reprinted from the book, Refuting Jehovah's Witnesses see catalog
Who Is He?
by Randall Watters
SON OF GOD
Jesus was often called "the Son of God," and made allusions to this title himself on occasion. The apostle Paul speaks of him as the Son of God who emptied himself of His glory and took upon Himself a human body along with its limitations in order to accomplish the salvation of man. Philippians 2:68 tells us about this surpassing and unfathomable love:
Although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Bible scholars tell us that this expression "Son of God" conveys Christ's inherent Deity, especially in view of the Pharisees' reaction to it (John 10:31-36; 19:7). However, did the apostles recognize him as "God in the flesh" (as modern scholars refer to him)?
From the record of Scripture it becomes clear that the disciples learned slowly in areas of faith and doctrine, until Pentecost. They were amazed that Jesus could perform miracles, even though Isaiah had prophesied such concerning the Messiah. (Matt. 8:17). They repeatedly did not discern his parables (Matt. 13:36). They failed to understand that Messiah must die for the people (Matt. 16:2128). Even after Jesus' resurrection, they erroneously thought he was restoring the Kingdom to Israel at that time (Acts 1:68). Though called the Son of God by his disciples, they did not fully recognize his identity.
It was after Pentecost that John said that he was by nature God (John 1:1). Paul could say that in Christ dwells all the fullness of the GODSHIP (Col. 2:9) in a body. Thomas called Jesus "the LORD of me and THE GOD (ho theos) of me (John 20:28; Greek text).
There are two important reasons why the full identity of Christ was concealed in the early years of his life. Alfred Edersheim comments on God's reasons:
Christ could not, in any true sense, have been subject to His parents, if they fully understood that he was Divine. . . . Such knowledge would have broken the bond of His humanity to ours, by severing that which bound Him as a child to His mother. We could not have become His brethren, had He not been truly the Virgin's Son. The mystery of the incarnation would have been needless and fruitless, had His humanity not been subject to all its right and ordinary conditions. And, applying the same principle more widely, we can thus, in some measure, understand why the mystery of His Divinity had to be kept while He was on earth. Had it been otherwise, the thought of His Divinity would have proved to be so all-absorbing, as to render impossible that of His humanity, with all its lessons. The Son of God Most High, whom they worshipped, could never have been the loving man, with whom they could hold such close converse. The bond which bound the Master to his disciples - the Son of Man to humanity would have been dissolved. His teaching as a man, the Incarnation, and the Tabernacling among men, in place of the former Old Testament Revelation from heaven, would have become wholly impossible. In short, . . . [one] element in our salvation would be taken away. (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Volume One, Book II, p. 192)
Then there were man's reasons. Primarily, it took time for the disciples to develop an awareness of Christ's nature. Harold O. J. Brown, in his book entitled Heresies, reveals how the Holy Spirit worked to develop an awareness of who Christ was to these early disciples:
If there was a development in Christian consciousness and the formulation of Christian teaching and of course there was the most significant psychological transformation occurred at the very beginning of the church, in the first half of the first century. The very earliest disciples of Christ encountered him first of all as a man like themselves. Only gradually did they become aware of his extraordinary attributes and come to understand that he was claiming to be one with God the Father. The first Christians experienced Jesus as a man whom they slowly came to recognize as the Messiah, and ultimately acknowledged, in the words of doubting Thomas, as Lord and God (John 20:28). For them, the humanity of Jesus was self-evident; his deity was their confession of faith.
. . . Later believers were almost invariably confronted first of all with his deity, and only slowly came to recognize that the Savior was also fully human, just as we are. Because they heard him proclaimed as Lord and God, it was the news of his full humanity that was rather shocking and in a sense unexpected. (Heresies p. 27)
Jesus was both man and Deity, possessing both natures simultaneously. His humanity is evident from the gospel accounts; but what manifestation of his Deity do we find?
CHRIST POSSESSED ALL THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD
Dr. Henry Clarence Thiessen says about Christ,
Divine attributes are ascribed to Him and manifested by Him. There are five distinctively divine attributes. These are eternity, omnipresence, omniscience, omnipotence, and immutability. Christ possesses all of these. He is eternal. He was not only before John (John 1:15), before Abraham (John 8:58), and before the world came into being (John 17:5, 24); but He is "the firstborn of every creature" (Col. 1:15), being in existence "in the beginning" (John 1:1; I John 1:1); and, in fact, "from the days of eternity" (Micah 5:2, marg.). And as to the future, He continues forever (Heb. 1:11, Isa. 9:6, Rev. 1:11 [KJV]). The Father's communication of life to Him is an eternal process (John 5:26; 1:4).
He is omnipresent and omniscient. He was in heaven while on earth (John 3:13, A.V., A.S.V.), and is on earth while He is in heaven (Matt. 18:20, 28:20). He fills all (Eph. 1:2,3). As for his Omniscience, we read that He knows all things (John 16:30; 21:17). He knew what was in man (John 2:24, 25). He saw Nathanael under the fig tree (John 1:49); He knew the history of the Samaritan woman (John 4:29), the thoughts of men (Luke 6:8, cf. 11:17), the time and manner of His exit out of this world (Matt. 16:21; John 12:33, 13:1), who would betray Him (John 6:66), the character and certain termination of the present age (Matt. 24:25), the Father (Matt. 11:27); and "in Him are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden" (Col. 2:3). In Mark 13:32 He is said to be ignorant of the day of His return. On the basis of this statement some would have us believe that He was ignorant on many other points also. But we must remember that while He had the attributes of deity, He had surrendered the independent exercise of them. He went to a fig tree, "if haply he might find anything thereon" (Mark 11:13); He marveled at their unbelief (Mark 6:6). All due to the fact that the Father did not allow Him to exercise His divine attributes in these instances. But He, no doubt, now knows the time of His coming.
He is omnipotent. Jesus says: "I am the Almighty" (Rev. 1:8), and, "The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father doing, for what things soever he doeth, these the Son also doeth in like manner" (John 5:19). He upholds all things with the word of His power (Heb. 1:3); all authority is given to Him (Matt. 28:18). He had power over demons (Mark 5:11-15), disease (Luke 4:38-41), death (Matt. 9:25; Luke 7:14,15; John 11:43,44), the elements (Matt. 8:26,27), nature (John 2:11, Matt. 21:19), and all things (Matt. 28:18; Rev. 1:8). If it be objected that Christ performed His miracles through the Spirit (Matt. 12:28), we reply that they are, nevertheless, frequently cited as proofs of his deity (John 5:36; 10:25,38; cf. 20:30,31).
He is also immutable (Heb. 13:8, 1:12). This is true of His plans, promises, and person. But this does not preclude the possibility of a variety of manifestations on His part, nor of a restriction of some of His instructions and purposes to particular ages and persons. (Lectures in Systematic Theology, pp. 139-140)
The inspired writers of the New Testament clearly recorded their God-given understanding for us to learn by. In John 1:1 we read plainly, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
The apostle John also writes in 1 John 5:20 "And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life."
In ISAIAH 43:11, Yahweh says, "There is no savior besides me." The apostle Peter was inspired to write about his savior in 2 PETER 1:1: "Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ."
In ISAIAH 44:8, Yahweh says, "Is there any God besides me, or is there any other Rock? I know of none." The apostle Paul writes of the Israelites and says, "All ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them, and the rock was Christ." (1 Cor. 10:4)
ISAIAH 40:3 (JB) says, "Prepare in the wilderness a way for Yahweh. Make a straight path for our God across the desert." The Bible writer, Matthew, quotes from this passage and says it is fulfilled in Jesus Christ in MATTHEW 3:3, him being the Lord.
The apostle Paul gives numerous references to the Deity (Godship) of Christ. ROMANS 9:5 says ". . . From whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever." At Col. 2:9, Paul refers to Christ being "God manifest in the flesh" when he says about Christ, "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form." (See also Col. 1:19.) Paul writes in HEBREWS 1:6, "And let all the angels of God worship Him." And in verse 8 of the same chapter it reads, "But of the Son He [Yahweh] says, `Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever.'" In verse 10 Paul quotes from PSALM 102:25, which applied to Yahweh, and applies it to Jesus Christ: "Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth," and "Thou art the same, and thy years will not come to an end."
These are truths not grasped by the carnal mind, even as Paul writes in 1 TIMOTHY 3:16 (JB), "Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is very deep indeed, `He was made visible in the flesh, attested by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed to the pagans, believed in by the world, taken up in glory.'"
On the next few pages are listed more texts regarding the identity and nature of Christ, with appropriate commentary:
For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on his shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
David L. Cooper tells us regarding Isaiah 9:6:
El Gibbor (translated as Mighty God) can signify God-Hero only, a hero who is infinitely exalted above all human heroes by the circumstance that He is God. This position is confirmed by Isaiah 10:21 which, with the preceding and following verses, I quote:
"And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and they that are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more lean upon him that smote them, but shall lean upon Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. For though thy people, Israel, be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them shall return: a destruction is determined, overflowing with righteousness. For a full end, and that determined, will the Lord, Jehovah of hosts, make in the midst of all the earth." Isa. 10:20-23
In this passage the God of Jacob, to whom the remnant shall return, is called the mighty God. This title is here evidently an echo of the words of the passage under consideration. Since it is interpreted in 10:21 as the title of the God of Jacob, it is certain that it has the same significance in this series of names. (David L. Cooper, Messianic Series, Parts 14, pp. 76-96)
And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, at shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? none is good, save one, that is, God.
The use of the expression "Good Master" (literally, "Good Teacher") was most remarkable and unusual. Even the most revered, the most respected, the most famous rabbis were never addressed thusly by their pupils. Contrary to the way we lightly use the word today - speaking of good women, good men, good boys and good girls - it was a title of deep reverence. And the emphasis in our Lord's reply was, "Why do you call me good?"
He was saying in effect, "You do not consider me God, but merely a man. Why do you use such a lofty title? Only God is good and you are not willing to call me God." If Jesus Christ is not God, he should not be called good; he is an impostor, a blasphemer, a liar, a fraud and a charlatan not worthy of anyone's respect. One could not make the claims he made and, if false, be a good man!
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
When the apostle John says, "the Word was God," he is not saying that Jesus is the Father; he is saying Christ possessed Deity. Even the non-trinitarian Bible translator William Barclay admits that the essence of John 1:1 is referring to the nature of Christ:
In a matter like this, we cannot do other than to go to the Greek, which is theos en ho logos. Theos is the Greek word for God, en for was, ho for the, logos for word. Now normally, except for special reasons, Greek nouns always have the definite article in front of them, and we can see at once here that theos the noun for God has not got the definite article in front of it. When a Greek noun has not got the article in front of it, it becomes rather a description than an identification, and has the character of an adjective than of a noun. We can see exactly the same in English. If I say, "James is the man," then I identify James with some definite man whom I have in mind; but if I say: "James is man", then I am simply describing James as human, and the word man has become a description and not an identification. If John had said ho theos en ho logos, using a definite article in front of both nouns, then he would have definitely identified the Logos with God, but because he has no definite article in front of theos it becomes a description, and more of an adjective than a noun. The translation then becomes, to put it rather clumsily, "The Word was in the same class as God, belonging to the same order of being as God." The only modern translator who fairly and squarely faced this problem is Kenneth Wuest, who has: "The Word was as to his essence essential deity." But it is here that the NEB has brilliantly solved the problem with the absolutely accurate rendering: "What God was the Word was." (Many Witnesses, One Lord, p.23, 24)
John is saying Christ possesses Deity along with the Father, because they are One (John 10:30) in substance and nature. All the fullness of Deity dwells in his body (Col. 2:9). He is the exact representation of the Father's being; something impossible for created beings (Heb. 1:3). (See also Appendix [John 1:1])
No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
Dr. Kenneth S. Wuest interprets this verse,
This combination of deity and humanity in one Person, Jesus of Nazareth, John speaks of again in the words: "Deity in its invisible essence no one has ever yet seen, God only begotten, the one who is constantly in the bosom of the Father, that One has fully explained God" (1:18). The words "God only begotten" refer to Jesus of Nazareth. He is God only begotten, proceeding by eternal generation as the Son of God from the Father in a birth that never took place because it always was. This one, John says, fully explained Deity. The Greek word translated "fully explained" means literally "to lead out." Jesus in the incarnation led Deity out from back of the curtain of its invisibility, showing the human race in and through a human life, what God was like. . . . In the incarnation, Jesus of Nazareth fully explained God so far as a human medium could explain the infinite, and human minds and hearts could receive that revelation. And He could do that only because He was God Himself. (Great Truths To Live By, p.30)
But He answered them, "My Father is working until now and I Myself am working."
For this cause the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but was also calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.
Jesus therefore answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner."
Like the Father, Jesus did not rest from work on the sabbath. He was the "firstborn over all creation," therefore not subject to the sabbath. Unlike men, he was Lord over the sabbath! This, along with Jesus' reference to MY Father,1 was blasphemous to the Jews, as he was suggesting that he possessed equality with God. This is exactly what they charged him with. Also, Albert Barnes remarks on verse 19,
The word is without limit-ALL that the Father does, the Son likewise does. This is as high an assertion as possible of His being equal with God. If one does all that another does or can do, then there is proof of equality. If the Son does all that the Father does, then, like Him, He must be almighty, omniscient, all-present, and infinite in every perfection; or, in other words, He must be God. (Barnes' Notes On The New Testament, one volume, p.289)
All men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.
Here we get the picture of the son of a royal magistrate, who is to be honored with the same honor as his eminent father. He will one day be the heir with equal authority and power as his father. He is equal in nature and substance with his father already; there is simply the distinction of headship and order that gives the father the crown. But the son is royalty just as much so as the father; of a different mold or caste than the common people by nature of his birth.
We can also see the similarity in the relationship between the Father and the Son in the Godhead. The Son is to be honored, worshiped, and considered as equal to his Father; yet recognizing the Father's headship. The Son is of a different nature than creatures or created beings, as he shares eternity with the Father. He is uncreated, and was always with the Father.
Albert Barnes remarks on John 5:23:
We honour God when we obey him, and worship him aright. We honour the Son when we esteem him to be as he is; when we have right views and feelings towards him. As he is declared to be God, (John i.1,) as he here says that he has power and authority equal with God, so we honour him when we regard him as such. The primitive Christians are described by Pliny, in a letter to the emperor Trajan, as meeting together to sing hymns to Christ as God. So we honour him aright when we regard him as possessed of wisdom, goodness, power, eternity, omniscience - equal with God. . . . Even as. To the same extent; in the same manner. Since the Son is to be honoured EVEN as the Father, it follows that he must be equal with the Father. To honour the Father must denote religious homage, or the rendering of that honour which is due to God; so to honour the Son must also denote religious homage. If our Savior here did not intend to teach that he ought to be worshipped, and to be esteemed as equal with God, it would be difficult to teach it by any language which we could use. . . . He that honoureth not the Son. He that does not believe on him, and render to him the homage which is his due as the equal of God. . . . Honoureth not the Father. (ibid., p.289)
JOHN 20:28, 29:
Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"
Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed."
Ryle observes on this passage:
The noble exclamation which bursts from the lips of Thomas, when convinced that the Lord had risen indeed,the noble exclamation, "My Lord and my God,"admits of only one meaning. It was a distinct testimony to our blessed Lord's divinity. It was a clear unmistakable declaration that Thomas believed Him, whom He saw and touched that day, to be not only man, but God.
The text before us is one of those which are justly quoted, as an unanswerable proof of the divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is called "God" in the presence of ten witnesses, and He accepts the language, and does not say one word to reprove the person who uses it. Unless a person is prepared to deny the inspiration of St. John's Gospel generally, or the genuineness and correctness of this text in particular, it is hard to see how the force of the sentence in favour of Christ's divinity can be evaded. (Ryle's Expository Thoughts On The Gospels, Vol. 4, p.679, 688)
Not only was Jesus addressed as "Lord," but he is given the supreme title of "God" by his own disciple, and Jesus does not rebuke him, but acknowledges this statement as fact (John 20:29). The Greek reads, "[Thomas] said to him, `The Lord of me and the God of me!'" This is the same expression given to Yahweh in Revelation 4:11: "Worthy you are, the Lord and the God of us, to receive the glory and the honor and the power. . . ." Thomas gives Jesus the same glory and honor as he would the Father (John 5:23).
For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form.
The word "fulness" is translated from the Greek pleroma. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology points out that in Col. 2:9 this phrase "must mean deity, Godhead, entirety, the sum total of divine attributes." (Vol. I, p. 740) All of the very nature of Yahweh God dwells in the BODY of Christ. This rules out his being of a lesser nature than the Father. A. T. Robertson says that "Paul here asserts that `all the pleroma of the Godhead,' not just certain aspects, dwells in Christ and in bodily form." (Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. IV, p. 491)
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 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. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.
Homer Kent translates this "the exact representation of his (God's) essence," then explains: "As the imprint of the die perfectly represents the original design, so in Christ there is the display for those who have eyes to see of God's very essence. In a similar assertion in Colossians 1:15, Christ is set forth as the timeless image (eikon) of God. Jesus Himself said, `He that hath seen me hath seen the Father' (John 14:9)." (The Epistle To The Hebrews: A Commentary, p. 37)
Expositor's conveys the following thought in reference to the Greek word apaugasma, translated in Heb. 1:3 as "the brightness of [God's] glory" (KJV):
[It] seems to mean, not rays of light streaming from a body in their connection with that body or as part of it, still less the reflection of these rays caused by their falling upon another body, but rather rays of light coming out from the original body and forming a similar light-body themselves. . . . In the Arian controversy this designation of the Son was appealed to as proving that He is eternally generated and exists not by an act of the Father's will but essentially. . . . As the sun cannot exist or a lamp burn without radiating light, so God is essentially Father and Son. (Expositor's Greek Testament, Heb. 1:3)
For this reason, the Nicene Creed declares Christ: "God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God."
And when he again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, "AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM." And of the angels He says, "WHO MAKES HIS ANGELS WINDS, AND HIS MINISTERS A FLAME OF FIRE." But of the Son He says, "THY THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER, AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM. . . . THOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING DIDST LAY THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH. . . ."
Christ is the "firstborn (Greek: prototokos) of all creation," the head over all, just as David spoke of God's promise to him,
I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. (Ps. 89:27)
Whether the Greek prototokos means "first one born" or "the first in authority" is determined from the context of the discussion. In Ps. 89:27 the meaning is obviously the latter, as in Col. 1:15. Prototokos is also applied to Christ in Romans 8:29, where he is called the "firstborn among many brethren" and also in Col. 1:18, "so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything." The latter clearly identifies the way the word should be understood, both in Col. 1:15 and Heb. 1:6. Beyond any doubt, Christ is continually spoken of as being preeminent or first in all things.
As for Christ being worshiped by the angels, this is a theme repeated in Revelation 5:1214, as he is there worshiped alongside the Father by all of creation. John 5:23 tells us to honor Jesus equally with the Father. Greek scholar A.T. Robertson tells us that the Greek proskunesatosan is the "imperative first aorist active third plural of proskuneo, here in the full sense of worship, not mere reverence or courtesy." (Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. V, p. 338)
Verse eight is a quotation from Psalm 45:6, which says, "Your throne, Oh God, is forever and ever." By placing this statement in the mouth of the Father, the Father, in effect, declares the Son God. Though some render this passage as "God is your throne forever," the former translation is more consistent with verse ten, which places this time the words of Psalm 102:2628 in the mouth of the Father in declaring the Son Lord.
We find then, according to these passages,  Christ is worshiped by angels as very God (Luke 4:8),  that the Father himself acknowledges Jesus as both God and Lord, and  the context in which these truths are revealed confirms each point by definition, for the writer of Hebrews is building a case for Christ being "greater than the angels."
1 JOHN 5:20:
And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
This text in its natural reading appears to call Jesus Christ "the true God and eternal life." Jehovah's Witnesses and similarly Unitarian groups object to this rendering, even though they are always at a loss to offer an acceptable alternative translation. Instead, they usually choose to say that "the true God" is referring to the Father; although this is not the most natural reading. Scholar Albert Barnes says:
There has been much difference of opinion in regards to this important passage; whether it refers to the Lord Jesus Christ, the immediate antecedent, or to a more remote antecedent - referring to God, as such. The question is of importance in its bearing on the doctrine of the divinity of the Saviour; for if it refers to him, it furnishes an unequivocal declaration that he is Divine. The question is, whether John meant that it should be referred to him? Without going into an extended examination of the passage, the following considerations seem to me to make it morally certain that by the phrase "this is the true God," etc., he did refer to the Lord Jesus Christ. (1.) The grammatical construction favors it. Christ is the immediate antecedent of the pronoun this. This would be regarded as the obvious and certain construction so far as the grammar is concerned, unless there were something in the thing affirmed which led us to seek some more remote and less obvious antecedent. No doubt would have been ever entertained on this point, if it had not been for the reluctance to admit that the Lord Jesus is the true God. (Barnes' Notes On The New Testament, one volume, p. 1497)
JW: "JESUS IS a god, A LESSER BEING THAN JEHOVAH"
Occasionally, JWs and Mormons will cite 1 Cor. 8:5, "indeed there are many gods and many lords," to prove there is more than one true god (JWs say that Jesus is a god). But notice from verse four of this passage that the subject is idols. The apostle first shows that idols have no real existence as gods, and "that there is no God but one" (v. 4). Then he continues:
For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we are through Him. (v. 5,6)
JWs also cite John 10:34 to prove that even men can be called gods, and so when Jesus is called God it is not unusual. John 10:33-36 reads:
The Jews answered him, saying, "For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God."
Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, `I said, Ye are gods?' If he then called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the Scripture cannot be broken; Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?"
In this passage, Jesus appeals to Psalms 82:16 where Yahweh calls the judges "gods." This is one of only three occurrences in the OT where servants of Yahweh are called "gods" by God himself. The other occurrences are in Exodus 7:1 and 4:16. This represents a third, very limited use of the word god as applied to a person. Thus we have three possible definitions of the word "god" in the Bible. First is the true God Yahweh, who alone possesses true Deity. A Supreme Being must be omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, and existing eternally from everlasting to everlasting; or he does not fit the title of God. Yahweh says in Isa. 43:10 that there was no god formed before him and none were to be made after him. Evidently he means none with the true nature (Deity) of God would ever exist beside him.
Secondly, there are false gods, those who make themselves out to be gods and creations of man who are titled as gods. Yahweh says they are really not gods at all (1 Cor. 8:6).
Thirdly, the three occasions (four including John 10:34 which quotes from the 3rd occurrence) where Moses and the judges are called gods. However, neither Moses nor the judges of Israel possessed the nature of a Supreme Being. They did not have the essence or nature of God. They were certainly not to be worshiped, nor were they to share the glory of Yahweh. Isa. 42:8 says, "I am Jehovah, that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise unto graven images." (AS)
When we look at Jesus Christ, we must ask, in the light of John 1:1 (the WORD was GOD), which kind of God is he? First, he is not a false god. That leaves two other categories. To settle the matter, we consider these things: Greek scholars agree that the use of God in John 1:1 as applied to Jesus refers to him as having the very nature of his Father, in other words, possessing Godship. This agrees with Hebrews 1:3, which tells us that Christ was the "radiance of the Father's glory" and "the exact representation of his very Being." Col. 2:9 supports this by saying that in Him (Christ) all the fullness of the Godship (Deity) dwells in a human body. John 5:23 says that we are to honor the Son the same way we honor the Father. Rev. 5:13,14 says that all the creatures of heaven bow down and worship the Father and the Son. John 20:28 identifies Jesus as the God (Greek: ho theos). Heb. 1:612 reveals that Jesus is NOT an angel, and is even called God and Lord by the Father! Isa. 9:6 identifies Jesus as El Gibbor, the Hero God (used only of Yahweh - see Isa. 10:21). Jews to this day interpret this as only applying to Yahweh. Although Isa. 44:6 identifies Yahweh as the First and the Last alone in the universe (and the only God), Rev. 1:17 and 22:13 says that Jesus is the First and the Last. Col. 1:19 says that all the fullness of God dwells in him. 1 Pet. 3:14,15 quotes from the OT "sanctify Yahweh as Lord" (Isa. 8:12,13) and reinterprets it as "sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts." We could go on, but the point is made: Jesus shares the title, majesty and worship of Almighty God. For him, the first definition of "God" must apply.
Monotheists believe in the existence of only one God. If you believe in the existence of more than one true God, you are a polytheist. No creature, not even Satan, is a god by nature. There is only one true God by nature, existing eternally, omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal, and deserving of worship by the creation. All others are false gods, "For I am God, and there is no other" (Isa. 45:22).
Arius, a bishop in the church in the fourth century A.D. is the champion of the doctrine that Christ is a created being who was elevated to sit beside the Father in heaven. Arius believed that Christ was God, but in a lesser sense, i.e., a god. Yet Arius agreed that we are to worship Christ, although in his mind he was a secondary god, a created being. For advocating such a doctrine, Arius was accused of being a polytheist, and his doctrine was rejected by the Christian church.
How could Jesus be both God and man? How could he be God at all if he prayed to the Father, stated that there were things that even he didn't know but only the Father, and even called the Father "his God"?
The answer to these difficulties comes through the realization that Christ emptied himself of his glory to become a human (Phil. 2:9). It is like the president of a company that desires his own son to know the company well enough to run it, so he suggests the son become a janitor in the company for a time, to get the feel of it. While he is a janitor, he sets aside his active title to future ownership of the company; at first the employees may not even know who he is (it's better that way). He is fully a janitor, yet fully co-owner of the company. But he holds his real power in check for a time, in order to accomplish a special work. During the time of his humiliation, he is fully subject to the other employees and can even be ridiculed and shoved around. Yet by the very nature of his birthright he could destroy the future of anyone in the company if he so chose. The employees, however, would find that hard to believe, as they recognize him only as a janitor.
Such is a crude illustration of the incarnation of Christ. Though possessing Deity and bearing the very nature and image of his Father, he laid his rights aside; his position, his powers, etc. to relate to man fully and to carry out his work of salvation. Yet he was still God; just in human flesh, and voluntarily limited.
JW: STEPHEN WASN'T PRAYING TO JESUS ALONE IN ACTS 7:59.
It's interesting how the WT has dealt with this occasion of Stephen's prayer to Jesus, even going as far as to purposely retranslate it to their advantage. They render Acts 7:59,60:
And they went on casting stones at Stephen as he made appeal and said: "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then, bending his knees, he cried out with a strong voice: "Jehovah, do not charge this sin against them." And after saying this he fell asleep [in death]. (NWT)
Before examining their statements on this passage, note first that the NWT has injected the word Jehovah where the Westcott and Hort Greek text (and all other manuscripts) has the Greek word kurios (Lord). Stephen is talking to Jesus through the entire verse. Without a doubt the context demands that verse 60 be translated as Lord in reference to Jesus. With this blatant error of the WT in mind, let us examine their statement on this passage. It is taken from a 1959 article:
Does Stephen's prayer to Jesus, as found in Acts 7:59, show that he understood Jesus to be Jehovah? W.R., U.S.A.
The prayer offered by Stephen when he was being martyred is recorded at Acts 7:59,60, which says: "And they went on casting stones at Stephen as he made appeal and said: `Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.' Then, bending his knees, he cried out with a strong voice: `Jehovah, do not charge this sin against them.' And after saying this he fell asleep in death." Rather than indicating that Stephen understood both Jesus and Jehovah to be the same person, his prayer shows that he knew they were not, because he differentiates between the two. His request to Jesus he does not address merely to the Lord, but to the Lord Jesus, thus doing away with all ambiguity. (WT, Feb. 1, 1959, p. 96)
Note the method of interpretation used by the WT. First, they distort the identity of who Stephen is speaking to by changing verse 60 from "Lord" to "Jehovah" with absolutely no justification. Then they comment on the "fact" that two different persons are spoken of in verses 59, 60 and use their own distorted reasoning to "prove" that Jesus alone wasn't being supplicated in prayer! However, note that they admit that Jesus is the one being prayed to in verse 59. Both the NWT Reference Bible (1984) and the revised Kingdom Interlinear (1985) mention that Stephen is praying to Jesus in their footnotes to Acts 7:59! Yet in actual practice, JWs are not allowed to pray to Jesus.
What is especially interesting about Stephen's prayer in Acts 7:59,60 is that Stephen is repeating the very same prayer that Jesus offered up at his death in Luke 23:34,46! Jesus prayed to the Father, but Stephen prayed to Jesus! Since both Luke and Acts were written by Luke, he undoubtedly wants us to see the parallel.
JW: THE FATHER IS GREATER THAN CHRIST, BECAUSE CHRIST IS IN SUBJECTION TO HIM.
Subjection is not synonymous with nature. Persons who are equal in nature can still be subject to a headship arrangement, such as with the case of husband and wife. Additionally it must be pointed out that most all references that make Christ out as dependent on the Father should be understood as part of his voluntary kenosis, or emptying out, in order to become a man. He became an EXAMPLE for us to follow, and he continually pointed us in the right attitude towards the Father, including how to pray, etc. Yet he himself was later prayed to (Acts 2:21 [except NWT] and Acts 7:59).
In one passage, however, the continued subjection of Christ is mentioned, at least in his role towards man as mediator. 1 Corinthians 15:2028 speaks about a time in the distant future, after the resurrection and the mediating work of Christ is fully accomplished, when Christ "delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when he has abolished all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet." Apparently certain aspects of Christ's work will have been fully accomplished, and while his kingship will not end (since it is spoken of as eternal elsewhere), part of its goal will be complete. Verse 27 shows that all things have been subjected to Christ by the Father, but the Father has obviously not put himself under subjection to the Son. This would be reversing the order so common in other texts.
JW: CHRIST HAD A BEGINNING, THEREFORE COULD NOT BE EQUAL TO GOD.
In the Reasoning From The Scriptures book (p.408), the WT attempts to prove the inferiority of Christ using Col. 1:15 and Rev. 3:14. First we will discuss Col. 1:15, then Rev. 3:14 and also Prov. 8:22.
As is discussed under HEBREWS 1:6-10, the Greek prototokos has two meanings. While the Septuagint (OT Greek) often uses prototokos in the context of "first one born," the NT only does so twice, once in regards to Jesus' birth and the other in reference to the OT. The other six instances of its use reveals the idea of preeminence over something, having nothing to do with the process of "birth" or creating. Five of these six instances refer to Christ as the "firstborn of all creation" (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:6), the "firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth" (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5), and the "firstborn among many brethren" (Rom. 8:29). The final usage is in calling the Church the "firstborn who are enrolled in heaven" (Heb. 12:23).
In an attempt to prejudice the JW mind, the WT says, "Trinitarians say that `firstborn' here means prime, most excellent, most distinguished." They fail to state that so do all recognized Greek scholars! Then they use faulty reasoning by asking that if the Father and Holy Spirit are part of a Trinity, why are they not called the firstborn of all creation? They aren't aware that each Person of the Trinity has a different role in the redemption of man. They continue by trying to prove that because the OT usage of the word is primarily that of "first one born," Trinitarians are inconsistent in applying another definition. They conveniently ignore the usage of "firstborn" in Psalm 89:27. Additionally, they are unable to apply their idea of "first one born" to Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5; Rom. 8:29 and Heb. 12:23. Finally, the WT attempts to justify the adding of the word "other" to the text of Col. 1:15-17 (to convey the idea that Christ himself was created) by pointing to how some Bible translators have added the word "other" to passages such as Luke 13:2. What they fail to mention is that such words are added only to clarify a passage that would not make sense otherwise, not in an attempt to change the theology of the passage, as the WT has done here. They make Christ out to be the "first one created" rather than the Author of Creation, totally distorting the Greek text.
The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology states regarding prototokos:
(a) As a title for the mediator of creation, it is used in Col. 1:15, as is demonstrated by parallel sayings in v. 16, "in him all things were created. . . . all things were created through him and for him," and v. 17, "He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." Both supporters and opponents of the suggestion that prototokos in Col. 1 echoes Hel., mythical ideas agree that the statement is a confession of the supreme rank of the pre-existent Christ as the mediator in the creation of all things (cf. E. Kasemann, op. cit., 154ff.; W. Michaelis, TDNT VI 879 f.). (p. 668)
The Reasoning book (p. 409) points out:
But Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon lists "beginning" as its first meaning of arkhe. (Oxford, 1968, p.252) The logical conclusion is that the one being quoted at Revelation 3:14 is a creation, the first of God's creations, that he had a beginning.
This would be like saying that because the first listed definition of the word "trip" in the dictionary is "a light, quick tread," therefore the logical conclusion is that whenever the word "trip" is used, it always means "a light quick tread." This is absurd. The context of Rev. 3:14 is the same as Col. 1:15-18, making Christ Lord and Chief over all creation.
"Wisdom" is personified in this passage and spoken of as being "brought forth" or "created." She is spoken of in feminine terms as having been alongside God before time began. While Arians such as Jehovah's Witnesses use this passage to claim that Christ is the Wisdom here mentioned, and was therefore created, Hebrew scholars have viewed it quite differently. Note the inconsistencies of the WT view: (1) Wisdom is not identified here as Jesus Christ. The connection can be drawn, and was even done so by the early church fathers, such as Ignatius. Others like Irenaeus believed Wisdom to be the Holy Spirit personified. At any rate, the passage is vague, not allowing a detailed comparison with Christ. (2) It cannot be used to prove Christ was "created," since neither can we say Wisdom was created. There could not have been a time when God was without his Wisdom! If Christ is thereby equated with the Wisdom of Prov. 8:22, he would thereby be eternal, being "brought forth" or "produced" in the sense of emanating from God, rather than being created by him. What the JWs are inadvertently saying in using their argument is that God CREATED wisdom, rather than possessing it eternally!
JW: JESUS IS CALLED THE ONLY-BEGOTTEN SON, MEANING HE IS BEGOTTEN, OR CREATED.
The Greek word monogenes has the more literal meaning of "only," or "of a single kind," especially in NT passages using it as a title for Christ. It is only distantly related to the Greek gennao, which means "to beget." The meaning of monogenes "is centered in the Personal existence of the Son, and not in the Generation of the Son" according to Greek scholar B. F. Westcott (The Epistles of St. John, p. 170). Jesus' Sonship is unique, which means he has a relationship with the Father impossible with others, and that he IS Deity and was with the Father before time began (John 1:1,2).
JW: JESUS IS MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL, WHO BECAME JESUS ON EARTH, AND IS NOW MICHAEL IN HEAVEN.
This is an interesting study in itself. The WT teaches that (1) since Michael the great Prince of Daniel chapter 12 delivers his people, and (2) Michael is the one who battles the dragon who is thrown out of heaven (Rev. 12:7), and (3) Jesus is spoken of as having the "voice of the archangel" in 1 Thes. 4:16, then therefore Jesus must be the same as Michael. Several factors must be considered in refuting this.
First, the Bible does not say that Jesus is Michael anywhere. For years, the WT taught that Michael is not the Son of God, since the angels had to worship him (WT, Nov. 1879, p. 4; Reprints, p. 48). At one time "Michael" was identified with the Pope of Rome! (The Finished Mystery, 1926 edition, p. 188)
Secondly, it is to be expected that God would have archangels in charge of his people, "arch" simply meaning a chief. It is also expected that angels would do battle with the forces of darkness (compare Dan. 10:13, 21; 9:21). In Daniel 10:13 Michael is listed as ONE of the chief princes, meaning there were OTHER archangels. No doubt Gabriel was one of them. Jewish tradition teaches there were several.
Thirdly, Jesus' having a "voice of an archangel" does not necessitate him BEING one. The President of the United States is also Chief of the Armed Forces, but he is not actually in the armed forces. He, too, can have the voice of an Army Commander without being one by nature. Leon Morris discusses the two words, "voice" and "archangel":
Neither of these nouns has the article (the Greek reads "a voice of an archangel"), which makes it unlikely that Paul is thinking of any particular archangel. ("The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians", New International Commentary on the New Testament, pages 143, 144)
Of added interest is the WT's teaching concerning the transferral of Michael's "life force" into Mary, to become Jesus. They teach that only the "life force," which they say is devoid of any personality traits (Awake!, July 8, 1949, p. 26), was transferred into Mary's womb. Since they define "being" or personhood as "life and body both" (WT April 1881, p. 1, Reprints p. 205), and that life without body and life force, and body without life does not make a person, then the logical conclusion we would have to draw is that Michael actually ceased to exist in heaven, while his impersonal "life force" took root in Mary's womb! There is no room in this view for a transfer of personality traits or anything. Thus Jesus could not actually have been Michael, according to their own reasoning, but some kind of a clone. Additionally, since the same thing happened at Jesus' death in reverse, Jesus ceasing to exist and his impersonal life force being transferred up to heaven, the one they call Michael thereafter could not have been Jesus!
JW: HOW CAN JESUS BE GOD IF MARK 13:32 SAYS THAT JESUS DIDN'T KNOW THE DAY AND HOUR OF HIS RETURN, BUT THE FATHER DID; AND IN JOHN 14:28 JESUS SAYS "THE FATHER IS GREATER THAN I"?
In view of other statements by the apostles and Christ himself regarding his omniscience and Deity even while still on earth, Mark 13:32 must be understood as applying to either his voluntary nonuse of his attributes during the incarnation, or his temporary loss of Godship. The latter is ruled out since such would require a change of nature, something God cannot do; or he ceases to be God. Therefore, Mark 13:32 must be understood as being a nonuse of his omniscience during his incarnation. In other cases, however, he exercises his omniscience, such as in John 1:47,48; 2:24,25; 4:29; 6:64; 16:30; 21:17; etc., revealing that some things he knew, while others he left to the Father's jurisdiction.
John 14:28 is primarily dealing with Jesus' condition rather than his nature. Additionally, there is an order in the Trinity, as Albert Barnes points out:
In the plan of salvation the Father is represented as giving the Son, the Holy Spirit, and the various blessings of the gospel. The discourse has no reference manifestly to the nature of Christ, and cannot therefore be adduced to prove that he is not Divine. Its whole connexion demands that we interpret it as relating solely to the imparting of the blessing connected with redemption, in which the Son is represented all along as having been sent, or given, and in this respect as sustaining a relationship subordinate to the Father. (Barnes Notes on the New Testament, John 14:28)
JWs use these texts to establish that Jesus is a lesser god, not only subordinate but created. This cannot be, for Yahweh says that no lesser god existed before him, neither would any after him (Isa. 43:10). Yet, John says that Jesus has the very nature of God (John 1:1,18). Yahweh says that he will not share his glory with any other god (Isa. 42:8) and that besides him, there is no other Savior or Rock (Isa. 44:8). Yet Jesus shares the glory of the Father (John 5:23; Rev. 5:1214) and is the Savior and Rock (Titus 3:6; 1 Cor. 10:4). Yahweh declares he is the First and the Last, and that there is no God beside him (Isa. 44:68). Then Jesus declares himself to be the First and the Last (Rev. 1:17; 2:8; 22:13). The 24 elders before the throne of God in heaven call Yahweh THE LORD AND THE GOD OF US (Rev. 4:11), which is the same expression Thomas calls Jesus in John 20:28THE LORD OF ME AND THE GOD OF ME (see the Kingdom Interlinear). Yet the Greek ho theos (translated as the God) only applies to Jehovah, according to the Watchtower!
We must understand Mark 13:32 and John 14:28 in the light of these statements. It is also interesting to note the WT's reasoning regarding Isa. 43:10. They imply that only the Gentile nations are unable to bring forth "other gods," but Jehovah could make other gods! (Reasoning, page 413)
JW: JESUS IS NOT THE ALPHA AND THE OMEGA OF REV. 22:13.
In their Reasoning, book (p. 412,413), the WT confuses the issue by pointing to certain modern translations which inject the name "Jehovah" in Rev. 1:8 as the Alpha and Omega. Yet these are recent Jewish translations, and are not true to any ancient manuscripts. At any rate, verse eight CAN apply to God, not Christ specifically (all the more reason to prove Christ's Deity from Rev. 1:17; 2:8 and 22:13!), so there is no contest here. They further confuse the issue by trying to prove that since the Alpha and Omega is said to have sons (21:6,7), He couldn't be Christ, since the "brothers" of Jesus are never called sons. In answer, one need only point out that according to the WT, certain Christians (their "earthly class") are sons of the Everlasting Father of Isa. 9:6 (Christ)! See Life Does Have A Purpose, p. 73,74)
It is evident from the context of Rev. 22:1216 that Christ is speaking. Verse 16 removes any doubt as Jesus identifies himself. The inclusion of the title "the first and the last," synonymous with "Alpha and Omega," is clearly applied to Jesus in Rev. 1:17.
1 Leon Morris says, "The expression, `My Father' is noteworthy. It was not the way Jews usually referred to God. Usually they spoke of `our Father', and while they might use `My Father' in prayer they would qualify it with `in heaven' or some other expression to remove the suggestion of familiarity. Jesus did no such thing, here or elsewhere. He habitually thought of God as in the closest relationship to himself. The expression implies a claim which the Jews did not miss." New International Commentary on the New Testament, "The Gospel According To John," p. 309.
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