Is Jesus God? (2): An Answer to the Jehovah's Witnesses' Doctrine on the Deity of Christ
Was Jesus Created?
The Jehovah's Witnesses teach that Jesus Christ, from the beginning, was a creation of God - an angel of the highest order, Michael the Archangel. Jesus Christ, they teach, was actually Michael recreated in human form by God. Then, upon ascending into heaven as a recreated spirit being, Jesus Christ resumed his heavenly position as Michael.(1)
For "proof" that Jesus is Michael, the Witnesses use a series of Bible passages that supposedly connect Jesus and Michael in purpose and action: Jude 9, cf. 1 Thess. 4:16; Dan. 10:13, cf. Isa. 9:6; Dan. 12:1, cf. Matt. 24:3,21,30; Rev. 12:78, cf. 1 Jn. 3:8.(2) Maurice Barnett says, "The Witnesses simply quote the passages and assert that they are the same; it is all assumption."(3)
It is certain that if Jesus Christ is Michael the Archangel, then he is not Deity. However, if Jesus is not a created being, then he has always existed and, by definition, must be Deity. For proof that Jesus was not Michael the Archangel, consider Hebrews 1:5:
Unto which of the angels said he at any time, "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?"
Moreover, Hebrews 1: 13 asks,
But of which of the angels hath he said at any time, "Sit thou on my right hand . . . ?"
As Barnett notes, "the rhetorical question asked here demands an answer of none."(4) Ted Dencher, in offering Hebrews 1:5, notes that this clear refutation from Scripture "seems not to bother the Watchtower.(5) Let the writer of Hebrews 1:8 explain who Jesus is:
But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom."
Originally, this passage in Psalm 45:6 was written about Jehovah. The writer of Hebrews says it was about Jesus. Jesus is not an angel; he is Deity!
The Witnesses say that Jesus is the "only one whom God Himself created directly without the agency or cooperation of any creature."(6) They argue that Jesus is referred to in the Bible as "the only-begotten Son of God" (Jn. 3:16), "the beginning of the creation of God" (Rev. 3:14), and "the firstborn of every creature" (Col. 1:15). Here is their explanation:
Thus he is ranked with God's creatures, being first among them and also most beloved and most favored among them. He is not the author of the creation of God; but after God created him as his firstborn Son, then God used him as his working Partner in the creating of all the rest of creation.(7)
Seekers of truth will discover in the following paragraphs that, instead of using the Bible's definitions, the Witnesses have provided their own definitions to the terms "only begotten," "firstborn," and "beginning." We are interested only in Bible definitions derived from word usages, parallel passages, and contextual considerations. Let the Bible define what these terms mean. You will see that these terms have nothing to do with Jesus being a creation of God.
"Only Begotten Son"
John 3:16 describes Jesus as "the only begotten Son" which means, according to the Witnesses, that Jesus was born of God, i.e., created by God, and is therefore not eternal.(8) But "only begotten" is defined by Bauer's Greek Lexicon as "unique (in kind) of something that is the only example of its category."(9) Therefore, the term "only begotten" as applied to Jesus in John 1: 14,18 and John 3:16,18 is a statement of position, not origin.
Indeed, scholars are now in agreement that the idea of "begettal" is absent from the Greek word for "only begotten." It was once thought that the Greek word monogenes was a combination of mono (only) and gennao (to beget), but now scholars agree it is actually a combination of mono and genos (class, kind). Although the NASB still has "only begotten" in the text of John 3:16, it supplies a footnote in the margin "unique, one of His kind. " The NIV reflects the agreement among scholars in its translation of John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son. . ."
Thus, Maurice Barnett points out:
In Hebrews 11: 17, referring to Abraham, "yea he that had gladly received the promises was offering up his only begotten son," Isaac was not his only son, nor was he the eldest. Ishmael was born before Isaac. . . . Isaac, however, occupied the position of first-born, and claimed title to the Only Begotten because he was the one of promise and purpose. The same is true in regard to Jesus. He came uniquely by promise with the purpose of human redemption.(10)
Therefore, Jesus is the "only begotten Son," not in the sense that he is the only being created by God himself, but in the sense that he is the one and only Son of God, unique in kind, purpose, and position. The Witnesses have nothing in this term to indicate that Jesus had a beginning and thus is not eternal.
"Firstborn Of Every Creature"
Colossians 1:15 speaks of Jesus as "the firstborn of every creature," which the Witnesses say means that Jesus was the first and only spirit being created directly by God and that he was created before all other things.(11) However, Colossians 1:15-17 gives its own explanation of what "firstborn" means:
And he is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created... And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
As Brumback notes,
It is not said that he is the first creature, but that he is the firstborn of every creature. It is not said that he was created before all things, but that he is before all things.(12)
If you have a New World Translation (the Witnesses' official Bible), notice that the Witnesses insert "other" into the phrase "by him all things were created." But there is no Greek word for "other" in this text. In fact, this addition to God's Word is completely unjustified. The Witnesses add "other" into the text to emphasize their doctrine that Jesus was created first, before all other things.
Now consider the main thought of Colossians 1:15-18. Paul is stating that Jesus Christ is the pre-eminent one first above all things. He is the image of the invisible God; he is before all things; he created all things; in him all things hold together,- he is the head of the church. He is the firstborn of every creature not because he was created first, but because he is of a higher position than any creature; he is also the firstborn from the dead because he is of a higher position than any who will ever be resurrected.
The Witnesses should take note of the term "firstborn" as it is used elsewhere in the Bible as a statement of position, For example:
a. Firstborn of death - the most fatal, deadly disease (Job. 18:13).
b. Firstborn of the poor - pre-eminent in poverty (Isa. 14:30).
c. Israel myfirstborn - pre-eminent in purpose (Exod. 4:22).
d. Make him the firstborn - highest, etc. (Psa. 89:27).
e. Firstborn ones - all the saved in the church of Christ (Heb. 12:23).
f. Jesus thefirstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29).
g. Firstborn of the dead (Rev. 1:5).
In the case of Hebrews 12:23, the plural use of "firstborn" is significant because it illustrates that "pre-eminence of position" is the primary meaning of the word. If "first born" means "first created" as the Witnesses claim, then we have the impossible situation of all saved people being born first into the church. Which one was born first? However, when we understand the biblical definition of "first-born" we see the truth. All saints are in an exalted position because they are heirs of salvation, Thus they are called "the church of the first-born ones." Again the Witnesses have nothing in this term to indicate that Jesus had a beginning and thus is not eternal.
Beginning of the Creation of God
Revelation 3:15 describes Jesus as "the beginning of the creation of God," which the Witnesses say proves that Jesus had a beginning and is therefore not eternal.(13) However, the phrase refers to Jesus as the origin of God's creation, not the first thing created. All things were made by Jesus, so ht is the beginning (origin) of God's creation. This clear truth is presented in John 1:3-10 and Colossians 1:15-18. Jesus uses this phrase about himself in Revelation 3:14 to teach that he deserves glory and honor as the Creator. This is the only contextually and grammatically sound interpretation.
The scholarly support for this definition of arche is overwhelming, Thayer defines arche as used in Revelation 3:14 as "that by which anything begins to be, the origin, active cause."(14) Arndt and Gingrich say that in Revelation 3:14 the meaning of arche is "the first cause."(15) A.T. Robertson says that in Revelation 3:14 the meaning is "not the first of creatures, as the Arians held. . ., but the originating source of creation through whom God works."(16) Once again the Witnesses have no basis to conclude that Jesus had a beginning and thus is not eternal.
1. Your Will Be Done on Earth (New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society) 316.
2. Make Sure Of All Things, (New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society), 1953, rev. ed., 288.
3. Barnett, Maurice, Jehovah's Witnesses I: Sec. 11 of 2 vols., (privately published, n. d.) 18.
5. Dencher, Ted. The Watchtower Heresy versus the Bible (Chicago: Moody Press) 26.
6. Aid To Bible Understanding (New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society) 1254.
7. Let God Be True (New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society) 35.
8. Aid To Bible Understanding.
9. Bauer, Walter, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Trans. W, Arndt and F. Gingrich (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press) 527.
10. Barnett 16.
11. New World Bible Translation Committee, New World Translation of the Greek Scriptures (New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, rev. ed. 1971) 589.
12. Brumback, Carl, God In Three Persons (Cleveland: Pathway Press) 117.
13. Barnett 15.
14. Thayer, Joseph Henry (ed. and trans.), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, corrected edition (New York: American Book Company) 77.
15. Bauer, Walter 112.
16. Robertson, A.T., Word Pictures In The New Testament VI:321.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 8, pp. 232-233