Colossians 1:16 – Jesus involved with Genesis creation?

Colossians 1:16 is a misleading text in standard bible versions.

Colossians 1:16 in the King James (Authorized) version of the Bible is likely to be misleading. It reads: “By him [Jesus] were all things created that are on the earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created by him and for him.”

Although the creation in question is that of the hierarchy of the universe, the average reader is likely to receive the impression that Jesus was the creator in Genesis 1:1. “All things were made by him.”

To say that Paul thinks of Jesus as the creator active in Genesis 1:1 contradicts a number of other biblical passages. Firstly in Hebrews 4:4, where God and Jesus are quite distinct personalities, the writer says that “God [not Jesus] rested on the seventh day from all His works.” This text makes the Father the active agent in creation. The same book says in its opening verses that God spoke by a Son only in “the end of these [earlier] days.” God did not speak through a Son until the ministry of Jesus in Israel.

The Son is associated not with Old Testament times but with the historical ministry of Jesus. Jesus himself referred to someone other than himself “who made them male and female.” He stated in Mark 10:6 that “from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.” This view is exactly in line with the Old Testament assertion that the One God of Israel, Yahweh, the Father, created everything and was alone in the act of creation of Genesis 1:1: “Yahweh who made all things, who stretched forth the heavens all alone, who spread forth the earth by Myself. Who was with Me?” Isaiah 44:24. The implied answer is that no one assisted the Father at the creation of the universe. In Isaiah the promised Messiah is a personality distinct from the God who claims to have been unaided and unaccompanied at creation.

The Messiah is the Son who is born to Israel (Isaiah 9:6). In Malachi 2:10 the One God of the Hebrew Bible is defined as the Father and it was He who created all things alone. Paul knew these texts and would not have contradicted them by asserting that the Son had actually created the universe. Paul was a staunch believer in Israel’s creed: “There is no God but one..(Deuteronomy 6:4). There is one God, the Father.” Jesus is the human Lord Messiah (Psalm 110:1, adoni), according to Peter in Acts 2:34-36 and the angel in Luke 2:11. For an explanation of the difference between Adonia and Adoni in Psalm 110:1, please read Jesus’ Favourite Bible Verse

Literally translated, Colossians 1:16 does not say that all things were created by Jesus. The Expositors Commentary on the Greek text of Colossians says flatly of Colossians 1:16: “This does not mean ‘by him.’” The margins of many Bibles will show that the text actually reads: “In [en] him all things were created…All things have been created through [dia+gen.] him and with a view to [eis] him.”

Paul’s chief purpose in this passage is to speak of Christ’s work in redemption and his position in the hierarchy of authority, i.e. the Kingdom in which Christians have been promised a share and which they await as an inheritance (Colossians 1:13;3:24). Jesus has a supreme position over all created beings and rival powers.

Paul describes the position of Jesus as “firstborn” (prototokos) and first principle or chief (arche) of the creation (Colossians 1:15). Jesus is to head up the Kingdom, the “Kingdom of God’s dear Son” (Colossains 1:13). The issue here is authority and rule. “Firstborn” is a Messianic title drawn from Psalm 89, in which the Father speaks of the coming Messiah: “He will cry to me, ‘Thou art my Father, my God and the rock of my salvation.’ I will make him my firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth…I will establish his seed forever and his throne as the days of heaven” (Psalm 89:26-29).

Because Jesus is God’s eldest Son, he is the reason for the creation. All things were created “in” him. The exact force of these prepositions is difficult to specify, but one distinguished authority suggests that it should be taken here in a causal sense: “For because of him the universe was created.” [1]


[1] Moulton, Milligan, Grammar of the New Testament, 3, p. 253.

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