This question was considered six months ago. An answer has now come.
Monday, November 8, 2010, Dr. Gerhard Pfandl graciously received me into his office where we spent the next two hours in prayer and discussing our common travel experiences and Adventist educational heritage, the convictions built from Bible study regarding the identity and personality of the Holy Spirit (Matt 10:20, Gal 4:6, John 14:23, etc.), and the plain statements of Jesus that he “came out from the Father” (John 8:42, 16:27,28; 17:8). Dr. Pfandl was most interested in this and he even looked them up right then and there.
The purpose of the meeting was to inquire about the letter that was sent by a global group of church members to the new General Conference president, Ted Wilson. The letter was on Gerhard’s desk and he read the yellow sticky note on it to me. Elder Wilson asked Dr. Pfandl to review the letter which I could see was underlined in several places. He assured me that he would indeed read the letter and respond to us concerning our request.
Because Gerhard was particularly interested in the texts from John’s gospel describing Christ as “coming out from the Father,” the following day, November 9, 2010, Dr. Pfandl was sent the email shown below. It is somewhat technical in that it focuses on the use of the Greek preposition ex (as in exit) translated "out" or "forth" in those verses in which Jesus speaks of his coming from God his Father:
“Thank you for your Hospitality”
John uses the Greek verb root exerchomai (to come out from) six times in his gospel. It appears in several forms—ex?lthen, ex?lthes and ex?lthon—depending on the grammatical tense, person, and mood of the verb.
John 8:42 Jesus proceeded forth from God (ek tou theou ex?lthon)
John 13:3 Jesus had come forth from God (apo theou ex?lthen)
John 16:27 Jesus came out from God (ego para tou theou ex?lthon)
John 16:28 Jesus came forth from the Father (ex?lthon ek/para* tou patros)
John 16:30 that you came forth from God (apo theou ex?lthes)
John 17:8 Jesus came out from the Father (para sou ex?lthon)
* Nestle, Hort-Wescott manuscripts cite ek
This word exerchomai has the following definition:
“to issue (literally or figuratively): - come-(forth, out), depart (out of), escape, get out, go (abroad, away, forth, out, thence), proceed (forth), spread abroad.”
It is composed of two Greek roots: ex- (out as in “exit”) and erhome (come).
In the texts above it appears in different inflected forms.
While it is true that exerchomai does not mean physical birth in a human sense, Christ’s use of the word (remember Jesus is speaking when John quotes him) is in reference to his relationship with his Father.
If we exclude the six texts above involving Christ and his Father, there is a fairly even balance between those texts that could be interpreted to mean a simple movement from one location to another and those that definitely indicate coming out from being inside something. First we will list those verses which do not indicate what the subject is coming out of something else.
Exerchomai usage – to leave something (10 occurrences)
Matt 25:1 10 virgins went out (from ?) to meet the bridegroom
Mark 1:38 Jesus came out (from ?) to preach
Mark 3:21 Jesus’ friends went out (from ?) to seize him
Mark 8:11 Pharisees came out (from ?) to question him
Mark 14:16 Disciples went out (from ?) to prepare the Passover
Luke 8:35 People went out (from ?) to see Jesus
John 12:13 People went out (from ?) to meet him
John 21:3 Disciples went out (from ?) to go fishing
2Cor 2:13 Paul went out (from ?) into Macedonia
John 1:7 They went out (from ?)
Even these examples, however, are ambiguous in that the object from which the subject “went out” is not indicated. In some of these it is also possible that they came out from inside of some enclosure. And that is the essential meaning of exerchomai. Now we list those texts were the object from which the subject comes out is actually stated.
Exerchomai usage – to go out of something (10 occurrences)
Matt 12:44 evil spirit came out of his house
Luke 11:24 unclean spirit went out of the man
Matt 26:30 The disciples went out from the upper room
Mark 14:26 Disciples went out of the upper room
John 4:30 people went out of the city
Phil 4:15 Paul departed from Macedonia
2John 1:7 Deceivers have gone out from the church into the world
Rev 9:3 Locusts came forth out of the smoke
Rev 15:6 7 angels came out of the temple
Rev 18:4 Come out of her, my people
In each of these verses, the subject was initially inside of something, and then came out of it: inside a house, inside a man, inside a room, inside a city, inside a country, inside the church, within the smoke, within the temple, within Babylon. We are thus left to decide how we should understand exerchomai in those texts concerning the Father and Son.
We can ignore the essential meaning of the word in the six texts concerning Christ’s coming out from the Father only if we are compelled to change its meaning (because of pre-established convictions) into simply a departure from the immediate presence of the Father, or leaving the vicinity of God. However, these texts are not ambiguous in leaving unidentified the object from which the subject comes out. “God” and “the Father” is plainly stated.
I would like very much to know your thoughts on this important concept which Ellen White singles out when she quotes these particular texts together (Christian Education p. 157, Signs of the Times, July 4, 1892, In Heavenly Places p. 79).
This email became the basis of the article “Coming Out From the Father”
By the end of January, 2011, a second follow-up email was sent with additional historical references concerning the texts of John taken from 19th century authors and comparing them with the statements of Ellen White on these verses. I received an immediate response asking for further patience as there were a number of others in the queue ahead of me.
On February 1 a second meeting was scheduled with Dr. Pfandl, myself and Adrian for April 13 in which we hoped to further assure our brethren at the BRI that we were praying for them and seek their response and counsel regarding the letter we had originally sent to Ted Wilson on October 15, 2010. The time finally came when we flew to Washington D.C. and in our hotel room emailed Gerhard to confirm our meeting for the following day. Exactly thirty minutes later we received an email sadly informing us that Dr. Pfandl was ill with a flare-up of his chronic bronchitis and would not be able to meet with us.
This was deeply disappointing. But the very next day, I received an emailed document prepared by fellow BRI staff member Ekkehardt Mueller entitled, “Did Jesus Emanate from God the Father?” You can view it here.
This paper and my response may be viewed here.
We have yet to hear from Dr. Pfandl regarding our letter to Ted Wilson.
Please pray that the spirit of our Father and His Son may move upon the hearts of our leaders, our church, and all who are seeking to find the LORD (Jer. 29:13).