A Look at the Jehovah's Witnesses'

Latest Attack on the Trinity

by M. Kurt Goedelman

During last summer's district conventions the Watchtower

launched its heaviest attack ever on the doctrine of the triunity

of God: a 32-page, Watchtower magazine-size, full-color publica-

tion titled, Should You Believe in the Trinity? Originally the

brochure sold for thirty cents, however due to the Watchtower's

recent sales policy change, it is now available in the United

States for a mere donation.

For Jehovah's Witnesses, the answer to the question solicited in

the title of the publication is "No."

Watchtower writers have amassed quotes and arguments in an

effort to disprove "the central doctrine of the churches for cen-

turies." Thus, to get to "the root of the Trinity controversy,"

secular and religious encyclopedias, and Roman Catholic, Eastern

Orthodox and Protestant works are cited. Some of the quotes have

been used in previous Watchtower books. Others have not.

However, a look at the citations used in Should You Believe in

the Trinity? will show that once again the Watchtower has prac-

ticed dishonest scholarship.

(This article will not make an exhaustive critique of Watchtower

beliefs on this subject. A fuller treatment can be found in

Robert M. Bowman, Jr.'s Why You Should Believe in the Trinity.

Also a brief, yet effective treatment is found in MacGregor

Ministries New & Views, April-June 1990, pp. 5-8.)

The reader might wonder why the Watchtower would appeal to

Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant writers in a work that purports

to debunk the Trinity doctrine. The Watchtower says "lately even

some of its [the Trinity doctrine's] supporters have added fuel

to the controversy."

Watchtower scholars and writers apparently do not understand

Church history. Down through the centuries, the vast majority of

those who have attacked the Trinity doctrine have regarded them-

selves as being within the Church. These "attacks" have resulted

in the formulation of the Church's creeds and the exposition and

refinement of theology (or dogma) based upon a careful examina-

tion of the doctrine revealed in Scripture.

Anyone making even a superficial study of the Watchtower's

treatment of the Trinity doctrine will learn that the thoughts of

Christian writers cited in Watchtower publications usually have

been wrested from their contexts and made to say the opposite of

what the writers meant.

When the citations have been more honest and contextual, they

have come from liberal Protestant and Catholic writers who chal-

lenge God's triunity. Still, in other instances, the Watchtower

provides only partial quotes in its effort to convince the reader

that the Trinity doctrine is a pagan notion.


The Watchtower writers waste little time in their new book

misleading their readers. On page 4, it says, "The Encyclopedia

Americana notes that the doctrine of the Trinity is considered to

be 'beyond the grasp of human reason.'"

A look at that quote in full context conveys a different mes-

sage. It says: "It is held that although the doctrine is beyond

the grasp of human reason, it is, like many of the formulations

of physical science, not contrary to reason, and may be appre-

hended (though it may not be comprehended) by the human mind."

(The Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. 27, pg. 116)

The Watchtower's quote, when placed in context, is hard to

dispute. A God who is comprehendable to a finite mind is a God

who has been overtaken by his own creation.

What makes Watchtower reasoning all the more laughable is that

Jehovah's Witnesses are told in other publications not to reject

elements of God's nature merely because they are incomprehensi-

ble. The Watchtower's Reasoning From The Scriptures says on the

subject, "Did God have a Beginning?": "Is that reasonable? Our

minds cannot fully comprehend it. But that is not a sound reason

for rejecting it. Consider these examples: (1) Time. No one can

point to a certain moment as the beginning of time. And it is a

fact that, even though our lives end, time does not. We do not

reject the idea of time because there are aspects of it that we

do not fully comprehend. Rather, we regulate our lives by it.

(2) Space. Astronomers find no beginning or end to space. The

farther they probe into the universe, the more there is. They do

not reject what the evidence shows; many refer to space as being

infinite. The same principle applies to the existence of God."

(pg. 148)

Watchtower writers also ignored a statement on the same page of

the encyclopedia that disputes the idea that the Trinity doctrine

is pagan. It says: "It is probably a mistake to assume that the

doctrine resulted from the intrusion of Greek metaphysics or

philosophy into Christian thought; for the data upon which the

doctrine rests, and also its earliest attempts at formulation,

are much older than the church's encounter with Greek

philosophy." (The Encyclopedia Americana, Vol. 27, pg. 116)

The reader doesn't have to turn the page to find another exam-

ple. This time, the writers cite The Catholic Encyclopedia,

claiming it says the Trinity doctrine is "A dogma so mysterious

[it] presupposes a Divine revelation."

When the quote is read in context, the same thing happens: A

biblical, orthodox thought emerges. The encyclopedia, while

stating "It is manifest that a dogma so mysterious presupposes a

Divine revelation," goes on to say: "When the fact of

revelation, understood in its full sense as the speech of God to

man, is no longer admitted, the rejection of the doctrine follows

as a necessary consequence. For this reason it has no place in

the Liberal Protestantism of today. The writers of this school

contend that the doctrine of the Trinity, as professed by the

Church, is not contained in the New Testament, but that it was

first formulated in the second century and received final appro-

bation in the fourth, as a result of the Arian and Macedonian

controversies." (The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 15, pg. 47)

As noted by The Catholic Encyclopedia, many liberal Protestant

scholars contend that the Trinity doctrine originated in the

second century. That is a theory shared by the Watchtower. Yet,

the encyclopedia rejects the idea, saying: "The Divinity of

Christ is amply attested not merely by St. John, but by the

Synoptists," and "The various elements of the Trinitarian doc-

trine are all expressly taught in the New Testament. The Divinity

of the Three Persons is asserted or implied in passages too

numerous to count." These statements clearly summarize the

biblical evidence presented by the encyclopedia in defense of the

Trinity. (Vol. 15, pp. 47, 49)

On page 6 of Should You Believe in the Trinity? Watchtower

writers misrepresent the thoughts of Jesuit Edmund J. Fortman in

his book, The Triune God. The Watchtower says Fortman says "The

New Testament writers ... give us no formal or formulated doc-

trine of the Trinity, no explicit teaching that in one God there

are three co-equal divine persons."

However, the Watchtower surgeons have excised Fortman's next

statement, which says the New Testament writers "do give us an

elemental trinitarianism, the data from which such a formal

doctrine of the Triune God may be formulated." (The Triune God,

Introduction, pg. xvi) Further, they have ignored his discus-

sions, based on Scripture, for the divinity of Jesus and the Holy


Yet, Fortman's book cannot be regarded as totally orthodox. On

page 9, he writes: "Although this spirit is often described in

personal terms, it seems quite clear that the sacred writers

never conceived or presented this spirit as a distinct person."

Should You Believe in the Trinity cites that statement on page


It should be noted that while the biblical authors may not have

completely understood or comprehended some of that which they

were inspired to write, a careful consideration of Scripture will

demonstrate Fortman's conclusion that "Sacred [Old Testament]

writers never conceived or presented this spirit as a distinct

person" is in error.

While Fortman admitted that the Spirit is described in personal

terms, He is also ascribed, as in the New Testament, with at-

tributes which can only be applicable to a person or personality.

2 Samuel 23:2 tells of the Spirit's ability to speak; in Psalm

106:33 we are instructed that the Spirit can be rebelled against;

Isaiah 63:10 informs us that the Spirit can be grieved; and in

Nehemiah 9:30 we learn that the Israelites were admonished by

this same Spirit. These are some of the very capabilities which

Fortman notes in the New Testament in his consideration of the

personality of the Holy Spirit.

The Christian will find many areas of Roman Catholic doctrine

and dogma that contradict the biblical faith. Nonetheless,

Catholicism's stand for, and defense of, the doctrine of the

Trinity is certainly not one of them.

The Watchtower also misrepresents, through misquotes and half-

quotes, the writings of E. Washburn Hopkins, a Yale University

professor of Sanskrit and Comparative Philology who died in 1932.

On page 6 of its book, the Watchtower uses this statement from

Hopkins' Origin and Evolution of Religion: "To Jesus and Paul the

doctrine of the trinity was apparently unknown; ... they say

nothing about it."

Just before that quote, Hopkins had written: "The beginning of

the doctrine of the trinity appears already in John (c. 100)."

(pg. 336) The Watchtower left that out. (John's gospel would now

be dated much earlier by most scholars.)

The Watchtower also leaves out these statements by Hopkins:

"The early Church declared that Christ was the Logos and that the

Logos was God." (ibid.)

"Paul does not say that Christ is God, but he identifies Christ

with the Holy Spirit and applies to him the Old Testament [verse]

used of God: 'I am God and ...unto me every knee shall bow (Is.

45:22,23; Phil. 2:10)." (ibid.)

While orthodox Christians would challenge many of Hopkins'

premises, including his assertion that "Paul does not say that

Christ is God" (see Titus 2:13, Colossians 2:9 and Philippians

2:6), Hopkins' observations differ greatly from the Watchtower's.


When considering the statements of orthodox scholars, one must

understand the distinction between dogma and doctrine or theology

and doctrine. The Watchtower does not and leads its readers to

believe they all mean the same thing.

Doctrine refers to that which is expressed in Scripture. Dogma

or theology is the settled opinion or belief that has been estab-

lished by the doctrine expressed in Scripture. Catholics are more

inclined to make use of the term "dogma"; Protestants prefer


Baker's Dictionary of Theology, under the subject "Doctrine,"

says: "It [doctrine] differs from dogma (q.v.) in that it does

not connote an authoritative ecclesiastical affirmation but is

rather the raw material of the word of God which councils use in

formulating theological truth in definitve and sometimes polemi-

cal forms."

Academic works of orthodoxy sometimes make reference to the

evolution, development or refinement of the dogma (or theology)

of the Trinity. The Watchtower, in its use of these quotations,

will misconstrue or erroneously imply these declarations to mean

that it was at the various church councils where the doctrine of

the Trinity was invented, evolved or developed. The truth is that

the doctrine is revealed within the confines of scripture, while

the refined or expressed beliefs pertaining to this doctrine have

been set forth at the church councils.

While, the Watchtower does not wish to afford this development

of theology to Christendom, it has itself adopted the practice.

One only has to compare current Watchtower theology with that of

Watchtower founder Charles Taze Russell. One need not even go

back that far. Watchtower theology has changed noticeably in just

the past few years. The changes are not always clarifications of

theology, but often are turnabouts.



It is dishonest enough when Watchtower writers try to pass off

liberal Protestant writers as representatives of orthodox Chris-

tianity, but they go a step further and misquote and half-quote

them, too.

As is the case with all citations in Should You Believe in the

Trinity? no background information on the cited writer is provid-

ed, neither is there a volume and page number of the work cited.

This hinders research by the reader and makes it difficult to put

into context any of the cited statements.

Those who locate even a few of the quotes soon will realize why

several "Christian theologians" are cited.

One example is Adolf Harnack, author of Outlines of the History

of Dogma. The Watchtower cites Harnack to support its concept

that Plato's "philosophies paved the way for [the Trinity doc-

trine]". On page 11 of Should You Believe in The Trinity? Har-

nack is cited and the reader told "church doctrine became 'firmly

rooted in the soil of Hellenism [pagan Greek thought]. Thereby it

became a mystery to the great majority of Christians."

Harnack is a liberal theologian who believes Christianity was a

Hebrew-Oriental religion founded by Jesus Christ only to be

polluted with Greek thought introduced by Paul. Harnack says in

the same book cited by the Watchtower, "If the gnostics 'helle-

nized' Christianity, so had Paul." (Outlines of the History of

Dogma, Introduction) He further says "Paul wrenched the Gospel

from its native soil and gave it at the same time through his

Christological speculation and his carrying out of the contrast

of flesh and spirit, a characteristic stamp which was comprehen-

sible to the Greeks, although they were illy prepared to accept

his special manner of reconciling it with the Law." (ibid, pp.


Further, the quotation refers to the whole of Christian doc-

trine, which Harnack believes has been defiled by pagan philoso-

phy. Harnack's beliefs placed him outside the realm of orthodoxy.

In fact, The Catholic Encyclopedia calls Harnack an example of

one from "Liberal Protestantism" who claims "that the doctrine of

the Trinity, as professed by the Church, is not contained in the

New Testament, but that it was first formulated in the second

century and received final approbation in the fourth, as the

result of the Arian and Macedonian controversies." (Vol. 15, pg.


Harold O.J. Brown, in his work, Heresies, said "Harnack looks

on Christian theology per se as a Hellenization of the simple

Gospel in the spirit of Gnosticism. From our perspective, it

would be more plausible to compare philosophical and religious

speculation of Paul Tillich (1886-1965) or even the massive and

urbane learning of Harnack himself with Gnosticism." (pg. 46)

This is likewise noted in the publication, Adolf Von Harnack,

Liberal Theology At Its Height. Editor Martin Rumscheidt writes

"Harnack became troubled by the fact that his relationship to the

Church was so heavily overcast. He had always wanted to serve the

Church but it did not even call upon him to sit on commissions to

examine his own students for their fitness to serve the Church or

their theological readiness. The Church, and for that matter some

of his own colleagues, regarded him as someone who held an unbe-

lieving theology." (pg. 21)

Thus in its context, Harnack's speculation not only was reject-

ed by orthodoxy, but also should be rejected by the Watchtower.

The Watchtower gives the same treatment to the work of histori-

an Will Durant, who emphasizes the same concept of a Church cor-

rupted by paganism. Should You Believe in the Trinity? quotes an

untitled Durant work on page 11: "Christianity did not destroy

paganism; it adopted it ... From Egypt came the ideas of a divine


The quotation used is on page 595 of Durant's 1944 work Caesar

and Christ, from his series The Story of Civilization. The Watch-

tower has conveyed the truest sense of the idea expressed by

Durant, namely that Christianity is the result of pagan influ-


The careful reader will note that the Watchtower citation uses

the word "ideas." While Jehovah's Witnesses would readily call

pagan several beliefs that Durant does, they would disagree that

others, such as belief in the Last Judgment and Christian monas-

ticism, are pagan. The writers of Should You Believe in the

Trinity? left those out.

The Watchtower writers also have to fudge on Durant's opinion

that the Apostles John and Paul introduced paganism into Chris-

tianity. Durant's notion of a pagan-influenced Christian Church

is expressed in his statements which include, "Fundamentalism is

the triumph of Paul over Christ" and "It seems incredible that

the Apocalypse [Revelation] and the Fourth Gospel should have

come for the same hand, The Apocalypse is Jewish poetry, the

Fourth Gospel is Greek philosophy." (pp. 592, 594)

Further he contends that "Perhaps the apostle [John] wrote

Revelation in justifiable wrath after Nero's persecution, and the

Gospel in the mellow metaphysics of his old age (A.D. 90?). His

memories of the Master may by this time have faded a bit, so far

as one could ever forget Jesus; and doubtless in the isles and

cities of Ionia he had heard many an echo of Greek mysticism and

philosophy." (pg. 594) The Jehovah's Witnesses, unlike Durant,

believe that pagan element in Christianity was introduced much


Finally, while the Watchtower booklet indicates Durant to be a

historian, it should be noted that he is an American historian.

Further, The Encyclopedia Americana notes that Durant's "Critics

recognize his knowledge of cultural history but complained of his

sweeping, often outdated generalizations, his reliance on some-

times dubious secondary works, and his avoidance of controversial

subjects." (Vol. x, pg. 486).

Another writing cited because of its "historical evidence" is

Alvan Lamson's 19th-century work, The Church of the First Three

Centuries. The Watchtower tries to use this work to buttress its

claim that while the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are spoken of

together, it is "not as co-equal, not as one numerical essence,

not as Three in One, in any sense now admitted by Trinitarians."

(pg. 7)

Should You Believe in the Trinity? further quotes Lamson as

saying: "The doctrine of the Trinity was of gradual and compara-

tively late formation; had its origin in a source entirely

foreign from that of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures;

grew up, and was ingrafted on Christianity, through the hands of

the Platonizing Fathers." (pg. 11)

Lamson's book can be accurately quoted in context by the Watch-

tower. When Linda Hull, director of a West Virginia-based coun-

ter-cult ministry contacted the Watchtower in pursuit of documen-

tation of its Trinity booklet, she received only photocopies of

pages from this publication. But even with this book, the Watch-

tower had something to hide.

One edition of the book is distributed by the British and

Foreign Unitarian Association in London. This shows how far

Watchtower writers must stretch to find a doctrinal ally, an ally

they are not willing to readily admit. Hull's photocopies con-

tained no reference to the Unitarian origin of Lamson's volume.

However, the Unitarian source is clearly identified on the title

page of other editions of the work.

This disclosure is reminiscent of the discovery in 1981 of the

source of the Johannes Greber New Testament translation, which

the Watchtower quoted in support of its rendering of John 1:1.

The Greber New Testament was distributed by the Johannes Greber

Foundation, which promoted occult activities such as communicat-

ing with the spirit world.


The Watchtower's answer to the question "How did the Trinity

Doctrine Develop?" (pp. 7-12), reads this way: "For many years,

there had been much opposition on biblical grounds to the de-

veloping idea that Jesus was God. To try to solve the dispute,

Roman emperor Constantine summoned all bishops to Nicea." The

conference of these bishops in the spring of 325 A.D. has come to

be known as the Council of Nicea. Concerning this Council the

Watchtower has cited the works of The Encyclopedia Britannica,

Henry Chadwick's The Early Church and Bernhard Lohse's A Short

History of Christian Doctrine.

These works are used to support the Watchtower claim that

Constantine's role at Nicea was crucial. "After two months of

furious religious debate, this pagan politician intervened and

decided in favor of those who said that Jesus was God. But why?

Certainly not because of any Biblical conviction ... What he did

understand was that religious division was a threat to his em-

pire, and he wanted to solidify his domain." (pg. 8)

E. Calvin Beisner, in his work, God in Three Persons, disa-

grees. While Beisner would accept the idea that Constantine did

not fully understand the issues, he stresses that Constantine:

"Did understand that this problem had caused a major division

within Christianity; and as a Christian himself, he wished to see

this brought to an end. He did all he could to restore unity

without using political force, but to no avail... The role of the

emperor in all this has long been the subject of great debate. It

has been argued that his purpose was only political, the unifica-

tion of a powerful force within the empire, namely the Christian

Church... However, it seems highly questionable to see

Constantine's involvement in the problem as purely political, or

nearly so, as others have implied. The more likely view is that

politics and religion were both important to Constantine, for it

appears that he inherited from his father an early tendency

toward Christianity, and certainly at his famous 'conversion'

something more than an ingenious plan for military victory oc-

curred to him." (pp. 108, 109)

Beisner further shows that the doctrine of the Trinity was not

approved for political reasons. He notes that "The forty years

immediately following the Council of Nicea were some of the

darkest hours for the orthodox faith ...Constantine was won to

the side of the Arians, and later received Eusebius of Nicomedia

into his close confidence, being baptized by him on his deathbed.

When Constantine turned his favor to the Arians, he recalled

Arius from exile, sent him again to Alexandria, and the Arians

were back in power." (pp. 125, 126)

Thus it was the "Jehovah's Witnesses" of the fourth century who

enjoyed political favor, not those of the orthodox faith.

Having examined some of the scholastic dishonesty of the Watch-

tower, we will now briefly turn our attention to a review of a

few of the misinterpretations of Scripture found in the latter

portion of the booklet.


The Watchtower often misstates the Christian doctrine of the

Trinity and then quickly refutes it. In the beginning of Should

You Believe in the Trinity? Catholic and Greek Orthodox sources

are cited, providing an accurate definition of the Trinity doc-

trine. Then the Watchtower uses another dishonest technique:

ignoring the explanation and refuting an erroneous one.

The Watchtower writers repeatedly apply the theology known as

Sabellianism, modalism or "Jesus Only" to that of trinitarianism.

The two are incompatible. The Church has denounced as heresy the

belief that the one God is a single person or essence who has

revealed himself in different roles or modes. (For more informa-

tion on Modalism, see "The Oneness Doctrine: Full Gospel or Fool

Gospel?," The Quarterly Journal, July-Sept, 1989, pp. 1, 9-11.)

Thus, when an erroneous definition or a faulty interpretation

of a teaching is used, it is easy to argue against it.

Under the heading "Jesus Distinguished From God" (pg. 17), the

Watchtower points to the words of Christ in John 17:3 as he prays

that eternal life is knowing Thee [the Father] the only true God

and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." Jehovah's Witnesses,

trying to denigrate Christ, miss the context of His words. Eter-

nal life lies in the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ. The

Apostle John repeatedly writes that eternal life is achieved

through belief in the Son. Jesus is also addressed by John as the

true God and eternal life (1 John 5:20).

Here Watchtower logic causes problems for Jehovah's Witnesses.

If the Father is alone the only true God, then Jesus, who is also

referred to as God or "a god," must be a false God.

Beisner addresses Jesus' words in John 17:5 and the interpreta-

tion that the Father is "the only true God." He comments that to

regard this verse as an undeification of Jesus is:

"A very simple mistake that every first semester logic student

knows about. It is the simple mistake of denying the antecedent,

is what it is called. Illustrated this way: All men are mortal,

Fido is not a man, therefore Fido is not mortal. The parallel

with it is: The Father is the only true God, Jesus is not the

Father, therefore Jesus is not the only true God. That is not how

it works. The only way you could get to that conclusion is if

instead you put the word only, not before true God, but before

Father. Only the Father is the true God, Jesus Christ is not the

Father, therefore Jesus Christ is not God. Now that would be a

logically valid argument." (Transcript from The John Ankerberg

Show, "The United Pentecostal Church International")

A second Scripture citation on page 17, John 20:17, is appealed

to in that the risen Savior instructs Mary Magdalene that He is

to ascend "to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God."

The Watchtower, through its misunderstanding of the Bible or by

deliberate misrepresentation of Scripture, has arrived at this

erroneous conclusion. The Bible is clear that Jesus is both God

and man (see John 1:1, 14; Philippians 2:5-11). As the Savior

walked upon the earth He made statements and actions both as God

(see John 5:39; 8:58) and as man (see John 4:7; 11:35).

The Watchtower Society has repeatedly disregarded or changed

scripture that stresses the deity of Christ and adhered to any

passage that emphasizes the humanity of Christ. John 20:17 is a

perfect example. The clear context of Jesus' words is shown to be

spoken from His humanity. Jehovah's Witnesses fail to take note

of the statement "go to my brethren and say to them ..." which

precedes his words that He is ascending to His Father and God.

"Go to my brethren" provides one with the insight that as a man

Jesus is to ascend to the Father.

The statement "Jesus further showed that he was a separate

being from God by saying: 'Why do you call me good? No one is

good but God alone' (Mark 10:18 JB)" (pg. 17) places Jehovah's

Witnesses in a peculiar position of denying the absolute goodness

of Jesus. This is evident because they state, "So Jesus was

saying that no one is as good as God is, not even Jesus himself.

God is good in a way that separates him from Jesus."

First it should be noted that no degrees of goodness are ex-

pressed in this verse. This interpretation can only be achieved

by reading it into the text. The Watchtower's interpretation and

the words of Scripture found in Mark 10:17-18 serves as a classic

example. Here, Jesus replied to the ruler who called him good:

"no one is good except God alone." Thus the Watchtower concludes

that since Jesus is not God, he cannot be addressed as good.

Dr. Randolph Yeager, in The Renaissance New Testament, writes

"Our Lord decided to ask him [the ruler] for a definition of

terms. Why call Jesus good, unless he had a perverted conception

of goodness. How can one call any man good? If the man is good is

he not also God? So, if the man really believed that Jesus was

good he should have called Him God. If Jesus is not God then He

is only a man like the rich young ruler. And if that is true He

is not good. So why did the man call Him good? In order that he

also could call himself good. Thus Jesus was saying 'Either

worship me as God if you really think that I am good, or keep

your compliments to yourself, since you are obviously


Jesus did not deny that He was good or that He is God. He

merely questioned the ruler's intentions. In Luke 23:58, Joseph

of Arimathea (a disciple of Jesus) is called "good," using the

same Greek word agathos found in Mark 10:18. The same is said of

Barnabas in Acts 11:24. Thus if one applies the Watchtower logic

and biblical interpretation Joseph and/or Barnabas can be made to

be God.

The Watchtower's interpretation and forced meaning of Mark

10:17-18 is further shown futile by The Society's own New World

Translation's rendering of Colossians 2:9. The NWT states "be-

cause it is in him that all the fullness of the divine quality

dwells bodily." No Jehovah's Witness could argue against the fact

that a quality of God is his goodness. Therefore, Christ possess-

es that divine quality, in that he possesses "all the fullness of

divine quality." When one accepts Paul's declaration (Colossians

2:9) the Watchtower's interpretation of the Mark 10 passage is

shown to be in error and must be rejected. (An expose' of six

additional Watchtower "proof texts" denying the deity of Jesus

Christ are available in the pamphlet, "The Strawmen of the Watch-

tower Society," available from Personal Freedom Outreach.)



Under six subheadings in Should You Believe in the Trinity?,

Watchtower writers respond to orthodox arguments for the doc-

trines of the Trinity and the deity of Jesus Christ. A look at

two of the responses will show the error of Watchtower thinking

on these subjects.

First, take the Watchtower treatment of Philippians 2:6. The

Watchtower's booklet here notes that "the Catholic Douay Version

(Dy) of 1609 says of Jesus: 'Who being in the form of God,

thought it not robbery to be equal with God.'" (pg. 25)

The Watchtower uses a little verbal sleight of hand here to

make its point. The booklet presents observations calling the

reader's attention to the phrase "though it not robbery" (Greek:

harpa'zo) and argues for translation of the Greek verb as "to

seize," "to snatch violently" or "to grasp at" existing in God's

form. (pg. 25)

Through the Watchtower's prolific discourse of the word

harpa'zo, the reader's attention has been diverted from the

proper focal point of Paul's declaration. Harpa'zo may certainly

and properly be translated as noted by the Watchtower. However,

the Greek words that should have been considered are huparchon

("being") and morphe ("form").

Concerning the latter, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament by

James H. Moulton and George Milligan, comments that morphe

"always signifies a form which truly and fully expresses the

being which underlies it." (pg. 417)

Further, in A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament,

Joseph H. Thayer writes under the heading morphe that Philippians

2:6 "is to be explained as follows: who, although (formerly when

he was logos asarkos [without flesh]) he bore the form (in which

he appeared to the inhabitants of heaven) of God (the sovereign,

opp. to morphe doulos), yet did not think that this equality with

God was to be eagerly clung to or retained (see harpa'zo, 2), but

emptied himself of it (see kenoo, 1) so as to assume the form of

a servant, in that he became like unto men (for angels also are

doulos tou Theos [slaves of God], Rev. xix. 10; xxii. 8 sq.) and

was found in fashion as a man." (pg. 418)

In reference to the former, huparchon, Ralph P. Martin in his

work, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, says "Being in the

form of God looks back to our Lord's pre-temporal existence as

the Second Person of the Trinity. The verbal form translated

being, huparchon, need not necessarily mean this, but it seems

clear that this meaning is the only satisfactory one in the

context." (pg. 96) It is also of interest to note that the Watch-

tower has cited Martin's publication (pg. 25) in presenting its

argument for the translation of harpa'zo, yet completely ignores

or disregards his commentary of the words huparchon and morphe.

Thus the meaning of Paul's statement is that Jesus Christ

existed in the form of God, yet for the sake of mankind's redemp-

tion, thought the recognition of his divine stature not something

to be retained or "seized." But limited Himself by His undertak-

ing the "form of man." Quite simply, Paul's statement that he

existed in the "form of God" (i.e., God) parallels his declara-

tion in verse 7 that He also existed in the "form of man" (i.e.,


Finally, no writing about the Watchtower and the Trinity would

be complete without comments on John 1:1. The prologue of John's

gospel has always been a major problem for Watchtower theolo-


The Watchtower's booklet introduces the above verse from the

King James Version's "and the Word was God." Following, although

not quoted in full, are other versions which parallel (or can be

misconstrued to fit) Watchtower theology. A few of the

Watchtower's classical favorites which are referenced are: The

New Testament in an Improved Version; The Emphatic Diaglott (a

Christadelphian-influenced translation); The New World Transla-

tion of the Christian Greek Scriptures (the Watchtower's transla-

tion); along with the reliable The Bible - An American Transla-

tion (by J.M.P. Smith and E.J. Goodspeed). Also a few German

translations are mentioned.

Concerning the "a god" translation of The New Testament in an

Improved Version the Jehovah's Witnesses will many times lead one

to believe that it is the work of Archbishop William Newcome

(Archbishop of Armagh). However, this is not the case. In reality

Thomas Belsham, a Unitarian, altered the original text of

Newcome's translation. A footnote in Belsham's work cites Newcome

as stating the Word "was God." Thus the version utilized by the

Watchtower is one which was produced under a Unitarian bias.

Reputable scholars all agree, John 1:1 cannot be translated as

"the word was a god." Bruce M. Metzger (Professor of New Testa-

ment Language and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary)

stated that "if the Jehovah's Witnesses take this translation

seriously, they are polytheists. In view of the additional light

which is available during this age of Grace, such a representa-

tion is even more reprehensible than were the heathenish, poly-

theistic errors into which ancient Israel was so prone to fall.

As a matter of solid fact, however, such a rendering is a fright-

ful mistranslation." (Theology Today, April, 1953, pg. 75)

The late Dr. William Barclay, from the University of Glasgow,

Scotland, wrote: "The deliberate distortion of truth by this sect

is seen in their New Testament translations. John 1:1 is trans-

lated: 'Originally the Word was, and the Word was with God, and

the Word was a god,' a translation which is grammatically impos-

sible. It is abundantly clear that a sect which can translate the

New Testament like that is intellectually dishonest." (The Expos-

itory Times, October, 1953, pg. 32)

Dr. Harry A. Sturz, Chairman of the Language Department and

Professor of Greek at Biola College, commented: "Therefore, the

NWT (New World Translation) rendering: 'the Word was a god' is

not a 'literal' but an ungrammatical and tendential translation.

A literal translation in English can be nothing other than: 'the

Word was God.'" (The Bible Collector, July-September, 1971, pg.


The co-author of A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament,

the late Dr. Julius R. Mantey, labeled the Watchtower's transla-

tion of John 1:1 as being "shockingly mistranslated" and added

that it is "A grossly misleading translation." (Depth Explora-

tions in the New Testament, pg. 138).

Thus only through the use of obscure Bible translations and the

use of unqualified scholars and translators can the "a god"

rendering be made to stand. Those who have devoted themselves to

a lifelong study of the biblical languages (and have the creden-

tials to act as skilled translators) will have no part of the

Watchtower's perversion of John 1:1.

In regards to the translation by J.M. Powis Smith and Edgar J.

Goodspeed (and similarly the translation by James Moffatt), stat-

ing that the Word (or Logos) "was divine" in no way undermines

the deity of the Lord Jesus.

The Watchtower is of course, correct in stating that the "first

theos [in John 1:1] is preceded by the word ton (the), a form of

the Greek definite article that points to a distinct identity, in

this case Almighty God ('and the Word was with [the] God'). On

the other hand, there is no article before the second theos at

John 1:1." (pg. 27)

Again in the Watchtower's Reasoning from the Scriptures (pg.

212) a corresponding observation is presented: "The definite

article (the) appears before the first occurrence of 'theos'

(God) but not before the second" and that "The articular (when

the article appears) construction of the noun points to an iden-

tity, a personality, whereas a singular anarthrous (without the

article) predicate noun before the verb (as the sentence is

constructed in Greek) points to a quality about someone." Howev-

er, while the Watchtower is grammatically valid in its grammati-

cal observations, nonetheless it has drawn incorrect conclusions

from this data in order to justify its theology.

In reference to their erroneous conclusion, the Watchtower

Society, for several years, deliberately misquoted H.E. Dana and

Julius R. Mantey's A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament on

this very point (see the 1969 edition of The Kingdom Interlinear

Translation of the Greek Scriptures, pg. 1158). Dana and Mantey

point out that the absence of the definite article "the" places

stress upon the qualitative aspect of the noun rather than its

mere identity. This is the reasoning behind Moffatt and Smith and

Goodspeed's rendering of "divine." If John's concluding phrase of

John 1:1 would read "and the Word was the God" then it would be

understood that all there is to God is the Word. However, as Dana

and Mantey stated "As it stands, the other persons of the Trinity

may be implied in 'Theos.' As expected, the above statement

failed to make its way into the Watchtower's citation of Dana and

Mantey's Grammar.

The Watchtower's Should You Believe in the Trinity? will be a

major tool both now and in the years to come in persuading those

who are scripturally illiterate to accept an unbiblical theology.

As with the apostles and Church fathers, the Church must take the

time to provide Christians with solid and scriptural responses to

those who would challenge our faith and beliefs. (1 Peter 3:15)

Editor's Note: For further study on the doctrine of the Trinity,

we highly recommend: God in Three Persons by E. Calvin Beisner

(Tyndale House, $7.95); Why You Should Believe in the Trinity by

Robert M. Bowman, Jr. (Baker Book House, $7.95); and The Three

Are One by Stuart Olyott (Evangelical Press, $4.95). These works

are available from Personal Freedom Outreach. (Please add $1.00

to the above cost to shipping costs.)


(c) 1990 - Personal Freedom Outreach. All rights reserved.

Reproduction is prohibited except for portions intended for

personal use and noncommercial purposes. For reproduction per

mission, contact: Personal Freedom Outreach, P.O. Box 26062,

Saint Louis, Missouri 63136, (314) 388-2648.

These documents are free from , providing free webcontent for websites around the world!. copy freely with this link intact.