Date: Thu Feb 20 1997 - 16:37:37 EST
I'll step forth as one who openly agrees with Thayer and takes Col 1:15
PRWTOTOKOS as a partitive genitive (I do believe Jesus is divine, but
this is beside the point). Theology aside, I think the grammar of
PRWTOTOKOS + genitive is inescapable for a partitive genitive or
genitive of relation. But a genitive of subordination as Wallace and
some others encourage? I find little or no support in comparison with
the former. I look at the LXX usage of, not PRWTOTOKOS in isolation (as
in Ps. 89), but PRWTOTOKOS + genitive (as in Col 1:15).
I did an LXX search on PRWTOTOKOS + genitive noun (within four words)
and came up with 36 verses and examined each one. Without exception,
to living creatures the same meaning applies - the firstborn is part
of the group. "The firstborn of Israel" is one of the sons of Israel;
"the firstborn of Pharaoh" is one of Pharaoh's family; "the firstborn
of beast" are themselves animals.
The Hebrew expressions BEKOR <of a group> and its translation by the
LXX translators reflect the same meaning. The BEKOR is consistently
part of the group. The BEKOR enjoyed a preeminence among the group due
to being the eldest, the first in time, and received the right of
primogenitureship; but this in itself did not make them "rulers over"
or "heirs of" rest of the group.
For example, Numbers 18:17 translates as PRWTOTOKA MOSKWN (the
first-born of calves). The firstborn cow did not rule over the other
cows (genitive of subordination) but it was part of the group
(partitive). As to humans, Numbers 26:5 ROUBHN PRWTOTOKOS ISRAHL
(Ruben was the first-born of Israel). We do not understand this to be
Reuben as firstborn "over" Israel. Reuben did not rule over his
brothers nor his father. He had the special right of primogenitureship
(which he lost), but this preeminence was because he was first in
time, he was the eldest. He was the first of the group of sons that
Israel had. And he was a part of the group. We could also take this
as a genitive of relation -- Ruben was first in time in relation to
his brothers, who were not first in time.
Some cite two examples of figurative use:
>>In addition to the usual meaning, becor also is used figuratively:
Job 18:13 speaks of a deadly disease as the "firstborn of death," thus
Isaiah 14:30 refers to the poorest person as the "firstborn of the
poor" (BDB, 114).
These two examples demonstrate that becor can express a relationship
The BEKOR here is still part of the group and reflects a partitive
genitive even with the figurative use. Outside figurative use, the
usual meaning of PRWTOTOKOS is "prior in generation" (Analytical Greek
Lexicon, p. 355).
It should be noted that when Paul refers to the preeminence of Christ
(which I also believe), he chose the word PRWTEUWN in Col 1:18.
Therefore, I think Paul's audience would naturally have understood the
expression as Jesus being part of the group of creation, the first. Or
perhaps a genitive of relation where Jesus is first in time in
relation to the rest of creation which was not first in time. But to
support PRWTOTOKOS + genitive as a genitive of subordination, one
would need to step well outside the plentiful LXX examples. Therefore,
rather than being appointed or placed as PRWOTOTOKOS, he IS the
PRWTOTOTKOS of all creation.
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