Sam Shamoun and Lying by Dr. Shabir Ally – Part 2

Shabir Ally

October 1, 2015

Now that I am back in Toronto, and have access to my books, I am able to write a more telling response to Sam and his accusation about lying. I also had a chance to review the recording of what I said during the debate, and Sam’s interaction with me during the Q&A.[1]

Two things (at least) will become evident below:

  • I correctly cited that book of Robert Gundry to which I was referring;[2]
  • In order to generate his proof that I misquoted Robert Gundry, Sam actually misquoted me!

This is a sad day for Muslim-Christian dialogue.

Having listened to the recording, I still have the question that I had put to Sam during that conversation. Sam had said that he had two books right in front of him: one book is Robert Gundry’s commentary on the New Testament; the other book is Gundry’s commentary on Matthew’s gospel in particular. Sam read a portion from the commentary on the New Testament which obviously includes a brief commentary on Matthew’s gospel.[3] That is not the book I had cited. I had studied and cited the other book: the commentary on Matthew’s gospel in particular.

So, I asked Sam for the page number of the relevant section of the commentary on Matthew’s gospel in particular. Instead of supplying this simple piece of information, Sam kept telling me pages 135-36 of the book which he had read from. I asked him why he could not simply tell me the page number of the relevant section of Robert Gundry’s commentary on Matthew’s gospel which he said he also had in his possession at the time. Sam admitted that the page numbers he was giving me were from Gundry’s commentary on the entire New Testament, But when I asked him again for the page number of the commentary dedicated to Matthew’s gospel, there was a definite silence. I thought he had hung up. But he was still on the call. Why the silence?

Moreover, in listening to the recording I realized all the more how bizarre was the conversation between me and Sam. I kept asking him for the page number of a book which he claimed to have with him. In response, he kept challenging me to read a book which I did not claim to have in my possession at the moment. Naturally, I could not read a book I did not have in my hands; I could only accurately quote the most relevant line from my head. But, for some reason, Sam was unable to give me the page number of the book he had in his hands even though the relevant page number is easy to find. The commentary progresses from the start to the end of Matthew’s gospel, and the page headers show the progression verse by verse. It would have been a snap for Sam to thumb through the commentary following the page headers to chapter 28 and then to its verse 19 and give me the page number.

Obviously, he later located the relevant page number of a commentary on Matthew’s Gospel, this being the first book Sam referred to in his article composed on that same date.[4] It would be interesting to trace the relationship between this commentary and the one I was citing. It seems that the one Sam is referring to is the second edition of the same book, now with a different subtitle.[5] The page numbers of the relevant sections are the same, and the wording is strikingly similar, though the subtitles are different.

Now, the book I was citing really said on p. 596 what I cited it to say. So too does the second edition, as is evident from Sam’s citation in his article. But both of these are dissimilar to the book which Sam was reading on air.

To understand what is going on here between me and Sam, one has to see the big picture, as follows. In debates between Muslims and Christians, Muslims argue that in the Old Testament Yahweh is the only God. Jews agree. Many Christians also agree. Consequently, for Jesus to be God, he would have to be Yahweh. But if he is Yahweh, then he is the only God, and therefore the Father and the Holy Spirit would not be God.

In response to this clear logic, some Christians cite Matthew 28:19 as proof that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each Yahweh, and yet altogether Yahweh. In that verse, Jesus directs his followers to baptize in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Christians point out that the name here is singular, though the named persons are three. Hence they insist that Jesus is Yahweh, the Holy Spirit is Yahweh, the Father is Yahweh; yet altogether the three are Yahweh.

This is the big picture, the context within which I am using the citation from Robert Gundry. I am saying that according to Robert Gundry the verse does not imply that the three persons bear the same name. According to him, the verse is not actually referring to their name; rather, the verse is saying that the baptism should be done with fundamental reference to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Here is an approximate transcript of what I said, as evidenced by the video recording:

In Matthew’s gospel towards the end where Jesus says, “Go and baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” some will take that as an expression of Trinitarian doctrine. But in fact, as Robert Gundry says in his commentary on Matthew’s Gospel, it does not actually mean that—it does not mean that the three of them have just one name—it means, ‘Go and baptize with fundamental reference to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’ It does not mean that the three are one. In fact, there is no passage in the New Testament gospels or in any of the writings of the New Testament that says that the three—the Father Son, and Holy Spirit—are together as one God.[6]

This is what Sam needs to address. Instead, he changes the subject to me. But attacking me will not remove the problem. The problem, as the clear logic above indicates, is that there is only one God Yahweh, as Jews, Christians and Muslims agree.[7] According to Matthew 12:18, Jesus is the servant of Yahweh. This too Muslims and even Christians accept. But Christians insist that, in addition to being the servant of Yahweh, Jesus is also Yahweh himself. I have been refuting this latter claim with my clear logic. And now Sam wants to attack me. But my logic is not exclusively mine. Logic is universal. To get rid of this problem, Sam does not need to attack me, he needs to battle with the fundamental laws of nature, or the designing work of God who fashioned us to think logically. He needs to battle with his own thoughts which cannot escape the same logic.

When Sam called, he accused me of claiming that Robert Gundry in his commentary on Matthew’s gospel denies that Mt. 28:19 is a Trinitarian text.[8] But that is not what I claimed.

In the above transcript of the relevant portion of my speech, I started out with my own statement, cited Gundry, and then ended with my own statement. I can see where at first glance it may not be clear to others where I intended to end my citation of Gundry. But if that was not clear at first, during the call I explained to Sam:

In that commentary, Robert Gundry says very plainly that the idea that the mention of Father, Son and Holy Spirit should mean that they share the same name—that is not the idea. He is saying that the idea there is that the baptism should be done with fundamental reference to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I am not saying anything more than this.[9]

Notice that last sentence: ‘I am not saying anything more than this.’ Now it should be clear that I am only claiming as follows: in a particular book, Gundry denies that Mt 28:19 implies that the three persons bear the same one name.

Despite my taking pains to clarify the point on air, however, Sam charges in his writing composed after the debate:

Ally basically claimed that Gundry denies that this text supports the Triune nature of God.[10]

That is not what I claimed.

I am not saying that Gundry is not a Trinitarian, or that he denies that Mt. 28:19 can be put to Trinitarian use, etc. It should be clear to all students of logic that a statement of the form,

‘A does not imply B’

does not mean the same as,

‘A implies that B is not the case,’

and it does not mean the same as,

‘I deny B.’

In what follows, I will replace B with ‘the Father, Son and Spirit share the same name.’

Logically, therefore, when I cite Gundry to say,

‘Mt. 28:19 does not imply that the Father, Son and Spirit share the same name,’

that is not the same as citing him to say,

‘Mt. 28:19 implies that the Father, Son and Spirit do not share the same name.’

And it does not mean the same as citing him to say,

‘I deny that the Father, Son and Spirit share the same name.’

It is really sad to see Sam misquoting me to prove his charge that I misquoted someone else. Sam does not like my message. But does that justify shooting the messenger? Dialogue between Muslims and Christians need to move beyond such tactics. We need to listen to each other, learn, and pray to God asking him to guide us all.

Finally, the book I was citing was published in 1982 for an academic level of readership. It caused a stir in evangelical circles leading to Gundry’s resignation from the Evangelical Theological Society. The book Sam read on air was published 28 years later in the year 2010 for a more common readership.

This latter work, from which Sam’s read to me on air, and which he cited second in his article, clearly supports Sam’s contention that Gundry believes that the three divine persons are included in ‘the name.’ I am grateful for this information. I did not know it until Sam pointed it out. And I am glad that I did not overstate my case in citing Gundry. However, if I do cite him again, on this matter, it will be appropriate for me to add that Gundry apparently changed his mind about this as is evident from his later writing. Why he apparently changed his mind would be interesting to learn. Is it that the two books were meant for two different audiences, in which case he was willing to tease the academic community but not the masses? Did the negative response to his earlier book cause him to be more cautious? Or, did he find new evidence to convince him that his earlier statement was incorrect?

In short,

  • I correctly cited Gundry’s earlier statement,
  • I am willing to incorporate his later statement in future citations, and
  • I am grateful to Sam for alerting me to this, but
  • I find it at least ironic that Sam would misrepresent me to prove that I misrepresented Gundry.

[1] The recording can be viewed here: Sam’s call comes in at 2 hours and 14 minutes into the recording. My thanks to Brother Nazam for pinpointing this location.

[2] Robert H. Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982) p. 596.

[3] Sam was referring to Gundry, “Matthew,” Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic 2010) pp. 135-136.


[5] Robert Gundry, Matthew: A Commentary on His Handbook for a Mixed Church Under Persecution, 2nd edition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995).

[6] This begins at approximately 19:55 and lasts for about 40 minutes.

[7] Though Muslims call him by another name Allah, which is also in the Bible in Arabic translations. See Genesis 1:1.

[8] At 2:14 in the recording.

[9] At 2:16:40.