John 3:16

Universal Invitation or Promise to the Elect?

 

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”

Problem: Although John 3:16 is arguably one of the most frequently quoted passages in the Bible, it is one of the most misapplied and misinterpreted passages in the NT. Basically, the problem is two-fold: 1- Coming to the text with the presupposition of universal atonement (i.e., Jesus’ atoning cross work was for every single person, but for no one in particular). Thus, many “traditionally” quote the KJV mistranslation of the Greek adjective pas (“all/every,” which the KJV renders as “whosoever”). 2- Along with pas, a universal meaning is also imposed on the term kosmos (“world”).

 

The following are some main features of John 3:16 and the surrounding context, which are key in attaining a correct understanding of the passage.     

 

  • Greek rendering. Houtōs gar ēgapēsen ho theos ton kosmon hōste ton huion ton monogenē edōken, hina pas ho pisteuōn eis auton mē apolētai all’ echē zōēn aiōnion – literal rendering: “To this extent, indeed, loved the God the world, that the Son, the one and only, He gave, in order that every one believing in Him not should perish, but shall have life eternal.”

 

  • The context actually starts in vv. 14-15 dealing with the snake in the wilderness (cf. Num. 21:6-9) with which Nicodemus would have been familiar. The particularities of the event are contextually interrelated with John 3:15-16. Note a few contextual facts: I, the bronze serpent was the only means of healing/deliverance for “only” God’s people (the Israelites), which relates to trusting in the Son as the only means of salvation, II, verses 14-15 read, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15 so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.” Verse 15 contains the Greek conjunction hina (“that”) signifying a purpose and result clause. Thus, the purpose of the Son’s cross work (being “lifted up”) was for the result of every one believing in Him will have eternal life.

 

  • The affirmation of God’s redemptive love to all/every one believing. The extent of God’s love is shown by His sending His Son into the world, to the ones believing, and give them eternal life.

 

  • Houtōs. Although most translations translate the Greek adverb as “so,” a literal and more accurate translation would be, “in this way, in this manner, in such a condition, to this extent”—to express the actual result. Hence, the love of God is demonstrated in the giving of His Son in order to bring about the eternal life of believers.

 

  • Kosmos (“world”). Due to the presupposition of autosoterism (self-salvation), chiefly promoted by Arminians, kosmos is presumed to mean every single person, thus embracing the “traditional” (not exegetical) view of a universal atonement. However, many who see kosmos in this way are unaware that in the NT, kosmos has over a half of dozen clearly defined meanings. It can denote every single person (cf. Rom. 3:19); non-believers (cf. John 1:10; 15:18); believers (cf. John 1:29; 6:33; 12:47; 1 Cor. 4:9); Gentiles, in contrast from Jews (cf. Rom. 11:12); the world system (cf. John 12:31); the earth (cf. John 13:1; Eph. 1:4); the universe as a whole (cf. Acts 17:24); the known world (i.e., not everyone inclusively [cf. John 12:9; Rom. 1:8; Col. 1:5-6])—the point is this: only context determines the meaning of kosmos. Although kosmos can have various meanings, rarely does it carry an all-inclusive “every single person” meaning. For example, we know that the “world” in verse 16 is not the same “world” that Jesus does not pray for in John 17:9; nor is it the “world” that John speaks of in 1 John 2:15, which we are not to love. In first century vernacular, the normal meaning of “world” was the “world” of Jews and Gentiles—as John’s audience would have understood (cf. John 12:17, 19). Contextually, then, in verses 16 and 17, kosmos (and the adjective pas, “all/every” as discussed below) is clearly comprised of all or every one believing, both Jews and Gentiles (same as John 1:29; 12:47; etc.).

 

Again, the Arminian universal understanding of “world” and “all” in verse 16 would make verse 17 endorse universalism (i.e., all of humanity [world] will be saved). It is true that God intends to save the “world” through His Son, but it is the “world” of the believing ones that He saves—namely, “those who are called, both Jews and Greeks” (1 Cor. 1:24; cf. Eph. 1:4-5); men “from every tribe, tongue, people and nation” (Rev. 5:9); “all that the Father gives” to the Son (John 6:37-40, 44); it is the world for whom the Son dies and “gives life” (John 6:33) and “takes away” their sin (John 1:29)—as the surrounding context (vv. 14-15 and vv. 17-19) indicates. It would be biblically untrue to read into kosmos a universal (all of humanity) meaning.

 

  • Pas ho pisteuōn (lit., “all/every one believing”). As mentioned, many use the mistranslation of the KJV (“whosoever”) to assert the view of a universal non-definite atonement. However, the phrase in Greek teaches no such thing. Rather, it is a promise of eternal life to all the ones doing the action of the verb, that is, the present active participle, pisteuōn, “believing”—“Every one now believing” has eternal life.

 

  • The Greek adjective pas (as in pas ho pisteuōn) means “all/every.” First, there is no idea here that indicates a universal undefined invitation to salvation, as many assume. Second, it is incorrect to translate pas as equaling “whosoever”— as in “whosoever will believe,” rather than what is stated in the original: “all, everyone who/whoever is now believing.” In fact, most modern translations accurately render the phrase pas ho pisteuōn as “whoever believes” (NKJV, NASB, NIV); “everyone who believes” (NLT, Holman, NET); or, and most literal, “every one who is believing” (Young’s lit.).

 

  • Pisteuōn (lit., “believing”). The verb here is a present active participle—denoting a present ongoing action—“believing.” In John’s literature, present active participles (on-going actions) are normally used in soteriological (salvation) contexts to denote the life of a true Christian (e.g., John 5:24; 6:35, 47, 54; 1 John 5:1, 5). Grammatically, the adjective pas (“all/every”) modifies the participial phrase ho pisteuōn (“the one believing”). As noted, both verses 15 and 16 contain the same participial phrase: pas ho pisteuōn (lit., “every one believing,” thus, “all the believing ones”).

 

Verse 17- Hina- (“that”). “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” If one were to stay consistent in maintaining the notion that “world” in verse 16 refers to a universal “all” without exception, then he would have to accept a notion of universal salvation in verse 17.

Syntactically, the beginning of the sentence contains the postpositive conjunction (gar, “for”- “For God so loved the world”), which carries an explicative force to the continuation in the previous verse (hina, “so that”). The postpositive carries the meaning of “truly therefore, the fact is, indeed.” It is a “particle of affirmation and conclusion” (Thayer). Next, notice the adversative conjunction (alla, “but”) and a purpose and result conjunction (hina, “so that”). The adversative conjunction demonstrates a contrast (“but, rather”) or an opposing idea. The postpositive clearly conjoins the contextual meaning of “world” in verses 16 and 17—it cannot be semantically divided.

In fact, the postpositive (“for”), the adversative conjunction (“but”), and the purpose and result conjunction hina (“so that”- lit., “in order that”) appear in verse 16.[1] Hence, the literal rendering would be, “Therefore, the fact is, God did not send the Son into the world for the purpose of judgment (condemnation), rather, for the result of saving the world.”  

 

In 1 John 4:7-10, John himself provides an excellent commentary of John 3:16:

 Both (John 3:16 and 1 John 4:7-10) speak of God’s love, the sending of His Son, and how the sending of His Son is a manifestation of God’s love, specifically in verse 9:

  • John 3:16: “For God so loved the world.”
  • 1 John 4:9: “By this the love of God was manifested in us.”

 

  • John 3:16: “He gave His only begotten Son.”
  • 1 John 4:9: “God has sent His only begotten Son into the world.”

 

  • John 3:16: “whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
  • 1 John 4:9-10: “so that we might live through Him. . . . but that He loved us and sent His Son to bethe propitiation for our sins.”

As mentioned, the term “world” in 3:16 (meaning the world of Jews and Gentiles) is not a universal statement. 1 John 4:9 clearly affirms this meaning: “The love of God was manifested in us.” The “us” to John is identified in verse 7: “Beloved, let us love one another” – (Christians, both Jews and Gentiles).

 Summary:  

  1. The meaning of kosmos (“world”) in verses 16 and 17 is defined by the context: “all the ones” doing the action of the verb (“believing”)—i.e., both Jews and Gentiles. To suggest that “world” in verse 16 carries the meaning of “every single person,” would necessarily imply universalism or inclusivism in verse 17.  

 

  1. The KJV rendering, “whosoever” is an inaccurate translation of the Greek phrase, pas ho pisteuōn (lit., every one believing”).

 

  1. The adjective pas (“all/every”) grammatically modifies the verb (“believing”), all, without limit, the ones believing. Thus, in biblical contrast to the Arminian traditional understanding of verse 16 (viz. a universal atonement), verses 15-17 is God’s infallible promise, through the cross work of His Son—to provide eternal life to all the ones believing in Him. To them alone, He manifests His love by saving them.

 

  1. The Arminian interpretation of John 3:16 is generally based on a traditional understanding and not an exegetical one.

 

Henve, the idea that Jesus atoned (died) for ALL the sins of ALL men inclusively is an inconsistent soteriology. In one sense, the Arminians argue that Jesus paid (died) for the all the sins of all men and removing their wrath due for sin. But yet in another sense, they do not see the Son’s propitiatory work as actual nor definite, rather hypothetical. For if it were actual and definite (as the Bible teaches) then all men regardless of belief, would have all their sins, including the sin of rejection, definitely and actually removed, and the wrath due for sin literally averted—and a not a grand soteric hypothesis.

Arminians cannot have it both ways- either Christ actually paid for all the sins of all men, or He did not (i.e., He did not pay for only some of the sins). Hence,  the Arminian view of an ambiguous non-definite atonement, which paid for ALL the sins of ALL men lead to a universal notion. Contra, the biblical view – Christ literally and definitely removed ALL the sins from ALL the ones that the Father gave to the Son (John 6:37-39)– namely, a definite atonement.        

John 3:16 is an infallible promise to all the ones for whom Christ died.  

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Notes 

[1] “For [gar] God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that [hina] whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but [alla] have eternal life.”

As with all religious groups that are “unitarian” in their theology (i.e., maintaining that God exists as one Person), Muslims reject the Trinity chiefly on the basis of their false notion as to what the doctrine actually teaches. As with Jehovah’s Witnesses and Oneness Pentecostals, Muslims see the Trinity as teaching three separate Gods. Thus, because of their misrepresentation of the doctrine, Muslims see Allah (Arabic for “God”) existing as one Person. Hence, naturally they reject the deity of Jesus Christ falsely concluding if Jesus were God, then, there would be more than one God. Mohammad’s misconception of the Trinity is quite evident, which can be seen in many passages of Islam’s most sacred book, the Koran:

O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah taught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah. . . . (Sura 4:171; Yusuf Ali’s translation; emphasis added).

They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them (Sura 5:73; Yusuf Ali’s translation).

Note: the Arabic term for [Holy] “Trinity” (al-thaaluuth al-aqdas) is not contained in the Koran. Because of his incorrect notion of the Trinity (as three gods), Ali added the term “Trinity” into the text. While some other translations do contain “Trinity” others though are consistent to the actual Arabic word translating it as “three” (e.g., Sura 5:73: “They have truly disbelieved those who say: Lo Allah is a third of three”).

Therefore, the verses referenced above in the Koran, do not actually condemn the doctrine of the Trinity: for, as indicated, there are no actual references to the “Trinity” in the Koran.[1] They are speaking against tritheism (three Gods), and thus not Trinitarianism—one God revealed in three distinct co-equal, co-eternal, co-existent Persons. The condemnation of the belief in the tritheism mentioned in the Koran (as well as polytheism) is shared by both Muslims and Christians. Therefore, we need to show Muslims that claiming that the belief of the Trinity equals the belief in three Gods is a false claim that misrepresents the Trinity. In doing so; Christian-Muslim dialogue can progress a lot further.

So, before presenting the concept of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity to Muslims (or any other anti-Trinitarian group) you must first deal with the unitarian/unipersonal assumption: i.e., God existing as one Person. For this is the theological starting point of groups such as Muslims, Jews, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, etc. It must be emphasized over and over: The very foundation of the doctrine of Trinity is ontological Monotheism—one God by nature (cf. Deut. 6:4; Jer. 10:10-11.)

 

The 3 Biblical Truths of the Trinity

1: There is only one God.

2: There are three Persons or Selves that are presented as God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

3: The three Persons are distinct from each other.

Conclusion: The three distinct Persons share the same nature or Being of the one God.    

 

First Truth: Monotheism. God is presented as one Being – not one person.

Passages which speak on “one God”  (e.g., Deut 6:4; Isa. 44:6-8; Mark 12:29-30; 1 Tim. 2:5 et al) reveal that God is one Being. However, unitarian groups such as Muslims, JWs, Oneness Pentecostals etc. read into “one” God as “one” person. Through the OT and NT,plural nouns, verbs, adjectives and plural prepositions are applied to the one God (cf. Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isa. 6:8; 54:5; Eccl. 12:1 [see Heb.] et al). Also, in places such as Gen. 19:24, we find Yahweh on earth acting on behalf of Yahweh in heaven (as we see in the NT where the divine Son interacts with God the Father (e.g., John 1:18; 6:37-39; 14:23; 16:28; 17:5; Heb. 1:8, 10-12).                

  

Second truth: Scripture presents that Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are God and worshiped as God. 

 

Jesus: 

1. Jesus is God (ho theos, “the God) and seen as the Yahweh of the OT: e.g., John 1:1-3; John 1:18; John 20:28; Colossians 2:9; Philippians 2:5-11; Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 (see Granville Sharp’s Greek Grammar Rule #1); Hebrew 1:3; and esp. V. 8 and 10-12. Further, He was presented as the great “I am” (egō eimi); viz. at John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and 8 (in light of places in the OT such as Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 48:12 – where Yahweh is referred to as egō eimi, “I am” in LXX).  

2. He was presented as the YHWH of the OT.

The NT authors clearly envisaged Jesus Christ as the Yahweh of the OT. Hence, they often cited OT passages referring to Yahweh and applied them to Jesus Christ: e.g., compare Joel 2:32 with Rom. 10:13; Isa. 6:8 with John 12:41; Ps. 102-25-27 with Heb. 1:10; Isa. 45:23-24 with Phil. 2:9-11; Isa. 8:12, 13 with 1 Pet. 3:14, 15; etc. (see also Jesus is Jehovah: Old Testament passages of Jehovah applied specifically to Jesus Christ in the NT).

3. Jesus is Creator: e.g., John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 8-10. 

4. Jesus claimed He was fully God: Although Jesus never literally stated, “I am God,” Jesus’ claims to deity were much stronger and clearer than if He had said, “I am God.” In fact, some of Jesus’ claims to deity were only used of Yahweh alone: John 5:17-18; John 10:26-33 (cf. Duet. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 48:12; Ps. 95:7); the seven “I am” (egō eimi) affirmations stated at John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and 8.

5. Jesus is worshiped in a “religious context” which was reserved for God alone (cf. Exod. 20:5): e.g., Dan 7:14; Matt. 14:33; 28:9; John 9:38; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:11-14.– See Christ Worshiped as God

6. Jesus possesses the SAME attributes as God the Father, for example:

  • Creator (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:10-12)
  • Raises the dead and gives them life: John 5:21: “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes” (cf. John 6:37-40, 44).
  • Omnipresent (cf. Matt. 28:20; John 14:23; 2 Cor. 13:5; Gal. 2:20).
  • Omniscient (cf. John 2:24-25; 6:64; 16:30; 21:17).
  • Omnipotent or all-powerful (cf. Matt. 8:27; 9:6; 28:18; Heb. 7:25).
  • Eternal (Pre-Existing) (cf. Micah 5:2; John 1:1; 8:58; 17:5).
  • Immutable (cf. Heb. 13:8).

To recap, Scripture then presents in the clearest way that Jesus Christ is God (yet distinct from the Father, cf. John 1:1b; 17:5), Creator, worshipped in a religious context, and possesses the same attributes as that of God the Father.

 

The Holy Spirit is God: e.g., Acts 5:3-4; the Holy Spirit also possesses the attributes of God:

  • Eternal, having neither beginning nor end (cf. Heb. 9:14),
  • Omnipresent, being everywhere at the same time (cf. Ps. 139:7).
  • Omniscient, understanding all things (cf. 1 Cor. 2:10-11).
  • Omnipotent (cf. Luke 1:35).

The Holy Spirit is a Person: e.g., the Holy Spirit communicates (e.g., Acts 10:19-20; 13:2; Heb. 3:7-11; 10:15-17); personal pronouns (“I,” “He”) are applied to Him (cf. Acts 10:20; John 16:13-14); possesses “personal” attributes (e.g., He has a will [cf. 1 Cor. 12:9-11]; emotions [cf. Eph. 4:30]; intelligence in that He investigates [cf. 1 Cor. 2:10-11; Rom. 8:27]; He intercedes/prays [cf. Rom. 8:26]; He can be lied to [cf. Acts 5:3]; He can be blasphemed [cf. Mark 3:29-30]; He issues commands [cf. Acts 13:4; Acts 16:6]; He gives love [cf. Rom. 15:30]). See also: God the Holy Spirit: The Third Person of the Trinity


Third Truth: The three Persons are distinct from each other: e.g., John 1:1b. 17:5; Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 13:14; 1 John 1:3; Rev. 5:13.[2] See also: Grammatical Details.

As mentioned, additionally, in the OT, God is presented as multi-Personal: e.g., Gen. 19:24; Isa. 48:16; Hosea 1:7; Eccl. 12:1 (Heb. “Creators”); Isa. 54:5 (Heb. “Makers”; see also: The Multi-Personal God in the Old Testament and Oneness Theology)

In conclusion then, Scripture presents a tri-personal God. The Trinity is God’s highest revelation to mankind. In John 4:23-24, Jesus told the Samaritan woman that God seeks those who worship Him “in spirit and truth.” In truth, God is triune. Worshiping a unipersonal God or three separate Gods is not worshiping Him in truth. The issue being that the truth of the Trinity, the self-disclosure of God to men, is found in nearly every page of the Holy Scriptures: There is one God, and there are three distinct, coequal, coeternal, and coexistent, self-cognizant divine Persons or Egos that share the nature of the one God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

 

Notes

[1] Historically, these verses are no doubt referring to a heretical so-called Christian sect called Mariyama or Collyridians who existed within the same geographical location and period as that of Mohammad. This sect held to a form of Tritheism, worshipping Mary and her Son both of which were believed to be two separate gods besides God.

[2] Specifically, Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 13:14; 1 John 1:3; and Rev. 5:13 (and there are many others) distinguish the Persons in the Trinity. This is due to their grammatical construction—namely, the repetition of both the article (ho, “the”) and conjunction (kai, “and”). For example, note the literal reading of 2 Cor. 13:14: “The grace [of] the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love [of] the God, and the fellowship [of] the Holy Spirit, be with all of you.” Or the literal reading of Rev. 5:13: “[to] the one sitting upon the throne and [to] the Lamb. . . .” Here, the Father (“the one sitting”) and Christ (“the Lamb”) are personally differentiated by the repetition of the article “the” (ho) and conjunction “and” (kai).

A FALSE PROPHET: BIBLICALLY DEFINED

 

“But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the names of other gods, that prophet shall die.’

“You might say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’

“When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. . . . ” (Deut. 18:20-22).

“Thus saith the LORD of hosts, “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who are prophesying to you, They are leading you into futility; They speak a vision of their own imagination, Not from the mouth of the LORD. . . . I did not send these prophets, But they ran. I did not speak to them, But they prophesied. . . .I heard what the prophets who prophesy falsely in My name, saying, ‘I had a dream, I had a dream!’ “How long? Is there anything in the hearts of the prophets who prophesy falsely, even these prophets of the deception of their own heart, . . . Therefore behold, I as against the prophets,” declares the LORD, “who steal words from each other. Behold, I am against the prophets,” declares the LORD, “who use their own tongues and declare, ‘the LORD declares. . . ’ I will bring punishment upon that man and his household” (Jer. 23:16, 21, 25-26, 30-32, 34).

Clearly, a biblical description of a false prophet was someone that prophesied in the name of the Lord and what he prophesied did not come to pass and a “false prophet” always taught a false God (cf. Deut. 13:1ff.; Matt. 7:15-29; 2 Pet. 2:1-2; 1 John 4:1-3). The biblical definition is clear; there are no modifications or conditions. The New Testament definition of a false prophet is the same as the Old Testament. When Jesus was discussing the events that would mark the last days, He was concerned that false prophets would not deceive His church:

And Jesus answered and said to them, “See that no one misleads you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.… Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. . . . For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible even the elect” (Matt. 24:4, 11, 24).

Thus, what I found to be effective in witnessing to the Jehovah’s Witnesses (hereafter JWs) is to ask first, “What is a false Prophet?” They will usually admit the above definition is true, that is, someone who prophesies falsely. Even more, most agree that anyone who says, “the Lord says,” and then it does not come to pass, he or she is a false prophet. And after they clearly define what a “false prophet” is, then it is most important to demonstrate by their own material (i.e., photocopies, references, etc.) that the Watchtower (hereafter WT) is a false prophet. Again, under his or her own definition the WT is shown to be a false prophet.

Keep in mind, the main reason that the JWs do not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, the deity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith alone, and other essential doctrines of biblical Christianity is that their religious organization, their source, told them that these doctrines are false.

Therefore, you need to undermine the source first. By demonstrating that the source is unreliable, the door swings open to utilize Scripture.

Just as David killed Goliath with his own sword, the theology of the JWs can be demolished by using their own material. For that reason, it is productive to discuss first the subject of the WT’s failed prophecies. Think about it, if the WT is really a true “mouthpiece for Jehovah,” as they arrogantly assert, then what they prophesy should come to pass. Though when the JWs are confronted with the WT’s false prophecies, the common response is asserted: “We never claimed to be a prophet . . . people can make mistakes.” But the fact is, the WT has claimed to be a prophet many times!

 

Note the examples below of statements made by the WT in its own publications:

So does Jehovah have a prophet to help them, to warn them of the dangers to come? These questions can be answered in the affirmative. Who is this prophet? . . . This prophet was not one man, but was a body of men and women. It was a small group of footstep followers of Jesus Christ, known at that time as International Bible Students. Today they are known as Jehovah’s Christian Witnesses (WT, 1 April 1972, 197).

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 (ibid., 15 January 1959, 40-41).

God has on earth a people, all whom are prophets, or witnesses for God . . . Jehovah’s Witnesses (Awake, 8 June 1986, 9).

This of course is but a few of the many times that the WT has claimed to be a prophet. Although many times when confronted on this subject the JWs will also argue that “The Apostle Peter was wrong concerning the second coming of Jesus, so we can be mistaken, we are not perfect.”

However, it must be pointed out to them that Peter never claimed to be a prophet nor did he say, “Thus saith the Lord.”[1] However, the excuse most utilized by the JWs in their effort to defend their blundering prophetic track record is that “The light is getting brighter and brighter, we are consistently seeing new light, that is how we know that we are Jehovah’s mouthpiece on the earth.” First of all, this idea of “new light” is derived from a faulty interpretation of Proverbs 4:18 which reads:

But the path of the righteous ones is like a bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established. However, they stop at verse 18, but notice verse 19: The way of the wicked ones is like the gloom; they have not known at what they keep stumbling (NWT).

In context and in complete opposition to their interpretation, verses 18 and 19 are contrasting “the path of the righteous” with “the way of the wicked.” Therefore, ask the JWs if they think using the concept of “new light” would have been a valid excuse for a so-called prophet in the Old Testament who promulgated false prophecies. As we seen above, God clearly defines what a false prophet is:

“When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. . . . ” (Deut. 18:22).

Interestingly, 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, 1 April 1972, 197).

But after reviewing the record, all we find is false prophecies and consistent changes in the WT’s doctrine. The fact is, according to its own statements printed in its own publications, and according to the biblical definition, the WT is clearly a false prophet of Jehovah.

 

WATCHTOWER FAILED PROPHECIES

The following are examples of false prophecies and doctrinal changes that will no doubt, be an effective way to reach out to the JWs when they come to your door. Also take into account that there are no biblical scholars or Greek grammarians involved with or in the WT. Hence, it is of no great wonder as to why the JWs undeniably lack a clear understanding of the basic rules of biblical interpretation. As with all non-Christian cults—the JWs only believe what their ultimate authority, that is, their religious organization (i.e., the WT) has taught them.

False Prophecies about 1874:

Our Lord, the appointed King, is now present since October 1874, A.D. . . . and the formal inauguration if his kingly office dates form April 1878, A.D. (Studies in the Scriptures, vol. 4, 621).

Fall 1874 A.D. Second Advent of the Lord (ibid., vol. 7, 60).

the beginning of the Times of Restitution, A.D. 1874 (ibid., 64).

The Millennium began in 1874, with the Return of Christ (ibid., 386).

The second coming of the Lord therefore began in 1874. . . . (Creation, early ed., 289; and late ed., 312).

The Scriptural proof is that the second presence of the Lord Jesus Christ began in 1874 A.D. (Prophecy, 65).

Note, there are many more WT prophecies of the alleged “invisible return” of Christ in the year 1874.

 

False Prophecies about 1914:

the battle of the great day of God Almighty’ (Revelation 16:14), which will end in A.D. 1914 with the complete overthrow of earth’s present rulership, is already commenced (Studies In The Scriptures, vol. 2, 1908 ed., 101).

That the deliverance of the saints must take place some time before 1914 is manifest. . . . (ibid., vol. 3, 1913 ed., 228; emphasis added).

That the deliverance of the saints must take place very soon after 1914 is manifest. . . . (ibid., vol. 3, 1923 ed., 228; emphasis added).

We did not say positively that this would be the year (WT, 1 November 1914, 5565).

 

False Prophecies about 1918:

It seems conclusive that the hour of Nominal Zion’ travail is fixed for the Passover of 1918 . . . the fallen angels will invade the minds of many of the Normal Church people . . . leading their destruction at the hands of the enraged masses. . . . (Studies in the Scriptures, vol. 7, 128).

It is the Day of Vengeance, which began in the world war of 1914 and which will break like a furious morning storm in 1918 (ibid., 404).

The churches will cease to be. . . . culminating in 1918, to remove it with a stroke or plague of erroneous doctrines and deeds Divinely permitted (ibid., 1917 ed., 484).

Note, the 1926 edition of Studies in the Scriptures removed the phrase “culminating in 1918” and replaced it with “culminating shortly.”

False Prophecies about 1925:

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, 89-90; note: for an original photocopy of this citation please contact us. 

1925 shall mark the resurrection of the faithful worthies of old. . . . (ibid., 97).

1914 ended the Gentile Times. . . . The date 1925 is even more distinctly indicated by the Scriptures … by then the great crisis will be reached and probably passed (WT, 1 September 1922, 262).

1925 is definitely settled by the Scripture . . . the Christian has much more upon which to base his faith than Noah had (so far as the Scriptures reveal) upon which to base his faith in a coming deluge (ibid., 1 April 1923, 106).

The year 1925 is a dated definitely and clearly marked in the Scriptures, even more clearly than that of 1914 (ibid., 15 July 1924, 211).

The year 1925 is here. With great expectation Christians have looked forward to this year. Many have confidently expected that all members of the body of Christ will be changed to heavenly glory during the year. This may be accomplished. It may not be (ibid., 1 January 1925, 3).

As the year 1925 finally arrived, the WT began to tone down this prophecy that was, a few years prior: “definitely settled by the Scripture.” Thus, the year 1925 came and left.

The year 1925 came and went. Jesus’ anointed followers were still on the earth as a class. The faithful men of old times-Abraham, David and others-had not been resurrected to become princes in the earth. (Ps. 45:16) So, as Anna MacDonald recalls:

1925 was a sad year for many brothers. Some of them were stumbled; their hopes were dashed. . . . Instead of it being considered a “probability,” they read into it that it was a “certainty,” and some prepared for their own loved ones with expectancy of their resurrection (1975 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, 146).

Still, the JWs did not learn their lesson. After 1925, the JWs continued to promulgate false prophecies and fixing dates (e.g., 1975); claiming that these prophecies were “definitely settled by the Scripture.”

FLIP- FLOPS

Again, when the JWs are questioned concerning false prophecies, the usual response is: “We know that we are the only true church because the light keeps getting brighter and brighter” (see response to this Prov. 4:18 assertion above, p. 5). However, if that is true, then, why do the JWs go back to the old light? In other words, if the “light” is getting “brighter and brighter” it would follow that at the time when the WT held to and taught the old teachings the WT was in darkness. Anything but doctrinal brightness is the WT, who after receiving the so-called “new light” returned to its old teaching on that subject—the darkness!

Many times the WT has gone back-and-forth on various teachings. Simply, if they were really Jehovah’s “mouth piece” as they claim, they would not flip-flop from old light to new light and return back again to the old light.

Keep in mind that the WT has claimed to be “a modern day Jeremiah” and the “prophet … known as Jehovah’s Witnesses” (see p. 4 above). Let us now observed some of the WT’s doctrinal flip-flops:

 

Prophecies about the Men of Sodom:

The men of Sodom will be resurrected (WT, July 1879, 8).

The men of Sodom will not be resurrected (ibid., 1 June 1952, 338).

The men of Sodom will be resurrected (Ibid., 1 August 1965, 479).

The men of Sodom will not be resurrected (ibid., 1 June 1988, 31).

The men of Sodom will be resurrected (You Can Live Forever In Paradise On Earth, early ed. 179).

The men of Sodom will not be resurrected (ibid., later ed., 179).

The men of Sodom will be resurrected (Insight On The Scriptures, vol. 2, 985).

The men of Sodom will not be resurrected (Revelation- Its Grand Climax at Hand, 273).

In point of fact, the WT has changed its position concerning the men of Sodom no less then eight different times! As one writer said, the light is not getting brighter and brighter but rather it’s flickering on and off.

“Higher Powers” (Rom. 13:1-7)

The WT, as with most biblical commentators, first taught that the “higher powers” in Romans 13:1-7 were human rulers, man’s government. Before long, a decade after World War 1, the WT taught that the “higher powers” were Jehovah and Jesus (cf. The Truth Shall Make You Free, 312).

However, in 1959 they switched back to their original view (cf. Jehovah’s Witnesses In The Divine Purpose, 91). Then, soon afterward, they changed again to the teaching that the “higher powers” were Jehovah and Jesus (cf. Babylon The Great Has Fallen! 1963, 548).

Even more, and not at all surprising, 17 years later they changed it again back to the old teaching that man’s government was the “higher powers (cf. WT, 15 May 1980, 4).

The Generation That Will Not Pass Away

The WT prophecy of the “generation that will not pass away” (taken from Matt. 24:34). is the most recent of the WT’s prophetic blunders. It must be understood first, that the JWs are taught that the “1914 generation” (i.e., those who witnessed the signs of the invisible return of Christ in 1914) is part of the “anointed class.” That is, as the JWs tell us, they are included in the so-called group of the “144,000” which are the only ones that will enter into heaven.[2]

The rest of the JWs, well, as they inform us, will reside on earth (i.e., “paradise”) forever. According to “Jehovah’s prophetic word” as claimed by the WT (see p. 14) the 1914 generation would not die off until Jehovah restores a peaceful new secure world (as we will see below). Nevertheless, as the years passed so did the 1914 generation.[3] Hence, this caused a serious dilemma for the WT. What was the WT to do?

Well for starters, they could say that the 1914 generation included young teenagers to buy more time. And, that’s exactly what they did.

So, in 1968 they defined the 1914 generation as:

Those who were old enough to witness with understanding what took place when the ‘last days’ began. . . Even if we presume youngsters 15 years of age would be perceptive enough to realize the import of what happened in 1914, it would still make the youngest of ‘this generation’ nearly 70 years old today. . . . Jesus said that at the end of this wicked world would come before that generation passed away in death (Awake, 8 October 1968, 13-14).

The WT made that statement above in 1968. But by 1984, many of that “generation” died. So to accommodate the decreasing numbers, they started to teach that babies were now a part of the 1914 generation! This enabled the WT to buy even more time and avoid the possibility of yet another failed prophecy. Again, they were prophesying that the earth would be restored to a “peaceful and secure new world”: before the 1914 generation dies.

Digging the hole even further, as early as 1975 the WT started claiming that the prophecy “of a new order of lasting peace and true security within our generation” was now the “Creator’s promise,” who the JWs say is Jehovah! On page 2 of the Awake magazine, January 8, 1975, the WT stated:

Most importantly, “Awake!” provides hope, giving you a basis for confidence in the Creator’s promise of a new order of lasting peace and true security within our generation (emphasis added).

Then, by 1982, the WT became even more explicit. For on the same page, they added to the former prophecy in order to make a bolder pronouncement. Now it was the “Creator’s promise” that before the 1914 generation passes away He (Jehovah) will restore the world to a “peaceful and secure new order”:

Most importantly, this magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s [Jehovah’s] promise of a peaceful and secure new order before the generation that saw 1914 C.E. passes away (Awake, 8 January 1982, 2).

The above purpose statement remained until the January issue of 1987. Then, they redesigned their statement, moving it to page 4 with a slight rewording. However the “thus saith the Lord” pronouncement: the “Creator’s promise,” that before the 1914 generation passes away there will be a new world, was still staring at all of its readers:

Most importantly, this magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away (Awake, 8 January 1987 through 8 October 1995, 4).

That the JWs say, “We never said, ‘thus saith the Lord’” or “We never spoke for Jehovah” is an assertion that is contradicted by their own Awake magazine declaration: “the Creator’s promise.” The Creator is Jehovah, and I do not think that any JW would ever disagree. Easily shown then, is that the WT was speaking for Jehovah for 13 years! (1982 through 1995). However, it was not only in the Awake magazine that the WT spoke in the name of Jehovah. We find the same speaking for Jehovah pronouncements in other WT literature:

From a purely human view point, it could appear that these developments could hardly take place before the generation of 1914 disappears from the scene. But the fulfillment of all the foretold events affecting the generation of 1914 does not depend on comparatively slow human action. Jehovah’s prophetic word through Christ Jesus is: ‘This generation (of 1914) will by no means pass away until all things occur.’ (Luke 21:32 And Jehovah, who is the source of inspired and unfailing prophecy, will bring about the fulfillment of his Son’s words in a relatively short time. . . . (WT, 15 May, 1984, 6-7).

Which generation is this [1914], and how long is it? . . . It applies to Christ’s followers and others who were able to observe that war and the other things that have occurred in fulfillment of Jesus’ ‘composite sign.’ Some of such persons ‘will by no means pass away until’ all of the present wicked system (ibid., 1 October 1978, 31).

 

Change of Prophecy

Now, we saw above how for over 13 years the WT spoke in the name of Jehovah, that is, it was the “Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world before the generation that saw the events of 1914 passes away.” But that “generation” of 1914, is dying off and only a relatively few are left. Just as little children will cross their fingers behind their back and say, “it doesn’t count,” the WT totally changed the 1914 generation prophecy with no explanation whatsoever.

On page 4 of the November 8th 1995 edition of the Awake magazine, they omitted the words “before the generation that saw 1914 passes away.” Notice how the change now reads:

Most importantly, this magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world that is about to replace the present wicked, lawless system of things (note that all present eds. of the Awake magazine contain this reading—so far).

Builds confidence? In a God who cannot get it right the first time? Remember this is not some human fallible error, the WT said that it was Jehovah’s promise, His “prophetic word.” For 13 years (concerning the “generation” prophecy alone), they allowed themselves to be the Deuteronomy 18 false prophets.

Additionally, the WT’s entire doctrine of “this generation” has changed. Before 1995, the “1914 generation” was the faithful “anointed class” (i.e., part of the 144,000). Now, since November 8, 1995, the “generation” is defined as the “lawless wicked ones” that saw the signs of the invisible return of Christ in 1914 but did not change their evil ways and become JWs (cf. WT, 1 November 1995, 19). Clearly then, the WT is a false prophet that tells its devotees that Jehovah spoke to them when in fact Jehovah did not.

Along with the many false prophecies, the WT has also countless doctrinal flip-flops. They declare (as Jehovah’s mouthpiece on earth) principles and doctrines for its people. Then, years later, change it, because of the supposed “new light.” But then, after a while, they change it again back to the original teaching, as with the men of Sodom being resurrected. Jehovah’s mouthpiece?

Sadly, millions of faithful followers are told that the WT is Jehovah’s sole channel of communication:

Those who are convinced that The Watchtower is publishing the opinion or expression of a man should not waste time in looking at it at all. . . . Those who believe that God uses The Watchtower as a means of communication to his people, or of calling attention to his prophecies, should study The Watchtower (WT, 1 January 1942, 5).

 

Who is the False Prophet?

8 January 1982 through 8 October 1995:

Most importantly, this magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world [order] before the generation that saw the events of 1914 [C.E.] passes away (Awake, 8 January, 1982 through 8 October, 1995, 2[1982-1987], 4 [1987-1995]).

November 8, 1995 to the present:

Most importantly, this magazine builds confidence in the Creator’s promise of a peaceful and secure new world that is about to replace the present wicked, lawless system of things (4; and in all present eds. of the Awake magazine).

Whom can you trust? You cannot trust the Watchtower.

“For I, the LORD, do not change. . . . ” (Mal. 3:6).


 

 

APPENDIX I
Jesus is presented and called “The God”

John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God” (NET; note the ;ast clause in Greek: Kai theos ēn ho logos, “And God was the Word.”    

John 20:28: Thomas said to Jesus (direct address): ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou, lit. “the Lord of me and the God of me” (see the WT’s Greek interlinear: The Kingdom Interlinear Translation). Ps. 35:23 reads the same: “Stir Yourself, and awake to my right And to my cause, my God and my Lord.”  The Greek (LXX) reads: ho theos mou kai ho kurios mou (lit., “the God of me and the Lord of me”). almost identical to 20:28, except only that “Lord” and “God” are inverted—Further, note Rev 4:11: axios ei, ho kurios kai ho theos hēmōn, lit., “Worthy are [You], the Lord and the God of us.” In these two passages, both “Lord” and “God” refer to one person.  

 Titus 2:13: tou megalou theou kai sōtēros hēmōn Christou Iēsou, lit. “the great God and Savior of us Christ Jesus.” Note, in 2 Peter 1:1 is the same grammatical construction (i.e., article-noun-kai-noun [“the”-“God”-“and”-“Jesus”]): tou theou hēmōn kai sōtēros Iēsou Christou, lit. “the God of us and Savior Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Peter 1:11; 2:20; 3:2, 18; 2 Thess. 1:12; see Gk.).

Jude 1:4 (same construction as Titus 2:13 and 2 Pet. 1:1- The one article, and the “and” connects both nouns which refer to the first named person, Jesus Christ. Here in Jude: The Only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ”: NWT reads: “… and who prove false to our only owner [or Master] and Lord, Jesus Christ.” How can Jesus be the Only Master/Owner and Lord?- what about Jehovah? 

Hebrews 1:8: “But of the Son He [the Father] says, “YOUR THRONE, O GOD IS FOREVER AND EVER. . . . ” (ho thronos sou ho theos, lit. “the throne of thee the God”).

Hebews 1:10-12. God Father is directly addressing the Son as the “Lord” [Jehovah [YHWH] of Ps. 102:25-27- the unchangeable Creator of al things (same as John 1:3, 10; Col. 1:16-17; 1 Cor. 8:6; Heb. 1:2 and 2:10).     

Jesus’ Absolute claim to BE the “I AM” (egō eimi): Mark 6:50; John 8:24; 8:28; 8:58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and 8). In the OT LXX, only YHWH claimed to be the unpredicated egō eimi, “I am” (Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4; 48:12) 

*Why is it important to know and teach that Jesus IS God? Besides that of John 4:24; 17:3 and 1 John 2:22-23, Jesus declares in John 8:24:

“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I AM He [egō eimi], you will die in your sins” (“He” is not in the Gk., lit.: “Unless you believe that I AM you will die in your sins”; no supplied predicate). 

*See also: John 1:18; Romans 9:5; Philippians 2:6-11; Colossians 2:9 (theotētos); Hebrews 1:3; 1 John 5:20; and Revelation 5:13-14. [The Trinity: One God revealed in three distinct coequal and coeternal Persons].

___________________________________________________________________________________________

NOTES

[1] Only by way of biblical authorship (viz. 1 & 2 Peter) were Peter’s words theopneustos, “God breathed out” (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16).

[2] Specifically, the JWs are taught that in 1935 God stopped calling people to heaven (cf. WT, 15 December, 1982, 19). Thus, the total number of people that will enter into heaven is 144.000 (also called the “anointed class” and “little flock”). The JWs say that they will be “spirit creatures” (without “flesh and blood”) as Christ is. Also included in the 144.000 are the ones (viz. the 1914 generation) who witnessed the signs of the so-called invisible return of Christ in 1914. The rest (i.e., the “other sheep” or the “great crowd” which comprises the majority of JWs) will have to live on earth for eternity. It is only the 144.000 that can be “born again” (cf. WT, 1 April, 1988, 18); be justified before God (cf. Life Everlasting-in Freedom of the Sons of God, 1966, 391); and partake in communion services. Note that in WT theology, the Old Testament prophets are not even a part of the heaven bound “anointed class” rather they will live on earth forever.

[3] According to the Statistics: 2001 Report of Jehovah’s Witnesses Worldwide there are only 8,730 left of the 1914 generation.

NOTE: many of the Trinitarian objections made by the JWs are typical of virtually every anti-Trinitarian group. This section does however focus on the Watchtower’s booklet Should you Believe in the Trinity. For more exegetical responses to other anti-Trinitarian objections and assertions see: Oneness Objections to the Doctrine of the Trinity.

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (i.e., the corporate name of the Jehovah’s Witnesses; hereafter JWs) prints enormous amounts of books, pamphlets, and literature teaching their members that the doctrine of the Trinity is a false doctrine. The JWs are taught that the Trinity doctrine originated from the Devil, and promulgated by the Catholic Church. To be sure, JWs have a gross misunderstanding of the doctrine, hence, since the early twentieth century the Watchtower has consistently taught that the Trinity is a false:

How strange that any should attempt to misuse and pervert these our Lord’s words, to make them support the unreasonable and unscriptural doctrine of a Trinity–three Gods in one person (Studies in the Scriptures, 5:76).

Never was there a more deceptive doctrine advance than that to of the Trinity. It could have originated only in one mind, and that the mind of Satan the Devil (Reconciliation, 101).

Most JWs carry around with them their most popular handout booklet (and study guide) called: Should you Believe in the Trinity (hereafter SYBT). If you have ever discussed the Trinity with them, you probably have been given this booklet. The booklet provides the bulk of most arguments that they use against the “deceived Trinitarians” thus many dedicated JWs memorize the arguments stated in the SYBT.

Thirty-one pages of arguments against the “dreaded” doctrine of the Trinity. Chalk-full of misquotes and selective citations from various Encyclopedias, Dictionaries and biblical scholars. Additionally, the SYBT contains a mega-dose of blatant misrepresentations of early church Fathers, historic revisionism and doctrinal deviations. But yet to the JWs, the SYBT booklet is their gun-of-choice study guide to annihilate the “evil” Trinitarians. You might ask, why would they take this booklet seriously when it contains so much disinformation? The reason being: JWs do not practice independent research outside the libraries of their Kingdom Halls (the place where the JWs assemble). At the end of the SYBT booklet, it concludes by saying:

There can be no compromise with God’s truths. Hence, to worship God on his terms means to reject the Trinity doctrine. It contradicts what the prophets, Jesus the apostles, and the early Christians believed and taught. It contradicts what God says about himself in his own inspired Word (31; under the title “Reject the Trinity”).

JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES: OBJECTIONS TO THE TRINITY

(Based on the Watchtower publication: SYBT and other standard arguments used by JWs).

 

OBJECTION #1: THE WORD TRINITY

The SYBT says that the word, “Trinity” is not in the Bible.”

RESPONSE: As mentioned above In point of fact, virtually all anti-Trinitarian groups make this same objection.

To assume: what is not stated must not be true is an argument from silence. Further, to say that the doctrine of the Trinity is not true because the exact word “Trinity” is absent from the Bible is self-refuting. For if that kind of reasoning were true, it would then follow, that Watchtower doctrine could not be true, for in the original Hebrew and Greek text Watchtower terms like, “theocracy,” (which they claim their under), “Jehovah,” (Note: “Jehovah” is an Eng. transliteration. Orig. Heb. had no vowels only consonants. Thus, the English term “Jehovah” is not contained in Scripture either. It also does not follow that because a particular word is not contained in Scripture that we cannot use that word to communicate a truth of God.

What is not at all considered is that even terms like, “Bible,” (a Lat. term) or “self-existent,” are not mentioned in Scripture and both are biblical truths, which all JWs agree upon. If we were only limited to strict biblical words, then, we would have to, when teaching out of the New Testament, use only Koine Greek words that the NT authors utilized! Employing unbiblical words does not violate the rules of sola-Scriptura, which says Scripture alone is the sole infallible “rule of faith” for the church, as long as the unbiblical words are wholly consistent with Scripture. Holding firm to Scripture, the early church would use unbiblical words to explain and define the biblical data revealed within the pages of the Holy Writ.

In other words, “Trinity” is merely a precise doctrinal word that defines the biblical revelation that is so overwhelmingly found in Scripture: God the Father sent God the Son; the Eternal Word, in which He became flesh (cf. John 1:1; 6:37-40; 17:5). After which God the Son died in the place of the believer whereby His death provides full atonement for the sins of His people (cf. Matt. 1:21; Rom. 8:32), and God the Father and God the Son sent the God the Holy Spirit to empower the church, and dwell with believers: “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me” (John 15:26).

Again, this point must be understood: We cannot confuse biblical data with doctrinal words that merely define that data. The doctrine of the “Trinity” was derived from the Scriptural data. Biblical scholar Benjamin B. Warfield explains the difference:

Precisely what the New Testament is, is the documentation of the religion of the incarnate Son and the outpoured Spirit, that is to say, of the religion of the Trinity, and what we mean by the doctrine of the Trinity is nothing but the formulation in exact language of the conception of God presupposed in the religion of the incarnate Son and out poured Spirit (Benjamin B. Warfield, Biblical Doctrines (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1929, 146.)

Thus the Tri-Unity of God is based on biblical data. The formulation of doctrinal words, however, came later when Christians, developed the precise term “Trinity” that simply defined the biblical data, because of the heresies that denied the biblical data in some way or other. As with the doctrinal terms like “substitutionary atonement,” “incarnation,” hypostatic union,” “omnipresent,” et al. All these terms came later after the apostolic age, which the church used to define the revelation or data that is clearly contained in Scripture.

Moreover, salvation is completely dependent on the Tri-Unity of God (i.e., soteriological Trinity). Example: The Covenant of Redemption, that is, all that the Father gives to Christ will come and He will raise them up at the last day (cf. John. 6:37ff). That Jesus is the Mediator between God (the Father) and man (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5) can only be true if Jesus is God and is a distinct Person from the one He is mediating for. Again, this point must be understood: we cannot confuse the Scriptural data of the Trinity with the doctrinal word, “Trinity” that defines the biblical data.

OBJECTION #2: PAGAN ORIGINS

The book also asserts, as do most anti-Trinitarians, that the doctrine of the Trinity is derived from pagan sources.

RESPONSE: This is a fallacy of false cause (misrepresents the cause). The Trinity is an utterly unique Christian doctrine. Pagans worshipped and believed in many gods (as with the Mormons) hence, the references in SYBT to the so-called parallelisms of the pagans were to THREE separate gods NOT one God in existing in three distinct persons.


OBJECTION # 3: CHURCH FATHERS

The SYBT booklet asserts that the early (Anti-Nicene; before the Council of Nicene; A.D. 325) church Fathers did NOT believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. The JWs booklet quotes from the Anti-Nicene church Fathers: Justin Martyr (c. A.D. 160); Irenaeus (c. A.D. 180); Clement of Alexandria (c. A.D. 195); Hippolytus (c. A.D. 205); Tertullian (c. A.D. 213); and Origen (c. A.D. 225).

However when we refer to actual statements contained in many works (e.g., The Anti-Nicene Fathers, found at most city libraries and seminaries) clear is the fact: the SYBT booklet grossly misquotes or misrepresents what they said and believe. Not surprising is that the SYBT does not provide the addresses of the citations; for obvious reasons.

RESPONSE: This an argument from ignorance. They all, unequivocally, believed in the full Deity of Christ (the quotes below are from the Ante-Nicene Fathers [hereafter ANF], (ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson; 1885-1887; reprint, 10 vols. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994).

Ignatius bishop of Antioch (c. A.D. 105). The SYBT does not quote him, however, Ignatius was an early church Father that was a disciple of the Apostle John who constantly affirm the full deity of Christ and distinction from the Father and Spirit. See The Christology of Ignatius

 

Justin Martyr (A.D. 150). The SYBT booklet says that Justin called Jesus “a created angel” (p. 7). Justin did call Christ an angel, however only in the sense that He came as a messenger, to the people of the Old Testament (e.g., the angel of the LORD who spoke to Moses and claimed to be the “I AM”; cf. Exod. 3:14ff; see ANF, 1. 223). The English word “angel” has the denotative meaning, in both Hebrew and Greek, as simply “messenger.”

Jesus certainly was active in the Old Testament as a “messenger,” and that is what Justin meant. John 1:18 says: “No man has ever seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” Jesus in the Old Testament interacted with the people of God (e.g., angel of the LORD; the Rock that accompanied the Israelites, see 1 Cor. 10:4).

Never once did Justin say or infer that Christ was created only the converse is asserted: Jesus Christ was the Eternal God. But again the quotes in the SYBT booklet are without addresses. Let us read what Justin really said:

He deserves to be worshipped as God and as Christ (Anti-Nicene church Fathers, 1:229).

For Christ is King, Priest, God, Lord, Angel and man (ibid., 1:221).

The Father of the universe has a Son. And He, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God (ibid, 1:184).

David predicted that He would be born from the womb before the sun and moon, according to the Father’s will, He made Him known, being Christ, as God, strong and to be worshipped (1:237).

Next, the SYBT cites Irenaeus bishop of Lyons (c. A.D. 185), as saying that Jesus was inferior and not equal with the Father. However Irenaeus clearly believed and defined the full Deity of Christ:

I have shown from the Scriptures that none of the sons of Adam are, absolutely and as to everything, called God, or named Lord, But Jesus is Himself in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, Lord, King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word.… (1:449). 

Thus He indicates in clear terms that He is God, and that His advent was in Bethlehem… God, then, was made man, and the Lord Himself save us (1:451).

He is God for the name Emmanuel indicates this (1:452).

Christ Himself, therefore, together with the Father, is the God of the living, who spoke to Moses, and who was also manifested to the fathers (1:467).

He was man, and He was God. This was so that since as man He suffered for us, so as God He might have compassion on us (1:545).

Clement of Alexandria (c. A.D. 195) who is cited as saying that Jesus, was not equal to the Father. But read what he actually said:

He is God in the form of man. . . the Word who is God, who is in the Father, who is at the Father’s right hand. And with the form of God, He is God (ibid., 2:210).

The Word itself, that is, the Son of God, is one wit the Father by equality of substance. He is eternal and uncreated (2:574).

Hippolytus (c. A.D. 203) is cited as believing that prehuman Jesus was created. But notice what this great Christian apologist really stood for and believed:

Having been made man, He is still God for ever. For to this effect, John also had said, ‘Who is and who was, and who is to come–the Almighty.’ And he has appropriately called Christ the ‘Almighty’ (5:225)

They killed the Son of their Benefactor, for He is co-eternal with the Father (5:220)

For, as the Only-Begotten Word of God, being God of God, He emptied Himself, according to the Scriptures… (5:167)

The Logos alone of this One is from God Himself. For that reason also, He is God. Being of the substance of God. In contrast, the world was made from nothing. Therefore, it is not God (5:151).

Therefore, a man . . . is compelled to acknowledge God the Father Almighty, and Christ Jesus the Son of God–who, being God, became man, to whom also the Father made all things subject (Himself excepted)–and the Holy Spirit; and that these are three [Persons] (5:226).

“Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” By this, He showed that whoever omits any one of these three, fails in glorifying God perfectly. For it is through this Trinity that the Father is glorified. For the Father willed, the Son did, and the Spirit manifested (5:228).

Tertullian of Carthage (c. A.D. 213) is cited next as saying, “there was a time that the Son was not” ( 7). However, what Tertullian meant (in his argument against the Modalism of Praxeas) was that he believed the Word was the Eternal God but yet distinct in His person from God the Father, and that the Word took on the title “Son” which was a common belief among many church Fathers (esp. the apologists). That Tertullian said that Jesus was created or came to be (in terms of His existence as a person) is completely and diabolically distorting what Tertullian meant. In fact, it was Tertullian that first coined the word “Trinity” (Lat. trinitas, the cognate of Gk. triados) in the West. Odd that the SYBT booklet would even cite this church Father. Tertullian taught:

For the very church itself–properly and principally–the Spirit Himself, in whom is the Trinity [trinitas], of the One Divinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (4:99; cf. Against Praxeas).

This opens the ears of Christ our God (3:715).

Surely I might venture to claim the very Word also as being of the Creator’s [Father] substance (3:356).

Now, if He too is God, for according to John, ‘The Word was God,’ then you have two Beings– One who commands that the thing to be made, and the other who creates. In what sense, however, you ought to understand Him to be another. I have already explained: on the ground of personality, not of substance. And in the way of distinction, not of division. I must everywhere hold only one substance, in three coherent and inseparable [persons] (3. 607).

It should be noted as well that in the East, as early as A.D. 180, church apologist Theophilus bishop of Antioch first uses the term “Trinity” to describe God: “In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the Trinity [triados] of God, and His Word, and His wisdom” (Theophilus To Autolycus 2.15, in ANF, vol. 3).

Origen (c. A.D. 228) was also cited by SYBT as denying that Jesus was God. However, Origen contradicts these Watchtower assertions: The Word that was in the beginning with God (who is also very God) may come to us (4:449). Also, 

The Son is not different from the Father in substance (9:336).

Saving baptism was not complete except by the authority of the most excellent Trinity of them all. That is, it is made complete by naming the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In this, we join the name of the Holy Spirit to the Unbegotten God (the Father) and to His Only-Begotten Son (4:252).

The above is a mere set of examples of the massive collection of the libraries of quotations and apologetic works of church Fathers teaching and defending the deity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity are massive. To the church Fathers, teaching, and defending the Deity of Christ and the Trinity was extremely important to them. Many of them spilled their own blood defending these doctrines. Why? Because in Trinity is how God revealed Himself to man: FATHER, SON, and HOLY SPIRIT.

The SYBT ends this page entitled: “What the Ante-Nicene Fathers Taught” by this: “Thus, the testimony of the Bible and of history makes clear that the Trinity was unknown throughout Biblical times and for several centuries thereafter” (p. 7).- – See, Was the Trinity Conceived in the 4th Century? 

 

OBJECTION #4: THE TRINITY DOCTRINE DID NOT EMERGE
UNTIL FOURTH CENTURY:- – Also see 

RESPONSE: See Was the Trinity Conceived in the 4th Century? 

 

OBJECTION #5: THE CHURCH FELL INTO TOTAL APOSTASY

JWs assert that the Early Christian church fell into Complete Apostasy after the death of the Apostles.

RESPONSE: This is an argument from ignorance. When did so-called apostasy happen? What year? In point of fact, there is not a shred of anything that would indicate or even infer that the entire Christian church fell into apostasy. The verses that they use say that only “some” will fall away or that “many” will abandon the faith but never once does Scripture say that ALL will apostatize. To assert this notion is an “easy-out” for JWs that say that: The original Christian Church did not teach Jesus was God. Both Mormons and JWs maintain this idea of a total apostasy only to avoid the truth that the early Christians taught what Christians believe today: THERE EXIST ONE TRUE GOD and JESUS IS THE ETERNAL GOD DISTINCT FROM HIS FATHER.

If the early Christian church apostatized, why do we read in Revelation 2:1ff. that the Ephesus church was commended by God for not tolerating wicked men and testing those who claimed to be apostles but were false. And we read of six other functioning Christian churches. The point is this: the Apostle John wrote Revelation, in or around A.D. 70-90!– no more than forty or sixty years after the resurrection Christ!

So, did the entire Christian church fall after that? How could this happen? What does that say about the condition of the early Christians? Where they so spiritually bankrupt that they suddenly fell to paganism? Or suddenly just quit believing? What does that say about God? Could He not hold His own church together? Where is the evidence for this?

That the whole Christian church is even able to fall-away is notion that is sharply refuted by the apostles and Jesus Christ Himself:

Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. . . . And Jesus answered and said unto him. . . . “That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:16-18; KJV).

“All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20).

Jesus promised that He would never leave His church, nor would the gates of hell come against her. Likewise, the apostle Paul explains: “To him [Jesus] be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen (Eph. 3:21). In contrast to the assertions made by the JWs, that His teachings were somehow lost, Jesus made a clear promise that His teachings would indeed last: “You did not choose me, but I choose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last” (John 15:16; emphasis added). As seen above, the church Fathers from Ignatius, to the great defender of the Trinity, Athanasius, and after, believed and taught that: Jesus Christ was the eternal God Creator of all things.

Think about it, if there were no true Christians until the JWs emerged (1870), then, would it not follow that we would find distinctive Watchtower theology somewhere in church history? We have records of virtually every teaching that was prorogated from the first century. Where in church history though were the teachings of the JWs? And of course the Mormons (who make the same church fell in total apostasy claim) have the same problem: where was distinctive LDS doctrine before Joseph Smith (1830)?

Historically, we do have records of virtually every promulgated theology. However we do not have ANY historical record of distinctive Watchtower theology. Hence, are we to believe that for over 1800 years Jehovah did not have a witness until Charles Taze Russell (JW’s founder) came on the scene? The only teaching that even resembles Watchtower theology (esp. Jesus as a created being) was Arianism.1 Accordingly, the Christian church roundly and sharply condemned Arianism because it denied Jesus Christ as eternal God, as the JWs teach.

 

OBJECTION #6: THE TRINITY IS THREE GODS

Most JWs grossly misrepresent the doctrine of the Trinity by asserting that the Trinity is three separate Gods.

RESPONSE: Again, this a typical straw man argument. The doctrine of the Trinity is not three Gods. The doctrine of three Gods is tritheism, not Trinitarianism. Three Gods is how Mormons view the Godhead. The foundation of the Trinity is pure ontological monotheism: ONE GOD. One Being revealed in three distinct Persons, coexistent, coequal, and coeternal.

OBJECTION #7: THE TRINITY IS ILLOGICAL

The SYBT says that the Trinity is, “Beyond the grasp of human reason” (4). And that God is, “Not a God of confusion” (ibid.). From that line of thought, JWs will argue that Trinity cannot be true, it too confusing.

RESPONSE: For something to be illogical, it would have to contradict reason. The doctrine of the Trinity does not contradict reason. The Trinity is not 1 person in 3 persons or 1 God in 3 Gods. It does not follow that because something is not completely explicable that it cannot exist or cannot be true. For example, many of the formulations in physical science, not contrary to reason, and may be apprehended (though it may not be comprehended) by the human mind.2 Does anyone completely understand how light travels? Does it travel as a wave, corpuscular or quantum phenomenon? Yet, we believe in the reality of light, even though we cannot totally comprehend it.

The Trinity may not be totally comprehendible, but we can surely apprehend how God has revealed Himself to us through Scripture: There is ONE TRUE GOD; the Father is God the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. And the three are clearly differentiated. One God revealed in three distinct Persons. We cannot simply put God in easy-to-understand categories to gratify our feeble minds. We are called to worship God how He revealed Himself to us in His Word, anything less, is not worshipping, or honoring the true God.

The JWs reject the Trinity and hence they reject God. God is tri-personal He is not a unipersonal God as taught by the JWs. They are without excuse:

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.” (Isa. 40:28).

 

Notes

1, Early in the fourth century, Arius of Alexandria, postulated his teaching that Jesus was a different substance (heteroousios) than that of the Father. He used some of the same argumentation that the JWs use today. And of course, Arianism was completely refuted as heresy at the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325).

2, Example taken from: Robert M. Bowman, Jr., Why You Should Believe in the Trinity, An Answer to Jehovah’s Witnesses (Baker House Books, Grand Rapids Michigan), 17.