"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*
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.