The Pre-Existence of Christ
Fact? or Superstition?
Did Jesus Christ exist as a member of the divine Godhead
before His human birth? Or is this teaching mere tradition
and superstition? What is the truth? In recent times a
revolutionary new theology has gained ground which says
that Jesus Christ had no existence prior to conception in the
womb of Mary His mother. Some claim the New Testa-
ment documents are often unreliable and untrustworthy --
especially the gospel of John. Its time you knew what is
going on "behind the scenes" in modern theological circles
-- and the modern assault on the Bible and the divinity of
Christ -- and the architect behind this furious attack!
William F. Dankenbring
Recently, a friend sent me an article written by Anthony Buzzard entitled, "The Preexistence of Christ -- Truth Or Tradition?" published by the extremely liberal Foundation For Biblical Research, as well as another article along similar lines. In his letter he remarked, "I hope you'll have time to read and consider them before you write your article refuting them. Some points shouldn't be ignored!"
I suppose I could humanly take offense at that remark; apparently he thinks I might just dash off a quick response which will leave many questions unanswered and leave him feeling empty or uncertain.
Frankly, I must admit I am somewhat "tired" of hearing about Anthony Buzzard's new heresy (which I suppose isn't really new). I read his booklet entitled "Who Is Jesus?" and his dissertation a year ago, and wrote an article entitled "Who Was Jesus Before His Human Birth?" in response to it.
The Abuse of Scripture
When the devil came to Christ with specious interpretations of Scripture, Jesus didn't have someone else to appeal to to answer his arguments. He Himself used Scripture (Matt.4:1-10; Luke 4:1-13). He knew God's Word well enough to defeat the devil; and He set us an example for doing battle with the adversary and all his henchmen, including the likes of Anthony Buzzard.
I know Buzzard from Ambassador College days. We entered as freshmen the same year (1959). He was the son of a British admiral, and consequently Herbert Armstrong appointed him freshman class president. I had no office, but I knew my Bible better than anyone else in the class (scoring 99% on the first Bible test in freshman Bible to the disbelief of Roderick Meredith the teacher). At any rate, Anthony had adustment problems, and eventually left college, let his hair grow long, left the Church, had a nervous breakdown (he was apparently under much pressure to "succeed" at college besides persecution from his family for his affililation with the "American" Church). Eventually he rejoined the Church, then left again; now he teaches at a Bible college and has a masters degree, for which he wrote his thesis denying the pre-existence of Christ. Interestingly, while still at Ambassador, he dated the woman who was to become my wife. On one of their dates he remarked to her, "You really know God, don't you?" Obviously he did not.
Charles Hunting, former evangelist, and a distinctly NON-scholarly type, has joined with Buzzard in this belief. Jim Tabor, professor at North Carolina University in Charlotte, who himself once came to Ambassador after attending a Bible college in the midwest, and who briefly taught Hebrew at Ambassador (he was my Hebrew teacher one semester), has also adopted a similar view. His story is also unique; after being let go from Ambassador, he later joined the faculty at Notre Dame, then William and Mary, and last year University of North Carolina. During this sojourn he lost his faith in God and Christianity, and became a secularist and agnostic, as he himself relates, but apparently recaptured his faith in God through the study of Judaism and the Old Testament Scriptures. Now he believes only the "Old Testament" is inspired Scripture, as such, and the New Testament is not. Particularly, he would throw out or relegate to "second place," whatever that means, the gospel of John and his epistles. This, of course, makes it easier for him to deny the pre-existence of Christ, as John's gospel is the key element in explaining the purpose and plan behind God's sending the Messiah, and how it all came about.
Attack on the New Testament
Tabor writes in "Restoring Abrahamic Faith," a recent publication of his, "In other words, the New Testament, as it has comes (sic) to us, in multiple manuscripts, Greek translation, with interpolations and editorial expansions, is a mixture of 'wheat and tares' as he himself predicted" (p.45). Did Jesus really predict that His Word would become a mixture of "wheat and tares"? Nonsense (John 10:35; 17:17). Jesus said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but MY WORDS WILL NEVER PASS AWAY" (Matt.24:35).
Tabor claims the New Testament is not Scripture. But the apostle Peter said it was! He wrote, specifically about Paul's writings, "Paul also wrote you with the wisdom GOD gave him. He writes the same way in ALL his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and UNSTABLE people distort, AS THEY DO THE OTHER SCRIPTURES, to their own destruction" (II Pet.3:15-16).
Tabor, probably well-meaning and sincere, nevertheless claims much of the New Testament is uninspired and seems to think it is the responbility of people -- scholars, and so forth -- to sit down and determine how to choose between the correct sayings of Jesus and the incorrect, uninspired passages. Nevertheless, he claims only the Old Testament is "Scripture" as such.
Doesn't that same strange? Consider! Only the New Testament witnesses to the life and sayings of the Messiah Himself! It interprets the OLD TESTAMENT. It brings us the NEW COVENANT to replace the Old Covenant. How could it be less than inspired Scripture?
Are books dealing with the "first Moses" more important, and Scripture, but books dealing with the "second Moses," the Messiah, LESS IMPORTANT, and NOT "Scripture"? Apparently it offends Tabor that most of the New Testament was written originally in GREEK, not Hebrew! But why should this make any difference? Greek was the "lingua franca" of that time -- the common spoken language throughout the Mediterranean world. God PRESERVED the New Testament through the Greek Orthodox Church which copied manuscripts faithfully through the centuries. Tabor is wrong to conclude we have no reliable New Testament documents, and must resurrect what we can out of the Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, and from fragments of old parchments lost in desert caves! What a low opinion he must have of God's ability to PRESERVE AND PROTECT His own "witness" to the Messiah!
Tabor seems to like the synoptic gospels -- Matthew, Mark and Luke. He writes, "These show every evidence of authenticity, particularly those from Luke, or from what scholars call the Q source (contained now in Matthew and Luke). But there are other statements in the Gospels, particularly in the Gospel of John, which seem to contradict Torah faith [or his interpretation of it!]. What are we to make of this? MY APPROACH [is there any vanity here?] is to go with the clear,
central, multiple-attested tradition of the Synoptic Gospels. John, who reflects more of his own style (compare 1,2,3 John), and a HELLENIZING, QUASI-GNOSTIC THEOLOGIZING, is always secondary."
Isn't that interesting? Tabor, like Buzzard, rejects the divinity and pre-existence of Christ. It helps his case to just do away with the entire Gospel of John and relegate it to "Hellenizing [pagan], quasi-Gnostic" influences which, of course, are dubious, suspicious, untrustworthy, and not to be considered inspired Scripture! I have always felt (I read the New Testament through many times before reading the Old Testament as a teenager), personally, that the key to understanding the New Testament is to look at Matthew, Mark and Luke as virtual "newspaper reporters" of their day, who were simply trying to give the "facts, just the facts," about the actions, deeds, and words of Christ -- like a fascinating biography, from birth to death, essentially chronological and written simply as factual reporting. The gospel of John, however, goes far beyond such "reporting." It gives us penetrating depth and analysis missing in the other gospels. John gives us an inner glimpse into the PLAN AND PURPOSE of God, WHY Christ was sent, and over and over explains that He came down from Heaven, previously abode with the Father, and gave up His divinity to become flesh (John 1:1-4, 14). John testifies that Christ is greater than Moses (John 1:17), and plainly writes, "No one has ever seen God [the Father], but GOD THE ONE AND ONLY, who is at the Father's side, has made him known" (v.18).
The Gospel of John
In John 3, we read, "The one who comes from above is above all. . . The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard . . ." (John 3:31-32). John plainly states, "No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven -- the Son of Man" (John 3:13).
In John 5, we read that the Jews tried to KILL Jesus because they perceived by His words that He claimed to be divine. "For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, MAKING HIMSELF EQUAL WITH GOD" (verse 18).
In John 6, Jesus repeatedly referred to the simple fact (it seems so simple when we read it, if we will just believe what Jesus says, and not what some men try to make Him say by their twisting and distorting and misinterpreting His words!) that he is "the bread of God" who "comes down from heaven and gives his life to the world" (v.33), "I have come down from heaven" (v.38), "I am the bread that came down from heaven" (v.41), "I came down from heaven" (v.42), "No one has SEEN the Father except the one who is FROM GOD, only he has seen the Father" (v.46), "But here is the bread that came down from heaven"
(v.50), "I am the living bread that came down from heaven" (v.51), "This is the bread that came down from heaven" (v.58).
Jesus went on to state that nobody could really believe this essential truth unless they are specially enabled to do so by the Father (verse 65). You cannot approach the Son of God and understand Him by coming to Him via the avenue of human scholarship, or Jewish study of the Torah, or the misguided Churches of mainstream Christianity, or the various sects and cults. Does this explain why so-called "scholars" are unable to understand basic, fundamental truths of Scripture?
How To Understand the Bible
The only way to approach God, and to learn the truth about the Son of God, is on one's knees before the Father, praying for truth, revelation, mercy and divine guidance and understanding. Only those who truly have God's Spirit leading and guiding them will ever understand!
As Paul wrote, "But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. . . The man without the Spirit does NOT ACCEPT the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment. 'For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?' But WE have the mind of Christ" (I Cor.2:10-16). Only those who truly are converted (Acts 5:32; 2:38) and who have the MIND of Christ dwelling in them (Rom.8:9-10) can understand these things.
Frankly, my heart goes out to men such as Anthony Buzzard and Jim Tabor, who seem to have lost their way spiritually, and who think they have found their way "back" into the fold, but who haven't. Their writings convince me that they are still groping blindly for the true faith. In some respects they appear to have made shipwreck of the faith; their faith capsized in tumultuous oceans of doubt and sea-fogs, blinding their vision. However scholarly and intelligent they may be, humanly (and there are many much more intelligent than they are, who also reject the faith of God's Word), I must lump them together with those of whom Paul writes in I Corinthians:
"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are
perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the POWER OF
GOD. For it is written: 'I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
[so-called scholars!]; the intelligence of the intelligent I will
frustrate.' Where is the wise man? Where is the SCHOLAR?
Where is the philosopher of this age? Has God not made foolish
the wisdom of the world? . . . Jews demand miraculous signs
and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a
stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those
whom God has CALLED, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the
power of God and the wisdom of God" (I Cor.1:18-24).
Here Paul calls Christ "the power of God." Isn't that one more evidence that He is divine? Luke wrote the words of Gabriel to Mary about the conception of Christ: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the POWER OF THE MOST HIGH will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35). The Holy Spirit, which is also divine, is also the "power" of God (Acts 1:8).
Yet these modern nay-sayers seem to seek to diminish both the love of the Father and the power of the Son. They seek to minimize both the sacrifice of the Father and the sacrifice of the Son. To my mind, one of the most amazing and mind-boggling truths of all time is that One who was VERY GOD was willing to GIVE UP His divinity, and become a mere human being! THAT is the essence of TRUE LOVE!
It is as if a commander-in-chief of the armed forces of a nation, such as General Colin Powell, were willing to strip himself of all his rank and power, and become a mere buck private in the army, and go through basic training, being yelled at by sergeants and corporals, forced to take long marches under full pack, and to peel spuds and do latrine duty -- ALL WILLINGLY -- and then forced to DIE a horrible death, killed for TREASON by his own fellow soldiers, even though he was innocent of any wrong-doing!
The Concept of True Love
The concept that Jesus was a mere man, and did not pre-exist with God the Father, is mind-boggling. Consider, for example, what the apostle Paul had to say to the Phillippians, concerning the nature and prerogatives of Christ. Paul wrote:
"For he, who had always been God by nature, did not cling to
his prerogatives as God's equal, but stripped himself of all privilege
by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man.
And, having become man, he humbled himself by living a life of
utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died
was the death of a common criminal" (Phil.2:6-7, Phillips).
"Though he were divine by nature, he did not set store upon equality
with God, but EMPTIED himself by taking the nature of a servant;
born in human guise and appearing in human form, he humbly
stooped in his obedience even to die, and to die upon the cross"
"Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of
God [possessing the fulness of the attributes which make God God],
did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped
or retained; but stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity]
so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that he became like
men and was born a human being. And after He had appeared in
human form He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and
carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of [the]
Tabor, Buzzard, and others seem to think that Jewish people will not "accept" a Jesus who is divine. That is not true at all. There are many Jewish converts, today, who accept the divinity of Christ and worship Him as the Son of God. The Jewish New Testament has no problem with Christ's divinity. Translated by David Stern, it declares:
"Let your attitude toward one another be governed by your being
in union with the Messiah Yeshua: Though he was in the form of
God, he did not regard equality with God something to be possessed
by force. On the contrary, he emptied himself, in that he took the form
of a slave by becoming like human beings are. And when he appeared
as a human being, he humbled himself still more by becoming obedient
even to death -- death on a stake as a criminal!" (Jewish New Testament).
I have also found that Buzzard and others, despite their many words and much writing, tend to do two things which appall me: First, they tend to only recite for the reader those verses which they desire to emphasize and make commentary on. The other verses, which would tend to weaken or even invalidate their arguments, they generally ignore, or if they admit their existence, only refer to them obliquely, in passing, with a footnote, or a cursory reference -- and then tend to "explain them away" without spending adequate time or energy discussing them. Is this approach really HONEST? I don't think so.
Yet it is a very familiar tactic, often employed by the devil, to deceive and to delude the unwary and unwatchful (II Cor.2:11). I can only hope and pray that these people will "come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will" (II Tim.2:26).
We have all read John 3:16 -- "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son" (John 3:16-18).
John goes on: "This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Every one who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God" (John 3:19-21).
These new "infidels," if I may call them that, deny the real heart and core of this basic passage. If Christ were merely a human being, with no pre-existence, in what sense would He have truly been a "Son of God"? How could He have been "sent into the world"?
Is Christ the "Son" of God merely because the Holy Spirit conceived Him in Mary's womb by uniting with an egg? Or doesn't the Father-Son relationship go back into the aeons of time, while Father and His (created) Son co-ruled the Universe? If Christ were only human, how is He really God's Son any more than the rest of us, and why would He be called "the ONLY begotten son" of God? Are we not also "begotten" of God? Oh, but He, unlike us, was begotten at conception! But so what?
The idea that Christ was merely human, but was supernaturally conceived, poses three basic difficulties: 1) that makes God the Father a respecter of persons, showing favoritism, because He gave Christ advantages over the rest of us! Yet there is no respect of persons or favoritism with God (Rom.2:11). Why didn't God just conceive all of us the same way? Then we could all have lived perfect lives, and theoretically, there would have been no need for a Saviour at all! Then we could all sit at God's right hand! If Christ were merely human, but had this one advantage over the rest of us humans, then why didn't God make us all the same way -- and give us all the "same chance"?
Secondly, 2) if Christ were merely human, does this not diminish to virtually nothing the sacrifice the Father made in giving up His only begotten Son (or should I say "son," small "s")? If Christ were merely human, like the rest of us, with NO pre-existence with the Father, during which time they were together for aeons, and worked together, and loved each other incredibly, then when "he" died on the stake, what did the Father really give up?
Abraham was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, a type of Christ, his only son, the son of promise, whom he had lived with for some 15-16 years, and whom he loved dearly. But if Christ were only a human being born 2,000 years ago, who "became" the "Son of God," doesn't that take away from the awesome love the Father had for mankind? Then He only sacrificed a human being -- not a truly "divine" Son with whom He had shared a family life for aeons of time! Such an idea relegates the idea of "divine love" to virtually nothing more than great human love -- a slap in the Face to the Father!
As a husband and wife live together, and go through trials and experiences together, their love is forged and grows stronger and deeper and broader and higher. The furnace of affliction and sharing sufferings and delights nurtures and nourishes love. This takes TIME. But if Christ only existed a few years, and then died, that picture subtracts from the deep, awesome ETERNAL LOVE which the Father and the Son shared from the beginning of TIME!
Thirdly, 3) if Christ were merely human, and lived a perfect life, dying for sins, how many of the rest of us could his perfect life atone for? Even though He had God's Spirit, these people argue that he was merely a human being. Then his life would atone for ONE HUMAN BEING'S SIN! In order, logically, for his DEATH to atone for the sins of billions of human beings, His life would have to be worth MORE THAN all their lives put together!
But if Christ is the original Creator of mankind -- in Genesis we read, "Let US make man in OUR image" (Gen.1:26) -- this fact would solve the problem completely. As Paul writes in Colossians, "For by him were all things created" (Col.1:16). The life of the CREATOR would be worth more than the lives of all His created subjects put together!
The Writings of Paul
Let us also look at the writings of Paul in this regard. Jim Tabor dismisses the writings of Paul by simply saying that he writes things "hard to be understood," and claims that Paul's writings are "less of a problem than many imagine. He has been mistranslated, misinterpreted, and maligned almost beyond recognition" (p.45-46 of "Restoring Abrahamic Faith"). Of course, Tabor is here referring to the epistles of Paul themselves! Is he not overstating his belief? He presents NO evidence or examples of such "mistranslation, misinterpretation, or maligning beyond recognition." Therefore his statement begs the question. He presents no case whatsoever. A judge would therefore have to declare a "mistrial" and throw his case out the window even before hearing it -- for he offers no evidence!
Tabor goes so far as to claim, "As for the New Testament, it should not be forgotten that no one in the early Church had one. In fact, that would be true for everyone in the entire Biblical tradition, from Enoch to Ezra, and from Yeshua to Paul." That is true, of course. Abraham didn't have a "Torah," either. Nor did Moses for most of his life! And none of them ever had the Writings or the Prophets. Therefore, Tabor's statement above is meaningless. However, he continues: "The GREAT ERROR is to equate the documents of the New Testament with what those documents themselves, and everyone mentioned in them, call The Holy Scriptures." Tabor only accepts the Tanakh, consisting of the Torah, Prophets, and Writings, as Scripture.
"The New Testament documents do not even claim to be Scripture," he asserts. He goes on, "They are in Greek, not Hebrew. They do not reflect the style or either the Torah or Prophets . . . In other words Luke is far more reliable than Mark, or certainly than John." Tabor concludes, "The New Testament documents should be interpreted in the light of the Holy Scriptures, not the other way around" (p.47).
Isn't that statement shocking? Isn't such a conclusion startling?
For a professing believer in Jesus, or Yeshua, to boldly make such claims is very shocking to me. I would have to regard those statements as categorically untrue and self-defeating. Certainly, Satan the devil has stolen a march on scholars and intellectuals who dismiss the New Testament so cavalierly. It seems incredible to me that such people would think for one minute that God cannot inspire HOLY SCRIPTURE IN THE GREEK LANGUAGE as well as in Hebrew! Furthermore, I find it amazing that they would conclude that God would inspire Scripture to be written detailing the Law, Writings and Prophets, but when the GREATER than Moses came along, the very
Messiah, that God would not inspire NEW SCRIPTURES to be written detailing His life and sayings!!!
The very idea is preposterous, and frankly elevates Moses far above Christ. Furthermore, such a belief turns the New Testament into a riddle, and a soupy mush, without divine inspiration, begging the question, What can we believe? Which verses reflect the true sayings of the Messiah? Which are not accurate, and why? And how can you prove it? And what about the people who lived hundreds of years ago who thought the New Testament was inspired? Did God just allow millions to be deceived on this point? If the New Testament is not inspired by God, THEN HOW CAN WE BELIEVE -- HAVE FAITH IN -- THE MESSIAHSHIP OF JESUS?
Satan's End-Time ASSAULT on the Bible
Thus Satan the devil has launched his final end-time assault -- a new ASSAULT ON THE BIBLE! This time he has focused his energy on the New Testament, in order to destroy faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah! Truly, he knows that his time is short. He is furious (Rev.12:12), and therefore he is going straight for the jugular!
But since Tabor seems to think Paul's writings are easily handled to disprove the pre-existence of Christ, let us look at the book of Hebrews, which is generally credited to Paul. Let's read the Jewish New Testament here:
"In days gone by, God spoke in many and varied ways to the
Fathers through the prophets. But now, in the acharit-hayamim
[End Times], he has spoken to us through his Son, to whom he
has given ownership of everything and through whom he CREATED
THE UNIVERSE. This Son is the radiance of the Sh'khinah [God's
manifest glory], the very expression of God's essence, upholding all
that exists by his powerful word; and after he had, through himself,
made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of HaG'dulah
BaM'romim' [the Power Above].
"So he has become much better than angels, and the name God has
given him is superior to theirs. For to which of the angels did God
ever say, 'You are my Son; today I have become your Father'?
"Also, God never said of any angel, 'I will be his Father, and he
will be my Son.' And again, when God brings his Firstborn into
the world, he says, 'Let ALL GOD'S ANGELS WORSHIP HIM.'
"Indeed, when speaking of angels, he says, '. . . who makes his
angels winds and his servants fiery flames;' but to the Son, he says,
'YOUR THRONE, O GOD, WILL LAST FOREVER AND EVER;
you rule your Kingdom with a scepter of equity; you have loved
righteousness and hated wickedness. Therefore, O GOD, your
God has anointed you with the oil of joy in preference to your
companions;' and, 'In the beginning, Lord, YOU laid the foundations
of the earth; heaven is the work of YOUR hands. They will vanish,
but you will remain; like clothing, they will all grow old; and you will
fold them up like a coat. Yes, they will be changed like clothing, but
YOU REMAIN THE SAME, your years never end' " (Heb.1:1-12).
Clearly, the Jewish New Testament proclaims the divinity and pre-existence of Christ with power and authority! There is no indecision, waffling, or demurring here. This is straight from the shoulder, pulling no punches. Paul plainly calls Christ GOD, and quotes Old Testament Scriptures as referring to Christ as very GOD! See Psalm 45:6-7 for the Old Testament PROOF that Christ the Messiah is also GOD!
The Real "Anti-Christs" of Our Day
Frankly, I believe the New Testament Scriptures are very clear. The ones who are misinterpreting Paul's words, and mistranslating and misrepresenting his words and theology, are the very ones who are maligning the divinity of Christ! They are the real "ANTICHRISTS" who were especially prophesied to come into the world, particularly during these "End Times" or "Last Days" (I John 2:18). Isn't it interesting that John says of these "antichrists," prophetically speaking, "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us" (verse 19). This prophecy has LITERALLY come to pass!
Anthony Buzzard begins his paper by stating as if it were commonly accepted fact, "The very commonly held idea that Jesus was alive before His conception raises a number of questions about the nature of the Messiah." He then goes right on to ask such a question -- namely, "Can one indeed be a human being in any meaningful sense if one does not originate in the womb of one's mother?"
Now think about it. Isn't that a strange questions? Buzzard does not address the issue openly and objectively. Rather, circumlocuitously, he sneaks up via the back door, hiding in the underbrush, and attempts to ambush ignorant and naive Christians, by the subtle approach the Devil used on Eve in the garden. He also used the "question" approach! He said to Eve, "Did God really say . . .?" (Gen.3:1).
Buzzard (I feel he is aptly named -- God somehow sees to it that people are named what they are! And like a buzzard or vulture, he picks the bones of the dead and near-dying, attacking the weak and those unable to defend themselves from his attacks) begins his paper with a subtle question. These kinds of questions are meant to implant the seeds of DOUBT. They could produce a nasty harvest of poisonous weeds, if allowed to remain in the soil! Buzzard asks, O so innocently, "Can one indeed be a human being in any meaningful sense if one does not originate int he womb of one's mother?"
"Can one indeed. . .?"
Can you not see the spirit of Satan in that vicious question, just like in the garden of Eden? "Did God really say the Messiah pre-existed?" "Is it really true that . . .?" Well, let's face this question head-on. Using Buzzard's reasoning, then Adam and Eve could not have been human -- for neither one originated in the womb of a woman! How about that?
Furthermore, if you READ Matthew 1:18-21 and Luke 1:30-35, dealing with the birth of Christ, you will find out that JESUS WAS CONCEIVED IN THE WOMB OF HIS MOTHER! The only "difference" between Him and other human beings is that His Father was a Spirit Being -- or, putting it another way, the male sperm which united with Mary's ovum was THE LOGOS, the second member of the Godhead, who had transformed Himself into a human male reproductive cell! What is so hard to believe about that? Even today medical science can take male sperm and inject them into infertile women to help conception along, or even take a human egg and sperm from a woman and a man and let them "fertilize" outside the womb, in a special solution, and then re-implant the fertilized egg in a woman's uterus. What "science" can do God can do better.
With God all things are possible (Matt.19:26). Who are we to question the ability and power of God?
Buzzard then says, "Surely an angel differs from a human being precisely because he has an origin outside the system of
human procreation." Analyze that statement. What really makes angels different from humans? Buzzard is totally off base here. The difference has nothing to do with their point of origin -- God could create humans ANYWHERE HE CHOSE! By Buzzard's reasoning, since Adam and Eve arose "outside the human reproductive system," Adam and Eve were not human! Need I go on?
Buzzard then presents us with another doubt-ridden question. Satan is not only persuasive, but persistent. The third question -- "If . . ." Did you catch that? The third question begins "IF." Did not the tempter come to Jesus and begin his temptation by saying, "IF you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread"? (Matt.4:3). Buzzard challenges the reader, saying, "IF Jesus was really a being who changes Himself (or is changed by God) in order to enter the human race through Mary, he is clearly a being vastly different from the rest of humanity."
Why would that be so "clearly" obvious or true? The statement is not true at all. Although the source of the "cell" that united with Mary's ovum was divine, why would that make Jesus any different from other men or human beings? Only the source or origin of that "cell" was different. But that "cell" BECAME FULLY HUMAN! That is what the Scriptures state unequivocally -- but Buzzard avoids these Scriptures with a 100-foot pole!
"Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their
humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds
the power of death -- that is, the devil -- and free those who all
their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. . . For this
reason he had to be MADE LIKE HIS BROTHERS IN EVERY
WAY, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high
priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the
sins of the people. Because he himself SUFFERED when he was
tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted" (Heb.2:
Paul further declares about the humanity of Christ:
"During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and
petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him
from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.
Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered
and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation
for all who obey him . . ." (Heb.5:7-9).
Plainly, Jesus Christ was obviously FULLY HUMAN, just like you and I are -- but He also was "divine" in the sense of His origin on His Father's side!
Setting the Stage for Failure
Buzzard then states, categorically, "We maintain that the idea [of pre-existence of Christ] has to be held prior to an investigation of the scriptural evidence and then read into the Bible" (emphasis his). He adds, "There is also a strong bias in our translations, due to the preconceptions of 'orthodox' theologians, which encourages this process of 'reading-in.'
Notice how clever this is. Buzzard offers no proof whatsoever. He expects us to take his word for this "strong bias." He offers no proof -- he merely "accuses." Now I ask you -- who is the "accuser of the brethren"? The apostle John declares, "For the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down" (Rev.12:10). Satan is the accuser! By falsely accusing unnamed "'orthodox' theologians," without offering any proof, Buzzard follows faithfully in the tradition of Satan the devil, who is also "a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44).
Thus, after prejudicing the mind of the reader against the concept that Jesus had a literal pre-existence, Buzzard goes on to construct his case. He begins by building upon the fact that Matthew, Mark and Luke -- the synoptic gospels -- do not mention any such pre-existence. He quotes various scholars to attest to this fact, which is really completely unnecessary -- appealing to worldly scholars proves nothing of itself, but it shows a tendency and a trend in Buzzard's thinking. Anyone who will read the synoptic gospels will see that the pre-existence of Christ is nowhere discussed there.
The question becomes, then, why not? Could it be that they were not concerned with such "theological" matters, because they were merely writing short "biographies" of the life of Christ, revealing His statements, actions, and miracles -- like any fair-minded, judicial, investigative reporter worth his salary? The three synoptic gospels do not concern themselves with questions of why. Rather, like true reporters, they deal primarily with "facts -- just the facts." There is no explanation or theologizing in them -- that duty is, as it
were, left up to John to tackle in his gospel.
John is the apostle whom God chose to write about the mystery of Christ's pre-existence, and His having come down from heaven, and His statements which indicated He was "very God."
Although Buzzard builds his case on the fact that the pre-existence of Christ is not mentioned in the three synoptic gospels, that is irrelevant and proves nothing. The absense of proof does not constitute proof of the opposite!
Buzzard claims that this absence has "embarrassed" many orthodox theologians. Pray tell, why? It doesn't embarrass me. I find it interesting, but not unusual, considering the purpose for which God inspired the three synoptic gospels to be written -- as basically factual reporting of the birth, life and death of the Messiah, the one known as Jesus. Yet, Buzzard continues to prejudice the case by saying, "It is a very remarkable fact that traditional Christianity has insisted nevertheless that Jesus did exist before His conception . . ." Hogwash! Bogus nonsense! How dare Buzzard presume such a thing simply because three gospels don't discuss this matter! The book of Esther doesn't contain the name of God -- should we therefore throw it out of the Bible? The Song of Solomon is a love poem -- should we cast it out of Holy Scripture?
Next, Buzzard avoids the New Testament evidence which would shoot down his theory in flames, and instead diverts the attention of the reader to passages in Isaiah where One who claims to be God says He stretched forth the heavens and asked, "Who was with me? (Isa.44;24 RV), and Job who says that God "alone stretches out the heavens" (Job 9:8). But we have already pointed out that it was the One who became Christ who did these things -- therefore, He is the One who says, through Isaiah, "Who was with me?" The Father had not yet been revealed to mankind; Christ came to reveal Him (John 1:18; 14:8-10). Read my article, "Who Was the YHVH of the Old Testament?"
It seems strange to me that Buzzard continually quotes various writers and their human opinions about the gospel writers, or the books of the New Testament, which absolutely proves nothing! Doctrine should not be formed by the opinions of uninspired scholars or writers who all have their own axes to grind and problems. Doctrine should flow solely and only from the WORD OF GOD!
Dishonesty Evident -- Colossians 1:16
On page 3 of "The Pre-existence of Christ -- Truth or Tradition?", Buzzard declares,
". . . many will appeal to Col.1:16 and read in a way which contradicts
the texts quoted above. Here Paul says that 'in Jesus,' 'through Jesus'
and 'for Jesus' all things have been created. We must emphasize before
all else that Paul did not say that 'all things were created by Jesus.' No
text in the New Testament says that."
Read that very carefully. Read it twice. I want you to notice something.
Is Buzzard telling the truth? Did you look up Colossians 1:16 and READ it? Let's not be lazy -- that's why so many people get into deep water and great trouble when it comes to understanding the Bible. They take things for granted. The take scholars "at their word." They DON'T DOUBLE-CHECK!
They DON'T really "PROVE ALL THINGS," as Paul commanded (I Thess.5:21).
Here is a fundamental principle of Bible Study. NEVER TAKE A WRITER'S WORD FOR ANYTHING! Always look up the Scripture, preferably in two or three translations, if it is an important proof text!
Buzzard categorically says this verse does not say "all things were created by Jesus." Technically, is he correct? Notice what it says. In the New International Version, which I generally use, we read: "FOR BY HIM [JESUS] ALL THINGS WERE CREATED."
Now, I ask you -- isn't Buzzard grasping at straws? Isn't he being devious and dishonest? It seems to me that this verse says exactly what Buzzard says it doesn't say! Of course, the sentence is structured in the reverse sequence -- BUT THE MEANING IS THE SAME! Phillips has this verse, "He [Christ] existed before creation began, for it was through him that everything was made, whether spiritual or material, seen or unseen."
Buzzard grossly misrepresents when he declares this verse does not state that all things were created by Jesus. It says that very thing, but in slightly different words!!! Again, I ask you: Who is the "father of liars"? Who is it in whom the truth does not dwell? "He [Satan] was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a LIAR and the father of lies" (John 8:44).
Whom Do We Believe?
Buzzard then quotes a Trinitarian, Arthur Wainwright, as sayin that in the three synoptic gospels Jesus nowhere suggests that He was creator, concluding that "in no passage [in Matthew, Mark Luke] does Jesus say he existed before his birth . . ."
As I have already said, however, this point is meaningless and proves nothing. Absence of proof in one source does not invalidate the truth of the pre-existence of Christ! Absence of proof does not prove the reverse!
Although Buzzard admits Wainwright believes that Jesus was alive at the Creation, he never discusses those passages of Wainwright! He only quotes what he agrees with. He admits that Wainwreight believes that Colossians 1:16 links Jesus with creation. But Buzzard negates this point by claiming that "other authorities do not think that Paul is speaking of the Genesis creation at all in this passage."
What other authorities? Buzzard doesn't say. But I must ask -- what difference does it make what mere MEN think or say? Who calls them "authorities," anyway? And who cares what MEN think? They are not "authorities" to me -- they have NO AUTHORITY WHATSOEVER! In God's eyes, they are mere pipsqueaks, I assure you of that!
This brings up a point: Who determines what we believe? Are we followers of MEN, or supposed "human authorities"? Or do we follow the WORD OF GOD? If we claim to follow the Word of God, then shouldn't we read it, and quote it, and ignore with what self-styled human "authorities" say or think?
"In The Beginning Was the Word"
Buzzard continues to quote various men and supposed "scholars" and their opinions about various Scriptures, such as John 1, instead of quoting the entire passage or vital portions of it from the book of John itself. This is a device which distracts the reader's attention from the Word of God itself, and the very words of John which God inspired him to write, and focuses the attention instead to the opinions of various men ABOUT what John wrote -- a very clever trick to confuse and disorient the unlearned and unwary.
Rather than read, for example, James Dunn's opinion, which makes no difference whatsoever (who is James Dunn? Is he an inspired Christian apostle or prophet? Is he, more likely, an uninspired "scholar" who does not even have the Spirit of God abiding within him?), let's read the words of John himself.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was
made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the
light of men. . . . The Word BECAME FLESH and made his
dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One
and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth"
(John 1:1-4, 14, NIV).
Now do you see? Do you see WHY Buzzard did not want to quote the entire passage, as it appears in the Bible? Let's cut through all the chaff and smoke-screens which he and others throw up to confuse the issue, by their constantly quoting MEN about these passages of Scripture, and let's LOOK AT THE WORD OF GOD ITSELF! That's the only safe way to avoid deception, delusion, and devious doctrines of Satan-inspired men!
But again -- don't ever take my word for it, or theirs either, for that matter -- SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES! Do as the Bereans did. Don't just read some "scholarly appearing" article, which raises doubts and causes consternation or dismay, and "assume" the author knows what he is talking about. Consider the possibility that he could be demon-inspired or Satan-inspired. How do you know? How can you prove what the TRUTH is?
The Bereans had the answer. "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and EXAMINED THE SCRIPTURES EVERY DAY to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11). Did you notice how little Buzzard actually quoted of the Bible, and the very passages which he disputed -- but how much time he spent quoting various men and their "opinions" which proved nothing?
On page 6, Buzzard discusses John 3:13, where Jesus clearly spoke as "he who came down from heaven." We read: "No man has ascended into heaven, except he who came down from heaven, the Son of man, who is in heaven." But notice! Buzzard does not immediately discuss this point at all, but rather focuses on the obscure question of what He meant by "no man has ascended into heaven," using the perfect tense of the verse "has ascended." He goes on to claim that this referred to the visiion in Daniel 7 where the "Son of man" appeared before the throne of the Ancient of Days.
Buzzard writes, "How then can it be said that the Son 'has ascended to heaven'? Simply because this is what had been forecast about Him in Daniel."
Wha-a-a-a-a-a-t? Read that again. Daniel had seen IN VISION a picture of the Son of Man, Christ, appearing in heaven before the Father's throne. Daniel records: "As I looked, 'thrones were set in place, and the Ancient of Days took his seat. His clothing was whsite as snow; the hair of his head was white like wool. His throne was flaming with fire, and its wheels were all ablaze. A river of fire was flowing, coming out from before him; ten thousand times ten trhousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened. . .
"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language WORSHIPED HIM. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed" (Dan.7:9-14).
Notice! Daniel merely had a vision of the future, of the time just before Christ's Second Coming, when He would be given power and authority over all nations. Pray tell, what does this have to do with John 3:13? Again -- let's read the entire verse! "NO ONB has ever gone into heaven EXCEPT THE ONE WHO CAME FROM HEAVEN -- the Son of Man [a title Jesus often used of Himself!]" (John 3:13, NIV). Jesus' statement here has nothing whatever to do with Daniel's vision. Buzzard stretches and stretches and his point collapses, because he has stretched too far and too thin, to make the connection!
Buzzard then offers HIS OWN "mistranslation" or paraphrase of John 3:13. Did you read it? He wrote, "Thus 'No one [it is written in the book of Daniel] IS DESTINED to ascend to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of Man who [in Daniel] is in heaven.'" Buzzard claims the final phrase "who is in heaven" belongs in the original, but the New International Version leaves it out. Buzzard's claims that Jesus was referring to the vision in Daniel when He spoke of the Son of man "ascending to heaven" is, frankly, very thin and extremely forced.
The proper sense of this expression is found in the Amplified Bible: "And yet no one has ever gone up to heaven; but there is One Who has come down from heaven, the Son of man [Himself], Who is -- dwells, Whose home is -- in heaven." Moffatt has this verse: "And yet, the Son of man, descended from heaven, is the only one who has ever ascended into heaven." Phillips has it: "No one has ever been up to Heaven except the Son of man who came down from Heaven."
Buzzard claims Jesus was here talking about His future ascension into heaven. But that is not what He said! Once we truly understand who Jesus was, and that He did pre-exist, it becomes obvious that He had ascended up to heaven many times during Old Testament history!
The One who became Christ came down from heaven and talked with Adam and Eve (Gen.3:8); He visited with Abraham and Sarah (Gen.18:1-5); He wrestled with Jacob 32:24-30); He spoke with Moses on Mount Sinai (Exo.3:1-14); He was seen of the 70 elders of Israel (Exo.24:9-11); and Moses in particular was permitted to view Him from behind at a close distance (Exo.33:12-23). He ascended and descended from heaven many times! And this could not have been the Father, for no man has seen the Father -- at any time -- ever! (John 1:18; 6:46).
The proofs that Jesus IS the YHVH of the Old Testament, who was prophesied to stand on the Mount of Olives in the last days (Zech.14:1-4; Acts 1:7-12) are far too many to list here. I suggest all who are interested to write for my article "Who Was the YHVH of the OLD TESTAMENT?" Meanwhile, take a concordance and look up such words as "Saviour," "Redeemer," and compare their usage in the Old and New Testaments. Jesus IS the "Saviour," the "Redeemer," the "Only One" of Israel!
In John 8, Jesus said to the Jewish crowd, "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Fat her, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I do not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad."
The crowd responded, "You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham?"
Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, before Abraham was, I am!" (John 8:54-58).
When Jesus told the assembled unbelieving Jews, who accused Him of having a demon, that He existed before Abraham's day, He was not fooling. Buzzard states, "The day of Messiah 'preexisted,' so to speak, in Abraham's mind" (p.8). In other words, Buzzard claims, "Messiah's day was a reality to Abraham through the eyes of faith, though it had not yet arrived. So also the Messiah 'existed' as the supreme subject of God's plan long before the birth of Abraham" (ibid.).
But wait a minute! Buzzard is reading a lot into this passage that simply isn't there. Again, his explanation is extremely forced and conjectural. Jesus literally said that before Abraham existed, He existed. That's what He said. No matter how Buzzard and others try to explain away that simple fact, it remains true.
Notice! Jesus used the expression, "I am," several times at crucial junctures to refer to Himself (John 18:5; 4:26). However, in these instances the expression proves nothing. Jesus merely used it to identify Himself to others. However, John 8:58 is far different. Here Jesus uses a very unusual setting for saying, "I am" -- which was the very NAME of God (Exo.3:14). He tells the hostile Jewish crowd who were baiting Him,
"I tell you the truth, before Abraham was, I am!" (John 8:58).
This is a plain and straight-forward statement that He existed BEFORE ABRAHAM! He is clearly implying here that as the Logos (John 1:1-3), He pre-dated their father Abraham in existence!
What could be plainer than that? We don't have to try to twist, and squeeze every nuance of meaning from this verse -- it is very straight-forward and crystal clear. The Jews knew what He meant when He said this. They picked up stones to stone Him for what they considered to be blasphemy (verse 59). They knew He wasn't talking about merely being an "idea" in the mind of Abraham!
How To Study the Bible
What more can I say? Recognizing Christ as God does not set John against Matthew, Mark and Luke -- except in the mind of Buzzard who does not grasp the fact that all truth of God is not found in many different places. John's gospel provides the meaning and purpose which the other three gospel accounts leave out. To properly understand the nature and divinity of Christ, we must put ALL the Scriptures together, and not try to set one against another.
As Isaiah wrote, "For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: For with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people" (Isa.28:10-11, KJV). "But the word of the LORD was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken" (Isa.28:13).
Buzzard ends his article with a reference to John 17:3 where Jesus addresses the Father, in His prayer, as "the only true God." To Buzzard, this seems to clinch the case for Christ having no divine pre-existence. Does this mean, then, that only the Father is God, after all, and Jesus is not divine and did not pre-exist? Buzzard would have you think so. But again, he fails to honestly quote the context of Jesus' remark!
What about this verse? Let's read Jesus' prayer, and His remarks, in context. John records: "After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: 'Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence WITH THE GLORY I HAD WITH YOU BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN" (John 17:1-5).
Why does Buzzard so obviously leave out verse 5 from his remarks dealing with John 17:3? His silence speaks volumes. His silence is DEAFENING. Jesus, in the form of the Logos of God, was with the Father and shared His glory before the world began -- before the time of Creation of the universe!
"'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty' " Rev.1:8).
"I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!" (Rev.1:17-18).
Jesus Christ, Himself, says: "Behold, I am coming soon! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy in this book" (Rev.22:7). "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I AM THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. . . . I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star" (Rev.22:12-16).
"He said to me: 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son' " (Rev.21:6-7).
Both Christ Jesus and the Father are "the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End." Both are divine. Both are God! The Father is the Supreme head of the Family of God; Christ is His eldest, firstborn Son. Together, as "Elohim," they created the heavens and the earth (Gen.1:1-2), and then created man in their own image and likeness (Gen.1:26).
Let's rejoice in the divinity and glory of the Father, and our Saviour, Jesus Christ!