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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Benjamin H. Barton (1874 - 1916)

Brother Barton was trained as an architect but gave up his trade for the Lord’s work of building his own character and assisting others in attaining the full stature of Christ. In June of 1906 Brother Russell arranged for him to travel to the British Isles on a Pilgrim trip. After that he served continually in the Pilgrim ministry mostly in the United States and Canada until his death on June 24, 1916 in Portland, Oregon at the home of Bro. W. A. Baker.

The Portland Ecclesia considers it a fitting tribute to share the ministry of this noble brother whose earthly ended here more than seventy years ago. It is our wish that this work be considered as supplementary to the harvest message as presented through that "faithful and wise servant."

It is our belief that these "echoes" of a ten year ministry will only stir us to greater faithfulness in our journey toward the kingdom.

Brother Barton’s style of speaking and writing are not as polished as we are used to in the reading of Brother Russell’s writings. Except for a few cases of misspelling or typing errors we have left the grammar as we found it. Nevertheless you will see in his style, the heart and mind of a saint of God.

Brother Russell delivered Brother Barton’s funeral service in July 1916 (just five months before his own death), and we have included that service in this book. Some remarks by Brother Russell and Brother Baker’s report can be found in the Tower of July 15, 1916 (R5930). We have made an effort to assemble all of Brother Barton’s writings known to us. Some of his letters and articles were printed in the Towers, and we have not attempted to reprint these again as they are readily available to those wishing to read them there (R3644, R3818, R4101, R4141, R4450, R4695, R5865). A short synopsis of the source of each lesson is included with the table of contents, which we have arranged as much as possible in chronological order.

Brother Barton died before his father. His father found this consecration card among his effects:

Consecration Card

I disclaim all right to myself from henceforth to my soul, my body, my time, my health, my reputation, my talents, or anything that belongs to me. I confess myself to be property of my glorious Redeemer. I dedicate myself to Him, to serve, love and trust Him as my life and my salvation to my life’s end.

Signed, BENJAMIN H. BARTON May 19, 1895.

- Pilgrim Echoes,

On Sunday, June 18, the Philadelphia Friends were called to order at the close of the evening service and informed that our dear Brother Barton had suffered a complete breakdown. Prayer was offered in his behalf. On the Sunday following, the Friends were informed that our dear Brother was on his way to Portland, Ore., to take two weeks' treatment from a physician there, after which he was to make his way home by slow stages. On the next Sunday, the Friends were informed that Brother Barton had indeed arrived "home," having passed beyond the veil the day before, Saturday, June 24.

All that was mortal of our dear Brother arrived in Philadelphia in the latter part of the next week and arrangements were made to have the funeral on Monday, July 3. The body was on view during the evening of Sunday, July 2, and on Monday at 12:30 p.m. was taken to the hall at Fifteenth and Chestnut streets, where Brother Russell was to deliver the funeral address, where there was also an opportunity given the Friends for a last look at the tenement of clay our Brother had left behind him.

There were three large floral designs and many sprays of flowers. One of the designs, an open Bible, was the loving remembrance of the Philadelphia Ecclesia. Another design, a floral cross, was broken up at the cemetery, after the casket had been lowered into the grave, and each of those present presented with a flower. These were cast into the grave as the Friends passed by. The burial was described, by one of the Friends present, as the "cleanest" he had ever witnessed. The grave was lined with evergreen branches, and the earth that had been taken from it was covered in like manner.

All the members of the Philadelphia Ecclesia who could possibly arrange to do so were present during the funeral service at the old Y.M.C.A. hall, as well as a number of the Friends from classes in Camden, N.J.; Chester, Pa.; Norristown, Pa., and Willmington, Del. Brother Russell spoke for about forty minutes.

- Notes taken at Pilgrim Brother's service in Philadelphia by Brother J.W. Gilbert on Monday, July 3, 1916.

BROTHER BENJAMIN H. BARTON has been on the Pilgrim staff of the WATCH TOWER BIBLE AND TRACT SOCIETY for quite a good many years, and is widely and very favorably remembered by our readers. Although always apparently frail, Brother Barton had a strong voice, and by the Lord's grace was able to do very efficient service up to about June 1st. We then heard from him that he had not been very well and was obliged to cancel future appointments in Oregon. He was kindly entertained by the friends, and everything possible for his comfort was attended to, but he continued to grow weak and, without special pain or suffering of any kind, so far as we have learned, passed away on Saturday, June 24th. His remains were shipped to the residence of his parents in Philadelphia, where they were interred Monday, July 3d.

The Editor has most kindly remembrances of dear Brother Barton, not only as a faithful servant of the Lord, of the Truth, of the brethren, but also as a personal friend. The knowledge of the Truth, heart-abounding grace, the spirit of a sound mind, all contributed to the development in Brother Barton of a very noble character, highly esteemed amongst the friends in general, and especially amongst those who knew him best. We will miss him greatly; nevertheless we also greatly rejoice on his behalf, believing that he has passed beyond the veil, has experienced his resurrection change, and with the others of the faithful will henceforth be forever with the Lord. "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth; Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them." --Revelation 14:13.

As one by one the number beyond the veil increases and the members this side correspondingly decrease, the great privilege of being servants of God and being found faithful as such looms larger and larger before our mental vision. We know not which of us will next be called to enter into the joys of our Lord in full, but we trust that all of the truly consecrated are in the waiting attitude, expecting, hoping, longing for the resurrection change, which the Apostle assures us is necessary, because "flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom," shortly to be established.--1 Cor. 15:50.

It is remarkable that as we near the consummation of this Age, and the completion of the Church, the opportunities for serving the Household of Faith seem to increase. And while old, active servants are passing beyond, new, loyal, zealous successors are being found by the Truth. Thus the work on this side the veil is going grandly on.

Well did the Apostle write that the Lord's true people, enlightened, encouraged and fortified by the promises in the Divine Word, "sorrow not as do others" in the presence of the great foe--DEATH.


This morning, June 24, at Portland, Ore., Brother Barton passed to his reward at 1:15. His end came suddenly, even though his low vitality and weakness gave evidence of his grave condition. Friday he appeared somewhat brighter than usual, sitting up for twenty minutes, after which he asked to lie down to sleep, as he felt tired. That evening he ate a hearty meal (for him), and talked hopefully of starting home soon. The Brother's mind was apparently clear until the last, but he could not articulate well, owing to trouble due to a slight stroke of paralysis about four weeks ago. As death approached the cares of his season of illness seemed to vanish and his features relaxed, and, with a smile on his lips, he passed into the Kingdom. Friday afternoon he expressed to Sister Baker his love for the brethren at the Bethel and particularly for dear Brother Russell, and that it was his hope to see them again. His only care has been his mother. The desire to see and comfort her again probably did much to retain the slight hold he had on life for some weeks.

The opportunity of serving the Brother has been a great blessing to all here, and while individual privileges of service were limited for obvious reasons, the privilege of serving his spiritual interests through prayer has greatly blessed all. His cheerful, patient endurance of his physical disability, his desire to please and his efforts to keep himself from being burdensome to those about, will prove a lasting lesson to all. Our loss has been his gain. How appropriate today's MANNA TEXT!

- July 15, 1916 Watchtower, WTB&TS

Monday, June 21, 2010

Pastor Russell (1852 - 1916) and Henry Dunn (1801 - 1878)

As regards “the time of the end,” Daniel foretold a very positive development. (Read Daniel 12:3, 4, 9, 10.) “At that time the righteous ones will shine as brightly as the sun,” said Jesus. (Matt. 13:43) How did the true knowledge become abundant in the time of the end? Consider some historical developments in the decades prior to 1914, the year when the time of the end began.

In the late 1800’s, a number of sincere individuals were searching for an understanding of “the pattern of healthful words.” (2 Tim. 1:13) One such person was Charles Taze Russell. In 1870 he and a few other truth-seekers formed a class for Bible study. In 1872 they examined the subject of restitution. Later, Russell wrote: “Up to that time we had failed to see clearly the great distinction between the reward of the church now on trial and the reward of the faithful of the world.” The reward of the latter will be “restoration to the perfection of human nature once enjoyed in Eden by their progenitor and head, Adam.” Russell acknowledged that he had been helped in his study of the Bible by others. Who were these?

Henry Dunn was one of them. He had written about the “restoration of all things of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets of old time.” (Acts 3:21) Dunn knew that this restoration included the elevation of mankind to perfection on earth during the Thousand Year Reign of Christ. Dunn also examined a question that had puzzled many, Who will live forever on earth? He explained that millions will be resurrected, taught the truth, and have the opportunity to exercise faith in Christ.

In 1870, George Storrs also came to the conclusion that the unrighteous will be resurrected to an opportunity of everlasting life. He also discerned from the Scriptures that a resurrected one who fails to respond to this opportunity “will end in death, even if the ‘sinner be a hundred years old.’” (Isa. 65:20) Storrs lived in Brooklyn, New York, and edited a magazine called the Bible Examiner.

Russell discerned from the Bible that the time had come to make the good news widely known. So in 1879, he started publishing Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, now called The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom. Previously, the truth about mankind’s hope was understood by very few people, but now groups of Bible Students in many countries were receiving and studying The Watchtower. The belief that only a few will go to heaven, whereas millions will be given perfect human life on earth, set the Bible Students apart from most of Christendom.

The foretold “time of the end” began in 1914. Did true knowledge about the hope of mankind become plentiful? (Dan. 12:4) By 1913, Russell’s sermons were printed in 2,000 newspapers with a combined readership of 15,000,000. By the end of 1914, over 9,000,000 people on three continents had seen the “Photo-Drama of Creation”—a program including motion pictures and slides that explained Christ’s Millennial Reign. From 1918 until 1925, the talk “Millions Now Living Will Never Die,” which explained the hope of everlasting life on earth, was presented by Jehovah’s servants in over 30 languages worldwide. By 1934, Jehovah’s Witnesses realized that those hoping to live forever on earth should be baptized. This understanding filled them with renewed zeal for preaching the good news of the Kingdom. Today, the prospect of living forever on earth fills the hearts of millions with gratitude toward Jehovah.

- August 15, 2009 Watchtower, WTB&TS

Pastor Russell pointed to 1799 as the beginning of the “time of the end,” not 1914. For Russell 1914 was the end of the Gentile Times and the end of the time of trouble. "We see no reason for changing the figures - nor could we change them if we would. They are, we believe, God's dates, not ours. But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble." - The Watchtower Reprints, July 15, 1894, p. 1672. Also see: "THE “Time of the End,” a period of one hundred and fifteen (115) years, from A.D. 1799 to A.D. 1914, is particularly marked in the Scriptures. “The Day of His Preparation” is another name given to the same period, because in it a general increase of knowledge, resulting in discoveries, inventions, etc., paves the way to the coming Millennium of favor, making ready the mechanical devices which will economize labor, and provide the world in general with time and conveniences, which under Christ’s reign of righteousness will be a blessing to all and aid in filling the earth with the knowledge of the Lord. And it is a day or period of preparation in another sense also; for by the increase of knowledge among the masses, giving to all a taste of liberty and luxury, before Christ’s rule is established to rightly regulate the world, these blessings will gradually become agencies of class-power and will result in the uprising of the masses and the overthrow of corporative Trusts, etc., with which will fall also all the present dominions of earth, civil and ecclesiastical. And thus ::page 24:: the present is a day of preparation (through such an overthrow) for the establishment of the universal dominion of the Kingdom of God so long prayed for." -

The current Watchtower view holds that the Gentile Times ended and the "time of the end" began in 1914.

Four articles by Henry Dunn appear in Zion’s Watchtower (Reprints, pp. 644, 649, 653, and 796). All come from Dunn’s book, The Study of the Bible written in 1871. “Bros. George Storrs, Henry Dunn and others were preaching and writing of ‘the times of restitution of all things which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy Prophets’ (Acts 3:21) and that ‘In the ages to come, God would show the ­exceeding riches of his grace.’ (Ephesians 2:7)”—Charles Taze Russell, Supplement to Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, July 1, 1879.

For many years Dunn was the secretary of the British and Foreign School Society and was identified with the history of public education in England. After retirement he went to Italy and joined the Protestant missions there, devoting his life to a study of the Scriptures and the writing of Christian literature. He published his own magazine, The Interpreter, in 1860-61 and was said to have been heard to “express his obligation to a remarkable book, never much known and now almost forgotten: Dunbar Isidore Heath’s Future ­Human Kingdom of Christ. It was this book that inspired Dunn’s Destiny of the Human Race that is credited by both George Storrs and Charles Russell as helpful in the thoughts on the doctrines of two sal­vations and times of restitution. Shortly before his death, Dunn wrote a series of articles for Storrs’ magazine, The Bible Examiner. Pastor Russell wrote that on these doctrines both Storrs and Dunn were influential in his thinking. Also See:

- The Herald of Christ's Kingdom, published by the Pastoral Bible Institute

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Opening at Brooklyn

THE friends at places where One-Day Conventions are held are pleased if they be reported in the WATCH TOWER, and we would be pleased to report them were it not that there is always such a sameness unavoidably connected with them. Almost without exception it could be said that the dear friends put forth strenuous efforts to bring the public service to the attention of the people, and that they succeed admirably, and that large and intelligent audiences are secured, and in many cases large numbers are unable to gain admittance. This sameness of the reports and our limited space alone hinder these reports. Nevertheless, if assured by many that they are appreciated and desired, we would take up the matter afresh.

The opening of the Brooklyn Tabernacle on January 31st and the subsequent work in that city, we are assured, would be of deep interest to the friends in general, and hence the present report.

The opening day, appointed a month in advance, found us none too well prepared. Our stationary chairs had not yet been placed and many of the finishing touches were lacking. However, we had a very enjoyable day.

The auditorium is on the second floor and has a seating capacity of over 800, but is conveniently arranged so that the curtains can be drawn, shutting off more than one-third of the seats. The Tabernacle is well lighted from the roof, and the side-walls are embellished with some of the gracious promises of our Father's Word in artistic workmanship and soft colors. The prevalent color of the walls, floor, etc., is olive green. The conditions altogether are very restful, and those who arrive before the meetings commence will find excellent food for quiet meditation.

The floor below this, the street floor, is being fitted up for our office purposes, and the basement floor for our stock and shipping departments.

The total number of the friends of the immediate vicinity, New York, Brooklyn, Jersey City, Newark, etc., in attendance, numbered about 200; probably another 100 or more came from surrounding towns, and 27 from as far away as Boston. All seemed well pleased with the move which the Lord's providence seemed to direct, and pleased, also, with the building chosen and the repairs made.

The eleven o'clock praise and testimony service was participated in by about 350, and was very enjoyable; the testimonies to the Lord's grace, and goodness, and care caused our hearts to overflow with gratitude. The afternoon meeting had been advertised to the public, and the attendance was very good. Close attention was given and we have hoped that some interest was aroused. In the evening we had a Question Meeting, and the character of the questions indicated intelligence and studiousness on the part of the dear friends.

The following Sunday very nearly the same programme was carried out, but with less advertising. The afternoon meeting was not so large. The friends of the New York City congregation, those of Brooklyn and those of Jersey City, all voted their unanimous desire to be parts of the Ecclesia whose home will be at the "Brooklyn Tabernacle," and unanimously elected Brother C. T. Russell Pastor of the same.

The following Sunday, February 14th, Brother Brenneisen spoke in the afternoon, and in the evening conducted a Berean Bible study. The attendance was all that could be expected.

A special arrangement was made to meet the public on February 21st. The Brooklyn Academy of Music was secured for the afternoon, and the friends of Greater New York and vicinity certainly did manifest great zeal in the advertising of the meeting. The dear friends got out 150,000 copies of the first number of the new paper, "People's Pulpit," on the back of which was an advertisement of the Academy meeting. Window cards were used also, and posters, so that the meeting became widely advertised. The result was better than any of us had dared to anticipate. The house was crowded, seating 2200; approximately 400 stood, and it is estimated that more than 2500 people were turned away, unable to gain admission. To this overflow, however, the ushers distributed a special number of the WATCH TOWER so that we may hope that even they received some blessing. The large audience gave close attention for nearly two hours, and took the literature at the door with considerable manifestation of interest. How many grains of "wheat" were there and how many of these were favorable to influence, the Lord only knows, but we were pleased at the favorable hearing and the interest manifested upon the faces of the audience, which was a very intelligent one.

At the close of the session, Brother Rutherford was announced to speak at "Brooklyn Tabernacle" on the following Sunday afternoon on the "Divine Plan of the Ages" from a Lawyer's standpoint. A large house of earnest hearers greeted him.

Incidentally, we might mention another One-Day Convention recently held in Cleveland, a public service which was very remarkable, in respect to the congregation and the interest shown. The Cleveland friends, very full of zeal, engaged their largest auditorium, "The Hippodrome," which is one of the largest in the country, with a seating capacity of 4600. How thoroughly and wisely the dear friends exercised themselves in the advertising of that meeting may be judged from the fact that the house was full and many were standing, while about 600 were turned away by order of the Public Safety Department.

These large attendances must not mislead any of us into supposing that the Truth is becoming popular. Our readers well know that such is not our expectation, although we are expecting that the next two years especially will see wonderful things accomplished in the spread of the Truth. Of course, the majority attending these meetings come from curiosity, but when we remember that we not only do not have the assistance of our Christian friends of the various denominations, but in many instances have their open, and especially their secret, opposition, the lesson is that religious people are doing more thinking for themselves than ever before, and it is in this class that we may hope to find a considerable amount of "wheat," some for the "Little Flock" and more for the "Great Company."

In this connection, we believe that it will be of interest to nearly all of our readers that we mention some of the Lord's providences in connection with the locating of the Bible House family in Brooklyn. The Tabernacle has no living apartments connected with it, and when we sought to rent a suitable building for the housing of our family of more than thirty, we found that we had a difficult problem. We almost needed a hotel. While the Tabernacle is not in an aristocratic neighborhood, the residence district near it is of a good class with fine, large residences. Some of these are for sale, but none for rent. We thought of going a little distance and finding cheaper quarters, and then reflected that the car-fare to and from the office twice daily would amount to $1800 a year, and besides we would have inconvenience and loss of time.

At an opportune time some friends of the Truth proposed that we purchase such property as would suit our convenience, put it into repair, and that they would furnish the money--we to hold the title and they to take a mortgage for the amount expended, on which they asked but five per cent. interest, and intimated that some of the interest might find its way into the Tract Fund from time to time. This proposal seemed providential and was gladly accepted as the cheapest and best thing possible. We anticipate that the interest will not amount to more than two-thirds of the car-fare estimate, possibly less.

Thus prepared, we made a fresh examination of the district with a view to purchase, and finally made bids upon three properties suitable to our uses with some alterations. We are sure that we will surprise you when we state that the one of the three which came to us at a bargain price is what is known as "The Old Henry Ward Beecher Home." It certainly seems very remarkable that we should get the old Beecher Bethel and then by accident get his former residence. Considerable repairs are necessary, and are being made, but when completed our large family could scarcely be better fixed for the few remaining years of activity which we expect. The new home we shall call "Bethel," and the new office and auditorium, "The Brooklyn Tabernacle"; these names will supplant the term "Bible House."

Some day we may have a Convention in Brooklyn, when we shall have an opportunity of greeting many of our dear readers at one or both of these new locations. We solicit your prayers on behalf of the work and the workers at these new establishments, that with humility of heart and word and conduct, our enlarged opportunities for service may result in the glory of God and in the blessing of others and our own spiritual development in the fruits and graces of the holy Spirit.

- Published by the WTB&TS

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Unbiblical Teachings

Jehovah’s Witnesses do not deny Jesus’ godship, or divinity. They accept what John 1:1 says of him, that he is “a god.” However, the Church says that Jesus is not just “a god” but that he is the almighty God, part of three coeternal persons, coequal in power.

The Bible, God’s inspired Word, does not teach that. Instead, it plainly states: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only-begotten Son.” (John 3:16) At no time did Jesus claim to be almighty God. He said he was “the only-begotten Son of God.” Any impartial reading of the Scriptures will verify that.—John 3:18; 10:34-36.

Time and again Jesus said: “The Son cannot do a single thing of his own initiative, but only what he beholds the Father doing.” “I have come down from heaven to do, not my will, but the will of him that sent me.” “What I teach is not mine, but belongs to him that sent me.” “The Father is greater than I am.” And God’s Word adds: “The Son himself will also subject himself to [God].”—John 5:19; 6:38; 7:16; 14:28; 1Corinthians 15:28.

Thus the Trinity is unscriptural. From where, then, did it originate? It was adopted at the Council of Nicea in 325 C.E. when apostates incorporated a pagan idea that had originated in ancient Egypt and Babylon. As historian Will Durant observed in The Story of Civilization: Part III: “Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it. . . . From Egypt came the ideas of a divine trinity.” And The New Encyclopædia Britannica states: “Neither the word Trinity nor the explicit doctrine appears in the New Testament . . . The doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies.” - December 1, 1986 Watchtower, WTB&TS

Additional Reading:

When the descendants of Abraham journeyed down into Egypt, there they came across a whole selection of different gods. According to Wilkinson, Egypt had many gods, the greatest of whom were Neph, Amun, Pthah, Khem, Sati, Maut and Bubastis. Ra and Seb were the first of the second class of Egyptian deities. The Egyptians believed that Neph made the sun and moon revolve. Pthah was worshiped as the creator. Khem was the god of agriculture. Ra was worshiped as a sun-god and his son Seb represented time. The ancient Egyptians also worshiped a trinity made up of Osiris, Isis and Horus, namely, father, mother and son. This trinity is precisely the same as that worshiped in Christendom. It has been handed down from ancient Egypt and Babylon.

Jehovah vindicated his supremacy over all the gods of Egypt when he disgraced them with ten plagues and destroyed the Egyptian forces in the Red Sea. Following the Red Sea victory the Israelites sang to Jehovah’s praise: “This is my God, and I shall laud him; my father’s God, and I shall raise him on high. Jehovah is a manly person of war. Jehovah is his name. . . . Who among the gods is like you, O Jehovah?” There is none.—Ex. 15:2, 3, 11. - December 15, 1959 Watchtower, WTB&TS

Additional Reading:

What Influenced It

THROUGHOUT the ancient world, as far back as Babylonia, the worship of pagan gods grouped in threes, or triads, was common. That influence was also prevalent in Egypt, Greece, and Rome in the centuries before, during, and after Christ. And after the death of the apostles, such pagan beliefs began to invade Christianity.

Historian Will Durant observed: “Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it. . . . From Egypt came the ideas of a divine trinity.” And in the book Egyptian Religion, Siegfried Morenz notes: “The trinity was a major preoccupation of Egyptian theologians . . . Three gods are combined and treated as a single being, addressed in the singular. In this way the spiritual force of Egyptian religion shows a direct link with Christian theology.”

Thus, in Alexandria, Egypt, churchmen of the late third and early fourth centuries, such as Athanasius, reflected this influence as they formulated ideas that led to the Trinity. Their own influence spread, so that Morenz considers “Alexandrian theology as the intermediary between the Egyptian religious heritage and Christianity.”

In the preface to Edward Gibbon’s History of Christianity, we read: “If Paganism was conquered by Christianity, it is equally true that Christianity was corrupted by Paganism. The pure Deism of the first Christians . . . was changed, by the Church of Rome, into the incomprehensible dogma of the trinity. Many of the pagan tenets, invented by the Egyptians and idealized by Plato, were retained as being worthy of belief.”

A Dictionary of Religious Knowledge notes that many say that the Trinity “is a corruption borrowed from the heathen religions, and ingrafted on the Christian faith.” And The Paganism in Our Christianity declares: “The origin of the [Trinity] is entirely pagan.”

That is why, in the Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics, James Hastings wrote: “In Indian religion, e.g., we meet with the trinitarian group of Brahmā, Siva, and Viṣṇu; and in Egyptian religion with the trinitarian group of Osiris, Isis, and Horus . . . Nor is it only in historical religions that we find God viewed as a Trinity. One recalls in particular the Neo-Platonic view of the Supreme or Ultimate Reality,” which is “triadically represented.” What does the Greek philosopher Plato have to do with the Trinity?

- Should You Believe in the Trinity? - WTB&TS

Additional Reading:

Many religious people say that Jesus is God. Some claim that God is a Trinity. According to this teaching, “the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God.” It is held that the three “are co-eternal and co-equal.” (The Catholic Encyclopedia) Are such views correct? Jehovah God is the Creator. (Revelation 4:11) He is without beginning or end, and he is almighty. (Psalm 90:2) Jesus, on the other hand, had a beginning. (Colossians 1:15, 16) Referring to God as his Father, Jesus said: “The Father is greater than I am.” (John 14:28) Jesus also explained that there were some things neither he nor the angels knew but that were known only by his Father.—Mark 13:32. Moreover, Jesus prayed to his Father: “Let, not my will, but yours take place.” (Luke 22:42) To whom was Jesus praying if not to a superior Personage? Furthermore, it was God who resurrected Jesus from the dead, not Jesus himself. (Acts 2:32) Obviously, the Father and the Son were not equal before Jesus came to the earth or during his earthly life. What about after Jesus’ resurrection to heaven? First Corinthians 11:3 states: “The head of the Christ is God.” In fact, the Son will always be in subjection to God. (1 Corinthians 15:28) The Scriptures therefore show that Jesus is not God Almighty. Instead, he is God’s Son. The so-called third person of the Trinity—the holy spirit—is not a person. Addressing God in prayer, the psalmist said: “If you send forth your spirit, they are created.” (Psalm 104:30) This spirit is not God himself; it is an active force that he sends forth or uses to accomplish whatever he wishes. By means of it, God created the physical heavens, the earth, and all living things. (Genesis 1:2; Psalm 33:6) God used his holy spirit to inspire the men who wrote the Bible. (2 Peter 1:20, 21) The Trinity, then, is not a Scriptural teaching.* “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah,” says the Bible.—Deuteronomy 6:4.

Additional Reading:

Friday, June 4, 2010

J. F. Rutherford - On with the work!

Brother Rutherford was determined to press on with the work of Kingdom-preaching. For years, under the guidance of Jehovah’s holy spirit, the Bible Students had carried on a remarkably extensive campaign in declaring God’s truth. Why, from 1870 through 1913 they had distributed 228,255,719 tracts and pamphlets and 6,950,292 bound books. In the momentous year 1914 alone Jehovah’s servants put out 71,285,037 tracts and pamphlets and 992,845 bound books. The years 1915 and 1916, however, saw a decline in publishing activities because of the expanding of World War I and the breakdown of communications. In 1917, though, the work began showing an upward trend. Why?

The Society’s new president promptly reorganized the headquarters office in Brooklyn. Furthermore, he acted to revitalize the field work. These changes, however, and the programs he stepped up were those that C. T. Russell had begun. Pilgrim representatives of the Society were increased from sixty-nine to ninety-three. Distribution of free tracts was accelerated on occasional Sundays in front of the churches and regularly from house to house. A new four-page tract, The Bible Students Monthly, was published and in 1917 alone 28,665,000 free copies were distributed.

Also stepped up was a new activity started prior to C. T. Russell’s death. Called the “Pastoral Work,” it was a forerunner of the return visits now made by Jehovah’s Christian witnesses. In Russell’s time this activity was limited to about 500 congregations that had voluntarily elected him as their pastor. In a letter to these he described the undertaking as “an important Follow-up Work possible in connection with addresses received at Public Meetings, DRAMA Exhibitions, from Colporteur Lists, etc.—persons who supposedly have some interest in religious matters and who presumably would be more or less amenable to the Truth.”

Women in the congregation who were interested in performing this work elected one of their number to serve as a lieutenant and another as secretary-treasurer. A city was divided into territorial districts, assigned to individual sisters who called on all whose names had been supplied as interested persons. The callers loaned books, which could be read and studied by the borrower. “Then none had the excuse, ‘I have no money,’ as it was a free loan,” remarks Esther I. Morris. At the call’s conclusion the householder was told that a chart talk on the “Divine Plan” would soon be given in the district, and those manifesting interest were encouraged to attend. Afterward follow-up calls were made on individuals attending, in an effort to begin a study in the first volume of Studies in the Scriptures, entitled “The Divine Plan of the Ages.” So the culmination of the program was to gather persons into “classes,” first to hear chart talks and later to become regular groups called “Berean Classes.”—Acts 17:10, 11.

Other steps were taken by the Society’s new president, J. F. Rutherford, to revitalize the preaching work. The colporteur service was expanded. This brought the total up from 373 to 461 colporteurs. To assist them, in early 1917 the Society began issuing a paper called “Bulletin.” It contained periodic service instructions from headquarters. Later, after October 1922, the Bulletin became available monthly to the Bible Students in general. (Eventually it was named “Director,” then “Informant” and thereafter “Kingdom Ministry.”) Sister H. Gambill says that, in time, “it had prepared testimonies which we called ‘canvasses’ that we were encouraged to memorize to use in field service. My sister-in-law . . . would follow me all over from room to room trying to get every word just exact. She so wanted to get it just right.” Reflecting on the fact that the Bulletin contained prepared testimonies, Elizabeth Elrod says: “I appreciated this, for we did not have an arrangement, as we now have, of a person going along with another to train and help one to become an effective publisher. This unified the message going out.”

As the rejuvenation campaign continued, other steps were taken by the Society’s new administration back in 1917. For instance, a number of regional conventions were held. These were designed to encourage the Bible Students to press on with their work and not become weary in well-doing.

Just before 1914 C. T. Russell placed emphasis on a public speaking program. Now it was time to arrange for further qualified speakers to represent the Watch Tower Society from the public platform. How was this done? The program used was the V. D. M. arrangement. These letters stood for the Latin words Verbi Dei Minister, meaning “Minister of the Word of God.” The program consisted of a questionnaire made available to both men and women associated with congregations of Bible Students.

Here are some sample questions appearing on the V.D.M. questionnaire. How well could you answer them? (1) What was the first creative act of God? (4) What is the divine penalty for sin upon the sinners? and who are the sinners? (6) Of what nature was the Man Christ Jesus from infancy to death? (7) Of what nature is Jesus since the resurrection; and what is his official relation to Jehovah? (13) What will be the reward or blessings which will come to the world of mankind through obedience to Messiah’s kingdom? (16) Have you turned from sin to serve the living God? (17) Have you made a full consecration of your life and all your powers and talents to the Lord and his service? (18) Have you symbolized this consecration by water immersion? (22) Do you believe you have a substantial and permanent knowledge of the Bible which will render you more efficient as a servant of the Lord throughout the remainder of your life?

Those submitting their answers to the Society’s V. D. M. department received a reply that included “some kindly suggestions and hints” respecting their answers. Among other things, it was desired that the questions be answered by individuals in their own words.

Explaining matters a little further, George E. Hannan writes: “These questions were to serve as a guide in determining how well an individual understood the basic doctrines of the Bible. Any dedicated person who obtained an 85-percent rating was considered qualified to teach. All such brothers were qualified to give public talks and chart talks. These questions encouraged all who associated with the Society to read the six volumes of Studies in the Scriptures, looking up all the Scriptural references.”

So it was that, as the new president of the Watch Tower Society, J. F. Rutherford took immediate steps to accelerate the work of preaching the good news of God’s kingdom. Blessings followed. The year 1917 witnessed increased field activity to the praise of Jehovah God.

- 1975 Yearbook of Jehovah's Witnesses, WTB&TS

Thursday, June 3, 2010

1914—A Significant Year in Bible Prophecy

DECADES in advance, Bible students proclaimed that there would be significant developments in 1914. What were these, and what evidence points to 1914 as such an important year?

As recorded at Luke 21:24, Jesus said: “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations [“the times of the Gentiles,” King James Version] are fulfilled.” Jerusalem had been the capital city of the Jewish nation—the seat of rulership of the line of kings from the house of King David. (Psalm 48:1, 2) However, these kings were unique among national leaders. They sat on “Jehovah’s throne” as representatives of God himself. (1 Chronicles 29:23) Jerusalem was thus a symbol of Jehovah’s rulership.

How and when, though, did God’s rulership begin to be “trampled on by the nations”? This happened in 607 B.C.E. when Jerusalem was conquered by the Babylonians. “Jehovah’s throne” became vacant, and the line of kings who descended from David was interrupted. (2 Kings 25:1-26) Would this ‘trampling’ go on forever? No, for the prophecy of Ezekiel said regarding Jerusalem’s last king, Zedekiah: “Remove the turban, and lift off the crown. . . . It will certainly become no one’s until he comes who has the legal right, and I must give it to him.” (Ezekiel 21:26, 27) The one who has “the legal right” to the Davidic crown is Christ Jesus. (Luke 1:32, 33) So the ‘trampling’ would end when Jesus became King.

Additional Reading:

When would that grand event occur? Jesus showed that the Gentiles would rule for a fixed period of time. The account in Daniel chapter 4 holds the key to knowing how long that period would last. It relates a prophetic dream experienced by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. He saw an immense tree that was chopped down. Its stump could not grow because it was banded with iron and copper. An angel declared: “Let seven times pass over it.”—Daniel 4:10-16.

In the Bible, trees are sometimes used to represent rulership. (Ezekiel 17:22-24; 31:2-5) So the chopping down of the symbolic tree represents how God’s rulership, as expressed through the kings at Jerusalem, would be interrupted. However, the vision served notice that this ‘trampling of Jerusalem’ would be temporary—a period of “seven times.” How long a period is that?

Revelation 12:6, 14 indicates that three and a half times equal “a thousand two hundred and sixty days.” “Seven times” would therefore last twice as long, or 2,520 days. But the Gentile nations did not stop ‘trampling’ on God’s rulership a mere 2,520 days after Jerusalem’s fall. Evidently, then, this prophecy covers a much longer period of time. On the basis of Numbers 14:34 and Ezekiel 4:6, which speak of “a day for a year,” the “seven times” would cover 2,520 years.

The 2,520 years began in October 607 B.C.E., when Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians and the Davidic king was taken off his throne. The period ended in October 1914. At that time, “the appointed times of the nations” ended, and Jesus Christ was installed as God’s heavenly King.—Psalm 2:1-6; Daniel 7:13, 14.

Just as Jesus predicted, his “presence” as heavenly King has been marked by dramatic world developments—war, famine, earthquakes, pestilences. (Matthew 24:3-8; Luke 21:11) Such developments bear powerful testimony to the fact that 1914 indeed marked the birth of God’s heavenly Kingdom and the beginning of “the last days” of this present wicked system of things.—2 Timothy 3:1-5.


From October 607 B.C.E. to October 1 B.C.E. is 606 years. Since there is no zero year, from October 1 B.C.E. to October 1914 C.E. is 1,914 years. By adding 606 years and 1,914 years, we get 2,520 years. - Published by the WTB&TS


A crucial time was drawing close. In 1876 the Bible student Charles Taze Russell contributed the article “Gentile Times: When Do They End?” to the Bible Examiner, published in Brooklyn, New York, which said on page 27 of its October issue, “The seven times will end in A.D. 1914.” The Gentile Times is the period Jesus referred to as “the appointed times of the nations.” (Luke 21:24) Not all that was expected to happen in 1914 did happen, but it did mark the end of the Gentile Times and was a year of special significance. Many historians and commentators agree that 1914 was a turning point in human history. The following quotes show this:

“The last completely ‘normal’ year in history was 1913, the year before World War I began.”—Editorial in the Times-Herald, Washington, D.C., March 13, 1949. “Ever since 1914, everybody conscious of trends in the world has been deeply troubled by what has seemed like a fated and predetermined march toward ever greater disaster. Many serious people have come to feel that nothing can be done to avert the plunge toward ruin.”—Bertrand Russell, The New York Times Magazine, September 27, 1953. “The whole world really blew up about World War I and we still don’t know why. Before then, men thought that utopia was in sight. There was peace and prosperity. Then everything blew up. We’ve been in a state of suspended animation ever since . . . More people have been killed in this century than in all of history.”—Dr. Walker Percy, American Medical News, November 21, 1977. More than 50 years after 1914, German statesman Konrad Adenauer wrote: “Security and quiet have disappeared from the lives of men since 1914.”—The West Parker, Cleveland, Ohio, January 20, 1966. - Published by the WTB&TS

1914 Date Verified

Also See:

DURING the first few months of 1914 the clergy and others poured considerable ridicule upon C. T. Russell and the Watch Tower Society for failing to see anything happening to the Gentile nations. But all this ridicule stopped when nation after nation and kingdom after kingdom began cascading into what now is called the first world war. From July 27 onward into August of that year was a time of world-shaking surprises. A typical public-press reaction to the situation was published August 30, 1914, by a leading New York city newspaper, The World. “End of All Kingdoms in 1914” was the arresting headline of a long feature article in that journal’s Sunday magazine section (pages 4 and 17), from which we quote:

“According to the Calculations of Rev. Russell’s ‘International Bible Students,’ This Is the ‘Time of Trouble’ Spoken of by the Prophet Daniel, the Year 1914 Predicted in the Book ‘The Time Is at Hand,’ of which Four Million Copies Have Been Sold, as the Date of the Downfall of the Kingdoms of Earth.

“The terrific war outbreak in Europe has fulfilled an extraordinary prophecy. For a quarter of a century past, through preachers and through press, the ‘International Bible Students’, best known as ‘Millennial Dawners,’ have been proclaiming to the world that the Day of Wrath prophesied in the Bible would dawn in 1914. ‘Look out for 1914!’ has been the cry of the hundreds of travelling evangelists who, representing this strange creed, have gone up and down the country enunciating the doctrine that ‘the Kingdom of God is at hand.’ . . . Although millions of people must have listened to these evangelists, . . . and although their propaganda has been carried on through religious publications and a secular press service involving hundreds of country newspapers, as well as through lectures, debates, study classes, and even moving pictures, the average man does not know that such a movement as the ‘Millennial Dawn’ exists. . . . Rev. Charles T. Russell is the man who has been propounding this interpretation of the Scriptures since 1874. . . . ‘In view of this strong Bible evidence,’ Rev. Russell wrote in 1889, ‘we consider it an established truth that the final end of the kingdoms of this world and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God will be accomplished by the end of A.D. 1914.’ . . . But to say that the trouble must culminate in 1914—that was peculiar. For some strange reason, perhaps because Rev. Russell has a very calm, higher-mathematics style of writing instead of flamboyant soap box manners, the world in general has scarcely taken him into account. The students over in his ‘Brooklyn Tabernacle’ say that this was to be expected, that the world never did listen to divine warnings and never will, until after the day of trouble is past. . . . And in 1914 comes war, the war which everybody dreaded but which everybody thought could not really happen. Rev. Russell is not saying ‘I told you so’; and he is not revising the prophecies to suit the current history. He and his students are content to wait—to wait until October, which they figure to be the real end of 1914.”

- March 15, 1955 Watchtower, WTB&TS


End of the Gentile Times

The matter of Bible chronology had long been of great interest to Bible students. Commentators had set out a variety of views on Jesus’ prophecy about “the times of the Gentiles” and the prophet Daniel’s record of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream regarding the tree stump that was banded for “seven times.”—Luke 21:24, KJ; Dan. 4:10-17.

As early as 1823, John A. Brown, whose work was published in London, England, calculated the “seven times” of Daniel chapter 4 to be 2,520 years in length. But he did not clearly discern the date with which the prophetic time period began or when it would end. He did, however, connect these “seven times” with the Gentile Times of Luke 21:24. In 1844, E. B. Elliott, a British clergyman, drew attention to 1914 as a possible date for the end of the “seven times” of Daniel, but he also set out an alternate view that pointed to the time of the French Revolution. Robert Seeley, of London, in 1849, handled the matter in a similar manner. At least by 1870, a publication edited by Joseph Seiss and associates and printed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was setting out calculations that pointed to 1914 as a significant date, even though the reasoning it contained was based on chronology that C. T. Russell later rejected.

Then, in the August, September, and October 1875 issues of Herald of the Morning, N. H. Barbour helped to harmonize details that had been pointed out by others. Using chronology compiled by Christopher Bowen, a clergyman in England, and published by E. B. Elliott, Barbour identified the start of the Gentile Times with King Zedekiah’s removal from kingship as foretold at Ezekiel 21:25, 26, and he pointed to 1914 as marking the end of the Gentile Times.

Early in 1876, C. T. Russell received a copy of Herald of the Morning. He promptly wrote to Barbour and then spent time with him in Philadelphia during the summer, discussing, among other things, prophetic time periods. Shortly thereafter, in an article entitled “Gentile Times: When Do They End?”, Russell also reasoned on the matter from the Scriptures and stated that the evidence showed that “the seven times will end in A.D. 1914.” This article was printed in the October 1876 issue of the Bible Examiner. The book Three Worlds, and the Harvest of This World, produced in 1877 by N. H. Barbour in cooperation with C. T. Russell, pointed to the same conclusion. Thereafter, early issues of the Watch Tower, such as the ones dated December 1879 and July 1880, directed attention to 1914 C.E. as being a highly significant year from the standpoint of Bible prophecy. In 1889 the entire fourth chapter of Volume II of Millennial Dawn (later called Studies in the Scriptures) was devoted to discussion of “The Times of the Gentiles.” But what would the end of the Gentile Times mean?

The Bible Students were not completely sure what would happen. They were convinced that it would not result in a burning up of the earth and a blotting out of human life. Rather, they knew it would mark a significant point in regard to divine rulership. At first, they thought that by that date the Kingdom of God would have obtained full, universal control. When that did not occur, their confidence in the Bible prophecies that marked the date did not waver. They concluded that, instead, the date had marked only a starting point as to Kingdom rule.

Similarly, they also first thought that global troubles culminating in anarchy (which they understood would be associated with the war of “the great day of God the Almighty”) would precede that date. (Rev. 16:14) But then, ten years before 1914, the Watch Tower suggested that worldwide turmoil that would result in the annihilating of human institutions would come right after the end of the Gentile Times. They expected the year 1914 to mark a significant turning point for Jerusalem, since the prophecy had said that ‘Jerusalem would be trodden down’ until the Gentile Times were fulfilled. When they saw 1914 drawing close and yet they had not died as humans and been ‘caught up in the clouds’ to meet the Lord—in harmony with earlier expectations—they earnestly hoped that their change might take place at the end of the Gentile Times.—1 Thess. 4:17.

As the years passed and they examined and reexamined the Scriptures, their faith in the prophecies remained strong, and they did not hold back from stating what they expected to occur. With varying degrees of success, they endeavored to avoid being dogmatic about details not directly stated in the Scriptures.

Did the “Alarm Clock” Go Off Too Soon?

Great turmoil certainly burst forth upon the world in 1914 with the outbreak of World War I, which for many years was called simply the Great War, but it did not immediately lead to an overthrow of all existing human rulerships. As events in connection with Palestine developed following 1914, the Bible Students thought they saw evidence of significant changes for Israel. But months and then years passed, and the Bible Students did not receive their heavenly reward as they had anticipated. How did they react to that?

The Watch Tower of February 1, 1916, specifically drew attention to October 1, 1914, and then said: “This was the last point of time that Bible chronology pointed out to us as relating to the Church’s experiences. Did the Lord tell us that we would be taken [to heaven] there? No. What did He say? His Word and the fulfil[l]ments of prophecy seemed to point unmistakably that this date marked the end of the Gentile Times. We inferred from this that the Church’s ‘change’ would take place on or before that date. But God did not tell us that it would be so. He permitted us to draw that inference; and we believe that it has proven to be a necessary test upon God’s dear saints everywhere.” But did these developments prove that their glorious hope had been in vain? No. It simply meant that not everything was taking place as soon as they had expected.

Several years before 1914, Russell had written: “Chronology (time prophecies in general) was evidently not intended to give God’s people accurate chronological information all the way down the path of the centuries. Evidently it is intended more to serve as an alarm clock to awaken and energize the Lord’s people at the proper time. . . . But let us suppose, for instance, that October, 1914, should pass and that no serious fall of Gentile power would occur. What would this prove or disprove? It would not disprove any feature of the Divine Plan of the Ages. The ransom-price finished at Calvary would still stand the guarantee of the ultimate fulfillment of the great Divine Program for human restitution. The ‘high calling’ of the Church to suffer with the Redeemer and to be glorified with him as his members or as his Bride would still be the same. . . . The only thing [a]ffected by the chronology would be the time for the accomplishment of these glorious hopes for the Church and for the world. . . . And if that date pass it would merely prove that our chronology, our ‘alarm clock,’ went off a little before the time. Would we consider it a great calamity if our alarm clock awakened us a few moments earlier in the morning of some great day full of joy and pleasure? Surely not!”

But that “alarm clock” had not gone off too soon. Actually, it was the experiences to which the “clock” had awakened them that were not exactly what they had expected.

Some years later, when the light had grown brighter, they acknowledged: “Many of the dear saints thought that all the work was done. . . . They rejoiced because of the clear proof that the world had ended, that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, and that the day of their deliverance drew nigh. But they had overlooked something else that must be done. The good news that they had received must be told to others; because Jesus had commanded: ‘This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations: and then shall the end come.’ (Matthew 24:14)”—The Watch Tower, May 1, 1925.

As the events following 1914 began to unfold and the Bible Students compared these with what the Master had foretold, they gradually came to appreciate that they were living in the last days of the old system and that they had been since 1914. They also came to understand that it was in the year 1914 that Christ’s invisible presence had begun and that this was, not by his personally returning (even invisibly) to the vicinity of the earth, but by his directing his attention toward the earth as ruling King. They saw and accepted the vital responsibility that was theirs to proclaim “this good news of the kingdom” for a witness to all nations during this critical time of human history.—Matt. 24:3-14.

- Jehovah’s Witnesses—Proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, WTB&TS

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"and the Word was divine."

Additional Reading:

As it might be thought that what Dr BeDuhn has written regarding how best to render QEOS EN HO LOGOS as "the Word was divine" and this somehow undermines the rendering of "the Word was a god" and even obviates the Witnesses 'use' of Dr BeDuhn regarding the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, the following may prove helpful to explain a little more this scholars reasons for his preference in both translation _and_ understanding. Dr BeDuhn himself has written:

"It is true that the most formal, literal translation of the words in John 1:1c would be "and the Word was a god." The grammatical rules involved in this passage weigh very heavily against the more commonly seen, traditional translation, "and the Word was God." However, translation is not only
about rendering a passage word-for-word. It involves also consideration of broader syntax and the
meaning of a passage as a whole.

"The grammatical construction used here can be called the qualitative or categorical use of the indefinite. Basically, that means x belongs to the category y, or "x is a y." The examples I used in a letter now widely circulated are "Snoopy is a dog"; "The car is a Volkswagen"; and "John is a smart person." The common translation "The Word was God" is as erroneous for this construction as it would be to say in English "Snoopy is dog"; "The car is Volkswagen"; or "John is smart person." The indefinite article is mandatory because we are talking about a member of a class or category.

"Sometimes in English we can accomplish the same syntactical function by using a predicate adjective in place of the indefinite noun phrase. In the examples I gave above, this only works with "John is a smart person," which means the same thing as "John is smart." What Harner calls the qualitative sense is the same as what I call the categorical sense. In the many examples throughout the New Testament of the same grammatical construct as found in John 1:1c, the indefinite noun used is always a class or category to which the subject is said to belong. But in several of these examples, the category is used to suggest the quality the subject has, as in the many "a son of x" expressions found in the New Testament.

"Because of this evidence, we cannot rule out the possibility that for John quality was the center of focus rather than category"" Being honest to the original Greek, we cannot narrow the range of acceptable translation of John 1:1c any further than to say it is EITHER "And the Word was a god" OR "And the Word was divine." I can, if pressed, explain at length why these two translations amount to the same thing FOR JOHN. But I also recognize that they leave open interpretation to a range of possible understandings. I am afraid I cannot do anything about that. If I were to say that the NWT translation is the only possible one, I would be committing the same offense as those who have said that "And the Word was God" is the only possible translation. The whole point of my work is to get us past these false assertions, and follow the original Greek, and follow it only as far as it takes us.

"What I can say is that "And the Word was God" is extremely difficult to justify, because it goes against the plain grammar of the passage. Either of the other two translations are acceptable, because the Greek allows them, while it does not obviously allow the traditional translation. What your correspondent needs to understand, in dealing with others on this question, is that the wording "The Word was divine" agrees 100% in meaning with "The Word was a god" and only 50% with "And the Word was God." What must be given up from the latter wording is the absolute identity between Word and God that the traditional translation tried to impose. John clearly did not intend to make such an absolute identification, and that is precisely why he very carefully manipulates his word in the passage to rule it out. But, yes, John is putting the Word into the "god" or "divine" category, and that is as true if the wording is "a god" or "divine."

"Remember, the Word is not a human person, and John does not use "god" for the Word to say he is talking about a prophet or a leader or an important person. The Word is a superhuman (hence "divine") essence or being, very intimately connected to The God. How intimately? In what way connected? In what precise relationship? The answers to those questions are much more involved, and must be based on a reading of the Gospel of John as a whole, where John works very hard to make it all clear. And yes, there will be disagreements about how to understand this larger picture John is trying to convey.

"Of course, if your correspondent is using what I have written in arguments with people who favor the traditional translation, they are likely to seize upon my acceptance of "The Word was divine" as somehow a defense of their view. That is also something that cannot be helped. The idea of a Trinity developed over the centuries after the Gospel of John was written precisely as one solution to the questions raised by John's wording. The JWs have a different solution to those same questions. I am not in a position to arbitrate such historical interpretations of the text. I think John went as far as he felt inspired to go in his understanding of things, and I do not fault him for not going further and for not answering all of the additional questions people have been able to raise since his time.

"The bottom line is that "The Word was a god" is exactly what the Greek says. "The Word was divine" is a possible meaning of this Greek phrasing. "The Word was God" is almost certainly ruled out by the phrasing John uses, and it is not equivalent to "The Word was divine" because without any justification in the original Greek it narrows the meaning from a quality or category (god/divine) to an individual (God)."

Jason BeDuhn:
Associate Professor of Religious Studies, and Chair
Department of Humanities, Arts, and Religion
Northern Arizona University.

The Trinity—Is It Taught in the Bible?

“The Catholic Faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. . . . So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not Three Gods, but One God.”

IN THESE words the Athanasian Creed describes the central doctrine of Christendom—the Trinity. If you are a church member, Catholic or Protestant, you might be told that this is the most important teaching that you are to believe in. But can you explain the doctrine? Some of the best minds in Christendom have confessed their inability to understand the Trinity.

Why, then, do they believe it? Is it because the Bible teaches the doctrine? The late Anglican bishop John Robinson gave a thought-provoking answer to this question in his best-selling book Honest to God. He wrote:

“In practice popular preaching and teaching presents a supranaturalistic view of Christ which cannot be substantiated from the New Testament. It says simply that Jesus was God, in such a way that the terms ‘Christ’ and ‘God’ are interchangeable. But nowhere in Biblical usage is this so. The New Testament says that Jesus was the Word of God, it says that God was in Christ, it says that Jesus is the Son of God; but it does not say that Jesus was God, simply like that.”

John Robinson was a controversial figure in the Anglican Church. Nevertheless, was he correct in saying that the “New Testament” nowhere says that “Jesus was God, simply like that”?

What the Bible Does Say

Some may answer that question by quoting the verse that commences John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1, King James Version) Does that not contradict what the Anglican bishop said? Not really. As John Robinson doubtless knew, some modern translators disagree with the King James Version’s rendering of that text. Why? Because in the expression “the Word was God” in the original Greek, the word for “God” does not have the definite article “the.” In the earlier expression “the Word was with God,” the word for “God” is definite, that is, it does have the definite article. This makes it unlikely that the two words have the same significance.

Hence, some translations bring out the qualitative aspect in their translations. For example, some render the expression “the Word was divine.” (An American Translation, Schonfield) Moffatt renders it “the Logos was divine.” However, indicating that “divine” would not be the most appropriate rendering here, John Robinson and the British textual critic Sir Frederick Kenyon both pointed out that if that was what John wanted to emphasize, he could have used the Greek word for “divine,” thei′os. The New World Translation, correctly viewing the word “God” as indefinite, as well as bringing out the qualitative aspect indicated by the Greek structure, uses the indefinite article in English: “The Word was a god.”

Professor C. H. Dodd, director of the New English Bible project, comments on this approach: “A possible translation . . . would be, ‘The Word was a god’. As a word-for-word translation it cannot be faulted.” However, The New English Bible does not render the verse that way. Rather, John 1:1 in that version reads: “When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was.” Why did the translation committee not choose the simpler rendering? Professor Dodd answers: “The reason why it is inacceptable is that it runs counter to the current of Johannine thought, and indeed of Christian thought as a whole.”—Technical Papers for the Bible Translator, Volume 28, January 1977.

The Plain Sense of Scripture

Would we say that the idea that Jesus was a god and not the same as God the Creator is contrary to Johannine (that is, the apostle John’s) thought, as well as Christian thought as a whole? Let us examine some Bible texts that refer to Jesus and to God, and we will see what some commentators who lived before the Athanasian Creed was formulated thought about those texts.

“I and the Father are one.”—JOHN 10:30.

Novatian (c. 200-258 C.E.) commented: “Since He said ‘one’ thing,[] let the heretics understand that He did not say ‘one’ person. For one placed in the neuter, intimates the social concord, not the personal unity. . . . Moreover, that He says one, has reference to the agreement, and to the identity of judgment, and to the loving association itself, as reasonably the Father and Son are one in agreement, in love, and in affection.”—Treatise Concerning the Trinity, chapter 27.

“The Father is greater than I am.”—JOHN 14:28.

Irenaeus (c. 130-200 C.E.): “We may learn through Him [Christ] that the Father is above all things. For ‘the Father,’ says He, ‘is greater than I.’ The Father, therefore, has been declared by our Lord to excel with respect to knowledge.”—Against Heresies, Book II, chapter 28.8.

“This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—JOHN 17:3.

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215 C.E.): “To know the eternal God, the giver of what is eternal, and by knowledge and comprehension to possess God, who is first, and highest, and one, and good. . . . He then who would live the true life is enjoined first to know Him ‘whom no one knows, except the Son reveal (Him).’ (Matt. 11:27) Next is to be learned the greatness of the Saviour after Him.”—Who Is the Rich Man That Shall Be Saved? VII, VIII.

“One God and Father of all persons, who is over all and through all and in all.”—EPHESIANS 4:6.

Irenaeus: “And thus one God the Father is declared, who is above all, and through all, and in all. The Father is indeed above all, and He is the Head of Christ.”—Against Heresies, Book V, chapter 18.2.

These early writers clearly understood these verses to describe the Father as supreme, over everything and everyone including Jesus Christ. Their comments give no hint that they believed in a Trinity.

The Holy Spirit Reveals All Truth

Jesus promised his disciples that after his death and resurrection, the holy spirit would be given to them as a helper. He promised: “When that one arrives, the spirit of the truth, he will guide you into all the truth, . . . and he will declare to you the things coming.”—John 14:16, 17; 15:26; 16:13.

After Jesus’ death, that promise was fulfilled. The Bible records how new doctrines were revealed or clarified to the Christian congregation through the help of the holy spirit. These new teachings were written down in the books that later became the second part of the Bible, the Christian Greek Scriptures, or “New Testament.” In this flood of new light, is there ever any revelation of the existence of a Trinity? No. The holy spirit reveals something very different about God and Jesus.

For example, at Pentecost 33 C.E., after holy spirit came upon the disciples gathered in Jerusalem, the apostle Peter witnessed to the crowd outside about Jesus. Did he speak about a Trinity? Consider some of his statements, and judge for yourself: “Jesus . . . , a man publicly shown by God to you through powerful works and portents and signs that God did through him in your midst.” “This Jesus God resurrected, of which fact we are all witnesses.” “God made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you impaled.” (Acts 2:22, 32, 36) Far from teaching a Trinity, these expressions by the spirit-filled Peter highlight Jesus’ subordination to his Father, that he is an instrument for the fulfillment of God’s will.

Soon after, another faithful Christian spoke about Jesus. Stephen was brought before the Sanhedrin to answer accusations. Instead, Stephen turned the situation around, charging that his accusers were like their rebellious ancestors. Finally, the record says: “He, being full of holy spirit, gazed into heaven and caught sight of God’s glory and of Jesus standing at God’s right hand, and he said: ‘Look! I behold the heavens opened up and the Son of man standing at God’s right hand.’” (Acts 7:55, 56) Why did the holy spirit reveal Jesus to be simply the “Son of man” standing at God’s right hand and not part of a godhead equal with his Father? Clearly, Stephen had no concept of a Trinity.

When Peter carried the good news about Jesus to Cornelius, there was a further opportunity to reveal the Trinity doctrine. What happened? Peter explained that Jesus is “Lord of all.” But he went on to explain that this lordship came from a higher source. Jesus was “the One decreed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.” After Jesus’ resurrection, his Father “granted him [gave him permission] to become manifest” to his followers. And the holy spirit? It does appear in this conversation but not as the third person of a Trinity. Rather, “God anointed [Jesus] with holy spirit and power.” Thus, the holy spirit, far from being a person, is shown to be something impersonal, like the “power” also mentioned in that verse. (Acts 10:36, 38, 40, 42) Check the Bible carefully, and you will find further evidence that the holy spirit is not a personality but an active force that can fill people, impel them, cause them to be aglow, and be poured out upon them.

Finally, the apostle Paul had a fine opportunity to explain the Trinity—if it had been true doctrine—when he was preaching to the Athenians. In his talk, he referred to their altar “To an Unknown God” and said: “What you are unknowingly giving godly devotion to, this I am publishing to you.” Did he publish a Trinity? No. He described the “God that made the world and all the things in it, being, as this One is, Lord of heaven and earth.” But what of Jesus? “[God] has set a day in which he purposes to judge the inhabited earth in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed.” (Acts 17:23, 24, 31) No hint of a Trinity there!

In fact, Paul explained something about God’s purposes that makes it impossible that Jesus and his Father are equal parts of a Trinity. He wrote: “God ‘subjected all things under his [Jesus’] feet.’ But when he says that ‘all things have been subjected,’ it is evident that it is with the exception of the one who subjected all things to him. But when all things will have been subjected to him, then the Son himself will also subject himself to the One who subjected all things to him, that God may be all things to everyone.” (1 Corinthians 15:27, 28) Thus, God will still be over all, including Jesus.

Is the Trinity taught in the Bible, then? No. John Robinson was right. It is not in the Bible, nor is it a part of “Christian thought.” Do you view this as important to your worship? You should. Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) If we take our worship of God seriously, it is vital that we know him as he really is, as he has revealed himself to us. Only then can we truly say that we are among the “true worshipers” who “worship the Father with spirit and truth.”—John 4:23.

- October 15, 1993 Watchtower, WTB&TS

Additional Reading:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Could Jesus Have Had Faith in God?

Trinitarian Dilemma

"HOW could Jesus have had faith? He is God; he knows and sees everything without having to turn to anybody else. Now faith consists precisely in leaning on another and in admitting that which is not seen; that Jesus-God could have had faith, therefore, is excluded.”

According to the French theologian Jacques Guillet, that is the dominant opinion in Catholicism. Does this explanation surprise you? You may have thought that since Jesus is an example for Christians in everything, he must also be a model of faith. If you thought so, you have not reckoned with Christendom’s dogma of the Trinity.

The question of Jesus’ faith really is an enigma for Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox theologians who believe in the Trinity as “the central mystery of Christian faith and life.” Not all deny Jesus’ faith, however. Jacques Guillet affirms that “it is impossible not to recognize that Jesus had faith,” though Guillet admits that, in the light of Trinity doctrine, it is a “paradox.”

French Jesuit Jean Galot, and like him the majority of theologians, is explicit in saying that being “true God and true man, . . . Christ cannot believe in himself.” “Faith consists in believing in another, not in believing in oneself,” notes the periodical La Civiltà Cattolica. The obstacle to recognizing Jesus’ faith, then, is the dogma of the Trinity, since the two concepts clearly contradict each other.

“The Gospels never speak about Jesus’ faith,” say the theologians. In effect, the terms used in the Christian Greek Scriptures pi‧steu′o (believe, have faith) and pi′stis (faith) generally refer to the faith of the disciples in God or in Christ, rather than Jesus’ faith in his heavenly Father. Should we thus conclude that God’s Son did not have faith? What can we understand from what he did and said? What do the Scriptures say?

Prayers Without Faith?

Jesus was a man of prayer. He prayed on every occasion—when he was baptized (Luke 3:21); the whole night before choosing his 12 apostles (Luke 6:12, 13); and before his miraculous transfiguration on the mountain, while with the apostles Peter, John, and James. (Luke 9:28, 29) He was praying when one of the disciples asked him: “Teach us how to pray,” so he taught them the Lord’s Prayer (the “Our Father”). (Luke 11:1-4; Matthew 6:9-13) He prayed alone and at length early in the morning (Mark 1:35-39); toward evening, on a mountain, after dismissing his disciples (Mark 6:45, 46); together with his disciples and for his disciples. (Luke 22:32; John 17:1-26) Yes, prayer was an important part of Jesus’ life.

He prayed before performing miracles, for example, before resurrecting his friend Lazarus: “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. True, I knew that you always hear me; but on account of the crowd standing around I spoke, in order that they might believe that you sent me forth.” (John 11:41, 42) The certainty that his Father would answer that prayer indicates the strength of his faith. This link between prayer to God and faith in Him is evident from what Christ said to the disciples: “All the things you pray and ask for have faith that you have practically received.”—Mark 11:24.

If Jesus did not have faith, why did he pray to God? Christendom’s unscriptural teaching of the Trinity, that Jesus was both man and God at the same time, obscures the Bible’s message. It hinders people from understanding the Bible’s simplicity and power. Whom did the man Jesus invoke? Himself? Was he unaware that he was God? And if he was God and knew it, why did he pray?

Jesus’ prayers on the last day of his earthly life give us an even deeper insight into his firm faith in his heavenly Father. Manifesting hope and confident expectation, he requested: “So now you, Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you before the world was.”—John 17:5.

Knowing that his most difficult trials and his death were imminent, the night he was in the garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, “he started to be grieved and to be sorely troubled,” and he said: “My soul is deeply grieved, even to death.” (Matthew 26:36-38) Then he knelt and prayed: “Father, if you wish, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, let, not my will, but yours take place.” Then “an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” God listened to his prayer. Because of the intensity of his emotions and the severity of the trial, “his sweat became as drops of blood falling to the ground.”—Luke 22:42-44.

What do Jesus’ sufferings, his need to be strengthened, and his supplications indicate? “One thing is certain,” writes Jacques Guillet, “Jesus prayed, and prayer is an essential aspect of his life and of his actions. He prayed as men pray, and he prayed in behalf of men. Now, men’s prayers are inconceivable without faith. Would Jesus’ prayers be conceivable without faith?”

Hanging on the torture stake shortly before his death, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, quoting a psalm of David. Then, in faith, with a loud voice, he cried out a final supplication: “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” (Luke 23:46; Matthew 27:46) One Italian interdenominational translation, Parola del Signore, says that Jesus ‘entrusted his life’ to the Father.

Jacques Guillet comments: “Showing us the Christ crucified, crying out to his Father through the psalms of Israel, the Gospel writers convince us that that cry, the cry of the only-begotten Son, a cry of complete anguish, a cry of total confidence, is a cry of faith, the cry of a death in faith.”

Faced with this clear and dramatic evidence of faith, some theologians try to make a distinction between faith and “confidence.” Such a distinction, however, is not based on the Scriptures.

But exactly what do the severe trials he endured reveal about Jesus’ faith?

The “Perfecter of Our Faith” Perfected

In the 11th chapter of his letter to the Hebrews, the apostle Paul mentions the great cloud of faithful men and women of pre-Christian times. He concludes, pointing to the greatest and perfect example of faith: “We look intently at the Chief Agent and Perfecter of our faith, Jesus. For the joy that was set before him he endured a torture stake, despising shame . . . Consider closely the one who has endured such contrary talk by sinners against their own interests, that you may not get tired and give out in your souls.”—Hebrews 12:1-3.

The majority of theologians say that this verse does not speak of “Jesus’ personal faith” but, rather, of his role as “initiator or founder of faith.” The Greek term te‧lei‧o‧teś that occurs in this phrase refers to someone who perfects, who realizes or completes something. As the “Perfecter,” Jesus completed faith in the sense that his coming to the earth fulfilled Bible prophecies and thus established a more solid foundation for faith. But does this mean that he did not have faith?

The passages from the letter to the Hebrews that you can see in the box on page 15 leave no doubt. Jesus was perfected by his sufferings and his obedience. Though already a perfect man, his experiences made him perfect and complete in all things, even in faith, in order for him to become fully qualified as High Priest for the salvation of true Christians. He supplicated his Father “with strong outcries and tears,” he was “faithful” to God, and he had “godly fear.” (Hebrews 3:1, 2; 5:7-9) He was “tested in all respects” exactly “like ourselves,” says Hebrews 4:15, that is, like any faithful Christian whose faith undergoes “various trials.” (James 1:2, 3) Is it reasonable to believe that Jesus could be put to the test “like” his followers without being tested in his faith as they are?

Supplications, obedience, suffering, trials, faithfulness, and godly fear attest to the complete faith of Jesus. They indicate that he became the “Perfecter of our faith” only after being made perfect in his own faith. Clearly, he was not God the Son, as the doctrine of the Trinity asserts.—1 John 5:5.

Did He Not Believe God’s Word?

The Trinity doctrine so conditions theologians’ thinking that they come to the extreme view of maintaining that Jesus “cannot believe God’s Word and its message” because “as the very Word of God, he can only proclaim that word.”—Angelo, Amato Gesù il Signore, with the ecclesiastical imprimatur.

Yet, what do Jesus’ continual references to the Scriptures really show? When he was tempted, he quoted from the Scriptures three times. His third reply told Satan that Jesus worshiped God alone. (Matthew 4:4, 7, 10) On several occasions Jesus mentioned prophecies that applied to himself, showing faith in their fulfillment. (Mark 14:21, 27; Luke 18:31-33; 22:37; compare Luke 9:22; 24:44-46.) From this examination we must conclude that Jesus knew the Scriptures inspired by his Father, he observed them with faith, and he had complete trust in the fulfillment of the prophecies that foretold his trials, suffering, death, and resurrection.

Jesus, the Model of Faith to Imitate

Jesus had to fight the fight of the faith down to the end in order to maintain loyalty to his Father and to ‘conquer the world.’ (John 16:33) Without faith, it is impossible to achieve such a victory. (Hebrews 11:6; 1 John 5:4) On account of that victorious faith, he was an example to his faithful followers. He certainly had faith in the true God.


A more extensive discussion of the groundlessness of the Trinity teaching can be found in the brochure Should You Believe in the Trinity?, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.

Jesus, the “Perfecter,” Perfected

Hebrews 2:10: “It was fitting for the one for whose sake all things are and through whom all things are, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the Chief Agent of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”

Hebrews 2:17, 18: “He was obliged to become like his ‘brothers’ in all respects, that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, in order to offer propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the people. For in that he himself has suffered when being put to the test, he is able to come to the aid of those who are being put to the test.”

Hebrews 3:2: “He was faithful to the One that made him such, as Moses was also in all the house of that One.”

Hebrews 4:15: “We have as high priest, not one who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tested in all respects like ourselves, but without sin.”

Hebrews 5:7-9: “In the days of his flesh Christ offered up supplications and also petitions to the One who was able to save him out of death, with strong outcries and tears, and he was favorably heard for his godly fear. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered; and after he had been made perfect he became responsible for everlasting salvation.”

- October 15, 1994 Watchtower, WTB&TS

Additional Reading: