John 17:5



And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. (NIV)




Biblical Unitarian


1. There is no question that Jesus "existed" before the world began. But did he exist literally as a person or in God's foreknowledge, "in the mind of God?" Both Christ and the corporate be in the Body of Christ, the Church, existed in God's foreknowledge before being alive. Christ was the "logos," the "plan" of God from the beginning, and he became flesh only when he was conceived. It is Trinitarian bias that causes people to read an actual physical existence into this verse rather than a figurative existence in the mind of God. When 2 Timothy 1:9 says that each Christian was given grace "before the beginning of time," no one tries to prove that we were actually alive with God back then. Everyone acknowledges that we were "in the mind of God," i.e., in God's foreknowledge. The same is true of Jesus Christ. His glory was "with the Father" before the world began, and in John 17:5 he prayed that it would come into manifestation.

2. Jesus was praying that he would have the glory the Old Testament foretold, which had been in the mind of God, the Father, since before the world began, and would come into concretion. Trinitarians, however, teach that Jesus was praying about glory he had with God many years before his birth, and they assert that this proves he had access to the mind and memory of his "God nature." However, if, as a man, Jesus "remembered" being in glory with the Father before the world began, then he would have known he was God in every sense. He would not have thought of himself as a "man" at all. If he knew he was God, he would not and could not have been "tempted in every way just as we are" because nothing he encountered would have been a "real" temptation to him. He would have had no fear and no thought of failure. There is no real sense in which Scripture could actually say he was "made like his brothers in every way" (Heb. 2:17) because he would not have been like us at all. Furthermore, Scripture says that Jesus "grew" in knowledge and wisdom. That would not really be true if Christ had access to some type of God-nature with infinite knowledge and wisdom.

We believe that John 17:5 is a great example of a verse that demonstrates the need for clear thinking concerning the doctrine of the Trinity. The verse can clearly be interpreted in a way that is honest and biblically sound, and shows that Christ was a man, but was in the foreknowledge of God as God's plan for the salvation of mankind. It can also be used the way Trinitarians use it: to prove the Trinity. However, when it is used that way it reveals a Christ that we as Christians cannot truly identify with. We do not have a God-nature to help us when we are tempted or are in trouble or lack knowledge or wisdom. The Bible says that Christ can "sympathize with our weakness" because he was "tempted in every way, just as we are" (Heb. 4:15). The thrust of that verse is very straightforward. Because Christ was just like we are, and was tempted in every way that we are, he can sympathize with us. However, if he was not "just as we are," then he would not be able to sympathize with us. We assert that making Christ a God-man makes it impossible to really identify with him.

3. Jesus' prayer in John 17 sets a wonderful example for us as Christians. He poured out his heart to his Father, "the only true God" (John 17:3), and prayed that the prophecies of the Old Testament about him would be fulfilled.

4. For Christ's relation to the Plan of God, see notes on John 1:1. For more on Christ in God's foreknowledge, see the note on John 8:58.

Racovian Catechism, pp. 144-146

Snedeker, pp. 424 and 425





John 17:5




Wrested Scriptures



John 17:5

"And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was."


If Christ had glory with God before the world was, then obviously it is argued he must have existed before his birth on earth.


  1. Stress is often placed on Jesus' statement that he had glory with the Father. The J.W.'s in their New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures translate this verse as follows: "So now you, Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you before the world was."1 But the Greek preposition "para" translated "with" in the A.V. and "alongside" in the N.W.T. also occurs in John 1:6: "There was a man sent from {Greek: para} God, whose name was John." If the preposition in John 17:5 requires the literal pre-existence of Christ, then likewise it requires the literal pre-existence of John the Baptist.2 It is interesting that the N.W.T. inconsistently translates John 1:6 as follows: "There arose a man that was sent forth as a representative of God: his name was John." There is no hint of pre-existence here.
  2. How could Jesus have glory with his Father "before the world was" if he did not literally pre-exist? An illustration is helpful: An architect sees and knows the beautiful details of his proposed construction before the site is prepared, or the foundation-stone laid. But God is the great Architect and in His divine plan, Christ was "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8) - the chief cornerstone "foreordained before the foundation of the world". (1 Peter 1:20). The building will duly be fitly framed together (Eph. 2:21) to constitute its part in the "kingdom prepared . . . from the foundation of the world." (Matt. 25:34). Christ was "foreordained", but not formed until born of the virgin Mary in the days of Herod the king. Likewise, the glory he had with his Father was in the divine plan of the great Architect. It was the subject of prophetic testimony "when it {the Spirit of Christ} testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow." (1 Peter 1:11 cf. John 12:41).
  3. Scripture speaks as if others pre-existed, as well as Christ. Consider the following:
    1. Of believers, Paul wrote:
      1. "Whom he did foreknow." (Rom. 8:29).
      2. "He had afore prepared {note the past tense} unto glory." (Rom. 9:23 cf. 2 Tim. 1:9).
      3. "He hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world." (Eph. 1:4).
    2. Of Jeremiah, the LORD said: "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." (Jer. 1:5).

But who would contend for the pre-existence of Jeremiah and other believers because the language employed states that God knew them before they were born? Similarly, the language of John 17:5 must be understood in terms of this background. Unless the principle is recognized that God "calleth those things which be not as though they were" (Rom. 4:17), confusion will result in Biblical interpretation, as it does with the wrested pre-existence interpretation given to this passage in John's gospel.

  1. The context is sufficiently clear that Christ is not "Very God". His power and authority are derived, not innate: "As thou hast given him {Christ} power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him." (John 17:2).


  1. New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, (Brooklyn, New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 1961). Return
  2. The Greek preposition "para" in John 17:5 takes the dative case and means "beside and at, with or near a person; with, i.e., in the estimation or power of." But in John 1:6 "para" takes the genitive case and means "from beside, beside and proceeding from." See Ethelbert W. Bullinger, A Critical Lexicon and Concordance, (London: Samuel Bagster and Sons Ltd., 1957), p. 888. Return







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