Is Jesus Christ Creator or creature?




 
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Revelation 3:14

"And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, 'These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning ['arche'] of the creation of God..."

Some interpret this as proof Jesus is a created being: "The risen Jesus is associated with wisdom in 3:14 as 'the beginning of the creation of God.' . . .the implication seems to be that he is God's first creature." ('King and Messiah as Son of God,' Adela Yarbro Collins and John J. Collins, p. 211).

The "Beginning of the creation of God" — does this mean Jesus is a created being? By no means. The Greek work 'arche' means, "arche, a beginning, origin, first cause..." (Liddell & Scott).  Thus the phrase found in 3:14 means that He was the "first cause", the "origin", of creation, not its first production.  Here is how the New English Bible renders it: "To the angel of the church at Laodicea write: 'These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the prime source of all God's creation...'", perfectly apt words for the Logos to communicate.

"How much we need this reminder who live so near to the close of the Church's pilgrimage, in a day when the theory of evolution has obscured  men's minds, and produced much havoc in marred lives and lost souls. He who knew our circumstances from eternity has warned us in our day by this very Scripture to hold fast to the certainty of His creative majesty. As the Beginning, He is the Fount of creation, its active cause, not part of it." (H. C. Hewlett, The Glories of Our Lord, p. 30).

So is the English 'beginning' a poor translation? No, it's an excellent, comprehensive translation, having the same range of meanings as 'arche': "beginning, The first cause; origin; the first state; commencement..." (Webster's International). This common misunderstanding of the verse could have been avoided, not only by checking a Greek lexicon, but by getting up and grabbing the English dictionary off the shelf!


"... giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light. He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence."
(Colossians 1:12-18).


Colossians 1:15

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation."

Does this mean Jesus is a part of the category, 'creation'?  The Jehovah's Witnesses claim that the genitive "the first-born of every creature (KJV)", can only be understood as 'partitive genitive', implying that "the first-born" is a part of the category, 'creation'.

Here is an example of partitive genitive: "kai to triton ton dendron katekae" (Revelation 8:7),"And the third [part] of the trees was burned up".

But is 'partitive genitive' the only use of the Greek genitive case?  No, Greek grammars list whole pagefuls.  So what evidence is there that Colossians 1:15 is 'partitive genitive'?  The evidence offered by the Jehovah's Witnesses is that, purportedly, all the 'firstborn of...' references in the Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament, are partitive genitive.  But this simply isn't so!

"Then Moses said, 'Thus says the LORD: "About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt; and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the female servant who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the animals."'" (Exodus 11:4-5).

Is the "firstborn of Pharaoh" a part of the category, 'Pharaoh'? Is the "firstborn of the female servant who is behind the handmill" a part of the category, 'female servants behind the mill'? No, as a matter of fact, the firstborn [male] child of the female servant behind the mill is not and never will be part of the category, 'female servants behind the mill'!

These references are what is called 'genitive of relation', as when one says, 'Susy is the aunt of Mary'.  The Jehovah's Witnesses helpfully offer to rewrite these references to partitive genitive, so that 'firstborn of the female servant who is behind the handmill' becomes, 'firstborn of the children born to the female servant who is behind the handmill'. (This could well be a category of one; if the woman dies in childbirth, her firstborn child would still be the 'firstborn'.)  But grammar deals with the facts as found on the page, not with eager rewrites! The fact is, 'firstborn of Pharaoh' is not partitive genitive, so the fact that it may be rewritten to be so is of limited interest.

The conjecture that the 'firstborn of...' of Colossians 1:15 might be partitive genitive is directly negated by the very next verse:

"For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him." (Colossians 1:16).

The Bible teaches that all created things were created by the Word: "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." (John 1:3).  So if Colossians 1:15 is taken to imply that Christ is a creature, we are forced to conclude by verse 16 that He created Himself! - a feat which makes pulling yourself up by your boot-straps look easy.  This is why the New World Translation is obliged to add a word to Colossians 1:16, 'other', not found in any Greek manuscript: "...because by means of him all [other] things were created..." (NWT).


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The First Page of the Bible.

The Last Page of the Bible.



Colossians 1:15 could be genitive of subordination or primacy: "a. Definition - The genitive substantive specifies that which is subordinated to or under the dominion of the head noun...Clear Examples...Mark 15:32, [Let Christ] the King [of] over Israel ['ho basileus Israel'] [descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.]" (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, p. 103, Daniel B. Wallace).  Another example: "And they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints." (Revelation 15:3).  The intent of "King of saints" isn't to communicate that the Lord God is one of the saints, but rather that He is the King ruling over the saints.

"Col. 1:15...it is far more likely that this expresses subordination...The resultant meaning seems to be an early confession of Christ's lordship and hence, implicitly, his deity." (From pp. 103-104, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Daniel B. Wallace).

Another example would be Acts 13:17: "The God of this people of Israel chose our fathers, and exalted the people when they dwelt as strangers in the land of Egypt, and with an high arm brought he them out of it." Notice it's not the intent to place 'God' within the category 'people of Israel', but to express His primacy over them.  Many scriptures identify God as the 'king of Israel': "The LORD hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the king of Israel, even the LORD, is in the midst of thee: thou shalt not see evil any more." (Zephaniah 3:15).  Even on a human plane, the King of the Medes and the Persians might, or might not, be a Mede...or a Persian, and he might, or might not, reside in Media...or Persia.  Alexander the Great conquered the place and assumed the kingship, without being either a Mede or a Persian, or a resident alien of those places.  If a non-resident alien, then he's not part of the category, 'Medes and Persians', yet he's still 'King of the Medes and Persians' -- King over them.  That's genitive of primacy.

So there's no grammatical reason to insist, as the Jehovah's Witnesses do, that Colossians 1:15 must be partitive genitive.  If it were the only text in the Bible, it would be possible to identify it as partitive genitive; but the plethora of texts identifying Jesus as eternal Creator of all rule out any such possibility.

If Jesus is eternal, He cannot be created.  And the Bible teaches that He is eternal:

"But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." (Micah 5:2);
"But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom...And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail." (Hebrews 1:8-12);
"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." (Hebrews 13:8).


Eternal Son

 The Son: Eternal God?


The Vineyard Without beginning of days
From Everlasting Same Yesterday, Today and Forever
Behold, I come With the Father
Eternal Life Son of God
By Him all things were created In the Beginning
Thy throne Mind in Christ
Before me My Redeemer
First and Last Before Abraham was
Enduring Love Downward Mobility
Beginning Where He was before
Came down from Heaven In the Wilderness
Temple Vision The Firstborn
The Word Stands Forever From the Womb
At the Beginning of His way The Reproach of Christ
Root and Offspring Sons and Slaves
This Day I am Come
The Ending of the Sonship?


Proverbs 8:22

"The LORD possessed [qanah] me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old." (Proverbs 8:22, KJV).

Because traditionally readers have understood the Old Testament's Lady Wisdom as a type and shadow of Christ (in spite of her erroneous gender), the Jehovah's Witnesses hope, if they can get at her, they can get to Jesus Christ.

Some modern translations render 'qanah' as 'created': "The LORD created me at the beginning of his work..." (NRSV). But the word literally means 'purchase', thus by implication to possess. 'Qanah' is not translated 'created' even once in the determinedly literal KJV: [07069] qanah: AV - Buy 46, get 15, purchased 5, buyer 3, possessor 3, possessed 2, owner 1, recover 1, redeemed 1, misc 7; 84

If 'qanah' = 'create,' then did the poor man create his little lamb?: "But the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought [qanah] and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter." (2 Samuel 12:3). The poor man did not create the little lamb, rather he owned it.

Or do we ourselves possess the ability to 'create' wisdom? Yet we are commanded in the Bible to "get" [qanah] wisdom: "Get [qanah] wisdom, get [qanah] understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth." (Proverbs 4:5).

Paul himself suggests Lady Wisdom as a type of Christ: "For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:22-24). Many of the early Christian writers adopt this identification.

The Septuagint translates the 'qanah' of Proverbs 8:22 with 'ktizo,' which the seventy also sometimes use as a translation for the Hebrew 'bara,' 'create.' Many of the early church writers quote this verse from the Septuagint. The Greek word 'ktizo' can also mean 'found, ordain, or establish.' It's used, for example, of the founding of a city: "of a city, to found, plant, build, Od., Hdt." (Liddell and Scott, Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon.) It can also mean 'made,' either in the sense of making from scratch or in the sense of an already existing thing given a new function or position: 'the eldest citizen was made honorary mayor.' Though in the NT 'ktizo' and related words usually refer to creation, the meaning of 'ordain' is still Biblical: "Submit yourselves to every ordinance ['ktisis'] of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;..." (1 Peter 2:13). Do the early church writers who quote this passage from the Septuagint understand it to mean that the Son, whom they identify with Wisdom, was 'created,' that is to say brought into being from non-being? Or do they understand it to mean He was ordained the beginning ('arche,' origin or principle) of creation, as Brenton translates it: "The Lord made me the beginning of his ways for his works. He established me before time was in the beginning, before he made the earth:..." (Brenton Septuagint, Proverbs 8:22-23). Given what these writers say about the eternity of the Son, the latter makes a safe bet.

Athanasius suggests another possibility, reminding us that the Son is indeed part of the created realm by virtue of the incarnation: ". . .and accordingly let ‘He created’ be understood, not of His being a creature, but of that human nature which became His, for to this belongs creation." (Athanasius, Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse 2, Chapter 19, Section 46, p. 923, ECF_2_04). Surely the flesh of the incarnation is not uncreated; in the womb of the virgin, the Creator entered into the realm of His own creation. In any event, it is somewhat misleading to cite the early church writers who quote Proverbs 8:22 in its Septuagint rendering as if they agreed with the Jehovah's Witness interpretation of this passage, because in no case do they. While Athanasius' interpretation is alien to the context, it plainly differs from the Arian belief that Wisdom came into existence from a prior state of non-existence. The case that God was at one time devoid of wisdom is a difficult one to make; or did His wisdom suddenly spring into existence after a prior course of divine folly?

It is possible that the Septuagint translators chose the word they did because they perceived a relationship between it and 'ktaomai,' meaning, 'acquire.' The English word 'create' can also potentially mean 'ordain,' though its more familiar use is to bring into being: "create...To originate or cause; to bring into being; to cause to exist; to make or form, by investing with a new character; to constitute; to appoint ( to create a peer)..." (Webster's International, 1965). This idea of 'investing with a new character' might be what Brenton understands the passage to mean, that is to say, that Wisdom was made the 'arche,' i.e. originating principle, of all things at the time of creation.

Most definitions of 'inerrancy' restrict its scope to the original language of revelation. In other words, Proverbs 8:22 is 'inerrant' in the original Hebrew, not in every possible translation: 'inerrancy' does not tag along after the original text into all its possible permutations into the various languages of the world. No translation corresponds perfectly to its original; there is no English word which shares the range of the meanings of the Greek word 'logos;' the translator must select, therefore narrowing down, what sliver of this world's meanings which he thinks is in view. It may be that he opens up other possibilities in the process. Some people have thought certain translations were themselves inspired: the Greek church so thought about the Septuagint, the Catholic Church used to take the Latin Vulgate as authoritative, and some people think the same of the English King James Version. Certainly quotations of the Hebrew Old Testament in the Greek New Testament are doubly inspired, both in the original and in their quoted form. But to cast the net wider than that, to demand that all of the Hebrew translations in all known versions of the Septuagint are independently inspired, goes beyond anything the Bible says about itself. While it is easy enough to understand why people in the early church who read the Old Testament in Greek cared about the Greek translation, it is not apparent why everyone else must follow suit. The Jehovah's Witnesses are notorious for quoting from the German translation of the Bible, or the Spanish version, when the results suit them, leaving readers who do not speak these languages befuddled as to why they should care. The Septuagint, the Greek Old Testament, is not quite like that, if only because quotations from it are embedded in the New Testament. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the original, inspired Hebrew text of Proverbs 8:22 does not say 'created.'




Builder

The letter to Hebrews teaches that Jesus Christ is the builder of the house. In case anyone should miss the point, the author points out that the builder "of all things" is God:

"Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house. For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end." (Hebrews 3:1-6).

The point of the passage is not to liken Jesus to Moses, but to show conclusively Jesus' superiority to Moses, on agreed-upon scriptural grounds. And what are those grounds? That Jesus was not only faithful in His house, but also built the house.



Laid the Foundations

The letter to Hebrews ascribes to Jesus Christ the verses of Psalm 102:

"And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail." (Hebrews 1:10-12).

This scripture identifies Jesus as having "laid the foundation of the earth;" it is the second in a series prefaced with, "But unto the Son he saith. . ." The difficulty in using these verses as proof-text that Jesus is Creator rather than creature is simply that readers have a hard time believing the author can mean to say exactly what he is saying, namely that Jesus Christ is almighty God, creator of the world.

Let Us Make Man

Whom was God the Father addressing when He said, "Let us make man?"

"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them." (Genesis 1:26-27).

Since, as verse 27 explains, man was made "in the image of God," the speaker is God, addressing God:




Unto His Own

That Jesus Christ made the world is stated in John 1:10:

"He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not." (John 1:10-11).

The Word was God Identity
Philo Judaeus Creation
Anomalies Life-Giver
Lamp Unto My Feet Interaction
Theophanic Angel God's Reason
God's Wisdom



Who was "in the world," the world that was made by him? The Father? But it was not God the Father who "came unto His own" in the incarnation. The antithesis John sets up is lop-sided and threatens to collapse if the one making the world and coming into it is not one and the same. A Unitarian 'Son,' being an altogether new thing who first came into existence at Bethlehem, cannot have this experience, of rejection by His very own creation. Many of those amongst whom an imagined Unitarian 'Son' would walk were older than he, and owed nothing to him! No, it was God the Son, who both made the world, and also came into the world.

Every Creature

The veil of heaven was pulled aside so that John could pay a visit, and what he saw was "every creature" worshipping the Lamb:


"And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever."
(Revelation 5:11-13).


If "every creature" is to worship the Lamb, then how can the Lamb Himself be a creature? In a similar vein, if "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made" (John 1:3), then how can He through whom all created things were made Himself have been made?