"My Lord and My God"—2

Jehovah's Witnesses and the Deity of Christ

Robert F. Thompson, formerly a minister for the Jehovah's Witnesses, is now a Seventh-day Adventist minister working in the Eastern Shore area of the Chesapeake Conference.

BRUCE M. METZGER, professor of New Testament language at Princeton Theological Seminary, has studied extensively the Watchtower's position on the deity of Christ and published his findings in a twenty-page article en titled "The Jehovah's Witnesses and Jesus Christ." Dr. Metzger compares the various translations of the Watchtower to the most authoritative Greek texts available and presents a scholarly evaluation of their methods of interpretation. Metzger indicates that the Watchtower translations obscure the clear meaning of several texts. In connection with 2 Peter 1:1 and Titus 2:13 he refers to Granville Sharp's accepted rule of grammar, that when the Greek word kai ("and") "connects two nouns of the same case, if the article precedes the first noun and is not repeated before the second noun, the latter always refers to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun."

Metzger takes the unequivocal position that 2 Peter 1:1 should be translated, "To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with our God and Saviour Jesus Christ," and that Titus 2:13 is most accurately rendered, "Awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and' Saviour Jesus Christ." 1 All reliable translations that I'm aware of concur with this conclusion.

It is the name of Jesus that is so important to know, for "God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every other name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:9, 10).2 In other words, everyone should render worship to the Son of God who is the very manifestation of God. Paul was cognizant of the identity of Jesus, because under the influence of the Holy Spirit he applies Isaiah's words about Jehovah to Christ (Isa. 45:21, 23). He also makes a direct reference to God's prophetic announcement when he writes: "For it is written 'As I live,' says Jehovah, 'to me every knee will bend down, and every tongue will make open acknowledgment to God' " (Rom. 14:11).

Jesus Called Jehovah

In the Watchtower Greek Interlinear Translation, the exact Greek word is used for this "Lord" who is to be worshiped. If the Watchtower translators had been consistent and properly rendered the word Jehovah, they would have absolutely verified that "Jesus Christ is Jehovah to God the Father." The acknowledgment of this divine truth is vitally important, because "everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved" (chap. 10:13). What, then, is the name of Jehovah? Peter settled the matter for those who doubted the deity of Jesus the Messiah and the saving power of His name. He said, "Furthermore, there is no salvation in anyone else, for there is not another name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved" (Acts 4:12). The apostle Paul "decided not to know anything . . . except Jesus Christ, and him impaled" (1 Cor. 2:2). Paul, like his Christian contemporary Peter, was convinced that there was salvation only in Christ.

Jesus was not just a perfect man who had once been an angel and after dying became an angel again. He was in truth the One who said, " 'Is it not I, Jehovah, besides whom there is no other God; a righteous God and a Savior, there being none excepting me? Turn to me and be saved, all of you [at the] ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no one else' " (Isa. 45:21,22). To hear it declared that Jehovah God is Jesus Christ is rather offensive to Witnesses, even though it is proved beyond question from a careful study of their own Bible.

Romans 10:9 drives home the point, "For if you publicly declare that 'word in your own mouth,' that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." Paul is not talking about an intellectual assent, but rather total commitment in faith based on God's revelation of Himself in nature and His inspired Word. This kind of acceptance can only be brought about when one is in tune with the Spirit of God; "Therefore I would have you know that nobody when speaking by God's spirit says: 'Jesus is accursed!' and nobody can say: 'Jesus is Lord!' except by holy spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3).

The texts above and numerous others that refer to "Lord" (kurios) should be rendered consistently, as is true in all Bible translations except the New World Translation. The Watchtower should at least be consistent when using "Jehovah" and "Lord" so that the true meaning of the scriptures regarding the deity of Christ would be made clear. To receive the gift of everlasting life we must believe that "God gave us everlasting life, and this life is in his Son. He that has the Son has this life" (1 John 5:11,12). Notice that Jesus is "everlasting life," and even though the N.W.T. attempts to obscure it, "This is the true God and life ever lasting" (verse 20). There is only one Saviour and one name in which to appeal to God, Jesus Christ.

Jesus Is to Be Worshiped

Probably the greatest single threat to the Arian theology of the Watchtower is the adoration of Thomas when he recognized his "Lord" and his "God." Witnesses will sometimes try to counter this text (John 20:28) by saying that Thomas was overcome at seeing Jesus again and somewhat confused. Also it has been said (the writer himself used this argument at one time) that Thomas was speaking to Christ when he said "Lord" and to Jehovah when he said "God." Reading this passage in context we see Jesus trying to restore faith in a doubting man by inviting him to touch His wounded flesh.

Notice carefully the response of recognition on the part of Thomas: "In answer Thomas said to him: 'My Lord and my God.' " If there should be even the slight est bit of doubt that Thomas was speaking "to him," the reply that Jesus gave should remove all question. "Jesus said to him: 'Because you have seen me have you believed? Happy are those who do not see and yet believe' " (verse 29). The Greek expression kurios, as used in Romans, Philippians, and all through the New Testament, is exactly the same word used in John 20:28. Thomas was putting faith in the resurrected Jesus as Jehovah his God, and he worshiped Him.

As the God-man, Christ was worshiped no doubt by thousands while He was on earth. The Bible specifically tells us of several occasions when people prostrated themselves in worship before Him. Among such, the Scriptures mention the following people: the philosophers (Wise Men) from the East, Matthew 2:11; the leper, Matthew 8:2; the ruler, Matthew 9:18; and the Canaanite woman, Mat thew 15:33. Also He received worship from His disciples (Matt. 14:33; 28:9; John 9:38). The Greek word proskuneo means "worship and adoration" and is used to describe the worship of God specifically in Matthew 4:10, John 4: 21-24, and 1 Corinthians 14:25. Jehovah's Witnesses object to the rendering of the Greek word proskuneo as "worship" when it is used in connection with Christ.

According to the comprehensive study undertaken by the Canadian author F. W. Thomas, Greek scholars have agreed to the following: "The term proskuneo is found sixty-one times in the New Testament, . . . there are twenty-two cases in which proskuneo is used of worship to God the Father; five instances of divine worship used in transitively; fifteen cases where it is used of worship to Christ; seventeen instances where idolatrous worship is condemned; and only two disputed cases where it might be in reference to man." 3

When Jesus in glorified form appeared before John, the apostle turned to see Him and then "fell as dead at his feet" (Rev. 1:17). This was an act of worship. If standing for the national anthem is construed as a religious act of devotion by the Watchtower, then certainly falling at the feet of the Saviour must be even more so a definite act of worship. Even the New World Translation inadvertently admits that Christ received worship. In Revelation 4:9-11 we are told that the "living creatures offer glory and honor" and that the "twenty-four older persons fall down" and "worship the one that lives forever and ever . . . saying, 'You are worthy, Jehovah, even our God, to receive the glory and the honor and the power, because you created all things.'" A similar scene takes place in Revelation 5:11-14, where the Lamb is given "power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing," and every creature alive exalts the Lamb and the One on the throne in worship. Remember, Jesus is named as the creator of "all things" (Col. 1:15-17).

The apostle Paul opens his letter to the Christians in Corinth by addressing them, "to you who have been sanctified in union with Christ Jesus, called to be holy ones, together with all who every where are calling upon the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours" (1 Cor. 1:2). The expression "to call upon the name of the Lord" carries the concrete meaning of worship. Accordingly, Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon gives the definition, "to invoke, adore, worship the Lord, i.e., Christ." 4

Even to pray to God is an act of worship, because you are invoking His presence. Stephen worshiped Christ when he said, " 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then, bending his knees, he cried out with a strong voice: 'Jehovah, do not charge this sin against them' " (Acts 7:59, 60). How many Gods was he worshiping? He was worshiping just one God. If the teaching of Jehovah's Witnesses were correct, then Stephen would have been a polytheist, denying God's clear command, "You must not have any other gods against my face" (Ex. 20:3). The Jews were strict monotheists, and worshiping more than one God was repugnant to them.

Jehovah's Witnesses often tell people that their New World Translation is superior to other translations because it uses modern English rather than archaic language. The following passage is taken from Hebrews 1:6, according to the modern English Living Bible: "And still another time—when his firstborn Son came to earth—God said, 'Let all the angels of God worship him.' " 5 God the Father commands the angels to worship Jesus. This text has been checked in twenty-six different translations and in essence they all say the same thing.6 Why is it that the New World Translation uses the word "obeisance" in place of worship? The answer seems obvious. In fact, the footnote for the word "obeisance" in the Watchtower translation says, "Or, 'worship him.'" 7

When Jesus faced His temptation in the wilderness, Satan urged Him to fall down and "do an act of worship" and the Son of God rebuked him by quoting from Deuteronomy 6:13, "It is written, 'It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service'" (Luke 4:8). The words of Jesus are indisputable evidence that only God is to be worshiped. When the Father commands the angels to worship the Son He is commanding them to worship God. Under these circumstances when the word obeisance is used under command by the Father toward the Son there can be no other meaning but worship.

The evidence to establish the full and complete deity of Jesus is abundant. Still there are some who confuse His deity with His humanity. Just as He was fully God so was He also fully man. Whenever the Scriptures speak of the superiority of the Father or the subjection of the Son there is no chance for contradiction if we understand the true significance of Philippians 2:1-11.

Paul in that passage speaks to a group of Macedonian Christians, encouraging them to follow the example of Christ's humility. Although they were all equal as brothers, they were to become servants of one another and attend to the interests of the brotherhood. "Have this mind among yourselves, which you have in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:5-7, R.S.V.). Equality, or oneness with God the Father, was some thing the Son willingly laid aside in order to become man.

Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon makes this passage very clear: "Who, although (formerly when he was logos asakos) he bore the form (in which he appeared to the inhabitants of heaven) of God . . . yet he did not think that this equality with God was to be eagerly clung to or retained." 8 This is why Christ's humanity could cry out to the Father in anguish while He hung on the cross (Matt. 27:46). This is why He prayed to His Father (Matt. 6:7-14) and why the apostle Paul could refer to God as being the head of Christ (1 Cor. 11:3). This self-imposed restraint of His full Godship while existing as a man is one of the most profound examples of God's love.

There are many things in the Bible that we cannot completely understand! Can you explain the virgin birth? How did Jesus raise people from the dead? How is it possible that God has always existed? These are just a few of the many questions that relate to the infinite power and majesty of the Creator. It is presumption for anyone to deny the rev elation of God's nature because they cannot fully comprehend it.

Those who examine the claims of Christ and accept the Bible as the inspired word of God, must do so in faith, saying as Thomas did, "My Lord and my God" (John 20:28, K.J.V.).

Notes:

1 Anthony Hoekema, Jehovah's Witnesses (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1972), p. 132.

2 Unless otherwise credited, the texts in this article are from the New World Translation. Copyright 1961, by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society.

3 F. W. Thomas, Masters of Deception (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1974), p. 31.

4 Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1956), p. 239.

5 From The Living Bible, Paraphrased (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1971). Used by permission.

6 Curtis Vaughan (ed.), The New Testament from 26 Translations (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1967).

7 World Translation of Holy Scripture, large print ed. (1971), p. 1244.

8 Thayer, op. cit., p. 418.


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Robert F. Thompson, formerly a minister for the Jehovah's Witnesses, is now a Seventh-day Adventist minister working in the Eastern Shore area of the Chesapeake Conference.

November 1976

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