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Friday, December 10, 2010

Jesus Christ and Creation — Hebrews 11:1-3, 1:1-4 part four conclusions

Hebrews 11:1-3
1  Εστιν δε πιστις ελπιζομενων υποστασις, πραγματων ελεγχος ου βλεπομενων· 2  εν ταυτῃ γαρ εμαρτυρηθησαν οι πρεσβυτεροι. 3  πιστει νοουμεν κατηρτισθαι τους αιωνας ρηματι θεου, εις το μη εκ φαινομενων ⸂το βλεπομενον⸃ γεγονεναι.  —SBLGNT M. Holmes

Hebrews 1:1-4
1  Πολυμερως και πολυτροπως παλαι ο θεος λαλησας τοις πατρασιν εν τοις προφηταις 2  επ εσχατου των ημερων τουτων ελαλησεν ημιν εν υιῳ, ον εθηκεν κληρονομον παντων, δι ου και ⸂εποιησεν τους αιωνας⸃· 3  ος ων απαυγασμα της δοξης και χαρακτηρ της υποστασεως αυτου, φερων τε τα παντα τῳ ρηματι της δυναμεως, ⸂δι αυτου⸃ καθαρισμον ⸂των αμαρτιων ποιησαμενος⸃ εκαθισεν εν δεξιᾳ της μεγαλωσυνης εν υψηλοις, 4  τοσουτῳ κρειττων γενομενος των αγγελων οσῳ διαφορωτερον παρ αυτους κεκληρονομηκεν ονομα.  —SBLGNT M. Holmes

Having addressed a few of the exegetical issues that confront us with these two passages, it seems to me that Hebrews 11:3b εις το μη εκ φαινομενων ⸂το βλεπομενον⸃ γεγονεναι is not the best proof text for creation ex nihilo. We find it used for that early on (see Henry Alford[1]) but all the arguments suffer from the same weakness of equating μη εκ φαινομενων with something like ἐξ οὐκ ὄντων. There are several ways to read εις το μη εκ φαινομενων ⸂το βλεπομενον⸃ γεγονεναι. In one reading μη negates the whole clause: that which is seen, the visible cosmos, was not created from things which are visible. Here the negation denies the predicate. The other reading, μη negates εκ φαινομενων: The visible cosmos was created out of the invisible — where invisible can refer to “nothing” or “things not open to human view”. The referent  does not exclude the notion of processes. It could included both materials and means. The εκ in μη εκ φαινομενων could be causal which might include everything associated with the creation event, not just materials. All of these readings a viable.

In regard to Christ and Creation, we have two statements, one about Christ’s agency δι ου και ⸂εποιησεν τους αιωνας⸃ and the other about the agency of ρηματι θεου. The expression ρηματι θεου refers to καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεός from Genesis 1:3ff. While there are some points of contact with ὁ λόγος in John’s prologue, we should resist the temptation to read John 1 into Hebrews.

By combining these two texts from Hebrews we see Jesus Christ as the agent in creation and we are told that the visible cosmos το βλεπομενον was not made out of things or by processes which which are open to empirical observation. It seems reasonable to put these two ideas together and say that Christ was agent of making the visible cosmos and the creation event was not something open to empirical observation.


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