What would be a good thing to say to Jehovah’s Witnesses when they come to the door? I don’t want to engage them, but I don’t want to offend them either . . .
I replied along these lines:
I guess that depends on what your goal is. If you don’t want to engage
them, then a polite and kind “no thank you” is sufficient.
However, if you want to plant a seed of doubt but don’t really want to get into discussions with them, you could ask something along this line:
“I really don’t have much time to discuss now. But, I do have a question that I’d like to ask. Perhaps we could discuss it briefly now or we could discus it at another time. My question, however, relates to your name: Jehovah’s Witnesses. I understand that you guys believe that Christians are identified by using the name “Jehovah.”
[They might give a simple agreement to this statement or a more elaborate answer. It is imperative that you don’t allow the conversation to get side-tracked here. You still need to ask your question.]
“I’ve read the New Testament and I’m curious: I’ve never seen the name “Jehovah” in it. I understand that your translation has the name “Jehovah” in the New Testament but from what I’ve read there are no Greek manuscripts of the New Testament which have the name “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” in them.”
[Here is where you can ask your question. It is essential that you don’t go down other rabbit trails in discussing this topic. Stick to the question as it’s one that there really is no satisfactory answer for:]
“My question is: Is that true? Does the name “Jehovah” appear in any of the New Testament Greek manuscripts?”
[Now, it’s possible the conversation could take a few turns here. You’ll want to stay focused on your question and come back to it if the conversation strays. Some background: Witness leaders realize the liability of admitting that the name “Jehovah” does not appear in any of the Greek manuscripts. So, they have developed an elaborate theory that the name “Jehovah” was originally in the Greek New Testament but was removed. Did they find early New Testament Greek manuscripts with the name “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” to prove their claim? No, they did not. There are over 5,000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament and not one contains “Jehovah” or “Yahweh.” This is your main line of evidence. Keep coming back to the New Testament Greek manuscript evidence. All the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament have either “Lord” or “God” where the Witnesses’ Bible has inserted “Jehovah.”]
[If the Witness at your door declines to discuss this further, let them go and let them ponder your question. If they continue the discussion or return later with some answer, always come to the New Testament Greek manuscript evidence that shows there was no use of “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” in the Greek New Testament. They may show you photocopies of Greek Old Testament (from the Septuagint version) with the name “Jehovah” or “Yahweh.” That doesn’t answer your question about the Greek New Testament. Yes, there are a few Old Testament fragments of the Greek Septuagint which have “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” (YHWH) in them. The name “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” occurs thousands of times in the Old Testament. That’s not related to the question you asked. You are asking about the Greek New Testament. The Greek New Testament, with over 5,000 manuscripts to establish its text, has no record of “Jehovah” or “Yahweh” in it.]
[If you’ve decided to continue discussions on this subject: ask the Witness if they have an interlinear Greek-English New Testament. Most of them do and you can use it to your advantage. A sample page from their Interlinear is shown above. On the left is a standard Greek New Testament text with a word-for-word English translation underneath. On the right is their Bible version with the name “Jehovah” inserted. You can ask them:]
“What does the Greek text say? Does it say “Jehovah” or “Lord”?”
[Clearly it says “Lord.” Ask them if the name “Jehovah” appears anywhere in the Greek text of their Interlinear. It doesn’t. It only appears in the right hand column, which is their Bible version which has replaced “Lord” with “Jehovah.” They may possibly try to cite some later Hebrew versions of the New Testament for support of using “Jehovah” in the New Testament. You can see them listed in the footnotes of the page above, with the letter J. These are translations into Hebrew from the Greek New Testament and are only a few hundred years old. These Hebrew translations have no antiquity that compares with the Greek New Testament. Again, keep your topic narrowly focused to discussing the Greek New Testament and the Witness will have no substantial answer they can give. Many of them probably have never realized the liability or the implications of this. Additional questions you can ask:]
“So, we’re agreed that of the over 5,000 Greek New Testament manuscripts we have available there are none that contain the name “Jehovah”?”
“If we accept the evidence as it exists, then don’t we have to admit that the early Christians did not emphasize the name “Jehovah” since it does not appear in any Greek New Testament manuscript?”
If you claim the name “Jehovah” was removed from the New Testament, do you have any evidence of New Testament Greek manuscripts that contain the name “Jehovah”?
“Which New Testament version would be more accurate: one which follows the Greek New Testament manuscripts or one that doesn’t?”
“How essential is it that Christians use the name “Jehovah”? If it doesn’t appear in the Greek New Testament manuscripts and since there are no early manuscripts of the New Testament with the name “Jehovah” in them, then is it really that important?”
If you refuse to get side-tracked onto other issues you will succeed in establishing an important contradiction to the Witness at your door. There are few issues more central to their belief system as emphasizing the name “Jehovah.” You will have shown that there is absolutely no New Testament Greek manuscript evidence that supports their contention that the early Christians used the name “Jehovah.” Instead, their explanations to counter this rely on a hoped for new manuscript find, a veritable “missing link,” which will finally vindicate their theory the name “Jehovah” was there in the New Testament, but was later removed.
Don’t expect the Witness to admit defeat in your presence. Instead, be content to have planted a seed of doubt about one of their most basic and distinguishing doctrines. If you want to continue discussions with them, there are some links below to suggest other similar contradictions you can point out in their teachings. But, having made your point that the early Christians did not emphasize the name “Jehovah,” you can stop there and pray that the seed you’ve planted may come to fruition someday.
For further reading:
I need to focus on some personal items for the next couple of weeks so I’ll be taking a break from blogging. One project in the works: a friend is preparing a translation of an article reviewing the new Ukrainian Catholic Catechism and I will post that as soon as it’s ready.
While we are observing Lent, I recommend these little parables which were produced by the Monastery of St. Elizabeth in Minsk. The audio is in Russian but it’s open captioned into English. The quality of the English translation is a bit off at times but the message is clear. They provide some great insights on the spiritual life. I particularly like the last parable about discerning Christ in the people we meet each day.