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The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
— Colossians 1:15 (NIV)

Some scholars believe that the meaning of Christ's pre-existence is imposed on the text, as these verses are not about Christ mediating the Genesis creation in ‘the beginning’. Rather, Colossians goes on to present Jesus as the beginning of those raised from the dead. Christ is related to the new creation. There is therefore no inference to the pre-existence of Christ in those texts.

What are arguments against the position that the text isn't a reference to the Genesis creation but merely presents Jesus as the beginning of those raised from the dead?

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    Thank you. I seek some quotes from NT academic scholars (preferably not christians at all,neither trinitarian nor unitarian) to eliminate the chance of bias.
    – ben Adam
    Jul 4 at 6:11
  • 2
    ok, then maybe the trin. tag is misleading
    – steveowen
    Jul 4 at 6:17
  • 3
    Does this answer your question? In Colossians 1:15, what does “firstborn of every creature” mean?
    – Michael16
    Jul 4 at 6:25
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    @ Michael16. no it doesn't . as it has no counter argument against the idea that the text isn't a reference to the Genesis creation .
    – ben Adam
    Jul 4 at 6:31
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    We do not debate or discuss the opinion of 'scholars' on this site. We examine the text of scripture by hermeneutic means. Please see the Tour and Help (below, bottom left) as to the purpose and the functioning of the site.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 4 at 8:38

2 Answers 2

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The text itself answers the question, although there is a question (or two) about which text is used. Fortunately, the translation that adds the word "other" to the passage five times (without textual warrant) has not been invoked, for that does, indeed, show bias. By so doing, it tries to inject the doctrine that Christ was a created creature himself. I note that you do not state what text or translation you are working from, which is usually a necessary point in a biblical hermeneutics question. But, at least, you have not worked from the biased one I've just mentioned!

So, how does the text itself answer the question? It openly delineates two matters: first, the unique status of the Son (Jesus Christ) to God the Father, in his being, and in his role in creation. Then (in verse 18) it introduces the second matter - that of the resurrection of the dead. In chapter 2 Paul again details unique aspects of Christ as he relates to the Father, then in verse 12 he mentions the resurrection once more. This indicates that there is a logical order here:

Divine relationship

Creation

Re-creation (i.e. resurrection)

Get the first one wrong, and understanding of the next two related matters will be affected (badly). Get the first one right, but misunderstand creation as it relates to re-creation and, again, the result in understanding will not be right.

To answer your first question: the text certainly does refer to creation (which you speak of as 'the Genesis creation').

However, when your second question asks if Jesus is "merely" being presented "as the beginning of those raised from the dead", two problems arise. First, Jesus was NOT the first person ever to be raised from the dead. He is presented in the scriptures you quote as "the firstborn from the dead" using the Greek word prototokos. This means priority, and speaks of position (which Paul was careful to first detail so that there would be no ambiguity as to the unique status of the Son with regard to the Father: the first point). Paul did not use the Greek word protoktistos, which means 'first created'. In no sense has the Son ever been created, or re-created. Christ's being raised from the dead was just as unique as his relationship with the Father. There had been no resurrection like it before.

Therefore, the answer to your second point in your question is that Christ is stupendously presented as the first ever to be raised in that unique way, marking the start of resurrection where there will be no further death for those who have been redeemed by Christ's blood, reconciled through the forgiveness of sins (1 vss. 14 & 20-22). This is all part of "the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory; whom we preach..." (verses 26-28).

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    Up-voted+1. Indeed, Jesus of Nazareth was not the first of the Adamic humanity to be raised from the dead, he was the first of a new humanity to be so raised. And, agreed, prototokos is other than protoktistos. Supremely so.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 4 at 12:01
  • There are some incorrect/unbiblical assumptions in this answer. You assert that Jesus/Son, was involved in the Genesis creation. Based on what biblical evidence? He was not born yet according to Gospel evidence. Do you hold creedal theology over the bible?
    – steveowen
    Jul 23 at 3:46
  • @steveowen From your answer here, it is clear why you disagree with mine. I suspect, however, that you are already familiar with the many biblical texts those who believe in the uncreated, eternal Son of God use to show the Word of God (who later became flesh) as Creator. I will not enter into debate about this. You have given your answer. I have given mine, and that is where I shall leave it, thank-you.
    – Anne
    Jul 23 at 7:41
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The Gospels are very clear when and where and how Jesus originated. He cannot have been there in the beginning unless some serious reading-in is done with the scriptures and a dismissal of other scripture that shows Jesus to be exclusively human.

In the complete absence of any mention of an "Eternal Son, eternally begotten, or other such ideas, Jesus must be accepted as revealed. A man like us in every respect (Heb 2) who was tempted, died and was raised back to life by his Father and God, brought into the heavenly realm and now sits by the side of God (John 20:17, Acts 7:55, Mark 16:9).

From Col 1:15-

  • The Son is the image of the invisible God - this doesn't make him God. An image of something is a representation only. We are also an image of God in Christ Rom 8:29. (Mark 12:16 the coin is an image, just as Jesus is)
  • the firstborn over all creation. The only way this aligns perfectly with the Gospels is for this to apply to the same instance of "firstborn from among the dead" which happened at his resurrection to spirit, immortal life that he never had before. 1Pet 3:18, Rom 6:9
  • For IN him all things were created. Not by, IN. Clearly the context, as you have noted, is of the new age beginning with the giving of the holy spirit to enable the new church - the spiritual body of Christ.
  • things in heaven and on earth, Note that 'things IN heaven and ON earth' are not referring to a Genesis creation either. God made THE heavens and the earth, but all things come to their full potential only in Jesus.

Yes, a pre-existing Jesus is not a biblical idea - there is only suppositional and inferred support that creates conflicts with a lot of scripture.

While there are many scholars who imagine and declare a lot of things, they must be held to account if the bible is regarded as the primary source of truth. Jesus is only pre-existing in the mind and plan of God - what God plans always comes to pass. Not because time has allowed it to be, but because time has eventually revealed what was declared because God said it was or would be.

Does Colossians 1:15, refer to the Genesis creation? No. It may only be understood that way if taken out of context and read in isolation.

Is Jesus 'merely' presented as the firstborn from the dead? It's hardly 'merely'! Jesus as the glorious obedient and faithful son of God fulfilled every requirement as the 'last Adam' and qualified to become heir to all God's creation Heb 1.

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To say that Jesus is NOT the first-'born from the dead' is to misunderstand 'dead' and 'born'. Dead refers not to the lack of physical life, but the complete lack of life potential. That's why Jesus refers to physical death as 'sleep'. All CAN be raised to new life if they have lived in this age.

Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up. John 11:11

Paul too,

We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed ...and the dead will be raised incorruptible 1Cor 15:50-53.

'Dead' also refers to the general state of man who must die due to sin's penalty. These are the dead, from which Christ rose on all men's behalf thereby enabling a life after death for all who will accept his offer made possible by his sacrifice - in this age or the next.

Jesus is indeed the firstborn from the dead - the dead due to sin, from which no man can arise to take up the eternal life God intends all receive - IF they accept the terms offered!

One can be 'raised from death/sleep' only by God and His exalted son. The resurrection reveals that all will rise to a judgement (except those in Christ who will be raised to life eternal, as Jesus was) and they will still be physical - able to die in the second death Rev20. When a believer is risen to spirit life, they are 'born from above' and granted eternal life. That's why Paul teaches that flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom 1Cor 15:50.

...that having been born of the Spirit is spirit John 3:5

Jesus is the first to be 'born from above' - being given spirit life - as the Father has, He gave to Jesus. Jesus IS spirit now, but he was not when he died (else how could he die?). John 5:26 Only God has immortality - Jesus did not. Now, after being raised by God and exalted to God's side, Jesus too has immortality.

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