From: Rolf Furuli (
Date: Thu Nov 12 1998 - 08:49:10 EST

Carl Conrad wrote:

>>I was hesitant to post this question because of the recent problem with
>>My question is related only in that in looking at Col. 1:15 I noticed that
>>in 1 Pet. 2:13 KTISIS is used of a governmental authority. Is this word
>>used in this way outside of the Bible?
>Yes, it is. And I think it's interesting to note the etymological elements
>at play here: KTIZW and its cognates seem to have been used originally and
>most fundamentally of the process of establishing a colony and its
>fundamental sacral and administrative structures, beginning back in the 7th
>century period in which colonies were being sent out in great numbers by
>mainland Greek as far as the Crimea on the Black Sea, the Orontes in Syria,
>the Nile valley in Egypt, the coast of North Africa, and even the French
>Riviera. Applied to the process of world-creation this is a metaphor. There
>is in fact a fascinating passage at the very beginning of Philo's treatise
>on Genesis 1-3 (DE OPIFICIO MUNDI) wherein he lays out a grand analogy of
>the establishment of a new city such as Alexandria and the creation of the
>world and legislating for it.
>KTISIS is therefore a political term in origin, and only by metaphorical
>extension does it become a cosmological term.

Judging from the way that Philo has the whole analogy constructed in DE
OPIFICIO MUNDI, I rather suspect that Christianity takes it from
Hellenistic (and Greek-speaking) Judaism. Although I haven't the evidence
to prove it, I wouldn't be surprised if it comes straight from Alexandrian
Judaism--or perhaps it is common goods of Diaspora Greek-speaking Judaism.
Why not?

Dear Carl,

Your presentation of the background of the Greek term KTISIS seems to be
well founded. However, I would like to offer another suggestion of its use
in the Pauline corpus, namely, that it has a Jewish origin. Given that the
author of the letter to the Colossians was Jewish, he would probably think
in his native language, and here was a term which perfectly fits the
comtexts where KTISIS is found in the Pauline corpus, namely BRIYA.

The Hebrew word in Gen 1:1 which is translated by "created" is BARA, and
evidently, around the turn of our era (BCE/CE) the noun BRIYA became
popular as a term donoting creation or anything created. The use of the
word in these senses ("created being/thing" being the core meaning)
continued beyond Mishnaic times. When I last time studied that Mishna
tractate Abot in Hebrew/Aramaic, I had some time before made a study of
KTISIS, and each time I found BRIYA, I could almost hear the voice of the
author of Colossians. One example is Avot 1:13: "Hillel and Shammai
(contemporanous with Jesus) received from them. Hillel said: Be of the
disciples of Aharon; loving peace, and pursuing peace, loving mankind
(BRIYA) and bringing them near to the Tora." Note 28, page 21 in "Sayings
of the Jewish Fathers". 1969, G.D. Cohen, says: "Lit. TAS KTISEIS. Cf Mark
xvi,15 and (?) Rom viii,19" The use of BRIYA in Avot 1:13 nicely parallels
the use in Colossians 1:23.

KTISIS Is not found in the LXX except 15 times in apochryphal books, and
this suggests a correspondence with the Hebrew BRIYA (examples following).
Judith 9:12 Please, please, God of my father, God of the heritage of
Israel, Master of heaven and earth, Creator of the waters, King of your
whole creation ( PASHS KTISEWS) , hear my prayer.

Wisdom 19:6 For the whole creation (hH KTISIS), submissive to your
commands, had its very nature re-created, so that your children should be
preserved from harm.


Rolf Furuli
Lecturer in Semitic languages
University of Oslo

B-Greek home page:
You are currently subscribed to b-greek as: []
To unsubscribe, forward this message to
To subscribe, send a message to

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.4 : Sat Apr 20 2002 - 15:40:07 EDT