by Matt Slick
In the Jehovah’s Witness Bible called the New World Translation, they translate John 1:1 as "In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was a god." Notice that they add the word "a" before the end of the sentence. It should not be there. Now, we could go into Greek analysis of the verse, but that would be long, involved, and technical. Instead, we can use a simpler approach.
We ask the JW if Satan is a true god or a false God. The typical Jehovah's Witness will say that Satan is a false god. Then we must ask the JW to read John 1:1 again in his Bible and tell us if Jesus who is "a god" there a true god or a false god. If he says "true god," that doesn't agree with his Watchtower theology and that would make Jesus true God. If he says Jesus is a "false god," he's in trouble because that would make Jesus a false God.
Also, if Jesus is "a" god, according to the Witnesses, then doesn't that mean there are two gods? It would seem so; but the JW often answers by saying, "There is only one God but Jesus is like God. He is not the Almighty God. He is only the mighty god. And besides, there are those in the Bible who are called gods but really aren't." The biblical response is to go to Isaiah 10:21 where God himself is called the Mighty God. So if Jesus is not the Almighty God and only the mighty God, as the JW's maintain, then that makes Jesus God since GOD is called the mighty God the same as Jesus.
We must note that there are those who are compared to gods, such as Moses in Exodus 7:1 where God says to him "See, I make you as God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet." God is not, of course, making Moses a god. He was saying that Moses will exhibit the power of God. But John 1:1 does not say that Jesus is a God in the same sense as Moses was said to be "as" God.
In Col. 1:15 is used by the JW’s to say that Jesus is the first created thing. This verse says, "He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation." The Jehovah's Witnesses maintain that "firstborn" means first created, but this cannot be the case for several reasons.
First, there is a Greek word for "first created;" and it is not used here.
Second, firstborn can certainly mean the first one born in a family. However, it can also mean preeminence, and it is a transferable title. We see that Manasseh was called the firstborn, and Ephraim is the second born in Gen. 41:51-52; but in Jeremiah 31:9 Ephraim is called the firstborn." Therefore, "first-born" is a title of preeminence that is transferable and does not mean first created.
Col. 1:15-17 in the Jehovah's Witness Bible has an addition of four words. Their version reads, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All [other] things have been created through him and for him. Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist." (Their word "[other]" is in their Bible with the brackets. They maintain that they know it isn't in the original Greek Scriptures, but the word is implied and should be there).
The original Greek text does not contain the word “other.” There are two words for 'other' in Greek, heteros and allos; and neither is used here. The JW’s have added the English 'other' to make it fit their theology. To the JW this means that Jesus created everything, but that is a problem because in Isaiah 44:24 it says that the LORD (Jehovah) created all things alone. "This is what the LORD says, your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself." Now, if Jesus created everything, then why does it say that the Lord (Jehovah in the Hebrew) did it by Himself? The only logical answer is that Jehovah is not simply the name of the Father, but that it is the name of God the Trinity. Therefore, since Jesus is God in flesh, it could be said that Jesus created all things and also that Jehovah did it alone.
You can also ask the Jehovah’s Witness to try to read Col. 1:15-17 and omit the word "other." You will find it to be an interesting experience because they are so trained to read it with the word "other" that they will stumble over doing it.
Let’s now take a look at John 8:58 in the Jehovah's Witness Bible where Jesus says, " . . . Before Abraham came into existence, I have been." They have translated the present tense “ego eimi,” “I am” from the Greek into the English perfect tense, "I have been." Though this can be done rarely in the New Testament, it is not correct here because Jesus was quoting the O.T. verse of Exodus 3:14 where God was telling Moses who He was: "God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.'" Jesus was purposely using the divine title: I AM.
Of course, the Jehovah's Witness may not agree; so ask him if Jesus was saying that He "had been" before Abraham, then why does it say in the next verse that the Jews picked up stones to kill him? Why did they want to kill him for saying "I have been" when that was not an offense worthy of death? The truth is that they wanted to kill him for claiming to be God. You can verify this by turning to John 10:30-34 where you will see that is exactly why they wanted to kill him.
Additionally, about 250 years BC the Jews translated the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. It is called the Septuagint, also known as LXX. In the Septuagint, Exodus 3:14 is translated in the Greek in a present tense, i.e., I AM . . . Since Jesus was referring to Exodus 3:14, the correct translation is, therefore, "Before Abraham was, I AM."
Finally, you might want to tell the JW that even the Jews knew He was claiming to be God; but, the Jehovah's Witness (if he's quick enough) might say something like, "Jesus wasn't God; the Jews only thought that Jesus was claiming to be God." Then you can say, "Oh, I see. Then let me get this straight. You agree with the Pharisees--Jesus wasn't God? Is that correct?"