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Introduction

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 be112 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:20-21. 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.22This 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.

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.33F. 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 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 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. The question of the exact date of John's gospel, however, is not so easily resolved. Merril C. Tenney44Merril C. Tenney, "John" in The Expositor's Bible Commentary, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981) vol. 9, pp. 9-10. 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[75]) have demolished any ideas of a second-century date for John, and today the dates normally fall between A.D. 85 and 95.55Philip 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. 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.


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