If Jesus is “Only-Begotten,” How is He Eternal God? Answering Jehovah’s Witnesses: John 3:16 (& 1:18)

JW Kingdom Hall

Previous posts:

Was Jesus “a god”? Answering Jehovah’s Witnesses: John 1:1

How Can Jesus be “Firstborn of All Creation” yet Eternal God? Answering Jehovah’s Witnesses: Colossians 1:15-19

MONOGENES

The fact that Jesus is sometimes called “only begotten” causes a lot of confusion (and is, likewise, emphasized by our Jehovah’s Witness friends).

The King James Version famously says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.” John 1:18 in the King James Version also reads, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”

If Jesus is the eternal Son of the Trinity, how could he be “begotten”? This is a valid question. I always wondered myself how the early church justified the Son being both eternal and begotten.

First, why are we – today – still saying “begotten”? Can’t we update to “born” already? Have you ever said, “Congratulations on your newly begotten daughter”? But I digress.

Secondly, the Greek word mongenes that is sometimes translated “only begotten” can also be translated as “one and only” (as the NIV does) or “unique” or simply “only” (as the ESV and NRSV do). In fact, if you were to do a study of all the available Bible translations, you’d notice something: It’s usually the older versions that translate it as “only begotten.” Why is this?

This is because Greek scholars used to think the two smaller words that form the compound word monogenes (“mono” + “genes”) meant “only” (mono) and “to beget” (gennao). But after discovering and studying more and more ancient Greek writings, it became clear that the second word wasn’t from the Greek word gennao (to beget), but genos (class, kind). The term monogenes literally means “one of a kind.” To understand monogenes as “only birthed” or “only born” is incorrect. New Testament scholar Michael S. Heiser describes “only begotten” as an “unfortunately confusing translation.”

The definitive Greek to English lexicon (BDAG!) give only two definitions for mongenes: “[pertaining] to being the only one of its kind within a specific relationship, one and only, only” and “[pertaining] to being the only one of its kind or class, unique (in kind).” [1] Notice, BDAG only gives two definitions for monogenes; neither are “only born.”

 

BEGOTTEN, NOT MADE

The theologians who created two important creeds of the early church clearly didn’t take “begotten” literally. These creeds were statements of faith based on a close study of the Bible. 

In the Nicene Creed (325 AD), Jesus is described as “eternally begotten of the Father.” How can one be eternally born? The creed goes on to describe Jesus as “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,” and then they wrote this: “begotten, not made.” Seems to me they’re emphasizing that “begotten” shouldn’t be taken literally. 

The main purpose of the Athanasian Creed (500 AD) is to explain the Trinity. It states, “That we worship one God in Trinity…  The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated…. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.  And yet they are not three eternals, but one Eternal.” It goes on to say, “The Son is of the Father alone, not made, nor created, but begotten.” Clearly, the hardcore Trinitarians that wrote out this long creed to explain the Trinity as precisely as possible didn’t see any contradiction is calling Jesus “eternal” and “uncreated” but also “begotten.” This is a big clue that “begotten” isn’t being used in a literal sense.

Still don’t believe me? God calls Isaac Abraham’s “only son” three times (in Hebrew) during the event of Abraham’s way-too-close sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22. Then, the Greek word monogenes is used by the author of Hebrews in the New Testament to describe Abraham’s son Isaac: 

“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only [monogenes] son.” (Hebrews 11:17)

Isaac was neither Abraham’s only son nor first son. Before Isaac’s birth through Sarah, Abraham had his son Ishmael with Hagar. Monogenes illustrates Isaac’s unique relationship with his father and special status to his father, just as Jesus, God the Son, holds a unique relationship with and special status to God the Father. 

*This is an excerpt from my upcoming, vastly revised and expanded edition of Who Jesus Ain’t.

[1] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 894). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Previous posts:

Was Jesus “a god”? Answering Jehovah’s Witnesses: John 1:1

How Can Jesus be “Firstborn of All Creation” yet Eternal God? Answering Jehovah’s Witnesses: Colossians 1:15-19

Visit my other website: Confidence in Christ

Confidence in Christ v2

How Can Jesus be “Firstborn of All Creation” yet Eternal God? Answering Jehovah’s Witnesses: Colossians 1:15-19

JW at Door

READ: Was Jesus “a god”? Answering Jehovah’s Witnesses: John 1:1

“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…” (Colossians 1:15-19)

PROTOTOKOS” – LITERALLY?

Our Jehovah’s Witness friends believe Jesus is not the second Person of the Trinity and God-in-the-flesh but a created being lower than God but higher than the angels. Because of this, they focus on the part in Colossians 1:15 above calling Jesus “the firstborn of creation” as evidence for this belief. Where Paul giving Jesus that title seemingly favors the Jehovah’s Witness’ understanding of Jesus, we’d have to ignore much of the rest of the passage (and other scripture) to hold their understanding.

Remember: Context! Context! Context! 

First, we see “firstborn” (prototokos in Greek) used twice in this passage. Jesus is also called “the firstborn from the dead.” This is a reference to Jesus’s resurrection. The Bible teaches of a future resurrection of all the dead, and Jesus is the first – a foreshadowing of this event. The point to get here is that “firstborn” is not used in a strictly literal sense in 1:18, so it’s possible it’s not used in a strictly literal sense in the earlier usage in 1:15 either.

PAUL GETS REDUNDANT

Secondly, Paul says Jesus created “all things… in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.” The Jehovah’s Witness literature explains, “Jesus is the only one directly created by God. Jesus is also the only one whom God used when He created all other things.” But that’s not what the passage says! It says Jesus created “all things.” Yes, “all things”! Not all other things. 

Also, “heaven and earth” is a Hebrew way of saying “everything.” Paul is basically saying “Jesus created everything everything.” And he’s not stuttering; he’s emphasizing a point! If you don’t get it the first time, he goes on to say again: “all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things”! 

At this point I can imagine a snot-nosed tween rolling her eyes and saying, “Yeah, we – like – got it, Paul! Jeez!” 

Let’s keep in mind, the Bible starts by filling two whole chapters explaining about God creating everything (Genesis 1-2). Elsewhere, God fills four chapters explaining to Job how he created everything and reigns over it (Job 38-41). God being the one and only creator of all things is repeated again and again throughout the Bible. This is undeniable.

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 (Isaiah 44:24–25)

You are the LORD, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. (Nehemiah 9:6)

Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”  (Revelation 4:11)

And this is just the tip of a very large, unavoidable iceberg. Nowhere does the Old Testament or New Testament say, God created Jesus and then Jesus created everything else. No, God created “all things” and Jesus created “all things”! If there’s anything Paul is trying to emphasize in this very repetitive passage, it’s that!

ASK THE EXPERTS

Considering that Paul spends so much time hammering home this point, this is a pretty huge clue that (1) this is important and (2) “firstborn of all creation” must mean something other than Jesus is a created being. So, after doing some research, we find prototokos (“firstborn”) is often used not in the sense of the literal first child born, but as a title of prominence. 

The definitive Greek to English lexicon by scholars Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich, (call it “BDAG,” if you’re nasty) defines prototokos as “[literally: pertaining] to birth order, firstborn,” but the second definition is “[pertaining] to having special status associated with a firstborn, [figurative].” [2]

Turn to the Psalms to see prototokos in the second sense, the figurative sense (whether in the Greek of the Septuagint [the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament] or the equivalent in the original Hebrew). Speaking of the eminent King David (Psalm 89:20), God says,

And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. (Psalms 89:27)

David wasn’t the first child born to his father, Jesse. Not by a long shot. He was the youngest of several brothers (1 Samuel 17:13-14). Further, if anyone is God’s literal “firstborn,” it’s Adam, the first man ever created (Genesis 2). And God doesn’t say David is the firstborn, but he will “make him the firstborn.” This can’t be in any sort of literal sense because David is already born! 

Likewise, in Exodus God calls Israel “my firstborn son,” and in the Book of Jeremiah, God calls Ephraim “my firstborn.” Whether speaking of a person (Genesis 41:51-52), location, or tribe, it’s impossible to understand these uses of “firstborn” literally. 

“Firstborn” is a title given to someone or something that holds a special place of importance. Jesus – the eternal second person of the Trinity in the flesh – holds a place of prominence and unique intimacy with God the Father as the “firstborn” over all of creation.

*This is an excerpt from my upcoming, vastly revised and expanded edition of Who Jesus Ain’t.

READ: Was Jesus “a god”? Answering Jehovah’s Witnesses: John 1:1

[1] What Does the Bible Really Teach? Watch Tower Society

[2] Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 894). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

NEXT: If Jesus is “only-begotten,” how is he eternal God? (John 3:16)

Visit my other website: Confidence in Christ.

Confidence in Christ v2

Was Jesus “a god”? Answering Jehovah’s Witnesses: John 1:1

NWT

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14) (English Standard Version)

Now not so fast! These astonishing statements in John’s Gospel are traditionally understood to tell us two key, unique aspects of Christian belief: Jesus (“the Word” in John 1) is God, and God is at least two Persons, bringing into view the Trinity. But our friends at the local Jehovah’s Witnesses Kingdom Hall (and the Watch Tower Society headquarters in Brooklyn) say we’ve gotten it all wrong.

Before moving on, let me give you some basics: Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the Bible is the Word of God, but they don’t believe in the Trinity; they don’t believe Jesus is God, nor do they believe the Holy Spirit is God. In order to interact with Jehovah’s Witnesses, you therefore need to understand why the Bible does, in fact, witness to both Jesus and the Holy Spirit being God, and you need to have your theology of the Trinity tight.

That being said, we’re going to look at (in this blog and future blogs) some specific things Jehovah’s Witness may throw at you to challenge the traditional (biblical) Christian views.

The Jehovah’s Witness version of the Bible, the New World Translation, has John 1:1 as follows: 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.” 

Adding one teeny, tiny one-letter word to the sentence makes quite “a” difference!

JESUS: GOD OR “A GOD”?

Alright, which translation of John 1:1 is right?

The Greek word for “God” or “god” is theos. Ancient Greek didn’t use capitalization like we do today with English, so looking at the original Greek to see if “theos” is capitalized won’t help us here. So, forget capitalization. Let’s focus on “the Word was a god” because there’s “a” big problem with this. Actually, more than one. 

First, no scholar of New Testament era Greek – whether a traditional Christian or otherwise – has ever translated John 1:1 in this way. That says a lot.

Secondly, the Jehovah’s Witnesses justify this translation by pointing out that the original Greek literally reads, “the Word was with the [ton] theos, and the Word was theos.” This is accurate. But their argument is that since the second use of theos doesn’t have “the” (the definite article, for you grammar nerds), then the first use of theos is speaking of the one and only God (“the God”) and Jesus, the Word, is something like God but lesser; he’s “a god.” 

This idea of there being “a god” has its own problems, but first let me emphasize again that this isn’t how Greek grammar works and no Greek scholar would translate John 1:1 in this way. For one, the definite article (“the”) is used differently in Greek than in English, so it’s often not even translated into English. As we see, the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation doesn’t translate the “the” either, but where do they get the idea that lack of “the” means adding an “a”?

BREAKING THEIR OWN RULE

Most of us aren’t Greek scholars to know one way or another, but this next reason why the Jehovah’s Witness translation fails is very telling: The Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t even follow their own unorthodox grammar rule! To be consistent, every time theos (“God” or “god”) appears without the definite article (“the”) in the original Greek of the New Testament, they should translate it as “a god.” Again, this is according to their own reasoning. 

Theos appears many, many times in the New Testament without “the,” yet their New World Translation doesn’t insert “a” or interpret theos as a lower-case “god” anywhere else! Their own New World Translation breaks their own odd grammar rule again and again. 

In fact, we don’t even have to leave John 1 to see this! None of the following include “the” with theos in the original Greek:

               John 1:6: There came a man who was sent as a representative of God. (New World Translation)

Why didn’t they translate it “representative of a god”?

               John 1:12-13: he gave authority to become God’s children, because they were exercising faith in his name. And they were born, not from blood or from a fleshly will or from man’s will, but from God. (New World Translation)

Why didn’t they translate this “become a god’s children” and “from a god”?

                John 1:18: No man has seen God at any time; the only-begotten god who is at the Father’s side is the one who has explained Him. (New World Translation)

Why didn’t they translate this, “No man has seen a god” and “a only-begotten god”?

And there are many more examples of this throughout the New Testament. If the “translators” of the Jehovah’s Witness Bible are going to make up a grammar rule to wiggle around a clear teaching about Jesus, they could at least follow their own made-up grammar rule consistently.

DIGGING THE HOLE DEEPER

Thirdly, John 1:1 isn’t the only passage in the New Testament to declare Jesus as God. I’ve never met a mean Jehovah’s Witness, so when they come to my door sometimes I get my Bible and give them some friendly push-back. This led to me meeting up for coffee several times with a local Jehovah’s Witness elder to discuss Jesus. Of course, John 1:1 came up in our discussion, and despite me pointing out the above to him, we weren’t getting anywhere. So, I said, “Neither of us are Greek scholars, so let’s put John 1:1 aside for now and look at other reasons I believe the Bible teaches that Jesus is God.”

The whole of the Christian belief that Jesus is God isn’t based on only a single verse! I can’t say how the Jehovah’s Witnesses get around every one of them (nor would I take the time to address every one here), but the biblical evidence is substantial. 

Fourthly and finally, even if we accept “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god” as a legitimate alternative translation, this would make Jehovah’s Witnesses polytheists. The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation avoids the Trinity in John 1:1 but declares two gods! 

Jehovah’s Witnesses, of course, will deny this. Their own literature explains the wording in John 1:1 as “because of his high position among Jehovah’s creatures, the Word is referred to as ‘a god.’ Here the term ‘god’ means ‘mighty one.’” [1] Well, that seems unquestionably arbitrary! Why does this instance of theos (compared to the many, many other times theos is used throughout the New Testament) mean only “mighty one” instead of the one, true God? 

John and almost all of the writers of the New Testament were first century Jews. This Jehovah’s Witness idea of Jesus being a lower-case “god” would be totally alien to them. To a first century Jew, you were either God or you were not. There’s no third option. Ironically, Jehovah’s Witnesses claim the idea of Jesus as God was added later to Christianity by the formerly-pagan Romans, yet the Jehovah’s Witness idea of Jesus being a near-god is certainly more Roman than Jewish. For the Jews, there were no partial gods, no near-gods, no lower-case “gods.”

By the Jehovah’s Witnesses mistranslating John 1:1 to avoid something that contradicts their beliefs, they’ve made matters worse for themselves. For the record, I don’t truly think Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in more than one God. My point is that by them trying to avoid the plain grammar of John 1:1, they’ve dug themselves into a deeper hole!

*This is an excerpt from my upcoming, vastly revised and expanded edition of Who Jesus Ain’t.

[1] What Does the Bible Really Teach? Watch Tower Society P.202

NEXT: If Jesus is the “firstborn” of creation how is he eternal God? (Colossians 1:15-19)

Visit my other website: Confidence in Christ.

Confidence in Christ v2

MOTHER GOD: Analyzing the Biblical Evidence: The Book of REVELATION (World Missions Society Church of God)

The World Mission Society Church of God (or simply, the Church of God) believes “Mother God” not only exists in the Bible, but exists in the flesh today in South Korea.

This continues my analysis of the Church of God’s use of the Bible to justify their belief in Mother God.  (See list of earlier articles below.)

(God From the Machine has published a book titled Searching the Bible for Mother God: Examining the Teachings of the World Mission Society Church of God, available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.  Click here to learn more.)

MotherGodandAss

Revelation is a favorite book of the Bible for unorthodox sects, full-blown cults, and a general assortment of nuts because it’s highly symbolic and notoriously difficult to understand. Because of this, people can read all sorts of crazy things into the text that simply aren’t there.

The Church of God (COG) uses primarily two passages from Revelation, in chapters 19 and 21, to “prove” Mother God is in the Bible.  As always, before looking at these passages, we must first understand the context in which they appear.  Understanding cannot come without context, yet often verses are quoted alone by the COG and other groups that misuse and/or misinterpret the Bible.

CONTEXT: THE GRAND CLIMAX

The book of Revelation is the last book of the Bible, and Chapters 19 through 22 of Revelation are the last chapters of the Bible.  Thus, Chapters 19-22 are the grand climax of the story of salvation told in the Bible and the culmination of all history.  (For a quick overview of the story of the Bible, read my article “2-Minute Lesson on Biblical Theology – the Progressive Revelation of God in Human History” here.)

Chapters 19-22 foretell the final, ultimate victory of Jesus Christ, God the Son.  The “multitude” in heaven rejoice as Christ returns to live in peace with his creation, but first he must carry out the Final Judgment and the defeat of his enemies — evil, sin, Satan, and death — in easily the most gory, violent imagery of the whole Bible.  Afterwards, the old creation, which was corrupted by sin, passes away, and the New Heaven and New Earth come, where God the Son will live with his people eternally in peace.

MARRIAGE IMAGERY

Here’s the first verse the COG uses from Revelation:

Revelation 19:7

“Let us rejoice and exult

   and give him the glory,

for the marriage of the Lamb has come,

   and his Bride has made herself ready;”

Based on symbolic language used throughout the New Testament, including Revelation, the Lamb is clearly Jesus Christ.  Since the COG appears to agree here with orthodox Christianity and this interpretation is uncontroversial, there’s no need to discuss the Lamb imagery here.  But “his Bride” is not Mother God, as the COG believes, but the church.

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is often referred to as a bridegroom (or “groom,” in modern terms) and the church – the united community of Jesus’ followers – is often referred to as his “bride.” Though Revelation contains a lot of baffling symbolism, this symbolism is extremely clear due to its wide use.

For example, in Mark 2:19, Jesus refers to himself as the bridegroom:

“And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.’”

In John 3:29, John the Baptist also describes Jesus as the bridegroom:

The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.”

In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul uses marriage imagery. The Corinthian church is being led astray from the truth of Christ, but Paul says he has married them to Christ, the church’s “husband,” as if they were pure virgins.

“For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.”

Further, in Ephesians 5:22-33, the love of a husband and wife is compared to the love of Christ for his church. Just as a husband and wife join lives and become “one flesh,” Christ and the church become one flesh. In fact, God created marriage to symbolize Christ’s relationship to the church.

For instance, Ephesians 5:25-27 reads:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”

And if that evidence doesn’t convince you, in Matthew 22:1-14 Jesus tells parables about a wedding feast to describe his coming kingdom.  Appropriately, when Revelation 19-21 tells us of the ultimate culmination of God’s kingdom, what sort of imagery does the writer use?  Wedding imagery!

Further, this imagery is not unique to the New Testament.  Like much of the imagery used in the New Testament — and especially Revelation — it goes back to the Old Testament.  For example, Isaiah 25:6-8 uses imagery of a celebration feast to describe the age-to-come under God’s victory and complete, perfect rule:

“On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
    a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
    of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.”

In fact, notice the similar language in Isaiah 25:8 and Revelation 21:4, proving a further connection between these passages…

“He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces…” (Isaiah 25:8)

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4)

(*Since it is so common for groups like the COG to take verses out of context to “prove” their misguided interpretations, I recommend reading all of the above passages in context so you can see clearly that I am representing the Bible accurately.)

In fact, marriage language is used throughout the Old Testament to describe God’s relationship to Israel, his chosen people.  Israel is often portrayed as the bride of God, and likewise, often accused of adultery for being unfaithful to God.

All of these marriage images are important to what’s going on in Chapters 19-22 of Revelation, which describes Jesus’ Second Coming — bringing with him the New Heaven and New Earth, which is the culmination of God’s kingdom and the final, perfect union of Christ and his people, the church.

Earlier in Revelation, we already see this imagery in Revelation 14:4, where the church (Christ’s people) are depicted as pure virgins, who have remained faithful to Christ, and are, thus, ready to be wed:

“It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb”

Thus, when Jesus returns, it’s announced in Revelation 19:7 that the church, the Bride, is ready for her “marriage” to the Lamb of God, Jesus:

“for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;”

Therefore, it’s quite obvious, the Bride is not any sort of divine goddess, but the church.  Revelation tells of the final climatic union of Christ with his church, and the writers of God’s Word chose to use the earthly language of marriage to illustrate this joyous day.

DSC05216_3

NEW JERUSALEM: CITY or WOMAN?

The other passage from Revelation used by the COG is found after Christ’s victory over evil and death at the coming of the New Heaven and New Earth, where Christ comes to live in eternal peace with his people and his renewed creation…

Revelation 21:9-10

“Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues and spoke to me, saying, ‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God,”

 

The COG calls Mother God, “Jerusalem Mother,” because in order for what’s written in Revelation to work in favor of the COG’s mistaken theology, Jerusalem must be understood to be not a city, but a divine woman, Mother God.

The COG uses similar thinking in interpreting Galatians 4:26 (“But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother”), but we refuted this in our last article about Mother God.

This is an odd interpretation to say the least. As with the other verses we analyzed in earlier articles, there’s nothing in Revelation that leads us to conclude that Mother God is a biblical figure or that Jerusalem symbolizes a divine goddess.  The only way these interpretations work is if we start with an assumption — an already established idea — of Mother God and insert her into the text.

The “Bride” of Revelation 21:9-10 is not a divine female person to be literally wed to God.  The “Bride” is the New Jerusalem, the holy city of the New Earth, where Jesus will spend eternity with his church, his people.

Just before 21:9-10, in Revelation 21:3-4, we are given a description of the culmination of God’s redemption of creation — the climax of all of salvation-history and the climax of the whole Bible: the coming of the New Heaven and New Earth.  All of creation is made new; sin, evil, and death have been destroyed; and God can finally live in perfect shalom with his people.  It reads:

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’”

 

Revelation is highly symbolic, so how literally we should take the description of the New Jerusalem that follows is debatable, but it’s clear we are dealing with a place here — not a person — a place where God will dwell with humankind.  New Jerusalem is certainly not a female deity marrying Jesus. In fact, just before 21:9-10, John, the author of Revelation, writes:

“And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” (21:2)

 

Here, New Jerusalem is plainly explained to be a “holy city.” Further, it’s described as being “prepared as a bride.”  The city is not called a literal bride.  The use of “like” or “as” in a comparison shows it’s a simile – figurative language, not literal language. New Jerusalem is to be the dwelling place of God with his people.  Were it to be the other way around, where the bride was to be understood literally and the city was figurative, would it not read…

“And I saw the bride, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a holy city adorned for her husband”… ?

But that doesn’t quite work, does it?  In fact, why confuse everyone by naming the bride after a city in the first place?  Why not just call her Mother God if that is who the bride is?

As Craig Blomberg in From Pentecost to Patmos writes, “…a holy city will descend from the new heaven to adorn the new earth.  Whereas we began in a garden, we will end in a city — God’s people in perfect community.  That the city is called the new Jerusalem suggests the fulfillment of all the promises to Israel as well as to humanity in this revelation.  But the city is also a bride (just as Yahwah [God] and Christ are portrayed as bridegrooms to their followers throughout the Old and New Testaments, respectively.)”

FromPenttoPAtmos

Excellent read & resource.

When we come to Revelation 21:9-10, the verses the COG uses, the “Bride, the wife of the Lamb” is still referring to the city:

“‘Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God,”

We are told right in the text that he is shown a city as “the Bride,” and what follows after 21:10 is a long description of that city. If Jerusalem is, in fact, Mother God, aka “Jerusalem Mother,” then she’s a divine woman with a high wall, twelve gates, and the length, width, and height of 1,380 miles; in fact, she is a perfect (and quite humongous) cube!

Now, someone may challenge me and say I admitted above that Revelation is highly symbolic so it’s difficult to know what should be taken literally and what should be taken figuratively.  Could the description of the New Jerusalem be poetically describing the splendor of Mother God?

As I showed above, from the context we can be confident that we’re dealing with a place here, not a person.  Further, as I’ve stated many times before, nothing in the Bible gives any indication of a divine mate for God, whether it’s referring to Jerusalem or anything else. There simply isn’t any evidence.  If we accept that the description of New Jerusalem in Revelation is Mother God, then what prevents us from also concluding – despite the obvious lack of evidence – that New Jerusalem symbolizes Darth Vader, George W. Bush, or the NY Jets?

“QUEEN OF HEAVEN”

 

Though I didn’t encounter this on the COG’s website, a friend of mine who had an interaction with a young woman involved in the COG said to him that the Bible speaks about the “Queen of Heaven.” I’m familiar with the verses she referred to, and they’re about a pagan goddess named Astarte (or Ishtar).

I’ve written an article about this before called “Did God Have a Wife?” Read it here.

CONCLUSION

 

As one video on the Church of God’s website proclaims, the “mystery of the Bible hidden for 6,000 years” has been revealed at last!

Here’s a good rule of thumb: If anyone claims to have a new understanding of the Bible that has never appeared before in the over 2,000 years of history since Jesus walked the earth, be suspicious – be very suspicious.

If any church hopes to convince us of another way of understanding the Bible, there better be a dump-truck load of evidence from the Scripture. Thing is, if there was that much evidence in the Scripture, someone would’ve seen it a long time ago.

The biblical verses the COG quotes to support their beliefs are scant and inadequate, and they crumble when looked at in context. If the COG is going to accept these verses as evidence of Mother God, then they also have to accept Hosea 4:5, which reads:

“I [God] will destroy your mother.”

 

Was God a domestic abuser?

Of course, the COG would not accept Hosea 4:5 to be anything about Mother God. Most likely, they’d say I took the verse out of context.

Exactly.

 MotherGod_Evidence

A STATEMENT OF CONCERN

If I come across blunt or even a bit harsh, it’s because I believe the Bible is the Word of God so I take it seriously when someone distorts it. That being said, I have the utmost concern for the members of the Church of God. I believe the members of the COG are hungry to know the true God, but false prophets and teachers have led them astray and their eternal souls are at risk. I pray these blog articles will lead them to the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

***God From the Machine has published a book for evangelizing, educating, and refuting the World Mission Society Church of God titled Searching the Bible for Mother God: Examining the Teachings of the World Mission Society Church of God, available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.  Click here to learn more.***

A great book for helping with understanding of Revelation

A great book for helping with understanding of Revelation

Great book for helping to understand the symbols used in the Bible.

Great book for helping to understand the symbols used in the Bible.

My earlier articles on the Church of God & Mother God:

“World Mission Society Church of God, Mother God & Christ Ahnsahnghong – The One True Church or Cult?”

The Trinity Mashup & the Schizophrenic God! “Mother God,” “Christ” Ahnsahnghong, & World Mission Society Church of God – The One True Church or Cult?

Mother God & the World Mission Society Church of God – Is There Evidence of “God the Mother” in the Bible? (Genesis 1:26-27)

MOTHER GOD: Analyzing the Biblical Evidence: JEREMIAH 31:22

MOTHER GOD: Analyzing the Biblical Evidence: GALATIANS 4:26-31

Also, I do not intend to debate here whether the World Mission Society Church of God is a “cult” or not, and I prefer my readers to decide. (Please feel free to comment, discuss, & debate below!) Earlier articles I wrote will hopefully be helpful:

How Do We Identify “Christian” Cults? What’s the Difference Between a Cult & a Denomination?

Interacting with “Christian” Cult Members: Tips & Strategies

About (Poor) Biblical Interpretation: Responding to “Christian” Cults… or Anyone Who Misuses Scripture.

MOTHER GOD: Analyzing the Biblical Evidence: GALATIANS 4:26-31 (World Missions Society Church of God)

But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother. (Galatians 4:26)

So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. (Galatians 4:31)

 

The World Mission Society Church of God (or simply, the Church of God) believes “Mother God” not only exists in the Bible, but exists in the flesh today in South Korea.

 

This continues my analysis of the Scripture the Church of God (COG) uses to justify their belief in Mother God.  (See a list of earlier articles below.)  To read the introductory article about the COG and Mother God, click here.

(God From the Machine has published a book titled Searching the Bible for Mother God: Examining the Teachings of the World Mission Society Church of God, available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.  Click here to learn more.)

 MotherGod_IFollow

Above are two verses from the Bible (Galatians 4:26 & 4:31) that the COG quotes on their website as evidence for Mother God in the Bible.  Now, you may be thinking Galatians 4:26 even mentions the word “mother,” so it must be about Mother God! But let’s look at what Paul is writing about in Galatians.

Remember context is always the key…

 

What’s Paul So Angry About?

Galatians is considered Paul’s most angry letter. It even excludes Paul’s normal thanksgiving in his opening introduction for those receiving the letter.  Its absence is very noticeable because we see similar friendly openings in all of his other letters – even the more stern ones. So what’s Paul so upset about?

This is what Paul’s upset about: The Galatians had reverted back to legalism, believing that Christians must still follow the Jewish religious laws for salvation. This was a big issue with the first Christians because Christianity came out of Judaism, the first Christians were Jews, and Jews faithfully follow the Old Testament law.

But Christians have been set free from the law because Jesus Christ fulfilled it by his death and resurrection. The religious law was temporary until the good news of Christ came and freed us from it (See Galatians 3:15-25).

The Christians in Galatia had backslid and had gone back to believing and teaching someone must still follow the Old Testament law, even as a Christian (See Galatians 4:8-20).

When we come to Galatians 4:21-31, Paul uses a story from the book of Genesis about Abraham’s wives Hagar and Sarah and their sons to support his argument. The idea Paul is arguing is that someone can choose to be a slave to the law or free through Christ, but one cannot be both.

 MotherGodGalatians

Abraham & his Wives = Domestic Trouble

Abraham (Abram) is the father of the Israelite nation, the Jews. In Genesis 12:1-3, God speaks to Abraham and promises him that he will make a great nation through Abraham’s descendants, through which the whole world will be blessed. (This promise was fulfilled with the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, a descendant of Abraham.)

But later, in Chapter 15, Abraham and his wife Sarah (Sarai) still do not have a child. God reaffirms his promise, telling Abraham that his descendants will be as numerous as the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5).

In Chapter 16, we get the story of Sarah (Sarai) and Hagar. Sarah has grown weary of waiting for God to give them a child, so she tells Abraham to sleep with their servant/slave Hagar. Abraham listens to his wife, and Hagar becomes pregnant and gives birth to Ishmael.

This was sinful for both Abraham and Sarah.  Beyond the obvious sexual sin, both Abraham and Sarah didn’t trust God to fulfill his promise and they took matters into their own hands.  As you can imagine, the situation also leads to domestic trouble.

Fourteen years later, in Chapter 21, Abraham is one-hundred years-old, and Sarah is in her nineties, and as God promised, Sarah becomes pregnant!  She gives birth to Isaac. Again, as you can probably guess, the birth of Isaac doesn’t help the domestic situation.

Sarah witnesses Ishmael, now a teen, mocking either her or Isaac, so Hagar and Ishmael are cast out of the home of Abraham. Though Ishmael wouldn’t receive an inheritance from his father, God cares for him and his mother and promises that Ishmael’s descendants would become a great nation as well.

 sarah-hagar

The Free Woman & The Slave Woman

Now, back to Galatians 4:21-31: Paul uses Sarah (the free woman) and Hagar (the slave woman) to make a point about being free through Jesus Christ or a slave to the Old Testament law.  (Take a moment to read Galatians 4:21-31 here.)

First, let’s take note that Paul clearly states in 4:24 that he’s using the story as an allegory, a symbolic tale to convey a message:

 

“Now this may be interpreted allegorically: these women are two covenants.”

Thus, he’s clearly speaking figuratively here, not literally.

Basically, Paul’s whole analogy in 4:21-31 goes like this: God gave two covenants — one of slavery and one of freedom, symbolized by Sarah (the free woman) and Hagar (the slave woman).

Paul writes:

 

“One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children.” (4:24-25)

The covenant of slavery is the Old Testament law, represented by Hagar and Mount Sinai (the place where Moses received the Old Testament law from God). This covenant of slavery is also represented by the “present Jerusalem” – the non-Christian Jews of Paul’s day, who still follow the Old Testament law.  They are the “children” of the slave woman because they’re enslaved by the Old Testament law.

Paul then writes the line used by the COG:

 

“But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.” (4:26)

 

Following Paul’s analogy and argument, “Jerusalem above” is contrasted with the present, worldly Jerusalem, which is still in bondage to the Old Testament law. “Jerusalem above” is the heavenly Jerusalem – the true, free Jerusalem. This looks forward, past the present age to the future – to the New Heaven and New Earth where the New Jerusalem will come with Jesus’ Second Coming (See Revelation 21). Keeping with the Hagar/Sarah (slave woman/free woman) analogy, Paul states in 4:26 that the New Jerusalem is the “mother” of Christians because they’re not slaves; they are free.

Keeping with the imagery of Sarah (who was old and barren when she became pregnant) and the future victory of Christianity and the New Jerusalem, Paul quotes Isaiah 54:1 in Galatians 4:27:

 

“Rejoice, O barren one who does not bear;

break forth and cry aloud, you who are not in labor!

For the children of the desolate one will be more

   than those of the one who has a husband.”

 

Paul goes on to explain in 4:28-30 that Christians, like Isaac, are the children of God’s promise. And just like Ishmael (“who was born according to the flesh”) showed contempt for Isaac (who was “born according to the Spirit”) when he was born, the non-believing Jews are persecuting the Christians of Galatia. Yet — Paul points this out by referring to Genesis directly — Ishmael was cast out and didn’t get the inheritance of his father Abraham, and the same will happen to the Jews who still hold to the Old Testament law and don’t believe the good news of Jesus Christ.

Then Paul concludes with the other line used by the COG:

 

“So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman.”

 

Thus, Christians are not slaves, but free. To be a child of “the slave” would make someone a child of Hagar. Likewise, the “free woman” is not some divine goddess, but Sarah.

This may help you to follow the argument made by Paul:

 SLAVERY

Slavery = Old Testament law = Mount Sinai =

“Present” Jerusalem =

Hagar (slave woman) =

Ishmael =

No inheritance.

 FREEDOM

Freedom = Salvation through faith alone = Jesus Christ =

Jerusalem above/New Jerusalem= 

Sarah (free woman) =

Isaac =

Receives the inheritance.    

***God From the Machine has published a book for evangelizing, educating, and refuting the World Mission Society Church of God titled Searching the Bible for Mother God: Examining the Teachings of the World Mission Society Church of God, available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.  Click here to learn more.

Great book for helping to understand the symbols used in the Bible.

Great book for helping to understand the symbols used in the Bible.

 

NEXT:

MOTHER GOD: Analyzing the Biblical Evidence: REVELATION 19:7 & 21:9-10.

My earlier articles on the Church of God:

“World Mission Society Church of God, Mother God & Christ Ahnsahnghong – The One True Church or Cult?”

The Trinity Mashup & the Schizophrenic God! “Mother God,” “Christ” Ahnsahnghong, & World Mission Society Church of God – The One True Church or Cult?

Mother God & the World Mission Society Church of God – Is There Evidence of “God the Mother” in the Bible? (Genesis 1:26-27)

MOTHER GOD: Analyzing the Biblical Evidence: JEREMIAH 31:22

Also, I do not intend to debate here if the World Mission Society Church of God is a “cult” or not, and I prefer my readers to decide. (Please feel free to comment, discuss, & debate below!) Earlier articles I wrote will hopefully be helpful:

How Do We Identify “Christian” Cults? What’s the Difference Between a Cult & a Denomination?

Interacting with “Christian” Cult Members: Tips & Strategies

About (Poor) Biblical Interpretation: Responding to “Christian” Cults… or Anyone Who Misuses Scripture.

MOTHER GOD: Analyzing the Biblical Evidence: JEREMIAH 31:22 (World Missions Society Church of God)

The World Mission Society Church of God (or simply, the Church of God) believes “Mother God” not only exists in the Bible, but exists in the flesh today in South Korea.

Screen shot 2014-05-26 at 12.23.37 AM

In the previous article of this series I analyzed the Church of God’s use of Genesis 1:26-27 and Isaiah 6:8 to justify their belief in Mother God. Below, I’ll continue to analyze the Scripture they cite as biblical proof of Mother God.

(God From the Machine has published a book titled Searching the Bible for Mother God: Examining the Teachings of the World Mission Society Church of God, available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.  Click here to learn more.)

As I did in my earlier articles, I’ve purposely avoided exposing myself to any negative websites or information about the Church of God (COG) and have based my analysis strictly on their explanation of their own beliefs a stated on their official website.

 

Since they use the Bible to defend their views (and they appear to believe the Bible is the Word of God), I’ve used the Bible to analyze and refute their beliefs as unbiblical and as a corruption of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. (See below for other articles concerning the COG.)

 

Before reading further, I would recommend you pause and first read an earlier article I wrote about poor biblical interpretation and how certain churches, sects, and cults misuse Scripture. The principles in that article certainly apply here, as you will see.

 

The following practices of poor biblical interpretation (manipulation-?) are the most evident in the COG’s use of Scripture:

  • Isolating verses and taking them out of context.
  • Imposing views on the text rather than letting the text speak for itself.
  • Jumping from one part of the Bible to another with utter disregard of context to “prove” ideas, beliefs, or opinions.
  • Inconsistent decisions on what should be taken literally or figuratively, often based on preconceived ideas.

 

world-mission-society-church-of-god-god-the-mother

JEREMIAH 31:22

“How long will you go here and there,

O faithless daughter?

For the Lord has created a new thing in the earth—

A woman will encompass a man.”

 

Like many of the passages the COG cites as evidence of Mother God in the Bible, Jeremiah 31:22 sounds mysterious, and may even lead you to suspect there is some sort of hidden meaning behind it, but by simply looking at the verse in context, the meaning of the passage becomes clearer.

 

CONTEXT

The prophet Jeremiah wrote his book during the harsh, tumultuous times after the fall of the Assyrians and the rise of the Babylonians, the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and the deportation (the Exile) of Jews to Babylon. Like the other prophets, Jeremiah states God allowed this calamity to fall on the Jewish people as just judgment for their sin and idolatry.

 

But, also like the other prophets, Jeremiah isn’t all negative: he also gives a message of hope, where God will redeem the faithful.

 

This message of hope is seen in the verses preceding 31:22. Take a moment to read it, covering 31:15 to 31:22.

 

Rachel is Weeping

 

Verse 15 refers to Rachel weeping for “her children,” the exiled Jews:

 

“Rachel is weeping for her children;

   she refuses to be comforted for her children,

   because they are no more.”

 

We find Rachel way back in the book of Genesis. Rachel was Jacob’s second, but favorite, wife (Genesis 29:30) and the mother of Joseph, the father of Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 30:22-24; 41:50-52). Notice Ephraim is mentioned in Jeremiah 31:18 as also grieving.

 

Like many of the prophets, Jeremiah uses a lot of poetic imagery. The idea here is that the Exile is so devastating to the Jews that even Rachel is mourning.  It would be similar if I said to an American today, after someone had burned an American flag, that Betsy Ross (the woman traditionally credited with sewing the 1st American flag) is weeping over the treatment of the flag.  The person would know that I didn’t mean this literally, since Betsy Ross lived in the 1700-1800’s, but poetically.

 

But Jeremiah moves on to the good news. God will have mercy, and a faithful remnant will return to their land. Note the imagery of roads in 31:21, implying their return:

 

“Set up road markers for yourself;

   make yourself guideposts;

consider well the highway,

   the road by which you went.”

 

Israel, the Jewish people, are then poetically personified as a young woman, a “virgin” and “faithless daughter” in 31:21-22:

 

“Return, O virgin Israel,

   return to these your cities.

How long will you waver,

   O faithless daughter?”

 

And then we have the mysterious and infamous words of 31:22 used by the COG as evidence of Mother God:

 

“For the Lord has created a new thing on the earth:

   a woman encircles a man.”

 

First, it’s clear from the context of the rest of Jeremiah that jumping to the conclusion that this verse is about a female deity of any sort has no textual or logical grounding. If you continue to read the rest of Jeremiah, you will find so such evidence of “Mother God” either.

 

Admittedly, this single line “a woman encircles a man” is a bit of a mystery. One commentator even says the clear meaning of this line is “enigmatic.” Yet the only way to justify that this is about Mother God is to read a preconceived idea into the text, not by letting the text speak for itself.

 

Unorthodox sects and cults often grab onto unclear lines of Scripture and insert their own meaning into them. Further, the same commentator who labeled this line “enigmatic” also writes that though this one line is unclear, the rest of the chapter surrounding it is perfectly clear and unambiguous.

 

Though Israel is a “faithless daughter,” God will still give her a “new thing” – a new life as he brings her back to her land from exile. “Encircles” in 31:22 (“a woman encircles a man”) can also be translated “encompasses” or “protects.” What the line is most likely symbolizing is that the “woman” (Israel) will grow in strength, even to the point of being strong enough to protect “a man.”

 

As you can see, nothing in Jeremiah supports the claim that Mother God appears in this ancient book of prophecy.

 MotherGod& Aha

***God From the Machine has published a book for evangelizing, educating, and refuting the World Mission Society Church of God titled Searching the Bible for Mother God: Examining the Teachings of the World Mission Society Church of God, available in paperback and Kindle on Amazon.  Click here to learn more.

NEXT:

MOTHER GOD: Analyzing the Biblical Evidence: GALATIANS 4:26-31.

My earlier articles on the Church of God:

“World Mission Society Church of God, Mother God & Christ Ahnsahnghong – The One True Church or Cult?”

The Trinity Mashup & the Schizophrenic God! “Mother God,” “Christ” Ahnsahnghong, & World Mission Society Church of God – The One True Church or Cult?

Mother God & the World Mission Society Church of God – Is There Evidence of “God the Mother” in the Bible? (Genesis 1:26-27)

Also, I do not intend to debate here if the World Mission Society Church of God is a “cult” or not, and I prefer my readers to decide. (Please feel free to comment, discuss, & debate below!) Earlier articles I wrote will hopefully be helpful:

How Do We Identify “Christian” Cults? What’s the Difference Between a Cult & a Denomination?

Interacting with “Christian” Cult Members: Tips & Strategies

About (Poor) Biblical Interpretation: Responding to “Christian” Cults… or Anyone Who Misuses Scripture.