Most English translations have 'by Him' rather than 'in Him'. I suspect that the translators would say that this is instrumental ἐν. But when they then translate it as:
For by him were all things created
I am not sure the average reader (ie me, in this case, until today) realises that they are (I think I now see) carefully distinguishing this from:
which makes the Son the primary agent, the Creator.For all things were created by him (as Lexham bible, by the way)
Looking 'by' up in the OED, meaning 33a is 'Introducing the principal agent' and, as they say, this has become one of the main uses of 'by'.
BDAG ἐν 6. has 'marker of agency': but the English equivalent is with the help of which does not indicate the principal agent. But one of their examples for this use is 1 Corinthians 6.2:
ἢ οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι οἱ ἅγιοι τὸν κόσμον κρινοῦσιν; καὶ εἰ ἐν ὑμῖν κρίνεται ὁ κόσμος...
where the first part - the saints will judge the world - almost demands that the world is being judged by (introducing principal agent) 'you' in the second. It is always translated this way, so far as I can see. But now I am even wondering if Paul might be employing ἐν to temper the first part and indicate that the saints are to be instruments of God's judgement, rather than necessarily the principal agents.
Barry Hofstetter said in a related discussion that:
so if ἐν is really expressing agency in 1 Corinthians 6.2 that would be unusual. Would it therefore be fairly safe that it is expressing either some sort of 'in' idea in Colossians 1.16, or alternatively a form of instrumentality rather than agency?Agency is usually expressed with a preposition + the genitive, instrumentality is usually expressed with the dative, sometimes (and especially in Koine) with the preposition ἐν + dative.
Thanks for your help, Andrew