon as in John 1:1b and Hebrews, occurs twenty times in the Greek New Testament (NA28). In each occurrence, pros differentiates between a person or persons and God (except, of course, the three times where the neuter plural article precedes the phrase). However, even at those places, “the things” pertaining to God are still distinct “things” from God.

In 1:1b, John envisages a marked distinction between two Persons—ton theon and ho logos. Pros ton theon, expresses the distinct personality of the Logos, which the preposition en would have obscured. It is a “face-to-face” with God or “at home with God” that is indicated (Plummer, 1900: 64).

Next, Bernard attempts to make theos in both 1:1b and 1:1c have the same referent (the Father) and thus, the same semantic meaning (definite). As a result, he implies that the equative verb ēn carries the same force as the mathematical equal symbol, asserting that theos in 1:1c (the Word) equals theos in 1:1b (the Father). In other words, his assumption of unitarianism brings about his conclusion that “God” can only refer to the Father. Therefore, Oneness teachers see both occurrences of theos in John 1:1 as referring to the Father, which tags theos as semantically definite.

In response, grammatically speaking, logos, is the subject of the clause (1:1c) and theos, is the predicate nominative, technically, an anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominative. The predicate nominative describes the class or category to which the subject (logos) belongs (Wallace, 1996: 262, 265). Theos, is the category to which the logos, belongs in terms of nature, not identity. Specifically, there are three semantic categories to which the anarthrous predicate nominative theos may belong: definite, indefinite, or qualitative (see Wallace, 1996: 263 for a detailed diagram of the semantic categories). As Wallace points out, to which category theos belongs is determined by the grammar, syntax, and context of the passage:

Is theos Definite? If theos were tagged as definite it would indeed force Modalism into John 1:1. The predicate nominative tells what the logos is, not who He is (Greenly, 1986: 24). John could easily have established Modalism in John 1:1c by definitizing theos (i.e., ho theos ēn ho logos, “the God was the Word”), turning John 1:1c into a “convertible proposition” (i.e., the subject, logos being interchangeable with the predicate, theos, in contrast to a “subset proposition”). Rebutting the Oneness position, New Testament scholar Harris (1992: 61) provides this analysis:

What is grammatically admissible [viz. the rendering: ho theos ēn ho logos, “the God was the Word”] is contextually inadmissible. If theos were taken as subject and as equivalent to ho theos … the clause would contradict what precedes (“the Word was with God,” distinguishing two persons) and would reduce the logos to merely a divine attribute (cf. 1 John 4:8: ho theos agapē estin).

In the same vein, Robertson (1932: 5:4) comments on the way John actually guards against Sabellianism (i.e., Modalism):

And the Word was God (kai theos ēn ho logos). By exact and careful language, John denied Sabellianism by not saying ho logos ēn ho theos. That would mean that all of God was expressed in ho logos and the terms would be interchangeable, each having the article.

Oneness teachers that comment on John 1:1 (e.g., Paterson, 1966: 29 and Graves, 1977: 35; Bernard, 1983: 188-89) do not provide any scholarly sources, which agree or even imply that John 1:1 teaches Modalism or that John 1:1c is a convertible proposition. The pre-decided unitarian theology precludes Oneness teachers from exegetically interacting with the text. Hence, the intended meaning of John 1:1b is removed by the Oneness unitarian conviction. Even though the theological consequence of a definitized theos is a modalistic understanding of John 1:1, many well-meaning Christian apologists and counter-cult writers incorrectly regarded theos as definite (e.g., Rhodes, 1993: 107; Martin, 1997: 138; Ankerberg and Weldon, 1999: 170).

This is mainly due to a sizeable misunderstanding of E. C. Colwell’s grammatical rule (viz., asserting the converse; cf. Wallace 1996: 257-62).[3] In sharp contrast to a definite tag, Wallace (1996: 26) indicates that

Calling theos in 1:1c definite is the same as saying that if it had followed a verb it would have had the article … (i.e., “the Word” = “God” and “God” = “the Word”). The problem with this argument is that the theos in 1:1b is the Father … This, as older grammarians and exegetes point out, is embryonic Sabellianism or modalism. The Fourth Gospel is about the least likely place to find modalism in the NT.

Adding even more credence against the modalistic definite view of theos is John 1:1c (“and the Word was with [pros] God”) and the unalterable fact the three Persons of the Trinity are constantly differentiated throughout John’s Gospel (esp. 14-16). Therefore, to say that theos is definite (i.e., seeing 1:1c as a convertible proposition) would clearly induct a unitarian/modalistic concept of God into the passage. Against such a view is both the grammar of the passage and the context and John’s own theology envisaging a distinction between the Persons of the Trinity.

Is theos Indefinite? An indefinite rendering (such as the rendering, “a god,” in the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ NWT, 1984) reduces Jesus to an indefinite non-eternal god (one of others). Whereas a definite tag throws Modalism into John 1:1, an indefinite tag throws polytheism (i.e., many gods) into the passage. If Jesus is a true “mighty god” (“a god”) and Jehovah is a true “Almighty God,” as Jehovah’s Witnesses argue, this would also present a decidedly Gnostic theological construct: a supreme God (Almighty) and a demigod (mighty god). Either way, an indefinite rendering introduces the idea of multiple true gods/Gods. The NWT’s grammatical assumption at John 1:1c that the anarthrous theos = an indefinite rendering, “a god” (Watchtower, 1989a: 212) is both flawed and inconsistent.

If the NWT were to be consistent, then John 1:6 should read: “There came a man sent from a god” (theos is anarthrous). Verse 12 should read: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of a god” (theos is anarthrous). Verse 13 should read: “Who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of a god (theos is anarthrous). And verse 18 should read: “No one has seen a god” (theos is anarthrous).[4]

If John had envisaged Jesus as an indefinite “god” that would be utterly cacophonous with his entire presentation of Jesus Christ as fully God (e.g., 1:3; 2:19; 8:24; 58; 20:28; 1 John 5:20; Rev. 22:13). Besides the polytheism that an indefinite rendering produces, there are two additional problems with an indefinite tag. The first problem is that theos in 1:1c is placed in the emphatic position, which makes an indefinite rendering all the more improbable.


The second problem is that John 1:1a indicates clearly that the Word was eternal: “In the beginning was [ēn] the Word” (emphasis added). We have already seen above the import of the imperfect ēn. In addition, John 1:3 teaches that the eternal Word was the actual Agent of creation: “All things came into being through Him [di’ autou]”[5] (emphasis added). It was not the grammar that determined how the NWT was to render John 1:1c, but rather it was the theological bias (unitarianism) of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Is theos Qualitative? In view of John’s theology, along with the grammar and context, the highest semantical possibility for theos in 1:1c is qualitative. Pre-verbal anarthrous predicate nominatives fall predominantly into this category (Wallace, 196: 269). As a predicate nominative (pre-verbal), theos is the category or class to which the divine Logos belongs. The Word as to His essence or nature was definitely God. He was “identical” to ton theon in 1:1b, not in identity or Person, but rather identical (i.e., co-equal) in ontological “quality” (cf. Heb. 1:3).

There are numerous examples in the New Testament of anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominatives that are qualitative in semantic force. In John 1:14 we read: “the Word became flesh.” He did not become “a flesh” (indefinite), or “the flesh” (definite), but rather He became “flesh”—as to His nature (qualitative).[6] Robertson (1932: 5:4-5) refers to 1:14 to exemplify the qualitative force of theos in 1:1c and the semantic problem of a definite tag:

The subject is made plain by the article (ho logos) and the predicate without it (theos) … So in John 1:14 ho Logos sarx egeneto, “the Word became flesh,” not “the flesh became Word.” Luther argues that here John disposes of Arianism also because the Logos was eternally God, fellowship of the Father and Son, what Origen called Eternal Generation of the Son … Thus in the Trinity we see personal fellowship.

In clear opposition to Oneness unitarian assertion of a definite theos in 1:1c, Reymond (1998: 300) expositorily notes that John wrote theos anarthrously most likely to his desire to keep the Word hypostatically distinct from the Father to whom he had just referred as ton theon.

In conclusion, the Word as to His very nature was God. Though God, He was not the very Person of Father, in which case theos in 1:1c would be definite (ho theos). Nor was He one of a pantheon of gods or aeons, which an indefinite rendering of theos would produce. Rather, as to His inherent sum quality, He possessed all the fullness (plērōma) of God in human flesh, as Scripture loudly presents: “The Word was God.” Only by reading the Bible through the lens of unitarianism/unipersonalism can one maintain the false Oneness notion that God was only one Person (the Father) and the Word was the Father.

The Personal Attributes of the Word

Before we leave John 1:1, there is one more point to address. It is the question of who or what the Word is in Oneness doctrine. We have seen the disagreement among Oneness writers as to the identity of the Word (the Father Himself or the “plan or thought” of the Father). In spite of the differences, one thing is clear in Oneness doctrine: the Word is the Father (either in Person or in thought/plan). Let us deal first with the Oneness view that the Word is the Person of the Father (i.e., viewing theos in 1:1c as definite). As we have shown, along with John 14-16, John 1:1b provides a clear refutation to this notion: the Word was (ēn) with (pros) God (the Father). In refutation of the alternative view postulated by Oneness teachers (e.g., Weisser, 1983: 35; Bernard, 1985: 22) that the Word was a mere plan or thought (or prophecy) of the Father, and thus an impersonal concept, the Word possessed personal attributes:

Ø “The Word was with [pros] God” (1:1b).

Ø “In Him was life and He was the Light of all men” (v. 4).

Ø John “came as a witness to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through Him” (v. 7). John did not testify about the Father’s impersonal future concept or a plan, but rather, He proclaimed the Person of the Word, the Light of all people.

Ø The Word created “all things” and “the world was made through Him” (di’ autou, vv. 3, 10). The Word is the Agent of creation and not a mere instrument, which John’s use of dia followed by the genitive autou, shows. There will be a thorough discussion of this exegetical characteristic below (4.6).

Ø “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave them right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” (vv. 11-12).

Ø “And the Word [not the Father] became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten [monogenēs] of the Father, full of grace and truth” (v. 14; emphasis added).

The prologue of John proves false the Oneness idea that the Word was only a plan, thought, or a mere concept in the Father’s mind. This beautiful prologue presents the Word as the Light of all people, the monogenēs (“one and only/unique One”) of the Father, and the Creator of all things, to whom personal pronouns are applied. We have shown above that John 1:1 powerfully and exegetically refutes those who deny 1) the eternality Christ (because of the imperfect ēn in 1:1a), 2) His distinction from the Father (because of the preposition pros in 1:1b), and 3) the full deity of Christ (because of the qualitative force of theos, in 1:1c).


John 17:5

Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself [para seautō], with the glory which I had [eichon] with You [para soi] before the world was” (emphasis added).

One of the most attacked doctrines launched by “unitarian” groups (i.e., seeing God as one Person) such as Muslims, JWs (Jehovah’s Witnesses), and Oneness Pentecostals, is, of course, the full deity of Jesus Christ.[1] If Jesus Christ is really God in the flesh, then, the very core theology of these groups is utterly demolished.

There is quite a lot of scriptural evidence that clearly shows Jesus Christ as being fully God. One such strong and undeniable proof, however, is His preexistence. Demonstrating that the Person of the Son preexisted firmly establishes the eternality of Jesus Christ—especially at passages that present Him as the Creator.[2] There are many passages in both the OT and NT that affirm the Son’s preexistence (e.g., Dan. 7:9-14; Micah 5:2; John 1:1; 3:13; 8:57-58; 16:28; 17:5; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10-12; etc.).

In Jesus’ High Priestly prayer to the Father, He requests or commands (as we will see)[3] the Father to glorify Himself together with the Father, with the glory that He had (or shared [eichon]) with (para) the Father before the world was. Hence, according to the Son’s own words, He pre-existed with the Father—“before the world was.” Again, this passage strongly refutes not only the claims of unitarian groups who deny the deity of Jesus Christ, but specifically the modalistic claims of Oneness Pentecostals who deny both the Son’s deity, pre-existence, and unipersonality.[4] As we will see, the exegetical significance is undeniable.

“Glorify Me together with Yourself.” First, the glory mentioned here is a shared glory—Father and Son. It is the divine glory that Yahweh does “not share” with anyone else (cf. Isa. 48:11). Notice that the glorification applies to both the Father and the Son, the glory they shared before the creation. It is not glory apart from the Father that Jesus seeks, but rather glory alongside (para) the Father. The glory of which Jesus speaks is a “Me with You” glory. No creature can make this claim. In terms of the divine unshared glory that the Son possesses, Hebrews 1:3 corresponds in a remarkable way to John 17:5: “He [the Son] is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His [the Father] nature.” In Isaiah 6:1, Isaiah saw (eidon) the glory of Yahweh (lit., “the glory of Him”; cf. also v. 2).

Amazingly, this glory that Isaiah “saw” was the glory of Jesus, according to the Apostle John: “These things Isaiah said because he saw the glory of Him [referring to Jesus, cf. v. 37] and he spoke of Him” (John 12:41). The same terms found in Isaiah 6 verses 1 and 2 in the Greek translation of the OT (i.e., LXX; horaō, “I saw” and ho doxa, “the glory”) are found in John 12:41 to reveal that the glory of Yahweh that Isaiah saw was the glory of Jesus Christ. As Calvin says: “For assuredly the God who appeared to Isaiah was the one true God, and yet John declares that he was Christ (Isa. vi; John xii. 41)” (Institutes, 1.13.23).

And second, aside from this passage, which clearly displays the distinction and intimate relationship between the Father and Jesus, there is the issue of the aorist imperative form of doxazō (i.e., doxason, “glorify [Me]”). Although the imperative mood can denote a simple request, the most common usage of the imperative is for commands. Recognized Greek grammarian Daniel Wallace comments on the imperative verb: “with the aorist [as in John 17:5], the force generally is to command the action as a whole. . . .”[5] Since Jesus is presented in Scripture as ontologically (i.e., by nature) co-equal with the Father, His “commanding” the Father to glorify Him would not infringe on the doctrine of the Trinity—one divine Person commanding another divine Person of the same ontological class or category.

As stated, it is possible that the imperative here can be one of request, it is in the assumption of unipersonalism (i.e., believing that God is one Person), thus denying that the Son is a divine Person co-equal with Father, that we find a natural and automatic rejection of the imperative of command. To recall, the main reason why, for example, Muslims, JWs, and Oneness believers reject the deity of the Son, Jesus Christ, is due to their false notion that God exists as one Person (unipersonal). Hence, they would ask, “How can another person (Jesus) be God, if God is one Person—the Father?” So, due to this misunderstanding of what Trinitarianism actually teaches, they accuse Christians of believing in three separate Gods.

Para with the Dative. What erases the Oneness notion is that, grammatically, when the preposition para (“with”) is followed by the dative case (as in this verse: para seautō, lit., “together with Yourself”; para soi, lit., “together with You”) especially in reference to persons, it indicates “near,” “beside,” or “in the presence of” (cf. Wallace, 1996: 378).

In the exhaustive Bauer (BDAG, 2000: 757), the preposition para with the dative is well defined: “[para] w.[ith] the dat., the case that exhibits close association … marker of nearness in space, at/by (at the side of), beside, near, with, acc.[ording] to the standpoint fr.[om] which the relationship is viewed.” Robertson (1932: 5:275-76) brings to light the exegetical particulars of verse 5:

With Thine own self (para seautōi). “By the side of Thyself.” Jesus prays for full restoration to the preincarnate glory and fellowship (cf. 1:1) enjoyed before the Incarnation (John 1:14). This is not just ideal preexistence, but actual and conscious existence at the Father’s side (para soi, with thee) “which I had” (hēi eichon, imperfect active of echō, I used to have, with attraction of case of hēn to hēi, because of doxēi), “before the world was” (pro tou ton kosmon einai), “before the being as to the world” (cf. verse 24).

Likewise, Reymond (Systemic Theology, 1998: 230) remarks on the Son’s eternal preexistence as taught in John 17:5:

The Gospel of John witnesses that Jesus claimed eternal preexistence: “Glory me, Father,” Jesus prayed, “with yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was” (John 17:1, 5), indeed, with “my glory which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). This claim in Jesus’ part to an eternal preexistence with the Father is not an aberration, for he speaks elsewhere, though in somewhat different terms, of that same preexistence.

In a desperate attempt to rescue Oneness theology from the plain teaching that the Son preexisted as a divine Person sharing glory “with” the Father, Oneness advocates find it commonplace to engage in lexical abuse. That is, they will appeal to various lexicons that show para with the dative can have the meaning of “in the mind.”

However, no standard lexicon ever applies that meaning to John 17:5, but only to unrelated passages. In point of fact, all standard lexicons (regarding para + dat.), Grammars, and the mass of biblical scholarship affirm John 17:5 as exegetically affirming the Person of the Son sharing glory with (in the presence/association of) the Father, before time—thus a true preexistence of the divine Son. Again, this “is not just ideal preexistence, but actual and conscious existence at the Father’s side.”

In fact, in John’s literature, para with the dative is used ten times (John 1:39; 4:40; 8:38; 14:17, 23, 25, 17:5 [twice]; 19:25; and Rev. 2:13). In every place, para with the dative carries a meaning of a literal “alongside of” or “in the presence of,” that is, “with” in a most literal sense —thus, nowhere in John’s literature does para with the dative denote “in one’s mind—unless one sees 17:5 as some kind of exception. For example, note John 14:23:

“Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him [par’ autō]” (emphasis added; again, the first person plural verbs (eleusometha, “We will come,” and poiēsometha, “We will make”) clearly distinguish Jesus from His Father).

And John 19:25: “Therefore, the soldiers did these things. But standing by the cross [para tō staurō] of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene” (emphasis added).

So with John 17:5, para with the dative denotes a meaning of a literal “alongside of” or “in the presence of.”

What is also worth mentioning (as referenced in Chapter 5, is the remarkable parallel in Ignatius’s letter to the Magnesians (c. A.D. 107) with John 17:5: “Jesus Christ, who before the ages [pro aiōnōn] was with the Father [para patri] and appeared at the end of time” (6, in Holmes, 1999: 153, 155; emphasis added). Specifically, both use para with the dative denoting a marked distinction between Jesus and the Father and both use the preposition pro (“before”) to indicate that their distinction existed from eternity—“before time.”

Thus, Ignatius following the apostolic tradition envisages Jesus Christ as being para (“with/in the presence of”) the Father— pro aiōnōn (“before time”)—, which again is consistent with Trinitarianism, not Oneness unitarianism. Oneness doctrine contorts Jesus’ High Priestly prayer to the Father. It reduces it to a mere un-intimate mirage: Jesus as the non-divine Son praying to His own divine nature (the Father), only appearing to be numerically distinct. In sum, John 17:5 presents a potent affirmation of the preexistence of the Son as outlined in the following points:

Ø The Son, not the Father, is praying (“Now, Father, glorify Me”).

Ø The Son commands the Father to glorify Him, signifying His coequality with the Father.

Ø This divine glory is shared between the Father and the Son, and

Ø The Son declares that He possesses this divine glory alongside of/with (para) the Father, before time.

Ø Para with the dative is used only six times in John’s literature. In every single case, para denotes a literal “alongside of,” “in the presence of,” “in association of/with”).


[1] Oneness Pentecostals teach that Jesus pre-existed, but only as the Father, thus denying the Son’s pre-existence, deity, and unipersonality. In Oneness theology, “Son” represents merely the humanity of Jesus (not the deity), and “Father” (and “Holy Spirit”) represents the deity of Jesus.

[2] E.g., John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10-12).

[3] Below, we will discuss the significance of the aorist imperative tense (i.e., the mood of command)—doxason (“glorify [Me]”).

[4]. See note 1 above.

[5] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, with Scripture, Subject, and Greek Word Indexes (GGBB), 485.

[6] GGBB, 378; see also Walter Bauer, Fredrick Danker, William Arndt, and F. Gingrich’s, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament (BDAG).

[7] Word Pictures, 5:275-76.

[8] Robert Reymond, Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 230.



Philippians 2:5-11:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but [He] emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11, known as the Carmen Christi (“Hymn to Christ”) and also known as the Kenosis Hymn (from kenoō, “to make empty”) was utilized by the early Christian church to teach and magnify the pre-existence, incarnation, and the full deity of Jesus Christ. Hippolytus (The Extant Works and Fragments, Exegetical, On Genesis, in Roberts and Donaldson, 1994: vol. 5:167) says of the Hymn:

For as the only begotten Word of God, being God of God, emptied Himself, according to the Scriptures, humbling Himself of His own will to that which He was not before, and took unto Himself this vile flesh, and appeared in the “form of a servant,” and “became obedient to God the Father, even unto death …” And it is for this reason that, when He had assumed, by divine arrangement, the lowly estate of humanity, He said, “Father, glorify me with the glory which I had,” etc. For He who was co-existent with His Father before all time, and before the foundation of the world, always had the glory proper to Godhead.

The context of Philippians 2 is clear: Paul stresses to the Philippians that they ought to act in a harmonious and humble way. Paul then instructs them to have an attitude in themselves “which was also in Christ Jesus”—humility (v. 5). Which then leads Paul in verse 6 to present the ultimate act of humility: Christ, who was always subsisting as God, “emptied Himself [heauton ekenōsen], taking the form of a bond-servant … becoming obedient to the point of death.” In these seven short verses, Paul provides a beautiful delineation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This Hymn to Christ as God systematically encapsulates Jesus’ nature as subsisting as God (pre-existing), His incarnation, His cross-work, His exaltation, and His distinction from God the Father whom He glorifies. The philosophy of Modalism, conversely, eradicates the high Christological significance and Paul’s summit illustration of humility.

To avoid the Hymn’s Christological significance, Oneness teachers have offered various views, all of which are unusual, awkward, and out of context. There exists no single united or standard interpretation in the writings of Oneness supporters. There seem to be two main interpretations offered by Oneness teachers: 1) the Hymn is not referring to eternity past; rather, the time-frame of the words “existing in the form of God” is actually the earthy life and human ministry of Christ, as the Son (see Boyd, 1992: 106-7, 222); or 2) the Hymn is a reference to the Father who supposedly emptied Himself (cf. Bernard, 1983: 220-24).

First, let us address Paul’s clear presentation of the deity of the Son. Unquestionably, the consciousness of Paul was so fixed on the deity of Christ that he implicitly and explicitly asserted it in virtually every one of his epistles (e.g., Rom. 1:3-4; 9:5; 1 Cor. 2:8; 2 Cor. 8:9; Gal. 4:4; Eph. 5:5; Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 2:9; 2 Thess. 1:12; 1 Tim. 3:16; Titus 2:13). In verse 6, Paul utilizes very specific terms to bolster his case in which he plainly asserts that Jesus was always subsisting as God: “Who although He existed [huparchōn] in the form of God [morphē theou]” (emphasis added). The word translated “existed” is huparchōn, which is the present active participle of huparchō. The participle here indicates a continuous existence or state of continually subsisting (Thayer, 1996: 638; Bauer, 2000: 1029).

Hence, Jesus, the Son of God (cf. 1:2; 2:9, 11), did not become the very form or nature of God at a certain point in time, rather He always existed as God, just as Paul definitely expressed. The word translated “form” (NASB) or “nature” (NIV) is morphē. This word denotes the specific qualities or essential attributes of something. Here, it denotes “the expression of divinity in the pre-existent Christ” (Bauer, 2000: 659). It expresses that which is intrinsic and essential to the thing. Thus, here it means that our Lord in His pre-incarnate state possessed essential deity (Ryrie, 1986: 261). Warfield (1988: 177) clearly expresses its semantic force:

Paul does not simply say, “He was God.” He says, “He was in the form of God,” employing a turn of speech which throws emphasis upon Our Lord’s possession of the specific quality of God. “Form” is a term, which expresses the sum of those characterizing qualities which make a thing the precise thing that it is … And “the form of God” is the sum of the characteristics which make the being we call “God,” specifically God, rather than some other being—an angel, say, or a man. When Our Lord is said to be in “the form of God,” therefore, He is declared, in the most expressed manner possible, to be all that God is, to possess the whole fullness of attributes which make God God.

To deny that the Son was truly the morphē of God is to deny that the Son was truly the morphē of man, “taking the form [morphē] of a bond-servant.” This obliterates the Oneness argument that “existed in the form of God” is a reference to the non-divine human Son’s earthy ministry, posited by such Oneness writers as Robert Sabin (cf. Boyd, 1992: 106-7). However, Bernard’s view differs from that of Sabin. Bernard holds to the view that “existed in the form of God” is a reference to Jesus as the Father who took on a new nature—the Son. He thus concludes that the “Lord” mentioned in verse 11 is merely Jesus as the human non-divine Son (cf. Bernard, 1983: 222). Because of his theological commitment to unitarianism, Bernard (1983: 222) says of the Hymn: “From the Oneness point of view, Jesus is not God the Son, but He is all of God, including Father and Son [i.e., the human nature]. Thus, in His divinity, He is truly equal to, or identical to God.”

In the face of both Oneness interpretations, which deny both the deity and the pre-existence of the Son, there are several grammatical and contextual reasons, which (a) refute the Oneness exegesis of the Hymn and (b) positively affirm the deity and pre-existence of the distinct Person of the Son:

1. Throughout this Epistle, Paul plainly distinguishes between God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ as two distinct subjects (e.g., 1:11; 2:5-11; and esp. in Paul’s salutation [1:2] as exegetically established. In the Hymn itself, Paul clearly differentiates between the Father whom Jesus glorified (v. 11) and the Lord Jesus Christ whom the Father exalted (v. 9). In effect, we see the distinction between the Father and Jesus uncomplicatedly.

2. Oneness teachers err to think that the phrase “equal with God” (isa theō; v. 6) means “identical to God.” In Bernard’s (1983: 222) claim that Paul is speaking here of Jesus as the Father, he distorts the meaning of the word translated “equal” (isa): “In His divinity, He is truly equal to, or identical to God. The word equal here means that the divine nature of Jesus was the very nature of God the Father” (emphasis added). Contrary to Bernard’s understanding of the term, the adjective isa, is the neuter plural of isos, meaning “equal, in quality, or in quantity … to claim for one’s self the nature, rank, authority, which belong to God, Jn. v. 18” (Thayer, 1996: 307). The term means, “pertaining to being equivalent in number, size, quality, equal” (Bauer, 2000: 480-81). There is no standard lexicon that offers “identical” (or a synonym) as a possible meaning for isos. Boyd (1992: 106) says, “There are a number of ways in Greek for saying one thing is ‘identical to’ or ‘the same as’ something else, but Paul does not employ them here.” The passage is indisputably teaching that Jesus was in very morphē theou huparchōn, literally, “nature of God subsisting.” What the passage is not saying, however, is that Jesus “existed in the form of the Father.”

3. It was the Son who voluntarily “made Himself nothing [heauton ekenōsen], taking [labōn] the nature of a servant” (vv. 7-8). Note the reflexive pronoun heauton, “He Himself.” It indicates a “self-emptying,” in that “He emptied Himself” (Wallace, 1996: 350-51; Reymond, 1998: 263). Next, the participle labōn (“taking”), is semantically a participle of means (cf. Wallace, 196: 630). The participle of means describes the means or manner of the emptying. Hence, the Son emptied Himself by means of His incarnation (cf. John 1:14). The emptying did not involve His deity, for Paul safeguards against such an assertion in verse 6: hos en morphē theou huparchōn, “Who [Christ] always and continually subsisting in the very nature and substance of God” (translation mine). It was not the Father, as Oneness teachers suppose, but the Son who voluntarily emptied Himself and became obedient to death—“even death on a cross” (v. 8).

4. Verse 9 reads: “Therefore God [the Father] exalted Him [the Son; cf. v. 5] to the highest place.” Hence, God the Father did not exalt Himself, but rather the Father exalted Jesus, God the Son. It was God the Son who Himself emptied Himself (heauton ekenōsen) by taking (labōn) the nature (morphē) of a servant (cf. John 1:14) and being obedient to death, even death on a cross.

5. In verses 10-11, Paul concludes his glorious Christological Hymn with a “purpose of exaltation” (hina) clause: “So that [hina] at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW … and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord [kurios Iēsous Christos], to the glory of God the Father.” Most English translations read, “Jesus Christ is Lord,” whereas the Greek reads, kurios Iēsous Christos, literally, “Lord Jesus Christ.” In biblical Greek, the placement of a word in a sentence was not always dependent on the subject-verb word order, but rather on emphasis. In verse 11, the anarthrous predicate nominative kurios, occupies the “emphatic position” (i.e., first word of the clause): “Lord Jesus Christ.” As we have shown, the same is true in John 1:1c where the anarthrous predicate nominative theos, is also in the emphatic position: theos ēn ho logos, drawing attention to the Word’s nature as God.

In verses 10-11, Paul coherently emphasizes that Jesus is the Lord, the Yahweh of Isaiah 45:23 (cf. Rom. 14:11). Without question Paul here is loosely drawing from Isaiah 45:23, which is an undeniable reference to Yahweh. Paul, however, applies it here to Jesus Christ the Lord who glorifies the Father. According to Paul’s own theology, Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that the Son, Christ Jesus, is Yahweh (cf. Rom. 14:11). There are further exegetical details that enhance the force of Paul’s Jesus-Isaiah connection.

First, both Isaiah 45:23 (LXX) and Romans 14:11 use future indicatives: “every knee will bow [kampsēi] … every tongue will confess [exomologēsetai]” indicating the future certainty of the event. However, Paul modifies the original moods and tenses of the verbs in Isaiah and Romans to make Philippians 2:10-11 a purpose and result clause (cf. Wallace, 1996: 474). The purpose of God the Father exalting the Son, then, was for the result of every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Jesus Christ is Yahweh—hence fulfilling Isaiah’s prophetic word.

Second, as shown, Oneness teachers maintain that according to the phrase onomati Iēsou, in verse 10, the “name” of the unipersonal deity is “Jesus” (cf. Bernard, 1983: 223). However, the grammar of the text does not indicate what Oneness believers assume. It was not the mere name Iēsous that was “above every name,” rather, it was the onoma that belonged to Jesus, thus, Iēsous being a genitive of possession, as previously mentioned. In light of Paul’s own argument, the “highest name” in which every knee will bow and every tongue will confess was the name that belonged to Jesus, the name that Jesus possessed. Verse 11 reveals that name (i.e., authority): “Lord Jesus Christ”—thus, Yahweh, the fulfillment of Isaiah 45:23.

Therefore, both Oneness interpretations of the Hymn cannot stand exegetically. The view that the Hymn is merely referring to the non-divine non-eternal Son’s “earthy ministry” goes against Paul’s words in verse 6: “He [continuously] existed in the form of God.” Bernard’s view (Jesus as the Father who became flesh, i.e., the Son) goes against Paul’s words in verse 10-11: “So that [hina] at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW … and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” There is another serious defect shared by both views. They both assert the “Lord” in verses 10 and 11 is the human non-divine Son. If so, this would mean that a man (viz., the human Son according to Oneness belief) could be Yahweh (the name that He possessed) and the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophetic word pertaining to Yahweh alone.

The Oneness interpretations of the Hymn do not follow theologically or contextually. From start to finish, the Hymn presents a positive affirmation that the Son was in the very nature of God subsisting and pre-existing. It was the Son who emptied Himself, becoming incarnate, taking the very nature of humanity. He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. The Son is the Yahweh of Isaiah’s prophecy in 45:23 who glorifies the distinct Person of God the Father.


The Pre-Incarnate Son sent from the Father

“The very works I do testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me. And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent” (John 5:36-38).

Scripture presents in plain and normal language the pre-incarnate Person of the Son that was sent from the Father (e.g., John 3:13; 16-17; 6:33, 38, 44, 46, 50-51, 62; 8:23, 38, 42, 57-58; 16:28; Gal. 4:4). Nowhere in the New Testament, however, do we see Jesus sending the Son. If Jesus were the Father, as Oneness teachers contend, one would expect to find a clear example of Jesus sending the Son—at least one passage. As we have shown, in Oneness doctrine, the Father (Jesus’ divine nature) came down out of heaven and put on a flesh outfit, calling it “Son.” In full denial of the incarnation of the pre-incarnate Son, Bernard (1983: 122) states: “God the Father so loved the world that He robed Himself in flesh and gave Himself as the Son of God to reconcile the world to Himself” (emphasis added; see also Bernard, 1983: 104-5; Magee, 1988: 32).

This teaching unquestionably contradicts the unadorned words of Jesus Christ: “No one has ascended into heaven but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man” (John 3:13). The Bible so fluently states that the Person of the Son pre-existed in heaven prior to His coming to earth. The Son prior to Bethlehem was with the Father who sent Him (e.g., Dan. 7:9-14; John 1:1b; 17:5). The Father sent the Son of Man ek tou ouranou (“from out of the heaven”; John 3:13). The massive amounts of biblical evidence confirming that the Father sent the pre-incarnate Son crushes the Oneness unitarian/unipersonal view of Christ. It proves false the entire Oneness system of a Jesus who as the Father existed in absolute aloneness prior to creation.

Notwithstanding the overwhelming biblical evidence of the Father sending the pre-incarnate Son, Oneness exegesis maintains that passages that speak of the sending of the Son are in reality speaking of Jesus as the Father sending His “plan” (i.e., the future Son) to earth. It claims that the Father “put flesh on” (without actually becoming flesh) at Bethlehem. Bernard (1983: 184) further explains this decidedly modalistic notion:

He [the Father] gave of Himself; He did not send someone else (John 3:16). The Son was sent from God as a man, not as God: “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman” (Galatians 4:4). The word sent does not imply pre-existence of the Son or pre-existence of the man. John 1:6 states that John the Baptist was a man sent from God, and we know he did not pre-exist his conception. Instead, the word sent indicates that God appointed the Son for a special purpose. God formed a plan, put flesh on that plan, and then put that plan in operation … God [the Father] manifested Himself in flesh in order to achieve a special goal (emphasis added).

Bernard argues, “The word sent does not imply pre-existence of the Son,” concluding that the word “sent” in Galatians 4:4 is the same “sent” as in John 1:6, where we read that John was “sent.” This assertion, however, is erroneous. His assumption that the word “sent” carries the exact same meaning in both passages displays his unfamiliarity in the area of Greek grammar. Simply, in John 1:6, the word translated “sent” (“There came a man sent from God”) is apestalmenos (the perfect passive participle of apostellō). The term carries the normal meaning of “to send” with no indication of pre-existence (cf. Liddell et al, 1996: 219; Bauer, 2000: 120-21).

However, the word translated “sent forth” in Galatians 4:4 (“God sent forth His Son”) derives from a different Greek word than that of John 1:6. The term is exapesteilen, the aorist active indicative of exapostellō. This verb, unlike apostellō, has the meaning of being sent from a place, “to send away from one’s self … out of the place” (Thayer, 1996: 221) or “for fulfillment of a mission in another place” (Bauer, 2000: 345-46). Note the prefixed preposition ek (“out of/from”) of the verb exapostellō (ek + apostellō), which clearly expresses the pre-existence of the Person of the Son (cf. Wallace, 1996: 371; Bauer, 2000: 295). Hence, God the Father sent Jesus Christ, God the Son, from heaven to earth:

“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him … For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me … I am the bread that came down out of heaven … This is the bread, which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down out of heaven … What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?” (John 3:17; 6:38, 41, 50-51, 62).


As shown in may other places, we demonstrated the overwhelming Scriptural evidence for the full deity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (e.g., Dan. 7:9-14; John 1:1, 18; 8:24, 13:19; 17:5; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; 1 John 5:20; Rev. 5:13-14). We have also shown that the New Testament presents the Son as the very object of divine worship. In addition to these verifiable proofs of the Son’s deity, the New Testament shows that the Son was the very Agent[8] of creation, the Creator of all things. Keeping consistent with the assumption of unitarianism, Oneness teachers (e.g., Bernard, 1983: 116-17; Segraves, 1996: 31-32) reject this idea. The normal Oneness response to passages that apparently show the Son as Creator is to argue that the Father (Jesus’ divine nature) was the Creator and had the future human non-divine Son in view or on His mind when He created. Thus, Oneness teachers are quick to point out that the Father, through the Son (i.e., the Son in view) created all things (cf. Bernard, 1983: 183; Weisser, 1983: 35).

To establish that the Son was the Creator would mean that He pre-existed, hence refuting all Oneness claims. It would turn the Oneness position on its head. For if the Son were the actual Creator, that would mean that He 1) existed before time, thus, was not a part of creation, 2) co-existed with the Father, and hence, 3) is a distinct Person alongside of the Father, as co-Creator. We shall now examine John 1:3, Colossians 1:16-17 and Hebrews 1:2, 10, which affirm that the Son was the actual Creator.

John 1:3

“All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” The Greek reads: panta di’ autou egeneto, kai chōris autou egeneto oude en ho gegonen. As noted, in the prologue of John (viz., vv. 1-14) there is a distinct contrast between all things created or that had origin (i.e., egeneto; cf. vv. 3, 6, 10, 14) and the eternal divine Word (ēn; vv. 1, 2, 4, 9) who created all things.

In verse 3, we see the creative activity viewed as one event in contrast to the continuous existence in verses 1 and 2 (Robertson, 1932: 5:5). The phrase panta di’ autou seems to be particularly appropriate to describe the role of the Logos vis-à-vis God and the world (Rodgers and Rodgers, 1998: 175). What deepens the argument even more is John’s usage of the preposition dia, followed by the genitive autou. This is a very significant aspect as it relates to the exegesis of the passage. In Greek, dia followed by the genitive clearly indicates “agency” or “means” (cf. Greenlee, 1986: 31; Wallace, 1996: 368; Bauer, 2000: 225). The Apostle John communicates in such a comprehensible way that the Son, the eternal Word, who was “with” the Father, is the Creator of all things.


Colossians 1:16-17

“For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together.”

Despite the biblical simplicity, Bernard (1983: 116-17) attempts to circumvent the biblical truth that the Son is the Creator of all things:

Perhaps these scriptural passages have a deeper meaning that can be expressed as follows: Although the Son did not exist at the time of creation except as the word in the mind of God, God used His foreknowledge of the Son when He created the world … The plan of the Son was in God’s mind at creation and was necessary for the creation to be successful. Therefore, He created the world by the Son (emphasis added).

This is an obvious case of eisegesis. Bernard’s assertion is clear: passages that speak of the Son as the Creator mean that when the Father created all things, He had the “plan of the Son” in mind or in view, that is, “God used His foreknowledge of the Son when He created the world.” Bernard’s conclusion assumes unitarianism and disallows normal exegesis.

In the first place, Colossians 1:13-15 clearly differentiates Jesus from the Father. These verses contextually prohibit the Oneness notion that Jesus is both the Father and the Son: “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He [the Son] is the image of the invisible God [the Father].”

Consider also, as we have shown, that the main purpose for writing the book of Colossians was to provide a meaningful refutation of the Gnostic ideology concerning spirit versus matter. The Gnostic system did not allow for Jesus to be the Creator of something as evil as “matter.” In light of this, Paul provides a clear anti-Gnostic polemic by firmly demonstrating that Jesus the Son of God did in fact create all things. Note the clear and forceful (and even redundant) way he presents this: “By Him [en autō] all things [panta] were created … all things [panta] have been created through Him [di’ autou] and for Him [eis auton]. He is before all things [autos estin pro pantōn], and in Him [en autō] all things [panta] hold together” (emphasis added). The following grammatical aspects pointedly codify Paul’s argument:

1. Along with John 1:3, Paul employs the neuter panta, which indicate that the Son was the actual Creator of all things. White (1998: 213) remarks on the theological implication of Paul’s use of the neuter:

It is significant that Paul does not use the more popular terms pas or pan, both of which had meanings in Greek philosophy that allowed the creation to be a part of God or God a part of creation (as in pantheism). Instead, he uses a term that makes the creation a concrete, separate entity with the real existence.

2. Paul utilizes three different prepositions to magnify his affirmation that the Son was the Agent of creation: All things were created “by/in Him” (en + dative; vv. 16, 17); “through Him” (dia + genitive; v. 16); and “for Him” (eis + accusative; v. 16). To say again, Paul is speaking here of the Son, not the Father (cf. v. 14).

3. As a final point, as with John 1:3, what immediately demolishes the “Son in view” theory is that Paul specifically states that “all things” were created “through [dia] Him [autou]” (viz., the Son). As observed above, we find the preposition dia, followed by the genitive autou grammatically revealing that the Son was the actual Creator Himself. There is no stronger way in which Paul could have articulated that the Son was the real and actual Agent of creation.[9]

If Paul wanted to convey the idea that the Son was merely “in view” of the Father or an absent instrument of creation, as Oneness teachers assert, he would not have used dia followed by the genitive. Rather, he would have exclusively used dia followed by the accusative, but he does not.[10] The Oneness theological assumption that the Son was not the Agent of creation,[11] but merely in view of creation, cannot stand grammatically or contextually—it changes the intended meaning of the text and ignores the chief theme of Paul’s letter.


Hebrews 1:2, 10:

“In these last days [God the Father] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world … And, ‘YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS.’”

The prologue of Hebrews annihilates the Oneness position regarding its rejection of the pre-existence of the Person of the Son. In this prologue the full deity and unipersonality of the Son is cogently expressed (esp. vv. 3, 8). Relative to the pre-existence and creatorship of the Son, verses 2 and 10 more than adequately communicate both truths. As with John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16-17 (and 1 Cor. 8:6), verse 2 affirms that the Son was the Creator.

In this passage we find again the preposition dia, followed by the genitive: “In these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom [di’ hou] also He made the world” (emphasis added).

Contextually, the core line of evidence that the author presents, which promptly affirms the Son’s creatorship, is the well defined contrast between created things (viz., angels and the heavens and the earth) and the eternality of the divine Son (cf. vv. 2-3, 8-10). In verse 10-12, the author (quoting the Father) applies Psalm 102:25-27 (LXX) to the Son. This is so heavily significant because (a) the Psalm is a reference to Yahweh and (b) the Father is speaking to the Son, differentiating Himself from the Son (esp. in light of vv. 8-9). The referent to the pronoun su, “You” at the beginning of verse 10 (kai su) is back in verse 8: pros de ton huion— “but of the Son He [the Father] says.”

Irrefutably, it is the Son whom the Father directly addresses. In verse 8, the nominative for the vocative of address[12] is used, whereas in verse 10, the actual vocative of kurios (kurie) is used, which strengthens the author’s argument even more: “YOU, LORD [kurie], IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS.” Conclusively, the prologue of Hebrews is one of the most theologically devastating prologues in all of the New Testament for Oneness defenders. Not only does the prologue affirm the deity and eternality of the Son as well as the distinction between the Father and the Son, but also it clearly presents the Son as the actual Agent of creation, the Creator Himself.



On several occasions, the phrase monogenēs huios (and monogenēs theos, at John 1:18)[13] is applied specifically to the Son at John 3:16, 18; and 1 John 4:9).[14] Because of the standard translation of monogenēs huios, as “only begotten Son,” Oneness advocates, along with other leading non-Christian groups (esp., Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormons), pour a meaning into the term monogenēs that is foreign to the biblical meaning—namely, assuming a meaning of “origin” in some sense. We must first address the Oneness interpretation of the term before examining the term in its original significance. As we have consistently shown, the Oneness theological conclusions are largely based on English word meanings (esp. that of the KJV) not on the original. For this reason, Oneness teachers detach monogenēs from its lexical (and contextual) denotation. Bernard (1983: 103-4), for instance, with no contextual markers or lexical support, explains that the term means:

“To procreate, to father, to sire.” Thus, begotten indicates a definite point in time—the point at which conception takes place. There must be a time when the begetter [the Father] exists and the begotten [the Son] is not yet in existence, and there must be a point in time when the act of begetting occurs … So, the very words begotten and Son each contradict the word eternal as applied to the Son of God.

In the same unscholarly fashion, Oneness teacher Gordon Magee (1988: 25) states: “Indeed the Bible flatly and plainly contradicts the eternal ‘Son idea’ in John 3:16 and everywhere it mentions the ‘begotten Son.’ The Words eternal and begotten are contradictory and mean completely opposite things” (emphasis his). The fundamental problem with these definitions is that they conveniently impose a concept of origin or derivation to the term monogenēs. Monogenēs is a relational term. As applied to the Son, it has nothing whatsoever to do with origin or derivation. Thus, when used in reference to the Son, the term signified the unique relationship that He has with His Father. The English phrase “only begotten” (KJV, NASB) is translated from the single Greek term monogenēs.

“Only begotten” is ambiguous and misleading, and could indeed imply a concept of begettal and/or generation. However, the English meaning of any New Testament word or phrase “must, in all cases, be consistent with the Greek original, and we must take any emphasis from the Greek, not from the English” (White, 1998: 201). Some modern translations (e.g., NIV, NET, NLT), recognizing the lexical meaning, render monogenēs as “one and only.” The compound word monogenēs is derived from monos meaning “alone,” or “one” (Bauer, 2000: 658) and genos meaning “class” or “kind” (Bauer, 2000: 194-95). Hence, monogenēs huios simply means “one and only Son,” “unique Son,” or “one of a kind Son,” lacking any notion of origin or beginning. Warfield (1950: 56) says of the term: “The adjective ‘only begotten’ conveys the idea, not of derivation and subordination, but of uniqueness and co-substantiality: Jesus is all that God is, and He alone is this.” The lexical support is undeniable and overwhelming (cf. Moulton and Milligan, 1930: 416-17; Liddell et al, 1996: 1144; Thayer, 1996: 417-18; Bauer, 2000: 658).

As noted, the term monogenēs is a compound word, monos, “alone/one” + genos, “class/kind.” Erroneously assuming that second part of the word (genos) comes from gennaō, which does mean “to beget” or “to give birth” (or “to bring forth”; Bauer, 193-94), Oneness teachers grossly misinterpret the term, asserting that the Son had a beginning (cf. Magee (1988:25). Quite the opposite, the second part of the word is not gennaō, but genos. Notice the two nu’s (nn) in gennaō, compared to the one nu (n) in genos. It is genos, not gennaō, which forms the second part of monogenēs. This shows that the derivation of genos is from a different word than that of gennaō.

The derivation of genos is from gignesthai/ginomai, and gennaō is from gennasthai (cf. White: 1998: 202). “Etymologically,” Harris (1992: 86-87) observes, “monogenēs is not associated with begetting (gennasthai) but with existence (gignesthai) … This leads us to conclude that monogenēs denotes ‘the only member of a kin or kind.’” Hebrews 11:17 provides even more clarification as to a proper understanding of the term. In this passage, Abraham’s son Isaac is called, ho monogenēs. Yet, Isaac was not his first or only son (cf. Gen. 16:15-17). Thus, Isaac was the unique son or one of a kind son from whom God’s “covenant would be established” (Gen. 17:19-21). For God’s covenant was with Abraham’s monogenēs son Isaac, not with his first son Ishmael.

Therefore, the lexical and contextual evidence shows that the term does not carry the idea of “beget,” “to give birth,” “origin,” etc., as Oneness teachers claim (Bernard, 1983: 103-4).[15] Certainly, it would be utterly nonsensical for the authors of the anti-Arian Nicene Creed (A.D. 325) to use the term if it had any denotation of origin. The Creed positively affirmed the full deity of the Son (against Arius) and His distinction from the Father (against Modalism): “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father the only begotten [monogenē]; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, of one substance [homoousion] with the Father …” (emphasis added). Jesus Christ is the unique Son of God. He is God’s Son in a one of a kind sense. In every use of monogenēs contained in the Gospel of John (1:14, 18, 3:16; and 3:18), we observe this meaning.

The correct understanding of the term monogenēs in its proper sense when applied to the Son negates the idea of origin, derivation, or beginning. It establishes the Son’s unique status as the “one and only God” who is (ho ōn, i.e., “the One who is always subsisting”) in the bosom of the Father explaining (or exegeting) Him (cf. John 1:18).


To remove the Person of the Son from the Trinity is to remove God from Scripture: “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also” (1 John 2:23; cf. John 5:23; 8:24; 1 John 5:20). The customary term agennētos (i.e., “uncreated”) was used by the early church to denote God’s eternal nature and His self-existence (i.e., His unoriginateness). In his letter to the Ephesians, Ignatius (7, in Holmes, 1999: 140-41), applies agennētos to the Son: “There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made [agennētos]; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first possible and then impossible, even Jesus Christ our Lord” (emphasis added). Explicitly demonstrated, Scripture presents the pre-existence of the pre-incarnate Person of the Son. In John 1:1, the Son is presented as 1) eternal (on account of the imperfect ēn), 2) co-existing with the Father (on account of the preposition pros), and 3) co-equal with God the Father (on account of the qualitative theos, in 1:1c).

In John 17:5, the Son Himself states that He possessed/shared (eichon) glory with (para) the Father before the world was (pro tou ton kosmon einai). In the Gospels (esp. John’s), the Son expresses His preexistence by consistently claiming that He was sent by the Father out from heaven (e.g., John 3:13; 16; 6:38, 46, 62; 8:23, 38, 42; 16:28). In Paul’s high Christological Hymn (i.e., Phil. 2:5-11), Paul poetically and directly delineates both the humiliation and exaltation of the God the Son, who, as Paul so deliberately points out, was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in 45:23. These passages are so clear, so expressive, that Oneness teachers, must resort to the most unnatural and eisegetical ways of interpreting the passages.

The biblical presentation of the Son as the Agent of creation annihilates the Oneness notion that the Son’s life started in Bethlehem. Exegetically, the Son is the Creator of all things (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10-12). Scripture militates against the Oneness idea that the non-eternal non-personal Son was a mere thought or plan that originated in the Father’s mind. The apostles of Jesus Christ clearly and cogently affirmed that Jesus Christ the eternal Son was the Agent of creation, God in the flesh.



[1] Cf. note 15 below for a discussion of these passages.

[2] John 12:41 reveals that the “Lord” (adonay, lit., “sovereign master”) and His divine glory that Isaiah saw (6:1-2) was the pre-incarnate Son.

[3] In 1933, Ernest Cadman Colwell published an article entitled, “A Definite Rule for the Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament,” in the Journal of Biblical Literature (52:12-21; cf. Wallace 1996: 257). We must distinguish, however, between “Colwell’s construction” and “Colwell’s rule.” The Colwell construction is an anarthrous pre-verbal (before the equative verb) predicate nominative, whereas Colwell’s rule states:

Definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article … a predicate nominative which precedes the verb cannot be translated as an indefinite or a ‘qualitative’ noun solely because of the absence of the article; if the context suggest that the predicate is definite, it should be translated as a definite noun (cf. Wallace 1996: 257; emphasis added).

Though the rule is more involved than indicated by this summary citation, it nevertheless denotes the main spotlight of the rule. It was from this initial statement that so much confusion emerged—mainly, from citing the converse of the rule, which is “Anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominatives are definite,” rather than citing the rule itself: “Definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article.” The other problem in applying (i.e., misapplying) Colwell’s “rule” to John 1:1 was that Colwell had stated at the onset of his study that he only examined definite predicate nominatives (Wallace, 1996: 259). Hence, Colwell was mainly concerned with definite (not qualitative) predicate nominatives. Forty years later in a more expansive work on Colwell’s rule, Philip B. Harner (published in the Journal of Biblical Literature, [1973]: 92:85; cited in Wallace, 1996: 259) remarked and compared his study to that of Colwell: “As Colwell called attention to the possibility that such nouns may be definite, the present study has focused on their qualitative force.”

[4] There are 282 occurrences of the anarthrous theos in the New Testament (NA27). At sixteen places, the NWT has either “a god,” “god,” “gods,” or “godly.” Sixteen out of 282 means that the translators of the NWT were faithful to their translation principle (viz., the anarthrous theos = an indefinite rendering) only six percent of the time (Countess, 1982: 54-55).

[5] We will examine below the significance of the preposition dia + the genitive here in John 1:3 and passages such as Colossians 1:16-17 where the same construct appears.

[6] The qualitative force of the anarthrous predicate nominative is well exampled at John 4:24: ho theos [estin—implied verb] pneuma, literally, “the God [is] spirit,” not “a spirit,” or “the Spirit,” but “spirit”—as to God’s essence or nature (qualitative). Other clear examples of qualitative predicate nominatives include John 5:10; Romans 14:23; 1 Corinthians 2:14; 3:19; 2 Corinthians 11:22, 23; Philippians 2:13; 1 John 1:5; and 1 John 4:8.

[7] The prologue of Hebrews provides a marked contrast between things created (viz., the angels and the heavens and the earth) and the eternal divine Son (cf. vv. 3, 8) whom the author presents as the Creator of all things (cf. vv. 2, 10). There will be a thorough examination of this important prologue below.

[8] In the New Testament, agency is commonly expressed in three ways: ultimate agency (apo, hupo, para, + the genitive), intermediate agency (dia + the genitive), and impersonal agency (i.e., that which the agent uses to perform the act [en, ek + the dative]; Wallace, 1996: 431-32). There are several passages (e.g., John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2) that mark the Son as the Agent (intermediate agency) of creation. They do this through (a) the context (viz., where the Son is set in contrast to all things created) and (b) the use of the preposition dia followed by the genitive case ending. That the Son was the intermediate Agent of creation does not mean that He was a mere instrument of creation, but rather, it indicates that He was the actual Agent of creation. Biblically, the Father was the source (ultimate Agent) of creation, the Son being the intermediate Agent in that He carried out the act for the ultimate Agent (cf. Wallace, 1996: 431).

[9] In 1 Corinthians 8:6 and, as discussed below, Hebrews 1:2, dia, is followed by the genitive signifying the Son as the Agent of creation.

[10] Although Paul does use the accusative case in verse 16 (auton), but he uses it after the preposition eis meaning “for” or “because of” and not after dia.

[11] Oneness teachers along with other unitarian groups (esp. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Muslims) argue that the Son could not have been the Creator because passages such as Isaiah 44:24 and 1 Corinthians 8:6 teach that God (viz. the Father) alone created all things. But as consistently pointed out, Oneness teachers assume unitarianism or unipersonalism in that they envisage God as one Person—the Father. The doctrine of the Trinity, in contrast to a unitarian assumption, teaches that God is one undivided and unquantifiable Being who has revealed Himself as three distinct co-equal, co-eternal, and co-existent Persons. The three Persons share the nature (ousia) of the one Being. As fully God it can be said that the Father is the Creator (cf. Acts 17:24), the Son is the Creator (cf. John 1:3; Col. 16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10), and the Holy Spirit is the Creator (cf. Job 33:4). For the one God is indivisible and inseparable (cf. Deut. 6:4; Isa. 45:5). Therefore, passages like Isaiah 44:24, which speak of God creating by Himself and alone are perfectly consistent with Trinitarian theology. Again, the three Persons are not three separate Beings; they are distinct self-conscious Persons or Selves sharing the nature of the one Being. Unless one clearly realizes what the biblical doctrine of the Trinity actually teaches, the doctrine will be confounded and misrepresented as Tritheism.

[12] The fact that the nominative theos with the vocative force is used does not in any way remove the meaning of direct address. The usual way of addressing God in both the LXX and the New Testament was the nominative for the vocative (cf. Wallace, 1996: 56-57; Reymond, 1998: 272; also cf. John 20:28 with Rev. 4:11). So common was the nominative for the vocative that every time theos is directly addressed in the New Testament, only in one verse (Matt. 27:46) does theos actually appear in the vocative case: thee mou thee mou— “My God, my God …”

[13] In John 1:18, Jesus is called the monogenēs theos. However, there are a few variant renderings contained in extant Greek manuscripts of the Gospel of John. The three renderings are monogenēs theos; ho monogenēs theos; and (in later manuscripts) ho monogenēs huios. The textual support is as follows:

monogenēs theos: P66 )* B C* L pc syhmg

ho monogenēs theos: P75 )1 33 pc

ho monogenēs huios: A C3 Q Y f 1.13 M lat syc.h. (Metzger, 1994: 169-70)

Monogenēs theos is contained in the NA27 (1993: 248). It is the rendering theos and not huios after monogenēs that is concurred with most textual scholars (e.g., Westcott and Hort, 1896: 166; Metzger, 1994: 169-70; cf. also Harris, 1992: 82). In support of the rendering monogenēs theos, Robertson (1932: 5:17) states that “The best old Greek manuscripts (Aleph B C L) read monogenēs theos (God only begotten) which is undoubtedly the true text.” Theos (articular and anarthrous) and not huios is also supported by many important early church fathers (e.g., Clement of Alex., Clementfrom Theodotus, Origen, Didymus, Eusebius, Gregory of Nyssa, Epiphanius, Serapion, Cyril; cf. NA27, 1993: 248). Because the majority of manuscripts contain the rendering ho monogenēs huios, the KJV follows respectively. In the face of the earliest and best manuscripts, Oneness supporters gladly hold to the late variant rendering in order to reinforce their a priori theological commitment, namely, the Son is not God. “We do not believe,” says Bernard (1983: 100), “these variant readings [i.e., monogenēs theos] are correct.”

[14] Although John 1:14 contains a similar phrase (monogenous para patros), it nevertheless carries the same meaning. All together, monogenēs is used nine times in the New Testament: Luke 7:12; 8:42; 9:38; John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; Hebrews 11:17; and 1 John 4:9.

[15] Two other passages should also be mentioned, Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5. Oneness teachers argue that the Son had a beginning because both passages contain the phrase “TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN [gegennēka] YOU” (from Ps. 2:7). However, the term sēmeron (“today”) is clearly a relational term. It denoted His Sonship in reference to His Messianic kingship, not deity. His Sonship was openly declared at several different times throughout His life (e.g., at His baptism [cf. Matt. 3:16-17]; at the Transfiguration [cf. Matt. 17:5]; at His resurrection [cf. Acts 13:33]). We also see this open declaration in Romans 1:2-4, where the Son was “declared the Son of God [in reference to Messianic kingship] with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness …” Here the two attributive participles, genomenou (“was born”) and horisthentos (“was declared”) modify huiou at the beginning of verse 3. Hence, verse 3 indicates that Jesus was already the Son of God when He was declared to be the Son of God in verse 4. In Acts 13:32-34, Paul cites the same Old Testament passage (Ps. 2:7), but he applies it to Jesus’ resurrection. Consequently, if “today” in Hebrews 1:5 and 5:5 means that the Son did not exist before Bethlehem, as Oneness teachers suppose, then “today” in Acts 13:33 would likewise mean that He did not exist before His resurrection.

3 thoughts on “The Preexistence of the Son and Oneness Theology

  1. You misunderstand Modalist writers. We believe that Jesus is God and is Eternal. He is God Incarnate. Yahweh Elohim took on a second Nature, a Human Nature (not a human Person as God is the Person of both Natures) which existed/exists simultaneously with His Divine Nature which is the Father Himself (Isa 9:6). It is only in His Human Nature that “the Son” did not pre-exist, The Father became the Son when the Father became Incarnate, when God became the Only Begotten Son by entering the womb of Mary. (Luke 1:35) The Human Nature of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, was raised and glorified. I have engaged many Trinitarians in discussion as well as debate and know that we Oneness will continue to be both misrepresented and misunderstood. It will help if you actually speak to Oneness theologians not merely read books.

  2. Edward Dalcour says:

    Your assertion of me misunderstanding Oneness doctrine is based on your failure to “carefully” read my articles.

    Please point out to me the exact place where I stated that Modalists (Oneness advocates) deny that Jesus is God. I will save you the time: I have not. Because they do not deny this. Simply, Oneness theology is unitarian. Thus, it embraces the false notion that the “Son” is not a divine distinct person who preexisted with the Father. So it denies that the person of the “Son” is not the eternal God, distinct from the Father and Holy Spirit; while Oneness unitarianism sees Jesus as God, but only as the Father, not as the person of the Son.

    Again, please read the articles on Oneness theology more carefully so you will not misrepresent what I wrote, and then you argue what I said, not what you think I said.

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