I have not had a truly interesting debate on the nature of Christ is a long time, but since a fellow blogger made mention of it, I thought that I might tango for a while. I will only tackle this issue one bit at a time, for various reasons related to debating style.
The offending post can be found here (update – the author has removed all posts on his blog). The first issue on the pre-existence of Christ that we will discuss is the Logos. The author actually separates the Logos from Christ, making the Logos a mere word or promise and Christ a mere man.
John’s Gospel commences with this statement, and goes on to state that this word was with God and was God, and made all things (vv. 1-4). And because the title, Word of God, is applied to the Lord Jesus in Revelation 19:13, it is claimed that these verses in John relate to a pre-existent Christ.
That is not entirely true. What the author fails to realize is that John, the original Logos Theologian, applied Logos to Christ in what is commonly called the Prologue,
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, “He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.”‘ And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him. (John 1:14-18 NKJV)
Essentially, this ends the argument of the other blogger. He states that Christ did not pre-exist; yet the Apostle John, who had walked with the Lord for some time said the same Logos which in the beginning was with God and was indeed God, had become flesh, and tabernacled with humanity.
Paul who had met Christ on the Damascus Road, confirmed the same,
Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8 NLT)
Further, this pre-existence is confirmed by John in 17.5 and 1st John 1.1
If this were so, however, it would make the Bible appear hopelessly contradictory, for such reference as: “I will be his Father, and He shall be my son,” “I will make him My firstborn,” “Jesus Christ the son of Abraham the son of David” are at variance with the teaching that represents Jesus as already living.
Pre-existence is taught as well in Colossians 1.7 and Hebrews 1.1-3
The problem here is that the author refuses to separate the Incarnation from the Word. Indeed, the flesh was temporal, but the Logos was from eternity. The author fails to understand the difference between pre-existence and living. In Luke 2.11, we find that the baby that was born was already Christ the Lord, but would be named Jesus. In both Matthew and Luke, Mary is seen as being overcome by the Spirit of God which caused the conception of the flesh, but the Logos which became flesh already existed.
What existed was the Logos, what was living was the Flesh.
Further, Christ admits this,
Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” (John 8:58 NKJV)
The Pharisees understood this properly to mean that Christ claimed not simply pre-existence, but the ultimate diety,
Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by. (John 8:59 NKJV)
Further, we read again by John’s pen that the words of Christ which so damaged the calm of the Pharisees,
I and My Father are one.” Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?” The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.” (John 10:30-33 NKJV)
The message is simple – Christ claimed not merely an enlightenment, but the deity.
The Greek term translated “word” is logos. It signifies the outward form of inward thought or reason, or the spoken word as illustrative of thought, wisdom and doctrine.
Not necessarily. God’s Logos is God in action. It is at times translated as plan, message, account, reason, word, or logic. The word appears over 330 times in the Greek, but only does John apply it (4 times) to Christ in some theological manner. It is found in the Deuterocanon as well.
For while gentle silence enveloped all things, and night in its swift course was now half gone, thy all-powerful Word leaped from heaven, from the royal throne, into the midst of the land that was doomed, a stern warrior carrying the sharp sword of thy authentic command, and stood and filled all things with death, and touched heaven while standing on the earth. (Wisdom 18:14-16 RSVA)
God’s Logos was nothing new to 1st century Palestine, as Philo used it to describe God’s way of interaction with humanity. It was always seen as an attribute of God, pre-existent with Him. And this Logos had become flesh (John 1.14)
John is teaching that in the very beginning, God’s purpose, wisdom or revelation had been in evidence. It was “with God” in that it emanated from him; it “was God” in that it represented Him to mankind ; and it became the motive power of all that God did, for all was made with it in mind, and it presented the hope of life to mankind (see John 1: 3-4).
The problem with this, is that the bible directly contradictions this line of reasoning – that God’s purpose was evidenced from the beginning,
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:7-8 NKJV)
Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. (Ephesians 3:8-9 NIV)
Paul was clear – the purpose of God had been hidden from the beginning of time.
What John is stating, therefore, is that in the very beginning there existed the wisdom or purpose of God, and that it was revealed unto men to provide a way of life.
No. What John is stating is that God spoke Himself into the Incarnation, and the Father begot a unique Son, and that His Logos, one of His two hands (the other being the Spirit) tabernacled with humanity to give authority to all those that believed to become children of God.
What did it proclaim?
The coming of one who would overcome sin and give reality to the hope of life. The promise of this was stated from the beginning in the Word or Doctrine of God (e.g. Genesis 3:15).
The word Logos is only translated as Doctrine one time in the KJV, which should have been translated as word. (The author should learn the difference between the word of God and the Word of God.) Logos, in John’s usage does not mean doctrine. John’s use of Logos when applied to Christ does not mean Doctrine or a mere plan or message, but God active.
This Word, Wisdom or Doctrine found its reality, its substance, its confirmation (Romans 15:8) in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ; therefore John taught:
“The word was made (Greek-ginomai “became”) flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
The Word was made flesh, or became flesh, as it is expressed in the Greek. The Declaration of Divine wisdom found its substance and reality in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Before his advent, it was a mere Word or Promise, but when he became manifested, it became a person.
Again, this does not fit with the common usage of the period, or the usage of John. The Logos was not merely a plan or message, but a personification of an attribute of God. It literally became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ.
Until the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, most scholars held that the Gospel of John reflected a non-Palestinian religious-historical background(C. H. Dodd lists suggested religious-historical backgrounds for understanding John .); however, since the discovery it has been accepted by many that the Jews responsible for the composition of the Dead Sea Scrolls are remarkably similar conceptually to the John’s Gospel. It should be noted that scraps of the Septuagint had been found among the Hebrew and Aramaic Scrolls. Within a few years of the publication of the first of the Dead Sea Scrolls, several scholars were quickly noticed the religious-historical connectivity shared by John and the scrolls. (Some went so far as to claim direct dependence of John on one or more of the Dead Sea Scrolls.) To interpret John against a religious-historical background other than Palestinian Judaism usually distorts the meaning of a text, since alien meanings are given to key religious terms.
Logos, according to the Anchor Bible Dictionary, has been used throughout the history of Greek philosophy, but then again, since the New Testament was written in Greek, it will not be uncommon to find shared terms.
Allow me to state here that during 2nd Temple Judaism Logos was used in different contexts, and since John didn’t write in a vacuum for only himself, it is proper to explore which Logos concept he used. Philo or another? This is the point of using the Septuagint research in New Testament Studies. Paul and the other writers, writing in Greek, used the religion and theology of the words handed to them. Where did they get those words? They transferred them from the Old Greek (Testament) into the Greek New Testament.
I believe that the closest conceptual parallels to John’s use of Logos can be found in the wisdom literature of the Jews. (Including Sirach and the Book of Wisdom – especially the Book of Wisdom) In these books we see Wisdom personified. We see this reflected in Paul’s writings when he calls Christ the Wisdom and power of God. What should be noticed is that John’s prologue is centered on the action of the Logos, not the being of the Logos. John assumes that his audience rightly understands the theology of the Logos and thus spends very little time exploring it. Can we rightly place so much theology on John’s use of Logos when John didn’t? As a matter of fact, this prologue is one of the very few instances in the New Testament were Logos has any theological implications. It is used nearly 330 times in the Greek NT, but only in Johannine Literature (his Gospel, 1st John, and the Apocalypse) does it carry, or seem to carry, deep theological or at least metaphysical implications.
The author makes a grave error in assuming that the Logos of John is a mere word or promise, especially since those that denied the deity of Christ refused to accept the gospel of John. Further, the author contradicts himself by allowing for a very base translation of the word logos by denying the very literal meaning of ‘become flesh.’
The person did not exist before the birth of the child Jesus; but the promise and wisdom of God always existed.
Again, the author has confused the flesh of Christ with the Logos of God.
That is the teaching of John. It does away with the embarrassment of teaching that an angel became an embryo in the womb of a woman, as demanded by the theory of a pre-existent Jesus.
The closes sect that claim close to this believe are the Arians (or modern day Jehovah’s Witnesses). The Author incorrectly assumes that any demand upon the text is made in such a manner. Instead, what is demanded by the idea that the Logos became flesh is that indeed, the Logos pre-existed. In fact, throughout the Scriptures, even by the mouth of Christ, it is admitted that Christ pre-existed.
We acknowledge that “Word” is personalized as “him”, in John 1:4, but that is a common Hebraism found throughout the Bible. Riches, Wisdom, Sin, and other subjects are similarly treated. Sometimes these are used to press the doctrine of pre-existence. For example, on several occasions, Jehovah’s Witnesses have drawn attention to such passages as Proverbs 8:22, and applied them to their notion of a pre-existent Jesus. The passage reads:
“The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old.”
The subject matter of the chapter is wisdom which is personified; but, unfortunately for the doctrine of the preexistent son, it is personified as a woman: “She standeth, she crieth” etc. (Prov. 8:1-3).
The author fails to understand that in the original language, the pronouns do not exist, but is assume by the translator because of the gender of the word; however, with that said, Christ Himself identified with the Wisdom of Proverbs,
The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, “Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by all her children.” (Luke 7:34-35 NKJV)
And Paul did as well,
For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (1 Corinthians 1:22-24 NKJV)
One has to defuse themselves of pre-conceived notions of gender when dealing with words in other languages.
Finally, what is noted is that those that denied the deity of Christ were those on the extreme fringes of Christianity, such as the Ebonites. Both Ignatius and Polycarp, direct disciples of the Apostle John, willingly called Jesus Christ God. There was no question on His deity in the early Church. If your doctrine can only find support in your interpretation of the Apostles, then it is a doctrine of bad choice.
I would encourage the author to read this post which tells us that those that deny that Christ came in the flesh, are antichrist. To come in the flesh, one must first pre-exist.
I will close with the words of the Apostles John,
And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us insight to know him who is true, and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This one is the true God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20 NET)
Jesus Christ is the one true God and in Him is our Eternal life.