Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Study of Micah 5:2
Written by John Carson
Witnesses (JWs) use the last portion of Micah 5:2 to teach Jesus Christ is not God. This is because they believe He had a beginning. From their JW website they teach:
Where he originally
The Bible teaches that Jesus’ life began long before he was born in that stable in
Bethlehem. The prophecy of Micah, quoted earlier, goes on to say that His “origin is from early times, from the days of time indefinite.” (Micah 5:2) As God’s firstborn Son, Jesus was a spirit creature in heaven before he was born as a human on earth. (emphasis mine)
Was Micah saying the Messiah to come had an “origin”? If so, then he ought not to be worshipped as God. The worship of any creature is blasphemous,
and those who do so will not escape punishment. If the Watchtower (WT) properly translated Micah 5:2 in their New World Translation (NWT) then those of us who had worshipped Jesus need to repent and cry out to Jehovah for forgiveness.
If however, it is found that the WT doctored up Micah 5:2 to fit their theology, then the onus is upon the individual to reject such corrupt teaching. My hope is that you will study what I
will put forth for yourself and rely on what God’s Word teaches.
I divided the following in three sections:
- Part 1 - Does the NWT’s Translation
of Micah 5:2 Agree With Other Reputable Translations?
- Part 2 - The WT’s Translation of Micah 5:2 Under the Microscope.
- Part 3 - Questions to Ask Your JW Friend.
Part 1 - Does the NWT’s Translation of Micah 5:2 Agree With Other Reputable Translations?
Our goal should always be to draw from God’s word. . .
- the intended messages the original human authors aspired to convey to the reader, and
- the inspired message God reveals by way of those human authors.
But with so many translations out there, how do we know which one to use? Isn’t
the WT’s NWT sufficient for us to study? Don’t other translations contradict each other? Which one are we to trust? If the NWT is accurate with Micah 5:2, then what does that mean in regards to our worship?
These are very serious questions and I hope this information will be helpful. The most important question is, “Was Jesus Christ created?” Let’s first look at the NIV’s rendering of Micah 5:2.
- But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.
When read in context, this translation shows Micah had in mind that the Messiah derived His human existence from the line of Judah; that such origins are from ancient times. Micah is not saying
the One that would come from the clans of Judah derived His original existence from Jehovah billions of years ago, as the WT teaches.
Next, let’s look at the NASB’s rendering
of Micah 5:2:
- But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from
long ago, From the days of eternity.
You will notice it is translated differently from the NIV. The NASB shows the Messiah here as being eternally
active... that “His goings forth” was from “eternity”.
The JWs would reject this. Why? Because He who is active from everlasting to everlasting, is God.
One rendering of Micah 5:2 demonstrates Jesus’ lineage is from ancient times (NIV), and the other shows
Jesus as eternally active (NASB). Neither of them can be used to prove He was created.
“Aha, see?!” a JW might argue “Your translations don’t even agree with each one another. Our
NWT doesn’t confuse people.” Actually there is no confusion, and no one needs to wave any contradictory red flags here. A careful study will show there are no contradictions between the two. It is important
to understand that God did not inspire translations, He inspired the original texts. What we ought to be concerned about is which of these three translations we are looking at had been accurately translated properly?
Did both the NIV and NASB accurately translate the original Hebrew into English? If so, why do they differ?
Translating a word from one language into another can oftentimes have more than one possible meaning.
The question we ought to ask is, are both acceptable translations? The answer is, yes!
Does the Hebrew text of Micah 5:2 allow the teaching that Jesus’ human line was from ancient times? Yes.
Does the Hebrew text of Micah 5:2 teach Jesus was eternally active? Yes.
Yet there are still no contradictions between the two translations. The Old Testament not only had the human
element, but the Divine as well.... and digging into the study of God’s Word, through the help of the Holy Spirit, can bring to surface those divine truths which will always be in total and absolute agreement with those original
writings from the hands of its human authors.
But what of the WT’s NWT?
The NWT’s rendering of Micah 5:2 is an inaccurate translation of God’s Word.
How? Such a translation wrongly shows Micah as dealing with the Messiah’s supposed “origin”, showing that He came into being (from time indefinite), prior to His birth. The Hebrew does not allow for the wording the WT translated into English
found in their NWT.
You will notice that all it takes, is for the WT to doctor up just one word to create havoc with the meaning of the text. Notice how they purposefully changed the word “origins” (plural) to the singular, “origin”?
origins are from of old... (NIV)
- Whose origin is from ancient times... (NWT 2013)
By removing the ‘s’ from ‘origins’, the WT changed the meaning from ancestral lineage (generations) to original existence (created being).
A quick word study reveals the original word
is not singular, but is indeed plural. It is obvious that Jesus did not originally exist multiple times, so Micah was in no way speaking of His coming into existence prior to Bethlehem. The NIV shows how the Messiah’s ancestral line goes back many generations
(plural) through Judah; while the NASB deals with how the Messiah’s activities (plural) are from everlasting (see Part 2 below for more information).
Micah 5:2 then, cannot be used as “proof” that
Jesus had a beginning. Those who are responsible for mangling God’s Word in order to teach false doctrines are storing up God’s great wrath against themselves.
It is ok to have a favourite translation
of the Bible, but be careful not to point to any translation (no matter how good it may be) as the pure Word of God. God inspired the original, from which we have excellent English translations of; He did not however, inspire translations. So be careful not
to choose a translation because it agrees with what you believe. Make your choices based on accuracy. If a translation proves to be a purposeful manipulation of God’s Holy Word (such as the NWT), then throw it away.
Part 2 - The WT’s Translation of Micah 5:2 Under the Microscope.
Did Jesus Have a Beginning?
seen above, the WT translated Micah 5:2 in such a way so as to cause the reader to think that it teaches Jesus was created as a spirit-creature prior to His birth in Bethlehem.
In this section, I will show
how the original Hebrew will not allow such an interpretation of the text. I will be comparing the NWT with the NASB.
“Origin” and “Goings Forth”
first look at and compare the words “origin” (NWT) and “goings forth” (NASB). These are translated from the Hebrew word, mowtsaah, and is only found in two places in the Old Testament, Micah 5:2 and 2 Kings 10:27. The WT translates this word in 2 Kings 10:27 as “latrines” (NWT 2013 edition). An obvious observation then, is that these two English words, “origin”
and “latrines”, cannot both have the meaning of beginning. It begs the question whether mowtsaah should be interpreted as having such a meaning as origin.
Mowtsaah מוֹצָאֹת is the feminine of mosta מוֹצָא which comes from its primitive root word, yatsa יָצָא
Here are examples of how these Hebrew words
- “I profane not My covenant, And that which is going forth (motsa) from My lips I change not.” (Psalm 89:34 Young’s
The NWT renders this Hebrew word here as “the expression”; the NASB used “the utterance”.
This shows both translations are in agreement that motsa is used to connote the going forth (utterance, expression) from the ever-present LORD God
Numbers 20:11 describes how water came forth (yatsa) from the rock in the book of Numbers:
- “Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth (yatsa) abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank.” (Numbers 20:11 NASB)
Notice the passage is not describing that the rock itself came forth, but that water came forth from the rock that was already present. The WT translated this word here as “pour
out” (NWT 2013 edition). That rock is identified in the New Testament as Christ:
- “and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual
rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ.” (1 Corinthians 10:4 NASB)
The core meaning from mowtsaah’s root word then, is much like a pouring out
from a source, and NOT the beginning of something (or Someone). This meaning fits both Micah 5:2 and 2 Kings 10:27 (a pouring out place). Notice the NASB’s translation for mowtsaah:
- “His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” (Micah 5:2 NASB)
If Micah shared the same views as the JWs do about
the Messiah, and wanted to convey the message about Him being a creation of God, he could have used a much better Hebrew word other than mowtsaah. Why didn't Micah use a word that was more clearer, like reshith (beginning), or bara (create)? Psalm
148:5 reads in the NWT about angels:
- “Let them praise the name of Jehovah; For he himself commanded, and they were created (bara).”
JWs believe Jesus was Michael the Archangel, who they say is God's first creation. If Jesus was created (bara),
then that would have been a better choice word to convey that message.
One of the greatest dilemmas facing the NWT’s use of “origin” in Micah 5:2,
is that mowtsaah is plural, not singular. If JWs want to view this Hebrew word as meaning Jesus’ existence began, then mowtsaah’s plural meaning would force Jesus to have more than one beginning.
“Time Indefinite” and “Eternity”
If Jesus sprang into existence or was created by the Father, there must have been a point in time in which the Father created Him. Your JW friend will agree and will reason in his/her
mind that Jesus was created at an indefinite period of time, and did not exist from everlasting. The WT teaches:
- “The Hebrew word here rendered “everlasting,” (from KJV Micah 5:2) is
olám, and simply means an indefinite period of time.” (Watchtower Magazine, September 15, 1961 - “What Does the Bible Teach About the Divinity of Christ?”)
brings us to dealing with the comparisons between “time indefinite” (NWT) and “eternity” (NASB). Notice the difference between how the NASB and the NWT (1984
edition) renders the last portion of Micah 5:2...
- “from the days of eternity” (NASB)
- “from the days of time indefinite” (NWT)
JWs will reject any thought that the Hebrew word used here, עוֹלָ֖ם (olam),
could be translated as “eternity” or “everlasting” in Micah 5:2. They believe Jesus was created a long time ago, in the ancient past.
For many years the WT used “time indefinite” in various places in their NWT. It is interesting that this was the identical term they used in multiple passages that speak of God’s existence as being eternal. When they made their recent changes to their
NWT (2013 edition), they stopped using time indefinite and replaced it with other wordings.
A Jehovah’s Witness elder explained to me how Daniel 2:44’s rendering of “time
indefinite” was changed to “forever”, and that this shows God’s Kingdom will be forever upon the earth. So the WT sees this word, olam, to be used in certain contexts to mean forever in the
future. Whenever olam refers to the Person of the Father, the WT interprets their translated words, “time indefinite”, to mean God had always been, and always will be, God. Take a look at how they retranslated
- “from time indefinite to time indefinite you are God.” (NWT 1984 edition)
- “From everlasting to everlasting, you are God.” (NWT 2013 edition)
No JW will say there was a point in time when God became God, and they point
to this passage as proof of this. The WT proclaims:
- “Why should we worship God? The true God is the Creator of all things. He had no beginning and will never have an end. (Psalm 90:2)”
Utilizing both Psalm 90:2 and Micah 5:2, from their own admissions they use the word olam to demonstrate two opposing viewpoints:
Olam means God had no
beginning (Psalm 90:2)
Olam means Jesus had a beginning (Micah 5:2)
Their retranslation of olam appropriately refers to the Person of the Father as
everlasting. How is it then, that the WT uses the same Hebrew word in Micah 5:2 to “prove” Jesus was NOT from everlasting?
The WT’s retranslations of “time
indefinite” in the Old Testament to “everlasting” (Psalm 90:2) clearly identifies the eternality of God the Father. The Greek word for this word “everlasting”
in the Septuagint (LXX) is αἰῶνος aionos, and it is a word that describes Jesus in the New Testament:
- “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today,
and forever αἰῶνος (aionos).” (Hebrews 13:8)
ago and “Everlasting”
From what we’ve seen, we can determine that the Hebrew word olam cannot “prove” Jesus had a beginning.
But JWs will reject “everlasting” as being the right choice for olam in Micah 5:2. Your JW friend may show you Bible verses where this word can have the meaning of “long ago”, “ancient times”, “days of old”,
etc. The WT chose the meaning of “long ago” (NWT 2013 edition) rather than “everlasting”, and claimed this was the thought conveyed by Micah. In their JW website they claim:
- “The Hebrew word ʽoh·lamʹ carries
the thought of indefinite or uncertain time.... Accordingly, expressions such as “time indefinite”, “indefinitely lasting”, “of old”, “a long time ago,” “of long ago”, and “long-lasting”
appropriately convey the thought of the original-language term.”
Their replacement from “time indefinite” with “long ago” in Micah 5:2 is, as they claim, due to what the original authors wanted to communicate. They
claim “long ago” was Micah’s intended thought he wanted to conveying:
- “.... a number of style and
vocabulary changes have been made in this revision, with the following objectives in mind.... The expression “time indefinite” was replaced with such terms as “forever,” “lasting,” “everlasting,” or “long
ago,” to convey the intended meaning in each context.—Genesis 3:22; Exodus 31:16; Psalm 90:2; Ecclesiastes 1:4; Micah 5:2.”
they possibly know if “long ago” was the intended thought Micah was trying to communicate to us? Were they somehow able to question him about what he meant? Obviously not! Such bold statements as knowing intentional
meanings or thoughts is pompous carelessness. If olam can also mean “everlasting”, on what basis did the New World Bible Translation Committee reject that word and choose “long
ago” instead? Why didn’t they just leave it as “time indefinite”?
The reasons were obviously not contextual, but theological.
The WT dogmatically rejects the teaching that Jesus Christ is God, and have gone to great lengths to “prove” He is not. By changing “time indefinite” to “long ago”, it’s not as easy now for someone to recognize such cross references like Micah 5:2 with Psalm 90:2 and Hebrews 13:8.
“Before the mountains
were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” (Psalm 90:2)
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday
and today, and forever! (Hebrews 13:8)
Part 3 - Questions
to Ask Your JW Friend.
1) “How can a Hebrew word not have the meaning of beginning in 2 Kings 10:27, but is considered by the WT to mean beginning in Micah 5:2?”
2) “If Numbers 20:11 and 1 Corinthians 10:4 teaches Christ was present while water “came forth” from the rock, shouldn’t we view Micah 5:2 as also teaching Christ was already present during
His “goings forth”, since it comes from the same root word?”
3) “If Micah really wanted to get the point across that the Messiah had a beginning, wouldn’t it seem
reasonable that he would have used a better Hebrew word to communicate this, such as “created” found in Psalm 148:5?”
4) “Since the
Hebrew word the WT translated as “origin” in Micah 5:2 is actually plural, how many origins did Jesus experience before He was born in Bethlehem? Did God create Jesus multiple times?”
5) “Could Psalm 90:2 be interpreted as... God became God at an unknown point in time, since it reads "time indefinite" in your NWT? If not, then why does the WT use that same word to "prove" Jesus had a beginning
in Micah 5:2?”
6) “The Greek word that describes God’s nature in Psalm 90:2 in the LXX, is the exact same Greek word that describes Jesus’ nature as well in Hebrews 13:8. Since
He always remained the same, what does that say about Who Jesus really is?”