God's name, God as triune, translation errors, Jesus and Jehovah, Jesus and the Father, and
- While the Jehovah's Witnesses focus tightly on
Yahweh/Jehovah, the Bible uses 600 names, titles, and descriptions for the "God of Abraham,
Isaac and Jacob."
- "Trinity" is a Latin-based word that is helpful in
understanding what Christ-followers in the First Century understood about God as Father, Son,
and Holy Spirit. What they believed is very different from tritheism (a belief in three gods).
- No Bible verse was written in isolation from other verses. The meaning of one verse in
a book of the Bible is shaped by what the rest of Scripture says.
Responses to a Jehovah's Witness 2
"As usual, Paul entered there and . . . discussed the Scriptures with them." --
Acts 17:2 (International Study Bible)
"I have been reading your Jehovah's Witness Q&A pages. I want to say thank you for
I have learned a great deal." -- Lydia
Excerpts from an email exchange with a Jehovah's Witness
- Jehovah's Witness question: I've been browsing your site and
noticed that although you talk a lot about God, you never mention His name. Why?
- My answer: Your question caught me off guard because I thought I mentioned God
a lot on my site. It is a good question. So, I did some searches on my site. I found
the word "God" used on more than 500 pages. The word "Lord" appears on 225 of them. That
word is "kurios" in the Greek New Testament and "Adonai" in the Old
Testament. The Eternal One is mentioned on one page.
on at least two dozen pages of my site while Almighty is used on a dozen of them. Creator is used
on about 30 pages, with "Lord God" as a phrase appearing on 7 pages. Also, I have a page on my
site with more than 600 names, titles, and descriptions
of God. So, the question may be: What do you mean by "God's name"?
I'm married to a woman named Barbara. Sometime,s I call her Barbara, and sometimes, Barb or
Barbi. Sometimes, I call her "my wife." Occasionally, I'll say "honey" or "sweetheart" or other
endearing terms. Which one of those is her "real" name? Well, she recognizes any of these and
responds warmly to all of them.
So, it's bewildering when you say I never mention God's name. The pages of my site use many
Biblical terms, including Yahweh/Jehovah, that unmistakably refer to God. I am puzzled that you
did not see any of those references.
- Jehovah's Witness question: Where in Scripture does it say God is
- My answer: That's an excellent question. As you probably already know, the Bible
doesn't specifically use that word any more than it uses other words in common use even by
Jehovah's Witnesses, words such as Kingdom Hall, the Lord's evening meal, circuit, disfellowship,
gentile times, governing body and so on. The words trinity and triune came into use as a label for
how God is described in the pages of the Bible.
My favorite passage in terms of understanding God as triune is the baptismal celebration phrasing
in Matthew 28:19-20 (the Great
Commission as it is sometimes
called)1. The invocation "in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit"
uses the singular word "name" — onoma in Greek — rather than the plural
word "names." While some will argue that onoma should be translated as "by the
authority of," credible Greek lexicons say that the primary meaning of this word in New
Testament times is "proper name" or "the name by which a person or thing is called."
Being baptized in the "name" of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit is a way
of affirming the oneness that was in Peter's mind as he spoke of Jesus in Acts 4:12 and said: "There is
other name" by which we "must be saved."
So, you are certainly right in thinking that the word "triune" or even Trinity is not in the Bible. Those
words are, however, useful in
drawing together what the First Century church understood about God the Father, God the Son,
and God the Holy Spirit. The
Christian Church began using
Trinity and triune to describe something very different from tritheism (a belief in three gods).
The words Triune or Trinity conveniently wrap up into one
word all the Biblical data that point to Jesus as Yahweh
incarnate and to the Holy Spirit as God himself. While the word "trinity" is not actually in the
Bible, the concept certainly is!
Does it seem rational to say that Yahweh expresses Himself
in three separate persons yet exists as one single entity? No, it doesn't seem rational to us human
beings . . . but then the creation of the entire universe from nothing, absolutely nothing, doesn't
seem rational to human beings either. 🙂 [More on
- Jehovah's Witness question: You mentioned the scripture (invocation) where you say it says,
"In the name of the Father , the son, and the Holy Spirit." However, if you go back to the
interlinear translation of Greek scriptures, it says, "In the name of the Father, AND in the name
of the Son, AND in the name of the Holy Spirit. ". So isn't this clearly an error on the part of the
people who translated the Bible into English? It is very clear to me what it means
and it does not mean in the name of one person, but rather in the name of 3 individual people.
- My answer: Excellent question. First of all, we have to be very careful not to
pontificate about the grammar and syntax of a language that is not our native one. Because of the
places my wife and I have lived (Italy, Haiti, Ecuador, and the USA), I'm able to speak and write
in five different languages (Italian, French, Haitian Creole, Spanish, and English). In addition, I
have three years of university-level Biblical Greek study under my belt. One of the very
rewarding things I've done in my journey to becoming a polyglot is to read
the Bible all the way through, not only in English but also in Haitian, French, Haitian Creole, and
Spanish. That reading was interesting and spiritually rewarding as I marveled at how each
language expressed things in ways that let different nuances shine through.
Becoming fluent in a language is a very long process. One cannot
pick up a bi-lingual dictionary, memorize a bunch of words, and immediately be considered fluent
in another language. If people try to do that (and they sometimes do), the results will not be
understandable or, at best, will be comical. Languages are not like mathematics. Rather, they are
more of an art form where the unexpected can happen and yet make sense.
That said, an interlinear English/Greek New Testament is a valuable tool, especially for beginning
Greek students. It can be a good tool for language learning. However, it is not a tool for
establishing or proving a doctrinal position. That's because shades of meaning can differ according
to word order
and syntax. The use of prepositions, possessives, definite/indefinite articles, and other linguistic
devices differs from language to language. None of that can be conveyed adequately by an
interlinear text. The proof offered for something from an interlinear text should never be
considered "proof." Rather, the interlinear text simply helps us form questions to be posed to
those who are actually fluent in Biblical Greek.
The far better question to ask is:
"How would the very first readers of this passage have understood it?"
To answer that question requires a
level of fluency that most Christ-followers do not have. So, we are dependent on scholars and
Bible translators who can read not only the New Testament in Greek but also all kinds of other
Greek documents from the First Century, including love letters, bills of sale, military orders,
government reports, trial records, and so on. It's by being able to read a large variety of other
documents that Bible scholars and translators have been able to help us understand what the first
readers of Matthew 28 would have understood.
1"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of
the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have
commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." -- Matthew
- Jehovah's Witness question: Doesn't Matthew 28 prove that
Jehovah and Jesus are totally separate beings since it lists them separately?
- My answer: Let's not read into Matthew 28:19-20 things that aren't there. First of all,
Jehovah or Yahweh isn't even mentioned in Matthew 28:19-20. Then secondly, I do not see
the clear distinction you say it makes. I looked at 60 English Bible translations with the earliest
being done in the 1300s and the latest in 2020. None of those English translations I consulted
say "in the name of the Father and in the name of the Son and in the name of the Holy
Spirit." Nearly all 60 of those I looked at with the help ofBiblegateway.com either say "in
the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit" or " in the name of the Father and of the Son
and of the Holy Spirit." (Note: To be sure, very old translations use "Holy Ghost" rather than
Here are the three exceptions to the above wording:
The Voice -- " in the name of the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit"
The Message -- "in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit."
Complete Jewish Bible -- "into the reality of the Father, the Son and the Ruach
Not one of those 60 translations has any hint of three different names. Indeed, they all seem to
echo the "threefold name" wording of The Message.
And, of course, it should be noted that Jehovah is not the best way to render the
four Hebrew consonants that scholars call the Tetragrammaton. Jehovah is an outmoded
attempt to render the sounds of the Hebrew word we should render as Yahweh [More in
- Jehovah's Witness question: Where are the clues in the Bible that make people conclude
that there is no division of hierarchy between Jesus and the Father? Don't the following scriptures
make it very hard to accept that Jesus is equal to the Father?
How would you respond to these scriptures?
- 1 Corinthians 15:28 "And when all things shall be subdued unto him,
then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may
be all in all." (KJV)
- Matthew 24:36 "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but
my Father only" (KJV).
- John 20:17 "Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but
go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God,
and your God." (KJV)
- 1 Corinthians 11:3: But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the
head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. (KJV)
- My answer: We need to remember that no verse in the Bible was written in isolation
from other thoughts. Every book of the Bible, with the exception of the collection of wise
sayings we call Proverbs, was meant to be read as a whole book The meaning of one verse in a
book of the Bible is determined by the context in which that verse appears.
said that one can prove almost anything from the Bible by simply pulling individual verses out of
context. Here's an example: The Bible says, "Judas went and hanged himself . . . Go thou and
Well, those words are indeed in the Bible. But the Bible does not
say we are to commit suicide by hanging ourselves.
The first part of that example --
"Judas went and hanged himself" -- appears in Matthew 27. The second part appears in the
Gospel of Luke. So, while both of those sentences appear in the Bible, they are not at all
Having said all that, let's think about the passages you mentioned. The first
one is 1 Corinthians 15:28. That verse comes in a larger passage describing the
implications for Christians if there is no resurrection. Most importantly, that would mean
that Christ was not raised from the dead. Paul says that if Christ was not raised, then his own
preaching of the gospel was false, and the faith of those who believed it was worthless. If there
was no resurrection, all remain in their sins.
Christ, though, was raised from the
dead. Hallelujah! And when He returns for those who are His, all who have died in Christ will
be resurrected to new life, just as Jesus Himself was after His crucifixion. The point of the
passage is that the purpose of all of history is that the lives of all who are in Christ will be "all in
all." In other words, Christ, the Son of God, in his divine nature, as God, shall never cease to
reign. God's glory will reign supreme over the entire universe.
So, don't take verse 28
and isolate it by itself. It needs to be seen in the context of what Paul is trying to say in the entire
passage (and even in the entire letter to the Corinthian church).
The second passage
was Matthew 24:36. This verse comes in the middle of a passage about End Times. In response
to a question about the timing of Jesus' return (Second Coming is the label we give it), Jesus said
that, as the Son of Man, He did not have knowledge regarding the time of His return. Did Jesus
not know it as the Son of God? Did He come to know it the instant He returned to Heaven?
Those are questions for which we have no answers. Here's one possible explanation as given by
scholar John MacArthur:
"Therefore, even on this last day before His arrest, the
Son did not know the precise day and hour He would return to earth at His second coming.
During Christ's incarnation, the Father alone exercised unrestricted divine
omniscience."Was MacArthur right? Was there some restriction on Jesus'
omniscience in regard to the timing of the End Times? I'm not sure we'll understand it clearly
this side of eternity. At any rate, the wording does enhance the mysteriousness and awesomeness
of the great day.
As with the verse from 1 Corinthians, the central focus of this
passage is not the deity/humanity of Christ. It is about the End Times. In reading these words,
our focus needs to be on that topic. Otherwise, we could find ourselves contradicting what other
passages clearly say about the divine incarnation of Jesus Christ.
passage was John 20:17. I'm guessing the last words of that verse trouble you. One
way of thinking about this is to see that Jesus speaks of God as His Father because, in the triune
God, there is both the person of the Son and the person of the Father. Then, Jesus says, "your
Father," because God is our Father since we believers have been adopted into His family through
freely-given divine grace. Again, the larger passage in which this verse appears is not focused on
Christology (the doctrine of Christ). Isn't it instead about the fatherhood of the Creator of the
One that needs to be remembered here is that this was the Apostle John
writing. John's Gospel and his three letters all seem to have been written to counter the argument
that Jesus was not really God Himself. That's clear from the beginning words of John's Gospel,
which starts not with an account of Jesus' birth but with the declaration, "In the beginning was
the Word . . . and the Word was God."
So, doesn't this statement in John 20 need to be understood in the light of all that John says
elsewhere about Jesus being God incarnate?
The fourth passage you listed is also
from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:3). Paul had just praised the church in
Corinth for remembering things he had taught them. Then, he launches into trying to correct a few
things about their corporate worship times. One analogy he uses in his attempt at correction is the
idea of headship. That is, the idea that every person -- man, woman, or Christ Himself -- has
some authority over them. Paul is not trying to explain Christology (doctrines or beliefs about
Christ). Paul is trying to illustrate the validity of the guidance he wants to give about cultural
issues, including the physical appearance of both men and women.
When Paul says that God is the head of Christ, we need to understand that analogy in the light of
what Scripture says about the mystery of the Trinity in which Christ is both God and is under the
authority and direction of God. That concept is something Paul mentions elsewhere in this same
letter -- for example, in 15:28 that we've already dealt with as well as in 3:23.
Are any of these thoughts helpful to you? Did I clear up some things or just muddy the water?
Note: I found it interesting that my Jehovah's Witness friend used the 400-year-old King James
Version of the Bible when he was quoting scripture to me. It was the best English translation of
its day and remains a majestic piece of literature. However, it is not the English that we speak
today. None of the Bible book authors used 400-year-old language when they wrote. They all
wrote in the everyday language that they spoke. As I look back on this exchange now, I realize I
should have asked him why he chose to quote from the King James Version in his emails to me.
His own organization's New World Translation was completed in 1961. Why didn't he use that?
Perhaps he knew that I would object since only one or two of the
people involved in producing that translation had studied Greek or Hebrews.
- Jehovah's Witness question: Where in the Bible does it say that we
are going to heaven?
- My answer: Short answer: Best examples are passages in Matthew 5-7, 16, 18, 19
and 24, Mark 10, Luke 6, 10, 18 and 23, John 14, 2 Corinthians 5 and 12, Philippians 3,
Colossians 1, 2 Timothy 4, 1 Peter 1, and Revelation 2, 5, 7 and 14.
Long answer: Think about the great multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and
language in Revelation 7 that are standing before the throne in God's temple.2 Put
that alongside verse 5 of chapter 15 where it says "I looked and in heaven the temple."
Clearly, the temple of Revelation is in heaven. There's a similar statement in 14:17: "Another
angel came out of the temple in heaven."
There's some of the same phrasing in chapter 19, where John talks about a "great multitude in
heaven" and mentions again the elders and living creatures he alluded to in chapter 7.
What about the passage in chapter 2 that says, "To him
who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of
God"? In the two other passages in scripture where Paradise is mentioned (Luke 23:43 and 2
Corinthians 12:4), the reference is clearly to heaven. What about the message to the church in
Laodicea, "To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne"?
That throne is obviously in heaven because that's where it is described as being in Revelation
19:1, 4 and 5: "After this, I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven . .
. The twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God, who was
seated on the throne . . .Then a voice came from the throne."
- Jehovah's Witness question: Why would God want to take a Great Multitude from the earth
to heaven when he already has millions and millions of angels there? Does that make any
kind of sense to you? For the Great Multitude to be in Heaven, wouldn't that mean that Jehovah
God would have to kill them in order for them to be in Heaven with him?
- My answer: Short answer: Ism't it that He really does love us and wants us to be
with Him? Actually, I'm puzzled at the question as to why God would want a Great Multitude of
us in heaven. Since God loves us, why wouldn't He want us to be with Him? It seems to me that
His love is enough of an answer for the "why." The Bible is clear in saying that God loves us.
Does it ever say that He "loves" angels? The relationship between God and angels is different
from that between God and human beings. Since the Bible clearly says God loves us, wouldn't He
want us to be where He is? I love my children, so I want them to be where I am as often as they
That's why I paid for plane tickets for them to come home for the holidays when they lived far
away. That's why I've encouraged them to look for employment in Oklahoma. Sure, many
people live in Oklahoma, but I love my children more than any of them. Isn't God
like this? Doesn't He love us and want us to be with Him even though He has some angels
After all, didn't Jesus say, "I will come back and take you to
be with me that you also may be where I am" (John 14:3)? The position that God doesn't want a
Great Multitude in Heaven would imply Jesus didn't mean what He said in John 14.
As to the second part of your response, have you read
Revelation 7? It answers that question. Does it say God killed them? No, it says that this great
multitude who are before the throne and serving God day and night came out of great tribulation.
That great multitude from all people groups — which undoubtedly includes Christian
friends of mine from Italy, Haiti, Bulgaria, Croatia, and Venezuela — is also referred to in
Revelation 7;9 specifically talks of a great multitude
composed of people from all nations who will serve God in His temple and before His throne.
Do I understand you correctly to say you think the Bible doesn't really mean that?
2"After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one
could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before
the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands." --
3"With your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language
and people and nation." -- Revelation 5:9
- Jehovah's Witness question: Do you truly believe all the things the Bible promised are going
to come to pass?
- My answer: Strange question. I firmly believe all the promises in Scripture will be
Having said that, we also have to be aware that through the years, people
have misinterpreted promises from the Bible. For instance, early in their history, the Jehovah's
Witnesses preached that the Bible said that the Second Coming of Jesus was going to happen in
1914 and that current human history would end at that point. That didn't happen, of course.
Then they began preaching that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were going to be resurrected from the
dead in 1925 and start ruling over the earth. That did not happen. Then, in the late 1960s and
early 1970s the Jehovah's Witnesses began saying that end times would begin in 1974. I clearly
remember reading Jehovah's Witness literature in those days and listening to some of them.
There was this deep conviction that they knew exactly what the Bible was saying. They were
wrong, of course. Then, in the May 1, 1985 issue of the Watchtower, it was
predicted that before the generation that was alive in 1914 died out, God's judgment would be
executed on the earth. Well, quite frankly, almost no one is alive now that was born in
1914 or before.
I'm not sure what promises from the Bible you have in mind. However, I hope you can
understand why I am a bit skeptical when someone connected with the Watchtower Society
offers to tell me how specific Bible promises are going to play out.
-- Howard Culbertson,
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