Luke 13:33 and Sam Shamoun
Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ,
One of Br. Shabir Ally’s most famous arguments is derived from Luke 13:33, you can see him using it in this debate:
Sam Shamoun did a response to it along with a few other responses to Br. Shabir. Today I’d like to examine Sam’s ‘explanation’ and to analyse his statements, judging to see whether he has or has not rectified this theological conundrum. Sam begins by saying:
Shabir thinks that this verse is a contradiction and even proves that Jesus wasn’t killed:
“Nevertheless I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem.”
Shabir assumes that this text clearly contradicts the fact that Jesus was crucified outside of Jerusalem.
Br. Shabir did not assume, he simply read the verse and utilized it’s clear meaning, for as Jesus allegedly says, “it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem“. Meaning then, that a Prophet can only die in Jerusalem. Sam tries to answer this by stating:
In the first place, Jesus clearly says that he will be killed outside of Jerusalem:
Clearly then, Jesus contradicts his own words. His response doesn’t begin by refuting Br. Shabir’s argument, he actually initiates his explanation by debunking his own God. Brilliant work Sam. He then cites this verse and uses it as evidence that Jesus allegedly said that he would die outside of Jerusalem:
But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, “This is the heir; let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.” And they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants, and give the vineyard to others.’ When they heard this, they said, ‘God forbid!’” Luke 20:9-16
The tenants refer to the Jewish leaders and the vineyard refers to Jerusalem. In this parable, Jesus says that he, as the beloved Son, will be thrown out of the vineyard and then be killed. To put it another way, Jesus was saying that the Jewish leaders would have him killed outside of Jerusalem.
Now, I’m not sure if Sam really thought this explanation through, or if he is actively working to disprove the veracity of Christianity. There are a number of problems with Sam’s referencing and subsequent use of the aforementioned passage. Namely, that according to the parable the “Jews/ Tenants” would kill the “heir/ Jesus” for the “inheritance” and as a cause of this, the “Jews/ Tenants” would be destroyed. If Jesus came to die and the Jews fulfilled this purpose, according to this parable, God would have to kill the people that He sent to kill His son. Which is a problem, if Jesus came to die and the Jews fulfilled this purpose, why would God be angry at them? Secondly, if the “inheritance” here is the “gift of salvation”, shouldn’t God/ the Owner, be happy that they killed His son?
If I were for a moment to neglect Sam’s incompetence of dismantling his own doctrine, and to accept that Jesus predicts his death, according to Luke 13:33, shouldn’t he be killed in Jerusalem? Therefore this verse contradicts Jesus’ own words and presents severe theological faults with Christianity. Since this is the case, a methodological reinterpretation/ reading of Luke 13:33 must be undertaken to mask this scriptural blunder. Sam continues:
Now we anticipate that Shabir will say that this doesn’t resolve the problem and will wish to say that this only contradicts what Jesus said in Luke 13:33. Does it? Let us read the immediate context and see:
“Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, “Go away, leave here, for Herod wants to kill You.’ And He said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox, “Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal.” Nevertheless I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, “BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!”’” Luke 13:31-35
Luke 13 references Matthew 23 wherein it reads:
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
According to these passages, the Jews of Jerusalem kill the prophets and those sent to them. Yet, Jesus was not killed by Jews or by those of Jerusalem, but by the hands of Romans, another strange predicament (as Sam later admits, Jesus died by the Gentiles and not the Jews). More interestingly, Jesus allegedly predicts that Jerusalem would welcome him as blessed and as one who has come in the Name of the Lord, yet there is no such realization according to any of the Synoptic gospels, therefore Jesus’ death is inconsistent with this prophecy, as it has yet to be fulfilled. Sam continues:
We can glean from the immediate context that Jesus was addressing the Jews who warned him about Herod’s threat. Jesus responds by basically saying that Herod can’t do anything against him since he has a goal to reach Jerusalem, and once there he will die. Now from this context we can see that Jerusalem stands for the Jewish leaders, in contrast to Herod, who will kill Jesus just as they killed the other prophets. Obviously, Jerusalem didn’t literally kill the prophets but its leaders and people did. This serves to affirm that Jesus’ point was that Herod wouldn’t be the one to condemn him to death, but the members of the Sanhedrin who were in Jerusalem.
According to Sam himself, Jesus was to die in Jerusalem and by the hands of the Jews, which he later disagrees with and argues against in his later discussion. Interestingly Sam then tries to validate his eisegesis by appealing to another false prophecy:
This is reiterated in the Matthaean parallel:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom YOU will kill and crucify, and some YOU will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that ON YOU may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom YOU murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Matthew 23:29-39
According to Sam’s quote, when Jesus accuses the Pharisees of murdering someone in Jerusalem, they literally killed someone in Jerusalem. That is to say Zechariah, who died within the physical delimitations of Jerusalem. So specific was Jesus’ statement, that he mentions the exact place of murder within Jerusalem, between the sanctuary and the altar:
God’s anger came on Judah and Jerusalem. Although the Lord sent prophets to the people to bring them back to him, and though they testified against them, they would not listen. Then the Spirit of God came on Zechariah son of Jehoiada the priest. He stood before the people and said, “This is what God says: ‘Why do you disobey the Lord’s commands? You will not prosper.Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has forsaken you.’” But they plotted against him, and by order of the king they stoned him to death in the courtyard of the Lord’s temple. – 2 Chronicles 24.
Therefore when Jesus refers to dying in Jerusalem, he is referring to actually being killed within Jerusalem, as he himself states. Sam however, doesn’t realise this and foregoes the mentioning of a physical death within the city itself, instead he meanders off and misapplies the statements of Christ:
What Jesus was basically saying is that he could not be condemned to death by anyone other than the Jewish leaders. Jesus was obviously using Jerusalem as a metaphor for its leaders, personifying the city and blaming it for the bloodshed caused by its people, since the city is being identified with its people, specifically the Sanhedrin.
Sam seems to forget that while the Jews did vote to have Jesus ‘killed’, it was actually Pontius Pilate who accepted their vote (he did not have to) and Jesus himself was not killed by the hands of a single Jew, but by Roman soldiers. It should also be known that Sam emphasises that the city is being identified with its people, the Jews. Yet according to the crucifixion events, no blood was spilled by the Jews themselves, but by outsiders, the Romans, which according to Matthew 23 is a misapplied prophecy, as the previous deaths were literally done by the Jews. Sam then appeals to confirmation bias by running to a commonly used Christian exegesis which he quotes:
As noted Bible expositor John Gill stated:
for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem;
because the great sanhedrim only sat at Jerusalem, to whom it belonged to try and judge a prophet; and if found false, to condemn him, and put him to death; the rule is this;
“they do not judge, neither a tribe, nor a false prophet, nor an high priest, but by the sanhedrim of seventy and one.”
Not but that prophets sometimes perished elsewhere, as John the Baptist in Galilee; but not according to a judicial process, in which way Christ the prophet was to be cut off, nor was it common; instances of this kind were rare, and always in a violent way; and even such as were sentenced to death by the lesser sanhedrim, were brought to Jerusalem, and publicly executed there, whose crimes were of another sort; for so runs the canon;
“they do not put any one to death by the sanhedrim, which is in his city, nor by the sanhedrim in Jabneh; but they bring him to the great, sanhedrim in Jerusalem, and keep him till the feast, and put him to death on a feast day, as it is said (Deuteronomy 17:13) “and all the people shall hear and fear.””
And since Jerusalem was the place where the prophets were usually put to death, …
F5 Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 1. sect. 5. & T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 18. 2.
F6 Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 10. sect. 4. (Source)
John Gill’s explanation would work if it is that Zechariah’s death occurred outside of Jerusalem, however the citing by Jesus of Zechariah’s death within the city of Jerusalem, draws a parallel between his alleged death and Zechariah’s. Since this is the case, Gill’s explanation ignores this prophecy and negates, or rather, corrects Jesus’ statement. Therefore Sam, has to choose whether Jesus’ parallel with Zechariah’s death in Jerusalem is accurate or it’s inaccurate and Gill’s exposition is superior to his Lords words.
Jesus essentially affirmed this very fact, namely, that the Sanhedrin would condemn him to death, elsewhere in Luke’s Gospel:
“But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, saying, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day.’” Luke 9:21-22
It is evident that at this point Sam had lost the plot and began to imagine things. This verse does not foretell that the Sanhedrin would condemn Christ to death, rather it says they would reject him. Unless rejection means death, I am quite certain that Sam is making stuff up. Not that I expected any better from him. He continues:
“Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, ‘Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be HANDED OVER TO the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.’” Luke 18:31-33
The Sanhedrin handed Jesus over to the Gentile rulers who then mocked, mistreated, spat, scourged and killed him by crucifixion. Note the process that takes place. The Sanhedrin condemned Jesus as worthy of death, but since they couldn’t kill him themselves they proceeded to hand him over to those who had the authority to do so.
There are several problems with Sam’s explanation:
- According to the parable about the vineyard, Jesus was to be killed by the tenants, i.e. the Jews, yet Sam concedes that this is not the case and Jesus was actually killed by the Romans.
- According to the paralleling of Jesus’ life with Zechariah’s, Jesus was to be killed by Jews through the command of a Gentile leader in Jerusalem, rather Sam is saying Jesus was killed by Gentiles through the command of Jews outside of Jerusalem. In other words, he inverts the prediction completely to make it remotely applicable to Christ.
- According to Jesus’ own words, Jews were to kill him, i.e. the people of Jerusalem in Matthew 23, however as Sam concedes, this is not the case as the Romans (those not from Jerusalem) killed him instead.
Every evidence that Sam has used to bolster the case for the validity of Luke 13:33 has therefore backfired on him, proving his arguments and by consequence, his scripture, to be unreliable, inconsistent and ridiculous. Sam continues:
It is therefore obvious from the preceding that there is no contradiction in the words of Jesus, but only Shabir’s misunderstanding of what Jesus meant when he referred to not perishing outside of Jerusalem. Jesus wasn’t using Jerusalem to refer to the city, but to its people, specifically to its leaders who condemned him to die.
Mr. Shamoun’s best conclusion and explanation, is to then correct Jesus’ words. Apparently, since Jesus did not say it, Sam has to say what his God could not, that Jesus wasn’t referring to Jerusalem when he said Jerusalem, but to the people of Jerusalem. This presents several problems:
- Why didn’t Jesus say that?
- If that is the case, why did Jesus say ‘Jerusalem’ and specify the Jews of ‘Jerusalem’ in Matthew 23?
- Lastly, those who killed Jesus were Romans, not Jews.
Sam, understanding that he has exhausted all laughable excuses, then proceeds to make one last ditch effort. Apparently ‘Jerusalem’, does not mean Jerusalem. According to Sam, ‘Jerusalem’, means, ‘a couple days distance from Jerusalem’, or in other words, Jerusalem is supposed to mean, ‘not Jerusalem’:
But even if we were to assume that Jesus was referring to the city, and not to its leadership, Shabir still has no case. As we noted, Jesus’ statements are made in a particular context, standing in Galilee, being informed by others about Herod’s intention of killing him, and says he must first go to Jerusalem. That is his purpose, and not even Herod will keep him from getting to Jerusalem and being put on trial there. Jesus isn’t talking about his exact execution place. From the perspective of standing in Galilee, in a different province, several days journey away from Jerusalem, just outside the city wall was still Jerusalem. Moreover, every city always has some land around it that belongs to the city.
Jesus draws a parallel between him and Zechariah. Jesus specifies the exact place of Zechariah’s death in Jerusalem, for which he then condemns the Jews for. Strangely, Sam is saying that Jesus did not specify his exact dying place. Yet Jesus not only explicitly mentions ‘Jerusalem’, he does so more than once and in the one event he drew a parallel, the very story he narrates is of a death within Jerusalem. Therefore Sam’s case has been proven to be inconsistent by Jesus himself. He continues:
Finally, that a text such as Luke 13:33 remains intact within the Holy Bible is an argument for the Scriptures’ veracity. It shows that Christian scribes, for the most part, tried to preserve the Scriptures as best as they could, no matter what difficulties a text may have posed to their theology and understanding.
Sam still has not clarified why Jesus, a prophet, could have died outside of Jerusalem, when he (Jesus) clearly indicated otherwise. Sam’s attempt to redefine, reinterpret and correct his God’s words are not only laughable, but this demonstrates that this is a difficulty of which the Christian faith cannot cope. Sam’s explanations can therefore be summarized as:
- Jerusalem does not mean Jerusalem but outside of Jerusalem.
- Death by the Jews does not mean ‘death by the Jews’, but by gentiles.
- God kills the people for killing the Son which He sent to get killed.
None of these answer the theological conundrum of Jesus’ statement being wrong/ the Bible having a scriptural problem, but rather Sam’s explanation exacerbates the problems of the Christian text and the difficulties associated with answering Luke 13:33.
wa Allaahu ‘Alam,
and God knows best.