Re: Colossians 1:15,16,17

From: Jim West (
Date: Thu May 07 1998 - 10:00:21 EDT

At 09:18 AM 5/7/98 -0700, you wrote:
>I understand the "through" versus "in" issue. My main concern is the
>"passive/active" scenario. Can you she light on that?

There is really no difficulty here. The verb "ektisthe" is, as you know, an
aorist passive verb. The first line then is, "because all things have been
created by him". Him who? The "image of the invisible God" (v.15), i.e.,
Jesus, according to the author of the epistle. But created by him? This is
where we leave grammar aside and discuss theology. And as I dont want to
get in trouble (!!!) I will only say that the following remarks are fairly
well known and widely accepted. As to whether or not Jesus is what the
following describes is the theological issue and won't be touched by me.

In many streams of Judaism in the first century CE, "wisdom" was personified
as a separate entity (see many of the Proverbs, for example). This
personified wisdom character was seen as the creative force which God
utilized in making stuff. In some of the "mystical" passages of the NT,
this personified wisdom ideal was applied to Jesus, making him the "wisdom
of God"; i.e., the creative medium. So, what this verse suggests in its
historical context is that Jesus is wisdom personified and therefore the
creative force of God himself.

On the idea of wisdom personified, I strongly recommend John Collin's,
"Jewish Wisdom in the Hellenistic Age" (Westminster/John Knox). Especially
chapter 11, "Wisdom and the Cosmos".

Further, I also suggest the brilliant commentary by Markus Barth and Helmut
Blanke on Colossians in the Anchor Bible series. They point out that the
passive is the 'passivum divinum', which is of course correct.


Jim West, ThD
Quartz Hill School of Theology

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