Other Worldviews

Where Do Jehovah’s Witnesses Get Their Name?

Author Tim Barnett Published on 01/09/2016

Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that they alone are God’s chosen witnesses to the world. As justification for their self-designation, they cite Isaiah 43:10. It says:

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor shall there be any after me.”

By applying this verse to themselves, Jehovah’s Witnesses testify that they are the only true witnesses of Jehovah. But is that what this verse is really communicating? Is Jehovah speaking about Jehovah’s Witnesses in this passage?

At Stand to Reason, we have a principle: never read a Bible verse. Simply put, every verse must be interpreted in light of the context. In this instance, the context is clear. Isaiah 43:10 is referring to Israel, not Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jehovah declares, “You are my witnesses.” Who is the “you” being addressed? Isaiah tells us in verse 1. He writes,

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel...

Jehovah is speaking to Israel. The nation of Israel was to be a witness to God’s faithfulness, authority, power, and truth to the surrounding pagan cultures who worshipped false gods. Therefore, Israel is a witness to the only true Jehovah God. This is why Jehovah adds, “Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.”

Theologian and cult apologist Ron Rhodes says, “It is a wild, wild leap to take a verse referring to Israel as God’s witness to the pagan nations in the Old Testament times (over seven centuries before the time of Christ) and claim its fulfillment in a modern-day religious group some nineteen centuries after the time of Christ.”* Rhodes is right. Jehovah’s Witnesses must rely on a gross misinterpretation of this text to derive their name.

Furthermore, we must ask our Jehovah’s Witness friends, if they are the only true witnesses of Jehovah, does that mean God was without a witness for over eighteen centuries before The Watchtower came along? Who was representing the true God during that time period? In addition, why would Jehovah wait over 1800 years before sending his only true witnesses? All of these questions demand an adequate response.

There is another issue that needs to be resolved. The Israelites were to be witnesses of Jehovah in the Old Testament, but the New Testament believers were to be witnesses of Jesus. In fact, Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Christians today continue to be witnesses of Christ and his bodily resurrection from the dead. When Christians bear witness to the deity and bodily resurrection of Christ (Romans 10:9–10), they are bearing witness to Jehovah since Jesus is Jehovah. Ironically, by denying the deity and bodily resurrection of Jesus, Jehovah’s Witnesses fail to be the true witnesses of Jesus, who is Jehovah.

*Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Jehovah’s Witnesses (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers), 29-30.