APO:The Pre-Existence of Christ in Scripture, Paristics, and Creed by James White
Our modern world is decidedly confused. On the one hand, the
rationalistic, humanistic viewpoint dominates within our public
education system. We are now taught to question the validity of
anything that can be called “supernatural.” The very idea that someone
might believe in miracles, revelation, etc., is opened up to direct
ridicule. At the same time, in a direct reaction against this kind of
dry humanism, many people are fleeing for refuge into every kind of
spiritistic group imaginable. “Channeling” (a fancy way of saying a
spirit medium) is very popular, and the Eastern ideas of reincarnation
and mysticism are drawing converts from every walk of life.
In the midst of all of this confusion we find the Bible, continuing
to proclaim the timeless message of Jesus Christ. Yet even the Lord
Jesus has come in for modern “updating” in many men’s writings. After a
century of “searching for the historical Jesus” men (hopefully) have
discovered that outside of the inspired writings of the apostles in the
New Testament, we will not find much information on who Jesus was.
Indeed, unless we see that it is illogical and irrational to reject the
Scriptures for what they claim to be we will never have much to say
to our world.
Today it is normal for “Christian” theologians to de-emphasize the
doctrinal aspects of the Person of Jesus Christ. Since rationalism and
naturalism are the modes of the day, it is unpopular to deal with the
clear Biblical teaching of the deity of the Lord Jesus and his pre-
existence. The person who looks to the Bible, however, has little
choice in the matter – the doctrine is clearly stated both in the
Gospels as well as the epistles, and indeed it is implicit in most of
the New Testament.
One cannot easily disassociate the doctrine of the pre-existence of
Christ from that of his deity, as they are part and parcel of the same
teaching. An in-depth discussion of the deity of Christ is outside of
the realm of this paper, and it will be assumed that an understanding
of the main elements of this doctrine are shared with the reader.2
This discussion will be limited to the focal passages found in the
New Testament that deal with the pre-existence of the Lord Jesus. For
our purposes these are as follows: John 1:1-3, Colossians 1:15-17, and
Philippians 2:5-7. Each of these passages have much in common, as we
shall see in our examination of them, both in an exegetical
understanding, as well as in patristic interpretation.
It will be relevant to a discussion of the early Church’s views to
discuss the order of writing of the books which contain our primary
data on the pre-existence of Christ. Generally, the Pauline epistles
are dated anywhere from the late 40’s to the late 60’s of the first
century. The majority of scholarship sees Paul’s writings preceding
John’s by quite some time, and there is general agreement concerning
the order of Paul’s letters and their place in history. The question
of the exact date of John’s gospel, however, is not so easily resolved.
Merril C. Tenney notes that modern estimates range from 45 to beyond
100 A.D. Part of the problem can be found in the fact that during what
might be called the “hyper-critical” period of the last century, it
became quite popular to deny the Johanine authorship of the Gospel of
John, and, due to its high Christology (which the rationalists assumed
had to be a mythological invention of the early Church) place it at
least into the second century. Modern textual finds (such as the famous
P) have demolished any ideas of a second-century date for John, and
today the dates normally fall between A.D. 85 and 95. What is very
important to notice about the fact of the early (i.e., non-second
century dating) is that the Christology of John is, therefore, no
different than that of the early Church as the book was written during
the same time period! Indeed, there is no way for there to have been
sufficient time for such “myths” to have evolved, and, it is not
logical to think that John would have written about certain events that
could be proven false by living witnesses! With these facts in mind, we
can move on to the actual exegesis of these passages.
Exegesis of Principal Passages
The Prologue of John (1:1-18) is unique in Biblical literature. It
is clear that the main point of John is not the person of God. His
emphasis is the identity of the Word. The Logos is the central figure
of the work, and the teaching of the passage is that the Logos is
intricately involved with the creation of the universe. The pre-
existence of the Logos is clearly stated and assumed throughout the
Much has been said concerning the origin of the term logos. Philo
used the term, yet the logos of Philo is simply an impersonal
manifestation of the Wisdom of God. John’s usage of the term may indeed
borrow from Philo (especially if John wrote the Gospel while in
Ephesus, as the Greeks would be able to understand the term), but he
goes far beyond anything Philo dreamed of. Rather than a pantheistic,
impersonal divine emanation, the Logos of John is a personal, eternal
being who is not simply a part of creation, but is rather the Creator
The first verse itself must be examined to be understood.
Transliterated into Greek the verse reads: En arche en ho logos, kai ho
logos en pros ton theon, kai theos en ho logos. The verse breaks down
into three clauses, each being vital to the whole. The first thing to
notice is the fact that the imperfect form of eimi is used throughout
the prologue in reference to the Logos. This tense, attached to the
phrase “en arche” is timeless – i.e, as far back as one wishes to push
the “beginning” the Word is already in existence. This is seen, for
example, in the translation of the New English Bible which renders it,
“When all things began, the Word already was.” Today’s English Version
puts it, “Before the world was created, the Word already existed…”
Hence, the first phrase clearly presents the eternality of the Word and
hence his pre-existence.
The second phrase presents the inter-personal relationship of the
Logos and God. The Greek phrase pros, translated “with,” refers to the
existence of communication and fellowship between the Logos and
theos. The word was used to describe being “face to face” with
another. Now, unless John had added the final phrase (“and the Word was
God”) there would have been a problem here, as the first phrase clearly
presents the Logos as eternal, while the second demonstrates his
distinct personality. This would create polytheism without the final
phrase’s emendation. At the same time, this second clause ends any
chance of Sabellianism’s success.
The final phrase, kai theos en ho logos, presents a syntactical
arrangement in which the term theos is emphasized. At the same time,
the sentence is copulative, and the presence of the article with logos
simply sets it out as the subject of the sentence. Much has been said
concerning the lack of the article with theos but that discussion is
beyond the scope of this paper. Basically, the construction 1) avoids
modalism (i.e., the Word is not said to be completely co-extensive with
theos) and 2) teaches that the Word has the same nature as God (a point
that Paul will reiterate in Philippians).
Verse 3 links the eternality of the Word with creatorship. “Through
him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been
made.” John here is intent on separating the Logos from the realm of
the created – he started in the very first phrase by asserting his
timeless existence and continues here by attributing to the Logos all
of creation, an item that will reappear in Colossians. The only
possible way to interpret these verses is to see the Logos as an
eternal being who created all things.
The prologue continues by identifying the Logos with the person of
Jesus Christ in 1:14. It is interesting to note that John very
carefully differentiates between the Word in his absolute nature and
all other things. When the eternal Word is in view, John uses en. When
created things are being discussed (such as John in 1:6), the aorist
egeneto is found. However, when we come to the time event of 1:14
(i.e., the incarnation), John switches from the timeless en to the
aorist egeneto – the Word became flesh at a point in time in history.
Finally, in 1:18, John seals the case by calling Jesus the
“only-begotten God,” or, more accurately, the “unique God” who
reveals the Father, who “exegetes” God to man.
These verses with which John begins his gospel are meant, in my
opinion, to form an “interpretive window” through which the reader is
meant to look at the words that follow. One must constantly keep the
Logos in the back of the mind when interpreting the words and actions
of Jesus. Much of what Christ says must be understood in this light
to even make much sense! His unique relationship with the Father is
intelligible only in the light of his eternal pre-existence with him.
Equally significant are Jesus’ own “I am” sayings found in John
8:24, 8:58, 13:19 and 18:5-6. Though there is some discussion
concerning the use of the phrase ego eimi in this absolute sense,
these passages clearly show an intentional aspect to Christ’s words
relevant to his identity. In both 8:58 and 18:5-6, John takes pains to
make sure the reader understands the impact of Christ’s words on his
hearers. In 13:19 we find an extremely close parallel to the LXX
rendering of Isaiah 43:10, here applied to Christ by himself. One can
hardly escape the significance of the Hebrew term ani hu as used by
Isaiah, and its Greek translation as ego eimi. Since Christ
purposefully utilized these phrases of himself, it is safe to say that
he was claiming for himself the title of the “I Am” – the eternal one,
The other two texts fall outside of the realm of the Gospels, though
they must reflect very early teaching of the Church, and therefore are
just as important as the Johanine passages in determining the
Scriptural basis of the doctrine of the pre-existence of Christ. Both
Pauline passages are vital, and both come from very different contexts.
The first to be examined (Colossians 1:15-17) comes from a book that
seems to contain within it a polemic against gnosticism (or, possibly,
“proto-gnosticism”), while the second (Philippians 2:5-7) comes from a
book that is conspicuous for its lack of polemic.
Colossians 1:15-17 is considered by some to be an early Christian
hymn. Its structure most definitely resembles the poetic style of a
song, and one can find it easy to see how Paul would utilize song to
teach doctrine in the churches. The principal verses relevant to our
discussion of pre-existence form the first half of this passage – the
second discusses the pre-eminence of Christ in redemption and in the
In vs. 15 the pre-existent Christ is styled the “eikon tou theou tou
aoratou” – the express image of the invisible God. One can easily see
the parallel between this and John’s description of Christ as the
unique God who “exegetes” the Father (1:18). In Christ the invisible
God became visible to man. Attendant to this, Paul describes Christ as
the prototokos – the firstborn. The main meaning of “firstborn” is
the one who has pre-eminence, and indeed, the Hebrew term which
prototokos translates in the LXX (bekhor) is not connected with either
the ideas of protos or tokos. Hence, the pre-eminence of Christ is
the point of prototokos, and, as the following verses will make very
clear, there is no temporal idea of generation or creation found in
this passage relevant to Christ.
Verses 16 and 17 exhaust the Greek mind in their rush to include all
of creation in the realm of the power of Christ. Nothing is left out by
Paul at this point. His use of the phrase ta panta is absolute, and to
make sure that everyone realizes this, he lists the elements that make
up the panta. J. B. Lightfoot well comments:
“All the laws and purposes which guide the creation and government
of the Universe reside in Him, the Eternal Word, as their
meeting-point. The Apostolic doctrine of the Logos teaches us to regard
the Eternal Word as holding the same relation to the Universe which the
Incarnate Christ holds to the Church. He is the source of its life, the
centre of all its developments, the mainspring of all its motions…The
Judeo-Alexandrian teachers represented the Logos, which in their view
was nothing more than the Divine mind energizing, as the topos where
the eternal ideas…have their abode…The Apostolic teaching is an
enlargement of this conception, inasmuch as the Logos is no longer a
philosophical abstraction but a Divine Person…”
In this divine person all things “hold together” or consist. This
divine person is said to be “before ta panta – all things.” There is no
clearer passage in the Bible concerning the fact that Jesus Christ, the
eternal Word, created all things. There is no room here for the gnostic
pleroma in which Christ is but a part – no, here Christ is seen as the
Creator Himself who holds the universe together by his own power. The
pre- existent Christ shines brightly in Paul’s mind, and forms the
basis for his teaching of the relationship between Christ and the
Church. Note also the harmony between Paul and John on this point.
The third passage to be examined comes from Paul’s letter to the
church at Philippi. It, too, is hymnic in structure, and is set off as
such by the New International Version. The major section comprises what
is actually a sermon illustration of Paul’s in reference to his
admonition to the Philippians to act in humility of mind toward one
another. To support this point, Paul points to the person of Jesus
Christ as the ultimate example of this attitude. Indeed, it is vital to
understand the immediately preceding context when some phrases within
the passage are encountered, as we shall see.
The first phrase of verse 6 sets the tone for the theological
discussion to follow. Paul says that Christ was “existing” (huparchon)
in the “form of God” (morphe tou theou). What does this mean? The
participle huparchon is again “timeless” in that it does not point to
any moment when Jesus “started” to exist in the form of God – Christ
has always been in the form of God. And what is the morphe? It is that
quality or characteristic which makes something what it is rather than
what it is not. God is known by his morphe, and no other being has his
form. The NIV picks this up by translating the phrase, “who being in
very nature God…”
Paul is here looking back before the incarnation to the pre-
existent state of the Lord, and says that in that state the Lord Jesus
shared with the Father the form of God. Not only this, but he goes on
to say that the Lord had “equality with God” and yet did not regard
that equality something to be “grasped.” Much has been written on just
how to take the term harpagmon. After plowing through a large
portion of the material representing various views, the interpretation
given by Chrysostom and followed by Lightfoot seems to be the
only logical outcome and is the one that best fits the context of the
passage. Basically, this view sees the word harpagmon referring to the
fact that Christ, though already equal with the Father, did not regard
that equality something to be held on to at all cost, but, as the
ultimate example of humility, laid his privileges aside for our sakes
and “made himself nothing.” This fits the context of the passage, that
of walking in “humility of mind” for how can it be an example of
humility for Christ to not desire equality with God if he did not
already have it? Not trying to become equal with God is not humility –
it is simply not committing blasphemy.
We have now seen three passages that clearly present the Lord Jesus
as having had a personal, distinct existence before his incarnation and
earthly life. This existence is seen to be personal, and to be
connected with distinctive acts such as creation and intimate
fellowship with the Father. His pre-incarnation life is also seen to
have been eternal, and not temporal as that of a creation. Given this
fact, how did the early Christian Fathers view this doctrine? To this
we now turn.
As we have seen, the doctrine of the pre-existence of Christ is
explicitly stated in the New Testament documents, and is implicit in
much of the story of Jesus as well as the teaching of the Church about
his person. J.N.D. Kelly notes this, and given all of this data, it
seems incredible that anyone today could still maintain that the
doctrine is based on the reflection of the Church. Such “mythologizing”
takes more time than the documents now allow.
The Apostolic Fathers do not give us a great deal of information on
Christology proper. Hence, the information to be found on this
particular aspect of the doctrine of Christ will also be scant. There
are still, however, some interesting facts.
Ignatius gives us one of the most eloquent statements concerning the
early Church’s view of Christ in his letter to the Ephesians, 7:2:
“There is one only physician, of flesh and of spirit, generate and
ingenerate (gennetos kai agennetos) God in man (en anthropo theos),
true Life in death, Son of Mary and Son of God, first passible and then
impassible, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
The duality of the Lord’s nature (God/man) is clearly seen in
Ignatius, and is repeated in his letter to Polycarp, 3:2:
“Await Him that is above every season, the Eternal, the Invisible,
who became visible for our sake, the Impalpable, the Impassible, who
suffered for our sake, who endured in all ways for our sake.”
Pre-existence is not just implied but clearly stated in this
passage, attributing to Christ eternality, and seeing the incarnation
as the point in time at which God broke into human history for the sake
of man. It is significant that Ignatius calls Jesus Christ “God” 14
times in his letters.
Discussion of John 1, Colossians 1 and Philippians 2 was fairly
limited in the early Fathers’ writings, most probably due to the fact
that the Arian controversy was still future, and the church’s main
enemy at that time was gnosticism and docetism, neither of which would
require a strong statement of the pre-existence of Christ, at least by
itself. Paul is attacking gnostic ideas in Colossians, but even the
gnostics believed in some kind of pre-existence for Christ. Irenaeus
exegeted John 1:1 against the gnostics in Book V of Against Heresies,
chapter 18, and did as Paul did and pointed out that Jesus is the
Creator not a part of the creation.
The introduction of Arianism drew the attention of the Church back
to the Person of Christ and his relationship with the Father. Origen’s
synthesis of Greek philosophy and its idea of the Divine Wisdom with
Christian doctrine had laid the groundwork for Arius’ denial of the
absolute deity of Christ and, thereby, the denial of the eternal pre-
existence of the Lord Jesus. John’s filling of the eternal Logos with
personality was reversed somewhat, and the timeless en of John 1:1
seemingly was lost in the shuffle.
It is no surprise, then, that the Church Fathers after Nicea spend
much more time on John 1:1, Colossians 1:15-17, and Philippians 2:5-7.
The Nicene Creed had clearly stated the Deity of Christ as well as his
pre-existence. The six decades that followed saw a resurgence of
Arianism and, after great struggle, the victory of the Nicene faith.
During that time the great Athanasius wrote volumes in defense of the
deity of the Son. Chalcedon reaffirmed Nicea and went farther in
attempting to answer the questions concerning the relationship of the
divine and the human in Christ.
The body of writing of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers is large
indeed. The series edited by Schaff takes up 28 large volumes alone.
Hence, to overview all of this literature would be far beyond the scope
of this paper. Therefore, the three main exegetes of the century after
Nicea – Chrysostom, Athanasius, and Augustine – will be examined,
briefly, to determine how they understood the focal passages listed
Of the three Fathers I have chosen to look at, Chrysostom (345- 407)
expressed the clearest if not the most in-depth understanding of the
doctrine of the pre-existence of Christ. Chrysostom was called the
“golden-mouthed,” and this passage on John 1:1 should explain why:
“For the intellect, having ascended to `the beginning,’ enquires
what `beginning’: and then finding the `was’ always outstripping its
imagination, has no point at which to stay its thought; but looking
intently onwards, and being unable to cease at any point, it becomes
wearied out, and turns back to things below. For this, `was in the
beginning,’ is nothing else than expressive of ever being and being
Chrysostom’s point is the same as made previously on the basis of
the imperfect en in 1:1 – it is timeless. A little later he adds,
“…(the) first `was,’ applied to `the Word,’ is only indicative of His
eternal Being…” In the same manner, he keys on the term pros as well,
saying “For he does not say, was `in God,’ but was `with God’:
declaring to us His eternity as to person. Then, as he advances, he has
more clearly revealed it, by adding, that this `Word’ also `was
God.'” The eternality of the Word was one of Chrysostom’s main
ideas in his exegesis of John 1, and he repeatedly stressed the
Nor did Colossians 1:15-17 escape Chrysostom’s notice. Keying on
verses 16-17, he attacked the gnostic concept of the creation and its
duality by pressing the list of things created by Christ, claiming that
obviously Paul was including all of creation under the Son’s reign.
“…the subsistence of all things depends on Him. Not only did He
Himself bring them out of nothing into being, but Himself sustains them
now, so that were they dissevered from His Providence, they were at
once undone and destroyed.”
Most importantly, Chrysostom contributed greatly to the
understanding of Philippians 2:5-11. He wrote:
“What does Paul wish to establish by this example? Surely, to lead
the Philippians to humility. To what purpose then did he bring forward
this example? For no one who would exhort to humility speaks thus; `Be
thou humble, and think less of thyself than of thine equals in honor,
for such an one who is a slave has not risen against his master; do
thou imitate him.’ This, any one would say, is not humility, but
arrogance!…If he were exhorting servants to obey the free, to what
purpose could he bring forward the subjection of a servant to a master?
of a lesser to a greater?”
The point has already been made (in the exegesis section) that the
understanding of Paul’s exhortation to humility is, in this writer’s
opinion, the key to understanding the passage, and here Chrysostom
makes this point quite well.
Rightly called the great defender of the Nicene faith, Athanasius
possessed a keen insight into the central doctrines of Christianity.
Like Augustine after him, Athanasius saw Philippians 2:5-7 in close
connection with John 1:1. In his “Four Discourses Against the Arians”,
Discourse II, he ties John 1:1, 14 together with Philippians 2:6 as
his main Scriptural support of the deity of Christ. To Athanasius,
John’s eternal Word existing “with” God and being God is the same as
Paul’s pre-existent Christ eternally existing in God’s form and being
equal with him.
Similarly, Athanasius quotes all of the Carmen Christi and then
says, “Can anything be plainer than this? He was not from a lower state
promoted; but rather, existing as God, He took the form of a servant,
and in taking it, was not promoted but humbled Himself.” This view
of the eternally existing Christ is found also in his “Statement of
Faith” in which he says,
“All things to wit were made through the Son; but He Himself is not
a creature, as Paul says of the Lord: `In Him were all things created,
and He is before All’ (Col. 1:16). Now He says not, `was created’
before all things, but `is’ before all things. To be created, namely,
is applicable to all things, but `is before all’ applies to the Son
One final quote from Athanasius should be sufficient to represent
his interpretation of this doctrine:
“Therefore if the Word be creature, He would not be first or
beginning of the rest; yet if He be before all, as indeed He is, and is
Himself alone First and Son, it does not follow that He is beginning of
all things as to His Essence, for what is the beginning of all is in
the number of all. And if He is not such a beginning, then neither is
He a creature, but it is very plain that He differs in essence and
nature from the creatures, and is other than they, and is Likeness and
Image of the sole and true God, being Himself sole also. Hence He is
not classed with creatures in Scripture…”
Augustine wrote a great deal on John 1:1 and Philippians 2:5-7, but
very little on Colossians 1:15-17. Quite frequently the two passages
are quoted together. Augustine’s “Homilies on the Gospel of John”
provides plenty of information on his views of the pre-existence of
Christ as revealed in John 1. However, we will look more at the
doctrinal sections of Augustine’s writings. In his “Enchiridion” he
“Wherefore Christ Jesus, the Son of God, is both God and man; God
before all worlds; man in our world: God, because the Word of God
(for`the Word was God’); and man, because in His one person the Word
was joined with a body and a rational soul. Wherefore, so far as He is
God, He and the Father are one; so far as He is man, the Father is
greater than He. For when He was the only Son of God, not by grace, but
by nature, that He might be full of grace, He became the Son of man;
and He Himself unites both natures in His own identity, and both
natures constitute on Christ; because, `being in the form of God, He
thought it not robbery to be,’ what He was by nature, `equal with God.’
But He made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Himself the form of
a servant, not losing or lessening the form of God. And, accordingly,
He was both made less and remained equal, being both in one, as has
been said: but He was one of these as Word, and the other as man. As
Word, He is equal with the Father; as man, less than the Father. One
Son of God, and at the same time Son of man; one Son of man, and at the
same time Son of God; not two Sons of God, God and man, but one Son of
God; God without beginning; man with a beginning, our Lord Jesus
This passage is one of many that could be cited, but it
admirably sums up Augustine’s view-point for our purposes.
A Modern Viewpoint: The Westminster Confession
The Westminster Confession is hailed by many as the greatest
theological creed since the Reformation era, and so it is. A lengthy
discussion need not be put forth to demonsrate the harmony between
Westminster and the Scriptures, creeds, and Fathers already cited. The
Confession itself, Chapter VIII “Of Christ the Mediator,” sections
I-III should be sufficient to demonstrate the acceptance of the
“I. It pleased God, in his eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the
Lord Jesus, his only-begotten Son, to be the Mediator between God and
man, the Prophet, Priest, and King; the Head and Saviour of his Church,
the Heir of all things, and Judge of the world; unto whom he did, from
all eternity, give a people to be his seed, and to be by him in time
redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified. “II. The Son of
God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of
one substance, and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of
time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential
properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin: being
conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Virgin
Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct
natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together
in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which
person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator
between God and man. III. The Lord Jesus, in his human nature thus
united to the divine, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit
above measure; having in him all the treasure of wisdom and knowledge,
in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell;…”
The greatest of the Protestant creeds clearly bases its high view of
the Lord Jesus Christ on the fact of the Scriptural revelation of his
eternal pre-existence with the Father, in the very form of God. This
writer sees any movement away from the clear stance of Westminster
(reflecting Biblical teaching) as a move away from truth.
We have seen above that the New Testament writers John and Paul both
clearly presented the fact of the pre-existence of the Lord Jesus
Christ. Not only did Christ exist before his birth in Bethlehem, but he
existed eternally pros ton theon (with God) and in the very nature of
God (morphe tou theou). These are high words and concepts, to be sure;
but no less true. We have seen that the early church fathers understood
this concept (Ignatius) and made it a part of their teaching. The
council of Nicea reaffirmed the faith of the Apostles, and the great
Church fathers Chrysostom, Athanasius and Augustine were in harmony
with those who came before. Finally, we saw that the great creed of the
Protestant faith, Westminster, continues the millenia-old understanding
of Christians everywhere that the Lord of Glory, Jesus Christ, has
eternally been God.
References: 1) 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:20-21.
2) This writer sees the following passages as directly ascribing to
Jesus Christ the term God: Isaiah 9:6 (Hebrew: Elohim) John 1:1 (Greek:
theos), 1:18, 20:28, Acts 20:28 (depending on text), Romans 9:5, Titus
2:13, Hebrews 1:8, 2 Peter 1:1 and (possibly) 1 John 5:20.
Interestingly, in reference to Titus 2:13 (and 2 Peter 1:1 – both
similar syntactical constructions) Chrysostom (“Homily IV on
Philippians in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers volume 13, pg. 207)
clearly understood the implications of the syntax of Titus 2:13, and
bases part of his polemic against the Arians on the application of
theos to Christ. See also A. T. Robertson, The Minister and His Greek
New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977), pgs. 61-68.
3) F. F. Bruce Paul Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand Rapids: Wm.
B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1977) p. 475) places the epistles of
Paul in the following order: Galatians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, 1 and 2
Corinthians, Romans, Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, 1 &
2 Timothy, Titus with Galatians at 48 A.D., Colossians and Philippians
in 60-62 A.D., and Paul’s death in approximately 65 A.D. This is almost
identical to A. T. Robertson’s (“Paul the Apostle” in The International
Standard Bible Encyclopedia (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing
Company, 1956) vol. 3:2265-2266) order of writing, with the exception
of Galatians, which Robertson places just before Romans. See also Ralph
Martin, “Colossians and Philemon” in The New Century Bible Commentary,
(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1983) pg. 30 on the
dating of Colossians.
4) Merril C. Tenney, “John” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary,
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981) vol. 9, pp. 9-10.
5) Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church , (Grand Rapids:
Wm B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1985) vol. 1:721-724 gives a good
argument for Johanine authorship, and dates it before 100 A.D. A. T.
Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Baker
Book House, 1932) vol. 5:1 dates John at A.D. 90. James Iverach, “John
the Apostle” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, (Grand
Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1956) vol. 3:1721-1722
also dates John at end of first century.
6) G. L. Prestige, God in Patristic Thought, (London:SPCK, 1952),
pp. 124, 141. Ralph Martin, “Colossians and Philemon” in The New
Century Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing
Company, 1973) pg. 58.
7) A. T. Robertson, A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the
Light of Historical Research (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1934) pp.
625f. See discussion in A. T. Robertson, The Divinity of Christ in the
Gospel of John (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1976) pp. 34-46.
8) See F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Wm. B.
Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1983) p. 31, or Leon Morris, The Gospel
According to John, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company,
1971) pg. 77 for a discussion of some of the issues involved in the
translation of this phrase. Most noteably, the New World Translation of
the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society mistranslates the phrase as “the
Word was a god.”
9) On the text of John 1:18 and the superiority of the reading theos
over huios, see Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the New
Testament (New York: United Bible Societies, 1975) p. 198, A.T.
Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, 5:17. For citation of
manuscripts, see the UBS text, 3rd ed. corrected, p. 322.
10) For the true meaning of monogenes see J.H. Moulton and George
Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm B.
Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1935) pp. 416-417.
11) Greek: exegesato, to lead out, bring forth, make known, explain.
12) For an interesting discussion of the relationship of the
Prologue to the rest of John, see John A. T. Robinson, Twelve More New
Testament Studies (London: SCM Press, 1984) pp. 65-76.
13) Philip B. Harner, The I Am Sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of
John, (Fortress Press, 1970).
14) Ralph Martin, “Colossians and Philemon” pp. 55-57; F. F. Bruce,
Paul Apostle of the Heart Set Free pp. 418ff. For further information
on the passage as well as exegesis, see John Calvin, Calvin’s
Commentaries vol. 21:151-152.
15) See Wilhelm Michaelis, “Prototokos” in Theological Dictionary of
the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company,
1982) vol. 6:872ff.
16) See M. Tsevat, “Bekhor” in Theological Dictionary of the Old
Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1975)
vol. 2:121ff. On prototokos see entry in Walter Bauer, A Greek-English
Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature
edited by Gingrich and Danker, 2nd ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1979) p. 726.
17) J. B. Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistles to the Colossians and
Philemon, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1959) pp. 150-151.
See also pp. 151-153 on the extent of ta panta.
18) For other views and discussion on Colossians 1:15-17 in a
theological setting, see Donald Guthrie, New Testament Theology
(Inter-Varsity Press: USA, 1981) pp. 344-352; George Eldon Ladd, A
Theology of the New Testament, (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman’s
Publishing Company, 1974) pp. 419-421.
19) Donald Guthrie, New Testament Theology pp. 342-352; George Eldon
Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament pp. 419-421; Henry Alford, New
Testament for English Readers, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983)
pp. 1262-1264; Kenneth Wuest, “Philippians” in Word Studies in the
Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company,
1981) pp. 62-65; J. B. Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistle to the
Philippians, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1953) p. 137.
20) See discussion under patristic interpretation.
22) Both the Authorized Version and the New International Version
see that the term kenosis is always used metaphorically by Paul –
hence, the translation “to make of no repute” or to “make himself
nothing.” It is never used by Paul of a literal “emptying.”
23) J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (New York: Longman Inc.,
1981) pp. 87, 91..cw 9
24) Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, ed., The Ante-Nicene
Fathers (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1981) vol.
25) For the text of the Nicene Creed, see J.N.D. Kelly, Early
Christian Creeds, (New York: Longman Inc., 1981), pp. 215-216 and
Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book
House, 1985) vol. 1:27-28.
26) Schaff, Creeds of Christendom vol 1:30.
27) John Chrysostom, “Homilies on St. John” in The Nicene and
Post-Nicene Fathers, Philip Schaff, ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdman’s
Publishing Company, 1980) vol. 14:8.
28) Chrysostom, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 14:12.
29) Chrysostom, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 14:18. His entire
exegesis found in pages 10-19 is excellent.
30) Chrysostom, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 13:271.
31) Chrysostom, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 13:207-208.
32) Athanasius, “Four Discourses Against the Arians” in The Nicene
and Post-Nicene Fathers (series II) ed. by Philip Schaff (Grand Rapids:
Wm. B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1980) vol. 5:409.
33) Athanasius, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 4:329.
34) Athanasius, “Statement of Faith” in Nicene and Post-Nicene
Fathers, vol. 5:85.
35) Athanasius, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. 5:375. See also
36) Augustine, “Homilies on the Gospel of John” in The Nicene and
Post-Nicene Fathers series I, edited by Philip Schaff, vol. 7:7-13.
Augustine also connected the idea of pre-existence with the absolute
usage of ego eimi at John 8:21-25; in vol. 7:218-219.
37) Augustine, “Enchiridion,” in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers
38) See also Augustine, “On Faith and Creed” in The Nicene and
Post-Nicene Fathers vol 3:322-323, 329.
39) Philip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, vol. 3:619-620.
Researched and written by: James White, B.A., M.A.