Category Archives: Jesus is God

The Man-God – Jesus Christ

How many of you have been reading the newspaper on a Saturday morning when the doorbell rings. Answering the door, you discover two very nicely dressed young men with briefcases, Bibles, and copies of the Watchtower Magazine. If you invited them into your home and dialogued with them for any length of time, you probably encountered a heavy dose of what is considered to be the distinguishing tenet of the Jehovah’s Witness religion: Their belief that Jesus Christ is not God. He was God’s first and most perfect creation and God’s agent in creating the universe, but he was not God. And after he became incarnate, he was simply a man.

John 14:28:

You heard me say to you, “I go away, and I will come to you.” If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I go to the Father; for the Father is greater than I.

This is one of the most popular verses used by Jehovah’s Witnesses to prove their points. In a dialogue with a Witness, he may well begin his assault on Catholic Christology with this verse. “Catholics claim Jesus is equal with God? Jesus seems to disagree here in John 14:28?”

There are actually two legitimately Catholic and biblical ways of approaching this text. First, we could note that one person being “greater” than another does not necessarily mean he is ontologically or essentially greater than the other like a man is essentially greater than a monkey. Greatness can refer to one person functioning in a greater way quantitatively. Matthew 11:11 tells us there has never “risen among [men] a greater than John the Baptist: yet he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” Because John is “greater” than other humans, is he something more than human?

Likewise, because the text says those in heaven are greater than even John, are they essentially different from John? No, all involved in the text are essentially human. Men may be said to be greater or lesser pertaining to their degree of blessedness. In a similar way, the Father can be said to be “greater” than the Son pertaining to their eternal relation within the inner life of God, but not as to their essence. “Everything that belongs to the Father, except being Father, the Son has also eternally from the Father, from whom he is eternally born …” (CCC para. 246).

A second way of looking at this text is to recognize Jesus is speaking as fully human, or from his human experience. And this makes sense because in the very same verse of John 14:28, Jesus had just said, “You heard me say to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you…” speaking of his death and resurrection. Thus, it would be entirely appropriate for Christ to say as man, “the Father is greater than [he is],” while as God, he is “equal with God” (cf. Phil. 2:5; John 5:18; John 1:1-3, etc.).

John 17:3

And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.

Jesus cannot be God if the Father is “the only true God,” can he?

Well, yes he can.

The fact that Jesus refers to the Father as “the only true God” does not mean Jesus Christ cannot also be “the only true God,” and the Holy Spirit cannot also be “the only true God.” The distinctions between the three persons of the Blessed Trinity are ones of relation, not essence. Each of the three persons is ”the only true God.” They are absolutely one in nature.

Thus, Jesus does not deny he is God in John 17:3. He simply refers to his Father “the one true God.” We Catholics certainly believe the Father is God.

John 20:17

Jesus said to [Mary Magdalene], “Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.”

The question is asked: “How can the Father be ‘his God’ if he is God?” The answer is biblically clear. John 1:14 tells us “the Word was made flesh.” God became man! Jesus is both God and man. Here, he speaks as man and as man he is dependent upon the grace of God (see John 1:14-16) in order to fulfill the supernatural end to which his human nature is called (see Luke 2:51-52; Heb. 5:8-9; 2:10-11). He calls the Father his God because he is his God whom Christ worships, prays to, and needs in his fully human nature just as we do.

The Best Defense: A Good Offense

After having answered these which are some of the very best from the Jehovah’s Witness’ arsenal, it is time to go on the offensive. We have demonstrated that we agree that the Father can be said to be “greater” than the Son. We agree that the Father is the one true God, though we say the Son is as well. And we agree that in his humanity, the Son of Man would have the Father as his God. But none of these things deny Christ’s divinity. We then need to show what the Scriptures teach quite plainly. Jesus is God!

John 1:1-3

In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God … All things were made by him: and without him was made nothing that was made.

In this text, Jesus (the Word) is called “God” and the creator of all things that were created. Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning God created …” Jesus is plainly said to be God!

The JW will respond by saying the Greek text actually says “… the Word was a god.” Jesus is a god, not the God because the definite article is not used before god (Gr. “theos”) when referring to Jesus.

There are three main problems with this line of reasoning. 1) In order to distinguish the subject of a given sentence, the predicate nominative in Greek does not take the definite article. The lack of article is grammatically necessary in order to know whether “the Word” or “God” is the subject in this verse. 2) The JW’s are inconsistent. They translate the word theos as Jehovah or “the God” numerous times when it does not have the article when it refers to the Father (See Matthew 5:9, 6:24, Luke 1:35, 2:40, John 1:6, 12,13, 18, Romans 1:7, 17,18 and Titus 1:1, just to name a few). And 3) Jesus is referred to as theos with the definite article many times elsewhere in Scripture. For example:

Hebrews 1:8

But to the Son [the Father] saith, “Thy throne, O God (ho theos, the article + theos) is for ever and ever.”

Jesus is not a god here. He is the God.

Titus 2:13:

Looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ (emphasis added).

Not only do we see the definite article before theos, but we see the article + the adjective great. Jesus is not only the God, he is the Great God and our Savior. The Bible is very clear that only Jehovah is both the Great God and our Savior. (See 41:4, 43:3,11, 44:6,8, 45:21, Hos. 13:4, and Luke 1:47.)

John 20:28:

Thomas answered, and said to [Jesus]: My Lord and My God.

The Greek reads the Lord (with definite art.) of me and the God (with definite art.) of me.

I was recently talking with two JW’s about this text and they disagreed with each other. One said, “Thomas said that, not the inspired writer or Jesus.” The implication being, Thomas got a little excited and exaggerated about Jesus. If this were true, it would be blasphemy. Yet, it cannot be because Jesus then blesses Thomas for his belief!

The other Witness said that Thomas referred to Jesus as Lord and then to the Father as God. The problem here is there is no evidence for this in the text. Thomas is directly addressing Jesus.

Revelation 22:6:

And the Lord God (ho kurios ho theosthe Lord the God) of the spirits of the prophets sent his angel to shew his servants the things which must be done shortly.

Who is the Lord God who sent “his angel” in this verse? The JW will say it is Jehovah. Rev. 22:16, just ten verses later, tells us who it is:

I Jesus have sent my angel, to testify to you these things in the Churches.

Jesus is “the Lord God of the spirits of the prophets!”

If you were actually conversing with a couple JW’s and you had presented these texts to them, they would probably be getting a bit ancy by now. My prediction is they would retreat to the safest ground possible. And this could lead in a number of directions, but most likely they would head to one of the most “air-tight” verses (so they think!) demonstrating Catholicism’s errors.

Revelation 3:14:

These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, who is the beginning of the creation of God.

“Jesus is the first created being before all else was created,” they will claim. “Therefore, he is definitely not God.”

Notice, the text does not say he was created. The word translated “beginning” (arche) is used in the book of Revelation to connote “the eternal source of all that is.” In Revelation 1:8, for example, “Almighty God” (Jehovah, according to JW’s) is referred to as “the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord God, who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Do we want to say that Jehovah has a “beginning” because arche (“beginning”) is used to describe Him? “Arche” is here used to mean “the source of all being.”

Thus, Jesus is revealed to be the “source” of the creation of God in Rev. 3:14 because he is the creator of all things. This is confirmed again and again in the New Testament. In John 1:1-3, we are told Jesus (the Word) created “all things … and without him was made nothing that was made.” If he was created, he would have had to create himself which is impossible.

I should warn you at this point: Immediately following Revelation 3:14, Colossians 1:15-17 will normally follow:

Jesus is called the “first-born of every creature. For in him were all things created … he is before all and by him all things consist.”

Jehovah’s witnesses will say this shows Jesus is the first created being because he is “first-born of every creature.” But the problem with their reasoning is that first-born here does not refer to time, but to preeminence. The emphasis is on the fact that he is “before all and by him all things consist.” Even in its Old Testament usage, the title “first-born” is not restricted to a reference to time. The emphasis is on a place of preeminence given by a Father to his son. Isaac, Jacob, and Ephraim received the blessing of the “first-born” though they were not “first-born” in time.

Further, the text does not say Jesus was created. If St. Paul were making this point he would have then said Jesus created all “other” things in verse 16, but he did not. St. Paul says Jesus is the creator of all things. He is God. He is given the title “First-born” by his Father. But this is not in time. He is eternally begotten of the Father.

Share What is Most Clear

The New Testament is very clear as to Christ’s divinity. The few verses that seem to be problematic can be easily cleared up making the way smooth for presenting the abundance of evidence for Christ’s divinity. Below is a small sampling of examples. We will not cite each text, but give you the gist of how each reveal the divinity of Christ.

Luke 12:8-9 – Matthew 13:41

In Luke 12:8-9, angels are called “angels of God” while in Matthew 13:41, they’re called ”his [Christ's] angels.” “God” and “Christ” are synonymous.

Mark 2:5-9

Jesus forgives sins by his own authority. Only Almighty God (“Jehovah”) can forgive sins (See Is. 43:25).

Matt. 25:31-46

Jesus here is depicted as judging the world, yet Scripture reveals only God can do this. Both Genesis 18:25 and Joel 3:12 claim Almighty God is the judge of the world.

John 8:58

Here Jesus refers to himself with the divine name, “I am,” as he also does in John 8:24, 28, 18:5-6 and Mark 14:62. This “I am” formula, not copulative, is a reference back to the Divine Name in Ex. 3:14: “I AM” revealed to Moses as God’s own. Jesus refers to himself as “I am” and the multitudes want to kill him because they know what he is saying (see John 8:59!).

Matthew 5:21-28

In this text, Jesus places his word on the same level as the Old Testament. “You have heard it said (he then quotes Old Covenant texts or beliefs) … but I say to you …” This is in sharp contrast to the prophets who always use a formula such as “the word of the Lord came unto me, saying …” (cf.. Jer. 1:11; Ezek. 1:3). Jesus uses his own authority and establishes the New Covenant. Only God has that kind of authority.

John 5:18 – Phil. 2:6-10

In these texts, Jesus is referred to as “equal” with God by both St. John and St. Paul. In John 5:18, St. John gives us his commentary on why the Jews wanted to kill Jesus: “Because he called God his Father making himself equal with God.”

In Phil. 2:6-10, St. Paul refers to Jesus when he was “in the form of God.” The Greek word for “form” there is morphe, which means the set of characteristics that make a thing what it is. That’s about as close as you get to saying Jesus is God. St. Paul then says Christ’s ”equality with God” was not something he clung to; rather, he emptied himself and became man, humbling himself even unto his death on the cross.

In this verse, it appears St. Paul assumes his readers already know Jesus is equal with God, the Father. He says it in passing.

Mark 2:28

In this text, Jesus declares plainly that he is “the Lord of the Sabbath.” The Sabbath is referred to as the “Sabbath of Almighty God” in both the Old and New Testaments (see Exodus 20:10; Isaiah 8:13, which is referred to in I Peter 3:15, and Joel 2:31-32, which is quoted in both Acts 2:20-21, and in Romans 10:13).

Acts 20:28

Take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops, to rule the church of God, which he hath purchased in his own blood.

I had to cite this text so you can see the nuance. Only Jesus can be said to have bled, yet this text says “God” shed his blood. Jesus is God.

The bottom line: The New Testament makes it very clear as to Christ’s full humanity. We can agree with JW’s on this point. However, the Scriptures are equally clear as to Christ’s divinity. The choice is ours. Will we choose to believe that Jesus is Almighty God manifest in the flesh as Scripture reveals, or will we choose the alternative, which according to Jesus is “[to] die in [our] sins.” Jesus said, “Unless you believe I AM, you shall die in your sins” (John 8:24).

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The Truth About Miracles

Some of the greatest gifts God has given to the Church for evangelism are the gifts of miracles. As a Pentecostal before I became Catholic, I always believed God still performs miracles, but I never saw anything close to what Catholics too often take for granted in both the number and kind of miracles God pours out upon his One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church in every generation. Everything from the raising of the dead, to restorative miracles of the body and more have been experienced in the Church for 2,000 years fulfilling our Lord’s prophetic words of Mark 16:17-20:

“These signs shall follow those who believe”… And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it.

And yet, these miracles are too often the best kept secret in Catholicism. I am convinced that untold millions of souls would come to Christ in his Church if we as Catholics would simply inform them of these incredible gifts.

What is a Miracle?

The glossary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church gives an excellent definition of what constitutes a miracle:

A sign or wonder, such as a healing or the control of nature, which can only be attributed to divine power. The miracles of Jesus were messianic signs of the presence of God.

The key here is the notion that a true miracle “can only be attributed to divine power;” it cannot be explained by the action of created beings. Thus, when the Church investigates whether or not a particular phenomenon is miraculous all natural possibilities must first be eliminated. In fact, in its discernment process the Church will often use non-believing experts in pertinent areas, whether they are doctors when discerning a physical healing, or various scientists when examining some other material phenomena as we will see below, in order to avoid any possible bias in favor of demonstrating a miracle. If anything, the Church would prefer the investigating expert to have a bias against rather than in favor of demonstrating an authentic miracle. The principle involved here is simple. God does not need our help to communicate miracles. He is plenty able to do it all by himself and in a way that will be convincing to any and all who seek the truth honestly.

Why Miracles?

Vatican I, in session 3, The Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, chapter 3, “On Faith,” declared:

Nevertheless, in order that the submission of our faith should be in accordance with reason, it was God’s will that there should be linked to the internal assistance of the Holy Spirit external indications of his revelation, that is to say divine acts, and first and foremost miracles and prophecies, which clearly demonstrating as they do the omnipotence and infinite knowledge of God, are the most certain signs of revelation and are suited to the understanding of all.

Moreover, in its accompanying canons, the Council fathers declared infallibly:

(Canon 3) If anyone says that divine revelation cannot be made credible by external signs, and that therefore men and women ought to be moved to faith only by each one’s internal experience or private inspiration: let him be anathema.
(Canon 4) If anyone says that all miracles are impossible, and that therefore all reports of them, even those contained in sacred scripture, are to be set aside as fables or myths; or that miracles can never be known with certainty, nor can the divine origin of the Christian religion be proved from them: let him be anathema.

It should be noted that God does not overwhelm us when it comes to miracles. God respects our freedom. Indeed, without freedom there is no true love as we understand it. Miracles are aids to those who honestly seek truth, never guns to the head forcing belief. For those who do not want to submit to God and his truth, there will always be ways to explain away miracles, even if these “explanations” range from the weak to the absurd. Jesus’ words in Luke 16:31 come to mind:
“If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.”

This is not to dismiss the importance of miracles. Of course not! The Church has rightfully declared them to be “the most certain signs of revelation” and certain proofs of “the divine origin of the Christian religion” as we cited above. But it is a help for keeping things in perspective. Not everyone is going to be convinced because there is more to this thing than just being persuaded intellectually. The will sometimes gets in the way!

Eucharistic Miracles

1. In ca. AD 700, at the Monastery of St. Longinus, in Lanciano Italy, a priest-Monk whose name is unknown to us today was celebrating the Holy Eucharist. He had been struggling with his faith in the Real Presence when our Lord in his infinite mercy would deign to grant to this priest and to the world a miracle that even to this day continues to be visible proof of the truth of the Eucharist. Shortly after the consecration—after the bread and wine he offered had been transubstantiated into the body, blood, soul and divinity of Christ—the accidents of bread and wine he was then holding in his hands were transformed into real human flesh and real human blood.

Over the centuries there have been multiple occasions where the Church permitted this miracle to be examined, but perhaps the most thorough of these examinations took place in 1970, under the expert scrutiny of Dr. Odoardo Linoli, university professor-at-large in anatomy and pathological histology, and in chemistry and clinical microscopy, head physician of the United Hospitals of Arezzo, and Dr. Ruggero Bertelli, a professor emeritus of normal human anatomy at the University of Siena. The findings of this study were truly amazing:

• The flesh was proven to be the muscular tissue from the myocardium of a human heart.
• The blood tested from both the flesh and coagulated blood was discovered to be AB positive and human in origin.
• The proteins in the coagulated blood were “found to be normally fractionated, with the same percentage ratio as those found in normal fresh blood.” In other words, this blood was not later planted from a cadaver; it came from a living body and maintained properties of fresh blood.
• Inexplicably, though the receptacles containing the miracles were not hermetically sealed, nor did they have any preserving agents that could be detected, the flesh and blood had been preserved for well over 1,200 years, even though they would have been exposed to all sorts of variant temperatures and atmospheric conditions, the smoke of incense, etc.

Even today tens of thousands of regular visitors to Lanciano, Italy, where the miracle is preserved, can view flesh that maintains a pinkish hue with visible blood vessels remaining as a sign of the truth of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

2. On August 14, 1730, in Siena, Italy, thieves broke into the Church of St. Francis, picked the lock on the tabernacle, and stole the golden ciborium containing hundreds of consecrated hosts. After an intensive search, the sacred hosts were thankfully found having been stuffed into an offering box in a nearby church, St. Mary of Provenzano. The ciborium had obviously been stolen for its monetary value. The hosts were immediately returned in procession to St. Francis Church.

Many people ask why the sacred hosts would not have been consumed at that time. Most likely, they were not consumed because of their soiled condition. After cleaning the hosts as best they could, they were probably left to deteriorate naturally until they could no longer be called bread. They could then be discarded respectfully. At least, that is one theory. But most importantly to our point, the priests of the parish were startled to find that the sacred hosts not only did not deteriorate over time, but they maintained a freshly baked consistency and a pleasant scent. The Franciscans who ministered at St. Francis Catholic Church became convinced in time that they were witnessing a miracle.

Fifty years later, on April 14, 1780, an official investigation was begun into the authenticity of the miracle. After fifty years, the sacred hosts were found to be fresh, as if they had been prepared the day before. The miraculous nature of this phenomenon had become inescapable.

Over the years there have been multiple investigations including a most thorough examination in 1914 by direction of His Holiness, Pope St. Pius X. During this investigation the sacred hosts were examined by a panel including scientists, professors as well as theologians and church leaders. This distinguished panel concluded that there is no natural explanation for the fact that these hosts still exhibited the characteristics of freshly baked unleavened bread without even a hint of deterioration, and so they have endured for over two hundred and eighty years and can been seen today in that same pristine state.

Incorruptibles

1. St. Bernadette Soubirous (b. 1844, d. April 16, 1879, at 35 years of age) is most famous for the Blessed Mother having visited her from heaven in 1858, where our Lady revealed herself as “the Immaculate Conception.” Occurring just four years after Pope Blessed Pius IX had declared this to be a dogma, it was as though the Church had received confirmation from heaven of this truth the Pope had “bound on earth” in accord with the power Christ promised to him in Matthew 16:18-19.
These apparitions provided much more than confirmation of a dogma, however. Below, we will examine two bodily healings from among the scores of approved miracles from the sight of this apparition, but for now we want to examine what is perhaps a lesser known miracle involving St. Bernadette. At least, it is lesser known among people outside of the Church.

On September 22, 1909, thirty years after her death, Bernadette’s body was exhumed as is sometimes the case when the cause of canonization is first begun. When they opened the coffin, two doctors and multiple sisters of the community observed a body that was as perfectly preserved as on the day of her death. Her face had even maintained its natural skin tone. The rosary she was holding in her hands had rusted and the crucifix that had been laid upon her chest was covered with verdigris and yet she was absolutely pristine. All was recorded and she was again placed in the tomb.

Ten years later, her corpse was exhumed once again at the end of the canonization process and found to be just as perfectly preserved. Her body can be viewed today at the Chapel of St. Bernadette in Nevers, France, where 135 years after her death she still looks as though she has just fallen asleep.

2. St. Catherine Laboure (b. 1806, d. Dec. 31, 1876, at 70 years of age) is also well-known among Catholics for being chosen by God to be the recipient of heavenly visits. Hers came from Our Lord himself, St. Vincent de Paul, who was the founder of her Religious Order, her guardian angel, and most famously, our Blessed Mother who gave the Miraculous Medal to the world through St. Catherine in 1830. This great gift to the Church has been the instrument of numerous miracles and blessings over the years.

Fifty-six years after her death, when her beatification was announced by the Vatican, her body was exhumed only to be discovered perfectly intact by the medical and ecclesiastical team assigned to the task. Two fingers on her left hand appeared to be blackened, but upon further investigation the cause was found to be the disintegration of the sleeve of her habit, not from any decay of her skin. Amazingly, her arms and legs were found to be supple and even her bones had not suffered decay. They were still elastic and cartilaginous. Her eyes were still intact, complete with irises still retaining the blue-gray color Catherine was born with. Her hair remained attached to her scalp, her fingernails and toenails were perfectly preserved. Just as St. Bernadette above, the preservation of St. Catherine’s body could not be explained naturally. Not a few men I can think of would love to have their hair remain as perfectly attached to their scalps in life as this great saint’s hair remained in death!

Healings

1. Born Christmas day 1939, in Ribera, Sicily, Gemma Di Giorgi was legally blind. She was born without pupils in her eyes. Doctors declared there was nothing that could be done for her. Yet, at the age of seven, she was taken by her grandmother on the long journey to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, better known as Padre Pio. There are differing accounts of the actual process of how the healing took place, but there is no disagreement over the fact that through the intercession of Padre Pio, this little girl received her sight. Fr. Charles Mortimer Carty recounts:

They were both lost in the crowd… attending [Padre Pio’s] Mass, when at the end while the silence was still intense, everyone heard a voice calling: “Gemma, come here!” The grandmother pushed her way to the altar… [Padre Pio] smiled at Gemma and told her that she must make her first Communion. He heard her confession and then stroked her eyes with his hand…

The healing did not take place immediately, but as Fr. Carty explains:

Padre Pio saw them later and said: “May the Madonna bless you, Gemma. Be a good girl!” At this moment the child gave a frantic cry, she could see…

What is perhaps most remarkable about this healing is that from a medical and scientific perspective, Gemma should still be blind. When she was healed, she did not miraculously receive new pupils. Her eyes to this day (and she is still alive) still look like the eyes of a blind woman. Carty goes on to say:

The cure was permanent and complete, although her eyes still had no pupils. She was examined by many doctors who testified to the case and were able to offer no scientific explanation.

2. “The Medical Office of Lourdes” was established in 1882 as an aid for the Church in discerning which alleged miracles at Lourdes would be approved as such by the Church. In 1947, the “National Medical Committee of Lourdes” (in 1954, the name was changed to the International Medical Committee of Lourdes) was established to further scrutinize phenomena presented by the Medical Office as inexplicable. It consists of ca. 30 physicians appointed by the Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes and applies intense scrutiny to each case presented. Of the over 6,000 documented miracles in the archives of the Medical Office, the Church has only approved 67 of them.

It is not that all of the other “miracles” are not truly miracles. Many of them, perhaps thousands, probably are. The Church establishes the highest of standards to ensure only the most certain are presented to the faithful as worthy of pious belief. In order to be approved, the miracles have to be “sudden, unforeseeable, involving no convalescence… total… lasting (at least 4 or 5 years before being taken into consideration)… serious (that is, a threat to life)… organic and not functional…” In fact, the committee considers whether or not previous therapies or means of care may have had an impact on a healing. Only those entirely inexplicable by natural causes can be considered to be miraculous.

I will list two of these miracles here that occurred on successive days—August 20th (Marie Lebranchu) and 21st (Marie Lemarchand) of 1892. Both of these women suffered terribly from severe pulmonary tuberculosis (Koch’s baciallus) and were in the final and terminal stages of the disease. Lebranchu, 35 years-old, was emaciated, weighing less than 60 lbs while Lemarchand, 18 years-old, actually had ulcerous caverns in her face caused by the tuberculosis that were absolutely hideous to behold.

Both women were instantaneously healed upon bathing in the miraculous waters—Marie Lemarchand received brand new pink skin where before there were only holes. She would later marry and give birth to eight children.

Priceless Gifts

When Jesus uttered the famous words, “I and my Father are one” in John 10:30, boldly declaring his divinity, he knew that most would not believe him. After all, this was an incredible claim to make to a 1st century Jewish audience. However, notice our Lord’s response:

If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father (John 10:37-38).

It was as though our Lord was saying, “I know what I am saying seems hard for you to understand—even blasphemous—but the miracles I have performed prove that what I am saying is true.” The Church makes incredible claims as well, claiming divine authority, the power to forgive sins, etc. This seems outrageous to our incredulous age as well. When attempts at giving reasoned explanations for what we believe seem to fall on deaf ears, perhaps our response to the unbelieving multitudes can be similar to our Lord’s. If given the opportunity, perhaps a presentation of just some of the many documented cases of miracles in the Church will lead many to “believe the works” so that they can then “know and understand” the rest.

If you want to learn more reasons for faith in our Lord and in his Holy Catholic Church, click here

 

The Jehovah’s Witness New Testament

An ex-Jehovah’s Witness, now Catholic, who we at Catholic Answers helped to come to Christ in his Church, gave me some wonderful gifts by way of old books, many of them first edition, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the publishing arm of the Jehovah’s Witnesses run by the leaders of their sect. Of note among these great gifts is a first edition copy of The New World Translation of the Christian Greek Scriptures, the official Jehovah’s Witness translation of the New Testament, first published by the Watchtower in 1950.

It is not the translation so much that makes it so valuable, though the translation is certainly important. The New World Translation is, at times, not so much a translation as it is an attempt to force Jehovah’s Witness theology into biblical texts that actually oppose it. But you can get newer editions of the translation that aren’t that much different than the old. The footnotes explicating the texts are where the real value lies in this 1950 edition.

In future blog posts, I will comment on some other examples of these footnotes, but in this post I want to focus on the footnote to John 8:58, one of many New Testament texts that contribute significantly to our understanding of the revelation of Jesus Christ as fully God (of course, Christ is also fully man). And keep in mind, Jehovah’s Witnesses deny Christ’s divinity.

The Text at Hand

Let us first lay out a proper rendering of John 8:58 from the RSVCE, including verses 57 and 59 for a bit of context:

[57] The Jews then said to [Jesus], “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” [58] Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” [59] So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.

When Jesus responded to “the Jews” saying, “Before Abraham was, I am,” St. John was, no doubt, hearkening back to God’s revelation of the divine name as “I AM WHO AM,” and the shorter “I AM” in Exodus 3:13-15.

[13] Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the sons of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them? [14] God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” [15] God also said to Moses, “Say this to the sons of Israel, ‘[YAHWEH], the God of… Abraham… Isaac… and… Jacob, has sent me to you’: this is my name for ever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.”

In Hebrew, when God first answers Moses’s question as to what his name is, in verse 14, he says, ehyeh asher ehyeh is his name, which translates as “I am that I am.” God then tells Moses, in that same verse, to tell “the sons of Israel I AM has sent me to you.” There, God says his name is more simply ehyeh, or “I AM.” Then, in verse fifteen, he tells them that his name forever will be YHWH, commonly read and spoken as Yahweh, which translates as “I AM THAT I AM,” or “I AM WHO AM,” as St. Jerome translated it. Yahweh, it would seem, would be God’s formal name while the essence of his name is revealed simply as I AM. Metaphysically, this name reveals God to simply be. He has no beginning, no end, no lack of being; He is all perfection. He is existence itself.

It is difficult for us in the 21st century to fathom how utterly blasphemous it would have sounded for Jesus of Nazareth to dare utter the words we cited above from John 8: “Before Abraham was, I AM.” It is no wonder that in verse 59 the Jews picked up stones to kill him. He is essentially claiming the divine name for himself plainly revealing that he was and is God.

The JW Problem

Obviously, Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot leave this text as is and maintain their denial of Christ’s divinity. So what do they do? Let me now cite the New World Translation’s rendering of verse 58:

Jesus said to them: “Most truly I say to you, Before Abraham came into existence, I have been.”

In the footnote below, the translators claim because “I am” (Greek, ego eimi) comes after an aorist infinitive clause, it is “properly rendered in the perfect indefinite tense.” Moreover, it declares, “It is not the same as [ho ohn] (ho ohn, meaning “The Being” or “The I Am”) at Exodus 3:14, LXX.”

We should note here that in the Septuagint (LXX, which is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament translated ca. 250-100 BC), the name God first reveals to Moses in Exodus 3:14 is “ego eimi ho ohn,” which translates as “I am the being.” With this in mind, this latter point in the NWT footnote is truly stunning. A first or second year Greek student knows that ho ohn does not mean “The I AM.” Ho ohn means “the being.” Ego eimi means “I am.” Thus, again, ego eimi ho ohn, translates literally as “I am the being.” Most likely, because the second time God tells Moses to repeat his name to the people of God, the Septuagint has God saying to Moses, “Say this to the sons of Israel, the being (Gr.—ho ohn) has sent you,” instead of what we find in the Hebrew text—I AM—in verse 14, the translator wrongly thought ho ohn could be translated as “the I am.” In fact, the translators of the Septuagint were either using bad manuscripts or just got it wrong here for whatever reason. The Hebrew text reads, “… I AM sent me to you” as we said above. But again, to think ho ohn could be translated as “the I am” reveals a truly remarkable lack of knowledge of Greek by the “translators” of the New World Translation.

Strike Two

The second error in the footnote is a bit more complicated. In short, there is no “perfect indefinite tense” in Greek. So it is odd to claim “I have been” is an example of the “perfect indefinite tense.” Apologists among Jehovah’s Witnesses will claim it is being “rendered” into English in the perfect indefinite tense, which is odd, but it could be legitimate using rules of grammar in a strict sense. We don’t use a perfect indefinite tense in modern English, but one can find older English grammars that will include it. In days past, English speakers would say things like, “I am come to the farm…” which uses “I am come” in the present tense, while carrying a perfect sense of “I have come…”

I would add here that Herbert W. Smyth says, in his classic Greek Grammar, published by Harvard University Press, there are certain Greek verbs that express “an enduring result, and may be translated by the perfect.” Heiko (I have arrived) is a good example as we find it in I John 5:20, “And we know the Son of God has come…” Has come (Gr.—heikei) is in the present tense, but denotes a perfect sense.

In John 14:9, we find Jesus responding to Philip’s insistence that he “show us the Father,” by saying, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me?” St. John used eimi for “I” here. The literal translation would be “Am I with you so long…” This is a case of the verb to be in the present tense, but used in a perfect sense.

So, even though we would argue that at best the translators should have known that there is no “perfect indefinite tense in Greek” and that, at best, they could argue for a present for perfect usage here, do the Jehovah’s Witnesses have a point here? Could John 8:58 be another case of a present for perfect? Should we translate it as “before Abraham came into existence, I have been?” The answer is no.

What the Watchtower does not take into account is the particular category of usage into which John 8:58 falls as a result of the context in which it is found. As D.A. Carson points out in his book, Exegetical Fallacies, context and usage are much more important than technical, grammatical rules. He calls these kinds of fallacies “grammatical fallacies.” While there are many possibilities when it comes to the use of words that would fall within the parameters of Greek grammar, the proper understanding of terms comes most often through discovering its actual usage in the sacred text.

Bruce Vauter, C.M., points out in the Jerome Biblical Commentary, “The ‘I am’ formula without the predicate,” as he calls it, or the “I am” without anything following it (Gr.—ego eimi) , is used frequently in John’s Gospel and elsewhere in the New Testament, with crucial antecedents in the Old Testament as well. In Mt. 14:27; Mk. 13:6; 14:62; John 4:26, 6:20, 8:24, 8:28, 18:6 and, of course, John 8:58, as we’ve seen, we find this formula used, but each time it is in the context of either some sort of miraculous intervention where Christ is revealing his divine authority, or in the context of an overt statement declaring his divinity in no uncertain terms as we saw in John 8:58. This does not mean this “formula” cannot have other meanings, but it does establish a context in which we find it often relating to Christ’s identity as more than just a man in the New Testament.

If we couple these examples with the fact that God uses this same “I am” formula in the Old Testament in texts like Exodus 3:14; Dt. 32:39; Is. 43:10; 46:4; 51:12 and more, revealing himself to be the infinite God—the I AM—without beginning and end, all perfection, being itself, etc., Jesus’ usage becomes all the more profound. Again, he is declaring himself to be God.

It is only with this understanding that so many of these above-cited New Testament texts make sense. Jesus uses the divine name just before he miraculously calms a storm, revealing his divinity in Matt. 14:27. He responds to the High Priest using the divine name resulting in the High Priest declaring him to have committed blasphemy in Mark 14:62. We saw the reaction of the Jews wanting to stone him in John 8:58. It was not punishable by death to believe wrongly that human beings could have had a pre-human existence, which is all the “I have been” translation would indicate. In fact, the pre-existence of the human soul was believed by many Jews in the first century. It would make no sense for the Jews to “[take] up stones” if this was all Jesus was saying.

Strike Three

The multiple “I am” passages–Mt. 14:27; Mk. 13:6; 14:62; John 4:26, 6:20, 8:24, 8:28, 18:6–of the New Testament are used to reveal Christ’s divinity just as their antecedent “I am” passages in the Old Testament reveal something of God’s essence as absolute being. The texts themselves, their context, and the reaction of the Jews hearing our Lord’s words make it undeniable that Jesus was here revealing that he was not only true man, but true God as well.