The Nature of Preexistence in the Hebrew Mind - by Adam Drissel


The scriptures are thoroughly Hebrew from beginning to end. As a result, interpreting the
passages in a way that is more common to Greek, or other pagan religious thought processes or
doctrinal concepts could be disastrous to us understanding the text properly.

E.C. Dewick puts the contrast between Hebraic and Grecian thought processes on pre-existence as

“When the Jew said something was ‘predestined,’, he thought of it as already ‘existing’ in a
higher sphere of life. The world’s history is thus predestined because it is already, in a sense,
preexisting and consequently fixed. This typically Jewish conception of predestination may be
distinguished from the Greek idea of preexistence by the predominance of the thought of
‘preexistence’ in the Divine purpose.” – Primitive Christian Eschatology

Before digging into specific scriptures or concepts I just want to give some general information. My
intent is to provide evidence supporting the conclusion that the many places in scripture where a
preexistence of Yeshua is interpreted is incorrect. While it should be our goals as interpreters to
exegete the text, or pull our information and conclusions from the text itself, many of the concepts
upon which the doctrine of the preexistence rest are eisegetical, or placed upon the next. When the
supposed “proof texts” of the New Testament and the concepts they outline are compared with the
Hebrew scriptures and the concepts therein the picture of what preexistence really is becomes

Existence Before Creation/Manifestation

Things in the Old and New Testament scriptures are often spoken of as existing before they
actually came in to being or came to pass. Luke 20:35-38 says,

“But those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead,
neither marry, nor are given in marriage.  (36)  For they can’t die any more, for they are like the
angels, and are children of God, being children of the resurrection.  (37)  But that the dead are
raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he called the Lord ‘The God of Abraham, the
God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’  (38)  Now he is not the God of the dead, but of the living,
for all are alive to him.”

The scriptures and Jewish thought ancient and contemporary testify that death is a slumber, even
though it is still a complete death. No immortal spirit exists that moves into some purgatorial state
after the shedding of the body. That is a thoroughly Greek concept. However, the Hebrew mind
knows that even the dead are alive to Yahweh. Revelation 4:11 confirms this by saying,

“Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created
all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”

According to the apostle John everything existed before they were created. In the Hebrew mind
“preexistence” isn’t literal, it is notional or ideal. All things exist in the divine and perfect plan of
Yahweh before they are every manifested in the physical or spiritual worlds.

Preexistence or Foreknowledge?

The authors of the New Testament had a perfect Greek word at their disposal for preexistence.
Προυπ?ρχων, prohuparkon, which literally means “to exist beforehand.” That word is found
nowhere within the pages of the Greek New or Old Testaments. The word for “foreknown”,
προγιν?σκω proginosko, however, is used five times.

Ironically, the concept contained within the word prohuparkon doesn’t appear until it is found in
the writings of the Greek commentators of the second century CE, by which time the influences of the
pagan religions had found their ways into the church. Eusebius in his Ecclesiastical History, Books 3
and 4, confirms that the church remained as a pure and uncorrupted virgin in doctrine until the death
of the last Hebrew bishop of Jerusalem. Based on the time data included in the historical record this
was around 148 CE, which was the eleventh year of the reign of Caesar Antonius Pius. It wasn’t until
then, Eusebius says, that the corruptions of those from outside began to bleed in. It is also not until
this time that any concept of a literal preexistence of Yeshua is discussed, most likely introduced by
Justin Martyr around the year 150 CE.

According to 1 Peter 1:1-2, all believers were foreknown by God. None of us were brought into
existence until our earthly births even though we were all foreknown in the mind and divine plan of
Yah. Likewise, we read later in verse 20 that Yeshua was also foreknown before the foundations of
the world, but he wasn’t made manifest until the last age. The contrast between preexistence and
foreknowledge is an important one.

Any supposed manifestations of a preexistent Yeshua, such as him appearing on Mount Sinai,
wrestling with Jacob, talking with Abraham outside his tent, etc., would all go directly against what
Peter taught in his epistle. It would have required him to be manifested in this world prior to the last
age. In addition, it isn’t mentioned explicitly in the text of scripture that it was Yeshua who performed
those acts. All such propositions are only implied. Proper biblical hermeneutics requires that
implications cannot be used in the establishment of doctrine.

There are many other scriptural instances of the concepts of foreknowledge and foreordination
found in the scriptures.

o Verse 22 of the same chapter says that the same glory had already been given to
Yeshua; the verb given there is in the perfect tense, which in Greek represents a
completed action. And yet we know that at this point Yeshua had yet to be glorified
since he hadn’t yet been killed and raised again.

o In the same verse, the foreknown and foreordained glory of Yeshua was given to the
apostles, yet we know they didn’t preexist their births.

o Rom 8:28-30 says, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love
God, to those who are called according to his purpose.  (29)  For whom he foreknew, he
also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn
among many brothers.  (30)  Whom he predestined, those he also called. Whom he
called, those he also justified. Whom he justified, those he also glorified.”

o Jeremiah 1:4-5 says, “Now Yahweh’s word came to me, saying, (5) ‘Before I formed
you in the womb, I knew you. Before you were born, I sanctified you. I have appointed
you a prophet to the nations.’”

o 2 Kings 19:20-25 says, “Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent to Hezekiah, saying,
‘Yahweh, the God of Israel, says “You have prayed to me against Sennacherib king of
Assyria, and I have heard you.  (21)  This is the word that Yahweh has spoken
concerning him: ‘The virgin daughter of Zion has despised you and ridiculed you. The
daughter of Jerusalem has shaken her head at you.  (22)  Whom have you defied and
blasphemed? Against whom have you exalted your voice and lifted up your eyes on
high? Against the Holy One of Israel!  (23)  By your messengers, you have defied the
Lord, and have said, ‘With the multitude of my chariots, I have come up to the height of
the mountains, to the innermost parts of Lebanon, and I will cut down its tall cedars and
its choice cypress trees; and I will enter into his farthest lodging place, the forest of his
fruitful field.  (24)  I have dug and drunk strange waters, and I will dry up all the rivers of
Egypt with the sole of my feet.’  (25)  Haven’t you heard how I have done it long ago,
and formed it of ancient times? Now I have brought it to pass, that it should be yours
to lay waste fortified cities into ruinous heaps.”’”

With God?

Many things are spoken of in the scriptures as being “with” Yahweh, things which aren’t literal,
but conceptual:

None of these instances are or can be exegeted as meaning more than what they state they are –
wisdom – which is an incorporeal, intangible concept. Yeshua isn’t found by name in any of these
instances and to read it as such is to misread the plain text of the scriptures. The New Testament, in
Luke 2, states that Yeshua “increased in wisdom.” That doesn’t mean he increased in himself. Paul
states in 1 Cor. 1:30 that Yeshua was “made to us wisdom from God”, not that wisdom, or Yeshua
mystically in the form of intangible wisdom, existed before his earthly birth.
In addition to the above, the Hebrew scriptures contain many other things spoken of as being
“with” someone using the Hebrew equivalents of the Greek word pros – im or et.

today, as agreed by scholars and lay-people alike, such as the NASB, KJV, ASV, LEB, WEB,
and LITV all translate that phrase as something like “had by the spirit” or “had in his mind”.

Something spoken of as being “with” Yahweh should by no means be interpreted as meaning it
preexisted with him in some tangible, corporeal, or literal fashion.

John 1

John 1 is by far the most commonly used scripture used as a proof text for the preexistence or
the doctrines of the trinity, binity, and the like. However, we should first clarify what it says and what it
does not say. Literally translated it would read:

“In a beginning was the word, and the word was with the God, and God was the word.”

Now, no English translation translates the final clause as such. So, most commonly we read:

“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.”

Aside from retranslating it to convey the meaning of the phrases, or use what is called dynamic
equivalence, the above it what it does say. Here is what it does not say:

“In the beginning was the son [or Yeshua], and the son [or Yeshua] was with God, and the son
[or Yeshua] was God.”

We must ensure that we strive to interpret the meaning of verses in the Bible based on the text itself,
not what we impose upon it based on previously conceived or accepted doctrines.
Davar, in Hebrew, is used over 1,400 times in the Tanakh. There is not a single occurrence
where that word is referring to a person or preexistent being. It is unreasonable to assume that John,
a Hebrew by birth, raised in the Hebrew culture, and taught the Hebrew scriptures from a child, would
have suddenly diverged so significantly from the scriptures he had at that time into believing that the
word was a preexistent being of some sort.

In Greek the word logos is used over 300 times and, outside of a single occasion in Revelation
19 where it is used as a title, not a being, it unequivocally refers to a word, thought or concept. There
are only six occurrences in the New Testament where the word logos is translated with a capital W,
three in John 1:1, one in John 1:14, one in 1 Jn. 1:1 and one in Revelation 19. Capitalization is not
something original in the manuscripts themselves as they were written in what are called uncials,
which are all capital letters. One only need to look at the Codex Sinaiticus and other very early
manuscripts of the New Testament to see for themselves.

Unless the text requires that we do so, we need to read logos in the context of the New
Testament’s usage of it.


John 8:58

The phrase ε?γω? ει?μι in Greek, though literally translated “I am”, in the 45 times it is found it is never
used in the New Testament as an appellation for God (unlike in Exodus 3, where it is). In the places
where Yeshua uses it in statements to identify himself, or label himself something, he uses it to
identify himself as the promised Messiah.


o In comparing Mat 24:5 to the parallel verses in the other gospels, we read:

o In both parallel verses the translators add the word “he” after ε?γω? ει?μι for clarification.
Yeshua isn’t telling his apostles to be on the lookout for people who are claiming to be
Yahweh, he is warning them about people who would come claiming to be the Messiah.

Many other instances in the scriptures use the phrase ε?γω? ει?μι, without being implied or coupled with
a stonable offence.


However, even here, using the same orphaned phrase, the Jews didn’t threaten to stone him The
same happens in John 8:28, no stoning. The reason for the desire to stone him wasn’t due to any
supposed equating of himself with Yahweh, it was due to the culmination of an extremely scathing
discourse by Yeshua. He stated that the Jews:


It was the sum total of all of those things that moved them to stone him.
In addition to the above, the phrase ε?γω? ει?μι is used twice by Yeshua while he was being betrayed
and arrested in the garden. When Yeshua asked “Whom do you seek?”, the soldiers replied,
“Yeshua the Nazarene.” Yeshua responded by saying ε?γω? ει?μι. The translators, however, rightly put
the word he in the text after ε?γω? ει?μι. Yeshua wasn’t responding to their inquiry with a declaration that
he was the “Great I AM.” Rather, he was telling them “I am the one you are looking for.”
More confirmation of this is found in the fact that despite the many witnesses to his response –
soldiers, apostles, and officers of the chief priests alike – that was never brought up as a point of
accusation in his trial before the high priests. Had his audience understood that he was actually
declaring himself to be the great I AM that would surely have been top on the list of offences and
charges brought against him.

Created Through Him

Colossians 1:15-20 says,
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. (16) For by Him all things
were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or
dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him. (17)

He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (18) He is also head of the body,
the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come
to have first place in everything. (19) For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness
to dwell in Him, (20) and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace
through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in

Several important points need to be made about this passage.


Ephraim and Shem also obtained the privileges of the firstborn even though they technically
weren’t. Firstborn is as much a rank as it is a description of the order of birth.

When properly translated and understood in context, this passage doesn’t place Yeshua in the
position of creator nor does it proclaim a preexistence before his earthly birth. In addition, several
passages in the Tanakh state that Yahweh alone is creator, such as Isa. 44:24.

Alef and Tav

Many believe that the presence of the Hebrew letters alef and tav in verses such as Genesis
1:1 prove that Yeshua preexisted his earthly birth. This is because they use passages in Revelation
that declare Yeshua the alpha and omega. Even if Revelation was originally written in Hebrew, a
proposition that has no manuscript or historical support, the supposition that those two letters, when
found together in the Tanakh, show a preexistent Yeshua, is an extreme stretch.

Grammatically speaking the letters in the word et, formed with the letters alef and tav, have
two meanings. First, and most frequently, it is the marker of the direct object of a verb. For example,
the act of creating in Genesis 1:1 takes place upon the objects of the heavens and earth. They are
the direct objects of the act of creating, therefore the et precedes them. Second, it is a word that
means “with” and usually connected to the word it relates to by a Hebrew makkaf, or dash.

Proponents of the view that the et refers to Yeshua only apply that concept selectively,
wherever they choose to. However, if it were applied globally, as such an important proposition
should be, we would read such things as:


Et is used over 10,000 times in the Tanakh, and if Messiah was applied to each most of those
passages would become nonsensical. Messiah is found all throughout the types and prophecies of
the Tanakh. Seeking to place him in there as symbolized by the alef-tav, as pure in motive as it might
be, is exegetically, hermeneutically, and linguistically unwise. Instead of taking the non-existent

Hebrew equivalent of a phrase in Revelation out of context to apply it to the Tanakh, for largely
irrelevant reasons, we should seek the meaning in context.

Ancient Jewish Understanding of Preexistence

Ancient Jewish writings also tell us what the Hebrew mind thought when it came to the concept
of preexistence. The following is found in the Babylonian Talmud, tractate Pesahim 54a:

“Seven things were created before the world was made, and these are they: Torah,
repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gehenna, the throne of glory, and house of the sanctuary,
and the name of the Messiah.”

Witnessing to the above we also have the following written in Genesis Rabbah 1.4:

“Six things preceded the creation of the world; some of them were actually created, while the
creation of the others was already contemplated. The Torah and the throne of glory were
created…The creation of the Patriarchs was contemplated…[The creation of] Israel was
contemplated…[The creation of] the temple was contemplated…The name of Messiah was

Note that the Jews didn’t consider that the Messiah himself was created before the creation of the
world. Only that his name was created, but only in the mind of God. The same holds true for
repentance since repentance is unnecessary unless the fall into sin occurred.

One of the Targumim, which are ancient Aramaic commentaries on the Tanakh formed during the
second temple period, states the following regarding the name of the Messiah:

“God will reveal his Messiah, whose name is spoken from the beginning.”

An ancient first century work called “The Testament of Moses”, chapter 1 verse 14, has Moses saying
the following about himself during a speech to Joshua:

“But He did design and devise me, and He prepared me from the beginning of the world to be
mediator of His covenant.”

This is very similar to what we read before regarding Jeremiah. Moses, like Jeremiah, and John the
Baptist, and Yeshua, and many others throughout history, were all set apart within the womb for
special and unique purposes. It could be said that each of us have that same gift. We were prepared
and known before the foundation of the world, but not manifested until the perfect time.

In a late first century work known as 2 Baruch, which the church father Origen stated was read by the
Jews in his day, we read the following in chapter 4, verses 3-5:

“It is not this building that is in your midst now; it is that which will be revealed, with me, that
was already prepared from the moment that I decided to create Paradise. And I showed it to
Adam before he sinned. But when he transgressed the commandment, it was taken away from
him–as also Paradise. After these things I showed it to my servant Abraham in the night

between the portions of the victims. And again I showed it also to Moses on Mount Sinai when
I showed him the likeness of the tabernacle and all its vessels”

At this time in history the temple had been destroyed and the Jews were wrestling with the problem of
why God allowed such a thing to happen. In this passage, it states that it isn’t the physical temple
that Baruch need be concerned with, but the one that will come later, which was prepared from the
moment he created paradise, revealed to Adam and Abraham, and the likeness of which was shown
to Moses.

To the Hebrew mind of the second temple period, through the late 6 th or 7 th century CE, preexistence
was only conceptual or notional, not literal. Things were believed to have preexisted their literal
manifestation in the mind of Yahweh, only to be later manifested when their due time came.


To sum up the above I believe the scriptures, when exegeted properly, not being interpreted
through the eyes of doctrines many of us carried out of traditional Christianity, are clear that any form
of preexistence found is only conceptual in nature, not literal. When read using this Hebraic
understanding of preexistence, scriptures that are often considered proof texts for the preexistence of
Yeshua become clearer. Like many other doctrines, when the texts themselves are studied in their
original languages and translated or interpreted according to the thought processes of their
contemporaries, the doctrine of the literal preexistence of Yeshua falls apart. The perfect and
complete plans of Yah, like those of an architect before raising a great edifice, contain in them all
things necessary to the end He wants to bring to about. Even as the later aspects of a building don’t
come into existence immediately, such as the color of the paint or types of light fixtures, so the plans
of Yahweh come into existence at the perfect time of their manifestation. They only existed
conceptually beforehand, not literally. Such is how it is with Yeshua. He was foreknown and
foreordained in the perfect plans of Yah, but only manifested in creation at the perfect time, in what
the scriptures call the last age.

Having said all the above, it is important to note that I, personally, do not find this topic to be
salvific in nature. In the past ten years of us hosting the feast I, and others in our fellowship, have
largely stayed away from discussions on or teachings about this topic due to its highly controversial
nature. However, I have decided to bring it up here in open forum in an attempt to focus not on the
preexistence of Yeshua exclusively, but the overall general concept of preexistence in the Hebrew
mind and the text of the scriptures. It is my prayer and hope that our ensuing discussions will remain
fruitful, that others will be permitted to voice their opinions openly, agreeing or disagreeing, and that
we will be able to walk out of this room just as we walked in – brethren in Yeshua who love Yah and
love one another.