JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES PRETEND TO WANT TO DISCUSS THE BIBLE BUT WHEN ASK TO DO SO THEY CLAIM THEY ARE TOO BUSY …

We're here to study the Bible with you, but don't ask any questions

For the past five years an elder from a nearby Kingdom Hall has been coming to my house to share literature.  The timing of his visits usually correspond with a recent earthquake or other calamity that proves that the end of time is near. 

Elder Dave believes there is a possibility that I will convert to his faith.  Why does he think this?  For one, I’ve made a point of being exceedingly kind to him.  Secondly I ask a lot of questions.

Elder Dave cannot answer my questions but is happy nonetheless that I have not closed the door. Why should I?  I consider his visit an important mission work of my own without having to leave my front yard.

Why do JW’s worship on Sunday? is a question I’ve asked often.  Elder Dave does not know.  Why were there no Jehovah’s Witnesses living in the world prior to its recent organization in the 1870s?  Did God lack a Witness from Jesus’s time until now?  Elder Dave does not know.  Do the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the Ten Commandments are still valid? Elder Dave does not know.

Dave has a busy schedule.  He stops by “because he is in the neighborhood.”  But he does not have time to answer questions.  But he has pamphlets to share. He always promises to get back to me soon.  He never does.

Tags: , ,

161 Comments on “JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES PRETEND TO WANT TO DISCUSS THE BIBLE BUT WHEN ASK TO DO SO THEY CLAIM THEY ARE TOO BUSY …”

  1. TJ August 6, 2011 at 6:57 PM #

    I’m one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and I’ll be happy to answer your questions. We do not observe the Mosaic Law, including the Ten Commandments, since that covenant ended with Jesus’ death. (Colossians 2:14)

    Why do we worship on Sunday? Jehovah’s Witnesses do this for convenience; we do not recognize it as some ‘Christian sabbath’. We worship together on other days as well, and some congregations don’t meet on Sunday.

    Why were there no Jehovah’s Witnesses prior to the 1870’s? Who said their weren’t? We firmly believe that the faithful line of witnesses to Jehovah God began with Abel. (Hebrews 11:4; 12:1) The New Testament contains prophecies that the Christian congregation would, after the apostolic age, be overrun with apostasy. (2 Thess. 2:1-3) According to Jesus’ wheat-and-weeds parable, the wheat would be gathered together again only at the harvest time. (Matthew 13:30, 39) Thus, we should expect to see a restoration of true worship in the time of the end, though a witnessing work has been around since the first century albeit overshadowed be the ‘weeds’. (See also Daniel 12:9-10)

    • Nicholas Voss August 7, 2011 at 5:49 AM #

      Hi TJ –
      Thanks for responding. It’s good to hear from you. Regarding the faithful witnesses “that began with Abel:” Can you recommend a list of Witnesses that existed from apostolic times to today? Did they write any books or commentaries or tracts? I would be interested in reading these works.

    • Nicholas Voss August 7, 2011 at 4:41 PM #

      Hi TJ-
      How was Abel a Jehovah’s Witness? You claimed he was. Did he call himself a Jehovah’s Witness? Curious minds want to know …

    • Joy Vradenburg February 11, 2012 at 9:03 PM #

      Is not the whole Bible the Truth, beneficial for teaching and setting matters straight?
      Did not Jesus say’ I came not to destroy the Law, but to fill full the Law.
      Is not all the Bible True, I will keep the ten commandments plus other Laws that the bible gives, I will also remember the 7th day, as Jesus said’ The sabbath was made for man, and Pray it will not happen on a sabbath day. Wake up People, Keep and Remember this sacred Law. This is why Jehovah wrote REMEMBER THIS LAW, because he knew you would forget, and follow false Religions, Remember it was the Pope who changed this Law, the same as when you celebrate Christmas, there is no difference. Time to question your Elders.

    • Ralph October 15, 2012 at 8:29 AM #

      I used to study the bible and I do believe jehovah is the real god because i felt a real understanding to the bible and i wouldn’t of been able to understand it and believe it because of my age i was eleven at the time i felt acceptance in to the word It felt grate sometimes i felt like i was missing out on doing a lot of things so things changed and i stopped studying I am 24 now and I have been right down I have been to jail I have into drugs,alcohol al sorts of bad things that have made me miserable and sad I am really trying to get back to jehovah these-days because I have been there before feeling great like I did. One of the great things a wise sister once told me was that people will say bad things about you being a Jehovah’s witness and that you are wrong for believing in jehovah so all the bad things you might hear are not true. I really hope somebody out their can go and try to find out for them selfs but it is defiantly hard when satins demons don’t what you to feel god or find the truth.

  2. TJ August 7, 2011 at 11:03 AM #

    Hi Nicholas,

    I can’t tell you for certain who God recognized as his faithful witnesses down through the ages, as obviously God is the one who judges hearts. But there are ones from long ago who have argued many of the very same arguments we make today, arguments that we firmly believe are scriptural. The works of Isaac Newton and William Whiston come to mind followed by Henry Grew and George Storrs. As an example, this satirical trial from the early 1700s well illustrates many of Jehovah’s Witnesses objections to the Trinity doctrine.

    • Nicholas Voss August 7, 2011 at 2:07 PM #

      Hi TJ-
      I am not sure using Isaac Newton as an example as a Jehovah’s Witness predecessor is a good idea. I am aware you are not saying Newton was a JW, but that he was anti-trinitarian.

      Firstly, the evidence is not conclusive, as you may be aware, that Newton was anti-Trinitarian — others are conjecturing, producing Newton’s writings, that he was a Trinitarian. Either way, the fact that a group of people hold anti-trinitarian views does not support the JWs, for Unitarians and Muslims hold this view too, but they are not JWs.

      Secondly, the point I am making is that no Jehovah’s Witnesses existed before Charles Russell. He and those who came after him invented this religion. Conversely, Christians can trace their faith throughout history directly from the apostles themselves. Trinitarian Christians are the historic faith, not the JWs. Not only do we have the Bible in the original languages which support the Trinitarian doctrine, teaching the Trinity both explicitly and implicitly; but we have the trinitarian writings of Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, and Papias … to name a few. Are you aware that these men were contemporaries of the Peter, Paul, and John? We believe they were discipled by The Disciples themselves. We have extrabiblical trinitarian writings from other Christians too who claim they were discipled by and trained by the Apostle’s disciples. We trace our roots directly to Jesus’s Disciples and can produce their writings. Actually, it is more accurate to say we trace our faith to Jesus Himself, who is our Lord, King, and God. Not only do we have a testimony from 1st century religious writings, but secular Roman documents attest that Christians have always believed like we Trinitarians do. We can easily trace our faith all through history because we are the True Faith that has always been there. Even pagan writings bear out our faith, by scorning it.

      Thirdly, we have people, places, and names of Christians throughout history. We have their writings. Do JWs have any ancient writings testifying that there were others who held the same beliefs you do? Why were they not called Jehovah’s Witnesses?

      Fourthly, you mentioned that JWs trace their beliefs to Abel? How was Abel a Jehovah’s Witness?

      Lastly, you may be aware that Jehovah’s Witnesses is an incorrect transliteration of the name of God. As you know there is no “J” sound in the Hebrew language, and never has been. I think your teachers in Brooklyn have worked around this thorny problem, but they have never found any group of people in history who believed in the JW organization as described by your Watchtower tracts. JWs simply did not exist until Charles Russell invented them. In fact, Russell himself was a Presbyterian, then a Congregationalist, toying with Buddhism and other eastern faiths, and then off to become a Seventh Day Adventist before he invented his own religion. My point is that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a recent invention. None existed in history. There are no JW writings before the 1870s. It is an American religious invention.

      Thanks for writing back.

      • TJ August 7, 2011 at 2:42 PM #

        Nicholas, it seems you missed my point from my original response. The Bible explicitly teaches that an apostasy was set to occur in the Christian congregation, and that a full restoration would not take place until the conclusion of the system. Therefore, there would be no clear, unified teaching throughout that time. There were, however, always ones seeking to restore Christianity and coming close. I’d be happy to examine the scriptures that prove this more closely with you if you’d like.

        To be honest, it seems to me that you have vastly whitewashed history to make your case through the rest of your post. The Bible certainly does not “explicitly” teach the Trinity, and it has been severely and unrelentingly argued against ever since it was first put into explicit terms in certain church councils of the fourth century (other church councils adopted Arian confessions). I am familiar with earlier writings of Clement, Ignatius, etc, and they likewise contain no explicit teaching of the Trinity. I would very much like to see you prove your claim by citing an explicit teaching of the Trinity from one of these writings and/or from the Bible, something along the lines of the Nicene Creed.

        But again, in your whitewashed version of history, wouldn’t you be proving the Catholics claim that *you* are incorrect and heretical? The Orthodox Churches likewise make the same claim, that they are all directly descended from the apostles, and yet they all teach different things even with regards to the Trinity! This is obviously flawed reasoning.

        And yes, there is no ‘J’ sound in Hebrew. We realize this. But does that stop you from saying Joshua, Jerusalem, Jesus, Jehoshaphat, etc, etc, etc? “Jehovah” is simply the anglicized pronunciation of the divine name. In other language groups Jehovah’s Witnesses use a different form of that name.

        Here’s a thought, let’s call off the attack here and discuss ONE of these issues at a time. I think you’ll find our case is much stronger than you may realize. That is, of course, if you are interested in a REAL discussion and aren’t just doing a propaganda thing here.

        Thanks.

      • TJ August 7, 2011 at 2:51 PM #

        Also, I just wanted to add, while I do believe Newton did reject the Trinity, I was thinking also along the lines of some of his eschatology. He wrote a commentary on the books of Daniel and Revelation that contain some amazing insights that we hold to today.

  3. TJ August 7, 2011 at 11:09 AM #

    Here is another tract from the early 1800s containing arguments to which I’d largely subscribe

    • Nicholas Voss August 7, 2011 at 2:11 PM #

      Got anything from the 1st century? Trinitarians do.

      • TJ August 7, 2011 at 2:44 PM #

        Please cite someone arguing unambiguously and explicitly for the Trinity from the first century.

        “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.”—New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967), Vol. XIV, p. 299.

  4. Nicholas Voss August 7, 2011 at 2:27 PM #

    TJ-
    I commend you for following up on these things. You are the only JW I ever met who ever did. Thank you!!

    • TJ August 7, 2011 at 2:45 PM #

      We do our best to follow up on sincere inquiries to our faith. Is this sincere?

  5. Nicholas Voss August 7, 2011 at 4:09 PM #

    Hi TJ-

    Outside the New Testament which explicitly teaches the trinitarian document (you know the text we use to support our arguments I think) our chief reference would be the Didache (circa A.D. 35- 60), which says we should baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. “In the Name” carries with it a substantial package of teaching, especially authority. We should baptize in the Name (singular) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (three Persons). They are co-equal. Do the JWs baptize according the formula stated in Matthew 28?

    The writings of Clement of Rome (A.D. 70), Barnabas (A.D. 75), and Hermas (A.D. 78-85) are all trinitarian in their teaching. You can find these documents easily on the internet. Read them. You should read them to see if their teachings agree with your own. Here’s your chance to prove that Jehovah’s Witnesses were in existence prior to the 1870s.
    Because the doctrine of the Trinity was not clearly defined as we have it now does not mean that the Church did not believe it. It means that misinterpretations and attacks on it were few. In the first and early second century the Christians were more concerned with refuting attacks, not on Christ’s deity, but on His humanity. You may be aware that the Gnostic cults denied Christ’s humanity, but they did not deny His deity. Therefore the Christians spent their time refuting the Gnostic heresy. We did not have to defend the deity of Christ in the first century for the same reason today we do not have to defend His humanity. It is assumed by all that He is human. Why would we defend something that is agreement by all? In the first –third centuries Romans killed us for claiming Christ was the Eternal King mentioned in the Old Testament Psalms … and that He was the eternal Lord, Master of all, Creator.

    Ignatius, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr – all early Christians – wrote extensively on the deity of Christ and specifically that He was from all eternity, co-existing with the Father.

    *** We believe the apostasy the Bible mentions (that you claim as your own) refers to cults such as the JWs, Mormons, Muslims, and other cults. The Christians have always believed in the Trinity. The apostasy passages you are referring to are about JWs, not Christians. The fact that the Trinity is not mentioned by name does mean the Christians did not believe it. “Jehovah’s Witnesses” as an organization in the sense you use it today is not mentioned in the Bible either. Ancient Christians always believed that Jesus is God, the Father is God, the Spirit is God. There is only One God. The Three Who are One are separate persons. Christians have always believed this. We have countless writings and ancient manuscripts. JWs have no ancient writings because they did not exist until Charles Taze Russell invented them.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses have no history because they did not exist until Charles Russell invented them. I’m sorry you feel you are being “attacked” but I’m just presenting facts here. Don’t alolow your feelings to get hurt, but can you admit that JWs have no history? Christians have believed the same in the past as they do now. We have tens of thousands of primary documents to prove it so. JWs have nothing.

    We Christians have a great cloud of witnesses throughout history. We are the historic faith. Jehovah’s Witnesses have no ancient witnesses. Even our enemies, who wrote against us, saying in the first century that the Christians worshipped Christ as if He were God. They were trying to mock us, but in doing so attest that Christians would not worship Caesar, only Christ. There are no Roman writings saying that Jehovah’s Witnesses were around claiming Jesus was anything like the person JWs claim He is today.

    We have history on our side. JWs do not. There were no Jehovah’s Witnesses before Charles Russell who invented your religious organization. He dabbled in many denominations (I listed previously all the numerous attempts of his to find a religion that suited him, but he kept changing his mind. Finally he invented his own religion– yours!).

    *** If you are trying to use the apostasy passages to say God did not have a Witness on the earth until the JWs came along then you are making the same claim as the Mormons and the Muslims. They say the same thing about themselves. They think there was a great apostasy and then God sent Joe Smith or Muhammad along to restore the proper religious teachings. How can you all be right? None of you teach the same doctrines but all claim you are the restored religious system after the so-called apostacy.

  6. Nicholas Voss August 7, 2011 at 4:39 PM #

    Hi TJ-
    To sum up: the very serious problem Jehovah’s Witnesses have is that they have no [ancient] witnesses.

    We Christians are the ones who have a great cloud of witnesses. We have names, dates, and documents. JWs have none.

  7. TJ August 7, 2011 at 6:02 PM #

    The simple mention of the three together is NOT an explicit teaching of three persons in one God. McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature acknowledges regarding Matthew 28:18-20: “This text, however, taken by itself, would not prove decisively either the personality of the three subjects mentioned, or their equality or divinity.” (1981 reprint, Vol. X, p. 552) The fact that “name” in the singular is used of the three means that it is distributive; it’s the same reason you’ll read at Genesis 48:16, “the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac.” (KJV) You don’t take from that that Abraham and Isaac are some two-in-one, co-equal individual, do you?

    I have the Greek texts of Clement, Barnabas, and Hermas available to me on my bookshelf, and they do not teach the Trinity by any means. I’ve already posted support on this point from the New Catholic Encyclopedia, that the explicit teaching of a Trinity didn’t come into view until the fourth century. Still, the burden of proof is on YOU to show where these works say anything even remotely similar to the Nicene Creed (they don’t). And yes, I know these works contain some teachings that we don’t hold; as I’ve tried to explain, the apostasy was already well at work even in the time these were produced. Towards the close of the first century, the aged apostle John made this striking statement, “it is the last hour, and, just as you have heard that antichrist is coming, even now there have come to be many antichrists; from which fact we gain the knowledge that it is the last hour.” (1 John 2:18; NWT)

    I find it very strange that you would claim that the Christians in the first century would have no need to defend Jesus’ claim to Godship. So it’s your belief that everyone would assume by default that he was God, and not just some human? That’s quite the assumption. I find just the opposite. Throughout the New Testament, Christ is constantly being shown to be the Messiah of God, as one who is exalted above all humans and indeed all creation, subject only to his Father. (1 Corinthians 15:27-28) This is emphasized so that people didn’t view him only as just another human.

    As to your view that “all early Christians” affirmed Jesus as the same as God–Joseph Priestly flatly disagrees with you. He wrote just the opposite: “We find upon all occasions the early christian writers speak of the Father as superior to the Son.” You can read his examples for yourself here, starting on page 46.Your contention over and over seems to be that Jehovah’s Witnesses haven’t been around long enough to be correct. But again this is very short-sighted. You want your cake and you want to eat it too. You keep saying “we Christians” as if you’ve been one unified group all these centuries!! Do you still not realize that your exact same argument has been used for centuries by the Catholic and Orthodox Churches against YOUR church? Those churches themselves all claim apostolic succession, yet they have broken up over diverging views of the Trinity. Your argument is unfortunate and ironic when put in the light of history.

    And yes, your history of Charles Russell also contains errors. For example, you said he was a Seventh-Day Adventist which is completely false. He did have a number of associates that were Adventists (not the SDA brand), but more importantly, Russell and his associates rejected denominationalism altogether. They didn’t want any brand with its inherent dogmatism and division; they only wanted to be free to study what the Bible says and to conform their beliefs to it, wherever that process took them.

    As I’ve said, there have always been faithful witnesses of Jehovah on the earth. The Bible itself identifies Abel as the first one chronologically. But the Bible is frank that the congregation would be in spiritual darkness for a time until the end of the system arrived. That is why even Daniel wrote of that time: “the words are made secret and sealed up until the time of the end. Many will cleanse themselves and whiten themselves and will be refined. And the wicked ones will certainly act wickedly, and no wicked ones at all will understand; but the ones having insight will understand.” (Daniel 12:9-10; NWT) The last days are a time of refinement for God’s people. That’s scriptural.

    Thanks for your time.

    • Nicholas Voss August 9, 2011 at 4:12 AM #

      Hi TJ-
      Great to hear from you.
      I am curious why you would select a strongly trinitarian Christian commentary, McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature to support your anti-trinitarian view. Are you saying M & S were teaching an anti-trinitarian doctrine? You left out that they mention many other texts prove that the Bible does teach the doctrine of the Trinity. In fact, the very purpose of this section of M&S from which you quote is to provide abundant evidence that the Bible explicitly teaches the doctrine of the Trinity. I am surprised a diligent student such as yourself would make such a horrendous blunder. You are in error, a serious one at that. Shame on you for being sloppy !

      You claim that you have Greek texts of Clement of Rome. You implied that you have read them for you certain they do not teach the doctrine of the Trinity. Again, you are proving yourself to be a sloppy researcher. What did Clement mean when he said, “ … Ἀδελφοί, οὕτως δεῖ ἡμᾶς φρονεῖν περὶ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὡς περὶ θεοῦ, ὡς περὶ κριτοῦ ζώντων καὶ νεκρῶν …” How do you explain this? I have provided the proof you asked for, now it is up to you to respond in kind.

      The Jehovah’s Witnesses are a recent invention of Charles Taze Russell. The Jehovah’s Witnesses have no witness in history; therefore the religion does not originate from the Lord of History.

      Conversely, we Christians have always been there and always will be because we serve the Living Lord Jesus Christ who will never leave us or forsake us. He told us in His word that many antichrists would come, and sure enough they did beginning with the Gnostics, Ebionites, Marcionism, Manicheanism, Montanism, Neoplatonism, Monarchianism, Seballianism, Novatianism, Donatism, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Branch Davidians, etc etc etc. There are new religious movements created all the time. But our faith is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Jesus is Lord!

      • matt13weedhacker June 16, 2015 at 5:46 PM #

        Ἀδελφοί, οὕτως δεῖ ἡμᾶς φρονεῖν περὶ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὡς περὶ θεοῦ is:

        “Brothers, it is necessary, that we should give consideration about Jesus Christ, as we would about God [Or: “as we would ( of ) God” Perhaps: “should give consideration about Jesus Christ, as being one who is ( of ) God”]…”

        It does NOT say:

        “Brothers, it is necessary, that we should give consideration about Jesus Christ, [ ὡς ὁ θεος ] as the One who is [Or: “as he is”] God,…”

        It does NOT say:

        “Brothers, it is necessary, that we should give consideration about Jesus Christ, [ ὡς θεος ] as God [Or: “as we would a god”]…”

        “Brothers, it is necessary, that we should give consideration about Jesus Christ, [ ὁ θεος ἐστιν ] that he is the definitive God…”

        It does NOT say in the Greek that Jesus is:

        [1.] ὡς ὁ θεος
        [2.] ὡς θεος
        [3.] ὁ θεος ἐστιν

        It says we should think about Jesus Gk., ( ὡς περὶ θεοῦ ), with the genitive case θεοῦ “of God.”

        “Of – God” is an entirely different thought, is it not?

      • matt13weedhacker June 16, 2015 at 6:06 PM #

        Tertullian the inventor of the word Ltn., “trinitas” i.e. English: “Trinity”, was a Montantist wasn’t he? You know your history don’t you?

        Thus is not “Montantist” Tertullian an Anti-Christ according to your assessment above? Isn’t he?

        Thus, the history books, and yourself, tell us clearly, that the very founder, and inventor of the concept Ltn., “tres personae, una substantia” was both an Anti-Christ, (just going by what you said above), and the follower of the CULT of Montanus.

        His beloved: “New Prophecy,” he ardently defends in his tract against Praxaes and the universal Orthodox Church, form which he split from, to follow Montanus, Maximilla and Priscilla, his “prophetesses”.

        Notice what Jerome says about Tertullian:

        Chapter 24, of Jeromes “De Viris Illustribus,” or history: “On Illustrious Men,”

        LATIN TEXT: “…quos scripsit adversus Ecclesiam pro Montano…”

        ENGLISH: “…which he wrote as an enemy against the Church in behalf of [Or: “for”] Montanus…”

        Chapter 40, of Jeromes “De Viris Illustribus,” or history: “On Illustrious Men,”

        LATIN TEXT: “…Tertullianus sex voluminibus adversus Ecclesiam editis, quae scripsit περὶ ἐκστάσεως, septimum…”

        ENGLISH: “…Tertullian published six volumes as an enemy against the Church, which one of, a seventh, was “Concering Ecstasy…”

        Chapter 53, of Jeromes “De Viris Illustribus,” or history: “On Illustrious Men,”

        LATIN TEXT: “…in multis libris Novae Prophetiae meminit, specialiter autem adversum Ecclesiam texuit volumina de pudicitia, de persecutione, de jejuniis, de monogamia, de ecstasi libros sex, et septimum, quem adversum Apollonium composuit. Ferturque vixisse usque ad decrepitam aetatem, et multa, quae non exstant opuscula condidisse…”

        ENGLISH: “…In the vast multitude of his volumes he does not neglect to mention: “The New Prophecy”, but, (lo and behold), he specifically contrived to write against the Church these volumes: “On Modesty,” “On Persecution,” “On Fasts,” “On Monogamy,” six books: “On Ecstasy,” and a seventh one, which he composed in a particuarly hostile way: “Against Apollonius,”. He is reported to have lived to a very old age, and a great many smaller works which he made, are no longer extant…”

        Chapter 24 = “…as an enemy against the Church…”

        Chapter 40 = “…as an enemy against the Church…”

        Chapter 53 = “…against the Church … in a particularly hostile way…”

        Tertullian writes in confirmation of the above, in “De Pudicitia” or: “On Modesty” Chapter 2:10:

        “…Now this Tract ( against ) the Psychi [ = Universal Christian Congregation ] can even be said to be directed against me, because earlier I was [ = past tense ] one of them, and so they [ = the real Christians ] much more reproach me with this fact as a proof of inconstancy. But never was the refusal of communication a testimony of a fault. As if it were not easier to err with the multitude [ = Universal Christian Congregation ] but a minority [ = the Montantist cult ] loves truth…”

    • Nicholas Voss August 10, 2011 at 12:13 PM #

      TJ –
      You are constantly making the common error which is typical of all unlearned people. Devious cults make the same error. What is this error? Lifting quotes from their context.

      I do not think you have read Clement otherwise you would be aware he called God’s Kingdom the Kingdom of Christ. He instructed his readers to give Christ all the praise that we would give to God. He said that Christ’s mercy was God’s mercy. He said that Christ called us as elect people of God. Can Jesus call forth the elect people of God unless He were not God Himself? He said Christ “saved us” then he goes on to say that God saved us. When we “know Christ,” we know The Father. Clement said we should not only honor Christ with our lips, but with our whole hart and mind – he goes on to quote the Old Testament Isaiah verse rebuking people who honor God only with their lips? Clement says we should fear no man but God Himself – he then goes on to say we should fear Christ, quoting Christ’s own words “…Though ye be gathered together with Me in My bosom, and do not My commandments, I will cast you away and will say unto you, Depart from Me, I know
      you not whence ye are, ye workers of iniquity…” He calls Christians “lambs” and Jesus the Shepherd of the lambs — the very name of God in the Old Testament. He said the commandments of Christ were the same as the commandments of God. He said the Father called us and then says it was Christ who called us … then He said it was God who called us. He uses the name “Lord” both for God and Jesus … interchangeably! He called Jesus the “Prince of Immortality.” He said Jesus manifested the heavenly life.

      To conclude, when you say the Greek texts of Clement do not say anything remotely similar to the teaching of the Nicene Creed, you are either showing ignorance of the texts or assuming I will not double check your bold assertions … or you are deliberately trying to deceive me and the many people who are watching this post (I look at the reports several times a day and there are many followers of this discussion). Whatever reason you made this claim only hurts your cause.

      …”

      • matt13weedhacker June 16, 2015 at 6:12 PM #

        Provide specific references, instead of personal opinion, and sweeping assertions, i.e. Letter name number, (1st of 2nd Clem.), chapter, verse etc.

      • Michael June 17, 2015 at 8:05 PM #

        Matt13weedhacker, you are mistaken about the Greek there. Prepositions in the Greek take on various nuances as they modify the noun’s cases. So “peri” used with a genetive means “with respect to and denotes the subject’s superlative point.” So the English translation is more accurately: “Brothers, it is necessary that we should have the same opinion concerning Jesus Christ as we have concerning God.”

        Concerning Tertullian — it is wrong to call the Montanus sect a heretical group. They were schismatics, but not heretics. They held to the right doctrine of God and Christ. You or Nick cannot use the term AntiChrist with them. John is the only biblical author to use that term and he defines it as those who deny Jesus Christ came in the flesh and therefore deny the Father. The Montanuses never denied Christ like that and again, they were right in their understanding of God. When Jerome called the Montanuses “enemies against the Church,” he meant that they had created division and disunity through their “new prophecies” and stricter disciplines. So on that basis you cannot deny Tertullian’s doctrines concerning God, Christ, or the Trinity just because he was in a sect that was misguided and in error on other issues. For instance, as a Presbyterian I could call a Baptist loosely “an enemy against the church” because they deny key points of ecclesiology and covenantal understanding of the sacraments. But I can still have fellowship with them because we share the same truth in the Trinity and justification.

  8. Nicholas Voss August 7, 2011 at 8:58 PM #

    Hi TJ-
    You have never answered the question as to why you think Abel was a Jehovah’s Witness.

    Yes, he was a witness of God, but what makes you think he’s one of yours and not ours?

    And why do you try to pin the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox brothers against me? I consider them orthodox Christians, like me. We disagree with on some key issues. Don’t get me wrong, we disagree on somethings, but both my pastor and I and all the rest of the real church (Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, etc.) consider them brothers in the Lord. We are One in Christ.

    Yes, I agree with you that I am fixated on your lack of JW history. Doesn’t that seem reasonable to you that I would be? After all, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have no witnesses in church history. What does that tell you? No one believed in such an organization such as yours until the 1870s! Your “church” headquarters is in Brooklyn. What does that tell you?

    There were no Jehovah’s Witnesses until Charles Taze Russell invented them. It’s really that simple.

    I do admire your persistence. I told my pastor tonight that I finally found a Jehovah’s Witness that seemed to be educated and had a clue. The ones I met so far are drones and mostly amateurish, without knowledge of church history. He could not believe I met someone like you who was a JW.

    NJV

    BTW: you said that “I have the Greek texts of Clement, Barnabas, and Hermas available to me on my bookshelf.” Have you read them? Just wondering. I will lift excerpts at another time on your behalf.

    • TJ August 8, 2011 at 2:04 PM #

      BTW, in regards to your assessment of my brothers, I’ll allow the scriptures to speak in their defense:

      “On the next day their rulers and elders and scribes gathered together in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family . . . Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished.” (Acts 4:5-6,13; ESV)

      “For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29; ESV)

      • Nicholas Voss August 9, 2011 at 4:29 AM #

        The Scriptures do speak of a kind of heavenly knowledge and divine wisdom of that is greater than all the minds of the worldly men put together. You cited some of the passages we Christians use to show that educated men are foolish compared to the wisdom of simple believers. I noticed that you switched translations on me, using the ESV instead of the faulty NWT.

        Firstly, God does not want us to remain uneducated. We are to grow in Christ. Jehovah’s Witnesses, by and large, are known as biblical illiterates. They are Watchtower drones whose tired, old arguments they use to refute Christian doctrines can be refuted by my church’s Sunday School children with ease. Our covenant children are more wise than all the Jehovah’s Witnesses put together. This is what these passages truly mean. They are Christian passages, not JW passages. You proved this by using our Bible, not yours.

        Secondly, why did you switch translations on me? You are aware that the New World Translation is erroneous. You claimed you read Greek. How do you justify the gross mistranslations the JW have made? How do you trust an organization who would purposely deceive its members by omitting words, adding some here and there, and making the Bible say something it does not? Scary stuff. I’m surprised a Greek-reading man like you would fall for this trickery.

  9. TJ August 8, 2011 at 1:58 PM #

    Hello Nicholas,

    I appreciate the interesting discussion. Scripture itself refers to Abel, among many others, as a witness in the book of Hebrews in the verses I cited for you when I first mentioned him. Obviously, we believe that we too continue that faithful line of witnesses to Jehovah God, of which Jesus himself was a part. (Revelation 3:14) I’m not going to get caught up in the ‘is he yours or ours’ competition; Abel was Jehovah’s faithful witness.

    As for the divisions in what you call “the real church,” you know as well as I do that the very same arguments that you are trying to use here against Jehovah’s Witnesses have been and still are used against your own church and the entire Protestant branch. I would really have thought you were Catholic by the way you insist on a clear and distinct succession of your very same beliefs through history, but you really ought to know better. The various churches in Christendom through the centuries have wavered in what they teach and have been subject to massive corruption. That being the case, I still contend that your presentation of history is nothing more than a mirage and a whitewash.

    Just as a simple example of this, I’m usually told by orthodox persons such as yourself how the ‘heresy’ of Arianism simply popped up out of nowhere in the early fourth century and then was quickly stamped out by the Council of Nicaea. Sounds good, except it’s not even close to the truth. As numerous encyclopedias will attest to, such as the New Catholic Encyclopedia quoted above, over the first few centuries what would become the Trinity doctrine very gradually developed. And once the Christian religion joined with the Roman Empire and was forced to standardize the teaching in the various localities, controversy erupted over this issue, with very political and corrupt figures on both sides pulling the strings.

    Nicaea was one of many Councils that met over the matter as the pendulum of the various Emperors’ favor swung back and forth. Professor Richard Rubenstein makes this insightful observation: “The Council of Nicaea, then, was not universal. Nevertheless, it is everywhere considered the first ecumenical (or universal) council of the Catholic Church. Several later gatherings would be more representative of the entire Church; one of them, the joint council of Rimini-Seleucia (359), was attended by more than five hundred bishops from both East and West. If any meeting deserves the title ‘ecumenical,’ that one seems to qualify, but its result–the adoption of an Arian creed–was later repudiated by the Church. Councils whose products were later deemed unorthodox not only lost the ‘ecumenical’ label but virtually disappeared from official Church history.” (When Jesus Became God, p. 75)

    So just because you may be unaware of this kind of hidden history doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Just because one side won out on the politically-charged ‘official’ or ‘orthodox’ label does not make it scriptural. After all, think of the situation Jesus came into in Israel. Was there not an ‘established’ system of worship, complete with authoritative history, official documents, etc? Yet what did Jesus himself say about it/them? Didn’t he say things like, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! . . . you say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our ancestors, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Go ahead, then, and complete what your ancestors started!” (Matthew 23:29-32; NIV) Have all the history you want, Nicholas. It’s a corrupt one.

    And yes, I have read and studied the writings of the so-called Church Fathers. The earliest certainly are not Trinitarian, and even the later ones that began to express beliefs similar to today’s orthodox Trinity expressed other beliefs you’d consider heretical. I’m still waiting for you to cite specific examples. And if you’d like, I’d be especially happy to examine where you feel the Bible itself explicitly teaches the Trinity. After all, that is the real touchstone of truth that we should be using to measure our beliefs against, is it not?

    Thanks again for your time.

    • Nicholas Voss August 9, 2011 at 5:32 AM #

      Hi TJ-
      When I originally asked for you to provide a historical line of Jehovah’s Witnesses you named Abel. When I followed up several times by asking how you know he was a Jehovah’s Witness, but you did not provide a satisfactory example. You merely stated that he was first in line of witnesses of [Yahweh]. You did not provide evidence that he was Jehovah’s Witness. Why didn’t he act like a Jehovah’s Witness?

      Since the Scripture you provided me was translated into our language by Trinitarians, not Jehovah’s Witnesses, you must know that there were no Jehovah’s Witnesses throughout history. Is it not ironic that the NWT is a recent translation (a corrupt one) that has never been seen in all human history until recently. Conversely, Christian translations are abundant. We have thousands of ancient manuscripts and commentaries and sermons by Trinitarian Christians. There is no manuscript evidence for the NWT. None. Zero. Zilch. What does that tell you except that the NWT is a fraud.

      If there were JWs why did they not appear in history? Where are the Kingdom Halls? Why is your headquarters in Brooklyn, not somewhere in the world? Why isn’t it evident in the book of Acts that there were Kingdom Halls being setup all over the Roman empire?

      In fact, in Hebrews 12 (a passage that also mentions Abel) this is made clear when the Holy Scripture tells us that Jesus is our mediator. The thrust of the book of Hebrews is the supremacy of Christ. He is our Prophet, King, Priest, Mediator — He is the all we need. He is the heir of all things. He is the creator – He made all things. Christ’s power holds all things together. He is in heaven right now interceding for His people. God’s throne is Christ’s throne. Christ existed forever! Christ will judge the world! God’s angels are called Christ’s angels. God’s elect are called Christ’s elect!

      Jehovah’s Witnesses lack a witness in history. There were no JWs until Russell and his followers invented them. You belong to a religious movement unsupported by history and ancient biblical manuscript evidence.

  10. Michael Babcock August 8, 2011 at 2:51 PM #

    TJ,
    I wonder when do you believe the apostasy happened? Is it when the Apostles all died, as Mormons believe, or when? Secondly, what do you make of Jesus’ promises to build His church so that the gates of hades cannot prevail against it (Matt. 16, or that He will remain with the Church to the end of the age (Matt. 28)? What do you think of Paul’s in 1 Cor. 11:19, “For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you”? Is it possible that though apostasy is scheduled to happen in the Church, that it won’t be so widespread, or so overwhelm the Church, that the truth that was once and forever delivered to and through the Church would not be so lost that it would require a prophet to come 1800 years later to reclaim it?

    Anyway, here are some quotes from a few church Fathers who wrote before 325 A.D. who teach what the Church after 325 taught concerning the Trinity and Christ.

    Ireneus (c. 130- c. 202) wrote, “So then the Father is Lord and the Son is Lord, and the Father is God and the Son is God; for that which is begotten of God is God. And so in the substance and power of His being there is shown forth one God; but there is also according to the economy of our redemption both Son and Father. Because to created things the Father of all is invisible and unapproachable, therefore those who are to draw near to God must have their access to the Father through the Son. And yet more plainly and evidently does David speak concerning the Father and the Son as follows: ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: thou hast loved righteousness and hated unrighteousness: therefore God hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.’ For the Son, as being God, receives from the Father, that is, from God, the throne of the everlasting kingdom, and the oil of anointing above His fellows.” Ireneus, Demonstration Of The Apostolic Preaching, Cliff Lee (CreateSpace, 2007), p. 50.

    Justin Martyr (c. 100- c. 165) wrote about how God appeared to Moses in the burning bush (Ex. 3) and claimed that the Angel who spoke to Moses and said “I am that I am, the God of Abraham…” is none other than Jesus. “The Jews, accordingly, being throughout of opinion that it was the Father of the universe who spake to Moses, though He who spake to him was indeed the Son of God, who is called both Angel and Apostle, are justly charged, both by the Spirit of prophecy and by Christ Himself, with knowing neither the Father nor the Son. For they who affirm that the Son is the Father, are proved neither to have become acquitted with the Father, nor to know that the Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first begotten Word of God, is even God.” First Apology, cp. LXIII Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdman’s Pub. Co., r.p 1979), 184.

    Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 – c. 215) hcommented on 1 John 1:1, “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life.” “For when he says, ‘That which was from the beginning,’ he touches upon the generation without beginning of the Son, who is co-existent with the Father. There was, then, a Word importing an unbeginning eternity; as also the Word itself, that is, the Son of God, who being, by e quality of substance, one with the Father, is eternal and uncreate.” (“Fragments,” William Wilson, trans. Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdman’s Pub. Co., r.p 1979), 574).

    Hippolytus (170-235) says, “The Logos alone of this God is from God himself; wherefore also the Logos is God, being the substance of God. Now the world was made from nothing; wherefore it is not God.” Refutation of all Heresies X.xxix (Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. V (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdman’s Pub. Co., r.p 1979), p. 151.)
    And of note, he also wrote, “We cannot otherwise think of one God, but by believing in truth in Father and Son and Holy Spirit,” Against the Heresy of One Noetus, Section 14.

  11. TJ August 8, 2011 at 7:58 PM #

    Hello Michael,

    Thank you for your response. First, let me correct something you said. You’re perpetuating a strawman argument when you call Russell, evidently from our supposed point of view, “a prophet.” We do not view him as such, and we understand the gifts of the spirit, including the gift of prophecy, to have ceased in the first century. (1 Corinthians 13:8-10)

    Paul wrote concerning the time in which this apostasy would begin, saying the Jesus’ return “will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. . . . And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3,6-7; NIV)

    So even in Paul’s day, the apostasy was already happening, but it wouldn’t completely corrupt until “the one who now holds it back . . . is taken out of the way.” Who do you think that is? I find that reading John’s statement in light of this, recognizing him as the the last living apostle at the time, makes the connection: “Dear children, this is the last hour; and as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come. This is how we know it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us.” (1 John 2:18-19; NIV) What is that “last hour” John is speaking of if not the end of that restraining force against apostasy? We see that John carried out that function from his letters. (3 John 9-10)

    There would always be ones approved by God within Christendom down through the centuries, but the Churches themselves became corrupt beyond repair. Isn’t that why you yourself are a member of a Protestant church? Wasn’t it deemed by many in the 16th century that the Catholic Church was so irreversibly corrupt and worldly that clean worship of God must be carried out separate from it? Was it so widespread and pervasive that it took a ‘prophet’ (to use your word) in Luther, Calvin, or even Machen to restore proper worship in your view? I view Russell as one of many honest-hearted men and women who sought to worship God on his terms. Yet as I’ve already demonstrated above, the scriptures are clear that a restoration and separation of clean worship would only be fully realized in the time of the end. Again, that’s scriptural, not just an opinion.

    I appreciate your giving quotes from the Church Fathers. However, I disagree that the language they use is really what you would consider orthodox. Many used the term “God” towards Jesus, sure, but they tended to understand it in a relative sense to the Father, which you seem to be missing. For instance, in the Preface to Book IV of his Against Heresies, Irenaeus shows that his use of the term “God” is much more inclusive than how you use it: “[I] have shown that there is none other called God by the Scriptures except the Father of all, and the Son, and those who possess the adoption.” Does this not put an entirely new spin on your quote, seeing as how those who receive adoption are counted also as begotten? To Irenaeus, the Father is distinguished from all others, as can be shown from the same work you quoted: “Thus then there is shown forth One God, the Father, not made, invisible, creator of all things; above whom there is no other God, and after whom there is no other God.” One scholar notes that “throughout his work against Heresies, and very often, Ireneaus uses the title ‘the God over all’ as the exclusive designation of the Father.” (Abbot, “On the Construction of Romans ix. 5,” JBL 1, 1881, p. 136)

    Likewise with Justin Martyr; is this what you’d call orthodox? He wrote, “there is . . . another God and Lord subject to the Maker of all things; who is also called an Angel, because He announces to men whatsoever the Maker of all things–above whom there is no other God–wishes to announce to them.” (Dialogue with Trypho, LVI) Would you ever call Jesus “another God” beside the Father or an “Angel”? Like Irenaeus, Justin is using the term in a relative sense. Another scholar says of his writings: “Justin taught that before the creation of the world God was alone and that there was no Son. . . . When God desired to create the world, . . . he begot another divine being to create the world for him. This divine being was called . . . Son because he was born; he was called Logos because he was taken from the Reason or Mind of God. . . . Justin and the other Apologists therefore taught that the Son is a creature. He is a high creature, a creature powerful enough to create the world but, nevertheless, a creature. In theology this relationship of the Son to the Father is called subordinationism. The Son is subordinate, that is, secondary to, dependent upon, and caused by the Father. The Apologists were subordinationists.” (Boer, A Short History of the Early Church, 1976, p. 110)

    As for Clement, he too distinguishes the Father and Son. He said, “the nature of the Son, which is nearest to Him who is alone the Almighty One.” (Stromata, Book 7, Chapter 2) So who “alone”, to Clement, is “the Almighty One”? The book The Church of the First Three Centuries says, “We might quote numerous passages from Clement in which the inferiority of the Son is distinctly asserted. . . . We are astonished that any one can read Clement with ordinary attention, and imagine for a single moment that he regarded the Son as numerically identical—one—with the Father. His dependent and inferior nature, as it seems to us, is everywhere recognized. Clement believed God and the Son to be numerically distinct; in other words, two beings,—the one supreme, the other subordinate.” (pp. 124-5)

    And while Hippolytus seems to use some language that goes well beyond scripture, he still makes statements like “the Father is one God” (Against Noetus, III) and speaks of him as “The first and only (one God), both Creator and Lord of all, [having] nothing coeval with Himself . . .He was One, alone in Himself . . . this solitary and supreme Deity, by an exercise of reflection, brought forth the Logos first . . . 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.” (Against All Heresies, Book X, Chapter 28-9) The Catholic Encyclopedia points out that Hippolytus “decidedly ascribes no personality to the Holy Spirit.” So he certainly did not teach the modern Trinitarian God.

    As you are probably aware, the Church Fathers are often inconsistent and don’t harmonize completely on all that they teach. Like I suggested to Nicholas, I’d rather examine what the inspired scriptures have to say on the subject. Thanks.

    • Nicholas Voss August 10, 2011 at 11:44 AM #

      Hi TJ –
      Christians agree that the inspired Word of God is the sole authority by which we judge doctriene. At the same time we are interested in the debates the early church leaders had with heretics and other unbelievers. That’s why we cite so many early Christian writings to support our views. Yes, the Bible is the only inspired book. But how did the first century believers intrepret the Holy Bible? How did they respond to attacks made upon the Holy Scriptures? What were their arguments.

      JWs think they have interpreted the Bible correctly, too. They pride themselves that the Scripture is their only rule for faith. And when the Bible they hyjacked from Trinitarians fail to produce the preconceived JW doctrines, they created a new translation. As mentioned previously, we take careful note that your faulty NWT was invented as recently as the early 1960s. Why not earlier?

      You see, we Christians do not consider the early church fathers’ writings as inspired. But we do consider them valuable and helpful. Conversely, JWs turn for interpretive help to the Watchtower Society. Its publications serve as the rule of interpretation for your cult.

      We Christians use the early church fathers as a helpful way to see what arguments were used to defend the doctrine of the Trinmity, the humanity of Christ, etc. We Christians are interested in these things, and for this reason Muhammad called us People of the Book. We like to read these things. But we affirm that the Bible is the only inspired book there is.

      Here, again, we see that Christians have a witness throughout histroy. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have any history whatsoever except that of Charlie Russell. JWs never existed before in human histroy. Therefore they are not the historic faith.

  12. TJ August 9, 2011 at 2:12 PM #

    Hello again Nicholas,

    Thank you for allowing me to continue to present my case here. The messages are beginning to become cluttered, so this is a response to three of your posts.

    You said, “Are you saying M & S were teaching an anti-trinitarian doctrine?” I said nothing of the sort. Let me explain this carefully, Nicholas. Simply by quoting a publication in support of one point does not mean that I’m saying it agrees with me on all points. Isn’t that fair? I asked you to provide an explicit teaching of the Trinity, and you pointed to what is said at Matthew 28:19. Yet this resource, a Trinitarian resource no less(!), says that that verse proves nothing of the sort. Do you really not see how that conclusion, coming from a Trinitarian publication, is not more detrimental to your argument? That is why I quoted from it on this point.

    You then quoted from the first chapter of Second Clement as proof of the Trinity. It simply says for the brothers to think of Jesus as they do of God, as judge of the living and dead. Why would he say this? The New Testament says explicitly that God gave his Son this authority: “[Jesus] hath been ordained by God judge of living and dead.” (Acts 10:42; YLT) Others in the Bible have been viewed as God because of receiving his authority. Just as one example (there are more), Exodus 7:1 says, “Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.'” (NIV) This does not mean that Moses was equal with God any more than Clement was saying Jesus was equal with God. In fact, in the opening to Clement’s first epistle, he makes this statement, “May grace and peace from Almighty God through Jesus Christ be yours in abundance.” Is Jesus not here mentioned separately from “Almighty God”? How do you explain this? And for that matter, since you say Clement is teaching the Trinity, where in the world is the Holy Spirit??

    Nicholas, I use many different translations in my responses. I have literally over a hundred on my shelves that I use in my studies. There is nothing wrong with the NWT, it is a very good literal translation of the original languages. If you want to post one example where you feel the NWT is biased or wrong, please do so and I’ll do my best to give you an answer. But in the interest of time and resources, let’s keep it to one instance for now, so make sure it’s a slam dunk. The rest of this post seems to just consist of taunting, so I’ll move on.

    Here you said of Abel, “You merely stated that he was first in line of witnesses of [Yahweh]. You did not provide evidence that he was Jehovah’s Witness.” That’s what a witness of Yahweh/Jehovah is . . . one of Jehovah’s witnesses. He had the same faith in Jehovah that we do, as evidenced in his actions. So I do believe he acted as we do.

    You then said, “There is no manuscript evidence for the NWT. None. Zero. Zilch. What does that tell you except that the NWT is a fraud.” I’m not sure what it is you’re trying to argue here. The NWT is based off of the same manuscripts as other English translations of the Bible, and its renderings are in no way unique; it finds support in other translations made by those not associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses. Essentially though, your overriding argument in the paragraph seems to be that scriptural accuracy should be a popularity contest. I’m sorry, I don’t subscribe to that view. The weight of evidence is what should determine what rendering is best.

    “If there were JWs why did they not appear in history?” You seem to be hung up on nomenclature. The words used are not important. What we call ourselves or what we call the buildings that we meet in is not that important, it’s the faith that we have and the work that we do. Our headquarters is in Brooklyn, as opposed to “somewhere in the world” (I’m not sure where you think it should be), because that was the best place for us to spearhead the spread of the Kingdom message throughout the world in fulfillment of Jesus’ commission. (Matthew 28:18-20; 24:14) That’s really why we moved our headquarters there and time has proved the move very successful.

    You keep saying the same things over and over almost as rote. We do have a history, there has always been faithful ones within Christendom that have honestly tried to return to the pure form of worship. Those are the ones that have preceded us, and they too had their unrelenting critics that chastised them repeatedly. But the Bible is clear that the last days would be different, these ones would be actually gathered together for worship:

    “It must occur in the final part of the days that the mountain of the house of Jehovah will become firmly established above the top of the mountains, and it will certainly be lifted up above the hills; and to it all the nations must stream. And many peoples will certainly go and say: ‘Come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.’ For out of Zion law will go forth, and the word of Jehovah out of Jerusalem. And he will certainly render judgment among the nations and set matters straight respecting many peoples. And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:2-4; NWT)

    We believe that scripture; that this unprecedented gathering for pure worship will take place in “the final part of the days.” Do you reject it, simply because it didn’t happen earlier in history? You can either let yourself be hardened by the Bible or allow yourself to be molded by it.

    I appreciate your time.

    • Nicholas Voss August 10, 2011 at 11:18 AM #

      TJ-
      It occurred to me as I was writing my last response to you that Jehovah’s Witnesses call themselves by an incorrect pronunciation of the Lord’s name. What I find interesting is this: can you find a place in the New Testaments where Jesus’s followers are called “Jehovah’s Witnesses?”

      On a related topic: why don’t you call yourselves the “Father’s Witnesses” just so there would be no confusion as to whom you are representing?

  13. Nicholas Voss August 10, 2011 at 9:23 AM #

    Hi TJ-
    Here I go “roting” again: The Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have any witness before Charles Taze Russell. You try to validate your beliefs by pointing to the sacrilegious men in which you share one or two heretical doctrines. These men are actually antichrists. Merely because they were anti-trinitarians does not make them Jehovah’s Witnesses. The great apostasy the Bible speaks about is a warning that JWs, Mormons, and Muslims will spring up in the last days to distort the teachings of the Church. We Christians have a long line of writings, manuscripts, authors, preachers, history-makers that all share one thing in common: we are Christians that have a common faith. This common faith is shared by Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Assemblies of God, etc etc etc. We are the witnesses of God, not Russellites and Mormons and Muslims, who came centuries later to fulfill the prophesy that antichrists and false teachers would abound.

    I tell you one thing: the Russellites would not have had a Bible had it not been for the Trinitarians. You have used (misused) our Bible, one translated by Trinitarians (true believers in God) until the 1960s. When you could no longer defend your antichristian views you then invented your own translation that supported your profane preconceived doctrines. Mormons tried to do the same thing. Your New World Mistranslation inserts words that are not in the original Greek. By inserting “other” in Colossians 1:15-17 you have altered the meaning of the original manuscripts. You changed many other passages too. Why was there no Bible translation supporting your Russellite doctrines until recently??? Why do you always steal our literature and history?
    You cannot name one person that ever lived before Russell who said he was a Jehovah’s Witness. You say Abel was a Jehovah’s Witness, but the Mormons say he was a Mormon. Muslims say he believed in Islam. What to make of this? Since Mormons, Muslims and JWs all stemmed from Christianity (they are all apostates of Christians) we can assert that Abel was of a faith the same as the Christians. We make this claim because the writer of Hebrews (a Trinitarian) says he was. The English Bible you used until you recently invented your own came from Trinitarians.

    At every turn in JW history you see distortions of the one true faith (Christianity). JWs are always turning away from Christianity, but always stealing its treasures and ideas. JWs claim you have this vast line of people who believed as you do.
    Not even Russell himself could get God’s name right. He had stolen this name from an anglicanized mispronunciation that came from Trinitarians!

    We Christians say that there have always been witnesses throughout the world. There has always been a church, a people of God, the organization that Christ Himself established, is building, and He Himself is the Head.

    Christians are everywhere and always have been. JWs are an invention of Charles Taze Russell. Mormons are an invention of Joe Smith. Islam is an invention of Muhammad. They are all latter-day apostates and antichrists.

    I truly believe your heart has been darkened and hardened by the JWs. You cannot see past what Watchtower is telling you. They are antichrists and apostates. Flee from them and return to the historic faith before it’s too late. Do not delay in being wise.

    • TJ August 10, 2011 at 8:06 PM #

      Hello Nicholas,

      You gave four responses to me above. From this point forward, I’ll ask if you could please contain your responses to one post in one place. I think that would make it much easier for me (and others) to follow. Much of your posts from today are made up of accusations and judgments, even against me personally. If that’s what you feel you need to say, so be it. I’m hoping for a calm and respectful discussion of the evidence that heeds the scriptural admonition to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15; NIV) If this isn’t possible, my interest in continuing will dissipate quickly.

      In the interest of getting to the root of some of our differences and to bring the scope of this discussion down to a more manageable size, I’ll pose to you a few questions in which I’m interested to hear your answers. These are related to your objections above:

      1. Imagine Clement related an experience where one of his fellow worshippers spoke with Jesus personally, moving that one, once he recognized him, to exclaim something along the lines of ‘I have seen God!’ Would this be undeniable proof that Jesus is himself the Almighty God? Could there be any other legitimate understanding of those words?

      2. I asked you for an example where you feel the NWT is biased. You mentioned Colossians 1, where you feel the word “other” “altered the meaning of the original manuscripts.” I believe “other” is added as an implicit part of the Greek word ‘panta’ (“all”). In your view, can that Greek word ever mean “all other”? If so, where and why? If not, why can’t it?

      3. You have defined “we Christians” as all the mainstream orthodox churches; you identify your history with that of the Catholic Church, though you yourself are a part of a Protestant Church. Paul gave the direct admonition, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10; NIV) Since you have admitted that you and those of the other orthodox denominations ‘disagree on some key issues’, doesn’t this mean you are failing to live by that inspired direction?

      I very much welcome your clear and direct answers. Thanks again for your continued patience.

      • Nicholas Voss August 11, 2011 at 7:31 AM #

        Good morning TJ-
        I will do my best to contain my responses to a single point if that makes it easier for you to keep up. When I read your post stating that you preferred a discussion based on a simple point-counterpoint, it dawned on me that the very reason you have difficulty interpreting the texts of Holy Scripture and also following the argumentation of the early Christians is that cults make their doctrinal statements based on simple quote lifting. By avoiding a broader context you are able to control the discussion and make your own argument seem to be true. “Here it says such-and-such so we will make a doctrine out it,” you say. Christian scholars say, “Here it says such-and-such so we will read the rest of the passage, the entire book, and all the other books contained in the Holy Scriptures.” In this sense we view the Bible as one big book.

        You have tried to prove that there were men in the past who believe like you do. I have shown where you have misrepresented our brothers from the past using isolated statements to prove your point. When we show you the fuller context of the writings, you simply say “Jehovah always had a witness.” But you never show how they were Jehovah’s Witnesses.

        I bought a JW book this week at a used book store. You may have heard of it: JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES: PROCLAIMERS OF GOD’S KINGDOM. It is a history of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It jumps from the first century where they make their case (as the Mormons do) that the Apostles were Jehovah’s Witnesses. Then as early as page 33 it makes the case that a great apostasy developed (as the Mormons claim) and then beginning on page 42 through the rest of the book (723 pages!) details the history of the modern-day Russellite movement. Even your own history books cannot make the case that there were any Jehovah’s Witnesses for 2000 years. You just assume that there were. But you have no names, no writings, no events! You have nothing. Less than 6% of your history book covers JW times past, and this 6% offers no evidence that they were called Jehovah’s Witnesses. Indeed, the Mormons believe they were their own. Muslims believe they followed Islam.

        Indeed, every cult wants to achieve virtue by their association with Christ and His church, but feels a need to rewrite or omit the history of the church, saying they all fell away – that Christ did not preserve His Bride or keep her safe or that the gates of Hades overpowered it. Cults claim a great apostasy came sooner than the Bible says it did and that their little sect is going to restore Christ’s Bride. There’s a jesus for everyone it seems.

        Conversely, we Christians have a rich, real, and active history. We were always there. And always will be. I would like to move on to show how we Christians have always been one family/one faith despite our disagreements, but I’ll have to save that for another post so that you do not get confused.

      • Nicholas Voss August 11, 2011 at 7:54 AM #

        Hi TJ-
        If your feeling got hurt because of my enthusiasm, then I will have to apologize. I am sure you’re not aware of this but I am a missionary to Arab Muslims. I have been in this ministry for over twenty years. In the Arab world the greater the intensity a man shows for his beliefs the more credible he is. Arabs (Muslims especially) perceive sensitive guys like you as insincere — unwilling to fight for what they believe in. A good friend, a sheik, with whom I’ve had a warm and brother-like relationship for many years told me that I was the first Christian he’d ever met who would fight for his beliefs. Our discussions would get heated at times, but we remained friends despite the fierce battles we’ve fought.

        John Calvin perceived himself as a dog who, when his Master was being attacked, would bark and growl. When you attack our faith (which is Christ Himself), I will be as a dog too. Let me tell you something: I have two Chihuahuas. They are tiny creatures. From a distance they look harmless. But if they perceive I am being harmed they will fight to the death. The two will gang up and fight as one. Here’s the point of the analogy: When you attack our God by misrepresenting Him and His word, or twist the words of the Christian brothers of the past, I may seem to be dog-like. But, seriously, I am not as mean as I sound in my posts.

        I know JWs like to think of themselves as pacifists. Perhaps this is how you came to be sensitive?

        Try not to get offended. And I suggest that if you ever want to reach out to Muslims (with whom you have some points of agreement) I suggest you grow thicker skin.

        Best regards,

        Nick –I go by “Nick,” not Nicholas.

  14. Michael Babcock August 10, 2011 at 12:27 PM #

    TJ,
    Thanks for your response and for the spirit in which it was written. Not to focus on details, I didn’t mean to imply that JWs thought of Russell as a prophet at all. But is it not the fact that the Watchtower claims that such an apostasy came into the Church so much so that it became paganized and the truth needed to be restored, which happened in the 1800’s?

    While I know those passages of Scripture you cited quite well, they do not teach the kind of apostasy the Watchtower says would happen. Apostasy did begin even in the days of the apostles, and we are surprised by that for the Lord Himself predicted it and even went on to say that it would continue down to the very day He returns (Matt. 13:24ff). John says that even right now we are in the “last hour” and this is proven by the very fact that there are some who set themselves against Christ, teaching that He did not come in the flesh, and thus they have left the true church and the truth it proclaims as the faith “once and for all handed down to the church” (as Jude called it). But this apostasy would not be such that it would conquer His promise to be with the Church to the end of the age (which assures the Church that its function of going into all the world to make disciples would be successful). Paul called the Church “the pillar and support of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). How could the Church which is “the pillar and support of truth” have crumbled, when Jesus promised that the gates of Hades would “not overpower it”? Paul also attributed glory to God “in the church and in Christ Jesus to ALL generations forever.” If the church truly apostacized, how could it have given glory to God throughout “all generations”?

    While I do not wish to get bogged down over the Church Fathers, who were but men, nevertheless, they were witnesses of the truth and prove that Jesus’ promises were yea and amen. You cited Irenaeus: “[I] have shown that there is none other called God by the Scriptures except the Father of all, and the Son, and those who possess the adoption.” Does that quote shake my opinion of him as a Trinitarian, and does that statement really put a new spin on my previous quote? I don’t think so. For one, the Preface is merely a summary of what he had previously taught in the other books. We must go back to see the reference, which you will find in III.vi.1, 2 where he cites Pss. 45 and 82. There he says, “For the Spirit designates both (of them) by the name of God-both Him who is anointed as Son, and Him who does anoint, that is, the Father….H [here] refers to the Father and the Son, and those who have received the adoption; but these are the Church.” But if you continue reading that section, it is clear that he put the Father and the Son in one category as “God” and the Church in another category as “gods.” Those “who receive adoption” are not “counted also as begotten” as you said. This comes out even clearer in III.xix.2 when he says, “For I have shown from the Scriptures, that no one of the sons of Adam is as to everything, and absolutely, called God, or named Lord. But that He is Himself in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, and Lord, and King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself, may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth. Now, the scriptures would not have testified these things of Him, if, like others, He had been a mere man. Now the Scriptures would not have testified these things of His, if, like others, He had been a mere man. But that he had, beyond all others, in Himself that pre-eminent birth which is from the Most high Father…the divine Scriptures do in both respects testify of Him: also, that he was a man…and that he is the holy Lord…the Mighty God.” And these statements become even more powerful when you understand the nature of the Gnostic heresy he was combatting. They said that there was a God from whom aeons were formed who created all things, including man. But Irenaeus said that there was but one God who alone created, and the Son was not only with God but was God (the Trinitarian formulation based on Jn. 1:1), and then says of all this, “God formed man…it was not angels, therefore, who made us…neither had angels power to make an image of God.” (IV.xx.1). You see, Irenaeus wasn’t contrasting Christ with the “One true and only God” but actually contrasted the true God with the lesser gods of Gnostism, as is clear in the previous section of that Preface to which you referred, and what he says in the next few chapters of that book. in IV.ii.3 for instance, he says that the writings of Moses and all the prophets (what we are very happy to call the very word of God) are really the words of Christ, not the Father. And in that context, in v:2 he says, “He, then, who was adored by the prophets as the living God, He is the God of the living; and His Word is he who also spake to Moses, who also put the Sadduccess to silence. …Christ Himself, therefore, together with the Father, is the God of the living, who spake to Moses, and who was also manifested to the father.” You cannot read Irenaeus in the full context of all that he wrote, knowing the very heresy he attacked, and come away with something that is a non-Trinitarian understanding of God.

  15. Michael Babcock August 10, 2011 at 12:28 PM #

    And your citation from Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, LVI sounds like he did not really believe in the orthodox formulation of the Trinity, however, you must read the whole dialogue.

    Trypho, a monotheistic Jew, is arguing that there is only one God and that the three who appeared to Abraham under the tree in Mamre were angels. Justin is slowly showing how that is not so, but that one of these men was God, not the Father and Creator, but nonetheless God. He slowly builds his case, from one biblical passage to another, and then says of all this, “Now assuredly, Trypho, I shall show that, in the vision of Moses, this same One alone who is called an Angel, and who is God, appeared to and communed with Moses. …In the same manner, therefore, in which the Scripture calls Him who appeared to Jacob in the dream an Angel, then[says] that the same Angel who appeared in the dream spoke to him, saying,’I am the God that appeared to thee when thou didst flee from the face of Esau thy brother;’and[again] says that, in the judgment which befell Sodom in the days of Abraham, the Lord had inflicted the punishment of the Lord who[dwells] in the heavens;–even so here, the Scripture, in announcing that the Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses, and in afterwards declaring him to be Lord and God, speaks of the same One, whom it declares by the many testimonies already quoted to be minister to God, who is above the world, above whom there is no other[God].” You see, he is not saying there is two gods or three gods, but one God who exists as Father and Son [and Holy Spirit, cf. ch. 61].

    Boer, moreover, shows a horrible lack of understanding of Justin and the Apologists. In fact, looking at his book, he doesn’t at all prove his assertions. He doesn’t cite one work from Justin Martyr to validate his comments. Justin wrote to prove that the one God of the OT existed in three distinct Persons, and though he stressed the distinction of Persons in his dialogue, it does not mean that he held to a “subordinationist” concept that Christ is a ‘lesser god’ who came into existence after the Father. He wrote, “Therefore these words testify explicitly that He is witnessed to by Him who established these things, as deserving to be worshipped, as God and as Christ” (lxiii). You cannot worship a lesser god without breaking the Second Commandment

  16. Michael Babcock August 10, 2011 at 12:30 PM #

    As for Clement, you cite The Church of the First Three Centuries which says, “We are astonished that any one can read Clement with ordinary attention, and imagine for a single moment that he regarded the Son as numerically identical—one—with the Father. His dependent and inferior nature, as it seems to us, is everywhere recognized. Clement believed God and the Son to be numerically distinct; in other words, two beings,—the one supreme, the other subordinate.” It is certainly true that Clement taught the Father and the Son are two numerically distinct Persons, but it is not true that he anywhere taught that the Son had an inferior nature. I am astonished that anyone can read Clement with “ordinary attention,” without a non-trinitarian bias, to imagine what these authors, “as it seems to us,” can say. I wonder if they really read Clement?

    They said Clement taught that Jesus had an inferior nature! Really? How do they get that from, “There was then, a Word importing an unbeginning eternity; as also the Word itself, that is, the Son of God, who being, by equality of substance, one with the Father, is eternal and uncreated.” (Fragments, Part I, section III), or “Now, O you, my children, our Instructor is like His Father God, whose son He is, sinless, blameless, and with a soul devoid of passion; God in the form of man, stainless, the minister of His Father’s will, the Word who is God, who is in the Father, who is at the Father’s right hand, and with the form of God is God.” (The Instructor, Book 1, ch 2). How did they get that from his comments in Exhortation to the Greeks, 10:110:1 that Christ was “Despised as to appearance but in reality adored, [Jesus is] the Expiator, the Savior, the Soother, the Divine Word, he that is quite evidently true God, he that is put on a level with the Lord of the universe because he was his Son.”

    How is it possible that they can say “His dependent and inferior nature, as it seems to us, is everywhere recognized,” if they read, “When [John] says: ‘What was from the beginning [1 John 1:1],’ he touches upon the generation without beginning of the Son, who is co-equal with the Father. ‘Was,’ therefore, is indicative of an eternity without a beginning, just as the Word Himself, that is the Son, being one with the Father in regard to equality of substance, is eternal and uncreated. That the word always existed is signified by the saying: ‘In the beginning was the Word’ [John 1:1].” (fragment in Eusebius History, Bk 6 Ch 14; Jurgens, p. 188)? What of his statement, “he that is put on a level with the Lord of the universe because he was his Son.” He that was co-equal with the Father by substance, eternal, uncreated, with an unbeginning eternity, on the same level as the Father, one with the Father, in the form of God as true God, is the One whom these “scholars” say Clement can marvel at as having an “inferior nature”?

  17. Michael Babcock August 10, 2011 at 12:33 PM #

    As for Hippolytus, perhaps you will not be able to understand him unless you read him in context (again!) You cite where Hippolytus wrote, “that God is ‘the one God, the first and the only One, the Maker and Lord of all,’ who ‘had nothing co-equal [of equal age] with him…But he was One, alone by himself; who willing it, called into being what had no being before.’ But note the following statements found in Hippolytus’ writings, which helps to understand your citation more fully:

 “God, subsisting alone, and having nothing contemporaneous with Himself, determined to create the world…. For us, then, it is sufficient simply to know that there was nothing contemporaneous with God. Beside Him there was nothing; but He, while existing alone, yet existed in plurality (Against The Heresy Of One Noetus, 10). “And thus there appeared another beside Himself. But when I say another, I do not mean that there are two Gods, but that it is only as lifght of light…for there is but one power, which is from the All; and the Father is the All, from whom comtth this Power, the Word” (Against The Heresy Of One Noetus, 11)…. Thus, then, these too, though they wish it not, fall in with the truth, and admit that one God made all things….For Christ is the God above all.” (Refutation of All Heresies xxx).

    And while he did write, ““The first and only (one God), both Creator and Lord of all, [having] nothing coeval with Himself . . .He was One, alone in Himself,” as you said, he also wrote, “The Logos alone of this God is from God himself; where also the Logos is God, being the substance of God. Now the world was made from nothing; where it is not God…” (Refutation of all Heresies, Book X, ch 29). Christ is of the same substance of God, making Him very God. “For who will not say that there is one God? Yet he will not on that account deny the economy (i.e., the number and disposition of persons in the Trinity).” (Against The Heresy Of One Noetus) “Beside Him there was nothing; but He [God], while existing alone, yet existed in plurality.” (Against Noetus, Book X). Hippolytus certainly appeared to believe that there was more than one Person in the Godhead, and that they existed in different “economies.” But it is clear to him that Jesus was in God, was from God, is God, and is the substance of God. Elsewhere, Hippolytus writes “He (the Son) was in essential being with His Father, so was He also in the body and in Hades. For the Son is not contained in space, just as the Father; and He comprehends all things in Himself” (Exegetical Fragments from Commentaries, On Luke, Chapter 23).

    I state all that merely for clarification, and for a call for a more honest and clear reading of the Fathers to let them say what they meant in their writings. However, since you would prefer to examine the Scriptures, as would I, let us do so and leave behind the Fathers for now.

  18. Michael Babcock August 10, 2011 at 2:16 PM #

    I would like to just look at the Bible texts to discover what system of doctrine is correct: the JW or the Trinitarian Christian.

    Since you wrote Nick, “There is nothing wrong with the NWT, it is a very good literal translation of the original languages. If you want to post one example where you feel the NWT is biased or wrong, please do so and I’ll do my best to give you an answer. But in the interest of time and resources, let’s keep it to one instance for now, so make sure it’s a slam dunk.”

    I think we can kill two birds with one stone, if you’d like, by looking at John 1:1ff. The NWT is horrible on that verse. I don’t even want to call it a translation as much as it is an interpretation.

    NWT Jn. 1:1, “In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.”

    NASB Jn. 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

    The problem with the NWT is that is wants to make a great deal of the fact that the last phrase leaves the nominative noun “theos” anartharous, i.e., without the definite article, so that it should be rendered “a god” instead of God. Is that grammatically possible, and have the mainstream English translations been inaccurate, or even deceptive?

    A question comes up even in the first verse where arche is understood to be “the beginning,” even though it does not have the definite article.

    In half of the 12 instances where Theos is used in John 1, 5 do not have the article. The lack of a definite article does not mean that the noun is indefinite, obviously, since the context clearly shows that the one true God is being spoken of. Would we really want to translate 1:6 as “There was a man sent from a god”? I don’t think so. Or in Jn 1:18, if we translate it based on the same rationale as the NWT translated 1:1, i.e., due to the absence of the definite article, the verse would be translated as, “No one has ever seen a god; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” But of course John is saying that no one has ever seen the only true living God. (cf. Ex. 33:20 and Deut. 4:12). The use of the definite article in the two languages has separate meanings and uses altogether, which is why Daniel Wallace devotes almost 50 pages in his book Beyond Greek Basics to the article. He states that a predicate nominative that precedes the copula, and which is apparently definite from the context, usually lacks the article (p 257). That is a general rule which has been borne out many times over.

    In Greek, nouns have various cases, and in the last phrase both Theos and Logos are in the nominative case (which points to the subject of a sentence or phrase). This is unexpected in a sense because Logos is being predicated by Theos (or more simply, the Word is being described as being Theos), which is clearly understood by the two nominative nouns being separated by the copulative verb “een” (singular, imperfect, indicative of eimi – I am). This construction is common in Greek. The predictate nominative Theos does not need the definite article because the article before the subject nominative does double duty for it. And the construction clearly is designed to mean that the predicate nominative describes the essence, the quality, or the nature of the subject. In other words, “the Word is the nature of, or essence of God” is the correct translation. The two nouns in the same case linked by a copulative is saying “the Logos = God, the one who in the beginning existed and who made all things.”

    Moreover, in context, the Logos being God is understood. John clearly reaches back to Gen. 1:1 by even quoting it in his opening statements to identify who the Logos is. God is the Creator and John says in 1:3 that all things came into existence through the Logos, “and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” Anything that was created was created by the Logos. That would even suggest that the Logos cannot have been created since He could not create Himself, but that He is only Creator and uncreated. Anything that was created in Gen. 1 was created by the Logos, according to John. But Gen. 2:4, we are given even more information about who this God is who created all things in chapter 1, that He is “Jehovah God.”

    And if that wasn’t enough, Jn. 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” This Creator became flesh, and He literally “(pitched his tent) tabernacled with us.” He is now pointing to the Exodus, where after Moses had the Tabernacle built, Jehovah rested in it, filling it with glory, and then later showed His “glory” which was “Full of grace and truth” to Moses (Ex. 34:6 where Moses writes that Jehovah was “abounding (full) in chesed (lovingkindness, grace) and emet – (truth)). Anyone even remotely familiar with the LXX is going to catch John’s allusion. But all this points to John’s statement that Jesus is Jehovah God and Jn. 1:1 is to be understood as “the Word was God.”

    • TJ August 11, 2011 at 2:43 PM #

      Hey Michael,

      Here we go with John 1:1.🙂 First, I want to make something clear that may have been misrepresented to you in Wallace’s Grammar. It is a gross oversimplification to say that the NWT made the anarthrous theos in John 1:1c indefinite in its renderings just because it lacks the article. Wallace unfortunately quotes one R.H. Countess, a critic of the NWT, who makes the false claim that the NWT has its own “translation principle” that nouns lacking the article are automatically indefinite, and Countess then proceeds to knock down that strawman by astounding his audience that the NWT held to its ‘own’ principle only six percent of the time. It’s completely false. Wallace should have simply quoted the NWT’s appendix which explains the real reason that either an indefinite or a qualitative rendering is preferred over a definite one here; It’s because “the Greek word θεός (the·os′) is a singular predicate noun occurring before the verb and is not preceded by the definite article.” (NWT, p. 1579) So it’s not just that the noun is lacking the article, but also the specific grammatical construct in which it’s found. That being the case, it does no good to point to other anarthrous nouns in John 1:1 that are not in this same construct as proof of anything.

      Maybe you’re well aware of this already, but be very careful too about how you view Colwell’s Rule. You shouldn’t be using it to try to prove that theos in John 1:1c is definite. That is the mistake that scholars, even very prominent ones like Bruce Metzger, have made over the years and Wallace is warning about this. The ‘rule’ simply states that a definite noun in such a construct usually lacks the article, not that a noun lacking the article in such a construct is usually definite. That’s a big difference. Wallace himself does not agree with the definite rendering, saying, “The vast majority of definite anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nominatives are monadic, in genitive constructions, or are proper names, none of which are true here, diminishing the likelihood of a definite θεός in John 1:1c.” (p. 268)

      I agree with you when you say, “the construction clearly is designed to mean that the predicate nominative describes the essence, the quality, or the nature of the subject.” My argument then is that both the indefinite and qualitative renderings do this, but not the definite! The definite rendering makes a simple identification between two specific nouns. For example, imagine if we switched out the nouns of John 1:1b and c so that we have these choices:

      Definite:
      “John was with the man, and John was the man.”

      Qualitative:
      “John was with the man, and John was [hu]man.”

      Indefinite:
      “John was with the man, and John was a man.”

      What can we conclude from this? The definite rendering does not describe the essence/quality/nature of John, it makes an identification between John and the man. Given the previous clause, this actually becomes nonsensical (Wallace argues that such a definite rendering affirms Modalism when used in John 1:1). The qualitative rendering makes no such identification and does describe the nature of John. But here’s the thing, what difference in meaning is there between the qualitative and the indefinite above? Doesn’t that indefinite rendering likewise point to the nature of John? He’s human; he’s a man. Notice that when you take out the preconceived theology of what we ‘know’ about ‘God’, the indefinite is completely fine! Let’s test this out with biblical examples, minus the theological commitments.

      In your post, you sampled the NASB’s rendering as your preferred one. So let’s look up a few other anarthrous, pre-verbal, singular, predicate nouns, just like theos in John 1:1c, and see how they are rendered when ‘God’ is not in the mix. John 4:19 features the word “prophet” in this very same grammatical construct. The NASB has:

      “The woman said to Him, ‘Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet.'”

      So we see it’s a very natural indefinite even in this translation. At John 6:70, the word translated “devil” is another such noun. The NASB has:

      “Jesus answered them, ‘Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?’”

      Again, the indefinite is utilized. John 8:44 contains two anarthrous, pre-verbal, singular, predicate nouns, “murderer” and “liar”. Let’s see how the NASB handles them:

      “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

      Do you see how translating these types of nouns as indefinites is very grammatically possible? It’s just that when the term “G/god” is used, your theology comes into play, and you reject “a god” for theological reasons, i.e. your a priori beliefs.

      Let me ask you this. Imagine you lived sometime in the first few centuries when Koine Greek was still a living language. You want to get the book of John translated into a foreign language that you don’t speak. Unlike Greek, this language has both definite and indefinite articles, as well as qualitative nouns, available for use. You bring this document to a translator who doesn’t have a commitment to believe what you do about God and his Son. How do you think that Greek-speaking translator would render it in the other language–as a definite (“God”), a qualitative (“divine”), or an indefinite (“a god”)?

      Just something to which I hope you’ll give serious and careful thought. Thanks again for your time!

      • Michael Babcock August 16, 2011 at 12:46 AM #

        TJ,
        First, while I cited a general rule from p. 257 that Wallace brought out, I must admit that I didn’t really read Wallace too much on this issue. I don’t really know how he deals with the NWT, and I don’t really care. My main point in bringing him up was to say that the Greek language is much more complicated than what is often understood in regards to translations. The Greeks often had a different concept of the use of the article that we in English have, and that is supported by the fact that Wallace devoted about 50 pages to the use of the article in his grammar book.

        Secondly, did I say I was using Colwell’s Rule in translating Jn. 1:1? I don’t think so. At any rate, I know that the Rule is often misunderstood, overused, abused, and that Wallace doesn’t believe that it should be used to interpret Jn. 1:1c. But while Colwell’s Rule might have some bearing on the verse, I am quite sure that Jn.1:1c cannot be firmly translated on the basis of sheer grammar alone. The definiteness or indefiniteness of THEOS must be determined on contextual grounds. I believe that was what I emphasized.

        Now, you mentioned how NWT’s appendix explains that either an indefinite or a qualitative rendering is preferred over a definite one because “the Greek word θεός (the·os′) is a singular predicate noun occurring before the verb and is not preceded by the definite article.” You conclude, “So it’s not just that the noun is lacking the article, but also the specific grammatical construct in which it’s found.” BTW, while it is true that Wallace does not agree with the definite rendering, on the same page you gave, he also says that it is at least grammatically possible that THEOS is definite, albeit improbable.

        Anyway, either it is late and so I am not following the reason, or it doesn’t make much sense period, but I am lost as to the specific grammatical reason why you believe that an anarthrous predicate nominative occurring before the copula should be indefinite. As pointed out before, there are other singular predicate nouns that come before the verb that are not preceded by the article, and they are translated definite. What is the grammatical rationale of that?

        The thing is THEOS EEN HO LOGOS has two nominatives within the same clause. How do you know which is the subject and which is the predicate? The Greek construction tells us. It is not “God was the Word,” but it is properly translated “The Word was God.” The lack of the article with THEOS shows us that this is the predicate, and is not needed because the article of the subject puts an umbrella over the whole clause. In other words, John is saying that the Word that was in the beginning with God has the very nature, or essence of God. So, while I agree that it is not a “simple identification between two specific nouns,” it is certainly an identification of essence. All that God is, the Word is. When the NWT puts the indefinite article “a” in their translation of Jn. 1:1c, they are missing out on that and they are guilty of placing an identification between two specific nouns, LOGOs and THEOS, without seeing how they are really related.

        Moreover, John is certainly thinking of Gen. 1:1ff when he began his Gospel as he uses the very word that are found in the creation passage: “in the beginning” “life,” and “light.” “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” He is saying very clearly that the Word was the God who was in Gen. 1 creating the heavens and earth. And as John bring all this out, Jn. 1:1c is saying that the Logos is the one true God, for Gen. 2:4 declares that YWHW is the creator while John says it is the Word that is the creator. Surely Is. 45:18 was also in John’s mind which says, “For thus says YHWH, who created the heavens (He is the God who formed the earth and made it, He established it and did not create it a waste place, but formed it to be inhabited), ‘I am the LORD, and there is none else…And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me.” In the entire context of the whole Bible, OT and NT, there is but only one God who is the Creator of heaven and earth. For John to say, “Well, in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god” is completely foreign to the inspired Scriptures. If He was merely “a god” of a different sort than God, then all the other declarations of monotheism is made redundant. And either Is. 45 or Jn. 1 is a lie, for YHWH said that HE created all things, there is no god but Him, yet John said that the Word who is “a god” (by your translation and interpretation) created all things. Paul said, “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 are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” (1 Cor. 8:4-6). If Jesus was merely “a god” then He is only a ‘so-called god” and not a real god, for there is only one God and only one Lord. Notice also that Paul put Christ in the same category as the Father in his statement. That is exactly what John did also when he said, “THEOS EEN HO LOGOS.”

        You ask an interesting question: “How do you think that Greek-speaking translator would render it in the other language–as a definite (“God”), a qualitative (“divine”), or an indefinite (“a god”)?” Again, I don’t know that grammar itself will fully determine how the translator would render it (although as I pointed out, I think the grammar clearly reveals a qualitative rendering, thus he would probably translate it “and the Word was God”), but that he would also have to go back to Gen. 1 and Is. 45 and to other places, even within the context of Jn. 1, to give him the full picture. If previous revelation declares that YHWH is the only Creator, and John says the Word is the Creator, then I am forced to render Jn. 1:1c “and the Word was God.”

      • TJ August 17, 2011 at 3:21 PM #

        Michael,

        You had said, “I am lost as to the specific grammatical reason why you believe that an anarthrous predicate nominative occurring before the copula should be indefinite.”

        Sorry if that was confusing. My point was to show that the NWT based it’s opposition to the definite rendering on the specific grammatical construction of theos in John 1:1c, not simply on the fact that it didn’t have the article. I then agreed with your assessment of such a construct where you said, “the construction clearly is designed to mean that the predicate nominative describes the essence, the quality, or the nature of the subject.” The NWT appendix likewise says, “Careful translators recognize that the articular construction of the noun points to an identity, a personality, whereas a singular anarthrous predicate noun preceding the verb points to a quality about someone.” (NWT Appendix, p. 1579) Context is undoubtedly the deciding factor, yet I appealed to Wallace’s observation that the contextual factors pointing to a definite are not present in John 1:1.

        So again, it’s my view that both the indefinite and qualitative renderings express well “the essence, the quality, or the nature of the subject,” while the definite does not, as I showed in my examples above. So I believe your chosen rendering, which is definite and not qualitative (more on this below), undermines what you say here. The Translator’s New Testament, put out by the British and Foreign Bible Society, says of this construction here, “it is difficult to believe that the omission [of the article] is not significant. In effect it gives an adjectival quality to the second use of Theos (God) so the the phrase means ‘The Word was divine” (p. 451; emphasis theirs). Using an English noun instead of an adjective for the Greek noun is simply a more literal way of expressing the same thing. The definite rendering, on the other hand, causes people to see an identification, not a quality! It’s my contention that most readers will understand John 1:1 in your preferred rendering as they do the parallel example below:

        “John was with Peter, and John was Peter.”
        “the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

        They naturally make an identification between two persons, which makes no sense given the previous clause (and again, which Wallace says affirms Modalism). Rendering it as “the Word was divine” or “the Word was a god” emphasizes the quality. Now if you are really for a qualitative rendering, why not at least go for “and the Word was god”? Why does it have to be capitalized, making it indistinguishable from the definite rendering?

        I made reference to your larger contextual argument in my response to you further down. But for now, I want to add the chaismus evidence found in John 1:1-18. Scholars have noted the reflecting parallels between the verses from 1 to 18, so what does verse 18 reflect in verse one? “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” (NASB) So no one has ever seen the God Jesus is said to be “with” in 1:1b, but since the Word/Jesus himself is divine or a God/god, this is the “only begotten God” that has revealed the God no one has ever seen. Take out what you already ‘know’ about God and monotheism and read this verse with fresh eyes, and you’ll see there are two gods spoken of here, one the Supreme, Almighty God and the other is a god in a more relative sense.

        In response to my question, you answered, “If previous revelation declares that YHWH is the only Creator, and John says the Word is the Creator, then I am forced to render Jn. 1:1c ‘and the Word was God.'”

        Again, as I’ve shown further down, your interpretation disregards the specific argument being made in Isaiah, contrasting Jehovah with any false gods, irrespective of any representatives acting in their behalf. By your reasoning on that passage, I’d also have to accept the judge Othniel as God, which is obviously incorrect.

        But it’s an interesting thing when someone is presented with new evidence. Will he allow the new evidence to mold his understanding or will he mold the new evidence to conform to his previous understanding? We do in fact have evidence of what an ancient translator would do with John 1:1 given the options we have available.

        In the second or third century, while Koine Greek was still spoken and previous to the councils of the fourth century, the New Testament was translated into the Coptic language, which was used in Hellenized Egypt. Unlike the other languages the New Testament was translated into during this time, Coptic had both definite and indefinite articles available, like our modern English. Guess how John 1:1 was rendered…the definite article was used with the first occurrence of ‘god’, while the indefinite article was used with the second occurrence of ‘god’ in 1:1c!

        So here we have ancient evidence corroborating the view that the anarthrous theos in John 1:1c is best understood as an indefinite noun, i.e. “a god.” I’m interested to hear your see if you’ll approach this evidence objectively or not. Thanks.

  19. TJ August 11, 2011 at 1:14 AM #

    Hello Michael, and thanks for your response.

    You asked, “If the church truly apostacized, how could it have given glory to God throughout ‘all generations’?” Let me ask you, as a Protestant pastor: If the church did not fall deeply into apostasy, why are there Protestant churches at all? Why did Martin Luther, John Calvin and other reformers break off from the Catholic Church entirely? Are you saying that they were wrong to do so? You can’t have it both ways. Had the church become apostate or not?

    It is my position that there has always been wheat in among the weeds, as Jesus said there would be. (Matthew 13:25) But Paul noted that the foretold “man doomed to destruction” would “exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple.” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4; NIV) Other scriptures speak of this class of man as being those in positions of authority (compare Acts 20:29-30; 2 Peter 2:1-2). So why wouldn’t we expect the ‘official’ church that had gotten itself into a corrosive political relationship with the secular state to be corrupt at the top? There would always be a remnant of faithful ones, that other prophecies speak of as being brought together and purified from the apostate influence in the end times (compare Isaiah 2:2-4; Daniel 12:9-10; Matthew 13:30,43). Why would there need to be such a restoration if there was no deeply-entrenched corruption throughout the churches?

    I appreciate your taking the time to respond regarding each of the Church Fathers we have considered. Instead of offering one or two counter-examples to each of them as I did last time, I’ll focus on giving the first one, Irenaeus, a more comprehensive analysis; this could be done with any of these Fathers with the same result. You say that your view of Irenaeus as a Trinitarian has not been shaken. It should; Irenaeus is clearly not a Trinitarian. He uses the term “God/god” in different ways with different meanings throughout his work, but it still can be proven that he views the Father as altogether superior to the Son. Moreover, though he goes to great pains to carefully define who is and who isn’t “God”, it’s rather striking that he never calls the Holy Spirit “God”. If he was truly Trinitarian, you would think he wouldn’t forget the third member of the Trinity, right?

    There are three basic ways in which Irenaeus defines someone as “God”. These definitions can be seen in the following passages that seem contradictory (unless otherwise noted, all passages are from Against Heresies):

    —————————————————————————-
    1. “[I] have shown that there is none other called God by the Scriptures except the Father of all, and the Son, and those who possess the adoption.” (4.Preface.4)

    2. “He indeed who made all things can alone, together with His Word, properly be termed God and Lord: but the things which have been made cannot have this term applied to them, neither should they justly assume that appellation which belongs to the Creator.” (3.3.3)

    3. “He, the Father, is the only God and Lord, who alone is God and ruler of all.” (3.9.1)
    —————————————————————————-

    How are these reconciled? By recognizing three definitions, from the most general meaning to the most restrictive. To Irenaeus, “God” can apply to those who have received the adoption by God. “[O]f what gods [does he speak]? [Of those] to whom He says, ‘I have said, Ye are gods, and all sons of the Most High.’ To those, no doubt, who have received the grace of the ‘adoption, by which we cry, Abba Father.'” (3.6.1)

    Next, Irenaeus recognizes Jesus/the Word as well as the Father as having a role in creation. This is the rationale used for “properly” terming them both as God, while excluding all others, in the second passage above. Yet Irenaeus does believe that the Son was produced in some mysterious manner originally:

    “If any one, therefore, says to us, ‘How then was the Son produced by the Father?’ we reply to him, that no man understands that production, or generation, or calling, or revelation, or by whatever name one may describe His generation, which is in fact altogether indescribable.” (2.28.6) He further down speaks of the “birth” of the Son.

    So this brings us to the third definition, “God” in its highest sense, which refers to the Father alone. This meaning is often emphasized by the use of adjectives: “[T]he Father is called Most High and Almighty . . . the God of all.” (Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching, 8) These types of terms are not used towards Jesus. I’ll re-quote this observation: “throughout his work against Heresies, and very often, Irenaeus uses the title ‘the God over all’ as the exclusive designation of the Father.” (Abbot, “On the Construction of Romans ix. 5,” JBL 1, 1881, p. 136) Recognize the difference in these types of designations for the Father and Son in the following passage:

    “For [Jesus] was . . . Wonderful Counselor and Mighty God . . . So then He who was proclaimed by the law through Moses, and by the prophets of the Most High and Almighty God, as Son of the Father of all . . . came into Judea.” (Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching, 39-40)

    The Son is called “Mighty God”, which is relative to the Father’s absolute “Most High and Almighty God” title. These absolute titles are found throughout Irenaeus’ work as common designations of the Father. Below is a list of examples, along with a few other notable passages that highlight the Father’s superiority over the Son:

    —————————————————————————-
    “[T]he Father and God of all.” (Demonstration of Apostolic Preaching, 21)

    There is “one God, the Father Almighty.” (1.3.6)

    The apostle John was “proclaiming one God, the Almighty, and one Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten.” (1.9.2)

    “The Church . . . [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty . . . and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God.” (1.10.1)

    The phrase “the will of Him who is the Supreme Father” is used interchangeably with “the will of the Most High God.” (2.2.1)

    “[T]his God is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Paul the apostle also has declared, [saying,] ‘There is one God, the Father, who is above all, and through all things, and in us all.’ I have indeed proved already that there is only one God; but I shall further demonstrate this from the apostles themselves, and from the discourses of the Lord.” (2.2.5)

    “[T]he Father” is used as a synonym for “the true God.” (2.5.3)

    “There is But One Creator of the World, God the Father: This the Constant Belief of the Church . . . God is the Creator of the world . . . and the Lord teaches us of this Father who is in heaven, and no other.” (2.9.1) (Here the Father is recognized as the “One Creator” because he is the source of the creation.)

    “It is easy to prove from the very words of the Lord, that He acknowledges one Father and Creator of the world . . . and that this One is really God over all.” (2.11.1)

    “[S]ince the Father Himself is alone called God . . . the Scriptures acknowledge Him alone as God; and yet again, since the Lord confesses Him alone as His own Father, and knows no other.” (2.28.4)

    “For if any one should inquire the reason why the Father, who has fellowship with the Son in all things, has been declared by the Lord alone to know the hour and the day [of judgment], he will find at present no more suitable, or becoming, or safe reason than this (since, indeed, the Lord is the only true Master), that we may learn through Him that the Father is above all things. For ‘the Father,’ says He, ‘is greater than I.’ The Father, therefore, has been declared by our Lord to excel with respect to knowledge.” (2.28.8)

    “He is Father, He is God, He the Founder, He the Maker, He the Creator . . . He is the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of the living . . . whom Christ reveals . . . He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (2.30.9)

    “[H]e alone is God and Father of all.” (2.31.1)

    “All the other expressions likewise bring out the title of one and the same Being; as, for example, The Lord of Powers, The Father of all, God Almighty, The Most High, The Creator, The Maker, and such like. These are not the names and titles of a succession of different beings, but of one and the same, by means of which the one God and Father is revealed.” (2.35.3)

    “[A]ll things [were formed] by one and the same Father . . . all things that have been made [were created] . . . by God alone, the Father . . . there is but one God, the Maker of all things.” (2.35.4)

    “[T]he God of all, the Supreme King . . . and His [Jesus’] own Father.” (3.5.1)

    “Wherefore I do also call upon thee, Lord God of Abraham, and God of Isaac, and God of Jacob and Israel, who art the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . who art the only and the true God . . . Thou art God alone.” (3.6.4)

    “Jesus Christ our Lord, the Son of the Most High God,” (3.10.2)

    “God . . . whom Christ confessed as His Father. Now He is the Creator, and He it is who is God over all.” (4.5.1)

    “[H]e has a full faith in one God Almighty, of whom are all things; and in the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (4.33.7)

    “[T]he Most High God the Father.” (5.1.3)

    “There is But One Lord and One God, the Father.” (5.17.1)

    “[T]hus one God the Father is declared, who is above all, and through all, and in all. The Father is indeed above all, and He is the Head of Christ.” (5.28.2)
    —————————————————————————-

    You concluded above, “You cannot read Irenaeus in the full context of all that he wrote, knowing the very heresy he attacked, and come away with something that is a non-Trinitarian understanding of God.”

    I think it’s very clear that any modern Trinitarian would be uncomfortable making these statements that Irenaeus evidently had no trouble saying at all. He recognized the Father as the Almighty God, the Son as God in a more relative sense, and didn’t seem to recognize the Holy Spirit as God at all. How can one read his work and come away with any kind of Trinitarian understanding without reading it into his work?

    On a side note, I haven’t checked through all of the rest of your citations yet, but I was wondering if you have checked this one you quoted:

    “When [John] says: ‘What was from the beginning [1 John 1:1],’ he touches upon the generation without beginning of the Son, who is co-equal with the Father. ‘Was,’ therefore, is indicative of an eternity without a beginning, just as the Word Himself, that is the Son, being one with the Father in regard to equality of substance, is eternal and uncreated. That the word always existed is signified by the saying: ‘In the beginning was the Word’ [John 1:1].” (fragment in Eusebius History, Bk 6 Ch 14; Jurgens, p. 188)

    I happened to pull out my copy of Ecclesiatical History, and it’s not in there (I have the Cruse translation). I can only seem to find those words on the web in that exact quote, with that exact citation. Do you know where it’s from and can you verify its authenticity? I’m just curious.

    I’ll respond to your criticism of John 1:1 in the NWT in another post when I have the time. Thank you.

    • Michael Babcock August 15, 2011 at 10:45 PM #

      TJ,
      Thanks for the lengthy response. I have become really busy and don’t know how much time I can personally devote to al lthat you say, so I’ll do a hit and run thing, if you don’t mind.

      First, though, You said, “You say that your view of Irenaeus as a Trinitarian has not been shaken. It should; Irenaeus is clearly not a Trinitarian” and then later said, “I think it’s very clear that any modern Trinitarian would be uncomfortable making these statements that Irenaeus evidently had no trouble saying at all. He recognized the Father as the Almighty God, the Son as God in a more relative sense, and didn’t seem to recognize the Holy Spirit as God at all. How can one read his work and come away with any kind of Trinitarian understanding without reading it into his work?”

      I’ll answer that by simply restating that my confidence in Ireaeus’ orthodoxy as a Trinitarian has still not been shaken by all your citations and little spin on them. Secondly, I do wholly affirm the Apostolic, Nicene, and Athanasian Creeds, as well as wholly adopting the Westminster Confession of Faith, which I think you will admit are all Trinitarian. And so I would call myself a creedal, confessional, and modern Trinitarian, and guess what? I am not at all uncomfortable making the statements Irenaeus said. I don’t think any Trinitarian would have trouble with it. I guess my question is, Do you really understand the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity? Because quite honestly, if you think we have a problem with what he said, you must not know exactly what we believe. So I simply ask, Why do you think we’d have a problem with Irenaeus’ language?

      But a couple of quick thing that may add clarity to your problem: I’ll quote again what Irenaeus said in Apostolic Preaching, “And so in the substance and power of His being there is shown forth one God; but there is also according to the economy of our redemption both Son and Father.” All the quotes you gave can easily be understood according to that principle. There are three Persons in the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three are one God, the same in substance (as Irenaeus said), same in glory and power – that is the ontological Trinity. That was Irenaeus’ understanding of God and why he wrote, “Christ Himself, therefore, together with the Father, is the God of the living, who spake to Moses, and who was also manifested to the father.” Did you read how he said the Son is together with the Father and that these are the one God who spoke to Moses? This is why he also declares, “for the Father is the invisible of the Son, but the Son the visible of the Father. And for this reason all spake with Christ when He was present [upon earth] and they named Him God.” (Against Heresies IV.vi.6).

      However, how is it that Irenaeus could speak of the Son as being “inferior” to the Father as your quotes seem to suggest? He understood that the Bible teaches that each of these Persons have different tasks and different properties (which Irenaeus also said in the quote I just gave) – which theologians call the “Economic Trinity.” The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Father, nor are any of these the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not the Father or the Son. Are you familiar with the Athanasian Creed?

      This is not merely my assessment of Irenaeus, but this is the general view of any reputable scholar of early church history. For instance, J.N.D. Kelly wrote, “Thus he (Irenaeus) approached God from two directions, envisaging Him both as he exists in His intrinsic being, and also as he manifests Himself in the ‘economy’, i.e., the ordered process of His self-disclosure.” (Early Church Doctrine, p. 104).

      You said, “He recognized the Father as the Almighty God, the Son as God in a more relative sense, and didn’t seem to recognize the Holy Spirit as God at all.” Yet, Irenaeus does mention the Holy Spirit as God. For instance, Irenaeus writes, “For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things, to whom also He speaks, saying, ‘Let Us make man after Our image and likeness’” (Against Heresies V.xx.1). While it is true that Irenaeus gives far more treatment to the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit undergirds the whole plan of salvation. Let me quote Kelly again, “Where he was in advance of the Apologists, from whom he also diverged in his deliberate avoidance of philosophical jargon, was (a) in his firmer grasp and more explicit statement of this notion of ‘the economy’, and (b) in the much fuller recognition which he gave to the place of the Spirit in the triadic scheme.” (p. 105).

      You were wondering where the citation from Eusebius History is from. Look at William Jurgens, Faith of the Early Church, vol. 1, p. 188.

      You asked, “Let me ask you, as a Protestant pastor: If the church did not fall deeply into apostasy, why are there Protestant churches at all?”

      I don’t think I said that no apostasy happened, I was merely affirming my faith in Christ’s own promise that He would be with the Church throughout all its generations, even to the end of the age, because He is building His Church and even the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. Yes, there were serious errors seeded in the Church and God raised up men like Luther, Calvin, Bucer, and others to point them out. And as they sought to reform the Church, they went back and looked at the Fathers as well as the Bible. They saw themselves in line with the Church as a whole. They did not believe that the errors sprang up so near the end of the Apostolic age. And that is something quite different from what you see Russell or Smith or White doing. So, to answer your question, “Had the church become apostate or not?” I say no, the Church did not become apostate, although apostasy had crept in. Jesus kept His Church. Do you see the difference between what the Protestants believed and what you believe concerning this?

      • TJ August 17, 2011 at 4:16 PM #

        Thank you Michael for your response.

        I’m well aware of the very fine intricacies between supposed ‘economic’ and ‘ontological’ Trinities and the extremely complex and philosophical language that has developed over the centuries to explain these; language that, when scrutinized, is found to contain logical absurdities woven into it which at some point can only be explained away as ‘mystery’. That this complex ‘mystery’ wasn’t the teaching of the apostles is recognized not only by the Catholic authorities I cited above (who themselves rely on later ‘inspired’ Tradition as the basis for accepting the Trinity), but by many objective researchers. Take these two examples:

        “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 doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies. . . . By the end of the 4th century . . . the doctrine of the Trinity took substantially the form it has maintained ever since.” (The New Encyclopædia Britannica, 1976, Micropædia, Vol. X, p. 126)

        “Christianity derived from Judaism and Judaism was strictly Unitarian. The road which led from Jerusalem to Nicea was scarcely a straight one. Fourth century Trinitarianism did not reflect accurately early Christian teaching regarding the nature of God; it was, on the contrary, a deviation from this teaching.”—(The Encyclopedia Americana, 1956, Vol. XXVII, p. 294L)

        Your explanations on Ireneaus above didn’t really contradict my explanation as far as I can tell. You didn’t show a place where the Son is recognized as “the Almighty God” or similar. Rather, you appealed, again, to places where he’s recognized as God in some sense; this fits under my second definition. Ancient writers, as well as myself, recognize Jesus as a God in a certain capacity, but the Father alone is always the absolute source of everything and the Most High God. This is biblical monotheism. Now you say you don’t have a problem with any of Ireneaus’ language, but would you ever really say, “the Father Himself is alone called God . . . the Scriptures acknowledge Him alone as God,” as Ireneaus does? He’s using the term in its highest sense here, and I don’t think you’d use that language exclusively of the Father as he does without blinking.

        As for the Holy Spirit, I too recognize it as always being present with God…as his active force. This doesn’t make it a person or God. Ireneaus simply does not ever label the Holy Spirit as God, which is a truly amazing omission if he really believed as you do. It’s interesting however that you bring up Ireneaus’ reference to the Holy Spirit paralleling it with Proverbs 8:22. His view here was aberrant among Church Fathers, as that text was almost universally attributed to the Son. Perhaps the discussion on Colossians 1:15 will lead into this.

        When it comes to your view of the apostasy, what you seem to be saying is, ‘enough apostasy for thee but not for ye’. The apostasy was evidently serious enough to the Reformers that they broke away entirely from the Catholic Church. And one simply needs to read a little of what they thought of the Church to see that they certainly viewed it as irredeemably corrupt and apostate. But if you think those few Reformers, like Luther and Calvin whose views became mainstream, were the only ones reforming you’re vastly mistaken.

        Indeed at that time many looked into what the Bible itself teaches and found even the very ancient Creeds of the Church Fathers to contradict it. As just one famous example, how did Michael Servetus feel about your Trinity, and what happened to him as a result? Again, I’ve listed numerous scriptures that speak to a restoration of pure worship in the end times; why is such a restoration even necessary if the church has never been that seriously infected by apostasy? Thanks again.

      • Nicholas Voss August 17, 2011 at 4:55 PM #

        LOL TJ-
        Now you’re conjuring up Michael Servetus, cardiovascular pioneer, as one who believed as a kind of early Jehovah’s Witness. Man, now I’ve heard everything. That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard in many a moon. I can’t stop laughing! LOL. This has got to among the strangest ironies there ever was.

        Next thing you know, you’ll be claiming Muhammad ibn Abdullah (MHBIHF) as an early Russellite too. After all, he attacked the biblical doctrine of the Trinity too!

      • TJ August 17, 2011 at 5:01 PM #

        Thanks for your contribution Nick.

  20. TJ August 11, 2011 at 1:00 PM #

    Hello Nick,

    You seem to think that you can upset me through taunting and just being generally condescending and rude. As I said before, feel free if it makes you feel better. All you’ve shown me through you’re red-herring, ad-hominem distractions is that you evidently feel inadequate in answering my very straightforward questions to you and you don’t listen even to the Bible’s counsel for how you should behave towards others.

    • Nicholas Voss August 11, 2011 at 1:10 PM #

      Relax TJ! You’re overreacting! I think you’re a genius and a good guy. Get some thicker skin, my friend. Stop with the persecution complex will you?

      The problem with JWs is that their feelings get hurt very easily. Do we have to tiptoe around worried that you’ll start crying the moment we expose a fallacy?

      Relax, Relax! No one is persecuting you. When you were in school did you pout when the teacher put red marks on your homework?

      I really really really like you! Seriously!

      • TJ August 11, 2011 at 2:46 PM #

        Nick, you’re projecting those feelings onto me. I’m simply waiting for you to respond to the questions I asked so that the discussion can move forward.
        Thank you.

  21. TJ August 13, 2011 at 10:15 AM #

    1. Imagine Clement related an experience where one of his fellow worshippers spoke with Jesus personally, moving that one, once he recognized him, to exclaim something along the lines of ‘I have seen God!’ Would this be undeniable proof that Jesus is himself the Almighty God? Could there be any other legitimate understanding of those words?

    2. I asked you for an example where you feel the NWT is biased. You mentioned Colossians 1, where you feel the word “other” “altered the meaning of the original manuscripts.” I believe “other” is added as an implicit part of the Greek word ‘panta’ (“all”). In your view, can that Greek word ever mean “all other”? If so, where and why? If not, why can’t it?

    3. You have defined “we Christians” as all the mainstream orthodox churches; you identify your history with that of the Catholic Church, though you yourself are a part of a Protestant Church. Paul gave the direct admonition, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10; NIV) Since you have admitted that you and those of the other orthodox denominations ‘disagree on some key issues’, doesn’t this mean you are failing to live by that inspired direction?

  22. Joe August 13, 2011 at 6:40 PM #

    No, “everything in a class except one” is not part of the semantic meaning of πᾶς. That being said, “all” is not always “all” in an absolute sense, in Greek any more than it is in English, or Hebrew (kol) for that matter. So in Mark 1:5 we need not think that each and every single (man, woman, child, infant) vacated the Judean countryside, confessed their sins, and were baptized. Rather, a great many were. And so “a great many” is one of the ways πᾶς is used.

    However, there are instances in which πᾶς is used absolutely. I think Col 1 is such as case. But take John 1:3, for example. In John’s maximalist Christology, he eliminates all doubt that there are exclusions to those things that were created apart from Christ, even one exclusion. πάντα διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν (in stilted English) “All things through him came to be, and apart from him, not even one thing came to be, which came to be.” Col 1, in a similar creedal fashion, is making a high Christological statement about Jesus. The NWT inserts “other” simply because the translators have interpreted the text to mean that, presumably because an absolute “all” would suggest that Jesus is not created.

  23. TJ August 14, 2011 at 10:01 AM #

    Hi Joe,

    I appreciate your well thought-out answer. There is, however, a factor I think you’re overlooking here: immediate context. Other translators add the word “often” to forms of pas when the immediate context calls for it, and this is viewed as an implicit part of the Greek word that is legitimately made explicit in the English translation. So for example, at Luke 11:42 the NIV says, “you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs.” “Other” is added because both mint and rue have been mentioned separately from ‘all kinds of garden herbs’, though they are certainly themselves garden herbs. Similarly at Luke 13:2, the ESV has, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans?” Again, the immediate context, where “these Galileans” are singled out with respect to ‘all the Galileans’, makes the addition of “other” proper.

    So we see that it is immediate context that should be the most influential factor in deciding whether or not using “other” with the Greek pas is warranted or not. What do we find in the immediate context of Colossians 1? Verse 15 actually includes Jesus in the creation category, calling him “the firstborn of all creation.” (ESV) If you research how the underlying Greek word there for “firstborn” is used throughout the LXX and the NT, you’ll find that it is always an inclusive term, i.e. the firstborn of any group is always, without exception, a member of said group. The firstborn is never separate and above that group. So, of necessity, Jesus being ‘the firstborn of creation’ makes him himself a creature, literally the very first one. You’ll find just three verses later, Paul uses “beginning” as a synonym for “firstborn.”

    With this immediate context in mind, I’ll refer to the opinion of Dr. Jason BeDuhn, who approached these issues objectively and concluded: “So it is the NIV, NRSV, TEV, and LB–the four Bibles that make no attempt to mark added words–that actually add the most significant tendentious material. Yet in many public forums on Bible translation, the practice of these four translations is rarely if ever pointed to or criticized, while the NW[T] is attacked for adding the innocuous ‘other’ in a way that clearly indicates its character as an addition of the translators. Why is that so? The reason is that many readers apparently want the passage to mean what the NIV and TEV try to make it mean. That is, they don’t want to accept the obvious and clear sense of ‘first-born of creation’ as identifying Jesus as ‘of creation.’ ‘Other’ is obnoxious to them because it draws attention to the fact that Jesus is ‘of creation’ and so when Jesus acts with respect to ‘all things’ he is actually acting with respect to ‘all other things.’ But the NW[T] is correct.” (Truth in Translation, pp. 83-4)

  24. Joe August 14, 2011 at 11:55 AM #

    Right, I agree that the matter is a contextual one, which I haven’t actually forgotten to look at. It is because of contextual matters that I note ‘absolute’ and non absolute categories to begin with, as do the grammars and lexica. My point was that “other” is a contextual (and therefore interpretive) insertion, not a semantic one. Along with your Luke example we might note 1 Tim 6:10, where the love of money is the root of all (kinds of) evil. Pas in this instance is used qualitatively. I understand the reasoning for inserting other in Col 1.

    However, we must agree that the “first-born of creation” is hardly a straight-forward issue, since it, along with other verses such as Rev 3:14 (“the beginning of creation”) receives so much discussion. Of course πρωτότοκος may refer to the physical firstborn in terms of chronology (so is he is not the first-born of all other creation?), or it can refer to preeminence in rank (LXX-Ps 88:28. The blessing of the firstborn in the case of Esau and Jacob was transferred to the second-born, and thus Jacob becomes the master Gen 27:18-41; Hebrews 12:16). Since firstborn is obviously not a literal “birth” (if we wish to push etymology) in the case of the pre-incarnate Christ, the second option works well. Indeed the following verses – beginning with explanatory “for” – expound just exactly what firstborn means: He is preeminent over all creation insofar as he is: creator (of everything, in true merismatic form “visible/invisible” et al.), master (everything created through him and for him), eternal (before all things), and sustainer (all things hold together). His being “firstborn” from the dead could pertain to the chronological fact of the resurrection (though remember Lazarus, and what about Enoch?), but more likely it pertains to his preeminence over death (a genitive of subordination “over”), because of his position, and certainly because of the resurrection. His position is one of total preeminence “so that he himself will come to have first place in everything” (v. 18).

    But my other major point was that I think Paul is merely being consistent with John (1:3), as this seems to have some difficulty with Christ being a subordinate creature of another’s (the Father’s) creation (see also 1 Cor 8:6; Heb 1:2).

    • TJ August 14, 2011 at 12:43 PM #

      Hey Joe,

      Again I appreciate such thoughtful responses. “Firstborn”, for obvious reasons, chiefly conveys the thought of the very first one born in a family, which in the Hebrew culture carried with it the pre-eminant rank; e.g. the firstborn son was entitled to double the portion of inheritance. And so yes, at times “firstborn” was used figuratively to highlight one group member’s superiority to all others in the group, such as God’s favor for Israel’s king with respect to all other kings of the earth. But again, in all your examples I notice the “firstborn”, be it literally or figuratively, was still always included in the group in which he was firstborn. Can you point out to me one example of a firstborn of some group, wherein that firstborn is himself excluded from and over literally all of that group? Or does this only become the case when it’s used of Jesus with respect to creation?

      I can address your points about John’s writing (which was written some decades after Paul’s letters) and Colossians 1:18 shortly, but I’d like to get your view on that one above point first. Thanks.

  25. Joe August 14, 2011 at 1:06 PM #

    The general stock phrase first-born has as its root the notion of the physical descendant. However, a purely figurative meaning does not somehow “scoop up” the physical meaning and then also add to it a second dimension (an “illegitimate totality transfer” fallacy); it is a totally new meaning (it isn’t both). The point is one of position within a relationship.

    As I noted, the pre-existent Christ wasn’t “born” at all. Or do you contest that?

    So we are talking about the creator and all things created. There is no comparable instance elsewhere that I know of. To push the point a little further, indeed the creator has a preeminent relationship with his creation. If you need to press the point then the two can be in the same class, though one originates from the other (so Col 1:16ff). Nothing further than that needs to be pressed into service, even if the Hebrew culture originally viewed it in one way or another.

    My point about Paul and John isn’t that I think Paul was harmonizing with John, but that Paul and John are in agreement.

    • TJ August 14, 2011 at 1:15 PM #

      Hi Joe,

      I never said, ‘a purely figurative meaning “scoops up” the physical meaning and then also adds to it a second dimension.’ Not really sure where you’re getting that from. The point I’m trying to make is that “firstborn”, whether used in a literal or figurative sense, is always an inclusive term. Can you show me any scriptural counterpoint to that claim? Where is the firstborn of some group actually completely excluded from that group?

      • Joe August 14, 2011 at 2:20 PM #

        Yes, the examples I offered above, the figurative ones, do not denote that the two are somehow of the same substance, as you seem to think firstborn of creation would imply. Rather, the whole point of the figurative nuance is one of position – one thing has preeminence over another (if these two are of the same class is of little consequence. Creator and creation can be classed together). I’m not sure what your point is beyond this. And I’m not keen on making such categorical statements as one thing must always be such and such. Who says? You appear to believe that it is semantically necessary for firstborn to be inclusive.

      • TJ August 14, 2011 at 2:42 PM #

        I’m afraid you’re missing my point. I’m not arguing anything about “substance” or anything like that. I’m talking category or group. It should be very straightforward. Let’s put it this way, in order for the firstborn of group X to be the firstborn, he must actually be himself a member of group X. Doesn’t that make sense? You can’t have a person who is not a member of group X at the same time be the firstborn of group X.

        Take a look at your two examples. Psalm 88:28 in NETS has, “And I will make him a firstborn, high among the kings of the earth.” Group X here is “the kings of the earth.” So if David is God’s ‘firstborn’ of all kings of the earth, doesn’t that necessitate that David would have to be a king? Esau and Jacob both carried the title of firstborn in Isaac’s household. In order for Esau to have been the firstborn of Isaac, did he not have to be one of Isaac’s sons? And in order for Jacob to obtain that right later on, didn’t he too have to be one of Isaac’s sons? Would anyone who was not Isaac’s son have been able to have been Isaac’s firstborn? The firstborn is always a part of the group in which he is firstborn.

        When we arrive at Colossians 1:15 and Jesus being ‘the firstborn of creation’ however, suddenly the argument is made that he can be the firstborn in relation to creation and not himself be a creature, i.e. a member of creation. I’m arguing that this is a misuse of the term. Everywhere else the term firstborn is inclusive. Can you show me one counterexample from the Bible?

      • Joe August 14, 2011 at 7:10 PM #

        I am arguing that “firstborn of creation,” like “firstborn of the dead” (v. 18), is a figurative use of firstborn, one emphasizing position (= preeminent over creation/death). Obviously other examples that deal with regular people aren’t going to approximate that use, which is inherently theological and unique. If we had an Esau was first born of creation, then we would be comparing apples and apples. But even in those more common figurative uses, the “making” of a firstborn (i.e. one who isn’t by birth right) isn’t about ontology or class/subclass at all, but position, or rank. And therein lies the chief semantic difference. So clearly Jacob isn’t of a different category than Esau regardless of their blood order, but nor is that the point in the switching of privileges. All that being said, it is not as though Jesus, the man, wasn’t created (he was), or that he wasn’t resurrected, he was. He has rightful claim to creation and death/life in more than one way.

      • TJ August 14, 2011 at 8:44 PM #

        Joe, it’s my position that each and every occurrence of “firstborn” throughout the Bible means the temporally first in a sequence and/or the foremost in terms of rank. From what I see, you cannot give me any counterexample to intrinsic meanings.

        Would you object to Colossians 1:15 reading “the foremost of all creation”? If so, why?

      • Joe August 15, 2011 at 6:20 AM #

        Yes, I understand that you contend that, but then again that isn’t what the lexica state. Louw and Nida have this:

        4758 πρωτότοκος (prōtotokos), ον (on): adj.; ≡ DBLHebr 1147; Str 4416; TDNT 6.871—1. LN 10.43 birthright, pertaining to the inheritance rights of the firstborn (Lk 2:7; Ro 8:29; Col 1:15, 18; Heb 1:6; 11:28; 12:23; Rev 1:5+; Mt 1:25 v.r.; Rev 2:8 v.r. NA26); 2. LN 13.79 existing before (Col 1:15); 3. LN 87.47 superior (Col 1:15), for another interp, see above, note: there may be overlap in the verses and entries.

        BDAG interprets “firstborn” with reference to Jesus’ humanity “the firstborn of a new humanity which is to be glorified, as its exalted Lord is glorified” (citing Rom 8:29). So there would be your inclusive argument.

        BDAG has many other examples, such as Polycarp 7:1, in which a dissident is called the ‘firstborn of Satan.’

        Just curious, how do you interpret ‘firstborn of the dead’?

        And no, I don’t like the “foremost of creation” since it is just a variation of your point. If the pre-incarnate Christ is in view here then I don’t like that option for all of the reasons we’ve been discussing, not the least of which is the immediate context. And “other” isn’t implicit in the Greek. To be implicit, be definition, means that it is not “in” the Greek. It is implicit (made explicit) to the translators’ interpretation. Further, I’ve already provided an interpretation of the genitive (subordination) that works. Where do you stand on that? If the humanity of Jesus is in view (see my last post), and perhaps I’ve been too one-dimensional in my thinking, then BDAG’s approach offers weight. I have been opting for an interpretation that makes figurative sense of πρωτότοκος in both of its usages in this passage.

      • TJ August 15, 2011 at 2:10 PM #

        Thanks again for your reply. You’re appealing to lexicons, which is fine, but let’s take a look at them. Louw and Nida give exactly one instance where they view the firstborn as “existing before” the group and exactly one instance where the firstborn is supposed to be “superior” to the entire group (I presume they too reject “foremost”). Both of these are Colossians 1:15. Why is that? Doesn’t that reek of special pleading? This proves the point I’m making! It reminds me so much of how BDAG, under the definition for arche, virtually admits its own bias, listing exactly one instance from the scriptures where arche is taken to mean “the first cause”–Revelation 3:14–but then turns around and acknowledges, “but the [meaning] beginning=first created is linguistically prob[able].” Quite the amazing statement, no?

        Each of Louw and Nida’s cited scriptures for prototokos adhere to an inclusive definition, i.e. meaning the first temporally and/or the foremost in rank. The firstborn is never excluded from its related group. As you noted, BDAG recognizes the firstborn’s place in the group for Romans 8:29, as well as in Polycarp to the Phillipians 7:1. The latter describes, in hyperbole, the one apostatizing as the foremost one of Satan’s brood. Colossians 1:18’s “the firstborn of the dead” is right in harmony with these. Jesus is the very first one of the dead to be resurrected to immortal life. Those recipients of previous resurrections in the Bible had died again; Jesus’ resurrection was a permanent one, the very first of many to follow.

        You said, “no, I don’t like the ‘foremost of creation’ since it is just a variation of your point.” Hey, I give you respect for being honest, but you are proving BeDuhn’s assessment correct. Doesn’t “foremost” signify pre-eminance in rank, for which you have been arguing? It would seem then that the only reason you don’t like it is because it draws attention to the fact that Jesus is himself “of creation.” That brings us to the type of genitive in verse 15.

        A natural outgrowth of my inclusive argument is that everywhere the term firstborn is used with a genitive, it is partitive, just as it would be with “the first of” or “the foremost of”. For example, ‘the firstborn of many brothers’ would be himself a brother, ‘the firstborn of Pharaoh’ would be one of Pharaoh’s children, ‘the firstborn of the sheep’ would be a sheep, ‘the firstborn of the kings of the earth’ would be a king of the earth, ‘the firstborn of mankind’ would be a human, ‘the firstborn of creation’ would be a creature, etc, etc, etc. There do exist scholars that recognize this intrinsic partitive sense while adopting a view similar to the one you’re toying with, such as N. Turner in Grammatical Insights into the New Testament, p.124. This brings me to one last point.

        You concluded with, “I have been opting for an interpretation that makes figurative sense of πρωτότοκος in both of its usages in this passage.” Well certainly any earthly term applied to the heavens is necessarily figurative to a degree. That God is described as a ‘Father’, that can see with his ‘eyes’ and do things with his ‘hands’, etc, are anthropomorphisms. But I’d argue this is the extent of the figurative language when it comes to “firstborn” in Colossians 1. “Firstborn” in both instances, I believe, should be taken in the primary definition of the word, meaning the very first one temporally. Other places where just the rank is recognized apart from the temporal aspect are accompanied by descriptions of that one being given or placed in that position, such as your example of Jacob and King David. We don’t find that here.

        I really appreciate the discussion, Joe. Thanks.

  26. Joe August 14, 2011 at 1:09 PM #

    The insertion of “other” in the Col 1 passage is logically redundant and even circular to the point of nonsense. These verses don’t need “other” in order to make sense. Therefore the burden of proof falls to the one who wants to include “other.”

    However, let’s proceed on the premise that Jesus was created: V. 16: it would be unnecessary to specify that he didn’t create himself (v. 16 “all other things were created”), that is a self-evident – and can be applied to God the Father as well. V. 17: To say that Christ was before all (other) things doesn’t make any sense and is totally unnecessary, even from the perspective of the NWT. Neither a created being or un-created being can somehow exist before he exists. Why make the point? The Greek certainly doesn’t.

    I understand the theological bias of the NWT (not saying the NIV isn’t biased!), but one could just as well make the opposite point with the insertion. After all, Eph 3:9 states that God created all things. (A) Should we insert “other” after created so that people won’t think that God created himself? (B) How does God create all things, and, using synonymous language, Christ creates all other things?

    • TJ August 14, 2011 at 1:35 PM #

      You’re right that it’s not necessary to add “other” here, Joe. But it’s not nonsense; it’s simply bringing out an implicit meaning of the Greek. I would say it’s even more redundant to add “other” in a verse like Luke 13:2, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans?” (ESV) Who is going to argue that “these Galileans” aren’t really Galileans?

      So no, I don’t think it’s necessary to add “other” at a place like Ephesians 3:9. But Dr. BeDuhn makes an interesting point regarding when it should be used:

      “So what exactly are objectors to ‘other’ arguing for as the meaning of the phrase ‘all things’? That Christ created himself (v.16)? That Christ is before God and that God was made to exist by means of Christ (v.17)? That Christ, too, needs to be reconciled to God (v. 20)? When we spell out what is denied by the use of ‘other’ we can see clearly how absurd the objection is. ‘Other’ is implied in ‘all,’ and the NW[T] simply makes what is implicit explicit. You can argue whether it is necessary or not to do this. But I think the objections that have been raised to it show that it is, in fact, necessary, because those who object want to negate the meaning of the phrase ‘firstborn of creation.’ If adding ‘other’ prevents the misreading of the biblical text, then it is useful to have it there.”

      He continues, “The need to make implicit information explicit in translating a passage is widely accepted . . . Nida and Taber, in their book, The Theory and Practice of Translation, insist that making what is implicit explicit is necessary if the text is likely to be misunderstood by readers.” (Truth in Translation, p. 85)

      • Joe August 14, 2011 at 2:30 PM #

        I agree that the Luke 13:2 passage doesn’t need “other.” Fine, but its inclusion doesn’t change the passage. I’m fine leaving it out. The inclusion of “other” in Col 1, however, changes the meaning 180 degrees, and this in a highly important theological passage.

  27. Joe August 14, 2011 at 2:27 PM #

    Yes, I’ve read BeDuhn’s work, and I am unimpressed on the whole. Continuing to cite him as an “objective” (his term, and one you quoted) authority is ok, but it doesn’t add much for me. He certainly isn’t any more or less able to rise above human subjectivity any more than anyone else (so says 20th century epistemology, by consensus), despite his own, unbiased, claims. He knows his Greek (though not Hebrew) and makes some interesting an valid points. But there are many methodological problems with his work (including his view of semantics and translation theory), and at the end of the day, any number of “authorities” out there can be cited that don’t agree.

    • TJ August 14, 2011 at 3:00 PM #

      Joe, of course every human is subject to some type of bias, but as for BeDuhn’s objectivity, I simply mean that he’s not ‘sponsored’ by any church. As you are probably aware, many of the authorities presented to me on some of these subjects actually work at a particular church, which at least gives the appearance of a conflict of interest. That being said, I appreciate the weight of the argument being presented, not from whom the argument is coming.

      Without giving examples of the “methodological problems” you see in BeDuhn’s work, obviously I can’t speak to that. But as far as I’ve quoted him here, I think he’s solid. Anyone reading this can go through the scriptures for themselves and see easily how the term “firstborn” is used, how it is always an inclusive term like “foremost”. If you want to call Jesus “the foremost of all creation”, emphasizing his rank, well that’s fine by me.🙂

  28. Nicholas Voss August 15, 2011 at 5:08 PM #

    Hi-
    I am Nick Voss and I started this conversation. Unfortunately I’ve been away on business and have been unable to respond. I owe TJ some answers which I will get to in due time.

    I know Jesus. I really know Him. In fact, I know Him better than I know you. He is more real to me than you are because I’ve met Him. He changed me. He is alive inside me. So is the Father. He is inside me too. The Bible makes sense to me because the Holy Spirit enlightens me. Laugh or scoff at this if you want. I do not care.

    You both are very smart fellows. But I can tell you one thing: Jesus is alive and He is Jehovah God. I know Him.

    You can wrangle about Greek words all you want. This scholarship is important and should be encouraged.

    I know Jesus. He is the Lord and He is the Yahweh of the Old Testament. It’s very clear to me and there is nothing you can say that will change my mind.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses do not understand this because they do not know the Father. They are not the Father’s Witnesses. They will never meet the Father. I will.

    Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have any witnesses. They were invented by Charlie Russell.

    TJ is a smart man. But TJ does not know the Father. Deep inside He knows this to be true. But he is a smart man nonetheless.

    • TJ August 15, 2011 at 6:10 PM #

      Nick,

      I can appreciate the emotional investment you have in your faith, but I assure you I have the same investment, along with a real hunger for truth wherever it takes me. That’s why I ended up as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It’s interesting what those you consider ‘real’ Christians, Catholics and Anglicans, agreed upon at a joint conference. They had been considering “the doctrine that the legitimacy of a Christian church depends on direct linkage with the first Apostles . . . as some sort of ecclesiastical relay race, in which a baton has been passed from bishop to bishop all through Christian history.” In the end, however, they concluded “that ‘historical continuity’ in a church is ensured by its fidelity to ‘the teaching and mission of the apostles,'” not on a visible, direct line of bishops. (Time Magazine, Dec. 24, 1973)

      I have come to the conclusion, along with other objective researchers who actually looked at the facts, that the Witnesses are holding to the teaching and mission of the apostles. Dr. BeDuhn, that I’ve quoted above, noticed this in reviewing the NWT along with other translations. After noting that Catholic translations aren’t as pressured to force their traditional beliefs into the Bible as Protestants because Catholics rely on both Scripture and Tradition as inspired, he wrote, “[t]he Jehovah’s Witnesses, on the other hand, are more similar to the Protestants in their view that the Bible alone must be the source of truth in its every detail. So you might expect translators from this sect to labor under the Protestant Burden. But they do not for the simple reason that the Jehovah’s Witness movement was and is a more radical break with the dominant Christian tradition of the previous millennium than most kinds of Protestantism. This movement has, unlike the Protestant Reformation, really sought to re-invent Christianity from scratch. Whether you regard that as a good or a bad thing, you can probably understand that it resulted in the Jehovah’s Witnesses approaching the Bible with a kind of innocence, and building their system of belief and practice from the raw material of the Bible without predetermining what was to be found there.” (Truth in Translation, pp. 164-5) Wouldn’t you say that such a group would be upholding the “historical continuity” that the Catholics and Anglicans said is important?

      And in case you think that we approach these matters in some far-off, distant manner, we don’t. We live it. We shape our lives around our faith. We cultivate a real relationship with Jehovah God. We practice preaching house-to-house as the apostles did. And we even die for our Christian faith. Speaking of the stance taken by Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nazi Germany, Dr. Gabriele Yonan concluded, “Jehovah’s Witnesses can rightfully have claimed to have resisted the ‘wicked.’ In a literal sense they have fulfilled their own claim of being true followers of Jesus Christ, while the two large churches in Germany, as they openly admit, failed terribly. Six decades later it is now time to show them respect in the name of Christianity. Without the example of this steadfast Christian group under the oppression of the National Socialist dictatorship, we would–after Auschwitz and the Holocaust–have to doubt whether it is at all possible to fulfill the Christian teachings of Jesus.” (Journal of Church and State, Vol. 41 No. 2, p. 322)

      So even in that situation, who was it that upheld the apostolic teaching and mission? Who had the real ‘historical continuity’ with the apostles? Was it the large, rich, historical, mainstream churches, or was it the small, ragtag, ‘new’, and ‘heretical’ group of Witnesses? Jesus was looked down upon and persecuted by the established religion of his day, and he made this promise that was sure to come true: “A slave is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will persecute you also . . . they will do all these things against you on account of my name, because they do not know him that sent me.” (John 15:20-21; NWT) Think about that carefully.

      • Nicholas Voss August 16, 2011 at 7:49 AM #

        Good morning TJ-

        Other so-called “objective researchers” have selected “facts” and set out to reinvent Christianity from scratch, too. They are all counterfeits. They were “radical breaks” from the Bride of Christ. “Divorced” is a more accurate term to describe the JWs hatred for Christ and His Bride. They left the Church because they were never part of the Bride of Christ in the first place.

        Like the Mormons and Muslims, the Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘ founder felt a need to replace the Church in his own image. Furthermore, Charles Taze Russell did not start from scratch, he borrowed the language and structure of the true Church to start an Organization of his own. Conversely, the historic Church did not seek to reinvent itself, but to maintain it. We Christians have a legacy and a line of faithful believers throughout history. We can name names, places, dates, and we have left an abundance of sermons and books. The JWs have nothing, and they have nothing because they are not the Bride of Christ. They are the bride of Charles Taze Russell.

        Christianity did not need to be reinvented by Charles Russell (CTR) or by anyone else. The Church was established by Christ Himself: “…Mat 16:18 ESV – And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it….” Note that nothing shall prevail against the church, not even the devil. Here Christ promises to preserve and keep His Bride secure!
        Christ is the Head of the Church: “…Col 1:16 ESV – For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell …”

        The Lord of lords and King of all kings, Jesus Christ, has erected a Church, His Kingdom, those people who are His Bride. He has not failed. We Christians are His people, His house, His family, people called by His Name. We are those called out ones who are saved from the wrath of God by the power of His blood. Nothing can harm His church, even when various latter-day cults and counterfeit movements come against us. Not even Charles Taze Russell or Muhammad or Mary Baker Eddy or Joseph Smith can harm or undermine the Bride of Christ. Jesus has, after all, an indestructible life. His blood flows through the Church’s veins, as it were.

        Christians are the Father’s Witnesses! We will go on forever, not only in this life, but in the one to come.

        The Jehovah’s Witnesses are C. Taze Russell’s Witnesses, people unknown in the world until he began re-inventing the Bride of Christ. Russellites will one day be an unknown people, having gone the way of all the other pseudo-christian cults. “… 1Jo 2:19 ESV – They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us…”

        “The JWs did not exist before Charles Taze Russell invented them.” is what I’ve been saying all along. Herein you affirm this statement by admitting it yourself: “…This [Jehovah’s Witness] movement has, unlike the Protestant Reformation, really sought to re-invent Christianity from scratch…”

      • Nicholas Voss August 16, 2011 at 8:16 AM #

        Good morning TJ-
        The Church did not “fail miserably” during the Nazi regime. In fact, it was the Church who overthrew the Nazis. There were many Christians opposed to the Nazis. In fact, Roosevelt appealed directly to Christians in his famous D-day speech to fight against the Nazis.

        Furthermore, the JWs like to use the Nazis as proof that they are martyrs in league with the Jews in the atrocities imposed on them. The Nazis were against everyone who was against National Socialism. They were against Christians, Jews, JWs, homosexuals, communists, mentally ill, and just about any other group who did not fall in line and conform.

        The Jehovah’s Witnesses owe the Christians a great debt for fighting against the evils of Nazism. As you know, the JWs just stood by or fled the scene or hid from the dangers. Had it not been for the Christians giving their lives to save the JWs and those like them, you would have been exterminated. And to this day, we protect your right to have your religious opinions, wrong as you are.

        The Christians were the only true witnesses … I am thinking of Dietrich Bonhoeffer at this time. Brave were these men and women. True followers of Christ they were.

      • TJ August 17, 2011 at 4:39 PM #

        Hi Nick,

        The fact is that in the last days, Christ told his followers to expect a ‘break away’. His prophecy of the wheat and weeds showed that during the harvest time, a distinct separation would take place among those claiming to be his followers. (Matthew 13:30) You really think that Jesus is not capable of such a thing?

        As to your comments on WWII, again your definition of “Christians” finds yet another meaning. You do realize that the Nazis were made up of those from the Christian Churches you recognize, don’t you? Did you even know the swastika is a form of the cross, and appears in churches across Europe? Time for a little reality check. WWII featured Catholics fighting and killing Catholics and Protestants fighting and killing Protestants. And all of this with each side getting the blessing from their nations’ clergy. How do such ones measure up to Jesus’ clear statement, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”? (John 13:35 ESV) Witnesses refused to fight for this very reason.

  29. Michael Babcock August 16, 2011 at 8:39 AM #

    TJ,
    Reading the dialogue between you and Joe has been interesting. Just a few thoughts and questions regarding your understanding of the passage.

    One of the first principles of biblical hermeneutics that needs to be observed is that when reading Scripture, we must let Scripture interpret itself. The more difficult passages must be read in light of the more obvious. In a case like in Col. 1, where you have the Scriptures say, “Ho estin eiknon tou theou tou aoratou, prototokos pases ktiseos” is it proper to translate that, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” or “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all other creation”? There are a lot of exegetical questions that come to mind, some of which you and Joe have been talking about. But how do you maintain the argument that “other” should be inserted there because Christ is the “first of a category” when the weight of Scripture is that YHWH alone was creator? For instance, Is. 42:5ff, “Thus says God YHWH, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who dgives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it, I am YHWH…”

    Secondly, I am curios if you understand this verse is part of a poem that is structured as a complex chiasmus? With that you have the firstborn of creation equated also with being the firstborn of the dead. He was the One who created all things — whether in heaven or in earth– and is the One who is Head of the church, and thus He has the preeminence (which is the main theme, both in old and new creation). Moreover, He is the image of the invisible God precisely because in Him the “fullness” dwells, so He is able to reconcile all things – whether in heaven or in earth– to Himself. It would seem that if you are going to insert “other” with “all” in v. 15, you must also do it in vv. 17 (which you seem to want to do) and 18 as well, since they form part of the chiastic parallel. But in fact, putting the “other” in v. 18, “that in all other things He may have the preeminence,” renders the verse redundant and unintelligible. Moreover, seeing the parallel statements and the point that Paul is bringing us to, i.e., Christ is preeminent over all things, I believe helps us to see that “firstborn” is not the first of a category so much as the place of position in relation to others. As He is preeminent over the new creation, the church, because He is its head and because He has reconciled all things to Himself, thus He is also preeminent over the old creation, since He created it and sustains it and conquered it by overturning the curse place upon it.

    Without having much time to do it, I’d simply commend you to read Isa. 42 again in this light, for the themes are all there — old creation, new creation, glory and honour being given to the Son that the Father would not give to any but Himself, as Rev. 4:11 says, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”

    In light of all this, I don’t see any exegetical or biblical reason to insert “other” into the passage.

    Thanks for the time.

    • TJ August 17, 2011 at 2:11 PM #

      Hello Michael,

      You asked me, “In a case like in Col. 1, where you have the Scriptures say, ‘Ho estin eiknon tou theou tou aoratou, prototokos pases ktiseos’ is it proper to translate that, ‘He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation’ or ‘He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all other creation’?”

      As I’ve demonstrated above, determining when to bring out the exemption to “all” by use of the word “other” is based primarily upon the immediate context. It would be unnecessary to use “other” in verse 15 (or 18) because this is an instance where Jesus’ role within the group is being highlighted. It’s akin to saying, ‘Peter was one of the foremost of all the [other] apostles’. It’s awkward because the inclusive “foremost” is fighting against the exclusionary “other”. Yet the added “other” sounds much more natural in a phrase like, “Peter and the other apostles replied…” (Acts 5:29 NIV) So I wouldn’t use at Colossians 1:15 for that reason.

      As I’ve said to Joe, “other” is not actually necessary in verses 16, 17 and 20, except for the fact that it combats a common misreading of verse 15, bringing attention to the fact that the firstborn is a part of all creation. Think about this for a minute; if it was commonly thought that Peter was not himself an apostle, but merely one who was around them, would you prefer Acts 5:29 to add “other” or leave it out?

      You asked, “how do you maintain the argument that ‘other’ should be inserted there because Christ is the ‘first of a category’ when the weight of Scripture is that YHWH alone was creator?”

      Jehovah is the only creator in the fullest sense of the term. You pointed out that Jesus is first called “the image of the invisible God.” To this I might say that an image is a representation of something else, just as Jesus is a representative of God. Verse 16 describes the role of Christ in creation, and he is not the source of the creative process, he’s the instrument or agency through whom God created. The ESV reads, “For by [footnote: ‘That is, by means of; or in’] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” Do you see that this is saying that God created through his representative? Paul explicitly makes this distinction in the roles elsewhere, saying, “for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” (1 Corinthians 8:6 ESV) So what about the (commonly referenced) passages in Isaiah?

      Context, context, context! Reading through chapter 42 and the ones that follow it show that Jehovah is being compared to the false gods of the nations. Here is the key point: representatives of Jehovah are NOT being considered here. This says that Jehovah is the only source of creation, not any of the pagan gods of the nations. Consider the implications of not recognizing the argument being made here in Isaiah. Isaiah 43:11 reads, “I, even I, am Jehovah; and besides me there is no saviour.” (ASV) Yet at Judges 3:9 we read, “And when the children of Israel cried unto Jehovah, Jehovah raised up a saviour to the children of Israel, who saved them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother.” (Judges 3:9 ASV) Does this mean I have to recognize Othniel as God himself? Or is it more reasonable to understand Jehovah being the only source of salvation to his people and Othniel as one of his representatives through whom Jehovah saved them?

      You asked, “Secondly, I am curios if you understand this verse is part of a poem that is structured as a complex chiasmus? With that you have the firstborn of creation equated also with being the firstborn of the dead.”

      I’ll have something to say of the chiasmus found in John 1:1-18 above, but yes, I noted the parallel between the firstborn of creation and the firstborn of the dead to Joe. All of my arguments above still stand. “Firstborn” everywhere means first and/or foremost of a group. Jesus is the first and foremost of creatures and he’s the first and foremost of those resurrected from death to immortal life. Can you give me one scriptural example of a firstborn being mutually exclusive to his related group? If not, didn’t Paul make a poor choice of words if he meant what you are arguing? Thanks.

  30. Nicholas Voss August 17, 2011 at 5:27 PM #

    Hi TJ-
    Yes, you are correct to say that the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Head of the church and the King of kings and the Lord of lords, told His Bride (the Church) that there would be a great falling away. And Charles Russell, Joe Smith, and all other unbelievers are in this class. This means you, too, TJ! You are the great apostasy. You’ll recall that we have a history of believers who are the Bride of Christ, and then Charles Russell fell away … from us! 1 John 2:19 ESV – “….They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us…”
    I am now convinced that you not only are inexperienced in theology, but in history as well. Hitler and Stalin were unbelievers … like you. The swastika is not in any way a symbol of Christianity. I think you know this already. If not, then I pity you. Time for a reality check, don’t you say?

    Cults like yours share the common hatred: They abhor the cross. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and Muslims all despise the cross. That goes to show you how the most diverse forms of error will converge in their opposition to the Bride of Christ. To you it is foolishness, just as the Holy Scripture had warned the Bride of Christ (Bride of Christ = we who are the True Believers, True Sons, True Christians, the family of God Almighty).

    We are the Father’s Witnesses; the Russellites are not witnesses of the Father.

    We who are born anew are given a new life and a heavenly hope; the JWs have no heavenly hope.

    The Father’s Witnesses become adopted children of God who will live and reign with Christ forever and ever; conversely, the Russellites will be cast down among those of whom the Bridegroom said in Matthew 7:21-23 ESV – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness…’”

    TJ :

    Hi Nick,

    The fact is that in the last days, Christ told his followers to expect a ‘break away’. His prophecy of the wheat and weeds showed that during the harvest time, a distinct separation would take place among those claiming to be his followers. (Matthew 13:30) You really think that Jesus is not capable of such a thing?

    As to your comments on WWII, again your definition of “Christians” finds yet another meaning. You do realize that the Nazis were made up of those from the Christian Churches you recognize, don’t you? Did you even know the swastika is a form of the cross, and appears in churches across Europe? Time for a little reality check. WWII featured Catholics fighting and killing Catholics and Protestants fighting and killing Protestants. And all of this with each side getting the blessing from their nations’ clergy. How do such ones measure up to Jesus’ clear statement, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”? (John 13:35 ESV) Witnesses refused to fight for this very reason.

    • TJ August 17, 2011 at 5:41 PM #

      All I can say Nick is that I’m glad you’re not the one to whom God committed the authority to judge, though you sure don’t let that stop you. I would take the time to explain and prove that the Nazi military was made up mostly of nominal Christians and that the Swastika is indeed a type of cross found in some churches, including the one Hitler attended as a boy in Lambach, Upper Austria; but it’s really pointless, isn’t it?

      • Nicholas Voss August 17, 2011 at 6:13 PM #

        TJ-
        The Swastika is not a symbol of Christianity. If I have to go through its history then I’d be repeating what is common knowledge. Go to Wiki and study up on this (or any other encyclopedia if you do not like that one).

        The Swastika may have been erected in some German churches as a perversion of the true one for, say a period of 12 years, but that does not mean the worldwide church of God accepted it. We didn’t! In fact, we Christians destroyed the swastika, as you know.

        As for Axis Christians fighting Allied Christians, you may be aware that these battles were political in nature by which many of these young men were conscripted by force. Others enlisted to help free enslaved people such as JWs and Jews. And, by and large, we all believed we were fighting for our countries and to preserve liberties for others such as yourself (a sacrifice you neglect to honor and appreciate). Still others were compelled by religious conviction to thwart tyrannies and the evils in this world.
        You may recall that some in Caesar’s household had become Christians, too. Paul writes of this in Philippians chapter 4. When Galba, Otho, Vitellius, and Vespasian were fighting among themselves (A.D. 69) to control the empire there were very likely a company of Christians in each of these battles. They were not against each other, but because they were career soldiers it was their duty to fight wars not of their making. This is a great tragedy. We Christians despise wars, but we will sacrifice our lives so others can remain free. Evil must be destroyed. God uses wars as a method to contain evil in this world, as you have read many times in the Torah.

      • TJ August 20, 2011 at 4:48 AM #

        Nick, here’s what the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913 (predating the Nazis) has to say, “Another symbol largely employed [by Christians] during the third and fourth centuries, the swastika . . . is fairly common on the Christian monuments of Rome, being found on some sepulchral inscriptions, besides occurring twice, painted, on the Good Shepherd’s tunic in an arcosolium in the Catacomb of St. Generosa in the Via Portuensis, and again on the tunic of the fossor Diogenes (the original epitaph is no longer extant) in the catacomb of St. Domitilla in the Via Ardeatina. Outside of Rome it is less frequent.” (Vol. IV, p. 522)

        As for the rest of your post, essentially what you’re saying, as far as I can tell, is that even though Jesus said that his true disciples would be recognizable by the love they manifest for each other (John 13:35), when there is a bad enough situation “political in nature,” they then should kill one another based upon political differences. And even though Jesus said, “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends” (John 15:13 NWT), you say that if he’s legally conscripted then he has no choice but to kill his foreign Christian brothers.

        Researcher James N. Pellechia investigated the Jehovah’s Witnesses insistence to remain neutral with regards to the Nazi state, writing, “the particular path the Witnesses trod bears scrutiny and analysis as one of the rare examples of resistance to the Nazi ideology of hate that was based on religious grounds . . . The Witnesses presented the Third Reich with a distinct moral threat–allegiance to God over the nation-state. John K. Roth, one of the preeminent Christian scholars of the Holocaust, said of this code of conduct: ‘As a result, no Christian denomination was persecuted by the Nazis to the same degree as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but then no Christian group resisted the Nazis so intensely either’ . . . Martin Niemoller praised the courage and conviction of the Witnesses. He said: ‘And to think that we Christians of today are ashamed of the so-called sect of the serious scholars of the Bible (Bibelforsher[Jehovah’s Witnesses]), who by the hundreds and thousands have gone into concentration camps and died because they refused to serve in war and declined to fire on human beings’ . . . Wrote Hanns Lilje, bishop of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church for the state of Hannover and cosigner of the Stuttgart Confession of Guilt: ‘No Christian group could anywhere near measure up to the number of blood witnesses (that were among Jehovah’s Witnesses).'”

  31. Michael Babcock August 18, 2011 at 12:13 PM #

    TJ,
    You wrote, “As I’ve demonstrated above, determining when to bring out the exemption to “all” by use of the word “other” is based primarily upon the immediate context.”

    I agree. Immediate context should be the first thing we look at, and then bring in the context of the whole of the book it is found, and then the whole of the Bible. Does the immediate context determine that “other” is a necessary or implicit understanding of “all” in this verse?

    You said to Joe, “it’s simply bringing out an implicit meaning of the Greek.” And your reason for saying that is that, “Verse 15 actually includes Jesus in the creation category, calling him ‘the firstborn of all creation.’ (ESV) If you research how the underlying Greek word there for “firstborn” is used throughout the LXX and the NT, you’ll find that it is always an inclusive term, i.e. the firstborn of any group is always, without exception, a member of said group. The firstborn is never separate and above that group. So, of necessity, Jesus being ‘the firstborn of creation’ makes him himself a creature, literally the very first one. You’ll find just three verses later, Paul uses ‘beginning’ as a synonym for ‘firstborn.’” Moreover you maintain that “’Firstborn’ everywhere means first and/or foremost of a group. Jesus is the first and foremost of creatures and he’s the first and foremost of those resurrected from death to immortal life.” So you believe that “pases ktiseos” is a partitive genitive based on your understanding of “prototokos.”

    However, you are not formulating your belief on the immediate context here, but really upon the definition of a word, which is a rather rare word at that. Well, let’s test whether you are accurate to maintain that position. First, the Gk. word “prototokos” was the word that translated the Heb. word “b’kor” which could refer to either first born or first fruit. But the question is, do these words express necessarily express a comparison with other things of the same kind, or might they sometimes point to one-of-a-kind?

    Well, it is used in Ex. 4:22 which the LXX reads, “uios prototokos mou Israel.” Here is a title God conferred on Israel which expresses the close relation between God and the nation. Now, it certainly is the case that Israel is one nation among other nations, so your theory seems to bear weight here. However, upon closer thought, this term doesn’t really suggest at all that all the other nations are also God’s sons, so that Israel is the first among other nations that can be called “God’s son.” The firstborn here is not at all seen in relation to other brothers but as the only object of the Father’s special love. In other words, the term as it is used in Ex. 4:22 does not express a comparison of other things of the same kind, but the term does show Israel as one-of-a-kind in a world filled with nations.

    You quoted Ps. 88:27 as an example for your case, but upon closer thought again I think you miss the point. “I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” You mention context, so let’s consider the verse before that, “He will cry to Me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation.’” The clear point of the statement is that this can only be said by the firstborn. The kings of the earth don’t have God as a Father in this sense. Again, therefore, it is not in relation to the other kings that he is called “firstborn,” but because he is the elect and beloved of God, and as such he is set apart in a class by himself above all the kings of the earth. It is not that he is the first among equals, for there is no comparison between him and the other kings. There is none like him at all. That is the point of the Psalm in context. So the partitive aspect you hold to is actually antithetical to the concept as it relates to Messiah. There is in fact a very real sense in which the term has more to do with God’s special relation and love for the son than it does with priority over all other things. This is no doubt why John calls Him the “monogenes Theos.” He is clearly in a class by Himself. He is both prior to and superior to all creation because He is the “image of God” in which the “fullness of the Godhead dwell in Him” and because through Him all things were made.

    Now there may be a formal similarity between the nations and the kings, but again it is only formal, and the title still separates Israel and David from all the others as being in a unique category. It is like how the OT sacrifices and temple and priests and kings and prophets were types of Christ, they pointed to Him, and He was in the same category as them – He was a prophet, priest, king, the true temple and true sacrifice – all the OT things were but types and shadows of Him. Like Him formally, but not like Him at all ontologically. And so when we look at Col. 1:15ff, we must also remember that Paul was talking of Jesus Christ who is unique to human history. He is fully human and yet Scriptures declare Him as fully God. Here is one of those passages that wed the two natures together.

  32. Michael Babcock August 18, 2011 at 12:14 PM #

    TJ,

    Yet more…You ask me, “If not, didn’t Paul make a poor choice of words if he meant what you are arguing?” I answer, No. You might think that he did if you hold that the term “prototokos pases ktiseos” refers to Christ as first creature by whom all other creatures were made, because then you are equating “tokos” to be the same as “ktisis,” but where does Scripture make these two concepts synonyms? Birth and creation are two different things, and so prototokos should not be regarded as protoktisitos. But prototokos is the right term if you understand that the emphasis of the word is upon Christ’s unique position in relation to the Father (tou uiou tes agapes autou) and also upon His supremacy (proteuon) over all creatures as mediator of their creation.

    But also, going back to the context of Col. 1:15-20, it is very clear also that the title cannot refer to Him as the first of all created beings because v. 16 immediately gives a “hoti” clause which emphasizes the point that he is the one by whom all creation came into existence—things visible and invisible, and the angelic orders of “thrones, dominions, rulers and authorities.” This also seems to correct a Gnostic idea that seems to have crept into the Colossians church (cf. 2:18) in which God created all things through the mediation of “aeons” or “angels.” Given the exalted nature of God in the OT in creation, you have to read “other” into the section, which flies in the face of OT monotheism. Indeed, “other” does not flow from the context (immediate or larger) itself, but apparently from a preconceived idea concerning Christ.

    BTW, did you notice that the “ekisthe” is in the aorist passive form? The passive form indicates that God is the Creator who created all things “en auto,” i.e., that Christ is the “sphere” (for the lack of a better term) in which creation takes place. That is, the act of creation was not done independently of Him. If there are categories to place Christ, this puts Him in the same “category” as God, and so Paul says that all things were created “in Him, through Him, and FOR Him.” All creation is for Him. Again, I quote Is. 42:8 in context of creation, “I am the LORD, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images.” God is creator and He does not give up this glory to another, and it doesn’t matter if it is to a false image or a representative image. God’s glory is His alone (Ps 96:5-6; Isa. 40: 12-31).

    Think also of 1 Cor. 8: 5-6 in relation to this passage, “as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” What does this verse would this remind the faithful Jew of? Dt. 6:4, “Sh’ma Israel YHWH eloheynu, YHWH echad” where YHWH was often replaced for Adonai out of reverence for Ha Shem. One God, One Lord – YHWH. God and Lord are titles placed on the Father and the Son relating to the one God. Jesus is not a second god, but is identical with the one who was, and is, and will be fully divine, and yet who could be distinguished from the Father “with God and was God.”

    At any rate, Paul puls from his understanding of all that Christ is and posits that in these verses. It is clear from other places that the Scriptures declare Him as God (e.g. Jn. 12:37-41; Rom. 9:5; Phil. 2:5-12) and you cannot take Col. 1 out of the greater context either.

  33. Michael Babcock August 18, 2011 at 12:17 PM #

    TJ,
    One more posting —You write, “Jehovah is the only creator in the fullest sense of the term. You pointed out that Jesus is first called “the image of the invisible God.” To this I might say that an image is a representation of something else, just as Jesus is a representative of God.”

    OK, but what does it mean that He is a representative of God? A similar passage to Col. 1:15ff is summed up in Heb. 1:3, “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.” It is not that He is just an image, just a representation of God, but that He is an exact representation of His nature (character tes hupostaseos) and is the radiance of God’s glory. The Gk. word “character” expresses more emphatically that Christ is the very “substance” (hupostasis) of God in that He is not merely a representation but embodies all that God essentially is, so that as Christ Himself said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9). A.T. Robertson speaks on the term “apaugasma” found in v. 3, and quotes Davidson, “The word ‘effulgence’ seems to mean not rays of light streaming from a body in their connection with that body or as part of it, still less the reflection of these rays caused by their falling upon another body, but rather rays of light coming out from the original body and forming a similar light-body.” He goes on to say, “God’s glory is all that belongs to him as God, and the Son is the effulgence of God’s glory, not only a single ray but as Origen says: holes tes doxes. There the Son cannot but reveal the Father…There is in the Father nothing which is not reproduced in the Son, save the relation of Father to Son.” (Expositor’s Greek Testament, p. 250-251).

    You cry out, “Context, context, context! Reading through chapter 42 and the ones that follow it show that Jehovah is being compared to the false gods of the nations. Here is the key point: representatives of Jehovah are NOT being considered here. This says that Jehovah is the only source of creation, not any of the pagan gods of the nations. Consider the implications of not recognizing the argument being made here in Isaiah. Isaiah 43:11 reads, “I, even I, am Jehovah; and besides me there is no saviour.” (ASV) Yet at Judges 3:9 we read, “And when the children of Israel cried unto Jehovah, Jehovah raised up a saviour to the children of Israel, who saved them, even Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother.” (Judges 3:9 ASV) Does this mean I have to recognize Othniel as God himself? Or is it more reasonable to understand Jehovah being the only source of salvation to his people and Othniel as one of his representatives through whom Jehovah saved them?”

    Well, what is the real context of the Isaiah passage? The context is between the true God and false gods, that is, what is truly God by nature and what is not truly God by nature. Of course God’s representatives are not being considered here because they are not in the category of “god.” But Jesus is called “God” with all the attributes of God and described as being Creator (all things are made “by Him” and “for Him,” not merely “through Him”), and so we must judge from Is. 42 whether or not He is a true God or not. So, the reason I quoted from it is to state either Jesus is truly God by nature or He is a false god.

    Have you read my posts on John 1:1 and Irenaeus?

    • TJ August 20, 2011 at 7:38 AM #

      Hello Michael,

      As exemptions to ‘the firstborn’ always meaning the first and foremost one, you propose Exodus 4:22 and Psalm 89:27 (88:27 LXX). All you’ve really done is carefully interpreted those verses in such a way that you have separated the “firstborn” from others mentioned in the same passage. But this still isn’t a direct comparison to the construction we find at Colossians 1:15 and I’ll explain why.

      At Exodus 4:22 you are making the very-debatable assumption that Israel is the only nation God would consider figuratively as his son. The reason Israel is called as such is to create the parallel in the next verse where God tells Pharaoh, “should you refuse to send [Israel] away, here I am killing your son, your firstborn.” Certainly the argument can be made that God, as “King of the nations” and the Father of all mankind could figuratively refer to all nations as his ‘sons’, with Israel as foremost in his favor. (Jeremiah 10:7 NWT) But even if you rigidly insist that Israel can be God’s only nation-son, we don’t find a parallel genitive construction to the one we find in Colossians 1:15. The parallel would be calling Israel “the firstborn of all nations”, or in your interpretation, “the firstborn [son of God] of all nations [who are not God’s sons].” Since we’re now dealing in hypotheticals, let’s take an example comparable to what you say is going on here. Imagine Jacob speaking of his firstborn son to his brother Esau, who has his own children. Merely speaking of his firstborn to Esau is fine and correct, obviously, but Jacob would actually have to call his own son ‘the firstborn of Esau’s progeny’ for it to compare to how you are trying to use the term in these instances. Can you show me anything like that? Obviously we don’t see that in Exodus 4 or anywhere else in the Bible; it’s an incorrect statement.

      The same pretty much goes for Psalm 89:27. You make the same assumption here, that the kings of the earth could not regard the true God as their Father, and so you do everything you can to put the king of Israel into his own mutually-exclusive group. Yet this verse does contain a genitive construction: “the highest of the kings of the earth”. The synonym for “highest” would be “foremost” (or “firstborn”) and it is necessarily inclusive. Your own rendering uses a partitive genitive! You can’t be the highest of anything without being a part of that group. This expression in itself makes your argument fall flat where you say, “he is set apart in a class by himself above all the kings of the earth.” Do you understand why his being called the “highest” necessarily means that he cannot be mutually-exclusive from and “above”?

      You then said, “Birth and creation are two different things, and so prototokos should not be regarded as protoktisitos.”

      It’s interesting that you should bring this up, as it’s my understanding that the word protoktisitos (‘first-created’) was not in use at the time Paul authored the epistle (the word appears nowhere in the New Testament). If you can show me an instance where it is used in any Greek literature prior to Clement of Alexandria, I’d sure like to see it. I’ll have to check this the next time I’m in a theological library, but evidently Clement calls Jesus ‘ton protoktiston’ (the first-created) in Stromata (Book 5, Chapter 6), which is universally rendered as ‘the firstborn’ in translations of his work. It’s my position that the terms were used as synonyms when protoktisitos was coined as a reference for Christ. John Patrick wrote of this, “Clement repeatedly identifies the Word with the Wisdom of God, and yet he refers to Wisdom as the first-created of God; while in one passage he attaches the epithet ‘First-created,’ and in another ‘First-begotten,’ to the Word. But this seems to be rather a question of language than a question of doctrine. At a later date a sharp distinction was drawn between ‘first-created’ and ‘first-born’ or ‘first-begotten,’ but no such distinction was drawn in the time of Clement, who with the Septuagint rendering of a passage in Proverbs before him could have had no misgiving as to the use of these terms.” (Clement of Alexandria, p. 103) So I think you’re making a distinction that is a product of much later Trinitarian theology.

      You then said, “Given the exalted nature of God in the OT in creation, you have to read “other” into the section, which flies in the face of OT monotheism. Indeed, “other” does not flow from the context (immediate or larger) itself, but apparently from a preconceived idea concerning Christ.”

      I couldn’t disagree more. As shown above, Clement and others read Proverbs 8:22 ff. and recognized the first creature, here termed “Wisdom” as the one who helped God in creating everything else. This passage was used in conjunction with passages like Colossians 1:15 and Revelation 3:14 in ancient writing. So it doesn’t ‘fly in the face of OT monotheism’ at all. And as I’ve shown, “other” is added for the same reason that one would add it in a sentence such as ‘Peter and the other apostles’. It’s not preconceived because the passage itself terms Jesus as ‘of creation’. But now we’re going in circles.

      As to Hebrews 1:3, I find your arguing strange. You say, “[Jesus] is an exact representation of [God’s] nature (character tes hupostaseos),” but then turn around and say “[t]he Gk. word ‘character’ expresses more emphatically that Christ . . . is not merely a representation.” Well, which is it? Is Christ a representation or not? Aren’t you really arguing out of both sides of your mouth here? The scriptures themselves speak to Jesus being a “representation”, an exact one, of God. Can one really be ‘an exact representation’ of oneself?

      Your final point on Isaiah 42 was this: “The context is between the true God and false gods, that is, what is truly God by nature and what is not truly God by nature. Of course God’s representatives are not being considered here because they are not in the category of ‘god.’ But Jesus is called ‘God’ with all the attributes of God and described as being Creator (all things are made ‘by Him’ and ‘for Him,’ not merely ‘through Him’)[you’re quoting Colossians 1:16 here), and so we must judge from Is. 42 whether or not He is a true God or not.”

      So now you’re pointing me back to Colossians 1 for the ‘proper’ interpretation of Isaiah 42? Do you not see the glaring problem with this?? The very reason I’m even discussing Isaiah 42 is because you used it in support of your interpretation of Colossians 1:16 ff. Here’s what you said earlier:

      “[H]ow do you maintain the argument that ‘other’ should be inserted there [in Colossians 1] because Christ is the ‘first of a category’ when the weight of Scripture is that YHWH alone was creator? For instance, Is. 42:5ff, ‘Thus says God YHWH, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring, Who dgives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it, I am YHWH…'”

      So according to you, I should be using Isaiah 42:5 to inform the proper understanding of Colossians 1:16. But when I take a look at Isaiah 42:5, you say I should be using Colossians 1:16 to inform the proper understanding of that. And ’round and ’round we go. This is circular reasoning; it’s nothing more than a house of cards and a fallacy. Your arguments on these passages aren’t really relying on scripture alone, but on your a-priori belief that Jesus must be God in the fullest sense. If you cannot set this bias to the side when looking at the evidence, of course nothing will ever convince you otherwise; you’ll reason circularly all day long. But you certainly wouldn’t be allowing scripture to speak for itself.

      And yes, I read your posts on John 1:1 and Ireneaus and have responded to each. Thanks for your time.

  34. Nicholas Voss August 20, 2011 at 7:10 AM #

    Good morning TJ-
    The swastika is not a Christian symbol. It may have been used by Roman Christians once or twice as art. In fact, it has been conjectured that early Christians used it among themselves to conceal the true cross from unbelievers – perhaps in a way the ichthus was used.

    Hitler used it as a perversion of the true cross. It is generally viewed by Christians around the world as a pagan symbol. As you are well aware, the swastika has never been widely used; and if one or two or even a few people did employ its use, that is an exception rather than the rule.

    As I mentioned before, for these reasons we tore it down when the Nazis were defeated. We Christians want nothing to do with it.

    TJ :

    Nick, here’s what the Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913 (predating the Nazis) has to say, “Another symbol largely employed [by Christians] during the third and fourth centuries, the swastika . . . is fairly common on the Christian monuments of Rome, being found on some sepulchral inscriptions, besides occurring twice, painted, on the Good Shepherd’s tunic in an arcosolium in the Catacomb of St. Generosa in the Via Portuensis, and again on the tunic of the fossor Diogenes (the original epitaph is no longer extant) in the catacomb of St. Domitilla in the Via Ardeatina. Outside of Rome it is less frequent.” (Vol. IV, p. 522)

    • TJ August 20, 2011 at 7:41 AM #

      Nick are you going to attempt to answer my questions that you said you would? I’ve posted them twice now. Thanks.

      • Nicholas Voss August 20, 2011 at 8:03 AM #

        TJ- Your questions are on my list of things to do, but you keep bringing on new topics to debate. I do intend to get to those at some point.

  35. Nicholas Voss August 20, 2011 at 8:01 AM #

    Hi TJ-
    You understand me in part. And I appreciate you giving me an opportunity to clarify. When battles are fought we do not know who is the Christian and who is not. When Roman armies fought against each other, the Christians did not know who was a believer and who was not. We simply know that there may be Christians somewhere in this group. Before launching an attack no one thinks to ask the generals, “Hey … maybe we should take a poll among the enemy to find out who is a Christian before we send out this missile.”

    What we do know is that the Nazis as a group were not Christians (Hitler said so himself), but inside of the Nazi forces there were people of God who were conscripted to fight for their country. There were many Christians who opposed the Nazis (Bonhoeffer, Barth, Bishop Niemoller , Konrad Adenaur , Goerdeler , Stauffenberg , von Hassell, von Moltke, Rothfels, von Haften, etc.)

    But who knows the exact situation of these men when they put on their uniforms? They may have been Lutheran or Roman Catholic brothers who were initially deceived by the Nazis into believing they were fighting on the right side, that is to say to defend their country. Others may have been drafted, told to put on a uniform, and go into battle against their will. Still some may have told that their brothers in the Rhineland, Sudetenland, Danzig, and other places were being persecuted and it was their duty to free them (these lies are all documented in Goebbels’ propaganda films).

    I agree with you that Christians fighting Christians is a great tragedy. In fact it’s heartbreaking.

    But war is inevitable. The Bible is filled with wars that were God-ordained. We Christians hate war, but sometimes it is necessary to thwart a greater evil. By way of example: If someone were to attack the illegal alien Mexicans across the street from me (they are Jehovah’s Witnesses) I told the family I would be the first person to drop everything to come to their rescue. These Jehovah’s Witnesses were very grateful to know I would protect them, even if it meant losing my own life. And I would not hesitate to pull the trigger to stop a deadly assault upon the little Jehovah’s Witness children. I would consider it my duty to protect the Jehovah’s Witnesses, even if the person committing the assault claimed to be a Christian. Many come in the Lord Jesus’s name but are not believers, as you know.

    As for the rest of your post, essentially what you’re saying, as far as I can tell, is that even though Jesus said that his true disciples would be recognizable by the love they manifest for each other (John 13:35), when there is a bad enough situation “political in nature,” they then should kill one another based upon political differences. And even though Jesus said, “No one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends” (John 15:13 NWT), you say that if he’s legally conscripted then he has no choice but to kill his foreign Christian brothers.

    • TJ August 20, 2011 at 10:10 AM #

      Thanks Nick. So you seem to recognize the inherent contradiction between how Jesus said Christians should behave towards each other and what happens in wars (especially wars within Christendom). So let’s personalize this a little.

      Imagine your best friend, who is your Christian brother, lives in a foreign country. You country and his don’t get along politically and begin war. Both of you are conscripted into the military of your respective countries and both of you have your churches blessing in fighting a ‘just’ war. Even though Jesus says, “[n]o one has love greater than this, that someone should surrender his soul in behalf of his friends”, you’d go to potentially kill your Christian brother?

      • Nicholas Voss August 20, 2011 at 4:03 PM #

        TJ-
        The problem with a scenario you just described is that it is hypothetical and is simplistic. It is not easy to answer because not enough information is available. Furthermore, it is framed as a “gotcha” question. Let me answer the question with a question: If the Mexican drug lords (one happens to attend Spanish-speaking Kingdom Hall – you’ve seen him there) attacked your family and you caught them in the act of torturing your children and raping your wife, would you shoot them in order to save your family’s lives?

      • TJ August 21, 2011 at 5:12 AM #

        Nick, my question is one that has been a real scenario during WWII and other wars! So you’re just going to just avoid it?

        As for your view of Jehovah’s Witnesses, we are not pacifists. You’ve misunderstood that along with so many other things about us. A 2008 issue of the Awake! says this, “The Bible thus indicates that a person may defend himself or his family if physically assaulted. He may ward off blows, restrain the attacker, or even strike a blow to stun or incapacitate him. The intention would be to neutralize the aggression or stop the attack. This being the case, if the aggressor was seriously harmed or killed in such a situation, his death would be accidental and not deliberate.”

        Now would you please stop dodging and answer my question.

  36. Nicholas Voss August 20, 2011 at 8:32 AM #

    TJ-
    The Jehovah’s Witnesses were persecuted for political purposes. The JWs would not swear allegiance to the Reich so they were thrown in jail along with the Christians, Jews, communists, and mentally ill. The Nazis persecuted just about everyone who was not a Nazi.

    The persecution of the JWs was a terrible tragedy, as was the persecution of the Jews, Christians, mentally ill, and everyone else. I am thankful for the brave men and women who gave their lives to fight the Nazis so that we can be free.

    John K. Roth may be a pre-eminent Holocaust scholar, but to call him a pre-eminent Christian scholar on the Holocaust is not true (as far as I can tell). I cannot find any Christian books written by him, although there is one where he struggles with theodicy. I can’t speak for all Christians everywhere, but theodicy is not something I struggle with, nor does anyone in my church (as far as I know), or my pastor or elders. Roth cannot be considered a pre-eminent Christian scholar based on his bibliography and entry on Wikipedia or on anything I’ve searched for on the www.

    Researcher James N. Pellechia investigated the Jehovah’s Witnesses insistence to remain neutral with regards to the Nazi state, writing, “the particular path the Witnesses trod bears scrutiny and analysis as one of the rare examples of resistance to the Nazi ideology of hate that was based on religious grounds . . . The Witnesses presented the Third Reich with a distinct moral threat–allegiance to God over the nation-state. John K. Roth, one of the preeminent Christian scholars of the Holocaust, said of this code of conduct: ‘As a result, no Christian denomination was persecuted by the Nazis to the same degree as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, but then no Christian group resisted the Nazis so intensely either’ . . . Martin Niemoller praised the courage and conviction of the Witnesses. He said: ‘And to think that we Christians of today are ashamed of the so-called sect of the serious scholars of the Bible (Bibelforsher[Jehovah’s Witnesses]), who by the hundreds and thousands have gone into concentration camps and died because they refused to serve in war and declined to fire on human beings’ . . . Wrote Hanns Lilje, bishop of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church for the state of Hannover and cosigner of the Stuttgart Confession of Guilt: ‘No Christian group could anywhere near measure up to the number of blood witnesses (that were among Jehovah’s Witnesses).’”

  37. Nicholas Voss August 20, 2011 at 4:28 PM #

    TJ :

    1. Imagine Clement related an experience where one of his fellow worshippers spoke with Jesus personally, moving that one, once he recognized him, to exclaim something along the lines of ‘I have seen God!’ Would this be undeniable proof that Jesus is himself the Almighty God? Could there be any other legitimate understanding of those words?

    ANSWER: I would take the remark at face value. Is there any other legitimate understanding of the words? Possibly.

    • TJ August 21, 2011 at 5:44 AM #

      “Possibly”? So you’re telling me that this should not be proof that you or others use to prove that Jesus is God, correct? Why not?

  38. Nicholas Voss August 20, 2011 at 4:33 PM #

    TJ :

    1. Imagine Clement related an

    2. I asked you for an example where you feel the NWT is biased. You mentioned Colossians 1, where you feel the word “other” “altered the meaning of the original manuscripts.” I believe “other” is added as an implicit part of the Greek word ‘panta’ (“all”). In your view, can that Greek word ever mean “all other”? If so, where and why? If not, why can’t it?

    ANSWER: I believe Michael Babcock answered this question previously.

    • TJ August 21, 2011 at 5:16 AM #

      Nick, though I’ve been discussing question 2 with Joe and now Michael, I don’t believe the first question has been answered.

      • TJ August 21, 2011 at 5:42 AM #

        Nevermind, I see it above now.

  39. Nicholas Voss August 20, 2011 at 4:47 PM #

    3. You have defined “we Christians” as all the mainstream orthodox churches; you identify your history with that of the Catholic Church, though you yourself are a part of a Protestant Church. Paul gave the direct admonition, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10; NIV) Since you have admitted that you and those of the other orthodox denominations ‘disagree on some key issues’, doesn’t this mean you are failing to live by that inspired direction?

    ANSWER: Yes, we do quarrel with each other a great deal. The RCC uses the same creeds we do and we share a heritage (Augustine, Aquinas, we trace our lineage to many of the same people). I always enjoy reading Blaise Pascall’s writings although the RCC has disowned him until recently.

    I say we fight about as much as the disciples did amongst themselves. As you know, Christian differences are not new. In fact, the disciples themselves are guilty of arguing and bickering. They split on a variety of things that resulted in separation. They diverged to focus on various ministry aspects that interested them: Paul went one way and Barnabas went another – the disagreement arose over whether another disciple, John Mark, was to tour with them. Sometimes the disciples would fight amongst themselves as to who would be in charge. Other times they would disagree on Jewish-Gentile relationships or what part of the Old Testament was still valid. They disputed over spiritual talents. They even would quarrel about who had the best pastor! Despite their quarrels they remained united in the tenets of the faith. It is Christ Himself who unites us.

    Christians have splits today and they separate for many of the same reasons the disciples did. Yet, Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Anglicans, Assemblies of God, Calvinists and Arminians, and a host of other Christian churches are united in their creeds. The Apostles’, Nicene, and Chalcedonian Creeds are upheld as the test of orthodoxy. A man can differ on when or how to baptize or style of worship, but Christians do not disagree on the doctrine of God, the way of salvation, or the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ. These ancient Trinitarian creeds are usually found in Christian hymnals around the world and if they are absent from plain view the Believers will wholeheartedly endorse these doctrines if asked to do so. Christians are as one Body, therefore, just as the Lord had prayed.

    Furthermore, many of these divisions are a matter of ministry focus. Generally speaking, Methodists have a heart for social issues, Presbyterians on doctrinal purity, and the Assemblies of God on evangelism and outreach. Within these denominations you will encounter subgroups that have an interest in using their gifts in a variety of ways: whether in the arts, film and media, funding world relief efforts, or medical missions. We see a parallel to this diversity within the Roman Catholic Church. They have many Orders: Franciscans, Jesuits, Benedictine, and Augustinians. All of these groups within the Catholic Church are unquestionably Catholic but have distinct ministries. These Orders sometimes bicker among themselves, but no thinking man would claim they are not Catholics.

    I noticed that Elder Dave, the JW that visits my home, does not fellowship with the Jehovah’s Witness illegal aliens across the street. He will not talk to them for some reason. I’ve been meaning to ask why he does not any love toward his Russellite brothers.

    I fought with my brothers and sisters in the home a lot, too. We patched things up over time and that’s all that matters. In the early days, though, we hardly spoke to each other and people wondered if we were even in the same family. Go figure. All that matters is that we are as One Family now.

  40. TJ August 21, 2011 at 5:37 AM #

    So what did Paul mean when he said that there should be “no divisions among you”? That there should be? It seems that what you’re trying to say is that you think the apostles, like the many denominations you list, actually started their own churches out of harmony with each other over disputes and hated each other enough that they would’ve warred against each other, even as the Catholics and Protestants did for centuries. I think you’re very wrong in attempting a parallel there.

    Here’s apostolic history. When there was a controversy over the issue of circumcision, the Jerusalem elders and apostles met and decided on the issue together and then Paul went from town to town and “delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey.” (Acts 16:4) Why don’t the various churches you claim are all holding to the same faith handle differences the same way, meeting together and making a decision? Where in the early church did any apostle break off from the others entirely?

    • Nicholas Voss August 21, 2011 at 6:27 AM #

      TJ-
      I am on my way to church and will answer this question more thoroughly when I return. Meanwhile, go and learn the meaning of 1 Corinthians 11:19: “…For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you…”

      • TJ August 21, 2011 at 11:45 AM #

        So, wait, now you’re saying that some of the denominations among those you mentioned are not “approved”? Is it the Catholics? The Methodists? The Anglicans? Who?

    • Nicholas Voss August 21, 2011 at 1:58 PM #

      TJ-
      The Trinitarian churches who hold to the historic creeds belong togehter in the true faith. We are all brothers. I attend churches not of my denomination all the time when I travel on business. I enjoy worshipping the Lord with all sorts of Christians. I keep repeating this fact but for one reason or another this statement is going over your head.

      Furthermore, The apostles did not break off from the others entirely. We are all of the same faith as the apostles and they of us. We are one Body, the Body of Christ. It was the Jehovah’s Witnesses who broke away. Your sect is not the Body of Christ nor are you the Bride of Christ. You are outside of Christ’s fellowship. This is why you are struggling. It is impossible for you to understand Christ because you are not “in Christ.” You are not “with Christ.” And Christ is not in you. You will never understand.

      That Christians have been fighting with each other in the past is a true statement. Sometimes these wars were started by politicians who, in the name of Christ, dragged Christians into these wars. The Crusades are an example I am thinking of at the moment. Terrible tragedies occurred during this time. The Lord Jesus Christ will judge these men on the Last Day.

      There will always be wars and rumors of wars until Christ comes to destroy all evil and establish His kingdom where He will sit on the throne of God.

      Meanwhile, the world is full of sinners. Some are true Christians. Some are not. There are wars that God sanctioned in the Old Testament. There are wars that God sanctions in the New Testament (RE: Christ leading the armies of heaven in Revelation 19). It is God who removes and establishes kings (Daniel 2:21). More times than not, kings are removed by an act of war. In some cases, God When the centurion found faith in Christ that the Lord said was “greater than anyone in Israel” we are not told whether or not he left military life. The sense of the passage assumes he remained a soldier.

      God uses the sinful acts of men to fulfill his purposes:
      Genesis 50:20 NASB – “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

      Isaiah 45:7 NASB – The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these.

      Amos 3:6 NASB – If a trumpet is blown in a city will not the people tremble? If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it?

      Romans 8:28 NASB – And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

      Regarding the crucifixion of Christ, the worst crime in all of human history, we are told was plan of God: Act 2:23 NASB – … this Man, [Jesus], delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.

      Judas, who betrayed the Lord, was guilty of His crime to be sure. But the Lord used his sinful actions to fulfill His plan of redemption nonetheless: Luke 22:22 NASB – “For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”

      ***
      But as I pointed out in a previous post the disciples themselves are guilty of arguing and bickering. They split on a variety of things that resulted in separation. They diverged to focus on various ministry aspects that interested them: Paul went one way and Barnabas went another – the disagreement arose over whether another disciple, John Mark, was to tour with them. Sometimes the disciples would fight amongst themselves as to who would be in charge. Other times they would disagree on Jewish-Gentile relationships or what part of the Old Testament was still valid. They disputed over spiritual talents. They even would quarrel about who had the best pastor! Despite their quarrels they remained united in the tenets of the faith. It is Christ Himself who unites us.

      We Christians fight with each other to this day. But Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Assemblies of God, Lutherans, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox all recognize each other as believers in the one true Lord, Jesus Christ. The Church is the Bride of Christ.

      The Jehovah’s Witnesses on the other hand are not the Bride of Christ. You are on the outside of redemption and will never know his mercy and grace.

      When I used to tutor calculus in the local community college I would instruct students who were struggling to look for patterns and unity. Some would understand the advice, accept it, and would advance. Those who did not follow my advice continued to struggle because they saw confusion in the midst of diversity. You, too, are confused about biblical Christianity for the very same reason. I really do feel sorry for you. Ponder this carefully…
      TJ, you need to repent of your sins. Turn to the Lord Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and leave the evil, sinful cult you are in immediately. Do not delay in being wise. The Lord is coming soon.

      • TJ August 21, 2011 at 3:02 PM #

        Nick,

        Since you are so obviously concerned with my personal salvation and not just bashing anybody that you see as a threat to your cherished tradition by any means necessary, please give me some simple and clear explanations to the following questions.

        In the OT, God had a chosen nation that he gave direction to concerning war, and in the NT he indeed calls for war with the King Jesus Christ leading the forces (this is why Jehovah’s Witnesses are not pacifists). But please tell me, between those times, who exactly was God’s chosen government/nation that he sanctioned for war? Was it the United States? Was it the United Kingdom? Was it Italy? Was it Germany? Does God change sides throughout history? Who was God’s chosen nation after Israel that he sanctioned for war?

        You again appeal to historic creeds as validation for a church. Does that mean you disagree with your Catholic and Anglican brothers who said that “‘historical continuity’ in a church is ensured by its fidelity to ‘the teaching and mission of the apostles'”? After all, those creeds weren’t around until after the apostles.

        Thanks.

  41. Nicholas Voss August 21, 2011 at 6:12 AM #

    I believe I did answer your question — with a question! Isn’t that how the Lord Jesus Christ answered his critics? And when they could not or would not answer, he refused to answer theirs. I think you are the one who is dodging questions. My question clearly answered your question, but you do not have the ability or the desire to see this.

    I am glad you cleared up the question on self-defense, though. Now that you’ve got me up to speed on the issue, how about filling in the rest of your Jehovah’s Witness flock? I hear different explanations of this from different JWs. If you ask two JW elders a question about their doctrines, you get three different answers. But this problem of interpretation/application is inherent to all religious groups, including ours. My point is that the JWs do not have a unified system of doctine as you would have us believe.

    If the JW goal is to “stun” evil, how would that scenario play out with the Nazis? Evil of this kind must be destroyed, not incapacitated. How do you “stun” a serial murderer. How do you incapcitate Mexican drug lords? We tried to “neutralize” Saddam Hussein for 12 years and could not do it. Finally we had to move in and shut down the regime. The Lord instituted the death penalty for this reason. He ordained governments to thwart evil (to kill evil), and for this reason we should pay our taxes, says Saint Paul.

    Taxes! I can tell you a thing or two about JWs not paying taxes, but we’ll leave that topic for a different day. For now, I’m off to church because it is the Lord’s Day. I am off to worship our Lord and Savior, the Bridegroom, King of kings, and Lord of lords, Master of the Universe! Praise be to God Almighty who has redeemed His people!

    TJ :

    Nick, my question is one that has been a real scenario during WWII and other wars! So you’re just going to just avoid it?

    As for your view of Jehovah’s Witnesses, we are not pacifists. You’ve misunderstood that along with so many other things about us. A 2008 issue of the Awake! says this, “The Bible thus indicates that a person may defend himself or his family if physically assaulted. He may ward off blows, restrain the attacker, or even strike a blow to stun or incapacitate him. The intention would be to neutralize the aggression or stop the attack. This being the case, if the aggressor was seriously harmed or killed in such a situation, his death would be accidental and not deliberate.”

    Now would you please stop dodging and answer my question.

    • TJ August 21, 2011 at 11:43 AM #

      In four paragraphs Nick, you still haven’t told me if you’d go to war against your Christian friend or not. Interesting…

      • Nicholas Voss August 21, 2011 at 12:40 PM #

        Yes I did explain this, but you do not the ability to understand … Yes, it is interesting, but not for the same reason you think.

      • TJ August 21, 2011 at 2:43 PM #

        By all means, please tell me again, was that a yes or no? If you need ‘more information’ please tell me what information you need exactly that would give you the ok to go to war against your Christian brother?

        Is it really that difficult?

  42. Nicholas Voss August 21, 2011 at 12:38 PM #

    TJ :

    So, wait, now you’re saying that some of the denominations among those you mentioned are not “approved”? Is it the Catholics? The Methodists? The Anglicans? Who?

    TJ-
    You are jumping to conclusions again. Go and learn what this passage means. Until you do, you will never understand what we are saying. We are praying that the Holy Spirit will open your eyes and give you His understanding. Wisdom is a gift from our heavenly Father.

    This passage is not difficult to comprehend. Do your best to understand and if you need help, you can rely on me to assist you. I will always do my best to make time for you.

    • TJ August 21, 2011 at 2:47 PM #

      You seem to like to play games, Nick. From what I can tell, you just cited 1 Corinthians 11:19 as support to explain all the divisions within what you consider the true church. Yet when that verse speaks of “factions”, the Greek word there is haireseis, or in Latin the more familiar heresies. So I’m just curious which denominations within your ‘true church’ you are calling heretics?

      • Nicholas Voss August 21, 2011 at 3:39 PM #

        TJ-
        You like to play games, too. I’m glad to see you are able to muscle up enough nerve to take jabs at your opponents. I don’t mind at all. My skin is fairly thick and I’m not insulted. I noticed you’ve changed your tone recently and have become more aggressive. Gone is the mild-mannered Russellite scholar and in comes TJ the tiger. I love it!

        Yes, I am aware that αἵρεσις can be translated heresies. Of course, that is the transliteration of the Greek as you pointed out. But do you think I’m some dumb, hillbilly-like Christian without a Greek dictionary? This word can mean a lot of things: schisms, factions, dissention, among other things. Secular Greeks used it to describe “schools of thought.” Josephus used αἵρεσις to describe the different parties in Judaism, and even trends among the Jewish scholars.

        The term later became a characterization of apostates, which you are. αἵρεσις, as far as I can tell, was used in the sense you are using it when the early church called the Gnostics “αἵρεσις.” In this sense the early church leaders thought of Gnostics as something other than a faction; they were, in fact, apostates, like you are. Idolatrous, unbelieving, revisionist, infidels more or less is what the term “αἵρεσις” came to be known.

        I suggest you purchase a combo Greek and Hebrew dictionary yourself so you can get passed these kinds of blunders when interacting with Christians.

        The context of 1 Corinthians 11:19 passage prohibits αἵρεσις as a kind of damnable heresy such as the numerous ones JW/Russellites hold. What Paul is saying here is that upon coming together during church services the Corinthians fell into schisms. Good grief! These believers were arguing over the Lord’s Supper. And we still do. Communion suppers are supposed to be a time of unity but these first-century Christians were fighting amongst themselves. Paul rebuked them and he’d rebuke Christians today for the very same thing. Paul uses the term again in Galatians in a stricter sense. I’m sure you’ll remind me that those who practice the sins of the flesh, of which αἵρεσις is included, will not inherit the kingdom of God. But I cannot address this here as you do not like it when I go off topic so we’ll save that for another post.

        Where was I? Oh yes… Although Paul was telling the Corinthian Church to stop fighting with each other, as he would tell me to stop arguing with my Baptists brothers over petty things. Conversely, Paul would certainly tell our church to abandon any notion of church communion with the JW/Russellites because you are so far from true orthodoxy that you are not even considered Christians by any of the aforementioned “denominations” … er, αἵρεσις I meant to say.🙂

        I know this is hard for you to believe but Christians can have schisms without a separation of fellowship. We Christians may disagree about many things but we are still brothers in the Lord. Just today one of our elders was telling us that thankfully his daughter was rooming in the college dormitory with a Baptist Christian. We are Presbyterians as you know. But we consider Baptists true believers like us.

      • TJ August 21, 2011 at 6:18 PM #

        Nick, if my tone has changed, it’s only a reflection of how I view you as a serious person. Take a guy like Joe above; I have real respect for him. He didn’t resort to ad-hominem attacks in almost every post (if ever) nor did he jump to red-herring diversions as a standard tactic to avoid the topic; he was reasonable. He was man enough to admit that perhaps he was looking at the topic a little too one-dimensionally when new evidence was presented, even if he wasn’t ready to agree with me completely. According to you, the swastika was only in churches for 12 years in the twentieth century and you’re ‘inexperienced in history’ if you say otherwise.

        Now you’re saying what Paul really meant to say was that the church should have divisions within it, that the other denominations are the ‘good’ kind of heretics(!) and you’ve always been in fellowship with each other, apparently even when the Catholics and Protestants were burning each other at the stake. Hey, if that to you is the kind of brotherhood that Jesus taught, you can have it. I don’t mind at all that you don’t consider me any part of it. Really though, that’s exactly why the churches have been losing so much influence over the population for decades, the people aren’t stupid, they see through that kind of hypocrisy, especially in times of war.

  43. Nicholas Voss August 21, 2011 at 2:49 PM #

    TJ :

    By all means, please tell me again, was that a yes or no? If you need ‘more information’ please tell me what information you need exactly that would give you the ok to go to war against your Christian brother?

    Is it really that difficult?

    TJ-
    Here is the answer in the form a question I posed to you. You never responded to the question, but dodged it. Please tell me yes or no.

    Let me answer the question with a question: If the Mexican drug lords (one happens to attend Spanish-speaking Kingdom Hall – you’ve seen him there) attacked your family and you caught them in the act of torturing your children and raping your wife, would you shoot them in order to save your family’s lives?

    • TJ August 21, 2011 at 3:06 PM #

      I told you Nick, both I and any Jehovah’s Witness I know absolutely would defend his family’s lives and safety from an attacker, even to death if necessary. We are not pacifists, but we always show respect for life. We won’t kill over stolen property.

      Now again, would you please answer my simple question?

      • Nicholas Voss August 21, 2011 at 3:54 PM #

        So you would shoot a Jehovah’s Witness brother if you caught him in the act of assaulting your family then? If that’s the case, I would say I would do the same thing.

        I am now in a hurry to the evening service to worship the King of kings, Lord of lords, Savior, Lord, Master, Teacher, Bridegroom, Judge of the living and the dead, Good Shepherd, Before Abraham He was, Creator, Image of the invisible God Jehovah … none other than Jesus Himself! We attend church several times on Sunday because where 2-3 are gathered together, there Jesus is also.

        I will pray for you this evening, TJ! May His grace shine upon you!

      • TJ August 21, 2011 at 5:46 PM #

        Nick,

        I just find it incredibly ironic that under a post with that title, you do everything you can to not answer my question. It speaks volumes about you.

  44. Nicholas Voss August 21, 2011 at 8:48 PM #

    TJ :

    Nick,

    I just find it incredibly ironic that under a post with that title, you do everything you can to not answer my question. It speaks volumes about you.

    TJ-
    I answered all of your questions, The reason why you are having a difficult time following my answer is that you do not want to accept it. Also your way of question-asking is a method of getting to a predetermined answer that you have in your head. Jesus had the same problem with the Jewish leaders when they would attempt to trap him with question-asking much like the ones you put forth.

    Because you lose an argument or two you respond by saying I didn’t answer your question properly. In the above post I clearly answered your question on war. I concurred with you. You should be happy we agree on something for a change.

    Let’s review (for fun and posterity): A person claiming to be a Jehovah’s Witness breaks into your home and assaults your wife and kids. You shoot him dead. Next day a person claiming to be a Christian breaks into my home and assaults my family. I shoot him dead. We are both in agreement on this. Right?

    • Nicholas Voss August 22, 2011 at 5:34 AM #

      TJ-
      You have made mention of a supposed irony in the title of my blog post which is JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES PRETEND TO WANT TO DISCUSS THE BIBLE BUT WHEN ASK TO DO SO THEY CLAIM THEY ARE TOO BUSY … On 6 August 2011 you initiated a conversation and stated that you would be happy to answer my questions. You tried to answer the primary question, but really dodged it, and have been continuing to avoid it for the weeks we’ve been corresponding. You responded to the question WHY WERE THERE NO JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES LIVING IN THE WORLD PRIOR TO ITS RECENT ORGANIZATION IN THE 1870S? by claiming Abel was among the first Jehovah’s Witnesses and that there were others, you believe, along the way until Charles Russell came along.

      You could not tell me what makes you think there were Jehovah’s Witnesses before 1870 because you could not come up with any of their names, places, writings. Furthermore you could not tell me why Abel should be considered a Jehovah’s Witness other than his name is in the Bible (Muslims consider Abel a follower of Islam). But as I mentioned this does not prove he was a Jehovah’s Witness; I could use this sort of name-dropping technique to insist he was a trinitarian. You could not name anything that Abel did or said to prove he was a Jehovah’s Witness and not something else. Generally speaking, all Abrahamic religions claim Abel as one of their own.

      Next you tried to get out of the hole that you dug by mentioning people such as Isaac Newton and Michael Servetus. To be fair, you did not say they were Jehovah’s Witnesses per se but their names appeared in posts within the context of me asking you to identify Jehovah’s Witnesses before 1870. I responded by saying that if a man is an anti-trinitarian that does not make them a Jehovah’s Witnesses. Muslims are anti-trinitarians too and they are also anti-Jehovah’s Witnesses! The rush to find like-minded Jehovah’s Witnesses from the past failed again.

      Roughly one month goes by. If you peruse the 115 posts it is apparent that you have dominated the conversations by posing “gotcha” questions, all of which we have answered. So it is ironic that although my post was supposed to be about me asking questions, it turned out you were asking most of them in the form of attacks on our Christian faith.

      All along I was on to your strategy, but didn’t mind since I liked the interaction with you. Most recently you insisted on asking a question about Christians fighting other Christians in wars. I decided to answer this question using the method Jesus used with his opponents, that is to say he answered by asking another question. After several rounds of you accusing me of avoiding the issue, you finally answered the question and we both had our answers.

      But nowhere in a period of nearly one month have you answered my original question: WHY WERE THERE NO JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES LIVING IN THE WORLD PRIOR TO ITS RECENT ORGANIZATION IN THE 1870S? You claim that God has always had a faithful Jehovah’s Witness yet you do not know who they were, you do not possess any of their writings, and you do not know where they lived. You only say they existed in the midst of terrible apostasy that must have overwhelmed the Jehovah’s Witnesses of days past. If that is the case, then they were not witnesses of the one true God at all. How can they be witnesses if no one knows who they were, if they existed, what they wrote about, and where they lived. They just vanished, you imagine, but you are utterly confident they were there.

      Man, you have hope! This is the kind of hope that people have about extraterrestrials too. They must be there. They must! Our worldview will be shattered if they do not exist. We have never seen them, we have never heard from them, we have none of their writings, and we do not know where they are from. But we are convinced in our minds that they were there.

      The Jehovah’s Witnesses in the past had to be there, too, you reckon. If they did not exist you would be forced to believe that Charles Russell invented the Jehovah’s Witnesses out of thin air.
      Now that’s interesting !…..

  45. Nicholas Voss August 21, 2011 at 9:08 PM #

    TJ :

    Nick, if my tone has changed, it’s only a reflection of how I view you as a serious person. Take a guy like Joe above; I have real respect for him. He didn’t resort to ad-hominem attacks in almost every post (if ever) nor did he jump to red-herring diversions as a standard tactic to avoid the topic; he was reasonable. He was man enough to admit that perhaps he was looking at the topic a little too one-dimensionally when new evidence was presented, even if he wasn’t ready to agree with me completely.

    TJ-
    I do not know Joe, but let’s assume he is a Christian who believes the same things I do. His temperment is different than mine. That’s fine. I respect him as much as you do. But I am not Joe. If you want to have quiet, unemotional debates then you and Joe should go out, hold hands, sing kumbaya, and braid each others hair.

    I am not Joe. I do not want to be Joe. I am wired by God to work with Muslims sheiks who are passionate about what they believe. They like the way I interact with them. They respect me because I am the way I am. The funny thing is I do not care what they they think about me. I love raw truth. They know that and that is why they tolerate me. And I tolerate them.

    You should also be aware that the Reformers and counter-reformers (Erasmus v. Luther) had very lively debates, too. Erasmus did not go about crying how Luther insulted him. And Luther could care less what people thought about him.

    Don’t take my intense personality in a way that assumes that I disrespect you. I DO respect you! If you want to find a portal that appeals to your calm, soothing personality, you should start your own.

    If I didn’t respect you, I’d delete all your posts and ignore you. Do you get it, now?

    • Joe August 22, 2011 at 12:35 PM #

      Nick,
      I have been away and just now logged back on to see where things have progressed – or in this case, totally dissolved. I am in fact a Christian and I totally disagree with TJ’s position. We had our discussion, and true enough, more could be said. I felt that I made a case that is reasonable to history and the text (both), and TJ countered with his views. There is only so much one can do with this venue. That being said, your reliance on name calling and controversy belie your true agenda (certainly not to discuss), and they are a totally disrespectful and immature. Sorry, but it’s true. You rip a person to shreds out of one side of your mouth and then compliment them out of the other. Post that for all to see, please.

  46. Nicholas Voss August 22, 2011 at 6:18 AM #

    TJ :

    Now you’re saying what Paul really meant to say was that the church should have divisions within it, that the other denominations are the ‘good’ kind of heretics(!) and you’ve always been in fellowship with each other, apparently even when the Catholics and Protestants were burning each other at the stake. Hey, if that to you is the kind of brotherhood that Jesus taught, you can have it. I don’t mind at all that you don’t consider me any part of it. Really though, that’s exactly why the churches have been losing so much influence over the population for decades, the people aren’t stupid, they see through that kind of hypocrisy, especially in times of war.

    TJ-
    Please go back and re-read my post.

    Let’s start over since you were unable to comprehend my original explanation. Paul wants Christians to be unified. That was the purpose of writing to the Corinthians. They were having disputes about the Lord’s Supper. He did not want them to be divided. The Apostle said plainly that although schisms would be inevitable, he did not like them. We admonished them to join together in peace and love and harmony.

    As for me, I have harmonious relationships with my Christian brothers. However, dissenters such as you and other JWs are doing their best to separate us. It is you, who is the heretic divider, not us. There has always been divisions in the church. There has been since biblical times. The apostles fought. The Lord hates it and we repent of it. Then sooner or later a man comes along, like Charlie Russell, and wants to re-invent the church claiming all the churches are wrong and he has learnt what the true church is all about. He wants us to follow him.

    You left Christianity remember? You said yourself that Charles Taze Russell wanted to re-invent Christianity — by establishing entirely new religion! If that isn’t divisive what is? Charlie Russell essentially did the opposite of Paul commanded in 1 Corinthians 11:19. He is in hell now paying for his crimes, as one day you’ll be.

    If my interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:19 is incorrect, then tell me what you think it should be. I will take your views into consideration, based on the historic use αἵρεσις, not your modern interpretation of the word. Where you are going wrong is you take αἵρεσις and read back into it what you want this word to say. That’s voodoo hermeneutics, and you know it. So, TJ, tell me how the JWs interpret 1 Corinthians 11:19?

  47. Nicholas Voss August 22, 2011 at 7:22 AM #

    TJ :

    Nick,

    Since you are so obviously concerned with my personal salvation and not just bashing anybody that you see as a threat to your cherished tradition by any means necessary, please give me some simple and clear explanations to the following questions.

    In the OT, God had a chosen nation that he gave direction to concerning war, and in the NT he indeed calls for war with the King Jesus Christ leading the forces (this is why Jehovah’s Witnesses are not pacifists). But please tell me, between those times, who exactly was God’s chosen government/nation that he sanctioned for war? Was it the United States? Was it the United Kingdom? Was it Italy? Was it Germany? Does God change sides throughout history? Who was God’s chosen nation after Israel that he sanctioned for war?

    You again appeal to historic creeds as validation for a church. Does that mean you disagree with your Catholic and Anglican brothers who said that “‘historical continuity’ in a church is ensured by its fidelity to ‘the teaching and mission of the apostles’”? After all, those creeds weren’t around until after the apostles.

    Thanks.

    Good morning TJ-
    Yes, it’s true. I am concerned for your personal salvation. No doubt about. You should be concerned as well.

    I do not believe that any of the aforementioned nations are chosen in the sense Israel was. However, all nations, even evil ones, are raised up by God to fulfill his plan for the world. The Assyrians and Chaldeans were called servants of Jehovah even though they were used to attack the chosen nation of Israel: Hab 1:6 NASB – “…For behold, I am raising up the Chaldeans, That fierce and impetuous people Who march throughout the earth To seize dwelling places which are not theirs…” and Isa 10:5 NASB – “…Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger And the staff in whose hands is My indignation, I send it against a godless nation And commission it against the people of My fury To capture booty and to seize plunder, And to trample them down like mud in the streets…”

    God may have similar plans for the countries you mentioned. I would advise against speculation in regard to what God’s plans are for these nations. We do not know. If He wanted us to know, he’d tell us. I do know that if God did not have plans for these nations, they’d cease to exist.

    Yes, I appeal to the historic creeds of the church. These creeds are not inspired as the Holy Bible is inspired. They are merely summaries of the Apostle’s teaching. They came about because of the counterfeit claims of cults (such as the one you belong to).

    The first Christian creed can be found in Mat 16:15-16 NASB – “[‘Jesus] said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” This creed was sufficient until Gnostic cults re-invented Jesus the Messiah. In order to explain what Peter meant by his statement creeds, such as the Apostles’ Creed, and other writings were written to teach new believers. Then when the Apostle’s Creed was demonized by new and strange cults, the Nicene Creed was drafted. It was essentially a commentary on the Apostles’ Creed. Then the hypostatic union was corrupted by the Arians and other cults so the Chalcedon Creed came about. It was a commentary on the Nicene Creed. Next came confessions of faith such as the one we hold, The Westminster Confession of Faith. There are other good ones too such as the Heidelberg Confession and the Belgic Confession. From there we have voluminous systematic theologies such as those written by Calvin and Hodge and Berkhof. They were necessary to address new cults that sprung up. All of these creeds and confessions and systematic theologies point back to that simple statement Peter made: “…You are the Christ, the Son of the living God…”

    Do you agree it would be wonderful if all we needed was Peter’s confession of faith? But men like Simon the Magician, Ebionites, Gnostics, Marcion, Mani, Montanus, Ammonius Saccas, Monarchianism, Pelagian, Arius, Muhammad, Joe Smith, Charlie Russell, Mary Baker Eddy, and so many others came along to distort the historic faith. So God raises up Christian apologists to contend for the true faith. The cults come and go, don’t they? Jesus said many would come in His name and try to mislead His elect people. But Christianity always remains … just as Jesus our Head, our Bridegroom, our High Priest, our Savior, our Lord, our Mediator, our Sin-bearer, our God said it would: Mat 16:18 NASB – “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”

  48. Michael Babcock August 22, 2011 at 12:27 PM #

    TJ,
    Again you write as though you are knowledgeable, yet you lack understanding. I cannot help but think of Jesus’ rebuke to the Pharisess in Jn. 5:39-40, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.”

    Anyway, You first say that my understanding of “firstborn” in Ex. 4:22 is “very-debatable” and “hypothetical.” However, my interpretation does stand. For one, in what way could your idea, that Israel was foremost among other nations, be true? It was certainly not the first nation that existed, for Egypt existed well before Israel became a nation. It was not the greatest nation, for it was relatively small in number and very poor (being a nation of slaves), so there is no preeminence to them above other nations. It was not even a faithful and righteous nation, for as Moses related to them in Dt. 8, they were rebellious from the very beginning. So, in what way are they called God’s “firstborn”? Because God brought them into His gracious covenant and set His heart upon them for His own name’s sake.

    Secondly, yes it is true that God could be called “Father” to all nations inasmuch as He is creator and sustainer of all things, and as Paul declares in Acts 17:26, 28, that God “determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation…in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’” So there is a formal relationship that Israel bore with other nations with God as Creator of all things. But we know that there is another sense that God was not the Father of all nations according to the covenant of redemption. In fact, even Israel itself (as a nation) would come under condemnation for not being God’s children but the children of the devil (cf. Jn. 8:42-45).

    Thirdly, it is simply a fact of history that God did not enter into any covenantal relationship with any other nation than Israel (despite attempts of fundamentalists and reconstructionists who believe the U.S. is in such an exceptional position). Israel does stand unique to God in that regard, and thus it is one of a kind, and “firstborn” needs to be understood in that light. You’ll find this concept even in the parallel you pointed out: Pharaoh’s son was also in a unique position in that while there were other sons in Egypt, and many other “firstborns” in Egypt, there was none in Egypt but this child who was preeminently lifted up in the father’s love to be the heir to his throne. The “firstborn” of Pharaoh was in a one-of-a-kind position, and there was no one in all the land like him. God striking him dead ends the dynastic line. Moreover, and what is even more surprising, is that both Matthew and John in their gospels, and Paul in his epistles all bring out that Israel, as the “firstborn,” was but a type of Jesus, who is the true Israel and the true “firstborn.”

    But anyway, the point I was originally making, which I believe still stands, despite your mocking it, was that the term as it was applied to Israel in Ex. 4:22 was that Israel existed in a special relationship to God that was not duplicated or shared with any other nation as a nation (although individuals from Gentile nations would be added into Israel’s fold and blessings), and that it enjoyed a preeminence over all other nations because of God’s covenant.

    The same can be said about the Messianic kingship that is in view in Ps. 89. What other king in all history was brought into covenant with the true and living God, but David and his house? Answer: none. Other kings existed, and Israel was even split, but no covenant was ever established with Jeroboam or any of the kings of Israel, let alone any Gentile king. Again, this king in Ps. 89 stands in a unique, one-of-a-kind position, although he shares formal similarities with others. And it is because he is “mutually-exclusive from and ‘above’ other kings that he is “highest.” One of the titles for God in the OT is “God Most High.” Does that mean He is one of a number of gods, but that He is simply the highest? No, there are no other true gods (for though there are many so-called gods, they are not true nor living nor gods by divine nature). It is because he is “mutually-exclusive from and ‘above’ other kings that he is “highest.”

    Now, I do believe that the use of “firstborn” in 1:18 is “first of a class.” I get that from the fact that Heb. 12:23 calls the saints the “church of the firstborns” (note the plurality of that word). So Jesus was the first to be gloriously resurrected, and as their “Beginning” and “Head” He is preeminent over them. But why are they called “firstborn”? Because, like Israel and David, they have entered into God’s gracious covenant and have special relationship to God as their Father. They are the ones who will reign with Christ forever, even judging angels.

    But as I consider that, it occurs to me that you are inconsistent with your own presuppositions. You have insisted, “the firstborn of any group is always, without exception, a member of said group. The firstborn is never separate and above that group. So, of necessity, Jesus being ‘the firstborn of creation’ makes him himself a creature, literally the very first one.” Certainly it can mean that, and does mean that in v. 18, as I’ve shown. But what does “firstborn from the dead” mean to you? Does not the Jehovah’s Witness believe that Jesus was not resurrected bodily from the dead, but that He rose spiritually? Apart from that being both unbiblical and heretical, how does that square with the doctrine that all other people will rise bodily from the dead? How is Jesus the “first among such a group” or the “highest one among such a group of bodily resurrected people” since He Himself did not rise with a body?

    It appears we have flip-flopped. We both hold to Christ being firstborn in two different ways: one as first among a category, and one as simply preeminent, only we disagree as to what various definitions points to. However, I have the weight of biblical exegesis on my side. The Scriptures do talk of Jesus being the first to rise bodily from the dead, though you may deny it. Secondly, in so many other places, Jesus is described as and called God.

    Earlier I wrote, “The Gk. word “character” expresses more emphatically that Christ is the very “substance” (hupostasis) of God in that He is not merely a representation but embodies all that God essentially is, so that as Christ Himself said, ‘He who has seen Me has seen the Father’ (Jn. 14:9).” Based on that, you asked, “Is Christ a representation or not? Aren’t you really arguing out of both sides of your mouth here? The scriptures themselves speak to Jesus being a “representation”, an exact one, of God. Can one really be ‘an exact representation’ of oneself?”

    No, I’m not speaking out of both sides of my mouth. If I had quoted Hebrews showing where He is an exact representation and then said “He is not an exact representation but He embodies all that God essentially is,” then I would have contradicted myself. But notice I did not say that he was an exact representation but not an exact representation, but that he was not MERELY a representation. Yes, He is the EXACT representation of God, and He is so because He is the very “substance” of God. That is the point of Heb. 1, which is also the point Paul is making in Col. 1:15ff when He says that Christ is the “image of God” who is the “fullness of Godhead dwelling in bodily form.”

    And as far as my point on Is. 42, you seemed to miss the point. What I am saying is that the OT forms the basis of our monotheistic theology. You cannot read any part of the NT without that understanding. There is absolutely one true and living God. Anything else that may be called “god” that is worshiped in the OT is decried as a false god and idol. Is. 42, looking back to Gen. 1-2, says that this one God is the creator of all things and nothing was created that was not created by Him. That monotheism is the theology of Paul and the hymn of Col. 1:15-20 exalts that one God. However, there is a growth in redemptive knowledge and so we also learn in Col. 1:15ff that this one God is revealed fully in the Person of Jesus Christ who is the pre-existent and eternal Creator of all things. As the one who is in the image of God and who fully embodies the Godhead, all that God is, He is. And this is exactly what John brings out in Jn. 1:1-3. The Word was with God (He is not the Father) yet He is God (that is, all that God is, He is). Moreover, because He was in the beginning (preexisting with God) as God, who Gen. 1 tells us created all things, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” Very clearly John is saying that there are only two classes of things in existence: Creator and Created. Just as clear as that, John says that the Word is in the class of Creator and not created, for “nothing came into being that has come into being.” If something was created, He created it. That is part of Paul’s point in Col. 1:15-16.

    • TJ August 26, 2011 at 5:34 PM #

      Hello Michael,

      You wrote, “Again you write as though you are knowledgeable, yet you lack understanding. I cannot help but think of Jesus’ rebuke to the Pharisess in Jn. 5:39-40, ‘You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.'”

      Jesus was speaking out against the established religious authorities of his day, ones that had all the right credentials and were mainstream…but weren’t humble enough to accept the truth over their cherished tradition. Michael, you’re free to look down upon my sincere search for truth, guided by my study of the inspired Scriptures and God-given reason. Yet it was those same Pharisees, the highly-educated religious leaders, that looked down upon those refusing to bow to their authority over the undeniable evidence right in front of their faces, telling some, “you have not been misled also, have you? Not one of the rulers or of the Pharisees has put faith in [Jesus], has he? But this crowd that does not know the Law are accursed people.” (John 7:47-49; NWT) Count me as one of the “accursed” that just “does not know” if you must.

      You continued: “the point I was originally making, which I believe still stands, despite your mocking it, was that the term as it was applied to Israel in Ex. 4:22 was that Israel existed in a special relationship to God that was not duplicated or shared with any other nation as a nation (although individuals from Gentile nations would be added into Israel’s fold and blessings), and that it enjoyed a preeminence over all other nations because of God’s covenant.”

      I certainly apologize that you felt I was mocking your point; I was trying to evaluate it honestly and objectively. The thing is though, you kinda just proved my point above. I was saying that “firstborn” in Exodus 4:22 does not appear in a similar genitive construct to the one we find at Colossians 1:15, so we’re really comparing apples to oranges, unless we create a hypothetical, implicit genitive construct. In your words above, you give what you evidently feel is the implied genitive construction. You said that Israel “enjoyed a preeminence over all other nations.” Did you realize you used the word “other” there? That means that you view Israel, even in its context as firstborn, inclusively as a member of ‘all nations.’ I consider this as proof that the NWT’s use of the word “other” is likewise valid in Colossians 1. “Firstborn” is an inclusive term.

      You did this again in your next example, where you said: “The same can be said about the Messianic kingship that is in view in Ps. 89. What other king in all history was brought into covenant with the true and living God, but David and his house? Answer: none. Other kings existed, and Israel was even split, but no covenant was ever established with Jeroboam or any of the kings of Israel, let alone any Gentile king. Again, this king in Ps. 89 stands in a unique, one-of-a-kind position, although he shares formal similarities with others.”

      I agree completely! This is exactly how I view “the firstborn of all creation.” He shares certain similarities to other creatures, but he stands alone among all other creation in that he alone had a hand in the creation process. Citing 1 Corinthians 8:5-6, Colossians 1:16-17 and John 1:3, scholar Larry Hurtado notes that “the relevant New Testament passages rather consistently make Jesus the agent of creation, the source of creation being God (the Father).” (Lord Jesus Christ, p. 465; emphasis and parentheses his). A true counterexample would be one where you can’t refer to members of the group as others in comparison to the firstborn, just like you insist for Colossians 1. Where is the firstborn ever truly mutually-exclusive from the group and not merely a uniquely special member of the group, something like one of Jacob’s sons being called the firstborn of all of Esau’s sons?

      Thanks.

  49. Michael Babcock August 22, 2011 at 12:51 PM #

    Moreover, I know that you maintain Jesus is not just “a god” or not “God in the fullest sense,” but that flies in the face of the biblical evidence, and the early Fathers, and the historic confession of the church, “which is the pillar and support of the truth,” as Paul calls it. Both Peter and Paul explicitly call Him God and Saviour in Titus 2:13 and 2 Pet. 1:1 (and I have not been convinced against any argument that says the Granville Sharp rule does not apply to these two verses). Also you have Rom. 9:5 where Paul explicitly again declares that Christ is “over all, God blessed forever” (and it is clear that this is not a detached doxology to God as shown by several things, among which the participal “on” suggests that this is a relative clause describing the antecedent noun, “Christos” as being “ho epi panton theos,” and also by the reversal of the word order where when such doxologies are given, where in all these cases the verbal adjective always precedes the noun for God and never follows it as here – cf. 2 Cor. 1:3; Eph. 1:3; 1 Pt. 1:3; and Dan. 3:28 LXX).

    I am sure you are familiar with Is. 9:6, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”
    It is interesting that He is the Mighty God. I saw how you distinguish between “the Mighty God” and “the Almighty God,” however, the context of Is. 10:20-23 gives this title also to Jehovah. The Hebrew title “gibbor” is a title given to a heroic warrior, and the title is not to divide between Almighty power and a lesser power, but shows God to be the warrior who protects His people and delivers them from their enemies. That is the intention of it as is seen in Dt. 10:17, “For the LORD your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God who does not show partiality nor take a bribe.” We see this understanding also in Jer. 32. Also that He is Wonderful Counselor, is that a possible reference to Judges 13:18 where the Angel of Jehovah says His name is “wonderful”? Also, He is not just called “Father,” that is, one who gently provides, comforts, and corrects His children (cf. Is. 53:10 where because He would give Himself as their guilt offering, He will see His “offspring” or “children”). But He is the “Eternal Father.” Who else can claim to be eternal but God? But Micah 5:2 confirms that the Christ was an eternal being, “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity.”

    Moreover, in all the apostolic salutations (grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ) there is a genitival coordination between God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ that implies an equality among them. Grace and peace always comes to the saints through the Father and the Lord. Which again is a Christological understanding of the Sh’ma.

    James calls the Lord Jesus Christ “the Glory” (where many translations interpret “tes doxes” as an adjective, the word is a noun), no doubt referring to the Shekinah that fell on the tabernacle and temple. In fact, 2 Cor. 4:4 also alludes to this very thing and speaks of the “glory of Christ,” as Paul considers how the relationship between Moses and the Gospel in terms of Moses and the Glory of God that shone. And this comes out ever stronger as John alludes to Jesus being this Glory in Jn. 1:14. He is Jehovah come to be with His people, “tabernacling” with them, and they have seen His glory, even as Moses and the people of Israel did in Ex. 40. And by the way, it is interesting to note how many of the Fathers saw in Ex. 3 that this was the preincarnated Christ speaking to Moses from the burning bush. Here is one who is the “messenger of Jehovah” but who says He is Jehovah, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He “was with God and the Word was God.”

    And no one who is familiar with the OT can miss the point that Paul makes in Phil. 2, where on one hand he clearly states that “He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,” and then as he states, “so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” where he quotes Isa. 45:23-24, “That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. They will say of Me, ‘Only in the LORD are righteousness and strength.’” Paul is saying that Jesus is the Lord Jehovah, for “only in Jehovah are righteousness and strength.” John also clearly says that Jesus is Jehovah when you compare John 12:40-41 with Isa. 6 where in Jn. 12:40 he quotes Is. 6:10 and then in v. 41 says, “These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him.”

    And though I can go on and on, I will only bring out on more subtle allusion to the NT’s understanding of Jesus being Jehovah. In Acts 1 the resurrected Christ is going to send the Holy Spirit upon the Church that they may be equipped to go out into the world to declare that there is no other god, that salvation is found only in Christ, and in all this He says, “and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” This is a strong allusion to Isa. 45:10ff. You find all the same themes: Jehovah says “I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring” “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;” “You are My witnesses,” “You are My witnesses.” He sends them out to build His Church (cf. Matt. 16) which Paul says is the “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16), and yet in Is. 43:14 He says, “I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.” And as He writes to His Church, several times He says, “I am the first and the last” (Rev. 1:7; 2:8; 22:12), where in Isa. Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me.” That becomes even more clearer to me when I read Rev. 3:14 where He calls Himself the “he arche tes ktiseos tou theou.”

    • TJ August 26, 2011 at 6:48 PM #

      Michael,

      Your post here shows conclusively what has been my suspicion for your real objection from the beginning. You began the discussion on the proper translation of John 1:1 by asking whether or not “a god” was “grammatically possible.” Evidently, you have now abandoned that line of reasoning, instead arguing against it for purely theological reasons. Your argument now sounds similar to that of C.H. Dodd, the editor of the New English Bible, who also conceded: “If a translation were a matter of substituting words, a possible translation of [theos en ho logos] would be ‘The Word was a god’. As a word-for-word translation it cannot be faulted, and to pagan Greeks who heard early Christian language, [theos en ho logos] might have seemed a perfectly sensible statement, in that sense . . . The reason why it is unacceptable is that it runs counter to the current of Johannine thought, and indeed of Christian thought as a whole.” (Technical Papers for The Bible Translator, Vol 28, No.1, January 1977; emphasis added)

      So what both you and Dodd are doing is actually overturning the literal translation in favor of the theological presuppositions that you bring to this verse (presuppositions that I would certainly object to point-by-point). This again highlights the danger of the circular reasoning fallacy; if you use your overall theology to make a conclusion on what this verse must ‘really’ mean, and then turn around and use that resultant meaning of this verse as proof for your theology, you’re really creating an illusionary argument with no real foundation. You don’t use John 1:1 as proof for the Trinity, do you?

      Jason BeDuhn wrote of this, “The translators of the KJV, NRSV, NIV, NAB, NASB, AB, TEV and LB all approached the text of John 1:1 already believing certain things about the Word, certain creedal simplifications of John’s characterization of the Word, and made sure that the translation came out in accordance with their beliefs. Their bias was strengthened by the cultural dominance of the familiar KJV translation which, ringing in their ears, caused them to see ‘God’ where John was speaking more subtly of ‘a god’ or ‘a divine being.’ Ironically, some of these same scholars are quick to charge the NW[T] translation with ‘doctrinal bias’ for translating the verse literally, free of KJV influence, following the most obvious sense of the Greek. It may very well be that the NW[T] translators came to the task of translating John 1:1 with as much bias as the other translators did. It just so happens that their bias corresponds in this case to a more accurate translation of the Greek.” (Truth in Translation, pp. 124-5)

      I am still interested in what you think of the fact that the ancient Coptic translation of John 1:1 uses an indefinite article in the third clause, reading “a god”.

      • Michael Babcock August 26, 2011 at 11:45 PM #

        TJ,
        Let me be perfectly clear: I do not believe that Jn. 1:1 can grammatically be interpreted in the way the NWT does it. The Greek understanding of definite/indefinite nouns is not quite the same as in English, but apart from that, the construction of the sentence is clear that John was relating the Word to being the God whom He referenced earlier in the sentence. There are several other ways he could have stated his sentence if he meant what you are saying. He could have written, for instance, “ho logos ein theon.” That would have had the very meaning you suggest Jn. 1;1 is saying. However, John did not write it like that under the Spirit’s inspiration. He said “theos ein ho logos.” He placed both nouns in the nominative case, he separated them with the copulative to show that these two nouns are equal and that the predicate defines the quality of the subject, he put the definite article before logos to show that this was the subject of the clause, and he placed the theos to emphasize the nature of the subject: “The Word was GOD.”

        However, I will admit that my presuppositions do play a part in my reading of this Scripture. Those presuppostions have been informed by the OT which teach there is but one God only and that anything else that goes by the title of “god” is not a true god by nature. I am a strict monotheist. I am informed by the NT interpretation of the OT passages, as shown above, where OT passages relating to Jehovah are now cited and put Jesus as the subject of those verses. Jesus is Jehovah. Given all that, when I read Jn. 1;1, and see it in its full context, both immediate and general, I do read it through a theological lens. However, theology alone does not interpret the verse, for again, I believe the grammar also teaches it.

      • TJ August 27, 2011 at 9:10 AM #

        Thanks for your response, Michael. It would seem that you’re just restating some of what you said earlier, while missing my response to that. Here’s a rundown:

        Your claim that “a god” is not grammatically possible is debunked by even Trinitarian Bible translators like C.H. Dodd and Robert Young, who freely admit that it is what the text literally says. You’ve ignored my counterexamples entirely, where even the NASB is shown to render nouns in a similar construct to theos in John 1:1c as indefinites. You have not distinguished the practical difference in meaning between an indefinite and qualitative rendering, nor have you explained why your preferred ‘qualitative’ rendering is exactly the same as the definite rendering in the clause preceding it. You haven’t explained your view of the two Gods mentioned in verse 18. And still, you have not commented at all on the ancient Coptic indefinite rendering of John 1:1c.

        Or are you finished with this discussion, resting your case on just your post above? I’m happy to give you as much time as you need, since I firmly believe that a consideration of these issues will clarify our positions and the strength of their foundations.

  50. Michael Babcock August 22, 2011 at 1:56 PM #

    J,
    I seemed to have missed this response, due to the many other ones that came up after I originally wrote you. Thanks for your time in answering me. I have given too much time to this thread, and I don’t know how much longer I can continue, – as there are so many issues that are springing up. I will only touch on a few, not that I don’t have answers or at least comments on the things I don’t touch on. I appreciate how you are answering the barrage against you, though.

    Anyway, you said, “I’m well aware of the very fine intricacies between supposed ‘economic’ and ‘ontological’ Trinities and the extremely complex and philosophical language that has developed over the centuries to explain these; language that, when scrutinized, is found to contain logical absurdities woven into it which at some point can only be explained away as ‘mystery’.”

    Well, I certainly agree that there is a complexity that is associated with the doctrine of the Trinity. We are dealing with God, after all. And there is a great mystery associated with God, as Paul brings out in several of his comments, and even as Dt. 29:29 implies. He is Creator and we are created. We cannot fathom all that God is, but must by faith rest upon His revelation of Himself to us. I don’t know what you believe are the absurdities interwoven into the ontological/economic distinction. But I’ll just simply state that it was Irenaeus who coined the term, as far as I can tell, well before Nicea or the Arian controversies. In fact, Irenaeus was dealing with Gnostics, not Arians.

    “Your explanations on Ireneaus above didn’t really contradict my explanation as far as I can tell. You didn’t show a place where the Son is recognized as “the Almighty God” or similar.”

    See my other posting where I try to show where Jesus is regarded as Jehovah, and that Jehovah is also called the “Mighty God.” However, more directly with Ireneaus, you will have to read him yourself in the full context of his dialogue and critique of Valentinus, but especially Book 2 of his Against Heresies.

    I will give you a few other quotes that are of interest, however, “But it will not be regarded as at all probable by those who know that God stands in need of nothing, and that he created and made all things by his Word, while he neither required angels to assist him in the production of those things which are made, nor of any power greatly inferior to himself, and ignorant of the Father, nor of any defect or ignorance (2.2.4.)
    Notice that Ireneaus says that God created all things by His Word, and yet he says that this was not done by angels to assist Him. In other words, he is saying that somehow the Word and God are of the same category as God. The Word is not an angel.
    Based on such passages as Gen 1:1, John 1:3; Ps 33:9; 148:5; Irenaeus does not consider the Word to be an instrument of creation in the same way that the aeons and the demiourgos are (those are the terms Valentinus used to describe his system). But considering the creation of the world by God without the use of intermediatories, he goes on to say that anyone who says that the God of the Old Testament was lying when he said pronounced “I am God, and besides me there is no other God” (Isa 46:9) is blasphemy. “Affirming that he lies, they are themselves liars, attributing all sorts of wickedness to him; and conceiving of one who is not above this Being as really having an existence, they are thus convicted by their own views of blasphemy against that God who really exists, while they conjure into existence a god who has no existence, to their own condemnation” (2.9.2.)

    “As for the Holy Spirit, I too recognize it as always being present with God…as his active force. This doesn’t make it a person or God.”

    No, but the Scriptures do attribute characteristics of personhood to the Holy Spirit – omniscience, omnipotence, speech, making active choices at to who receives what gift, etc.

    Ireneaus simply does not ever label the Holy Spirit as God, which is a truly amazing omission if he really believed as you do. It’s interesting however that you bring up Ireneaus’ reference to the Holy Spirit paralleling it with Proverbs 8:22. His view here was aberrant among Church Fathers, as that text was almost universally attributed to the Son.

    Yes, many Fathers saw the personified Wisdom of Prov. 8 as Christ, but Ireneaus did attribute this to the Holy Spirit, where he distinguishes the Wisdom of God from the Word of God / Son and God / the Father (4.7.4; 4.20.1-4). “But there is one only God…who made those things by himself, that is, through his Word and his Wisdom-heaven and earth, and the seas, and all things that are in them” (2.30.9). Based on this passage, the Word (and Wisdom) of God are not separately existing beings or substances but are of the one God, but he does not attempt to explain how the one God can have any type of plurality in His being.

    “When it comes to your view of the apostasy, what you seem to be saying is, ‘enough apostasy for thee but not for ye’. The apostasy was evidently serious enough to the Reformers that they broke away entirely from the Catholic Church.”

    Sure there was an apostasy. We are agreed on that. But what I am saying is that the truth of the Gospel was undergirded so powerfully by Christ, as He promised, that though the Church itself be filled with heresies and error, He nevertheless was building His Church so that the gates of hades could not ultimately prevail against it. The medieval church introduced perversions to true and pure worship. They denied the justification by faith alone. Yet, that truth was still maintained despite the error and heresies that crept in, otherwise Jesus was a liar or incapable of delivering on His promise.

    How did Michael Servetus feel about the Trinity, and what happened to him as a result? You well know. But everywhere and on all sides he was declared a heretic worthy of death. The Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, the Lutherans, and the Reformed, though they disagreed on many other aspects, they all recognized how he denied the faith that was once for all delivered to the Church. The apostasy was never about the nature of Christ, it was about the sufficiency of Christ.

    • TJ August 26, 2011 at 9:52 PM #

      Michael,

      You said, “I appreciate how you are answering the barrage against you, though.”

      Thanks, I have to be more concise than I’d like to be, since these discussions have the tendency to balloon exponentially in scope.

      You continued, “He is Creator and we are created. . . . I’ll just simply state that it was Irenaeus who coined the term, as far as I can tell, well before Nicea or the Arian controversies. In fact, Irenaeus was dealing with Gnostics, not Arians.”

      Again I’ll disagree that Ireneaus believed what you would consider orthodox Trinitarian theology. Larry Hurtado observes, “In the first two centuries, all texts from, and affirmed in, the developing proto-orthodox tradition, from the New Testament onward, reflect subordination Christology, the Son understood as the unique agent of the Father, serving the will of the Father, and leading the redeemed to the Father . . . the preincarnate Son is portrayed as the agent of creation (1 Cor. 8:5-6; Col. 1:15-20) . . . If, in light of Arius, fourth-century Christians became jittery with anything that smacked of subordinationism, that is irrelevant for understanding Christian thought of the first two centuries.” (Lord Jesus Christ; Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, pp, 647-8)

      Continuing on, in response to my point that Ireneaus doesn’t recognize the Son as the Almighty God or some equivalent, you said, “See my other posting where I try to show . . . that Jehovah is also called the ‘Mighty God.'”

      What does that prove exactly? Wouldn’t the Almighty God be, of necessity, a Mighty God? Yet that doesn’t mean that a Mighty God would be the Almighty God. After all, the President is necessarily a high government official, yet a high government official isn’t necessarily the President. You seem to be saying that if Jesus is called a high government official (God), he must be the President (Almighty God). The highest terms, like Almighty God, God over all, etc, are used of the Father, but not the Son, in Ireneaus’ works.

      With reference to Against Heresies 2.2.4, you said, “Notice that Ireneaus says that God created all things by His Word, and yet he says that this was not done by angels to assist Him. In other words, he is saying that somehow the Word and God are of the same category as God.”

      This falls, again, under my second recognized definition of ‘God,’ such as in this passage: “He indeed who made all things can alone, together with His Word, properly be termed God and Lord.” (3.3.3) But this must be put into the perspective of what else Ireneaus says, such as: “[S]ince the Father Himself is alone called God . . . the Scriptures acknowledge Him alone as God; and yet again, since the Lord confesses Him alone as His own Father, and knows no other.” (2.28.4) That passage exists Michael. Anyone can easily see that he must be using the term in different ways in different contexts. As Hurtado pointed out, there is clearly subordinationism at work here. Ignoring contrary uses of the term doesn’t make them go away.

      You said, the Scriptures do attribute characteristics of personhood to the Holy Spirit – omniscience, omnipotence, speech, making active choices at to who receives what gift, etc.

      There are many examples of impersonal things being personified at times in the scriptures, such as death ‘ruling as king’ for example. (Romans 5:14) This is simple figurative language. But this is a topic for another day.

      I happened to look up your citation for Clement of Alexandria that I questioned you about earlier. The citation was in error. Jurgens lists that quote as “Fragment of Commentary on the First Epistle of John, Probably also from the Sketches, and Surviving in the Latin of Cassiodorus.” The fragment from Eusebius is listed before it and is entirely separate. Cassiodorus was a sixth-century Latin writer, so your quote of Clement there was translated as least twice, from Greek to Latin and then from Latin to English. Without the Greek text, or even the Latin for that matter, it’s very difficult to say if the terms Clement used (assuming it really did originate with Clement) were as strong as the English ones Jurgens uses. As you know, each level of translation adds a little interpretation.

      As simple proof of this type of interpretation, I submit again Clement’s Stromata. In book 5, chapter 14, the English translation reads, “They [the Stoics] were misled by what is said in the book of Wisdom: ‘He pervades and passes through all by reason of His purity;’ since they did not understand that this was said of Wisdom, which was the first of the creation of God.” So Clement here speaks of Wisdom as “the first creation of God,” ‘tes protoktistou to theo’ in the Greek. Yet earlier on the same translation reads: “The golden lamp conveys another enigma as a symbol of Christ, not in respect of form alone, but in his casting light, ‘at sundry times and various manners,’ on those who believe in Him and hope, and who see by means of the ministry of the First-born.” (Book 5, Chapter 6) Jesus Christ is spoken of explicitly here, and yet “First-born” is rendered for ‘ton protoktiston,’ the same word rendered “the first creation” in 5.14. Why do you think that is? Is there a bias at work or was the translator using the terms “first-born” and “first creation” as synonyms? Was Clement really being an orthodox Trinitarian referring to Jesus as (literally) ‘the first creation’?

      You said, “Sure there was an apostasy. We are agreed on that. But what I am saying is that the truth of the Gospel was undergirded so powerfully by Christ, as He promised, that though the Church itself be filled with heresies and error, He nevertheless was building His Church so that the gates of hades could not ultimately prevail against it.”

      I agree with that; I too believe there would always be wheat in among the weeds. The only difference is that I believe, as the scripture promises, the true restoration of a pure worship wouldn’t take place until the last days. I still don’t think I’ve seen you comment on that aspect of Bible prophecy.

      Thanks again.

  51. SJ August 24, 2011 at 5:43 PM #

    You shared very usefull infomation over here! I just wanna thank you for doing that! When you posted more articles like this, I wanna visit your blog even more!

  52. Tribal tattoo August 26, 2011 at 4:05 PM #

    Normally I don’t learn post on blogs, but I wish to say that this write-up very compelled me to check out and do it! Your writing taste has been surprised me. Thanks, very nice post.

  53. Michael Babcock August 26, 2011 at 11:32 PM #

    You write, “Again I’ll disagree that Ireneaus believed what you would consider orthodox Trinitarian theology. Larry Hurtado observes….”

    You can disagree all you like, TJ, and interpret Ireneaus however you like. But, Ireneaus himself explained the subordination (which all Trinitarians admit to) under the rubric of the “economy of our redemption.” He also said that the substance and power of the Father and Son is but one God. And while you quote Larry Hurtado, you must also recognize that he himself believed that Paul in his letters taught that Jesus is God under the same terms of Judaisitic monotheism. As he reads the Scriptures, he is not in agreement with other academics that there was a process in the church whereby Jesus evolved into being a god.

    You then say, “The highest terms, like Almighty God, God over all, etc, are used of the Father, but not the Son, in Ireneaus’ works….Anyone can easily see that he must be using the term in different ways in different contexts. As Hurtado pointed out, there is clearly subordinationism at work here. Ignoring contrary uses of the term doesn’t make them go away.”

    We can obviously both pull various texts of Ireneaus and say that he holds to our respective beliefs. However, reading all that Ireneaus said, and in the contexts in which he said it, and to the audience he was originally writing to, I am very convinced that he held to the Trinitarian understanding of God. I don’t have a problem with Jesus being subordinate, and neither does the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, as long as we understand what is being said there. Ireneaus clearly taught that God the Father and the Son are equal in substance, though Jesus is subordinate in His economic role as Redeemer.

    You said, “The highest terms, like Almighty God, God over all, etc, are used of the Father, but not the Son, in Ireneaus’ works.” Ok. But Ireneaus, like many other of the Fathers said that the One who spoke to Moses in the burning bush was none other that Christ. I am sure they are right in their interpretation. We can go round and round on this, but the point is, the One who appeared to Moses in the burning bush said His name was Jehovah, and yet the Church has recognized that this Jehovah was the pre-incarnate Christ. As far as Ireneaus, I think we should just move on.

    In terms of Jesus being Mighty God and not Almighty God, I would simply say that it is true that while the Almighty God can be the Mighty god and just because Jesus is called the Mighty God doesn’t make Him Almighty God, but when the term is used so closely in the text itself, where in Is. 9 it is used of Messiah and in ch. 10 it is used of Jehovah, it is rather telling. Moreover, the NT frequently cites passages of the OT that speak of Jehovah and references them to Christ.

    Since I don’t have the time nor energy to comment on Clement right now, I’ll skip down to what you said, “The only difference is that I believe, as the scripture promises, the true restoration of a pure worship wouldn’t take place until the last days. I still don’t think I’ve seen you comment on that aspect of Bible prophecy.”

    Looking at the term “last days” in the Scriptures, I believe that the last days came with the fulfillment of the Scriptures in Christ rising from the dead and pouring out His Holy Spirit on the Church in fulfillment of Joel 2, which says, “In the last days God says He will pour out His Spirit….” [Incidentally, it is interesting that in Acts 2:17 Peter quotes Joel 2 which says that God will pour out His Spirit and in 2:33 he says that Jesus poured the Holy Spirit out.] We have been in the last days since then. That is why John could write in 1 Jn 2:18, “Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour.”

  54. TJ August 27, 2011 at 10:49 AM #

    Hello Michael,

    You said, “Ireneaus himself explained the subordination (which all Trinitarians admit to) under the rubric of the ‘economy of our redemption.'”

    The reason I quoted Hurtado was to show that he tied subordinationism not simply to redemption, but also to the original creation, saying that in the written works of the first two centuries “the preincarnate Son is portrayed as the agent of creation.” Ireneaus reflects this view, saying, “There is But One Creator of the World, God the Father: This the Constant Belief of the Church . . . God is the Creator of the world . . . and the Lord teaches us of this Father who is in heaven, and no other.” (2.9.1)
    In all honesty Michael, would you ever really say that God the Father is the one Creator? Without a more complete subordinationist view, such a passage would simply be inconsistent with the type of quotes you’ve pulled from Ireneaus.

    You next said, “the point is, the One who appeared to Moses in the burning bush said His name was Jehovah, and yet the Church has recognized that this Jehovah was the pre-incarnate Christ.”

    That’s simply another example of agency and so, subordination. The account acknowledges it is an angel or messenger of the true God in the bush speaking in God’s behalf. Should I read a passage like 1 Samuel 13:3-4, which says, “Jonathan defeated the garrison of the Philistines . . . And all Israel heard it said that Saul had defeated the garrison of the Philistines,” and then conclude that Saul and Jonathan must be of the same ‘substance’? Or was Jonathan simply an agent, a subordinate, working in behalf of Saul his father and king? This is common sense.

    Your last point was, “We have been in the last days since [Pentecost].”

    That view surprises me. I agree that the time of the apostles echoed an initial fulfillment of the last days, being the last days of the Jewish system of things with its Temple and so forth, but I believe that the greater fulfillment of Joel 2 and other scriptures pertain to a much more distant future time…our time, the last days of this entire wicked system of things. So then in Jesus’ parable about the wheat and weeds, according to you, the ‘harvest’ separation work of the wheat and weeds began shortly after Jesus’ ascension?! I don’t see how such a view harmonizes at all with the prophecies of the yet-to-come apostasy (the weeds) we find in the New Testament.

    I hope we won’t forget about Clement’s use of ‘first-created’ in reference to Jesus, but I totally understand the exhaustion from this. Thanks again.

  55. HBC August 30, 2011 at 3:59 AM #

    Pulitzer prize material here.

  56. HBC August 31, 2011 at 9:14 AM #

    Right on my man!

  57. Michael Babcock September 2, 2011 at 2:09 PM #

    I’ve been really busy and hadn’t had time to respond until now. You wrote, “Again I’ll disagree that Ireneaus believed what you would consider orthodox Trinitarian theology. Larry Hurtado observes, ‘. . . If, in light of Arius, fourth-century Christians became jittery with anything that smacked of subordinationism, that is irrelevant for understanding Christian thought of the first two centuries.’ (Lord Jesus Christ; Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, pp, 647-8)”

    TJ, all this may be rather interesting from a perspective of psychology. No one reads information from a place of neutrality. We all have our presuppositions and will read into the data those things that make up our own worldview. I read Ireneaus and understand his doctrines and statements of subordination as being an orthodox Trinitarian. He speaks in language that is certainly pre-Nicean, but orthodox nonetheless. He explained his idea that the subordination was that of the economy of the Trinity all the while he affirmed that the Father and Son had the same nature and essence. You and Hurtado (a confessed Unitarian) see something different in those statements.

    I believe that there is a subordination of the Son to the Father. All orthodox Trinitarians see that. He is the “agent” of the Father, serves the Father and bows to the will of the Father, He is the “agent” of creation. You see that all throughout the NT and in the Church Fathers. We have no problem at all with saying that the Son is subordinate to the Father. However, when we say that, we also understand this subordination is not a subordination of nature, but of office and position, which is what I brought out in one of Ireneaus’ statements. It is precisely because He is of the same essence or substance or nature of the Father that he can be an agent of the Father, who alone can fully reveal the Father, and who is the agent of creation. How can a mere creature do any of that? In fact, if you really have read all Ireneaus’ statements, you would see that he is arguing against the Gnostics and their view of emanations (aeons). Basically Irenaeus asks, “How can a creature create all things from nothing unless he has all the attributes of divine nature (i.e., omnipotence to call things out of nothing into existence; of omniscience to understand all the infinite details that go into creating things and all the purposes for which they are needed; omnipresence to hold all things together by the power of his might)?” He is fighting against the very idea that the Son was a first created being who created all other things (which is what the Gnostics held). That is so very clear in Irenaeus, and again, while there is indeed subordination in the Godhead, it is only of economy. The Father is the Fountain, and the Son is begotten. John says that He is the “only begotten God.” Indeed, how can a creature say, “and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matt. 11:27)? Did God create another god? How then can He say, “And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me” (Is. 45:21) or “Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me” (Is. 43:10)? Either there is only but one God and there is not even anything called a “lesser god” this is a true god, or God Himself is mistaken or a liar.

    However, what interests me is that Hurtado is completely inconsistent with the data that he himself has gathered and presented in that book you cite. He says, for instance, “devotion to Jesus as divine erupted suddenly and quickly, not gradually and late, among first-century circles of followers. More specifically, the origins lie in Jewish Christian circles of the earliest years. Only a certain wishful thinking continues to attribute the reverence of Jesus as divine decisively to the influence of pagan religion and the influx of Gentile converts, characterizing it as developing late and incrementally….The ‘heresies’ of earliest Christianity largely presupposed the view that Jesus is divine. That is not the issue. The problematic issue, in fact, was whether a genuinely human Jesus could be accommodated.” (p. 650). What kind of divinity did the early church attribute to Jesus? The kind the Trinitarian holds to, or the kind Arius, Servetus, or you JW’s hold to? Well, earlier in the book he went into the Jewish phenomenon of a strict monotheism, and that they maintained that so strongly was rather amazing when the “Jews showed a readiness to accommodate themselves (though in varying ways and degrees) to other features of Hellenistic culture. Language, dress, dining practices, intellectual categories and themes, sports, and many other things were widely adopted, but there could be no negotiating away the monotheistic posture of Jewish religion” (p. 30). And with that background emerged Christianity. Hurtado goes on to point out how the Jews resisted worship of any “divine agent” and he says that this is important to the background of Christianity because “First it shows that the ancient Jewish concern about the uniqueness of God was a genuinely exclusivist ‘monotheism’ and not simply a negative attitude toward the deities of foreigners. The refusal to give worship to any other extended to members of the ‘home team’ too. Secondly, it means that the accommodation of Christ as a recipient of cultic devotion in the devotional practice of early Christian groups was a most unusual and significant step that cannot be easily accounted for on the basis of any tendencies in Roman-era Jewish religion. In short, the incorporation of Christ into the devotional pattern of early Christian groups has no real analogy in the Jewish tradition of the period.” And if you should think that the early Christians was simply leaving behind a strict or exclusivist monotheism in their devotion, Hurtado states, “The firmly monotheistic commitment of the religious matrix of earliest Christianity make Christ-devotion an intriguing phenomenon and, as we shall see, was an important factor in shaping its development.” (p. 31) The point is, the idea of worshiping merely a “divine agent” would have been foreign to the first Christians unless that ‘divine agent’ was Himself the one true and living God.

    What you and Hurtado basically do is fly in the face of the historical evidence of the early Church and hold to a form of monotheism that is not rooted and grounded in Jewish strict monotheism, which Hurtado admits was the foundation of early Christianity. You believe in a minor god who is somehow allowed a measure of honour and praise that any strict monotheist would allow only to God. Hurtado disagrees with the worship of Jesus as Divine, even though he knows his position is not that of the early church, but that doesn’t stop him from forming his own opinion. If you don’t want to be a Trinitarian, fine, just be honest that you are out of accord with the early church. You read subordination of Son to Father and you read “another god,” despite the fact that it goes against the strict monotheism of the OT.

    • TJ September 5, 2011 at 8:53 AM #

      Hello Michael,

      Thank you for your response.

      “I read Ireneaus and understand his doctrines and statements of subordination as being an orthodox Trinitarian. He speaks in language that is certainly pre-Nicean, but orthodox nonetheless.”

      Well what exactly would not be orthodox in your view? It seems to me that you approach pre-nicene works with post-nicene definitions that were created specifically to make such words comply with the later Trinitarian orthodoxy, so that apparently even when Clement of Alexandria calls Jesus the ‘first created’, you still see him as an orthodox Trinitarian! As is common throughout Trinitarian arguing, you make your arguments entirely non-falsifiable, so that virtually anything that is said can be construed as orthodox. You just really have to want to see it.

      For example, when we look at these early writings for your perspective, an early writer could say there are two Gods: it’s orthodox. He could say there’s only one God and its the Father: it’s orthodox. He could even say Jesus is not God and it becomes orthodox with the handy dual-nature fix, for he’s only speaking of the human nature of Jesus. Everyone ever begotten was produced, birthed; Jesus was clearly begotten, but no, his being begotten wasn’t an event in time, it’s explained away as an eternal begottening outside of time. So nothing could ever really be said by any of these writers that can’t be made to comply with later orthodoxy by tweaking a few word meanings here and there, and ignoring the logic that is required everywhere else.

      “We have no problem at all with saying that the Son is subordinate to the Father. However, when we say that, we also understand this subordination is not a subordination of nature, but of office and position, which is what I brought out in one of Ireneaus’ statements. It is precisely because He is of the same essence or substance or nature of the Father that he can be an agent of the Father, who alone can fully reveal the Father, and who is the agent of creation.”

      Is the Son subordinate to the Father in his knowledge as well, as Jesus himself indicates at Matthew 24:36? Or do we decide that this is only the ‘human part’ of Jesus talking, and that the ‘God part’ of him actually knows just as much as the Father? This is where these ‘fix-it’ creedal formulations (the disagreements over which even helped cause the breakup of the state church), begin to show how absurd they really are.

      What you’re trying to so carefully differentiate here is obvious. I could take any human father and son and say that the son is subordinate to his father. Does that mean I view him as a ‘lesser’ human in terms of nature? Of course not! It’s more than obvious that I’m talking in terms of authority, position, etc. But in trying to make Jesus out to be God himself–constrained by the Bible’s firm conviction that there is exactly one Supreme God–Trinitarian theologians were left with the problem of making something illogical sound logical.

      In the case with the human father and son, both are of the same human nature, but we have two humans. Trinitarians cannot have two Gods (or three for that matter). So, the results of this problem are these types of convoluted statements utilizing Greek philosophical terms (which do not appear in the Bible, God’s own revelation of himself) such as ‘essence’ and ‘substance’ that both the Father and Son are said to share, making each the very same God while at the same time being two different persons. It’s like saying a father and son are the very same human but different persons, thus the ‘Mystery’… Michael, if such a complicated, meta-logical and metaphysical understanding of the Trinity is necessary to be saved, why didn’t God have it explained that way in the Bible? Why must we rely on the ingenuity and cleverness of later philosopher-theologians to explain what the Bible ‘meant to say’?

      “Basically Irenaeus asks, ‘How can a creature create all things from nothing unless he has all the attributes of divine nature (i.e., omnipotence to call things out of nothing into existence; of omniscience to understand all the infinite details that go into creating things and all the purposes for which they are needed; omnipresence to hold all things together by the power of his might)?’ He is fighting against the very idea that the Son was a first created being who created all other things (which is what the Gnostics held). That is so very clear in Irenaeus, and again, while there is indeed subordination in the Godhead, it is only of economy.”

      Yes, that is your interpretation of what Ireneaus is saying, but again you aren’t dealing with my counterexample. In book 2.28 Ireneaus is clear that he does understand the Son to have been “produced”, “generated”, or given “birth” to in some way that he does not understand nor wants to speculate about: “If any one, therefore, says to us, ‘How then was the Son produced by the Father?’ we reply to him, that no man understands that production, or generation, or calling, or revelation, or by whatever name one may describe His generation, which is in fact altogether indescribable . . . Since therefore His generation is unspeakable, those who strive to set forth generations and productions cannot be in their right mind, inasmuch as they undertake to describe things which are indescribable . . . Those, therefore, who have excogitated [the theory of] emissions have not discovered anything great, or revealed any abstruse mystery, when they have simply transferred what all understand to the only-begotten Word of God; and while they style Him unspeakable and unnameable, they nevertheless set forth the production and formation of His first generation, as if they themselves had assisted at His birth, thus assimilating Him to the word of mankind formed by emissions.”

      Now is it orthodox to speak of the Son’s “birth” or “production”? Do Trinitarians really believe the Son was “born”? Or do you explain that by relegating such a temporal event to something outside of time, and thus begin to describe what Ireneaus feels is “indescribable”?

      “Indeed, how can a creature say, ‘and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him’ (Matt. 11:27)? Did God create another god? How then can He say, ‘And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me’ (Is. 45:21) or ‘Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me’ (Is. 43:10)? Either there is only but one God and there is not even anything called a ‘lesser god” this is a true god, or God Himself is mistaken or a liar.’

      If the Son was actually the ‘firstborn’ or ‘first-created’, then it stands to reason that he knows the Father far better than anyone else, as he has spent more time with him and enjoyed a special relationship with him. You then asked, “Either there is only but one God and there is not even anything called a ‘lesser god” this[sic] is a true god, or God Himself is mistaken or a liar.”

      Jesus said it clearly, his Father is “the only true God”. (John 17:1,3) But here comes the dual-nature fix-it. That was his human nature speaking. Yet when Jesus says, “I AM” at John 8:58, as many translations have it, conveniently we ‘know’ that was his divine nature speaking up. So you want to just arbitrarily assign whichever nature to Jesus’ words that you find matches your doctrine, introducing yet again circular reasoning into your overall theology.

      Furthermore, since you insist on emphasizing “true god” in Isaiah, does that mean that spirit-begotten Christians will likewise make up the one God along with the Father and Son, seeing as how they are set to become “partakers of the divine nature”? (2 Peter 1:4; ESV) Or are they really getting a subordinate nature, one that isn’t truly divine, meaning God was “mistaken or a liar”?

      “What kind of divinity did the early church attribute to Jesus? The kind the Trinitarian holds to, or the kind Arius, Servetus, or you JW’s hold to?”

      Like you I don’t accept all of Hurtado’s conclusions as ‘gospel-truth’, but he did recognize a subordinationism present in the pre-nicene writings that later Trinitarians felt uncomfortable with, otherwise that observation of his was meaningless. Alvan Lamson paints this picture: “There was some diversity of opinion, in [Justin Martyr’s] day, respecting the nature of the Son. [Justin] was himself, as we have seen, a believer in Christ’s pre-existence; but this, he tells us, was not the universal belief of his age. There were some who rejected it, being believers in the simple humanity of Jesus; but, though he expresses his dissent from their opinions, he treats them with respect, and readily grants their title to the Christian name, character, and hopes.” (Church of the First Three Centuries, p. 60)

      He later added: “[Arius] wrote a letter to his bishop [Alexander], which has been preserved. In this letter–which, throughout, breathes a temperate spirit–he gives at some length his views of the Father and Son, and says, ‘This faith I have received from tradition, and learned of you.’ Again: that the Father existed before the Son, he says, ‘is what I learned of you, who publicly preached it in the church.’ The letter was signed by Arius and five other priests, six deacons, and two bishops. We have before alluded to the change of sentiment attributed to Alexander. We will simply add in this place, that the Arians constantly appealed to tradition as in their favor, and asserted that they held the ancient doctrine. This assertion must not be taken in the most rigid sense; though, to a certain extent, it was true. The Arians could quote passages from the old writers, exceedingly embarrassing to their opponents. On some points, as the supremacy of the Father and his priority of existence, tradition was clearly in their favor; and they could say, with truth, that they held the old faith. The new doctrine embraced by the orthodox concerning the generation of the Son, they said, was pure Manicheism and Valentinianism.” (pp. 190-1)

      “You believe in a minor god who is somehow allowed a measure of honour and praise that any strict monotheist would allow only to God.”

      Tell me please, Michael, would the ancient Israelites have given a relative amount of worship to their king that had been appointed by God? Or would the scriptures strictly forbid and condemn such a thing?

      “If you don’t want to be a Trinitarian, fine, just be honest that you are out of accord with the early church. You read subordination of Son to Father and you read “another god,” despite the fact that it goes against the strict monotheism of the OT.”

      Honesty, Michael? The reason I read “another god” is because that is what is written in the early church! I’ve already quoted Justin Martyr as writing, “there is . . . another God,” speaking of Jesus. (Dialogue with Trypho, LVI) That is literally the type of statement the pre-nicene Fathers would write, and yet here you are criticizing me for taking them at their word! I find that just incredible.

      So essentially, in your view, when Justin writes that Jesus is “another God” he’s an orthodox Trinitarian. Yet when I do it, I’m a dishonest heretic that is arguing “against the strict monotheism of the OT”. Really, where is the honesty in that??

  58. Michael Babcock September 2, 2011 at 2:17 PM #

    TJ wrote, “The reason I quoted Hurtado was to show that he tied subordinationism not simply to redemption, but also to the original creation, saying that in the written works of the first two centuries “the preincarnate Son is portrayed as the agent of creation.” Ireneaus reflects this view, saying, “There is But One Creator of the World, God the Father: This the Constant Belief of the Church . . . God is the Creator of the world . . . and the Lord teaches us of this Father who is in heaven, and no other.” (2.9.1)
In all honesty Michael, would you ever really say that God the Father is the one Creator?”

    I could indeed! It is just as what you find in Jn. 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” Is Jesus denying that He also is the only true God? No. Jesus, as man, describes the person of the Father as the one God who formerly promised a Redeemer who is Jesus Christ. You cannot know God apart from Christ, and eternal life is knowing the relationship the Father and Son have as Source and Revealer. That is why John could say, “And we know 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, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 Jn. 5:20-21). There He is saying that Jesus is the true God and eternal life. Does that exclude the Father? Of course not. In like manner, I have no problem saying that the Father is the one Creator, even though the Scriptures affirm that Jesus Christ, the Word is the one Creator and that “apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being,” because as Jesus Himself said, “I and the Father are One.” Again, I believe your confusion is because you don’t really understand the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.

    You write, “Without a more complete subordinationist view, such a passage would simply be inconsistent with the type of quotes you’ve pulled from Ireneaus….That’s simply another example of agency and so, subordination. The account acknowledges it is an angel or messenger of the true God in the bush speaking in God’s behalf.”

    Is it merely an example of agency? In Ex. 3:4 it says, “God called to him from the midst of the bush…” and then He said, “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Then Moses “hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” The context shows that this was no mere agency. This “agent” received worship. Isn’t that forbidden? What godly creature would receive what is due to God alone? Rev. 19 tells of an incident in which an angelic agent spoke to John and when John “fell at his feet to worship him,” the angel said to him, “Do not do that; I am a fellow servant of yours and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus; worship God. For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” I would have expected a response like that coming from an agent of God, even though he speaks on behalf of God. But we don’t find that kind of thing in Ex. 3.

    Furthermore, when asked what His name was, He replied, “I AM WHO I AM.” This agent doesn’t say He is an agent of God, He calls Himself God and gives God’s covenantal name to Moses as His own. Where else do you see that in Scripture?

    And then you have this statement from John 1:18 “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained [i.e., revealed] Him.” Yet you have these statements in the OT, Ex. 33:11 “Thus Jehovah used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend,” and Deut. 34:10 “Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom Jehovah knew face to face.” No one has seen God, but the only begotten God, and yet Ex. 3 says Moses saw God and spoken to Him “face to face.” How is that possible? Because the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, who is Himself Jehovah, spoke to Moses. There is only one God, and He is distinct from the Angel of Jehovah, yet the Angel of Jehovah is “I AM” and is God Himself. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

    At the same time, this Angel was an angel not by nature, but by agency. In other words, He is called an Angel because He is a messenger and revealer of God’s will, but He does not have an angelic nature. Hebrews 1 gives an eloquent teaching on the difference between the Son and the angels. The angels are “winds” and “a flame of fire” but the Son is called God whose throne is forever and ever, anointed with the oil of gladness above His companions. Heb. 1:10ff the Son is greater than all creation because He laid their foundation and while they will perish, He remains. He is not in the same category as angel or creation. He is in all ways called God. And we must remember the earlier declaration of revelation, “I am Jehovah, and there is no other; there is no God besides Me” (Is. 45:5,6), yet you insist that there is another god who is called Jehovah.

    Here is another interesting thing. In the OT, God’s covenantal name, YHWH, was used 6,828 times in the Hebrew. The Gk. LXX translated it “kurios” or simply “theos” and never transliterated it. Jehovah is the one who saved His people, who led them, who provided for them, who protected them, who gave them laws and commandments, who demanded exclusive love and devotion, would not allow idolatry or anyone to worship any other, including no worship of angels. His name is His presence among the people. Yet though there is the preponderance of the holy Name in the OT, isn’t it strange that it is never once used in the NT, which is the fuller revelation of God? Why do you think that is?

    Well, in fact, I believe Jehovah’s name is used very frequently in the NT. You find it in the contraction Ya’shua: Jehovah saves. This is the name that is given the Saviour and Lord. He saved His people, led them, provided for them, protected them, gave them laws and commandments, demanded exclusive love and devotion, and would not allow idolatry or anyone to worship any other, including no worship of angels because He is Jehovah that Saves. For this reason He is called Immanuel (Matt. 1:23, “which translated is “God with us”). Immanuel isn’t Jesus’ middle name but is the designation of who He is –God with us. God is always with His people by virtue of being omnipresent, but the prophet and apostle use this to indicate that Jesus is very God who walks among and is with His people. John says, “We have beheld His glory, the glory of the only begotten.” And because He is with us, He saves His people. He is the Creator. He is the Lord. He is the Saviour. He is the true God, blessed forever (1 Jn. 5:20; Rom. 9:5). All these appellations were given to Jehovah alone in the OT, but now in the NT they are attributed to Jesus. That is why we find a very important verse in the Holy Bible, namely, the words of the Lord Jesus Christ: “You believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14: 1). Thus He put the belief in Him equal with the belief in the Father and having the same importance.

  59. Michael Babcock September 2, 2011 at 2:20 PM #

    TJ, let me ask you: How can Jesus save His people from sin?

    Everywhere in the Bible we are told that God Alone Redeems and Saves the Human Race. Isaiah confirms this matter in more than one testimony. It is written: “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God’ ” (Is.44:6). Therefore the Redeemer is This One God who is the Lord of hosts who is the First and the Last. Isaiah the Prophet repeats the same thing and says: “As for our Redeemer, the Lord of hosts is His name, the Holy One of Israel” (Is.47:4) and: “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.. ‘I am the Lord your God”‘ (Is.48:17). And God says: “‘For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand…’ says the LORD and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel” (Is.41:13,14). Paul said, “The kindness and the love of God our Saviour toward man appeared” (Titus 3:4). Salvation is attributed to God alone, as is explicitly stated by God Himself. “And you shall know no God but Me; for there is no Saviour besides me” (Hos.13:4). Jesus must be God to redeem us and be our Saviour. Why?

    Because He takes upon Himself the full wrath of God for sin. But inasmuch as God is just, He must mete out a just punishment. It is clear that because sin is against God and since God is Infinite, then sin is infinite and its punishment is infinite. Should it be redeemed, it must be by an infinite atonement, sufficient for the forgiveness of all the people of all generations to the end of the ages. We know that only God is Infinite, though. Therefore He Himself had to take flesh in order to represent man and “to be the propitiation for the whole world” (1 John 2:2). If Jesus were not man, He could not represent man nor could He die, but if He was not God He could not bear the sins of all His elect nor could He bear the full and infinite wrath of the holy God. Thus the Apostle said: “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col.2:9).

    And to say that Jesus was merely acting as an agent of God in redeeming mankind, then I offer this: If Christ was other than the true God, and He completed the work of redemption for the mere obedience of a command, then redemption would have lost its most important principle, and in addition, it would contradict the words of the Lord Jesus Christ: “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). It would fly in the face of Phil 2:5-12 which said that though He was equal to God, He laid aside His glory in order to become a man, to become a servant, to die on the cross to redeem mankind, thus demonstrating what love is. If Christ was not God, and having sacrificed Himself for the sake of all people because of His love for them, does He love people more than God does? Is there any creature who surpasses God in His love to mankind? Not even Jehovah’s Witnesses can say such a thing.

    If God commissioned Christ to undertake this deed because of God’s love to the world according to the verse: “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son” (John 3:16), does this mean that God loved the world at the expense of Another? It would be blasphemy to suggest it. This verse cannot be properly understood unless God and Christ are One, as the Lord Jesus said: “I and My Father are One” (John 10:30). By the way, the Jews understood the seriousness of this declaration as they took up stones to stone Him. When He asked them why they wanted to stone Him, they replied: “For blasphemy and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” (John 10:31-33). He doesn’t shirk from their understanding, or try to reexplain Himself. He adds further, “though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.” In other words, He says He has the same nature as the Father which is why He can to the works of the Father (create things from nothing like bread and fish, wine from water—putting not only grape juice but alcohol into it, raising the dead, casting demons out, calming the storm, etc.). This is similar to when Jesus Christ said to the Jews: “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). He also said that Abraham rejoiced to see His day. When was that? There is an incident in Genesis where Abraham did rejoice, when the Angel told him within the year he would have the promised child (cf. Gen. 18). Who told him that? The Angel whose name was Jehovah. The Jews understood that He was implying His Divinity. That is why they “took up stones to throw at Him” (John 8:59). Anyway, it is through such verses that we understand that the Redeemer was named “Jehovah saves,” because Jehovah redeemed the people Himself, and the words of Paul are true: “because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour Of all men” (1 Tim. 4: 10).

    That is why the Lord also said “That all should honour the Son just as they honour the Father” (John 5:23). No human being can dare say these words. The fact that Christ makes Himself equal in honour with the Father is proof of His Divinity. The Lord also said: “You believe in God, believe also in Me” (John 14:1). The fact that people should believe in Christ as they believe in the Father indicates that He is equal with the Father, and thus is proof of His Divinity.

  60. Michael Babcock September 2, 2011 at 2:22 PM #

    concerning Jn. 1:1c, you say, “C.H. Dodd, the editor of the New English Bible, who also conceded: “If a translation were a matter of substituting words, a possible translation of [theos en ho logos] would be ‘The Word was a god’. As a word-for-word translation it cannot be faulted, and to pagan Greeks who heard early Christian language, [theos en ho logos] might have seemed a perfectly sensible statement, in that sense..”

    I again will not concede that it is grammatically possible to translate Jn. 1:1 as you do. And neither does Dodd. You misquoted him and took his meaning completely aside. What he said was that if you were to transliterate the verse, word-by-word, then of course that is what you will get. But transliteration is not translation. Translation is based upon meaning and Dodd and the other translators of the NEB did not see it your way, and so they translated it “all that God was, the Word was” (or something like that – I’m going by memory and don’t have the translation in front of me right now). In Swedish you can ask, “Hur mycket ar klocka?” Word for word it is “How much is the clock?” That is an exact transliteration, but it is not what is meant. The translation is “What time is it?” Completely different meaning in English than in Swedish. That is what Dodd was saying if you were to have read the whole article. The grammar of the Greek in Jn. 1:1 reads that the Word was God, meaning that all that God is, the Word is. Is God eternal, so was the Word. Is God almighty, so is the Word. Is God all-knowing, so is the Word. Is God holy and just, yet merciful and gracious, so is the Word. It is simply slanderous and sinful to give meaning to Dodd in any other way.

    • TJ September 5, 2011 at 9:19 AM #

      Michael,

      The only grounds on which Dodd objects to “a god” is theology. The ramifications of that concession mean that the argument against “a god” at John 1:1 is not a grammatical or translational one at all, as you originally stated. It means that Dodd believes that one must first understand the proper christology of the apostle John and the early Christians, i.e. what they believed about Jesus, and then translate John 1:1c in accordance with that interpretation. If one chooses that route, choosing theology over the literal rendering, then it is absolutely fallacious to turn around and use that interpretive rendering as proof of the very theology used to render it in the first place!

      Do you agree with that?

      It seems that again the ancient Coptic evidence has gone ignored. Here again is an ancient literal translation of John 1:1c that uses the Coptic indefinite article. Is that something you’d just rather leave out of the discussion?

  61. Michael Babcock September 2, 2011 at 2:28 PM #

    Then you said, “So let’s look up a few other anarthrous, pre-verbal, singular, predicate nouns, just like theos in John 1:1c, and see how they are rendered when ‘God’ is not in the mix. …Do you see how translating these types of nouns as indefinites is very grammatically possible? It’s just that when the term “G/god” is used, your theology comes into play, and you reject “a god” for theological reasons, i.e. your a priori beliefs.”

    First, I would only say that perhaps a first year Greek student, or a student who relies upon Greek helps, would say that. I don’t know your background, but it appears as if your Greek is pretty weak. If you think that language is static and not fluid, if you think that every construction that is similar is to be treated in the same way, you don’t know language. Because the Greeks did not have necessarily the same categories for definite and indefinite, there is something else you need to look at when translating.

    Again, in the case of Jn. 4:19, there is a grammatical point concerning the article that is in play. When a noun is not meant to be differentiated from others of the same class, it will not have an article. That is a general rule that bears out a lot in the Gk NT, I wouldn’t expect the word “prophet” to have the article in this case, therefore, because she was not saying that He was “The Prophet,” i.e., the Messiah, but merely one among others. So grammatically, “a prophet” is correct. The same can be said of the word translated “devil” in Jn. 6:70.

    When Jn. 8:44 translates the Greek as “a liar” in Jn. 8:44, it is following for a well-known Greek grammatical rule that says when the focus of the noun is on the quality of an object, it is anarthrous. In this case Jesus is saying that the devil is in the class of liars, that he has the nature and character of liars. Therefore, grammatically, the article would not be expected. So, though you have roughly a similar construct as Jn. 1:1c, there are other rules that do guide us into the meaning.

    Anyway, none of your examples actually quite fit the same grammatical construction as Jn. 1:1 which is to point to what the Word is. By the way, theos is a monadic noun (one of a kind) and thus is “definite” on its own and really doesn’t require an article, although they may have them. It is just a point. But you haven’t yet proven that theos in Jn. 1:1c is to be translated as “a god,” or that it is even grammatically possible. Perhaps that is why Bruce Metzger said in his article, “The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jesus Christ,” “It must be stated quite frankly that, if the Jehovah’s Witnesses take this translation seriously, they are polytheists… As a matter of solid fact, however, such a rendering is a frightful mistranslation.” Theology Today (April 1953), p. 75.

    And that is my point all along. You translate Jn. 1:1c and Col. 1:15 because in fact you are not a strict monotheist as the Trinitarian is, and therefore you must translate these verses along the lines of your presupposition, putting “a” and “other” where there is no real grammatical reason to do so, only a theological one.

    • TJ September 5, 2011 at 9:59 AM #

      “First, I would only say that perhaps a first year Greek student, or a student who relies upon Greek helps, would say that. I don’t know your background, but it appears as if your Greek is pretty weak.”

      More pointless (and routine) ad hominems.

      “If you think that language is static and not fluid, if you think that every construction that is similar is to be treated in the same way, you don’t know language.”

      It has been your argument that “a god” was not a ‘grammatically possible’ translation for such a Greek noun. Yet when I appeal to nouns in the very same construct, written by the very same author and yet universally translated into English as indefinites, suddenly we’re to believe that this is due to John’s language being ‘fluid’ and not ‘static’? Interesting…

      “Anyway, none of your examples actually quite fit the same grammatical construction as Jn. 1:1 which is to point to what the Word is.”

      Nothing that you explained above proved anything like that. You keep appealing to phantom ‘rules’ that ‘somehow’ make these different so that they don’t “quite fit the same grammatical construction”. Do you really expect anyone to accept such vague generalities?

      Like I said before, simply change out the nouns in John 1:1, replacing ‘word’ with ‘john’ and ‘god’ with ‘man’, and everyone would universally translate it as “a man” in John 1:1c. All these phantom rules would disappear. It is only a blind insistence on theology that changes things.

      “By the way, theos is a monadic noun (one of a kind) and thus is “definite” on its own and really doesn’t require an article, although they may have them.”

      As I’ve already pointed out to you, Wallace disagrees that theos is monadic and, more importantly, the Bible disagrees. Theos is used of others who are not the one God. “Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your Law, “I have said you are ‘gods’“? If he called them “gods,” to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world?” (John 10:34-36; NIV)

      Would it make it better if the NWT used quotation marks around “a god” as the NIV has done?

      “But you haven’t yet proven that theos in Jn. 1:1c is to be translated as ‘a god,’ or that it is even grammatically possible. Perhaps that is why Bruce Metzger said in his article, ‘The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jesus Christ,’ ‘It must be stated quite frankly that, if the Jehovah’s Witnesses take this translation seriously, they are polytheists… As a matter of solid fact, however, such a rendering is a frightful mistranslation.’ Theology Today (April 1953), p. 75.”

      Well, Jesus himself couldn’t prove things to people who covered their eyes and ears. As I’ve already brought out to you, Metzger actually misused Colwell’s ‘Rule’ as evidence against the NWT, showing his argument to be completely worthless, though he is usually touted out again and again on internet forums by those unaware of this, as a misguided appeal to his authority. Modern Trinitarian theologians don’t quote him on this for a reason.

      Further, if Metzger, Dodd, et. al., want to call us polytheists for rendering “a god”, that again is more evidence of theology’s–not grammar’s–primary role in this. One could call Jesus a polytheist based on his quotation of the Psalms above, which he utilizes in his own defense as God’s Son. We too use these scriptures in order to put the same perspective on Jesus’ relative divinity.

      “And that is my point all along. You translate Jn. 1:1c and Col. 1:15 because in fact you are not a strict monotheist as the Trinitarian is, and therefore you must translate these verses along the lines of your presupposition, putting ‘a’ and ‘other’ where there is no real grammatical reason to do so, only a theological one.”

      Michael, you’ve shown clearly that it is your insistence on post-nicene theology that causes you to override what would otherwise be the natural meanings of the text in these instances in order to read your beliefs into the Bible, a process Dr. BeDuhn calls the Protestant Burden. What a burden indeed!

      That is why in your last response to the discussion on Colossians 1 and “other” you used, over and over again, “other” in your supposed counterexamples of “firstborn”. That showed conclusively that you are insisting on a narrow definition of “firstborn” at Colossians 1:15 that is used nowhere else in the scriptures, one that is fueled entirely by theology. Apparently that aspect of the discussion has been abandoned as well as the Coptic evidence for John 1:1.

  62. Nicholas Voss September 2, 2011 at 8:00 PM #

    Good evening TJ-
    I find it interesting that the ancient sources you are citing are Christian heroes from our side, not yours. It has not escaped our notice that there is an absence of ancient Jehovah’s Witnesses to quote from. Charles Taze Russell , as you said of him yourself, went out to “re-invent Christianity.” And so he did. And so are you.

    We are maintaining Christianity, by the power of Jesus Christ our Lord, King, and Great High Priest. You are re-inventing a new faith, and it is a religion that will damn you in the end.

    This proves that your sect is, in fact, the great apostasy spoken of in Holy Scripture.

  63. Michael Babcock September 7, 2011 at 11:09 AM #

    “The only grounds on which Dodd objects to “a god” is theology.”

    Did Dodd say that, or are you reading into it? If Dodd is merely pointing out that translation is much more than just giving a word-for-word-transliteration, but there are other grammatical factors that go into making an accurate rendering of the original meaning, how is it that you say he is choosing “theology” over the literal rendering? He is not basing his translation on “theology” so much as on the rules of Greek grammar. For whatever reason, you fail to see that. On what basis do you say that Dodd was wrong in stating that “the Word was a god” is really not the “literal rendering” when he points out that the grammatical construction, not the word for word construction, renders the meaning of the clause as “What God was the Word also was”?

    Moreover, to prove his point, Dodd gave several examples where theos has the meaning of the “essence” of God. He then concludes that the NEB translation is trying to get at the idea that John was expressing – namely, that in every sense that the Father is God, the Logos is also God. He is using more than theology there, he is using the very thing any linguist does to establish meaning and context of a word or of a particular usage.

    On another note, you reminded me, “It seems that again the ancient Coptic evidence has gone ignored. Here again is an ancient literal translation of John 1:1c that uses the Coptic indefinite article.”

    It is something I’d rather leave out because I am not a Coptic scholar. However, since you to think that that supports your cause and translation of Jn. 1:1, I did do a little research. It meant having to take a trip to the local seminary to see if they have any books on it, and this is what I discovered:

    I found a copy Horner’s English translation of the Sahidic, and you are right, it is translated “…and [a] God was the Word.” However, in his critical apparatus, he defines the use of square brackets: “Square brackets imply words used by the Coptic and not required by the English” (p. 376). Well, what does that mean?

    I discovered that while it is true that the Coptic uses the indefinite article in Jn. 1:1c so that it would look to say, “the Word was a God,” you must understand that the Sahidic doesn’t necessarily have the same meaning of “indefinite” that we in English have on it. The indefinite article is used in Sahidic with “abstract nouns” and “nouns of substance” (cf. Colin Walters, An Elementary Coptic Grammar of the Sahidic Dialect, 2nd ed. (Aris & Phillips, 2007), p. 12). An example of this is even within the context of Jn. 1:1 when you go to v.16, “Because out of fullness we all of us took [a] life and [a] grace in place of [a] grace.” Also, the indefinite article can also be used to attribute qualities or characteristics (Bentley Layton, A Coptic Grammar With Chrestomathy and Glossary – Sahidic Dialect, 2nd edition, (Harrassowitz Verlag, 2004), p. 43), as in Jn. 3:6 “…that which is born of the Spirit is [a] spirit.”

    Also, there is much to support the idea that the translator placed the indefinite article in the translation because he did not believe John was equating the Word with the proper name God (making a modalistic statement), but rather he understood John to be using theos in a qualitative sense. That is the sense that Dodd, and Robertson, and Dana and Mantey, and Wallace, and so many Greek scholars have also argued, and which I have tried to stress.

    I was also informed that this appears to be a correct understanding because if you go down to Jn. 1:18b, the Coptic translation places the definite article where in the Greek it is anarthrous. It would seem highly improbable that a translator would understand John to have designated the Word “a god” in John 1:1 and “the God” in John 1:18 unless he was simply ascribing the qualities of Deity to the Word in John 1:1c.

    And finally, that the Coptic translation holds Jn. 1:1c in a qualitative sense seems to be the correcting understanding because the Coptic Church, which uses that translation, is most definitely a Trinitarian church. Again, what I see is that JW’s want a word-for-word translation of the Greek and now Coptic, when each language has different meanings and concepts for the construction under investigation. Lesson: Just because a word is “indefinite” in one language, doesn’t mean that the “indefiniteness” means the same thing in another language.

  64. Michael Babcock September 7, 2011 at 11:20 AM #

    TJ,
    You said that my comment was “More pointless (and routine) ad hominems.” Sorry if you thought so, but I believe your comments in this post validates my suspicions. What I listed are not “phantom rules.” A second year Greek student would have clearly recognized them. You can find these examples in both Wallace and Young’s Intermediate NT Greek. It wasn’t meant to be ad hominem as I was only trying to show that your Greek is apparently weak. If that offended you, I’m sorry, but you have said nothing to prove me wrong in this.

    “Further, if Metzger, Dodd, et. al., want to call us polytheists for rendering “a god”, that again is more evidence of theology’s–not grammar’s–primary role in this. One could call Jesus a polytheist based on his quotation of the Psalms above, which he utilizes in his own defense as God’s Son.”

    We call you polytheists because that is what you are in effect. You do not have a strict monotheistic view of God if you can say that Jesus is a god that is able to do that which only God can do (create, sustain, and redeem), which has the powers of omniscience, omnipotence, and omnipresence, and who receives an honour that only God should receive, and who has the name that only God has. The passage in Jn. 10 is greatly misused by many but it doesn’t prove that other “gods” are by nature “gods.” Jesus is no polytheist. He was merely refuting the slander the Jews made against Him by using their understanding of the Scriptures against them. He is not explaining what He is in Himself in the text, but what we ought to acknowledge Him to be on account of His works — which as I pointed out earlier, all point to His divinity.

    “Michael, you’ve shown clearly that it is your insistence on post-nicene theology that causes you to override what would otherwise be the natural meanings of the text in these instances in order to read your beliefs into the Bible, a process Dr. BeDuhn calls the Protestant Burden. What a burden indeed!”

    I always found it funny that you would want to cite Dr. BeDuhn as an authority to be believed in. He claims that he is unbiased but he does not allow for the possibility that other biblical scholars are unbiased and well-learned in their fields and believe that the NWT is a total misrepresentation of the Greek. He writes, “The responsibility of making new translations rests upon people who are largely ill-suited to the task, through no fault of their own. They do not have the full complement of training.” (Truth in Translation, p. 10). I find it fascinating that he can say that all these other biblical and Greek scholars who served as translators of the NASB with its 40 plus translators, or the 30 plus translators of the NKJV, or the 114 or so scholars who translated the NIV were “ill-suited to the task.” I personally know some of these men who served on several of these committees and know personally their scholarship and abilities. Moreover, all these were scholars who’s doctoral training was either in OT or NT language and culture, many of whom published works in their fields, but nonetheless they are “ill-suited to the task,” while his doctorate was in what? Manichaeism! That certainly makes him well-suited for the task of determining whether a translation is good or not. But yet BeDuhn said that none of these others really don’t know their Greek well enough to see that the NWT is in fact a very good, if not the best translation out there? You think it unbiased that he alone rises above the cloud of mediocrity and Trinitarian bias to be able to see what no other Greek, Hebrew or biblical scholar can see, although he himself admits that he is no Greek or Hebrew scholar or NT expert? I wonder just how was he able to inoculate himself from an affliction that no other scholar was able to escape?

    Moreover, said on p. 8, “The vast majority of Bible translations are produced by and for specific denominations of Christianity, or cooperatively among members of related denominations,” but seems to not notice how the various translators of each of these other translations were from all kinds of denominations and theological leanings (Calvinists, Arminians, Baptists, Presbyterians, etc.). I find his credibility as a biblical scholar and translation critic waning. I admit that I am a little skeptical of people who claim that they have no bias. It is a matter of self-deception, in fact.

    So, yes, I suppose I do read into the Fathers a post-nicene Trinitarian understanding because the Trinity is a biblically informed doctrine, and it is the true revelation of God. Additionally, the early church worshiped Him as God under the rubric of a strict Jewish monotheism. I also believe the promise of Jesus who said that He would build His church and the gates of hades will not overpower it, or the word of Paul that said that the Church is the pillar and support of the truth. So, because of that, I believe that the ante-nicene saints also held to a belief in the Trinity. Their language and understanding was not as developed on the doctrine as it was sharpened during the Arian controversies, but they did hold to the belief in the Trinity because it is the truth. Paul says something interesting in 1 Cor. 11:19, “For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.” Much could be said on that, but my immediate point in bringing it up is that God allows error to come into the Church so that those who are approved by God will become evident. In this case, Arius came in bringing a factious doctrine. Many were swept into it, but through it all, the Church became clearer and more focused on what the Bible teaches concerning the nature of God.

    “That showed conclusively that you are insisting on a narrow definition of “firstborn” at Colossians 1:15 that is used nowhere else in the scriptures, one that is fueled entirely by theology.”

    No, I do not believe my understanding of “firstborn” is fueled entirely by theology, although theology must play into it. You take the genitive as a partitive, on the other hand I believe it is a genitive of subordination. I think you must admit that your theology pushes you in that direction, and I will admit that as well. However, for me it is not simply a theological reason. My understanding is also based on grammatical and lexical reasons. For instance, immediately before the title, Jesus is called the “image of the invisible God,” so that we should understand He is the One who makes the invisible become visible. He can only do that if He has the nature and character of God fully in Him, that “all the fullness” dwells in Him. John put it like this: “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (Jn. 1:18). Then the hoti clause that immediately follows provides a commentary on the title and emphasizes that He is the one by whom all creation came into being, as John also said “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (Jn. 1:3). And also, the term “firstborn” was not only used in the OT to show priority or sovereignty, but it was employed to denote one who had a special place in the father’s love (e.g., Ex. 4:22), which separated him from all other classes. You rejected that. What more can be said on that? I have shown you, though, that there is more than mere theology going on. You may not agree with the conclusions, but if you are a student of Greek then you will know that the grammatical usage of a “genitive of subordination” is plausible and a true usage within the Greek language structure.

  65. Michael Babcock September 7, 2011 at 11:22 AM #

    TJ asked, “Is the Son subordinate to the Father in his knowledge as well, as Jesus himself indicates at Matthew 24:36? Or do we decide that this is only the ‘human part’ of Jesus talking, and that the ‘God part’ of him actually knows just as much as the Father?”

    My take is that which the Bible teaches: Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, You know all things” (Jn. 21:17). Jesus did not deny that He did. Luke 9:47 says “But Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their heart…” and in Luke 11:17 we read, “But He knew their thoughts…” The testimony of Scripture is that Jesus knows all things, even the secret thoughts and intentions of the heart. But we are also told “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,” (Gal. 4:4). And as a man, Luke 2:52 says of Him: “And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” He who was Wisdom (1 Cor. 1:24) incarnate grew in wisdom. And Heb. 2:17 tells us why, “Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God…” So I understand Jesus’ ignorance there in terms of His incarnation and office. Since He had come down to us to be our Saviour by becoming like us, that information was not given to Him until after He accomplished His work in the resurrection. But this doesn’t take away from His Divine nature.

    Then he asks, “So, the results of this problem are these types of convoluted statements utilizing Greek philosophical terms (which do not appear in the Bible, God’s own revelation of himself) such as ‘essence’ and ‘substance’ that both the Father and Son are said to share, making each the very same God while at the same time being two different persons….Why must we rely on the ingenuity and cleverness of later philosopher-theologians to explain what the Bible ‘meant to say’?”

    The Bible is quite clear in speaking of the Son being the “character of God’s hypostasis.” He is the fullness of the Godhead in bodily form. He was equal to God and did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. He is titled God (Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13) and Lord. He is the Redeemer. He is the One who perfectly reveals the Father because the Father and Him are one. He dispenses grace and mercy and peace with the Father. He forgives sins, which only God can do (Matt. 9:2-7). The OT statements concerning God, calling Him Jehovah, were attributed to Jesus (Dt. 10:17 – rev. 17:14; Joel 2:32 – rom. 10:13; Isa. 6:1-3 – Jn. 12:40-41; Isa. 8:14 – rom. 9:32-33; Isa. 43:10 – Acts 1:8; Isa. 44:6 – Rev. 2:8; Isa. 45:23- Phil 2:10). He is honoured as the Father is honoured, and to believe in Him as we are to believe in God (Jn. 5:23; 14:1). On one hand God is said to have raised Jesus from the dead (1 Cor. 15:15), yet Jesus said He would raise Himself (Jn. 2:19), and Rom 1:4 says the Spirit raised Him. The Spirit is another of the same kind of Comforter, who is called God. Annanias lied to the Holy Spirit but was lying to God (Acts 5:3-4). They each are attributed to being Creator, and the sustainer of creation. Each are attributed with omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence. Yet these three are separate. Three Persons called God and attributed with the nature and characteristics of God, yet separate. The theologians merely put all the data together and explain what is mysterious in terms that we can understand somewhat.

  66. Michael Babcock September 7, 2011 at 11:26 AM #

    TJ asks another question: “Now is it orthodox to speak of the Son’s “birth” or “production”? Do Trinitarians really believe the Son was “born”? Or do you explain that by relegating such a temporal event to something outside of time, and thus begin to describe what Ireneaus feels is “indescribable”?

    Do you believe the Son was “born”? If so, in what way?

    We have the biblical declaration that the Son is the “only begotten Son.” What that means and how that occurred is something that is not revealed. Dt. 29:29 remains a point of wisdom, where God is silent so we will be silent. That is what Ireneaus was getting at. “For when he says, ‘That which was from the beginning,’ he touches upon the generation without beginning of the Son, who is co-existent with the Father. There was, then, a Word importing an unbeginning eternity; as also the Word itself, that is, the Son of God, who being, by equality of substance, one with the Father, is eternal and uncreate.” (“Fragments,” William Wilson, trans. Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdman’s Pub. Co.,1979), 574). Hippolytus (170-235) says, “The Logos alone of this God is from God himself; wherefore also the Logos is God, being the substance of God. Now the world was made from nothing; wherefore it is not God.” Refutation of all Heresies X.xxix (Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. V (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdman’s Pub. Co., r.p 1979), p. 151.) Yes, He is begotten but was begotten in eternity, and the Fathers agreed that He was without beginning. Whatever subordination they held for Him, it is clear that they also saw in Him a being who is eternally co-existent with the Father and of the same substance with Him.

    The fathers generally spoke of the generation of the Son like “light flowing from light” and Augustine adds to that that we should not think of it like “water flowing out from a hole in the ground or in the rock” (De trin. IV.27, 172). You JW’s cannot appeal to the Fathers in this regard. You will argue with those that stood agains the Nicean Council that the distinct activity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit indicated that the divine persons were separate beings with the Father being superior. However, Scripture shows the activity of the divine persons to be one (i.e., all three persons are involved in acts of creation, providence, and redemption). Thus, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share one nature, so whatever can be said of the Son being begotten of the Father, it is not speaking of any kind of subordination of nature, although we will admit there is a subordination of activity or “economy.” And to add to that a bit more, Augustine shows that because there is a unity within the Godhead, while it was only the Son who became incarnate, the incarnation of the Son was the inseparable work of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share one will and execute one power. Inseparable operation is a direct implication and economic expression of intra-trinitarian unity (i.e., monotheism) but also shapes our understanding of subordination. In fact, looking at Jn. 5:19 (“Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner.”), Augustine says: “The Catholic faith, made firm by the Spirit of God in its saints, holds this against every heretical depravity: The works of the Father and the Son are inseparable. . . . Just as the Father himself and the Son himself are inseparable, so also the works of the Father and Son are inseparable” (Tract. 20.3, 166). The Father does not do one thing while the Son does something else. Whatever the Father does, the Son does as well. Now of course, Augustine knew that some see the Son as “less” than the Father in ability, power, and honor when they read Jn 5, but that is because they have only a “carnal understanding” of Christ’s words (Tract. 20.5, 168). So he gave several examples to help them understand the equality of the Son with the Father. The first of these was from when Jesus walked upon water. If the Son only does what he “sees” the Father doing, then must it not be the case that the Father walked on water as well? But when did the Father walk on water? Here’s his solution: the eternal Son walked on the water with the “flesh” walking and the “divinity” guiding its steps (Tract. 20.6, 169–70). Remember Jn 14:10 tells us that the Father abiding in the Son does His works. Thus, the Son’s water-walking is the work of the Son and Father. This, Augustine explains, is precisely the point Jesus makes in John 5:19. And Athanasius agrees by saying, “The Trinity] is consistent in itself, indivisible in nature, and its activity is one. The Father does all things through the Word in the Holy Spirit; and thus the unity of the Holy Trinity is preserved; and thus there is preached in the Church one God, ‘who is over all, and through all, and in all.’ He is over all as Father, as beginning, as source; and through all, through the Word; and in all, in the Holy Spirit” (Letters to Serapion I.28 in The Faith of the Early Fathers: A Source Book of Theological and Historical Passages from the Christian Writings of the Pre-Nicene and Nicene Eras (ed. William A. Jurgens; Collegeville: Liturgical, 1970), 1:336). The point of all this is to affirm our belief that there is distinctions between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and that there is a sort of subordination of Son and Spirit, but even in the subordination there is an equality among them because since the Son was begotten of the Father and the Spirit processed from Father and Son, all their works are one.

    “Jesus said it clearly, his Father is “the only true God”. (John 17:1,3) But here comes the dual-nature fix-it. That was his human nature speaking. Yet when Jesus says, “I AM” at John 8:58, as many translations have it, conveniently we ‘know’ that was his divine nature speaking up. So you want to just arbitrarily assign whichever nature to Jesus’ words that you find matches your doctrine, introducing yet again circular reasoning into your overall theology.”

    It is not arbitrary. It is based upon the context of the speech. It is taking into account the data that sometimes Jesus, in the work of mediation, acts according to both natures and each nature does that which is proper to itself, so that at times He speaks from one nature and at others from the other. Where is the circular reasoning in that?

    “Furthermore, since you insist on emphasizing “true god” in Isaiah, does that mean that spirit-begotten Christians will likewise make up the one God along with the Father and Son, seeing as how they are set to become “partakers of the divine nature”? (2 Peter 1:4; ESV) Or are they really getting a subordinate nature, one that isn’t truly divine, meaning God was “mistaken or a liar”?”

    Well of course this is not talking of the Christian being made of the same essence of God. How can that be? One of the attributes of God’s nature is that He is uncreated, eternal, infinite, self-sustaining, omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. Even God can’t make us to be these things. So obviously Peter is not talking of becoming partakers of the divine nature in that way, but he is saying we have been given the quality of God – the character or moral image of God. “We don’t know what we will be like, but when we see Him, we will be like Him.” 2Cor. 3:18 “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” Having that same image doesn’t mean that we will have the exact same ontological nature, but the same moral nature. How is that making God to be a liar or mistaken?

  67. Michael Babcock September 7, 2011 at 11:31 AM #

    TJ,

    I find it interesting how you quote Hurtado and Lamson as experts on the early church and their theological understanding of the Trinity. However both are/were Unitarians. I point that out because they read into the Fathers THEIR understanding of subordination, not the Christian church’s understanding. How objective is it to use a Unitarian as proof that the Fathers had a Unitarian or JW or Arian idea of subordination with the Trinity or that it is of pagan origin? If you can produce one Trinitarian scholar who agrees with them, then perhaps there is weight to this.

    Anyway, one of the problems I have with your quotes is that there is nothing to substantiate the claims Lamson makes. Were there others that denied the Trinitarian doctrine as it was believed before Nicea? Maybe, but does Justin really say his belief was not universal among Christians? Then he was very disingenuous to Trypho, as he writes to give a Christian apology. How can it be a Christian apology if it was not a universally held doctrine?

    Lamson quotes from Arius supposedly, and Arius says that he got his understanding from tradition and Alexander. The quote is suspect since the council of 321 in Alexandria expressed shock at Arius’ teaching, and the whole controversy began over a sermon Alexander preached on the unity of the Trinity. Moreover, the Trinity was held by virtually all the Church Fathers before Nicea is clear. I don’t have the time to quote all the Fathers on this, but the noted church historian, J.N.D. Kelly, summarizes it when he writes, “In spite of incoherencies, however, the lineaments of a Trinitarian doctrine are clearly discernible in the Apologists” (Early Christian Doctrines, p. 203). In that paragraph he also admitted how Justin particularly held that “Christians venerated Christ and the Spirit in the second and third ranks respectively.” But he continues, “The order, or taxus, however, was not intended to suggest degrees of subordination within the Godhead; it belonged to the Triad as manifested in creation and revelation….Thus the image with which the Apologists worked, viz. that of a man putting forth his thought and his spirit in external activity, enabled them to recognize, however dimly, the plurality in the Godhead, and also to show how the Word and the Spirit, while really manifested in the world of space and time, could also abide within the being of the Father, Their essential unity with Him unbroken” (p. 104). The Fathers all pointed to the burning bush and Moses, and declared that the One who spoke to Moses in that burning bush was none other than the pre-incarnate Christ. Yes, Justin called him “another God,” but only to make a distinction between Christ and the Father. But even in that, he said that this “other God” was none other than Jehovah, the one true God of Israel. Agreed, the Apologists did not have the exact language and the precise understanding that came about from the Arian controversy, but doubtless he would have held to the Trinitarian formula. He and Irenaeus and Clement all taught that Jesus was very God of very God, of the same substance or nature of the Father and that He existed eternally, without beginning. Alexander was accused of being a Sabellianist because he professed a belief in the unity, yet he was convinced of the Word as having a being distinguished from the Father. The post is too long already so I won’t quote any more of the Fathers, but again point you to some of the statements that Clement, Ireanaus, Justin, and Hippolytus made concerning the Word being God, there being but one God who eternally existed in plurality. If Arius believed that he got his teaching from tradition, I would like to see from whom when all that I read of the Fathers taught the substance of Trinity (although again, their language was not Nicean).

    “Honesty, Michael? The reason I read “another god” is because that is what is written in the early church! I’ve already quoted Justin Martyr as writing, “there is . . . another God,” speaking of Jesus. (Dialogue with Trypho, LVI) That is literally the type of statement the pre-nicene Fathers would write, and yet here you are criticizing me for taking them at their word! I find that just incredible. …So essentially, in your view, when Justin writes that Jesus is “another God” he’s an orthodox Trinitarian. Yet when I do it, I’m a dishonest heretic that is arguing “against the strict monotheism of the OT”. Really, where is the honesty in that??”

    I agree that Justin wrote as a pre-Nicean Christian, and thus his language is not as precise as what a post-Nicene Christian would say. But coming from a Trinitarian point of view, I also understand what he was trying to say, while you misrepresent him. Henry Chadwick says of him, “It is implicit in Justin’s thesis that the distinction between ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ corresponds to the distinction between God transcendent and God immanent. The Son-Logos is necessary to mediate between the supreme Father and the material world. Justin therefore insists that the Logos is ‘other than’ the Father, derived from the Father in a process which in no way diminishes or divides the being of the Father, but in the manner in which one torch may be lit from another. He is Light of Light” (The Early Church, p. 77). He simply does not have the same understanding as you, and while there are strong differences in the way he put it, his understanding really is closer to what I hold to. For Justin, inasmuch as the Word is the thought of the Father, the pre-incarnate Christ IS the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God who appeared to Moses and gave Moses his commission and commandments. That is something you cannot say. You can argue all you want that these men were not orthodox Trinitarians (which of course is anachronistic), but you fail to miss what they are saying, and read into what they don’t say.

  68. Joe September 11, 2011 at 8:06 PM #

    One of BeDuhn’s methodological biases is that he assumes that the replication of formal features (= literal), and translating by strict concordance apart from theological considerations is preferable. Not only is this not preferred (a theologically and discourse-informed reading is in fact necessary insofar as these texts are irreducibly theological and insofar as the paragraph is the basic unit of thought), but it is out of step with linguistics generally. Read the seminal – even popular – essays that put these assumptions in persepctive (e.g. James Barr, Semantics of Biblical Language; Moises Silva, Biblical Words and Their Meaning; J. P. Louw, Semantics of Biblical Greek). BeDuhn is already “biased” toward more so-called “literal” translations. This not only misses the whole point of Transformative grammar (Chomsky) underlying such things as “dynamic equivalence,” but creates an unnecessary and arbitrary segmentation of linguistic units as the basis for translation.

    Nevertheless, the issue isn’t really how about how one goes about translating, but interpreting. With this, I don’t think even BeDuhn is a defernder of the Witness position. In a forum he even admits of John’s argument, one that is developed and built over the course of the gospel: “ John 20:28 is a climax John has worked very hard to prepare the reader for, by spelling out in a variety of ways throughout the gospel in what way it can be true that Jesus is Thomas’ “Lord and God.” The gospel is all about stretching monotheism to accommodate the intimacy of identity between Christ and God the Father” (http://www.forananswer.org/Mars_Jw/JB-RH.Jn1_1.Hommel.2.htm). This is a very interesting possibility: John introduces the Word as a deity (grammatically possible, of course), and builds his irreducibly theological treatise, for rhetorical effect, such that the Word (who creates everything 1:3), is developed into a full-orbed subject and object of confession. Thus, in the beginning was the Word…and this Word was a god. Now let me tell you about him…he created everything.

  69. Michael Babcock September 12, 2011 at 9:16 AM #

    Thank you Joe for the enlightening post. I agree with you that BeDuhn’s methodological approach to translation is rather naive, which not only brings about lexical confusion but theological error. I again point out how he believes himself to be “neutral” in his approach to teaching. He believes it is possible, and even required to be theologically neutral as a professor in a state institution of higher education. But such a thing is not only naive, it is impossible. The facts to which men appeal in their writing or in their argumentation are not intelligible apart from their underlying philosophical presuppositions.

    His argument seems to be what Van Til called a “building block” fallacy to apologetics. That is, you begin with a general statement that can be accepted by others, and build on it to arrive at the Christian conclusion. For instance: the Word was a god. That is something pagans might be able to understand and believe. Hindus have many gods and I have heard that they even include Jesus in among their pantheon. Ok, but let me tell you something about this god: he is creator, he is the life, he is the light, he is the OT fulfillment, he is the one who died and was resurrected. Now therefore, the proper response to all this evidence is to call him “My Lord and my God.” But no where does the Bible ever do that kind of thing with God. In fact, in a debate with an atheist many years ago, I was somehow shocked to consider that the Bible simply presupposes the existence of God and never seeks to prove it. It doesn’t need to for the existence of the true and living God is self-evident through the things He made (Ps. 19, Rom. 1:16ff). I would say that in John’s mind the Word wasn’t simply “a god” and seek to argue from that background to the more specific “the God,” because John could only imagine there being one true God and would not want to muddy the waters or bring any confusion to anyone by any suggestion that there is a possibility of there being anything but the one true God.

    I would greatly disagree with BeDuhn and the NWT that it is grammatically possible to translate Jn. 1:1c as “the Word was a god.” I do not believe that is a responsible linguistic or grammatical translation. In that debate you cited, Robert Hommel very adequately and definitively showed BeDuhn’s error. A very helpful link. Thank you for it.

    However, I do agree that in John’s Gospel he pushes the reader to the final confession of Thomas that they, too, might make it with Thomas. That seems to be the climax, “Thomas you believed because you saw Me. Blessed are those who have not seen me and yet have believed.” And chapter 21 is simply to validate the apostolic witness.

    Well, Joe, yours was a very helpful and clarifying post.

  70. Joe September 12, 2011 at 11:16 AM #

    Though I do believe it is grammatically possible to translate 1:1c as “The Word was a god” (as most grammars and commentaries concede as possible, like John 4:19), I distinguish between what is possible in a vacuum and what is probable in a context. So I agree with you that is not responsible to do so. So much controversy and importance surrounds this issue. One simply cannot approach this issue in a grammatical vacuum. BeDuhn does not, despite his self-assessment otherwise, and nor does the NWT. If BeDuhn is not a JW, then this is a perfect example of how irresponsible it really is. He may be able to “bracket” his own views on the matter, but whether or not Jesus is God or some lesser “deity” has a profound impact on real people, and the translations he critiques are designed, not for academic banter, but confessional acceptance. This is the nuance of a commentary, not a translation.

    Further, I’m no fan of BeDuhn and nor am I defending him, but as I read his argument, he does not appear to be contending for proof of God. Theos is after all assumed in John 1:1. Rather, in rhetorical fashion, John would be introducing Jesus to his readership via “the Word,” but that requires a full prologue to accomplish. Go back and read 1:1-3 for the “first time,” so to speak, and tell me that you could know that the God-man Jesus is the protagonist without later content. It isn’t until the Word is fully “fleshed” out in the course of the discussion that a first time reader can be sure the he is in fact the Christ, Jesus. BeDuhn wants to draw out the revelation to the end of the Gospel. In this way he appears to embrace at least a quasi concession to Greco-Roman polytheism as a means to do introduce Jesus with rhetorical weight.

    Now my take is this: Polysemy pops up all over the map, and I still think that something closer to the qualitative sense is more fitting here. John 1:3 already front-loads a heavy theological pronouncement and this must inform and be informed by 1:1-2, 4ff. This is not Jesus negotiating a difficult and novel idea with an audience that has no category for it, one that is hostile (a la 10:34-36), but John, the apostle, writing quite late in the century, out of the fullness of reflection and seemingly gesturing toward (asserting outright?) a maximal notion of Christology.

  71. Michael Babcock September 12, 2011 at 8:04 PM #

    Joe,
    “In this way he appears to embrace at least a quasi concession to Greco-Roman polytheism as a means to do introduce Jesus with rhetorical weight.”

    I agree with your assessment. I disagree with BeDuhn’s idea, though, as I don’t believe John would have resorted to that kind of rhetorical device. He was as upfront about who Jesus is as Matthew and Luke are with their genealogies of Christ. But i agree with your comments and think you’ve hit the nail on the head.

  72. andrew December 3, 2011 at 9:04 AM #

    how can you explane John 10; 30 I and my father are one

  73. Tad Modero May 20, 2012 at 11:32 AM #

    Thx for information.

  74. Julie May 29, 2012 at 4:04 AM #

    Were did TJ go?
    -Julie

  75. Sha' August 14, 2012 at 4:03 PM #

    Hey, I commend all you guys on your much conversation. But what I want to say is, (KJV) Mathew 7:13-14:

    13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

    14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

    Therefore I say you brothers in the LORD, adhere to Titus 3:9-11:

    9 But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

    10 A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;

    11 Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

    I’m sure another NIV, NLT or something else would make for a better read. But when people close their eyes, after hearing the GOOD NEWS, move on to one who might hear. God bless you brothers for trying to do HIS will. God bless you.

  76. mother July 23, 2013 at 12:26 AM #

    It’s actually a cool and useful piece of info. I am glad that you simply shared this helpful information with us. Please stay us up to date like this. Thank you for sharing.

  77. James Mailo April 24, 2014 at 5:02 AM #

    If Christ was Spiritually resurrected:

    John 20:27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

    If God is one and Jesus is “a god”, then the whole NT is committing idolatry and God is portrayed as a “liar” for allowing anything or anyone else to be called or considered a god next to Him.

    But if Jesus Christ is a god, who then is the First and the Last throughout Scriptures?

    Isaiah 44:6 “This is what the LORD says– Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.

    Revelation 1:17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

    Praise be to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit for His everlasting word to guide and correct us.

    2 Timothy 3:15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: