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In John 20, Jesus is resurrected and is showing Thomas the wounds in his hands, to prove that he is risen. In John 20:28–29, we see Thomas's response:

28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

This passage is often used as evidence of Jesus's divinity, since Jesus does not rebuke Thomas for calling him "God" like the angel does in Revelation 19:10, for example.

Since Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe that Jesus is God, how do they explain Thomas's exclamation, and Jesus's response?

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    I've actually had conversations at length on this. This is one verse in the NWT that I'm surprised isn't translated differently than more conventional translations. I believe their most common refutation is that it's an exclamation similar to what you hear in today's world (e.g., "My God, what have you done?!"). Some may counter that such an obvious vain usage of God's name would not have been left unchallenged. – Matt Cremeens Aug 28 '15 at 12:05
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    @Matt Cremeens I've checked back as far as a 1962 JW booklet, 'The Word - who is he according to John?' A 1st century equivalent of 'O.M.G!' is not suggested. Instead, p.51 says, "So if Thomas addressed Jesus as 'my God', Thomas had to recognize Jesus' Father as the God of a God, hence as a God higher than Jesus Christ, a God whom Jesus himself worshipped." Note the JW use of a capitalised 'God'. Yet they render Jn 1:1 as 'a god' but because Jn 20:28 is 'ho Theos' they must write God, maintaining this in their booklet to say Thomas & Jesus believed in two Gods: one superior, one lesser! – Anne Dec 13 '18 at 12:39
  • @Matt Additionally, Thomas is directly addressing Jesus prefixed by "my Lord", ie. "my Lord AND my God", contrary to it being a vain impulsive exclamation (oopsie, called you "God"). – ig-dev Nov 4 at 16:53
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If you look up the apostle Thomas in the Watchtower Online Library at JW.org, you can find three links that address the topic of John 20:28: a section on Jesus Christ from their book Insight, a section on Jesus Christ from their book Reasoning, and an Awake! magazine article called "Those Who Are Called 'Gods.'" I'll quote from all three sources in this answer.

Insight indicates that there are two permissible explanations of the passage:

Some scholars have viewed this expression as an exclamation of astonishment spoken to Jesus but actually directed to God, his Father. However, others claim the original Greek requires that the words be viewed as being directed to Jesus. Even if this is so, the expression "My Lord and my God" would still have to harmonize with the rest of the inspired Scriptures.

The first explanation is neither elaborated upon nor mentioned anywhere else, but it's consistent with hogarth45's anecdotal answer. The Governing Body of Jehovah's Witnesses seems to favor the latter explanation, that Thomas is calling Jesus "my God" in a way that doesn't jeopardize their beliefs about Jesus and God. They point out parallels between this use of the word "god" and other Biblical uses where they also don't believe Jehovah is the referent:

  • Insight mentions that in many cases of appearances of angels, the Bible "spoke of that angelic messenger as though he were Jehovah God" because "the angelic messenger was acting for Jehovah as his representative." Note, however, that Nicene Christians often interpret these same passages as instances of pre-incarnate appearances of Jesus.
  • They point out that earlier in John, Jesus approvingly quoted Psalm 82, which calls "powerful men" gods, and "Christ occupies a position far higher than such men."
  • Citing John 1:1 (NWT), they say that Jesus is "divine" or "godlike" or "a god." JWs even believe that, in Isaiah 9:6, "Mighty God" is a title appropriately given to Jesus, while noting carefully that it is not "Almighty God." He is even referred to as "the only-begotten god" in John 1:18.

All three sources also note that the context (John 20) includes two other significant mentions of the relationship between Jesus and God which, they say, demonstrate that he is not the Almighty God. Reasoning gives the most extensive treatment:

Shortly before Jesus' death, Thomas had heard Jesus' prayer in which he addressed his Father as "the only true God." (John 17:3, RS) After Jesus' resurrection Jesus had sent a message to his apostles, including Thomas, in which he had said: "I am ascending ... to my God and your God." (John 20:17, RS) After recording what Thomas said when he actually saw and touched the resurrected Christ, the apostle John stated: "These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name." (John 20:31, RS) So, if anyone has concluded from Thomas' exclamation that Jesus is himself "the only true God" or that Jesus is a Trinitarian "God the Son," he needs to look again at what Jesus himself said (vs. 17) and at the conclusion that is clearly stated by the apostle John (vs. 31).

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This is the official explanation as written in the Watchtower Society's book "Insight on the Scriptures" Vol. 2, pages 55-6 (published in 1988). A bold-type heading reads, "What did Thomas mean when he said to Jesus, "My Lord and mu God"?

"On the occasion of Jesus' appearance to Thomas and the other apostles, which had removed Thomas' doubts of Jesus' resurrection, the now convinced Thomas exclaimed to Jesus: "My Lord and my God!! [literally, "The Lord of me and the God (ho Theos') of me!"]." (Joh 20:24-29) Some scholars have viewed this expression as an exclamation of astonishment spoken to Jesus but actually directed to God, his Father. However, others claim the original Greek requires that the words be viewed as being directed to Jesus. Even if this is so, the expression "My Lord and my God" would still have to harmonize with the rest of the inspired Scriptures. Since the record shows that Jesus had previously sent his disciples the message, "I am ascending to my Father and your Father and to my God and your God," there is no reason for believing that Thomas thought Jesus was the Almighty God. (Joh 20:17) John himself, after recounting Thomas' encounter with the resurrected Jesus, says of this and similar accounts: "But these have been written down that you may believe that, because of believing, you may have life by means of his name." - Joh 20:30, 31

So, Thomas may have addressed Jesus as "my God" in the sense of Jesus' being "a god" though not the Almighty God, not "the only true God," to whom Thomas had often heard Jesus pray. (Joh 17:1-3)"

I interrupt the quotation here to make a point. There is a suggestion that Thomas "may have" used that form of address because he thought Jesus was "a god" but not the Almighty God. They go on to give a second suggestion. I resume quoting:

"Or he may have addressed Jesus as "my God" in a way similar to expressions made by his forefathers, recorded in the Hebrew Scriptures, with which Thomas was familiar... [various scriptures listed where a messenger of Jehovah was addressed as if he were Jehovah God] Thomas may therefore have spoken to Jesus as "my God" in this sense, acknowledging or confessing Jesus as the representative and spokesman of the true God. Whatever the case, it is certain that Thomas' words do not contradict the clear statement he himself had heard Jesus make, namely, "The Father is greater than I am." - Joh 14:28"

It is interesting that two suggestions are offered but no clear statement is made as to what the writer of the article goes by. Perhaps the readers (it is hoped) will combine both suggestions. The writer of the article is clearly going by the New World Translation, which only ascribes partial deity to Christ.

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The answer that I have been given was that Thomas looked to Jesus and stated "My Lord" and then to heaven and said "My God" as a praise to Jeohovah for his miracle.

I know this answer doesn't have an "official stance of the WatchTower" feel to it, but nine times out of ten, this will be the answer they give you on your doorstep.

I have looked, with no luck, for a Bible commentary for the NWT Bible. So if anyone knows of one, I would appreciate a link.

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A few possibilities from least to most likely- 1- Thomas could have simply been making an improper exclamation. Apostles have been shown to make mistakes. 2- Given how he said "my lord and my God" rather than "my lord and God," Granville Sharp's rule would imply that he was very specifically not applying bith names to the same individual, but speaking as though he were addressing two individually.
3- This appears to be a greek idiom. Similar to how one should be baptized "by water and by spirit" the better translation qould be to treat the 2nd term as an adverb modifying the first i.e. "spiritual water." Therefore this could be translated something like "my heavenly lord!"

But yes, this scripture is difficult to clearly match the context of other scriptures. This one doesn't have a clear cut answer. But we're confident that the potentially mistranslated words of a doubtful man outweighs the words of Jesus at John 17:3. If there is disagreement there, I wouldn't assume Jesus to be wrong.

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    See this and this for a discussion on Granville Sharp's rule. Your statement about it should not go without a source or explanation. Better yet, looking at the original paper to support your statement and citing the rule would be even better to explain your case. – Alex Strasser Dec 12 '18 at 6:54
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    And here is another good discussion, rather in depth. – Alex Strasser Dec 12 '18 at 7:05
  • Jesus knew what he said at John 20:17 when he said of Jehovah; "my God..." – user43190 Dec 12 '18 at 16:59

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