"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All [other] things have been created through him and for him. Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist, and he is the head of the body, the congregation. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that he might become the one who is first in all things." (NWT)
These verses have caused a good deal of controversy because most people fell quite strongly that the NWT committee have insisted on their own theology by inserting [other] into the text. Such people conclude that Jesus is God, (or equal to God) because, they feel that these verses (without the word [other]) are teaching us the following:
1. Jesus is the one who created all things. Yet the NWT inserts the word [other] into the text Trinitarians say that by doing so, this detracts from Paul's claim that Jesus is the creator of ALL things, which ultimately detracts from Jesus' glory and puts Jesus into the class of created beings!
2. Jesus is called the firstborn, meaning that he is the "pre-eminent one" who is over all creation, but not a member of creation
Is Jesus Jehovah? Are the above thoughts correct?
First, we do well to look at the context of Paul's words in order to arrive at a proper understanding. Starting from Colossians 1:12-15, we read: "12 thanking the Father who rendered YOU suitable for YOUR participation in the inheritance of the holy ones in the light. 13 He (The Father) delivered us (The disciples) from the authority of the darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of his (The Fathers) love, 14 by means of whom we have our release by ransom, the forgiveness of our sins. 15 He (The Son, hence Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." (NWT) (Bracketed words mine)
Is it reasonable to conclude from these verses, that it is the Father who is responsible for the disciples coming under the rulership or kingdom of Jesus, the "Son of his [the Father's] love."? So, is the context here speaking about theFather, and his accomplishments toward the disciples of the first century (or the anointed congregation.)? I feel that is a reasonable assumption to make especially since Paul goes on tell us something about this "Son of his [the Father's] love." He tells us in verse 15 that Jesus is the image (Greek: eikon) of the invisible God, the firstborn of all (Greek: prototokos pases) creation (Greek: ktiseos). Let's look at each of these two descriptions of Jesus, before we move to verse 16. (The GNo = Strongs Greek index Number)
Please note another description of Jesus at Heb 1:3 where he is said to be "the express image" (KJV) of God. The word for "express image" is the word charakter, (GNo. 5481 of Hebrews 1:3 which means "… a graver (the tool or the person) i.e. (by impl.) engraving (["character"], the figure stamped, i.e. an exact copy or [fig.] representation):- express image." To follow that thought through, take the imprint of the stamp. It is NOT the stamp, but rather the "vessel," or "seal of clay" which bears the imprint (the figure stamped). When done carefully the imprint would be an exact copy or representation, would it not?
Vines Complete Expository Dictionary in its rendering of the word Image, links eikon and charakter as being closely related.. (Just think of the English words we use that are derived from these two, icon, and character, and the way we understand them in our language.) I think, though, Vines makes a bold statement and assumption when it says "In the NT it is used metaphorically in Heb. 1:3, of the Son of God as 'the very image (marg., the impress) of His substance' RV. The phrase expresses the fact that the Son is both personally distinct from, and yet literally equal to, Him of whose essence He is the adequate imprint (Liddon)." From my point of view, that kind of idea (as is common with those that believe that Jesus is God) is putting ones own "theology" or "doctrine" into the Scriptures as it is assumed that the NWT does. The comments sited do not give the reader any textual comments to support their idea, but the reader would get the impression as fact as to what the writer was saying.
The NWT is accused of inserting words and ideas into the text to conform to what the Translation Committee believed, but I see the NWT being honest and imputing no personal idea from these words. What do you see?
I see Paul is bringing to our attention, that Jesus is NOT the original, but rather a copy, reflection, or likeness, of the invisible God. He is NOT the Almighty invisible God, he is the Almighty invisible God's reflection. We might liken it to looking into a mirror. When you look into a mirror, you see your reflection or a copy of yourself. No one in their right mind would say that the actual reflection in the mirror is "literally" you, would they? No, because you are the one looking into the mirror. What is coming from the mirror is your reflection. The same is true with Jesus. He is NOT the invisible God, but he is the reflection, or copy of, the invisible God. Jesus, then, is the reflection or image, NOT the Source. Thus Jesus is NOT God.
Some will argue that "the word firstborn, as used in the Bible, does not always literally mean the first one that was born or created," and this is true, we go along with that. David was called "my firstborn" by Jehovah at Psalms 89:27. Yet David was not literally the firstborn of Jesse's family; he actually was the last one born. So in what sense could he be called Jehovah's firstborn? The term firstborn here refers to the pre-eminent position of rulership and the covenant for a kingdom that he would be given, to sit on Jehovah's throne, as the firstborn of those that would come from his family line. This scripture was fulfilled prophetically in Jesus, who would be from royal line of David as John 7:42 explains: "Has not the Scripture said that the Christ is coming from the offspring of David, and from Beth'lehem the village where David used to be?"
Now because of this, some conclude that the word "firstborn," as translated here in Colossians 1:15, shows the role of "pre-eminence" that Jesus would have over creation. Does this line of reasoning apply to what Paul said here about Jesus at Colossians 1:15? The answer I come to is NO!
The term that Paul used of Jesus here was not the word "firstborn" by itself, like at Psalms 89:27. It was the words "firstborn of." Now, with this being said, what is the import? The term "firstborn of" , according to Strongs Concordance, occurs in the Bible in 34 different texts (not including Colossians 1:15 which was the only place in the JKV NT). And every single instance of its use, shows that the one being spoken of (the subject) is in the class or group of those mentioned. Let us look at a few examples of this. At Exodus 11:5 we read: "...from the firstborn of Phar'aoh who is sitting on his throne to the firstborn of the maidservant who is at the hand mill and every firstborn ofbeast."
Here we see that those called "firstborn" are members of the class, or group next mentioned, ie: "the firstborn of Phar'aoh,"....was of the house of Pharaoh....."the firstborn of the maidservant,"......was a slave, or of the maidservant....."the "firstborn of beast,".....was a beast. Thus all of these referred to as "firstborn of" were all members of the class or group mentioned in the text.
Does this then mean, as some have said, that Jesus should have been called the firstborn of Jehovah? For if he is the "firstborn of every creature"(JKV), are we to conclude then, that "creation parented Jesus," because Pharaoh "parented his firstborn?
Well what did Paul say? He called Jesus "prototokos pases ktiseos," "the firstborn of all creation." (NWT) Paul wrote these inspired words in the grammatical case which is called the partitive genitive. A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament on page 79, indicates "a noun [in the case of Colossians 1:15, this would be prototokos or firstborn] may be defined, by indicating in the genitive [in Colossians 1:15, this would be pases ktiseos or of all creation] the whole [creation] of which it [firstborn] is a part." Thus, according to Thayer's Greek Lexicon on page 555, " [Jesus]....came into being through God prior to the entire universe of created things."
Thus this term, "firstborn of," is not speaking about the parent of the subject, but rather, it is pointing to the group or class to which the subject belongs!
Yes, Jesus indeed is in the group of those that were created.(Proverbs 8:22; John 3:16) However, his creation is very unique as is evident by the expression Paul used, the "firstborn of all creation." What exactly does this tell us?
Let us look to Colossians 1:18, which reads: "and he is the head of the body, the congregation. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that he might become the one who is first in all things."
Notice here that Jesus is called the "firstborn from the dead." How can this be true, for did not Jesus and other prophets of God raise persons from the dead? Yes they did! Thus this phrase, as applied to Jesus, tells of the type of resurrection Jesus had. His resurrection had to be unique in order for the term "firstborn from the dead" to be applied to him. But in what way? The Bible tells of two ways Jesus earns the title the "firstborn from the dead."
First: Galatians 1:1 says: "Paul, an apostle, neither from men nor through a man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him up from the dead" Peter said also at Acts 5:30: "The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus, whom YOU slew, hanging him upon a stake." (NWT)
Yes, it was God the Father himself who resurrected Jesus directly. Remember Jesus' words at John 5:28,29: "Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out."
Yes, when the dead are raised in the future, they will be raised because they hear Jesus' voice. (see 1Thess. 4:16 below) Thus all other resurrections in the future, from the time of Jesus' death on, will be through Jesus Christ. However, the resurrection of Jesus was done directly by the Father. Thus, Jesus rightfully is called the firstborn from the dead in this sense. But let us look at another way Jesus earns the title firstborn from the dead.
Second: Jesus told his disciples that where he would be, they would be also. John 14:3 reads: "Also, if I go my way and prepare a place for YOU, I am coming again and will receive YOU home to myself, that where I am YOU also may be." Yes, just as Jesus was resurrected to heaven, his disciples were to be raised with him. Notice that Jesus said "I am coming again and will receive YOU home." Yes, Jesus was the one who would resurrect those that would be with him in heaven. This is brought out clearer in 1Thessalonians 4:16, which says: "because the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel's voice and with God's trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first."
Yes Jesus was the firstborn from the dead to go to heaven. Others would follow. Jesus, as seen by Paul's words above, will descend and the dead will hear his voice, and those that are in union with Jesus (Romans 8:15,16) will be resurrected to heaven. Others, as John 5:28 says, will also be raised by Jesus to a glorious new earth. (Psalms 37:11,29; Matthew 5:5; 2Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:3,4)
Now in order to fully understand what the apostle Paul meant by the term "firstborn of all creation," we must turn our discussion to Colossians 1:16. Is Jesus the creator of all things and is the insertion of the word [other] proper? First, let us notice the end of verse 16. There we read: "All [other] things have been created through him and for him." Notice here that Jesus is the one "through whom all [other] things were created." The Greek word translated "through" is dia. In this verse, dia means: "denoting the channel of an act, agency, means." Yes, Jesus was the "means through which" creation took place. Notice also that this creation was done "for" him. Who did this "for him?" Paul tell us in Hebrews 1:1,2 : "God, who long ago spoke on many occasions and in many ways to our forefathers by means of the prophets, has at the end of these days spoken to us by means of a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the systems of things."
Yes it was Jesus' own God and Father, Jehovah (Micah 5:4) who made the system of things through his Son, who was with him in heaven! (Proverbs 30:4; 8:22,30; Genesis 1:26)
But is it proper to insert the word [other] into the text at Colossians 1:16,17? Well, as we have established, it was the Father, Jehovah, that was the author of creation. Jesus was the Father's means or instrument or channel by which His creation was accomplished. Also, as we have established above, it was the Father who was responsible for the disciples coming under the rulership or kingdom of Jesus, the "Son of his [the Father's] love." So the context leading up to Colossians 1:15,16 is dealing with the Father.
Now if we do NOT add the word [other] into the text, what would this mean? Well, if Jesus created ALL THINGS THAT WERE IN HEAVEN" then we would be under obligation to say that Jesus created his Father! For the Father most certainly is in heaven! And the context is dealing with the Father sending his Son. Also, the Father most certainly is a "thing." Webster's defines the word "thing" as: "that which is referred to as existing as an individual, an entity, a tangible object, a person." Yes, all things in heaven include the Father, who according to trinitarians IS a person. So then, are we to imagine that Jesus created God the Father? Well, the Bible teaches that the Father is the King of eternity at 1Tim.1:17. So one in this position hardly could be a created being! So you ABSOLUTELY NEED to insert the word [other] into the text, so as to avoid any confusion on this matter. But this is not the only reason the insertion of the word [other] is appropriate as we will see.
Pausing for a moment, let us consider what some mistakenly have stated. Some say that Paul could have used another word in this text, if he wanted to say that Jesus was "just a created being." Well, very simply, this is NOT what Paul wanted to say! This is NOT the point of the verse. For the thought that Paul was conveying was NOT that Jesus was "just a created being." Thus, those that make this statement do not even understand the verse in the first place. As Paul revealed in verse 15, Jesus' creation was unique. Paul's thought was that Jehovah directly created his Son Jesus, hence the title "the firstborn of all creation." We see this by John's use of the phrase the "only begotten Son" as in John 3:16. Jesus creation was a distinct type of creation, in that there was NO "channel," or "means by which," the creation of Jesus was accomplished. It was Jehovah's only direct creation. All [other] creations were different types of creations, as they were all done through Jesus as the "channel," or "means by which" these different creations came into being. Yes, these [other] things were all different in that they were creations made THROUGH Jesus.This is why Jesus is called the "prototokos" [firstborn] of all creation, or God's 'monogenes,' his "only begotten."
Thus, concerning these [other] things, Jesus is the means by which they came into being from the Father. It is NOT, as again some have mistakenly said, that God created Jesus, and then Jesus created all other things! Let us continue with our discussion.
To translate the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek into the English (or any language for that matter) is an awesome task. Bible translation committees have to struggle with the all important task of translating words from one language into another in a way that reflects the full impact, feeling, and flavour, of the original text. They must do this, while being conscience of doing so in a way that would not include any "overly biased views" that ultimately distort the translation. Words written in the original languages often are written in specific grammatical cases, or are placed in determined locations in the sentence, all of which indicate the full meaning of the word in the text. However, when you translate them into another language that does not use these different devices to indicate the same meaning, you need to insert words that impart the full flavour and understanding of the original word into the new language you are translating into.
Consider Acts 5:29, where we read: "Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.” (KJV) Notice the word “other” is in italics. That is how the KJV shows added words The NWT puts them in [ ]
Why is “other” added to the text here and no one complains. Could it be that there is no theological implication? Is it seen as OK to add words when the context demand when no theology is involved.
So what is the reason for adding “other”? The context suggests it. The surrounding verses read from the KJV
“27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, 28 Saying, Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. 29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.”
Now we all know that Peter was one of the 12 apostles. If the word “other” was not inserted, the reading would make Peter distinct from the apostles. The literal word for word reading of that verse is “Yet the Peter and the apostles said to be yeilding is binding God rather or humans” or in English gramma ...“Then Peter and the apostles said...” this literally makes Peter not a member of the 12, yet we know from other texts that he is.
We know from the context of Colossians and from other txts that Jesus is a different person to the Father, and is inferior to the Father. The only reasonable conclusion we can come to is to add the word “other”