So what scripture(s) do we turn to in order to prove that the Bible does indeed teach the deity of Christ? There are plenty of Old Testament passages alluding to the Messiah actually being the LORD. In fact we all know the New Testament often speaks of Jesus in ways that is only spoken in regards to God. What I have found is that often the passages used by the cults to teach their doctrines actually teach the exact opposite of what they are espousing. Secondly, it is always better to have one great argument than four mediocre ones. Therefore, let us stick with John 1:1
According to the New World Translation (NWT), which is the official JW Bible, John 1:1 is quite different than all other modern translations. Let us compare.
NWT, JW Bible--In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god
NASB--In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
NIV--In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
NET--In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God.
NLT--In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.
KJV--In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
ESV--In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
So what does this mean? Basically all English translations are trying to say the same thing;
- The Word was in the beginning
- The Word was with God (Yahweh/Jehovah)
- The Word was God, aka deity
- "The obvious conclusion is, therefore, that Satan is the originator of the Trinity doctrine." (Let God Be True, pg. 101)
- "The Trinity doctrine was not conceived by Jesus or the early Christians" (Let God Be True, pg. 111)
- "Sincere persons who want to know the true God and serve Him find it a bit difficult to love and worship a complicated, freakish-looking, three-headed God" (Let God Be True, pg. 102)
So the natural question becomes, "Who is right?" It is important to keep a few things in mind before we jump into the Greek grammar.
- There was not a Greek scholar involved in translating the NWT (JW Bible).
- Charles Russell, the founder of the JW church, once sued Rev. Ross who published a tract criticizing Russell. In court while Russell was being examined he was caught in a lie. At first he said he knew Greek but when asked to recite the Greek alphabet he finally admitted he didn't know Greek. (The King v. John Jacob Ross, cross-examination by King's Counselor George Lynch-Staunton, March 17, 1913, section II, p. 4)
- The Greek grammar is John is not complex and that is why virtually all English Translations are the same.
- The JW Bible is not even consistent in how they translate (more on this below).
Now it is time to jump into the Greek. Even if you don't know one Greek letter I think this is simple enough for you to follow. Here is John 1:1 in the Greek
εν αρχη ην ο λογος και ο λογος ην προς τον θεον και θεος ην ο λογος
The words in question are underlined above. A word-for-word translation would read "God was The Word".
- θεος = God
- ην is the verb "was"
- ο is the article "the"
- λογος = Word
The contention by the JW is that θεος (God) does not have the article (ο) before it and should therefore be rendered "a god". Why do all English translation make θεος (God) definite by adding the article (the) before it? They do this because Greek grammar requires it. Greek grammar does not function exactly like English grammar. If you aren't a grammar person don't worry I will try to make this as simple as possible. There are two Greek rules we need to tackle:
- Nominative vs. Predicate Nominative
- Colwell's Rule
First, the nominative vs. predicate nominative. In English we find the subject by pointing to that noun or pronoun that comes before the verb. That is, unless Yoda is speaking. But in Greek we point to the word that is in the nominative case. If you don't know what that means don't worry about it for it doesn't matter. You can still understand what I am saying. So let us look at the end of John 1:1 again in the Greek.
θεος ην ο λογος
Both θεος and λογος are in the nominative. So how do you tell which one is the predicate and which one is the predicate nominative. By the way, a predicate nominative simply completes a linking verb and renames the subject. For example in the sentence, Charlie is my son. Charlie is the subject and "son" is the predicate nominative. Back to the Greek. How do we tell how to structure the sentence? The rule is that the nominative with the article is the subject and the one without the article is the predicative nominative. Hence the translations, "The Word was God" and not "God was the Word".
Second, In Greek there is something known as The Colwell Rule. I will state it for those who know Greek and then I will clarify it for those who don't. It states this:
Definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article...a predicate nominative which precedes the very cannot be translated as an indefinite or a 'qualitative' noun solely because of the absence of the article; if the context suggests that the predicate is definite, it should be translated as a definite noun..."
That was a mouthful but here is what it essentially means. Essentially it deals with predicate nominatives that come before the verb "is" and do not have an article. This is exactly the situation we have in John 1:1. θεος (God) is a predicate nominative, comes before the verb "is" (ην) and does not have an article. Colwell's Rule states that a predicate nominative that comes before a verb and doesn't have the article will be
- Normally Qualitative
- Sometimes Definite
- Rarely if ever indefinite.
Therefore, a huge burden falls on the JW church to show that John 1:1 should exist in the rare category of indefinite. So we should look at the context.
First, The context is clear that Word exhibits qualities of deity.
- He creates all things (1:2)
- He inherently possesses life (1:4)
- He has the glory of the Father (1:14)
- He perfectly represents the Father (1:18).
Second, the JW church cannot even consistently apply their rule. They state that since θεος doesn't have an article it should be indefinite. Well look a the rest of John 1 to see their inconsistency.
- 1:6 John the Baptist was sent by God the Father. "God" doesn't have an article yet is clearly speaking about the Father. The NWT capitalizes "God"
- 1:12 We are children of the Father. "God" doesn't have an article yet is clearly speaking about the Father. The NWT capitalizes "God"
- 1:13 We are born of God. "God" doesn't have an article yet is clearly speaking about the Father. The NWT capitalizes "God"
- 1:18 Nobody has seen God the Father. "God" doesn't have an article yet is clearly speaking about the Father. The NWT capitalizes "God"
In conclusion we can say this:
- The JW translation goes against all major English translations so the burden of proof is on them
- The JW church didn't have a Greek scholar to help them translate
- The JW founder, Charles Russell, lied about knowing Greek in a court of law
- Greek grammar dictates that John 1:1 should be read "The Word was God" because of the nominative vs. predicative nominative rule
- Colwell's Rule shows us that the typical reading of a construction like John 1:1 θεος ην ο λογος is most likely qualitative (Whatever qualities God the Father possesses so does the Word, thus making Him as divine as the Father), could be definite (The Word was The God), and only indefinite in the most rare of circumstances and when context demands it. But the context of John 1:1 is clear, The Word possesses the same attributes as the Father.