Colossians 1:15,16 – Genitive and “For”

In response to some claims made concerning the usage of the genitive in Colossians 1:15, and the usage of “hoti” — for — in Colossians 1:16.

It has been claimed that the genitive is used in many different ways, and it does not necessarily mean “included with”. It is claimed, among other things, that it can also mean “originating from,” which would actually mean that Christ was born of every creature. Those who would give it this meaning, however, often offset the verse by claiming that Jesus originated from God. For those who believe that Jesus is God, they might also add to this the false idea that if God begets, he only begets “God”, and thus that Jesus is “God” who beget him. One has claimed since he was born of God, that would mean that God is one of those creatures, but “Son of God” means that Christ originated from God, and not from creatures. This actually adds a bit of doubletalk to what Paul actually stated. Directly from what is stated as recorded in Colossians 1:15, the application of the gentitive with the meaning suggested would actually give Paul’s word’s the meaning that Jesus originated from, out of, all creation.

Please see:

Did Jesus Have a Beginning?
Colossians 1:16 and the Creator
Is Jesus the Creator?

From:

http://www.ntgreek.org/learn_nt_greek/classify-genitive.htm

J. Genitive of Source – Sometimes the genitive case indicates the source from which the head noun is derived or  depends. The word `of’ could instead be translated `out of’, `derived from’, or `dependent on’. This use is relatively rare; rather source is often shown with the preposition ejk used with the genitive case.

Another suggestion is that the genitive also sometimes means “ownership; belonging to,” as “the churches of Christ salute you” (Romans 16:16), corresponding with Matt 16:18, “I will build my church.” If this is the way Colossians 1:15 uses the genitive, it would mean that Christ belongs to every creature, which he certainly does not. Jesus, as firstborn, is not, indeed, owned by all creation. For all creation to have possession of Jesus would indeed have to be a very, extra-broad interpretation of this usage of the genitive in Colossians 1:15. In effect, it would have the present world of sinners, alienated from God, children of disobedience and wrath by nature (Ephesians 2:2,3), as having possession of Jesus in some way.

From:
http://www.ntgreek.org/learn_nt_greek/classify-genitive.htm

Possessive Genitive – Showing the ideas of ownership or possession. To see if it is the Genitive of Possession, try substituting the word `of’ with `belonging to’ or `possessed by’. However, this use does not have to indicate actual, physical ownership of some property. It may be a broadly defined type of ownership. This is a very common use of the genitive. A possessive pronoun will often be used in the genitive case to show possession.

Regardless, the evidence of the usage of the word “firstborn” all through the scriptures supports that firstborn of all creation in Colossians 1:15 is partitive genitive, not possessive genitive. Yes, Jesus is indeed, the firstborn creature.

It is also suggested that it means “like unto, or compared with,” (this is called the comparative genitive) such as “(Christ) is the image of the invisible God.” in the same verse. It is claimed that as Christ is the image of God (divine), inheriting God’s nature by being the offspring of God, and not one of those created beings with whom he is here compared. Only the context determines the way the genitive is to be understood. However, it is unclear as to how this could be applied to the phrase, “the firstborn of every creature,” except that one again offsets the application from “creation” to “God”, which, in effect, would actually deny what Paul actually stated. In reality, such an application would have Paul saying, “firstborn [more than/less than, greater than] ever creature.”

From:
http://www.ntgreek.org/learn_nt_greek/classify-genitive.htm

Genitive of Comparison – This use of the genitive almost always comes after an comparative adjective (like `more’, `less’, `greater’, etc.). The customarily used `of’ translated with the genitive should instead be translated `than’. It is a relatively common use of the genitive case.

E.g. Matthew 3:1
“ijscurovterov” mouv ejstin.”
“He is mightier than I.”

Matthew 6:25
“oujci; hJ yuchV plei’ovn ejstin th'” trofh'””
“Is not your life (worth) more than food?”

According to this Greek authority, this would exclude the genitive in Colossians 1:15 as speaking of a genitive of comparison.

Colossians 1:16
hoti en autw ektisthee ta panta en tois
BECAUSE IN HIM IT WAS CREATED THE ALL (THINGS) IN THE
3754 1722 0846_5 2936 3588 3956 1722 3588
ouranois kai epi tees gees ta horata kai
HEAVENS AND UPON THE EARTH, THE (THINGS) VISIBLE AND
3772 2532 1909 3588 1093 3588 3707 2532
ta aorata eite thronoi eite kurioteetes eite
THE (THINGS) INVISIBLE, WHETHER THRONES OR LORDSHIPS OR
3588 0517 1535 2362 1535 2963 1535
archai eite exousiai ta panta di autou
GOVERNMENTS OR AUTHORITIES; THE ALL (THINGS) THROUGH HIM
0746 1535 1849 3588 3956 1223 0846_3
kai eis auton ektistai
AND INTO HIM IT HAS BEEN CREATED;
2532 1519 0846_7 2936
Westcott & Hort Interlinear, as obtained from the Bible Students DVD.

The usage of “for” [HOTI] in Colossians 1:16 is often claimed to give Colossians 1:15 the thought that Jesus was made the firstborn “because” by him (Christ) all things were created. Usually, it is further claimed from this that Jesus is Yahweh, and that in some way, Jesus/Yahweh made himself the firstborn in place of another (who is never named) who was the actual firstborn. While the word “HOTI” can refer back to what is said as the cause for what follows, we will assume, as most do, that in verse 16 is telling us the BECAUSE all creation was created through him he has the title “firstborn of all creation”. Jesus is indeed the firstborn because God created all things described in Colossians 1:16 by means of the firstborn, this does not mean that Christ made himself firstborn because of this. All things described in Colossians 1:16 were created by means of him, this does not mean that Jesus was “made” the firstborn simply because of this, or that in some way firstborn does not mean the first one to born/brought forth of the group spoken of.  It certainly would not give the word “firstborn” the meaning of being begotten outside of time, as many have claimed. All such thoughts would have to be added to, and read into what Paul said. Nor does the fact that Jesus is firstborn because through him God created all the things spoken of Colossians 1:16 negate the genitive partitive usage in Colossians 1:15, which would include Jesus as a member of the creation of which he is the firstborn. Jesus is the firstborn because he was already in existence as the firstborn  before the creation that was made through him, and thus he was used by God as the means to create “the all” that is being spoken of. What distinguishes him from “ta panta” spoken of in verse 16 is that he is the firstborn creature.

Many read into Paul’s statement that Jesus is firstborn because he created TA PANTA — THE All, with idea that TA PANTA means the whole universe. The phrase “ta panta” is always limited by the context and evidence for inclusion and exclusion. It rarely, if ever, means “the universe” [which in its strictest defintion, “everything that exists”, would include God, since God does exist] as many have suggested. In the context here TA PANTA is limited to the intelligent creation, especially thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers. Certainly God’s own power and dominion was not created by Jesus. (1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalm 47:8; 103:19; Nahum 1:3) Thus we have at least this one exception to be applied to ta panta in Colossians 1:16. If we want to include all power indefinitely, then we should note that the power and authority given to Jesus by God is also not created by Jesus, but was given to him by the Most High, the only source of all power. (Luke 1:32; Matthew 28:18; John 3:35; 5:27; 1 Corinthians 15:27; Ephesians 1:20-22; Philippians 2:9) Now, we have two evident exclusions for the “TA PANTA” spoken of.

That panta in use of powers and dominions being spoken of are limited can be seen from the following application: The first man Adam was given dominion over — “all things” — and seeing that God “subjected all things to him, he left nothing that is not subject to him.” And yet, in actuality, not all things in the whole universe was subjected to man, but relative scriptures show what is included in the all that was subjected to man: the earth, the land and its animals. Spirit beings also, being a step higher than man, also have power, as given to them by God. (Genesis 1:26,28; Psalm 8:5-7; Hebrews 2:5-8.)

Yes, Jesus is firstborn because through him God created all the things spoken of in the context: dominions, powers, invisible and invisible, in heaven and in earth.

After the initial “hoti” clause in verse 16 other statements follow that show why Christ is called the firstborn creature, and are still related to the usage of “hoti”. In Colossians 1:17 we find that he is before the all that was just spoken of. Yes, this is indeed dealing with a time element, and not just a status element. Because Jesus was “before” the all spoken of, he is the firstborn creature. Then in Colossians 1:18 Jesus is spoken of as the “head”, which is, of course, the pre-eminent status, and yet it also refers to him as “the beginning”, which is another element of time. Jesus is firstborn because he is “the beginning” of God’s creation.

Next he is called “firstborn from the dead”. The parallel here should be obvious. Jesus was indeed the first one to be actually born — fully made alive — from the dead, never to die again. This is also a time element, that in all things he might have the preeminence. Thus, as “firstborn” in verse 18 is indeed a time element, so in verse 15 firstborn of all creation is also related to time.

One claims that if Christ was one of those created “things”, then Christ would created himself. No, this is a false idea that has to be read into what is said. As we have shown before, TA PANTA rarely, if ever, means absolutely everything that exists. If it did mean absolutely everything that exists in Colossians 1:16, then, God himself, and Jesus himself, would have to be included in what is said. Earlier we mentioned TA PANTA in reference to dominion, and referred to Psalm 8:5-7 in speaking of the dominion given to man. In Psalm 8:6, we read that God “put all things under his feet.” Does this mean that all things in the universe are put under the feet of puny man? Absolutely not! The following verses show what is meant by “all things”: “All sheep and oxen, Yes, and the animals of the field, The birds of the sky, the fish of the sea, And whatever passes through the paths of the seas. ” (Psalm 8:7,8) Thus “all things” is limited by context and evidence. When Paul quoted Psalm 8 in Hebrews 2:6-9, he uses “panta” and “ta panta”: “”You have put all things [PANTA] in subjection under his [man’s] feet.” For in that he subjected all things [TA PANTA] to him, he left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we don’t see all things subjected to him, yet.” (Hebrews 2:7) Man, when he sinned, to a great extent, lost the original dominion given to him over all things, thus Paul says that “now” we don’t see all things subjected to man, not yet. This implies that the time will come when all things will again be subjected to man. But our point here is that even though Paul says: “in that he [God] subjected all things [TA PANTA] to him [man], he [God] left nothing that is not subject to him [man].” As we have already seen, this entire expression is relative to what was being spoken of, that is, “the all” on the earth. Angels were not made subject to man, but Psalm 8:7,8 show what is included when Paul says that God “left nothing that is not subject to him.”

Likewise, in Colossians 1:16, TA PANTA is not speaking about absolutely everything in the universe, nor even about absolutely everything in the created universe. The rule of evidence shows that Jesus, as the firstborn creature, is not included. An example of this is found in 1 Corinthians 15:27, where Paul again used TA PANTA, but shows the “evident” exclusion of God himself as being subjected to Jesus.

Another question is asked:  In verse 17 (Colossinas 1:17), it says “he (Christ) is before all things.” So if Christ is before all things, how could he be one of those created things which he is before and which he subsequently created? Most certainly, Jesus is not being included in TA PANTA — “the all” – – that is being referred to in Colossians 1:16. This does not mean that Jesus was not created before TA PANTA — the all — that is being referred to, as we have already shown.

Whatever made be said, however, we do not find anything in Colossians 1:15 or Colossians 1:16 about three persons in one God, or that Jesus is his God, or that Jesus is the Creator.

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