Christmas Came Early!

Who can forget the part in A Charlie Brown Christmas when Linus recites Luke 2:8-14 (KJV)? This captures the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. This captures the meaning of Christmas.

But, arguably, the story of Christmas comes a bit earlier than that. Before the Virgin Birth was the Virginal Conception. This is found in Luke 1:26-38 and Matthew 1:18-24.

Yet the implication of Jeremiah 1:5 shows that Christmas came even earlier:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you came out of the womb, I sanctified you and appointed you a prophet to the nations.

If God assigned Jeremiah’s role before forming him in the womb, then he surely knew Jesus’ assignment before His miraculous birth! Can we know how early?

We know from John chapter 1 that Jesus predates His earthly existence as “the Word” (Logos).

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us… (John 1:14).

The first portion “And the Word became flesh” can be understood as either the Virginal Conception or the Virgin Birth. I think it means the former. Whichever the case, strictly speaking, “the Word” predates Jesus of Nazareth. That is, before John 1:14 “the Word” existed without human flesh. In fact, a careful reading of John 1:1-3 illustrates that “the Word” predates creation, for He was the Agent of all creation:

1 In the beginning the Word existed, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (by nature). 2 He [the Word] existed in the beginning with God. 3 Through Him [the Word] all things came to be…

While God is the Creator (see Rev 4:11, e.g.), “the Word” was the Agent by which all things were created. Thus, when “the Word became flesh” the uncreated Agent of all creation became part of all creation!

Yet we still haven’t answered the question of whether or not we can know how early Jesus’ assignment was. The book of Revelation implicitly provides the answer!

Depending on which Bible version you have (the Greek syntax here can be construed two different ways), the implication of Revelation 13:8 (cf. 17:8) is such that either: {a} names were placed in the Book of Life before the foundation of the world (NIV, ESV, NASB, HCSB) or {b} the Lamb (Jesus) was slain before the foundation of the world (KJV, Douay-Rheims, ISV, YLT). In either case, this indicates salvation was worked out before creation.

Thus, Christmas came VERY early!

21 Responses to Christmas Came Early!

  1. Craig says:

    Check this out:

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  2. Jim says:

    I listen to quite a number of Alister Begg’s sermons. I like his preaching style.

    I would say from your Rev verses on the book of life that God both foreknew who would be written in (a euphemism, I think, for those sealed with the Holy Spirit), and ordained the means by which that could happen – Christ’s death and resurrection – all by the time creation had been completed.

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  3. Craig says:

    I’m glad you also listen to Begg. I also like his style, and even his accent is appealing.

    While there are a number of different ways to construe the Revelation verses–and consider 3:5–I’m inclined to agree with your position. (See my comments on Revelation 13:8 in this article.)

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  4. Jim says:

    That article is right up there on your blog Craig. I honestly can’t fathom the explanations given by BJ et al who affirm Jesus was simply a man, fully divested of all pre-incarnate attributes, totally empty of divinity yet also God. That would be a seeming fudge so as to essentially support a ministry of miracles.

    Your reference there to Rev 13:8 is apposite with respect to time and the ‘already/not yet’ concepts in scripture. The only thing I would make clear as well is that God knowing the names in the Lamb’s book of life doesn’t imply predestination to me, simply foreknowledge due to no constraint by linear, dimensional time as we perceive it.

    To dip into conjecture for a moment, I think it’s plausible that we have to be clear about the difference between eternal and ever-lasting (or unto the ages as it’s sometimes translated). I believe the bible teaches only the Father is eternal and therefore has no created beginning. Entities that have been gifted ever-lasting life (angels by their nature, humans after resurrection) are those that can’t die, unless by an act of their Creator.

    The Logos is, in my opinion, unique in that he wasn’t created by the Father, but was begotten in an instance, or ‘came forth’, from the being of the Father, so is ever-lasting but of the same ‘kind’ as the Father and therefore above and beyond angels, for example. Does that mean Jesus is inside ‘time’? Yes and no. As the Father’s perfectly represented agent, I think the Logos had to be brought forth at a point in time to both create and relate to his creation; whether that point could be perceived by us or only the Father, I don’t know. I don’t subscribe to the eternal begetting idea, which seems a forced notion to ensure the Logos is not regarded as any lesser a being than the Father.

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  5. Craig says:

    Jim,

    You wrote: …The only thing I would make clear as well is that God knowing the names in the Lamb’s book of life doesn’t imply predestination to me, simply foreknowledge due to no constraint by linear, dimensional time as we perceive it.

    That’s how I construed your earlier comment, and on that I concur.

    Let me reframe your conjecture. Think of eternality as either unbounded or bounded. God is eternally unbounded, with neither beginning nor end. All created beings that are granted ‘eternal life’ are bounded at the point of entry into eternality but unbounded as to duration thereafter–a beginning point but no end point.

    As for the eternality of the Logos, we’ll agree to disagree, for I view the Logos as God and therefore possessing unbounded eternality. This makes Jesus bounded in one sense (the Divine-human incarnate Person), yet unbounded in another (His pre-existence as the Logos sans flesh), though we cannot make such a strict division in the Person of Christ, for this would fall into Nestorianism. Yet, on the other hand, because we cannot conceive a human-fleshed Logos pre-Incarnation, I make the distinction in the article that Jesus predates His earthly existence as “the Word” (Logos), and, thus, strictly speaking, “the Word” predates Jesus of Nazareth. That is, the Virginal Conception/Birth occurred in the temporal realm.

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  6. Jim says:

    Glad we converge on the Rev 13:8 stuff Craig. It is fascinating to dig over the scriptures for insights into when phrases like ‘from the creation (or foundation) if the world’ point us to.

    World/creation is often the Greek kosmos, which is really the ordering of the initial chaotic lump of water-covered earth, including the subsequent ordering of human society and governance. As you know I believe the Father, God Most High, not created not begotten brought forth his own wisdom as a being to execute his creative purpose. I won’t die in a ditch over the idea that the bringing forth of wisdom (proverbs 8:22-31) as the Logis was the day 1 creation of supernatural light (natural light came in day 4).

    That aside, the Logos was ontologically of the Father’s kind and not created from another substance like angels and humans. But that doesn’t then have to imply unbounded eternality due to that nature, or the permission given by the Father that the Logos carry the Father’s name and be worshipped. Being begotten eternally makes no sense unless it is to maintain a trinitarian construct that Jesus is God. I’d rather see things as they more naturally sit, and accord the Logos/Jesus as our Lord, saviour, uniquely begotten, having the Father’s titles and name yet sitting beneath his supreme rule.

    By the way, did I mention previously that there are three ‘begettings’: Prov 8:22 (cf Gen 1:3, John 1:1-5); Matt 1:23 et al; Acts 13:32-33 quoting Ps 2. The first is the Logos agent, the second as human birth from a divine conception, the third as the second Adam and risen Christ now back with the Father as that third begotten nature. Praise God for all three!

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  7. Craig says:

    Jim,

    Though we agree on the predestination/foreknowledge issue, I’m not in agreement with your most recent comment–as you well know.

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  8. SLIMJIM says:

    Good point; I always thought it was better to call it Virgin Conception

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Craig says:

    I first read that idea in Raymond Brown’s Anchor Commentary on John’s Gospel. Learned a lot from Brown, even though there are number of points I don’t fully agree with him.

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  10. SLIMJIM says:

    Wow I had the same parallel with Luke with Fitzmyer’s commentary and of course I disagree in some areas since I’m not Catholic

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Jim says:

    I do know. It must seem like I’m a scratched record 😆 That said, if you have the time and inclination, I’d be interested in a scriptural rebuttal to what I offered. Not a rebuttal that centres on an assumed trinity, but passages that stand for themselves to refute my stance.

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  12. Craig says:

    Jim,

    With respect, I don’t wish to spend my time rebutting your stance on those things. I’ve got other things I’m focusing on, anyway.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Craig says:

    In an engagement with a Catholic friend of mine, I quoted Fitzmyer:

    This phrase functions here almost as a proper name; cf. Judg 6:12 for a similar use of an epithet. Though the pf. pass. ptc. kecharitōmenos is found in the LXX of Sir 18:17 in the sense of a “gracious man,” here it rather designates Mary as the recipient of divine favor; it means “favored by God,” another instance of the so-called theological passive (see ZBG § 236). She is favored by God to be the mother of the descendant of David and the Son of the Most High. Even though the pf. ptc. might express a state or condition of divine favor, that favor is to be understood of the unique role that she is to perform in conceiving God’s Messiah. In later scholastic theological tradition that favor would be classed as a charism, a gratia gratis data, “a grace freely given.” Beginning in patristic times, theological tradition understood kecharitōmenē in a fuller sense, which does not contradict the Lucan pf. ptc., but which certainly goes beyond it. The translation of the ptc. in the Latin Vg. as gratia plena heavily influenced the Western theological tradition about the fullness of Mary’s grace and was mainly responsible for the understanding of the word in terms of gratia gratum faciens, or sanctifying grace. (The Gospel According to Luke I-IX, The Anchor Yale Bible; [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974], pp 345-346, bold added.)

    In other words, Fitzmyer, in all intellectual honesty, felt that to interpret the ‘results’ of the perfect participle beyond Jesus’ conception would be going too far, given the context (Luke 1:26-38). And I have to agree. The miraculous conception of Jesus was the sole reason Gabriel came to Mary, for, besides the info about Elizabeth, this was all the angel had conveyed.

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  14. SLIMJIM says:

    Wow I should have figured you have read Fitzmyer!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Craig says:

    To be completely forthcoming, I jumped around this section and that section. I did the same with Brown, though I have read through most of it, including some of the appendices.

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  16. SLIMJIM says:

    👍👍👍

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  17. SLIMJIM says:

    In past conversations with certain Catholics they have felt Fizmyer and Raymond Brown as thorns on Catholic side yet they say those guys don’t represent official teachings

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Craig says:

    Yes, I’ve found the same. Speaking about Brown (I’m not as familiar with Fitzmyer), I find the RCC criticisms to be mainly misunderstandings of what he writes. For example, he states that the Virginal Conception has very little Biblical support. Note that he doesn’t say the doctrine has NO support, but that it has little. Then he opines further, which I won’t delve into at present (I don’t recall it all, anyway), but I don’t think it calls into question the belief. Brown is just very detailed. And I like that about his work.

    I really enjoy Brown’s volumes on Anchor Bible commentaries, including 1John. Also, his work here below, though (again) controversial to some, I find spot on, when read closely and in the context he provides:

    Does the New Testament Call Jesus God?

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  19. Craig says:

    I should add this: Many Catholics do not know what RCC teaches! Among those who do know are some who have rejected Vatican II, known as Traditionalists. Many of them are very suspicious of Pope Francis–as am I. He’s a globalist.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. SLIMJIM says:

    Francis is a globalist, big time

    Liked by 1 person

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