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YHVH, Jahovah, Trinity, Jesus Christ, Savior, Saviour, head of the church, One God, Holy Spirit, Yeshua, Yahweh, Yahveh, HaShem, Ha shem, Adonai
Over a few years of attempting to get people to dig past the surface of some subjects I have found that most are simply not inclined to do so. They are usually content with their understanding and think that they are sufficiently enlightened. I can't help draw a parallel with our Laodicean brethren. "Because you say, 'I am rich and increased with goods and in need of nothing' - and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked-" (Rev 3:17) As a wise man once said, "You don't know what you don't know you don’t know".
Not that we should be "carried about with every wind of doctrine," (Eph 4:14b), but we should not shrink from searching the scriptures as the Bareans did (Acts 17:11). Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying "Our critics are our friends. They show us our weak points."
If you have no weak points you will not be challenged and you will probably not be able to improve your understanding. However if someone thinks they know what you know and yet does not agree with you. You have an opportunity to improve either your own understanding or your presentation of your understanding. Why would you shrink from either? Either way you win!
A few years ago I was challenged on the origins of Jesus Christ. When young I was told He was one of the Trinity. Later I was told the Trinity was a fabrication. After some research I found the Trinity to be without solid foundation in scripture. My new understanding had Christ eternally existent with the Father. I was thoroughly schooled in this belief and accepted it, more or less.
I must admit I had some reservations about what I was taught in regard to one particular scripture. It simply did not say what I was told it said. As a matter of fact it really didn't fit at all with Christ being eternally existent with the Father. To a large degree it contradicted that opinion. That scripture is still used by those that taught me. They explain it by paraphrasing it and in the process they simply edit out the objectionable part.
I have written an extensive article going deeply into what the Bible really says about this subject. If you're really interested in that it is available with some other long documents in the downloads page. However I realize your time is important and most people do not have lots to spare, so I will attempt to make this brief. Consider if you would the following:
“For as the Father hath life in himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself.”( John 5:26) Some simply ignore the second half of this verse. It plainly says the Father gave Christ the kind of self-existent life that the Father has. He did not have it of himself. So the Father always had "life in himself". The Son did not.
"As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me." (John 6:57) Jesus Christ was alive because of the Father! This is not talking of human life because it is life that the humans Jesus was talking to did not already have. The life being talked about here is eternal life. This is reinforced in the next verse. "He who eats me will live forever" (vs 58).
"Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24). God gave Christ the glory that he had before his human life as Jesus. He did not have it on his own.
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation; for by him all things were created…." (Col 1:15-16a) The context of this area of scripture is establishing the authority and exalted station of Jesus Christ. Yet one of the best things that Paul can say about Him is that He is the firstborn!
This verse really speaks volumes when it is closely examined which I will not take the time to do here. Let me summarize by pointing out the following: He is the image of God. His whole character and apparently appearance reflects the Father. Did He have no redeeming qualities of His own?
The word 'over' in Colossians 1:15 would be appropriate to put in italic font. The word does not appear in the Greek text. Actually 'of' would be more consistent with the Greek. This is visible in the KJV. Christ is the firstborn of the creation. Could the firstborn of the creation not be part of the creation? However the Trinitarian translators have difficulty with this concept, so they hope using 'over' will suffice to explain their difficulty.
Actually by referring to Christ as the 'firstborn', Paul appears to be countering the thought that He might not be the firstborn, but maybe the second or third! He has to reinforce the statement with proof, i.e. "for by him all things were created". In other words He had to be the first, because He created everything else.
So how can he be created if He created all things, "and without Him nothing was made that was made" (John 1:3b)? First, Jews often use what is called 'block logic'. That is they generalize. They don't necessarily address all the details of a matter, especially if… Second it's common sense that if he was the firstborn of the creation he certainly was part of the creation, and… Third, because as mentioned in the paragraph above, the Colossians already knew he was created and Paul had already acknowledged that, and was demonstrating that He was first created. So Paul didn't need to clarify further that Christ, Himself, was an exception to Christ having created all things.
Everyone is agreed as to the meaning of 'firstborn' in Col 1:18, "firstborn from the dead". Why do we have such difficulty understanding what 'firstborn of the creation' means?
"…These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God" (Rev 3:14). This statement means exactly what it says. The syntax and usage of the Greek does not allow secondary meanings for the Greek word 'arche', beginning. Even though I suspect the translators of the KJV and NKJV winced when they accepted this translation, they really had no choice if they were going to be honest. Although even most Lexicons will indicate 'source' could be used, their own words when closely examined prove this is not so.
“As being faithful to him who made him as Moses also in the whole of his house.” (Heb 3:2 Emphasized Bible). This verse directly says Christ was faithful to God that made him. I had to use a different translation here. Virtually every other translation bows to the doctrine of the Trinity. The translators use their own interpretation of what Hebrews might be saying rather than directly translating the text.
The Greek word 'made' here is " poiew ". It is a general word meaning make or do. Many KJV marginal references will verify this. 'Appoint' which most translators place here is not a general word meaning make or do. It is a specific word that might be applied to one aspect of make or do. The Greek English Lexicon by Liddell and Scott, which is the world's most authoritative Greek - English Lexicon, contains examples of over fifty subtly different meanings poiew can take. They have never found an example in Classical or Koine Greek where 'appoint' is an appropriate meaning for poiew. This is also reflected in the Lexicon of Arndt and Gingrich, which is also highly respected.
"But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says:…." (Heb 1:6) The original Greek here does indeed indicate that God is bringing the firstborn 'into the world', a metaphor for 'to life', at least the second time. The first time would not have been at Jesus birth to Mary. There is no indication He had to die in order to be born of Mary, so there would have been no need for the Father to bring Him 'to life' at that time. We assume his senses were somewhat limited in the womb, but He would have been alive the whole time He was there.
The first time then that God brought Christ to life would have been when He was created.
"Who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen" (1Tim 6:21). This says either the Father is the only being that cannot die, or that He owns the key to immortality and may or may not confer it upon whom He wills. This is clearly speaking of only the Father who no man has seen. Jesus Christ either received immortality from the Father (see John 5:26) or He doesn't have it.
All the above scriptures either deal directly or have direct bearing on Jesus Christ's early history. They show Him as a reflection of the Father, drawing his immortality, glory and very life from the Father.
"Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth? what is his name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst tell?" (Prov 30:4). Some have said there is no indication in the Old Testament that God had a son. It seems that is incorrect.
Paul calls Christ the 'firstborn' as a token of honor and because He was the firstborn and only begotten, (created) directly of the Father. He didn't use this term because he couldn't express the thought that they both existed together through the ages.
Unlike the direct relevance of the above scriptures, the typical scripture used to defend the belief that Christ existed forever does not deal directly with His origin, but often depends on implications that, for the most part are unfounded.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God" (John 1:1). Certainly the Christ was a special being. He was there "In the beginning" with the Father. This is generally, and probably correctly, assumed to be at the creation of the universe. If it is not at the creation of the universe one can only speculate as to when it was. Supposedly this means Christ was "pre-existent”.
Of course Satan was also alive at this time. "He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning…." (1John 3:8ab). So Satan is 'pre-existent' too. Actually the devil must have been alive for some time before the beginning because, "You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you" (Eze 28:15). So before the beginning Satan was alive and well, perfect actually. By the time of the beginning He had sinned.
Actually all the Angels were around at the beginning too. "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?… When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" (Job 38:4a, 7). So Christ being 'pre-existent' says nothing about how he came to be. Satan was there at the beginning too, yet he was created.
"Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God " (Psalms 90:2). This scripture may actually be referring to the Father rather than Christ, but it points up a problem with most Old Testament scriptures that are used to show that Christ lived eternally in the past. According to The Complete Word Study Old Testament in their Lexical Aids section under the word adh, "Hebrew has no special terms for the past, the present, the future, or eternity."
The fact is the ancient Hebrew language cannot definitively express the concept of eternal existence. The word typically translated eternal simply means a long time. It can be a short long time or a long long time. The context is what determines the length. So, translators often use 'eternal' whenever God is involved. Often when doing this they ignore other context.
For instance, Psalms 90:2 uses typical Hebrew parallelism. In other words it repeats in some other way the point it is trying to make. In this case it is reinforcing how old God is by saying that He existed before the mountains or the earth was formed. This is definitely impressive, but it does not definitively say God, El, intended here, existed forever in the past. Maybe He did, maybe He didn't. Ancient Hebrew is unable to communicate that in a single word.
"For this Melchizedek, ….without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually" (Heb 7:1a, 3). People ignore three things when claiming this verse dictates an eternal existence for Jesus Christ. First the subject, beginning at least with Hebrews 7:1, is establishing the credentials of Melchizedek. He appeared as a human being, flesh and blood. Josephus claims he founded Jerusalem and that apparently he was a Canaanite (Wars 6,10). So it is this apparent human Melchizedek that had neither beginning of days nor end of life, i.e. he really didn't enter or leave the world in the usual way. It does not address how the Christ came into being.
Second, people assume that Christ is being compared to this Melchizedek. However the sense of the Greek for 'made like', would be better served if it were translated 'made into'. It is not a comparison, but a literal transformation or construction making Melchizedek, or rather his function (vs 15), into Jesus Christ. This verse does not deal with the origins of Jesus Christ.
Third, Hebrews focuses on Melchizedek’s lack of genealogy because it wants to contrast it with the strict requirement of the priesthood of Levi. That priesthood depends on parentage (Heb 7:20-21).
"before Abraham was, I AM" (John 8:58). A number of sources indicate this name carries the meaning of 'ever-living one'. Well, when was He called the "ever-living one"? Wasn't it after the birth of Moses? (Ex 3:14) Was He the ever-living one at that time? Even before Abraham He was the 'I AM" (John 8:58). So certainly by the time of Moses He was also. So He was being called what he was. This does not say He had always lived in the past. Actually it really doesn't even say he would always live in the future. Jesus did die after all! So whether or not the name actually means 'ever-living one' is questionable. He is now the ‘ever-living one’ again and has been for quite some time. This doesn’t mean He always had life independent of the Father.
John 5:26 actually explains how it was that YHVH became the "I AM". The Father gave Him "life to have in himself". Exactly when He actually received this is something about which we cannot precisely speak. Scripture is specific only that He was alive before the creation of the earth or the matter of the universe. Since he created "everything" surely this must be so. I would assume that he was made the 'I AM' before that time, but scripture is not specific.
"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last" (Rev 22:13). Does this indicate Jesus Christ had always existed? Why would a title of "Alpha" or "First", eliminate the possibility that this being was created first?
Why does a title of "Beginning" eliminate the possibility that Christ was the beginning of the Creation of God, or the firstborn of all creation? How does this eliminate the possibility that this being had a start? It seems really, the opposite is true.
If this being had no beginning, why would 'beginning' be part of His title? 'Without beginning' would be much more appropriate. If this being were not the first of the creation, why would 'First' be part of the title? 'Always' would seem more appropriate.
"who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:6-7). Was the Christ equal with the Father? Of course Jesus readily acknowledged in John 14:28 that even after the resurrection He was not equal with the Father. He also said the Father was greater than all (John 10:29). There are over 16 places where the New Testament says the Father sent the Son to the earth. One does not "send" and equal, but a subordinate. Philippians indicates they were similar or equal in appearance. Other aspects are not addressed.
1Corinthians 11:3 compares a man's relationship with Christ to Christ's relationship with God. Men are not equal with Christ, neither is the Son equal with the Father.
Even after the resurrection, the Christ calls the Father His God! (John 20:17, see also Rev 3:12). How is it that after emptying Himself and going through what must have been a mixed bag of experiences terminating in an agonizing crucifixion, this one that some think was equal with the Father now worships Him as God? It seems Christ had all the agony and is left second best as a result. It is ridiculous in the context of the New Testament to think the two were equal. Clearly the Father was superior.
In fact Philippians is telling us Messiah is like God, but not like the one true God. Like John 1:1 that distinguishes The God from God Logos, Philippians omits the definite article when referring to God in this comparison with Jesus Christ. Christ was similar in form, essence or appearance to a God and was equal in those aspects, but the comparison is not to The God. The Father did give Him great glory (John 17:24). He was willing to give that up and take on the form and essence of man. The Word was with the God and the Word was divine as well (John 1:1), but as the Son, He is not equal in all aspects. Philippians 2:6-7 does not address his origin.
There may be a few other scriptures that some would use to promote the belief that Jesus Christ lived eternally in the past. However, I can't think of any that are particularly convincing. At this point I suspect you are either willing to reconsider the matter or you are not. However, let me leave you with one last thought.
There was a debate between confessing Christians leading up to the Council of Nicea in 325 CE/AD. (This same council debated whether to celebrate Passover or Easter.) The debate over the nature of Christ is generally identified as a debate between the 'Arians' who believed in a created Christ and the 'orthodox' who did not believe He was created. Let me shed some light on this debate with a few quotes.
First, Alexander Bishop of Alexandria, Egypt grumbles about Arius and his friends and in the process tells us that generally the Jewish and Greek Christians agreed with Arius and his associates that Christ was originally created. “Since, therefore, they back up the impious opinion concerning Christ, which is held by the Jews and Greeks, in every possible way they strive to gain their approval; busying themselves about all those things which they are wont to deride in us, and daily stirring up against us seditions and persecutions” (Epistles on the Arian Heresy and the Deposition of Arius, Para.1). Arius did not originate the belief that Christ had been originally created. He backed up the Jews and Greeks. That belief was pervasive among Christians throughout Greece, Asia Minor and Palestine. This area of course includes Colosse.
From Dionysius of Rome (Pope 259ce.) Against the Sabellians, para. 2 'Oh reckless and rash men! was then "the first-born of every creature" something made?--"He who was begotten from the womb before the morningstar?"--He who in the person of Wisdom says, "Before all the hills He begot me?"' (Ps 110:3 and Prov 8:25, NAB or LXX,) Dionysius believed with the 'orthodox' that Christ was literally born of God and came from His womb. He rejected any thought that Paul might have been speaking metaphorically in Colossians 1:15.
The fact is the ‘orthodox’ opinion was NOT that Christ had always been a personality of the Father or always existed independent of the Father, but that he was literally born of the Father. To them, being ‘firstborn’ (Col 1:15) was perfectly literal.
The real debate was over whether the Christ was literally born of God or figuratively born, i.e. created of God. In reality neither side won at Nicea, but Constintine suggested that they accept that Christ was of the ‘same essence’ as God rather than 'made' of who knows what. As emperor his suggestion carried significant weight. Those who believed in a literal birth could accept the 'same essence' concept so they capitulated, claimed the victory, and things went downhill from there. The thought that Christ had existed eternally apart from the Father is nowhere to be found in early church history.