Semitic Studies in Memory of President Harper, is a notable contribution to the subject. His thesis is that the Jewish doctrine of the pre-existence of ordinary human souls does not imply a belief in a full personal existence of them. We, however, are concerned with the personal pre-existence of certain individuals. Rabbinic literature has a little light to throw on this. The Midrash Rabba, I. §4, gives (as do other books) a list of things that were created before the world. The Torah and the Throne of Glory (Prov. viii. 22, Ps. xciii. 2): these were created already; four more came into God's mind to be created: the Patriarchs (Hos. ix. 10: I saw your fathers as the first-ripe in the fig-tree at her first time), Israel (Ps. lxxiv. 2), the Sanctuary (Jer. xvii. 12), the name of Messiah (Ps. lxxii. 17). Sometimes Repentance is added. We find the list also in Midrash Tanchuma and the Pirke R. Eliezer (where the phrase is "the spirits of the fathers"). It does not quite come up to our text in precision of statement. Older books can be cited. Enoch xlviii. 3, says of the Son of Man, "Before the sun and moon and the signs were created, before the stars of heaven were made, his name was named before the Lord of Spirits." Moses (Assumption, i. 14) says of himself, "God foresaw (not created) me before the foundation of the world that I should be the mediator of his covenant."
Ideas about pre-existence were in the air, and it is even possible that the words of Christ in John viii. 58, "Before Abraham was, I am," are to be regarded as showing a consciousness, and containing a contradiction, of such beliefs.
As to the phrase "first-begotten of every living thing," one O.T. text may be cited as a parallel, Exod. iv. 22, "Israel is my firstborn son"; but far nearer is St. Paul's phrase in Col. i. 15, "the firstborn of every creature."
In the Shepherd of Hermas, Vision III. 2, 5, we read of the (seven) holy angels who were first created. Clement of Alexandria mentions them rather frequently, e. g. in Str. VI. 143: "Seven are they that