Responses to Jehovah's Witnesses

Excerpts from e-mail interchange with a Jehovah's Witness

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Watchtower Society interchange: Recently a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses and I exchanged a lot of e-mail messages about their beliefs. Here are questions he asked and responses I gave. This is almost like a blog of our conversations.

Jehovah's Witness question: Where in Scripture does it say that Jesus is the same as Jehovah?
My answer: Well, take a look at what Jesus said about Himself. Take a look at what was said about Him in Scripture. Here are some Bible passages that indicate Jesus was Yahweh incarnate:
  • What was Jesus like? Scripture ascribes to Jesus characteristics which only Yahweh Himself can possess.
    1. Preexistence (that means there was no point in time or eternity in which he did not exist): John 1:15, John 8:58, John 6:51, John 3:13, John 17:5
    2. Divine names and titles: Matthew 3:3, Isaiah 40:3 (Mighty God), Romans 10:13, Joel 3:32, John 20:28, Acts 10:36, John 1:1 (Word was God), Romans 9:5, 1 John 5:20
    3. Self-existence (which only God has): John 2:19, 10:17-18, John 5:26
    4. Eternality (which only God possesses): John 1:1-2, 17:5, 24, Hebrews 1:8, 10-12, 1 John 1:2
    5. Omnipresence (which only God possesses): Matthew 18:20, 28:20, John 3:13, Ephesians 1:21
    6. Omnipotence (which only God possesses): Matthew 28:18, Luke 21:15, John 1:3, 10:18, 1 Corinthians 1:24, Ephesians 1:22, Philippians 3:21, Colossians 2:10, Revelation 1:18
    7. Immutability or changelessness (which only God possesses): Hebrews 1:11-12, 13:8
  • What did Jesus do? Actions which only God can do are attributed in Scripture to Jesus.
    1. Creation: John 1:3, 10, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 1:10
    2. Upholds and preserves all things: Colossians 1:17, Hebrews 1:3
    3. Forgives sins: Mark 2:5-10, Luke 5:20-24, 7:47-49, Acts 5:31
    4. Gives the Holy Spirit: Luke 24:40, John 16:7, 20:22, Acts 2:33
    5. Gives true peace: John 14:27, 16:33, Romans 15:33, 16:20, 2 Corinthians 13:11, Philippians 4:9, 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Hebrews 13:30
    6. Gives light: John 1:4-9, 8:12, 9:5, 12:35, 46, 1 John 1:5-7, Revelation 21:23
    7. Gives eternal life: John 17:2
    8. Confers spiritual gifts: Ephesians 4:8-13
    9. Receives worship: Matthew 14:33, Luke 24:51-52, Acts 1:24, 7:59-60, Hebrews 1:6, Revelation 5:13
  • What rights and prerogatives did Jesus have? Powers and privileges belonging solely to Yahweh are claimed by Jesus for Himself.
    1. Jesus said he was Lord of the Sabbath: Mark 2:28
    2. Jesus claimed to be the final judge of all human beings: Matthew 7:21-23, 13-41-43, 19:28, 25:31-33, Mark 14:62, Luke 9:26

     What about Jesus' repeated use of "I AM" -- "I am the shepherd"; "I am the door"; "I am the truth"; "I am the way; I am the life; I am the vine; I am the resurrection and the life; I am the root and offspring of David, and the Bright Morning Star"? Would not each of those "I am" statements have reminded His Jewish listeners of the "I AM" statement by God to Moses in the desert?
     Jesus was crucified because the Jews understood him to be saying he was God. To them that was blasphemy and as a result they engineered his crucifixion. His disciples understood what Jesus was saying as well. That's why they picked up the Old Testament Hebrew word Adonai which is usually translated into English as "Lord" and used it for Jesus. The use of Lord as a title for Jesus when that same word is used a few hundred times in the Old Testament as a title for Yahweh makes a strong statement for Jesus' divinity.
     In John 20:18 Mary Magdalene is quoted as saying, "I have seen the Lord." In Greek, she uses the word -- "kurios"-- which is clearly used of God the Father in Acts 7:31: "The voice of the Lord came to Moses."
     Kurios is also the same word used for God the Father in such passages as Philippians 4:5, 2 Corinthians 8:21, 1 Thessalonians 3:3, 2 Timothy 2:24, Hebrews 13:6, 1 Peter 1:25, 1 Peter 2:3, 2 Peter 3:9, James 1:7, James 4:10, and Revelation 4:11.
     When Paul refers to Jesus over and over again as Lord (the same word in Exodus 3:35 which you quoted), it is clear that he understood Jesus to be saying He was God (for Paul, there is only "one Lord.").
     We in the 21st century can try to rationalize away the Early Christians' conviction that Jesus of Nazareth was God incarnate. However, it is clear that Jesus' followers used the title "Lord" for Him in the same way that they used "Lord" for God the Father. In his writing, John especially emphasizes the deity of Christ. Sit down and read all the way through the Gospel of John and his three letters in one sitting. If you do that rather than just focusing on isolated scraps of Scripture, you will come away with the sense that John is intent on demonstrating that Jesus was indeed God.

Jehovah's Witness question: How could the Word be with God and be God at the same time? When you find a sensible answer to this question, let me know.
My answer: You've asked an excellent question. John 1:1 is one of the most finely crafted verses in the entire Bible. Try to put aside your theological lens for a moment and just look at how the verse is worded. See how its three phrases build to a climax. The first phrase of the verse proclaims the eternal pre-existence of the Word ("In the beginning was the Word"). The next phrase defines the relationship of the Word to God. Then the last phrase establishes that the essential nature of the Word is Deity ("The Word was God"). Verse two then comes back to state again the eternality of the Word -- such eternal pre-existence is, of course, a quality unique to God.
     By looking at things written during Bible times by Greek and Jewish philosophers, we know that those ancient writers used "the Word" to signify the Divine Mind. Wouldn't that mean God Himself? In fact, Philo, well-known philosopher who lived during the time of Christ (approximately 20 B.C. to 50 A.D.), used Logos (the Word) to mean the sum total of all Divine energies. It's no accident that John picks up and uses that very same word -- "Logos" (or "the Word"). When he uses logos, John is signaling to his readers that he is talking about the Creator Yahweh.
     The potency of this Scripture verse does not come from the words with God or was God. The potency centers around John's use of "Word." To the ancient Greeks, logos (what we translate as "word") was not just speech or reason. Logos or "Word" was at the center of the Greek understanding of the existence of the universe. The Logos could not be dated in time. The Logos was what released creative and constructive forces. There's an echo of this in the verses of Genesis 1 which have God speaking the universe into existence ("And God said, Let there be . . .'"). This idea is what John picks up on and uses to demonstrate the eternal pre-existence of Jesus and to show that He was in fact the eternal Creator God.
     Your question actually centers on the second phrase of that verse: "the Word was with God." Let's look at that phrase. The Greek preposition pros has some nuances that may not be fully communicated by our English word "with." What John was trying to say with his phrase "with God" is much more than merely "being near" or "beside."
     When they read what John wrote in Greek, his original readers would have understood the idea of living union in the phrase "with God." While readers of the English Bible may think "with God" means merely "being near," John is saying that the divine Word not only lived with the Father from all eternity, but was joined to the Father.
     The chapter introduced by the words of John 1:1 declares three things about "the Word:"
  1. He who was in the beginning became in time.
  2. He who was eternally joined to the Father came and lived among human beings.
  3. He who was God became flesh.
     All three of these thoughts are introduced in verse one and then are expanded upon by verse 14. As I have said, the wording of John 1:1 is finely crafted.
  Archangel Michael  |   Ascend  |   Begotten  |   Christ in us  |   Christmas  |   Control  |   Creator/created?  |   Cross or stake?  |   Communion/Evening meal  |   Divine essence  |   Forsaken?  |   God's name  |   God speaks today?  |   Headship  |   Heaven  |   Hell  |   Holy Spirit  |   Is Jesus God?  |   Jehovah/Yahweh  |   Jesus and His father  |   Jesus as Lord and Savior?  |   Lord  |   Matthew 28  |   New Covenant  |   New World Translation  |   Original manuscripts  |   Pagan teaching  |   Paraclete  |   Praying  |   Present everywhere  |   Resurrection  |   Saved now?  |   Son of God  |   Soul  |   Trinity  |   With God  |   Women 

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Copyright © 2002 - Last Updated: March 1, 2015 | URL: http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/jehovahb.htm

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