Saturday, February 26, 2011

Coptic Colossians 1:15 and the "Genitive of Subordination"

Some modern English versions of Colossians 1:15 translate it according to what some scholars call the "genitive of subordination," i.e., "firstborn over all creation. This attempts to remove the firstborn mentioned here from among the creation of God. By this means the verse is used by some to "prove" that the Firstborn, Jesus Christ, is not a part of the creation of God.

However, not all New Testament scholars agree that Colossians 1:15 in the Greek is representative of a "genitive of subordination," but rather, a partitive genitive, "firstborn of all creation," including the firstborn mentioned there as part of the creation.

The Sahidic Coptic translators performed their work with a background of 500 years of Koine Greek history, and at a time when Koine Greek was still a living, spoken language.

So it is instructive to note what the Coptic translators saw when they rendered the Greek text into Coptic. Did they see a "genitive of subordination," or a partitive genitive?

The Sahidic Coptic translators rendered the Greek text's πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως as ΠϢΡΠΜΜΙСЄ ΝСШΝΤ ΝΙΜ.

The use of Ν.СШΝΤ marks this clearly as a partitive construction in the Coptic.

"N- marks...partitive relationship (the relationship of individual to class...)" --Bentley Layton, A Coptic Grammar, p. 164

Therefore, the Sahidic Coptic text of Colossians 1:15 says "the firstborn of all creation." -- George W. Horner, volume 5

"Over" is expressed in Sahidic Coptic with the use of ЄϪΝ-, which is not used at Colossians 1:15 in the Coptic text.