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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Col. 1:15 "Firstborn of all creation"

Col. 1:15

FIRSTBORN (PROTOTOKOS) - A Part of the larger BWF Study

(From the RDB Files)

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 paper.

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.

* * * * *

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 !
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!


Matt13weedhacker said...

Heres something you will virtually never here Trinitarians talk about in the ANF:

MILETO OF SARDIS (circa 110 to 177 C.E.): "...The following works of these writers have come to our knowledge. Of Melito, the two books On the Passover, and one On the Conduct of Life and the Prophets, the discourse On the Church, and one On the Lord's Day, still further one On the Faith of Man, and one On his Creation, another also On the Obedience of Faith, and one On the Senses; besides these the work On the Soul and Body, and that On Baptism, and the one On Truth, [καὶ περὶ κτίσεως καὶ γενέσεως Χριστοῦ] and On the Creation and Generation of Christ; his discourse also On Prophecy..." - (Eusebius Church History Book IV: Chapter 26.2. Melito and the Circumstances which he records.)

Notice what the footnote in the CCEL version says:

[FOOTNOTE 1290] "Six mss., with Nicephorus, read κτίσεως, “creation,” but five mss., with the Syriac and Rufinus, and possibly Jerome, read πίστεως. The latter reading therefore has the strongest external testimony in its favor, but must be rejected (with Stroth, Otto, Heinichen, Harnack, etc.) as evidently a dogmatic correction of the fourth century, when there was an objection to the use of the word κτίσις in connection with Christ..."

NOTE: The Trinitarians tried to change κτίσις = "Creation" because it no longer agreed with their new doctrine.

Matt13weedhacker said...

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: “And if any man sin,” he says, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ.” For so the Lord is an advocate with the Father for us. So also is there, an advocate, whom, after His assumption, He vouchsafed to send. For these primitive and FIRST-CREATED virtues are unchangeable as to substance, and along with subordinate angels and archangels, whose names they share, effect divine operations. Thus also Moses names the virtue of the angel Michael, by an angel near to himself and of lowest grade. The like also we find in the holy prophets; but to Moses an angel appeared near and at hand. Moses heard him and spoke to him manifestly, face to face. On the other prophets, through the agency of angels, an impression was made, as of beings hearing and seeing...” - (Fragments) Translated by William Wilson, Collection I, Fragment 3

The above is found in the ANF by two different names: Rufinus Latin title: "Adumbrationes" in 1 John 2:1; or by it's Greek name "Hypotyposeis" (Ὑποτυπώσεις) a Greek word that means "sketches, outlines, or drafts," and it was the title of a commentary by Clement of Alexandria (fl. 190s)

GREEK TEXT: πρωτόγονοι καὶ πρωτόκτιστοι δυνάμεις = "first-born (ones) and FIRST-CREATED powers" = all the words are plural except (καὶ) "and" because of the Grammar rule of Concord or Agreement.

LATIN TEXT: hae namque primitivae virtutes ac primo creatae, inmobiles exsistentes secundum substantiam, cum subiectis angelis et archangelis, cum quibus vocantur equivoce, diversas operationes efficiunt.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA ( c 155 - 220 C.E. ): "...For He was the Wisdom “in which” the Sovereign God “delighted.” For the Son is the power of God, as being the Father’s most ancient Word..." STROMATA: BOOK 7; CHAPTER 2

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA ( - 220 c.e.): “...ἀλλ' οἳ μὲν διήκειν διὰ πάσης τῆς οὐσίας τὸν θεόν φασιν, ἡμεῖς δὲ ποιητὴν μόνον αὐτὸν καλοῦμεν καὶ λόγῳ ποιητήν. παρήγαγεν δὲ αὐτοὺς τὸ ἐν τῇ Σοφίᾳ εἰρημένον διήκει δὲ καὶ χωρεῖ διὰ πάντων διὰ τὴν καθαριότητα, ἐπεὶ μὴ συνῆκαν λέγεσθαι ταῦτα ἐπὶ τῆς σοφίας τῆς πρωτοκτίστου τῷ θεῷ...” [“The Stromata”, Book 5, Chapter 14 (XIV) Migne Patrologia]

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA ( - 220 c.e.): “...Well, they say that God pervades all being; while we call Him solely Maker, and Maker by the Word. They were misled by what is said in the book of Wisdom: “He pervades and passes through all by reason of His purity;” [3108 Wisd. vii. 24.] since they did not understand that this was said of Wisdom, which was THE FIRST OF THE CREATION OF GOD...” [The Stromata, Book 5, Chapter 14 (XIV); - Version]

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA ( - 220 c.e.): “...Why repeat to you the mysteries of wisdom, and sayings from the writings of the son of the Hebrews, the master of wisdom? “The Lord created me the beginning of His ways, in order to His works.” [Prov. viii. 22.] And, “The Lord giveth wisdom, and from His face proceed knowledge and understanding.” [Prov. ii. 6.] “How long wilt thou lie in bed, O sluggard; and when wilt thou be aroused from sleep?” [Prov. vi. 9.] “but if thou show thyself no 195sluggard, as a fountain thy harvest shall come,” [Prov. vi. 11.] the “Word of the Father, the benign light, the Lord that bringeth light, faith to all, and salvation.” [Prov. vi. 23.] For “the Lord who created the earth by His power,” as Jeremiah says, “has raised up the world by His wisdom;” [Jer. x. 12.] for wisdom, which is His word, raises us up to the truth, who have fallen prostrate before idols, and is itself the first resurrection from our fall..." - (Clement of Alexandria Exhortation to the Heathen: Chapter VIII.)

Matt13weedhacker said...

Origen of Alexandria: "...the Son of God ... 'the firstborn of all creation, a THING CREATED, wisdom,'..." Origen, De. Prin. 4.4.1, translation by Jaroslav Pelikan. (See Christian Tradition, Vol. 1, p. 191)

Origen of Alexandria: “...Thus says the Lord of powers, [A.V. hosts] we frequently read; there are certain CREATURES, rational and divine, which are called powers: and ( OF ) THESE Christ was the highest and best, and is called not only the wisdom of God but also His power...” - (Commentary on John Book I Chapter 42.)


118. Καὶ ἐὰν ἐπιμελῶς ἐξετάζωμεν αὐτοῦ πάσας τὰς ἐπινοίας, μόνον κατὰ τὸ εἶναι σοφία ἀρχή ἐστιν, οὐδὲ κατὰ τὸ εἶναι λόγος ἀρχὴ τυγχάνων, εἴγε «ὁ λόγος ἐν ἀρχῇ» ἦν· ὡς εἰπεῖν ἄν τινα τεθαρρηκότως πρεσβύτερον πάντων τῶν ἐπινοουμένων ταῖς ὀνομασίαις τοῦ πρωτοτόκου πάσης κτίσεώς ἐστιν ἡ σοφία.

Origen of Alexandria: [calls the Son] "the oldest of all created beings" (Commentary i, 111-115[118], in John)

Origen of Alexandria: Against Celsus Chapter 5
Τόμος πέμπτος

"...ἄλλα μὲν ἔδοξε σέβειν τοῖς πρεσβυτέροις, τὸν Σάραπιν δὲ τοῖς χθὲς καὶ πρώην ἀρξαμένοις, τὸν οὐ πώποτε γενόμενον θεόν, προσκυνεῖν· οὐ παρὰ τοῦτο καὶ ἡμεῖς νέον τὸν οὐ πρότερον ὄντα θεὸν οὐδὲ γνωσθέντα τοῖς ἀνθρώποις φήσομεν εἶναι. Ὁ δὲ τοῦ θεοῦ υἱός, ὁ «πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως», εἰ καὶ νεωστὶ ἐνηνθρωπηκέναι ἔδοξεν, ἀλλ' οὔτι γε διὰ τοῦτο νέος ἐστί. Πρεσβύτατον γὰρ αὐτὸν πάντων τῶν δημιουργημάτων ἴσασιν οἱ θεῖοι λόγοι, καὶ αὐτῷ τὸν θεὸν περὶ τῆς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου δημιουργίας εἰρηκέναι· «Ποιήσωμεν ἄνθρωπον κατ' εἰκόνα καὶ ὁμοίωσιν ἡμετέραν.»

Origen of Alexandria: Contra Celsus BOOK V. CHAP. XXXVII. "...while their modern descendants have begun quite recently to pay reverence to Scrapis, who never was a god at all, we shall not on that account assert that a new being who was not formerly a god, nor at all known to men, is a deity. For the Son of God, "the First-born of all creation," although He seemed recently to have become incarnate, is not by any means on that account recent. For the holy Scriptures know Him to be THE MOST ANCIENT OF ALL THE WORKS CREATION; for it was to Him that God said regarding the creation of man, "Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness."

All of the Above is confirmed by Fourth Century Historian Epiphanius:

The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Book II and III, Volumes 2-3
By Epiphanius of Salamis, Frank Williams Section IV Page 135

"...For Arius took his cue from Origen, and so did the Anomoeans who suceeded him and the rest. [4.3] For Origen claims, and dares to say at once [23] if you please, first that the OnlyBegotten Son cannot see the Father, and neither can the Spirit behold the Son [24] and the angels surely cannot behold the Spirit, nor men angels. (4) And this is his first downfall. For he does not beleive the Son is of the Fathers essence, but represents him as entirely differen't from the Father, and CREATED besides. But he holds that he is called "Son" by grace..."

Someone closer to the time he actually lived.

Nick Batchelor said...

Can you find this from your home page? I see Colossians 1:16 but not this. I could be missing it but wanted to make you aware if it is not clickable from home page it should be.

tigger2 said...

It is available through the 'scripture index.'

It is also part of the 'BWF' study.