Messiah’s Pre-existence in the Hebrew Bible?

Recently a well-known Biblical scholar and professor of languages in the United States stated: “I am unable to find any evidence of the pre-existence of Christ in the Old Testament.” This Christian teacher is a Socian who believes Jesus Christ only came into existence at his human birth. The reason for their doctrine is a reaction to the Trinity, as they do not accept the plural God in three persons or modes as a doctrine.

Does the Hebrew Bible Suggest the Pre-Existence of Christ?

We suggest the pre-existence of Christ is mentioned in at least four places in the Old Testament. Indeed, two of these have inspired interpretations which confirm their application to the pre-existence of Christ.

Deuteronomy 30:12, 13 -- “Who Will Ascend into Heaven”

Deuteronomy 30:12, 13 may seem obscure to some. However, according to at least one outstanding scholar of all time, it points to the pre-existence of Christ: "For this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it far away. It is not in the heavens, so as to result in saying, 'Who will ascend for us into the heavens and get it for us, that he may let us hear it that we may do it?' Neither is it on the other side of the sea, so as to result in saying, 'Who will pass over for us to the other side of the sea and get it for us, that he may let us hear it that we may do it?' For the word is very near you, in your own mouth and in your own heart, that you may do it.” [NWT]

Paul quotes this and applies into the pre-existence of Christ. Romans 10:6 reads: “In contrast, that righteousness resulting from conviction says, ‘Do not state in your heart [Deuteronomy 9:4], “Who will ascend into the heavens,” [that is to bring Christ down].” [NCMM, Nazarene Commentary 2000©] In Deuteronomy the context is the Saying or RHEMA in the LXX and Paul goes on to interpret this as the “Saying of Conviction.” Later Jewish Targums viewed the phrase as trying to ascend to Sinai to bring Moses down (called the Christ at Hebrews11:26); or, ascending into the sea to bring up Jonah, both Messiah-types. Beyond accepting Paul’s interpretation we leave other views to speculations. Whatever the views of others It seems to clear that Paul believed in the pre-existence of Christ based on his inspired interpretation of Deuteronomy 30:12, 13.

“When He Ascended on High”

Psalm 68:18 is also interpreted to allude to the pre-existence of Christ: “You have ascended on high. You have carried away captives. You have taken gifts in the form of men.” [NWT]

Paul quotes this verse and applies it to the re-existence of Christ. Ephesians 4:8, 9 says: “That is why David writes, ‘When he ascended on high he led in procession captives as prisoners of war and these he gave as gifts to people.’ Now what does, ‘he ascended,’ mean but that Christ also descended into the lowest places on earth? The person who descended to the earth is the same one who ascended above the entire celestialum. This was so that Christ might fulfill completely everything (purposed).” [NCMM (paraphrase), Nazarene Commentary 2000©] Paul references Psalm 68 and then gives his inspired application of the implications of the word “ascended.” He argues this leads to the conclusion that Christ had to first descend to the earth, thus indicating a pre-existence.

“The Angel of Yahweh”

Paul also draws on the Rock and the Angel of Yahweh in he Book of Exodus with an inspired application to Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:4 reads: “All the Israelites were immersed into Moses. … They all drank the same spiritual drink. Because they use to drink from the spiritual Rock that followed them. And that Rock was the Christ.” [NCMM, Nazarene Commentary 2000©] It is believed by some that Paul refers to the Angel of Yahweh who followed the Israelites in the wilderness and represented the Rock. This “angel of Yehowah” was the pre-existent Christ. [Exodus 3:2; 14:19; 23:20, 23; 32:34; 33:2] [See further notes in Error of the Trinity, Nazarene Commentary 2000©.]

“What is His Son’s Name”

We would add two additional verses that would point to the pre-existence of Christ. The first is Proverbs 30:4: “Who has ascended to heaven that he may descend? Who has gathered the wind in the hollow of both hands? Who has wrapped up the waters in a mantle? Who has made all the ends of the earth to rise? What is his name and what the name of his son, in case you know?” [NWT]

In the very context of someone ascending to heaven so that he might descend has the question in it: “What is His Son’s name?” Since this Son was already alive around the year 1,000 BC it would seem Christ had a pre-existence based on this text.

“Before He Made the earth … I Was in His Presence”

Though Trinitarians will disagree with the understanding of the following verses, they have been understood by both Jewish and Christian scholars from the 1st Century as applying to Christ. Proverbs 8:22-30 reads in part in the 3rd Century BC Jewish Greek Bible: “The Lord created me a beginning of His ways for His works. He established me before the Age, in the beginning, before He made the earth. … He gave birth to me. … When He prepared the heaven, I was in His presence. … And daily I rejoiced in His presence continually.” [LXX Bagster] The language is similar to that of Job 38:4, 7: “Where did you [Job] happen to be when I founded the earth? … When the morning stars joyfully cried out together, and all the sons of God began shouting in applause?” [NWT] One of these rejoicing “sons of God” would have included the One begotten first [or, created] in Proverbs 8:22-30. That is, The Son - Christ.

So, though a biased person with a predisposed agenda might read the Old Testament and miss these proofs of Christ’s pre-existence, we see that Paul read these verses differently. Though those who reject the pre-existence of Christ will not accept these views, we must take Paul’s own inspired interpretations over any other. For details on the pre-existence of Christ as taught by Jesus, the apostle John, John the Baptist and Paul see the article “Did Christ Have a Pre-existence?” in the Biblical reference Nazarene Commentary 2000©.

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Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

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