When you tell Jehovah’s Witnesses that Jesus is uncreated, they are likely to take you directly to Proverbs 8:22–30 in their New World Translation (NWT). They believe this is undeniable proof that Jesus was the first created creature. Before looking specifically at this passage, we should familiarize ourselves with the context. This chapter begins with a personification of wisdom as a woman calling out in the streets. A personification is a figure of speech where human qualities are given to non-human things. For example, telling my wife that opportunity is knocking at her door is a personification of opportunity. It would be foolish for her to go check the door to see if someone is literally there knocking. Opportunity is not an actual person. In the case of Proverbs 8, personal qualities are attributed to the virtue of wisdom so that it sounds like a person (Prov. 8:12), but it’s not really a person.
Solomon’s primary intent of verses 22–30 is to communicate that God used wisdom when He created the world. God was wise from the beginning. David echoes this idea in the Psalms. He writes, “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures” (Psa. 104:24). Solomon stresses the same point. He writes, “The Lord possessed me [wisdom] at the beginning of his work” and “I [wisdom] was beside Him, like a master workman...” (Prov. 8:22, 30). The question is, is this passage about more than wisdom?
Jehovah’s Witnesses argue that this description moves beyond a personification to describing a personality; namely, it describes the person of Christ. Furthermore, their NWT translates verse 22 as “Jehovah produced me as the beginning of His way” (Prov. 8:22). According to Jehovah’s Witnesses, if wisdom was created, and the wisdom of God is Jesus (1 Cor. 1:30), then Solomon must be saying that Jesus was created.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ argument hinges on the meaning of the verb qanah, which they translate as produced, or created. There are two reasons to reject the NWT’s rendering. First, most Bible scholars, think that possess is the best translation of the original language. Therefore, Solomon is saying that Jehovah possessed wisdom, not that He created it. If Jehovah didn’t create wisdom, then their argument that Jesus was created disappears.
Second, logic demands that the Jehovah’s Witness translation be disregarded. Clearly, Jehovah could not have produced wisdom. Wisdom is one of His essential attributes that Jehovah has possessed from eternity. If the NWT is correct, then Jehovah lacked wisdom until He produced it. Since Jehovah is eternal, this means that He eternally existed without the virtue of wisdom until He produced it a finite time ago.
If this passage comes up in discussion with your Jehovah’s Witness friends, ask them, “Do you believe that Jehovah lacked wisdom?” This question puts them between a rock and a hard place. If they answer yes, then their view of God is mistaken. The God of the Bible is omnisapient, which means all-wise. Therefore, there cannot be a time when He lacked wisdom.
If they say no, then their translation of verse 22 is mistaken. The NWT clearly says, “Jehovah produced wisdom.” God could not have produced wisdom since He already possessed it.
Your Jehovah’s Witness friends might object at this point. “This passage isn’t about wisdom; it’s about Jesus,” they might exclaim. However, this response makes a gross exegetical error. Whether or not someone believes this passage applies to Christ, we all recognize that it is at least talking about the virtue of wisdom. It may be about the virtue of wisdom only, or it may be about the virtue of wisdom and Jesus. But the context will not allow this text to be about Jesus alone.
At this point, I need to employ an important hermeneutical principle. When it comes to Scripture, you always interpret what is unclear in light of what is clear. That is, you start with what is clear and work out to what is less clear. Reinterpreting clear passages to make them fit with less clear passages is bad hermeneutics. Yet, Jehovah’s Witnesses do this all the time.
For example, I was discussing John 1:3 with a Jehovah’s Witness to establish that Jesus is the uncreated Creator. He responded by citing Proverbs 8:22 and stating, “Jesus is Jehovah’s first creation.” Given what I’ve have already said about John 1:3 and Proverbs 8:22, it should be obvious to any honest person that the former is much more clear than the latter. Consequently, it would be an egregious error to reinterpret a straightforward passage, like John 1:3, to accommodate a debatable reading of Proverbs 8:22.