LDS Spirit Preexistence in John 9:2?

Do LDS still believe and maintain this in 2008?  When I googled the above title entry,  TT at Faith Promoting Rumor appeared as the top entry (way to go, TT), which then led me to Kevin Barney’s paper.  I read it and noted especially pages 17-18.

This weekend, our church family entered the new territory of John 9.

Evangelical men have weighed in on the subject of John 9:2.  Here is a sampling from a half dozen.

1.)   B. F. Westcott (1881) writes,

It is assumed that the particular suffering was retributive.  The only doubt is as to the person whose sin was so punished; whether it was the man himself either before birth or in some former state of existence, or the man’s parents.  The latter alternative was familiar to the Jews (Exod. xx. 5; Hebr. vii. 10); and there are traces of a belief in the pre-existence of souls, at least in later Judaism (Wisd. viii. 20).

2.)  Arthur W. Pink(1945) writes,

“Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”  Three theories were current among the philosophers and theologians of that day.  The first obtained in some measure among the Babylonians, and more extensively amongst the Persians and Greeks, and that was the doctrine of re-incarnation.  This was the view of the Essenes and Gnostics.  They held that the soul of man returned to this earth again and again, and that the law of retribution regulated its varied temporal circumstances.  If in his previous earthly life a man had been guilty of grievous sins, special punishment was meted out to him in his next earthly sojourn.  In this way philosophers sought to explain the glaring inequalities among men.  Those who now lived in conditions of comfort and prosperity were reaping the reward of former merit; those who were born to a life of suffering and poverty were being punished for previous sins.  That this theory of re-incarnation obtained in measure even among the Jews is clear from Matt. 16:13,14.  When Christ asked His disciples, “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” they said, “Some say that thou art John the Baptist:  some, Elijah; and other, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets” which shows that some of them thought the soul of one of the prophets was now re-incarnated in the body of Jesus of Nazareth.  Further evidence that this view obtained to some extent among the Jews is supplied by the Apocrypha.  In “The Wisdom of Solomon” – 8:19, 20 – are found these words, “Now I was a goodly child, and a goodly soul fell to my lot.  Nay rather, being good, I came into a body undefiled”!

But among the rabbins this theory held no place.  It was so completely without scriptural support, yea, it so obviously clashed with the teaching of the Old Testament, they rejected it in toto.  How then could they explain the problem of human suffering?  The majority of them did so by the law of heredity.  They considered that Ex. 20:5 supplied the key to the whole problem:  all suffering was to be attributed to the sins of the parents.  But the Old Testament ought to have warned them against such a sweeping application of Ex. 20:5.  The case of Job should have at least modified their views.  With some it did, and among the Pharisees a third theory, still more untenable, was formulated.  Some held that a child could sin even in the womb, and Gen. 25:22 was quoted in support.

3.)  R.V.G. Tasker (1960) writes,

The disciples wrongly assume that the man’s blindness must be due to sin, either his own sin or his parents’.  It is not absolutely certain that they were thinking of the possibility of the man having sinned in a pre-natal condition.  As R. A. Knox points out, they may not have known that the man was born blind, and the Greek might be understood to mean, ‘Did this man sin?  or did his parents commit sin with the result that he was born blind?’

4.)  Leon Morris (1971) writes,

There were grave difficulties in seeing how a man could have sinned before his birth.  [7]  Footnote #7 reads:  “Yet the Rabbis did not find the difficulties insurmountable.  SBk cite a few passages, mostly based on Gen. 25:22, which show that it was held that a child could sin in the womb (II, pp. 528f.).  An alternative is to think of the soul as pre-existent (a belief which appears in Wis. 8:20), and as sinning in the pre-existent state.  But views like this do not appear to have been held widely in Judaism.

5.)  George R. Beasley-Murray (1999) writes,

The possibility of a child sinning before birth was discussed by the rabbis, not in respect of a pre-existent life (Wisd Sol 8:19-20 reflects Alexandrian, not Palestinian Judaism), but of life in the womb, Gen. 25:22, telling of the twins Jacob and Esau struggling in Rebecca’s womb, provoked some interesting explanations.

6.)  John MacArthur (2006) writes,

But the man, having been born blind, could not have been responsible for his condition unless he had somehow sinned before he was born.  Perhaps the disciples considered that a possibility, since the view that children could sin while still in the womb was widespread in contemporary Judaism.  In addition, some Hellenistic Jews, influenced by Greek philosophy, argued for the soul’s preexistence.  Therefore, they believed people could be punished in this life for sins they committed in a previous existence.  (The Bible, of course, rejects such views.)  On the other hand, if the man’s parents were responsible, it hardly seems fair that their child should be punished for their sin.

The KJV 1611 edition would translate Wifdome of Solomon VIII.19-20 as follows:

19  For I was a wittie child, and had a good spirit  20  Yea rather being good, I came into a body vndefiled.

 

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One comment

  1. It seems odd that the LDS would use John 9:2 to teach pre-mortal existence, since in the presence of God we cannot sin, for God cannot look at sin. Or, if they sin they are cast to the earth and become demons. To use John 9:2 seems to contradict what they teach elsewhere. It would be better if they would just go with the historic Christian faith on this verse.

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