Category Archives: World Religions

Deity of Christ, Part 6: The Very One

This is the sixth part in a series on apolo­get­ics to Jehovah’s Wit­nesses. This series focuses on defend­ing the deity of Christ to Jehovah’s Wit­nesses who come knock­ing at the door say­ing oth­er­wise. In the pre­vi­ous post I intro­duced a chal­lenge: The Watch­tower believes that use of the name “Jeho­vah” is the only way to cer­tainly iden­tify the one true God. Some­how they need to be shown that Jesus is Jeho­vah. But how can that be done when “Jeho­vah” is the translit­er­a­tion of four Hebrew let­ters while what is com­monly styled the “New Tes­ta­ment” is all in Greek? On page 11 of their King­dom Inter­lin­ear Trans­la­tion (1985) the Watch­tower tell us about at least one way this could be done (brack­ets mine):

…what is the mod­ern trans­la­tor to do? Is he jus­ti­fied or autho­rized in enter­ing the divine name, Jeho­vah, into a trans­la­tion of the Chris­t­ian Greek Scrip­tures? In the LXX [Sep­tu­agint] the Greek words Ky’rios and Theos’ have been used to crowd out the dis­tinc­tive name of the Supreme Deity. Every com­pre­hen­sive Greek-​​English dic­tio­nary states that these two Greek words have been used as equiv­a­lents of the divine name.* Hence, the mod­ern trans­la­tor is war­ranted in using the divine name as an equiv­a­lent of those two Greek words, that is, at places where the writ­ers of the Chris­t­ian Greek Scrip­tures quote verses, pas­sages, and expres­sions from the Hebrew Scrip­tures or from the LXX where the divine name occurs.

I believe that fol­low­ing the Watchtower’s instruc­tions in this regard yields read­ings of the Chris­t­ian Greek scrip­tures that use the divine name of Jesus, and I’ve shared one exam­ple so far. Here’s another one to add to the list.

Psalm 68:16–20 (NWT):

Why do YOU, O YOU moun­tains of peaks, keep watch­ing enviously
The moun­tain that God has desired for him­self to dwell in?
Even Jeho­vah him­self will reside [there] forever.

The war char­i­ots of God are in tens of thou­sands, thou­sands over and over
Jeho­vah him­self has come from Si´nai into the holy place..

You have ascended on high;
You have car­ried away captives;
You have taken gifts in the form of men,
Yes, even the stub­born ones, to reside [among them], O Jah God..

Blessed be Jeho­vah, who daily car­ries the load for us,
The [true] God of our sal­va­tion. Se´lah..

The [true] God is for us a God of sav­ing acts;
And to Jeho­vah the Sov­er­eign Lord belong the ways out from death.

Who ascended on high and car­ried away cap­tives? Eph­esians 4:7–11 (NWT) says it is Christ:

Now to each one of us unde­served kind­ness was given accord­ing to how the Christ mea­sured out the free gift. Where­fore he says: “When he ascended on high he car­ried away cap­tives; he gave gifts [in] men.” Now the expres­sion “he ascended,” what does it mean but that he also descended into the lower regions, that is, the earth? The very one that descended is also the one that ascended far above all the heav­ens, that he might give full­ness to all things.

And he gave some as apos­tles, some as prophets, some as evan­ge­liz­ers, some as shep­herds and teachers,

In most Bibles, includ­ing the NWT, the two lines that read “You ascended on high, lead­ing a host of cap­tives in your train” are tagged as Psalm 68:18. But in the Sep­tu­agint (an early Greek trans­la­tion of the Hebrew scrip­tures) accord­ing to Rahlf, they are tagged as Psalm 67:19. Here is what they look like in Rahlf’s Septuagint:

ἀνέβης εἰς ὕψος, ᾐχμαλώτευσας αἰχμαλωσίαν, ἔλαβες δόματα ἐν ἀνθρώπῳ, καὶ γὰρ ἀπειθοῦντες τοῦ κατασκηνῶσαι. κύριος ὁ θεὸς εὐλογητός,

Here is the Greek text of Eph­esians 4:8 accord­ing to West­cott and Hort (the Greek edi­tion used by the Watch­tower to make the New World Translation):

διο λεγει αναβας εις υψος ηχμαλωτευσεν αιχμαλωσιαν [και] εδωκεν δοματα τοις ανθρωποι

While there is no “κύριος” or “θεός” in the Eph­esians pas­sage that cor­re­sponds to the divine name in the Psalm, there is a per­sonal pro­noun whose ref­er­ent is Jeho­vah. In the Psalm, Jeho­vah ascends and car­ries away cap­tives, yet Paul says the very one who ascended is also the one who descended [19]! In the Psalm it is Jeho­vah who is praised for his sav­ing acts, for car­ry­ing our load for us, and for giv­ing gifts in the form of men, yet in Eph­esians it is Christ who is praised for freely giv­ing sal­va­tion and giv­ing gifts in the form of men—apostles, prophets, evan­ge­liz­ers, shep­herds and teach­ers. I believe this strongly implies that Paul believes Jesus is Jeho­vah and is the ful­fill­ment of this Psalm.

Deity of Christ, Part 5: Is Jesus “Jehovah”?

This morn­ing there was a pam­phlet on my kitchen table from the Watch­tower Bible & Tract Soci­ety of Penn­syl­va­nia. The Jehovah’s Wit­nesses must have dropped it off while I wasn’t home (a shame!). See­ing it gave me just the moti­va­tion I needed to pick up this series again. I hope that any print­able pam­phlet that comes out of this will be both con­cise and orga­nized, but I am tak­ing the lib­erty to jump around a lit­tle bit and be a lit­tle longer in treat­ing cer­tain issues here on my blog. Today I want to argue that we should take seri­ously the idea that the New Tes­ta­ment authors believed that Jesus is Jeho­vah. To the Jehovah’s Wit­ness, this is the ulti­mate cri­te­rion of supreme deity, and their belief that Jesus is not Jeho­vah is one of the most fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence between their doc­trine and ortho­dox Chris­tian­ity [17].

At first it seems as though the Watch­tower has given us a chal­lenge we can­not meet: to find a place in the scrip­tures in which the four Hebrew let­ters they translit­er­ate “Jeho­vah” is used of Jesus, while the New Tes­ta­ment is all in Greek! While many argue about whether this is even the right approach to the ques­tion of the deity of Christ (“Jeho­vah” isn’t God’s only name, the New World Trans­la­tion delib­er­ately slants the issue, etc.), I see it from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive: The Watch­tower has very clearly spelled out a sin­gle cri­te­rion that, if met, would prove the deity of Christ. Even though their chal­lenge might be wrong-​​headed to begin with, what if we were able to meet it any­way? Wouldn’t it be eas­ier to give them what they want than to argue about whether they are cor­rect to want it? What if we could prove that Jesus is God, from their own scrip­tures, using their own criterion?

Where could we start in on a project like that? The Watch­tower spells that out for us too—on page 11 of their King­dom Inter­lin­ear Trans­la­tion (1985) (brack­ets mine):

what is the mod­ern trans­la­tor to do? Is he jus­ti­fied or autho­rized in enter­ing the divine name, Jeho­vah, into a trans­la­tion of the Chris­t­ian Greek Scrip­tures? In the LXX [Sep­tu­agint] the Greek words Ky’rios and Theos’ have been used to crowd out the dis­tinc­tive name of the Supreme Deity. Every com­pre­hen­sive Greek-​​English dic­tio­nary states that these two Greek words have been used as equiv­a­lents of the divine name.* Hence, the mod­ern trans­la­tor is war­ranted in using the divine name as an equiv­a­lent of those two Greek words, that is, at places where the writ­ers of the Chris­t­ian Greek Scrip­tures quote verses, pas­sages, and expres­sions from the Hebrew Scrip­tures or from the LXX where the divine name occurs.

What at first looked like an insur­mount­able chal­lenge begins to look like an oppor­tu­nity. Doing what the Watch­tower tell us to do (find­ing Greek scrip­tures that quote from Hebrew scrip­tures that use “Jeho­vah”, then read­ing that use of the divine name back into the Greek scrip­ture) actu­ally yields read­ings of Greek scrip­tures that iden­tify Jeho­vah as Jesus. And what’s more is that the cross-​​references in the Watchtower’s own New World Trans­la­tion even indi­cate the con­nec­tions between these Greek verses about Jesus and the Hebrew pas­sages from which they quote. Let’s take a look at one.

Isa­iah 45:23–25, NWT:

By my own self I have sworn—out of my own mouth in right­eous­ness the word has gone forth, so that it will not return—that to me every knee will bend down, every tongue will swear, say­ing, ‘Surely in Jeho­vah there are full right­eous­ness and strength. All those get­ting heated up against him will come straight to him and be ashamed. In Jeho­vah all the seed of Israel will prove to be right and will boast about themselves.’”

To whom will every knee bow, accord­ing to the prophet Isa­iah? And who is the object of the ensu­ing confession?

Now look at who the object of this prophecy in its quo­ta­tion by Paul in his let­ter to the Philip­i­ans (2:9–11, NWT):

For this very rea­son also God exalted him to a supe­rior posi­tion and kindly gave him the name that is above every [other] name, so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth and those under the ground, and every tongue should openly acknowl­edge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

In its use here, it is in Jesus that every knee should bow and Jesus is the object of the ensu­ing con­fes­sion of faith [18]. Paul takes the words used of Jeho­vah and uses them of Jesus. If we take the advice in the King­dom Inter­lin­ear, we would clothe “Lord” (κύριος) and “God” (θεός) with the per­son­al­ity of “Jeho­vah” in this pas­sage, giv­ing us “…Jesus Christ is Jeho­vah to the glory of Jeho­vah the Father”.

There are some other things to note here, too. This verse actu­ally says that God gave Jesus the name that is above every other name! Now let’s take a look at (Matthew 28:19, NWT, empha­sis mine):

Go there­fore and make dis­ci­ples of peo­ple of all the nations, bap­tiz­ing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the holy spirit

The Father and the Son share a name. Rev­e­la­tion reflects this too, by using sin­gu­lar third per­son pro­nouns to refer to both God the Father and Jesus the Lamb together (Rev. 7:14–17 & Rev. 22:1–3, NWT, empha­sis mine):

I said to him: “My lord, you are the one that knows.” And he said to me: “These are the ones that come out of the great tribu­la­tion, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. That is why they are before the throne of God; and they are ren­der­ing him sacred ser­vice day and night in his tem­ple; and the One seated on the throne will spread his tent over them. They will hunger no more nor thirst any­more, nei­ther will the sun beat down upon them nor any scorch­ing heat, because the Lamb, who is in the midst of the throne, will shep­herd them, and will guide them to foun­tains of waters of life. And God will wipe out every tear from their eyes.”

And he showed me a river of water of life, clear as crys­tal, flow­ing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the mid­dle of its broad way. And on this side of the river and on that side [there were] trees of life pro­duc­ing twelve crops of fruit, yield­ing their fruits each month. And the leaves of the trees [were] for the cur­ing of the nations.

And no more will there be any curse. But the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in [the city], and his slaves will ren­der him sacred service;

Isaiah’s prophecy about every knee bow­ing to Jeho­vah and con­fess­ing faith in him is used of Jesus, God gives Jesus the name above all names, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share that name, God the Father and Jesus the Lamb share the throne, and are referred to col­lec­tively by sin­gu­lar third per­son pro­nouns in Rev­e­la­tion (rem­i­nis­cent of some­thing I saw in Gen­e­sis once). These con­sti­tute good grounds for think­ing that the New Tes­ta­ment authors believed that Jesus, together with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, is Jehovah.

Deity of Christ, Part 4: JW Christology

This is the fourth part in a series on apolo­get­ics to Jehovah’s Wit­nesses. This series focuses on defend­ing the deity of Christ to Jehovah’s Wit­nesses who come knock­ing at the door. It’s impor­tant to remem­ber that the Watch­tower tells them that Evan­gel­i­cals are rude, unlov­ing, nasty peo­ple who will slam doors in their faces; let’s prove them dead wrong on that front, too!

Today I want to give you a lit­tle back­ground on the the­ol­ogy of the Jehovah’s Wit­nesses. When I first started talk­ing to them as an adult I was sur­prised to real­ize what they actu­ally believe, and why all my old argu­ments for the deity of Christ are inef­fec­tive in con­ver­sa­tion with them. There was a brief period where my mind was even opened to the idea that Jesus is not in fact God! It was only after re-​​searching the scrip­tures with these new issues in mind that I re-​​discovered the supremacy of Christ over all things. So what had me reconsidering?

The first thing you need to under­stand is that the Jehovah’s Wit­ness who comes knock­ing at your door is ‘not’ a poly­the­ist. He is a henothe­ist. That is to say that he believes that there is only one God, whom he calls “Jeho­vah”. Yet, he believes that Jesus is a god — a being more pow­er­ful than every ‘other’ cre­ated thing. In their own words:

God’s name is Jehovah
Christ is God’s Son and is infe­rior to Him
Christ was first of God’s creations

While the poly­the­ist believes there are mul­ti­ple gods of equal power, the henothe­ist believes there is one supreme God, but that there may be lesser deities as well. This is not so unlike clas­si­cal the­ism, where the exis­tence of all man­ner of angels and demons far more pow­er­ful than humans is con­sid­ered plau­si­ble. And in fact the Wit­ness the­ol­ogy even holds Jeho­vah as the cre­ator of all things, not merely the most pow­er­ful among them — they are much closer to Chris­t­ian ortho­doxy than you might think.

But nei­ther does the Wit­ness deny the divin­ity of Christ, or his par­tic­i­pa­tion in the cre­ative act, or many other things you might think indi­cate the supreme deity of Christ. The Wit­nesses believe Jeho­vah cre­ated Jesus first, that Jesus is more pow­er­ful than every­thing else, and that it was through Jesus that Jeho­vah God cre­ated the cosmos.

This allows them to fully embrace “theos” as a descrip­tion for Jesus. When you turn to your favorite verse in the Greek scrip­tures that proves the deity of Christ, chances are it uses the Greek word “theos”. Even the clas­si­cal debate over John 1:1 (about which, of course, I side with the Chris­tians — see here and here.), if won, is inef­fec­tive to prove the deity of Christ to the Wit­ness. It only attrib­utes theo–ness (godhood) to Jesus, and not Jeho­vah–ness (Godhood). And Jeho­vah­ness is their cri­te­rion for supreme deity.

Understanding Trinitarian Theology

In order to ade­quately defend the deity of Christ, you have to be able to pre­cisely artic­u­late the doc­trine of the Trin­ity. The rea­son is that when the Wit­ness shows you scrip­tures that high­light the dis­tinc­tion between Jesus and the Father, you can­not allow your­self to be pushed into the the­o­log­i­cal errors that lie on either side of the nar­row road of ortho­doxy. On one hand, they are try­ing to prove that Jesus is so dis­tinct from the Father that he does not share in His deity. But you do not want to push back so hard that you end up con­flat­ing the dis­tinc­tions between the per­sons of the God­head either.

So here are the basic affir­ma­tions about the trini­tar­ian nature of God that Chris­tians have his­tor­i­cally made, which I believe make log­i­cal sense out of the Bib­li­cal data:

1. There is only one being who is God.

2. The Father is God.

3. The Son is God.

4. The Spirit is God.

5. The Father, Son, and Spirit are dis­tinct per­sons.

[Update: Another blog­ger laid it out well here. Also, I wanted to add this thought — we need to remem­ber to try to use words the Wit­ness on the street can under­stand, or else be pre­pared to explain our lan­guage, and to defend our right to be a lit­tle bit philo­soph­i­cal when describ­ing the nature of God. Wit­nesses have a ten­dency to eschew any­thing that seems com­pli­cated or con­fus­ing at first blush because “God is not a God of con­fu­sion, and even the first cen­tury fish­er­man under­stood every­thing Jesus had to say” (which will be treated in another post).]

For fur­ther read­ing go check out how the early Chris­tians worded this in the Athanasian Creed. But if you only have time to read one source on the trin­ity, stop read­ing this blog now and go read John’s gospel!

Understanding Christology

Going one step fur­ther, you have to be able to pre­cisely artic­u­late the nature of Christ. On the one hand, you have to get his human­ity right, or else he can­not be an appro­pri­ate sub­sti­tu­tion­ary sac­ri­fice for any human. Fail­ing to affirm the true human­ity of Jesus will result in a beat­ing from the Wit­ness who comes knock­ing, as there is verse after verse that demands it. On the other hand, you have to get his deity right, or else Jesus can­not afford to be a sac­ri­fice for all humans. The affir­ma­tion of the deity of Jesus is the most fun­da­men­tal dis­tinc­tion between the Chris­t­ian and the Wit­ness. The Wit­ness will tell you that wor­ship­ping any­thing but Jeho­vah is idol­a­try, but he needs remind­ing that refus­ing to wor­ship some­one who is truly God is just as griev­ous an error. Jesus Him­self says that if we reject Him, we reject the Father.

These two natures of Christ must be kept dis­tinct (He is not what geneti­cists call an “F1 hybrid”). Yet these two natures can­not be sep­a­rated into two per­sons (or else, how could the merely human Jesus be wor­shipped or the God-​​but-​​not-​​human Jesus serve as a sac­ri­fice in the stead of humans?). So:

1. Jesus is truly God.

2. Jesus is truly human.

3. These two natures are dis­tinct from one another.

4. These two natures are united in a sin­gle person.

For an elab­o­ra­tion on this you can read how the early believ­ers put it in the Chal­cenon­ian Def­i­n­i­tion. Though if you only have time for one source on the nature of Jesus, stop read­ing this blog and just read Colos­sians. And Hebrews.

Now when the Wit­ness at your door argues that Jesus makes a dis­tinc­tion between him­self and the Father, prays to the Father, and wor­ships the Father, that there is only one God, and that Jesus is God’s son, you can show him with ease how all of these things are true, and yet none of them are incom­pat­i­ble with the deity of Christ.

In future posts we will look at how to show the Wit­ness, on their own terms, that Jesus is Jeho­vah (even though “Jeho­vah” is a Hebrew word that does not show up in the Greek New Tes­ta­ment man­u­scripts). We will also be con­sid­er­ing other argu­ments against the deity of Christ, such as that he is called the “first­born”, that other beings are called “sons of God”, that no human has seen God yet many have seen Jesus, that Jesus does not know the day or hour of his return yet God is omni­scient, that the Father is greater than the Son, that the Trin­ity is con­fus­ing yet God is not a God of con­fu­sion, and more!

Deity of Christ, Part 3: Jesus Rejects Worship

This is the third part in a series on apolo­get­ics to Jehovah’s Wit­nesses. This series focuses on defend­ing the deity of Christ to Jehovah’s Wit­nesses who come knock­ing at the door. It’s impor­tant to remem­ber that the Watch­tower tells them that Evan­gel­i­cals are rude, unlov­ing, nasty peo­ple who will slam doors in their faces; let’s prove them dead wrong on that front, too!

Today I want to look at the old “Jesus refuses to be wor­shipped” argu­ment. Mark 10:18 says “Jesus said to him: ‘Why do you call me good? Nobody is good, except one, God.’”. Here it is impor­tant to remem­ber that Jesus was actu­ally a very bril­liant logi­cian. So let’s look at a pretty sim­ple log­i­cal argu­ment for the deity of Christ:

1. No one is good except God.

2. Jesus is good.

3. There­fore, Jesus is God.

In the Mark pas­sage, Jesus affirms (1), that no one is good except God. He does not reject (2) that He is good, or (3) that He is God. Rather, He sim­ply draws atten­tion to the log­i­cal con­clu­sion of (2). So here the Jehovah’s Wit­ness is sim­ply mis­taken — Jesus does not refuse to be wor­shipped in Mark’s gospel.

Fur­ther­more, (2) is directly affirmed by Hebrews 4:15. So the pas­sage the Wit­ness brings up gets you started with (1), and Hebrews affirms (2), and the con­clu­sion that Jesus is God fol­lows inescapably!

There’s one other pas­sage I know about that is some­times used to try to prove that Jesus refused to be wor­shipped. Luke 4:8 says “In reply Jesus said to him: ‘It is writ­ten, “It is Jeho­vah your God you must wor­ship, and it is to him alone you must ren­der sacred ser­vice.”’”. Here it is impor­tant to note the con­text of the state­ment. Jesus is object­ing to Satan’s demand to be wor­shipped. Satan is most cer­tainly not Jeho­vah. But if we look at this log­i­cally again, we see some­thing else:

4. Jeho­vah alone you must worship.

5. Jesus you must worship.

6. There­fore, Jesus is Jehovah.

In the Luke pas­sage Jesus affirms (4). He does not deny (5) or (6). And if we take a look else­where in scrip­ture we see at least one explicit affir­ma­tion of (5): in Hebrews 1:6 (as pre­vi­ously dis­cussed). So the pas­sage the Wit­ness brings up gets a whole new argu­ment started by estab­lish­ing that only Jeho­vah deserves wor­ship, then Hebrews again pro­vides us with the teach­ing that we should wor­ship Jesus, and the con­clu­sion that Jesus is Jeho­vah fol­lows inescapably!

Deity of Christ, Part 2: Jesus Worships God

As I men­tioned in my inau­gural note on the deity of Christ, con­cern­ing first per­son plural cohor­ta­tive verbs, I have been inter­mit­tently work­ing on a lit­tle Jehovah’s Wit­ness apolo­getic pam­phlet. Today I want to post a note in response to the “But Jesus wor­ships the Father!” objection.

The Jehovah’s Wit­nesses are right. Jesus does wor­ship the Father. But then he so closely iden­ti­fies with the Father that He demands to be wor­shipped in the exact same way (cf. John 5:23, 20:28–29 [14].). Since that’s the case, and yet there is only one God, we know that Jesus and the Father must be the same Being (even if they are dif­fer­ent per­sons).

Hence the whole thing about the Trin­ity and such.

Another note on this issue is that while Jesus wor­ships the Father, the Father wor­ships Jesus right back! Even the New World Trans­la­tion says in 1 Peter 1:17 that Jesus “received from God the Father honor and glory”, and in Hebrews 1:6 [15] it says that when Jeho­vah “brings his First­born into the inhab­ited earth, he says: ‘And let all God’s angels do obei­sance to him.’”. The Watchtower’s older King­dom Inter­lin­ear Trans­la­tion actu­ally says “wor­ship” instead of “do obei­sance”, which is a much bet­ter trans­la­tion and I’ll tell you why.

The Greek lemma here is “προσκυνέω”, and John uses it in Rev­e­la­tion, too: “I, John, am the one who heard and saw these things. And when I heard and saw them, I fell down to wor­ship (“προσκυνῆσαι”) at the feet of the angel who showed them to me, but he said to me, ‘You must not do that! I am a fel­low ser­vant with you and your broth­ers the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Wor­ship (“προσκύνησον”) God.’” (22:8–9, NWT) [16].

So the scrip­tures explic­itly for­bid us from προσκυνέω-​​ing any­one but Jeho­vah, and they also explic­itly teach us to προσκυνέω Jesus. There­fore, Jesus must be the same Being as Jeho­vah. Regard­less of how you trans­late the Greek.

Deity of Christ, Part 1: Neat Hebrew Verbs

A while back I began work on a Jehovah’s Wit­ness apolo­getic pam­phlet for my own per­sonal use. As it came up in con­ver­sa­tions with some friends I real­ized that many other peo­ple could ben­e­fit from it. I haven’t fin­ished it yet, but I fig­ured I would start try­ing to pol­ish off some of the sec­tions one at a time, from time to time, and post them, or excerpts from them, here. Below is a morsel to whet your appetite.

As you would expect, Chris­to­log­i­cal and Trini­tar­ian issues are inex­tri­ca­bly linked. If Jesus is God, and if God the Father is God, yet there is only one God, then there must be a plu­ral­ity of per­sons within God. One of the ear­li­est allu­sions to the Trini­tar­ian nature of God is found in Gen­e­sis. In verses 5–7 of chap­ter 11, the name that the Jehovah’s Wit­nesses offi­cially rec­og­nize as “the” Divine Name, is used with a first per­son plural cohor­ta­tive verb.

What does that mean?” you ask?

In the Watchtower’s own New World Trans­la­tion, the pas­sage is ren­dered thusly:

And Jeho­vah pro­ceeded to go down to see the city and the tower that the sons of men had built. After that Jeho­vah said: “Look! They are one peo­ple and there is one lan­guage for them all, and this is what they start to do. Why, now there is noth­ing that they may have in mind to do that will be unat­tain­able for them. Come now! Let us go down and there con­fuse their lan­guage that they may not lis­ten to one another’s language.”

The word used in verse 7 is “נֵרְדָה”, which is a con­ju­ga­tion of a verb that can mean “to go” or “to descend”. It is “cohor­ta­tive”, mean­ing that it expresses intent, and it is in the first per­son, so the speaker is refer­ring to Him­self. The speaker is iden­ti­fied as “יהוה” (what the NWT ren­ders “Jeho­vah”) accord­ing to verse 5.

But it is plural.

First per­son sin­gu­lar cohor­ta­tive verbs were in use at the time, as evi­denced by Gen­e­sis 12:3, so the author’s use of the plural must have been deliberate.

A plural verb implies a plu­ral­ity of agents. But it is in first per­son, and the only speaker listed is Jeho­vah. So there must be a plu­ral­ity of agents within Jeho­vah.

This case is more poignant than Gen­e­sis 1’s “let us cre­ate man in our image”, as “יהוה” is not used as the sub­ject, so a uni­tar­ian could eas­ily say that Jeho­vah, after cre­at­ing Jesus, asked him to par­tic­i­pate in the cre­ative process. The way to counter that, of course, is to point out that in Gen­e­sis 2, “יהוה” is used in a way that denotes a sin­gle cre­ator. But Gen­e­sis 11 is more direct.

Biblical Arguments for Eternal Marriage?

Dur­ing the course of cor­re­spond­ing with a beloved but dis­tant Mor­mon friend, I encoun­tered some of the first Bib­li­cal argu­ments for eter­nal mar­riage I had ever heard. Usu­ally the argu­ments have to do with want­ing to stay mar­ried after death or with strictly Mor­mon scrip­tures, and not with the Bible itself. Now, I don’t think the doc­trine of eter­nal mar­riage is a deal breaker by any means — it’s entirely periph­eral to the fun­da­men­tal incom­pat­i­bil­i­ties between Mor­mon the­ol­ogy and Chris­tian­ity. But for what it’s worth, I just hap­pen to think it is false. Here is how one of his Bib­li­cal argu­ments goes (rewrit­ten in log­i­cal form):

1. All that God does is eternal.

2. God did Adam’s and Eve’s marriage.

3. There­fore, Adam’s and Eve’s mar­riage is eternal.

This is a log­i­cally valid argu­ment (its con­clu­sion fol­lows inescapably from its premises), but I dis­pute the truth of (1). The heav­ens and the earth are a clear coun­terex­am­ple: We know that God cre­ated the heav­ens and the earth (Gen. 1:1), and yet He intends to destroy them (1 Pet. 3:7). There­fore, since the heav­ens and the earth are not eter­nal, despite being done by God, not every­thing God does is eternal.

When I pointed this out to him, instead of under­cut­ting my coun­terex­am­ple, he sim­ply tried to rein­force (1) with Bib­li­cal evi­dence (which would, I think, if strong enough, rebut my coun­terex­am­ple and force me to rein­ter­pret 1 Pet. 3:7). The text he used was Eccl. 3:14.

The prob­lem I see with that, is that it is set in a con­text of cyn­i­cism, hyper­bole, and other noto­ri­ously hermeneu­ti­cally trickly rhetor­i­cal devices. For exam­ple, start­ing just five verses later, in verses 19 and on, the author, taken at face value, seems to teach that men die just like beasts and are not priv­i­leged with an after­life. Nat­u­rally he and I both agree that this face value read­ing is false. For surely, as we allow scrip­ture to inter­pret scrip­ture, we see else­where teach­ings all about the afterlife.

What of this verse, then? Well, when we inves­ti­gate the his­tor­i­cal con­text of Eccle­si­astes we dis­cover some inter­est­ing facts. Solomon, the pre­sumed author, mar­ried the daugh­ter of an Egypt­ian ruler (1 Kings 3:1). Egypt­ian reli­gion was obsessed with the notion of a phys­i­cal after­life wherein a per­son could lug all of his earthly pos­ses­sions, wives, etc. on into eter­nity. The Egyp­tians never took seri­ously the final­ity and sever­ity of phys­i­cal death. Con­trast­ingly, the Bible teaches that death ought to be viewed as the “last enemy”, in which earthly pos­ses­sions count for noth­ing (1 Cor. 15:26, Matt. 6:19–20), and that it takes a spe­cial act of God through Jesus to over­come it (1 Cor. 15:55–57). There­fore it is far more likely that Solomon was rebut­ting the Egypt­ian notion of the after­life than that he was deny­ing the Jew­ish hope in res­ur­rec­tion dur­ing the Age to Come. But to under­stand this requires the use of a lit­tle elbow grease. A sur­face level read­ing of a verse from Eccle­si­astes with­out respect to con­text should be imme­di­ately approached with caution.

So what does this verse actu­ally mean then, if not that lit­er­ally every­thing God does is eter­nal? Well, in con­text, Eccle­si­astes com­prises exam­ple after exam­ple of the failed attempts by humans to gain insight into value and into the future. The point the author seems to be mak­ing here is that we must be faith­ful and con­tent with what lit­tle knowl­edge and respon­si­bil­ity we have, await­ing with patience the unfold­ing of God’s eter­nal plan. Jesus sums it up when He says that while the heav­ens and the earth will pass away, His word will not. In other words, what God intends to be eter­nal, His eter­nal plan, will be eter­nal. But that doesn’t mean God never does things for a finite period of time, or cre­ates tools or instruc­tions designed to be use­ful for a finite time (the Mosaic law comes to mind as a great exam­ple — surely the Mor­mon church doesn’t advo­cate the ston­ing of adul­ter­esses or the strict dietary laws of the Mosaic law?).

The next Bib­li­cal argu­ment for eter­nal mar­riage he gave goes like this:

4. God left Job with twice what Job had orig­i­nally had.

5. God left Job with ten children.

6. Job orig­i­nally had ten children.

7. There­fore, Job con­tin­ued to have his orig­i­nal ten chil­dren despite their deaths.

This, as you can see, is not even directly related to mar­riage, but to fam­ily. The doc­trine of eter­nal mar­riage is actu­ally a corol­lary to a deeper-​​running and more devel­oped doc­trine con­cern­ing the “seal­ing” of famil­ial rela­tion­ships — par­ent to child, hus­band to wife, etc.

And this too, is a log­i­cally valid argu­ment. And inter­est­ingly enough, I accept its con­clu­sion. The chil­dren who died were not oblit­er­ated, unlike Job’s mate­r­ial pos­ses­sions. But the mere facts that A) the chil­dren con­tin­ued to exist after their deaths, and that B) they will always each have the prop­erty of hav­ing been born to Job, do not imply that they were ever “sealed” to him in the strict Mor­mon sense.

I will admit this: if the Mor­mon doc­trine con­cern­ing seal­ing is true, then the Job nar­ra­tive may arguably be called a glimpse of it. But I don’t think that the Job nar­ra­tive on its own can be taken as con­sti­tut­ing any pos­i­tive evi­dence in favor of the doctrine.

My friend is sharp, and he admits in his email that the Bible only offers “glimpses” of the doc­trine of eter­nal mar­riage. I hope he will even­tu­ally per­mit the use of sim­i­lar log­i­cal and hermeneu­ti­cal argu­ments in future cor­re­spon­dence con­cern­ing more fun­da­men­tal questions.