Charles Taze Russell on John 12:41

Hello everyone. I’ve had a busy day today. I spoke at a conference earlier today that required that I get up at 5:30 AM and I am exhausted as a result. However, it was a good conference and I did speak on an enjoyable topic and due to some shameless promoting of my blog there, there could be some new readers tonight so welcome aboard. If you are new from there or anywhere else, we’ve been going through the New Testament trying to come to a deeper understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity. 

We’ve been in the gospel of John and a couple of nights ago, I did a blog on John 12:41. A friend suggested Charles Taze Russell’s work on that verse. I asked for him to send it and he sent me a PDF copy. Tonight, I will be looking over that material.

Russell grants that John 12:41 does refer to Isaiah 6:1. What is his reply in response to this? His response is that the text says Adonai, which it does, however, let’s do a search for where Adonai comes up. As I go through I have the NWT and I see that in most places, it translates this as “Jehovah.” Here are some highlights.

In Genesis 20, Abimelech has God (And God will be Adonai unless stated otherwise) appear to him in a dream and Abimelech responds to which we are told “The true God said to him in the dream” to which we say either Adonai is the true God, or else Adonai is a false god and the JWs are polytheists. (Based on their translation of John 1:1, I’d say they are.)

Exodus 4 has Moses addressing the one speaking to him as Adonai, but in Exodus 3, we saw that that speaker took the divine name on himself.

Deuteronomy 3:24 has Moses speaking of the God who is incomparable to anyone else. This same one is called “Adonai.”

Psalm 68:19 says that blessing be to God, the true God of our salvation. Is YHWH then not the true God of salvation? This is continued in verse 20 as well.

Psalm 86:12 has the Psalmist speaking of “God, my God.”

Isaiah 25:8 speaks of God wiping the tears from their faces. Who does that in Revelation 21?

Isaiah 28:16 has God laying a cornerstone. If Russell wishes us to think Adonai is always Jesus, then is he saying that Jesus is laying himself? A unitarian could have a hard time with this. A Trinitarian doesn’t.

If Jesus is Adonai, then is he sending himself in Isaiah 48:16? Once again, a Trinitarian can say one person who is fully God is sending another who is. What will the unitarian say?

Isaiah 61:1. Was the Spirit of Adonai on Jesus when he read this in Luke 4?

In Jeremiah 32:17, God makes the Heavens and the Earth by his power and his outstretched arm. (The arm is something Russell makes quite a mention of in earlier pages.)

Ezekiel 14:11 has God saying he will be the God of Israel.

Ezekiel 16:59 sees God as the one who made the covenant with Israel.

Ezekiel 20:5 has God choosing Israel and saying that he is Jehovah their God.

In 20:40, God says the entire house of Israel will serve him in the land.

24:14 has Adonai and YHWH both saying the same thing. The speaker starts as YHWH and closes identifying himself as Adonai.

26:14 has a similar situation. “I YHWH have spoken” says Adonai.

34:31 has Adonai saying “I am your God.”

In Daniel 9:3, Adonai is referred to as “Jehovah the true God.” See verse 4 for continuation of this. Verse 15 has him as the God of Israel who brought them out of Egypt.

In Amos 3:7, the prophets are seen as his servants.

Amos 6:8 has God swearing by himself. Compare to Hebrews 6:13.

Never mind all the times that Adonai is referred to as sovereign and all the times he is prayed to….

Also, every single time Adonai showed up, it was translated as “Jehovah.” Apparently, the NWT translators didn’t see a major difference.

Do we have a problem if Russell is right and this is the Son in Isaiah 6? Not at all, for the Son is seen as Jehovah in verse 5. Russell’s resposne? That the messenger of the covenant might well be saluted with the praise of the Father. That’s not what Isaiah says however! Isaiah says that he has seen Jehovah.

It seems Russell did this without considering who Adonai is in Scripture. I recommend anyone just go to an online concordance like and looking up Adonai and see what you find as well.

Russell’s response seems to simply boil down to a distinction without any real substance to it. Why should I deny what I see in the text in favor of the theory of Russell? I see no reason.


12 Responses to “Charles Taze Russell on John 12:41”

  1. Ronald Says:

    I am not with the JWs, nor was Charles Taze Russell. However, Adonai and Adoni were not distinguished in writing until after Jesus died. The NWT translators did not actually translate Adonai as Jehovah. They usually rendered this word as “Soverign Lord”, as a plural intensive. In many places, however, Gingsburg, based on his study of the copyists’ notes of the Masorete, claimed that the there were many places that Adonai was substituted for the tetrammaton. The NWT translators, therefore, sought to “restore” the holy name in those places. Isaiah 6:1 is one of those instances where Ginsburg claimed that Adonai was a replacement of the tetragrammaton. However, the evidence of the Great Isaiah Scroll suggests that the claim concering Isaiah 6:1 is not true. Additionally, I mentioned earlier that the originally in the Hebrew text there was no distinction between Adoni and Adonai. It was not until the Masoretes produced the vowel points that a distinction was made. What they did was that, in every place where they thought Adoni referred to the Yahweh, they added a vowel point, making Adoni into Adonai, used as a plural intensive. I believe that they erred in adding the vowel point to Adoni in Isaiah 6:1, and that Isaiah spoke prophetically of “my Lord”, the Messiah, in that verse. See my studies on this at:


  2. Anthony Buzzard Says:

    You say that the distinction between adoni and adonai did not exist until the vowel points were officially put in after the time of Jesus. But the LXX recognized the difference long before that. That is, they translated adoni as my lord and adonai generally as the Lord.
    The difference between adoni and adonai is very important in Ps. 100:1 since the Messiah is adoni and not adonai the Lord God.
    There is only one adonai, and that is the Father of Jesus.

    • reslight Says:

      It is generally accepted that the LXX was in use in the days of Jesus and apostles, and it may have been — although I am so persuaded. Are you aware of any full manuscript of the LXX that dates back to the time of Christ so as to verify that the LXX actually did render the word consistently with the same variations that were later given by the vowel points of the Masoretes, and especially at Isaiah 6:1? I do not question the Masoretes usage of the added vowel point in most places, by which they endeavor to distinguish the Supreme Lord from others who are called “lord”. I cannot say that I know that my studies on this is totally inclusive, and would be open to examine any other evidence, if anyone knows of such. Nevertheless, there are those who argue that the LXX, at least as we now have it, came into being after Jesus died. It is also argued by some that much of it is based on the New Testament renderings, not the other way around, as is generally assumed.

      At any rate, even if we assume that the forms of adon in Isaiah 6:1,8 is in reference to Yahweh, it does not mean that in John 12:41 John was claiming Jesus to be Yahweh. Isaiah says he will speak of Yahweh to the people, which would correspond to the John’s last remark in John 12:41, “and he [Yahweh] spoke of him [Jesus].” After which Yahweh lets Isaiah know that the people will hear, but not understand, and in effect says the he [Yahweh] has blinded them, etc., which is the verse referenced indirectly in John 12:40. In view of this, it could have been that John was referring back to the God of Jesus, Yahweh, mentioned in John 12:38 as well as in the one who did the blinding in John 12:40. Thus “his glory” spoken of in John 12:42 would be the glory of Yahweh that Isaiah saw, and not the glory of Jesus at all.

      Additionally, even if John was referring to the glory of the Messiah, this also would not mean that Jesus is Yahweh, since Isaiah several times “saw” the glory of the Messiah — the one anointed by Yahweh (Isaiah 61:1) in his visions. John did not refer to just to Isaiah 6, but he also referred to Isaiah 53.

      I agree that in Psalm 100:1 that “lord” is in not a reference to Yahweh, and the rendering “my Lord” for that verse is confirmed in the New Testament. (Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42; Acts 2:34) Despite that, there are a few that claim (and I obviously disagree) that in Psalm 110:1 that the word should be recognized as adonai, not adoni, so as to make it apply to Yahweh, and thus make it appear that Jesus is Yahweh.

      • reslight Says:

        I just realized that I stated: “although I am so persuaded” regarding the LXX’s existence in the first century. This should have read: “although I am NOT so persuaded.”

  3. apologianick Says:

    Anthony. You want to explain your understanding of the divine identity in Second Temple Judaism?

  4. Recent Activity – February 4, 2010 « RL Comments & Deliberation Says:

    […] Posted a response regarding John 12:41, Isaiah 61:1 and Psalm 110:1 (adon, adonai, adoni) […]

  5. Anthony Buzzard Says:

    The divine identity is explained by the shema of Deut. 6:4 and this is confirmed by Jesus in Mark 12:29. 1300 times in the NT the word God refers to the Father. Never does the word God mean a Triune God.

  6. apologianick Says:

    Yes. What does the Shema say about the divine identity?

  7. Anthony Buzzard Says:

    The shema does not deal in your phrase “divine identity.” It says that the LORD our God is one LORD. The One Lord God is the one God of Israel. God is identified as One God. Jesus believed the same unitarian creed in Mark 12;29.

  8. apologianick Says:

    It’s not my phrase. It’s a phrase built on the social context of the NT world that would have also included the OT as can be read in writers like Richard Bauckham. Yes. Trinitarians all agree that YHWH is one God and one Lord. Do you have a real objection here?

  9. John 12:41 – Isaiah Saw His Glory - Jesus and His God Says:

    […] that Jesus is Jehovah in John’s statements as recorded in John 12:37-41. One attacks what Charles Taze Russell’s stated on John 12:41, as though this should settle the matter. One states: “John is clearly speaking about the […]

  10. John 12:41 – Isaiah Saw His Glory « Jesus and His God Says:

    […] that Jesus is Jehovah in John’s statements as recorded in John 12:37-41. One attacks what Charles Taze Russell’s stated on John 12:41, as though this should settle the matter. One states: “John is clearly speaking about the […]

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