CHRIST THE FIRSTBORN
The term "firstborn" appears 107 times in the NIV, but only two passages create difficulties, Colossians 1: 15 and Hebrews 1:6. Most of the other passages are in the Old Testament and refer to firstborn children of human beings.
Colossians 1:15-20 is a poem (or at least poetic prose) about Christ, which many scholars believe to be a hymn of the early church. This poem appears to revolve around the first word of the Hebrew Bible, "in the beginning"
(One word in Hebrew), which contains within it the words for "first" and "head."
The poem divides into two sections. In the first (Colossians 1: 15-17) Christ is presented as the source of creation. In the second section (Colossians
1: 18-20) he is presented as the source of new creation or redemption. It is clear in this passage that Christ is being viewed as God (Colossians 1: 15, 19)
Exercising the creative and redemptive prerogatives of God. How then can Paul use ''firstborn'' language? Generally in the Old Testament "firstborn" means the son who was born first.
However, even in the Old Testament this is more a right conferred by the father than a place in the birth order. For example, in Genesis 25:29-34 Esau can sell his birthright, his place as the firstborn, to Jacob, although this sale was apparently not recognized by their father. SEE (Genesis 27:19).
A generation later Jacob makes it clear that it is not the son born first (Reuben) whom he considers to have the rights of the firstborn, but Joseph, the one born to his favorite wife. SEE (Genesis 37:3-4). In this case a younger son is designated as firstborn.
In Micah 6: 7 and Zechariah 12: 1 0 the ''firstborn'' is the most loved child. In Exodus 4:22 we find another meaning of "firstborn" when God calls Israel his ''firstborn son." What God is saying is that he has designated this nation as his number one nation, the one closest to his heart.
Finally, in Psalm 89:27 we discover that the Davidic king will be appointed God's "firstborn." Again there is no hint that God actually has a hand in this man's procreation. What is meant is that God symbolically adopts him and places him in the number one position in his family. "Firstborn" is thus the place of honor and leadership which the Davidic king is said to occupy.
So Paul is using the language about a "firstborn" son metaphorically, as the Old Testament does. Jesus is not presented as a creation of God or as a child of God born through some goddess (as taught in pagan mythology), but as the chief of God's family, whether the old family of creation or the new family of redemption. He is before it. He is the cause of the family. He is the leader of the whole family. In every way he is first.
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