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The Trinity in Two Watchtower Publications
By Gary F. Zeolla
The following is Part Three of a four-part article. It began at The Trinity in Two Watchtower Publications - Part One and is continued here from Part Two.
The last article to be studied from RS is the longest in the book. It is titled "Trinity" and runs from page 405-426. Many of the ideas presented in this article have already been covered in this article; but there is also much new material to look at.
The Trinity vs. Modalism
The article begins with the WT again trying to define the doctrine of the Trinity:
Definition: The central doctrine of religions of Christendom. According to the Athanasian Creed, there are three divine Persons (the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit), each said to be eternal, each said to be almighty, none greater or less than another, each said to be God, and yet together being but one God (RS, p.405).
The WT again here presents a basically true definition of the doctrine. But the next sentence will again demonstrate how deceptive the WT can be. "Other statements of the dogma emphasize that these "Persons" are not separate and distinct individuals but three MODES in which the divine essence exists" (emphasis added).
Here we go again! With this simple slight of hand, the WT has combined two conflicting ideologies into one. The first statement defined the Trinity. The second is known as Modalism. People who believe in the Trinity consider Modalism to be heresy; believers in Modalism believe the Trinity is false.
If the WT was honest, it would have two separate articles in this book; one titled "Trinity" and the other "Modalism." But of course it doesn't. The WT just hopes nobody notices the difference. Many of the arguments in the article are actually directed against Modalism and are thus irrelevant in a discussion on the Trinity.
"The origin of the Trinity doctrine"
The first section of the article is headed by the question, "What is the origin of the Trinity doctrine?" Following are six extended quotations from various books that supposedly demonstrate the doctrine originated in the fourth century rather than with the apostles.
Doug Harris in his book Awake! to the Watchtower, shows how the RS is radically taking the quotations out of their original contexts. In the book, he prints what the WT quotes in regular print but adds the left out parts in bold print. For instance, the first quote in RS is from The New Encyclopedia Britannica. Vol.X, p.3, 1976.
The quote in RS reads:
Neither the word Trinity, nor the explicit doctrine as such, appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema in the Old Testament: "Hear, 0 Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord" (Deut. 6:4).... the doctrine developed gradually over centuries and through many controversies.... By the end of the 4th century..... the doctrine of the Trinity took substantially the form it has maintained ever since." (RS, p.405).
Several points need to be raised here. First, as regards the use of the quote itself, the reader should always be alert when the WT uses an ellipse in its quotes (the three little dots). These dots indicate material has been left out from the original.
An honest writer will be sure that when using an ellipse, the sense of the original is not altered. In this case, the WT has left out almost a whole paragraph in the first ellipse.
The left out section reads as follows:
The earliest Christians, however, had to cope with the implications of the coming of Jesus Christ and of the presence and power of God among them i.e., the Holy Spirit, whose coming we connected with the celebration of Pentecost. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were associated in such New Testament passages as the Great Commission: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of The Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Matt 28:19); and in the apostolic benediction: "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (2Cor 13:14). Thus the New Testament established the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity (quoted in Harris, pp. 74f).
In other words, the encyclopedia is saying the early Christians knew God was somehow three in one. This fact was revealed to them in the NT and through their own personal experience with Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The ensuing "many controversies" were over how best to explain this phenomena.
A formula had to be developed that accounted for both the unity and the diversity of God without breaking the law of contradiction. Note: The "Law of Contradiction" is, "A principle of logic which states that a thing cannot be both A and non-A at the same time and in the same respect" (Erickson, Concise, p.36).
Many ideas were proposed, but they all in one way or another failed to meet the above criteria. All that is but one - the doctrine of the Trinity.
By this doctrine, the Shema was upheld by saying God is one in essence. The diversity of God was accounted for by asserting there are three Persons within this one essence. A logical contradiction was avoided by affirming that God's "oneness" exists in a different respect than His "threeness."
It was this way of explaining the concept of a three-in-one God that "developed gradually over centuries," not the concept itself. Once it was fully developed, the doctrine of the Trinity's ability to fully account for the all the Biblical data along with the experience of Christians was clearly seen. This is why it has maintained substantially the same form ever since.
As C.S. Lewis writes:
People already knew about God in a vague way. Then came a man who claimed to be God; and yet he was not the sort of man you could dismiss as a lunatic. He made them believe him. They met him again after they had seen him killed. And then, after they had been formed into a little society or community, they found God somehow inside them as well: directing them, making them able to do things they could not do before. And when they worked it all out they found they had arrived at the Christian definition of the three-personal God (Lewis, p.143).
The other quotes in this section follow along the same lines. The reader is encouraged to attain Harris' book if you are interested in checking out how RS's quotations of the other books in this section are also misrepresentations of the author's original intent.
The next section is headed with the question, "Does the Bible teach that the 'Holy Spirit' is a person?" All of the material presented in this section has already been covered except for the WT's attempt to again get an "authority" to back up it's ideas. This time, RS is quoting from the New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol.XIII, p.575.
The quoted portion reads, "The majority of New Testament texts reveal God's spirit as something, not someone; this is especially seen in the parallelism between the spirit and the power of God" (RS, p.407).
Using Harris' book again, it is seen the WT has left out the preceding sentence. It reads, "Although the NT concepts of the Spirit of God are largely a continuation of those of the OT, in the NT there is a gradual revelation that the Spirit of God is a person" (Harris, p.75). Sounds like the New Catholic Encyclopedia believes the NT teaches the Holy Spirit is a Person, at least if its statements are not taken out of context.
"separate and distinct individuals"
The next section again begins with a question, "Does the Bible agree with those who teach that the Father and the Son are not separate and distinct individuals?" (RS, p.407).
"Those who teach" this concept are Modalists. So what is this section doing here? It belongs in an article on Modalism. But, of course, RS has no separate article on Modalism; so it places this irrelevant question in the Trinity article. Why?
"the first-born of all creation"
The article on the Trinity now begins to look at specific Scriptures the WT believes argues against the Doctrine of the Trinity. The first is Colossians 1:15. The verse is discussing Jesus and reads in the NWT: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;"
RS comments on this verse:
Trinitarians say that "first-born" here means prime, most excellent, most distinguished; thus Christ would be understood to be, NOT PART OF CREATION, but the most distinguished in relation to those who were created. If that is so, and if the Trinity doctrine is true, why are the Father and the holy spirit not also said to be the first-born of all creation? But the Bible applies this expression only to the Son. According to the customary meaning of "first-born," it indicates that Jesus is the eldest in in Jehovah's family. Before Colossians 1:15, the expression "the first-born of" occurs upwards of 30 times in the Bible, and in each instance that it is applied to living creatures the same meaning applies - THE FIRST BORN IS PART OF THE GROUP (p.408; emphasis added).
The words emphasized with capitals demonstrate once again the WT's complete misunderstanding of historic Christian doctrine. Or is it a deliberate misrepresentation? Either way, let it be noted, Jesus Christ IS part of creation as regards His human nature.
The Chalcedon Definition of 451 AD states:
Following the holy fathers, we confess with one voice that the one and only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, is perfect in Godhead and manhood, truly God and truly man, that he has a rational soul and a body. He is of one substance with the Father as God, he is also of one substance with us as man. He is like us in all things except sin (Lane, p 50).
The Father and the Holy Spirit are not called "first-born" because they were never incarnated. But the Son was! As the Definition further states, "in these last days and for our salvation he was born of Mary the virgin" (Lane, 50). Thus Jesus is "part of the group" of human beings (see John 1:14; Rom 1:3; Gal 4:4).
Further, "first-born" (Greek - prototokos) DOES mean "prime, most excellent." Greek scholars Louw and Nida state in reference to this word, "pertaining to existing superior to all else of the same or related class" (Vol.11, p.738; see also Brown, p.667,8; Kittle, p.968).
A good example of this usage of "first-born" is seen in Ps 89:27. Here, God is talking about David, "Also, I myself shall place him as first-born, The most high of the kings of the earth" (see also Ex 4:22; Jer 31:9).
Bauer states further, "of Christ, as the first-born of a new humanity which is to be glorified.... admirably suited to describe Jesus as the one coming forth from God to found the new community of saints" (Bauer, p.726).
Jesus became one of us so that we could be forgiven of our sins and glorified with Him (Matt 20:28; 26:28; Rom 8:28f).
"by means of him all (other) things were created"
RS now moves to Colossians 1:16,17:
Does Colossians 1:16,17 (Revised Standard) exclude Jesus from having been created, when it says "in him all things were created... all things were created through him and for him"? The Greek word here rendered "all things" is panta, an inflected form of pas. At Luke 13:2, Revised Standard renders this "all.. other"; Jerusalem Bible reads "any other"; New English Bible says "anyone else." (see also Luke 21:29 in New English Bible and Philippians 2:21 in Jerusalem Bible.) In harmony with everything else that the Bible says regarding the Son, NWT assigns the same meaning to panta at Colossians 1:16,17 so that it reads, in part, "by means of him all other things were created... All other things have been created through him and for him. Thus he is shown to be a created part of the creation produced by God (RS, pp.408,9).
A couple of comments on this line of reasoning.
First, the word pas (in its various forms) occurs hundreds of times in the NT. In virtually every instance it has the meaning of "all", "every" or the like. Even the NWT renders the word in this manner the vast majority of the time (see for instance Matt 1:17; 2:3,4,16; 3:5,10,15; 4:4,8,9,23,24 etc.). The cited verses are about the only places the sense of "all other" is possible; and even then, not all versions agree with the NWT's rendering.
For instance, the NKJV only adds "other" in Luke 13:2. The KJV, MKJV, and LITV do not add "other" to any of the verses cited by the WT.
Second, Colossians itself uses pas 38 times. Out of these 38 occurrences, the NWT renders it as "all" or "every" 33 times. The only places it feels the need to add "other" is in verses 16,17 and 20 of the first chapter.
So in the NT of the NWT, pas is translated hundreds of times without adding "other." In Colossians it is translated without "other" 33 times. So why does the WT feel compelled to add "other" to these verses?
Also, note the words in the RS quote, "In harmony with everything else the Bible says." This type of phrase has been seen before. It is a subtle way of saying the WT is translating this verse in accordance with its theology.
"the beginning of the creation by God"
The next verse RS refers to is Revelation 3:14. In this verse, Jesus is referred to as, "the beginning of the creation by God."
RS comments on this verse:
Some take the view that what is meant is that the Son was 'the beginner of God's creation,' that he was its 'ultimate source.' but Liddell and Scott's Greek-English Lexicon lists "beginning" as its first meaning of arkhe. (Oxford, 1968, p.252). The logical conclusion is that the one being quoted at Revelation 3:14 is a creation, the first of God's creation, that he had a beginning (RS, p.409).
RS quotes from the lexicon by Liddel and Scott. This is a fine lexicon, but not for doing word studies in the NT! Liddel and Scott's lexicon covers Classical Greek. Classical Greek is the type of Greek seen in the "classics" of the old Grecian world like Homer's Illiad and Odyssey. Classical Greek was used from about 900 to 330 BC.
Starting with the conquests of Alexander, a new form of Greek was used. It is known as Hellenistic or Koine Greek. Between 330 BC and 330 AD this form of Greek was used throughout the area of what was covered by the Roman Empire. It is this Koine (or common) Greek that is used in the NT (Dana and Mantey, pp. 5-9).
In doing word studies, the meaning of a word is best determined by trying to discover how the word was used at the time closest to when the document being studied was written. Thus for the NT, how a word is used in the Hellenistic period is much more important than how it was used by classical writers. Even better is to see how the same word is used by the given author elsewhere in the same document.
In the Revelation, arkhe is used four times (in 1:8; 3:14; 21:6 and 22:13). In the three references besides 3:14, arkhe is used with reference to God. In each case, the word is used in a phrase stating that the Lord is "the beginning and the end." This title is always coupled with the additional title of "the Alpha and the Omega." What is meant by these titles?
Alan F, Johnson Th.M. Ph.D states in The Expositor's Bible Commentary that the titles mean, "God is the absolute source of all creation and history. Nothing lies outside of him. Therefore, he is the "Lord God" of all and is continually present to his people..." (Gaebelein, Vol.12, p.423).
So the other three times John uses this word in this book, it is used in a title that means "source" or "ruler." When lexicons that cover Koine Greek are checked, meanings such as "origin", "first cause", "source" or "ruler" are always listed (Bauer, p.112; Louw and Nida, Vol. II, p.779; Thayer, pp. 76,77). Given these facts, is it really possible to insist that arkhe must mean that Jesus is "the first of God's creations?"
"Jehovah himself produced me"
Another favorite verse of JWs is mention at the end of the paragraph on Rev 3:14, "Compare Proverbs 8:22, where, as many Bible commentators agree, the Son is referred to as wisdom personified" (RS. p.409). The verse reads in the NWT, "Jehovah himself produced me as the beginning of his way, the earliest of his achievements of long ago."
The question needs to be asked, "Is this verse in fact referring to the Son?"
Previously RS has used the idea of wisdom being personified as "proof" that the Holy Spirit is not a Person. The idea was, even though personal characteristics are ascribed to the Spirit, He is still not a Person since elsewhere in Scripture "wisdom" (a non-personal concept) is described as a Person. But now, the WT wants "wisdom" to be a Person. Which is it? Is wisdom a non-personal quality that is being personified or is wisdom a reference to Jesus - a Person? The WT cannot have it both ways.
Looking at the passage, Proverbs 8:12-36 has wisdom speaking in the first-person. In the first part of chapter 8 and in chapters 1-7 and 9 of Proverbs wisdom is referred to in the third-person. Throughout these chapters, wisdom is considered to be a woman! The pronouns used in reference to it are always feminine.
For instance, in the NKJV, Prov 1:20f reads, "Wisdom calls aloud outside, SHE raises HER voice in the open squares. SHE cries out in the chief concourses, At the openings of the gates in the city SHE speaks HER words" (emphasis added). The NWT uses neutral pronouns in these verses (itself, it, its); but the footnote in the reference edition of the NWT states, "Or, 'herself' referring to 'wisdom,' fem(inine)" (p.810).
Jesus being referred to as a woman? Unlikely. As mentioned previously, personification is a common practice in poetic (but not historical) writings. So here, "wisdom" is a reference to the impersonal concept and not to Jesus.
"Nor the Son" (and the Spirit?)
The WT once again makes reference to one of its favorite verses; Mark 13:32. But this time, an interesting twist is added. RS asks, "And if, as some suggest, the Son was limited by his human nature from knowing, the question remains, Why did the Holy Spirit not know?" (RS, p.409).
In other words, even if Jesus didn't know the time of His return because of being incarnate, the WT is asking, "If the Holy Spirit is a Person, why doesn't Jesus say, 'no one knows but only the Father and the Spirit?'" The answer is that for Jesus to have referred to the Spirit in this manner would have caused undue confusion at this time of His ministry.
It has already been admitted that the full revelation of the personality of the Spirit was gradually revealed in the NT. More specifically, although there were hints of it previously, it was on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended on the 120 that believers become aware of His full personality.
The early Christians knew that the things the indwelling Spirit was doing for them were impossible for a mere "force" to do. Also, as the Spirit brought to the disciples remembrance Jesus' teachings, Jesus' words about the promised "another Helper" began to make sense (see John 14:16,26). This is why He is referred to in personal terms throughout the rest of the Book of Acts and in the epistles.
The last major section of the "Trinity" article is headed with the question, "Do any of the scriptures used by Trinitarians to support their belief provide a solid basis for that dogma?" Following is a discussion of 19 passages of Scripture.
Is the WT serious? Does it honestly think the doctrine of the Trinity is built on a "mere" 19 passages? It is at this point that the true deceptive nature of the WT comes forth. By listing such a limited number of verses under this question, the appearance is made that the doctrine is rather limited in Biblical support.
However, HUNDREDS of passages are used in support of the doctrine of the Trinity. See the Scripture Study Doctrine of the Trinity found in my Scripture Workbook. In it, over four hundred verses are referenced for the reader's study.
When studying the Biblical basis for the Trinity, it must first be understood what the Scriptures must demonstrate for the Trinity to be true. This understanding the WT obviously does not have.
In the introduction to this section, RS makes the statement, "It should be noted at the outset that most of the texts used as "proof" of the Trinity actually mention only two persons, not three; so even if the Trinitarian explanation of these verse were correct, these would not prove that the Bible teaches the Trinity" (RS, p.412). This statement is absolutely irrelevant in assessing the Biblical support for the Trinity.
For the Trinity to be true, five points, and only five, must be demonstrated from Scripture:
1) There is only one God.
2) The Father is God
3) The Son is God
4) The Holy Spirit is a Person who is God.
5) The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are distinct from each other.
If these five ideas can be demonstrated, the doctrine is upheld. Whether the information occurs for each together in a single passage or in separate passages is unimportant.
The above mentioned Scripture study is designed to demonstrate the truth of each of these points. The reader is encouraged to look up the passages and discover for yourself if the Scriptures teach that God is three is one. Discussions in this article about essence, Person, Ontology, Economy and the like are simply attempts to explain this data. Remembering these facts, some of the verses RS tries to disprove as "proof-text" will be looked.
article is concluded at:
The Trinity in Two Watchtower Publications - Part Four
See end of Part Four.
The Trinity in Two Watchtower Publications. Copyright © 1999 by Gary F. Zeolla of Darkness to Light ministry (www.dtl.org).
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The above article was originally published by Darkness to Light ministry in
It was posted on this Web site in January 1998.
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