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Excerpts from e-mail 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 sorry that you think I believe this way simply because I grew up believing this way. I made, and 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 be."
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 Christ.
"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 Archangel.
I like the way Ken Taylor puts Hebrews 1:14 in his 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 you want to perform weird mental gymnastics with the syntax of this statement, you have to say that Thomas was saying that Jesus was God. Thomas is not addressing two different persons. He is speaking to Jesus whom he calls 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 just not true. Who gave you that false information? Did you not know that the classic King James Version from 1611 uses Jehovah? An updated version of that called The 21st Century King James Version also uses Jehovah. 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 called The Message uses Yahweh in several places. Yahweh appears in The Amplified Bible. The Holman Christian Standard Bible uses Yahweh. The Hebrew Names Version of the World English Bible uses Yahweh. 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.
Where did the "a god" come from 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 of John 1:1. The Greek grammatical construction and word order all have them affirming: "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 assertion 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?
It also puzzles me that 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 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.
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."
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