Notes on John (Pt. 4): Against the Arians

[Notes on John (Pt. 3)]

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

– John 1:1-3

Against the Arians

John  1:1 is perhaps the clearest declaration of the full Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ in the New Testament. However, there are some who do interpretive acrobatics in order to make the verse not say what it does say. Those who would deny the full deity of Christ seek to ontologically subordinate Him to the Father  by making Him an exalted creature that pre-existed creation, but was, nonetheless, a creation of God. The broader term for this heresy is Arianism, and while it was proven to be an un-Scriptural theological position many years ago,[1] it still has proponents today. One such group of Arians is the Jehovah’s Witness cult.[2]

The Jehovah’s Witness cult re-translates John 1:1 to read:

“In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.”[3]

By adding the indefinite article “a” between “was” and “God” they change Scripture’s clear teaching about Christ’s Deity, reducing Him to a mere creature of God that holds an exalted status among all of God’s creation. After adding to the text of Scripture, they then point to Proverbs 8:22-31, Colossians 1:15, and Revelation 3:14 in order to support their interpretation of John 1:1. Since time precludes me from going into all of these Scriptures, I’ve decided to focus on Proverbs 8:22-31 and John 1:1-3.

Conflating Typification and Identification

Pivotal to the position held by Jehovah’s Witnesses is their interpretation of Wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-31. They, like many true Christians, see in Wisdom a picture (or type) of Christ (the greater reality to which that picture points),[4] but in an attempt to justify their heresy, they conflate typification with identification, making Wisdom equivalent to, and in fact the same person as, the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, because Wisdom was “brought forth,” which they interpret to mean “birthed” or “created,” so it must necessarily hold that Jesus was “brought forth” or “created” in like manner. And from this point onward they stress Colossians 1:15 and Revelaton 3:14, which (respectively) read:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation

And

“And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation…”

On the surface, this may seem to be a somewhat plausible interpretation of these verses. However, the problems that arise are many, and reveal the absolute absurdity of their position. Their position leads to irresolvable logical contradictions, as well as conclusions that would be considered blasphemous even by their cult’s teachers.

Here are the main problems with their interpretation of Proverbs 8:24-25.

  1. If Wisdom was created by God, then there was a time when God did not have Wisdom.
  2. Yet, Wisdom was the agent of God’s creation (cf. Prov. 8:22; 30).
  3. So either the Word of God is in error when it states that God created Wisdom, which is the agent of God’s creation
  4. Or Wisdom created herself (which would mean that Wisdom was not the agent of God’s creation)
  5. If we allow the Jehovah’s Witness to identify Wisdom with the Lord Jesus Christ, then points i-iv apply to Him as well. For John 1:1-3 tells us that nothing was made apart from Christ.
  6. However, such an identification is very problematic even for the JW, for if Wisdom is Christ prior to His incarnation, then Christ was, necessarily, female prior to His incarnation. And that, even for the JW, would be intolerable heresy.[5]

By confusing the type with the antitype, they have entangled themselves in a web of illogical and blasphemous conclusions.

In the Mouth of Two or Three Witnesses Let a Matter Be Established

So, then, we see that if a person identifies Wisdom as the Lord Jesus Christ, that person is left with heretical conclusions (by both Orthodox and heretical standards). But, concerning their translation of John 1:1, on might ask: “Is Jesus “a god” or is He God?” Seeing as the Lord Jesus is not Wisdom, but the antitype of Wisdom, we have to take John 1:1 at its word when it tells us that Christ was “In the beginning” with God and that He was God. We should feel compelled to do so in light of the fact that this is exactly what John the Baptist teaches in John 1:23; 30, where we read:

23He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of [YHWH],‘ as the prophet Isaiah said…”[6]

And

30This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’

Not only is the Lord Jesus Christ God, He is YHWH, or Jehovah, God become flesh.[7] Those, like John the Baptist, who bear witness to the Deity and humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ are truly His witnesses.

[Amen]

[For more on the subject of Arianism, see today’s article over at Creed::or::Chaos]

[Notes on John (Pt. 5)]

-h.


[1] http://www.carm.org/arianism; http://www.carm.org/dictionary-arianism; http://www.start.urclearning.org/audio/Nicene.mp3

[2] There are many other cults that do this as well, such as the “Jesus Only” Oneness Pentecostals, and some heretical branches of “Messianic Judaism.”

[3] (Emphasis mine) Source: http://www.watchtower.org/bible/joh/chapter_001.htm

[4] J.P. Holding has a great article on the correlations between old testament and intertestamental depictions of God’s Wisdom and how they correspond to the picture painted by the Lord Himself and the New Testament as a whole. See here: http://www.tektonics.org/jesusclaims/trinitydefense.html

[5] Especially in light of their doctrine which teaches that Christ, prior to His incarnation, was the Archangel Michael. Apologist Matt Slick has a list of some of their beliefs at http://www.carm.org/jehovahs-witnesses-beliefs

[6] Cf. Isaiah 40:3-5, which is about YHWH visiting His people, but is here applied to Christ as the One visiting His people.

[7] Note that John 1:23 presents us with the Deity of Christ (“the LORD”), while 1:30 declares His humanity ( “a man”).

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5 thoughts on “Notes on John (Pt. 4): Against the Arians

  1. The Simple Guy says:

    Hiram,
    This is one of my favorite places to take a JW. If they know Greek at all, their first objection is to note that Greek has no indefinite article, so every time we see “a” or “an” in the New Testament it is added.

    They are correct so far. However, we must then determine what the rules should be for translation. When would it be ok to add it and when is it not ok?

    They will usually agree with me that the indefinite article should only be added if it agrees with the context and does not change the meaning.

    Then we examine the exact context in John 1.

    At that point it is clear that the common sense rule has been broken. Then I point out to them that it was added in their text because their religious leaders did not agree with the plain straightforward meaning of the text. That seems deceptive to me. They should ask themselves about the character and doctrine of anyone who would deliberately lie like that to them.

    Craig

    Like

  2. Hiram says:

    “Then we examine the exact context in John 1.”

    This always puts the nail in the coffin, doesn’t it? ;)
    It hurts to see people who sincerely think that they are earning their salvation by propagating Watchtower literature, while the Watchtower fat cats are getting absolutely rich off these individuals.

    Thanks for stopping by, Craig :)

    Like

  3. The Simple Guy says:

    I would add one more thing I forgot.

    “Colossians 4:6 MKJV
    (6) Let your speech be always with grace, having been seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”

    If they feel like I am gloating rather than loving them when I point this out, we both lose.

    Craig

    Like

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