Thursday, December 29, 2005

"All things" or "All [other] things"?

*** The following is a response to TJ’s comment on my previous blog article. If you haven’t already, read the entry directly below this one, OR if you are too lazy to scroll down, click HERE =). If you choose not to read the previous entry, you will be completely lost *innocent grin*

TJ,

You said: “It seems accepted that "all other" is a valid translation of the Greek word PAN/PANTA, which is the word that appears in Colossians 1:16,17. See, for example, Matthew 26:35 (compare in CEV, NIV, NLT), Luke 11:42 (compare in NIV), and like you pointed out, Luke 13:2 (compare in NIV, NASB, NLT, ESV, NKJV). What made all of these translations use "all other?" Like you said, they "had a valid reason for doing so," the context demanded it. Now let's consider the context of Colossians 1.”

More correctly, the Greek word for “all” here is pas / pasa / pan. The forms of the word that are used in verses 16 and 17 are: panta and panton.

You are correct that context is one aspect of translation, but the grammar and syntax are at the forefront. Otherwise we might allow our presuppositions to override the grammar and syntax of the text (as the Watchtower has done in this instance).

You have offered no grammatical or syntactical reason for translating pas as “all [things].” Your argument rests solely upon the context, specifically with reference to Paul’s use of prototokos, or “firstborn.”

You argue: “So though you interpret Jesus' being "firstborn of all creation" as meaning that he "has the preeminence over all creation," there is more to it. Whenever the Greek word for "firstborn" is used in the Bible, be it in the New Testament writings or in the Septuagint, the person or thing being called "firstborn" is usually the very first one born of the group and so usually receives an elevated status and unique privileges. Sometimes the person or thing is not the actual first one to be born, but for some reason becomes elevated over the group and so receives the title. But in either case, every single instance in which "firstborn" is used, the one being described as such is always a part of the group he/she/it is 'firstborn of.'”

Is it true that “whenever the Greek word for “firstborn” is used in the Bible, be it in the New Testament writings or in the Septuagint, the person or thing being called “firstborn” is usually the very first one born of the group…”? This is absolutely not the case.

Before the New Testament was written there was already a rich background of “firstborn” in the Septuagint (the Hebrew translation of the Scriptures into Greek). It appears about 130 times - half of those appearances coming from the genealogical lists of Genesis and Chronicles, where it uses the standard meaning of “firstborn.” But it has a much more important usage in a number of other passages. The “firstborn” was given a double portion of his inheritance (Deuteronomy 21:17; Genesis 27), and received special treatment (Genesis 43:33).

“Firstborn” came to be a title that referred to a position rather than a mere notion of being the first one born. This is seen in many passages in the Old Testament. In Exodus 4:22 for example, God says that Israel is “My son, My firstborn.” Israel obviously wasn’t the first nation that God had “created,” but is instead the nation He chose to have an intimate relationship with. Another example is Jeremiah 31:9, where God says: “For I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn.” This language is describing Israel’s relationship to God and Ephraim’s special status in God’s sight.

Perhaps the clearest example is Psalm 89:27: “I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” This is a messianic Psalm (verse 20; also consider the use of “anointed”), and in this context, David, as the prototype of the coming Messiah, is described as God’s prototokos. The emphasis is clearly upon the relationship God had with David, not with David being made God’s “creation.” David had preeminence in God’s plan and was given the authority over God’s people. The future Messiah would also have preeminence, but an even greater preeminence.

When we look at the New Testament, we find that the emphasis of prototokos is not placed on the idea of birth but instead upon the first part of the word—protos, the “first.” The word emphasizes superiority and priority rather than origin and birth.

Romans 8:29 is a good example of this. The Lord Jesus is described by Paul as “the firstborn among many brethren.” These brethren are glorified saints. Here Christ’s superiority is brought out, as well as his leadership in salvation. Hebrews 1:6 is another example: “And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, "AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM."” The idea of preeminence is clear, as all of God’s angels are instructed to worship Him (worship is to be given to Yahweh alone – Luke 4:8).

Therefore, the term prototokos is used in Colossians 1 as a title, and not as a reference to origin/birth.

Furthermore, the purpose of Paul in writing Colossians was to defend the superiority of Christ in response to Gnostic concepts. The Gnostics’ dualistic belief-system taught that the physical world (matter, flesh, the world) is evil while the spiritual is good. It is important to recognize that the Gnostics had the problem of explaining how a good God could create a physical, and thus, evil world. Over time they developed the belief that from the one good, pure and spiritual God flowed a series of “emanations” which they called “aeons.” These aeons are godlike creatures, often identified as angels when Gnosticism encountered Jews and Christians. The aeons were less pure than the one true God. Eventually, a “Demiurge” emanated from the one true God. This Demiurge was sufficiently less pure so as to create, and come in contact with, the physical world. The Gnostics of the second century identified this Demiurge as the God of the Old Testament.

One other heresy springing from Gnostic dualism is Docetism, the belief that Jesus Christ did not have a physical body. They believed that Jesus “only seemed” to have a body, but really didn’t. Because Docetists were influenced by the Greek and Gnostic concept of Dualism, they didn’t believe that Jesus had an “evil,” physical body. It is plain that there were Docetics during the time of the apostles:

“2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.” (1 John 4:2-3).

So if we keep in mind that Paul is refuting the forms of Gnosticism that were coming into the Colossian church, we will see that the position taken by those who deny the deity of Christ fall into the same trap of agreeing with the Gnostics against the Apostle Paul! In other words, if we interpret this passage as saying Jesus is a part of the creation, and not the Creator himself, we are left with a Jesus who looks very much like the Gnostic “aeon” that Paul is arguing against.

Once one considers the rich background of prototokos in the Septuagint, and that Paul is refuting the Gnostic heresies that were entering the church, and the context of this text, it is clear that “firstborn” is describing the preeminence of Christ over creation.

One final thought on the immediate context of Paul’s use of prototokos – when you read beyond verse 15, we see “firstborn” used to describe the preeminence of Christ:

“16For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,” (Colossians 1:16-19).

Now some brief comments about the Grammar and Syntax …

pas means: “all, every, all things.”

Syntactically, there is no reason to supply “helping” words like “other” to smooth over the translation of Colossians 1:16-17. The text makes perfect sense without inserting “other” following after the four occurrences of pas.

“For by Him all things were created” – the text does not say that He is part of the creation.

“all things have been created through Him and for Him” – Again, nowhere in the text do we find that Christ is a part of creation

“He is before all things” – we are not told that Christ was first created then created everything else

Therefore, grammatically, syntactically, and contextually, pas should be translated in the normal fashion.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Though you have offered a critique of the translation of Colossians 1:16-17, you have not interacted with the main point of my previous blog article: that Creatorship is descriptive of Yahweh alone.

Isaiah 44:24 says: “24Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb, "I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself And spreading out the earth all alone,””

Yahweh is the maker of all things. He has stretched out the heavens by Himself. He formed the earth all alone.

But then how should we understand Colossians 1? If Yahweh has created all things, by Himself, and all alone – and if Christ is not Yahweh, then Christ has not created all things, like Colossians 1 informs us. How can Paul apply Creatorship to Christ, if Christ is not Yahweh?

As a Trinitarian I have no problem when I compare Isaiah 44:24 with Colossians 1. For surely Yahweh has created all things, by Himself, and all alone – and since the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each divine persons, sharing the one being of Yahweh – then the three divine persons created all things.

The Apostle Paul could not have been more clear as he described Jesus Christ – consider again the words of verse 15: “15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” These words cannot be applied to any mere creature, no matter how exalted. Paul was describing Jesus Christ, the Creator of all things.

Sincerely,
Casey

14 Comments:

At 10:02 PM, Blogger Brent Klontz said...

AMEN!

 
At 1:44 AM, Blogger TJ said...

Hi Casey, I thank you for your long response, but it seems you may have missed a crucial point. Hopefully I will make it clearer below.

You said: "Your argument rests solely upon the context, specifically with reference to Paul’s use of prototokos, or 'firstborn.'

Well, yes. Wouldn't context be a "valid reason" for adding "other" into the text? Isn't this what directed other translations to do so at Matt. 26:35; Luke 11:42; 13:2?

You said: "Is it true that 'whenever the Greek word for 'firstborn' is used in the Bible, be it in the New Testament writings or in the Septuagint, the person or thing being called 'firstborn' is usually the very first one born of the group…'? This is absolutely not the case."

You seem to have taken the first part of my explanation and tried to provide counterexamples to it, though these fit nicely into the second part of my explanation, "Sometimes the person or thing is not the actual first one to be born, but for some reason becomes elevated over the group and so receives the title." You are still missing my main point. See below.

You said: "In Exodus 4:22 for example, God says that Israel is 'My son, My firstborn.' Israel obviously wasn’t the first nation that God had 'created,' but is instead the nation He chose to have an intimate relationship with."

Great, Israel is called the "firstborn" of the nations. Now, was Israel a nation? Yes!

You said: "Another example is Jeremiah 31:9, where God says: 'For I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn.' This language is describing Israel’s relationship to God and Ephraim’s special status in God’s sight."

Again, Israel/Ephraim is described as a "firstborn" of the nations. Is it a nation itself? Yes, it is part of the group of nations.

You said: "Perhaps the clearest example is Psalm 89:27: 'I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth'...The emphasis is clearly upon the relationship God had with David, not with David being made God’s 'creation.'"

Okay, so is David a part of the group of kings? Yes, he is the "firstborn" among kings.

So now, back to Colossians 1:15, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation."

I will repost the crucial point stated in my last reply which you are yet to address:

"every single instance in which 'firstborn' is used, the one being described as such is always a part of the group he/she/it is 'firstborn of.' Therefore Jesus must be a part 'of all creation.'"

This fact justifies the addition of "other" into the text just as Dr. BeDuhn (quoted previously) stated. Jesus is described as being "of creation" in this context, and unless your theology both prohibits this and guides your translation, there is good reason to add "other."

I will briefly address some of the other points you made in your post below.

You said: "Though you have offered a critique of the translation of Colossians 1:16-17, you have not interacted with the main point of my previous blog article: that Creatorship is descriptive of Yahweh alone."

That is because we are then getting off of the translational issues pertaining to Colossians 1 and getting into your theology. I will address this point in our personal discussion.

You made a charge that the translators of the NWT had put "[other]" into the text "completely [as] the result of [their] theology," which I have demonstrated was not the case. This was my sole purpose in replying to you.

You said: "How can Paul apply Creatorship to Christ, if Christ is not Yahweh?"

It is quite simply explained using the scriptures. I will do so when we reach that point in our personal discussion.

You said: "As a Trinitarian I have no problem when I compare Isaiah 44:24 with Colossians 1."

Neither do I for much the same reason I don't have trouble with comparing verses like Psalm 102:25-27 and Hebrews 1:10-12 that you brought up in another post. The difference is, your interpretation will get you into trouble elsewhere in the scriptures. I will demonstrate this to you in our personal discussion.

Thanks for your time and patience,
TJ

 
At 3:27 AM, Blogger Rusty said...

TJ,

You said: “Wouldn't context be a "valid reason" for adding "other" into the text? Isn't this what directed other translations to do so at Matt. 26:35; Luke 11:42; 13:2?”

If there is a valid contextual reason for supplying “helping” words to smooth over the translation, and if there is also grammatical and syntactical reasons, then yes. But I have demonstrated that your presupposed understanding of prototokos to mean “first created” is not warranted in Colossians 1. So there is no contextual basis for including “helping” words.

You had claimed that “whenever the Greek word for 'firstborn' is used in the Bible, be it in the New Testament writings or in the Septuagint, the person or thing being called 'firstborn' is usually the very first one born of the group…” I showed your assertion to be false. Next I provided examples to demonstrate the use of prototokos being used as God’s choice to enter into special relationships, and as preeminence. So far, my assertion is unrefuted.

You misunderstood my point with the examples I provided…

With reference to Exodus 4:22 – you are correct that Israel was a nation. The point I made is that prototokos does not mean here that Israel was the “first created” nation by God, but rather to indicate the type of special relationship Israel had with Yahweh. Consider also the other title Yahweh calls Israel: “My son.” Does this indicate that procreates to have children, or does this convey the type of relationship Yahweh had with Israel?

With reference to Jeremiah 31:9 – same argument applies here. Also, as we considered Yahweh calling Israel His own son, now let us consider in what way Yahweh is a “father” to Israel?

With reference to Psalm 89:27 – If the only thing you got from my statements about this passage is that David is a king, just as there are other kings on the earth, then you completely missed my argument. You are correct that David was a king, just as other kings were in existence. My point was that Yahweh made David His prototokos. Prototokos does not mean “first created” here, but rather “preeminence.” What did David have preeminence over? – all the Kings of the earth. The second important point I brought out was that this Psalm is a highly Messianic Psalm. In fact, verse 20’s use of the term “anointed” has reference to the coming Messiah. David was also a prototype of the coming Messiah – David’s kingdom was an earthly kingdom, but Christ’s kingdom is a spiritual kingdom (not of this world). So then, David had preeminence over the kings of the earth, but Christ would have a MUCH great preeminence over all creation itself.

Therefore we must conclude that the use of prototokos in Exodus 4:22, Jeremiah 31:9 and Psalm 89:27 do not mean “first created.” Rather the term refers to special privileges, Yahweh having special relationships with His people, and yes, preeminence.

You argue: “every single instance in which 'firstborn' is used, the one being described as such is always a part of the group he/she/it is 'firstborn of.' Therefore Jesus must be a part 'of all creation.'”

Your argument would have a valid point if the purpose of the passages I’ve cited is to place God’s people into groups.

The error with your argument is that Exodus 4:22 is not discussing groups of nations. Exodus 4:22 is discussing God’s relationship to Israel. The same can be said of Jeremiah 31:9 – this text is not discussing groups of nations at all. The text is only addressing God’s special relationship with Israel. With regards to Psalm 89:27, the point of the text is not to compare or even include David in a vast group filled with the kings of his day, but to declare David’s preeminence over the kings of the earth, as well as his relationship to Yahweh.

Prototokos, with its rich background in the Septuagint to describe God’s relationship with His people, and/or having preeminence, is certainly what Paul meant in Colossians 1 (verses 16-19 also bring out this fact).

Don’t forget the intention of Paul in writing the first chapter of Colossians: to refute the Gnostic beliefs invading the church. As I said in this entry: “the position taken by those who deny the deity of Christ fall into the same trap of agreeing with the Gnostics against the Apostle Paul! In other words, if we interpret this passage as saying Jesus is a part of the creation, and not the Creator himself, we are left with a Jesus who looks very much like the Gnostic “aeon” that Paul is arguing against.” Contextually then, pas should be translated normally, with its normal meaning: “all, every, all things.”

Grammaticall, syntactically, and contextually, there is no basis for inserting the “helping” word “other” to smooth out the text of Colossians 1:16-17. The fact remains that verses 16 and 17 make perfect sense without inserting “other.”

Grammatically, syntactically, and contextually, there is no reason to believe that prototokos should be understood here to mean: “first created.”

One final thought towards this argument: “This fact justifies the addition of "other" into the text just as Dr. BeDuhn (quoted previously) stated. Jesus is described as being "of creation" in this context, and unless your theology both prohibits this and guides your translation, there is good reason to add "other."”

I’m assuming that by emphasizing “of creation” you read this to mean: “Jesus is created, and is part of creation”? ktisis (ktiseos is the form here) is the Greek word for “of creation.” It is a genitive singular noun. Ktisis here functions as a Genitive of Subordination. While “of” is a common word used to translate with a Genitive, the Genitive has a wide syntactical range. In other words, “of” can mean many different things. It can refer to possession; it can refer to separation from. But here, ktisis communicates that the “genitive substantive” (the secondary subject – in this case: “creation”) is under the dominion of the “head noun” (the primary subject – “prototokos,” or “firstborn”). Hence, “of” should be understood to mean: “over.” Putting it all together the verse would read: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”

You cited me then responded: “You [Casey] said: "Though you have offered a critique of the translation of Colossians 1:16-17, you have not interacted with the main point of my previous blog article: that Creatorship is descriptive of Yahweh alone." [TJ then responds] That is because we are then getting off of the translational issues pertaining to Colossians 1 and getting into your theology. I will address this point in our personal discussion.”

Fair enough.

Again you cited me then responded: “You [Casey] said: "How can Paul apply Creatorship to Christ, if Christ is not Yahweh?" [TJ then responds] It is quite simply explained using the scriptures. I will do so when we reach that point in our personal discussion.”

Okay.

Thanks for your comments,
Casey

 
At 9:38 AM, Blogger TJ said...

Hi Casey,

Thanks for the response.

You said: But I have demonstrated that your presupposed understanding of prototokos to mean 'first created' is not warranted in Colossians 1."

Where have I put forward that argument??? I actually do think that it means that Jesus was the first one born, but my point, all along, has been that if Jesus is the "firstborn of all creation," he must then be a part of creation.

This is true regardless of whether firstborn means he was the first one born or if it is a title bestowed upon him to show his preeminence.

If you want to show that Jesus' being "firstborn of all creation" does not include him as a member of creation himself, you must find a scripture where someone/something is called "firstborn of..." and is not a member of the group (or implied group) that they are firstborn of (there are plenty of uses of this construction to choose from).

You said: "You had claimed that “whenever the Greek word for 'firstborn' is used in the Bible, be it in the New Testament writings or in the Septuagint, the person or thing being called 'firstborn' is usually the very first one born of the group…” I showed your assertion to be false."

Where did you prove it false? It seems to me that you just gave examples that fit into my second description which I pointed out above. Still, your examples are in the minority. When someone is described as firstborn in the Bible, they are usually the very first one born of the group. If you go through all the examples of this that should be apparent.

You said: "You misunderstood my point with the examples I provided…"

I understand your point, you were trying to prove wrong an assertion I hadn't made, namely that prototokos means "first created" (your words). You tried to prove that in the instances you cited prototokos means to have "preeminence" and not "first created."

I have been accepting this, since my original explanation allowed for it, but pointing out that that still makes them a part of the group that they are the firstborn of! You disagree with this below.

You said: "The error with your argument is that Exodus 4:22 is not discussing groups of nations..."

Rather than try to convince you on these texts I will limit our discussion to prototokos (firstborn) followed by a genitive noun, i.e. "firstborn of..." as found in Colossians 1:15. This should make my point more than obvious.

Find an instance where someone/something is "fistborn of..." and is not a member of the group (or implied group) that follows, and you have a valid counterexample to my argument. Otherwise you should accept that Jesus, as "firstborn of all creation," makes him a member of creation!

You said: "Hence, 'of' should be understood to mean: 'over.'"

This is a common argument among Trinitarians. Rather than make this post even longer addressing it, answer my challenge above of finding prototokos followed by a genitive noun in which the prototokos is not a member of the group.

If you cannot, then you are using a 'special' argument when prototokos-followed-by-genitive applies to Jesus; and your side argument above is moot.

Thanks again Casey,
TJ

 
At 12:01 PM, Blogger Rusty said...

TJ,

Wow, quick reply =)

I said: “But I have demonstrated that your presupposed understanding of prototokos to mean “first created” is not warranted in Colossians 1.”

You responded: “Where have I put forward that argument??? I actually do think that it means that Jesus was the first one born…”

When you say that prototokos means “first one born” what do you mean? In what sense do you believe Jesus to be “born”? Do you understand this to mean that Yahweh literally gave birth to Christ? Or am I correct in stating that you believe this means that Jesus Christ was the “first created”?

You continued: “…but my point, all along, has been that if Jesus is the "firstborn of all creation," he must then be a part of creation. This is true regardless of whether firstborn means he was the first one born or if it is a title bestowed upon him to show his preeminence.”

In my last response I pointed out that the purpose of the “prototokos passages” I’ve cited do not intend to communicate that Israel is one nation among many, or that David is one king among many. The purpose of the use of prototokos in these texts is to communicate God’s special relationship with His people and/or preeminence (as in David’s Messianic Psalm).

I should point out that I do not disagree that Israel was a nation, and that there were other nations in existence at the time. I also affirm with you that David was a king just as there were other kings in existence at the time. But this is not the point of the texts I have cited, or how prototokos is used in these texts. Prototokos in these examples (Exodus 4:22, Jer 31:9, and Psalm 89:27) refers to God’s special relationship with His people and/or their preeminence. Prototokos is not used to convey the thought of “being part of a group of nations/kings.” It is this use of prototokos, the use of a title of special privilege and preeminence, that Paul uses in Colossians 1:15.

You said: “Rather than try to convince you on these texts I will limit our discussion to prototokos (firstborn) followed by a genitive noun, i.e. "firstborn of..." as found in Colossians 1:15. This should make my point more than obvious.”

You have yet to offer any counter exegesis of these texts (Exodus 4:22, Jer 31:9, Psalm 89:27), and have avoided explaining how prototokos is being used in these texts.

You continued: “Find an instance where someone/something is "fistborn of..." and is not a member of the group (or implied group) that follows, and you have a valid counterexample to my argument. Otherwise you should accept that Jesus, as "firstborn of all creation," makes him a member of creation!””

It sounds like your argument assumes that the purpose of prototokos in every instance is to communicate that the subject exists as part of a group. I reject this assumption, because it is not true of every text, as I have demonstrated regarding Exodus 4:22, Jer 31:9 and Psalm 89:27. What we do not find in these three passages is prototokos being used to include the subject in a group. Rather, prototokos in these examples refers to God’s special relationship with His people, and preeminence (repetitive, I know. But necessary).

In my last response to you I provided some very important syntactical information, specifically regarding what type of Genitive ktisis is in Colossians 1:15, and how it functions in the sentence (please re-read the syntactical information I provided in my previous response). The text’s immediate context (vs. 15-19) supports my argument that Christ has the preeminence over creation. The text informs us that: “For by Him all things were created” … “all things have been created through Him and for Him” … “He is before all things” – Christ has the preeminence over all things.

You have not yet presented an argument for ktisis to be another type of Genitive.

Regarding my syntactical information I provided, you said: “This is a common argument among Trinitarians. Rather than make this post even longer addressing it, answer my challenge above of finding prototokos followed by a genitive noun in which the prototokos is not a member of the group. If you cannot, then you are using a 'special' argument when prototokos-followed-by-genitive applies to Jesus; and your side argument above is moot.”

Since it seems that you falsely assume that the purpose of every instance of the use of prototokos is to convey the subject existing as part of a group, your argument is baseless. I have demonstrated three examples in the Septuagint where prototokos is not being used to describe the subject existing in a group but rather having a privileged relationship with Yahweh, and/or preeminence.

You have not responded to the fact that the purpose of Paul writing Colossians 1 was to refute the Gnostic heresies entering the church. I will again cite myself: “So if we keep in mind that Paul is refuting the forms of Gnosticism that were coming into the Colossian church, we will see that the position taken by those who deny the deity of Christ fall into the same trap of agreeing with the Gnostics against the Apostle Paul! In other words, if we interpret this passage as saying Jesus is a part of the creation, and not the Creator himself, we are left with a Jesus who looks very much like the Gnostic “aeon” that Paul is arguing against.”

Thanks for your comments,
Casey

 
At 2:19 AM, Blogger TJ said...

Hi Casey,

You said: "Or am I correct in stating that you believe this means that Jesus Christ was the “first created”?"

In this particular context I do believe it means exactly that, however this is not the argument I am basing the inclusion of "other" in verses 16 and 17 off of! I have not advanced this argument for this purpose or any other here, so there is no reason for you to defend against it.

You said: "Prototokos in these examples (Exodus 4:22, Jer 31:9, and Psalm 89:27) refers to God’s special relationship with His people and/or their preeminence. Prototokos is not used to convey the thought of “being part of a group of nations/kings.” It is this use of prototokos, the use of a title of special privilege and preeminence, that Paul uses in Colossians 1:15."

But Casey, if "firstborn" in these passages is used to show "special privilege and preeminence," that begs the question, who do they have "special privilege and preeminence" over? Their peers who are categorized in the same group!

For example, Israel would be the firstborn of/over whom? All other nations. Speaking of David in relation to his office as king would be firstborn of/over whom? All other kings.

It is an inherent sense of prototokos that it distinguishes one member of a group above other members, or why else would they have "special privilege and preeminence?" They wouldn't!

You said: "It sounds like your argument assumes that the purpose of prototokos in every instance is to communicate that the subject exists as part of a group. I reject this assumption, because it is not true of every text, as I have demonstrated regarding Exodus 4:22, Jer 31:9 and Psalm 89:27."

Regardless of how prototokos is being used, it is an inherent part of the word that there must be others after/below it. It's really quite natural that this is the case, if a first is specifically pointed out for being first, there would have to be a second...

If I said, "I am the first one to arrive at the mall." Wouldn't that mean that others, also going to the mall, arrived after me?

If I said, "I came in first place in the dance competition (yeah right)." Wouldn't that mean that other dancers came in second, third, etc. places?

You said: "What we do not find in these three passages is prototokos being used to include the subject in a group. Rather, prototokos in these examples refers to God’s special relationship with His people, and preeminence."

Again, preeminence over whom? Noone? If that is the case, it isn't very preeminent is it?

Preeminence means, according to one dictionary: "Superior to or notable above all others." Who are these "others?" They are peers, or members, of the same group of the firstborn!

You said: You have not yet presented an argument for ktisis to be another type of Genitive.

True, but I don't think I need to. Regardless of the type of genitive ktisis is, every instance in which prototokos is followed by a genitive noun (any kind), the "firstborn" is a part of that group.

I challenged you to find one instance in which the "firstborn of..." is not a member of the group (or implied group) that follows. You have not been able to provide one.

You said: "Since it seems that you falsely assume that the purpose of every instance of the use of prototokos is to convey the subject existing as part of a group, your argument is baseless."

I find it strange that you argue that I assume "the purpose of every instance of the use of prototokos is to convey the subject existing as part of a group," and yet your interpretation is that prototokos in some instances means that the firstborn has "special privilege and preeminence."

Aren't you really assuming the same thing, that the firstborn has "special privilege" over other peers and "preeminence" as well? If not, how does preeminence in a vacuum work? What makes these special privileges so special?

You said: "I have demonstrated three examples in the Septuagint where prototokos is not being used to describe the subject existing in a group but rather having a privileged relationship with Yahweh, and/or preeminence."

Again, privileged in comparison to whom? Preeminence over whom?

You said: "You have not responded to the fact that the purpose of Paul writing Colossians 1 was to refute the Gnostic heresies entering the church...'we will see that the position taken by those who deny the deity of Christ fall into the same trap of agreeing with the Gnostics...if we interpret this passage as saying Jesus is a part of the creation, and not the Creator himself, we are left with a Jesus who looks very much like the Gnostic "aeon."'"

This really has little to do with the translational matters of Colossians 1:15-17. I will say that I affirm the deity of Christ that the Bible presents. It is clear that he had a role in creation, as is made clear in other texts as well. However, this does not make him the source of all creation. We will get into these matters in our personal discussion. Again, the reasoning on this is quite simple and straightforward.

Thanks for your patience with me and the opportunity to discuss these matters with you.

TJ

 
At 11:20 PM, Blogger Rusty said...

TJ,

You cited me as asking: “When you say that prototokos means “first one born” what do you mean? In what sense do you believe Jesus to be “born”? Do you understand this to mean that Yahweh literally gave birth to Christ? Or am I correct in stating that you believe this means that Jesus Christ was the “first created”?”

You then responded: “In this particular context I do believe it means exactly that, however this is not the argument I am basing the inclusion of "other" in verses 16 and 17 off of! I have not advanced this argument for this purpose or any other here, so there is no reason for you to defend against it.”

You continue to eisegete a meaning onto prototokos that neither the word nor the context of the passages I have provided (including Colossians 1) allow. When you say that prototokos always refers to the first one in a group, are you arguing that this was the purpose of the use of the word in Exodus 4:22, Jeremiah 31:9, and Psalm 89:27? If so, can you provide an exegetical defense for this from these texts?

Clearly, the use of prototokos in Exodus 4:22, Jeremiah 31:9 and Psalm 89:27 was not to communicate that the subject(s) was one part of a various group – but rather (1)a special and privileged relationship with Yahweh, and/or (2) preeminence.

You said: “It is an inherent sense of prototokos that it distinguishes one member of a group above other members, or why else would they have "special privilege and preeminence?" They wouldn't!”

It is here that we see your overriding presupposition force a meaning onto every instance of prototokos in the Bible. You falsely assume that every usage of prototokos in the Bible “inherently” means that one is a lead member in a group. I reject this assumption, and point out that you have not provided any exegetical basis for this.

You also have not interacted at all with the passages I have provided.

Allow me to provide the actual passages I’m citing …

Exodus 4:22: “"Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD, "Israel is My son, My firstborn.”

Jeremiah 31:9: “"With weeping they will come, And by supplication I will lead them; I will make them walk by streams of waters, On a straight path in which they will not stumble; For I am a father to Israel, And Ephraim is My firstborn."

Psalm 89:27: “27 "I also shall make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth.”

How is Israel Yahweh’s son and firstborn according to Exodus 4:22?

How is Yahweh a father to Israel, and how is Ephraim Yahweh’s firstborn according to Jeremiah 31:9?

How is David Yahweh’s firstborn according to Psalm 89:27? And what does it mean for David to be the highest of the kings of the earth?

Next, I pointed out that you have not presented an argument for what kind of Genitive you believe ktisis to be. I have argued that it is a Genitive of Subordination. Here again is the syntactical argument I provided: “I’m assuming that by emphasizing “of creation” you read this to mean: “Jesus is created, and is part of creation”? ktisis (ktiseos is the form here) is the Greek word for “of creation.” It is a genitive singular noun. Ktisis here functions as a Genitive of Subordination. While “of” is a common word used to translate with a Genitive, the Genitive has a wide syntactical range. In other words, “of” can mean many different things. It can refer to possession; it can refer to separation from. But here, ktisis communicates that the “genitive substantive” (the secondary subject – in this case: “creation”) is under the dominion of the “head noun” (the primary subject – “prototokos,” or “firstborn”). Hence, “of” should be understood to mean: “over.” Putting it all together the verse would read: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.””

You responded: “True, but I don't think I need to [respond]. Regardless of the type of genitive ktisis is, every instance in which prototokos is followed by a genitive noun (any kind), the "firstborn" is a part of that group.” (Brackets “[ ]” mine).

If I understand you correctly, you appear to be arguing that whenever prototokos is used in the Bible followed by a genitive noun, this means that prototokos communicates that the subject being described as the prototokos is the head in a various group? This argument rests upon the presupposition that prototokos is used in every instance with the purpose of communicating that the subject is part of a group. This presupposition is unfounded and has not been defended exegetically.

If you continue to be emphatic that ktisis here must mean that Jesus is part of the created order, then you must provide syntactical reasons to understand ktisis in this way. I have thus far demonstrated that it is a Genitive of Subordination, meaning that Jesus is over creation, and not part of it. This has gone unchallenged. Remaining silent on this issue is devastating to your argument.

Responding to my argument that Paul was writing against the Gnostic heresies entering the Colossian church, you responded: “This really has little to do with the translational matters of Colossians 1:15-17. I will say that I affirm the deity of Christ that the Bible presents. It is clear that he had a role in creation, as is made clear in other texts as well. However, this does not make him the source of all creation. We will get into these matters in our personal discussion. Again, the reasoning on this is quite simple and straightforward.”

The context of the book has little to do with translational issues? If Paul’s purpose was to refute those who taught that Jesus was a part of creation, how can this not influence our translation? Context, grammar, and syntax allow for good translation. So far, you have ignored the context, you have provided no grammatical reason for inserting “other,” and you have provided no syntactical reason for inserting “other.”

Allow me to summarize …

The only argument you have made is in regard to prototokos. You argue that prototokos in Colossians 1 means that Christ is the first created being in a group that includes all other creation. Yet this meaning of prototokos is assumed. Furthermore, you eisegete this assumed meaning onto every occurrence of prototokos in the Bible (Old and New Testaments it seems). Assumption is not how one understands the meaning of words: context, grammar and syntax are how we translate.

It is crucial that you exegete Exodus 4:22, Jeremiah 31:9 and Psalm 89:27, providing an exegetical basis to understand prototokos to mean “first one in a group” – even what “first one” means. Then provide us with your exegetical basis for interpreting prototokos as you do in Colossians 1.

You must also prove why ktisis doesn’t function as a Genitive of Subordination, which communicates the idea that Jesus rules over creation, and is not part of creation.

Thirdly, you need to defend why you would translate Colossians 1 to show that Christ is a created being when Paul’s purpose was to refute the Gnostics putting forth this very idea.

Lastly, provide a grammatical and syntactical [alongside the ktisis discussion] argument for inserting “other” into the text.

Thanks TJ, I look forward to your response.

Casey

 
At 10:33 AM, Blogger TJ said...

Hi Casey,

Before I address any of the above, please answer one question for me that I had asked several times in my last post (and I don't think is answered above) so that I can understand what you believe prototokos means.

You said earlier that prototokos, in the verses you provided, is a "title of special privilege and preeminence."

Who is this in relation to? In other words, if it means preeminence, who is it that the firstborn is preeminent over?

Thanks,
TJ

 
At 2:00 PM, Blogger Rusty said...

TJ,

You said: “You said earlier that prototokos, in the verses you provided, is a "title of special privilege and preeminence." Who is this in relation to? In other words, if it means preeminence, who is it that the firstborn is preeminent over?”

When I interpret a passage I allow the author’s context to define the meaning of the words he uses. With regards to prototokos, I do not presuppose that it is used to mean the exact same thing in every instance. So when we come to the three examples I provided: Exodus 4:22, Jeremiah 31:9 and Psalm 89:27, we see uses other than “first one born,” or “first created” (as you interpret prototokos in Colossians 1).

When we allow the context to define the meaning of prototokos in these passages we see in Exodus 4:22 and Jeremiah 31:9 clearly do not mean “the first one in any such group,” but rather having a special relationship with Yahweh. This is an exclusive relationship which includes no one else. Yahweh has exclusively chosen to have an intimate relationship with Israel.

Psalm 89:27 reads: “27 "I also shall make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth.” David also has this privileged relationship with Yahweh, where other kings are excluded. He has preeminence over them. David does not possess direct rulership over other kings, rather it communicates the superior rule of King David.

Context, not presuppositions, must determine the meaning of words.

Thanks for the reply,
Casey

 
At 6:58 PM, Blogger TJ said...

Hi Casey,

This seems to be our biggest difference in this entire discussion. You say that "firstborn" in the verses you cite mean that the firstborn has "special privileges" and/or "preeminence." But, again, these things cannot exist without others, similar ones, who do not have those privileges nor the eminence. This is the natural implication of the word. There is no getting around it.

I gave the analogy earlier that if I say I placed first in a competition, it is obvious that others in the same competition have ranked beneath me. It seems to me you want "firstborn," in certain verses, to exist in a vacuum. In other words, in a group consisting of one member, the one person/thing has special privileges or preeminence, which doesn't make sense.

You argue that "firstborn" in Exodus 4:22 and Jeremiah 33:9 expresses "an exclusive relationship which includes no one else." Okay, but who does it exclude? This is the point you are missing here. So when you say "Yahweh has exclusively chosen to have an intimate relationship with Israel" you are apparently failing to notice that this must mean he has chosen Israel to "have an intimate relationship" with over all other nations. Isn't that correct?

Calling Israel his firstborn nation means he wouldn't turn around and call any another nation his firstborn, since only one nation, out of all nations, can be in this position.

You said, "David also has this privileged relationship with Yahweh, where other kings are excluded. He has preeminence over them. David does not possess direct rulership over other kings, rather it communicates the superior rule of King David."

I'm not quite sure why you get the point here with King David, while missing it with Israel above. David's kingship is "superior" to any other kingship on earth in God's eyes. Thus the use of "firstborn."

You said, "Context, not presuppositions, must determine the meaning of words."

I agree! Do you really believe that Israel being described as God's firstborn in Exodus 4:22 is that different from Pharaoh's firstborn it is being compared with in the very next verse? It would be a bad choice of words if it is.


Take care,
TJ

 
At 11:13 PM, Blogger Rusty said...

TJ,

The purpose is my last comment was to provide you with even more information about how I have interpreted prototokos in Colossians 1 - then you were to provide the necessary pieces to defend your own argument.

We can't really continue this discussion until you have provided what I requested of you ... two [of my] comments prior to this. [This particular comment was timestamped at 11:20pm]

Avoiding this is devastating to your position.

Once again, thanks.
Casey

 
At 11:35 AM, Blogger TJ said...

Hi Casey,

I am trying to keep our discussion focused on the natural meaning of prototokos, firstborn. This is the root of our differences on Colossians 1:16-17.

That being said, I would appreciate interaction with the points I raised in connection with your "firstborn" examples so that we can hopefully reach some agreement.

You said, "We can't really continue this discussion until you have provided what I requested of you ... two [of my] comments prior to this. [This particular comment was timestamped at 11:20pm]"

Really, I have been addressing the first part of that post, dealing with your examples. This is the crucial difference between our views. If we reach agreement on this, the rest of it becomes moot.

You said earlier, "I have thus far demonstrated that it is a Genitive of Subordination, meaning that Jesus is over creation, and not part of it. This has gone unchallenged. Remaining silent on this issue is devastating to your argument."

As I have responded to you several times now, I challenge you to find a instance of prototokos followed by a genitive noun in which the prototokos is not a member of the genitive noun category. Feel free to find a prototokos followed by a genitive of subordination in which this is not the case.

If you can do this, then the type of genitive in Colossians 1:15 becomes relevant. If you cannot or are unwilling to do this, then please let me know.

Thanks for your patience,
TJ

 
At 11:47 AM, Blogger Rusty said...

TJ,

Here is what I asked you to provide for your argument to hold any weight:

"The only argument you have made is in regard to prototokos. You argue that prototokos in Colossians 1 means that Christ is the first created being in a group that includes all other creation. Yet this meaning of prototokos is assumed. Furthermore, you eisegete this assumed meaning onto every occurrence of prototokos in the Bible (Old and New Testaments it seems). Assumption is not how one understands the meaning of words: context, grammar and syntax are how we translate.

It is crucial that you exegete Exodus 4:22, Jeremiah 31:9 and Psalm 89:27, providing an exegetical basis to understand prototokos to mean “first one in a group” – even what “first one” means. Then provide us with your exegetical basis for interpreting prototokos as you do in Colossians 1.

You must also prove why ktisis doesn’t function as a Genitive of Subordination, which communicates the idea that Jesus rules over creation, and is not part of creation.

Thirdly, you need to defend why you would translate Colossians 1 to show that Christ is a created being when Paul’s purpose was to refute the Gnostics putting forth this very idea.

Lastly, provide a grammatical and syntactical [alongside the ktisis discussion] argument for inserting “other” into the text."

You have posted three comments since I asked you defend your conclusions, none of which did this.

You tried to switch the focus back on me claiming I have not responded to your assumed meaning of prototokos. I have responded to this many times by pointing out that I do not presuppose a meaning onto every instance of prototokos without exegetical support, like you do.

If you wish to continue this discussion, please provide the information I requested of you - otherwise you have no argument, and our discussion would be over.

Thanks TJ,
Casey

 
At 12:43 AM, Blogger Rusty said...

TJ,

Though you should first provide the information I requested of you, I also posted a more in-depth response to your thesis as a new blog entry - this allows us to not have 50 zillion comments on one post =))

Thanks,
Casey

 

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