An Analysis of Glyn Parfitt’s Reply to the Non-Trinitarian View of John 5:26

One of the key Bible verses over which there is disagreement in Adventism today is John 5:26. Let’s quote the verse.

“For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself (John 5:26)

This Bible verse appears to attribute the life that is in the Son to His Father thus supporting the doctrine that the Divine life within the Son came from the Father. This verse is a difficulty for unbegotten theologians because they view the life of the Son of God as self-originated. Therefore, it must be addressed. Thankfully, brother Parfitt has done just that so I would like to take a moment to interact with his apology regarding it.  I will be quoting from his book “The Trinity: What Has God Revealed? Objections Answered” beginning with pg. 187 in the digital version.

After acknowledging that “it certainly seems that non-Trinitarinas have a point here,” which is more of an admission than some seem capable of making, brother Parfitt argues that a different interpretation of this verse is possible. Namely that “it could be referring to Jesus’ life subsequent to His incarnation.” Let’s look at our brother’s argumentation whereby he seeks to prove this possibility. 

“The first thing that should be noticed is the wording of the verse. It does not actually say that the Father gave life to the Son. It says that the Father gave to the Son to have life. Why this round about way of speaking, if the intention was to say that the Father gave life to His Son? Could it be that a giving of permission is indicated here? [End Quote]

In response to this “first thing” we would note that our brother appears to have obscured the issue. Certainly, there is an aspect of permission within this pericope for the Son does nothing of Himself (vs. 19) but to say that this verse is indicating a giving of permission appears to be missing the immediate literary context.

John 5:26 has a greater intent than simply saying that the Father gave life to His Son. Its full intention is to declare the type of life that the Father gave to His Son as an explanation of why the Son’s voice will raise the dead. Thus, it is not a round about way of speaking but rather a clear, unambiguous statement to justify the previous declaration about the Son’s role in the resurrection. We will look at this in more detail here shortly.

“The second thing that draws our attention is the fact that Jesus is not talking about his pre-existence. He is referring to his position at that time and into the future from that time. Notice the context:

John 5: 19. The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.

John 5:21. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.

John 5:22. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son:

John 5:25. … The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live.

John 5:26. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;

John 5:27. And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.

John 5:28, 29. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

John 5: 30. I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.

These statements of Jesus, following each other in rapid succession are all referring to Jesus as the Son of man. As He says in verse 27, it is as the Son of man that He executes judgment, but it is also as the Son of man that He raises the dead, and it is as the Son of man that He can do nothing of Himself but seeks always to do the will of His Father. All this indicates that it is as the Son of man that He has been given of the Father to have life in Himself, for all are in the same context [End Quote]

Now just here we need to pause. The emboldened wording above is in the original. In his assessment of these passages our brother has mentioned the “Son of man” 5 times but this phrase is only seen in the passage once, in vs. 27. He is certain “that Jesus is not talking about his pre-existence” but only “referring to his position at that time and into the future from that time” but it would seem that our brother has missed a key point. Please go back and look at vs. 25.

“… The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. (John 5:25)

What is written there? Whose voice? The Son of God!

What this indicates to us is that Jesus is clearly speaking of Himself as the Divine Son, and that is clearly His title from His pre-existence! This is a point that our brother has missed. If you read from vs. 19 onward we see “the Son” (vss. 19, 20, 21, 22, 23) and then when we get to the explanation about the resurrection then we see “the Son of God.”

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. 25 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live (John 5:24, 25)

In other words Jesus is explaining very clearly that the resurrection of the dead is going to occur out of His Divine Sonship. This, of course, is His pre-existent title. Now at this point we will return to what was mentioned previously. What follows next in vs. 26 is an explanation, or justification, of how this can be. Notice the conjunction “for” which connects the two together. I will put up vs. 25 again also so that we can see the flow of thought.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given t
o the Son to have life in himself (John 5:25, 26)

In other words Jesus is giving an explanation of the life that is in Him as “the Son of God.” Vs. 26 is an explanation of the power of His Divinity, not His humanity! It is why He is able to resurrect the dead with His voice. By neglecting the title “Son of God” in the text and focusing solely (maybe even overemphasizing) the Son of man our brother has obscured this key point. Now after this then comes the human reference.

And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man (John 5:27)

So what is happening here is that Jesus is explaining how the two facets of His Sonship will work together. Out of His Divine Sonship comes the power to raise the dead. Why? Because as the Son of God He was given to have life in Himself as the Father hath life in Himself. Out of His human Sonship comes authority to judge. Why? Because God gave Him authority to execute judgment because of His humanity.

So what is the point here? The salient point is that Jesus’ Divine Sonship, His existence as the Son of God, did not start at the time of His incarnation but it pre-existed that. And, by His own mouth, we learn the truth that the type of life that is in Him as the Son of God was given to Him by His Father. The only way to avoid begotten theology here is to argue that when He said it was given to Him, He didn’t really mean that. This is exactly the argument that is being made by our brother. Let’s keep reading.

What then could it mean to be given to have life in Himself. It has already been suggested that it could mean that Jesus was given authority to exercise that power. This thought is in fact supported by the words that immediately follow [End Quote]

When then could it mean?  I believe brother Parfitt is trying to make Jesus’ statement mean something other than what it says and in order to that he must insert the concept of permission into vs. 26 where the text does not actually have it. He continues on to make an argument via parallelism between the phrases “and hath given him authority to execute judgment also” in vs. 27 and “so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself” in vs. 26. Without a doubt there is parallelism here but the conclusion which our friend has reached seems unwarranted because, by his own statement, the word “authority” is not a part of vs. 26.

There is one marked difference however. The word “authority” is included in one passage making the real direction object “authority to execute.”

“The parallelism between the two statements strongly suggests that the word “authority” is to be understood in the other statement, but that it was omitted for stylistic reasons. Taken this way it would read:

“So hath he given to the Son authority to have life in himself.” [End Quote]

It seems to me that necessity is the mother of invention here. Again vs. 26 is an explanation of the Son of God and not the Son of man. I must object to this addition to the Word of God and the creation of a new doctrine – authority to have life in Himself as the Father has life in Himself. And it would appear that the second objection was perceived by our brother because he answers it in his next paragraph.

It may be asked at this point, If the Son already had life in Himself, why would he need authority to have it. The answer seems to lie in the fact that at the incarnation Jesus “emptied Himself” of His divine attributes as we are told in Phil. 2:7: 

Who subsisting in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, having become in the likeness of men. (Phil. 2:6, 7, Jay P. Green, A Literal Translation of the Bible). [End Quote]

Now it is just here that an issue of interpretation comes up. What exactly did Jesus empty Himself of? The text does not say but the context indicates that it is form that is being dealt with here. The form of God was exchanged for the form of a slave. We know that God is omnipresent by His Spirit but the Man Christ Jesus cumbered Himself with humanity.

Having thus emptied Himself, Jesus, as the Son of man, exercised none of His divine powers unless authorized to do so by His Father. Thus Jesus said:

Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. (John 10:17, 18)

“Here the word translated “power” is the same word that is translated “authority” in John 5:27, considered just above, “authority to execute judgment.”

“Jesus could hardly be more specific. By the direct command of His Father, He has been given authority to lay down His life, of himself, and to take it up again. He can only do this by exercising the divine attribute of having “life in Himself.”

“Thus, John 10: 18 strongly supports the concept that John 5: 26 is talking about Jesus being given the authority “to have life in Himself [End Quote]

A careful reader will note that brother Parfitt is again referring to Him “as the Son of man” instead of “the Son of God” (vs. 25) which is what Jesus referred to Himself as before explaining this. It is also important to note that in the context of John 5, Jesus made it clear that He had been given autonomy on this matter – “even so the Son quickeneth whom He will” (vs. 21) “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son” (vs. 22)

And we should also point out that nothing here says that He was given authority to have life in Himself but rather just that He was given to have life in Himself like how the Father has life in Himself. What I believe is happening here is that our brother has an a priori conclusion and it is so strong that he is reading the concept back into John 5:26 even though it is not there. An exegesis of the passage does not lend itself to his conclusion.

Now if Jesus has “life in himself” and it was not imparted to Him by the Father, for the reasons given, this is evidence for his eternal pre-existence. However, this evidence is not strong, for it depends on a line of reasoning” [End Quote]

I believe that “the reasons given” by brother Parfitt are actually faulty.

1) He appears to have overlooks that Jesus spoke of Himself as the Son of God.

2) He appears to have missed that the intent of John 5:26 was to describe the type of life that was given as an explanation for why the Son’s voice will raise the dead.

3) He has to insert “authority” into vs. 26 in order to make it fit his system thus adding to the Word of God and changing the meaning.

And while we cannot appreciate his admission that “this evidence is not strong, for it dep
ends on a line of reasoning
” he appears to contradict himself later on in the following claim:

Surely it is evident that if Jesus’ life was given to Him by the Father, it could not be described as “original, unborrowed, underived.” Longacre and Allaback have not properly understood the meaning of Jesus’ statement that “the Father hath given to the Son to have life in Himself.” (see pages 204-207 for a discussion of this statement) [pg. 398/788]

Here is where I believe we find the real reason why brother Parfitt interprets John 5:26 the way he does. It is the life original, unborrowed, underived quote from Desire of Ages pg 530. It is not an exegesis of the text itself. I believe that what brother Parfitt is misunderstanding is this EGW quote. In short life “original” is in the Son because He was not spoken into existence like the angels were or created from dust with God breathing the breath of life into him like how Adam was. The Son of God is of the same substance as God Himself as the only begotten Son. Thus there is not new life created with Him. His life is the very same life as God the Father. This life is unborrowed because it was not given to Him to have to return but was given to Him as His own for Him to do with as He pleased. Finally, it was underived because, and this can be hard to grasp, the word derive had a meaning in EGW’s day of continual dependence like a stream derived from a fountain. This was not the case with the only begotten Son. His life was like a self-perpetuating fountain within Himself so He did not have to derive it from the Father but could stand apart. These three terms describe the quality of life within Him, a type of life that is just like the Father’s as John 5:26 states quite clearly.

Author

  • Support Jason Smith by purchasing his manuscript, "Unaccounted Factor-How Criticism Motivated The Adoption of Trinitarian Theology Within Seventh-day Adventism" in our shop.

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on email
Email
Share on print
Print

RELATED ARTICLES

Monogenes Huios: The Only Begotten Son

There has been an ongoing debate between myself and a SDA pastor about the proper meaning of the Greek word “monogenes.” He has claimed that its true meaning, one that it supposedly always meant up until the 4th century AD, is “only one of its kind, or unique.”

Read More »

Examining Psalm 2

Hello brothers and sisters. I hope you had a wonderful Sabbath. Today I would like to share some thoughts on Psalm 2. I believe this chapter of Scripture is greatly misunderstood by many.

Read More »

Was Made

“The Eternal Father, the unchangeable one, GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, tore from his bosom HIM WHO WAS MADE IN THE EXPRESS IMAGE OF HIS PERSON, and sent him down to earth to reveal how greatly he loved mankind. {RH July 9, 1895, par. 13}

Read More »

Self-Existent Principle Derived from the Father

When he arose from the grave, he was quickened, not by the blood of Adam, BUT BY THE SPIRIT, THAT SELF-EXISTENT PRINCIPLE DERIVED FROM THE FATHER, BY WHICH HE HAD LIFE IN HIMSELF. “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but quickened by the spirit.” 1 Peter 3:18. {PREX1 17.2}

Read More »

5 Responses

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.