Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Doctrine of the Deity of Jesus Christ
The sincerity of many within the Watchtower organization, as well as their zealous propagation of Watchtower dogma, is widely known.
It must be honestly pointed out, however, that the Jehovah’s Witnesses are deeply involved in the advocacy of much biblical error. One significant such error is the denial of the true and full deity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
If sincere Watchtower disciples can be taught the truth regarding the nature of Christ, it is highly possible that they might be led to realize their mistakes in other areas.
A Brief History of the Doctrine Against the Deity of Christ
Around 200 A.D., Dionysius of Alexandria advanced the notion that Christ was a “creature” of God who did not exist before “he was produced.”
Though he eventually disowned this view, it was later championed by Arius (c. 250-336 A.D.), “presbyter” of Alexandria, who contended:
“We believe, that there are three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. God the cause of all things, is alone without beginning. The Son, begotten of the Father before time, made before the ages were founded, was not before he was begotten. Nor is he eternal, or co-eternal, or begotten at the same time with the Father” (M’Clintock and Strong, 389).
Though he denied the eternal nature of Christ and asserted that the Lord was not equal to the Father, nonetheless:
“Arius had no scruple to call him God, and found no contradiction in his being at once God and a created being; he applied the designation in a figurative sense and appealed to passages in the Bible, where
Elohimis so used” (Neander, 287).
A. H. Newman has well summed up the Arian view regarding Jesus Christ.
“The Son was created out of nothing; hence, he is different in essence (
heteroousios) from the Father; that he is
Logos, Wisdom, Son of God, is only of grace. He is not so in himself.
“There was, when he was not; i.e., he is a finite being.
“He was created before everything else, and through him the universe was created and is administered.
“In the historical Christ the human element is merely the material, the soul is the
“The Arians held, that although the incarnate
Logosis finite, and hence not God, he is to be worshiped, as being unspeakably exalted above all other creatures, the immediate Creator and Governor of the universe, and the Redeemer of man.
“The Arians adhered to the Scriptures, and were willing to employ as their own any scriptural statements of doctrine” (327).
In relatively modern times, the ancient Arian heresy has been resurrected and clothed in the modern garb of Watchtowerism and is taught door-to-door by those who style themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Charles T. Russell, the founder of the movement in 1879, taught that Christ:
“was the highest of all Jehovah’s creatures, so also he was the first, the direct creation of God, the ‘Only Begotten,’ and then he, as Jehovah’s representative, and in the exercise of Jehovah’s power, and in his name, created all things, angels, principalities and powers, as well as the earthly creation” (27).
J. F. Rutherford, the successor of Russell, also taught that “the beginning of God’s creation was the
Modern Witnesses decline to express confidence in some of Russell and Rutherford’s teachings. Their names were dropped from the Watchtower’s United States catalogue in 1935 and 1944 respectively (Smith, 50).
Nevertheless, the concept that the member of the Godhead identified as Jesus in the New Testament was created, and thus, merely a god (though not God) is still vigorously advocated.
One of their authoritative works states: “The truth of the matter is that the Word is Christ Jesus, who did have a beginning” (Let God Be True, 88).
Again, note the following quotation:
“Jesus is God’s ‘firstborn’ (Col. 1:15) as God’s first creation, called ‘the Word’ in his prehuman existence. (John 1:1) The word ‘beginning’ in John 1:1 cannot refer to the ‘beginning’ of God the Creator, for he is eternal, having no beginning. (Ps. 90:2) It must therefore refer to the beginning of creation, when the Word was brought forth by God as his firstborn Son” (Let God Be True, 88).
The Watchtower organization teaches that Christ was created by Jehovah to be a prince among all other creatures.
Actually, they allege, Jesus was a mere angel, identified in the Old Testament as Michael, the archangel. One of the Watchtower’s standard works declares:
“Scriptural evidence indicates that the name Michael applied to God’s Son before he left heaven to become Jesus Christ and also after his return” (Aid to Bible Understanding, 1530).
It shall henceforth be the burden of this presentation to establish the following:
- The pre-incarnate Christ, the
Logos, was eternal, not created.
- Christ eternally possesses the true and full nature of deity.
- He thus was not an angel.
If we demonstrate the foregoing, the only conclusion is this, the Watchtower doctrine regarding Jesus does not conform to Biblical teaching.
The Eternal Logos
The person referred to in the New Testament as Christ was not merely a being of time. Rather, before the universe was formed, he was existing eternally as the Word (
Let’s consider the progression of this idea as developed through the Scriptures. We will only touch on the multitude of evidence available, yet it will be demonstrable to our purpose.
The Creation Account
Christ was in the beginning before the heavens and earth were formed. In Genesis 1:1 Moses wrote: “In the beginning God.”
The Hebrew name for God is
Elohim. Found more than 2,000 times in the Old Testament,
Elohim is in the plural number.
Watson notes that “Elohim seems to be the general appellation by which the Triune Godhead is collectively distinguished in Scripture” (1024).
So in Genesis 1:1 it is God (
Elohim [plural]) who created (
hara [singular]) the heavens and the earth.
The plural name suggests the multiple personalities of the Godhead, while the singular verb stresses the unity of the divine nature in action.
Additionally, plural pronouns in the Hebrew text indicate the plurality of the Godhead, as in Genesis 1:26: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”
Some scholars have sought to explain this on the basis that God was simply accommodating his terminology to human expressions, as when kings say “we” to indicate the plenitude of their power.
However, as Watson correctly observes, the words of Genesis 1
“were spoken before the creation of any of these mortals whose false notions of greatness and sublimity the Almighty is thus impiously supposed to adopt” (1025).
Moreover, it is significant that no king of Israel ever referred to himself as “we” or “us” (Stone, 12).
Christ was there in the morning of time as Creator, not as created.
The “Everlasting Father” Is to be Born
In a list of marvelous descriptives, Isaiah the prophet refers to the messianic Son to be born as “everlasting Father” (Isa. 9:6). This expression does not, as Sabellianism erroneously assumes, mean that Jesus is the same person as the Father.
The expression “everlasting Father” (literally, “Father of eternity” [see ASV footnote]) is a strong affirmation or the eternal nature of Christ.
Albert Barnes points out that it was a common Hebrew idiom to refer to one who possessed a trait as being the father of it.
Thus, someone very strong was termed “father of strength.” Someone extremely wise was called “father of wisdom.” Hence, “Father of eternity” was equivalent to “Eternal One.”
Barnes concluded: “There could not be a more emphatic declaration of strict and proper eternity” (193).
Born in Bethlehem, but of Old and from Everlasting
In prophesying the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem of Judea, the prophet Micah was careful to stress that this is not an affirmation of the commencement of the Savior’s existence.
He declares that his goings forth are “from of old, from everlasting” (Mic. 5:2). Unquestionably, this is a declaration of the Lord’s eternal existence.
E. B. Pusey wrote: “Here words, denoting eternity and used of the eternity of God, are united together to impress the belief of the eternity of God, the Son” (7).
Of this remarkable verse, Hengstenberg wrote:
“[T]he existence of the Messiah before His birth in time, in Bethlehem, is pointed out in general; and then, in contrast with all time, it is vindicated to eternity. This could not fail to afford a great consolation to Israel. He who hereafter, in a visible manifestation, was to deliver them from their misery, was already in existence, — during it, before it, and through all eternity” (358-59).
The Logos—Always God
Within the Gospel of John, several times the inspired apostle affirms the eternity of Christ by the employment of various tenses.
In John 1:1, it is written:
“In the beginning was
enthe Word, and the Word was
enwith God, and the Word was
Blackwelder comments on these passages as follows:
“Three times in this sentence John uses was (
en, imperfect tense of the verb
eimi, to be) which emphasizes the fact of no origin for God or for the
Logosand shows their continued existence” (42; emphasis added).
Similarly, A. T. Robertson notes:
en). Three times in this sentence John uses this imperfect of
eimi“to be” which conveys no idea of origin for God or for the Logos, simply continuous existence" (1932, III.3)
J. H. Bernard observes: “The imperfect
en is used in all three clauses of this verse, and is expressive in each of continuous timeless existence” (I.2).
Merrill Tenney calls attention to the contrast between the aorist tense verb
egeneto (all things were made) in verse 2, with
en in verse 1.
“[The former] implies occurrence without relation to elapsed time, an event, not a process [while the latter] presupposed duration. The
LOGOSexists eternally; the material universe, temporally” (65, 66).
Hovey also mentioned that John had two verbs at his disposal by which to
“express the idea of existence, one of them signifying existence with an implication of origin, and the other signifying existence with no such implication. The latter word is used in this place (i.e., John 1:1)” (59).
Clearly, John 1:1 asserts the eternity of Jesus.
“Before Abraham Was ... I Am”
In the eighth chapter of John, Christ again declared His eternity. He said:
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was born [
genesthaiaorist tense, indicating the beginning of existence], I am [
ego eimipresent tense, asserting continuous timeless existence].”
The Jehovah’s Witnesses, of course, charge that
ego eimi in this passage does not suggest the eternity of Christ. In fact, they insist it ought not to be rendered as a present.
But before discussing their peculiar view, the testimony of reputable Greek scholars will be introduced.
First, it should be pointed out that the forty-seven translators who produced the King James Version, as well as the scholars (one hundred and one of them) who translated the English Revised and American Standard versions, all rendered
ego eimi by the present “I am.”
The Greek lexicon edited by Arndt and Gingrich translates it the same, adding “(on the pres.
eimi cf. Ps 90:2),” a passage related to God’s eternal existence (222).
Marcus Dods expands the translation: “Before Abraham came into existence I am, eternally existent”(782).
Benjamin Warfield says Christ “claims for Himself the timeless present of eternity as His mode of existence” (2344).
B. F. Westcott declares that:
“I am ... marks a timeless existence. In this connexion ‘I was’ would have expressed simple priority. Thus there is in the phrase the contrast between the created and the uncreated, and the temporal and the eternal” (140).
Vincent speaks to the same point:
“It is important to observe the distinction between the two verbs. Abraham’s life was under the conditions of time, and therefore had a temporal beginning. Hence, Abraham came into being, or was born (
genesthai). Jesus’ life was from and to eternity. Hence the formula for absolute, timeless existence, I am (
ego eimi)” (456).
Bloomfield suggested that the sense was “existence unconnected with ANY time: — i.e. eternal duration.” (383).
J. H. Bernard states: “It is clear that Jn. means to represent Jesus as thus claiming for Himself the timeless being of Deity, as distinct from the temporal existence of man” (II.322).
Finally, we note the words of Robertson:
“Undoubtedly here Jesus claims eternal existence with the absolute phrase used of God. The contrast between
genesthai(entrance into existence of Abraham) and
eimi(timeless being) is complete” (1932, III.158-159).
Quotations such as the above could be cited almost endlessly.
Even scholars who do not acknowledge the deity of Christ nevertheless recognize what the grammar of the passage is saying and what Jesus is claiming.
William Barclay, an admitted modernist who denied the deity of Christ, says:
“Here is the claim that Jesus is timeless. There never was a time when He came into being; there never will be a time when He is not in being. We cannot say of Jesus, He was. We must always say, He is” (II.42).
As a modernist, Barclay would, of course, read his own meaning into this great passage. He did not believe Christ was literally eternally existing. However, he is cited here for his knowledge of the grammar, not his theological bias. In fact, his testimony is all the stronger because of his theological bias!
An Example of Watchtower Theological Gymnastics
As we proceed to examine the Watchtower claims regarding John 8:58, it is respectfully suggested that the rich scholarship characterizing the authors cited above will stand in vivid contrast to the pretentious and anonymous pseudo-scholarship of the Witnesses.
The Watchtower’s attempt to evade the force of John 8:58 would be almost humorous if not so deadly serious.
The 1950 edition of the New World Translation has the following footnote on this verse.
“I have been =
EGO EIMIafter the aorist infinitive clause and hence properly rendered in the perfect indefinite tense. It is not the same as (
HO OHN'meaning ‘the Being’ or ‘the I AM’) at Exodus 3:14, LXX.”
The reason it should be rendered as a “perfect indefinite” is not indicated (or even what is a “perfect indefinite”).
The truth is, there is no Greek tense known as the perfect indefinite! Further, the terms “perfect” and “indefinite” are almost opposites.
Because of their inaccurate rendition of
ego eimi in the 1950 edition of the New Word Translation and the equally absurd explanation, the Watchtower Society came under heavy scholastic criticism. And they felt the force of it.
A letter from the Brooklyn office, dated January 10, 1965, revealed a switch in grammatical position.
“The Greek word here,
eimi, is in the present indicative, first person singular. However, in view of its being preceded by an aorist infinitive clause which refers to Abraham’s past, the Greek verb
eimimust be viewed as a historical present” (Van Buskirk, 20; emphasis added).
Then in 1969 when the Kingdom Interlinear Translation was made available, the Society changed back to the “perfect” tense explanation, this time omitting the term “indefinite.” A footnote on the passage says:
“I have been =
ego eimiafter the aorist infinitive clause
prin Abraam genesthaiand hence properly rendered in the perfect tense.”
All of this grammatical manipulation is, of course, done for the solitary reason of attempting to escape the obvious force of the present tense (used absolutely) which affirms the eternity, hence the deity of Christ.
To climax this comedy of errors, we need only observe that the New World Translation, which appears in the margin of the Interlinear version, renders
ego eimi by “I have been.” But right across the page, the interlinear translation has
ego eimi “I am.”
As Van Buskirk points out:
“From John 8:42 to 9:12 the verb ‘to be’ occurs twenty-one times. The New World Translation renders the tense correctly in twenty of the twenty-one times. The single instance of incorrect rendering of the tense of the verb ‘to be’ in this context is the present tense of
EIMIin John 8:58, the verse under consideration” (19).
“Father, Glorify Me”
One more grammatical point about the eternity of Christ from the Gospel of John.
In his prayer to the Father recorded in John 17:5, Jesus petitions:
“And now, Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had (
eichon— imperfect tense) with thee before the world was.”
The imperfect verb here stresses the eternal glory of Christ in the beginning. Lenski’s comments are very good.
“It is the glory of the Godhead, the eternal, divine glory that extends back into all eternity before the cosmos or any creature or created glory existed” (1125).
“I Am the Alpha and the Omega”
In the final book of the Bible, Christ exclaims: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22:13).
Though these expressions may involve several ideas, it is certain that they include an acknowledgment of our Lord’s eternal nature.
In the Old Testament, similar phraseology calls attention to the eternity and omnipresence of Jehovah in contrast to weak heathen gods (see Isa. 41:4; 43:10: 44:6; 48:12).
J. G. Vos shows that Revelation 22:13, compared with Revelation 1:8 and 21:6, constitutes a “strong assertion of the true and eternal deity of Jesus Christ.” He further declares:
“The implication includes His eternity, pre-existence and essential deity. For any created being, however exalted, to claim to be the Alpha and the Omega as these terms are used of Jesus Christ in Scripture, would be blasphemy” (111).
It is interesting to note that while the Witnesses admit that the expression is restricted in “its application to the supreme God” (Aid to Bible Understanding, 56-57), they deny that it is used of Jesus.
Yet carefully observe its use in Revelation 22:13. It is employed of the one who said he was coming to render to every man according to his work (see Rev. 22:12 and 2 Cor. 5:10). Indeed, he is identified as “Jesus” (Rev. 22:16).
The Two Verses Used by Watchtower Witnesses to Allegedly Prove Jesus Is a Created Being
The Watchtower Society relies chiefly on two verses in attempting to sustain their notion that Christ was a created being.
The first we will comment upon is Revelation 3:14, wherein the Lord is denominated “the beginning (
arche) of the creation of God.”
They assert: “He (Christ) was the first of Jehovah God’s creations. He speaks so of himself, at Revelation (or Apocalypse) 3:14” (Let God Be True, 35; see also 88).
Does Revelation 3:14 teach that Jesus was the first thing created by God?
What is the significance of
arche in Revelation 3:14?
J. H. Thayer says of its usage here, “that by which anything begins to be, the origin, active cause” (77).
Arndt and Gingrich define it: “the first cause” (111).
A. T. Robertson notes: “not the first of creatures as the Arians held and Unitarians do now, but the originating source or creation through whom God works” (1932, VI.321).
Abbott-Smith declares: “of Christ as the uncreated principle, the active cause of creation” (62).
In Revelation 22:13, Christ is called “the beginning
arche and the end.” If “beginning” means the Lord had an origin—that there was a time when he was not—then “end” would appear to suggest that his existence will ultimately be terminated!
The consequences of such logic will hardly be accepted, even by the Witnesses.
What is the meaning of Christ being the “firstborn of all creation”?
Colossians 1:15 is the second verse assumed by the Witnesses to prove that God created Christ as his firstborn son.
There, Paul alludes to Jesus as “the firstborn
prototokos of all creation.”
The key word here is
prototokos. Does it imply Christ was created?
Absolutely not. The term can simply mean “the first, the chief” (Robinson, 640).
Arndt and Gingrich also show that
prototokos can be employed without a birth being involved (734).
Dr. Rees pointed out:
“Metaphorically, it is used of Jesus Christ to express at once His relation to man and the universe and His difference from them, as both He and they are related to ... It denotes His status and character and not His origin; the context does not admit the idea that He is a part of the created universe” (II.1113).
From K. H. Bartels: “[T]he statement is a confession of the supreme rank of the pre-existent Christ as the mediator in the creation of all things” (I.668).
The scholarly Hebraist, Adam Clarke, has this valuable comment:
“As the Jews term Jehovah
becoro shelolam, the firstborn of all the world, or or all the creation, to signify his having created or produced all things; (see Wolfius in loc.) so Christ is here termed, and the words which follow in the 16th and 17th verses are the proof of this. The phraseology is Jewish; and as they apply it to the supreme Being merely to denote his eternal pre-existence, and to point him out as the cause of all things; it is most evident that St. Paul uses it in the same way, and illustrates his meaning in the following words, which would be absolutely absurd if we could suppose that by the former he intended to convey any idea of the inferiority of Jesus Christ” (VI.516).
In the Old Testament, from whence “firstborn” is clearly borrowed, the word is frequently used in the sense of priority, with the concept of a birth being totally absent. Observe the following examples.
Israel, called Ephraim, was said to be Jehovah’s firstborn (Jer. 31:9). Yet, Ephraim, by whose name the nation was denominated, was the younger son. His brother, Manasseh, was literally the firstborn (Gen. 48:14), but Ephraim was called firstborn because he was “to be greater” (Gen. 48:19).
In a prophecy that is obviously Messianic, and likely the one that forms the background of Colossians 1:15, Jehovah announces in Psalm 89:27:
“I also will make him first-born,
The highest of the kings of the earth.”
The future tense form of the verb excludes the idea of a literal birth being suggested in the term firstborn.
Additionally, Thiessen comments that Hickie’s Greek-English Lexicon “maintains that it is proper to accent
prototokos on the penult [i.e., next to final syllable] ... This would make the reference say, ‘the primeval Creator of every created thing’” (287).
This is certainly a possible view.
Finally, there was a perfectly precise Greek word at Paul’s disposal had he intended to convey the idea that Christ was the first of Jehovah’s created beings. It is the word
proto-ktistos, defined by Liddell and Scott as meaning “founded or created first” (1400).
In fact, Clement of Alexandria applies the word
protoktistoi to the highest order of angelic beings and contrasts it to
prototokos (Lightfoot, 145).
However one interprets
prototokos in Colossians, it must be viewed
“in such a way that it is not inconsistent with His other title of
monogenes(only-begotten or one of a kind), alone of His kind and therefore distinct from created things” (Lightfoot, 145).
One concluding point. Colossians 1:16 affirms that Christ created ALL things. If he was a created being, there is but one conclusion. He created himself! This is an absurdity of the first magnitude.
In order to escape the force or this obvious obstacle, the New World Translation renders the phrase, “by means of him all (other) things were created.”
There is absolutely no justification for this. And significantly, the Interlinear Translation omits the interpolation “other.”
Is Christ Michael the Archangel?
In the same general connection with the above material, it will now be considered whether Christ is but an angel—specifically, Michael, the archangel.
The contention of the Witnesses that Christ is Michael, the archangel, is utterly without biblical support.
There is, in fact, evidence aplenty against such a view.
First, the worship of angels is clearly sinful (Col. 2:18), and good angels refuse such (Rev. 22:8, 9).
But Jesus frequently accepted worship (Mt. 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 20:20; etc.). Christ, therefore, obviously was not an angel.
Secondly, one does not worship his equal. Worship is extended only to a superior. And yet ALL THE ANGELS of God (this would include Michael) worship Christ (Heb. 1:6).
Again, therefore, it is plain that the Lord is not of the angel class, but is superior to them. As we observed above, Christ is in a one-of-a-kind class.
Thirdly, Michael is unmistakenly distinguished from “the Lord” class in Jude 9.
Though angels were called “Lord” occasionally as a polite form of address (cf. Acts 10:4), they were never considered as Lords in the sense of Deity, as was Christ (see Phil. 2:9-11).
If it is argued that 1 Thessalonians 4:16 identifies Christ as the “archangel,” it need only be replied that the verse merely states that the Lord’s coming will be accompanied with an archangel’s shout.
It would be no more correct to suggest that he is the archangel than to surmise that he is the trump of God!
One other observation relative to this matter needs to be made.
It has been clearly established that Christ was not an “angel,” as that word is commonly understood.
Aside from that, however, a strong case can be made for the fact that a member of the Godhead (i.e., the
Logos, the pre-incarnate Christ) made many Old Testament appearances in theophanies. A theophany may be defined as:
“an appearance of God in visible form temporary and not necessarily material. Such an appearance is to be contrasted with the Incarnation, in which there was a permanent union between God and complete manhood (body, soul and spirit)” (Cross, 1344).
A careful study of the Old Testament reveals the following facts:
- A person who is clearly identified as “Jehovah” or “God” made appearances to various people.
- This being is identified as God but is also distinguished from another individual identified as God.
- Many characteristics of this person point to the fact that he was the pre-incarnate Word who became the God-man, Jesus of Nazareth.
- In his role or relationship (not nature) to another member of the Godhead, he is frequently termed “the angel (messenger) of Jehovah” (cf. Gen. 32: 24, 28, 30; Hos. 12:4, 5).
Now here is a tremendously important point. Although this being is called “the angel of Jehovah” in our common versions, the word “angel” (Hebrew
Malac) actually signified simply a messenger, or more literally, an agent or worker.
The context or general biblical usage determines the precise meaning of the word in a given situation.
A form of the word is found in Genesis 2:2 where it is applied to God’s works.
Girdlestone says: “There is, therefore, nothing unbecoming in applying the title to a Divine Being” (41).
This Old Testament situation would, therefore, provide absolutely no support for the Watchtower dogma.
Biblical Evidence for the Deity of Christ
The Watchtower position regarding the nature of Christ is essentially this.
In his pre-incarnate state, Christ was an angelic being, a “god,” though not possessing the true essence of deity. When he became human, he was nothing more than a perfect man.
The book, Let God Be True, asserts: “The justice of God would not permit that Jesus, as a ransom, be more than a perfect man; and certainly not be the supreme God Almighty in the flesh” (87).
The Jehovah’s Witness doctrine concerning the Lord Jesus Christ is a soul-damning heresy. To deny the deity of Christ is infidelity of the rankest breed.
The question before us at this point in our study is this. Do Holy Scriptures demonstrate that Christ is divine in the fullest sense of the term?
We affirm it does. Further, there are no degrees of deity!
Though the word “God” is used in several ways in the Bible, in the most common sense, especially with reference to the Godhead, it is the name of the divine essence.
In other words, it is the name of the nature that characterizes the Father (Eph. 1:3), the Son (Heb. 1:8), and the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3, 4).
Both the Old and New Testaments clearly establish the deity of Christ.
Old Testament Evidence for the Deity of Christ
In addition to the theophanic appearances of Christ alluded to above (which any good volume on systematic theology will adequately discuss), there are many additional Old Testament affirmations of Christ’s divine nature.
In Isaiah 7:14, the prophecy was given that the virgin would conceive, bear a son, and his name would be called “Immanuel,” meaning God with us.
This, of course, spoke of the birth of Christ (Mt. 1:22, 23).
From this reference, Jesus’ deity can be concluded in two ways. First, the land of Palestine was said to belong to this Immanuel (Isa. 8:8). But the land was God’s. Hence, Immanuel was God.
Secondly, Matthew’s use of the title asserts the deity of Christ (Mt. 1:23). He announced that it meant “God with us.” Though the use of “God” in a compound name would not necessarily demand the deity of the person so named, Matthew’s use indicated that it did in the case of Christ.
Remember, Matthew was writing for Jews who would not need “Immanuel” interpreted for them. But he did interpret it to emphasize that with the Lord’s birth, deity had come to earth.
Jesus: Mighty God
In Isaiah 9:6, Christ is termed “Mighty God.”
The Witnesses argue that Jesus may be a “mighty god,” but certainly not Almighty, comparable to Jehovah.
This quibble is negated by the fact that “Mighty God” is associated with “Jehovah” in Isaiah 10:21 and Jeremiah 32:18.
Isaiah’s Vision of Jehovah on His Throne
In the year that King Uzziah died, Isaiah saw “the Lord” sitting upon a throne (Isa. 6:1ff).
The seraphim around the throne proclaimed: “Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.”
The prophet felt threatened—“Woe is me!”—since he, a sinful man, had seen “the King, Jehovah of hosts!”
The inspired apostle John identifies this being as Christ and affirms: “These things said Isaiah, because he saw his glory” (Jn. 12:36-41).
Sanctify Christ as Lord
In Isaiah 8:12-14, the prophet rebukes sinful fear and urges the people to sanctify “Jehovah of hosts.”
This command is cited by Peter and applied to Christ: “[B]ut sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord” (1 Pet. 3:14, 15).
Further, Isaiah’s “Jehovah of hosts” was to become a “stone of stumbling” and a “rock of offence”—a clear allusion to Christ (Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:8).
A Highway for God
Isaiah prophesied that John the Baptist would prepare in the wilderness “the way of Jehovah” and make level in the desert a “highway for our God” (Isa. 40:3).
This referred to Christ, as the New Testament clearly reveals (Mt. 3:3; Jn. 1:23).
First and Last
Recording the words of God, Isaiah wrote:
“Thus saith Jehovah, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, Jehovah of hosts: I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God” (Isa. 44:6).
The prophet’s language is applied to the Lord Jesus in Revelation 1:17 with the undeniable emphasis that Christ is God.
Every Knee Shall Bow
Jehovah said: “[U]nto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear” (Isa. 45:23). Paul adapts this quotation to Christ in Philippians 2:10.
Since only God is worthy of worship (Mt. 4:10), obviously the apostle is proclaiming the deity of Christ.
Zechariah prophesies concerning the Christ (Zech. 13:7; cf. Mt. 26:31) and calls him Jehovah’s fellow.
The Hebrew term is
amith. Keil observes that this word can only be used with God of one “who participates in the divine nature, or is essentially divine” (II.397).
Though numerous similar references could be introduced, this will suffice for the Old Testament. Now, attention will be turned to the New Testament.
New Testament Evidence for the Deity of Christ
The New Testament, from beginning to end, establishes the deity of Christ. Such can only be denied as a result of unbelief, delusion or ignorance.
Jesus Spoke and Acted Like God
He declared that he was “one” with the Father. The neuter gender (
hen [Jn. 10:30]) emphasizes “one essence or nature” (Robertson 1932, V.186).
He claimed a special relationship with the Father that was distinct from that of others (Jn. 5:17, 18; 20:17).
He forgave the sins of others—a prerogative of God alone (Mk. 2:5, 7).
Even his prayers suggested that he was more than a mere man. The Lord’s prayers frequently contained the Greek term
erotao (rendered “ask,” “beseech” or “pray”), a word implying “that he who asks stands on a certain footing of equality” with him of whom the request is made. He never employed
aiteo (rendered “ask”) in his prayers because that word suggests a petition from an inferior to a superior (Trench, 144-45).
As mentioned earlier, he accepted the worship of men (Jn. 9:38), which is due only God (Mt. 4:10), and which good men (Acts 10:25, 26) and good angels (Rev. 22:8, 9) refuse.
Jesus Called God
Additionally, a number of times in the New Testament, Jesus is plainly called “God.” And such usages are in the full and unqualified sense of that designation.
In John 1:1, regarding him who became flesh and dwelt among men (Jn. 1:14), the Bible says: “The Word was God.”
This is a real problem passage with the Witnesses. It is no wonder that they have written so much material attempting to evade the force of this marvelous verse.
The New World Translation renders the clause above as follows: “The Word was a god.” The reason for such a rendition is stated: “[I]n the Greek text, the definite article
ho, ‘the,’ appears before the first ‘God,’ but there is no article before the second.” This is alleged to indicate “that the Word is not the God, Almighty God, but is a ‘mighty one,’ a god” (Aid to Bible Understanding, 1669).
In an appendix to the Kingdom Interlinear Translation, the Watchtower Witnesses make a showy attempt to buttress their “John 1:1 a god” doctrine with several citations from reputable Greek authorities.
Regarding their defense of this unjustifiable rendition, the following may be said. Their use of the material found in the Greek grammars authored by Samuel Green, A. T. Robertson and Dana and Mantey have been wrested from context, partially quoted and woefully misapplied.
Secondly, the Witnesses fly directly in the face of virtually all Greek scholarship.
And thirdly, they are grossly inconsistent in the rendering of
theos in their own New World Translation.
Let us briefly consider each of these observations.
The appendix of the Kingdom Interlinear Translation cites A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament by Dana and Mantey in order to leave the impression that this work provides justification for their “a god” translation.
Such citations were taken out of context and only partially given. A letter written by Professor J. R. Mantey, July 11, 1974, sent to Watchtower headquarters in New York clearly reveals how Dana & Manley’s grammar was quoted out of context and forbids the Watchtower to henceforth cite from that book in any of their publications.
Here is an example of their dishonest treatment of Dana and Mantey’s grammar.
After quoting a half dozen lines from A Manual Grammar leaving the impression that such agrees with their position, the Witnesses stop just short of this sentence: “
Theos en ho logos emphasizes Christ’s participation in the essence of the divine nature”(140).
In fact, the grammar from Dana and Mantey translates the phrase under consideration from John 1:1 as follows: “and the word was deity” (158).
Secondly, the Watchtower’s quotation from Samual Green’s A Handbook Grammar of the Greek Testament is grossly misleading.
Green’s point was that the absence of the article before
theos indicated that the
Logos was not the entire Godhead!
On the very same page, Green translates: “the Word was God” (178).
Finally, A. T. Robertson’s Historical Grammar is given similar shabby treatment. Here is how it is misused.
“On page 761 Robertson’s Grammar says: ‘Among the ancient writers
ho theoswas used of the god of absolute religion in distinction from the mythological gods. So, too, John 1:1, 2 uses
ho theosto distinguish Jehovah God from the Word (
Logos) as a god, ’the only begotten god’ as John 1:18 calls him” (The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures, 1159).
What the Witnesses neglect to mention is that Robertson, immediately after the above quote, stated the following:
“In the New Testament, however, while we have
pros ton theon(John 1:1, 2) it is far more common to find simply
theos, especially in the Epistles” (1919, 761).
Thus, the Watchtower totally ignores this scholar’s comments about the New Testament usage of
ho theos and simply
A thorough exposure of the Witness methods is found in Michael Van Buskirk’s book, The Scholastic Dishonesty Of The Watchtower.
The Greek scholarship of the world recognizes perfectly well the significance of the absence of the article before
theos in John 1:1b.
First, if the sentence read, “the Word was with the God and the Word was the God,” it would have identified Christ with the Father and thus have been nonsensical.
Secondly, the absence of the article is explainable since
theos is a part of the predicate, not the subject.
Thirdly, the absence of the article in a predicate nominative that comes before the verb stresses the character or quality of the subject, thus suggesting here: Christ, as to his nature, is God (Harner, 87).
In his noted volume, The Doctrine of the Greek Article, Thomas Middleton says:
“It is, therefore, unreasonable to infer that the word
theosis here used in a lower sense: for the Writer could not have written
ho theoswithout manifest absurdity” (160).
As an interesting fact, Middleton’s work was published in 1841 (2nd Ed.), eleven years before C. T. Russell, founder of the Witnesses, was born. His remarks, therefore, could hardly have been directed toward the Watchtower!
W. E. Vine also noted that to translate John 1:1 “‘a god was the Word,’ is entirely misleading” (II.160).
Watchtowerism is completely at variance with genuine Biblical scholarship.
Watchtower Translation Inconsistencies
Finally, a casual look at the Watchtower’s own New World Translation will reveal that they themselves frequently rendered
theos (without the article) as simply “God” with a capital letter instead of with the lowercase “god” (cf. Jn. 1:6, 12, 13, 18, etc.).
Thus, their inconsistency demonstrates a grammatical smoke screen due to doctrinal bias!
Note the following examples.
Christ is called “God, only begotten” (according to the better manuscripts) in John 1:18.
In John 20:28, Thomas confessed Christ as “My Lord and my God,” and Christ accepted the designation.
Paul admonished the elders of the Ephesian church to “feed the church of God which he purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Indeed, the blood of God—the Son!
In Romans 9:5, Christ is called “God blessed for ever.” This is a “clear statement of the deity of Christ” (Robertson 1932, IV.381).
In Colossians 2:9, the apostle declares “that in the Son there dwells all the fulness of absolute Godhead” (Trench, 8). In Christ, “the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily” (Wright, II.86).
Christ is addressed as “God” (vocative case [Arndt and Gingrich, 358]) in Hebrews 1:8, 9. The writer records: “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever ... Therefore God, thy God hath anointed thee.” The New World Translation totally butchers this to: “But with reference to the Son: ‘God is your throne forever.’”
Jesus is referred to as “the great God and our Saviour” in Titus 2:13, and called our “God and Saviour” in 2 Peter 1:1. A. T. Robertson has vigorously defended these verses as affirmations of the deity of Christ in his excellent book, The Minister and His Greek New Testament. See Chapter 5, “The Greek Article And The Deity of Christ” (Baker Hook House, 1977).
In Philippians 2:6, Paul represents Jesus as “existing in the form of God.” The present tense form “existing” involves “an existence or condition both previous to the circumstances mentioned and continuing after it.” It suggests the two facts "of the antecedent Godhood of Christ, previous to his Incarnation, and the continuance of His Godhood at and after the event of His Birth (Vine, II.60, 61).
morphe, which suggests the essential nature of a thing. “What Paul is saying then, here in Phil. 2:6, is that Christ Jesus had always been (and always continues to be) God by nature, the express image of the Deity” (Hendrikson, 1977).
Christ is said to be in the “image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15). Such language is applied to the Lord “on account of his divine nature and absolute moral excellence” (Thayer, 175).
These passages, along with similar ones (cf. Heb. 1:3), certainly affirm the deity of Jesus.
Objections Briefly Considered and Answered
Let’s conclude this study by calling attention to a few of the objections urged against the doctrine of the deity of Christ as advocated by the Watchtower Society.
“Jesus claimed to be God figuratively.”
It is alleged that Jesus only claimed to be God in an accommodative sense.
By this they mean that he was “god” in the same way that certain Old Testament leaders who acted on Jehovah’s behalf were figuratively called “gods” (cf. Psa. 82:6; Jn. 10:34).
A study of John 10, however, reveals the opposite.
Within the context of John 10:22-39, the Master made several startling claims. His works were in the Father’s name (v. 25). He had the power to confer eternal life (v. 28). He and the Father were one (v. 30).
The Jews understood the nature of such claims and sought to stone him for blasphemy. They charged, “[t]hou, being a man makest thyself God” (v. 33).
The Lord then quotes Psalm 82:6 where certain Old Testament judges were accommodatively termed “gods.”
Rather than classifying himself with them, Christ shows that if such terminology was not inappropriate regarding Old Testament representatives of Jehovah, surely it was not out of place of him “whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world” (v. 36).
This was not a disclaimer of deity. It was a further affirmation of such, and they understood it. “They sought again to take him” (v. 39).
“Jesus denied being God to the rich young ruler.”
When the rich, young ruler addressed Jesus as “Good Teacher,” the Lord asked: “Why callest thou me good? None is good save one, even God” (Mk.. 10:17, 18).
Was Christ denying Godhood? No. Actually, he was asserting the opposite.
The ruler had carelessly used the word “good,” as though Jesus were but a good teacher in the same way that he supposed one could do a “good thing” (Mk. 10:16) to obtain eternal life.
The Master Teacher was attempting to get the young man to analyze the use of his term “good.”
Bickersteth paraphrases the Lord thusly: “If you call me good, believe that I am God; for no one is good, intrinsically good, but God” (II.61).
Similarly, R. C. Foster renders it:
“Do you know the meaning of this word you apply to me and which you use so freely? There is none good save God; if you apply that term to me and you understand what you mean, you affirm that I am God” (1022).
“Christ was not omniscient. Therefore he was less than God.”
Finally, it is contended that Christ was admittedly ignorant of certain things. For example, he testified that he did not know the time of his return (Mt. 24:36). So, the claim is that he certainly would have known had he been God.
Further, he also plainly acknowledged: “The Father is greater than I” (Jn. 14:28).
Concerning the first charge, note that the Lord only exercised the prerogatives of Deity at the discretion of his Father’s will (Jn. 5:30). This was a part of his voluntary emptying when he assumed the form of a servant (Phil. 2:6, 7).
For example, Christ, consistent with the Father’s will, could suspend the law of gravity and walk on the waters of the Sea of Galilee (Jn. 6:19). At other times, though, he rode in the boat (Mk. 4:36).
Similarly, at times Jesus penetrated the thoughts of men (Mt. 12:25). But at other times he chose not to know their thoughts. And so he “marveled” at faith (Mt. 8:10) or the lack of it (Mk. 6:6).
While on earth, the Son of Man simply chose not to know the time of his return.
As to the other charge regarding the Father being greater, such references as John 14:26 (cf. 1 Cor. 11:3) relate to the fact that Christ “emptied himself” of his original “equality with God” (Phil. 2:6, 7).
He was, nevertheless, still God.
The Watchtower Society is wrong in its doctrine regarding Christ.
The Lord Jesus is GOD, the Son!
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