Responses to a Jehovah's Witness 2
God's name, God as triune, translation errors, Jesus and Jehovah, Jesus and the Father, and
"As usual, Paul entered there and . . . discussed the Scriptures with them." --
Acts 17:2 (International Study Bible)
Excerpts from email exchange with a Jehovah's Witness
"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
- Jehovah's Witness question: I've been browsing your site and
notice that although you talk a lot about God, you never mention His name? Why?
- My answer: Your question puzzled me. 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. Yahweh/Jehovah appears
on 26 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.
I'm married to a woman named Barbara. Sometimes I call her Barbara and sometimes Barbi.
Sometimes I call her "my wife." Occasionally I'll say "honey" or "sweetheart" or other endearing
terms. She recognizes any of these and responds warmly to all of them.
So, it's puzzling to have you say I never mention God's name. It seems to me that the pages of
my site use lots of Biblical terms including Yahweh and Jehovah that refer unmistakably to
- Jehovah's Witness question: Where in Scripture does it say God is
- My answer: 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). 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," the primary meaning which credible Greek lexicons say this
word had in New Testament times is "proper name" or "the name by which a person or thing is
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 no
other name" by which we "must be saved."
You are 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 without falling into a 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 an entire universe from nothing doesn't seem rational to
human beings either. [More on Trinity]
- 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 obviously a translational 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: Because of the places my wife and I have lived (Italy, Haiti, Ecuador,
and the USA), I've wound up being able to speak and write in five different languages (Italian,
French, Haitian Creole, Spanish, and, of course, 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 fluent in another
language. If people try to do that the results will not be understandable or, at best, comical.
Languages are not like mathematics. Rather, they are of an art form where the unexpected can
happen and yet make sense.
Having said all that, 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 a "proof." Rather, the
interlinear text simply helps us form questions to be posed to those who are actually fluent in
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.
- Jehovah's Witness question: Doesn't Matthew 28 prove that
Jehovah and Jesus are totally separate beings since it lists them separately?
- My answer: Don't 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
the clear distinction you say it makes. It does not say "in the name of the Father and in the
name of the Son and in the name of the Holy Spirit." Doesn't it say: "in the name of the
Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?" There's only one "name" mentioned. Isn't the word "name"
Actually 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 which 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 with 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 that describes the
implications for Christians if there is no resurrection at all. 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 regards 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 do clearly say about the divine incarnation of Jesus Christ.
passage was John 20:17. I'm guessing it's the last words of that verse that trouble you a bit. 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). What Paul is trying to do is
illustrate the validity of 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 which 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 make the water even more muddy?
Note: I found it interesting that my Jehoah'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. Howeer, it is not the Englisgh that we speak
today. None of the authors of any of the Bible books used 400-year-old Hebrew or Greek when
they wrote. They wrote with 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 knew any of the biblical languages.
- Jehovah's Witness question: Where in the Bible does it say that we
are going to heaven?
- My answer: What about the great multitude from every nation, tribe, people and
language in Revelation 7 that are standing before the throne in God's temple? 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 those 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 have to kill them in order for him to have them in heaven with him?
- My answer: It does not sense to ask why God would want a Great Multitude from
earth in heaven. Doesn't God wants to be with us because He loves us? 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? Since it clearly says He 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 can.
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, there are
lots of people who 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 9? 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 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?
- Jehovah's Witness question: Do you truly believe all the things the Bible promised are going
to come to pass?
- My answer: I do believe all the promises in Scripture will be fulfilled.
However, I am also 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 the very few people alive now who were alive in 1914
were extremely young children back then.
Thus, you can see why I am a bit skeptical when anyone connected with the Watchtower Society
begins telling me how specific Bible promises are going to play out.
-- Howard Culbertson
Jehovah's Witnesses: PowerPoint on history, beliefs and
practices of the Jehovah's Witnesses
believe Nazarene history
10/40 Window explanation and map
Seeking God's will?
African martyr's commitment Mission trip
fundraising Ten ways to
ruin mission trips Nazarene
Missions International resources