The Pre-existence of Christ

The doctrine indicated in the heading to this article is, we are convinced, extensively held among Universalists, and, by some, supposed to be a doctrine of essential importance, and to furnish a sort of necessary groundwork for their faith in the salvation of all men. We have heard it said by some Universalists, who had not eliminated all the crudities of Calvinism from their faith, that the salvation of those who died before the birth of Christ could be advocated only on the ground of his pre-existence; the atonement being ante-dated, and its benefits applied to them by anticipation; though on what scriptural or rational grounds this is maintained, we never could divine. But the larger number of those who hold to Christ’s pre-existence rest their faith on certain texts of Scripture which they know not how to understand if that doctrine be not true. And we have thought that we might do a useful service by calling the attention of our readers to a consideration of some of the passages of Scripture which have been supposed to teach the doctrine of Christ’s pre-existence. We say, which have been supposed to teach it; for we are thoroughly convinced that this doctrine is founded on a misconception of language; as we hope to show to the satisfaction of the candid reader. As preliminary to the examination proposed, it will not be unprofitable to refer to some well-settled principles and rules of interpretation, which must always be followed if we would arrive at a just understanding of the Scriptures.

Whatever theory of inspiration we may hold in respect to them, whether that of plenary and verbal inspiration, which is now generally abandoned as untenable, or that of substantial truth under circumstantial variety, allowing on the latter theory for the imperfection and fallibility of the human medium through which inspiration is conveyed,—in either case, the Scriptures must be acknowledged to carry with them manifest tokens of their genuineness and authenticity in their general form, character, teachings and spirit, in their idiomatic peculiarities, in their archaisms and in their elliptical and highly poetical forms of expression, such as the Hebrew and oriental mind always delights to use, but which are quite foreign to our habits of thought and modes of speech. These peculiarities of the Scriptures render the work of translating them into our vernacular tongue,—into any living language,—exceedingly difficult. If it be difficult, m translating any book to preserve the tone and ׳coloring of the original, and transfer the exact shades of thought and the spirit of the author to another language, how are these difficulties aggravated when the book to be translated, is, in its origin, its idioms, and all the circumstances attending its composition, so far removed from us in space and time as the inspired volume. The ancient Hebrew is not merely a dead language; its only remains are preserved in the Old Testament.

The best modem Hebrew scholar, therefore, must read it with but an imperfect acquaintance with the usus loquendi of the age to which it belongs, and without that assistance, so invaluable in all cases, which is derived from a knowledge of the thousand circumstances which serve to mould and qualify, and give significance to, the forms of a living, spoken language.

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Author: J. O. S.

Keywords: preexistence of Jesus, Christ's preexistence, Preexistence of Christ, Jesus' preexistence, Jesus preexisted, Christ preexisted, Theophany, Christ's pre-existence, Pre-existence of Christ, Jesus' pre-existence, Jesus pre-existed, Christ pre-existed, preexistence, pre-existence, preincarnate, pre-incarnate, preincarnate Jesus, preincarnate Christ, pre-incarnate Jesus, pre-incarnate Christ, Christ preincarnate, Christ pre-incarnate, God manifestation, Incarnate, incarnation, incarnate word, God made flesh, Jesus is God, God manifest in the flesh

Bible reference(s): John 1:1-3, John 3:13, John 6:33, John 6:38, John 6:58, Joh 7:29, Joh 7:33, Joh 8:16, John 8:24, Joh 8:42, John 8:56, John 8:58, Joh 10:36, Joh 11:42, Joh 12:45, Joh 16:5, John 17:5, Joh 17:18, John 17:24, Romans 8:29, 1 Corinthians 2:7, 2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 1:2, 1 Peter 1:20, Col 1:16-18, Hebrews 1:2, Hebrews 1:8

Source: “The Pre-existence of Christ,” The Universalist Quarterly and General Review, January 1862, pp. 41-75.

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