Last week, I discussed the first two topics in Chapter 1 of “Bible Teach.” Today, I’ll move on to the next subject.
Topic #3: The importance of God’s name—“Jehovah”
Given the importance of the name “Jehovah” in the Watchtower religion, it’s somewhat surprising that “Bible Teach” doesn’t introduce the topic until midway through the chapter, but the Watchtower often catches us off guard by introducing key teachings when we least expect it.
In Watchtower publications, photo captions often convey doctrine. As an example, the photo caption at paragraph 14 (p. 12) reads, “When you want someone to get to know you, do you not mention your name? God reveals his name to us in the Bible.” The same point is made in the text itself, under the heading, “God Wants You to Know Who He Is.”
You can point out that our children and grandchildren know us intimately even though they call us “Dad” and “Grandpa” rather than using our given names. Likewise, our friends often refer to us by nicknames. I discussed this in The Divine Name Approach on pp. 214-215 from my book, Getting Through to Jehovah’s Witnesses: Approaching Bible Discussions in Unexpected Ways.
“Bible Teach” goes on to say that “Lord” and “God” are titles rather than names (paragraph 14, p. 13). It refers you to the Appendix: “The Divine Name—Its Use and Meaning” (pp. 195-197). This is a good opportunity to discuss this topic, but you may well decide that it is too early in your meetings to get into a topic like this in depth. If so, you can plant a seed or two and discuss the divine name further when you get to Chapter 10 or Chapter 15.
Here are my suggestions for discussing the topic, including the material in the appendix.
On page 196 of that appendix (the appendices don’t have numbered paragraphs), the Watchtower says as follows: “In replacing God’s name with titles, Bible translators make a serious mistake. They make God seem remote and impersonal…”
I discussed this argument in The Divine Name Approach (p. 215). You can point out that Jesus’ 12 disciples knew him intimately and yet Jesus said they correctly addressed him as “Teacher” and “Lord” (John 13:13).
In paragraph 14 (p. 13) of Chapter 1, “Bible Teach” quotes Psalm 83:13. Witnesses often cite this verse because even the King James Version uses the name “Jehovah” there.
Read together, paragraph 14 (pp. 13-14) and page 195 (Appendix) point out that the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) from which the name “Jehovah” is derived appears more than 7,000 times in the Hebrew Bible text. They argue that God clearly wants us to know that “Jehovah” is his name and to call him that.
As I noted in The Divine Name Approach (pp. 216-218), there are no New Testament manuscripts that contain the Hebrew YHWH. In fact, the New Testament highlights the name of Jesus.
The “Bible Teach” Appendix (page 195) notes that in Jesus’ model prayer, he begins by saying, “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified.”
You can respond with the point I made in my Approach (pp. 213-214)—by asking them to show you any instance in the Bible where Jesus addressed God as “Jehovah” in his prayers. In the model prayer, Jesus taught his followers to address God as “Our Father,” not as “Jehovah.” In fact, nowhere does Jesus address God as “Jehovah” in any of his prayers, not even in the Watchtower’s own translation!
The Watchtower argues (Appendix, page 196) that the Jews erred in not using Jehovah’s name out of fear that they might inadvertently violate the Third Commandment by misusing God’s name. Jehovah’s Witnesses may even tell you that Jesus made Jehovah’s name known (John 17:26) whereas the scribes and Pharisees refused to speak it.
As I said in The Divine Name Approach (pp. 218-220), if the Watchtower’s understanding were correct, we would expect to see heated confrontations with the religious leaders accusing Jesus of blasphemy for uttering the divine name and with Jesus rebuking them for their superstitious failure to use it. Ask them to show you any instance of this in the Bible. It isn’t there.
Making the Father’s “name known” means extolling his character and deeds, not speaking the word “Jehovah.”
While I don’t try to dissuade Witnesses from calling God “Jehovah,” I do defend Christians against the Watchtower’s claim that we are doing something wrong if we fail to do so.
I have also discussed these matters in this blog. See the posts “Must We Call God ‘Jehovah’?”, “Must We Call God ‘Jehovah’ in Order to Have Intimacy with Him?”, and “Must We Pray to Jehovah by Name?”
In paragraphs 16-17 (p. 15) of Chapter 1, “Bible Teach” claims that Jehovah (by which they mean the Father) alone is almighty, eternal, and the creator.
Here, the Watchtower is setting you up for its later teaching that Jesus is not God. I would probably wait to discuss that later, but if you want to challenge the assertion at this juncture, you can ask the Witnesses to explain John 1:3 and Colossians 1:15-17, which clearly teach that Jesus created all things.
Next week, we will examine the question, “How close can we get with God?”