What does it mean that Jesus is the firstborn of creation?

The phrase "firstborn of all creation" is not dealing with time, but status and position. It does not mean that Jesus is the first created thing. It means that Jesus is the one who is preeminent, the most important. We can see this here in Colossians.

  • "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together," (Colossians 1:15-17).

As you can see, Jesus cannot be the first created thing because the Bible says in verse 16 that he created all things. Of course, God is not created so when it is referring to all things being created by Jesus we must conclude that he is divine, God in flesh. Naturally, this would mean that he is the preeminent one.

Firstborn, πρωτότοκος, prototokos

The word "firstborn" is used in different contexts. Please consider the following chart which lists all of the occurrences of the word in the Greek New Testament.

Address Verse Usage
Luke 2:7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Literal Birth
Luke 2:23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “EVERY firstborn MALE THAT OPENS THE WOMB SHALL BE CALLED HOLY TO THE LORD”), Literal Birth
Romans 8:29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; Preeminent
Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. Preeminent
Colossians 1:18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. First Resurrected
Hebrews 1:6 And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM.” Preeminent and worshipped
Hebrews 11:28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them. Literal Birth
Hebrews 12:23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, Belonging to God
Revelation 1:5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood— First Resurrected

As you can see, context determines meaning and we cannot say that firstborn always means first created; that is, as would be understood in the context of literal birth.

Firstborn is transferrable

The term firstborn is a title of preeminence that is also transferable. Please consider the following...

  • I have found David My servant. With My holy oil I have anointed him, 21 with whom My hand will be established. My arm also will strengthen him. 22 The enemy will not deceive him, nor the son of wickedness afflict him. 23 But I shall crush his adversaries before him, and strike those who hate him. 24 My faithfulness and My lovingkindness will be with him, and in My name his horn will be exalted. 25 I shall also set his hand on the sea and his right hand on the rivers. 26 He will cry to Me, "You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation." 27 I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth, (Psalm 89:20-27).

David was not the firstborn of his family. In fact, he was the last one born. We can see in this section of Scripture that David is called the firstborn, "the highest of the kings of the earth." It's clearly a title of preeminence. 

  • "And Joseph called the name of the first-born Manasseh: For, said he, God hath made me forget all my toil, and all my father's house. And the name of the second called he Ephraim: For God hath made me fruitful in the land of my affliction," (Genesis 41:51-52)
  • Jer. 31:9, " . . . for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn," (Jeremiah 31:9).

We can see that the firstborn title was transferred from Manasseh to Ephraim. Clearly, the term "firstborn" does not necessitate the first one created or the first one born. Context always determines meaning, and when the Bible says Jesus is the firstborn of all creation it is talking about his preeminence, his position of authority and superiority over it. Again, we know this is the case because the very next verse in Colossians, v. 16, says that he is the creator of all things. Furthermore, when we combine this with a verse in Isaiah we have something most interesting.

  • "Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, 'I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself And spreading out the earth all alone,'" (Isaiah 44:24).

Since the LORD (YHWH) is the one who formed all things by himself, alone, and we see that Jesus is also the creator of all things, then we must conclude that Jesus is God in flesh, creator of all things. He is the firstborn of all creation. He is not the first created thing.


About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.