The Jehovah's Witnesses' Doctrine of Christ (I)
Practically everyone of us has encountered the Jehovah's Witnesses at one pointy in our life. Generally, our discussion with them centers around such doctrines as hell and the immortality of the soul. However, a more fundamental error propagated by the Witnesses is their doctrine of Christ. They teach that Jesus is not Jehovah God. Instead, Jesus is the first person created by Jehovah and that He possesses divine characteristics (hence, He can be described as "a god"). They even identify Jesus as the archangel Michael of the Old Testament. To show that I am not misrepresenting the Witnesses, I cite the following quotations from their writings:
"But at the beginning of all creation Jesus was God's creation, a creature produced by God."(1)
"Did you know that Jesus had a glorious existence long before He was born as a human here on earth? The Bible informs us that he is God's `firstborn' Son. This means that he was created before the other sons of God's family. He is also God's 'only. begotten' Son, in that he is the only one directly created by Jehovah God; all other things came into existence through him as God's Chief Agent."(2)
"Searching the Scriptures carefully to note just what they do say, and what they do not say, respecting our Lord Jesus, we find their testimony very explicit, harmonious and satisfactory .... At that time, as well as subsequently, he was properly known as `a god'-a mighty one. As chief of the angels and next to the Father, he was known as the archangel (highest angel or messenger, whose name, Michael, signifies `Who as God," or God's representative."(3)
Notice that the Jehovah's Witnesses' doctrine of Christ teaches that Jesus was a created being; there was a time when Jesus never existed, according to their writings. Obviously, this doctrine constitutes a denial of the deity of Jesus Christ and the doctrine of the incarnation.
Positive Evidences of the Deity of Christ
Throughout the Scriptures, the deity of Christ is presented; He is represented to be God and not "a god." This is evidenced in the following ways:
1. The Titles Applied To Christ. A number of titles elsewhere ascribed only to God are ascribed to Jesus. Here is a partial listing of them:
a. Alpha and Omega, First and Last, Beginning and the End. These titles are given to Jehovah in Rev. 1:8 and Isa. 44:6; they are applied to Jesus in Rev. 22:13. To ascribe to Jesus what is applied only to God is blasphemous unless Jesus is God. Furthermore, Jesus cannot properly be described as the "Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end" if anything existed before Him. If the Jehovah's Witnesses' doctrine of Jesus is true, He should have been described as the Beta and the Omega, the second and the last since, they say, Jehovah existed before Jesus.
b. Lord of Glory. In 1 Cor. 2:8, Paul applied this title to Jesus Christ. The title was frequently used in the Old Testament to refer to Jehovah. "This expression (The Lord of Glory-mw) is not to be taken as equivalent to `glorious Lord,' but, as in the analogous expression, `Father of glory' (Eph. 1:17); `The God of glory' (Acts vii.2), `The Lord is the possessor of glory.' The genitive case used here in the Greek is the genitive of possession. `Lord of glory' is a title of Divinity. It means possessor of Divine excellence. `Who is the King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory' (Psa. xxiv. 10; Acts vii.2; Jas. ii.l; Eph. i.17). The person crucified, therefore, was a Divine person."(4)
c. Lord. One of the most frequent titles ascribed to Jesus is the title "Lord" (kurios). Kurios can be used to refer to the master in a master-slave relationship. However, it is also used as the Greek equivalent to the Hebrew word adonai which was used in the place of Jehovah (YHVH) by Jews who feared that they might blaspheme by mispronouncing the divine name. The LXX version, which is frequently quoted in the New Testament, consistently used kurios to refer to Jehovah. The manner in which kurios is applied to Christ (Mt. 3:3; Rom. 10:13; Jn. 20:28) makes it obvious that they understood Jesus to be Jehovah.
2. The Designation Of Jesus As God. Throughout the Scriptures, the inspired writers refer to Jesus as God; hence, that Jesus was God is obvious from the following evidences:
a. Mt. 1:23 - "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means God with us." This verse ascribes to Jesus a name which means "God with us." If Jesus was not God, then this description of Jesus was totally inaccurate.
b. Jn. 1:1 - "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The New World Translation, which was translated and published by the Jehovah's Witnesses to confirm their unique doctrines, varies from this translation by calling the Word "a god." It says, "In (the) beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god." The reason why this translation is given is because the definite article does not appear before Theos (God).
The rule that Theos without the article should be translated "a god" and Theos with the article should be translated "God" is inaccurate and not even seriously followed by the Jehovah's Witnesses. Theos without the article appears in Mt. 5:9; 6:24; Lk. 1:35, 78; Jn. 3:2, 21; 9:16, 33; Rom. 1:7, 17-18; 1 Cor. 1:30; 15:10; Phil. 2:6, 11, 13; Tit. 1:1; etc. but the Jehovah's Witnesses translate the word "God" in these places because it obviously refers to the Father. Even in Jn. 1:6, 12, 13, 18, Theos appears without the article yet Jehovah's Witnesses will not follow their rule and translate it "a god" in those verses since it refers to the Father in those contexts. Hence, their rule must be rejected because it is arbitrarily applied on the basis of their preconceived dogmas and it will not stand the test of Greek Scholarship.
Actually, the giving of rules for the definite article is extremely difficult. Arndt and Gingrich wrote,
"Since the treatment of the inclusion and omission of the art. belongs to the field of grammar, the lexicon can limit itself to exhibiting the main features of its usage. It is difficult to set hard and fast rules for the employment of the art., since the writer's feeling for style had special freedom of play in this area . . . ."(5)
The writing of rules for usage of the definite article should be approached with excessive caution. Nevertheless, some rules have been formulated. Bruce M. Metzger wrote as follow regarding the Jehovah's Witnesses' treatment of Jn. 1:1:
"As a matter of solid fact, however, such a rendering is a frightful mistranslation. It overlooks entirely an established rule of Greek grammar which necessitates the rendering, and the Word was God." Some years ago Dr. Ernest Cadman Colwell of the University of Chicago pointed out in a study of the Greek definite article that, `A definite predicate nominative has the article when it follows the verb; it does not have the article when it precedes the verb . . . . The opening verse of John's Gospel contains one of the many passages where this rule suggests the translation of a predicate as a definite noun. The absence of the article (before Theos) does not make the predicate indefinite or qualitative when it precedes the verb; it is indefinite in this position only when the context demands It, The context makes no such demand in the Gospel of John, for this statement cannot be regarded as strange in the prologue of the gospel which reaches Its climax in the confession of Thomas (1n. 20:28, `My Lord and my God').'"(6)
Furthermore, A.T. Robertson, the noted Greek grammarian, emphasized that the absence of the article was necessary to the proper doctrine of Christ. He wrote,
"By exact and careful language John denied Sabellfanism (an ancient heresy very similar to that of the Jesus-only Pentecostals-mw) by not saying ho Theos en ho logos. That would mean that all of God was expressed in ho logos and the terms would be interchangeable, each having the article. The subject is made plain by the article (ho logos) and the predicate without it (theos) lust as in Jn. 4:24 pneuma ho theos can only mean `God is spirit,' not `spirit Is God.'"(7)
Hence, Jn. 1:1 stands as an affirmative of the deity of Christ; the Word was God.
c. Heb. 1:8 - "But of the Son He says, 'Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever . . . . ."
d. Tit. 2:13 - " . . . looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." (Cf. the Jehovah's Witnesses' mutilation of this passage). Again, Metzger wrote,
"In still another crucial verse the New World Translation has garbled the meaning of the original so as to avoid referring to Jesus Christ as God. In Titus 2:13 it reads, `We wait for the happy hope and glorious manifestation of the great God and of our Savior Christ Jesus: This rendering, by separating `the great God' from `our Savior Christ Jesus; overlooks a principle of Greek grammar which was detected and formulated in a rule by Granville Sharp in 1798. This rule, in brief, is that when the copulative kai connects two nouns of the same case, if the article precedes the first noun and is not, repeated before the second noun, the latter always refers to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun. This verse in Titus, therefore, must be translated, as in fact the Revised Standard Version (1952) renders It, `Awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.'"(8)
Cf. 2 Pet. 1:1 and Rom. 9:5 for comparable statements about Christ.
e. Jn. 20:28. In this verse is recorded the expression of Thomas when He saw the risen Lord; he said, "My Lord and my God." Here, Thomas expressly called Jesus God and Jesus did not correct him.
f. Jn. 10:33 records that the early Jews understood what the Jehovah's Witnesses do not, namely, that Jesus made Himself out to be God.
g. Isa. 9:6. When the prophet foretold the coming of the Messiah, he described Him as "Mighty God." In the background of Jewish monotheism, this description of the Messiah can only mean that Jesus is the God of the Old Testament.
3. Jesus Accepted Worship. At the time when Satan tempted Jesus, He said, "You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only" (Mt. 4:10). Neither man (Acts 10:26) nor angel (Rev. 22:8-9) is worthy of worship. Yet, Jesus accepted worship from men without correcting them (Mt. 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 28:9, 17; Jn. 9:35, 38). Jesus was either God or most hypocritical.
4. Prayer Was Offered To Jesus. In Acts 7:59, Stephen prayed to Jesus, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!" Notice also that Ecc. 12:7 relates that man's spirit returns to God at death. Hence, Stephen prayed to Jesus and asked Him to receive his spirit. Both of these acts are blasphemous unless Jesus is God.
(To be continued.)
Truth Magazine XXI: 13, pp. 195-197
1. "The Word" - Who Is He? According to John. Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1962, p. 48. The author is not listed in the books published by the Watch Tower organization.
2. The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 1968. p. 47.
3. Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. V, pp. 83-84.
4. Christian F. Kling, "The First Epistle of Paul To The Corinthians," Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, Vol. X, p. 58.
5. Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 551.
6. Bruce M. Metzger, "Jehovah's Witnesses and Jesus Christ," Theology Today (April, 1953), p. 75.
7. A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. V, p. 5.
8. Bruce Metzger, op.cit., pp. 78-79. Cf. Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, III. "Treasures From the Greek New Testament," pp. 31-33.