Witnessing to Jehovah’s witnesses is quite a blessing. Their questions and understanding of the Bible do stimulate a hunger to revisit some of Biblical passages and theological grounds which we orthodox Christians take for granted.
Another positive and joyful experience in sharing the gospel with JW, is the revisiting of first Christians’ understanding of who Jesus was(is). I found out that many JWs cannot explain why the first church(A.D. 30 – A.D 250) worshipped, prayed, and believed Jesus to be their Lord and God( before Arius, a presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt who introduced angelic Jesus)
In this article, I would like to share a part of Clement of Rome’s(ca. A.D. 30-100) letter to the Corinthians, quoting Psalms( echoed in Hebrew 1) describing who Jesus is, to show that Jehovah’s witnesses’ understanding of Hebrew 1:5 is wrong.
This is the way, beloved, in which we find our Saviour, even Jesus Christ, the High Priest of all our offerings, the defender and helper of our infirmity. By Him we look up to the heights of heaven. By Him we behold, as in a glass, His immaculate and most excellent visage. By Him are the eyes of our hearts opened. By Him our foolish and darkened understanding blossoms up anew towards His marvellous light. By Him the Lord has willed that we should taste of immortal knowledge“who, being the brightness of His majesty, is by so much greater than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.” For it is thus written, “Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire.”( Ps. civ. 4; Heb. i. 7. )But concerning His Son the Lord spoke thus: “Thou art my Son, to-day have I begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I will give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession.”( Ps. ii. 7, 8; Heb. i. 5 ) And again He saith to Him, “Sit Thou at My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool.”( Ps. cx. 1; Heb. i. 13. ) But who are His enemies? All the wicked, and those who set themselves to oppose the will of God.( Clement, Chapter XXXVI ca. A.D. 97 )
Jehovah’s witnesses understands Hebrew’s 1:5 “For to which of the angels did God ever say …” to refer to Jesus(who is an angel Michael) in heaven, as an angel to whom God(Father) said “you’re my son”.
JWs reduces the question to: “For to which angel did God say you are my son” to which the answer would be “angel Michael”(Jesus’ in Heaven according to Watchtower theology)
I believe this to be completely incorrect because this understanding of Hebrew 1:5 does not align with the rest of Hebrew 1: Here are my reasons:
I. Jesus is appointed the heir of all things(prōtotokos literally firstborn), through whom also God created the world.
The author of Hebrew uses prōtotokos which connotes a place of honor in the family(Ge 10:15 ) that includes special privileges(inheritance Dt 21:15-17; 2Ch 21:3) and dearness to the father .
Answering JW’s Objection: Firstborn means Jesus is First Created
πρωτότοκος (prōtotokos) is understood by Greek scholars to mean i.) what come first in order of time, e.g. first child in a family or ii.) first in order of power/authority(rank). The later understanding fits well in Hebrew 1 than the former since the passage is a quotation of Davidic prophecy (Ps 88:28 LXX, which is Ps 89:27 ESV)
David was not first child, God appointed him first in rank(same with Ephraim Jer 31:9, Jacob/Israel Ex 4:22)
Hebrew 1 tell us that Christ Jesus is reigning in the place of his Father and not first created. A Greek term prōtotoktistos(first created) was valuable to be used if the authors desired to convey that Jesus was first created.
See also Col 1:18 and Rev 1:5 Jesus is the firstborn from the dead
II. Christ Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature
Jesus cannot be an angel because the author of Hebrew describe him as the exact imprint of God’s nature. What ever nature God(the Father) possesses, Jesus also possess to the dot. In John 5:19, Jesus said, all that Father does, he also does. If Jesus was indeed an angel, then the teachers of laws got it right to condemning him for blaspheming.
III. Christ Jesus upholds the universe by the word of his power
If true, then this means that everything, including the devil exists and continue to exists by Christ Jesus’ authority. And if that is correct, then Jesus is not angel Michael, since Michael appealed to a higher authority while contending with the devil( Jude 9, also notice that Jesus is called/titled Lord throughout Jude’s letter, which means that Michael applied to Jesus to condemn the devil)
IV. God’s angels are mere winds and ministers a flame of fire
Jesus is portrayed in Hebrew 1 as God’s own Son, greater than angels, and greater than Moses. The whole Hebrew sets to show the supremacy of Christ Jesus.
V. All God’s angels worship Christ Jesus
The Bible is against worshiping of anything else but God. The fact that God(the Father) commend all the angels to worship his Son, shows that Jesus cannot be an angel.
VI. Christ Jesus laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of his hands
Understanding this from Isa 44:24, which writes “I am the LORD(Jehovah), who makes all things, who stretches out the heavens all alone, who spreads abroad the earth by myself.” and 45:12, “I have made the earth, And created man on it. My hands; stretched out the heavens, And all their host I have commanded.” among many other similar passages leads me to believe that Jesus is God and not an angel. The reason behind is that the Isaiah records that “God alone” created the universe.(read also Isa 37:16, Jeremiah 10 )
The first Church Fathers(A.D. 30- 250) are joined together in affirming that Christ Jesus is God/Lord(Name of God in LXX).
So, For to which of the angels did God ever say,“You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? None! No angel or archangel fits the profile of Hebrew 1. Not even Michael.
Is Jesus an angel? Well, Thomas in John 20:28 got it right! No! Christ Jesus is the Lord of me and the God of me.