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What Paul is REALLY saying in Colossians 1:15-20

Colossians 1:15-20
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
The New King James Version, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers) 1998, c1982.

Ok.  We now arrive at a primary "proof" passage used by those who belief Messiah is "God in the flesh."  Some may wonder how it is possible to show these passages are not clearly showing Yeshua is God.  Well, it is actually quite easy when the bias of Trinitarian translators is exposed and other, more legitimate renderings from Greek to English are considered.  As with all deception, the first step is to remove bias from your mind - something all but impossible for man-God promoters.  Once that is done it becomes a simple task of incorporating the passages - as we should with all passages of scripture - into the context in which they reside and then checking the original languages to see what they actually say.  It is relatively obvious the context (Col. 1:3, 1:19,20) was ignored by Trinitarian translators as they chose to render the Greek into a very biased pro-trinitarian meaning; however, a check of the Greek shows the context (which they ignored) is supported by other alternate renderings of the Greek.  Scriptural and Hebraic context often jumps up to bite Trinitarians and is repeatedly proven to be their nemesis.

First, I will quote the same passages from 2 other versions, the New American Standard and the King James.

Colossians 1:15-20
15 And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created by Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fulness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.
The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.
Colossians 1:15-20
15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: 16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; 20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.
The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769.

My plan is to take each verse and present alternate renderings - where necessary - for crucial words within that verse and commentary regarding those renderings.  The specific word or words being studied will be underlined and in bold.  After doing this with each verse, I will then summarize the results.  The information was obtained from one or more of several references; therefore, to simplify the presentation I will not clutter the comments with the titles of multiple references.  Instead, I have provided a list of resources for those that wish to verify my study.  All renderings are direct quotes from those references.  Any explanatory comment I provide will be in parenthesis.

    LIST OF REFERENCES:
  1. Ref. 1 - Enhanced Strong's Lexicon
  2. Ref. 2 - New Strong's Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words
  3. Ref. 3 - New Strong's Guide to Bible Words
  4. Ref. 4 - A Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament)
  5. Ref. 5 - An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon
  6. Ref. 6 - A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature
  7. Ref. 7 - A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Bases on Semantic Domains

Colossians 1:15

Col. 1:15 - Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

Image: Strong's No. 1504 - From the Greek word, eikon.  Meanings - a likeness, statue, profile, representation, resemblance, pattern, portrait, image - as in a refection, image - as in the mind, a similitude (similar)

Firstborn: Strong's No. 4416 - From the Greek word, prototokos.  Meanings - firstborn, birthright, pertaining to the inheritance rights of the firstborn, first-begotten, rights of firstborn.

The most obvious point noticed is how the term "image", by it's very definition, shows clear distinction between the ORIGINAL and the IMAGE OF the original.  Common sense dictates a thing and it's image are not the same.  Your image - "as in a reflection" in a mirror - is not you!  It is your "image" or "likeness". There is not one single rendering for the Greek word eikon that suggest an ORIGINAL.  Each and every rendering defines a "likeness" of one type or another, but none of them define an original.

If Yeshua is God why didn't Paul just say so?  Paul's use of the term eikon and his refusal to categorically and clearly state that Messiah is God was undoubtedly intentional.  If Paul was trying to teach that Yeshua is God, he (here and in all his letters) did a terrible job choosing the proper terms.  There are other Greek words that could have been used if Paul intended the meaning to be an "original" instead of a "resemblance".  Perhaps those who think Messiah is God should take Paul at his word in this verse and stop trying to add to it meanings that are not intended.

Trinitarians consistently attempt to extract this verse (and many others) from the context of Scripture and force it to meet their limited and biased false teachings.  I humbly put forth a request to those that are still deceived by Trinity promoters and feel the term rendered "image" is proof Yeshua is God.  Please explain the following verse, which uses exactly the same Greek word and is rendered the same.

1 Corinthians 11:7
7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.
The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769.

Paul goes further here than in his Colossian letter by stating that MAN is the image AND GLORY of God!  Wow!  Does that mean I'm God since I am a man?  Of course not, and neither did Paul intend the term in Colossians to be twisted into suggesting Yeshua is God.  The same understanding we derive from Paul's use of the term in 1 Cor. 11:7 is what he intended us to apply in Colossians 1:15.

Regarding the term "firstborn", let's look at other uses of "firstborn" in Scripture.

Exodus 4:22
22 Then you shall say to Pharaoh, Thus says the Lord: "Israel is My son, My firstborn.
The New King James Version, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers) 1998, c1982.
Psalm 89:27
27 Also I will make him (David) My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth.
The New King James Version, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers) 1998, c1982.
Jeremiah 31:9
9 They shall come with weeping, And with supplications I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, In a straight way in which they shall not stumble; For I am a Father to Israel, And Ephraim is My firstborn.
The New King James Version, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers) 1998, c1982.
Romans 8:29
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image (eikon) of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.
The New King James Version, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers) 1998, c1982.
Revelation 1:5
5 and from Yeshua Messiah, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,
The New King James Version, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers) 1998, c1982.

Clearly the context of Scripture shows there are many "firstborn" spoken of in the Bible.  Paul's reference here is not to some sort of preexistence, instead he is referring to the fact that Yeshua, having been raised by his God, is the firstborn from the dead!  Yeshua is the first to be resurrected to immortality (Lazarus and others resurrected in Scripture subsequently died), thus giving all those that truly follow in his footsteps of faith and obedience hope that they will follow him into a resurrection of eternal life.

Colossians 1:16

Colossians 1:16 - For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

by: Strong's No. 1722 - From the Greek word, en.  Meanings - in, at, on, by, about, after, against, almost, altogether, among, as, before, between, by all means, for sake of, because of, through, when, where, etc.

through: Strong's No. 1223 - From the Greek word, dia.  Meanings - through, with, for, the ground or reason by which something is or is not done, by reason of, on account of, for the sake of, for this cause, on account of, because, because of for this reason, on this account, by occasion of, by, by the means of, for (cause), etc.  NOTE: THIS OFTEN REFERS TO THE REASON FOR SOMETHING!

for: Strong's No. 1519 - From the Greek word, eis.  Meanings - into, to, unto, for, in, on, toward, against, etc.

It is crucial to understand the various possible renderings of these three simple little words (en, dia, eis).  The dark veil of deception casts by teachers of deception through improper biased renderings of these words is incalculable.  There are lots of passages in the Messianic writings (New Testament) where biased or possibly even intentional mistranslations has led many sincere students of Scripture to wrongly accept the mystery babylon man-God messiah and anti-torah (lawlessness) doctrines being promoted by traditional Christianity.  It is essential that credible Hebrew and Greek lexicons or, at the very least, Strong's Exhaustive Concordance be used to verify English translations and also to realize that there are other possible English renderings that are just as legitimate and that may dramatically change the actual meaning of the passage.

It should be obvious from the many possible renderings of the 3 words shown, that this passage is very enticing to Trinitarians.  By using selective translation they can force this verse to say what they wish it to say.  However, it could also be saying something like:

Colossians 1:16 - For the sake of Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created because of/on account of Him and for/unto Him.

It isn't necessary for me to debate the "authorized" translations made by those indoctrinated with Trinitarian bias.  The fact remains that this verse does not prove Yeshua to be the Creator except when biased translation forces such a meaning.  At the very least, this verse in inconclusive since we cannot possibly know the intention of the original writer.  Those that say otherwise are misrepresenting truth by allowing their bias to dictate what may be a faulty understanding of the verse.  I do not force my interpretation, and I hope they are also honest enough to not force theirs.  You have the many renderings provided and can check for yourself if you wish.  I pray you will not allow bias to force you into accepting error in your study.

What Paul is commenting on is how the One Creator YHVH created all things with the future Messiah and Messianic Kingdom in mind. All things were indeed created with consideration of the final glorious outcome of the cosmic conflict between good and evil.  "For the sake of" Messiah YHVH created "all things ... that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers."  "On account of" Messiah, YHVH created all things looking "unto" Yeshua's mission of obedience and reconciliation from which God's true desire to place mankind in a Paradise, where His eternal Torah (instructions) would be the Kingdom Constitution, would finally be realized.  Please refer to the article on preexistence for further insight.

Here is another opinion regarding these verses from Sir Anthony Buzzard's book that Trinitarians hope you do not read, The Doctrine of the Trinity, Christianity's Self-Inflicted Wound.  In one of many places where he comments on the Colossian passages, we find:

"Some have considered this passage sufficient evidence to overthrow all Paul said elsewhere about the Christian creed as belief in "one God, the Father."  Several points should be noted.  The Trinitarian scholar, James Dunn, speaking of the above passage in Colossians 1:15-20, makes this crucial observation:

"We must grasp the fact that Paul was not seeking to win men to belief in a preexistent being.  He did not have to establish the viability of speaking of preexistent wisdom.  Such language was commonly used, common ground, and was no doubt familiar to most of his readers.  Nor was he arguing that Yeshua was a particular preexistent being...What he was saying is that wisdom, whatever precisely that term meant for his readers, is now most fully expressed in Yeshua - Yeshua is the exhaustive embodiment of divine wisdom; all the divine fullness dwelt in him.  The mistake which many make (unconsciously) is to turn Paul's argument around and make it point in the wrong direction.  Because language which seems to envisage preexistent divine beings is strange to modern ears, it is easy to assume (by an illegitimate transfer of twentieth-century presuppositions to the first century) that this is why the language was used (to promote belief in preexistent divine intermediaries) and that Paul was attempting to identify Christ with or as such a being."

We quote from Professor Dunn at length because of his important statement about the danger of reading Paul as though he must have been familiar with the much later decisions of the church councils.  Paul should be read in his own Hebrew context.  Dunn does not write as an anti-Trinitarian.  But he finds no support for the Trinity in this passage.  He continues:

"But Paul's talk was of course conditioned by the culture and cosmological presuppositions of his own day.  So he was not arguing for the existence of preexistent divine beings or for the existence of any particular divine being (in this verse)...And the meaning is, given the understanding of this language within Jewish monotheism, that Yeshua is to be seen as the wise activity of God, as the wisdom and embodiment of God's wisdom more fully than any previous manifestation of the same wisdom whether in creation of in covenant."

Dunn's analysis is sufficient to show that this passage does not establish belief in a Deity of two or three persons.  Several further points should be made.  Paul specifically calls Yeshua the first-born of all creation.  Taken in its natural sense, the expression first-born excludes the notion of an uncreated, eternal being.  To be born requires a beginning.  God's first-born is "the highest of the kings of the earth" (Psalms 89:27).  Paul employs a well-known Messianic title.  Yeshua, in the mind of Paul, is not God, but the Messiah - and there is an enormous difference.

According to many translations, Paul says that "all things were created by him (the Messiah)."  The prepositions in Colossians 1:16 need to be translated exactly (as seen in the marginal versions of standard Bibles).  What Paul actually wrote was that "all things" - in this case "thrones, dominions, rulers and authorities" - were created "in" Yeshua, "through" him and "for" him.  It was not that Yeshua was the creator in the opening verse of Genesis, but that he was the center of God's cosmic hierarchy.  All authorities were to be subjected to the Son who would finally hand all back to his Father, the principal to whom he owed allegiance, that "God (the Father) might be all in all" (1 Cor. 15:28).  It would be strange to say that Yeshua created all things for himself (Col. 1:16).  The point rather is that God made all things with Yeshua in mind and thus for him.  As first-born, Yeshua is the heir to the universe which God brought into existence with His promised Son as the occasion for the creation.  It is quite possible that Paul is thinking in this passage of the new creation initiated by the resurrection of Yeshua, who is the first-born from the dead (Col. 1:18).  In this case there is no direct reference to the Genesis creation and thus no hint of preexistence.  As always context (the Trinitarian's hated enemy) is an important factor in interpretation.  Paul's focus is this passage is on the "inheritance," (future) "kingdom," and "authorities" (Col. 1:12, 13, 16).  This strongly suggests that he has in mind the new creation in Messiah who is the Messianic king of God's new order.

Expressions which, as Dunn says, sound remote to twentieth-century ears and therefore need especially careful handling, provide no basis for belief in Yeshua's preexistence over all that has been created, visible of invisible, in heaven or on earth, either thrones, dominions, rulers or authorities.  Yeshua was the starting point (in the sense of the goal) of all God's creative activity - the key to God's entire purpose as well as the embodiment of God's wisdom.  The Messiah, however, was not an eternal being but a human person to be revealed at his appointed time."

And now continuing with our discussion ...

Colossians 1:17

Colossians 1:17 - And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist (stand, hold together).

before: Strong's No. 4253 - From the Greek word, pro.  Meanings - before, above, superior to, or ever

in: Strong's No. 1722 - From the Greek word, en.  Meanings - in, at, on, by, about, after, against, almost, altogether, among, as, before, between, by all means, for sake of, because of, through, when, where, etc.

consist: Strong's No. 4921 - From the Greek word(s), sunistao or strengthened, sunistano, or sunistemi.  Meanings - strengthened, to place together, to set in the same place, to bring or band together, to stand with (or near), to set one with another, by way of presenting or introducing him, to comprehend, to put together by way of composition or combination, to teach by combining and comparing, to show, prove, establish, exhibit, to put together, unite parts into one whole, to be composed of, consist

Once again the understanding of the verse is largely determined by how the translators decided to render these "harmless" little words.  It should be increasingly obvious how even the smallest, most innocuous words (in, by, for, and, but, etc.) can drastically alter a verse's implied meaning.  It is for this reason you should utilize Hebrew and Greek Lexicons and Dictionaries from which you can determine other legitimate renderings and compare them to long established (prior to Messiah even) Hebraic/Judaic concepts.  The New Testament is filled with verses that hinge upon these tiny words.  If the context of local and global Scripture is accounted for, this verse can be shown to be saying:

"And He is above (superior to) all things, and in (through, because of, for the sake of) him all things stand/consist/are established/are strengthened."

Or, to be less cluttered,

"And He is superior to all things, and because of him all things are firmly established."

Colossians 1:18

Colossians 1:18 - And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

We have already discussed the term, "firstborn."  As stated then, the use of the term proves he had a beginning (was created) since anything "born", whether first or last, must still begin somewhere.  This fact alone proves Yeshua cannot be God.  We also showed how the term most likely refers to Yeshua's being the "firstborn" of the resurrection. Since Yeshua is the very first man to be resurrected to immortality, that makes him THE "firstborn from the dead."

Colossians 1:19,20

Colossians 1:19,20 - 19 For it pleased the Father that in (on, among, because of) Him all the fullness (completeness, fullness of time, fullness of Torah) should dwell, 20 and by (through, by reason of) Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by (through, by reason of) Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

in: Strong's No. 1722 - From the Greek word, en.  Meanings - in, at, on, by, about, after, against, almost, altogether, among, as, before, between, by all means, for sake of, because of, through, when, where, etc.

fullness: Strong's No. 4138 - From the Greek word, pleroma.  Meanings - completeness, repletion, what fills, what is filled, a fulfilling, a keeping, abundance, completeness or fullness of time, fulfillment, etc.

by: Strong's No. 1223 - From the Greek word, dia.  Meanings - through, the ground or reason by which something is or is not done, by reason of, on account of, because of for this reason, on this account, by occasion of, by, for (cause), etc.  NOTE: This often refers to the reason for something!

Here again we have the context of scripture destroying the Trinity argument.  To save time I placed alternate renderings in parenthesis in the verse.  Aren't these verses obvious even with differing renderings of the Greek word?  I submit to you that it is not possible for an honest reader to consider these verses as supportive of Yeshua's deity.  Why do I say this? Well, even if the traditionally biased renderings are accepted for verses 19 and 20,

  1. There is obvious distinction between the one pleased (the Father) and the one in whom He is pleased (Yeshua).
  2. There is obvious distinction between the one being reconciled with (the Father) and the one through whom the reconciliation is accomplished (Yeshua).

It is an unfounded assumption to force the term "fullness" to refer to deity.  There is nothing here that supports that assumption.  The "fullness" could just as well refer to Yeshua's fullness in keeping Torah (sinless man), or fullness in being the embodiment of all YHVH wishes man to be, or fullness in the sense of being the perfectly complete man (tzaddik).  Regardless, the presence of the distinction between The Creator Father and Yeshua prohibits equating them as being one and the same being!

Conclusion Regarding Colossians 1:15-20

We have looked in detail at these passages.  I realize it is difficult for hardcore "God in the flesh Messiah" believers to accept the facts presented since other doctrines often force them to believe Yeshua is YHVH.  Nevertheless, I have presented facts along with resources you may check to verify my presentation.  These facts destroy the claim by many that these passages "prove" Yeshua's deity. They are inconclusive at best and do not at all "prove" that Messiah is God. To say otherwise is to stink of bias and deceit.

What they prove is that Yeshua, as the ultimate example of a completed tzaddik (righteous one) or perfectly obedient servant of his God and ours, is worthy of our praise.  They prove that Yeshua is the perfect embodiment of all our Creator wishes us to be.  They prove Yeshua is the "image" of God in the sense that in him (Yeshua) we see the character of the Creator and the desire He has for us to become like Yeshua.  Furthermore, since we all are created in God's image, Yeshua's "image" is the perfect example of how we should strive to adopt his "likeness" in our lives. A foundational component of that likeness is belief in the ONE God that Yeshua believed in and worshipped and the recognition of the Shema (Deut. 6:4-9, Mt 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-31) - the "foremost commandment."

We see Yeshua is the firstborn from the dead - the first to be resurrected to life everlasting - thus being preeminent in all things.  We see Yeshua as worthy to receive all glory, honor, and power FROM the Father and all love, honor, devotion, and praise from us.  Yeshua is, in fact, the only man that actually deserves this, since he is the only MAN to have ever lived a sinless life.  Finally, we see that through Yeshua we are reconciled to the Father IF we endure to the end in faithful obedience and trust.