Jehovah`s Witness/firstborn in colossians 1:15
Hello Brenton. Let me say first I enjoy your politeness and mild way in which you respond to the questioners.
I work with a jw and we have a chance to discuss topics at great length. One such topic was the meaning of the word firstborn in colossians. He's tried telling me that 'firstborn ' has one literal meaning ,several times. That it means first born in the family or the oldest child. Then I showed him the verses where 'firstborn' could not possibly have that one literal meaning he at first refused to explain the different uses and meaning of'firstborn'. Now he's telling me that in the other verses 'firstborn ' has a symbolic meaning.
So, what is the watchtowers explanation on this? How does one read the word firstborn and understand first created?
I am not used to getting complainants and I always find it embarrassing when they are given, but I have been told to acknowledge them, so thank you.
I am not sure what your JW work mate calls a “symbolic” meaning but I will try to provide you with an answer.
I will refer to the Bible to let it answer the question as if firstborn “has one literal meaning
The Greek word that is rendered first born is πρωτότοκος = prototokos.
The meaning that Strongs Greek lexicon gives is - “first-born (usually as noun, literally or figuratively): — firstbegotten(-born).”
Thayer's Greek Lexicon says “ the firstborn whether of than or of beast”
Lidell and Scotts Greek lexicon simply says “firstborn”
This word is found 9 times in the NT part of the Bible. Below is a cut and past from one of my programs where I did a search for this word. These texts are taken from the KJV. The number <4416> refers to Strongs Greek Lexicon word number.
And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn <4416> son: and he called his name JESUS.
And she brought forth her firstborn <4416> son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn <4416> among many brethren.
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn <4416> of every creature:
And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn <4416> from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten <4416> into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.
Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn <4416> should touch them.
To the general assembly and church of the firstborn <4416>, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten <4416> of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
In the Hebrew scriptures (the OT) the words for firstborn have the same meaning These are meanings from Strongs Hebrew lexicons. The numbers in ( ) refer to Strongs Word number
(1060) "בְּכוֹר = bekor ; firstborn; hence, chief: — eldest (son), firstborn(-ling)." This basic Hebrew word can be found 117 times. In the KJV it is rendered in these ways firstborn, firstling, eldest, and is used in reference to humans and animals.
A second word is (1062) "בכורה bekowrah; feminine of 01060; the firstling of man or beast; abstractly primogeniture: — birthright, firstborn(-ling)." This word appears 15 times in the Hebrew text and the KJV renders it as "birthright, firstling, firstborn"
Another word used is (1067) " בְּכִירָה = bekiyrah; feminine; the eldest daughter: — firstborn." This word is always
used of women and is only found 6 times
There are several other words that come from a similar base word that refer to the firstfruits of vegetation.
Now, we know that in the OT, the first born was not always the literal first born. For example, Jacob purchased his right of firstborn from his brother. David was called "my firstborn" by God at Psalms 89:27. ("Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.") Yet David was not literally the firstborn of Jesse's family (Here, the word firstborn refers to the pre-eminent, chief, position of ruler-ship that David was elevated to. He was a part of a group called "kings")
So can the word first born even in the NT refer to Jesus being the pre-eminent one? Yes it can. More on that in a moment.
Just going back to Colossians 1 and looking in verse 18 there is a very close relative to prototokos (first born) used and it is rendered as “pre-eminence”. The word is πρωτεύω = proteuo. This is the only occurrence of this Greek word in the NT. This actually adds weight to the positions that Jesus holds as the pre-eminent one of all creation. Some fell that this places Jesus out of the realms of creation. But does it?
It may be of interest to know that both prototokos and proteuo are based upon the Greek word πρῶτος protos; foremost (in time, place, order or importance): — before, beginning, best, chief(-est), first (of all), former.
In the KJV this word is used on the following ways “first, chief, first day, former”
I mention these other words to show I am not trying to hide any secret meaning that prototokos (firtborn) may have, but to show that it actually does mean the first one born.
“How does one read the word firstborn and understand first created?
That comes down to the wording of Colossians 1:15
which reads from the KJV “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature” The Greek text reads
ὅς ἐστιν εἰκὼν τοῦ Θεοῦ τοῦ ἀοράτου πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως
who is [the] image the God the invisible firstborn of all creation
That interlinear reading can be found at http://biblehub.com/interlinear/colossians/1-15.htm
The interesting thing is is that the firstborn is “OF
” all creation? Just what does that mean. Bellow are all the times the expression “firstborn of” can be found in the KJV. After reading through that list, what conclusion do you come to as to what “”OF
” is referring to?
And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of
Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam,
These be the heads of their fathers’ houses: The sons of Reuben the firstborn of
Israel; Hanoch, and Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi: these be the families of Reuben.
And all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of
Pharaoh that sitteth upon his throne, even unto the firstborn of
the maidservant that is behind the mill; and all the firstborn of beasts.
And it came to pass, that at midnight the LORD smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of
Pharaoh that sat on his throne unto the firstborn of
the captive that was in the dungeon; and all the firstborn of
And every firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck: and all the firstborn of
man among thy children shalt thou redeem.
And it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of
man, and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of
my children I redeem.
Thou shalt not delay to offer the first of thy ripe fruits, and of thy liquors: the firstborn of
thy sons shalt thou give unto me.
But the firstling of an ass thou shalt redeem with a lamb: and if thou redeem him not, then shalt thou break his neck. All the firstborn of
thy sons thou shalt redeem. And none shall appear before me empty.
And for those that are to be redeemed of the two hundred and threescore and thirteen of the firstborn of
the children of Israel, which are more than the Levites;
Of the firstborn of
the children of Israel took he the money; a thousand three hundred and threescore and five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary:
For they are wholly given unto me from among the children of Israel; instead of such as open every womb, even instead of the firstborn of
all the children of Israel, have I taken them unto me.
For all the firstborn of
the children of Israel are mine, both man and beast: on the day that I smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for myself.
And I have taken the Levites for all the firstborn of
the children of Israel.
Every thing that openeth the matrix in all flesh, which they bring unto the LORD, whether it be of men or beasts, shall be thine: nevertheless the firstborn of
man shalt thou surely redeem, and the firstling of unclean beasts shalt thou redeem.
There was also a lot for the tribe of Manasseh; for he was the firstborn of
Joseph; to wit, for Machir the firstborn of Manasseh, the father of Gilead: because he was a man of war, therefore he had Gilead and Bashan.
1 Chronicles 1:29
These are their generations: The firstborn of
Ishmael, Nebaioth; then Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam,
1 Chronicles 2:3
The sons of Judah; Er, and Onan, and Shelah: which three were born unto him of the daughter of Shua the Canaanitess. And Er, the firstborn of
Judah, was evil in the sight of the LORD; and he slew him.
1 Chronicles 2:25
And the sons of Jerahmeel the firstborn of
Hezron were, Ram the firstborn, and Bunah, and Oren, and Ozem, and Ahijah.
1 Chronicles 2:27
And the sons of Ram the firstborn of Jerahmeel were, Maaz, and Jamin, and Eker.
1 Chronicles 2:50
These were the sons of Caleb the son of Hur, the firstborn of
Ephratah; Shobal the father of Kirjathjearim,
1 Chronicles 4:4
And Penuel the father of Gedor, and Ezer the father of Hushah. These are the sons of Hur, the firstborn of
Ephratah, the father of Bethlehem.
1 Chronicles 5:1
Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of
Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright.
1 Chronicles 5:3
The sons, I say, of Reuben the firstborn of
Israel were, Hanoch, and Pallu, Hezron, and Carmi.
1 Chronicles 9:31
And Mattithiah, one of the Levites, who was the firstborn of
Shallum the Korahite, had the set office over the things that were made in the pans.
Also the firstborn of
our sons, and of our cattle, as it is written in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of our God, unto the priests that minister in the house of our God:
It shall devour the strength of his skin: eventhe firstborn of
death shall devour his strength.
Who smote the firstborn of
Egypt, both of man and beast.
And the firstborn of
the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety: and I will kill thy root with famine, and he shall slay thy remnant.
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of
And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten
the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
What I understand from each of those texts is that the firstborn is actually a part of the group that they are the first born of (or pre-eminate one of)
In the Greek text of Colossians we are told Jesus is the first born OF
a group, and that group is called creation
Just on the evidence of that part of that text alone, the conclusion we come to then is that Jesus is in fact A PART OF CREATION
He is also the pre-eminate one because God exults him to a superior position (“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him,” Phil. 2:9
So what do you think from the way the Binble uses the word first-born. In Colossians 1
does it literally refer to firtsborn?
I hope I have been able to provide you with an answer that makes sense.