Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Colossians 1:15 - Did Jesus Have a Beginning?

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. -- Colossians 1:15
One claims that Colossians 1:15-20 makes no sense except in the context that there is a trinity. And, yet, in order to get the trinity doctrine into the the verses, one has use the human spirit of imagination, create assumptions based on what is imagined, add those assumptions to, and read those assumptions into, the passage being discussed.
We should note first that "God" is used unipersonally in the phrase "image of the invisible God." The word "God" is referring, not to three persons, but to one person. Jesus is not being included as a person of "God". The context shows that the word "God" is being used to denote the one person, "God, the Father of our Lord Jesus." (Colossians 1:13) Again, Colossians 3:1, we read that Jesus sits at the right hand of "God", and it should be apparent that "God" is there unipersonal, not tripersonal. "God" refers to one person, the God and Father of Jesus. (Ephesians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3) All through the New Testament, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is always presented as the one person: the God and Father of Jesus. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is never, not even once, ever presented as more than one person.
So what the trinitarian has to do is use his spirit of human imagination so as to imagine that "God" refers to the assumed first person of the trinitarian assumptions. Then they have further use his spirit of human imagination to image that "He," which refers to Jesus, means the imagined second person of the trinitarian assumptions. And thus, in this manner the trinitarian assumptions are added to, and read into, what Paul wrote. In reality, the phrase "image of God" shows that Jesus is not the
The scriptures are quite plain on the fact that Jesus came into existence through a creative act of God. This can be clearly seen from Colossians 1:15, in speaking of Jesus: "who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation".
Two things in this verse show that Jesus had a beginning and that he was created.
First, its structure shows that he came into living existence by a creative act. The rule of Greek grammar on the partitive genitive proves this, because the construction, "firstborn of every creature [or all creation]", is in Greek grammar called the partitive genitive, that is, the genitive which contains as a part of its contents the thing or things mentioned in the noun that governs the genitive. The expression, "the firstborn of every creature," being in the Greek a partitive genitive, it includes as a part of itself the thing implied in the noun that governs it, that being "firstborn." Therefore, it implies that the firstborn one is a part of creation and, accordingly, was created and thus had a beginning.
Additionally, Jesus' being called "firstborn" of every creature, or of all creation, proves that he came into existence by a creative act, even as those who are the afterborn of creation came into existence by a creative act. Being born of God as the first of the creation spoken of, he is not Jehovah the Almighty who gave this birth to him.
Some claim that his scripture teaches that Christ is over all creation; the ruler of all creation, and thus that Jesus is apart from the class of created beings.
The word "firstborn" is always used in either of two settings: as being the firstborn offspring of a father (as in Genesis 25:13), or as being part of the group being spoken of. Nevertheless even when used as the firstborn offspring of a father, it is still the group of children that the offspring of the father that the firstborn is a member of. For instance, In Exodus 11:5 we find: "the firstborn of Pharaoh" is one of the group that would make up Pharaoh's offspring. Still, since Colossians 1:15 is definitely not saying that Jesus is the offspring of creation, making the creation the father, the other alternative is that Jesus is definitely included as part of the creation of which he is firstborn. In no case does "firstborn" mean that the firstborn did not have a beginning, or that the firstborn is not included in the group of which he is firstborn. 
See our studies:
Psalm 89:27 - Jehovah's Firstborn King for study on Psalm 89:27.
Someone objects that when prototokos (the Greek word translated firstborn in Colossians 1:15) is one of the class referred to, the class is plural , as in Colossians 1:18 and Romans 8:29.
The Greek singular of creation is often used by Paul and others to denote the collective whole of creation. See: Mark 10:6; 13:19; Romans 1:20; 8:19,20,21,22; Revelation 3:14.
Another objection that many put forth is: If Paul meant to convey that Christ was the first created being, why did he not use the Greek word protoktistos, which means "first created"?
One could ask a similar question concerning Paul usage of firstborn in Colossians 1:18, such as why didn't he say "first raised" from the dead, rather than "firstborn" from the dead?
There is no record that the word protokistos was in common use in Paul's day. If the word protokistos (which nowhere appears in the Bible) had been used, then the thought would have been shifted from the rights of the one who is firstborn to his being the first created. Paul was not emphasizing that Jesus was the first created, but rather that Jesus held the rights of heirship as the firstborn of all creation. This in no way negates the fact that the firstborn one is included in the group spoken of; it certainly does not provide any reason to change its meaning in this case from the meaning shown in its usage throughout the scriptures.
Nevertheless, Clement uses the terms prototokos and protokistos almost interchangeably. He refers to Christ the "first created" and later the "firstborn". In his work Stromata Clement calls Christ "first-created" [TON PROTOKTISTON]. He also composes the line [referring to Proverbs 8:22]: TES SOPHIAS TES PROTOKTISTOU TO THEO. ["Wisdom that was the first created of God."] "Clement repeatedly identifies the Word [John 1:1] with the Wisdom of God [Proverbs 8:22], and yet he refers to Wisdom as the first-created; while in one passage he attached the epithet 'first-created,' and in another 'first-begotten,' to the Word. At a later date a sharp distinction was drawn between 'first-created' and 'first-born' or 'first-begotten,' but no such distinction was drawn in the time of Clement, who with the Septuagint rendering of a passage in Proverbs [8:22] before him could have had no misgiving as to the use of these terms. Clement makes a sharp distinction between the Son and the Word who was begotten or created before the rest of creation and the alone Unbegotten God and Father." [Clement of Alexandria, John Patrick (1914)] Thus, we recognize that while this does not mean that these two terms mean exactly the same thing, it does indicate that the idea of "first created" (protokistos) is included in the word "firstborn" (prototokos).
Additionally, we find this in Justin Martyr's Dialogue With Trypho: "But this Offspring which was truly brought forth from the Father, was with the Father before all the creatures, and the Father communed with him; even as the Scripture [Proverbs 8:22-31] by Solomon has made clear that he whom Solomon calls Wisdom, was begotten AS A Beginning BEFORE all His creatures and as Offspring of God ... We [Christians] know [Christ] to be the first-begotten of God, and to be before all creatures. ... He is the Son of God and since we call him the Son, we have understood that he proceeded before all creatures from the Father by His power and will." Thus Willis B. Shotwell remarks: "The language here is such that it cannot be argued that Justin considered the Logos to be eternal[*]. The most that can be said about the Logos is that he was created before anything else." (The Biblical Exegesis of Justin Martyr, London 1965)
*Evidently Shotwell is using the term "eternal" here to mean an eternal past.
It is claimed that "God begets God" and thus if Jesus is Son of God, that this makes him God Almighty himself. This would limit God's ability to produce a Son who is not the Supreme Being, based on the limited procreative powers that God placed upon the material creation. (Genesis 1:11,12,21,25) Of course, God is not so limited, and he can bring forth a Son who is not the Supreme Spirit Being that he himself is. Believing that if God has begotten a son, that the son must be equal in every way to the Father who begot him, the trinitarian and many others reason that the Son must also be Supreme Being. And since the scriptures declare only one Supreme Being, they come up with the idea of more than one person in the one Omniscient Supreme Being. Nevertheless, God did not use any kind of reproductive powers to bring forth his Son, as though he were limited like humans and other animals in this respect, so that his Son would, in effect, have to be himself. Jehovah set the limits of reproduction on the animate material creation, not upon himself.
The evidence suggests that the translation is correct in thought where it has Jesus in his prehuman existence stating: "The Lord (Jehovah) created (qanah) me at the beginning of his work (derek), the first of his acts of long ago. Ages (olam) ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth." (Proverbs 8:22, New Revised Standard Version) Thus Jesus had a beginning, and does not have to be God who begot him in order to be the Son of the God who begot, or brought him forth in creation.
Proverbs 8:22,23 Proof that Jesus Existed in an Eternal Past?
God is not so limited as man is, nor did God bring forth a son in the same way that man does. Of course, Jesus, in his prehuman and posthuman existence, is of the same substance as God, that is "spirit". While in the days of his flesh, Jesus was not a spirit being -- he was human, a little lower than the angels, nothing more, nothing less. (Hebrews 2:9; 5:7) Jesus gave up as an offering his being -- his soul [Hebrew, nephesh, Greek, psyche], represented in his blood (Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 17:11; Deuteronomy 12:23) -- as a human, which offering includes the human body that God had prepared for just such an offering for sin. -- Isaiah 53:10,12; Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-25,34; Luke 22:19,20; John 6:51-56; 1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:25-27; 15:21,22; Romans 5:15-19; Colossians 1:14,22; Hebrews 9:7,12,14,26,28; 10:5-12. 
Revelation 3:14
Regarding Revelation 3:14 where Jesus is called "the beginning of the creation of God: He is not called the "beginner" of the creation of God. This would not only be a mistranslation, but would contradict the second part of the expression: "of the creation of God". If the creative act is God, then God must have at least begun it alone; therefore the Son of God did not begin it. Revelation 3:14 thus proves that God started the creative work by bringing the Logos, God's firstborn, into existence. This would mean, then, that the Logos, as a created being, is a part of creation and, therefore, was both created and hence had a beginning. 
Hebrews 1:6
An additional proof is found in Hebrews 1:6, where Jesus is called Jehovah's firstborn. Thus these scriptures do prove that God created Jesus. Therefore Jesus is the firstborn of God, the later born ones of God including angels (Job 38:7), Adam and Eve (Luke 3:38) and God's Gospel-Age children (John 1:12; 3:3,5). 
John 3:16
In John 3:16 we find further proof of this. There Jesus is called "the only begotten Son." The fact that he was begotten proves that Jesus was a creation of Jehovah. The further fact that he is called the only begotten "Son" proves the same thing, for the word "son" implies either a direct or an indirect act of creation. As applied to Jesus it would be a direct creative act of Jehovah -- one which Jehovah alone exercised, without the assistance of any other agency. Seeing that Jehovah created everything else indirectly, that is, through the Word (John 1:3), it would therefore be proper to call Jesus the "only begotten."
John 1:18
This is further corroborated by John 1:18: "No man has seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared him." Some of the best manuscripts call Jesus here "the only begotten God (Mighty One)" instead of "the only begotten Son." Whichever version we accept makes little difference in the sense, because the only begotten Son is an only begotten God, a mighty one, mightier than all other gods, the Father excepted, and because an only begotten God (mighty one) would be the only begotten Son of the only true Supreme, the Father. (John 17:3) In either case the passage shows Jesus' pre-human creation by Jehovah and proves that Jesus had a beginning. The same can be said of John 1:14 and 1 John 4:9, for to be begotten implies a beginning and a coming into existence.
Ezekiel 21:30 equates birth as a form of creation.
Cause it to return into its sheath. In the place where you were created, in the land of your birth, will I judge you.
Isaiah 43 equates "being formed" with creation:
Isaiah 43:1 But now thus says Yahweh who created you, Jacob, and he who formed you, Israel: Don't be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name, you are mine.
Isaiah 43:7 everyone [in reference to the peoples of Israel to be regathered] who is called by my name, and whom I have created for my glory, whom I have formed, yes, whom I have made.
Isaiah 43:22 - the people which I formed for myself, that they might set forth my praise.
Also notice:
Isaiah 46:3 - Listen to me, house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, that have been borne [by me] from their birth, that have been carried from the womb;
Isaiah 49:1 - Listen, isles, to me; and listen, you peoples, from far: Yahweh has called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother has he made mention of my name:
Additionally, we find that Jehovah speaks of Israel as his firstborn:
Exodus 4:22 - You shall tell Pharaoh, 'Thus says Yahweh, Israel is my son, my firstborn. See also Deuteronomy 14:1; Jeremiah 31:9; Hosea 11: 1;
Jehovah "made" and formed Jacob (Israel) from the womb.
Isaiah 44:2 - Thus says Yahweh who made you, and formed you from the womb, who will help you: Don't be afraid, Jacob my servant; and you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.
Isaiah 44:21 - Remember these things, Jacob, and Israel; for you are my servant: I have formed you; you are my servant: Israel, you shall not be forgotten by me.
Isaiah 43:1,6,7 - But now thus says Yahweh who created you, Jacob, and he who formed you, Israel: Don't be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name, you are mine.... I will tell the north, Give up; and to the south, Don't keep back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the end of the earth; 7 everyone who is called by my name, and whom I have created for my glory, whom I have formed, yes, whom I have made.
Deuteronomy 32:6 - Do you thus requite Yahweh, Foolish people and unwise? Isn't he your father who has bought you? He has made you, and established you.
Commonly, however, in NT scriptures, the words creation and created are limited in application either to the intelligent creation (which includes the angels as well as humans, powers, principalties in heaven or earth -- Colossians 1:15); things created in heaven and earth (Revelation 5:13; 10:16), or more often, it is limited in application by context to the world of mankind, "the creation" having been subjected to vanity/futility. -- Mark 10:6; 13:19; 16:15; Romans 8:19-22; Colossians 1:23; Hebrews 9:11; 2 Peter 3:4.
When Jesus said to "preach the gospel to the whole creation", was he not referring to the mankind as a creation, but yet also as the offspring of Adam? Paul uses the word "creation" in a similar way in Romans 8:19-22. In Colossians 1:15, however, the word "creation" appears to be applying to all the intelligent creation, both in heaven and earth. The rule of Greek grammar on the partitive genitive proves that Jesus is being here referred to as the firstborn creature, because the construction, "firstborn of every creature [or all creation]", is in Greek grammar called the partitive genitive, that is, the genitive which contains as a part of its contents the thing or things mentioned in the noun that governs the genitive. The expression, "the firstborn of every creature," being in the Greek partitive genitive, includes as a part of itself the thing given in the noun that governs it, that being "firstborn." Therefore, it shows that the firstborn one is a part of the creation spoken of and, accordingly, was created.
The expression "firstborn of all creation" is further shown to include Jesus as a creature as can be seen from similar usage in Revelation 1: 5: "firstborn of the dead". Jesus was indeed dead, a member of the group of which he was the firstborn, and was the first to be fully made alive from the dead, never to die again. That Jesus was actually a member of those dead can be seen a few verses further, for Jesus says: "I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore." (Revelation 1: 18) Later on, Jesus is referred to as the one "who was dead, and has come to life". (Revelation 2:8) Further, Paul tell us that "Christ died, rose, and lived again." (Romans 14:9) Jesus is not being spoken of as simply a ruler over the dead. Certainly, however, as being the first to actually be made alive from the dead, he possesses the right of firstborn in that sense also, thus we read: "Christ died, rose, and lived again, that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living." (Romans 14:9) Thus Colossians 1:18 tells us: "He is the head of the body, the assembly, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence." The usuage of "firstborn", however, both in Revelation 1:5 as well as Colossians 1: 15, does not mean that the one spoken of as firstborn is not a member of the group of which he the firstborn.
The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is Unipersonal
One has commented:
I think this were your confusion about Trinity lies, every time you say that God is unipersonal in the person of the Father. Of course, Trinitarians do know that. We do know that God can refer to the person of the Father alone, because He is 100% fully God, but it does not mean that the Son and the Holy Spirit is not God anymore.
Actually, we do not just say that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is unipersonal in the person of the Father; the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation ALWAYS present the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and one person — period. In the New Testament, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is ALWAYS presented as one person, that is, the God and Father of Jesus. The fact is that, in the Bible, Jehovah (Ehjeh/Ehyeh), the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is ALWAYS presented is one person and never once ever at all anywhere as more than one person. And in the New Testament, Jesus is presented, not as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but as being sent by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. -- John 17:3; Acts 3:13-26; Hebrews 1:1,2.
No Scripture Says that God Created Jesus
We have been challenged to produce a scripture that directly states that God created Jesus. The challenger states:
Firstborn of every creature and the beginning of the creation of God were debatable, while the Son was created by the Father is direct and clear. Jesus never ever said that he was created by the Father, why? Because he was not!
Of course, no such scripture exists that states directly the Father created His Son; why should there be? The default reasoning is not that the Son was uncreated, but that he WAS created; all through the Bible the word "firstborn" never designate the one being called firstborn as being one who was never brought forth; it is ALWAYS used in such a manner that it designates the firstborn as being of the class of which he is being spoken of as "firstborn". That class in Colossians 1:15 is "creation"; thus the firstborn is a creation. Likewise, in the Bible the words "father" and "son" always designates the Father as the life-giver, and the son as the one who has been given life. We have no reason to think otherwise respecting God and his Son.
The more proper question should be: Where does Jesus or anyone else ever say that Jesus was NOT created by his God and Father? The default reasoning is that the son of is brought forth into existence from his father, not that the son was not brought forth into existence from his father.
The claim is made that when we are begotten by our parents, that this does not mean that our parents created us. Not directly, this is true. On the other hand, begotten is never used except that one begotten was brought forth into existence, was given life. Many refer to the reproductive process as "pro-creation", which is indeed a form of creation. To claim that "begot" when applied to Jesus does NOT mean being brought forth would make such an application an exception, and that only to serve the teaching that Jesus had no beginning, which, in effect, makes such a argument circular reasoning.
Jesus was brought forth (begotten) in his original creation before the world of mankind was made through him. He was begotten (brought forth into existence) as a human when became flesh. He was begotten (brought forth into existence) from death as a spirit being when his God raised him from death. This was brought out in the study: Colossians 1:15 – Firstborn of the New Creation?
Likewise, if one claims that because there is no scripture that says that God created Jesus, that this means that Jesus is uncreated, such an idea evidently is based on the preconceived notion that would have the default reasoning being that Jesus was uncreated, whereas such a notion is not the default, but rather an assumption. The default reasoning should be that Jesus was a creature, as this is the given reasoning regarding all who are sent by only true God, etc. Additionally, this default reasoning is well supported by what God has revealed in the Scriptures.

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