NASB: “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born I am’” (as in most trans.)  

Greek: εἶπεν αὐτοῖς Ἰησοῦς· ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί (eipen autois Iēsous: amēn amēn legō humin, prin Abraam genesthai egō eimi).

 

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

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.)[1] Although most translations add either a predicated clause or the pronoun “he” after “I am”[2], the fact is there is no pronoun (i.e., no supplied predicate) contained after egō eimi (“I am”) in any Greek manuscript of John 8:24 or after Jesus’ other affirmations of being the “I am” as in Mark 6:50; John 8:28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and 8. An added predicate is a decision made by the translator.[3].           

Hence, these particular occurrences in John of Jesus’ claim to be the “I am” are not the same as statements in which contain a clear and stated predicate, such as, for example, “I am the door, the shepherd, the bread,” etc. Whereas the several “I am” statements exampled in John 8, 13:19, and 18:5, 6, 8 (and Mark 6:50) have no stated predicate in the Greek, but rather the “I am” stands alone–which would be an absolute claim to deity. Thus, the burden of proof would rest on the one attempting to  show otherwise.

As shown below, John 8:58 contextually and syntactically (esp. in light of the verb contrast) asserts an absolute unequivocal claim of deity made by Christ, which was clearly understood by the Jews in the next verse. However, whether or not the “I am” statements in the other passages are contextually unpredicated, that is, “I am the eternal God” claims, the deity of the Son is well established in the entire content of John’s literature (John 1:18; 5:17-18; 10:30; 20:28; 1 John 5:20; Rev. 1:7-8, 17; 22:13 et al.).        

To understand the full theological significance of the phrase egō eimi, the OT background must first be considered. The Hebrew phrase, ani hu (“I [am] He”), which was translated egō eimi in the Septuagint (LXX), was an exclusive and recurring title for YHWH alone (cf. Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4 et al..[4])—which the Jews clearly understood (cf. John 8:59).[4]

Again, Jesus’ claim to be the “I am” was not only seen in John 8:58 (as many assume), but note the marked progression starting in 8:24, then, vv. 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and 8. It is when we examine all the “I am” statements do we see the consequence of His claim.

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

Jesus’ divine statements of being the “I am” were unambiguous claims of being the eternal God, that is the YHWH who spoke to Moses and the YHWH who rained brimstone and fire on Sodom and Gomorrah from YHWH out of heaven.” 

Also See The NWT and John 8:58 


NOTES

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

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

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

[4] Some connect Exodus 3:14 with John 8:58. However, as mentioned, the LXX rendering of Exodus 3:14 is not an exact equivalence: Egō eimi ho ōn (“I am the Being” or “Existing One”). Though there is a solid connection between Jesus’ divine claim in John 8:58 and Exodus 3:14 (both provide same meaning: I am the Eternal one. Also note the articular participle, ὁ ὢν (ho ōn, “the one who is/being always”) in the LXX of Exodus 3:14. When contextually warranted, as in 3:14, the phrase indicates timeless existence – “who is always existing.” The phrase is applied to the Father in Revelation 1:4 and 4:8 and applied to the Son and John 1:18 denoting the Son’s eternal existence: “No one has seen God at any time; the only the unique God who is [ho ōn, i.e., “the One who is/being always”] in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” Also applied to the incarnate Son in Romans 9:5 with the same sematic: “Whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is [ho ōn, i.e., “the One who is/being always”] over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” The phrase also appears in Revelation 1:8. Although referential identity is not clear (Father or Son), verse 7 clearly refers to the Son, which seems to correlate naturally with verse 8.            

As pointed our above, the full theological impact of Jesus’ divine declarative should be linked to the Hebrew phrase ani hu (“I [am] He”), which was rendered by the LXX as egō eimi. Again, the unpredicted egō eimi was a divine title used exclusively by YHWH (e.g., Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4). Unlike Elohim (“God”), the title egō eimi was never applied to men or angels, but to YHWH alone: “See now that I am [egō eimi], and there is no god except Me” (Deut. 32:29, LXX).

 

“I kept looking, until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat. . . . I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven, One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days, and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one, which will not be destroyed (vv. 9, 13-14).

 

Daniel 7:9-14 offers additional evidence to the preexistence of Christ. It additionally indicates that the Messiah would receive true worship in the same sense as the Father. In Daniel’s vision, he describes two distinct objects of divine worship—the Ancient of Days and the “Son of Man” particularly in verses 9, 13-14. These passages are quite problematic for unitarian groups such as Oneness Pentecostals who deny any real distinction of persons between the Christ and the Father. The grammar of the passages denoting this distinction cannot be missed: two objects of praise, religious worship, and real interaction between the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man.

Verse 9: “I kept looking, until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat.” Note that Daniel sees “thrones” that were set up, rather than one single throne. Apparently, both the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man each have thrones as also indicated in the New Testament. This is not an isolated occurrence. In Revelation 3:21 both God the Father and the Lamb have thrones: “He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne” (cf. Heb. 1:8) We also see that God the Father and Lamb share the same throne (cf. Rev. 5:13; 22:1, 3), but yet they are always presented as distinct persons.

 

Verse 13: behold, with the clouds of heaven, One like a Son of Man was coming and He came up to the Ancient of Days.” Daniel sees the Son of Man coming up to the Ancient of Days. First, note how the Son of Man is coming: “with the clouds of heaven.” In the Old Testament, only YHWH is said to be coming in/with the clouds of heaven (cf., Exod. 19:9; Lev. 16:2; Isa. 19:1; Jer. 4:13). In the New Testament, only the Son, Jesus Christ, is said to be coming the clouds of heaven. In Mark 14:62 (cf. Matt. 26:64), when the high priest asked Jesus if He were the Messiah, the Son of God, He answered as affirmed:

“I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (also see Matt 24:30-31; John 3:13; Rev. 1:7). 

 

“Ancient of Days.” Unquestionably, the identity of the Ancient of Days (Aram. Atik Yomin; LXX, palaios hēmerōn) is God Himself. The CEV translates the title of “Ancient of Days” as “the Eternal God” and the TEV translates it as “One who had been living for ever.”

 

“Son of Man.” In the Old Testament, the title “son of man” (Heb., ben adam) is a common phrase used at times to underline the difference between God and human beings; used primarily though as a synonym for “man” or mankind in general (cf. Num. 23:19; Ps. 8:4; Isa. 51:12 ). It is used almost exclusively of Ezekiel. The Prophet Ezekiel is addressed as “son of man” by God at least ninety times in the Old Testament (e.g. Ezek. 2:1). Thus, predominately, the usage is used of the Prophet Ezekiel. However, in the New Testament, “Son of Man” was exclusively applied to Christ. Thus, it is well established that the phrase, “Son of Man,” as applied to Christ, was derived from Daniel 7:13f.

Jesus used this epithet of Himself more than any other title (in the gospels, it was used of Christ about eighty-eight times). Further, in the Gospels or gospels, the title is connected with both His humanity and His deity. In Mark 14:61-62, when the high priest had asked Jesus is He were the Messiah, the Son of the God, Jesus said: “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Note these New Testament references related to the divine nature of the “Son of Man.” That is, things that are attributed to the Son of man that only can be attributed to God:   

  • The Son of Man has authority “to forgive sins” (Matt. 9:6)
  • The Son of Man is “greater than the temple” (Matt. 12:6)
  • The Son of Man is “Lord of the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:8)
  • The Son of Man is the King of a kingdom and the angels and elect are His indicating that He rules over them (cf. Matt. 13:41)
  • The Son of Man is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:13-17; Mark 14:61-62)
  • The Son of Man as to be killed and physically raised (resurrected) from the dead (cf. Matt. 17:9, 26:2; Mark 8:31; Luke 9:22; John 2:19-22)
  • The Son of Man gave His “as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45)
  • The Son of Man “descended from heaven” (John 3:13)
  • All who believe in The Son of Man will have eternal life (cf. John 3:14-15)
  • The Son of Man accepted religious worship (cf. John 9:35-38)

 

“And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom.” In Matthew 28:18-19, the Son of Man declares: “All authority has been given to Me, in heaven and earth.” He had stated this after “they worshiped Him” (v. 17). Thus, it seems that Daniel prophetically envisaged Matthew 28:18, the Son of Man not only receiving all authority, honor, and sovereignty, but, as we will see below, as in Matthew 28:17, Daniel sees the Son of Man being worshiped “by all people, nations, and languages.” The parallel here to Matthew 28:17-19 are striking.  

In Daniel 7:9-14, Daniel presents two objects of divine worship, the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man who “was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom.” First, we read in in verse 9 that Daniel saw “thrones,” not a single throne: “I kept looking, until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat.” Second, in verse 13, Daniel sees the Son of Man coming “with [LXX, epi] the clouds of heaven . . . to the Ancient of Days.”[1]

In especially verse 14, the deity of the person of the Son of Man is most expressed. After the Ancient of Days gives to the Son of Man “dominion, Glory and a kingdom,” then, He decrees that “All the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve [“worship,” Holman, NLT, NIV et al.] Him.” In verse 14, the LXX translates the Aramaic pelach as latreuō (cf. Isa. 56:2; Jer. 50:40; Ps. 8:4; 80:17; 146:3; Job 25:6). In a religious context the term denotes service or worship reserved for God alone (Exod. 20:5 [LXX]; Matt. 4:10; Acts 26:7; Rom. 1:9; 12:1; Gal. 4:8; Phil. 3:3; Heb. 9:14; Rev. 22:3; etc.).[3] Although in some editions of the LXX, have the term douleuō (“to serve”), but as with latreuō, in a religious context (which Dan. 7:9-14 undeniably are), douleuō denotes religious worship, signifying service or worship reserved for God alone.[4] ” (Gal. 4:8). [5]

Since Daniel’s vision was clearly within a religious context (i.e., in the heavens), the worship (latreuō/douleuō) that the Son of Man receives from the “peoples, nations and men of every language” is religious worship reserved for YHWH alone (cf. v. 27). That the Messiah, the Son of Man, rightfully received religious worship here is wholly consistent to the New Testament revelation  there are many places where the Son was worshiped in a religious context (e.g., Matt. 14:33; John 9:35-38; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:13-14). It is the Son of Man that is coming in the clouds whose “dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed” (cf. Eph. 1:20-21; Heb. 1:8-12).

Furthermore, to avoid the implications of the Messiah receiving true religious worship, some have argued that the title “Son of Man” refers exclusively to humanity collectively In response, however, it is true that many places in the Old Testament does convey  that meaning—but only where the context warrants. However, in Daniel 7:9-14 this designation cannot be true contextually. The Son of Man in Daniel receives “dominion, Glory and a kingdom,” and “all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him.” This description cannot be said of men collectively.

More than that, while modern Jewish commentators deny the Messianic import of this passage, this was not the case with the earliest Jewish exegetes (cf. the Babylonian Talmud, Sanhedrin, 96b-97a, 98a; etc.).   Further, as noted, the testimony of early church Fathers connected the Son of Man in Daniel 7 with Jesus Christ— and not with men collectively.  

 

Conclusion  

In Daniel 7:9-14, Daniel presents two objects of divine worship, the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man who “was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom.” In Revelation 5:13 and 22:1, 3 the Father and the Lamb are presented as distinct persons. According to the rules of Greek grammar (viz. Sharp’s rule #6), tou theou (“the God”) and tou arniou (“the Lamb”) are two different/distinct persons. Each noun is preceded by the article (tou, “the”) and both nouns are connected by the copulative conjunction (kai, “and”; as in Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 John 1:3; etc.; see Edward L. Dalcour, A Definitive Look at Oneness Theology: In the Light of Biblical Trinitarianism, 4th Edition, Revised, Updated, and Expanded [NWU, Potchefstroom, SA, 2011], 88, note 5).         


 

Notes 

[1] In the OT, only YHWH is said to be coming in/with the clouds of heaven (cf., Exod. 19:9; Lev. 16:2; Isa. 19:1; Jer. 4:13). In the NT, only the Son, Jesus Christ is said to be coming the clouds of heaven (Matt. 26:64; Mark 14:62).

[2] Cf. the LXX editions of H. B. Swete and Alfred Rahlfs.  

[3] Latreuō would have the same linguistic force as that of the frequently used term for “worship,” proskuneō in a religious context (e.g., Exod. 20:5 [LXX]; John 4:24; Rev. 7:11).    

[4] For example, in Galatians 4:8, Paul says, “When you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods.” The phrase “were slaves” (or “you served”) is from the verb douleuō. Paul was clear, “to serve” (douleuō) in a religious service, anyone other than God in a religious context is idolatry.  

[5] In the NT, there are many places where the Son was worshiped in a religious context (e.g., Matt. 14:33; John 9:35-38; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:13-14).   

                                                                              

 

Never was there a more deceptive doctrine advanced than that of the Trinity. It could have originated only in one mind, and that the mind of Satan the Devil (Reconciliation [Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1928], p. 101).

Since the beginning of human history, the nature of God (i.e., how He revealed Himself) has been furiously attacked (esp. ontological monotheism).[1] Though, one of the first heresies that emerged in first century church was that of the Judaizers.[2] And the second heresy that the early church dealt with was that of the Gnostics.[3] Both of which were thoroughly refuted by the apostles in there writings.[4]

Jesus was clear on the subject: eternal life is to have “knowledge” of the true God (cf. John 17:3; 8:24). And Scripture presents that there is one true God who revealed Himself in three coequal, coeternal, and coexistent *distinct* persons—thus, God is Triune. The biblical data is undeniable. But many today (and historically) deny, in some way, shape, or form, the doctrine of the Trinity. We are not speaking of some peripheral, non-essential doctrine here: The belief in the doctrine of the Trinity is essential to ones salvation, for it is how God revealed Himself—the very nature or essence of His essential Being, the only true God.

If one removes the Son from the Trinity (in any way), the Son is reduced to either to a created being (as with, for example, Oneness believers and Jehovah’s Witnesses [JWs]) or the Son becomes a “separate” God (as in Mormonism). The Trinity is the biblical explanation of how there is one God and yet the Son is presented as both Creator[5] and “God” (theos)[6] distinct from the Father and Holy Spirit who are likewise presented as God.[7]

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Main Objections to the Trinity[8]

Also, see JWs_Objections in which deals specifically with the Trinitarian objections made by the JWs. And see here Oneness_Objections in dealing with some of the specific Trinitarian objections made by the Oneness Pentecostals.

However, virtually all anti-Trinitarians utilize the same arguments as delineated below:


The Trinity is 3 separate Gods

This is a typical straw man argument that misrepresents the doctrine of the Trinity by assuming that “Trinity” means, three “separate” Gods. The very foundation, however, for the doctrine of the Trinity is *monotheism*: there exists only one true God (one Being, not one person). The doctrine of the Trinity states that there are three *distinct* coequal, coeternal, and coexistent persons who share the nature of the one true God. The belief in three separate Gods is a misrepresentation of the historic and biblical position of the Trinitarianism; three separate Gods is tritheism, which is how the Mormons view the Godhead.

The Trinity is from pagan origins

This is an argument of false cause (i.e., misrepresents the cause of something). In pagan constructs, they worshiped and believed in three separate gods. The doctrine of the Trinity teaches that there is one true eternal God revealed in three distinct inseparable persons. The Trinity properly defined is unique to only Christianity. The burden of proof rests squarely on those who make this kind of assertion—asserting something does not prove anything. By misrepresenting and distorting the Trinity unitarian groups put up a straw man argument– which has noting to do with the Trinity. In fact there no place in pagan literature pre-Christianity (first cent.) where a resemblance to the proper description of the Trinity (one God revealed in three distinct persons) is found.     
 

“Trinity” is an unbiblical term

This is a very popular objection especially among JWs. For the JWs to argue that the Trinity is not true because the exact word “Trinity” is absent from the Bible is self-refuting. If that kind of reasoning was true, then, the JWs would have to admit: the “Trinity” cannot be pagan, for the word “Trinity is not found in any pagan sources either. Further, if the *non-biblical words = false doctrine* argument were true, then, the Watchtower[9] [WT] must be a false religion for distinctive words that describe their organization are not contained in the Bible either such as “theocracy.” Even the badly mispronounced and mistranslated term “Jehovah” was not found until the early thirteenth century, as admitted by the WT.[10]

It is also self-refuting for Oneness advocates to pose the same argument. For many Oneness doctrinal terms that denote the Oneness concept of God are not found in Scripture either (e.g., “manifestations,” “modes,” “offices,” “unipersonal,” “monad,” etc.).

So on one side, both Oneness believers and JWs argue that the “Trinity” cannot be true because the exact term is not contained in Scripture, but on the other side, they both will assert the opposite: non-biblical terms can be used to justify their distinctive doctrines, which they say are biblical.[11] In point of fact, and what is not at all considered, is that terms like, “incarnation,” “self-existent,” etc. are not mentioned in Scripture and both are biblical truths, which by the way, all Oneness believers agree upon.

If we were only limited to strict biblical words, then, when teaching out of the NT, we would have to use only Koinē Greek words that the authors used! Employing extra-biblical terminology does not violate the rules of sola-Scriptura (Scripture alone), as long as the terminology is consistent with Scripture.

In other words, the term “Trinity” is merely a precise doctrinal word that defines the biblical revelation that is so overwhelmingly found in Scripture: There exists only one true God. Scripture also presents that there are three distinct Persons[12] who share the nature of the one true God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the church has used the term “Trinity” to describe the biblical data as with “incarnation” (cf. John 1:14) or God’s self-existence (cf. Ps. 90:2) all of which are biblical concepts. Again, this point must be understood: We cannot confuse the biblical data with doctrinal words that define that data.

The Trinity doctrine did not emerge until the 4th century

This is an argument from ignorance. First of all, the term was first used in the East as early as A.D. 180 to describe God by early church apologist, Theophilus, bishop of Antioch.[13] Further, it is completely misleading to say that the doctrine of the Trinity did not emerge until the 4th century.[14] This is a meaningless objection—for it confuses *doctrinal terms* with biblical revelation (as discussed above). The question of what is and what is not biblical is not determined by doctrinal terms, but rather the exegesis of the text. For a term to be “biblical,” it must be substantiated by the clear biblical data—i.e., what is stated in the pages of Scripture. Thus, we are not, as Paul instructs, to “go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6 NIV).

See Was the Trinity Conceived in the 4th Century?

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Scripture presents God as triune. As Christians, we must present a positive affirmation of the gospel (i.e., the true God) and a biblical defense to those who oppose it.[15] For this glorifies God. The JWs spend literally thousands of hours teaching (in literature and personal interaction) against the Trinity. In 2006, they conducted over six million Bible studies every week worldwide! Thus, we must take the time to accurately present the doctrine of the Trinity (the one true God) in our gospel presentation. Pastors especially should be mindful that by never mentioning the Trinity, it is nearly as bad as rejecting the doctrine itself.

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NOTES

[1] Ontological (by nature) monotheism (one God) is the doctrine that there exists only one God by nature (cf. Deut. 4:35; Jer. 10:10-11). Mormons, although, claim that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are “one God,” but only in the sense of “unity,” not one in essence. But, as they assert, these three are three “separate” Gods, with the Father as the head God in whom they worshiped alone—thus, the Mormon view of the Godhead. But whether one or more Gods are worshiped is irreverent, the question is: how many true Gods exist? The fact that the Mormons believe that many “true” Gods exist, therefore, categorizes the Mormon people as overt polytheists (the belief in many true Gods) and hence, non-Christian. Not only in the OT, but in the NT as well, strict monotheism was strongly asserted (e.g., Mark 28:29; John 17:3; 1 Tim. 2:5).

[2] Simply, the Judaizers taught that one had to practice the OT law, rituals, ordinances, etc. (esp. circumcision), to obtain salvation. And this, was the primary reason as to why Paul wrote to the Galatians.

[3] The Gnostics (from gnōsis, meaning “knowledge”) held to a dualistic system: spirit was good and all “matter” (esp. flesh) was inherently evil; some even taught that “matter” did not exist; it was illusory—as with the theology of Christian Science today. Both the Apostle John and Paul specifically refuted this teaching (esp. in Col. and 1 & 2 John).

[4] As seen above.

[5] E.g., Isa. 9:6; John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17)

[6] E.g., John 1:1, 18; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:3, 8-10

[7] Of course, the OT and NT teaching of “one God” (i.e., monotheism) does indicate or equate “one person” as *unitarian* groups such as Jews, Muslims, JWs, Oneness Pentecostals, etc. presuppose. Monotheism simply means “one God” (viz. “one Being”). To argue that “one God” equals “one person” is to argue in a circle. It assumes what is meant to be proven.

[8] These examples, however, are not necessarily in order of usage. Further, this is not an exhaustive list, only a sample of some of the main objections that are utilized most commonly by anti-Trinitarians.  

[9] That is, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, which is the organization of the JWs.

[10] The WT publication, Aid To Bible Understanding, states:

The first recorded use of this form [Jehovah] dates from the thirteenth century C.E. Raymundus Martini, a Spanish [Roman Catholic] monk of the Dominican Order, used it in his book Pugeo Fidei of the year 1270 C.E. (Aid To Bible Understanding, 1971, pp. 884-5).

As noted above, for more information on the term see our article, The term “Jehovah” and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

[11] In logic, this kind of argumentation is called “special pleading” for it “pleads” to or argues only one side of the evidence while ignoring the other side.

[12] The Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit are called “persons” for the simple fact that (a) they all possess *personal* attributes (e.g., they communicate, make decisions [viz. a will], exercise emotion, etc. also referring to themselves as “I” (egō)—the hallmark of personhood. Even more, Jesus used first person pronouns (“I”) to refer to Himself and third person pronouns (“He,” “His”) to refer to the Father and the Holy Spirit (cf. John chaps. 14-16). Note that anti-Trinitarians such as JWs have no problem seeing the Father as a person, but the same evidence that demonstrates the personhood of the Father can be equally applied to the Son and especially the Holy Spirit. The JW’s are taught that Satan is a person because he communicates, however, that is true of the Holy Spirit at many places (e.g., Acts 10:19; 13:2) and yet they deny the personhood Holy Spirit due to their prior theological commitments: the Trinity is a false doctrine, thus, the Holy Spirit is merely Jehovah’s active non-personal force.

[13] Cf. Theophilus, To Autolycus, 2.15, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers [ANF], vol. 2. And the term “Trinity” was first used in the West around A.D. 213, by the brilliant church theologian, Tertullian of Carthage (cf. Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 2, in ANF, vol. 3).

[14] Many falsely assume that the doctrine of the Trinity was not developed until the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325). But the Trinity was not even discussed there.- – See, Was the Trinity Conceived in the 4th Century? 

[15] E.g., Titus 1:9, 13; 1 Peter 3:15; etc.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional lexical information:

The term translated “firstborn” denotes Jesus as “having special status associated with a firstborn” (BDAG, Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon, 894). Biblical scholar Robert Reymond extracts the true significance of the term:

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