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Why I believe in the Trinity


by Jeff Kvistad



I believe the doctrine of the Trinity is the best understanding of the nature of God and of Christ in the light of the whole counsel of Scripture. This doctrine did not originate with the Athanasian or the Nicene Creed, but rather those creeds resulted from the best understanding of the Scriptural evidence during the first three centuries of the Church.


DEFINITIONS


Definition of Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit – one God. There are 3 persons each with his own identity and role, but they are One God – one in substance, essence – worthy of equal worship. Each person is equal in status, power, and eternality (uncreatedness). Each is a distinct personality, but they relate to and are intertwined with each other in one divine nature. Like the teaching commonly attributed to St. Patrick – a clover has 3 leaves, but it is one clover. Likewise, a rope may have three cords, but it is one rope.


My understanding of Jehovah’s Witness ("JW") teaching: Jesus is not the Great God, or YHWH of the OT Scriptures, but rather His son - a lesser, created divine being. As such, he has divine attributes, but he is not equal to the Father in status, power, or worship. I have also heard that JWs somehow ultimately link Jesus with the Archangel Michael, but I am not sure how this works. Although I am not familiar with JW teaching on the Holy Spirit, my guess would be that you would understand the HS to not be a separate personality, but rather the "spirit" or will or power of YHWH.


[Incidentally, I have read portions of the JW version of the Bible, the New World Translation ("NWT"), but I do not have it in front of me as I write this. I do have the Greek New Testament which I learned to read in seminary.]


THESIS


I believe that Scripture shows that Jesus Christ is equal to God the Father in the essence of Godhood – that he is the eternal (uncreated) God – Jehovah - and that he is worthy of the same honor and worship as the Father. The idea of the Trinity also means, however, that Jesus is a separate person who loves, serves, and ‘stands at the right hand of’ his God and Father. For this paper, I will focus only on Jesus; there are Scriptures on the Holy Spirit, but I will not be referring to these.


I will do this first by setting the stage with a preliminary review of (a) the Hebrew word YHWH, (b) the Septuagint, and (c) the definite articles in Greek. Second, I will look at how the New Testament authors used OT Scriptures of YHWH and applied them to Jesus. Thirdly, I will open the whole Scripture and cite what are to me the most powerful texts in support of the Trinity. Then I will consider Scriptures which raise questions about Jesus’ equality with the Father, and finally, I will make some concluding comments.


SETTING THE STAGE


The meaning of YHWH


The Tetragammaton, or the most holy name of God, is a form of the verb ‘to be’ so that God’s name is literally, "I AM." This was the name he told Moses at the burning bush, "I AM who I AM" and "Tell them I AM has sent you." It is truly the only accurate name of God since in all the universe He is the only self-existent One, the One who has been and forever will be through all eternity. So holy was this name that the Jews feared to say it directly and to ‘cover’ its glory used the vowel points for the Hebrew word "adonai" which has resulted in the pronunciation ‘Jehovah,’ rather than YahWey, which would usually be required by the four Hebrew consonants.


THE SEPTUAGINT


Crucial to our discussion is the Septuagint. This is the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures which was made over a century before Christ (my recollection is 165 B.C.) by, according to tradition, 70 Jewish scholars (hence the name, Septuagint). This translation is crucial to our discussion because these are the Scriptures used by the New Testament ("NT") authors when they quoted the Old Testament ("OT"). These are the Scriptures that Paul quotes in his letters. The vocabulary of this Scripture was the vocabulary used by the first century Greek-speaking Jews and Gentiles who became believers in Christ.


When the Septuagint scholars translated the Hebrew YHWH into Greek, the word they chose was Kyrios, or Lord. (It was this precedent, by the way, which English translators, including the King James translators, used when they translated YHWH into Lord – but in order to distinguish it, capitalized it LORD.)


THE DEFINITE ARTICLES IN GREEK


Greek has two definite articles: o and to. One is just as "strong" as the other. The first one, o (pronounced, haw), is used in the subjective part of the sentence (that part of the sentence which identifies the actor). The second, to (pronounced taw), and its declensions tov, tou, and tw are used in the predicate (that part of the sentence that is ‘acted upon;’ in English it typically comes after the verb). The declensions indicate different cases: tov (pronounced tahn) is the direct object, tw (pronounced toe) is the indirect object, and tou (pronounced too) is the genitive case. (In English we would use it as the possessive.) This is more than we need to know for this paper, but I thought you might be wondering why there are three versions of to.


New Testament used OT Scriptures of YHWH and applied them to Jesus.


Romans 10:13: "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."


Comment: In this familiar verse from Romans 10, the Apostle Paul is actually quoting the OT Prophet Joel (verse 2:32). In Hebrew, this text in Joel is "Everyone who calls on the name of YHWH will be saved." But since Paul was using the Greek translation of the Scriptures, he writes, "the name of the Lord (kyrios).." For Paul, then, the Greek word kyrios was synonymous with YHWH. Now I suppose you could say that Paul is saying, "Everyone who calls on the name of YHWH will be saved," but given how often Jesus is referred to as Lord both in this chapter in Romans and throughout the NT, it is very likely that Paul actually had in mind Jesus when he quoted this verse from Joel.


Now move to this verse:


Romans 10:9: "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."


Comment: The earliest statement of belief, or creed, of the first century Christians was "Jesus is Lord." When the Greek-speaking Jews said this, they were using the same vocabulary as the Greek Scriptures, and by doing so, they were making the radical claim, "Jesus is Jehovah." This is why they were kicked out of the synagogues, why they were so hated and persecuted. It seemed to be the ultimate blasphemy, claiming that a man, Jesus, was the Eternal One.


This reading of "Jesus is Lord" may come as quite a surprise to you. Certainly the word ‘Lord’ is often used in connection with Jesus throughout the New Testament, too many times for me to list. No doubt, Jehovah’s Witnesses have treated this title as a term of rank or respect, much like, I imagine, the title "Lord" is used in Britain. I could imagine a JW teacher saying that while there are many "Lords" in England, there is only one King (or Queen, presently). And certainly the Greek word kyrios is also used in the New Testament as a term for master. The owners of the demon-possessed slavegirl in Acts are called kyrioi. But the exclamation, "____ is Lord" was in a different category in the first century Greek-speaking world. Whatever was named as Lord was an object of worship, not just respect. It was this phrase that got Jewish Christians thrown out of synagogues and Jewish and Gentile Christians killed for refusing to say, "Caesar is Lord." ("O Kaisaros O Kyrios")


Another application of YHWH to Jesus is found in:


Philippians 2:10-11: "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."


Comment: Here once again Paul has the words of OT Scripture in mind, specifically, when YHWH speaks through the Prophet Isaiah (45:23), "Before Me every knee will bow; by Me every tongue will swear (or confess)." While I suppose you might say that the Philippians verse is not clear to whom every knee should bow – to Jesus or to the Father – it is clear what the confession of the tongue will be, "Jesus is Lord," a confession that YHWH says to Isaiah is "by Me" or "of Me."


Hebrews 1:10: "He also says, ‘In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth and the heavens are the work of your hands.’"


Comment: In the first chapter of Hebrews, the author is attempting to prove the superiority of Jesus by citing OT scriptures and applying them to Jesus. The author shows that Jesus: is called God’s Son (by citing Ps. 2:7 and II Sam. 7:14); is worshipped by angels (Deuteronomy 32:43); is forever (Ps. 45:6-7); and is the creator of the heavens and the earth (Ps. 102:25-27).


This is all fine (Witnesses may even agree with me, I don’t know), but these OT Scriptures are either addressed to or spoken by YHWH. The writer of Hebrews is applying them to Jesus. Verse 10 should be particularly troublesome to Witnesses because Ps. 102:25-27 is clearly addressed to YHWH, and yet the author of Hebrews is saying that the Psalmist is talking about Jesus.


But the most striking application of YHWH to Jesus is made by Jesus himself:


John 8:58: "Before Abraham was born, I AM."


Comment: I suppose the New World Translation would have to tone this down, perhaps, "I was before Abraham." (I don’t have a NWT in front of me.) But the Greek here is unequivocal - ‘ego eimi’ - a clear I AM like the pounding of two thunderbolts. In Greek ‘eimi’ is all that’s required to say a less emphatic, ‘I’m.’ And we know what the word YHWH means. Even if you throw out Greek grammar, the Jews clearly understood what he meant for verse 59 says, "they picked up stones to stone him." If he meant anything less than the most holy name of God, they would have looked at him quizzically; instead, they were enraged to the point of killing him.


Other Powerful Scriptures in Support of the Trinity


Isaiah 9:6 - "For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."


Comment: Here prophecy identifies the promised child as the Mighty God, even the Everlasting Father. I don’t know how JWs would respond to this.


John 1:1 - "The Word was God."


Comment: I know that JWs use the fact that the Greek word for God (theos) here is anarthrus (without the definite article), and so the New World Translation translates this verse as "was a god". But this is really not an accurate understanding of the Greek. In my Greek class 10 years ago, I learned about Caldwell's Rule which states that nouns in the predicate position do not require the definite article to be definite. (While I remember that much, I’m sorry that I cannot tell you anything more about the rule or even who Caldwell was.)


Besides, I don’t think we need to know Caldwell or his fine point of Greek grammar because as we read the rest of the Gospel we find that John frequently drops the definite article for God in contexts that only make sense if he is speaking about The God.


Just read the following verses:


1:6 "There came a man who was sent from God…"


1:12 "he gave the right to become children of God…"


1:13 "children born not of …but born of God…"


1:18 "No one has ever seen God."


In each of these verses, the word God (theos) is used without the definite article. I don’t know how the NWT translates these, but to me the context is clear - each of these refer to God with a capital G. Reading these verses using "a god" just does not make sense.


Now back to Hebrews chapter 1 for a verse which clearly refers to Jesus and uses the definite article for God.


Hebrews 1:8: "But about the Son, he says, "Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteous will be the scepter of your kingdom."


Comment: I don’t know how JWs explain this verse. It clearly is addressed to the Son – Jesus – and in Greek the address is clear: o theos. The o is the definite article in Greek. I hope Witnesses do not read this as "Oh" because that would be reading English into the Greek. English translators have inserted "O" because in English it is common to use that utterance as part of a direct address, but that is clearly not the Greek in this case. No, the Greek here is unmistakable: "Your throne, (definite article) God, will last forever and ever…"


To prove this point, look at verse 9:


Verse 1:9: "…therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions…"


Comment: I’m sure Witnesses read this as God with a capital G, and yet the construction is the same: o theos, o theos sou ("God, your God"). The definite article, o, is used before theos. My question, then, is how Witnesses read verse 8 since it is clearly speaking about the Son and has the same construction.


Another interesting verse is the following:


Acts 20:28 "…the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood."


Comment: This should be a particularly troublesome verse for JWs. Not only does it use the definite article ("tou theou") when referring to God, but it also links it with "his own blood." Since Jesus is the only divine being which could be said to have shed blood, Jesus must also be The God.


I think this is enough to show that the attempt to distinguish between theos with or without the definite article falls apart. Besides, Jews in the first century would find it repulsive to talk about God and god since they were radically monotheistic. There is no god but YHWH.


Now going on to other verses:


Hebrews 1:3 "The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word, having made purification of sins he sat down at the right hand of the majesty in the highest."


Comment: Seems pretty clear to me; I don’t know how the NWT would handle this verse. The Greek word which is translated here "exact representation" is xarakter, from which we get our word, character, and it refers to an engraved character or impress made by a die or seal to authenticate an "exact reproduction." (Bauer, Arndt, Gringrich: A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, University of Chicago Press.)


Colossians 1:15 "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation."


Comment: The first part of the verse is powerfully Trinitarian; I’m sure that Witnesses, however, quickly point out the second part of the verse and say that Christ was the "firstborn" of all creation, meaning that he was a created being. But the Greek term for firstborn – "prwtotokos" – has the emphasis of ‘preeminent position,’ rather than born. In first century culture and in some cultures today, the firstborn son had the preeminent position or rights to the inheritance. It is this emphasis and the translation it implies – "preeminent over all creation" that correctly understands the verse; otherwise what would John 17:5 mean?


"…Father, glorify me with the glory that I had with you before the world began."


The Greek word for world – kosmos – has the meaning of world or universe - the whole created order. If Christ is part of the created order, how could he then share glory with the Father before the kosmos began?


Colosians 2:9 "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity dwells in bodily form."


Comment: The Greek is particularly strong here – all the fullness of divinity or Godhood. The word divinity here – Theoths (pronounced thaotace) - even has the definite article if JWs are still looking for it, and it has the emphasis of divine nature or essence, according to my Greek Linguistic Key.


Philipians 2:6 "Christ Jesus…Who, being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing..."


Comment: When I was in college, a Witness used this verse to try to persuade me that Jesus was not equal to God. But I think this verse is a perfect support for and illustration of the Trinity - it all depends on what you have in mind when you read the word "grasped." For the JW, ‘grasped’ has the meaning of "to reach for" as in reaching for something that one does not currently have. For the Trinitarian, ‘grasped’ means "held onto," as in "did not consider his equality with God something to be held onto," or as the most knowledgeable Greek scholar I know put it, "as something to be exploited." I believe the context of the passage supports the Trinitarian reading.


This is because there is a clear movement in the passage from glory to humility, or from one state to another. The passage begins with the confession that Jesus was in the very form of God. Therefore, he already possessed the status of God. He did not, however, consider his equality with God something to be exploited, or held onto, but emptied himself, taking on the form of a servant.


By the way, Witnesses run into hopeless trouble in these verses if they are still trying to distinguish a difference between theos with and without the definite article because both occurrences of theos in 2:6 are without the definite article. In other words, if the NWT says, "in the form of a god" (which I think it does), then the whole passage must say, "though he was in the form of a god, he did not consider equality with a god something to be grasped." This would make Christ schizophrenic.


However, the Witness who talked to me in college used this verse to say that it was God - with a capital G - that Christ was not grasping equality with. But the Greek text does not say that. There is no definite article before the second theos.


John 14:9 "He who has seen me has seen the Father."


John 10:30 "I and the Father are one."


Comment: Now even Trinitarians distinguish between the Father and the Son, but Christ says that there is such a close identity between him and the Father that he says that seeing him is seeing the Father. This agrees with and illustrates such verses as Colossians 1:15, Hebrews 1:3, and John 1:18. In 10:30, Christ makes the claim that he and the Father are one.


I know that Witnesses use the following verses to interpret these identity or oneness passages.


"On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me and I am in you." John 14:20


"That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you." John 17:21


"That they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me." John 17:22-23.


Witnesses probably say that Jesus’ unity with the Father is the same as the unity believers in YHWH should have. Witnesses look around and see different individual believers who might love and serve one another and who are in agreement with the purposes of God but who are still separate individuals. There is no need to make them "one" person.


But I don’t think this interpretation then would be faithful to all the other verses we have seen which show that Christ is unique, superior, and even God (with and without the definite article). Moreover, look at the direction of Christ’s prayers. He was praying for the human beings who were to believe in him. He was projecting the love and unity He experienced with the Father to be the experience of believers who were to follow. Christ was not thanking the Father that he had the kind of relationship with Him as believers have with each other.


Personally applying these verses, I can tell you with a straight face that Christ is in me. He lives in me; His word transforms my heart and mind; and I seek to love and serve others in unity with God’s will. But if I told you that I am the image of the invisible God, or that when you look at me you see the Father, or that I shared glory with the Father before the beginning of the world, I think at the very least you should start giving me more Outstandings in my appraisals. (Or, more likely, you would just start to look at me a little strangely.)


John 5:18: "not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God."


Comment: The Jews did not misunderstand him for they "tried all the harder to kill him." He was committing the ultimate blasphemy. If Jesus was only claiming what Witnesses say of him, it would be hard to understand the Jews’ anger.


John 5:23: "…that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father."


Comment: Seems pretty clear to me.


John 20:28: "Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God."


Comment: The only way I can imagine Witnesses getting around this clear confession of faith by Thomas is to say that Thomas was making an exclamation like, "Oh, my God!" when he saw the risen Christ. But an exclamation of surprise does not fit with Jesus’ response, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." Jesus clearly understood Thomas’s statement as a confession of belief, not surprise.


Titus 2:13: …the glorious appearing of our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.


Comment: My guess would be that JWs interpret this Scripture to be "the glorious appearing of our Great God, and our Savior, Jesus Christ," as if it will be the appearing of two different individuals. But in Greek the phrases "tou megalou theou" (of the Great God) and "Ihsou Xristou" are in the same genitive case, indicating that they hang together as one phrase. Here, then, Jesus Christ is clearly identified as "the Great God." It seems like this would be an insurmountable problem for Witnesses.


Romans 9:5 "…and from them (the Jews) is Christ according to the flesh, who is God over all."


Comment: The Greek has an interesting construction here. Recall that o is the definite article in the subjective part of a sentence. When there are two o’s in parallel they identify the same subject, so the Greek phrase:


O Xristos to kata sarka, O wn epi pantwn theos.


is properly translated, "… Christ according to the flesh, who is the God over all." God over all – complete with the definite article!


Scriptures raising questions about the equality of Jesus to the Father.


John 20:17: "I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."


Comment: No doubt, a JW would ask, "how can Jesus call his Father, ‘my God,’ if he is one and the same with Him?" In calling someone "my God" does this not imply that the other is greater than you?


My response is that surely when Jesus calls the Father "my God" it is not from the same vantage point that you or I call him "my God." This is plain from the verses I have cited in the first nine pages of this paper. In addition, the issue of the Father as the God of Jesus is also faced in Hebrews 1:8-9.


Hebrews 1: 8-9 "But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O (definite article) God, will last for ever and ever and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore, God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy."


Here in one passage of the New Testament quoting the Old Testament is the problem of two Gods, each with the definite article. The doctrine of the Trinity says that Jesus is a separate person who can say that he loves and serves his God and Father, but in essence – substance - they are One God. Because of Hebrews 1:8-9, I think the problem of Jesus calling the Father "my God" is more of a problem for Witnesses than Trinitarians since Witnesses do not recognize that Jesus is God - with a capital G.


Still, it seems like a quandary – how can Jesus call the Father his "God" and yet be in essence equal to Him? Recall the quandary Jesus posed to the Pharisees: "How can David’s Son be David’s Lord?" I believe the same quandary is faced here. But I believe that to be faithful to all of Scripture, we need to affirm that Jesus calls the Father his God and also that he "makes himself equal to God." (John 5:18)


John 14:28 "…you would be glad that I am going to the Father for the Father is greater than me."


Comment: The question between Trinitarians and Witnesses is whether the phrase, "greater than me" refers to a state of glory or state of being. Based on all the other passages I have discussed, I think the state of glory is the more accurate understanding. Again, putting this into the context of all the other verses we have seen it is clear why Jesus would say this. His time on earth was a time of humility and suffering. We learn from Philippians 2 that he "emptied himself" of the glory he shared with the Father before the world began (John 17:5) . Jesus told his disciples that if they loved him, they should be glad that he was going to the Father because, as we learn in later Scripture, he would resume his place of glory at the throne of the Father (Revelation 5:12).


Mark 10:18 "Why do you call me good? Jesus answered. No one is good but God alone."


Comment: This appears to be a dead end for Trinitarians because Jesus seems to be not only distinguishing himself from God but also denying his own goodness. But is Jesus really denying anything here? He is only asking a question, and we should remember that Jesus was a masterful teacher and public speaker. He once called a woman a dog to challenge her faith. So we should peer into shocking or unexpected statements to see if there might be more to it.


Let’s look at the whole passage. (Its parallel is in Matthew 19:16-22). The rich young man asks what must he do to inherit eternal life. He opened it, probably without thinking, with merely a polite address – "good teacher." Jesus stops at his polite address, seems to take exception to it, and then gets to the heart of his question by referring to the commandments – "Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother."


In this list from the Ten Commandments, however, something is conspicuously lacking. Can you tell what it is? Answer: Any commandment having to do with God. The commands Jesus cites all have to do with human-to-human relationships. The commandments for our relationship with God - forbidding other gods, graven images, using God’s name in vain and mandating a Sabbath day – commands which Jews would consider to be at least as important as the human-to-human commandments – are all missing.


The rich young man insists that he has kept all the "human" commandments (if I could call them that), and Jesus doesn’t argue with him. But like his list, Jesus realizes that there is something lacking in this man’s life – a relationship with God. "One thing you lack," Jesus said, "go sell all that you have, give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." By challenging the man to give up all earthly attachments and to follow "me," Jesus was filling a role in this man’s life that only God could fill. For Jesus, then, following him was the equivalent of living out the first and greatest of the Commandments. This usurping of honor due only to YHWH is another of Jesus’ blasphemies, albeit a subtle one. Once you realize it, though, it has the force of a thunderbolt, much like, "before Abraham was, I AM." So what on the surface seems like Jesus denying his Godhood actually turns out to be another example of Jesus claiming the kind of honor and authority due only to YHWH.


But then why does he ask, "Why do you call me good?" I don’t think he is denying his own goodness because in John 8:46 Jesus challenges the Pharisees, "Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?" (The obvious answer was no.) To the rich young man, I think Jesus was posing a question, or a challenge, intended to draw out of the man a confession of faith. It is like when Jesus asked his disciples, "Who do the people say that I am?" Do we think that Jesus was having an identity crisis and needed a straw poll to find out who he was? Of course not. Likewise, I can imagine Jesus looking intently at the man and with a quizzical look and an eliciting tone asking, "Why do you call me good - when only God alone is good? [Therefore, I am ____.]"


John 10:33-36 "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God." Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? If he called them ‘gods’ to whom the word of God came – and the Scripture cannot be broken – what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son.’"


Comment: I would have cited this passage as a great support for Jesus as God – with a capital G – but I know that Witnesses use Jesus’ quotation of Scripture, ‘I said you are gods’ as the key to rendering Jesus’ claim to simply that he was just a god - small g. But is that what Jesus is saying, and just as importantly, what did the Scripture that Jesus quotes say? Let’s go back to it.


Psalm 82:6 "I said, ‘You are ‘gods’’; you are all sons of the Most High. But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler."


In this passage, the Psalmist is expressing the judgment of God upon the corrupt rulers and judges of Israel ("God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgement among the ‘gods.’ verse 82:1.). These rulers have the power of life and death – the power of a god – over the weak and fatherless, the poor and the oppressed, and yet they pervert justice by defending the unjust and showing partiality to the wicked. Therefore, they will die like mere men, like every other ruler despite their god-like power.


In this passage, then, the term ‘gods’ is spoken facetiously, not seriously. It is not a compliment, nor is it expressing a doctrine that men are gods.


So then why does Jesus quote it?


This is one of Jesus’ "how much more" kind of teachings. Another example is Matthew 7:11 "If you, then, though you are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!"


In this method of teaching, Jesus starts with a really bad example and contrasts it to the point he wants to make. In Matthew 7:11, Jesus is certainly not equating the Father to evil men, but contrasting the two. Likewise in our passage in John chapter 10. Jesus is not equating himself to the ‘gods’ spoken against in Psalm 82, but contrasting himself from them. He is saying, "If Scripture can call corrupt, wicked rulers ‘gods,’ (who are no gods at all but mere men destined to die as such) how much more should the One whom the Father sent into the world call himself ‘God’s Son.’"


I really see this as the best way to understand this passage. If you don’t buy it, I’m curious as to what Jehovah’s Witnesses infer from this passage. Do Witnesses teach that men are gods? If not, then are there other gods out there that Jesus is just one of? If so, what other Scriptural support do you have for this position?


And finally,


Matthew 24:36 "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."


Comment: I’ll guess that Witnesses use this passage as an example that Jesus is not omniscient – he does not know all things, and therefore, he cannot be God. But Trinitarians have been aware of this verse for centuries and explain it either as one example of the things Jesus emptied himself of when he came to earth (based on the ‘emptying’ process of Philippians 2) or as an example of the different roles of the persons within the Trinity: it is the Father’s prerogative when to declare The End. Jesus certainly knows a lot about the Last Day since in Matthew chapters 24 and 25 he speaks extensively about it. So he is not without knowledge of it; he just does not know the exact hour of its coming.


Conclusion


In this paper I believe that I have established that:


The attempt to distinguish between theos with and without the definite article totally falls apart under the whole text of the Greek New Testament. Not only is the Great God referred to in instances where there is no definite article (John 1:6, 12, 13, 18 and Philippians 2:6) but also Jesus is clearly referred to as God in instances which use the definite article (Hebrews 1:8, Acts 20:28, Titus 2:13, and Romans 9:5).


The earliest creed of first century Greek-speaking Christians, "Jesus is Lord," meant "Jesus is Jehovah." There are three reasons for this: (1) The Greek translation of the Old Testament Scriptures used the word Lord (kyrios) when translating YHWH; (2) New Testament authors quoted OT Scriptures referring to YHWH and applied them to Jesus; and (3) It explains the blind fury of the unbelieving Jews who sought to excommunicate and even kill their fellow Jews who believed in Jesus. If first century believers were simply saying, "Jesus is my master," that really would have been no big deal. There were many rabbis, teachers – masters - who had disciples (In Acts, Paul said that he was a student of the great Jewish rabbi Gamaliel.) No, something much more intense was involved in this expression, "Jesus is Lord" – something warranting death since for a Jew it was the ultimate blasphemy.


The strength of the first two points and the "emptying" of Jesus’ glory during his earthly life (as explained in Philippians 2) should influence our interpretation of passages raising questions about Jesus’ equality with the Father. Moreover, some of the passages which seem on the surface to dispute the equality of Jesus and the Father are actually powerful indicators of Jesus’ claim to be God – capital G - when studied more closely (Mark 10:18 and John 10:33).


The doctrine of the Trinity was developed by the early church (and formalized into written creeds by the fourth century) as a way to reconcile all of Scripture which shows not only that Jesus is God (even Jehovah) but also that Jesus calls the Father, "his God," that he was sent "from God," and that he stands "at the right hand" of God. But the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are in essence – substance - One God. Christianity is a monotheistic religion.


Having said all this, I will admit that the Trinity is a difficult doctrine. It still seems like a contradiction: How can three persons be different and yet be one and the same? Moreover, why should the Eternal God, Jehovah, exist as three persons – why not four or five or why not just one? I take comfort in the fact that if there is to be a mystery in the Bible why shouldn’t it be about the nature of God? If the three pounds of gray matter between my ears could fully understand God, would it really be God? Therefore, I believe in the Trinity because an honest reading of all of Scripture leads me to it, not because I fully understand it.


Having finished my defense of the Trinity, I think the challenge to Jehovah’s Witnesses is twofold:


Can they agree with the earliest Christians and say, "Jesus is Jehovah"? And,

Do they honor the Son "just as" they honor the Father (John 5:23)?

If they don’t, or won’t, then as Jesus said, they don’t honor the Father who sent him.

 


Faith & Reason Forum would like to thank Jeff Kvistad and Theism.net for his paper.