And now, Father, glorify me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world existed. John 17:5 BSB
There's something missing from the various methods used to explain this text in a way that accords with all other scripture. The 'notional' approach has merit and is certainly expressed by the now, but not yet reality of what God is doing and has already done (even though the subjective reality for us is still future). It lacks one element that is fundamental to the whole biblical narrative of who Jesus is.
The idea that Jesus pre-exists his conception and birth is unscriptural. It does have some support dependant on an imaginative and implied approach, but this is not sound when it conflicts with so much scripture that plainly speaks of the man only Jesus who has a God as do all other men.
Such implied theology renders Jesus also being some kind of God which is plainly absurd and incongruent with the whole bible. The matter of the various 'proof-texts' for Jesus being God is dealt with elsewhere on BH.
How do deniers of Jesus' pre-incarnate existence interpret John 17:5?
What is this missing element?
Jesus is the logos become flesh. We may understand his conception, and birth ~4BC, to be his beginning - according to the text of John 1 and 1John. Any other beginning is without scriptural support. There is no mention of him before that except in promise and prophecy.
Jesus knew who he was.
- the son of God
- the holy, sinless son of God
- the Lamb - slain from the foundation of the world
- the logos, from which he is the result of it becoming flesh
- the logos that was God's creative expression and power of life
- he would be (if all went to plan) eventually at God's right hand in the heavenly realm as the firstborn from the dead of all humanity.
- he knew the past and the future. Abraham saw my day etc. Although we are told he didn't know everything.
- he had no power of himself - all he did and said was the Father working in him.
- he understood his earthly glory was not to be compared to the glory of being exalted and granted life as God has. John 5:26
- he understood the word, command and purpose of God was part of his DNA.
- he had his own will which continually had to be made subject to God's will until the final triumphant breath on the cross.
- he knew this conformity was not automatic - he learned obedience by severe suffering and temptation.
- he was a man only and not God. Holy and without sin, but by no means God.
- he knew he was godly, being the image and having the form of God and from the heavenly realm not the earthly realm^
All this understanding was part of who Jesus is, was, what he was doing, where he was going, what he will be.
It is this depth of comprehension of being God's will and word and purpose made into a man that could accomplish things the logos never could! The logos did not have its own will, or a life that could be tempted or die or learn and obey.
When Jesus approached the cross, his holy destiny, all that wonder and majesty of his life - coming from the logos to his actual place by the Father's side - written in his blood and the decree of his God. This was the glory that drove him on!
He knew the glory of God's logos from which came all things - including him. Filled with the spirit without measure as he was, he could see spiritual things unknown to any corrupted man of a realm filled with sin and wickedness. True, some of God's servants did see into the future with just a glimpse, like Abraham and David, Stephen, Moses and others.
He knew the glory of God's creation and salvation plan. He was the key, the heart of that plan and he could see the glory of what God had expressed through His logos and would again when his mission was over. He longed for that glory - not just for himself, but because it would glorify God too!
Father, glorify me in Your presence with the glory I had with You
Knowing who he is, Jesus is seeking this glory of the logos before the beginning, to be also his experience and reward at the completion of all that he was sent to do. The glory not simply of God commanding something to be, which is certainly beyond our comprehension, but of a man, perfectly submitting to God's will by choice and obedience through horrendous pain and suffering of all kinds. This is a glory that was yet to be realised - and it was getting very, very close!
Father, the hour has come; glorify Your son, that the son may glorify You. 2As You gave him authority over all flesh, so that all whom You have given Him, he may give to them eternal life. 3Now this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. 4I glorified You on the earth, having completed the work that You have given me that I should do.
We don't need to rely on an invented Jesus who isn't described by the scriptures, who has some kind of other life, who doesn't have a God but somehow IS God. The one we have been told about is fascinating enough! Certainly, as God Himself has spoken - this is my beloved son, listen to him, bow down before him.
Neither is there a need to deny speculations and interpretations of scripture that have zero support when the text is carefully and honestly exegeted. The very matter of 'incarnation' is without scriptural support and a human construct only.
The glory brought to Jesus is eclipsed only by the glory brought to God - Jesus IS the glory of God!
The son is the radiance of God's glory and the representation of His nature Heb 1:3
to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen. Rom 16:27
every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Phil 2:11
By another example of scripture declaring what IS, even though it is not yet, simply because it is intended to be. If God intends it, it already is, even though it is not yet, we can see John 17:5 in this light also.
And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, has paid tithes, 10for he was still in the loins of his forefather (Abraham) when Melchizedek met him. Heb 7:9
Thus, by similarity, we see that Jesus, already planned to be the 'logos made flesh' before the foundation (Eph 1:4 etc) was able to call on that reality as he looked forward to the final fulfillment of what was intended long ago. The logos could not experience the glory of God, but the embodied logos now can.
^ being 'from heaven' is clearly an expression meant to emphasise his sinless and holy state and indicates who sent him. There are other verse that show many things 'coming from heaven' but these also are figures of speech and not a literal meaning.