When discussing Christology we are bound to end up in the letter of Hebrews. Hebrews 1 bring us to a decision on what I believe to be the inseperably united nature of Christ; the person of God who became a genuine man.
Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. 3 He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, NRSV
In the opening words of Hebrews we see an expression that can help us with the rest of the text. In fact, the New Interpreters Study Bible footnotes suggest, "The high Christology of these verses is determinative for the whole book."1 Here we find "long ago" God the Father has spoken to us in various ways, or by means of unfolding revelation. In the "last days" however He has spoken to us in or by a Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus introduced a new covenant or era of revelation that was essentially a transistion from past revelation to the revelation of "these last days."
The method by which the eternal God the Father has revealed Himself is by means most natural to humanity. God the Father, Himself, was Incarnated through the womb of a human woman--Mary. This was the very method humans enter into existence, yet unique since it was virgin born. The offspring was the Son of God, an existential existence of the metaphysical Creator. Jesus is the surpeme method of communication that the Father has given us.
Jesus is the "express image of his [God's] person" (vs 3). The Greek word for ‘express image’ here is charakter (khar-ak-tare); our English word, character, is derived from this word. However, charakter is found “only once in the NT. . . . This means that the NT use is entirely different from our modern concept of character which develops itself by a will that seeks to conform to principles.”2 The BAGD says here that, “Christ is . . . an exact representation. . . . ”3
Therefore, Christ as the "express image" of His person, the person of God, is another way of saying that Jesus represents God exactly. Jesus is the "impression of His substance"4a. He is what God chose for man to see Him as. It means imprint (NRSV) or stamp. Moulton and Milligan suggest its use comes from a "tool for engraving" or "an exact reproduction"4b It originally referred to the tool made for engraving but later referred to what was actally engraved or stamped.
The Greek word translated "person" is hypostasis. Although rendered as "person," it is more properly understood as "substance" (See Moulton-Milligan) or "essence of being". The etymology of this word has to do with something that underlies. It is that which underlies, supports, or makes up something. In this context, we are talking about what underlies, or makes up God, i.e. God's subsistence.
Jesus is not just a representation of God, but is the very visible impression or imprint of God's invisible substance and essence. He is God's very nature expressed in humanity. It is consistently taught, in the New Testament, that Christ is the visible form of the invisible God.
The writer of Hebrews also says that Jesus is the image of God’s hypostasis (KJV person; NIV being; NRSV being Grk hypostasis). In context, of these opening texts, the God who spoke to us by His Son is the Father of the Son (1:1-2, 5). Hebrews is declaring Jesus to be the image of the God the Father’s subsistence.
I would further say then, that there is no mention of the Son having His own hypostasis, or any references to plural hypostasis. I believe the whole of Scripture testifies of this as well. I conclude then that Jesus is the image of the invisible subsistence or person (KJV) or being (NRSV) of God.
The person of God took on human nature. This human nature was real and genuine, Jesus was the God-man. Thus his prayers were true and genuine prayers from humanity to God the Father. Alister McGrath suggests this:
In one sense, Jesus is God; in another, he isn’t. Thus Jesus is God incarnate-but he still prays to God, without giving the slightest indication that he is talking to himself! Jesus is not identical with God in that it is obvious that God continued to be in heaven during Jesus’ lifetime, and yet Jesus may be identified with God in that the New Testament has no hesitation in ascribing functions to Jesus which, properly speaking, only God could do.5
The New Testament makes it clear that Jesus was aware that God was someone other than Himself, existing in heaven. He was also very aware that He was God become man, or in the flesh. So in one sense Jesus is spoken of as God, and in another sense He is not. This is very important in order to understand the relationship between the Father and the Son.
No analogy is perfect; however, this can be likened to the moon. When Apollo landed and the astronauts walked on the moon for the first time. They walked on the moon that had been beyond man’s grasp for as long as man has existed. When they returned they brought a sample of the moon with them. Scientists studied this sample as the moon, yet it was not really the moon. It was only a portion of the moon.
Notice that the Hebrews writer says it was ‘by’ His Son that He made the worlds. This phrase usually encapsulates alot of the controversy in this passage. The preposition ‘by’ in the Greek is dia (dee-ah), the first "by" being en; Spiros Zodhiates places dia in the genitive form. The genitive usually indicates the relationship between nouns and pronouns. Zodhiates defines dia, here, as “through which the effect proceeds, meaning through, by, by means of.”6 The BAGD and Bullinger7 also define dia as “by means of” and Friberg defines it as “spatial through, by way of.”8
Modern translations, like the NRSV, replace the second "by" with "through". Therefore, instead of reading "by whom also he made the worlds" we can read "through whom also he made the worlds". Some translations rendering dia as "through" here as well are ASV, NKJV, ESV, NASB, HCSB, NET.
Zodhiates, speaking of dia in the genitive sense, concedes this much concerning dia (dee-ah): “In this construction diá may also refer to the author or first cause, when the author does anything through himself instead of another, e.g., of God (Ro 11:36, ‘of [or out of] Him and through Him and unto Him all things’ [a.t.]; 1 Cor 1:9, ‘God, through whom you were called’ [a.t.]; Heb 2:10). Also of Christ (Jn 1:3 ‘All things were made by him’; Col 1:16, ‘all things through Him and unto Him have been created.’ ”
Speaking of Johns Gospel, Marianne Meye Thompson makes this noteworthy statement:
“While John asserts that Jesus speaks the words of God and does the work of God, the Gospel pushes further in claiming that Jesus so fully embodies the Word of God that to see him is to see the manifestation of God’s glory; to see the son is to ‘see’ the Father.”
She goes on to say, “It is clear that the disciples of Jesus do not see God as he does, for whereas the Son sees the Father directly, others see the Father in and through the Son.” This is a very important understanding. Jesus is God. God, in time, became a man. He added to His current existence as deity the nature of humanity. He became the God-man. Therefore, God who would become a a man created "all things".
"Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:" Colossians 1:15-16 KJV
James Moffat commenting on this passage says that Christ “not merely reflects God but in some real sense represents Him; the invisible God becomes manifest in Christ.” He translates the 1:16 passage as “He is the likeness of the unseen God . . . ”9 The ‘image of the invisible’ (vs. 15) is Jesus Christ. ‘Image’ is translated from the Greek word—eikon [ay-kone]. The BAGD offers two possible definitions: “image, likeness—lit. of the emperor’s head on a coin” and “form, appearance . . . a human figure.” Friberg’s decription is “embodiment or living manifestation of God.”
Trinitarians assert that God is the Tri-unity of persons, or that He is comprised of the Trinity. Therefore, if Jesus is the “embodiment living manifestation of God” then the three persons of the trinity are in Christ. In this sense, the trinity is then unnecessary.
Colossians could thus very easily be read as, "For in him were all things created". Jesus created the universe, but not as the Son, or that he even did it as Jesus. It means, as Bernard points out, that the one who later became the Son created the universe. Prior to the incarnation He existed throughout eternity as Yahweh himself. But because he was not the Son, yet, or even Jesus at that time does not mean that we cannot say, now in time, that the Son or Jesus created the worlds.
The aforementioned Hebrews and the Colossians passages are concerned with the Incarnation and the Creation; consequently, the Incarnation did not pre-exist the conception in Mary’s womb. Thus, God—the one who would later be called Jesus—created all things, not that Jesus as God became man or as a second person created all things. God is Spirit (John 4:24). Therefore, man can neither see nor touch the Spirit of God, for a spirit is intangible. Jesus said, “a spirit hath not flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39). Yet, God chose, through the Incarnation, to give us the expression of Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ.
1. The New Interpreters Study Bible, New Revised Standard With The Apocrypha. Copyright (c) 2003 by Abingdon Press. Footnotes for Hebrews 1:1-4
2. Ges, J. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. Ed. Colin Brown. Zondervan Ref. Software. © 1989-1999 The Zondervan Corp.
3. Arndt, William, F. Wilbur Gingrich, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature : A Translation and Adaption of the Fourth Revised and Augmented Edition of Walter Bauer's Griechisch-Deutsches Worterbuch Zu Den Schrift En Des Neuen Testaments Und Der Ubrigen Urchristlichen Literatur. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996, c1979.
4a. Treece, M.D. Literal Word—Hebrews(pg. 4). © 2000 Treasure House Publishers
4b. Moulton, J.H. Milligan G. Vocabulary of the Greek Testament. Hendrickson Publishers © 1930 First printing Hendrickson Publishers edition, Oct. 1997 pg. 683
5. Alister E. McGrath, Studies in Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1987) pgs. 202-203
6 The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament Copyright © 2002 AMG International, Inc.
7 Friberg, Timothy, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller. Vol. 4, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Baker's Greek New Testament library. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2000.
8 Moffatt, James. The Moffatt New Testament Commentary, Harper & Brothers, New York and London,19-20.
9 Thompson, Marianne Meye – The God of the Gospel of John – Erdmann’s Pub. Copyright © 2001 pg. 104