BIBLICAL MONOTHEISM EXAMINED
Trinitarian or Henotheistic in Nature? Pt. 10
We now come to the next installment of our examination.
The final line of evidence in support of Jesus being Jehovah God is that Jesus receives the very worship due to God. This is precisely what we would expect to find if the NT writers viewed Jesus as God.
The Greek term used for worship is proskyneo, which can either mean to do obeisance or to worship. In the Old Testament, we find that many received obeisance:
“Afterward David also arose, and went out of the cave, and called after Saul, ‘My lord the king!’ And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the earth, and did obeisance (LXX – prosekynesen).” 1 Samuel 24:8 RSV
“And the third day, behold, a man from Saul’s camp, with his clothes rent and earth upon his head. And when he came to David, he fell to the ground and did obeisance (LXX – prosykunesen).” 2 Samuel 1:2 RSV
In NT times, however, the act of proskyneo to anyone besides God seems to have been forbidden altogether:
“As Peter entered, Cornelius met him, fell down at his feet and did obeisance (prosekynesen) to him. But Peter lift him up, saying: ‘Rise; I myself am also a man.’” Acts 10:25-26 NWT
“Well, I, John was the one hearing and seeing these things. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship (proskynesai) before the angel that had been showing me these things. But he tells me: ‘Be careful! Do not do that! All I am is a fellow slave of you and of your brothers who are prophets and of those who are observing the words of this scroll. Worship God (theo proskyneson).’” Revelation 22:8-9 NWT – Cf. 19:9-10
When we come to Jesus we find that not only is he worshiped, but that prayers, invocations, and doxologies are offered to him.
WORSHIP AND SERVICE
“Jehovah your God you should fear, and him you should serve, and by his name you should swear.” Deuteronomy 6:13 NWT
“… And let all the angels worship him.” Deut. 32:43 LXX
“for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations. All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him—those who cannot keep themselves alive." Psalm 22:28-29
“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.” Psalm 86:9 NWT
“O come let us cry out joyfully to Jehovah! Let us shout in triumph to our Rock of salvation. Let us come before his person with thanksgiving; Let us with melodies shout in triumph to him. For Jehovah is a great God And a great King over all [other] gods, He in whose hand are the inmost depths of the earth And to whom the peaks of the mountains belong; To whom the sea, which he himself made, belongs And whose own hands formed the dry land itself. O come in, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before Jehovah our Maker. For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasturage and the sheep of his hand.” Psalm 95:1-7a NWT
“Let all that worship graven images be ashamed, who boast of their idols; worship him, all ye his angels.” Psalm 96[Eng. 97]:7 LXX
“‘And it will certainly occur that from new moon to new moon and from sabbath to sabbath all flesh will come in to bow down before me,’ Jehovah has said.” Isaiah 66:23 NWT
“And it must occur [that], as regards everyone who is left remaining out of all the nations that are coming against Jerusalem, they must also go up from year to year to bow down to the King, Jehovah of armies, and to celebrate the festival of the booths. And it must occur that, as regards anyone that does not come up out of the families of the earth to Jerusalem to bow down to the King, Jehovah of armies, even upon them no pouring rain will occur.” Zechariah 14:16-17 NWT
“… in order that all may honor the Son JUST AS they honor the Father. He that does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” John 5:23 NWT
In this passage, Lord Jesus clearly demands that all must honor him in the same exact way that they honor the Father. We will see why this is a very important statement in a moment.
“And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” Ephesians 5:18-21 NASB
Christians are commanded to sing to the Lord Jesus and to fear or revere him.
“And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, He says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’” Hebrews 1:6 NIV
According to the author of Hebrews, the command found in the Septuagint to all the angels that they should worship Jehovah is actually speaking of Jesus! We once again find the NT writers applying an OT passage of Jehovah to Jesus, affirming that the writers viewed Jesus as Jehovah.
Now this places Arians such as the JWs in a very difficult position. The Arian view essentially means that Jesus is another god who is honored and worshiped in the same way that Jehovah is, which goes against the direct commands of Holy Scripture.
According to the Holy Bible, Jehovah has expressly forbidden his people from worshiping any other god besides him or any of the host of heaven:
“Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” Exodus 34:14
“And beware lest you raise your eyes to heaven, and when you see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, you be drawn away and bow down to them and serve them, things that the LORD your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. But the LORD has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day.” Deuteronomy 4:19-20 ESV
“If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing his covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones.” Deuteronomy 17:2-5 ESV
The following texts show that the heavenly host includes spiritual beings such as the angels that make up Jehovah’s council:
“And Micaiah said, ‘Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing beside him on his right hand and on his left; and the LORD said, “Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?” And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD, saying, “I will entice him.” And the LORD said to him, “By what means?” And he said, “I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.” And he said, “You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.” Now therefore behold, the LORD has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the LORD has declared disaster for you.’” 1 Kings 22:19-23
“You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.” Nehemiah 9:6 ESV
“Praise the LORD, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the LORD, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will.” Psalm 103:20-21
“Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; praise him in the heights; Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts! Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!” Psalm 148:1-4
Thus, if Jesus were merely a god or part of Jehovah’s heavenly host then it would be a direct violation of Scripture to worship and honor him just as one worships Jehovah.
“Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Eternal God.” Genesis 21:33 NIV
“For what great nation is there that has gods near to it the way Jehovah our God is in all our calling upon him?” Deuteronomy 4:7 NWT
“Exalt Jehovah our God and bow down yourselves at his footstool; He is holy. Moses and Aaron were among his priests, And Samuel was among those calling upon his name. They were calling to Jehovah, and he himself kept answering them.” Psalm 99:5-6 NWT
“The cup of grand salvation I shall take up, And on the name of Jehovah I shall call. My vows I shall pay to Jehovah, Yes, in front of all his people… To you I shall offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving, And on the name of Jehovah I shall call. My vows I shall pay to Jehovah, Yes, in front of all his people,” Psalm 116:13-14, 17-18 NWT
“Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let YOUR petitions be made known to God;” Philippians 4:6 NWT
“Also, whatever it is that YOU ask in my name, I WILL DO THIS, in order that the Father may be glorified in connection with the Son. If YOU ask anything in my name, I WILL DO IT.” John 14:13-14 NWT
It is interesting to note that the JWs fail to translate a key Greek phrase that is included in the Greek text used in their The Kingdom Interlinear Translation of the Greek Scriptures. The phrase, ean ti aitesete me en to onomati mou touto poieso, literally reads: “if ever anything you should ask ME in the name of me this I shall do.”
Jesus is telling believers to ask him anything directly and he will do it. The JWs have left out “me” from their text as to prevent their followers from addressing Jesus directly in prayer.
In fact, it is not only the Westcott/Hort Greek text used by JWs that have the phrase “me,” since this reading is supported by the best and most ancient Greek MSS of the New Testament. The late renowned NT textual critic, Bruce M. Metzger, commented on the possible reasons why some MSS dropped the phrase me from the text, despite it being the most probable reading:
“Either the unusual collocation, ‘ask me in my name.’ or a desire to avoid contradiction with 16.23 seems to have prompted (a) the omission of me in a variety of witnesses... or (b) its replacement with ton patera… The word me is adequately supported… and seems to be appropriate in view of its correlation with ego later in the verse.” (Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament [United Bible Societies, USA 1971first edition; Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, D-Stuttgart, second edition 1994, second printing 1998], p. 208; bold emphasis ours)
Furthermore, the New Testament clearly affirms the fact that the first Christians did indeed pray to Jesus. Notice the following examples:
“While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.” Acts 7:59-60
Stephen prays to Jesus in the exact manner Jesus prayed to the Father while on earth!
“Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.” Luke 23:46
(Sidenote: The JWs insert the word Jehovah in place of Lord at Acts 7:60, without any warrant for doing so, since there is not one single New Testament MS which contains the divine name. Yet, interestingly, if the JW rendering is correct this would then prove that Jesus is Jehovah since he is the only one that Stephen addresses in the context!)
“In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, ‘Ananias!’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ he answered. The Lord told him, ‘Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.’ ‘Lord,’ Ananias answered, ‘I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with all authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.’ But the Lord said to Ananias, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.’ Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here–has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.’" Acts 9:10-17 NIV
In this passage, we find Ananias both addressing Jesus in prayer as Lord and affirming that the early followers called on Jesus’ name, i.e. prayed to him directly.
“To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ–their Lord and ours.” 1 Corinthians 1:2 NIV
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power (dynamis) is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness, so that Christ’s power (dynamis tou Christou) may rest on me.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9 NIV
INVOCATIONS AND BENEDICTIONS
Another clear indication that the earliest Christians worshiped Jesus as God is the invocations and benedictions which one finds throughout the NT epistles, such as in the following examples:
“Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father AND the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you from God the Father AND the Lord Jesus Christ… We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God AND the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2, 12 NIV
“Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father AND FROM Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, will be with us in truth and love.” 2 John 1:3 NIV – cf. Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2, 6:23; Philippians 1:2; 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philemon 1:3; Revelation 1:4-6
There are also places where only the risen Lord Jesus is invoked!
“If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.” 1 Corinthians 16:22-24
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.” 2 Thessalonians 3:18 NIV
“He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” Revelation 22:20-21 NIV – cf. Philippians 4:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:28; 2 Philemon 1:25
Evangelical scholar Murray J. Harris shows how such prayers prove that Christ’s followers viewed him as being fully divine and co-equal with the Father in essence:
“At the beginning of each of Paul's letters is a salutation that ends with a standardized formula: ‘Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ' (1 Cor. 1:3 and elsewhere). The apostle is not saying that there are two distinct sources of grace and peace, one divine and one human; significantly the preposition from (in Greek) is not repeated before ‘the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Rather, Father and Son jointly form a single source of divine grace and peace. Of no mere human being could it be said that, together with God, he was a font of spiritual blessing. Only if Paul had regarded Jesus as fully divine could he have spoken this way.” (Harris, Three Crucial Questions About Jesus [Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI 1994], p. 77; bold emphasis ours)
Dr. Robert A. Morey agrees:
“… Grammatically, the authors are looking equally to the Father and the Son for grace, mercy, and peace. They could do this only if they assumed that the Father and Son were equal in nature.
“It is now recognized that since these ‘salutations’ can appear later on in an epistle (Eph. 6:23) as well as at the beginning (Eph. 1:2), they are indications of what the author is praying for and to Whom he addresses those prayers.
“The apostles prayed to the Father and to the Son that They might grant the saints grace, mercy, and peace. The apostles looked up to heaven to both of them equally. The ontological relationship between the Father and the Son is clearly the assumption which underlies their prayers to them. The deity of the Son is seen from the fact that He has to be omniscient to hear their prayers and eternal, omnipresent, and omnipotent to answer them.
“The objection that the Father and the Son are only functioning as equals in all these passages misses the point. They can function as equals only because they are equal. The apostles assumed that the Father and the Son were ontologically one nature and equality. Thus, they could function as one.” (Morey, The Trinity, Part IV: The New Testament Evidence, Chap. 19. The Trinity in the New Testament, p. 444; bold emphasis ours)
As if this wasn’t remarkable enough, Paul employs singular verbs in two of his invocations to the Father and the Son!
“Now may our God and Father himself AND our Lord Jesus DIRECT (kateutheunai) our way prosperously to YOU. Moreover, may the Lord cause YOU to increase, yes, make YOU abound, in love to one another and to all, even as we also do to YOU; to the end that HE may make YOUR hearts firm, unblamable in holiness before our God and Father at the presence of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.” 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13 NWT
“Moreover, may our Lord Jesus Christ himself AND God our Father, WHO LOVED (ho agapeesas) us and GAVE (dous) everlasting comfort and good hope by means of undeserved kindness, COMFORT (parakalesai) YOUR hearts and MAKE (steerizai) YOU firm in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NWT
Remarkably, Paul uses singular verbs in describing the Father and the Son loving, gracing, encouraging etc., all believers! Once again, the only way Paul could describe the actions of the Father and the Son as being essentially one is if he presupposed their essential unity and co-equality. As the late NT scholar Leon Morris put it:
“It is significant for Paul’s understanding of the nature of the Godhead that he joins so closely his references to the Father and to the Son. Here he links the two by making them the joint subject of a verb that is in the singular (cf. 2 Thess. 2:16-17). This is not a formal trinitarian definition, but it is the kind of understanding of the nature of the Godhead that led inevitably to the formulation of the dogma of the Trinity. This is all the more impressive in that it is done incidentally. Paul is not giving a theoretical discourse on the nature of deity, but engaging in prayer. Out of his understanding of God there proceeds naturally this form of expression in which the highest place is given to Jesus. In the first edition I said ‘Full deity is ascribed to Him,’ which has not unnaturally been held to mean ‘ascribed to him in this passage.’ It would give a clearer statement of my position if I were to say that what Paul says about Christ throughout his letters ascribes full deity to the Lord and that what he says here arises naturally from that basic position. These words do not prove the full deity of Christ, but they arise naturally out of this doctrine. In that Paul feels no necessity to produce arguments to demonstrate this we must feel that the point was accepted just as fully by the Thessalonians as by the Apostle. And in view of the early date of this writing it is important for the development of Christian doctrine. The deity of Christ was apparently accepted without question rather less than twenty years after the resurrection. It is not to be regarded as the culmination of a lengthy process of growth and reflection.” (Morris, The First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians [Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI: Revised Edition 2009], pp. 107-108; bold emphasis ours)
These examples sufficiently demonstrate that the first Christians prayed to Jesus as to God, and are therefore an explicit witness to his essential equality with the Father. The question we have for Arians (and for Greg Stafford for that matter) is, doesn’t the fact that Christians prayed to Jesus imply that Christ is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent? Otherwise, how could Jesus be able to hear and answer the prayers of the multitudes of Christians everywhere both then and now if he were not all-powerful and ever-present?
It is time now to move to the concluding part of this particular section.