Is Jesus Jehovah God?

Is the doctrine of the Trinity merely a relic of Roman Catholicism, as Jehovah's Witnesses maintain, or can it be found in both Old and New Testaments? Is Jesus Christ the Jehovah of the Old Testament?

J. Reynolds Hoffman, evangelist and author, is now retired and lives in Roseburg, Oregon.

The Christian church has historically pro claimed Jesus Christ to be "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father" (The Creed of Nicaea). The following article, establishing from Scripture this view of the divinity of the Son, wit be helpful in discussing the issue with Jehovah's Witnesses. We should remember, of course, that although our purpose in such discussions is to convince the other party of Jesus' divine nature, it is even more important for our words to demonstrate that His divine character lives in us.—Editors.

Jehovah's Witnesses place much emphasis upon attacking the Christian doctrine of the Trinity by denying that Jesus is to be identified with Jehovah God.

This controversy concerning the relation ship between the Father and the Son is nothing new. It has been debated in the Christian -church since late in the third century, and the Witnesses bring up no new problems. They feel, however, that the doctrine of the Trinity is a relic of Catholicism's corrupting influence from which the Christian world needs to be set free. They will point out that the Bible does not contain the word trinity. Readily agree with them. It is true that the word does not appear in the King James Version of the Bible or in most standard modern translations. The Bible does use the word theotes, "Godhead," however. If we can show from Scripture that Jesus is indeed entitled to the name Jehovah, we under mine the credibility of one of the Witnesses' main doctrinal positions.

We readily agree with Jehovah's Witnesses that the Father is Jehovah. But we also believe that the Scriptures teach that the Son is likewise entitled to the name Jehovah, since He is one with the Father.

The historic view of Christianity is that one God exists in three equal, eternal Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit— who are one in power, purpose, character, unity, and eternity. The Arian viewpoint is that the Father alone is eternal, there fore He alone is Jehovah. The Son, according to that viewpoint, was begotten (or created) and came into being at a later time. Obviously, if this view is correct, then the Son would not be Jehovah (eternal). You must clearly state the problem at the very outset of your discussion, for if your listeners do not believe you have a complete grasp of the question, they will not be convinced by your explanations. You should be informed regarding the background of the Councils of Nicaea (A.D. 325) and Chalcedon (A.D. 451), the two councils that crystallized the church's Christology. Don't be caught without the information that Constantine the Great presided over the Council of Nicaea. Jehovah's Witnesses exploit this fact as proof that paganism entered the church at his direction. No doubt, Constantine saw the religious division in the church as a threat to the political unity of his empire. Check any good church history for the complete story.

What should we understand God's name, Jehovah, to mean? Strictly speak ing, there is no such name as Jehovah. It occurred as a late medieval hybrid when students of the Hebrew Scriptures failed to understand that the Masoretic text had combined the vowels of Adonai, Lord, with the consonants YHWH (the divine name considered too sacred to pronounce). This name, considered today to have been originally pronounced Yahweh, is defined in Exodus 3:13, 14 as "I AM." By choosing this name, God identifies Himself as the Eternal, self-existing One—without beginning or end (see Ps. 90:2). There fore, anyone without beginning or end would be entitled by the very nature of his being to the name of Jehovah.

What evidence can we gather from Scripture that Jesus is Jehovah equally with the Father?

One clue that will help you in your study of the name Jehovah (translated "Lord") is the manner in which it is printed in most English versions of the Old Testament. When the name "Lord" is translated from the Hebrew word Yahweh, i.e., Jehovah, it is printed in large and small capital letters like this: LORD. Other names of God that are translated "Lord" begin with a capital followed by lower-case letters. This contrast can be seen clearly in Isaiah 22:14 where the first occurrence (LORD) comes from Jehovah and the second (Lord) is from Adonai. Remember that this printer's clue is found only in the Old Testament. It is a good idea to check word derivations as well in a good comparative concordance such as Strong's or Young's.

Jesus is Jehovah

Notice, now, some comparisons of texts from the Old and New Testaments showing beyond a reasonable doubt that Jesus is indeed identified as Jehovah. These will be given in outline form so that the comparison will be more vivid.

1. The precursor. "A voice cries: 'In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God" (Isa. 40:3).*

"He [John the Baptist] said, 'I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, "Make straight the way of the Lord," as the prophet Isaiah said'" (John 1:23).

Certainly John knew the Hebrew of Isaiah's prophecy. When he claimed to be the "voice" of Isaiah's prediction, he was claiming to be preparing the way for Jehovah, who was in fact, Jesus.

2. Jehovah the Creator. "Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable" (Isa. 40:28).

"He [the Word, or Jesus] was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not" (John 1:10).

The Creator of the world came into that world but was not accepted. If Jesus is not Jehovah, He is not the Creator. Further more, Isaiah calls the Creator the "ever lasting God." Jesus is the Eternal One, Jehovah.

3. The glory. " 'I am the LORD, that is my name; my. glory I give to no other, nor my praise to graven images'" (Isa. 42:8).

" 'And now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made'" (John 17:5).

As an obedient Son, would Jesus ask His Father for glory that Jehovah said He would never share? Or is Jesus entitled to that glory because He, too, is Jehovah— one with the Father?

4. The Rock. " 'For 1 will proclaim the name of the LORD. Ascribe greatness to our God! The Rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are justice'" (Deut. 32:3, 4).

"For they [the fathers] drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ" (1 Cor. 10:4).

Jehovah is declared to be the Rock. Paul declares the Rock was Christ. Thus Christ must unquestionably be Jehovah.

5. The Shepherd. "The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want" (Ps. 23:1).

'"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep'" (John 10:11).

Jehovah is the Shepherd, and Jesus applied this name to Himself in full knowledge of His own deity.

6. The First and the Last. "Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: 'I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god' " (Isa. 44:6).

" 'Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end'" (Rev. 22:12, 13; cf. 1:17, 18).

Jehovah says that He is the first and the last. The One who is coming quickly to give rewards (see Matt. 16:27) declares Himself to be the first and the last. The One who was dead and is now alive forevermore (see Rev. 1:17, 18) declares that He is the first and the last. There cannot be the slightest doubt that Jesus who died for us—the first and the last—is none other than Jehovah.

7. Jesus' absolute, eternal deity. "'I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God'" (Isa. 45:5). " 'You are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any'" (chap. 44:8).

"'I and the Father are one.' The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, 'I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone me?' The Jews answered him, 'It is not for a good work that we stone you but for blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God'" (John 10:30- 33).

Jehovah categorically declares there is no God but Him. He denies the very teaching of the Jehovah's Witnesses that Jehovah is the God, but that Jesus is a god.

When Jesus said that He and His Father are one, He made the greatest claim anyone could make. The Jews understood His claim. To their mind, there was only one God, and His name was Jehovah. Jesus clearly claimed to be that God, and they determined to stone Him.

8. The Saviour. " 'For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. ... I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior'" (Isa. 43:3-11).

"'There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved'" (Acts 4:12).

These texts declare that Jehovah alone is Saviour. If Jesus is not Jehovah, we have no Saviour. Note also that the Son of the virgin is given His name by an angel (see Matt. 1:21). The name Jesus means "Jehovah saves."

Isaiah becomes, therefore, a bulwark of trinitarianism. He is the great Messianic prophet, exalting the coming Messiah as Jehovah, not once or twice, but repeatedly. There is overwhelming evidence for the open mind that Jesus is Jehovah.

For all of His teachings on personal humility, Jesus knew no more sacred work than to point men to Himself. He was constantly declaring what He was and who He was. Continuously, He applied the divine "I AM" to Himself. "I am the Living Bread, the Light, the Door, the Shepherd, the Resurrection, Lord and Master, the Way, the Truth, the Life." He did not say, "I have life" but rather, "I am Life!" If Jesus is not an eternal being, we can never through Him have eternal life. He cannot give what He does not possess.

He claimed to be the source of all life—Jehovah. The prophets said, "Listen to us and we will tell you what God is like." But Jesus said, "Look at me and you will see what God is like, for I am Jehovah God."

Objections considered

1. Jehovah is the only proper name for God. This is not true. There are many names for God in the Scriptures. It is true that Jehovah is the name most frequently used. (Nathan J. Stone's small paperback book, The Names of God [Moody Press], is a jewel.) Each of the other divine names reveals a facet of God's character, that we might see Him in His fullness. El or Elohim expresses the power of God. We find this name in Genesis 1:1 since Creation demonstrates His power. El Shaddai, the Almighty God, is an even stronger emphasis of His power. Adonai, the plural form of Adon, carries with it the concept of authority. Adon is used of man to refer to him as the lord of his own home. Adonai is the God who wields authority.

2. There is a trinity in every pagan religion. Christianity has been paganized by the introduction of the trinity. It is true that many pagan religions have a trinity of gods. Babylon and Egypt are examples. The devil has always corrupted that which is true. The question is: Did the church accept the pagan concept of a trinity, or has the genuine trinity been distorted by a satanically inspired counterfeit?

3. Any one knows that a father is older than his son. Only the Father is eternal Jehovah God. The Son came into being later and cannot be Jehovah. This objection demonstrates a lack of knowledge about the plan of salvation. The Father-Son relationship in the New Testament must always be understood in the light of the event of Bethlehem. The only child born into this world with a divine, rather than a human, father is Jesus. The title, "Son," refers to His entry into time and does not deny at all His eternal origin. There are references in the Old Testament to Sonship, but these are always in anticipation of the Incarnation.

4. Jesus Himself admitted that the Father was greater than He (see John 14:28). Jesus told the truth; His Father was greater. Everything that Jesus did while living as a human being on this earth was through the power of His Father (see John 14:10). But, again, those who raise this objection do not understand the plan of salvation. When the second person of the Godhead became a man, He laid aside His essential equality and took a subordinate position by His own sovereign choice (see Phil. 2:5-11). At His ascension, Jesus was glorified and resumed His proper place at the Father's right hand.

5. The Bible clearly teaches that there is one God, not three. This is true; there are not three Gods. The Bible teaches that there is one God, or Godhead (theotes) composed of three persons. The Old Testament as well as the New sustains the plurality of persons within the one God head. In Genesis 1:1, God introduces Himself in the plural form ('Elohim). Plural forms of pronouns (us and our) are used even in Jewish publications of the English Old Testament when God speaks of Himself (see Gen. 1:26). "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30).

6. John 3:16 clearly states that the Son was "begotten" (K.J.V.). This is the same word used to convey the idea of giving birth or existence. This unfortunate translation of the word monogenes is one that no modern translation of the Bible has perpetuated. Monogenes means "unique, one of a kind." "To be only begotten" would call for using a different Greek word.

Why did the translators of the King James Version use the phrase, "only begotten"? They relied heavily in their work on the Latin Vulgate of Jerome. Jerome lived at a time when the Christological controversy was raging in the church. Instead of translating monogenes into the Latin word unicus, meaning "only or unique," Jerome thought to aid the cause of truth by choosing the word unigenitus, meaning "only begotten." He wanted to strengthen the doctrine that the Son was of one substance with the Father. However, Jerome's maneuver backfired. The Arians quickly exploited his error. Instead of focusing on the nature of Christ, they used his wording to prove that Christ had an origin. A well-intended action has been used by Satan to perpetuate error.

7. Colossians 1:15, 18 clearly says that Jesus is the "first-born" (prototokos). This is the same word used in Matthew 1:25 regarding Jesus being Mary's first child. There are no simple answers to this objection. The passage has always been a perplexity. The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, volume 7, page 191, discusses the passage in some detail, but no final answers are forthcoming. When much evidence in the rest of the Bible points to the eternal nature of Christ, it is difficult to accept that this text proves He had an origin. Sound exegesis of any text requires that it agree with the totality of Scripture.

Perhaps the problem can be resolved partially, if not totally, by recognizing the difficulty of conveying Jewish thought in Greek words. Paul is discussing preeminence, not origins. The firstborn had rights and privileges denied to others. He received a double portion of the inheritance (Deut. 21:17; Col. 1:12) and was in the position of greatest importance. When Christ is called the "first-born" from the dead (Col. 1:18), this is not to say that He was the first individual to rise from the dead. Moses, the daughter of Jairus, Lazarus, and others died and were raised again to life before Jesus' resurrection. But the meaning of Colossians 1:18 is that these prior resurrections pale into insignificance compared to the resurrection of Jesus; they are meaningless without His glorious triumph over death. Likewise, verse 15 emphasizes preeminence rather than origin. Those who apply it otherwise are missing the apostle's point.

The basic issue raised by Lucifer in heaven revolved around the position of the Son. Without doubt Lucifer was a created being, yet he wanted to sit with God on His throne (see Eze. 28:15; Isa. 14:12-14). Why was he denied? Was it not because he was not God's equal? God could not share His throne with a created being. Only equals share thrones. Prince Philip does not sit with Queen Elizabeth II of England upon her throne. He is her husband, but he is only a prince. He is not her equal in rank. The Lord Jesus Christ sits with His Father on His throne (Heb. 1:3). He is God's equal (Phil. 2:6).

If the Son were a created or begotten creature—even if He were the very first of such creatures, and no matter how far back into eternity that event took place—He would still be a creature. Could one "created being" sit upon God's throne as an equal while Lucifer, another created being, is denied that privilege? In such a case God would be guilty of discrimination; He would be showing respect of persons, which He Himself declares to be sin (see James 2:9). Lucifer would have a valid argument against God.

The truth that Lucifer stumbled over in the beginning was the eternal nature and equality of the Father and the Son. Arianism reflects his thinking.

This, then, we can believe. The eternal, omnipotent Jehovah came down to earth to become one with us. In His humanity He died for us; in His resurrection He conquered death for us and blazed the way for us to His Father's side. Someday soon we shall stand before His throne and be with Him at the Father's hand, where we shall praise the glory of His name forever. His name is Jesus, Jehovah God.

 

 


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J. Reynolds Hoffman, evangelist and author, is now retired and lives in Roseburg, Oregon.

June 1982

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