When viewed without bias or preconceived ideas, the Bible reveals quite a lot about the structure of the Godhead. Unfortunately, most people's view of God is shaped primarily by tradition, with Scripture taking a secondary position. Trinitarians believe that God is three distinct but inseparable persons in one being. Binitarians, such as the Worldwide Church of God under Herbert W. Armstrong and most of the current WCG splinter groups, believe that God is a family which has been composed eternally of two separate beings, God the Father and Jesus Christ (the Logos). In the following seven sections, I'm going to trace what the Bible has to say about this misunderstood topic.
Over and over, both the Old and New Testaments emphasize that there is only one true God. This doctrine, which has always been fundamental to Israel's faith, is summed up in "the Shema" (which literally means "hear" in Hebrew). Moses stated that God was one in Deuteronomy 6:4, which is the beginning of the Shema:
DEUTERONOMY 6:4 "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God ['eloheynu], the LORD is one! (NKJV)
In the Scripture above, the word translated "our God" is the Hebrew word 'eloheynu. Scholars have long assumed that 'eloheynu is a plural form of the Hebrew word 'elohim. Because of this assumption, theologians have concluded that the Israelites understood the triune nature of God. Trinitarians believe that this verse means that God is one being composed of three distinct but inseparable persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Binitarians also believe that 'eloheynu indicates a plurality, although they believe that God is one "family" currently composed of the Father and the Son.
However, both 'eloheynu and 'elohim are derivatives of the singular 'eloah, which is one of the Hebrew names for God the Father, the Most High God (see Pro. 30:4-5 below). 'Elohim is a plural derivative of 'eloah, while 'eloheynu, the term found in Deuteronomy 6:4, is a singular variation of 'eloah.
PROVERBS 30:4 Who has ascended into heaven, or descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has bound the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His Son's name, if you know? 5 Every word of God ['eloah] is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. (NKJV)
In addition to revealing one of the Hebrew names for the Most High God, the passage above shows that God's status as Father and the fact that He had a special Son was recognized by the Israelites. This is contrary to Herbert W. Armstrong's position that the only member of the Godhead known to ancient Israel was the Logos, who became Yeshua the Messiah.
Malachi 2:10 also shows that God's status as Father was known:
MALACHI 2:10 Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? . . . (NKJV)
But how do we know that the Trinitarian theologians are wrong? How do we know that the Hebrew word 'eloheynu is singular? One of the most basic methods available for understanding the Scriptures is simply letting the Bible interpret itself. A comparison of the Greek text found in Mark 12:29 with the Hebrew text of Deuteronomy 6:4 provides the evidence that 'eloheynu is singular and not plural.
In response to a scribe's question about which commandment was the most important of all, Messiah repeats "the Shema":
MARK 12:29 Jesus answered him, "The first of all the commandments is: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God [theos], the Lord is one.'" (NKJV)
The Greek word translated "God" in this verse is theos. According to The New Analytical Greek Lexicon (NAGL), this noun is singular, masculine, and in the nominative case (p. 201). Theos in Mark 12:29 directly corresponds to 'eloheynu in Deuteronomy 6:4. Because the Greek equivalent theos is singular, the Hebrew 'eloheynu must also be singular, or these Scriptures contradict one another. When you let the Bible clarify itself, it's apparent from the Greek text of Mark 12:29 that there is only one God.
The scribe who questioned Yeshua confirms this understanding by his response:
MARK 12:32 So the scribe said to Him, "Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other [allos] but He." (NKJV)
The Greek word translated "other" in verse 32 is allos, which Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words (Vine's) says "expresses a numerical difference and denotes 'another of the same sort'." There is no other like God; He alone is immortal, having existed from eternity (see I Tim. 6:16 below). In Mark 12:34, Yeshua commends the scribe for having answered wisely. All indications from the text are that he agreed totally with what the scribe had said.
Messiah called the Father the only true God in John 17:3 and distinguished himself from Him:
JOHN 17:3 [Yeshua said] "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." (NKJV)
Yeshua objected when the ruler called him "good" (Matt. 19:17, Mark 10:18, Luke 18:19), saying that there was only One who was good, God. John and Paul also made a distinction between the one true God and His son Yeshua the Messiah, as shown in the following Scriptures:
I JOHN 5:20 We know too that the Son of God has come, and has given us the power to know the true God. We are in the true God, as we are in his Son, Jesus Christ. This is the true God, this is eternal life. (Jerusalem Bible)
I CORINTHIANS 8:4 . . . We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is no other God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), 6 yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live. (NKJV)
EPHESIANS 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (NKJV)
I TIMOTHY 2:5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, (NKJV)
Along with Paul, James also states that there is one God:
ROMANS 3:30 Since there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. (NKJV)
JAMES 2:19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe; and tremble! (NKJV)
This point is misunderstood to some degree by most Christians. In addition to showing that there is only one true God, the Bible teaches that the Most High God has sons. In the Old Testament, the term "sons of God" (Heb. beney 'elim, beney 'elohim, and beney ha'elohim) refers to the angelic host, as shown by the Scriptures below.
GENESIS 6:1 Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, 2 that the sons of God [beney ha'elohim] saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose . . . 4 There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God [beney ha'elohim] came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. (NKJV) [For more information, refer to "Genesis 6 - Who Were 'The Sons Of God'?"]
DEUTERONOMY 32:8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God [beney 'elohim]. (ESV)
JOB 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God [beney ha'elohim] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. (NKJV)
JOB 2:1 Again there was a day when the sons of God [beney ha'elohim] came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them to present himself before the Lord. (NKJV)
JOB 38:4 "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God [beney 'elohim] shouted for joy? (NKJV)
PSALM 29:1 O give the Lord you sons of God [beney 'elim], give the Lord glory and power; 2 give the Lord the glory of his name. Adore the Lord in his holy court. (The Psalms: A New Translation)
PSALM 89:5 The heavens proclaim your wonders, O Lord; the assembly of your holy ones proclaims your truth. 6 For who in the skies can compare with the Lord or who is like the Lord among the sons of God [beney 'elim]? (The Psalms: A New Translation)
The New Testament expands the concept of God's family by showing that humans can also become sons of God, just like the angels. In Luke 20:35-36, Yeshua states that humans who attain the first resurrection will be "equal to the angels" and will be sons of God, just as the Old Testament shows the angels are:
LUKE 20:35 "But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels [isaggelos] and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection." (NKJV)
The Greek word translated by the phrase "equal to the angels" is isaggelos, which is a combination of isos meaning "equal" or "same" and aggelos or "angel." This Scripture is corroborated by Revelation 21:17, which shows that after the resurrection there will be no difference between men and angels:
REVELATION 21:17 Then he measured its wall: one hundred and forty-four cubits, according to the measure of a man, that is, of an angel. (NKJV)
The book of Revelation also shows that the loyal angels are the brothers of the saints:
REVELATION 12:10 Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren [adelphon hemon], who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. (NKJV)
In Revelation 12:10, John hears the voice of an angel in heaven proclaiming the coming kingdom of God and the expulsion of Satan and his demons from heaven. This angel refers to the saints as "our brethren" [adelphon hemon], indicating that the loyal angels and the saints are brothers.
In I Timothy 5:21, Paul calls the holy angels the "elect angels":
I TIMOTHY 5:21 I charge you before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect [eklekton] angels that you observe these things without prejudice, doing nothing with partiality. (NKJV)
The word eklekton is a form of the Greek word eklektos, which means "chosen" or "elect." The root word eklektos, or a variation of it, is used numerous times in the New Testament to refer to those humans called by God to be part of His family (Matt. 20:16; 22:14; 24:22, 24, 31; Mark 13:20, 22, 27; Luke 18:7; Rom. 8:33; 16:13; Col. 3:12; II Tim. 2:10; Tit. 1:1; I Pet. 1:2; 2:9; II John 1, 13; Rev. 17:14). Paul's use of the term in I Timothy 5:21 indicates that God also considers as His sons those angels who have remained loyal to Him.
The Scriptures indicate that all who have the Holy Spirit are God's sons:
ROMANS 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. (NKJV)
Most scholars use the first two chapters of Hebrews to denigrate the position of the angels and claim that they are not sons of God. However, the author of Hebrews was simply emphasizing the superiority of the Messiah over the angels. This preeminence does not mean that the angels are not also God's sons. They have a different role in God's plan than Messiah and humanity, but any interpretation of the book of Hebrews which denies sonship to the angels obviously contradicts the Old Testament references cited above.
This point is acknowledged by all parties. In the Gospels, Yeshua generally refers to himself as the "son of man," and occasionally as the "son of God." Nowhere in the New Testament does he claim to be God, even though the Jews sought to kill him because they thought he had made himself equal (isos) with God by saying that God was his Father (John 5:18).
LUKE 1:31 "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David." . . . 35 And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God." (NKJV)
JOHN 6:69 [Peter said] "Also we have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God." (NKJV)
JOHN 11:27 She [Martha] said to Him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world." (NKJV)
LUKE 22:70 Then they all said, "Are you then the Son of God?" So he [Yeshua] said to them, "You rightly say that I am." (NKJV)
JOHN 20:31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name. (NKJV)
JOHN 10:34 Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I said, "You are gods"'? 35 If He called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say of him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'?" (NKJV)
In the preceding passage from John, Yeshua is responding to the Jews' accusation that he was blaspheming and making himself God. Yeshua answered their charge by quoting from Psalm 82, which speaks of the judgment that will come upon the divine council of the "sons of God" (powerful angelic rulers) because they have judged unjustly. In this passage, Yeshua was equating himself to those "sons of God" that ruled in the divine council. In effect, his defense was "I am ALSO one of those 'sons of God'."
It's interesting to note that the demons (who would be in a position to know his origin and status) never refer to Jesus as God, but always call him the "son of God" or the "son of the Most High God":
MATTHEW 8:29 And suddenly they cried out, saying, "What have we to do with you, Jesus, you Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?" (NKJV)
MARK 3:11 And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw him [Yeshua], fell down before him and cried out, saying, "You are the Son of God." (NKJV)
MARK 5:7 And he cried out with a loud voice and said, "What have I to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore you by God that you do not torment me." (NKJV)
LUKE 4:41 And demons also came out of many, crying out and saying, "You are the Christ, the Son of God!" And he, rebuking them, did not allow them to speak, for they knew that he was the Christ. (NKJV)
LUKE 8:28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out, fell down before him, and with a loud voice said, "What have I to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me!" (NKJV)
This is a major point in proving that the Messiah is not the one true God. John 1:1, where the Word (Gr. logos) is called God (Gr. Theos), has been misunderstood and misinterpreted. Trinitarian theologians have used this verse to elevate the status of Christ due to their belief in his co-eternality and co-equality with the Father. However, a proper understanding of this Scripture does not support this belief.
JOHN 1:1 In (the) beginning was the Word, and the Word was with [the]* God, and God was the Word. (The Interlinear Bible)
* The Greek article ton ("the") is untranslated in this version, as it is in most New Testament translations.
New Testament Greek Syntax (NTGS) states that in the Greek language, "the basic function of the article is to stress the identity of a person, a class, or a quality" (p. 31). Thus, the presence of the article ton before "God" in John 1:1 stresses the identity of the Father; He is "the God."
Here is how this verse is rendered in some other Bible translations:
JOHN 1:1 The Logos existed in the very beginning, the Logos was with God, the Logos was divine. (Moffatt Translation)
JOHN 1:1 In the beginning the Word existed. The Word was with God and the Word was divine. (The Complete Bible - An American Translation)
JOHN 1:1 In [the] beginning the Word was, and the word was with God, and the Word was a god. (New World Translation)
JOHN 1:1 The Word was in the beginning and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god. (The New Testament, in an Improved Version, upon the Basis of Archbishop Newcome's New Translation: with a Corrected Text)
John 1:1 makes it clear that both YHVH the Father and the Logos, who became Yeshua the Messiah, were already in existence at "a beginning" (the definite article "the" is not present in the original Greek). Since eternity has no starting point, the beginning mentioned by John must be a specific point in time. As such, it does not signify pre-existence from eternity. Interpreting this Scripture to mean that "ton theon" ("the God") and "ho logos" ("the Word") have eternally co-existed is unjustified.
Most probably the "beginning" was the time spoken of in Genesis 1:1 - the establishment of the physical creation. This would fit in with all the Scriptures which say that God created the universe through Messiah (John 1:3, 10; I Cor. 8:6; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2). If this is the "beginning" John speaks of, angels would also have existed at that time (Job 38:4-7). Nothing in John 1:1 precludes other beings from also having been in existence then. No one claims that the angels have co-existed eternally with the Father, even though they too were present early on during the physical creation.
The view that the "beginning" is the creation of the physical universe is supported by Yeshua's statement in John 8:44, as viewed in the context of Ezekiel 28:15:
JOHN 8:44 "You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it." (NKJV)
EZEKIEL 28:15 You [Satan] were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you. (NKJV)
Yeshua said that Satan had been a murderer from "the beginning," yet Ezekiel was inspired to write that Satan had been perfect in his ways from the time he was created until iniquity was found in him. The "beginning" spoken of by Messiah in John 8:44 was clearly sometime after Satan's creation. Yeshua's statement obviously does not mean that Satan has "eternally co-existed" with God; therefore, the phrase the "beginning" cannot be taken to signify eternal existence, which only God has.
It is a fact that John 1:1 says that the Word was God (or "a God"). However, Messiah showed that the Scriptures also refer to angelic beings as "gods." In John 10:34-36, Yeshua answers some Jews who wanted to stone him because they felt he was blaspheming by claiming to be the Son of God:
JOHN 10:34 Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, 'I said, "You are gods" [Psa. 82:6]'? 35 If it calls them gods [theous] to whom the word of God came, and Scripture cannot be set aside, 36 can you say that the one whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world blasphemes because I said, 'I am the Son of God'?" (NAB)
According to The NKJV Greek English Interlinear New Testament, the word "gods" which Yeshua used in John 10:35 to refer to the angelic "sons of God" is the Greek theous, a plural form of the same word used in John 1:1 to describe the Word. As previously discussed, Yeshua here is associating himself with the "sons of God" that govern the world as part of the divine council. But that obviously does not mean these angelic rulers have existed for eternity with God. Likewise, John 1:1 should not be taken to mean that Yeshua the Messiah has eternally co-existed with the Father, who is greater than all (John 10:29). Too many Scriptures show otherwise.
I Timothy 6:13-16 also shows that Messiah is not co-equal or co-eternal with the Father. In this Scripture, Paul clearly distinguishes between the two entities he is writing about: God and Yeshua the Messiah. Paul says that God alone is immortal, and that He has never been seen by man:
I TIMOTHY 6:13 Now, before God the source of all life and before Jesus Christ, who spoke up as a witness for the truth in front of Pontius Pilate, I put you to the duty 14 of doing all that you have been told, with no faults or failures, until the Appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 who at the due time will be revealed by God, the blessed and only Ruler of all, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal, whose home is in inaccessible light, whom no man has seen and no man is able to see: to him be honor and everlasting power. Amen. (Jerusalem Bible)
In this passage of Scripture, God is clearly differentiated from Yeshua the Messiah. The Messiah will be revealed when God the Father commands his return to earth (Mark 13:32), since only the Father knows when that will occur.
Christ was seen in the Old Testament as the "Angel of YHVH" and in the New Testament both as a man and in a glorified state after his resurrection. It is stated throughout the New Testament that no one has seen God (John 1:18; 5:37; 6:46; I Tim. 6:16; I John 4:12). Obviously Paul is referring to God the Father as the One "who alone is immortal."
If God the Father is the only immortal entity, then there was a point when no other beings existed. Therefore, this Scripture leads us to the logical conclusion that, at some point, Messiah did not exist. Revelation 4:8-10 also shows the immortal status of the Most High God:
REVELATION 4:8 ". . . Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!" 9 Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, 10 the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever . . . (NKJV)
The Bible is specific in saying that the Most High God is the giver of all life and that He created all that exists. I Timothy 6:13 identifies two entities: God and Yeshua the Messiah. Paul says that God (not Messiah) is the source of all life, although other Scriptures show conclusively that God created all things through Messiah (see point 7 below).
I TIMOTHY 6:13 I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, (NKJV)
Revelation 4 pictures the heavenly throne room, the seat of God's universe-ruling government. The Father is shown sitting on His throne, with the angelic council of twenty-four elders seated around Him (see Psa. 29:1-2; 89:5-6 above). During John's vision, he sees the elders praise God:
REVELATION 4:11 "You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things [panta], and by Your will they exist and were created." (NKJV)
The angelic elders give God the Father praise because He created "all things" (panta, a plural form of the adjective pas, "all"). Nothing is excluded. This is a theme that runs throughout the entirety of the Bible.
ACTS 17:24 "God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. 25 Nor is He worshiped with men's hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things." (NKJV)
MARK 13:19 "For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be." (NKJV)
REVELATION 10:5 The angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his hand to heaven 6 and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and the things that are in it, the earth and the things that are in it, and the sea and the things that are in it . . ." (NKJV)
This is the most controversial point. The following Scriptures (A-E) used to support this assertion are examined in depth.
(A) REVELATION 3:14 [Messiah said] "And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: 'The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning [arche] of God's creation.'" (ESV)
The Greek word translated "beginning" in Revelation 3:14 is arche. Regarding this word, Vine's says arche "means 'a beginning.' The root arch primarily indicated what was of worth. Hence the verb archõ meant 'to be first,' and archõn denoted a 'ruler'" (NT, p. 58).
A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BAGD) defines arche in Revelation 3:14 as "the first cause." Not coincidentally, this is the only place in the Bible where it is assigned this meaning. However, the author admits that the meaning "beginning=first created is linguistically possible" (p. 112, emphasis mine).
The Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (EDNT) states that arche "always signifies 'primacy' . . . whether a) of time: beginning (origin), b) of place: point of origin or departure, or c) of rank: power, dominion, kingdom, office" (vol. 1, p. 161).
In the booklet The God You Can Know!, Raymond F. McNair of the Global Church of God writes of this verse:
Some teach that Christ is a "created" Being--that He was the "first of the creation of God." But the Bible does not teach that! The King James Version of the Bible might lead some to believe that Christ was created by the Father, but other translations more correctly render the meaning of Revelation 3:14. The proper rendering of this verse shows that Christ is "the Beginner [Originator] of the creation of God." Christ was not the "beginning" of God's creation but was it's "Beginner" or "Originator." Notice how this is rendered in the following translations: Christ is ". . . the ORIGIN of God's creation" (Moffatt); He is ". . . the RULER of God's creation" (NIV) (p. 4).
The word arche, or a form of it, appears in the Textus Receptus (the manuscript base from which the KJV and NKJV were translated) 58 times in 56 verses. Of those times, it is translated "beginning" 40 times in the NKJV ; conversely, it appears as "beginner" 0 times, "originator" 0 times, "origin" 0 times, and "ruler" 0 times (although the plural form archais is translated "rulers" once). The biblical usage of the word obviously contradicts what Mr. McNair claims.
Additionally, the King James Version is not the only translation which renders the last part of Revelation 3:14 as "the beginning of the creation of God." Other Bible versions which translate arche as "beginning" in Revelation 3:14 include the New King James Version, the New American Standard Bible, the Revised Standard Version, the Darby Translation, the Phillips Translation, the Webster Translation, the New World Translation, the English Standard Version, The NKJV Greek English Interlinear New Testament, and others. Even with the Trinitarian bias of the vast majority of New Testament translations, this word is translated "beginning" in several of the major translations currently available.
The other uses of arche in the book of Revelation also help determine its correct translation in Revelation 3:14. In the Textus Receptus, the exact same form of arche is used four times in Revelation (Rev. 1:8, 3:14, 21:6, 22:13). Each of the other three occurrences are rendered "beginning." Therefore, translating arche as "beginning" in 3:14 is consistent with the way John uses the term in the rest of the book.
The meaning of arche is generally acknowledged by scholars, which is why some translators render it "beginning" even though they disagree with what the verse seems to say with arche rendered that way. Taken literally, Messiah confirms in Revelation 3:14 what Paul wrote of him in Colossians 1:15 (examined next). It is up to you to believe either the Word of God or the ideas and human reasoning of men.
(B) COLOSSIANS 1:15 [Messiah] who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn [prototokos] of every [pases] creature [ktiseos]: (KJV)
To understand what Paul is attempting to say in this verse, we will take an in-depth look at the Greek words prototokos pases ktiseos, which make up the phrase "firstborn of every creature."
Vine's says that prototokos is a compound of "protos, 'first,' and tikto, 'to beget' . . ." (NT, p. 240). In addition to Colossians 1:15, this word (or a variation of it) is found eight other times in the New Testament. Matthew 1:25 and Luke 2:7 use it to describe Yeshua as the "firstborn" son of Mary. In Romans 8:29 it denotes Christ as the "firstborn" among many brethren. Colossians 1:15 says that Christ is the "firstborn" of every creature. Colossians 1:18 and Revelation 1:5 both state that Christ, as the first human to be resurrected to spirit life, was the "firstborn" from the dead. Hebrews 1:6 speaks of Christ's return into the world as the "firstborn." Hebrews 11:28 and 12:23 use plural forms of the word; 11:28 refers to the "firstborn" of the Egyptians who were slain by the death angel at the first Passover, while 12:23 speaks of the church of the "firstborn" whose names are written in heaven. In summary, the term prototokos is translated "firstborn" in each biblical usage of the word.
Regarding Colossians 1:15, Word Meanings in the New Testament remarks:
To say that Christ is "the firstborn of all creation" certainly poses a problem. Ever since the days of Arianism in the Early Church, those who deny the deity of Jesus have seized on this verse as proof that He was a created being even though the first one created by God (p. 349).
Because of the Trinity doctrine, which proclaims the co-equality and co-eternality of Messiah with the Father, the meaning of this verse has of necessity been distorted. It "poses a problem" because a literal understanding of Colossians 1:15 discredits the Trinitarian theology. Accordingly, you have scholars making such unsupported comments as the following:
Prototokos . . . is used of Christ as born of the Virgin Mary, Luke 2:7; further, in His relationship to the Father, expressing His priority to, and preeminence over, creation, not in the sense of being the "first" to be born . . . (Vine's, NT, p. 240)The expression "firstborn of all creation" (prototokos pases ktiseos, Col 1:15) occurs in the opening line of the Colossian "hymn" . . . and speaks of Christ's relationship to the creation. Stripped from its context and from other Pauline statements about Christ, this phrase might be understood to include him among created things (as simply the "eldest" of the "family": prototokos in Rom 8:29 has this inclusive sense). The English word firstborn is misleading for it normally suggests someone who is born and therefore created. But this cannot be the significance of the term here . . . (Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, "Firstborn," p. 302)
The reason firstborn "cannot be the significance of the term" prototokos in Colossians 1:15 is because a literal understanding of the word would invalidate the Trinity doctrine. Therefore, mainstream theologians have been forced to interpret it figuratively based on their Trinitarian bias, even though an examination of the word as it is used elsewhere in the New Testament appears to indicate a literal meaning.
Pases is a form of the Greek adjective pas. Vine's says the word "radically means 'all.' Used without the article [as it is in Col. 1:15] it means 'every,' every kind or variety" (NT, p. 21). Ktiseos is a form of the noun ktisis. Vine's says that "like the English word 'creation,' it also signifies the product of the 'creative' act, the 'creature,' as in . . . Col. 1:15" (NT, p. 137). NAGL says that in Colossians 1:15, ktiseos means "a created thing, a creature" (p. 250).
Given the information above, the KJV rendering of Colossians 1:15 appears to be the most accurate translation of the original Greek. If you accept that the Bible means what it says, then Colossians 1:15 clearly states that Messiah was the "firstborn of every creature." He was the first being that God created. This fully supports what Messiah himself states in Revelation 3:14. Afterward the Father produced the rest of the creation through him and for him (Col. 1:16), because God's plan of salvation for mankind and Messiah's primary role in it were formulated before the physical creation (I Pet. 1:19-20, Tit. 1:2, II Tim. 1:9, Eph. 1:4-5, I Cor. 2:7, Rev. 13:8).
(C) HEBREWS 3:1 . . . Christ Jesus 2 being faithful to the One having made [poiesanti] him as also Moses was in His whole house. (The NKJV Greek English Interlinear New Testament)
The Greek word translated "having made" in verse 2 is poiesanti. This participle is a form of the Greek word poieo, which according to Vine's means "to do" or "to make.' It "is used in the latter sense (a) of constructing or producing anything, of the creative acts of God" (NT, p. 386).
BAGD says this word is used "of God's creative activity" to mean "make, manufacture, produce [ti] something." Regarding Hebrews 3:2, BAGD says poiesanti is used "of the relation of Jesus to God" (p. 680).
The KJV and NKJV, as well as most other translations, render poiesanti in Hebrews 3:2 as "appointed." But is that a legitimate translation? In the Textus Receptus New Testament, poieo and its variations appear 581 times in 521 verses. Of those occurrences, they are translated "appointed" just once, here in Hebrews 3:2. The words "appoint" or "appointed" appear 27 times in the KJV; this is the only place that poiesanti or any of the variants of poieo are the underlying Greek word. Let's look at an occurrence of the specific form poiesanti in Revelation 14:
REVELATION 14:7 Saying with a loud voice, "Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made [poiesanti] heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water." (NKJV)
Based on the definition of this word, as well as its biblical usage elsewhere, it's obvious that poiesanti should be translated "who made" in Hebrews 3:2, not "who appointed." Just as Moses was faithful, Messiah also was faithful to God the Father, who made ("created") him.
(D) JOHN 5:26 "For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave [edoke] to the Son also to have life in himself;" (NASU)
A close examination of this verse will show that Messiah has not eternally co-existed with the Father. Let's focus on the Greek verb edoke, translated as "He gave" in John 5:26 above.
The Greek word edoke is a form of the finite verb didomi, which means "to give." According to NAGL, the elements of this word are "third person, singular, aorist, active, indicative" (p. 116).
NTGS says that, "verbs are divided into three groups: finite, infinitive, and participle. Finite verbs have five elements: person (first, second, third), number (singular and plural), mood (indicative, subjunctive, imperative, and optative), tense (present, future, imperfect, aorist, perfect, and pluperfect), and voice (active, middle, and passive)" (p. 261). We'll look at each of these elements in edoke to determine its precise meaning.
First, the word is third person and singular, which refers to the one person being talked about, in this case God the Father. The word is in the aorist tense, which NTGS says "usually refers to past-time action as an event regardless of how long the event was in progress" (p. 303). Next is the voice. In the active voice, the subject (the Father) names the one being acted on (the Son). Mood indicates the speaker's attitude toward what he is saying. NTGS says that "the indicative mood is generally considered the mood of fact, reality, or certainty" (p. 261).
So if we take the literal meaning of edoke here, Messiah is saying that it is a fact (indicative mood) that God the Father (third person, singular, active voice-giver) at some past time gave (aorist tense), Messiah (active voice-receiver) life, which only the Father had inherent within Himself.
The fact that Messiah said YHVH the Father gave him life requires us to infer that Messiah did not have life before it was given to him by the Father. Any other interpretation of this verse specifically contradicts the proper usage of the Greek verb edoke and generally denies the function of language as a vehicle for conveying information. Therefore, this verse refutes the claim that Christ has co-existed with the Father for all eternity!
(E) PROVERBS 8:22 "The LORD created [qanani] me at the beginning of His work, the first of His acts of old. 23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. 24 When there were no depths I was brought forth [cholaleti], when there were no springs abounding with water. 25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth [cholaleti]; 26 before He had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. (RSV)
This passage of Scripture comes from Proverbs 8, the "wisdom chapter." Harper's Bible Commentary (Harper's) says of the eighth chapter of Proverbs that "the translation and interpretation of no passage in Proverbs is more hotly contested than this one, no doubt because Woman Wisdom's claims are so difficult to assimilate within later Judaism and Christianity. . . . The view of wisdom found here becomes important for the logos theology in the prologue of the Gospel of John . . ." (p. 507).
In verse 22 above, the Hebrew verb and its object qanani are translated "created me," following the example of the Aramaic, Syriac, and Greek versions of the Old Testament. According to Harper's, the KJV and NKJV follow "the more literalistic ancient authorities: Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotian, and Jerome" (p. 507) by translating this "possessed."
Vine's says that although the primary meaning of the Hebrew root word qanah is "'to get, acquire, earn' . . . certain poetic passages have long suggested that this verb means 'create.' In Gen. 14:19, Melchizedek blessed Abram and said: 'Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker [KJV, "possessor"] of heaven and earth' (RSV). Gen. 14:22 repeats this divine epithet. Deut. 32:6 makes this meaning certain in that qanah is parallel to 'asah, 'to make': 'Is he not your father, who created (qanah) you, who made ('asah) you and established (kun) you?' (RSV). Ps. 78:54; 139:13; and Prov. 8:22-23 also suggest the idea of creation" (OT, p. 52).
Harper's says that "it should be noted that the Hebrew verb cholaleti, here translated 'brought forth' (vv. 24-25), derives from the root chyl, which is generally associated with the physical activity of the female in giving birth. Hence, one must ask if Yahweh, in the manner of a female, gives birth (metaphorically?) to Woman Wisdom?" (p. 507).
No, it's not "Woman Wisdom" to whom God gave birth or brought forth, but rather the being known as the Logos, Yeshua the Messiah. In this passage of Scripture, wisdom is symbolic of Messiah. Indeed, Paul calls Christ "the wisdom of God" in I Corinthians 1:
I CORINTHIANS 1:24 But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (NKJV)
Continuing with Proverbs 8, we see that "Wisdom" (Messiah) was with God as a "master workman" ("master craftsman"-NKJV) while He created the universe.
PROVERBS 8:27 When He established the heavens, I was there, when He drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28 when He made firm the skies above, when He established the fountains of the deep, 29 when He assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth, 30 then I was beside Him, like a master workman; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing before Him always, 31 rejoicing in His inhabited world, and delighting in the sons of men." (RSV)
This fits in superbly with the remaining Scriptures which show that although God the Father created the universe, He did so through Messiah:
JOHN 1:3 All things were made through him [Messiah], and without him nothing was made that was made. (NKJV)
JOHN 1:10 He [Messiah] was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world did not know him. (NKJV)
I CORINTHIANS 8:6 Yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live. (NKJV)
EPHESIANS 3:9 And to make all see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things through Jesus Christ; (NKJV)
COLOSSIANS 1:15 He [Messiah] is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; 16 for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities - all things were created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (RSV)
HEBREWS 1:1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; (NKJV)
The Bible conclusively shows that YHVH the Father is the only true God. He alone has immortality, since only He has existed from eternity. God has numerous sons, all of them a product of His will. These sons include the loyal angelic host as well as those humans called and given the Holy Spirit. The Father is the source of all life, and Messiah was the first being created. God then established the rest of the creation through him and for him.
Bryan T. Huie
April 8, 1997