Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Doctrine of the Trinity

The word “Trinity” is not in the Bible. Jehovah’s Witnesses thus conclude that the concept of the Trinity has been artificially and wrongfully imposed onto Scripture.

Witnesses assert that if people were to read the Bible cover to cover, approaching it without any preconceived notion of a Trinity, they would not naturally arrive at such a concept. They claim that the Bible teaches monotheism, not trinitarianism. They point to John 17:3, where Jesus referred to the Father the “only true God.” Since Jesus called the Father the only true God, Jehovah’s Witnesses reason that Jesus Himself could not be that God.

Jehovah’s Witnesses ask: If Jesus was God, then who ran the universe for three days after Christ was executed and in the tomb? This would have created an opportunity for Satan to take control. Additionally, they argue that if Jesus was an immortal God, He could not have experienced death. 

One of the most common arguments Jehovah’s Witnesses make against the Trinity is that God is not a God of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). It would therefore be impossible for Scripture to teach a doctrine of God that is contrary to human reason. They find the concept of one God existing in three persons to be incomprehensible and unreasonable. Given this, they conclude that the doctrine of the Trinity is false. 

Throughout its history, the Watchtower Society has misrepresented the doctrine of the Trinity in order to make its denial more plausible to “reasonable” people. For example, the Society has described the doctrine as “three Gods in one God.”[1] Elsewhere it has been described as “three Gods in one person.”[2] The Trinity has also been described as a “complicated, freakish-looking, three-headed God.”[3]

In light of the above, Jehovah’s Witnesses classify the Trinity as a satanic doctrine: “Never was there a more deceptive doctrine advanced than that of the Trinity. It could have originated only in one mind… the mind of Satan the Devil.”[4]

The Watchtower claims that the concept of the Trinity is derived from ancient pagan beliefs. They argue that even before the time of Christ, civilizations like Babylonia, Egypt, and Assyria had beliefs in triads or trinities of gods. Therefore, they contend that some early Christians were deceived into incorporating this pagan idea into the pages of holy Scripture.

A Christian Assessment

Some Watchtower arguments against the Trinity may initially sound convincing to some. But let us remember what Solomon once said: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Proverbs 18:17). Let us now examine the Watchtower claims: 

The Word “Trinity” is Not in the Bible. Although the word “Trinity” does not appear in the Bible, the concept of the Trinity is definitely taught within its pages (Matthew 28:19). The Bible teaches that there is one God (Deuteronomy 6:4), but this one God exists in three persons (2 Corinthians 13:14)—namely, God the Father (1 Peter 1:2), Jesus Christ the Son (John 20:28), and the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:3-4). The composite view of Scripture is that God is a Trinity. This is the only way to make sense of all the biblical data. 

We can observe that while the word “Jehovah” is not found in any legitimate manuscripts of the Bible, the concept of Jehovah does appear in the Bible. It is a way of representing the Hebrew consonants of the divine name YHWH. Although the word “theocracy” is not mentioned in the Bible, the concept of a theocracy, which is a nation ruled by God, is clearly seen in biblical Israel. Similarly, even though the word Trinity is not explicitly stated in the Bible, the concept of a Trinity can be found in biblical teachings. 

Jehovah’s Witnesses should take some time to reflect upon the following question: “If I believe everything the Bible says about topic X and use a term not found in the Bible to describe the full teaching of Scripture on that point, am I not being more truthful to the Word than someone who limits themselves to only biblical terms, but rejects some aspect of God’s revelation?”[5]

The Biblical Concept of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity is grounded on three lines of evidence: (1) evidence indicating the existence of only one true God; (2) evidence pointing to three persons who are called God; and (3) evidence suggesting a three-in-oneness within the Godhead.

1. Evidence for One God. The testimony of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, consistently affirms that there is only one true God. This truth is like a thread that runs through every page of the Bible. The prophet Isaiah strongly affirms this truth: “This is what the LORD says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6). God also said, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me” (46:9).

The New Testament also emphasizes the oneness of God. In 1 Corinthians 8:4, the apostle Paul affirms that idols hold no ultimate significance in the world and that there is only one true God. James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” These and a host of other verses (including John 5:44; 17:3; Romans 3:29-30; 16:27; Galatians 3:20; Ephesians 4:6; and 1 Timothy 2:5) provide evidence that there is only one God.

2. Evidence for Three Persons Who Are Called God. On the one hand, Scripture says that there is only one God. However, as God’s revelation to humanity unfolds, it becomes evident that there exist three distinct persons referred to as God in Scripture: 

  • The Father Is God: Peter refers to the saints “who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (1 Peter 1:2).
  • Jesus Is God: When Jesus appeared to Thomas after His resurrection, Thomas exclaimed: “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). God the Father said to the Son: “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom” (Hebrews 1:8).
  • The Holy Spirit Is God: Acts 5:3-4 tells us that lying to the Holy Spirit is equivalent to lying to God.

Moreover, each of these three distinct persons on different occasions are seen to possess the attributes of deity: 

  • All three are said to be omnipresent (or everywhere-present): the Father (Matthew 19:26), the Son (Matthew 28:18), and the Holy Spirit (Psalm 139:7).
  • All three are said to be omniscient (or all-knowing): the Father (Romans 11:33), the Son (Matthew 9:4), and the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10).
  • All three are said to be omnipotent (or all-powerful): the Father (1 Peter 1:5), the Son (Matthew 28:18), and the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:19).
  • Holiness is attributed to each person: the Father (Revelation 15:4), the Son (Acts 3:14), and the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-14).
  • Eternity is attributed to each person: the Father (Psalm 90:2), the Son (Micah 5:2; John 1:2; Revelation 1:8,17), and the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 9:14).
  • And each of the three is individually described as the truth: the Father (John 7:28), the Son (Revelation 3:7), and the Holy Spirit (1 John 5:6).

3. Three-In-Oneness in the Godhead. Matthew 28:19 reads: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (italics added). It is highly revealing that the word “name” is in the singular form, indicating there is one God, but three distinct persons within the Godhead—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. 

God is Not a God of Confusion. Jehovah’s Witnesses misunderstand the meaning of 1 Corinthians 14:33, claiming that the Trinity cannot be biblical because God is not a God of confusion. However, Christian theologians rebut that just because we cannot fully comprehend a doctrine like the Trinity does not mean it is false. To truly grasp the nature of God, humans would need to possess the mind of God. Scripture touches on the limitations of human knowledge in the following manner:

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” (Romans 11:33).

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I shall know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

The human mind has limitations. It is impossible for finite minds to comprehend everything about an infinite being. It is impossible for temporal human beings to comprehend everything about an eternal God. Just as a young child cannot fully grasp everything their father says and does, so we, as God’s children, cannot fully comprehend everything about our heavenly Father. 

Given this, what did the apostle Paul mean when he said, “God is not a God of confusion but of peace”? The context of 1 Corinthians makes it clear. The Corinthian church was facing internal division and disorder, especially in their use of spiritual gifts. Paul explains that since God is a God of peace, the church should strive to imitate Him by seeking peace and avoiding disharmony and confusion in their worship. By doing so, the church brings honor to God. This verse has absolutely nothing to do with the doctrine of the Trinity.

Jesus’ Affirmation of the “One True God” in John 17:3 Does Not Disprove the Trinity. The phrase “only true” (in “only true God”) in John 17:3—in both grammar and context—is not intended to contrast the nature of the Father and the nature of the Son, but rather to contrast the nature of the one true God with the nature of false gods. Jesus is simply saying in this verse that the Father is the “one true God” in contrast to the many false gods and idols that littered the religious landscape in biblical times (see 2 Chronicles 15:3; Isaiah 65:16; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 John 5:20; Revelation 3:7). John 17:3 in no way undermines the deity of Christ. In fact, John establishes Christ’s deity throughout his gospel—for example, John 1:1; 8:58; 10:30; 20:28.

The Trinity is Not Pagan. Pagan beliefs about God differ greatly from the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. The ancient Babylonian and Assyrian cultures worshiped groups of three gods (or triads of gods) who ruled over a pantheon of numerous other deities. These groups of three gods were separate entities, contrasting with the concept of the Trinity, which states that there is only one God with three distinct persons within the one God. 

Moreover, the concepts of paganism existed long before the emergence of Christianity by a span of almost 2,000 years. Additionally, these pagan ideas originated in geographically distant regions, far away from the Christian world. Considering the historical and geographical factors, it is highly implausible to suggest that Christianity borrowed the concept of the Trinity from pagan beliefs.

Instead of wasting time trying to find a connection between Christianity and paganism, the leaders of the Watchtower Society should spend some time reflecting on how Jehovah’s Witness theology has borrowed so heavily from the ancient heresy of Arianism, which was roundly condemned by the early church. This ancient heretical group denied the Trinity as well as the full deity of Jesus Christ.

We can summarize our discussion with two key points: 

1. The arguments against the Trinity presented by the Watchtower can be easily answered. 

2. There is a strong biblical basis for the doctrine of the Trinity.

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There is more you might like to learn about the Watchtower view of the Trinity. For further insights, I invite you to consult my book, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Jehovah’s Witnesses (published by Harvest House).

  1. Studies in the Scriptures, vol. 5 (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1899), pp. 60-61.
  2. Studies in the Scriptures, vol. 5, p. 76.
  3. Let God Be True (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1946), p. 102.
  4. Reconciliation (Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1928), p. 101.
  5. James White, The Forgotten Trinity (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1998), p. 29.

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