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Fragment number Vinzent 12
Klostermann 2
Rettb. 2
Source Eusebius, Against Marcellus 1.2
Modern edition M. Vinzent, Markell von Ankyra: Die Fragmente (Leiden, 1997).
Notes Marcellus focuses his attention on the phrase “firstborn from the dead,” which Paul applied to Christ in Colossians.  The question that naturally arises is:  Why is Christ called the firstborn from the dead if others were raised from the dead before him?  As Marcellus correctly points out, there are at least three other instances in the Bible where people came back to life before Christ’s resurrection (2 Kgs. 4.32-35; John 11.43f; Matt. 27.52f).  It is important to note that, unlike Christ, these people died a second time after their resurrection, so that Christ’s resurrection is unique.  Nevertheless, the question remains as to why he is called “firstborn from the dead.”  Marcellus’s answer, found in this fragment, is that “firstborn from the dead” actually means “firstborn of all creation.”

Now the apostle not only says that he is the firstborn of the “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15) but also “the firstborn from the dead” (Col 1:18), for no other reason, it seems to me, than that through the phrase “the firstborn of the dead” we can understand what “the firstborn of all creation” (Col 1:15) is saying. For our Lord Jesus Christ was not the first to rise from the dead. Rather, the one who rose through Elisha the prophet (2 Kgs 4:32-35) rose before him. Lazarus also rose before Jesus’ resurrection (Jn 11:43,44), and at the time of his passion “many bodies of those who had fallen asleep” were raised (Mt 27:52).

Translated by Daniel Noonan under the supervision of Prof. Glen L. Thompson, revised AMJ

Last updated: 8-29-2012

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