Jehovah’s Witnesses vs the Trinitarian God29 May 2006
So I’d kinda been meaning to get around to looking at what exactly they believed for a couple of months now, because it’d come up a few times and because it’s useful to have a clear understanding of what various groups believe (especially those who claim to be of the same faith).
Well, two elderly-ish ladies came knocking this morning (no name tags or suits, even!) and gave me a couple of books, which was pretty timely (but not co-incidental) because Dave made a brief comment regarding Christ’s failure to deny his identity as Lord when Thomas confessed his identity as Lord and God (John 20:24-29), and how this is contrary to what Jehovah’s Witnesses believe. (That — briefly — is how I wish Rowan Kemp had dealt with John 1, but no matter. I suppose Gem is the only person who would know what I’m talking about there… shrug. He got a feel for the audience better after that week, I think.) The most significant difference between their beliefs and what the Bible teaches is in the realm of God’s trinitarian nature. That is, they claim Jesus is:
Jehovah’s [God’s] most precious Son — and for good reason. He is called “the firstborn of all creation,” for he was God’s first creation. (Colossians 1:15)
I immediately had to check out their quote, because the NIV is what I remembered that verse from (wherein it is rendered “the firstborn over all creation” — helpful, but not literal enough for usefulness here). Knowing enough Greek to be dangerous (and probably nowhere near enough to be wise), I wound up checking out the original (after seeing the NASB + ESV agreeing with each other and the JW quote). Firstborn, or Ï€ÏÏ‰Ï„Î¿Ï„ÏŒÎºÎ¿Ï‚ (transliterated prototokos), is “usually [used] as [a] noun, literally or figuratively”.
So we know that it’s not necessarily literal, and in other parts of the Bible (Genesis 28:14 amongst others) promises are made that will be carried by the firstborn (the idea of a “birthright” persists throughout the whole Bible). In Genesis 25:31, Esau sells his birthright to Jacob… the idea here is that Jacob becomes the heir. Christ, then, is (as “firstborn of creation”), the heir and realiser of all these promises. It doesn’t necessarily mean he’s literally God’s son… clearly, the idea of firstborn throughout the Bible is tied mostly to that inheritance, not to literal birth (observe again Genesis 25 and Jacob’s hijacking of his brother’s inheritance!)
Hence, to say Jesus is the “firstborn” over creation is to say that He is the heir of all things (Hebrews 1:1-3a):
1Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.
I’m sure someone somewhere has argued all of the above far better, I just can’t find it and wanted to write this as a way of understanding that more clearly myself. A better argument is probably the Thomas/Jesus thing alluded to above (the talk will be available online soon, and will be entitled “What’s the Conspiracy about Jesus?”. I found one great article on the Trinity and Jesus’ status as a deity which is probably worth a read if you wanted to find out more.