Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Seeing the unseen God –

Addressing a typical JW objection to the Deity of Christ Pt. 2

Sam Shamoun

We continue from where we left off.

This next OT instance of someone seeing a visible appearance of Jehovah is quite remarkable:

Afterward, Jehovah appeared to him among the big trees of Mam′re while he was sitting at the entrance of the tent during the hottest part of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing some distance from him. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them, and he bowed down to the ground. Then he said: ‘Jehovah, if I have found favor in your eyes, please do not pass by your servant. Please, let a little water be brought and have your feet washed; then recline under the tree. Seeing that you have come here to your servant, let me bring a piece of bread so that you may refresh yourselves. Then you may go on your way.’ At this they said: ‘All right. You may do as you have spoken.’ So Abraham hurried to the tent to Sarah and said: ‘Quick! Get three measures of fine flour, knead the dough, and make loaves of bread.’ Next Abraham ran to the herd and chose a tender and good young bull. He gave it to the attendant, who hurried to prepare it. He then took butter and milk and the young bull that he had prepared and set the food before them. Then he stood by them under the tree as they were eating. They said to him: ‘Where is your wife Sarah?’ He replied: ‘Here in the tent.’ So one of them continued: ‘I will surely return to you next year at this time, and look! your wife Sarah will have a son.’ Now Sarah was listening at the tent entrance, which was behind the man. Abraham and Sarah were old, being advanced in years. Sarah was past the age of childbearing. So Sarah began to laugh to herself, saying: ‘After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I really have this pleasure?’ Then Jehovah said to Abraham: ‘Why did Sarah laugh and say, “Am I really going to give birth even though I am old?” Is anything too extraordinary for Jehovah? I will return to you next year at this appointed time, and Sarah will have a son.’ But Sarah denied it, saying, ‘I did not laugh!” for she was afraid. At this he said: ‘Yes! You did laugh.’ When the men got up to leave and looked down toward Sod′om, Abraham was walking with them to escort them. Jehovah said: ‘Am I keeping hidden from Abraham what I am going to do? Why, Abraham is surely going to become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed by means of him. For I have come to know him in order that he may command his sons and his household after him to keep Jehovah’s way by doing what is right and just, so that Jehovah may bring about what he has promised concerning Abraham.’ Then Jehovah said: ‘The outcry against Sod′om and Go·mor′rah is indeed great, and their sin is very heavy. I will go down to see whether they are acting according to the outcry that has reached me. And if not, I can get to know it.’ Then the men left from there and went toward Sodom, but Jehovah remained with Abraham. Then Abraham approached and said: ‘Will you really sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Suppose there are 50 righteous men within the city. Will you, then, sweep them away and not pardon the place for the sake of the 50 righteous who are inside it? It is unthinkable that you would act in this manner by putting the righteous man to death with the wicked one so that the outcome for the righteous man and the wicked is the same! It is unthinkable of you. Will the Judge of all the earth not do what is right?’ Then Jehovah said: ‘If I find in Sod′om 50 righteous men in the city, I will pardon the whole place for their sake.’ But Abraham again responded: ‘Please, here I have presumed to speak to Jehovah, whereas I am dust and ashes. Suppose the 50 righteous should lack five. Because of the five will you destroy the whole city?’ To this he said: ‘I will not destroy it if I find there 45.’ But yet again he spoke to him and said: ‘Suppose 40 are found there.’ He answered: “I will not do it for the sake of the 40.’ But he continued: ‘Jehovah, please, do not become hot with anger, but let me go on speaking: Suppose only 30 are found there.’ He answered: ‘I will not do it if I find 30 there.’ But he continued: ‘Please, here I have presumed to speak to Jehovah: Suppose only 20 are found there.’ He answered: ‘I will not destroy it for the sake of the 20.’ Finally he said: ‘Jehovah, please, do not become hot with anger, but let me speak just once more: Suppose only ten are found there.’ He answered: ‘I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.’ When Jehovah finished speaking to Abraham, he went his way and Abraham returned to his place.” Genesis 18:1-33

Here we have Jehovah appearing as a man along with two other men, whom the next chapter identifies as angels:

The TWO angels arrived at Sodom by evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sod′om. When Lot saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the earth. And he said: ‘Please, my lords, turn aside, please, into the house of your servant and stay overnight and have your feet washed. Then you may get up early and travel on your way.’ To this they said: ‘No, we will stay overnight in the public square.’ But he was so insistent with them that they went with him to his house. Then he made a feast for them, and he baked unleavened bread, and they ate.” Genesis 19:1-3

Now the reason why only two initially showed up at Sodom to meet with Lot is because, as vv. 22-33 show, the third man was Jehovah himself who chose to remain behind in order to continue dialoguing with Abraham as the latter sought to intercede for Sodom’s inhabitants.

To say that this is a remarkable passage would be to put it mildly since Jehovah is depicted as having a human body with feet that could be washed, and being able to actually consume food that Abraham had prepared for both himself and the two angels! 

That it was Jehovah himself who had appeared to Abraham in the guise of a man is further confirmed by the following passage:

“Now Abraham got up early in the morning and went TO THE PLACE where he had stood BEFORE JEHOVAH.” Genesis 19:27

Seeing that the text says that Abraham went to the actual place where he stood face to face before Jehovah clearly proves that it wasn’t an angel that appeared on behalf of Jehovah. Rather, these citations are crystal clear that it was Jehovah himself that chose to come down to the earth in human form along with two other angels for the express purpose of speaking to Abraham directly, and also to destroy the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah for all of their wickedness. 

Now this raises a problem with the JW assertion that no one can see God. This either means that the Bible is contradicting itself, something that neither the JWs nor conservative Christians accept. Or it means that the JW interpretation is wrong, since the passages they cite do not mean that God cannot be seen in any sense whatsoever.

However, this leaves them with one of two options. The verses which say God cannot be seen actually refer to the Person of the Father, meaning that it is the Father that cannot be seen. Therefore, the One whom the prophets saw was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ in his prehuman existence, an interpretation confirmed by the following verse:

“Nobody ever has seen God; an Only Born God, he who is in the Father's bosom, he gave the account of him.” John 1:18 BYINGTON

It is Jesus Christ, in his role and position as the only Born God who dwells in the Father’s bosom, that comes to reveal God to mankind, a point made elsewhere by the Apostle John:

“But we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us insight so that we may gain the knowledge of the one who is true. And we are in union with the one who is true, by means of his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and life everlasting.” 1 John 5:20

The reason why Jesus does so is because he alone has seen the Father’s form, and is therefore the only One qualified to make him known to creation:

“All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one fully knows the Son except the Father; neither does anyone fully know the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son is willing to reveal him.” Matthew 11:27

“No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him, and I will resurrect him on the last day. It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by Jehovah (Gr. Theou – “God”).’ Everyone who has listened to the Father and has learned COMES TO ME. Not that any man has seen the Father, except the one who is from God; this one has seen the Father. Most truly I say to you, whoever believes has everlasting life.” John 6:44-46

This explains why Jesus could say that to see him is to see the Father,

“However, Jesus called out and said: ‘Whoever puts faith in me puts faith not only in me but also in him who sent me; and whoever sees me sees also the One who sent me.’” John 12:44-45

“If you men had known me, you would have known my Father also; from this moment on you know him and have seen him.’ Philip said to him: ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him: ‘Even after I have been with you men for such a long time, Philip, have you not come to know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father also. How is it you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in union with the Father and the Father is in union with me? The things I say to you I do not speak of my own originality, but the Father who remains in union with me is doing his works. Believe me that I am in union with the Father and the Father is in union with me; otherwise, believe because of the works themselves.’” John 14:7-11

Since he is the perfect image and exact representation of God’s infinite, uncreated being:

“among whom the god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through. For we are preaching, not about ourselves, but about Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For God is the one who said: ‘Let the light shine out of darkness,’ and he has shone on our hearts to illuminate them with the glorious knowledge of God by the face of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:4-6

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;” Colossians 1:15

“He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact representation of his very being,” Hebrews 1:3

However, this view would mean that the JWs are wrong for denying the Deity of Christ since he is none than Jehovah God who was appearing visibly to his prophets and people.

Or the JWs can adopt the view that these texts do not mean that God the Father cannot be seen in any sense, but rather cannot be seen in all the fullness of his glory. This would be similar to the following passage:

“And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. You have neither heard HIS voice at any time nor seen HIS form, and you do not have his word residing in you, because you do not believe the very one whom he sent.” John 5:37-38

If one reads this verse in isolation from the rest of the Holy Bible then the meaning becomes obvious that no one at any time has ever seen the Father’s form or heard his voice. Yet a completely different picture emerges when we read this in light of the following texts: 

“‘Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came out of heaven: ‘I have glorified it and will glorify it again.’ The crowd that was standing there heard it and began to say that it had thundered. Others said: ‘An angel has spoken to him.’ Jesus answered: ‘This voice has occurred, not for my sake, but for your sakes.’” John 12:28-30

“Six days later Jesus took Peter and James and his brother John along and led them up into a lofty mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them; his face shone as the sun, and his outer garments became brilliant as the light. And look! there appeared to them Moses and E·li′jah conversing with him. Then Peter said to Jesus: “Lord, it is fine for us to be here. If you wish, I will erect three tents here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for E·li′jah.’ While he was still speaking, look! a bright cloud overshadowed them, and look! a voice out of the cloud said: ‘This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved. Listen to him.’ At hearing this, the disciples fell facedown and became very much afraid.” Matthew 17:1-6

In these examples, people saw the Father as he appeared as/in a cloud and even heard his voice. Therefore, Jesus could not possibly have meant that no one had ever heard or seen the Father. Rather, Jesus’ statements were directed towards his enemies, basically telling them that THEY had not seen the Father’s form or heard his voice.

In a similar manner, the texts which say that God cannot be seen do not mean that the Father can never be seen in any sense whatsoever. Rather, these verses mean that no one can see the full glory of the Father, which is why he appears in various forms since this allows his servants to see a glimpse of what he is truly like.

Yet either one of these interpretations makes the JW argument obsolete. Their claim that Jesus cannot be God since people saw him, whereas no one can see God, has been shown to be nothing more than a gross misunderstanding and faulty interpretation of what the Holy Bible actually means. Therefore, the JWs need to come up with something much better if they want to convince serious students and scholars of the Holy Bible that Jesus is not Jehovah God in the flesh.