By Dr. Walter Martin
The Deity of Jesus Christ
Throughout the entire content of inspired Scripture the fact of Christ’s identity is clearly taught. He is revealed as Jehovah God in human form (Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2; Isaiah 7:14; John 1:14; 8:58; 17:5 [cf. Exodus 3:14]; Hebrews 1:3; Philippians 2:11; Colossians 2:9; and Revelation 1:8, 17–18; etc.). The deity of Jesus Christ is one of the cornerstones of Christianity, and as such has been attacked more vigorously throughout the ages than any other single doctrine of the Christian faith. Adhering to the old Arian heresy of the fourth century A.D., which Athanasius the great church Father refuted in his famous essay “On the Incarnation of the Word,” many individuals and all cults steadfastly deny the equality of Jesus Christ with God the Father, and, consequently, the Triune deity. Jehovah’s Witnesses, as has been observed, are no exception to this infamous rule. However, the testimony of the Scriptures stands sure, and the above mentioned references alone put to silence forever this blasphemous heresy, which in the power of Satan himself deceives many with its “deceitful handling of the Word of God.”
The deity of Christ, then, is a prime answer to Jehovah’s Witnesses, for if the Trinity is a reality, which it is, if Jesus and Jehovah are “One” and the same, then the whole framework of the cult collapses into a heap of shattered, disconnected doctrines incapable of even a semblance of congruity. We will now consider the verses in question, and their bearing on the matter.
1.(a)Isaiah 7:14. “Therefore the Lord [Jehovah] himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (literally, “God” or “Jehovah with us,” since Jehovah is the only God).
(b)Isaiah 9:6. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
(c)Micah 5:2. “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
Within the realm of Old Testament Scripture, Jehovah, the Lord of Hosts, has revealed His plan to appear in human form and has fulfilled the several prophecies concerning this miracle in the person of Jesus Christ. Examination of the above listed texts will more than convince the unbiased student of Scripture that Jehovah has kept His promises and did become man, literally “God with us” (Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:32–33; John 1:14).
The key to Isaiah 7:14 is the divine name “Immanuel,” which can only be rightly rendered “God with us”; and since there is no other God but Jehovah by His own declaration (Isaiah 43:10–11), therefore Jesus Christ and Jehovah God are of the same Substance in power and eternity, hence equal. This prophecy was fulfilled in Matthew 1:22–23; thus there can be no doubt that Jesus Christ is the son of the virgin so distinctly portrayed in Isaiah 7:14. Jehovah’s Witnesses can present no argument to refute this plain declaration of Scripture, namely that Jehovah and Christ are “One” and the same, since the very term “Immanuel” (“God” or “Jehovah with us”) belies any other interpretation.
Isaiah 9:6 in the Hebrew Bible is one of the most powerful verses in the Old Testament in proving the deity of Christ, for it incontestably declares that Jehovah himself planned to appear in human form. The verse clearly states that all government will rest upon the “child born” and the “son given” whose identity is revealed in the very terms used to describe His attributes. Isaiah, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, describes Christ as “Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace”—all attributes of God alone. The term “mighty God” is in itself indicative of Jehovah since not only is He the only God (Isaiah 43:10–11), but the term “mighty” is applied to Him alone in relation to His deity. Jehovah’s Witnesses dodge this verse by claiming that Christ is a mighty god, but not the Almighty God (Jehovah). This argument is ridiculous on the face of the matter. However, Jehovah’s Witnesses insist that since there is no article in the Hebrew text, “mighty,” therefore, does not mean Jehovah. The question arises: Are there two “mighty Gods”? This we know is absurd; yet Jehovah’s Witnesses persist in the fallacy, despite Isaiah 10:21, where Isaiah (without the article) declares that “Jacob shall return” unto the “mighty God,” and we know that Jehovah is by His own word to Moses “the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). In Jeremiah 32:18 (with the article) the prophet declares that He (Jehovah) is “the Great, the Mighty God” (two forms of saying the same thing; cf. Isaiah 9:6; 10:21; Jeremiah 32:18). If we are to accept Jehovah’s Witnesses’ view, there must be two mighty Gods; and that is impossible, for there is only one true and mighty God (Isaiah 45:22).
The prophet Micah, writing in Micah 5:2, recording Jehovah’s words, gives not only the birthplace of Christ (which the Jews affirmed as being the City of David, Bethlehem), but he gives a clue as to His identity—namely, God in human form. The term “goings forth” can be rendered “origin,” and we know that the only one who fits this description, whose origin is “from everlasting” must be God himself, since He alone is the eternally existing one (Isaiah 44:6, 8). The overwhelming testimony of these verses alone ascertains beyond reasonable doubt the deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, who became man, identified himself with us in His incarnation, and offered himself “once for all” a ransom for many, the eternal sacrifice who is able to save to the uttermost whoever will appropriate His cleansing power.
2. John 1:1. “In the beginning [or “origin,” Greek, ] was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God .”
Contrary to the translations of The Emphatic Diaglott and the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, the Greek grammatical construction leaves no doubt whatsoever that this is the only possible rendering of the text. The subject of the sentence is Word , the verb was. There can be no direct object following “was” since according to grammatical usage intransitive verbs take no objects but take instead predicate nominatives, which refer back to the subject—in this case, Word . In fact, the late New Testament Greek scholar Dr. E. C. Colwell formulated a rule that clearly states that a definite predicate nominative (in this case, —God) never takes an article when it precedes the verb (was), as we find in John 1:1. It is therefore easy to see that no article is needed for (God), and to translate it “a god” is both incorrect grammar and poor Greek since is the predicate nominative of was in the third sentence-clause of the verse and must refer back to the subject, Word . Christ, if He is the Word “made flesh” (John 1:14), can be no one else except God unless the Greek text and consequently God’s Word be denied.
Jehovah’s Witnesses, in an appendix in their New World Translation (pp. 773–777), attempt to discredit the proper translation on this point, for they realize that if Jesus and Jehovah are “One” in nature, their theology cannot stand since they deny that unity of nature. The refutation of their arguments on this point is conclusive.
The claim is that since the definite article is used with in John 1:1b and not with in John 1:1c, therefore the omission is designed to show a difference; the alleged difference being that in the first case the one true God (Jehovah) is meant, while in the second “a god,” other than and inferior to the first, is meant, this latter “god” being Jesus Christ.
On page 776 the claim is made that the rendering “a god” is correct because “all the doctrine of sacred Scriptures bears out the correctness of this rendering.” This remark focuses attention on the fact that the whole problem involved goes far beyond this text. Scripture does in fact teach the full and equal deity of Christ. Why then is so much made of this one verse? It is probably because of the surprise effect derived from the show of pseudo-scholarship in the use of a familiar text. Omission of the definite article with does not mean that “a god” other than the one true God is meant. Let one examine these passages where the definite article is not used with and see if the rendering “a god” makes sense: Matthew 3:9; 6:24; Luke 1:35, 78; 2:40; John 1:6, 12–13, 18; 3:2, 21; 9:16, 33; Romans 1:7, 17–18; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 15:10; Philippians 2:11–13; Titus 1:1, and many, many more. The “a god” contention proves too weak and is inconsistent. To be consistent in this rendering of “a god,” Jehovah’s Witnesses would have to translate every instance where the article is absent as “a god” (nominative), “of a god” (genitive), “to” or “for a god” (dative), etc. This they do not do in Matthew 3:9; 6:24; Luke 1:35, 78; John 1:6, 12–13, 18; Romans 1:7, 17, etc.
You cannot honestly render “a god” in John 1:1, and then render “of God” (Jehovah) in Matthew 3:9, Luke 1:35, 78; John 1:6, etc., when is the genitive case of the same noun (second declension), without an article and must be rendered (following Jehovah’s Witnesses’ argument) “of a god” not “of God” as both The Emphatic Diaglott and New World Translation put it. We could list at great length, but suggest consultation of the Greek New Testament by either D. Erwin Nestle or Westcott and Hort, in conjunction with The Elements of Greek by Francis Kingsley Ball on noun endings, etc. Then if Jehovah’s Witnesses must persist in this fallacious “a god” rendition, they can at least be consistent, which they are not, and render every instance where the article is absent in the same manner. The truth of the matter is that Jehovah’s Witnesses use and remove the articular emphasis whenever and wherever it suits their fancy, regardless of grammatical laws to the contrary. In a translation as important as God’s Word, every law must be observed. Jehovah’s Witnesses have not been consistent in their observances of those laws.
The writers of the claim have exhibited another trait common to Jehovah’s Witnesses—that of half-quoting or misquoting a recognized authority to bolster their ungrammatical renditions. On page 776 in an appendix to the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, when quoting Dr. A. T. Robertson’s words, “Among the ancient writers was used of the god of absolute religion in distinction from the mythological gods,” they fail to note that in the second sentence following, Dr. Robertson says, “In the New Testament, however, while we have (John 1:1–2) it is far more common to find simply , especially in the Epistles.”
In other words, the writers of the New Testament frequently do not use the article with , and yet the meaning is perfectly clear in the context, namely that the one true God is intended. Let one examine the following references where in successive verses (and even in the same sentence) the article is used with one occurrence of and not with another form, and it will be absolutely clear that no such drastic inferences can be drawn from John’s usage in John 1:1–2 (Matthew 4:3–4; 12:28; Luke 20:37–38; John 3:2; 13:3; Acts 5:29–30; Romans 1:7–8, 17–19; 2:16–17; 3:5; 4:2–3, etc.).
The doctrine of the article is important in Greek; it is not used indiscriminately. But we are not qualified to be sure in all cases what is intended. Dr. Robertson is careful to note that “it is only of recent years that a really scientific study of the article has been made.” The facts are not all known, and no such drastic conclusion, as the writers of the appendix note, should be dogmatically affirmed.
It is nonsense to say that a simple noun can be rendered “divine,” and yet, at the same time, that same noun without the article conveys merely the idea of quality. The authors of this note later render the same noun as “a god,” not as “a quality.” This is a self-contradiction in the context.
In conclusion, the position of the writers of this note is made clear in an appendix to the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures (p. 774); according to them it is “unreasonable” that the Word (Christ) should be the God with whom He was (John 1:1). Their own manifestly erring reason is made the criterion for determining scriptural truth. One need only note the obvious misuse in their quotation from Dana and Mantey (pp. 774–775). Mantey clearly means that the “Word was deity” in accord with the overwhelming testimony of Scripture, but the writers have dragged in the interpretation “a god” to suit their own purpose, which purpose is the denial of Christ’s deity, and as a result a denial of the Word of God. The late Dr. Mantey publicly stated that he was quoted out of context, and he personally wrote the Watchtower, declaring, “There is no statement in our grammar that was ever meant to imply that ‘a god’ was a permissible translation in John 1:1” and “It is neither scholarly nor reasonable to translate John 1:1 ‘The Word was a god.’ ”
Over the decades the Watchtower and independently minded Jehovah’s Witnesses have struggled without success to refute the above presentation regarding the Greek of John 1:1. Their convoluted argumentation is nowhere more evident than in their Should You Believe in the Trinity? booklet. Contemporary Witnesses use the contentions from this booklet to argue that John 1:1 should be translated as the New World Translation does: “The word was a god.” However, none of these polemics have any more scholarly merit than the earlier arguments we refuted.
For example, the booklet claims, “Someone who is ‘with’ another person cannot be the same as that other person” (p. 27). This is a complete misunderstanding of the doctrine of the Trinity, which is, simply stated, that within the nature of the one true God there are three eternal, distinct persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. When we say that Jesus is God, we do not mean that the Son is the same person as the Father. That would be in accord with another ancient church heresy known as modalism. John 1:1 commits no logical blunders when it states that the Word (the second person) is with God (the first person) and is himself God.
The sources referred to and quoted in Should You Believe in the Trinity? can be summarized in three categories: liberals who do not believe that the Bible is God’s Word or that Jesus Christ was anything more than an inspired human; out-dated materials that fail to engage with up-to-date, comprehensive scholarship; and sources used out of context or misinterpreted. A number of valuable critiques of the Watchtower arguments concerning John 1:1 are currently in print.
3. John 8:58. “Jesus said unto them Before Abraham was [born], I am” (bracketed mine).
In comparing this with the Septuagint translations of Exodus 3:14 and Isaiah 43:10–13, we find that the translation is identical. In Exodus 3:14, Jehovah, speaking to Moses, said “I AM,” which any intelligent scholar recognizes as synonymous with God. Jesus literally said to the Jews, “I AM Jehovah,” and it is clear that they understood Him to mean just that, for they attempted, as the next verse reveals, to stone Him.
Hebrew law on this point states five cases in which stoning was legal—and bear in mind that the Jews were legalists. Those cases were: (1) Familiar spirits, Leviticus 20:27; (2) Cursing (blasphemy), Leviticus 24:10–23; (3) False prophets who lead to idolatry, Deuteronomy 13:5–10; (4) Stubborn and rebellious adult son, Deuteronomy 21:18–21; and (5) Adultery and rape, Deuteronomy 22:21–24 and Leviticus 20:10. Now any honest biblical student must admit that the only legal ground the Jews had for stoning Christ (actually they had none at all) was the second violation—namely, blasphemy. Many zealous Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain that the Jews were going to stone Him because He called them children of the devil (John 8:44). But if this were true, why did they not try to stone Him on other occasions (Matthew 23:33, etc.) when He called them sons of vipers? The answer is very simple. They could not stone Christ on that ground because they were bound by the law, which gives only five cases, and would have condemned them on their own grounds had they used “insult” as a basis for stoning. This is not all, however, for in John 10:33, the Jews again attempted to stone Christ and accused Him of making himself God (not a god, which subject has already been treated at length). Let us be logical: If the Jews observed the laws of stoning on other occasions when they might have been insulted, why would they violate the law as they would have had to do if Jehovah’s Witnesses are right about their interpretation of John 8:58? Little more need be said. The argument is ridiculous in its context; there is only one “I AM” in the Scriptures (Isaiah 44:6; 48:12; Revelation 1:8, 17–18), and Jesus laid claim to that identity for which the Jews, misinterpreting the law, set about to stone Him.
Jehovah’s Witnesses declare that the Greek rendering of (I AM) in John 8:58 is “properly rendered in the ‘perfect indefinite tense’ (“I have been,” not “I AM”). To unmask this bold perversion of the Greek text, we shall now examine it grammatically to see if it has any valid grounds for being so translated.
It is difficult to know what the translator means since he does not use standard grammatical terminology, nor is his argument documented from standard grammars. The aorist infinitive as such does not form a clause. It is the adverb prin that is significant here, so that the construction should be called a prin clause. The term “perfect indefinite” is not a standard grammatical term and its use here has been invented by the authors of the note, so it is impossible to know what is meant.
The real problem in the verse is the verb “.” Dr. Robertson, who is quoted as authoritative by the NWT translators, states (p. 880) that is “absolute.” This usage occurs four times (in John 8:24; 8:58; 13:19; 18:5). In these places the term is the same used by the Septuagint in Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 43:10; 46:4; etc., to render the Hebrew phrase “I (AM) He.” The phrase occurs only where Jehovah’s Lordship is reiterated. The phrase, then, is a claim to full and equal Deity. The incorrect and rude rendering of the NWT only serves to illustrate the difficulty of evading the meaning of the phrase and the context.
This meaning in the sense of full Deity is especially clear in John 13:19, where Jesus says that He has told them things before they came to pass, that when they do come to pass the disciples may believe that (I AM). Jehovah is the only One who knows the future as a present fact. Jesus is telling them beforehand that when it does come to pass in the future, they may know that “I AM” , i.e., that He is Jehovah!
In conclusion, the facts are self-evident and undeniably clear—the Greek allows no such impositions as “I have been.” The Watchtower’s contention on this point is that the phrase in question is a “historical present” used in reference to Abraham, hence permissible. This is a classic example of Watchtower double-talk. The passage is not a narrative, but a direct quote of Jesus’ argument. Standard grammars reserve the use of “historical present” to narratives alone. The term is translated here correctly only as “I AM,” and since Jehovah is the only “I AM” (Exodus 3:14; Isaiah 44:6), He and Christ are “One” in nature, truly the fullness of the Deity in the flesh.
The Septuagint translation of Exodus 3:14 from the Hebrew utilizes as the equivalent of “I AM” (Jehovah), and Jesus quoted the Septuagint to the Jews frequently, hence their known familiarity with it and their fury at His claim (John 8:59). Additional Old Testament references to Jehovah as “I AM” include Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 48:12.
4. Hebrews 1:3. “He is the reflection of [his] glory and the exact representation of his very being, and he sustains all things by the word of his power” (NWT).
This passage of Scripture, I believe, clarifies beyond doubt the deity of Jesus Christ. It would be illogical and unreasonable to suppose that Christ, who is the image imprinted by Jehovah’s substance, is not of the substance of Jehovah and hence God, or the second person of the triune Deity. No creation is ever declared to be of God’s very “substance” or “essence” (Greek, ); therefore, the eternal Word, who is “the fulness of the Godhead [Deity] bodily” (Colossians 2:9), cannot be a creation or a created being. The writer of the book of Hebrews clearly intended to portray Christ as Jehovah, or he never would have used such explicit language as “the image imprinted by His substance” (Greek interpretation), and as Isaiah 7:14 clearly states, the Messiah was to be Immanuel, literally “God with us.” Jehovah’s Witnesses attempt the articular fallacy of “a god” instead of God, in reference to Immanuel; but if there has been “before me no God formed, neither shall there be after me” (Jehovah speaking in Isaiah 43:10), then it is impossible on that ground alone, namely, God’s declaration, for any other god (“a god” included) to exist. Their argument, based on a grammatical abstraction, fails to stand here, and the deity of the Lord Jesus, as always, remains unscathed.
5. Philippians 2:11. “And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
If we compare this verse of Scripture with Colossians 2:9 and Isaiah 45:23, we cannot help but see the full deity of the Lord Jesus in its true light. Jehovah spoke in Isaiah 45:23: “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” In Colossians 2:9 the apostle Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declares, “For in Him [Christ] dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” The literal translation of the Greek word (Godhead) is Deity, so in Christ all the fullness of the Deity resides in the flesh.
In Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, which is referred to as being “comprehensive” by the Watchtower, a complete analysis of (Godhead, Deity) is given, especially its interpretation in the context of Colossians 2:9. Jehovah’s Witnesses will do well to remember that Thayer was a Unitarian (one who denies the deity of Christ), and therefore more prone to accept their interpretations than those of evangelical Christianity. But despite his theological views, Thayer was a Greek scholar whose integrity in the presentation of honest facts, despite their disagreement with his beliefs, is the trait exemplified in all legitimate critics and honest scholars. Thayer states that [Godhead, Deity] is a form of (Deity), or in his own words: “i.e., the state of Being God, Godhead” (p. 288, 1886 ed.). In other words, Christ was the fullness of “the Deity” (Jehovah) in the flesh! The Emphatic Diaglott correctly translates “Deity”; but the NWT erroneously renders it “the divine quality,” which robs Christ of His true deity. The only way to substantiate this inaccurate translation would be to substitute the word (Divinity) and thus escape the condemning evidence of “the Deity,” . However, documentary evidence reveals that they cannot rightfully do this, for in Thayer’s own words, “ (Deity) differs from (Divinity) as essence differs from quality or attribute.” This fact again exposes the deception employed by Jehovah’s Witnesses to lead the unwary Bible student astray into the paths of blasphemy against the Lord Jesus. It cannot be so translated, for the substitution of one word for another in translation is pure scholastic dishonesty, and Jehovah’s Witnesses can produce no authority for this bold mistranslation of the Greek text. Jesus Christ, according to the words themselves, is the same essence and substance as Jehovah, and as the essence (Deity) differs from the quality (Divinity), so He is God— (The Deity)—Jehovah manifest in the flesh.
That Jesus and Jehovah are “One” in nature dare not be questioned from these verses, which so clearly reveal the plan and purpose of God. Paul sustains this argument in his epistle to the Philippians (2:10–11) when he ascribes to the Lord Jesus the identity of Jehovah as revealed in Isaiah 45:23. Paul proclaims boldly, “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” It is a well-known biblical fact that the highest glory one can give to God is to acknowledge and worship Him in the person of His Son, and as Jesus himself said, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6) and “All men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father” (John 5:23).
It is therefore clear from the context that the wonder of the Godhead is specifically revealed in Jesus Christ to the fullest extent, and it is expedient for all men to realize the consequences to be met if any refuse the injunctions of God’s Word and openly deny the deity of His Son, who is “the true God, and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).
6. Revelation 1:8. “ ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says Jehovah God, ‘the One who is and who was and who is coming, the Almighty’ ” (NWT; cf. Revelation 1:7–8, 17–18; 2:8; 22:13; Matthew 24:30; Isaiah 44:6).
In the seventh, eighth, seventeenth, and eighteenth verses of the first chapter of Revelation a unique and wonderful truth is again affirmed—namely, that Jesus Christ and Jehovah God are of the same substance, hence coequal, coexistent, and coeternal. In short, one nature (but three persons) in its fullest sense. We shall pursue that line of thought at length in substantiating this doctrine of Scripture.
Comparing Matthew 24:30 with Revelation 1:7, it is inescapably evident that Jesus Christ is the one coming with clouds in both the references mentioned.
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory (Matthew 24:30, emphasis added).
Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen (Revelation 1:7, emphasis added).
Following this train of thought, we find that Jehovah declares in Isaiah 44:6 that He alone is the first and the last and the only God, which eliminates forever any confusion as to their being two “firsts and lasts.” Since Jehovah is the only God, then how can the be “a god,” a lesser god than Jehovah, as Jehovah’s Witnesses declare in John 1:1? (The Emphatic Diaglott and New World Translation). Many times Jehovah declares His existence as the “only” God and Savior (Isaiah 41:4; 43:10–13; 44:6; 45:5; 48:12; etc.). This is indeed irrefutable proof, since Christ could not be our Savior and Redeemer if He were not Jehovah, for Jehovah is the only Savior of men’s souls (Isaiah 43:11). However, despite the testimony of Scripture that “before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me” (Isaiah 43:10), the “a god” fallacy is pursued and taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses in direct contradiction to God’s Word. In 1 Corinthians 8:4–6 Paul points out that an idol or false god is nothing and, even though men may worship many things as gods, there is only one true and living God (cf. Acts 5:3–4 and John 1:1 for the other persons of the Trinity).
Revelation 1:17–18 and 2:8 add further weight to the deity of Christ, for they reveal Him as the first and the last, who became dead and lives forever. Now, since Jehovah is the only first and last (cf. Isaiah references), either He and Christ are “One,” or to claim otherwise Jehovah’s Witnesses must deny the authority of Scripture.
In order to be consistent we must answer the arguments advanced by Jehovah’s Witnesses concerning the use of “first” (Greek, ) and “last” (Greek, ) in Revelation 1:17 and 2:8.
By suggesting the original use and translation of (firstborn) and implying that “firstborn” necessarily means “first created,” instead of (first) in these passages (see the footnotes to the passages in the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures and The Emphatic Diaglott), Jehovah’s Witnesses attempt to rob Christ of His deity and make Him a created being with “a beginning” (Let God Be True, 107). When approached on this point they quickly refer you to Colossians 1:15 and Revelation 3:14, “proving” that the Logos had “a beginning” (see John 1:1 in both translations). To any informed Bible student, this conclusion is fallacious. A Greek Lexicon of the New Testament, translated and edited by J. H. Thayer (1886), states that the only correct rendering of is “first,” and in Thayer’s own words, “The Eternal One” [Jehovah] (Revelation 1:17). Here again the deity of Christ is vindicated.
Jesus said, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last” (Revelation 22:13), and not only this but it is He who is revealing the mysteries to John (Revelation 1:1 and 22:16) and declaring himself to be the “faithful witness” (Revelation 1:5) who testifies “I come quickly” (Revelation 22:20). It is evident that Jesus is the one testifying and the one coming (Revelation 1:2, 7) throughout the book of Revelation since it is by His command (Revelation 22:16) that John records everything. So in honesty we must acknowledge His sovereignty as the “first” and “last” (Isaiah 48:12, Revelation 1:17 and 22:13), the Lord of all, and the eternal Word of God incarnate (John 1:1).
Revelation 3:14 asserts that Christ is the “beginning of the creation of God,” and Colossians 1:15 states that Christ is “the firstborn of every creature.” These verses in no sense indicate that Christ was a created being. The Greek word (Revelation 3:14) can be correctly rendered “origin” and is so translated in John 1:1 of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ own 1951 edition of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures. Revelation 3:14 declares that Christ is the faithful and true witness, the “origin” or “source” of the creation of God. This corroborates Hebrews 1:2 and Colossians 1:16–17 in establishing Christ as the Creator of all things and, therefore, God (Genesis 1:1).
Christ is the firstborn of all creation since He is the new Creation, conceived without sin (Luke 1:35), the second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45 and 47), the fulfillment of the divine promise of the God-man (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; Micah 5:2), and the Redeemer of the world (Colossians 1:14). John 3:13 states that no one has ascended into heaven but Christ who came down; Philippians 2:11 declares that He is Lord (Greek, ), and as such is “the Lord from heaven” of 1 Corinthians 15:47—God—and not a created being or “a god.”
The word “firstborn” refers not to the first one created or born, but to the one who has the preeminence or the right to rule as an heir has the right to rule over his predecessor’s estate. The same term is used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX) in Genesis 25:33, where Esau actually sells his “right of the firstborn” to Jacob because he is hungry. It is also used in Exodus 4:22 by Jehovah regarding Israel as His “firstborn” nation, the nation that receives the blessings of His kingdom. (See also Psalm 89:27; Genesis 49:3; and Jeremiah 31:9, cf. Genesis 41:51–52.) This is the same meaning that “firstborn” carries in Colossians 1:15, 18 regarding Jesus Christ, and in Hebrews 11:17 regarding Isaac, who was Abraham’s “son of promise,” or “firstborn,” but, having been born after Ishmael, not literally his first son born.
The Lord Jesus is also the “firstborn” from the dead (Revelation 1:5)—that is, the one who conquered death by rising in a glorified body (not a spirit form—see Luke 24:39–40), which type of body Christians will someday possess as in the words of the apostle John: “It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like [similar to] him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2, bracketed mine). We know that these promises are sure, “for he is faithful that promised” (Hebrews 10:23), and all who deny the deity of Christ might well take cognizance of His warning and injunction when He said, For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book (Revelation 22:18–19).
7. John 17:5. “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (Jesus Christ).
This passage of Scripture, in cross-reference with Isaiah 42:8 and 48:11, proves conclusively the identity of the Lord Jesus and is a fitting testimony to the deity of Christ.
In Isaiah 42:8 Jehovah himself is speaking and He emphatically declares, “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images.” Again in Isaiah 48:11 Jehovah is speaking and He declares, “For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.”
It is plain to see from these references in Isaiah that Jehovah has irrevocably declared that His divinely inherent glory, which is of His own nature, cannot and will not be given to anyone other than himself. There is no argument Jehovah’s Witnesses can erect to combat the truth of God as revealed in these passages of Scripture. The inherent glory of God belongs to God alone, and by His own mouth He has so ordained it to be. God, however, bestowed upon the incarnate Word a certain glory manifested in the presence of the Holy Spirit, through whose power and agency Christ worked while in the flesh, and Jesus in turn bestowed this upon his followers (John 17:22). But it was not the glory of God’s nature; rather, it was (and is) the abiding presence of His Spirit. The two quite different types of glory should not be confused. Jesus prayed to receive back again the glory He had with the Father “before the world was” (John 17:5). Also, it was not the glory given to Him as the Messiah, which glory Christ promised to share with His disciples (v. 22). Nowhere in Scripture are the types of glory equated.
The Lord Jesus Christ, when He prayed in John 17:5, likewise irrevocably revealed that He would be glorified with the glory of the Father and that the glory of the Father (Jehovah) was not new to Him, since He affirmed that He possessed it with (Greek, ) the Father (“the glory which I had with thee”) even before the world came into existence. Jehovah’s Witnesses attempt to answer this by asking that if He were God, where was His glory while He walked the earth?
In answer to this question, the Scriptures list at least four separate instances where Christ manifested His glory and revealed His power and deity. On the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:2) Christ shone with the inherent glory of God, which glory continued undiminished when in John 18:6 the Lord applied to himself the “I AM” of Jehovahistic identity that radiated glory enough to render His captors powerless at His will. The seventeenth chapter of John, the twenty-second verse, also confirms the manifestation of Jehovah’s glory when Jesus, looking forward to the cross, prays for His disciples and affirms the origin of His glory as being the substance of God. The resurrection glory of Christ also serves to illustrate His deity and reveal it as of God himself.
So it is plain to see that the argument Jehovah’s Witnesses advance to the effect that Christ did not manifest the glory of himself is invalid and finds no basis in the Scriptures. The truth of the whole matter is that the Lord Jesus did reveal the true glory of His nature in the very works He performed, and as John says (1:14), “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
Paul, in the second chapter of Philippians, removes all doubt on this question when he writes, guided by the Holy Spirit, that Christ never ceased to be Jehovah even during His earthly incarnation. It is interesting to note that the Greek term , translated “being” in Philippians 2:6, literally means “remaining” or “not ceasing to be”; consequently, in the context Christ never ceased to be God, and “remained” in His basic substance; He was truly “God manifest in the flesh.”
An average Jehovah’s Witness interviewed recently, in attempting to escape the obvious declaration of Christ’s deity as revealed in this text, reverted to the old Greek term-switching routine of the Society and asserted that the word “with” (Greek, ) in John 17:5 really means “through,” and therefore the glory that is spoken of is not proof of Christ’s deity since the glory is Jehovah’s and is merely shining “through” the Son; it is not His own but a manifestation of Jehovah’s glory.
Once again we are confronted with the problem of illogical exegesis, the answer to which must be found in the Greek text itself. We must believe that the grammar of the Bible is inspired by God if we believe that God inspired the writers, or how else could He have conveyed His thoughts without error? Would God commit His inspired words to the failing grammatical powers of man to record? No! He could not do this without risking corruption of His message; therefore, as the wise and prudent Lord that He is, He most certainly inspired the grammar of His servants that their words might transmit His thoughts without error, immutable and wholly dependable. With this thought in mind, let us consider the wording and construction of the verse.
The Greek word (with) is used in the dative case in John 17:5 and is not translated “through” (Greek ) but is correctly rendered according to Thayer’s Lexicon as “with,” and Thayer quotes John 17:5, the very verse in question, as his example of how (with) should be translated.
Never let it be said that in this context indicates anything less than possessive equality—“the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” The Lord Jesus Christ clearly meant that He as God the Son was the possessor of divine glory along with the Father and the Holy Spirit before the world was even formed. Christ also declared that He intended to appropriate that glory in all its divine power once again, pending the resurrection of His earthly temple, which, by necessity, since it was finite, veiled as a voluntary act His eternal power and deity (Philippians 2:5–8). The glory He spoke of did not only shine through the Father; it was eternally inherent in the Son, and since John, led by the Holy Spirit, deliberately chose (literally, “with”) in preference to (through), the argument that Jehovah’s Witnesses propose cannot stand up. The Lord Jesus claimed the same glory of the Father as His own, and since Jehovah has said that He will not give His inherent glory to another (Isaiah 42:8), the unity of nature between Him and Christ is undeniable; they are one in all its wonderful and mysterious implications, which, though we cannot understand them fully, we gladly accept, and in so doing remain faithful to God’s Word.
8. John 20:28. “Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.”
No treatment of the deity of Christ would be complete without mentioning the greatest single testimony recorded in the Scriptures. John 20:28 presents that testimony.
Beginning at verse 24, the disciple Thomas is portrayed as being a resolute skeptic in that he refused to believe that Christ had risen and appeared physically in the same form that had been crucified on the cross. In verse 25 Thomas stubbornly declares that “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.” Following through the sequence of events in verses 26 and 27, we learn that the Lord appeared to Thomas together with the other disciples and presented His body bearing the wounds of Calvary to Thomas for his inspection. This was no spirit or phantom, no “form” assumed for the occasion, as Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain. This was the very body of Christ that bore the horrible imprints of excruciating torture and the pangs of an ignominious death. Here displayed before the eyes of the unbelieving disciple was the evidence that compelled him by the sheer power of its existence to adore the One who manifested the essence of Deity. “Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.” This was the only answer Thomas could honestly give; Christ had proved His identity; He was truly “the Lord God.” Let us substantiate this beyond doubt.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have vainly striven to elude this text in the Greek (The Emphatic Diaglott and the New World Translation), but they have unknowingly corroborated its authority beyond refutation, as a brief survey of their sources will reveal.
In The Emphatic Diaglott (John 20:28, p. 396) , literally “the God of me,” or “my God,” signifies Jehovahistic identity, and since it is in possession of the definite article, to use Jehovah’s Witnesses’ own argument, it must therefore mean “the only true God” (Jehovah), not “a god.” On page 776 in an appendix to the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, the note states, “So, too, John 1:1–2 uses to distinguish Jehovah God from the Word (Logos) as a god, the only begotten god as John 1:18 calls him.” Now let us reflect as sober individuals. If Thomas called the risen Christ Jehovah (definite article ), and Christ did not deny it but confirmed it by saying (verse 29), “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed,” then no juggling of the text in context can offset the basic thought—namely, that Jesus Christ is Jehovah God!
The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures carefully evades any explanation of the Greek text on the aforementioned point, but just as carefully it inserts in the margin (p. 350) six references to Christ as “a god,” which they attempt to slip by the unwary Bible student. These references, as usual, are used abstractly, and four of them (Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1, 18; and 10:35) have been mentioned already in previous points. The question, then, is this: Is there any other god beside Jehovah which Jehovah’s Witnesses affirm to be true by their reference to Christ as “a god” (John 1:1; Isaiah 9:6)? The Scriptures give but one answer: an emphatic NO! There is no god but Jehovah. (See Isaiah 37:16, 20; 44:6, 8; 45:21–23; etc.)
To be sure, there are many so-called gods in the Scriptures, but they are not gods by identity and self-existence; rather, they are gods by human acclamation and adoration. Satan also falls into this category since he is the “god of this world,” who holds that position only because unregenerate and ungodly men have accorded to him service and worship belonging to God.
The apostle Paul seals this truth with his clear-cut analysis of idolatry and false gods in 1 Corinthians 8:4–6, where he declares that an idol is nothing in itself and that there is no god but Jehovah in heaven or earth, regardless of the inventions of man.
The picture is clear. Thomas adored Christ as the risen incarnation of the Deity (Jehovah); John declared that Deity was His from all eternity (John 1:1); and Christ affirmed it irrefutably: “If ye believe not that I am he [Jehovah], ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24, cf. Exodus 3:14, bracketed mine). All of the pseudo-scholastic and elusive tactics ever utilized can never change the plain declarations of God’s Word. Jesus Christ is Lord of all; and like it or not, Jehovah’s Witnesses will never destroy or remove that truth. Regardless of what is done to God’s Word on earth, it remains eternal in the glory, as it is written, “For ever, O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven” (Psalm 119:89).
9. John 5:18. “[He] said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.”
To conclude this vital topic, this verse is self-explanatory. The Greek term “equal” cannot be debated; nor is it contextually or grammatically allowable that John is here recording what the Jews said about Jesus, as Jehovah’s Witnesses lamely argue. The sentence structure clearly shows that John said it under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and not the Jews! Anyone so inclined can diagram the sentence and see this for himself. No serious scholar or commentator has ever questioned it. In the Jewish mind, for Jesus to claim to be God’s Son was a claim to equality with God, a fact Jehovah’s Witnesses might profitably consider!
We see, then, that our Lord was equal with God the Father and the Holy Spirit in His divine nature, though inferior (as a man), by choice, in His human nature as the last Adam (John 14:28; 1 Corinthians 15:45–47). This text alone is of enormous value and argues powerfully for our Lord’s deity.
Refutation of Watchtower Theology in Regard to the Triune Deity
One of the greatest doctrines of the Scriptures is that of the Triune Godhead or the nature of God himself. To say that this doctrine is a “mystery” is indeed inconclusive, and no informed minister would explain the implications of the doctrine in such abstract terms. Jehovah’s Witnesses accuse “the clergy” of doing just that, however, and it is unfortunate to note that they are, as usual, guilty of misstatement in the presentation of the facts and even in their definition of what Christian clergymen believe the Deity to be.
First of all, Christian ministers and Christian laypersons do not believe that there are “three gods in one” (Let God Be True, 100), but do believe that there are three Persons all of the same Substance—coequal, coexistent, and coeternal. There is ample ground for this belief in the Scriptures, where plurality in the Godhead is very strongly intimated if not expressly declared. Let us consider just a few of these references.
In Genesis 1:26 Jehovah is speaking of Creation, and He speaks in the plural: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Now it is obvious that God would not create man in His image and the angels’ images if He were talking to them, so He must have been addressing someone else—and who but His Son and the Holy Spirit who are equal in Substance could He address in such familiar terms? Since there is no other god but Jehovah (Isaiah 43:10–11), not even “a lesser mighty god” as Jehovah’s Witnesses affirm Christ to be, there must be a unity in plurality and Substance or the passage is not meaningful. The same is true of Genesis 11:7, when God said at the Tower of Babel, “Let us go down,” and also of Isaiah 6:8, “Who will go for us? ” These instances of plurality indicate something deeper than an interpersonal relationship; they strongly suggest what the New Testament fully develops, namely, a Tri-Unity in the One God. The claim of Jehovah’s Witnesses that the early church Fathers, including Tertullian and Theophilus, propagated and introduced the threefold unity of God into Christianity is ridiculous to the point of being hardly worth refuting. Any unbiased study of the facts will convince the impartial student that before Tertullian or Theophilus lived, the doctrine was under study and considered sound. No one doubts that among the heathen (Babylonians and Egyptians, for example) demon gods were worshiped, but to call the Triune Godhead a doctrine of the devil (Let God Be True, 101), as Jehovah’s Witnesses do, is blasphemy and the product of untutored and darkened souls.
In the entire chapter titled “Is there a Trinity?” (Let God Be True, 100–101), the whole problem as to why the Trinity doctrine is “confusing” to Jehovah’s Witnesses lies in their interpretation of “death” as it is used in the Bible. To Jehovah’s Witnesses, death is the cessation of consciousness, or destruction. However, no single or collective rendering of Greek or Hebrew words in any reputable lexicon or dictionary will substantiate their view. Death in the Scriptures is “separation” from the body as in the case of the first death (physical), and separation from God for eternity as in the second death (the lake of fire, Revelation 20). Death never means annihilation, and Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot bring in one word in context in the original languages to prove it does. A wealth of evidence has been amassed to prove it does not. I welcome comparisons on this point.
The rest of the chapter is taken up with childish questions—some of which are painful to record. “Who ran the universe the three days Jesus was dead and in the grave?” (death again portrayed as extinction of consciousness) is a sample of the nonsense perpetrated on gullible people. “Religionists” is the label placed on all who disagree with the organization’s views regardless of the validity of the criticism. Christians do not believe that the Trinity was incarnate in Christ and that they were “three in one” as such during Christ’s ministry. Christ voluntarily limited himself in His earthly body, but heaven was always open to Him and He never ceased being God, Second Person of the Trinity. At His baptism the Holy Spirit descended like a dove, the Father spoke, and the Son was baptized. What further proof is needed to show a threefold unity? Compare the baptism of Christ (Matthew 3:16–17) with the commission to preach in the threefold Name of God (Matthew 28:19) and the evidence is clear and undeniable. Even in the Incarnation itself (Luke 1:35) the Trinity appears (see also John 14:16 and 15:26). Of course it is not possible to fathom this great revelation completely, but this we do know: There is a unity of Substance, not three gods, and that unity is One in every essential sense, which no reasonable person can doubt after surveying the evidence. When Jesus said, “My Father is greater than I,” He spoke the truth, for in the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7) and as a man, the Son was subject to the Father willingly; but upon His resurrection and in the radiance of His glory taken again from whence He veiled it (vv. 7–8). He showed forth His deity when He declared, “All authority is surrendered to me in heaven and earth” (Matthew 28:18); proof positive of His intrinsic nature and unity of Substance. It is evident that the Lord Jesus Christ was never inferior—speaking of His nature—to His Father during His sojourn on earth.
The Resurrection of Christ
Jehovah’s Witnesses, as has been observed, deny the bodily resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and claim instead that He was raised a “divine spirit being” or as an “invisible spirit creature.” They answer the objection that He appeared in human form by asserting that He simply took human forms as He needed them, which enabled Him to be seen, for as the Logos He would have been invisible to the human eye. In short, Jesus did not appear in the same form that hung upon the cross since that body either “dissolved into gases or is preserved somewhere as the grand memorial of God’s love”. This, in spite of Paul’s direct refutation in 1 Timothy 2:5, where he calls “the man Christ Jesus” our only mediator—some thirty years after the resurrection!
The Scriptures, however, tell a completely different story, as will be evident when their testimony is considered. Christ himself prophesied His own bodily resurrection, and John tells us “He spake of the temple of His body” (John 2:21).
In John 20:24–26, the disciple Thomas doubted the literal, physical resurrection of Christ, only to repent of his doubt (v. 28) after Jesus offered His body (v. 27), the same one that was crucified and still bore the nail prints and spear wound, to Thomas for his examination. No reasonable person will say that the body the Lord Jesus displayed was not His crucifixion body, unless he either ignorantly or willfully denies the Word of God. It was no other body “assumed” for the time by a spiritual Christ; it was the identical form that hung on the tree—the Lord himself; He was alive and undeniably tangible, not a “divine spirit being.” The Lord foresaw the unbelief of men in His bodily resurrection and made an explicit point of saying that He was not a spirit but flesh and bones (Luke 24:39–44), and He even went so far as to eat human food to prove that He was identified with humanity as well as Deity. Christ rebuked the disciples for their unbelief in His physical resurrection (Luke 24:25), and it was the physical resurrection that confirmed His deity, since only God could voluntarily lay down and take up life at will (John 10:18). We must not forget that Christ prophesied not only His resurrection but also the nature of that resurrection, which He said would be bodily (John 2:19–21). He said He would raise up “this temple” in three days (v. 19), and John tells us “He spake of the temple of his body” (v. 21).
Jehovah’s Witnesses utilize, among other unconnected verses, 1 Peter 3:18 as a defense for their spiritual resurrection doctrine. Peter declares that Christ was “put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” Obviously He was made alive in the Spirit and by the Spirit of God, for the Spirit of God, who shares the nature of God himself, raised up Jesus from the dead, as it is written, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you ” (Romans 8:11). The meaning of the verse then is quite clear. God did not raise Jesus as merely a spirit but raised Him by His Spirit, which follows perfectly John 20:27 and Luke 24:39–44 in establishing the physical resurrection of the Lord.
The Watchtower quotes Mark 16:12 and John 20:14–16 as proof that Jesus has “other bodies” after His resurrection. Unfortunately for them, the reference in Mark is a questionable source, and a doctrine should not be built around one questionable verse. Neither verse has anything to do with the material reality of Christ’s resurrection. The reason that Mary (in Mark 16) and also the Emmaus disciples (Luke 24) did not recognize Him is explained in Luke 24:16 (RSV): “Their eyes were kept from recognizing him”(RSV), but it was “Jesus himself” (v. 15).
Jehovah’s Witnesses also try to undermine our Lord’s bodily resurrection by pointing out that the doors were shut (John 20:26) when Jesus appeared in the Upper Room. However, Christ had a “spiritual body” (1 Corinthians 15:50, 53) in His glorified state; identical in form to His earthly body, but immortal; consequently, He was capable of entering either the dimension of earth or of heaven with no violation to the laws of either one.
Paul states in Romans 4:24; 6:4; 1 Corinthians 15:15; etc., that Christ is raised from the dead, and Paul preached the physical resurrection and return of the God-man, not a “divine spirit being” without a tangible form. Paul also warned that if Christ is not risen, then our faith is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:14); to us who believe God’s Word there is a Man in the Glory who showed His wounds as a token of His reality and whose question we ask Jehovah’s Witnesses: “Has a spirit flesh and bones as you see me have?” (Luke 24:39).
The Watchtower’s Scriptural Distortions
(1) The first major perversion that Jehovah’s Witnesses attempt to foist upon the minds of the average reader is that it has remained for them as “God’s true Witnesses” to restore the divine Old Testament name Jehovah to the text of the Greek New Testament. But let us observe this pretext as they stated it in their own words.
The evidence is, therefore, that the original text of the Christian Greek Scriptures has been tampered with, the same as the text of the LXX [the Septuagint—a Greek translation of the Old Testament] has been. And, at least from the third century A.D. onward, the divine name in tetragrammaton [the Hebrew consonants , usually rendered “Jehovah”] form has been eliminated from the text by copyists. In place of it they substituted the words (usually translated “the Lord”) and , meaning “God” (p. 18).
The “evidence” that the Witnesses refer to is a papyrus roll of the LXX, which contains the second half of the book of Deuteronomy and which does have the tetragrammaton throughout. Further than this, the Witnesses refer to Aquila (A.D. 128) and Origen (ca. A.D. 250), who both utilized the tetragrammaton in their respective Version and Hexapla. Jerome, in the fourth century, also mentioned the tetragrammaton as appearing in certain Greek volumes even in his day. On the basis of this small collection of fragmentary “evidence,” Jehovah’s Witnesses conclude their argument:
It proves that the original LXX did contain the divine name wherever it occurred in the Hebrew original. Considering it a sacrilege to use some substitute such as or , the scribes inserted the tetragrammaton at its proper place in the Greek version text (p. 12).
The whole case the Witnesses try to prove is that the original LXX and the New
Testament autographs all used the tetragrammaton (p. 18), but owing to
“tampering” all these were changed; hence, their responsibility to restore the
divine name. Such is the argument, and a seemingly plausible one to those not
familiar with the history of manuscripts and the Witnesses’ subtle use of
To explode this latest Watchtower pretension of scholarship completely is an elementary task. It can be shown from literally thousands of copies of the Greek New Testament that not once does the tetragrammaton appear, not even in Matthew, which was possibly written in Hebrew or Aramaic originally, therefore making it more prone than all the rest to have traces of the divine name in it—yet it does not! Beyond this, the roll of papyrus (LXX) that contains the latter part of Deuteronomy and the divine name only proves that one copy did have the divine name, whereas all other existing copies use kyrios and theos, which the Witnesses claim are “substitutes.” The testimonies of Aquila, Origen, and Jerome, in turn, only show that sometimes the divine name was used, but the general truth upheld by all scholars is that the Septuagint, with minor exceptions, always uses kyrios and theos in place of the tetragrammaton, and the New Testament never uses it at all. Relative to the nineteen “sources” the Watchtower uses (pp. 30–33) for restoring the tetragrammaton to the New Testament, it should be noted that they are all translations from Greek (which uses kyrios and theos, not the tetragrammaton) back into Hebrew, the earliest of which is A.D. 1385, and therefore they are of no value as evidence.
These cold logical facts unmask once and for all the shallow scholarship of Jehovah’s Witnesses, whose arrogant pretension that they have a sound basis for restoring the divine name (Jehovah) to the Scriptures while inferring that orthodoxy suppressed it centuries ago is revealed to be a hollow scholastic fraud. The Watchtower itself admits, “But apart from [the use of “Jah” in “Hallelujah” in the book of Revelation], no ancient Greek manuscript that we possess today of the books from Matthew to Revelation contains God’s name [the tetragrammaton] in full.”
No reasonable scholar, of course, objects to the use of the term Jehovah in the Bible. But since only the Hebrew consonants appear without vowels, pronunciation is at best uncertain, and dogmatically to settle on Jehovah is straining at the bounds of good linguistics. When the Witnesses arrogantly claim then to have “restored” the divine name (Jehovah), it is almost pathetic. All students of Hebrew know that any vowel can be inserted between the consonants (YHWH or JHVH), so that theoretically the divine name could be any combination from JoHeVaH to JiHiViH without doing violence to the grammar of the language in the slightest degree.
(2) Colossians 1:16. “By means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities”(NWT).
In this particular rendering, Jehovah’s Witnesses attempt one of the most clever perversions of the New Testament texts that the author has ever seen. Knowing full well that the word other does not occur in this text, or for that matter in any of the three verses (16, 17, 19) where it has been added, albeit in brackets, the Witnesses deliberately insert it into the translation in a vain attempt to make Christ a creature and one of the “things” He is spoken of as having created.
Attempting to justify this unheard-of travesty upon the Greek language and also upon simple honesty, the New World Bible translation committee enclosed each added “other” in brackets, which are said by them to “enclose words inserted to complete or clarify the sense in the English text.” Far from clarifying God’s Word here, these unwarranted additions serve only to further the erroneous presupposition of the Watchtower that our Lord Jesus Christ is a creature rather than the Eternal Creator.
The entire context of Colossians 1:15–22 is filled with superlatives in its description of the Lord Jesus as the “image of the invisible God, the first begetter [or ‘original bringer forth’—Erasmus] of every creature.” The apostle Paul lauds the Son of God as Creator of all things (v. 16) and describes Him as existing “before all things” and as the one by whom “all things consist” (v. 17). This is in perfect harmony with the entire picture Scripture paints of the eternal Word of God (John 1:1) who was made flesh (John 1:14) and of whom it was written: “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). The writer of the book of Hebrews also pointed out that God’s Son “[upholds] all things by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3) and that He is Deity in all its fullness, even as Paul wrote to the Colossians: “For in him should all fulness [of God] dwell” (Colossians 1:19).
The Scriptures, therefore, bear unmistakable testimony to the creative activity of God’s Son, distinguishing Him from among the “things” created, as the Creator and Sustainer of “all things.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses, therefore, have no conceivable ground for this dishonest rendering of Colossians 1:16–17 and 19 by the insertion of the word “other,” since they are supported by no grammatical authorities, nor do they dare to dispute their perversions with competent scholars lest they further parade their obvious ignorance of Greek exegesis.
(3) Matthew 27:50. “Again Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and yielded up his breath” (NWT). Luke 23:46. “And Jesus called with a loud voice and said: Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit” (NWT).
For many years the Watchtower has been fighting a vain battle to redefine biblical terms to suit their own peculiar theological interpretations. They have had some measure of success in this attempt in that they have taught the rank and file a new meaning for tried and true biblical terms, and it is this trait of their deceptive system that we analyze now in connection with the above quoted verses.
The interested student of Scripture will note from Matthew 27:50 and Luke 23:46 that they are parallel passages describing the same event, namely, the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In Matthew’s account, the Witnesses had no difficulty substituting the word “breath” for the Greek “spirit”, for in their vocabulary this word has many meanings, none of them having any hearing upon the general usage of the term, i.e., that of an immaterial, cognizant nature, inherent in man by definition and descriptive of angels through Creation. Jehovah’s Witnesses reject this immaterial nature in man and call it “breath,” “life,” “mental disposition,” or “something windlike.” In fact, they will call it anything but what God’s Word says it is, an invisible nature, eternal by Creation, a spirit, made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Sometimes, and in various contexts, spirit can mean some of the things the Witnesses hold, but context determines translation, along with grammar, and their translations quite often do not remain true to either.
Having forced the word “breath” into Matthew’s account of the crucifixion to make it appear that Jesus only stopped breathing and did not yield up His invisible nature upon dying, the Witnesses plod on to Luke’s account, only to be caught in their own trap. Luke, learned scholar and master of Greek that he was, forces the Witnesses to render his account of Christ’s words using the correct term “spirit”, instead of “breath” as in Matthew 27:50. Thus in one fell swoop the entire Watchtower fabric of manufactured terminology collapses, because Jesus would hardly have said: “Father, into thy hands I commit my breath”—yet if the Witnesses are consistent, which they seldom are, why did they not render the identical Greek term as “breath” both times, for it is a parallel account of the same scene!
The solution to this question is quite elementary, as all can clearly see. The Witnesses could not render it “breath” in Luke and get away with it, so they used it where they could and hoped nobody would notice either it or the different rendering in Matthew. The very fact that Christ dismissed His spirit proves the survival of the human spirit beyond the grave, or as Solomon so wisely put it: “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).
(4) Philippians 1:21–23. “For in my case to live is Christ, and to die, gain. Now if it be to live on in the flesh, this is a fruitage of my work—and yet which thing to select I do not know. I am under pressure from these two things; but what I do desire is the releasing and the being with Christ, for this, to be sure, is far better”(NWT).
In common with other cults that teach soul-sleep after the death of the body, Jehovah’s Witnesses translate texts contradicting this view to suit their own ends, a prime example of which is their rendering of Philippians 1:21–23. To anyone possessing even a cursory knowledge of Greek grammar the translation “but what I do desire is the releasing” (v. 23) signifies either a woeful ignorance of the rudiments of the language or a deliberate, calculated perversion of terminology for a purpose or purposes most questionable.
It is no coincidence that this text is a great “proof” passage for the expectation of every true Christian who after death goes to be with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Jehovah’s Witnesses realize that if this text goes unchanged or unchallenged it utterly destroys their Russellite teaching that the soul becomes extinct at the death of the body. This being the case, and since they could not challenge the text without exploding the myth of their acceptance of the Bible as the final authority, the Watchtower committee chose to alter the passage in question, give it a new interpretation, and remove this threat to their theology.
The rendering, “but what I do desire is the releasing,” particularly the last word, is an imposition on the principles of sound Greek exegesis. The NWT renders the infinitive form of the verb as a substantive. In the context of this particular passage, to translate it “the releasing” would require the use of the participle construction, which when used with the word “wish” or “desire” denotes “a great longing” or “purpose” and must be rendered “to depart” or “to unloose.” (See Thayer; Liddell and Scott; Strong, Young, and A. T. Robertson.)
Quite frankly, it may appear that I have gone to a great deal of trouble simply to refute the wrong usage of a Greek form, but in truth this “simple” switching of terms is used by the Witnesses in an attempt to teach that Paul meant something entirely different than what he wrote to the Philippians. To see how the Watchtower manages this, I quote from their own appendix to the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures (780–781):
The verb is used as a verbal
noun here. It occurs only once more in the Christian Greek Scriptures, and that
is at Luke 12:36, where it refers to Christ’s return. The related noun occurs
but once, at 2 Timothy 4:6, where the apostle says: “The due time for my
releasing is imminent.” But here at Philippians 1:23 we have not rendered the
verb as “returning” or “departing,” but as “releasing.” The reason is, that the
word may convey two thoughts, the apostle’s own releasing to be with Christ at
his return and also the Lord’s releasing himself from the heavenly restraints
and returning as he promised.
In no way is the apostle here saying that immediately at his death he would be changed into spirit and would be with Christ forever. It is to this return of Christ and the apostle’s releasing to be always with the Lord that Paul refers at Philippians 1:23. He says there that two things are immediately possible for him, namely, (1) to live on in the flesh and (2) to die. Because of the circumstances to be considered, he expressed himself as being under pressure from these two things, not knowing which thing to choose as proper. Then he suggests a third thing, and this thing he really desires. There is no question about his desire for this thing as preferable, namely, the releasing, for it means his being with Christ.
The expression , or the releasing cannot therefore be applied to the apostle’s death as a human creature and his departing thus from this life. It must refer to the events at the time of Christ’s return and second presence, that is to say, his second coming and the rising of all those dead in Christ to be with him forevermore.
Here, after much grammatical intrigue, we have the key as to why the Witnesses
went to so much trouble to render “depart” as “releasing.” By slipping in this
grammatical error, the Watchtower hoped to “prove” that Paul wasn’t really
discussing his impending death and subsequent reunion with Christ at all (a
fact every major biblical scholar and translator in history has affirmed ), but
a third thing, namely, “the events at the time of Christ’s return and second
presence.” With breathtaking dogmatism, the Witnesses claim that “the releasing
cannot therefore be applied to the apostle’s death. It must refer to the events
at the time of Christ’s return.”
Words fail when confronted with this classic example of unparalleled deceit, which finds no support in any Greek text or exegetical grammatical authority. Contrary to the Watchtower’s statement that “the word may convey two thoughts, the apostle’s own releasing to be with Christ at his return and also the Lord’s releasing himself from the heavenly restraints and returning as he promised,” as a matter of plain exegetical fact, Christ’s return is not even the subject of discussion—rather it is the apostle’s death and his concern for the Philippians that are here portrayed. That Paul never expected to “sleep” in his grave until the resurrection as Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain is evident by the twenty-first verse of the chapter, literally: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” There would be no gain in dying if men slept till the resurrection, for “[God] is not the God of the dead, but the God of the living” (Mark 12:27). Clearly, Paul was speaking of but two things: his possible death and subsequent presence with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8), and also the possibility of his continuing on in the body, the latter being “more needful” for the Philippian Christians. His choice, in his own words, was between these two (1:23), and Jehovah’s Witnesses have gone to great trouble for nothing; the Greek text still records faithfully what the inspired apostle said—not what the Watchtower maintains he said, all their deliberate trickery to the contrary.
Concluding our comments upon these verses in Philippians, we feel constrained to point out a final example of Watchtower dishonesty relative to Greek translation.
On page 781 of the New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, it will be recalled that the committee wrote: “The expression , or the releasing cannot therefore be applied to the apostle’s death as a human creature and his departing thus from this life.”
If the interested reader will turn to page 626 of the same Watchtower translation, he will observe that in 2 Timothy 4:6 the Witnesses once more use the term “releasing”, where all translators are agreed that it refers to Paul’s impending death. The Revised Standard Version, often appealed to by Jehovah’s Witnesses, puts it this way: “For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come.” (See also An American Translation [Goodspeed]; Authorized Version; J. N. Darby’s Version; James Moffatt’s Version; J. B. Rotherham’s Version; Douay Version [Roman Catholic]; etc.)
Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves render the text: “For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the due time for my releasing is imminent” (2 Timothy 4:6, NWT).
Now, since it is admitted by the Witnesses, under the pressure of every translator’s rendering of his text, that this verse refers to Paul’s death, and further, since the noun form of the Greek word is here used and translated “releasing,” why is it that they claim on page 781 that this expression “the releasing” (—Philippians 1:23) “cannot therefore be applied to the apostle’s death as a human creature and his departing thus from this life”? The question becomes more embarrassing when it is realized that Jehovah’s Witnesses themselves admit that these two forms ( and ) are “related” (p. 781). Hence they have no excuse for maintaining in one place (Philippians 1:23) that “the releasing” cannot refer to the apostle’s death, and in another place (2 Timothy 4:6) using a form of the same word and allowing that it does refer to his death. This one illustration alone should serve to warn all honest people of the blatant deception employed in the Watchtower’s “translations,” a term not worthy of application in many, many places.
(5) Matthew 24:3. “While he was sitting upon the mount of Olives, the disciples approached him privately, saying: ‘Tell us, When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?’ ”(NWT).
Since the days of “Pastor” Russell and Judge Rutherford, one of the favorite dogmas of the Watchtower has been that of the , the second coming or “presence” of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jehovah’s Witnesses, loyal Russellites that they are, have tenaciously clung to the “pastor’s” theology in this respect and maintain that in the year A.D. 1914, when the “times of the Gentiles” ended (according to Russell), the “second presence” of Christ began. (See Make Sure of All Things, 319.)
From the year 1914 onward, the Witnesses maintain,
Christ has turned his attention toward earth’s affairs and is dividing the peoples and educating the true Christians in preparation for their survival during the great storm of Armageddon, when all unfaithful mankind will be destroyed from the face of the earth (p. 319).
For Jehovah’s Witnesses, it appears, Christ is not coming; He is here! (A.D. 1914)—only invisibly—and He is directing His activities through His theocratic organization in Brooklyn, New York. In view of this claim, it might be well to hearken unto the voice of Matthew who wrote:
Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be (Matthew 24:23–27).
Jehovah’s Witnesses, on page 780 of their New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, list the twenty-four occurrences of the Greek word , which they translate each time as “presence.” They give the following defense found on page 779:
The tendency of many translators is to render it here “coming” or “arrival.” But throughout the 24 occurrences of the Greek word we have consistently rendered it “presence.” From the comparison of the of the Son of man with the days of Noah at Matthew 24:37–39, it is very evident that the meaning of the word is as we have rendered it. And from the contrast that is made between the presence and the absence of the apostle both at 2 Corinthians 10:10–11 and at Philippians 2:12, the meaning of is so plain that it is beyond dispute by other translators.
Following this gigantic claim, namely, that their translation of the word is
“beyond dispute by other translators,” the “theocratic authorities” proceed to
list the verses in question.
Now, the main issue is not the translation of as “presence,” because in some contexts it is certainly allowable (see 1 Corinthians 16:17; 2 Corinthians 7:6–7; 10:10; and Philippians 1:26; 2:12). But there are other contexts where it cannot be allowed in the way Jehovah’s Witnesses use it, because it not only violates the contextual meaning of the word but the entire meaning of the passages as always held by the Christian church.
Jehovah’s Witnesses claim scholarship for this blanket translation of , yet not one great scholar in the history of Greek exegesis and translation has ever held this view. Since 1871, when “Pastor” Russell produced this concept, it has been denounced by every competent scholar upon examination.
The reason this Russellite rendering is so dangerous is that it attempts to prove that in regard to Christ’s second advent really means that His return or “presence” was to be invisible and unknown to all but “the faithful” (Russellites, of course). (See Make Sure of All Things, 319–323.)
The New World translators, therefore, on the basis of those texts where it is acceptable to render “presence,” conclude that it must be acceptable in all texts. But while it appears to be acceptable grammatically, no one but Jehovah’s Witnesses or their sympathizers accept the New World Translation’s blanket use of “presence,” be the translators Christian or not. It simply is not good grammar, and it will not stand up under comparative exegesis as will be shown. To conclude that “presence” necessarily implies invisibility is also another flaw in the Watchtower’s argument, for in numerous places where they render “presence” the persons spoken of were hardly invisible. (See again 1 Corinthians 16:17; 2 Corinthians 7:6–7 and 10:10; Philippians 1:26 and 2:12.)
If the Watchtower were to admit for one moment that can be translated “coming” or “arrival” in the passages that speak of Christ’s return the way all scholarly translators render it, then “Pastor” Russell’s “invisible presence” of Christ would explode in their faces. Hence, their determination to deny what all recognized Greek authorities have established.
The late Dr. Joseph H. Thayer, a Unitarian scholar, translator/editor of one of the best lexicons of the Greek New Testament (and who, incidentally, denied the visible second coming of Christ), said on page 490 of that work, when speaking of : “a return (Philippians 1:26). In the New Testament, especially of the Advent, i.e., the future visible return from heaven of Jesus, the Messiah, to raise the dead, hold the last judgment, and set up formally and gloriously the Kingdom of God.” (For further references, see Liddell and Scott, Strong, and any other reputable authority.)
Dr. Thayer, it might be mentioned, was honest enough to say what the New Testament Greek taught, even though he didn’t believe it. One could wish that Jehovah’s Witnesses were at least that honest, but they are not.
In concluding this discussion of the misuse of , we shall discuss the verses Jehovah’s Witnesses use to “prove” that Christ’s return was to be an invisible “presence” instead of a visible, glorious, verifiable event.
The following references and their headings were taken from the book Make Sure of All Things, published by the Watchtower as an official guide to their doctrine.
(1) “Angels Testified at Jesus’ Ascension as a Spirit that Christ Would Return in Like Manner, Quiet, Unobserved by the Public” (p. 320).
And after he had said these things while they [only the disciples] were looking on, he was lifted up and a cloud caught him up from their vision. “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus who was received up from you into the sky will come thus in the same manner as you have beheld him going into the sky” (Acts 1:9, 11, NWT).
It is quite unnecessary to
refute in detail this open perversion of a clear biblical teaching because, as
John 20:27 clearly shows, Christ was not a spirit and did not ascend as one.
The very text they quote shows that the disciples were “looking on” and saw him
“lifted up and a cloud caught him up from their vision”(v. 9). They could
hardly have been looking at a spirit, which by definition is incorporeal, not
with human eyes at least, and Christ had told them once before, “Behold my
hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath
not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Luke 24:39).
So it remains for Christ himself to denounce the Russellite error that He “ascended as a spirit.” Moreover, since He left the earth visibly from the Mount of Olives it is certain that He will return visibly even as the Scriptures teach (see Matthew 26:63–64; Daniel 7:13–14; Revelation 1:7–8; Matthew 24:7–8, 30).
Recently the Jehovah’s Witnesses “reinterpreted” their prophetic scheme to downplay the significance of 1914. As the Watchtower Society approaches the new millennium, it must somehow account for the fact that the Battle of Armageddon has not yet occurred, even though, according to the Society’s interpretation, it was supposed to occur at least within the lifetime of those born by 1914.
For decades the Awake! masthead contained the statement, “Most important, this magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away.” However, the November 8, 1995 issue (as well as all subsequent issues) states, “Most important, this magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world that is about to replace the present wicked lawless system of things.” This is but the latest in a multitude of reinterpretations by the Watchtower to extend their erroneous end times scenario into successive decades as their “prophetic” prowess fails. Following is a chart that shows the successive replacement teachings of the Watchtower over the years.
“Beginning of the End” in 1799 (later changed to 1914).
“1799 definitely marks the beginning of ‘the time of the end.’ ‘The time of the end’ embraces a period from A.D. 1799, as above indicated, to the time of the complete overthrow of Satan’s empire. We have been in ‘the time of the end’ since 1799.”
The Harp of God (1928 ed.): 235–236, 239.
Christ’s “Invisible Presence” begins in 1874 (later changed to 1914).
“The time of the Lord’s second presence dates from 1874. From 1874 forward is the latter part of the period of ‘the time of the end.’ From 1874 is the time of the Lord’s second presence.”
The Harp of God, 236, 239–240.
The Battle of Armageddon ends in 1914 (later changed to “still future”).
“The ‘battle of the great day of God Almighty’ (Rev. 16:14), which will end in A.D. 1914 with the complete overthrow of earth’s present rulership, is already commenced.”
Charles Taze Russell, The Time Is at Hand, 101.
The Battle of Armageddon will end shortly after 1914.
“In the year 1918, when God destroys the churches wholesale and the church members by millions, it shall be that any that escape shall come to the works of Pastor Russell to learn the meaning of the downfall of ‘Christianity.’”
Charles Taze Russell, The Finished Mystery (1917 ed.), 485.
The Battle of Armageddon will come around 1925.
“The date 1925 is even more distinctly indicated by the Scriptures because it is fixed by the law God gave to Israel. Viewing the present situation in Europe, one wonders how it will be possible to hold back the explosion much longer; and that even before 1925 the great crisis will be reached and probably passed.”
The Watch Tower (July 15, 1924): 211.
1914 is the starting date for the last generation before the Battle of Armageddon.
“The thirty-six intervening years since 1914, instead of postponing Armageddon, have only made it nearer than most people think. Do not forget: ‘This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled’ ” (Matt. 24:34).
The Watchtower (November 1, 1950): 419.
People who were present and understood the events of 1914 will live to see the Battle of Armageddon.
“Jesus said, ‘This generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur.’ Which generation is this, and how long is it? The ‘generation’ logically would not apply to babies born during World War I. It applies to Christ’s followers and others who were able to observe that war and the other things that have occurred in fulfillment of Jesus’ composite ‘sign.’ Some of such persons ‘will by no means pass away until’ all of what Christ prophesied occurs, including the end of the present wicked system.”
The Watchtower (October 1, 1978): 31.
Anyone born by 1914 will live to see Armageddon.
“If Jesus used ‘generation’ in that sense and we apply it to 1914, then the babies of that generation are now seventy years old or older. And others alive in 1914 are in their eighties or nineties, a few even having reached one hundred. There are still many millions of that generation alive. Some of them ‘will by no means pass away until all things occur’ ” (Luke 21:32).
The Watchtower (May 14, 1984): 5.
Anyone who sees the events signaling the End, regardless of any relationship to 1914, will see the Battle of Armageddon.
“Eager to see the end of this evil system, Jehovah’s People have at times speculated about the time when the ‘great tribulation’ would break out, even tying this to calculations of what is the lifetime of a generation since 1914. However we ‘bring a heart of wisdom in’ not by speculating about how many years or days make up a generation. ‘This generation’ apparently refers to the peoples of earth who see the sign of Christ’s presence but fail to mend their ways.”
The Watchtower (November 1, 1995): 17–20.
The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society still has not learned to refrain from prophesying falsely. In the January 1, 1997 Watchtower (p. 11), it once again raises expectations among its followers that the Battle of Armageddon is just around the corner:
In the early 1920s, a featured public talk presented by Jehovah’s Witnesses was entitled “Millions Now Living Will Never Die.” This may have reflected over-optimism at that time. But today that statement can be made with full confidence. Both the increasing light on Bible prophecy and the anarchy of this dying world cry out that the end of Satan’s system is very, very near!
(2) “Christ’s Return Invisible, as He Testified That Man Would Not See Him Again in Human Form” (p. 321).
A little longer and the world
will behold me no more (John 14:19, NWT).
For I say to you, You will by no means see me from henceforth until you say, “Blessed is he that comes in Jehovah’s name!” (Matthew 23:39, NWT).
These two passages in their respective contexts give no support to the Russellite doctrine of an invisible “presence” of Christ for two very excellent reasons:
(a) John 14:19 refers to
Christ’s anticipated death and resurrection—the “yet a little while” He made
reference to could only have referred to His resurrection and subsequent
ascension (Acts 1:9–11), before which time and during the period following His
resurrection He appeared only to believers, not the world (or unbelievers),
hence the clear meaning of His words. Jesus never said that no one would ever
“see Him again in human form” as the Watchtower likes to make out. Rather, in
the same chapter (John 14) He promised to “come again, and receive you unto
myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (v. 3). The Bible also is quite
clear in telling us that one day by His grace alone “we shall be like him; for
we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). So the Watchtower once more is forced
into silence by the voice of the Holy Spirit.
(b) This second text, Matthew 23:39, really proves nothing at all for the Watchtower’s faltering arguments except that Jerusalem will never see Christ again until it blesses Him in repentance as the Anointed of God. Actually the text hurts the Russellite position, for it teaches that Christ will be visible at His coming, else they could not see Him to bless Him in the name of the Lord. Christ also qualified the statement with the word “until,” a definite reference to His visible second advent (Matthew 24:30).
(3) “Early Christians Expected Christ’s Return to Be Invisible. Paul Argued There Was Insufficient Evidence in Their Day” (p. 321).
However, brothers, respecting the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we request of you not to be quickly shaken from your reason nor to be excited either through an inspired expression or through a verbal message or through a letter as though from us, to the effect that the day of Jehovah is here. Let no one seduce you in any manner, because it will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction (2 Thessalonians 2:1–3, NWT).
This final example from
Second Thessalonians most vividly portrays the Witnesses at their crafty best,
as they desperately attempt to make Paul teach what in all his writings he most
emphatically denied, namely, that Christ would come invisibly for His saints.
In his epistle to Titus, Paul stressed the importance of “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (2:13), something he would not have been looking for if it was to be a secret, invisible or “presence.”
Paul, contrary to the claims of Jehovah’s Witnesses, never believed in an invisible return, nor did any bona fide member of the Christian church up until the fantasies of Charles Taze Russell and his nightmare, as a careful look at Paul’s first epistle to the Thessalonians plainly reveals. Said the inspired apostle:
For this we say unto you by
the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the
Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep.
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven [visible] with a shout [audible], with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first (4:15–16, bracketed mine).
Here we see that in perfect accord with Matthew 26 and Revelation 1, Christ is
pictured as coming visibly, and in this context no reputable Greek scholar
alive will allow the use of “presence”; it must be “coming.” (See also 2
For further information relative to this subject, consult any standard concordance or Greek lexicon available, and trace Paul’s use of the word “coming.” This will convince any fair-minded person that Paul never entertained the Watchtower’s fantastic view of Christ’s return.
These things being clearly understood, the interested reader should give careful attention to those verses in the New Testament which do not use the word but are instead forms of the verb and those related to the word (see Thayer, 250ff) and which refer to the Lord’s coming as a visible manifestation. These various texts cannot be twisted to fit the Russellite pattern of “presence,” since means “to come,” “to appear,” “to arrive,” etc., in the most definite sense of the term. (For reference, check Matthew 24:30 in conjunction with Matthew 26:64—; also John 14:3—; and Revelation 1:7—.)
Once it is perceived that Jehovah’s Witnesses are only interested in what they can make the Scriptures say, and not in what the Holy Spirit has already perfectly revealed, then the careful student will reject entirely Jehovah’s Witnesses and their Watchtower “translation.” These are as “blind leaders of the blind” (Matthew 15:14), “turning the grace of God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 4). Further, that they wrest the Scriptures unto their own destruction (2 Peter 3:16), the foregoing evidence has thoroughly revealed for all to judge.