By Mike Riccardi: An audio resource along with a lengthy powerpoint presentation at this link.
The ESV translation of John 1:1 is as follows: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). Perhaps a few comments will prove helpful.
The Greek preposition translated “with” (pros) often means “towards” or “to”, thereby pointing to the Word and God in face to face intimacy. The term “with” implies a strong sense of relationship. In some sense the Word is distinct and distinguishable from God and yet in another sense is God. In the Godhead in eternity past there was no solitude or isolation. There was complete togetherness. God is his own family.
John clearly declares that the Word is God. The Word who always was, the Word who always was with God, this Word was and is himself God. Although the Word is in some sense distinct from God, so too the Word and God are in some sense the same. John doesn’t say the Word was “like” or “similar to” or that he “bears a striking resemblance to” God. The Word was God. He doesn’t say the Word was a copy or facsimile of God or a reflection of God or merely analogous to God. The Word was God.
Therefore, whatever you can say about God the Father that pertains to his being God, you can say about the Word (God the Son; and God the Spirit as well). John isn’t saying there is something “divine” about the Word, as if he has some exalted, mystical, godlike qualities. He is God. The Word wasn’t an angel. The Word was God. The Word is in no sense, way, shape, or form inferior to God the Father.
So what are we to make of the insistence by Jehovah’s Witnesses that the absence of the definite article “the” requires that we translate the verse as: “and the Word was a god”? What follows may only make sense to those who know Greek, but I urge everyone to read it closely.
The absence of the Greek definite article (“the”) does not mean the Word is only one of perhaps many gods. In this kind of Greek construction where an anarthrous predicate nominative (one lacking the definite article), in this case theos or God, precedes the verb, the noun retains the emphasis of specificity or definiteness (i.e., “the” vs. “a”).
The apparent equation of subject and predicate nominative does not imply complete correspondence. The predicate nominative describes a larger category to which the subject belongs. Thus the verb “is” does not always mean “equals”.
I should also point out that when the article occurs with both the subject and predicate (which is not the case in John 1:1), both nouns are definite and interchangeable. When the nouns are not interchangeable, as here, the article is absent from the predicate (i.e., absent from the noun theos, God).
In other words, if John had included the article (“the” God) he would have contradicted himself. If he had said “the Word was the God” one would be led to conclude that the Word is all there is to God, that no being could be God except the Word. But John has already said the Word was with God. In other words, the Word isn’t all there is to God. There is also God the Father and God the Spirit.
So we see from this that there is both an excellent grammatical and theological reason why the definite article (“the”) does not appear with the noun “God”. And thus we are on solid ground when we affirm that John is declaring the Word, Jesus Christ, to be God.
Dr. Sam Storms has written an article today entitled “DID PRINCE KNOW THE PRINCE OF PEACE?” – original source many have wondered whether or not he might have known Jesus Christ as his Savior. I must confess that I never followed the career of Prince and I never intentionally listened to any of his music. I say “intentionally” because somewhere along the way I may have heard him sing, even though I wouldn’t have known who it was at the time. But I’m not here today to assess his talents as a musician. I’m sure many reading this were fans. I was not.
In any case, reports are that Prince was at one time a Seventh-Day-Adventist (a religious group with which former presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson affiliates). But from all that I’m hearing, Prince converted and became a Jehovah’s Witness. Some may think that because he was open and active in his practice of this religious faith that he was a born-again Christian, a follower of the Jesus of the Bible.
Rest assured, I’m no man’s judge. But I am the judge (as you must be also) of whether or not claims made by certain religious sects, cults, or other groups align with the teaching of the Bible. And I can say without hesitation that the teachings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not.
Several things about their understanding of God and Christ should be noted.
First, Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the truth of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity, so they argue, is a Satanic invention which originated in ancient Babylon (@ 2,200 b.c.). The Jehovah’s Witnesses are, strictly speaking, Unitarian in their understanding of God.
Second, prior to his earthly advent Jesus Christ was known as Michael, the archangel. He is a creature, the first product of Jehovah God’s creative work. He was neither then, now, nor will he ever be equal with Jehovah. In this sense the JW’s are akin more to the fourth-century heresy of Arianism than they are to evangelical Christianity. NT scholar Bruce Metzger has rightly pointed out that according to JW theology, “Throughout his existence . . . Jesus Christ never was co-equal with God” (“The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jesus Christ: A Biblical and Theological Appraisal,” Theology Today, 70). He is not eternal, so say the JW’s, because, to use the words of Arius himself, “there was a time when he was not” (Metzger, 70).
Third, Jehovah’s Witnesses provide their own distinct (and distorted) translation of John 1:1 that reveals much of their theology. According to what is known as the New World Translation (NWT), John 1:1 reads as follows: “Originally the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” Metzger points out that a footnote which is added to the first word, “Originally,” reads, “Literally, ‘In (At) a beginning’” (74). This rendering is more destructive than even they realize, for it is tantamount to an affirmation of polytheism (the existence of many gods). Continue reading
Here’s a post on the Jehovah’s Witnesses deliberate misuse of medieval Hebrew versions of the NT to justify their inclusion of the name Jehovah in the New Testament 237 times, but ignoring all the times these same manuscripts identify Jesus as Jehovah!
HT: Sam Shamoun
A very revealing chart by Sam Shamoun here.
(1) For some reason, Jehovah’s Witnesses go to great lengths to try to say that Jesus was not crucified on a cross but impailed on a stake, with one nail going through both hands that were held above His head. However, if that was the case, in speaking of the hands of Christ, Thomas, who was all too aware of the facts concerning the death of Christ, would have used the singular word “nail” and not the plural “nails” in this text in John 20:25:
So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see IN HIS HANDS THE MARK OF THE NAILS, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
I believe there are two reasons why the JW’s speak so much on this. They want to try to show that Christians get it wrong on the most basic of issues (and therefore show how superior their knowledge is) as well as they see the two beamed cross as a symbol of idolatry. This article sheds much light: http://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/cross-or-stake.php
(2) 4 Truths about Hell
(3) The resources in this week’s Friday Ligonier $5 sale are very well worth considering. Especially recommended are R. C. Sproul’s DVD series on Psalm 51, By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me book by Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism book by Craig Brown, and The Promise Keeper: God of the Covenants teaching series, all found here.
Deceived people, or people you know and love. Every Jehovah’s Witness receives training for multiple hours each week on how to convert professing Christians into their fold.
Phil Johnson at the pyromaniac blog writes: Here’s a set of talking points the Jehovah’s Witnesses hand to their door-to-door teams to instruct them on how to foment doubt about the deity of Christ. Some lazy JW saw an article I wrote on the deity of Christ and as a kind of shorthand reply, he e-mailed me a copy of the handout he was given by his church.
I wonder how many evangelicals would be prepared to give an answer.
*The misspellings and typos in the document are all exactly as they appear in the original.
Good Points For Field Service
IF JESUS IS GOD
1. Why is he called the “firstborn” of all creation? Col. 1:15, Rev.3:14
2. Why did he say that he did not come of his “own initiative” but was sent? John 8:42, 1 John 4:9
3. Why did Jesus not know the “day and the hour” of the Great Tribulation but God did? Matt. 24:36
4. Who did Jesus speak to in prayer?
5. How did he “appear before the person of God for us”? Heb. 9.24
6. Why did Jesus say “the Father is greater than I am”? John 14:28, Php. 2:5, 6
7. Who spoke to Jesus at the time of his baptism saying “this is my son”? Matt. 3:17
8. How could he be exalted to a superior position? Php. 2:9, 10
9. How can he be the “mediator between God and man”? 1Tim. 2:5
10. Why did Paul say the “the head of Christ is God”? lCor. 11:30
11. Why did Jesus “hand over the Kingdom to his God” and “subject himself to God”? 1 Cor. 15:24, 28
12. Who does he refer to as “my God and your God”? John 20:17
13. How does he sit at God’s right hand? Ps. 110:1, Heb. 10:12, 13
14. Why does John say “no man has seen God at any time”? John 1:18
15. Why did not people die when they saw Jesus? Ex. 30:20
16. How was Jesus dead and God alive at the same time? Acts 2:24
17. Why did he need someone to save him? Heb. 5:7
18. Who is reffered to prophetically at Prov. 8:22-31?
19. Why did Jesus say “that all authority has been GIVEN to me in heaven and on earth”? Matt. 28.18, Dan. 7:13, 14 (similar)
20. Why did he have godly fear? Heb. 5:7
21. How could he learn obedience and be made perfect? Heb. 5:8-9
22. Why would an angel be able to strengthen him or angels minister to him? Luke 22:43, Matt. 4:11
23. Why would Satan try to tempt him if he KNEW that he was GOD? Matt. 4:1-11
24. Jesus when sent to the earth was made to “be Lower” than the angels. Heb. 2:7. How could any part of a God Head EVER be lower than the angels?
25. Then if Jesus was the sameas God, who was he being tempted to rebel against? could God be tempted to rebel against himself? Matt. 4:1
26. Near the end of his earthly life, Jesus cried out “My God, why have you forsaken me?” Matt. 27:46 Can God desert or forsake himself?
27. Heb. 5:8 says that Jesus learned obedience! To whom would he obey if he was GOD? And Does God need to LEARN anything?
28. God’s justice is strickly perfect. Ex. 21:23-25 for example. The ransom price was one perfect human for another. An imperfect man’s life would be too low. Ps. 49:7 If Jesus was the same as God, the ransom price paid by a God would have been too high. Adam was a perfect MAN and the ransome price was a perfect MAN, not higher nor lower.
“…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect..” – 1 Peter 3:15
Pastor John, I believe in the full Deity of Christ, but a Jehovah’s Witness member pointed me to a verse I cannot explain where it talks of Jesus being “the firstborn of all creation.” He says it means Jesus is Jehovah’s firstborn creature through whom all else was made.
I know Jesus is the Eternal Son and was never created but can you explain what firstborn means?
Many thanks for your important question. The passage that mentions Jesus as being the firstborn is Colossians 1:15-17. There, in speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ we read:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
There is much that could be said about the title “firstborn”. It is a title of honor and refers to Christ being given all “the rights and privileges of a firstborn son, especially the son of a monarch who would inherit ruling sovereignty. This is how the expression is used of David: “I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Ps. 89:27).” (ESV Study Bible notes)
The phrase “firstborn” does not mean that Christ is a created being. We can establish that by reading the words that immediately follow in the text. Jesus is presented as the Creator of all things and He is before all things! This passage is in fact one of many that presents a clear affirmation of the Deity of Christ.