The Preexistence of Jesus
I just found Human Jesus Theology, a blog that seems ostensibly Christian, though the theology is a bit skewed. For example, in this post, author Jeffery W. Campbell takes a passage often used to establish the deity and preexistence of Jesus and argue that it does no such thing.
John 8:58 reads, “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.'” It is Campbell’s argument that this passage doesn’t establish the preexistence of Jesus because the name I AM from Exodus 3:14 isn’t the name of God.
Of course, to make this argument convincing, Campbell has to go to the Septuagint. It should be noted that the Septuagint is not the original language of the Old Testament; the Septuagint was written in Greek, but the Old Testament was written in Hebrew.
Even if this was a convincing argument, Campbell is ignoring other passages that unambiguously establish the preexistence of Jesus. Start with John 1:1-5:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
The “Word” of verse 1 is defined as Jesus in verses 14-18:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'”) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
Paul establishes the preexistence of Christ as well. In his letter to the Colossians 1:15-20, the apostle writes of Jesus:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Campbell can argue against one passage, but nothing in the Bible exists in a vacuum apart from everything else. There are numerous verses that establish the preexistence of Christ, which is why it is one of the core tenets of the Christian faith. John 8:53, while important, isn’t the cornerstone upon which the preexistence of Jesus is built.