The Firstborn

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters. It seems hard to believe that we’re in another book of the Bible. When I began this Trinitarian commentary, I had no idea it would last this long but lo and behold, it has. We are continuing our walk through the Pauline epistles and tonight, we start the book of Colossians. Right off the top, we’re going to deal with one of the Jehovah’s Witnesses favorite prooftexts against the Trinity, Colossians 1:15-20.

15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Firstborn! See?! Jesus is firstborn! That means that he’s created!

Not quite. First off, note that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. We as humans are made in the image, but Jesus is the image. As long as God has been, his image has been as well. An image is not a copy after all.

The firstborn passage does not refer to a chronological firstborn. One indication of this is in the Watchtower’s own New World Translation. In this passage, they add the word “other” four times. There is no basis for doing such except to support their dogma. One would think that if the New Testament clearly did not teach the deity of Christ, it would not need to be changed so much.

Firstborn instead refers to a place of pre-eminence. We can see this also because of Jesus being the firstborn from among the dead. He was certainly not the first one to come back from the dead, but he is the most eminent one as his resurrection is the basis for the resurrection of the rest of us.

This whole passage places Jesus in a supreme position above all things. This is the point of verses 16-17. James White gives an interesting look at this in his book “The Forgotten Trinity” stating that a proto-Gnostic heresy was going around that was believing in multiple lesser gods called aeons. Now the Gnostics were happy to accept Jesus as a being worthy of worship. He’s just an aeon however, a lesser god.

Paul will have none of that. Jesus is supreme. He is the one to whom honor and worship are owed, which is fitting since this passage could very well be yet another Christian hymn.

Note also that verse 17 says that in him all things hold together. What I like to ask JWs is that if this is true, and if Jesus ceased to exist on the cross when he died, how did all things hold together? Jesus is seen as the basis for all reality. How can he be anything less than God if all things are held together in him?

For further on this, many books can give you insights into the Greek of the text. As one who does not know Greek, I make it a point not to speak on that level, but I encourage it for all who are interested.

My conclusion is that the Witnesses have no basis in using this verse. The context as a whole speaks of the full deity of Jesus and to misunderstand one word and base the whole argument on that is entirely fallacious.

We shall continue this study of Colossians tomorrow.

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