6. Questions posed to me by a Jehovah's Witness
Bible translation issues and is Jesus God Himself or the archangel Michael?
"As usual, Paul entered there and . . . discussed the Scriptures with them." --
Excerpts from email interchange with a Jehovah's Witness
- Jehovah's Witness question: Don't you believe this way simply
because that's the way you were brought up?
- My answer: I am saddened that you think I believe this way simply because I grew
up believing this way. I made, and I continue to make, a conscious decision to accept the Biblical
assertion that Jesus is God come in human form to deliver the human race. That decision to
invite Christ into my life and to make Him Lord has made a radical difference.
- Jehovah's Witness question: If Jesus was God, how could God have
raised him from the dead? That doesn't make sense.
- My answer: It's not a problem for me to say that God raised Jesus from the dead any
more than it's a problem for me to say that God created the universe out of nothing. It's difficult
for us to get our human minds around that. However, just because I don't totally understand
something doesn't mean that it's not so.
I don't totally understand electricity, but that doesn't keep me
from asking the electric company to hook up my house to their power lines. I don't understand
how cell phones work, but that doesn't make me sit here saying, "They're an illusion; it cannot
One of the things the early Greek "fathers" of the church can
teach us is that sometimes we just need to stand in awe of God rather than feeling we have to
figure out everything. Those early church leaders were not governed by the rationalism that later
overwhelmed the Western church during the Enlightenment period and has caused western
Christians to be proposition- or doctrine-oriented rather than worship-oriented.
- Jehovah's Witness question: Who do you think the archangel
Michael is, according to Daniel 10:13, 21, Daniel 12:1, Jude 9 and 1 Thessalonians 4:16? Did
you know that Jesus is the archangel Michael?
- My answer:The archangel Michael is simply who the Bible says he is. He is the
archangel Michael. There's not a single verse of scripture that says the archangel Michael is Jesus
"To which of the angels did God ever say, 'Sit at my right hand'?" -- Hebrews 1:13. Jesus
could not therefore be the archangel Michael because scripture does say that Jesus will sit at the
right hand of God the Father.
"It was not to angels that he has subjected the world to
come" -- Hebrews 2:5. You asked me where the Bible says that angels will not judge the
world. Here it is. Because the Archangel Michael is an angel, he could not be the Ruler of the
world, could he? Since Scripture says Jesus is to be the Judge and ruler, he cannot be the
I like the way Ken Taylor puts Hebrews 1:14 in his paraphrased Living Bible: "The
angels are only spirit-messengers sent out to help and care for
those who are to receive his salvation." Angels do accomplish specific tasks for Yahweh, but they do not and will not "judge" the world.
That's very clear from a reading of chapters one and two of Hebrews.
Now, as to who Jesus Christ is, here are scriptures that
clearly identify Him as God:
- "The Word was God" -- John 1:1. This passage is clearly an echo of Genesis 1:1.
It points to the eternal existence of "The Word" (Jesus). Eternal pre-existence is a quality which
only God possesses. I like the way the New English Bible translates John 1:1: "What God
was, the Word was."
- "Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God." -- John 20:28. Unless we perform
weird mental gymnastics with the syntax of this statement, we have to recognize that Thomas
was saying that Jesus was God. Thomas is not addressing two different persons. Clearly, he was
speaking to Jesus of Nazareth and Thomas calls Jesus both Lord and God.
- "From them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all" -- Romans
9:5. Doesn't the apostle Paul clearly identifies Christ as God in this passage?
- "In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" -- Colossians 2:9. If
all the fullness of the Deity is in Christ, then He is Deity, isn't He? Here's how Bible
scholar William Barclay translates Colossians 2:9: "It is in Christ that godhead in all its
completeness dwells in bodily form."
- "But about the Son he says, 'Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever" --
Hebrews 1:8. Isn't the Son here being clearly addressed as "God"? You cannot come to any
other conclusion if you correctly analyze the grammar of this sentence. Earlier in verse 7, the
writer has talked about what angels are and then uses the linking word "but." Doesn't that
conjunction "but" signal that the writer is no longer talking about angels (even archangels)?
- "They will call him Immanuel -- which means 'God with us'" -- Matthew 1:23. The
title says "God with us." It doesn't say Jesus is "Archangel Michel with us" or "Someone who is
like God with us" or "Someone who is almost God with us." It cannot be stated any more clearly
than "God with us."
- "They will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive" -- Titus 2:10. "Savior"
is what Jesus is called over and over again in Scripture. Take a look in the previous chapter of
Titus: Titus 1:4. Or look at what is written in 2 Peter 3:18 and 1 John 4:14. We don't have two
Saviors; we have one. If the Savior is Jesus, then isn't Paul here identifying him as God?
- Jehovah's Witness question: Why are you so critical of the New
World Translation of the Bible? Isn't it superior to other translations because it uses the real name
of God whereas the others do not? Don't you agree that it stays close to the original Greek?
- My answer: As to your comment that the New World Translation is the
only Bible that has God's real name in it: That is not true. Who gave you that false
information? If you are talking about the name "Jehovah," did you not know that the classic
King James Version from 1611 uses Jehovah in passages in Genesis, Exodus, Judges,
Psalms and Isaiah? An updated version of that called The 21st Century King James
Version uses Jehovah in those same passages. The American Standard Version uses
Jehovah 5822 times. Young's Literal Translation uses Jehovah 5787 times. Darby's
Translation uses Jehovah 5791 times.
The Third Millennium Bible and the Webster Bible both use Jehovah.
A very contemporary English translation or paraphrase called The
Message uses Yahweh in several places. The
Holman Christian Standard Bible uses
Yahweh 611 times. The Hebrew Names Version of the World English Bible uses
Yahweh 5,795 times. The Bible in Basic English uses Yahweh.
One reason I'm critical of the New World
Translation is because its peculiar wording of John 1:1 -- "and the Word was a god"
-- is used to support the position that Jesus was not God Himself come in human flesh.
How did "a god" get in John 1? None of the English translations I've looked at --
including King James, New King James, Revised Standard, New English Bible, Living Bible,
New International Version, Amplified Bible -- have an "a" in front of God in the last phrase
John 1:1. The Greek grammatical construction and word order all cause them to say: "and the
Word was God."
I speak a few other languages and I've looked in my Italian
Bible. It says: "La parola era Dio" (the Word was God). A more
contemporary Italian translation follows an almost word-for-word progression with the Greek:
"Dio era il Verbo" (God was the Word).
I've looked in a French Bible. It says: "La Parole etait Dieu" (the
Word was God). I've looked in the Spanish. It says: "El Verbo era
Dios" (the Word was God). I've looked in the Haitian Creole. It says: "La Parol te
Bon-Dieu"(the Word was God).
What we have in John 1 is a thought that builds toward a
climax. John intends to show that Jesus is God incarnate. Proving the deity of Christ seems to be
a principal reason John wrote this gospel as well as his letters. Thus, rather than telling a birth
story as do Matthew and Luke, John starts with the external pre-existence of Jesus. In his first
chapter, John uses words and phrases that clearly are intended to remind us of Genesis 1. John
seems eager to make sure his readers see the connection between Jesus and God. So, he builds in
his wording toward a climax: "And the Word was God."
Now, to return to the idea that the New World Translation is superior to other English
translations because it uses the "real" name of God whereas they do not: I assume you are
referring to the word Jehovah. Jehovah, of course, may not be the right Hebrew word; Yahweh most likely is. Therefore, hasn't the argument
that we must use the proper name of God backfired on the Jehovah's Witnesses because they
aren't really using God's exact name? Aren't they actually mispronouncing it?
It also puzzles me that the word Jehovah appears more than 200 times in the New
Testament portion of the New World Translation. Even if the correct
Hebrew Yahweh were used, using it would, however, still be incorrect because that
particular Hebrew word does not appear in any New Testament Greek manuscript. What is
written in Greek is kurios or Lord. So, if the New World editors were doing their job
correctly, they would have used the word "Lord" when kurios appears. Or, shouldn't they
have been consistent and used Jehoavh whenever kurios appears in the Greek New
Testament as a title for Jesus? Otherwise, doesn't it seem like they were simply making sure the
translation "fits" a pre-determined doctrinal belief ?
You are right. The New World Translation is "close" to the original Greek. It's just not
faithful to it. I want a translation that is faithful. I don't want one that's just "close." Wasn't it
professional baseball player and manager Frank Robinson who said, "Close only counts in
horseshoes and hand grenades"? 🙂
-- Howard Culbertson
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