Got time for a 90 second commercial?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Jehovah's Witnesses and the Church Fathers

(Yes, you should!)

When Jehovah’s Witnesses come to the door, we can get tempted to respond with either rudeness for interrupting our afternoon, hiding and on occasion the charitable chat. Usually though the chats can turn toward the subject of the center of our Faith: the Most Holy Trinity.

What do Jehovah’s Witnesses believe about the Trinity?

They don’t believe in a Triune God, Three persons that share one nature. The say that there is one person – Jehovah God and no other. They believe that Jesus is Michael the Archangel and the Holy Spirit is not even a person at all. They say he is like electricity or as they describe him – God’s active force.

Usually when someone ventures onto this conversation with them, they receive the JW publication – Should you believe in the Trinity? This publication is jam packed with arguments against the Trinity which would take several hours to take apart but one group that they try to rope into this is the Early Church Fathers. – Big Mistake.

How do the Jehovah’s Witnesses use the Church Fathers in their publication?

The Jehovah’s Witnesses on page 7 of their publication – ‘Should you believe in the Trinity?’ – quote 6 church fathers: Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Hippolytus, and Origen. They conclude the quotes of the church fathers which this line – “Thus, the testimony of the Bible and of history makes clear that the Trinity was unknown throughout Biblical times and for several centuries thereafter.”

Well let’s test that quote as far as the church fathers are concerned?

Right off the bat I looked up the word “Trinity” in each one of these church fathers cited and right away I found that 4 of the 6 church fathers used the word “ Trinity” in a positive light. They are Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Hippolytus, and Origen.

So even before getting into one quote from this magazine, the reader should know that at least 67% of those quoted are misquoted.

Let’s get into some details here – how do they quote Justin Martyr?

Here is what they say Justin Martyr said –

Justin calls the prehuman Jesus a created angel who is “other than the God who made all things” – He said that Jesus was inferior to God and “ never did anything except what the Creator…willed him to do and say.”

So does St. Justin Martyr call Jesus an angel? Yes he does, which when I saw some quotes were shocking for about 2 seconds until I read the context.

This is from the Dialogue with Trypho:

“Moreover, I consider it necessary to repeat to you the words which narrate how He who is both Angel and God and Lord, and who appeared as a man to Abraham, and who wrestled in human form with Jacob, was seen by him when he fled from his brother Esau.”

"Have you perceived, sirs, that this very God whom Moses speaks of as an Angel that talked to him in the flame of fire, declares to Moses that He is the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob?"

St. Justin is saying that the prehuman Jesus was not an angel, but only appeared as one, and not only that he is the very God of the Old Testament . All of this JW’s would disagree with.

What about Irenaeus how do the JW’s quote him?

They say:

…”the prehuman Jesus had a separate existence from God and was inferior to him. He showed that Jesus was not equal to the “one true and only God” who is “supreme over all, and besides whom there is no other.”

I could not find this chopped up quote anywhere but what I did find is this:

"For the Church, although dispersed throughout the whole world even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and from their disciples the faith in one God, Father Almighty, … and in one Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who became flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who announced through the prophets the dispensations and the comings, and the birth from a Virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the bodily ascension into heaven of the beloved Christ Jesus our Lord, and his coming from heaven in the glory of the Father to reestablish all things; and the raising up again of all flesh of all humanity, in order that to Jesus Christ our Lord and God and Savior and King, in accord with the approval of the invisible Father, every knee shall bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth . . . " (Against Heresies 1:10:1 [A.D. 189]).
So with even a minimal amount of work, we can show the Jehovah’s Witness at the door that not only was pretty much the entirety of page 7 in error in the brochure – Should you believe in the Trinity? – but also that the early church did believe in the Trinity even before the word was used to describe God. This is not just poor scholarship on those in charge of the JW’s, but deceitful.

IF you live around the Greater Cincinnati area and you would like help answering Jehovah's Witnesses, I am available to give a talk to a parish or group. Please contact me through email -


Matthew said...

Hey Daniel,

I look forward to your segment each week on the Son Rise Morning Show. Thank you for posting this most recent one. I'm curious though, about the one from the week previous. You gave a talk on the Eucharist. I was hoping to forward it to a friend who is going through RCIA right now but struggling with the concept of the Eucharist.

Daniel Egan said...


Here it is:

You should get your friend and yourself this book.

If you need any more specifice help let me know.