The Evangelical Universalist Forum

In response to non-trinitarian thread

Aaron (or anyone else) the unitarian stance is new to me.

You said Jesus wasn’t pre-existent before becoming flesh. could you respond to this:
Col 1
15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16For 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 through Him and for Him. 17He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.

1 Like

I’ll have a crack. :slight_smile:

If you first forget about the “fact” that Jesus is God (in other words, we’re starting by assuming he’s not, and then we’ll see what this verse could mean), then reading it as it stands and in the same way we’d read the word firstborn in other parts of the bible, we see it means he was the one “born” first out of all creation. In other words (remember: I’m just answering the question, not necessarily saying I think this!), God first of all created Jesus and then created everything else through Jesus. This makes sense of “by him all things were created”. God made Jesus to do the creating of everything else. As well, this fits perfectly with 1 Cor 8:6 where we’re told that everything comes *from *God but *through *Jesus.

As to Jesus being head of the body, the church, I’m not sure why this is an issue. Paul seems to connect it with the next sentence. Why is he head of the church? Because as well as being firstborn over all creation, he’s also firstborn from the dead, which gives him the right to be head of the church.

This passage seems to be saying that not only is Jesus God’s chosen servant to bring life everywhere initially, he is also God’s chosen servant to bring reconiliation/new life everywhere.

rline I’m in agreement with you. Unless I read Aaron wrong in the non-trinity thread, I believe he said Jesus did not pre-exist before creation. I believe Jesus is God, just not the Most High. He is the exact replica of the Father, birthed from the father, then all things were created through and for Him. And just as He is the image of the Father and becomes elohim, so too when we have the exact image of Him, we will become elohim, as He is.

This isn’t really an answer, but I remember reading about someone (in the radical reformation) who believed that Yeshua was only the creator of the new creation, as in 2 Corinthians 5:17 and Ephesians 2:10. Though I think you’d have a hard time arguing that when Paul seems to suggest that this same creation has to be reconciled in 1:21. According to Wikipedia, Matthew 1:1 can be interpreted as a throwback to Genesis, translated as “the Book of Creation of Jesus Christ” (Βίβλος γενέσεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ). Cool! :sunglasses: I’m keen to see Aaron weigh in because I think he might be limited in some regards with Colossians 1, by holding both universalism and that Yeshua was not pre-existant…

I believe that in this passage Paul is emphasizing Christ’s pre-eminence over all creation, and not revealing his pre-existence before all creation. Paul’s calling Christ the “firstborn of all creation” doesn’t mean that Christ was born before everything was created; rather, it means that Christ (being the Son of God) is the inheritor of all creation (“all things have been created for him.”). In the expression “For by him all things were created,” the word translated “by” (en) can mean “on account of” (this fact has been acknowledged by both Trinitarian and Unitarian scholars). All things were created by God on account of and for the sake of Christ. And all things have been created by God “through (dia) him” - that is, since all things were created on account of Christ and for Christ, Christ may be said to be the “final cause” for why God created all things.

What about John 1.1-2 … :wink:

Hi revdrew,

My thoughts on John 1:1-2 can be found here: Trying to understand non-Trinitarians. (Present your cases?). :slight_smile:

That makes sense, as the title “firstborn” speaks of who the inheritance goes to in a family, although obviously they did not necessarily pre-exist the inheritance itself.

Clearly not that limited… Though I still think it’s a big jump to outright reject a pre-existence here. Paul writes “through/by Him” (di autou), “for Him” (eis auton) and “in Him” (en auto). If di autou means “on account of”, why does Paul precede this with eis auton. This would be a rather meaningless thing to write if Paul was to say the same thing immediately afterwards. It seems to me that Paul is distinguishing between the many ways in which Yeshua relates to His creation, one of them being causal.

As for your translation, I am told (by Boyd* whom I am parroting here) that if the preposition dia is followed by an accusative ending, it means the dia is being used in a sense of final causation and would be wholly appropriate to translate “on account of”. However, here in the di autou of 1:16, the dia is followed by a genitive ending, which is used in an instrumental sense, and is exceedingly more appropriate to translate as “through”. This is the same language used in 1 Corinthians 8:6, John 1:3 and Hebrews 1:2. Hopefully someone who knows this personally can weigh in.

I also think you would have trouble maintaining a non-pre-existence in the light of mountains of other scripture (particularly that from John’s Gospel which seems to go to great lengths to show Yeshua’s pre-existence (in my simple reading anyway) – particularly 1:15 and 8:58. But I appreciate one could say that Yeshua preceded John the Baptist and Abraham both in promise as you suggested in your other threads which I am working through. But I can’t see how John the Baptist was referring to a promise, when he says explicitly (1:30) “a man … was before me”. A reference to Yeshua’s superiority as a promise also seems odd when John the Baptist pre-existed as a promise also…

Your understanding is amply more developed than mine. I’m simple and agnostic on this stuff, so I’m merely asking out of interest. grovel, grovel and other expressions of humble piety

[size=85]* Boyd, GA (1992) ‘Oneness Pentacostals and the Trinity’, Baker Books, Grand Rapids[/size]

Actually, in my post I was arguing that en (translated “by” in the ESV) can be understood to mean “on account of,” not dia. But even if these two prepositions in v. 15 are understood to convey basically the same general idea, one can simply conclude that Paul was speaking emphatically here. But I’m fine with the different prepositions used by Paul conveying different (although certainly related) ideas. Either way, I think Paul is trying to drive home the point that Christ - although not yet in existence and thus not personally present at the time - was still central to God’s plan when he created all things “in the beginning.”

Moreover, while I agree that this verse can be understood in a way that is consistent with the traditional Trinitarian (or perhaps more consistently, Arian) view that Christ was the personal agent through whom God created all things, I don’t think it has to be read this way. Since I believe the general tenor of Scripture is very much in favor of the Unitarian position for which I argue in the other thread - and since I don’t see the other “proof-texts” that are thought to teach the pre-existence of Christ as actually teaching this - I’m inclined to understand Paul as affirming the preeminence of the (fully human) Christ and his centrality to God’s plan when he created all things, rather than the idea that Christ pre-existed as a fully non-human created being (or an uncreated divine person) before he became a fully human person (an idea which, as argued in the other thread, seems incoherent to me).

I think Boyd’s correct here. However, I don’t see Paul’s use of dia + genitive as being problematic for a Unitarian interpretation, for I think Christ can still be thought of as having been “instrumental” to the creation of all things by the Father even if Christ (being a fully human being who was begotten by God in the womb of Mary) wasn’t personally present at the time as the creating agent. One could, I think, say that God created everything “through” (dia + genitive) Christ in the sense that everything was created by God with Christ in mind as the future inheritor of the creation. Christ was “instrumental” in God’s creative work in the sense that Christ was central to God’s plan to create, and in God’s mind the intention to create passed “through” Christ before everything actually came into existence. If this is what Paul was trying to convey here then I think dia (followed by a genitive ending) was an appropriate choice.

I should also add that some Biblical Unitarians believe Paul is talking about the “new creation” here rather than the old creation: … ns-1-15-20 … &q&f=false … inence.pdf

If this is Paul’s meaning, then we can understand the “all things” of v. 20 as referring to all persons in need of reconciliation, and the “all things” of v. 16 as referring only to all of “the powers and positions that were needed by Christ to run his Church” and which were “created by him for that purpose” (in which case Paul was using the figure of speech known as “encircling” in v. 16 - see the above articles for more information on this).

Concerning John 1:15, the “Biblical Unitarian” website gives, I think, the best interpretation of John the Baptist’s words:

Hmmm… I will clearly have to think this stuff over a bit more. Do you think it is worth reading that whole book you posted a link to? I have some works on trinitarianism that I have to get through first, but I’m happy to place some unitarian works on the bottom of the list. Thanks for the post Aaron!

1 And I do not wish you to be ignorant, brethren, that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all to Moses were baptized in the cloud, and in the sea; 3 and all the same spiritual food did eat, 4 and all the same spiritual drink did drink, for they were drinking of a spiritual rock following them, and the rock was the Christ; 5 but in the most of them God was not well pleased, for they were strewn in the wilderness, 6 and those things became types of us, for our not passionately desiring evil things, as also these did desire. 7 Neither become ye idolaters, as certain of them, as it hath been written, ‘The people sat down to eat and to drink, and stood up to play;’ 8 neither may we commit whoredom, as certain of them did commit whoredom, and there fell in one day twenty-three thousand; 9 neither may we tempt the Christ, as also certain of them did tempt, and by the serpents did perish;


Actually, the second link I gave is to an article that is part of a magazine (“The Unitarian Advocate”). :slight_smile:

Also, I must confess that, of all the passages I’ve discussed so far in connection with the Unitarian position, I have given the least amount of thought on this passage from Colossians (hence my expressed intention to postpone any comments on Paul’s epistles in the other thread!). But your bringing it to the forefront on this thread has forced me to think more about it, and I must admit that, having spent more time reflecting on the two different Unitarian interpretations of Col 1:16-17, I’m finding the second one perhaps more compelling than the one for which I’ve argued. Paul’s insertion of the words, “whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities” does seem to limit the “all things in heaven and on earth” that Paul has in view here (and which “encircles” the specific things spoken of). And I don’t think it can be denied that Paul has the new creation in view when he speaks of “the kingdom of his beloved Son” in v. 13 and of Christ as being the “head of the body, the church” and “the beginning, the firstborn from the dead” in v. 18, and the reconciliation of all things to God in v. 20. The only “strength” that the interpretation for which I previously argued has for me is that it is more consistent with the traditional belief that Paul is talking about the old creation in v. 16, which made this interpretation feel more “comfortable.” But that, of course, is not the best reason to hold to an interpretation, especially when there’s another way of understanding Paul that is both consistent with the rest of Scripture and also doesn’t require what may be a less likely meaning of dia + genitive! :slight_smile: Anyway, I’ll probably refrain from any further comments on this passage for right now, until I’ve spent some more time in study and reflection on it.

My understanding is that the “rock that followed them” typified Christ; it was not Christ himself. This form of speech is the same as that used by Christ during the last supper when he said of the bread, “This is my body.” In speaking of the rock that followed the Israelites, Paul is likely using a figure of speech called metonymy, with the rock standing for the water that sprang from the rock. On this verse Adam Clarke notes,

Also, the word “followed” can be translated “accompanied.” Understood in this way, the water from the rock (which typifies the man, Jesus Christ) accompanied them in the sense that they carried it with them in their journey through the wilderness.

I have recently been reading William Barclay’s commentary on Paul’s letter to the Philippians and was struck by the chapter entitled ‘True Godhead and True Humanity’. Barclay argues in favour of Jesus being God from an analysis of the Greek words used in Philippians 2:5-11.

You can read it online at Google Books (starts at page 40) … ay&f=false

Not that I have time to comment much, but in reply to Aaron’s most recent comment concerning the Rock:

The problem with this theory is that St. Paul, in 1 Cor 10:4, is by topical context referencing Deut 32, where YHWH, God Most High, warns Israel that just as they betrayed Him before (which Paul also references with his quotation of Ex 32:4) and were slain in the wilderness despite His repeated miraculous interventions to save them, they’re going to do so again. Throughout this prophecy (the final Song of Moses), YHWH, God Most High, several times refers to Himself by the name of “the Rock”. Which is what probably started the habit of using that as one of the nicknames of God in the OT; and certainly it is a bad idea in Judaism to be giving the name of the Rock for purposes of religious worship to anyone less than YHWH Most High. (Perhaps most emphatically Is 44:6-8 – even God does not know of any other Rock of Israel, just as He know of no God equal to Himself.)

When Paul says “the Rock is Christ”, he means YHWH, Who led and followed them throughout the desert wanderings as a pillar of smoke and fire (as well as in other ways, visibly appearing to the elders on the mountain to give them a heavenly meal, for example), is Christ.

That very easily explains why Christ, as spiritual Rock, was following them (YHWH the Rock was leading and following them), giving them spiritual food and spiritual drink (in several ways, including in a visible fashion with the elders of Israel as a validation of Moses). It also explains why in the earlier versions of this text, Paul writes that we should not tempt the Christ as some of those people did who then perished by serpents. Later texts read “the Lord” there, but the only Lord in view in the OT story (Num 21:5ff) is YHWH; just as the only Lord in view in this portion of 1 Cor 10 is Jesus Christ.

All of which makes sense if Paul is identifying Jesus Christ as the person of YHWH Most High Who was doing those things from Israel’s history, and Who referred to Himself as the one and only Rock of Israel with no other god (or lord) equal to Himself.

Not that the other theory doesn’t make its own sort of sense, too. But it doesn’t take enough contexts into account. Which is probably why RedHotMagma referenced it: 1 Cor 10:1-9 is one of the places where St. Paul is directly identifying Jesus Christ as being personally the one and only YHWH Most High–while still distinguishing somehow between the persons of “Jesus/Christ” and “God”.

Which is binitarian theism at least (neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the substance).

(Jude, early in his epistle, makes a very similar point in exactly the same way: referencing Jesus as our only Lord and Master Who saved the people out of Egypt, subsequently destroying those who did not believe–while still distinguishing somehow between the persons of God the Father and Jesus Christ. There is even a nearly identical text-critical issue there, where by typical text-critical principles the earlier reading should be regarded as “Jesus” but was later changed to “the Lord”. That earlier identification only makes sense if Jesus was being regarded personally as YHWH; which also explains the switch to Greek kyrios–the copyists actually upgraded to the standard way of rendering the divine name in Jewish Greek, because they wanted to emphasize that that was Who they were talking about, while still by context identifying this Lord/YHWH as Jesus.)

Now back to ‘work’ work. :slight_smile:

Postscript: YHWH of Armies was also, as the Rock, expected to be a stumbling block to the Jews and a Rock of offense over which both houses of Israel (Israel and Judah) would stumble. (Is 8:13-15). But St. Paul and St. Peter in their epistles (Rom 9:38ff; 1 Pet 2:8) teach that this rock of stumbling, in relation to this scripture (among others), is Christ. (Paul carries this notion out through Rom 11.)

That the Hebrew words for “rock” and for “son” are puns of each other, is no doubt also important, too, especially for rabbinic exegetical techniques. :slight_smile:

I find the Unitarian concept of God difficult for the reason that, I find it impossible to relate to it, and impossible to appreciate it. It feels far too detached, like an extreme form of classical theism (where God is “out there”).

Trying to relate to the Unitarian version of God, as I’ve expressed before, feels an awful lot like trying to text message to a phone that has been turned off, and whose service has been disconnected; it exists, but is thoroughly detached from the communicative network.

In being Unitarian, theoretically, God can only exist as a singular entity; expressed only in itself. Lacking the capacity to be “persons” of a Godhead, he lacks also the ability to be “realities” (such as in the Panentheistic sense (my view), or Pantheistic sense), and so cannot exist in persons such as myself in any meaningful form. God and I are not in fact one, because God is only one with himself; or else he isn’t Unitarian, but exists in multiple expressions simultaneously.

God becomes permanently distant, detached, and singular unto his own being; separation is default, inevitable, and eternal. Or else he must have the capacity to exist expressed through persons, realities, or manifest through his creation in a real, meaningful, existential way (if it is only “by title” but isn’t “actual” then it is meaningless, in my opinion) in which case, if God does indeed have the capacity for such a multiplicity of expressions, then I feel that Unitarianism is a dishonest description of his existence and nature.

A side-note issue, is that with a lot of Unitarian theologies (theologies that de-deify Christ, or demote his deity, excluding his pre-existence), I find them far too materialistic, and far too “disenchanted” (imagine taking the LOTR, or the Chronicles of Narnia and turning them into some sort of “Accounting Spreadsheets” manuals for dealing with the IRS). Materialistic Disenchanting worldviews tend to register very low on my appreciative scale. Theologies I can only attribute to being fruit of that core concept of God, that of a Unitarian interpretation.

That is my take on the issue anyway.

Num 21 4 And they journey from mount Hor, the way of the Red Sea, to compass the land of Edom, and the soul of the people is short in the way, 5 and the people speak against God, and against Moses, ‘Why hast thou brought us up out of Egypt to die in a wilderness? for there is no bread, and there is no water, and our soul hath been weary of this light bread. 6 And Jehovah sendeth among the people the burning serpents, and they bite the people, and much people of Israel die;

Here they tempted God and perished by serpents, In 1 Cor they tempted Christ and perished by serpents

‘Eze 1 4As I looked, behold, a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire. 5Within it there were figures resembling four living beings. And this was their appearance: they had human form. 6Each of them had four faces and four wings.

And above the expanse that is over their head, as an appearance of a sapphire stone, is the likeness of a throne, and on the likeness of the throne a likeness, as the appearance of man upon it from above. 27 And I see as the colour of copper, as the appearance of fire within it round about, from the appearance of his loins and upward, and from the appearance of his loins and downward, I have seen as the appearance of fire, and brightness is to it round about. 28 As the appearance of the bow that is in a cloud in a day of rain, so is the appearance of the brightness round about.

a stone, that is a throne something like fire, like the appearance of a man, the likeness of the glory of the LORD

Exo 40:34 Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.

Deut 31:14 The Lord appeared in the tent in a pillar of cloud that stood above the door of the tent.

back to EZE 2 1Then He said to me (the one in the cloud), “Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak with you!” 2As He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet; and I heard Him speaking to me. 3Then He said to me, “Son of man, I am sending you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled against Me; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. 4“I am sending you to them who are stubborn and obstinate children, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ 5“As for them, whether they listen or not—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6“And you, son of man, neither fear them nor fear their words, though thistles and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions; neither fear their words nor be dismayed at their presence, for they are a rebellious house. 7“But you shall speak My words to them whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious. 8“Now you, son of man, listen to what I am speaking to you; do not be rebellious like that rebellious house. Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you.” 9Then I looked, and behold, a hand was extended to me; and lo, a scroll was in it. 10When He spread it out before me, it was written on the front and back, and written on it were lamentations, mourning and woe.

Rev 22:1 Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb

The word tabernacled among us, the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle, the likeness of a son of man in the cloud which is the glory of the Lord. That “man” sits on a stone throne, above the cherubim, the arc of the covenant was the throne of God with cherubim underneath where God would “sit”. Out of that throne came spirtual water, that Rock is the Christ.
“This one was the one about whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than I am, because he existed before me.’”
Many times the Word of the Lord has physical shape, he touches, puts hand on shoulder, has a sword, has feet.

No man has seen the Father and lived, yet Ezekiel talks face to face with The Lord

Sorry if this is choppy, I just took this from another place I posted it, and pasted

Hi Jeff,

Concerning Philippians 2:5-11, I think the following are pretty good responses by Biblical Unitarians to the Trinitarian interpretation which Barclay (who in other works has expressed skepticism regarding the Trinity) curiously adopts in his commentary: … mOfGod.pdf … ment-31094 (See comments 9-13 by Unitarian David Burke in his response to Trinitarian Rob Bowman) … ians-2-6-8