John 17:5, Before the World

John 17:5 (KJV, literal) John 17:5 (Greek, transliteration)
And now, O Father, glorify thou me
with thine own self with the glory
which I had with thee
before the world was.
xoi v¡v oocooov µr o¡. ro:ro.
rooo oro¡:cˆ◊ :n oocn
n∞ ri•,ov roo :o¡
:ov xooµov ri•voi rooo ooi.
And now, glorify me you, Father
beside yourself the glory
which I-had before which
the universe existed beside you
kai nun doksason me su, pater,
para seautō tē doksē
hē eichon pro tou
ton kosmon einai para soi.
So, glorify me now beside yourself, Father, with the glory I had beside you
before the world existed.
So, glorify me now beside yourself, Father, with the glory I had beside you
before the world existed.
17.5a: So, glorify me now beside yourself, Father,
In 17.4, the Son glorifies the Father on earth (gē). Now, in the context of the reciprocal
glorification of the Father and the Son,
1
the Son asks the Father to “glorify me now beside
yourself.” There are two contrasting polarities in this reciprocal glorification--spatial and
temporal. First, the Son glorifies the Father on earth, while the Father glorifies the Son “beside
himself,” that is to say, in heaven. Second, the Son glorifies the Father now--that is, at the
“hour” (17.1) of his atonement, death and resurrection--while the Father glorified the Son
“before the world existed,” that is, in the beginning. This creates, then, a mutual and reciprocal
revelation of the Glory of the Father and Son throughout time and space, culminating in the
Hamblin, John 17:5, Before the World 1 Dec 5, 2010
1
The concept of reciprocal glorification of the Father and Son as the revelation of their already
extant glory--as opposed to an increase in their glory--is discussed in 17.4a.
forthcoming universal revelation of their mutual Glory in the creation of the new heaven, earth
and the eternal cosmic dwelling of God in New Jerusalem as described in Revelation.
2

Christ’s request that the Father glorify him “beside yourself,” focuses on the forthcoming
ascent of Jesus to the Father.
3
However, in the New Testament, the manifestation of the glory of
the Son in the presence of the Father has already occurred on two occasions: at the baptism of
Jesus,
4
and, most clearly, at the Transfiguration.
5
On the other hand, just before the beginning of
John’s narrative of the Last Supper where the intercessory prayer is found (Jn 13-17), Jesus is
preaching in the Temple and calls upon the Father to “glorify your name” (Jn 12.28a), after
which the Father’s voice from heaven proclaims, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it
again” (Jn 12.28b), prophesying of the forthcoming glorification requested by Christ in his
prayer in John 17.
But Christ’s request of the Father here is that he be glorified “beside yourself” (para
seautō), which I believe has reference to being enthroned on the right hand of the Father in
heaven.
6
The Greek phrase para seautō literally means “beside yourself,” or more broadly, “with
you” or “in your presence.” On several occasions when Christ is described as enthroned on the
Hamblin, John 17:5, Before the World 2 Dec 5, 2010
2
Rev 21-22, see especially 21.11 and 21.22-23, where the light of New Jerusalem is “glory of
God” derived from the presence of both the Father and Son in the temple-city.
3
Described in Jn 20.17; Lk 24.51; Acts 1.9-11; Jn 6.62. Throughout Revelation, Christ the Lamb
is glorified in the temple in heaven beside the Father.
4
Mt 3.13-17; Mk 1.8-11; Lk 3.21-22; Jn 1.29-34.
5
Mt 17.1-9; Mk 9.2-10; Lk 9.28-36. Paradoxically, however, the Transfiguration is not
described by John, despite his concern with the glory of the Son.
6
Christ enthroned, or standing on the right hand of God is a standard New Testament description
of his post-resurrection glorification: Mk 16.19, Lk 22.69; Acts 2.33, 5.31; Rom 8.34; Col 3.1;
Heb 8.1, 10.12, 12.2; 1 Pet 3.22.
right hand of God, it is expressly associated with the “glory of God.” The letter to the Hebrews,
describing the glorified Christ, tells us:
[Christ] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he
upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins [in
the Atonement], he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty [of the Father] on high.
(Heb 1.3)
In Stephen’s theophany at his martyrdom, he has a similar vision of the glory of God, with Christ
on the right hand of the Father.
But [Stephen], full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and
Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens
opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God. (Acts 7.55-56)
Thus, Christ’s request in 17.5 for glorification beside the Father has reference to this type of
enthronement at the right hand of the Father after the resurrection. Although Jesus had this glory
“before the world existed,” it has been generally hidden from most people during his mortality
(Jn 1.5, 1.10-11), but becomes manifest again upon his resurrection, ascent and enthronement on
the right hand of God.
17.5b: with the glory I had beside you before the world existed.
The idea of a preexistent Christ, who had glory with the Father before the world existed,
is most fully described in the complex and enigmatic first chapter of John, called the Prologue,
which forms the background for this phrase in 17.5. There Christ is not asking for more glory
than he had “before the world existed,” but the restoration and revelation of the glory he already
had beside the Father before creation, but which has been masked by his incarnation.
John 1 essentially gives a brief synopsis of the three key elements of God’s plan of
salvation: creation (1.1-4, 10), incarnation of the Word (1.9-11), and the Word’s atonement
Hamblin, John 17:5, Before the World 3 Dec 5, 2010
(1.12-13). Christ--as the Word/logos--was “in the beginning with God” (Jn 1.1-2). “In the
beginning” here is an explicit allusion to the beginning of the creation process described in
Genesis 1.1. Christ made “all things” at creation (Jn 1.3), and is the “life” and “true light” of the
world (kosmos, xooµo¸) (Jn 1.9). The primordial glory that Christ had with the Father is thus
full divinity (1.1) and divine creator (1.3 10). Other New Testament writers also describe Christ
as the creator of the world.
7

There are two ideas from John 1 that need clarification to help us understand John 17.
First, what is the nature of Christ as the Logos/Word? I will discuss this concept in detail in the
commentary to John 17.17. Here I will briefly note three things that will more fully discussed
later. The term logos/word in Greek has a broad range of meaning such as “word, utterance,
declaration, discourse, or reason.”
8
John, however, uses the word in a very technical sense to
mean Christ in a preexistent divine state. As will be discussed in chapter 17, John’s selection of
the term logos seems to related to post-biblical Jewish theological concepts of the first centuries
AD and BC which would have been familiar to John and his readers. This is not a distinctly
Christian concept; John is the only New Testament author who calls Jesus the Word.
The second question is: what is the nature of the term world? It is very important in John
17, where it appears eighteen times, always translating the Greek word kosmos (xooµo¸). It’s
primary meaning is “adornment or beautification,” from which our English term cosmetics
Hamblin, John 17:5, Before the World 4 Dec 5, 2010
7
1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2.
8
ABD 4:347-355; BDAG 599-601. In the Septuagint logos often translates dābār (rDb;∂d), in the
ubiquitous phrase “word of YHWH” which often introduces prophetic oracles. It is cognate with
our English term logic, and is the basis of the names of many scientific disciplines such as
geology or archaeology.
derives.
9
However, its extended meaning is to “organize or arrange,” and from that it comes to
mean “that which is ordered and beautified by God,” that is, God’s created order, or the world.
The Greek kosmos is thus the obvious origin for our word cosmos, meaning the universe. The
term appears rarely in the Septuagint, never consistently translating a single Hebrew word.
10

Kosmos is generally translated as “world,” in the sense the earth and its inhabitants, but generally
not including the heavens, stars, etc.
11
For example, Christ proclaimed: “I came from the Father
and have come into the kosmos, and now I am leaving the kosmos and going to the Father” (Jn
16.28), implying that heaven, where the Father dwells, is not part of the kosmos.
12

The King James translation unfortunately conflates several different Greek terms, all of
which it translates as world. There are four distinct terms in Greek which are often confused by
modern readers. The first is gē (vn ) which refers to land, ground or earth. It means earth not in
the sense of planet earth, or the world/kosmos, but as land, dirt or ground, and hence province or
region. It should not be confused with kosmos. A second term is oikoumenē (oi˙xo¡µrvn),
which is generally rendered world in the King James translation.
13
It means the civilized or
inhabited world, but can mean essentially the Roman Empire. For example, in Luke 2.1,
Augustus Caesar taxes the oikoumenē/world--that is, the Roman Empire--while in Mark 16.15
Christ commands the disciples to “go into all the kosmos and proclaim the gospel.”
Hamblin, John 17:5, Before the World 5 Dec 5, 2010
9
It is used once in the New Testament in the sense of “adornment” in 1 Pet 3.3.
10
See BADG 561-3 and TDNT 3:867-98, for the discussion in this paragraph.
11
Acts 17:24 may imply that kosmos includes the heavens.
12
See also Jn 10.36, 13.1, 17.11.
13
Our English term ecumenical derives from the Greek oikoumenē.
Unfortunately, there is sometimes no way to distinguish between these terms in many English
translations.
A final important term sometimes translated as “world” is aiōn (oi˙cv)--“an age, aeon,
epoch, or period of history.”
14
It is usually translated as “world” in the King James version, but
is often rendered “age” in modern translations. For example, when Christ tells the disciples, “I
am with you always, even unto the end of the world,” he is talking about the aiōn/age, not the
kosmos. Indeed, all discussions of the “end of the world” in the New Testament refer to the “end
of the aiōn/age.”
15
Likewise, New Testament discussions of “this world”
16
and the “world to
come” refer to the present and future aiōn/age, not the kosmos.
17

Although in 17.5 kosmos means created order or world, it also means the inhabitants of
that world/created order, and, more specifically, the “world” which is in opposition to Christ and
the believers. This is the sense that kosmos is most frequently used in John 17; I will discuss it in
detail in a future chapter.
Hamblin, John 17:5, Before the World 6 Dec 5, 2010
14
BDAG 32-33. Note that the noun aiōn reflects the same concept as the adjective aiōnios,
which I discussed in chapter 3. The basic concept of both terms is a “long duration of time.”
15
Mt 13.39, 49, 24.3, 14, 29.20; 1 Cor 10.11; Heb 9.26.
16
Mt 12.32, 13.22; Mk 4.19; Lk 16.8, 20.34; Rom 12.2; 1 Cor 1.20. 2.6-8, etc.
17
Mt 12.32; Mk 10.30; Lk 18.30. This Christian concept parallels contemporary Jewish and
Rabbinic concepts of the ‘ôlām ha-zeh (this [mortal] world), and the ‘ôlām ha-bā (the coming/
future [eschatological] world) with the Greek aiōn translating the Hebrew ‘ôlām.

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