The Scripturalist Reply To The Jehovah's Witnesses
Many times, when we think of apologetics we think of defending the faith against unbelieving atheists. The reality is however, there are many religious unbelievers who are just as relentless in their attacks against biblical Christianity. We must remember that the disciples had to defend the faith against the religious unbelieving Jews. Therefore, it is important to understand that though our opponents might change, our method of defense stays the same. In a previous article we offered an explanation of the Scripturalist Ad Hominem reply as our presuppositional method and we gave some examples that pertained to atheism. Here we want to explore another example and deal with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Just as atheists attack the Christian worldview by claiming there is no God so too Jehovah’s Witnesses attack the Christian worldview by claiming that Jesus is not God, the second person of the Trinity. Their attacks on the deity of Christ are unrelenting and so we shall provide an internal critique of their theological position by using an ad hominem reply.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus was created by Jehovah and then Jehovah used him to create everything else. For the sake of argument, let’s accept their theological position that Jesus is a created being and compare it to their own Bible translation so that we may reduce it to absurdity by deducing from it contradictory propositions. In order to do this let’s review their primary source material and from that we shall construct a categorical syllogism.
According to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract society Jesus is not eternal but had a beginning. According to them, “The Bible says that Jesus was created, which means that Jesus had a beginning.”[i] In other words, Jesus is not eternal and did not always exist. Although the Jehovah’s Witnesses will attempt to cite passages of scripture in support of this claim, it stands merely as an unsupported assertion which leads directly to a self-contradiction. From this theological position however, we shall construct our minor premise “Jesus is a being that came into existence.”
This should be easy to establish because the Jehovah’s Witnesses readily admit that they believe Jesus came into existence. However, according to the New World Translation, the official Bible translation of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, speaking of Jesus it reads, “All things came into existence through him and apart from him not even one thing came into existence” (John 1:3). Notice that the first proposition in the verse “all things came into existence through him” is converted to its logical equivalent “apart from him not even one thing came into existence” by changing the quality from “all things” to “one thing” and negating the predicate. In formal logic this is referred to as an obversion and it not only affirms Jesus as Creator in the strongest way possible but it also demonstrates once again that the scriptures exhibit logical form. The translators of the NWT Bible did not fundamentally alter this verse and so we can agree with its plain teaching. We should also notice that the passage says, “all things” and not “all other things.” This will become important later when we look at Colossians 1:15-17 for comparison. For now, though, we can simply infer that if Jesus was a created being who came into existence then he must have come into existence through himself since all things came into existence through him. This verse will serve to construct our major premise “all things that came into existence are created through Jesus.” Now let’s construct our categorical syllogism.
Major Premise: All things that came into existence are created through Jesus
Minor Premise: Jesus is a being that came into existence
Conclusion: Therefore, Jesus is created through Jesus.
In this categorical syllogism we have a valid deduction, but the conclusion is necessarily false because it is self-contradictory. In order for Jesus to be created through himself he would have to exist and not exist at the same time and in the same respect. This however, is a clear violation of the law of contradiction because “the same attribute [in this case existence] cannot at the same time belong and not belong to the same subject [Jesus] and in the same respect.”[ii] This is a prime example of making a valid deduction from a false premise. We know that one of the premises is false because the conclusion is self-contradictory, and contradictions are false. It is very important to point out that in spite of the conclusion being false it is the inevitable consequence of their theological position.
Despite this being a valid deduction that Jesus was created through himself the Jehovah's Witnesses flatly denied this conclusion, as they should. Unfortunately, they don’t deny the conclusion for the right reason; that is Jesus was not created because his is the Creator of all things. Instead, they propose that Jesus was created by Jehovah as the first of his works and then Jehovah created every else through him. They write,
“Jesus is Jehovah’s most precious Son—and for good reason. He is called “the firstborn of all creation,” for he was God’s first creation. (Colossians 1:15) ... This means that Jesus is the only one directly created by God. Jesus is also the only one whom God used when He created all other things. (Colossians 1:16).”[iii]
The Jehovah’s Witnesses often cite Colossians 1:15-17 in support of this view so let’s consider what their Bible says. The New World Translation reads,
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and on the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All [other] things have been created through him and for him. 17 Also, he is before all [other] things, and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist,
First, let’s address Colossians 1:15 and the notion that Jesus was God’s first creation because he is called “the firstborn of all creation.” This is one of the most egregious instances of twisting scripture since the Devil quoted Psalms 91:11,12 to Christ in the wilderness (Matthew 4:6). In that narrative we notice that Jesus’ response was to quote scripture in order to correct his opponent the Devil and so we are apt to do the same. We ought to ask the Jehovah’s Witnesses, “have you not read that it is said of David, the youngest or last born of Jesse, ‘Also, I myself shall place him as firstborn.’ (Psalm 89:27 NWT)? Or have you not read that the Lord God said, ‘as for Ephraim, he is my firstborn,’(Jeremiah 31:9 NWT), although he was the younger brother to Manasseh (Genesis 41:50,51)?” Clearly then, this is a title that does not literally mean first to be born.
When the term firstborn is used in Colossians it does not mean first to be born and it certainly does not mean first created. This is a title given to signify a position of prominence or preeminence. The passage is saying he is the “firstborn” of all creation in the sense that he is preeminent over all of creation because all things were created for him and through him and all things are held together by him. He is before all thing because he existed before all created things. To cite this passage in order to support the Watchtowers teaching that Jesus was created directly by Jehovah and then used to create all other things is nothing short of eisegesis.
However, the Jehovah’s Witness might object and appeal to the fact that the New World Translation say, “all other things.” Therefore, we need to point out that the translators of the New World Translation have added the word “other” four times to verses 16 and 17 in order to support the teaching that Jesus was created. The readers need to be informed that the word “other” does not appear in the John 1:3 passage nor should it appear in this passage. That is because the word does not appear in the original Greek text and its addition to the New World Translation Bible changes the original meaning of the passage.
Ron Rhodes, former Jehovah’s Witnesses and author of the book Reasoning from The Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses points out that, “when speaking with a Jehovah’s Witness about Colossians 1:16-17, you might want to point out that the Watchtower’s own Greek interlinear version of the Bible shows that the Greek word panta means ‘all’ things and not ‘all other’ things.”[iv]
Readers should also be informed about the Watchtower’s efforts to further mislead its members by taking the word “other” out of brackets in their newest translation. In the original copies of the 1984 edition of the New World Translation the word “other” is in brackets, indicating to its readers that it has been added by the translators.
Since its original publication however they have taken the word “other” out of brackets in the latest copies thereby giving the impression that the word is part of the original Greek text of scripture.
It is highly revealing of the Watchtower Society’s dishonesty that the 1950 version of the New World Translation did not put brackets around the four insertions of “other” in the text of Colossians 1:16-17. This made it appear that the word was actually translated from the original Greek text. The Watchtower Society was pressured into putting the brackets around these words in all editions of the New World Translation since 1961 as a result of evangelical scholars openly exposing this perversion of the text of scripture.[v]
It would appear then that the Watchtower Society is using the same old tricks in order to deceive its members. This is certainly not the first and only time that the translators of the New World Translation have altered the Bible in order to support their heretical teachings. Changes within the New World Translation could be listed at great length and the reader should familiarize themselves with as of the changes many as possible. What Christians need to understand is that the NWT is not to be trusted.
The benefit with this particular case of scripture twisting is that by putting the word “other” in brackets in some of the 1984 and earlier editions of the New World Translation, they essentially acknowledged to their members and the rest of the world that it was not part of the original Greek text. This needs to be pointed out to the individual members of the Watchtower Society.
The motive for adding the word “other” should be obvious. It is to support the doctrine that Jesus was created directly by Jehovah and then used to create all other things, which is why this particular passage is cited in their literature. This is why the Jehovah’s Witness will claim that Jesus did not come into existence through himself but was instead created directly by Jehovah.
However, their Bible clearly states in John 1:3, that all things came into existence through Jesus and the passage in Colossians would concur if the word “other” was not added by their translators. We should therefore insist that they read the passage in Colossians without inserting the word “other.” We can ask, “what does the passage actually say, not what do you want it to say?” The passage would read, “16 by means of him all things were created in the heavens and on the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All things have been created through him and for him. 17 Also, he is before all things, and by means of him all things were made to exist.”
Now that we have harmonized these two passages we can make the categorical proposition “all created things are created through Jesus” (All S are P). This is based off the plain teaching of the New World Translation Bible. The problem however is that the Watchtower teaches that it is all “other” things that came into existence through Jesus and that he was created directly by Jehovah. In other words, Jesus is something that came into existence but not through himself. Therefore, we can make the categorical proposition that “some created thing is not created through Jesus” (Some S are not P).
To say that “all created things are created through Jesus” and “some created thing is not created through Jesus” is to say that (All S are P) and (Some S are not P). These are contradictory propositions. This should be obvious but for the sake of clarity we shall explain why.
In formal or traditional logic there are 4 basic types of categorical propositions.
A: All S are P
I: Some S are P
E: No S are P
O: Some S are not P[vi]
In each of these categorical propositions we must identify both the quality and quantity in order to determine their relationships to one another. The quality of the proposition has to do with whether it is affirmative or negative and the quantity of a proposition has to do with whether it is universal or particular. We notice that the quality of the A and I propositions are affirmative while the quality of the E and O propositions are negative. Likewise, we notice that the quantity of the A and E propositions are universal while the quantity of the I and O propositions are particular. Now the rule of contradiction holds that “contradictory statements are statements that differ in both quality and quantity.”[vii] Here we can illustrate this with the square of opposition.
It is clear then, that A: All S are P or “all created things are created through Jesus” is a universal, and affirmative proposition and O: Some S are not P or “some created thing is not created through Jesus” is a particular, and negative proposition. Therefore, A and O are contradictory propositions because they differ in both quality and quantity.
The first law of Opposition holds that “Contradictories cannot at the same time be true nor at the same time be false.”[viii] This means that one of these propositions must be true and the other must be false. If “All S are P” is true, then “Some S are not P” is necessarily false. In other words, if John 1:3 in the New World Translation is true then the Watchtower’s teaching that Jesus was created by Jehovah is wrong. We should ask the Jehovah’s Witness “Is it true that all things came into existence through him and that apart from him not even one thing came into existence?” If they profess to believe this is true, then they have no rational justification for believing what the Watchtower teaches.
To drive the point home, if Jesus was created then either he was created through himself or he was not created through himself. These are only the only two options. If they say that Jesus was created through himself then they violate the law of contradiction because he would have to exist and not exist at the same time and in the same respect. However, if they say he was not created through himself then they still violate the law of contradiction because their Bible states that “all created things are created through Jesus” (A: All S are P) and the Watchtower organization claims “some created thing is not created through Jesus” (O: Some S are not P).
The only remedy for this charley horse between the ears is to acknowledge that Jesus was not created at all. If the Jehovah’s Witness wish to disregard the law of contradiction in order to maintain their heretical view of Christ, then they are most likely ignorant of the fact that they must first assume the law of contradiction in order to make a counter argument intelligible. We would remind our reader that “the opponents of logic must use the law of contradiction in order to denounce it. They must assume its legitimacy, in order to declare it illegitimate. They must assume its truth, in order to declare it false. They must present arguments if they wish to persuade us that argumentation is invalid. Wherever they turn, they are boxed in.”[ix]
[i] "Who Is Jesus Christ? Is Jesus God or God's Son?" JW.ORG. Accessed April 11, 2018. https://www.jw.org/en/publications/books/bible-study/who-is-jesus-christ/.
[ii] John W. Robbins, “Why Study Logic?”, The Trinity Review (July/August, 1985)
[iii] "Who Is Jesus Christ? Is Jesus God or God's Son? | Bible Teach." JW.ORG. Accessed April 11, 2018. https://www.jw.org/en/publications/books/bible-teach/who-is-jesus-christ/.
[iv] Rhodes, R. (2009). Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah's Witnesses. Eugene, Or.: Harvest House Publishers, p.74 (Kindle version).
[v] Rhodes, R. (2009). Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah's Witnesses. Eugene, Or.: Harvest House Publishers, p.72 (Kindle version).
[vi] “Chapter 5 The Four Statements of Logic.” Traditional Logic, by Martin Cothran, 2nd ed., Memoria Press, 2017, p. 31.
[vii] “Chapter 6 Contradictory and Contrary Statements.” Traditional Logic, by Martin Cothran, 2nd ed., Memoria Press, 2017, p. 40.
[viii] “Chapter 6 Contradictory and Contrary Statements.” Traditional Logic, by Martin Cothran, 2nd ed., Memoria Press, 2017, p. 42.
[ix] John W. Robbins, “Why Study Logic?”, The Trinity Review (July/August, 1985)