Undoubtedly the most astonishing claim of Christianity—one of the many that distinguish it from all other religions of history—is the Incarnation, the claim that one day on the calendar, God himself became a man and walked among us. Or, to view from the other end, that someone who was born here on earth, lived an ordinary life with all its physical limitations, and died the way we all do, was actually the eternal God, creator of heaven and earth. We could have passed him on the street without even noticing anything unusual.
That’s an extraordinary claim. (And that sentence is actually an understatement.) An extraordinary claim calls for extraordinary evidence, and from the earliest days of the Christian church it has been greeted incredulously. During Jesus’ lifetime the Jewish leadership rejected the claim outright—and the claim was clearly made at the time. There were several factors in that rejection, including the obvious political power struggles, but undoubtedly the main reason was that the claim was just, well, unbelievable. Not long after that an early “Christian” sect, Ebionism, rejected Christ’s deity while respecting Jesus as a godly prophet. A century later the bishop Arius found the claim similarly unbelievable, as well as a direct attack on monotheism, and posited that Jesus was an archangel, the first of God’s created beings, exalted and worthy of respect, certainly, but not God.
Arianism survives today in the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I’ve written about them before, in a series focusing on one of their key proof texts, Colossians 1.15. Of course, there are other religious groups today that deny Christ’s deity; Judaism, Islam, Unitarianism, and Liberal Protestantism come most immediately to mind. And there’s been an ocean of ink used to print the hundreds of books and thousands of articles that defend the doctrine. There are a great many lines of argument in those publications. But I’d like to focus on just one.
One category of argument is that the New Testament directly calls Jesus God. A specific subset of that category is that the New Testament sometimes cites an Old Testament passage that uses God’s personal, covenant name—YHWH—and then applies the passage to Jesus in the New Testament context. This specific argument is particularly troublesome to Jehovah’s Witnesses, who reserve the name “Jehovah”—which is a misunderstanding of the name YHWH—for only the one true God, who in their teaching is most certainly not Jesus.
It’s interesting to me that their heretical translation, the New World Translation, has caught some of these pairings and twisted the English rendering to make them less noticeable. But it hasn’t caught them all—with the result that if you know what you’re doing, you can show a Jehovah’s Witness, from his Bible, that Jesus is Jehovah.
So I’d like to spend a few posts looking at these citation pairs. And along the way I’ll note those that “work” in the New World Translation.
By the way, it’s not difficult for anyone to create this list. Flip through the New Testament (hard copy or electronic), noting all the quotations from the Old Testament. I like to use the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) or its newer release, the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) for this, because that version prints all the citations in bold-faced type, making them really easy to pick out. The New American Standard Bible similarly prints them in ALL CAPS, but I find the bold-faced type easier to see.
Anyway, find all the quotations that include the word “Lord,” and then note the ones that are referring to Jesus specifically. In the CSB, you can check the letter footnote at the end of the quotation, where it will give you the location of the OT passage. And in the electronic version, you can click and hover over the OT reference to see the OT passage. If the word “Lord” there is in all caps—LORD or L
ORD—then the underlying Hebrew name is YHWH, and you’ve found what you’re looking for.
Next time we’ll start on the list. It’s substantial.
Part 2: “Prepare Ye the Way” | Part 3: “I Have Seen the LORD” | Part 4: “Call upon the Name of the LORD” | Part 5: “He Ascended up on High” | Part 6: Excursus: Descent into Hell | Part 7: “The LORD Will Come in Fire” | Part 8: “Let All the Angels of God Worship Him” | Part 9: “Your Years Shall Not Fail” | Part 10: Other Possibilities