Sunday, March 8, 2009

What to say to a Jehovah's Witness (Part 1)

By Andre Holwerda

The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society is the religious organisation that oversees the international movement known as Jehovah's Witnesses (hereafter referred to as JWs). It is one of the largest and most profitable organisations of its type in the world, with its publishing houses producing a greater number of publications per year than all the denominations of Christendom combined. If you live in a major city in almost any part of western society, you have probably experienced that familiar knock at the door on a Saturday morning from two well dressed individuals who wish to talk to you about Armageddon, the end of the present world governments and how you can survive it all and live forever in a kind of paradise on earth. In such a situation as this, many of you would no doubt be tempted to express your views to these people using the time-honoured door-slam method. I write this article to urge you to rethink that particular strategy.

When you are being visited by a pair of JWs, what you are being presented with is your own personal home mission field. You are being visited by two individuals who have been the unfortunate victims of brainwashing. They have been taught not to think independently but to depend almost exclusively on what they are being taught by the Watchtower. There are severe repercussions within the organisation for anyone who dares to entertain an independent thought. This kind of brainwashing is typical of cults and is extremely damaging to mental health. This is one of the primary reasons why instances of mental illness among cult members are statistically far more common than among the general population. It is imperative then, that we as Born Again Christians take the time to carefully witness to these folks who have been seriously deceived by this dangerous cult.

As you can probably tell from the introduction, this article is not designed to be read by Jehovah's Witnesses. Its purpose, rather, is to shed some light on what these people believe and how best to witness to them with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Firstly then, let's establish some basic ground rules that should be kept in mind whenever we are dealing with a JW.

  1. Cultists (and especially JWs) are, as I mentioned already, the victims of mind control. Therefore, much patience, self-control and tact is required when dealing with them. They simply will not understand most arguments from scripture and logic the first time you make those arguments. The importance of this point cannot be overstated.
  2. JWs are typically well-meaning and, frankly, nice people. You should adopt a similar attitude.
  3. JWs are trained by their organisation to be teachers rather than learners. They do not come to your door to have you give them a course in theology (although that is what you are subtly going to do). They come to teach YOU about THEIR version of God. So play dumb and act like you want to have them teach you.
  4. Ask questions! Use buzz words and phrases, such as: "Can you help me?", "I don't understand that. Could you explain it to me please?", "I have a problem with that. Can you give me the answer?"
  5. Pray! Pray! Pray!

If you keep these five points in mind you will find that your JW friends are more likely to come back again next time. If, instead, you just try to grill them with scripture, one of two things will happen. They may become extremely defensive and offended and will shut down mentally to everything you say and you will have ruined the opportunity. The other possibility is that you will have insufficient knowledge of scripture to deal with their arguments and you will be twisted into a doctrinal pretzel. With all of that said then, let's move on to part two of this article and discuss the beliefs of the Watchtower and how to deal with them.

When you put forward your arguments to a JW you must be sure to focus on only two major themes; the diety of Christ and His resurrection. Of all the unbiblical beliefs held by JWs, their denials of Christ's deity and his physical resurrection are the most damming. Do not allow the JW to distract you from these issues. When you start talking about these things, they WILL attempt to take you down a rabbit trail and get you talking about issues like Hell, the 144,000, corruptions in your version of the Bible and their pet favourite – The Trinity. You must not allow them this luxury but when they attempt this strategy you will simply say, "I'd love to talk to you about that but we'll have to come back to it later because right now I really need you to help me with the issue at hand."

In my experience witnessing to JWs, a very solid and dependable approach is to begin with the resurrection by stating something like this:

"Hey, I was wondering if you could help me with something. I have a problem. You see, I was speaking to another one of your people a little while ago and they said something I didn't quite understand. They said that Jesus, when he was raised from the dead, didn't actually rise in a physical body but came back as a spirit creature. Is that correct?"

The JW will emphatically answer yes and you will say:

"Well, you see now that's my problem! What if Jesus had said that he was going to come back in the same body he had before his death?"

Following this statement, the JW will virulently object, claiming that Jesus never said that. You must keep your cool and assure them that you have in fact found some place where he did say that. You will then, with head-spinning speed, turn to John 2:19-20, where we read:

Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you will raise it up in three days?"

You must get the JW to follow along with you in their Bible, which although a woefully inaccurate translation, is nevertheless quite correct in its rendering of this verse. Get them to read those two verses with you if you can and then turn to them and ask:

"Which temple was Jesus talking about?"

In my experience I have received two common answers to this question. One is "I don't know" and the other is "the temple in Jerusalem". Either of these answers will provide the perfect opportunity for you to read the very next verse, which says:

But he was speaking of the temple of his body (emphasis mine).

So there you have it. Jesus promised that he would physically raise himself from the dead. That this is speaking of his resurrection is clear from reading verse 22. It does not say he was speaking of the temple of his spirit but rather his BODY! The Greek word somatos, translated here as 'body', only ever refers to a physical form. Under no circumstances can it possibly mean a spiritual form. In this context it can only have one meaning and that meaning is 'a physical body'. You will press this point to the JW and will not leave John chapter 2 until they are prepared to admit that there is at least a chance that they might be wrong about the resurrection being spiritual. If they will not admit right there and then the possibility that they may have been mislead regarding the resurrection, you must bid them farewell and ask that they please return when they have discovered the answer to your problem. You will remind them that you would be most willing to consider joining their organisation if they could only convince you that what Jesus said about being raised physically was not in fact what occurred. This may or may not get them to return but if nothing else it will hopefully plant a seed of doubt in their mind and get them thinking independently about whether or not what they have been taught is true.

Of course, things may not always go so smoothly when witnessing to a JW. They do have a pre-programmed list of go-to texts up their sleeve that they have been trained to twist in order to provide answers to the claim that Jesus' resurrection was physical. None of their answers are any good, but they are confusing enough to stop the average Christian in their tracks. In another article I will deal specifically with these and other objections and provide tips on how to refute them. However, for now, I would like to give a couple of scripture references you can have up your sleeve that will add further weight to your side of the argument. Those references are as follows:

  • Luke 24:36-43 – In this passage Jesus appears to his disciples after his resurrection and their first reaction is to assume that they have seen a spirit. However, Jesus corrects them and says, "a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have". This statement obviously indicates that Jesus was physical and not a spirit, as the disciples had supposed. Not only that, but he also ate with the disciples. Since when does a spirit eat?
  • John 20:24-27 – In this passage Thomas, one of Jesus' disciples, states that he will not believe the reports of Christ's resurrection unless he personally sees him and touches him. In order to counteract Thomas' unbelief, Jesus does appear to Thomas eight days later and does allow him to place his fingers in his wounds. So not only was Jesus able to be touched (thereby demonstrating his physical nature) but he also still bore the wounds of his crucifixion, thus confirming that he still possessed the same body he had before his crucifixion. Verses 28-29 of John 20 will also come in very handy when we begin to deal with the issue of the deity of Christ.

To summarise then, the John 2 reference, when combined with Luke 24 and John 20, provides a cogent argument for the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ. This argument stands in stark contrast to the teaching of the Watchtower that Jesus' resurrection was only spiritual and not physical. Frankly, this argument is unanswerable from a Biblical standpoint. JWs cannot make a solid defence against it. They will, however, attempt to take certain texts out of context and twist their meanings in an attempt to confuse you enough to get you off the subject. I will deal with these attempts in my third and final article. My next article, however, will present some arguments that I recommend using to make a case for the deity of Christ. Again, remember that when talking to a JW the two issues of greatest concern are the resurrection of Christ and the deity of Christ. All other issues are peripheral and should be treated as such. In fact, it may be best to avoid them altogether if at all possible.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Read Part 2 >


  1. What to say to a Jehovah's Witness:

    I would like a Bible study.

    That is much simpler than the 1858 words printed in the article to the left.

  2. The WTBTS is not the religious organization that oversees Jehovah's Witnesses. IT is the printing company and legal offices used by Jehovah's Witnesses.

    Let's hope that it is large and profitable. No one wants to be small or take a loss.

    "There are severe repercussions within the organisation for anyone who dares to entertain an independent thought"

    That is totally not true. I have independent thought and no problems.

    There is no mind control in JWs.

    But there should be as people's minds do need controlling because many people, non-Jws and JWs are not doing the right things.

  3. #Thedude Does not the organization warn against independent thinking?

  4. It's true spiritualbrother, the Watchtower says you cannot interpret the Bible without them telling you what it means:

    * "All who want to understand the Bible should appreciate that the "greatly diversified wisdom of God" can become known only through Jehovah's channel of communication, the faithful and discreet slave," (Watchtower, Oct. 1, 1994, p. 8).

    * "Thus the Bible is an organizational book and belongs to the Christian congregation as an organization, not to individuals, regardless of how sincerely they may believe that they can interpret the Bible," (Watchtower, Oct. 1, 1967, p. 587).

    * "Only this organization functions for Jehovah's purpose and to his praise. To it alone God's Sacred Word, the Bible, is not a sealed book," (Watchtower, July 1, 1973, p. 402).

    * "From time to time, there have arisen from among the ranks of Jehovah's people those, who, like the original Satan, have adopted an independent, faultfinding attitude...They say that it is sufficient to read the Bible exclusively, either alone or in small groups at home. But, strangely, through such 'Bible reading,' they have reverted right back to the apostate doctrines that commentaries by Christendom's clergy were teaching 100 years ago..." (Watchtower, Aug. 15, 1981).

    All that is a true sign of a cult...

  5. Hi thedude, I appreciate your comments.

    Certainly it is a fine strategy for those who wish to influence JWs to arrange a Bible study with them. However, this could be detrimental if the person is not well-equipped to handle JW arguments. Hence, my reason for writing the article.

    As Ryan has already pointed out, the Watchtower does indeed consider itself not only to be a religious organization but to be the only such organization capable of correctly interpreting the Bible. If that is the case, then an individual student of the Bible cannot understand it correctly without knowing the organization's interpretation. I ask you, is that not similar to the Roman Catholic belief that Church tradition and the words of the Popes are the only true interpreters of scripture?

    Also thedude, I know a number of ex-JWs who had their very lives threatened for opposing doctrines taught by the Watchtower.

    Those points aside, I fear you have missed the whole point of the article. My central focus was on the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and whether it was physical or merely spiritual. Can you answer my Biblical arguments with Biblical refutations of your own? Remember, if the resurrection of Jesus WAS physical and you don't believe that then 'your faith is in vain and you are still in your sins' (1 Corinthians 15:17). Having the correct belief in the resurrection is a pre-requisite for salvation (Romans 10:9). So this is not a small issue thedude. It is literally a matter of life and death. For that reason, you owe it to yourself to prove me wrong.

    I whole-heartedly welcome your response as a fellow seeker of truth. I only ask that you do not merely REJECT (dismiss out of hand) my arguments but weigh up the evidence for yourself and attempt to REFUTE them (prove them wrong using scripture). What I said in the article about being willing to become a JW if I am proven wrong was no lie. If you can convince me from scripture that I have erred, then I will leave my current Church and join a Kingdom Hall.

  6. If independent thinking produces good results, then it is a good things. The end results justifies the means.

    But ones like apostates do independent thinking that produces bad results.

  7. Has ones not JWs been able to understand the Bible?

    I don't think so.

    You can quote what you want Ryan,
    but you don't understand what you are reading in the Bible or the Watchtower.

    Your motives and purpose are not right.

  8. Andre:

    "If that is the case, then an individual student of the Bible cannot understand it correctly without knowing the organization's interpretation."

    I ask you, are there ones who understand the Bible apart from Jehovah's Witnesses? I don't think so.

    " I ask you, is that not similar to the Roman Catholic belief that Church tradition and the words of the Popes are the only true interpreters of scripture?"

    The pope and Catholics know nothing and care nothing about scripture.

    "I know a number of ex-JWs who had their very lives threatened for opposing doctrines taught by the Watchtower."

    Yeah, right. I suppose that they are afraid of little green men also.

    Why would one want to oppose the doctrines of the Watchtower anyway?

    "My central focus was on the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth and whether it was physical or merely spiritual."

    Does it matter? I don't think so.

    He was dead, not God. Jehovah God resurrected him. But since he ascended to heaven, a physical body can not do that.

    "Remember, if the resurrection of Jesus WAS physical and you don't believe that then 'your faith is in vain and you are still in your sins' (1 Corinthians 15:17)."

    Not true. That scripture is not about any physical vs spirit resurrection.

    Remember that if Jesus took back his fleshly body, then he took back his sacrifice.

    "Having the correct belief in the resurrection is a pre-requisite for salvation (Romans 10:9). "

    but it is not a physical vs spirit question.

    It is not about joining a Kingdom Hall. JWs are not about joining. It is about serving Jehovah God with the whole heart, soul, body, strength, through Jesus.

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  10. Hi thedude,

    Apologies for the late response. I did respond originally a few nights ago but have since deleted that response as I do not feel that some of the things I said were entirely appropriate or even necessary. In that response I answered each of your comments point-by-point. However, I now realise that many of your responses do not require answers, as they are really just statements of opinion. For that reason, I will answer only the three comments that I feel are pertinent to the conversation at hand. One is the remark you made about the resurrection not being a matter of whether it was physical or spiritual, another was about a human body not being able to enter Heaven and the other one was about Jesus 'taking back' his sacrifice.

    With regard to the second of these, I challenge you to show me a single place in scripture where it says that an immortal, incorruptible body, like the one I believe Jesus has, cannot enter Heaven. I am not talking about just any old sinful, cursed human body here but about a glorified and imperishable one. Can that type of perfect body enter Heaven ACCORDING TO SCRIPTURE?

    Now, concerning the last of those remarks I said I would respond to, I also challenge you to show me a single place in scripture where it says that if a sacrifice is offered to God and God chooses, of His own good pleasure, to return that sacrifice, that the sacrifice is therefore not valid. I am of the opinion that you have simply plucked that argument out of thin air and that there is absolutely no Biblical precedent for it. Are you able to demonstrate otherwise?

    Finally I come to the first of your remarks that I mentioned at the beginning, namely your remark that it is not an issue whether the resurrection was physical or spiritual. Contrary to your statements, it is an issue of the utmost importance. You see, IF the resurrection was an event in which Jesus body physically rose from the dead then that defines for us what we mean when we say 'the resurrection of Jesus'. Therefore, if Paul, when he talks about the resurrection, is referring to a bodily raising from the dead, then not to believe in Jesus bodily resurrection is not to believe in the resurrection AT ALL! If Jesus was raised physically, then to believe in something other than a physical resurrection is to believe in something altogether different than the resurrection.

    So if the resurrection is defined as 'Jesus rising physically from the dead' but you do not believe this then you do not truly believe in the resurrection and, according to Romans 10:9, you are as yet unsaved and will receive God's wrath unless you repent of your unbelief and believe in the bodily resurrection.

    This really all comes back to my original post. Jesus, in John 2:19-22, defined for us what the resurrection was. He said that He would raise up 'His BODY', not his spirit. Also, in Luke 24:36-43, He confirmed for His disciples that He was NOT a spirit, by saying, 'a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I HAVE.'

    thedude, these are the scriptures you need to deal with, for they teach an entirely different resurrection to the one you believe in. And since you do not believe in the resurrection the way the Bible defines it, you therefore do not believe in the resurrection. This puts you in danger of being shut out of the Kingdom of God, according to Romans 10:9 and 1 Corinthians 15:17.

    I hope you will think about what I'm saying and know that we care about you and that Jesus cares and wants to see you come directly to HIM for salvation (please read Matthew 11:28, John 14:6, John 5:39-40). He is a loving saviour and He wants you to become a child whose sins He will forgive completely (past, present and future) as well as someone He will love and have a truly close relationship with and through Him you can also have this relationship with the Father. You can't be saved by trusting in the name of Jehovah for that is not the name whereby people are saved, Jesus is (Acts 4:11-12). And you must come to Jesus for salvation (John 5:39-40) and no one else. If you go straight to Jehovah or an organisation that claims to represent Jehovah, you will not be saved. Only Jesus can save you and give you eternal life. He is the one you must go to.

  11. Dealing with JW's is more difficult than you make it seem. Their "bible" changes. I live in south Florida, so there are English, Spanish and French/Haitian Creole versions circulating side-by-side and they do not read the same.

    The French version I had translated John 1 same as the KJV except it lowercased "God" and said Jesus was "a god" The English version of that verse was literally gibberish (not even proper English/made no sense).
    When I asked about the lower case and denial of Jesus divinity, I was told that the Watchtower version was correct and the KJV was wrong and that the JW's had smarter translators than everyone else.

    Now when they come to my door I just tell them that Jesus is GOD and THE SON OF GOD and they are damned for denying it and to get out of my sight. There is nothing to discuss with someone who thinks they are smarter than everyone else. I'm Baptist, not Roman Catholic and do not agree with RC practices, but I do not dispute the translation skills of their scholars.

  12. JWs do not deny the divinity of Christ. We just deny that he is God.

    Divinity does not mean God.

    David said:
    "Now when they come to my door I just tell them that Jesus is GOD and THE SON OF GOD and they are damned for denying it and to get out of my sight."

    Wow, that is really a good witness. Not.

    Your statement makes no sense.

  13. JOH 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

    JOH 1:2 The same was in the beginning with God.

    JOH 1:3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

    JOH 1:4 In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.

    JOH 1:5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

    That's what it says. The Watchtower Bible is the work of Satan and those who follow it do the work of Satan.

    God is Spirit. Both the Father and the Son are the same Spirit. One sits on the Throne in Heaven and one sits at His right hand.

  14. You base your theology on the English rendering of John's writings?

    I base mine first on that from Jehovah God himself.

    He said from heaven that Jesus is his beloved son.

    And second from Jesus.

    Jesus said that he is the son of God.

    John 1:1 is way down there as that is neither the words of Jesus nor Jehovah.

  15. JOH 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.

    JOH 14:2 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.

    JOH 14:3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
    JOH 14:4 And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know.

    JOH 14:5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?

    JOH 14:6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

    JOH 14:7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also :and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.

    JOH 14:8 Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.

    JOH 14:9 Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father ; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?

    JOH 14:10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

    JOH 14:11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.

    John knew Jesus personally. I accept his testimony as valid. Jesus confirmed John's statements about His being one with the Father. I accept Jesus testimony also.

  16. You may believe whatever you want and I would never ask you or anyone to answer to me for his or her religious beliefs. I would simply point out one thing. Why do Born Again Christians feel the need to invalidate Jehovah's Witnesses? JWs don’t go around saying “Here’s why Born Again Christians are wrong.” Many people feel the need to show why JWs are supposedly wrong. I find that very telling, especially since I can't picture Christ feeling the need to single out one religion as wrong and doing it in this way. In fact, Jesus himself was teaching the truth, yet most people ended up hating him and picking on him, and eventually he was killed for spreading the truth, right? As it has virtually always been the case that when one spreads the truth about God, he or she often finds themself the object of derision. Do you post blogs about Mormons? Lutherans? Jews? Moslems? Baptists? All are prominent in the United States, yet you single out Jehovah's Witnesses. Why is that?

    Plus, you advocate for people to "play dumb" when JWs come to their door; however, JWs would never tell anyone to do that as it is tantamount to telling people to be untruthful, is it not? And finally just one thought. I understand both sides of the issue as to whether Christ was God or just the Son of God, and I agree that anyone can use scriptural wording or different Bible versions to prove either belief. However, to me the reason I believe that Jesus was not God himself, and was simply God’s son, is because in taking the entire Bible into consideration, especially the New Testament, I can only conclude that Jesus in no way considered himself God. Jesus always talked about doing his father's will, and clearly did not view himself as God nor did he talk as though he were God himself, but kept giving glory to God. In fact, even toward the end of Jesus’ earthly life he prayed to God asking that God intervene so that he (Jesus) would not have to go through what was about to come upon him. Jesus prayed to God Almighty at Luke 22:42 "Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."--KJ Version. Clearly Jesus did not think he was God. I thank everyone for reading this, and in true Christian spirit I wish all the best in discovering the truth. Best and warmest wishes to everyone.

  17. Goodnesss,

    You are so right.

    Jesus did not speak against a particular religion. He preached the kingdom.

    That is why apologetics have it wrong. They just attack those whom they do not like, but they fail to preach what Christ taught.

  18. Jesus Said, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show [it] unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show [it] unto you." (John 16:12-15)

    You see there were things Jesus wanted to tell the apostles before his death but they were not yet prepared for what he had to say. So after his ascension, he sent the Holy Spirit to take Jesus' own words and pass them on to his apostles. From this we can conclude that EVERY SINGLE WORD of the New Testament comes straight from Jesus. Therefore, whatever the apostles say in their epistles about Jesus is absolutely true and to deny it is heresy. Therefore, thedude, you make a grave error when you assert that John 1 is not the words of Jesus. Jesus said he would give his own words to John. So who is right, you or Jesus?

    Moreover, if everything the apostles wrote is straight from Jesus, then so were the words of Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16a, which says, "All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God". So then, according to the words of Jesus given through Paul, EVERY SINGLE WORD of scripture comes straight from Jehovah God. So you err even more greatly when you say that John 1 is not the word of Jehovah. ALL scripture is the word of Jehovah!

    As for whether or not Jesus spoke against any other religion, he emphatically did. He denounced the hypocritical religion of the pharisees and certainly had no love for the practices of the pagans. Also, since the words of the apostles ARE straight from Jesus, he therefore also spoke out against the idols of Rome in Acts and Romans 1, against apostate religious leaders in Jude and 2 Peter, against uniformitarianism (i.e. atheists) in 2 Peter 3 and against the pagan religious harlot of Revelation 17. By asserting in John 14:6 that he is "the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me", Jesus also countered the religious claims of every religion, cult and ism imaginable because they do not have him as their only way of salvation.

    Therefore, since there is only one way of salvation, and that way is through Jesus Christ, we would be doing a terrible disservice to people of other faiths if we did not point that fact out. That is why we spend time on this site refuting the claims of many religions and belief systems, of which Jehovah's Witnesses are but one.

    That leads to the very important topic of who Jesus is. We need to have a correct understanding of who he is in order to be saved because Jehovah said through the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:4 that there is "another Jesus..another Spirit..another gospel". So we need to make sure we are believing in the right Jesus.

    If as you claim, Goodness Toward All, Jesus never considered himself to be God you must explain something to me. In John 8:58 Jesus said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am." He did not say, as the NWT translates it, "I have been" but rather he said "I am". He was reaching back into the Greek septuagint translation of Exodus 3:14 and claiming that he himself was the great I AM! That is why, in the very next verse, the Jews were going to stone him to death. They understood that he was claiming to be God.

    Now the translation "I have been" is shown to be incorrect on three seperate grounds. Firstly, it is inconsistent with the previous verses because the EXACT SAME phrase ('ego eimi') appears in verses 18 and 24 of chapter 8 and is translated both times 'I am'. Why then would the EXACT SAME PHRASE not be rendered 'I am' in John 8:58? Secondly, if you wanted to say 'I have been' in Greek you would not say 'ego eimi', you would say 'me ginomai'. Those two phrases aren't even remotely similar. How could the Watchtower possibly get them confused? Lastly, the Kingdom Interlinear Translation, which is a Watchtower publication, renders this verse, "before Abraham was, I am". So in the Watchtower's own Greek interlinear, they properly translate it 'I am'.

    So, Goodness Toward All, you must explain to me how it could possibly be true that Jesus did not claim to be God when it is plain from John 8:58 that he did!

    Remember, Jesus warned that many would come in his name, saying, "I am the Christ" and would lead many astray (Matthew 24:5). Also, we saw from 2 Corinthians 11:4 that it is possible to be deceived by a false version of Jesus. Therefore, if Jesus is actually God, then you are being deceived and led astray. Therfore, consider carefully what Jesus said in John 8:24: "...if you do not believe that I AM, you shall die in your sins."

    Love the Bible more than your own beliefs!

  19. Hi Andre, your reply was very interesting. As I understand it you have one main question you would like me to answer, which is "Did Jesus claim to be God Almighty at John 8:58?"

    So using the King James version, which I am guessing you prefer I use (if not please tell me which version you would like me to use and I will), and there it reads: "Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am." This is rather simple to answer, is it not? Jesus was simply saying that before Abraham existed, Jesus himself existed; and that's true, Jesus Christ (the Son of God) was created by God Almighty long before Abraham was born/existed. So may I ask (and I assure you I am not saying this sarcastically) but Andre if I am missing something from your comment/question please let me know.

    So Jesus was simply saying, "Before Abraham was created I was around/created." Thus, that scripture neither proves nor disproves that Jesus was or was not the father/Almighty God.

    Regards Andre.

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  21. Goodness Toward All,

    Thank you for your courteous and honest reply. I will attempt to respond in kind.

    As I pointed out in my previous post, the Greek wording Jesus used in John 8:58 was not at all what you would expect if the only point he was trying to make was that he was around before Abraham. If I were to say to you, "before your father was, I existed" you would naturally assume that I was suggesting that I am older than your dad. But if instead I were to say, "before your father was, I am" you would immediately correct me on my poor grammar. So, either Jesus was gramatically inept or he was making a different point.

    Now to show what point he was making, all we need to do is read the very next verse because, while the meaning of verse 58 may have been lost on you and I, it was crystal clear to the Jews in Jesus time. In the Law of Moses there was no punishment specified for claiming to have existed before another person but there was a punishment specified for blasphemy; namely, death by stoning (Leviticus 24:16). In claiming God's memorial name (The I AM of Exodus 3:14) for himself, Jesus was, in the eyes of the people, committing blasphemy. That is why the people picked up stones to throw at him in verse 59. The Jews did not stone people for claiming to be ancient (although they may have considered such a person to be insane) but they did stone people for claiming to be God. So the response of the people in verse 59 to what Jesus said in verse 58, tells us what Jesus' point was. He was claiming to be God and they knew it!

    This was not the first time the Jews tried to kill him. If we go back to chapter 5 we will see them trying to kill him again but this time the reason is given. Verses 16-18 read: "And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself EQUAL WITH GOD." So, according to chapter 5, the reason the Jews were seeking to kill Jesus was because he claimed to be the Son of God and in claiming to be the Son he necessarily claimed absolute equality with God. This fact has been lost on modern people because we have a different idea of what it means to be a son but in ancient times a Son was considered to be equal both in status and in nature with his father. Neither one was inferior to the other. So when Jesus claimed to be the Son of God he was also claiming to be God.

    This is a very important concept, so let's see what Isaiah said it meant for someone to be the Son of God. Jehovah himself said, speaking through Isaiah, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, THE MIGHTY GOD, The father of eternity, The Prince of Peace." Isaiah prophesied that God would give a son to his people and this son would be called 'the mighty God' and 'the father of eternity'. That is why the Jews knew that claiming to be the Son of God was the same as claiming to be God because Isaiah said the Son IS god.

    That is perhaps slightly off the original subject but not by much. Very few people realise that there is no significant difference between calling yourself the Son of God and calling yourself God. It is also for this reason that the author of Hebrews quoted God the Father as saying, "But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O GOD, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom." That's really the ultimate authority on who Jesus is. God the Father himself said that Jesus is God!

    Once again I thank you for your kind and gracious reply and I look forward to the continuation of this discussion.

  22. "That is why we spend time on this site refuting the claims of many religions and belief systems, of which Jehovah's Witnesses are but one."

    The problem is that you do not know belief system of Jehovah's Witnesses.

    Apologetics fail in that aspect.

    And Jesus did not say "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.""

    That is what the English translators mistranslated. He did not say "I am" He said Ego Eimi.

    "claiming that he himself was the great I AM!"

    But there was no "Great I AM". That is a false rendering. The Hebrew says "Ho On". That mean 'The one' or 'the being'

    Jesus made no connection.

    Why do you follow men and this commonly wrong understanding?

    And why do you, like others have, defaulted with the 'why did they stone him after that' conclusion?

    Their conclusion is not a fact about who Jesus was. What they understood did not make or mean Jesus was God.

    "Now the translation "I have been" is shown to be incorrect on three seperate grounds."

    That does not matter. The issue is not one translation vs another. It is that there is no connection in the Greek or Hebrew between John 8:58 and Exodus 3:14.

    But 'I have been' is correct in that Jesus was talking about being alive when Abraham was alive. That is the past tense. So why would he say something in the present tense? He was talk in the past tense.

  23. ...there is no connection in the Greek or Hebrew between John 8:58 and Exodus 3:14.

    But 'I have been' is correct in that Jesus was talking about being alive when Abraham was alive. That is the past tense. So why would he say something in the present tense? He was talk in the past tense.
    I want to add a few points to Andre's comments, I have to be quick on this one - traveling sorry so cannot say more.

    Verse 3 of John chp 1 clears up weather the bible teaches the mere pre-existance of Jesus in the later passages of John or if it is really refering to His Godhead.

    "All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made."

    If he made all things then he cannot be made himself. Also I would add to this that John the baptist was the voice in the wilderness preparing the way of the LORD (Yehovah/Yahweh) and also the fact that the Jews would have commonly been reading the greek translation of the OT and thus the use of ego eimi is a literal rendering of the name of God in the exodus.

    It is wonderful to see evangelicals and witnesses discussing civilly and courtiously. God Bless you all.

  24. Hi thedude,

    I could give a word-by-word exposition of Exodus 3:14 in both the Hebrew and the Greek. However, that wouldn't achieve much, as neither of us are Greek or Hebrew scholars. Now, my Hebrew isn't as sharp as my Greek but it suffices to point out that in the Hebrew the verb 'to be' (aeie - pronounced 'hayah') appears twice to form the name of God and it is rightly translated 'I am who I am'. In the septuagint, this repetition of THE SAME Hebrew word is translated by two Greek terms; 'ego eimi' and 'ho on'. Both refer to the quality of God's existence or being. One means 'I am' and the other means 'the one who is'. However, each of these translates the same Hebrew word. Therefore, either one is a correct Greek translation of the Hebrew name of God in Exodus 3:14. So, it is valid to propose a link between Exodus 3:14 and John 8:58, whether you are using the Hebrew Old Testament or the Greek.

    Regarding the tense of 'ego eimi' in John 8:58, it does not matter one iota what tense you think Jesus SHOULD have used. The real question is what tense DID he use? The fact of the matter is that 'ego eimi' is in the present tense and no matter how much you would like it to be in the past tense it simply isn't. The Watchtower is aware of this fact and tries to cover it up. That is why, in the 1951 edition of the New Word Translation, the translators placed a note in the margin that tries to justify their translation of 'ego eimi' by claiming that it is in the perfect indefinite tense. They removed that particular note when it was pointed out to them by Greek scholars that their is NO SUCH THING as the perfect indefinite tense in Greek. So the Watchtower told an outright lie by inventing a non-existent tense to justify their mistranslation of 'ego eimi'.

    Now, at the same time as Jesus was identifying himself as the I am, he was also asserting something about his pre-existence but what he was asserting was not merely that he was around before Abraham but that in fact he has always been around; he is eternal and never had a beginning.

    Justification is found for this idea in the prophecy of Micah 5:2, where we read: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” Now, that this is speaking of Jesus is without question, as it was applied to him in Matthew 2:6. Notice it says that Jesus has been going forth from EVERLASTING! In other words, he has ALWAYS EXISTED. That places him in the category of uncreated being and if he is uncreated then he is God. Now you can disagree with that if you want to but that is what the word of God plainly says; that Jesus Christ is eternal and never had a beginning.

    All that said, thedude, I would be very interested to hear your response to my previous post, which had to do with John 5.

    Thank you for your post. It was interesting and thought-provoking and I look forward to more of the same from you.

  25. David

    "If he made all things then he cannot be made himself."

    That does not make Jesus God or not created.

    1 Cor 15:27 kjv "For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under [him, it is] manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him."

    This was referring to God putting all things under Jesus. But Paul specifically stated that God is excluded from that all. So ALL does not mean ALL.

    "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. "

    So it can be said that he was excluded from that 'all things'.

    As for John the Baptizer, Luke 1:76 "And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; "

    John was a prophet of Jehovah, the highest. Yes, he went to prepare the way of Jehovah. Jesus is the way of Jehovah.

    Zechariah did not think that the fetus in Mary was Jehovah for he said in 1:68 "Blessed [be] the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, "

    Who was that 'Lord God of Israel'?

    Same one that Psalms 41:13 ASV says "Blessed be Jehovah, the God of Israel, From everlasting and to everlasting. Amen, and Amen."

    The God of Israel was Jehovah, not Jesus. Jesus was unknown until his baptism.

    Thus Isaiah and then Zechariah could not say that John was to prepare the way for Jesus because he was unknown. So they stated what they knew, he was to prepare the way (Jesus was the way) for Jehovah, or the way to Jehovah.

  26. You say that the Jews read John 8:58 from the Septuagint, but that proves nothing.

    The septuatgint said "Ego Eimi Ho On".

    That means "I am the one" or "I am the being".

    Ego eimi is not a used as a name there.

  27. Andre

    "but said also that God was his Father, making himself EQUAL WITH GOD."

    How can saying someone was your father make you equal to that one?

    The Jews were wrong and did wrong things so they are not the ones to base one's beliefs on.

    If Jesus were equal to God, then he would be considered God's brother not son.

  28. Actually thedude, it was not the Jews who made this statement in John 5. If you read it very carefully you will discover that it was John himself who made this comment, not the Jews. So John said that by claiming to be God's Son, Jesus was claiming to be equal with God. Since it was John who said it, it becomes extremely important because you will remember from John 16:12-15 that Jesus said that he would give to his disciples the truth about himself after he had gone. So in John 5, we have Jesus, speaking through John, saying that by claiming to be the Son of God, he was making himself equal with God.

    Now, as for the argument about equality with God making Jesus his brother and not his son, this is simply not logical. We are not talking about equality of position here, we are talking about equality of nature. It is even recorded in Luke 2:51 that Jesus was subject to Mary and Joseph but this does not mean that he was inferior to them. I am sure you would admit that Jesus was the son of Mary and the legal son of Jospeh but I am also sure that you would be the last to suggest that Jesus was by nature inferior to them.

    Now, let me probe a little deeper and let's think logically about what makes a son a son. When someone conceives (or begets) a son, he does not CREATE him. It is not as though a person decides one day to make a son, like one would make a robot. No, a son is necessarily not created by his father. A son also shares the same basic nature as his father. By that I mean that a human father begets a human son, a dog father begets a dog son etc. They share the same basic substance. Likewise, if God begets a son, then He begets one who is by nature God. He must beget a being with the same basic nature as Himself, or else he has not begotten a son. Now if the son has the same basic nature and substance then the son must also share the characteristics that make God God. So logically, if Jesus is the Son of God, then he is uncreated, since that is one of the primary characteristics of God.

    What I am trying to point out here is that it is profoundly logical to assert that a son is equal to his father in nature but not in rank. If I were not equal to my father in nature, then I would not be a human being!

    All that said, however, my argument on the basis of John 5 stands because it was John's comment and not the Jews' that pointed out that Jesus was equal with God. You can claim that that's not logical until you're blue in the face but the fact remains that it's what the Bible says.

  29. One further comment in closing. It may be that John 8:58 is too technical for either of us to fully grasp, as neither of us are Greek or Hebrew scholars. So, it is probably best to leave that one out of the picture for now.

    What I would find interesting, however, is to get you to respond to the two Old Testament references that I quoted in my previous posts as well as one other. Here they are in full:

    "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14, quoted by Matthew and applied to Jesus in Matthew 1:23, where it is pointed out that Immanuel means 'God with us').

    "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting." (Micah 5:2, quoted by Matthew and applied to Jesus in Matthew 2:6. Here, then, it is clearly pointed out that Jesus' origin is from everlasting, or in other words, from eternity)

    "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6. This is the most explicit of the three and clearly points out that this son who is to be given, will be "the Mighty God" and "The Everlasting Father", which is better translated "Father of Eternity")

    I would press you then, to explain how it could possibly be that these verses do not foresee the absolute deity of the coming Messiah. Bear in mind that there is no doubt that these are speaking of Jesus because he himself said: "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." (Luke 24:25-27). And he also said: "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." (John 5:39)

    So, in answering the three Old Testament references I just quoted, remember that Jesus said that everything the prophets wrote and indeed everything in the scriptures was written ABOUT HIM!

    Now sadly, I have much study to do for my university exams, so I will not be able to respond again to you for at least a week. However, I look forward to being able to.

  30. The problem with believing that Jesus is God from controversial scriptures in the new testament - Controversy from translation or from the writers' viewpoint, is that you have to look at that which is higher that is not controversial.

    Deut 18:18 "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him."

    From Moses on they looked for this prophet, until

    John 1:45 "Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."

    It is universally and without controversy that Jesus is that prophet of Deut 18:18.

    But what is a prophet?

    Eaton's Bible dictionary said about prophet"Thus a prophet was a spokesman for God; he spake in God's name and by his authority"

    Since Jesus was the prophet of God, Jehovah God, like but greater than Moses was a prophet of Jehovah God, how can Jesus be Jehovah God.

    One can not be a prophet of Jehovah and be Jehovah.

  31. I agree with thedude.

    Without taking a certain scripture or trying to interpret ancient texts or words, which God never expected everyday people to have to do to understand his word, to me, in my humble opinion and nothing more, Jesus was the son of God and not God because Jesus continually spoke of his father as something separate and greater than himself (as something greater than Jesus). Jesus prayed to God and talked about doing his father's will. If Jesus were God he would not pray to himself nor talk about doing his father's will. If a person, say Jane Doe, wanted to go to Hawaii for a vacation, would she say to herself "Oh please jane let me go to Hawaii, but don't let me go if it's not your desire." That would be contradictory and not make much sense.

    And to answer your earlier question that you put to me about Jesus saying "before Abraham, I was/am," in John 8:58, consider this: go back to the beginning of chapter 8 and read the chapter up till that point and you will see at John 8:14-16 that Jesus was talking to them about his purpose and they were challenging him. He said that that his father sent him forth and that he was not speaking on his own behalf. Then alter at verses 57-58-59 they say 'how can you have been around for so long you're not even 50 years old," to which he said he has been around since before Abraham. They went to stone him, not because he was claiming to be that old, but because they understood that if he really was around then, then he was claiming to be something special sent from God, and they did not want to hear his message because he was a threat to their power. Thanks and sorry it took me so long to reply.


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