When Atheists Should Side with Jehovah's Witnesses
As an atheist I often quote from the Jehovah's Witness New Testament. Why? Because their translators are not effected by certain doctrines like Trinity. They rely on the most likely version of the Greek text under consideration. Most believers look at John 1:1-4 to argue for Jesus as God.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was toward God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
But the much neglected verses of John 1:17-18 not only clarifiy these verses but point to how Jesus as a human teacher became a messiah and then became a god.
The Law was given through Moses, Grace and Truth came about through Jesus Christ, No one has seen God at any time, but the only begotten god which is in the bosom of god has made him known ( exegeted him).
We find here in these verses are an elevation of Jesus to a divine person that replaces the law. This is a teaching no different than of Paul. We see a shift from Paul's presentation of Jesus as Wisdom to a Hellenistic function of reason as an agent of creation ( Logos). This is already known in Philo of Alexandria's work.
We also see this term identified as “image” by Philo of Alexandria. Christ as the “image of God” or “form of God” is a way pre-existence enters into the earlier Pauline writings. Verse 17 shows the comparison of the pre-existent Law with the pre-existent Messiah:
Pesachim 54a on the name of the Messiah
Seven things were created before the world was created, and these are they: The Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gehenna, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah...
The Jewish idea of the pre-existence of the Messiah's name combined with “image” that we see in Philo is a further opening for Jesus, a mortal soul, to be uplifted by metaphor of worship hymns to literal belief. The Name of the Messiah becomes the Image of God in the hymnal passages of Paul. Again we find Philo who equates the Wisdom of Proverbs 8 with Logos, Image and Spirit:
Proverbs 8:22-30 The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth: When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth: Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him...
In this we can see a first begotten prior to creation. So the potential already resides in Judaism. The intensification of this belief and its rise to a literal per-existent entity that becomes flesh are readily identifiable elements in external literature. The only flaw of the Arians were they were more conservative theologically than the Trinitarians. They were more routed in the meaning of scripture than theological/philosophical speculation. Their motto, There was a time when He was not” point directly to the translation in the Jehovah's Witness and to there doctrine. Their scholars simply continue the second century line of thought:
“ Similarly, though Wisdom has had her own independent history within Israelite culture, she has already been identified with the Angel of the LORD long before early Christianity. This is clear from Sirach 24:4 where Wisdom takes up the position of the Angel of the LORD in the cloud of Exodus 14:19 and Wisdom of Solomon 9:1-2, 18:15-16 where Wisdom, Logos and Angel of the Lord are equated. Wisdom and Logos, then, both point to the importance of angelic categories as the common denominator in Jewish mediatorial speculation.”
Please do not misunderstand my usage of Watchtower research. I do not believe in their presentation of a god any more than normative Trinitarian Christianities. But they are not blinded by the presuppositions that trinitarian doctrine entails. The validity of their observations in this area point to the source of their differences from normative Christianities. They like the Restoration Movement of The Campbell's and Barton W. Stone sought to have Christianity based only with what was in the Bible. Stone in fact debated Alexander Campbell for years contending that Trinity was non-biblical and espoused an Arianism long before the Jehovah's Witnesses existed. ( The Millennial Harbinger and The Baptist volumes). What this biblical research of “non-orthodox” Christian movements do is allow us to circumvent doctrines that have blinded many Biblical scholars unconsciously and see what is actually there in its native environment and original historical context. Be careful on the other hand because the Jehovah's Witnesses like any other religion will read their doctrine into the text. Campare many translations or learn Greek and trust your own.