From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Wed Mar 05 1997 - 08:36:23 EST

Dear Cindy,

Thank you for your post which contained many good remarks.

<I rather see all of v. 17 as the apex: KAI AUTOS ESTIN PRO
<point of the passage is the <preeminence of Jesus in every

I agree, but to keep the balance I will add: (a) In no way
does his preeminence davalue the supreme position of God (1
Cor 15:27,28), (b) It does not add the meaning `preeminent`
to PRWTOTOKOS, because the context does not give words new
meanings, and (c) It does not shed light on whether Jesus
was created or is eternal.
I also have a few other comments:

<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 generates God.

The question about generation versus creation is important
when we are discussing Col 1. Looking at the pre-Nicene
church fathers we find a strange combination of belief. On
one hand there is an almost unanimous agreement that Jesus
was distinct from God and subordinated to him, on the other
hand they believed that Jesus, or rather the Reason of God
from which he generated, was eternal. Most of the fathers
believed in a two-stage theory of generation: Logos existed
first as thoughts of God and was later generated. Irenaeus
and Origen believed in just one stage where the Son is
`always being generated`. (Prooftext:Prov 8:25 LXX (LXX has
wrongly redered the H perfective verb as imperfective)).
There is good reason to believe that Origens view can be
traced back to his Neo-Platonist teacher Ammonnius Saccas.
His pupil Plotin used exactly the same words about the ideas
as Origen did about logos. Also the view of the other
fathers can be traced back to Platos eternal ideas. Thus
the technical use of `generation` as opposed to `creation`
is not rooted in the Bible but rather in Greek philosophy.
This, and the fact that Athanasius used the Platonic theory
that the `ousia` which the words refer to change their
meaning (example: `created` applied to Jesus would get the
meaning `generated` because Jesus is God),is the reason why
I advocate that theology should be shunned i the first
stages of the examination of a biblical passage.

<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.

I agree with your last sentence. However, there is
absolutely nothing in Col 1 referring to the birth of Jesus
by Mary. But there is something else of which the Colossians
may have had a knowledge, which more modern commentators
than not say Paul alludes to, and which almost all the
mentioned church fathers applied to Jesus, namely Proverbs
chapter 8. (This will also give a test to your word
`probably` in the first sentence of the above quote.)
Verse 1 refers to `wisdom`, verse 22 says that YHWH made
`wisdom` as the beginning of his way, before his other
works, and v 30 says that when God created heaven and earth,
`wisdom` was his `master workman` (AMON).
In Col 1,2 we find a conceptual parallel to Prov 8. Paul
applies several times the word `wisdom` to Jesus (cf 1 Cor
1:24), and most interesting, he also does this in Col 2:3.
Further parallels: Prov 8:22 `created me as the beginning of
his way` with Col 1:15 `firstborn of all creation`, and Prov
8:30 ` I was..master workman` with Col 1:16 `in him all
things were created`.

The choice of words of Prov 8 shows without any doubt that
`to be born` and `to be crated` both in H. and G may be used
as synonyms. The verbs referring to the same event, to the
origin of wisdom are:
v22 H: QANA (= aquire, make) G: KTIZW (= create)
v23 H: NASAKH (= set, install) G: qemeliow (= to found)
v24 H: HHUL (= give birth with pain) G: No equivalent
v25 H: HHUL (= give birth with pain) G: GENNAW (= beget,

I stress that such a comparison as to importance,in my
approach only relates to plane III. (Plane I: Linguistics
and philology of the passage, plane II:
linguistic/philological/ conceptual clues in the near
context, plane III: Bible patterns/parallels and theology).
However, I think that this parallel sheds more light of Col
1:15 than any chiastic pattern.



Rolf Furuli
Ph.D candidate in Semitic languages
University of Oslo

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