Author Archives: Ijaz Ahmad

Luke’s Paradox in Light of Titus 3:9

In the New Testament we find an interesting paradox that affects Biblical inerrancy on the whole. Paul is said to have had scribes write on his behalf, these individuals are known as amanuenses (meaning that Paul would speak and these men would write on his behalf). One of these men is said to be Lucian, known today as Luke. Sean Adams, a senior lecturer at the University of Glasgow in New Testament and Ancient Culture writes:

One of the recurring suggestions for a relationship between Paul and Luke is that Luke was Paul’s amanuensis or secretary and assisted in the writing of some of his letters, most notably the Pastoral Epistles.[1]

Indeed, historical sources do refer to Luke’s association with Paul, as is also noted by Eusebius (4th century CE) in his Church History, Book 3, Chapter 4, titled, “The First Successors of the Apostles.” Though it should also be noted that scholars do agree the New Testament works are primarily anonymous and these are but later attestations from Church history with apologists assuming that these later titles are likely “accurate”:

All four gospels are anonymous, but ancient tradition holds that their titles—the gospel of Matthew, the gospel of Mark, the gospel of Luke, and the gospel of John—accurately indicate their authors.[2]

The book of Acts is also anonymous. But the first two verses state that the author had previously written a gospel addressed to Theophilus, to whom the gospel of Luke is addressed (Luke 1:3). So there is a clear link between the gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, and ancient Christian tradition held that Luke is the author of both.[3]

Working from the assumption that Christian history is accurate is highly problematic, but useful for inquiry of the New Testament, we are presented with the curious case of Titus 3:9 which is a letter of Paul to Titus, written by one of Paul’s amanuenses, likely Luke. This is what the passage reads:

But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. (NIV)[4]

This is where the paradox begins, Paul speaks and Luke writes down the above verse. Years later, as tradition holds, Luke authors the Gospel According to Luke. The problem? He includes a genealogy in chapter 3 from verse 23 to verse 38 (NIV):

23 Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph,
the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat,
the son of Levi, the son of Melki,
the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph,
25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos,
the son of Nahum, the son of Esli,
the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath,
the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein,
the son of Josek, the son of Joda,
27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa,
the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel,
the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melki,
the son of Addi, the son of Cosam,
the son of Elmadam, the son of Er,
29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer,
the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat,
the son of Levi, 30 the son of Simeon,
the son of Judah, the son of Joseph,
the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,
31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna,
the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan,
the son of David, 32 the son of Jesse,
the son of Obed, the son of Boaz,
the son of Salmon,[d] the son of Nahshon,
33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Ram,[e]
the son of Hezron, the son of Perez,
the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob,
the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham,
the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,
35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu,
the son of Peleg, the son of Eber,
the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan,
the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem,
the son of Noah, the son of Lamech,
37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch,
the son of Jared, the son of Mahalalel,
the son of Kenan, 38 the son of Enosh,
the son of Seth, the son of Adam,
the son of God.[5]

This is how the line of reasoning is to be laid out:

  1. A genealogy of Jesus is in circulation.
  2. Christians are arguing over this genealogy.
  3. Paul is inspired by God.
  4. Paul has a scribe Luke.
  5. Luke is a believer in Paul and Jesus Christ.
  6. Paul commands Luke to write the letter to Titus.
  7. Luke writes down that Christians should not argue about genealogies.
  8. Luke is inspired by God.
  9. Luke later writes a Gospel.
  10. Luke includes a genealogy that disputes with a genealogy already in circulation.

If we assume that Luke was indeed the scribe of Paul as some Christian history attests to, then we have a problem stacked upon another problem. This would mean that the same God who inspired Paul to have Luke write that arguments about genealogies were useless, also later inspired Luke to write a competing genealogy that to this day causes a great deal of controversy due to it contradicting the genealogy found in the Gospel According to Matthew. If we assume the Gospel According to Matthew was also inspired by the same God, then we have God at first saying disputing about genealogies is unprofitable and useless, then the same God inspires Luke and Matthew to write competing genealogies that are equally unprofitable and useless. This does not bode well for inerrancy.

There are solutions however, though they provide their own sets of problems. If we assume that the Luke which wrote for Paul was not the same Luke who wrote the Gospel, we still have the problem of the same God inspiring two different people with a contradicting message (Paul and Luke), this is then compounded by the author of the Gospel According to Matthew writing another competing genealogy.

If we assume that the Luke who wrote for Paul was also not the same Luke who wrote the Gospel, then we have a later author directly contradicting Paul and choosing to disobey him (since this later Luke is writing after Paul and should have known about the prohibition in Titus 3:9), thus indicating that Paul should be rejected.

If we assume the two Lukes are the same, then not only do we have this Luke writing for Paul and then choosing to later contradict him openly, but this also means that he would have rejected Paul’s authority and therefore also rejected his letter to Titus as scripture.

Whichever way we choose to examine Titus 3:9, we are left with options that lead us to reject Paul, to reject Luke, to reject Matthew and to reject the writings of the New Testament as internally inconsistent and confusing, for as 1 Corinthians 14:33 (KJV) states:

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

The problem is further compounded by the idea that the authors of the New Testament should be considered Prophets, this includes Paul, Luke (or the Lukes) and Matthew:

Like the authors of the Old Testament, the New Testament authors should also be considered prophets. But more specifically, they were either apostles or closely related to an apostle. An apostle is a person who is sent out as a spokesperson and is given the authority of the one who sent him. A present-day example is the secretary of state, who is sent to speak to world leaders as the representative of the president with the very authority of the president. The apostles of the New Testament were sent out by Jesus Christ to speak for him with his delegated authority. That makes this responsibility an immensely important and influential one.[6]

However, Deuteronomy 18:22 (NIV) forewarns (emphasis mines):

If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.

Given that both the warning in Titus 3:9 and the genealogies found in Matthew chapter 1 and Luke chapter 3 contradict each other in message, wisdom and meaning (the prohibition on genealogies was not adhered to by the New Testament authors), then we can conclude from Deuteronomy 18:22 and 1 Corinthians 14:33 that the works and their authors were not speaking on behalf of God.

and God knows best.

Sources:

1 – Sean, A. (2013). The Relationships of Paul and Luke: Paul’s Letters and the “We” Passages of Acts (p 126). Brill.

2 – Aaron, D. (2012). Understanding Your Bible in 15 Minutes a Day (pp. 76–77). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publisher.

3 – Aaron, D. (2012). Understanding Your Bible in 15 Minutes a Day (p. 78). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publisher.

4 – Titus 3:9 (2011). Biblica.

5 – Luke 3:23-38 (2011). Biblica.

6 – Aaron, D. (2012). Understanding Your Bible in 15 Minutes a Day (p. 76). Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publisher.

Teaching a Greek Christian the Truth About the Greek New Testament

While in Speakers Corner about two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to discuss the New Testament (and a few of its variants) along with the historicity of the Crucifixion narrative using my Nestle-Aland 28th Edition Greek New Testament…with a Greek Christian. This proved very opportune, as he could openly correct me had I lied or made a mistake about what the Greek New Testament said! I was excited to be put to the test and suffice it to say, I think the discussion went quite well.

We earlier tried to have the same discussion but an older missionary gentleman was listening in (as others do), and while this was not a problem, the moment I raised a problematic question he reacted in an absurd way that led to the conversation ending. Thankfully my Greek colleague was up for round two, where we summarized the first discussion and had a full length discussion on the above mentioned topics. It’s decidedly worth the watch, many thanks to the EFDawah YouTube channel for recording and uploading the dialogue with excellent quality!

and God knows best.

Early New Testament Papyri Now Given Later Dates

Two very early and important manuscripts of the New Testament, p66 and p75 have effectively with growing consensus by authoritative scholars, been given later date ranges extending into the 4th century CE. This is a problem.

Brief Introduction

Early New Testament documents were written on papyrus (pl. papyri), which in and of itself is a very fragile material. Summarily, it means they are difficult to preserve and quick to be destroyed (by accident). Due to so few documents existing, we cannot know much to be certain about the early New Testaments in circulation (we cannot speak of a New Testament until Marcion in the 2nd century).

Two important manuscripts, p66 and p75 have traditionally been given very early dates, somewhere around the 2nd century CE. To put this into perspective, we generally have had only roughly 7 or so manuscripts from this time period that are distinctively New Testament texts, so that 2 of them (which is 28.5%) have been given later dates by almost up to two hundreds years more is nothing to scoff at. These later datings will reshape how we view the early New Testament, its invention, development, transmission and general history.

The Problem

The early New Testament documents are dated palaeographically, that is by the way in which they were written (their textual-graphical features). This means that there is almost no early New Testament document that can be said to have been written in a specific year. I have seen some uninformed Christian apologists claiming that specific New Testament papyri date to the year 125 CE, such as p52, or that p66 and p75 are from the year 200 CE. This is incorrect from an elementary standpoint. Palaeographic datings refer to a date range not a date year (even if colophonic). This means whenever someone speaks about early New Testament papyri and they only provide a date year instead of a range, they are being misleading (if one re-reads my first paragraph I allude to a date range and not date year by saying “around the 2nd century CE”). Generally a date range can begin with a few decades and extend into a few centuries (as is common with most New Testament papyri).

Due to these previously very early datings of around the 2nd century CE, many Christian apologists were quick to point out that much of what survives from the most reliable manuscripts is in the form of the 4th century Uncials (Sinaiticus and Vaticanus), with p75 said to be an ancestor text to Codex Vaticanus. This allowed them to claim that there was extant (still surviving) proof that the New Testament, contrary to competing claims, was transmitted faithfully. In this, they boasted that if there were minimal changes between two texts that were related to each other, this meant that the New Testament had been reliably copied over the centuries and thus it could be argued that if there are 200 years between p75 and Codex Vaticanus, then the 200 years between Christ Jesus and p75 should allow Christians to argue that the New Testament has effectively been preserved. Foregoing an overly long analysis as to why this reasoning is both poor and apologetic, it should be noted that p75 and Codex Vaticanus are now no longer seen as having a Father-Son relationship (as in Vaticanus was copied from p75 or a manuscript similar to it in terms of age and reliability) but that they are now sibling texts (that they both descend from a common ancestor text).

This changes things.

Summary Conclusions

This means that they cannot be used to argue for 400 years of reliable transmission, this means that they cannot be used to demonstrate that they were copied from each other. It effectively allows us to dismiss much of what has been argued in the past due to the very existence of these papyri. What one will notice however is the overwhelming silence on behalf of Christian apologists about the severity of the issue that stands before them, what they once boasted with glee (much like with the sham that was First Century Mark) is now being quietly swept under the rugs.

These redatings are not new, Dr. Brent Nongbri has for several years now already published research claiming as much and the Evangelical world has been silent. Their common response was that this was one man with one dating (which itself is a ridiculous argument) but now that Dr. Orsini (who is a top scholar of the field) is saying the same (though their arguments for why differ), we are looking at an effective consensus building and being accepted by some of the best minds in the field. There does not seem to be anything but silence and subsequent acceptance of the once “invincible” early New Testament documents now being resigned to later date ranges, thus placing even more questions on the reliability of the New Testament’s documents itself.

It should also be noted that the Coherence Based Genealogical Method that is being used today to develop the next edition of the New Testament heavily relies on these early papyri being dated accurately, so that a genealogical/ family tree can be drawn up to make sense of how the texts were transmitted. I will not get into how the CBGM works here, but that these dates are changing with consensus should worry some of our Evangelical friends.

and God knows best.

Recommended Reading:

 

Seminar: The Preservation of the Bible and the Qur’an (London)

Seminar on the Preservation of the Bible and Quran | This Saturday | 5-7pm | Whitechapel London

Tickets: https://goo.gl/C4eNMG

Short Description:

The science of textual criticism and ‘Ilm al Rasm al Mushaf have two distinct goals with regards to two distinct books. The Bible and the Qur’an do not stand on equal footing, learn how and why, with us.

traditions of preservation continue to be revealed with detailed study. Come join us we look deeply into the Qur’an and the Bible.

Instructor: Ijaz Ahmad (Trinidad)

False Claim: Error in Qur’an Surah 112 – “Ahadun”

The following is a guest post by Br. Sharif Randhawa, co-author of the illuminating book, “Divine Speech” which was written alongside Ustadh Nouman Ali Khan. Br. Sharif also runs a wonderfully informative blog called Quranic Musings which I highly recommend!


I was sent the following video clips in which an individual named Anthony Rogers claims that that Quran 112:1 (qul huwa ’llāhu aḥadun) contains a grammatical error, and that, moreover, Muslims mis-recite the verse in order to avoid the error:

Both of the above claims are patently false, as anyone with knowledge of even the most basic rules of Arabic grammar will recognize. It is deeply presumptuous of someone who shows ignorance of such basic rules of Arabic grammar to claim to have a better grasp of it than the premier work of Arabic literature, the Quran, and the entire Muslim tradition of Arabic grammar, not to mention of Quranic exegesis and recitation. In any case, the errors in both of these claims are as follows:

Contention 1: Rogers claims that the wording in the Quran of qul huwa ’llāhu aḥadun (“Say: He is Allah, one,” or alternatively “Say: He, Allah, is one”) is grammatically incorrect, because aḥadun means not “one” but “one of”; the text, according to him, should actually say qul huwa ’llāhu aḥadu.

Answer: Rogers’ claim is exactly the opposite of what Arabic grammar entails. In a genitive construct, which is the form that expresses the grammatical formula “X of Y,” the X (or muḍāf) that is followed by the genitive Y (or muḍāf ‘ilayhi) precisely cannot carry tanwīn (the indefinite -n ending). This is literally one of the first rules of a genitive construct in Arabic (see the excerpt from p. 44 from Alan Jones’ Arabic Through the Qur’ān, below).

cc-2018-ar-ahadun

Contention 2: Rogers then claims that Muslims mis-recite the verse to avoid this alleged error, as Muslims most frequently recite the verse as qul huwa ’llāhu aḥad, without the inflected -(u)n ending.

Answer: The claim that this is a mispronunciation is, again, false according to the most basic conventions of Arabic. This is because in Arabic speech, when one pauses at the end of a sentence that terminates with a short vowel ending, he or she normally drops the short vowel ending, including the tanwīn if there is one. Any Arabic speaker can confirm that for you.

Nothing in Common

Question:

Many claim that since Islam has many things in common with other faiths that it must be a false religion that borrowed from those other faiths. Why does Islam share many common beliefs and practices with other faiths?

Answer:

One of the beautiful things about Islam, is that we are specifically warned about rejecting the truth merely out of spite or hatred.

“O believers! Stand firm for Allah and bear true testimony. Do not let the hatred of a people lead you to injustice. Be just! That is closer to righteousness. And be mindful of Allah. Surely Allah is All-Aware of what you do.” – Qur’an 5:8 (translation by Dr. Mustafa Khattab, the Clear Qur’an).

This is moreso true in this modern age of confusion where a popular, but unreasonable argument is being circulated. Among atheists and missionaries, is the argument that Islam must be false because it has within it, things in common with other faiths and other writings/ scriptures. Yet, the ayah above and the following clarify this for us:

“And they say, “Legends of the former peoples which he has written down, and they are dictated to him morning and afternoon.” – Qur’an 25:5 (translation by Dr. Mustafa Khattab, the Clear Qur’an).

That the Qur’an affirms pre-existing truths is sensible when one considers the view that the God of Islam is not a new God of a new faith trying to establish itself for the first time in the world. Consider the argument then, shall we absolve ourselves of monotheism (Tawheed) because other faiths also preach and believe in a similar monotheism to us? Should we:

  • forsake worship because other faiths also worship?
  • forsake the Qur’an because other faiths have scriptures?
  • forsake doing good because other faiths command doing good?

To most Muslims, that would seem like a silly idea, to distort our own faith to spite another faith. As the saying goes, would you “cut off your nose to spite your face?”.

Yet, this is what we find within the tri-theism of Christianity. At the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE, the Emperor Constantine said according to Eusebius:

“And first of all, it appeared an unworthy thing that in the celebration of this most holy feast we should follow the practice of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin, and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul. For we have it in our power, if we abandon their custom, to prolong the due observance of this ordinance to future ages, by a truer order, which we have preserved from the very day of the passion until the present time. Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way.” – The Life of Constantine, Book 3, Chapter 18 by Eusebius.

Do not forget these words:

“Let us then have nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received from our Saviour a different way.”

…and in so doing, they chose to forsake monotheism, cutting off their noses to spite their own faces in that very process. All praise is due to Allah that we do not find ourselves in a similar trap.

and Allah knows best.

Is Petra Islam’s True Birth Place?

For centuries Muslims have revered Mecca as the site of their holiest shrine, the Kaaba. However, in 1977 John Wansbrough, Patricia Crone and Michael Cook published books arguing for a radically different approach to Islam’s origins. Among other things, these revisionists contended that Mecca was not Islam’s birthplace, which they located somewhere in the Fertile Crescent. Though Crone and Cook later repudiated the theory advanced in their book, Crone at least held fast to the idea that Islam’s origins were likely in the Fertile Crescent, possibly in Nabatea.

Forty years later revisionism is still alive and well. Some scholars still promote the idea that the Kaaba was not originally in Mecca. Some say it was in or near Petra, while others refuse to speculate on the location. Their combined evidence was enough to convince popular historian and documentary filmmaker Tom Holland. Since Muslims everywhere pray facing Mecca, this view means they all naively face the wrong direction.

This short but elucidating paper by a Christian scholar, in refutation of Dan Gibson is quite informative and handy for Muslims engaging with Christians on this topic:

Click here to open or download the PDF file directly.

 

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