The letter that follows was written to a Jehovah Witness friend of mine in an effort to help him understand the Christian concept of the Blessed Trinity. This letter was the beginning of a long evangelization process. It is my hope that you find the content of this letter useful in your efforts to evangelize others.
Deacon Francis J. Valliere
April 27, 1992
In a recent encounter, one of many we have shared together as friends over the years, you asked me "How can you believe in the Trinity?...", the concept of a triune God, "...when Jesus Christ stated himself that...", as written in John's gospel
(Jn 14:28), "...the Father is greater than I.".
In retort, I ask " How is it, that after reading the ENTIRE gospel of John, you do not BELIEVE ?". The truth of Jesus Christ's deity, being true God and true man, is very evident not only in John's gospel but throughout the New Testament and pre-figured in the Old Testament. But truth, conformity to facts or reality, unfortunately can be clouded by human depravities such as pride, rationalization, complacency, and fears, to name a few among many. So to take upon oneself the Truth, one must humble himself and make all efforts to purge himself of these weaknesses,
"Amen I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven".(Matt 18:2-4)
On this basis, I begin our dialogue, and I pray that you open your heart to the Truth, for what follows is what I believe to be the truth of Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition as taught to me by the Holy Roman Catholic Church established by Jesus Christ.
If you examine the gospel of John, he writes;
(Jn 1:1) " In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
This passage, like dozens of others, testify to Jesus Christ's oneness with the Father, eternally begotten not made. Now I understand that your organization has its own Biblical translation, and that this verse is translated "...and the Word was a god.", which conveniently denies Jesus Christ's divinity and subjects Him to being something "of a lesser god". It is here I must take exception to, and be critical of, the Watchtower translation. First, because this translation from the Greek is grammatically incorrect. "The subject of the sentence is Word(Logos), the verb, was. There can be no direct object following was, since according to grammatical usage, intransitive verbs take no objects but take instead predicate nominatives which refer back to the subject, in this case, Word(Logos).(Colwell's rule) It is therefore easy to see that no article is needed for Theos(God), and to translate it "a god" is both incorrect grammar and poor Greek, since Theos is the predicative nominative of was in the third sentence-clause of the verse and must refer back to the subject, Word(Logos). Christ, then, if He is the Word "made flesh"(Jn 1:14) can be no one else except God, unless the Greek text and consequently God's Word be denied." (1) Secondly, because the members of the translation committee of the "New World Translation" (NWT) lack the qualifications and the competence to translate based on the following. Of the five known members; Knorr, Franz, Gangas, Herschell, and Schroeder, not one could read New Testament Greek, or for that matter, Hebrew or Aramaic. So the attempts of your organization's committee to "re-word" the existing English translations, were, and are, pompous; in that they propose to reject all widely accepted Christian translations as unreasonable due to human and religious traditionalism, arrogant; in considering their scholars superior to the hundreds of brilliant consecrated Christian men who have produced the NAB, NRSV, JB, RSV, NIV, NKJV and other valid translations, and blasphemous; to call the triune Godhead doctrine "of the devil". However, disregarding my personal opinions and criticisms, the Watchtower translation speaks for itself and shows very clearly, the scholastic dishonesty and lack of scholarship within its two covers. John, remember what is stated in the Book of Revelation;
(Rev 22:18,19), "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book; if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away that person's share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book."
I for one, would not want to risk all that has been bought and promised us by Christ Jesus, because of mistranslations or misrepresentations of any of the words of Holy Scripture, for whatever reason; so therefore, I turn to the Catholic Church whose Teaching Authority is from Jesus Christ himself and whose shepherding leads to Him. At this point I will emphasize, John, that I have no desire to hurt or insult you or injure our friendship with harsh words, but rather, if at times I choose to make rhetoric against the doctrines of your organization, it is because I find THEM, not you, offensive to my Christianity. With that said, let us continue with Sacred Scripture.
In the book of Genesis, God states in the plural
(Gn 1:26)," LetUS make humankind in OUR image, according to OUR likeness;".
It is obvious, taking this in context with the entirety of Sacred Scripture, that God is addressing His Son and the Holy Spirit, and nothing less; for there is only ONE creator. This is supported in the Book of Isaiah, where God says,
(Is 43:10) "... Before me no god was formed. Nor shall there be any after me."
Since there is emphatically no other God but Yahweh (Jehovah), which is implied to the contrary in "...the Word was a God." , not even a "lesser mighty God" as your organization depicts Jesus Christ to be, then there must be a unity in plurality and substance, or this passage from Genesis has no meaning. This same plurality is again pre-figured in the Book of Genesis;
(Gn 11:7), "LetUS go down" and in Isaiah (Is 6:8), "Who will go for US".
Now before I go any farther, I wish to answer your original question to establish a truth; that Jesus Christ was true God and true Man. I use here apologia from one of the Patristic writings of Victor, Bishop of Vita, the "History of the Persecution", who with many other Catholic Bishops and clergy, was exiled and persecuted by the Arian-Vandal Kings (ca. A.D. 485). This apologetic writing was in defense of the Catholic faith against the Arian heresy, which also denied the triune God. "Because we profess that there are two natures in the Son, that is, true God and true Man, having body and soul, whatever the Scriptures ascribe to Him that is of sublimely excellent power we know must be attributed to His wonderful divinity; and whatever is told more humbly of Him and which is below the dignity of heavenly power we refer not to the Word of God, but to the manhood which He assumed. This then, as we remarked before, is said in regard to His divinity:
"The Father and I are one."(Jn 10:30);
"Whoever has seen Me, has seen the Father."(Jn 14:9) . .
But there are other sayings which are to be referred to Him according to His Humanity:
"The Father is greater than I."(Jn 14:28) . . . "(2)
This certainly shows the two natures of Jesus Christ, His divine nature and His human nature. But I wish to continue to show you in every passage available that Jesus Christ is God. Take, for instance;
(Is 7:14), "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. The young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel."(God is with us)
(Is 9:6), "For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
Both verses are prophesy of the coming Messiah. Both indicate Christ's divinity. Both pre-figure the plurality of divine Persons. In the Book of Proverbs, we are told by the writer,
(Prv 8:22) "The Lord begot me, the firstborn of his ways, the forerunner of his prodigies of long ago."
Here the plurality of divine Persons is foreshadowed which later would be fully revealed when Jesus Christ became incarnate. Let us continue with two verses in Paul's Letter to Titus;
(Ti 1:3-4), "In due time he revealed his word through the proclamation with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior, . . . Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior."
Now it stands that if God is our Savior and Jesus is our Savior and there is only one savior, then Jesus and Jehovah are One. In Paul's letter to the Collosians, Paul tells us,
(Col 2:9) "For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily."
Paul tells us, very bluntly and to the point, that in Jesus, the entirety of God dwells bodily. To reject this is to reject the obvious. In the Book of Isaiah it is written,
(Is 44:6) "Thus says the Lord, Israel's King and redeemer, the Lord of hosts; I am the first and I am the last; there is no God but me."
This and many other verses (Is 41:4; 43:11-13; 45:5; 48:12) establish that there is only one God and Savior. In the Book of Revelation, Jesus tells John,
(Rev 1:17) "Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last.
And in. . .
(Rev 2:8), ". . .These are the words of the first and the last, who was dead and came to life."
Now since Yahweh is the only First and Last, either Christ and God are one, or to claim otherwise, we must deny the authority of the Sacred Scriptures. Again in Revelation John writes,
(Rev 21:6,7) "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end . . . and I will be their God and they will be my children."
Here John writes what he hears from Almighty God(Jehovah). The Alpha and Omega revealed here is Yahweh. In (Rev 1:8), John writes
" "I am the Alpha and the Omega," says the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."
Again referring to our Almighty God(Jehovah). But in (Rev 22:7, 12, 20), we see the tri-repetition of a specific phrase ". . .I am coming soon!" Who is coming soon? Jesus is coming soon!
((Rev 22:16), "It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches.")
If it is Jesus who is coming soon, then it is Jesus who says, in (Rev 22:12),
"See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone's work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end."
Now Jesus is stating that He is the Alpha and the Omega. Through these passages, Jesus undeniably emerges as possessing the identity of God the Almighty.
Now let us take a look at the "I AM"(in Greek "Ego Eimi") verses . One quick note; I understand that the NWT translates 'ego eimi' as "I have been"; but on the same grounds as I previously covered, I refuse to acknowledge such a bold perversion of the Greek text. Therefore, in the Book of Exodus
(Ex 3:14), "God said to Moses, "I AM who am."
He said further,
"Thus you shall say to the Israelites, "I AM has sent me to you." ".
Here, God reveals himself to Moses and calls Himself "I AM". This title of "I AM" is synonymous with Almighty God and is universally accepted, as such, among all christians. In the gospel of John, Jesus refers to himself as "I AM" six times, and John emphasizes one more time in (Jn 18:6). In . . .
(Jn 8:24), ". . . For if you do not believe thatI AM, you will die in your sins."
(Jn 8:28), "So Jesus said to them, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize thatI AM . . ."
And the very well known verse;
(Jn 8:58), "Jesus said to them "Amen, Amen, I say to you, before Abraham came to be,I AM" ".
And again in
(Jn 13:19), "From now on I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe thatI AM".
This verse also proves that Jesus was God in and through His capability to predict the future ("The one who ate my food has raised his heel against me"). Only Jehovah knows the future as a present fact. In (Jn 18:5), in the course of Jesus' arrest Jesus said to the soldiers and guards,
"Whom are you looking for?"
and they answered,
"Jesus the Nazorean."
He said to them, "I AM". When he said to them, "I AM," they turned away and fell to the ground. So he asked them again,
"Whom are you looking for?" They said, "Jesus the Nazorean."
"I told you thatI AM, so if you are looking . . ." ".
The soldiers and guards who came to arrest Jesus knew in their hearts, after Jesus told them "I AM", exactly who they were confronting. They knew that "I AM" was our Almighty God (Jehovah) and consequently turned away and fell to the ground. Hypothesis? maybe! if so, give a better one. So again, here is a clear indication, from Jesus Christ's own mouth, that He was coeternal, coequal, coexisting and consubstantial (homoousios) with the Father, in short, one nature in its fullest sense.
In John's gospel, Jesus tells the Jews,
(Jn 10:30)"The Father and I are one."
They take up stones to stone him. They tell Him the reason they are going to stone Him is for His blaspheming, making Himself out to be God. He later says to them, if you don't believe me, believe in my works
". . .so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father."(Jn 10:38)
Further on in the Gospel of John, Philip says to Jesus,
(Jn 14:9) "Lord, show us the Father."
Jesus replies in almost disbelief,
"Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me?"
He then states emphatically,
"Whoever has seen me has seen the Father."
Again he says in amazement,
"How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me;. . . "
St. Athanasius explained these verses quite eloquently in his apologetic work against the Arians. He says, "The Son is in the Father, insofar as it is given us to understand, because the whole being of the Son is proper to the Father's essence, as radiance is from light, and as a stream is from a fountain. Therefore, whoever sees the Son sees what is proper to the Father; and knows thereby that the Son's being, since it is from the Father, is in the Father. The Father, moreover, is in the Son, since the Son is what is proper to the Father, as in radiance the sun, or in a word the thought, or in a stream the fountain. Whoever thus contemplates the Son, contemplates what is proper to the Father's essence, and knows that the Father is in the Son. Since the Image and the Godhead of the Father is the being of the Son, it follows that the Son is in the Father, and the Father in the Son. On this account, having already said,
"The Father and I are One," (Jn 10:30)
He(Jesus) adds quite reasonably,
"I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me."(Jn 14:10)
He shows thereby the identity of the Godhead and the unity of essence.(3)
Although there are many more verses in Sacred Scripture that attest to Jesus Christ's nature, true God and true man, let us review just one more in an effort to keep the length of this letter reasonable. In the letter to the Hebrews, the author writes of Jesus,
(Heb 1:3-14) "He is the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being, and He sustains all things by His powerful word."
The writer here intends on portraying Jesus Christ as Jehovah. It would be unreasonable to suppose that Jesus, being "the exact imprint of God's very being", is not of the same substance of God the Almighty and hence, the second Person of the triune Deity. But more interesting are verses (Heb 1:5 - 2:4),
" For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you"? ". (Heb 1:5 - 2:4)
It follows then that Jesus was certainly not an angel prior to His incarnation, as some would have us believe, but rather, the writer goes on,
(Heb 1:8) "But of the Son He says, "Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom . . ." ".
Here, God the Almighty himself calls the Son, God. The Truth cannot be made any clearer. And the Truth is this; Jesus Christ is the Son of God, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, one in being with the Father, through Him all things were made. He is the second Person of the most Blessed Trinity. Amen!
Now that we have established our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, as the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, and that a unity of divine nature exists between the Father and the Son, it becomes easy to show that the third Person of the Triune God, truly proceeds from the Father and the Son. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus says,
(Mt 28:19) "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you."
Jesus names the third person of the Blessed Trinity himself ". . .and of the Holy Spirit. . ." And again in the Gospel of John, Jesus says,
(Jn 14:16) "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of Truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him or knows Him. You know Him, because He abides with you, and He will be in you."
This Advocate that Jesus speaks of, in terms of He and Him, is another Person, the third Person of the Triune God. In verse 26 He says,
(Jn 14:26) "But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you."
Here Jesus speaks of a third Person sent by the Father in Jesus' name. Jesus reiterates in chapter 15 verse 26,
(Jn 15:26) "When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who comes from the Father, He will testify on my behalf."
Here, Jesus again points to the Advocate who will proceed from the Father and Jesus, who will testify on His behalf. In chapter 16 starting at verse 7, Jesus says,
(Jn 16:7-15) "Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. . . . When the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own, but will speak whatever He hears, and He will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because He will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that He will take what is mine and declare it to you."
The words from our Lord's own mouth are just too obvious to overlook. Knowing that the Father is eternal, and that there can be nothing lesser or greater in Him, for He is the Almighty; it stands to reason, if Jesus has all that the Father has, then Jesus is coequal and coeternal, one in being with the Father; and if Jesus is coeternal and coequal to the Father, and the Holy Spirit partakes in that which belongs to the Son, then that which is said to proceed from the Son, the Holy Spirit, is and must be coequal, coeternal, coexisting, and consubstantial with the Father and the Son.
In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter asks Ananias,
(Acts 5:3-4) "Why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit?. . .You did not lie to us but to God!."
Peter unequivocally tells Ananias that he lied to the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the One divine God. In Acts chapter 20 verse 28, Paul writes to the Ephesians,
(Acts 20:28) "Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son."
To mistranslate this is to ignore the truth. Paul says, care for the community that the third Person(Holy Spirit) gave you authority over and to shepherd the church of the first Person(the Father) that the first Person(the Father) obtained by the blood of the second Person(the Son). There are three distinct Persons, One divine nature, a Blessed Trinity. In the earliest extant writing of St. Epiphanius, dating ca. A.D. 374, he writes, ". . .The Holy Spirit has neither the name of Son nor the appellation of Father, but is called Holy Spirit, and is not foreign to the Father. For the Only-begotten Himself calls Him
"the Spirit of the Father(Matt 10:20),"
and says of Him that
"He proceeds from the Father(Jn 15:26),"
"will receive of mine(Jn 16:15),"
so that He is reckoned as not being foreign to the Father nor to the Son, but is of their same substance, of the same Godhead; He is Spirit divine, . . .of God, and He is God. For He is Spirit of God, Spirit of the Father, and Spirit of the Son, not by some kind of synthesis, like soul and body in us, but in the midst of Father and Son, of the Father and of the Son, a third by appellation."(4) To end this long discourse, I will re-quote the Gospel of Matthew 28:19. Since the Lord Jesus commands that all the nations be baptized
(Matt 28:19) "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,"
it is very evident that the Holy Spirit is neither a creature, created by the Father, or a power or force of God(Jehovah). Either He is of the very substance of the Father and the Son, or the Lord would have been commanding what He never did, that someone be baptized in the name of something other than God.
My dear friend. For you, it is my fervent prayer that you open your heart to the gift of grace and faith from God our Almighty Father, which leads to the One Truth; that Jesus Christ, in union with the Holy Spirit, live and reign with the Father as One God forever and ever. For my part, I have prayed long and hard that I would be made a worthy and humble instrument of His love and wisdom, for He truly is the Word of God. I have also prayed that He send me His Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, so that in and through my writing you will be touched by His Love and Wisdom. I do all this through Him, with Him, in Him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, to the glory and Honor of God our Almighty Father. As I close, I will be very honest with you, John, I have never felt so satisfied and so blessed as I do at the completion of this letter; for now more than ever, rooted deep in my heart and soul, are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, our most awesome and everlasting and everloving Blessed Trinity.
Your Brother in Christ,
Francis J. Valliere
(1) Walter Martin "Jehovah of the Watchtower" pp.48
(2) Victor, Bishop of Vita, "History of the Persecution" (ca. A.D. 485)
(3) St. Athanasius "Discourses against the Arians" (ca. A.D. 360)
(4) St. Epiphanius "The Man Well-Anchored" (ca. A.D. 374)
All scriptural references from
"New American Bible" and "Revised Standard Version"