July 25, 2009 Posted by Aaron Snell
This morning, I was lounging around with the wife and kids (after having just eaten some of my wife’s oh-so-delicious peanut butter pancakes) when I answered a knock on the door and found myself in a conversation with two ladies from the Watchtower Society. Now, I don’t know why exactly Jehovah’s Witnesses pick Saturday morning (when I’m still groggy, in my PJs and feeling rather unprepared to welcome company into my home) to do their door-to-door thing, though it probably has something to do with work schedules. I’d rather think it was that than some sort of tactic to catch people flatfooted.
In any event, the elder of the two ladies started with their usual hook (“We live in troubled times, and we need peace in our lives,” etc.), read Philippians 4:6-7 out of her New World Translation, and handed me their Watchtower literature. She talked a bit about Jesus’ purpose in coming to earth to bring in the Kingdom of God (the Father, Jehovah) and to rule over it. I listened carefully and attentively, and mentioned at that point that it seemed to me that the Bible teaches that Jesus is Jehovah. This elicited a response about Jesus praying to the Father, and an assumption that I got this from John 1:1. I told them that I would love to discuss this with them, and asked if they could come back at a later time. They said it was really nice to talk to someone who was interested in “discussing Bible” – that most of the time they got doors quickly closed in their faces – and they took my name, address and phone number, promising to have “one of the brothers” come and visit me. I thanked them for stopping by and, shaking hands, we said goodbye.
So in the very near future, I expect to have a conversation with one of the elders of my local Kingdom Hall. In retrospect, I probably should have asked those ladies in, in spite of the mess my kids had made that morning, as it will be probably more difficult to get an elder to seriously consider any criticism of the Watchtower position. However, both the door-to-door ministers and the elders will be equipped with the standard Watchtower answers to all of the common points and scriptural passages orthodox Christians usually use in these conversations (such as John 1:1), which is why I’m not planning on going there. They have very nearly been programmed on those responses, and it won’t engage them in actual thought. Instead, I plan to go to some texts that haven’t been changed in their “translation” and argue for Jesus as Jehovah from their own Bibles.
The first is in Hebrews 1:10-11, which reads: “YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS; THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN; AND THEY ALL WILL BECOME OLD LIKE A GARMENT”. Verse 8 tells us that the writer sees this statement as being about the Son, but it is a quote from Psalm 102:26. In the Psalm, the person being praised as Creator is Yahweh; ergo, Jesus is Yahweh.
The second is in John 12:39-41, which reads: “For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, ‘HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM.’ These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him.” It is clear from the context that, by “Him,” John means Jesus: in other words, John said that Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory in his vision. However, whose glory does Isaiah say he saw? If you read the account in Isaiah 6, he clearly says he saw Yahweh sitting on a throne in glory. Therefore, again, according to the New Testament writer, Jesus is Yahweh.
This, it seems to me, is very convincing proof of Jesus’ deity and identity as Yahweh- if one holds to the authority of Scripture, that is. Obviously, this argument wouldn’t work with someone who doesn’t; the most it could show is that the New Testament writers held Jesus to be Yahweh (and possibly that the Old Testament prophets allude to it as well), but not that he actually was. But here’s one of the coolest apologetic uses of the above points: Jehovah’s Witnesses, though they have changed certain readings in their New World Translation to hide the more obvious declarations of Jesus’ deity (e.g., John 1:1), borrowed all their cross-reference notes from some other translation, and the cross-references in their own bible point from both of these NT passages about Jesus to the quoted OT passages that clearly refer to Jehovah. In fact, the NWT uses “Jehovah” and not just “God” in both Psalm 102 and Isaiah 6. This, for the JW, is huge because of the extremely high regard for the name of Jehovah in their thinking – if they can see that Jesus is called Jehovah by the New Testament, they will be deeply shaken by this. Hopefully we can, using their own “translation” (which they are taught to trust), lovingly and gently bring them to see the truth and escape from their error. Jesus Christ is not a created being, however highly exalted, but the very Yahweh of Israel – in sharing the divine name, He shares the divine essence.