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Jesus and the JWs

May 2001 | by Thaddeus Irvine

Does the Bible teach in Proverbs 8 that the Father created Jesus? According to the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the answer is ‘yes’.

In their encyclopaedia Aid to Bible Understanding, under the section, ‘Wisdom Personified’ (1971 edition, p.918) we find the following:

‘Many professed Christian writers of the early centuries of the Common Era understood this section [Proverbs 8:1, 22-33] to refer symbolically to God’s Son in his pre-human state … there can be no denying that that Son was “produced” by Jehovah “as the beginning of his way, the earliest of his achievements of long ago” nor that the Son was “beside [Jehovah] as a master worker” during earth’s creation …’

This is supported in their later publication The Greatest Man Who Ever Lived (1991 edition, p.11) where the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society claim that the ‘Wisdom’ spoken of in Proverbs is really Jesus Christ.

Just a special person?

They state: ‘He was a very special person because he was created by God before all other things … For countless billions of years, before even the physical universe was created, Jesus lived as a spirit person in heaven and enjoyed intimate fellowship with his Father, Jehovah God, the Grand Creator (Proverbs 8:22).’

They claim that Wisdom is the personification of Jesus Christ. In their own Bible translation (The New World translation), it says: ‘Jehovah himself produced me at the beginning of his way, the earliest of his achievements of long ago. From time indefinite I was installed, from the start, from times earlier than the earth. When there were no watery deeps I was brought forth as with labour pains, when there were no springs heavily charged with water’ (Proverbs 8:22-24).

In their anti-Trinitarian booklet Should You Believe in the Trinity? And in the section ‘Jesus a separate creation’ (p.14) they claim: ‘…most scholars agree that it is actually a figure of speech for Jesus as a spirit creature prior to this human existence. As “Wisdom” in his pre-human existence, Jesus goes on to say that he was “by his [God’s] side, a master craftsman”.’

The Jehovah’s Witnesses contend that since Jesus is personified as wisdom, and wisdom was created (Proverbs 8:24), then it follows that Jesus must have been created.

The Christian view

But what does the Christian have to say on the subject?

It is true that personification was used by the Hebrew people in their writings, and was a common feature in what is known as their ‘Wisdom Literature’. By personification, I mean a figure of speech in which non-living or inanimate objects or ideas (abstract concepts) are endowed with or given human qualities (such as personality, faculties and emotions) or are represented as having a human form.

The idea was to create impact and to highlight a particular point which the writer felt needed to be driven home. The device is still in common use. For example, we say that ‘trees whisper’ and that ‘the sun looks down’.

Hence, this was merely a standard Hebrew literary device, offering no suggestion that Jesus was being alluded to. This should come as no surprise to any Christian since, historically, Jehovah’s Witnesses have had very little knowledge of or training in biblical languages.

If wisdom really speaks of Jesus, then all references to wisdom in Proverbs 1-9 must also speak of Christ. If this is so then, according to Proverbs 1:20-21, Jesus was a woman and we need to know who ‘Prudence’ was with whom he dwelt in Proverbs 8:12. And did he actually live in a house with seven pillars (Proverbs 9:1)?

God without wisdom?

If Jesus was created, and was also the ‘wisdom of God’ referred to in 1 Corinthians 1:24 then, at some period of time, Jesus did not exist (Proverbs 8:1-4, 12, 22-33). This means that God had to exist without any wisdom, since he had not got around to creating it!

Are we expected to believe that God could have ever been without wisdom? Surely wisdom must be as eternal as God himself, since he is the final and ultimate source of all wisdom (Psalm 147:5; Proverbs 3:19; Jeremiah 10:12; Daniel 2:20-21).

There is absolutely no evidence, linguistically, historically, exegetically or otherwise, to support the notion that the ‘wisdom’ spoken of in Proverbs 8 ever referred to Jesus. It is significant that the sources used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses to support their false claims about this verse are never cited.

Wisdom is the gospel

If Jesus and wisdom are one and the same, then why have none of the New Testament writers made reference to Jesus in the light of Proverbs 8? The Scriptures make it very clear that Jesus is the instrumental cause through whom all creation came into being (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17; Hebrews 1:2). He could not, therefore, himself be a created being.

So what does wisdom refer to in Proverbs? I suggest that it refers to the gospel, God’s covenant of grace conceived before time began (2 Timothy 1:9). Paul declares: ‘we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory’ (1 Corinthians 2:7).

This is obviously a description of the gospel of God’s grace in Christ, not of the person of Christ. He ‘became for us wisdom from God’ in the same sense as he ‘became … righteousness and sanctification and redemption’. That is, gospel wisdom and every gospel benefit is mediated through him to lost sinners (1 Corinthians 1:30).