Today’s meeting was good. If you ever have a Jehovah’s Witness Elder admit to you that you have a good point… ABOUT THE DEITY OF CHRIST, you know you’ve had a good conversation. The conversation didn’t’ start off very well though so in the beginning, I was a bit worried what the rest of our conversation was going to look like.
We both arrived at the restaurant at the same time. After JW 1 and JW2 ordered something to eat, we sat in our booth and talked for nearly 40 minutes. JW1 told me about some medical issues he is having and then about some unpleasant things he has to deal with concerning his job. He hasn’t been feeling well for the last week so he was not very energetic. He wasn’t in a bad mood, but he wasn’t quite himself either.
To be honest, it was rather depressing to hear him talk about the things he is dealing with at his job and with his health. It was a gloomy, clammy sort of morning with no sun too so that surely didn’t help set the tone for our serious discussion about the Deity of Christ. As we were talking about health issues, JW1 did the same thing he did last time we met. He went from talking about stints in arteries to immediately asking;
JW1: Where did Jesus come from?
The three of us chuckled because we all knew that JW1 purposefully used an awkward segue today unlike the last time we met when he did it accidently. At least he still has his sense of humor. JW1 read paragraph 10 on page 41. The corresponding question asks, “What does the Bible teach about Jesus’ existence before he came to earth?
KW: Do you remember when we looked at Micah 5:2 last time? My translation says Jesus came from eternity, not just, “from early times.” So my answer would be that Jesus came from eternity. He is eternal.
JW1: The last sentence also says that Jesus had a special relationship with Jehovah.
KW: I don’t like that term “spirit creature” though. It seems awkward.
The last sentence in paragraph 10 read, “As a spirit creature in heaven, Jesus had a special relationship with Jehovah.”
JW2: What about “spirit being?”
KW: That would be more accurate. Have you ever seen that movie from the 50’s called, “Creature From the Black Lagoon?”
Every time I hear the word “creature” that is what I think of.
JW1: Yes, I think of touching something nasty like a mummy.
KW: Yeah, so hearing the term “spirit creature” is like a horror movie to me.
JW1 smiled and said;
JW1: Well, you are a creature, I’m sorry to say that, but you are a creature.
KW: (Laughing) Yes, but when you go to the hospital and you’ve got your nice little baby boy or baby girl in your arms, you don’t say, “Oh, this is such a cute little creature.”
All three of us laughed. JW2 added;
JW2: Oh, let me introduce you to my new little creature!
The three of us continued to laugh at the ridiculousness of that statement. If it isn’t good to describe our own children as “creatures,” then why would we describe God’s Son as a “creature?” It doesn’t sound very respectful.
JW1: The reason why the book uses the word “creature” is because He was created.
KW: Right, that is one of the things we disagree on. From my perspective, if Jesus is from eternity, then He can’t be a creature because He has always existed. He is eternal. We do agree on that though right? If Jesus was from eternity, then He would have to be eternal, right?
JW1: Let’s see what it says in other translations.
JW1 immediately got up to go to the restroom. JW2 and I talked about the JW Library app until JW1 returned. We looked up Micah 5:2 and compared the Revised New World Translation to the other translations in the JW Library app. Three of the five say, time indefinite or everlasting. Like our last meeting, I used the Hebrew tools in my Bible app to show that the word can be translated, “continual, eternal, eternity, everlasting, forever and permanent.”
JW2: You know that we believe Jesus is God’s Son and that He was created and that we don’t agree on that. You believe that Jesus was not created.
KW: Right, I am just making the argument that if Jesus came from everlasting, that He is eternal, then that would mean that He would have to be uncreated. Without agreeing on whether or not He was created, I think you can agree with my logic. If that were the case, then that is what it would have to mean.
JW2: Yes. Let’s move on to the next paragraph.
JW1 read paragraph 11 like he was practicing for a meeting. I can’t help but think that he is reading that way in order to impress the other Witnesses at the Kingdom Hall. It seems very unnatural. He even made an awkward distinction between the paragraph he was reading at a footnote included in the text. Part of the paragraph reads, “He is the ‘only-begotten Son.’ (John 3:16) This means that Jesus is the only one directly created by God.” JW1 read the question at the bottom of the page.
JW1: “How does the Bible show that Jesus is Jehovah’s most precious Son?”
KW: It does call Him the only-begotten, but it doesn’t mean directly created by God, it means unique or one of a kind.
I expected JW1 to challenge me on this, but he sat there with a stunned look on his face and said, “Okay.”
KW: I agree with the term, but not the definition.
JW1: It says He is the firstborn or all creation.
KW: Right, we’ve talked about that before. I believe the context of Colossians chapter one is referring to preeminence, having the position of preeminence and not literally the first thing created. There is a different Greek word for first created, but that is not the word used here.
I reminded JW1 of the time he brought up the story of Jacob blessing Joseph’s sons in Genesis 48:1-20. Jacob blessed the younger over the older, thus making him the firstborn in preeminence. Just as Jacob stole his older brother’s birthright, so he reverses the blessing of Joseph’s sons. God even calls Joseph’s younger son, Ephraim, His firstborn in Jeremiah 31:9.
The funny thing about this part of our conversation is that JW2 was not present the first time we talked about the term firstborn so by me reminding JW1 that he is the one who brought it up, it gave me more credibility in his eyes and probably perturbed JW1 a bit. I am pretty sure he regrets bringing up that story because it fits perfectly with the point I was trying to make in Colossians 1:15.
Once he saw that I had a good reason for my beliefs regarding the meaning of firstborn in this passage, he tried another argument.
JW1: This verse also says that He is the image of God. If that is the case, then he cannot be God.
Little did JW1 know, but I actually taught this very passage last week in our Bible study group called, “Countering the Cults with Evidence Ministries.” We meet every second and fourth Thursday nights. I used this passage as an example of how to inductively study the Bible, something Jehovah’s Witnesses have never heard of.
KW: I actually studied this passage last week. I was in a Bible study and we looked at this passage. We did a word study on the word “image” which is spelled e-i-k-o-n in the Greek. When you look at that word and try to pronounce it, what English word comes to mind?
KW: Yeah. The word image is an icon and means image, statue or representation. To think that Jesus is the icon of God, the image of God, the representation of God, that is curious to me. One of the ten commandments is not to have any graven images of God and yet Jesus is the image or icon of God. I don’t understand why God would inspire the New Testament to say that of Jesus, that He was the image or icon of God, if it is bad to have an image of God.
JW1 referred to how we as humans have the image of God within us. He also mentioned copies and how each generation of a copy loses some quality. He used that to say that Jesus is the perfect reflection of God and not a bad copy. He ended by saying;
JW1: If you are the image of something, then you cannot be the original. It is not the same.
KW: I see what you are saying and that makes sense, but I see it differently. If you had a mirror that could reflect invisible things and god were to stand in front of it, then what is the image you would see? You’d see Jesus. Why? Because He is reflection, He is the image of the invisible God. So yeah, a mirror is just a piece of glass reflecting my image, but what is standing in front of it is the actual person. So if the invisible God were to become visible, what would He look like, what would He be like? Who would He be? That is how I look at this passage. Jesus is that visible image of God.
I’m just trying to get you to understand this from my perspective. If God were to become visible, and human, then He would be Jesus. Again, if. You do not believe that “if,” but I think you would agree with the idea behind it, that if God did become a man, He’d be Jesus. I just take it a step further and believe the “if” is an actual.
JW1: Jesus said if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.
JW1: And John said that no one has ever seen the Father.
JW1: So if we are seeing Jesus, we are not really seeing the Father.
KW: Right, I’m not saying Jesus is the Father. That is part of what I believe that I don’t think you understand yet. I believe there is a distinction in the persons, but oneness of nature.
JW1: Look, I’ve done something.
He said that with such a stern face, I thought he was getting angry.
KW: Uh-oh. I’m in trouble now.
JW2 started laughing so I decided to imitate JW1’s voice and said;
KW: “You’re in trouble now, Keith. I’ve been waiting for this.”
JW1 started laughing. I sensed two different ideas from his response. The first being that he had done some homework and really was waiting for an opportune time to prove a point to me. The second idea was that he was surprised that I actually knew this and verbalized his thoughts in a funny way. He had a sheepish grin on his face like he had been caught. He placed his book bag on his lap and began digging for something. JW2 jumped in and started having fun too.
JW2: Top secret for Keith’s eyes only.
KW: Do you hear that music?
I started humming the Mission Impossible song.
KW: Dun-dun, dun-dun-dun, dun, dun-dun-dun, dun, do-do-do, do-do-do, dun-dun.
JW1 was smiling as he pulled out a number of sheets of paper. I was surprised to see that it was a graphic of the Trinity. I had drawn one for him last year and evidently he really has been doing some study. He found an image on the internet that resembled the one I had drawn for him.
KW: Yes! Yeah, this is funny. I’ve got friends who are going to make T-shirts which have an image very similar to this one. They asked me if I wanted one. I said, “Yeah, this is awesome.” This is exactly what I am talking about.
I then challenged JW1. I wanted to see if he really understood the diagram.
KW: Pretend that you believe that and explain it to me.
He sat there in silence just staring at the piece of paper. He drew a line separating the Holy Spirit from the rest of the diagram.
JW1: Let’s place the spirit aside for now and just talk about the Father and the Son.
My Witness friend wrote my name in the center and my oldest son’s name in the circle with the word “Son.” He pointed to the newly worded diagram and asked;
JW1: How can your son be you?
KW: He isn’t. This is what I mean about there being three distinct persons. Within the Godhead there are three persons or personalities. We are each one being with one personality. God is one being with three different centers of consciousness that have always existed, are equal in worth and equal in value, but different in the hierarchical structure. One person willingly submits to another just like a wife submits to her husband. I am not my son, but we are both equally human.
KW: The Father is not the Son, but they are equally Deity.
JW1: So Jesus is divine?
KW: Jesus is eternally divine in the same way that the Father is eternally divine.
JW1: Which would make Him a god.
KW: When you say “a god,” it makes it sound like there is more than one.
KW: I don’t believe there is more than one God.
JW1: Remember when I told you I think we are closer than you think we are?
KW: Yes, and I am intrigued by that.
JW1: You remember the scripture where Paul said that the husband is the head of the wife, Jesus is the head of the husband and god is the head of Christ? Those individuals are separate otherwise God could not be the head.
JW1: He has more authority, therefore Jesus could pray in the garden of Gethsemane, “Your will be done and not mine.” So God had more authority. We are talking about two personalities right here.
JW1: This is a problem with people who say Jesus is God, If that were the case, then He would be in conflict with himself.
KW: Here is the misunderstanding. I have an illustration I’d like to show you by talking about Adam and Eve, but using the text of John 1:1.
I borrowed my Jehovah’s Witness Elder friend’s pencil and wrote down the text of John 1:1 using the Revised New World Translation. I read the verse aloud.
KW: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” My translation says, “God,: not “a god,” but I think I can still make the same point. Let’s change some of these words to reflect Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden.
I struck out the words “beginning, word and God” and inserted the words, “Garden, Eve and Adam.” I read the resulting changes aloud.
KW: “In the beginning Garden was the Word Eve, and the Word Eve was with God Adam, and the Word Eve was a god Adam.” Would that confuse you?
JW1: You cannot be with a certain person and be that certain person at the same time.
KW: Exactly, but if we took into consideration that the word Adam means “Man,” then I can say that Eve was Man because she is Mankind. So if I interpret the verse this way, I am not conflicting the personalities. Basically, what I am saying is that Eve was with the person of Adam and Eve was equally Adam or equally Mankind.
My Witness friend understood the argument. It is the same case with Jesus. In the beginning He was with the person of God (the Father), and He was equally God by nature or quality.
JW1: That is only because there is more than one Man, there are two men here, but you are saying that there is only one God.
KW: One God nature, yes.
JW1: That is something the Bible does not teach.
KW: What do you mean? Are you saying you believe in more than one God?
JW1: Satan is considered a god and he is of divine origin too. He is the god of this world.
KW: I don’t believe he is a true God.
JW1: Yes, that is what we believe too. We believe that Jesus is a god, but not god the Almighty. This scenario works with Eve because there is more than one man. In the garden there were two.
KW: Yes, I understand what you are saying. My argument was not how many Gods there are, but how we can use John 1:1 to show that Eve is the same nature as Adam and not be the person Adam. So Jesus is the same nature as God, but He is not the Father.
JW1: We agree on that. Is Jesus the same nature as God? Yes, but He is not God the Almighty.
We were at an impasse again. After the last time we talked about this subject, I decided that I needed to be more explicit in my description of the nature of God. These meetings have been WONDERFUL for me in helping me refine my verbiage so that I am not misunderstood. I am learning a lot by meeting with my Witness friend.
This is about the midway point of our meeting so I’ll stop here and continue in my next post. Please pray for me Jehovah’s Witness friends.