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If Jesus is "Firstborn" (πρωτότοκος) "out from the Dead" (ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν) as stated by Paul & Timothy in [Colossians 1:18], and not conceived from "a man" | ἄνδρα (andra) as stated in [Luke 1:34], but born to Virgin Mary then Jesus came "out from [Mortals]" who are considered the "nekron" (νεκρῶν) | "the Dead"?

If "Firstborn" out from the "nekron" (νεκρῶν) does not refer to Jesus' physical birth, and Mary a [Mortal] is not considered "the Dead", then does "nekron" (νεκρῶν) refer to Corpses?

  • If the "Resurrected" are those "born from the Dead", then Lazarus [John 11:38-44] would actually be the Firstborn from the Dead, so [Colossians 1:18] must not simply refer to the Resurrected.

Interlinear Sources :

  • Colossians 1:18 [https://biblehub.com/interlinear/colossians/1-18.htm];
  • Luke 1:34 [https://biblehub.com/interlinear/luke/1-34.htm];
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    I've always thought it referred to his death. Before the resurrection.
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 13 at 14:03
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    Chronologically, but not causally. Or thematically - he's the firstborn because in the resurrection he brings to us, we can become his adopted brothers and sisters.
    – curiousdannii
    Jul 13 at 14:14
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    Christ resurrected to immortal life; Lazarus, and others before him, simply resurrected to mortal life, since they died while still relatively young (the son of the widow who hosted Elijah, the son of the widow resurrected by Christ, etc).
    – Lucian
    Jul 13 at 15:11
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    You are Resurrected into a new body. To be resurrected, you need to come back ‘new’. That’s what it means. (Therefore) Lazarus was not resurrected, he was brought back to life - back into his (old) body.
    – Dave
    Jul 13 at 19:25
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    For me it seems, possibly, and this is not my own invention, it talks about "the resurrection of the dead", and this "ek toon nekroon" is just that. He was the firstborn of the new creation, which comes through the resurrection of the dead. Jul 13 at 21:25
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There is no way to interpret Colossians except by bringing in the theology of death, resurrection, and the role of Christ, otherwise the claims made in Colossians about the godhead of Christ will seem too fantastical.

The Death and the Promise

Through Adam, sin and thus death entered the world ("thou shalt surely die"), and Adam's offspring were thus also dead ("brood of vipers" in Matt 23.33 or John 8.44). But there was at the same time a Promise of deliverance in Genesis 3.15:

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

It is this deliverance that is the true resurrection, and other forms of resurrection are types of this one.

Of course, a woman has no seed, so this is also a prophecy of the virgin birth. And over time, the Promise of that seed passed to Seth and Noah and eventually to Abraham, where it was again re-iterated "From thy seed will all the nations of the earth be blessed", and it was again confirmed to Jacob, and it was confirmed again to David. Always the Promise of the seed kept passing until the appointed time when Christ was born.

Physical Resurrections before Christ

Now before the birth of Christ, the Bible records three physical resurrections all by Elijah/Elisha and by touching their body in death or rest:

  • The widow's son in 1 Kgs 17:17–22 when he is placed on Elijah's bed and Elijah covers him with his own body.

And he said unto her, Give me thy son. And he took him out of her bosom, and carried him up into a loft, where he abode, and laid him upon his own bed. [...] And he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried unto the LORD, and said, O LORD my God, I pray thee, let this child’s soul come into him again. And the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came into him again, and he revived.

  • The son of the shunammite, 2 Kings 4.18-34, when he is placed on Elisha's bed and Elisha covers him with his body.

And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God [...] And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and he stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm.

  • The man thrown into Elijah's grave, when he lay next to Elijah in the grave and touched the prophet's bones. 2 Kings 13.21

And it came to pass, as they were burying a man, that, behold, they spied a band of men; and they cast the man into the sepulchre of Elisha: and when the man was let down, and touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood up on his feet.

Physical resurrections during Christ's ministry

Similarly the Bible records three resurrections during Christ's ministry

  • Jairus' daughter in Mark 5.41, after he told her to arise.

And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.

  • The young man at Nain (Luke 7:14-15), whom he commanded to arise:

And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And he delivered him to his mother.

  • Lazarus, when Jesus cried "come forth!" in John 11.38-34.

When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, lhis hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

Other types for the resurrection

There are many other types for the resurrection, that is, for the fulfillment of the Promise:

  • The passing of Israel from Egypt to the promise can also be viewed as a type of resurrection.
  • Similarly bringing Joseph's bones up from Egypt is a type of resurrection.
  • The bones animated in the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel's prophecy
  • Joseph being lifted out of the pit
  • Daniel emerging from the lion's den
  • The prodigal son returning to the father

Resurrection from Sheol

By this we mean, that traditional jewish beliefs were similar to beliefs held by the Egyptians and the Greeks, that there was a pit or cavern below in which the spirits of the dead resided, and then we can ask about those being lifted out of those dim places and put next to the glory of God.

  • Matthew 21.32

I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.

Similarly we see Jesus talking to Elijah and Moses during the transfiguration. (Matt 17.2-3)

What type of resurrection and from which death

So given that we have these six physical resurrections and several "spiritual elevations" and other deliverances that ocurred chronologically before Christ's death, in what way can we say that Christ was "firstborn" from the dead?

Let's go back and see what the context of the passage is (Col 1.13-18):

Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.

The key is the true resurrection, that is passing from the kingdom of darkness into life.

How does Christ relate to this true resurrection?

In the conversation with Nicodemus, when Christ explains that he must be born from above, he says (John 3.13)

And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.

So here Christ is saying that no man can go to heaven except for Christ. So then how can Elijah ascend to Heaven? How can Enoch be translated? It is only because they saw the promise through faith and thus Christ was born within them and it is Christ that is ascending.

Isaiah 55.11

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

There is a whole group of people who saw the Promise, from Abel (Heb 11.3) to Abraham (John 8.56 - Abraham rejoiced at seeing my day. He saw it and was glad) to Moses (John 5.46). This group of believers is called the body, and in the new testament, it is called the church, but Christ is the head of this body and Christ is the head, or first, because he came from God, gave life to these saints, and then their resurrection was his returning to God.

Now revival from physical death is just a temporary resurrection before eventual physical death and so is a type or pattern for obtaining eternal life, which is the true resurrection being discussed in Colossians. The "return of the word" is that resurrection, and we participate in it because the Father's word has descended, dwelt within us, and become our life, but as it is always the Word returning to the Father, he is always the firstborn of the dead, and we are second, participating in that resurrection only because the word has descended and dwelt within us, through faith.

“How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things?

Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony. I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?

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

Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

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  • In [1 Enoch 71:14] the Head of Days tells Enoch : "You (are) that Son of Man who was born for righteousness and righteousness dwells on you"... This concept appears to have inspired John's Gospel. * All Tsadiqim are the son of man. Jul 13 at 18:50
  • I would enjoy discussing Enoch with you, but I haven't finished reading it yet. It's on the todo list.
    – Robert
    Jul 13 at 19:31
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ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν is genitive, masculine plural.

So, no, it is does not refer to the singular, female person called Mary.

It refers to the plural dead from among whom Jesus was raised, as it is written :

thou shalt not leave my soul in hades . . . Psalm 16:10 KJV


Daniel B Wallace states in p371 of 'Beyond the Basics' that :

In general ἐκ has the force of from, out of, away from, of . . . .

and the Englishman's Greek New Testament (Bagster 1870 edition) translates the collocation as :

... from among the dead ...

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  • Thanks for insight regarding the Greek. - The reference to Tehillim 16:10 would make David resurrected from Sheol שְׁא֑וֹל before Jesus though. Jul 13 at 15:58
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    @חִידָה . . . . except that Peter the Apostle of Jesus Christ refers to that exact text in Acts 2:27 and refers it, prophetically, to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 13 at 16:11
  • ἐκ τῶν νεκρῶν can also be feminine, because masculine, feminine and neutral plural genetives all look similar usually Jul 13 at 21:28
  • Good, simple answer. +1.
    – Dottard
    Jul 13 at 21:42

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