“The Word”—Who Is He? According to John
1. (a) Who was John, and whom did he argue Jesus Christ to be? (b) What do Trinity teachers argue that John 10:30 means?
JOHN the son of Zebedee of the city of Bethsaida was personally acquainted with the Word. He tells us that this Word had been the companion of God in heaven, but that he “became flesh” by birth from a Jewish virgin in the city of Bethlehem, almost two thousand years ago. John identifies him as Jesus Christ the Son of God, and John became one of his twelve apostles. Today there are men who use John’s writings about the Word to argue that Jesus Christ was more than God’s Son, that he was God himself and that he became a God-Man. One saying of Jesus that these Trinity teachers use in arguing that Jesus himself claimed to be God is found in John 10:30, reading: “I and my Father are one.” (AV) However, in the argument that followed between Jesus and the Jews he proved that he had by no means said that he was God. Jesus explained: “I said, I am the Son of God.” (John 10:36, AV) But if he was not God himself, how were he and his Father one?
2, 3. What did the Jews ask Jesus to tell them, and what did Jesus answer, leading up to his words in John 10:30?
2 Jesus had just told a parable or illustration in which he spoke of himself as the Fine Shepherd and his followers as sheep. Then the Jews encircled him and said: “How long are you to keep our souls in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us outspokenly.”
3 Jesus replied that his works spoke for him: “I told you, and yet you do not believe. The works that I am doing in the name of my Father, these bear witness about me. But you do not believe, because you are none of my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them everlasting life, and they will by no means ever be destroyed, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is something greater than all other things, and no one can snatch them out of the hand of the Father. I and the Father are one.”—John 10:24-30.
4. Why does this oneness not refer to a Trinity, as clergymen teach?
4 How were they one? One in body, one in identity, one in together making up one God, one as members of a Trinity or three-in-one God, the third member of which was the Holy Ghost? No! For if they belonged to a Trinity or triune God, then the two of them were not one but only two-thirds, as the Trinity has three Persons, namely, “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.”
5. How were they one in the relationship of Father and Son, and how one in witnessing?
5 Instead of being in a Trinity, Jesus and his Father were one by being in agreement with each other as Father and Son. Never was there any disagreement between them. The witness that the Father gave and the witness that the Son gave were in agreement. Jesus the Son said to the Jews: “The Father who sent me is with me. Also, in your own Law it is written, ‘The witness of two men is true.’ I am one that bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me.” (John 8:16-18) Jesus here spoke of himself and of his Father as two distinct individuals. So by them enough testimony was provided for the Jews to believe, since testimony was required of two witnesses at least. Though two distinct individuals, yet the Father and the Son were one in their witness or testimony, because both their testimonies agreed.
6, 7. (a) According to the prophet Ezekiel, what shepherding arrangements did Jehovah promise to set up for his sheeplike people? (b) How were Jesus and the Father one as regards these sheep?
6 The Father and the Son were also one in their care of the sheep. Long previously God had promised to set up a faithful shepherd over his sheeplike people. In Ezekiel 34:23, 24 (AS) God said: “I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I, Jehovah, will be their God, and my servant David prince among them; I, Jehovah, have spoken it.” So Jehovah God raised up his Son Jesus Christ as a descendant of King David to fulfill this prophecy about the “one shepherd” like King David.
7 Jesus as Shepherd said he would not let any wolfish enemy snatch the sheep out of his hand. Neither would the Father, who turned these sheep over to his Son, let an enemy snatch them out of his own hand. The Father and the Son were agreed as to this protection and preservation of the sheep. They had one purpose in common, that of keeping these sheep from being destroyed but saving them to everlasting life. So in this sharing of interests the Father and the Son were one. That is why Jesus said he was doing his works “in the name of my Father.” In his works he acted as an agent for his Father, as a representative of his Father.
8. How were they one as to the will that was to be done?
8 Proving that they were always at one and never at disagreement, Jesus said: “I have come down from heaven to do, not my will, but the will of him that sent me. This is the will of him that sent me, that I should lose nothing out of all that he has given me but that I should resurrect it at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone that beholds the Son and exercises faith in him should have everlasting life, and I will resurrect him at the last day.” (John 6:38-40) He did not fail that will of God, but fairly lived on doing it. He said: “My food is for me to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.”—John 4:34.
9. How were they one as regards the initiative for action?
9 Jesus never did anything independently of his Father, but always kept at unity with his Father. He said: “I cannot do a single thing of my own initiative; just as I hear, I judge; and the judgment that I render is righteous, because I seek, not my own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (John 5:30) Does that not bespeak perfect oneness between Father and Son? But such unity did not require Jesus to say: I am God; I am my Father.
10, 11. What prayer of Jesus to his Father throws light on the kind of oneness that exists between them?
10 That this is the kind of oneness that exists between Jesus Christ and Jehovah God is proved by Jesus’ own prayer to his heavenly Father for the sake of the sheep. In this prayer Jesus does not speak of himself as God but says to his Father:
11 “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.”—John 17:3, 6, 20-24, AV.
12. (a) Why did Jesus not mean that he and his Father were “one in substance”? (b) What shows that Jesus did not class himself as God?
12 In this prayer to his heavenly Father, Jesus called him “the only true God” and said: “Thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee,” and, “we are one.” Did Jesus mean that he and his Father were one God, or two Persons of one triune God, the third member of which God is not even mentioned? Did Jesus mean that he and his Father were, as trinitarians say, “one in substance”? How could that be so in the face of what else Jesus, then of fleshly substance, said in this prayer to God who is spirit? (John 4:24) By calling his Father “the only true God” he shut himself out from being God or even a part or a Person of God. Otherwise, the Father would not be the “only true God.” The word “only” means, according to the dictionary, “alone in its class; without others of the same class or kind; sole; single; alone, by reason of superiority; pre-eminent; chief.” According to Jesus, his Father was, not only the “true God,” but also the “only” one. According to his own words, Jesus did not class himself with God.
13. Who was it that gave Jesus men out of this world?
13 When Jesus said that his Father “the only true God” gave him disciples out of this world, Jesus did not mean that he as God gave himself something. Some of Jesus’ apostles who were listening to his prayer were previously the disciples of John the Baptist, but John turned them over to Jesus as the Bridegroom who was entitled to the Bride class. But Jesus spoke of all his disciples, not as a gift made by himself to himself, but as a gift made to him by the “only true God,” his heavenly Father. “Thou gavest them me.”
14. (a) If the Trinity were so, what would the disciples’ becoming one as Jesus and his Father are one mean? (b) In what way, then, are the disciples made one?
14 In addition, Jesus did not speak of merely himself and his Father as being one but also of all his disciples as being one: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: . . . that they may be one, even as we are one.” By praying that his disciples “may be one in us” Jesus certainly did not mean that his disciples were to be incorporated into a Trinity, so that the Trinity was to increase its membership or Persons from three to a hundred and forty-four thousand and three, to be no longer a three-in-one God but henceforth a many-in-one God. That is nonsensical! Jesus said that, as he and his Father were one, so his disciples were to be made one. How are his disciples made one? Not as one God; not as one individual of many Persons. No, but one in belief in the one God and in the name of the one whom God sent; one in the kind of fruitage that they produced by the same spirit; one in kind of work; one in harmony and agreement among themselves; one in the same purpose and objective, which is the vindicating of Jehovah as “the only true God” and the salvation of the human family by Jesus Christ for God’s glory.
15. (a) On this basis, why are Jesus and his Father not one in a Trinity sense? (b) How are all the disciples one in the Father and the Son?
15 They are also one family group, inasmuch as all these disciples are begotten by God to become spiritual sons of God and to become thus the brothers of Jesus Christ. Since the way that all these disciples are one is the way in which the heavenly Father and his Son Jesus Christ are one, then the Father and the Son are not both one God of more than one Person. The heavenly Father stays “the only true God,” and Jesus Christ whom he sent remains the Son of the “only true God.” All the 144,000 spirit-begotten disciples of Jesus Christ are one in the Father and the Son by being in union with them, in a special harmonious family relationship.
16, 17. (a) What other text involving Abraham will trinitarians bring up to argue their point? (b) What does the Drioux Bible edition say on that expression, and also what does the Knox edition say?
16 Another text in John’s writings the trinitarians bring up in their arguing that John’s writings teach that Jesus Christ is God. That text is found in Jesus’ argument with the Jews given in John 8:56-58 (AV): “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.”
17 On this expression the comment of the Abbé Drioux edition of the Holy Bible is: “Before Abraham was, I am, in fact God eternal, before Abraham was born.”a In a footnote in his Bible translation Monsignor Ronald A. Knox says: “Joh 8 Verse 58. ‘I am’; here our Lord seems explicitly to claim a Divine title, compare Exodus 3:14.”b So we turn to Exodus 3:14 (Dy) and read. “God said to Moses: I AM WHO AM. He said: Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel: HE WHO IS, hath sent me to you.” But the King James Version reads: “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.”
18 The expression “I AM” is there used as a title or a name, and in the Hebrew this expression is the one word Ehyéh (אהיה). Jehovah God was there speaking to Moses and sending him to the children of Israel. Well, then, in John 8:58, was Jesus claiming to be Jehovah God? Not according to many modern Bible translators, as the following quotations will prove: Moffatt: “I have existed before Abraham was born.” Schonfield and An American Translation: “I existed before Abraham was born.” Stage (German): “Before Abraham came to be, I was.”c Pfaefflin (German): “Before there was an Abraham, I was already there!”d George M. Lamsa, translating from the Syriac Peshitta, says: “Before Abraham was born, I was.” Dr. James Murdock, also translating from the Syriac Peshitto Version, says: “Before Abraham existed, I was.” The Brazilian Sacred Bible published by the Catholic Bible Center of São Paulo says: “Before Abraham existed, I was existing.”—2nd edition, of 1960, Bíblia Sagrada, Editora “AVE MARIA” Ltda.e
19. (a) In what language did Jesus say that to the Jews? (b) How does the Hebrew rendering of his words by modern translators prove that Jesus was not pretending to be the great “I AM”?
19 We must remember, also, that when Jesus spoke to those Jews, he spoke to them in the Hebrew of his day, not in Greek. How Jesus said John 8:58 to the Jews is therefore presented to us in the modern translations by Hebrew scholars who translated the Greek into the Bible Hebrew, as follows: Dr. Franz Delitzsch: “Before Abraham was, I have been.”f Isaac Salkinson and David Ginsburg: “I have been when there had as yet been no Abraham.”g In both of these Hebrew translations the translators use for the expression “I have been” two Hebrew words, both a pronoun and a verb, namely, aní hayíthi; they do not use the one Hebrew word: Ehyéh. So they do not make out that in John 8:58 Jesus was trying to imitate Jehovah God and give us the impression that he himself was Jehovah, the I AM.
20. (a) What can be said about the occurrence of the Greek expression Egó eimí in chapter 8 of John? (b) Why do many Bible translations not render this expression in John 8:58 the same as they do in those other verses?
20 In what language did John write his life account of Jesus Christ? In the Greek language, not in Hebrew; and in the Greek text the controversial expression is Egó eimí. Just by itself, without any introductory material ahead of it, Egó eimí means “I am.” Now this expression Egó eimí occurs also in John 8:24, 28; and in those verses the Authorized or King James Version and the Douay Version and others render the expression into English as “I am he,” the pronoun he being put in italics to indicate that the pronoun he is added or inserted. (AV; AS; Yg) But here, in John 8:58, those versions do not render this same expression as “I am he,” but only as “I am.” They evidently want to give us the idea that Jesus was not simply referring to his existence but also giving himself a title that belongs to Jehovah God,h in imitation of Exodus 3:14.
21 When writing John 8:58, the apostle was not quoting from the Greek Septuagint Version, a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures made by Greek-speaking Jews of Alexandria, Egypt, before the birth of Christ. Let anyone who reads Greek compare John 8:58 in Greek and Exodus 3:14 in the Greek Septuagint, and he will find that the Septuagint reading of Exodus 3:14 does not use the expression Egó eimí for God’s name, when God says to Moses: “I AM hath sent me unto you.” The Greek Septuagint uses the expression ho Ōn, which means “The Being,” or, “The One who is.” This fact is clearly presented to us in Bagster’s translation of the Greek Septuagint, at Exodus 3:14, which reads: “And God spoke to Moses, saying, I am THE BEING [ho Ōn]; and he said, Thus shall ye say to the children of Israel, THE BEING [ho Ōn] has sent me to you.” According to Charles Thomson’s translation of the Greek Septuagint, Exodus 3:14 reads: “God spoke to Moses saying, I am The I Am [ho Ōn]. Moreover he said, Thus shalt thou say to the children of Israel, The I Am [ho Ōn] hath sent me to you.”i Thus this comparison of the two Greek texts, that of the Septuagint and that of John 8:58, removes all basis for trinitarians to argue that Jesus, in John 8:58, was trying to fit Exodus 3:14 to himself, as if he was Jehovah God.
22, 23. (a) How is the expression ho ōn used and applied elsewhere in John’s writings? (b) What, then, was Jesus merely saying in John 8:58?
22 O yes, the Greek expression ho Ōn does occur in the apostle John’s writings. It occurs in the Greek text of John 1:18; 3:13 (AV; Yg), Joh 3:31; 6:40; 8:47; 12:17; 18:37, but not as a title or name. So in four of those verses it applies, not to Jesus, but to other persons. However, in the Revelation or Apocalypse the apostle John does use the expression ho Ōn as a title or designation five times, namely, in Revelation 1:4, 8; 4:8; 11:17; 16:5. But in all five cases the expression ho Ōn is applied to Jehovah God the Almighty, and not to the Lamb of God, the Word of God.
23 For example, Revelation 1:4, 8 (AV) reads: “John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is [ho ōn], and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne.” “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is [ho ōn], and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 4:8 applies ho ōn to the Lord God Almighty on his heavenly throne, and Revelation 5:6, 7 shows that the Lamb of God comes to him later on. Revelation 11:17 applies ho ōn to the Lord God Almighty when he takes power to rule as King. Revelation 16:5 applies ho ōn to the Lord God when he acts as Judge. Hence John 8:58 fails the clergy as proof of there being a “triune God,” for in that verse, as well translated by Dr. James Moffatt, An American Translation, and others, Jesus was saying merely that he had had a prehuman existence in heaven with his Father and that this prehuman existence began before Abraham was born.
LIKE, YET SUBORDINATE
24. How do trinitarians argue with John 14:9, but what did Jesus mean by saying: “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father”?
24 But, objects a trinitarian, are you not forgetting what Jesus said to the apostle Philip? What was that? This: “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” (John 14:9, AV) Ah, yes, but that is far different from Jesus’ saying, ‘I am the Father.’ Jesus had just told Philip and the other faithful apostles that he was going away to God his Father; and so how could Jesus in the same breath say that Philip, when looking at Jesus, was looking at the Father? Jesus could not have meant that, for he dissociated God his Father from himself, just as when he said: “Ye believe in God, believe also in me.” (John 14:1, AV) Why the expression “also in me,” if Jesus were God himself? Philip asked Jesus: “Lord, shew us the Father,” and Jesus answered that that was what he had been doing all along, namely, showing them the Father. He had been explaining who his heavenly Father was. He had been showing them what his heavenly Father was like. He imitated his Father. He was like him, so much so that when one saw Jesus it was as if seeing his Father.
25 By saying: “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father,” Jesus could not have meant that the apostles were seeing God, the One whom Jesus addressed or spoke of as Father. Many years after Jesus said those words, the apostle John wrote: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. . . . grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” (John 1:14, 17, 18, AV) By thus declaring God his Father, by explaining him, by giving an account of him, by being and acting like him, Jesus produced the effect that the apostles, by seeing Jesus, saw God his Father also.
26 Hence Jesus said to the Jews: “The Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his shape.” (John 5:37, AV) But those Jews did see Jesus’ shape and hear his voice. Also, Jesus told them that if they had believed the prophet Moses they would also have believed him; and Jesus knew from Moses’ writings that God had said to Moses up in the mountain: “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” (Ex. 33:20, AV) But those Jews did see Jesus and live, which proved that Jesus was not God. Consequently John 14:9 also fails to prove that Jesus is God.
27. How did Jesus liken himself to a pupil, and so in what position did he put himself toward God?
27 So again we note that Jesus never spoke of himself as God or called himself God. He always put himself below God rather than on an equality with God. He put himself in the position of a disciple of God, when Jesus said: “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.” (John 8:28, AV) God was the Teacher of Jesus, and Jesus as a pupil was not above his Teacher, God, nor the equal of Him. Jesus thus classed himself with the other children of God’s organization Zion, concerning whom Jesus said: “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” (John 6:45, AV; Isa. 54:13) As a disciple or pupil of his Father, Jesus learned things from him continually.
28. Hence, as a learner, what did Jesus speak of himself as doing respecting the Father?
28 To this effect John 8:25-27 (AV) reads: “Jesus saith unto them, . . . he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him. They understood not that he spake to them of the Father.” Later Jesus said to those Jews: “Ye seek to kill me, a man [Greek: ánthropos] that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God [ho Theós].” To his faithful apostles he said: “I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.”—John 8:40; 15:15, AV.
29. Hence what action did Jesus say that the Father took toward him, and what does this prove regarding Jesus in comparison with God?
29 As one who heard, as one who was taught, Jesus repeatedly spoke of himself as being sent by his heavenly Father. For example, John 12:44, 45, 49, 50 (AV) says: “Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.” The very fact that he was sent proves he was not equal with God but was less than God his Father.
30. How did Jesus, by his own stated rule, show whether he was as great as his Father?
30 This results from Jesus’ own rule as stated to his apostles: “The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.” (John 13:16, AV) As God was greater than Jesus in sending him, so Jesus was greater than his disciples in sending them. Jesus made this comparison when he said to them: “Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.” (John 20:21, AV) So the Greater One sends the one who is less.
31. Hence what was food for him, though physically hungry?
31 Jesus, because of being sent on an errand, did not come to do his own will or to please himself according to the flesh. He came to do the will of the Greater One who sent him. He did God’s will even though he was hungry bodily, saying: “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.”—John 4:34, AV.
32. From where was Jesus sent, and hence where was he lower than God?
32 It was not first when he was in the flesh on earth that Jesus was sent, but he was sent from heaven. In proof of that he said: “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing.” (John 6:38, 39, AV) So even in heaven Jesus was less than his Father. During what time he had for it Jesus kept constantly at the work of his Father, his Sender. He said: “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.” (John 9:4, AV) All this gives added proof that Jesus was not God whose will was to be done, but was lower than God, doing God’s will.
a The Latin comment reads: “Antequam Abraham fieret, Ego sum, quippe Deus aeternus, antequam Abraham nasceretur.”—Page 180, Volume 7, of La Sainte Bible, by M. L’Abbé Drioux, (French)—Edition of 1884.
b Quoted from page 203 of The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ—A New Translation, by R. A. Knox, 1945 edition.
c “Ehe Abraham geworden ist, war ich.”
d “Ehe es einen Abraham gab, war ich schon da!” See footnotes † and * on page 554, paragraph 4, in The Watchtower of September 15, 1962.
e “Antes que Abraão existisse, eu existia.”
f בטרם היות אברהם אני הייתי—Delitzsch, 1937 edition.
g אני הייתי עוד עד לא־היה אברהם—Salkinson-Ginsburg, 1941 edition.
i Quoted from The Septuagint Bible The Oldest Version of the Old Testament in the translation of Charles Thomson, revised by C. A. Muses; published by The Falcon’s Wing Press, 1954 edition.