In 1979 the 2nd edition Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker Greek lexicon (BAGD) said of “the beginning of creation” used of Christ at Rev 3:14 that “the mng. beginning=‘first created’ is linguistically possible.”
In view of the entire biblical corpus, the most suitable translation of ἀρχή would be “beginning.” However, this does not require Jesus Christ to be understood as a creature. One definition of “beginning,” like the word ἀρχή,1 is “origin; source”2 (i.e., first cause).
Philo, a contemporary of Paul and Jesus in the 1st century A.D., wrote the following,3
113 And let a tower be built in this city as a citadel, to be a strong palace for the tyrant vice, whose feet shall walk upon the earth, and its head shall, through pride, be raised to such a height as to reach even to heaven; 114 for, in good truth, it rests not only upon human sins, but it also hastens forward as far as heaven, pushing up its words of impiety and ungodliness, since it either speaks of God so as to assert that he has no existence, or that, though he exists, he has no providence, or to affirm that the world had no beginning of creation, or that, admitting that it has been created, it is borne on by unsteady causes, just as chance may direct, at one time wrongly, at another time in an irreproachable manner, just as often happens in the case of chariots or ships.
ΡΛΓʹ “πύργος” δʼ ὡς ἂν ἀκρόπολις κατεσκευάσθω τῇ τυράννῳ κακίᾳ βασίλειον ὀχυρώτατον, ἦς οἱ μὲν πόδες ἐπὶ γῆς βαινέτωσαν, ἡ δὲ κεφαλὴ πρὸς οὐρανὸν φθανέτω τοσοῦτον ὑπὸ μεγαλαυχίας ὕψος ἐπιβᾶσα ΡΛΔʹ τῷ γὰρ ὄντι οὐ μόνον ἐπὶ τῶν ἀνθρωπείων ἀδικημάτων ἵσταται, μετατρέχει δὲ καὶ τὰ ὀλύμπια τοὺς ἀσεβείας καὶ ἀθεότητος λόγους προτείνουσα, ἐπειδὰν ἢ ὡς οὐκ ἔστι τὸ θεῖον διεξίῃ, ἢ ὡς ὂν οὐ προνοεῖ, ἢ ὡς ὁ κόσμος οὔποτε γενέσεως ἔλαβεν ἀρχήν, ἢ ὡς γενόμενος ἀστάτοις αἰτίαις ὡς ἂν τύχῃ φέρεται, ποτὲ μὲν πλημμελῶς, ποτὲ δὲ οὐχ ὑπαιτίως, καθάπερ ἐπὶ πλοίων καὶ τεθρίππων εἴωθε γίνεσθαι·
Philo writes about how pride speaks of God not existing, or if He does exist, lacking providence. He also mentions in that same line of thought that pride says the world has no “beginning of creation” (γενέσεως...ἀρχήν).4 That is, pride asserts that God did not create the world, but rather, the world always existed. Here, then, we see how ἀρχή is used in the sense of “source” or “origin” of the creation, not as part of creation itself. Furthermore, the ἀρχή of creation in Philo’s passage is God.
Since Jesus Christ is “the Word of God,”5 and “all things were created by means of [the Word], and not even one thing that was made was made without [the Word],”6 and he is “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning (ἀρχή) and the end,”7 then the Word is also the “beginning” (origin) of the creation, which was made in him, by means of him, and for him.8
1 LSJ, p. 252
2 Merriam-Webster, p. 110
3 “On the Confusion of Tongues,” §113–114
4 Philo uses the genitive declension of γένεσις rather than κτίσις used by the author of Revelation. However, both words share the same meaning. Thayer on κτίσις (p. 363): “collectively, the sum or aggregate of created things.” LSJ on γένεσις (p. 254): “concrete, creation, i.e. all created things.” Therefore, ἀρχή γενέσεως in Philo and ἀρχὴ κτίσεως in Revelation are equivalent.
5 Rev. 19:13
6 John 1:3
7 Rev. 22:13 cp. Rev. 22:12 which mentions the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
8 Col. 1:16
Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; et al. A Greek-English Lexicon. 9th ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1940.
Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. 11th ed. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 2003.
Philo. The Works of Philo, Complete and Unabridged. Trans. Yonge, Charles Duke. Peabody: Hendrickson, 1995.
Wilke, Christian Gottlob. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Being Grimm Wilke’s Clavis Novi Testamenti. Trans. Thayer, Joseph Henry. Ed. Grimm, Carl Ludwig Wilibald. Rev. ed. New York: American Book, 1889.
Like I told you before, the Greek word for "beginning" is arche and we get our English word "architect" from that Greek word. The following is what Wallace has to say and the BDAG is included in his comments.
"This is the solemn pronouncement of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator,54.
54tn Or “the beginning of God’s creation”; or “the ruler of God’s creation.” From a linguistic standpoint all three meanings for ἀρχή (arch) are possible. The term is well attested in both LXX (Gen 40:13, 21; 41:13) and intertestamental Jewish literature (2 Macc 4:10, 50) as meaning “ruler, authority” (BDAG 138 s.v. 6). Some have connected this passage to Paul’s statements in Col 1:15, 18 which describe Christ as ἀρχή and πρωτότοκος (prwtotoko"; e.g., see R. H. Mounce, Revelation [NICNT], 124) but the term ἀρχή has been understood as either “beginning” or “ruler” in that passage as well. The most compelling connection is to be found in the prologue to John’s Gospel (1:2-4) where the λόγος (logos) is said to be “in the beginning (ἀρχή) with God,” a temporal reference connected with creation, and then v. 3 states that “all things were made through him.” The connection with the original creation suggests the meaning “originator” for ἀρχή here. BDAG 138 s.v. 3 gives the meaning “the first cause” for the word in Rev 3:14, a term that is too philosophical for the general reader, so the translation “originator” was used instead. BDAG also notes, “but the mng. beginning = ‘first created’ is linguistically probable (s. above 1b and Job 40:19; also CBurney, Christ as the ᾿Αρχή of Creation: JTS 27, 1926, 160-77).” Such a meaning is unlikely here, however, since the connections described above are much more probable."
And let me add the following. Something can not mean something other than what it says, and what it says is based in the words, their definitions, grammar, syntax and context of how the words are used. I don't care whether it is literal, figurative, metaphorical, poetic: Something can not mean something other than what it says.
So here we have Revelation 3:14 and I'm reading it from the Jehovah Witnesses New World Translation. "These are the things that the Amen says, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation BY God says this."
My NASB correctly says, "the beginning of the creation OF God says this." Of course the Jw's deny the deity of Jesus Christ and posit that Jesus is a created being based on this verse and at Proverbs 8:22. As a side note the Jw's also believe and teach that Jesus is Michael the arc angel in the Old Testament.
So my question is how is it possible for Jesus Christ to be a created being when in the Bible He is clearly identified as God and as the creator by numerous writers?
Is there solid linguistic support that the phrase “beginning of creation” at Revelation 3:14 means Christ is not the first created ?
Are you asking us whether, within the Greek language, being the arche of something prevents or excludes the arche itself from being part of that certain something ? If so, then the simple answer is no. As an example of precisely such a usage, the Greek Orthodox church has, since ancient times, considered the Father to be the arche of divinity; obviously, the Greek Orthodox neither deny the divinity of the Father, nor can they be suspected of not knowing or understanding the meaning of their own language.
Jesus represents himself as “The Beginning of the creation of God.” ἀρχή properly represents active cause or source. Jesus is the causative agent of all creation. He is the source, the originator, not the first being created. Used in the regal sense it refers to one who rules. “The Beginning of the creation of God,” is simply another way of saying, “The Alpha and the Omega,” “The First and the Last,” or the “beginning and the end.” He is the beginning just as he is the end. If ἀρχή means that he is the first in the order of created beings, then by the same rule of exegesis, τέλος would mean that he is the last one in the created order. If he is the first in the created order and the last in the created order then nothing beside him was created. This is where this logic would necessarily lead.
A Biblical hermeneutic always considers the passage within the context of the surrounding text, the meaning within the overall book, the meaning within the New (or Old) Testament, and finally, within the overall Bible. In this way Scripture interprets itself. Certain words can have different meanings, and recent discoveries can certainly expand or bring new illumination to a text. However, these cannot be applied in such a way as to conflict with other Scripture.
So while Revelation 3:14 may be put under the lexical microscope to suggest Jesus was created, such a meaning is inconsistent with the message given to the Laodiceans, the other churches, John, and the New Testament.
The First and Last
Revelation is the revelation of Jesus Christ:
The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants… (1:1) [ESV]
Throughout, Jesus is revealed in various ways, often by a description or a title. At the beginning John experiences such a revelation:
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (1:17-18)
Jesus is the first and the last: the living one. He died and is alive forevermore, and so forth. After the introduction, Jesus instructs John to record 7 messages to be delivered to 7 churches. Each message begins by Jesus revealing something of Himself:
Who Title John: I am the first and the last; the living one. I died and am alive forevermore. I have the keys of death and Hades. Ephesus: Him who holds the seven stars in His right hand, and walks among the golden lampstands Smyrna: The first and the last, who died and came to life Pergamus: Him who has the sharp two-edge sword Thyatira: The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame, and whose feet are like burnished bronze Sardis: Him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars Philadelphia: The Holy One, the True One, who has the key of David, who opens doors no one will shut, and who shuts doors no one opens Laodicea: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God's creation
Each revelation adds to make a more complete picture, or in the case of the church at Smyrna, reinforces an earlier revelation. No one revelation is by itself complete, and, since all revelations are about Jesus, they all must be in agreement, and in particular, no single revelation can be understood to contradict another given elsewhere.
Therefore, the beginning of God's creation (ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ θεοῦ) must be consistent with all Jesus reveals of Himself, and in particular, He is the first and the last.
The Meaning of "Beginning" - ἀρχή
“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation. (3:14)
καὶ τῷ ἀγγέλῳ τῆς ἐν Λαοδικείᾳ ἐκκλησίας γράψον τάδε λέγει ὁ ἀμήν ὁ μάρτυς ὁ πιστὸς καὶ ἀληθινός ἡ ἀρχὴ τῆς κτίσεως τοῦ θεοῦ
There are five Biblical uses of the word ἀρχὴ:
- [a] beginning, origin
- [b] the person or thing that commences, the first person or thing in a series, the leader
- [c] that by which anything begins to be, the origin, the active cause
- [d] the extremity of a thing
- [e] the first place, principality, rule, magistracy
Of these five, "a" and "d" are obviously incompatible with the revelation Jesus is the first and the last. Jesus cannot be the first and last thing created. This is apparent even within Revelation which states there is still a new heaven, a new earth, and a new Jerusalem to come (cf. Revelation 22:1-2). Also, Jesus cannot be the extremities of God's creation.
Jesus could be considered "the person or thing that commences, the first person or thing in a series, the leader" except, He is not the last:
When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:28)
For the same reason Jesus who is the current ruler, cannot be the last.
Thus, the only meaning of ἀρχὴ which is consistent with the revelation of Jesus Christ is "that by which anything begins to be, the origin, the active cause." In addition, this meaning is consistent with what the New Testament says about Jesus:
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made (John 1:3)
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17)
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:2-3)
It is how the first worship scene in Revelation ends:
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” (Revelation 4:11)
Finally, Hebrews specifically identifies the Son as both Creator and One who will recreate:
8 But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” 10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” (Hebrews 1)
The Reward for the Laodiceans
The reward offered to the Laodiceans serves as added confirmation of how ἀρχή should be understood. Just as each church hears a specific revelation, each hears of a specific reward to the one who overcomes. The Laodiceans are promised to sit with Jesus on His throne:
The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. (3:21)
The Laodicean who overcomes joins His arche. This specific revelation and reward are in complete harmony with the letter to the Hebrews which not only describes Jesus as the Creator and the One who recreates, but sits on a throne given to Him by God, His Father. In addition, as do the other revelations, this adds to what is revealed about Jesus. In this case His authority is so encompassing, He is able to share it with those from Laodicea who overcome.
A Biblical hermeneutic shows Jesus is claiming to be the source of God's creation, which means both the first and last creation. This is consistent with the message given to the Laodiceans who are offered the reward of joining in His reign; it is consistent with the Book of Revelation which reveals Jesus as the first and the last and the rightful ruler of all creation; it is consistent with what the New Testament says about Jesus' role in creation.
In particular, the passages in John (1:1-3) and Hebrews (1:8-12) show not only the component of being first and last, but the current source of authority and so legitimately extend the ability of sitting on His throne to those in Laodicea who overcome.
- Other passages, especially Matthew 28:18 are specific about the current authority of Jesus, but I have limited the analysis to those which also speak to authority to create.