From what I understand, Jehovah Witnesses believe in a form of Arianism that claims Jesus is “the son of God”, but he is inferior to “God the Father”, as he is usually understood as “God’s first creative act”. Then this spiritual entity was sent to earth, where he “became flesh” in the “incarnation”.

I’m not a Trinitarian myself, but it does include words like “human nature” and “hypostatic union” to describe how Jesus can be a “real human”, while “consubstantially” existing as something much different than a human.

According to Jehovah Witnesses, in what way is Jesus human? Was he a spiritual entity cloaked in human biology, or would they agree with the Trinitarian idea of a hypostatic union?

  • As far as I know, Arius was pretty much orthodox except for teaching that the Son was at least created at some distant past, before creation, you might say in eternity; but created very much really—was not eternal, but was divine; God. I think people read Jehovah's Witness (and such) views back into Arianism, but if I'm not mistaken everyone believed He was God, it was just a difference on how: 'From all eternity?' 'From before any and all creation, but nonetheless a product/creature of the Father?' As such, I don't think the Incarnation doctrine differs from the orthodox view. – Sola Gratia Nov 8 at 16:54
  • @SolaGratia That’s interesting. I think you’re right, but I’m not sure if Jehovah Witnesses use terms like “incarnation” or “hypostatic union”. Arianism seems to be the default position for most who don’t believe Jesus is God Almighty, so surely this has been addressed before. – anonymouswho Nov 9 at 17:04
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    @anonymouswho Indeed, Jehovah's Witnesses don't use any philosophical terms like those to describe their beliefs on Jesus. What the Bible teaches isn't complicated. – 4castle Nov 11 at 5:57
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    When you discuss Arianism, you need to define which type. There are "Arians" and "Semi-Arians" with a number of sub-variants. Each has a slightly different idea of the incarnation and the extent to which (if at all) Jesus was God or a kind of semi-god. In any case, Arianism in most forms, ends up a type of ditheism because it believes in two distinct gods - one less than the other. Then there is Binitarianism … (and other variants). – Dr Peter McGowan Nov 11 at 9:28
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    @Lesley your answer was fine. I was pointing out another reason why OP should have asked a separate question instead of editing this one – Kris Nov 23 at 12:51

The Jehovah’s Witness religion teaches that there was a time when God was utterly alone and decided to create, as his first creation, a being known in the Bible both as the Word of God, and Michael the Archangel. Then the Word / Michael created all the other angels plus this universe and planet earth and all life on it. He is said to have been subordinate to God in this vast project, only God never having been created. So, the first point to grasp in order to see what they believe about the Word becoming flesh (John 1:14) is that this created Son of God later became Son of Man, born to the virgin Mary as a perfect human being.

This is what their ‘Bible Teach’ book says about Jesus and Michael the Archangel (pages 218-219 in the Appendix) followed by a quote from their ‘Insight on the Scriptures’ Vol. 2 p394:

"The Bible indicates that Michael is another name for Jesus Christ, before and after his life on earth… It is logical to conclude that Michael is none other than Jesus Christ in his heavenly role." “In his prehumen existence Jesus was called ‘the Word.’ (Joh 1:1) He also had the personal name Michael. By retaining the name Jesus after his resurrection (Ac 9:5), ‘the Word’ shows that he is identical with the Son of God on earth. His resuming his heavenly name Michael and his title (or name) ‘The Word of God’ (Rev 19:13) ties him in with his prehuman existence.”

They claim that it was the spirit of Michael that entered into Jesus when he was born and that the body of Jesus was never resurrected. Instead, what came out of the tomb was a spirit creature (who transformed himself into human form to make the disciples think he was human although he was actually, in their belief system, a freshly created spirit). And it is Michael the Archangel who is coming back at Armageddon, they say.

This leaves us with the question as to who they say Jesus was, humanly speaking. Given all that pre-human angelic status, was he half-human, fully human or more than human? The same ‘Insight’ book says, p56:

“Since actual conception took place, it appears that Jehovah God caused an ovum, or egg cell, in Mary’s womb to become fertile, accomplishing this by the transferal of the life of his firstborn Son from the spirit realm to earth. (Ga 4:4) Only in this way could the child eventually born have retained identity as the same person who had resided in heaven as the Word, and only in this way could he have been an actual son of Mary… It is likely, therefore, that the child born resembled its Jewish mother in certain physical characteristics… it would appear that the perfect male life-force (causing the conception) canceled out any imperfection existent in Mary’s ovum, thereby producing a genetic pattern (and embryonic development) that was perfect from its start. Whatever the case, God’s holy spirit at the time guaranteed the success of God’s purpose… he was perfect in physical form… Hence he had not simply materialized a human body as angels had previously done; he was not an incarnation but was actually a ‘son of mankind’ through his human mother. (p 1002)”

This shows that they believe Jesus to have been fully human, and a perfect, physical man, not just appearing to be human (except at his resurrection when he had been re-created as a spirit who had the ability to appear to be physically human.) But was he more than human? Apparently not given what they say about denying he was an incarnation, and also claiming Jesus was an exact equivalent of the man Adam, prior to him sinning. Again, quoting from that ‘Insight’ book (p 736):

“The related word antilytron appears in 1 Timothy 2:6. Parkhurst’s Greek and English Lexicon to the New Testament says it means:,'a ransom, price of redemption, or rather a corresponding ransom. …So Aristotle uses the verb [antilytro’o] for redeeming life by life.” (London, 1845, p. 47) Thus Christ “gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.”

In their book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, p 62, they claim that Jesus is the only man who ever lived that was equal to Adam as a perfect human son of God, and on the next page they have an illustration of a pair of balanced scales, Adam on one dish, and Jesus on the other. Given that Adam was never in heaven nor was an angel, the question remains as to how Jesus could correspond exactly to the man Adam (before he sinned) if Jesus somehow also (simultaneously) had the personality of the angel Michael right from conception. But that is up to the Jehovah’s Witnesses to deal with. I have simply quoted from their literature to offer an answer to, ‘in what ways was Jesus human’. It is very clear that they would never agree with the Trinitarian view of a hypostatic union.

Arius was a 4th century priest in Alexandria, Egypt. He denied the deity of the Son of God, holding that Jesus was created by God as the first act of creation and that the nature of Christ was anomoios (“unlike”) that of God the Father. Arianism is the view that Jesus is a finite created being with some divine attributes, but He is not eternal and not divine in and of Himself.

“Arius was a senior presbyter in Alexandria. Around 318 he clashed with Bishop Alexander. Arius claimed that the Father alone was really God; the Son was essentially different from his Father. He did not possess by nature or right any of the divine qualities of immortality, sovereignty, perfect wisdom, goodness and purity. He did not exist before he was begotten by the Father. The Father produced him as a creature. Yet as the creator of the rest of creation, the Son existed ‘apart from time before all things’. Nevertheless, he did not share in the being of God the Father and did not know him perfectly. Arius taught that the Son of God was created ‘out of nothing’… that Christ was of a different substance (heteroousios) than the Father, that is, that He is a creature. Source: What Happened at Nicea?” by James R. White, as published in Christian Research Journal, July-August 1997, Vol. 19 No. 4, pp 30 – 34.

A major misinterpretation in Arianism concerns the meaning of firstborn as applied to Christ. Romans 8:29 speaks of Christ as “the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (see also Colossians 1:15–20). Arians understand firstborn in these verses to mean that the Son of God was “created” as the first act of creation.

This is not the case. Jesus Himself proclaimed His self-existence and eternality (John 8:58; 10:30). In Bible times, the firstborn son of a family was held in great honor (Genesis 49:3; Exodus 11:5; 34:19; Numbers 3:40; Psalm 89:27; Jeremiah 31:9). It is in this sense that Jesus is God’s “firstborn.” Jesus is the preeminent Person in God’s plan and the Heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2). Jesus is the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

Semi-Arianism admitted that the Son was “of a similar substance” (homoiousious) as the Father, while rejecting that He was “of the same substance” (homoousious). A “similar” essence is still a “different” essence. In the Bible, Jesus is presented as both fully human and fully divine. If He is fully divine, then He is also eternal and cannot be a created being of God the Father. Jesus’ nature is not simply “like” the Father’s; He shares the Father’s exact nature (John 10:30; Colossians 2:9).

Semi-Arianism is not a theologically sound compromise between Arius’s position and orthodoxy. On the issue of Jesus’ divinity, there is no true compromise. Either Jesus was created, or He was not; He is either God in the flesh, or He is not. The Council of Nicaea in AD 325 rejected both Arianism and Semi-Arianism as heresy.

Edit: I realise I have failed to address your question, in what way is Jesus considered to be human according to Arianism. Please allow me to come back with a response as to whether they agree with the Trinitarian concept of the hypostatic union.

The hypostatic union is the term used to describe how God the Son, Jesus Christ, took on a human nature, yet remained fully God at the same time. At the incarnation Jesus, the Word, became a human being, adding human nature to his divine nature:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).

The hypostatic union expresses the orthodox Christian view that at the incarnation Jesus Christ was one Person, fully God and fully man. Jesus is God’s Son in that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). When Jesus was conceived, He became a human being in addition to being God (John 1:1, 14). Jesus is both fully human and fully divine, there is no mixture or dilution of either nature, and He is one united Person, forever.

You ask, was Jesus a spiritual entity cloaked in human biology, or would they (those who follow Arianism) agree with the Trinitarian idea of a hypostatic union? Arius taught that the nature of Christ was unlike that of God the Father, and that Christ was of a different substance than the Father. Semi-Arianism admitted that the Son was “of a similar substance” as the Father, while rejecting that He was “of the same substance”. Either way, neither Arianism nor Semi-Arianism is compatible with the hypostatic union which declares that Jesus shares the Father’s exact nature.

Jesus (the eternal and uncreated Word of God) became flesh to dwell with us. He was God incarnate – one Person, fully God and fully man. Arianism rejects that view.

Second Edit: You now ask: According to Jehovah’s Witnesses in what way is Jesus human? Jehovah’s Witnesses do not deny that Jesus was born as a human and was fully human, up until his death. They acknowledge Jesus as the Son of God, the Christ and the Messiah. However, there are some important differences with regard to who they say Jesus was before he came to earth as a human and who Jesus is now after his resurrection:

Jesus himself said that he lived in heaven before being born as a human... He was God’s first creation... He is the “only-begotten Son.” This means that Jesus is the only one directly created by God. Jesus is also the only one whom God used when He created all other things... [Jehovah] transferred the life of his first-born Son from heaven to the womb of a Jewish virgin named Mary. No human father was involved. Mary therefore gave birth to a perfect son and named him Jesus.

However, on the third day after Jesus died, his heavenly Father resurrected him back to spirit life. Source: Jehovah’s Witness publication ‘What Does the Bible Really Teach’ Chapter 4, paragraphs 10 to 14, pages 41 to 42; paragraph 21 page 46

At times, individuals are known by more than one name... Likewise, the Bible indicates that Michael is another name for Jesus Christ, before and after his life on earth... This scripture (1 Thessalonians 4:16] suggests that Jesus himself is the archangel Michael. Source: Jehovah’s Witness publication ‘What Does the Bible Really Teach’ Appendix pages 218 to 219

Although fully human, Jehovah’s Witnesses believe the pre-mortal Jesus was created by Jehovah God and is not equal to God. His body was not resurrected and what came out of the tomb was a spirit creature who took on the appearance of a man before returning to heaven as a spirit.

To answer the second part of your edited question: Would Jehovah’s Witnesses agree with the Trinitarian idea of a hypostatic union?

Trinitarian Christians understand that Jesus always had been God (John 8:58, 10:30), but at the incarnation Jesus became a human being (John 1:14). The addition of the human nature to the divine nature is Jesus, the God-man. This is the hypostatic union, Jesus Christ, one Person, fully God and fully man. The Trinitarian view of the hypostatic union declares that Jesus shares the Father’s exact nature. The divine nature was united with the human nature in the person of Jesus Christ.

In light of the above, it is clear that Jehovah’s Witnesses must disagree with the hypostatic union.

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    OP edited this question after this answer was given. Originally it asked for Arianism view not JWs – Kris Nov 23 at 2:53

2 more cents from a JW:

We believe that there is only one God, The Father. Jehovah. Period. No exceptions or complications.

We believe that Jesus is "The Word" that was with God since the beginning of creation, as he was the firstborn of creation, God's only-begotten son. A spiritual, heavenly being, but not the infinite, single almighty God. This being was sent to be humbled, reduced to the body of a human, to be born, and live a life without sin to die as our Messiah and savior. He gave his body, and the scripture commonly translated as "gave up the ghost" is more accurately translated that he "sacrificed his very soul." Fully dying for 3 days before God resurrected him from the dead, glorified back into his previous heavenly body, free from human limitations (which is why he could walk around with wounds that were previously mortal). He then ascended to heaven, where flesh can not go to sit at the right hand of his Father and our Father, his God and our God.

So, we believe they are two distinct individuals. No "Fully this, yet fully the opposite of this yet perfectly both, yet neither, in divine mystery..." We just believe Jesus simply was who he said he was.

John 17:3: "And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent."

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  • @curiousdannii As I am not an Arian I do not quote him, but I have updated my post now I have time to do so. ethos – ethos Dec 6 at 13:05
  • JWs do not believe that Jesus walked around with wounds that were previously mortal after his resurrection. Rather that he was resurrected in spirt form and materialized in various human forms to his followers on earth like angels materialized into human form in the Hebrew Scriptures. To walk about in the same flesh and bones that he had as a human would require him to die again in order to return to his father in Heaven Yet scripture says he died once for all time. – Kris Dec 6 at 15:52
  • It may beunclear exactly how it happened, but Thomas was able to put his hand in the holes. He could have had anew bodyand just replicated those holes, or just like he was humbled to come to earth as a human, his body could have been gloified when he was resurrected. Whether those were lasting wounds or not or real wounds, Thomas physically inspected wounds that would have been mortal to any human. – Rey Kabrom 12 hours ago

Short answer from a JW- 1 Corinthians 8:6. There is for us only one God, the Father... and one lord, the Son.

Jehovah, the Father is the only infinte almighty God. Jesus is his son, firstborn of creation. He was then humbled to the limitations of humanity, lived a perfect life and paid the price he didn't owe to pay our debt (giving his life and forfeiting his very soul) by dying. God resurrected him 3 days later, glorified to his true form.

We don't see any biblical reason to use any specialty language, fully one thing, yet fully some mutually exclusive term. We believe he simply was exactly what he described himself as. No more complications necessary.

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