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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Col. 1:15 "Firstborn of all creation"

Col. 1:15

FIRSTBORN (PROTOTOKOS)

(From the RDB Files)

Some trinitarians insist that the literal "firstborn of all creation" describing Jesus at Col. 1:15 really means "the pre-eminent one over all creation."

"Firstborn" (prototokos) is an integral part of the Father = Source idiom so common in the Bible and is closely associated with "beginning" (arkhe) and "only-begotten"  (monogenes).

Jehovah (who is the Father alone) is never referred to as "first-born" in any sense. Any person, animal, or thing who is ever called "first-born" in the Bible is always a part of Jehovah's creation and is literally the very first one born in a family with other children following (or figuratively the very first one in a line of others who share the quality or attribute under consideration).

If we are to understand the literal "first-born" to sometimes figuratively mean "pre-eminent" (as some trinitarians attempt to do - primarily to avoid the literal meaning of Col. 1:15: Jesus "the first-born of all creation" - see RSV), certainly it should, occasionally at least, be applied to the truly pre-eminent one of all, The Most High. But this never happens in the entire Bible!

The Most High (Pre-eminent One) is always the Father (Jehovah only) alone- see Mark 5:7; Luke 1:32; Luke 8:28; the parallel accounts of Luke 6:30-35 and Matt. 5:42-45; Ps. 83:18; and Ps. 7:17. But He is never called "firstborn" (or "only-begotten")!

The source or originator of all creation is the Father as the very title itself, "Father," tells us. Prototokos or "firstborn" is nearly always used, as the word literally tells us, to mean one who is the beginning of his Father's creative (or procreative) power. And, in fact, arkhe (obviously meaning "beginning") is often used in conjunction with prototokos. For example, the Greek Septuagint says at Gen. 49:3, "Ruben, thou art my first-born [prototokos] ... and the first [arkhe - 'beginning'] of my children." - Septuagint Version.
Even if prototokos could be used to mean "pre-eminent one," it's obvious that the terms "Father" (for the person who is the source and the superior of Jesus), "Son" (the person created by his Father, and in a subordinate, intermediary position to his Father), "only-begotten," "first-born," and "beginning of God's creation" all combine (with the most common understanding of those words by those who spoke and read them at that time) to only one possible conclusion: there was a time when only the Father ("the source") existed. Then, at some point, the Father brought another person into existence and this person was the first production of his creative powers, his "firstborn and the beginning of his creation."

Let's look at Col. 1:15,18:

"He [Christ] is the image of the unseen God and the first-born of all creation,.... As he is the beginning [arkhe], he was first to be born [first-born] from the dead, so that he should be first [proteuo] in every way" - The Jerusalem Bible.

Prototokos, used twice in this scripture, literally means "born first" - see Young's Analytical Concordance - or Strong's Exhaustive Concordance. The New Testament in the King James Version and most other trinitarian translations use this meaning throughout. Here are all the instances of prototokos in the NT: Matt. 1:25 (King James only); Luke 2:7; Ro. 8:29; Col. 1:15; Col. 1:18; Heb. 1:5, 6; Heb. 11:28; Heb. 12:23; Rev. 1:5 (compare Col. 1:18). None of them clearly means "pre-eminent" (although you might be able to "interpret" a few of them as either "first-born" or "pre-eminent" if you tried).

Not only do all of these scriptures that use prototokos have either the certain or the most probable meaning of "first-born," but we rarely (if ever) see any Bible translate them as anything but "first-born" or its literal equivalent except at Col. 1:15-18 where the actual meaning would disprove a trinity concept! A few trinitarian translations force an improper interpretation for prototokos at this scripture only (e.g. NIV, NEB).

It is true that being first-born in a family was strongly connected with pre-eminence. The one born first was usually supposed to be the one to receive the birthright and pre-eminence within that family.

But notice the blessings given by Jacob at Gen. 49:3, 8-12, 22-26. The blessings given to Judah and Joseph identify them as the true "pre-eminent ones" of his sons. Reuben, the literal first-born, lost pre-eminence even though he continued to be known as the "first-born" (prototokos in the Septuagint) in the family of Jacob and the "beginning" (arkhe) of Jacob's family - Gen. 49:3, 4; 1 Chronicles 5:1-3 – RSV.

Be careful not to confuse the rights usually given to the first-born with the person of the first-born. The one actually born first (or first in time in any figurative sense) was known as the "first-born." In literal families this first-born was supposed to receive pre-eminence in that family upon the death of his father because of his being born first (in time).

"The first-born son's privileges and responsibilities are known as his `birthright' (bekorah)." - New Bible Dictionary, 1982, p. 378.

At times, however, a first-born would lose his rights (and pre-eminence over the other sons), and they would be given to another son. Even though this person had lost his birthright (and pre-eminence among his brothers), he was still the first-born! - Examine 1 Chronicles 5:1-3 in most Bible translations (e.g., Young's Literal Translation of the Holy Bible, KJV, ASV, RSV, NIV, NAB, JB, etc.) For example, even though Esau lost his birthright to Jacob, he still remained forever Isaac's firstborn.[14]

Yes, the use of the word prototokos in the Bible always means one who has come into existence first in time - before all the rest of his "brothers" - the beginning (arkhe) of his father's creative (or procreative) works. - see pp. 77-88 in Dr. Jason BeDuhn's Truth in Translation, University Press of America, 2003.

Some trinitarians, however, still insist that the Biblical use of the Greek prototokos can, sometimes, mean "pre-eminent" because they dare not admit the obvious, true, literal meaning of Col. 1:15. Their "evidence" for an interpretation of "pre-eminent" for this word boils down to only 7 examples. Five from the Old Testament (Ps. 89:27; Ex. 4:22; Jer. 31:9; Deut. 21:16, 17; and, rarely, Job 18:13) and, sometimes, an appeal to Ro. 8:29 and Col. 1:18 in the New Testament. - See Walter Martin's The Kingdom of the Cults, p. 123.

These 7 examples, then, must be the very best "evidence" possible since there are well over 100 other examples of prototokos found in the Bible, the vast majority of which clearly show by context alone that "firstborn" (in time) is the intended meaning.

The first example, Ps. 89:27, has God saying about "David, my servant" that

"he shall call upon me, saying, `Thou art my Father, my God.... And I will make him firstborn [prototokos], higher than the kings of the earth.... my covenant shall be firm with him." - Septuagint. (Cf., KJV, ASV).

It is true that David was not the firstborn of his father Jesse, nor was he the first king of Israel. However, the first king of Israel, Saul, was rejected by God and removed from God's throne, no longer God's king. The second king of Israel, David, was the first king to remain faithful until his death and, hence, the "firstborn" of all the faithful kings of Israel who will be resurrected by God. He will be "firstborn" (first in time on Israel's throne) among all those kings who will return. However, he certainly will not be pre-eminent over one of those other kings who is his descendent: Jesus Christ.

We also find that David is the first king whom God made a covenant with for an "everlasting kingdom" - 2 Sam. 7:12-16. [He is also the first of the descendants of Judah who are to rule forever (Saul was descended from Benjamin) - Gen. 49:10] He may be considered "firstborn" in this sense, also.

So we can see that Saul was the first king of Israel, but he didn't remain faithful to God ["call upon me, saying `thou art my Father, my God'"]. The very first king of Israel to remain faithful to God was David. In that sense, then, David became "firstborn" [of all succeeding faithful earthly kings of Israel].

However, the later fulfillment of Ps. 89:27 is in the person of Jesus Christ (who is the firstborn of God in another sense) and not the literal David. We see the Messiah being called, figuratively, "David, my servant" at Ezekiel 34:23, 24 just as he is in this Psalm (89:20). We see the final fulfillment of Ps. 89:26-29 in Jesus Christ (Luke 1:32, 33; Heb. 1:5, 6; Jn 20:17).

The second example (Ex. 4:22) is probably the most-used by those trinitarians attempting to prove a "pre-eminent" meaning for prototokos. Here is how it is worded in the Septuagint: God says, "Israel is [the] firstborn [prototokos] son of me." Context reveals that this is the nation of Israel which Jehovah is calling his "firstborn." So in what sense was Israel first in time in relation to Jehovah? It was the first nation to be chosen by him. It has always (since the time of Moses) been the first, but it has certainly never been "pre-eminent" among the nations!

And, of course, we must not change the inspired writer's genitive noun ("of me") in this verse to "over me" as has been done at Col. 1:15 in a few trinitarian Bibles (e.g. NIV). How ridiculous to "interpret" this so that God says: "Israel is the `pre-eminent one' OVER me"! (But, of course, this is precisely what some trinitarians have done with Col. 1:15 - "the pre-eminent one over all creation"!!

God's calling the nation of Israel his "firstborn son" obviously means the first nation he has caused to come into existence to be his own (and others must someday follow).
The third example (Jer. 31:9) is actually found at Jer. 38:9 in the Septuagint). Again God is speaking of the nation of Israel (see context of entire chapter): "I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is [the] firstborn [prototokos] OF me."

So how can we understand Ephraim being Jehovah's "firstborn"? - Jer. 31:9.

Here Ephraim is obviously called Jehovah's firstborn in some figurative sense. (The person, Ephraim, was, of course, long dead at this time.) Certainly neither Ephraim, nor even the tribe of Ephraim, was ever Jehovah's "pre-eminent one" or (more parallel to the trinitarian interpretation of Col. 1:15) "the pre-eminent one OVER Jehovah"!

So to explain the use of "firstborn" at Jer. 31:9, the very trinitarian ecumenical study Bible, The New Oxford Annotated Bible, 1977 ed., tells us that

"as [the tribe of] Ephraim is restored, so is all Israel" - p. 954.

This interpretation shows the understanding that the tribe of Ephraim is to be restored first in time ("firstborn"), and then the rest of Israel is to be restored. Notice there is no "pre-eminence" interpretation by these highly respected trinitarian scholars!

Another possibility suggested by trinitarians for "firstborn" at Jer. 31:9 is that, since the land of the tribe of Ephraim is where "the original [first] place of worship [the tabernacle] from the time of Joshua to that of Samuel" - (NAB, St. Joseph ed., p. 902) - was located, in Shiloh, it is God's "firstborn" in that respect (again in the sense of first in time). Or, as explained in Jer. 7:12,

"Go now to my place that was in Shiloh [in `Ephraim'] where I made my name dwell at first" - RSV, NRSV, NIV, and cf. NAB (`91) "in the beginning."

But the trinitarian reference work, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol. 2, p. 306, Zondervan, 1986, gives us the most probable explanation: the nation of Israel was also called `Ephraim' "by the contemporary prophets, e.g., Isa. 7:1-9, after the central region associated with the name of the younger of the two sons of Joseph."

So we merely have a parallelism at Jer. 31:9 - (1) "I, Jehovah, am a father (I created it) to the nation of Israel, and (2) `Ephraim' (`Israel') is the first nation I have created (`first-born')." - Compare the parallelism at Hosea 11:8. Again we see a confirmation of Ex. 4:22 (the 2nd "example" above) that Israel was the first nation formed at God's direction, and no hint of "pre-eminence" but only the meaning of first in time for "firstborn"! (This is simply one of the many scriptural uses of "Father," "Son," [or "Firstborn," "onlybegotten," etc.] and "brought forth" [or "begot"] to figuratively describe the CREATOR of something and his CREATION!)

And, again, how absurd it would be to interpret this as "Ephraim is the `pre-eminent one' over me [God]."

The 4th example seems, perhaps, the weakest of all of those cited in the OT, but no less an authority than the very trinitarian Biblical Greek scholar W. E. Vine points to Deut. 21:16, 17 as evidence for a "pre-eminent" interpretation for "first-born." The Septuagint reads:

(15) "And if a man have two wives, the one loved and the other hated, and both the loved [wife] and the hated [wife] should have born him children, and the son of the hated should be first-born [prototokos]; (16) then it shall be that whensoever he shall divide by inheritance his goods to his sons, he shall not be able to give the right of the firstborn to the son of the loved one, having overlooked the son of the hated, which is the firstborn [prototokos]. (17) But he shall acknowledge the firstborn [prototokos] of the hated one [wife] to give to him double of all things which shall be found by him, because he is the first [arkhe: beginning] of his children, and to him belongs the birthright." - The Septuagint Version of the Old Testament, Zondervan Publishing House, 1970.

It is obvious that prototokos here means only "one born first." The birthright itself must not be confused with the one it is usually given to: the firstborn (prototokos)! And to "interpret" verse 17 as "he shall acknowledge the `pre-eminent one' OVER the hated [wife]" is clearly ludicrous!

Another example from the OT sometimes used by trinitarians can be found at Job 18:13 -
"His skin is devoured by disease, The firstborn of death devours his limbs" - NASB.

A few trinitarians attempt to interpret this as an example of "firstborn" meaning "pre-eminent" or "foremost." But there is no honest reason to insist that "the firstborn of death" at Job 18:13 must mean something like "the principal disease" (JB footnote). In the first place, to be parallel with the trinitarian-concocted understanding of Col. 1:15 it would have to be interpreted as "the pre-eminent one over death" - which it clearly does not and can not! In the second place, a careful study will reveal that this scripture is literally calling the disease which ravages the wicked man "the firstborn son of death": the first child (or creation) produced by the "god of death."

The NIV Study Bible (1985 ed.) tells us in the footnote for Job 18:13: "death's firstborn. See 5:7." And the footnote for Job 5:7 says:

"sparks. Lit[erally] `sons of Resheph.' In Canaanite mythology, Resheph was a god of plague and destruction [death]. `(Sons of) Resheph' is used as a poetic image in the OT for fire (SS 8:6), bolts of lightning (Ps 78:48) and pestilence (Dt 32:24; Hab 3:5)."

Obviously the NIVSB has referred "death's firstborn" at Job 18:13 to "Sons of Resheph [Death]" to show that the poetic image used in the OT has more than one son attributed to Resheph. Apparently the firstborn of those sons (the first "son" Resheph created) was pestilence. And it is this pestilence (the 'first born of Death') that "eats away parts of his skin ... [and] devours his limbs" at Job 18:13. (This is why the New English Bible renders Job 18:13 as "Death's eldest child.")
A related interpretation (which I prefer):

"[even] the firstborn of death shall devour his strength; ....

"it signifies not what presides over death, but what death first produces, which are corruption and rottenness, dust and worms; these are the firstborn of death, or the firstfruits and effects of it, and which devour and destroy not the skin only, but the whole body and all its members" - The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible.

The first of the two NT examples sometimes used by trinitarians is Ro. 8:29 -

"Those Christians whom he [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn [prototokos] AMONG many brethren." - RSV.

I have found no Bible (trinitarian or otherwise) which renders this scripture with a meaning of "pre-eminent one over many brothers" in spite of the interpretation a few trinitarian "scholars" attempt to give it. Since the word "among" (en in the NT Greek), not "over," is used here, it cannot honestly be rendered as these trinitarians would like. In fact these trinitarian Bibles translate it as "eldest [prototokos] among many brethren" - NEB, REB, CBW, JB, NJB, AT, and Weymouth. This clearly shows the intended meaning of prototokos as first in time not "pre-eminence" (as a careful study of the context also confirms).

As for the other NT "example," Col. 1:18, "proving" the possibility of a "pre-eminent" interpretation for prototokos, all we have to do is examine Col. 1:15-18 carefully.
We see prototokos clearly meaning "the one born (or reborn) first" at 1:18 where Jesus is the firstborn (or first to return from death to eternal life) from the dead.

To make it even clearer, the trinitarian The Jerusalem Bible (cf. NEB; REB; and Beck) translates it: "first to be born from the dead." - Compare 1 Cor. 15:20, 23 and Rev. 1:5. Surely there is no doubt that first in time is intended here, not "pre-eminence."

"firstborn. Christ was the first to rise from the dead with a resurrection body. .... Others who were raised from the dead ... were raised only to die again." - The NIV Study Bible footnote for Col. 1:18.)

It is also very plain that Paul frequently speaks of certain Christians being resurrected as spirit persons in heaven and that Jesus was the firstborn of these dead, i.e. the first of many persons who are to be resurrected to eternal life in heaven.

1 Cor. 15:20 - "Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits [`the first of millions' - LB; `the very first to rise' - Phillips] of those who have fallen asleep." - RSV and many others.

1 Cor. 15:49 - "Just as we [faithful Christians who have the hope of being resurrected to heaven] have borne the image of the man of dust [Adam], we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven [Jesus]."

The Apostle John also writes of this truth and also uses the term "first-born" to describe it: "and Jesus Christ ... the firstborn [prototokos] of the dead" - Rev. 1:5, RSV. Or "first to be raised from death" - GNB; also see LB, Beck, and Beck (NT)). Even the extremely trinitarian The Amplified Bible explains "firstborn of the dead" at Rev. 1:5 as, "that is, first to be brought back to life."

Rev. 2:8 makes a similar statement, but could be phrased as the "only-begotten" from the dead (in the sense that Jesus is the only one to be raised to heavenly life by God Himself. All others are to be raised through Jesus). "The first and the last" simply means the only one in some sense. Adam, for example, was the 'first and the last' in the sense that he was the only one to be created directly from the elements of the earth.

This "firstborn" and "only-begotten" concept for the second creation (resurrection to eternal life) also explains why Jesus can be called the firstborn and the "only-begotten" in another sense: The first of God's creation ("Firstborn") and the only one ('only-begotten') created directly by God Himself.

These examples in Revelation are therefore clearly a repetition of this same well-established truth that Paul is restating at Col. 1:18.

We cannot seriously believe that Paul is telling us at Col. 1:18 that Jesus is the "pre-eminent one" over the dead. Especially since the actual wording by Paul is "the beginning [arkhe], firstborn [prototokos] OUT OF [ek] the dead." - see any interlinear New Testament (or as also confirmed by John "The firstborn OF the dead." - Rev. 1:5). There can be no honest doubt that Col. 1:18 does not mean "pre-eminent one OVER the dead"! It clearly means "the first one resurrected to eternal life in the `new creation'."
Remember, the above 7 examples are the very best "proof" available to desperate trinitarian scholars that prototokos can mean "pre-eminent" in Bible usage! But even they (like the more than one hundred other examples of prototokos in the Bible) show that only firstborn in time is meant.

Now notice how the first use of prototokos (in Col. 1:15 - "the first-born of all creation") is used as a complement for the second use of prototokos (in Col. 1:18 - "the first-born from the dead").

That is, being "firstborn of all creation" is equated with and added to being "firstborn from the dead" (or first of the final creation - the ones who will receive eternal life). When these two "firstborns" (the first and the last) are added together the sum is one who is "first [proteuo] in everything" - Col. 1:18, JB, NWT, Living Bible (also known as The Book and The Word), and the New Testament in the Language of Today (Beck).

(Also notice how the ancient Aramaic text renders Col. 1:18 - "he is the beginning, the firstfruits of the resurrection from the dead, that in all things he might be first." - Lamsa. Compare 1 Cor. 15:20 - "But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep [in death]." - NASB.) In both cases -'firstborn' and 'firstfruits' - we understand the meaning as the first one produced.)

To insist on a literal "born" (rather than the figurative first "created") in Col. 1:15-18 would mean that we must also understand him as literal vegetation ("fruit") at 1 Cor. 15:20 instead of the figurative 'first one produced or created from the dead'!

So when the distinction of being the very first person to be resurrected to eternal life in the "last creation" is added to the distinction of being the very first of God's original creation, we truly have a person who was the very "first in everything." (Proteuo is often translated "pre-eminent" for this verse. It literally means, however, either `to be first' or 'hold the first place' - Thayer. It derives from protos which means first in time, place, or rank - Thayer.)

"Jesus was the first-born (prototokos) of his mother (Mt. 1:25; Lk. 2:7) .... Jesus is also the first-born of his heavenly Father. He is the first-born of all creation...(Col. 1:15-17). Similarly, he is the first-born in the new creation by being raised first from the dead" - New Bible Dictionary, (2nd ed.), 1982, p. 378, Tyndale House Publ.

This respected trinitarian publication clearly admits, then, that "firstborn" is used in the same way ("very first in time") for each of these scriptural uses of prototokos for Jesus: Jesus was the very first child Mary brought into existence (Matthew 1:25); Jesus was the very first person brought into existence in the new creation (Col. 1:18; 1 Cor. 15:20; Rev. 1:5); and Jesus was the very first thing brought into existence in God's first creation!!

Furthermore, these two "first-borns" of Col. 1:15 and Col. 1:18 must closely parallel each other in meaning to make the comparison (or "addition") sensible and complete! They are of like kind (firstborn in time, not "pre-eminence") so they can be added together and summed up: "So that he should be first in everything." - Col. 1:18. It would be inappropriate to have the first use of prototokos (Col. 1:15) mean "pre-eminent" for the first creation and the second use of prototokos (Col. 1:18) mean (as it so obviously does) "first in time" for the "last creation."

So Paul is probably making a play on words with the two definitions of proteuo when he sums up by saying Jesus is "first [proteuo] in everything." He must intend the meaning of `first in time' to agree with the rest of his metaphor.

There is no proper reason to change the intended meaning of prototokos at Col. 1:15 so that it differs from every other Bible use of the word. The only reason that some trinitarians attempt to interpret it as "pre-eminent one" is that they don't like what it actually, literally says!

Finally, notice that even if Col. 1:15 could be properly translated as "the pre-eminent one of all creation," it could only mean one thing: that he is the highest one of all created things (that is, he IS ONE OF THOSE CREATED THINGS)!

It cannot mean that he is the highest individual over all created things. This is an impossible interpretation for two reasons:

(1) The word "pre-eminent" actually rules out the possibility of a double interpretation. For example: "The leader OF the wolves" is capable of a double interpretation: (A) "The Leader" could be one of the wolves himself. And (B), although unlikely, it is possible that the leader of the wolves is not one of the wolves himself. It is possible that he is a dog, coyote, or even a man. However, the phrase "smartest (or `smartest one') OF the wolves" does not allow for such an ambiguity, and it is, therefore, certain that this "smartest one" IS one of those wolves.

"Pre-eminent" (or "pre-eminent one"), like "smartest" (or "smartest one"), also does not allow for that ambiguity. The "pre-eminent one OF creation" has to be a part of that creation himself!

(2) As we have already seen, the Bible clearly and repeatedly states that Jehovah (the Father alone) is pre-eminent over all creation. Therefore Jesus cannot be the pre-eminent one over all creation but is the first creation of God!

We have also seen that in the Bible the term "firstborn of ..." never means "pre-eminent one over ..."! "Firstborn of Abraham" for example never means the "pre-eminent one over Abraham." Even if we could properly allow "pre-eminent" as a meaning for prototokos, it would mean no more than "pre-eminent one of Abraham's creation (or procreation)"! Whenever anyone calls Jesus the firstborn son of God, it plainly means the first of the "children" God has produced. (Obviously it does not mean "the pre-eminent one over God.") Therefore, when Jesus is called the firstborn of creation, it clearly means that he is the first of that creation that God has produced.

And, again, even if "firstborn" could mean "pre-eminent one," Col. 1:15 would still be saying that Jesus is the "pre-eminent one" of creation. In other words, he is part of that creation, albeit the first and highest part!

We should also consider that those whom God calls son are those whom he has created: Luke 3:38; Rev. 21:7; Gen. 6:2; Job 1:6; Ps. 89:6 [f.n. in RSV and compare LB]; Gal. 3:26. Jesus' very title, the Son of God, indicates that he was created. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia tells us that angels are called `sons of God' in the Scriptures. Then it states:

"the creation of angels is referred to in Ps 148 2, 5 (cf Col 1 16). They were present [in the beginning] at the creation of the world ... (Job 38 7)." - pp. 132, 133, Vol. 1, Eerdmans, 1984 printing.
In the very same way, those who are said to be the "image" of God are not God himself (he's obviously not his own image) but a part of God's creation! Notice who the image of God is in these scriptures: Gen. 1:26; 9:6; 1 Cor. 11:7; 2 Cor. 3:18.

Therefore, when Col. 1:15 says Jesus is "the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation" (RSV), we know Paul is speaking of someone who is the very first creation made by God (and was created "in his image" long before man was also created "in his image")! - Cf. Gen. 1:26, 27. - See the IMAGE study paper.

There are only two valid, scriptural understandings for "firstborn of ...." If it is used with a single individual (e.g., `firstborn of Moses'), then it means the firstborn has been produced (or created) by that individual. If it is used with a group of individuals (e.g., `firstborn of the herd' - Deut. 12:6; 15:19; `firstborn of our sons' - Neh 10:36), then it always means one who was produced as a part of that group!

That's why, for example, "the firstborn" at 2 Chron. 21:3 may be understood only as either "the firstborn of Jehoshaphat" or "the firstborn of all Jehoshaphat's children." In the first case the firstborn is the first production (or creation) by Jehoshaphat. In the second case the firstborn is the first to be created of all Jehoshaphat's CHILDREN. But in either case it is speaking of the first one created!

Clearly, then, if Jesus is called the firstborn of God, he is being identified as the one first produced by God. And when he is called the firstborn of creation (a group of individuals), he is being identified as one who was produced or created as a part of that group. In other words: Out of all things created by God, Jesus was the very first.

* * * * *

Some anti-Watchtower writer has evidently come up with an idea that I have seen used in letters to fellow Christians here in Ketchikan. The argument usually goes like this: "If Paul had really meant `the first creation by God' at Col. 1:15, he would have used the word protoktistos which means `first creation' instead of prototokos." (Notice the argument here is not that proto doesn't actually mean "first in time" but that ktistos ["creation"] is more appropriate than tokos ["born"]!)

I do know, however, that protoktistos was never used by any inspired NT scripture writer. It should certainly be no surprise, therefore, to learn that it isn't used at Col. 1:15, 18 !
 
Furthermore, the Bible frequently uses the word for "born" in place of "made" or "created" as would be expected from the common Bible idiom of "Father" as creator or source - Ps. 90:2 ("brought forth" in some translations is the Hebrew word for "born"); Is. 66:8-9; Job 38:28-30; Prov. 8:24-25. So not only was protoktistos not used in the NT at all, it was completely unnecessary because "first-born" could be used with the very same meaning!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hebrews 1:8 - “Thy Throne, O God”


(From the RDB Files)

Hebrews 1:8 is one of the more commonly used scriptures for trinitarian “evidence” in spite of (in reality, because of) its obvious ambiguity. This is because on the surface (at least as found in some trinitarian-translated Bibles) it looks clear and straightforward. Also not many people have the means or the inclination to examine it more closely.


Heb. 1:8 in the King James Version (AV or KJV) is rendered:


“But unto the son he saith, thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.”


Since “he saith” and the second “is” (found after “righteousness”) in the above verse are not actually found in the original manuscripts and have been added by the KJV translators, they are found in italics in most printings of the KJV.


But more importantly (as a quick glance into any interlinear Greek-English New Testament will show) the first “is” (found after “God”) in the above verse is also not in the original manuscripts but has been added by some modern translators.


Yes, literally the original NT Greek manuscripts read: “Toward but the son the throne of you the god into the age of the age.”


No one should deny that the title theos (NT Greek word meaning “God,” “god,” “mighty one,” “divine,” etc.) can be applied to Jesus (at least in the writings of John - see the DEF and BOWGOD studies), just as it was applied in the scriptures to angels, judges of Israel, Moses, and (according to some trinitarian authorities) even the kings of Israel.


But theos is never applied to Jesus with the most high sense that is given only to the Almighty, Most High, only true God. So it could, perhaps, have been used at Heb. 1:8 in its positive secondary sense: “Your throne, o mighty one [theos], is ...”. This seems even more probable when we remember that Paul is really quoting from Ps. 45:6.


Psalm 45 is celebrating an Israelite king’s marriage, and the psalmist applies the words of Ps. 45:6, 7 literally to an ancient Israelite king. In fact, the trinitarian New American Standard Bible (NASB), Reference Edition, explains in a footnote for Ps. 45:1, “Probably refers to Solomon as a type of Christ.”


So, according to this trinitarian Bible, the words of Ps. 45:6, although figuratively referring to Jesus, were literally applied to an ancient Israelite king (probably King Solomon, it says).


So if Ps. 45:6 is properly translated, “your throne, O God ...” then that ancient Israelite King (Solomon?) was also literally called “O God” (or “O god”?). In fact, the highly trinitarian New American Bible, St. Joseph Edition, 1970, explains in a footnote for this verse:


“The Hebrew king was called ... ‘God,’ not in the polytheistic sense common among the ancient
pagans, but as meaning ‘godlike’ or ‘taking the place of God’.”


The trinitarian Easy-to-read-Version also says in a footnote for this passage:


“God .... here the writer might be using the word ‘God’ as a title for the king.” (Cf. NIV Study Bible f.n. for Pss. 45:6 and 82:1, 6.)


(And the revised 1991 ed. of the NAB actually translates Ps. 45:6, 7 as “Your throne, O god.”)

The NAB (St. Joseph ed.,1970) goes on to explain, however, that others have translated this verse as, “Your throne is the throne of God” and refers us to 1 Chron. 29:23 “where Solomon’s throne is referred to as the throne of the LORD [YHWH].”


Now we’re getting closer to the most likely intention of Heb. 1:8. There is good evidence that the proper translation of Heb. 1:8 (as well as Ps. 45:6) should be “your throne is God forever” or “God is your throne forever.”


For one thing, the definite article (“the”) is used in the NT Greek with “God” in this scripture. Not even John (who does, rarely, use theos for Jesus) uses theos with the definite article for anyone except the Only True God - the Father. - See the DEF study.


Also, if we look at some respected trinitarian authorities, we also see a preference for the “God is thy throne” rendering.


Oxford professor and famous trinitarian Bible translator, Dr. James Moffatt, has been described as “probably the greatest biblical scholar of our day.” His respected Bible translation renders Heb. 1:8 as:


God is thy throne for ever and ever.”


University of Cambridge professor and noted New Testament language scholar, Dr. C. F. D. Moule writes that Heb. 1:8 may be “construed so as to mean Thy throne is God” - p. 32, An Idiom Book of New Testament Greek, Cambridge University Press, 1990 printing.


An American Translation (Smith-Goodspeed), renders it: “God is your throne....”


And The Bible in Living English (Byington) reads: “God is your throne....”

The Message reads: Your throne is God’s throne….” 

NSB - God is your throne

Mace - "God is thy throne….”

 Twentieth Century Translation - ‘God is thy throne….’


Another world-acclaimed scholar of trinitarian Christendom has translated this verse similarly and made some interesting comments. Trinitarian Dr. William Barclay,


“world-renowned Scottish New Testament interpreter, was noted as a profound scholar and a writer of extraordinary gifts .... He was the minister of Trinity Church, Renfrew, Scotland, and, later, Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism at the University of Glasgow.”


Dr. Barclay, in his translation of the New Testament, has also rendered Hebrews 1:8 as : “God is your throne for ever and ever.” But worse yet (for those wishing for evidence of a trinity from the Book of Hebrews), Dr. Barclay comments as follows:


“The letter [of Hebrews] was written to a Church which had had great days and great teachers and leaders.” - p. 6. “Moreover, it was obviously written to a scholarly group [who] ... had long been under instruction and were preparing themselves to become teachers of the Christian faith.” - p. 7.


And just what was this passage that includes Heb. 1:8 (Heb. 1:4-14) intended to prove to this group of long-term dedicated Christian scholars?


“[The author] is concerned to prove [Jesus’] SUPERIORITY OVER THE ANGELS.” - p. 16, The Letter to the Hebrews, Revised Edition, 1976, The Westminster Press.


Yes, this world-acclaimed trinitarian scholar has (perhaps inadvertently) illuminated the truth of the doctrine of God which was understood by first-century Christians! They had absolutely no concept of the 3-in-one God idea which was developed in later centuries (see the HIST study). IF these learned 1st century Christians had really considered Jesus “equally God” (as 4th century Christendom began doing), it certainly would have been nonsensical for the writer of Hebrews to attempt to prove that Jesus was superior to all other angels!


Noted trinitarian (Southern Baptist) New Testament Greek scholar Dr. A. T. Robertson acknowledges that either “Thy throne, O God” or “God is thy throne”/“thy throne is God” may be proper renderings: “Either makes good sense.” - p. 339, Word Pictures in the New Testament.
 He also tells us that the inspired Letter to the Hebrews was written to a church of Jewish Christians whose Jewish neighbors


“... have urged them to give up Christ and Christianity and to come back to Judaism.... These Jews argued that the prophets were superior to Jesus, the law came by the ministry of angels, Moses was greater than Jesus, and Aaron than Jesus. [The writer of Hebrews] turns the argument on the Jews and boldly champions the Glory of Jesus as superior at every point to all that Judaism had, as God’s Son and man’s Saviour, the crown and glory of the Old Testament prophecy, the hope of mankind. It is the first great apologetic for Christianity and has never been surpassed.” - Word Pictures in the New Testament, Vol. v, pp. 331, 339.


Again, it would have been absolutely absurd for the inspired writer of Hebrews to devote this entire, long letter to proving that Jesus is superior to Moses and the angels if the intended readers, as the spirit-born Christians they were, had already accepted Jesus as God Almighty! And even if they had originally believed that Jesus was God, but were now in doubt, the Bible writer certainly wouldn’t waste any time trying to prove Jesus’ superiority to Moses and the angels. He would have dedicated the entire letter to proving absolutely that Jesus is God (if he had really believed such a thing himself)!


Furthermore, if those Jewish neighbors had any inkling that these Christians believed that anyone except Jehovah, the Father alone, was Almighty God, they wouldn’t have spent any time at all on these other relatively minor aspects. The clamor of the Jews against Christians who called Jesus “God” would have been deafening, overwhelming!


But there is no record of any such thing until after the Trinity Doctrine was declared by the Roman Catholic Church in the 4th century A.D.! - See ISRAEL and CREEDS studies.


The American Standard Version (ASV), the Revised Standard Version (RSV), the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), and The New English Bible (NEB) have provided alternate readings to the traditional trinitarian rendering of the KJV at Hebrews 1:8. These alternate readings (found in footnotes) agree with Dr. Moffatt’s, Dr. Barclay’s, Smith-Goodspeed’s, Byington’s, and the New World Translation’s renderings of this scripture (“God is your throne”).


Even Young’s Concise Bible Commentary (written by the famous trinitarian author of Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible) admits: “[Heb. 1:8] may be justly rendered ‘God is thy throne ...’ in either case it is applicable to the mediatorial throne only.”



Quoted From Ps. 45


In addition to these admissions by trinitarian translators concerning Heb. 1:8, we need to look back at the Old Testament Hebrew scripture (Ps. 45:6) that Paul was quoting when he wrote Heb. 1:8.


The RSV renders it as “Your Divine throne” and a footnote provides this alternate
reading: “Or ‘your throne is a throne of God.’”


The NEB says: “Your throne is like God’s throne.”


The Holy Scriptures (JPS version) says: “Thy throne given of God.”


The Bible in Living English (Byington) says: “God is your throne.”

New International Reader’s Version (NIRV): “Your throne is the very throne of God.”

The Good News Bible (GNB), a very trinitarian paraphrase Bible, renders it: “The kingdom
that God has given you will last forever and ever.”


The REB has: “God has enthroned you for all eternity.”


The NJB gives us: “your throne is from God.”

Leeser - Thy throne, given of God, endureth for ever 


We also see the following statement by respected trinitarian scholars in a footnote for this passage:


“45:6 O God. Possibly the king’s throne is called God’s throne because he is God’s appointed regent. But it is also possible that the king himself is addressed as ‘god.’” - Ps. 45:6 f.n. in the NIV Study Bible.


In addition to the above renderings by many respected translators (most of whom are trinitarian), we have the statement by perhaps the greatest scholar of Biblical Hebrew of all time, H. F. W. Gesenius. In his famous and highly respected Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Gesenius renders Ps. 45:6, “thy throne shall be a divine throne.”


Obviously, then, the charge sometimes made that the NWT is “not being honest or scholarly” with its rendering of Heb. 1:8 is simply untrue, and it certainly may be honestly translated “God is your throne forever.”


Just the admission by so many trinitarian translators (above) that Heb. 1:8 may be honestly translated as it is in the NWT makes any insistence by other trinitarians that this scripture is acceptable evidence for a trinity doctrine completely invalid!


Even famed Southern Baptist New Testament Greek scholar Dr. A. T. Robertson admits:


“It is not certain whether ho theos is here the vocative [‘your throne, O God’] ... or ho theos is nominative (subject or predicate) with estin (is) understood: ‘God is thy throne’ or ‘Thy throne is God.’ Either makes good sense.” - p. 339, Vol. 5, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Broadman Press, 1960.


However, there is more evidence, evidence which shows not only that Heb. 1:8 may be honestly translated “God is your throne,” but, indeed, should be so translated!


Notice the context. Heb. 1:8 and 1:9 are being quoted from Ps. 45:6 and 45:7. In Ps. 45:7, speaking to the Israelite king, it says:


“Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.” - RSV.


Just as this makes it clear that the ancient Israelite king was not God but was anointed by God, HIS God, to a position above his fellows, so does Heb. 1:9, as figuratively applied to Jesus, show that he is not God, but was anointed by his God to a position above his fellows! Context, then, shows that the person addressed in Heb. 1:8 is not God, but one who worships God and was anointed by his God!


The renowned trinitarian Bible scholar, B. F. Westcott, wrote:


“The LXX [Septuagint] admits of two renderings [at Ps. 45:6, 7]: [ho theos] can be taken as a vocative in both cases (‘thy throne, O God, .... therefore, O God, thy God...’) or it can be taken as the subject (or the predicate) in the first case (‘God is Thy throne,’ or ‘Thy throne is God...’), and in apposition to [ho theos sou] in the second case (‘Therefore God, even Thy God...’) .... It is scarcely possible that [elohim] in the original can be addressed to the King. The presumption therefore is against the belief that [ho theos] is a vocative in the LXX. Thus on the whole it seems best to adopt in the first clause the rendering: ‘God is thy throne’ (or, ‘Thy throne is God’), that is, ‘Thy kingdom is founded upon God, the immovable Rock.’” - The Epistle to the Hebrews, London, 1889, pp. 25, 26.


Further evidence for the proper translation of Heb. 1:8 is found in the conclusions reached by the trinitarian United Bible Societies’ (UBS) Bible Text Committee. The United Bible Societies (composed of the American Bible Society, The National Bible Society of Scotland, The Netherlands Bible Society, and the Wurttemberg Bible Society) appointed an international and interdenominational committee (but trinitarian, of course) of textual scholars to determine the most accurate text possible of the Greek New Testament.


To do this they examined hundreds of variations in the many thousands of ancient New Testament manuscripts and compared other existing texts by Westcott and Hort, Nestle, Bover, and Vogels.


In 1971 the UBS published A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament which explained why the committee had chosen certain readings as being correct and rejected others. In choosing the text they believed to be closest to the original manuscript of the book of Hebrews, the UBS committee looked at the very oldest and best manuscripts still in existence today. Several methods helped them decide what is probably the original wording. One, of course, is how many of the very oldest and best manuscripts agree.


Another method is to determine which of the variations were most likely to have been changed by later copyists. For instance, when a NT writer is referring to an OT quotation, he often has it worded slightly differently from the exact quote in the Septuagint (Paul is especially noted for this).


So, if one NT manuscript has an OT scripture quoted exactly as it appears in the Septuagint, and another has a slightly different wording, the manuscript that differs slightly is more likely to have the proper, original wording. (Later copyists strongly tended to “correct” the original NT manuscripts by making their OT quotes conform exactly to the wording in the Septuagint version.)


Another consideration is that later Church copyists would often change the wording of a scripture if it seemed to contradict a teaching of the Roman Church.[1] Therefore, if the wording of an ancient manuscript seems to contradict a later teaching of the Roman Church, it is more likely to have the original wording than another ancient manuscript which (at the same verse) seems to agree with that Church teaching.


Using these criteria, the UBS Committee unanimously agreed with all the wording of Heb. 1:8 except for one word. They agreed that the original writing of Heb. 1:8 should read literally (in the NT Greek): “toward but the son the throne of you the god into the age of the age and the staff of the straightness staff of the kingdom [‘of him’ or ‘of you’].”


It was the very last word of Heb. 1:8 that caused a “considerable degree of doubt” among those textual scholars. This very last word was either the NT Greek word sou (translated into English as “of you” or “your”) or autou (translated “of him” or “his”).


Why is it so important? Because these trinitarian scholars agreed that if autou (“his”) were used here by the author of Hebrews 1:8, then the verse “must be” translated “God is thy throne” and not “thy throne, O God”!! If, however, sou (“your”) was the original wording, then it could be translated either way. Obviously, then, a trinitarian would strongly prefer the reading of sou. [See end note 4]


In discussing this problem the UBS Committee noted that all the very oldest and best manuscripts (p46 - circa 200 A.D.; 'Aleph' - 4th century; and B - 4th century) all agree that the original wording was “his (autou) kingdom.”


They also noted that later manuscripts which read “your (sou) kingdom” are now in agreement with the corresponding passage in the Greek OT Septuagint! (Remember that the UBS Committee recognizes, as do most Bible scholars, that the NT manuscript that differs slightly from the Septuagint is more likely to be correct than another one which perfectly agrees because copyists strongly tended to deliberately “correct” Septuagint quotes they found in the NT .)


Furthermore, since autou is not repeated near the word in question in this NT manuscript quote of Ps. 45:6, 7, but sou is repeated, before and after, it would have been easy for a copyist to have inadvertently miscopied sou here. Autou, then, is more likely to have been original than sou for more than one reason.


It is also important to realize that all the oldest manuscripts (which were probably written before the full trinity doctrine was officially declared by the Roman Church in 381 A. D. and certainly written well before it was popularly accepted through the efforts of such men as Augustine in the early 5th century) use the word autou which will not properly allow for the trinitarian-preferred interpretation. Whereas many of the later manuscripts now use the word sou which will allow for the trinitarian-preferred interpretation of Heb. 1:8.


Isn’t it significant that the very earliest manuscript to use the trinitarian-preferred sou is Manuscript A from the 5th century which is shortly after the trinity doctrine was fully and officially declared at the Council of Constantinople in 381 A. D. and during the highly successful efforts of Augustine and others to defend and popularize this newly established “truth” of the Roman Church? (Remember the correlation between new church doctrines and changes in later manuscripts.) - See the HIST study paper.


So even though there is overwhelming evidence that “his” (autou) was in the original manuscript of Hebrews 1:8 (even the trinitarian scholars who developed the Westcott and Hort text and the Nestle text (NA21) use autou at Heb. 1:8), the UBS Committee finally agreed to choose “your” (sou) and label that choice as “having considerable degree of doubt,” anyway!

Why did they bend their own rules of evidence? Because (1) they said there were so many later manuscripts that used sou, and (2) they admitted that they didn’t like what that verse actually said if autou had really been used in the original!


Oh, they did soften the arbitrariness of their choice slightly by labeling it as “having considerable degree of doubt,” but if any honest impartial scholar will examine their own comments on the evidence, he must agree that the UBS Committee’s choice is purely an emotional one and the evidence rules otherwise (as other trinitarian texts noted above admit).


Sou not only has “considerable degree of doubt,” it is nearly impossible. The UBS Committee’s own comments on the evidence make autou virtually certain as the original word, and, therefore, in the committee’s own word’s, Hebrews 1:8 “must be” translated “God is thy throne” and not “thy throne, O God.” - (study pp. 662-663 in A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, United Bible Societies, 1971.)


Some trinitarians have objected that “it does not make sense [or even, ‘it’s ridiculous’] to call God a ‘throne.’”[2] However, to any serious Bible student, it is entirely reasonable and appropriate. Calling God “the throne of Jesus” is an excellent figurative way to show that God approves and upholds Christ’s kingly reign (as in Westcott’s comment previously quoted).


Is God ever called “unlikely” things in a figurative sense that are as equally “ridiculous” as calling him “a throne”? Every Bible student of any experience knows that He is, repeatedly!


Many times he is called someone’s “Rock” (e.g., Ps. 78:35).


He is called a “fortress” (e.g., Ps. 91:2).


He is called a “lamp” in 2 Samuel 22:29.


He is called a “crown” (“in that day will Jehovah of hosts become a crown of glory, unto the
residue of his people” - Is. 28:5, ASV).


Jehovah is called “our dwelling place” - Ps. 90:1, KJV.


And “Jehovah is my ... song” - Ps. 118:14.


Also notice Ps. 60:7, 8 “Ephraim is my helmet, Judah my scepter, Moab is my washbasin”, NIV. And in Is. 22:23 we find Eliakim, whom Jehovah said he would call and commit authority to (Is. 22:20, 21), called a “throne” (“and he will become a throne of honor to his father’s house,” RSV).


Not only is it made very clear by many trinitarian translators [3] and text writers [4] themselves that Heb. 1:8 may be honestly translated “God is your throne,” but all real evidence shows that it should be so translated!


So we find once more that Jesus cannot possibly be God. Just as we saw in the case of the Israelite king in Ps. 45:6, 7, if God is his throne (the one supporting him - giving him power and authority), then he cannot be that God!
 
............................................................................
 
 


NOTES






1. An example of this is the omission of the words “nor the son” in the majority of manuscripts at Matt. 24:36. However, the two oldest and best manuscripts, Aleph and B (as well as Manuscript A of the 5th century), do have “nor the son” after the word “heaven” (as it is in Mark 13:32). Bible scholars have come to the conclusion that the words were first omitted by a copyist sometime shortly after the development of the trinity doctrine by the Roman Church in the 4th century (see the HIST study) because it seemed to contradict the trinity doctrine: Jesus as equal to the Father. - See A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, p. 62, United Bible Societies, 1971. Also see The Codex Sinaiticus and the Codex Alexandrinus, published by the trustees of the British Museum (quoted in the Feb. 1, 1984 WT, p. 7) or see the Manuscripts at .
 http://www.codex-sinaiticus.net/en/  and http://www.csntm.org/Manuscript/View/GA_02  and http://www.csntm.org/Manuscript/View/GA_03






2. Bowman, in his Why You Should Believe in the Trinity, after explaining that Heb. 1:1-6 describes the Son as in essence God, says:


It should come as no surprise, then, that in verse 8 God the Father says “of the Son, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever...’” (translating literally).


To circumvent this plain statement, the NWT renders verse 8 as “God is your throne forever and ever....” On merely grammatical considerations, this translation is possible, and some biblical scholars have favored this rendering. According to such a reading, the point of the statement is then that God is the source of Jesus’ authority.


However, this seems to be an unusual, if not completely odd, way of making that point. In Scripture a “throne” is not the source of one’s authority, but the position or place from which one rules. Thus, heaven is called “the throne of God” (Matt. 5:34). Surely God does not derive his authority from heaven, or from anyone or anything! But, even assuming that “God is your throne” would be understood as having that meaning, in context this makes no sense. The writer of Hebrews is quoting Psalm 45:6 and applying it to the Son to show that the Son is far greater than any of the angels. However, if all this verse means is that the Son’s authority derives from God, this in no way makes him unique or greater than the angels, since this could be said of any of God’s obedient angels. - pp. 106-107, Baker Book House, 1991 ed.


To take things in the order Bowman states them,

(A) his “literal” translation of Heb. 1:8 is certainly not literal. As we saw at the beginning of this paper, the actual NT Greek literally says “the throne of you the god into the age of the age.” The understood verb “is” may be inserted anywhere in the sentence, but it is not literally in the original manuscript, and to insist that it must be inserted and interpreted as Bowman has done is simply (literally) untrue! In fact it seems much more probable, whether one inserts it before or after “the god,” to mean: ‘the throne of you IS the God into the age of the age.’ (Although it is less likely, it is possible that ho theos could be considered a vocative [‘O God’] - but see trinitarian Dr. Westcott’s quote above). But, at any rate, Bowman is not being truthful when he says he is “translating literally” as ‘your throne, O God, is forever and ever...’!


(B) Bowman declares, “In Scripture a ‘throne’ is not the source of one’s authority, but the position or place from which one rules.”

Isn’t it terribly strange that famed trinitarian New Testament scholars such as Dr. Westcott, Dr. Moffatt, Dr. Goodspeed (Smith-Goodspeed’s  AT), and Dr. William Barclay (The Daily Study Bible Series) all prefer the interpretation “Thy throne is God”? (And highly respected trinitarian Bibles ASV, RSV, and NEB also give this rendering as a proper alternate.) Would these respected trinitarian authorities really render this scripture that way if “throne” could only be interpreted in a literal way?


The trinitarian New Bible Dictionary tells us that in Scripture “the throne symbolizes dignity and authority” - p. 1196 (2nd ed.), Tyndale House, 1984. (Compare Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.)


And the equally trinitarian (and highly respected - by trinitarians) The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia tells us about “throne”: “Usually the symbol of kingly power and dignity .... It symbolizes: (1) The exalted position of earthly kings, ... their majesty and power .... (2) The majesty and power of Jehovah as the true king of Israel; .... (3) The rule of the promised theocratic king (the Messiah), its everlasting glory and righteousness. He, too, is Jehovah’s representative [so Jehovah is the Messiah’s ‘throne’ (“power,” “authority,” and “glory”)]....” - p. 2976, Vol. IV, Eerdmans, 1984 printing.


Please examine the implied meanings of “throne” in the following scriptures: Gen. 41:40; 2 Sam. 7:13, 14, 16; 2 Sam. 14:9; 1 Ki. 1:37, 47; Ps. 94:20 (“rulers,” RSV, Mo; “tribunals,” JB, NAB) ; Col. 1:16 (compare the very trinitarian TEV and GNB: “spiritual powers” and the Phillips translation: “power”). These clearly do not exclusively mean just “a place” as Bowman insists. In fact, the very trinitarian Good News Bible (GNB) actually renders the Hebrew “throne” at Gen. 41:40 as ”authority.” Also note that even IF Heb. 1:8 were translated “Your throne, O God, is forever,” it would certainly mean more than “the seat you sit upon is everlasting”! It still speaks of the kingly power and authority which will last forever! Bowman is clearly wrong in saying that ‘throne’ must mean the “position or place from which one rules” and denying many other figurative uses.


(C)The writer of Hebrews is quoting Ps 45:6 and applying it to the Son to show that the Son is far greater than any of the angels [see quotes by Barclay and Robertson: HEB 2-3]. However, if all this verse means is that the Son’s authority derives from God, this in no way makes him unique or greater than the angels...” says Bowman.


However, the complete quote from Ps. 45:6, 7 which begins at Heb. 1:8 includes Heb. 1:9. This verse not only specifies that God is the God of the king (Jesus), but also concludes with “God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.” Jesus was “anointed” (brought into a position he didn’t originally have) by God and, at that point, came to be above his fellows. This is why Heb. 1:8, 9 was quoted by the writer of Hebrews: to show that Jesus is now (after God appointed [Heb. 1:2, 4] and anointed him) higher than the angels (who had been his “fellows”).


Corroborating this is respected trinitarian Bible scholar, Dr. E. F. Scott, Emeritus Professor at the Union Theological Seminary, who wrote: “The author of Hebrews ... thinks of [Jesus] as an angel, whom God had exalted above all others, investing him with his own majesty and calling him by the name of Son.” - p. 726, An Encyclopedia of Religion, 1945 ed.


And, again, the trinitarian The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible tells us that at this time the Jewish expectation was that the Christ was “a pre-existent, heavenly ANGELIC being who, at the end of time, will appear at the side of God as judge of the world [see Acts 7:55-56].” - p. 364, Vol. 3, Abingdon Press, 1962.


Similarly, that most famous of Jewish scholars and teachers of the first century A. D., Philo (see the LOGOS study), wrote about Hagar erroneously describing her seeing the Angel of God as seeing God:


“For just as those who are unable to see the sun itself see the gleam of the parhelion [a ‘mock sun’ - an optical illusion, not the true sun - RDB] and [erroneously] take it for the sun, ... so some regard the image of God, His angel the Word, as His very self.” - p. 423, Philo, vol. V, “On Flight and Finding,” Harvard University Press, Loeb Classical Library, 1988 printing.


“Angel of the Lord [angel of Jehovah] - occurs many times in the Old Testament, where in almost every instance it means a supernatural personage to be distinguished from Jehovah .... Some feel the pre-incarnate Christ is meant.” - p. 39, Today’s Dictionary of the Bible (trinitarian), Bethany House Publ., 1982.


“Angel of the Lord. ... Christ’s visible form before the incarnation.” - p. 40, Smith’s Bible Dictionary (trinitarian), Hendrickson Publ.


ANGEL OF THE LORD, ... is represented in Scripture as a heavenly being sent by God to deal with men as his personal agent and spokesman [‘word’] .... In the NT [which trinitarians agree explains and amplifies the OT] there is no possibility of the angel of the Lord being confused with God. .... mostly when appearing to men he is recognized as a divine being, even though in human form, and is [sometimes] addressed as God” - p. 38, New Bible Dictionary, Tyndale House (trinitarian), 1984 printing.


“The Angel of the LORD.... Traditional [from 2nd century A. D. (at least)] Christian interpretation has held that this ‘angel’ was a preincarnate manifestation of Christ as God’s Messenger-Servant. It may be ..., the angel could speak on behalf of (and so be identified with) the One [Jehovah] who sent him” - footnote for Gen. 16:7 in the trinitarian The NIV Study Bible by Zondervan Publishing, 1985.


It is not uncommon for a trusted servant to actually represent his master in dealings with others. “What a servant says or does is [sometimes] ascribed to the master” - Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible, “Hints and Helps to Bible Interpretation,” Eerdmans Publishing, 1978 printing.


The angel of Jehovah “is a heavenly being given a particular task by Yahweh [Jehovah], behind whom the angel’s personality entirely disappears .... because Yahweh’s holiness could have destroyed Israel, only his angel was to go with the people.” - [see 1 John 4:12; John 6:46.] - The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (trinitarian), Vol. 1, p. 101, Zondervan Publ., 1986.


[Even the person speaking to Moses from the burning bush was an angel! Even though he spoke Jehovah's words and seemed to Moses to be Jehovah, we know that it was an angel speaking and acting for Jehovah: Acts 7:30.]


Please compare the following scriptures: Gen. 16:10, 11 and 13; Gen. 31:11 and Gen. 31:13; Gen. 32:24-30 and Hosea 12:4; Judges 6:16 and 6:20-23.


It should be obvious that the Angel of Jehovah is NOT Jehovah himself! Even many trinitarian scholars admit the obvious here. However, some are unwilling to let any opportunity go by, no matter how poor, (since there is no real evidence for it to begin with) to insist that Jesus is Jehovah. So, although admitting that Jesus was (or probably was) the Angel of Jehovah in the OT (at least part of the time) they also insist that he was also Jehovah!


Consider, however, if “Angel of Jehovah” really meant that the one who had that title was Jehovah (even though the term literally means “messenger OF Jehovah”), no inspired prophet of God or inspired Bible writer would ever use that term for anyone else. And yet Luke used it for the angel Gabriel, and Haggai actually used it for himself!


Yes, Luke tells us at Lk 1:11, 19 “Then there appeared to him the angel of the Lord [the very same wording as found in the Septuagint at Gen. 16:7] .... The angel replied, ‘I am Gabriel who stands in God’s presence, and I have been sent to you’” - The Jerusalem Bible, also see NJB and NAB (‘91).


And the prophet and inspired Bible writer Haggai writes at Haggai 1:13 “Then Haggai, the messenger of Jehovah, spoke Jehovah’s message to the people.” The words are identical to both the Greek and Hebrew of Genesis 16:7: “the messenger [or angel] of Jehovah”! And, of course, the NT shows that other angels [in addition to the “pre-incarnate” Jesus] may use the same title “angel of the Lord.” Even though the angel may, at times, actually identify himself as God (or Jehovah), it obviously does not mean he is Jehovah himself! He is perfectly representing Jehovah as his messenger and is speaking Jehovah’s very words at times.


(Let’s not overlook the fact that King David was described as being “like the Angel of God.” - 2 Sam. 19:28, NJB (c.f., 2 Sam. 19:27 in NASB, NEB, NKJV, AT, RSV). If this angel were really God Himself, such a statement would not have been made - or tolerated by David when he heard it. Instead, King David is often compared to the Messiah in Scripture!)


When Jehovah (God alone) created his workman, his firstborn, as his first and only direct creation (the highest of angels or servants of God: Jesus, the Word), he became the Father. This is why Jesus may be called the “Firstborn” and the “onlybegotten” (only direct creation by Jehovah himself). When Jesus (the Word), at the command and direction of Jehovah God (the Father), became the instrument by which the material universe was made, the other angels (his fellows) were present. When he spoke to men in behalf of Jehovah (often using Jehovah’s very words which his Father spoke through him), he was called “the Angel of Jehovah.” When he had finished his sacrifice on earth, he became much superior to his fellow angels by appointment and anointment from Jehovah (but even at this time he certainly did not become equal to God).


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3. A. Some translations of Heb. 1:8 by trinitarians:


“God is your throne” - AT (Dr. Goodspeed)


“God is thy throne” - Mo (Dr. Moffatt)


“God is your throne” - Byington


“God is your throne” - Dr. Barclay


“God is thy throne” - Dr. Westcott


“God is thy throne” - A.T. Robertson (Alternate translation)


“God is thy throne” - Dr. Young (Alt.)


“God is thy throne” - RSV (Alt.)


“God is your throne” - NRSV (Alt.)


“God is thy throne” - NEB (Alt.)


“Thy throne is God” - ASV (Alt.)

"Your kingdom, O God, will last"; or "God is your kingdom." - GNT (f.n.)


B. Some translations of Ps. 45:6 (quoted at Heb. 1:8) by trinitarians:


“Your Divine throne” - RSV


“Your throne is like God’s throne” - NEB


“God is your throne” - Byington


“The kingdom that God has given you” - GNB


“God has enthroned you” - REB


“Your throne is from God” - NJB

"Your throne, O god, stands forever;" - NAB ('91) - "the king, in courtly language, is called 'god,' i.e., more than human, representing God to the people." - note in NAB (2010).

"Your divine throne is eternal and everlasting. - CEB

"God is your throne for ever and for ever," - Barclay


"Possibly the king's throne is called God's throne because he is God's appointed regent. But it is also possible that the king himself is addressed as 'god'." - Ps. 45:6 note in the New International Version Study Bible (NIVSB).


“Your throne is a throne of God” - NRSV (Alt.)


“Thy throne is the throne of God” - ASV (Alt.)



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4. New Testament texts produced by trinitarians in which Autou (“His”) was chosen as part of the original text ("... the scepter of his [autou] kingdom":


Westcott and Hort


Nestle’s


It has been admitted by respected trinitarian scholars (UBS text writers) that if autou ("his") were in the original writing of Heb. 1:8, the proper rendering earlier in the same verse must be “God is your throne”! – p. 663, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, United Bible Societies, 1971.


Even the highly respected NASB renders this as "... the scepter of his kingdom." The Jerusalem Bible; New Jerusalem Bible; The New English Bible; Revised English Bible; AT (Smith and Goodspeed); Rotherham; Byington; C.B. Williams; etc. also render it using "his."
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Note: Although Watchtower Society (WTS) research and scholarship is usually at least the equal of (and often superior to) that of other sources, I have tried to rely most heavily on other sources in Christendom itself (preferably trinitarian) or my own independent research to provide evidence disproving the trinitarian ‘proof’ being examined in this paper. The reason is, of course, that this paper is meant to provide evidence needed by non-Witnesses, and many of them will not accept anything written by the WTS. They truly believe it is false, even dishonest. Therefore some of the following information, all of which helps disprove specific trinitarian “proofs,” may be in disagreement with current WTS teachings in some specifics (especially when I have presented a number of alternates). Jehovah’s Witnesses should research the most recent WTS literature on the subject or scripture in question before using this information with others. – RDB.