Chapter 2: Biblical Texts used by JW's against the Deity of
In this chapter, we will examine the six (6) main arguments given by JW's to
support their belief that Jesus is not God, but was created by God. First, the
verse used will be cited as it appears in the translation used by JW's (NWT).
Next the JW interpretation of the verse will be provided. A refutation of their
interpretation follows. Finally, a summary of each discussion is provided as a
1. Revelation 3:14: "And to the angel of the
congregation in Laodicea write: These are the things that the Amen says, the
faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation by
JW Interpretation: "the beginning of the
creation by God" means Jesus was the first thing created by God.
To understand why the Watchtower's interpretation is incorrect, a
little knowledge of Greek is helpful. The Greek word for "beginning" is
arche and rhymes with "parkay." Arche is used with different
shades of meaning throughout the Bible. The following illustrate a few:
A. Time. The apostle John writes, "In the
arche (beginning) the Word was . . ." (John 1:1). In other words, in
the beginning of time the Word existed. The same word is used in Genesis 1:1 in
the Septuagint.5 In
the verse we are presently considering (Revelation 3:14), if John meant
arche in the sense of time, the verse may be translated as the New
World Translation renders it, "the beginning of the creation by God." If
translated as such, Jesus was the beginning of God's creation by being the
first thing created by God. "Beginning" is used in a passive sense; in other
words, Jesus is receiving the action (being created). However, arche
could also be translated as the majority of translations render it, "the
beginning of the creation of God." If translated this way, "beginning" can be
interpreted in an active sense. When a word is used in the active sense, it is
producing the action; in other words, Jesus was the "beginning one" or the
originating source of creation (i.e., the Creator).
B. Political. When
arche is used in this manner it means a government or ruler. For
example, Luke 20:20: " . . . so as to turn him over to the arche
(government) and to the authority of the governor." Colossians 1:16: " . . .
whether they are thrones or lordships or archai (governments.
Archai is a plural form of arche) or authorities . . . " Most
translations render arche in these verses as "rule" or "rulers." The
sense, however, is the same. Arche is the top (or beginning) of a
power hierarchy. Imagine the pyramid structure of a corporation. The president
is at the top or beginning of the pyramid. A few vice presidents are
below him. And below them are more managers who oversee even more
John means arche in a political sense, the verse may be translated
"the ruler of God's creation" (NIV).
What in fact does John mean when he says Jesus is the
arche (beginning) of the creation of (by) God? In order to translate
and interpret a verse correctly, there are four general rules that can be
A) Consider the various meanings of a
word. We have already done this and observed that the word for
"beginning" could have any of several meanings.
B) Consider the verse and see if any particular meaning fits
best. The NWT renders this verse in such a manner that
Jesus was the first thing created "by God." However, the preposition
hypo (by) does not appear in the Greek text.7
Therefore, this verse does not help us.
C) Consider the context. Unfortunately, "the
beginning of the creation of (by) God" is a title given to Jesus by John and is
not explained by the context surrounding Revelation 3:14.
D) Consider other Scriptures that would support a view. You
can support taking "beginning" in the active sense with John 1:3, "All
things…came into existence through him" and Colossians 1:16"because by
means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the
Both verses support Jesus as Creator and would justify understanding Revelation
3:14's description of Jesus as the originating source of creation. "Ruler" is
also justified since arche is frequently used in the political sense
and agrees with other New Testament verses which say the same thing (see Rev.
1:5; 19:16). Unless the JW's can produce other verses that legitimately
indicate God created Jesus, they are not justified in translating
arche in a passive sense.
|BOTTOM LINE: The Greek word for "beginning,"
arche, is used in several ways. In John 1:1 it means the "beginning of
time." In Colossians 1:16 it means a "ruler." In Revelation 3:14 arche can be
used in a passive sense (he was created), or in an active sense (he was
The context provides no clue to what he means. So we look at other
Scriptures. John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16 clearly speak of Jesus as Creator and
justify taking arche in the active sense. Unless the JW's can give you
any scriptures that clearly speak of Jesus being created, they cannot use this
verse as proof that he was.
2. Proverbs 8:22: "Jehovah himself produced me as the
beginning of his way, the earliest of his achievements of long ago."
JW Interpretation: Verse 12 identifies "wisdom"
as the one speaking in this passage. "Wisdom" is Jesus who says he was
"produced" by God and became his "master worker" (vs. 30). He was involved in
the creation process, after he himself was created since he was "the
earliest of his achievements."
First, point out that neither Jesus nor any of the writers of the
New Testament apply Proverbs 8 to Jesus. Next, point the JW to verse one in the
same chapter where wisdom is also talking.
"Does not wisdom keep calling out, and discernment keep giving
forth its voice?"
Ask: If "wisdom" is an actual person (Jesus) in this text, then
who is "discernment" in verse 1? And who is "shrewdness" in verse 12 with whom
"wisdom" is said to reside?
"I, wisdom, I have resided with shrewdness . . ."
At this point, the JW usually does not have an answer except to
ask how you understand these verses. Solomon is using a figure of speech called
attributes the qualities of being a person to character qualities in order to
make the reading more enjoyable and to have a greater impact. This is obvious
throughout Proverbs.10 Consider
"Say to wisdom: 'You are my sister;' and may you call
understanding itself 'Kinswoman,' to guard you against the woman stranger,
against the foreigner who has made her own sayings smooth."11
Solomon teaches that if we are intimately acquainted with wisdom
and understanding in our lives, we will not be ensnared by the enticements of
the adulteress described in verses 6 and following.
Finally, point out that the purpose to which Solomon wrote Proverbs was:
". . . for one to know wisdom and discipline, to discern the
sayings of understanding, to receive the discipline that gives insight,
righteousness and judgment and uprightness, to give to the inexperienced ones
shrewdness, to a young man knowledge and thinking ability." (Proverbs
We would expect Solomon, therefore, to talk about these qualities.
A history of Jesus would be out of place, totally unrelated to the rest of
just a few verses after Solomon states his purpose behind writing Proverbs
(1:1-6), he personifies wisdom (1:20ff). That wisdom is personified as a figure
of speech is apparent in Proverbs 9 where folly is likewise personified
alongside of wisdom.
In another of his books, Solomon tells
his readers that he has used literary tools throughout his writings:
And besides the fact that the
congregator had become wise, he also taught the people knowledge continually,
and he pondered and made a thorough search, that he might arrange many proverbs
in order. The congregator sought to find the delightful words and the writing
of correct words of truth. (Ecclesiastes 12:9-10)
In Proverbs 8, Solomon is telling his
readers that if God used the quality of wisdom to create the universe, think of
how it can be used in your own life for avoiding pitfalls and being successful
at your endeavors. Wisdom, therefore, is not referring to Jesus. So we still
have no Scriptures that indicate Jesus was created.
The New Testament writers never employ
Proverbs 8 in reference to Jesus. If "Wisdom" in Proverbs 8 is in fact
"Jesus," who is "Shrewdness" in verse 1 and "Discernment" in verse 12? Finally,
referring to Jesus in this passage is both out of place and goes against what
Solomon is trying to teach. Solomon is not referring to Jesus in Proverbs 8,
but is simply using a figure of speech called personification, as he does
throughout Proverbs in order to be creative.
3. John 3:16:"For
God loved the world so much that he gave his only begotten Son."
"Only-begotten" means Jesus was begat or given birth by God. So he had a
Ask the JW to define "only begotten."
His answer is usually that God brought him into existence; he created him and
no other son. Then ask the JW to read Hebrews 11:17.
"By faith Abraham, when he was
tested, as good as offered up Isaac, and the man that had gladly received the
promises attempted to offer up [his] only-begotten [son]."
Was Isaac Abraham's only begotten son in
the sense that he brought him and no other son into existence? No. Remember
Ishmael? Ishmael was Abraham's son through Hagar.13 Ishmael
was born to Abraham prior to Isaac. So when the author of Hebrews calls Isaac,
Abraham's "only begotten son," he must mean something other than Abraham's only
son. Isaac was unique to Abraham. He would be the son through whom God's
covenant would be fulfilled.14 "Only
begotten," therefore, means "unique," "chosen," "special," or "exalted" in some
Greek word for "only begotten" in Hebrews 11:17 is the same word used in John
3:16. The JW may respond, "But, 'begotten' signifies a beginning to existence."
Ask if it does in Hebrews 11:17. So we still have no Scripture that indicates
Jesus was created.
Bottom Line: In
John 3:16, "only begotten" does not mean "only born," but special in some sense
as indicated by Issac being called Abraham's "only begotten" son in Hebrews
11:17 in spite of Ishmael being Abraham's son as well.
4. Colossians 1:15: "He is the image of the
invisible God, the firstborn of all creation."
JW Interpretation: Jesus was the first thing
created by God.
Does the word "firstborn" indicate Jesus was created? The Greek
word for "firstborn" is prototokos. It appears throughout both the Old
Testament (Septuagint) and the New Testament with different shades of
Emphasis is on the order of birth (Genesis 10:15; 19:30-31; Exodus 13:15).
B. Positional: Emphasis
is on the position of being the firstborn, with all of the honor and favor that
is due to one being born first. For example, look at the following:
"Also, I myself shall place him as firstborn, The most high of
the kings of the earth." (Psalm 89:27)
This Psalm refers to King David.16 Yet
David was not the first king appointed by God. Saul was.17 And
it is clear that God chose Saul to be king.18David was firstborn in the positional sense; he was
God's chosen and favored king, although he was not the first.
In Colossians 1:15, when Paul calls
Jesus "the firstborn of all creation," is he using "firstborn" in a
chronological or a positional sense? Paul is helpful in the verses that follow
by explaining what he means when he says "firstborn."
Verse 16: "because by means of him
all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth . . . All
[other] things have been created through him and for him."
"Other" is in brackets indicating it
does not appear in the Greek text. The NWT translators have inserted it,
because they assume the chronological sense of "firstborn."19 However,
if Paul had meant the chronological sense, he would have probably used a
different preposition. Instead of saying, "in him" or "by means of
could have said, "after him,"21 i.e.,
"after him all things were created." But Paul says "by means of him all things
were created" and establishes Jesus as Creator of the universe—a position.
Verse 17: "Also, he is before all
[other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to
The Greek word for "made to exist" means
"to place or hold together, to frame, to cause to exist."22 In
other words, Paul says the universe exists because of Jesus who put it
together. Verse 17, therefore, reinforces verse 16 by stating Jesus is the
creator and sustainer of the universe—a position.
Verse 18: "and he is the head of the
body, the congregation. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that
he might become the one who is first in all things."
Jesus is the head of the Church—a
position. He is also the firstborn from the dead. This second use of
prototokos could be either the chronological or positional sense.
Jesus was either the first risen from the dead with an immortal body or stands
in a position over all those who will be resurrected. Why is this important?
The final statement provides the answer, "that he might become the one who
is first in all things." The Greek word for "the one who is first" means
"to hold the highest rank or dignity, to be chief."23 He
is firstborn from the dead so He might now be chief of everything. As Christ
holds rank over all creation and the Church, He especially does so as risen
again, Paul points to position. In fact, there is nothing in this passage that
lends support to a chronological interpretation of "firstborn" in verse 15.
So what are these verses saying? Paul
defines Jesus as "firstborn" by saying He is the Creator of the universe, the
sustainer of the universe, the head of the church, and the risen Lord, so that
He can be chief over all things. This entire passage points only to the
position definition! Then lest there be any doubt in the reader's minds that
Jesus, the image of God and chief of everything, possesses the very essence of
God, Paul makes that very clear in verse 19 when he says all the fullness of
God dwells in Christ. He states the same even more clearly in 2:9, "Because
it is in him that all the fullness of divine quality dwells bodily." This
verse is discussed in depth in the next chapter. Since Jesus is "firstborn" in
a positional sense, this verse may not be used as a text in support of the view
that Jesus was created. If anything, it points to the deity of Christ.
Therefore, we still have no Scriptures that indicate Jesus was created.
Bottom Line: The word "firstborn" can be used in a
chronological sense (first to be born or first created) or in a positional
sense (one who has the honor and rights of a firstborn son [Ps. 89:27; Jer.
31:9]). We are fortunate that Paul explains what he means by "firstborn" in the
verses that follow. If Paul had meant "firstborn" in a chronological sense
(order of creation), he would have said "after him all things were created."
Instead, Paul says Jesus is the creator of the universe, sustainer of the
universe, head of the Church, risen Lord and, therefore, chief of all things.
This points only to the positional sense, not the chronological.
5. John 14:28:". . . the Father is greater than I
JW Interpretation: "How can Jesus be God when He says, "the
Father is greater than I am?" Jesus may be referring to his incarnate position,
not his essence.
A husband and wife are one in essence (one flesh),25 yet
two distinct persons. Likewise, God is one in essence, yet three distinct
persons. In theology, this is referred to as the "Godhead." The biblical
standard is that the husband is positionally greater than the wife in the
both he and his wife are equal in essence—one flesh. As the wife voluntarily
submits herself to her husband, the Son voluntarily submits Himself to the
Perhaps another analogy may be helpful. Consider the New York Yankees. There
are many members on the team: players, coaches, the manager, and the owner. The
members are, in essence, one team. Positionally, there is an authority
structure. The owner is the final authority (as many Yankee managers have
found)! The manager has authority over the players. The team is one, in
essence, but is made up of many members that have different levels of
authority. Likewise, all three members of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy
Spirit) make up the Godhead. The Godhead is one in essence, but the Son submits
to the authority of the Father. There are Scriptures that say Jesus and the
Father share the same essence of God (see the next chapter). Since the JW's
still cannot provide biblical reasons to support their view of Christ (i.e.,
that He was created), their particular interpretation of John 14:28 should not
be preferred. So we still do not have any Scriptures that teach Jesus was
Bottom Line: When Jesus said the Father was greater
than Himself, He was referring to the Father's position, not His essence.
6. Passages where the Father is called the God of Jesus (Mk 15:34;
Jn 20:17; Eph. 1:3,17) or where God is referred to being distinct from Jesus.
JW Interpretation: Both the New Testament writers and Jesus
Himself called the Father, the God of Jesus on several occasions. If Jesus was
God, why would He call the Father His God?
Of all the reasons provided by the Watchtower to support their view of
Jesus, this is the most difficult to answer. The prominent New Testament
scholar Raymond Brown says although the question, "Did New Testament Christians
call Jesus God?" must be answered in the affirmative, there are nevertheless
"Passages that seem to imply that the title 'God' was not used for
are we to make of these passages?
A. The New Testament writers, particularly John and Paul, clearly
say Jesus is God and refer to the Father as the God of Jesus.
So there was a sense in which they understood these two beliefs to be
compatible. See John's writings (John 1:1; 20:17,28; Revelation 22:13) and
Paul's writings (Ephesians 1:3; Colossians 2:9).
B. The Earliest church fathers, particularly Ignatius and Polycarp,
clearly call Jesus "God," and also refer to the Father as the God of
Just like the New Testament writers, they did not appear to see a tension
between the two. Ignatius was the Bishop of Antioch and wrote seven letters to
the churches while en route to his execution in Rome around the year AD 110. In
Ignatius' letter to the Ephesians 18:2 he states:
"For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary according to
In 19:3 he states:
"Consequently all magic and every kind of spell were dissolved, the
ignorance so characteristic of wickedness vanished, and the ancient kingdom was
abolished, when God appeared in human form to bring the newness of eternal
And in 1:1:
"Being as you are imitators of God, once you took on new life through the
blood of God you completed perfectly the task so natural to you."
In his letter to the Smyrnaeans 1:1 he states:
"I glorify Jesus Christ, the God who made you so wise."
Polycarp also testifies to the teachings of the early church regarding
Jesus' deity. The early church fathers, Irenaeus (circa AD 120-190) and
Eusebius (AD ?-342) write that Polycarp was "instructed" and "appointed" by the
apostles, "conversed with many who had seen Christ," and "having always taught
the things which he had learned from the apostles."29 So
his view of Jesus is very important. In The Letter of Polycarp to the
Philippians, he mentions "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" and
"our Lord and God Jesus Christ."30
"Now may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal High
Priest himself, the Son of God Jesus Christ, build you up in faith and truth
and in all gentleness and in all freedom from anger and forbearance and
steadfastness and patient endurance and purity, and may he give to you a share
and a place among his saints, and to us with you, and to all those under heaven
who will yet believe in our Lord and God Jesus Christ and in his Father who
raised him from the dead."
Thus, Polycarp agrees with the teachings of the apostles, which we will
study in the next chapter, that Jesus is God. The JW's may point out that some
church leaders before the 4th century did not believe in the deity of Christ.
However, these are much later than Ignatius and Polycarp (80 to 200 years). The
historian is more interested in knowing what the earliest church leaders
believed than later ones, realizing that heretical teachings form over time.
However, what one finds when you read the very church fathers cited by the
Watchtower in support of the inferiority of Jesus, is that every one of them
actually supports the deity of Jesus!31
C. The Father may be God to Jesus in the sense that He is the final
authority to Jesus. Verses such as John 1:1 and Colossians 2:9 clearly
speak of Jesus having the same essence of deity that the Father has (See
Chapter 9). Nevertheless, Jesus submits to the Father who is His final
authority. The "one flesh" analogy is again helpful. The parents, mom and dad,
are the final authority to their children. Mom and dad share the same essence
as persons and are "one flesh." However, there is a divinely ordained authority
structure within the marriage; the husband is head. Therefore, mom can
accurately tell her children, "Your dad is my final authority and yours." By
doing this she acknowledges her husband's position as final authority and gives
up nothing of her own position and essence as parent and final authority to her
Bottom Line: Jesus referred to the Father as His
God. This does not mean Jesus Himself was not God, for the apostles and the
earliest church fathers all recognized Him as God while at the same time
recognizing that the Father was Jesus' God with no apparent tension.
Furthermore, the Father may be God to Jesus in the sense that He is His final
authority before whom unswerving and unquestioned love and devotion are given
above all others.
Here are some other arguments Jehovah's Witnesses
1. "The word 'Trinity' is not found in the Bible." Neither
are the terms "Jehovah's Witnesses" and "theology." Trinity is the term we use
to describe the Godhead, one in essence but three persons. The question is not
what we call it, but if the concept is taught in Scripture.
2. "The concept of the 'Trinity' has pagan origins before
Jesus." The story of a catastrophic flood is also found in pagan
religions. Does this indicate that it has pagan origins as well? Even if the
concept of a Trinity preceded Christianity, it would not prove Christianity
copied it from other religions. The question is, "Does the Bible teach that
Jesus is God?" As we shall see in the next chapter, the answer is clearly,
3. "If Jesus is God, then He prayed to Himself in John 17."
Jesus did not pray to Himself. He prayed to the Father, another person of the
Godhead, to whom He submits. If we view the Godhead (Trinity) as some sort of
team (see #5 above), then there is no contradiction. Remember, the difference
is in position, not essence.