Date: Tue Mar 04 1997 - 16:42:24 EST
Subj: Re: PROTOTOKOS
Date: 97-03-04 15:37:51 EST
Like Rolf, I was ready for an end to discussion. However, at least for
myself, I need to attach a few addendums to his statements.
may be aquired on different planes and regarding Col1 I:15
will sum up thus:
(1) Lexical Semantics: There is a strong case for Jesus
being `the first child of God`.
(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`
(3) Context: Your pattern is nice, and I find in it the
truth that Jesus is mediator both in creation and in
reconciliation. God is the creator, Jesus the mediator, God
is the reconciler, Jesus is the mediator. I cannot see that
the outline help us decide whether Jesus is a creature or
Jesus was born by Mary into this world according to Luke.
But Jesus existed prior to this,and there are two
possibilities: either he is uncreated and eternal or he is
the first creature made by God. This was the real issue at
Nicaea. In our philological context it should be pointed out
that the expressions `to be created` and `to be born` do not
exclude one another, but they are in the OT used of the same
1. Lexical semantics: PROTOTOKOS is the language of generation, not
formation/creation. PRO means first, TOKOS comes from the aorist root TEK
(born) from TEKEIN. In contrast, in I Tim. 2:13 ADAM GAR PRWTOS EPLASQH:
Adam was formed first. Of course, as most or all on the list know, this was
the issue at the Council of Nicea in 325. Right or wrong, they agreed with
some later modifcations that the Son was generated by the Father and
therefore was HOMOOUSIOS, of one essence, because God makes creation, but
Examples in the OT probably would not be parallel. Would you assume that the
Colossians had no presuppositional pool/oral tradition about either Mary
conceiving by the Holy Spirit, or Jesus claiming God as Father in a literal
sense? I would gather that they shared a common oral tradition about Jesus'
claims to paternity.
2. Grammar/syntax: I agree with Rolf that the sense of . . . PASHS KTISEWS
could be ablative or partitive. But in what sense? The first generated by
God out of all creation. This works whether we are talking eternal
regeneration or a Luke 2 birth. Jesus is God's PROTOTOKOS. It is on the
basis of Jesus' birth/generation that believers are regenerated, reborn,
adopted, or heirs. (I think it was Carl that mentioned that we are dealing
somewhat with metaphoric language). This compares and contrasts with His
resurrection (PROTOTOKOS EK TWN NKRWN--v. 18).
3. Context: This passage is made in the context of 1:12-13 which introduces
the language of inheritance and sonship. That is the readers are qualified
to share in the KLHROU (inheritance, v. 12), which is equated to THN
BASILEIAN TOU hUIOU (v. 13). The means by which the readers are transferred
out of darkness to the kingdom is Jesus' unique relationship to both heaven
The subsequent reference EN AUTWi EKISQH (v.16) where Jesus is the instrument
or means (not agent) of creation still places him outside of the formation,
since he would not be the instrument of His own formation
4. Structure: (and this is rather important) The chiasm which we all seem
to recognize has v. 17 at its apex, as S. M. Baugh has indicated. That would
place v. 17, or at least 17b as the emphatic element of the chiasm. I rather
see all of v. 17 as the apex: KAI AUTOS ESTIN PRO PANTWN KAI TA PANTA EN
AUTWi SUNESTHKEN. Therefore, the point of the passage is the preeminence of
Jesus in every sense. The individual elements of the passage were meant to
support the point: "He is first of/over all, and all things consist in Him."
Which makes the conservative rendering of the genetive in 1:15 as synonomous
with a "noun of ruling" more consistent with the sense of the passage than
taking it as an indication that Jesus was part of creation--if you mean on
the same plane as other created things. Clearly, the whole passage places
Him on a unique plane--one that qualifies him to share in every sense with
divinity and humanity in such a way that he could reconcile the two.
Therefore, I agree with Rolf's recent and earlier observations that
PRWTOTOKOS PASHS KTISEWS can be partitive. I definitely agree that EN AUTW
ESTISQH TA PANTA refers to Christ as the instrument or means of creation (not
the agent). But his conclusion goes beyond the passage and leaves out the
other side of the contrast in the passage. The passage equally balances his
relationship to heaven and earth. The implication would be that however much
he was human, he would be divine to that same extent so that he could effect
a reconciliation. A real paradox, no doubt.
As I said earlier, this whole chiasm provides the grounds for the hOTI clause
in vv. 19-20. He was first in heaven and earth so that he could reconcile
and make peace between earth and heaven. And that is why in v. 12-14 the
readers could be transferred from the domain of darkness into the kingdom of
light where they share in the inheritance of the firstborn (of God) Son.
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