The Jehovah’s Witnesses are the popular name for the members of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, or simply The Watchtower. The Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) have denied the doctrine of the Trinity for many years, even publishing a pamphlet titled Should You Believe in the Trinity? Is Jesus Christ the Almighty God? published by The Watchtower. The pamphlet has a publication date of 1989, but has remained in circulation since then.
Although I have written a somewhat more detailed review of this pamphlet, due to space I will critique one key point.
Over the years, the Watchtower has had to face questions about several key passages of scripture. John 1:1 being a key verse that supports the Trinity, the Watchtower naturally deals with it. Most translations have the verse reading “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The reason most translations read the same is that the passage is as plain in the original Greek as it is in English. The apostle John was a simple fisherman, and his gospel is written in simple language. The words in John 1:1 are small words, the statements are straightforward, and compared to other passages of scripture, the sentence is just not very complicated to translate. In stating that Jesus is God, it destroys Watchtower theology with a single blow.
However, the Watchtower’s New World Translation has the verse reading “the Word was a god.” Their presentation of the verse typically follows with a lengthy discussion of grammatical terms, using arguments about definite and indefinite articles and anarthrous predicates, most of which are very confusing to the average reader. Here it will suffice to say that not a single published Greek grammar supports the Watchtower’s view, and Should You Believe in the Trinity? quotes none.
But we can learn a great deal about the Watchtower from the discussion of John 1:1. In Should You Believe in the Trinity?, they quote nine other versions of John 1:1, all with readings variant to “the Word was God.” When we look at these quotes, we learn some things about how the Watchtower operates, and how they support their teachings.
- Four of the quotes use the term “divine” or “divine kind” which leaves no room in Biblical theology for anything else than God Almighty. (There is only one Divine, and there cannot be a divine other than the one true God. All other so-called divines are false Gods.)
- One of the quotes is from the Watchtower’s own New World Translation. Considering that the Watchtower had no Greek or Hebrew scholars on their translating committee (see Martin and Klann, Jehovah of the Watchtower, 176), one hopes they are not quoting their own work in support of their view, clearly a circular argument.
- Some of the quotes are from non-English versions or extremely obscure publications which cannot be used in good faith to support a modern English translation.
So eliminating the sources which cannot in good faith be used to support their view, we are left with three sources.
One of these three sources is a version called The Emphatic Diaglott, by Benjamin Wilson. The Emphatic Diaglott, originally published in 1864, was re-published in 1942, interestingly, by the Watchtower. It was a version they published prior to the New World Translation, which was not printed until 1950. Wilson’s version has the Greek on the left side of the page, along with the English words ‘inter-lined’ (interlinear), and the actual translation on the right side of the page. Should You Believe in the Trinity? quotes Wilson’s version as “’and a god was the Word.’ Interlinear reading.” (italics mine). An interlinear reading is a version with Greek text above and English subtitles underneth. By quoting the “interlinear reading” they are quoting the stilted interlinear on the left side, not Wilson’s actual translation. (Greek syntax and word order are different from English).
If we look at Wilson’s actual translation on the right side of the page, we find “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God.”
Making this even more interesting, the Watchtower also publishes an interlinear version of their own New World Translation, officially titled Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures. It is laid out with the same left-right page layout as Wilson’s. In the Kingdom Interlinear, we find the exact opposite as Wilson’s work. If the Watchtower were to quote their own “interlinear reading” they would have printed “and god was the word” thereby contradicting their whole position.
So since both versions are published by the Watchtower, and if The Emphatic Diaglott can publish an accurate “interlinear reading,” then is the New World Translation’s “interlinear reading” also a valid source? And if the translation in the New World version is said to be accurate, can we use The Emphatic Diaglott’s translation, which would support Jesus being God almighty? Either way, the Watchtower is caught in conflicting versions of their own publications. And even more importantly, they are playing sleight-of-hand games with the Wilson quotes. All this raises questions about the accuracy of all the other obscure quotes in Should You Believe in the Trinity? The Watchtower does not provide source references for their quotes, making it impossible to verify their claims. So if we investigate the nine sources the JWs give for their position on John 1:1, seven of them turn out to be bogus sources that contradict The Watchtower, and the remaining two are obscure sources that are difficult to verify or do not apply to modern translation.
Still further, if you look at verse 6 in the Kingdom Interlinear version above, you’ll note in the Greek on the left, the word for “God” is used without the definite article (which would say “the” under it in English). The whole point of the JW’s not translating John 1:1 as “God” is that the Greek has no definite article, yet here we have the same word on the same page, also without the definite article, yet the JWs translate verse 6 on the right side of the page as “God” meaning God almighty. The inconsistency due to their doctrinal bias is glaring.
The games being played here by the Jehovah’s Witnesses show us that we cannot trust their scholarship. Their contradictions are either from a lack of integrity or ineptitude. By their denying a central tenet of the Christian faith, they cannot be considered Christian.