Author Archives: Ijaz Ahmad

Palm Sunday in the New Testament

Given that today is Palm Sunday, I decided to read the Gospels’ narratives of the day that Jesus allegedly rode into Jerusalem. When one reads the stories as they are presented going from Matthew to Mark to Luke to John, there’s a trend that cannot be ignored.

If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And (he will send – αποστελει) them immediately. – Matthew 21:3 (NRSV).

The text here in Matthew reading that the owner will send the colt immediately.

If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it and will (send it back – αποστελλει παλιν) here immediately.’ – Mark 11:3 (NRSV).

The text here in Mark reads that the person sending the colt is Jesus, he is sending it back or returning it. The word being used here is παλιν (palin) to differentiate between sending, and sending back or returning. How then does Luke treat this narrative? Who does he decide is the one sending the colt? He fixes this contradiction by omitting the second quote of Jesus in the passage altogether, his version reads:

If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’ – Luke 19:31 (NRSV).

That leaves us with the Gospel of John, does this Gospel break the tie between Matthew and Mark to let us know which version is correct? Not exactly, John takes a different approach. Instead of the version presented in Matthew, Mark and Luke, John’s version omits the request sending altogether and in its place has Jesus finding a donkey himself:

Jesus (found – ευρον) a young donkey and sat on it; – John 12:14 (NRSV).

I suppose one lesson we can take away from Palm Sunday as it is written in the New Testament, is that if there’s a contradiction, one easy and quick way to solve it is to just omit the contradiction altogether.

and God knows best.

A Brief Insight into the New Testament’s Prototyping

The New Testament of today is described as follows regarding the NA28 GNT:

“The intention of this edition lies not in reproducing the “oldest text” presented in the oldest manuscript but in reconstructing the text of the hypothetical master copy from which all manuscripts derive, a text the editors refer to as the initial text.”1

We should therefore understand the New Testament not to be the word of God, but the hypothetical reconstruction of the “word of God”, a prototype, a possibility of what the reconstruction of the initial text may have looked like. When one examines the earliest manuscripts, we quickly find a trend that cannot be sidelined or ignored, the earliest witnesses place us in the late 2nd to 4th centuries CE:

New Testament Diagram Final (1)

The graph above concisely breaks down what books of the New Testament have as their earliest surviving (extant) witnesses. It also conveniently breaks down the New Testament into its genres and text types. The vast majority of manuscripts are from the 3rd century CE, meaning that the reconstructed prototypes give us a picture of what these completed texts may have looked like during or beyond the 3rd century CE. What is most notable, is that one of the earliest surviving sources attests to 9 books. That does not bode well for multiple attestation. Other books find their earliest witnesses in the 4th century including 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, 2 John and 3 John. These all indicate an intermediate or initial text projected into the 3rd century, some may say the 2nd century. Scholars have long noticed this trend of a later developed text, with one notable scholar explicitly stating:

Our critical editions do not present us with the text that was current in 150, 120 or 100—much less in 80 CE.2

Regarding new methods and changes in the NA28, a 2016 publication by the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society confirms the following:

The application of the CBGM resulted in 34 changes to the main text of
the Catholic Epistles and a slight increase in the number of passages marked as
uncertain. In most cases the changes are of minor significance for interpretation
or translation, but in several cases the changes should not be ignored. At the
difficult variation in Jude 5, for example, the text now reads that it was “Jesus”
(Ἰησοῦς) who once saved a people from Egypt instead of “the Lord” (ὁ κύριος). In
another important change, 2 Pet 3:10 now prints a reading that is not found in any
known Greek witness. Where the previous edition read that the last days would
mean that the earth and all that is in it “will be found” or perhaps “exposed” (εὑρεθήσεται), the text now reads the opposite: the earth and all that is in it “will not
be found” (οὑχ εὑρεθήσεται). The latter reading sits much easier with the surrounding context, but is only attested in a few Coptic and Syriac manuscripts.3

What the data, methods and current status of New Testament Textual Criticism indicates is that we have a text that is much later than is traditionally espoused. The stemmata indicate we currently have reconstructions of a textual form between the late 2nd to 4th centuries CE. There is now an increase in uncertainty regarding the variant units, in other words confidence has been lost in several cases. In other cases we find texts that affect theology or which textual critics indicate are important changes which are labelled as “difficult”, the consequences of which cannot and “should not be ignored”.

We also see in the aforementioned quote that texts now essentially teach the opposite of what they once said! All exegeses commentating on the previous reading have now been rendered invalid by a text reading in the opposite direction altogether. In one other notable case, we also now find a reading in the text that has no manuscript support whatsoever among any known Greek witnesses. All of these trends do not paint a good picture for the state of the New Testament’s reliability. The text of the New Testament today, is not the text known to those at any other time in the past, which brings into doubt their salvation. If  believing in scripture is a criterion for salvation, and the text believed then is not the text now, can we say those in the past truly believed in and embraced the “living word of God”? If the text that penetrated them for guidance is not the text of today, then does it matter at all what the New Testament says?4

Sources:

1 – Trobisch, David. A User’s Guide to the Nestle-Aland 28 Greek New Testament. 9th ed. (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2013), 10.

2 – Petersen, William Lawrence., and Jan Krans. Patristic and Text-Critical Studies: The Collected Essays of William L. Petersen. (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 410.

3 – Gurry, Peter J. How Your Greek NT Is Changing: A Simple Introduction to the Coherence-Based Genealogical Method (CBGM). Vol. 59. Series 4. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 2016, 684-685.

The title of this journal’s essay should not be ignored. The text of the New Testament is indeed changing, to say otherwise is to ignore the very existence of the critical editions.

4 – Hebrews 4:12.

Many commentators have said that the Bible is the living word of God, a scripture that penetrates us spiritually and guides us. If that is the case, then if the text changes, we have to ask, what form of the text is actually the living word of God? If an edition previously caused spiritual changes but is now changed, does that invalidate its spiritual guidance or does it indicate that the changes are wrong and the edition is correct? It’s a dilemma either way, which definitely brings into severe doubt the ideas of scripture, salvation and the work of a living word of God among Christian believers.

Is the Qur’an Easy to Understand?

Question:

Christians and those who disagree with the Qur’an often cite the verse which claims that the Qur’an is clear to understand. They ask, if the Qur’an is clear and easy to understand, why are there so many different interpretations of it?

Answer:

The questioner also submitted the following clip as an example:

Dr. James White says:

“I don’t know, it’s [sic], the, the Qur’an claims to be mubeenun ummm [sic] which means clear, perspicuous, but this text is not clear and perspicuous, which is a problem because it’s been misused.”

He is probably referencing a verse such as this (emphasis ours):

“Alif, Lam, Ra. These are the verses of the Book and a clear Qur’an.” – Qur’an 15:1.

The Qur’an however, qualifies and explains, what’s clear and to whom it is clear in understanding (emphasis ours):

It is He Who has revealed the Book to you. Some of its verses are absolutely clear and lucid, and these are the core of the Book. Others are ambiguous. Those in whose hearts there is perversity, always go about the part which is ambiguous, seeking mischief and seeking to arrive at its meaning arbitrarily, although none knows their true meaning except Allah. On the contrary, those firmly rooted in knowledge say: ‘We believe in it; it is all from our Lord alone.’ No one derives true admonition from anything except the men of understanding. – Qur’an 3:7.

The Qur’an clarifies that not everything in it is understandable to everyone. It further clarifies that its verses are clear to men of understanding who are, “firmly rooted in knowledge”. Hence, claiming that the Qur’an is clear to everyone is not true and wholly incorrect.

Let us then, now consider some examples. Someone may ask, why would God reveal a verse that cannot be clearly understood? God says that He sustains Himself, while this informs us of the nature of God, as humans it is difficult for us to grasp how anything can sustain itself and not depend on anything for its livelihood. Humans need food, animals need food, computers need electricity, cars need oil and gas, but God needs nothing. While we cannot wrap our heads fully around this concept, we still have learned about the nature of God.

We must also then consider the example of a car of which the manufacturer says it is the easiest to drive. Someone purchases the car and then crashes it. Does that make the manufacturer’s statement false? No, it does not. It means that the driver has made a mistake and despite the car’s handling being easy, the fault lays with the actions of the driver.  The same is with the Qur’an, while the Qur’an has been made clear and easy, it does not mean that everyone will have the ability or capacity to understand it.

and Allah knows best.

Missionary Mishap: Bible Thrown in Masjid in Act of Vandalism

Someone got the really intelligent idea to vandalise a Masjid (Mosque, Islamic Center). The criminal broke a few glass panes, a door, and damaged some woodwork. The incident occurred in the early hours of Sunday morning.

What stands out though is the Bible thrown into the Islamic Center’s prayer room. Not sure what logic the criminal was using. Maybe they thought the Bible would prevent Muslims from using the prayer room? Maybe they thought we viewed it as unclean as we do with pork? Maybe they thought the Bible would cast Muslims away?

This might sound absolutely ridiculous, but some people, especially extremist Christians do hold some crazy beliefs when it comes to Islam. There was an incident where Christians stood and threw crosses at a Muslim while he was praying… So it isn’t exactly a unique incident for an extremist Christian to do something as silly as this.

The center has a donation page set up at Go Fund Me, do donate and help them recover.

and Allah knows best.

Ravi Zacharias Caught Lying About Credentials Again

In 2015, Ravi Zacharias was outed for manufacturing claims about his scholarship regarding being a visiting scholar at Cambridge University. This led to him acknowledging and then removing the claim from his website. This year, the same person who did the first investigation has done a second video demonstrating that Ravi has lied again, this time about studying quantum physics at Cambridge University:

Why does Ravi have the need to continuously pad his credentials? We all agree that lying is a sin, therefore as a leader of an international ministry, why doesn’t he seem to understand that making fraudulent claims about oneself is wrong? It’s simply unjustifiable. To call Ravi to be truthful in his actions and descriptions about himself, we are asking those who are interested in the truth to send Ravi an email at the following address: PR@RZIM.ORG

The subject line is as follows: Did Ravi Zacharias really study quantum physics at Cambridge?

The email body is as follows:

Dear Mr. Zacharias and Ms. Malhotra:

I write you in a spirit of inquiry, not challenge. Serious allegations, purporting to be carefully-researched and based on publicly available information, have been made that Mr. Zacharias has systematically exaggerated his academic credentials.

And while I have formed no conclusion as to the merits of these charges, I can see no harm in Mr. Zacharias publicly responding to them. Indeed, given the growing concern about these allegations, it seems that no legitimate purpose will be served by Mr. Zacharias continuing to remain silent.

In furtherance of the truth, might you kindly address the following questions?

Did Ravi Zacharias ever enroll in, or audit, a physics class taught by John Polkinghorne at Cambridge University?

Was Mr. Zacharias ever “a visiting scholar at Cambridge University”? If so, is there a reason that this claim was removed from his website after he was criticized for making it? How does Mr. Zacharias respond to the email statement allegedly made by the Cambridge Office of External Affairs that his attending classes at the University whilst on sabbatical at Ridley Hall would not have made him a visiting scholar at their University?

At page 205 of his autobiography, Mr. Zacharias writes about spending time at Cambridge University where, he says, “I was invited to be a visiting scholar.” Given that Mr. Zacharias’ sabbatical supervisor, Jeremy Begbie, has stated, in writing, that Mr. Zacharias was only a “visiting scholar” at Ridley Hall (which is not a constituent part of the University), might you kindly state who it was who invited Mr. Zacharias to be a visiting scholar at Cambridge University itself?

Mr. Zacharias has claimed to have been “a senior research fellow” at Oxford University. Is this claim true? Was the position in fact an honorary one? If so, is there a reason that in February of 2103 Mr. Zacharias said in an Apologetics315 interview “If I’m in an academic forum, then the fact that I’m a senior research fellow at Wycliffe Hall Oxford University, that’s a credential with which I work in the academy”? Is there a reason the entire Senior Research Fellow claim has been removed from his website?

Mr. Zacharias’s bio and publicity materials refer to him as “Dr. Zacharias.” Does Mr. Zacharias have a PhD or other academic doctorate? If not, how might he reply to the concern that his routine use of the title “Dr.” is likely to create a false impression in significant numbers of people?

The jacket of Mr. Zacharias’s book New Birth or Rebirth? says “Zacharias holds three doctoral degrees.” His publisher bios at Random House and Penguin refer to him holding multiple doctoral degrees. These make no mention of such degrees being honorary. What responsibility does Mr. Zacharias have to ensure that those promoting the sales of his books make clear that his doctorates are exclusively honorary? (This question may, of course, be disregarded if Mr. Zacharias has in fact earned an academic doctorate.)

Thank you very much for your anticipated cooperation in shedding light on these important issues.

Sincerely,
[Your Name Here]

More details to follow.

Missionary Mishap: Jonathan McLatchie

It seems odd that the Muslims at Hyde Park, the Muslims in Newcastle and Christian colleagues of Jonathan can all hold the same view of him. Either there is some crazy international conspiracy ongoing, or Jonathan has given the same negative impression of himself consistently to large groups of people. For starters we have a Christian colleague stating exactly the same thing that almost all other critics of him have said:

cc-2017-jm-karlandjonny

Let’s do a quick checklist:

  1. Does Jonathan respond only to simple criticisms of Christianity? Yes.
  2. Has he only ever presented rehearsed arguments? Yes.
  3. Does he know Hebrew or Greek? No.
  4. Does anyone take his “apologetics” “academy” seriously? No.cc-2017-jm-donation
  5. Is Jonathan egoistic? Yes.
  6. Does Jonathan like to plaster images of himself everywhere? Yes.

cc-2016-jm-jaypicswith jm

Okay, maybe we can forgive him for calling Muslims a cancer. Maybe we can forgive him for lying about the size of crowds attending his debates. Maybe we can forgive him for setting a bad example for his colleagues who insult and abuse those he disagrees with, claiming to humiliate people for the glory of Christ. Those things are to some extent character flaws that can be overlooked.

Yet, look at the first image presented. How does Jonathan proceed to disagree with a fellow Christian? By attacking his spelling. Of all things, Jonathan McLatchie who is pursuing a PhD, who is significantly older than I am in age, reduces himself to a spelling “apologist”. Not only does he like the comments being critical of the guy’s spelling, he proceeds to mock the guy about his spelling as well. Of all the things Jonathan is, he consistently demonstrates to Muslims and Christians alike that when disagreed with he immediately does three things:

  1. Threaten to block anyone who criticizes him.
  2. Mocks the person criticizing him.
  3. Likes comments of others engaging in the mocking.

This is a guy who wants people to take him seriously, but it is impossible that so many people from so many diverse backgrounds can walk away disagreeing with his behaviour without the problem being him. If it’s not myself, it’s Yahya Snow, if it’s not Yahya Snow it’s Paul Williams, if it’s not Paul Williams it’s Mansur, if it’s not Mansur it’s Darren Myatt, if it’s not Darren Myatt it’s Mustafa Ahmed, if it’s not Mustafa Ahmed it’s his University’s Chess team. I can literally write a paragraph or more of this immature and negative pattern of behaviour.

We sincerely pray that he can rectify his character.

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