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The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society’s

 New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures

 

NOTE:

 In light of the JWs’ biblical translation (NWT) perverted rendering of John 1:1 (“a god”); 8:58 (“I have been”); and the addition of “other” in Col. 1:16-17 and Phil. 2:9.  

Keep in mind:

 1) In spite of the “new” found nonstandard so-called scholarship of the JWs (and other unitarians) pertaining to the NWT’s renderings of these particular passages, the Christian church has used these (and others) to positively affirm the deity of Christ. Also, most JWs have no real (even basic) knowledge of Greek, but repeat or merely copy and paste the works of others or read some technical assertion from a WT book.

 2) A grammatical Greek rule used correctly or misused/misapplied to a passage(s) does not erase an entire context.

 For example, regarding John 8:58 and the NWT’s rendering “I have been.” It seems that many folks (Christians and non-Christian) appeal to the Greek here unnecessarily (and without a solid understanding of Greek grammar).

 First, the Greek is not in isolate. It is the entire *context* of John's literature that defines the verb's (EIMI, “am”) import as a clear affirmation of deity (and also the verb's contrast with EGENETO-- "before Abraham came to be" and the response of the Jews in v. 59).

 So, when 8:58 is seen in the contextual light of 1:1, 3, 18; 5:17-18; 8:24, et al; 20:28; Rev. 22:13; for example, is the interpretation of EGŌ EIMI, "I am," that is, I am YHWH the eternal One. In other words, context always wins.

 

 

INDEX: 

 

   In 1950 the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society produced a revised translation of the Bible called: New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (hereafter NWT). The entire work was originally released in six volumes, from 1950 (starting with the New Testament) to 1960. However, the NWT went through a series of revisions: 1961, 1970, 1971, and 1984. Extraordinarily naive in the area of textual study, the JWs bolster as to the scholarship of the NWT. They point out that in the forward of the NWT, the names of the translators are not mentioned, "due to their humility." Although, the reason being, is that the translators were anything but scholarly.

 

 But, we do know who they were. They included, Nathan H. Knorr (president of the WT at that time) Frederick W. Franz (who was the next president) Albert D. Schroeder, George Gangas, and Milton G. Henschel (current president). In point of fact, none of these men had a Greek or Hebrew education, except Franz who left school after two years, never completing even an undergraduate degree.1 Besides Franz, their education did not exceed high school!

   

What is interesting is that in 1984 the Watchtower produced a Greek interlinear called: The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures (hereafter KIT). A Greek interlinear of the New Testament has Greek on one side and the English translation on the other side. In spite of the translational contamination that flows through the pages of the NWT, the KIT is a fairly accurate representation of the Greek text.2 However, what I find extremely problematic, is that in the KIT, the English side (NWT), disagrees with the WT's own Greek translation at many places! (e.g., Matt. 25:46; John 1:1; 8:58; Col. 1:16-17; 2:9; etc.; as shown below). Therefore, it is wise to use the KIT when dialoguing with the JWs. You can pick one up at your local Kingdom Hall. Just kindly ask for one (but do this before you engage in dialogue with them.

   

As we will see clearly the NWT recklessly deviates from the Greek and Hebrew text. They deceptively change, omit, and add, only to force in its distinct prior theological commitments, hence making sure that the devotees of the Watchtower are "correctly taught." A full treatment of the NWT will not be necessary at this time, but I would like to analyze key significant passages that specifically deal with the deity of Jesus Christ. Whereby evaluating the way in which the NWT changes the text to make fit the distinctive doctrines of the Watchtower.

   

The following texts will be analyzed grammatically, contextually, and of course, in its proper historical setting as well. Then, we can draw-out (i.e., exegesis) the intended meaning of the New Testament authors. This is what Christians are supposed to do. What I have found in my many years of study and research in dealing with the theology of non-Christian cults is that they all have one unchangeable commonality: In their method of interpretation, they always read into the text (i.e., eisegesis) to support their prior-theological commitments, never letting the text read for itself.



THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

 

JOHN 1:1

In the beginning was [en] the Word, and the Word was with God [pros ton theon], and the Word was God [kai theos en ho logos].

The wording of John 1:1 is precise. Hence, to the Apostle John: The Eternal Word was God. Scripture is verbally inspired, that is, not only are the words "God-breathed out" (theopneustos; cf. 2 Tim. 3:16), but the syntax and grammatical structure of each individual passage was inspired.3

ēn arche ēn ho logos, kai ho logos ē pros ton theon, kai theos ēn ho logos.

In [the] beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God, and God was the Word.

Notice John 1:1c: kai theos en ho logos, "and God was the Word." This, to be grammatically sure, is one of the clearest examples in Scripture where Jesus is presented as fully God. And, that is why the NWT had to change the reading to:

In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god (emphasis added).

And what is the Watchtower explanation, or should I say, grammatical justification, for de-capitalizing "God" and inserting the indefinite article "a"?. Well, basically they give us two reasons.



Reason #1:

John 1:1 shows that the Word was with God, he could not be God but was "a god," or "divine" (from the Watchtower booklet: Should You Believe in the Trinity?, 27)

Hence, the JWs argue: "How can Jesus be God when he is "with" God?" Yet, this is consistent with the doctrine of the Trinity: Jesus is not the Father; they are distinct Persons. This kind of misrepresentation is typical of the JWs, that so often assert, that the "evil" denominations of Christendom teach that Jesus and the Father are the same Person, which of course is Modalism not Trinitarianism.


And Reason # 2:

there is no article [the] before the second theos [God] at John 1:1. So a literal translation would read, and the god was the Word (Should You Believe in the Trinity?, 27).

The Koine Greek language had a definite article ("the"), but it did not have an indefinite article ("a" or "an"). So when a predicate noun is not preceded by the definite article, it may be indefinite, depending on the context (ibid.)

In other words, the JWs explain, since there is no definite article ("the") before the second occurrence of "God" (theos not ho theos; John 1:1c) the "Word" (Jesus) is therefore merely "godlike," ("a god") and is not equal with "The God" (ton theon, John 1:1b). In the JW's mind then, only Jehovah the  Almighty (the Father) can be called: "The God" ("God" with the article). Hence they imposed a grammatical rule: anarthrous = indefinite. (i.e., anarthrous nouns are nouns that lack the article). 

 


A BIBLICAL RESPONSE

First, as reiterated over and over: The entire content of biblical revelation affirms the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, not a grammatical rule or an isolate passage here and there. Here in the prologue (vv. 1-18) it is the context (and not necessarily a Greek rule in 1:1) that clearly affirms Jesus as God in the flesh: The Word was always in the beginning, with (distinct from) God the Father and He was Himself God, but not the person of the Father (1:1); in Him was Life (v. 4); John the Baptist was a witness to the Word (v. 6); The Word was the Creator of the world (v. 10); He became flesh (v. 14); and He is the unique ("one and only") God who is always at the Father's bosom (v. 18).                 

 

 

 

Lower Case "g"?

 

Concerning the lower case "g," the unlearned JW asserts: "the reading a god helps the context." Though it only "helps" the JWs support their conclusion that they are trying to reach, namely-- that Jesus is not God. However, any student of Greek is well aware of the fact that the original New Testament Greek was written in capital letters only! (with no punctuation). Lower case letters were not used in manuscripts until about the ninth century. Hence if you were to pick up a Greek copy of John 1:1: from the he first century, it would read:  enarchhnologoSkaiologoShnproStonqeonkaiqeoShnologoS  

 

 

"a" god?

 

    Ignorant of first century Greek, most JWs are not aware that there were no indefinite articles (e.g., "a," "an") in New Testament Koine Greek. As we will see below, of theos ("God") in John 1:1c cannot be rendered as indefinite ("a god"). This would contradict (a) Greek  grammar and (b) the Apostle John's theology (e.g., John 1:18; 8:24, 58; 20:28 etc.). There are three semantic categories to which the anarthrous theos may belong to: Definite, Indefinite, or Qualitative. To which category theos belongs to is determined by the syntax and the context of the passage.

 


Is theos Definite?:
"The God"

 

If theos were to be tagged as definite it would indeed force Modalism into John 1:1. For if John would have said (1:1c): ho theos ēn ho logos (“the God was the Word ) the grammar would have clearly indicated that ho theos (i.e., the Word) and ton theon (i.e., the Father) were interchangeable—the same Person.” This kind of construction, i.e., the subject (logos) being interchangeable with the predicate (theos) is known as a convertible proposition (in contrast to a subset proposition). Hence if he had, as pointed out by many Christian theologians throughout the years, he would have been teaching a heretical doctrine called Sabellianism, (or Modalism).4  New Testament scholar Murray J. Harris indicates that

 what is grammatically admissible [viz. the rendering: ho theos ēn ho logos] is contextually inadmissible. If  o qeoj  were taken as subject and as equivalent to o qeoj . . . the clause would contradict what precedes (“the Word was with God,” distinguishing two persons) and would reduce the logoj to merely a divine attribute (cf. 1 John 4:8: o qeoj agaph estion) [ho theos agapē estin] (Murray J. Harris, Jesus as God: The New Testament Usage of Theos in Reference to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), 61.

Recognized Greek grammarian A. T. Robertson comments on the way John guards against Sabellianism (i.e., Modalism):

 And the Word was God. (kai theos ēn ho logos). By exact and careful language John denied Sabellianism by not saying ho logos ēn ho theos. That would mean that all of God was expressed in ho logos and the terms would be interchangeable, each having the article (Word Pictures in the New Testament, 5:4.

Also, because of a sizeable misunderstanding of E. C. Colwell’s grammatical rule (esp. asserting the converse; see Colwell, “A Definite Rule,” Journal of Biblical Literature 52 [1933]: 20), many well-meaning Christian apologists and counter-cult writers have incorrectly regarded theos as definite. And forty years after Colwell wrote his essay, Philip B. Harner published an expanded work which he greatly examined the word order and the probable (and improbable) semantic tags of theos in John 1:1c. Harner explained

[qeoj, theos] with an anarthrous predicate, would mean that logos and theos are equivalent and interchangeable. There would be no ho theos which is not also ho logos. But this equation of the two would contradict the preceding clause of 1: 1, in which John writes that ho logos hn theos [“was God”]. This clause suggests relationship, and thus some form of “personal” differentiation, between the two. . . . (Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns,” JBL 92 [1973]: 85).

Many have pointed out the theological implication (Modalism) of a definitized theos. In sharp contrast to a definite tag, prominent Greek scholar Daniel B. Wallace observes:

Further, calling qeoj in 1:1c definite is the same as saying that if it had followed verb it would have had the article. . . . (i.e., “the Word” = “God” and “God” = “the Word”). The problem with this argument is that the qeoj in 1:1b is the Father. . . . This, as older grammarians and exegetes point out, is embryonic Sabellianism or Modalism. The Fourth Gospel is about the least likely place to find Modalism in the NT.5 

 

Further, to definitize theos would fully confound John 1:1b: “the Word was with [ pros] the God” (emphasis added). Throughout John’s gospel the three Persons of the Trinity are constantly differentiated (esp. chaps. 14-16). Therefore, to say that theos is definite (i.e., a convertible proposition) would clearly induct a unitarian/modalistic concept of God into the passage. Hence, in light of the context and John’s own theology (i.e., distinction between the Persons of the Trinity), theos cannot be tagged as definite

 

 

 Is theos Indefinite?: "a god"

 

 By the insertion of an indefinite article, "a" implies that the Jesus is one of an indefinite number of gods and hence introduces polytheism into the text, something that John (a monotheistic Jew) would have never taught. Theos (John 1:1c) is anarthrous (i.e., lacking the article). Anarthrous nouns however, do not necessarily mean that the noun is indefinite, as dogmatically argued by the JWs. 

 

For if the NWT were to be consistent, then John 1:6 should read: “There came a man sent from a god. . . .” Verse 12 should read: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of a god. . . .” Verse 13 should read: “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor the will of man, but of a god.” And verse 18 should read: “No one has seen a god. . . .” That John envisaged Jesus as an indefinite “a god” would be cacophonous with his entire presentation of Christ as fully God (e.g., 8:24; 58; 20:28; 1 John 5:20).

 

Besides the polytheism that an indefinite rendering produces there are two additional problems with an indefinite tag. First, theos is placed in the emphatic position, which makes an indefinite rendering all the more improbable. And second, John 1:1a indicates clearly that the Word was eternal: “In the beginning was [ēn] the Word . . . .” (emphasis added). Note that the Greek verb ēn ("was") is the imperfect tense of eimi. The force of an imperfect tense indicates a continuous action normally occurring in the past. Hence, the Word did not originate at a point in time, but rather in the beginning of time the Word, ēn, already existing. And the Word is said to be the Agent of creation: “All things came into being through Him. . . . [ di’ autou,] (1:3; emphasis added; note dia + gen.; cf. Col. 1:16-17).

 

Moreover the anarthrous theos occurs 282 times in the New Testament. Sixteen out of 282 times was the NWT faithful to their indefinite rule: anarthrous = indefinite, translating the anarthrous theos either as "a god," "god," "gods" or "godly" (cf. note #5 above). So, if the NWT were consistent with their rule, why then did they not translate the anarthrous theos as "a god" the other 266 times in the New Testament?

    In the prologue of John (1:1-18) theos is without the article in verses 1, 6, 12, 13 and 18 and in verses 6, 12, 13, and 18 theos is referring to the "Father," whom JWs say is Jehovah. But yet the NWT does stay consistent, for none of the occurrences of the anarthrous theos are translated as "a god." Suspicious to say the least.

 

 It should also be pointed out that the NWT calls Jehovah "a God" in Luke 20:38. In fact, there are many places in the New Testament where the anarthrous theos (i.e., "God" without the article) refers specifically to the Father, whom JWs say is Jehovah (John 1:6; 12, 13; 3:2, 21; 1 Cor. 1:1; Rom. 8:33; Eph. 1:1; 1 Thess. 1:9; Titus 1:1). Paul's salutations: "Grace and peace to you from God our Father [apo theou patros] and the Lord Jesus Christ").Therefore, even according to the NWT, theos (or any of its forms) without the article does necessarily not mean less than Jehovah since Jehovah (the Father) is called theos without the article.

 

 Even more, there are many verses with the same construction as John 1:1: two occurrences of "God" one with and one without the article, that refer to the Father (Jehovah) (e.g., John 3:2; Rom. 1:21; 1 Thess. 1:9; see Gk.). Further, the JWs insist that Jesus is not the "Almighty" God because he is never called "the God" that is, "God," preceded by the article "the" (i.e., Gk. ho theos). However Jesus IS called "THE GOD" (ho theos, "the God"): Matthew 1:23; John 20:28; 2 Thessalonians 1:12; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 2:1; Hebrews 1:8; 1 John 5:20  (see Gk. text). Again, their own KIT Greek text can be used to demonstrate this, especially in John 20:28 where Thomas addresses Jesus, "the God!" (ho theos).



Is theos Qualitative?: "God"

 

   In view of John’s theology, along with the grammar and context, the highest semantical possibility for theos is qualitative. Commenting on the probability of theos being qualitative Wallace also points out:

The most likely candidate for qeoj is qualitative. This is true both grammatically (for the largest proportion of pre-verbal anarthrous predicate nominatives fall into this category)6 and theologically (both the theology of the Fourth Gospel and of the NT as a whole).7 

 

 As the predicate nominative (pre-verbal)  theos is the category or class to which the divine Logos belongs. Hence, the Word as to His essence or nature was definitely God. The Word (theos; 1:1c) was identical to God (theon; 1:1b), not in identity however, but identical (coequal) in terms of ontological “quality.” Note the following examples of a qualitative force: John 1:14 reads “the Word became flesh [sarx egeneto]” (emphasis added), not “a flesh” (indefinite), or “the flesh” (definite), but “flesh”—as to His nature (qualitative). John 4:24 reads “God is spirit. . . .” [pneuma ho theos], not “a spirit,” or “the Spirit,” but “spirit”—as to God’s essence or nature (qualitative). Therefore, in John 1:1c theos is the class or category to which the eternal Word belongs.

 

What is more, the semantical assertion offered by the JWs to justify the “a god” rendering is completely self-refuting. In most WT publications the Word is viewed as “qualitative” per se. They even quote Philip Harner to attempt to illustrate this:

 

Philip B. Harner said that such clauses as the one in John 1:1, “with an anarthrous predicate preceding the verb, are primarily qualitative in meaning. They indicate that the logos has the nature of theos.” He suggests: “Perhaps the clause could be translated, ‘the Word had the same nature as God.’” (Journal of Biblical Literature, 1973, pp. 85, 87).

 

The WT’s Kingdom Interlinear Translation explains that “a singular anarthrous predicate noun preceding the verb points to a quality about someone. . . . ” (1139). And it goes on the say that “translators have rendered singular anarthrous predicate nouns occurring before the verb with an indefinite article [“a god”] to denote the indefinite and qualitative status of the subject nouns” (1140). However, when citing Harner the WT deliberately failed to quote the next sentence. Harner did say, “Perhaps the clause could be translated, ‘the Word had the same nature as God.’” But in the very next breath Harner stated, “This would be one way of representing John’s thought, which is, as I understand it, that ho logos, no less than ho theos, had the nature of theos.” The JWs, for obvious reasons, ignored Harner’s entire work on the subject and only quoted selective parts. In point of fact, Harner believed that the Word was fully theos, distinct from His Father. 

 

 Therefore, the JWs argue naively that the Word was “qualitative,” which is actually correct. But because of their lack of knowledge in Greek grammar they unknowingly refute their own position: insisting that  theos is qualitative and yet rendering it in the NWT as indefinite (“a god”). If John had wanted to communicate that theos (1:1c) was “godlike,” “divine,” or “a god” as the JWs say (cf. Should You Believe in the Trinity?, 27), he certainly had the terms handy to accomplish this. But no standard Greek lexicon offers “divine” as one of the meanings of theos, nor does the noun become an adjective when it is anarthrous. Harris further shows that the context commands that qeo/j, theos be qualitative:

Having distinguished the Logos from the Father (ton qeon, 1:1b), John wished to point to their commonality, not merely in purpose but in being (theos). Like the Father, and equally with Him, the Logos may be included within the category of Deity as a partaker in the divine essence. . . . this anarthrous qeo/j also confirms that the articular logos is the subject of the clause and excludes the inference that the Word exhausts the category of Deity or that the Son was the Father (Harris, Jesus as God, 67).

In conclusion, the Word as to His very nature (hupostaseos; cf. Heb. 1:3) was God. Though God, He was not the very Person of Father, in which case theos (1:1c) would be definite. Nor was He one of a pantheon of gods or aeons (an indefinite theos, [“a god”]). But as to His inherent sum quality, He possessed all the fullness (plērōma) of God (theos) in human flesh (sarx), as Scripture loudly presents: THE WORD WAS GOD.


 

Theos and Theon

 

    One more point that should be brought to light. Sometimes the JWs will try to argue that in John 1:1, the Father is called theon and the Word (Jesus) is called theos. They unknowingly assume that term theon is the Father, that is, Jehovah and theos is an inferior term, as seen in their translation of John 1:1c: theos "was a god." But in point of grammatical fact, theos and theon are two forms of the same word: God. Greek nouns change form according to their function in the sentence (i.e.,  subject, object direct object, case, gender,  number, etc.) 

 

Hence, theos has a different ending than theon due to the fact that theos is the subject and theon is the direct object in the clause. Example in John 1:18 God theos  (Jesus) is the subject and theon (the Father) is the object of the clause. Notice that the Father is called theon there, but in 3:16 the Father is called theos. In Romans 1:1 God the Father is called theou. And in Titus 3:8 the Father is called theo. As seen above, there are many places in the New Testament where the Father was called qeo\j, theos (or one of its forms) without the article. Most students learn about case endings in their first two weeks of Greek.  Of course, the JWs are extremely adrift when it comes to independent study, in which they are highly discouraged to engage in.

 

RE-CAP

 

The NWT Clearly Forces their Theological Bias into their Text.

 

1. They translate John 1:1c as, the Word was a god." Unaware of the fact that the original New Testament Greek, was written in only capitals; no smaller case until about the ninth century. Hence, no little g.

 

2. There were no indefinite articles ("a," "an") in New Testament Koine Greek.

 

3. There is no quality deference of the term theos (God) (or any of it forms; e.g., theo, theou, theon, etc.) with the article "the" or without the article. Example, John 3:2; Romans 1:21; 1 Thessalonians 1:9 etc., has the same construction as John 1:1: two occurrences of "God" one with the article and one without. In other words whether the verse says "God" or "the God" has to do with the grammatical structure of the sentence, as demonstrated above.

 

Furthermore, there are many places in Scripture where theos does not have the article (282 times in the NT). But only at sixteen places does the NWT translate these anarthrous occurrences of theos as indefinite. Hence, they were faithful to their translation principle only six- percent of the time.8    Many places in Scripture where God the Father is called "God" without the article. Example, in the prologue of John (1:1-18) theos without the article occurs in verse 6, 12, 13, and 18, all referring to the Father. So, if the NWT were consistent with their rule: theos without the article equals indefinite, why then, did they not translate those verses as "a god?" In the NWT "Jehovah" is called "a God" (cf. Luke 20:38).

 

4. Both grammatically and theologically theos is ("God") in John 1:1c is qualitative. Grammatically, as Greek scholars have pointed out: most all pre-verbal anarthrous predicate nominatives9 (in which the noun theos is; John 1:1c) falls under this category. According Greek grammarian, Paul Stephen Dixon, "if qeoj (theos) were indefinite in John 1:1, it would be the only anarthrous pre-verbal PN [predicate nominative] in John's Gospel to be so."10

And theological, due to John's own theology: The Word was eternal (En arche ēn ho logos, kai ho logos ēn pros ton theon, kai theos ēn ho logos, John 1:1). The word translated "was" is from the Greek verb  ēn which is a imperfect tense. Hence grammatically indicates that the Word did not have, contrary to the JW's doctrine, a starting point or begining.11  The Word was fully God (1:1). Jesus was, "the Lord . . . and the God. . . " (20:28:  ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou). Jesus was the absolute I AM (egō eimi; 8:24, 28, 58, 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8). Jesus is the true God (I John 5:20). And Jesus was Creator of ALL THINGS (1:3). 

 

Obvious is the fact that the Watchtower has no Greek scholars, Christian theologians, or historians in their organization. The NWT’s insertion of "a" in John 1:1 does violence to the text because it makes the Bible teach polytheism, that is, the belief in more than one true God. The big God being Jehovah and the junior god being Jesus. Scripture knows of only one true God (cf. Deut. 6:4; Isa. 43:10; 1 Tim. 2:5; Gal. 4:8).

 

Ask the JWs, "If the Bible says that there is only one true God by nature, whereas any other things called "god" are false gods (Gal. 4:8) so when Jesus is called "a god" in John 1:1 (NWT), is Jesus a true God or a false God?" Even the JW’s NWT declares that there is no "a" God: "Does their exist a God besides me?" (Isa. 44:8).

 

 But remember: The entire content of biblical revelation affirms the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, not an isolate passage or grammatical rule. Here in the prologue (vv. 1-18) it is the context (and not necessarily a Greek rule in 1:1) that clearly affirms Jesus as God in the flesh: The Word was always in the beginning, with (distinct from) God the Father and He was Himself God, but not the person of the Father (1:1); in Him was Life (v. 4); John the Baptist was a witness to the Word (v. 6); The Word was the Creator of the world (v. 10); He became flesh (v. 14); and He is the unique ("one and only") God who is always at the Father's bosom (v. 18).   

 


 

 

 


JOHN 8:58: egō eimi ("I AM")
   
 

"Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." So the Jew's said to Him, 'you are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?' Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM!" [egō eimi]. Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple (John 8:56-59; emphasis added).

 

Note: In spite of the technical discussion presented below, as mentioned regarding the NWT’s rendering “I have been” here, the Greek is not in isolate. It is the entire *context* of John's literature that defines the verb's (EIMI, “am”) import as a clear affirmation of deity (and also the verb's contrast with EGENETO-- "before Abraham came to be" and the response of the Jews in v. 59).

 So, when 8:58 is seen in the contextual light of 1:1, 3, 18; 5:17-18; 8:24, et al; 20:28; Rev. 22:13; for example, is the interpretation of EGŌ EIMI, "I am," that is, I am YHWH the eternal One. In other words, context always wins.

 

 

 

To circumvent the plain reading of the text: Jesus claiming to be the "I AM,"12 the NWT changes the reading from the Greek to read:

Jesus said to them: "Most truly I say to you, Before Abraham came into existence, I have been" (egō eimi;  John 8:58; NWT; emphasis added)

 

In his gospel and epistles, the Apostle John clearly and cogently presented the Person and finished work of Jesus the Christ. The Jesus that John passionately preached was God the eternal Word who became flesh. In the New Testament (primarily in John’s gospel), Jesus made seven (possibly eight) “absolute”13 egō eimi (“I AM”) declarations. These would be Mark 6:5014;14 John 8:24; 8:28; 8:58; 13:19; 18:5; 18:6; and 18:8.

To understand the full theological significance of the phrase egō eimi the Old Testament background must first be considered. Most commentators and well meaning Christians seize John 8:58 and then hastily connect it with Exodus 3:14. However, the JWs (and other Arian and unitarian groups) will quickly appeal this so-called correlation. They will correctly note that the Septuagint (hereafter LXX) of Exodus 3:14 reads,  Egō eimi ho ōn (“I am the Being” or “Existing One”). And hence it is not the same as Jesus’ statement in John 8:585 But this type of argumentation is, of course, special pleading.

There is, though, a solid connection between Jesus’ divine claim in John 8:58 and Exodus 3:14. However, to envisage the full theological impact of Jesus’ divine declarative, egō eimi should be contextually juxtaposed with the Hebrew phrase ani hu (“I am He”). The import of the phrase  egō eimi is directly connected to the Hebrew phrase ani hu. This phrase was a frequent title for Yahweh (esp. in Isa.), in which the LXX renders as  egō eimi, “I AM” (e.g., Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4). Thus, the Jews understood clearly that  egō eimi was a title reserved for Yahweh alone. I will expand on this point shortly.

 

 

 Egō eimi: Eternal God or pre-Abrahamic Angel

 

 The NWT to renders the present active indicative  eimi (“am”) as a past tense, “I have been.” In order to justify the NWT’s rendering the JWs assert that  eimi should be seen as a “historical present” or (less frequently) a “perfect indicative” verb. But before dealing with these two assertions, it should be noted that the 1950 edition of the NWT posited a deceptively different argument. On page 312, there is a footnote referring to the “I have been” rendering which says:

 I have been— egw eimi . . . properly rendered in the perfect indefinite tense. It is not the same as o wn (ho ōn’, meaning “The Being” or “The I Am”) at Exodus 3:14, LXX (emphasis added).

 

    This sounds legitimate to the grammatically unschooled. However, Greek does not provide such a rendering as a “perfect indefinite.” In truth, the WT made up a phony tense in order to deceive the doctrinally dependent JWs.

Dealing first with the main assertion that eimi is a “historical present.”16 The WT explains that “The verb ei·mi’, at John 8:58, is evidently in the historical present, as Jesus was speaking about himself in relation to Abraham’s past” (emphasis added).17  It is in this sense then that the JWs see Jesus as merely claiming that He preexisted Abraham. This, according to the JWs, enraged the Jews to the point of wanting to stone Him (cf. v. 59):

 

The question of the Jews (verse 57) to which Jesus was replying had to do with age, not identity. Jesus’ reply logically dealt with his age, the length of his existence (emphasis added).18

 

However, as I will show, the assertion that  eimi is a “historical present” is grammatically and contextually flawed. First, a historical present tense occurs primarily in narrative literature and only in third person.19 And in this context, Jesus was arguing with the Jews—He was not narrating. Second, the equative verb eimi is not used as a historical present. Wallace exegetically amplifies the major defects of the JWs historical present view:

 The text [John 8:58] reads: prin  Abraam genesqai egw eimi (“before Abram was, I am”). On this text, Dennis Light wrote an article in defense of the New World Translation in the Bible Collector (July-December, 1971). In his article he discusses egw eimi, which the New World Translation renders, “I have been.” Light defended this translation by saying, “The Greek verb eimi, literally present tense, must be viewed as a historical present, because of being preceded by the aorist infinitive clause referring to Abraham’s past” (p. 8). This argument has several flaws in it: (1) The fact that the present tense follows an aorist infinitive has nothing to do with how it should be rendered. In fact, historical presents are usually wedged in between aorist (or imperfect) indicatives, not infinitives. (2) If this is a historical present, it is apparently the only historical present in the NT that uses the equative verb eimi. The burden of proof, therefore, lies with the one who sees eimi as ever being used as a historical present. (3) If this is a historical present, it is apparently the only historical present in the NT that is in other than third person.20

 

The weight against the historical present view is massive. The reason for this assertion is of course glaringly obvious. And the far less used assertion that eimi is a “perfect indicative” can be promptly dismissed. As the WT dishonestly fabricated a phony tense (i.e., “perfect indefinite”), they dishonestly misrepresented yet another tense. Even though there is a “perfect indicative” in Greek, there is no such form of eimi. This should not be a surprise, for the WT has no Greek scholars or grammarians involved in their organization.

 

There is also a significant contextual feature that the JWs do not consider. In John 8:58, egō eimi (“I AM”) is set in sharp contrast to genesthai (“was born”). Jesus drew a shining contrast between Abraham, who had a beginning (“was born”),21 and Himself, who eternally existed (“I AM”).22 Hence Jesus distinguished Abraham’s origination with His unoriginate existence. The same contrast can be seen in the prologue of John (vv. 1-14). The imperfect verb ēn (“was”), which denotes eternal existence,23 is exclusively applied to the Word in verses 1, 2, 4, 9, and 10. And  egeneto (“became”)24  refers to all things that came into existence or had a starting point (e.g., the creation, vv. 3, 10; John the Baptist, v. 6). It is not until verse 14 that egeneto is applied to the Word (pertaining to His incarnation): Kai ho logos sarx egeneto (“And the Word flesh became”). The always-existing Word, as John declares, “became flesh.”25 The contrast supplied in John 8:58 (eimi vs. genesthai) clearly distinguishes Abraham’s origin and Jesus’ timeless existence.26

 

 

Egō eimi and the LXX

 

 

As seen above, the JWs take issue with the LXX rendering of Exodus 3:14:

the Greek Septuagint Version . . . reads, e·go’ ei·mi’ ho Ohn’, “I am the Being.” This is quite different from the simple use of the words e·go’ ei·mi’ (I am) at John 8:58.27

 

However, the deception of the WT is quite see-through. For in the NWT Exodus 3:14 reads:

 

At this God said to Moses: “I SHALL PROVE TO BE WHAT SHALL PROVE TO BE” And he added: “This is what you are to say to the sons of Israel, ‘I SHALL PROVE TO BE has sent me to you.’”

 

Of course, this rendering exists in translational solitude. There is no justification to translate the Hebrew Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh28 as “I shall prove to be what I shall prove to be.” To circumvent the theological relationship between John 8:58 and Exodus 3:14 a footnote is provided in the NWT at Exodus 3:14:

 

“I shall prove to be.” This is one word in Hebrew namely, (Eh-yeh’), and may be rendered “I shall become.” LXX reads: “The existing One [ho On]. Vg. reads: “He who is [Qui est].

 

The WT carefully suppressed the latter phrase in the LXX, as if God only said, ho ōn. The LXX renders God Himself as saying: kai eipen ho theos pros Mōusēn egō eimi ho ōn (“and said the God to Moses I AM the Being”; emphasis added). Unquestionably, I see Jesus’ statement of egō eimi as a pointed parallel to the LXX rendering. Considering as well that the LXX was a practical corresponding translation of the Hebrew Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh. Hence, the Exodus 3:14 (LXX) to John 8:58 correlation is quite compelling. In John 8:58 Wallace positively sees Jesus drawing from the LXX and the observable reason for the WTs denial of it:

 

if egw eimi is not a historical present, then Jesus is here claiming to be the one who spoke to Moses at the burning bush, the I AM, the eternally existing One, Yahweh (cf. Exod 3:14 in the LXX, egw eimi o wn).29

 

 

Egō eimi: Absolute Deity

 

As briefly discussed, the Old Testament background plays a most vital role in accurately determining the meaning of  egō eimi. The Hebrew phrase ani hu which was translated as  egō eimi in the LXX was an exclusive and recurring title for YHWH (cf. Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 48:12). Again, Jesus claimed to be the  egō eimi (“I AM”) in the absolute seven (or eight) times (cf. Mark 6:50; John 8:24; 8:28; 58; 13:19; 18:5; 6, 8). In fact, in John 13:19 Jesus’ words are identical (minus the extraneous words) with Isaiah 43:10 (LXX):

 

John 13:19: “that you may believe . . . that I am [hina pisteuēte . . . hoti egō eimi].”

Isaiah 43:10:
“that you may . . . believe . . . that I am [hina . . . pisteuēte . . . hoti egō eimi].”

 

 

    In conclusion, when Jesus Christ claimed to be the egō eimi He purposefully and appropriately applied the divine name to Himself. And the Jews unequivocally knew what He meant: “Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him. . . .” (v. 59). If He were merely claiming that He preexisted Abraham, as the JWs assert, He certainly would not have been a candidate for stoning (cf. John 10:30-33).30 Jesus definitively claimed that He was the Yahweh of the Old Testament.31 Hence, at John 8:58 most meaningful translations render egō eimi correctly as “I AM.” “Undoubtedly,” says Robertson, “here [John 8:58] Jesus claims eternal existence with the absolute phrase [i.e., egō eimi] used of God.”32. Again, the immediate and document context shuts does the arguments against the deity of Christ--The Jews "picked up stones to throw at Him" (same response in John 5:17-18 and 10:30-34 where Jesus made unequivocal claims to be equal wit God).

 

The JWs err in their struggle to maintain their a priori view of Christ as a created angel. It is of no wonder that the JWs have postulated a variety of reasons as to why  egō  eimi  should be translated as “I have been.”33 The Christian church to demonstrate that Jesus was and claimed to be the eternal God has consistently used this wonderful passage. John Chrysostom (c. A.D. 389) bishop of Constantinople rightly concludes:

 But wherefore said He not, “Before Abraham was, I was,” instead of “I Am”? As the Father useth this expression, “I Am,” so also doth Christ; for it signifieth continuous Being, irrespective of all time. On which account the expression seemed to them to be blasphemous. Now if they could not bear the comparison with Abraham, although this was but a trifling one, had He continually made Himself equal to the Father, would they ever have ceased casting stones at Him?34

 


 

 

Colossians 1:15-17

 

[15] He is the image of the invisible God [tou theou tou aoratou], the firstborn [prōtotokos] of all creation. 

[16] For by Him [en auto] all things [panta] were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things [panta] have been created through Him [di’ autou] and for Him [eis auton]. 

[17] He is before all things, [autos estin pro panton] and in Him [en autō] all things [panta] hold together (emphasis added).

 

    As seen clearly the NWT forbids the biblical text to speak for itself. The first allegiance of the NWT is the WT’s a priori theological assumptions. Most textual “adjustments” (from the original) are mainly Christological—denying the deity of Jesus Christ. Pledged to annihilate the deity of Jesus Christ the NWT inserted “other” before “things” four times in Colossians 1:16-17, making Jesus the creator of all “other” things (other than Himself):

“by means of all [other] things . . .  All [other] things have been created  . . . he is before all [other] things . . . all [other] things were made to exist.”  

    The reasons that underlie the textual and translational perversion here were two-fold: (1) The JWs fixed denial of the deity of Christ, (2) An unfamiliarity with the grammatical and historical nuts and bolts of Colossians. But again, here in Colossians (1:15-17) Paul was refuting the Gnostic idea of Jesus not being the Creator of “all things.” 

Hence, to say that Jesus merely created all “other” things would have made Paul’s argument completely vacuous. But what makes the NWT’s “other” insertion (also inserted at Phil. 2:10) extra unwarranted is the exact language that Paul used. First, Paul says that Jesus is the very image (eikōn) of the invisible God (v. 15). Only, as true God (ontologically) Jesus can BE the very “image” of the invisible God. No creature can make this claim. Robertson explains:

The image. (eikon). In predicate and no article . . . Jesus is the very stamp of God the Father as he was before the Incarnation (Robertson, Word Pictures, 4:477).

As perfect God, Jesus is the “exact representation” (charaktēr) of the Father’s “nature” (hupostaseōs; cf. Heb. 1:3). Next, Paul salutes Jesus as “firstborn” of all creation (see above n.). Then in verses 16 and 17 Paul teaches in the strongest way possible that Jesus is the actual Agent of creation. Note the clear and potent way he presents this: “By Him [en auto] all things [panta] were created . . . all things [panta] have been created through Him [di’ autou] and for Him [eis auton]. He is before [autos estin pro panton] all things [panta], and in Him [en autō] all things [panta] hold together.” Note the following grammatical aspects: 

    1. Paul employs the neuter panta (“all things”), which indicates that in Paul’s mind Jesus was the Creator.

    2. Paul utilizes different prepositions to amplify his case: All things were created “by Him” (en + dat.); “through Him” (dia + gen.); “for Him” (eis + acc.); and “in Him” (en + dat.).

    3. Paul specifically says that “all things” were created “through” (dia) the Son. The preposition dia followed by the genitive (autou) indicates that Jesus was not merely an instrument but rather the Creator Himself (also dia +gen. at John 1:3; 1 Cor. 8:6; and Heb. 1:2). There is no stronger way in Greek in which Paul could have communicated that the Son was the real and actual Agent of creation. Hence, the NWT’s insertion of “other” cannot stand grammatically; it changes the intended meaning of the text, and it ignores the chief theme of the letter. It should be revealed that in the 1950 ed. of the NWT all the insertions of “other” (e.g., Col. 1:16-17; Phil. 2:9). Did not have brackets around the word “other” to imply that “other” was in the original. 

 

And again in COMPLETE opposition with the Greek and their KIT, which reads: ...exarisato autō to onoma to huper pan onoma...(lit. "gave to Him the name above every name"). Also  the grammatical significance of verses 10 –11 brings out the full import of the term “name” (onomati; v. 10). In verse 10 the Greek literally reads: “in order that in the name Jesus every knee should bend. . . . ” (hina en to onomati Iēsou pan gonu kampsē. . . . ). What the grammar of the text indicates, is that, it is not  the mere name of “Jesus” that was the “highest name,” for “Jesus” was a common name in first century Palestine, but rather it was the name that belong to Jesus. Jesus (Iēsou) is in the genitive case, i.e., a genitive of possession,  i.e., the name that Jesus possesses. And the name that belongs to Jesus is revealed in verse 11: “Jesus Christ is Lord . . .” (Paul here drawing loosely from Isaiah 45:23), that is, Yahweh, to the glory of the Father. The name that belongs to Jesus is the highest most holy name: YHWH, that is, Jesus Christ is LORD.  

 

Even more, Watchtower apologist Greg Stafford attempts to circumvent the obvious when he states: 

 

The fact that he [Jesus] is excluded from ‘all things’ (ta panta) does not mean he is excluded from ‘all creation’ (pases ktiseos). . . . Thus the genitive pases ktiseos is properly seen as partitive, including Christ in the collective group of created things, but dignified above it as ‘first born.’ (Greg Stafford, Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended [Huntington Beach: Elihu Books, 1998], 100). 

 

That Jesus was excluded “from all things” but in “the collective group of created things” is double-talk. There is no distinction made between “all things” and “all creation.” “All things” is precisely what Paul meant; Stafford here postulates a partitive genitive. Stafford uses technical terms that can be seemly convincing to untrained JWs. However, Stafford errs in his analysis. In verses 15-17 the Son is in comparison to “all things” (including “all creation”), hence, pases ktiseos is a genitive of comparison. Furthermore, commenting on the force of prōtotokos (v. 15) and the comparison of Christ as Creator and “all things,” Robertson remarks:

The word does not show what Arius [and the JWs] argued that Paul relegated Christ as a creature like “all creation” (pases kitseos, by metonomy the act regarded as result). It is rather the comparative (superlative) force of protos that is used (first–born of all creation) as in Col. 1:18; Rom. 8:29; Heb. 1:6; Heb. 12:23; Rev. 1:5. Paul is here refuting the Gnostics who pictured Christ as one of the aeons by placing him before “all creation” (angels and men)…. Paul takes both words [eikōn and prōtotokos] to help express the deity of Jesus Christ in his relation to the Father as eikōn ("image") and to the universe as prōtotokos (First-born) (Robertson, Word Pictures, 4:478).

    

"Firstborn"

 

Moreover in Colossians 1:15 Paul calls Jesus prōtotokos (“firstborn”). JWs erroneously think “firstborn” means “first created.” But this assertion would be totally foreign in a first century Jewish context. The word denotes “supremacy” or “first in rank” (cf. Exod. 4:22; Ps. 89:27) as the context of Colossians indicates. The anarthrous prōtotokos, denotes Jesus as “…having special status associated with a firstborn” (Bauer, A Greek English Lexicon, 894). Reymond extracts the true significance of the term:

 

Paul’s intention behind his description of Jesus as “the Firstborn of all creation” is a universe away from the Arian interpretation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that would insist that the word shows that the Son was the “first” of all other created things; the entire context demands the term is to be understood in the Hebraic sense as an ascription of priority of rank to the firstborn son who enjoys a special place in the father’s love. (Reymond, Systematic Theology, 251).

 

If Paul wanted to convey that Jesus was “first-created” he certainly could have used the word prōtoktistos meaning “first-created” to do so (cf. 2 Cor. 5:18: kaine ktisis, “new creation”).

 

Also, in the WT publication Aid to Bible Understanding the WT rightly admits:

 

David, who was the youngest son of Jesses, was called by Jehovah the "first-born," due to Jehovah’s elevation of David to the preeminent position in God's chosen nation (584).

 

 


 

 

COLOSSIANS 2:9

 

 For in Him [en autō] all the fullness [plērōma] of Deity [theotētos] dwells [katoikei] in bodily form [sōmatikōs]. . . . 

Preaching the incarnate Christ was a key feature of the Pauline corpus. Paul’s passion in proclaiming the two-natured Person was routinely affirmed and defended (e.g., Rom. 1:3-4; 9:5; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:6-7; Col. 2:9). In Colossians 2:9, Paul’s description of God the Son who became flesh was clear and cogent. Consequently, in order to maintain the WT’s God-man denial the NWT had to patently misrepresent the original words of Paul.

Before examining this text, the historical setting of the letter must be comprehensively considered. Historically, the letter to the Colossians was an anti-Gnostic35 polemic. The main characteristic of Gnostic thinking was dualistic: spirit vs. matter. Many Gnostics taught that the supreme God (i.e., “Bythos,” cf. Valentinus) was purely spirit, thus all created “matter” was essentially and inherently evil. 

 

Accordingly, they flatly rejected the idea that Jesus (who was a good god) possessed something as evil as a “fleshly” body. In stinging contrast the Apostle Paul at the beginning of his letter establishes Jesus Christ as prōtotokos (see above) the Agent of creation (1:15ff.). To declare that Jesus Christ was the Creator cuts through the Gnostic position that viewed Christ as a mere aeon, one of many emanating gods but not the supreme Deity. Only by understanding Paul’s chief purpose for writing the letter and the historical situation can correct exegesis be accomplished.

Evidently, the NWT’s rendering of Colossians 2:9 thoroughly downgrades God the Son to merely “godlike” or “divine” (as in John 1:1c “a god”). To support the rendering “divine quality” the WT booklet Reasoning from the Scriptures explains:

 

Admittedly, not everyone offers the same interpretation of Colossians 2:9. But what is in agreement with the rest of the inspired letter to the Colossians? Did Christ have in himself something that is his because he is God, part of a Trinity? Or is “the fullness” that dwells in him something that became his because of the decision of someone else? Colossians 1:19 (KJ, Dy) says that all fullness dwelt in Christ because it “pleased the Father” for this to be the case. NE says it was “by God’s own choice.”36

 

The booklet connects 1:19 with 2:9. Though in 1:19 Paul speaks of an undefined fullness whereas in 2:9 the fullness is clearly defined: pleroma tes theotētos (“fullness of the Deity”). The WT publication Insight on the Scriptures emphasizes further that Christ only possessed “divine quality” without of course being God Himself:

 

“The Word was itself of divine being.” By Menge: “And God (= of divine being) the Word was.” And by Thimme: “And God of a sort the Word was.” All these renderings highlight the quality of the Word, not his identity with his Father, the Almighty God. Being the Son of Jehovah God, he would have the divine quality, for divine means “godlike.”—Col 2:9. . . . 37

 

In one WT magazine, there was a section entitled “Questions from Readers.” Wherein the questioned was asked:

 

Why does the New World Translation at Colossians 2:9 state that in Jesus “all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily,” where as other translations state that in Jesus dwells the fullness of Deity or the Godhead?38

 

The answer was then given but according to WT theology:

 

At Colossians 2:9 the word in the Greek that the New World Translation renders “divine quality” is theótes, and this is the only use of the word in the Christian Greek Scriptures. The same is true of a similar Greek word, theiótes, which appears only at Romans 1:20, and which the New World Translation there renders “Godship.” The way these two words have been rendered in the New World Translation has given rise to the charge that the New World Bible Translation Committee let their religious beliefs influence them. That charge is true, but they did not do so wrongly, or unduly. The meaning that is to be given to these two Greek words depends upon what the entire Bible has to say about Jehovah God and Jesus Christ. . . . Thus those who believe in the trinity will attach personality to these words, whereas those who do not will render them as qualities in view of the way God and Christ are described in the Scriptures and so as to harmonize the words with the rest of God’s Word. . . . Thus the New World Translation is fully justified in rendering Colossians 2:9 to show that Christ has in him all the fullness, not of God himself, the Deity, the Godhead, but of the divine quality dwelling bodily. . . . To get an objective view of the matter, in exploring questions such as these it is best to use the nonsectarian and nonreligious Hebrew-English and Greek-English dictionaries, instead of those that have been produced by some religious denomination (emphasis added).39

 

Unquestionably, it is the WT’s pre-committed theology and not the exegesis of Scripture that determines who Christ is.

 

 

Theotētos: “Deity” or “divine quality”

  

In Colossians 2:9 the NWT translates theotetos, as “divine quality.” However, as I will demonstrate, the NWT purposefully disregards the lexical meaning of the term theotētos (the gen. of theotēs). First, the phrase “divine quality” would be derived not from theotētos but rather from the term theiotes. This term does carry the meaning of “godlike” or “divinity” (cf. Rom. 1:20).40 However, there is a marked lexical difference between these two Greek terms. They do not bear the same meaning. Dr. Edmund Gruss, Professor of History at the Master’s College and a former JW points out:

 

The word theotēs is here translated “divine quality” which is not a literal or correct rendering. . . . The word for "divinity" or "divine character" is found in Romans 1:20 and is theiotēs which is rendered by Grimm-Thayer as “divinity divine nature.” Cremer gives “the Godhead” as the meaning of theotēs and then says that the two words are to be distinguished: “theotes—that which God is, theiotes—that which is of God.”41

 

Moreover, recognized Greek lexicographer Joseph Thayer (as concurred by the WT)42 defines  theotetos as: "the state of being God.”43 As well, he comments on the clear and discernible distinction between theotetos and theiotes:

 qeothj, qeiothj: qeot. deity differs from qeiot. divinity, as essence differs from quality or attribute; Trench § ii.; Bp. Lghtft. or Mey. on Col. 1.c.; Fritzsche on Ro. i. 20.44

 

Therefore, theotetos should not be rendered merely as “divine quality,” as if theiotes and theotetos are synonymous in meaning. Lexically, there is a distinct qualitative difference in which honest scholarship bears out. It was the pre-committed WT Christology, which decided how the NWT was to translate theotētos. That theotētos means anything other than “the state of being God” goes against the mass of objective scholarship.

In Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian apologist Ron Rhodes mentions several scholars who substantiate the meaning of theotētos: Joseph B. Lightfoot: “The totality of the divine powers and attributes”; Richard C. Trench: “all the fullness of absolute Godhead . . . He was, and is, absolute and perfect God”; John A. Bengal: “not merely [to] the Divine attributes, but [to] the Divine Nature itself”; H. C. G. Moule: “as strong as possible; Deity, not only Divinity”; Robert Reymond: “the being of the very essence of deity”; Benjamin B. Warfield: “the very deity of God, that which makes God God, in all its completeness.”45

 

Against the Gnostic version of Christ, Paul straightforwardly presents Jesus Christ as God—fully God. “In Him,” says Paul, “all the fullness [plērōma]46 of Deity [theotētos] dwells [katoikei]47 in bodily form [somatikos].”48 Nevertheless, the NWT has altered God’s Word by removing the theotetos from the Person of Jesus Christ. Conversely, the Christ that Paul preached was ho theos49 who possessed two natures: theos (“God”) and anthōpos (“man”). Reformed theologian John Piper rightfully concludes:

 

The Son of God is not merely a holy and faithful man. He has the fullness of deity. God did not look for a holy man whom he could somehow take up into the Godhead by putting deity in him. Rather “the Word became flesh” in an act of incarnation (John 1:14).50

 

In the end, the NWT delivers a barefaced Christological heresy to millions of sincere men and women who are JWs. The above examples of translational and textual distortions are but a few of the numerous changes from the original. Sadly, the JWs trust that the NWT is in fact God’s written Word.

 

Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words Or He will reprove you, and will be proved a liar (Prov. 30:5).
 

 



Again, the entire content of biblical revelation affirms Jesus God-man, YHWH the unchangeable Creator of all things 

 


 

 

 

 

Additional Textual and Translational Alterations 

 

Scripture

New World Translation

Literal rendering from the Greek

King James Version51

Matthew 25:46 

And these will depart into everlasting cutting off. . . . 52 

and will go away these in to punishment eternal. . . . (kolasin aionion). 

And these shall go away into everlasting punishment. . . .

Romans 8:1 

those in union with Christ Jesus have no condemnation

Then [there is] now no condemnation on to the ones in Christ Jesus. 

There is therefore now no condemnation to them, which are in Christ Jesus. 

Romans 10:13 

For everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.53

for whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. 

whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 

2 Corinthians 5:8 

to become absent from the body and to make our home with the Lord

to go away from home out of the body and to come home to the Lord

to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord

  

Philippians 1:23 

but what I do desire is the releasing and being with Christ. 

desire having for the to depart and with Christ to be....54

having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ. . . . 

Hebrews 1:6 

he says, “And let all God’s angels do obeisance to him.”55 

he [the Father] says, “and let worship him [the Son] all angels of God.” 

“he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.” 

Hebrews 1:8 

But with reference to the son: “God is your throne forever and ever. . . .” 

but with regard to the son . . . The throne of thee the God [is] unto the age of the age. . . 56 

but to the son he says . . . “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. . . .”

   The NWT contains plenty of textual and translational alterations from the Old Testament as well.  Example, Zechariah 12:10: “they will look to the One whom they pierced. . . . .” 

 

Further, to stress that Christ was created, in Proverbs 8:1-3 and 9:1-3 the NWT changed the Hebrew feminine pronouns (“her,” “she”) to the neuter “it.” Hence, they prevent the normal contextual meaning of “wisdom” being personified as a woman. By this alteration, the NWT can slot-in Christ (who is male) into 8:22ff.:

He was God’s first creation.… Jesus is the only Son that God created by himself. Jehovah used the prehuman Jesus as his “master worker” in creating all other things in heaven and on earth. (Proverbs 8:22-31. . . . ) (What Does God Require of Us? [Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1996], 6).

The NWT can be summed up by the late Greek scholar Dr. Mantey, as he pointedly referred to the JWs as:

Diabolical deceivers . . .  ninety-nine percent of the scholars of the world who know Greek and who have helped translate the Bible are in disagreement with the Jehovah’s Witnesses (cited from a taped interview with the late Dr. Walter Martin).



 

 

Notes

1, Dr. Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults,125.

2, Not until 1969 that the WT published a new Greek interlinear (KIT). One importance difference though: the Greek representation of the KIT is fundamentally unaltered. The Greek text that was used was the Westcott and Hort (1881) text, which was based on the ? and B. And because of its accurate rendering of the Greek at John 1:1; 8:58; Colossians 1:16-17; and 2:9, the KIT can be a “thorn in the flesh” for those who strive to defend the distinct Christology of the WT on the basis of the Greek text.

3, W. Gary Crampton, Biblical Hermeneutics, 8.

4, Sabellius was a second century heretic who taught and popularized the teaching that Jesus was the Father Himself. This doctrine is also called Modalism because it asserts that God is unipersonal (one Person) whereby successively appears in different modes, manifestations or offices hence clearly rejecting the Trinity (i.e., three distinct coequal coeternal Persons). However when the is doctrine first emerged (Noetus and Praxes were two of the earlier teachers of Modalism) the early Christian church resisted it as a "doctrine of demons" because it taught that Jesus' life started in Bethlehem, thus implying that He was created. Modalism teaches that it was the Father who came down and took flesh. They deny the distinction of Persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit See my articles on Oneness Pentecostals (Modalism).

5, Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament,  268.

6, The noun theos (in John 1:1c) is an anarthrous (noun without the article) pre-verbal (before the verb) predicate nominative (both the subject and the predicate are in the same case: nominative case).

7, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 269.

8, Ibid.,  267.

9, See note 6 above.

10, Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 267.

11, The word "was" (ēn) is very significant as to the nature of the Word (Jesus). Grammatically the verb "was" is an imperfect tense indicating continued existence in this context. Hence, the Word was eternal, without origin. A point that should be communicated, since the JWs teach that Jesus was created at some point in time.

12, Jesus claimed to be the I AM in an absolute sense (egō eimi at the end of the clause) eight times in the New Testament (see Mark  6:50; John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8; see also my article: Jehovah's Witnesses and the Deity of Jesus Christ).

13 “Absolute” meaning that the phrase  egō eimi (“I AM”) comes at the end of the clause without supplying a predicate (cf. Robertson, Word Pictures, 5:146). JWs often point to passages like John 14:9 and John 15:27 where most translators render, eimi with an expression of past time:have been [este] with me” (John 15:27 NIV; et seq., NWT; KJV; NKJV; NRS; NASB; NET; etc.). However, the verb ei)mi/, eimi in John 8:58 differs entirely from this (and others) example provided by the JWs, namely, it possesses no predicate

 

14 Some do not see Mark 6:50 (cf. John 6:20) as an absolute  egō eimi statement (e.g.,  D. A. Carson, “‘I AM’ Sayings” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984], 541). However others such as Protestant theologian Robert Reymond see it as a potential “I am usage” (although he cites the parallel passage in John 6:20; Reymond, Systematic Theology, 231).

15 For example, appendix 2F of the KIT reads:

Further attempting to identify Jesus with Jehovah, some try to use Exodus 3:14 (LXX), which reads:  Egw eimi o wn (E·go ei·mi ho on), which means “I am The Being,” or “I am The Existing One.” This attempt cannot be sustained because the expression in Exodus 3:14 is different from the expression in John 8:58. Throughout the Christian Greek Scriptures Jehovah and Jesus are never identified as being the same person (1145-46). 

Of course the assumption that the Christian proclamation that Jesus is God means that Jesus IS the same Person of the Father demonstrates (a) the sheer ignorance of the JWs as to the biblical doctrine of the Trinity and (b) the JWs theological starting point: unitarianism

 

16  “The historical present is used fairly frequently in narrative literature to describe a past event” (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 526).

17 The Watchtower, 1 September 1974, 526-27.

18 Reasoning from the Scriptures, 418; cf. Watchtower, 15 February 1957, 126-27.

19 Cf. Wallace, Greek Grammar, 526, 528, 530.

20 Ibid., 530.

21 The verb genesthai is the aorist middle infinitive of ginomai. This verb clearly denotes origin (i.e., Abraham’s): “To come into being through the process of birth or natural production, be born be produced” (Walter Bauer, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed., ed. and rev. Frederick W. Danker [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000], 197).

22 As seen, the verb eimi is a present active indicative denoting an ongoing action with no indication of origin.

23 Previously discussed (see n. 11) the verb ēn is the imperfect tense of eimi, which indicates a continuous action normally occurring in the past. Hence, the Word always existed. The author of Hebrews likewise affirms the eternality of Jesus Christ. Drawing from Psalm 102:25-27 (LXX) which refers to Yahweh’s eternal unchangeable existence as the Creator, the author of Hebrews applies these passages directly to Jesus Christ in 1:10-12.

24 Egeneto is the aorist indicative form of ginomai. The aorist indicative indicates a punctiliar action normally occurring in the past.

25 The same contrast (created vs. eternal) is found in Psalm 90:2:

Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world

Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God (emphasis added).

Note the striking parallel between this passage above and John 8:58: Abraham “was born” (created) is contrasted with Jesus as the “I AM” (eternal). And the same in Psalm 90:2: the mountains “were born” (created) is contrasted with God, “You are” (eternal).

26 Robertson sees the grammatical contrast in both John 1:1 and 8:58:

[John 1:1a] Was (ēn). Three times in this sentence John uses this imperfect of eimi to be which conveys no idea of origin for God or for the Logos, simply continuous existence. . . .  See the distinction sharply drawn in 8:58 “before Abraham came (genesthai) I am” (eimi, timeless existence) (Robertson, Word Pictures, 5:3). 

27 Watchtower, 1 September 1974, 526-27

28 LXX: e)gw\ ei)mi/ o( w)/n, “I am the [Eternal] One.”

29 Wallace, Greek Grammar, 531.

30 According to Hebrew Law there were five reasons, in which stoning was legal: familiar spirits (cf. Lev. 20:27); blasphemy (cf. Lev. 24:10-23); false prophets (Deut. 13:5-10; 18:20); a stubborn and rebellious adult son (cf. Deut. 21:18-22); and lastly, adultery and rape (cf. Deut. 22:21-24).

31 The New Testament authors clearly envisaged Jesus Christ as the Yahweh of the Old Testament. Hence, they often cited Old Testament passages referring to Yahweh and applied them to Christ (e.g., Ps. 45:6-7 with Heb. 1:8-9; Ps. 102:25-27 with Heb. 1:10-12; Isa. 6:1, 10 with John 12:40-41; Isa. 8:12-13 with 1 Peter 3:14-15; Isa. 43:10 with John 8:24 and 13:19; Isa. 45:23 with Phil. 2:10; Joel 2:32 with Rom. 10:13).

32 Robertson, Word Pictures, 5:158-59.

33 I.e., as a “perfect indefinite,” “perfect indicative,” “historical present,” and even, at rear and isolated occasions, correctly acknowledging eimi as a “present active indicative” (cf. KIT, app. 2f, 1145.).

34 John Chrysostom Homilies on the Gospel of St. John and the Epistle to the Hebrews, ed. Philip Schaff, in Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers, vol. 14, 1st series (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953).

35 I am using the term “Gnostic” (from gnōsis, meaning “knowledge”) broadly to describe the various first and second century sects who share the same basic doctrinal characteristics: spirit vs. matter. Because formal Gnosticism had not yet been developed, critics attack the Pauline authorship of Colossians. It was not, however, the fully developed system that Paul (and John; cf. 1 & 2 John) dealt with. Rather Paul grappled with the main theological predilections of Gnostic philosophy. Despite of philosophical dissimilarities, all Gnostics at least shared one common thread: spirit was good and matter was evil. This system was also described later as “Doceticism” (from dokein, “to seem,” which was first expressed by Serapion of Antioch, c. A.D. 200). Though, both generally held to the spirit vs. matter dualistic system. So accordingly, they did not believe that Jesus (a good god [or “aeon,” cf. Cerinthus]) would ever become something as evil as material flesh. The mere thought of Jesus becoming and remaining in human flesh was utterly repugnant to them.

36 Reasoning from the Scriptures, 420.

37 Insight on the Scriptures, vol. 2 (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1988), 1203.

38 Watchtower, 1 August 1962, 479-80.

39 Ibid.

40 Commenting on Romans 1:20, competent Greek scholar Kenneth S. Wuest says:

The Greek word translated “Godhead” [KJV] needs some study. It is theiotes . . .  Vincent says, “Godhead expresses deity (theotes). Theiotes is godhood, not godhead (Kenneth S. Wuest, Romans in the Greek New Testament for the English Reader [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955], 30-31).

See also Robertson, Word Pictures, 4:328-29. Dealing specifically with Colossians 2:9 Robertson further expands on the well defined differences between the two terms:

There dwells (at home) in Christ not one or more aspects of the Godhead [qeothtoj, theotētos] (the very essence of God, from theos, deitas) and not to be confused with theiotes in Rom. 1:20 (from theios, the quality of God, divinitas). . . .  (ibid., 491). 

Cf. Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (1896, reprint, with Strong’s numbering added by Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996), 288.

41 Edmund Gruss, Apostles of Denial: An Examination and Exposé of the History, Doctrines and Claims of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976), 15-16.

42 The WT has cited Thayer no less than forty-two times since 1997. The WT said he was “a theologian and scholar who worked on the American Standard Version” (Should You Believe in the Trinity?, 28).

43 Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, 288.

44 Ibid.

45 Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses (Eugene: Harvest House, 1993), 81-82.

46 The term translated “fullness” is pleroma. This term was especially familiar in Gnostic theology. In Gnostic thinking the supreme God dwelled in the pleroma and aeons” (as they saw Christ) emanated from Him (cf. n. 62):

From this one true God flows a long series of “emanations” known to the Gnostics as aeons. These aeons are godlike, often identified as angels when Gnosticism encountered Jewish or Christian beliefs (possibly alluded to in Colossians 2:18). All of the aeons, taken as a group, comprised the “pleroma,” the Greek work for “fullness” (James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity, Recovering the Heart of Christ Belief [Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1998], 108).

Robertson notes on Paul’s usage of the term pleroma:

Paul here asserts that “all the pleroma of the Godhead,” not just certain aspects, dwell now in Christ and in bodily form (sōmatikōs. . . .), dwells now in Christ in his glorified humanity (Phil. 2:9-11), “the body of His glory” (toi sōmati tes doxēs). The fullness of the Godhead was in Christ before the Incarnation (John 1:1, 18; Phil. 2:6), during the Incarnation (John 1:14, 18; 1 John 1:1-3) (Robertson, Word Pictures, 4:491).

47 The word translated “dwells” is katoikei, which is the present active indicative of katoikeo. The present tense indicates that the “fullness” of absolute “Deity” dwells in Christ permanently and continuously. Hence, there was no beginning of the theotētos of Christ. In contrast to the aorist egeneto (“became”) referring to His incarnation, which had a beginning: Kai ho logos sarx egeneto (“And the Word flesh became”). Reymond observes the grammatical impact of what Paul was communicating:

Putting these two words [katoikei and theotētos] together, Paul is speaking of the “totality of all that is essential to the divine nature.” Concerning this “totality of divine essence” Paul affirms that it “dwells [permanently]” (for that is the force of the preposition kata, kata, prefixed to the verb and the present tense of the verb katoikeō) in Jesus (Reymond, Systematic Theology, 252-253).

48 The Greek term somatikos (“bodily”) denotes Jesus’ physical body. Hence, the fullness of “Deity” (which was always subsisting in Him; cf. Phil. 2:6) permanently and continuously dwells now in the physical body of Jesus Christ. Robertson sees clearly Paul’s presentation of Christ as the God-man and Paul’s refutation of the Docetic brand of Gnosticism that attacked the very Person of Christ:

Paul here disposes of the Docetic theory that Jesus had no human body as well as the Cerinthian separation between the man Jesus and the aeon Christ. He asserts plainly the deity and the humanity of Jesus Christ in corporeal form (Robertson, Word Pictures, 4:491).

49 In the entire Pauline corpus the apostle taught implicitly and explicitly the full deity of Jesus Christ. To be sure, this was his “teaching priority” (e.g., Rom. 1:3-4; 9:5; 10:13; 1 Cor. 16:22; Phil. 2:6-11; 2 Col. 2:9; 2 Thess. 1:12; 1 Tim 3:16; Titus 2:13). Perhaps Paul’s high Christology was due to the convicting words of Christ, which may have rung continuously in his mind: ean gar me pisteusete hoti egō eimi apothaneisthe en tais hamartiais humon, “for if you should not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24; trans. mine).

50 John Piper, The Pleasures of God: Meditations on God’s Delight in Being God (Portland: Multnomah, 1991), 32.

51 Before the NWT, the WT had printed the KJV and distributed it to its followers. However being that the KJ V (and every meaningful translation) contradicted distinctive WT theology (esp. at Matt. 25:46; John 1:1; 8:58; Col. 1:16-17; 2:9; Heb. 1:8; etc.) the WT produced its own NWT, which of course is in doctrinal harmony with the JWs.     

52 There is no phrase such as: “everlasting cutting-off” in the Greek. Note the parallel: “eternal life,” and “eternal punishment,” just as the life in Christ is eternal; the “punishment” of the wicked is eternal as to its duration. Only one who is conscious can experience punishment (kolasin)

53 The word “Jehovah” does not appear in any of the 5000 + Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. The burden of proof is on Jehovah’s Witnesses to produce the evidence. Don’t let them side-step this issue. Also ALL pronouns following verse  9 have Jesus Christ as its  referent: "Whoever calls on the name of the Lord ["Yahweh"; Joel 2:32]," that is, Jesus Christ "will be saved." 

54 The grammar in the Greek tells us plainly that at death Christians are immediately with Christ. According to the aorist infinitive “to depart” (analusai) and the present infinitive “to be” (einai) connected by the single article “and.” Scripture does not teach the idea of soul-sleep.

55 Only when “worship” (proskuneō) is applied to Jesus does the NWT replace it with the word “obeisance” (e.g., Matt. 2:8, 11; 28:9; John 9:38). Interestingly, the NWT uses the same word ("worship") when it is applied to the Father (e.g., Luke 4:8; John 4:23-24; Rev. 19:4 etc.). The 1961 edition of the NWT however, retains the word “worship” when it’s applied to Jesus. See Revelation 5:13-14 where the Father and the Son ("the Lamb") are the objects of divine worship. That Christ was worshipped as God is truly hidden from the JWs, by the NWT.  

56 Literally: “The throne of thee the God” (ho thronos sou ho theos). Notice that Jesus is called “the God,” “God” with the definite article, “the.” The NWT rendering of the verse follows the Arian and Unitarian renderings. However, both the Septuagint and the Hebrew (from Ps. 45:6) are in direct address: “Your throne” and not the NWT’s “God is your throne.” The groups that deny the deity of Christ ignore the direct address; the Father addressing the Son as ho theos, that is, “THE GOD.”


 

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