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A Review of James White's "A Summary Critique: Jehovah's Witnesses Defended"

By Greg Stafford

In January of 1998 the first edition of my book Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended: An Answer to Scholars and Critics (hereafter JWD1) was published in the United States of America. [1] Since that time I have received a number of letters and emails from those who, though not agreeing with my conclusions, nonetheless appreciated having critical issues that separate Jehovah’s Witnesses from the so-called “orthodox” Christian sects examined and addressed in a manner previously unknown in published works. At least that is how some of them viewed it.[2]

More recently, though, the first published book review of JWD1 (the first that I am aware of) has been presented to the public in the Book Reviews section of the Christian Research Journal (volume 21.2), published by the Christian Research Institute (CRI), an organization founded by Walter Martin that is known for combating groups it considers “cultic.” There have been many books, articles and tracts produced and sponsored by CRI that have taken issue with Jehovah’s Witnesses. And I have taken issue with several of these books in JWD1. In the not-too-distant future I plan on completing a book that will serve as a comprehensive and, I believe, fair analysis of all major works directed against Jehovah’s Witnesses, with the aim of evaluating the arguments of such works and the disposition and candor of the person(s) responsible for them. The way things are going, you may assume that James White, the author of the aforementioned book review, will make the list.

White has also recently released a book entitled The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany, 1998). In this book, too, White attempts to refute several points in JWD1, and elsewhere I have provided a complete response to each point of criticism, as well as other sections of his book that relate to his defense of the Trinity doctrine.[3] Here I will focus primarily on his CRI critique.

To give this review some organization and a simple structure to follow, I will present a list of five points that I believe reveal an obvious spirit of partisanship as well as an unfortunate and significant deficiency in understanding and, in turn, communicating what I have written in JWD1. Endnotes in this review are represented by a number placed in brackets [ ], while each of the five points can be identified by there place on the far left of this review, with a number enclosed by parentheses ( ).

(1) THE “PRIMARY FOCUS” OF JWD1 - White (page 48 of his review) claims that the deity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity are “the most frequent targets of cultic attack,” and that these are my “primary focus” in JWD1. It is true that I devote a good deal of space to issues surrounding the person of Christ and his relationship to his God, but this has nothing to do with some “cultic attack”; rather, it has everything to do with answering questions relating to the primary point of contention between JWs and trinitarian scholars. Without a doubt, when scholarly publications and journals decide to make reference to JWs or to the New World Translation (NWT) it is most often regarding the Witnesses’ view of God and Christ, or in reference to a perceived mistranslation in NWT, with christological implications.

White also acknowledges that I address other topics, such as the Watchtower and false prophecy. Surprisingly, though, he mentions that I “briefly” address the name “Jehovah.” Actually, my Chapter 1, “‘Jehovah’ and Jehovah’s Witnesses,” is 21 pages long, and has an 8 page discussion of the pronunciation of the divine name, showing that “Yahweh” is not the correct pronunciation at all, but that the Anglicized form “Jehovah” is quite in line with the accepted practice of pronouncing biblical names whose pronunciation is unknown, in English, and that the original form of the divine name was in fact three syllables (as in “Jehovah”), not two (as in “Yahweh”).[4]

A truly “brief” discussion of the divine name can be found in White’s The Forgotten Trinity, page 197, note 1 (in the notes section of his Chapter 3), where he uses “Yahweh”, and claims that this name is “oftentimes badly mispronounced Jehovah.” But all this reveals is that White does not understand the issues involved in using the Anglicized, trisyllable form "Jehovah," instead of the far less accurate, bisyllable Hebrew approximation "Yahweh." It is indeed unfortunate that such recent publications continue to spread inaccurate information concerning the pronunciation of the divine name.

White also believes that my “primary focus is more on helping Witnesses defend their position and answer tough questions than on convincing others.” While he also acknowledges that I do have an “eye toward those outside,” I am mystified as to how he perceives my “primary focus” as being to help Witnesses answer tough questions. Frankly, most Witnesses could care less about extended discussions on the topics I present, as they are far more concerned with preaching the good news of the kingdom, as was Christ himself. (Lu 4:43; Mt. 24:14) That is not to say that there are not many Witnesses who do care about such extended discussions, but I think it is clear when you consider the tone and content of several chapters (especially Chapters 5, 6, 7 and the Excursus) that the discussion would actually be more difficult for a Witness to follow (as most are not too familiar with scholarly discussion of these points, particularly those in Chapter 6 and the Excursus) than for one “not familiar with the Witnesses’ position,” as White (Review, page 48) claims.

Frankly, I have met with only a handful of trinitarians over the years who are conversant on the subjects I discuss in my book, which is why I chose to provide an answer to them, in hopes that they will better understand the issues involved. I find that most are very uninformed on even the basic aspects of their faith, let alone the more technical ones. Of course, White himself shows a defective understanding of most of the issues he choose as the basis for his critique, and this may be the cause for his thinking that I am more concerned with helping the Witnesses “answer tough questions” than with answering scholars and critics, in harmony with my subtitle.

(2) THE ‘I AM’ SAYINGS OF JESUS REVISITED - In JWD1 there is a 48 page discussion of the “I Am” (Greek: ego eimi) sayings of Jesus. In it I consider each of Jesus’ predicateless [5] ego eimi sayings, showing their relationship with one another in the Synoptics and the Fourth Gospel. When considered in context, a remarkably clear pattern and usage emerges: John and the Synoptics use ego eimi to reveal Jesus’ identity as the Messiah. (For details, please see Chapter 6 in JWD1.) John also uses this predicateless expression to identify the blind man whom Jesus healed (Joh 9:9), showing that the words do not of themselves convey any notion of deity, as White asserts.[6]

In his review (page 48) White summarizes my position regarding Jesus’ ego eimi sayings this way: “Stafford concludes that Jesus is merely identifying Himself as the Messiah in each of the key passages where He uses the phrase ego eimi.” By using “merely” in this way, White sets the stage for making a case that JUST being the Messiah would not cause the reaction we see in Scripture, in places such as John 18:5-6, where Jesus’ is recorded as using the expression ego eimi. No, Jesus would have to be claiming something more, according to White.

Before I address White’s criticism of my interpretation of one of these ego eimi sayings (for that is all he discusses), I wish to make two things clear: 1) While my position regarding most of the predicateless ego eimi sayings is certainly that Jesus is being identified as the Messiah, I also point out and discuss how ego eimi can convey simple self-identification, as in John 6:20. Here the understood predicate is simply “me,” “I,” perhaps followed by “Jesus”: “It is I, Jesus.” This fits the context and accounts for the disciples allowing Jesus into the boat once they knew it was in fact Jesus.[7] 2) No one who has a healthy knowledge of first century Judaism and Christianity would ever characterize a claim to being the Messiah by “merely”!

From the biblical, Qumran and other literature circulating during the first century, it is clear that the Messiah [8] was a significant individual. 4Q521 refers to the fact that the heavens and the earth will “listen to his Messiah” (compare Mt 28:18). The Davidic Messiah is frequently referred to as a judicial figure (see Psalms of Solomon 17:29; 1Q28b 5:21-22; 4Q246 2:5-6; 1 Enoch 49:2-4; compare Isa 11:3-9 and Joh 5:22), is called the “Son of God” (4Q246 [9]), and is associated with raising the dead in 4Q521 (compare Joh 5:25-27, 30). For further discussion of the significance of the Messiah in Second Temple Judaism, see William Horbury, Jewish Messianism and the Cult of Christ (London: SCM Press, 1998), 36-59.

So for White or anyone else to minimize the effect of a claim to being the Messiah in the first century CE, especially while in the presence of those who were in expectation of the Messiah, reveals a severe lack of appreciation for the views expressed in the Second Temple period. But this is nothing in comparison to White’s review of my treatment of ego eimi in John 18:5-6.

Both in his book (The Forgotten Trinity, page 211, note 26) and in his CRI review (pages 48-49) White criticizes my discussion of the use of ego eimi in John 18:5-6. In fact, in his CRI article he believes that his critique of my discussion of John 18:5-6 “will help [to] evaluate the work [JWD1] in general.” When you consider the way he butchers my discussion of this text, you will likely agree that the impression one will gain from reading White’s review will be far different than if one were to read my discussion as it is presented in JWD1.

Here is my discussion of John 18:5-6 as presented in the context of each New Testament use (and most Old Testament LXX uses) of ego eimi, in Chapter 6 of JWD1 (changes to Greek and Hebrew fonts have been made for effective online conversion of the document):


John 18:5-6, 8 - The final three occurrences of ego eimi are found in John 18:5-8, the scene of Jesus' arrest in the garden. There Jesus is confronted by Judas, Roman soldiers, and representatives from the chief priests and Pharisees. (verse 3) In verse 4 Jesus, aware of the events about to occur, asks the mob before him, "Whom are you looking for?" After the crowd replies, "Jesus the Nazarene," Jesus responds with the words ego eimi. (verse 5) Verse 6 tells us that after Jesus answered them "they drew back and fell to the ground." Then in verse 7 Jesus again asks, "Whom are you looking for?" They once again reply, "Jesus the Nazarene." Jesus answers, "I told you that I am he [ego eimi]; so, if you seek me, let these men go."—Verse 8, RSV.

This would appear to be another example of simple self-identification, as we saw in John 6:20. But in this case a predicate is clearly implied by the context, for Jesus' response is to their request for "Jesus the Nazarene." In effect Jesus tells the crowd, "I am he," or "I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are seeking." The name "Jesus" (Iesous) is actually supplied after eimi in B*. Iesous ego eimi is found in Aleph, and several witnesses (A C G N Theta Psi) contain ho Iesous ego eimi.[Footnote #1] But what are we to make of the mob's reaction to Jesus' reply? Why did they draw back and fall to the ground? Although Harner agrees that "Jesus of Nazareth" is the obvious predicate to be supplied, he nonetheless believes that the phrase also "clearly implies more than the everyday meaning of self-identification."]Footnote #2] That may be true, in that there is certainly something special about the identity of "Jesus of Nazareth." But Brown goes too far when he says "John intends `I AM' as a divine name."[Footnote #3] Then what are we to make of the crowd's reaction? Why does the revelation of "Jesus of Nazareth" cause them to draw back and fall to the ground?

Tholuck is right in pointing to the "overwhelming impression produced by Christ" in John 7:46.[Footnote #4] There the crowds, in response to Jesus' words recorded in verses 37-38, were saying, "This is for a certainty The Prophet." Others would say, "This is the Christ." (verses 40-41). In verse 31 the crowd begins to realize that Jesus may be the Christ, and the Pharisees, having heard what the people were saying about him, "dispatched officers to get hold of him." (verse 32) But according to verse 45 they were unsuccessful. Why? In verse 46 the officers reply to the Pharisees, "No one ever spoke the way this man does."—NIV.

Thus, the reaction of the mob in 18:6 is no surprise given the confident, sudden self-identification Jesus makes. The soldiers present likely remembered hearing about how impressive Jesus was in his earlier encounter with the officers who were sent to "get hold of him," but failed to do so because of the way he spoke. Again, the context shows that Jesus' words caused the crowds to conclude, "This is the Christ." (Joh 7:41) The words "they drew back and fell to the ground" need mean no more than that "the men who came to make the arrest (some of whom at least did not previously know Jesus even by sight) were so overcome by His moral ascendancy that they recoiled in fear."[Footnote #5] Most likely, then, when Jesus unhesitatingly revealed himself as the one whom they sought, those coming to arrest him, who had no doubt heard of the many miracles he had performed, stories about this man, were taken aback by his fearless demeanor. It was only after he told them to let his disciples go (verses 8-9), and after he had prevented any defense that his followers might raise (verses 10-11), that the "soldier band and the military commander and the officers of the Jews seized Jesus and bound him." (verse 12) As James, Bishop of East Bengal, observed:

There is no need to suppose that there was any particular divine implications in his words to account for the fear of the soldiery. For such men in such an age it was quite natural. But to suppose that our Lord said "I am He (the Great One)" and then repeated "I told you I am He," purposely instilling terror into his enemies, neither suits the context, nor suits his own divine humility.[Footnote #6]

Footnotes to the above quotation from JWD1

1) However, it is uncertain whether in these last two variants "Jesus" should be taken as the subject of legei autois ("Jesus said to them") or the predicate of ego eimi ("I am Jesus"). See, New Testament Greek Manuscripts, John, Reuben Swanson, ed. (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press; Pasadena: William Carey International University Press, 1995), 239, for a complete listing of the variants and their witnesses.

2) Harner, The "I AM" of the Fourth Gospel, 45.

3) Brown, The Gospel According to John (xiii-xxi), 818.

4) Tholuck, Commentary on the Gospel of John, 380.

5) Bernard and McNeile, Gospel According to St. John, vol. 2, 586-587.

6) James, Bishop of East Bengal, "`I Am' in the Gospels," Theology 62.468 (1959), 238.

How does White deal with the above? Does he present a counter exegesis to John 7, explain the variants in ancient manuscripts of John 18:5-6 which actually supply the understood predicate, or address the impression left on the soldiers who had come to arrest Jesus earlier in the Gospel account? Though all of these points are given as part of my interpretation this passage, White ignores every single one of them. He asks and then answers, “How does Stafford deal with such a passage? He quotes from various liberal sources and says: Thus, the reaction of the mob in 18:6 is no surprise given the confident, sudden self-identification Jesus makes . . . The words ‘they drew back and fell to the ground’ need mean no more than that "the men who came to make the arrest (some of whom at least did not previously know Jesus even by sight) were so overcome by His moral ascendancy that they recoiled in fear.’ Most likely, then, when Jesus unhesitatingly revealed himself as the one whom they sought, those coming to arrest him . . . were taken aback by his fearless demeanor.”

You will notice that twice White employs ellipses ( . . .) when quoting my Chapter 6. Here are the words he omitted:

ELLIPSIS #1 - The soldiers present likely remembered hearing about how impressive Jesus was in his earlier encounter with the officers who were sent to "get hold of him," but failed to do so because of the way he spoke. Again, the context shows that Jesus' words caused the crowds to conclude, "This is the Christ." (Joh 7:41)

ELLIPSIS #2 - who had no doubt heard of the many miracles he had performed, stories about this man,

When you plug in the above omissions to White’s quote you get much more than some quotes from “liberal sources” and a simple reference to “moral ascendancy.” In fact, the reference to “moral ascendancy,” as can be seen from the reproduction of my discussion of John 18:5-6 above, is really a quote from another scholar who takes that position. My referencing him on this point is meant to be viewed in light of my discussion of John 7 and the other significant facts that are presented (such as the textual variations), but all of this is studiously avoided by White so he can present a watered-down version of my argument, a straw man. After all, it is much easier to make light of someone who allegedly quotes a couple “liberal sources” and who attempts to pass off the crowd’s reaction in John 18:5-6 as mere “moral ascendancy,” as if this “moral ascendancy” were merely used in reference to John 18:5-6 alone, without the backdrop of John 7. White acts as if there is no history at all to the impression left by Jesus on crowds other than the one assembled in John 18, impressions that were so great that even Roman soldiers (non-believers) could not arrest him simply because of the way he spoke.

It is not difficult at all to imagine that those present in John 18:5-6 would react the way they did when, in coming to arrest him, one man alone with a few disciples, Jesus fearlessly steps forward and confronts them. Again, there is a history behind the identity of Jesus, which is laid out in detail in the chapters preceding John 18. By ignoring this and other facts presented in my discussion, White cannot help but fall into error, and lead others who are not careful to check the facts for themselves, into the same pit. The only remaining question here is how could White unknowingly have omitted this pertinent data? It seems clear, though disheartening, that his well-placed ellipsis and conscious excision of key information was purposely done to give the impression that he has successfully refuted my view, when in fact he has only served to underscore the weakness of his position by resorting to such selective and inaccurate handling of the material.

White also makes an issue out my quotation of those whom he considers “liberal” scholars. This is another common tactic of trinitarians who are confronted with scholars who disagree with their views. They will commonly brush aside those whom they label “liberals,” as if this is somehow a response to their views and arguments. The fact is, most trinitarians, including White, almost always quote trinitarian scholars to support a trinitarian view! Indeed, White ends his discussion of John 18:5-6 in his CRI review by quoting trinitarian William Hendrickson, who merely asserts, and does not prove, that in John 18:5-6 “Jesus is God.” (Review, page 49) Of course, both White and Hendrickson seem oblivious to the fact that calling Jesus “God” without the proper trinitarian qualification, namely, “Jesus is God the Son the second person of a consubstantial Triad,” refutes their view! What they do, and the irony of this point will be revealed below under point five, is ASSUME TRINITARIANISM in their exegesis of Scripture. But, again, we will consider this below. However, this fact remains: whether one is a liberal, a trinitarian or a Witness scholar, it makes no difference. The only thing that matters, or should matter, is their presentation of the argument(s). The only thing that should be evaluated is their argument(s).

Those who take delight in circumstantial ad hominems to avoid dealing with the arguments presented are only underscoring the weakness of their position, and highlighting a rather myopic view that fails to recognize that the very same circumstantial ad hominems could be used against them. Fortunately, though, we prefer more effective means for making our case, such as historical, contextual and linguistic analysis of the subjects under discussion.

(3) JOHN 12:38-41 and HEBREWS 1:10-12 - In Chapter 3 of JWD1 I discuss the connection between John 12:39-41 and Isaiah 6, the connection between Hebrews 1:10-12 and Psalm 102:25-27 and the question of whether or not Jesus is “the Alpha and the Omega” of Revelation. In his book, The Forgotten Trinity, page 216, note 6, White takes issue with my discussion of the application of Psalm 102:25-27 in Hebrews 1:10-12, making a number of obvious errors in the process.[10] What is interesting to me is the fact that White already considered my discussion of Psalm 102:25-27/Hebrews 1:10-12 in his book, but in his review he chooses to discuss it again, instead of my discussion of Isaiah 6/John 12:38-41. If space is so limited that he could not discuss both texts in his review, which he claims on page 49, why not discuss the connection between Isaiah 6 and John 12, having already discussed the connection between Psalm 102 and Hebrews 1?

It seems that White was either dissatisfied with his presentation of Psalm 102/Hebrews 1 in his book, or he just does not have anything worthwhile to offer in response to my exegesis of John 12:38-41. In his book, pages 136-138, White does not address my main arguments; in fact he does not refer to me at all. He also greatly overplays the reference to “glory” in Isaiah 6, which I cover in JWD1, but is a subject I discuss further in JWD2, revealing a definite connection between John’s reference to “glory” in John 12:41 and Isaiah 53, which is quoted in John 12:38.

Since I will be discussing White’s handling of Psalm 102:25-27 in my JWD2, I will here discuss just a few points in support of my assertion that White does in fact make obvious errors in his handling of this issue. These errors can best be seen by first quoting White’s attempt to refute my position.

He states: “Stafford notes that God created all things through the Son (Hebrews 1:2), and writes, ‘Clearly, then, in context Hebrews 1:10-12 could not be teaching that Jesus is the Creator, for here, in the opening words to the Hebrews, it is clearly stated that God made all things “through” His Son’ (p. 48). This is circular argumentation, for it assumes that conclusion Stafford wishes to reach. It assumes unitarianism. The fact that the Son is differentiated from the Father is admitted by all. But unless one assumes that the term ‘God’ must always and only refer solely to the Father (unitarianism), the entire argument collapses” (The Forgotten Trinity, page 216, note 6).

There are at least three serious problems with White’s response, two of which we will now consider. The third, White’s claim that I “assume” unitarianism, will be addressed under our fifth and final point.

1. Is my argument “circular”? A circular argument is a logical fallacy that is sometimes called “begging the question.” When an argument is truly circular, the truth of an argument’s conclusion is actually supported only by the conclusion itself. Let us use an example from White’s book to illustrate this fallacy.

In his discussion of John 1:1c, White dismisses the translation “a god” because “certainly it cannot be argued that John would use the very word he always uses of the one true God, theos, of one who is simply a ‘godlike’ one or a lesser ‘god’ (The Forgotten Trinity, page 55). White’s argument, then, runs like this:

Premise #1 - John “always uses” theos “of the one true God.”

Premise #2 - John would not use the Greek word theos of a “godlike” or “lesser god.”


Conclusion - Therefore, John must have meant the “one true God” when he used the term theos for Jesus because John always uses theos for the “one true God” and he never uses this word for a “godlike” or “lesser god.”

Does anyone else see the problem, here? Actually, for White, there are several. First, he assumes that John would not use theos for a “lesser god” and the basis for his assumption is his conclusion! In this same light, he begins his argument by stating up front that this word, theos, is “always” used of the “one true God.” But, again, that is the question with which we are faced. The fact is, Jesus is “with” God and therefore cannot be THAT God. He can be some other, but not THAT one. Trinitarians try to get out of this by substituting “Father” for “God” and coloring “Father” with a trinitarian sense, viewing it as a term of “personal” description, and then proceeding to distinguish THE FATHER from the Word as theos, not ho theos whom the Word is “with” from the Word as theos. What they are doing is substituting an ontological term (“God”) for a personal description (“the Father”), and then they interpret “Father” using the exegetical grid of trinitarianism, which holds, without ANY biblical support, that the Father and Son have a “personal” distinction that does not involve a distinction in terms of BEING. In short, they read trinitarianism back into the text, and in the process change its meaning from an ontological distinction to a distinction that can work within the framework of their post-biblical theology.

Again, White assumes trinitarianism at the outset by substituting the ontological terms in the text with “personal” terms as defined by post-biblical creeds and confessions, and then begs the question on two counts in his dismissal of an indefinite translation (“a god”) for the salient in 1:1c! This is a reoccurring problem for trinitarians whenever they attempt to translate and interpret passages referring to Jesus as theos.

Another problem White and other trinitarians face, is that which they seek to avoid by another fallacy known as equivocation. Equivocation involves using the same term in two different, misleading senses. Again, we use White’s argument, as quoted above, to illustrate this fallacy.

Above we noted that White claims that John “always uses [theos] of the one true God.” Well, then, since the “one true God” of trinitarianism is triune, then, if Jesus really is God, the logical conclusion is that Jesus is triune! The only way out of this argument is for trinitarians to admit that when they say “Jesus is God” they do not mean he is the Trinity, but that he shares in the nature of the triune God. But that itself is a circular argument! Essentially, they are arguing, “When the Bible uses theos for Jesus, or any other Person of the Trinity, it means that they share in the nature of the Godhead, since the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are each separate Persons of the Godhead, but not separate Gods.” But this is always assumed and never proven. It is also never proven that “God” ever stands for a triune being. By means of equivocation, trinitarians can confuse those who listen to them, for they only hear the biblical language (“God,” “Father,” etc.) not the post-biblical meanings that are poured into them.

The truth is, nowhere does the Bible say anything about a Godhead of ‘three persons,’ which persons are understood, not as separate beings, but separate in terms of their relationships with one another. This conclusion is assumed and used in the argument itself. The Bible tells us that Jesus was distinct from God in the beginning, and was himself a god, or a divine being. (John 1:1) Trinitarians cannot interpret this verse without substituting ontological terms with personal descriptions, or without using post-biblical thoughts and expressions. For a further discussion of John 1:1, and of the assumptions and fallacies that are commonly found in trinitarian exegesis, please see the chapter, “Understanding Trinitarianism: Why Trinitarians Believe What They Believe,” in JWD2.

Now that we clearly understand what is involved in circular reasoning, namely, using your conclusion to prove your conclusion, we return to White’s assertion that I beg the question in my exegesis of Hebrews 1:10-12.

Having reviewed all the above points regarding John 1:1, it may be helpful to remind ourselves of White’s claim. He writes: “Stafford notes that God created all things through the Son (Hebrews 1:2), and writes, ‘Clearly, then, in context Hebrews 1:10-12 could not be teaching that Jesus is the Creator, for here, in the opening words to the Hebrews, it is clearly stated that God made all things “through” His Son’ (p. 48). This is circular argumentation, for it assumes that conclusion Stafford wishes to reach. It assumes unitarianism. The fact that the Son is differentiated from the Father is admitted by all. But unless one assumes that the term ‘God’ must always and only refer solely to the Father (unitarianism), the entire argument collapses” (The Forgotten Trinity, page 216, note 6)

You will note that my appeal is to the first part of Hebrews 1 where “God,” not simply “the Father,” is distinguished from the Son. Of course, White again substitutes the ontological term for the personal one, and this will be discussed again under point five. However, note how my argument is presented.

QUOTE FROM JWD1, pages 48-49:

Clearly, then, in context Hebrews 1:10-12 could not be teaching that Jesus is the Creator, for here, in the opening words to the Hebrews, it is clearly stated that God made all things ‘through’ His Son. Since Jesus' role in creation has already been discussed (Heb 1:3), it is not likely that in verses 10-12 the author would return to the same point he has explained earlier. It could be that these verses from Psalm 102 are appropriately applied to the Son of God in view of his being the preexistent Wisdom spoken of in Proverbs 8.

Note that I do not say, “Jesus cannot be the Creator because he is not the Creator”; rather, I refer to fact that “God” is the One who made the ages (epoiesen tous aionas) “through” (di’) the Son (Heb 1:2-3), who is here presented as distinct from Him. I then point out on page 51 that “the thrust of [Paul’s] message is to highlight Jesus’ immortality (deathlessness) since his resurrection by God. (Ro 6:9; Ga 1:1)” Paul’s discussion has to do with Jesus’ superiority and the superiority of his message to that of the angels since he has made “purification for our sins” and “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty in lofty places” (Heb 13-4, NWT), so the intent of his applying various OT passages to Christ at this time is to highlight this post-resurrection superiority. Why, then, would he refer to prehuman events in his series of arguments when Jesus has “become better than the angels” since his resurrection? The fact is, the author of Hebrews already referred to such events in setting the stage for his discussion, and his reference was to the mediatorial role of the Son in creation. What, then, is the meaning of the Psalm’s application to Christ in his post-resurrection state?

As I state in my book, I believe it involves the following.

FROM JWD1, page 51:

The thrust of his message is to highlight Jesus' immortality (deathlessness) since his resurrection by God. (Ro 6:9; Ga 1:1) Jesus will ‘remain continually,’ unlike the creation that he was instrumental in bringing forth, which, if left on its own without Jehovah's power to ‘keep it standing’ (Ps 148:1-6), would certainly ‘perish.’ God's Son is now ‘living forever and ever,’ and his ‘years will never run out.’—Heb 1:12; Rev 1:18; compare Heb 7:16, 25.

Yes, the Lord Jesus, who, while on earth was ‘made lower than the angels’ (which shows that he was not a God-man while on earth), has since his resurrection from the dead been elevated to a ‘superior position,’ having become ‘better than the angels to the extent that he has inherited a name more excellent than theirs.’ (Php 2:9; Heb 1:4; 2:9) He is also better in that he is now immortal, thus like his heavenly Father, as expressed in Psalm 102:25-27, which is now also applicable to Christ.

White completely ignores this both in his book and in his CRI review. But, again, White uses circular reasoning in his argument, stating, “No one else can be said to have such qualities” (Review, page 49). His conclusion is his argument.

2. What is really “admitted by all”? One other observation should be made concerning White’s comments on my discussion of Psalm 102:25-27. The first is that we do not ‘all admit that the Son is differentiated from the Father,’ at least not in the way White wants his readers to think. To White, a distinction between the Father and the Son is a distinction between the first and second persons of a consubstantial Triad. But he does not come right out and say this, for then he could not say that the distinction is something “all admit”! As we have already discussed, what he does is substitute personal terms (such as “Father”) in place of ontological terms (such as “God,” which we find in Hebrews 1:1), and then add a trinitarian meaning to them. Jehovah’s Witnesses categorically reject such eisegetical habits and stick with the distinctions made in the scriptures themselves. But White tries to make it seem like we all agree that there is a personal distinction, when in reality the distinction is ontological and his belief system will not allow him to accept it. It is much easier for a trinitarian like White to try and pull a fast one by substituting “Father” for “God” than to explain just what they mean by “Father”! Since “Father” is a biblical term, it “sounds” acceptable enough, but if pressed to define it according to trinitarianism, namely, “the first person of a consubstantial Triad,” then right away it become manifest that post-biblical thoughts and expressions are being used, and it is much more difficult to justify what trinitarians mean by “Father,” than to use the term “Father” itself.

(4) WHO IS ASSUMING WHAT, AND WHY? - Cutting across the three-column page (49) of White’s CRI review, in big, bold letters are the words, “Throughout his work, Stafford assumes Unitarianism is true in order to disprove Trinitarianism.” But this is only one of two “fundamental errors” that I allegedly commit, which White uses as the basis for discussion in the final, critical section of his CRI review. The other is, . . .well, as unbelievable as it may seem to serious readers of JWD1, that I try “to prove that Jesus is not the Father”!

Let us begin with the second “error” that White believes permeates the “majority of the argumentation in [my] book.” As quoted above, White actually believes that I am bent on proving that Jesus is not that Father, and inherent in this accusation is the view that I somehow do not understand the Trinity, and THAT is why I argue the way I do. White actually has convinced himself that the points I make in my book are in support of the trinitarian distinction between the Father and the Son, but according to him they do not prove that Jesus is not God. Amazingly, he states: “Only by assuming that ‘God’ can refer only to the Father can one argue as Stafford does in almost every section of his book. But Christians have always recognized that the biblical doctrine of the Trinity teaches that the Son is a different Person than the Father, and that each Person has taken on different roles in the work of redemption. In light of historic Christian teaching, the arguments put forward by Stafford and the Watchtower writers can be seen for what they really are: arguments against aimed at a straw man” (page 47).

Nowhere in my book, or anywhere else for that matter, do I ever try to prove that Jesus is not the Father when dealing with the arguments of trinitarianism. Nor do I ever “assume” that Greek or Hebrew words for “G-god” only apply to the Father. In fact, in my book not only do I clearly state that Jesus is theos, I make it clear that I recognize the distinctions trinitarians are importing into the Bible text. For example, in my JWD1, Chapter 7, pages 180-181, I write:

QUOTE (footnotes from JWD1 are not found in the quote below. See JWD1, pages 180-181 for the footnote information)

What Harner means when he says, "clause B should not be assimilated to clause A" is that we should not understand John's use of theos, in reference to the Word, as interchangeable with that of ton theon (hereafter referenced in the nominative ho theos) in John 1:1b, with whom the Word existed. Otherwise, to put it his way, "There would be no ho theos which is not also ho logos." This would, according to Harner, contradict the preceding clause where John states that the Word was "with God" (ho theos). Yet, this type of confusion has been the trademark of translations that offer a rendering which, to an impartial reader, is contradictory (that is, "the Word was with God and the Word was God"). Harner refers to R. E. Brown who regards the translation "the Word was God" as correct "for a modern Christian reader whose Trinitarian background has accustomed him to thinking of `God' as a larger concept than `God the Father.'"

To think of God "as a larger concept" in this case would be to understand the translation "the Word was God," not as a reference to Jesus (the Word) as "God the Father" (with whom he existed in the beginning), but as a reference to the Word as one who has the same nature (or, in Trinitarian terms, "essence of being") as ho theos. At the same time, they attempt to maintain some Trinitarian distinction (see below) between the Father and Son. Indeed, as stated by Harner on pages 86 and 87 of his article: "In terms of the analysis that we have proposed, a recognition of the qualitative significance of theos would remove any ambiguity in his [Bultmann's] interpretation by differentiating between theos, as the nature that the Logos shared with God, and ho theos as the `person' to whom the Logos stood in relation. Only when this distinction is made clear can we say of the Logos that `he was God.'"


So not only do I never try to prove that Jesus is not the Father, but I make the trinitarian position clear before I address it. What I do try to demonstrate from Scripture is that Jesus is not the SAME GOD as the Father, and even though I make this point several times in JWD1, White misses it each time. Consider, for example, what I write on pages 184-184:


We must not fail to mention the practice of Trinitarians when distinguishing between the "persons" mentioned in John 1:1. They, as we have seen from the above, make a distinction between ho theos and theos in terms of the Father and the Son as "persons." They argue that if John had said that the Word was ho theos that this would have made the Father and the Word the same "person," and thus an advocate of modalism. Modalism teaches that God assumed various modes of operation for specific purposes, and, hence, this view distorts the Trinitarian distinction between the persons of the "Godhead."

However, the fact is John 1:1 proves that God and the Logos cannot be the same God, as they are said to be "with" (pros) one another. By changing the discussion to terms of "person" Trinitarians explain that the Word can be with God and be God because, they say, `He is not the Father and ho theos refers to the Father.' But even though we agree that ho theos is a reference to the Father, John's distinction shows that the Word cannot be the same God as the Father. If the Word were the same God as the God with whom he existed in the beginning, then, since that one is ho theos, the Word (if he were the same God) would also be the ho theos of John 1:1b, because, according to Trinitarians, the Word and the Father can be only one God. But John makes it clear that the two are not the same God by describing one as ho theos and the other as theos (not as "Father" and "Son"), and also by stating that the two are "with" one another. In making this distinction, the inspired apostle shows that the Word has the same kind of nature and qualities that "the God" (not simply the "person") he existed with has, and is a being distinct from Him.


So much for my “fundamental error” #1.

Regarding White’s repeated and, frankly, hypocritical assertion that I assume unitarianism throughout my book, he provides but one example where he believes such an assumption is manifest. On page 49 of his article he refers to my “insistence that Proverbs 8:22 must be taken as an exhaustive and binding explanation of the relationship” between the prehuman Son and the Father. He then compares this with what he views as a “strident attempt to avoid seeing Jesus as the Alpha and Omega” of Revelation. Of course, White here assumes that Jesus is the Alpha and the Omega, and that I simply fail to “see” it. The fact is I spend 11 pages of JWD discussing this issue, and White does not refer to my discussion even once. I leave it to you, the reader, to consider my discussion and see why I believe Jesus is not revealed as the Alpha and the Omega. It has nothing to do with some “assumption” I have about the matter, but with what I perceive to be the clear teaching of Scripture.

As for my “insistence” regarding Proverbs 8:22, I spend 7 pages discussing the implications of this text, and list at least 6 reasons why Jesus should be viewed as the Wisdom of Proverbs 8, a view that White apparently rejects because of his trinitarian assumption that Jesus is not a created being. I hardly make the kind of “insistence” of which White speaks; rather, I conclude, based on the scriptural evidence cited, as follows, “I suppose one could argue that these parallel descriptions are mere coincidence, but we find that hard to believe.” (JWD1, page 105) Is that really so ‘insistent’?

Again, my interpretation of Proverbs 8 and the Alpha and the Omega of Revelation is based on a historical, scriptural (contextual), and linguistic investigation into the issues, not on some “unitarian assumption.”

The above discussion is directly linked with White’s consistent and unabashed assumption of trinitarianism as a means of interpreting the Scriptures. Over and over again White assumes that any distinction between God and Jesus is a personal distinction between the “Father,” as understood by trinitarians, and the “Son,” as understood by trinitarians. On the one hand he will tell you that there is only one God and that that one God is triune, but then he will inevitably claim that “Jesus is God,” and only when pressed to the fallacious conclusion that this conveys the idea that Jesus is triune, will he make known the different senses in which he is using the term “God” in saying “there is only one God,” and in saying “Jesus is God.” But where are these different senses articulated by Paul? Where is it that Jesus speaks of such a relationship? Nowhere. It is a part of a belief system that arose hundreds of years after the New Testament canon was closed, through philosophical discussions about the relationship between God and Christ, and eventually the holy spirit, also.

Nowhere does the Bible articulate a meaning for God that is consistent with the unqualified claims that “Jesus is God” and that there is “only one God.” Rather, the Bible, simply and repeatedly, identifies the Father as Jesus’ God, and Jesus as “a god,” the “only-begotten god.” (Joh 1:1, 18, 20:17; Rev 3:12; compare Micah 5:4) For this reason, I advocate the same view.


James White should be commended for not falling prey to unprofessional tactics frequently employed by other trinitiarian apologists, such as Robert Morey, who shows a tendency to simply calls those who disagree with him ‘liars’ rather than make an attempt to deal with the different views presented. White makes such an attempt, though I believe his review, as well as criticisms offered in his book The Forgotten Trinity, ultimately reveal a defective research effort and an overriding sense of loyalty to post-biblical teachings. My reasons for this characterization of White’s works are given above and in JWD2.

White fails to take note of matters that are clearly stated throughout my work, and the end result is a convoluted presentation of the facts. By omitting significant information that is presented in the context of my discussion of passages such as John 18:5-6, White provides an incomplete and faulty review of the material.

Significant in this light is his failure to note my repeated recognition of distinctions made by trinitarians, and his claim that I try to prove that Jesus is not the Father, when in fact my claim is that Jesus is not the same GOD as the Father. This will no doubt serve to further confuse those who read his CRI article.


[1] Published by Elihu Books (Huntington Beach, CA). A second edition (hereafter JWD2) is nearly complete and should be available by the summer of 1999. Additional topics that will be considered in the second edition include the biblical concept of salvation, the Witnesses’ view of blood and blood transfusions, as well as a chapter on the assumptions and exegetical fallacies informing trinitarianism. There are also substantial updates to the chapters and appendices found in the first edition.

[2] For example, in a letter from Robert Countess, author of The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New Testament, 2d ed. (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1987), dated April 23, 1998, Dr. Countess writes: “I am pronouncing JWD to be a watershed book, a turning-point type of work that demonstrates, for the first time to my knowledge, a JW who attempts a truly scholarly approach to problems and criticisms.” In this same letter Countess refers to the book’s “detailed content and charitable approach,” even though I offered criticism of Countess on several points.

[3] See the Author Index in JWD2 for a quick guide to those places where I discuss White’s views.

[4] The second edition of my book contains a substantial amount of new material on the divine name, being approximately 50 pages long instead of 21. I present a more detailed discussion of the NWT’s use of “J” documents and the appearance of the divine name in the New Testament, and other matters involving the divine name.

[5] By “predicateless” I here mean that ego eimi is not followed by explicit predicate or image, such as “light of the world” (ego eimi to phos tou kosmou [Joh 8:12]). Rather, the predicate is understood from the context. Again, see Chapter 6 in JWD1 for details. An updated discussion will be presented in JWD2.

[6] On page 48 of his CRI review, White asserts, “One of the clearest presentations of Christ’s deity in the Gospel of John is found in the phrase ‘I am.’” Neither in his article nor in his book is White successful in defending this view, which is founded solely upon trinitarian presuppositions. The meaning and function of ego eimi in the Synoptics, the Fourth Gospel AND in the LXX of Isaiah, is quite clear. See Chapter 6 of JWD1 for a discussion of this issue.

Again, other than his mishandling of my view of John 18:5-6, White does not address anything from my Chapter 6, though his own book (The Forgotten Trinity) contains an entire chapter (his Chapter 6) on this subject! His discussion contains no new information, but is filled with the traditional and inaccurate claims made by most trinitarian scholars. On page 97 of his book, for example, he grossly underestimates the implications of preexistence in John 8:58, claiming that NWT’s “I have been” misses “the entire context and content of what is said!” How White fails to see that an existential use of eimi as part of an instance of the Greek idiom known as the “Extension from Past” (or “present of past action still in progress”) fails to fit a context where the very question of preexistence (!) is in view (John 8:57; compare Jesus’ statements leading up to the question in verse 57, where he clearly reflects on events witnessed in his prehuman state [verse 56]). is beyond me. He also makes a futile attempt to maintain some indirect connection between Jesus’ words in John 8:58 and the LXX of Exodus 3:14, and no such connection can be made, either directly or indirectly. The two passages are grammatical and contextually different on almost every linguistic and interpretive level (see JWD1, pages 149-154 for details).

White (page 98 of The Forgotten Trinity) never actually gets around to proving any kind of connection, but merely asserts, in classic ipse dixit fashion, that the use of ’ani hu/ego eimi in Isaiah somehow serves as a conduit through which John 8:58 is linked to Exodus 3:14! He writes, “There is a line of argumentation, a very solid one, that leads us from John 8 back through Isaiah to Exodus 3” (The Forgotten Trinity, page 98). If there is such a ‘solid line of argumentation’ then White must have forgotten to include it in his discussion, for nothing he says establishes any kind of connection between John 8 and Exodus 3, let alone a “solid” one.

[7] For a discussion of John 6:20, see JWD1, pages 118-121.

[8] While I recognize that there are signs of prophetic, priestly and royal messianic/anointed figures, I am not convinced that there is a clear-cut presentation of two Messiahs in the literature from Qumran. See R. B. Laurin, “The Problem of Two Messiahs in the Qumran Scrolls,” RevQ 13.4.1 (1963), 41. Laurin (page 52) shows that “the theory of two Messiahs in the Qumran Scrolls is really built on a tenuous interpretation of one text: Rule of the Community IX, 11 (35).” He points out that the overwhelming evidence from the history of the word mashiach, its use in Jewish literature, and other Scrolls points to the belief in but one Messiah of the line of David. Martin G. Abegg, Jr., “The Messiah at Qumran: Are We Still Seeing Double?” DSD 2.2 (1995), 125-144, provides an excellent summary of the issues, though he does not refer to Laurin, and he leaves the door open for those who would object to the view that “messianic hopes were only or always singular.”

[9] For a discussion of 4Q246, see the index of Qumran references in the back of JWD2.

[10] For a complete discussion of the issues, see pages 47-51 of JWD1 and the enlarged discussion in JWD2.

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