Saturday, July 31, 2010

Unitarian explanation of Colossians 1:16

Some interesting and reasonable biblically-supported exegetical insight here.To be honest at this point..I am leaning more toward "Socinian" interpretations.I hate labels like that but it's a quick way to make it clear what I'm talking about.For Jehovah's Witnesses,of particular interest should be the discussion here of "firstborn."I still see it as a red flag that those within the "Arian" community disagree amongst themselves on who Jesus is NOW.That being said,I can certainly see why they think Jesus DID preexist as certain texts here and there seem pretty explicit that he did.However,to construct doctrines and beliefs on scattered texts with possible alternative interpretations instead of the plain reading of the bible as a whole I would say is a mistake.No one anywhere ever identified Jesus as an archangel,the angel of Yah,or Godman.It was only ever the Messiah,the Christ,God's Son.I don't think the Jews were expecting a Messiah who had just been an angel or God.By any means.Surely this would have been communicated,as would the trinity have been,in clear and unambiguous terms if an angel was reincarnated as a genuine man.


  1. It seems these guys confuse Jesus' preexisting by itself and then becoming a man and the hypostatic union. The hypostatic union finds Jesus being God and man at the same time, which is far different than only saying he preexisted.

    To say, as they do, that Jesus' preexisted in God's mind is not really preexistence. Jeremiah was known by God before he existed (Jer. 1:5), but nobody would say as they do of Jesus, that he preexisted.

    To argue that Paul's statement in that God "transfered us to the kingdom of his beloved son" somehow establishes that everything which follows addresses exclusively that kingdom is wholly unwarranted. There is absolutely no basis in the statement made for such a limitation.

    The appeal to Psalm 89 is the same that Trinitarians make, but missing that this is what is fulfilled in v. 18, not 15. Jesus was "made firstborn" in the resurrection as the one God chose to raise first, but this says nothing about his relation to "all creation." While in David order may not have been view, in the Messianic fulfillment there was certainly order involved. These guys seem to miss Paul's second reference to firstborn entirely.

    The same with Joseph's sons, these guys entirely miss what happens in Jeremiah. This text has nothing to do with them in relation to their Father, Ephraim is used of the 10-tribe kingdom and their relationship with God.

    These guys miss much in vs. 16. They seem to believe that thrones, authorities, etc, encompass all that was created in Christ, when these are only examples, for it is actually all things, visible and invisible, in earth and heaven, that were created in him. They fail to realize that Paul is writing against a form of gnostic heresy where these terms have specific relevance.

    "Here four classes of angelic powers are listed: “thrones” (θρόνοι) and “dominions” (κυριότητες, cf. 1 Cor 8:5), which were occasionally mentioned in Judaism among heavenly hosts of angels (2 Enoch 20:1; Test Levi 3:8), as well as “principalities” (ἀρχαί) and “powers” (ἐξουσίαι)—often named as supermundane beings and powers (for details see Lohse, 51). They probably represent the highest orders of the angelic realm. Whether the list is complete (here δυνάμεις, found in Rom 8:38; cf. 1 Cor 15:24; Eph 1:21, is missing) or the powers are arranged in a particular order is beside the point (Schlier, Principalities, 13, 14). From the highest to the lowest, all alike are subject to Christ."
    O'Brien, Peter T.: Word Biblical Commentary : Colossians-Philemon. Dallas : Word, Incorporated, 2002 (Word Biblical Commentary 44), S. 46

    They are entirely mistaken on "before all things," not in that "before" cannot refer to first in rank, but this is a full allusion to Wisdom texts where Wisdom was "created before all things." Were this whole passage not an allusion to Wisdom texts they might have a point, but it is and this statement is a plain example.

    They make "firstborn from the dead" superfluous, because Paul has just repeated himself without purpose. Instead, Paul has moved from historic creation to that new creation, wherein Christ was the first of the original and the first of the new, and only by being first of both is he preeminent in all things.


  2. Hi Dave.I'm glad you visited the blog.Though I can understand where you're coming from,I can't say I believe you've refuted these men.Perhaps you have but I don't personally think so.I see too many correlations between the Colossians texts here and some of Paul's other writings about the new creation.I have not read Gnostic writings so I can't address all your assertions sufficiently right now.

    Maybe the heresy he was addressing was their denigration of Christ.If he was speaking of the Genesis creation,he did nothing in the way of language to define the "things " he was speaking of to communicate such(because he does define them!).Sounds positively nothing like the Genesis narrative but succintly correlates with the context of the church and the kingdom.Even if these were gnostic terms,it does nothing to nullify my point that the context is the kingdom and thrones,dominions,and powers support that and Paul could still have been explaining how much superior than all things is the Christ.Paul could've used their terminology(like he used "fullness")to prove a point about why Christ's supreme.I can't ignore the context.Christ's body is emphasized in Colossians too so that too fits with the kingdom context and would not fit with a supposed spirit called Wisdom in the OT nor the genesis narrative,again.Now that I've thought a lot about it,personified Wisdom couldn't have been a literal spirit-being named Wisdom as it just isn't communicated plainly anywhere..there are a scattered few VIVID personifications but I can't justify using those to form doctrines.

    To quote Karen Armstrong:

    "Jesus transcended temporal and individual modes of existence.Because the "power" and "wisdom" he REPRESENTED(emphasis mine) were activities that derived from God,he had in some way expressed "what was there from the beginning."These ideas were comprehensible in a strictly Jewish context,though later Christians with a Greek background would interpret them differently."~from A History of God:From Abraham to the present:the 4000 year quest for God,p.106

    I don't think Paul is being superfluous by continuing his line of thought.I think the whole chapter is about the kingdom new creation as opposed to a change in narrative from old to new.To say he can only be preeminent by being the first of the original creation as well is similar to a trinitarian saying something like "Christ had to be God before he could cover mankind's sin."Seems not really based on anything but an opinion.God can make anyone firstborn and preeminent in all things regardless of when they're born.

    As for firstborn..

    "If we take into account the Hebrew literary style of prallelism,where the same idea is repeated but in slightly modified form,it is quite reasonable to suggest that the qualifiers "of all creation" and "from the dead" mean the same thing."~Greg Deuble p.244 "They never told me this in church"

    Blessings,peace,and love to you.