I recently had another opportunity to zoom chat with Greg Thornberg, pastor of Redemption Bible Church in Casa Grande, Arizona, about the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) and their interesting “translation” of a passage in Colossians. The JWs translate Col 1.15-16 like so:
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 because by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and on the earth…
I walk through the reasons this is a wrong and disingenuous translation of the Greek phrase τὰ πάντα in 1.16 and then move into the question of what we should understand Paul to mean when he writes that Jesus is “the firstborn of all creation” in 1.15.
While the JWs have a zealous tribe of online apologists, they don’t seem to have much in the way of Greek arguments to make about the text. My main point to any dealing with the Greek text is quite simple: you have to take seriously what is actually there in the Greek text when dealing with interpreting it. It may not be obvious what Paul is saying in this passage (and the litany of scholarly literature suggests there is some legitimate issues here), but the JWs are off-track at the beginning here because they intentionally misrepresent what the text quite literally says to make it look like it supports their views.
Oh, and for anyone interested, in Koine Greek, if you wanted to say “all other things,” here is how you would do it:
πάντα τὰ ἄλλα
Certainly not: τὰ πάντα. I looked really hard for an analogous usage that would support the JWs claim. Haven’t found any. If anyone knows of any, let me know. I won’t be holding my breath…