Ask a Jehovah’s witness who the Father is and the response will be “Jehovah God.” From an orthodox1 position we can whole-heartedly agree with them and end our article here. However to do so would be premature and naïve.
As is often the case with pseudo Christian cults terminology may not necessarily equate to orthodoxy. You see the acknowledgment by the W.B.T.S2 that Jehovah is the Father is somewhat misleading as the whole concept of “God the Father” is overshadowed by the name “Jehovah”. I’ll try and explain what I mean.
Insight on the Scriptures Vol. 2 on page 8 makes this point under the heading “God” and “Father” not distinctive”
“God the Father has a name, one that is distinct from his Son’s name…The name Jehovah distinguishes “God the Father” thereby blocking any attempt at merging or blending his identity and person with that of any other to whom the title god or father may be applied.”
Notice the subtle implication of this statement. God the Father has a NAME and it is JEHOVAH, while his created son’s NAME is JESUS. Presuppositions along semantic and linguistic lines become the basis for limiting the Tetragrammaton3 to ONLY “God the father” and thus preventing what they term “merging or blending” which I presume is a subtle anti-Trinitarian polemic because Jesus is designated the titles “a god” and “Mighty God” but never the true God Jehovah.
The Insight book page 16 declares;
“The entire Bible revolves around this issue and its settlement, and makes manifest Jehovah God’s primary purpose: the sanctification of his own name. Such a sanctification would require a cleansing of all reproach and false charges, that is, a vindicating of it…upon the sanctification of Jehovah’s name depend the… well being of all the universe”
Please notice the reasoning here. First the assertion is made that God the Father ALONE is Jehovah. Then it is suggested that the redemptive purposes of God revolve and hinge upon sanctification of the name Jehovah4.
As followers of Jesus Christ we may well ask where does Jesus fit into the redemptive purpose to sanctify Jehovah’s name?
The Insight book continues page 17:
“God’s Son showed this [the sanctification of Jehovah’s name]…pointing out Jehovah’s means for accomplishing his purpose when he taught his followers to pray to God: “Let your NAME be sanctified. Let your Kingdom come…This primary purpose of Jehovah provides the key for understanding”
So according to the Watchtower Society Jesus is not THE NAME, which Christians should invoke, elevate or depend upon. Rather Jesus is viewed as a humble Son, the “Greatest man” who has brought mankind a message, pointing mankind to his Fathers NAME Jehovah for salvation.
One proof text often used to elevate God the Father as the true God Jehovah and subordinate the Son as a created servant is John 17:3.
“This means eternal life their taking in knowledge of YOU, the only true God, and the one you sent forth Jesus Christ” (NWT)
Reasoning from the scriptures Page 411 explains:
“At John 17:3, Jesus addresses the Father [YOU] as ‘the only true God’; so, Jesus as ‘a god’ merely reflects his Father’s divine qualities.”
So this is the W.B.T.S contention, since Jesus addresses God the Father as the true God (Jehovah) it stands to reason that Jesus cannot be the only true God for he identifies the Father alone as the true God. If the W.B.T.S is correct and Jesus is defining his ontological position as less than true God it is logical to conclude that Jesus cannot be Jehovah. Is this correct?
W.B.T.S Informal Fallacies.
- Jesus places God the Father in the category of true God therefore it must mean he does not place himself in that same category.
- There is an implicit equivocation of two phrases: “You [Father], the only true God and “Only you [Father], the true God.”
Please note how a shift of emphasis from YOU to ONLY YOU changes the meaning. The second clause “only you” limits the Father alone to the category of true God. However is this hermeneutically correct? Can we deduce that Jesus is saying God the Father ALONE is the true God from this verse?
“The Greek construction provides more details on this point. First of all, the adverb “only” (monos) modifies the adjective “true” (alethinos), which further modifies the noun “God” (theos). “Only” nowhere modifies “Father” (pater). Hence, had Jesus said, “Only you [Father], the true God,” he would indeed be saying what the Witnesses are saying. Rather, Jesus said, “you [Father], the only true God.” Second, the phrase “the only true God” (ton monon alethinon theon) is an appositive. “Alone” remains a modifier of “truly God” within the appositional phrase, in light of what the Greek clearly indicates. New Testament lexicographers Barclay M. Newman and Eugene A. Nida shed light on this. They observe, “This appositional definition of God must be closely combined in some languages with the preceding ‘you’ for example, ‘to know you, you are the only God that really exists’ or ‘. . . you are the only God there is.’” Indeed, “only” modifies “God that really exists” or “God there is,” and not “you.” Therefore, the two phrases—“You [Father], the only true God” and “Only you [Father], the true God”—do not have the same meaning.”5
So in simple terms Jesus is identifying the Father as true God in relation to all false gods, but Jesus is NOT limiting the Father to the ONLY true God, which is what the W.B.T.S is presuming. They use the verse to categorize the Father ALONE as Jehovah.6
So while we can agree with the W.B.T.S that God the Father IS true God (YHWH), we cannot agree that the Father ALONE is true God (YHWH). Rather biblical revelation reveals Jesus and the Holy Spirit also fit ontologically the category of true God (YHWH). We cannot have three God’s (tritheism) so the only way to do justice to the divine revelation of scripture is to understand that three persons; Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equal in substance existing eternally as the ONE TRUE GOD (YHWH) yet are three distinct persons each dependent upon the other for existence7. Thus Jehovah the “eternally existing one” is triune in nature.
Simply put the Father is Jehovah (YHWH), the Son is Jehovah (YHWH) and the Holy Spirit is Jehovah (YHWH). Not three Jehovah’s but ONE8 Jehovah in PLURAL UNITY the great “I AM” of Exodus 3:14, expressed as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This mystery of the Godhead is inconceivable to a J.W. for they use the wrong equation namely 1 + 1 + 1 = 3, but the true biblical equation is 1 x 1 x 1 = 1.9
The theological position held by the W.B.T.S that “God the Father” ALONE is true God aims to elevate the Tetragrammaton and their preferred rendering i.e. Jehovah to salvific status. In other words Jehovah becomes the name above all names and Jesus as “a god”10 is reduced to a faithful submissive servant. Add this theological error to the statement in the Insight Book that Jehovah’s purpose is to sanctify his name and we have the cultic worship of a NAME i.e. Jehovah.
The fact that Judge Rutherford (2nd President W.B.T.S) adopted the designation “Jehovah’s witnesses”11 as a modern day title to distinguish those who serve the true God and those who don’t helps us understand the supreme lengths the W.B.T.S has gone to in order to elevate the name Jehovah while simultaneously demoting the name Jesus and obscuring Father & Son relationships. I submit to you that the evidence suggests Jehovah’s witnesses worship a NAME not the triune God as revealed in scripture.
God the Father.
Sadly the W.B.T.S’s obsession with the name Jehovah and their belief that they must protect and help sanctify that name has lead them down a dark and dangerous path away from the very God they claim to serve and historic Christianity.
While it must be acknowledged the divine name is supremely important in that YHWH differentiates the true God12 from all other false Gods. However it does not follow that invoking the name or elevating the name Jehovah brings God’s approval or proves you are his true disciples. In fact we may ask the question why the Hebrew Scriptures contain the divine name some 6,000 times while the N.T. renders the divine name as Kurios?13
Also the N.T. introduces the concept of the Fatherhood of God and those born again as his children. If the name “Jehovah” is so important why does the N.T. essentially ignore the divine name and drop YHWH from its vocabulary? A good question for J.W.’s!
Berkhof under the heading Father (pater) states;
“It [father] is used repeatedly in the O.T. to designate the relation of God to Israel (Deut. 32:6, Ps 103:13, Jeremiah 3:4,19 et el) in such cases the name is expressive of the special theocratic relation in which God stands to Israel. In the general sense of creator it [Father] is used in the N.T (1 Cor. 8:6, Eph. 3:15, Heb. 12:9) in all other places it [Father] serves to express either the special revelation in which the first person of the Trinity stands to Christ, as the Son of God either in a metaphysical or mediatorial sense, or the ethical relation in which God stands to all believers as His spiritual children”14
As God the Son the second person of the triune Jehovah, Jesus came to earth as part of the progressive revelation of his Father. Jesus urged his followers to pray to “Our Father who art in heaven” something never before heard of. Note the intimacy that Christians share with the Father.
“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.”(NASB).
Sadly the Watchtower Society has rejected this wonderful relationship, which the Father offers through his Son. Instead they have created their very own Jehovah. They cannot know the Father for they refuse to know his Son; the two divine persons have been re-hashed by Watchtower theologians leaving members with a false god. Am I being a little harsh? Let the word of God speak for itself!
“Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.
“Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.
“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
“If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it. John 14:8-9 (NASB)
Show us the Father! That was the disciples request we want to SEE Jehovah! What did Jesus reply? Sorry I’m only a message boy? No he said HE WHO HAS SEEN ME HAS SEEN THE FATHER! How could Jesus make such an outrageous statement if he were just an envoy a materialized angel? This is not a statement of an envoy but a Son sent by his Father to reveal his Father something the unique Son and no other could do. “I AM IN THE FATHER AND THE FATHER IS IN ME”.
What is more what name did Jesus tells his disciples to invoke? Was it Jehovah? No! Jesus said ask anything IN MY NAME! Whose name? The name of Jesus! And “I” JESUS will do it! Why could Jesus supersede the name Jehovah? Because he was Jehovah come in the flesh, the second member of the triune Godhead!
“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth…No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” John 1:14, 18 (NASB)
What do these verses affirm? The Word i.e. Jesus became flesh i.e. incarnated and the disciples saw his Glory as of the only begotten (unique) Son15 of the Father! Then comes the climax No one has seen God (Jehovah) but the only begotten God! Please note what John is saying, the unique Son who is himself theos (God) has come to explain the unseen theos (God). JESUS who was in the bosom of the Father has arrived and will explain God. – Wow! What a revelation! – One, which the JW’s have failed to comprehend. Don Carson notes:
“In Exodus Moses hears the divine name spoken by God himself, and this is followed by God’s word written on two stone tablets. Now, John tells us, God’s Word, his Self-expression, has become flesh. This is the supreme revelation.”16
In Matthews Gospel Jesus affirms his equality with God the Father;
“No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:25-28).
The Son explains the Father consequently Jesus urges all to “come to the Son”. Heart breakingly the supreme revelation of YHWH, the self-expression of YHWH namely the Father, Son & Holy Spirit is rejected, mocked and downgraded by the Watchtower Society. Book after book of anti-Christian propaganda is churned out by the society. What is their error? They simply do not know who Jehovah truly is. JW’s claim exclusive right to be called Jehovah’s witnesses yet they deny their master Jesus and worship Jehovah of the Watchtower an illusionary god of man’s invention thus missing the soteriological significance of who YHWH truly is.
“The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” 1 John 5:10-13 (NASB)
Life eternal is IN Jesus. What does that mean? As God Jesus has eternality within himself and can give eternal life to all who believe in him. This life does NOT come from following the Jehovah of the Watchtower. God the Father has been revealed in the Son Jesus and what should our response be to that revelation?
“So that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:10-11. NASB.
Here Paul quotes directly from Isaiah 45:23. Lets look at this in context;
“…And there is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me. “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other. “I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” Isaiah 45:21b-23. (NASB)
Notice Isaiah establishes that there is but ONE true God and allegiance or confession must be to HIM alone. So in Isaiah Jehovah is the deity that is to receive sole worship. However Paul takes these divine prerogatives and applies them NOT to God the Father but to Jesus Christ! According to Pauline Christology Jesus now receives all the titles of God. So much so that allegiance or confession is to be made to JESUS as LORD (kurios).
What does this mean? Has Paul made a mistake? NO! Yahweh the God of Israel has revealed himself by progressive revelation as the one true God a unity of three persons the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Leon Morris notes:
“Paul is so much in the habit of thinking of the Father and the Son as intimately related that he ascribes many gifts and graces indifferently to either”17
So to know God the Father is to first know the Son. When we realize the implications of Paul’s words we are beholden to bend the knee not to the Watchtowers Jehovah but to THE NAME above all names Jesus Christ for he is our LORD Jehovah!
“…and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” Romans 9:5 (NASB)
What is the Jehovah’s Witness view of God the Father in relation to Jehovah? As has been established Jehovah can be rightly called God the Father. However the W.B.T.S has promulgated the error that God the Father is ALONE Jehovah. In so doing they deny the deity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
There skewed soteriology, which revolves around Jehovah vindicating his name before all creation, helps reinforce the exclusiveness of Watchtower society. The inordinate emphasis on the name Jehovah as the true God reinforces Watchtower doctrine and galvanizes them against biblical truth. God the Father and the fatherhood of God, which emphasizes the adoption of all believers into the family of God as born again children of God is all but unknown.18
Sadly Watchtower members live a life of works which are aimed at exalting the name Jehovah while the Savior Jesus is relegated to the background as a “great and obedient man” but nothing more. Thus Watchtower adherents are robbed of a living intimate relationship with all persons of the Trinity. They simply live and breath for Jehovah of the Watchtower.
As Christians we are immensely privileged to understand the nature of God manifest as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We believe this truth not because some third century pagan Christian has invented a three-headed monster but because throughout the bible the plurality of God is revealed reaching its climax in the incarnation.
The huge gulf between Biblical revelation and Watchtower theology is all too apparent. One thing is for sure as Christians we must understand and be able to defend the nature and tri-unity of God and persuasively express the Fatherhood of God. Sadly many who become JW’s are from nominal Christian backgrounds sometimes-regular churchgoers. It is the responsibility of leaders to fully disciple those sheep in their care and protects them from pseudo Christian cults, which can look so attractive to the uninformed.
Let us fully grasp the length, height and breadth of Yahweh, Father, Son & Holy Spirit. I leave you with Paul’s emphatic benediction!
“Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and strengthen your hearts in every good work and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NASB)
1 By orthodoxy I simply mean right teaching.
2 Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, Watchtower Society, Jehovah’s Witnesses and derivations thereof are synonymous and refer to the legislators (Governing Body) of Jehovah’s Witnesses faith and practice.
3 The four Hebrew letters יהוה or YHWH identifying the one true God of Israel.
4 Most scholars believe “Jehovah” to be a late (c. 1100 CE) hybrid form derived by combining the Latin letters JHVH with the vowels of Adonai.
5 Christian Apologetics Journal Volume: 08:2 (Fall 2009)
“An Exposition Of The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Argument In Rejecting Christ’s Deity Using John 17:3” by Aaron Tuazon Shelenberger. Page 7.
6 Always remember that J.W.’s use proof text to make a theological statement and ignore or re-interpret verses contrary to their position.
7 The statement “God is Love” (1 John 4:8) is better understood within the concept of a Triune being who exists in eternal fellowship of three in one than a singular being who has no need for anyone. It is the mystery of the Godhead which emphasizes this relational love, expressed via creation.
8 One in Hebrew does not mean numerical singularity. The word echad denotes unity in diversity or you could say his (YHWH) character or nature is in unity. See the book “His name is one – An Ancient Hebrew perspective of the names of God” By Jeff A. Benner, Virtualbookworm.com Pub. 2002.
9 I would recommend “Discovering the Mystery of the Unity of God” by John B. Metzger as a definitive analysis of the Hebrew scriptures in relation to the plural unity of God.
10 This creates a Christological anomaly. The NWT rendering of John 1:1 that Jesus is “a god” creates a dilemma. I thought the WBTS said only the Father is true God? Does that mean Jesus as “a god” is a false God? You see the result of reducing Jesus to a created being, whenever an anomaly occurs you have to revise the sacred word instead of accepting the divine revelation of the plurality of God. i.e. That Jesus is fully God and fully man.
11 The Holy Spirit inspired Isaiah to write the words “you are my witnesses” (Isaiah 43:10) with explicit reference to natural Israel. The assumption that these words can be wrenched out of their original sitz-im-leben and applied to a religious group is tantamount to blasphemy.
12 Emphasizing the Tetragrammaton is especially useful in Muslim apologetics as the name is unique to the God of Israel and helps offset connections with generic terms such as Elohim or Allah.
14 Louis Berkhof “Systematic theology” pages 50-51.
15 To claim to be the Son of God and claim God as is HIS father was in Semitic consciousness to be the same nature as God the Father. Thus the title Son of God asserts his true and proper deity. (John 5:18)
16 Carson, D. A. (1991). The Gospel according to John. The Pillar New Testament Commentary (127). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans.
17 “The Lord from Heaven” Leon Morris IVP 1964, page 68.
18 To be born again as Sons of God is limited to 144,000 in Watchtower doctrine. This number is said to have been sealed in the 1930’s and any claiming to be of a heavenly calling today are in the minority.