Responses I gave to questions posed by a Jehovah's Witness
Jesus' crucifixion, whether He was executed on a cross, and whether the cross is a pagan
symbol as well as whether we should sing Christmas carols or even celebrate Christmas
"As usual, Paul entered there and . . . discussed the Scriptures with them." --
Acts 17:2 (International Study Bible)
Excerpts from e-mail exchange with a Jehovah's Witness
- Jehovah's Witness question: Didn't you know that the cross is an
idolatrous symbol borrowed from paganism? Another reason why true Christians should not use
the cross is because too many non-Christians uses it for their personal use.
- My answer: The cross isn't "borrowed" from anywhere. It's what the Romans used
to execute Jesus. That was made very clear by an ancient pagan who ridiculed Jesus Christ by
scratching into a Roman wall a drawing of Jesus on a cross with the head of a donkey. Are you
telling me Paul was promoting paganism when he talked about glorying in the cross? Are you
telling me the writer to the Hebrews was promoting paganism when he/she talked of Christ
enduring the cross?
Then, do you really believe that Christians shouldn't use the
cross because it's been mis-used by some people in the past? Is that statement logical? Think
about what you've written. If we follow what you say here, then we shouldn't use the Bible
because there are a lot of people who have misused it.
If we follow your line of reasoning, we shouldn't use the
word God because a lot of people use it as a swear word. Following your line of reasoning
means that we should not talk about Jesus anymore because a lot of people have done bad things
in His name. If we follow your line of reasoning, we shouldn't even talk about peace because
people have misused that word in some horrible ways.
- Jehovah's Witness question: Did you know that Jesus wasn't executed on a cross? He died
on a stake.
- My answer: There is some debate on what the cross of Christ looked like. It is true
that this instrument of execution used by Assyrians, Persians, Phoenicians, Egyptians, Greeks
and Romans was originally just a stake. However, there is clear archaeological evidence that by
the time of Christ's crucifixion, crossbars were being used.
In New Testament times, it was common for the condemned
person to carry the crossbeam to the place where an upright pole or stake had already been
erected. As an offender got ready to walk from his prison cell to the public execution site, a
tablet was often hung on him stating his crime or crimes. At the crucifixion site, the beam to
which the outstretched arms of the condemned person had been fastened was lifted up and
attached to the upright post.
In a marvelous bit of poetry in Philippians 2, Paul notes that
Jesus was God "in very nature" and then marvels that he "became obedient to death --
even death on a cross!" In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul speaks of how we are reconciled
to God "through the cross" (Ephesians 2:16).
You may not rejoice in all this. But, the Apostle Paul and I
do! So, why don't you join us? 🙂
- Jehovah's Witness question: Crucifixion was just a horrible way to
die. Why do you spend so much time talking about it? Shouldn't we concentrate on the things
Jesus said and what did when he was here on earth?
- My answer: I think it is sad that Jesus' crucifixion is an object of loathing for
you. That is the pagan way of thinking. You can choose to align yourselves with the pagans if
you wish. But I would plead with you not to be one of "the enemies of the cross of
Christ" of whom Paul spoke in Philippians 3:18.
Yes, crucifixion is one of the worst forms of execution. It's brutal and inhumane. Still,
I prefer to stand on the side of the Apostle Paul in saying, "May I never boast except in the
cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Galatians 6:14). (Note the use of the word "Lord" here
which identifies him as Adonai -- Hebrew for "Lord God" -- of the Old Testament).
Paul also said that lifting up the cross was "a stumbling
block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles" (1 Corinthians 1:23). Don't join unbelievers in letting
the cross be a stumbling block to your faith in Jesus as Immanuel, God come in human flesh.
Embrace the cross as Paul did!
Paul urges us not to let "the cross of Christ be emptied of
its power" (1 Corinthians 1:17). Some people may believe that Jesus was just an angelic
being who came and said wonderful things and was unfortunately executed. However, when you
say that, aren't you doing exactly what Paul has warned against? Aren't you emptying the cross of
- Jehovah's Witness question: Did you know that when you celebrate
Christmas, you are celebrating a pagan holiday? Did you know that Jesus wasn't born on
- My answer: Yes, some pagans did celebrate an event on December 25. Pagans also
celebrated other events by naming Monday after the moon god and Saturday after Saturn and
Thursday after Thor and so on. Does that mean you are engaging in pagan worship every time
you use those words for the various days of the week? I don't think so. Please don't accuse me of
pagan worship simply because I celebrate Christ's birth on a day when some pagans long ago had
a worship event on that same day.
The Bible doesn't say Jesus the Christ was born on
December 25. I don't disagree with you on that. It's very likely that my Lord and Savior wasn't
born on that date. This just happens to be the time of the year that I celebrate that particular
Biblical event. I could just as well celebrate the coming of Immanuel into the world in March or
in October. This happens to be the time when I celebrate it along with fellow believers. Is there
something wrong with the whole community of faith looking at the Old Testament prophecies
and their fulfillment with the birth of Jesus of Nazarene?
- Jehovah's Witness question: If you know Jesus wasn't born on
December 25, why do you promote that as Jesus' birthday?
- My answer: We're not promoting December 25 as the actual day on which Jesus was
born. I was born on November 21. Rarely does my family celebrate my birthday on that day.
They usually pick a day closest to that day when we can all get together. Does that mean that this
year we were saying I was born on November 19? No, we weren't. This year November 19 was
simply a convenient time to celebrate.
I have a granddaughter who was born on December 31. This
year the family wasn't able to get together for that particular day. So, we're celebrating with her
on January 8. Does that mean we don't know when she was born? No. Does that mean we're
trying to say she was born on January 8? No.
That's the way it is with our celebration of Christmas.
You've misunderstood us. We're not trying to argue that December 25 was the actual day of
Jesus' birth. We're simply celebrating the coming of God in human form to reconcile the world
unto Himself! That may not be worth celebrating to you, but to me and my family, that's worth
- Jehovah's Witness question: Isn't it wrong to use a mythical figure
like Santa Claus to celebrate Christmas?
- My answer: I'm not sure why you put Santa Claus into the picture. I don't remember
bringing him up. Santa Claus wasn't part of the Lord's Supper celebration that we did together in
our church service during a recent Christmas season. I'm celebrating the coming of God to earth
in the person of Jesus Christ to rescue His fallen creation.
While Santa Claus has grown into a mythical figure, he does
have real historical roots. There was a real Nicholas who lived in the late 200s and early 300s in
what is now Turkey. While Nicholas was young, his wealthy parents, who were devout
Christians, died in an epidemic. Obeying Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the
money to the poor," Nicholas used his considerable inheritance to assist the needy, the sick,
and the suffering -- especially the children. Having said that, I'm not one to debate the Santa
Claus figure. He's not the reason I celebrate. Jesus, the promised Messiah who is the great "I
AM" of Scripture, is the reason I celebrate.
- Jehovah's Witness question: Why do you go around singing carols at
Christmas? Why don't you go around teaching the truth instead?
- My answer: Don't you think singing is a wonderful Christian act of worship that also
has great teaching value? [ story of "Silent Night"
Yes, I am a happy celebrator of the coming of the Messiah.
Both Matthew and Luke give two entire chapters to the event. There are numerous prophecies in
the Old Testament that refer to the birth of the Messiah. So, I'm a celebrator of the event in which
God in Christ came into the world to reconcile lost sinners to Himself. Isn't that giant rescue
operation worth celebrating?
This last Christmas my wife and I and our two
granddaughters went caroling with three van loads of people from our church. We went to two
group homes of people with disabilities and sang songs about the birth of our Savior. Then we
went to the homes of three elderly shut-ins and sang on their doorstep. We wound up at a horse
barn. There, in a stable, my wife Barbara read aloud the nativity story from Luke. It was a great
evening of celebration.
The Christmas season is the celebration of Immanuel, God with us! Praise the Lord. God has
come in Christ Jesus to save us.
Jehovah's Witnesses: PowerPoiont on history, beliefs
and practices Questions/Answers:
Conversations with a Jehovah's Witness
What Nazarenes believe
Historic creeds or doctrinal statements
10/40 Window explanation and map Seeking
God's will? African
martyr's commitment Mission trip
fundraising Ten ways to ruin
mission trips Nazarene Missions International
-- Howard Culbertson