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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Accusations Against Jesus Answered

Don Stewart :: In What Sense Is Jesus the Beginning of God's Creation?

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In What Sense Is Jesus the Beginning of God’s Creation? (Revelation 3:14)

The Life and Ministry of Jesus Christ – Question 5

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus is called the “beginning of the creation of God.” The text reads as follows:

“And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God...’” (Revelation 3:14 NKJV)

This verse has been used by some people to say that Jesus was a created being. If He was the beginning of God’s creation, then He Himself must have had a beginning. Therefore, He could not be God.

Was Jesus First in a Series of Created Things?

Further evidence for this argument can be found elsewhere in John’s writings. He uses this same Greek word arche elsewhere in the sense of the first thing in a series:

Jesus did this, the first [arche] of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. (John 2:11 NRSV)

This, it is argued, is another indication that we are talking about Jesus being created “in time.” He was the first in a series of things that God created. How are we to answer this?

The Same Term Is Used of God

This argument simply does not work. The same word, arche, is used two other times in the Book of Revelation. In each case, it is used of God. For example, we read God saying,

Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning [arche] and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.” (Revelation 21:6 NRSV)

The Lord uses this term of Himself. He is the “beginning.”

Later in the Book of Revelation, we read the Lord again saying that He was the first:

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first [arche] and the last, the beginning and the end! (Revelation 22:13 NET)

Obviously, God is not the first in a series of created things. Consequently, this word does not always have the meaning of the first in a series.

Actually, John 2:11 is the only place in the writings of John where arche has this meaning. In other places, it has a different meaning.

For example, we read the following later in the Gospel of John:

“But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first [arche] who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. (John 6:64 NRSV)

Here the word has the idea of the “beginning” of His ministry. It was not the beginning of a series of things.

In another example in John, we find the same thing:

“Who are you?” they asked Jesus. Jesus answered, “I am exactly who I told you at the beginning [arche].” (John 8:25 CEV)

The reference to the beginning is a beginning “point in time.” Once again, it is not referring to any type of a beginning of a series of things.

Therefore, with the way in which John uses the Greek word arche, it does not usually have the meaning of “first in a series.” Therefore Revelation 3:14 should have some other meaning than assuming Jesus was the first in a series of things which God created.

What Does It Mean?

If arche does not mean that Jesus was the first in a series of God’s creation, then what does it mean? There are two possible ways in which it can be understood. He is either the “ruler” of all creation, or the “origin” of all creation.

Option 1: Jesus Is the Ruler over Creation

The word arche in Revelation 3:14 could have the idea of “ruler” or one who is “preeminent over” creation. We find the word elsewhere used of persons who were rulers:

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers... (Romans 8:38 NRSV)

The word translated “rulers” is the plural form of the word arche. Thus, some contend that this is the meaning in Revelation 3:14. Jesus is the “Ruler” over all creation.

Option 2: Jesus Is the Originator of God’s Creation

The word translated “beginning” can also have the meaning of “origin or “originator.” This idea is that the creation of all things originated with Jesus. He is the source; the first cause of creation. Jesus is not the first created being.

While there is no undisputed use of arche in this sense in the New Testament, it does fit the context in Revelation 3. The New Revised Standard Version translates it this way:

“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation...” (Revelation 3:14 NRSV)

The New English Translation puts it this way:

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write the following. ‘This is the solemn pronouncement of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the originator of God’s creation...’” (Revelation 3:14 NET)

Consequently, there are a couple of ways of understanding this term without denying the deity of Jesus Christ.

The Deity of Christ Is Clearly Taught Elsewhere

The fact that the deity of Jesus Christ is clearly taught elsewhere by this same writer John should make it clear that He is not contradicting himself here. Jesus Christ has existed as God the Son for all eternity. This is the plain teaching of Scripture.

Summary – Question 5
In What Sense Is Jesus the Beginning of God’s Creation? (Revelation 3:14)

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus Christ is called the beginning of God’s creation. Some have argued that this means that Jesus was Himself created. They argue that the Greek word arche means the “first in a series.” In other words, Jesus Christ was created first then after Him all other things were created.

However, this does not fit the meaning of the word. The usual meaning of this Greek word, as used by the writer John, does not mean first in a series.

Neither does the idea that Jesus was a created being fit with rest of the teaching of Scripture. The Bible makes it clear that Jesus Christ is the Creator; not one who was created.

The word could mean that Jesus was the “ruler” over creation. He is the one who rules over everything in His created universe.

It is also possible, even likely, that this verse has the idea that Jesus is the “origin” or “source” of creation. In other words, He is the “originator” of all creation.

Either of these two possibilities fits the context in Revelation 3. Since this same writer John elsewhere makes it plain that Jesus Christ is God Himself, the Creator of the universe, we should seek to interpret this passage in light of the clear statements which he has made about the deity of Christ.

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Does the Book of Proverbs Teach That Jesus Is a Created Being? Next Section →
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