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What does "all visible things" refer to in Colossians 1:16?

All invisible creatures point to what is created in heaven which meant that all visible creatures point to what is created on earth.

Colossians 1:16 (NRSV) for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.

Angels were invisible or unseen (like God who is invisible/unseen - Col 1:15) and it needs God to reveal them if they are to be seen.

2 Kings 6:17 (NRSV) Then Elisha prayed: “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the servant, and he saw; the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

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  • @Nigel, Some interpret the "creation" in Colossians 1:16 as not referring to Genesis creation. For instance, the socinians interpret it as referring to the new creation (the saints and the new heaven and earth). My question pertains to the nature of "creation" in Colossians 1:16. Was it referring to Genesis or the new creation?
    – Radz Brown
    Sep 30 '20 at 17:01
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    That seems a crazy interpretation (by the 'some') since the visible aspect of the New Creation (new heavens and new earth) is not yet made. But I now appreciate your focus. (+1 and +1).
    – Nigel J
    Sep 30 '20 at 18:17
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In the Old Testament, God alone created all things [on earth], which meant 'all things in the dry land' as it was contrasted to all things that are in the sea.

Nehemiah 9:6 You alone are the LORD. You created the heavens, the highest heavens with all their host, ***the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all things, and the heavenly host worships You.

Other biblical texts specified what exactly was made by God on the earth and God made men and beasts ( = humans and animals) on the earth.

Jeremiah 27:5 By My great power and outstretched arm, I made the earth and the men and beasts on the face of it, and I give it to whom I please.

Genesis speaks of God creating plants, animals and humans in the land (1:24-26).

In these Old Testament texts, we consistently see that he who created all visible things on earth is the same one who created the earth itself.

In Colossians 1:16, all visible things on earth were created in, through , and for Christ which is a language that highly-exalts Christ as the Creator.

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  • If Christ IS the creator - why on earth is he declared the inheritor of all? You seem to ignore the entire NT to maintain a clumsy construct. Hebrews 1:2 But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the AGES - not the world or the universe.
    – steveowen
    Oct 1 '20 at 4:31
  • @user48152, The Bible explicitly said that Yahweh inherits Israel (Israel is his [Yahwehs's] inheritance - Deut 32:9) and he inherits all the nations (O God, you inherit all the nations, - Psalm 82:8). In Hebrews 1:2, God created ages (plural, αιονος) through the Son. It's not only about one age (the last days) but the ages (i.e. both beginning and ending) according to the context: The beginning (γενεσις) was also created through the Son: ("O Lord, in the beginning, you laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens are the work of your hands Hebrews 1:10).
    – Radz Brown
    Oct 1 '20 at 6:10
  • Ok, so who 'appoints' Yahweh? You seem to be force fitting what you want it to say. God and Jesus are called Lord - not because they are both God - I'm assuming you understand that basic fact. ie David, the Lord said to my Lord, God promising an descendant to rule forever who was yet to come.
    – steveowen
    Oct 1 '20 at 7:37
  • @User48152, Read Deuteronomy 32:9's context. According to Jewish scholars, El appointed Yhwh to inherit all nations. Confessing Christian scholars interpret this as El and Yhwh to be the same god and thus, Yhwh appoints himself as the one who will inherit all nations. The point is that both Yhwh in the OT and Jesus in the NT were explicitly described as "one who inherits" (having been appointed). Jesus being κυριος does not only mean 'adoni' (as in Psalm 110:1) but also 'Adonai' (as in Philippians 2:9-11). Isaiah 45:23, not Psalm 110:1, is the text applied to Jesus in Philippians 2.
    – Radz Brown
    Oct 2 '20 at 15:57
  • You're digging a shallow grave! Jesus confirmed there is one God - 'the Lord is one'. Not 'one God', but one Lord who IS God. He quoted the OT referring to Yahweh. Jesus knew what Deut 6:4 meant without guile. In the same tone he says he is a man, who has a God, who died and was raised by his Father and God. That Deut one is a good verse - it tells us that when all this evil age is done - Israel will still be God's people. From the NT we know all others will be included with them. Rom 1:16 (Which is why Jesus was a Jew.)
    – steveowen
    Oct 2 '20 at 21:58
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Under the influence of Greek philosophy, especially Platonism, the Greeks put a great deal of emphasis on the what was "unseen" and called these things a series of "ideals" - perfect things in heaven that do not change.

Such "ideals" were imperfectly reflected on the imperfect world.

Col 1:16 contains a common (in the Greek world) double hendiadys, namely:

  • all things in heaven and on the earth (ie, absolutely nothing is excluded, and almost certainly alludes to Gen 1:1)
  • all things visible and invisible (ie, absolutely nothing is excluded)

... thus Paul is using some very extravagant language to emphasize that there is NOTHING that Jesus did not create, either in this earth and what we can see, nor in the spiritual realm that we cannot see. Then for even further emphasis, Paul uses a an even more extensive list of things so there would be no doubt that anything could be excluded from Christ's creative effort:

  • thrones, dominions, rulers, authorities

That is, not only did Jesus create all things, he also created all political power as well (see also Rom 13:1).

There is a simple Greek piece of logic that Paul alludes to here - Christ could not be a created being as this would mean that He would have created Himself. Thus Paul is simply asserting that Christ is:

  • Creator of all physical things
  • Creator of all spiritual things, including those in heaven
  • Creator of all political power in both heaven and earth

Therefore, Christ is outside of creation because He is the Creator and originator/initiator of everything.

The Expositor's sums this up succinctly:

Colossians 1:16. Paul now gives the ground for the designation of the Son as πρωτότ. π. κτίσεως. In Him τὰ πάντα were created. From this it follows that the Son cannot be a creature, for creation is exhausted by the “all things” which were so created in Him (“omnem excludit creaturam,” Bengel).

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