Rehashing the Name of God with a Jehovah’s Witness Elder

This week was very different than the last two weeks. My Jehovah’s Witness elder friend was in a very good mood and we joked around for more than a half hour before we got into our study. Another man came with him this time. JW2 has come before and we enjoy each other’s company. Our study began with JW1 asking a question out of the blue.

JW1: Do you believe that God cares about you personally?

He got the question from page 17 of the Teach book. There is a little gray box at the bottom of that page which summarizes some of the main points in chapter one. The question caught me off guard because we went from joking around to looking at the book instantaneously.

KW: Who me? Absolutely.

My friend mentioned that some people don’t think that God cares about them. We looked at 1st Peter 5:7, which was referenced in the book, and read it. My friend talked about how we are such small parts of the universe and yet God care for us regardless.

I have been in studies with other Jehovah’s Witnesses and they have seemed like they just want to get through the material in the book, offering little commentary on their own. My friend is different. There were a number of times today when he gave more examples than the ones which are in the book. I really enjoy that he takes the study seriously and presents his own ideas too instead of just sticking with the book.

There are good things and not so good things about that though. I was ready to be done with chapter one because I wanted to get into the part in chapter two which discusses the inspiration of the Scriptures. I was hoping to ask questions about the difference between God revealing His Word in the Bible and God revealing His message through the Watchtower.

If God is revealing His thoughts, then regardless of the medium He chooses, it has to be an inspired message. It was a good thing that I was open to the leading of the Holy Spirit though because evidently, God had other plans. We spent the rest of our meeting talking about the four summary points at the bottom of the page. One point in particular. I’ll get to that later.

My elder friend asked how I knew that God cares for us and loves us. Here was another opportunity to stuff an ace for future conversations. I quoted John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” My friend seemed please that I knew the verse and nodded towards JW2 as if to say, “Very good.” I stated;

KW: The Bible says that the greatest expression of love is when someone sacrifices themselves for you.

My friend agreed. What he does not yet know is that if I get a chance, one day I will ask him how a created being can love me more than Jehovah God does. According to the Watchtower, Jehovah created Jesus and then Jesus created everything else. If the greatest expression of love is to die for someone and Jesus is not Jehovah, meaning that Jesus died for me and Jehovah didn’t, then according to John 15:13, Jesus loves me more than Jehovah does. The timing was not right so I didn’t bring it up in this discussion. My Witness friend asked about the second summary point.

JW1: How about God’s personal name?

We both laughed because we have spoken a great length on this topic in the past and never agreed.

Discussing the Name of God With a Jehovah’s Witness Elder

Part Two- Discussing the Name of God With a Jehovah’s Witness Elder

KW: (Laughing) We talked about that for a long time! Again, I don’t think God is concerned about a specific pronunciation of His “name.” I think He is more concerned with His reputation. That is where I’m at now.

I added that last sentence as a way of trying to get him to move on. He didn’t want to move on and started trying to prove to me again that we must use the name “Jehovah.” He used a lot of the same arguments he used months ago.

KW: I’m trying to of how I can better communicate my views to you.

JW1: I think you are communicating it pretty well.

KW: (Pretending that I am going to choke him) Then why don’t you get it!

JW2 laughed.

JW1: I could say the same thing to you.

I laughed.

KW: For instance. When we looked at what is commonly referred to as the Lord’s prayer, (Matthew 6:9) “Our Father in heaven…” Jesus didn’t call Him “Jehovah.” He called Him “Father.” Maybe you could help me with this, I don’t think there is an example in the whole New Testament of Jesus addressing the Father in prayer as “Jehovah.” So if I am going to follow His example, then I am going to call Him Father.

JW2 looked at JW1 to see what kind of answer he would give.

JW1: I wish I would have brought my reference study Bible.

KW: From the research I’ve seen, Yahweh is a more correct pronunciation.

My friend dug some papers and pamphlets out of his book bag. He opened up to page eight of “The Divine Name That Will Endure Forever.” This page has a list of the names of God in various languages. I remember when we looked at this list together in one of our past meetings. I brought up the same question I asked back in June.

KW: Why doesn’t this list include a Hebrew pronunciation? If we are going to be accurate, then we should go back to the original language.

JW2 looked at JW1 again for an answer. JW1 found a printed paper from which he started to read about the Tetragrammaton. As he was reading, I glanced at the sheet and saw that it was from the February 1, 1999 Watchtower on page 31. I saw something on the sheet I wanted to point out and asked to see the sheet of paper. As I was looking at the paper, JW1 said;

JW1: Many of the Hebrew names, even today, they start with the letter “J.”

KW: There is no “J” sound in the Hebrew language.

JW2 looked at JW1 for a response. There were ten full seconds of silence so I decided to read aloud the part I noticed when JW1 brought out the printed sheet of the 1999 Watchtower.

KW: “Today, most scholars seem to favor the two-syllable ‘Yahweh’.”

JW2 looked at JW1 again.

JW1: Who is to say they are not biased?

KW: Who is to say you are not biased?

JW1: It is just the most common form.

KW: In the English, but if we have to be accurate… Okay. I know the name “Jehovah” has been used for centuries. So has Yahweh and lots of other names. I don’t have a problem with that. But if I am going to follow Jesus’ example…

JW1: (Interrupting) What would you say if I asked you the name of God?

KW: It depends on what you are talking about. If I am going to speak to Him, then I am going to follow the example of Jesus and call Him “Father.” Sure it isn’t a proper name, it is a title, but my kids call me “Daddy,” so this is natural for me. I recognize the name Jehovah. I use it, my children know the name, we sing songs that includes the name. If I want to follow Jesus’ example and call Him “Father,” then I don’t understand why that isn’t acceptable to you. I am going to search through my New World Translation app, find the name “Jehovah” and see of Jesus ever address God in prayer as “Jehovah.”

JW1: I don’t think you will find an example of that ever happening.

KW: Then why make such a big deal out of using it? It is almost like an idol saying that you have to use a specific pronunciation. Again, I think God is more concerned with His reputation.

JW2 started to read something off of the Jehovah’s Witness web site. It was about the importance of using God’s “name.” JW1 added;

JW1: If scholars didn’t take God’s name out of the Bible, you might have a different opinion.

KW: I agree. I would prefer that if the Old Testament used God’s name, then it should be left in there. However, if the Greek doesn’t have God’s name in there, I think it is wrong to insert it. If Jesus wanted us to follow His example and call God “Jehovah” in prayer, then He should have included it in the prayer.

Again, I get the impression that you guys think I am against using the name “Jehovah.” I am not.  I use the name otherwise I would not teach it to my children. They know that name. I am just more concerned with His reputation and will follow the reputation of Jesus and call Him “Father.” I really don’t understand why that isn’t acceptable to you.

More silence and JW1 looked at JW2 for an answer. There was at least 30 seconds of silence this time. JW2 started reading from the Jehovah’s Witness web site again.

KW: Can I ask a question? What exactly are you trying to prove to me? I know the name, I use the name. I don’t understand why my view is not acceptable.

JW1: I am glad that you use the name. But you are saying that we are making too much of a big deal about it.

KW: God does not say, “You have to use my name all the time or I am not happy with you.”

JW1: I don’t always use His name. Sometimes I say “God.”

KW: Then we are on the same page! So I don’t understand why you are unhappy with me.

JW1 laughed at that. He started looking on his phone for some web site which supposedly explains how the original New Testament manuscripts contained the Divine name in Hebrew. All three of us were searching on our phones or iPad. We spent quite a bit of time doing that. None of us found what he was looking for. We went on to the other two summary points, but there is nothing significant to report about those two points.

JW1 started cracking jokes about random things which really changed the mood of our conversation. The three of us laughed so hard a couple of times that others in the restaurant looked our way. We ended on a friendly note, but I know they are frustrated with me. Let me correct that. I know JW1 is frustrated. I think JW2 is intrigued. The way he kept looking to JW1 for answers was almost amusing. I know he has to be thinking. I know both of them have to be thinking.

Please pray for my Jehovah’s Witness friends.

 

 

 

 

 

6 Thoughts on “Rehashing the Name of God with a Jehovah’s Witness Elder

  1. Very well done again Keith! You know ever since that long ago day when we met at Biola under much worse circumstances and you questioned me ive seen a gift in how you approach people even from that day. Effective questioning and you do it well you get people to think about what they say and I see that alot in your journeys with these Jehovah’s Witnesses. I will continue to pray for you and these men, love you brother!

    • Gus, I love you too bro! I remember that day as well. There is a lot of water under that bridge.

      Just so you know, I enjoyed your YouTube testimonial and we are going to use it at our annual Evidence Ministries Appreciation Dinner. Every year we have a dinner for our friends and supporters. It isn’t a fund raiser, just a way for us to say “Thank-you” to those who support the ministry with prayers and finances. I remember hearing your testimony awhile back, but had forgotten a lot of it. I’m sure it will make an impact on our gathering.

      God bless you and your efforts for His glory!

      For those of you who are interested in seeing Gus’ testimony, check it out here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3k1oO0JejI

  2. Jim S. on August 29, 2013 at 5:36 pm said:

    Keith, good job once again. I have had the same discussion with a few JWs about the use of God’s name, I believe your approach is the best way to handle these conversations. Instead of saying your wrong and this is why, you ask for help to understand their point of view, and EXPLAIN why your having a hard time understanding their stand.

    By the way just watched Gus’ testimony. Gave me chills, we are two peas in a pod, minus the vomit. Although I did experience much the same things. Everything changes when you call on the name of Jesus Christ.

    Our God is so awesome and amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Regarding the use of the Tetragrammaton the pronunciation was lost before Jesus was ever born. It was an capital punishment to use the ineffable name. If Jesus used the name of God they wouldn’t have understood it because by that time it had been lost, and he would have probably would have been accused of being a heretic for using it. That’s why it was probably never used. You do a great job keep up the good work.
    Jehovah is actually a combination of the word adonai (Lord) and the consonants of the Tetragrammaton. They would rather use the name Jehovah than use Yahweh which their literature has stated may be more accurate. Therefore, they take the traditions of men over using what would be more accurate.

  4. The bit about “how the original New Testament manuscripts contained the Divine name in Hebrew” probably refers back to a Watchtower article in around 1977 that cites a Journal of Biblical Literature article, referring to a manuscript find of the Septuagint that had the divine name inserted in Hebrew into the Greek text. As far as I know, there are no Greek manuscripts whatsoever that contain the Tetragrammaton. Most JWs probably wouldn’t know the difference between the Septuagint (a pre-Christian Greek translation of the OT made by Jewish scholars) and a Greek NT manuscript. They may have heard that YHWH was inserted into the Greek text and assumed that it was the text of the NT.

    I can look up the article and send you a scan if you want it.

    Another possibility is that they are thinking of the WT’s position that Matthew was originally written in Hebrew and later translated into Greek. Some scholars believe that this may be the case because of the number of Hebraic expressions that Matthew uses. Just the same, there is no textual evidence whatsoever of Matthew having been in Hebrew originally. The WTS just assumes that it’s so, and, of course, if it was written in Hebrew, it must have contained the divine name, too. One far-fetched supposition on top of another.

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