PROVING TO JWS THAT JESUS CHRIST IS THE GOD OF ISRAEL

In this post I will show how to put Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) in a dilemma by getting them to either admit Jesus is the one true God of Israel (even though he is not the Father), or that the [N]ew Testament contradicts the [O]ld Testament. Neither of which will sit well with JWs

John’s Gospel records Thomas’ reaction after seeing the risen Christ in his glorified, immortal physical body of flesh:

“Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord,’ but he answered, ‘Unless I can see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you,’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving any more but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!‘ Jesus said to him: You believe because you can see me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” John 20:24-29

Thomas praises the resurrected Jesus as his very own Lord and God thereby affirming that Christ is the God-Man, e.g., God who became embodied, enfleshed by taking on a human nature.  

Here’s how the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ very own Bible (per)version renders Thomas’ exclamation of praise:

“In answer Thomas said to him (eipen auto): ‘My Lord and my God!’” John 20:28 New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (2013 Revision) (NWT)

There is absolutely no doubt contextually and grammatically that Thomas addressed these words to the risen Christ:

4. Thomas, who doubted the resurrection, said, “Unless I shall see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (v. 25). When Jesus appeared to Thomas, He said, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing” (v. 27). Thomas replied, “My Lord and My God [Theos]!” (v. 28).

There is no mistaking that Thomas’s words were addressed to Jesus. Thomas used both titles to express his understanding of Christ’s deity and lordship. Jesus did not rebuke Thomas for blasphemy. Instead, He accepted those titles of deity. (Josh McDowell & Bart Larson, Jesus: A Biblical Defense of His Deity [Here’s Life Publishers, INC., San Bernardino, CA 1989], 2. Jesus Christ Possesses the Names and Titles of God, pp. 26-27; bold emphasis mine)

Here is where the dilemma lay for the JWs. The OT is explicitly clear that Jehovah is the only God that a faithful Israelite or Jew could ever confess and worship, a fact which even the JWs’ own publications acknowledge!

In its articles on JEHOVAH, the Imperial Bible Dictionary (Vol. I, p. 856) nicely illustrates the difference between Elohim (God) and Jehovah. Of the name Jehovah, it says: “It is everywhere a proper name, denoting the personal God and him only; whereas Elohim partakes more of the character of a common noun, denoting usually, indeed, but not necessarily nor uniformly, the Supreme…. The Hebrew may say the Elohim, the true God, in opposition to all false gods; but he never says the Jehovah, for Jehovah is the name for the true God only. He says again and again my God…; but never my Jehovah, for when he says my God, He means Jehovah. He speaks of the God of Israel, but never of Jehovah of Israel, for there is no other Jehovah. He speaks of the living God, but never of the living Jehovah, for he cannot conceive of Jehovah as other than living.” (Aid to Bible Understanding [Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., 1971], Jehovah,

p. 885; bold emphasis mine)

And:

In its articles on Jehovah, The Imperial Bible-Dictionary nicely illustrates the difference between ʼElo·himʹ (God) and Jehovah. Of the name Jehovah, it says: “It is everywhere a proper name, denoting the personal God and him only; whereas Elohim partakes more of the character of a common noun, denoting usually, indeed, but not necessarily nor uniformly, the Supreme. . . . The Hebrew may say the Elohim, the true God, in opposition to all false gods; but he never says the Jehovah, for Jehovah is the name of the true God only. He says again and again my God . . . ; but never my Jehovah, for when he says my God, he means Jehovah. He speaks of the God of Israel, but never of the Jehovah of Israel, for there is no other Jehovah. He speaks of the living God, but never of the living Jehovah, for he cannot conceive of Jehovah as other than living.”​—Edited by P. Fairbairn, London, 1874, Vol. I, p. 856. (Insight on the Scriptures, Jehovah, Volume 2, p. 8; bold emphasis mine)

With this admission in mind I quote just some of the many OT texts which emphatically describe Jehovah as the only God that a faithful, religious Israelite could ever trust in:

“It was then that Moses and the Israelites sang this song in Yahweh’s honour: I shall sing to Yahweh, for he has covered himself in glory, horse and rider he has thrown into the sea. Yah is my strength and my song, to him I owe my deliverance. He is my God and I shall praise him, my father’s God and I shall extol him. Yahweh is a warrior; Yahweh is his name.” Exodus 15:1-3

“[For the choirmaster For flutes Psalm Of David] Give ear to my words, Yahweh, spare a thought for my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God! To you I pray,” Psalm 5:1-2

“Even the sparrow has found a home, the swallow a nest to place its young: your altars, Yahweh Sabaoth, my King and my God.” Psalm 84:3

“But my trust is in you, Yahweh; I say, ‘You are my God,’” Psalm 31:14

“You who live in the secret place of Elyon, spend your nights in the shelter of Shaddai, saying to Yahweh, ‘My refuge, my fortress, my God in whom I trust!’” Psalm 91:1-2

“Alleluia! Praise Yahweh, my soul! I will praise Yahweh all my life, I will make music to my God as long as I live.” Psalm 146:1-2

“Then I shall go to the altar of God, to the God of my joy. I will rejoice and praise you on the harp, O God, my God. Why so downcast, why all these sighs? Hope in God! I will praise him still, my Saviour, my God.” Psalm 43:4-5

“Blessed be the Lord day after day, he carries us along, God our Saviour. This God of ours is a God who saves; from Lord Yahweh comes escape from death… Your processions, God, are for all to see, the processions of my God, of my king, to the sanctuary… In choirs they bless God, Yahweh, since the foundation of Israel… Take command, my God, as befits your power, the power, God, which you have wielded for us,” Psalm 68:19-20, 24, 26, 28

These next examples are rather intriguing,

“This is the day which Yahweh has made, a day for us to rejoice and be glad. We beg you, Yahweh, save us, we beg you, Yahweh, give us victory! Blessed in the name of Yahweh is he who is coming! We bless you from the house of Yahweh. Yahweh is God, he gives us light. Link your processions, branches in hand, up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, I thank you, all praise to you, my God. I thank you for hearing me, and making yourself my Saviour. Give thanks to Yahweh for he is good, for his faithful love endures for ever.” Psalm 118:24-29

“David addressed the words of this song to Yahweh, when Yahweh had delivered him from the clutches of all his enemies and from the clutches of Saul. He said: Yahweh is my rock and my fortress, my deliverer is my God. I take refuge in him, my rock, my shield, my saving strength, my stronghold, my place of refuge. My Saviour, you have saved me from violence…

Yahweh in my anguish, I cried for help to my God, from his Temple he heard my voice, my cry came to his ears!… since I have kept the ways of Yahweh, and not fallen away from my God Yahweh, you yourself are my lamp, my God lights up my darkness; with you I storm the rampart with my God I can scale any wall. This God, his way is blameless; the word of Yahweh is refined in the furnace, for he alone is the shield of all who take refuge in him. For who is God but Yahweh, who is a rock but our God:” 2 Samuel 22:1-3, 7, 22, 29-32

Since the NT identifies Jesus as the Lord God who came to redeem a people for his own possession, that very Rock which delivered Israel at the time of Moses, and the Lamp that gives spiritual illumination to all the world!

“The Word was the real light that gives light to everyone; he was coming into the world. He was in the world that had come into being through him, and the world did not recognise him.” John 1:9-10

“I want you to be quite certain, brothers, that our ancestors all had the cloud over them and all passed through the sea. In the cloud and in the sea they were all baptised into Moses; all ate the same spiritual food and all drank the same spiritual drink, since they drank from the spiritual rock which followed them, and that rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:1-4

“waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Christ Jesus (tou megalou Theou kai Soteros hemon Christou ‘Iesou). He offered himself for us in order to ransom us from all our faults and to purify a people to be his very own and eager to do good.” Titus 2:13-14

“Simon Peter, servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith as precious as our own, given through the saving justice of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ (tou Theou hemon kai Soteros ‘Iesou Christou) for in this way you will be given the generous gift of entry to the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (tou Kyriou hemon kai Soteros ‘Iesou Christou).” 2 Peter 1:1, 11

“And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illuminated it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.” Revelation 21:23-24 NASB

If the foregoing still doesn’t convince a JW that the inspired Christian Scriptures identify Jesus as Jehovah God Almighty then this next passage should remove any doubt whatsoever:  

“You saw it, Yahweh, do not stay silent; Lord, do not stand aloof from me. Up, awake, to my defence, my God and my Lord, to my cause. In your saving justice give judgement for me, Yahweh my God, and do not let them gloat over me.” Psalm 35:22-24

Here’s how the Greek version renders the Psalter’s praising Jehovah as his God and Lord:

“Awake, O Lord, and attend to my judgment, [even] to my cause, my God and my Lord (ho Theos mou kai ho Kyrios mou).” Psalm 34:23 LXX

Now compare this with the Greek rendering of Thomas’ praise of the resurrected Son:

“Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God (ho Kyrios mou kai ho Theos mou)!’” John 20:28 NASB

The words of both texts are virtually identical, which simply reinforces the point of Jesus’ being worshiped as Jehovah God in the flesh!

As the following Evangelical scholars put it:

Thomas’s words echo statements addressed in the Psalms to the Lord (Jehovah), especially the following: “Wake up! Bestir yourself for my defense, for my cause, my God and my Lord [ho theos mou kai ho kurios mou]!” (Ps. 35:23). These words parallel those in John 20:28 exactly except for reversing “God” and “Lord.”22 More broadly, in biblical language “my God” (on the lips of a faithful believer) can refer only to the Lord God of Israel. The language is as definite as it could be and identifies Jesus Christ as God himself. (Robert M. Bowman Jr. & J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ [Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI 2007], Part 3: Name Above All Names: Jesus Shares the Names of God, 12.  Immanuel: God with Us, p. 143)

Bowman also responds to the attempt by JWs to get around Thomas’ clear-cut confession and its implications:

The Gospel of John begins (1:1) and ends (20:28, except for ch. 21, which reads as an appendix) with the confession of two of Jesus’ original disciples that Jesus Christ is God. In John 1:1 the apostle John, whose faith in Jesus was perhaps the strongest of all the disciples, states that Jesus Christ was God in the very beginning of time. In John 20:28 Thomas, whose faith among the disciples (other than Judas) was probably the weakest, also confesses that Jesus Christ was his very own Lord and God.

The JWs’ discussion of this verse shows that they are not sure what to make of it: “To Thomas, Jesus was like ‘a god,’ especially in the miraculous circumstances that prompted his exclamation. Some scholars suggest that Thomas may simply have made an emotional exclamation of astonishment, spoken to Jesus but directed to God” (p. 29).

Neither explanation is very convincing. To take the first, assuming that Jesus was not God, had Thomas called Jesus his “god” in an involuntary exclamation prompted by the “miraculous circumstances,” this would have been nothing short of superstitious and would have called for a rebuke (compare Acts 14:11-15).

As for the second explanation, the idea that a devout Jew in the first century would cry something like “O my God!” out of astonishment is an anachronism, reading back into the Bible something that is common in our culture but virtually unknown in Thomas’s culture. First-century Judaism regarded any careless or thoughtless use of the words Lord and God as bordering on blasphemy. Moreover, while in our modern culture people often exclaim “O my God!” or “O my Lord!” when confronted with something shocking, neither in our culture nor in any other do people exclaim “My Lord and my God!” in that sort of situation.

The JWs reason that whatever John 20:28 means, it cannot mean that Jesus is Jehovah God, for three reasons: (1) John 17:3 says “that Jehovah alone is ‘the only true God’”; (2) Jesus in John 20:17 referred to Jehovah as his God; and (3) Joh 20:31 states that the Gospel was written to show that Jesus was the Son of God, not God (p. 29). But this reasoning is self-defeating. If Jehovah is the only true God, and he is, then Jesus cannot be Thomas’s God unless Jesus is also the only true God; otherwise, Thomas is worshiping a false god. The fact that in the immediate context Jesus called the Father “my God,” far from showing that Jesus was a lesser god, shows that by calling Jesus “my God” in John 20:28, Thomas was giving Jesus the highest honor possible. And the fact that Jesus is the Son of God supports, not contradicts, the fact that he is also God–otherwise John 20:28 contradicts 20:31.

Two other points may be made. The language of “my Lord and my God” is found elsewhere in the Bible, with reference to Jehovah (Ps. 35:23, Rev. 4:11). Second, at least one JW publication has stated that when a Hebrew (that is, an Israelite or Jew) says “my God,” he means Jehovah. These facts give further confirmation that Thomas was speaking of Jesus Christ as the one true God, Jehovah. (Bowman, Why Should Believe in the Trinity: An Answer to Jehovah’s Witnesses [Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI 1990], 7. Jesus Christ is God, pp. 96-97; bold emphasis mine)

To sum up the points of this post, we discovered:

  1. Jehovah is the only God that an Israelite can worship and confess.
  2. Thomas, an Israelite, worshiped Jesus as his Lord and God.
  3. Thomas’ confession can only be acceptable if Jesus is Jehovah God in the flesh.
  4. And yet Jesus is not the Father or the Holy Spirit but he is the uniquely begotten Son of God (Cf. John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9).
  5. Therefore, the one true God Jehovah exists as three eternally distinct divine Persons, namely, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  

Unless indicated otherwise, scriptural references taken from the New Jerusalem Bible, which can be accessed here: Bible – Catholic Online.

FURTHE READING

JESUS AS GOD IN JOHN 20:28

Smart’s Rule: A Critique

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 )

Connecting to %s