This is the third in a series of columns addressing Jehovah’s Witnesses and their understanding of Jesus.
Previously, we saw how the Watch Tower has effectively scrubbed the deity of Christ from its official version of Scripture, the New World Translation (NWT).
If Jehovah’s Witnesses are leery of using any other translation, what hope exists for them to find the real Jesus in the NWT? Have any passages survived the Watch Tower’s theological sanitizing, so we may point our Witness friends to an eternal and divine Jesus who took on flesh to save us from our sins?
Fortunately, the answer is yes. We may begin by raising sincere questions and seeking answers in the New World Translation.
This is the second in a series of columns addressing Jehovah’s Witnesses and their understanding of Jesus.
Previously, we looked at how the New World Translation – the Bible Jehovah’s Witnesses use – offers a clear example of what happens when you start with doctrine instead of Scripture. Rather than align its teachings with Scripture, the Watch Tower generated an entirely new translation of the Bible, one that attempts to strip the deity of Christ from its pages.
Here are a few examples:
Jesus is “a god”
This verse in the New World Translation (NWT) 2013 reads: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god” (emphasis added). The Watch Tower goes to great lengths to explain why this is an accurate rendering of the Greek, citing grammatical rules and misquoting Greek scholars to support its belief that the Word is “godlike, divine, a god,” but not coequal and coeternal with the Father.
In truth, as the late dean of Talbot Theological Seminary, Charles L. Feinberg, noted, “I can assure you that the rendering which the Jehovah’s Witnesses give John 1:1 is not held by any reputable Greek scholar.”
Compare the King James Version (KJV): “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The New American Standard Bible (NASB), English Standard Version (ESV), and Christian Standard Bible (CSB) read exactly the same.
This is the first in a series of columns addressing Jehovah’s Witnesses and their understanding of Jesus.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have a high regard for Scripture. They believe the Bible is the Word of God. They base their beliefs and practices on it. And they prove themselves adept at using select Bible passages to weave convincing arguments for their unique doctrines – particularly doctrines that place the Watch Tower outside the margins of historic Christianity. These include a denial of the Trinity, the belief in Jesus as a created being, and the depiction of the “holy spirit” as an impersonal force.
Jehovah’s Witnesses display a commendable fervor for sharing the Bible, amassing millions of hours each year in door-to-door “publishing” across 240 nations. So, why do they reject basic Christian doctrines the church has embraced since the days of the apostles – most notably, the deity of Christ?
For starters, it’s because Watch Tower forefather Charles Taze Russell and his successors rejected certain biblical teachings that conflicted with their human reasoning. Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that Christianity fell into general apostasy under Emperor Constantine in the fourth century A.D. To restore pure worship, Jehovah appointed Russell to provide spiritual manna for His true worshipers.
This so-called heavenly bread featured, among other things, a denial of the deity both of the Son and Holy Spirit. The July 1882 issue of Zion’s Watch Tower said, “Our readers are aware that while we believe in Jehovah and Jesus, and the holy spirit, we reject as totally unscriptural, the teaching that these are three Gods in one person or, as some put it, one God in three persons.”
Russell later wrote, “The clergy’s God is plainly not Jehovah but the ancient deity, hoary with the iniquity of the ages – Baal, the Devil Himself.”
This is the second in a two-part series on the personhood and deity of the Holy Spirit.
In the previous column, we examined the biblical evidence for the personhood of the Holy Spirit; that is, the Spirit is a He, not an it. Once the Spirit’s personality is established, His deity is a biblically faithful next step.
For starters, the Spirit is active in creation (Gen. 1:2; Ps. 104:30), omniscient (1 Cor. 2:10-11), and omnipresent (Ps. 139:7) – qualities that establish Him as co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Son.
What’s more, the Spirit shares the divine name with the other members of the triune Godhead (Matt. 28:19).
Perhaps the most-cited passage that illustrates both the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit is found in Acts 5. After Ananias and Sapphira fraudulently claim to have given the full proceeds of a land sale to the church, Peter confronts Ananias.
“Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the proceeds of the land?” Peter asks. “Wasn’t it yours while you possessed it? And after it was sold, wasn’t it at your disposal? Why is it that you planned this thing in your heart? You have not lied to people but to God” (vv. 3-4).
To whom did Ananias lie: the Holy Spirit, or God? The answer, of course, is that he lied to both. To lie to the Holy Spirit is to lie to God since the Spirit occupies an equal position in the Trinity with the Father and Son.
1 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables:
2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.
3 He sent out his slaves to summon those invited to the banquet, but they didn’t want to come.
4 Again, he sent out other slaves, and said, ‘Tell those who are invited: Look, I’ve prepared my dinner; my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet. ’
5 But they paid no attention and went away, one to his own farm, another to his business.
6 And the others seized his slaves, treated them outrageously and killed them.
7 The king was enraged, so he sent out his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned down their city.
8 Then he told his slaves, ‘The banquet is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy.
9 Therefore, go to where the roads exit the city and invite everyone you find to the banquet.’
10 So those slaves went out on the roads and gathered everyone they found, both evil and good. The wedding banquet was filled with guests.
11 But when the king came in to view the guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed for a wedding.
12 So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding clothes?’ The man was speechless.
13 Then the king told the attendants, ‘Tie him up hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
14 For many are invited, but few are chosen.”
(A similar parable is found in Luke 14:16-24.)
Jesus has made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem and cleansed the Temple complex, driving out those who are buying and selling. He has received the praise of children and cursed the barren fig tree. He has answered the Pharisees’ challenges to His authority and provided the parables of the two sons and the vineyard owner to illustrate the Jewish leaders’ hardness of heart. Stung by Jesus’ rebuke, they look for a way to arrest Him.
Now, as chapter 22 begins and Jesus’ crucifixion draws near, He remains in the Temple in the presence of the Pharisees and tells the parable of the wedding banquet.