Jehovah Witnesses Part 2 (Tsouloufis)
Here’s the second part of Tsouloufis’ paper on the Jehovah Witnesses. This includes key verses they mistranslate and a discussion about the Trinity. I pray for many of them in Naperville to hear the truth in love.
Key Passages of Scripture Mistranslated in the J.W. Bible
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word.
The last phrase, “and God was the Word” can also be translated:
“and the Word was God.” (NIV translation)
The J.W. bible translates the last phrase:
“and the Word was a god.” (New World Translation)
Why do they do this?
First, they presuppose that Jesus is not of the same substance as God the Father, and therefore not co-equal or co-eternal with the Father (in other words, not Deity). This is purely a theological bias, as the J.W. maintain a strict Unitarian position (i.e. God is one substance, one person).
Second, grammatically, the Watchtower Society argues that since the use of Theos (God) in John 1:1 is without the definite article (a “the” preceding the noun), the translator must insert the indefinite article “a” in front of Theos. This renders the translation “a god”.
Is this correct?
Here are three reasons why this is not correct.
First, the rule in Greek grammar allows for, but does not demand, the indefinite article in place of the missing definite article. There is no indefinite article in Greek, so the rule then becomes one of consistency with the grammatical construction of the sentence, as well as consistency with the rest of the passage (in this case, the Prologue of John’s gospel).
Second, in verse 1, the use of Theos does not include the definite article because grammatically it is an “anarthrous” noun. In effect, with the absence of the definite article, the noun is stressed all the more; it becomes more significant. John was clearly conveying that God Himself was the Word.
As D.A. Carson states in his commentary, The Gospel According to John, “It has been shown that it is common for a definite predicate noun in this construction [Theos], placed before the verb, to be anarthrous (that is, to have no article). Indeed, the effect of ordering the words this way is to emphasize ‘God’…” “There are many places in the New Testament where the predicate noun has no article, and yet is specific.” (p. 117)
Third, the Watchtower Society is blatantly inconsistent in its translation of the rest of the Prologue of John’s gospel. In verses 6, 13 and 18, the noun Theos is used without the definite article, yet the New World Translation mysteriously fails to insert the indefinite article in its place. Thus, it seems clear that their use of “grammar” in John 1:1 has more to do with the theological implications regarding the “nature” of Jesus in His incarnation.
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am.” (NIV)
The J.W. bible translates this verse:
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I have been.” (NWT)
By stating, “I am,” Jesus is clearly acknowledging His divinity, since the Jews would understand this reference to Ex 3:14 (below)
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ “
Clearly, the J.W. translation is intended to undermine Jesus’ divinity by replacing “I am” with “I have been.” While this translation may give Jesus supremacy over Abraham, it is undoubtedly meant to diminish any notion of Jesus having a divine nature.
(15) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (NIV)
(16) For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. (NIV)
(17) He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (NIV)
The J.W. bible translates these 3 verses:
(15) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. (NWT)
(16) For by him all other things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all other things were created by him and for him. (NWT)
(17) He is before all other things, and in him all other things hold together. (NWT)
Clearly, the J.W. translation is intended to undermine Jesus’ divinity by inserting the word “other” 4 times in verses 16 and 17. When the word “other” is inserted, it alters the meaning to imply that Christ was the author of all created things, with the exception of one, Himself, who the J.W. believe was created.
However, the Greek text does not include the word for “other” in these verses. Thus, the insertion of this word at all, let alone 4 times, is completely unwarranted in their translation (which again, claims to be from the original Greek).
Moreover, in verse 15, the J.W. assert that the word “firstborn” implies “first created,” which supports their theological presupposition that Jesus was the first created being (and thus not divine).
Yet the truth is, in verse 15, Paul is talking about the “preeminence” of Jesus over all creation, not His being the first creature brought into existence. Thus, the J.W. clearly misinterpret the meaning of this verse, which forces them to alter the 2 subsequent verses in order to support their false doctrine.
But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be scepter of your kingdom.” (NIV)
The J.W. bible translates this verse:
But about the Son he says, “God’s throne will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be scepter of your kingdom.” (NWT)
Clearly, the J.W. translation is intended to undermine Jesus’ divinity by replacing “Your throne, O God” with “God’s throne.” This is because starting in verse 6, it is God the Father who is speaking. Yet in their translation, they will not allow God the Father to refer to His Son as “O God,” since that would imply His Son is also God.
The Doctrine of the Trinity
As believers, we need to be able to articulate the doctrine of the Trinity in concise language that’s understandable and pithy. As I stated earlier, this doctrine is foundational to our understanding of who God is and how God reveals Himself to us.
The below 6 points are my attempt to state the doctrine as such.
- God is a unity in His essential nature; His substance is indivisible. Thus, there is one God and God is one.
- He exists as a Godhead of three persons, with each person of the Trinity being co-equal and co-eternal with the other.
- The Bible clearly affirms the unity of God as well as the full deity of the 3 persons in the Godhead. The unity of the Godhead is affirmed in terms of essence or substance, while the diversity of the Godhead is expressed in terms of person.
- Each person of the Trinity is distinct from the other in terms of personality and activity, while always acting in perfect harmony within the Godhead. Thus, there is real personality, communication, and love within the Trinity.
- In relation to the Trinity, we affirm that Jesus is God in essence, Son of God in personality. And we affirm that the Holy Spirit, the Helper whom Jesus promised would come, is equally God in essence, yet distinct in His person in relation to God the Father and God the Son.
- It is important to recognize that the doctrine of the Trinity does not fully explain the mysterious nature of God. Rather, it sets the boundaries outside of which we must not step. It sets the limits of human speculation about the nature of God.
As the Athanasian Creed states so simply but profoundly: “We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons nor dividing the Substance.” And in another line it states: “In this Trinity, nothing is before or after, nothing is greater or less: but all three Persons co-eternal, together and equal.”
In summary, we affirm the doctrine of the Trinity because God has chosen to reveal Himself in this way to us, first by means of His Incarnation and second by means of His Word. In the Incarnation, Jesus is the embodiment and self-revelation of God.
Because God is Triune, we can know Him better, since the Son revealed the Father through the Incarnation, and the Holy Spirit inspired and illuminates God’s Word to us.