Henk G. Stoker

Jesus Christ, Creature or Creator?: Responding to the Jehovah’s Witnesses

Henk G. Stoker | 20 July 2020 | 7 min read

The Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is a creature – admittedly the most important creature, but still a creature nonetheless. For their biblical justification of this doctrine, they mainly use the following three passages: Colossians 1:15; Revelation 3:14, and Proverbs 8:22ff.

In this article I will address some of the exegetical and hermeneutical considerations surrounding these three passages to show that the readings of the Jehovah’s Witnesses are incorrect and ignoring the context of the Bible in one way or another.

Colossians 1:15: The Firstborn of Creation

In Colossians 1:15 it is written that Jesus is “the firstborn of all creation.” It is seen by the Jehovah’s Witnesses as biblical proof that Jesus in His pre-existent life was a created spiritual person and therefore that Jesus did not exist before His creation. In other words, Jesus had a point of origin like any other human being.[1]

In contrast, the worldwide Christian church confesses, in the words of the Athanasian creed, that “the Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, the Holy Spirit is uncreated” as well as “the Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, the Holy Spirit is eternal. And yet there are not three eternal beings; there is but one eternal being.”[2] It is evident from this confession that the church has always believed Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, to be uncreated and eternal, and therefore without a point of origin.

When dealing with the argument of the Jehovah’s Witnesses based on Colossians 1, a question should be asked about the meaning of “firstborn”[3] in this particular passage, and other places in the Bible. If the word “firstborn” always and necessarily indicates the eldest child or the “first creature” as expounded by the Watchtower organisation, they have a strong argument. However, as will be demonstrated, this is not the case.

In the Old Testament God says in Exodus 4:22 that the nation of Israel is His “firstborn son,” while Israel was not the first nation which ever lived on earth, but rather the most important one from whom the Messiah would eventually be born. In Psalms 89:27 God says about David, the youngest son of Jesse[4], “I will make him my firstborn.” Furthermore, in Jeremiah 31:9 God calls Ephraim his “firstborn,” although his brother, Manasseh, was the eldest son.[5] It is evident from these passages that “firstborn” does not necessarily mean the eldest child of a family, but can also mean “first in rank” or “preeminent,” thus indicating the most important one.

In the New Testament, “firstborn” is also used in this metaphoric sense to refer to those who are the most important. Hebrews 12:23, for instance, calls the believers “the congregation of the firstborn that are written up in heaven.” It definitely does not indicate that only eldest children are believers but is an indication of the utmost importance of believers to God. Both in Revelation 1:5 and Colossians 1:18 Jesus is called “the firstborn from the dead,” while Jesus is not the first Person that was raised from the dead[6], but rather the most important One who conquered death.[7]

Due to the fact that the “firstborn” had such an important position in the ancient East[8], even before the law[9], the term was not only used for the eldest child, but also assumed the meaning of someone that is of most importance, first in rank, or preeminent. It is therefore clear that the reference to Jesus as “Firstborn of all creation” in Colossians 1:15, that is used by the Watchtower organisation to prove that Jesus was the first creature, may just as well indicate that Jesus is the most important Person in respect to all creation. If the verse is read in its immediate context, it is clear that the surrounding verses actually emphasise that He is the Creator of everything, that is, of all creation without any exception. He can therefore not be the “firstborn” in the sense of the first in a series of creatures as is taught by the Watchtower organisation, but He is in fact the most important Person in respect to Creation, because “all things were created through Him and for Him.”

When Jesus became man, and thus part of His creation centuries after the beginning of creation, He was not the first creature, but the most important Person of creation. In the sense that He, as Creator God, became part of creation, Jesus is rightly the “Firstborn of all of creation; because in Him all things have been created…”[10] In the same way, He is also the firstborn from the dead[11], although He was not the first person to come back from the dead. In contrast with that which the Watchtower organisation teaches, Colossians 1:15-17 describes Jesus not as a mere creature, but as the Creator of everything.[12]

Revelation 3:14: The Beginning of the Creation

In Revelation 3:14 Jesus is referred to as “the beginning of the creation of God.” According to the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ booklet Should you Believe in the Trinity?, the word “beginning,” which comes from the Greek word arche (ἀρχὴ), does not mean the One with Whom everything began, in other words, the One who caused creation or the one from whom creation originated. The Watchtower organisation provide the following reason for their view: “In his Bible writings, John uses various forms of the Greek word arkhe‘ more than 20 times, and these always have the common meaning of ‘beginning.’”[13]

The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology however, gives the meaning of arche as “beginning,” or “cause.” The form archo means “to begin” or “to rule,” and the form archon means “ruler,” or “prince.” Furthermore, the form archegos means “ruler,” or “leader.” Revelation 3:14 can therefore just as well refer to Jesus as the “cause” or “origin” or even the “Person in control” of all of creation.[14]

The argument of the Jehovah’s Witnesses suggesting that John always uses arche in its different forms as “beginning,” in the sense of the “first thing,” does not hold water. In the Watchtower organisation’s own New World Translation[15]for instance archon is translated with “ruler” in Revelation 1:5. In the rest of Revelation the word arche itself is only used in reference to God as “the beginning [arche] and the end.”[16] The Watchtower organisation surely does not want to claim that God is described in these verses as the “beginning” in the sense of the “first thing,” but in the sense of “cause,” or “origin,” i.e. the One with Whom everything began.

It also gives a good reason why arche in Revelation 3:14 should be translated “the beginning of creation” in the sense that Jesus is the “cause” or “origin” of creation. It corresponds well with what John, who wrote Revelation, himself said, with so much emphasis, in his gospel about Jesus in John 1:3: “Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.”

It is therefore clear that this portion of Scripture also cannot serve as proof that Jesus is a mere creature, but it rather indicates that He is the Creator of every minute part of creation.

Wisdom in Proverbs 8

Proverbs 8 is the third portion of Scripture which is used by the Watchtower organisation to argue that Jesus is a mere creature. According to them Proverbs 8:22ff describes “wisdom” as a person that was “born” before God created. Turning once again to their booklet, Should you believe in the Trinity?, it is clear that the Jehovah’s Witnesses assume that the word “wisdom” is indicative of Jesus, even though the Bible does not say that anywhere: “While the term ‘Wisdom’ is used to personify the one whom God created, most scholars agree that it is actually a figure of speech for Jesus as a spirit creature prior to his human existence.”[17]

When one reads the Bible, it soon becomes clear that “wisdom” in this case cannot be another word for Jesus, or a description of Him. In the whole book of Proverbs “wisdom” is not only personified in Proverbs 8, but already in Proverbs 1 and further on up to Proverbs 9 as well. Nothing indicates that it is another “wisdom” than the one that is spoken of in Proverbs 8. If “wisdom” refers to Jesus as the Watchtower organisation claims, then it means that God’s Word teaches us in this section that Jesus is a woman[18], who screams on the plains and at the corners of rowdy streets, and at the gates leading into the city, at the entrances. Jesus is then the sister of the boy with whom the author of Proverbs is speaking, and she lives in a house with seven pillars.[19] She invites people to rather come to her than to another woman with the name “Folly” or “Foolishness.”[20] Wisdom and insight should be gained, embraced and it will bring you greater honour.[21]

That “wisdom” in Proverbs is not a personification of the Lord Jesus, is clear when one reads God’s Word. Besides, if Proverbs 8 really means that wisdom is a creation of God, as claimed by the Watchtower organisation, then it means that there was a time that the All-Wise God was without wisdom, which, by virtue of who God is, is obviously impossible.

Conclusion

Not one of the portions of Scripture that the Jehovah’s Witnesses refer to for their view that Jesus is a mere creature and therefore not eternal, endorses their viewpoint. The contrary is true. John who wrote Revelation, makes the point in the Gospel of John that Jesus could not have been a creature in His pre-existence, because “all things came into being through Him and without Him, nothing came into being that came into being.”[22] In Colossians 1, Paul emphasises that Jesus in His pre-existence was not a creature, because everything was created by Him and for Him. In Isaiah 44 where God emphasizes that He and He alone is God, He also claims that He and He alone made the heavens and the earth:

Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god (Is. 44:6).

And later,

Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself (Is. 44:24).

Contrary to the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, it is clear that the Bible teaches that Jesus is truly the Creator God – sharing one essence with His Father.

Suggested Readings

Reed, David A. Jehovah’s Witnesses Answered Verse by Verse. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986.

Rhodes, Ron. Reasoning From the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2009.

Sire, James W. Scripture Twisting: 20 Ways the Cults Misread the Bible. Downers Grover: InterVarsity Press, 1980.

Stoker, H.G. Die Jehovah-Getuies: ‘n Onchristelike Kulte? Gezina: Printburo, Suid-Afrika, 1995.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the employees and members of Ratio Christi South Africa.


[1] An example of this argument from the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society can be seen in their book titled Reasoning from the Scriptures. It is argued there that Jesus is the eldest in Jehovah’s family of sons which according to them explains why the term “firstborn” is applied to Jesus in Col. 1:15 (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Reasoning from the Scriptures [New York: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society], 408).

[2] The whole Athanasian Creed can be viewed here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athanasian_Creed#:~:text=The%20Athanasian%20Creed%2C%20also%20called,on%20Trinitarian%20doctrine%20and%20Christology. accessed July 14, 2020.

[3] The word “firstborn” is translated from the Greek word prototokos (πρωτότοκος), and the Hebrew word bekôr (בְּכוֹר).

[4] See 1 Sam. 16:11.

[5] See Gen. 41:51-52.

[6] Jesus Himself raised people from the dead before His own death and resurrection.

[7] See 2 Tim. 1:10.

[8] See Gen. 27:19-36 & 49:3.

[9] See Gen. 25:31-33 & Deut. 21:15-17.

[10] Col. 1:15-16.

[11] Col. 1:18.

[12] See John 1:3.

[13] The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Should You Believe the Trinity? (Ontario, Canada: The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society), 14.

[14] Dietrich Müller, “Beginning,” In Colin Brown ed. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology Vol. I (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House), 164-169.

[15] It should be noted that the Jehovah’s Witnesses produced their own translation of the Bible called the New World Translation. On their website they explain the reason behind this translation as follows: “For decades, Jehovah’s Witnesses used, printed, and distributed various versions of the Bible. But then we saw the need to produce a new translation that would better help people to learn the “accurate knowledge of truth,” which is God’s will for everyone… Thus, in 1950 we began to release portions of our modern-language Bible, the New World Translation. This Bible has been faithfully and accurately translated into over 130 languages” (available at www.jw.org accessed March 16, 2018). The New World Translation has been thoroughly refuted by many scholars. For one example of such a refutation, see Metzger, Bruce M., “The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jesus Christ: A Biblical and Theological Appraisal,” Christianity Today: 10:65-85.  

[16] Rev. 21:6 & 22:13.

[17] The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, Should You Believe, p. 14.

[18] See Prov. 1:20-21; 8:1-3 & 9:1.

[19] See Prov. 7:4 & 9:1.

[20] Prov. 9:1-18.

[21] See Prov. 4:7-8.

[22] John 1:3.

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