Colossians 1:17:

17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. [ESV]
17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. [KJV]
17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. [NASB]
17 and himself is before all, and the all things in him have consisted. [YLT]

What does it mean that Jesus is before all things? That Jesus already existed before creation? Is there room for a different interpretation?


The phrase, "He is before all things" (αὐτός ἐστιν πρὸ πάντων) has been interpreted in two broad ways:

  • Christ exceeds all things in moral and authoritarian dignity
  • Christ temporally preceded all things

The Greek preposition "pro" (before) could sustain either meaning. To decide between these two we must examine the context of Paul's sequence of declarations about the glory of Christ in Col 1:15-20:

  • A: Image of the invisible God
  • B: . firstborn over all creation = (in dignity = most important, AND time)
  • C: . . creator of all things (therefore, He must precede all things)
  • D: . . . before all things (??)
  • D: . . . in Him all things consist/hold together (He is sustainer of all things)
  • C: . . head of church and the beginning
  • B: . firstborn of dead, ie, He has preeminence
  • A: All fulness of God dwells in Christ

Note that the sequence consists of two halves - the first half focuses on Christ's temporal precedence over all things and the second half emphasizes Christ's pre-eminence (in dignity) over all things.

The two center elements appear to combine both - Christ was temporally before and is greater in dignity than all things.

Ellicott agrees:

(17) He is before all things.—The words “He is” are both emphatic. He, and He only, is; all else is created. It is impossible not to refer to the “I am” of Eternal existence, as claimed by our Lord for Himself. “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58; comp. also John 1:15). Hence the word “before” should be taken, not of supreme dignity, but of pre-existence.

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary observes:

  1. (Joh 8:58.) Translate as Greek, "And He Himself (the great He) is (implying divine essential being) before all things," in time, as well as in dignity. Since He is before all things, He is before even time, that is, from eternity. Compare "the first-born of every creature" (Col 1:15).

Matthew Poole has:

And he is before all things: ... and was actually before all creatures in causality, dignity, and time; which proves his eternity, (consonant to other scriptures, Proverbs 8:22 Isaiah 44:6 Micah 5:2 John 1:1 17:5 Revelation 1:8,11,17 Re 22:13), because before all things there was nothing but proper eternity, Psalm 90:2.

  • 1
    @NigelJ - many thanks for fixing the typo.
    – Dottard
    Apr 26 at 20:29
  • . . . . . .Also up-voted.
    – Nigel J
    Apr 27 at 7:50

What does it mean that Jesus is before all things (Colossians 1:17)?

17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. [ESV]

1/ Rewarded with the gift of immortality

The first one described in the Bible as rewarded with the gift of immortality is Jesus Christ. That he did not possess immortality before his resurrection by God is seen from the inspired apostle’s words at Romans 6:9 NASB " knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. " (Compare Revelation 1:17-18.)

Revelation 1:17-18 NET

When I saw him I fell down at his feet as though I were dead, but[b] he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid! I am the first and the last, 18 and the one who lives! was dead, but look, now I am alive—forever and ever—and I hold the keys of death and of Hades![d]

2/ Jesus is the beginning of the creation of God

Revelation 3:14 ASV

And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God:

3/ The first to be raised from the dead as a spirit to endless and immortal life in heaven.

1 Peter 3:18 NASB

For Christ also suffered for sins once for all time, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;

Revelation 1:5 ASV

And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood.

4/ Exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,

Philippians 2:9-11 NET

As a result God highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth— 11 and every tongue confes that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

5/ Exalted , second only to God,everything put in subjection to him by God.

1 Corinthians 15:27 NET

27 For he has put everything in subjection under his feet. But when it says “everything” has been put in subjection, it is clear that this does not include the one who put everything in subjection to him.

6/ First to be raised from the dead by God.

Acts 3:15 NASB

15 but put to death the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, [b]a fact to which we are witnesses.

7/ By being faithful to the end includung his sacrifice , God annointed him as King and Priest in Heaven

Hebrews 5:1 NASB

5 For every high priest taken from among men is appointed on behalf of people in things pertaining to God, in order to offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins;

Hebrews 7:26 NASB

26 For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens;

Hebrews 1:8-9 ASV

8 But of the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever;
And the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of thy kingdom. 9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee With the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

  • Interesting verses, but I find strange that not a single time you analyzed the immediate context of the verse in question, like Dottard's answer does. Apr 26 at 19:43
  • 2
    @spirit - generally, because not one verse stands alone. To exegete a verse in solitary is folly unless one is examining a specific word. 'Before' is not such a word, but is only explained in concert with other texts. The absolute nonsense of Jesus being creator is based on poorly understood 'proof-texts'. On that fallacy, rests the entire dogma.
    – steveowen
    Apr 26 at 22:14
  • 1
    Spirit Realm Investigator: When we find ourselves facing an ambiguous passage, frustrated in an attempt to make a decision one way or another about what it means, it is always a good idea to look for similar passages in order to make a comparison and so help to clarify the meaning of the verse. Any verse analyzed should be in harmony with the scriptures. Apr 27 at 9:12
  • Very good answer! +1
    – carsonfel
    Apr 27 at 9:45

Colossians 1:17 is referencing, or rather stating exactly what we see in John ....

JOHN 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

Now, here is where the link is...

JOHN 1:14 And the Word became flesh

What does it mean that Jesus is before all things?” - it means he is the Word - personified.

  • 1
    I wish others could see this truth as self-evident as well.
    – Xeno
    Apr 26 at 19:06
  • I am perplexed. And curious. Why the downvotes?
    – Dave
    Apr 27 at 18:43
  • I suggest that this reality, that of Christ becoming the Son of God historically as the Man Jesus, is the root of the problem. Many feel that Christ simply did not exist prior to His physical incarnation in the flesh. I, too, am puzzled by this because Col. 1:15-16 states: "[Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him." Go figure.
    – Xeno
    Apr 27 at 20:35

The verse shows that Jesus is an agent of the Creator and that Jesus is not the Creator. Jesus himself plainly and unequivocally ascribed creation to God, not to himself. Mark 13 :19, Matthew 19 :4 and Mark 10 :6. The bible shows that Jesus is the beginning of the creation of God. Revelation 3:14. In contrast, God has no beginning, Psalm 90:2.

The word "beginning" expresses a starting point in time. The bible shows that Jesus is a created being, Colossians 1:15. John 3:16 and Revelation 3:14. The word begotten is not in harmony with the word eternal.

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