Thursday, April 01, 2021

A surprising eye-witness?

A nightmare text for the “Biblical Unitarian” Christological prehuman-existence denier camp would be where someone who was privy to the happenings of God’s Court before Jesus’ birth saw him (the one who would become Jesus) there in God’s Court before his earthly sojourn, and then spoke of that during his earthly sojourn, which was then recorded in the Gospels. In other words, if someone said something along the lines of: “Hey when I was in God’s Court, I saw you there before you left to be born on earth!” That would be a fatal blow to denying Christological prehuman-existence.

But we may indeed have such a text in Mark 1:23-24 and Luke 4:33-34, where a demon-possessed man identified Jesus as “the Holy One of God.” Here it was the demon speaking through one of the Synagogue congregants identifying Jesus that way, calling him by a title previously applied to the prophet Elisha. (2 Kings 4:9) Now, it may be significant that he did not identify him as the Messiah of God,[1] but as “the Holy One of God.”[2] Jesus in a prehuman, pre-Christ-existence would indeed fit that description.

In response, a popular Biblical Unitarian, Dr. Dale Tuggy, in a podcast was confronted with this case from Mark 1:23-24, and rejoined:
What? (ha ha) That’s an interesting claim, I mean, is the presupposition that Jesus in his prehuman existence is like hobnobbing with the demons somehow? So like “Oh I remember that guy!” How did the demons have their special knowledge of his identity as the son of God, as God’s messiah? I don’t know. I don’t think the text tells us, and I don’t know why you would assume that this requires preexistence either.[3]
Well, first, it’s evidence that the angel who became that demon was associating with “the Holy One of God” before his birth as Jesus. Dale is being overly skeptical and dismissive here. At least acknowledge that it can be interpreted to allow for the demons being angels witnessing prehuman-existence. His presupposition is that “the demons were always demons.” But that begs the question, why would God create demons? Clearly they were angels at one point as seen in Jude 1:6.

Consequently, with that objection being deflated, it appears that we have support for Christological prehuman-existence from a surprising source, from a demon who as an angel was an eye-witness of it!

[1] Contra Anthony F. Buzzard, footnote for Mark 1:24 in The One God, the Father, One Man Messiah Translation.
[2] In another incident with the Gadarene demoniac, the demon(s) called Jesus the “Son of God” (Matthew 8:29) and “Son of the Most High God” (Mark 5:7, Luke 8:28). Mark (NWT) adds that the demon(s) replied to Jesus with “I put you under oath by God not to torment me,” (present tense, not past tense) whereas Matthew records: “Did you come here to torment me before the appointed time?” Luke similarly has: “I beg you, do not torment me.” The NET Bible for Mark 5:7 has: “I implore you by God—do not torment me!” Its footnote here cites the question in Matthew 8:29 and explains: “There was an appointed time in which the demons would face their judgement, and they seem to have viewed Jesus’ arrival on the scene as an illegitimate change in God’s plan regarding the time when their sentence would be executed.” So, this is not a reference to Jesus’ prehuman existence, but the reference to Jesus being the “Son of God” might be. (See also Mark 3:11 and Luke 4:41) While not explicitly identifying him as the Messiah, Luke adds “they knew him to be the Christ” regardless.—Luke 4:41.
Lastly, regarding how they “seem to have viewed Jesus’ arrival on the scene as an illegitimate change in God’s plan” for their final judgement, I imagine it is possible they had in mind a “prophecy” in 1 Enoch 10:12-13, which states that the demons would be restricted for “70 generations” from the time of the Flood until their final “torment and the prison in which they will be confined forever.” According to Luke’s genealogy in Luke 3:23-38, Jesus was the 70th from Enoch, but they may have had anticipated counting 70 generations from Noah.
[3] Trinities Podcast 307: Two Readings of Mark – popular or esoteric? – Part 3, 55:1.

Picture from: The Truth About Angels