The New Testament contains many references to Jesus as Creator, which I’ve gone over briefly here. These passages have been a major line of evidence appealed to by Trinitarians to show that Jesus is God. After all, only God is the Creator (Isa. 44:24). Everything else is created. If Jesus is the Creator, He must be God. Those who deny the deity of Christ, understandably, have come up with many attempts to get around the clear meaning of these passages, but are they legitimate? Let’s look at each one and address some of the ways they are defended against.
John 1:3, 10
3 All things came into being through him, and apart from him not one thing came into being that has come into being…10 He was in the world, and the world came into being through him, and the world did not recognize him.
As I stated in the other article cited above, one thing I love is the variety of language in which the New Testament writers speak of creation. As we will see, they will say “created”, “made”, “came into being”, “exist”, and others to make reference to this truly defining act of Deity. Here, all things “came into being through him”. This establishes several things. It shows that Jesus existed at the time of creation, and that He was there with the Father in that act of creation. Also, as verse 3 states, nothing “that came into being” did so except through Him. This means that Jesus did not “come into being”. This shows that He is truly eternal, not God’s first creation. The parallel language of verse 10 links to verse 3 to show that the same person who came into the world was the one through whom the world came into existence.
So, how do people try to get around this? The number of alternatives offered are numerous, but typically fall into three categories as I can see it. First, you have the Jehovah’s Witness/Arian view, which affirms that Jesus did preexist and was personally present at creation, but is a separate, non-eternal, created being nonetheless.
The second way around is to try to say this isn’t about Jesus by depersonalizing the Word to be God’s plan or purpose.
The third way is to say that the “beginning” in verse 1 is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry or the church. This one will come up in other contexts as well.
So, are these legitimate understandings of the text here? As I’ve written about before, context, not theology, should drive our interpretation. Now, I could literally write books surveying all that gets written about John 1. I’m not going to go over all that here. I’m simply going to show what I think are the major problems with each of these understandings of the text here, based on what it says itself and the context it is written in.
Considering the JW/Arian interpretation, as I stated above, the fact that the creation language of this text specifically says that without the Word, nothing “that has come into being” came into being. This text creates two categories: things that came into being, and things that did not come into being. If the Word is a pre-incarnate Jesus that was still created, then He came into being. Verse 3 clearly states that the Word was there to create everything in that category, so the Word cannot be in that category. The Arian view says that the Word is Jesus, but that He came into being. Verse 3 simply won’t allow this.
Considering the effort to depersonalize the Word, I’ve written a few other things, but how does it relate specifically to the creation language in this passage? Well, notice that verse 10 continues the thought of verse 3 in terms of creation, but also says that this one “was in the world” Now, in verses 7-13, the metaphor shifts from “the Word” to “the light”. This light is spoken of thus: “coming to his own”, “his own people did not receive him”, “as many as received him—to those who believe in his name—he gave to them authority to become children of God”. This is unquestionably language, not only about a person, but about Jesus. The “light”, however, is also there in verse 10, being spoken of as the one through whom everything came into being. This links the “light” back to the “Word” in the first verses of the prologue. John is making sure we don’t think he is talking about someone else. John wants us to know we are talking about the same one throughout, but this interpretation doesn’t work all the way through and has to artificially cut up the text and have John change the subject without warning.
As for the third interpretation, the effort is to try to show that the “beginning” here is not the one of Genesis, and the phrases “came into being” are not creation. Instead, it is said that the beginning here is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and that “came into being” should be more seen as “came to be”, and that this is a reference to the new creation and all that came to be as a result of Jesus’ coming. The evidence offered varies, but parallels are attempted between this and the beginning of other gospels as well as the opening of 1 John, as well as Jesus’ reference to the beginning of His time with the disciples, stated later in the Gospel of John. Are these legitimate?
This is a view that it is indeed hard to find proponents of. It is a Unitarian view, but far more Unitarians favor just seeing the Word as not being a person. This view does get more traction in other passages, but is not as common here, and upon some examination, it becomes clear why. In other verses in the New Testament that use the word “beginning”, the context clearly provides the reference as being events surrounding the coming of Jesus. However, sound interpretation rules say that we should interpret a passage in its own context first before jumping to others. John 1 has no reference to “new creation”, nor does it anywhere grammatically link its “beginning” to the coming of Jesus. Several of these “parallels” are ones that come after this passage, (later in the Gospel and in 1 John). The others, from other Gospels, cannot be assumed to be a reference, since the writing of the New Testament was done at such a pace that there really aren’t any direct citations of one New Testament book by another, except where we have clear sequential books (e.g. 1 and 2 Corinthians). While they are drawing from the same source material in the life of Christ, John doesn’t give us any indication he is quoting any other Gospel. If John wanted us to see the beginning in this passage as the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he could have clearly done so, as he does in 1 John.
Rather, John uses a well-known phrase, not just a word. “In the beginning” is not found anywhere else in the New Testament except Hebrews 1:10, another passage we will be looking at in this article, because it also is about the creation. When John wrote, using the exact same wording as Genesis 1:1, we have no concrete evidence to suppose a first-time reader of this prologue would be able to link this wording to anything but the creation of the world. Even if we allow that the reader doesn’t know exactly what the Word is (I think he would), the fact that we have “in the beginning”, “came into being”, and “the light” happening so quickly, we just have nothing in the context to drive us to any other meaning but that the creation of the world came about through the Word. It is not legitimate to appeal to other times when only a single word of the phrase (“beginning”, not “in the beginning”) is used in other contexts that we cannot know the reader would know about, and where the context clearly is not about creation, while that language is present here.
Also, like with the previous interpretation, this one really ignores the implications of verse 10. If the beginning is later, and what “came into being” in verse 3 was just the Christian community and all it entails, then there is a problem in verse 10 that this language is repeated, now saying that “the world came into being through him”. Any natural reading will connect this verse back to verse 3 that was just read because of the parallel phrasing and apparent subject, but the problem here is that “the world did not recognize him”. This cannot be speaking of the new Christian community, since it is speaking of rejecting Christ, the opposite of what the “new creation” does. Verse 10 solidifies this language as that of creation, and inextricably ties it to the creation of the world described in Genesis.
1 Corinthians 8:6
6 yet to us there is one God, the Father,
from whom are all things, and we are for him,
and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ,
through whom are all things, and we are through him.
Here, there is unmistakable language drawn from the Shema, “Hear oh Israel, Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one.” (Deut. 6:4). Paul here rearranges the words to make it Christological. What I want to focus on is the affirmation of both Father and Son as creator. All things are said to be “from” the Father, and “through” the Son. This falls into perfect line with Trinitarian belief, that both Father and Son are involved in creation. Here, the two divine titles, God and Lord, are split and applied to Father and Son, interestingly with the one that is the Greek stand-in for the divine name “Yahweh” being applied to Jesus.
The way that some try to get around the creation language here is to try make it about the new creation again. It is said that the final phrase “we through him”, is a reference to the fact, not that we exist at all through Jesus, but that we exist as believers through the work of Christ. This understanding is then applied to the entire phrase about Jesus in the second half of the verse.
Does this understanding work? The chapter as a whole is about one major thing. It is about the worship of the one God in opposition to idols. Now, how does Paul differentiate the true God? He points to creation. He begins verse 6 by saying that there is one God, the Father, “from whom are all things”. This reference to God as creator is common when God is being differentiated from the false gods of the pagans. Their gods didn’t create anything. Their gods are created beings. God, by creating all things, is established as superior in every conceivable way to the gods of the pagans. The Shema, interestingly, falls within a chapter that is doing exactly the same thing as this one, and the call is the same, to worship only the one true God.
Now, there are four phrases here, two for the Father and two for Jesus, that need to be rightly understood. The first is quite obviously about creation. The second says “we are for him”. But who is the “we”? Paul’s common usage might suggest he is speaking of believers, and I think this is certainly possible, but it is also possible that he is talking about all people, pagans or Christians, saying that we, as the human race, exist for God, even if some deny it. This understanding would seem to fit with what verse 7 says about verse 6: “this knowledge is not in everyone”. Paul could be saying that not everyone understands that they exist for God.
The second two phrases, about Jesus Christ, are set in parallel with those about God, saying all things are through Jesus, and we are through Him. If the first “all things” is about all of creation, then so is the second. The text doesn’t give us any reason to suspect Paul has changed what he is talking about. When he says “we” are through him, then, it would seem that he is also speaking of the same “we” as in the previous statement about the Father. Again, it is possible he means to speak of Christians in both cases, but it may indeed be that he is speaking of mankind in general.
Either way, there is one thing conspicuously absent from this passage: any mention of the new creation or the change from darkness to light, death to life, etc. that is the language of conversion. The fact is that Paul is talking about the difference between true and false worship entirely with regard to who it is people are worshiping. Verse 6 is a clear reference to God’s status as creator, and there is no reason, within the text, to suppose that we are supposed to think that “all things” is all of creation when it is linked to the Father, but not when linked to the Son.
16 because all things in the heavens and on the earth were created by him, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers, all things were created through him and for him, 17 and he himself is before all things, and in him all things are held together.
Colossians 1 is a chapter about the preeminence of Christ. It sets Him up as the object of faith and the one worthy of all honor and allegiance even in the face of suffering. The way this is expressed here is through the listing of various ways in which Jesus is above anything else that may demand our loyalty. As such, verses 16-17 are set as one of the various ways in which Jesus is better than anything anyone else might put before us. Jesus is said to have created all things, but it isn’t left at that. Paul includes other ways of identifying the “all things” he is talking about. It is things “in the heavens and on the earth”, so the spiritual as well as the physical realm. It is “things visible and things invisible”, which once again speaks to spiritual and physical, as nothing falls outside of these categories. Then Paul speaks of thrones, dominions, rulers and powers. Whenever Paul speaks of these things, he is talking in the language of the day about the spiritual realm, making reference to the spiritual beings who were believed to be the power behind the power of earthly thrones. This, once again, links to all things spiritual and physical, but here he makes special reference to what people thought of as the most powerful things in existence outside of God Himself. Paul points out that they were all created by Jesus, so they are under His authority.
Not only is Jesus their creator, but verse 17 points out that Jesus is before them all, and that in Him they all continue to hold together. The entire physical and spiritual realm, up to the highest, most powerful beings known, were created and continue to exist only in the power of Jesus Christ. When it says He is “before” all things, this could be either a reference to His preexistence, as that would be necessary for Him to be their Creator, or to His preeminence if honor and authority, deriving from the fact that He created all things. Either way, He is first, because He is Creator.
So, how do opponents of this passage attempt to get around this clear language about Jesus as Creator? The main argument that is attempted is, again, to get this text to be speaking of the new creation, not the creation of the world. It runs into similar problems as the previous text examined. This text states that He is the “firstborn over all creation” specifically because He “created all things”. “Firstborn” is a title of the heir, or ruler, and that is what Jesus is in relation to all creation, because He created it. It should be noted that the phrase “new creation” only happens twice in the New Testament, in 1 Corinthians 5:17 and Galations 6:15. None of the creation passages we are examining appear in either of those books. And, if you look in the contexts of those books, the phrase doesn’t appear within an explanation of Jesus as the “creator” of this new creation. This is a phrase simply lifted from an unrelated context in order to be used whenever convenient to try to get around Jesus’ status as creator of the world.
In this passage, sometimes there is the attempt to say that this is a reference to Jesus establishing the structure of authority in the church, appealing to “thrones, dominions, rulers, or powers”. This fails on several fronts. First, nothing in Colossians 1, or the rest of the book, mentions any church offices. The entire, short book is devoted to our loyalty to Christ, followed by exhortations in our non-religious relationships (familial and vocational) to deal with each other with justice. None of these words are used in relation to these. Second, Paul doesn’t use these terms in any other epistles to refer to the structure of the church. Third, these terms are used by Paul to speak of spiritual authorities, usually corrupt, that are in the heavens (Rom. 8:38). Finally, the book itself is largely a contrast between the greatness of Christ and the vain imaginings of the pagans, and the statement that the spiritual authorities responsible for paganism are created by Jesus establishes that preeminence like nothing else could.
Really, most non-Trinitarian commentary on this passage focuses on everything but the creation language, as it is easier to argue about the meaning of “image” than to get around the clear language that Jesus is the creator of all things in this passage.
2 in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the world, 3 who is the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence, sustaining all things by the word of power. When he had made purification for sins through him, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
Like Colossians 1, Hebrew 1 is a chapter all about the greatness of the Son of God. Also, like in Colossians, the author says the Son is the one “through whom…he made the world” and that the Son is “sustaining all things by the word of power”. Like in John 1 and 1 Corinthians 8, Jesus is spoken of alongside the Father as Creator, showing that this is something they were active in together.
The defense provided by non-Trinitarians against this understanding is to say that “world” is here the plural Greek word that can be translated “ages”, and that the ages it refers to are those after the resurrection of Christ. So their view would say that Jesus “made” these ages by being the instrument of salvation, bringing about the changes that His death and resurrection wrought.
I’m not a Greek expert, but I am always suspicious of any interpretation of a text that just looks for some other possible meaning of a word and latches onto it to get around a difficult passage, without any reason for doing so other than to maintain a certain theology. But, let’s allow for the word to be “ages” and not “world”. Even if this were the case, the context doesn’t mention any “ages”, plural, coming after Christ. If it is a reference to ages of time, the ones provided in the first two verses are the time “long ago”, when God spoke through the prophets and “these last days”, when He has spoken through His Son. So, if it is ages, there is no reason to adopt the very awkward reading that it is only referring to the time after the resurrection. The one that would fit the context better would be to say that the Son is the one behind all of the ages from the beginning up until now, directing history and “sustaining all things” as verse 3 states the Son does.
8 but concerning the Son,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
and the scepter of righteous is the scepter of your kingdom.
9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness;
because of this God, your God, has anointed you
with the olive oil of joy more than your companions.
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
and the heavens are the works of your hands;
I include verses 8-10 to focus on the simple fact that it is certainly the Son who is, in verse 10, being referred to as the one who laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning. And the heavens are the works of the Son’s hands. There are many things to consider here. Not only is Jesus being called “God” in verse 8, but in verse 10, He is said to be the creator. This happened “in the beginning”, which we saw in John 1:1 and this phrase in the Greek in the New Testament is rare, and the most apparent connection would be to Genesis 1:1, as we have established. Also, notice how this language is just like in Colossians, as we have both the heavens and the earth being created. What we also don’t want to miss is that this is a quote of Psalm 102:25, and “Lord” is “Yahweh” there. It is well known that the Greek for “Lord”, Kurios, is the way that the Septuagint rendered the divine name, “Yahweh”, and that seems to be the best understanding here. It is actually not present in the verse in the Psalm, but its insertion is not accounted for except that it is a reference to Yahweh. The normal way “Lord” is used is by someone speaking of or to a superior, but God has no superiors. So for the Father to call the Son “Lord” here, it seems that the convention present in the Septuagint, which Hebrews quotes from a lot, is the best reason for this. The Father is referring to the Son by the divine name, Yahweh, and speaking of Him as being Creator of heaven and earth.
So, how do people get around this one? Some try to say that verse 10 just speaks of the Father, since God is mentioned in verse 9. This runs into the problem that verses 8-10 all are speaking to someone, using “you”, and in verses 8-9, that “you” must be the Son. There is no reason to suppose that it suddenly changes.
Another way around it is to say, once again, that this verse is somehow not about the original creation. Rather, that the author is separating it from its previous reference, God the Father creating the world, to an entirely new reference, the Son creating the new heavens and new earth. This is supported by reading forward into chapter 2:5 where it says, “For he did not subject to angels the world to come, about which we are speaking.”
So, is this legitimate? As I’ve stated before, we should not read later contexts back into passages to get their meanings. The text itself does not link these two verses as speaking about the same thing, so we have no warrant to do so. While chapters and headings are not inspired, I would challenge anyone to read through the first two chapters of Hebrews and show how the structure of the passage draws any obvious link between these verses, separated by almost a full chapter, such that the second interprets the first. Far more likely, from the text, is to see that, in Hebrews 1, the many Old Testament passages quoted are being applied to the Son, not as so that we can assign all new meanings to every word in every citation, but rather, as citations normally do, to show that the original citation actually applies to the new situation, without losing its entire meaning.
The Psalm is about Yahweh being creator, and the author of Hebrews is pointing out that the Son is the one that the Psalm is speaking about, because the Son is the creator in the Psalm.
For it was fitting for him for whom are all things and through whom are all things in bringing many sons to glory to perfect the originator of their salvation through sufferings.
Having built on the previous references, here we see the author of Hebrews saying of Jesus, that it was fitting that the one “through whom are all things” to bring many sons to glory. This comes on the heels of another reference that states that Jesus was made for a little while lower than the angels so that “all things” might be placed in subjection at His feet. Here we see the story arc of the divine Messiah. Jesus is the one who created all things, then He takes some time where He lives as a human being for the purpose of redemption, and then the one who made all things now, as a resurrected human being, is placed by the Father as the head of all things. What are “all things”? Literally everything. Every person, every authority, the natural order, all of it. It all is in subjections, but not necessarily for salvation. “many sons” have salvation, but “all things” are subject to Him.
I’m not aware of any specific answer to this passage, but would imagine that the attempt would be made to do as in other passages, to say that the “all things” is only future looking, and has no reference to creation. If this verse stood on its own in the book, I would say that is certainly possible, but since the creation language found earlier can only be gotten around with highly awkward and unlikely readings, there is no reason to deny that this verse could be alluding to creation already mentioned.
“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
“This is what the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation, says:
Here we have Jesus spoken of as the originator of God’s creation. Other translations say “ruler”, “source”, or “beginning”. I would favor “originator” or “source”, as probably correct, but again, I’m not an expert. What is interesting is that, in passages like this one, that some non-Trinitarians would want to use to show that Jesus is created, are never unambiguously saying Jesus was created. Here, some may say that because the word could be rendered “beginning”, then it shows Jesus was created. Arians would argue that He was created first, while other Unitarians who reject preexistence would sometimes argue that Jesus was at the forefront of God’s mind at creation. Here, though, even if we render it “beginning”, there is no other passage that lets us see this as mere predestination. As to the Arian view, it may be possible to see it that way, but it is not clear enough to insist upon. And the main reason for the appeal of the Arian view is to allow all of the creation language to be applied to Jesus without it meaning that He is God. Since this verse could be understood as one of those creation texts as well, there is nothing here that favors an Arian view over a Trinitarian view.
These are the main verses in the New Testament that speak of Jesus as Creator. When I was a Unitarian, I stumbled and tripped over these passages and thought I had good answers, but whenever I came to them in normal reading, I sometimes couldn’t remember my rehearsed answers to them. If you have to have a rehearsed answer to a text of Scripture that requires you to remember things from other contexts and insert them into your thinking in order to understand a passage, then you may be twisting the Scriptures. Legitimate background where the Old Testament is either being quoted or talks about the same thing is one thing. Jumping to later chapters or other New Testament books about other things just to find the same word or similar phrase is not sound interpretation. For me, Colossians 1 was absolutely devastating to my Unitarian view. I could not deny preexistence in the face of obvious creation language applied to the Son. I realized that if I was wrong, and the biblical writer wanted to say Jesus created all things, this is how he would do it. If your interpretive grid would allow you to keep your current view no matter what the Scripture says, then your grid has just been elevated above the Scriptures. And that is not a place anyone should stay.