Date: Mon Nov 09 1998 - 16:08:26 EST
In a message dated 11/9/98 8:34:20 AM Pacific Standard Time,
<< 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? >>
Well, if he is not really the firstborn, then, since God has other sons (Job
1:6; 2:1; 38:7) one of them would have to have been the firstborn, unless we
are going to posit that God simply created these sons as a group. Then we have
to account for the fact that Jesus is indeed one of these sons, the MONOGENHS
I personally see nothing in Scripture that suggests that the two terms
MONOGENHS and PRWTOTOKOS, which are typically used to denote a special/unique
offspring, do not have this same meaning in the Christologically significant
texts. Is it possible that Christ could figuratively be called the "firstborn"
and yet there is not any one being who is truly the first creation of God?
Yes. Does the Bible tell us that? No.
<<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"? >>
I do not want to push them to any degree beyond what the Bible says, and since
it uses such terms in a matter-of-fact sense, in line with how we humans
typically understand the terms, then that is what I accept. I am not given any
reason to think that these typically temporal terms do not also denote some
temporal distinction between the one called "firstborn" and the one he calls
Similarly, I have every reason to think that there is a temporal distinction
between God and those who are called his "sons" (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7) even
though elsewhere the Bible does not come out and say, "The angels are created
beings." The Bible uses far more temporal designations for Christ than for the
angels, though they are designations that also set him apart from and above
the rest of the created order.
<<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? >>
In this case the fact that we are dealing with a nation of people as opposed
to an individual being, I hesitate to use this text for comparison purposes,
since the figurative sense is obvious. Also, nowhere else does Jehovah refer
to other nations as his "sons" which would be more in line with the situation
involving Jesus. But if he is not the firstborn son then it is reasonable to
expect, since God does have other sons, that one of those would be the
firstborn. Unless, again, they were created as a group. But, there is nothing
to suggest this, and the distinction made between Jesus and the angels, where
he is described with terms such as MONOGENHS, PRWTOTOKOS, CHARAKTHR and others
presents us with a situation wholly unlike that involving God's choosing of
the Israelites as his special people.
I understand. But I think at this point, though we may have stepped over the
borderline once or twice, we must consider a few angels from a theological
point of view, but only in so far as they help resolve the grammatical issues,
or at least bring into focus the consequences of excepting one grammatical
position over the other.
You have done a fine job in keeping the thread focused, but at the same time
allowing just enough theological discussion so that we might actually come to
grips with this important passage.
<< 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. >>
True, but only by doing so, to some permissible degree, can we effectively
test the result of the proposed grammatical solutions. Still, when you think
we are spending too much time on the theological side of the coin, then I know
all will respect your decision to end the thread.
<< 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 >>
I for one am not suggesting that there is only one right way to view this
text. I think the evidence favors one particular position, but certainly there
are other possibilities.
If I have the time I may post a summary of the grammatical points discussed
thus far, and leave it at that.
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