Colossians 1:15 in the New World Translation.
Questions that will be addressed are :
1)What is the meaning of the words PROTOTOKOS PASHS KTISEWS, "firstborn of all creation"?
2)Why does the New World Translation employ the word "other" in verses 16, 17 and 20?
As far as we know the New World Translation is the only English Bible translation that 'inserts' or 'adds' the word "other" in verses 16(twice), 17(twice) and 20(once) in Colossians Chapter 1. Why have they done so?
In The Watchtower of April 15th, 1970, p.255 we find this remark:
"In considering this
matter it is well to note that Bible writers often took for
granted that certain things would be understood, just as writers
in our day do. For example, the apostle Paul states, as we read
at Colossians 1:16, that by means of Jesus Christ all things were
created in the heavens and on earth. But since we know from
Revelation 3:14 that Jesus himself was also created, the New
World Translation adds the word "other," which clearly
is what the apostle had in mind. But even here, it might be added,
that, were it not for the prevalence of the trinitarian
teaching that Jesus was not created, it would not have been
necessary to add the word "other." "(italics
Therein is a frank admission. There is no doubt that the "orthodox theology", the belief in the Trinity, influenced the NWTTC's treatment of Colossians 1:16-20.
We might begin here that it is not unusual for words to be 'added,' 'supplied,' or 'inserted', whatever way you like to describe it, by the translator, so as bring out in an English translation the proper sense that the original meaning had and that the readers of it in the Hebrew and/or Greek languages of the 1st century would naturally have understood it. One only has to pick up a copy of the King James Version and see that they have indicated where they have done so by putting their "additions" in italics. Indeed, this 'practice' occurs hundreds of times. In fact one can see it happening in this very chapter in Colossians with many modern English translations such as the New International Version and The New Revised Standard Version(please examine the English texts of these translations with that of the original N.T. text). Of course, they do not 'use' the English word "other" at v.15. However, as will be shown, the word "other" can be part of the Greek word under discussion here. So it could correctly be said that the word "other" has not been "added." "Supplied for the correct sense" would be a better description to use.
The following is a CARM(Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry)comment, in part, on Colossians 1 in The New World Translation:
"First of all the J.W.'s interpret the word "firstborn" to mean "first created." This is not correct because there is a Greek word of "first created" and it is not used. The Greek for firstborn is proto with tikto: firstborn. The Greek for first created would be proto with ktizo: first created. Paul did not use the second but the first. Second, the biblical use of the word "firstborn" is most interesting. It can mean the first born child in a family (Luke 2:7), but it can also mean "pre-eminence." In Psalm 89:20, 27 it says, "I have found David My servant; with My holy oil I have anointed him...I also shall make him My first-born" (NASB). As you can see, David, who was the last one born in his family was called the firstborn by God. This is a title of preeminence here."
first point by the CARM writer here. Untrue! Jehovah's Witnesses do
not interpret the word "prototokos",
"firstborn," here as "first created." No
publication of the Jehovah's Witnesses have claimed this. The
meaning of this word is undoubtedly "the one born first."
There is no doubt that PRWTOTOKOS appears to carry the lexical
content of "the one who is born first," so the TEV
and CEV's translation of this word as "firstborn"
and "superior" is hardly warranted and must be
construed as truly biased or "theological translations."
(Cp. A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, F.Rienecker/Cleon
Rogers, under "prototokos" at Col.1:15.) That it
literally means "firstborn" excludes any of type of
genitive understanding, such as a "genitive of subordination"
so that we can be certain, as in all other occurences of the
expression, that it is indeed a "partitive genitive."
Interestingly in v.18 we have the word ARCHE and PROTOTOKOS EK TWN NEKRWN in apposition and hence are synonomous with each other here.(They are not in apposition with KEFLAH by the way as some might want!) PROTOTOKOS is partitive genitive here, that is, this "firstborn" is part of the group, here of "from the dead." This argues that ARCHE has the meaning of "beginning" as a partitive genitive also with temporal significance. True, the Son is pre-eminent of those who have died but this comes from him being the first of that group to have received a resurrection to the heavens. It is for this reason that the Son has the "first place"(PRWTEUWN) in "everything." His being ARCHE and PROTOTOKOS has both temporal and pre-eminence. The latter arises from the former.
What the CARM writer also appears not to be aware of, and necessarily then does not address at all, is that Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the phrase "prototokos pantes ktiseos" means that the one here described as the "firstborn", Jesus Christ, is the 'first one to be created' .
In The Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Colossians and to Philemon: An Introduction and Commentary by C.F.D.Moule (Cambridge Greek Testament Commentary, Cambridge University Press, 1957, pages 63, 64) we can read:
"[PROTOTOKOS PASHS KTISEWS]. If this phrase were interpreted without reference to its context and to other expressions of St. Paul's thought about Christ, it might be natural to understand it as describing Christ as included among created things, and as merely the 'eldest' of that 'family': in Rom. viii. 29 [PRWTOTOKOS] does appear in this included sense......"
Note that Moule says that the words that Paul used, namely, "firstborn of all creation" would "naturally" mean that the "firstborn" would be a part of "creation," that the "firstborn" would be the oldest in that 'group,' hence, a creature. This negates the assertions made by CARM as quoted above about the word PROTOTOKOS. Moule, of course, rejects this "interpretation" on grounds of context and what Paul wrote about the Christ elsewhere. Not on the actual words he used in v.15. We disagree with him on this, that is, that context and Paul's words elsewhere contradicts this "natural" interpretation and we shall show why below. Still, Moule rejects the "natural" interpretation while the Jehovah's Witnesses accept that "natural" interpretation. The Jehovah's Witness "interpretation" then is the "natural" one and the Trinitarian is not! Precisely!
So we have to examine the phrase Paul used not just the word PROTOTOKOS. As to Psalm 89:27 which the CARM writer refers us to. True, here, the word means one of an exalted position. But this position is said to be one that was given to David. "I shall make him My first-born" as the New American Standard Version says. Other versions say that this position of "firstborn" was by God to David as of "appoint[ment],"-New Iinternational Version and New Berkeley Version and a "place[ment]"-New World Translation (Hebrew: 'natan'. It means "to give, place, add, send forth." See Gen 40:30; Ex. 5:18; 28:14, 25; 31:6; 32:29; 40:18; Lev 14:18; Nu. 35:6; 1Ki. 20:5; Ps 68:34; Ecc 9:1; Is 37:19. Figurative uses: Gen 4:12; Lev 25:19; Ps 67:6; 89:27; Jer 25:30; Joel 2:11) But the status of Jesus Christ as God's "firstborn" is never said to be one of "appointment" or "placement." He is literally, not figuratively, God's firstborn. True, Jesus Christ is pre-eminent among those who are created, but this pre-eminence comes from him literally, really being, the first one of God's sons. So the word "firstborn" here in Colossians 1:15 has a temporal sense, a sense that occurs well over a hundred times in the Bible, including Romans 8:29 and Hebrews 1:6, both in reference to Jesus Christ
It might be added here that Stafford after referring to Lightfoot's rejection of the interpretation of the phrase "the firstborn of," as meaning "the earliest of created beings"(Saint Paul's Epistle to the Colossians and to Philemon, pp.144-146)also points out the weakness of Lightfoot's arguement that the Church Fathers of the 4th century called attention to the fact that the Paul did not write "first-created," but "firstborn."(This arguement is repeated by Bruce Metzger- The Jehovah's Witnesses and Jesus Christ, A Biblical and Theological Apraisal, Theology Today, 10.1(April 1953, p.77) But, apparently, the word "protoktistos," "first-created," "was not in popular use until the second or third century CE!" Stafford goes on to make the point that when it, "protoktistos," began to be used more it was, when in reference to Christ, used "with little or no apparent distinction in meaning..[with]firstborn."-Jehovah's Witnesses Defended, 1st.ed., pp. 92, 93).
So the arguement by the CARM writer[Matt Slick?] is void. If Paul did wish to state that Jesus Christ was in fact the first one that God had created(yet also uniquely as in the sense of his being the only direct creation of God)then "prototokos," in the phrase "prototokos pases ktiseos" would be a most straightforward way, the most "natural" way of saying just that at the time of his doing so in the latter half of the 1st century.
In evidence of this we might benefit by looking at what Clement of Alexandria wrote.
This Christian writer who lived from 153 - 217 A.D. was one of the first to use the term "first-created" in reference to the Son of God. In his book "Clement of Alexandria" (Edinburgh: William Blackwood and Sons, 1914; pp. 103, 104) John Patrick tells us:
"Clement repeatedly identifies the Word with the Wisdom of God, and yet he refers to Wisdom as the first-created of God; while in one passage he attaches the epithet "First-created," and in another "First-begotten," to the Word. But this seems to be rather a question of language rather than a question of doctrine. At a later date a sharp distinction was drawn between "first-created" and "first-born" or "first-begotten." But no such distinction was drawn in the time of Clement, who with the Septuagint rendering of a passage in Proverbs before him could have no misgiving as to the use of these terms. ...Str., 5.14 Ex. Theod., c.20. Str., vi.7. See Suicer's Thesaurus on PROTOKTISTOS KURIOS EKTISEN ME ARCHEN hODON AUTOU. [Lord (Jehovah) created me first of work of his] Prov 8:22 ... Zahn [in "Supplementum Clementinum: pages 141-147] ... points to the fact the Clement makes a sharp distinction between the Son and the Word who was Begotten or created before the rest of creation and the alone unbegotten God and Father."
According to Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible the phrase "the firstborn of" occurs 36 times. They are Genesis 25:13; Exodus 6:14; 11:5(3); 12:29(3); 13:13; 13:15(3); 22:29; 34:20; Numbers 3:13,40,46,50; 8:16,17; 18:15; Joshua 17:1; 1 Chronicles 1:29; 2:3,13,25,27,50; 4:4; 5:1; 9:31; Nehemiah 10:36; Job 18:13; Psalms 135:8; Isaiah 14:30 and Colossians 1:15.
If we examine each and every one of the above we find that the "firstborn" is one of, or part of, belongs to, the group or person it is said to be of. That in every case the "firstborn" had a beginning of existence. Hence, in Exodus 11:5, in the grammatical construction under consideration, the "firstborn of Pharaoh" belonged to, or was of, Pharaoh; the "firstborn of the maidservant" was literally the one born first of the maidservant and the "firstborn of beast" was itself a beast. So, therefore, the phrase in Colossians 1:15,"the firstborn of all creation," would, according to Bible usage, be itself a part of creation, belonged to creation, a created being itself, that it has also a beginning of existence. So the evidence for a Genitive of subordination, so that it could mean as the NIV reads: "firstborn over creation," is extremely weak if not non-existent. The LXX and the New Testament use of this expression heavily weighs in favour of a partitive genitive here. The New Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon here at Colossians 1:15 under the word "prototokos says, "Christ is called [prototokos pases ktiseos](partit[ive] gen[itive]...as in Gen iv.4;...Deut.xii.17;...Ex.xxii.29.." So, grammatically, prototokos pases ktiseos, "firstborn of all creation" could mean "that Christ stands at the apex of creation, but still a created being....Thus 'all creation' would be the totality of which the Son is the firstborn, and the genitive would then be partitive or qualifying."-The Epistles of Paul to the Colossians and Philemon, An Introduction and Commentary, The Rev. H.M.Carson, Tyndale Press, 1st Edition, 1960, page 42. (Carson rejects the expression as being partitive because he believes that "the context rules this out completely."-ibid. We believe that the context, aswell as biblical usage, rules it in "completely" as we will argue below.)
Also at Ex.4.22 we do not have "firstborn of," a genitive expression, but is, as the LXX reads, PRWTOTOKOS MOU ISRAHL, literally translated , "firstborn my Israel" and meaning "Israel, my[Jehovah's] firstborn." This is a possessive expression not a partitive genitive! This "Israel" was given its existence by the 'category'(Jehovah) it precedes linguistically, that it had a beginning of existence through Jehovah and that "Israel" was his first nation( hence "firstborn" has a temporal meaning) and so rightly designated as a figurative "firstborn" as a figurative "son". This is figurative language. The language of Colossians 1.15 is not figuative but really means that the Son is the "firstborn of creation." This example then, Ex.4.22 , does not overturn the above argument which argument is based on sound linguistic principles and consistent scriptural usage. Anyone using Ex.4.22 in an attempt the overturn the previous paragraph are either being ignorant or dishonest(or both)about the basis for the partitive argument herewith presented and by other Jehovah's Witnesses sources! If anyone does try to cite Ex.4.22 against the partitive understanding of its meaning at Colossians 1.15 and the other exact parallel linguistic examples given here shows they have no argument against the partitive meaning it and these others have! A strawman!!
One trinitarian, Goldsmith, on a trinitarian apologetics site, has actually argued that PRWTOTOKOS PASHS KTISEWS can be a partitive expression but if it is it then refers to the Son's birth on earth at which time he became a man, hence a creature. However, would that same trinitarian believe, as he then must do, that PASHS KTISEWS "all creation" is a reference to Mankind? For that is what he would have us believe! Would that trinitarian argue that it was through the man Jesus Christ that "all things" or "all other things" were created? That it was through the man Jesus Christ that "all [other]things in the heavens and the earth, the things invisible and the things visible" came through? Obviously, this passage is clearly showing that the pre-existent Son, a spirit creature, God's firstborn Son, was the first of "all creation"[PASHS KTISEWS] and that by means of this One "all [other] things"[TA PANTA] were created. We can see the Son's involvement in creation from Genesis 1:26, Proverbs 8:22 and John 1:3. Agreeing that the expression we find in v.15 of Colossians 1 is partitive is tantamount to agreeing that the Son is in fact a creature but the first creature of all time! That the "firstborn of all creation" expression is pointing back to the time, no, not when the Son was born a man in the earthly city of Bethlehem, but when the Son was born, first came into existence prior to everything else, either in the heavens or upon the earth. We would agree! Hence, it is not surprising that Goldsmith prefers the expression to be a genitive of subordination (Wallace states this in his grammar)and not one of partition. With that we would not agree. And it is no surprise that Goldsmith cannot marshall one example from the LXX or the GNT. So, this is special pleading is it not? Yet, by admitting that the trinitarian view of the Son can be accommodated with the acceptance of the expression as a partitive genitive and given that if one does that the context argues for the Son's pre-existence before being born a man, this lends great support for the belief that the Son was indeed a creature, the first that God created.
At this point we would like to reproduce the following criticsm made against the New World Translation and please note the last remarks made:
"Attempting to justify this unheard of travesty upon the Greek language and simple honesty, the New World Translation committee insert a footnote, marked (a) after each use of the word "other", which refers the reader to Luke 13:2,4, "and elsewhere," for apparent support of their ungrammatical rendering. Upon turning to Luke 13:2,4, however, the elementary Greek student can see that the Witnesses plainly do not have any grammatical leg to stand on as is shown by their immature reasoning. The verses utilized by the Watch Tower to cover up their scholastic dishonesty are as follows: So in reply, he said to them: "Do you imagine that these Galileans were proved worse sinners than all OTHER Galileans because they have suffered these things?" (verse 2, N.W.T.). "Or those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell, thereby killing them, do you imagine that they were proved greater debtors than all OTHER men inhabiting Jerusalem?" (verse 4, N.W.T.). In the translation of these verses, the Watch Tower translators also inserted the word "other," not present in the Greek text, on the ground that it is implied in the context, owing to the comparison made by Jesus. It is admissible, of course, that Jesus was drawing a contrast between certain Galileans and their fellow countrymen; but it is NOT admissible to insert terms in order to prove a doctrinal point, and in Colossians 1:15-17 no such comparison or contrast is being made anyway; unless, as is the case with Jehovah's Witnesses, one assumes that Christ Himself was a "creature" or a "thing", which would necessitate inserting the word "other" in order to conform Scripture to a preconceived theology. It is incorrect grammar, no reputable translation dares tamper with doctrinal texts in this way, and not one single competent Greek authority can be cited for this deliberate attempt to reduce the Son of God from Creator to creature. " -italics ours.
It is true that the footnote to verse 16 concerning the word "other" in Luke 13:2,4 in the NWT Reference Edition only deals with the vocabulary of the Greek and does not address the linguistics of it nor the context. So it would have definitely had helped if there had been an appendix supplied in the NWT, similiar to those concerning John 1:1and 8:58 for instance.(see Furuli,p.261,par.1) The footnote could not be evidence of "immature reasoning" as it's intention was only to bring to the NWT's readers attention that there are times when words not in the original are none the less implied by the context and have to be supplied to get the proper sense/meaning across in an English translation. There was no "reasoning" contained in the simple footnote so there can be no charge of it being "immature reasoning."! What the above critic has to do is address or rather do some "reasoning" himself on the real issue. What did Paul mean when he used the phrase toward the Son as being the "firstborn of all creation." However, as has been shown already there IS good reason not just to "assume", as the critic alleges above toward the NWT editors, that Jesus is a creature. The phrase that Paul uses at Colossians 1:15 "the firstborn of all creation" strongly suggests, even definitely says, just that. Hence, the critic has inadvertently admitted that if it can be proved that verse 15 shows that Jesus is indeed a creature(the expression is a partitive genitive)then the word "other" would be "necessitated". Exactly! So, after such proof has been given above, where then is there any "scholastic dishonesty" or "travesty" on the part of the New World Translation editors? Their use of the word "other" does not come from a "preconcieved theology" but from the correct understanding of Colossians 1:15 together with a correct understanding about the Son. Their understanding of the phrase "the firstborn of all creation" has been given in an Awake magazine issue of 1979 (which the critic has probably not checked up on and hence in his criticisms above has not addressed at all) which says:
" To the
congregation at Colossae, Asia Minor, the apostle Paul wrote
concerning Jesus Christ,according to the Common Bible "He is
the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation;
for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth,
visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or
principalities or authorities-all things were created through him
and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold
together."- Col. 1:15-17. What did the apostle mean by
calling Jesus Christ "the first-born of all creation"?
Paul's further words enlarge on the matter: "He is the head
of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from
the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent."- Col.
Here we find that the Greek words for both "first-born"( prototokos ) and "beginning" (arkhe ) describe Jesus as the first one of a group of class, "the body, the church," and therefore he has preeminence in this respect. He also has preeminence in being the first one resurrected to endless life from among all the human dead.- 1 Cor. 15:22, 23.
The same Greek words occur in the Greek Septuagint translation at Genesis 49:3: "Ruben, thou art my first-born [ prototokos ], thou my strength, and the first [ arkhe] beginning ] of my children." (Compare Deuteronomy 21:17, Septuagint.) From such Biblical statements it is reasonable to conclude that the Son of God is the firstborn of all creation in the sense of being the first of God's creatures. In fact, Jesus refers to himself as "the beginning [ arkhe ] of God's creation." (Rev. 3:14,CB ) The New World Translation renders the phrase in this verse: "the beginning of the creation by God."
There are many who object to the idea of Jesus as being a created person. They argue that since "in him all things were created"(CB)- during his prehuman existence in heaven- Jesus himself could not be a creature. Such individuals believe that Jesus is himself Almighty God, the second person of a "trinity" of three coequal, coeternal persons in one "godhead."
Individuals of that persuasion interpret the Greek expression (at Revelation 3:14) for "the beginning of God's creation" as meaning "the origin (or 'primary source' ) of the creation of God." One who prefers this idea is the noted Greek scholar Henry Alford. Nevertheless, in his work The Greek Testament, Alford concedes: "The mere word arkh'e would admit the meaning that Christ is the first created being: see Gen. xlix. 3; Deut. xxi. 17; and Prov. viii. 22. And so the Arians here take it, and some who have followed them: e.g. Castalio, chef doeuvre: omnium Dei operum excellentissimum atque primum: [meaning " the first and most excellent of all God's works" ] and so Ewald and Zullig."
According to The Expositor's Greek Testament, to understand Revelation 3:14 as meaning that Jesus is "the active source" of creation, rather than the first created person, one must interpret arkh'e "as in Greek philosophy and [non-Biblical] Jewish wisdom-literature,= aitia or origin." The inspired Bible writers, however, never borrowed ideas from Greek philosophy. But how could Jesus be a creature if "in him all things were created" ? At times the Bible uses the word "all" in a way that allows for exceptions. For example, we read at 1 Corinthians 15:27 :" But when it says, "All things are put in subjection under him [Jesus Christ]," it is plain that he [God] is excepted who put all things under him." As a further illustration the Bible states that "through one man," Adam, "death spread to all men." (Rom. 5:12, ) Though Adam was not part of the "all men" to whom death "spread" (since previous to Adam there was no human who could have spread death to him), he was nonetheless a man. Similarly, though Jesus was not part of the "all things" that came into existence through him, he was, nevertheless, a created person, the very first creature of God. The Greek word "panta" in certain contexts means "all other," as in 1 Corinthians 15:24 and 6:18. (See An American Translation,Moffatt,Common Bible.) Hence, the New World Translation reads: "by means of him all [other] things were created . . . he is before all [other] things."- Col. 1:16, 17.Jesus' being the firstborn of all creation involves the law of primogeniture, the right of the one born or produced first. From earliest times the real firstborn son enjoyed special privileges that included succeeding to headship of the household and inheriting a double portion of the father's property. (Deut. 21:15-17) Kingship and priesthood, too, were inherited by the firstborn son of a king or high priest in ancient Israel.-See 2 Chronicles 21:3.
Since Jesus as the firstborn of all creation is a created person, he cannot be Almighty God. The Scriptures repeatedly portray him as in a position subordinate to God. For example, concerning the resurrected Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul wrote: "I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God." (1 Cor.11:3,CB ) When giving the inspired "Revelation" to the apostle John, Jesus said concerning himself: "He who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God; never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name." (Rev. 3:12, CB ) Did you note that four times in this verse alone Jesus refers to his Father, Jehovah, as "my God"?-Compare Philippians 2:5, 6, CB.
In no way is this meant to deny the exalted position that Jesus occupies next to God. Before ascending to heaven, Jesus said to his disciples: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."(Matt. 28:18, CB ) It was appropriate for God to "give" to his Son such authority, since the Son was the firstborn of all creatures. Right in line with primogenitureship, the apostle Paul could write concerning Jesus: "[God] raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come; and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church."- Eph. 1:20-23,CB.
[ftnote:The Common Bible is approved by both Catholic and Protestant authoriites]-Awake, April 8th,1979,p.28.
So whose "preconcieved theology" is being read into the passage of Colossians 1:15-19? Is it the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses or those of Trinitarians?
understanding of Colossians 1:15 is correct, which Jehovah's
Witnesses believe it to be so and which this page has shown it to
be so, that Christ is part of "all creation"(pases
ktiseos), but the first and unique of "all creation"
because of being God's "firstborn," then when Paul
writes that "by means of " this firstborn
"all things"(ta panta) came into
existence the addition of the word "other" is
justifiable. The prehuman Christ could not be part of those
through whom himself these "all things" were created.
These "all things" were those that God created "through"
the agency of his "firstborn". This "firstborn"
would be the only creation that God himself directly
But even if the word "other" had not been used by the New World Translation Committee in verses 16 and 17 the readers of this passage would still be able to understand the meaning of "all things" as not being equivalent to "all creation." This can be seen from "ta panta" at verse 20. Is anyone going to assert that "all things" there mean "all creation"? If so then is it through the Christ that God will reconcile Satan and the disobedient angels, whom are of "all creation"? Or do the faithful angels who are also part of "all creation" in need of "reconcilliation"?
So, obviously, the "all things" (Greek PANTA)in verse 20 is restricted to those who are sinful and in need of reconcilliation. Hence, as the Christ was part of "all creation"(v.15) then "all creation" cannot be equivalent to the "all things"(v.16, 17 Greek PANTA)that were created through him and so the "all things" are contextually restricted to creation other than the "firstborn of all creation," the prehuman Christ!
The context then would make the use of the word "other" certainly tenable and defensible in verses 16 and 17, if not absolutely necessary. The use of the word "other" by the NWT here cannot be deemed "interpolation" any more than the word "other" has been used at Acts 5:29(see below)and other places. It is implied from the context. If something is implied then the translator has the right to include it explicitly in his translation. But this is where we have to go back the the NWT Translation Committee's "frank admission" that the Trinitarian view of Colossians 1:15-17 influenced how they approached this passage. They wanted a translation that was not only "justifiable" linguistically,grammatically and contextually, but one which without any doubt or uncertainty make the passage say what it means-that the prehuman Christ was indeed a part of creation. That he was a creature- as the rest of the scriptures show.
Interestingly, Dr Jason BeDuhn wrote to us in 1998 regarding this phrase "firstborn of all creation":
Colossians 1:15-20, you have focused precisely on the key to this
passage. By calling Jesus the "firstborn of creation"
in v.15, Paul has explicitly identified Christ as part of
creation. Amazingly, most Christians overlook this fact. The
JW's draw attention to it by inserting [other] into the
subsequent verses. A bit heavy handed, but in terms of the
content and meaning of the passage, perfectly correct.
Paul does not mean to assert that Christ created himself, and he
of course did not create God; rather he is the agent of creating
everything else. Let me add that Christ is both part of creation
and creator in this passage. It's not the simple either/or that
modern Christianity favors."
(reproduced with permission. For Jason BeDuhn's recent published analysis of Colossians 1:15ff we recommend the Chapter "Probing the Implicit Meaning" in his book "Truth in Translation: Accuracy and Bias in English Translations of the New Testament." Please see Recommended Books page.)
Acts 5:29 according to the New Revised Standard Version says: "But Peter and the apostles answered...". But was not Peter an apostle also? Yes, of course. That is why some translations here, such as the New International Version 'adds' the word "other" so that it reads: "Peter and the other apostles replied..." (see also Todays English Version). This 'adding' of the word "other" here is "perfectly correct" if not absolutely 'necessary,' for the reader very probably will not be misled into thinking Peter was not an apostle himself. But below there will be given an example(Acts 2:17)where "pas" cannot be construed in an unlimited, absolute sense and hence the need for an additional word to be supplied by the careful translator into the English.
Of course, the
above critic would have us believe that the NWT Translation
Committee "did not have a leg to stand on"
grammatically here at Colossians 1:16, 17. The above Greek
scholar, who has no theological "axe" to grind for or
against the Jehovah's Witnesses, indeed, nor against any
theological predilection including those of trinitarian
persuasion, does not agree. In regard to the NWT's use of the
word "other" in verses 16 and 17 of Colossians 1 he
says it is "perfectly correct."
If you remember the above critic stated :"not one single competent Greek authority can be cited for this deliberate attempt to reduce the Son of God from Creator to creature." Well, we have, herein, not only quoted a "competent" authority on Biblical Greek but one who is not a theologian aswell. Most "competent Greek authorities" the critic might have in mind may well be those who are also Trinitarians like himself. The NWT editors have not "deliberately attempted to reduce the Son of God from God to creature." They have translated this passage in a way that shows quite clearly, as the original Greek did to the first century Christians, that the Son of God was just that - the Son of God, God's "firstborn of all creation."
One point a CARM critic[Matt Slick?]makes in the NWT's use of "other" in this passage of scripture reads:
"there exists two Greek words for "other": allos which means another of the same kind; and heteros which means another of a different kind. Paul could have used either here if he wanted to show that Jesus was "another" created thing. But he did not."
What Paul "could
have used" is besides the point! We have to analyse what
Paul did write. But the fact is that this CARM arguement
is insubstantial. The word Paul did use "panta," an
inflected form of "pas," can mean "all other."
F.Blass and A Debrunner, A Greek Grammar of the New Testament
and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1961, section.480, p. 254. Trans. by R.W.Funk)
says concerning ellipses "Further ellipses: (1) The omission
of the notion 'other, whatever' (§ 306 (5)) is specifically
Greek." What that means is that it is typical of the Greek
to omit one or more words, to be supplied by the reader or hearer.
A place where PAS is certainly used in a limited, restricted sense is Acts 2:17. Will the Spirit be poured out upon "ALL flesh",("all flesh"- NRSV, NAB; "all people"-NIV, "all mankind"- REB, TNT, "everyone"- CEV. Gk.,"e·pi´ par´san sar´ka) also upon those having sinned against the Spirit? But the spirit will be poured out upon "EVERY SORT of flesh"(NWT), the kinds being specified in the following words. To translate "pas" here as "all" could, therefore, definitely be misleading. In fact, Furuli in his book on p.253 informs his readers that in comparing the NWT here at Acts 2:17 with 70 other translations the NWT was the only one that "has hit the target."
So as "pas" can mean "all other" as well as "all," absolutely, then linguistically the supplying of the word "other" in Colossians 1:16ff by the NWT editors is perfectly legitimate and in view that the NWTTC were also concerned that the trinity doctrine prevails in many publications in the understanding of this passage the NWTTC no doubt, as they frankly admit they did(see quote at beginning),wanted a translation that would offer no cause for doubt what Paul's correct meaning was when he wrote that "by means of him[the "firstborn of all creation]all [or "all other"] things were created". Context must be looked at as a determining factor aswell as has been considered above. The CARM writer has put forth a very weak arguement indeed. In fact it is both irrelevant and unscholarly.
One writer who objects to the use of the word "other" in Colossians 1:16 says:
"In John 1:3, the New World Translation (of the Jehovah’s Witnesses) says “All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence...”“...apart from him...” is read by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to mean that Jesus created everything besides himself . They read ‘apart from him’ in the sense of ‘except him’ or ‘excluding him’. However, the actual meaning of this word translated “apart” (Greek ‘choris’) means “without”, i.e. “without him nothing was created”. This word is translated ‘without’ in Mat 13:34, Mk 4:34, Lk 6:49, Rom 10:14, Eph 2:12, 1 Co 4:8, 1 Tim 5:21, Phil 1:14, Heb 4:15, Heb 7:7, Js 2:26 et al. Even in the few cases where the New World translation translates the word ‘apart’ it also must mean ‘without’ (see John 15:5, Rom 3:28, 1 Tim 2:8) - in these verses ‘apart’ can not be read to mean excepting or excluding. I think that John 1:3 can not possibly mean what the New World Translation implies. Rather, to me the verse actually means that without Jesus nothing was created - Jesus created all things, and therefore could not have been created himself."
From this I believe the writer has possibly both misunderstood what John 1:3,4 signifies in regard to the "Word," Jesus and does not fairly represents the Jehovah's Witnesses view aswell.
Where we read: “...apart from him...” is read by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to mean that Jesus created everything besides himself," We would reply. Not so! Jehovah's Witnesses believe that according to the context(but we are not dogmatic about this) the "all things" mentioned in John 1:3 is not "all creation," which would include all spirit creatures, but is in connection with "the beginning"[Gk.,"en arkhe"] cited in v.1. This "beginning," we believe, is the physical creation, the 'cosmos' and is in reference to the "beginning" of Genesis 1:1["en arkhe" LXX] where it is this creation that is in view. So, there is no arguement between the above writer and Jehovah's Witnesses here! Jehovah's Witnesses would agree that Jesus is not part of the physical creation and so the writer's comments on how we should view the word "apart" is not in dispute. We agree that "without him[the Word]nothing was created," but of course in reference to the physical creation only, and so "all [physical]things came into existence through him." Note that it was "through" the Word that these "all things came into existence." It is the thought of John 1:3b that nothing came into existence that did not come "through" the Word. But by this John shows that even here in reference to the physical creation the Word was the 'agency' or means of creation and not it's ultimate source. The 'ultimate source' or cause remains the Father, Jehovah God. It is he who the scriptures honour as the Creator and him alone.- 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 3:9; Revelation 4:10,11; 10:6.
Question from a reader : "Hello, I've read a bit of your info. Can you help me sort out these problems? The NWT has clearly been bias in it's translation of Colossians 1:16-20. We have seen the word "other" added five times in these 5 verses. But in Colossians 1:18 it says "...the one who is first in all things. Why didn't the NWT remain consistent and add "other" here as well? Clearly, anyone with just the tiniest bit of discernment can see through this deceptive web of lies and scripture twisting. If the WTS was consistent and added "other" in Colossians 1:18, just like they did in the surrounding verses, it would read: "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 (other) things." If they added "other" then the sentence is no longer logical. Suddenly the meaning is altered to say that Jesus is the first of other things, but that would make no sense to mention the congregation, the dead, etc, with the word other. Can you JW's comprehend this? "
Here the question asked is, basically, why did
the NWT Translation Committee(not the "WTS"!) not
render pas, "all," in verse 18 as "all other"
as it has in verses 16, 17 and 20?
The reason is very simple. In the latter verses "other" is implied because in verse 15 the Son is stated to be the "first of all creation," meaning he was the first to be created and when next it is stated that "all things" came "through[Grk: dia]" this one then it must mean "all things" other than the one through whom these "all things" came into existence. This "firstborn of all creation" then is not included in the "all things" he himself was the agent "through" which they came about and whom God directly, through no agency, brought into existence. Hence, "other" is implied in the Greek word pas in verses 16 and 17.
In verse 18 however, there is no implication that there was any "thing" that was excluded from those that the Son was the "first in" The Son is stated to be "the head of the body, the congregation...the beginning, the firstborn from the dead" hence the word "other" is not implied when he is then stated to be the one who is "first in all[Gk: pas]things." How could the Son be the "first in all other things" when not one "thing" is excluded from this one as being the "first"? There is not a "thing" he is not the "first" in! (He is also the "firstborn from the dead" because his resurrection was the first to immortal life as a spirit in heaven. All those who died and had a resurrection before him died again. i.e. Lazarus. Yes, he was the "beginning," the first" of all those who will recieve a resurrection like his. Romans 6.5; Rev.1.5. Cor.15.22, 23)
It is the same with v.15. Here we see that the Son is "the firstborn of all[pas] creation." It would be nonsense to translate pas here as "all other" so that it should read "the firstborn of all other creation" for there is not a "creation" that the Son is not the "firstborn" of! There is no implication that there is a "creation" excluded from "all creation."
The NWT Translation Committee then has not been "inconsistent" as if they had arbitarily translated the Greek word pas in this Colossian passage but have made explicit the implied meaning of the word, pas, which is "all other," in verses 16, 17 and 20.
No 'others' are implied in verse 18(and v. 15.) Hence, while this is a reasonable question to ask the answer is a simple one to give and to "comprehend." We have sincere hopes the one who asked the question, as well as others, can do the latter. However, we also have the hope that the questioner will revise his thinking toward the NWT at this place as the above explanation puts his accusation of "deceptive web of lies and scripture twisting" to the lie. We think that it is he himself that ought to exercise the "tiniest bit of discernment" in the above matter.
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