Psalm 102, Hebrews 1 and the Watch Tower Society

It’s Saturday morning and you just completed a long work week. As you are lying in bed, attempting to get some well deserved shut-eye (unless you have young children), you hear a knock at the door. As you open it, two to four nicely dressed individuals greet you and would like to tell you the “good news of Jehovah’s kingdom.” This scenario is played out weekly by those who are members of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, more commonly known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their message and goal is to deliver the news of the kingdom of God to a lost world; a message that is far from the orthodox and Biblical message of the good news of Christ.

BASIC WITNESS PRESUPPOSITIONS

     For the purposes of this article, I will not recite an extensive list of Witness presuppositions. Rather, below I will simply list those pre-assumptions that are vital to witnessing to the Witnesses, in hope that knowledge of these pre-assumptions will help to increase your confidence in dealing with this organization.

    • Jehovah is the only true God.
    • Jehovah is unitarian in nature (he is one person).
    • Michael the Archangel was Jehovah’s first creation.
    • Michael ceased to exist and instead, was re-created in the form of a true human being (Jesus).
    • Jesus, who is the representative of Jehovah, is non-divine.
    • Jesus’ reflection of the essence of God is not ontological in nature, but rather, a relational reflection via His being in the presence of His Father for countless ages.
    • Michael/Jesus was the means by which Jehovah created “all [other] things.”
    • The Holy Spirit is an impersonal, “active force” much like electricity. He does not have a will, intelligence or the like.
    • The Tri-unity of God, as portrayed in orthodox Christian thought is a pagan myth with its roots being found in Babylon.

So much more could be stated regarding the assumptions that the Witnesses bring to the table during Biblical discussion. But, these basic presuppositions are vital to Witness theology and hence, are vital to a robust apologetic that is aimed at those in the “Society.”

THE BIBLICAL DEFENSE

     Having a ministry that is mostly geared towards the Society, I have noticed over the years that specific texts are extremely problematic for the Witnesses. These texts, which focus on the deity of the Lord Jesus, are largely overlooked by this group and are a great starting point for discussion and rebuke of this sub-biblical organization. Today we will deal specifically with Psalm 102:25-27 and the way it is utilized by the author to the Hebrews in chapter 1, verses 10-12 of his Epistle.

Ps 102:25-27; c.f. Heb 1:10-12

The text of Ps 102:25-27 reads as follows;

Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 26 They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, 27 but you are the same, and your years have no end. (Ps 102:25-27, ESV)[1]

     A few points must be noticed before proceeding to the main theme of the text. First, this is a Psalm where Jehovah is being called upon for deliverance. This is noted in verses 1, 12, 15, 16, 18, 19 21 and 22, where the divine name of YHWH (Yahweh) is being utilized. Hence, there is little doubt who is in view regarding the author’s intent. Next, notice the theme of 25-27, because it is in reference to the immutability or un-changing nature and character of YHWH. Jehovah God is the same, despite the passage of time. He is the unchanging creator of the heavens and earth and the one who has no end to His years. In reciting these verses to a Witness, it is vital to establish these points. God is immutable and the God in question is the uncreated YHWH; points that the Witnesses will surly agree upon.

Once the Witnesses has agreed to the immutability of Jehovah God in Ps 102:25-27, ask the Witness to turn in his or her Bible to Hebrews 1, and to read aloud verses 10-12, where the text reads as follows;

10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” (Heb 1:10-12, ESV)[2]

If you notice a similarity between Ps 102 and Heb 1, rightfully so, because Heb 1:10-12 is a direct citation of the previously mention Ps 102 from the Greek Septuagint (the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures, also known as the LXX), which speaks to the immutability of YHWH. However, there’s a twist, because Heb 1:10-12 is being applied to “the Son” (Heb 1:8), and as a result, the Old Testament proclamation of the immutability of YHWH is also being applied to Jesus. In short, Jesus is being referred to as YHWH by the use of verses and descriptors that can only be true of Jehovah God. The essence of God is the totality of His attributes, and here, Jesus is being said to possess the very same immutability that Jehovah possesses in Ps 102. Hence, Jesus is Jehovah.

This point is further confirmed by a simply glace at the NWT, where the footnote for the cross reference of Heb 1:10 reads “Ps 102:25.” Now remember, at this point, if you have inquired about Psalm 102 properly, the Witness has already agreed that it is exclusive to Jehovah God. In fact, in my many years of utilizing this section of Scripture against Witnesses, not one of them has failed to affirm the exclusive nature of verses 25-27. And this now leads to the question for the Witnesses, “Why is Jesus here in Hebrews 1:10-12 being referred to as Jehovah?” Answers have varied on this point, with responses ranging from, “Jesus is not being spoken of here” (despite the context of the chapter) to “Jesus is the representative of Jehovah and therefore, is similar to Jehovah, much like a son is similar to his father.” In any case, the Witness here must deal with the reality that the Son is being referred to as YHWH via language that is exclusively reserved for Jehovah God. And, when the reality of Ps 102:25-27 is imported into the text of Heb 1:10-12, the described immutability of Jehovah is also imported, proving Jesus as the second member of the God-head, or more accurately, YHWH the Son.

Finally, Harold Greenlee is in agreement with the aforementioned view, as noted when he states in his exegetical commentary;

 QUESTION—Why is this quotation from Psalm 102:25–27 (LXX) mentioned? It is quoted as proof of the Son’s unchangeable power and majesty . . . that he is eternal . . . that he is God’s agent in creation . . . that he is the creator . . . that he is supreme over creation . . . and the sustainer of the universe.[3]

QUESTION—Who does the author imply is the addressee as he applies this quotation? The psalm originally was addressed to God . . . But the author of Hebrews takes it as addressed to the Son (the Messiah) . . . The reference to Christ is justified by the psalm’s promise that God will be manifested as Savior of his people through the Messiah. It was right to transfer to the Son what was applied to God since the writer has already written about the eternal character of his throne. It was through the Son that the universe was made [NIC]. Words not directly addressed to the Son find their fulfillment in him. The Septuagint added the word ‘Lord’ and this was taken by the author as a reference to Christ . . . This psalm was recognized as Messianic even in pre-Christian times and the psalm was originally directed to the Messiah, not to God .[4]


[1] In the New World Translation (NWT), the Witness version of the Bible, the text reads, “25Long ago you laid the foundations of the earth itself, And the heavens are the work of your hands. 26They themselves will perish, but you yourself will keep standing; And just like a garment they will all of them wear out. Just like clothing you will replace them, and they will finish their turn. 27But you are the same, and your own years will not be completed.”

[2]10And: “You at [the] beginning, O Lord, laid the foundations of the earth itself, and the heavens are [the] works of your hands.11They themselves will perish, but you yourself are to remain continually; and just like an outer garment they will all grow old,12and you will wrap them up just as a cloak, as an outer garment; and they will be changed, but you are the same, and your years will never run out.” (Heb 1:10-12, NWT)

[3] J. H. Greenlee, An Exegetical Summary of Hebrews, 2nd ed. (Dallas, TX: SIL International, 2008), 34.

[4] Ibid., 34-35.

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