Watchtower at the Door: Jesus is Jehovah

Date 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.

jws

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.

isaiahsvisionwings-1850-5The 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.

Related posts:

  1. Speaking of New Bibles…
  2. Who Was and Is and Is to Come
  3. Beauty in the Bible
  4. Book Review: Reinventing Jesus
  5. Are the Words of the Bible God's Words?
  6. An Introduction to the Glory of God (Pt 4)

5 Responses to “Watchtower at the Door: Jesus is Jehovah”

  1. brianl said:

    Aaron, thanks for these points. It is always good to use the NWT to prove the NWT wrong ;) . Although I go back and forth between using the NWT AT ALL and just sticking to the KJV. Anyways,. thanks, good points. I had a similar experience with a JW guy when I got back from the Apologetic Vacation: Mine though was much more odd I think. Read about it here: http://thingsthelordtoldme.blogspot.com/2009/07/jws.html

  2. keithcarley said:

    Aaron, you did not go far enough. Using Paul’s reference at Acts 13:47 to Isaiah 42:6, we can show that Paul and his companions are also “Jesus” and, ergo, “Jehovah”. Its seems to me that the argument could be made then that all of us who act as a “light of the nations” could be considered “Jehovah”.

    Thank you for such encouraging enlightenment.

  3. TJ said:

    Hi Aaron, as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses myself, I was very interested to read your thoughts on this topic. I think it’s commendable that you are interested in presenting your beliefs to those that have come to you with theirs, rather than just shutting the door on them.

    Just as something to consider, with regards to your reasoning that Jesus is Jehovah, try reading the account at Matthew 8:5-13. Who was it that approached and spoke to Jesus? Now flip to the corresponding account in Luke 7:1-10. Why has the answer changed?

    TJ

  4. brianl said:

    I read this somewhere:

    The narratives of Matthew and Luke introducing the scenario present no difficulty. Each in its own style indicates that Jesus entered Capernaum. From this point Luke’s narrative should be followed all the way through v. 8. Emphasizing the character of the Gentile centurion, Luke contrasts the works-oriented focus of the Jews (he is deemed worthy, in part because he built their synagogue) with the centurion’s amazing faith and his own humble assessment of himself.

    The perceived difficulty is in Luke 7:7a where the centurion’s friends cite him as saying that he did not consider himself worthy to come. However, no problem exists if one allows that he came anyway out of his great concern for his servant. Both facts are true. Luke does not mention the centurion’s coming because it did not fit with his purpose—the contrast between the Jews’ conception of the centurion and his own view of himself compared to Christ.

    Matthew’s account picks up with the faith of the centurion contrasted with that of Israel. His purpose is to show that even a Gentile recognized the authority of the King of the Jews while His own people rejected Him. As Morris says: Perhaps we can discern something of the differing purposes of the Evangelists in their treatment of the messengers. Matthew was concerned primarily with the centurion’s faith and nationality; to him the messengers were irrelevant, even a distraction. But Luke was interested in the man’s character and specifically in his humility; to him the messengers were a vital part of the story.

    Faith in Christ, not heritage, admits one into the kingdom of heaven. Thus, Matthew
    includes the additional statement in vv. 11-12. Seeing Jesus near his home and having already sent the second delegation, the centurion came personally to meet Jesus and restates the problem in more detail, to which Jesus responds that He will come and heal the servant. This elicits directly from the centurion a statement made earlier through the friends—“Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed” (Matt 8:8).

    At a glance, it appears that Matthew 8:9 and Luke 7:8 should be taken as parallel. Except for the word tassovmeno” (tassomenos, “placed under authority”) in Luke, the verbage is word-for-word in the two. However, it is possible for Luke to have learned what was said by the centurion to his friends and to have recorded it under the inspiration of the Spirit.

    Matthew 8:10a and Luke 7:9a should be taken as parallel. However, the remaining portion of each verse should be taken as consecutive. In other words, Jesus turned once to the crowd that was following Him, but made two distinct statements. The first is a broad statement about Israel as a nation. He had found such faith “not even” in Israel. His second statement is even stronger and more specific. He begins with the asseverative particle, ajmhvn (am‘n, “truly”), and adds the prepositional phrase, par j oujdeniv (par’ oudeni, “with no one”), in place of oujdev (oude, “not even”), and forward for emphasis. He is saying first, “not in all of Israel,” and second, “from not even one in all of Israel.”

    Next, Matthew includes Jesus’ statement in vv. 11-12 about who will enter the kingdom and who will be excluded. It is the faith of this Gentile centurion that provides the opportunity for this teaching. Matthew found it essential to his message. Luke did not. Finally, in Matt 8:13 Jesus turns back to the centurion and tells him to go away, that the healing will take place in the manner in which he believed it would. Jesus will not come farther, but the servant will be healed. By harmonizing the accounts and realizing the actual presence of the centurion, the dilemma of how to explain u{page is resolved. Matthew further states only that the healing took place. Luke informs the reader that the delegation(s) returned to the house (not to the centurion) to find the servant healed.

    As stated earlier, only a plausible explanation of how the events can be reconciled should be necessary to satisfy any reasonable inquiry into the apparent discrepancies in these accounts. The objection to this harmonization might be predicated upon the expression of the centurion that he was unworthy to come to Jesus. But one must consider all of the human emotions that were involved. Luke expressed that the servant was dear to the centurion. If pai’” were instead uiJov” and the matter settled that it was his son, hardly any but the most hardened in heart would have any difficulty in seeing the man in a distraught emotional state.

    So is it so far a stretch to think that this man, away from home, might have established a close relationship with a young servant with whom he would have close contact on a daily basis? Any number of scenarios is possible that would lead to the development of this kind of relationship. Such is not vain imagining but recognition that Scripture records the real lives of real people. At the same time, the centurion was apparently devout. Though not a proselyte, he presumably was a God-fearer, having built the Jewish synagogue at his own expense and being highly commended by the Jewish leaders. His exemplary faith is the capstone for his integrity and character. Yes, he is a soldier battle- hardened, a leader. Yet, Scripture seems to shine a favorable light on the character of men in this position (Mark 15:39; Luke 23:47; Acts 10:22; 22:26; 27:43).

    The scene could have unfolded as follows: The centurion had a dying servant who was dear to him. Having heard of Jesus’ healing ministry (this was not His first entry into the city—Luke 4:31) and having believed in Him, he knew that the Master could heal the boy. Yet, the boy was paralyzed by illness and great agony and unable to be moved. The centurion, being a Gentile and understanding that Jesus was from God, could not see himself going directly to Jesus to ask on behalf of this servant nor having Jesus come to his home.

    He could, however, summon some Jewish leaders of the synagogue which he built at his own expense, to go on his behalf. They did and Jesus began to return to the house with them. As Jesus came near, the centurion was horrified that Jesus might actually come under his roof. So he sent some friends to explain the case. As they went and engaged Jesus, the centurion while watching could contain himself no longer. He overrode his conviction about not being worthy to go and went anyway.

    When he reached Jesus, he stated directly the seriousness of the matter, perhaps to justify his coming against his conviction. Jesus, having heard once already that He need not be
    present to heal the boy, elicited the response directly from the lips of the man himself. Now, having heard it twice, once indirectly and once directly, He turned to those who had been following Him and made the statement comparing the centurion’s faith to any that He had seen thus far among the people of Israel—His people who should have recognized Him. He made it once and then emphatically restated it. The unabashed faith of this Gentile centurion prompted Jesus to teach about the nature of those who will enter the kingdom and those who will be left out.

    People of faith will be included, people who depend on heritage and works will be excluded. Finally, He responded directly to the centurion that he could return home,
    assured that what he had requested had been accomplished, just as he believed it would. Whether or not he tarried or went home is not stated. But, his messengers did return to find that the boy had, in fact, been healed that very hour.

    The story of the faith of the centurion is one that has puzzled theologians for centuries. Attempts to harmonize the two accounts have left many without an intellectually satisfying answer. Others have produced explanations that denigrate the integrity of the human authors and therefore the integrity of the Holy Spirit who inspired the text. Both such results are unacceptable. However, as the present writer hopes he has shown, a way to reconcile the two accounts does exist without jettisoning inspiration or doing linguistic calisthentics to make it work. The answer is to begin with the assumption that, regardless of how details may appear on the surface, both accounts were given by God to man and are true. One must proceed from there to think “outside of the box” of unemotional scholarship, and consider human behavior of the persons involved in the real-life accounts recorded for posterity in the pages of sacred Scripture. Only then can one fully appreciate the greatness of how God has delivered His Word and the teaching contained therin.

  5. Aaron Snell said:

    Keith and TJ,

    Sorry it has taken me so long to respond – I’ve been camping and away from the internet for a few days. I’ll be posting responses in the next day or two – thanks for your comments!

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