Friday, 12 December 2008

Should You Believe in the Trinity - 5

Most Christians who talk to Jehovah’s Witnesses will eventually come across the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society’s [WBTS] booklet “Should You Believe In The Trinity” [abbreviated to “Trinity” from now on.]

As with most WBTS publications, the booklet gives the impression of being a well-produced, scholarly work. It is only as you check it out carefully that the errors begin to come to light. It may not be easy to get a Witness to investigate this publication but we want to give the opportunity to lovingly show some of the faults in it and hope you will be able to do the same with the next one that calls at the door. It is not wise to try to tackle all the arguments at once, concentrate on one at a time.

I have tried to see personally every book that the WBTS refer to. This was not easy at first because the WBTS left out references to page numbers, where and when published etc. Initially, thanks to the British Library I have managed to see most of them. Since completing my research, the WBTS have issued their list of all the original publicationss.

When you show that a particular quote is not the full one the reply that many Jehovah’s Witnesses have been given is, “Well the writer does say these words and therefore we are not misquoting them.” The answer I give to this is to quote John 3:16 & 17 from the New World Translation, as follows:

For God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son, in order that everyone... might... be destroyed.

Is that correct Mr Witness? No? Nevertheless, it is what is written in your Bible. I hope that through this the Witness will begin to see how dishonest it is, by judicial editing, to make any author say the opposite to what he or she actually said.

The “Trinity” booklet weaves a number of themes together but we have tried to break it down to a few main subjects each of which we will look at under the following headings.

A. MAIN WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS - A summary of their main arguments.

B. PUBLICATIONS QUOTED - A look at the quotations they use, replacing, in bold italic print, anything of interest they have left out.

C. COMMENTS ON THE WATCHTOWER ARGUMENT - Highlighting anything that is wrong or suspect with their argument.

D. ADDED MATERIAL - A concise look at any extra material that will present another point of view.

SECTION 5 - THE BIBLE’S REVELATION OF GOD AND JESUS

A. MAIN WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS


The WBTS claim that the Bible teaches the following:

God is one; Jesus was a separate creation; God could not be tempted; the ransom must be a man; only-begotten; Jesus was never considered to be God.

Under a sub-heading they claim that God is always superior to Jesus because:

Jesus is distinguished from God; He is God’s submissive servant; He had limited knowledge; He will continue to be subordinate; and above all Jesus never claimed to be God.

B. PUBLICATIONS QUOTED

Page 12. - Evolution of Trinitarianism, L.L. Paine, p.4

The Old Testament is strictly monotheistic. God is a single personal being. The idea that a trinity is to be found there is utterly without foundation.

COMMENT

This quote is accurate but further on we read,

"... the fourth gospel at once goes back from Christ’s human birth into the eternity of the divine existence and out of God himself by a divine incarnation makes Christ proceed; and this divine nature of Christ, as the eternal Logos of God, is the keynote of the whole Gospel. . the (logos) of God, God of God, derived indeed, but essentially divine". - pp.342/3.

Page 16. - Greek & English Lexicon of the New Testament, E. Robinson, p.508

Only born, only begotten, i.e. an only child... In John’s writings spoken only of o logos, the only begotten Son of God in the highest sense, as alone knowing and revealing the essence of the father.

Page 16. - Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by Gerhard Kittel, p.738

(Mo-no-ge-nes) means ‘of sole descent’ i.e. without brothers or sisters.

COMMENT

The above quote is taken from the section headed usage outside the New Testament. To use this publication honestly the WBTS should quote usage inside the New Testament, as we do below.

In Jn. the Lord is always the Son. Because He alone was God’s Son before the foundation of the world, because the whole love of the Father is for Him alone, because he alone is one with God, because the title God may be ascribed to Him alone, He is the only - begotten Son of God.

Page 16. - Bulletin of John Rylands Library, Vol.50, Spring 1968, No.2, pp.241-261

Yet be that as it may, the fact has to be faced that New Testament research over, say, the last thirty or forty years has been leading an increasing number of reputable New Testament scholars to the conclusion that Jesus himself may not have claimed any of the christological titles which the Gospels ascribe to him, not even the functional designation ‘Christ’, and certainly never believed himself to be God... When therefore, they assigned (Jesus) such honorific titles as Christ, Son of Man, Son of God, and Lord, these were ways of saying not that he was God, but that he did God’s work. - p.251.

C. COMMENTS ON WATCHTOWER ARGUMENT

They make some very strong claims but as we have seen from the few quotes above, they are not always borne out when investigated fully. Under the ADDED MATERIAL heading, we are listing and answering some of the Scriptures mentioned in this section.

D. ADDED MATERIAL

On p.13 the WBTS says,

"That is why nowhere in the Bible is anyone but Jehovah called Almighty. Otherwise, it voids the meaning of the word ‘almighty.’"

However, we only have to read carefully Revelation 1:8 - Jehovah is the Alpha & Omega, the Almighty. Revelation 22:12 & 13 - the one who is coming [Jesus] is the Alpha & Omega and therefore the Almighty. The Alpha & Omega is also the first and the last. Revelation 1:17 & 18 - the first and the last is Jesus because He is the one who was dead and now alive. The first and the last = the Alpha & Omega = the Almighty. Jesus is called by the name Almighty.

On the same page under the sub heading, “Not a Plural God,” the WBTS begin to try to discredit the doctrine of the Trinity by claiming that the fact that “elohim” is plural does not signify more than one person of the Trinity. This by itself is true. However, it also does not deny the understanding of the Christian Trinity either but it does give problems to the WBTS.

The Trinity states that God is one and therefore starting with this fact is not a problem. It also shows though that there are three persons in the Trinity therefore allowing for more than one in the Godhead. However, if the WBTS, as they do, make much of the fact that God is One and One alone, then when they say that Jesus is a lesser God they are the ones who are bringing in a Pagan doctrine to the Biblical revelation.

Several verses are also mentioned in this section, which seek to prove that Jesus is a separate creation from God.

Colossians 1:15 - A Witness reads this verse as Christ is the first one of creation to be born; however it does not say that. If we read verses 15-18, without the notorious “other” that the WBTS have added 4 times, without any justification from the Greek, it is self-evident what these verses mean. Jesus created all things, in the heavens and on earth; He created all authorities and powers; He is before all things; all things hold together in Him; and He is to have first-place in everything. This last phrase clearly sums up that the “first-born” of all creation is to be seen in the sense of the first-born in the OT usage, the Son that was pre-eminent over all.

Revelation 3:14 - once again the WBTS have mistranslated this verse. If you look at the K.I.T., you will see that the literal Greek is “of God” but the NWT is “by God.” When did the Greek change? Added to this we must understand what the Greek word ‘arche’ really means. The WBTS do give it one of its possible meanings; “beginning” but it does not means the first to be begun but the one who is over all the beginning, i.e. “the ruler” or “the source.” So instead of this verse meaning that Jesus is the first to be created it actually means He is the source of all of God’s creation.

Proverbs 8:22 - The Witnesses make this verse say that Jesus is Wisdom and that Jehovah created Jesus at the beginning. However, when you check the Hebrew word used here with the rest of the Old Testament it is never used of created. Secondly, v23 says, “from everlasting I was established” [NASB]. The Hebrew word for everlasting is also used in other places of Jehovah God which the WBTS readily take as showing He had no beginning. The same must be said of Wisdom here. The more correct translation and understanding of verse 22 is that Jehovah possessed wisdom right at the beginning and He has never been without it.

The next two arguments, “Could God Be Tempted,” p.14 and “How much was the Ransom,” p.15, show, as others will later, a lack of understanding as Jesus being both God and man. He could say and experience things as a man but that did not mean to say He was not God.

Only Begotten Son. The WBTS try to make this fit their understanding of Jesus being created. However, the fact is this title more than any other shows that Jesus is God. If Jesus is created He cannot be begotten they are two different actions. In addition, the very life of the one doing the begetting is found in the one begotten. The life of Jehovah is God and that is the life that is begotten into the Son. Hebrews 1:3 helps here too, especially if you read the literal Greek from the KIT. It is not talking about a mirror image but it is talking that out of the person of Jesus the very being of Jehovah shone. Jesus is the exact representation of Jehovah. Does Jehovah look like Jesus? No. It is the inward being of God that was within Jesus and shone out even through His manhood.

The WBTS claim that God is clearly superior to Jesus because Jesus submitted Himself to the Father does not mean He is lesser.

1 Corinthians 15:27, 28 simply says He will submit Himself. What does submit mean? Other uses of the very same word in Ephesians 5 and Luke 2 show that submission does not mean you are lesser or different. It clearly shows that people with the same life can be in submission one to another because this is God’s order. There is order in the family, there is order in the church and there is order in the Godhead.

Finally, in this section the WBTS say that Jesus never claimed to be God. Nevertheless, in both what He said and what He did not say he claimed to be God.

Very clearly in John 20:28, where Thomas calls Jesus, “ho theos”, which according to the WBTS is only used of Jehovah God. Whatever various arguments the Jehovah’s Witness seeks to bring here, in the end the facts are indisputable. Thomas calls Jesus, God, and He accepts that title as true. Not only that but He goes on to commend all those that did not see Him yet believe; believe what? That He is God!

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