For students of the Tanakh, the identity of the Creator is not a mystery. Yehovah alone is the Creator.
However, for students of the New Testament, one single passage has been used by some to overturn thousands of years of understanding and replace it with a new one – that Yeshua, the Son of the Creator, is actually the Creator.
The passage at issue is in Colossians 1:15-20-
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 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. 17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.
Notice that it does not say that Yeshua actually created anything.
Paul was an expert student of the Torah – you could say he had a PhD in all things Tanakh. So Paul would know all of the verses which declare that Yehovah alone is the Creator, that Yehovah is one, that Yehovah shares His glory with no one. He would also be aware of all the verses in the Tanakh which speak of the Messiah being Yehovah’s agent on earth, doing Yehovah’s will in the full authority of Yehovah, but not actually being Yehovah. This is Paul’s framework of understanding – the Tanakh’s view of Yehovah and of the Messiah.
So how can we understand Colossians 1 in this framework? How can we understand what Paul is saying without throwing out thousands of years of understanding and the foundation of all understanding, which is the Torah?
Let’s examine piece by piece Colossians 1:15-20…
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation… We must keep in mind that all mankind is also supposed to be the image of God – we are made in His image. However most of us fall short of that goal. Yeshua however, succeeded in fulfilling this goal. He demonstrated through his actions that he is the manifestation of God’s will on earth. Being the image of God means doing what God would do. It’s not about appearance or about substance, it is about action. The Hebraic way of understanding someone is knowing what they have done and will do. It’s not “I think therefore I am”, it’s “I am what I do”. Secondly, in the passage we see that Yeshua is the firstborn of all creation. This is often misunderstood to refer to his first birth, but we know his first birth was as a baby in Beit Lechem and millions were born before him, so he can’t be the firstborn in that sense. Verse 18 tells us what this firstborn status is referring to – “the firstborn from the dead”. Yeshua is the first to receive the promise of eternal life, the incorruptible new body we will all receive when we are “born again”.
16 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… This is speaking of the whole plan of creation – from beginning to end. From the beginning Yehovah knew what would happen. Adam and Eve receiving the knowledge of good and evil, being expelled from the garden and losing access to the Tree of Life was not a surprise. From the beginning Yehovah had a plan to reconcile humans back to Himself, restore creation and grant eternal life. This is why Revelation 13:8 says that Yeshua was slain from the foundation of the world. Now we don’t imagine that Yeshua was killed twice, do we? No, we understand the the plan for his death was from the beginning. That’s why Paul can argue that all things came into existence so that this plan could take place.
17 He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together… This is a direct reference to what Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 15:23-28, but in order to see this, we need to understand the use of the word συνεστηκεν in this verse. It is usually translated as “consist” or “hold together” but that misses the point. συνεστηκεν has the meaning of putting things together properly – to order things as they should be. This is role of the Messiah who was granted all authority by Yehovah. Yeshua is before all things because Yehovah has put him above all things to do His will – to rightly order all things according to the will of Yehovah.
18 He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything… This is expounding on the prior statement. To show that Yehovah has Yeshua leading the way, as a King should lead the way for his people. Since all authority has been granted to Yeshua by Yehovah, it is fitting that Yeshua would be first in everything.
19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell… It doesn’t say “for in him God was pleased to dwell” which is how many take this passage. God, the Creator, can not be contained by His own creation. Further, the verse actually doesn’t say “God” at all – Paul literally says “because in him it did please all the fullness to tabernacle”. How can we understand this fullness? The passage seems to be pointing back to Yeshua being the image of God – he demonstrates the fullness of what God would want in His image bearer.
20 and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross… Here we have the culmination, the point of the passage – how all of this fits in the plan that has existed since the beginning. In Isaiah 53 we know that Yeshua would be tested to see if he would present himself as compensation for the offense of the people. If he did, many would be made righteous because he was willing to suffer the cost of the New Covenant. And after his death, he would become the firstfruits of many – the first to be born again of all creation.
So we can see that Colossians 1 is not making a case for Yeshua being the Creator. It is making the case for Yeshua being the plan of the Creator from the beginning. Paul is showing how all of this fits together with was what was, and what will be.
The following are a selection of Tanakh verses which declare clearly who ALONE created everything…
- Genesis 2:4 Here is the history of the heavens and the earth when they were created. On the day when YEHOVAH, God, made earth and heaven…
- Genesis 14:22 But Avram answered the king of S’dom, “I have raised my hand in an oath to YEHOVAH, El ‘Elyon, maker of heaven and earth…”
- Exodus 20:11 For in six days, YEHOVAH made heaven and earth, the sea and everything in them; but on the seventh day he rested.
- Exodus 31:17 It is a sign between me and the people of Isra’el forever; for in six days YEHOVAH made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day he stopped working and rested.
- 2 Kings 19:15 Hizkiyahu prayed as follows in the presence of YEHOVAH: “YEHOVAH God of Isra’el, who dwells above the k’ruvim! YOU ALONE are God of all the kingdoms on earth. You made heaven and earth.”
- Isaiah 37:16 “YEHOVAH-Tzva’ot, God of Isra’el, who dwells above the k’ruvim! YOU ALONE are God of all the kingdoms on earth. You made heaven and earth.”
- Isaiah 42:5 Thus says God, YEHOVAH, who created the heavens and spread them out, who stretched out the earth and all that grows from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk on it…
- Isaiah 44:24 Here is what YEHOVAH says, your Redeemer, he who formed you in the womb: “I am YEHOVAH, who makes all things, who stretched out the heavens ALL ALONE, who spread out the earth ALL BY MYSELF.”
- Isaiah 45:18 For thus says YEHOVAH, who created the heavens, God, who shaped and made the earth, who established and created it not to be chaos, but formed it to be lived in: “I am YEHOVAH; THERE IS NO OTHER.”
- Isaiah 51:13 You have forgotten YEHOVAH, your maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth.
- Psalm 115:15 May you be blessed by YEHOVAH, the maker of heaven and earth.
- Psalm 121:2 My help comes from YEHOVAH, the maker of heaven and earth.
- Psalm 124:8 Our help is in the name of YEHOVAH, the maker of heaven and earth.
- Psalm 134:3 May YEHOVAH, the maker of heaven and earth, bless you from Tziyon.
- Psalm 148 – 3 Praise him, sun and moon! Praise him, all shining stars! 4 Praise him, highest heaven, and waters above the heavens! 5 Let them praise the name of Yehovah; for he commanded, and they were created. 6 He established them forever and ever; he has given a law to which they must conform.
- Proverbs 3:19 YEHOVAH by wisdom founded the earth, by understanding he established the heavens,
- Nehemiah 9:6 “‘You are YEHOVAH, you alone. You made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their array, the earth and all the things that are in it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve them all. The army of heaven worships you.”
- Revelation 4:11 “You are worthy, YEHOVAH Eloheinu, to have glory, honor and power, because you created all things — yes, because of your will they were created and came into being!”