Why is Jesus called God’s Son? Answer the Door
The question “Why is Jesus Called God’s Son” appears on www.jw.org – The Watchtower organization’s website for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Below is their answer and then my response.
“God does not have a literal wife with whom he fathered children. But he is the Creator of all life. (Revelation 4:11) Therefore, the first human that God created, Adam, is called a “
son of God.” (Luke 3:38) Similarly, the Bible teaches that Jesus was created by God. So Jesus is also called a “
Son of God.”—John 1:49.
God created Jesus before he created Adam. Regarding Jesus, the apostle Paul wrote: “
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (Colossians 1:15) Jesus’ life began long before he was born in a stable in Bethlehem. In fact, the Bible says that his “
origin is from early times, from the days of time indefinite.” (Micah 5:2) As God’s firstborn Son, Jesus was a spirit creature in heaven before he was born as a human on earth. Jesus himself said: “
I have come down from heaven.”—John 6:38; 8:23.”
The problem you will find with groups who deny the deity of Christ is a twisting of scripture in order to fit the Word in with their beliefs. This is the case for Jehovah’s Witnesses.
One of Jehovah’s Witnesses “go to” verses is Colossians 1:15. They jump on the word “firstborn” without the most basic hermeneutical look at the word in its context. Lets help them out here.
The Greek word here for “firstborn” is prototokos. This word appears throughout both the Old Testament (Septuagint) and the New Testament with a meaning of chronology (order of birth) and position (meaning the emphasis is on the position of being the firstborn – receiving all the honor and favor that is due to one being born first in a family).
Examples of its chronological meaning:
“Canaan became the father of Sidon, his firstborn, and Heth” Genesis 10:15
“‘It came about, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the LORD killed every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore, I sacrifice to the LORD the males, the first offspring of every womb, but every firstborn of my sons I redeem.” Exodus 13:15
Examples of a positional meaning:
“I also shall make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth.” Psalm 89:27
It is easy for a Jehovah’s Witness to take this one scripture and select prototokos as meaning chronological; but that is to take this verse out of context. Thankfully, Paul does not end this passage here.
Verse 16: For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. (NAS)
Now lets compare this translation – from the New American Standard Bible, a literal word for word translation – to the Jehovah’s Witness translation, the New World Translation (NWT).
“because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All [other] things have been created through him and for him.”
The word “other” has been bracketed because it does not appear in the Greek text. The New World translators have inserted this word into their Bible – but why? What I said before, “The problem you will find with groups who deny the deity of Christ is a twisting of scripture in order to fit the Word in with their beliefs”. Had Paul meant to signify Jesus as the firstborn of all creation in a chronological sense he would have used “after him all things were created” – a much different Pauline preposition. But he didn’t. Paul says “by Him all things were created” and lays the claim – by position – that Jesus Christ is the Creator of the universe.
Verse 17: He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. (NAS)
The NWT version: “Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist.”
Again, the word “other” – which does not appear in the Greek text – is inserted to fit the Jehovah’s Witness agenda.
The Greek term for “hold together” is “synistēmi” which literally means to “bring together or hold together something in its proper or appropriate place or relationship”. (1)
Paul makes the claim that the universe exists because of Jesus who put it together and further expounds the claim of verse 16 that Jesus is the Creator of the universe – a position of – not chronologically – the firstborn.
Verse 18: He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
In verse 18 Paul again gives Jesus a position – as head of the body of the church – and caps it off by saying that Jesus will come to have “first place” – prōteuō, meaning to be in the first position, with the implication of high rank and prominence—‘to be the first, to have superior status (2) – another position.
As you can see, nothing in this passage would lead anyone doing the Biblical text justice to believe that Paul mean the word prototokos in a chronological sense.
Paul claims that Jesus is the Creator/Sustainer of the Universe, the Head of the Church, the Risen Lord which makes him have “first place” – the highest rank of prominence – over all.
Read further into Colossians and you even see more when Paul writes that “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Col 2:9 NAS); though, while the NWT records this scripture as “because it is in him that all the fullness of the divine quality dwells bodily”.
From Mike Licona a New Testament historian and Christian apologist:
“The New World Translation renders “divine quality” instead of “deity.” What does the word mean? The Greek word is theotetos. There are two words in the Greek language Paul had to choose from.
A) theiotetos: divinity or has the quality of the divine; that which shows God to be God, and gives Him the right to worship. The emphasis is on his attributes.
B) theotetos: one who occupies the divine office and possesses all divine power. The emphasis is on his nature.
Both words are almost identical in spelling and meaning. Both acknowledge the deity of Christ. But the latter, theotetos, is stronger and is the word Paul uses. All the fullness (nothing excepted) of God’s essence dwells in Christ in bodily form. Thus, Colossians 2:9 clearly refers to Jesus as God.
A few years ago, I met an engineer from Greece who was visiting the United States. After a brief conversation, I asked if he could read Koine Greek, the language in which the New Testament was originally written. He said that in Greece it was a requirement in school to become familiar with the ancient forms of the language. I wrote Colossians 2:9 in Greek for him and substituted the original theotetos with theiotetos. I asked him to translate it for me. He read it and said, “This says, ‘God’s qualities are in Christ’s body.’ But it doesn’t make much sense.” I scratched out the substituted word and wrote the original word, theotetos, where it belonged. I then asked him to translate it for me. He looked at it and said with confidence, “Oh, this says that God came down and put on a body!” (3)
1 – Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (613). New York: United Bible Societies.
2 – Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (737). New York: United Bible Societies.
3- Licona, Mike “Behold I Stand at the Door and Knock: What to say to Jehovah’s Witnesses when They come Knocking on Your Door” Chapter 3.