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He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all. And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. - John 3:31-32

Here we have two distinct "he" in view: "he" from above (heaven) and "he from below (earth), see John 8:23

The "he from the earth is represented by 3rd person singular pronoun: Of the earth "he is" and of the earth "he speaks".

The "he from above is also represented by 3rd person singular pronoun: From heaven "he is" and what "he testifies" here (and which no man receives) is what "he has seen" and "he has heard" there (heaven above).

There are those who disbelieve that the Son of God had a personal pre-existence prior to being born of a virgin and given the name of Jesus. The claim, as I understand it, is that prior to the birth of Jesus all reference to "him" is a reference to the Logos as the non-personal "plan of God". See this related question as an example.

For those who deny the pre-incarnate personal existence of the Son of God:

In the very direct comparison of John 3:31-32, How is it that 3rd person singular can refer to person-hood in "he who is from the earth" but not person-hood in "he who is from above"?

Secondarily, How can "he from above" have seen and heard that which "he" later testifies if "he" had no person-hood prior to earthly existence? Can a plan see, hear, and remember in order to later testify?

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    (Up-voted +1.) This text clearly links to John's own expression the life, the eternal, which was with the Father and was manifested to us , 1 John 1:2 [literal], where John coneys a prior existence which is eternal (and therefore divine) and also 'with' (pros) the Father (hence an existence as Son) all of which preempts manifestation. – Nigel J May 4 at 13:19
  • I like this question +1 from me. I have always been taught, one must start at the beginning...John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (BSB) – Adam May 4 at 21:24
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The argument seems to be based on grammar of the target translation language, not on that of the source text. The original Greek of John 3 does not echo this "two distinct He" mentioned in the question:

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In all cases the Greek is the same inflection: "he" is not represented by a 3rd person singular pronoun, but by first person singular nominative (translated as "the one").

Nor does John 8:23:

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Where ἐγὼ in both cases is also the same inflection.

If this would be referring to two distinctive "me" or "he", one would expect one (the one above) to be in Nominative and the second (the testifier) in either Accusative or Dative case, depending on whether the association is meant to be direct or indirect respectively, if the argument is to be inferred into the original Greek.

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[First] In the very direct comparison of John 3:31-32, How is it that 3rd person singular can refer to person-hood in "he who is from the earth" but not person-hood in "he who is from above"?

In the Greek text, "he who is from above" is not expressed with the Indicative Present (as in English) but with the Present Participle (ho anothen erchōmenos), something like "the one coming from above". Similarly, "he who is from the earth" is, literally, "the one being from the earth" (ho ōn ek tēs gēs). The real question is not about grammar, but about meaning: what does "coming from above", referred to Jesus, mean? Jesus comes from above because ... he is the incarnation of God's eternal logos.

Secondarily, How can "he from above" have seen and heard that which "he" later testifies if "he" had no person-hood prior to earthly existence? Can a plan see, hear, and remember in order to later testify?

I surmise that Jesus, "the one coming from above" has "seen and heard" what he testifies to because God, the Father Almighty, his Father, has disclosed it to him.

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  • ο ανωθεν ερχομενος should be translated he (who) from above comes (see the Englishman's Greek New Testament) and is a concept of state. It does not imply a present 'coming'. It is a statement of fact about 'he who comes'. – Nigel J May 11 at 13:17
  • @Nigel Indeed ερχομενος,, in John 3:31, "does not imply a present 'coming'", but expresses "a concept of state". It can be translated, equally well, with the Presente indicative (he who comes from above) or with with the Gerund (the one coming from above). The problem is not with the grammar but with the (projected) pre-existence. – Miguel de Servet May 11 at 14:18

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