Colossians 1:15 reads in the NKJV (and is similar in most translations): “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Jehovah’s Witnesses understand that by Christ being the firstborn over all creation, he is actually the first created being through which all other things are created (see their New World Translation). Mormons, on the other hand, take the English translations quite literally and believe that Christ is literally the firstborn child of Heavenly Father and one of his goddess wives (thus Jesus is our eldest brother). The Greek word translated ” firstborn” is prototokos. How should Christians understand the use of this term in this context, and how might Christians in turn respond to the interpretations of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons regarding the nature of Christ as the “firstborn”?
M. J. Harris, expresses the meaning of the word “prototokos” as, “The ‘firstborn’ was either the eldest child in a family or a person of preeminent rank.” There needs to be contextual understanding of the word firstborn to determine which use is intended in Colossians 1:15. Psalm 89:27, “And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” This verse describes David, son of Jesse, and in 1 Samuel 16:11-13, David is found to be the youngest of Jesse’s sons. Obviously, it was not the firstborn child, but rather preeminence that is suggested. Exodus 4:22, “Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son,” and if we go back to Genesis we see Israel was not the first nation. Therefore, only preeminence fits the term “firstborn”. In responding to the interpretations from either the Jehovah’s Witness or Mormons, I would simply point out the scriptural references I have made to the term “firstborn.” In referencing Christ as the “first created,” as the Jehovah Witness claims, this shows up nowhere else in the Bible even in the book of Genesis. Mormons interpretation of the word “firstborn” is taken literally as a first-born son, where there would be parents that they claim to be God and heavenly wives. Colossians 1:15 reads, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Taking this verse literally would tell me that “creation,” is the parent, which does not make sense. Finally yet importantly, in the original language the correct word is always used. Paul used the word “prototokos” meaning firstborn, if Paul meant first created; he would have used the Greek word “prōtoktisis”.
Press, Biblical Studies. The NET Bible First Edition Notes. 2006. Society, Wheaton: Standard Bible. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. 2001. Walvoord, J.F., Zuck, R.B. The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures. 1985.