From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Mon Nov 09 1998 - 11:31:11 EST

<x-flowed>At 10:18 AM -0500 11/9/98, wrote:
>In a message dated 11/9/98 4:46:30 AM Pacific Standard Time,
><< Kyle, however, wrote: "Wallace's points seem very sound and convincing. In
> the footnotes, he lists some of the Biblical passages where PRWTOTOKOS refers
>to preeminence--1 Chron 5:1; Ps 89:27; Rom 8:29; Rev 1:5." What does the
>phrase "where PRWTOTOKOS refers to preeminence" mean? None of the passages
>referred to indicate a *lexical* meaning for PRWTOTOKOS different from "the
>one who is born first". Was Wallace using pragmatic implicature rather than
>semantics? >>
>I believe so. In fact, three of the pasages to which Wallace refers have a
>temporal meaning, with preeminence following as a result of the temporal
>priority. The other, Psalm 89:27, is figurative, as shown by the use of
>Also, either Christ is the actual firstborn of God, or someone else is. If the
>use of PRWTOTOKOS in Col. 1:15 is figurative, then who is it that Christ
>supplants as firstborn?

And here at last we get to a central but often unspoken element in this
entire matter; IF Christ in Col 1:15 is FIGURATIVE, then why must he
supplant someone else as firstborn? That is to say, how far do you want to
push the biological metaphor of "begetting" and "giving birth" and "being
born" as appropriate designations of the relationship between God "the
Father" and Christ "the Son"? When Moses is told in Exodus 4:22 to tell
Pharaoh that "Israel is my firstborn son," are we to suppose that Israel is
somehow SUPPLANTING someone else who is a "firstborn son of YHWH" in a more
literal sense? I hesitate to ask that question, for fear that it can only
evoke a theological answer, perhaps one derived from the very body of NT
texts currently under consideration, although I'd be the last one to
suggest that the author of Ex 4:22 has the text of Col 1:15 or 18 in mind.
I think we are pushing the hermeneutical-theological button one stage too
far; I personally think questions are being put to this passage in
Colossians 1 which are beyond the scope of its discourse.

May I urge posters to focus on the Greek text and what it can or must mean?
Is it at all possible to discuss this passage WITHOUT importing one's
theological predilections into the discussion? Probably not. At least to
this point the discussion has remained civil and I hope that, if it
continues on apace, it may retain that civility. But I really wonder how
much further it is possible to test the power of this passage through its
formulation as a Greek text to demonstrate conclusively that there is
one--and only one--right way to read it.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Home: 7222 Colgate Ave./St. Louis, MO 63130/(314) 726-5649 OR

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