`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)
    – steveowen
    Mar 30, 2021 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. Mar 30, 2021 at 22:47
  • @AnthonyBurg - you just inspired me to ask this question: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/58403/…
    – user50422
    Mar 31, 2021 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, 2021 at 14:02

2 Answers 2


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). Apr 1, 2021 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. Apr 1, 2021 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. Apr 2, 2021 at 12:17
  • @MikeBorden Is this further elaboration on your initial point? Apr 2, 2021 at 14:52
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    Although I don't think it necessary to discount directly related verses I will leave out the strong handful in the upper room discourse (John 14-17). That leaves John 6:62 and John 20:17 Aug 24, 2021 at 15:21

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.

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    This answer has Jesus (a person) asking to be glorified with the glory that Logos (a non-person) had but Jesus (the person) referring to his supposedly non-person glory with 1st person single form of a verb that defines identity: The glory that I had. Jesus is referring to his personal self not some kind of notional existence. Aug 22, 2021 at 17:40
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    I didn't frame the answer around notional at all. He IS the logos! The logos was there in the beginning, now (in this age) Jesus is the logos at the end. The glory that was with God in the logos is to be with Jesus at his resurrection. It is the same glory on the same entity - the only difference is the logos is now a human.
    – steveowen
    Aug 22, 2021 at 22:39
  • I like "it is the same glory on the same entity". The person Jesus refers to the non-person Logos as "I" even though, according to some, the person Jesus did not exist some 30 years previously. Did Jesus not know that He was new on the scene? Aug 23, 2021 at 11:23

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