THE PREEXISTENCE OF THE SON


But of the Son He says. . . . “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands. . . .” (Heb. 1:8, 10)[1]

The preexistence and deity of the distinct person of the Son, Jesus Christ, has been a main theme in Christian education as well as the basis of many hymns of the Christian faith. The preexistence of the Son has been a laser light in early Christian Councils and resulting creedal documents. That Christ preexisted with the Father and the Holy Spirit is the very foundation of historic biblical Christianity. Christ Jesus clearly affirmed the magnificent truth of both His deity and preexistence many times in His earthly life (e.g., Matt. 8:26; 12:6, 18; Mark 14:61-62; John 2:19; 3:13; 5:17-18; 6:35-40 [esp. v. 38]; 8:24, 58 et al; 10:28-30; 16:28; Rev. 1:8, 17; 22:13). In addition, according to various passages in the NT, the preincarnate Christ is identified as the YHWH of the OT in many places.[2]

In point of verifiable fact, the NT evidence of the preexistence of the Son is massive and unambiguous. We will examine some of the more significant passages that clearly and exegetically affirm this:  

 

  • John 1:1
  • John 1:18 and the significance of the articular participle ὁ ὢν.
  • The “sent from heaven” passages
  • The eternal ἐγώ εἰμι (“I am”) claims of the Son
  • John 17:5
  • The Carmen Christi (Phil. 2:6-11)
  • The Son as the agent of creation, the Creator Himself (esp. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; and Heb. 1:10-12)

 

 Unitarian Assumption: Being vs. Person

 When discussing the Trinity and/or the deity of the Son with “unitarian”[3] groups, we must be aware of their starting theological commitment—namely, God is one person. In other words, every time “one” is applied to God, the unitarians read into the term “one” as person (e.g., Deut. 6:4; Mark 12:29; 1 Tim. 2:5; etc.). Hence, by default, the unitarian reinterprets monotheism to mean unipersonalism, although, there is no passage in the OT or NT, which clearly identifies God as “one person.”[4] It is upon that fundamental premise, which unitarian groups such as Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Oneness Pentecostals launch their attacks on the doctrine of the Trinity and the deity of Christ, thus, rejecting any notion that “another” person (Jesus) is God.

This biblical misunderstanding of monotheism also confuses “being” with “person.” Simply stated, “being” (an ontological reference) is What something is, while “person” is Who something is. Scripture presents one eternal God, that is, one Being, revealed in three distinct persons, the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Hence, because the Scripture presents a triune God, the Christian church has consistently and tenaciously held to and affirmed the Trinity and preexistence of the person of God the Son.

 

 Biblical Data of the Preexistence of the Person of the Divine Son:  

 

JOHN 1:1

 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”[5]

 

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 full deity of Jesus Christ and His distinction from God the Father. Consider the three clauses of John 1:1:

  

John 1:1a: Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος (lit., “In [the] beginning was the Word”).

 In the first clause, we find the affirmation of eternality of the person of the Word (Christ). First, unlike the Stoic view that the impersonal Logos/Word was merely the rational principle of the universe, in the prologue (vv. 1-18), John presents the preexistent Word as possessing personal attributes. Thus, the content of the prologue radically and clearly militates also against the Oneness impersonal abstract thought or concept view of the Word. Thayer says of the Logos of 1:1, “oJ λόγος denotes the essential Word of God, i.e. the personal (hypostatic) wisdom and power in union with God. . . .”[6] “The Logos is not,” says Lenski, “an attribute inhering in God . . . but a person in the presence of God. . . .”[7]

Simply, the first verb ἦν (“was”) here is the imperfect indicative of εἰμι (“I am, exist”). The force of the imperfect tense indicates a continuous action (or repeated 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 ἦν already existed. Thus, linguistically, the Word was existing (“ἦν the Word”) prior to the time of the ἀρχῇ—before “the beginning.” Also, note the verbal contrast between ἦν and the aorist ἐγένετο[8] (“came into being,” cf. v. 3). The aorist indicative normally indicates a punctiliar action normally occurring in the past.[9] In the Prologue of John, ἦν is exclusively applied to the eternal Word in verses 1, 2, 4, 9, and 10, while in verses 3, 6, and 10, the aorist ἐγένετο is applied to everything created. Not until verse 14 does ἐγένετο refer to the Son denoting His new added nature—“the Word became flesh.”[10]

John 1:1b: καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν (lit., “and the Word was with the God”). The second clause of John 1:1 teaches the absolute personal distinction between the eternal Word and τὸν θεόν (i.e., the Father).[11] John envisages a marked distinction between two persons.[12] Of all the prepositions that John could have utilized, which can mean “with” (e.g., ἐν, μετά, παρὰ, σύν), he chose πρὸς (lit., “facing”/“toward,” with the accusative, θεόν as the object of the preposition). Hence, πρὸς with the accusative clearly indicates that the Word was “at, with, in the presence of . . . God.”[13] Robertson explains the significance of the preposition in John 1:1b:

With God (πρὸς τὸν θεόν). Though existing eternally with God, the Logos was in perfect fellowship with God. Πρὸς 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 πρὸς. . . .[14].Though existing eternally with God the Logos was in perfect fellowship with God. BDAG specifically points out that πρὸς at John 1:1b indicates the meaning of “by, at, near; πρὸς τίνα εἶναι: be (in company) with someone.”[15] Thus, the distinct person of the Word was always in intimate loving fellowship with the Father, before time.      

 

John 1:1c: καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος (lit., “and God was the Word”). The third clause of John 1:1 teaches the deity of Jesus Christ. Here we read one of the clearest and unequivocal affirmations of the deity of the person of the Word in the NT. John accentuates his high Christology by first showing that the person of the Word (the Son) was eternal, that is, preexisting (1:1a) and that the eternal Word was distinct from Father (1:1b). Then, John presents the very marrow of the gospel: “The Word was God” and “the Word became flesh (v. 14).  

That the Word was fully God and distinct from the Father (τὸν θεόν) is clearly accentuated by the context and grammar. In the inspired syntax of the clause, John uses the “emphatic” conjunction (i.e., “especially, in fact”) followed by the anarthrous[16] θεὸς (καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος). Grammatically, the anarthrous[17] θεὸς is a preverbal predicate nominative. The PN describes the class or category to which the subject (λόγος) belongs.[18] Hence, the anarthrous preverbal PN θεὸς points to the “quality” (essence) of the Word, not the identity (person). In view of John’s theology, along with the grammar and context, the highest semantical possibility for θεὸς in 1:1c is qualitative.[19] 

If John would have written θεὸς as articular in 1:1c (ὁ θεὸς), then, John would have been saying that the λόγος is the same person as in 1:1b, τὸν θεόν (viz. God the Father)—but he did not. Even more mismatched is an indefinite rendering of θεὸς (“a god”) in 1:1c, as we find in the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ NWT (“and the Word was a god”). Of course, this idea of the Word being a created indefinite god (“a god”) clearly clashes with John’s own view of the Word within the content of his literature. In the prologue, the Word is presented as eternal (1:1a), the Creator of all things (v. 3), Life (v. 4), the “one and only/unique God” who is always [ὁ ὢν][20] at the Father’s bosom (v. 18). Hence, an indefinite rendering (“a god”) although grammatically possible, would be theologically impossible in light of John’s own monotheistic theology. John 1:1 expresses the marvelous truth of the preexistent person of the Word—who was God and existing with God. He is “the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20), the Creator of all things who became flesh in order “to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). “In three crisp sentences,” says Warfield,  

he declares at the outset His eternal subsistence, His eternal intercommunion with God, His eternal identity with 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).[21]  

 

John’s own commentary of John 1:1 in 1 John 1:1-2:

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life— 2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.

Note the remarkable similarities with John 1:1, both attesting to the deity, preexistence, and unipersonality (a distinct person) of the Word: 

  

John 1:1: “In the beginning [ἀρχῇ] was the Word [ἦν ὁ λόγος], and the Word was with God [ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν].”

1 John 1:1-2: “What was [ἦν] from the beginning [ἀρχῆς] . . . concerning the Word [περὶ τοῦ λόγου] of Life. . . . which was with the Father [ἦν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα].”      

 

Both John’s gospel and epistle use the same and highly significant Greek nouns, prepositions, and verbs to denote “the Word” and His relationship with the Father. Both use ἀρχῇ and the imperfect verb ἦν indicating the preexistence of the person of the Word. And both use πρὸς indicating the eternal Word’s intimate relationship with (distinct from) God the Father. Further, the prepositional phrase in 1 John 1:2 (the Word was πρὸς τὸν πατέρα) identifies “God” in John 1:1b as the Father, who was with the Word: “and the Word was with God”—that is, the Word was with the Father, not was the Father.[22] Also note that in both John’s Gospel and epistle, the Word is referred to as “Life,” which is a distinguishing epithet used of the Son throughout John’s literature (cf. John 11:25; 14:6; 1 John 5:12) and “nowhere else used of the Father.”[23]

 

JOHN 1:18

 “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”[24]

 

The passage is the ending bookend of John’s prologue: “The Word was God” – the “one and only God who is [always] in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” John makes the assertion that God the Father is invisible and the “the only God,”[25] and John presents the Son as distinct from the Father in intimate fellowship being continuously at the Father’s bosom. John also points out that it is the “unique”[26] God the Son, the eternal Word made flesh who “explains”[27] the Father.

 

ὁ ὢν

As it relates to John’s recurring presentation of the preexistence (and deity) of the person of the Son (cf. 1:1a, 3, 10), the apostle now affirms the Son’s timeless existence in the bosom of the Father. In the phrase μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς (“only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father”), the articular participle, ὁ ὢν (“who is”) is used to affirm the very same thing as in John 1:1b—namely, the person of the Son preexisted with the Father. Just as the present active participle ὑπάρχων in Philippians 2:6 communicates the perpetual existence of the divine Son (as discussed below), more than a few passages, where the context is warranted, contain the present active participle ὢν (from εἰμί), which also linguistically denotes the Son’s eternal existence.[28] In explicit reference to the Son’s eternality, the present active participle is used both articularly (ὁ ὢν) and anarthrously (ὢν). Two such examples of the articular form of the participle are in John 1:18 and Romans 9:5 both pointing to the Son’s eternality.  

  • John 1:18: “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is [ὁ ὢν, e., “the One who is/being always”] in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”

 

  • Romans 9:5: “Whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is [ὁ ὢν, e., “the One who is/being always”] over all, God blessed forever. Amen.”

 

Note that within the defining context of both passages, both authors refer to the Son as θεὸς, which further supports the affirmation of the Son’s deity and His preexistence. Systematic theologian, Robert Reymond remarks on the significance of the articular participle in John 1:18: “The present participle ὁ ὢν . . . indicates a continuing state of being: ‘who is continually in the bosom of the Father.’”[29] In the LXX of Exodus 3:14, we find the articular present participle ὁ ὢν to denote YHWH’s eternal existence: ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὢν, literally, “I am the eternal/always existing One.” Also note, the ἐγώ εἰμι phrase precedes the participial phrase here (cf. also John 8:58 et al.).

We moreover find the use of the anarthrous present active participle ὢν, in contexts where the deity of the Son is clearly in view. In Hebrews 1:3,[30] the present active participle (i.e., ὃς ὢν) “marks the Son’s continuous action of being, which denotes total and full deity.”[31].It “refers to the absolute and timeless existence.”[32] Furthermore, the present participle ὢν (εἰμί) in Hebrews 1:3 is set in contrast with the aorist participle γενόμενος (“having become” from γίνομαι) in verse 4.

This same verbal contrast (present/continuous past vs. a punctiliar action) is also seen, as mentioned above, in the prologue of John where the imperfect indicative ἦν (εἰμί) is set in contrast with aorist indicative ἐγένετο; as in John 8:58, where the present indicative εἰμί is set in contrast with the aorist infinitive γενέσθαι; and, as in Philippians 2:6-8, where the present participle ὑπάρχων in verse 6 is set in contrast with the following aorist verbs in verses 7 and 8—ἐκένωσεν, λαβών, γενόμενος, and εὑρεθεὶς. In each case, we find a vivid linguistic contrast between the preexistent Son and all things that came to be. Lastly, in Revelation 1:4, 8; 11:17; 16:5, the articular participle ὁ ὢν is used to denote the “timeless existence” of God. In 1:8, articular participle applied to the “Lord God” is especially amplified by the title, “Alpha and Omega”: “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is [ὁ ὢν] and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.’” As to the speaker in verse 8, some have pointed to the Father (cf. v. 4). However, identifying the Son as the speaker is more compelling and more contextually apparent (esp. in light of vv. 7 and 22:13). Adding to that is the fact that the articular participle ὁ ὢν is applied specifically to the Son at John 1:18 and Romans 9:5 (and the anarthrous participle at Heb. 1:3).

Therefore, John 1:18 is an excellent example of the preexistence of the person of Christ. As the theological bookend of the prologue, John ends as he began—with the affirmation of the Son’s deity. Both passages present the person of the Word, the Son of God, as θεὸς; a distinct person from the Father (πρὸς τὸν θεόν – ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς); and His preexistence. The articular participle ὁ ὢν in John 1:18 (as well ὑπάρχων in Phil. 2:6) carries the same linguistic idea as that of the imperfect ἦν in John 1:1a—namely, the Son’s preexistence.    

   

The Divine Son “Sent From Heaven”

 I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father” (John 16:28).

 

In the NT, there are countless examples of the person of the Son as being “sent” from heaven. In fact, at least forty times in the Gospel of John we find references of the Son who was sent by the Father (cf. John 3:13; 16-17; 6:33, 38, 44, 46, 50-51, 62; 8:23, 38, 42, 57-58; 16:28). The many passages that present the sending of the preincarnate person of the Son are written plainly and in normal language. Further, in John chapter 6 alone, nine times Jesus specifically refers to Himself as coming down “out/from the heaven”: ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (“out of, from the heaven”; vv. 32 [twice], 33, 41, 42, 50, 51); ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ (“from, out of the heaven,” v. 38); and ἐξ οὐρανοῦ (“from heaven,” v. 58). These passages naturally affirm that the preincarnate Son came out from heaven down to earth.

John 6:38 is most remarkable in its claim. Jesus said that that He came down out of heaven not to do His own will, but the will of the One having sent Him. The text reads: ὅτι καταβέβηκα ἀπὸ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ οὐχ ἵνα ποιῶ τὸ θέλημα τὸ ἐμὸν ἀλλὰ τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πέμψαντός με· (lit., “For I have come down from out of the heaven not in order that I should do the will of Me, but the will of the One having sent Me.” Note that grammatically an aorist participle is usually antecedent to the main verb.[33] Here the main verb is the perfect indicative καταβέβηκα (“I have come down”) and πέμψαντός (“having sent”) is an aorist participle. Consequently, the Father’s action of sending His Son, signified by the aorist participle, occurred before the Son’s incarnation—thus, before the action of coming down from heaven to earth.[34]     

Even more, this shows clearly that even before the incarnation, the person of Christ, God the Son, possessed His own will distinct from the Father’s will, yet in perfect harmony—destroying the Oneness Pentecostal position of a unipersonal God.[35] In others words, before coming down from heaven and becoming flesh, this text reveals that the person of the Father and the person of the Son each possessed His “own” will: ποιῶ τὸ θέλημα τὸ ἐμὸν (“to do the will of Me”) – τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πέμψαντός με (“the will of the One having sent Me”). We see the same in Philippians 2:6 where the preexistent   Son performed the action of the verb ἡγήσατο (“consider, suppose”) before the action of His self-emptying (ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν), that is, His incarnation. Hence, in John 6:38 (and Phil. 2:6-8), the preexistence of the Son and Triune nature of God is clearly being expressed.

 

The Son’s claim to be the Eternal ἐγώ εἰμι

 

“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24)

There are several places in the OT where the LXX records YHWH as referring to Himself as ἐγώ εἰμι (cf. Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4; 48:12, etc.).[36] At these places, the LXX translates the Hebrew phrase, ani hu (“I am He”), as the unpredicated ἐγώ εἰμι, “I am.” This was an exclusive and recurring title for YHWH, which the Jews clearly understood. Plainly, the phrase ἐγώ εἰμι was a recurring linguistic epithet of YHWH denoting His eternal existence. So, when Christ makes this unmistakable claim of Himself, we find the response of the Jews was most appropriate according to their theological understanding of the title and their denial of Christ as God.               

The ἐγώ εἰμι (“I am”) declarations of Jesus mainly appear in the Gospel of John (viz. John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8). However, other gospels recorded them (e.g., Mark 6:50). It should also be considered that Jesus’ claims to be the ἐγώ εἰμι was not only seen in John 8:58 (as many assume), but there is marked progression starting in 8:24 and climaxing in 18:8. Keep in mind, the full deity (and full humanity) of Jesus Christ, Son of God, was a main theme in John’s literature (cf. John 1:1, 18; 5:17-18; the “I am” clauses; 10:30; 20:28; 1 John 5:20; Rev. 1:8, 17; 22:13; etc.). However, I will say at the outset that the deity and preexistence of the person of the Son does not rest merely on Jesus’ ἐγώ εἰμι affirmations nor on any other single passage. Rather, the entire content of biblical revelation in both the OT and NT unambiguously presents Christ as Lord and eternal God.

Regarding the several occurrences of Jesus’ ἐγώ εἰμι claims, most translations see John 8:58 as an absolute unpredicated claim.[37] However, most add the pronoun “He/he” (e.g., NKJV, NASB, NIV et al.) after the “I am” clause at John 8:24, 28; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and verse 8 (and Mark 6:50) in spite of the fact that the pronoun is not contained after ἐγώ εἰμι in any Greek manuscript. These instances of ἐγώ εἰμι lack a clear supplied predicate. Hence, the ἐγώ εἰμι phrases such as, for instance, “I am the door,” “I am the shepherd,” “I am the gate,” etc. all have clear predicates following ἐγώ εἰμι. Whereas, as exampled above, the specific ἐγώ εἰμι claims of the Son (and of YHWH in the LXX) have a definitive context[38] justifying an unpredicated ἐγώ εἰμι—namely, an unmistakable claim of deity (again, as the Jews clearly perceived, cf. John 8:59).

As acknowledged by the mass of scholarship, the particular ἐγώ εἰμι statements of YHWH in the LXX[39] and Jesus in the NT are crystal clear affirmations of deity and thus, eternality. For example, along with John 8:58, R. E. Brown sees 8:24 and verse 28 as non-predicated, that is, absolute.[40] Anderson observes that John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19 and 18:5, 6, 8 occur “in the absolute having no predicate.”[41] See also Robertson[42]; Jamieson-Fausset-Brown[43] Daniel Wallace[44]; Philip Harner[45] et al. all who attest to the unpredicated absolute ἐγώ εἰμι claim of Christ.[46]

              

 JOHN 17:5

 

“Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”[47]

 

In Jesus’ High Priestly prayer to the Father, He commands[48] or requests the Father to glorify Himself together with the Father with the glory that He had or shared (ᾗ εἶχον) with (παρὰ) the Father before the world was (πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἶναι). According to the Son’s own words, He preexisted with the Father before time. The exegetical significance is undeniable:

 

  1. The glory was shared, between the Father and the person of the Son. It is the divine glory that YHWH does “not share” with anyone else (cf. Isa. 42:8). Notice that the glorification applies to both the Father and the Son here, which they shared before the creation. It is not glory apart from the Father; rather the Son possesses glory alongside the Father. The glory of which Jesus speaks is a “Me with You” glory. No creature can make this claim. This unique glory here is a defined glory exclusive to YHWH alone (as in Isa. 42:8). The Apostle John applies the “glory” that Isaiah saw (cf. Isa. 6:1-3; LXX) to the Son in John 12:41. John even uses the same terms as the LXX of Isaiah.[49]  

 

  1. The Son is presented as a distinct person from the Father— παρὰ with the dative. The glory that the Son had was “with” the Father. Grammatically, when the preposition παρὰ (“with”) is followed by the dative case, which occurs twice in this passage (παρὰ σεαυτῷ, “together with Yourself,” παρὰ σοί, “together/with You”), especially in reference to persons, it indicates “near,” “beside,” or “in the presence of.”[50] In fact, in John’s literature, παρὰ 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, παρὰ 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 John 17:5 as some kind of exception.  In point of fact, all standard lexicons (regarding παρὰ + dat.),[51] recognized Greek grammars,[52] as well as and the mass of biblical scholarship[53] firmly attest to the fact that John 17:5 exegetically presents an actual preexistence of the divine Son who shared glory together with (in the presence of) the Father, before time.  

Regarding the particular grammar of John 17:5, Ignatius in his letter to the Magnesians (c. A.D. 107) uses the same prepositional phrase, as in John in 17:5 to affirm the preexistence of the divine Son: “Jesus Christ, who before the ages [πρὸ αἰώνων] was with the Father [παρὰ πατρὶ] and appeared at the end of time” (6). Specifically, Ignatius uses παρὰ with the dative, as in John 17:5, denoting a marked distinction between Jesus and the Father. And he employs the preposition πρὸ to indicate that their distinction existed from eternity—“before time.” Thus, Ignatius, following the apostolic tradition, envisages the Son as preexisting παρὰ (“with/in the presence of”) the Father, πρὸ αἰώνων—“before time.” 

 

  1. The glory that the Son had/possessed (ᾗ εἶχον)[54] was in His preexistence. We read that the glory that the Son possessed and shared together with (παρὰ) the Father was πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἶναι (“before the world was”). The preexistence (and deity) of the Son is a running theme in John’s literature: The person of the Son was sent from heaven (cf. John 6:38; 3:13; et al.); existing before the beginning (ἀρχῇ, John 1:1a); was the Creator of all things (cf. John 1:3, as discussed below); the μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν, that is, the unique God, the One who is/being always in the bosom of the Father (cf. John 1:18); the “Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13). So that the Son possessed glory with the Father before the world was is consistent with John’s theology. It was “not just ideal preexistence,” says Robertson, “but actual and conscious existence at the Father’s side . . . ‘before the being as to the world.’”[55]Likewise, Reymond further comments on the Son’s eternal preexistence as taught in John 17:5:

 

The Gospel of John witnesses that Jesus claimed eternal preexistence: “Glorify 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.[56]

The exegesis of John 17:5 reveals that the person of the Son shared glory with the Father, corresponding with 1:1b: πρὸς τὸν θεόν. This divine glory, says Christ, ᾗ εἶχον (“I had”), that is, always possessed it πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἶναι (“before the world was”), corresponding with Hebrews 1:3: ὃς ὢν ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ. Hence, the Son is (ὢν – always, timelessly) the radiance or effulgence of the Father’s glory and the “exact representation of the nature of Him.” Hence, vividly consistent with the Christology of the NT, John 17:5 underlines the Son’s preexistence, deity, and distinction from the person of the Father.    

 

PHILIPPIANS 2:6-11—Carmen Christi 

Who [Christ], 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 2:6-11, known as the Carmen Christi (“Hymn to Christ”) and also as the Kenosis Hymn (from κενόω, “to make empty”) was utilized by the early Christian church to teach and magnify the preexistence, incarnation, and the full deity of the Son of God, Jesus Christ. 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 taking the form/nature of a bond-servant and 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 (preexisting), His incarnation, His cross-work, His exaltation, and His distinction from God the Father whom He glorifies. Unquestionably, Paul positively affirmed the two natured person of the Son implicitly and explicitly 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. 2:18ff; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:16; Titus 2:13).

 

ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων. 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 in the form of God.” The active participle, ὑπάρχων denotes a continuous existence or state of continually subsisting.[57] 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. While μορφῇ (“form,” NASB, “nature,” NIV) denotes the specific qualities or essential attributes of something. Here, it denotes “the expression of divinity in the preexistent Christ.”[58] It expresses that which is intrinsic and essential to the thing. Thus, here it means “that our Lord in His preincarnate state possessed essential deity.”[59] “The noun μορφῇ implies not the external accidents, but the essential attributes.”[60] Warfield clearly expresses its semantic force:

“Form” is a term, which expresses the sum of those characterizing qualities which make a thing the precise thing that it is . . . 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.[61]

 

To deny that the Son was truly the μορφῇ of God is to deny that the Son was truly the μορφῇ of man “taking the form of a bond-servant.”

οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ. We then read that the person of the Son did not ἡγήσατο (“consider, regard”) “equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Although the noun ἁρπαγμὸν (“a thing to be grasped”) has been a point of continuous discussion among biblical scholarship, the term must be interpreted in light of the participial phrase μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων, which safeguards against any denial of the Son’s personhood and deity.   

ἀλλ᾿ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν μορφὴν δούλου λαβών. In verse 7, we read that the person of the Son, who was always subsisting in the nature of God, voluntarily ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν (“made Himself nothing”) μορφὴν δούλου λαβών (lit., form/nature of a slave having taken”).

Note the reflexive pronoun ἑαυτὸν (“Himself”). The force of the reflexive pronoun here indicates that the subject (the Son) is also the object (i.e., the one receiving the action of the verb—“emptied”). Hence, it was the Son who emptied Himself. We see the reflexive pronoun in verse 8, ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν (lit., “He humbled Himself”) denoting the Son’s self-humiliation in His glorious self-emptying incarnational work and obedience to death on the cross. The aorist active participle λαβών (semantically, a participle of means)[62] describes the means or manner of the Son’s emptying. Thus, the Son emptied Himself by means of  “taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” The Son’s incarnational work was not an emptying or subtraction of deity, again, verse 6 shields against such a notion. Rather, it involved an addition to His divine nature—God the Word became flesh.   

 

The divine Son preexisted before performing the action of the participles describing His incarnation. In verse 6, the Son, in His prior existence as God, performed the action of ἡγήσατο before performing the actions of the three following aorist participles in verses 7 and 8 (λαβών, γενόμενος, εὑρεθεὶς) describing His self-emptying. In other words, syntactically, the participial phrase, μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων and the verb ἡγήσατο are antecedent to the participles in verses 7 and 8 denoting His self-emptying incarnational work: “having taken,” “having been made,” having been found”—namely, verse 6 indicates His preexistence as the person of God the Son in His preincarnate state (see notes on John 6:38 above). Verse 6, points to the preexistent Son as asarkos, in μορφῇ θεοῦ, and in contrast, verses 7-8 points to the Son as ensarkos, μορφὴν δούλου.[63]

In verses 10-11, Paul concludes his high Christological Hymn with the affirmation that Christ the Son was the fulfillment of the “future” prophecy in Isaiah 45:23. Starting in verse 9, Paul states the purpose of God highly exalting the Son and bestowing on Him “the name which is above every name,” which was for the result that (note the ἵνα clause in v. 10) “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” (vv. 10-11). In Greek, κύριος in the emphatic position (κύριος Ἰησοῦς χριστός), intensifying his argument that Jesus is the κύριος, that is, the YHWH and fulfillment of the future prophecy of Isaiah 45:23.[64]     

  

Jesus Christ the Son, the Unchangeable Creator of all Things

 The Scriptural evidence for the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is overwhelming. Both the OT and NT present the Son as the very object of divine worship (cf. Dan. 7:14; Matt. 14:33; John 9:38; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:13-14). In addition, the NT presents that the Son was the agent[65] of creation, thus, the unchangeable Creator of all things. That Jesus was the Creator of all things is additional and irrefutable proof that He preexisted as God. 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) coexisted with the Father, and hence, 3) is a distinct person alongside the Father, as co-Creator.

We will examine John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; and Hebrews 1:2, 10, which contain a weighty amount of exegetical substance affirming the Son as 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.

 

That the Son was the actual Creator is entirely consistent with the Christ that John preached. As shown, in 1:1, John presents the Word as the eternal God distinct from the Father. In verse 18, the apostle refers to the Son as the μονογενὴς θεὸς (“unique God”) who is always existing (ὁ ὢν) in the bosom of the Father. As previously discussed, in the prologue, the apostle presents a well-defined contrast between all things created or that had origin (signified by the aorist ἐγένετο; cf. vv. 3, 6, 10, 14) and the eternal divine Word (signified by the imperfect ἦν; vv. 1, 2, 4, 9).

In verse 3, the apostle further declares of the divine Word that πάντα δι᾿ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο (lit., “All things through Him came to be”). We see the creative activity viewed as “one event in contrast to the continuous existence of ἦν in verses Jo [hn] 1, 2. . . . Creation is thus presented as becoming (γίνομαι) in contrast with being (εἰμι).”[66] What fortifies the argument even more is John’s usage of the preposition διά followed by the genitive αὐτοῦ. This is a very significant aspect as it relates to the exegesis of the passage. In Greek, διά followed by the genitive indicates agency (or means).[67] The preexistent Son was not a mere helper of sorts, or mighty helper, rather He was God the Creator of all things as the apostle so clearly states. In such a comprehensible and undeniable way, the Apostle John presents the Son, the eternal Word, as the Creator of all things.[68]

 

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.

To interpret properly these (and any) passages in Colossians, a coherent understanding of Paul’s main purpose for writing the book must be first apprehended. Mainly, this letter was written to serve as meaningful refutation to the proto-Gnostic spirit versus matter ideology. The Gnostic system did not allow Jesus to be the Creator of something as inherently 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 literally presents this:

That in/by Him [ἐν αὐτῷ] the all things [τὰ πάντα] were created … the all things [τὰ πάντα] have been created through Him [δι’ αὐτοῦ] and for Him [εἰς αὐτὸν]. 17 He is before all things [αὐτός ἐστιν πρὸ πάντων], and the all things in Him [τὰ πάντα ἐν αὐτῷ] hold together.”[69]

 

  1. Along with John 1:3, Paul employs the neuter adjective πάντα, which indicate that the Son was the actual Creator of all-encompassing things (cf. Eph. 1:11). To reinforce his refutation, Paul definitizes the adjective, τὰ πάντα—Jesus is the Creator of “the all things.”

 

  1. Paul utilizes four different prepositions to magnify his affirmation that the Son was the Agent of creation: All things were created “by/in Him” (ἐν + dative; vv. 16, 17); “through Him” (διά + genitive; v. 16); “for Him” (εἰς + accusative; v. 16); and, He is “before all things” (πρὸ + genitive; v. 17). Clearly, Paul is speaking here of the Son, not the Father (cf. v. 14).

 

  1. As a final point, as with John 1:3, Paul specifically states that “the all things” were created δι’ αὐτοῦ (“through Him”). As observed above, we find the preposition διά followed by the genitive 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.[70] If Paul wanted to convey the idea that the Son was merely “in view” of the Father or an absent mere conceptual instrument of creation (as Oneness advocates assert[71]), he would not have used διά with genitive.[72]

 

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 systematically affirms the preexistence and deity of the person of the Son, Jesus Christ whom the Father commands “all the angels” to worship (v. 6). Relative to the preexistence and creatorship of the Son, verses 2 and 10 communicate both truths in an exceptional way. As with John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16-17, the prepositional phrase, δι᾿ οὗ (“through whom”) affirms the apostolic teaching that the Son was the agent of creation. Here we have again, the preposition διά followed by the genitive case: “In these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom [δι᾿ οὗ] also He made the world” (emphasis added).[73]

Contextually, as we saw in the prologue of John (ἐγένετο vs. ἦν), the core line of evidence that the author presents of the eternality of the Son is a precisely crafted and defined contrast between creation (viz., angels and the heavens and the earth) and the eternal divine Son (cf. vv. 2-3, 8-10).

Since verse 5, the author has been exclusively quoting the Father. In verses 10-12, in reference to the divine Son (πρὸς δὲ τὸν υἱόν, ὁ θρόνος σου ὁ θεὸς, v. 8), God the Father applies Psalm 102:25-27[74] to the Son. Notice first, the Psalm is a reference to YHWH as the unchangeable Creator of all things. Second, the Father is speaking to the Son and not merely about the Son.[75] Specifically, the referential identity of the pronoun σὺ at the beginning of verse 10 (“And, You”) we find back in verse 8, πρὸς δὲ τὸν υἱόν–“But of the Son He [the Father] says.” Irrefutably, it is God the Father directly addressing the Son. In verse 8, θεὸς appears in the nominative for the vocative of address (ὁ θρόνος σου ὁ θεὸς).[76]  

However, in verse 10, the actual vocative of κύριος (κύριε) is used, which bolsters the author’s argument even more: “You, Lord [κύριε], in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands.” This so unequivocally and irrefutably verifies that the person of the Son preexisted as “the God” and as the YHWH of Psalm 102, the unchangeable Creator of all things. Conclusively, the prologue of Hebrews is one of the most theologically devastating prologues in all of the NT 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.

 

Conclusion

 To deny the deity and preexistence of the person of the Son is to deny the Son of God of biblical revelation. “Whoever denies the Son,” says the apostle, “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). Scripture is crystal clear:  

 

  1. The OT presents the preincarnate person of the Son who is identified as YHWH and the Angel of the Lord (cf. Gen. 16:10-11; 19:24; Exod. 3:6, 14; Judges 6:11-24; 13:16, 21; Isa. 6:3, 8, 10 [cf. John 12:39-41]; Dan. 7:9-14 et al.).

 

  1. John 1:1 (and 1 John 1:1-2): The Logos was existing prior to the beginning. He was a distinct person, who was πρὸς τὸν θεόν, and He was θεὸς as to His nature who became flesh.

 

  1. John 1:18: The Son is the μονογενὴς θεὸς and ὁ ὢν (always existing) in the bosom of the Father.  

 

  1. John 6:38: The person of Christ exercised His own will distinct from the Father’s will, in His preincarnate existence, that is, before coming to earth.

 

  1. John 8:24 et al: Christ the Son claimed He preexisted as the eternal God— ἐγώ εἰμι.   

 

  1. John 17:5: The person of the Son shared/possessed divine glory παρὰ (together with) the Father, πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἶναι—before the world came to be.  

 

  1. Philippians 2:6-11, the ultimate act of humility: Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was always being in the nature of God, emptied Himself by having taken the very nature of man and became obedient to death on a cross; He was the fulfillment of the Isaiah 45:23 prophecy, the YHWH before whom every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess—“to the glory of God the Father.”           

 

  1. John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; and Hebrews 1:2: God the Son was the agent of creation—the Creator of all things.

 

  1. Hebrews 1:10-12: God the Father directly addressed the Son as the YHWH of Psalm 102:25-27, the unchangeable Creator of all things.    

—————————————————————————————————————————————————-
[1]
Unless otherwise indicated, all biblical citations within this work are from the New American Standard Bible (1996).

[2] For example, compare Psalm 102:25-27 with Hebrews 1:10-12; Isaiah 6:1, 3, 10 with John 12:39-41 (thus, Isa. 6:8); Isaiah 8:12-13 with 1 Peter 3:14-15; Isaiah 45:23 with Philippians 2:10-11; Joel 2:32 with Romans 10:13 and many more (cf. also Dan. 7:9-14; Isa. 9:6; Micah 5:2). Aside from the NT affirmation, which identifies Christ as the YHWH of many OT passages, the OT identifies the Angel of the Lord as YHWH (e.g., Gen. 16:10-11; 19:24; Exod. 3:6, 14; Judges 6:11-24; 13:16, 21 et al.).       

[3] A unitarian or unipersonal belief of God is a radical view of monotheism (μόνος, “one,” and θεός, “God”), which sees God as “one person.”  Thus, a distinction needs to be made between religious groups that are unitarian in their doctrine of God and the official Unitarian religion itself. The former would include such religious systems as Judaism, Islam, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (i.e., Jehovah’s Witnesses), Oneness Pentecostals, etc., while the latter is applied exclusively to the Unitarian Church as a religious denomination. Thus, unitarian (in lower case) will be used throughout this work to refer to the unipersonal theology, but not necessarily the Unitarian Church.

[4] The OT uses many plural nouns, verbs, adjectives, and plural prepositions to describe the one true God emphasizing His multi-personal nature. Note these examples: plural nouns – Genesis 1:26 (“Our image, likeness”); plural verbs- Genesis 1:26; 2:18 (LXX); 11:7; Isaiah 6:8; 54:5 (Heb., “Makers,” “Husbands”); Psalm 149:2 and Job 35:10 (Heb., “Makers”); Ecclesiastes 12:1 (Heb., “Creators”); Daniel 7:27 (Heb., “Most Highs” or “Highest Ones”); plural prepositions- Genesis 3:22 (“one of Us”); and plural adjectives- Proverbs 30:3 (Heb. and LXX, “Holy Ones”). Also, there are many places in the OT where YHWH interacts with or does something on behalf of “another” (distinct) YHWH as in Genesis 19:24 (cf. Hosea 1:7-8); the angel of the Lord references who was identified as YHWH (e.g., Gen. chaps. 18-19; 22:9-14; Exod. 3:6-14; 23:20-21; Num. 22:21-35; Judg. 2:1-5; 6:11-22; 13:9-25; Zech. 1:12; etc.). Further, places such Hebrews 1:10-12, we read of YHWH (the Father) interacting with, that is, directly addressing, the Son as the YHWH of Psalm 102:25-27, the unchangeable Creator of all things. Many other examples can be cited clearly showing that the true God of biblical revelation is multi-personal. In point of fact, these plural references of God and YHWH to YHWH correspondences can only be consistent with biblical monotheism in the context of Trinitarianism. 

[5] Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος, En archē ēn ho logos, kai ho logos. Unless indicated, all citations from the Greek NT are from the Novum Testamentum Graece: Nestle-Aland, 28th Rev. ed. (Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 2012). 

[6] Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996). 

[7] Richard C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of John’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress Press, 1943).

[8] From γίνομαι (“to become”).

[9] Cf. Herold J. Greenlee, A Concise Exegetical Grammar of New Testament Greek, 5th ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1986), 49.

[10] The same verbal contrast (εἰμι vs. γίνομαι) is seen in John 8:58. 

[11]  Generally, articular (with the article) nouns point to identification, while anarthrous nouns point to essence, nature, quality.  

[12] The preposition πρὸς (“toward”) generally denotes intimate fellowship between person(s). In relationship to John 1:1b, the specific phrase πρὸς τὸν θεόν occurs twenty times in the Greek NT. In each occurrence, πρὸς differentiates between a person or persons and God. The only exception is the three times where the neuter plural article precedes the phrase (viz. Rom. 15:17; Heb. 2:17 and 5:1). Thus, they are not syntactically the same as John 1:1b. In John 1:1b, εἰμί (in the imperfect form, ἦν) precedes the phrase, whereas in Romans 15:17; Hebrews 2:17 and 5:1, the neuter plural article τὰ (“the things”) precedes the phrase. Πρὸς τὸν θεόν expresses the distinct personality of the Logos, which other prepositions (such as, ἐν, μετὰ, παρά, or σύν) would have obscured.  

[13] Greenlee, Exegetical Grammar, 39.

[14] A T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 6 vols. (Nashville, TN: Broadman, 1930-33), 5:4.  

[15] Bauer, W. 2000. A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd. ed. Rev. and ed. by Frederick W. Danker (BDAG) (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 875.

[16] Anarthrous words are words that lack the article (“the”). Thus, John 1:1c literally reads, “God was the Word,” not “the God was the Word.”   

[17] A noun that lacks the article is anarthrous,   

[18] Cf. Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, with Scripture, Subject, and Greek Word Indexes (GGBB) (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996), 262, 265.

[19] Ibid., 196: 269).

[20] See discussion below pertaining to the linguistic import of the articular participle ὁ ὢν in both John 1:18 and Romans 9:5.  

[21] Benjamin B. Warfield, Biblical Doctrines (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1988), 190-92.

[22] Both nouns, “God” in John 1:1b and “Father” in 1 John 1:2 are articular, thus, both signifying identification—viz. the person of the Father, with whom the Son preexisted, ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν/πατέρα.         

[23] Wallace, GGBB, 327.  

[24] θεὸν οὐδεὶς ἑώρακεν πώποτε· μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο.       

[25] This is the ESV rendering. While the updated NIV incorporates both variants (μονογενὴς θεὸς and ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός): “the one and only Son, who is himself God.”

[26] The adjective μονογενὴς points to the uniqueness of the Son (from μονος and γένος). He is the “one and only” or “one of a kind” God the Son, that is, “The unique God who was near the heart of the Father” (Wallace). The Lexical evidence of the compound Greek adjective is quite weighty. For example, 

BDAG: “Pertaining to being the only one of its kind or class, unique (in kind) of something. . . . μονογενὴς υἱὸς is used only of Jesus. The renderings only, unique may be quite adequate for all its occurrences. . . . See also . . . vs. 18 where, beside the reading μονογενὴς θεὸς (considered by many the orig.) an only-begotten one, God (acc. to his real being; i.e. uniquely divine as God’s son .  . . or a uniquely begotten deity.”

Louw and Nida: “μονογενὴς, pertaining to what is unique in the sense of being the only one of the same kind or class — ‘unique, only.”

Liddle and Scott: “μονο.γενὴς, μουνο- (γένος) the only member of a kin or kind: hence, generally, only, single.”

Newman:  “Unique, only.”

Lightfoot (Epistles): “μονογενὴς, unicus, alone of His kind and therefore distinct from created things. The two words express [πρωτότοκος and μονογενὴς] the same eternal fact; but while μονογενὴς states it in itself, πρωτότοκος places it in relation to the Universe. . . . The history of the patristic exegesis of this expression is not without a painful interest. All the fathers of the second and third centuries without exception, so far as I have noticed, correctly refer it to the Eternal Word.”

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE): “In these passages, too, it might be translated as “the only son of God”; for the emphasis seems to be on His uniqueness, rather than on His Sonship. . . He is the son of God in a sense in which no others are. “μονογενὴς describes the absolutely unique relation of the Son to the Father in His divine nature; πρωτότοκος describes the relation of the Risen Christ in His glorified humanity to man”

TDNT: “What Jn. means by ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός . . . . When Jn. speaks of the Son of God, he has primarily in view the man Jesus Christ, though not exclusively the man, but also the risen and pre-existent Lord. The relation of the pre-existent Lord to God is that of Son to Father. This comes out indisputably in 17:5. . . Jesus is aware that He was with God, and was loved by Him, and endued with glory, before the foundation of the world. This is personal fellowship with God, divine Sonship. . . . In Jn. the Lord is always the Son. Because He alone was God’s Son before the foundation of the world, because the whole love of the Father is for Him alone, because He alone is one with God, because the title God may be ascribed to Him alone, He is the only-begotten Son of God.” To maintain that in Jn. the pre-existent Lord is only the Word, and that the Son is only the historical and risen Lord, is to draw too sharp a line between the pre-existence on the one side and the historical and post-historical life on the other.”        

[27] The verb ἐξηγήσατο (from ἐξηγέομαι) is from which we get the English term, “exegete.” Thus, God the Son is the one who exegetes the Father perfectly and continuously (cf. John 14:6; Heb. 1:3).     

[28] Cf. Murray Harris, Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1992), 157-58.

[29] Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 303.

[30] As noted below, the prologue of Hebrews provides a marked contrast between things created (viz., angels, the heavens, and the earth) and the eternal divine Son (cf. vv. 3, 8) whom the author presents as the unchangeable Creator of all things (cf. vv. 2, 10-12).

[31] Robertson, Word Pictures, 5:17-18.

[32] Cleon L. Rogers Jr. and Cleon L. Rogers III, New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan 1998), 516.  

[33] See Ernest DeWitt Burton, Syntax of the moods and tenses in New Testament Greek (University of Chicago Press, 1892), sec. 134; Mounce: “The aorist participle indicates an action occurring prior to the time of the main verb” (William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar [Zondervan 2003], 237). Wallace: “The aorist participle, for example, usually denotes antecedent time to that of the controlling verb” (Wallace, GGBB, 614; cf. also 555). See also A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1934), 860. 

[34] A similar construction to John 6:38 is found in the last clause of John 8:42: ἐγὼ γὰρ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐξῆλθον καὶ ἥκω· οὐδὲ γὰρ ἀπ’ ἐμαυτοῦ ἐλήλυθα, ἀλλ’ ἐκεῖνός με ἀπέστειλεν (lit., “I indeed from the God came forth and am here, not even indeed of Myself have I come, but He, Me sent.” The aorist indicative ἀπέστειλεν (“sent”) is antecedent to the perfect indicative ἐλήλυθα (“I have come”). As in 6:38, the sending of the Son was before the coming to earth.                   

[35] For an exegetical refutation to Oneness unitarian theology see Edward L. Dalcour, A Definitive Look at Oneness Theology: In the Light of Biblical Trinitarianism, 4th ed., available at www.christiandefense.org.    

[36] Although the LXX of Exodus 3:14 is not an exact equivalent to 8:58, it does provide a stark presentation of eternality that is tantamount in meaning to Jesus’ ἐγώ εἰμι statements. In the LXX, YHWH responds to Moses’ question, not as ἐγώ εἰμι, as in John 8:58, rather, as ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὢν. Both ἐγώ εἰμι and ὁ ὢν are incorporated. As we saw in John 1:18 and Romans 9:5, the articular participle, ὁ ὢν, in these contexts, denotes timeless existence—“the One eternally existing.” While Exodus 3:14 and John 8:58 are not strictly equivalent in wording, they are indeed equivalent in meaning. And, to say again, in such places as Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 41:4; 43:10; and 48:12 (LXX) we do see the precise equivalent of the unpredicated phrase ἐγώ εἰμι as in John 8:58 et al.

[37] As previously shown, Jesus contrasts Abraham’s origin: πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι (“before Abraham was born”) with His eternal existence: ἐγὼ εἰμί (“I am”).   

[38] The recorded ἐγώ εἰμι claims by the Christ John 8 begins in verse 24.    

[39] As seen (e.g., Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; and 48:12). Note that in Isaiah 41:4 and 48:12, YHWH claim to by the ἐγώ εἰμι are in apposition with the title “First and the Last,” which are only applied to Christ in Revelation.     

[40] R. E. Brown, The Gospel According to John I-XII (Anchor Bible Series, vol. 29; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1966), 1:533-38.

[41] Paul N. Anderson, The Christology of the Fourth Gospel (Eugene OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2010), 21.

[42] Cf. Robertson, Grammar, 879-880.

[43] In their Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible, it pointed out that the language of John 8:24 as “so far transcending what is becoming in men, of those ancient declarations of the God of Israel, ‘I AM HE’ (Deuteronomy 32:39, Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 43:13, 46:4 , 48:12)” (Volume 3: Matthew to Ephesians).

[44] Cf. Wallace, GGBB.

[45] Cf. Philip B. Harner, The ‘I Am’ of the Fourth Gospel: A Study in Johannine Usage and Thought (Paperback – Minneapolis, Minn., 1970), 4.

[46] Even more, the early church saw Jesus’ “I am” claims as an absolute claim to deity (e.g., Irenaeus, Against Heresies, in Philip Schaff, Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325, 1:478; Origen [ibid., 4:463]; Novatian [ibid., 5:624-625]; Chrysostom [ibid., 14:199]). 

[47] Καὶ νῦν δόξασόν με σύ, πάτερ, παρὰ σεαυτῷ τῇ δόξῃ ᾗ εἶχον πρὸ τοῦ τὸν κόσμον εἶναι παρὰ σοί.

[48] The first part of the text reads, Καὶ νῦν δόξασόν με σύ, πάτερ (lit., “And now glorify Me You, Father”). Note the aorist imperative verb, δόξασόν. The most common usage of the imperative mood is for commands. However, the imperative can also denote a request. On occasion, “the request imperative will be used by a superior when addressing an inferior” (Wallace, GGBB, 485). Here in this text, the imperative is in the aorist (δόξασόν) stressing the urgency of the command or request. Since the Son is biblically presented as ontologically coequal with the Father (cf. John 1:1c; Phil. 2:6-11; Heb. 1:3), 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. Although it is possible that the imperative here can be one of request, it is the assumption of unipersonalism, denying that the Son is a divine person coequal with Father, that we find a natural and automatic rejection of the imperative of command. Even though the plainness of the passage cannot be denied (the Father and the Son sharing glory before time)..  

[49] John 12:41, εἶδεν τὴν δόξαν αὐτοῦ (“he [Isaiah] saw the glory of Him [Jesus]”) – Isaiah 6:1, 3: εἶδον. . . . τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ (“I saw. . . . the glory of Him [YHWH]”).

[50] Cf. Wallace, GGBB, 378; BDAG, 757.

[51] Cf. Thayer, Lexicon, “II. [παρὰ] with the dative,” as applied to John 17:5.

[52] Cf. Wallace, BBGG.

[53] Cf. Reymond, Systematic Theology, 230. 

[54] The imperfect εἶχον denotes that the Son possessed this glory; the glory that the preincarnate Son “Actually possessed” (Marvin R. Vincent, “Commentary on John 17:5” in Word studies in the New Testament, 6 vols. [Nabu Press, Charleston: SC, 2010]).    

[55] Robertson, Word Pictures, 5:275-76.

[56] Reymond, Systematic Theology, 230.

[57] Cf. Thayer, Lexicon, 638; BDAG, 1029.

[58] BDAG, 659.

[59] Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books 1986), 261.

[60] J. B. Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians (London: Macmillan, 1894), 108.

[61] Warfield, Biblical Doctrine, 177.

[62] Cf. Wallace, GGBB, 630.

[63] 2 Corinthians 8:9 contains the same contextual-linguistic regarding the Son’s incarnational work. Note that both passages contain present tense participles denoting the Son’s prior existence as God: πλούσιος ὤν (“rich being”) – μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων (“in the nature of God being”) and both contain aorist indicatives denoting the Son’s self-emptying: ἐπτώχευσεν (“became poor”) –  ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν (“He emptied Himself”).      

[64] Paul cites Isaiah 45:23 in both Romans 14:11 and loosely here in Philippians 2:10-11. both Isaiah 45:23 (LXX) and Romans 14:11 contain future indicatives: “every knee will bow [κάμψει] . . . every tongue will confess [ἐξομολογήσεται]” indicating the future certainty of the event. However, Paul modifies the original tenses and moods of the verbs in Isaiah and Romans (to aorist subjunctives) to make Philippians 2:10-11 a purpose and result clause (cf. Wallace, BBGG, 474). The purpose of God the Father exalting the Son and bestowing on Him “the name which is above every name” was for the result of every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that “Jesus Christ is Lord,” thus, the YHWH of Isaiah 45:23—hence the fulfillment of Isaiah’s (future) prophecy.   

[65] In the NT, agency is commonly expressed in three ways: ultimate agency (the ultimate source of the action; the one directly responsible for the action— ἀπὸ παρά, ὑπὸ + the genitive); intermediate agency (that which the ultimate agent uses to carry out the action— διά + the genitive); and impersonal agency (that which the ultimate agent uses to perform the action— ἐκ, ἐν + the dative; cf. Wallace, GGBB, 431-32). Biblically, then, 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. ibid, 431). That the Son is the intermediate agent of creation does not mean that He was a mere “helper” of sorts, or a secondary agent of God, but rather, He was the actual agent of creation—namely, that which the ultimate agent (the Father) used to carry out the action—namely, the Creator of all things. This grammatically point is specifically revealed in several NT passages (viz. John 1:3, δι’ αὐτοῦ; 1 Cor. 8:6 [δι’ οὗ]; Col. 1:16 [δι’ αὐτοῦ]; Heb. 1:2 [δι’ οὗ]; 2:10 [δι’ οὗ]). 

[66] Cf. Robertson, Word Pictures, 1932: 5:5).

[67] Cf. Greenlee, Exegetical Grammar, 31; Wallace, GGBB, 368; BDAG, 225)

[68] Another interesting note pertaining to our contention that the Targum may have been the source of John’s Logos theology. Both the Targum and John present the “Word” as the Creator of all things. For example, note the targumic rendering of Isaiah 44:24: “I am the LORD, who made all things; I stretched out the heavens by My Memra.” And Isaiah 45:12: “I by My Memra made the earth, and created man upon it; I by My might stretched out the heavens.” In fact, there are many other places where the Targum identifies the “Word” (Memra) as the Creator of all things, as John explicates in 1:3 (cf. also Gen. 14:19 [Neofiti]; Ps. 33:6; Isa. 48:13; Jer. 27:5; etc.).

[69] It is worth mentioning how Oneness Pentecostals erroneously treat these and other passages that speak of the Son as the Creator. They argue that it was unitarian God, the Father alone (Jesus’ divine mode), who created all things. However, it was the mere “plan” of the future “Son” (i.e., Jesus’ human mode) that the Father had in mind. UPCI authority and Oneness author David Bernard explains: “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” (David K Bernard, Oneness of God, 116, cf. 117). Thus, their exegesis of the Scripture always starts with their assumption of unitarianism. 

[70] In 1 Corinthians 8:6 and, as discussed below, in Hebrews 1:2, διά is followed by the genitive signifying the Son as the agent of creation (cf. Heb. 2:10). 

[71] 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/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 coequal, coeternal, and coexistent persons. The three persons share the nature of the one Being. As fully God it can be said that the Father is the Creator (cf. Acts 17:24), the Son was 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 ether as tritheism or Modalism. 

[72] Although Paul does use the accusative case in verse 16 (αὐτὸν), but he uses it after the preposition εἰς meaning “for” or “because of” and not after διά.

[73] As seen above (esp. n. 65), διά with the genitive denoting the Son as the agent of creation appears in John 1:3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2; and 2:10.  

[74] From the LXX of Psalm 101:25-27.

[75] Here the Father clearly differentiates Himself from the Son (esp. in light of vv. 8-9).

[76] The fact that the nominative θεὸς with the vocative force is used does not remove in any way the meaning of direct address. The usual way of addressing God in both the LXX and the NT was the nominative for the vocative (cf. Reymond, Systematic Theology, 272; Wallace, GGBB, 1996: 56-57; also cf. John 20:28; Rev. 4:11). So common was the nominative for the vocative that every time θεὸς was directly addressed in the NT, only in one verse (Matt. 27:46) does θεὸς actually appear in the vocative case: θεέ μου θεέ μου“My God, My God.”