- Colossians 1:15 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.”
PROBLEM: Jehovah’s Witnesses claim Jesus was God’s “firstborn” or “first-created.” They point out the firstborn child to Pharaoh refers to birth order. In the same way Jesus is the firstborn or first-created of Jehovah.
SOLUTION: The Greek word used in Colossians 1:15 is “prototokos” which can mean birth order, first in rank, preeminent one, or heir. So how do we know which definition is the best? We can study the context of the passage. Colossians 1:15-17 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” The definition “preeminent one” makes the most sense since verses 16 and17 say he was the creator of everything and all things were created for Him. Jesus cannot be created if He is the creator; He cannot create Himself.
Jehovah’s Witnesses still want to strongly assert the best definition is birth order in spite of the context of the passage. They say Pharaoh’s first born indicates birth order and it should be applied here. However, David was called firstborn in Psalm 89:27 and yet he was the youngest of seven brothers. In Psalm 89 he was the preeminent one or heir of God’s promise. The Messiah would come from the line of David. In addition firstborn was used when speaking of the priority of Israel in Exodus 4:22 (Israel my firstborn son). Again this doesn’t have anything to do with birth order. In addition when Paul uses firstborn he does not mean “first-created.” Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe Jesus was born in a human sense but that He is a created being. In the Greek the word for “first-created” is protoktisis. Paul avoided this term because he was not teaching that Jesus was a created being. The verses that follow strongly support Jesus as the uncreated creator.
In an attempt to bolster their case and change the context of the verses that follow verse 15, the New World Translation [NWT] added the word “other” four times. This was done to avoid calling Jesus the preeminent one, the uncreated creator. The word “other” was added in brackets in the NWT because it is not in the original. In verses 16 -17 the NWT writes, “…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. 17 Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist.” The word [other] was added to deny that Jesus created everything. Any word additions to the Bible that change the meaning of the text violate the rules of interpretation and in this case are heretical. The word [other] is not in the Greek manuscripts according to their own textbook called the “Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures.” They claim it helps clarify the verses. However, it actually changes what Paul intended. Words cannot be added if they change the meaning of the passage. Luke 13:2 is an example of where “other” is added in many translations but doesn’t change the meaning of the passage. This is an acceptable practice.
Rev. 3:14 “…The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, “
PROBLEM: Jehovah’s Witnesses use this verse to show that Jesus is a created being. They say he is the “beginning of the creation of God.” For them this means he was the first thing God created.
SOLUTION: The Greek word for beginning is “arche” which can mean, one who begins, origin, source, creator, first cause, or ruler. As usual context determines the meaning. I believe the best definition is “first cause.” This makes Jesus the active beginning of the creation, the one who caused creation. The English word architect is derived from “arche.” Jesus functions as the architect of all creation. This definition can be supported in John 1:3, Col. 1:16, & Heb. 1:2. Some translations use the word “ruler” over all creation. Jesus as the ruler also works according to the context.
The Greek word “arche” is used of Jehovah (God) as the beginning and the end in Revelations 1:17, 21:6, & 22:13 (see also Isa. 44:6 & 48:12). For Jehovah’s Witnesses to be consistent they have to say if “arche” means Jesus was created then the same word used three other times in Revelations for Jehovah should be interpreted as He was created. However, they will never accept that Jehovah was created.
In addition John 1:3 & Colossians 1:16 say Jesus is the uncreated creator. If He created “all things” he cannot create Himself. To say Jesus was created would contradict those verses.