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.

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

  1. Louis Post author

    Thanks, man! I would love to do a book-​​length Bib­li­cal the­ol­ogy of the tetra­gram­ma­ton some­day, assum­ing it won’t have already been done by the time I’m qual­i­fied and have the resources to try my hand at it (or isn’t already done well some­where). In the mean­time I think there is a need for a con­cise pam­phlet that young believ­ers can use to wit­ness to the Wit­nesses. Hope­fully some­thing usable will come out of all the work I’m putting into these blogs.

  2. Pingback: Deity of Christ, Part 7: Himself

  3. Pingback: Deity of Christ, Part 6: The Very One

  4. Tori Swingrover

    Michael Hor­ton wrote and pub­lished his first book while still a stu­dent at BIOLA. If he was qual­i­fied and had the resources then, you are qual­i­fied and have the resources now.

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