Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Deity of Christ
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 3:40pm
AN INQUIRER laid the following scenario before me, asking for some advice:
“”I had a visit from a Jehovah’s Witness today. He claims Jesus is not God. He cites John 1:1 from his JW bible — “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” (The NASB does not include the article “a”.) Is the insertion of the “a” a deliberate attempt to serve their purpose; or what?
“”He quoted Colossians 1:15 as meaning that Jesus was a created being with no attempt to connect that verse with verse 18. He also claimed that Jesus did not forgive sins in the New Testament and that Jesus did not equate Himself with God the Father in the New Testament.
“”I was unsuccessful in the attempt to dissuade him of these views. Is the attempt worth the effort? What is your advice in these matters?””
HERE IS MY ADVICE. First, I have found it very difficult to persuade JWs to renounce their false view of Christ or any other of their false doctrines. A main reason for this is that they have been thoroughly indoctrinated regarding all the objections that are usually thrown at them, and they have rehearsed answers for almost anything you will say. Thus I am not surprised at your last paragraph. You ask, is it worth the effort to try? In most cases I would say no, it is not worth the effort.
If you think there is any hope and want to continue, I would not spend a lot of time on John 1:1. We used to quote a rule of Greek grammar called “Colwell’s rule,” which said that a Greek noun that comes BEFORE the copulative verb is definite even if it does not have the article. This is not regarded as a firm rule any more. The bottom line for John 1:1 is that grammatically it COULD be “The Word was A God,” if this were warranted by Scripture as a whole. However, it COULD ALSO BE “The Word was God,” as it is usually translated in most non-JW contexts. The JW is wrong to say that it CANNOT be the latter and HAS to be “a god” just because there is no definite article. In fact, the JW bible itself translates John 1:6, “There arose a man that was sent forth as a representative of God.” But in the Greek, there is no definite article before “God” here, either; but the JWs translate it as “God,” contrary to their argument about 1:1. The same is true in vv. 12, 13, 18, etc.
Scripture as a whole, of course, shows that John 1:1 SHOULD be translated “The Word WAS GOD.”
To say Jesus did not forgive sins ignores the clear testimony otherwise in Mark 2:9 (his miracle is performed to prove this very point); to say Jesus did not equate Himself with God the Father ignores John 5:23, which says that whoever does not honor the Son JUST AS (Greek, “kathos”) he honors the Father, does not honor the Father either. Jesus did not object when Thomas confessed him as “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28).
I refer you to my theology book, “The Faith Once for All,” to the section on the Deity of Jesus (pp. 231-246). See especially the section, “Jesus Is Identified with Jehovah” (240-241), where I show how OT texts that specifically speak of YAHWEH (Jehovah) are cited in the NT as referring to Jesus (e.g., Isaiah 40:3 & Matt. 3:3; Mal. 3:1 & Matt. 11:10; Psalm 102:25-27 & Heb. 1:10-12; Joel 2:32 & Acts 2:21, 36 & Rom. 10:9, 13).
To me the clearest testimony to Jesus’ deity is found throughout the Book of Revelation (FOFA, 239-40). E.g., Rev. 5:8-11 pictures the heavenly hosts as giving explicit worship to the LAMB: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing” (v. 12). Then comes perhaps the most irrefutable evidence of the deity of Christ in all Scripture, as “every created thing” (a category in which Christ is NOT included) offers worship to the Father AND to the Lamb identically: “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever” (v. 13). This text makes a clear distinction between Jesus and “every created thing.” Now, the only beings who exist are either uncreated, divine beings (i.e., GOD); or created beings (Rom. 1:25). So if Jesus is not in the category of created beings, he has to be in the category of God.
Even if JWs themselves will not listen to such testimony, we need to educate our own people so that they themselves will not be deceived into doubting Jesus’ divine nature.