Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog


Biblical Monotheism Examined

[Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11]
[Appendix A, Appendix B]



Trinitarian or Henotheistic in Nature? Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun

From its inception, the Church has always affirmed a belief in the fact that there is only one true God, and that this one God is an infinite Tri-personal Being. Based on the inspired biblical record the Church has both defended and declared its belief that the God of Holy Scripture eternally exists as three distinct, yet inseparable Persons or centers of consciousness, namely the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

The Church has also affirmed and contended for the biblical teaching that the second Person of the Godhead took upon himself a human nature for the salvation of man and is now known as Jesus of Nazareth. Hence, the orthodox and historic Christian position has been that the historical Jesus is one divine Person with two natures and two wills; perfect God and perfect humanity inseparably united, not fused, in the one Person of Christ.

These doctrines are not without their detractors and the Church has been forced throughout the centuries to define its beliefs as well as refute the heretical sects that have sprung forth to challenge and question the Church’s understanding of the biblical teaching concerning the nature of God. This aspect of the Church’s teaching, the Trinity, is perhaps the most constantly attacked doctrine, calling for both precision and clarity in adequately presenting the biblical evidence and the Church’s explanation of the data.

One such group attacking the doctrine of the Trinity today is the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. This particular sect, founded in the late 19th century by Charles Taze Russell, proclaims that the God of Scripture, Jehovah, is not triune nor is Christ Jesus Jehovah but the first and only direct creation of Jehovah. Their belief in Jesus is that he was God’s first creation through whom he created all other things. Christ in both his pre-human existence and post-resurrection life is actually the archangel Michael, the captain of the heavenly host of Jehovah. He is also viewed as a mighty god, but not the almighty God who is Jehovah.

Jehovah’s Witnesses (from now on called JW) are basically a modern day Arian cult since the belief that Jesus was the first of God’s creation who created everything else goes all the way back to a 3rd-4th century heretic from Alexandria, Egypt named Arius. 

JWS do believe that the Holy Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and infallible word of God, and as such they view it as the sole rule of faith in matters of Christian doctrine and practice. Hence, all teaching must find support in God’s Holy Word, and if it does not originate from the holy writings it is to be discarded completely. (At least this is what they claim in theory since the sad reality is that the interpretation of the WatchTower Bible and Tract Society overrides the clear exegesis of passages which contradict their pet doctrines).

JW’s believe that the Trinity doctrine finds no biblical support and as such must be discarded completely since it is nothing more than a doctrine promoted by Satan to deceive people from the true worship of Jehovah. Yet, amazingly, in denying the Trinity the JW’s have been forced to adopt a polytheistic interpretation of the Holy Bible in order to maintain the clear biblical teaching that Jesus is in some sense God.

For instance, JW’s believe that although Jehovah is the only true God there are other beings which are also gods but in a lesser sense. These gods include Jesus, angels, the devil, and demons. The only difference is that only Jehovah is uncreated and completely sovereign who alone is to be worship. The rest of these so-called gods derive their existence and power from him.

This belief is not monotheism, i.e. the belief in only one God, but henotheism, e.g. the belief in a host of deities with only one who is uncreated and worthy of worship. 

In this study we will examine the biblical data and demonstrate that there is but one true God and that the others who are referred to as gods are not divine beings in any sense. From there we will examine the way the inspired Scripture calls Jesus God, whether it is to be understood in the orthodox Trinitarian sense or in the henotheistic sense of JWs.

We will break down our presentation of the biblical evidence in three main categories, illustrating the different ways the term “God” is used in the inspired writings:

1. True Gods

2. False Gods

3. Functional Gods

In doing so, it will become apparently clear that the Holy Bible knows of only one true God leaving no room for a henotheistic type of monotheism, which in itself is an oxymoron.



Both JWs and Trinitarians agree that Jehovah alone is the true God:

“For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach and without the law.” 2 Chronicles 15:3 NIV

“But Jehovah is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King…” Jeremiah 10:10 New World Translation (NWT)

“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” John 17:3 NIV 

“… They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” 1 Thessalonians 1:9 NIV

“We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true–even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” 1 John 5:20 NIV

In fact, the inspired Scripture are quite clear that Jehovah is the only God that exists:

“Among the gods there is none like you, O Jehovah; no deeds can compare with yours… For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you ALONE are GOD.” Psalm 86:8, 10 NWT

“Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers, and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the LORD, and spread it before the LORD. And Hezekiah prayed to the LORD: O LORD of hosts, God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, YOU ALONE, OF ALL THE KINGDOMS OF THE EARTH; you have made heaven and earth. Incline your ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD, and see; and hear all the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to mock the living God. Truly, O LORD, the kings of Assyria have laid waste all the nations and their lands, and have cast their gods into the fire. For they were no gods, but the work of men’s hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. So now, O LORD our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you ALONE are the LORD."” Isaiah 37:14-20 ESV

“How can YOU believe, when YOU are accepting glory from one another and YOU are not seeking the glory that is from THE ONLY God?” John 5:44 NWT

This would seem to settle the issue of whether other ontological gods exist. After all, these verses seem to be clearly denying any possibility of believing that there are gods in a lesser sense. Unfortunately, such is not the case since at least one noted Arian apologist thinks he has a way of getting around the language of these texts:

“The Greek word translated “true” (… alethinos) can have one of several meanings, depending on the context and usage of the author or speaker. According to BAGD, alethinos can mean: ‘genuine, real… Of God in contrast to other gods, who are not real… true in the sense of the reality possessed only by the archetype, not by its copies.’” (Greg Stafford, Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended-An Answer To Scholars And Critics [Huntington Beach, CA; Elihu Books, First Edition 1998], p. 196)

The author goes on to give examples where Jesus is called the true light (to phos to alethinon) in John 1:9, whereas in Matthew 5:14 Christ states that his disciples are “the light of the world.” Hence, the disciples were not false lights but agents who would reflect the light which comes from the true one, the source of all light, namely Jesus Christ.

Another example would be where Jesus claims to be “the true bread from heaven” (ton arton ek tou ouranou ton alethinon) in contrast to the manna God had given Israel in the desert for forty years (cf. John 6:32-33). This obviously cannot mean that the manna was fake, but a shadow or type of that which was to come, i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ.

By citing these examples, Stafford hopes to prove the possibility that whereas Jehovah is the source of divinity, the other so-called gods are but copies which merely reflect the rays of the divine nature (Ibid., pp. 197-200).

Unfortunately for Stafford (and for the JWs for that matter), there are several problems with this logic. 

First, Stafford overlooks the very lexicon he cites to prove his assertion. His citation from Bauer’s A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, states precisely that alethinos in relation to God is used to demonstrate that “in contrast to other gods”, they “are not real.” Therefore, the only way for others to be called “God” is in a representational or functional sense, or in reference to the false gods of the nations.

The second major weakness in this argument is that it leaves JWs with a serious problem. In the Old Testament, Jehovah is pictured as the Light:

Jehovah is my light and my salvation…” Psalm 27:1 NWT

"For with you is the source of life; By light from you we can see light." Psalm 36:9 NWT

“… for Jehovah will be your everlasting Light... Jehovah will be your everlasting Light…” Isaiah 60:19, 20 NWT

“… Though I sit in darkness, Jehovah will be my light.” Micah 7:8 NWT

If as JWs assume that Jesus is not Jehovah, this implies that Jehovah is not the true light but a copy of the true one. Using Stafford’s reasoning, Jesus as the one true light is the one reality and source from which others can only reflect, but never possess in the sense that he does. Therefore, since Jesus is the true light and Jehovah is not Jesus, then Jehovah’s light is not “true in the sense of the reality only possessed by the archetype alone,” but one of its derivative copies. The only way to resolve this problem is to affirm that Jesus is Jehovah, since what is true of Jehovah is true of Jesus.

Finally, in the examples given where alethinos is used in reference to Jesus as the source and “reality possessed by the archetype alone,” the Scripture does not deny the possibility of other persons or things being reflections of that reality. 

“Arise, O woman, shed forth light, for your light has come and upon you the very glory of Jehovah has shone forth. For, look! darkness itself will cover the earth, and thick gloom the national groups; but upon you Jehovah will shine forth, and upon you his own glory will be seen. And nations will certainly go to your light, and kings to the brightness of your shining forth.” Isaiah 60:1-3 ESV

“…. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.” Luke 16:8 ESV

“So Jesus said to them, ‘The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light… I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.’” John 12:35-36, 46 ESV

“… at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light… But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’” Ephesians 5:8 ESV

Yet Scripture does emphatically state that no other so-called gods possess deity in any sense whatsoever. Hence, not only does the Bible positively affirm that Jehovah alone is the true God, but states this in the negative as well. This leads us to the second category.



“But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those who by NATURE are not gods.” Galatians 4:8 NKJV

This passage alone is sufficient to refute the claim that Jehovah is the only true God in the sense of being the archetype while others are mere copies. 

“You—you have been shown, so as to know that Jehovah is the [true] God; 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 in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. There is no other.” Deuteronomy 4:35, 39

“See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.” Deuteronomy 32:29 NIV

“There is no one holy like Jehovah, for there is no one but you; And there is no rock like our God.” 1 Samuel 2:2 NWT

"And YOU must not turn aside to follow UNREALITIES that are of no benefit and that do not deliver, because they are UNREALITIES." 1 Samuel 12:21 NWT

“…to the end that all the peoples of the earth may know that Jehovah is the [true] God. There is no other.” 1 Kings 8:60 NWT

“Have you not driven out the priests of the LORD, the sons of Aaron, and the Levites, and made priests for yourselves like the peoples of other lands? Whoever comes for ordination with a young bull or seven rams becomes a priest of what are no gods.” 2 Chronicles 13:9 ESV

For who is a God besides Jehovah? And who is a rock except our God?” Psalm 18:31 NWT

"For all the gods of the peoples are valueless gods; But as for Jehovah, he has made the very heavens." Psalm 96:5 NWT

"'Bring YOUR controversial case forward,' says Jehovah. 'Produce YOUR argument,' says the King of Jacob. 'Produce and tell us the things that are going to happen. The first things—what they were—do tell, that we may apply our heart and know the future of them. Or cause us to hear even the things that are coming. Tell the things that are to come afterward, that we may know that YOU are gods. Yes, YOU ought to do good or do bad, that we may gaze about and see [it] at the same time. Look! YOU are something NONEXISTENT, and YOUR achievement is nothing. A detestable thing is anyone that chooses YOU... Look! All of them are something NONEXISTENT. Their works are nothing. Their molten images are wind and unreality.'" Isaiah 41:21-24, 29 NWT

“‘You are my witnesses,’ declares Jehovah, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.’” Isaiah 43:10 NWT 

“This is what Jehovah says-Israel’s King and Redeemer, Jehovah Sabaoth: I am the first and I am the Last, apart from me there is no god… Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? NO, there is no other rockI know not one.” Isaiah 44:6, 8 NWT 

"I am Jehovah, and there is no other; apart from me there is no god. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting man may know there is none besides me. I am Jehovah, and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:5-6 NWT 

“For this is what Jehovah has said, the Creator of the heavens, He the [true] God, the Former of the earth and the Maker of it, He the One who firmly established it, who did not create it simply for nothing, who formed it even to be inhabited: “I am Jehovah, and there is no one else… Declare what is to be, present it- let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, Jehovah? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; There is none but me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:18, 21-22 NWT 

“Remember the first things of a long time ago, that I am the Divine One and there is no other God, nor anyone like me;” Isaiah 46:9 NWT

“Has a nation ever changed its gods? (Yet they are not gods at all.) But my people have exchanged their Glory for worthless idols.” Jeremiah 2:11 NIV

“How shall I pardon you for this? Your children have forsaken Me and sworn by those that are not gods...” Jeremiah 5:7 NKJV

“Will a man make gods for himself, which are not gods?” Jeremiah 16:20 NKJV

“One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.’ ‘Well said, teacher,’ the man replied. ‘You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him.” Mark 12:28-32 NIV

“Also, YOU behold and hear how not only in Eph´e·sus but in nearly all the [district of] Asia this Paul has persuaded a considerable crowd and turned them to another opinion, saying that the ones that are made by hands are not gods.” Acts 19:26 NWT 

These passages make it difficult for anyone to believe that although Jehovah is the true God, there are gods of a lesser kind since Scripture clearly states that no gods have ever been formed at all. Could the Holy Bible be any clearer in stating that there is no other god besides Jehovah?

The typical JW response to these passages is that God is not denying the possibility of other divine beings, but is refuting the notion that the pagan idol gods of the nations are real. Therefore, to use these verses to refute the belief in other divine beings is quoting out of the intended context to which these statements were made.

Far from disproving our point, this argument actually reinforces it. This is due primarily to the fact that although idols in and of themselves are nothing, there is a real spiritual presence behind these images which Scripture clearly attacks:

“So they should no longer sacrifice their sacrifices to the goat-shaped demons with which they are having immoral intercourse. This will serve as a statute to time indefinite for YOU, throughout YOUR generations.” Leviticus 17:7 NWT

“They made him jealous with their foreign gods and angered him with their detestable idols. They sacrificed to demons which are not Godgods they had not knowngods that recently appearedgods your fathers did not fear.” Deuteronomy 32:16-17 NIV 

“They worshiped their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons.” Psalm 106:36-37 NIV

“What am I saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrificed they sacrificed to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons.” 1 Corinthians 10:19-20 NKJV

“But the rest of the men who were not killed by these plagues did not repent of the works of their hands, so that they should not worship the demons and the idols of gold and silver and copper and stone and wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk;” Revelation 9:20 NWT

Not only does Holy Scripture attack idols as nothing, but also condemns the demons that are behind theses images as false gods. Since demons are nothing more than fallen angels, this serves to discredit any attempt of attributing divinity to angels in general. Thus, Stafford is simply wrong when he asserts that, 

“The angels are not true gods, nor are they false gods; rather, they are ‘copies’ (derivative images) of the true God, and receive their authority and power from Him in order to carry out His word…” (Stafford, JWD, p. 200)

They are neither true nor false, nor derivative copies but messengers created to do the will of God, no more, no less. Which leads us to our third point. Please proceed to the next part.