From: Jonathan Robie (
Date: Mon Nov 09 1998 - 15:44:44 EST

At 03:04 PM 11/9/98, Wes Williams wrote:
>Of course, what we think is important but I would like to redirect
>attention back to lexical semantics. All posters appears to agree that
>Christ is pre-eminent and that he existed before TA PANTA

Agreed so far...

>(theol. off-list note: the divinity of Christ is not at issue
> with either interpretation).

If you mean that PRWTOTOKOS does not commit one to either position, I
agree. There are other questions raised by the passage as a whole, but I
think you are talking about PRWTOTOKOS here.

>What the lexical issue is that I earlier raised was that PRWTOTOKOS is
>inherently a partitive word, and, as support, I cited 72 instances of
>PRWTOTOKOS + genitive from the LXX. The ablatival use is not an exception
>but rather complements this, as Henry Fowler's definition of "Partitive"
>shows (note the word 'separating' in his definition I include below).
>In an effort to redirect back to lexical semantics, what authority/
>justification from lexical semantics (not theology) and the use of
>PRWTOTOKOS in the LXX exists to assert that the PRWTOTOKOS is not a member
>of the group to which it is related?
>I seek criticism of specific LXX examples (preferably non-metaphorical use)
>to show that the pre-eminent PRWTOTOKOS is not a member of the group in
>which he is pre-eminent. Wallace's citations support the partitive study
>since in all his cited examples the PRWTOTOKOS is a member of the group.
A literal, non-metaphorical use of PRWTOTOKOS would imply that Jesus was
physically born as the first male child born in a physical family, in which
case he would belong to the group of children in the family. Since the word
seems to be used in a wider sense, I think we have to see this as a
metaphorical usage. To see the point of the metaphor, the word has to be
read in context. Certainly, metaphors have a way of using words in unusual
ways, and it is not safe to assume that every aspect of a word's literal
meaning must fit. I think that you and Greg are looking for an
interpretation in which PRWTO- is to be taken literally (and
chronologically, ignoring other possible meanings), but -TOKOS is to be
taken figuratively.

I'm not sure exactly what methodology of lexical semantics you are using,
and I have to admit that I have not studied lexical semantics, but you seem
to be trying to establish a general rule of what the word may be allowed to
mean in any context. This sounds a little procrustean to me, especially
since I think a metaphorical usage is in play here. It is also a different
approach from that of Louw & Nida, who sometimes even create a new sense to
express what is conveyed by an individual use of a word. I don't really
understand the principles you are using or how you have followed them.


Jonathan Robie

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