“We Worship What We Know”
“THE Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Eternal and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Incomprehensible.” One or three, Christendom’s God, as here defined by the Athanasian Creed, is truly a mysterious, incomprehensible, unknown God.
“We worship what we know,” said Jesus. (John 4:22) He was speaking as a member of a people to whom Moses had said: “Listen, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” Yes, faithful Jews worshiped a God they knew. As to Christians, not subject to the Jewish Law covenant but brought into a new covenant, it was prophetically said of them: “They will by no means teach each one his fellow citizen and each one his brother, saying: ‘Know Jehovah!’ For they will all know me, from the least one to the greatest one of them.” Such Christians do indeed know their God.—Deuteronomy 6:4; Hebrews 8:11.
“One God the Father”
Because they do not believe in the Trinity dogma, it has been said of Jehovah’s Witnesses that they practice “a form of Arianism.”* But the fact that they are not Trinitarians does not make them Arians. In one of the few writings of Arius that has survived, he claims that God is beyond comprehension, even for the Son. In line with this, historian H. M. Gwatkin states in his book The Arian Controversy: “The God of Arius is an unknown God, whose being is hidden in eternal mystery. No creature can reveal him, and he cannot reveal himself.” Jehovah’s Witnesses worship neither the “incomprehensible” God of the Trinitarians nor the “unknown God” of Arius. They say, with the apostle Paul: “There is actually to us one God the Father, out of whom all things are.”—1 Corinthians 8:6.
Showing how vital it is to come to know God, Jesus said in a prayer to his Father: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God.” (John 17:3) The same apostle who recorded those words of Jesus also wrote: “We know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us intellectual capacity that we may gain the knowledge of the true one [Jehovah]. And we are in union with the true one, by means of his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and life everlasting.”—1 John 5:20.
Some translators give a Trinitarian twist to 1 John 5:20. The Living Bible renders the end of this verse: “Jesus Christ his Son, who is the only true God; and he is eternal Life.” Of course, both Catholic and Protestant Bibles differentiate between Jesus and “the only true God” in John 17:3. And in his Theological Investigations, reputed Catholic scholar Karl Rahner states that “in St. John’s First Epistle ὁ θεός [“the God”] so often certainly means the Father that it must be understood of the Father throughout the Epistle.” Also, the French Protestant Bible du Centenaire concedes in a footnote that the Greek allows for a non-Trinitarian translation. Incidentally, it should not be forgotten that, probably in the fourth century C.E., an overzealous Trinitarian Latin scribe added to 1 John 5:7 the words “the Father, the Word and the holy spirit; and these three are one.” This addition, known technically as the “Johannine Comma,” was protected by the Vatican until 1927, in spite of the fact that even some Catholic scholars had raised doubts about its authenticity as early as the sixth century. This dishonest insertion shows the lengths to which Trinitarians will go in their efforts to prove their doctrine.
God’s Name and the Trinity
Something that makes God very real to Jehovah’s Witnesses is their knowledge and regular use of his personal name, Jehovah. (Psalm 83:18) When a member of one of Christendom’s churches reads in his Bible the anonymous expression “the name of the Lord,” it means little or nothing to him. Similarly, when he prays “hallowed be thy name,” the chances are that he does not know what name he is praying about. Jehovah’s Witnesses know their God, they know his name and, like the psalmist and Jesus himself, they love their heavenly Father’s name.—Psalm 5:11, 12; John 12:28; 17:6, 26.
Since God’s personal name appears literally thousands of times in the original-language Bible, why has it been expunged from many of Christendom’s Bible translations, and why is it never used by the hundreds of millions of Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant “Christians”? Could the dogma of the Trinity have anything to do with this most extraordinary religious fact?
Interestingly, the Catholic Jerusalem Bible renders Deuteronomy 6:4: “Listen, Israel: Yahweh our God is the one Yahweh.” And a footnote, after giving another possible translation, states: “But it is more likely that we have here a declaration of monotheistic faith.” This, then, is the one God of whom Jesus, speaking as a Jew, stated: “We worship what we know.” (John 4:22) And this Catholic Bible admits that the name of that one God is Yahweh, or Jehovah.* Now, according to Trinitarian theology, Yahweh, or Jehovah, is the name of the God of the Hebrew patriarchs and the Jews, the God whom Jesus came to reveal as “the Father,” or “God the Father.” It follows that for Trinitarians the divine name Yahweh, or Jehovah, designates only one of the supposed “Three Persons” of the “Godhead.” The “Second Person” has a name (Jesus), but the “Third Person” is the anonymous “Holy Spirit.” Christendom’s churches cannot logically use a name for God that does not designate the entire “Godhead.” So their members are condemned to worship a mysterious triune God that has no name.
Yet, instinctively, many Catholics feel the need to worship someone they can know and name. This, no doubt, explains why many of them worship Jesus or even Mary. This same instinct to worship a God one can name is even reflected in religious architecture. In scores of Catholic chapels, churches and cathedrals in France and other countries, above the high altar or elsewhere there is a gilded, rayed nimbus representing divine glory. In the center is a triangle, symbolizing the Trinity. Paradoxically, inside the triangle is the Tetragrammaton, the four Hebrew consonants of God’s name, Jehovah. But how many Catholics today realize that it is God’s name?
“One Lord, Jesus Christ”
After having stated: “There is actually to us one God the Father, out of whom all things are, and we for him,” the apostle Paul added: “And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and we through him.” (1 Corinthians 8:6) Jehovah’s Witnesses subscribe to that further statement. Jehovah, the Father, is the Source; Jesus, God’s “only-begotten son,” the “firstborn of all creation,” is the means by which the Father accomplishes His will.—John 1:2, 3, 14; Colossians 1:15, 16.
Because the fourth-century dissident theologian Arius stated the Biblical truth that “the Son is not unbegotten,” and Jehovah’s Witnesses accept that truth, The New Encyclopædia Britannica states: “The Christology of Jehovah’s Witnesses, also, is a form of Arianism.” First, it must be stated that Jehovah’s Witnesses do not have a particular “Christology,” defined as “the theological interpretation of the person and work of Christ.” They share the view of the Christian layman who is recorded as having bluntly told the wrangling theologians assembled in Nicaea in 325 C.E.: ‘Christ did not teach us dialectics, art, or vain subtleties, but simple-mindedness, which is preserved by faith and good works.’ Apparently this man had suffered for his faith in Christ, even as many of Jehovah’s Witnesses have. Like him, they have no faith in theological philosophy. They accept with simplicity what the Bible states about God, Christ and the holy spirit, and they are willing to suffer for their simple faith and prove it by good works.
Secondly, Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot be accused of Arianism, inasmuch as they disagree with Arius’ views in many respects. For example, Arius denied that the Son could really know the Father. The Bible teaches that the Son ‘fully knows’ the Father and that the Son is “the one that has explained him.” (Matthew 11:27; John 1:14, 18) Arius claimed that the Word became God’s Son “by adoption” because of his virtue or moral integrity. The Bible says that he was created by Jehovah as his “only-begotten son.” (John 1:14; 3:16; Hebrews 1:2; Revelation 3:14) Arius taught that Christians could hope to become equal to Christ, whereas the Bible states that God gave him “the name that is above every other name.” (Philippians 2:9-11) Far from being modern-day Arians, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe what the Bible says.
“The Only-Begotten God”
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not deny Jesus’ godship, or divinity. But they do not share the Trinitarians’ philosophical understanding of these terms. When Trinitarians speak of the “divinity of Jesus,” they do not mean that he is “a god” or “godlike,” but that he is “God,” one of the three co-eternal persons of the “Godhead.” Perhaps this explains why many of Christendom’s Bibles render John 1:18: “No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” (Revised Standard Version) The majority of the oldest Greek manuscripts show, not “the only Son,” but “the only-begotten god.” The Expositor’s Greek Testament admits: “The MS. [manuscript] authority favours the reading θεος [god]; while the versions and the [Church] Fathers weigh rather in the opposite scale.” Why? Because they feared anti-Trinitarians for whom “this appellation [‘only-begotten god’] happily distinguished Him [the Son] from the Father.”*
Recognizing the Scriptural fact that Jesus is “a god” or “mighty one,” Jehovah’s Witnesses are not disturbed by John 20:28, where it is recorded that the apostle Thomas exclaimed to Jesus: “My Lord and my God!” For one thing, Thomas could have been using the word “God” like Manoah of old. (Judges 13:20-22) But even if this was not the case, there can be no confusion, for Jesus had recently sent a message to the apostles, stating: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God.” (John 20:17; compare 2 Corinthians 1:3.) And John says he wrote down these details (including Thomas’ exclamation) “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God.”—John 20:31.
Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that Jesus was “God incarnate,” a “God-man,” according to the philosophical Incarnation theory of the “two natures,” human and divine. In line with the Bible, they believe “the Word became flesh.” (John 1:14) So doing, “he emptied himself” of his previous spiritual existence and became a man, “lower than angels,” so as to offer himself as “a corresponding ransom for all.” (Philippians 2:7, 8; Hebrews 2:9; 1 Timothy 2:6) The Trinitarian idea that “the redemption of man from sin and death is only then guaranteed if Christ is total God and total man” is unscriptural philosophy. To redeem what Adam lost for mankind, Jesus needed to sacrifice a perfect human life, no more, no less. (Exodus 21:23; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45, 47; Romans 5:18, 19, RS, Catholic and Protestant editions; Matthew 20:28) This alone gives the lie to the Incarnation and Trinity dogmas.
Although “a god,” Jesus “did not count equality with God [Jehovah] a thing to be grasped.” (Philippians 2:6, RS, both editions) His submission to Jehovah is clear, now and in the future. (1 Corinthians 15:27, 28) He willingly recognized his Father’s superiority. (John 14:28; compare 1 Corinthians 11:3.) At his resurrection, he was “made alive in the spirit,” “crowned with glory and honor” and “exalted,” “so that in the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and those on earth.” (1 Peter 3:18; Hebrews 2:9; Philippians 2:9, 10) This being the case, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not surprised to read in Hebrews 1:6 that the angels are invited to “do obeisance to him,” “pay him homage [The New English Bible]” or “worship him [JB].” (Compare Revelation 5:11, 12.) This in no way contradicts Matthew 4:10, where Jesus—quoting Deuteronomy—says that only Jehovah God must be worshiped. Interestingly, the Catholic Jerusalem Bible, that says “worship him” in Hebrews 1:6, refers in its marginal references to Deuteronomy 32:43 (Greek Septuagint) and Psalm 97:7, where it renders the same words, respectively, “pay him homage” and “bow down.” Why is this Catholic Bible inconsistent? Apparently for Trinitarian reasons.
“The Promised Holy Spirit”
At Pentecost, the apostle Peter declared: “This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses. Therefore because he was exalted to the right hand of God and received the promised holy spirit from the Father, he has poured out this which you see and hear.” (Acts 2:32, 33) Just what is this promised “holy spirit”? Is it “the third person of the Trinity”? What do reference works reveal?
The Catholic Encyclopedia: “Nowhere in the Old Testament do we find any clear indication of a Third Person.”
A Catholic Dictionary: “On the whole, the New Testament, like the Old, speaks of the spirit as a divine energy or power.”—Italics ours.
The New Encyclopædia Britannica: “The emergence of Trinitarian speculations in early church theology led to great difficulties in the article about the Holy Spirit. For the being-as-person of the Holy Spirit, which is evident in the New Testament as divine power . . . could not be clearly grasped. . . . The Holy Spirit was viewed not as a personal figure but rather as a power.” (Italics ours.) “Nevertheless, with Athanasius (died 373) the idea of the complete homoousia (essence) of the Holy Spirit with the Father and the Son was achieved.”
A Catholic Dictionary: “The true divinity of the third Person was asserted at a Council of Alexandria in 362, . . . and finally by the Council of Constantinople of 381.”
This was three and a half centuries after the holy spirit was poured out at Pentecost 33 C.E.!
Although Arius did not accept Athanasius’ theory that the holy spirit was of the same substance as the Father, he did consider the spirit to be a person. This provides further proof that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Arians, for they share the Biblical view of the early Christians, namely, that the holy spirit is God’s active force, which he uses in many ways to accomplish his will. (Acts 5:32) True, there are passages in the Bible where the spirit is personified. But this proves nothing. Even A Catholic Dictionary admits: “Most of these places furnish no cogent proof of personality. . . . We must not forget that the N[ew] T[estament] personifies mere attributes such as love (1 Cor. xiii. 4), and sin (Rom. vii. 11), nay, even abstract and lifeless things, such as the law (Rom. iii. 19), the water and the blood (1Jo 5:8 1 Jn. v. 8).” On the other hand, the Bible speaks of the spirit as being ‘poured out,’ and of people being “filled with holy spirit,” receiving the spirit as a “free gift,” and being ‘baptized in holy spirit,’ none of which would make sense if the holy spirit were a person.*—Acts 2:4, 17, 38; 4:31; John 1:33.
Let Us Proclaim the God We Know!
Paul stated to the Athenians who worshiped ‘unknown gods’: “What you worship but do not know—this is what I now proclaim.” (Acts 17:23, NE) How thankful we should be to have been delivered from the incomprehensible “mystery” of the Trinity and to be able to say, like Jesus: “We worship what we know”! (John 4:22) We worship Jehovah, under the leadership of His Son, Christ Jesus, and with the help of His spirit. May we continue zealously to make known our wonderful God, for “Jehovah is great and much to be praised. . . . For this God is our God to time indefinite, even forever.”—Psalm 48:1, 14.
See the subtitle “The Arian Controversy” in the article “How Christendom Came to Worship an Unknown God” on page 24 of The Watchtower of August 1, 1984.
Jehovah is the conventional English form of God’s name, just as Jesus is the conventional form of the Hebrew Ye·shuʹaʽ or the Greek I·e·sousʹ. In his over 600-page Grammaire de l’hébreu biblique, published by the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome, Jesuit Professor Joüon writes: “In our translations, instead of the (hypothetical) form Yahweh, we have used the form Jéhovah . . . which is the conventional literary form used in French.”
Some of Christendom’s translators have similarly given a Trinitarian twist to Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1.—Compare footnotes in the Revised Standard Version (Catholic and Protestant editions) and the Catholic Jerusalem Bible.
For further information on the holy spirit, please refer to the book Holy Spirit—The Force Behind the Coming New Order, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
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Orleans Cathedral (France)
Tetragrammaton on the pulpit (Orleans Cathedral)
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Tetragrammaton on high altar in chapel, Palace of Versailles