Re: Col. 1:15-20

From: S. M. Baugh (
Date: Mon Mar 03 1997 - 11:40:53 EST

I have two things to add to the recent exchange quoted below (sorry if
I'm butting in!).

Lee R. Martin wrote:

<What do you think of this outline? I see a pattern that
<includes both parallel and chiasm. What does it say about
<the meaning of the passage?

14 a Redemption
15 b Image of God 15 EIKWN TOU QEOU
15 c Preeminent over Creation 15 A PRWTOTOKOS
16 d All things created 16 B EN AUTW
16 e In Heaven 16 C DI AUTOU
16 f In Earth 16 D EIS AUTON
16 f' Visible
16 e' Invisible
16 d' All things created 18 KEFALH TOU SWMATOS THS
18 c' Preeminent from the dead 19 A' PRWTOTOKOS
19 b' Fulness of God 20 B' EN AUTW
20 a' Reconciliation 20 C' DI AUTOU
                                 20 D' EIS AUTON>

I like your outline too Lee. It picks up on some of the repetitions. and
sees the main division between what I prefer to title: (A) Old Creation
(vv. 15-17a) and (B) New Creation (vv. 18-20) [thoroughly Pauline
notions]. Also, I see v. 17b as the center of the bigger chiasm: "All
things subsist in him" forms the summary of Christ's position over both
creations. If you want to see a fuller development, see my 1985 essay in
Westminster Theological Journal (vol. 47, pp. 227-44).

Rolf Furuli wrote:

>The outline is fine, except `c Preeminent over creation`,
>which rather should be `firstborn of all creation`. Meaning
>may be aquired on different planes and regarding Col1 I:15
>will sum up thus:
>(2) Grammar/Syntax: Genitive is ambiguous, but given the
>meaning `firstborn`, the genitive can hardly be anything but
>partitive - Jesus is `firstborn of all creation`

Although the partitive meaning would be plausible in other contexts,
here Paul's meaning is explained in v. 16 as dealing with Christ's
pre-incarnate *status* (not ontology per se). prwtotokos in v. 15, then,
recalls the status of the firstborn in the patriarchal society as lord
and owner of the inheritance (e.g., Jacob and Esau). Hence, "Firstborn
over all creation" is the preferred rendering taking the genitive as a
noun of "ruling" (like arcwn) and the genitive is objective (the realm).
The use of ek in the parallel phrase in v. 18 [despite textual variant]
is important. If original Paul felt the notion of separation in that
phrase should be made explicit by ek.

S. M. Baugh, Ph.D.
Assoc. Prof. of NT
Westminister Theol. Seminary in Calif.

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