(Continuing from the last post titled “Thanksgiving and the Deity of Christ With A Jehovah’s Witness Elder.”)
JW: The word “Trinity” doesn’t appear in the Bible.
KW: Neither does the word “Bible.”
JW: This is something humans came up with.
KW: Yes, to explain a concept we believe is found in the Bible.
JW: Why didn’t the first Christians believe in a Trinity?
KW: They did.
KW: (Laughing) Yes, they did. Where do you get the idea that they didn’t?
JW: When Paul said that Jesus was resurrected by God shows that they did not believe that Jesus and God are one and the same person.
KW: I do not believe they are the same person. I believe they are the same God, but not the same person.
JW: What was Jesus convicted of?
KW: Blasphemy! Claiming to be God!
JW: Claiming to be the Son of God, not God.
KW: How is that blasphemous? What is more blasphemous, claiming to be the Son of God or claiming to be God?
JW: They considered it blasphemy.
KW: I can show you where Jesus is equal with God. Would you be interested in seeing that?
KW: Let’s go to John chapter five and I am going to use your app for this. I wish we had this passage printed out. I’d like to have it printed out and use a bunch of different color markers for this. This way it would be easier to see who is saying what. For instance, let’s start at verse one.
As we went through this passage, I went verse by verse and asked afterwards who was responsible for the text we had just read. I would write down the verse and then next to it I would write down who was responsible for the text.
JW: I could print this off of my CD-Rom at home.
KW: Okay, do that. That way you could use different color highlighters or pens and underline it and see who said what. Verse one. “After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.”
This is a narrative right?
KW: Who is responsible for the narrative?
KW: Exactly, John. Verse one is John. We both agree that he is inspired by God.
KW: So this is not just a narrative, it is an inspired narrative, right?
KW: Verse two. “Now in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate is a pool called in Hebrew Bethzatha, with five colonnades.” This is also narrative, an inspired narrative attributed to John. So in other words, it is really God saying this.
JW: Verse three. “Within these a multitude of the sick, blind, lame, and those with withered limbs were lying down. But one man was there who had been sick for 38 years. Seeing this man lying there and being aware that he had already been sick for a long time, Jesus said to him: ‘Do you want to get well?’”
Verses three through five are inspired narrative again, but the end of verse sixe, we’ll call it six-b, we have something else.
JW: That is Jesus speaking.
KW: From three through six-a is John, or really God inspiring it, but six-b is Jesus. Verse seven; “The sick man answered him:”
What’s that? Narrative right?
KW: Now we have a new character continuing in verse seven. “Sir, I do not have anyone to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am on my way, another steps down ahead of me.”
Who is that?
JW: The sick person.
KW: Right, the sick guy. So now we’ve got inspired narrative or John, we have Jesus and we’ve got the sick guy. So far, there are three people who are responsible for the text.
Verse eight. Jesus said to him:
What’s that again?
KW: Verse eight-a is narrative. Eight-b says, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” This is Jesus.
KW: Verse nine. “And the man immediately got well, and he picked up his mat and began to walk. That day was the Sabbath.” What was this part again?
KW: Right, inspired narrative. Verse 10, “So the Jews began to say to the cured man:” We’ll call this verse 10-a, what is this?
KW: Narrative again, that’s right. Verse 10-b, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry the mat.” Now we have new characters. Who are they?
JW: The Jews.
KW: Now we have four different sources. John’s inspired narrative, Jesus, the sick guy and the Jews. Verse 11-a, “But he answered them:” Again, this is inspired narrative, right?
KW: Continuing in verse 11, “The same one who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’” This one is more complicated. The sick guy is speaking, but part of what he says is a quotation from Jesus.
JW: Yeah. There is a quote within the quote.
KW: Exactly. Verse 11-a is narrative, 11-b is the sick guy and 11-c is the sick guy quoting Jesus.
KW: Verse 12-a, “They asked him:” This would be inspired narrative. John is responsible for this part. Verse 12-b says, “Who is the man who told you.” This is the Jews asking a question and then in part 12-c they quote Jesus by saying. “Pick it up and walk?” Right?
KW: Verse 13 says, “But the healed man did not know who he was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.” This is all inspired narrative, right?
KW: Verse 14, “After this Jesus found him in the temple and said to him: ‘See, you have become well. Do not sin anymore, so that something worse does not happen to you.’” Verse 14-1 is again, inspired narrative and 14-b we have Jesus, right?
KW: Verses 15 and 16, “The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things during the Sabbath.” All of this is inspired narrative, right?
KW: Verse 17, “But he answered them: ‘My Father has kept working until now, and I keep working.’ Verse 17-a again is inspired narrative, but 17-b is Jesus, right?
KW: Verse 18, “This is why the Jews began seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath but he was also calling God his own Father, making himself equal to God.” Who is responsible for this part?
JW: The Jews.
JW: The narrative?
KW: The inspired narrative. This is an inspired narrative, John wrote it, God is behind it.
KW: So, God, through John says, “Jesus was making Himself equal with God.”
This is when it clicked for my Witness friend. He was following along so intently that he had forgotten to use the standard Watchtower answer for this verse. He answered it honestly from his heart the first time, but then switched his brain back over to “Watchtower puppet mode” when he saw that the verse did not agree with what the Watchtower teaches.
JW: No, the Jews claimed he said that.
KW: This is not John saying, “The Jews thought this.” This is inspired narrative.
My Witness friend re-read John 5:18 aloud. He was trying to make the verse say something it clearly does not say.
JW: “This is why the Jews began seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath but he was also calling God his own Father, making himself equal to God.” That is what the Jews claimed.
KW: John didn’t say, “The Jews claimed Jesus was making Himself equal to God.” John said, “Jesus was making Himself equal to God.”
JW: That is what they claimed of Him.
KW: There no quotation of the Jews here. That is all inspired narrative.
My Witness friend did not want to accept it, but the text is as plain as the nose on his face. I realize that it may be hard to follow the way I have written our conversation so I will do something for you here that I have wanted to outline for a long time. I am going to change the color of the font depending upon who is speaking.
As we have seen from the passage, there are four different sources responsible for the text in verses 1-18; narrative, which will be black, the words of Jesus will be italicized red, the sick man’s words will be italicized green, and the Jews will be italicized blue. Jesus is quoted twice, once by the sick man and once by the Jews. Those two portions will be bold and italicized in their respective colors. My hope is that the color coding will make this passage much clearer for Jehovah’s Witnesses than it is otherwise.
On an interesting side note, I didn’t realize that the last part of John 5:3 and all of verse four have been removed from the Revised New World Translation until I began writing this report. Here is John 5:1-18 as it reads in the Revised translation.
5:1– After this there was a festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.
5:2– Now in Jerusalem at the Sheep Gate is a pool called in Hebrew Bethzatha, with five colonnades.
5:3– Within these a multitude of the sick, blind, lame, and those with withered limbs were lying down.
5:4– * ——
5:5– But one man was there who had been sick for 38 years.
5:6– Seeing this man lying there and being aware that he had already been sick for a long time, Jesus said to him: “Do you want to get well?”
5:7– The sick man answered him: “Sir, I do not have anyone to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am on my way, another steps down ahead of me.”
5:8– Jesus said to him: “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”
5:9– And the man immediately got well, and he picked up his mat and began to walk. That day was the Sabbath.
5:10– So the Jews began to say to the cured man: “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to carry the mat.”
5:11– But he answered them: “The same one who made me well said to me, ‘Pick up your mat and walk.’”
5:12– They asked him: “Who is the man who told you, ‘Pick it up and walk’?”
5:13– But the healed man did not know who he was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there.
5:14– After this Jesus found him in the temple and said to him: “See, you have become well. Do not sin anymore, so that something worse does not happen to you.”
5:15– The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well.
5:16– For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things during the Sabbath.
5:17– But he answered them: “My Father has kept working until now, and I keep working.”
5:18– This is why the Jews began seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath but he was also calling God his own Father, making himself equal to God.
Remember, all of the above black text is John’s inspired narrative. In other words, God said those things. Verse 18 is all narrative, all John, all God. There is no hint that the Jews said anything here. John faithfully reported why the Jews wanted to Kill Jesus, not because of what they thought, but because of what Jesus said and what that means. Jesus was making Himself equal to God.
My friend began to argue against the claim and asked, “Why would Jesus call God His Father while at the same time making Himself equal with God?”
KW: Because He was claiming to be the same stuff. The Jews thought of Jesus as a mere human being. God the Father is not a human being. We have a saying here in America, “Like Father, like Son,” or “He is a chip off the old block.” What that means is the Son is just like his Dad. For Jesus to make the claim that God is His Father, He is claiming to be the same substance, stuff or worth as the Father.
My friend again began to say that Jesus is the same stuff as the Father, in that He is a divine one. I tried to make it clear that when I talk about the nature or stuff of God, I am talking about that which defines God as God. One of those characteristics is eternity. God is an eternal being who was never created. According to the Watchtower, Jesus is the first created being. If Jesus is created and God is uncreated, then Jesus cannot be the same stuff as God. On the other hand, if Jesus is the same stuff as God the Father, then He must be eternal, He cannot be created.
KW: Jehovah is uncreated, that is part of His nature.
KW: If Jesus is the same nature as Jehovah, then He also has to be uncreated.
KW: You can’t be the same substance as Jehovah and be created because Jehovah cannot be created.
JW: What are you talking about?
I couldn’t help but chuckle. It is simple logic, but when that logic crashes into Watchtower dogma, logic is thrown out the window and confusion arises.
KW: Jehovah is uncreated, that is part of His nature. If Jehovah was created, He wouldn’t be God.
My Witness friend just wasn’t getting it so I focused back on John chapter five.
KW: We are talking about equality. John in his inspired narrative says that Jesus claimed to be equal with the Father.
My Witness friend was looking in his new Bible for a verse. When he found it, he invited me to look at Philippians 2:5-6 which read in the RNWT, “Keep this mental attitude in you that was also in Christ Jesus, who, although he was existing in God’s form, gave no consideration to a seizure, namely, that he should be equal to God.”
JW: In other words, Jesus never claimed to be equal with God.
KW: That is not what it says.
JW: Yes, that is exactly what it says.
We sat there in silence for close to three minutes. That may not seem like a long time, but three minutes of silence in the middle of a tense conversation can be very awkward. He kept looking at the text of Philippians 2 and reading it over and over. He was looking for something so I patiently waited.
JW: If that is not what it says, then what does it say?
KW: First off, verse five says He existed in God’s form.
JW: In God’s form yes, but it doesn’t mean He was God.
KW: Verse seven says He emptied Himself. Of what?
JW: Of His high position He had in heaven.
KW: The Greek word for “grasped” can also refer to a thing being held or continuing to hold onto something. Verse seven also says that Jesus was in the form of a slave or my translation says a “bond-servant.” Was He a servant when he took on the form of a servant? He came to be a servant right?
KW: If being in the form of a servant makes Him a servant, then being in the form of God makes Him God. It doesn’t make Him the Father, but God, the Deity or stuff. The very nature of God is eternal. So for Jesus to be the same stuff as the Father, then it would mean that He would have to be eternal.
JW: That is your idea.
KW: Yes, I am showing you what I believe and then why I believe it, but you will not understand why I believe what I do unless you first understand what I am saying. If Jesus is in the form of a servant and really was a servant, then if He was in the form of God, then He really was God.
My Witness friend was beginning to understand some of what the passage says so he began to bring up other objections ranging from all angels being sons of God to Jesus being Michael. I questioned him a bit about Jesus being Michael because it was the first time he had ever mentioned that idea. He replied;
JW: That’s another subject.
KW: (Laughing) Okay, we’ll talk about that later, but I’ve never read anywhere in the Bible about Jesus being Michael the archangel.
My friend agreed to shelve that topic for now, then went back to addressing his confusion about what it means to be in the form of God and that God’s nature is unique to himself because He is eternal. He kept saying that Jesus is the same nature as the Father, but then also insisted that Jesus is created. He crept back into refute mode instead of trying to understand me.
KW: At this point, you are not trying to understand me. You are trying to refute me and you will never refute me until you first understand me because you are refuting a position I do not hold.
We kept going back over the same information. I kept rephrasing things in hopes of him understanding, but he kept bringing up objections from unrelated contexts.
JW: So when the voice from heaven came at the baptism of Jesus, who was that?
KW: God the Father.
JW: Two persons.
KW: Yes, God the Father speaking of God the Son. Then God the Holy Spirit descended in the form of a dove.
JW: Then the disciples at Pentecost were filled by a person too?
KW: Yes, they were filled by the Holy Spirit.
JW: If the Holy Spirit is a person, they were filled by a person?
JW: Or were they filled by a force?
KW: By a person.
JW: How can you be filled by a person?
KW: How can a man be filled and controlled by a legion of demons? Are demons persons?
KW: You’ve got thousands of demonic persons in one human’s body. How do you do that? I don’t know. They are spirit. The Holy Spirit doesn’t have our kind of limitations. If I can put thousands of spirits in one body, then I don’t have a problem with putting one divine spirit in thousands of bodies.
JW: Okay, so who was Jesus praying to?
KW: The Father.
JW: That is what I don’t get. You are saying they are one, but they are three persons.
KW: Yes, they are one being with three different centers of consciousness. Like I said, God is unique. There are three eternal persons within the one eternal being we call God. That is the doctrine of the Trinity. It is made up of four major parts.
There is only one God, “Hear, oh Israel, the Lord our God is One.” The word for “one” in the Hebrew means one made up of a multiple. Not single, solitary one, but one made up of a multiple like the noun “Family.” The second major part is that the Father is God. We both agree with that. Another part is that the Son is God. We don’t agree on that. The fourth part would be that the Holy Spirit is God. There are three persons making up one God.
JW: Well, I don’t get it and most other people don’t get it either.
KW: I know that.
JW: They can’t explain it either.
KW: I just explained it.
JW: If one person has authority over another, they cannot be one and the same.
KW: They are not the same person, but they are the same God. Let me ask you this question. Do you believe that God is love?
KW: Who did He love before He created anything?
JW: I don’t know. You tell me.
KW: There wouldn’t have been anyone there to love. How can God be love if He doesn’t have the opportunity to love?
JW: Anything is possible with God.
KW: If god wanted to exist as a Trinity, could He? Is God limited to our understanding of Him?
JW: If God wanted to exist as a Trinity… that is a strange question.
KW: Right, but I am not going to tell God, “You can’t be a Trinity because I don’t understand it.”
JW: No, we’d have to look at the history of the Trinity… that doesn’t make any sense.
KW: There is a difference between not understanding something and saying it doesn’t make sense.
JW: Most of the bishops at the council of Nicaea didn’t believe it. Constantine was pushing for it.
KW: Actually, that is not true. There were about 300 bishops there and only three continued to hold to Arius’ position by the time to council concluded. Have you really looked into that history?
KW: I don’t know where you are getting your information…
JW: (Sarcastically interrupting) Ah, I’m sorry, from the Watchtower.
KW: Okay, then the Watchtower has that information wrong.
My friend was getting extremely aggravated and brought up something I have never heard before.
JW: I guess all the Bible translators from the translation committee of the New American standard didn’t agree with the Trinity either.
KW: Where did you get that idea?
JW: From the Watchtower. I’ll email the information to you. I gotta go.
My Witness friend was visibly upset and abruptly got up from the table. I think he thought I was mocking him because I kept asking where he got his information. Hopefully he was beginning to see the problem with relying on the Watchtower for all of his religious information, even if it is information about what other people believe. I have always been a huge proponent of getting as much information from as many resources as possible. It makes no sense to call it “research” if you only look at one source, a source you have to believe or get accused of apostasy.
KW: So, are we meeting next week?
JW: What’s the point?
I really thought we were done. I was shocked that he was standing over me at the edge of the table. He was mad and wanted nothing more than to get out of the restaurant.
JW: We just continue to agree to disagree and that’s it.
I was stunned. I had to think of something fast if I was going to be able to get him to recommit to meeting with me. I was also a bit hurt that he could so easily throw away our “friendship.”
KW: I would be willing to put aside the false prophecy issue for awhile to continue.
JW: And then?
KW: We’ll see what happens. This is part of why I didn’t want to get into the whole Trinity thing because I know you really don’t like that doctrine.
JW: It is not that I don’t like it…
KW: Oh, no. you don’t like it. I know that every time we talk about it, you get upset and you don’t want to talk to me anymore and I don’t like the thought of that. So I am hesitant to get into that.
JW: If we go through this book, it is still going to come up.
KW: Okay, then it comes up. So what?
He stood there looking down at my copy of the Teach book. He had a slight grin on his face like he knew what I was trying to do, but he had a hard time resisting anyway.
KW: I’ve learned a lot through these discussions, Have you?
JW: The next chapter is chapter three. Most people believe that there is no purpose for the earth. It is all in heaven. You are the first person I have ever talked to who has said that you believe you will go to heaven and then come back to the earth.
He was talking himself into meeting with me and he knew it.
KW: There is something we agree on.
He stood there and began to smile. For some reason I think he needs for me to think he is a rational person. He knew that there really was no good reason for discontinuing our meetings.
JW: Well, Okay. Let’s talk about this chapter next time.
KW: Okay. Same time, same place?
He began to laugh his goofy, nerdy laugh and patted me on the shoulder. I couldn’t believe he agreed to continue meeting. This was one long, exhausting meeting. I am sorry it took so long to report the whole conversation, but it was every bit of three hours long and took me five installments to report here on the blog. There was so much that happened so quickly, I fear I have not done justice to exactly how intense this meeting was.
I don’t know what God has planned for our next meeting, but He is up to something. Please pray for my Jehovah’s Witness elder friend and his family.