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.

4 thoughts on “Deity of Christ, Part 1: Neat Hebrew Verbs

  1. Chris

    Nice man. This is good stuff. So you’re putting together an apol­getic pam­phlet aimed at dis­arm­ing Watch­tower argu­ments? That is so cool. Louis, your inter­ests always sur­prise me, but your ambi­tious projects, result­ing from hours of thought and study are most strik­ing of all.

  2. Pingback: Deity of Christ, Part 2: Jesus Worships God

  3. Pingback: Deity of Christ, Part 5: Is Jesus "Jehovah"?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *