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Sunday, November 28, 2010

What did Jesus Christ Create part 5 — Colossians 1:15-17 L. W. Hurtado and J. D. G. Dunn

Colossians 1:15-17 L. W. Hurtado and J. D. G. Dunn

Col. 1:15 ὅς ἐστιν εἰκὼν τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου, πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως,  16 ὅτι ἐν αὐτῷ ἐκτίσθη τὰ πάντα ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς καὶ ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, τὰ ὁρατὰ καὶ τὰ ἀόρατα, εἴτε θρόνοι εἴτε κυριότητες εἴτε ἀρχαὶ εἴτε ἐξουσίαι· τὰ πάντα δι᾿ αὐτοῦ καὶ εἰς αὐτὸν ἔκτισται·  17 καὶ αὐτός ἐστιν πρὸ πάντων καὶ τὰ πάντα ἐν αὐτῷ συνέστηκεν,

Does Colossians depict Jesus Christ as the creator of the all things?  It might seem to ordinary people that  anyone who can read a translation of the epistle should without much difficulty conclude that the “hymn to Christ” in Colossians 1:15-20 affirms that Jesus Christ was the agent in the creation of all things. Some New Testament scholars do not agree. James D. G. Dunn, in his commentary on Colossians and in other publications, does not think this language makes the Jesus of the Gospels the agent of creation. Dunn’s position on this is too complex to explain in this post. Broadly speaking, Jesus Christ is viewed somewhat like Wisdom in Second Temple Judaism, which Dunn understands as a metaphor for God’s agency in the physical cosmos, a means of avoiding talk about God that would compromise his transcendence over the physical creation. The details and nuances are many fold, so this should not be taken as a synopsis of  Dunn’s position — From his commentary (Colossians & Philemon NIGTC, Eerdmans 1996, p91) “What does such language mean when applied to the Messiah Jesus? Not, presumably, that the Christ known to his followers during his ministry in Palestine was as such God’s agent in creation; in the first century no less in the twentieth that would be to read imaginative metaphor in a pedantically literal way.”

Larry W. Hurtado[1]  does not agree, he states “… the passage lyrically proclaims Christ as the unique divine agent of creation and redemption.”   Is Hurtado being being “pedantically literal”? I think not. More on this later.


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