A Begotten Son As Creator In Paul & The Epistle To The Hebrews
Paul's teaching that Jesus was the first begotten who created the worlds was based upon a mistranslation of Psalm 102. Paul contradicted Isaiah which clearly depicts the Father as the sole Creator. Hence, relying upon Paul to change Isaiah and excessively exalt Jesus runs what risk? Violating the first commandment of the ten commandments: idolatry. Remember Jesus said the Father "dwells in me." (John 14:10.) This is how the voice inside Jesus can say "before Abraham I am." The Father spoke through Jesus. It did not make the man Jesus God or the creator. (See our article "Correct Christology.")
Paul's view is even more flawed. Paul concedes someone other than Jesus is God -- the Father. Then the Father first creates Jesus -- identified as the "first begotten. Then Paul says Jesus created everything else. The point of this article is to prove Paul's notion Messiah was the creator of the heavens comes from a mistranslation of Psalm 102.
1. Paul's Words -- A Reminder
How did Paul formulate his notion in Col. 1:15-16 that Jesus was the "first begotten" of creation (1:15) and then Jesus next "created" everything else? We believe it came from the same Septuagint mistranslations that the Epistle writer to the Hebrews relied upon for his statements that read identical to what Paul wrote in Col. 1:15-16.
In Col. 1:15-16, we read:
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:
2. The Same Idea In Hebrews
Paul's words in Col. 1:15-16 parallel what we read in Hebrews, but this time we are given Scripture references.
First, the writer of Hebrews says God by means of the Son created the worlds (similar to Paul's statement that by the Son all things were created in Col 1:15):
[God] Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; (Heb. 1:2, KJV)
So it begins by saying Jesus was the Son who existed before creation of the worlds, and then God made everything "through" or "by" the Son.
Second, the writer of Hebrews affirms Jesus was a begotten Son -- like Paul spoke of Jesus as the first-born:
For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? [Quoting Ps. 2:7] And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? [quoting 2 Sam. 7:14.] Hebrews 1:5, NIV.
In the next verse, the writer of Hebrews refers to Jesus as the "first-born" in identical Greek as Paul used in Col. 1:15:
And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,
"Let all God's angels worship him." (Heb. 1:6, NIV)
The Hebrews epistle-writer later repeated this conception that Jesus is a created being in Hebrews 3:1-2. See Note on Hebrews 3:1-2 after "Conclusion" below.
(The truth is God/the Word/the Creator "became flesh" in Jesus per John 1:14 but this did not transfer creator-status to a distinct person/individual from God who was supposedly the first-born son/person in ages past. Such a notion of Paul and the Epistle-writers of Hebrews violates Isaiah 44:24 which says that God, unaccompanied and unaided, created the Genesis heavens and earth. He was entirely alone, and God mocks any other view saying: “Who was with me?” The eternal Word in Jesus was the Creator, but that is not what the epistle-writer or Paul are saying.)
Hence, very early on, the epistle of Hebrews repeats Paul's idea -- Jesus was a begotten Son before the worlds were made, and then this Son (who was distinct from the being who created Jesus) then created the heavens and the earth.
3. The Epistle Tells Us The Scripture Source is The Erroneous Septuagint Translation of Ps. 102
The Epistle to the Hebrews will then quote in verse 10 the passage of OT scripture he thinks supports some begotten being (the son) -- someone other than the eternal God -- created everything else but himself. To see that Jesus is understood as the "Lord" in verse 10 of Hebrews who is creator, we need to quote verse 9 which identifies Messiah is the person in view:
(9) Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
(10) And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: (Heb. 1:9-10 NIV)
The notion in verse 10 is that the one whom in verse 9 God has anointed (Messiah) who is above others (a quote of Ps. 45:6-7) is the Lord whom in verse 10 creates everything (after he himself was the first begotten son). Verse 10 is a quotation of Psalm 102:23-25 in the Septuagint version.
As translated in the Septuagint Greek, it implies some other Lord is the creator other than the Lord God.
Thus, this notion in Hebrews 1:10 that someone other than the eternal God was creator came from Psalm 102:23-25 in the Septuagint Greek translation of 257 BC. The Septuagint was created at the commission of Ptolemy, ruler of Egypt. He asked the Jews to send 6 translators from each of the 12 tribes to do the translation. ("Septuagint," Encyclopedia Brittanica.) But a state-sponsored translation did not augur well for its accuracy.
In this passage of the Septuagint Greek, it says:
“He [God] answered him [i.e., the suppliant]…Tell me [i.e., God speaking to the suppliant]…Thou, Lord [i.e., God addressing someone else called ‘lord’].”
The Septuagint Greek translation was in error. The Hebrew original text has “He [God] weakened me…I [i.e., the suppliant] say, ‘O my God…’”
Thus, the Septuagint erroneously introduced a second Lord who is addressed by God as if this second Lord was Creator, and that God Himself was not creator of the heavens and the earth. The Septuagint has God addressing the suppliant:
"Thou, Lord, at the beginning you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands." (Ps. 102:25 LXX/Septuagint.)
The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews in our NT clearly quoted the Septuagint, not the original Hebrew version. He did so to make the point that this second Lord, not God, was the creator of the heavens and the earth. The Epistle of Hebrews intends us to understand (just like Paul does) that the Messiah -- the "first-begotten son" -- was the "creator" of the heavens and the earth, and not God who adresses this second Lord as creator.
B.W. Bacon pointed out a critical flaw in the Septuagint translation of this passage:
"The word 'Lord' is wholly absent from the Hebrew text of Psalm 102:25." (B.W. Bacon, "Heb. 1:10-12 and the Septuagint Rendering of Ps. 102:23," Zeitschrift fur die Neutestamentliche Wissenschaft (1902) Vol. 3 at 280-85.)
Bacon also identified other errors in the Septuagint translation that made it appear God is talking in verses 23-24 when it is the suppliant instead who truly is talking:
"[With the Septuagint 'he answered him] the whole passage down to the end of the Psalm becomes the answer of Yahweh to the suppliant who accordingly appears to be addressed as Kurie (Lord) and creator of heaven and earth...." Id.
Bacon says in the original Hebrew, however, it is simply a "complaint of the psalmist at the shortness of his days which are cut off in the midst." Id.
This extremely different outcome based upon translation in the Septuagint Greek is reaffirmed by evangelical scholar F.F. Bruce in the New International Commentary on the New Testament (Eerdman's 1990) at 62-63 where he explains:
In the Septuagint text the person to whom these words [“of old you laid the foundation of the earth”] are spoken is addressed explicitly as “Lord”; and it is God who addresses him thus. Whereas in the Hebrew text the suppliant is the speaker from the beginning to the end of the psalm, in the Greek text his prayer comes to an end with v. 22, and the next words read as follows: “He [God] answered him [the suppliant] in the way of his strength: ‘Declare to Me the shortness of My days: Bring Me not up in the midst of My days. Thy [the suppliant’s] years are throughout all generations. Thou, lord [the suppliant, viewed here as the Messiah by Hebrews], in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth.’”This is God’s answer to the suppliant; He bids him acknowledge the shortness of God’s set time (for the restoration of Jerusalem, as in v. 13) and not summon Him [God] to act when that set time has only half expired, while He [God] assures him [the suppliant, called lord by God] that he and his servants’ children will be preserved forever…
What caused this error in the Septuagint (LXX)?
"The LXX misread the Hebrew letters "afflict" for "answer" which has the same root letters....The result is that verses 23-28 became the response of Yahweh [God] speaking either to Divine Wisdom or Messiah." (S Edward Tesh, Walter D Zorn, Psalms (College Press, 2004) at 254.)
Specifically, the error was a mistake at locating vowel points. As Anthony Buzzard, Th.M., minister and educator, explains:
The reason for the completely different translations, between Greek and Hebrew, lies in the Hebrew vowel points. The sense can be altered if the vowel points are changed, and sometimes it is not clear which of the possible senses is the right one. Thus the Hebrew takes INNaH to mean “He [God] afflicted” (v. 23) but the LXX repoints the verb (i.e. understands the vowel points to be different from the Hebrew text we now have). The LXX uses the same Hebrew consonants but changes the vowels to read ANaH [cf. English shipping/shopping, stepping/stopping] which means “He [God] answered [him].” So then in the LXX God is answering the one praying and addressing that person as “lord.” The LXX adds the word “lord” in v. 25. Next the Hebrew has OMaR eli (“I say, ‘O my God,’ v. 24). But the LXX reads these consonants as EMoR elai (“Say to Me,” v. 23b; i.e. the person praying is commanded by God to tell God). (Buzzard, "Helping the world count to one").
Modern Erasure Of The Variance
Other than old Catholic Bibles, all modern translations of Psalm 102:23-25 no longer quote any portion of the Septuagint translation. Here is the NIV rendering of that passage as it reads in the Hebrew original, and one can see it is God who remains creator in the true original of Psalm 102:
23 In the course of my life he broke my strength;
he cut short my days.
24 So I said:
"Do not take me away, O my God, in the midst of my days;
your years go on through all generations.
25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands. (Psalm 102:23-25, NIV.)
However, old Roman Catholic Bibles -- such as the Vulgate or Doay Rheims -- quote the Septuagint version of verse 25 so you can see the difficulty would persist if the Septuagint version of 23-24 were also used in Protestant Bibles. For vv 23-25 have it God is speaking, not the Suppliant/Psalmist. For example, the Doay Rheims has in verse 25 that God would have spoken these words to the suppliant if vv 23-24 were as translated in the Septuagint:
(25) In the beginning, O Lord, thou foundedst the earth: and the heavens are the works of thy hands (Doay Rheims)
However, even now modern Catholic Bibles clean up verse 23 so God is no longer speaking which renders harmless the Septuagint error in verse 25 of adding the word "Lord."
But importantly the epistle-writer of Hebrews precisely wanted us to believe that God spoke to a distinct being (the Son in verse 1:8) as Lord creator of the heavens and the earth in Psalm 102:23-25. In doing so, we must remember the epistle-writer clearly relied upon a corrupt Septuagint translation of 257 BC. which gave this false impression.
This therefore must be where Paul got the similar idea that the "first born" and "son" of God could be subsequently the Creator distinct from God who previously created/beget the Son.
This is even more clear when we examine the erroneous translation from the Septuagint of Psalm 45:7 upon which the epistle-writer relied in Hebrews 1:8.
Next Septuagint Error in The Passage
Verse 8 of Hebrews ch. 1 is a quote from the Septuagint Psalm 44:7. In the Hebrew Bible, it is Psalm 45:6. In the English Bible, it is Psalm 45:7.
In the Septuagint Greek of 257 BC, this verse refers "to the Son as God" (S Edward Tesh, Walter D Zorn, Psalms (College Press, 2004) at 254). See also Alfred Rahlfs Septuaginta (1950) Vol. 2 at 47.)
Hence, Tesh & Zorn says this proves the epistle-writer believed Jesus was God. The epistle-writer of Hebrews wrote:
(8) But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.
(9) Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. (Heb. 1:8-9, NIV.)
If we go to the KJV of Psalm 45:6-7 (the same but differently chaptered than Septuagtint), we find this is the verse Heb. 1:8 'quotes.' We find the "Son" is however not mentioned and thus the KJV ignores the Septuagint error relied upon in Hebrews 1:8 by removing this as a verse where the Son is called 'God':
(6) Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre.
(7) Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
The KJV has the correct text from the Hebrew original of Psalm 45:6-7. So instead of God calling the Son God, the true verse says God's throne is eternal. Thus, the epistle-writer of Hebrews mistakenly relied upon an erroneous verse in the Septuagint Greek text to insist otherwise. As a result, the epistle-writer of Hebrews thought a created being -- a "first born" and a "son" -- was also God. So according to the epistle-writer of Hebrews, you have two distinct beings who are each God.
No wonder Marcion in 144 AD deduced from Paul (and evidently this epistle to the Hebrews) that there was the God who created the heavens-and-earth -- known as the demi-urge whom Jesus supposedly represented when Jesus died (Romans 7:1-7) --- but that the creator of Jesus -- the God of the NT -- was the eternal Father (but not the creator). Marcion taught it was this Father-God (rather than the demi-urge God who created all matter) who resurrected Jesus. (For more background on Romans 7:1-7, see our webpage Paul says The God of Sinai Is Dead in Romans 7:1-6.)
Marcionism was a Paul-only movement in the early church started in 144 A.D. that almost swept away orthodox Christianity. See our webpage on Marcionism.
PS Some try to leave alone the importance of the Septuagint error of adding "Son" in Ps. 45:6 by claiming "God" in Ps. 45:6 does not truly mean "God." They realize that otherwise we would be forced to believe the Septuagint-version of the Psalm and epistle-writer endorsed a created and first-begotten Son in ages past who was a God distinct from His creator who was also God. If we take this Septuagint translation as inspired writ, we have terrible incongruities that require some solution.
Thus, some escape the incongruities by claiming the Hebrew for "God" -- ELOHIM -- in this Psalm 45:6/7 means 'god' in a courtly royal title. For example, in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (1965) at 3:96 it says: "In Ps. 45:6, the Elohim undoubtedly refers to a man, i.e., the king and not to Yahweh."
However, even if this were true, this is not how the epistle-writer of Hebrews wanted to interpret the Psalm. Thus, we must face the fact the word "Son" is an inadvertent addition by the Septuagint, and this misled the epistle-writer of Hebrews to believe Psalm 45:6 said God who begot the Son called the Son another God distinct from Himself.
Paul's notion in Col. 1:15-16 was that Jesus was the first-born of all creation and then turned around and created everything else.
What was Paul relying upon for these ideas?
The rationale for his ideas is clear in Hebrews 1:1-10. The epistle-writer repeats Paul's ideas in Heb. 1:2, 5.
Then the epistle-writer bases those same claims upon several Septuagint mistranslations into Greek of the Hebrew Bible. So in Hebrews 1:6, Jesus is the "first-born," as Paul says likewise. To prove Jesus's early creation before everything else (i.e., first-born status), the epistle-writer says Jesus is addressed by God as the Creator of the heavens and the earth in Psalm 102:23-25. (See Heb. 1:9-10.)
To prove this Creator of just the heavens and earth was the Son but God was not the Creator of the same, the epistle-writer says God addressed the heaven-and-earth creator-Son as "God" in Psalm 45:6.
But the two proofs of this duo of Gods was based upon clear mistranslations of (1) Psalm 102:23-25 by adding "Lord" where it did not exist (and making God the speaker who addresses this 'Lord,') and (2) Psalm 45:6 by adding "Son" in an address to God where it also did not exist.
Thus, clearly the epistle-writer has in mind two distinct beings/persons -- one creating the other, the Father creating the Son -- where the created one (the Son) is then the creator of the worlds - but the first God calls the second being/person/Son "God." But, as demonstrated above, the epistle-writer based this upon improperly translated texts in the Greek Septuagint from 257 BC.
It is also important to realize the epistle-writer was trying to prove his case from Scripture, and was not himself claiming inspiration. Because his work was totally flawed by virtue of the translation corruption in the texts upon which he relied, we are free to reject his arguments in Hebrews because they are based upon erroneous translations.
There are not two gods -- one a created being/Son who was also a creator of the worlds and the other a father/maker/begetter of the 'first-born' Son.
The True Nature of Christ
Unfortunately, neither Paul nor the Hebrews' writer are saying what truly is the case: the Word that came to "dwell" in Jesus (John 1:18; 14:10) was the Creator. That would be distinctly different and consistent with what Jesus says. If Paul and the Epistle-writer of Hebrews saw Divinity present in Jesus, instead of a distinct created being/Son who was also a God and Creator in ages past, then they would be on the right track. For such a correct Christology based upon Jesus's Words Only, please see my discussion at this link.
Risk Of Violating The First Commandment
Sadly, the way that Paul and Hebrews conceive of Jesus invites us to violate the First Commandment which is to "have no other gods before me." For just like Marcion, Paul and the epistle-writers of Hebrews create another God besides the Creator who is God, or they alter the one true God so He is two distinct beings. This would shock Tertullian in 207 AD even though he was the first to advance the Trinity doctrine. However, he did so in its proper and valid form. (Jesus was indwelled by God. See link below.) In 207 AD, Tertullian said Marcion's view that there is a distinct creator-God from God-the-Father (i.e., the same view which Paul and the Epistle-writer to the Hebrews holds) leads to idolatry:
“They either pretend that there is another god in opposition to the Creator, or, even if they acknowledge that the Creator is the one and only God, they treat him as a different being from what he is in truth. The consequence is that every lie which they speak of God is in a certain sense a sort of idolatry.” (Tertullian, On Prescription Against Heretics, 40)
For further reading on how the original correct trinity doctrine of Tertullian was materially altered 180 years after his death, going too far, see our webpage "Exaltation that Went Too Far."
On the origin of the NT doctrine of the Son as creator instead of Yahweh-the-Father as creator, see Sean McDonaugh, Christ as Creator: Origin of a New Testament Doctrine (Oxford University Press: 2009).
TWO NOTES ON HEBREWS 3:1-3
Hebrews 3:1-2 says clearly in Greek that God was the "maker" of Jesus, but this is rendered often to obscure this by rendering the word at issue as "appointed." It correctly says: "the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to him that
appointed made [poiesanti] him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house." (Heb. 3:1-2, KJV.) Cf. Rev. 14:7 (God who "made" (poiesanti) the heaven and earth).
There is not one possible meaning of 'appointed' in any of the translation options for poieo per Thayer. They are all about making, authoring, etc. If it said Jesus was "made an apostle," etc., you might use the word 'appointed' in our vernacular. But that is missing here. Instead, "appointed" was obviously used as a gloss to mitigate from our hearing what Hebrews 3:2 actually says. The true translation is in accord with Heb. 1:6.
This proves once again the epistle-writer believes God was the maker of Jesus -- the supposed first-born of all creation.
There is also incongruously a verse from the Hebrews-epistle writer which reflects he did not believe Jesus was God. Luther discusses this verse, and for this reason he denied the Epistle to the Hebrews was inspired. The language that bothered Luther is in this wider quote of these same verses:
"Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; Who was faithful to him that appointed [sic: made] him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honor than the house" (Heb 3:1-3 KJV)
Luther questioned how God could be called a High Priest -- how Jesus could be appointed to the position of High Priest -- and how Jesus could be compared to Moses. How could it be said of God that "this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses"? Luther denied inspiration to Hebrews because it was absolutely clear in these thoughts that the author of this epistle did not believe that Jesus was truly God.
Another Error In Septuagint Quoted in Hebrews Chapter One
Incidentally, the quotation "Let all..." in Heb. 1:6 is a quote from the 257 BC Septuagint Greek translation of Deut. 34:43. (See NIV note.) But this "Let all" quote is completely foreign to the original Deut. 34:43. It is an obvious mistranslation by the Septuagint of the true Deut. 34:43.
Other Commentary on Hebrews 1:10
Oddly, in Bowman, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ (2007) at 192, Bowman uses the fact that Hebrews 1:10 quotes Psalm 102 as proving the deity of Christ without pointing out that it proves the opposite if one hews closely to the text. It might prove Jesus is creator, but as Psalm 102 was translated, this said God identified a different Lord who created the heaven and the earth. And in Hebrews 1:6, the epistle identifies this second creator as the "First-born," -- a created being! You cannot lift just the part you like, and ignore the rest.
What Bowman does is put a gloss over the passage to make the incongruities disappear: "The application to the Son of what Psalm 102 says about God, then indicates, that he shares in that work of creation that is uniquely the province of God." Id.
While Psalm 102 as mistranslated in the Septuagint says the second Lord was the creator, this does not imply the second Lord is God. In fact, Psalm 102 in the Septugint translation actually negates that God was uniquely the creator. Some second Lord is supposedly the creator of the heavens and the earth. The God-God only created the second Lord, but after that limited creation, the Psalm ascribes to the second Lord the role of creator of the heavens and the earth. Only by adding a supposition that God uniquely is the creator of the heavens and earth (at odds with this Septuagint translation) can you fuse two beings into both being God -- one a created being (the second Lord) and the original God in the verse who created the second Lord.
Thus, unless you twist Psalm 102 to merge what it does not merge, squeezing two into 'God' to make the contradiction of Psalm 102 with Isaiaih 44:24 (God did not share the role of creator with anyone) disappear, you have a flat contradiction between the Septuagint of Psalm 102 and Isaiah 44:24. But such semantical destruction and reconstruction is untenable. Such a gloss as offered by Bowman violates Isaiah 44:24 which clearly said no one shared any role with God during creation. The fact Psalm 102 is a demonstrable mistranslation in the Septuagint Greek, and unfortunately adopted in Hebrews 1, is all a Christian desiring truth needs to know.
Bowman also fails to point out that Hebrews 1:10 relied upon an erroneous Septuagint translation of the Hebrew.