Continued from Part 11
Nevertheless, Barnes believes that Jesus is himself the uncreated and eternal Creator. However, he does not base his belief on Revelation 3:14. Of this verse he says:
If it were demonstrated from other sources that Christ was, in fact, a created being, and the first that God had made, it cannot be denied that this language would appropriately express that fact. But it cannot be made out from the mere use of the language here; and as the language is susceptible of other interpretations, it cannot be employed to prove that Christ is a created being.3
It is true that on the basis of language usage alone, this verse does not prove that its author considered Jesus a created being. Nevertheless, it can be shown that the authors of the New Testament considered Jesus a created being, the first so made by God. Paul writes that “he is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. . . . And he is before all things . . .” (Colossians 1:15-17). Barnes disregards this evidence, which depicts Jesus as a created being. He is of the opinion that Revelation 3:14 teaches solely that Jesus “holds the primacy over all, and is at the head of the universe.”4 He maintains that this verse refers to Jesus as ruler of the world, not as the creator of the world or as the first thing created. Accordingly, Jesus “is ‘the beginning of the creation of God,’ in the sense that he is the head or prince of the creation; that is, that he presides over it so far as the purposes of the redemption are to be accomplished, and so far as necessary for those purposes.”5 However, the validity of this exclamation is open to question. Barnes’ statement that this verse refers to Jesus as ruler of the world seems more the result of his desire to propose an explanation that will be acceptable to trinitarians than to determine the original intention of its author. There is no question that the authors of the New Testament regarded Jesus as the one through whom God rules the universe. They also attributed to Jesus the attaining of his exalted position only at the behest of God (Philippians 2:9). But what we are mainly concerned with here is that the wording of Revelation 3:14 does not at all establish Jesus as being the eternal Creator of the universe. It does not show Jesus to be the author or origin of creation. As we have seen, Barnes agrees with this. Furthermore, when he refers to Jesus as ruler, it should be understood that there is a difference in meaning between saying one is the “head,” “chief,” “prince,” or “ruler” of creation, and saying he is the “beginning” of creation. To be the “beginning” of something does not imply leadership. Primacy in creation, as the first being created by God, and primacy over creation, as the one through whom God rules the creation, are two distinct attributes that the authors of the New Testament applied to Jesus. One does not naturally follow from the other.
In Revelation 3:14 arche is properly translated as “beginning” to indicate the author’s belief that Jesus was the first being created. A further example of this usage may be found in Colossians 1:18. There, Jesus is called “the beginning [arche], the first born from the dead,” indicating Paul’s belief that Jesus is the first one of those who will be resurrected from the dead, “in order that he might come to have first place in everything.” As we have seen, Jesus, “the beginning of the creation of God,” is thought by the authors of the New Testament to be the first thing created by God, “the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15) through whom everything else was created. The very fact that Jesus’ existence is connected with the beginning of creation nullifies the claim that Jesus is God. What is begotten cannot be eternal, and what is not eternal cannot be equal to God; moreover, that which is created by God cannot be God.
3 Barnes, p. 1569.
4 Barnes, p. 1569.
5 Barnes, p. 1569.