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?

Hi Kevin

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.

Matthew 1:25  And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn <4416> son: and he called his name JESUS.
Luke 2:7  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.
Romans 8:29  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.
Colossians 1:15  Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn <4416> of every creature:
Colossians 1:18  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.
Hebrews 1:6  And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten <4416> into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.
Hebrews 11:28  Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn <4416> should touch them.
Hebrews 12:23  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,
Revelation 1:5  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.

You asked

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

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?

Genesis 25:13  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,
Exodus 6:14  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.
Exodus 11:5  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.
Exodus 12:29  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 cattle.
Exodus 13:13  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.
Exodus 13:15  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.
Exodus 22:29  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.
Exodus 34:20  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.
Numbers 3:46  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;
Numbers 3:50  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:
Numbers 8:16  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.
Numbers 8:17  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.
Numbers 8:18  And I have taken the Levites for all the firstborn of the children of Israel.
Numbers 18:15  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.
Joshua 17:1  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.
Nehemiah 10:36  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:
Job 18:13  It shall devour the strength of his skin: eventhe firstborn of death shall devour his strength.
Psalms 135:8  Who smote the firstborn of Egypt, both of man and beast.
Isaiah 14:30 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.
Colossians 1:15  Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature
Revelation 1:5  And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten (firstborn)  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,

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.

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Brenton Hepburn


I AM one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and I am always learning. I am NOT an expert in the full sense of the word but I can answer questions on the reliability of the NWT - the so called mind control problems-so called prophecies - how being a JW affects the individual and relatives and general practices and history of Jehovah’s Witnesses. >>WARNING<< Please be aware that there are people here who ARE NOT practicing JWs. By all means ask these ones questions. Depending on the question you will get an honest answer, but, generally the answer you get, will mislead you as to what we believe, often because, they do not give ALL the relevant details. These ones will, have an agenda against JWs., and will at times give answers that are not correct in regard to JW teachings and practices. If you are after a answer from one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, please read some of the answers that the various experts have published before choosing someone. If you want to ask one of the NON JWs a question, that is fine, BUT if you want a balancing view after asking one of the NON JWs, ask a JW the same question. PLEASE ALSO NOTE: There(have been)and are, some "experts" here who are NOT always the most courteous and polite, at times are actually quite rude, that applies to both JW's and non JW's and their answers may offend, especially when they get personal and attack the character of the person and not the message. Unfortunately some here that have done that. So it IS IMPORTANT to chose an "expert" that YOU feel will best suit YOU by reading some of their past answers . . . . .


I have been a publisher since 1964. When I first went on the internet I found a lot of negative information dealing with Jehovah’s Witnesses covering prophecy, mind control and what many said was a very bad translation of the Bible known as the NWT. It shook my faith. After may hours researching these topics I could see why some felt that way, but, I was also able to explain why there were these misleading views. I can now set matters straight for anyone that has negative information about Jehovah’s Witness to show them that such information is at best misleading and at worst dangerous lies.

I have been a student of the Bible for many years, am trying to teach myself Biblical Greek. Was a public tax accountant for many years untill SEP 2009 when I gave it up due to health problems.

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