PROGRAM 5 OF THE SERIES, “HOW TO WITNESS TO A JEHOVAH’S WITNESS”
Ankerberg: Tonight we have the man that used to answer the questions for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in our country south of the Mason-Dixon Line all the way to Texas. Bill Cetnar was on the radio for them; he investigated things for them; he propagated for them; he was one of the big shots in Brooklyn. And then, one day, he came to know the Lord. His wife also was there in Brooklyn as a Jehovah’s Witness, and left. You left together and, Joan, it cost you $1 million inheritance at least, maybe more. You were disfellowshipped, you were cut off from your families. Neither one of them have talked to you in 20 years since you were cut off. And then Dr. Robert Countess is here. A man that is a Greek scholar, did his Ph.D. work in Greek and has written a fabulous book on the New World Translation, one of the few professors that has taken the time to do the research and actually write a book that we can all read about the New World Translation. We are glad that you are here, Dr. Countess. Tonight we would like to ask the question that many Jehovah’s Witnesses ask as they look in, how in the world could you change from believing that Jehovah was the only God and that Jesus was a God as they have always taught? How could you come to the belief that Jesus is actually Yahweh, that He is part of the triune God-head, that He is equal, co-eternal with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? How could that be in light of verses such as in Colossians where He is said to be the “firstborn?” Jehovah’s Witnesses, I think, listening in would say, “Listen, if He is the firstborn, if He was born, then there had to be a beginning. God did not have a beginning, so Jesus could not be God if He had a beginning.” Dr. Countess, maybe you can start us off on this one. Countess: I would urge readers, particularly Jehovah’s Witnesses, John, if they would look carefully at the context of what Paul is saying. One of the problems that Bill and Joan and I and others have found with Jehovah’s Witnesses is that they tend to want to look at what their books tell them to see and to find rather than what the original writer, Paul in this case, said. One of the things that the translators probably did not know was that nouns formed from verbs can be either active nouns or passive nouns. And the word we have here in Colossians 1:15, “the firstborn,” that might not be the best translation. It might be best to say “the first bearer” or “the one who bears forth over all the creation.” Paul uses the same Greek word, protokos, again in verse 18, in which he says Jesus is “the chief” or “the beginning,” the “first bearer” over the dead. So, perhaps Paul here is thinking of Jesus as the first fruits of the resurrection, the one who is over also the creation, the one who also created all that exists. Ankerberg: You know, in Psalms 89:27 you will also find that word. If you go back to the Septuagint and so on you will find that this is how they translated it: “I also shall make him my firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” Now “firstborn” there does not apply in terms of actually being born into a family. It means rank. And also where you have Jacob and Esau, Esau was the “firstborn” but Jacob by hook and crook got the status of firstborn, the rank, the preeminence. Countess: Right. Ankerberg: And would you say that in this verse Paul is talking about the fact, not that Jesus was a created being, but that He holds the rank, the first among all things? Countess: Right. Of course, I would not say “among,” I would say “over,” because we have the idea the genitive of rule. He is over all things and all things were created by him, through him, for him and unto him. Ankerberg: How about Revelation 3:14? Bill Cetnar: Okay, we are back up to what the Doctor just said. A very important point, I hope every Jehovah’s Witness doesn’t miss this. A Jehovah’s Witness will tell you that Jehovah used Jesus to create all things for Jehovah. And Paul says in Colossians 1 there that He created all things for Himself, not for somebody else. Ankerberg: Yes, because they will many times use the preposition dia, through, and then say, therefore, Jesus was just the instrument. But what you are saying is that attributed for Himself. Bill Cetnar: Well, He was the owner. He was the heir. Ankerberg: Along with that Jehovah’s Witnesses would come back and say, “There is another verse in Revelation 3:14 where it says He is the beginning of creation. And again it seems like there is somebody that starts there and if Jesus had a start there, then he can’t be God.” What would you say to that? Countess: Alright, in Revelation 3:14, these things says “The Amen,” the one that is true. That is a Hebrew word, Amen. “The faithful witness and the true one, the one who is the ruler or the chief or the beginning over the creation of God.” So here again we have the same idea, Jesus is the one who is the chief, the ruler over the creation of God, the one who owns the creation. Ankerberg: Is the word arche there? Countess: Yes. Bill Cetnar:Arche, He is the architect of all creation. Ankerberg:Kittel’s Theological Word Book of the Greek New Testament, I think, says that He is the “origin of,” which would make Him the beginner. He is the one that makes it begin. He is the creator. Right along with this, let’s jump to another area. Some Jehovah’s Witnesses throw up to many Christians this question, namely, “If Jesus was God and He actually died on the cross as you Christians say, then apparently God must have died. And who was ruling the universe for three days?” What would you say, Bill? Bill Cetnar: Jesus Christ, the Son of Man died. His spirit departed from His body and He was also the man resurrected. God is everywhere at the same time. He is in us, He is in Michael the archangel, He is in Gabriel, He is a spirit, He is invisible. Jesus is God in the flesh. In the flesh, the Son of Man died and was resurrected. Ankerberg: Jehovah’s Witnesses have the wrong idea about death in biblical terms. They are simply saying there is no spirit to start with and they will go back and say from Ezekiel that “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” [Ezek. 18:20] Well, if it dies, it ceases to exist. But what does it actually mean? Bill Cetnar: Death means separation from God. Ankerberg: Not annihilation as the Jehovah’s Witnesses are saying? Bill Cetnar: Not annihilation. That’s why Jesus told the man who gave the excuse that he has to bury his father. He says, “Let the dead bury the dead.” [Matt. 8:22] Now that would be goofy. You can’t see somebody getting up out of a casket and burying the other fellow. Who would bury the other one? What He was talking about is people who are dead, really dead to the Lord and have no life in them. You are not alive until you are born anew in the spirit. And…. Ankerberg: What’s the other verse that you were telling us about that has the two spots, body and soul? Bill Cetnar: Oh, the body? Yes. “To him who can destroy, kill, both,” two things, “body and soul.” [Matt. 10:28] Ankerberg: So there has to be a soul, something that is inherent to man, that is eternal, that goes on after the body drops off. Bill Cetnar: And so they have something to fear. Especially if they don’t think they have. Ankerberg: And that’s what is going to live forever. Joan Cetnar: Evidently Paul thought that, because he wanted to shed this body in order to go to be with the Lord. He says, “I want to go to paradise. I want to get rid of this tent, this thing that is holding me down.” [Phil. 1:23-26] So he understood that he would live on and he would have to leave this body. Ankerberg: So the body of Jesus was laid in the tomb, but the spirit of Jesus as well as the God part of Jesus existed. Joan Cetnar: In fact, He says, “I can lay it down and I can take it up.” [John 10:18] Bill Cetnar: To be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. [2 Cor. 5:8] Unless you die in your sins. Ankerberg: Question. Audience: Yes, I was a Jehovah’s Witness for two years. And one thing that really used to appeal to people is they, when they talk about death and there not being any hell, just a grave, is that if your Father really loved you, would He let you burn forever? Ankerberg: A real emotional trip on that. In other words, how could your Father be all loving and let you die in hell and burn forever? He can’t be very loving. Joan Cetnar: That’s why Jesus died. He didn’t make hell for people, He made it for Satan and the demons. And Jesus came and died so that we would not have to go to a place of punishment. Ankerberg: God didn’t want anybody to go there. Joan Cetnar: No, sir! Darkness is used, not just fire, but darkness is something really bad, and Jesus gave us all these illustrations of things that are bad. We don’t want to go there. And He stood in the way and he said, “You just believe in me and you will have eternal life.” [John 3:16, 36] Ankerberg: Dr. Countess, what would you say about the words in the Bible? Is there eternal punishment that is stated in the Scriptures? Countess: Matthew 25. You have a pretty clear parallel there. It says right at the end of Matthew 25, “The righteous ones shall go away into everlasting life and the unrighteous shall go away [here again the parallel] into everlasting punishment.” [Matt. 25:46] And so there is the parallel. It is very clear. Ankerberg: Is the punishment annihilation, or eternal torment? Is it conscious existence forever and ever, or is it just the cessation of life? Countess: I think in terms of the overall teaching in the New Testament you have to say it is a conscious, everlasting punishment. Bill Cetnar: Dives was very, very much alive and he wanted to talk to his, witness to his brothers so that they wouldn’t go where he is. [Luke 16:19-31] Also Samuel when he died and when he did come back because God allowed him to come back to talk to Saul, he said that you are going to be with me tomorrow, Saul. Samuel said that and it was a prophecy and it was fulfilled that he and his family were back with Samuel the next day. [1 Sam. 28] Ankerberg: What do Jehovah’s Witnesses say when you talk about what happened on the Mount of Transfiguration? I mean did Moses and Elijah really come back? [Matt. 17:3] Bill Cetnar: They have no understanding of what transfiguration is and they will certainly not be able to explain that to you. Ankerberg: What do they say about when the angel of Yahweh appeared to Abraham in the Old Testament? Wasn’t that an incarnation? Bill Cetnar: Well, actually, it says not an angel of Yahweh appeared, but Yahweh appeared to Abraham and he had steak. [Gen. 18:1, 8] Ankerberg: That’s right. Which would prove that you can have an incarnation there, you can have one a few hundred years later and the son of God, monogenes. Bill Cetnar: He says Yahweh. Ankerberg: That’s correct. Question? Audience: When you die, according to the Bible, you know nothing, see nothing, hear nothing… Bill Cetnar: Not true. Not true. The Bible says that under the sun it seems, it appears that we die as an animal. [Eccl. 3:19] But that is not what actually happens. Solomon is saying that, what you just quoted in Ecclesiastes, is that’s what appears to man. As an animal dies, so does a human die, but then at the conclusion he says that the spirit of man “goes back to God who gave it.” [Eccl. 3:21] What he is showing is what the men who are without God “under the sun” look just as an animal. Your dog dies, and then you look in a casket, a human dies, it’s all the same. But that’s “under the sun,” that’s what man, that’s what Satan, is trying to produce, not what God is teaching. Audience: So you are telling me that I have a spirit and soul that leaves me when I die. Bill Cetnar: The Bible says that. Audience: What about the souls of the sea, which is fish, the souls of the dogs and cats? Bill Cetnar: That’s speaking of life. The word soul can also be translated “life,” nephesh. And they have life. But the Bible talks about the soul, the spirit that goes into a baby even before it is born into the womb. [Luke 1:41] And he is “God-breathed.” The word “God-breathed” is also the word “God-inspired.” So the spirit is put into the body when a baby is still in the mother’s womb. Audience: Thank you. Ankerberg: Another question. Audience: Yes, I want to ask you a question concerning the Scripture in 2 Corinthians 12:2. It says, “I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such a one caught up to the third heaven.” My question is, how do witnesses get around this? This completely to me demolishes the idea of non-existence after death. Bill Cetnar: They take the word “paradise,” which both times refers to the third heaven, and they turn it into an earthly paradise which is in the garden of Eden. The Bible talks about paradise and both times he talks about the third heaven. And that’s the apostle Paul who says that he wasn’t sure he was in the body or out of the body, but he sure knows about heaven, and he wasn’t allowed to tell us about it because we would probably kill ourselves to get there. Audience: I would like to ask this question. In the past I have had witnesses come to my house and many times they would bring children with them. I am often curious as to why they bring small children? Bill Cetnar: Well, children can be indoctrinated easily. I was going from house to house – and John just mentioned the scripture in Ezekiel 18:4 – I had short pants on and didn’t even know what a soul, a nephesh or a sheol was, and knocked on the door. And I said to the lady, “Do you have an immortal soul?” And she says, “I guess so.” And I said, “Well, the Bible says, the soul that sinneth it shall die.” She says, “What college did you go to?” And I wasn’t even going to first grade. So they try to indoctrinate their children. Now, children can’t say, “Dad, I will not go.” You go! Jehovah’s Witnesses are really ignorant to what the Bible says. And they are ignorant of what the scholars say. And they have been deceived, lied to. So anybody that they can get into this position, especially children, so if they can get ten years out of them selling magazines, that’s all they are interested in. Ankerberg: Bill, right along this line, I got to tell you a heartbreaker right here. Last time you were with us, it must have been a 10-year-old boy called in and talked with one of our counselors and said, “Why are you saying all those bad things about Yahweh?” “Why are you saying that? My Daddy told me that that is not true.” And here was a little fellow, 10 years old, who was listening to us talk, realizing that everything his family stood for and everything that he felt was dear, and again, sincere, completely dedicated, open and honest, and he was heartbroken. He wasn’t really saying any harsh things. He was just telling us that we had hurt him deeply because we were saying that what he believed was untrue. What would you say to little guys like that? Little gals that are watching in and their mom and dad are saying something completely different than what we are saying? Because you were in that situation; you know how destructive this can be. Bill Cetnar: Young people are not necessarily immature and not necessarily don’t love God. I was seven years old, I absolutely loved God. I wanted to give him my life. When I was seven years old, I told God “I wanted to do everything that you want me to do.” These young people are sincere and are pure. No wrong motive. But they believe what their parents told them. What we want to believe is that God says in His book. We didn’t say one bad thing about Yahweh on this program. Everything we said about Yahweh is good. In fact, we said that “Jehovah” is a false translation of God’s name. What is really incredible and it ought to be “That’s Incredible” is that six million people will not read the Collegiate Dictionary. The Collegiate Dictionary says that Jehovah is a false reading of the Hebrew Yahweh. Ankerberg: What you are saying right now is you are saying that there are false things about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, including the title that they have appropriated to themselves; because God’s name, if you really get down to the Hebrew, is not “Jehovah?” Bill Cetnar: The occult world worships “Jehovah.” Ankerberg: Document some of those things for us. Bill Cetnar: Every one of the false prophets who have talked to God, such as Joseph Smith, Jr., the Mormon, he talked to “Jehovah.” He says there is “Elohim,” “Jehovah,” and “Michael.” The Seventh-day Adventist, Ellen G. White, she talked to Jehovah 2,000 times. I would think God would know Hebrew and would know how to translate His name properly. The Judaica Encyclopedia from Jerusalem has a stone written in the 6th century BC in Laichish, which is a suburb of Jerusalem, and they have the vowels and the consonants. The Watchtower lies to you in their Watchtower publications when it says “The exact pronunciation of Yahweh is lost.” Ankerberg: Dr. Countess, before Bill goes on any further, what’s Yahweh? Countess: It’s what’s called the tetragrammaton, the four letters for the divine name. It came to be called that because in the later Old Testament period a lot of Jewish scholars would not pronounce the divine name because there had developed a superstition that to pronounce it improperly might be profane and therefore would risk the wrath of God. Ankerberg: One of the Ten Commandments says, “You use my name in vain, then you will die.” [Ex. 20:7] So they backed off of that. Countess: Right. So what they tended to do was when they would be reading the Old Testament, of course, they read from right to left, from the back of the book to the beginning so to speak, or from the right hand of the scroll to the left. When they came to the name that was written, they would read Adonai, which means “Lord.” And in time the vowels for Adonai became affixed to the letters YHWH, and so we get “Yahowah,” or Jehovah. Ankerberg: So not to say the real name, they said another name that meant that. Countess: Right. Ankerberg: And then they took the vowels out of that other name and put it in the real one. Countess: Right, right. Ankerberg: So they still wouldn’t say it correctly. Bill Cetnar: The Jews knew what they were doing. It was the Hebrew scholars that didn’t…. Ankerberg: And that can be documented that Yahweh is the true word for God. And it is documented where, Bill? Bill Cetnar: It’s in most of the major encyclopedias. You can start out with Webster’sDictionary and end up with EncyclopediaJudaica, or you can get a copy of Questions for Jehovah’s Witnesses. I would highly recommend that every Jehovah’s Witness get a copy of this and answer the questions for themselves, not for me. Now, you may accuse us of also now of trying to sell books and make money. Now, if we wanted to make money, Joan and I could call up Joan’s father and say, “Dad, we made a mistake. Can we come back?” We would be welcomed with open arms and we would be millionaires. We are not interested in money, we are interested in everlasting life – ours and yours. And the only way you are going to get it is by coming to Jesus. Ankerberg: Why did King James use “Jehovah?” Bill Cetnar: It was an error that was put together in the 13th century. They took the wrong vowels, the vowels from Adonai and jammed it into the tetragrammaton. It was a Christian error that has been corrected. Ankerberg: Alright, question? Audience: Bill, who comprised the leadership of the local Kingdom Halls and how are they discipled or trained? Bill Cetnar: Well, the leaders of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the local Kingdom Hall are people who were interested in truth. They were interested in God. Two people came to their door and we said, “We have the truth and everlasting life.” “Wow, that’s exactly what I want.” They accepted this, they accepted these doctrines. They didn’t know that these men, their presidents, were diabolical liars, that they changed the Bible, that they go to spirit mediums, that they create Greek tenses that the Greeks don’t know about. Every one of the presidents have been liars. This President that’s up there now, this 90-year-old Freddie Franz says he’s a Rhodes scholar, but the Rhodes Scholarship Trust never heard of him. He says that man would never get to the moon. Somehow we got there. Armstrong says he got there. Col. Erwin says he was on the moon. He walked around. So these are sincere people who do not realize that they have been lied to. Also, 2 Thessalonians 2:10 says that if you, leader of Jehovah’s Witnesses, do not love the truth; if you, Mr. Jehovah’s Witness, after you see a false prophecy don’t accept it and realize it as a false prophecy and take steps to walk away from falsehood, God’s going to send a spirit of delusion on you. There’s a lot of Jehovah’s Witnesses there who refuse to love the truth, and so God sends a spirit of delusion and they can’t see the difference between what is true and what is false. And that’s sent by God. Audience: But, Bill, what can we learn from their success of the Jehovah’s Witnesses? You just mentioned before that every six that come in the front door, three leave out the back door. Well, that’s an increase. What can we as Christians learn from that? Bill Cetnar: Well, I don’t want to learn a thing from Satan. I’d rather go to God and get it fresh, true and clean. Jesus said that He is going to awaken the wise virgins. And He is in the process of doing it. This is an example of it right here. Wise virgins are waking up worldwide. They are desperately in love with Jehovah’s Witnesses, they are witnessing to them. There are thousands of ex-Jehovah’s Witnesses who come to our Witnesses Now for Jesus Convention. Ankerberg: You have conventions all over the United States now, is that correct, Bill? Bill Cetnar: Yes. Ankerberg: Where you actually invite people that are “on the fence” or that would like to look into it, or have made the decision to leave, but aren’t Christians at all to come and study with you. Bill Cetnar: There are many people who listen to this show and they step from death to everlasting life. There’s a lady in Alaska. There is a family in Michigan. They have just by listening to this program and just realizing that their leaders went to spirit mediums and that’s the only documentation they have for their translation. They have renounced Jehovah’s Witnesses, recognizing them to be false prophets and recognize Jesus as being Yahweh. And they are born again, born anew, born in the spirit. Just from watching an hour program on this show. Joan Cetnar: John, I think we ought to take Jesus’ words in Luke 21:8 where He told us not to be misled. “For many will come in my name [my authority] and they will say, ‘I am.’” They will use the I AM, Yahweh, Jehovah, and they will say, “The time is at hand.” That was one of the Jehovah’s Witnesses first books – The Time is At Hand. This has been their message for a hundred years. Jesus says, “Do not go after them.” Bill Cetnar: Did Jesus hit it on the nail? Joan Cetnar: Jesus himself said that He was the Way. [John 14:6] Bill Cetnar: Luke 21:8… Ankerberg: Not only that, but in Deuteronomy, for all those that fear,… Joan Cetnar: Right. Ankerberg: If a person claims to be a prophet… Joan Cetnar: Do not be afraid of him. Ankerberg: And when he speaks if it doesn’t come true, do not be afraid. [Deut. 18:20-22] Joan Cetnar: Another thing Jesus said was in John 5:39 he says, “Ye search the Scriptures because you think in them you will gain eternal life. But you refuse to come to me that you may have eternal life.” We can have eternal life now. It’s not something we have to wait till the new world to have. Ankerberg: But Jesus is the way. Joan Cetnar: “He that has the Son has life.” 1 John 5:12. Ankerberg: We sure thank you for being with us and we trust that the words that you have given to us and the information, the truth that has been documented in your books will be used to open the lives of people that are in darkness. They are people in fear, people that want to know the truth. Thank you so much for being with us.
About our Guests:
Bill Cetnar. For more than 25 years he was a Jehovah’s Witness. He worked in the Brooklyn headquarters of the Watchtower Society and used to answer all the questions for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in our country south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Joan Cetnar. Wife of Bill Cetnar. She too was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and has worked at the Watchtower Society. Dr. Robert Countess. He is a military chaplain; has a Ph.D. in Greek; has a published work, Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New Testament.