From: S. M. Baugh (
Date: Fri Mar 07 1997 - 00:30:50 EST

For Rolf Furuli et alii!
Dear Rolf,

I'm perfectly happy to let you and the others chat about this PRWTOTOKOS
business without my meddling. Though I must say that your expostulation
to me on the role of assumptions in the interpretive process brought a
not unkind smile to the lips. You might be interested to learn that in
some circles Westminster Seminary is well known for a certain approach
to things which stresses the importance of presuppositions. The vital
role of what I prefer to call "basic commitments" (whether theological
or secular) in epistemology and, in fact, even in the commonplace
decisions of life is the life blood of a Westminster professor. In fact,
on our campus it is rare when one does not bump into some poor,
glassy-eyed student ranting "There are NO brute facts!" after a late
night study of the stuff (i.e., Thomas Kuhn's "Structure of Scientific
Revolutions" was the same old stuff to us when it burst on others like a
bombshell.) In other words, I am keenly aware of the importance of this
thing you call "dogma" (why not "theological convictions"?) in the
exegetical process.

And I also am keenly sensitive of when I am being dogmatic, and when not
(now I am being merely pedantic, not dogmatic). I assure you, my
interpretation of PRWTOTOKOS was and always will be just as firmly based
on sound philological principles and as inevitably mixed with sound
presuppositions (= dogma) as yours. Let me show you; you write:

>But what about Col 1:15? As S M Baugh correctly pointed out,
>the crucial point is the lexical meaning of PRWTOTOKOS.
>Because there is an overwhelming evidence for `the child who
>is born first` which suggests a partitive genitive, the
>rendering `firstborn over all creation` , though
>grammatical possible, is based upon dogma.

Now where is the "overwhelming evidence" you mention except your own
"dogma"? i.e., your own "basic conviction"? (Actually "dogma" can be a
technical Roman Catholic term and is not very felicitous for what you
mean.) What in the text decides the meaning of this term and its
attendant genitive? I at least mentioned my reasons. Are yours in an
earlier post I missed?

My post on PRWTOTOKOS interpreted the term as "lord and heir of
property" referring to "status." I would classify this term in the same
semantic range as, for instance, KLHRONOMOS (I wonder if Louw & Nida do?
My copy is at the office and I'm at home. Sigh). I gave some reasons for
this interpretation (e.g., the OTI clause in v. 16; PRO PANTWN in v. 17;
PRWTEUWN in v. 18). (PRWTEUWN, by the way, should particularly draw our
interest since it is hapax legomenon and etymologically related to
PRWTOTOKOS; there is probably some delicate word-play in this already
ornate pericope.) I thought this meaning so well established in NT
scholarship as not to need much defence.

Anyway, I dug out my old notes and can at least report that Michaelis
(in TDNT 6:476-81, with carefull lexical argument agrees that PRWTOTOKOS
was a 'hierarchical' term conveying "rank" not just "birth" in the OT,
NT, and later Judaism. He really is very clear (and not overly dogmatic)
on this and has some important things to say. (Footnote to all: I know
that since Barr's heavy-handed critique of TDNT/TWNT scholars have been
reticent with it. Yet it is stuffed with valuable basic data and many of
the contributors were linguistically competent. Michaelis is one.)

It seems so simple to see the significance of the PRWTOTOKOS as the one
who holds the PRWTOTOKIA (Heb. 12:16). Hence, he is the "premier" son.
The fact that Esau sold his PRWTOTOKIA meant that he lost his
inheritance of blessing despite his birth order. Well, take a look at
Michaelis anyway.

Thanks for the chat,

S. M. Baugh
Westminster Theological Seminary
in California

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