Christ: His Origins
The Image of the Invisible God
For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? And again, when he bringeth in the first-begotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.—Hebrews 1:5,6
Jesus is called the “image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15). Paul also says it was the Father “who . . . delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son” (verses 12, 13). The word “icon” in English means an image or representation of something else. Because Jesus is the representative of the Father, he is the eikon (Greek) the “image” or “picture” of what the Father is (verse 15). While most Christians agree that Jesus is not the Father, there is a difference of opinion over who Jesus is. The first chapter of Colossians gives us a part of the answer.
“Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature” (Colossians 1:15). Here Jesus is called the “firstborn [Greek: prototokos] of God.” What does “firstborn” mean in this context? The word does not necessarily mean first in birth order; prototokos also means priority in importance or rank. In the Septuagint (the Greek version of the Old Testament) prototokos appears 130 times. Half the time it refers to the first born son, the other half it means preeminence. In the New Testament, prototokos (firstborn) is used in a wide variety of ways, but usually with either of these two meanings.
First-in-time or First-in-importance
Why did Paul not describe Jesus as the “first created”? This would have directly answered who Jesus is and what his role in the universe has been, is, and will be. The Greek word protoktistos does mean “first created.” However, that Greek word is not used in the New Testament. Is Paul saying that Jesus is the preeminent one of creation?
When the word firstborn is followed by the genitive “of,” it requires the firstborn to be in the class that it is of. The “firstborn of” the house of Pharaoh belongs to the house of Pharaoh. The firstborn of the beasts is a beast. The firstborn of creation is therefore a part of the creation.
“He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the “firstborn from the dead” (Colossians 1:18). Here firstborn refers to a rebirth from death. Jesus was not the first raised from the dead, but he WAS the first who was raised to a new life, to the glory of the divine nature, the first who came back from the dead to never die again.
The word protoktistos [first created] did not come into popular use until the second and third centuries. When it first began to be used, there was little distinction between it and the word for firstborn. Clement uses these terms interchangeably in his writings. He clearly calls Christ the “first created” and later the “firstborn” in the same letters.
“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Colossians 1:16, KJV). Jesus was the agent of creation; he was not the Creator himself. We see the same Greek word (di or dia) translated “by” in John 1:3 and Hebrews 1:3. Jesus is before all creation, the first in a series, because through him God MADE the creation. A similar phrase in 1 Corinthians 15:26,27 (NIV) says that “the last enemy to be destroyed is death.” For he “has put everything under his feet.” The next verse goes on to say that the “everything” excludes God himself who put everything under Christ.
The word “all” (Greek: pas) can be translated “all other” or “everyone.” It is so translated in Luke 13:2 (NIV) and 21:29, and Philippians 2:21. Paul is not teaching that Jesus is distinct from the creation. 1 Corinthians 8:6 explains that God the father is the source of all creation, while the son is the agency through which creation occurred (see also Proverbs 8:22-30; John 1:1-3). “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:17, NIV). Jesus is before all things that were created through him.
“In these last days he has spoken to us in a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he created the world. The son is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence [image of God—Colossians 1:15], and he sustains all things by his powerful word [now in these last days, now after he was raised to the glory on high], and so when he had accomplished cleansing for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Thus he became so far better than the angels.” (Hebrews 1:2-4, NET; comments supplied.) Not only was the son the agent of creation in his pre-human existence, but since being raised to his resurrection glory, he continues to be the instrument by which the universe adheres or remains together.
Firstborn from the Dead
“And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning [Greek: arche], the firstborn [prototokos] from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence” (Colossians 1:18).
Jesus is the arche (beginning) and prototokos (firstborn) from the dead. To what do these words refer? They refer to Jesus as the head of the body of Christ, the first who would be raised from the dead never to die again. Both words can refer to anything that is the “first of a series.”
“He is the beginning of the Christian church, the root, the fountain and foundation of it, the active beginning, or the first principle and author of it, and of all those influences of grace and spiritual life which animate and enliven it. . . He is called the first-born from the dead . . . because he was the first that arose to an immortal life, never to die more; all others that were raised to life, besides him, died again, but death had no more dominion over him.”—Burkett’s Notes on the New Testament
Jesus had preeminence in all things over the old creation AND the new creation. The word “preeminence” also literally means “to be first.” Jesus was the first creation and he was the first who rose from the dead never to die again. Jesus was first in all things!
“And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God” (Revelation 3:14). The book of Colossians was also shared with those in the Laodicean church (see Colossians 4:16). In the message to Laodicea in the book of Revelation the same thoughts about Jesus Christ are also found. It says that he is the “beginning [arche] of creation.” (Compare Revelation 3:14 with Colossians 1:15.) In Revelation chapters 2 and 3 Jesus tells each of the churches, “I am this,” and “I am that.” In this verse Jesus tells us he is the arche of the creation of God.
Greek scholars will say that arche in this sentence structure could mean that Jesus is the first created being, or that he is the ruler over all creation. It could even mean that Jesus was the source or origin of all creation although it does not have this definition anywhere in the New Testament. When discussing the word arche, a Trinitarian in his book says that “it must be admitted that the word might bear this meaning” (in the sense that Jesus was the first created being). He then goes on to quote Alford’s commentary, saying that “arche out of this context could possibly mean, ‘the Christ is the first created being.’” (See Robert M. Bowman, Should You Believe in the Trinity, p. 65.) Although he says that arche could be taken “out of. . . . context,” he does not explain his reasoning. The context of Revelation 3 certainly does not prohibit or encourage any specific definition to help us understand what this word means.
Other commentaries state a similar principle that the word arche and the grammar of Revelation 3:14 do not prohibit the idea that Jesus is the first created being. Every time the word arche is used by John in his writings in the singular form, he uses it to mean first in time. Never once does he use it to mean origin or source. The point of Revelation 3:14 is that Jesus is the first of all creation.
Did God Make the World Through Wisdom or Through Jesus?
If Jesus is indeed the first created being, how can we say Jesus created all things? (Colossians 1:15,16) Proverbs chapter 8 helps to answer this question. “The LORD created me first of all, the first of his works, long ago” (Proverbs 8:22, TEV). “Get wisdom, though it cost all you have, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7, NIV).
Romans proclaims that the world is without the wisdom of God. It says that that the world is “without excuse” (Romans 1:20) because they should recognize the power of God in creation. But even today they do not know God and continue to sin. Nor do they know the son who was sent to redeem man, who is the Word of God, “the true light which lighteth every man [individually, without exception] that cometh into the world” (John 1:9). As a spoken word reveals invisible thought, so Christ the living Word reveals the invisible God. Jesus, as the mediator between God and man, said “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9, NIV).
By definition wisdom is the application of knowledge, i.e., “daily practical living.” Wisdom is nothing unless it is manifested. God manifested his wisdom to us through Christ: “But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:24,30; see also Col 2:3).
The evangelist alludes to the pre-existence of Jesus in Luke 11:49 when he identifies Jesus as the “wisdom of God.” The Barnes’ Noteson this Scripture say: “By the wisdom of God, here, is undoubtedly meant the Saviour himself.”
In Proverbs we find that God made the world through his wisdom: “The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth” (Proverbs 3:19). This is exactly the thought of Colossians 1:15,16 concerning Christ: “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth.” Here Jesus is called the firstborn of every creature, which is the same thought of Jesus as God’s wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-30. “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning . . . When there was no depths I was brought forth. . . . Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.”
Jesus loves those who seek him and love him: “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me” (Proverbs 8:17; see also Proverbs 1:28). Jesus leads in the way of righteousness just as wisdom does: “I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment” (Proverbs 8:20). Beginning with the early church fathers even to our own time Christians of all theological persuasions—Arians, Sabellians (Oneness), Unitarians, even Trinitarians—have for centuries applied Wisdom in Proverbs 8 to Jesus Christ.
“Wisdom here has personal properties and actions; and that intelligent divine person can be no other than the son of God himself, to whom the principal things here spoken of wisdom are attributed in other Scriptures.”—Matthew Henry Commentary
Jewish commentaries understood wisdom in Proverbs 8 to refer to a creature. “The Targum makes this wisdom a creature, by thus translating the passage: . . . ‘God created me in the beginning of his creatures.’ The Syriac is the same.”—Clarke’s Commentary
Wisdom says, “Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you” (Proverbs 1:23). Jesus said, “But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me” (John 15:26).
Many Bible commentators for centuries have understood Wisdom in Proverbs 8 to be descriptive of the works of Jesus Christ. contains the instructions of Wisdom or Christ; showing the excellency of them, and the author of them, in opposition to the harlot and her “This chapter allurements, in the preceding chapter.”—Gill’s Commentary
“It is a great question what this wisdom is. Some understand it of the Divine wisdom; others of [Christ] . . . the chapter may be understood of Christ considered partly in his personal capacity, and partly in regard of his office, which was to impart the mind and will of God to mankind.”—Wesley’s Notes
Can Wisdom be a Personification of Jesus?
Some argue that Wisdom can not be a personification of Jesus because Wisdom is feminine and Jesus was male: “Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth HER voice?” (Proverbs 8:1). Although the Hebrew word for “wisdom” is feminine, because wisdom is personified it is only a matter of grammar. Although war is normally associated with men going into battle, the Hebrew word for war is also feminine. Many non-English languages ascribe gender to nouns. The Polish word for “table” is masculine, but it is feminine in French. The gender of the Hebrew word for wisdom has no bearing on the object to which it refers. Jesus is prophetically spoken of as the “sun of righteousness” in Malachi 4:2; the Hebrew word for “sun” is also feminine (Strong’s 8121). See Strong’s Morphological Dictionary for word gender.
‘They are proclaimed from on high: She stands in the top of high places’ (Proverbs 8:2); it was from the top of Mount Sinai that the law was given, and Christ expounded it in a sermon upon the mount.”—Matthew Henry
Some say that this can not be prophetic of Christ because he did not cry out in the streets. Yet we read: “That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not strive, nor cry; neither shall any man hear his voice in the streets” (Matthew 12:17; see also Isaiah 42:1,2). These words are quoted from Isaiah by Matthew to explain why he retreated from his enemies and sought to hide himself. Those familiar with Jesus’ ministry know that Jesus did cry out the message of God in the streets. The Hebrew word translated cry is Strong’s 7121 which means “to preach.” Jesus preached everywhere he went.
In Proverbs 9 Wisdom is contrasted with Foolishness. If Wisdom is Christ and Wisdom is contrasted with its opposite, then foolishness must be that which is the opposite of Christ, i.e., the Antichrist who is represented as a “woman” in Revelation 17:3,4,6,18.
There are differences about the meaning of the word qanah in Proverbs 8:22 as to whether it means “possessed” or “created.” From a footnote on the NET translation of Proverbs 8:22 found at www.bible.org: “There are two roots in Hebrew, one meaning ‘to possess,’ and the other meaning ‘to create.’ The older translations did not know of the second root, but suspected in certain places that a meaning like that was necessary (e.g., Genesis 4:1; 14:19; Deuteronomy 32:6). Ugaritic confirmed that it was indeed another root. The older versions have the translation ‘possess’ because otherwise it sounds like God lacked wisdom and therefore created it at the beginning. They wanted to avoid saying that wisdom was not eternal. Arius liked the idea of Christ as the wisdom of God and so chose the translation ‘create.’ Athanasius translated it, ‘constituted me as the head of creation.’ The verb occurs twelve times in Proverbs with the meaning of ‘to acquire’; but the Greek and the Syriac versions have the meaning ‘create.’ Although the idea is that wisdom existed before creation, the parallel ideas in these verses (‘appointed,’ ‘given birth’) argue for the translation of ‘create’ or ‘establish’ (R. N. Whybray, ‘Proverbs 8:22-31 and Its Supposed Prototypes,’VT 15 : 504-14; and W. A. Irwin, ‘Where Will Wisdom Be Found?’ JBL 80 : 133-42).” Many translators render qanahas “created.”.
“Gesenius gives as the primary meaning of qanah: ‘to get, to gain, to obtain, to acquire.’ Davies gives it the meaning of ‘to form or make, to get or acquire, to gain or buy.’ Strong defines qanah as ‘to erect, i.e., to create; by extension to procure, especially by purchase.’ ” —The Great Debate, by Robert Wagoner
Regardless of the controversy surrounding the meaning of this word, contextually Wisdom is still spoken of as being “brought forth”: ”When there were no depths, I was brought forth” (Proverbs 8:24). The Hebrew word translated “brought forth” means “to be brought forth, to be born.” Wisdom was indeed “brought forth” and this helps us understand the context and meaning of this chapter and especially what “possessed” means in verse 22.
“Then I was by him, as one brought up [Strong’s #525: “artificer, architect, master workman, skilled workman”] with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him” (Proverbs 8:30). Not only can the word “possess” in this context have the meaning of “create” as translated in the Septuagint and Syriac, but we also see that Wisdom was brought up, was trained, and was the master workman of God’s creative works.
No Scripture States that Jesus Existed from Eternity
As can be seen, the passages spoken of thus far can be interpreted multiple ways which fit both contextually and grammatically. Although one point of view has been presented in this article, the burden of proof must come from the other side. There are no Scriptures which state that the Son of God existed from eternity and did not have a beginning.
Passages that have been attempted to prove such a concept either do not fit contextually or grammatically. One such passage is found in the prophetic passage regarding the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.
“With a rod they will smite the judge of Israel on the cheek. But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” (Micah 5:1-2)
Some have proposed that this passage states that it is Jesus’ who has come from eternity, that he has not had a beginning, however the passage merely states that his goings forth, or his works, have been from everlasting. This is because God has planned the sacrifice of his son who was born in Bethlehem so that he could be the Savior of the world.
The passage does not say that the ruler that would come from Bethlehem was God himself, but that he would be one who would go forth “for me”, for God, to be the ruler in Israel. The “days of old” here are translated from the Hebrew word, “Olam,” elsewhere translated by the same prophet Micah as “the days of Old” when speaking of the flocks which would feed in Bashan and Gilead as the days of old.
The same words are also used in Proverbs 8:22-23, where is speaks of the one who was created in the beginning of the way, before the works of old. This one was established from “everlasting”, from the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth.
Yes, Jesus is the master workman of God’s creative works! He was the first of Jehovah’s creative acts, and it was with his assistance that all other things came into being. Truly this great being who plays so many important roles in the great plan of the ages is worthy of our adoration and worship!
Contributed by Jeff Mezera
Rules on Contributing Comments
This is not a Trinity debate website. However, if you want to make comments pro or con, you can with limitations. We don’t want the typical copy and pasting of endless paragraphs of pro Trinity material you have found. You are welcome to disagree, but comments that are too long and too frequent, they will not be posted. If someone answers yours arguments, you are expected to acknowledge and respond before posting new arguments.