Jehovah’s Witnesses have a disturbing take on the apostle Paul’s description of Jesus as the “firstborn over all creation.”
Consider how the Watch Tower renders Col. 1:15-17 in its New World Translation: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; because by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and on earth, the things visible and the things invisible, whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All other things have been created through him and for him. Also, he is before all other things, and by means of him all other things were made to exist …”
Note the unjustified insertion of the word “other” before “things” four times in the NWT.
The Watch Tower’s official website explains: “Jesus is Jehovah’s most precious Son — and for good reason. He is called ‘the firstborn of all creation,’ for he was God’s first creation. There is something else that makes this Son special. He is the ‘only-begotten Son.’ This means that Jesus is the only one directly created by God. Jesus is also the only one whom God used when He created all other things.”
To summarize, JWs believe Jesus is the first created being, known as Michael the archangel, who is sent to earth temporarily as a man, then recreated as an exalted angel after his death on a torture stake and subsequent annihilation as a human being.
But is this the proper way to understand Paul’s meaning of firstborn?
In a word, no.
This is the last in a three-part series on Jehovah’s Witnesses
Jehovah’s Witnesses regard The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures as “an accurate, easy-to-read translation of the Bible” (jw.org). What many don’t realize is that four of the five men on the translation committee producing the complete 1961 edition had no Hebrew or Greek training whatsoever.
The fifth, who claimed to know both languages, failed a simple Hebrew test while under oath in a Scottish court.
What all this means is that the Watch Tower’s official version of the Bible is “an incredibly biased translation,” writes Ron Rhodes in Reasoning from the Scriptures with Jehovah’s Witnesses.
British scholar H.H. Rowley calls it “a shining example of how the Bible should not be translated,” classifying the text as “an insult to the Word of God.”
Revisions in 1984 and 2013 have not improved the translation.
So, what’s wrong with the NWT? In a phrase, the translators consistently have sought to conform the text to Watch Tower theology, particularly with respect to the person and work of Christ.
A few examples should make this clear.
This is the second in a three-part series on Jehovah’s Witnesses
Our Jehovah’s Witness friends deny at least 10 key biblical doctrines. This is due in part to their reliance on The New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, which we discuss in the next column.
Note: The Baptist Faith and Message, available as a free download from sbc.net, features a more complete treatment of Christian doctrines and includes multiple Scripture references.
1. The Trinity. The Watch Tower says Jesus is a created being and the “holy spirit” is an impersonal force. “The obvious conclusion is, therefore, that Satan is the originator of the trinity doctrine” (Let God Be True).
The Bible tells us there is one true and living God who exists as three distinct, co-equal, co-eternal persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Lynn Wilder and her husband were quintessential Mormons.
Lynn had served for 8 years as a professor at Brigham Young University, the flagship school of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Their eldest sons had completed two-year missions assignments, and their daughter was demonstrating a strong faith in the LDS Church’s founder, Joseph Smith.
Then, as Lynn explains it, their world came crashing down. In 2006 their third son, Micah, was only three weeks from completing his two-year mission when he called to report that he was being sent home early in disgrace.
His sin: He read the New Testament and confessed to a roomful of missionaries that the Bible offered a different Jesus than the LDS Church — a Jesus of grace, not works. He professed belief in Jesus and confessed he had found a deep and genuine faith.
Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the deity of Christ and His bodily resurrection. These unbiblical views are nothing new; the apostles wrestled with them in the days following the ascension of Jesus, and the church invested much of the fourth century in the Arian controversy, which challenged the Trinitarian view of God.
But one of the more curious doctrines of the Watchtower is the view that Jesus died, not on a cross, but on a “torture stake.”
According to Watchtower publications, “no biblical evidence even intimates that Jesus died on a cross…. Jesus most likely was executed on an upright stake without any crossbeam.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) argue that the Greek word for cross – stauros – in classical Greek means an upright stake. Further, they teach that the cross is a pagan religious symbol adopted in the early centuries of the church after Satan took control of “Christendom.”
Therefore, JWs insist that their members reject the notion of Jesus’ death on a cross. They should not wear crosses as jewelry or display the symbols in their homes or places of worship.