Heb. 1:2 is another passage misunderstood to believe that Jesus created
the earth. It could be argued that the prologue to Hebrews is based upon the
prologue to John's Gospel. The same ideas recur- the Word of God from the
beginning come to expression in Christ, "all things", glory, etc. Note the
similarity between "apart from him not one thing came into being" (Jn. 1:3)
and Heb. 2:8, "not one thing is not left put under him". Jn. 1:3 stated that
"all things" were created by the Word, i.e. the logos / intention which God
had of the Messiah. Heb. 1:2 clarifies this (because of misunderstandings in
the early church?) to define the "all things" as all the ages of human
history. These were framed by God with Christ in mind. Later in Hebrews we
meet the same idea- Heb. 11:3 speaks of how the ages were framed and then
goes on to give examples of Old Testament characters who displayed their
faith and understanding of
the future Messiah.
It should be noted that the 'ages' which Christ was to be involved in
creating refer to "the world to come"- for Heb. 2:5 says that this passage
is speaking about "the world to come". Heb. 9:26 adds indirect support by
commenting that Christ died at the end of "the (singular) age"; the ages to
come are the eternity of God's Kingdom which is made
possible through His work. Thus the idea is not that He created the world, but rather that through His work, the ages /to come/ were made possible through Him. And therefore those ages before Him find their meaning in the context of He who was to come and open the way to eternal ages.
We read of “the Son… by whom [Gk. dia] He [God] also made the worlds [Gk. aion]”. A quick look at Strong's concordance or an online Bible seems to me conclusive. 'Dia' can mean ‘for whom / for the sake of / on account of'. It doesn’t always mean that, as it’s a word of wide usage- but it very often does mean ‘on account of’ and actually frequently it cannot mean ‘by’. There are stacks of examples:
- In a creation context, we read that all things were created dia, for the sake of, God’s pleasure (Rev. 4:11). Significantly, when 2 Pet. 3:5 speaks of how the world was created “by” the word of God, the word dia isn’t used- instead hoti, signifying ‘causation through’. This isn’t the word used in Heb. 1:2 about the creation of the aion on account of, dia, the Son. Eve was created dia Adam- she wasn’t created by Adam, but for the sake of Adam (1 Cor. 11:9). 1 Cor. 8:6 draws a helpful distinction between ek [out of whom] and dia- all things are ek God, but dia, on account of, Christ (1 Cor. 8:6).
- The context of Heb. 1:2 features many examples of where dia clearly means ‘for the sake of’ rather than ‘by’. Just a little later we read in Heb. 1:14 of how the Angels are “ministering spirits” who minister dia, for the sake of, the believers.
- Because of [dia] Christ’s righteousness, God exalted Him (Heb. 1:9).
- The Mosaic law was “disannulled” dia “the weakness and unprofitableness thereof” (Heb. 7:18). The weakness of the law didn’t disannul the law; the law was disannulled by God for the sake of the fact it was so weak.
- Levi paid tithes dia Abraham (Heb. 7:9), not by Abraham, but for the sake of the fact he was a descendant of Abraham.
- Jesus was not an Angel dia the suffering of death (Heb. 2:9). Clearly here the word means ‘for the sake of’ rather than ‘by’. Jesus was born a man for the reason that He could die. He was not an Angel who was then made ‘not an Angel’ by the fact of death. That makes no sense.
- Scripture was written dia us- not by us, but ‘for our sakes’ (1 Cor. 9:10)
- The martyrs were executed dia, for the sake of, their witness to Jesus (Rev. 20:4)
- Israel today are loved by God dia the Jewish fathers (Rom. 11:28)- clearly the word here means ‘for the sake of’ and not ‘by’.
- Cold and wet people made a fire dia, for the sake of, because of, the rain and cold (Acts 28:2). They didn’t make a fire ‘by’ the rain and cold.
- Timothy was circumcised dia, for the sake of, the critically minded Jews (Acts 16:3). He was not circumcised by them.
- When the voice came from Heaven, Jesus commented that the voice came not dia me, but dia the disciples (Jn. 12:30). Clearly dia here means ‘for the sake of’ and not ‘by’.
- “Dia the people that stand by I said it” (Jn. 11:42)- Jesus said ‘it’ for the sake of the bystanders; He didn’t speak ‘by’ them.
- The authorities couldn’t punish the apostles dia the people’s support for them- clearly dia here means ‘for the sake of’ and not ‘by’.
- Paul wrote dia many tears (2 Cor. 2:4). He didn’t write literally by or with those tears, but for the sake of his tears and grief for Corinth, he wrote to them.
- “By reason of” (Gk. dia) false teachers, the truth is badly spoken of (2 Pet. 2:2)
- We labour dia, for the sake of, the Lord’s name (Rev. 2:3). We believe dia Christ- not that He creates faith in us in an arbitrary way or forces us to believe; we believe for the sake of what we have seen and known in Christ (1 Pet. 1:21). Likewise we experience the birth of faith within us “dia the resurrection of Jesus” (1 Pet. 1:3). This doesn’t mean that when Christ rose, He created us as believers without any choice on our part. Rather, for the sake of [dia] Christ’s resurrection, generations of believers have come to faith and hope whenever they have encountered and believed in the fact of His resurrection.. Thus Jesus was raised dia our justification (Rom. 4:25). He was not raised by our justification, but for the sake of it.
- Christ was manifested “for [dia] you” (1 Pet. 1:20)- He was not manifested by us in a causative sense, but was manifested for our sakes.
- “Wherefore”- dia, for the sake of, Diotrephes’ behaviour, John would discipline him (3 Jn. 10). To read dia as ‘by’ here makes no sense.
- “For the truth’s sake”- dia aletheia (2 Jn. 2); “for righteousness sake”, dia dikaiosune (1 Pet. 3:14)
- Those who are “of the world” dia, “therefore”, for this reason, speak in a worldly way (1 Jn. 4:5). Because we are “not of the world”, dia, “therefore”, the world doesn’t accept us (1 Jn. 3:1). Persecution arises dia the word of God- for the sake of the word (Mt. 13:21). It’s not persecution of us by the word of God. Likewise men will hate us, not by Christ, but for the sake of (dia) Christ (Mk. 13:13).
- There was a division “because of” (dia) Jesus (Jn. 7:43).
- “They could not… bring him in because of (dia) the multitude” (Lk. 5:19). They didn’t aim on bringing the man in by the multitude.
- ‘For the sake [dia] of the elect’, and not by the elect, the days will be shortened (Mk. 13:20).
- Herod bound John dia Herodias- clearly, ‘for the sake of’ rather than ‘by’. It was not Herodias who did the binding. It was Herod.
- A ship waited on Jesus dia the crowd pushing on Him (Mk. 3:9)- clearly ‘because of’ and not ‘by’.
- “The Sabbath was made dia [for] man” (Mk. 2:24). It wasn’t man who made the Sabbath; it was made for the sake of man.
Then, aion, [AV "worlds"] is a plural- if this verse means 'Jesus created the earth', then, did He create multiple, plural 'earths'? That the word means 'the ages' or ‘an age’ is again clear from seeing how else 'aion' is used. In almost every case where the word aion occurs in the New Testament, it doesn’t mean ‘the physical planet earth’, but rather an age or situation on the earth, rather than the physical planet. In Eph. 2:7 we read of “the ages to come”- and it is the word aion again. The church will glorify Jesus “throughout all generations”, and this is paralleled with the phrase ‘the aion of the aions’ [Eph. 3:21- AV “world without end”; the same parallel occurs in Col. 1:26, “hid from aions and from generations”]. Clearly aion refers to periods of time rather than a physical planet. Just a few verses after Heb. 1:2, we read that the son will reign ‘for the aions and the aions’, or in English “for ever and ever” (Heb. 1:8). Surely the combined message is that the previous ages / aions existed only for the sake of Christ, and He will rule over all future aions. There is the aion to come [AV “the world to come”, Heb. 6:5], and Christ will be a priest “for ever” [Gk. ‘for the aion’, Heb. 5:6]. The aion to come is the eternity of God’s Kingdom. It will be, in somewhat hyperbolic language, an eternity of eternities. Later in Hebrews we read that Jesus made His sacrifice for sin “in the end of the world / aion” (Heb. 9:26). If an aion ended at the death of Jesus, then clearly the word doesn’t refer to the physical planet- but rather to the age which then ended. The Hebrew writer clinches this view of aion in Heb. 11:3, where he prefaces his outline of Bible history from Abel to the restoration from Babylon by saying that the ages / aion are framed by the word of God. Response by faith to God’s word, seeing the invisible with the eye of faith, occurred amongst the faithful in every aion. The aion [AV “worlds”] were framed by the word of God.
Consider other uses of the word aion where clearly it refers to the ages and not to a literal planet:
- “The cares of this world” (Mk. 4:19)
- The prophets which have been “since the world began” (Lk. 1:70). There were no prophets standing there at creation. The context clearly refers to the prophets of the Old Testament Scriptures.
- “The children of this world” (Lk. 16:8)
- “Be not conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2)
- “The wisdom of this world” (1 Cor. 2:6; 1 Cor. 3:18), “the princes of this world” (1 Cor. 2:8)
- “This present evil world” (Gal. 1:4)- there’s nothing evil about the physical planet, the reference is clearly to the world-system.
- “The darkness of this world” (Eph. 6:12)
- Loving “this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10) is wrong, Paul says. Surely he wasn’t referring to the literal planet.
The whole of history, with all its ages, and all that is to come, exists solely for the sake of Christ. He is the One who gives meaning to history. Further, if this verse means 'Jesus created the earth', then OK, question: Genesis and many other passages say God created. If this says Jesus was the actual creator, then is Jesus directly equal to God? Also, if Heb 1:2 is saying that Jesus is the creator of earth, the One through whom God did the job, then, why do we have to wait until Hebrews to know that? There's no indication in Genesis or even in the whole Old Testament nor in the teaching of Jesus that Jesus was the creator of earth on God's behalf. That's my problem with the pre-existence idea- it's nowhere in the Old Testament. So would believers have been held in ignorance of this fact for 4000 years? If so, then, is it so important to covenant relationship with God? I am sure David, Abraham etc. believed that God and not Messiah created the earth. If they'd have been asked: 'Did Messiah create the earth, or God? Does Messiah now exist?', they'd have answered 'No' both times. Surely?
It is often commented that a few verses later, Heb. 1:10 appears to quote words about God (from Ps. 102:25) and apply them to Jesus. To take a Psalm or Bible passage and apply it to someone on earth, even a normal human, was quite common in first century literature (1). It's rather like we may quote a well known phrase from Shakespeare or a currently popular movie, and apply it to someone. It doesn't mean that that person is to be equated with Romeo, Juliet, Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth etc. By quoting the words about them, we're saying there are similarities between the two people or situations; we're not claiming they're identical. And seeing that the Son of God was functioning for His Father, it's not surprising that words about God will be quoted about the Lord Jesus.
Footnote: Dia + Genitive
It is argued by trinitarians that dia + the genitive, as we have
in Heb. 1:2, means that the ages were made by the instrumentality of Christ.
But dia + genitive doesn't only mean 'by whose instrumentality'.
Moulton, The Analytical Greek Lexicon Revised , p. 90 explains the
uses of dia with genitive:
"1. With a genitive, through
a. Used of place or medium through
b. Used of time, during in the course of; through
c. Used of immediate agency, causation, instrumentality, by means of,
by; of means or manner, through, by, with
d. Used of state or condition, in a state of".
Meaning (b) appears relevant to Heb. 1:2 because it is dia Christ that the aions (a time reference) were created. This would require us to read in an ellipsis: "Through the (period of the ministry of) the Son, God framed the ages". Or, "Through(out) the Son, God framed the ages", i.e. all God's purpose throughout the ages was framed with Christ in mind. Acts 3:18 uses dia + genitive to explain how God had spoken of Christ "by" or throughout the period of all His "holy prophets".
(1) Oscar Cullmann, The Christology Of The New Testament (London: SCM, 1971) p. 234.
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