Saturday, 10 January 2009

Should you believe in the Trinity - 7

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 publications.

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 7 - TRINITY PROOF TEXTS

A. MAIN WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS

As our heading suggests, here the WBTS seek to show that the Scriptures used to prove that there are three in one, that I and the Father are one, that Jesus is equal to God, that Jesus is the I Am, and that the Word was God, all mean something other than they appear to say.

B. PUBLICATIONS QUOTED

Page 23. - The New Catholic Encyclopaedia

The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is not taught in the Old Testament. In the New Testament the oldest evidence is in the Pauline epistles, especially 2 Cor.13:13 (verse 14 in some bibles), and 1 Cor.12:4-6. In the Gospels evidence of the Trinity is found explicitly only in the baptismal formula of Mt 28:19.

COMMENT

The WBTS quote the truth here and then spend the next few pages seeking to show it is not true.

Page 23. - Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol.X, p.552

The first class of texts taken by itself proves only that there are the three subjects named and that there is a difference between them; that the Father in certain respects differs from the Son, etc; but it does not prove, by itself, that all the three belong necessarily to the divine nature, and possess equal divine honor. In proof of this, the second class of texts must be addressed [the list of this second group is twice as long as the first group]... These texts prove (a) that the Son and the Holy Spirit, according to the doctrine of the New Testament, are divine, or belong to the one divine nature; and (b) that the three subjects are personal and equal.

Page 25. - The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, Ralph Martin, p.97
It is questionable, however, whether the sense of the verb [in Philippians 2:6] can glide from its real meaning of ‘seize, ’to snatch violently’ to that of ‘to hold fast’.

COMMENT

This quote taken from p.97 is exploring a number of possibilities about the verb. The honest thing for the WBTS to do would be to quote from the conclusion.

In His pre-existent state Christ already had as His possession the unique dignity of His place within the Godhead. It was a vantage-point from which he might have exploited His position and, by assertion of His right, have seized the glory and the honour of the acknowledgement of His office. - p.98.

Page 25. - The Expositor’s Greek Testament, p.437

We cannot find any passage where (harpa’zo) or any of its derivatives has the sense of ‘holding in possession’ ‘retaining’. It seems invariable to mean ‘seize’, ‘snatch violently’. Thus it is not permissible to glide from the true sense ‘grasp at’ into one which is totally different ‘hold fast’. Are we not obliged, then, to think of the tharpazol as something still future Observe how aptly this view fits the context. In ver.1O, which is the climax of the whole passage, we read that God gave Jesus Christ as a gift... the name above every name, i.e., the name (including position, dignity and authority) of [kyrios], Lord, the name which represents the O.T. Jehovah. But it is only as the result of His Incarnation, Atonement, Resurrection and Exaltation that He appears to men as an equality with God, that He is worshipped by them in the way which Jehovah is worshipped.

Page 26. - The New Testament, G.R. Noyes, 1869

John 8:58 From before Abraham was, I have been (footnote) I have been. Otherwise, I have been He. Otherwise, I am.

COMMENT

Even though Noyes was a Unitarian it is interesting to also note that he translates John 1:1, “... was God.”

Page 28. - Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, pp.317/8

In Jesus the personal reality of God is manifested in visible and tangible form. In the words of Jesus... the God of Israel (Gk. ho theos) is the Father of Jesus Christ. It is for this reason that the title ho theos, which now designates the Father as a personal reality, is not applied in the N.T. to Jesus Himself... This is a matter of usage and not of rule, and the noun is applied to Jesus a few times. Jn 1:1 should rigorously be translated ‘the word was with the God = the Father, and 'the word was a divine being.’ Thomas invokes Jesus with the titles which belong to the Father, ‘My Lord and my God’ (Jn 20:28). ‘The glory of our great God and Saviour’ which is to appear can be the glory of no other than Jesus (Tt 2:13). And the identity of Jesus and the Father is expressed clearly without the title in Jn 10:30, ‘I and the Father are one.’... It should be understood that the usage of ho theos touches the personal distinction of the father and the Son and not the divinity i.e., the divine sonship of Jesus Christ. - pp.317/8.

Page 28. - Bulletin of John Rylands Library, Vol.50, Spring 1968, No.2, pp.241-261

But let me give you another view. Karl Rahner, the eminent Roman Catholic theologian, considers that there are reliable applications of ‘theos’ to Christ in six texts (Romans ix.5F; John i.1, 18, xx.28; 1 John v.20; and Titus ii.13). Rahner however, immediately goes on to say that in none of these instances is ‘theos’ used in such a manner as to identify Jesus with him who elsewhere in the New Testament figures as ‘Ho Theos’ that is, the Supreme God.

C. COMMENTS ON WATCHTOWER ARGUMENT

Once again, a careful look at the evidence shows the case is far from proven. We answer some of the main Scriptures in the ADDED MATERIAL section.

D. ADDED MATERIAL

JOHN 5:18.

When He wanted to Jesus could speak in parables so no one could understand what He was really saying unless He explained it. Here though He was speaking plainly using words that He knew would be understood in a certain way by the Jews that were listening.
Notice firstly verse 16; here the Jews were persecuting Jesus because He was breaking the Sabbath laws. Then in verse 17, He calls God His Father. This is immediately followed in verse 18 by the Jews seeking to kill Jesus because now He was not only breaking the Sabbath but He was making Himself equal to God.

He knew that when He called God His Father, the Jews would not hear, “I am the first created being of my Father,” but “I am of the same substance as My Father, as He is God, so am I.” It was not as the Jehovah’s Witness would like to say that the unbelieving Jews simply thought Jesus claimed to be equal with God it was exactly what Jesus wanted them to hear. If Jesus said it, it must be true!

Other verses that give this same teaching and can be used here are Colossians 2:9 and Hebrews 1:1-3.

JOHN 10:30.

Here again the context shows what the Jews heard Jesus say. It was not a misunderstanding Jesus was claiming to be God. Added to this you can always go to John 20:28 where Thomas calls Jesus God. As Jesus did not rebuke Thomas in front of all the disciples - it was a true statement!

PHILIPPIANS 2:6.

This verse is explained by the book that the WBTS have already quoted, “The Expositor’s Greek Testament” see above. Jesus already had equality with God but He did not grasp at it to hold onto it but let go and came to earth to die for us. Having humbled Himself, God the Father then exalted God the Son. The Scripture indicates that it was not just back to the former position but now highly exalted and with a name that is above every other name and it’s that name that is on the lips of everyone wherever they are located.

JOHN 8:58.

For a detailed and scholarly look at this verse and John 1:1 following we would recommend Robert Bowman’s, “Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jesus Christ, and the Gospel of John.” However, we would just like to add here one or two comments.

Firstly in every passage in John’s Gospel, except this one, the Greek ego eimi is translated I Am. There is no way that treating the text in an honest fashion can you suddenly put this in the past tense. If you do this, then you would have to say, I have been the door and I have been the good shepherd etc. A look at the context again shows that the Jews were mad at Jesus because He was saying things that would make Him greater than Abraham or the prophets. They all died the Jews said but Jesus answered that by saying before Abraham was I am eternal. He was not saying I am greater than Abraham because I am a created spirit creature but because I am part of the eternal Godhead. If you look again at the Jews’ reaction in verse 59, you see again they knew exactly what Jesus was saying because they sought to stone Him, for claiming again that He was equal with God.

JOHN 1:1.

The fact that Jesus is called “theos” [God] without the definite article does not alter the fact that He was called “theos.” This means that He was either true God, false God or simply a man with the power of life or death [Judge in the OT]. He was not the latter and therefore he was either a true God or a false God. Which one Mr Witness? If false, we might as well all forget any hope of Salvation or if true then there are two true Gods. It should also be noticed that at times the Greek text reads “theos” without any definite article when referring to Jehovah God. We would not dream of saying at this point that Jehovah was “a god” and so why when there is all the evidence to the contrary do we say that Jesus is “a god”?

SECTION 8 - CONCLUSION - REJECT THE TRINITY

A. MAIN WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS

From the evidence presented in this booklet, it is obvious that the Trinity is dishonouring to God and should therefore be rejected.

B. PUBLICATIONS QUOTED

Page 30. - New Catholic Encyclopaedia

Those honoring me I shall honor” says God. (1 Samuel 2:30) Does it honor God to call anyone his equal? Does it honor him to call Mary “the mother of God” and the “Mediatrix”... between the Creator and His creatures.

COMMENT

It would be wrong to exalt a man or a woman to the position of God but it is not wrong to call Jesus God when so much of Scripture shows this to be the fact.

C. COMMENTS ON WATCHTOWER ARGUMENTS

We would say that a careful checking of both the Biblical and scholarly evidence clearly shows that the Trinity is of God and should be accepted in our hearts by God’s revelation.

D. ADDED MATERIAL

Nothing I believe needs to be added except to say that there are further books, tapes and videos available on this subject and many others from the address on the back cover and also online at www.reachouttrust.org.

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