Re: PRWTOTOKOS in Col 1.15,18

Date: Tue Feb 25 1997 - 14:14:35 EST

In a message dated 97-02-24 20:07:39 EST, Juan Stam writes:

<< I find it striking that the construction with PRWTOTOKOS has an important
 difference between 1.15 (genitive singular) and 1.18 (EK with genitive
 plural). In a passage so symmetrical and tightly structured, with very
 close parallelism in most of its members, why is the parallelism broken
 for this crucial expression? Can any reaon be given why the EK
 construction would be used in 1.18 but not in 1.15? Many thanks, Juan >>

Juan's comments led me to an enjoyable study on the structure of Col.
1:15-20. Murray J. Harris presents a good structural analysis of the passage
in "Colossians and Philemon," Eerdmans, 1991, 41-42.

of an extended comparison between TA PANTA EN TOIS OURANOIS and (TA PANTA). .
. EPI THS GHS (1:16). The first contrast in 1:15 is between hOS ESTIN EIKWN
Jesus is the image of the unseen God vs. the firstborn of creation. hOTI
indicates that these two apparently contradictory descriptions are based on
the evident fact that Jesus created all things on heaven and earth, the seen
and the unseen. 1:18 continues the contrast by stating that Jesus is the
firstborn from the dead as well as the head of the church in 1:17, with the
purpose (hINA) that he might be preeminant in all. This is in contrast with
the dwelling of the PLEROMA in him (1:19). Therefore, the context shows
 Jesus' participation in both the unseen divinity and the seen humanity. So
in a sense, I have no problem with Wes Williams' remark that readers would
take PROTOTOKOS PASHS KTISEWS as an indication that Jesus was part of
creation (ie. humanity), as long as it is just as strongly asserted that
Jesus was equally (and in contrast) part of divinity. The point of all this
is made in 1:20: Jesus was fully God-man and preeminant in both heaven and
earth in order that he might achieve the reconciliation between heaven and
earth (the seen and the unseen, God and humanity) through his blood.

The passage culminates with the reconciliation theme, which is applied to the
Colossians in 1:21-22.

Therefore, in answer to Juan's question, I agree with Carl Conrad, that
PROTOTOKOS in 1:15 and 1:18 reflects two different functions, but that there
is also common ground. PROTOKOS in both cases reflects Jesus' relationship
with creation and humanity. The contrast would be 1:15 refers to a general
identification/ participation with humanity and creation, while it looks like
1:18 shows the other side of the coin in an ablative kind of way--from the
point of identification in death he is the first born out of death--that is,
the first to pass out of death to life through resurrection.

Therefore, this phrase PROTOTOKOS PASHS KTISEWS shouldn't take on a life of
its own and walk across the floor. It looks to me like the most elegant
statement in scripture of the hypostatic union. It that term to too
theological, a rose by any other name. . .

Cindy Westfall
post-grad student
Denver Seminary

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