Proverbs 8: Faulty logic from the Jehovah’s Witnesses

During one of our Bible studies together, my neighbor gave me a copy of an article about Proverbs 8. I hunted down the article online after she left, to discover its source. It seems to come from a book called Come Be My Follower, published by the Watchtower. I spent some time studying the article, and I returned it to her the following week with my responses typed out.

Now, I find it ridiculous that the Watchtower insists on lifting 10 verses out of Proverbs in order to “prove” that Jesus was created by God. Their circular reasoning annoys me, but I try to remain respectful to my neighbor.

Still, I receive a lot of help from the online community, and I want to give back when I can. So I’m publishing my written answers here—as an invitation to anyone who has something to add to this conversation, and as a resource to anyone who is studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses.

(This post is a little longer than my normal fare, and perhaps deeper than you care to go, so I understand if you choose to bookmark it and read it later.)

The Oldest and Strongest Bond of Love

[I’m quoting here Section 1 of Chapter 13 of Come Be My Follower, which is what my neighbor gave me. I responded to the article paragraph by paragraph, and my responses are in gray below.]

6 Have you ever worked on a project with a friend and found that the two of you became better, closer friends as a result? That pleasant experience may provide some insight into the love that developed between Jehovah and his only-begotten Son. We have referred more than once to Proverbs 8:30, but let us take a closer look at that verse in its context. In verses 22 through 31, we find an inspired description of wisdom personified. How do we know that these words refer to God’s Son?

(This first paragraph was not part of the document I gave my neighbor; I thought of it later. I’m glad I didn’t include it because it sounds a little snarky, though the point is a good one.) At best, those last two sentences represent a leap of logic. At worst, they indicate a loaded question. To say that verses 22–31 are about wisdom, and then to ask, “How do we know they refer to God’s Son?” doesn’t make sense, unless you are trying to manipulate people into reaching a conclusion you have already chosen for them. The simple answer to this loaded question is, “Those verses don’t refer to God’s Son.”

(This is what I gave my neighbor.) If you take verses 22 through 31 in context, you’ll see that not only does the whole chapter of Proverbs 8 talk only about wisdom, but the whole section of Proverbs 1–9 is only about wisdom. The section opens by telling us exactly what its purpose is: “for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young— let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— for understanding proverbs and parables, the saying and riddles of the wise.” (vv2–6) If you are going to correctly interpret what verses from this section of the Bible are about, you have to accept what the writer is telling us the purpose is.

If you are going to apply verses 22–31 to Jesus, then you have to be consistent and apply everything in chapter 8 to Jesus (even verses 1–3), because there is nothing to indicate those verses should be treated any differently from the rest. To claim that only verses 22–31 apply to Jesus is an example of taking something out of context in order to make it say what you want it to say.

7 In verse 22, wisdom says: “Jehovah himself produced me as the beginning of his way, the earliest of his achievements of long ago.” More than just wisdom must be involved here, for that quality never was “produced.” It never began to exist because Jehovah has always existed and he has always been wise. (Psalm 90:2) God’s Son, however, was “the firstborn of all creation.” He was produced, or created; he was the earliest of all of Jehovah’s achievements. (Colossians 1:15) The Son existed before the earth and the heavens, as described in Proverbs. And as the Word, God’s own Spokesman, he was the perfect expression of Jehovah’s wisdom.—John 1:1.

The Greek for verse 22 actually reads, “Yahweh possessed me at the beginning of his way, before his works of old.” (Yes, I actually looked up the Greek!) Correctly translating the verse leads to a correct understanding that the writer is telling us that God has always been wise, and that His wisdom is demonstrated in His works.

8 How was the Son occupied during the vast expanse of time before he came to earth? Verse 30 tells us that he was beside God as “a master worker.” What does that mean? Colossians 1:16 explains: “By means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth . . . All [other] things have been created through him and for him.” So Jehovah, the Creator, worked through his Son, the Master Worker, to bring every other creation into existence—from the spirit creatures in the heavenly realm to the immense physical universe, to the earth with its wondrous variety of plant and animal life, to the pinnacle of earthly creation: humankind. In some respects, we might liken this cooperation between Father and Son to that of an architect working with a builder, or contractor, who specializes in bringing the architect’s ingenious designs to reality. When we are awed by any facet of creation, we are actually giving credit to the Great Architect. (Psalm 19:1) However, we may also call to mind the long and happy collaboration between the Creator and his “master worker.”

By the way, a correct translation of Colossians 1:16 does not include the word “other.” The Greek interlinear version of the Bible shows that the Greek word panta means “all,” not “all other.” Paul is intentionally telling the Colossian believers that Jesus created everything and that Jesus could do this because He is God. (The fact that the New World Translation changes the meaning of the verse by intentionally inserting the word “other” makes it difficult for me to trust your Bible.)

9 When two imperfect humans work closely together, they sometimes have a difficult time getting along. Not so with Jehovah and his Son! The Son worked for aeons with the Father and was “glad before him all the time.” (Proverbs 8:30) Yes, he delighted in his Father’s company, and the feeling was mutual. Naturally, the Son grew ever more like his Father, learning to imitate God’s qualities. No wonder, then, that the bond between Father and Son became so strong! It can rightly be called the oldest and strongest bond of love in the whole universe.

(My neighbor and I have had a number of discussions about the Trinity, so this response is a follow-up to those conversations.) 

Just for a moment, consider this line of thought:

  • God has always existed. (Psalm 90:2)
  • God is love. (1 John 4:8)
  • Love needs an object. That is, if you are “loving,” you have to love something or someone.
  • So whom did God love when He was the only thing that existed?

If you believe that God created Christ, then you believe that their loving relationship had a beginning. If that’s true, then God had nothing to love before Christ, so there was a time when God was not love.

But I believe that God has always existed—as Father, Son, and Spirit. These three distinct beings could live in perfect love even before anything was created. Just something to think about.

What do you think—are my responses logical? If you don’t agree with my conclusions, I hope you’ll express that in the comments, but I hope you’ll do more than just disagree. I hope you’ll point out any errors in my logic, and explain how my conclusions just don’t make sense, or how they could have been stated better, or how they are built on incorrect facts. Fair enough?

Let’s learn from each other!

a

20 thoughts on “Proverbs 8: Faulty logic from the Jehovah’s Witnesses”

  1. Wow…
    There is alot about religion that is interpretation.
    Often people put their own “spin” on what is written.
    The written word is strong and will continue to stimulate
    communication and interpretation. Then we have the
    inflection that people use to spread the word of religion
    can change the real meaning. The words “And so it is Written”
    come to mind…
    Doyle Sims

    Reply
    • Yeah, I think it’s important to remember that Jesus didn’t come to set up a religion. He came to restore a relationship. “Religion” is just our system of trying to formalize that relationship. Sometimes it can be helpful to the relationship, and sometimes it gets in the way of the relationship.

      And sometimes it tries to actually replace or re-define the relationship, and that’s dangerous.

      Reply
  2. Well said Melanie. Especially the last paragraph. And I like how you referenced points with scripture. I can sense your frustration too. Like you said, some people and some faiths will manipulate words or meaning and come to conclusions on ideas or passages to see only what they want to see.

    I think it is great you are having these conversations and getting each other thinking though!

    I remember one Christmas Eve as a child when we were ready to open presents, two Jehovah’s Witnesses came knocking on our door. Naturally, as children we were like “really?, Come on! On Christmas?!” But my dad wouldn’t turn down the opportunity to have the discussion with someone that wanted to talk about their faith. Needless to say they were there for a couple hours and it wasn’t a one-sided conversation either. Finally they wrapped things up as us kids were beyond anxious already to get on with our celebration, but I have to say, it was a good learning experience as well. A week later, one of them came back to the house and wanted to talk more about Christianity.

    Thanks for sharing your inter-faith discussions. Especially someone as linguistic as you, can maybe help them logically break down piece by piece what is actually being said in the Bible. And then other times you get to a point where you agree to disagree and just continue to pray for them and where they’re at.
    You never know how God may be using you & this experience!

    Reply
    • Hey, thanks for that story, Michelle, that’s really cool! And you bring up a good point: These Bible studies are not just a way for me to “reach my poor, lost neighbor;” they are good for me too, and I’m learning a lot—about the Bible, about my own church traditions, about arrogance and humility and relationships. Sometimes I think Christians believe that “evangelism” is all about teaching other people what they don’t know, and we don’t realize how patronizing we sound. But my neighbor and I are developing a relationship in which we can learn from each other. Neither of us has all the answers, but for now we’re sharing the journey together.

      Reply
    • Excellent story and an even better reminder of WHY we need to keep the doors of communication open. Kinda surprised they showed up on Christmas, but it was an ideal witnessing opportunity, and with a surprising success.

      “It is not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit”, says the Lord of Hosts.

      Reply
  3. I also applaud your inter-faith openness. While it will always be true that there is but one way to the Father, we are to listen to people. Willingness to engage those with whom we do not share all doctrinal beliefs in common is a necessary part of evengelism.
    It is also true that we can learn from each other. I have come to know more about Christianity by comparing it to Islam. I’m reading the Qur’an, verse by verse, and surah by surah, in a Christian critique called “Qur’an Revealed. (Written by Robert Greer, PhD)
    My faith in Jesus has been built up by comparison to Muhammed.
    Jehovah’s Witnesses may seem to have more in common with Christians than do Muslims. What they share is taking the word of God and using it for their own agendas.

    Reply
  4. Hi Melanie,
    Like you, I have had many encounters with Jehovah Witnesses. There seems to be a misconception among Christians about the term ‘the only begotten’ Son. Many relate this term to the terms used in Genesis when we are given a list of people who ‘begat’ each other.

    The other word that trips up Christians is the word ‘Firstborn’ as is used in Colossians.

    Actually, Paul the apostle in Acts chapter 13 helps to clear up some of these misconceptions.

    In Chapter Paul gives a brief historical discourse of the gospel and in 13:29 “And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a tomb. 30 But God raised him from the dead; 31 and for many days he appeared to those who came up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are now his witnesses to the people. 32 And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, 33 this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus; as also it is written in the second psalm, ‘Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee.’ 34 And as for the fact that he raised him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, he spoke in this way, ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’ 35 Therefore he says also in another psalm, ‘Thou wilt not let thy Holy One see corruption.’ 36 For David, after he had served the counsel of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid with his fathers, and saw corruption; 37 but he whom God raised up saw no corruption. 38 Let it be known to you therefore, brethren, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and by him every one that believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” (RSV)

    Paul describes the fulfillment of the second psalm, ‘today i have begotten thee’ in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, not the day of his creation. So when we hear that Jesus was begotten or the firstborn, it is always tied to him being raised from the dead. Jesus was the unique in that he was raised from the dead and then seated on the Throne of Power. All others are awaiting the day when all men are raised and joined together with their new bodies. We have not been raised… not yet.
    In 1Cor 15, Paul lays out his argument for the the resurrection of the dead in bodily form. In Paul’s mind, the resurrection of Christ (Firstborn, begotten) in bodily form and our future resurrection in bodily form are inexorably linked together.
    My cousin is a Jehovah Witness.
    Let me know what you think.

    Reply
    • Very interesting. I had not heard this interpretation before. I find it helpful, though my guess is it would not be convincing to a JW. For one thing, they do not believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, so introducing that argument will likely spin you off into a trail of verses about the soul and the spirit and the spiritual and the physical and the Greek words and the Jews of that day, etc., etc. etc. I’m not saying you’re not correct; I’m just saying my own experience has been that many of the truths I take for granted have to be “proven” or exegeted for my neighbor, because she interprets the Bible so differently than I do. Not that I mind—it’s good exercise! But it can be exhausting.

      I do appreciate my neighbor’s willingness to listen to my views on the Trinity, even though this is heresy to her. And it’s been good for me to have to research this concept and work to present it in a way that sounds logical. Maybe part of the confusion is that we believe that “the Son,” the second person of the Trinity, existed forever, because He’s God. But “Jesus” had a specific, human, earthly lifespan, during which He remained God but limited Himself in some ways. So it might be accurate to say that Jesus did not always exist. But if I said that, and my neighbor said that, we would mean two completely different things. She would mean that God created Jesus. I would mean that eternal God became Jesus for a time on earth.

      There is so much power in words—to both reveal the truth and to disguise it!

      Reply
  5. I actually ran into some JWs on the beach by my place and ignited a debate between us over Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I lost my cool and ran them off, which is not glorifying to God, and I am convicted by it. When they asked me to look up scripture, they pointed me to Prov. 8, and though, I have not spent too much time in Proverbs they caught me off guard, but I just read it today because I am reading a Proverb a day for this month, and I was surprised to read that even though the JWs make the chapter out to be Jesus talking, Solomon is actually writing a speech act of wisdom. This chapter is not Jesus speaking. I wish I would have read the chapter then, but they want you to read what they want and not the verses in context.

    Reply
    • Ty, for what it’s worth, I find it helpful to distinguish between the average JW and the “Governing Body” or the Watchtower organization, which is the leadership and publishing arm of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I feel justified in being angry with the leadership because they are actively deceiving people, many of whom are sincere in their hunger for the Bible. (Read Crisis of Conscience, by Raymond Franz, for specifics.)

      Here’s an example: Proverbs 8 was actually one of the first passages my neighbor shared with me. She and her fellow Witness and I were sitting around my kitchen table, and they turned to Proverbs 8:22-31 as proof that God created Jesus. I was somewhat stunned, because I had never, ever heard this interpretation applied to Proverbs 8. Confused, but trying to be polite, I replied, “But this passage isn’t talking about Jesus; it’s talking about wisdom. Look at verse 1; it says it’s about wisdom. The whole thing is about wisdom.”

      It seemed like my neighbor and her friend had never even seen the first part of the chapter. I mean, they were almost speechless; they didn’t know what to say. The impression I got was that they had always been taught that Proverbs 8:22ff was about Jesus, and, like you say, they had never looked at the context.

      Reply
  6. You should take a look at the non-JW “Gills Exposition of the Entire Bible,” reference Proverbs 8, by John Gill.

    Reply
  7. I got the link to this blog from Pastor Tony Brown, who was helping me make sense out of the WT MISinterpretation of this chapter of proverbs. THANK YOU SO MUCH for your help!!! I’m going to read proverbs 8 until I can memorize it backwards! Then, when my JW friends try to use it to prove Jesus was created, I may just ASK, “So, let me see if I’m clear on this. Wisdom is referring to Jesus, right?” If that’s the case, and there was a point in time where Jesus didn’t exist, and had to be born, does this mean that WISDOM didn’t exist? How can JEHOVAH GOD be without WISDOM and still be GOD?

    Reply
    • Hi Joanna, I’m glad you found this blog! And I’m glad you are maintaining friendships with some JWs. During the course of my Bible study with my JW neighbor, I found that it was easy to get drawn into arguments—that is, into a situation where I wanted to prove that she was wrong. That was probably something she and I had in common! That can be a valuable exercise, and I appreciate everything I learned from my neighbor in the process. But keep in mind that it can be difficult to change someone’s mind through argument—we tend to dig in our heels and not want to admit we’re wrong. But if you can disagree with each other, honor each other’s perspective, and still maintain the friendship, go for it! And have fun!

      Reply
  8. Has anyone else here wondered if it’s even worth trying to talk to JW’s? Do you ever have days when you figure, “FINE! Let them believe whatever they want, just so long as they don’t bother me with it!”

    I mean, they’ve attempted to twist the most obvious scriptures on the deity of Christ. (John 20:28, 29 , Rev 1:18 among others) . These people are almost literally HELL BENT on taking away (if they could) the very help they need, from their own grasp, and replace Him with 8 egomaniacs in Brooklyn New York. Explain that to me, and I’ll explain the economic State of Narnia and Living Island to you. I am utterly baffled! ??

    Reply
    • Joanna, I know it can be frustrating to have discussions with JWs! What helped me was remembering that my goal was not to win the argument; my goal was to maintain the relationship. It’s really difficult to “argue someone into” Christianity. But if they know you love them—even when you disagree with them—all kinds of good things can happen!

      Hang in there. :)

      Reply
  9. ???Hi Melanie;

    So true. For the most part, I don’t argue. I ask questions.

    I heard Keith Walker (Evidence Ministries) say that sometimes the questions are more important than the answers. Because while you may get the pat JW answers when you’re sitting with them, the Holy Spirit can drive them NUTS when that same question comes back on them when they’re studying their WT on the same issue.

    As I was praying about this at work, the Lord reminded me, “You asked for this ministry” , when I was tempted to cut and run out of utter frustration.

    As well, Norm and Isabel are nice people. They are. And….more importantly, turning the tables, I would want them to keep sharing Christ with me if I was in their place. I also heard someone say that we have to keep sharing until the JW closes the door.

    Thanks for your encouragement and patience!

    Reply
  10. Well, When Jesus is baptized by John, A Dove flies down upon Jesus, which symbolizes the Spirit and a Voice from Heaven says,” This is my son with whom I am greatly pleased. This is from Matthew 3:17.”
    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%203:13-17

    So, all you overly exasperated trinity guys out there explain to me why God would speak to His Son,and send down a dove that represents the Holy Spirit, if they were all one thing or part of a Trinity? No need, right? Jesus is the son of God, it says so over and over again. Not God, but the son of God. Jesus gave his life, he actually died as a mortal man, and his father Jehovah restored his life, in Jesus’ original spirit form. Jesus did not know that God would resurrect him. That’s part of his sacrifice for mankind.Also, when talking about the end of times, Jesus tells the apostles that only the Father knows the appointed time. Jesus does not know when the world as we know it will end. They are separate in form and knowledge. I think Proverbs 8 also mentions the son beside his Father at verse 31 “I rejoiced over His habitable earth, And I was especially fond of the sons of men.”. This logically explains why the son of God might come to earth as a man and sacrifice his life for the sins of man. Doesn’t it.

    Reply

Leave a Comment