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Providing Answers and Reasons for Faith

The Judgments of God

     Of all the doctrines taught in the Bible, none is declared with more consistency and fervor than the doctrine of divine judgment.
     But how many judgments are there? And who will be judged? Though there are a number of judgments that may be found in the pages of Scripture, there are five that I believe are particularly important. Let us briefly examine these.
     The first judgment I want to mention will take place at the return of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:27; 1 Cor. 4:4-5; Rev. 22:12), and will be a judgment of the works of believers. Whatever the Christian has built upon the foundation (Christ) -- whether it be gold, silver, precious stones, or else wood, hay, and stubble -- it must be tried by the fire of divine judgment. The work of some believers will stand the test while that of others will be burned away. But even though a man's works may be consumed, his faith in the imperishable foundation will remain and his salvation rests secure (1 Cor. 3:11-15).
     It should be noted that Paul's counsel is directed here to Christians, for only the Christian will appear before the judgment seat (Greek: Bema) of Christ. This Bema judgment has nothing whatever to do with the unsaved, for they are never mentioned in connection with it.
     One of the greatest errors ever perpetrated in Christian theology is the idea that one great judgment will take place at the end of the age, at which all men will be gathered before the Great White Throne. There is absolutely no basis in the Word of God for such an idea.
     A second divine judgment concerns the righteous judgment of all nations. Scripture declares that this judgment will also take place at the return of Jesus Christ (Matt. 25:32). It should be distinguished from the final judgment of the wicked -- which takes place at the Great White Throne -- since three distinct groups of individuals are represented: sheep, goats, and brethren. And, according to verse 31, the setting of this judgment is the earth (i.e., not a Great White Throne).
     A third judgment in Scripture concerns the nation Israel. Bible scholars may disagree about the nature and extent of this judgment, but they are fairly well agreed that such a judgment must take place. Such passages as Ezekiel 20:37-38, Isaiah 1:24-26, and Malachi 3:2-5 definitely teach such a judgment.
     Certainly, as Paul puts it in Romans 11:2, "God hath not cast away his people" (Israel). But it will be necessary for them to pass through great tribulation so that a godly remnant may be saved out of the wrath that is to come.
     A fourth judgment is that of Satan, the beast, the false prophet, and Satan's multitudinous emissaries -- the fallen angels. Jesus once declared, "Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out" (John 12:31). In that statement Satan's doom was sealed. Although sentence was pronounced upon him at the Cross, it is not until Revelation 20:10 that the sentence is executed: "And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever."
     A fifth judgment in the Word of God concerns that of the Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11-15). In this judgment the saints will be seated with Christ, and the wicked -- those "not found in the book of life" -- will be judged. The fate of those who endure this judgment is the second death, everlasting separation from the presence of the Lord (Rev. 21:8).
     The wonder of the doctrine of divine judgment is the fact that the Christ of Calvary's cross will be the Judge of the Great White Throne. What a comfort it is for the believer to realize that he has passed from death to life and will not be judged in the final Great White Throne judgment.
     These facts should cause us as believers to judge ourselves (1 Cor. 11:31). Indeed, since Peter tells us that "judgment must begin at the house of God" (1 Pet. 4:17), we ought to examine ourselves closely.
     The Christian has nothing to fear from these judgments. He need only see that his works be composed of the gold, silver, and precious gems that will endure the fire of God's holiness.

A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.

Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute. ------------------------------------------------

Jehovah's Witnesses and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

     Jehovah's Witnesses and their official organization, the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, have historically denied the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ and have maintained that His was a "spirit" or "spiritual" resurrection to quote the Watchtower.
      "The King, Christ Jesus, was put to death in the flesh and was resurrected an invisible spirit creature."1
     Further developing their teaching, the Witnesses proclaim: "In His resurrection He was no more human. He was raised as a spirit creature."2
     In addition to this, the Watchtower has even suggested that Christ's body was "dissolved into gases" or "preserved somewhere as the grand memorial of God's love."3
     In order to understand the true teaching of the resurrection, it is necessary to review briefly the Biblical position, which is at considerable odds with the Watchtower.
     The resurrection of Jesus Christ is quite literally the historical bedrock upon which the Christian faith rests. The Apostle Paul indeed tells us that "if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching in vain, and your faith is also vain" (1 Corinthians 15:14). He also declares, "If Christ be not raised, your faith is vain, ye are yet in your sins" (verse 17).
     From these two statements in the Word of God, we can see the resurrection of our Lord determines the validity of our faith and even our salvation, for without His resurrection our faith is "vain" and we are "yet in our sins."
     In this connection, it must also be remembered that every verse in the Bible which deals with the resurrection of the dead, and the Lord particularly, refers exclusively to the human body; i.e., a bodily resuscitation; never a spirit or spiritual resurrection. In fact the word "resurrection" is never applied to the soul or spirit of man. This fact is born out in the original Hebrew and Greek. Beyond this, our Lord specifically prophesied that His resurrection would be bodily; that is, in a glorified form of the body He then possessed. When speaking to the unbelieving Jews, as recorded in the second chapter of John's Gospel, Christ stated "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (verse 19).
     The Jews, however, thought he was referring to the temple in Jerusalem but the Apostle John clearly declares our Lord's meaning: "But he spake of the temple of his body" (verse 21).
     The Greek word soma is translated "body" throughout the New Testament, so it is an inescapable fact that Christ was referring to his own physical form - hence a bodily resurrection.
     Two classic New Testament references which corroborate our Lord's prophecy of His bodily resurrection are in the 20th chapter of John and 24th chapter of Luke. In John 20 when our Lord appeared to the doubting Thomas, the same body in which He died upon the cross is evidenced by His own words:
     "Reach hither thy finger, and behold by hands, and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing" (verse 27).
     In Luke 24, we again see how the words of Christ refute the spirit resurrection idea of Jehovah's Witnesses.
     "And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrightened, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your heart? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them" (verses 36-43).
     Not only, then, did our Lord have "flesh and bones," but he showed them the same hands and feet which bore the wounds of Calvary (verses 39, 40). The fact that He also ate broiled fish and a honeycomb (verse 42 and 43) proves that He was not a "spirit creature" as Jehovah's Witnesses contend. Moreover our Lord's words, "It is I myself...a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (verse 39) was uttered according to verse 37 and 38 because the disciples thought He was a spirit. Jesus, however absolutely disproved that by offering His body as tangible evidence (verse 39, 40).
     Sometimes Jehovah's Witnesses attempt to explain away these appearances of Christ by asserting that He had a "spiritual body" (1 Corinthians 15:44) or that He merely assumed different bodies to encourage His disciples, which the Witnesses say accounts for the fact that those who knew Him the best in life did not recognize Him after His resurrection (John 20:11-16; Luke 24:15-30).
     The Witnesses also argue that 1 Peter 3:18, which refers to Christ's resurrection and states that He was "made alive in spirit" (literal Greek), establishes their theory, but they are in error.
     While it is true that Paul speaks of "a spiritual body" he nevertheless calls it a "body" (Greek "soma") and we have already seen how Christ possessed "flesh and bones" (Luke 24:39). A spiritual body then is not "a spirit" as the Witnesses make our, but a glorified, immortal, physical form possessing certain spiritual characteristics or attributes (i.e., the ability to pass through locked doors or vanish at will. John 20:19, 26; Luke 24:31)
     Again, Jehovah's Witnesses' idea that because Mary Magdalene and the disciples could not recognize Christ on three occasions "proves" that He had assumed "different bodies" other than the one in which He died upon the cross, is disposed of by Luke 24:16. Luke there tells us that when the disciples encountered Jesus their eyes were kept from recognizing Him as a direct act of Christ's will. When He finished His conversation, He allowed their sense of vision to perceive who He really was; thus "their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight" (verse 31).
     Finally, 1 Peter 3:18, far from "proving" that Jesus was raised a spirit as the Witnesses insist, only proves that He was raised in or by the Spirit of God as the Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:11. The main objections, then, that Jehovah's Witnesses raise against the bodily resurrection of our Lord are all thoroughly answered by the Scriptures themselves and represent no real threat to historic Christian doctrine of the resurrection.
     The Bible, therefore, does have much to say about the resurrection of Christ as we have seen, and nowhere supports the spirit-resurrection theory of Jehovah's Witnesses. In fact, all of it contradicts their teaching.
     To the sincere, zealous, yet misled members of Jehovah's Witnesses, the Christian church must repeat the statement of our Lord Himself: "Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have" (Luke 24:38, 39).
     The true teaching concerning the resurrection of Jesus Christ does indeed determine a person's eternal destiny (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17). For "If you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God has raised him from among the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9, Literal Greek).

FOOTNOTES: 1. Let God Be True, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, p. 122, Edition 1946. 2. The Kingdom is at Hand, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, p. 258. 3. Studies in the Scripture, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, p. 129, Vol 2.

Copyright 1993 by the Christian Research Institute. ------------------------------------------------

Jehovah's Witnesses and the Trinity

     The doctrine of the Holy Trinity has been consistently misunderstood, probably more than any other teaching of the Bible. Frequently investigation into the doctrine of the Trinity has been dismissed from serious discussion or study by invoking the time-worn assertions - "It's a great mystery" or "This is incomprehensible" - thus discouraging many from investigating the scriptural basis of the doctrine.
     Due principally to this attitude as well as certain complex aspects of the Trinity doctrine itself, there has been a revival of anti-Trinitarian heresies during the past one hundred and fifty years, and they have gone largely unanswered. Prominent among those groups rejecting the historic doctrine of the Trinity are Mormonism, Christian Science, Unity, Spiritism, Herbert W. Armstrong and his Radio Church of God and Jehovah's Witnesses (-i.e., The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society).
     According the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Trinity is a Satanic dogma of apostate Christianity that prevents people from knowing the true God, Jehovah. The Watchtower puts it this way:
"The doctrine in brief is that there are three gods in one: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost...the Holy Spirit is not a person and is therefore not one of the gods of the Trinity...the Trinity doctrine was not conceived by Jesus or the early Christians...the obvious conclusion therefore is that Satan is the originator of the Trinity doctrine."1
     Since the Watchtower denies that the Trinity doctrine is Biblical; and since they complicate the issue by defining it incorrectly - the task of true Christians is two fold: First, a definition in accord with historic Christianity must be given. Secondly, it must be shown that the doctrine of the Trinity is both Biblical and essential to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

         Within the unity of the One God there are three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; and these three share the same Nature and attributes. In effect, the three Persons ARE the one God.
     From this concise statement, similarly set forth in many theological texts,2 it is clear that the Christian Church does not believe that "there are three gods in One." Quite to the contrary, we affirm that there is but one God, as Scripture repeatedly asserts (Deut. 6:4, Isa. 43:10, 1 Tim 2:5).
     Having defined the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, it becomes necessary, secondly, to demonstrate inductively from the Bible that it is true.
     To accomplish this, we begin with one basic premise: If it can be shown from Scripture that there are three persons, all of whom are called Jehovah (God), then, since there is only one Jehovah (Isa. 44:6, 48:12), those three Persons are the one God. Things equal to the same thing are equal to each other.
     Just how it is possible for three to be One and for that One to be three, will also be explained. But first, the evidence:

      Jehovah's Witnesses are quick to agree with the Apostle Peter that the Father is called Jehovah. Moreover, Peter and many other Biblical writers identify Him as a "person" (2 Peter 1:17). It is therefore unnecessary to press this point, the Witnesses having already conceded it.
     However, we would point out that the word "person" is, by definition, descriptive of "ego" or "I." Without "ego," which distinguishes man from the beast, personality as such would cease to exist. Any reputable lexicon of Greek dictionary will substantiate the fact that the Greek word "ego," is the basis for our English term, "I." Jehovah designates His Being as The Great I AM (Ex. 3:14): So the Deity is Personal and possesses Ego, the hallmark of Personality.
     We see, then, that one of the three "Persons" - the Father - is designated "God."

A careful study of the first chapter of Revelation (vs. 11-18) will show that Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, identifies Himself as "the first and the last" and "the one who became dead" and who now lives for all eternity.
     It is of no small significance that in verse 13 of the last chapter of Revelation, He confirms this title with great emphasis, identifying Himself in verse 16 as "I Jesus," and declaring that He is "the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last." The context reveals that it is Jesus speaking (vs. 12), for He - not the Father - is coming "quickly" (Rev. 1:7; 1 Thess. 4:15,16).
     It must never be forgotten that these titles ("the first and the last," "the Alpha and the Omega'" "the beginning and the end") belong only to Jehovah God (Isa. 44:6,8; Rev. 1:8, 21:6). But Jesus Christ claims them as His own, because He, the Son is also Jehovah!
     We see, then, that there are either two firsts and two lasts (a hopeless contradiction of terms), or the Son is Jehovah, the one who was pierced for our sins (Zech. 12:10; Rev. 1:7,11,13) and who is truly "the fullness of Jehovah in flesh" (Col. 2:9).
     The angel who showed John the wonder Revelation forbade the Apostle to worship him, for he was but a created being, a "fellow servant." Quite properly, he declared, "worship Jehovah," (Rev. 22:9). Yet Jesus Christ, whom Jehovah's Witnesses say is also a created being (i.e., Michael the Archangel), commended the worship of Himself as Jehovah (John 20:28,29). This would have been a blasphemous act of presumption on His part and a direct violation of His Father's commandments (Ex. 20:3; Deut. 6:17), unless He were in some mysterious sense on in Nature and Being with His Father. In such a case He would in truth be "equal with God" and entitled to receive worship as Jehovah(John 5:18,23).
     Jehovah's Witnesses have always taught that Jesus Christ was no more than a perfect man, "certainly not the supreme God Almighty in the flesh."3 They state categorically that He was in no sense both God and man. Some insist that Jesus while on earth was both God and man. This theory is wrong.4
     Jehovah's Witnesses also maintain that our Lord was "the first and direct creation of Jehovah God," and that prior to His earthly life He was an angel.5
     In contrast to this teaching, Scripture and the Christian Church declare the full Deity of Jesus Christ, and His equality with God the Father.
     In the first verse of John's Gospel, Christ is revealed as the eternal Word of God who became flesh (verse 14) - the "image of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4).
     Consider the emphasis "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God" John 1:1).
     Note that John 1:1 states that the Word already was in the beginning - it does not say the Word "became" or "was created" by God, as Jehovah's Witnesses teach. The Witness incorrectly translate this text to read "the Word was a god,"6 but their translation is by both context and grammar an impossibility according to all recognized authorities on Greek. No recognized translation bears out their error.
     Moreover, the Scriptures proclaim that Christ made "himself equal with God" (John 5:18), and that "in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Deity bodily" (Colossians 2:9). The Bible further states that Christ claimed to be the great I AM (Jehovah) of the Old Testament (cf. Exodus 3:13-16 with John 8:58), and the Jews understood Him so clearly during His ministry that they sought to stone Him to death for blasphemy (John 8:59; cf. 10:28-33).
      Jehovah's Witnesses pervert these texts and many others in their determined effort to demote our Lord from His position of God and Creator (Colossians 1; Hebrews 1); and they compound their error by translating the Greek of the New Testament, in many places, contrary to all grammatical authorities. It is certainly true that during His earthly life our Lord voluntarily limited Himself as a man (Philippians 2:6-8), and thus He never strove to usurp the prerogatives of Deity; But one does not have to "rob" what is His by inheritance (Hebrews 1). He was true Deity - "the great God" (Titus 2:13).
     We must not forget that Christ humbled Himself, even to the death of the cross, and therefore, as a man, could say, "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28). However, let us remember that Christ never said, "My Father is better than I." "Better" is a term of comparison between natures (Heb 1:4), while "greater," as in the context of John 14, is a term of comparison relative to positions.
     The President of the United States, for instance, is greater in position than any of his fellow-Americans by virtue of his office, but he would be the first to insist that he is not better than other human beings. So Christ was admittedly inferior to His Father positionally while on earth as a man, but the Scriptures clearly and unmistakably state that he was at all times His Father's equal on the spiritual plane of Divine Being or Nature (Heb. 1:3; John 5:18). Note also that in 1 Corinthians 15:28 it is function that is dealt with - not Deity.
     Jehovah's Witnesses always point to Christ's humanity in the Bible; they carefully omit mention of His claim to full Deity, and they thus "wrest...the...scriptures, unto their own destruction" (2 Peter 3:16).
     The second Person, the Son, is also called God, then, despite the efforts of the Watchtower to prove the contrary.

     It is peculiar, to say the least, that Jehovah's Witnesses can agree with the Apostle Peter when he declared that the Father is Jehovah - and then contradict his affirmation that the Holy Spirit is likewise Jehovah, as recorded in Acts 5:3 and 4.
     No Christian theologian has ever denied either the Person or Deity of the Holy Spirit, for the evidence to substantiate both is abundant in Scripture. For instance, a thorough study of the book of Acts, chapter thirteen, reveals that the Holy Spirit is a Person, because He possesses "ego." Luke records therein that the Holy Spirit as a Person has "ego" (13:2,4) and, furthermore, that He (not "it") prophesies to His servants and commissions them, as well (21:11). See also such verses as John 14:26, 15:26, Acts 8:29, 13:2, and Romans 5:5.
     The Scriptures are clear that the Holy Spirit has a "will" (1 Cor. 12:11; Heb. 2:4), and since "will" denotes "ego" or personality, as opposed to the neuter (animals), obviously the Spirit is a person. We have also seen from Peter's words that when Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, he lied to Jehovah (Acts 5:4). Both the thirteenth chapter of Acts and Isaiah 48 add to the proof that the Holy Spirit is God, since He answers the prayers of the Apostles (Acts 13:1-4) and is designated Deity by the prophet Isaiah (48:16). Even the Watchtower admits that God alone answers prayer.
     The Bible, then, does indeed teach that the Spirit is a Person and that He is called God. It is therefore apparent that there are three Persons mentioned in Scripture and that they are all identified as God: Yet there is only one true God (Isa. 45:22).

     There are two other important points that must be mentioned.
     Jehovah's Witnesses claim that, because the Bible designates some beings and idols as "gods," it is proper for them to call Jesus "a god" and worship him as the angels did (Heb. 1:6). This is an important point and must be clarified.
     Of course, it is true that God made Moses appear as a god in Pharaoh's eyes (Exodus 7:1). Moreover, Satan, certain of the judges of Israel and pagan idols are described as "gods" in the Bible (John 14:30, Psalms 82:6, 1 Cor. 8:4, 10:19, 2 Cor. 4:4). Nevertheless, they are not deity by nature, as the Apostle Paul flatly states (Gal. 4:8). They are "gods" by angelic or human acclamation, and God addresses them in that context. Worshiping a thing can make it your god; but it is not God by nature - for by nature there is only one God (1 Cor. 8:4-6, 1 Tim. 2:5).
     When this cardinal distinction is made in Scripture, the Watchtower's doctrine is refuted, and the problem of the usage of the term "gods" or "a god" disappears.

     The second important fact to be remembered is that of the meaning of the term "one."
     "How is it possible," say the Jehovah's witnesses, "for Jehovah to be three and one both at the same time? It is illogical, unreasonable and confusing; and God is not the author of confusion!"
     To answer this all-too-common objection, it should be kept in mind that the word "one" can denote composite as well as solitary unity. For instance, in Genesis (chapter 2), Adam and Eve are called one flesh; and Numbers (chapter 13) speaks of "one" when the context indicates that is was in reality a cluster of grapes hanging from one stem. Here are bona fide instances of composite unity.
     The same Hebrew word, "echod" (one) is used in both cases, however, even as it is in Deuteronomy 6:4 where we are told that God is "One." The evident composite unity indicated here is confirmed in the New Testament. Our Lord spoke of composite unity where marriage is concerned (Mk. 10:8); so He, too, was aware of this important distinction. See also Joshua 9:2; Judges 20:1; 2 Chron. 30:12; Isaiah 65:25; Nehemiah 7:66 and Ezra 6:20 for further instances of composite unity.
     Finally, let us illustrate how it is both logically and rationally possible for three to be one and one to be three simultaneously, since Jehovah's Witnesses do NOT believe this is possible.
     It is a well-known fact of chemistry that plain water, when placed in a vacuum under 230 millimeters of gas pressure and at a temperature of 0 degrees Centigrade, solidifies into ice at the bottom of the container, remains liquid in the center and vaporizes at the top! At a given instant the same water is both solid, liquid and gas, yet all three are manifestations of the same basic substance or nature: H2O - hydrogen: two parts; oxygen: one.
     If one of the simplest of all created substances can be three in manifested form and yet remain one in nature, then the Creator of that substance can surely be Father, Son and Holy Spirit - three Persons and one Nature - without any violation of logic or reason whatever if He so wills.
     God is not triples (1+1+1) - He is triune (1x1x1), and He has revealed Himself fully in the Person of our Lord, Jesus Christ (Col. 2:9; John 14:9).
     Jehovah's Witnesses are not confused by the doctrine of the Trinity they are confused by the Watchtower Society, from whose power only the Son of God can liberate. It is our prayer that, in His own time, this will come to pass - "for ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free...and if the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed." (John 8:32,36).
     Once the foregoing data have been understood, the following texts from the Old and New Testament confirm the doctrine of the Trinity. A prayerful reading of these passages will help strengthen your faith in this great and truly divine revelation of the Nature of God. It will promote faith in Him "who is able to save to the uttermost all who come to Him by faith," since He alone is "the Way," (Heb. 7:25; John 14:6; Acts 16:31; 1 John 2:2; Romans 10:9-13).

FOOTNOTES: 1. Let God Be True, Watchtower Society, Edition 1946, pp. 81, 82, 87, Reconciliation J.W. Rutherford, p. 115. 2. The Trinity, Baker's Dictionary of Theology, p 115. 3. Let God Be True, p. 87 4. The Truth Shall Make You Free, Watchtower Society, p. 49, The Harp of God, J.W. Rutherford, pp. 101, 128. 5. The Kingdom Is At Hand, pp. 46, 47-49. 6. Let God Be True, pp. 34, 35.

TRINITY TEXTS: (1) Old Testament Hints - Genesis 1:26, Genesis 3:22, Genesis 11:7, Isaiah 6:8, 48:12, Zech. 12:9,10. (2) The Creation - Genesis 1:2, In 1:3. (3) The Incarnation - Lk. 1:35. (4) The Baptism of Christ - Matt. 3:17,17. (5) The Resurrection of Christ - Acts 2:26, 1 Thess. 1:10 (The Father), Jn 2:19-21, (The Son), Rom. 8:11, 1 Pet 3:18 (The Holy Spirit), Acts 17:31 (God). (6) The Great Commission - Matt. 28:19. (7) The Divine Benediction - 2 Cor. 13:14. See also John 14:16,26, 15:26.

Copyright 1993 by the Christian Research Institute. ------------------------------------------------

John 1:1 and the Jehovah's Witnesses

      John 1:1, "In the beginning [or origin, Greek, arche] was the Word [Logos] and the Word was with God [Ton Theon] and the Word was God [Theos]." (KJV)
     Contrary to the translations of "The Emphatic Diaglott" and the "New World Translation", the Greek grammatical construction leaves no doubt whatsoever that this is the only possible rendering of the text. The subject of the sentence is "Word" (Logos), the verb, "was". There can be no direct object following "was", since according to grammatical usage, intransitive verbs take no objects but take instead predicate nominatives which refer back to the subject, in this case, "Word" (Logos).* It is therefore easy to see that non article is needed for "Theos" (God), and to translate it "a god" is both incorrect grammar and poor Greek, since "Theos" is the predicate nominative of "was" in the third sentence-clause of the verse and must refer back to the subject, "Word" (Logos). Christ, then, if He is the Word "made flesh" (John 1:14, KJV) can be no one else except God, unless the Greek text and consequently God's Word be denied. [* - Colwell's rule clearly states that a definite predicate nominative (Theos -- God) NEVER takes and article when it precedes the verb ("was") as in John 1:1.]
     Jehovah's Witnesses, in their "New World "Translation", attempt to discredit the Greek text on this point, for they realize that if Jesus and Jehovah are one in nature, their theology cannot stand, since they deny that unity of nature.[1] The refutation of their arguments on this point is conclusive.
     The claim is that since the definitive article is used with "Theon" and not with "Theos" in John 1:1, therefore the omission is designed to show a difference; the alleged difference being that in the first case, the one true God (Jehovah) is meant, while in the second, "a god", other than, and inferior to, the first is meant, this latter "god" being Jesus Christ.
     The "New World Translation" claims that the rendering "a god" is correct because "all the doctrine of sacred Scriptures bears out the correctness of this rendering." [2] This remark focuses attention on the fact that the whole problem involved goes far beyond this text. Scripture does in fact teach the full and equal deity of Christ. Why then is so much made of this one verse? It is probably because of the surprise effect derived from the show of pseudoscholarship in the use of a familiar text. Omission of the article with "Theos" does not mean that "a god" other than the one true God is meant. Let one examine these passages where the article is not used with "Theos" and see if the rendering "a god" makes sense (Mt 5:9, 6:24; Lk 1:35, 78; 2:40; Jn 1:6, 12, 13, 18; 3:2, 21; 9:16, 33; Ro 1:7, 17, 18; 1 Co 1:30; 15:10; Phil 2:11, 13; Titus 1:1). The "a god" contention in this rendering of "a god", Jehovah's Witnesses would have to translate every instance where the article is absent as "a god (nominative), of a god (genitive), to or for a god (dative)." This they do not do in Matthew 5:9; 6:24; Luke 1:35, 78; John 1:6, 12, 13, 18; Romans 1:7, 17. (See "New World Translation" and "Emphatic Diaglott" at above mentioned references.)
     You cannot honestly render "Theos" "a god" in John 1:1, and then "Theou" "of God" (Jehovah), in Matthew 5:9, Luke 1:35, 78; and John 1:6, when "Theou" is the genitive case of the SAME noun (second declension), WITHOUT an article and MUST be rendered (following Jehovah's Witnesses' argument) "of A god" not "of God" as both the "Emphatic Diaglott" and "New World Translation" put it. We could list at great length, but suggest consultation of the Greek Testament by either D. Erwin Nestle or Westcott and Hort, in conjunction with "The Elements of Greek" by Francis Kingsley Ball, on noun endings. So then, if Jehovah's Witnesses must persist in this fallacious "a god" rendering, they can at least be consistent, which THEY ARE NOT, and render every instance where the article is absent in the same manner. The truth of the matter is that Jehovah's Witnesses use and remove the articular emphasis whenever and WHEREVER it suits their fancy regardless of grammatical laws to the contrary. In a translation as important as God's Word, every law must be observed. Jehovah's Witnesses have not been consistent in their observance of those laws.
     The writers of the note have also exhibited another trait common to Jehovah's Witnesses, that of half quoting or misquoting a recognized authority to bolster their ungrammatical renditions. On page 776 (NWT, 1950 Edition), when quoting Dr. Robertson's words, "Among the ancient writers O THEOS was used of the god of the absolute religion in distinction from the mythological gods," they fail to note that in the second sentence following, Dr. Robertson says, "In the New Testament, however, while we have PRO TON THEON (John 1:1, 2) it is far more common to find SIMPLY "THEOS", especially in the Epistles." [Emphasis added.]
     In other words, the writers of the New Testament frequently do not use the article with "Theos" and yet the meaning is perfectly clear in the context, namely that the one true God is intended. Let one examine the following references where in successive verses and even in the same sentence the article is used with ONE occurrence of "Theos" and NOT with another form, and it will be absolutely clear that no such drastic inferences can be drawn from John's usage in John 1:1, 2. (Mt 4:3-4, 12:28; Lk 20:37 38; Jn 3:2; 13:3; Ac 5:29-30; Ro 1:7-8, 17-19; 2:16-17; 3:5, 22 23; 4:2-3.)
     The doctrine of the article is important in Greek; it is NOT used indiscriminately. But we are NOT qualified to be sure in ALL cases what is intended. Dr, Robertson is careful to note that :it is only of recent years that a really scientific study of the article has been made."[3] The facts are not all know, and no such drastic conclusion as the writers of the appendix note draw should be dogmatically affirmed.
     It is nonsense to say that a single noun can be rendered "divine", and that an anarthrous noun conveys merely the idea of quality (NWT, 1950 Edition, pp. 773-774). the authors of this note themselves later render the same noun "Theos" as "a god" not as "a quality". This is a self-contradiction in the context.
     In conclusion, the position of the writers of this note is made clear (NWT, 1950 Edition, p. 774); according to them, it is "unreasonable" that the Word (Christ) should be the God with whom He was (Jn 1:1). Their own manifestly erring reason is made the criterion for determining scriptural truth. One need only note the obvious misuse in their quotation from Dana and Mantey (NWT, 1950 Edition, pp. 774-775). Mantey clearly means that the "word was Deity" in accord with the overwhelmingtestimony of Scripture, but the writers have dragged in the interpretation of "a god" to suit their own purpose, which purpose is the denial of Christ's deity, and as a result a denial of the Word of God.** [** - Dr. Mantey has formally repudiated the out-of-context quoting and general misrepresentation of his views in a private letter made public, and accuses the Watchtower of gross error in their handling of his grammar.]
     Since the publication of the Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom interlinear translation of the Greek Scriptures in 1969, the Watchtower has quite literally backed itself into a corner with its translation of John 1:1 as it appears in the "New World Translation". In their "New Kingdom Interlinear Translation" of John 1:1, they render the Greek text on the left side of the page: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was toward the God and god was the Word." Directly across the page in the right column, the "New World Translation" says, "In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God and the Word was A god." It appears that the Watchtower is apparently trying to have its cake and eat it too. The Word (Christ who became flesh, see v. 14) is called God on one side of the page and A god on the other. Evidence of genuine grammatical confusion, and God, the Scripture reminds us, is not the author of confusion!
     It is unnecessary to pursue this point any further, except to note that in their translation, "god was the Word," God is spelled with a small "g", another subtle attempt to demote Christ to the rank of demigod, apparently oblivious to the fact that the existing manuscripts of the New Testament were all written in capital letters, and the Witnesses have always made a great point of emphasizing capitals in John 1:1, when it came to translating the Greek "Theos". There is no grammatical reason for failing to capitalize "God" here; in fact, according to Colwell's rule, it must be.

FOOTNOTES: [1] "New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures", pp. 773-777, remarks on Appendix note to John 1:1. [2] Ibid., p. 776b. [3] A.T. Robertson, quoted in NWT, p. 755.

Copyright 1993 by the Christian Research Institute. ------------------------------------------------

Thy Word Is Truth

     What do we mean when we say, "the Bible is the Word of God?" It is obvious that we are asserting that the Bible is a revelation from God -- that it does not just illumine our thinking but reveals to our minds things which God knows and which we are incapable of learning apart from His communication with us.
     Now, it is true that the Bible contains quotations from men (Acts 17:28), angels (Matt. 1:20), demons (Mark 5:9), Satan (Job 1:9), and God Himself (Exod. 20:1ff.). However, the Bible is called the Word of God because the whole transcript is an inspired, faithful, and infallible record of what God determined essential for us to know about Himself, the cosmos in which we live, our spiritual allies and adversaries, and our fellow man.
    The Bible, then, was produced by men whose recording of events was divinely supervised and preserved from all the frailties of human error and judgment which are so common in all other religious literature.
     How could such faithful recording come about? By what method could God bring such a thing to pass? Such questions can be answered simply by pointing out an illustration from the late Donald Grey Barnhouse. Dr. Barnhouse maintained that even as the Holy Spirit came upon the womb of the Virgin Mary and, despite her sinful nature, imperfections, and limitations, produced sinless and perfect humanity for Christ in the Incarnation, so He moved upon the minds and spirits of the recorders of Scripture such that, despite limitations in language, culture, and even scientific knowledge, He produced His perfect message to humankind. Both phenomena were miraculous; both were perfect births -- one of the Son of Man and the other of a Book, the Word of God.
     When we speak of the inspiration of the Scriptures, then, we are talking about the process that God used to convey His message. This process is described by the apostle Paul as a type of spiritual "breathing" (2 Tim. 3:16; cf. 2 Pet. 1:21). In fact, the Greek word for "inspiration" (theopneustos) literally means "God-breathed."
     The inspiration of the Bible and the concepts just mentioned refer only to the initial "breathing" of God upon the authors of Scripture to produce a copy of His thoughts for man. It is for this original text of Scripture, revealed by God and faithfully recorded by His servants, that the Christian church claims infallibility.
     Through the centuries God has preserved literally thousands of copies and fragments of these initial manuscripts with only minor, insignificant transmissional mistakes made by scribes over the years. Historic Christianity affirms the plenary or "full" inspiration of the Bible, and it further holds that inspired concepts can be communicated only by inspired words. Thus, the church's belief in the verbal inspiration of the Bible is logically inseparable from the doctrine of plenary inspiration.
     To illustrate, the label on all RCA records at one time contained a picture of a dog listening to an old Victrola with the caption, "His Master's Voice." Dr. Eugene Nida of the translation department of the American Bible Society has pointed out that the dog listening to the Victrola will hear an imperfect transmission of his master's voice because the needle scratches the surface of the record. However, no matter how scratchy the record sounds, the needle cannot obliterate the sound of the master's voice -- the message still comes through loud and clear.
     Expanding on this concept a little more, we can see that the Bible is represented by the record and that the imperfections of human nature and the limitations of human knowledge are represented by the needle. The passage of time is represented by the turntable. Just as any record becomes scratchy in time through wear, so is this true (though in a much lesser degree) with the copies of Scripture. But despite these limitations (which are the direct product of human freedom and its resultant sin), we can still hear our Master's voice with absolute clarity, just as the dog does on the record label. The "scratches" in the copies of Scripture -- which, I might add, are exceedingly minimal -- do not prevent God from clearly communicating His message to humankind.
     We might also note that the "scratches" are being "erased" as time goes on by archeology, by older and better texts, and by scientific discoveries. More of the "original" is thus being "dubbed" back into the already-very-accurate copies, so that year by year we are getting closer to the "master tape" from which all the duplicates (copies of manuscripts) were recorded. Thus the accuracy of our Bible copies increases rather than decreases with time.
     Because of advancing knowledge about the Bible and its times, great gains have been made in solving problems which a hundred years ago were considered by some reputable scholars to be "insoluble." Thus it would be foolish indeed to abandon faith in the authority of God's initial revelation simply because there remains a relatively small percentage (less than 1/2 of 1 percent in the New Testament) of questionable material in the copies about which we do not yet have enough data to properly evaluate. Contemporary disciples of those who gave up their faith in the absolute authority of Scripture a hundred years ago would do well to remember that advancing knowledge confirms rather than diminishes the accuracy of the Bible.

A special note of thanks to Bob and Pat Hunter for their help in the preparation of this ASCII file for BBS circulation.

Copyright 1994 by the Christian Research Institute. ------------------------------------------------

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