Simply: The defining context and semantic of the Blind Man’s statement of “I am” is unmistakably different than the unpredicated egō eimi (“I am”) claims which Jesus made in Matt. 14:27; Mark. 6:50; John 6:20; 8:24, 28. 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6 (repeated by the narrator), and verse 8).    

JWs (as well as other unitarian groups) [1] deny that Jesus’ Ἐγώ εἰμι (egō eimi, “I am”)[2] were claims of being equal with God. Typically JWs appeal to John 9:9: “Some were saying: ‘This is he.’ others were saying: ‘No, but he looks like him.’ The man kept saying: ‘I am he’” (egō eimi, “I am”). In other words, because the syntactically (not contextually) unpredicated Greek phrase egō eimi was used of the blind man, JWs argue that Jesus’ claim of being the egō eimi, that is, the “I am,” cannot be a claim of deity.  

What quickly refutes this blank argument is simply the CONTEXT. Meanings of words (and phrases) are determined by context, not merely by lexical meaning. If this vital point is not considered, then, meanings become a mere pretext.     

In the Septuagint (LXX), the unpredicated egō eimi was an exclusive title for YHWH (Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4, translated from the Hebrew, ani hu). In these places, the title clearly indicates YHWH’s claim of eternal existence. Further, in Isa. 41:4, YHWH’s claim of being the “I am” is joined with the claim, “I am the first, and with the last,” and “I, the Lord, am the first, and with the last.” In the NT, only Jesus Christ claimed to be “the first and the last” (Rev. 1:17, 2:8; 22:13). So incontrovertibly, the unpredicated “I am” in the OT (LXX) was a clear claim of deity, that is, eternal existence, exclusively used of YHWH.- 

SeeJesus’ Ἐγώ εἰμι, Egō Eimi (“I Am”) Declarations- John 8:58for an expanded treatment on the title egō eimi used of Christ in the NT and YHWH in the OT LXX.    

Hence, when Jesus claimed to be the “I am,” esp. sandwiched between other divine implications and syntactical features [3], the Jews, against the backdrop of the LXX, clearly recognized the semantic force of what Christ was claiming: “They picked up stones to kill Him” (John 8:59). This was a legal stoning according to Jewish law (Lev. 24:16). In fact, the Jews understood and responded in the same way (wanting to kill Christ), when Jesus made other unique claims of deity. For example, Mark 14:61-64- claim: Son of God and Son of Man, “coming with the clouds of heaven”; John 5:17-18- claim: Son of God, “making Himself equal with God”; John 10:30-33- claim: giving eternal life to the His sheep, being essentially one (hen) with the Father, and being the Son of God.

Christ’s claims of being the “I am” were not isolated. In John 8, in which most of Jesus’ “I am” claims were recorded, are many additional claims of Christ as to His preexistence and deity (cf. 8:12, 19 [esp. the “I am” clams in vv. 24, 28, 58], 40, 51), which led up to His crowning claim of being the absolute, “I am,” that is, I am the Eternal One who spoke to Moses in the burning bush.[4]Thus, contextually, Jesus’ “I am” claims were unpredicated and unambiguous claims of being the eternal God, the YHWH of Deut. 32:39; Isaiah 43:10 et al. And the Jews knew this—for they wanted to kill Him for blasphemy (John 8:59)!

What about the blind man’s statement, “I am” in John 9:9?  

The contextual dissimilarity between Jesus’ “I am” claims and the blind man’s statement, cannot be missed. When Jesus stated, “I am,” it was a startling claim to be God incarnate, whereas when the blind man stated, “I am,” it was in mere response to the question of who it was that Christ healed. Note verses 8-9:

 So the neighbors, and those who previously saw him as a beggar, were saying, “Is this not the one who used to sit and beg?” 9 Others were saying, “This is he,” still others were saying, “No, but he is like him.” The man himself kept saying, “I am the one [egō eimi].” 

The blind man simply explained, Yes, “I am” the man who Christ healed! Clearly, the “I am” has an implied predicate. Note the significantly different responses of the Jews to Jesus’ absolute “I am” statements in John 8:58; 18:5, 6, and verse 8 compared to the blind man’s “I am” statement in John 9:9:    

  1. John 9:9, when the blind said, “I am,” the Jews did not attempt to stone him, as they attempted to do to Christ in response to His claim of being “I am” (John 8:58-59).

 

  1. There was no adverse reaction by the Jews to the blind man saying “I am,” nor did one person fall back, contra the guards in response to Jesus’ “I am” claims in John 18. 

 

  1. In the entire content of John 9, there were no divine implications made by the blind man. Whereas, Christ made abounding divine implications all throughout John 8 leading up to verse 58, as pointed out above. 

 

  1. As also mentioned above, John 8:58 contains a verbal contrast between Abraham’s beginning (denoted by the aorist genesthai, “was”) and Jesus’ eternality, that is, being the eternal One (denoted by the present eimi, “am”): “Before Abraham was born” vs. “I am.”   

 

Therefore, there is absolutely no contextual similarity between Jesus’ multiple unambiguous claims to be the unpredicated “I am,” God incarnate, and the blind man’s response of being the man that Jesus healed.


NOTES

[1] A distinction, though, needs to be made between religious groups that are theologically “unitarian” (or unipersonal, i.e., seeing God as one person, thus rejecting the Trinity) and the official Unitarian religion itself. The former would include such religious systems as post-first century Judaism, Islam, Oneness Pentecostals, JWs, etc., while the latter is applied exclusively to the Unitarian Church as a religious denomination. Thus, “unitarian” refers to the unipersonal theology of the JWs as well as all other theological unitarian groups. Technically, a unitarian belief of God is synonymous with a unipersonal belief of God.

[2] Appearing mostly in, but not limited to, the Gospel of John (Matt. 14:27; Mark. 6:50; John 6:20; 8:24, 28. 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6 (repeated by the narrator), and v. 8).

[3] To laser light His eternal existence as God, in John 8:58 for example, Jesus asserted a sharp verbal contrast between Abraham, who had a beginning denoted by the aorist verb, genesthai (“was born.” from ginomai, “to come to be”), and His eternal existence denoted by the present indicative verb, eimi (“am,” as in egō eimi, “I am”). Thus, a “came to be” vs. “I am always being” contrast.

[4]. In Exod. 3:13, in response to Moses’s question regarding His “name,” the LXX records the angel of the LORD declaring, Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν (egō eimi ho ōn, “I am the One”). Although the phrase is not an exact syntactical parallel to the unpredicated egō eimi in John 8:58 et al., the semantic consequence is the same—namely, expressing eternal existence. Note the articular (or adjectival) participle ho ōn following egō eimi. This present tense participle ōn is from eimi (“I am, exist”)—linguistically, existing, being, subsisting (context and grammatical features determine its durational aspect). In particular contexts, the articular participle can denote timeless, eternal existence. It is used of God the Father in Revelation 1:4 and either Father or Son in 1:8 and 4:8. However, in the articular participle is applied to Christ at John 1:18 (ho ōn, “the One who is always, timelessly existing, in the bosom of the Farther”); 3:13 (M, TR); 6:46; and Romans 9:5 (Rev. 1:8). In these passages, the articular participle denotes the Son’s timeless existence. Therefore, although the LXX of Exodus 3:14 (egō eimi ho ōn) is not an exact syntactical parallel to John 8:58 et al., it is a semantic equivalent of eternal preexistence and thus, deity. Whereas the exact syntactical parallel (i.e., the unpredicated egō eimi) would be found in in the LXX of Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 41:4; 43:10; 46:4; and 48:12—, which are exclusively applied to YHWH.

SeeJesus’ Ἐγώ εἰμι, Egō Eimi (“I Am”) Declarations- John 8:58for an expanded treatment on the Exod. phrase and the articular participle, ho ōn.   

 

γώ εμι, Egō Eimi (“I Am”)

Matt. 14:27: “But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I [egō eimi, ‘I am’]; do not be afraid’” (NASB et seq.).  

Mark 6:50: Same Greek phrase as in Matt. 14:27: ἐγώ εἰμι, μὴ φοβεῖσθε, egō eimi, mē phobeisthe (lit. “I am, do not be afraid”).  

John 6:20: Same Greek phrase as in Matt. 14:27 and Mark 6:50.    

John 8:24: “…for unless you believe that I am [egō eimi], you will die in your sins.”

John 8:28: “So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [egō eimi]. . . .”

John 8:58: “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am [egō eimi].”

John 13:19: “From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it does happen, you may believe that I am He [egō eimi].”

John 18:5, 6 (repeat by narrator), 8: 5 “They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, ‘I am He’ [egō eimi]. And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. 6 Now then, when He said to them, ‘I am He’ [egō eimi], they drew back and fell to the ground. . . . 8 Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am He; [egō eimi] so if you are seeking Me, let these men go on their way.’” Note, in 13:19 and 18:5, 6, 8, the pronoun “He” was added by translators – indicated by italicization.

 Jesus’ unpredicated ἐγώ εἰμι, egō eimi (“I am”) Jesus’ unpredicated[1] egō eimi (“I am”) claims are some of the clearest affirmations of the Son’s deity and eternality. As mentioned below, in the OT, this title was a reoccurring claim of YHWH alone denoting His eternal existence (Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; and 46:4). So of course, virtually all unitarian groups  (esp. Muslims, Oneness advocates, and JWs) deny this truth of the distinct person of the Son, Jesus Christ as being coequal coeternal and coexistent with God the Father (and the Holy Spirit).

However, as pointed out repeatedly, even if one rejects Jesus’ “I am” claims as claims of deity, the deity of Christ, the Son of God, are well established in the content of John’s literature (John 1:1, 3, 10, 18; 3:13; 5:17-18; 6:20; 9:38; 10:27-30; 17:5; 20:28; 1 John 1:1-2; 5:20; Rev. 1:7-8, 17; 2:8; 5:13-14; 22:13).        

In John 8:24, Jesus declared, “. . . for if you should not believe that ‘I am’ [egō eimi] you will perish in your sins” (lit. trans.). Some standard translations add either a predicated clause or the pronoun “He” after the “I am” phrase (cf. KJV, NIV, AMP[2] et al.). However, all extant NT Greek manuscripts containing John 8:24 have no stated predicated clause or predicate such as “He” after the Greek phrase egō eimi. This is true of all Jesus’ egō eimi affirmations.[3]

Additionally, there is clear textual and contextual justification to support that Jesus’ claims of being the unpredicated “I am” and thus, true God and true man. Any added predicate is merely a decision made by the Bible translator. Although the unpredicated divine declaration, “I am,” in John 8:58 is accepted universally as a divine claim among most biblical scholarship (esp. in light of v. 59), not all scholars agree that 8:24 is a divine claim, which is reflected in various translations.

Some translations, however, see the “I am” claim in 8:24 in the same sense as in John 8:58—namely, an unpredicated divine title, such as the NASB 2020 ed. Also note, the ISV 2008 ed. reading: “That is why I told you that you will die in your sins, for unless you believe that I AM, you’ll die in your sins” (caps. theirs); and the Aramaic Bible in Plain English 2010 ed.: “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). In fact, this translation translates every one of Jesus’ egō eimi phrases as, “I AM THE LIVING GOD.” So Vincent sees 8:24, 28, 58; and 13:19 as a “solemn expression of’ Jesus’ ‘absolute divine being’” (Word Studies).   

It should also be noted that these particular occurrences of Jesus’ “I am” claims are not syntactically the same as other claims, which include the phrase “I am,” such as, “I am the door,” “I am the shepherd,” “I am the bread,” etc., which all contain a clear and stated predicate contra the several unpredicated “I am” statements of Christ. Thus, the burden of proof would rest on the one attempting to show otherwise.

Sometimes, JWs appeal to John 9:9 where the blind man uttered, “I am” (egō eimi). However, the clause is neither syntactically nor contextually equivalent to the unpredicated egō eimi statements of Christ in the gospels. – See our article on John 9:9 and the JWs also see The NWT and John 8:58

 

The Egō Eimi OT Septuagint (LXX) Background

Many associate Jesus’ egō eimi (“I am”) declarations with God’s declaration to Moses in Exod. 3:14: “God said to Moses, I am that I am.’[4] Although, the phrase in the Greek LXX of Exod. 3:14 (egō eimi ho ōn, “I am the One”) is not syntactically equivalent to Jesus’ unpredicated egō eimi claims, it does denote the same semantic: YHWH’s eternal existence.[5]     

Notwithstanding, there are places in the OT, where YHWH alone claimed to be the unpredicated egō eimi, which were syntactically equivalent to that of Jesus’ egō eimi claims— clearly denoting His eternal existence (Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; and 46:4, from the Hebrew, ani hu). Further, in Isa. 41:4, YHWH’s claim of being the “I am” is joined with His claim to be “the first, and with the last” (cf. 44:6; 48:12). While in the NT, only Christ claimed to be “the first and the last” (Rev. 1:17, 2:8; 22:13). Hence, when Jesus claimed to be the unpredicated egō eimi, in John 8:58, for example, which was sandwiched between other divine implications and syntactical features,[6] the Jews, against the backdrop of the LXX, clearly recognized the semantic force of what Christ was claiming: “They picked up stones to kill Him” (John 8:59).

This was a legal stoning according to Jewish law (Lev. 24:16). In fact, the Jews understood and responded in the same way (wanting to kill Christ), when Jesus made other unique claims of deity—as in Mark 14:61-64- claim: Son of God and Son of Man, “coming with the clouds of heaven”; John 5:17-18– claim: Son of God, “making Himself equal with God”; John 10:26-33- claim: giving eternal life to the His sheep, being essentially one (hen) with the Father, and being the Son of God.

 Marked Progression. Christ’s claims of being the “I am” were not isolated. In John 8, in which most of Jesus’ “I am” claims were recorded, there are many additional claims of Christ as to His preexistence and deity (cf. 8:12, 19 [esp. the “I am” clams in vv. 24, 28, 58], 40, 51), which led up to His crowning claim of being the absolute, “I am,” that is, I am the Eternal One who spoke to Moses in the burning bush. It is when we examine all the “I am” statements do we see the consequence of His claim. Thus, contextually, Jesus’ “I am” claims were unambiguous claims of being the eternal God, the YHWH of Deut. 32:39 et al. And the Jews knew this—for they wanted to kill Him for blasphemy (John 8:59)!  

 

Conclusion

The unambiguous claims of Christ to be ontologically equal with God, God in the flesh, and yet distinct from the Father are abounding both in the OT (esp. as the angel of the LORD) and in the NT (e.g., Exod. 3:6, 14; Matt. 12:6; 14:27-33; Mark 6:50; 14:61-64; John 8:24, 58 et al.; 3:13; 5:17-18; 10:26-30; 17:5; Rev. 1:8, 17; 2:8; 5:13-14; 22:13 et al.)    

However, as pointed out repeatedly, Even if one rejects Jesus’ “I am” claims as claims of deity, the deity of the Son of God are well established in the content of John’s literature (John 1:1, 3, 10, 18; 5:17-18; 8:24, 54 et.; 9:38; 6:20; 10:27-30; 17:5; 20:28; 1 John 1:1-2; 5:20; Rev. 1:7-8, 17; 2:8; 5:13-14; 22:13 et al.).  When Jesus declared He was the “I am” at John 18:5, 6 (repeated by the narrator), and verse 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.  

Believing that the person of the Son, Jesus Christ, is truly God and that His cross work is the very ground of justification (apart from works), is essential for salvation.

  

“You will die in your sins, for unless you believe that I AM, you’ll die in your sins” (John 8:24, ISV).


Notes 

[1] Unpredicted, i.e., no supplied predicate modifying the subject, “I am.”      

[2] However, in Mark 6:50; John 6:20, the Amplified trans. reads: “Take courage! It is I (I AM)! Stop being afraid.”

[3] Matt. 14:27; Mark 6:50; John 6:20; 8:24; 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8.

[4] Hebrew, ehyeh aser ehyeh.  

[5]. In Exod. 3, the angel of the LORD (viz., the preincarnate Son) appeared to Moses and spoke to him from the burning bush (v. 2). He had identified Himself to Moses as YHWH and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (vv. 4, 6). In response to Moses’s question regarding His “name” (v. 13), verse 14 of the LXX reads: “And God spoke to Moses, saying, ‘I am the Being’” (γ εμι ν, egō eimi ho ōn). As mentioned, this phrase is not an exact syntactical parallel to Jesus’ unpredicated egō eimi claims (John 8:24, 28, 58 et al.), but the semantic consequence is the same—namely, expressing eternal existence. Also note, the articular participle ho ōn (“the one being, existing”) follows the egō eimi phrase in Exod. 3:14. The present tense participle ōn (from eimi, “I am, exist”)—linguistically denotes, “existing, being, subsisting” (context and grammatical features determine its durational aspect). Thus, with the article, “the One who is always, timelessly existing.” So the egō eimi phrase is intensified by the subsequent articular participle: “I am the One being, timelessly existing.”   

In warranted contexts, the articular participle can denote timeless, eternal existence. It is used of God the Father in Rev. 1:4 and the Son in 1:8 (and Father or Son in 4:8). However, aside from Rev. 1:8, the articular participle is applied specifically to the Son at John 1:18: “… the one and only God who is [ho ōn, lit., ‘the One who is always, timelessly existing’] in the bosom of the Father. . . .”); 3:13 (M, TR); 6:46; and Rom. 9:5. In these passages, the articular participle denotes the Son’s timeless existence. Regarding John 1:18, Robert Reymond remarks, “The present participle ὁ ὢν [ho ōn] . . . indicates a continuing state of being: ‘who is continually in the bosom of the Father’” (Systematic Theology, 1998, 303). So Vincent sees the articular participle in John 1:18 as “a ‘timeless present’ expressing the inherent and eternal relation of the Son to the Father.” The anarthrous participle ōn (“being, subsisting”) can also carry this linguistic force. Robertson observes the participle in Heb. 1:3 [hos ōn, “who is”] as denoting “Absolute and timeless existence (present active participle of eimi) in contrast [as pointed out above] with γενόμενος [genomenos] in verse 4 like ἦν [ēn] in John 1:1 (in contrast with ἐγένετο [egeneto] in 1:14) and like ὑπάρχων [huparchōn] and γενόμενος [genomenos] in Php 2:6f” (Robertson, Word Pictures). Therefore, although the phrase in the LXX of Exod. 3:14 (egō eimi ho ōn) is not an exact syntactical equivalent to John 24, 28, 58 et al., it is semantically equivalent YHWH claim of eternal existence. Whereas the exact syntactical parallel (i.e., the unpredicated egō eimi) is found in the LXX of Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; and 46:4—, which are exclusively applied to YHWH.

[6] To laser light His eternal existence as God, in John 8:58 for example, Jesus asserted a sharp verbal contrast between Abraham, who had a beginning denoted by the aorist verb, genesthai (“was born.” from ginomai, “to come to be”), and His eternal existence denoted by the present indicative verb, eimi (“am,” as in egō eimi, “I am”). Thus, a “came to be” vs. “I am always being” contrast. The same verbal contrast can be seen in the prologue of John, where the imperfect verb ēn (“was,” from eimi) denoting the Word’s unoriginate eternal existence, which is exclusively applied to the Word in verses 1, 2, 4, 9, and 10. This verb is contrasted with the aorist egeneto (“became”) which is also from ginomai, which refers to all things that came into existence or had a starting point (e.g., the creation, vv. 3, and 10; John the Baptist, in v. 6). It is not until verse 14 that egeneto is applied to the Word (pertaining to His incarnation): Kai ho Logos sarx egeneto, “And the Word became [ginomai] flesh.” The same verbal contrast (Christ as eternal vs. created things) is found in Hebrews  1:3-4, where the present tense participle ōn (“always being”) is set in contrast with the aorist epoiēsen (“He made”) in verse 2 and participle ōn being in contrast with the aorist genomenos (“having become”—referring to the incarnation) in verse 4.

And the same in Philippians 2:6-7 where the present participle huparchōn (“existing/always subsisting”) in verse 6 is set in contrast with the aorist verbs, ekenōsen (“emptied”) labōn (“by taking”), genomenos (“having been made”) and heuretheis (“having been found”) verses 7 and 8. In each case, there is an outstanding contrast between the eternal preincarnate Son and all things created. See also 2 Corinthians 8:9 where we find a syntactical parallel with Philippians 2:6-7—viz., participle vs. aorist. Participles— ōn, “rich being” (2 Cor. 8:9) – huparchōn, “in the nature of God being (Phil. 2:6). Aorist indicatives— eptōcheusen,He became poor” (2 Cor. 8:9) – ekenōsen,emptied Himself” (Phil. 2:7). Hence, Paul in 2 Corinthians 8:9, “that You, through His poverty [i.e., His incarnation], might become rich” (in glory and righteousness). Also, the same linguistic contrast is found in the LXX of Psalm 90:2 (89:2)—namely, the aorist ginomai is set in contrast with present indicative eimi:

Before the mountains existed [or “were born,” genēthēnai, the aorist of ginomai], and [before] the earth and the world were formed [plasthēnai, the aorist infinitive of plassō], even from age to age, You are [ei, the second person present indicative of eimi].     

 

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:

 

Dan. 7:13-14 [LXX, Swete, Rahlfs eds.]: 13 I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man [anarthrous s huios anthrōpou] was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. 14 And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom and all the nations of the earth according to their kind, and all glory to Him worshiping [λατρεύουσα, latreuousa, present act. participle of latreuō, trans from the imperfect Arm. verb pelach], and the dominion of Him is an everlasting dominion, which ou mē arthē [‘never never, not even a possibility, shall pass away’], and the kingdom of Him, which ou mē phtharē [never never, not even a possibility, shall be destroyed].”  

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 [legontes – pres. participle], ‘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.