In this study Sam Shamoun examines the biblical teaching of monotheism particularly in relation to Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, who attack the doctrine of the Trinity today. After examining all the relevant passages in determining the precise biblical manner in which the term God is used, we are still left to answer in just what sense is Jesus called God? The biblical evidence leaves us with just three possibilities, namely Jesus is the true God, a false god, or god in a figurative sense.
JESUS: WHAT KIND OF GOD IS HE?
After examining all the relevant passages in determining the precise biblical manner in which the term God is used, we are still left to answer in just what sense is Jesus called God? The biblical evidence leaves us with just three possibilities, namely Jesus is the true God, a false god, or god in a figurative sense.
Both JWs and Trinitarians agree that Jesus is neither a false god nor is he god simply in a figurative sense. The only category left is that of true gods, and yet JWs cannot possibly embrace this fact. This is due to what we had noted earlier that to JWs Jesus is not the true God Jehovah, but Jehovah’s first-created Son, Michael. That is why JWs like Stafford must argue for another class of gods that are neither true or false, but derivative copies of the true; allowing for Jesus to be Jehovah’s premiere copy and image in relation to other derivative images.
It is our understanding that the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is not a lesser god but the true God, Jehovah. The biblical data also teaches that there are more than one person who are addressed as the one true God, namely the Father and the Holy Spirit. (Cf. John 17:3; Acts 5:3, 4) Yet, they are not three Gods but only one true God. (Cf. Deuteronomy 6:4; 1 Corinthians 8:4; Galatians 3:20)
It is precisely these biblical factors that drove the early Church to formulate its belief that God is one infinite personal Being, and that there are three Persons who make up the personality of the one true God.
This being the case, we would expect to find in the Bible qualities and titles of Jehovah applied to Jesus. Qualities such as immutability, eternality, creatorship should be true of Jesus if indeed the Bible teaches that Christ is truly God. We would also expect to find verses where Jesus is clearly referred to as God, as well as receiving the worship due only to God. If all these factors are present within the inspired writings, we must therefore come to the conclusion that Jesus is Jehovah.
“In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” Psalm 102: 25-27 NIV
“But about the Son he says…. ‘In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.’” Hebrews 1:8, 10-12 NIV
The astonishing fact about this passage is that the author not only attributes an Old Testament passage of Jehovah to Jesus, but ascribes to Christ both the very same divine function of creation and quality of immutability.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 NIV
“… from everlasting (Olam) to everlasting (Olam) you are God.” Psalm 90:2
“Art thou not from everlasting (Olam), O LORD my God, mine Holy One? we shall not die…” Habakkuk 1:12 KJV
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from everlasting (Olam). Micah 5:2 (Cf. Matthew 2:1-6)
“In the beginning was (en) the Word, and the Word was with God (ton theon, “the God”), and the Word was God (theos, “God”)… The Word became (egeneto) flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1, 14
The Greek phrase en is the imperfect tense of the verb eimi, denoting continuous past action or existence. John is affirming that Jesus as the Word was already existing before the creation of time, since time itself is created. This is brought out more clearly in John 1:3:
“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.” NIV
Seeing that time would fall under the category of “things” is a clear indication that time itself is part of that which came to exist through Christ. This point is affirmed elsewhere in the NT:
“in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (aionas, lit. the ages).” Hebrews 1:2
According to the Lexical Aids to the New Testament, compiled and edited by Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D., The Greek word aionas is derived from:
165. Aion; age, refers to an age or time in contr. to kosmos (2889), referring to people or space. Derived from aei (104), always, and on, being. Denotes duration or continuance of time, but with great variety. (1) Both in the sing. or pl. it signifies eternity whether past or to come (Mt. 6:13; Mk. 3:29; Lk. 1:55; Jn. 4:14; 6:51; Acts 15:18; Eph. 3:11, etc.); for ages, of ages (Rev. 1:6,18; 5:14; 10:6; 14:11; 15:7; 20:10). (2) The duration of this world (Mt. 28:20; Jn. 9:32; Acts 3:21); since the beginning of the world (Mt. 13:39, etc.). (3) Pl. hoi aiones, the ages of the world (1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:26). (4) Ho aion houtos, this age, generation (Lk. 16:8; 20:34, cf. Mt. 13:22; 1 Cor. 1:20; 2:6; Gal. 1:4; Eph. 2:2; 1 Tim. 6:17; 11 Tim. 4:10; Tit. 2:12). (5) Ho aion ho erchomenos, the age, the coming one, meaning the next life (Mk. 10:30; Lk. 18:30, cf. Lk. 20:35) (6) An age or dispensation of providence (Mt. 24:3, cf. Mt. 12:32; 1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 1:2; 6:5; 9:26). (7) Aiones, ages, in Heb. 11:3 refers to the great occurrences which took place in the universe. Aion primarily has physical meaning (time) but also ethical. Signifies time, short or long in its unbroken duration, all of which exists in the world under conditions of time, ethically, the cause and current of this world's affairs. It has acquired, like kosmos (2889), an unfavorable meaning (Lk. 16:8; 20:34; Eph. 2:2; Gal. 1:4). (New American Standard Bible Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible [AMG Publishers; Chattanooga, TN 1990], p. 1801)
Strong's gives the following definitions:
ahee-ohn' Noun Masculine Definition
1.for ever, an unbroken age, perpetuity of time, eternity
2.the worlds, universe
3.period of time, age
NAS Word Usage – Total: 95 age 20, ages 6, ancient time 1, beginning of time 1, course 1, eternal 2, eternity 1, ever* 2, forever 27, forever and ever 20, forevermore 2, long ago 1, never* 1, old 1, time 1, world 7, worlds 1
Hence, a plausible interpretation of Hebrews 1:3 is that God created both the universe along with time through the agency of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The NT provides additional evidence for this understanding:
“Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ for the faith of God's elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness – a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time (pro chronon aionion), and at his appointed season he brought his word to light through the preaching entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior,” Titus 1:1-3 NIV
According to Titus 1:1-3 God had promised before the beginning of time that the elect would receive eternal life. This affirms that time was created. It also implies that there was more than one person existing in eternity. The making of a promise points to a subject and an object. There had to have been an object to God’s promise that the elect would be given eternal life. Paul identifies the object of God’s promise:
“who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time (pro chronon aionion), but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2 Timothy 1:9-10 NIV
Grimm-Thayer’s Greek Lexicon states:
“… without beginning: chronois aioniois, Rom. xvi 25; pros chronon aionion, 2 Tim. i. 9; Tit. i. 2…”
The fact that Christ appeared to usher in God’s eternal promise of eternal life and immortality implies his preexistence. The fact that God’s eternal promise also demands an object to receive such a promise implies that the Lord Jesus preceded time and is therefore eternal. John 1:3 also affirms that there is absolutely nothing that did not come into existence without the agency of Christ. This clearly refutes the JW attempt of positing the Lord Jesus within the category of creation. John explicitly places Jesus in the category of Creator.
In contrast to this, John uses the term egeneto in relation to the Word becoming flesh. This term is an aorist tense implying a point of origin. Thus, whereas the Word was always in existence he was not always flesh, but became man at a specific point in time.
That John’s whole point is to affirm Jesus’ eternal pre-existence is clearly seen in his first epistle:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched- this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.” 1 Jn. 1:1-2 NIV
Hence, in the apostle’s mind Jesus was not a lesser god created by Jehovah but the eternal God, sharing the same divine essence equally with the Father with whom he was. (Cf. John 1:14, 18)
A further illustration of the eternality of Christ Jesus is derived from the following:
“For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him and to whom Abraham apportioned a tenth from all things, is first of all, by translation, “King of Righteousness,” and is then also king of Salem, that is “King of Peace.” In being fatherless, motherless, without genealogy, having neither a beginning of days nor end of life, but having been made like (Gr.- aphomoiomenos) like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.” Hebrews 7:1-3 NWT
The author of Hebrews builds upon the mysterious qualities of Melchizedek and ties it in with Christ. (Cf. Genesis 14:17-20) Melchizedek is pictured as an eternal figure having no recorded birth, death or human descent.
< font size="3">These points have been deliberately omitted in order that Melchizedek would be made an Old Testament type of Christ. The Greek term aphomoiomenes comes from aphomoioo. According to the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,
Aphomoioo. This verb means “to copy”, rarely “to compare,” and in the passive “to be or
become like” or “make oneself out to be like.” The only NT instance is in Heb. 7:3, which says that Melchizedek “is like” the Son of God. The point may be that the Son of God is the prototype, or that the OT text is taken to be a Messianic prophecy, i.e., a sign that points forward to Christ. (Gerhard Kittel & Gerhard Friedrich ed., Abridged in one volume by Geoffrey W. Bromiley [Grand Rapids, Mi., Eerdmans, 1985], p. 684 emphasis ours)
Melchizedek typifies Jesus in that he is made to resemble the eternal aspect of Christ’s being, a mere shadow of the One who was to come. Jesus is the reality of what was only typified in Melchizedek. The point that Hebrews is establishing is that Jesus is an eternal being, having no beginning and ending, and continues on as an eternal priest.
The NIV Study Bible, compiled by the world’s leading biblical scholars, notes:
“… contrary to the practice elsewhere in the early chapters of Genesis, does not mention Melchizedek’s parentage and children, or his birth and death. That he was a real, historical figure is clear, but the author of Hebrews (in accordance with Jewish interpretation) uses the silence of Scripture about Melchizedek’s genealogy to portray him as a prefiguration of Christ. Melchizedek’s priesthood antiquates Christ’s eternal existence and his unending priesthood…”
W.E. Vine indicates,
“He was made ‘like unto the Son of God,’ and the similarity lay in this, that he had ‘neither beginning of days nor end of life.’ Accordingly it was as the Son of God that Christ was without beginning of days. His Sonship was therefore unoriginated and eternal.” (Vine, The Divine Sonship of Christ [rp. Minneapolis; Klock & Klock, 1984], pt. 2, pp. 16-17 emphasis ours)
George W. Zeller & Ronald Showers conclude:
“The strong testimony that this verse presents for the eternal Sonship of Christ must not be missed. The blessed Spirit of God guided the pen of Moses in such a way that the biography of Melchizedek says nothing about his parents or his birth or his age or his death. These deliberate omissions were for the purpose of presenting Melchizedek as a type of the Son of God… As the ‘Son of God’ He was without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life.’” (Zeller & Showers, The Eternal Sonship of Christ – A Timely Defense of this Vital Doctrine [Loizeux Brothers, Inc.; 1993 by George Zeller], p. 48 emphasis ours)
The final witness to the eternal nature of Christ includes:
“Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Timothy 1:15-17 NIV
The only referent within the context is the Lord Jesus Christ. The passage not only claims that Christ is both eternal and immortal but also calls the Lord Jesus the only God. Interestingly, the JW book Aid to Bible Understanding actually applies 1 Timothy 6:15-16 to the Lord Jesus:
JEHOVAH AND JESUS CHRIST
Jehovah is the “happy God” and his Son Jesus Christ is called &ldq
uo;the happy and only Potentate” (1 Tim. 1:11; 6:15)… (Ibid., p. 711)
Let us look at the manner in which the NWT renders 1 Timothy 6:15, also including vv. 13, 14 and 16 for the context:
“In the sight of God who preserves all things alive, and of Christ Jesus, who as a witness made the fine public declaration before Pontius Pilate, I give you orders that you observe the commandment in a spotless and irreprehensible way until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ. This [manifestation] the happy and only Potentate will show in its own appointed times, [he] the King of those who rule as kings and Lord of those who rule as lords, the one ALONE having immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom not one of men has seen or can see. To him be the honor and might everlasting. Amen.”
According to the Watchtower, it is the Lord Jesus who alone possesses immortality, who exists as the only Potentate or Ruler, being sovereign over all authorities and who also dwells in unapproachable light that no one can ever see. Either the JW must now deny the absolute sovereignty and immortality of the Father since it is Jesus alone who is sovereign and immortal. Or the JW must come to conclusion that the one true, eternal, immortal, invisible and supreme God of all creation exists in more than one person.
In light of the clear biblical witness to the eternal person of Christ the JW assertion that Jesus is the first of God’s creation cannot be sustained.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1
“You alone are Jehovah. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.” Nehemiah 9:6
“This is what Jehovah says- your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am Jehovah, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself.” Is. 44:24
“Through him all things were made. And without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.” Johnn 1:3-4 NIV
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created, things in heaven and on the earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and FOR him. He is BEFORE all things, and in him all things consist.” Colossians 1:15-16 NIV
“… but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of the Father and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” Hebrews 1:2-3 NIV
“Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.” Hebrews 3:3-4 NIV
The Old Testament clearly indicates Jehovah alone created all things, and yet in the New Testament it is Jesus who created all things for himself. This logically makes Jesus Jehovah God. Consider the following syllogism:
A. Jehovah alone created all things
B. Jesus created all things
C. Therefore, Jesus is Jehovah
Troubled by this fact, JWs attempt to weaken the validity of this conclusion by offering two primary responses. The first argument presented is the presumption that the term “firstborn” in Col. 1:15 actually means that Jesus is the first creation of Jehovah through whom he created everything else. This is why the JWs insert the word other in their translation, giving the impression that Jesus created “all (other) things.”
This interpretation cannot be sustained for the following reasons. Firstly, Jesus is said to be “before all things”, with all things being understood as all of creation. This becomes apparent when we realize that “all things” are categorized as all of that which Jesus created. If Jesus existed before all of creation, then by necessity he must be the eternal God since only God was in existence before anything ever came into being. Secondly, in relation to “firstborn,” the term in and of itself need not imply the first one created. Scripture also uses it to show preeminence and exalted status.
For example in Psalm 89:27 David is called God’s firstborn, being “the most exalted of the kings of the earth.” This in spite of the fact that David was the youngest of Jesse’s eight sons. Jeremiah 31:9 calls Ephraim the firstborn son of God when in reality Ephraim was Joseph’s second child, with Manasseh being the firstborn. (Cf. Genesis 47:14, 17-18)
Furthermore, in light of its Old Testament background, the firstborn received a double portion and was the heir of the estate. (Cf. Deuteronomy 21:15-17) Hence, Jesus is called the firstborn in relation to creation due primarily to his being the heir of all things belonging to the Father:
“… Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill and take his inheritance.’ So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.” Matthew 21:37-39 NIV
“All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.” John 16:15 NIV
“All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them” John 17:10 NIV
“But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe.” Hebrews 1:2 NIV
Hence, Jesus is called firstborn due to the fact that he is preeminent over all things and the heir of creation. Therefore, a legitimate way of paraphrasing the thought behind the phrase “firstborn of all creation”, is to say that Jesus is “the heir of all creation.” Colossians 1:15 has nothing to do with him being created, since the context clearly presents Jesus as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe.
The second argument relates to Isaiah 44:24's declaration that Jehovah alone created all things. Trying to establish the fact that Jesus as the created Wisdom of God in Proverbs 8:22-31 was the Agent through whom Jehovah made everything, Stafford reasons,
“Also, in Isaiah 44:24 Jehovah is revealing the absurdity of worshiping idols, as they are ‘all of them an unreality’ (Is. 44:9; see also verses 8-17), while He is the True God, the Creator, ‘who stretching out the heavens by myself, laying out the earth. Who was with me?’ (verse 24) This statement is not to be taken as contradictory to the teaching of Prov. 8:25-27: ‘Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth; before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. When he established the heavens, I was there (RSV, emphasis added) There was someone with God when He founded the earth, but not an idol god of the nations. Isaiah 44:24 does not in any way conflict with the biblical teaching that God’s ‘Wisdom,’ His Son, was with Him when He ‘stretched out the heavens.’ Why, even the angels were present at that time and ‘shouted in applause’! (Job 38:7) Jehovah alone created all things through the agency of the Logos, His ‘master worker.’” (Stafford, J.W.D., p. 172; bold emphasis ours)
Stafford is well aware that to say Jesus created the universe would contradict the clear statement of Isaiah that it was Jehovah by himself who made the heavens and earth; otherwise Stafford would be forced to admit that Jesus is Jehovah.
To avoid this, Stafford must argue that the verse is not denying that some other being was there to assist Jehovah in creation, but that no idols were there. Therefore, he must interpret the passage as saying that in relation to idols Jehovah was alone.
Unfortunately for Stafford, his reasoning cannot be sustained in light of Job 9:8-9:
“… who alone stretches out the heavens, and tramples down the waves of the sea; who makes the Bear, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south… “ NASB
Job echoes Isaiah without the context of idols, reaffirming that it is Jehovah alone who stretches out the heavens. Hence, we are still left with the fact that if Jehovah alone stretches out the universe, and yet creation is attributed to Jesus, Jesus must therefore be Jehovah. This also implies that Proverbs 8:22-31 cannot be referring to Jesus as God’s created Wisdom, as Stafford wrongly assumes, since Jesus is described as the eternal Creator.
In fact, Stafford personally and indirectly affirms that Jesus is the Creator God:
“God was addressing the Word when He said: ‘Let Us make in Our image.’ (Genesis 1:1, 26)” (J.W.D, p.165)
What Stafford does not tell his readers is that in light of the verse which immediately follows and Malachi 2:10, this proves that Jesus is Jehovah:
“So God created man in HIS OWN IMAGE, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Genesis 1:27 NIV
The plural pronouns “us” and “our” are equated with the image of the one God. This affirms that the Godhead which created man is multi-personal. If Jesus is not the true God, it could not be said that man was made in God’s personal image and likeness. Instead, man would have been made in the image of Jehovah and his junior partner, the archangel Michael (a.k.a. Jesus).
“Have we not all one Father? Did not ONE GOD create us?…” Malachi 2:10 NIV
The fact that one God created man reaffirms that the Father and His Word, through whom he made man, are both the one true God Jehovah. Jesus cannot be a lesser god created to be Jehovah’s agent in creation.
Stafford also assumes, albeit erroneously, that the Bible teaches that the angels were existing before God created the heavens and the earth. (see above) He sites Job 38:7 as proof:
“When the morning stars sang together, and the sons of God shouted for joy?” NASB
This he hopes will serve as further evidence that Isaiah had idols in mind, as opposed to Isaiah denying the existence of other beings alongside Jehovah during the creation of the universe.
Far from proving his point, the passage serves to discredit it. When read in context the verse is speaking of God fashioning the earth. No mention is made of God creating the heavens and the earth:
“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding, who set its measurements, since you know? Or who stretched the line on it? Or what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy?” Job 38:4-7 NASB
This interpretation is consistent with the Genesis account of creation. There we read that after God had created the heavens and the earth, he then turned to the earth in its pre-biotic state and began fashioning it for man to inhabit. (Cf. Genesis 1:1-3)
Presumably, the term “heavens” in Genesis would include both the physical and spiritual realms, not just to the physical universe. Hence, it is quite possible that the angels were brought into existence along with both the heavens and the earth in its pre-biotic state. From there, they witnessed the Triune God fashioning the earth for the crown of his creation, man.
Furthermore, Trinitarians do not deny the possibility of angels existing during the formation of the universe. The Trinitarian point is that Scripture ascribes creation to Jehovah alone, not that Jehovah was by himself when he alone created the universe.
In concluding this section, we must reiterate the point that the New Testament ascribes to Jesus the divine prerogative of the creation of ALL things, an ascription that equates him with Jehovah God.
For the previous section of Biblical Monotheism Examined Part 1 (Trinitarian or Henotheistic in nature) , click here.
Coming up next … THE TITLES OF JEHOVAH AND JESUS?
This article is taken from http://www.abrahamic-faith.com/Jehovah-Witness.html and is published with Permission.