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Acts 3:15 (NIV)

You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.

What is the meaning of the author of life? How can the author of life be killed? Isn't that a contradiction in terms?

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  • Who says he was 'killed' ? He himself (the author of life) said No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself John 10:18. In him was life and the life was the light of men. John 1:4.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 21, 2021 at 20:29
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    Um, Paul says he was killed.
    – Steve
    Commented Jul 21, 2021 at 23:41
  • Many ways of stating the deity or Divinity of the Messiah.
    – Michael16
    Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 2:31

5 Answers 5

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The author of life means the source, the creator of life. Technically life is an attribute of God, the living God. That aspect of God isn't created. However, biological life on earth was created. In a sense Jesus' death on the cross also created eternal life for believers.

The killing is called substitutionary atonement.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Pet. 2:24–25, ESV)

Jesus willing gave his life for us.

For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.” (John 10:17-18, ESV)

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 15:12–14, ESV)

So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:10–11)

The author of life:

All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made (John 1:3, ESV)

Pie charts of how ἀρχηγός is translated for different translations of the New Testament generated using Logos Bible Software.

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Translated by ESV

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Translated by KJV1900

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Translated by NET Bible

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Translated by HCSB

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  • Thanks, could you please provide references and credit for the graph diagrams that you posted? Commented Apr 27 at 5:23
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What is the meaning of the author of life? How can the author of life be killed? Isn't that a contradiction in terms?

He actually became the author of life and salvation after the cross. They just didn't know who he really was. Of course we know it was actually through his laying his life down like a lamb to be slaughtered that a new title was given to him after he completed his task. In fact many new titles and names have been given to him since the cross.

In Acts 3:14 he is called God's servant prior to having his name changed to prince and Savior.

The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, acts 3:14

After his death God raised him up he and glorified his name and gave him another title. Prince and Savior

Acts 5:13 The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His child Jesus, whom you delivered up, and denied Him in the presence of Pilate,

God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior Acts 5:31

It was after that he also became the author and perfector of your faith after he himself became perfected through the cross. He was now able to truly give life, His life that was given to him from the Father. He truly is the Seed that fell to the ground and sprouts up a whole new creation and gives life that never dies.

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  • Sherrie A very good answer with scriptures to support your comments. +1 Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 20:51
  • Thanks Ozzie. I appreciate your encouragement!
    – Sherrie
    Commented Jul 22, 2021 at 22:35
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In the phrase "author of life" (Ἀρχηγὸν τῆς ζωῆς) the word ἀρχηγός means (according to BDAG):

  1. one who has a preeminent position, leader, ruler, prince, eg, Acts 5:31, 3:15
  2. one who begins something that is first in a series, instigator
  3. one who begins or originates, instigator, founder, eg, Heb 2:10, 12:2

Thus, according to BDAG, the phrase Ἀρχηγὸν τῆς ζωῆς might be translated, "prince of life". However, I would not exclude, "Author/originator of Life". As such, the idea expressed in Acts 3:15 is a direct reference to the following:

  • John 1:3, 4 - Through Him [the Word] all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.
  • 1 John 1:1, 2 - That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our own eyes, which we have gazed upon and touched with our own hands—this is the Word of life. And this is the life that was revealed; we have seen it and testified to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us.
  • 1 John 5:11, 12 - And this is that testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.
  • John 3:36 - Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. Whoever rejects the Son will not see life. Instead, the wrath of God remains on him.”
  • John 5:21 - For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He wishes.
  • John 5:24 - Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life and will not come under judgment. Indeed, he has crossed over from death to life.
  • John 5:26 - For as the Father has life in Himself, so also He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.
  • John 6:54 - Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
  • John 8:12 - Once again, Jesus spoke to the people and said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.”
  • John 10:28 - I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them out of My hand.
  • John 11:25, 26 - Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me will live, even though he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”
  • John 17:2 - For You granted Him authority over all people,a so that He may give eternal life to all those You have given Him.
  • Col 3:3 - For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
  • 2 Tim 1:1 - Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, according to the promise of life in Christ Jesus
  • Phil 2:16 - as you hold forth the word of life, in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.

... and so forth. Thus, it is one of the great mysteries of the Gospel that the Author of life died - a mystery made possible by Jesus' "Kenosis" - the great emptying he voluntarily made during the incarnation as described in Phil 2:5-8

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross.

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This concept of Jesus being the 'author of life' is made made plain by the text when we assemble the various teachings referencing this matter. There need be no mystery at all.

The first interpretation might be to assume 'Author of life" refers to all life. This is a popular concept, but is not supported by the scriptures. Let's see what the bible does say and deduce a correct understanding from the text.

  • 'in the beginning was the word' John 1. This is not talking about Jesus - obviously - it references the logos only and we cannot read in that which is not there.

John speaks of this again in 1 John 1

That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we have gazed upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2and the life was made manifest, and we have seen and bear witness, and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was revealed to us— 3that which we have seen and have heard, we proclaim to you also, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.

  • John understood what Jesus came from - not who.

  • "the life was made manifest" is a reference to Jesus who the disciple knew, who is the manifestation of the logos - the word of life.

  • "the eternal life, which was with the Father", again, this is the logos. It is not Jesus, as he was made manifest approx 4BC

  • Jesus IS the logos, the 'word of life' MADE FLESH. He is not the logos except for - being the FLESHLY manifestation OF the logos.

  • Jesus is still the logos, but only if we keep in mind HOW he is.

  • the logos cannot be tempted, cannot die, cannot be exalted or made heir to all God has made. BUT Jesus can!

  • Jesus by association, by virtue of his heritage IS the logos who CAN be killed as Paul expressed. Who CAN be tempted and die and exercise his own independent will. These things the logos could never do.

So while we may say that Jesus therefore is the 'author of life', he is so through TWO truths.

  1. He is the logos made flesh, by association only to the logos through which God brought life.
  2. He is the one through whom all life now has its reality.

He (God) also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters Rom 8:29

yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we exist. And there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we exist. 1 Cor 8:6

Only in Jesus, the name that gives true life, the one through whom all things achieve their intended purpose, their eternal destiny planned from the foundation of the world. Jesus IS the author of true life - his death and new life of the spirit (1Pet 3:18) is the pattern all believers will follow. Only in Jesus' image are we fully and finally made in God's image.

Acts 3:15 uses the word ἀρχηγὸν (archēgon) which could mean prince or captain. To force 'author' as if it was intended to mean ALL life came from Jesus is of men and not the text. As we saw, the logos was 'in the beginning' Jesus was not. He is not the Creator, he is the Creator's servant.

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you handed over and disowned in the presence of Pilate Acts 3:13

As 'prince' or 'captain', Jesus is correctly in charge (under God) of giving new life eternal to all who choose him - in this life or the next.

There is no contradiction when we grasp that Jesus is

  • not the creator,
  • not the author of original life,
  • not a spirit with eternal life already or with some kind of pre-existence before his holy conception
  • never mentioned until his conception and birth, only foreknown by God by prophecy and promise.

That's what the bible teaches clearly and unequivocally. Anything else is of men's imagination and not the word of God. The "author of life" could be killed because he is a man, the manifested word of the Creator God and not a spirit as God is.

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  • The first interpretation might be to assume 'Author of life" refers to all life. This is a popular concept, but is not supported by the scriptures”- Steve. The Scripture is plain and straightforward: “All things came into being through Him, and without Him not even one thing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:3). Not only ‘all life’, even ‘all the inanimate things’ also were created by the Logos. Commented Apr 27 at 15:16
  • "the eternal life, which was with the Father", again, this is the logos. It is not Jesus, as he was made manifest approx 4BC - Steve. Again, the Scripture is plain and straightforward: “And the Word BECAME (not manifested/phaneroo) flesh and tabernacled among us” (John 1:14). The Logos IS Jesus Christ. This is inescapable. Commented Apr 27 at 15:17
  • Jesus IS the logos, the 'word of life' MADE FLESH. He is not the logos except for - being the FLESHLY manifestation OF the logos” - Steve. So, Jesus is not Logos but only a manifestation of Logos. “This is now the third time that Jesus was manifested (phaneroo) to the disciples, after that he was risen from the dead” (John 21:14). So, the risen Jesus was not Jesus but only a manifestation of Jesus. This is philosophy not truth. (cont'd) Commented Apr 27 at 15:19
  • (cont'd) . “Men’s imagination” says, ‘Jesus Christ is today (Incarnation) and tomorrow (post-Incarnation)’. But the Word of God says: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday (pre-Incarnation) and today (Incarnation) and forever (post-Incarnation)” (Heb 13:8). Commented Apr 27 at 15:19
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What is the meaning of the author of life?

ΠΡΑΞΕΙΣ ΤΩΝ ΑΠΟΣΤΟΛΩΝ 3:15

1881 Westcott-Hort New Testament

15 τον δε αρχηγον της ζωης απεκτεινατε ον ο θεος ηγειρεν εκ νεκρων ου ημεις μαρτυρες εσμεν

Acts 3:15 KJV

15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses.

The Greek word "ar-khe-gos" "αρχηγον " basically means chief leader, Prince, the one who goes first.

The sacrifice allows humans who exercise faith in it to be free from sin and death. Jesus is, therefore, the one through whom the resurrection of the dead takes place. (John 5:28, 29; 6:39, 40) That is how he opens up the way to everlasting life. (John 11:25; 14:6; Heb 5:9; 10:19,)

John 5:28-29KJV

28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.

John 6:39-40 NASB

39 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that of everything that He has given Me I will lose nothing but will raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”

John 11:25 NASB

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; the one who believes in Me will live, even if he dies,

Hebrews 5:9 NASB

9 And having been perfected, He became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey Him,

Ellicott's Commentary sums it up very well.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers (Bible Hub)

And killed the Prince of life.—The word translated “Prince” is applied to Christ here and in Acts 5:31. In Hebrews 2:10 we meet with it in “the Captain of their salvation;” in Hebrews 12:2, in “the Author and Finisher of our faith.” Its primary meaning, like that of prince (princeps), is one who takes the lead—who is the originator of that to which the title is attached. The “Prince of life,” the “Captain of salvation,” is accordingly He who is the source from which life and salvation flow. In the LXX. of the Old Testament it is used for the “chieftains” or “princes” of Moab and the like (Numbers 13:3; Numbers 24:17).

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