Monday, December 19, 2016

Beginnings in the Bible

The Hebrew word "Re'shiyth" [or, reshith], is translated beginning in connection with the creation of the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1), and of the angels before the creation of the heavens and the earth (Proverbs 8:22). The Greek word "arche" [or, arch, arkhe, as some prefer], is translated "beginning" in connection with the creation of the earth and the heavens (Hebrews 1:10), of the world of mankind (John 1:1,2,10), and of the church as God's new creation (2 Thessalonians 2:13) Neither of these words ever mean eternity, or a beginning in eternity (outside of time, that is, a beginning in the realm where time does not exist), nor that there was no "time" before the "beginning" spoken of, as some try to read that thought into Genesis 1:1; Proverbs 8:22; John 1:1,2; Colossians 1:18; 2 Thessalonians 2:13.
That "resheth" means any beginning, but never means eternity -- without time, or eternal duration before the beginning spoken of -- is evident from the following verses: Deuteronomy 11:12; 21:17; Job 8:7; 42:12; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; 17:14; Ecclesiastes 7:8; Isaiah 46:10; Jeremiah 26:1; 28:1; Micah 1:13. That "arche" means any beginning, but never means eternity -- without time, or eternal duration before the beginning spoken of -- is evident from the following passages: Matthew 19:4,8; 24:8,21; Mark 1:1; Luke 1:2; John 2:11; 6:64; 8:25,44; 16:4; Acts 11:15; Philippians 4:15; Hebrews 1:10; 3:14; 7:3; 2 Peter 3:4; 1 John 1:1; 2:7,13,14,24; 3:8,11; 2 John 5,6; Revelation 1:8; 3:14.
Therefore, we understand that in Genesis 1:1; Proverbs 8:22; John 1:1,2; Colossians 1:15,18 , and 2 Thessalonians 2:13, several different beginnings of God's creative work may be referred to, at different points in time. There may be some dispute in the exact order of these beginnings, but we believe that they were as follows:
Of course, for God there was no beginning. "Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Israel, From everlasting and to everlasting! Amen and amen." (Psalm 41:13) He is "from everlasting to everlasting". (Psalm 90:2) There was a time when he was all alone. Being alone he began his creative work, we believe, first, by bring the material universe into existence. Thus the "beginning" for the actual physical heavens and the physical earth -- the material universe, was before the six days of creation referred to in Exodus 20:11; 31:17. -- Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 8:3; Isaiah 44:24.
The first beginning of any living creation is that of the spirit creature referred to as the Logos, also referred to as the wisdom of God. -- "Yahweh had constituted me [Wisdom] the beginning of his way, before his works [that being referred to in context, the earth, mountains, etc.], at the commencement of that time; At the outset of the ages, had I been established, in advance of the antiquities of the earth [not necessarily the planet earth itself, but the 'earth' referred to in Genesis 1:1,10; Exodus 20:11; 31:17. The physical universe probably already had been in existence, although most likely without the order in it as we know today. -- Isaiah 44:24]; When there was no resounding deep, I had been brought forth, when there were no fountains, abounding with water;" (Proverbs 8:22-24, Rotherham) What of the expression "beginning of his way"? Did Yahweh have a beginning? Was there ever a beginning of Yahweh's way? We have already said that Yahweh never had a beginning, so how could there be a beginning of Yahweh's "way"? Evidently "way" here is in reference to Yahweh's creation, especially that of his creation pertaining to the earth, as can be seen from the context. Thus notice these translations: "The LORD made me as the beginning of His way, the first of His works of old." (Jewish Publication Society - 1917) "The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old." (New International Version).
Was God's attribute of 'wisdom' "brought forth" at some time? No, his attribute of wisdom has always been. It did not need to be brought forth. Thus Proverbs 8:22 refers to a person, Jesus, and not to God's attribute of wisdom, since God's attribute of wisdom has always existed. Earlier in Proverbs 8 Wisdom is being personified as an attribute; however beginning with verse 8 we see a change in its application from an attribute to a person who actually had a beginning, who was "brought forth" before there were oceans and seas, before there were mountains and hills, before the earth [land area, not the planet -- Genesis 1:10] and fields were made. Thus we read of "Christ Jesus, who was made to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption." -- 1 Corinthians 1:30.
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See Frank Shallieu's book, Portions of the Book of Proverbs, discussion on Proverbs Chapter 8. This book is available on the Bible Students' DVD Library
http://www.heraldmag.org/cdromad.htm
Thus we read that Jesus is the "The firstborn of every creature." (Colossians 1:15 -- the context of this verse shows that this is referring to the living creation in heaven and on earth.) "The beginning of the creation of God." -- Revelation 3:14, See Objection 1, below.
Another beginning alluded to in scripture is the beginning of other spirit creatures, such as the angels. The physical universe in some fashion probably already existed before the creation of the spirit beings. (Isaiah 44:24) We know from Job that the spirit beings were created and had their beginning before man, and before the "earth" as referred to in Genesis 1:1,10. -- Job 38:7; compare: Hebrews 1:7; Ezekiel 28:11-19.
Then we have the beginning that refers to the ordering of the physical heavens and the earth; this is called the beginning of the heavens (sky) and the earth as the world in which man lives, the famed six days of creation. -- John 1:1,2,10; Genesis 1:1; 2:1-4; Exodus 20:11; 31:17; Matthew 19:4,5; 2 Peter 3:4.
There are also other beginnings that are relative to a creative process. One of these (Colossians 1:18) in point of time is God's Son as the beginning of the those being born from the dead. -- Acts 13:33-37; Hebrews 1:3-5; Revelation 1:5.
Likewise another beginning (2 Thessalonians 2:13) in point of time is the period from Pentecost 33 onward when the disciples were anointed with the holy spirit, as God began the generation of the new creation of the church, Christ's body. -- 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15; Ephesians 2:10,15; 4:24; Colossians 3:10; James 1:18.
Accordingly, the words "reshith" and "arche", used in respect to creation, refer to starting points of new and various creative periods, and, of course, do not mean eternity, but to bring to our attention the first starts of distinctive creative periods of various creatures of God.
See also Paul S. L. Johnson's book, Creation, pages 35,36.
Objection 1
It is claimed by some that "beginning" in Revelation 3:14 is a title meaning source or one who begins, i.e. Creator. It is also claimed that Jesus is called the arche in the sense of "ruler," in Col. 1:18. Some claim that the Greek word *arche* should be translated as "origin" rather "beginning" in Revelation 3:14. Thus some translations present this verse accordingly: "prime source of all God's creation." (New Enlgish Bible translation) "The source through whom God's creation came." (Knox) "The beginner of God's creation." (Williams, Goodspeed) "The Origin and Beginning and Author of God's creation." (Amplified New Testament) In all these translations, however, it should be pointed out that the one being spoken of still represented as a different person from God, and thus not God himself.
It is further claimed that *arche*, as used in Revelation 3:14, means "ruler" of God's creation. We are given the following scriptures where the plural of arche (archai) is used in sense of rulers (as having principality, or first place over others): Luke 12:11; 20:20; Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 1:21; 3:12; 6:12; Colossians 1:16; 2:10, 15, Titus 3:1. Jude 1:6. We do not deny that the Greek word *arche* can be used figuratively of ones in authority [based on the sense of first position, or the higher positions in the realm being spoken of], but is that what is meant in Revelation 3:14? In Revelation 3:14, what we have is one who is spoken of as "the beginning" of God's creation. It is not a possessive nominative followed by what is possessed, as it should be if it meant "ruler" of God's creation. Similar Greek construction of *arche* can be found in Mark 10:6; 13:19 and 2 Peter 3:4, where beginning refers, not to a person, but a point in time when the creation of the world of mankind started. There is no doubt in these verses that *arche* does not mean "ruler". Usually the word *arche* is translated as "beginning" except in those cases where the context shows that figurative meaning of the word is meant. There is no reason to think that in Revelation 3:14 there should be any different translation, except that one, in keeping with preconceived beliefs, would like for this scripture to say other than what it says, that Jesus is the first creation of God.
Below we present the translations in the King James Version of the Greek arch (arkee, arche) in italics.
This list has been obtained from:
http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/arche.html
Thayer and Smith. "Greek Lexicon entry for Arche". "The KJV New Testament Greek Lexicon"
The reader may see how the word is used throughout the New Testament. Please note how John 1:1 and Revelation 3:14 use the word "beginning" in common usage. Also note especially Matthew 24:21, Mark 10:6, and 2 Peter 3:4, wherein the beginning of creation is referring to the beginning of the world of mankind. By studying the various uses of the Greek word arch, the reader may be properly informed.
  • Mt 19:4 And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,
  • Mt 19:8 He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.
  • Mt 24:8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
  • Mt 24:21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be
  • Mr 1:1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;
  • Mr 10:6 But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.
  • Mr 13:8 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in divers places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.
  • Mr 13:19 For in those days shall be affliction, such as was not from the beginning of the creation which God created unto this time, neither shall be.
  • Lu 1:2 Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;
  • Lu 12:11 And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and unto magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say:
  • Lu 14:9 And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. [[We could not find any occurrence of arche in this verse.]]
  • Lu 20:20 And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.
  • Joh 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
  • Joh 1:2 The same was in the beginning with God.
  • Joh 2:11 This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.
  • Joh 6:64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him.
  • Joh 8:25 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? And Jesus saith unto them, Even the same that I said unto you from the beginning.
  • Joh 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
  • Joh 15:27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.
  • Joh 16:4 But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you.
  • Ac 10:11 And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth:
  • Ac 11:5 I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me:
  • Ac 11:15 And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning.
  • Ac 26:4 My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among mine own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews;
  • Ro 8:38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,
  • 1Co 15:24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.
  • Eph 1:21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:
  • Eph 3:10 To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God,
  • Eph 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
  • Php 4:15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.
  • 2Th 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth
  • Tit 3:1 Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work,
  • Heb 1:10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands:
  • Heb 2:3 How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
  • Heb 3:14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end;
  • Heb 5:12 For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
  • Heb 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God,
  • Heb 7:3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.
  • 2Pe 3:4 And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
  • 1Jo 1:1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life;
  • 1Jo 2:7 Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning.
  • 1Jo 2:13 I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father.
  • 1Jo 2:14 I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.
  • 1Jo 2:24 Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.
  • 1Jo 3:8 He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
  • 1Jo 3:11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
  • 2Jo 1:5 And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.
  • 2Jo 1:6 And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.
  • Jude 1:6 And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.
  • Re 1:8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
  • Re 3:14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
  • Re 21:6 And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
  • Re 22:13 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.
Note that *arche* is not used as partitive genitive construction in Luke 12:11; Romans 8:38; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Colossians 1:16; 2:10,15; Titus 3:1; Jude 1:6. In each of these verses, the word *arche* is used in the context where words are used describing authority or power (such is not the case in Revelation 3:14), and it is clear from the context that "beginning" of something is not what is meant. Luke 20:20 is genitive, but it is apparent that is not speaking of a beginning of something. Nevertheless, the normal word used for "ruler" is the Greek word *archwn* (Strong's #758). If "ruler" was meant in Revelation 3:14, it would seem likely that this word would have been used rather than *arche*, as it is used in Revelation 1:5.
Despite the fact that the Greek word *arche* is sometimes translated "magistrate", "power", or "ruler", note that in the writings of John, the King James Version consistently translates the Greek word *arche* as "beginning."
As far as coming up with the idea that "arche" in Revelation 3:14 means "originator" or "source", one has to look outside the New Testament Greek for such usage, for in the New Testament one cannot find such usage anywhere. Indeed, translators who wish to make arche mean "origin" (as meaning "originator") or "source", etc., only choose to do so in Revelation 3:14 (and some have suggested the same for John 1:1), whereas they usually translate "arche" as "beginning" in all the same places where the King James Version does so. Indeed, the same can be said about those translators who wish to translate these verses with anything but "beginning". Therefore, it can be seen that they are translating these two verses to suit their doctrine.
Finally we will provide a few quotes from various scholars concerning Revelation 3:14:
The word properly refers to the commencement of a thing, not its authorship, and denotes properly primacy in time, and primacy in rank, but not primacy in the sense of causing anything to exist. . . . The word is not, therefore, found in the sense of authorship, as denoting that one is the beginning of anything in the sense that he caused it to have an existence. ... If it were demonstrated from other sources that Christ was, in fact, a created being, and the first that God had made, it cannot be denied that this language would appropriately express that fact. -- Albert Barnes' /Notes on the New Testament, p. 1569.)
A check of all the occurrences in NT of arkhe followed by a genitive expression...show that it always denotes a beginning or first part of something. -- Greg Stafford, Jehovah's Witnesses Defended, An Answer to Scolars and Critics, First edition, page 109.
In the NT archē occurs 53 times, and 26 of these must have the meaning "beginning," because they are preceeded by a preposition (as "from the beginning"). In 8 instances (123) the word occurs in a genitive construction, where the meaning is also, clearly, "beginning." In 6 instances (124) the meaning "beginning" is also appropriate. In 2 instance (125) it has the meaning "corner." In 11 instances ... archē has the meaning "government" or "ruler." The final uses of this word are in Colossians 1:18 and Revelation 3:14, which are both theologically significant.
From the above it is clear that archē, in more that 75% of its occurrences, means "beginning." Apart from "corner," which also is a "beginning," the word is used in some sense connected with "government." The word archē, with the meaning "source," is nowhere attested in the NT, and 7 of the instances with the meaning "government" are in the plural. Also, the four singular occurrences with this meaning are qualified, either by "every" (1 Cor 15:24: Eph 1:21; Col 2:10) or by a genitive construction (Luke 20:20).
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Footnote 123: Matthew 24:8; Mark 1:1; 13:8,19; Hebrews 5:12; 6:1; 7:3; 2 Peter 3:4.
Footnote 124: John 8:25; Jude 1:6; Hebrews 2:3; 3:14; Revelatin 21:6; 22:13. In several of these texts there is a contrast between the "beginning" and the "end."
Footnote 125: Acts 19:11; 11:15
-----Rolf Furuli, The Role of Theology and Bias in Bible Translation, 1999.
For more information on refutation of the trinity/oneness doctrines, see our site: Jesus and His God
http://jesus-rlbible.com/
Links to Various Sites
We offer these links for further study along the lines that we present above. While the authors present some good information that does agree with our statements, we do not necessarily agree with all of their conclusions.
Updated slightly, October 24, 2006.

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