IT’S ONE OF THE OLDEST SONGS about Jesus, many Bible experts say. Someone wrote the lyrics during the first generation of Christians, a few years after Jesus left the planet. That makes it a little bit older than the Gaither songs.
The lyrics show up as a snippet of poetry that Paul inserted into one of his letters, Colossians. It’s a letter Paul probably wrote in the early AD 60s.
That means if someone else wrote the poem, they did it during the first 30 years after the Crucifixion, which most Bible experts say took place around AD 30-33.
Last night I uploaded the beta version of Colossians for the Casual English Bible. Here’s how the paraphrased song reads. See what you think. I found the message a bit surprising. There’s some Q&A about that in the accompanying leader’s guide and handbook.
Paul’s song about Jesus
Christ is the very image of the invisible God we’ve never seen.
When it comes to everything in Creation, he comes first.1
He’s the power behind all of Creation—
in heaven and on earth, whether visible or invisible, kings or officials, rulers or authorities.
He created everything. Everything belongs to him.
Before there was anything, there was Christ.
Without him, everything falls apart. He holds everything together.
He is the leader of our community, the church.
He started it, as the first one raised from the dead.
In everything about it, he comes first.
God was delighted to pour himself completely into Jesus,
and to live there.
This was God’s peace plan.
He would reconcile with everyone in heaven and on earth.
He would do it through the blood of Christ on the cross.
Colossians 1:15-20, Casual English Bible
1 1:15. The ambiguous original phrase more literally describes Jesus as “the firstborn over all creation.” Many scholars say that can mean he’s in charge, an idea they say fits the context of what Paul wrote. But it can also mean he was the first one created. That understanding produced some of the first Christian teachings branded as heresy, Arianism, for example. Many early Christians said God created Jesus. That’s not the prevailing view today.