A definition of The Trinity runs as follows: there is only one God; the Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God and yet there are not three Gods but only one. The persons are co-eternal and co-equal; one substance makes up the three members of the Godhead, yet it exists or is distributed among three persons. All alike are uncreated and omnipotent. God is a triune being, three persons in one.
The technical definition of The Trinity may perhaps be confusing to some people. As a result, various devices have been developed to try to make the concept understandable. Here are a few.
One can picture a cake, made up of its separate ingredients: eggs, flour, sugar -- yet combined and cooked, they make a single cake. A single bottle of soft drink may be poured out into three glasses -- one substance, yet three containers. St. Patrick liked to make use of the Shamrock as an illustration of the Trinity: three leaves, yet one Shamrock. Water exists in three forms: liquid, solid (ice), and gas (water vapor), yet it remains one substance.
Perhaps the best way of expressing the nature of the Trinity is to take the approach used in the Bible: that of a family. Three members belong to this family: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, yet they remain a single family, identified by the term God. No analogy, no example to help explain the nature of the trinity is going to be without its flaws. Every analogy breaks down, every example remains less than completely satisfying. It must be understood that the doctrine of The Trinity is designed to remove the paradox that, though the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, yet there is but one God.
I. There is Only One God
Hear, O Israel: Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one.
You were shown these things so that you might know that Yahweh is God; besides him there is no other.
"You are my witnesses,"
"and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor will there be one after me."
"This is what Yahweh says --
Israel's King and Redeemer,
Yahweh of Hosts:
I am the first and I am the last;
apart from me there is no God.
Who then is like me?
Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and lay out before me
what has happened since I established
my ancient people,
and what is yet to come -- yes, let him foretell what will come.
Do not tremble, do not be afraid.
Did I not proclaim this and foretell it
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me?
No, there is no other Rock;
I know not one."
I am the Lord, and there is no other;
apart from me there is no God.
I will strengthen you, though
you have not acknowledged me,
so that from the rising of the sun
to the place of its setting
men may know there is none besides me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other.
II. The Son is God
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
The Greek grammatical construction leaves no doubt whatsoever that this is the only possible rendering of the text. The subject of the sentence is Word (logos), the verb was. There can be no direct object following was, since according to grammatical usage, intransitive verbs take no objects but take instead predicate nominative which refer back to the subject, in this case, word (logos) it is therefore easy to see that no article is needed for theos (God), and to translate it "a god" is both incorrect grammar and poor Greek, since theos is the predicative nominative of was in the third sentence-clause of the verse and must refer back to the subject word (logos) Christ then, if he is the word "made flesh" (Jn 1:14) can be no one else except God, unless the Greek text and consequently God's word be denied." "The Word was with God" means that the Word was with the person commonly known as "God", that is, the Father -- while "the Word was God" means that the Word was himself God by nature as much God as the Father, without being the same person as the Father. This is about as explicit as it gets. Besides the problems in Greek with those who would suggest that the verse should be translated "the word was a god", such a translation seriously contradicts the Scriptures which say there is no other God but the one true God.
If Jesus is "a god" then what else can he be but God? There is only one divine being in the universe. All others are either false gods, who are not gods at all, or humans who falsely claim such divinity (as for instance certain kings). That Satan is referred to as "the God of this age" can hardly be construed as an argument against Jesus' divinity. The statement in reference to Satan is sarcastic, not serious; he is worshiped by the wicked, and they follow him instead of the true God. Satan is portrayed as a false god. This is hardly equivalent to the way Jesus is portrayed. Notice what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6:
So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
According to 1 Corinthians, if the Word in John 1:1 is anything other than the one true God -- simply "a god" -- then he is false and evil. The Watchtower publication, Reasoning from Scripture points out that "Isaiah 9:6 (RS) also prophetically describes Jesus as 'Mighty God,' but not as the Almighty God. All this is in harmony with Jesus' being described as 'a god,' or 'divine,' at John 1:1 (NW,AT)." Yet the point being made by the Watchtower publication seems ill-founded at best, because just one chapter over in Isaiah 10:20-21 is the following:
"In that day the remnant of Israel, the survivors of the house of Jacob,
will no longer rely on him who struck them down
but will truly rely on Yahweh,
the Holy One of Israel.
A remnant will return,
a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God."
If Yahweh is referred to as "Mighty God" wouldn't it be somewhat blasphemous to apply the same designation to anyone of lesser significance? In some Jehovah's Witness literature it is intimated that there are three classes of divine beings: The one true God, false gods, and something in between, "creatures which, by virtue of their might and authority over other creatures are legitimately designated 'gods'." How a creature could be neither the True God, when the Bible is unmistakable in declaring there is only one, nor a false god who is not legitimate at all -- and yet still be "a god", is puzzling to say the least. Scriptures raised to suggest that someone else might legitimately be referred to as "a god" are Psalm 82:1, 6 (compared to John 10:34); Psalm 8:5 (compare to Hebrews 2:7); and sometimes Exodus 22:8-9, 28. In Psalm 82:1, 6 the psalmist calls certain rulers "gods" (Hebrew elohim), yet verse five states that they will die, making clear the writer's sarcastic use of the term "god" for these kings (see the similar approach taken by the writer of Ezekiel 28:1-10, where, regarding the ruler of Tyre, he records:
Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre,
"This is what the lord Yahweh says:
"In the pride of your heart you say 'I am a god;
I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas.'
But you are a man and not a god,
though you think you are as wise as a god....
They will bring you down to the pit,
and you will die a violent death
in the heart of the seas.
Will you then say, 'I am a god,'
in the presence of those who kill you?
You will be but a man, not a god,
in the hands of those who slay you.
You will die the death of the uncircumcised
at the hands of foreigners.'
In Hebrew, Psalm 8:5 states that man was created "a little lower than God." The writer of Hebrews 2:7 was not quoting from this Hebrew text when he wrote his passage; instead he made use of the Greek translation of the Old Testament which has here "angels" in place of God. The Jewish people during the time the Septuagint was written were very fearful of doing anything to lessen the power and glory of God; therefore, they substituted "bless" in place of "curse" when the object of cursing was God, and adjusted other passages which might be taken to lessen God's honor -- hence their translation of Psalm 8:5. The use of this Greek translation by the writer of Hebrews should not be taken as an endorsement of the idea that "God" sometimes refers to someone other than the one true God. So far as Exodus 22:8-9 and 28 are concerned, in Hebrew it is clearly the word "God" (Elohim) and though certain translations may want to make this word mean "judges," there is no evidence to suggest that this is reasonable; there are no other places in the Bible where such a translation of the term could at all be justified, and to take it as meaning "God" in Exodus makes perfect sense. Finally, it may be useful to quote at least a portion of a letter written by Julius R. Mantey, whose Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament has been quoted by various Watchtower publications in their discussions of John 1:1-2:
I have a copy of your letter addressed to Caris in Santa Ana, California and I am writing to express my disagreement with statements made in that letter, as well as in quotations you have made from The Dana-Mantey Greek Grammar.
1) Your statement: "their work allows for the rendering found in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures at John 1:1." There is no statement in our grammar that was ever meant to imply that "a god" was a permissible translation in John 1:1. A. We had no "rule" to argue in support of the trinity. B. Neither did we state that we did have such intention. We were simply delineating the facts inherent in Biblical language. C. Your quotation from P. 148(3) was in a paragraph under the heading: "With the Subject in a Copulative Sentence." Two examples occur here to illustrate that "the article points out the subject in these examples." But we made no statement in this paragraph about the predicate except that, "as it stands the other persons of the trinity may be implied in theos." And isn't that the opposite of what your translation "a god" infers? You quoted me out of context. On pages 139 and 140 (VI) in our grammar we stated: "without the article theos signifies divine essence...theos en ho logos emphasizes Christ's participation in the essence of the divine nature." Our interpretation is in agreement with that in NEB and the TED: "What God was, the Word was"; and with that of Barclay: "The nature of the Word was the same as the nature of God," which you quoted in your letter to Caris.
2) Since Colwell's and Harner's article in JBL, especially that of Harner, it is neither scholarly nor reasonable to translate John 1:1 "The Word was a god." Word-order has made obsolete and incorrect such a rendering.
3) Your quotation of Colwell's rule is inadequate because it quotes only a part of his findings. You did not quote this strong assertion: "A predicate nominative which precedes the verb cannot be translated as an indefinite or a 'qualitative' noun solely because of the absence of the article."
4) Prof. Harner, Vol. 92:1 (1973) in JBL, has gone beyond Colwell's research and has discovered that anarthrous predicate nouns preceding the verb function primarily to express the nature or character of the subject. He found this true in 53 passages in the Gospel of John and 8 in the Gospel of Mark. Both scholars wrote that when indefiniteness was intended that gospel writers regularly placed the predicate noun after the verb, and both Colwell and Harner have stated that theos in John 1:1 is not indefinite and should not be translated "a god". Watchtower writers appear to be the only ones advocating such a translation now. The evidence appears to be 99% against them.
5) Your statement in your letter that the sacred text itself should guide one and "not just someone's rule book." We agree with you. But our study proves that Jehovah's Witnesses do the opposite of that whenever the "sacred text" differs with their heretical beliefs. For example the translation of kolasis as cutting off when punishment is the only meaning cited in the lexicons for it. The mistranslation of ego eimi as "I have been" in John 8:58. The addition of "for all time" in Hebrews 9:27 when nothing in the Greek New Testament supports it.
The attempt to belittle Christ by mistranslating arche tes ktiseos "beginning of the creation" when he is magnified as "the creator of all things" (John 1:2) and as "equal with God" (Phil. 2:6) before he humble himself and lived in a human body here on earth. Your quotation of "The father is greater than I am" (John 14:28) to prove that Jesus was not equal to God overlooks the fact stated in Phil. 2:6-8. When Jesus said that, he was still in his voluntary state of humiliation. That state ended when he ascended to heaven. Why the attempt to deliberately deceive people by mispunctuation by placing a comma after "today" in Luke 23:43 when in the Greek, Latin, German and all English translations except yours, even in the Greek in your KIT, the comma occurs after lego (I say) -- "Today you will be with me in Paradise." 2 Cor. 5:8, "to be out of the body and at home with the Lord." These passages teach that the redeemed go immediately to heaven after death, which does not agree with your teachings that death ends all life until the resurrection. Cf. Ps. 23:6 and Heb. 1:10.
The aforementioned are only a few examples of Watchtower mistranslations and perversions of God's Word. In view of the preceding facts, especially because you have been quoting me out of context, I herewith request you not to quote from the Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament again, which you have been doing for 24 years. Also that you not quote it or me in any of your publications from this time on.
Also that you publicly and immediately apologize in the Watchtower magazine, since my words had no relevance in the absence of the article before theos in John 1:1. And please write to Caris and state that you misused and misquoted my "rule". On the page before the Preface in the grammar are these words: "All rights reserved -- no part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the publisher." If you have such permission, please send me a photo-copy of it.
If you do not heed these requests you will suffer the consequences.
Julius R. Mantey
This is what certain scholars, regularly quoted in Watchtower publications actually have to say regarding John 1:1:
E. C. Colwell:
...predicate nouns proceeding the verb cannot be regarded as indefinite or qualitative simply because they lack the article; it could be regarded as indefinite or qualitative only if this is demanded by the context, and in the case of John 1:1c this is not so.
A definite predicate nominative has the article when it precedes the verb...this statement cannot be regarded as strange in the prologue of the gospel which reaches its climax in the confession of Thomas, 'My Lord and my God.' (John 20:28)" ("A Definite Rule for te Use of the Article in the Greek New Testament," Journal of Biblical Literature, 52 (1933), p. 20)
Philip B. Harner:
"Perhaps the clause could be translated 'the Word had the same nature as God.' This would be one way of representing John's thought, which is, as I understand it, that ho logos, no less than ho theos, had the nature of theos." ("Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1", Journal of Biblical Literature, 92,1 (March 1973), p. 87)
"'The Word was God...And the Word became flesh,' simply means 'The Word was divine....And the word became human.' The Nicene faith, in the Chalcedon definition, was intended to conserve both of these truths against theories that failed to present Jesus as truly God and truly man..." (Jesus the Same. Abingdon-Cokesbury, 1945, p. 61)
"So in Jo. 1:1 theos en ho logos the meaning has to be the Logos was God, not God was the Logos." (A New Short Grammar of the Greek Testament, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977, p. 279)
"Theos must then be taken as implying God, in substance and essence -- not ho theos, 'the Father,' in person. It does not = theos, nor is it to be rendered a God -- but, as in sarx egeneto, sarx expresses that state into which the Divine Word entered by a definite act, so in theos en, theos expresses that essence which was His en arche: -- that He was very God. So that this first verse might be connected thus: the Logos was from eternity, -- was with God (the Father), -- and was Himself God." (Alford's Greek Testament: An Exegetical and Critical Commentary, Vol. I, Part II. Guardian Press, 1976; originally published 1871, p. 681)
"The predicate (God) stands emphatically first, as in iv. 24. It is necessarily without the article (theos not ho theos) inasmuch as it describes the nature of the Word and does not identify His Person.... No idea of inferiority of nature is suggested by the form of expression, which simply affirms the true deity of the Word." (The Gospel According to St. John. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1958 reprint, p. 3)
Who, being in the form of God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the form of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
The Greek word translated "form" in both verses is morphe; in the same way Christ had the "form" of God, so he had the "form" of a man. The use of the term morphe in scripture is quite interesting. Gifferd writes that,
...morphe is therefore properly the nature or essence, not in the abstract, but as actually subsisting in the individual, and retained as long as the individual itself exits....Thus in the passage before us morphe Theou is the Divine nature actually and inseparably subsisting in the Person of Christ....For the interpretation of 'the form of God' it is sufficient to say that (1) it includes the whole nature and essence of Deity, and is inseparable from them, since they could have no actual existence without it; and (2) that it does not include in itself anything 'accidental' or separable, such as particular modes of manifestation, or conditions of glory and majesty, which may at one time be attached to the 'form,' at another separated from it...
The true meaning of morphe in the expression 'form of God' is confirmed by its recurrence in the corresponding phrase, 'form of a servant.' It is universally admitted that the two phrases are directly antithetical, and that 'form' must therefore have the same sense in both". It is perhaps interesting to note that the Septuagint makes use of the term morphe in such passages as Judges 8:18, where it describes Gideon's brothers as having the "form" of princes. Or in Isaiah 44:13 where the craftsman is described as making idols in the "form" of a man. As this passage in Philippians makes clear, as much as Jesus was human, so was he God.
Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.
Everett F. Harrison writing about this passage in his commentary on Romans states:
But is "God over all" the correct translation? On the ground that elsewhere Paul avoids such a stark identification, despite his high Christology, some scholars reject the traditional rendering, preferring something on the order of NEB: "May God, supreme above all, be blessed for ever." This involves taking the closing portion of the verse as a doxology and referring it to God (the Father). Several considerations favor the traditional wording, which refers "God" to Christ: (1) Christ's relationship to Israel on the human side has been stated in such a way as to call for a complementary statement on the divine side. This is provided by the usual translation but not by the other rendering. (2) "Who" can properly be coupled only with the foregoing subject (Christ). If another subject (God) is being introduced, there is no reason at all for the "who." (3) A doxology to God can hardly be intended, since in doxologies the word "blessed" is regularly placed before the one who is praised. Here it comes after. (4) A doxology to God would be singularly out of place in a passage marked by sorrow over Israel's failure to recognize in Christ her crowning spiritual blessing. (5) The definite article "the," is not linked in the text with "God," but with the foregoing words (literally, "the one being over all"), so Paul is not trying to displace God with Christ, but is doing what John does in Saying that the Word was God (John 1:1), that is, has the rank of God. In any case, this is really implied in recognizing him as "over all" (it is very awkward, with NEB, to refer this to God in distinction from Christ). (Frank E. Gaebelein, ed. The Expositors Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976, p. 103)
Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
Commenting on this passage, even the Watchtower publication, Reasoning From Scripture, states (on page 213) that "There is no objection to referring to Jesus as 'God', if this is what Thomas had in mind." Admittedly the book then goes on and tries to limit the impact of this statement by arguing that since mighty men were referred to as "gods", then there is nothing wrong in describing Jesus as "divine" or "a god". This argument has already been discussed in some detail above. But this brings up another issue that needs to be faced. The Watchtower publications will make use of terms such as "deity", "divine", "divinity" and leave the impression that it is okay to apply such terms to Jesus since they are somehow less strong than saying "Jesus is God". However, the word "deity" means "God", as do the words "divine" and "divinity". Those translations that use such terms in reference to the Son are not thereby trying to downplay the fact that Jesus is God. Instead they are affirming it!
1 John 5:20
We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true -- even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
While we wait for the blessed hope -- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,...
There is really not a whole lot that can be argued against this rendering; even the rendering in NW approximates this. Reasoning from Scripture tries to say that the above translation is inconsistent: "they [translators] do not follow the same rule in their translation of 2 Thessalonians 1:12". Unfortunately for this statement, the structure in the two passages is not the same:
tou megalou theo kai soteros hemon Iesou Christou
the great God and Savior ours Jesus Christ
2 Thessalonians 1:12
tou theou hemon kai kuriou Iesou Christou
the God ours and Lord Jesus Christ
Considering the difference in structure between these two passages, it is not surprising that 2 Thes. 1:12 tends to be translated differently than Titus 2:13. Therefore, it is inescapable that Titus 2:13 states plainly that Jesus Christ is "our Great God and Savior". And notice in Greek that it is "THE Great God" -- with a definite article.
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.
The criticism raised against Trinitarians who use this verse to show that Jesus is God is that "Being truly 'divinity,' or of 'divine nature' does not make Jesus as the Son of God coequal and coeternal with the Father, any more than the fact that all humans share 'humanity' or 'human nature' makes them coequal or all the same age."
What are they saying then? That as there are many human beings, so there are many Gods? This is an argument for polytheism, not an argument countering the Trinity, which preserves the Biblical truth of "Hear O Israel, Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one". If a man is "human" and shares in "humanity", then how much less is the Son of God "divine" and sharing in "divinity"? There is only one God; if Jesus is "divine" then he has to be God. There is not room for more than one God!
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. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
It is difficult to escape the feeling of omnipotence given off by this passage. Not only is the Son of God responsible for creating the universe, it is also by his power that everything remains in its orderly pattern. Related to this concept, one might also take a look at the next passage and the comments that follow.
He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.
This second passage reflects the omnipresence of the Son of God, telling us that he "fills the whole universe." No more explicit statement of omnipresence is found, though it well reflects what is described in Psalm 139:
O Yahweh, you have searched me
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely, O Yahweh.
You hem me in -- behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you because I am
fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand.
When I awake,
I am still with you.
Only God is portrayed in the Bible as being everywhere present, of being all powerful, and having all knowledge. Yet, the Son is given these same attributes. Is it so surprising then that Colossians 2:9 states that "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form..."
Some might object: "But look, the next verse goes on to add "and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority." So does this mean that we are Christ, if his fullness dwells in us? Not quite; take a look at Galatians 2:20ff. to get a sense of what Paul means:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!
Christ living in us, the Holy Spirit living in us, is the evidence of salvation; what it is to be a Christian. It has nothing to do with making us "gods" or "christs".
One last passage on the subject, Romans 8:1-2:
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.
But about the Son he says,
"Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever,
and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.
He also says,
"In the beginning, O Lord,
you laid the foundations of the earth
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
Sometimes Jesus refers to the Father as God and this is taken as an indication that Jesus is somehow less than God. For instance, in John 20:17:
Jesus said, "Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to my Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'"
There is nothing odd in Jesus referring to the Father as God, since indeed that is what the Father is. What else would Jesus call Him? In his incarnation as a human being, this would not be unexpected -- but even in his glorified state (as in Revelation 3:12) there is nothing odd in it. Moreover it should be noted that in John 20 for Jesus the words "Father" and "God" are equivalent terms, defining each other.
Some will take Jesus' words in John 17:1-3 and say that Jesus has excluded himself from being God:
After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: "Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
Perhaps it would be useful to read verses four and five as well:
I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
Listing Jesus separate from the Father does not diminish his Godhood; it merely distinguishes the members of the Trinity as the separate persons that they are.
It should be noticed that the words of Hebrews 1:10-12 are addressed to the Son, paralleling John 17:4-5:
He [God] also says: (about the son, see verse eight)
"In the beginning, O Lord,
you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands...
But you remain the same,
and your years will never end."
This is a quotation of Psalm 102:25-27. If we look at verse 24 we see whom the psalmist had in mind:
So I said:
"Do not take me away,
O my God, in the midst of my days;
your years go on through all generations.
In the beginning you laid..."
Now some might say this passage is applied to the Son simply because he is God's representative and does the will of the Father. However, the angels are God's representatives and do God's will, yet the whole argument in the passage in Hebrews is that the Son is something far more than the angels. As Hebrews 1:3-4 states:
The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ, an ambassador of God; the same could be said of Peter and the other apostles or of the Kings of Israel and Judah, and yet no passages apply divinity to any of these other "representatives" of God. Jesus is far more than a mere "representative" -- which is the whole point of Hebrews chapter one!
No one has ever seen God, but God the one and only who is at the Father's side has made him known.
No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.
These are key verses, since they tell us no one has seen God. Yet, we know from the Old Testament that people did see God. For instance, Exodus 24:9-11:
"Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up and saw the God of Israel.
Under his feet was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear as the sky itself. But God did not raise his hand against these leaders of the Israelites; they saw God, and they ate and drank."
The Hebrew word hazah translated as "see" in 24:11 means "to see or behold with the eyes", according to Brown, Driver, and Briggs in their Hebrew and English Lexicon, where they make specific mention of this very verse.
Notice also Genesis 18, where Abraham has three visitors, one of whom turns out to be the Lord: Yahweh. See also Isaiah 6:1-3 where Isaiah saw God "high and lifted up" in the same way he saw the Seraphim; Numbers 12:6-8 tells us that Moses spoke to God face to face, rather than through visions or dreams, and that he sees "the form of God"; Judges 13:20-23 explains that the father of Samson is afraid he might die because he has seen God. He is reassured by his wife when she points out that God would not have accepted their offering if he intended to kill them. Job 42:5 says that Job saw God.
To explain the apparent contradiction between John 1:18 and 6:46, which very clearly state that no one has seen God -- and Exodus 24 which very clearly says that Moses and seventy-three other folks did (not to mention the problems raised by the other passages), there is only one possible explanation: since no one has seen the Father, the only conclusion, then, is that the God of the Old Testament, Yahweh, is none other than the Son of God! This isn't so surprising considering that Romans 10:9-13 records:
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, "Everyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile -- the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Paul has here quoted from Joel 2:32: "Everyone who calls on the name of Yahweh will be saved." Yet Paul applies the statement to Christ. Consider also Acts 2:21 where the same passage is quoted from Joel and Peter again applies it to Jesus. Or Acts 4:10-12, where Peter says:
Then know this, you and everyone else in Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you completely healed. He is "the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone." Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
Salvation is through the Son, whether in the Old Testament or the New. Notice also what Isaiah 43:11 says:
I, even I, am Yahweh,
and apart from me there is no savior.
III. The Holy Spirit is God
Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God."
First Peter says they lied to the Holy Spirit, then he says they were lying to God.
2 Corinthians 3:17-18
Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
"This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds."
This passage in Hebrews is a quote from Jeremiah 31:34 which identifies the speaker as Yahweh -- yet the author of Hebrews feels perfectly comfortable attributing it to the Holy Spirit.
The following passage is sometimes raised to cast doubt on both the deity of the Son of God, as well as the Spirit of God:
"No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."
Not all the Greek manuscripts have the phrase "nor the Son" (in fact, it is quite a large number, including an uncial text dating back to the fourth century). But even if the phrase does stand in the text, it is easily explained by the fact that Jesus was speaking in his human incarnation (cf. Philippians 2:7 "but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant"; also Luke 2:52, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." Clearly, Jesus was not omniscient as a human being.) Sometimes the passage in Matthew is also used to claim that the Holy Spirit is not omniscient, since it does not know when Jesus will come back. First, it should be noted that the Holy Spirit is not mentioned in the passage in Matthew at all; secondly, the thought that the Holy Spirit is less than knowledgeable about the things of God is contradicted by the following passage in 1 Corinthians 2:10-11:
"But God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God."
The Holy Spirit is therefore presented as knowing all that God knows.
Some people may attempt to argue that the Holy Spirit is simply an impersonal force or power, pointing out that the Hebrew word for Spirit, ruah, like the Greek word, pneumos, can also mean "wind". However, it must be pointed out that "wind" is an option only in very limited circumstances, i.e., in those cases where ruah is not in a genitival relationship with a person. If the word is linked as in Genesis 1:2 "The ruah of God..." then the only possibility linguistically is "Spirit", "breath", or "emotion". "Active force" in an impersonal sense is never an option with either the Greek or Hebrew words. Notice 1 John 4:13- 15:
We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.
Notice that John says that God lives in the believer. But before that, he says that believers have been given "of his Spirit". Notice too, what some other passages say about who lives inside believers:
You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
1 Corinthians 3:16
Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you.
The believer is called the temple of God, yet what the believer has inside him is the "Spirit of God", which in Romans is also called "the Spirit of Christ", once again making Christ and God equivalent.
IV. The Father is God
There is little disagreement about this. Some relevant verses: John 6:27, 1 Peter 1:2, Luke 10:21.
V. The Baptismal formula of Matthew 28
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Notice that the word "name" is singular, not plural. There is one name ascribed to all members of the Godhead: Yahweh. To suppose that the Son and the Spirit are somehow less than the Father makes a mockery of this instruction. How can the Father be Almighty God and yet be linked to beings -- creatures -- who are anything less? Such an idea is blasphemous. The Son and the Holy Spirit are as much God as the Father is.
The Ante-Nicene Fathers
It is said by some that "the testimony of the Bible and of history makes clear that the Trinity was unknown throughout Biblical times and for several centuries thereafter." Specifically, it is argued that such church fathers as Justin Martyr (d. c. 165 AD), Irenaeus (d. c. 200 AD), Clement of Alexandria (d. c. 215 AD), Tertullian (d. c. 230 AD), Hyppolytus (d. c. 235 AD) and Origen (d. c. 250 AD) did not believe in the Trinity or accept Jesus as God. The following quotes from these church fathers would tend to weaken such a contention:
Moreover, in the book of Exodus we have also perceived that the name of God Himself, which, He says, was not revealed to Abraham or to Jacob, was Jesus, and was declared mysteriously through Moses.
And now we, who believe on our Lord Jesus, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, when we exorcise all demons and evil spirits, have them subjected to us. For if the prophets declared obscurely that Christ would suffer, and thereafter be Lord of all, yet that [declaration] could not be understood by any man until He Himself persuaded the apostles that such statements were expressly related in the Scriptures. For He exclaimed before His crucifixion: 'The Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected by the Scribes and Pharisees, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.' And David predicted that He would be born from the womb before sun and moon, according to the Father's will, and made Him known, being Christ, as God strong and to be worshipped. (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, volume 1, Dialogue With Trypho, LXXV, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956, p. 236-237)
The Church, though dispersed throughout the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father 'to gather all things in one,' and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, 'every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess' to Him, and that He should execute judgment towards all;... (Against Heresies, I,x,1)
Therefore the Father is Lord, and the Son is Lord, and the Father is God and the Son is God; for He who is born of God is God. And thus God is shown to be one according to the essence of His being and power; but at the same time, as the administrator of the economy of our redemption, He is both Father and Son: since the Father of all is invisible and inaccessible to creatures, it is through the Son that those who are to approach God must have access to the Father. Moreover David speaks clearly and most manifestly of the Father and Son, as follows: Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; Thou hast loved justice, and hated iniquity, therefore God hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows. For this means that the Son, being God, receives from the Father, that is, from God, the throne of the everlasting kingdom, and the oil of anointing above His fellows. And 'oil of anointing' is the Spirit, through whom He is the Anointed, and 'His fellows' are the prophets and the just and the apostles, and all who receive fellowship of His kingdom, that is, His disciples. (Joseph P. Smith. Ancient Christian Writers, Proof of the Apostolic Preaching. New York: Newman Press, 1952, p. 78)
Clement of Alexandria:
And the Son is neither simply one thing as one thing, nor many things as parts, but one thing as all things; whence also He is all things. For He is the circle of all powers rolled and united into one unity. Wherefore the Word is called the Alpha and the Omega, of whom alone the end becomes beginning, and ends again at the original beginning without any break.
Now God, who is without beginning, is the perfect beginning of the universe, and the producer of the beginning. As, then, He is being, He is the first principle of the department of action, as He is good, of morals; as He is mind, on the other hand, He is the first principle of reasoning and of judgment. Whence also He alone is Teacher, who is the only Son of the Most High Father, the Instructor of men. (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 11. The Stromata, or Miscellanies, Book IV, chapter XXV. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962, pp. 438-439)
"We have been taught that He proceeds forth from God, and in that procession He is generated; so that He is the Son of God, and is called God from unity of substance with God. For God, too, is a Spirit. Even when the ray is shot from the sun, it is still part of the parent mass; the sun will still be in the ray, because it is a ray of the sun -- there is no division of substance, but merely an extension. Thus Christ is Spirit of Spirit, and God of God, as light of light is kindled. The material matrix remains entire and unimpaired, though you derive from it any number of shoots possessed of its qualities; so, too, that which has come forth out of God is at once God and the Son of God, and the two are one. In this way also, as He is Spirit of Spirit and God of God, He is made a second in manner of existence -- in position, not in nature; and He did not withdraw from the original source, but went forth. This ray of God, then, as it was always foretold in ancient times, descending into a certain virgin, and made flesh in her womb, is in His birth God and man united. (Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. III, Tertullian, Parts I-III, Chap. XXI. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962, pp. 34-35)
For God alone is without sin; and the only man without sin is Christ, since Christ is also God. (Tertullian, p. 221)
The first and only (one God), both Creator and Lord of all, had nothing coeval with Himself, not infinite chaos, nor measureless water, nor solid earth, nor dense air, not warm fire, nor refined spirit, nor the azure canopy of the stupendous firmament. But He was One, alone in Himself. By an exercise of His will He created things that are, which antecedently had no existence, except that he willed to make them....Therefore this solitary and supreme Deity, by an exercise of reflection, brought forth the Logos first; not by the word in the sense of being articulated by voice, but as a ratiocination of the universe, conceived and residing in the divine mind. Him alone He produced from existing things; for the Father Himself constituted existence, and the being born from Him was the cause of all things that are produced. The Logos was in the Father Himself, bearing the will of his progenitor, and not being unacquainted with the mind of the Father. For simultaneously with His procession from His Progenitor, inasmuch as He is this Progenitor's first-born, He has, as a voice in Himself, the ideas conceived in the Father. And so it was, that when the Father ordered the world to come into existence the Logos one by one completed each object of creation, thus pleasing God.... The Logos alone of this God is from God himself; wherefore also the Logos is God, being the substance of God.
For Christ is the God above all, and He has arranged to wash away sin from human beings, rendering regenerate the old man. (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V. The Refutation of All Heresies, Chaps. XXVIII-XXIX. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956, pp. 150-151, 153)
The particular points clearly delivered in the teachings of the apostles are as follows:-- First, That there is one God, who created and arranged all things, and who, when nothing existed, called all things into being -- God from the first creation and foundation of the world --...Secondly, That Jesus Christ Himself, who came (into the world), was born of the Father before all creatures; that, after He had been the servant of the Father in the creation of all things -- "For by Him were all things made" -- He in the last times, divesting Himself (of his glory), became a man, and was incarnate although God, and while made a man remained the God which He was;...Then, Thirdly, the apostles related that the Holy Spirit was associated in honour and dignity with the Father and the Son.... (The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. IV, Origen de Principiis. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1956, p. 240)
John, however, with more sublimity and propriety, says in the beginning of his Gospel, when defining God by a special definition to be the Word, "And God was the Word, and this was in the beginning with God." Let him, then, who assigns a beginning to the Word or Wisdom of God, take care that he be not guilty of impiety against the unbegotten Father Himself, seeing he denies that He had always been a Father, and had generated the Word, and had possessed wisdom in all preceding periods...(Origen de Principiis, p. 246)
We worship one God, the Father and the Son, therefore, as we have explained; and our argument against the worship of other gods still continues valid. And we do not "reverence beyond measure one who has but lately appeared," as though He did not exist before; for we believe Himself when He says, "Before Abraham was, I am." Again He says, "I am the truth;" and surely none of us is so simple as to suppose that truth did not exist before the time when Christ appeared. We worship, therefore, the Father of truth, and the Son, who is the truth; and these, while they are two, considered as persons or subsistences, are one in unity of thought, in harmony and in identity of will. So entirely are they one, that he who has seen the Son, "who is the brightness of God's glory, and the express image of His person," has seen in Him who is the image of God, God Himself. (Origen de Principiis, pp. 643-644)
ANSWERS TO SPECIFIC OBJECTIONS
"First born of all creation"
Notice what is written about this phrase in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament:
The description of Christ as prototokos pases ktiseos in Col. 1:15 obviously finds in the hoti clause of v. 16 its more precise basis and explanation: Christ is the mediator at creation to whom all creatures without exception owe their creation, see V. 894, 28ff. Hence prototokos pases ktiseos does not simply denote the priority in time of the pre-existent Lord. If the expression refers to the mediation of creation through Christ, it cannot be saying at the same time that He was created as the first creature. The decisive objection to this view, which sees in the pase ktiseos a partitive genitive, is that it would demand emphasis on the tokos, whereas with the exception of Lk. 2:7 (see 876,6 ff.), which refers to literal birth, the tokos is never emphasized in the NT passages which speak of Christ, especially Col. 1:18 (see 877, 15ff.). A further point is that this view would bring -tokos into tension with ktiseos (and ktisesthai in 1:16), for creation and birth are different concepts and prototokos cannot be regarded as a simple synonym of protoktistos. The only remaining possibility is to take prototokos hierarchically (see line 7f.). What is meant is the unique supremacy of Christ over all creatures as the mediator of their creation. The succeeding statement in 1:17a; autos estin propanton, emphasizes the same supremacy, while 1:17b draws the conclusion from 1:16. If prototokos is selected in Col. 1:15 and then again in 1:18 to express this supremacy, this is because of the great importance which the term "firstborn" took on as a word for rank in the OT and then retained in later Judaism. (TDNT, Kittel, vol. VI, pp. 878-879)
"only begotten" or "one and only"
That he is not merely making a comparison with earthly relationships is indicated by para "from". The glory was that of a unique relationship and the word "begotten" does not imply a beginning of his sonship. It suggests relationship, indeed, but must be distinguished from generation as applied to man. We can only rightly understand the term "only begotten" when used of the Son, in the sense of unoriginated relationship.
The begetting is not an event of time, however remote but a fact irrespective of time. The Christ did not become, but necessarily and eternally is the Son. He, a person, possesses every attribute of pure Godhood. This necessitates eternity, absolute being; in this respect He is not 'after' the Father (Moule). (Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, p. 140)
Notice, too, the use of the word monogenes in Hebrews 11:17, where the writer tells us that Isaac was Abraham's monogenes son. Certainly this word does not then have the sense of "only begotten", despite the tradition of translating it this way, since Genesis 16 tells us that Ishmael is also Abraham's son, not to mention Genesis 25:1-2 which tells us that his second wife, Keturah bore him "Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak and Shuah". Genesis 25:5-6 explains:
Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac. But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east.
Therefore, he also had an indeterminate number of other sons by his "concubines".
The Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament made about 200 BC makes use of the word monogenes; for instance in Psalm 22:20 the Septuagint translates a Hebrew word meaning "precious", as in the phrase "my precious life", with the word monogenes; likewise in Psalm 35:17 it does the same thing; and in Psalm 25:16 it translates "lonely" with monogenes.
CERTAIN SCHOLARS (AND OTHERS) TAKEN OUT OF CONTEXT IN REASONING FROM THE SCRIPTURES
The reader might want to compare the way these sources are quoted in the Watchtower publication Reasoning From the Scriptures with the complete quote as given below:
The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, Vol X, p. 126:
Trinity, the doctrine of God taught by Christianity that asserts that God is one in essence but three in "person," Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Neither the word Trinity, nor the explicit doctrine as such, appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema in the Old Testament: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord" (Deut. 6:4). The earliest Christians, however, had to cope with the implications of the coming of Jesus Christ and of the presence and power of God among them -- i.e., the Holy Spirit, whose coming was connected with the celebration of the Pentecost. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were associated in such New Testament passages as the Great Commission: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 28:19); and in the apostolic benediction: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (II Cor. 13:14). Thus, the New Testament established the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity.
The doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies. Initially, both the requirements of monotheism inherited from the Old Testament and the implications of the need to interpret the biblical teaching to Greco-Roman paganism seemed to demand that the divine in Christ as the Word, or Logos, be interpreted as subordinate to the Supreme Being. An alternative solution was to interpret Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three modes of the self- disclosure of the one God but not as distinct within the being of God itself. The first tendency recognized the distinctness among the three, but at the cost of their equality and hence of their unity (sub-ordinationism); the second came to terms with their unity, but at the cost of their distinctness as "persons" (modalism). It was not until the 4th century that the distinctness of the three and their unity were brought together in a single orthodox doctrine of one essence and three persons. The Council of Nicea in 325 stated the crucial formula for that doctrine in its confession that the Son is "of the same essence [homo-ousios] as the Father," even though it said very little about the Holy Spirit. Over the next half century, Athanasius defended and refined the Nicene formula, and, by the end of the 4th century, under the leadership of Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nyssa, and Gregory of Nazianzus (the Cappadocian Fathers), the doctrine of the Trinity took substantially the form it has maintained ever since. (See Reasoning, p. 405)
New Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. XIV, 1981, p. 299:
From what has been seen thus far, the impression could arise that the Trinitarian dogma is in the last analysis a late 4th-century invention. In a sense, this is true; but it implies an extremely strict interpretation of the key words Trinitarian and dogma. Triadic Consciousness in the Primitive Revelation. The formulation "one God in three Persons" was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the 4th century. But it is precisely this formulation that has first claim to the title the Trinitarian dogma. Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective; among the 2nd-century Apologists, little more than a focusing of the problem as that of plurality within the unique Godhead. Not before Tertullian and Origen, early in the century following, had an attempt been made to solve the problem once raised by replying to the double question: in what sense is God one, in what sense three? And even then, results had been far from decisive....
Another way of saying the same thing, however, is not the only oversimplified interpretation possible in this matter. If it is clear on one side that the dogma of the Trinity in the stricter sense of the word was a late arrival, product of 3 centuries' reflection and debate, it is just as clear on the opposite side that confession of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- and hence an elemental Trinitarianism -- went back to the period of Christian origins. Contemporary studies on the ancient Christian creeds have done much to bring this out. (See Reasoning, p. 405)
John L. McKenzie. Dictionary of the Bible. New York: Macmillan, pp. 899-900:
The trinity of God is defined by the Church as the belief that in God are three persons who subsist in one nature. The belief as so defined was reached only in the 4th and 5th centuries AD and hence is not explicitly and formally a biblical belief. The trinity of persons within the unity of nature is defined in terms of "person" and "nature" which are Gk philosophical terms; actually the terms do not appear in the Bible. The trinitarian definitions arose as the result of long controversies in which these terms and others such as "essence" and "substance" were erroneously applied to God by some theologians. The ultimate affirmation of trinity of persons and unity of nature was declared by the Church to be the only correct way in which these terms could be used.
The elements of the trinity of persons within the unity of nature in the Bible appear in the use of the terms Father, Son, and Spirit. The personal reality of the Spirit emerged more slowly than the personal reality of Father and Son which are personal terms. On the application of the name of Spirit to the Son in Pauline writings cf SPIRIT. The unity of nature does not appear as a problem in the Bible, and indeed could only arise when a philosophical investigation of the term nature as applied to God was begun. In the NT the Father is "the God" (Gk ho theos), and Jesus is "the Son of the God" (ho hyios tou theou). The Spirit is "the Spirit of the God" or "the Holy Spirit," in this context a synonymous term. Deity is conceived not in the Gk term of nature but rather as a level of being, "the holy"; between this level and the level of "flesh" there is an impassable gulf. Impassable, that is, by man; it is bridged by Jesus, the Son, who renders it possible for men to be adopted sons. Without an explicit formula the NT leaves no room to think that Jesus is Himself an object of the adoption which He communicates to others. He knows the Father and reveals Him. He therefore belongs to the divine level of being; and there is no question at all about the Spirit belonging to the divine level of being. (see Reasoning, p. 406)
Consider what McKenzie had to say on page 317 under the entry on "God":
The word theos is used to designate the gods of paganism. Normally the word with or without the article designates the God of the Old Testament and of Judaism, the God of Israel: Yahweh. But the character of God is revealed in an original way in the NT; the originality is perhaps best summed up by saying that God reveals Himself in and through Jesus Christ. The revelation of God in Jesus Christ does not consist merely in the prophetic word as in the OT, but in an identity between God and Jesus Christ. Jn 1:1-18 expresses this by contrasting the word spoken by the prophets with the word incarnate in Jesus. In Jesus the personal reality of God is manifested in visible and tangible form.
In the words of Jesus and in much of the rest of the NT the God of Israel (Gk ho theos) is the Father of Jesus Christ. It is for this reason that the title ho theos, which now designated the Father as a personal reality, is not applied in the NT to Jesus Himself; Jesus is the Son of God (of ho theos). This is a matter of usage and not of rule, and the noun is applied to Jesus a few times. Jn 1:1 should rigorously be translated "the word was with the God [= the Father], and the word was a divine being." Thomas invokes Jesus with the titles which belong to the Father, "My Lord and my God" (Jn 20:28). "The glory of our great God and Savior" which is to appear can be the glory of no other than Jesus (Tt 2:13).
The Watchtower for May 15, 1977 quotes William Barclay as follows:
Now normally, except for special reasons, Greek nouns always have the definite article in front of them,...When a Greek noun has not got the article in front of it, it becomes rather a description than an identification, and has the character of an adjective rather than of a noun. We can see exactly the same in English. If I say: 'James is the man', then I identify James with some definite man whom I have in mind; but, if I say: 'James is man', then I am simply describing James as human, and the word man has become a description and not an identification. If John had said ho theos en ho logos, using a definite article in front of both nouns, then he would definitely have identified the logos [the Word] with God, but because he has no definite article in front of theos it becomes a description, and more of an adjective than a noun. The translation then becomes, to put it rather clumsily, 'The Word was in the same class as God, belonged to the same order of being as God'....John is not here identifying the Word with God. To put it very simply, he does not say that Jesus was God.
Thus ends the quotation in The Watchtower. However, this is not quite what Barclay was actually saying. The Watchtower has left out the rather significant set of sentences that comes where only four dots appear in the quotation by The Watchtower:
The only modern translator who fairly and squarely faced this problem is Kenneth Wuest, who has: 'The Word was as to his essence essential deity.' But it is here that the NEB has brilliantly solved the problem with the absolutely accurate rendering: 'What God was the Word was.'
On the 26th of August, 1977 William Barclay wrote the following letter to Dr. Donald P. Shoemaker of the department of Bible Studies at Biola College (now University) in La Mirada, California:
Dear Professor Shoemaker,
Thank you for your letter of August 11th. The Watchtower article has, by judicious cutting, made me say the opposite of what I meant to say. What I was meaning to say, as you well know, is that Jesus is not the same as God, to put it more crudely, that he is of the same stuff as God, that is of the same being as God, but the way the Watchtower has printed my stuff has simply left the conclusion that Jesus is not God in a way that suits themselves.
If they missed from their answer the translation of Kenneth Wuest and the N.E.B., they missed the whole point. It was good of you to write and I don't think I need say anything more to make my position clear.
But he had spoken to the issue years before, in the Expository Times, November, 1953:
The deliberate distortion of the truth by this sect [Watchtower Society] is seen in their New Testament translation which is grammatically impossible. It is abundantly clear that a sect which can translate the New Testament like that is intellectually dishonest.
1. Strawman arguments
There is a tendency, when disparaging the beliefs of another person or group, to inaccurately portray what they believe. For instance, the Watchtower Society will give an inaccurate rendering of the Trinitarian dogma, and then tear apart their portrayal of that dogma. Unfortunately, in so doing, they have failed to argue against the actual Trinitarian belief. Related to the strawman argument is that called "poisoning the well"; for instance, an individual or organization will be linked to others with whom they have no direct relationship.
Poisoning the well also relates to the practice of finding fault with a group or individual and then making the statement "see, you can't believe anything they say"; such a conclusion does not reasonably follow. Human beings make mistakes; even if you know someone is habitually a liar, you cannot be certain that he is always lying. For instance, if Adolph Hitler says the sun rises in the east, one would have to accept the statement as valid, despite how bad Hitler is, because the statement is true. One does not get rid of truth by attacking the source of the statement.
The fact that the Catholic Church precipitated the Crusades, slaughtering thousands of innocent people, often times just for financial benefit, is no reason to reject the statement "Jesus is the Son of God", although the Catholic Church makes this pronouncement. A fact remains a fact no matter who is throwing it. Just because there are some errors in any group, it does not mean that everything they say is wrong.
2. Argument from Authority
To quote multiple scholars, to make statements along the lines that "eleven German translations render the verse this way" is not a valid method of argument.
...if experts rather than laymen are disputing over a question in the field in which they themselves are experts, their appeal would be only to the facts and to reason, and any appeal to the authority of another expert would be completely without value as evidence. (Irving M. Copi. Introduction to Logic. New York: Macmillan, 1982, p. 105)
Listing all the scholars who have translated John 1:1 in a manner consistent with the Watchtower perspective is not a reasoned defense of that translation. It merely indicates that there are other people of like opinion. The question that needs to be answered is not how many names can be listed in agreement, but, what are the reasons for the translation, and are those reasons valid? Furthermore, if they wish to argue against the majority view, they should give the arguments of that view, and then systematically answer that argument, giving counter arguments -- without resource to statements like "and so and so agrees with us." It doesn't matter who agrees with you; what matters are your arguments.
An interesting question may be asked: why does the Watchtower Society not encourage its members to learn Greek? Then they would have thousands of scholars supporting their position after an investment of only a couple years. Of course the argument is made that the Watchtower Society already has a good translation and so it is unnecessary. Yet, in the Christian churches, almost all the pastors have at least two years of Greek training, even though they have access to many translations. All translations are imperfect, since they are created by fallible human beings. No translation can fully represent what exists in the original language: for instance, plays on words, alliteration, rhymes, and just the sound and feel of the words do not translate. To fully comprehend the text in all its richness and depth, one must see it in its original form. Take Shakespeare for instance: do you seriously think it feels the same in German? How much more the Bible, then! Someone once said that reading a text in translation is like making love with your clothes on.
One wonders if perhaps the reason the Watchtower Society does not encourage its members to learn Greek is because they might arrive at conclusions at variance with those of the Society. Of course, it is interesting to note that Charles T. Russell (1852-1916), the first President of the Watchtower Society sued a man named J.J. Ross for "defamatory libel" in March 1913. Ross, in his booklet, Some Facts About the Self-styled Pastor C.T. Russell wrote, "Russell does not know the dead languages." In the court room, Russell proved that Ross was right:
Attorney Staunton: Do you know the Greek Alphabet?
Russell: Oh, yes.
Attorney Staunton: Can you tell me the correct letters if you see them?
Russell: Some of them, I might make a mistake on some of them.
Attorney Staunton: Would you tell me the names of those on top of the page, page 447 I have got here? (Wescott & Hort Greek NT)
Russell: My way... (he was interrupted at this point and not allowed to explain)
Attorney Staunton: Are you familiar with the Greek language?
Fredrick W. Franz, current President of the Watchtower Society, in a Scottish Court case (Walsh vs. Latham, 1954) said the following:
Attorney: Have you also made yourself familiar with Hebrew?
Attorney: So that you have a substantial linguistic apparatus at your command?
Franz: Yes, for use in my biblical work.
Attorney: I think you are able to read and follow the Bible in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Spanish, Portuguese, German and French?
Attorney: You, yourself, read and speak Hebrew, do you?
Franz: I do not speak Hebrew.
Attorney: You do not?
Attorney: Can you, yourself, translate that into Hebrew?
Attorney: That fourth verse of the second chapter of Genesis?
Franz: You mean here?
Franz: No. I wouldn't attempt to do that... (Pursuer's Proof, p. 7)
Fred Franz also claims to have been nominated a Rhodes Scholar. Faith on the March [a Watchtower Publication] on page 181 states:
A scholar from his youth, Franz is a keen student of the Bible. Born in Covington, Kentucky, in 1893, he carried away the honors of the University of Cincinnati and was offered the privilege of going to Oxford or Cambridge in England under the Rhodes Plan. Instead, in 1914, he entered the full-time ministry.
Yet, according to a letter from The Rhodes Scholarship Trust of January 14, 1981:
I have checked our records and do not find that Frederick William Franz was elected to a Rhodes Scholarship. Our records, I should note, refer only to Scholars from the United States. Unless Mr. Franz has competed successfully as a candidate for the Scholarship in another country, you may conclude that his claim to have been a Rhodes Scholar is incorrect. (Pursuer's Proof, p. 102)
Lie (li). n., v. 1. a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive. Syn. 1. falsehood, fib, untruth.
In the Watchtower Publication Should You Believe in the Trinity? it needs to be noted that at least ninety percent of the sources quoted are taken out of context in order to try to make them say the opposite of their intent. It should therefore be understood that the Watchtower Society is virtually alone in its belief that the Bible does not teach the Trinity.
The doctrine of the Trinity has been firmly entrenched in Christian teaching since the New Testament. It is the plain teaching of the Bible and it is impossible to deny that the Son and Holy Spirit are as much God as the Father.
More importantly, it needs to be noted that the deity of Jesus is necessary in order for his sacrifice on the cross to be sufficient payment for our sins.
The result of sin is everlasting torment in Hell -- an infinite penalty. Only an infinite being -- God -- could take such a penalty. Therefore, Jesus must be God.
Since Jehovah's Witnesses deny the Trinity, at least they are consistent in arguing that the death of Christ is not sufficient for final salvation. Therefore Jehovah's Witnesses must teach that works are necessary for salvation -- that an individual must "contribute" to his or her own salvation.
However, such a concept flies in the face of plain biblical teaching:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith -- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God -- not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Therefore, even the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith teaches the necessity of the Trinity.
Copyright © Quartz Hill School of Theology. All Rights Reserved.