Hebrews 1:6 (last clause):

 

  • NASB: “And let all the angels of God worship Him.”

 

  • New World Translation[1] (NWT): “And let all of God’s angels do obeisance to him.”

 

  • Greek NT (all eds.): Kai proskunēsatwsan autō pantes aggeloi Theou (lit., “And worship Him all [the] angels of God”).

 

  • LXX[2] (Deut. 32:43, the author’s OT source [also cf. Ps. 96:7]): Kai proskunēsatōsan autō pantes aggeloi Theou (Brenton’s ed., same rendering as Greek NT).

 

Last week, in our weekly First Love Radio Show, Pastor James Tippins (Grace Truth Church, Claxton, GA) and I had a fantastic discussion regarding some of the specific places in which “worship” (proskuneō and latreuō)[3] was applied to the person of the Son in a “religious” context[4] (esp. Dan. 7:14; Matt. 14:33; John 3:38; Heb. 1:6 and Rev. 5:13-14).

 

Hebrews 1:6 – a few noteworthy points:

 

  1. The Father’s command to all the angels to worship the Son was in the aorist imperative (proskunēsatōsan). Linguistically, this was the strongest and most “urgent” way to issue a command in biblical Greek—appearing in both the Greek NT (all eds.) and in the LXX (see above).

 

  1. The NWT. As most of us know, that the JWs’ unique and distorted translation, the NWT, replaced the word “worship” (as in virtually all recognized Bible translations) with “obeisance” (honor, respect, etc.).

 

  1. Lexically. The verb proskuneō is from pros (“toward”) and kuneō (lit., “to kiss”). Thus, “prostrating oneself before persons and kissing their feet. . . . to express … submission to a high authority figure, (fall down and) worship, do obeisance … do reverence to, welcome respectfully” (BDAG).

 

  1. Context. The verb could mean either religious “worship” (reserved for God alone, cf. John 4:24) or “obeisance” with no connotation of religious worship at all. But as we know: Context always governs!—thus it determines the verb’s meaning.

    The defining and surrounding context of Hebrews 1:6 is clearly in the heavenlies (it does not get more “religious” and holier than that!) and the affirmation of the eternal Son. Moreover, in the prologue of Hebrews (viz. chap. 1), the author presents a vivid contrast between all things created (angels, heavens, and the earth) and the eternal Son, Creator of all things (vv. 2, 3, 10-12[5]). It is this defining context, therefore, that indicates the meaning of proskuneō in verse 6—namely, divine religious “worship.”        

 

The JWs argue in a theological circle, which starts with unitarianism and ends with a denial of the deity of Christ. Hence, the NWT arbitrarily removes “worship” at the places applied to Christ (e.g., Matt. 2:11; 14:33; 28:8-9; John 9:38; and of course, Heb. 1:6). Interestingly, from 1950 to 1970, in Hebrews 1:6, the NWT read, “And let all God’s angels worship him.” Consequently, for over twenty years, the JWs actually taught that “all the angels” worshiped Jesus (who they identify as Michael, the “created” archangel)—a frustrating fact they cannot deny. It was not until the 1971 ed. that “worship” was finally removed being replaced with “obeisance” in Hebrews 1:6.

 

Furthermore, from 1898 to 1964, the Watchtower (the JWs leadership), has taught that “worship” is properly given to Jesus—it’s a matter of (accessible) record. Note these examples: 

 

 “Yes, we believe our Lord Jesus while on earth was really worshiped, and properly so. It was proper for our Lord to receive worship in view of his having been the only begotten of the Father and his agent in the creation of all things, including man” (Zion’s Watch Tower, 1898, July 15, p. 216).

 

“Jehovah God commands all to worship Christ Jesus because Christ Jesus is the express image of his Father, Jehovah….”  (Watchtower, 1939, Nov 15, p. 339).

“[W]hosoever should worship Him must also worship and bow down to Jehovah’s Chief One in that capital organization, namely, Christ Jesus….” (Watchtower, 1945, p. 313).

 

In the 1945 Yearbook, it clearly defines the purpose of the Watchtower Society (in part):

“The purposes of this Society are…. to go forth to all the world publicly and from house to house to preach and teach Bible truths. … and send out to various parts of the world Christian missionaries, teachers and instructors in the Bible and Bible literature and for public Christian worship of Almighty God and Christ Jesus.”

 

In 1964, they finally changed their view and taught that worshiping Christ was idolatrous: “It is unscriptural … to render worship to the Son of God” (Watchtower, 1964 Nov 1, p. 671). The inconsistencies of the Watchtower are and have been astounding! 

 

Jesus Worshiped as God

Jesus received “worship” in a religious context[6] on several occasions. These are some of the clear and explicit examples of the Son receiving religious worship by both men and angels:

 DANIEL 7:14: “And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might SERVE Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one, which will not be destroyed.” The term “serve” (“worshiped,” NIV) is from Aramaic word, pelach (Heb. palach). When this term appears in the OT where God is the object, it carries the idea of religious worship, services, or rituals performed in honor to the true God.

The same term (pelach) applied to the Son of Man in verse 14 is applied to Yahweh in verse 27: “His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve [pelach] and obey Him.” Further, the LXX translate pelach in verse 14, as latreuō, which, in a religious context, denotes service or worship reserved for God alone (cf. Exod. 20:5 [LXX]; see also Matt. 4:10; Rom. 1:9, Phil. 3:3; Heb. 9:14). Even though some editions of the LXX, pelach is translated as douleuō (“to serve”), but in a religious context (which vv. 9-14 undeniably are), douleuō like latreuō denotes service or worship reserved for God alone (cf. Gal. 4:8).[7]

 

MATTHEW 14:33: “And those who were in the boat worshiped [proskuneō][8] Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” Matthew 14:22-34 is a narrative of the Jesus’ miraculous walking on the water. This event is also recorded in Mark 6:45-51 and John 6:16-21. What is remarkable is that the narrative supplies ample references to the deity of Christ (i.e., His repeated “I am” claims and the religious worship given to Christ by the men in the boat). This event follows the feeding of the 5,000. In verse 26, we read that after the disciples who were in the boat saw Jesus “walking on the water,” they were terrified for they thought they saw a phantasma (“ghost/ apparition”). At which point Jesus comforted them by stating: Tharseite, egō eimi, mē phobeisthe (lit.Take courage, I am, [do] not [be with] fear” (v. 27).

 

Jesus declares His deity in contrast to their fear. Jesus is the One who created all things, the eternal God, who controls the winds and the sea (cf. Matt. 8:27)—why be afraid? In verses 28-32, Matthew provides additional information. However, we read that Peter attempted to walk on the water to meet Christ, but sank due to his weak faith. When Jesus helped him get back into the boat, verse 33 indicates, “Those who were in the boat worshiped [proskuneō] Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’” Note that act of worshiping is connected with the affirmation of Jesus being “God’s Son.”

The unique way in which Jesus claimed to be the Son of God was tantamount to claiming He was God the Son—, which was clearly understood by the Jews (cf. Mark 14:61-63; John 5:17-18; 10:30-36; 19:7), the apostles (cf. Matt. 16:18; Rom. 1:1, 3); the author of Hebrews (cf. Heb. 1:1-3); the devil (cf. Matt. 4:3-7); God the Father (cf. Matt. 3:17; Heb. 1:5-12); and the OT prophets (cf. Ps. 2:7; Dan. 7:9-14; Acts 10:43 et al). 

 

JOHN 9:35-38: “[Jesus] said [to the blind man that He healed], “’Do you believe in the Son of Man?’ He answered, ‘Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?’ 37 Jesus said to him, ‘You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.’ 38 And he said, ‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshiped [proskuneō] Him.” As in Matthew 14:33, the worship was combined with the blind man’s affirmation that Jesus was the “Son of Man” and “Lord”—thus, a religious context (cf. Dan. 7:9-14).

 

REVELATION 5:13-14: “And every created thing … I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ 14 And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen’ and the elders fell down and worshiped [proskuneō].” Here the Father and the Lamb received the same kind of blessing, honor, and glory and thus, the same kind of worship, from “every created thing.” Hence, the Lamb (Jesus) is excluded from the category of a “created thing.” Rather, as in Hebrews 1:6 et al, the Son was worshiped in a religious context. This revealing truth shows that the Son shares the very essence of God the Father. He is God in the same sense as that of the Father (cf. John 1:1, 18; Heb. 1:3).

 

In spite of the NWT’s devaluation of the Son, the denial of His cross work and a denial of the triune nature of the only true God, both the OT and NT affirm that Jesus Christ was properly worshiped as God. The Son is “the great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13); “the only Master and Lord” (Jude 1:4); the Theos-Christos (“God-Christ”) who saved a people out of the land of Egypt (Jude 1:5) whose atoning cross work is the very cause of our justification.

 

Let us, along with all the angels, worship Jesus Christ, “the Lord of glory,” unceasingly.


NOTES

[1] The NWT is the Bible translation of the JWs—published by the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society (i.e., the corporate name for the JWs).

[2] LXX is the abbreviation of the Septuagint (i.e., the Greek OT).

[3] These terms are the primary terms denoting worship or reverence, honor depending on the context (e.g., John 4:24; Rom. 12:1). 

 [4] A religious context is any such context where spirituality, holiness, and/or divinity exists.  

[5] Verses 10-12 is a citation of Psalm 102:25-27 (LXX). Thus, the Father directly addresses the Son (cf. v. 8) as the Yahweh (LORD) of that Psalm—the unchangeable Creator of all things.    

[6]  See note 4 above. 

[7] Many modern Jewish commentators deny the Messianic import of this passage. However, this was not the case with the earliest Jewish sources (cf. the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin, 96b-97a, 98a; etc.). Furthermore, the testimony of early church Fathers connect the Son of Man in Daniel 7:9ff. with Jesus Christ— and not with men collectively.

[8] The Greek word proskuneō means divine worship in a religious context (as with Matt. 4:10 and John 4:24) or it can also mean to fall prostrate in front of another in honor and respect, thus, “obeisance.” Only the context determines the meaning. In Hebrews 1:6, the setting is in the heavenlies—hence, the Father commands “all the angels” to give religious worship to the divine Son.

Spanish edition Here- 

 

John 17:3: “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (cf. John 4:24). The one true God has revealed Himself as three distinct persons, the Father and the Son, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The Unbiblical Teachings of Oneness-Unitarian Theology

Oneness Christology is a clear and major departure from biblical orthodoxy. Similar to Islam, it teaches a unitarian/unipersonal (i.e., one person) concept of God. Hence, the chief Oneness Christological divergences from that of the biblical teachings are as follows:

1. Oneness Christology denies the unipersonality and deity of the Son. It teaches that “Jesus” is the name of the unipersonal deity. Accordingly, the “Son” merely represents the human nature of Jesus, while “Father/Holy Spirit” represents the divine nature of Jesus—thus, the Son is not God, only the Father is (cf. Bernard, Oneness of God, 1983: 99, 103, 252).

2. Along with the deity, Oneness Christology denies the preexistence and incarnation of the Son, and thus, His role as the Creator (cf. ibid., 103-4; Magee, Is Jesus in the Godhead or Is The Godhead in Jesus?, 1988: 25). By denying the preexistence of the person of the Son, Oneness doctrine rejects the incarnation of the divine Son holding to the erroneous notion that it was Jesus as the Father, not the Son, who came down and wrapped Himself in flesh, and that “flesh” was called “Son” (cf. Bernard, 106, 122).

In sharp contrast to Oneness Christology, Scripture presents clearly and definitely that the distinct person of the Son 1) is fully God (cf. Dan. 7:9-14; John 1:18; 5:17-18; Phil. 2:6-11; Heb. 1:3, 8, 10; 1 John 5:20; Rev. 1:8, 22:13), 2) was the Creator of all things (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1: 2, 10-12), 3) eternally coexisted with and is distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit (cf. Gen. 19:24; Dan 7:9-14; Matt. 28:19; John 17:5; 2 Cor. 13:14; 2 John 1:3; Rev. 5:13-14), and 4) became fully man in order “to give His life a ransom for many” (cf. John 1:1, 14; Mark 10:45; Phil. 2:6-11).

This is the Jesus of biblical revelation. Jesus Christ is the only mediator and intercessor between God the Father and human beings. Jesus is the divine Son, the monogenēs theos (“unique God”) who is always in the bosom of the Father (John 1:18), a personal self-aware subject, distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit. In contrast to Oneness Christology, Jesus is not the Father, but “the Son of the Father” (2 John 1:3; cf. John 17:5ff.; 1 John 1:3).

Worshiping the unipersonal God of Oneness theology is not worshiping the true God in spirit nor truth. The Oneness concept of God is fundamentally the same as Islam and the Watchtower (Jehovah’s Witnesses): a unipersonal deity with no distinction of persons. The true God of biblical revelation is triune—the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

NASB: “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born I am.’” 

NWT: “Jesus said to them: ‘Most truly I say to you, Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.’”

Greek:eipen autois Iēsous: amēn amēn legō humin, prin Abraam genesthai egō eimi.

It is no surprise that most non-Christian cults and religious groups reject that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, claimed to be God or equal to God.[1] Even though passages such as John 5:17-18; 8:58-59; 10:30-33; Rev. 22:13 show this clearly (esp. in light of the response of the Jews in John 5:59; 8:59; and 10:33.

Jesus declared in John 8:24: “For if you should not believe that I am [egō eimi] you will perish in your sins” (lit. trans.).[2] Although many translations add the pronoun “he” after “I am” (e.g., NKJ, NASB) or bracketed clause[3], the fact is there is no pronoun (i.e., no supplied predicate) contained after egō eimi (“I am”) in any Greek manuscript of John 8:24 or after Jesus’ other affirmations of being the “I am” as in John 8:28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and 8.[4] See also Mark 6:50: “Take courage; I am [egō eimi], do not be afraid” (lit.; also cf. John 6:19).

Hence, these seven particular occurrences (in John) of Jesus’ claim to be the “I am” are not the same as statements such as, for example, “I am the door” or “I am the shepherd.” These all have clear predicates (“door,” “shepherd”) following “I am,” whereas the seven “I am” statements in John seem to have no supplied predicate, but rather the “I am” stands alone. Clearly, this was an absolute claim to deity.

To understand the full theological significance of the phrase egō eimi, the OT background must first be considered. The Hebrew phrase, ani hu (“I [am] He”), which was translated egō eimi in the Septuagint (LXX), was an exclusive and recurring title for Yahweh alone (cf. Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4)—which the Jews clearly understood (cf. John 8:59).[5] Again, Jesus’ claim to be the “I am” was not only seen in John 8:58 (as many assume), but note the marked progression starting in 8:24, then, vv. 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and 8. It is when we examine all the “I am” statements do we see the consequence of His claim.

When Jesus declared He was the “I am” at John 18:5, 6, and 8, we read that the “fearless” Romans soldiers “fell to the ground.” What would cause Roman soldiers to fall to the ground? So powerful were Jesus’ divine pronouncements that it caused His enemies to shudder to the ground. Even when Jesus was being arrested at perhaps one of the lowest points of His life on earth, He still retained total sovereignty over His enemies.

So strong was Jesus’ affirmation of deity in John 8:58 that the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Bible (the (NWT) had to mistranslate the present active indicative verb, eimi (“am”) turning it into a past tense: “I have been” (see above NWT trans.). From this, the JW’s argue that Jesus was not claiming to be deity (“I am”), but rather He was claiming to be “older” than Abraham was (as Michael the archangel), which incited the Jews to want to kill Him. However, what immediately refutes this false notion is:

1) Simply, the Greek text contains the PRESENT indicative verb eimi (“am”) and not any kind of past tense. In 1969, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society[6] (WT) published a Greek Interlinear called, The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures (KIT) and a revised ed. in 1985. The KIT is a Greek NT with English equivalents under each Greek word and the NWT on the side margins. What is interesting is that the Greek is unchanged, only the NWT is altered from the Greek.

For example, notice the photocopy of John 8:58-59 from the KIT in which you can see the unaltered Greek phrase egw eimi (“I am”) and the NWT’s altered reading “I have been,” on the side:

This clearly shows that the NWT purposely altered the Greek NT text, from the present “I am” (viz. the Eternal One) to a past “I have been” (as if Jesus was merely saying that He is older than Abraham)[7] to fit the distinctive theology of the WT.

2) Even more, throughout the years, the WT has offered at least three reasons as to why the present tense verb (eimi, “am”) should be translated as a past action (“have been”). First, in the 1950 ed. of the NWT, there is a footnote referring to the “I have been” rendering, which states: “I have been— egw eimi . . . properly rendered in the perfect indefinite tense. . . .” (p. 312).

This sounds legitimate to one who is not familiar with Greek, however, there is no such tense as a “perfect indefinite” in biblical Greek. The WT made up a phony tense. Some have defended the WT’s explanation saying that “perfect indefinite” refers to the English, not the Greek. But we are not aware of a single official WT source that states this.

Then, the WT argued that the verb eimi was a “perfect indicative.”[8] Now, there is a perfect indicative in Greek, however, the verb eimi takes no such form. And currently, the WT asserts that eimi is a “historical present”[9] explaining 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).[10]

Thus, the JWs see Jesus as merely claiming that He pre-existed Abraham, which, according to the JWs, enraged the Jews to the point of wanting to kill Him (cf. v. 59). This assertion, however, is flawed both grammatically and contextually. First, a historical present tense occurs primarily in narrative literature and only in third person. In this context, Jesus was arguing with the Jews—He was not narrating. Secondly, the equative verb eimi is not used as a historical present. As the recognized Greek scholar, Daniel Wallace, points out:

“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. . . If this is a historical present, it is apparently the only historical present in the NT that is in other than third person.[11]

The weight against the historical present view is massive. The reason for these various assertions of eimi postulated by the WT throughout the years (viz. the phony perfect indefinite; perfect indicative, and historical present) is, of course, obvious. If Jesus’ divine statements of being the “I am,” stand unmodified, then, Jesus made some astonishing and unambiguous claims of being the eternal God (as with John 5:17 and 10:27-30), which clearly show the WT to be a false religion in need of salvation.

NOTES

[1] Although Roman Catholicism holds to the deity of Christ, they reject His work as being sufficient, the very ground of justification (esp. seen in Rome’s view of Purgatory). Since Paul states that it is “His [God’s] doing” that we are in Christ, who became to us “righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30), Rome clearly embraces a “different” Jesus than that of holy Scripture, a Jesus, that did not, alone, become the believers’ righteousness.

[2] Ean gar mē pisteusēte hoti egō eimi apothaneisthe en tais hamartiais humōn.

[3] For example, the pre-2011 NIV has a bracketed clause after “I am” that reads: “the one I claim to be.”

[4] Although John 8:58 is accepted universally in biblical scholarship as a non-predicated divine declaration, “I am,” not all scholars hold to 8:24 in the same light as reflected in many translations. However, some translations (e.g., ISV [2008]; NAB) do see the phrase at 8:24 as unpredicted: “I am.” The Aramaic Bible in Plain English (2010) reads: “I said to you that you shall die in your sins, for unless you shall believe that I AM THE LIVING GOD, you shall die in your sins” (caps theirs). Also see Vincent’s Word Studies, where 8:24, 28, 58 and 13:19 are seen as a “solemn expression” of Jesus’ “absolute divine being.”

[5] Some connect Exodus 3:14 with John 8:58. However, the LXX rendering of Exodus 3:14 is not an exact equivalence: Egō eimi ho ōn (“I am the Being” or “Existing One”). Though there is a solid connection between Jesus’ divine claim in John 8:58 and Exodus 3:14 (both provide same meaning: I am the Eternal one), the full theological impact of Jesus’ divine declarative should be linked to the Hebrew phrase ani hu (“I [am] He”), which was rendered by the LXX as egō eimi. Again, the unpredicted egō eimi was a divine title used exclusively by Yahweh (e.g., Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4). Unlike Elohim (“God”), the title egō eimi was never applied to men or angels, but to Yahweh alone: “See now that I am [egō eimi], and there is no god except Me” (Deut. 32:29, LXX).

[6] The WT is the organization to which the JWs belong and submit.

[7] The Watchtower, 1 September 1974, 526-27

[8] Cf. KIT, 1985 ed. 451.

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

[10] Reasoning from the Scriptures, 418.

[11] Ibid., 530.

One of the most common objections to the deity of Jesus Christ made by unitarians (esp. Muslims & JWs[1])– aside from their false claim that Jesus never claimed to be God/Yahweh- is their claim that Jesus was never worshiped nor did He ever demand to be.

Both the OT and NT teach clearly that worship is to God alone (cf. Exod. 20:5)—with which most unitarians agree. Thus, if it were found in Scripture that the person of the Son, Jesus Christ, was actually worshiped in a religious context and He accepted it, it would be devastating for those who deny that Jesus as the Son is God, such as also Oneness Pentecostals who deny the eternality and deity of the person of the Son.[2] This would demonstrate beyond that the person of the Son; Christ Jesus was indeed God incarnate.

Aside from the fact that Scripture (esp. in John’s literature) presents clearly that Christ is fully God (viz. God-man) and the Creator of all things, we find that Christ was worshiped as God in several passages. Scripture presents the Son as receiving the same kind of religious “worship” as that of God the Father. This is particularly clear in the following examples in John’s literature and other portions of Scripture (both in OT and NT):

Daniel 7:9-14— The “Son of Man” was worshiped by “all the peoples, nations and men of every language.”

  • Matthew 14:33—Jesus was worshiped by the men in the boat.
  • John 9:35-38—Jesus was worshiped by the blind man.
  • Hebrews 1:6—“All the angels” worshiped the Son.
  • Revelation 5:13-14—The Lamb was worshiped in the same sense as that of God the Father.

Jesus received “worship” in a religious context[3] on several occasions. Although the above examples do not include every place where Jesus was worshiped, they give us clear and explicit examples of the Son receiving religious worship by both men and angels.

DANIEL 7:14

And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve [Aram., pelach, LXX., latreuō/douleuō] Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one, which will not be destroyed.

1. In Daniel 7:9-14, we read of two distinct persons who are the object of divine worship, the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man. In verse 14, the Son of Man was “given dominion, glory and a kingdom,” by God the Father in which “all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve/worship Him. . . .”

2. The term “serve” (“worshiped,” NIV) is from Aramaic word, pelach (Heb. palach). When this term appears in the OT where God is the object, it carries the idea of religious worship, services, or rituals performed in honor to the true God. Note, the term pelach, which is applied to the Son of Man in verse 14 is applied to Yahweh in verse 27 as well: “His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve [pelach] and obey Him.”

3. The LXX[4] translates pelach in verse 14, as latreuō, which, in a religious context, denotes service or worship reserved for God alone (cf. Exod. 20:5 [LXX]; cf. also Matt. 4:10; Rom. 1:9, Phil. 3:3; Heb. 9:14 et al). Although in some editions of the LXX, pelach is translated as douleuō (“to serve”), but in a religious context (which verses 9-14 undeniably are), douleuō like latreuō denotes service or worship reserved for God alone (cf. Gal. 4:8).

4. To avoid the implications of the Messiah receiving true divine worship, some have argued that the title “Son of Man” refers exclusively to humanity collectively (e.g., referring to Israel). However, contextually this cannot be true. As indicated previously, the Son of Man here receives “dominion, glory and a kingdom,” and “all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve/worship Him.”

This description cannot be said of men collectively. Moreover, while modern Jewish commentators deny the Messianic import of this passage, this was not the case with the earliest Jewish sources (cf. the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin, 96b-97a, 98a; etc.). Further, as noted, the testimony of early church Fathers connect the Son of Man in Daniel 7 with Jesus Christ— and not with men collectively.

MATTHEW 14:33

And those who were in the boat worshiped [proskuneō][5] Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

Matthew 14:22-34 is a narrative of the Jesus’ miraculous walking on the water. This event is also recorded in Mark 6:45-51 and John 6:16-21. What is notable is that the narrative supplies ample references to the deity of Christ (i.e., His “I am” claim and the religious worship given to Christ by the men in the boat). This event follows the feeding of the 5,000.

Immediately, after Jesus feeds the 5,000, Matthew records that Jesus “made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away” (v. 22). Jesus went to pray on the mountain. By evening, the boat was a long way off (about 3 or 4 miles, cf. John 6:19).

Then we read in verse 26 that after the disciples who were in the boat saw Jesus “walking on the water,” they were terrified for they thought they saw a phantasma (“ghost/ apparition,” cf. Mark 6:49). At which point Jesus comforted them by stating: Tharseite, egw eimi, mē phobeisthe (lit.) “Take courage, I am, [do] not [be with] fear” (Matt. 14:27). As with the several “I am” claims of Christ in the  Gospel of John, Jesus declares His deity in contrast to their fear. Jesus is the One who created all things, the eternal God, who controls the winds and the sea (cf. Matt. 8:27)—why be afraid?

In verses 28-32, Matthew provides additional information. We read that Peter attempted to walk on the water to meet Christ, but sank due to his weak faith. When Jesus helped him get back into the boat, verse 33 indicates, “Those who were in the boat worshiped [proskuneō] Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’” Note that act of worshiping is connected with the affirmation of Jesus being “God’s Son.” As observed, the unique way in which Jesus claimed to be the Son of God was tantamount to claiming to be God the Son—, which was clearly understood by the Jews (cf. Mark 14:61-62; John 5:17-18; 19:7), the apostles (cf. Matt. 16:18; Rom. 1:3-4); the author of Hebrews (cf. Heb. 1:1-3); the devil (cf. Matt. 4:3-7); God the Father (cf. Matt. 3:17; Heb. 1:5-12); and OT prophets (cf. Ps. 2:7; Dan. 7:9-14; Acts 10:43 et al).

JOHN 9:35-38

Jesus heard that they [the Jews] had put him [blind man that Jesus healed] out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?”37 Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” 38 And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped [proskuneō] Him.

In John 9:1, we read of a man blind from birth. However, Jesus healing of the blind man caused much controversy among the Jews (cf. vv. 13-34). The act of worship was first in response to Jesus’ revealing that He was the Son of Man. As in Matthew 14:33, the worship was combined with the blind man’s affirmation that Jesus, the Son of Man, was Lord—thus, a religious context.

HEBREWS 1:6

And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says,

“AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM.”

The prologue of Hebrews provides a marked contrast between all things created (viz., angels, the heavens, and the earth) and the eternal divine Son (cf. vv. 3, 8) who is presented as the unchangeable Creator of all things (cf. vv. 2, 10-13). Since the setting is in the heavens, the context is clearly religious in nature. In verses 1-3 the Son has already been exegetically presented as God, “through whom also He made the world” (v. 2). In verses 8-13, the Father addresses the eternal Son as both ho theos (“the God”) whose throne is forever (v. 8) and the Lord (Yahweh) of Psalm 102:25-27—the unchangeable Creator (vv. 10-12). That “all the angels” (v. 6) worship the person of the Son is perfectly consistent with the entire prologue of Hebrews as well as rest of Scripture.

In verse 6, God the Father commands pantes aggeloi theou (“all the angels of God”) to worship [proskuneō] the Son. Note, the commandment is given to “all the angels”—thus, the Son is excluded from being an angel (as seen below in Rev. 5:13). The theological implications of the Son receiving religious worship would absolutely mean that the Son is truly God. Also in Hebrews 1:10-12, God directly addresses the Son as the “Lord” (Yahweh) of Psalm 10:25-27, which refers to Yahweh as the unchangeable Creator of all things: “You, Lord [kurie [6], in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your hands. . . .”

Interestingly, the JWs’ NWT[7], contained “worship” at Hebrews 1:6 in the 1950, 1961, and 1970 editions; however, “worship” to the Son was quite problematic and confusing to many JWs (esp. in light of Exod. 20:5), so in the 1971 edition, the NWT changed the term “worship” to “obeisance” (meaning respect or honor).[8]

REVELATION 5:13-14

“And every created thing . . . I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ 14 And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen’ and the elders fell down and worshiped [proskuneō].”

Here the Father and the Lamb received the same kind of blessing, honor, and glory and thus, the same kind of worship, from “every created thing.” Hence, the Lamb (Jesus) is excluded from the category of a “created thing.” Rather, as in Hebrews 1:16 et al, the Son was worshiped in a religious context. This revealing truth shows that the Son shares the very essence of God the Father. He is God in the same sense as that of the Father (cf. John 1:1b; Heb. 1:3).


CONCLUSION

In the OT (cf. Dan. 7:14) and throughout the NT, Jesus was rightfully worshiped as God—the Creator of all things (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:10-12). Our faith as Christians demand we embrace the Triune God and Jesus as the second person of the Trinity, whose atoning cross work is the very cause of our justification. Let us join all the angels and worship the Son.

[1] Jehovah’s Witnesses.

[2] Oneness advocates see Jesus as a unipersonal (i.e., as one person) deity assuming three modes (not persons). Hence, only in the “Father” mode is Jesus God, not in the “Son” mode, which they argue was created in Bethlehem.

[3] A religious context is any such context where spirituality or holiness exists.

[4] The LXX is the abbreviation for the Septuagint (Latin, “seventy”). The LXX was the Greek translation of the OT, which was the primary source of OT quotations by the NT authors (esp. Hebrews).

[5] The Greek word proskuneō means divine worship in a religious context (as in Matt 4:10 and John 4:24) or it can also mean to fall prostrate in front of another in honor and respect, thus, “obeisance.” Only the context determines the meaning. In Hebrews 1:6, the setting is in the heavens—hence, it is religious worship to the Son that the Father commands of “all the angels.”

[6] Kurie is the “vocative” (direct address) case of kurios (“Lord”).

[7] New World Translation (NWT) is the Bible translation of the JWs.

[8] The NWT only removes “worship” at the places where worship was in reference to Jesus (e.g., Matt. 14:33; 28:9; John 9:38; Heb. 1:6 etc.).

  

Excerpt from the book of Hebrews (1:8-9) from P46, which is the earliest Greek manuscript of Hebrews (c. A.D. 200)

The prologue of Hebrews is one of the most Christologically significant prologues in the NT. The context of the prologue is crystal clear: The author presents a marked well-defined contrast between all created things (viz., angels and the heavens and the earth) and the eternality of the divine Son (cf. vv. 3, 6, 8), the unchangeable Creator (cf. vv. 2, 8-10-12), who was worshiped as God(v. 6). The author initiates his context by stating first that God’s final revelation is found in His Son alone (i.e., the NT), who is the Creator of all things.

Specifically, in verses 1-2, a contrast is drawn between the particular way God the Father spoke to His people in the OT—“in the prophets in many portions and in many ways”—and how God subsequently speaks to His people today—namely, through His Son: “through whom also He made the world”—God’s final revelation. Thus, it is the apostolic “writings,” concerning the Son, by which God speaks to us today (cf. Eph. 2:20). Verses 3-4 clearly present the Son’s person, nature (as God-man), sacrificial cross-work (“purification of sins”), and exaltation “at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” After affirming that the Son is the Creator of the world in verse 2, the author then exalts the distinct person of the Son as fully God—in the same sense (i.e., the very nature) as that of God the Father.

The entire prologue of Hebrews presents a clear distinction of persons, Jesus, the Son who provided “purification of sins” (vv. 3-4) and the Father, who commands His angels to worship someone other than Himself, the eternal Son. In verses 8-12, the Father directly addresses the Son as a distinct person from Himself: “But of the Son He [the Father] says.”

 Let us now note the fine points of the exegesis of Hebrews 1, which provide a fantastic refutation to unitarian groups such as the Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and especially Oneness Pentecostals who deny the deity and unipersonality of the Son, thus rejecting the biblical revelation of the triune God:

1. “He is the radiance of His glory” (hos ōn apaugasma tēs doxēs, [ὃς ὢν ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης]). As we have noted elsewhere regarding John 1:18 and Romans 9:5, the present tense active participle ōn (ὢν, “is/being”) is a very significant feature in exegesis.[2] The present participle ōn can indicate a continuing state of being. Here the author says that the Son is always, that is, in a continuing state (ōn) as the radiance of God’s glory, and “exact representation of His nature.” The present tense participle ōn (“is”/being) in this passage is set in contrast with the aorist epoiēsen (“He made”) in verse 2 and in contrast with the aorist genomenos (“having become”—referring to the incarnation) in verse 4.This is similar to the use of the imperfect ēn (“was”) in John 1:1, which is set in contrast with aorist egeneto (“came to be”) in 1:14, and similar to the use of the present participle huparchōn (“existing/always subsisting”) in Philippians 2:6, which is set in contrast with the aorist genomenos (“having become”) in verse 7.

In each case, there is an outstanding contrast between the eternal preincarnate Son and all things created.

2. “and exact representation of His nature” (kai charaktēr tēs hupostaseōs autou [καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ). The present active participle ōn (“is”) at the beginning of the phrase governs the phrase—thus, “He is [ōn, “always is/being”] the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature.” As we commented on Philippians 2:6, Paul expresses the same idea by using the present tense participle huparchōn (“being” NIV) to denote that the Son is always subsisting/existing in the very nature or essence (morphē) of God.The Greek term charaktēr (appearing only here in the NT) refers to the exact reproduction or representation expressing the reality or essence of the very image it is representing.

The LXX usage of charaktēr signifies the exact character or nature of the thing to which it is applied (cf. Lev. 13:28; 2 Mac.24:10; 4 Mac 15:4). The term denoted the exact imprint left by a signet ring such as a king, for example, after having been placed into wax—it is his exact non-replicable imprint[3].It also referred to the “engraving” stamp of a Caesar on a coin that exactly represented his honor, authority, and power. Louw and Nida define charaktēr as “a representation as an exact reproduction of a particular form or structure—‘exact representation of his being’ He 1.3.” One of the most recognized and cited Greek lexicons, BDAG, defines the meaning of charaktēr, as applied to the Son in Hebrews, as something “produced as a representation, reproduction . . . Christ is [charaktēr] an exact representation of (God’s) real being, Heb. 1:3.”

In the clearest sense, then, the Son is the “exact representation” of the God’s nature. The Greek term translated “nature” (NASB; “person” in the KJV) is from the Greek term, hupostaseōs (from hupostasis). According to the lexical support, the term carries the meaning of substantial nature, essence, actual being, reality (cf. BDAG). The term indicates “the substantial quality, nature, of any person or thing: Heb. 1:3” (Thayer).

Note below how hupostaseōs is rendered in this passage by major translations:

“The exact imprint of his nature” (ESV)

“The exact representation of His nature” (NASB).

“The exact representation of his being” (NIV).      

“Flawless expression of the nature of God” (Phillips).

“The express image of His person” (KJV, NKJV).

“The very image of His substance” (ASV).

“[The] exact expression of His essence” (ALT).

“The true image of his substance” (BBE).

“He is an exact copy of God’s nature” (ICB).

“The exact reproduction of His essence” (Wuest).

“All that God’s Son is and does marks him as God” (TLB)

“The very imprint of his being” (NAB).

“The exact imprint of God’s very being” (NRSV)

“Everything about Him represents God exactly” (NLT).

No creature can make this claim.

Even the biblical translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the NWT reflects an accurate meaning of charaktēr: “He is the reflection of [his] glory and the exact representation of his very being”—although they still deny Jesus as God.” Of course, Michael, the created archangel (who they be Jesus to be), cannot be the “exact representation” of the nature of God. The term here has an ontological reference to the hupostasis (nature) of the Father, which is consistent to the context of the prologue of Hebrews in which the author makes a sharp contrast between all things created (viz. angels, heavens, and earth), and the eternality of the person of the divine Son, the unchangeable Creator of all things, who is worshiped by “all the angels” (1:6).                 

Hebrews 1:3 unambiguously teaches that the Son possesses the “exact nature” of God. Neither king, prophet, mighty man, nor created angel such as Michael the archangel is said to be, or has ever made the claim of being, the charaktēr, that is, the “exact representation” or “express image” of the hupostaseōs—namely, the essence or very nature of God’s Being. Only God can rightfully be the “exact representation” of the nature of God.

 

3. “And when He [the Father] again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, And let all the angels of God worship Him.’” Then in Hebrews 1:6, we read that God the Father commands “all the angels” to worship the Son (pantes aggeloi thou [πάντες ἄγγελοι Θεοῦ,], lit., “all [the] angels of God”; see also Dan. 7:14; Matt. 14:33; Rev. 5:13-14, where the person of the Son is worshiped in a religious context). In light of Exodus 20:5 (“You shall not worship them or serve them”), divine worship is restricted to God alone. Thus, only from within a Trinitarian context can the Son be justifiably worshiped.

4. “But of the Son He [the Father] saysYour throne, O God [ho theos] is forever and ever. . . .” Further, the Father’s attestation as to His Son’s coequality is plainly stated in verse 8 where we read of God the Father’s direct address to the Son as ho theos (“the God”), whose throne is forever and ever. That the Father addresses “another” person as “God” (the Son) is precisely what the doctrine of the Trinity teaches. In the gospels, the Son addresses His Father as “God,” but here, the Father addresses the Son as “God.”

5. In verses 10-12, God the Father directly addresses the person of the Son as the YHWH (“Lord”) of Psalm 102:25-17, the unchangeable Creator of all things. Note, in verse 10, the Father says to the Son: “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of Your hands. . . .” Two important points should be considered here, 1) the term “Lord” in the Greek, kurie (Κύριε) is in the vocative case (i.e., the case of direct address) signifying linguistically that the Father is actually addressing the Son and 2) verses 10-12 are citations from Psalm 102:25-27, which speak of YHWH as the unchangeable Creator. Therefore, the Father actually identifies the Son and hence addresses Him as the YHWH of Psalm 102—the unchangeable Creator.

 

The prologue of Hebrews presents in the most intelligent way that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is fully God and fully man, and a distinct person from God the Father. In light of the striking contrast presented in the prologue of Hebrews (things created vs. the eternal SonCreator of all things), the author affirms straightforwardly in verse 3 that the Son is the eternal God. In a most literal sense, verse 3 says that the Son is (ōn—“always being”) the brightness, the eternal radiance (apaugasma) of the glory of God and the exact representation or impress (charaktēr) of the very nature (hupostaseōs) of God Himself.

Again, only within the context of Trinitarianism can the Son be worshiped by all of the angels and be identified and directly addressed (by God the Father) as both “God” and the “Lord,” that is, the YHWH of Psalm 102:25, the immutable Creator.Hence, along with the prologue of John and Colossians, the Trinity is expressed vividly in the prologue of Hebrews. It has been used historically by Christians to present both a positive affirmation of the deity of the Son and a clear and pointed refutation to the many non-Christian cults who “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4),—God the Son.

 


NOTES

[1] The Amplified version reads: “He is the sole expression of the glory of God [the light-being, the out-raying or radiance of the divine], and He is the perfect imprint and very image of [God’s] nature. . . .”

[2] John 1:18: “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is [ho ōn, i.e., “the One who is/being always”] in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (emphasis added). Romans 9:5: “Whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh,who is [ho ōn] over all, God blessed forever. Amen” (emphasis added).   

[3] The “instrument used in engraving or carving” (Thayer).

[4] BDAG is the abbreviation for Walter Bauer, A Greek English Lexicon.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Cor. 13:14).[1]

 

Virtually all non-Christian cults (esp. Muslims, Oneness believers, and  Jehovah’s Witnesses) reject the doctrine of the Trinity and teach that the early church had no such concept of a triune God, but rather they held to a unitarian concept of God (i.e., God existing as one person). Because of a great lack of study in the area of Patristics (i.e., church Fathers), these groups normally assert that the origins of the doctrine of the Trinity first emerged at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325.

So vast is the evidence that the early church envisaged a tri-personal God and not a unitarian.

 

Patristic authority,  J. D. Kelly observes: 

“The reader should notice how deeply the conception of a plurality of divine Persons was imprinted in the apostolic tradition and the popular faith. Though as yet uncanonized, the New Testament was already exerting a powerful influence; it is a commonplace that the outlines of a dyadic and a triadic pattern are clearly visible in its pages” (J. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, 88; emphasis added).   

 

QUESTION: What do these pre-Nicaea (A.D. 325) patristic sources: the Didachē (c. A.D. 70); Clement of Rome (96); Ignatius, bishop of Antioch (107); Mathetes (130); Aristides of Athens (140); Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna (150); Justin Martyr (151); Athenagoras of Athens (175); Theophilus, bishop of Antioch (180); Irenaeus, bishop of Lugdunum (now Lyon; 180); Clement of Alexandria (190); Hippolytus (205); Tertullian (213);  Origen (225); Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (253); Novatian (256) Dionysius, bishop of Rome (262); Gregory Thaumaturgus, the Wonder-worker (260); Methodius, bishop of Olympus (305); and Lactantius (307) have in common?- ANSWER: They all clearly affirm the biblical doctrine/concept of the Trinity and/or the coequality and coeternally of the divine person of the Son “with” the Father.         

 

Partial list (emphasis added on most citations): 

 

Didachē (viz. “The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles”; c. A.D. 70):

 

After the foregoing instructions, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living [running] water. . . . If you have neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (7.1).

 

 Clement bishop of Rome (c. A.D. 96). 

Clement of Rome wrote an epistle to the original Corinthian church. He was perhaps the same Clement who was Paul’s close companion mentioned in Philippians 4:3. Schaff comments of Clement of Rome: “Clement, a name of great celebrity in antiquity was a disciple of Paul and Peter, to whom he refers as the chief examples for imitation. He may have been the same person who is mentioned by Paul as one of his faithful fellow-workers in Philippi [Phil. 4:3] (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, op. cit., chap. 13, Ecclesiastical Literature of the Ante-Nicene Age, and Biographical Sketches of the Church Fathers, sec. 152).

Eusebius in his History of the Church (III:4) says that “Clement too, who became the third bishop of Rome, was Paul’s co-worker and co-combatant, as the apostle himself testifies.”

 

Clement’s salutation (To the Corinthians), he clearly differentiates God the Father from the Lord Jesus Christ:

The Church of God which sojourns in Rome, to the Church of God sojourning at Corinth, to those who are called and sanctified by the will of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you, and peace, from almighty God through Jesus Christ, be yours in abundance.

 

Ignatius bishop of Antioch (c. A.D. 107):

 

Ignatius bishop of Antioch was another apostolic church Father. What he says should be considered; after all, he was leader of the original church at Antioch:

 

There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made [agennētos]; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first possible and then impossible, even Jesus Christ our Lord (Letter to the Ephesians, 7).

 

Clearly, Ignatius does not see the Father and the Son as the same Person. In the same letter, he distinguishes the Father from the Son and the Holy Spirit:

Nevertheless, I have heard of some who have passed on from this to you, having false doctrine, whom you did not suffer to sow among you, but stopped your ears, that ye might not receive those things which were sown by them, as being stones of the temple of the Father, prepared for the building of God the Father, and drawn up on high by the instrument of Jesus Christ, which is the cross, making use of the Holy Spirit as a rope, while your faith was the means by which you ascended, and your love the way which led up to God (ibid., 9).

 

Jesus Christ, who was with the Father before the beginning of time, [cf. John 17:5] and in the end was revealed. . . . He, being begotten by the Father before the beginning of time, was God the Word, the only-begotten Son, and remains the same for ever. . . . . (Letter to the Magnesians, 6).

 

What is also noteworthy is the striking parallel in this portion of Ignatius’ letter and John 17:5. Ignatius states: “Jesus Christ, who ‘before the ages’ [pro aiōnōn] was ‘with the Father’ [para patri] and appeared at the end of time.” Specifically, both John and Ignatius use para with the dative denoting a marked distinction between Jesus and the Father and both use the preposition pro (“before”) to indicate that their distinction existed from eternity—“before time.”

Thus, Ignatius following the apostolic tradition envisages Jesus Christ as being para (“with/in the presence of”) the Father— pro aiōnōn (“before time”)—, which again is consistent with Trinitarianism, not Oneness unitarianism. As John does, Ignatius grammatically affirms the preexistence of the person of the Son who shared glory “with the Father” before time.     

 

For our God, Jesus Christ, now that He is with the Father, is all the more revealed [in His glory]. Christianity is not a thing of silence only, but also of [manifest] greatness (Letter to the Romans, 3).

 

Hermas (c. A.D. 120)

Hermas was perhaps the same Hermas whom Paul sends greetings to in Romans 16:14, around the year A.D. 57. Eusebius says of Hermas: “But as the same apostle, in the salutations at the end of the Epistle to the Romans, has made mention among others of Hermas, to whom the book called The Shepherd is ascribed” (History of the Church, 3.3).

In The Shepherd, Hermas writes in clear contradiction to the Oneness unitarian doctrine of the non-eternal Son: “The Son of God is older than all his creation, so that he became the Father’s adviser in his creation. Therefore, also he is ancient” (Ninth Similitude, 12).

Aristides of Athens (c. A.D. 140): “[Christians] are they who, above every people of the Earth, have found the truth, for they acknowledge God, the creator and maker of all things, in the only-begotten Son and in the Holy Spirit” (Apology, 16).

 

Polycarp bishop of Smyrna (c. A.D. 130-150)

The beloved Polycarp bishop of Smyrna, who claimed he had been a Christian for eighty-six years, was also, according to Irenaeus and Eusebius, a disciple of the Apostle John. In his last prayer before he was martyred, Polycarp glorifies not a unipersonal God, but rather a tri-personal God: the Father and His beloved Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit:

O Lord God Almighty, the Father of thy beloved and blessed Son Jesus Christ, by whom we have received the knowledge of Thee, the God of angels and powers, and of every creature, and of the whole race of the righteous who live before thee, I give Thee thanks that Thou hast counted me, worthy of this day and this hour, that I should have a part in the number of Thy martyrs, in the cup of thy Christ, to the resurrection of eternal life, both of soul and body, through the incorruption [imparted] by the Holy Ghost. I bless Thee, I glorify Thee, along with the everlasting and heavenly Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, with whom, to Thee, and the Holy Spirit, be glory both now and to all coming ages. Amen (Martyrdom of Polycarp, 14).

 

 

Mathetes (c. A.D. 130)

In his Letter to Diognetus, Mathetes, who claimed himself “having been a disciple of the Apostles,” speaks clearly of the eternality of the Word, not as the Father but as being sent from the Father:

I do not speak of things strange to me, nor do I aim at anything inconsistent with right reason; but having been a disciple of the Apostles, I am become a teacher of the Gentiles. For which s reason He sent the Word, that He might be manifested to the world…This is He who was from the beginning, who appeared as if new, and was found old, and yet who is ever born afresh in the hearts of the saints. This is He who, being from everlasting, is today called the Son. . . . (Letter to Diognetus, 11).

 

Justin Martyr (c. A.D. 160)

Throughout the content of his literature, Justin Martyr, consistently distinguishes the persons of the Trinity. Justin here naturally quotes the Trinitarian baptismal formula:

Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are reborn by the same manner of rebirth by which we ourselves were reborn; for they are then washed in the water in the name of God the Father and Master of all, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit (The First Apology, 61.1).

 

Consistent with Trinitarian theology, Justin points out that the Lord’s usage of first person plural pronouns (*which are actual plural verbs in the Hebrew) in the OT was God the Father conversing with someone, “numerically distinct from Himself,” that is, another person:

“Let Us make,” –I shall quote again the words narrated by Moses himself, from which we can indisputably learn that [God] conversed with someone who was numerically distinct from Himself, and also a rational Being. . . . (Dialogue with Trypho, 62).    

 

Justin Martyr refers to Jesus’ eternality (as Son) and as being “even numerically distinct [kai arithmō heteron]” from the Father:

 

And that Christ being Lord, and God the Son of God, and appearing formerly in power as Man, and Angel, and in the glory of fire as at the bush, so also was manifested at the judgment executed on Sodom. . . . And that this power which the prophetic word calls God, as has been also amply demonstrated, and Angel, is not numbered [as different] in name only like the light of the sun but is indeed something numerically distinct, I have discussed briefly in what has gone before; when I asserted that this power was begotten from the Father, by His power and will, but not by abscission, as if the essence of the Father were divided; as all other things partitioned and divided are not the same after as before they were divided: and, for the sake of example, I took the case of fires kindled from a fire, which we see to be distinct from it, and yet that from which many can be kindled is by no means made less, but remains the same. . . . (ibid., 128).

 

Athenagoras of Athens (c. A.D. 175)

I will state briefly that He is the first product of the Father, not as having been brought into existence (for from the beginning, God, who is the eternal mind [nous], had the Logos in Himself, being from eternity instinct with Logos; but inasmuch as He came forth to be the idea and energizing power of all material things, which lay like a nature without attributes. . . . The Holy Spirit Himself also, which operates in the prophets, we assert to be an effluence of God, flowing from Him, and returning back again like a beam of the sun (A Plea for Christians, 10).

Athenagoras wonders how any man could declare someone as an atheist, if they speak of “God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit”:

Who, then, would not be astonished to hear men who speak of God the Father, and of God the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and who declare both their power in union and their distinction in order, called atheists? (ibid.).

For, as we acknowledge a God, and a Son his Logos, and a Holy Spirit, united in essence, – the Father, the Son, the Spirit, because the Son is intelligence, reason, wisdom of the Father, and the Spirit an effluence, as light from fire; so also do we apprehend the existence of other powers, which exercise dominion about matter, and by means of it (ibid., 24).

 

Theophilus bishop of Antioch (c. A.D. 180)

 Theophilus seems to be the first person to mention the term “Trinity” (triados) when describing God:

 But the moon wanes monthly, and in a manner dies, being a type of man; then it is born again, and is crescent, for a pattern of the future resurrection. In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity of God, and His Word, and His wisdom. And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the Word, wisdom, man (To Autolycus, 2.15).

 

Irenaeus bishop of Lugdunum (now Lyon; c. A.D. 180)

It was not angels, therefore, who made us, nor who formed us, neither had angels power to make an image of God, nor any one else, except the Word of the Lord, nor any Power remotely distant from the Father of all things. For God did not stand in need of these [beings], in order to the accomplishing of what He had Himself determined with Himself beforehand should be done, as if He did not possess His own hands. For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, even the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things, to whom also He speaks, saying, “Let Us make man after Our image and likeness;” He taking from Himself the substance of the creatures [formed], and the pattern of things made, and the type of all the adornments in the world book (Against Heresies, 4.20.1).

 

Irenaeus rightly refers to the Word as the “Son” who he says, “was always with the Father,” which sharply opposes the unitarian view of God:

I have also largely demonstrated, that the Word, namely the Son, was always with the Father; and that Wisdom also, which is the Spirit, was present with Him, anterior to all creation, He declares by Solomon: “God by Wisdom founded the earth, and by understanding hath He established the heaven” (ibid., 4.20.3).

As it has been clearly demonstrated that the Word, who existed in the beginning with God, by whom all things were made, who was also always present with mankind, was in these last days, according to the time appointed by the Father. . . . For I have shown that the Son of God did not then begin to exist, being with the Father from the beginning; but when He became incarnate, and was made man (ibid., 3.18.1).

The Church, though dispersed through the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God. . . . (ibid., 1.10.1).

Following, Irenaeus speaks of God the Son as distinguished from the invisible Father:

and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father “to gather all things in one,” and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, “every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess” to Him [Jesus], and that He should execute just judgment towards all. . . . (ibid.).

 

When one examines the entirety of Irenaeus writings, the great truth of the Trinity shines forth.

 

Clement of Alexandria (c. A.D. 190):

I understand nothing else than the Holy Trinity to be meant; for the third is the Holy Spirit, and the Son is the second, by whom all things were made according to the will of the Father” (Stromata, Book V, Ch. 14)

 

Hippolytus (c. A.D. 205)

For us, then, it is sufficient simply to know that there was nothing contemporaneous with God. Beside Him there was nothing; but He, while existing alone, yet existed in plurality (Against Noetus, 10). Note the Greek: monos ōn polus ēn (lit., “alone existing [yet] plurality/many was”).

 

Tertullian (c. A.D. 213)

He commands them to baptize into the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, not into a unipersonal God. And indeed it is not once only, but three times, that we are immersed into the Three Persons, at each several mention of Their names (Against Praxeas, 26).

 

Cyprian, bishop of Carthage (253): “One who denies that Christ is God cannot become his temple [of the Holy Spirit].” (Letters 73:12).

 

Novatian the Roman Presbyter (c. A.D. 256)

The Roman Presbyter Novatian wrote extensively on the doctrinal basis of the essential Trinity. He argued, from the Scriptures, that Jesus was God, but not as the Father. He clearly shows that the eternal Son interacted with the Father as he draws from Genesis 19:24, where we read that YHWH sent fire from YHWH:

Whence also, that there might be no doubt but that it was He who was the guest of Abraham on the destruction of the people of Sodom, it is declared: “Then the Lord [YHWH] rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah fire and brimstone from the Lord [YHWH] out of heaven.” But although the Father, being invisible, was assuredly not at that time seen, He who was accustomed to be touched and seen was seen and received to hospitality. But this the Son of God, “The Lord rained from the Lord upon Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire.” And this is the Word of God. And the Word of God was made flesh, and dwelt among us; and this is Christ. It was not the Father, then, who was a guest with Abraham, but Christ. Nor was it the Father who was seen then, but the Son; and Christ was seen. Rightly, therefore, Christ is both Lord and God, who was not otherwise seen by Abraham, except that as God the Word He was begotten of God the Father before Abraham himself (“De Trinitate,” in Treatise of Novatian Concerning the Trinity, 18).

 

Novatian appeals to Philippians 2:6-11 to show again that the Son, the eternal Word, was not the Father:

“Who, although He was in the form of God,” he says. If Christ had been only man, He would have been spoken of as in “the image” of God, not “in the form” of God. . . . The Son of God, the Word of God, the imitator of all His Father’s works, in that He Himself works even as His Father. He is—as we have declared—in the form of God the Father. And He is reasonably affirmed to be in the form of God, in that He Himself, being above all things, and having the divine power over every creature, is also God after the example of the Father. . . . Yet He obtained, this from His own Father, that He [the Son] should be both God of all and should be Lord, and be begotten and made known from Himself as God in the form of God the Father. He then, all though He was in the form of God, thought it not robbery that He should be equal with God. For although He remembered that He was God from God the Father, He never either compared or associated Himself with God the Father, mindful that He was from His Father, and that He possessed that very thing that He is, because the Father had given it Him (ibid., 22).

 

Against the modalism of Sabellius, (Oneness doctrine)  Novatian writes:

that many heretics, moved by the magnitude and truth of this divinity, exaggerating His honours above measure, have dared to announce or to think Him not the Son, but God the Father Himself. And this, although it is contrary to the truth of the Scriptures, is still a great and excellent argument for the divinity of Christ, who is so far God, except as Son of God, born of God, that very many heretics–as we have said–have so accepted Him as God, as to think that He must be pronounced not the Son, but the Father. . . . This, however, we do not approve; but we quote it as an argument to prove that Christ is God, to this extent, that some, taking away the manhood, have thought Him God only, and some have thought Him God the Father Himself; when reason and the proportion of the heavenly Scriptures show Christ to be God, but as the Son of God; and the Son of man, having been taken up, moreover by God, that He must be believed to be man also. (ibid., 23).

 

Novatian lays out Scripture as his main point of argumentation against the modalists, again using Genesis 1:26 and Genesis 19:24, which opposes Oneness believers:

For thus say they [the modalists] If it is asserted that God is one, and Christ is God, then say they, If the Father and Christ be one God, Christ will be called the Father. Wherein they are proved to be in error, not knowing Christ, but following the sound of a name; for they are not willing that He should be the second person after the Father, but the Father Himself. And since these things are easily answered, few words shall be said. For who does not acknowledge that the person of the Son is second after the Father, when he reads that it was said by the Father, consequently to the Son, “Let us make man in our image and our likeness;” and that after this it was related, “And God made man, in the image of God made He him”? Or when he holds in his hands: “The Lord rained upon Sodom and Gomorrha fire and brimstone from the Lord from heaven”? Or when he reads (as having been said) to Christ: “Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of me, and I will give Thee the heathens for Thine inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Thy possession”? Or when also that beloved writer says: “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou on my right hand, until I shall make Thine enemies the stool of Thy feet”? Or when, unfolding the prophecies of Isaiah, he finds it written thus: “Thus saith the Lord to Christ my Lord”? Or when he reads: “I came not down from heaven to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me”? (ibid., 26).

 

Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria (262):

The Son alone, always co-existing with the Father, and filled with Him who is, Himself also is, since He is of the Father . . . neither the Father, in that He is Father, can be separated from the Son, for that name is the evident ground of coherence and conjunction; nor can the Son be separated from the Father, for this word Father indicates association between them. And there is, moreover, evident a Spirit who can neither be disjoined from Him who sends, nor from Him who brings Him. . . . Thus, indeed, we expand the indivisible Unity into a Trinity; and again we contract the Trinity, which cannot be diminished, into a Unity . . . For on this account after the Unity there is also the most divine Trinity . . . And to God the Father, and His Son our Lord Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen (“Epistle to Dionysius Bishop Rome,” 5-9 in Works of Dionysius, Extant Fragments [in Philip Schaff, The Ante-Nicene Fathers: The Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325]).

In Defense of Dionysius 9, Athanasius says of Dionysius’ letter to the Roman bishop (with the same name): “[Dionysius rightly] acted as he learned from the Apostles.”

 

Gregory Thaumaturgus the Wonder-worker (c. A.D. 260)
 
As with Dionysius of Alexandria, he was a pupil of Origen, and his Declaration of Faith, which is accepted as genuine, is a stunningly positive and definite Trinitarian treatise. Again, years prior to Nicaea:

There is one God, the Father of the living Word, who is His subsistent Wisdom and Power and Eternal Image: perfect Begetter of the perfect Begotten, Father of the only-begotten Son. There is one Lord, Only of the Only, God of God, Image and Likeness of Deity, Efficient Word,) Wisdom comprehensive of the constitution of all things, and Power formative of the whole creation, true Son of true Father, Invisible of Invisible, and Incorruptible of Incorruptible, and Immortal of Immortal and Eternal of Eternal. And there is One Holy Spirit, having His subsistence from God, and being made manifest by the Son, to wit to men: Image of the Son, Perfect Image of the Perfect; Life, the Cause of the living; Holy Fount; Sanctity, the Supplier, or Leader, of Sanctification; in whom is manifested God the Father, who is above all and in all, and God the Son, who is through all. There is a perfect Trinity, in glory and eternity and sovereignty, neither divided nor estranged. Wherefore there is nothing either created or in servitude in the Trinity; nor anything superinduced, as if at some former period it was non-existent, and at some later period it was introduced. And thus, neither was the Son ever wanting to the Father, nor the Spirit to the Son; but without variation and without change, the same Trinity abides ever (A Declaration of Faith).

 

Methodius of Olympus (c. A.D. 305)

Writing in the very early fourth century, Methodius’s work was widely read and highly valued. Jerome refers to him several times as does Epiphanius, Gregory Nyssen, Andrew of Caesarea, Eustathius of Antioch, and Theodoret. He is definitive as to his doctrine and, of course, extraordinarily Trinitarian in his view of God:

For the kingdom of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is one, even as their substance is one and their dominion one. From wich huch Whence also, with one and the same adoration, we worship the one Deity in three Persons, subsisting without beginning, uncreated, without end, and to which there is no successor. For neither will the Father ever cease to be the Father, nor again the Son to be the Son and King, nor the Holy Ghost to be what in substance and personality He is. For nothing of the Trinity will suffer diminution, either in respect of eternity, or of communion, or of sovereignty (Oration on the Psalms, 5).

 

The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, explains Methodius, were in divine accordance in purpose and will, being inseparable:

Whence also in this place they are not only said to hymn with their praises the divine substance of the divine unity, but also the glory to be adored by all of that one of the sacred Trinity, which now, by the appearance of God in the flesh, hath even lighted upon earth. They say: “The whole earth is full of His glory.” For we believe that, together with the Son, who was made man for our sake, according to the good pleasure of His will, was also present the Father, who is inseparable from Him as to His divine nature, and also the Spirit, who is of one and the same essence with Him (Oration concerning Simon and Anna on the Day that they met in the Temple, 2).

 

Lactantius (307)

When we speak of God the Father and God the Son, we do not speak of them as different, nor do we separate them, because the Father cannot exist without the Son, nor can the Son be separated from the Father, since the name of ‘Father’ cannot be given without the Son, nor can the Son be begotten without the Father … [T]hey both have one mind, one spirit, one substance; but the former [the Father] is as it were an overflowing fountain, the latter [the Son] as a stream flowing forth from it. The former as the sun, the latter as it were a ray [of light] extended from the sun” … “We, on the other hand, are [truly] religious, who make our supplications to the one true God. Some one may perhaps ask how, when we say that we worship one God only, we nevertheless assert that there are two, God the Father and God the Son–which assertion has driven many into the greatest error … [thinking] that we confess that there is another God, and that He is mortal … [But w]hen we speak of God the Father and God the Son, we do not speak of them as different, nor do we separate each, because the Father cannot exist without the Son, nor can the Son be separated from the Father” (Divine Institutes, 4:28-29).

 

Many more could be presented that undeniably show, within the proper context of the writers cited, that the early church prior to Nicaea collectedly embraced the concept of the Trinity and rejected both polytheism and Oneness unitarianism in all forms. They saw and taught that the one true God was triune—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—three distinct coequal, coeternal, and coexistent persons. This is the Faith of the OT believers and the NT church.

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Athanasius, in his Statement of Faith, put into plain words the doctrine of the indivisible and inseparable tri-unity of God:

 

“We believe in one Unbegotten God, Father Almighty, maker of all things both visible and invisible, that hath His being from Himself. And in one Only-begotten Word, Wisdom, Son, begotten of the Father without beginning and eternally; word not pronounced nor mental, nor an effluence of the Perfect, nor a dividing of the impassible Essence, nor an issue; but absolutely perfect Son. . . . We believe, likewise, also in the Holy Spirit that searcheth all things, even the deep things of God (1 Cor. ii. 10), and we anathe-matise doctrines contrary to this. . . .For neither do we hold a Son-Father, as do the Sabellians, calling Him of one but not of the same essence, and thus destroying the existence of the Son. Neither do we ascribe the passible body which He bore for the salvation of the whole world to the Father. Neither can we imagine three Subsistences separated from each other, as results from their bodily nature in the case of men, lest we hold a plurality of gods like the heathen. For neither is the Father the Son, nor the Son the Father. For the Father is Father of the Son, and the Son, Son of the Father. The Father, possessing His existence from Himself, begat the Son, as we said, and did not create Him, as a river from a well and as a branch from a root, and as brightness from a light, things which nature knows to be indivisible; through whom to the Father be glory and power and greatness before all ages, and unto all the ages of the ages. Amen.”

 

 

 

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NOTES

[1] Note that the repetition of the Greek article (tou, “the”) and the conjunction (kai, “and”) in this passage: lit., “of the [tou] Lord Jesus Christ . . . and [kai] . . . of the [tou] God and [kai] . . . of the [tou] Holy Spirit. . . .” Grammatically, this construction (viz. Granville Sharp’s Greek rule #6) indicates a distinction of persons. Same with Matt. 28:19: lit., “in the name of the [tou] Father and of the [kai tou] Son and of the [kai tou] Holy Spirit.”

 

Colossians 1:15,: “He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”

Because Jesus is called “firstborn,” the JWs assert that Jesus was created—the “first of Jehovah’s works.” Since this is probably their most utilized passage against Christians, we need to know how to respond to it in order to proclaim the truth of Jesus to them. In simple refutation, note the following:

1. The term “firstborn” (prōtotokos) denotes supremacy, preeminence, or first in rank as the context of Colossians demands. For example, in Exodus 4:22, Israel is called “firstborn” and certainly they were not the first nation created, but as God’s people they had preeminence. In Psalm 89:27, David, because of his status (i.e., his preeminence), is called “firstborn” and he was technically “last born” (note: in the LXX, both passages have prōtotokos). Even the Watchtower acknowledges the correct meaning of the term by admitting:

David, who was the youngest son of Jesses [sic], was called by Jehovah the “first-born,” due to Jehovah’s elevation of David to the preeminent position in God’s chosen nation (Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971, 584; emphasis added).

Further, note that in Genesis 41:51 Manasseh is called “firstborn” and Ephraim is called “second.” But in Jeremiah 31:9, Ephraim is called “firstborn” because it is was Ephraim who now had the preeminence or supremacy, and not Manasseh.

2. The context of the book of Colossians is a sharp refutation against the Gnostic heresy (Gnosticism). The Gnostics (viz. the Docetic Gnostics) denied all matter (creation). In contrast, Paul affirms that Jesus is the Creator of all things (cf. 1:16-17) in which He calls Christ “firstborn” of all creation. As Creator, Christ has supremacy (prōtotokos) over all creation.

3. If Paul wanted to convey that Jesus was “first-created,” he certainly could have used the word prōtoktistos literally meaning, “first-created” to do so (as in 2 Cor. 5:17). Hence, Jesus was not the first-creature, rather He was the Creator of ALL THINGS (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10-12), whereby in everything He has supremacy (cf. Col. 1:18). Points to remember:

  • In the context of Colossians, “firstborn” (prōtotokos) means supremacy or preeminence—Christ as Creator is preeminent over creation (cf. Exod. 4:22 and Ps. 89:27).
  • Even the Watchtower acknowledges the correct meaning of “firstborn” (“preeminent position”).
  • If Paul wanted to express that Jesus was created, he could have used prōtoktistos (“first created”).

Additional lexical information:

The term translated “firstborn” denotes Jesus as “having special status associated with a firstborn” (BDAG, Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon, 894). Biblical scholar Robert 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 JWs 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).

  • New World Translation:“and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.”

  • King James Version: “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

  • Greek Text (literal rendering):“and the Word was [ēnwith [prosthe God [ton theon], and God [theos] was the Word.”

In 1950, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (WT), the corporate name of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs), published their own translation of the Bible entitled: New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (NWT).[1] The WT’s prior theological commitments are quite obvious when the NWT is examined and compared to the Hebrew and Greek biblical manuscripts particularly at places where Jesus Christ is clearly presented as God (esp. John 1:1; 8:58; Phil. 2:9; Col. 1:16-17; 2:9; Titus 2:13; and Heb. 1:8). In other words, the WT had to make major alterations to their NWT from the original text in order to make their theology seem biblically consistent.. Accordingly, it is rejected by biblical scholarship as a legitimate translation. The above chart is a comparison of (1) the NWT’s rendering of the last two clauses of John 1:1 (1:1b and 1:1c), (2) the literal rendering of the Greek[2] (in Eng.), and (3) the KJV.[3]

“a god”?

One of the main reasons as to why the NWT renders John 1:1c as “and the Word was a god” is that in the Greek (see above), the first occurrence of “God” (theon, 1:1b) has the article “the” (ton), but the second occurrence of “God” (theos, 1:1c) does not (note: nouns without the article are called anarthrous). So, the JWs are taught that “THE God” refers to the “definite” almighty God, Jehovah (the Father) and the anarthrous theos (i.e., “God” without the article) refers to the “mighty god,” Michael the “created” archangel who they believe is Jesus.

In brief refutation to the NWT’s rendering of John 1:1c (“a god”), which is based on their chief theological starting point: Jesus is not God, consider the following:[4]

1. Two Gods? If the Word was a “true god” (for surely the JWs do not see the Word as a false “god”), then, two “true” Gods is clearly being asserted: the almighty God (Jehovah) and a mighty god (Jesus). That the Word was an indefinite god implies that He was merely one of a class of other gods, thus, the meaning of an indefinite noun. Here the JWs introduce polytheism (the belief in many true gods/Gods) into John’s Gospel. Not that it is impossible grammatically to be renders as “a god,” however, this idea would not only challenge John’s own *monotheistic* (one true God) theology, but clearly contradict his presentation of the full deity of Jesus Christ (e.g., John 5:23; 8:24, 58; 18:5, 6, 8; 20:28; 1 John 5:20; Rev. 5:12-14; 22:12-13).

2. “The God”? In biblical Greek, “God” with the article (“the”) and “God” without the article (i.e., the anarthrous theos) as in John 1:1c (lit., “and God was the Word”) can both refer to the one true God—context dictates the meaning. Further, many JWs incorrectly think that the two terms translated “God” (theon and theos) in 1:1 mean two different things: ton theon (“the God”) being the almighty God (Jehovah) and the anarthrous theos (“God”) being a mighty god (Jesus). However, the difference in spelling is due to their function in the sentence—not their meaning![5]

3. By asserting that the anarthrous theos should be rendered indefinite (“a god”), the JWs impose their own translational rule: anarthrous nouns = an indefinite meaning. But in fact, the anarthrous theos appears 282 times in the NT! Only at sixteen places does the NWT translate these 282 anarthrous occurrences of theos as indefinite.[6] Hence, the NWT was faithful to its translational rule only six-percent of the time![7] For example, the anarthrous theos appears in John 1:6, 12, 13, and 18, but yet the NWT did not follow its so-called translational rule at those passages. Only at John 1:1c did it do so—for obvious reasons. But why then (as JWs and many Christians will ask) does theos in John 1:1c not have the article? (kai theos ēn ho logos, lit., “and God was the Word” not “the God was the Word”). Answer: Simply put, if John had written: ho theos ēn ho logos (lit., “the God was the Word” making theos definite), he would have been teaching Oneness doctrine (or Modalism)! In other words, the passage would have indicated that “God” in 1:1b (the Father) and “God” in 1:1c (the Word) were the same Person! But semantically, theos is *qualitative,* not definite (and surely not indefinite—one of many).

Definite nouns point to the specific identification of someone or something (thus, in 1:1b “the God” identifies the Father) while qualitative nouns point to the essence or nature of someone or something.[8] The anarthrous theos indicates exactly as to what John was communicating: As to the Word’s nature (quality), He was fully God, but as to His Person (or specific identity), He was not identified as the Father, but personally distinct from Him: “The Word was with [pros] God.”[9]

To summarize:

  • To say that Jesus is a true God (“a god”) and Jehovah is also a true God forces polytheism (more than one true God) into John’s Gospel.
  • In Scripture, “God” with the article (“the God”) and “God” without the article does not necessitate a different meaning (see note 7).
  • The NWT is not consistent to its self-imposed translational rule (viz. “God” without the article should be rendered indefinite—“a god”). See John 1:6, 12, 13, 18.
  • That the Word was with God is consistent with Trinitarian theology, which states that there are three *distinct* Persons that share the nature of the one God. Only when one starts with the conclusion that God is unitarian (one Person), will he or she misunderstand John 1:1.

NOTES

[1] The NWT was revised in 1961, 1970, 1971, and a fourth revision in 1984.

[2] Interestingly, the WT has produced their own Greek interlinear (i.e., a Gk. text with the corresponding Eng. words under each Gk. word with the NWT written in the margin). It is called: Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures [KIT], which is a fairly accurate Greek text based on Westcott and Hort’s so-called, “Neutral Text” (pub. in 1881). Thus, I found it very effective to ask JWs to reference the KIT at passages such as John 1:1c; 8:58; Col. 1:16-17; 2:9; Titus 2:13; etc. where the purposeful modifications contained in the NWT can be clearly seen compared to the Greek text of the KIT. Also, at passages such as John 20:28, the KIT correctly records Thomas directly addressing Jesus as ho theos (“the God”), lit., “the Lord of me, and the God of me” (one of many places where Jesus is called ho theos as in Titus 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:1; Heb. 1:8; and 1 John 5:20).

These questions are answered below. Take first a few minutes to read the questions, then endeavor to feed on the answers and understand them, not just produce them as quick soundbites. 

Ask first: Jesus talked a lot about false prophets in the last-days,” tell me, biblically speaking what is a false prophet?”

I. Unitarianism: one God = one Person

QUESTION: If Jehovah is unitarian (existing as one Person), where in Scripture do we find a passage that teaches this?

II. Jesus is God and called “the God” (ho theos)

QUESTION 1: If Jesus is not Jehovah

III. Jesus as Creator

QUESTION 2: If Jesus was created as you were taught, why is He presented as the Creator of all things?

QUESTION 3: If the NWT did not add to the text the word “other,” would not the plain reading indicate that the Son was the Creator of “all things”? (see notes 6-7).

QUESTION 4: John 1:3 in the NWT says that “All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one came into existence.” Does this mean that “all things” came into existence through Jesus?

QUESTION 5: Hebrews 1:10, which is a reference to the Son, says that the Son “laid down the foundation of the earth itself” and the heavens are the work of His hands (NWT), does this not clearly indicate that the Son is the Creator?

QUESTION 6: If passages such as John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; and Hebrews 1:8-10 do not teach that Jesus was the Creator, even though they plainly say that He created “all things,” how would a passage read that did?

QUESTION 7: If Scripture did indeed teach that Jesus was the actual Creator of all things wouldn’t that make Him eternal and thus preexistent?

IV. The Divine Worship of Christ

QUESTION 8: Exodus 20:5 says that worship is reserved for God alone. So, why did the Father command all of His angels to worship the Son in Hebrews 1:6?

QUESTION 9: Revelation 5:13 says that “every creature” said to the “One sitting on the throne [God the Father] and to the Lamb [the Son] . . . be the blessing and the honor and the glory and the might forever and ever” (NWT). How can the Lamb be a creature when “every creature” is said to be giving praise to both the Father and the Lamb?

Part 1~ Question Asking Technique (Q&A)

Main Watchtower[1] Theological Distinctives:

  • They reject the biblical doctrine of the Trinity.
  • They reject the full deity of Jesus Christ.
  • They reject the deity and personally of the Holy Spirit.
  • They reject the “physical” resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • They reject that justification is through faith alone.
  • They reject the biblical concept of God’s wrath (viz. hell) for the unregenerate

JW’s teach that they are the only “true” Christians and that the WT is God’s sole channel of communication on earth.

Even though the theology of the WT is clearly false, when Christians engage in dialogue with JWs (esp. on the Trinity and the deity of Christ) too often they become intimidated and, within minutes, doctrinally confused! For in dialogue, the JWs generally aim to dominate the conversation by “proving” his or her position by rapid-firing a host of biblical passages[2]—most of which are wrenched out of context. Typically, they do not allow time for any meaningful exegetical discussion of each passage presented; they merely cite them—and at times, in one breath!

The problem is that many Christians who desire to reach out to JWs lack the basic knowledge of their own theology to provide a clear biblical affirmation and response to the assertions of the JWs. So, if your desire is to witness to the JWs, the first thing that you must do is to learn the basics of your own faith, then, the basics of what JWs believe. If you can biblically communicate central doctrines such as the Trinity, deity of Christ, and salvation through faith alone, even without exhaustively understanding every doctrine of the WT, you can confidently and adequately defend and affirm the Person and finished work of Christ—namely, the gospel.

JW’s answer questions & ignore opposing arguments

They spend many hours in Kingdom Halls[3] learning how to proclaim the WT’s version of the “Kingdom of God.” Because they are taught not to argue, even though few follow this rule, when dialoguing with JWs, I have found it extraordinarily effective to engage in “question asking.” Q&A forces the JWs to (a) contemplate the question asked as well as the answer that they will be giving, and (b) stick to the topic being addressed, which prevents their normal tactic of playing biblical hopscotch—namely, jumping from one passage to another. Jesus frequently utilized Q&A as an effective way to teach and express particular truths (e.g., with Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman; cf. John 3, 4). The Apostle Paul likewise used Q&A as a means of teaching (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:13; 12:29-31; Gal. 3-1-5).

Types of questions to ask

Before you rush to the nearest Kingdom Hall with your 101 questions, first, as mentioned, you should be biblically prepared to respond to the JW’s rejections and assertions mounted against the true gospel. They will normally start the dialogue by getting you to agree that these are the “last-days,” then, as seen above, they will quickly jump from one subject to another. Many times they will postulate the notion that the entire church apostatized (fell away) after the death of the original apostles[4] and hence, that they alone are the only true Christians—Jehovah’s true witnesses.

Above all, do not allow them to dominate the conversation: Keep them on one subject at a time particularly on the Person, nature, and finished work of Jesus Christ. But if they persist on the topic of the last-days, you may want to try a method, which I found works very well:

*Example-

Ask first: “That is true; in fact, Jesus talked a lot about false prophets in the last-days,”[5] tell me, biblically speaking what is a false prophet?”

They may waver here, but immediately take them to Deut. 18:20-22 where a false prophet is clearly defined (even in their own NWT) as one who prophesies in the name of the LORD (“Jehovah” NWT) and what was prophesied did not come to pass. The JWs should not have any problem agreeing on the biblical definition here of “false prophet.”

Then ask: Did the WT ever make false predictions or prophecies on behalf of Jehovah? “If you assert that the WT made false prophecies make sure you possess the actual citations.”[6]

They will either deny this (out of ignorance or deception) or, most of the time, they will calmly assert that “the WT made mistakes; for they are mere men who never claimed that they were ‘prophets,’ they are constantly receiving ‘new light.’”[7]

At that point it is very important to show[8] them where the WT has undeniably claimed that they were prophets:

Who will be Jehovah’s prophet? Who will be the modern day Jeremiah? The plain facts show God has been pleased to use Jehovah’s Witnesses (WT Magazine, January 15, 1959, pp. 40-41; *additional WT claims of being a “prophet” can be found @ www.christiandefense.org/jw.htm).

To recap, when the JWs use the “last-days tactic” to open up the dialogue, first, get the JWs to agree on the “biblical definition” of a false prophet (cf. Deut. 18) any other definition is merely fallible opinion. Then, show (from their own literature) where the WT has made definite claims of being a “prophet.” Then take them to references or citations of false prophecies made by them. Once the biblical definition to which the JWs has agreed upon has been established, the WT ends up proving itself to be a false prophet. This route of witnessing utterly undermines their sole religious authority, which tells them that doctrines such as the Trinity and the full deity of Christ are false. Even if they disagree at first (which most will), they will almost certainly remember the dialogue they had with you in which you revealed biblically that the WT is a false prophet.

Part 2~ Question Asking Technique (Q&A)

Previously, we saw how Q&A is an effective way to witness to JWs. We will now deal with the very heart of the gospel: the Trinity including, of course, the deity of Christ. The information presented below is not by any means an exhaustive compilation of every feature of these doctrines; it merely provides some basic tools for presenting these doctrines.

Unitarianism: one God = one Person

The fact is that too many Christians, without forethought, dart right to the doctrine of the Trinity only to get discouraged by a “studied” JW that learned how to answer Trinitarian or deity of Christ objections.[9] Hence, before discussing the Trinity and/or the deity of Christ, you must first realize this: The main reason why the JWs (and most anti-Trinitarian groups) reject these *essential doctrines[10] is because they wrongly assume from the start that God (Jehovah) is *unitarian,* that is, existing as one sole Person—uni-personal, not tri-personal.

“For if,” they argue, “there is only one God (i.e., one Person), how can Jesus (another Person from Jehovah) be God? That would be two Gods.” Hence, this unitarian assumption must first be dealt with or you will find yourself endlessly going back and forth asserting your position (the Trinity) in which the JWs will argue a different position (unitarianism) than that of the real argument being asserted.

Due to their unitarian assumption, many JWs falsely assume that the “evil” Trinity doctrine means ‘three Gods,’ rather than ‘three Persons.’ Thus, Christians must clearly define what the Trinity is and what it is not before discussing it.[11]

Also see: Most utilized Unitarian Objections to the Trinity

What’s more, most JWs (and unfortunately, many Christians) have never been taught as to what the *biblical* doctrine of the Trinity actually teaches. Hence, their views of the Trinity and the deity of Christ are usually based on either a false notion or faulty information.

Below is one question to ask JWs that will expose their false notion of what the Trinity is:

QUESTION: If Jehovah is unitarian (existing as one Person), where in Scripture do we find a passage that teaches this?

>>There is no passage in the OT or NT that teaches “one God” = “one Person” (unitarianism), but rather Scripture teaches that God is one Being. Monotheism is simply the belief in one God (e.g., Deut. 4:35; Isa. 44:6, 8): mono from monos, meaning, alone or only one and theism from theos, meaning, God). To argue that one God equals one Person is to argue in a circle.[12] However, for a JW to even contemplate as to the truth of the Trinity, he or she must see that (a) unitarianism is not biblical and (b) the deity of Christ is clearly established in Scripture: if a JW can see that Scripture does indeed teach the deity of Christ, then, one God revealed in three Persons—the Trinity, can be envisaged as biblical. So here we will focus on key questions regarding the deity of Christ.

Scripture exegetically presents that Jesus Christ is presented as fully God, God the Son.

In the NT,[13] there are three significant theological truths that clearly and unequivocally show that Jesus is God—in the same sense as that of the Father: Scripture presents that 1) Jesus, the Son, is fully God and is called “the God” (ho theos),[14] 2) Jesus is Creator, and 3) Jesus receives the same kind of worship that God the Father receives. The questions below do not represent an exhaustive list of every question regarding the deity of Christ, but they do present some challenging questions for JWs:

Jesus is God and called “the God” (ho theos)

QUESTION 1: If Jesus is not Jehovah[15] why did the apostles call Him “the God.”?

Remember, the JWs are convinced that in the Bible only Jehovah is and is called “the God.” However, note the clear examples below of where Jesus is called “the God.” Be sure that you have the JWs consult their own KIT[16] Greek text to verify the original rendering.

*John 20:28: ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou, lit., “the Lord of Me and the God of Me”).[17]

*Titus 2:13: tou megalou theou kai sōtēros hēmōn Christou Iēsou, lit., “the great God and Savior of us Christ Jesus.”

>>*2 Peter 1:1 has nearly the same rendering as Titus 2:13: tou theou hēmōn kai sōtēros Iēsou Christou, lit., “the God of us and Savior Jesus Christ.” The point is, both Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 have the same grammatical construction: “God and Savior Jesus Christ.” This construction is known as Granville Sharp’s rule #1, which states (basically): when two singular descriptive nouns (“God” and “Savior”) are connected by the conjunction kai (“and”) and there is only one article (“the”) before the first noun (“God”), but not the second noun (“Savior,” thus, does not read, “the Savior”), both nouns, “God” and “Savior,” refer to the first named person, which is “Jesus Christ” at these passages.[18]

Also see HEBREWS 1:8 where the Father calls the Son “the God”: “ho thronos sou ho theos, lit., “the throne of You the God.”

Part 3~ Question Asking Technique (Q&A)

The goal of this article is to equip Christians to proclaim the deity of Christ to JWs utilizing Q&A as an effective means. As shown, we saw how presenting passages where Jesus is called “the God,” (Gk. ho theos, viz John 20:28; Titus 2:13; and 2 Pet. 1:1) can be greatly effective in the task of presenting Jesus as God. Also, to recall, in the NT (and OT), there are three significant theological truths that clearly and unequivocally show that Jesus is God—in the same sense as that of the Father: Biblically, 1) Jesus is “the God” (ho theos),[19] 2) Jesus is Creator, and 3) Jesus receives the same kind of worship as that of God the Father.

We first addressed a very important point when dialoging with JWs on the issue of the Trinity and/or the deity of Christ: their *unitarian* assumption that God exists as one Person. [20] I cannot stress this enough: the JW’s unitarian/unipersonal assumption of God must be addressed before interacting on topics such as the Trinity and the deity of Christ.

Previously, in Question 1, the first biblical truth was presented: Jesus is God and is called “the God.” So the next set of questions will address the fact that Jesus is presented as the Creator and He is worshiped as God. For if Jesus was the actual Creator, then, He would be excluded from being a creature as the JWs believe. [21] As indicated before, the questions below do not represent an exhaustive list of every question regarding the deity of Christ, but they do present some challenging questions for JWs.

Jesus as Creator

QUESTION 2: If Jesus was created as you were taught, why is He presented as the Creator of all things?

>>Scripture presents that Jesus was the very “agent of creation” (i.e., the Creator; esp. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; 1 Cor. 8:6; and Heb. 1:8-10). The normal response by JWs is that all those passages that speak of the Son creating, speak of His role in that He was merely with and assisting the Father. Thus, they argue that the Son created all “other” things except Himself, as their translation (NWT) indicates in Colossians 1:16-17 where the NWT added the word “other” four times![22]

But what were they to do? If Paul taught that Jesus created “all things” (as the literal unedited text of vv. 16-17 reads[23]) that would mean that the Son is eternal, hence, God Himself. Interestingly, the NWT “correctly” reads at John 1:3: “All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one came into existence.” In the Greek, the same phrase is used as in Colossians 1:17: literally, “the all things [ta panta] through Him [di’ autou] came into being.” As pointed out (see n. 7 below), the preposition dia (“through”) followed by the genitive case ending (autou, “Him”) indicates that Jesus was the actual agent of creation.[24]

QUESTION 3: If the NWT did not add to the text the word “other,” would not the plain reading indicate that the Son was the Creator of “all things”? (see notes 6-7).

QUESTION 4: John 1:3 in the NWT says that “All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one came into existence.” Does this mean that “all things” came into existence through Jesus?

>>So far, the NWT has not changed this text here by adding the word “other” as they did with Colossians 1:16-17 (and Phil. 2:9). Be sure to point out the similarities of John 1:3 (panta, “all things”) and Colossians 1:16-17 (panta, “all things”) except, of course, the NWT added “other” four times to Colossians 1:16-17.

QUESTION 5: Hebrews 1:10, which is a reference to the Son,[25] says that the Son “laid down the foundation of the earth itself” and the heavens are the work of His hands (NWT), does this not clearly indicate that the Son is the Creator?

>>Here the author of Hebrews is quoting Psalm 102:25, which is referring to Yahweh,[26] but the author specifically applies it to the Son (cf. v 8). This is one of many places where a NT author quotes an OT passage referring to Yahweh, yet applies it to the Son[27]—clearly showing that the Son is Yahweh.

QUESTION 6: If passages such as John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; and Hebrews 1:8-10 do not teach that Jesus was the Creator, even though they plainly say that He created “all things,” how would a passage read that did?[28]

QUESTION 7: If Scripture did indeed teach that Jesus was the actual Creator of all things wouldn’t that make Him eternal and thus preexistent?[29]

The Divine Worship of Christ

QUESTION 8: Exodus 20:5 says that worship is reserved for God alone. So, why did the Father command all of His angels to worship the Son in Hebrews 1:6?

>>In the 1971 edition of the NWT, the word “worship” was changed to “obeisance,”[30] but only at places where the Son is said to have received “worship” (e.g., Matt. 14:33; 28:9; John 9:38; Heb. 1:6; etc.). If the WT is Jehovah’s “sole channel” of communication, as they claim, and worshipping Jesus is wrong, as they teach, why did the NWT contain “false doctrine” for over twenty years?[31]

The word “worship” is translated from proskuneō in Greek. It could mean “obeisance” or “to fall prostrate” depending on the context. Surely, it is not wrong to proskuneō, that is, bow before a king or dignitary. But in a “religious context” (to which Exod. 20:5 refers) would be idolatry. Thus, when John started to worship (proskuneō) the angel, the angel quickly stopped him saying, “I am a fellow servant . . . worship God” (Rev. 19:10; cf. Acts 10:25-26). But the Son was worshiped (proskuneō)—in a “religious context.” In Hebrews 1:6, for example, the context is in heaven, in the presence of God the Father—it does not get more religious than that!

QUESTION 9: Revelation 5:13 says that “every creature” said to the “One sitting on the throne [God the Father] and to the Lamb [the Son] . . . be the blessing and the honor and the glory and the might forever and ever” (NWT). How can the Lamb be a creature when “every creature” is said to be giving praise to both the Father and the Lamb?

>>Revelation 5:13 and esp. verse 14, show clearly that the Lamb received the *same kind* of worship and praise (“blessing and the honor and the glory and the might forever and ever”) as that of the “One sitting on the throne,” the Father. The text speaks of two categories: “every creature” and the Father and the Lamb, thus excluding the Lamb from the category of “every creature.”

In conclusion, the NT teaches unambiguously that Jesus Christ was God, Creator of “all things.” He is the very object of religious worship by His followers and the angels in heaven are commanded by the Father to worship the Son. Religious worship is to God alone. Only because Jesus Christ is fully God is He deserving of divine worship to the utmost. Jesus said to honor the Son as you would honor the Father. “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father. . . .” (John 5:22-23).

RESPONSE:

1. No passage in the Bible teaches that a “total” apostasy will happen. 1 Tim. 4:1 reads that only “some will fall away,” and 2 Thess. 2:3 does not say that the entire church will fall away, only that there will be an apostasy with no mention as to the extent of the apostasy.

2. Jesus said, “I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matt. 16:18). That a total apostasy had occurred would indicate that the church was indeed overpowered by evil, a notion that is completely refuted by Christ.

3. The apostle Paul likewise speaks of the perpetuity of the true church: “to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:21). Also consider this: If the entire church (post-apostolic age) fell away in which many false doctrines emerged, what does that say of the apostles who started and oversaw the original churches, and, who personally taught and commissioned many of the leaders of these churches? In fact, we do have many writings of significant “apostolic” church Fathers (viz. disciples of the original apostles, as with Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Hermas, Mathetes, Polycarp, etc.). So, I would ask, which of these (or any other early church Fathers) apostatized? And if not any of them, who then started this supposed total apostasy? Moreover, when exactly, did this so-called total apostasy happen? What is the evidence? For we know that at least by c. A.D. 90 there were Christian churches existing (cf. Rev. chaps. 2-3). LDS scholars certainly disagree as to when this so-called total apostasy happened. Were the apostles so spiritually ineffective in that they could not positively impact their disciples to stay consistent to their teachings? Hardly, Paul was fully confident that his doctrines would be entrusted “to faithful men who would be able to teach others” (2 Tim. 2:2). The fact is, even though some will fall away in the last days starting in the 1st Century (cf. 1 John 2:18-19) neither secular evidence nor a biblical passage indicates a total apostasy. Jesus promised that He will preserve the church (cf. Matt. 16:18) and He will be the “glory in the church . . . to all generations forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:21).

1) the word that speaks of God being “one” (in the OT) is אחר, echad (e.g., Deut. 6:4: “The LORD is our God . . . is one [echad]”). The term echad predominately indicates compound or composite unity—not absolute solitary oneness (e.g., Gen. 2:24; 2 Chron. 30:12).

2) The word in the OT language that does strictly signify absolute solitary oneness is yahiyd (cf. Ps. 68:6).

Note: in the OT, this word was never applied to God. If God were an unipersonal deity, as JWs presuppose, surely the OT authors would have used the term yahiyd to say that God is “one,” but they did not, they exclusively used echad, 2) in the OT, plural pronouns, adjectives, and verbs were used of God (e.g., “Us,” “Our,” cf. Gen. 1:26-27; 3:22; 11:7-9; Isa. 6:8; in Isa. 54:5, God is said to be the “Makers” [pl. in Heb. same as Ps. 149:2]; in Eccl. 12:1, the Hebrew literally reads, “Remember also your Creators.”

Only because God is tri-personal He can be described as both “Maker” and “Makers” and as “Creator” and “Creators.” He is one Being, not one Person—a point that is repetitiously brought out by the OT authors. See also passages such as Gen. 19:24; Ps. 45:6-7 (quoted in Heb. 1:8ff.); and Isa. 48:16 where God is clearly presented as multi-personal, not unitarian or unipersonal.

NOTES

[1] The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is the official name of the organization to which the JW’s belong (hereinafter WT).

[2] The Bible of the JWs is the New World Translation (NWT).

[3] A Kingdom Hall is a meeting place for JW’s where the majority of their worship, Bible studies, and religious services are held.

[4] This notion is also shared by the LDS Church (i.e., the Mormons). The JWs use the “total apostasy” assertion to buttress their view that they alone are Jehovah’s true witnesses on the earth who restored many “true” doctrines, which the “apostate” church corrupted. To show this, both JWs and LDS use the same passages, mainly, 1 Tim. 4:1 and 2 Thess. 2:3.

[5] Cf. Matt. 24:4, 11, 24.

[6] There are many false prophecies that the WT had made. For example, the 1925 prophesy: “Therefore we may confidently expect that 1925 will mark the return of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the faithful prophets of old. . . . (Millions Now Will Never Die, 1920, pp. 89-90); “The year 1925 is a date definitely and clearly marked in the Scriptures, even more clearly than that of 1914 (WT, July 15, 1925, p. 211).

Of course, there was no resurrection of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob proving this prophecy false. You can acquire the citations of many significant false prophecies from www.christiandefense.org/jw.htm including the blatant false prophecies concerning the supposed “end of the world” and return of Christ in 1914.

[7] To deflect the charge of being a false prophet, the JWs use the “new light argument” appealing to Prov. 4:18: “But the path of the righteous ones is like a bright light that is getting lighter and lighter. . . .” However, notice verse 19 (which is ignored by the JWs): “The way of the wicked ones is like the gloom; they have not known at what they keep stumbling” (NWT). In context then, v 18 & 19 are simply contrasting “the path of the righteous” with “the way of the wicked.” Ask JWs who used this line of reasoning: If they think that the “new light” argument would be valid excuse for a self-proclaimed prophet who promulgated false prophecies in the OT in light of Deut. 18:20-22. Even the WT’s own magazine said: “Of course, it is easy to say that this group acts as a ‘prophet’ of God. It is another thing to prove it. The only way that this can be done is to review the record” (WT, April 1, 1972, p.197).

[8] It is very important that you show only the specific addresses of the citations or photocopies, not anti-JW Christian literature (such as this article). If you do, they will immediately retract from your presence and never want to dialogue with you again.

[9] For example, a JW may ask you, “Did you know that the Trinity was invented in 4th century by the Roman Catholic Church?” In our Jan/Feb 2007 newsletter, we provided some of the main Trinitarian objections made by anti-Trinitarian groups (or view it here: Most utilized Unitarian Objections to the Trinity

[10] “Essential” doctrines are doctrines that are indispensable to true Christian faith, namely, the Trinity and the finished work of Christ (i.e., justification through faith alone). To reject any of these doctrines is to reject the Jesus of biblical revelation since they biblically define His very nature and finished work.

[11] One thing that we must consider first: only God can open a JW’s mind to embrace the Trinity. Normally, when I define the Trinity, I simply state, in three points, that Scripture presents 1) there is one eternal God (but not one Person), 2) that there are three Persons (viz. the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) that are God and are called God (or Yahweh), and 3) (conclusion) that the three divine Persons are distinct from each other. Though, the very foundation of the Trinity is monotheism, one God. Thus, there are three divine Persons that share the nature of the one Being, God. The three Persons are presented biblically as coeternal, coequal, coexistent, and distinct from each other. Moreover, when presenting the Trinity, be sure to have the biblical support to justify your presentation.

[12] Of course, the JWs can say the same to us: “You too make an assumption: ‘one God’ does not mean one Person, but one Being.” However, the concept of “one” is really not what is being argued, for Scripture does teach that there is only one God by nature (e.g., Deut. 4:35). The argument, however, revolves around the “interpretation” of “one God.” First, since the phrase and concept “one God” is not specifically defined as “one Person” (for in both Heb. and Gk. there were words that specifically denoted “person[s]”), then, the burden of proof would certainly fall on the one claiming that the definition in the biblical author’s mind of “one God” means “one Person.” Second, it does not follow that because God is personal, He must be unipersonal (one Person). The fact is that both the OT and NT authors did not envisage God as unitarian/unipersonal. Note the following:

[13] The OT contains abundant examples of the deity of the pre-incarnate Christ (e.g., “the angel of the Lord” references; Gen. 19:24; Isa. 9:6; Micah 5:2; etc). However, since the NT reveals the full revelation of the deity of Christ, we will primarily focus our attention on the NT data.

[14] The JWs assert that only Jehovah can be called “the God.” The WT has published a Greek *Interlinear called, The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures (hereafter KIT). It is a fairly accurate Greek text. A Greek interlinear is a Greek text with the literal word-for-word translation of the English equivalent words placed under the Greek words. In the KIT, the NWT is printed on the side margin. The KIT is a way for the JWs, most of whom cannot read Greek, to see the actual Greek rendering by reading the English equivalents. Pertaining to their view of “the God” there is a footnote in reference to John 1:1c (“the Word was a god” NWT) that reads, “‘a god’ in contrast with ‘the God’” (401). See John 1:1 where the NWT is exegetically examined. Moreover, the WT magazine explains that “The title ho theos [“the God”], which now designates the Father as a personal reality, is not applied in the NT to Jesus himself; Jesus is the Son of God (of ho theos). . . .” (1 July 1986, 31). Showing JWs that Jesus is called “the God” could incite them to study further.

[15] Be sure to clarify your position: when you say Jesus is Jehovah, you are not saying that Jesus is the Father as JWs typically assume due to their unitarianism assumption: only the Person of Jehovah (the Father) is God. So, you need to make this point clear: Jesus is God, but He is not the same Person as the Father.

[16] See note 6 above.

[17] Many JWs will explain that Thomas was not addressing Jesus as “God,” rather he was merely expressing excitement as with “Oh my God, it’s You!” This argument is flawed on at least three accounts: 1) the English reads “My Lord and My God,” but the Greek reads, ho ku rios mou kai ho theos mou, lit., “The Lord of Me and the God of Me.” An equivalent phrase is found in Ps. 35:23 (LXX): ho theos mou kai ho kurios mou, lit., “the God of Me and the Lord of Me,” 2) if Jesus was not the true God, He, as a Rabbi, would have rebuked Thomas for addressing Him as God, but Jesus instead blessed him, and 3) grammatically, the text indicates that Thomas “said to Him”—in direct address. This is clear from the rendering: apekrithē Thōmas kai eipen autō, lit., “answered Thomas and said to Him.” In Rev. 4:11, an equivalent phrase is used to directly address God: ho kurios kai ho theos hēmōn, lit., “the Lord and the God of us.”

[18] 2 Pet. 1:11; 2:20; 3:2, and 18 literally read, “the Lord of us and Savior Jesus Christ” (tou kuriou hēmōn kai sōtēpos Iēsou Christou). These passages are of the same grammatical construction as that of 2 Pet. 1:1 (and Titus 2:13) except 2 Pet. 1:1 reads, “the God and Savior” while the others read, “the Lord and Savior.” In 2 Pet. 1:11; 2:20; 3:2, and 18, the JWs have no problem seeing both nouns “Lord” and “Savior” as refering to one person, Jesus. Only at 1:1, do the JWs see “God” and “Savior” as two persons—even though grammatically 2 Pet. 1:11; 2:20; 3:2; and 3:18 are of the same as that of 2 Pet. 1:1 (article-noun-“and”-noun = the first named person).

[19] As seen before, the JWs assert that only Jehovah can be called “the God.” We also noted that the JWs could see for themselves the “original rendering” of passages such as John 20:28; Titus 2:23; and 2 Pet. 1:1 in which Jesus is called ho theos (“the God”) in their own Greek Interlinear (KIT).

[20] As indicated, monotheism is the belief in one God, not necessarily “one Person.” Anti-Trinitarians such as JWs argue that one God means one Person, thus assuming what is meant to be proved.

[21] JWs believe that Jesus, before Bethlehem, was Michael the created archangel, the first of Jehovah’s works.

[22] The NWT reads: “by means of all [other] things . . . All [other] things have been created . . . he is before all [other] things . . . all [other] things were made. . . (NWT; brackets theirs). They argue that adding “other” helps the context. However, adding the “other” changes the context. He either created “all” or “some” things. Besides that, Paul’s argument is against the Gnostics who rejected that the Son created all things (see note 5 below).

[23] Note the *literal* rendering of verses 16-17: “By Him were created the all things [ta panta] . . . the all things [ta panta] through Him [di’ autou] and for Him have been created. And He is before all things [autos estin pro pantōn] and the all things [ta panta] in Him hold together.” Remember, Colossians was written specifically to refute the Gnostics who taught that “matter” (viz. all material things) was inherently evil (or as some believed, was illusory). Thus, to say that Jesus did not create “all things” and that the “fullness of Deity” was dwelling in the Son in human flesh (cf. Col. 2:9), would have made Paul’s argument completely vacuous. Paul specifically says that “all things” were created “through” the Son. The preposition dia (“through”) followed by the genitive pronoun autou (“Him”) indicates that Jesus was not merely an instrument, but rather the Creator Himself (see dia +genitive 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 Jesus was the actual Agent of creation. Hence, the NWT’s insertion of “other” cannot stand grammatically; it changes the intended meaning of the text and ignores the chief theme of the letter.

[24] We also find dia (the “a” drops off when followed by a vowel, thus, di’ autou) followed by the genitive at 1 Cor. 8:6 and Heb. 1:2, which further substantiates that the Son was the Creator.

[25] Verse 8 reads, “But with reference to the Son” NWT).

[26] When dialoguing with JWs, I use the badly mistransliterated English term “Jehovah” instead of “Yahweh” (“LORD”). The JWs only recognize “Jehovah” as the “true” name of God.

[27] Also cf. Isa. 6:1-10 with John 12:41; Ps. 102:25-27 with Heb. 1:10-12; Isa. 45:23 with Phil. 2:10-11; Isa. 8:12-13 with 1 Pet. 3:14, 15; Joel 2:32 with Rom. 10:13. .

[28] When Scripture says that the “Son” is the Creator, it does not mean that the Father and Holy Spirit are excluded from being the actual Creator. For Scripture presents that all three Persons of the Godhead are Creator. The three Persons share the nature of the one Being. Thus, as God it can be said that the Father is the Creator (cf. Acts 17:24), the Son is the Creator (as seen), and the Holy Spirit is the Creator (cf. Job 33:4). For God is one indivisible, inseparable, and unquantifiable Being. So, passages like Isa. 44:24, which says that God created by Himself and alone are perfectly consistent with Trinitarian theology.

[29] Aside from John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 8-10, there are many passages that present the preexistence of the Son (e.g., John 1:1; John 3:13; 6:38, 62; 8:23, 38, 42; 16:28; 1 Cor. 8:6; Heb. 1:2).

[30] Obeisance basically means, to bow, as one would to a king—thus, not the same as “worship.”

[31] From the NWT’s first edition (1950) to the 1970 edition, “worship” was applied to Christ. Further, early WT doctrine taught that Christ was to be worshiped. For example, WT’s founder Charles Taze Russell promoted the worship of Jesus when he said:

He was the object of unreproved worship even when a babe, by the wise men who came to see the new-born King. Matt. 2:2-11. Even the angels delighted to do Him honor. “When He bringeth the first-begotten into the world, He saith, “And let all the angels of God worship Him.” Heb. 1:6. He never reproved any one for acts of worship offered to Himself. . . (Watch Tower, 15 May, 1892, 157).

He also wrote that Jesus was not Michael the Archangel:

Hence it is said, “Let all the angels of God worship him”: (that must include Michael, the chief angel, hence Michael is not the Son of God). . . .” (Watch Tower, Nov. 1879, 4).

Last month, I, Edward Dalcour, president/apologist of DCD, formally debated Muslim apologist Sadig Abdul Malyk, which was held at Foothill Bible Christian Church in Upland, CA.

The thesis of the debate was the deity of Jesus Christ. Being familiar with the method to which Muslim apologists defend Islamic teachings, in my opening statements I described how Mr. Malyk would handle the biblical affirmations and evidence regarding the deity of Christ. I stated that I did not expect Mr. Malyk to 1) exegetically interact with any of the passages submitted for his examination, 2) adequately respond to the unambiguous claims of deity made by Christ Himself (esp. John 5:17ff.; John 10:30; the “Alpha and Omega” claims; and the absolute “I Am” [egō eimi] declarations found in John 8:24, 28; 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and v. 8), and 3) I did not expect Mr. Malyk to respond to the heated reaction of the Jews when Jesus made these claims: They wanted to kill Him for blasphemy!

I also stated in my opening that due to Mr. Malyk’s denial of the deity of Christ as a Muslim, I did expect him to 1) appeal to liberal scholars such as Bart Ehrman who not only denies the reliability of the NT and thus denies divine revelation all together, but calls himself a “happy agnostic.” Ehrman, as I pointed out, would certainly see the Koran as a ridiculous piece of work, 2) deny all the passages that affirm the deity of Christ asserting that the passages in the Gospels that allegedly assert the deity of Christ and/or Jesus’ claims of deity, were either not the original work of the biblical authors (esp. John) or an incorrect interpretation. And further assert that the Apostle Paul cannot be trusted. Paul, as Muslims claim, did not accurately represent the teachings of Christ, and 3) ignore and/or evade specific passages that present the deity of Christ. In the end, as I predicted, Mr. Malyk did exactly that!

The arguments of unitarians (i.e., groups that assert a unipersonal God—namely, God as one Person) are basically the same. Assuming that “one God” means “one Person” causes unitarian groups such as the Muslims, JWs, Oneness Pentecostals, etc., to reject the idea that the Son, Jesus Christ is also God. In their mindset, that idea violates monotheism. But as biblically stated, the very foundation of the Trinity is monotheism:

One eternal God revealed in three coequal, coeternal, coexistent, distinct Persons (not 3 Gods). For it must be pointed out here: there is a distinction between “being” and “person.” “Being” is what something is, “person” is who something is. Thus, maintaining a continued awareness of this distinction is greatly efficacious in accurately communicating the doctrine of the Trinity—one Being revealed in three Persons.

Passages Muslims & JWs use to Deny that Jesus is God

The passages used by Mr. Malyk in the debate and by most JWs to deny the deity of Christ are as follows: Mark 13:32 (where seemingly the Son is ignorant of His return); John 14:28 (where Jesus says that the Father is “greater” than the Son); Matthew 16:28 (where Muslims make the absurd claim that Jesus made a false prophecy); and Matthew 27:46 and John 20:17 (where Jesus addresses the Father as His God).

Before dealing with these passages, it must be remembered that the deity of Christ is exegetically presented in virtually every NT book[1] (e.g., Matt. 12:6; John 1:1-3, 18; 8:24, 58;10:30; Rom. 9:5; 1 Cor. 2:8; Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:16-17; 2:9; Titus 2:13). So, to put implicit biblical passages against explicit passages reveals a serious flaw in one’s hermeneutic. Furthermore, these passages that Muslims and JWs use to deny the deity of Christ actually prove the converse—they affirm the deity of Christ!

Mark 13:32: “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (same with the response to Mark 10:18)

If one is going to use Mark 13:32 (or 10:18) to argue that the ignorance of the Son- shows that the Son cannot be God; to stay consistent one must use the entirety of chapter 13 and not omit verse 32 from its context. In short, the entire context of the chapter is future events from the time of which the author is writing. However, in spite of the various eschatological views proposed these days, it seems that in verse 32 (in light of Matt. 24:36), Jesus is speaking of His final Eschaton (return).

Note first, verse 27, where we read that the Son “will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.” Here the Son is said to “send forth the angels” and they will gather His elect. Does Mohammad (or Michael the archangel, as JWs believe Jesus to be) have angels that obey him? Does Mohammad have an elect? For only Yahweh has an elect class (cf. Rom. 8:33; 1 Pet. 1:1). So thus far, the full deity of the Son is clearly presented in chapter 13. So whatever Jesus actually meant in verse 32, it cannot be in objection to verse 27.

Now, let’s deal with verse 32. First, Philippians 2:7 says Christ emptied (kenoō) Himself. But how did He empty Himself? By taking the NATURE (morphē) of a slave, being made in the likeness of men. . . .” Then in verse 8, we read that the Son humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross! Thus, Jesus Christ voluntarily veiled some of His divine prerogatives, without divesting any deity.[2]

So any knowledge that the Son did not apparently have, must be seen within the context of His incarnation, thus, His emptying and humbling—He was not only God, He was God-man. Muslims and JWs confuse and deny all aspects of His incarnation and merely go to passages which denote His humanity. If the incarnation and humiliation of Christ is misrepresented and/or distorted, then, one will be hopelessly confused, and keep asking questions, such as, “If Jesus was God, why didn’t He know the day or hour of His return?, “How can He die?” “Why didn’t He know who touched Him”; and on and on it goes.

Secondly, and a key point, notice the ascending ontological (in nature) order in verse 32: “But of that day or hour”:

1) “No one knows.” Thus, no “man” knows. Thus, the first category of being is man.

2) “Not even the angels in heaven.” The next category is angels, which is a higher category of being than that of man.

3) “Nor the Son, but the Father alone.” What being is higher than angels? God. So, the ascending order: man> angels> Son shows that the Son, as God, is in a higher category than that of man and angels—hence clearly affirming the deity of the Son.

John 14:28: “The Father is greater than I.”

Just as Mark 13 actually proves the deity of Christ, John 14 likewise proves the same. First in verse 6, Jesus says that He is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life and no one can come to the Father except through Him. Neither Mohammad nor Michael the archangel, nor any mere man or angel can make such a claim. Then in verse 14, Jesus says that “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”

Prayer is to God alone, but the Son instructs His disciples to pray to Him. And in verse 23, Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” What does this passage reveal about the Son? It indicates that Jesus is omnipresent as the Father is. Jesus claims that He and His Father will be with believers everywhere: “We will come to him and make Our abode with him.”

Up to now, Jesus reveals that He possesses the very attributes of God affirming once again His absolute deity: He is the only Way, the only Truth, the only Life, and hence, the only means of coming to the Father; He instructs His followers to pray to Him; and He claims to be omnipresent.

Therefore, when we come to verse 28, we must take the preceding passages into consideration theologically and not wrench them out of the chapter. So what then does Jesus mean? First, it must be realized that the term translated “greatest” is meizōn (from megas), which denotes position or function—not nature (cf. BDAG). In fact, no standard lexicon offers a meaning of qualitative or ontological superiority for the term megas. Note how the same term in the same form (meizōn) is used in Romans 9:11-12:

though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “The older [meizōn] will serve the younger” (cf. John 15:20).

If the Son wished to communicate that the Father was ontologically superior (better) than He was, He certainly could have used the term kreittōn, “better/stronger” to accomplish this.

This term can indeed denote ontological superiority (e.g., Heb. 1:4: the Son is “much better [kreittōn] than the angels”). The same word is used in verse 12: “He who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater [megas] works than these. . . .” What are these greater works? Contextually, they can only refer to greater in quantity (geography), not greater in quality (cf. Matt. 28:19).

Matthew 16:27-28: “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

All the apostles died and Jesus has not yet come. So is this a false prophecy? This assertion of Jesus making a false prophecy rests upon the assumption that the phrase, “Son of Man coming in His kingdom” speaks of His final return. Simply, the first word in verse 1 of chapter 17 is the conjunction: kai, “and.” (“and six days later . . .”). Hence, 16:28 and 17:1 are connected: the “Son of Man coming in His kingdom” is connected with the Transfiguration, which was witnessed by Peter, James, and John who were the “some of those” that “would not taste death.” This coming was not the final return, but rather a precursor to Jesus’ final Eschaton.

Finally, in Matthew 27:46 and John 20:17, Jesus calls His Father “God.” Thus, it is argued, “If Jesus is God, how can He address someone else as His God? The simple answer: Jesus is not only God, but God-man. He has two natures. As to His humanity He can grow in wisdom, feel pain, die on the cross, etc., but as to His deity He can claim that He is the “I Am” of the OT (John 8:58; cf. Deut. 32:39; Isa. 43:10 LXX); He can still the waters (Matt. 8:23-27); command the Father to glorify Him with the glory that only Yahweh possesses (Isa. 48:11; John 17:5); be the Creator of all things (John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17); claim that He is greater than the temple and “Lord of the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:6, 8).

Further, in John 20:17, Jesus carefully distinguishes His relationship with God the Father and the relationship of God the Father with others: “My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.” Jesus is the Son of God by nature; whereas believers are sons and daughters of God, by adoption.

Therefore, many of the arguments railed against the deity of Christ by Muslims and other anti-Trinitarian groups, actually affirm the deity of Christ. Aside from that, it is no wonder as to why Muslims deny the authenticity of the Gospel of John and the Epistles of Paul—they present in the strongest and clearest way that the Son, Jesus Christ, was God (e.g., John 1:1; 8:58; 20:28; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; see also Heb. 1:3, 8), Creator (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17), and He was worshipped in a religious context (cf. Matt. 14:33; John 9:35-38; see also Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:13-14)–see Christ Worshiped as God

.NOTES

[1] In the OT, as well, there are numerous places that teach the deity of the Son (e.g., Gen. 19:24; Ps. 102:25-27 [cf. Heb. 1:10-12]; Prov. 30:4; Isa. 6:1-10 [cf. John 12:41]; 9:6; Dan. 7:9-14; Joel 2:32 [cf. Rom. 10:13]; etc.).

[2] In verse 6, Paul indicates that the Son was en morphē theou huparchōn, lit., “in nature God subsisting.”