Sunday, January 31, 2010

without Him nothing was made these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world...(Hebrews 1:2)

After declaring that Jesus has been "appointed [by God] heir of all things," the author of Hebrews turns to a second attribute of Christ: through Him God made the world (Hebrews 1:2). The writer asserts that Jesus possesses a unique role in the creation of the universe, that of co-creation with God (which we will discuss further below). So, with regard to the Person of Christ in light of the Incarnation, He necessarily existed prior to becoming human Himself as well as existing before all of creation (including humanity) in general. The nature of Christ, then, or who He is in His Person, is a key focus of the attributes mentioned in Hebrews 1:2-4.
When we consider the claim of Jesus' involvement in the creation of the universe, and what that implies about His nature, in a Jewish context (since the New Testament operates on the foundation of the Old, and since the author of Hebrews claims continuity with prior revelation), it is clear that this impinges upon the notion that God, who is "one," initially created (creatio originans, 'originating creation') the universe by an omnipotent act of speaking (see Genesis 1:1; Deuteronomy 6:4). Additionally, God is seen as the sole active sustainer (creatio continuans, 'continuing creation') of the the entirety of creation (see, e.g., Psalm 104; Copan and Craig 2004). As a result, for someone to claim that any additional being or person experiences this type of creative role is the equivalent of deifying that entity or person. The writer of Hebrews, in accordance with New Testament Christology, applies both types of creation, creatio originans and creatio continuans, to Christ. In order to resolve the dilemma posed by claiming continuity with Old Testament Judaism and its conceptualization of God, two conclusions can be made: either the New Testament claims entail polytheism and are therefore blasphemous, or the New Testament claims are entirely accurate and entail the divinity of Jesus. I argue that the latter is the correct position (that is, the one that is in accordance with the reality of God).
The reason that the proposition of Christ's divinity can be seen as completely compatible with early Jewish monotheism is that the New Testament writers do not view Christ as a second God, but instead a second Person of one God. For this reason the apostle John writes in his prologue:

[i]n the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being [...] And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, as of the only begotten from the Father [...] No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. (John 1:1-3, 14, 18, NASB)

So, similar to what we find in Hebrews, the Incarnate Christ was "with God" in the beginning and, more profoundly, "was [Himself] God." Because of the deity of Christ, the writer of Hebrews states that "through [Him] God made the world" (Hebrews 1:2). That is, "[a]ll things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being" (John 1:3). Or, as Paul writes,

by [Jesus] all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible [...], all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:16-17)

With this in mind as we read Hebrews, we can rest in the words that God has spoken through Christ, knowing that God is directly revealing God to us through Him.

Copan, P. and Craig, W. L. (2004). Creation Out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic and Apollos.

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