`And now, glorify me, Thou Father, with Thyself, with the glory that I had before the world was, with Thee; [John 17:5, YLT]

And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was. [John 17:5, KJV]

And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. [John 17:5, ESV]

At face value, this verse appears to be saying 1) that Jesus already existed before the creation of the world, 2) that He was in a glorified form and 3) that He was with the Father at that time. The top answers on this related question from Hermeneutics.SE arrive at the same conclusion. Of course, deniers of Jesus' preincarnate existence do not accept this conclusion, so they must interpret John 17:5 differently. How do they interpret this verse?

Note: a related discussion on Hermeneutics.SE for the interested reader: Is there room for interpreting John 17:5 as Jesus having notional/ideal pre-existence in light of 2 Timothy 1:9?

  • 1
    Readers of the scriptures know that to take one verse and ask questions of it in isolation to all other texts is to invite confusion and error. What this one verse seems to imply depends on whether you begin with an presumed theology or draw one from the text in concert with all others. (the top answer is irrelevant if it ignores the text) – user47952 Mar 30 at 21:59
  • Simple. Jesus had notional pre-existence and notional glory with God 'before the world was'. This is not personal, conscious pre-existence, but existing in the mind of God as part of his plan. Compare 2 Timothy 1:9. Will bang this into a proper answer tonight if someone else doesn't. – One God the Father Mar 30 at 22:47
  • @AnthonyBurg - you just inspired me to ask this question: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/58403/… – Spirit Realm Investigator Mar 31 at 0:59
  • Read Isaiah 9:6 along this passage in John and it becomes very self explanatory. Irrespective of what Isaiah plainly says, the JW solution was to simply say, "oh God created Him just before the World" (who knows whether that's a minute, an hour, or a millennium). – Adam Apr 1 at 14:02

Ancient Jewish culture had a concept of notional pre-existence. See Jesus’ Pre-Existence – Literal or Ideal? Something could exist in the mind of God (God's plan), and be talked about as existing but in a different sense from how we normally talk about existence - it exists or existed notionally.

So, the question is if Jesus had notional pre-existence but not literal pre-existence, then how can that be squared with the phrase

"with the glory that I had with you before the world was."

at John 17:5. That is, how can something that doesn't have literal existence have glory?

But again, if someone can exist notionally, what makes one think glory can't exist notionally? That is, why can't Jesus existing notionally in God's plan have glory in God's plan? There seems to be no reason why not. It is simply an imposition of our modern ways of thinking upon an ancient Jewish text to say he couldn't. As commentary on John 17:5 in the Revised English Version Bible says

"Jesus was praying that the glory the Old Testament foretold he would have, and which had been in the mind of God the Father since before the world began, would come into concretion."

Addendum: the debate about pre-existence is to a large extent a proxy debate which is actually about whether Jesus is God. Unitarians say Jesus is not God, and usually say Jesus did not have literal pre-existence. Trinitarians say Jesus is God, and therefore did have literal pre-existence.

It is interesting to note that almost immediately prior to the verse about Jesus' glory, at John 17:3, Jesus says "You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent." It's pretty clear - two entities, God on the one hand and Jesus on the other. If Jesus did pre-exist, according to John's Gospel he wasn't God pre-existing.

  • The language indicates actuality rather than notionality. Whatever the glory is Jesus uses ειχον to reference it's relationship to himself. The word ειχον is the 1st person single form of the verb. Its tense is imperfect (which indicates action in past time), its voice is active (which indicates that the subject performs the action instead of receives it), and its mood is indicative (which describes a situation that actually is — as opposed to a situation that might be, is wished for, or is commanded to be). – Mike Borden Apr 1 at 12:30
  • @MikeBorden Why do you think notional existence is something that 'might be, is wished for, or is commanded to be'? That's not my understanding of the concept. It exists, in the mind of God. – One God the Father Apr 1 at 16:41
  • If it exists in the mind of God then it exists eternally and actually. This explains how Romans 8:30 places glorified in the past tense. It is temporally yet to be for the justified but an actual existing fact for eternal God. There is no ontological difference between what God thinks, what He says, and what He does. If He thinks, says, or does it, it is. – Mike Borden Apr 2 at 12:17
  • @MikeBorden Is this further elaboration on your initial point? – One God the Father Apr 2 at 14:52
  • @Mike you may as well also say that Adam was born 65 million years ago, because God had planned it so. Well yes he was planned, but until God said the word, he was not yet. Jesus was also planned, but until the line from Abraham and David etc matured and the time was right, Jesus was just a plan. Grace is delivered thru Christ like never before - even tho it too was planned to be since forever, the OT people never had a clue what would come in the next age. They were under law not grace. Until the death on cross, grace had not become a reality - even though God had already planned it. – user47952 Apr 3 at 8:03

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