No Pre-existence for Job?
NCW 17, March 1995
Q. New Covenant Christians believe in a pre-mortal spiritual existence. But doesn't the fact that Job was not present when the earth's foundation was laid, or when the angels sang for joy at the creation, prove that only God and the angels pre-existed the creation of the earth? (Job 38:1-7)
No, for three reasons: (1) This passage merely says that Job was not present when the foundation of the earth was laid -- one particular event of the pre-mortal life; (2) The word "angels" is, in fact, "sons of God" in the original text, and is reproduced faithfully in the Authorized Version, but not the New International Version. For parallel references to this heavenly council of the pre-incarnate sons of God, see Job 1:6; 2:1; 1 Kings 22:19; Psalms 89:5-7 and Jeremiah 23:18,22; (3) Other references speak clearly of a pre-mortal life, e.g. Jeremiah 1:5.
It is important also to understand that Job 38 is not a doctrinal statement about origins, but a comparison between the works and knowledge of God as compared with those of a puny mortal such as Job. Later on the Lord says to Job: "Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?" (v.12-13) showing the poetical nature of the passage. The whole chapter is saying that mere mortal man does not have access to the mind of God. The Lord also speaks in terms understandable to Job -- when He speaks of "the storehouses of the snow, or...the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle" (v.22-23), He is not making a scientific statement as to the existence of some big pot in the sky full of snow readied to execute His judgment at some future time, but explaining poetically that Job does not now the providence of God nor the mechanisms by which He executes His judgment.
Similarly, the earth has no "foundation" as a house has, nor does God literally "stretch a measuring line" across the earth; but this is language that the patriarchal age can understand.
Far too many people have sought literalistic, scientific statements from biblical poetry -- this is dangerous and misleading. I know of one man who claims that he has seen God with literal feathers because of statements such as Psalm 91:4 which is unquestionably figurative.
Job 38 should not, therefore, be seen as a doctrinal statement about the pre-existence, pro or con.
For more on the doctrine of pre-existence, see The Pre-Existence of Jeremiah: The Bible Teaching on Pre-Existence and Is Human Pre-Existence Biblical?
This page was created on 2 May 1998
Last updated on 2 May 1998
Copyright © 1987-2008 NCCG - All Rights Reserved