Re: Col. 1:15-20

From: lakr (
Date: Mon Mar 03 1997 - 15:44:26 EST

S. M. Baugh said:
> 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.

I have some questions and a few comments on this issue of the possibilites
of the types of genitive that could fit the context of PRWTOTOKOS of Col 1:15.

I have read most if not all of this thread, so, if I missed it, please
forgive me, but has anyone given examples in the Koine of this period
which illustrate the concept of the 'genitive of subordination' ? I
saw a reference to Wallace's grammar, but I do not have a copy.

If this is a 'genitive of subordination' I can understand how the one
over those subordinated _could_ possibly not be part of the group, but
it does not seem that this is necessary. Perhaps the following examples
are really partitive genitive, but they seem to capture the effect of
subordination :

In Mt 9:34 the 'ARXONTI TWN DAIMONIWN' or ruler of the demons is also part
of the class of demons, in Joh 3:1 'ARXWN TWN IOUDAIWN', Nicodemus was a
ruler of the Jews and a Jew himself.

Also, although I do not particulary care for a line of reasoning to
the effect that 'Paul would have used this [word|tense|form] if he had
_really_ meant to say such and such I will nonetheless fly this trial
balloon to be shot down. (Making mistakes is the way I learn).

The case has been made that there is a relationship between the use of
PRWTOTOKOS in Col 1:15 and Col 1:18 to the effect that the prepostion
EK in 18 shows a separation (which is the true force of a genitive in
any event) and that verse 15 does not carry the same sense. To my mind
the pronoun EK in Col 1:18 'PRWTOTOKOS EK TWN NEKRWN' gives me the sense
of Christ moving _out_ of the class of the dead, which would not fit the
context in verse 15.

Therefore, I propose that if Paul had really meant to emphasize that the
PRWTOKOTOS was the preminent one _over_ all creation that he would have
used the preposition EPI (not EK) as the writer of Acts did in Acts 7:27
" Who made thee a ruler and a judge over [EPI] us ?"

To show that this same writer used this rulership in the genitive without
EK in the normal 'partitive' genitive construction note Acts 23:5 where
Paul, the author of Colossians is quoted : "Then said Paul, I wist not,
brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not
speak evil of [ARXONTA TOU LAOU SOU] the ruler of thy people." (KJV)
In this case the high priest is not only ruler of the people, but part
of the nation of Israel. Paul indicates the he realizes that the scriptures
prohibit reviling the high priest of the God of _his_ people.

The LXX quoted by Paul has an amazing parallel to our discussion in that
it uses PRWTOTOKA for 'ruler' in Ex 22:28 "Thou shalt not revile the gods,
nor curse [ TA PRWTOTOKA TWN UIWN SOU ] the ruler of thy people. (KJV)

This PRWTOTOKA was also _part of_ the class of people. Therefore my trial
balloon is : If Paul meant the genitive to be over the group, he used the
prepostion EPI. If Paul meant to emphasize movement out of a group (while
remaining part of the group) he used EK, and if he meant to emphasize
the that something was _part of_ the group he used the normal form of the
genitive as in Col 1:15 'PRWTOTOKOS PASHS KTISEWS' in the same sense as
all the other examples in the LXX with PRWTOTOKOS as part of a genitive
clause, that of the partitive gentitive, with the associatated meaning
that Christs is 'part of' PASHS KTISEWS.

Larry Kruper

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