Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jesus is Jehovah

Introduction:  After engaging many Jehovah's Witnesses (hereafter JWs) over the last seventeen years, with the exception of one older JW, they always "cut and run" after I attempt to engage them beyond the surface level.  Yesterday, they arrived while I was talking to a friend on Skype just after I had been translating 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 from my Greek New Testament in preparation for teaching this Sunday.  I grabbed my Greek New Testament, headed to the front door, and asked them two questions (1) "Are you Jehovah's Witnesses?" and (2) "Can I read John 20:28 to you?"  After having received an answer to my first question and reading the verse in the second question, I then ask them, "Since Thomas clearly called Jesus "the God" (lit. translation) in John 20:28, why doesn't the Watchtower do the same?"(To see their official, non-response which implies that Thomas blasphemed go here).    
Stay Focused    
I've found that they usually try to get away from these types of discussions as quickly as possible since they are simply trying to leave some literature and a good last impression.  Thus, I allow them their red herring by giving their introductory schpiel.  After they have finished, I usually ask, "Is Jesus the God?" and they usually respond, "Well, he is a god!" and I say, "Yeah, but is He the God?" to which they always respond with something like, "Oh no, Jesus could never be called 'the God', meaning the Almighty God or One True God." to which I usually respond, "But Thomas called him ho theos, which is literally translated "the God."  I then immediately ask, "If Jesus is a god, is He a true God or a false god?" to which they almost always respond in a robotic fashion "He is a god!" and I ask again with a little robotic fashion of my own, "Is He a True God or a false god?" to which they usually say, "Well, 2 Cor. 4:4 defines Satan as "the God", and Psalm 82:6 calls the unjust judges "gods", so are you saying that Satan is the God too?"    
The Horns of a Dilemma    
At this point, it is crucial to keep them on track since this is a subtle red herring (i.e., a distraction away from the real issue).  I then say, "No, I'm using your own reasoning to point out that if Jesus is a god in some sense as you already admit, then there are only two senses in which He can be called 'god'; meaning that this type of language is used to describe Him as either a true God, of which you already admit that there's only One of those; or a false god.  Either way, your answer undermines your theology since Jesus can't be Almighty God and He can't be a false God, so your stuck on the horns of a dilemma."  At this point it is important to say something like, "This is a problem that the Biblical doctrine of God solves quite easily, and then attempt to discuss passages in the N.T. that use O.T. passages referring to Yahweh (Jehovah) to call Jesus Yawheh (see below for a few examples).
Often, once they will realize that you know what you're talking about, they will try to avoid the deeper details surrounding the core passages concerning Christ's deity (i.e., John 1, 5, 8, 20; Colossians 1; Hebrews 1, Revelation 1, 22; and scores of other OT background references that the NT quotes to demonstrate that Jesus is Jehovah).  It is at this point that I've found the following information from The Department of Christian Defense to be a great help in cutting to the chase with JWs:    
NT authors frequently used OT passages that referred to Jehovah in reference to the Son. 
  • Isaiah 6:1 with John 12:37-41.
  • Psalm 102:25-27 with Hebrews 1:10 (also:  Isa. 8:12-13 with 1 Peter 3:14-15; Isa. 45:23 with Phil. 2:10; Joel 2:32 with Rom. 10:13). 

John 1:1    
John 1:1a indicates that the Word was eternal: en arche en ho logos, In [the] beginning was the Word. . . .  The Greek verb en, (was) is an imperfect tense, which indicates that the Word was always existing (cf. Phil. 2:6: hos en morph theou huparchon, lit.,  "[Christ Jesus] who in nature God subsisting").
At John 1:1b (lit., "the Word was with the God"), the eternal Word is said to be distinct (pros, "with") from His Father. Then, at John 1:1c, John literally writes: "God was the Word" (theos en ho logos). Note that the Apostle John places theos ("God") in the *emphatic position* (i.e., at the beginning of the clause) and theos is anarthrous (i.e., without the article ["the"]).   
Thus, John clearly indicates here that (a) the eternal Word was "God" in the fullest sense (hence, he places theos ["God"] in emphatic position) and (b) John purposely presents theos as anarthrous, that is, he does not include the definite article ("the") before theos as in John 1:1b (speaking of the Father). Hence, theos is *qualitative* pointing to the Word's nature as fully God, not His identity. Qualitative nouns refer to description, not identification (cf. John 1:14; 4:24; 1 John 1:5). For if John had written: "The God was the Word" (ho theos en ho logos) he would have then indicated that the Word was the same God (same Person or identity) as "God" in John 1:1b--the Father!   
Thus, John precludes an indefinite rendering ("a god" as in the NWT) by places theos in the empathic position and safeguards against Modalism (Oneness theology) that asserts Jesus is the Father.  In conclusion: John 1:1 teaches that (a) the Word is eternal (1:1a: In [the] beginning was [en] the Word), (b) the Word is eternally distinct from the Father (1:1b: the Word was with [pros] God), and (c) as to the Word's essential nature, He is God in the fullest sense (1:1c: lit., "God [theos] was the Word").
For more details on John 1:1 and an analysis of the Watchtower's indefinite rendering of theos in John 1:1c ("a god" NWT), see  John 1:1.     
Jesus is called The God (ho theos):    
John 20:28 Thomas said to Jesus (direct address): ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou, lit. "the Lord of me and the God of me" (see the WT's own Greek interlinear called: The Kingdom Interlinear Translation).
Titus 2:13:  The great God and Savior:  tou megalou theou kai soteros hemon Christou Iesou, lit.  the great God and Savior of us Christ Jesus.  Note: in 2 Peter 1:1 is the same grammatical construction (i.e., article-noun-kai-noun): tou theou hemon kai soteros Iesou Christou, lit. "the God of us and Savior Jesus Christ" (cf. 2 Peter 1:11; 2:20; 3:2, 18; 2 Thess. 1:12; see Gk.).  See here for more details on Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1.  
Hebrews 1:8:  But of the Son He [the Father] says,  YOUR THRONE, O GOD IS FOREVER AND EVER. . . .  (ho thronos sou ho theos, lit.  the throne of you the God).
Jesus Absolute claim to BE the I Am  (ego eimi):    
These would be Mark 6:50; John 8:24; 8:28; 8:58; 13:19 (cf. Isa. 43:10; LXX); 18:5; 18:6; and 18:8.
*Why is it important to know and teach that Jesus IS God?: Besides that of John 4:24; 17:3 and 1 John 2:23, Jesus declares in John 8:24:  
Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I Am He [ego eimi], you will die in your sins [note:  "He" is not in the Gk.]. See Jesus Christ: The Eternal Ego Eimi, ego eimi, "I Am" for expanded details on the "I Am" affirmations made by Jesus.    
*See also: John 1:18; Rom. 9:5; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 2:9 (theotetos); Heb. 1:3; 1 John 5:20; Rev. 5:13-14 [The Trinity: One God revealed in three distinct coequal, coeternal, coexistent Persons].    
Simpler But Just as Effective Arguments:    
The following is also something that I've used often from the back of our own Shepherd's Catechism.  The sections in bold and blue are relevant to discussions with JWs:    
God the Father - To Timothy, my beloved son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.  (2 Tim. 1:2)    Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:2)    
God the Son - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  (John 1:1  The Word, Jesus Christ is called  God. )    Jesus said to them,  Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.    (John 8:58  Jesus identifies Himself as Yahweh of the Old Testament.)    For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.   (John 5:18  Jesus calling God His own Father identified Him as being divine and one in essence with God the Father.)    . . . of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.   (NKJ Romans 9:5  Paul is calling Jesus the eternally blessed God)    . . looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus . .   (Titus 2:13  Paul calling Jesus the Great God and Savior)    I am the Alpha and the Omega,  says the Lord God,  who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.    (Revelation 1:8  God is identified as the Alpha and Omega.)    When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying,  Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.  (Revelation 1:17-18  The  first and the last  was  dead, and behold,  He is  alive forevermore. )    I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.   (Revelation 22:13  The Alpha and Omega  identified here is the Lord God  according to Revelation 1:8, but here in 22:13 He is identified as being the same Person as  the first and the last,  which is Jesus according to Revelation 1:17.  **Therefore Jesus is one and the same being as  the Alpha and the Omega  and  the Lord God of 1:8, and the first and the last who was dead, and behold is alive forevermore.)  
God the Holy Spirit - But Peter said,  Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? 4  While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.   (Acts 5:3-4  You can only lie to persons and this person is called  God. )    Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.  (2 Corinthians 3:17  The Holy Spirit is referred to here as  Lord , indicating the deity of the Spirit.)    The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,  (Romans 8:16  Only persons testify or bear witness, thus indicating the personhood of the Holy Spirit).    In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  (Romans 8:26-27  The Holy Spirit in this passage is referred to as interceding for us, and the Spirit also has a  mind.   Only persons can intercede for others and only persons can have a  mind  thus indicating the personhood of the Holy Spirit.)      

IN CONCLUSION, the above information is useful for both the advanced exegete who has knowledge of the original languages as well as the person who doesn't know a lick of Greek.  The problem is that learning the above information takes work.  However, we must be willing to do more for the truth than what most dedicated cultists like the JWs are willing to do for a lie.    

HT:  Alpha and Omega Ministries for the above illustration.

1 comment:

  1. "The problem is that learning the above information takes work. However, we must be willing to do more for the truth than what most dedicated cultists like the JWs are willing to do for a lie."

    Man, you nailed the issue right there.