Sour Grapes: One Missionary’s Lesson in Futility
It’s been just over more than a year since I debated CL Edwards on the topic, “Jesus the Christ: Man, God or Both?“, however for my opponent it would seem as if the debate is fresh out of the oven – given his constant attempts at trying to right his wrongs during that debate. CL Edwards is at it again. The debate did not go well for him – in fact, if he’s willing to let me post what he said to me in private after the debate to me about his performance, it’d pretty much explain to the public why he has a fixation on constantly referring to our now more than a year old debate. The post I’m responding to was published last month – fortunately (?) it wasn’t brought to my attention until today, simply because no one I know, or no one in our community of inter-religious debate and dialogue frequents his website. So for this, I apologize for my late response. He says and I quote:
Also I think it is relevant since the person who helped Ahmad form his argument in the debate…
See, CL is still trying to find excuses for why my arguments caught him off guard, so his obvious theory is that someone helped me formulate my arguments for my debate with him. That however, is not the case. As the person who CL is attempting to appeal to, would gladly agree that he did not help me formulate any of my arguments, he simply did a review after my debate with CL Edwards and assessed both of our performances. In fact, there is essentially no one who can lay credence to the claim that they have formulated any of my arguments for a debate for me. I do my own study, my own research and write my own arguments. I’ve actually made it a personal goal of mine to approach each debate without using another person’s methodology or approach. This is why, when persons view my debates from last year, especially between that of the one with Edwards and the other with Green, my scope of argumentation is vast in their disparity. I can’t speak for my opponent, yet from what I do recall of the debate with Edwards is that nothing he presented was new and he did not approach the topic as I did. In answering the question of whether Christ was man, God or both, he simply referred to New Testament verses to propagate his argument.
I chose a completely different route. My methodology involved using the socio-historical method while referencing contemporary cultural and exegetical approaches to the literature and events of that time period. Clearly one route is overdone, while the other is a great bit more advanced and objective, something my opponent did not know how to react to. So yes, I do understand why Edwards is so eager to imagine that someone decades younger than him, can approach a debate with a more academic foundation, as opposed to merely parroting arguments which are hundreds of years old. What is touching however, is his prayer for me:
we pray for Ijaz to be spiritually reborn and come to the knowledge of the Gospel of Christ like millions of other Muslims have.
It is my wish to express to Edwards a sincere thank you for his prayer. I’d like to inform him though, that because I have come to the knowledge of the Gospel of Christ, it is for that precise reason that I and those millions of other Muslims – knowingly and openly reject his Graeco-Roman Syncretic Jewish faith. He went on to pose a question to me:
Note about this debate: to this day Ijaz has never given an answer to the question I asked him in the Q&A part towards the end. That question was does he know of any earlier source for the life, and teachings of Jesus and his disciples from the first century that predates the NT Bible?
At this point, I’m gladly willing to entertain his question and respond to it. His question presumes that the New Testament Gospels (can’t be Pastorials or Epistles since they don’t recall the life of Christ) are first century documents. This however is wrong, the New Testament Gospels are empirically speaking, wholly second century. The oldest extant MS is that of P52 which is from 125 CE and is not radio-carbon dated, it is paleologically dated and it is because of this very reason that it can date anywhere from 125 CE to the latter period of the second century. Of course, I do not expect a first year seminary pupil to know the ins and outs of textual critic debates on paleological and philological dating disputes. It is therefore without a doubt, that I can safely respond to his question by saying that there are no currently known extant sources about Jesus’ life and teachings within the first century. He goes on to state:
I asked that because the bases of my argument was the New Testament accounts of Jesus are the earliest most attested sources on his life and doctrine from his own followers.
I do believe he meant “basis” and not bases, it should also go without saying that the basis of his argument is a presumption, an assumption. In order for his argument to be foundationally sound, he needs to first prove that these assumptions are valid. We know for a fact that the Gospel accounts are not the earliest sources on his life – the informal oral Jesus tradition is. We also know that they are not from his own followers, but from later authors. Again, his argument reads as if he’s opened up an Evangelical booklet positing century old assumptions and presenting them to be indisputable facts – the evidence completely disagrees. He continues:
Why would be discard it for the Qurans account of Jesus that came 600 plus years after the fact? If you take Ijaz’s argument in this debate and apply it to the Quran and hadith we wouldn’t accept what the Quran says about Jesus.
Given that the only complete extant MSS of the Gospels are during the 4th and 5th centuries, through the 4 great Uncial codices, if time is a factor, then the argument of time also gives us a reason to reject the testimony of the extant vorlage Gospel texts. I can even be a bit menacing and state that the New Testament of today was published only recently, an eclectic account based on conjectural emendation by Biblical societies – see the NA 28 and UBS 4, both from the 21st century and the likes of which are non-existent in any MS tradition from the time of the Qur’aan or before it. Given what I’ve stated , my argument doesn’t affect the accounts about Christ in the Muslim scripture and hadeeth collections.
In closing, it’s been one year later and despite Edwards attending a seminary – he’s still unable to discuss the topic of Jesus’ historicity in the Gospels in an educated and academic manner. Sure, his Evangelical reasoning may impress the feeble minded individuals he surrounds himself with, but here in the real world – his inability to grow out of that intellectually stunting mold is quite distasteful and most certainly worrying.
and God knows best.