Here's a step-by-step way to answer this typical Jehovah's Witness argument.
Jehovah's Witnesses come to your door on a Saturday afternoon. After a few moments of conversation, one of them spots the crucifix on your wall and remarks, "It's interesting that Catholics believe that Jesus was God. Did you know that the Bible actually teaches that Jesus was not God?"
This "did you know" question is designed to throw you off balance. If you answer with a "no," you appear ignorant and you've given them an invitation to control the discussion. If you say "yes," you've aligned yourself with their heresy. Instead of a "yes" or "no," turn the question back on them and take control of the conversation.
"That's an odd point of view. Didn't you know the Bible teaches that Jesus is God?"
Now you have to make good on your claim. Have the following Bible verses (the ones they'll use and the ones you'll use) highlighted in your Bible for easy reference.
Ask the Witnesses to read the passages they think disprove Christ's divinity. Here are several they'll use and responses you can give:
John 14:28 - Jesus says, "The Father is greater than I."
The Father is "greater" than the incarnate Christ in terms of position because Christ's humanity is a creation, though in His divinity He is equal to the Father.
Hebrews 2:9 says that Jesus was made for a while "lower than the angels" at the Incarnation.
Matthew 11:11 says there has never been a man "greater than John the Baptist: yet he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." Does this mean John does not have a human nature? Does this mean those in heaven, who are greater than John, have a different nature?
If John the Baptist is the greatest man to ever live, and if Jesus was just a man, does that mean John the Baptist was greater than Jesus, superior to Him by nature? Does that mean Jesus and John could not have both had a human nature?
John 17:3 - "And this is eternal life, that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." The Witnesses will argue that Jesus can't be God if the Father is the "only true God," and they will point out that Christ was praying to God here.
God the Father is "the only true God." This statement is completely in harmony with the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity: One God in three Persons. Christ's statement does not entail a denial that He too is God.
Christ was affirming the monotheism of the Jews, that there is only one God. This monotheism is the basis of the Trinity.
Christ is true God and true man (John 1:1, 14; Col. 2:9; John 8:58 & Ex. 3:14), and as a man, He prayed to the Father.
John 20:17 - "I ascend to My Father and to your Father, to My God and to your God." How can the Father be His 'God' if Christ is God? How can God have a God?"
Say, "I believe that Jesus is both God and man. Here, he speaks in reference to His human nature. As a man the Father is His God - just as He is ours. He calls the Father His God because He is His God whom He worships, prays to and needs in His life just as we do."
This verse is a clear reference to the Hypostatic Union of Christ (He was fully God and man).
Rev. 3:14 - "These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the source of God's creation."
Notice the text does not say Christ was created. The Greek word translated as "source" or "origin" is arche. It connotes "the eternal source of all that is."
In Revelation 21:6 Jehovah is called the "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end . . . I shall be His God and He shall be My Son." But Jesus is called the "Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end" in Revelation 22:13. Ask the Witness how Jesus and Jehovah can both be the "Alpha and the Omega." Also ask if this means that Jehovah God had a "beginning," because arche is used to describe Him? Here arche means "the source of all being." Jesus is the source of the creation of God because he is the creator of all things. John 1:1-3 says Jesus (the Word) created "all things . . . and without Him was made nothing that was made."
If Christ was created, He would have had to have created Himself, which is impossible.
Colossians 1:15-17 - Jesus is called the "first-born of all creation. For in Him were all things created . . . He is before all and by Him all things were created." JWs think this means Jesus is the first created being.
"First-born" here does not refer to time, but to preeminence. It is a title given by a father to his son. Isaac, Jacob and Ephraim received the blessing of the "first-born," though they were not biologically the first sons born to their parents.
The text doesn't say Jesus was created. If so, St. Paul would have said Jesus created all other things, but he did not. Jesus is the Creator of all things. He is God. He is given the title "first-born" as the title of His preeminence and because He is eternally begotten by the Father.
Ask the JWs if they agree that Colossians 1:15-17 means that Christ created everything. They'll say yes. Then show them Isaiah 44:24: "This is what the Lord says, your Redeemer who formed you in the womb: 'I am the Lord, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself.'" Ask them why, if Christ created "all things," it says that the Lord God - the Hebrew word used here is Yahweh (Jehovah) - did it by Himself.
Tell the Witnesses you believe God is not a God of confusion, but of order and truth. Since He inspired Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16), Scripture cannot contradict itself. Quote the following verses and show that only the Catholic position harmonizes all of the texts.
John 1:1-3 - "In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . All things were made by Him: and without Him was made nothing that was made."
Before you bring up this verse, ask the JWs if they believe there are false gods. They will say yes. Then ask them to read John 1:1 from their Bible, which changes the passage to read, "the Word was a god" (see below). Then ask if Christ is the "true" God or a "false" God. They will say a "true" god, but that He is not the One True Almighty God. Then ask them how they explain that Jehovah God commands us to have no other God besides Him (Ex. 20:3). Christ is either the One True God, or He is a false god (cf. Isa. 43:10; 44:6-8; John 17:3; 1 Cor. 8:4; 1 Tim. 2:5; James 2:19).
Christ is here clearly identified as God, the Creator of all things. Notice that Genesis 1:1 says "In the beginning God created" everything in the universe. This means Christ is God.
The JWs will respond that the Greek text actually says "the Word was a god"; meaning, Jesus is not the one true God (Jehovah); He was "godlike," but still just a man. They argue that because the Greek definite article ho (the) is not used before the Greek word for God (theos), when referring to Jesus, He cannot be the God, Jehovah. There are defects with this argument.
First, in this passage the word theos is a predicate nominative, and according to Koine Greek grammar rules, predicate nominatives do not take the definite article.
Second, the JW's are inconsistent. Their New World Translation Bible translates theos (without the definite article ho) as "Jehovah" or "God" numerous times (cf. Matt. 5:9, 6:24; Luke 1:35, 2:40; John 1:6, 12,13, 18; Rom. 1:7, 17,18; Titus 1:1). The reason they won't translate it that way in John 1:1 is because to do so would shatter their claim that Christ is not God.
Third, Christ is called ho theos (the God) elsewhere in Scripture. For example: "But to the Son [the Father] saith, 'Thy throne, O God (ho theos) is for ever and ever'" (Heb. 1:8; see also Titus 2:13, where the definite article tou [the genetive singular form of ho] precedes the phrase "Great God and Savior"; and "Thomas answered, and said to [Jesus]: 'My Lord and My God'" (John 20:28). The Greek reads: ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou ("the Lord of me and the God of me"). If the Witnesses argue that in John 20:28 Thomas was exaggerating about Jesus, point out that if Jesus was not God, Thomas would have been blaspheming and Jesus would have rebuked him, but He didn't - He clearly approves of what Thomas said.
The JWs argue that Thomas referred to Jesus as "Lord" and then to the Father as "God," respond that there is no evidence for this in the text and Thomas was directly addressing Jesus, not the Father.
Revelation 22:6 - "And the Lord God of the spirits of the prophets (ho kurios ho theos) sent His angel to show His servants the things which must be done shortly."
Who is the Lord God who sent His angel? The Witnesses will say it is Jehovah, but Revelation 22:16 (just ten verses later) says: "I Jesus have sent my angel, to testify to you these things in the Churches." Jesus is "the Lord God of the spirits of the prophets" spoken of in verse 6.
Luke 12:8-9 - "And I tell you, every one who acknowledges Me before men, the Son of man also will acknowledge before the angels of God; but he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God."
Matthew 13:41 says, "The Son of man will send His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers." Jesus and God are synonymous.
Genesis 18:25 and Joel 3:12 - Jehovah is the Judge of the world.
Matthew 25:31-46, John 5:27, 9:39; Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10; and 2 Timothy 4:1 say that Jesus Christ is the Judge of the world. How can Jesus and Jehovah both be the supreme Judge?
Exodus 3:15-18 - "Then Moses said to God, 'If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, "The God of your fathers has sent me to you," and they ask me, "What is His Name?" what shall I say to them?' God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM.'. . . 'Say this to the people of Israel, "I AM has sent me to you. . . The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you." This is My Name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.'"
The Hebrew consonants for the divine name, I AM, are YHWH. By inserting the first three vowels for the Hebrew title for God, Adonai, and corrupting the pronunciation, the term JEHOVAH is made. Ask the JWs if "Jehovah" (I AM) is the Name of the one true God.
Ask the Witnesses if they agree that using the divine Name in vain, or applying it to oneself, would be considered blasphemy in the Old Testament (cf. Ex. 20:7; Deut. 5:11). Ask them what the penalty for doing this would be (cf. Lev. 24:16).
In John 8:21-59 Jesus repeatedly claims the divine name "I AM" for Himself. The Jews understood that He was calling Himself God and wanted to stone Him for blasphemy (cf. John 5:18, 8:59, 10:30-36). Ask the Witnesses why the Jews would seek to stone Jesus if He wasn't claiming to be God, especially since execution by stoning was reserved by Jewish Law for only a few crimes.
Exodus 20:10 - "But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God."
Jesus calls himself "The Lord of the Sabbath" in Mark 2:28, thus identifying Himself as God. Cf., Isaiah 8:13 (referred to in 1 Peter 3:15) and Joel 2:31-32 (quoted in Acts 2:20-21 and Romans 10:13).
Acts 20:28 - "Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God which he obtained with His own Blood."
Ask the Witnesses when Jehovah ever shed His own Blood. Ask them if Christ shed His own Blood for the Church. If they argue that this passage should read "by the Blood of His own Son," tell them the Greek word son (huios) does not appear. It reads: periepoiesato dia tou haimatos tou idiou.
Finally, point out the many references where Christ is said to have been slain and shed His Blood for the Church (cf. Matt. 28:27-28; Mark 14:24; Luke 20:20; Rev. 5:6). Point out to them Revelation 5:9: "Worthy art Thou to take the scroll and to open its seals, for Thou wast slain and by Thy Blood didst ransom men for God . . ." This clearly refers to Christ as God.
Tim Staples "Jesus Christ is not God." Envoy.
This article is reprinted with permission from Envoy Magazine.
Envoy magazine is the award winning bi-monthly journal of Catholic apologetics and evangelization, edited by Patrick Madrid (Surprised by Truth, Pope Fiction, Any Friend of God is a Friend of Mine). While there are a few other periodicals that deal, at least ostensibly, with this subject area, Envoy magazine is distinct from them in every way graphically, editorially, and in content. It presents the truths of the Catholic Faith in a fresh, contemporary style, featuring today's top Catholic writers, full-color graphics, and an upbeat, innovative format.
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Tim Staples is Director of Apologetics and Evangelization here at Catholic Answers, but he was not always Catholic. Tim was raised a Southern Baptist. He converted to Catholicism in 1988 and spent the following six years in formation for the priesthood, earning a degree in philosophy from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Overbrook, Pennsylvania. He then studied theology on a graduate level at Mount St. Marys Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland, for two years. Realizing that his calling was not to the priesthood, Tim left the seminary in 1994 and has been working in Catholic apologetics and evangelization ever since. He is the author of The Sword Of The Spirit, Catholic Answers To Common Objections, Defending Your Faith: How to Counter Standard Objections to Catholicism, Five Non-Negotiables,Copyright © 2003 Envoy
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