Re: Does the NT authors use of "God sent his only son" imply...

Carl W. Conrad (
Wed, 31 Jul 1996 20:06:23 -0400

At 3:36 PM -0400 7/31/96, wrote:
>I came into an interesting perspective and I wanted to know from
>those on the list I have come to trust if the argument holds
>exegetical water. The question is, does the NT authors' use of
>"God sent his only son..." imply the assumption of the pre-existance
>of Jesus before his birth. Clearly John's gospel has this in
>mind, but the usage of the word "sent" is more widespread than that.
>The idea being that in English the word send implies that you have what
>you are sending in your possession. Does the Greek shed any evidence on
>this issue.
>Another way of asking the question is, "How early in the church tradition is
>the doctrine of Jesus' preexistance?" and a follow-up question is, "What
>evidence for doctrine of the Trinitarian formula of persons in the Godhead
>is there in the NT texts."
>I know that these are controversial religious issues, and I am not trying to
>stir that fire. I am primarily interested in the arguement that the "sent"
>formulations are evidence of an early doctrine of Jesus' pre-existance which
>reaches its full expression in John.
>Please post back to the list as I am in the process of changing email

While I do believe that the author of John's gospel holds a high
Christology, I think that the better place to see pre-existence indicated
would be in Jesus' declaration in Jn 8:58 (PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI EGW EIMI).
I do not think that the language of SENDING, specificially the use of
PEMPEIN, necessarily implies pre-existence. The Platonic Socrates,
particularly in the _Apology_ uses this same verb to refer to himself as a
missionary sent by hO QEOS (by which he presumably means Apollo) to the
Athenians to awaken them from their dogmatic slumbers--pretty clearly he is
pointing to a deliberate divine purpose in his "mission to the Athenians"
rather than to any personal pre-existence of his own. I would be somewhat
leery also of overstating the implications of MONOGENHS: it may or may not
mean more than that Jesus Christ is unique among the sons of God. Here,
after all, is where Christology begins historically: in the effort to
clarify how Jesus is both LIKE and UNLIKE other human beings.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR