In Romans 8:29, Paul says

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters."

What is Paul talking about when he refers to being a firstborn among brothers and sisters; does he mean brothers and sisters in the church or is it metaphorical and what significance does this carry?

  • 1
    It is not symbolic. It's literal. In his baptism, he received the holy spirit and it stayed with him through his death (John 1:32). Because he resurrected with the holy spirit, he is able to give the holy spirit to people that believe he's The Messiah. Those people are newly created because they are 'born of the spirit,' not the flesh. I admit that it sounds insane but it's the truth. And because it's a spiritual truth, words don't do it justice. He is the first 'Adam' because he is the progenitor of a new type of human being. Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 14:28
  • Why did i get a downvote? Please explain so i can enhance my questions :)
    – Oliver K
    Commented Sep 5, 2017 at 23:45
  • Great question. Can you please supply the name of the translation you are using? Also "and sisters" is particularly inappropriate in this context so I suggest a different translation.
    – Ruminator
    Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 0:19

3 Answers 3


Two different Greek Church Fathers - Gregory of Nyssa (335-394) and Gregory of Nazianzus (320-390) - offer two slightly different but not incompatible interpretations of what is meant by firstborn among many brethren (πρωτοτοκον εν πολλοις αδελφοις).

Gregory of Nyssa explains πρωτοτοκον εν πολλοις αδελφοις as referring to Christ's Baptism:

Assuredly this is plain, that because we are by birth flesh and blood, as the Scripture saith, He Who for our sakes was born among us and was partaker of flesh and blood [Hebrews 1:14], purposing to change us from corruption to incorruption by the birth from above, the birth by water and the Spirit, Himself led the way in this birth, drawing down upon the water, by His own baptism, the Holy Spirit; so that in all things He became the first-born of those who are spiritually born again, and gave the name of brethren to those who partook in a birth like to His own by water and the Spirit.

Against Eunomius, Book II, No. 8

Gregory of Nazianzus explains the phrase as relating to three different births: the natural birth, Baptism, and the Resurrection.

The Word recognizes three Births for us; namely, the natural birth, that of Baptism, and that of the Resurrection. Of these the first is by night, and is servile, and involves passion; but the second is by day, and is destructive of passion, cutting off all the veil [i.e. ancestral sin] that is derived from birth, and leading on to the higher life; and the third is more terrible and shorter, bringing together in a moment all mankind, to stand before its Creator, and to give an account of its service and conversation here; whether it has followed the flesh, or whether it has mounted up with the spirit, and worshipped the grace of its new creation. My Lord Jesus Christ has showed that He honoured all these births in His own Person; the first, by that first and quickening Inbreathing; [Genesis 2:7] the second by His Incarnation and the Baptism wherewith He Himself was baptized; and the third by the Resurrection of which He was the Firstfruits; condescending, as He became the Firstborn [Romans 8:29] among many brethren, so also to become the Firstborn from the dead. [Colossians 1:18]

Oration XL, "On Holy Baptism"

Note that Gregory of Nyssa here is referring to the Holy Spirit coming down upon the water - not upon Christ. It has been suggested that Christ received the Holy Spirit at Baptism, but this would be considered heresy by Nicene-Constantinopolitan Christians (i.e. those who accept the Creed of Nicene-Constantinople), since it would imply that Christ's Divinity was somehow incomplete at some point while He was Incarnate. The purpose of Christ's Baptism, according to the Church Fathers at least, was to make the Trinity manifest and not to somehow complete it. Christ's Baptism sanctified the water, it was not the water that sanctified Christ.

  • Where do you see that he says it's coming down upon the water? Commented Mar 7, 2017 at 19:02

Tokos is, twice, a matter of usury in the Greek scripture. Usury is the return on an investment, in financial terms, just as firstfruits is the return on an investment in agricultural terms. Seed in the ground is invested; the first token that the investment is successful is the firstfruit.

Trapezia are also involved in this - the table across which the transactions are made. Jesus and Judas shared a trapezia when Judas traded Jesus for thirty of silver - an investment gone wildly wrong, for all eternity. Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, is the first token that God's investment in Creation shall be a successful venture. All that is for God must pass through death, out of the Old Creation and in to the New.

Prototokos - the First Token.


  • This is an example of the etymological fallacy: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Etymological_fallacy
    – Ruminator
    Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 0:16
  • 1
    The stated article bears the Wikipedia heading "This article has multiple issues; please help improve it." And also bears the note, "The neutrality of this article is disputed". I have to say that I agree with both of those.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 22:34

Romans 8:29 - What is a firstborn?

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. Rom 8:29

Specifically, what is 'firstborn' here in this context?

  • Most Bibles have 'brethren' or 'brothers', which would naturally include 'sisters'. But the critical matter here is among, ἐν (en).
  • ἐν (en) can also be 'in' or 'within'. Jesus is the firstborn from among his brothers in the faith. From within the ranks of his brothers. He is the first to realise the destiny God had planned for all men (and women).
  • Other similar uses of firstborn are in Col 1:15,18, Heb 1:6 and Rev 1:5. They all refer to Jesus being the firstborn of creation and of the dead. Which is essentially the same thing. Jesus, the last Adam, is the first to go from mortal humanity to immortal humanity. Rom 6:9
  • All humanity is dead/corrupted because of sin inherited from Adam. Jesus, is the first to receive the promised spirit in the form of new eternal life.

He has been exalted at the right hand of God, and has received the promise of the holy spirit from the Father... Acts 2:33

Jesus is the first to be born of the new, eternal, spirit life that God designed for all to have. We see this also in the passage -

God... predestined (those) to be conformed to the image of his Son.

Without Christ as Saviour, there could be no life after this age. He, having destroyed the power of sin and death (Rom 5 explains this in great detail), is the firstborn of a new age where God is the only God and all evil is banished or destroyed. Finally, all creation can be what God intended all along in and through Jesus the firstborn.

for us there is only one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things and we exist through him 1 Cor 8:6

God never intended His human creation to stop with the mess Adam initiated. He intended all to have opportunity to realise true life through the one to come, His son and saviour, Jesus. All things, as Paul expresses, are destined to have their ultimate existence, of a true spiritual nature, in Jesus.

The saints of old including Abraham and David etc are waiting (while dead) for their change with the saints of this age, for they too are given life only through Jesus the Christ. Affirming that Jesus truly is the firstborn of even these from ages ago. Heb 11:39-40

No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. John 3:13

As the firstborn, Jesus has led the way for all humans to follow his transformation to eternal life. This has nothing to do with other resurrections like Lazarus etc, for they did not awake into a new spirit life.

  • You must say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Israel is my son, my firstborn, Exodus 4:22 NET // is the FIRST recognized and declared by God of Heaven and Earth. There can be only ONE true firstborn...
    – VNPython
    Commented Jun 17, 2023 at 0:42

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