Responses to Jehovah's Witnesses
What Nazarenes believe
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An African martyr's statement on
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Nazarene Missions International resource pages
Excerpts from e-mail interchange with a Jehovah's Witness
- Jehovah's Witness question: What proof do you have that the name
Jehovah is the wrong pronunciation?
- My answer: That's a good question. It's an important one because I know that using
God's proper name is so very important to you. For instance, my name is Howard. Once in a
while someone will call me Harold. Then, when they discover what they've done, they'll be very
apologetic because they have mispronounced my name (although what they've used does have 5
out of 6 letters correct). Even though Harold is very close to Howard, it is not my name.
Ancient Hebrew writing did not have vowels; it only used
consonants. So, in the ancient manuscripts, what we are faced with are four Hebrew consonants
we transliterate as YHWH. When manuscript copyists added vowel "points" to the Hebrew text
around 900 A.D., the same vowels selected for Adonai (Lord) were given to YHWH. It was
from this hybrid spelling (YHWH combined with vowels from another word) that Petrus
Galatinus, confessor of Pope Leo X in the 1500s, is often said to have originated the Latin
spelling of the word we now render as Jehovah. As you can see, what we've wound up with as
"Jehovah" has the initial Hebrew Y (or Yodh) turned into a J and the Hebrew W (or Waw)
changed into a V.
However, modern Hebrew scholars will point to old Greek
versions of YHWH which are written as Iabe, Iaoue, Iaouai -- all of which push us toward
the conclusion that those four Hebrew letters were originally pronounced as Yahweh rather than
Jehovah. Iaoue, for instance, appears in the writings of Clement of Alexandria who died
about the year 215 A.D.
By the way, isn't it interesting that the scribes used the
vowels from "Lord" to create what you now pronounce as Jehovah? So, when you say Jehovah,
you should hear an echo of "Lord" in there. Those scribes understood that "Lord" and YHWH
are the same -- not different. I guess you can keep on saying Jehovah, but if you do, you need to
understood that the word does combine "Lord" and YHWH into one word. Won't that go against
what your belief that the Lord Jesus Christ is not Yahweh?
Have you read the introductory material in the
Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures published by the Watchtower
Society? On page 23 of the 1969 edition, it says: "While inclining to view the pronunciation
'Yahweh' as the more correct way, we have retained the form 'Jehovah' because of people's
familiarity with it since the 14th century."
Isn't that like saying, "Since we've been mispronouncing
God's name for a long time, we might as well keep on doing it"?
Another Watchtower publication, Aid to Bible
Understanding, says on page 885 of its 1971 edition that Yahweh is "the most likely
pronunciation" of the Hebrew letters YHWH.
If Jehovah's Witness leaders were saying more than 40 years
ago that "Yahweh" is the more correct pronunciation, then why has not the organization started
calling itself "Yahweh's Witnesses"? Shouldn't you be using the correct pronunciation? Why do
you keep saying Harold instead of Howard?
- Jehovah's Witness question: Do you know what the Scriptures say
about the soul?
- My answer: A good place to start is with the words of Jesus in Matthew 10:28:
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul." Wouldn't you
agree that Jesus was very precise in the way He spoke? His speech was not sloppy; every word
was powerful. So, wouldn't the distinction Jesus makes between the death of our physical body
and our spiritual soul indicate the soul is something different from the body?
Or, what about the account of the death of Stephen in Acts
7:59? Just before he dies, doesn't Stephen pray to Jesus to "receive my spirit"? Doesn't
this indicate that Stephen believed his spirit or soul was going to live on beyond his bodily
existence. If Stephen's soul or spirit was about to cease to exist when his body died, how could
Jesus, who was in heaven, receive Stephen's spirit? Was Stephen mistaken? If what Stephen was
praying for wasn't going to happen, why would the Holy
Spirit inspire the writer of Acts to include that bit of heresy in the story?
In his second letter to the Corinthians, doesn't Paul say that
he would rather be "absent from the body" so he could go make his "home with the
Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:8)? Doesn't that indicate Paul believes in an existence of the soul or
spirit after bodily death? Was Paul mistaken in thinking he could be "absent from the body"?
When Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, he said he would
rather depart from this life so that he could go be with Christ (Philippians 1:23). How could Paul
be "with Christ" and make his "home with the Lord" if -- as the Jehovah's Witnesses teach -- no
one could enter heaven until 1914?
Similarly, if the soul is the body, why does Paul make a
distinction between the "spirit and soul and body of you" in 1 Thessalonians 5:23?
Unless there is conscious awareness after death, how could
Sheol or the grave below become "all astir (or agitated) to meet you at your coming"
(Isaiah 14:9)? How could the souls in Sheol or the grave "all respond" and "say to you" (Isaiah
14:10-11)? How could the souls in Sheol "see you (and) stare at you" and "ponder your fate"
saying, "Is this the man?" (Isaiah 14:16)?
If the soul has no existence apart from the body, how could
Moses and Elijah appear to Peter, James, and John and actually converse with Jesus (Matthew
If the soul dies when the body dies, how could the "souls" of
Revelation 6:9-11 -- those who had been "slain because of the word of God and the testimony
they had maintained' -- call out "in a loud voice: 'How long, Sovereign Lord ..."?
If the human soul is inseparable from the human body, how
could the soul go out of a person's body (Genesis 35:18) or come back into a person's body (1
Kings 17:21)? Similarly, if the soul ceases to exist at physical death, then what was Jesus saying
could be thrown in Gehenna or Hell in Luke 12:4-5 ("Fear him who, after the killing of the
body, has power to throw you into hell")?
If the soul ceases to exist at physical death, what would be
left of a person after they were killed that could be thrown into Gehenna?
Do not misunderstand what I'm saying about the soul. I
don't think human beings "have" a soul like they "have" a bicycle or a dress. Human beings "are"
souls. That soul -- our essential personhood -- is what Scripture indicates continues to live on
beyond the physical death of our bodies (unless, as you have said, numerous passages Scripture
aren't to be taken literally).
- Jehovah's Witness question: Do you accept Jesus as your Savior and
Lord? If so, that means you are saying He is separate from Jehovah.
- My answer: Do I accept Jesus as Lord and Savior? Yes, I do and because of that I
have had to acknowledge him as Yahweh. For believers, as Paul said,
there is only "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians 4:5).
In that verse, Paul is echoing what Zechariah said: "On
that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name" -- Zechariah 14:9
Since the title "Lord" is used for Yahweh from the very first
of the Old Testament (Genesis 2), one must conclude that calling Jesus "our Lord" means we are
acknowledging him as God himself. How can you come to any other conclusion without
distorting the words of Scripture?
Yahweh is called Lord. Jesus is called Lord. Both Paul and
Zechariah say there is only one Lord. Therefore, Jesus must be Yahweh.
I'm puzzled by the distinction you're trying to make between
Lord and God or Yahweh. Doesn't such an attempt only make Biblical interpretation more
difficult because you then have to re-word so many other Biblical passages? From its beginning
pages, doesn't the Bible use "Lord" and "God" synonymously?
Moses clearly said: "The Lord your God is a consuming
fire, a jealous God" (Deuteronomy 4:24). It doesn't say: "The Lord is a consuming fire and
your God is a jealous God." When a Jewish Christian like Paul says there is only one Lord,
there's no way he's saying there is someone who is Lord and then there is someone else that is
God. To assert that is to ignore or forget that Paul was a Jew.
Every time Paul used the word "Lord," it reverberated with
echoes of its Old Testament usage. Remember, Paul was a Jew and He knew the Hebrew
Scriptures by heart. To him, "Lord" could only refer to God Himself: "Hear, O Israel: The
Lord our God, the Lord is one." -- Deuteronomy 6:4.
Every pious Jew, including Paul, had recited that phrase
from Deuteronomy -- the first line of the "shema" -- in synagogue services and in private prayers.
SNU missions course materials and syllabi
Howard Culbertson, 5901 NW 81st, Oklahoma
City, OK 73132 | Phone: 405-740-4149 - Fax:
Updated: February 18, 2019
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