As the Jehovah’s Witnesses hold to a unitarian understanding of God they have arguments in common with Islam apologists against a trinitarian view of God. So if we refute their arguments we also refute the arguments of Islam against the Trinity.
The following article was written by Sam Shamoun:
Answering the Jehovah’s Witnesses Concerning Thomas’ Confession
In this particular article we will be quoting from the online version of the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses (http://www.jw.org/en/publications/bible/nwt/books/) due to the fact that this is meant to be a response to their attempt of explaining away Thomas’ explicit confession to the Deity of Christ.
The Gospel of John records Thomas’ reaction to seeing the risen Lord a week after Christ’s resurrection:
“But Thomas, one of the Twelve, who was called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were telling him: ‘We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them: ‘Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails and stick my finger into the print of the nails and stick my hand into his side, I will never believe it.’ Well, eight days later his disciples were again indoors, and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and he stood in their midst and said: ‘May you have peace.’ Next he said to Thomas: ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands, and take your hand and stick it into my side, and stop doubting but believe.’ In answer Thomas SAID TO HIM: ‘My Lord and my God! (ho kyrios mou kai ho theos mou)’ Jesus said to him: ‘Because you have seen me, have you believed? Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’” John 20:24-29
Thomas confesses that Jesus is not only his Lord but also his God, with Christ accepting Thomas’ testimony as a sign of his having truly believed.
Such a testimony would seem to settle the issue of whether Jesus is Jehovah God in the flesh (though not the Father or the Holy Spirit). Yet such is not the case since here is how the WatchTower Bible and Tract Society of the Jehovah’s Witnesses try to get around Thomas’ proclamation of the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ:
On the occasion of Jesus’ appearance to Thomas and the other apostles, which had removed Thomas’ doubts of Jesus’ resurrection, the now-convinced Thomas exclaimed to Jesus: “My Lord and my God! [literally, “The Lord of me and the God (ho The·os′) of me!”].” (Joh 20:24-29) Some scholars have viewed this expression as an exclamation of astonishment spoken to Jesus but actually directed to God, his Father. However, others claim the original Greek requires that the words be viewed as being directed to Jesus. Even if this is so, the expression “My Lord and my God” would still have to harmonize with the rest of the inspired Scriptures. Since the record shows that Jesus had previously sent his disciples the message, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God,” there is no reason for believing that Thomas thought Jesus was the Almighty God. (Joh 20:17) John himself, after recounting Thomas’ encounter with the resurrected Jesus, says of this and similar accounts: “But these have been written down that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God, and that, because of believing, you may have life by means of his name.”—Joh 20:30, 31.
So, Thomas may have addressed Jesus as “my God” in the sense of Jesus’ being “a god” though not the Almighty God, not “the only true God,” to whom Thomas had often heard Jesus pray. (Joh 17:1-3) Or he may have addressed Jesus as “my God” in a way similar to expressions made by his forefathers, recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures, with which Thomas was familiar. On various occasions when individuals were visited or addressed by an angelic messenger of Jehovah, the individuals, or at times the Bible writer setting out the account, responded to or spoke of that angelic messenger as though he were Jehovah God. (Compare Ge 16:7-11, 13; 18:1-5, 22-33; 32:24-30; Jg 6:11-15; 13:20-22.) This was because the angelic messenger was acting for Jehovah as his representative, speaking in his name, perhaps using the first person singular pronoun, and even saying, “I am the true God.” (Ge 31:11-13; Jg 2:1-5) Thomas may therefore have spoken to Jesus as “my God” in this sense, acknowledging or confessing Jesus as the representative and spokesman of the true God. Whatever the case, it is certain that Thomas’ words do not contradict the clear statement he himself had heard Jesus make, namely, “The Father is greater than I am.”—Joh 14:28. (Insight to the Scriptures, Volume 2: http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200002451)
Suffice it to say, the Society’s answer here introduces major problems which cannot be easily brushed aside.
To begin with, there is simply no way around the fact that the grammar of John 20:28 conclusively proves that Thomas was confessing Jesus as his Lord and God, as even the above excerpt acknowledges. Yet herein lies the problem for the JW’s since the Holy Bible is quite clear that the only God an Israelite can have and worship is Jehovah. Note, for instance, the following verses:
“Listen, O Israel: Jehovah OUR GOD is one Jehovah. You must love Jehovah your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:4-5
“Awake and rise to my defense, My God, Jehovah, defend me in my legal case. Judge me according to your righteousness, O Jehovah my God; Do not let them gloat over me.” Psalm 35:23-24
“For on you, O Jehovah, I waited, And you answered me, O Jehovah my God… Do hurry to help me, O Jehovah, my salvation.” Psalm 38:15, 22
“Jehovah is God; He gives us light. Join in the festival procession with branches in hand, Up to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will praise you; My God, I will exalt you.” Psalm 118:27-28
“I say to Jehovah: ‘You are my God. Listen, O Jehovah, to my pleas for help.’” Psalm 140:6
This is even confirmed by the same WatchTower publication cited earlier:
In its articles on Jehovah, The Imperial Bible-Dictionary nicely illustrates the difference between ʼElo·him′ (God) and Jehovah. Of the name Jehovah, it says: “It is everywhere a proper name, denoting the personal God and him only; whereas Elohim partakes more of the character of a common noun, denoting usually, indeed, but not necessarily nor uniformly, the Supreme. . . . The Hebrew may say the Elohim, the true God, in opposition to all false gods; but he never says the Jehovah, for Jehovah is the name of the true God only. He says again and again my God . . . ; but never my Jehovah, for when he says my God, he means Jehovah. He speaks of the God of Israel, but never of the Jehovah of Israel, for there is no other Jehovah. He speaks of the living God, but never of the living Jehovah, for he cannot conceive of Jehovah as other than living.”—Edited by P. Fairbairn, London, 1874, Vol. I, p. 856. (Insight to the Scriptures, Volume 2: http://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200002391; bold emphasis mine)
Since the above source admits that when a Hebrew or Israelite uses “my God” he means Jehovah how, then, can a Jehovah’s Witness get around this clear cut contradiction in John 20:28? After all, if the Society is right that Jesus is not Jehovah then he cannot be anybody’s God, especially that of an Israelite’s.
Logically, the only way around this is to admit that Jesus is Jehovah, even though he is not the Father. Note the following syllogism:
A. When an Israelite says “my God” he means Jehovah.
B. Thomas, an Israelite, calls Jesus “my God.”
C. Jesus must, therefore, be Jehovah in order to be Thomas’ God (even though Christ is not the Father or the Holy Spirit).
Since both premises are true the conclusion is therefore inescapable.
Related to the above, the Scriptures expressly warn the Israelites that they cannot worship any other god besides Jehovah:
“You must not bow down to another god, for Jehovah is known for requiring exclusive devotion. Yes, he is a God who requires exclusive devotion.” Exodus 34:14
“I am Jehovah YOUR GOD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You must never have any other gods besides me. You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything that is in the heavens above or on the earth below or in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them nor be led to serve them, for I, Jehovah YOUR GOD, am a God who requires exclusive devotion, bringing punishment for the error of fathers upon sons, upon the third generation and upon the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing loyal love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.” Deuteronomy 5:6-10
“Jehovah YOUR GOD you should fear, and him you should serve, and by his name you should swear. You must not follow after other gods, any gods of the peoples who are all around you, for Jehovah YOUR GOD who is in your midst is a God who requires exclusive devotion. Otherwise, the anger of Jehovah YOUR GOD will blaze against you and he will annihilate you from the face of the earth.” Deuteronomy 6:13-15
“To this day they follow their former religions. None of them worship Jehovah, and none follow his statutes, his judgments, the Law, and the commandment that Jehovah gave the sons of Jacob, whose name he changed to Israel. When Jehovah made a covenant with them, he commanded them: ‘You must not fear other gods, and you must not bow down to them or serve them or sacrifice to them. But Jehovah, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt with great power and an outstretched arm, is the One you should fear, and to him you should bow down, and to him you should sacrifice. And the regulations, the judgments, the Law, and the commandment that he wrote for you, you should always follow carefully, and you must not fear other gods. And you must not forget the covenant that I made with you, and you must not fear other gods. But it is Jehovah YOUR GOD whom you should fear, as he is the one who will rescue you out of the hand of all your enemies.’” 2 Kings 17:34-39
This prohibition also applies to the angelic host – whom Jehovah’s Witnesses consider to be gods or mighty ones – as the following verses prove:
“And he tells me, ‘Write: Happy are those invited to the evening meal of the Lamb’s marriage.’ Also, he tells me: ‘These are the true sayings of God.’ At that I fell down before his feet to worship him. But he tells me: ‘Be careful! Do not do that! I am ONLY A FELLOW SLAVE of you and of your brothers who have the work of witnessing concerning Jesus. Worship God! For the witness concerning Jesus is what inspires prophecy.’” Revelation 19:9-10
“Well I, John, was the one hearing and seeing these things. When I heard and saw them, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing me these things. But he tells me: ‘Be careful! Do not do that! I am ONLY A FELLOW SLAVE of you and of your brothers the prophets and of those observing the words of this scroll. Worship God.’” Revelation 22:8-9
But this only compounds the problem since the sacred Scriptures teach that the Father demands every creature to honor Christ, whom the Witnesses claim is a god or mighty one, in the same way that they honor Jehovah:
“For the Father judges no one at all, but he has entrusted all the judging to the Son, so that all may honor the Son JUST AS they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” John 5:22-23
“Be in subjection to one another in fear of Christ.” Ephesians 5:21
“When he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the 24 elders fell down before the Lamb, and each one had a harp and golden bowls that were full of incense. (The incense means the prayers of the holy ones.) And they sing a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, for you were slaughtered and with your blood you bought people for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.’ And I saw, and I heard a voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders, and the number of them was myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, and they were saying with a loud voice: ‘The Lamb who was slaughtered is worthy to receive the power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.’ And I heard EVERY CREATURE in heaven and on earth and underneath the earth and on the sea, and all the things in them, saying: ‘To the One sitting on the throne AND TO THE LAMB be the blessing and the honor and the glory and the might forever and ever.’ The four living creatures were saying: ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshipped.” Revelation 5:8-14
In this last passage from Revelation, John depicts every created thing everywhere granting the Lamb the same exact worship that the One seated on the throne receives. Yet this is blatant idolatry and violates the express prohibition of the sacred Scriptures that believers are not to worship any god besides Jehovah. Moreover, how could Jesus be distinguished and differentiated from every created thing if he himself is a creature as JW’s believe?
As if it couldn’t get any worse for the Society, the inspired Scriptures proclaim that Christians were known for invoking and calling upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
“As they were stoning Stephen, he made this appeal: ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’” Acts 7:59
“But An·a·ni′as answered: ‘Lord, I have heard from many about this man, about all the harm he did to your holy ones in Jerusalem. And here he has authority from the chief priests to arrest all those calling on your name.’… and immediately in the synagogues he began to preach about Jesus, that this one is the Son of God. But all those hearing him were astonished and were saying: ‘Is this not the man who ravaged those in Jerusalem who call on this name? Did he not come here for the purpose of arresting them and taking them to the chief priests?’” Acts 9:13-14, 20-21
“to the congregation of God that is in Corinth, to you who have been sanctified in union with Christ Jesus, called to be holy ones, together with all those everywhere who are calling on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:” 1 Corinthians 1:2
Which, again, is an act of worship that the Holy Bible ascribes to Jehovah alone:
“Into your hand I entrust my spirit. You have redeemed me, O Jehovah, the God of truth.” Psalm 31:5
“Exalt Jehovah our God and bow down at his footstool; He is holy. Moses and Aaron were among his priests, And Samuel was among those calling on his name. They would call to Jehovah, And he would answer them. He would speak to them from the pillar of cloud. They kept his reminders and the decree that he gave to them. O Jehovah our God, you answered them. You were a God who pardoned them, But you punished them for their sinful deeds. Exalt Jehovah our God And bow down before his holy mountain, For Jehovah our God is holy.” Psalm 99:5-9
“I love Jehovah Because he hears my voice, my pleas for help. For he inclines his ear to me, And I will call on him as long as I live. The ropes of death encircled me; The Grave had me in its grip. I was overcome by distress and grief. But I called on the name of Jehovah: ‘O Jehovah, rescue me!’… I will take up the cup of salvation, And I will call on the name of Jehovah… I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving; I will call on the name of Jehovah.” Psalm 116:1-4, 13, 17
“Jehovah is near to all those calling on him, To all who call on him in truth.” Psalm 145:18
Therefore, in light of the foregoing the readers should ask the Jehovah’s Witness that come knocking on their doors to reconcile all of this with the Society’s express denial that Jesus is Jehovah. Have them address the explicit teaching of the Holy Bible that every created thing is commanded to (and eventually shall) render unto Christ the same worship, reverence, honor etc. that is supposed to be given to Jehovah alone. Also ask them to deal with the fact that their view essentially means that Thomas actually had two gods which he honored, namely Jehovah and Jesus a creature, even though the Scriptures expressly forbid the Israelites from having any other god besides Jehovah.
Thus, the Society is correct on one thing, namely, Thomas’ confession must harmonize with the rest of Scripture, which is why Jehovah’s Witnesses have no choice but to accept that Jesus must be Jehovah in the flesh in order for him to be Thomas’ God. As one noted NT scholar explains:
“The combination of the titles ‘Lord’ and ‘God’ appears in pagan religious literature and is represented in the ‘Dominus et Deus noster’ effected by the Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96; see Seutonius, Domitian, 13), who was probably the reigning emperor when the Gospel was being written and against whose pretensions the book of Revelation was directed. Nevertheless, there is scholarly agreement that John’s source for the titles is biblical, combining the terms used by the LXX to translate YHWH (= kyrios) and Elohim (= theos). Actually in LXX the usual translation of the combination of YHWH Elohay is ‘Lord, my God’ (Kyrie, ho theos mou –Bultmann, p. 538); the closest we come to the Johannine formula is Ps xxxv 23: ‘My God and my Lord.’
“This, then, is the supreme christological pronouncement of the Fourth Gospel. In ch. i the first disciples gave many titles to Jesus (vol. 29, pp. 77-78), and we have heard still others throughout the ministry: Rabbi, Messiah, Prophet, King of Israel, Son of God. In the post-resurrectional appearances Jesus has been hailed as the Lord by Magdalene and by the disciples as a group. But it is Thomas who makes clear that one may address Jesus in the same language in which Israel addressed Yahweh. Now is fulfilled the will of the Father ‘… that all men may honor the Son just as they honor the Father’ (John v 23). What Jesus predicted has come to pass: ‘When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM’ (viii 28). We note, however, that it is in a confession of faith that Jesus is honored as God. We have insisted (vol. 29, p. 24) that the NT use of ‘God’ for Jesus is not yet truly a dogmatic formulation, but appears in a liturgical or cultic context. It is a response of praise to the God who has revealed Himself in Jesus. Thus, Thomas’ ‘My Lord and my God’ is closely parallel to ‘The Word was God’ in the opening line of the hymn that has been prefixed to the Fourth Gospel. If Barrett is right in thinking that the appearance of Jesus in xx 19ff. is evocative of an early Christian liturgy (see NOTE on ‘that first day of the week’ in 19), Thomas speaks the doxology on behalf of the Christian community. We find a reflection of such a community acclamation in the scene depicted by the author of Rev iv 11, when the elders fall down before the throne of God singing, ‘Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power.’ In Revelation the acclamation is for the Father; in John it is for the Son; but then the Father and Son are one (John x 30). It is no wonder that Thomas’ confession constitutes the last words spoken by a disciple in the Fourth Gospel (as it was originally conceived, before the addition of ch. xxi)–nothing more profound could be said about Jesus.” (Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John, XIII-XXI (The Anchor Yale Bible Commentaries) [Yale University Press; First edition, 1970], pp. 1047-1048; bold and underline emphasis ours)
Hopefully this article will help them see the error of their ways and repent by accepting Jesus as Jehovah their God who became flesh for the purpose of dying on the cross as a vicarious sacrifice in order to save them from their sins.