Re: PRWTOTOKOS (was col 1:15 greek help)

From: Edgar Foster (
Date: Sat Nov 07 1998 - 22:28:04 EST

---Jonathan Robie wrote:

>Yes, I have also been reading this as an instrumental EN, but if "all
things" were created by means of Jesus (instrumental EN), then Jesus
does not belong to the class of "all things" that were created.<

There is more than one way out of this seeming dilemma. For one, TA
PANTA can be used in a relative sense. An example of this very usage
is 1 Cor. 15:28: AUTWi TA PANTA. Cf. 1 John 2:27.

Secondly, if EN can be understood as instrumental in 1:16, then this
could imply that the Father first created the LOGOS; then THROUGH HIM
created TA PANTA. This seems to be the way that the Wisdom writers
understood matters, as did certain Ante-Nicene fathers. In this
regard, Lactantius wrote:

"I will now say what wise religion, or religious wisdom, is. God, in
the beginning, before He made the world, from the fountain of His own
eternity, and
from the divine and everlasting Spirit, begat for Himself a Son
incorruptible, faithful, corresponding to His Father's excellence and
majesty. He is virtue, He
is reason, He is the word of God, He is wisdom. With this artificer,
as Hermes says, and counsellor, as the Sibyl says, He contrived the
excellent and wondrous
fabric of this world. In fine, of all the angels, whom the same God
formed from His own breath, He alone was admitted into a participation
of His supreme
power, He alone was called God. For all things were through Him, and

So according to Lactantius, the Son was brought forth before the other
angels. Nevertheless, the Son is an angel--the preeminent angel of
God. He is a "created God" (he is called "God" according to
Lactantius) who shares in the Father's work of creation. In this
sense, the Son is the firstborn of all creation. Consequently, being
the agent of TA PANTA doesn't have to mean that he is not to be
grouped with the said created order.

>All of this is to say that hO LOGOS being termed PRWTOTOKOS in Col.
1:15 does not have to imply that Jesus is ISA QEW.<

>I don't think anybody has said that PRWTOTOKOS is a synonym for God.<

Maybe you haven't said that PRWTOTOKOS = God, but others have made
this claim.

Quoting Lightfoot, Ralph Earle writes:

"In its Messianic reference this secondary idea of sovereignty
predominated in the word PRWTOTOKOS, so that from this point of view
PRWTOTOKOS PASHS KTISEWS would mean 'Sovereign Lord over all creation
by virtue of primogeniture" (Earle 350).

Earle is not alone in drawing this inference from Paul's use of


Edgar Foster

Lenoir-Rhyne College

Hickory, NC

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