|For an Answer Home||Studies Index||Bibliography||Glossary|
|The Bible Gateway||The Blue Letter Bible||The Greek New Testament||Greek & Hebrew Lexicons|
Jesus as "a god" alongside God:
Jehovah's Witnesses and John 1:1
There has been much discussion regarding the translation of John 1:1 and the significance it has in our understanding of the Lord Jesus Christ. Evangelicals insist that John 1:1, when properly exegeted, provides irrefutable proof that Jesus is fully and eternally God and yet distinct from another who is called God. Evangelicals take this to mean that the true God is a multi-personal Being, that Yahweh is more than one Person. The Evangelical understanding can be seen from the way Evangelical translations, and certain others, have traditionally rendered this verse:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (kai theos een ho Logos).” KJV, NKJV, NIV, ASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, NCV, YLT, Wey NT, Holman NT, Darby, Douay-Rheims,
Other translations that render this passage somewhat differently, yet still reflecting the traditional Evangelical understanding, include:
“In the beginning the Word already existed; the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Good News Translation
“From the first he was the Word, and the Word was in relation with God and was God.” BBE
“Before the world was created, the Word already existed; he was with God, and he was the same as God.” TEV
“In the beginning was the one who is called the Word. The Word was with God and was truly God.” CEV
Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs for short), on the other hand, believe that John 1:1 supports their position that Jesus is a distinct god from the true God. JWs claim that John 1:1 demonstrates that Jesus is a different kind of god from the God whom he was with. This understanding is reflected in their NWT translation of the Holy Scriptures:
“In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.”
The obvious problem with the JW rendering is that it posits two distinct gods, which goes against the clear and explicit testimony of the Holy Scriptures that there is only one God. All citations taken from the NWT unless otherwise noted:
“SEE now that I-I am he And there are no gods together with me.” Deuteronomy 32:39
The Septuagint renders this verse in the following manner:
“Behold, behold that I am [he], and there is no god beside me (kai ouk estin theos): I kill, and I will make to live: I will smite, and I will heal; and there is none who shall deliver out of my hands (kai ouk estin os exeleitai ek ton cheiron mou).”
Amazingly, the Lord Jesus claims to be able to perform the same divine functions that Yahweh performs:
“And I give them everlasting life, and they will by no means ever be destroyed, and no one will snatch them out of my hand (kai oukh aptasei tis auta ek tes cheiros mou). What my Father has given me is greater than all other things, and no one can snatch them out of the hand of the Father (kai oudeis dunatai aptazein ek tes cheiros tou patros). I and the Father are one” John 10:28-30
Hence, this provides evidence that Jesus cannot be just “a god,” but is the true God who is distinct from both the Father and the Holy Spirit.
“They have roused Me to jealousy with a no-god; they have provoked Me with their vanities; and I will rouse them to jealousy with a no-people; I will provoke them with a vile nation.” Deuteronomy 32:21 JPS 1917
The preceding citations show that Christ cannot be another god alongside the true God. Unless, of course, one opts for the view that John’s theology contradicts the OT teaching of monotheism. Since neither the JW nor the Evangelical believes that the scriptures contradict themselves, being the inspired and inerrant word of God, this view is not an option for either party.
Hence, Jesus is either the true God or he is a false god. But since the NT emphatically denies that the Lord Jesus is a false god, the only option left is that he is the true God. To help clarify the implication that De 32:39 has on our exegesis and understanding of John 1:1, as well as on the person of Christ, we present the following syllogism:
1. There are no other Gods besides Yahweh.
2. Jesus is God.
3. Therefore, Jesus is Yahweh God.
John’s prologue doesn’t stop there but goes on to distinguish the Lord Jesus from another who is called God. Again:
The Person with Jesus is
identified as God
There is only one God.
3. God must subsist in at least 2 Persons.
How does the Watchtower respond to this? In the Watchtower, 1975, p. 63, this is what they write:
"Viewed in their proper setting, these texts in no way contradict each other. They are discussing entirely different matters. At Deuteronomy 32:39, the point being made is that the false gods of the nations have no share with Jehovah in his saving acts. They are unable to deliver their worshipers from disaster. This is evident from the preceding two verses 37, 38,which read: "Where are their gods, the rock in whom they sought refuge, who used to eat the fat of their sacrifices, to drink the wine of their drink offerings? Let them get up and help you. Let them become a concealment place for you." Other parts of this song likewise indicate that these false gods had no share in the expressing of Jehovah's saving power. With reference to the nation of Israel as represented in its forefather Jacob, De 32 verse 12 says: "Jehovah alone kept leading him, and there was no foreign god along with him." Apostasy, however, set in among the Israelites, as De 32 verses 16, 17 and 21 tell us: "They began inciting him to jealousy with strange gods; with detestable things they kept offending him. They went sacrificing to demons, not to God, gods whom they had not known, new ones who recently came in, with whom your forefathers were not acquainted. They, for their part, have incited me to jealousy with what is no god." Against this background, we can appreciate that none of such false gods were 'together with Jehovah' in anything that he did. He alone is the true God, whereas the false gods are an unreality, nonexistent and powerless to help their worshipers in time of calamity. As for the reference to the Word's "being a god," it does not disagree with the statement at Deuteronomy 32:39. Why not? Because the Word does not stand in opposition to Jehovah nor is he a rival, as was the case with the false gods. Then, too, in the phrase rendered "the Word was a god," the term "god" is a predicate noun that describes the Word. Says the noted scholar Westcott, coproducer of the famous Westcott and Hort Greek text of the Christian Scriptures: "It describes the nature of the Word and does not identify His Person." In view of the descriptive nature of the predicate noun for "god" in the original Greek, An American Translation renders John 1:1: "The Word was divine." The New World Translation, however, retains the predicate noun and indicates the significance of the omission of the definite article by using the indefinite article. Being God's firstborn Son, "the Word" could rightly be described as a "god" or powerful one, even as are God s other angelic sons at Psalm 8:5. (Compare Hebrews 2:6-8.) But neither the firstborn Son nor the other faithful angelic sons of God stand in opposition to their Creator, or try to equal him or substitute for him, as do false gods. They all recognize that worship is properly directed to Jehovah God alone.- Phil. 2:5, 6; Rev. 19:10." (http://users.eggconnect.net/noddy3/john11deut32.htm; bold emphasis ours)
Commenting on the Isaianic denials of the existence of other gods, JW apologist Greg Stafford writes:
In view of the consistent condemnation of idol gods in Isaiah, it is certainly understandable for us to view Isaiah 43:10 in the same light. There is nothing in the context of Isaiah 43:10 that suggests, let alone conclusively proves, that Jehovah’s words are meant not only for the idols of man, but also for any heavenly beings who serve Jehovah, and who are elsewhere considered ‘gods.’ No living god has been ‘formed’ by the hands of the idol-worshiping nations. Which is why Jehovah goes on to condemn the idols and those who ‘form’ them in Isaiah 44:8-10.
The context of these texts shows that such denials are directed against the gods of the nations, not the angelic gods of Jehovah’s heavenly court. In fact, Isaiah 43:10 uses the same verb for ‘form’ that we see used in Isaiah 44:10. Using such scriptures in an effort to deny that the angels are gods, when in fact the Bible clearly refers to them as ‘gods,’ is to ignore the purpose for which these denials were written. As stated by Yehezkel Kaufmann: ‘We are constrained to offer the embarrassing reply that nowhere in the Bible is the existence of god denied, neither explicitly nor implicitly. Even the polemic of Second-Isaiah attacks the idols with no word at all for the gods.’” (Stafford, Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended An Answer to Scholars and Critics [Elihu Books, Huntington Beach, CA: second edition 2000], pp. 101-102)
Stafford’s footnote 92 on page 102 reads:
See also Isa 44:11-20. Compare Isa 42:8, 17; 45:18-20; 48:5 Regarding De 32:39, compare De 32:16, 21, 37, 38 (see note 105 below). (Ibid., bold emphasis ours)
Stafford informs us in footnote 105 that:
“The LXX of De 32:43 is more likely the source of Paul’s quotation as there are LXX manuscripts of this text that match Paul’s quotation word for word. That he primarily quotes from the Psalms is not a deterrent to accepting Heb 1:6 as a quotation from De 32:43, since he also quotes from 2Sa 7:14 in Heb 1:5. The quotation in Heb 1:6 seems to have come from a Hebrew recension other than MT, which is reflected in 4QDeutq… Paul Sanders, The Provenance of Deuteronomy 32 (OTS 37; Leiden: Brill, 1994), 248-252, 422-425. On pages 426-429 Sanders discusses the relationship between Jehovah and the gods spoken of in verse 8 (see below) and verse 43 and the statements in verses 12 and 39, where it is said there are no gods ‘with’ Jehovah. He concludes: ‘Verse 12 and verse 39 say that there is no god “with” YHWH. These affirmations relate to his activity: YHWH is the only god who acts on behalf of Israel. In that respect there is no other god with him… Though the conceptual background of the passage [De 32:8-9] may be archaic the message of the passage is completely in line with the “monotheistic” affirmation in the song; other gods may exist-in fact they do- but for Israel the only significant god is YHWH. He is even the highest god… and the other gods… are subordinate to him’ (ibid., 427). See ibid. pages 237-238 for more on De 32:39.” (Ibid., p. 111)
To summarize the JW position:
1. The passages in Isaiah and Deuteronomy where Yahweh is said to be the only God do not rule out the existence of angelic gods. The context deals with refuting the existence of the false gods and/or idols of the nations.
2. According to Sanders, which Stafford cites approvingly, Deuteronomy 32:39 is not denying that there are no other gods alongside Yahweh. The text is indicating that Yahweh is the only god who acts on behalf of Israel. Presumably, this implies that other gods do exist, but they simply do not act on Israel’s behalf.
In response to point 1, a careful reading of De 32 will show that the gods mentioned in the text includes the angelic host:
“They roused Him to jealousy with strange gods, with abominations did they provoke Him. They sacrificed unto DEMONS, NO-gods (lo Elo’ah), gods that they knew not, new gods that came up of late, which your fathers dreaded not.” Deuteronomy 32:16-17 JPS 1917
The Israelites worshiped demons, something reiterated elsewhere in the Holy Scriptures:
“They kept serving their idols, And these came to be a snare to them. And they would sacrifice their sons And their daughters TO DEMONS.” Psalm 106:36-37
Interestingly, the Watchtower magazine mentions that the gods spoken of include demons, but fails to see the significance in this. Stafford makes reference to De. 32:16, but doesn’t mention verse 17. It seems that Stafford, unlike the Watchtower, realized that the mention of demons in v. 17 poses major problems for the claim that angels are gods. Demons are said to be angels:
“Then he will say, in turn, to those on his left, ‘Be on YOUR way from me, YOU whole have been cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the Devil and his angels.’” Matthew 25:41
“Do YOU not know that we shall judge angels?” 1 Corinthians 6:3
“just because of the excess of the revelations. Therefore, that I might not feel overly exalted, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, an angel of Satan, to keep slapping me, that I might not be overly exalted.” 2 Corinthians 12:7
“And war broke out in heaven; Mi’chael and his angels battled with the dragon, and the dragon and its angels battled” Revelation 12:7
Regarding demons, the Watchtower publication Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 1, pp. 612-613, says:
The demons as such were not created by God. The first to make himself one was Satan the Devil (see SATAN), who became ruler of other angelic sons of God who also made themselves demons. (Mt 12:24, 26) In Noah’s day disobedient angels materialized, married women, fathered a hybrid generation known as Nephilim (see NEPHILIM) and then dematerialized when the flood came. (Ge 6:1-4) However, upon returning to the spirit realm, they did not regain their lofty original position, for Jude 6 says: “The angels that did not keep their original position but forsook their own proper dwelling place he has reserved with eternal bonds under dense darkness for the judgment of the great day.” (1Pe 3:19, 20) So it is in this condition of dense spiritual darkness that they must now confine their operations. (2Pe 2:4)…
… However, wayward Israel went so far as to sacrifice their sons and daughters to the demons. (Ps 106:37; De 32:17; 2Ch 11:15)…
According to this same volume the Greek word for demon, as well as its compound form, can also be used in reference to deities:
This use of the word ‘demon’ is narrow and specific compared with the notions of ancient philosophers and the way the word was used in classical Greek. In this regard the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by G. Kittel (Viol. II, p. 8), remarks: “The meaning of the ad[jective daimonios] brings out most clearly the distinctive features of the G[ree]k conception of demons, for it denotes that which lies outwith human capacity and is thus to be attributed to the intervention of higher powers, whether for good or evil. [To daimonion] in pre-Christian writers can be used in the sense of ‘divine.’” (Translated and edited by G. Bromiley, 1971) When speaking controversially with Paul, some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers concluded: “He seems to be a publisher of foreign deities [Gr., daimonion].”- Ac 17:18
When speaking to the Athenians, Paul used a compound of the Greek word daimon, saying: “You seem to be more given to the fear of the deities [Gr., deisdaimonesterous; Latin Vulgate, ‘more superstitious’] than others are.” Commenting on this compound word, F. F. Bruce remarks: “The context must decide whether this word is used in its better or worse sense. It was, in fact, as vague as ‘religious’ in Eng[lish], and here we may best translate ‘very religious’. But AV ‘superstitious’ is not entirely wrong; to Paul their religion was mostly superstition, as it also was though on other grounds, to the Epicureans.”- The Acts of the Apostles, 1970, p. 335.
When speaking to King Herod Agrippa II, Festus said that the Jews had certain disputes with Paul concerning their “worship of the deity” [Gr., deisdaimoni’as; Latin Vulgate, ‘superstition’]. (Acts 25:19) It was noted by F. F. Bruce that this Greek word “might be less politely rendered ‘superstition’ (as in AV). The corresponding adjective appears with the same ambiguity in [Acts] 17:22.”- Commentary on the Book of the Acts, 1971, p. 483. (Ibid., p. 613)
The NWT renders these specific terms as deities, lending further support that demons were mistakenly viewed and/or worshiped as gods. The following citation further demonstrates that demons are angels, and that behind every idol lay an angelic presence:
“All worshipers of images are put to shame, who make their boast in worthless idols; all gods bow down before him.” Psalm 97:7 RSV
The LXX understood these gods to be angels:
Let all that worship graven images be ashamed, who boast of their idols; worship him, all ye his angels. Brenton’s
We know of course that the angels which are connected to the idols are in fact demons. More importantly, both the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) and the LXX retain a variant reading in De 32:43 that is not found in the Masoretic text (MT). The variant reading provides additional evidence that the gods to whom Yahweh was referring in De. 32:39 included the angels:
“Rejoice, O heavens, together with him, and bow down to him all you gods, for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and will render vengeance to his enemies, and will recompense those who hate him and will atone for the land of his people.” (Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The Oldest Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English, translated and with commentary by Martin Abegg Jr., Peter Flint & Eugene Ulrich [HarperCollins, paperback edition: October 22, 2002], p. 193; bold emphasis ours)
“Rejoice, ye heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him; rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him; for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and he will render vengeance, and recompense justice to his enemies, and will reward them that hate him; and the Lord shall purge the land of his people.” Brenton’s LXX
Stafford, interestingly, believes that Paul [sic] quoted De 32:43 in Hebrews 1:6:
“It is also not out of the ordinary to find ‘angels’ as a translation for ’elohim. The LXX of both Deuteronomy 32:43 and Psalm 97:7 use ‘angels’ for ’elohim. The author of Hebrews (whom Jehovah’s Witnesses believe to be the apostle Paul) even quotes Deuteronomy 32:43 in Hebrews 1:6, again showing his agreement with the LXX in using ‘angels’ for ‘gods.’ The same is true of Psalm 138:1, where ’elohim again is translated ‘angels.’” (Ibid., pp. 110-111)
“The LXX of De 32:43 is more likely the source of Paul’s quotation as there are LXX manuscripts of this text that match Paul’s quotation word for word. That he primarily quotes from the Psalms is not a deterrent to accepting Heb 1:6 as a quotation from De 32:43, since he also quotes from 2Sa 7:14 in Heb 1:5. The quotation in Heb 1:6 seems to have come from a Hebrew recension other than MT, which is reflected in 4QDeutq… (Ibid., p. 111, f. 105)
At times, the DSS and the LXX preserve a more primitive, and thus more accurate, form of the Hebrew text. Stafford agrees. In commenting why Hebrews 10:5 used the LXX’s rendering of Psalm 40:6 instead of the MT, Stafford writes:
“… As for why Hebrews 10:5 accepts the meaning of the LXX over the Hebrew of Psalm 40:6, it may be that at this point the LXX reflects a more ancient Hebrew text than the MT. This is clearly the case with Deuteronomy 32:43, which differs from MT but agrees with the more primitive text of 4QDeutq (see note 105 above).” (Ibid., p. 112; bold emphasis ours)
The most amazing part about all this is that Stafford fails to make the connection between the gods mentioned in De 32:39 with the angelic gods of De 32:43! Stafford actually thinks that the renderings found in DSS and LXX support his position that angels are gods, when in fact it proves the exact opposite! It proves that when Yahweh says that there are no gods with him he means exactly that, i.e. that neither angels nor idols are gods in nature. In this respect the Watchtower got it right since it is true that De 32 is attacking beings which are falsely viewed as gods. Yet where the Watchtower got it wrong is in their claim that these beings do not include angels. The scriptures clearly teach that others may falsely consider angels as gods, but the truth is that Yahweh alone is God in essence and nature. As the Psalmist says:
“There is none like you among the gods, O Jehovah, Neither are there any works like yours. All the nations whom you have made will themselves come, And they will bow down before you, O Jehovah, And will give glory to your name. For you are great and are doing wondrous things. You are God, YOU ALONE.” Psalm 86:8-10
The inspired Psalmist states that Yahweh alone is God amongst the other so-called gods. The 1984 NWT of the Holy Scriptures with References has a footnote here, which reads:
8* “Among the gods.” Heb., va’elohim’; Gr., the-ois; Lat., di’is; T, “lofty angels.”
Evidently, the Jewish translators of the Targums understood these gods to be angels. There is nothing in the context of Psalm 86 linking these so-called gods with the gods/idols of the nations. Furthermore, the Psalms themselves provide support that these are angels, as the NWT makes plain. The NWT cross-references the preceding text with Psalm 89:6. Verse 7 is included for context:
"For who in the skies can be compared to Jehovah? Who can resemble Jehovah among the sons of God? God is to be held in awe among the intimate group of holy ones; He is grand and fear-inspiring over all who are round about him.”
The reference to the sons of God demonstrates that these are angels, which provides additional support that Yahweh alone is God amongst the heavenly host.
Other passages affirming that Yahweh alone is God include:
“You-you have been shown that Jehovah is the [true] God (ha elohim); there is no other besides him… And you well know today, and you must call back to your heart that Jehovah is the [true] God (ha elohim) in the HEAVENS ABOVE and on the earth beneath. THERE IS NO OTHER.” Deuteronomy 4:35, 39
The LXX reads:
KURIOS hO QEOS SOU hOUTOS QEOS ESTI (“the Lord your God, He is God”)… KURIOS hO QEOS SOU hOUTOS QEOS.
Notice that we have a Colwell Construction (preverbal anarthrous QEOS before EIMI) in verse 35 and an implied one in verse 39. It may be that here we have a qualitative use of QEOS here, which would entail that the text is actually saying, “The Lord your God, He is (by nature) God.”
Yahweh alone is elohim in heaven and on earth, showing once more that the angels who are in heaven are not real gods. It would be nonsense to say that this refers to idols and/or to the false gods of the nations, since neither the idols nor the false gods dwell in heaven.
“There is none holy as Jehovah; For there is none besides thee, Neither is there any rock like our God… Jehovah killeth, and maketh alive: He bringeth down to Sheol, and bringeth up.” 1 Samuel 2:2, 6 ASV
all the peoples of the earth may know that Jehovah, he is God; there
is none else.” 1 Kings 8:60 ASV
Again, there is nothing in the particular context of the preceding citations about the gods or idols of the nations, which indicates that the claim that there is none besides Yahweh means exactly that. There are simply no other gods. Hence, all these citations conclusively demonstrate that whatever the word “gods” means in relation to Yahweh’s angelic host, one thing it does not mean is that these beings are actually gods in nature. In the words of the Apostle Paul:
“Nevertheless, when YOU did not know God, then it was that YOU slaved for those who by NATURE are NOT gods.” Galatians 4:8
To summarize the data thus far:
1. De 32:39 states that there are no gods alongside Yahweh.
2. The context shows that these gods include demons.
3. Demons therefore are not gods.
4. According to the Holy Bible demons are actually angels.
5. Since demons are angels who are not gods, angels therefore are not gods.
We now turn to the second point, namely that De 32:39 refers to God’s activity. Sanders’ claim that there was no other god besides Yahweh who acted on Israel’s behalf provides additional proof that the JW position is unbiblical. The scriptures clearly say that God wasn’t alone in redeeming Israel:
“And Jehovah was going ahead of them in the daytime in a pillar of cloud to lead them by the way, and in the nighttime in a pillar of fire to give them light to go in the daytime and nighttime. The pillar of cloud would not move away from before the people in the daytime nor the pillar of fire in the nighttime.” Exodus 13:21-22
“Then the angel of the [true] God who was going ahead of the camp of Israel departed and went to their rear and the pillar of cloud departed from their van and stood in the rear of them. So it came in between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. On the one hand it proved to be a cloud together with darkness. On the other hand it kept lighting up the night. And this group did not come near that group all night long… And it came about during the morning watch that Jehovah began to look out upon the camp of the Egyptians from within the pillar of fire and cloud, and he went throwing the camp of the Egyptians into confusion. And he kept taking the wheels off their chariots so that they were driving them with difficulty; and the Egyptians began to say: ‘Let us flee from any contact with Israel, because Jehovah certainly fights for them against the Egyptians.’” Exodus 14:19-20, 24-25
“Here I am sending an angel ahead of you to keep you on the road and to bring you into the place that I have prepared. Watch yourself because of him and obey his voice. Do not behave rebelliously against him, for he will not pardon YOUR transgression; because my name is within him. However, if you strictly obey his voice, and really do all that I shall speak, then I shall certainly be hostile to your enemies and harass those who harass you. For my angel will go ahead of you and will indeed bring you to the Am’orites and the Hit’tites and the Per’izzites and the Ca’naanites, the Hi’vites and the Jeb’usites, and I shall certainly efface them.” Exodus 23:20-23
“And Jehovah said further to Moses: ‘Go move up from here, you and the people, whom you led up out of the land of Egypt, to the land about which I swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, “To your seed I shall give it.” And I will send an angel ahead of you and drive out the Ca’naanites, the Am’orites, and the Hit’tites and the Per’izzites, the Hi’vites and the Jeb’usites; to land flowing with milk and honey, for I shall not go up in the midts of you, because you are a stiff-necked people, that I may not exterminate you on the way.’’’ Exodus 33:1-3
“Finally we cried out to Jehovah and he heard our voice and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt; and here we are in Ka’desh, a city at the extremity of your territory.” Numbers 20:16
“Then Jehovah’s angel went up from Gil’gal to Bo’chim and said: ‘I proceeded to bring YOU up out of Egypt and to bring YOU into the land about which I swore to YOUR forefathers. Furthermore, I said, “Never shall I break my covenant with YOU. And for YOUR part, you must not conclude a covenant with the inhabitants of this land. Their altars YOU should pull down.” But YOU have not listened to my voice. Why have YOU done this? So I, in turn, have said, “I shall not drive them away from before YOU, and their gods will serve as a lure to YOU.”’ And it came about that as soon as Jehovah’s angel had spoken these words to all the sons of Israel, the people began to raise their voices and weep. Hence they called the name of that place Bo’chim. And they proceeded to sacrifice to Jehovah.” Judges 2:1-5
will make mention of the lovingkindnesses of Jehovah, [and] the praises
of Jehovah, according to all that Jehovah hath bestowed on us, and the
great goodness toward the house of Israel, which he hath bestowed on
them according to his mercies, and according to the multitude of his
lovingkindnesses. For he said, Surely, they are my people, children that
will not deal falsely: so he was
their Saviour. In all their affliction he was afflicted, AND
THE ANGEL OF HIS PRESENCE SAVED THEM: in his love and in his pity he
redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of
old. But they rebelled, and
grieved his holy Spirit: therefore he was turned to be their enemy,
[and] himself fought against them. Then he remembered the days of old,
Moses [and] his people, [saying], Where
is he that brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his
flock? where is he that put his holy Spirit in the midst of them? that
caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses? that divided
the waters before them, to make himself an everlasting name? that led
them through the depths, as a horse in the wilderness, so that they
stumbled not? As the cattle that go down into the valley, the Spirit
of Jehovah caused them to rest; so didst thou lead thy people, to make
thyself a glorious name.” Isaiah 63:8-9 ASV
“And when forty years were fulfilled, there appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Si’nai an angel in the fiery flame of a thornbush…This Moses, whom they disowned, saying, ‘Who appointed you ruler and judge?’ this man God sent off as both ruler and deliverer by the hand of the angel that appeared to him in the thornbush… This is he that came to be among the congregation in the wilderness with the angel that spoke to him on Mount Si’nai and with our forefathers, and he received living sacred pronouncements to give YOU.” Acts 7:30, 35, 38
Other passages show that this angel wasn’t alone since there were myriads of angels accompanying him:
“… Jehovah-from Si’nai came, And he flashed forth from Se’ir upon them. He beamed forth from the mountainous region of Pa’ran, And with him were holy myriads, At his right hand warriors belonging to them.” Deuteronomy 33:2
“YOU who received the LAW as transmitted by angels but have not kept it.” Acts 7:53
“Why, then, the Law? It was added to make transgression manifest, until the seed should arrive to whom the promise had been made; and it was transmitted through angels by the hand of a mediator.” Galatians 3:19
“For if the word spoken through angels proved to be firm, and every transgression and disobedient act received a retribution in harmony with justice;” Hebrews 2:2
We are now left with one of two conclusions. Either Sanders is right that Yahweh was the only god who acted on behalf of Israel, which means that these angels were not gods. Or the Watchtower and Stafford are correct regarding the existence of angelic gods, which means that Yahweh wasn’t the only god who acted on Israel’s behalf. Both positions can’t be true.
Either way, JWs are left with major problems. Adopting Sanders’ position nullifies the JW belief in angelic gods. Adopting the JW view that there are angelic gods would lead to a contradiction with De 32:39 which says that there are no gods with Yahweh. As we have seen, the reference to demons in De 32:17 shows that angels are also included amongst those who are said to be no gods, contrary to the claims of the Watchtower and Stafford.
In light of the preceding, the JW position that angels are gods cannot be maintained. Yahweh alone is God in essence and nature.
Stafford may argue that
an angel acting as God’s agent on behalf of Israel is not the same
thing as an angelic god working on Israel’s behalf of his own accord.
He nay argue that since the angels are God’s agents, it is
still God who acts alone through them on Israel’s behalf.
Stafford chooses to argue this way, then he would only be missing the
point that the word “only” means “only one.”
If angels acted on Israel’s behalf - regardless of their
supposed agency - they are still there with YHWH, and YHWH is therefore
What then of the JW interpretation of John 1:1? The biblical data shows that translating the passage as “a god” is not acceptable. It is in clear violation of the clear absolute monotheism taught in the inspired pages of Scripture.
For more information regarding John 1:1 and the JW translation, please consult the following excellent articles and discussions:
4:8 and the Trinity
Apologist Greg Stafford takes issue with Evangelicals using Galatians 4:8 to deny the existence of angelic gods:
Galatians 4:8 is often misused to prove that there are no gods other than Jehovah. After rightly referring to Isa 45:21-22 as a challenge to idol gods, James White (The Forgotten Trinity, 37-38) refers to Ga 4:8 as evidence that Paul refers to idols as “those that ‘by nature are no gods.’” But he then concludes, “A god other than Yahweh is, by nature, a ‘no god.’” Unless White is going to argue that Galatians slaved for the angels who served God ‘when they did not know God,’ his general conclusion does not follow from Paul’s specific statement in Ga 4:8. Bowman’s handling for this text (Why You Should Believe in the Trinity, 53-54) and 1Co 10:20 is also rather interesting. Paul refers to the idols in 1Co 10:19 as “nothing”; they are not the demons who use them in verse 20. Bowman simply assumes that in Ga 4:8 Paul is speaking about the demons, and not the idols. Since this cannot be proven, then for him to use it as proof against facts that are clearly articulated elsewhere regarding the angels as “gods” is most unfortunate. (Ibid., p. 99. 90n)
Before addressing Stafford’s claim, it needs to be mentioned that Paul wrote Galatians to combat the false teachings of the Judaizers. There were some Jews who were trying to persuade the Galatians to follow a false Gospel which taught the necessity of faith in Christ and observance of the Mosaic Law for salvation. Little is said about idols. In light of this Paul writes:
“Likewise we also, when we were babes, continued enslaved by the elementary things belonging to the world (ta stoicheia tou kosmou emetha dedoulomenoi). But when the full limit of the time arrived, God sent forth his Son, who came to be out of a woman, and who came to be under the law, that he might release by purchase those under the law, that we, in turn, might receive the adoption as sons. Now because you are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of his Son into our hearts and it cries out: ‘Abba, Father!’ So then, you are no longer a slave (doulus) but a son; and if a son, also an heir through God. Nevertheless, when YOU did not know God, then it was that YOU slaved for those who by nature are not gods (edouleusate tois pusei me ousi theois). But now that you have come to know God, or rather now that YOU have come to be known by God, how is it that YOU are turning back again to the weak and beggarly elementary things and want to slave for them over again (ta esthene kai ptocha stoicheia ois palin anothen douleusai thelete)? You are scrupulously observing days and months and seasons and years.” Galatians 4:3-10
The context shows that being enslaved to these so-called gods meant being enslaved to false religious teachings which do not originate from God. Paul reiterates this point elsewhere:
“Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry YOU off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world (kata ta stoicheia tou kosmou) and not according to Christ… Therefore, let no man judge YOU in eating and drinking or in respect of a festival or an observance of the new moon or of a Sabbath; for those things are a shadow of the things to come, but the reality belongs to the Christ. Let no man deceive YOU of the prize who takes delight in a [mock] humility and a form of worship of the angels, ‘taking his stand on’ THE THINGS HE HAS SEEN, puffed up without proper cause by his fleshly frame of mind, whereas he is not holding fast to the head, to the one from whom all the body, being supplied and harmoniously joined together by means of its joints and ligaments, goes on growing with the growth that God gives. If YOU died together with Christ toward the elementary things of the world (ton stoicheion tou kosmou), why do YOU, as if living in the world, further subject yourselves to decrees: ‘Do not handle, nor taste, nor touch,’ respecting things that are all destined to destruction by being used up, in accordance and teachings of men? Those very things are, indeed, possessed of an appearance of wisdom in a self-imposed form of worship and [mock] humility, a sever treatment of the body; but they are of no value in combating the satisfying of the flesh.” Colossians 2:8, 16-23
Furthermore, the Holy Bible states that this corrupt and evil world is under Satan’s control:
“So he brought him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the inhabited earth in an instant of time; and the Devil said to him: ‘I will give you all this authority and the glory of them, because it has been delivered to me and to whomever I wish I give it. You, therefore, if you do an act of worship, it will all be yours.’” Luke 4:5-7
Note that Satan here requests worship, providing indirect evidence that the gods whom Paul said that the Gentiles served were Satan and his demons.
“Now there is a judging of this world; now the ruler of this world (ho archon tou kosmou toutou) will be cast.” John 12:31
“I shall not speak much with YOU anymore, for the ruler of this world (ho tou kosmou archon) is coming. And he has no hold on me.” John 14:30 cf. 16:11
“He gave himself for our sins that he might deliver us from the present wicked system (ek tou aionos tou enestotos ponerou) according to the will of our God and Father.” Galatians 1:4
“in which YOU at one time walked according to the system of things of this world (ton aiona tou kosmou toutou), according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience.” Ephesians 2:2
“We know we originate from God but the whole world (ho kosmos holos) is lying in the [power of the] wicked one.” 1 John 5:19
Third, the scriptures teach that all false human wisdom and traditions are inspired by Satan and his angels, with the purpose of preventing men from embracing the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ:
“But I am afraid that somehow, as the serpent seduced Eve by its cunning, YOUR minds might be corrupted away from the sincerity and the chastity that are due the Christ. For, as it is, if someone comes and preaches a Jesus other than the one we preached, or YOU receive a spirit other than what YOU received, or good news other than what YOU accepted, YOU easily put up [with him].” 2 Corinthians 11:3-4
“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And now wonder, for Satan himself keeps transforming himself into an angel of light. It is therefore nothing great if his ministers also keep transforming themselves into ministers of righteousness. But their end shall be according to their woks.” 2 Corinthians 13-15
“Let no one seduce YOU in any manner, because it will not come unless the apostasy comes first and the man of lawlessness gets revealed, the son of destruction. He is set in opposition and lifts himself up over everyone who is called ‘god’ or an object of reverence, so that he sits down in the temple of The God, publicly showing himself to be a god… But the lawless one’s presence is according to the operation of Satan with every powerful work and lying signs and portents and with every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing, as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved. So that is why God lets an operation of error go to them, in order that they all may be judged because they did not believe the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 9-12
“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth. For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer.” 1 Timothy 4:1-5
“Who is the liar if it is not the one that denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one that denies the Father and the Son. Everyone that denies the Son does not have the Father. He that confesses the Son has the Father also.” 1 John 2:22-23
“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world (autoi ek tou kosmou eisin) and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood ” 1 John 4:1-6 NIV
We see here that an antichrist is one who belongs to and speaks from the world.
“And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority. One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. The whole world was astonished and followed the beast. Men worshiped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshiped the beast and asked, ‘Who is like the beast? Who can make war against him?’ The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months. He opened his mouth to blaspheme God, and to slander his name and his dwelling place and those who live in heaven… Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed. And he performed great and miraculous signs, even causing fire to come down from heaven to earth in full view of men. Because of the signs he was given power to do on behalf of the first beast, he deceived the inhabitants of the earth. He ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. He was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that it could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.” Revelation 13:2-6, 11-15 NIV
“Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.” Revelation 16:13-14 NIV
The preceding citations help clarify Paul’s meaning in Galatians 4. Both this fallen world and its religious traditions and wisdom are under the control of Satan. This provides evidence that Paul’s reference to the so-called gods is not a reference to idols as such, but to the evil, wicked spirits that enslave man through their false teachings. In other words, Paul is claiming that Satan and his demons, being the source of all false religious knowledge and wisdom, are false gods; spiritual beings that are not gods in nature.
even if Paul did have idols in mind this still wouldn’t help
Stafford’s case in the least. The pagans who worshipped idols
weren’t that naive. They
understood that the piece of wood or stone was not the god itself, but
an earthly representation of a divine being.
It was the divine being behind the idol that they worshipped.
Paul himself says as much when he states that the heathen made
images of the creature and worshiped them instead of worshiping the
to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal
God for images resembling mortal
man or birds or animals or reptiles. Therefore God gave them up in
the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their
bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for
a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who
is blessed for ever! Amen” Romans 1:22-25 RSV
when Paul says, “we know that an idol is nothing in this world,” he
is presupposing that his audience would heartily agree - and not simply
because as Christians they had come to some sort of new understanding.
Rather, they knew the idol was nothing and could not help them,
but now - as Christians - they acknowledge the one, true God (in
distinction from the “gods many” whom the pagans knew stood behind
their idols) - the only God who is “God by nature.”
these ‘gods’ were not ‘gods by nature,’ Paul implies that there
is at least one who is God by nature - and this itself refutes
the JW argument that Scripture does not speak of God’s nature. De
32:17 says the same thing - the demons (not idols!) were “not
Finally, as we have already shown, even without Galatians 4:8 there is still plenty of evidence proving that demons, and therefore angels, are not gods. Here are a couple of more citations:
“No; but I say that the things which the nations sacrifice they sacrifice to demons, and not to God (ou theo); and I do not want YOU to become sharers with the demons.” 1 Corinthians 10:20
A JW may claim that singular theos here shows that Paul is not denying that demons are essentially gods, but that the sacrifices of Gentiles are not offered to the one eternal God. The problem with this assertion is that it neglects to take Paul’s statement in light of its OT background which, as we have seen, emphatically teaches that there is only one God in essence and nature:
And he proceeded to put in office for himself priests for the high
places and for the goat-shaped
DEMONS and for the calves that he had made. 2 Chronicles 11:15
"And now YOU men are thinking of holding YOUR own against the kingdom of Jehovah in the hand of the sons of David, when YOU are a large crowd and there are with YOU the golden calves that Jero-bo'am made for YOU as gods (lelohim). Have you not driven out Jehovah's priests, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and do YOU not keep making priests for yourselves like the peoples of the lands? As for anyone that came and filled his hand with power by means of a young bull and seven rams, he became a priest of what are NO gods (lelo elohim)." 2 Chronicles 13:8-9
The demons that Jeroboam and others sacrificed to are specifically said to be no gods at all, reinforcing our claim that the Holy Bible denies that angels are gods in nature. Hence, Paul’s use of singular theos may simply be his way of highlighting the consistent OT teaching that there is only one God. Every other so-called deity is a non-deity.