Throughout the OT, we frequently encounter the “angel of the Lord” (or, “angel of God”—as used interchangeably[1]). The term translated “angel” in both Hebrew (malak) and Greek (aggelos) simply means “messenger.” Although, we find many occurrences and classes/ranks of “angels” in both the OT and NT (some by name/description such as Michael, Gabriel, Satan, sons of God, cherubim, seraphim, etc.), the angel of the Lord in the OT was not a mere “created” angel (as asserted by the JWs). Rather, He was identified as, and claimed to be, YHWH, “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” “God.” While all unitarian groups (esp. Muslims, JWs, and Oneness Pentecostals) oppose any implication of the deity and thus preexistence of the Son, Jesus Christ, the biblical evidence points to the preincarnate Christ as the identity of the angel of the Lord. Note below some of the more significant examples:

HAGER: In Genesis 16, Hager encountered the angel of the Lord in the desert. In verse 10, the angel of the Lord said to her: “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.” In verse 11, the angel of the Lord refers to YHWH in third person: “Because the LORD has given heed to your affliction.” However, note Hager’s words to the angel of the Lord in verse 13: “‘You are a God who sees’; for she said, ‘I even remained alive here after seeing Him?’” First, she addresses the angel as “a God who sees.” And second, she acknowledges that she “remained alive here after seeing Him,” thus echoing Exodus 33:20, where YHWH says, “no man can see Me and live!”

ABRAHAM: In Genesis 18:1-2, we read that “the LORD [YHWH] appeared” to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre. “When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him.” Chapters 18 and 19 provide some interesting things pertaining to the preincarnate appearance of Christ as the angel of the Lord—YHWH Himself. First, Genesis 18:1-2 indicates that YHWH had appeared to Abraham. Second, one of the visitors had told Abraham: “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son,” which Sarah laughed since she “was old advanced in age” (v. 11). Lastly, verses 13-14 identify one of the visitors as YHWH: “And the LORD [YHWH] said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’ ‘Is anything too difficult for the LORD [YHWH]?’” Also note verses 16-17, where the men spoke of Sodom and Gomorrah: Then the men rose up from there, and looked down toward Sodom; and Abraham was walking with them to send them off. The LORD [YHWH] said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do.”

After Abraham’s interesting dialogue with YHWH (cf. vv. 22-33), we read in chapter 19:1: “Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom.” Here, only two of the visitors are mentioned. After the two men repeatedly warned of the coming destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, verses 23-24 indicate that

The sun had risen over the earth when Lot came to Zoar. Then the LORD [YHWH] rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD [YHWH] out of heaven (emphasis added).

Literal Hebrew: “Then YHWH rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire FROM the YHWH FROM [min- preposition] Heaven.”

This point cannot be missed. YHWH did something (rained brimstone and fire) from another YHWH in heaven! This can only be consistent with biblical monotheism in the context of Trinitarianism.[2] The angel of the Lord (preincarnate Christ) was one of the visitors; He is called YHWH, and He did something on behalf of another YHWH (the Father) “out of heaven.” Even more, the Targum[3] rendering of Genesis 19:24 reveals the identification of the angel of the Lord as the “Word of the Lord”:

And the Word [Memra] of the Lord had caused showers of favour to descend upon Sedom and Amorah, to the intent that they might work repentance . . . . Behold, then, there are now sent down upon them sulphur and fire from before the Word of the Lord from Heaven. . . . (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan; emphasis added).

MOSES: We all are familiar with Moses’s encounter with the angel of the Lord in Exodus 3:1-6: “Then the angel of the LORD appeared to him” (v. 2). Yet verse 4 indicates that it was “God” who “called to him from the midst of the bush.” Throughout the account, the angel of the Lord is used interchangeably with “God.” Further, in verse 14 (in the LXX), the angel of the Lord claimed that He was the Eternal One—egō eimi ho ōn (lit., “I Am the One/Being”); and in verse 6, He affirmed to Moses: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Notice Moses’ response to Him: “Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.”

GIDEON: In Judges 6:11-24, Gideon also encountered the angel of the Lord[4]: “The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, ‘The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior’” (v. 12). However, because “the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” (6:1), the “LORD gave them into the hands of Midian seven years” (v. 1), which prompted Gideon to ask the angel of the LORD: “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian” (v. 13). However, the response of the angel of the Lord in verse 14 clearly identifies Him as YHWH: “The LORD looked at him and said, ‘Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?’” As in other places, the angel of the Lord is referred to as YHWH (“LORD”). After “the angel of the LORD vanished from his sight” (v. 21), Gideon reveals his understanding that the “angel” to whom he was speaking was not a mere angel, rather, as he stated: “Alas, O Lord God! [Adonay YHWH]. For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face” (v. 22). And the Lord Himself said: “Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die” (v . 23; see Exod. 33:20).

MANOAH: In Judges 13, we find the angel of the Lord announcing to Manoah and his wife of their coming son, Samson, a “Nazirite to God.” Verse 16 (and v. 21) indicates that Manoah knew that this angel was not an ordinary angel, but the angel of the Lord, YHWH Himself. Manoah had wanted to prepare some food for Him, but the angel of the Lord said to Manoah: “‘Though you detain me, I will not eat your food, but if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD’ For Manoah did not know that He was the angel of the LORD.”

Attesting even more as to the identity of the angel of the Lord, not only as YHWH, but as the preincarnate Christ, is the response the angel of the Lord gave after Manoah had asked of His name in verse 17: “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful [Heb. piliy/paliy]” (v. 18). In Isaiah 9:6, the name of the coming Messiah will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father [or father/possessor of eternity], Prince of Peace.” The Hebrew term translated “Wonderful” (pele) is from the same root word (both from pala) as in Judges 13:18: “seeing it is wonderful.” No created angel can claim this name of Himself. This claim is certainly consistent to the many claims Jesus made and titles ascribed to Him in the NT, which were claims that only YHWH made and titles ascribe to YHWH alone in the OT (e.g., “First and Last”[5]; egō eimi [“I am”][6]; “Lord of glory”[7]; “only Lord”[8]; etc.). When Manoah discovered that it was the “angel of the Lord,” he declared to his wife, “We will surly die, for we have seen God” (v. 22)—seeing that the angel of Lord was God.

There are many other angel of the Lord references in the OT (cf. Josh. 5:13-15;[9] Num. 22:22-35; 2 Kings 19:35; etc.). However, the examples mentioned above are more than sufficient in showing that the angel of the Lord was identified as YHWH Himself and as the preincarnate Christ. This view has been concurred by early church Fathers and most biblical commentators throughout church history. In sum,

1. As countlessly revealed in the NT regarding the personal distinctions between Jesus and the Father (and the Holy Spirit) there is a marked distinction between the angel of the Lord and God/YHWH—i.e., two divine speakers/persons both identified with divine titles (i.e., YHWH, God, “the God of the fathers,” etc.).

2. In Colossians 1:15 and 1 Timothy 1:17, Paul explains that God the Father (as with the Holy Spirit) is an invisible spirit, which “no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16, as confirmed in John 1:18 and 1 John 4:12). Hence, it is quite implausible that the angel of the Lord is the Father or the Holy Spirit.

3. In Zechariah 1:12, the angel of the Lord (who had been claiming to be YHWH since Genesis) is now praying to the “LORD [YHWH] of hosts.” As stated, YHWH praying to “another” YHWH can only be consistent with biblical monotheism in the context of Trinitarianism (cf. Gen. 19:24). We find the same in the NT, where God the Son prays to another divine person, God the Father (cf. Luke 10:21-22; John 17:1ff.).

4. Unitarian groups (esp. Muslims) frequently assert that the angel of the Lord was merely a “divine agent” as with Moses, judges, prophets, created angels, etc., but not God Himself. This assertion, however, is clearly refuted by the fact that no agent of God ever identified himself as “YHWH,” “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” “Wonderful,” etc.

5. Lastly, many who encountered the angel of the Lord identified Him as God in which they feared for their life: “We will surly die, for we have seen God” (Judg. 13:22; cf. Gen. 16:13; Judg. 6:23).

The angel of the Lord was not an indefinite created angel. Rather, as He claimed, He was the “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”—YHWH, yet a distinct person from another YHWH (cf. Gen. 19:24; Zech. 1:12). In the highest probability, the identity of the angel of the Lord was the pre-incarnate Christ, God the Son. As revealed in the NT, He mediates and intercedes for the people of God, on their behalf— not as a mere created agent, but as YHWH Himself, second person of the Holy Trinity.

NOTES

[1] Cf. Judges 6:20.

[2] The Trinitarian force of this passage sharply disproves any unitarian view of God.

[3] The Targum was an ancient Aramaic translation providing explanations and paraphrases of the Hebrew OT. In the post-exilic period, Aramaic began to be broadly spoken in the Jewish community in conjunction with Hebrew. Further, throughout the OT, the Targums identifies “the angel of the Lord” with the Memra (“Word”) of the Lord—pointing to the background of John’s Logos doctrine.

[4] Again, as with other places, here the angel of the Lord is used interchangeably with the “angel of God” (cf. vv. 20-21).

[5] Cf. Isaiah 41:4; 44:6; and 48:12. In the NT, only Christ claims to be “the first and the last” (Rev. 1:17; 2:8; 22:13).

[6] In such places as in the LXX of Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 41:4; 43:10; and 48:12, YHWH alone claims to be the “I am” (egō eimi). As with the divine title, “the first and the last,” only Christ Himself claims to be the absolute “I am” (egō eimi, John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19 et al.) To recall, at Isaiah 41:4 and 48:12, both divine titles, “I am” and “the first and the last” are contained in the same verse!

[7] In Acts 7:2, Steven declared, “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham.” Whereas in 1 Corinthians 2:8, Paul calls Jesus, “the Lord of glory,” which is a title of full deity (see 1 Sam. 15:29 where YHWH is called “the Glory of Israel”).

[8] Biblically, there is only one true Lord and God—YHWH. In Jude 1:4, Jesus is called ton monon despotēn kai kurion, “the only Master and Lord.”

[9] Especially note verses 14-15: “[Joshua] said, ‘No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, ‘What has my lord to say to his servant?’ 15 The captain of the LORD’S host said to Joshua, ‘Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.” This is exactly what the angel of the Lord said to Moses in Exodus 3:5: “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Nowhere in Scripture is it even implied that being in the presence of mere angels is “holy ground” in which one must remove his sandals. John the Baptist speaks of the coming Christ before whom he is “not fit to remove His sandals” (Matt 3:11). Thus, John saw the presence of the Christ, as God incarnate, sacred.

6 Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 Philippians 2:6-11, known as the Carmen Christi (“Hymn to Christ”)[1] was utilized by the early Christian church to teach and magnify the pre-existence, incarnation, and the full deity of Jesus Christ. The context of Philippians 2 is clear: Paul stresses to the Philippians that they ought to act in a harmonious and humble way. In which Paul instructs them to have an attitude in themselves “which was also in Christ Jesus,”—namely, humility (v. 5).

 Paul then exemplifies the ultimate act of humility: Jesus Christ, God the Son, voluntarily emptied Himself by becoming flesh.In six short passages, Paul provides a beautiful and well defined summary of the gospel of Jesus Christ expressing His essential nature as God (including His pre-existence; v. 6); His Incarnation and cross-work (i.e., His humiliation; vv. 7-8); and His exaltation to the glory of God the Father (vv. 10-11). His role as Mediator involves two states: 1) the state of humiliationand 2) the state of exaltation.

Note the following exegetical points that underline the theological significance and force of Paul’s high Christological Hymn:

  1. Jesus is presented as God—distinct from God the Father.

In the first part of verse 6, Paul utilizes very specific terms to express clearly that Jesus Christ was always subsisting as God: “Who although He existed [huparchōn] in the form [morphē; or “nature” NIV] of God [theou]. . . .” (emphasis added). So, when Paul says that Christ “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” and “He emptied Himself” (vv. 6-7, which we will deal with shortly), these two statements must be interpreted in light of his first statement: Jesus was always “being in very nature God” (NIV).

 The word translated “existed” (“being” KJV, NIV) is huparchōn, which is a present active participle.[2] The participle here indicates a continuous existence or state of continually subsisting.[3] Hence, Jesus did not become the very form or nature of God at a certain point in time, rather He was always existing as God, just as Paul expressed (cf. John 1:18; Heb. 1:3). The same truth is found in John 1:1a: “In the beginning was [ēn] the Word—i.e., the Word was “always existing”[4] (also cf. John 1:18; 16:28; 17:5; Heb. 1:3; 10-12).       

 Next, the word translated “form” (NASB) or “nature” (NIV) is morphē. This word denotes the specific qualities or essential attributes of something. Here, it denotes “the expression of divinity in the pre-existent Christ.”[5] It expresses that which is intrinsic and essential to the thing. Thus, in His pre-existent state, Jesus possessed (always subsisting in) essential deity. Warfield clearly expresses its semantic force:  

Paul does not simply say, “He was God.” He says, “He was in the form of God,” employing a turn of speech which throws emphasis upon Our Lord’s possession of the specific quality of God. “Form” is a term, which expresses the sum of those characterizing qualities which make a thing the precise thing that it is … And “the form of God” is the sum of the characteristics which make the being we call “God,” specifically God, rather than some other being—an angel, say, or a man. When Our Lord is said to be in “the form of God,” therefore, He is declared, in the most expressed manner possible, to be all that God is, to possess the whole fullness of attributes which make God God. [6]

 To deny that the Son was truly the morphē of God is to deny that the Son was truly the morphē of man, “taking the form[morphē] of a bond-servant” (v. 7). The last part of the verse (“[He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped”) has been a topic of much discussion among scholars as to the precise meaning of the term harpagmos (“a thing to be grasped” or “robbery”). But as we have stated, the meaning must be in light of the first part of the verse: “always subsisting in the nature of God.” But as we have stated, the meaning must be in light of the first part of the verse: “always subsisting in the nature of God.” In other words, the meaning of harpagmos cannot be separated from the meaning of the participle huparchōn.

Because of the articular infinitive, to einai (“to be” equal to God), some would argue that the phrase “equal to God” refers back to the phrase morphē theou (“nature of God”). However, there are exegetical problems with that view.[7] A more plausible view would be to consider morphē theou (“nature/form of God”) as referring to essential nature and “equality with God” as referring to function within the Godhead. In this way, the two phrases (“nature of God” and “equality with God” [v. 6]) are not synonymous. Rather, if this is the meaning, Paul would be stating in essence that although the Son was fully deity, always existing as God, He did not usurp (seize) the role of God the Father.[8]

  1. The Self-Emptying of God the Son. It was theSon who voluntarily “emptied Himself, taking the nature of a servant” (v. 7). The reflexive pronoun heauton (“Himself”) indicates that the subject (Jesus) is also the object (i.e., the one receiving the action of the verb—the verb being ekenōsen, “emptied”). Therefore, Jesus Christ, in His pre-existent state, emptied Himself; it was a “self-emptying” (lit., “He Himself emptied”).  

 The term “taking” is from the Greek aorist active participle, labōn. Semantically, this is a participle of means.[9]The participle of means describes the means or manner of the emptying. Hence, the Son emptied Himself by means of His incarnation (cf. John 1:14). The emptying did not involve in any way, shape, or form, His deity, for Paul safeguards against such an assertion in verse 6: “Who [Christ] always and continually subsisting in the very nature and substance of God” (lit., trans.). Further, the Hymn indicates plainly that it was not God the Father, as Oneness Pentecostals suppose, but the Son, who voluntarily emptied Himself and thus became obedient to death—“even death on a cross” (v. 8).

  1. God the Father exalted God the Son.Verse 9 reads: “For this reason also, God [the Father] highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name.” TheFather exalted God the Son, who emptied Himselfby taking the nature of a servant. Scripture teaches that the Son is “functionally” subordinate to the Father (cf. John 14:28); He perfectly obeys Him and always does His will (cf. John 6:38). However, this does not mean that the Son is not ontologically (by nature) subordinate to the Father.[10] Paul says, “the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:3). But this does not mean that the woman (wife) is less human than the man (husband), nor, in the same way, does it mean that Christ is less God than God the Father. Rather, the passage is speaking about function and purpose, not nature. Since Jesus is not only God, but God-man, the Father exalting the “emptied” Son and glorifying Him with the divine glory they shared “before the world was” (John 17:5) is consistent with the doctrine of the Trinity.  
  2. “At the name of Jesus”: Jesus is the YHWH and thus the fulfillment of Isaiah 45:23.In verses 9-11,[11] Paul then concludes his glorious Christological Hymn with a “purpose of exaltation” (hina) clause:[12] The purpose of the Son’s exaltation was for the result of every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that “Jesus is Lord.” In verse 9, we read that the Father exalted Christ and bestowed on Him the “name” which is above every name. “Name” (onoma) is highly significant in a Semitic (“Jewish”) context. Generally, it carries the meaning of authority, power,or on behalf of (see 1 Sam. 17:45).

 In verses 10-11, without question, Paul is loosely drawing from Isaiah 45:23: “I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” This passage is an undeniable reference to YHWH (cf. vv. 22-25). Paul, however, applies it here to Jesus Christ the Lord who glorifies the Father—namely, the YHWH of Isaiah 45:23.[13]

 There are further exegetical details that enhance the force of Paul’s Jesus-Isaiah connection. First, both Isaiah 45:23 (LXX) and Romans 14:11 (also from Isa. 45:23) contain future tenses (“every knee will bow,” every tongue will confess” [or “will swear allegiance”]) and indicative moods, indicating the future certainty of the event. However, in Philippians 2:10-11, Paul changes the original tenses and moods of the verbs from that of Isaiah 45:23 (and Rom. 14:11) to make, as indicated, Philippians 2:10-11 a purpose and result clause.[14] The purpose of God the Father exalting the Son, then, was for the result of every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that “Jesus Christ is Lord,” thus, the YHWH of Isaiah 45:23—hence Jesus will be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s (future) prophecy.

Lastly, although most translations contain the phrase, “Jesus Christ is Lord” at the end of verse 11, the Greek reads, kurios Iēsous Christos (lit., “Lord Jesus Christ”). Here Paul places kurios (“Lord”) first in the phrase (viz. the emphatic position) to emphasize even more the Son’s exaltation as YHWH, the name that belonged to Him. The LXX translates the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, YHWH, as kurios. Thus, when a New Testament author would cite an Old Testament passage where YHWH appears, the author would use kurios (e.g., Mark 12:29-30; Rom. 10:13).[15]

Since the backdrop of Paul’s assertion of Christ centers on the prophetic word of YHWH in Isaiah 45:23, it is only natural then that he would place kurios first in the clause,[16] thus making his point: kurios [YHWH] Iēsous Christos (“LORD Jesus Christ”).  

From start to finish, this Christological Hymn exegetically affirms the gospel of Jesus Christ; it affirms the two states of Christ, His humiliation (incarnation and death) and exaltation (every knee bowing and every tongue confessing that Jesus is Lord—the YHWH and thus the fulfillment of Isa. 45:23). The Hymn affirms two very fundamental aspects of Jesus Christ: 1) He always subsisting in the nature of God and 2) God the Son became man in order to die on the cross. The entire gospel of the Son is summarized in six short, but very powerful passages—the humiliation and exaltation of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ..

NOTES

[1] Also known as the Kenosis Hymn (from kenoō, “to make empty”).

[2] Huparchōn is from the verb huparchō (“to be in existence”).

[3] Cf. Thayer, 1996: 638; Bauer, 2000: 1029).

[4] The term “was” is from the Greek verb ēn, which is the imperfect tense of eimi (“to be”). An imperfect tense indicates continuous action normally occurring in the past, or an on-going past action (Wallace, GGBB, 541). Thus in the beginning the Word was already existing—no beginning. Jesus’ eternal existence is also seen in passages such as John 8:58 where the presence tense verb eimi (“am”) is in contrast with the Abraham’s created state denoted by the aorist form of ginomai (“came to be”): “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born [genesthai], I am [egō eimi].”

[5] Walter Bauer, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed., ed. and rev. Frederick W. Danker (BDAG; Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 659.

[6] Benjamin B. Warfield, Biblical Doctrines (Carlisle: Banner of Truth Trust, 1988), 177.

[7] Cf. Wallace, GGBB, 220. 

[8] Ibid.

[9] Cf. Wallace, GGBB, 630.

[10] The mutual operation or functionality of the three Persons of the Trinity in that they have different roles/functions, yet they are working together, is defined theologically as the economic Trinity. The soteriological Trinity speaks of the specific roles/functions each of the Persons have in the work of salvation. And the ontological Trinity speaks of the very nature of the three distinct Persons being co-equal, co-eternal, and co-existent Persons sharing the nature of the one God.       

[11] “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” 

[12] The Greek conjunction hina (“so that” v. 10) frequently denotes purpose and result (i.e., the purpose of X was for the result of Y; e.g., “He gave His only begotten Son in order that everyone believing in Him shall not perish, but have life eternal (John 3:16; lit. trans.). Thus, the purpose of God giving the Son was for the result of eternal life for everyone believing in Him.

[13] This is one of many places where a NT author applies an OT passage referring to YHWH, to Jesus Christ. For example, compare Psalms 102:25-27 with Hebrews 1:10-12; Isaiah 6:1-10 with John 12:39-41; Isaiah 8:12-13 with 1 Peter 3:14-15; Isaiah 45:23 with Philippians 2:10-11; Joel 2:32 with Romans 10:13.

[14] Specifically, the tenses and moods in Isaiah 45:23 and Romans 14:11 are future indicatives (“will bow,” “will confess/swear”). But in Philippians 2:10-11 Paul modified them to aorist subjunctives following the conjunction hina (“so that”) respectively (“shall bow,” “shall confess”).    

[15] A point to which JWs agree. Except, of course, when the OT passages is referring to Jesus Christ, they do not follow their own rule. For example, the phrase “Jesus as Lord” in Romans 10:9 is clearly the antecedent to the occurrences of the pronoun “Him” and “Lord” following up to verse 13:

9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;

10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”

12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of  all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him;

13 For “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD [YHWH] WILL BE SAVED” (emphasis added).

“Jesus as Lord” is the object of salvation from verse 9-13. Throughout these passages, it is the same “Him” and same “Lord” beginning in verse 9. To say that the “Lord” in verse 9 is a different “Lord” than in verse 13 completely breaks the flow of the passages. The Lord that one confesses (v. 9) is the same Lord that one calls upon for salvation (v. 13). In verse 13, Paul cites Joel 2:32: “whoever calls on the name of the Lord [Heb. YHWH] will be delivered.” Just as he does in Philippians 2:10-11, Paul cites a passage referring to YHWH and applies it to Jesus. Thus, whoever confessing and calls upon Jesus as Lord, that is, Jesus as YHWH will be saved.  

[16] In biblical Greek, the placement of a word in a sentence was not always dependent on the subject-verb word order, but rather on emphasis. Specifically, in verse 11, the anarthrous predicate nominative kurios, occupies the “emphatic position” (i.e., first word of the clause): “Lord Jesus Christ.” As we have shown, the same is true in John 1:1c where the anarthrous predicate nominative theos, is also in the emphatic position: theos ēn ho logos (“lit., “God was the Word”)drawing attention to the Word’s nature as God.

Here at DCD, we receive many questions regarding many issues. A few months ago, we received a question regarding the term “Jehovah” and the Jehovah Witnesses:

I have written you before, maybe about a year ago. My name is Tim. I have a question regarding the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ obsession with the name “Jehovah” and why our English translations do not contain the name Jehovah.

The JWs are taught that the term “Jehovah” is the *true* name of God.[1] Further, they assert that the term “Jehovah” was actually removed from the original Greek NT and thus faithfully restored by the NWT.[2] However, consider the following statements made by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society (i.e., the organization of the JWs; hereafter WT):

The WT acknowledges that “Jehovah” is not the true pronunciation of God’s name.

While inclining to view the pronunciation “Yah.weh” as the more correct way, we have retained the form “Jehovah” because of people’s familiarity with it since the 14th century. Moreover, it preserves, equally with other forms, the four letters of the tetragrammaton JHVH (NWT, 1950 ed., Foreword, p. 25 [note: This admission was removed from the 1961, 1970, 1984 editions of the NWT]).

The WT acknowledges that most Hebrew scholars prefer “Yahweh” as the true pronunciation:

Yes, many Bible scholars acknowledge that “Yahweh” more nearly represents the Hebrew pronunciation of the Divine Name (WT,[3] July 15, 1964, p. 423).

Hebrew scholars generally favor “Yahweh” as the most likely pronunciation (Aid To Bible Understanding, 1971, 885).

“Jehovah” is the best known English pronunciation of the Divine name, although “Yahweh” is favored by most Hebrew scholars (Insight on the Scriptures, 1988, vol. 2, p. 5).

The WT acknowledges that the exact pronunciation of God’s name is unknown:

Yet no one today actually can say with certainty how Moses, for example, pronounced the Divine name (WT, May 1, 1978, p. 12).

Due to religious disuse, the original pronunciation of the Hebrew has been lost . . . there is no way of knowing what pronunciation is correct (WT, December 1, 1983, p. 5).

The WT acknowledges that the pronunciation “Jehovah” was originally a “blunder”:

As to the Old Testament name of God, certainly the spelling and pronunciation “Jehovah” were originally a blunder (The Bible in Living English, 1972, p.7).

The WT acknowledges that the pronunciation “Jehovah” originated not until the thirteenth century A.D.:

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, p. 884-5).

But “Jehovah” did not appear until Martine’s 1381 ed. In the earlier eds. he used Yohoua.

The WT acknowledges that there is no NT Greek manuscript that contains “the divine name”:

One of the remarkable facts, not only about the extent manuscripts of the original Greek text, but

of many versions, ancient and modern, is the absence of the Divine name (NWT, 1950 ed., Foreword, p. 10; the same quote is found in the Awake magazine, 1957, January 8, 25).

no ancient Greek manuscript that we possess today of the books from Matthew to Revelation contains God’s name in full (The Divine Name That Will Endure Forever, 1984, p. 23).

The fact is, “Jehovah” is not and has never been God’s name. As seen above, the WT acknowledges this fact.

Ask the JW: Since your organization (i.e., the WT) admits that “Jehovah” is not the correct name for God (“a blunder”), how is continuously mispronouncing His name honoring to God?

Here’s the point: God was known by many names. In the OT, for example, God is called, “Yahweh” (YHWH, “LORD”, Deut. 6:4); “LORD God” (Gen. 1:4); “Lord” (Adonai, Isa. 6:1); “God” (Elohim, Gen. 1:1); “God of Abraham” (Gen. 26:24); “God of Daniel” (Dan. 6:26); “God of Israel” (Num. 16:9); “Glory of Israel” (1 Sam. 15:29); “God of heaven” (Dan. 2:44); “Creator” (Isa. 40:28); “Everlasting God” (Isa. 40:28); “I AM” (egō eimi in the LXX;[4] Deut. 32:39; 43:10); “First and the Last” (Isa. 44:6); “mighty God” (Isa. 10:21); “God of gods,” “Lord of lords” (Deut. 10:17); “Holy One” (Isa. 40:25); “Rock of Israel” (Isa. 30:29); and many other names and titles were used to refer to God in the OT.

And in the NT, God[5] is referred to as “Father” over 250 times. Jesus refers to Him as “Father” about 179 times. The apostle Paul (and other apostles) also refers to God as “Father” (Abba in Rom. 8:15 and Gal. 4:6). But not once did any NT author use the Hebrew Tetragrammaton (“YHWH”) to refer to God.

Note: the manuscript evidence indicates that the NT was written in Greek, not Hebrew or Aramaic—thus, the Hebrew Tetragrammaton is not found in any NT manuscript. When citing passages from the OT, the NT authors used kurios (“Lord”) to translate YHWH. As well, the LXX used kurios to translate the Tetragrammaton.

To recall:

1. The term “Jehovah” was the invention of a Catholic monk (Raymundus Martini) in A.D. 1202.

2. “Jehovah” is a mispronunciation and an incorrect transliteration of the Hebrew Tetragrammaton (YHWH) to which virtually all biblical scholars concur.

3. God was referred to by many names and titles: There is no passage in the OT or NT that commands the people of God to call Him by a specific name—and definitely not “Jehovah.” In fact, Jesus normally used “Father” and sometimes kurios (“Lord”; e.g., Luke 10:21) to refer to God (His Father).

4. When citing passages from the OT, the NT authors used kurios (“Lord”) to translate YHWH (e.g., Rom. 10:13). Note: most of the OT quotations in the NT were from the Greek LXX where kurios, not YHWH was used.

5. As seen, even the WT agrees with point 1 and 2 above.

Since the JWs believe that the “true name” of God (“Jehovah” as they assume) is essential in honoring Him, then, why would they mispronounce and mistransliterate (as the WT admits) the Tetragrammaton—YHWH?

*Witnessing Tip*

Romans 10:13 reads (Paul here quoting from Joel 2:32): “everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved” (NWT). Ask the JW: “If “Jehovah” is not the true and correct name (as agreed by the WT), how can a JW be saved since he or she calls on the wrong name?[6]

Contrary to the JW’s false and fixed notion regarding the term “Jehovah,” Jesus Christ instructed His followers

“After this manner therefore pray ye: ‘Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. . . .’” (Matt. 6:9; KJV).

Remember, it is not merely the mispronunciation of YHWH that condemns JWs (for many Christians use the term “Jehovah”), but rather it is their denial that Jesus IS YHWH that condemns them before God (cf. John 8:24).

NOTES

[1] The term “LORD” in the English OT is translated from YHWH (viz. Tetragrammaton, lit., “word with four letters”). Original Hebrew had only consonants—no vowels, though, vowels were verbally pronounced (thus, “Yahweh” as most scholars coincide). Vowels were added to the written text by the Masoretes (cf. Masoretic Text) around the ninth century A.D.

[2] The WT’s New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures is the translation that the JWs use. Prior to the NWT (1950), the WT distributed and utilized the Kings James Version. However, in order to stay coherent to WT doctrines, the NWT departed from the translational norm of the KJV. The brunt of the translational deviations reflect the theological distinctives of the WT (e.g., Matt. 25:46: “everlasting cutting-off”; John 1:1: “a god”; Col. 1:16-17: the insertion of “other” four times in order to teach that Christ was not the Creator of ALL THINGS as the original Greek [grammar/context] indicates (but in John 1:3, the NWT did not add “other”); Col. 2:9: “divine quality” and, of course, the NWT inserted “Jehovah” (in the NT)—some 237 times).

[3] I.e., The Watchtower magazine.

[4] LXX is the abbreviation for the Septuagint (meaning “seventy,” i.e., the traditional number of scholars that translated the OT Heb. into Greek). Jesus Christ and the NT authors utilized the LXX. The LXX was used exclusively in the book of Hebrews.

[5] I.e., God the Father.

[6] Note on Rom. 10:13: The phrase “Jesus as Lord” in Romans 10:9 is clearly the antecedent to the occurrences of the pronoun “Him” and “Lord” following up to verse 13:

9 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;

10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.

11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”

12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him;

13 For “WHOEVER WILL CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD [YHWH] WILL BE SAVED” (emphasis added).

“Jesus as Lord” is the object of salvation from verse 9-13. Throughout these passages, it is the same “Him” and same “Lord” beginning in verse 9. To say that the “Lord” in verse 9 is a different “Lord” than in verse 13 completely breaks the flow of the passages. The Lord that one confesses (v. 9) is the same Lord that one calls upon for salvation (v. 13). In verse 13, Paul cites Joel 2:32: “whoever calls on the name of the Lord [Heb. YHWH] will be delivered.” Just as he does in Philippians 2:10-11, Paul cites a passage referring to YHWH and applies it to Jesus. Thus, whoever confessing and calls upon Jesus as Lord, that is, Jesus as YHWH will be saved.

In fact, there are many places where the NT authors cite OT passages referring to YHWH and apply them to Jesus Christ. This is a great way to share the truth about Jesus to JWs. For example, compare Psalms 102:25-27 with Hebrews 1:10-12; Isaiah 6:1-10 with John 12:39-41; Isaiah 8:12-13 with 1 Peter 3:14-15; Isaiah 45:23 with Philippians 2:10-11; Joel 2:32 with Romans 10:13. The most productive way to use this witnessing tactic is to first take the JW to the OT passage first, then have him read the NT passage where the author cites the OT passage and applies it to Jesus.