So, I've been having a lot of interactions with JWs for quite a while now and I wanted to share some of my experiences and the way I’ve found that’s most helpful in dealing with them.
A while ago some JWs came to my door and started asking their conversation-starting questions. I decided to cut to the chase and I asked them why they reject the idea that Jesus is Jehovah, even though He's said to be Jehovah in name, purpose, essence and action all throughout the Bible, but they do believe that He is the archangel Michael, even though that's found nowhere in scripture and even though Michael is never associated with any of the names for Jesus (The Work, Son of Man, Son of God, Saviour, etc.). They told me it was a very good question and they'd get back to me with the answer. That’s the last I heard from them.
So, a while later I noticed a booth the JWs set up right near my office. Since then I've regularly gone to speak with them, arranged sit-down sessions with them, emailed back and forth, etc. and have learned a lot about their assumptions and presuppositions that I believe will help in dealing with their proof-texting and circular reasoning. I’d like to share how I’ve learned to deal with them, as I’ve found this way to be most effective at getting to the point (Just a note, I like to use their translation to make my points, to demonstrate we’re not dealing with translation issues).
I usually start by saying that I respect what they’re trying to do by trying to lead people to what they think is the truth, but that 2 Cor 11:4 warns against accepting a Jesus other than the one given by scripture, and that in Galatians 1:1-9 we’re warned that anyone who brings a false gospel is condemned, and that I can show them from the Bible that they are doing just that.
I then confirm with them that they believe that Jesus is a created being, based on the lack of the definite article in the Greek in John 1:1, which they translate “In the beginning the Word was with God and the Word was a god”. Just five passages later there is another instance of a missing definite article and they don’t translate that “a god”, so they’re hardly consistent in this standard, but nevertheless…
So, JW’s believe that Jesus is a created God, and yet in Hebrews 1:10 Jehovah says to the Son, “”At the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hand” (RNWT).
Then I like to point them to a suite of passages from Isaiah that state the following:
“I am Jehovah, That is my name; I give my glory to on one else (42:8) … Before me no God was formed, and after me there has been none. I am Jehovah and besides me there is no saviour (43:10-11) … I am the first and the last (44:6) … I am Jehovah, who made everything. I stretched out the heavens by myself, and I spread out the earth. Who was with me? (44:24) … I am Jehovah, and there is no one else. There is no god except me (45:5) I, Jehovah, have created [heavens and earth] (45: 8)… Is it not I, Jehovah? There is no other god but me; a righteous God and Saviour there is none besides me (45:21) I am God and there is no other. I am God and there is no one like Me (46:9)… I give my glory to no one else (48:11)… my own hand laid the foundation of the earth. And my right hand spread out the heavens (48:13).
So then I ask the following question: “If Jehovah created a god (John 1:1), through whom, by whom, for whom all things were made (Col. 1:15-16) and all things were made by his hand (Hebrews 1:8-10), how then can Jehovah say that He created all of creation by Himself and that there was no god present – that He was all alone, particularly in reference to any created gods with whom He would not share the glory of creation or salvation, when He created the heavens and the earth by Himself, with his own hands (Isaiah 42-48)?”
The JW invariably tries to explain away this dilemma in one of two ways: 1. They say that what Isaiah was trying to demonstrate was the difference between the Almighty God as eternal and therefore different from a created god; or, 2. They tell me that just as an architect can say that they have built a building even if they hire a contractor to actually do the construction, so too can Jehovah have created a god and created the heavens and the earth through that being.
The problem with the first point (the idea that what Isaiah was trying to demonstrate was the difference between the Almighty God as eternal and not a created god) is as follows:
The context of the passage doesn’t limit itself to speaking of Jehovah’s eternality. In these verses in Isaiah God’s character is starkly contrasted with the characteristics of the pagan pantheons of created gods that are part of a created order instead of transcendent of creation. These gods were therefore limited in scope not only in terms of their eternality but also of their power, and jurisdiction over creation and thereby scope of their glory.
So, while these passage shows that Jehovah is eternal, in contrast to the pagan pantheistic gods, in addition He alone created the heavens and the earth (44:24), He did it with His own hands (48:13), He alone is the saviour (43:10-11), and His glory in creation is shared with no one (48:11).
So, what this passage shows is that Jehovah is distinguishable from a created god in that He is:
- Creator of the heavens and the earth with His own hands; and
- Sharer of His glory of creation from the beginning with no one (particularly no created god, in context).
So, Jehovah is ruling out the possibility of other gods based on these criteria.
But the problem becomes that Jesus is described in scripture according to just those criterion.
Jehovah is distinguished from a created god because He is eternal, which is most concretely articulated by Jehovah stating that He is the “first and the last” (44:6), and yet the very same title of eternality is ascribed to Jesus twice in the book of Revelation, as seen here “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End… I, Jesus…” (Rev 22:13).
Jehovah is distinguished from a created god because He is the only saviour (Isaiah 43:10-11), and yet is Jesus is the saviour (2 Peter 3:18), and in fact Acts 4:12 states that “salvation is found in no one else” than Jesus.
Jehovah is distinguished from a created god because He alone created the heavens and earth with His own hands and yet Jesus is credited with doing that with his own hands (Hebrews 1:10).
Jehovah is distinguished from a created god because He shares His glory of creation from the beginning with no one and yet Jesus is credited with sharing the glory He had with the Father since before creation (John 17:5), and is counted worthy of Jehovah’s glory (Rev 5:13).
If applied consistently, their own objection leads to this syllogism that necessarily entails that Jesus is Jehovah:
- Jehovah is distinguishable from a created god because He alone is: eternal; saviour; creator; and worthy to be glorified.
- No created god can be eternal; saviour; creator; and worthy to be glorified.
- Jesus is: eternal; saviour; creator; and worthy to be glorified.
- Jesus is not a created god.
- Jesus is Jehovah.
The problem with the second point (the point that just as an architect can say that they have built a building, even if they hire a contractor to actually do the construction, so too can Jehovah have created a god and created the heavens and the earth through that being) is as follows:
An architect totally can claim to have built a building, even if they used a contractor for the construction. But if we carry over the comparison with what is actually said in Isaiah, we see how problematic it is to compare the two.
In Isaiah, it doesn’t just say that Jehovah created the heavens and the earth, it states and repeats that He created the heavens and the earth with His own hands and that he was alone when He did it, particularly in reference to any created god with whom He will not share the glory of either creation or salvation.
If an architect said that they were alone when they built a building, that they did not use any contractors but did all of the construction with their own hands because they would not share the glory in building with any contractors, and then it turned out that in fact they hired a contractor for the construction then they would be lying.
So, if Jehovah states that He created the heavens and the earth with His own hands, and that He was alone (particularly in reference to any created god), but also says that it was Jesus’ own hands that created the heavens and the earth, - Jehovah cannot be lying.
So, if Jehovah cannot be lying and He says Jesus created the heavens and earth with His own hands, and that Jehovah created the heavens and earth with His own hands and was alone when He did it with no formed god around, then Jesus is Jehovah.
So it’s exactly because of examples like this that really demonstrate how troublesome it is to try to reconcile JW theology to the passage in Isaiah, and we’re still left with the syllogism:
1. Jehovah is distinguishable from a created god because He alone is: eternal; saviour; creator; and worthy to be glorified.
2. No created god can be eternal; saviour; creator; and worthy to be glorified.
3. Jesus is: eternal; saviour; creator; and worthy to be glorified.
4. Jesus is not a created god.
5. Jesus is Jehovah.
Inevitably at this point they try to claim that the Bible says that Jesus was created and point to Colossians 1:15-16 as proof. I find this particular passage is widely misinterpreted by JWs as though it says that Jesus is a created being.
The title firstborn has the Biblical precedent of denoting a title of primacy or pre-eminence which is transferable (as in the office of inheriting rights over property, as we see in David being called the firstborn of Jesse, Ephraim being the firstborn of Joseph, and God prophesying the endowment of that title to the anointed in Psalm 89, not to mention Isaac being called Abraham’s one and only son even though Ishmael was born first). This is clearly the context of Col. 1:15 where the second Adam is born into this world to redeem us from sin and reconcile all creation.
It is not only clear from the context that this passage is referring to Jesus’ redemptive work and reconciliation of all things (not to Jesus being created), but also the passage does not say Jesus was the “First created [proto ktizo] of all creation [ktizo]”. It says that Jesus is the “First born [pr totiko] of all creation [ktizo]”. If this passage was trying to indicate Jesus’ creation, it would have said He was [proto ktizo], but it doesn’t say that. Instead it uses the title Firstborn, which is the transferable title of pre-eminence that has nothing to do with either chronology or creation. So, even if we assumed for the sake of argument that He did have a point at which He was created, this passage makes no allusion to such an event.
Not only is the clearly demonstrable from the above examples from the Old Testament, but we can see that this is the case from the other applications of the same word in the New Testament (Col. 1:18; Rev. 1:5) which both refer to Him being the “Firstborn from the dead”. “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the pre-eminence” (Col. 1:18)
Jesus was not the first to be born, as these passage refer to His earthly birth, nor was He the first to die. Therefore, if He’s firstborn from the dead, it must mean that He’s the first to provide spiritual life transcending death, again having nothing at all to do with a hard genesis of His being.
He is Firstborn because He needed to be born as a man in order to complete the redemptive work of being hung on a tree so he could assume the curse of sin, carrying it to the grave but conquering it by leaving it buried but raising Himself back to life (John 2:19-21) and therefore, as the second Adam, reverse the curse of the first Adam – all this having nothing to do with an origin of being.
Firstborn, not first created, is the critical and demonstrable distinction, and is a term that is never used in relation to the subject’s creation: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Romans 8:29).
So, at this point they usually refuse to speak to me any further.