God and Christ: Examining the Evidence for a Biblical Doctrine

 

Jesus and Creation

By David Barron

 

For those believing Jesus is Almighty God, he is also the Creator.  Unfortunately, some have taken the denial of this so far as to even reject his preexistence.1  The Bible affirms his involvement in creation (John 1:3; Col. 1:16), necessitating his preexistence, but it is necessary to investigate the nature of his involvement.  Is he presented as the creator in line with Trinitarianism and Sabellianism, or does the Bible articulate his involvement in a different capacity?


 

Difficulty with a Preposition – By or Through Him?

 

On the Greek preposition dia A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature finds the most common meaning to be “through.”2  With reference to Jesus' role in creation,3confusion has mounted from the occasional sense of “the originator of an action,”4 with the ensuing translation “by.”


The originating or casual sense of dia, present in Galatians 1:1 reveals that the Apostle Paul had received a revelation “dia, Jesus Christ and God the Father.”  This does not imply that God and Jesus were intermediaries through whom the revelation was given.  At most one could say that God the Father was the source and Jesus was the intermediary, but this particular text perhaps casts them jointly as the revelation's source, having directly delivered it to Paul by means of the Holy Spirit.

 

Following BDAG, the causal dia, is used with reference to God the Father in Romans 11:36.5  Winer explains that “dia, but rarely indicates the causa principalis… in other words but rarely seems to be equivalent to uvpo, or para,… Rom[ans] xi. 36, owing to the prepositions evx and eivj, admits no other interpretation.”6  A Trinitarian may view God in Romans 11:36 to include the Father and Son, the Father being the one creation is “out of” and the Son being the one it is “through.”  Such a reading assumes a Trinitarian implication unwarranted by grammar, for, as Winer notes, evx (ek, out of, from) indicates a causal dia, with a single subject performing the action.  This is so demonstrated in Hebrews 2:10 where dia, can only be in reference to the Father as the one who made 'the author of our faith perfect.' 


Any confusion over whether the causal or intermediate sense of dia, should be understood for Christ is alleviated in Hebrews 1:2.  Jesus is the one “through” whom God the Father created the ages.  In other words, God the Father acted through Jesus Christ as the intermediary, thereby disallowing the casual interpretation and standing in the face of a surprising assertion by Bowman and Komoszweski:

 

“Since [Hebrews 1:2 and 2:10] are in relatively close proximity and both contexts are about creation, it seems unlikely that “through whom” had a different meaning in 2:10 than it does in 1:2.”7


While the Father acting dia, the Son allows only for an intermediate sense, Hebrews 2:10 identifies creation as that which is “because of” the Father, indicating originality and allowing for only a casual dia, with the genitive.  This is also defined in 1 Corinthians 8:6 when God, not Jesus, is said to have been the one “out of” (evx) whom creation has come, and coming out of him it has come “through”Jesus.  Suggesting cause or origin for both the Father and the Son results in nothing short of Sabellianism by identifying the same role and function for both. 

 

Harmonizing with the preceding, dia, may only be understood to show the intermediary in John 1:3 as Dana and Mantey relate:

 

“Here [in John 1:3] God the Father is thought of as the original cause of creation, and the lo,goj as the intermediate agent.”8 

 

Another work similarly comments on Colossians 1:16:

 

“The prep[osition] w[ith] the gen[itive] describes Christ as the intermediate instrument of creation (Abbott; Lightfoot).” 

 

Apart From Christ

 

Trinitarian apologetics often highlight the negative in John 1:3b to prove not only that Jesus is the creator but that he must also be uncreated: “Apart from him not one thing came into being.”  It is thought that by “not one thing” being created “apart from” him, he must be uncreated.  Were the verse in a vacuum without context or christological background such an interpretation might seem appropriate.

 

Those looking to respond to such a Trinitarian suggestion could note how John's seemingly absolute language might parallel several other passages, one being Hebrews 2:8.  Stated here is that God subjected all things to Jesus and “left nothing that is not subject to him.”  This would perhaps demand that God also subjected himself to Jesus, for “nothing” was “not subject to him.”  Yet from the entire corpus of New Testament writings it is apparent that this is not the case.  In 1 Corinthians 15:27 this thought is repeated but with Paul's explicit exception of the Father.  Thus the “nothing” of Hebrews 2:8 excludes one not expressly identified.

 

The following chapter will submit several passages that testify to Jesus' creation.  It will be demonstrated that these passages reveal his existence among the created order as a unique creation, having been created by God directly and not through himself.  While we might understand John 1:3 as Hebrews 2:8, finding the exception elsewhere defined, perhaps John defined Jesus as the exception in the very next verse. 

 

Verse divisions commonly divide sentences and paragraphs.  In implementing the verse divisions those who performed this great task had to determine where to begin and end each verse.  The result of this found certain words in one verse and certain words in another verse even if the end of one verse and the beginning of another formed a single sentence.  This issue comes to the fore in John 1:3-4 when the final two Greek words of John 1:3 are not connected to the sentence in this verse.  Though many translations fail to account for this, these two words actually belong to what follows in verse 4.10

 

Grammar alone allows the final two words of John 1:3 to join with the prior sentence in verse 3 or the one that follows in verse 4, so it is necessary to look beyond this to determine the proper positioning.  The early church provides the best available testimony on this matter, allowing us to see how early readers understood the text.  In fact, there is near unanimity within the early church of the first three centuries on this issue.11  Up until the start of the fourth century almost every early church author on record cited the sentence contained within John 1:4 with the two final words of John 1:3 as a part of it.  So The Catholic Answer Bible tells us: "Connection [of o] ge,gonen] with v[erse] 3 reflects fourth-century anti-Arianism."12  Westcott highlights:

 

"The last clause of v[erse] 3 may be taken either (1) with the words which precede, as A.V., or (2) with the words which follow. It would be difficult to find a more complete consent of ancient authorities in favour of any reading, than that which support the second punctuation: Without him was not anything made. That which hath been made in Him was life."13 

 

Adding weight to this evidence is the poetic structure of John's prologue with the use of staircase parallelism, a parallelism whereby a word prominent in one line is taken up in the next.  Anatomy of the New Testament explains:

 

“The rhythmic, poetic character of the prologue can best be perceived in Greek, especially when the text is printed in strophic form… There is, for example, a peculiar chainlike progress in the repetition of key words in verses 1-5 and 9-19… Although the sequence is not perfect, it is too pronounced to be coincidental and unintentional.”14 

 

The poetic rhythm is seen in the repetition of egeneto, came to be) in John 1:3, a form of ginomai.  This is 'chained' to what follows with gegonen, has come to be), also a form of gi,nomai.  Without placing ge,gonen in verse 4 there is nothing to connect the “chainlike” structure between verses 3 and 4.  In verse 4 the chain continues between the two clauses with zoe, life), while verses 4 and 5 are connected with phos, light), and so on.  This structure was also seen in verse 1 where the A and B portions are connected with logos and the B and C portions with theos.  With this rhythm we can determine the appropriate wording for the proper translation:

 

“That which has come to be in him was life and the life was the light of men.”

 

“The light of men” is identified with the Messiah himself (Isa. 9:2; John 1:9; 8:12), though here in the context of his preexistence the reference may be to his position as the one through whom our original existence came.  “The life” is equated with “the light of men” and yet said to have “come to be” in him, suggesting that the life is his own.  This could not be limited to his human existence for he did not at any point lack life in becoming a human for it to have “come to be in him.”  Continually living in his preexistence and then becoming a human, only his mode of existence changed (cf. Phi. 2:6-7).  The point when 'life came to be in him' must then refer to his own creation when he received life.  So Jesus could rightfully say with reference to his complete existence, “I live because of the Father,” the one who gave him life (John 6:57).15 

 

Though v. 4 naturally follows 3, the text is not providing the temporal order of events.  Not only did the poetic rhythm serve to influence the word order, but it is apparent that by providing the qualification after v. 3 Jesus' unique position is given greater emphasis.  The qualification is remarkably similar in structure to one found in Revelation 5:3-5 where the same emphasis is found.  Here verses 3-4 relate how “no one” was found worthy to open a scroll, while verse 5 identifies the Lamb, who is Jesus, as the one who could open it.  In both texts a qualifier is presented after the absolute use of a negative, so that in contemplating the matter it is the last thing on the reader’s mind.

 

Maker of Heaven and Earth

 

With the superiority of Christ to the law covenant in focus, the beginning of Hebrews highlights Jesus’ exalted position.  As the one 'through whom God made the ages,' to his role in place of the prophets whom God 'spoke by' (Heb. 1:1-2), God has made him “much better than the angels” (1:4). In fact he is “heir of all things” (1:2).

 

The first chapter of Hebrews forms an inclusio with reference to Psalm 110:1 first alluded to it in v. 3 and then quoted in v. 13.  Within this are a series of Old Testament passages cited in support of Jesus’ exalted position at God’s right hand.  Here applied are passages having had reference to others, including David at Psalm 2:7 and 22:22 (Heb. 1:5a), Solomon at 2 Samuel 7:14 (1:5b), an unnamed Jewish King at Psalm 45:6-7 (1:8-9), and God at Psalm 102:25-27 (1:10-12). 
Specific emphasis is given to Hebrews 1:10 where an Old Testament quotation of God’s creative work is applied to Christ.  Having already identified his role as intermediary in v. 2, what is here stated would not contradict this to identify him as the source of creation.  The Old Testament reference originally of Jehovah, it is suggested that the language must identify Jesus with him as White argues: 

 

“Psalm 102:25-27, however, is about the completely unique character of Jehovah as the eternal, unchanging Creator of all things!  No one else can be said to have such qualities... quoting a passage about the unique aspects of Jehovah's character and applying it to Jesus does indicate identity with Jehovah.”16

 

That the passage is about the “completely unique character of Jehovah” only begs the question, for it assumes Trinitarianism in the case of White, or otherwise Sabellianism.  If Jesus is not Jehovah, the Psalm does not use language unique to him.  Further, the statement’s reference to his eternal existence does not address past eternity but only the future, and in application to Christ this statement only finds application upon his resurrection.

 

Significantly, the author of Hebrews quoted from the Septuagint where a variation from the Hebrew text directly refutes White’s assertion as William Lane notes:


“In the LXX, however, a mistranslation of the unpointed Hebrew text opened the door for the christological appropriation of the passage. The radicals hN[/˓-n-h  in v 24 (EV v 23), ‘he afflicted,’ were translated ‘he answered’ (ἀπεκρίθη, Vg respondit), with the result that vv 23–28 become the response of Yahweh. Consequently, Ps 102:25–27 must refer to the creative activity of divine Wisdom or of the Messiah, not of God (cf. B. W. Bacon, ‘Heb 1, 10–12 and the Septuagint Rendering of Ps 102, 23,’ ZNW 3 [1902] 280–85).”17


With a variation in the LXX the Psalm spoke not of God, but of God speaking to another.  The author of Hebrews, citing the LXX, may have understood this to speak of the Messiah or he may have disregarded any concern over whom it referenced, concerning himself only with the language as something well suited for the Messiah.  The latter is suggested by George Buchanan: 


“Like other scholars of his time, the author was also capable of taking an Old Testament passage out of context and attributing it to the Messiah.  For example in LXX Deut[eronomy] 32:43, in which the object of worship for the sons of God according to the Proto-Massoretic text was Israel, the author of Hebrews applied it to the first-born, namely Jesus (1:6)…  By the same logic, since “the Lord” was a title of respect used both for God and for kings, such as Jesus, he may also have made the shift here to apply to Jesus the durability of God in contrast to the temporal nature of the angels [for Jesus was immortal upon his resurrection].  If this were the case, then Jesus would also have been thought of as a sort of demiurge through whom God created the heaven and earth as well as the ages (1:2, 10).  In either case it does not mean that Jesus was believed to be God or was addressed as God.”18


Indeed, “the writer affirms it is the Son alone through whom God created the universe.”19  As God's intermediate agent Jesus had a “hand” in the work of creating heaven and earth and all contained in it.  This did not show Jesus to be Jehovah, as Jehovah identifies himself as the source of creation, something Jesus was not. 

 

One Who is The Creator

 

Trinitarians have appealed to Isaiah 44:24 and Job 9:8 to say that Jesus must be the Jehovah who created.  The object is to contradict our assertion that Jesus served as God’s intermediate agent, thereby suggesting that only Trinitarian thought can fit the Bible’s teaching.  The reality is that their argument does no more damage to the biblical teaching than it does to the Trinity, for if their argument were valid it would be equally damaging to both and supporting Sabellianism.


The speaker of Isaiah 44:24 leaves no uncertainty as to his identity, saying expressly that he is Jehovah.  Most Trinitarians assume that this Jehovah is the Trinity, consisting of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and from this assumption stems their argument.  As discussed in chapter 2 the author of Hebrews spoke of the ‘God who spoke by the prophets’ (Heb. 1:1).  This was the same God who spoke through Isaiah, one of “the prophets.”  We observed that this God cannot be the Son because the God who spoke by the prophets is the one who later came to speak by Jesus.  Because the one speaking through Isaiah cannot be or include Jesus, the speaker cannot be the Trinity.  This one is none other than the Father alone. 


Within Isaiah 44:24 God speaks regarding creation: “I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself And spreading out the earth all alone.”20  This statement is remarkably similar to Job 9:8, where it is said that Jehovah is the one “stretching out the heavens by Himself.”   One could look to these statements and find contradiction with the idea of any intermediate in bringing about creation.  The Trinitarian, wanting to view Jehovah as the Trinity, turns to show that Jesus must also be this Jehovah, but the text of Hebrews 1:1-2 does not allow for this.

 

The Trinitarian finds himself undermining his own position when appealing to Isaiah 44:24 and Job 9:8 in light of Hebrews 1:1-2.  These passages are not contrary to the New Testament revelation of Jesus Christ and his role as the intermediate agent in creation.  A careful consideration reveals just how this is so.

 

Job 9 finds that in addition to being the one who is ‘stretching out the heavens' God is also the one who can ‘walk on the sea.’  Such a statement immediately calls to mind the Gospel account of Jesus walking on the sea (Mat. 14:25) and for the Trinitarian this might seem to support Jesus being Jehovah, but such a connection fails to account for Peter performing the same task (Mat. 14:29).  To the apostle Peter Jesus' works were accomplished by God working through him (Acts 2:22).  For Peter to walk on water God similarly had to be working through him in accordance with his faith, for he could not have done this of his own ability.  There was a necessary greater power behind his action so that God, through Jesus, granted him this power, allowing Peter to walk on the sea.  With both Peter and Jesus it was God who served as the source of the ability, it was not a power that was original to either of them (cf. John 10:24). 


If Jesus and Peter both had the ability to walk on water while Job spoke of this as something limited to God,21 it is only rational that the sense of Job’s statement was of originality.  It was not that God ever actually walked upon water for he is not flesh to have done so, but he is the only source behind the ability so that it is original with him alone. Similarly, Job 9 speaks of God as the one who can move mountains (Job 9:5).  No man has of himself the capacity to do this, but Jesus related that with enough faith it would be possible for his disciples to (Mat. 17:20).  Here again the ability could be limited to God for he was the sole source of the action.  He does not somehow require aid from others, but he chooses to accomplish certain things through them.


The preceding, when associated with the first clause of Job 9:8, finds God to be stretching out the heavens alone as the sole power behind the action.  This ability originates within him alone.  While he accomplish this task through another, there is no contradiction (similarly, Psa. 72:18 and Dan. 8:24).  The close parallel between Job 9:8 and Isaiah 44:24 give indication that causality is in view in the latter.22 


To see God's use of his own creation to further create is natural.  Modern science tells that the earth and other planets were formed from existing matter, brought together by gravitational forces and perhaps other means.23  In such a way one can today look into space and view stars and perhaps even planets being formed through natural process.  This is not to deny that Jehovah is ultimately behind these events, but it expresses the means he has chosen for bringing it about.  In such a way it would be entirely appropriate for Jehovah to use his son in bringing about further creation much as he has used and continues to use various physical processes.


Isaiah 44:24 and Job 9:8 fit into the overall theme of God’s creative work.  He is alone the source of all things, the one alone from which the stretching out the heavens and the laying of the foundations of the earth comes.  No other has such an authority or ability within himself, including Jesus.  Nevertheless, God did grant Jesus the power and authority to have a ‘hand’ in these tasks.

 


1           Those doing so commonly read any text referring to preexistence to mean that he existed only in an idea, but this is unwarranted.  While numerous texts testify to his preexistence one of the most powerful is John 17:5.  Jesus here confirms his existence “with” the Father before the world was created.  He requests to have the glory returned to him that he then possessed.  Suggesting that he was only ‘with God’ in his idea and that he is asking for the glory of the idea to be returned to him is nonsensical.  We might simply ask, “If the reference is to the idea of Jesus and the glory held by the idea, would not Jesus in his human existence have possessed equal or greater glory?” 

2           BDAG, 225.  Further from Marvin Vincent: “The preposition dia,, is generally used to denote the working of God through some secondary agency, as dia,, tou/ profh,tou, through the prophet (Matt. i. 22, on which see note).” (Marvin Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, 4 Volumes [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers], 2:37).

3           A second preposition, evn, is also used on one occasion for Christ's role in creation but plays a less significant role.  As the meaning does not imply that he is the source of creation and that it relates heavily to the interpretation of Colossians 1:15-16, this text will be considered in the next chapter. 

4           BDAG, 225. 

5           Ibid.

6           George B. Winer, A Grammar of the Idiom of the New Testament (Andover: Warren F. Draper, 1897), 378-9.

7           Robert M. Bowman Jr. and J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2007), 190.

8           H.E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1957.), 162.  So commenting on the causal dia,, Winer observes: “Many passages, however, have been erroneously referred to this class: in J[ohn]. i. 3…” (Winer, Grammar, 378-9).  Origen also remarks: "Thus, if all things were made, as in this passage [John 1:3, which parallels Colossians 1:16] also, through the Logos, then they were not made by the Logos, but by a stronger and greater than He.  And who else could this be but the Father?" (Origen, “Commentary on the Gospel of John,” ANF, 10:515.)                  

9           Cleon L. Rogers Jr. and Cleon L. Rogers III, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1998), 461.

10 Admittedly a number do as well: NJB, NAB, NRS, NWT.

11          Examples include: Theophilus, "Theophilus to Autolycus," ANF, 2:103; Clement of Alexandria, "The Instructor," ANF, 2:258; "From the Latin Translation of Cassiodorus," 2:574; Tertullian, "Against Hermogenes," ANF, 3:489; Origen, "Origen de Principiis," ANF; 4:250

12          The Catholic Answer Bible: New American Bible (Our Sunday Visitor, 2002), 1137.

13          B.F. Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980 reprint of two volume 1908 edition), 4. 

14          Robert A.  Spivey and D. Moddy Smith Jr., Anatomy of the New Testament: A Guide to Its Structure and Meaning, Second Edition (New York: Macmillian Publishing Co, 1974.), 433.

15          That his life is dependent on the Father demonstrates that he is not Almighty God, but only God's son.  This could not refer strictly to the incarnation because he remained true God in the hypostatic union.  Some may suggest that “life” refers only to the eternal life he grants, but Leon Morris notes: “‘Life’ in John characteristically refers to eternal life (see on 3:15), the gift of God through his Son.  Here, however, the term must be taken in its broadest sense.  It is only because there is life in the Logos that there is life in anything on earth at all.  Life does not exist in its own right.  It is not even spoken of as made ‘by’ or through’ the Word, but as existing ‘in’ him.” (Leon Morris, “The Gospel According to John, Revised,” The New International Commentary on the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995], 73.)  That this refers to eternal life is more difficult if he is God Almighty, for in his preincarnate state he would not have lacked this so to be given it.  This would have taken place only in the incarnation, where according to Trinitarians he laid aside his divine prerogatives so that the Father could give this to him.  As John had not yet introduced the “incarnation” this could not be John’s meaning (1-6 appear as a single unit with reference prior to this).  It should be mentioned that in some way Jesus’ own life seems to parallel the eternal life he provides, as if what he grants is derived from himself (John 6:57).  Therefore it would seem that the life the Son has “in Himself” from the Father is his own life and also the spring from which he provides life to others (John 5:26). 

16          James White, A Summary Critique: Jehovah's Witnesses Defended: An Answer to Scholar's and Critics, [www reference: http://www.equip.org/site/c.muI1LaMNJrE/b.2726529/k.B858/DJ065.htm, Cited 7/15/08].

17          William L. Lane, “Hebrews 1-8,” WBC, 47a:30.

18          George Wesley Buchanan, “To the Hebrews,” AB, 36:22.  Identifying Jesus “as a sort of demiurge” would not suggest Gnosticism, only that God worked through one under him.  How Jesus is understood this way while not confused with Gnostic thought will be considered in the following chapter. 

19          Lane, 30.

20          NASB.

21          While barely deserving comment, some might suggest that the reference to God walking on water is not qualified with an “alone” or “by myself” as the references to God's role in creation, yet the context implies this limitation with focus upon God's ability versus the limitations of man. 

22          So too consider the discussion on Jehovah and Ehud in chapter 1 (Isa. 43:11; Jdg. 3:15) where both the context and the sense of Jehovah's statement that he alone is Israel's savior is limited so that Ehud could appropriately be deemed a savior.  

23          This is not necessarily to deny creation ex nihilo, but to explain how the earth was formed.  The matter that the earth was formed of is naturally not eternal and so it would be the matter from which the earth was formed that would have been created ex nihilo

 

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