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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Do Jehovah's Witnesses Really Follow Polytheism?

Some have accused Jehovah's Witnesses of being Polytheistic. One dictionary describes it as: "pertaining to, characterized by, or adhering to polytheism, the doctrine that there is more than one god or many gods." Are Jehovah’s Witnesses Polytheistic?

Jehovah’s Witnesses are monotheists. They believe exactly what the Bible teaches: Jehovah is the supreme or Almighty God. Ps.83:18 explicitly calls Jehovah the "Most High."

However, we have to keep in mind how the appellation "god" was use at the time the Bible was written, not how it is used today.

Today, when we use the word God we are usually referring to the one true almighty God. This was not the case in Bible times nor in most historical periods. Any Bible dictionary will give you the same meaning of the word "God" (ELOHIM/QEOS) that Strong's Lexicon does: "great, mighty ones, rulers, judges, divine ones, angels" (BDB Hebrew lexicon; Theological Wordbook of the O.T. etc.).

So the original words for "God" (ELOHIM/QEOS) were not used as an exclusive title for Almighty God in this period. It was quite possible in Jewish and Christian monotheism to speak of mighty or divine beings as "god," (THEOS) without teaching polytheism. This is the same with the term "Lord" today, especially in Britain; no one understands that calling humans "Lord" identifies them with or makes them equal to Jesus!

So, in the Scriptures others were properly called gods without according them the status of Almighty God in the strict sense. In the Bible this title was used of men, angels, Moses, Paul and Satan: (Ex. 4:16; 7:1; 21:6; 22:8-9, 28; Ps. 8:5/Heb. 2:8; Ps. 82:1,6; 97:7; 136:2; 138:1; Jn.10:34; 2Cor.4:4). At Psalm 45:6,7 it calls a human King, probably Solomon, "God."

Its meaning is the same in every case; that these individuals share some quality as a god or a mighty person in relation to others around them. So while this does not put these individuals down on the same level as false gods, it still does not mean that there are other Gods equal to the Almighty. Therefore, this in no way contradicts the monotheistic concept of a Supreme Deity as taught in the Bible (Isa.44:6-8). This is because the sense of "god" is relative. Humans and angels are correctly called "god," but they still have Jehovah God over them. The term "god" simply means someone who is over others in some capacity.

So Biblical monotheism allows others to be called "god" with no connotation that they be a false god. Psalm 45:6,7 calls the human king "God" but also says that he has a "God" over him. This shows that two Gods can be referred to: "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever. ... therefore, thy God hath anointed Thee." The King is called "God" yet he manifestly has a greater God--the Almighty-- over him.

Notice the footnote on Ps.45:6 in the NAB: "Your throne, O god: the Hebrew king was called ELOHIM, ‘God' not in the polytheistic sense common among the ancient pagans, but as meaning ‘god-like'. Cf Ps. 58, 2; 82, 1, 6." (cf. the NET Bible footnote on Isa.9:6).

So this brings us to Christ Jesus and what it means when he is called QEOS in the NT. As translated in many bibles, Hebrews 1:8,9 gives us a clear understanding when it applies Ps.45:6 to Jesus. It clearly shows that Christ can be called "God" yet still be separate from and less than Almighty God. Jesus still has a God over him: "therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions."

"In the Old Testament...the noun "god" is actually used of men. Psalm 45:6 provides a significant example, because here the GREATER AND LESSER SENSES OF THE SUBSTANTIVE "GOD" appear side by side, namely, "God" in the usual sense of the supreme God of Israel and "god" denoting the person of Israel's king. Furthermore, this same passage appears in Hebrews 1:8 as a testimonium related to Christ, where it is "god" in its LESSER CONNOTATION."—Jesus as "Theos" in the NT, G. H. Boobyer

ALMIGHTY God cannot have a God! Yet Jesus has a God over him at every period of his existence (Mic.5:4; Jn 14:28; 20:17; Rom.15:6; 1Cor 15:28; Rev.3:12). Before he came to earth Jesus was less than Almighty God, while he was on earth he was less than Almighty God and after he is in heaven and as high as he will ever get he is still less than Almighty God

So while Jesus is called "god" several times in the N.T., over a dozen times the Scriptures explicitly state that he has a God over him. And every time Jesus is called "god" the context always shows that Jesus is separated from and less than the Eternal, Almighty God.

Karl Rahner, the eminent Roman Catholic theologian, considers that there are reliable applications of "THEOS" to Christ in six texts. Rahner, however, immediately goes on the say that in none of these instances is "THEOS" used in such a manner as to identify Jesus with the Supreme God.--Theological Investigations (1961), pp.135ff.

Therefore, the word "God" in Bible times could be applied to anyone above others without contradicting monotheism. Witnesses promote a complete belief and knowledge of the Bible and so have no problem understanding when others are called "god" in the Bible.

The above is the chosen best answer to this question by Bar_Anerges.

Also see:

God and gods (Examining the Trinity)

"The Only True God" (Examining the Trinity)

Do Jehovah's Witnesses Deny Biblical Monotheism? (Jehovah's Witnesses United)