Posts Tagged ‘Jehovah’s Witnesses’

Apostles’ Creed: Died

May 5, 2014

Did Jesus die on the cross? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

There are some theories that should have died several several years ago and never did. Unfortunately, they keep rising up despite being put to death by the people that would have been their ablest defenders had there been any truth whatsoever to them.

One such idea is the swoon theory. This is the idea that Jesus never died on the cross.

In fact, it was Strauss years ago, who was beyond most liberals today in critiquing the NT, who put to death this theory. Strauss said that someone like Jesus who was half-dead could hardly have come out of the tomb and managed to just a few days after crucifixion appear to his disciples and proclaim that He was the Lord of Life who had conquered death. The apostles would not have called it a miracle. They would have called a doctor instead.

Yet this theory never seems to die. What are some reasons for it?

First, a large number of Muslims hold to this view saying that according to the Koran, Jesus did not die on the cross. Now since I am not an authority on the Koran, I will not comment on this point, but one does not need to be an authority to know that many Muslims make this claim.

Second, this is a popular claim that is popular on the internet and with conspiracy theories with such ideas as that Jesus never died but instead got up and went who knows where. There is even a group in Japan that thinks Jesus went all the way there and married and died.

Third, some people do look at the claim that some people were brought down from the cross and survived. This number could be counted on one hand and even more numerous would be the people who did not survive even when taken down. In fact, right off, I only know of one person who survived. This was when Josephus asked for three of his friends to be removed from crosses. All three got the best medical care Rome could provide. Only one survived.

In fact, several years ago, the Journal of the American Medical Association wrote an article where they stated firmly that based on medical knowledge we have today, that Jesus did indeed die on the cross.

At this point, I also think a certain objection must be added from some of the more unitarian bent who want to say “If Jesus is God, how did He die on the cross? Gods can’t die!”

The problem with this statement lies in what is meant by the word “die.” If you mean that God ceased to exist when Jesus died, then yes, God cannot die. God cannot cease to exist. Yet no one arguing for the resurrection claims that God ceased to exist on the cross.

What does it mean? It means that some aspect of Christ, perhaps His soul, left His body on the cross. Many of us don’t think we cease to exist when we die. We just go to live in another state. If this is the case for Christ, then Christ did the same thing. His soul experienced a separation from His body. A reuniting took place on Sunday morning in a new and glorified body.

It is a shame that the conclusion needs to be spelled out. Jesus did indeed live. Jesus was indeed crucified. Jesus did indeed die. Unfortunately, in our age of people often relying largely on internet searches and wikipedia instead of real scholarly research, this needs to be spelled out.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Putting Jesus In His Place

September 25, 2013

Have we read the deity of Christ into the Bible? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Written on a popular level, Ed Komoszewski and Rob Bowman’s “Putting Jesus In His Place” is an excellent look at the biblical testimony to the full deity of Jesus Christ. The writing is clear and accessible with several charts that will help the reader with seeing the comparisons that the writers frequently make.

Also, the writers regularly go with the best in New Testament scholarship. We’re not talking about just reading popular authors. (Although the people they reference should be popular in the church and it’s a sign of our weakness that they’re not.) We’re talking about scholars like Bauckham, Hurtado, Witherington, and Wright. That’s just a small sample.

The writers also do not go too technical which will be a benefit. At times, there is Greek terminology used, but I suspect those who have no grasp at all of the Greek language would still manage to find their way through this work.

At the start, the book explains as well the importance of honor in the ancient worldview, a point that I like to see repeatedly emphasized as so many people today think the biblical culture was just like theirs. This only leads to a further misunderstanding of what we find in the Bible.

The book has the advantage as well of going through the New Testament and not just going to the main texts usually used like John 1:1-18 or Hebrews 1 or John 20:28, etc. Of course, they do go to these texts, but they bring up several points where the Bible implicitly has in the background the full deity of Jesus and that these passages do not make sense unless you see that.

The book focused on comparing Jesus in five areas to make a cumulative case. The acronym used is HANDS. Jesus shares the honors of God, the attributes of God, the name of God, the deeds of God, and the seat of God. This is a powerful case combined together and goes beyond just finding texts where Jesus is explicitly called God.

However, while this case is powerful, I do have some concerns that I would like to see if the writers decide to write a second edition of the book in the future.

First, I would like to see more interaction with the other side. One of my rules for reading a book is to beware of the sound of one hand clapping. A case sounds powerful if you don’t interact with the other side.

Now this book does interact with the other side, but it should be more frequent. For instance, I don’t think it was until I was 100 pages into the book that I came across the first mention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. For the writers addressing a popular audience, this is the group they will come across the most that is arguing against the deity of Christ. Their arguments need to be taken more seriously and need to be referred to more often.

Second, I would like to see more of an index. There is an index of Scriptural passages, but it would be nice to see something like an index of writers or even people like Jehovah’s Witnesses or people like Greg Stafford. (I know who Stafford is, but it would have been nice to also seen who he is explained in the text since many people might not check notes.)

Third, I do think some cases could have been stronger, but I suppose that is the same for every work. For instance, Revelation 5:13-14 was used repeatedly, which is good, but I never saw mentioned how it says that all creation worships Him who sits on the throne and the Lamb, which differentiated the Lamb from creation. I think Matthew 28:17 could be strengthened when you noticed that the people in the text grasped Jesus’s feet and worshiped him. Jehovah’s Witnesses often tell us that the Greek word proskuneo, means to bow down and do obesiance. That would be problematic here since if the feet of Jesus are already being grasped, then it’s quite likely that they were already bowed down.

I also think some examples could have been improved upon as well. For instance, we are told Jesus was omnipresent in that He saw Nathaniel while Philip was talking to him. Yet could not the Jehovah’s Witness say Elisha knew about what Gehazi was doing while Gehazi was out? Mind you, I do not think that is a good objection, but it is an objection and I can easily see a Jehovah’s Witness using it.

Of course, in any work, there are always ways to improve and that would require volumes and volumes. Still, the main improvement I would like to see would be more interaction with the other side. I think every chapter should deal with some counterarguments to the position or reasons to doubt it.

Also, a caveat, this book is written on a popular level for Christians. You will not see arguments generally for the historicity of the text or the textual reliability of the text. Numerous books have been written on those areas already and I do think it would be too much to ask that everyone who is writing a book like this also have to write a book defending historicity and textual reliability. Those who want to argue on other grounds against the deity of Christ must go elsewhere.

Still, despite the caveats and ways of improvement, I do recommend this book. It is the best book I know of on a popular level dealing with the subject, but I hope those who read it will also read the scholarly books that deal with the subject.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

4/13/2013 Someone’s Knocking At Your Door

April 12, 2013

What will be on the Deeper Waters Podcast on 4/13/2013? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Tomorrow on the Deeper Waters Podcast, we’re going to be talking about Jehovah’s Witnesses. The link to where you can listen to the show can be found here. Many of us have had these people come by. In fact, I’m having them come by on a regular basis right now. To some of us, they can be just nice but overzealous people. To others, they’re those annoyances that lead us to lock the doors and lower the blinds on the windows. Yet who are they?

My guest for this will be my friend Mike Matuszewski. (I hope I get that name right on the air!) If you haven’t heard of him, it’s because he’s a friend I know through Facebook, but part of the purpose of Deeper Waters is to get out there in the public people who I think should be out there more. In this community, it’s important that we build up one another so that we can better be able to do ministry in the body of Christ.

I plan tomorrow on not really focusing on the Trinity. That is a big issue, but we just had Robert Bowman come on to discuss that so this time, I plan on talking about the Witnesses themselves. Who is this group? How did they get started? What is the status of them today? Are they Christian? If not, why? (And no, they’re not)

We will also be discussing how it is that the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society works. The Watchtower does an incredible amount of publishing. What does that have to do with Christians today? How fast is the Watchtower growing? What threat does it pose to Christians today?

The Watchtower is also well known for many of its predictions on when the end is going to come and as it is, like the Bible, they have a perfect record. Unlike the Bible, their perfect record is perfectly wrong. How has the organization been affected by all of these false prophecies?

Also, is it really a good idea to bring up those prophecies when the Witnesses come by? What is the best method one can go about reaching a Jehovah’s Witness that can break through the thinking that one is taught by the Watchtower? Should we focus on the Trinity? The Prophecies? Salvation by grace through faith? Where exactly should we go?

Of course, there are many other issues that could come up that make Jehovah’s Witnesses a fascinating topic of discussion. What is it like at a Kingdom Hall? What is the point of the “no blood” cards that one sees in their wallets? Why do they not celebrate birthdays and holidays? Why is it that they take no part in anything that is political?

Please join me tomorrow then from 3-5 EST as I discuss with Mike Matuszewski the Jehovah’s Witnesses. If you want to call in and be a part of the fun and ask a question, the number will be 714-242-5180. I hope you will be tuning in tomorrow!

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Jehovah’s Witnesses and Doomsday

September 5, 2012

How does a dialogue go with JWs on this topic? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

As I was sitting in our living room recliner doing some work on the laptop, my wife said she heard someone outside. I look and notice a car has pulled up and coming out are two nicely dressed women carrying books and bags.

“Honey. I think we have Jehovah’s Witnesses.”

So I watch and when they get to the door open it and say that my wife thought she heard someone. When they identify themselves, I ask them if they’d like to come in. They tell me they can only stay for a minute and then hand me a copy of their “Awake” magazine talking about Doomsday. Let me warn you at the start that in my recount of the exchange, that you will see my Preterist understanding of Scripture.

So their first passage they go to is Psalm 37:29 which reads as follows (All verses are being read from their own New World Translation, NWT):

“The righteous themselves will possess the earth,
And they will reside forever upon it.”

I told them I agree with that. I do think God has a plan for the Earth and that we are meant to inhabit it into all eternity. This was a surprise to them so they asked me what I thought it would take for that to be brought about. I answered that I think the gospel has to be preached everywhere and believed majority worldwide. They said they disagreed with that and first indicated where they thought I was correct in Matthew 24 which they said they think talks about the end and how in verse 14 it says:

“And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”

But in Matthew 7 we read:

“13Go in through the narrow gate; because broad and spacious is the road leading off into destruction, and many are the ones going in through it;14whereas narrow is the gate and cramped the road leading off into life, and few are the ones finding it.”

I replied by turning to Matthew 13 and showing them this first in verse 33:

Another illustration he spoke to them: “The kingdom of the heavens is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three large measures of flour, until the whole mass was fermented.”

And then before that in 31-32.

31Another illustration he set before them, saying: “The kingdom of the heavens is like a mustard grain, which a man took and planted in his field;32which is, in fact, the tiniest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the largest of the vegetables and becomes a tree, so that the birds of heaven come and find lodging among its branches.”

I pointed out to them that in each of these cases, something starts off small and goes through the whole of what it starts to penetrate. With the mustard seed, we can remember that in Daniel 4 there was a prophecy about a tree filling the whole Earth. I finally took them to Matthew 16. Verse 18 reads:

“Also, I say to you, You are Peter, and on this rock‐mass I will build my congregation, and the gates of Ha′des will not overpower it.”

Gates are defensive. The kingdom of God is on the move and it will never be the minority. They were stumped at this point to which I said “Let’s go back to Matthew 24. You say you think it says the end is coming. The end of what?”

“Oh. The end of the Jewish system which happened in 70 A.D. (I was surprised that they had that right) and the end of this system of things since it says that this is the great tribulation and that no time has come like it or ever will come again.

I asked them in response if they thought Jesus was the wisest king who ever lived. They told me He wasn’t a king on Earth. When I told them He is one now, they agreed He is the wisest. With that, I turned to 1 Kings 3. In verse 12 we read the following promise to Solomon from God.

“look! I shall certainly do according to your words. Look! I shall certainly give you a wise and understanding heart, so that one like you there has not happened to be before you, and after you there will not rise up one like you.”

So I told them that if they take that text literally, then Solomon is wiser than Jesus which is a problem. It is better to read it as hyperbole and how instead, what is being said in Matthew 24 is that this is an example of the worst possible thing.

At this, they asked me if I believe anything big is coming. I said I certainly do and it’s the event that’s not talked about in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21, which leads me to think that that passage is not about this event. That is the bodily return of Christ and the mass resurrection from the dead.

At this point, they told me that Jesus laid down His body. Why would He take it up again? I responded that I saw no reason to think that He did not rise bodily. I pointed out that we are told that our bodies will be like His body and if we rise bodily, then it is because He did. They agreed that we do rise and live in perfect bodies on Earth, but flesh and blood does not inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. (I do realize they have a different idea about who goes to Heaven based on the 144,000)

I pointed out that that is a euphemism and gave the example in Genesis. When Noah’s nakedness is seen by his son, it doesn’t mean his son just inadvertently walked in and saw his dad naked. That might be awkward, but no great sin. It means that his son did something to him that should not have been done while his Dad was naked and in a drunken stupor. It was a euphemism. The same is the case with flesh and blood which just means sinful human nature.

At this point they did have to go as they had indicated earlier. Let’s pray they return and are open to having their views examined and following the evidence where it leads.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Justin Martyr

February 11, 2011

Welcome everyone to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’ve been looking at the booklet of the Jehovah’s Witnesses lately called “Should You Believe In The Trinity?” We’re not going to look at the heading of if the early Christians taught it as all that can be said is “More quoting out of context.” Instead, I’d prefer to jump ahead to the church fathers and we’re going to do a father a day starting with Justin Martyr. Keep in mind also as always, that the Watchtower tells which father said a quote, they don’t tell where that quote is. Thus, we cannot even be sure if the quote is accurate.

For the reference to Jesus as an angel, this is quite simple. This is referring to Jesus as the Angel of the Lord. The Angel of the Lord is a Trinitarian Precursor in the Bible and one I believe to be the pre-incarnate Christ. I would have no problem with Jesus being created so long as that creation is not temporal.

The closest I can find however to the references in the Watchtower about the Son being a created angel “other than the God who made all things” is in the Dialogue with Trypho. I will include a link to the dialogue at the end of the blog so you can all see the source I am referencing. Interestingly, one of these is at the start of chapter Fifty. (L for those who need help with Roman Numerals) This is Trypho, Justin’s opponent, speaking:

Answer me then, first, how you can show that there is another God besides the Maker of all things; and then you will show,[further], that He submitted to be born of the Virgin.”

Notice immediately that Trypho’s understanding of this being is that he is deity as he is another God. Trypho is seeing this as polytheism. Justin does not however deny that Jesus is fully God. Let’s keep going and see some statements of Justin. In Chapter 56 (LVI) we have the following:

“I shall attempt to persuade you, since you have understood the Scriptures,[of the truth] of what I say, that there is, and that there is said to be, another God and Lord subject to the Maker of all things; who is also called an Angel, because He announces to men whatsoever the Maker of all things–above whom there is no other God–wishes to announce to them.”

In this, while not using full Trinitarian language, we see the seeds of the Trinity. Justin is talking about the appearance of the three men to Abraham in Genesis 18. Note what he says later in this same chapter.

“If I could not have proved to you from the Scriptures that one of those three is God, and is called Angel, because, as I already said, He brings messages to those to whom God the Maker of all things wishes[messages to be brought], then in regard to Him who appeared to Abraham on earth in human form in like manner as the two angels who came with Him, and who was God even before the creation of the world, it were reasonable for you to entertain the same belief as is entertained by the whole of your nation.”

Note this, that Justin says this one is called Angel, not that He IS an angel, and that this one was God before the creation of the world.

In Chapter 57, Trypho responds with

And Trypho said, “It is possible that[the question] about the mode of eating may be thus explained:[the mode, that is to say,] in which it is written, they took and ate what had been prepared by Abraham: so that you may now proceed to explain to us how this God who appeared to Abraham, and is minister to God the Maker of all things, being born of the Virgin, became man, of like passions with all, as you said previously.”

Trypho has no problem with two different persona being called God and he is understanding the early Christian claim that yes, Jesus is indeed God.

Justin says more on his identity in chapter 60:

Now assuredly, Trypho, I shall show that, in the vision of Moses, this same One alone who is called an Angel, and who is God, appeared to and communed with Moses. For the Scripture says thus:’The Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the bush; and he sees that the bush bums with fire, but the bush was not consumed. And Moses said, I will turn aside and see this great sight, for the bush is not burnt. And when the Lord saw that he is turning aside to behold, the Lord called to him out of the bush.’ In the same manner, therefore, in which the Scripture calls Him who appeared to Jacob in the dream an Angel, then[says] that the same Angel who appeared in the dream spoke to him, saying,’I am the God that appeared to thee when thou didst flee from the face of Esau thy brother;’and[again] says that, in the judgment which befell Sodom in the days of Abraham, the Lord had inflicted the punishment of the Lord who[dwells] in the heavens;–even so here, the Scripture, in announcing that the Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses, and in afterwards declaring him to be Lord and God, speaks of the same One, whom it declares by the many testimonies already quoted to be minister to God, who is above the world, above whom there is no other[God].

Note that he says the one who is called an angel and who is God. He is using the Angel of the Lord reference and the very reference where God reveals his divine name to Moses. Observe chapter 61:

“I shall give you another testimony, my friends,” said I, “from the Scriptures, that God begat before all creatures a Beginning,[who was] a certain rational power[proceeding] from Himself, who is called by the Holy Spirit, now the Glory of the Lord, now the Son, again Wisdom, again an Angel, then God, and then Lord and Logos; and on another occasion He calls Himself Captain, when He appeared in human form to Joshua the son of Nave(Nun). For He can be called by all those names, since He ministers to the Father’s will, and since He was begotten of the Father by an act of will; just as we see happening among ourselves: for when we give out some word, we beget the word; yet not by abscission, so as to lessen the word[which remains] in us, when we give it out: and just as we see also happening in the case of a fire, which is not lessened when it has kindled[another], but remains the same; and that which has been kindled by it likewise appears to exist by itself, not diminishing that from which it was kindled.

Notice all the titles that can be given to Jesus. Check also how Joshua responded to this figure when he appeared to him. Joshua knew who this was.

Note also chapter 63 with the heading “It is proved that this God was incarnate.” What do we see in there?

Therefore these words testify explicitly that He is witnessed to by Him who established these things, as deserving to be worshipped, as God and as Christ.

And the start of chapter 68:

And Trypho said, “You endeavour to prove an incredible and well-nigh impossible thing;[namely], that God endured to be born and become man.”

“If I undertook,” said I, “to prove this by doctrines or arguments of man, you should not bear with me. But if I quote frequently Scriptures, and so many of them, referring to this point, and ask you to comprehend them, you are hard-hearted in the recognition of the mind and will of God. But if you wish to remain for ever so, I would not be injured at all; and for ever retaining the same[opinions] which I had before I met with you, I shall leave you.”

This is just one work of Justin Martyr. What about others?

Chapter 63 of the First Apology:

For they who affirm that the Son is the Father, are proved neither to have become acquainted with the Father, nor to know that the Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God. And of old He appeared in the shape of fire and in the likeness of an angel to Moses and to the other prophets; but now in the times of your reign, having, as we before said, become Man by a virgin, according to the counsel of the Father, for the salvation of those who believe on Him, He endured both to be set at nought and to suffer, that by dying and rising again He might conquer death.

Chapter 10 of the Fragments:

By the two birds Christ is denoted, both dead as man, and living as God. He is likened to a bird, because He is understood and declared to be from above, and from heaven. And the living bird, having been dipped in the blood of the dead one, was afterwards let go. For the living and divine Word was in the crucified and dead temple [of the body], as being a partaker of the passion, and yet impossible to God.

From Chapter 10 on the Resurrection:

But if our physician Christ, God, having rescued us from our desires, regulates our flesh with His own wise and temperate rule, it is evident that He guards it from sins because it possesses a hope of salvation, as physicians do not suffer men whom they hope to save to indulge in what pleasures they please.

Now while we don’t have Nicea here yet, we do have nothing that contradicts it and much that contradicts Watchtower teaching. Most informative is the dialogue with Trypho. I recommend Witnesses to start reading the works of the Fathers without the blinders of the Watchtower and see what the early Christians really taught.

All references come from the dialogues which can be located on the following page:

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/justin.html