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

From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Sun Nov 08 1998 - 23:36:10 EST

At 07:28 PM 11/7/98 -0800, Edgar Foster wrote:
>---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.

But whereas 1 Cor 15:28 clearly requires us to see God as an exception,
there is nothing in this passage that tells us to regard Jesus as an
exception. I'm not saying that this interpretation is impossible, merely
that there is nothing in the passage that really suggests this interpretation.

>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 don't want to get into the theology of the Ante-Nicene fathers, except to
say that you can find an amazing variety of views on the nature of Christ
among them, as your example shows. I do not think that the term PRWTOTOKOS
says either that Jesus is God or that Jesus is part of creation; in
context, it seems to point to the preeminence of Jesus, which is, after
all, the theme of the entire passage.

>>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

'Sovereign Lord over all creation by virtue of primogeniture', eh? That's a
pretty good summary of what the whole passage says about Jesus:

"For by Him all things were created, in the heavens and on earth, visible
and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all
things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things,
and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the
church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He
Himself will come to have first place in everything."

I guess I'll have to show my cards on this; I'm afraid can't see how to
read this without concluding that Jesus is:

1. Sovereign
2. Lord
3. Over all creation
4. The PRWTOTOKOS, the one who has the right of primogeniture

Since it would be heretical to say this of any other than the Father and
Jesus, I think that this all *does* boil down to saying that Jesus is God;
however, I do not believe that the word PRWTOTOKOS, in and of itself,
implies deity, and in the context of this passage, it is not the use of the
term PRWTOTOKOS that seems to argue strongest for the deity of Christ.


Jonathan Robie

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