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 and doctrines. Here are questions he asked and responses I gave. This is almost like a blog of our conversations.

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 17:3)?
     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.
  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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