SHORT CHRISTIAN READINGS SELECTED FOR FORMER JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES
JEHOVAH - JESUS : YAHWEH - YESHUA
Different or Same
By Stephen E. Jones
Jesus Is Yahweh
A comparison of the Old and New Testaments provides powerful testimony to Jesus' identity as Yahweh. Support for this is found, for example, in Christ's crucifixion. In Zechariah 12:10 Yahweh is speaking prophetically: "They will look on me, the one they have pierced." Though Yahweh is speaking, this is obviously a reference to Christ's future crucifixion. We know that "the one they have pierced" is Jesus, for He is described this same way by the apostle John in Revelation 1:7.
The Septuagint provides us with additional insights on Christ's identity as Yahweh. The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament that dates prior to the birth of Christ. It renders the Hebrew phrase for "I AM" (God's name) in Exodus 3:14 as "ego eimi". On a number of occasions in the Greek New Testament, Jesus used this term as a way of identifying Himself as God.
For example, in John 8:24 (NASB) Jesus declared, "Unless you believe that I am [I AM or ego eimi] He, you shall die in your sins." (The original Greek text for this verse does not have the word "he".) The verse is literally, "If you do not believe that I AM, you shall die in your sins." Then, according to verse 28, Jesus told the Jews, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [I AM, or ego eimi] He." Again, the original Greek text reads, `When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM' (there is no he).
Jesus purposely used the phrase as a means of pointing to His identity as Yahweh. It is also highly revealing that Old Testament passages about Yahweh were directly applied to Jesus in the New Testament. For instance, Isaiah 40:3 says: "In the desert prepare the way for the LORD [Yahweh]; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God [Elohim]."
Mark's Gospel tells us that Isaiah's words were fulfilled in the ministry of John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus Christ (Mark 1:2-4). Still another illustration is Isaiah 6:1-5, where the prophet recounts his vision of Yahweh "seated on a throne, high and exalted' (verse 1). He said, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD [Yahweh] Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory" (verse 3). Isaiah also quotes Yahweh as saying: "I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another" (42:8).
Later, the apostle John -- under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit -- wrote that Isaiah "saw Jesus' glory" (John 12:41). Yahweh's glory and Jesus' glory are equated." (Rhodes, R., "Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah's Witnesses," , Harvest House: Eugene OR, Reprinted, 2006, pp.62-64. Emphasis & parentheses original).
Jesus as Jehovah
The amount of material in the Bible supporting the teaching that Jesus Christ is Jehovah God is actually quite staggering. Here, we can summarize only some of the remaining highlights. Mention has already been made of Philippians 2:9-11, which says that Jesus has been given "the name which is above every name," the name Lord, or Jehovah.
Even clearer is Romans 10:9-13. Here we are told to confess Jesus as Lord (vv. 9-10), confident that no one trusting in him, that is, in Jesus, the rock over which the Jews stumbled, will be disappointed (v. 11; cf. 9:33), because he is Lord for both Jew and Greek; rich to all who call upon him for salvation (v. 12). Then verse 13 concludes that whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. In context, this must be Jesus, because he is the Lord on whom all must call to be saved, as verses 9-12 have said; but the New World Translation mis-translates "Lord" here as "Jehovah", because it is a quote from Joel 2:32, where the original Hebrew has the divine name! Thus Jesus is here identified as Jehovah.
Similar is 1 Peter 2:3, which is nearly an exact quotation from Psalm 34:8, where the Lord is Jehovah; but from verses 4-8 it is also clear that the Lord in verse 3 is Jesus.
Besides the name Jehovah and the title God, Jesus has other titles belonging exclusively to Jehovah. Jesus is the first and the last (Rev. 1:17; 22:13; cf. Isa. 44:6). He is the King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 17:14; 19:16). Used in a spiritual, ultimate sense, Jesus is revealed to be God by his having the titles Savior (Luke 2:11; John 4:42; 1 John 4:14; cf. Isa. 43:11; 45:21-22; 1 Tim. 4:10), Shepherd (John 10:11; Heb. 13:20; cf. Ps. 23:1; Isa. 40:11), and Rock (1 Cor. 10:4; cf. Isa. 44:8).
Jesus also receives the honors due to Jehovah God alone. He is to receive the same honor given to the Father (John 5:23). He is to be feared (Eph. 5:21), to receive absolute love (Matt. 10:37), and to be the object of the same faith we have in God (John 3:16; 14:1). He receives prayer (John 14:14; Acts 7:59-60 compared with Luke 23:34, 46; Rom. 10:12-13; 1 Cor. 1:2; etc.), worship (Matt. 28:17; Heb. 1:6), and sacred service (Rev. 22:3).
Jesus also possesses the unique characteristics, or attributes, of God. He is exactly like God, the very image of his Father (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3). All the fullness of God's nature dwells in Christ in bodily form (Col. 2:9).
In another book the JWs make this interesting comment on Colossians 2:9: "Being truly 'divinity', or of 'divine nature', does not make Jesus as the Son of God coequal and coeternal with the Father, any more than the fact that all humans share 'humanity' or 'human nature' makes them coequal or all the same age."
Of course people who share human nature are not the same age, but that is in keeping with the fact that all human beings have a beginning. But the point is that just as a human son is just as "human" as his father, so Jesus Christ, who is said in Colossians 2:9 to be fully "divine", is therefore no less divine than his Father.
The Bible also names specific attributes unique to God that are possessed by Christ. He is self-existent (John 5:26); unchanging (Heb. 1:10-12; 13:8); eternal (John 1:1-2; 8:58; 17:5; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:2, 12), omnipresent, an attribute that JWs deny even to God (Matt 18:20; 28:20; Eph. 1:23; 4:10; Col. 3:11); and beyond human comprehension (Matt. 11:25-27).
This last point bears emphasizing. The biblical teaching that Jesus Christ is Jehovah, the Lord of all, God in the flesh, is found throughout the New Testament. Yet it remains hidden from those who seek God on their own terms, who demand that he be comprehensible to them. No one can know that Jesus Christ is the Lord Jehovah apart from the revelation of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3)." (Bowman, R.M., "Why You Should Believe in the Trinity: An Answer to Jehovah's Witnesses," , Baker: Grand Rapids MI, Third printing, 1990, pp.108-110).
JESUS' IDENTITY WITH YAHWEH/JEHOVAH
The New Testament attributes to Jesus many of the perfections of Yahweh (or, Jehovah), the creator/redeemer God of the Old Testament. There are seven main points of identity.
When the OT was translated into Greek in the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC (the Septuagint), the sacred name of God, YHWH, usually rendered Yahweh or Jehovah, was translated by the Greek word Kyrios (Lord); there are approaching 7,000 instances of this. This sacred and exalted title was attributed directly to Jesus (Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3; Phil. 2:11; etc., cf. also Lord of lords, 1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 17:14; 19:16). Indeed the confession Jesus is Lord is probably the earliest confession of faith (Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3; 2 Cor. 4:5).
On several occasions NT writers apply OT passages concerning Yahweh directly to Jesus (Acts 2:34f.; Rom. 8:34; Heb. 10:12f.; 1 Pet. 3:22 apply Ps. 110:1. Rom. 10:13 applies Joel 2:32. Phil. 2:9-11 applies Is. 45:23. Jn. 12:41 applies Is. 6:10. Eph. 4:8 applies Ps. 68:18). These passages clearly identify Jesus with Yahweh.
Another link is provided by self-designations of God appropriated by Jesus or referred to him. Supremely significant is the I AM (Ex. 3:14; cf. Jn. 8:58; 6:35; 8:12,24; 11:25; 14:6; 18:5f.; Mk. 14:62). Others are bridegroom (Is. 62:5; Je. 2:2; Ezk. 16:8; cf. Mk. 2:19f.; Jn. 3:29; 2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 19:7); shepherd (Pss. 23:1; 80:1; Is. 40:11; Ezk. 34:15; cf. Jn. 10:11-16; Heb. 13:10; 1 Pet. 2:25; 5:4); the first and the last (Is. 44:6; 48:12; cf. Rev. 2:8; 22:13). God's glory God's glory is the visible manifestation of his majesty (Ex. 24:15-18; 40:34f.; Lv. 9:6,23f.; 2 Ch. 7:1-3; Is. 6:1-4; Ezk. 1:28).
In Judaism, it served as a reverential substitute for the sacred name itself. God's glory is incommunicable (Is. 42:8; 48:11), yet the NT speaks of Isaiah 6:1f. as the manifestation of Jesus' glory (Jn. 12:41), and of Jesus as the manifestation of the glory of God (1 Cor. 2:8; 2 Cor. 4:4; Heb. 1:3; Jas. 2:1; cf. Jn. 17:5).
To offer worship to any other being than the LORD God (Yahweh) was for the Jew unthinkably offensive, the most fundamental of all sins (Ex. 20:3-6; Dt. 6:4f.,13-15). Yet the earliest disciples, Jews to a man, directed worship to Jesus. It is this fact which, despite their comparative infrequency, makes the NT ascriptions of deity to Christ so overwhelmingly impressive. Doxologies are ascribed to Christ (Rom. 9:5; 2 Tim. 4:18; 2 Pet. 3:18; Rev. 1:5f.); two are addressed to both Father and Son (Rev. 5:13; 7:10). Prayers are addressed to Christ (Acts 7:59f.; 9:13f.; 1 Cor. 16:22; Rev. 22:20).
OT worship passages are transferred from Yahweh to Christ (Is. 8:13f. in Rom. 9:33; 1 Pet. 2:7f.; 3:15; the Septuagint version of Dt. 32:43 in Heb. 1:6). Worship is used in connection with Christ: in the Septuagint the common translation of shalah (worship, bow down) is proskyneia. In Jesus' teaching it describes the attitude we should adopt to God alone (Mt. 4:10). The evangelists, however, use the word to describe people's attitude to Jesus (Mt. 2:2,8,11; 14:33; Mk. 5:6; Jn. 9:38).
Hence the reaction of the disciples to the risen Christ is typical: "they worshipped him" (Mt. 28:17; Lk. 24:52), a response echoed by the angelic company of heaven: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive ... honour and glory and praise!" (Rev. 5:12), an unambiguous assertion of deity.
That Yahweh created all things and is therefore Lord of all was axiomatic for OT faith (Gn. 1:1f.; Pss. 33:6-9; 148:5f.; Is. 42:5; 48:13; 51:9-16). Yet the NT freely applies this divine function to Jesus. ... Through him all things came to be (Jn. 1:1,3; Heb. 1:3; cf. Col. 1:16; 1 Jn. 1:1); he is the sustainer and upholder of all things (Mt. 28:18; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3); he is the one in whom the universe is destined to be brought to its goal (Rom. 11:36; Eph. 1:9f.; Col. 1:16); and the "new creation" is nothing other than the realization of the purpose of God in Jesus Christ (Is. 65:17; 66:22 ... cf. Jn. 3:5; 20:22; 2 Cor. 5:17; Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:10; 2 Pet. 3; Rev. 21-22).
Yahweh is a saviour God, another bedrock of OT conviction. In contrast with other gods, he alone has power to save: "I, even I am the LORD, and apart from me there is no saviour" (Is. 43:11; cf. 45:21; Je. 3:23; 11:12). His deliverance came frequently by way of human `saviours' (Jos. 10:6; Jdg. 2:16,18; 6:14f.), but the forgiving of sins and the raising from death to eternal life are prerogatives of God alone.
Yet the NT attributes these to Jesus. At birth he was hailed as the one who `will save his people from their sins' (Mt. 1:21). He claimed the power to grant forgiveness (Mk. 2:7-10; Lk. 7:48) and is seen as the saviour of sinners (Jn. 3:17; Acts 4:12; 5:31; 15:11; Gal. 1:4; Eph. 5:23; Heb. 7:25; Rev. 1:5). He raised the dead (Mk. 5:35-43; Lk. 7:11-17,22; Jn. 11) and through him eternal life is given now to all who believe in him (Mk. 10:21; Jn. 3:16; 5:24; 1 Jn. 5:11f.) and will be fully experienced by them in the future (Mk. 10:30; 1 Cor. 15:22f.,54; 1 Thes. 1:10; 2 Tim. 1:10).
For the OT, Yahweh alone is judge. His holiness and majesty are essentially expressed in his righteous judgments (Dt. 32:4; Ps. 99; Is. 5:16). Certain forms of divine judgment were realized through human agents (Dt. 1:16f.; Is. 10:5; 45:1), but final judgment was God's prerogative (Dn. 7:9f.; Ec. 12:14; Joel 2:31).
Once again these uniquely divine functions are both claimed by Jesus and freely attributed to him (Mt. 25:31-46; Mk. 8:38; Jn. 5:22-30; Acts 17:31; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Thes. 1:7-10; Rev. 14:14-20). At the Last Day Jesus will submit "the secrets of men" (Rom. 2:16) to definitive, divine judgment.
One final link between Jesus and Yahweh may be noted. In the OT God commissions his people ` "'You are my witnesses,' declares the LORD'" (Is. 43:10); yet in Acts 1:8 Jesus sends out his apostles with identical words 'You will be my witnesses." (Milne, B., "Know the Truth: A Handbook of Christian Belief," , Inter-Varsity Press: Leicester UK, Fifth printing, 1988, pp.129-132. Emphasis original).
"The doctrine of the deity of Christ is crucial to the Christian faith. 'What think you of Christ?' is the paramount question of life (cf. Matt. 16:15; 22:42). Surely Jesus Christ is the greatest of all men, but he is infinitely more than mere man. It can be demonstrated that he is God in several ways. ...
His identification with the Old Testament Jehovah.
"Things that are in the Old Testament said of Jehovah are in the New Testament said of Christ. He was the creator (Ps. 102:24-27; Heb. 1:10-12), was seen by Isaiah (Isa. 6:1-4; John 12:41), was to be preceded by a forerunner (Isa. 40:3; Matt. 3:3), disciplines his people (Num. 21:6f.; 1 Cor. 10:9), is to be regarded as holy (Isa. 8:13; 1 Pet. 3:15), is to lead captivity captive (Ps. 68:18; Eph. 4:8), and is to be the object of faith (Joel 2:32; Rom. 10:9, 13)." (Thiessen, H.C. & Doerksen, V.D., "Lectures in Systematic Theology," , Eerdmans: Grand Rapids MI, Revised, 1977, pp.92-93. My emphasis).
Jesus Is "YHWH"
Not only is Jesus called God in the New Testament but he is called Lord in quotations from the Old Testament where the Old Testament word is "YHWH". In the prophecy of Zacharias (Luke 1:76), it is said of John the Baptist, "And thou, child, shalt be called Prophet of the Most High; thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways."
It is obvious that Luke understood this prophecy as referring to John as the forerunner of Jesus. But Zacharias was alluding to Malachi 3:1, in which the word "Lord" is "YHWH". "'Behold I will send my messenger and he shall prepare the way before me,' saith Yahweh of hosts": Thus, the "Lord", whose ways John was to prepare, is none other than Yahweh, Himself.
Paul gives great emphasis to the prophecy of Joel. "Whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved." (Rom. 10:13) It is clear in the context that Paul is calling Christ "Lord", but in Joel 2:32, in the phrase, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered," "Lord" in the Hebrew text is "YHWH". In the Romans 14:10 reference to the judgment of the saints, Paul adds a quotation from Isaiah 45:23: "'As I live,' saith the Lord, 'every knee will bow to me and every tongue will confess to God.'" That Jahweh is the speaker in Isaiah's words is evident from verses 24 and 25. These passages indicate that Christ and God and Yahweh are one." (Buswell, J.O., Jr., "A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion," , Zondervan: Grand Rapids MI, Vol. I, 1968, Second printing, pp.104-105. Emphasis original).
Jesus Claimed to Be Yahweh.
Yahweh (YHWH; sometimes appearing in English translations as "Jehovah" or in small capital letters as "LORD") is the special name given by God for himself in the Old Testament. It is the name revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14, when God said, "I AM WHO I AM".
Other titles for God may be used of humans, such as Adonai ("Lord") in Gen. 18:12, or false gods, such as elohim ("gods") in Deut. 6:14. Yahweh, however, only refers to the one true God. No other person or thing was to be worshiped or served (Exod. 20:5), and his name and glory were not to be given to another.
Isaiah wrote, "This is what the LORD says ... 'I am the first, and I am the last; apart from me there is no God'" (Isa. 44:6) and, "I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another, or my praise to idols" (42:8).
Jesus claimed to be Yahweh. He prayed, "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was' (John 17:5). But Yahweh of the Old Testament said, "my glory will I not give to another" (Isa. 42:8).
Jesus also declared, "I am the first and the last" (Rev. 1:17) -- precisely the words used by Jehovah in Isaiah 42:8 [Isa 44:6]. Jesus said, "I am the good shepherd" (John 10:11), but the Old Testament said, "Yahweh is my shepherd" (Ps. 23:1).
Further, Jesus claimed to be the judge of all people (Matt. 25:31f.; John 5:27f.), but Joel quotes Jehovah as saying, "... for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side' (Joel 3:12). Likewise, Jesus spoke of himself as the "bridegroom" (Matt. 25:1), while the Old Testament identifies Jehovah in this way (Isa. 62:5; Hos. 2:16).
While the Psalmist declares, "The LORD (YHWH) is my light" (Ps. 27:1), Jesus said, "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12).
Perhaps the strongest claim Jesus made to being Yahweh is in John 8:58, where he says, "Before Abraham was, I am." This statement claims not only existence before Abraham, but equality with the "I AM" of Exodus 3:14. The Jews around him clearly understood his meaning and picked up stones to kill him for blaspheming (cf. John 8:58 and 10:31-33). The same claim is made in Mark 14:62 and John 18:5-6." (Geisler, N.L., "Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics," Baker Books: Grand Rapids MI, 1999, p.129. Emphasis original).