[B-Greek] Colossians 1:15

Carl W. Conrad cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
Thu Jul 31 08:18:41 EDT 2003


At 3:45 PM +0800 7/31/03, oscar_villa at edsamail.com.ph wrote:
>I was wondering if anyone could give me help with the following in
>understanding Colossians 1:15
>1) TOU QEOU TOU AORATOU the use of the genitive as modifying EIKWN
>2) PASHS KTISEWS in the genititve as modifying PRWTOTOKOS
>3) anything else you might have (EIKWN, PRWTOTOKOS)

Text: 1:13 hOS ERRUSATO hHMAS EK THS EXOUSIAS TOU SKOTOUS KAI METESTHSEN
EIS THN BASILEIAN TOU hUIOU THS AGAPHS AUTOU, 14 EN hWi ECOMEN THN
APOLUTRWSIN, THN AFESIN TWN hAMARTIWN; 15 hOS ESTIN EIKWN TOU QEOU TOU
AORATOU, PRWTOTOKOS PASHS KTISEWS, 16 hOTI EN AUTWi EKTISQH TA PANTA ...

(1) The antecedent of hOS in verse 15 is TOU hUIOU THS AGAPHS AUTOU back in
verse 13, i.e. Jesus Christ. Verse 15 says that he (Jesus Christ) is the
EIKWN, the "image" of God who is invisible; this is somewhat similar to the
notion expressed in John 1:18, that although nobody has ever seen God, the
incarnate Logos has somehow allowed humanity to discern God through Christ:
Christ is what can be seen and discerned of the God who cannot be seen and
discerned directly.

The genitive form of TOU QEOU TOU AORATOU is simple adnominal or adjectival
or possessive genitive: WHOSE image? image of the invisible God!

(2) PASHS KTISEWS is subject to alternative interpretations depending on
the sense one assigns to PRWTOTOKOS. (a) if PRWTOTOKOS is understood to
mean "first-born," then PASHS KTISEWS will be a "partitive" genitive:
Christ is the very first item of all creation, the very first one created;
(b) PRWTOTOKOS may be understood with emphasis upon the superlative aspect
of the element PRWTO-, "far before" or simply "prior to"; in that case
PASHS KTISEWS will be an "ablatival" genitive: "Christ has existence prior
to all that is created."

"Anything else you might have" may readily give scope to endless
discussion. I think it is sufficient to say that (a) both these nouns,
EIKWN and PRWTOTOKOS, are heavily charged with potential implications that
have been and can be developed in different interpretations, and (b)
PRWTOTOKOS, even more than EIKWN, is open to such divergent interpretations
that it is perilous to endeavor to pinpoint precisely and definitively the
sense intended by the author. I say that precisely because of many
discussions, some of them quite heated, that have been carried on in this
forum: a search and perusal of our archives for PRWTOTOKOS will, I think,
bear out what I am saying.
-- 

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University (Emeritus)
1989 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(828) 675-4243
cwconrad at artsci.wustl.edu
WWW: http://www.ioa.com/~cwconrad/



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