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Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Doctrine of Pre-Existence

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In theology, the doctrine that Jesus Christ had a human soul which existed before the creation of the world - the first and most perfect of created things - and subsisted, prior to His human birth, in union with the Second Person of the Godhead. It was this human soul which suffered the pain and sorrow described in the Gospels. The chief exposition of this doctrine is that of Dr Watts (Works, v. 274, &c.); it has received little support. In a wider form the doctrine has been applied to men in general - namely, that in the beginning of Creation God created the souls of all men, which were subsequently as a punishment for ill-doing incarnated in physical bodies till discipline should render them fit for spiritual existence. Supporters of this doctrine, the Pre-existants or Pre-existiani, are found as early as the 2nd century, among them being Justin Martyr and Origen, and the idea not only belongs to metempsychosis and mysticism generally, but is widely prevalent in Oriental thought. It was condemned by the Council of Constantinople in 540, but has frequently reappeared in modern thought (cf. Wordsworth's Intimations of Immortality) being in fact the natural correlative of a belief in immortality.

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Doctrine of Pre-Existence'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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