The NIVs Gift to the Watch Tower Society – Micah 5:2
One of the worst changes to the text which affects the deity of Jesus Christ is found in the book of the prophet Micah. The KJV has “But thou Bethlehem Ephrata, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me, that is to be ruler in Israel: whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). Compare this to the NIV, which has: “….whose origins are from of old, from ancient times”. And to the Watch Tower translation: “whose origin is from early times, from the days of time indefinite” (NWT 1984). In fact, the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses can be regarded as more orthodox than the NIV because its reading “the days of time indefinite”, despite its vagueness or perhaps because of it, can be understood to mean eternity (KJV marginal note: “the days of eternity”); whereas the NIV absolutely precludes eternity and limits Jesus to time only.
However, the newest version of the NWT has, “Whose origin is from ancient times, from the days of long ago” (Mic 5:2 NWT 2013). This is an improvement in clarity, making it clearer still that the passage limits Jesus to a created being, just as the NIV does. Only the KJV makes it clear that Jesus has existed from eternity, so we don’t have to juggle verses from other parts of scripture to “explain” this verse, which we have to do with every other version.
What a gift the modern and corrupt reading of Micah 5:2 is to the Watch Tower Society! Indeed, a gift to all the enemies of the Gospel! In one of their publications, under the heading “Where Did Jesus come from?”, the Watch Tower Society writes, “The Bible teaches that Jesus lived in heaven for a long time before he came to earth. Micah said that the Messiah was ‘from ancient times’ (Micah 5:2)…..Some people believe that Jesus and God are the same person. But that’s not what the Bible teaches. The Bible says that Jesus was created, which means that Jesus had a beginning. But Jehovah, who created all things, had no beginning” (“What Can the Bible Teach Us?” p 44). (Emphasis mine).
Before I get to the main issue here, I would correct an error in this statement from the Watch Tower where they say: “Some people believe that Jesus and God are the same person”. Orthodox Christians do not say that Jesus and God are the same Person; we say that Jesus and God are two of the separate and distinct Persons within the Godhead, which consists of three Persons; it is the Sabellians and Modalists and Oneness Pentecostals who say that Jesus and God are the same Person.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses are correct in deducing that Jesus was created, according to the reading in Micah 5:2 in all the modern bible versions. How could they come to any other conclusion? But the big question and more important issue is: how can Evangelical and other Bible-believing Christians accept that this is the true and correct reading? Can they not smell a rat? Can they not see the implications for the doctrine if the NIV reading is true? It totally undermines and opposes every other passage which teaches the deity of Jesus Christ. It clearly and specifically declares that Jesus had a very ancient origin. So, no matter how far back in “ancient times” one likes to go, Jesus had a beginning; therefore he was created. No matter how glorious a Being he might be, he is still a creature, and thus falls infinitely short of deity. Such a conclusion cannot be avoided if the reading in the modern bible versions is accepted.
But the writer of Hebrews had no illusions or doubts as to the deity of Jesus. He writes: “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever……Thou, Lord, in the beginning, hast laid the foundation of the earth” (Heb 1:8, 10). And Moses says of God, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God” (Ps 90:6 cf Jn 1:1-3, 10). This is Jesus, our God and Saviour; the One of whom the prophet Micah speaks, “whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting”.
Henry Morris, in the comments on Micah 5:2 in his Study Bible, says, “The Messiah was to be brought forth as a baby in Bethlehem, but was also to have been ‘going forth’ from eternity. Such an amazing prophecy sounds impossible, but was literally fulfilled when God became man, in divine incarnation in the person of Jesus Christ. The ‘goings-forth’ of Deity also imply the perpetually outflowing energy which sustains the created universe, ‘upholding all things by the word of his power (Heb 1:3)’” (Morris 2012, p 1327).
Matthew Henry says, “Going forth is used (Deut 8:3) for a word which proceeds out of the mouth, and is therefore very fitly used to signify the eternal generation of Him who is called the Word of God, that was in the beginning with God, John 1:1-2” (Comment on Mic 5:2 in the Matthew Henry Study Bible).
Only the KJV preserves and protects this doctrine of the deity, and consequently the eternal pre-existence, of Jesus Christ. If it wasn’t for the correct reading of this verse in the KJV, it could well be that Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals and other Unitarians and deniers of the deity of Jesus would have legitimacy. And if the readings in the modern English versions were genuine, even those other verses in the bible which testify to the deity of Jesus could be legitimately understood or reinterpreted to mean that Jesus had a beginning and therefore has not always existed. And verses such as Genesis 1:1, for example, would have to be interpreted as God having a beginning, an origin, and that there was a time when he was not; likewise, the Word, who is stated to be God in John 1:1-2, would also have a beginning. In Colossians 1:15, Jesus is called “the firstborn of every creature”, and is a favourite proof text of the Watch Tower that Jesus was created. However, Matthew Henry gives the correct understanding of it when he writes: “Not that he is a creature, for the word is “born or begotten before all creation,” or before any creature was made, which is the scriptural way of representing eternity. It signifies his dominion over all things” (Matthew Henry Study Bible Col 1:15).
So we can see the absolute necessity of a correct reading of this verse so that we can have a correct understanding of it; and we only find the correct reading of it in the KJV (and NKJV). It is a doctrine, belief in which is essential to salvation, as the apostle John tells us when he writes, “And many other signs did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book; But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name” (Jn 20:30-31).
Morris, Henry M. 2012, “The Henry Morris Study Bible”, Master Books, Green Forest, Arizona, USA
“What Can the Bible Teach Us?” Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 2015