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Sunday, August 30, 2009

BWF - 'Beginning,' 'Wisdom,' and 'Firstborn'


(From the RDB Files)

"B e g i n n i n g," " W i s d o m," a n d " F i r s t b o r n"

( R e v. 3 : 1 4 , P r o v . 8 : 2 2 - 3 0 , C o l . 1 : 1 5 )

The Watchtower Society says that when Jesus called himself "the beginning [Greek – arkhe/arche, arch] of the creation of God" - Rev. 3:14, KJV, ASV, RSV, NASB, NKJV, MLB, Douay, Byington, Rotherham, Lattimore, Lamsa, Phillips, Darby, Webster, etc. - he meant "the first thing created by God."

Some trinitarians, however, insist that the word arkhe (sometimes written in English as arche) here does not mean "beginning" but should be rendered "source" or "origin." A few even suggest that John meant "the ruler of the creation of God."

So the real question is: Do the writers of the New Testament ever use arkhe to mean "source," "origin," or even "ruler"? And, more importantly, since John wrote Rev. 3:14, does John ever use arkhe to mean "source," "origin," or "ruler"?

In all the writings of John you will find that he never uses arkhe (arch) to mean "ruler" but, more properly, always uses arkhon (arcwn). If you will check the New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (1981), you will find that even the very trinitarian New American Standard Bible (NASB) never translates John's uses of arkhe as "ruler" but does translate arkhon for "ruler" eight times: John 3:1; 7:26; 7:48; 12:31; 12:42; 14:30; 16:11; and Rev. 1:5. Not only is this word (arkhon) always used with the meaning of "ruler" by John, but it is the only word he uses for "ruler"! [1]

Notice that the only use of "ruler" in Revelation by John, is, of course, arkhon: "from Jesus Christ, ... the first-born of the dead, and the ruler [arkhon] of the kings of the earth" (Rev. 1:5, NASB, cf. ASV, JB, NEB, NAB, NIV, GNB (TEV), ETRV, and Barclay's translation). And it is highly significant that it is applied to Jesus in a way that most likely would have been duplicated at Rev. 3:14 if he had also meant "ruler" to describe himself there. [2]

To pretend that "ruler" was intended by John in this scripture not only ignores John's strict adherence to always using forms of arkhon to mean "ruler," but also ignores the clear scriptural Messianic use of the terms arkhon and arkhe! The well-known Messianic scripture of Micah 5:2 sets the pattern for uses of arkhon as applied to the Messiah. The ancient Septuagint version, often quoted by the NT writers, renders Micah 5:2, "out of thee [Bethlehem] shall one come forth to me, to be a ruler [arkhonta, a form of arkhon] of Israel; and his goings forth were from the beginning [arkhe]...". Clearly, if John wanted to use the term `ruler' to apply to the Messiah, it would have been the already scripturally-established arkhon NOT arkhe! Arkhe was also scripturally-established as meaning "beginning" when applied to the pre-existent Messiah:

Prov. 8:22, 23 - "The Lord [Jehovah] made me [the Messiah is speaking here as `Wisdom' - see `Wisdom' section of this paper] the beginning [arkhe] of his ways for his works. He established me before the age, in the beginning, before he made the earth." - Septuagint. (Many modern respected trinitarian scholars and translators admit the connection of Rev. 3:14 with Prov. 8:22 - see "Wisdom" section. And virtually all the Christian writers of the first two centuries taught that the "Wisdom" of Prov. 8:22-30 was the pre-existent Christ!) It should not be too surprising, therefore, that the only use of "Ruler" to be applied to the Messiah in the entire NT is the already scripturally-established arkhon!

Conversely, the only NT word John has used when he intended the meaning of "beginning" is arkhe. (The only apparent exception to this is archomai (arkhomai) found at John 8:9 - see p. 139 in the New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible. However, even trinitarian scholars admit that this verse is spurious, not written by John but added by a later copyist! - [Jn 9:32 should be more literally translated "from of old".])
To say that John meant "origin"[3] or "source" when he used arkhe at Rev. 3:14 ignores two important facts:

(1) Nowhere else does John use arkhe as "source," "origin," or "beginner."[4] In the 23 times it is found in the writings of John (in the text used by the King James translators), it is always understood in the sense of "beginning" and is always so translated in the KJV. (And every time arkhe is found in the writings of John - 21 times in the text used by the NASB - it is also always translated "beginning" in that most-respected trinitarian Bible.) Here are all the uses of arkhe by John according to Young's Analytical Concordance: John 1:1; 1:2; 2:11; 6:64; 8:25; 8:44; 15:27; 16:4; 1 John 1:1; 2:7 (twice in KJV); 2:13; 2:14; 2:24 (twice); 3:8; 3:11; 2 John 5, 6; Rev.1:8 (KJV); 3:14; 21:6; and 22:13. Notice that the ASV, RSV, etc. also translate these as "beginning" or "first" (in time).

John consistently used arkhe to mean only "beginning." Since it is John's writing we are concerned with at Rev. 3:14, this is of utmost importance.[5]

(2) If John had really intended to use a word for "origin," "source," or "beginner," he could have easily done so. As we will see later, there would have been no reason to use a word that he consistently and frequently used to mean only "beginning."

The Expositor's Greek Testament (trinitarian, of course) tells us that to understand Rev. 3:14 as meaning that Jesus is "the active source" of creation, instead of the first created person, one must interpret arkhe "as in Greek philosophy and Jewish wisdom-literature, = aitia or origin."

Isn't it odd that the Greek word actually used for this philosophical concept is aitia which can honestly mean "cause" or "source"? If the word actually used is aitia, why must one interpret arkhe with a similar meaning? Why wouldn't John have simply used the word aitia if that's what he intended?

The trinitarian theologian Albert Barnes says concerning the NT Greek word arkhe:

"The word properly refers to the commencement of a thing, not its authorship, and denotes properly primacy in time, and primacy in rank, but not primacy in the sense of causing anything to exist.... the word is not, therefore, found in the sense of authorship, as denoting that one is the beginning of anything in the sense that he caused it to have an existence." - Barnes' Notes on the New Testament, p. 1569. [6] 

We also see the highly respected BDAG admits the same for the use of arkhe (or arche) in Rev. 3:14.[7] 

Although there are other words which (more appropriately than arkhe) may be properly translated "source," "cause," "origin," etc., there is one word which is most frequently so used throughout the Bible in the Hebrew and Greek scriptures. This word emphasizes the strong Biblical comparison between "creation" and "procreation." (E.g., "brought forth" at Ps. 90:2 is "begotten" in the original Hebrew and is paralleled here with "gave birth to the earth" - NASB.)

(NASB) Psalms 90:2 "Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God."

(GodsWord) Psalms 90:2 "Before the mountains were born, before you gave birth to the earth and the world, you were God. You are God from everlasting to everlasting."

(Holman Christian Standard Bible) Psalm 90:2 "Before the mountains were born, before You gave birth to the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity, You are God."

(New Life Bible) 90:2 "Before the mountains were born, before You gave birth to the earth and the world, forever and ever, You are God."

(THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language) 90:2 "long before the mountains were born, Long before you brought earth itself to birth, from "once upon a time" to "kingdom come"--you are God."


(NKJV) Isaiah 66:8 Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Shall the earth be made to give birth in one day? [Or] shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion was in labor, She gave birth to her children.  

(GodsWord) Isaiah 66:8 "Who has heard of such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a country be born in one day? Can a nation be born in a moment? When Zion went into labor, she also gave birth to her children."


(NKJV) Acts 17:29 "Therefore, since we are the offspring of God,"

(RSV) Acts 17:29 "Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the Deity is like gold, or silver, or stone ...."

(ASV) Acts 17:29 "Being then the offspring of God,"

(MKJV) Acts 17:29 "Then being offspring of God,"


It is because of this common Bible metaphor that "father" was considered as synonymous (whether as "creator" or "procreator") with "source"! - See p. 190, Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Baker Book House, 1984.

The famous Biblical Hebrew authority, Gesenius, tells us that "Father" means:

"Of the author, or maker, of anything, specially of the creator.... And in this sense God is said to be `the father of men,' Is. 63:16; 64:8; [etc.]. All these ... come from the notion of origin." - p. 2, Gesenius' Lexicon.

Trinitarian Robert Young in his Young's Analytical Concordance, p. 331, also shows this meaning for the Hebrew word ab, " ! : "Father, ancestor, source, inventor."[8]

And trinitarian James Strong in his Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible shows this same understanding when he translates the name "Abigail" as "Father (i.e., source) of joy."

An Encyclopedia of Religion, Ferm (ed.), 1945, p. 273, says:

"Jesus' description of God's relation to human beings as one of Fatherhood emphasized (1) his creatorship to which men owe their very being."

God's people have used "Father" synonymously with "source" or "origin" for thousands of years. When they wanted to use a word that denotes absolute "source" they most often used "Father."[9] Obviously the Son is not the "source of creation" - his Father is! (And what could be more appropriate than the Father's very first creation being called his "Firstborn Son"?)

So John's (and Jesus' and all Bible writers') repeated use of the term "Father" for God stresses over and over that Jesus' Father (and our Father) is the ultimate source who, because of his will (Rev. 4:11) and his spoken command (Ps. 33:6, 8, 9; Ps. 148:5) caused (originated) all things to be made through the obedient efforts of his Firstborn Son, Jesus.

The word "through" (dia in NT Greek) is extremely important here! Although more often translated "by" in the King James Version, dia means "through" in modern English and is rendered that way in modern Bible translations such as RSV, NIV, TEV, etc. (At times some translations may render dia as "by," but it is with the intended meaning of "through": "God's law was given by Moses.") Notice its obvious meaning at Matt. 1:22, "what was spoken by [hypo] the Lord through [dia] the prophet" - NASB. Obviously, the Lord was the source of the message and "spoke" through (dia) the prophet!

Again: John 1:17, "The law was given through [dia] Moses." - NASB. The law obviously did not originate with Moses. Moses was not the source. The source was God even though it was given through (dia) Moses! (Compare Acts 19:11 - "God was performing ... miracles by [dia - `through'] the hands of Paul" - NASB.) Would anyone dare to say that this means Moses (or Paul) actually is God? Of course not!

The Greek word dia is a "primary preposition denoting the channel of an act; through" - Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, #1223.

So we can see that the Father alone is the source and his first creation (the only direct creation by Him), His only-begotten son, is the channel through whom he caused all the rest of creation to be. "His son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through [dia] whom he made the world." - Heb. 1:2. "All things came into being through [dia] him.... The world was made through [dia] him" - John 1:3,10.

Notice how the strongly trinitarian NT Greek experts, Dana and Mantey, explain this scripture:

"`All things were made through him.' Jn 1:3. Here God the Father is thought of as the original cause of creation, and the logos [Jesus] as the intermediate agent." - p. 162, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament.

"For us there is but one God, the Father [compare John 17:1, 3], from [ex or ek, literally: `out of'] whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through [dia] whom are all things, and we exist through [dia] him." - 1 Cor. 8:6. Concerning this very scripture even the highly trinitarian The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology has to admit:

"in 1 Cor. 8:6 the function of God the Father as the SOURCE of creation is distinguished from Christ's role as mediator of creation." - p. 1182, Vol. 3.

Also see The NIV Study Bible footnote for 1 Cor. 8:6:

"See Heb 2:10. God the Father is the ultimate Source of all creation (Ac 4:24)."

Also see A. T. Robertson's Word Pictures: The Father at 1 Cor 8:6 is "the source (ex) of the universe" - Vol. 4, p. 139.

Yes, the NT Greek word ek (or ex) as used here at 1 Cor. 8:6 is another commonly used way of denoting a source. In fact The Amplified Bible (which is excruciatingly trinitarian) makes this understanding very clear in its rendering of 1 Cor. 8:6 -

"Yet for us there is [only] one God, the Father, Who is the source of all things." - AT and CBW. (For more on this very important scripture see the TC study paper.)

This same usage (ex) at Heb. 2:11, 12 shows that God is the source or origin of both Christ and his followers: "all have one origin" - RSV, Mo; "are all of [out of - ex] one" - KJV.
(Jehovah, who is the Father alone, is being addressed by the psalmist at Ps. 36:9: "You are the source [lit., 'fountain'] of all life, and because of your light we see the light." – TEV and "In you is the source of life," – NJB.)

The Encyclopedia of Religion states:

"God the Father is source of all that is (pantokrator) and also the father of Jesus Christ" - 1987, Vol. 15, p. 54.

It should be obvious to all that, if the Father is the source of creation and Jesus is the intermediate agent, then Rev. 3:14 cannot be calling Jesus the "source" or "origin" of creation!


Certain anti-Watchtower writers have condemned the NWT rendering of the genitive noun theou (qeou) at Rev. 3:14 ("the creation by God"). This genitive noun, like most genitives, can be (and usually is) translated with the word "of" preceding it. Therefore, theou is usually translated "of God."

So, at Rev. 3:14, most translations read: "the beginning of the creation of God." Certainly this is a grammatically correct translation, but it does allow a possible ambiguity. Grammatically, "the creation of God" could mean: "the creation belonging to (possessive) God," or "everything created by God," or even, "God Himself being created"!

For example, notice how the genitive noun at Acts 1:22 causes difficulties with its usual rendering of "baptism of John." This rendering could lead some readers to believe that John's own baptism (by some other baptizer) is being spoken of here. Instead, many (if not all) Bible scholars believe the intended meaning here is a baptism performed by John![10]

Therefore, some respected trinitarian translations have used the equally honest (and much clearer, in this case) rendering of "baptism by John" (or its clear equivalent): Living Bible, Jerusalem Bible, NJB, Phillips, REB, CBW, NLV, and Rotherham.

Also notice that the genitive form of "Jesus Christ" at Rev. 1:1 can be properly rendered as "by Jesus Christ" (rather than "of Jesus Christ"): Mo; AT; Beck's New Testament in the Language of Today, 1964; NLV. Also see p. 236 in Zondervan's So Many Versions?, 1983 ed.

We also find the genitive theou at 1 Tim.4:4 ("creation OF God") is rendered "everything created by God" in the RSV; NRSV; NASB; NAB (`91); etc.

And "taught of God" at John 6:45 is rendered "taught by God" in the RSV; NRSV; NIV; NKJV; JB; NJB; NEB; REB; AT; TEV; GNB; NAB (`70); NAB (`91); MLB; CBW; GNB; Barclay; and Moffatt.

Surely no honest Bible scholar can condemn the same rendering by the NWT at Rev. 3:14 !
To sum up the arkhe argument: In ALL of John's writings he uses arkhe with the meaning of "first in time" or "beginning." He never uses it to mean "ruler," but in every case uses arkhon instead. He never uses it to mean "source" or "origin" (nor did any other Christian Bible writer so use it). When speaking of "source" or "origin" he could have used other words which were used by the Bible writers for that meaning, or he could have (and most likely would have) used the most common term with that meaning: "Father."

It should be difficult for Christians to believe that John meant either "origin" or "ruler" at Rev. 3:14 when he consistently and frequently used arkhe to mean only "beginning" (in time) and he consistently used only arkhon to mean "ruler"!

And how "convenient" that this tremendous one-of-a-kind "inconsistency" would just happen to come only at a scripture which otherwise proves that Jesus was created by the Father (the true source) as the first of His works!

We have examined the difference between "from" and "through." We know the one something comes from originally is the source (or "Father" in common Bible idiom) of that thing or idea. The one it comes through is an intermediary for that thing or idea. The father of all (or source) is the one from whom all things come, and the intermediary is the one through whom all things come! They are two different individuals: "Still for us there is one God, the Father [the source], FROM whom all things come and for whom we exist; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through [dia] whom all things come and through whom we exist." - 1 Cor. 8:6, Jerusalem Bible.

The Father is the only True God (Jn. 17:1, 3) and is the only source or origin of all things. Therefore (whether you call him "God" or not) Jesus cannot be the source of creation. Rev. 3:14 must mean what it literally says: Jesus is "the beginning of the creation of God" or the first creation by God.

"Wisdom" and Christ

To further show that Jesus is the first creation of God ("beginning of creation"), we should carefully examine Prov. 8:22-30. The understanding that "Wisdom" in these verses is, in reality, figurative of Jesus in his pre-human existence has always existed in the majority of churches that call themselves Christian. It was commonly noted in the writings of the Church Fathers of the first centuries of Christianity (including such noted scholars as Origen, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, etc.) Many Bible scholars (trinitarians included) have even said that this connection was made in the New Testament at 1 Cor. 1:24.

For example, trinitarian scholar Edmund Fortman writes:

"Paul applied it [Prov. 8:22-30] to the Son of God. The Apologists [Christian writers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries] used it to prove to Gentile and Jew the pre-existence of the Word and his role in creation." - (See CREEDS 5-16: quotes from the writings of Irenaeus, Origen, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, and Justin Martyr which equate the Son with "Wisdom" speaking at Prov. 8:22-30 and admit that he had been created by God as the beginning of God's works - Prov. 8:22.)

Trinitarian scholar Dr. W. H. C. Frend agrees:

"By the time he wrote to the Corinthians in c. 53, Paul had developed in his mind the equation of Christ with the divine Wisdom incarnate (`Christ the power [11] of God and the wisdom of God' [1 Cor. 1:24])." - p. 102, The Rise of Christianity, Fortress Press, 1985.

We even find the extremely trinitarian New Bible Dictionary, 1982, p. 1257, saying:

"it is not unexpected that Paul would view Jesus ... as the Wisdom of God. That Paul saw in Christ the fulfilment of Pr. 8:22 ff. seems apparent from Col. 1:15 ff., which strongly reflects the OT description of wisdom."

And the Gospel writers, according to the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, also may have made the Jesus/Wisdom connection: Luke 11:49 speaks of "a word of the wisdom of God" and the parallel account in Matt. 23:34 ff. "is understood as a word of Jesus." Also, in connection with the Gospels at Matt. 12:42 and Luke 11:31, this trinitarian reference work says:

"This can be understood most easily by thinking of the heavenly wisdom whom men despise: in Jesus this wisdom has finally appeared." - p. 1030, Vol. 3.

The very trinitarian The Ante-Nicene Fathers admits:

Prov. viii 22-25. This is one of the favourite Messianic quotations of the Fathers, and is considered as the base of the first chapter of St. John's Gospel. - ANF 1:488, f.n. #10, Eerdmans, 1993 reprint.

And even that staunchest of trinitarian supporters (and probably the most influential and honored of trinitarian scholars), Augustine, made the "Word/Wisdom" connection with Jesus about 410 A. D. in his famous De Civitate Dei (The City of God), Book XI, Chapter 24.
Why, even at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A. D. Arius quoted this passage as proof that Jesus was not equally God:

"[Arius] had a sharply logical mind and appealed to biblical texts which apparently backed up his arguments - for example, John 17:3....and Proverbs 8:22." - p. 157 (165), Eerdman's Handbook to the History of Christianity, 1977.

And his trinitarian opponent, Athanasius, although sometimes also attempting to appeal to scripture, never refuted this usage of Proverbs 8:22 -

"Athanasius....did not refute Arius by rejecting the relevance of Prov. 8:22." (Even though he attempted to show that Jesus had not been created by quoting Ps. 110:3.) - p. 165 (173), Eerdman's Handbook.

In other words, when Arius quoted Proverbs 8:22 and applied it to Jesus, trinitarian Athanasius didn't dispute that application! Even Athanasius recognized that Wisdom in that scripture was intended to describe the Messiah! We even find Athanasius quoting a letter written by Dionysus, Bishop of Rome (259-268 A.D.) wherein he writes:

"if the Christ is Word and Wisdom and Power, as you know the Divine Scriptures say he is ..." - p. 32, Documents of the Christian Church, Bettenson, Oxford University Press.

Throughout Christendom today trinitarian translators in their reference Bibles refer Revelation 3:14 (which is certainly speaking about Jesus) to Prov. 8:22. For example, the King James Version, Collins Press; the NASB, reference edition, Foundation Press, 1975; and the RSV (with references) published by the trinitarian American Bible Society, all refer Rev. 3:14 to Prov. 8:22. And the GNB (with references) also published by the American Bible Society refers Prov. 8:22 to Rev. 3:14.

It is not surprising that so many Bible translators make this reference. The scholars who have produced the best, most-used texts of the original New Testament Greek used by Bible translators today agree that Rev. 3:14 quoted or borrowed its Greek phrasing from the ancient Greek Septuagint version of Proverbs 8:22 ! These (most, if not all, trinitarian) Bible scholars and their texts in which they have made this connection are:

(1) The Student's Edition of the New Testament in Greek, by Westcott and
Hort, p. 613.
(2) The Greek New Testament, 3rd ed., by the United Bible Societies, p. 844.
(3) Novum Testamentum Graece, by Dr. Eberhard Nestle, p. 665.
(4) Novi Testamenti Biblia Graeca et Latin, by Joseph M. Bover, p. 725.

If Rev. 3:14 meant "the source of God's creation" (or "the ruler of creation"), it would be senseless to refer it to Prov. 8:22 where "Wisdom" ("Jesus") says that Jehovah "created me at the beginning of his work" - RSV. All these trinitarian sources, by referring Rev. 3:14 to Prov. 8:22, are clearly showing, instead, that the one who who calls himself "the beginning of his [God's] work" is the same person who calls himself the beginning of God's creation!

Similar references between Jesus' pre-human existence and Prov. 8:22-30 can be found in many trinitarian Bibles at other verses, also. My trinitarian KJV, for example, refers John 1:1, 2 to Prov. 8:30. My trinitarian NASB refers John 1:2, 3 to Prov. 8:30.

Even the trinitarian Today's Dictionary of the Bible, 1982, p. 389, in discussing the Greek word logos (often translated "Word" at John 1:1) tells us:

"Logos - Gr. for the term used by John as a name for Christ. It is he alone who so uses the term in the Prologue to his Gospel [John 1:1-17] and in the Apocalypse [Revelation]." And, "logos has a verb form ... meaning `to reason.' So, denotatively, the term has two Greek meanings, the primary unit of thought, speech and writing - word; and reasoning."

This same article goes on to describe the specialized pagan philosophical/religious meanings that were used in the "Golden Age of Greece" and concludes that it is unlikely that John would have used such paganistic meanings: "It is more likely, however, that John derives his Logos Christology from the personified Wisdom of proverbs 8." (Although this is a trinitarian tactic to avoid crediting Philo's Logos concept as the source of John's Logos concept, it is nevertheless true that Philo himself used the Wisdom of Prov. 8:22-30 as one of the important sources for his development of the popular early first century Jewish Logos concept. - See the LOGOS study.)

And, on p. 654, this same mainstream trinitarian publication says:

"`Wisdom' in [Proverbs 8:22-30] may be regarded not as a mere personification of the attribute of wisdom, but as a divine person, considered by many to clarify what John means by his use of logos (word) in [John] 1:1-17."

And the trinitarian New Bible Dictionary, 1982, which in its preface stresses its dedication to the "convictions for which the Tyndale Fellowship stands - the triunity of God....," states on p. 1256,

"The personification [of `Wisdom'] continues in Pr. 8 and reaches its climax in vv. 22 ff., where Wisdom claims to be the first creation of God and, perhaps, an assistant in the work of creation (8:30; cf. 3:19; the difficult amon, `as one brought up' in [the King James Version], should be translated `master workman,' as in RV, RSV,....)."

And on p. 1221 this same reference work (which Christianity Today describes as "true to the Bible as God's word" and "destined to become a standard that will be turned to often by students and ministers alike") tells us that "the Word" [Jesus] is "personified as `Wisdom'" at Prov. 8:22 !

And staunch trinity-defender of the 19th century, W. G. T. Shedd, admits that "Wisdom" of Prov. 8:22, 23 is certainly the pre-existent Christ! - Dogmatic Theology, Vol. 1, p. 317.
It is therefore extremely obvious that the identification of "Wisdom" at Prov. 8:22-30 with Jesus is not the invention of the Watchtower Society as some anti-Watchtower trinitarians imply!

So, if you accept the view of the majority of those in "traditional" Christendom throughout the Christian era, you will accept the understanding that "Wisdom" at Prov. 8:22-30 refers to the Messiah.

And if you accept that, then it is clear that the Messiah was created (at least there was a time when he was brought into existence by the Father, Jehovah) before the rest of creation. Note the following trinitarian translations of Prov. 8:22 -

1. "The LORD [Jehovah] created me at the beginning of his work" - RSV, and NRSV.
(Footnote in NRSV says "Or [created] me as the beginning [of his work].").

2."The LORD made me..." - MLB).

3."The Lord formed me..." - Living Bible.

4. "I was made in the very beginning." - Good News Bible.

5."Yahweh [Jehovah] created me..." - Jerusalem Bible and NJB.

6."The LORD created me..." - New English Bible and REB.

7."Jehovah framed me first" - Byington.

8."The LORD created me..." - The Reader's Digest Bible, 1982.

9."I was the first thing made, long ago in the beginning." - Holy Bible: Easy-to-Read
Version, World Bible Translation Center, 1992.

10."The Eternal [Jehovah] formed me first of his creation" - Moffatt.

11."The Lord made me the beginning [arkhe] of his ways for his works" - The Septuagint,
Zondervan, 1976.

12."The LORD created me as the first of his creations" - Holy Bible From the Ancient Eastern
Text (George M. Lamsa's translation from the Aramaic of the Peshitta), Harper and Row
Publ. (Be sure to examine Prov. 8:23-25, 30 in all translations also.)

The Jewish Bibles also translate it similarly:

Jewish Bibles:

Pro 8:22 - “The LORD made me as the beginning of His way, the first of His works of old.” - Margolis JPS translation, 1917.

“The Lord created me at the beginning of His course
As the first of His works of old. - Tanakh, JPS, 1985.

“ADONAI made me as the beginning of his way, the first of his ancient works.” - The Complete Jewish Bible, Stern, 1998.

Why, even that popular trinitarian study Bible, The NIV Study Bible, translates Prov. 8:22 as "the LORD brought me forth as the first of his works" and explains in a footnote for Prov. 8:22:

"brought ... forth. The Hebrew for this verb is also used in Ge 4:1; 14:19, 22 (`Creator')." - Zondervan, 1985.

And the trinitarian The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology tells us:

"Created prior to all the [other] works of creation (Prov. 8:22-31), [Wisdom] discloses to men the original order inherent in creation." - p. 1029, Vol. 3, Zondervan, 1984.

The trinitarian A Dictionary of the Bible, Hastings (ed.) tells us about Wisdom in Prov. 8:

"Wisdom is spoken of in such a way as to make it impossible to believe that only the Divine attribute of wisdom is meant .... It is something outside of, yet standing alongside of, God, created by Him.... Wisdom is further represented as `playing' like a child before Jehovah in His habitable earth, in all the glow of conscious power and as taking special delight in the sons of men." - p. 281, Supplement, 1988 printing.

It is also very clear from scripture that the rest of creation from Jehovah (who alone is the Father)[12] was accomplished through the hands of his first (and only direct - "only-begotten") creation, who was like a master worker for Jehovah. (Remember the trinitarian sources which refer Proverbs 8:30 to John 1:1-3.)

Notice how these trinitarian Bibles render Prov. 8:30:

30 I was beside him, like a master worker" – NRSV.

30 I was beside Him a master builder" – MLB.

30 I was by his side, a master craftsman - Jerusalem Bible and NJB;

30 I was beside him as his craftsman - NAB (1970 & 1991);

30 I was master-workman at his side. - Byington;

30 Then I was the craftsman at his side. - NIV;

30 Then I was beside Him [as] a master craftsman; And I was daily [His] delight, Rejoicing always before Him - NKJV.

30 Then I was beside Him, as a master workman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him - NASB.

30 I was right beside the Lord, helping him plan and build. I made him happy each day, and I was happy at his side. - CEV.

30 Then became I beside him, a firm and sure worker, then became I filled with delight, day by day, exulting before him on every occasion; - Rotherham.

30 Then I was by his side, as a master workman: and I was his delight from day to day, playing before him at all times; - BBE.

30 "I was beside him as a master craftsman. I made him happy day after day, I rejoiced in front of him all the time," - GodsWord.

30 Then I was by him, [as] a master workman; And I was daily [his] delight, Rejoicing always before him, - ASV.

30 Then I am near Him, a workman, And I am a delight--day by day. Rejoicing before Him at all times, - Young's Literal Translation.

30 even I was a workman at His side; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him; - MKJV.

30 then I was at His side, like a master workman; and I was His delights day by day, rejoicing before Him at every time; - LITV.

30 I was with him forming all things: and was delighted every day, playing before him at all times; - Douay.

30 I was a skilled craftsman beside Him. I was His delight every day, always rejoicing before Him. - Holman Christian Standard Bible.

30 then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, - English Standard Version.

30 was beside Him as the leading workman. I was His joy every day. I was always happy when I was near Him. - New Life Bible.

30 I was beside him like a skilled worker. The Lord was happy every day because of me. I made him laugh and be happy all the time. - ETRV.

30 Then I was the craftsman by his side. I was a delight day by day, Always rejoicing before him, - Hebrew Names Version.

30 Then I was by him, [as] a master craftsman; And I was daily [his] delight, Rejoicing always before him, - Updated Bible Version 1.9.

30 I was with him ordring all thinges, deliting dayly and reioysyng alway before hym. - The Bishop's Bible (1568).

30 I was with him, ordringe all thinges, delytinge daylie & reioysynge allwaye before him. - Coverdale (1535).

30 Y was making alle thingis with him. And Y delitide bi alle daies, and pleiede bifore hym in al tyme, - Wycliffe (1395)

30 I was by Him (harmozousa- "arranging all things – f.n.) – The Septuagint, Zondervan, 1970.


([Prov.]8:30; cf. 3:19; the difficult amon, `as one brought up' in [the King James Version], should be translated `master workman,' as in RV, RSV,....)." - p. 1256, New Bible Dictionary, 1982.

"525 [Amon] m. - workman, architect, ... Prov. 8:30, used of the hypostatic wisdom of God, the maker of the world." - p. 58, Gesenius' Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament, Baker Book House, 1979.


"525 amon (54c); from 539; an artificer, architect, master workman:--artisans (1), master workman (1)." - (#) is number of times this NASB word was translated from the original language. - Hebrew-Aramaic & Greek Dictionary:

(also see New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, - p. 1490, #525.

"I. [Amon]: artisan Je 52:15; Prov. 8:30; ['all undisputed instances have been cited']" - p. 19, A Concise Hebrew And Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, Eerdmans, 1988.

It may be that figures of speech and personification sometimes appear to be carried too far for our tastes today. But if this scripture only shows a quality personified, but not actually a person (as some anti-Watchtower publications claim), how can we explain that "Wisdom" (at Prov. 8:22-30) came into existence before the rest of creation?

The scriptures show that Jehovah (and only Jehovah) has always existed (Ps. 90:2). Since he is from eternity and has obviously always been wise, then Jehovah's own personal wisdom has always existed; it never was created or produced. And since wisdom cannot exist apart from a personality who is capable of using it, and, since the "Wisdom" of Prov. 8:22-30 came into existence before the rest of creation, it cannot represent the wisdom of any other creature (whether angels or men) but a "firstborn Son"! [13]

Therefore, this "Wisdom" (at Prov. 8:22-30) must picture a person who was created "at the beginning of His [Jehovah's] work." The rest of the angelic "Sons of God" were created later (but still before "the beginning" of the creation of the world - Job 38:4-7) through the efforts of this Firstborn Son, "Wisdom," the "Master Worker" who came to be at Jehovah's side.


Some trinitarians insist that the literal "firstborn of all creation" describing Jesus at Col. 1:15 really means "the pre-eminent one over all creation."

"Firstborn" (prototokos) is an integral part of the Father = Source idiom so common in the Bible and is closely associated with "beginning" (arkhe) and "only-begotten"  (monogenes).

Jehovah (who is the Father alone) is never referred to as "first-born" in any sense. Any person, animal, or thing who is ever called "first-born" in the Bible is always a part of Jehovah's creation and is literally the very first one born in a family with other children following (or figuratively the very first one in a line of others who share the quality or attribute under consideration).

If we are to understand the literal "first-born" to sometimes figuratively mean "pre-eminent" (as some trinitarians attempt to do - primarily to avoid the literal meaning of Col. 1:15: Jesus "the first-born of all creation" - see RSV), certainly it should, occasionally at least, be applied to the truly pre-eminent one of all, The Most High. But this never happens in the entire Bible!

The Most High (Pre-eminent One) is always the Father (Jehovah only) alone- see Mark 5:7; Luke 1:32; Luke 8:28; the parallel accounts of Luke 6:30-35 and Matt. 5:42-45; Ps. 83:18; and Ps. 7:17. But He is never called "firstborn" (or "only-begotten")!

The source or originator of all creation is the Father as the very title itself, "Father," tells us. Prototokos or "firstborn" is nearly always used, as the word literally tells us, to mean one who is the beginning of his Father's creative (or procreative) power. And, in fact, arkhe (obviously meaning "beginning") is often used in conjunction with prototokos. For example, the Greek Septuagint says at Gen. 49:3, "Ruben, thou art my first-born [prototokos] ... and the first [arkhe - 'beginning'] of my children." - Septuagint Version. 

Even if prototokos could be used to mean "pre-eminent one," it's obvious that the terms "Father" (for the person who is the source and the superior of Jesus), "Son" (the person created by his Father, and in a subordinate, intermediary position to his Father), "only-begotten," "first-born," and "beginning of God's creation" all combine (with the most common understanding of those words by those who spoke and read them at that time) to only one possible conclusion: there was a time when only the Father ("the source") existed. Then, at some point, the Father brought another person into existence and this person was the first production of his creative powers, his "firstborn and the beginning of his creation."

Let's look at Col. 1:15,18:

"He [Christ] is the image of the unseen God and the first-born of all creation,.... As he is the beginning [arkhe], he was first to be born [first-born] from the dead, so that he should be first [proteuo] in every way" - The Jerusalem Bible.

Prototokos, used twice in this scripture, literally means "born first" - see Young's Analytical Concordance - or Strong's Exhaustive Concordance. The New Testament in the King James Version and most other trinitarian translations use this meaning throughout. Here are all the instances of prototokos in the NT: Matt. 1:25 (King James only); Luke 2:7; Ro. 8:29; Col. 1:15; Col. 1:18; Heb. 1:5, 6; Heb. 11:28; Heb. 12:23; Rev. 1:5 (compare Col. 1:18). None of them clearly means "pre-eminent" (although you might be able to "interpret" a few of them as either "first-born" or "pre-eminent" if you tried). Not only do all of these scriptures that use prototokos have either the certain or the most probable meaning of "first-born," but we rarely (if ever) see any Bible translate them as anything but "first-born" or its literal equivalent except at Col. 1:15-18 where the actual meaning would disprove a trinity concept! A few trinitarian translations force an improper interpretation for prototokos at this scripture only (e.g. NIV, NEB).

It is true that being first-born in a family was strongly connected with pre-eminence. The one born first was usually supposed to be the one to receive the birthright and pre-eminence within that family.

But notice the blessings given by Jacob at Gen. 49:3, 8-12, 22-26. The blessings given to Judah and Joseph identify them as the true "pre-eminent ones" of his sons. Reuben, the literal first-born, lost pre-eminence even though he continued to be known as the "first-born" (prototokos in the Septuagint) in the family of Jacob and the "beginning" (arkhe) of Jacob's family - Gen. 49:3, 4; 1 Chronicles 5:1-3 – RSV.

Be careful not to confuse the rights usually given to the first-born with the person of the first-born. The one actually born first (or first in time in any figurative sense) was known as the "first-born." In literal families this first-born was supposed to receive pre-eminence in that family upon the death of his father because of his being born first (in time).

"The first-born son's privileges and responsibilities are known as his `birthright' (bekorah)." - New Bible Dictionary, 1982, p. 378.

At times, however, a first-born would lose his rights (and pre-eminence over the other sons), and they would be given to another son. Even though this person had lost his birthright (and pre-eminence among his brothers), he was still the first-born! - Examine 1 Chronicles 5:1-3 in most Bible translations (e.g., Young's Literal Translation of the Holy Bible, KJV, ASV, RSV, NIV, NAB, JB, etc.) For example, even though Esau lost his birthright to Jacob, he still remained forever Isaac's firstborn.[14]

Yes, the use of the word prototokos in the Bible always means one who has come into existence first in time - before all the rest of his "brothers" - the beginning (arkhe) of his father's creative (or procreative) works. - see pp. 77-88 in Dr. Jason BeDuhn's Truth in Translation, University Press of America, 2003.

Some trinitarians, however, still insist that the Biblical use of the Greek prototokos can, sometimes, mean "pre-eminent" because they dare not admit the obvious, true, literal meaning of Col. 1:15. Their "evidence" for an interpretation of "pre-eminent" for this word boils down to only 7 examples. Five from the Old Testament (Ps. 89:27; Ex. 4:22; Jer. 31:9; Deut. 21:16, 17; and, rarely, Job 18:13) and, sometimes, an appeal to Ro. 8:29 and Col. 1:18 in the New Testament. - See Walter Martin's The Kingdom of the Cults, p. 123.

These 7 examples, then, must be the very best "evidence" possible since there are well over 100 other examples of prototokos found in the Bible, the vast majority of which clearly show by context alone that "firstborn" (in time) is the intended meaning.

The first example, Ps. 89:27, has God saying about "David, my servant" that

"he shall call upon me, saying, `Thou art my Father, my God.... And I will make him firstborn [prototokos], higher than the kings of the earth.... my covenant shall be firm with him." - Septuagint. (Cf., KJV, ASV).

It is true that David was not the firstborn of his father Jesse, nor was he the first king of Israel. However, the first king of Israel, Saul, was rejected by God and removed from God's throne, no longer God's king. The second king of Israel, David, was the first king to remain faithful until his death and, hence, the "firstborn" of all the faithful kings of Israel who will be resurrected by God. He will be "firstborn" (first in time on Israel's throne) among all those kings who will return. However, he certainly will not be pre-eminent over one of those other kings who is his descendent: Jesus Christ.

We also find that David is the first king whom God made a covenant with for an "everlasting kingdom" - 2 Sam. 7:12-16. [He is also the first of the descendants of Judah who are to rule forever (Saul was descended from Benjamin) - Gen. 49:10] He may be considered "firstborn" in this sense, also.

So we can see that Saul was the first king of Israel, but he didn't remain faithful to God ["call upon me, saying `thou art my Father, my God'"]. The very first king of Israel to remain faithful to God was David. In that sense, then, David became "firstborn" [of all succeeding faithful earthly kings of Israel].
However, the later fulfillment of Ps. 89:27 is in the person of Jesus Christ (who is the firstborn of God in another sense) and not the literal David. We see the Messiah being called, figuratively, "David, my servant" at Ezekiel 34:23, 24 just as he is in this Psalm (89:20). We see the final fulfillment of Ps. 89:26-29 in Jesus Christ (Luke 1:32, 33; Heb. 1:5, 6; Jn 20:17).

The second example (Ex. 4:22) is probably the most-used by those trinitarians attempting to prove a "pre-eminent" meaning for prototokos. Here is how it is worded in the Septuagint: God says, "Israel is [the] firstborn [prototokos] son of me." Context reveals that this is the nation of Israel which Jehovah is calling his "firstborn." So in what sense was Israel first in time in relation to Jehovah? It was the first nation to be chosen by him. It has always (since the time of Moses) been the first, but it has certainly never been "pre-eminent" among the nations! And, of course, we must not change the inspired writer's genitive noun ("of me") in this verse to "over me" as has been done at Col. 1:15 in a few trinitarian Bibles (e.g. NIV). How ridiculous to "interpret" this so that God says: "Israel is the `pre-eminent one' OVER me"! (But, of course, this is precisely what some trinitarians have done with Col. 1:15 - "the pre-eminent one over all creation"!!

God's calling the nation of Israel his "firstborn son" obviously means the first nation he has caused to come into existence to be his own (and others must someday follow).
The third example (Jer. 31:9) is actually found at Jer. 38:9 in the Septuagint). Again God is speaking of the nation of Israel (see context of entire chapter): "I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is [the] firstborn [prototokos] OF me."

So how can we understand Ephraim being Jehovah's "firstborn"? - Jer. 31:9.

Here Ephraim is obviously called Jehovah's firstborn in some figurative sense. (The person, Ephraim, was, of course, long dead at this time.) Certainly neither Ephraim, nor even the tribe of Ephraim, was ever Jehovah's "pre-eminent one" or (more parallel to the trinitarian interpretation of Col. 1:15) "the pre-eminent one OVER Jehovah"!

So to explain the use of "firstborn" at Jer. 31:9, the very trinitarian ecumenical study Bible, The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 1977 ed., tells us that

"as [the tribe of] Ephraim is restored, so is all Israel" - p. 954.

This interpretation shows the understanding that the tribe of Ephraim is to be restored first in time ("firstborn"), and then the rest of Israel is to be restored. Notice there is no "pre-eminence" interpretation by these highly respected trinitarian scholars!

Another possibility suggested by trinitarians for "firstborn" at Jer. 31:9 is that, since the land of the tribe of Ephraim is where "the original [first] place of worship [the tabernacle] from the time of Joshua to that of Samuel" - (NAB, St. Joseph ed., p. 902) - was located, in Shiloh, it is God's "firstborn" in that respect (again in the sense of first in time). Or, as explained in Jer. 7:12,

"Go now to my place that was in Shiloh [in `Ephraim'] where I made my name dwell at first" - RSV, NRSV, NIV, and cf. NAB (`91) "in the beginning."

But the trinitarian reference work, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 2, p. 306, Zondervan, 1986, gives us the most probable explanation: the nation of Israel was also called `Ephraim' "by the contemporary prophets, e.g., Isa. 7:1-9, after the central region associated with the name of the younger of the two sons of Joseph."

So we merely have a parallelism at Jer. 31:9 - (1) "I, Jehovah, am a father (I created it) to the nation of Israel, and (2) `Ephraim' (`Israel') is the first nation I have created (`first-born')." - Compare the parallelism at Hosea 11:8. Again we see a confirmation of Ex. 4:22 (the 2nd "example" above) that Israel was the first nation formed at God's direction, and no hint of "pre-eminence" but only the meaning of first in time for "firstborn"! (This is simply one of the many scriptural uses of "Father," "Son," [or "Firstborn," "onlybegotten," etc.] and "brought forth" [or "begot"] to figuratively describe the CREATOR of something and his CREATION!)

And, again, how absurd it would be to interpret this as "Ephraim is the `pre-eminent one' over me [God]."

The 4th example seems, perhaps, the weakest of all of those cited in the OT, but no less an authority than the very trinitarian Biblical Greek scholar W. E. Vine points to Deut. 21:16, 17 as evidence for a "pre-eminent" interpretation for "first-born." The Septuagint reads:

(15) "And if a man have two wives, the one loved and the other hated, and both the loved [wife] and the hated [wife] should have born him children, and the son of the hated should be first-born [prototokos]; (16) then it shall be that whensoever he shall divide by inheritance his goods to his sons, he shall not be able to give the right of the firstborn to the son of the loved one, having overlooked the son of the hated, which is the firstborn [prototokos]. (17) But he shall acknowledge the firstborn [prototokos] of the hated one [wife] to give to him double of all things which shall be found by him, because he is the first [arkhe: beginning] of his children, and to him belongs the birthright." - The Septuagint Version of the Old Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, 1970.

It is obvious that prototokos here means only "one born first." The birthright itself must not be confused with the one it is usually given to: the firstborn (prototokos)! And to "interpret" verse 17 as "he shall acknowledge the `pre-eminent one' OVER the hated [wife]" is clearly ludicrous!

Another example from the OT sometimes used by trinitarians can be found at Job 18:13 -

"His skin is devoured by disease, The firstborn of death devours his limbs" - NASB.

A few trinitarians attempt to interpret this as an example of "firstborn" meaning "pre-eminent" or "foremost." But there is no honest reason to insist that "the firstborn of death" at Job 18:13 must mean something like "the principal disease" (JB footnote). In the first place, to be parallel with the trinitarian-concocted understanding of Col. 1:15 it would have to be interpreted as "the pre-eminent one over death" - which it clearly does not and can not! In the second place, a careful study will reveal that this scripture is literally calling the disease which ravages the wicked man "the firstborn son of death": the first child (or creation) produced by the "god of death."

The NIV Study Bible (1985 ed.) tells us in the footnote for Job 18:13: "death's firstborn. See 5:7." And the footnote for Job 5:7 says:

"sparks. Lit[erally] `sons of Resheph.' In Canaanite mythology, Resheph was a god of plague and destruction [death]. `(Sons of) Resheph' is used as a poetic image in the OT for fire (SS 8:6), bolts of lightning (Ps 78:48) and pestilence (Dt 32:24; Hab 3:5)."

Obviously the NIVSB has referred "death's firstborn" at Job 18:13 to "Sons of Resheph [Death]" to show that the poetic image used in the OT has more than one son attributed to Resheph. Apparently the firstborn of those sons (the first "son" Resheph created) was pestilence. And it is this pestilence (the 'first born of Death') that "eats away parts of his skin ... [and] devours his limbs" at Job 18:13. (This is why the New English Bible renders Job 18:13 as "Death's eldest child.")

A related interpretation (which I prefer):

"[even] the firstborn of death shall devour his strength; ....

"it signifies not what presides over death, but what death first produces, which are corruption and rottenness, dust and worms; these are the firstborn of death, or the firstfruits and effects of it, and which devour and destroy not the skin only, but the whole body and all its members" - The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible.

The first of the two NT examples sometimes used by trinitarians is Ro. 8:29 -

"Those Christians whom he [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn [prototokos] AMONG many brethren." - RSV.

I have found no Bible (trinitarian or otherwise) which renders this scripture with a meaning of "pre-eminent one over many brothers" in spite of the interpretation a few trinitarian "scholars" attempt to give it. Since the word "among" (en in the NT Greek), not "over," is used here, it cannot honestly be rendered as these trinitarians would like. In fact these trinitarian Bibles translate it as "eldest [prototokos] among many brethren" - NEB, REB, CBW, JB, NJB, AT, and Weymouth. This clearly shows the intended meaning of prototokos as first in time not "pre-eminence" (as a careful study of the context also confirms).

As for the other NT "example," Col. 1:18, "proving" the possibility of a "pre-eminent" interpretation for prototokos, all we have to do is examine Col. 1:15-18 carefully.
We see prototokos clearly meaning "the one born (or reborn) first" at 1:18 where Jesus is the firstborn (or first to return from death to eternal life) from the dead.

To make it even clearer, the trinitarian The Jerusalem Bible (cf. NEB; REB; and Beck) translates it: "first to be born from the dead." - Compare 1 Cor. 15:20, 23 and Rev. 1:5. Surely there is no doubt that first in time is intended here, not "pre-eminence."

"firstborn. Christ was the first to rise from the dead with a resurrection body. .... Others who were raised from the dead ... were raised only to die again." - The NIV Study Bible footnote for Col. 1:18.)

It is also very plain that Paul frequently speaks of certain Christians being resurrected as spirit persons in heaven and that Jesus was the firstborn of these dead, i.e. the first of many persons who are to be resurrected to eternal life in heaven.

1 Cor. 15:20 - "Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits [`the first of millions' - LB; `the very first to rise' - Phillips] of those who have fallen asleep." - RSV and many others.

1 Cor. 15:49 - "Just as we [faithful Christians who have the hope of being resurrected to heaven] have borne the image of the man of dust [Adam], we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven [Jesus]."

The Apostle John also writes of this truth and also uses the term "first-born" to describe it: "and Jesus Christ ... the firstborn [prototokos] of the dead" - Rev. 1:5, RSV. Or "first to be raised from death" - GNB; also see LB, Beck, and Beck (NT)). Even the extremely trinitarian The Amplified Bible explains "firstborn of the dead" at Rev. 1:5 as, "that is, first to be brought back to life."

Rev. 2:8 makes a similar statement, but could be phrased as the "only-begotten" from the dead (in the sense that Jesus is the only one to be raised to heavenly life by God Himself. All others are to be raised through Jesus). "The first and the last" simply means the only one in some sense. Adam, for example, was the 'first and the last' in the sense that he was the only one to be created directly from the elements of the earth.

This "firstborn" and "only-begotten" concept for the second creation (resurrection to eternal life) also explains why Jesus can be called the firstborn and the "only-begotten" in another sense: The first of God's creation ("Firstborn") and the only one ('only-begotten') created directly by God Himself.

These examples in Revelation are therefore clearly a repetition of this same well-established truth that Paul is restating at Col. 1:18.

We cannot seriously believe that Paul is telling us at Col. 1:18 that Jesus is the "pre-eminent one" over the dead. Especially since the actual wording by Paul is "the beginning [arkhe], firstborn [prototokos] OUT OF [ek] the dead." - see any interlinear New Testament (or as also confirmed by John "The firstborn OF the dead." - Rev. 1:5). There can be no honest doubt that Col. 1:18 does not mean "pre-eminent one OVER the dead"! It clearly means "the first one resurrected to eternal life in the `new creation'."  

Remember, the above 7 examples are the very best "proof" available to desperate trinitarian scholars that prototokos can mean "pre-eminent" in Bible usage! But even they (like the more than one hundred other examples of prototokos in the Bible) show that only firstborn in time is meant.

Now notice how the first use of prototokos (in Col. 1:15 - "the first-born of all creation") is used as a complement for the second use of prototokos (in Col. 1:18 - "the first-born from the dead").

That is, being "firstborn of all creation" is equated with and added to being "firstborn from the dead" (or first of the final creation - the ones who will receive eternal life). When these two "firstborns" (the first and the last) are added together the sum is one who is "first [proteuo] in everything" - Col. 1:18, JB, NWT, Living Bible (also known as The Book and The Word), and the New Testament in the Language of Today (Beck).

(Also notice how the ancient Aramaic text renders Col. 1:18 - "he is the beginning, the firstfruits of the resurrection from the dead, that in all things he might be first." - Lamsa. Compare 1 Cor. 15:20 - "But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep [in death]." - NASB.) In both cases -'firstborn' and 'firstfruits' - we understand the meaning as the first one produced.)

To insist on a literal "born" (rather than the figurative first "created") in Col. 1:15-18 would mean that we must also understand him as literal vegetation ("fruit") at 1 Cor. 15:20 instead of the figurative 'first one produced or created from the dead'!

So when the distinction of being the very first person to be resurrected to eternal life in the "last creation" is added to the distinction of being the very first of God's original creation, we truly have a person who was the very "first in everything." (Proteuo is often translated "pre-eminent" for this verse. It literally means, however, either `to be first' or 'hold the first place' - Thayer. It derives from protos which means first in time, place, or rank - Thayer.)

"Jesus was the first-born (prototokos) of his mother (Mt. 1:25; Lk. 2:7) .... Jesus is also the first-born of his heavenly Father. He is the first-born of all creation...(Col. 1:15-17). Similarly, he is the first-born in the new creation by being raised first from the dead" - New Bible Dictionary, (2nd ed.), 1982, p. 378, Tyndale House Publ.

This respected trinitarian publication clearly admits, then, that "firstborn" is used in the same way ("very first in time") for each of these scriptural uses of prototokos for Jesus: Jesus was the very first child Mary brought into existence (Matthew 1:25); Jesus was the very first person brought into existence in the new creation (Col. 1:18; 1 Cor. 15:20; Rev. 1:5); and Jesus was the very first thing brought into existence in God's first creation!!

Furthermore, these two "first-borns" of Col. 1:15 and Col. 1:18 must closely parallel each other in meaning to make the comparison (or "addition") sensible and complete! They are of like kind (firstborn in time, not "pre-eminence") so they can be added together and summed up: "So that he should be first in everything." - Col. 1:18. It would be inappropriate to have the first use of prototokos (Col. 1:15) mean "pre-eminent" for the first creation and the second use of prototokos (Col. 1:18) mean (as it so obviously does) "first in time" for the "last creation."

So Paul is probably making a play on words with the two definitions of proteuo when he sums up by saying Jesus is "first [proteuo] in everything." He must intend the meaning of `first in time' to agree with the rest of his metaphor.

There is no proper reason to change the intended meaning of prototokos at Col. 1:15 so that it differs from every other Bible use of the word. The only reason that some trinitarians attempt to interpret it as "pre-eminent one" is that they don't like what it actually, literally says!

Finally, notice that even if Col. 1:15 could be properly translated as "the pre-eminent one of all creation," it could only mean one thing: that he is the highest one of all created things (that is, he IS ONE OF THOSE CREATED THINGS)!

It cannot mean that he is the highest individual over all created things. This is an impossible interpretation for two reasons:

(1) The word "pre-eminent" actually rules out the possibility of a double interpretation. For example: "The leader OF the wolves" is capable of a double interpretation: (A) "The Leader" could be one of the wolves himself. And (B), although unlikely, it is possible that the leader of the wolves is not one of the wolves himself. It is possible that he is a dog, coyote, or even a man. However, the phrase "smartest (or `smartest one') OF the wolves" does not allow for such an ambiguity, and it is, therefore, certain that this "smartest one" IS one of those wolves.

"Pre-eminent" (or "pre-eminent one"), like "smartest" (or "smartest one"), also does not allow for that ambiguity. The "pre-eminent one OF creation" has to be a part of that creation himself!

(2) As we have already seen, the Bible clearly and repeatedly states that Jehovah (the Father alone) is pre-eminent over all creation. Therefore Jesus cannot be the pre-eminent one over all creation but is the first creation of God!

We have also seen that in the Bible the term "firstborn of ..." never means "pre-eminent one over ..."! "Firstborn of Abraham" for example never means the "pre-eminent one over Abraham." Even if we could properly allow "pre-eminent" as a meaning for prototokos, it would mean no more than "pre-eminent one of Abraham's creation (or procreation)"! Whenever anyone calls Jesus the firstborn son of God, it plainly means the first of the "children" God has produced. (Obviously it does not mean "the pre-eminent one over God.") Therefore, when Jesus is called the firstborn of creation, it clearly means that he is the first of that creation that God has produced.

And, again, even if "firstborn" could mean "pre-eminent one," Col. 1:15 would still be saying that Jesus is the "pre-eminent one" of creation. In other words, he is part of that creation, albeit the first and highest part!

We should also consider that those whom God calls son are those whom he has created: Luke 3:38; Rev. 21:7; Gen. 6:2; Job 1:6; Ps. 89:6 [f.n. in RSV and compare LB]; Gal. 3:26. Jesus' very title, the Son of God, indicates that he was created. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia tells us that angels are called `sons of God' in the Scriptures. Then it states:

"the creation of angels is referred to in Ps 148 2, 5 (cf Col 1 16). They were present [in the beginning] at the creation of the world ... (Job 38 7)." - pp. 132, 133, Vol. 1, Eerdmans, 1984 printing.

In the very same way, those who are said to be the "image" of God are not God himself (he's obviously not his own image) but a part of God's creation! Notice who the image of God is in these scriptures: Gen. 1:26; 9:6; 1 Cor. 11:7; 2 Cor. 3:18.

Therefore, when Col. 1:15 says Jesus is "the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation" (RSV), we know Paul is speaking of someone who is the very first creation made by God (and was created "in his image" long before man was also created "in his image")! - Cf. Gen. 1:26, 27. - See the IMAGE study. 

There are only two valid, scriptural understandings for "firstborn of ...." If it is used with a single individual (e.g., `firstborn of Moses'), then it means the firstborn has been produced (or created) by that individual. If it is used with a group of individuals (e.g., `firstborn of the herd' - Deut. 12:6; 15:19; `firstborn of our sons' - Neh 10:36), then it always means one who was produced as a part of that group!

That's why, for example, "the firstborn" at 2 Chron. 21:3 may be understood only as either "the firstborn of Jehoshaphat" or "the firstborn of all Jehoshaphat's children." In the first case the firstborn is the first production (or creation) by Jehoshaphat. In the second case the firstborn is the first to be created of all Jehoshaphat's CHILDREN. But in either case it is speaking of the first one created!

Clearly, then, if Jesus is called the firstborn of God, he is being identified as the one first produced by God. And when he is called the firstborn of creation (a group of individuals), he is being identified as one who was produced or created as a part of that group. In other words: Out of all things created by God, Jesus was the very first. [15]

* * * * *

Some anti-Watchtower writer has evidently come up with an idea that I have seen used in letters to fellow Christians here in Ketchikan. The argument usually goes like this: "If Paul had really meant `the first creation by God' at Col. 1:15, he would have used the word protoktistos which means `first creation' instead of prototokos." (Notice the argument here is not that proto doesn't actually mean "first in time" but that ktistos ["creation"] is more appropriate than tokos ["born"]!)

I do know, however, that protoktistos was never used by any inspired NT scripture writer. It should certainly be no surprise, therefore, to learn that it isn't used at Col. 1:15, 18 ! [16]

Furthermore, the Bible frequently uses the word for "born" in place of "made" or "created" as would be expected from the common Bible idiom of "Father" as creator or source - Ps. 90:2 ("brought forth" in some translations is the Hebrew word for "born"); Is. 66:8-9; Job 38:28-30; Prov. 8:24-25. So not only was protoktistos not used in the NT at all, it was completely unnecessary because "first-born" could be used with the very same meaning!


For Endnotes go to: BWF - Pt 2 (Endnotes)