Trinitarians interpret the text as indicating Jesus had this glory with the Father before the creation of the world, he does not currently have this glory because he had reliquished this glory, and he is asking to have it returned to him. Based on this interpretation, they claim that Jesus existed as a self-conscious person prior to the creation of the world. And as we shall see, Trinitarians must also blind themselves to the evidence of the immediate context.
Examination of the Claim
1. Trinitarian Eisegesis
It is somewhat understandable why Trinitarians interpret the text as they do. On the surface, one could easily take Jesus' words as referring to something he once had and no longer has. But it must be recognized that they are imagining things into the text. They imagine Jesus is talking about a "time" when he was with the Father in eternity and it was then when he shared this glory with the Father.
2. "Before the world was" or "Before I came down from heaven"?
Trinitarians take statements like "I have come down from heaven" at John 6:38 to mean Jesus was a self-conscious pre-existent being who came down out of heaven about 2000 years ago into Mary's womb. A similar idea is promoted at Philippians 2:5-11 where Trinitarians very often claim that the incarnation of the pre-existent Son is when Jesus gave up this particular glory.
If a pre-existent Jesus had given up his glory when he came down from heaven to be incarnated, and he is asking to have it returned to him, one would expect him to have said, "Now, Father, glorify me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before I came down from heaven.
3. Jesus has given future disciples this same glory
At John 17:22, Jesus is praying for his future disciples. Many of these disciples do not yet exist. But Jesus said he has given these future disciples, past tense, this same glory. He does a similar thing when he says he had already sent his disciples into the world, "Just as You sent me into the world, I have also sent them into the world" in verse 18, when in fact this occurs after his resurrection, "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you," and He sends them by anointing them with the Holy Spirit.(20:21).
I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in me through their word....The glory which You have given me I have given to them. John 17:22.
The Trinitarian interpretation is entirely inconsistent with all these statements. If one wants to interpret John 17:5 to mean Jesus existed with the Father before creation then one will also necessarily need to consistently interpret Jesus' words in verse 22 as meaning we, his disciples, existed along with him when he was saying this prayer. However, Trinitarians simply ignore their own inconsistencies here.
4. Jesus speaks about this future glorification as if he currently has it
Jesus was glorified when God raised him from the dead. So we know that Jesus is not yet glorified when he is praying at John 17. For example, John says the Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus was not yet glorified (7:39).
Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory? Luke 24:26.
Yet, just as Jesus said he had already given future disciples this same glory, he speaks of this glory as if it had already been given to him. On one hand, we see Jesus praying to receive this glory but on the other hand he considers it to be already given to him. John 17:22-24
"Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world.... The glory which You have given me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as we are one....I desire that they also, whom You have given me, be with me where I am, so that they may see my glory which You have given me.
5. John 17:24
John 17:24 seems to clarify what Jesus actually meant in verse 5. Notice how Jesus refers to having been loved "before the foundation of the world" but in this same breath he also says, "my glory which you have given me."
Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see my glory which You have given me, for You loved me before the foundation of the world.
Analysis of the Evidence
1. Evidence from Paul
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. Ephesians 1:3-4.
God has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the times of the ages, but now has been manifested by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy 1:9-10
Paul speaks about something given to us before the creation of the world. It had been given to us in Christ Jesus. It had been given to us. But that reality only was manifested in our time and space at the appearing of Jesus our Savior.
2. When Jesus was Glorified
Jesus was not glorified until God raised him from the dead.
But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:39.
Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and enter into his glory? Luke 24:26.
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. Acts 3:13.
There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So also it is written, "The first man Adam became a living soul," the last Adam life-giving Spirit. 1 Corinthians 15:41-45.
These things his disciples did not understand at the first but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things to him. John 12:16.
Now, Father, glorify me.... John 17:5.
Jesus was not yet glorified when he was praying. But if Jesus did not have this glory when he was praying, and if he was praying to receive it, and if he was not glorified until God raised him from the dead, why then he was he speaking about this glory in John 17 as if he already had it?
3. John 17:24 Clarifies Jesus' Intent
In verse 24, we find Jesus referring to the glory the Father had given to him even though he is not yet glorified. He says, "the glory which You have given to me for you loved me before the foundation of the world." These two verses need to be carefully compared:
Now, Father, glorify me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
My glory which You have given me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.
When we compare these two verses, the truth of the matter becomes very clear. The man Jesus, who was praying in the garden, was completely aware that he had been loved by his God and Father before the world was. He was the human Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev 13:8) and this human Lamb was foreknown before the foundation of the world (1 Peter 1:20). Although he himself was not yet glorified, that glory was given by the Father to his human son before the foundation of the world. God the Father glorified Jesus when He raised him from the dead and indeed, God was finished with all his work since the foundation of the world (Heb 4:3). Jesus is saying that his glorification was a done deal before creation because God the Father, in His love for his human son Jesus, had purposed it to occur.
So will My Word be which goes forth from My mouth. It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I purpose, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11.
For we who have believed enter that rest, as He has said, "As I swore in my wrath, "They shall never enter My rest,' " although His works were finished from the foundation of the world. Hebrews 4:3.
God fixes the times and seasons by His own authority. Jesus is fully aware that his God and Father was finished with all his works when His Word went out from Him and one of those works was raising Jesus from the dead into glory. What God had already finished when His Word went out from Him, Jesus was about to realize in this time and space: his glorification. It was finished in eternity but now being manifested in this time and space.
4. Every disciple can pray in like manner
The new creation began when Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus is the firstfruits of the new heavens and new earth. We will be glorified when we are raised from the dead into glory. Let us suppose that any one of us, like Jesus, is about to be put to death because we are followers of Christ. Let us suppose we pray the night before our death. We could say, "Lord Jesus, glorify me with the glory I had with you before the new creation was." Or because Jesus had already given us this glory (v.22), we could use the phrase, "the glory you have given me." And any future disciple could say this prayer because Jesus had given it to his future disciple before that disciple even existed. Although the reality of having received this glory is not yet a reality to any of us until we are resurrected, we already know that the reality does exist and Christ has given it to us.
Additionally, the translation used by Trinitarians distorts what Jesus actually said. The Greek is as follows:
και νυν δοξασον με συ πατερ παρα σεαυτω τη δοξη η ειχον προ του τον κοσμον ειναι παρα σοι
The concept of being alongside the Father is mentioned twice in this verse.
και νυν δοξασον με συ πατερ παρα σεαυτω τη δοξη η ειχον προ του τον κοσμον ειναι παρα σοι
The problem with the Trinitarian translation is that it arbitrarily takes the concept of being alongside the Father at the end of this statement and attaches it to what Jesus "had before the world was." The result is a silly situation where Jesus is having glory alongside the Father at two different time periods in the context of a request to be glorified. Additionally, the word ειναι is translated as "was" instead of "to be" and is taken to describe the state of the world which the grammar does not require. This verb is an infinitive which means "to be." In Trinitarian translations, the words παρα σοι are essentially divorced from the word ειναι as if the latter has nothing to do with the former. This makes it appear that Jesus was having glory alongside the Father before the world was. But that is not what he said.
What Jesus really said here is as follows:
"and now glorify me Father alongside you to the glory which I had before the world to be alongside you."
Jesus is saying he had something before the world and that something was to be glorified alongside the Father in the future. In other words, God had predestined this to occur. He is not saying he had glory alongside the Father before the world was and now wants to be have it back. That is a rather laughable translation. Rather, he is saying that before the world what he had was to be alongside the Father in his glorification which was about to happen. In other words, the man Jesus is referring to the fact that his impending glorification was granted to this man by the Father before the foundation of the world. See also 17:24. The same concept can also be found at Matthew 25:34 and Ephesians 1:4. Note especially Ephesians 1:4 which uses the same infinitive - God chose Christians before the foundation of the world TO BE (ειναι) holy and blameless.
A simple review of the evidence should make it quite clear to anyone that Jesus is referring to something that was a reality before the creation of the world. Just as it is a reality that Jesus' future disciples were given this same glory before they even existed, Jesus was given this glory before the foundation of the world. It had been predestined to occur. Jesus speaks of having this glory before he was glorified because having this glory was a reality before the foundation of the world because that is when God granted his impending glory, just as having this glory was a reality for his future disciples before they even existed.
Jesus was completely aware that his God and Father had already finished the act of giving the human being Jesus this glory before the foundation of the world. God's works were finished before the foundation of the world (Hebrews 4:3). But because Jesus existed in this time and space, the reality of receiving this glory did not occur until he was raised from the dead.
Created: June 12, 2012
Last Updated: January 26, 2015