The Watchtower  




Will the real Jehovah's Witnesses please stand up?


Early Church History

Jehovah's Witnesses claim the early church writers for their cause. Are these authors comfortable having been sat down in such company, or are they squirming restlessly in their chairs? These authors describe Jesus Christ as God, which the Jehovah's Witnesses, relying on their unconventional god-count, recast as 'a god.' For good measure, see also the testimony of the pagans. These polytheist authors, unlike the Christian writers quoted, very likely shared the Jehovah's Witness census count of a populous pantheon:




As with those Bible verses which make similar assertions, the Jehovah's Witnesses do not so much deny these statements of the deity of Jesus Christ, as make of deity a common thing, nothing unique. As the inquiring reader will discover, the Bible does not so reckon!

It must be admitted that these early authors use terminology carelessly. We put a fence around words like 'begotten' and 'created,' they mingled and interchanged them: “You have Wisdom saying, 'But before the depths was I brought forth,' in order that you may believe that the depths were also 'brought forth' — that is, created — just as we create sons also, though we 'bring them forth.'” (Tertullian, Against Hermogenes, Chapter 32, p. 885, ECF). Parents today do not say, 'we created our children;' it was not until after the Arian heresy that speakers began to use great care in segregating these two meanings. Some interpreters want it understood these authors use 'begotten' carelessly or metaphorically, but 'created' precisely; in fact they use both terms in a broad-brush and imprecise way. The boundaries between what are now understood as two very different meanings had not yet been laid down, and so it is unfair and anachronistic to hold these early writers to boundary-lines not yet delineated.

However, a careful and sympathetic study of their thoughts on the eternal deity of the Son and on the Trinity will not confirm a finding of heresy. They do write, in great detail, on these very topics:

Justin Martyr

If Justin Martyr agreed with the Jehovah's Witnesses, would he seek to prove that Jesus Christ is the LORD of hosts of Psalm 24?:



  • “And I said, 'As you wish, Trypho, I shall come to these proofs which you seek in the fitting place; but now you will permit me first to recount the prophecies, which I wish to do in order to prove that Christ is called both God and Lord of hosts, and Jacob, in parable by the Holy Spirit; and your interpreters, as God says, are foolish, since they say that reference is made to Solomon and not to Christ, when he bore the ark of testimony into the temple which he built.  The Psalm of David is this: "...Lift up your gates, ye rulers; and be yet lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in. Who is this King of glory?  The Lord strong and mighty in battle.  Lift up your gates, ye rulers; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of glory shall come in.  Who is the King of glory?  The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory."  Accordingly, it is shown that Solomon is not the Lord of hosts; but when our Christ rose from the dead and ascended to heaven, the rulers in heaven, under appointment of God, are commanded to open the gates of heaven, that He who is King of glory may enter in, and having ascended, may sit on the right hand of the Father until He make the enemies His footstool, as has been made manifest by another Psalm.'”
  • (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, XXXVI.).



The psalm which Justin quotes runs as follows in the NWT: "Who, then, is this glorious King? Jehovah strong and mighty, Jehovah mighty in battle...Who, then, is he, this glorious King? Jehovah of armies — he is the glorious King." (Psalm 24:8-10).  And Justin says it's Christ who is Jehovah, the "glorious King"!  More:

"When I had spoken these words, I continued: 'Permit me, further, to show you from the book of Exodus how this same One, who is both Angel, and God, and Lord, and man, and who appeared in human form to Abraham and Isaac, appeared in a flame of fire from the bush, and conversed with Moses.' And after they had said they would listen cheerfully, patiently, and eagerly, I went on: 'These words are in the book which bears the title of Exodus: "And after many days the king of Egypt died, and the children of Israel groaned by reason of the works," and so until, "Go and gather the elders of Israel, and thou shalt say unto them, The Lord God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared to me, saying, I am surely beholding you, and the things which have befallen you in Egypt."'  In addition to these words, I went on: 'Have you perceived, sirs, that this very God whom Moses speaks of as an Angel that talked to him in the flame of fire, declared to Moses that He is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob?'" (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, LIX).

Ignatius

"This is why they were persecuted, being inspired as they were by his grace in order that those who are disobedient might be fully convinced that there is one God who revealed himself through Jesus Christ his Son, who is his Word which came forth from silence, who in every respect pleased him who sent him." (To the Magnesians, 8.2).

"Be eager, therefore, to be firmly grounded in the precepts of the Lord and the apostles, in order that 'in whatever you do, you may prosper', physically and spiritually, in faith and love, in the Son and the Father and in the Spirit, in the beginning and at the end, together with your most distinguished bishop and the beautifully woven spiritual crown which is your presbytery and the godly deacons. (To the Magnesians, 13.1)

"Be more diligent than you are.  Understand the times.  Wait expectantly for him who is above time: the Eternal, the Invisible, who for our sake became visible; the Intangible, the Unsuffering, who for our sake suffered, who for our sake endured in every way." (To Polycarp, 3.2)

(Quotations from 'The Apostolic Fathers, Second Edition', J.B. Lightfoot and J.R. Harmer, Edited by Michael W. Holmes.)

Mathetes

"This is He who was from the beginning, who appeared as if new, and was found old, and yet who is ever born afresh in the hearts of the saints. This is He who, being from everlasting, is to-day called the Son; through whom the Church is enriched, and grace, widely spread, increases in the saints. furnishing understanding, revealing mysteries, announcing times, rejoicing over the faithful. giving to those that seek, by whom the limits of faith are not broken through, nor the boundaries set by the fathers passed over." (Mathetes, Letter to Diognetus, Chapter 11).



Irenaeus

"For thou, O man, art not an uncreated being, nor didst thou always co-exist with God, as did His own Word; but now, through His pre-eminent goodness, receiving the beginning of thy creation, thou dost gradually learn from the Word the dispensations of God who made thee." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 2, Chapter 25.3).

"But God being all Mind, and all Logos, both speaks exactly what He thinks, and thinks exactly what He speaks. For His thought is Logos, and Logos is Mind, and Mind comprehending all things is the Father Himself. He, therefore, who speaks of the mind of God, and ascribes to it a special origin of its own, declares Him a compound Being, as if God were one thing, and the original Mind another. So, again, with respect to Logos, when one attributes to him the third place of production from the Father; on which supposition he is ignorant of His greatness; and thus Logos has been far separated from God." (Irenaeus Against Heresies, Book 2, Chapter 28.5).

"But the Son, eternally co-existing with the Father, from of old, yea, from the beginning, always reveals the Father to Angels, Archangels, Powers, Virtues, and all to whom He wills that God should be revealed." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 2, Chapter 30.9).

Tertullian

"As if in this way also one were not All, in that All are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three Persons — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in aspect; yet of one substance, and of one condition, and of one power, inasmuch as He is one God, from whom these degrees and forms and aspects are reckoned, under the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." (Against Praxeas, Chapter II)



  • “For before all things God was alone — being in Himself and for Himself universe, and space, and all things.  Moreover, He was alone, because there was nothing external to Him but Himself.  Yet even not then was He alone; for He had with Him that which He possessed in Himself, that is to say, His own Reason.  For God is rational, and Reason was first in Him; and so all things were from Himself.  This Reason is His own Thought (or Consciousness) which the Greeks call 'Logos', by which term we also designate Word or Discourse and therefore it is now usual with our people, owing to the mere simple interpretation of the term, to say that the Word was in the beginning with God; although it would be more suitable to regard Reason as the more ancient; because God had not Word from the beginning, but He had Reason even before the beginning; because also Word itself consists of Reason, which it thus proves to have been the prior existence as being its own substance.  Not that this distinction is of any practical moment.”
  • (Against Praxeas, Chapter V).




"The utterance, therefore, will be in like manner the Son's, 'I have stretched out the heavens alone,' because by the Word were the heavens established. Inasmuch, then, as the heaven was prepared when Wisdom was present in the Word, and since all things were made by the Word, it is quite correct to say that even the Son stretched out the heaven alone, because He alone ministered to the Father's work.  It must also be He who says, 'I am the First, and to all futurity I AM.'" (Against Praxeas, Chapter XIX).

"For the rest, we must needs believe God to be unchangeable, and incapable of form, as being eternal...God, however, neither ceases to be what He was, nor can He be any other thing than what He is.  The Word is God, and 'the Word of the Lord remaineth for ever,' — even by holding on unchangeably in His own proper form." (Against Praxeas, Chapter XXVII).

All quotes are from Tertullian's 'Against Praxeas', available from the Thrice Holy library.

As evidence for the accusation, Arians advance his statement in 'Against Hermogenes,'

"Because God is in like manner a Father, and He is also a Judge; but He has not always been Father and Judge, merely on the ground of His having always been God. For He could not have been the Father previous to the Son, nor a Judge previous to sin. There was, however, a time when neither sin existed with Him, nor the Son; the former of which was to constitute the Lord a Judge, and the latter a Father." (Tertullian, Against Hermogenes, Chapter 3).

It would be more accurate to summarize his thought not as, 'there was a time when the Son was not,' but as 'there was a time when the Son was not called the Son, but was more properly called the Logos.' This is not really Arianism.

Hippolytus

"God, subsisting alone, and having nothing contemporaneous with Himself, determined to create the world.  And conceiving the world in mind, and willing and uttering the word, He made it; and straightway it appeared, formed as it had pleased Him.  For us, then, it is sufficient simply to know that there was nothing contemporaneous with God. Beside Him there was nothing; but He, while existing alone, yet existed in plurality.  For He was neither without reason, nor wisdom, nor power, nor counsel.  And all things were in Him, and He was the All.  When He willed, and as He willed, He manifested His word in the times determined by Him, and by Him He made all things.  When He wills, He does; and when He thinks, He executes; and when He speaks, He manifests; when He fashions, He contrives in wisdom.  For all things that are made He forms by reason and wisdom — creating them in reason, and arranging them in wisdom.  He made them, then, as He pleased, for He was God." (10.)

"Many other passages, or rather all of them, attest the truth.  A man, therefore, even though he will it not, is compelled to acknowledge God the Father Almighty, and Christ Jesus the Son of God, who, being God, became man, to whom also the Father made all things subject, Himself excepted, and the Holy Spirit; and that these, therefore, are three.  But if he desires to learn how it is shown still that there is one God, let him know that His power is one.  As far as regards the power, therefore, God is one.  But as far as regards the economy there is a threefold manifestation, as shall be proved afterwards when we give account of the true doctrine." (Hippolytus, Against the Heresy of One Noetus, Chapter 8.)

"These things then, brethren, are declared by the Scriptures.  And the blessed John, in the testimony of his Gospel, gives us an account of this economy (disposition) and acknowledges this Word as God, when he says, 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.'  If, then, the Word was with God, and was also God, what follows?  Would one say that he speaks of two Gods?  I shall not indeed speak of two Gods, but of one; of two Persons however, and of a third economy (disposition), viz., the grace of the Holy Ghost.  For the Father indeed is One, but there are two Persons, because there is also the Son; and then there is the third, the Holy Spirit.  The Father decrees, the Word executes, and the Son is manifested, through whom the Father is believed on. The economy of harmony is led back to one God; for God is One." (14.)

(Hippolytus, Against the Heresy of One Noetus, Section II, Dogmatic and Historical.)

Clement of Alexandria

"...among the objects perceived by our senses, we are to esteem rulers, and parents, and every one advanced in years; and among subjects of instruction, the most ancient philosophy and primeval prophecy; and among intellectual ideas, what is oldest in origin, the timeless and unoriginated First Principle, and Beginning of existences — the Son — from whom we are to learn the remoter Cause, the Father, of the universe, the most ancient and the most beneficent of all; not capable of expression by the voice, but to be reverenced with reverence, and silence, and holy wonder, and supremely venerated; declared by the Lord, as far as those who learned were capable of comprehending, and understood by those chosen by the Lord to acknowledge; 'whose senses,' says the apostle, 'were exercised.'" (Stromata, 7:1).

"If thou wilt, be thyself also initiated, and thou shalt dance with angels around the unbegotten and imperishable and only true God, the Word of God joining with us in our hymn of praise.  This Jesus being eternal, one great high priest of one God who is also Father, prays for men and encourages men: 'Give ear, ye myriad peoples,' or rather, so many of mankind as are governed by reason, both barbarians and Greeks; 'the whole race of men I call, I who was their Creator by the Father's will.'" (Exhortation to the Greeks, Chapter XII, 93).

"And they rage round the bit of flesh, which they despise as weak, while they are blind to the inner possessions, not knowing how great a 'treasure' we carry 'in an earthern vessel,' fortified by the power of God the Father and the blood of God the Son and the dew of the Holy Spirit." (The Rich Man's Salvation, 34).

"Not long ago the pre-existent Savior appeared on earth; He who exists in Him who exists (because 'the Word was with God') appeared as our teacher; the Word appeared by whom all things have been created.  He who gave us life in the beginning when as Creator He formed us, taught us how to live rightly by appearing as our teacher, in order that hereafter as God He might supply us with life everlasting." (Exhortation to the Greeks, Chapter I, 7)

"He hastens to God that He may fulfil clearly what before He darkly hinted at; for He drove at the first into Jerusalem, but now into heaven, a most noble spectacle for the Father, the eternal Son bringing victory!" (Exhortation to the Greeks, Chapter XII, 93).

"For not without divine care could so great a work have been accomplished, as it has been in so short a time by the Lord, who to outward seeming is despised, but in very deed is adored; who is the real Purifier, Savior and Gracious One, the Divine Word, the truly most manifest God, who is made equal to the Master of the universe, because He was His Son and 'the Word was in God.'" (Exhortation to the Greeks, Chapter X, 86).



Origen

The third century author Origen was one of the founders of Neo-Platonic philosophy. He, like the pagan Neo-Platonist Plotinus, had been a student of Ammonius Saccas, a Christian apostate. He taught universalism, the pre-existence of the human soul, and other ideas which never caught on amongst Bible-believing Christians. Although his writings appealed to a wide audience in his own day, he was posthumously condemned as a heretic.

Was he guilty of the Arian heresy, believing that there was a time when the Son was not?  Not according to his surviving works; in fact, he discusses this very issue in 'On First Principles,' much of which survives only in Latin translation, and answers in the negative:

"Moreover, John points out that 'God is light', and Paul points out that the Son is 'the splendor of eternal light' [Heb. 1:3].  Therefore, just as light can never exist without spendor, so neither can the Son, who is said to be 'the express stamp of His substance' [Heb. 1:3] and His Word and Wisdom, ever be understood without the Father.  Therefore, how can it be said that there was a time when the Son was not?  For that would be no different from saying that there was a time when truth was not, when wisdom was not, when life was not, since it should be judged that the substance of God the Father involves all of these things.  They cannot be separated from Him, nor can they ever be cut off from His substance.  And what are said to be many by intellectual apprehension, nevertheless are one in fact and in substance; and in them there exists the fulness of Godhead [Col. 2:9]." (Origen, On First Principles, Chapter Four, 1)

However, the credibility and integrity of this translator were impugned even in antiquity. In fact both sides in the Arian controversy indulged in the nasty habit of doctoring the evidence, so the modern reader cannot know whether those passages which teach unimpeachable orthodoxy, or those which fall far short, are Origen's own words.

But Origen is also capable of writing of Christ's agony in the garden, "But this was not at all the Father's will, which was wiser than the Son's will, since He was ordering events by a way and an order beyond what the Savior saw." (An Exhortation to Martyrdom, XXIX), thus taking the first step down the slippery slope leading to the Arian heresy. In Origen's theology, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are in no wise equal; the Son and the Spirit are far below the Father. This is not orthodox.

Another crucial point on which Origen greased the skids for the Arian heresy is the question of how many really existent gods there are in the universe. Prior Christian authors agree with God's own god-census of 'One', while this author shares the Watchtower's polytheism:

"There are some gods of whom God is God, as we hear in prophecy, 'Thank ye the God of gods,' and 'The God of gods hath spoken, and called the earth.' Now God, according to the Gospel, 'is not the God of the dead but of the living.' Those gods, then, are living of whom God is God. The Apostle, too, writing to the Corinthians, says: 'As there are gods many and lords many,' and so we have spoken of these gods as really existing." (Origen, Commentary on John, Book 1, Chapter 34).

Origen had one foot in the pagan philosophers' camp and one foot in the church camp. If Origen cannot fairly be accused of outright Arianism, he is certainly not an author for Christians to rely upon. His writings represent a fork in the road which led to Arius.




Arius

This is The Man!  Finally, someone who agrees with the most controversial points of the Jehovah's Witness system:

"God was not always a Father; indeed, there was a time when God was alone, and He was not yet a Father.  Afterwards, however, He became a Father.  The Son was not always, for inasmuch as all things were made out of what did not exist, the Son of God, too, was made out of what did not exist; and as all that are made do exist as creatures and works, He too is a creature and a work; and since formerly all things did not exist, but were afterwards made, so also there was a time when the Word of God did not Himself exist; and before He was begotten, He was not; rather, He has a beginning of existence." (Arius, The Banquet, c. 320 A.D. 648 Fragment III, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Volume I, William A. Jurgens, p. 276).

Arius was willing to describe the Lord as a "creature": "God's perfect creature but not like any other creature..." (Arius, letter to Athanasius, quoted in The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, translated by Frank Williams, Books II and III, Section V, 69, 7,3, p. 329.)

"But what is it that we say and believe, and that we have taught and teach? That the Son is not uncreated or any part of an uncreated being, or made of anything previously existent. He was brought into being by the will and counsel [of God], before time and before the ages, as unbegotten God in the fullest sense, and unalterable; and before he was begotten, created, determined or established, he did not exist. But we are persecuted because we have said, 'The Son has a beginning, but God is without beginning.' We are also persecuted because we have said, 'He is made from nothing.' But we have so said because he is not a part of God or made from any thing previously existent. It is for this reason that we are persecuted; the rest you know." (Arius, letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia, quoted in The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, translated by Frank Williams, Books II and III, Section V, 69, 6,6, p. 328.)
Arius
Letter to Alexander

Constantius

Jehovah's Witnesses bitterly complain about the Roman Emperor Constantine's role in convening the Council at Nicaea, which does indeed rub against the grain of libertarian ideals of the separation of church and state.  What they fail to complain of, though, and should if they wish to remain consistent, is the behavior of the Arian emperors like Constantius, who persecuted the orthodox party in order to advance their favored heresy.  Athanasius should know, deposed from office and exiled from home:

"If a decision was made by the bishops, what concern had the emperor with it?  Or if it was but a threat of the emperor, what need then was there of the designated bishops?  When in the world was such a thing ever before heard of?  When did a decision of the Church receive its authority from the emperor?  Or rather, when was his decree even recognized?  There have been many councils in times past, and many decrees made by the Church; but never did the fathers seek the consent of the emperor for them, nor did the emperor busy himself in the affairs of the Church.
"The Apostle Paul had friends among those who belonged to the household of Caesar, and in writing to the Philippians he sent greetings from them: but never did he take them as associates in his judgments.  But now we witness a novel spectacle, which is a discovery of the Arian heresy: heretics have assembled together with the Emperor Constantius, so that he, by alleging the authority of the bishops, may exercise his power against whomsoever he will, and while he persecutes may yet avoid the name of persecutor."
(Athanasius, The Monks' History of Arian Impiety, 358 A.D., 759a, [52], p. 326, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Volume I, William A. Jurgens).

Liberius

Liberius had the misfortune to serve as Bishop of Rome while the Arian tyrant Constantius ruled.  He was induced to sign an Arian creed:

"Not long after these events, the emperor [Constantius] returned to Sirmium from Rome; on receiving a deputation from the Western bishops, he recalled Liberius from Beroea.  Constantius urged him, in the presence of the deputies of the Eastern bishops, and of the other priests who were at the camp, to confess that the Son is not of the same substance as the Father.  He was instigated to this measure by Basil, Eustathius, and Eusebius, who possessed great influence over him.  They had formed a compilation, in one document, of the decrees against Paul of Samosata, and Photinus, bishop of Sirmium; to which they subjoined a formulary of faith drawn up at Antioch at the consecration of the church, as if certain persons had, under the pretext of the term 'consubstantial,' attempted to establish a heresy of their own.  Liberius, Athanasius, Alexander, Severianus, and Crescens, a priest of Africa, were induced to assent to this document, as were likewise Ursacius, Germanius, bishop of Sirmium, Valens, bishop of Mursa, and as many of the Eastern bishops as were present.  They partially approved of a confession of faith drawn up by Liberius, in which he declared that those who affirm that the Son is not like unto the Father in substance and in all other respects, are excommunicated.  For when Eudoxius and his partisans at Antioch, who favored the heresy of Aetius, received the letter of Hosius, they circulated the report that Liberius had renounced the term 'consubstantial,' and had admitted that the Son is dissimilar from the Father.  After these enactments had been made by the Western bishops, the emperor permitted Liberius to return to Rome." (Sozomen, Ecclesiastical History, Book IV, Chapter 15).

While this state of affairs is a real blow to those who advocate 'papal infallibility,' it cannot count as any real vote of confidence, given that Liberius acted under duress. The Arians were not shy about using the police powers of the state to gain assent.

Theoderic the Goth

There came a time when the barbarians were not any longer at the gates, they were inside. And they were running the place. For most of his reign over the predominantly Catholic inhabitants of Italy, Theoderic the Goth was admirably tolerant. He promulgated a motto well worth imitating, "So far as religion was concerned, Theoderic was ardently tolerant. His principle was Religionem imperare non possumus quia nemo cogitur ut credat invitus,'We cannot command religion because no one can be compelled to believe against his will.'" (The Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians, J. B. Bury, Kindle location 2207).

 However in old age he took a paranoid turn and ended up a persecutor; Boethius the philosopher was executed on his watch, though the charge was treason, not heresy. King Theoderic, an Arian, reacted with understandable indignation when his Byzantine counterpart ordered the seizure of the Arian churches. He instructed the bishop of Rome, John the First, to travel to Constantinople to demand the order be rescinded: "The pope was well assured that if he returned to Italy without having accomplished his errand his life would be forfeited; and so, against his will, he achieved the distinction of being the only Roman pontiff who ever pleaded with a Catholic monarch for the toleration of heretics. He represented to the emperor the danger which would be incurred by himself and the church of Italy if the request were refused. Justin was constrained to yield." (The Story of the Goths, by Henry Bradley, Kindle location 1937). Success! But little good it did him: "The pope was thrown into prison, where he died in May, 526; and the king, feeling now that the whole Catholic Church had become his enemy, promulgated a decree that the orthodox worship should be suppressed, and that the churches should on a given day be transferred to Arian hands. But before the edict could be carried into effect Theoderic was dead." (The Story of the Goths, by Henry Bradley, Kindle location 1948).

Who was persecuting whom was, unfortunately, a function of who had the power to persecute, in an age when liberty of conscience was not well understood or respected. There may well be heresies which never had the political might to persecute their opponents, however, the Jehovah's Witnesses' Arianism is not one of them.

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Leovigild, King of the Visigoths

Modern-day Arians complain bitterly of the persecution their forbears endured. Truth to tell, those old-time Arians could give as good as they got. Hermenegild, Leovigild's son, converted to orthodoxy, his wife's religion, from the Arian heresy, and that's when his troubles began:

"...which young prince, upon his conversion, his father, being an Arian, labored both by large promises and terrible threats to draw again to his former errors: but when most constantly his son answered that he would never forsake the true Faith which he had once embraced, his father in great anger took away his kingdom, and besides deprived him of all wealth and riches; and perceiving that with all this his mind was nothing moved, he committed him to strait prison, laying irons both upon his neck and hands.  Upon this, the young King Hermenegild began now to condemn his earthly kingdom, and to seek with great desire after the kingdom of heaven; and lying in prison fast bound, he prayed to Almighty God in hair-cloth to send him heavenly comfort; and so much the more did he despise the glory of this transitory world, by how much he knew himself in that case that he had now nothing that could be taken from him.
"When the solemn feast of Easter was come, his wicked father sent unto him in the dead of the night an Arian bishop, to give him the communion of a sacrilegious consecration, that he might thereby again recover his father's grace and favor; but the man of God, as he ought, sharply reprehended that Arian bishop, which came unto him, and giving him such entertainment as his deserts required, utterly rejected him; for albeit outwardly he lay there in bands, yet inwardly to himself he stood secure in the height of his own soul.  The father, at the return of the Arian prelate, understanding these news, fell into such a rage that forthwith he sent his officers of execution to put to death that most constant confessor in the very prison where he lay: which unnatural and bloody commandment was performed accordingly; for so soon as they came into the prison they clave his brains with an hatchet, and so bereaved him of mortal life, having only power to take that from him which the holy martyr made small account of." (Gregory the Great, Dialogues Concerning Martyrdom, pp. 211-212, A Treasury of Early Christianity, Anne Fremantle).

While there is admittedly an admixture here of the sacred and profane: Hermenegild had taken up arms against his father,— this Arian monarch, ruling precariously over the overwhelmingly Catholic Spaniards, does seem to have been driven to the son's murder by his insults against the paternal faith: "At last, an Arian bishop, who was sent to administer to him the Eucharist, brought back word that Ermenegild had received him with gross insults, calling him the servant of the devil. Transported with passion, Leovigild commanded that his son should be put to death." (Henry Bradley, The Story of the Goths, Kindle location 3411). The portrayal of Arians as victims of Catholic persecution, while true to some times and places, overlooks the other times and places when it was the other way around. The subjugation of the Catholic Spaniards to the Arian Visigoths offers an eerie premonition of their later trials under the Unitarian Muslims; however, the Visigoths did at least try to get along: "It is by a strange accident indeed, that the name Visigoth has given rise to our word bigot, for never was there a nation who so little deserved the reproach of bigotry as the Visigoths of Spain." (Henry Bradley, The Story of the Goths, Kindle location 3459). They ended up converting en masse to the religion of the people they had conquered. A fair study of the historical evidence shows that trinitarians are not specially subject to the temptation to put a stop to the argument by the argumentum ad baculum, nor are Arians especially immune:

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Honoric the Vandal

The Vandals too were capable of persecuting the orthodox in preference to Arianism. After they had conquered Libya, life got rough for the trinitarians in those parts:

"And Honoric showed himself the most cruel and unjust of all men toward the Christians in Libya. For he forced them to change over to the Arian faith, and as many as he found not readily yielding to him he burned, or destroyed by other forms of death; and he also cut off the tongues of many from the very throat, who even up to my time were going about in Byzantium having their speech uninjured, and perceiving not the least effect from this punishment; but two of these, since they saw fit to go in to harlots, were thenceforth no longer able to speak."
(Procopius of Caesarea (2013-02-04). The Complete Procopius Anthology: The Wars of Justinian, The Secret History of the Court of Justinian, The Buildings of Justinian (Texts From Ancient Rome) (Kindle Locations 3670-3673). www.Bybliotech.org. Kindle Edition.)

What has this got to do with the Jehovah's Witnesses? Nothing much; they are not Vandals. However, why do they seem to think comparable cases with the roles reversed have some contemporary relevance?

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"My Father is Greater than I":

In John 14:28, Jesus said, "My Father is greater than I."  Why, if He is God?

He Humbled Himself

"My Father is greater than I."

God or Man?

"...the seed of Abraham."


Thriceholy Radio


Modern Arians

Noteworthy Arians of the modern era include such illustrious figures as physicist Sir Isaac Newton, epic poet John Milton, and Barton Stone, one of the founders of the 'Restoration Movement:'

Sir Isaac Newton John Milton, English Poet Barton Stone, one of the founders of the Restoration Movement
Sir Isaac Newton John Milton Barton Stone

Isaac Newton and John Milton left behind unpublished manuscripts reported as Arian; Barton Stone published an Arian treatise.

Readers of the early Jehovah's Witness writings are perplexed to find themselves in a world in which pagan gods like Zeus and Hera happily co-exist with Jehovah. They are ranked lower, but their real deity is in no way disputed or impugned. Was there ever such a world? Yes, it is the world of poet John Milton's great epic, 'Paradise Lost.' The pagan pantheon is synthesized with Christian theology by application of the 'patch' that the pagan deities are fallen angels. Upon examination, the estate from which they fell is not very different from what the pagans thought about them all along.

At one time, the Jehovah's Witnesses went door to door, explaining that,

"Gods such as Zeus and Hermes were worshiped in the days of Jesus' apostles. So the Bible agrees that 'there are many "gods"'..." (p. 34, You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1982).

They no longer say that; they have retreated to the more defensible turf of language games. But they used to read Milton's 'Paradise Lost' in American schools. A sleepy or inattentive student might well fail to notice whether the words he heard recited were from the Bible or Milton's orotund verses. John Milton wanted both to sing the praises of the pagan gods:

"Beds of hyacinth and roses, Where young Adonis oft reposes, etc." (John Milton, 'Comus.')

...And yet was also an enthusiastic camp-follower of the Bible-based democratic revolution which ultimately failed under the leadership of Oliver Cromwell. He put together two things that don't obviously fit: pagan religion and the Bible,— yet the result, far from clashing or striking an inharmonious chord, mesmerized generations of readers. Not very many people read Milton any more, which is why the Jehovah's Witnesses can no longer go door to door explaining that Zeus is a god, Hera is a god, so 'there are many gods.'


Merriam-Webster Paradise Lost
Objectivity Euhemerus
Dialogue of the Deaf Liar, Liar



It must not be forgotten that, for all the musical beauty of its language, 'Paradise Lost' is a work of human imagination; it is not Holy Writ. It would be a poor idea today if an enthusiast for the 'Matrix' movies joined his fictional world together with the Bible to produce a hybrid religion, even though those are entertaining and thought-provoking movies. It was an equally poor idea to base a religion on the world created by John Milton's imagination.



The Poem One God
Pantheon Restored When and Where
The Renaissance The Challenge



Barton Stone was one of the founders of the 'Restoration Movement,' which gave birth to denominations that still exist in America to the present day, like the Church of Christ. (Proponents of this viewpoint dislike the label 'denomination,' yet there is no other word which describes a 'named' group of believers.) He was an out-and-out Arian:

Barton Stone

John Locke, the political philosopher, is another author often mentioned as an Arian. He was a self-professed Bible believer:

"My lord, I read the revelation of the holy scripture with a full assurance, that all it delivers is true: and though this be a submission to the writings of those inspired authors, which I neither have, nor can have, for those of any other men; yet I use (and know not how to help it, till your lordship show me a better method in those due measures of reason, which you mention) the same way to interpret to myself the sense of that book, that I do of any other." (John Locke, Letter to Bishop of Worcester, Kindle location 6093).

He encouraged Newton to publish his anti-trinitarian views. However, his own views are difficult to discern and biographers have defended the thesis that he was and remained a convinced Anglican. Personally, having read Locke's lengthy, clotted, and unconvincing complaint against the Bishop of Worcester, for having swatted at him in passing in his controversy with Unitarian John Toland, during which Locke never once mentions he holds orthodox views on the trinity, though this would instantly explain why he is so offended, I have a hard time believing it. In his defense of 'The Reasonableness of Christianity,' Locke offers a decidedly minimalist criterion of salvation:

“What we are now required to believe to obtain eternal life, is plainly set down in the gospel. St. John tells us, John iii. 36, “He that believeth on the Son, hath eternal life; and he that believeth not the Son, shall not see life.” What this believing on him is, we are also told in the next chapter: “The woman said unto him, I know that the Messiah cometh: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee, am he”. . . By which place it is plain, that believing on the Son is the believing that Jesus was the Messiah; giving credit to the miracles he did, and the profession he made of himself. . . This was the great proposition that was then controverted, concerning Jesus of Nazareth, 'Whether he was the Messiah or no?' And the assent to that was that which distinguished believers from unbelievers.” (John Locke, The Reasonable of Christianity, as Delivered in the Scriptures).

By this criterion, Muslims are fellow believers, because they are told in the Koran that Jesus is the Messiah. There is no mention of believing that Jesus is God incarnate, though this great truth is taught in scripture. The 'competition' against which Locke argues in this treatise is, of course, the Nicene Creed, which gives no offense to Bible-believers. Perhaps it would be helpful to contend for a definition of who the Messiah was prophesied to be, and what work He was expected to accomplish. This minimalist criterion is perhaps a hint that he himself held a minimalist faith. It is also possible that a man who had seen Englishmen fight and die over religious differences — his own father fought for Cromwell — preferred to make the Church of England a big tent, which is why he reduces the creed to one "proposition," "’Tis plain here, St. Paul’s charging their blood on their own heads, is for opposing this single truth, that Jesus was the Messiah; that salvation or perdition depends upon believing or rejecting this one proposition." (John Locke, The Reasonable of Christianity). It happens, though, that as you unpack that "one proposition," you find its contents richer than imagined. Contrary to what some people think the Old Testament actually does say that the Messiah is to be God, in Psalm 45 among other places. 'But of course it doesn't really mean that,' they hasten to assure us; however the shadow does not govern the meaning of the substance, the prefiguration cannot delimit its fulfillment, rather vice versa. One should resist any tendency to dumb the concept of the Messiah down to a sub-Biblical level, as do the Muslims. The Messiah is the Son of God in the Old Testament, as well as in the New:

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The Watchtower Trinity


Return to answering the Jehovah's Witnesses...

The Watchtower Trinity

The 'doctrine of the Trinity' you'll hear the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons argue against clangs strangely on the ears of Bible-believing Christians, but it would be music to the ears of the third century heretic Sabellius.  It's the heresy known as 'modalism', taught in the present day by a sister new religious movement, the 'Oneness' Pentecostals.   This particular straw-man goes right back to the founder of the Jehovah's Witnesses:

"Which God gave unto Him.—'The declaration that "the Son can do nothing of Himself," if it were not backed up as it is by a score of other testimonies from the same interested and inspired Teacher, is a contradiction to the common thought of Trinitarians, that the Son is the Father.'"
—The Finished Mystery (Charles Taze Russell, Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. 7, 1917, page 11.)

In actual fact, the "common thought" that "the Son is the Father" is the heresy known as modalist monarchianism.

Ever hear of 'Three Gods in One Person'? It's what Charles Taze Russell thought to the doctrine of the Trinity to be!:

"How strange that any should attempt to misuse and pervert these our Lord's words, to make them support the unreasonable and unscriptural doctrine of a Trinity, — three Gods in ONE PERSON."
(Page 76, Volume 5; quoted in 'The Watchtower Trinity' by Natalie Pappas).

Did Jesus Pronounce the Divine Name?

Contemporary Jews, who acknowledge the authority of a sixth century compilation of Rabbinic legal opinions called the Talmud, do not pronounce the Divine Name, because,



  • “CHAPTER XI


  • “MISHNAH. ALL ISRAEL HAVE A PORTION IN THE WORLD TO COME, FOR IT IS WRITTEN, THY PEOPLE ARE ALL RIGHTEOUS; THEY SHALL INHERIT THE LAND FOR EVER, THE BRANCH OF MY PLANTING, THE WORK OF MY HANDS, THAT I MAY BE GLORIFIED.' BUT THE FOLLOWING HAVE NO PORTION THEREIN:. . .


  • “ABBA SAUL SAYS: ALSO ONE WHO PRONOUNCES THE DIVINE NAME AS IT IS SPELT.”
  • (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, 90a).




The practice is not approved: "Have we not learnt: The following have no portion in the world to come: He who says that the Torah is not from Heaven, or that the resurrection of the dead is not taught in the Torah. Abba Saul says: Also he who pronounces the Name in its full spelling?" (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Abodah Zarah, 18a.) The Rabbis warn that pronouncing the Divine Name leads to poverty and death: "One who hears his neighbor utter God's name in vain1 must place him under a ban; otherwise he himself must be under a ban, because the unnecessary utterance of the Divine Name always leads to poverty, and poverty leads to death, as it is written, [And the Lord said unto Moses in Midian, Go, return unto Egypt]. For all the men are dead [which sought thy life]; and it was taught: Wherever the Sages cast their eyes [in disapproval] death or poverty has resulted." (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Nedarim, 7b.).

The Talmud is not only not divinely inspired but is also rather late; is it possible, as the Jehovah's Witnesses relate, that Jesus and His followers pronounced the Divine Name as a routine part of life? They have rewritten the New Testament as it has come down to us in every surviving manuscript on the strength of their assumption that everyday people of that time would have spoken the Divine Name. By inserting the Divine Name into the New Testament, they remove any possible 'confusion' created by confessing faith in Jesus as 'Lord'. In this reconstruction, narrator and speakers both pronounce the Name with no inhibition. . .just like the Jehovah's Witnesses do. But was it really common for those of that day to pronounce the Divine Name? Let's look at more timely evidence:

The Septuagint translation, dating from before the Christian era, translates Leviticus 24:16 in such a way as to criminalize on its face pronouncing the Divine Name: "And he that names the name of the Lord, let him die the death: let all the congregation of Israel stone him with stones; whether he be a stranger or a native, let him die for naming the name of the Lord." (Leviticus 24:16, Brenton Septuagint).

Jesus ben Sirach offers the following cautions: "Do not inure your mouth to oaths or make a habit of naming the Holy One.  As a slave under the lash is never free from weals, so the man who has oaths and the sacred name for ever on his lips will never be clear of guilt." (Ecclesiasticus 23:9-11).  Ben Sirach contemplates that the Divine Name would be used exclusively in oaths, not teaching or praying.  He also mentions, in his brief biography of Simon son of Onias, an incident where this High Priest pronounced the Name in blessing, as a remarkable thing: "Then Simon came down and raised his hands over the whole congregation of Israel, to pronounce the Lord's blessing, proud to take his name on his lips; and a second time they bowed in worship to receive the blessing from the Most High." (Ecclesiasticus 50:20).

The Jews to this day translate Leviticus 24:16 in such a way as to make it sound like pronouncing the Divine Name is blasphemy on its face: "And to the Israelite people speak thus: Anyone who blasphemes his God shall bear his guilt; if he also pronounces the name LORD, he shall be put to death.  The whole community shall stone him; stranger or citizen, if he has thus pronounced the Name, he shall be put to death." (Leviticus 24:15-16, Jewish Publication Society, Tanakh). Usage such as one reads in the Watchtower Society's Bible translations is prohibited, "Any one that uses the name of the Lord, as it is written, which is prohibited, has no share in the world to come." (The Babylonian Talmud, edited by Michael L. Rodkinson, Volume 9, Tract Aboth, Chapter 1, Kindle location 37623).

The exception to the rule was the High Priest, who could legally pronounce the Divine Name in the temple, which he did once a year, on the Day of Atonement: "From the mishnaic period onward, the explicit name of God was never uttered except in the Temple, and we learn from the Septuagint that this was an ancient tradition...The High Priest apparently uttered the explicit name on Yom Kippur...The name aroused great awe, as the Mishnah related: 'When the priests and the people heard the great and terrible name uttered by the High Priest, they would kneel and bow down and say: "Blessed be the name of His honored kingdom for ever and ever."'" (The Essential Talmud, Adin Steinsaltz, pp. 213-214).

 “He then laid both his hands upon the head of the bullock, and confessed as follows: — ‘Ah, JEHOVAH I have committed iniquity; I have transgressed; I have sinned — I and my house. Oh, then, JEHOVAH, I entreat Thee, cover over (atone for, let there be atonement for) the iniquities, the transgressions, and the sins which I have committed, transgressed, and sinned before Thee, I and my house even as it is written in the law of Moses, Thy servant: “For, on that day will He cover over (atone) for you to make you clean; from all your transgressions before JEHOVAH ye shall be cleansed.”’ It will be noticed that in this solemn confession the name JEHOVAH occurred three times. Other three times was it pronounced in the confession which the high-priest made over the same bullock for the priesthood; a seventh time was it uttered when he cast the lot as to which of the two goats was to be ‘for JEHOVAH;’ and once again he spoke it three time, in the confession over the so-called ‘scape-goat’ which bore the sins of the people. All these ten times the high-priest pronounced the very name of JEHOVAH, and, as he spoke it, those who stood near cast themselves with their faces on the ground, while the multitude responded: ‘Blessed be the Name; the glory of His kingdom is for ever and ever.’” (Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, p. 202).

The people responded with veneration when they heard the Holy Name,

"He comes to the scapegoat, and puts both hands on him, and confesses, using the following expression: I beseech Thee, Jehovah, they have committed iniquities, transgressed, sinned before Thee, Thy people the House of Israel. . .And the priests and people who stood in the forecourt, hearing the expressed name [of God, i.e., Jehovah] issuing from the mouth of the high-priest, used to kneel, prostrate themselves, and fall on their faces, and say: 'Blessed be the name of His kingdom's glory for ever.'" (Babylonian Talmud, edited by Michael L. Rodkinson, Volume VI, Section Moed, Tractate Yoma, Chapter VI, [66a.] Kindle location 24239).

It was not a daily occurrence. Some Rabbis promulgated the principle that the Divine Name was only to be pronounced in the temple:

"And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God. What does ‘great’ imply? — R. Joseph said in the name of Rab: He magnified Him by [pronouncing] the Ineffable Name. R. Giddal said: [He recited], Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting even to everlasting. Said Abaye to R. Dimi: But perhaps it means that he magnified Him by [pronouncing] the Ineffable Name? — He answered: One does not pronounce the Ineffable Name outside [the limits of the Temple]." (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Yoma, 69b).

No doubt these are nothing but commandments of men, but as a matter of historical fact use of the Divine Name was not common in every-day life. Not only the Pharisees, but also the Qumran Covenanters, were upset by the thought of anyone pronouncing the Divine Name: "Anyone who speaks aloud the M[ost] Holy Name of God, [whether in...] or in cursing or as a blurt in time of trial or for any other reason, or while he is reading a book or praying, is to be expelled, never again to return to the society of the Yahad." (Charter of a Jewish Sectarian Association, p. 135, Dead Sea Scrolls, Wise, Abegg & Cook).

The modern Jewish understanding of Leviticus 24:15-16 as intending to criminalize pronouncing the Divine Name was already in place in Philo Judaeus' day.  He quotes the verse as follows: "'Whoever curses God shall be guilty of sin, and whoever names the name of the Lord shall die.' Well done, O all-wise man! You alone have drunk of the cup of unalloyed wisdom.  You have seen that it was worse to name God than even to curse him...But if any were, I will not say to blaspheme against the Lord of gods and men, but were even to dare to utter his name unseasonably he must endure the punishment of death; for those persons who have a proper respect for their parents do not lightly bring forward the names of their parents, though they are but mortal, but they avoid using their proper names by reason of the reverence which they bear them, and call them rather by the titles indicating their natural relationship, that is, father and mother, by which names they at once intimate the unsurpassable benefits which they have received at their hands, and their own grateful disposition.  Therefore those men must not be thought worthy of pardon who out of volubility of tongue have spoken unseasonably, and being too free of their words have repeated carelessly the most holy and divine name of God." (Philo Judaeus, 25 B.C. - 45 A.D., On the Life of Moses, II, XXXVII-XXXVIII, 203-208).

So it seems like the habit of speaking the Divine Name in daily life was already history before Jesus' first advent. 'Restoring' it where it never was is a willful modern invention. The Divine Name does however occur inn the New Testament. The Divine Name is found in actually existing manuscripts of the New Testament in several forms: 1.) in Greek translation, in John 8:58, 8:24 and related verses, 2.) as transliterated in the chorus of praise of the inhabitants of heaven:

"After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, 'Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!'...Again they said, 'Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!'  And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, 'Amen! Alleluia!'...And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, 'Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!'" (Revelation 19:1-6).

'Alleluia' is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew 'Hallelujah', meaning 'Praise Jah!'. Many psalms begin with a 'Hallelujah', like Psalm 106:1: "Praise the LORD!" Christians can agree,

"Said R. Jehoshua ben Levi: 'With ten different expressions of praise the entire Book of Psalms was composed. . .The most important of all the expressions is that of Hallelujah, because it contains within itself both praise and the Name.'" (The Babylonian Talmud, edited by Michael L. Rodkinson, Volume V., Section Moed, Tractate Pesachim, Chapter X, Kindle location 21658).

3.) One suggested third way derives from the Greek transliteration of the Divine Name as 'IAO': iota-alpha-omega. 'Alpha and Omega' is offered as a Divine Name in Revelation, corresponding to the 'First and the Last' [letters of the alphabet]. "I Jesus" [Revelation 22:16] and "Alpha and Omega" [Revelation 22:13] spell out 'IAO,' though perhaps this is bit recondite. Another admittedly far-fetched suggestion is that the "seven voices" of Revelation 10:3 are reciting a seven (Greek) vowel version of the divine name: "ΙΕΗΩΟΥΑ," familiar to those who derive their acquaintance with the divine name from amulets and talismans and the like:

"The Greek language has but one word for vowel and voice; when therefore, “the seven thunders uttered their voices,” the seven vowels, it is meant, echoed through the vault of heaven, and composed that mystic utterance which the sainted seer was forbidden to reveal unto mortals." (King, Charles William (2010-07-13). The Gnostics and Their Remains (Kindle Locations 3239-3241). Part II, The Worship of Mithras and Serapis. Kindle Edition.)

And, lastly, 4.) in the form of the pious substitution of 'Lord.'  The habit of substituting 'Lord' for the Divine Name was established in synagogue worship; Jesus does it in Luke 4:17-18, "And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah.  And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: 'The Spirit of the Lord ['kyrios'] is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor...'" Where the scroll of Isaiah 61 would have had the Divine Name, Jesus substitutes 'Kyrios', 'Lord'.

It's this last form which is so lethal to the Jehovah's Witness denial of Christ's Deity that they've been obliged to 'restore' the Divine Name to places in the New Testament where it never was — because the early church also confessed that "Jesus is Lord".  This results in puzzling non-sequiturs in the New Word Translation, like Romans 10:9-13, "For if you publicly declare that 'word in your own mouth,' that Jesus is Lord, and exercise faith in your heart that God raised him up from the dead, you will be saved...For 'everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.'"  This accurate quotation of Joel 2:32 is cut adrift by the forced substitution of 'Jehovah' for 'the Lord' of the text.  Leaving the text as Paul wrote it makes perfect sense, because "Jesus is Lord"!

Jehovah or Yahweh?

To their credit, the Jehovah's Witnesses have resisted the modern fad of pronouncing the Divine Name as 'Yahweh.' Though 'Jave' is attested as Samaritan usage in antiquity, the common Greek usage of 'IAO' cannot be understood as a shortened form of 'Yahweh,' while both can be understood as shortened forms of 'Jehovah.' 'IAO' is attested by Origen (Contra Celsus 6.32, Commentary on John 2.1), Diodorus Siculus, and many other authors. The Greek 'iota' sounds like the 'i' of 'machine,' not like 'eye.' A word which begin with a leading-I, like 'Iesous,' sounds like 'Yay-zous;' so 'IAO' equates to 'Jahoh.' Partisans of 'Yahweh' point to a letter from Clement of Alexandria which supplies the transliteration,

I  A  O  U  E

So how did Clement come to omit the 'O' of Jehovah? He didn't — it's that big round thing right in the middle! Except the moderns tell us this 'O' must be combined with its neighbor, 'U' to form the dipthong 'OU,' pronounced by the Greeks as 'ooh.' So we end up with something like the French 'oui' for the syllable of a two-syllable word. In fact, had the King James Version translators tacked up Clement's 'IAOUE' on the wall, they still would have given us what they did give us, which is 'Iehouah' in the 1611 edition. Greek lacks any letter 'H,' except as a rough breathing mark at the beginning of a word. How do we get from 'Iehouah' to 'Jehovah?' The 'change' from initial 'I' to 'J' has more to do with the history of type-setting. The moderns' insistence on making Clement's 'u' into a vowel and mashing it into a dipthong, which is where 'Yahweh' comes from, strikes me as a misunderstanding. The Septuagint and the New Testament, in transliterating Hebrew words, very often give us a 'u,' upsilon, for v or w (in Silver Age Latin, 'v' is pronounced 'w' in any case). Let's look at the record:

The Mother of All Living: The KJV edition of 1769 gives us 'Eve' in 1 Timothy 2:13, for 'EUA.' The Greek diphthong 'eu' is pronounced like the 'eu' in 'feud.' (Goodwin's Greek Grammar, p. 11). Do the moderns go with 'Youah?' That's not right.
Visit Ninyouee and Die: The modern KJV gives us 'Nineve' in Luke 11:32, not 'Ninyouee.' Unlike many modern translations, the KJV does sometimes go to the trouble of rendering New Testament words from the Greek; they refrain from substituting 'Isaiah' for 'Esaias.' There never was any such place in the world pronounced 'Ninyouee,' though if we follow the modern procedure which yields 'Yahweh' for 'IAOUE,' that's what we get.
King Dowd: Later transliterated 'Dabid,' early Greek versions have 'Dauid,' for instance in Matthew 1:6. 'AU' is a Greek dipthong pronounced like the 'ou' of 'house.' (Goodwin's Greek Grammar, p. 11). But 'David' is actually right. So is 'Jehovah.'

In many of these cases, it appears that what the transliterators did in the first place is to substitute the Greek 'upsilon' for the Hebrew 'vav.' The 1769 KJV succeeds by reversing the procedure. The moderns, suspecting elaborate mimicry rather than letter-for-letter substitution, lead us far afield from successful transliteration when we adopt their procedure for the many Old Testament words brought into the New Testament. In general these transliterations seem to succeed best when one carefully pronounces each letter rather than blending them into Greek dipthongs. 'Raab' (James 2:25) would be pronounced in Greek as one syllable; two 'alpha's' should contract to a long 'a,' like the 'a' in 'father' (Goodwin's Greek Grammar, 15). But this does not lead to success, the woman's name had two syllables. Likewise in the case of 'Father Abraham' (Luke 16:24); it takes a careful listener to tell the difference between 'Abraam' (long 'a') and 'Abram' (short 'a'). Pronouncing the letters separately, however, does keep us in the ball-park, though it goes against the grain of normal Greek practice. These New Testament transliterations, as well as those in the Septuagint, seem to succeed best when the reader avoids combining the vowels into dipthongs. Did readers understand this convention...or did they content themselves with pronunciations which do not resemble their exemplars?

While substituting 'upsilon' for 'vav' may seem arbitrary, language itself follows this protocol; the Greek 'bous,' the lexicons tell us, is the same word as the Latin 'bovis' ('bos'), from which we get our 'bovine.' If that is what Clement is doing, then he is telling us the Divine Name is pronounced 'Yahoweh.' If, on the other hand, he is introducing a brand-new transliteration procedure to his readers, employing imaginative combinations of dipthongs to mimic consonants, it is unclear how he expected his readers to catch on to this novel private language.

When English-speakers decided to pronounce the leading-I of words like 'Iesous,' as 'Gz,' is unclear, but 'correcting' this usage in one case — 'Yahweh' — while leaving it uncorrected in the other — 'Jesus' — impairs the reader's ability to discern that 'Jesus' is 'Jehovah Savior.' In any case, 'IAO' serves as a useful check on the ingenuity of the moderns. The 'O' of 'IAO' cannot be combined with 'U' to form a dipthong...because there isn't any 'U'! The Jehovah's Witnesses are closer to the mark with 'Jehovah' than is the 'Yahweh' contingent, for my money.

Torture Stake

Did Jesus die upon a cross, with intersecting horizontal and vertical timbers, or upon a vertical stake? Writing early in the second century, this author likens the cross to the letter 'T,' tau:

“And because the cross, which is shaped like the T, was destined to convey grace, it mentions also the 'three hundred.'” (Epistle of Barnabas, Chapter 9.8, The Apostolic Fathers, Lightfoot, Harmer, and Holmes, p. 174).

(The letters of the Greek alphabet did double duty as numbers.) If the penal cross then in use had a vertical member only, it is unclear why the letter 'T' would be the ideal symbol, instead of the letter 'I,' iota (which this author has already claimed for the first letter of the name 'Jesus').

Tertullian likewise saw the letter 'T' as a prophecy of the cross:

"Now the Greek letter Tau and our own letter T is the very form of the cross. . ." (Tertullian, 'Five Books Against Marcion,' Book III, Chapter 22).

A 'torture stake' does not look like a 'T.' He is discussing Ezekiel 9:4, and seems to have found his 'T' in a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew 'tav,' meaning 'mark.' (Some of these interpretations do not survive transfer from the Septuagint; the point is not that they are worthwhile Bible interpretations, but that they imply the interpreter thought a cross looked like the letter 'T.')

Irenaeus describes the conventional figure for the cross: "The very form of the cross, too, has five extremities, two in length, two in breadth, and one in the middle, on which [last] the person rests who is fixed by the nails." (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book 2, Chapter 24, Section 4, p. 787, ECF_1_01).

A man tied to a 'torture stake' does not stretch out his hands, yet these writers link Jesus' death on a cross with Old Testament references to stretched-out hands:

“When the people,” replied I, “waged war with Amalek, and the son of Nave (Nun) by name Jesus (Joshua), led the fight, Moses himself prayed to God, stretching out both hands, and Hur with Aaron supported them during the whole day, so that they might not hang down when he got wearied. For if he gave up any part of this sign, which was an imitation of the cross, the people were beaten, as is recorded in the writings of Moses. . .he himself made the sign of the cross." (Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 90).

Writers who lived when crucifixion was still employed as a method of execution are not likely to be mistaken about this, and the Jehovah's Witnesses who insist upon a single stake in order to assign a pagan origin to the image of the cross, are not likely to be correct.

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Torture Stake Nailed to the Tree
Mandatory Sentencing Carrying the Cross
Release of the Body



Restoration

The Watchtower Society has 'restored' the tetragrammaton to the New Testament. This would be more reassuring in the face of evidence that it was ever there. No manuscript, papyrus fragment, description or quote by any early author makes mention of the tetragrammaton's presence in the New Testament. 'Restoring' what was not there is as problematical as 'finding' what was not lost.

Jerome reports an Aramaic or Hebrew version of Matthew's gospel:

"MATTHEW, also called Levi, apostle and aforetimes publican, composed a gospel of Christ at first published in Judea in Hebrew for the sake of those of the circumcision who believed, but this was afterwards translated into Greek though by what author is uncertain. The Hebrew itself has been preserved until the present day in the library at Caesarea which Pamphilus so diligently gathered." (Jerome, Lives of Illustrious Men, Chapter 3).

Jerome's testimony, which makes no mention of the tetragrammaton, is credible. Matthew follows the pious Jew's habit of circumlocution. Instead of saying 'Kingdom of God' as do the other evangelists, Matthew prefers to say 'Kingdom of Heaven,' a phrase not found in the other gospels. Needless to say, a writer who prefers to avoid saying 'God' is not more likely, but less likely, than other authors, to use the Divine Name.

For the remainder of the New Testament, there is no evidence of an Aramaic or Hebrew original. One cannot imagine that Paul, who told the Greek Corinthians that he made himself all things to all men [1 Corinthians 9:22], was telling them so in a language they could not understand. One gospel author, Luke, was likely a Gentile; he is listed in Colossians 4:15 apart from those "of the circumcision." Internal evidence confirms that these texts were composed originally in Greek, the language in which we now have them. Because a great many texts written in Aramaic or Hebrew do not contain the tetragrammaton, constructing castles in the air about 'lost' texts does not in any case supply the missing tetragrammaton.

The Talmud discusses methodology for disposing of texts of 'heretics,' the 'minim,' which contain the tetragrammaton. Non-believing Jews describe Christians as 'heretics,' yet they also describe others in this fashion, nor is it known which texts are in view; there is no reason to think the New Testament ever contained the tetragrammaton. Were the offending documents Old Testament commentaries prepared by the minim, or prophecy chains extracted from the Old Testament, according to principles accepted by the minim but not by the Rabbis?

The Bible,— the real one,— is severe in its condemnation of changing the text:

"For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." (Revelation 22:18-19)
"Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar." (Proverbs 30:5-6).

In light of the radical surgery the Jehovah's Witnesses propose to perform on the text, it would be comforting if their evidence consisted of something other than speculation about non-existent manuscripts. They do, however, pull one manuscript from their satchel. It is a medieval translation of Matthew's gospel into Hebrew...which does not contain the tetragrammaton.

The New Testament authors preferred to substitute for the Divine Name, in their Old Testament quotations, not 'ha shem,' but 'kyrios,' 'Lord.' Herein lies the problem for the Jehovah's Witnesses, as for anyone who denies the deity of Jesus Christ. The New Testament authors call Jehovah 'Lord,' and they call Jesus Christ 'Lord:' "Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth...Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand." (James 5:4-8). The first 'Lord' is undoubtedly the living God; the second 'Lord' is the Lord Jesus Christ, who is coming again. The only way to avoid the conclusion that Jesus Christ is God is to commit the Watchtower's theologically motivated vandalism against the text.

1914

  • "In a time parallel, Jesus Christ was installed as King in heaven at the close of the 'appointed times of the nations', about October 1, 1914." ("New Heavens and A New Earth," Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc., 1953, p. 317).
  • "The King Jesus Christ, reigning since A.D. 1914, brings this about through his just rule, reorganizing his restored remnant on earth in a theocratic setup. Over his sheep he appoints faithful spiritual shepherds in a theocratic way, these being ordered to serve in justice and to safeguard the interest of the flock of the Chief Shepherd, the King." ("New Heavens and A New Earth," Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Inc., 1953, p. 334).


"Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning comes out of the east, and shines even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." (Matthew 24:23-27).

Is there a Hell?

"And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name." (Revelation 14:9-11).
"And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever." (Revelation 20:10).

Notice that in the first passage, the "he" who will be "tormented with fire and brimstone" and will "have no rest" is he who worships the beast, that is to say, a human being.

The "everlasting fire" was a theme of Jesus' preaching:

"Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’" (Matthew 25:41).
"If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life lame or maimed, rather than having two hands or two feet, to be cast into the everlasting fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire." (Matthew 18:8-9).

Lake of Fire Worm Dieth Not
Lazarus I'm Not Going
The Face of God Dark Fire
Wheat and Chaff Vengeance is Mine
Wheat and Tares Old Testament
God's Will Gandhi in Hell
Hell in the Koran Infinite Loss
Do Unto Others



Over time the Biblical teaching of hell accumulated folkloric accretions. The geography of the place was worked out in excruciating detail in Dante Alighieri's beautiful medieval poem. But what is the need of a 'place' with its own 'geography' to house non-corporeal beings, as are souls awaiting their future resurrection? This modification goes back to Tertullian's re-invention of the locale along strictly materialist lines:

"By ourselves the lower regions (of Hades) are not supposed to be a bare cavity, nor some subterranean sewer of the world, but a vast deep space in the interior of the earth, and a concealed recess in its very bowels; inasmuch as we read that Christ in His death spent three days in the heart of the earth, that is, in the secret inner recess which is hidden in the earth, and enclosed by the earth, and superimposed on the abysmal depths which lie still lower down." (Tertullian, A Treatise on the Soul, Chapter 55).

Tertullian, relying upon certain Stoic authorities, denied a non-corporeal soul, rather he thought of the human soul as a sort of diaphanous, subtle, material substance, in form a double of the living person. These Stoic authorities were not unsophisticated people; rather they denied that anything non-material was real. (Heaven help us if one of these smoky, unsolid things flits too near a high-powered fan!) So even at that early date the Bible teaching on hell was already undergoing deformation. By all means, strip all that away; these elaborators were not inspired, and neither the Witnesses nor anyone else is bound to their editorial emendations. However, once you strip away the accretions and redefinitions, what remains,— the pure Bible teaching on hell,— is sufficiently daunting. The Jehovah's Witnesses are not subtracting only subsequent elaboration, they are subtracting the Bible doctrine itself.

If the Jehovah's Witnesses find what the Bible teaches about "everlasting fire" to be incompatible with other Bible truths like "God is love" (1 John 4:8), they are free to 'spiritualize' these verses, as they do whatever other Bible verses they find inconvenient and uncongenial. However their shrill accusations against those who credit the Bible story of eternal punishment of the wicked are uncalled for. The people who are taking the Lord's words literally and in their plain sense are not the people who need to justify themselves.

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