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Sam Shamoun’s “infinetly Better” Leprosy

Sam Shamoun’s “infinetly Better” Leprosy

Sam Shamoun’s hatred for Islam leads him to a leprosy stricken heart

Question Mark

Introduction

After reading one of Shamoun’s latest critique, we were convinced that Shamoun hasn’t got anything substantial to write against Islam and thus, in his desperation, he often comes up “articles” which are either outright humorous and/or ill-thought of. The latest one under question is his article where in he has biasedly compared the characters of Mohammad (peace be upon him) and Jesus (peace be upon him) around the ailment of leprosy.

Shamoun quoted a few hadith where the Prophet (peace be upon him) reportedly said, “one should run away from the leper as one runs away from a lion ” and “I seek refuge in Thee from leprosy ”. And since New Testament has recorded a handful of incidents where Jesus (peace be upon him) reportedly cured lepers, Shamoun concluded that, “Contrast this with Jesus Christ who, not only came into contact with lepers, but also inherently possessed the divine ability to miraculously and instantaneously heal them” and “Here is a case where Jesus actually touched a leper and healed them”.

It is not diffcult to realize where Shamoun is moving. He wants us to realize that where on one hand Prophet (peace be upon him) adviced his followers to run away from a leper, Jesus (peace be upon him) “Jesus actually touched a leper and healed them”! Thus somehow proving to Shamoun that “Jesus is infinitely Better And Greater than Muhammad”! But does this really prove anything that Jesus (peace be upon him) is any better or “greater” than Prophet (peace be upon him) just because he cured a few lepers here and there. We would be analyzing it in this article.

The Setup

To understand the words and deeds of both the prophets (peace be upon them) we need to understand the capacity in which both the Qur’an and New Testament present the subject proponents.

Unlike most of New Testament which is centered around the life and deeds of Jesus (peace be upon him), sometimes emphasizing, on other occassions extra-emphasizing and extra embellishing and on other occassions outright concocting words and deeds imputed to Jesus (peace be upon him), Qur’an is not a book about and around Mohammad (peace be upon him). And so you would not find Islamic text/s trumpeting miracles of Prophet (peace be upon him) as does New Testament; Qur’an is a book about The Ever-Living, not about a mortal nailed on cross!

Furthermore, since New Testament is a human handy work, Jesus (peace be upon him) authors had no restrictions at all to project him principally as a miracle working, first century, Palestinian! No wonder he roams around areas in Palestine and almost everywhere he is shown as performing miracles. Qur’an and its depiction of Mohammad (peace be upon him) is different: it does not show him to be a miracle working wizard! On the contrary, Qur’an states that Prophet (peace be upon him) was not even a guardian over his community, let alone any miracle worker!:

Therefore do thou give admonition, for thou art one to admonish. Thou art not one to manage (men’s) affairs. But if any turn away and reject Allah,- Allah will punish him with a mighty Punishment, For to Us will be their return; Then it will be for Us to call them to account.” (Qur’an 88:20-26)

…We made thee not one to watch over their doings, nor art thou set over them to dispose of their affairs.” (Qur’an 6:107)

…I am not (set) over you to arrange your affairs.” (Quran 10:108)

These Qur’anic verses clearly set the tone that the Prophet (peace be upon him) need not perform leprosy cures to prove his bona fide or his “Better and Greater” status than anybody else for that matter.

Having said this, unlike Shamoun and other Islamophobes, we are absolutely at peace with the fact that Jesus (peace be upon him) healed lepers and other sufferers. Nevertheless, that does not imply that the Prophet (peace be upon him) never healed any ailment. Consider the following instances of the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) miraculous healings:

“I was beside Allah’s Prophet in the battle of Uhd…In the course of this, Qatada bin an-Nu’man [one of the Companions] was hit by an arror, and one of his eyeballs poked out. God’s Prophet, with his auspicious blessed hand, placed the eyeball back in its socket. The eye healed at once, as if nothing had happened to it, and became even better than the other one.

Reported in Bukhari (810-870) and Muslim (817-875), two authentic hadith compilations named after their compilers, it is stated that Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, had appointed his cousin, Ali ibn Abi Talib, as the flag-holder at the Battle of Khaybar; however, Ali had been suffering severely from a painful eye condition. The Prophet applied his healing saliva to his [Ali’s] eyes, and at that moment, the pain ceased and his eyesight became much better.” (Source)

Abdullah ibn Ateek broke his leg and Muhammad healed it by wiping his hand over it.  Abdullah said it was as if nothing had happened to it! The person who witnessed the miracle was another companion, Bara’ ibn Azib (Saheeh Al-Bukhari) (Source)

Prophet (peace be upon him) and Leprosy

If Prophet (peace be upon him) did miraculously heal sufferers then what was the import of his statements with regards to leprosy as quoted by Shamoun! Here they are reproduced once again:

one should run away from the leper as one runs away from a lion

I seek refuge in Thee from leprosy

It is important to understand the context of the statments. We are talking about first century Islamic era when leprosy was still an incurable, contagious and deadly disease. And therefore, the first of Prophet’s (peace be upon him) statement is nothing more than a pragmatic expression for the act of quarantining the leper. When you know that medically there isn’t a solution available at the time to cure leprosy then you would but naturally and practically advice your near ones to shun interaction with the infected person especially when the ailment is contagious; in other words –, “run away from the leper”. And so we see that the stress of the prophetic statement is more on educating masses for quarantining leprosy for the sake of saving others than outcasting leper or expressing the inability or unwillingness to miraculously cure one! This is further elucidated when the subject prophetic narratives are read in conjunction with other similar Hadith narrations (which Shamoun would dare not do to in insincerity!):

A healthy man should not be brought near a sick person” [Abu Dawud, Ahmad, Ibn majah, Ahmad and Al-Bayhaqi] (Source)

Now if Shamoun construes the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) basic, practical and medically acclaimed act of shunning/quarantining contagious diseases as him being “fallible human being since, like the rest, he had no authority to heal lepers.” then he is only exposing his desparation to somehow attack the personality of Prophet (peace be upon him) without taking into account the situation and sense in which the Prophet (peace be upon him) uttered those words.

And as far as Prophet (peace be upon him) seeking refuge in Allah (SWT) from leprosy is considered and Shamoun’s conclusion that “…Nor did he have the ability protect himself from contracting this infectious skin disease” then Shamoun is yet to understand that it in Islamic belief no inidivual, no matter who s/he is, does not possess any authority against anything/anybody except that which is granted by Allah(SWT). And thus, the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) seeking refuge in Allah (SWT) from leprosy further establishes the Islamic monotheism and a fact that in Islam only Allah (SWT) is worthy of worship and has authority over leprosy; not even the Prophet (peace be upon him).

Shamoun’s Problem

But we can understand why Shamoun faces hard time understanding these basic constructs; it is because he hails from the cultic background that narrates him all sorts of whimsical folk lores and mere legends wherein the handkerchiefs and togs of Paul and apparitions of Peter cure people, seemingly surpassing the feats accomplished by their master – Jesus (peace be upon him):

God was performing unusual miracles through Paul. Even handkerchiefs and aprons he had used were taken to the sick, and their diseases were driven away, and the evil spirits would go out of them. (Acts 19:11-12)

As a result of what the apostles were doing, sick people were carried out into the streets and placed on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he 3passed by. (Acts 5:15)

The fables of wonder-working bits of Paul and the legends of miraculous spooks of Peter obviously sets high and whimsical expectation in Shamoun and, consequently, whenever he would juxtapose these with the sincere admittance of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that he seeks refuge in Allah (SWT) from the dreaded ailment of Leprosy, Shamoun would always incorrectly and hastily come to conclusion that “More evidence that Jesus is infinitely Better And Greater than Muhammad”

End Notes:

  • All emphasize, wherever not matching with original, is ours.

  • Unless otherwise mentioned, all Qur’an text taken from Yusuf Ali translation.

  • Unless otherwise mentioned, all biblical text taken from Good News Translation.

What about the Non-Muslim Philanthropists?

What about the Non-Muslim Philanthropists?

Question Mark

 

 

What about all those altruists out there who are, as expected, good people; who do all good, humane and charitable works. In fact they have, as it appears, a proven track record of their philanthropy. Nevertheless, they are non-Muslims!

What stand has Islam taken about them especially about all of their “good works” curiously in the light of their non-Muslim beliefs! This enquiry may be intriguing and thus the topic of this brief paper.

The Islamic stand on the issue is unequivocal and explicit. However, to understand it we would have to assume that on one fine morning you woke up with a renewed patriotic zeal within you. And you marched straight into your country’s military facility and somehow gotten into it. You began to serve the facility in whatever capacity you could – may be cleaning and housekeeping, say!

Nevertheless, notwithstanding your pure patriotic intentions, in conjunction with apparently benevolent “duty” that you are discharging within the military facility, chances are high, in fact very high, that your act would be considered one breach of military protocol and security! You might well be seen as an offender who “trespassed” into the facility illegally. And as a consequence of this, you would probably be handcuffed and prosecuted, not under civilian court of law but under the military judiciary which is generally more stringent than the former.

And so we see that even though the intent was loyal and it was well corroborated with visibly “good” act(s), all of it summed up to nothing! Contrariwise, you – the patriot – had to bear the brunt of offence against the military establishment! And this is serious. Because this is similar to the stand that Islam takes for non-Muslim philanthropists and their works!

God compares the seemingly benevolent works of the unbelievers to the deluding mirage:

 

But the Unbelievers,- their deeds are like a mirage in sandy deserts, which the man parched with thirst mistakes for water; until when he comes up to it, he finds it to be nothing: But he finds Allah (ever) with him, and Allah will pay him his account: and Allah is swift in taking account. (Qur’an 24:39)

 

 

Just like the efforts of the patriotic individual was nothing more than a self delusion – a “mirage” –  of serving the nation, similarly God does not count the works of the unbelievers to be in anyway helpful for them in the hereafter.

In fact Allah (SWT) does not even consider the purportedly righteous works of the unbelievers to be anything more than “ashes” which would be scattered by a tempestuous wind:

 

The parable of those who reject their Lord is that their works are as ashes, on which the wind blows furiously on a tempestuous day: No power have they over aught that they have earned: that is the straying far, far (from the goal). (Qur’an 14:18)

 

Thus we find that there is hardly any recognition of the “righteous” philanthropic works that the disbelievers would discharge in this world. Such a stance of non-accreditation towards the apparently righteous works of the disbelievers/non-believers may follow immediately from the analogy of the military setup: just as without prior and proper channeling and authorization, if any individual – even if s/he be a lawful citizen of the country – breaks into the military facility with all good intentions and yet it would be considered unlawful; similarly, it is only logical to understand that without proper recognition of The Almighty who created the unbelieving philanthropist in the first place, all his/her altruistic works would be reckoned to nothing; in fact, our philanthropist might take a step beyond: s/he may have been well defiling his/her spiritual self by prostrating to mere stocks and stones while discharging the apparently “charitable” works; quite obviously then, any such works would not be of any worth in the hereafter especially when considered in conjunction with such horrendous acts of spiritual abuse. This explains why Allah (SWT) declares,

 

And We shall turn to whatever deeds they did (in this life), and We shall make such deeds as floating dust scattered about. (Qur’an 25:23)

 

Philanthropy, altruism, charity and all such acts of benevolence are indeed beautiful and Islam obligates its believers to practice them; however, Islam also arduously advocates that these acts must be wrapped duly within the cover of True Faith (i.e. the Faith lies central and integral to all acts). It is because the external acts – philanthropic or otherwise – should be a reflection of the internal faith that we harbor. And therefore, the outer façade of true faith that wraps various philanthropic acts would offer them their due recognition with God and would prove to be of any help in the hereafter. Because, if this would not have been the case, then even Satanists advocate philanthropy! We are sure that one could find Satanists who would be kind towards their pets, charitable towards the needy, so on and so forth. And yet none of these would add up to anything substantial. Simply because their basic faith of worshipping “Satan” (!?) is vulgarly flawed.

It is not our intent, however, to doubt the intentions of the myriad non-Muslim philanthropists who strive their best to serve humanity, however, if they do not want their works to be treated as mere “ashes” or as “floating dust scattered about” or if they do not want to be dodged then when it matters the most by that misleading “mirage” of the sandy desert which happens to be “nothing”, then they would do extremely well by recognizing One True God and His religion and thereby do the first favor of philanthropy upon themselves.

 

End Notes:

  • Unless otherwise mentioned, all Qur’anic texts taken from Yusuf Ali’s Quran Translation.

The Origins of Shirk

The Origins of Shirk

Shaykh Muhammad Naasir ud-Deen al-Albaanee rahimahullaah

Al-Ibaanah Magazine , Issue No.3 – Dhul-Qa’dah 1416H / April 1996

From that which has been established in the Sharee’ah (prescribed law) is that mankind was – in the beginning – a single nation upn true Tawheed, then Shirk (directing any part or form of worship, or anything else that is solely the right of Allaah, to other than Allaah) gradually overcame them. The basis for this is the saying of Allaah – the Most Blessed, the Most High:

“Mankind was one Ummah, then Allaah sent prophets bringing good news and warnings.” (Soorah Baqarah 2:213)

Ibn ‘Abbaas – radiallaahu ‘anhu – said: “Between Nooh (Noah) and Adam were ten generations, all of them were upon Sharee’ah (law) of the truth, then they differed. So Allaah sent prophets as bringers of good news and as warners.” [2]

Ibn ‘Urwah al-Hanbalee (d.837 H) said: “This saying refutes those historians from the People of the Book who claim that Qaabil (Cain) and his sons were fire-worshippers.” [3]

I say: In it is also a refutation of some of the philosophers and athists who claim that the (natural) basis of man is Shirk, and that Tawheed evolved in man! The preceeding aayah (verse) falsifies this claim, as do the two following authentic hadith:

Firstly: His (the prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) saying that he related from his Lord (Allaah) : “I created all my servants upon the true Religion (upon Tawheed, fre from Shirk). Then the devils came to them and led them astray from their true Religion. They made unlawful to people that which I had made lawful for them, and they commanded them to associate in worship with Me, that which I had sent down no authority.” [4]

Secondly: His (the prophet sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) saying: “Every child is born upon the Fitrah [5] but his parents make him a jew or a christian or a magian. It is like the way an animal gives birth to a natural offspring. have you noticed any born mutilated, before you mutilate them.”

Abu Hurayrah said: Recite if you wish: “Allaah’s fitrah with which He created mankind. There is to be no change to the creation (Religion) of Allaah.” (Soorah ar-Rum 30:30) [6]

After this clear explanation, it is of the upmost importance for the Muslim to know how Shirk spread amongst the believers, after they were muwahhideen (people upon Tawheed). Concerning the saying of Allaah – the most perfect – about the people of Nooh:

“And they have said : You shall not forsake your gods, nor shall you forsake Wadd, nor Suwaa’, nor Yaghooth, nor Ya’ooq, nor Nasr.” (Soorah Nooh 71:23)

It has been related by a group from the Salaf (Pious Predecessors), in many narrations, that these five deities were righteous worshippers. However, when they died, Shaytaan (Satan) whispered into their people to retreat and sit at their graves. Then Shaytaan whispered to those who came after them that they should take them as idols, beautifying to them the idea that you will be reminded of them and thereby follow them in righteous conduct. Then Shaytaan suggested to the third generation that they should worship these idols besides Allaah – the most high – and he whispered to them that this is what their forefathers used to do!!!

So Allaah sent to them Nooh alayhis-salaam, commanding them to worship Allaah alone. However none responded to hiscall except a few. Allaah – the mighty and majestic – related this whole incident in Soorah Nooh Ibn ‘Abbas relates: “Indeed these five names of righteous men from the people of Nooh. When they died Shataan whispered to their people to make statues of them and to place these statues in their places of gathering as a reminder of them, so they did this. However, none from amongst them worshipped these statues, until when they died and the purpose of the statues was forgotten. Then (the next generation) began to worship them.”[7]

The likes of this has also been related by Ibn Jareer at-Tabaree and others, from a number of the salaf (Pious Predecessors) – radiallaahu ‘anhum. In ad-Durral-Manthoor (6/269): ‘Abdullaah ibn Humaid relates from Abu Muttahar, who said: Yazeed ibn al-Muhallab was mentioned to Abu Ja’far al-Baaqir (d.11H), so he said: He was killed at the place where another besides Allaah was first worshipped. Then he mentioned Wadd and said: “Wadd was a Muslim man who was loved by his people. When he died, the people began to gather around his grave in the land of Baabil ( Babel ), lamenting and mourning. So when Iblees (Satan) saw them mourning and lamenting over him, he took the form of a man and came to them, saying : I see that you are mourning and lamenting over him. So why don’t you make a picture of him (i.e. a statue) and place it in your places of gatherings so that you maybe reminded of him. So they said: Yes, and they made a picture of him and put in their place of gathering; which reminded them of him. When Iblees saw how they were (excessively) remembering him, he said : “Why doesn’t every man amongst you make a similar picture to keep in your own houses, so that you can be (constantly) reminded of him.” So they all said “yes”. So each household made a picture of him, which they adored and venerated and which constantly reminded them of him. Abu Ja’far said: “Those from the later generation saw what the (pevious generation) had done and considered that……..to the extent that they took him as an ilah (diety) to be worshipped besides Allaah. He then said :” This was the first idol worshipped other than Allaah, and they called this idol Wadd”[8]

Thus the wisdom of Allaah – the Blessed, the Most High – was fufilled, when he sent Muhammed sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam as the final prophet and made his Sharee’ah the completion of all divinely Prescribed Laws, in that He prohibited all means and avenues by which people may fall into Shirk – which is the greatest of sins. For this reason, building shrines over graves and intending to specifically travel to them, taking them as places of festivity and gathering and swearing an oath by the inmate of a grave; have all been prohibited. All of these lead to excessiveness and lead to the worship of other than Allaah – the Most High.

This being the case even more so in an age in which knowledge is diminishing, ignorance is increasing, thre are few sincere advisors ( to the truth) and shaytaan is co-operating with men and jinn to misguide mankind and to take them away from the worship of Allaah alone – the Blessed, the Most High.

FOOTNOTES:

1. Tahdheerus-Saajid min Ittikhaadhil-Quboori Masaajid (pp.101-106)

2. Related by Ibn Jareer at-Tabaree in his tafseer (4/275) and al-Haakim (2/546) who said: “It is authentic according to the criterion of al-Bukhari.” Adh-Dhahabee also agreed.

3. Al-Khawaakibud-Duraaree fee Tarteeb Musnadul-Imaam Ahmad’alaa Abwaabil-Bukhaaree (6/212/1), still in manuscript form.

4. Related by Muslim (8/159) and Ahmad (4/162) from ‘Iyaadh ibn Himaar al-Mujaashi’ee radiallaahu ‘anhu

5. [From the Editors] Ibn-al-Atheer said in an-Nihaayah (3/457): “Al-Fitr: means to begin and create, and al-Fitrah is the condition resulting from it. The meaning is that mankind were born upona disposition and a nature which is ready to accept the true Religion. So if he were to be left upon this, then he would continue upon it. However, those who deviate from this do so due to following human weaknesses and blind following of others…..” Al-Haafidh Ibn Hajar said in Al-Fath (3/248): “The people differ concerning what is meant by al-Fitrah and the most famous saying is that it means Islaam. Ibn ‘abdul-Barr said: That is what was well known with most of the salaf (pious predecessors), and the scholars of tafseer are agreed that what is meant by the saying of Allaah – the Most High – “Allaah’s fitrah wiht which He created mankind.” is Islaam

6. Related by Al-Bukhaaree (11/418) and Muslim (18/52)

7. Related by al-Bukhaaree (8/534)

8. Related by Ibn Abee Haatim also, as is in al-Kawaakibud-Duraaree (6/112/2) of Ibn ‘Urwah al-Hanbalee, along with an isnaad which is Hasan, up to Abu Muttahar. However, no biography could be found for him, neither in ad-Dawlaabee’s al-Kunaa wal-Asmaa, nor Muslim’s al-Kunaa, nor any one elses. And the hidden defect here is that he is from the Shee’ah, but his biography is not included in at-Toosee’s al-Kunaa — from the index of Shee’ah narrators

Why Yahweh Cannot “Rest”

Earlier in this blog we have urged Christians to reconsider their belief especially with regards to God’s divine attributes. In it, the traits of God are unique and cannot be shared with His creatures; on the same lines, since the attributes of mortals are created, bounded and limited, they cannot be vested upon God! Nevertheless, sadly, many of those who identify themselves as “monotheists” breach monotheism exactly in this area. They would either believe in a “God” with humanly traits or give humans the attributes of God. And both these situations are deadly.

Nevertheless, rooted in monotheism, pure belief does get reflected sporadically in Christian thinking. Consider, for instance, a particular biblical incident. We read in the Book of Genesis that God sanctified the seventh day because “in it he had rested from all his work” (Genesis 2:3, King James Version).

Christians would never allow any misinterpretation of the preceding verse, especially the usage of the word “rested” in it. They would explain that to rest here means that God completed His work of creation and therefore “ceased” working on the seventh day. And thus, “rested” is not to be understood with its general import that God became tired of long six days of work, and consequently “rested” on the seventh day!

As monotheists we should not have any objections to this exegesis. God is perfect and so is His attributes and therefore, nothing imperfect can be associated with Him. We must have a conciliatory approach because it does not behoove the God of Abraham (peace be upon him) to rest out of exhaustion; and it is rightly deemed as blasphemous in Christian circles to interpret that God was tired of work. At the same time the exegesis also entails that God’s attributes are immutable – they cannot change with time and space. If God did not exhaust when He was creating everything that exists, then He would never exhaust out of any work that He does.

Nevertheless, Christian thinking takes a U-turn when it comes to Christology. Christians would not apply same principles when considering the deity of Christ (peace be upon him). Although the Yahweh of Genesis is exegetically not allowed merely to “rest”; in the New Testament we have a complete “God” being killed, let alone the incarnation and everything earthly, non-divine entailing with it! Christians should scruple that if Yahweh cannot “rest” then “God” certainly cannot “die”!

More Issues with Vicarious Atonement

More Issues with Vicarious Atonement

Question Mark

Introduction

 

As a norm, Christianity has accepted that the only mode of salvation is through the alleged death and resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him). Obviously this is not in accord with the established biblical view of God’s plan of salvation; it has got theological, logical and practical issues with it and we are going to look at some of them herein.

 

The Appeal to “Justice”

 

To validate the concept of vicarious atonement (salvation through the alleged death and resurrection of Jesus (p)), Christians appeal to the God’s attribute of justice. They would argue that although God is merciful to forgive sins yet He is also just at the same time. Consequently God cannot – just-like-that – forgive sins. The debts, in other words, the consequence of the sins have to be borne. Just at this point of discussion where a non-Christian would almost inadvertently think that the consequence of the sins have to be borne by the sinner, Christians would, ironically, give an unjustified twist! They would assert that the consequence of the sins was borne by Jesus (peace be upon him) at the cross! And this in itself is an issue. The scrupulous Christian God who has to be “just”, should accept debts only from the debtor but this is certainly not the case? Not surprisingly the Jewish God was consistent with this notion:

 

“Parents are not to be put to death for crimes committed by their children, and children are not to be put to death for crimes committed by their parents; A PERSON IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH ONLY FOR A CRIME HE HIMSELF HAS COMMITTED.” (Deuteronomy 24:16)

 

And the Jewish patriarchs were committed to the same:

“When a person is accused of wronging another and is brought to your altar in this Temple to take an oath that he is innocent, O LORD, listen in heaven and judge your servants. PUNISH THE GUILTY ONE AS HE DESERVES, AND ACQUIT THE ONE WHO IS INNOCENT.” (1 Kings 8: 31-32)

 

Therefore, we find that the Jewish concept of sin, forgiveness and salvation would come close to human cognizance and acceptance as compared to its Christian counterpart.

Nevertheless, Christians explain that Jesus (peace be upon him) borne the consequence of the sins out of God’s attribute of mercy. God was so merciful that He gave His own “son” to be sacrificed. In other words, out of “mercy”, God paid the debts by Himself to Himself! It sounds absurd but unfortunately, this is how it works. The Christian God would have to be offered the spilling blood of a perfect innocent for the debts of filthy criminals. Ironically, the Jews were not informed of this blood-needy attitude of their God:

 

“I do not reprimand you because of your sacrifices and the burnt – offerings you always bring me. And yet I do not need bulls from your farms…Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goatsLet the giving of thanks be your sacrifice to God,” (Psalms 50:8-14)

 

Observe that God of Israel needed “thanks” – sincere thanks – and not sacrifices. Nevertheless, for some reasons the act of repentance – sincere repentance – was not enough for the Christian God to justify the fulfillment of His debts. Why couldn’t the currency of sincere repentance be accepted against the debts of sin? Especially when, earlier, presumably the same God was accepting repentance and mourning to wipe away the consequences of sins:

 

Be merciful to me, O God, BECAUSE of your constant loveBECAUSE of your GREAT MERCY wipe away my sins! Wash away all my evil and make me clean from my sins. I have sinned against you – only against you – and done what you consider evil. So you are right in judging me; you are justified in condemning me. I have been evil from the day I was born; from the time I was conceived, I have been sinful. Sincerity and truth are what you require; fill my mind with your wisdom. Remove my sin and I will be clean; wash me; and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear the sounds of joy and gladness; and though you have crushed me and broken me, I will be happy once again. Close your eyes to my sins and wipe out all my evil. Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me. Do not banish me from your presence; do not take your holy spirit away from me. Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach sinners your commands, and they will turn back to you. Spare my life, O God, and save me, and I will gladly proclaim your righteousness. Help me to speak, Lord, and I will praise you. YOU DO NOT WANT SACRIFICES, or I would offer them; you are not pleased with burnt-offerings. MY SACRIFICE IS A HUMBLE SPIRITO God; you will not reject a humble and repentant heart.” (Psalms 51:1-17)

 

To the plea of a sinner, God of Israel had the following model of reply:

 

“I am the high and holy God, who lives for ever. I live in a high and holy place, but I also live with people who are humble and REPENTANT, so that I can restore their confidence and hope. I gave my people life, and I will not continue to accuse them or be angry with them for ever. I was angry with them because of their sin and greed, and so I punished them and abandoned them. But they were stubborn and kept on going their own way. “I have seen how they acted, but I will heal them. I will lead them and help them, and I WILL COMFORT THOSE WHO MOURN. I offer peace to all, both near and far! I will heal my people. But evil men are like the restless sea, whose waves never stop rolling in, bringing filth and much. There is no safety for sinners,” says the LORD.” (Isaiah 57:15-21)

 

Unlike the Christian concept where it is of paramount importance to God that the consequences of sin be discharged, the Jewish God taught that merely turning to Him in repentance would be enough for wiping off of sins:

 

“The LORD will punish the Egyptians, but then he will heal them. They will turn to him, AND HE WILL HEAR THEIR PRAYERS AND HEAL THEM. (Isaiah 19:22)

“God saw what they did; he saw that they had given up their wicked behavior. SO HE CHANGED HIS MIND AND DID NOT PUNISH THEM AS HE HAD SAID HE WOULD.” (Jonah 3: 1-10)

 

Through prophet Isaiah, God of Israel expressed His modus operandi of sin, forgiveness and salvation. He declared that if a sinner would turn to Him in sincerity then He is too merciful to forgive “quickly”. In other words, He would not go to the ledger books searching for reconciliation of credits and debits:

 

Turn to the LORD and pray to him, now that he is near. Let the wicked leave their way of life and change their way of thinkingLet them turn to the LORD, our God; HE IS MERCIFUL AND QUICK TO FORGIVE. “My thoughts.” says the LORD, “are not like yours, and my ways are different from yours. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways and thoughts above yours.

“My word is like the snow and the rain that come down from the sky to water the earth. They make the crops grow and provide seed for sowing and food to eat. So also will be the word that I speak – it will not fail to do what I plan for it; it will do everything I send it to do. “You will leave Babylon with joy; you will be led out of the city in peace. The mountains and hills will burst into singing, and the trees will grow where now there are briars; myrtle-trees will come up in place of thorns. This will be a sign that will last for ever, A REMINDER OF WHAT I, THE LORD, HAVE DONE.” (Isaiah 55:6-13)

 

On the foregoing, recognized Christian Bible expositor John Gill provides a rather non-Christian insight:

 

In some things there may be a likeness between the thoughts of God and the thoughts of men, as to the nature of them: thoughts are natural and essential to them both; they are within them, are internal acts, and unknown to others, till made known; but then the thoughts of men are finite and limited, whereas the thoughts of the Lord are infinite and boundless; men’s thoughts have a beginning, but the Lord’s have none; though not so much the nature as the quality of them is here intended: the thoughts of men are evil, even the imagination of their thoughts, yea, every imagination is, and that always and only so; but the thoughts of God are holy, as appears from his purposes and covenant, and all his acts of grace, in redemption, calling, and preparing his people for glory: the thoughts of men, as to the object of them, are vain, and nothing worth; their thoughts and sentiments of things are very different from the Lord’s, as about sin, concerning Christ, the truths of the Gospel, the people of God, religion, holiness, and a future state, and in reference to the business of salvation; they think they can save themselves; that their own works of righteousness are sufficient to justify them; their privileges and profession such, that they shall be saved; their wisdom, riches, and honour, a security to them from damnation: however, that their sincere obedience, with repentance for what is amiss, will entitle them to happiness: but the thoughts of God are the reverse of all this; particularly with respect to pardoning mercy their thoughts are different; carnal men think of mercy, but not of justice, and of having pardoning mercy in an absolute way, and not through Christ, and without conversion and repentance; and so this is a reason why men’s thoughts are to be forsaken, because so very unlike to the Lord’s. OR ELSE THESE WORDS ARE TO BE CONSIDERED AS AN ARGUMENT, PROVING THAT GOD DOES ABUNDANTLY PARDON ALL RETURNING SINNERS; SINCE HE IS NOT LIKE MEN, BACKWARD TO FORGIVE, ESPECIALLY GREAT AND AGGRAVATED CRIMES, BUT IS READY, FREE, AND WILLING TO FORGIVE, EVEN THOSE OF THE MOST AGGRAVATED CIRCUMSTANCES.

 

Neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord; the ways which God prescribes and directs men to walk in are different from theirs; his are holy, theirs unholy; his are plain, theirs crooked; his are ways of light, theirs ways of darkness; his are pleasant, theirs not so, at least in the issue; his lead to life, theirs to death; and therefore there is good reason why they should leave their evil ways, and walk in his. Moreover, the ways which he takes in the salvation of men are different from those which they, naturally pursue, AND ESPECIALLY IN THE PARDON OF SIN; HE PARDONS FREELY, FULLY, WITHOUT ANY RESERVE, OR PRIVATE GRUDGE, FORGETTING AS WELL AS FORGIVING.(John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, Isaiah 55:8)

 

Finally, the Jewish God unequivocally declared that He does not blot out sins for the sake of anybody else’s “sacrifice” but out of His own free will driven by His abounding mercy

 

“Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities. I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions FOR MINE OWN SAKE, and will not remember thy sins.” (Isa 43: 24-25, King James Version)

 

Bible commentator Adam Clarke concurs:

 

For mine own sake – In the pardon of sin God can draw NO REASON BUT from his own infinite goodness. (Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible, Isaiah 43:25)

 

These were only some instances from the Hebrew Bible, a fuller account can be read here. Nevertheless, the preceding does establish that (i) the attribute of “justice” do not preempt God from accepting sincere repentances for blotting out transgressions. (ii) We saw that the free-flowing, unconditional mercy of God does not need that a cultic sacrifice of an innocent be made to forgive sins.

Before we are done with the Christian appeal to “justice”, we would like to side track a bit to ponder that the Christian God looks to be a God of principles. He is ready to forgive but then His principle of justice comes in and He has to wait until the consequence of sin is paid in full. However, all of a sudden, the same God of principles would hardly have any scruples when He would purportedly breach all principles of monotheism to incarnate. For Paul, it is merely an issue of God condescending to human levels:

 

“And look out for one another’s interests, not just for your own. The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had:

He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to b0ecome equal with God. Instead off this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like man and appeared in human likeness. He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death – his death on the cross. (Philippians 2:4-8)

 

There are more issues with the Christian version of atonement: Christ (peace be upon him) allegedly paid for the sins of the world. However, this was a onetime payment. Consider the following New Testament [1.] passage:

 

For how can those who abandon their faith be brought back to repent again? They were once in God’s light; they tasted heaven’s gift and received their share of the Holy Spirit; they knew from experience that God’s word is good, and they had felt the powers of the coming age. And then they abandoned their faith! It is impossible to bring them back to repent again, because they are again crucifying the Son of God and exposing him to public shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6)

 

The same message is reiterated in even simpler words:

 

Instead, let us encourage one another all the more, since you see that the Day of the Lord is coming nearer. For there is no longer any sacrifice that will take away sins if we purposely go on sinning after the truth has been made known to us. (Hebrews 10:25-26)

 

The preceding passage information is compatible with the Hebrew sacrifices: Once an animal was slaughtered, its sacrificial benefits were useful only for that particular year. For any subsequent year, a new sacrifice was to be made. Similarly, once the ultimate, costly sacrifice (c.f. 1 Peter 1: 18-19) was paid for the sins of humanity, there cannot remain any possibility of backsliding. People who have been manumitted cannot expect any room as far as any further sins are concerned. This explains why Christians baptized are often called as “born-again”. Thus, the alleged sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him) can be used only once and if it is exhausted without proper use then there is no way out except for eternal damnation.

This, however, portrays an infinitely merciful God as a mere parochial accountant who would give a unit of mercy in return of commensurate unit of sacrifice; and that’s it – end of transaction. Any new transaction would need a new sacrifice, but since there is no other sacrifice left after Jesus (peace be upon him) therefore, there is no chance for salvation.

Furthermore, this also expects that man be perfect (c.f. Matthew 5:48); it assumes that man would not sin “after truth has been made known to” him; to say the least, it is impractical even to remotely assume that man would not sin. For example, Christian(s)assume that pre-Jesus (peace be upon him) mercies were rendered due to future – would-happen – crucifixion. However, we know that multiple Jewish communities including prophets committed sins as ghastly as worshipping idols; Solomon (peace be upon him) himself, for example; and yet they are all saved!!?? (c.f. 1 Kings 11)!

However, contrary to the problems emanating from the Christian philosophies, the God of Old Testament did not use to forgive sins based on the sacrifices which were made, ironically, for Him:

 

“I do not reprimand you because of your sacrifices and the burnt – offerings you always bring me. And yet I do not need bulls from your farms…Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goatsLet the giving of thanks be your sacrifice to God,” (Psalms 50:8-14)

 

In fact, Yahweh would forgive purely on the basis of His attribute of abundant mercy:

 

Be merciful to me, O God, BECAUSE of your constant loveBECAUSE of your GREAT MERCY wipe away my sins! Wash away all my evil and make me clean from my sins. I have sinned against you – only against you – and done what you consider evil. So you are right in judging me; you are justified in condemning me. I have been evil from the day I was born; from the time I was conceived, I have been sinful. Sincerity and truth are what you require; fill my mind with your wisdom. Remove my sin and I will be clean; wash me; and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear the sounds of joy and gladness; and though you have crushed me and broken me, I will be happy once again. Close your eyes to my sins and wipe out all my evil. Create a pure heart in me, O God, and put a new and loyal spirit in me. Do not banish me from your presence; do not take your holy spirit away from me. Give me again the joy that comes from your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach sinners your commands, and they will turn back to you. Spare my life, O God, and save me, and I will gladly proclaim your righteousness. Help me to speak, Lord, and I will praise you. YOU DO NOT WANT SACRIFICES, or I would offer them; you are not pleased with burnt-offerings. MY SACRIFICE IS A HUMBLE SPIRITO God; you will not reject a humble and repentant heart.” (Psalms 51:1-17)

 

Further, the Jewish God was not a onetime-forgiver; rather he would forgive the Jewish community over and over again under the leadership of different Hebrew prophets and patriarchs (Joel, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Samuel, David, Isaiah). We documented it here.

The attribute of oft-forgiveness is in fact the part and parcel of the One True God:

 

Your Lord knoweth best what is in your hearts: If ye do deeds of righteousness, verily He is Most Forgiving to those who turn to Him again and again (in true penitence).(Qur’an 17:25, Yusuf Ali’s Quran Translation)

 

 

Conclusion

 

 

On one hand where the Christian concept of vicarious atonement is not supported by the Hebrew Bible; on the other hand, vicarious atonement also entails logical issues with it: Firstly, it is not just and logical enough to punish somebody else in place of the actual sinner and then reward the sinner for the miscarried judgment on the innocent!?

Secondly, it is not logical and practical enough to assume that man would not sin after accepting the alleged ultimate sacrifice of Jesus (peace be upon him). Even if it is allowed, and man owing to his nature backslides, then obviously there would remain no other way out for salvation as the ultimate sacrifice is exhausted.

Even though these are obvious issues with Christian philosophies of sin and salvation yet, ironically, the Hebrew Bible provides acceptable solutions: The God of Hebrews is just enough to punish only the transgressors and at the same time merciful enough to accept sincere repentances over and over again.

 

Footnotes:

[1.] Although the Book of Hebrews is anonymous, however, the “Eastern church” always accepted it to be penned by Paul himself:

 

“In the Eastern church, there was no problem of canonical acceptance because it was regarded as one of the “fourteen” epistles of Paul.” (The Open Bible, The Author of Hebrews, The Epistle to the Hebrews, p.1244)

 

 

Dr. James Tabor: Gospel of Mark’s Ending is “Patently Bogus” and “Patently False”

The “Strange” Ending of the Gospel of Mark and Why It Makes All the Difference

 

by James Tabor

 

And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing.

Most general Bible readers have the mistaken impression that Matthew, the opening book of the New Testament, must be our first and earliest Gospel, with Mark, Luke, and John following. The assumption is that this order of the gospels is a chronological one, when in fact it is a theological one. Scholars and historians are almost universally agreed that Mark is our earliest gospel–by several decades, and this insight turns out to have profound implications for our understanding of the “Jesus story” and how it was passed down to us in our New Testament gospel traditions.

The problem with the gospel of Mark for the final editors of the New Testament was that it was grossly deficient. First it is significantly shorter than the other gospels–with only 16 chapters compared to Matthew (28), Luke (24), and John (21). But more important is how Mark begins his gospel and how he ends it.

He has no account of the virgin birth of Jesus–or for that matter, any birth of Jesus at all. In fact, Joseph, husband of Mary is never named in Mark’s gospel at all–and Jesus his called a “son of Mary, see my previous post on this here. But even more significant is Mark’s strange ending. He has no appearances of Jesus following the visit of the women on Easter morning to the empty tomb!

Like the other three gospels Mark recounts the visit of Mary Magdalene and her companions to the tomb of Jesus early Sunday morning. Upon arriving they find the blocking stone at the entrance of the tomb removed and a young man–notice–not an angel–tells them:

“Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing (Mark 16:6-8)

And there the gospel simply ends!

Mark gives no accounts of anyone seeing Jesus as Matthew, Luke, and John later report. In fact, according to Mark, any future epiphanies or “sightings” of Jesus will be in the north, in Galilee,not in Jerusalem.

This original ending of Mark was viewed by later Christians as so deficient that not only was Mark placed second in order in the New Testament, but various endings were added by editors and copyists in some manuscripts to try to remedy things. The longest concocted ending, which became Mark 16:9-19, became so treasured that it was included in the King James Version of the Bible, favored for the past 500 years by Protestants, as well as translations of the Latin Vulgate, used by Catholics. This meant that for countless millions of Christians it became sacred scripture–but it is patently bogus. You might check whatever Bible you use and see if the following verses are included–the chances are good they they will be, since the Church, by and large, found Mark’s original ending so lacking. Here is that forged ending of Mark:

Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover. So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.

Even though this ending is patently false, people loved it and to this day conservative Christians regularly denounce “liberal” scholars who point out this forgery, charing that they are trying to destroy “God’s word.”

The evidence is clear. This ending is not found in our earliest and most reliable Greek copies of Mark.[1] Clement of Alexandria and Origen (early 3rd century) show no knowledge of the existence of these verses; furthermore Eusebius and Jerome attest that the passage was absent from almost all Greek copies of Mark known to them. The language and style of the Greek is clearly not Markan, and it is pretty evident that what the forger did was take sections of the endings of Matthew, Luke, and John (marked respectively in red, blue, and purple above) and simply create a “proper” ending.

Even though this longer ending became the preferred one, there are two other endings, one short and the second an expansion of the longer ending, that also show up in various manuscripts:

[I] But they reported briefly to Peter and those with him all that they had been told. And after these things Jesus himself sent out through them, from east to west, the sacred and imperishable proclamation of eternal salvation.

[II] This age of lawlessness and unbelief is under Satan, who does not allow the truth and power of God to prevail over the unclean things of the spirits [or, does not allow what lies under the unclean spirits to understand the truth and power of God]. Therefore reveal your righteousness now’ – thus they spoke to Christ. And Christ replied to them, ‘The term of years of Satan’s power has been fulfilled, but other terrible things draw near. And for those who have sinned I was handed over to death, that they may return to the truth and sin no more, in order that they may inherit the spiritual and incorruptible glory of righteousness that is in heaven.

I trust that the self-evident spuriousness of these additions is obvious to even the most pious readers. One might in fact hope that Christians who are zealous for the “inspired Word of God” would insist that all three of these bogus endings be recognized for what they are–forgeries.

So that said, what about the original ending of Mark? Its implications are rather astounding for Christian origins. I have dealt with this issue more generally in my post, “What Really Happened on Easter Morning,” that sets the stage for the following implications.

1. Since Mark is our earliest gospel, written according to most scholars around the time of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 CE, or perhaps in the decade before, we have strong textual evidence that the first generation of Jesus followers were perfectly fine with a gospel account that recounted no appearances of Jesus. We have to assume that the author of Mark’s gospel did not consider his account deficient in the least and he was either passing on, or faithfull promoting, what he considered to be the authentic gospel. What most Christians do when they think about Easter is ignore Mark. Since Mark knows nothing of any appearances of Jesus as a resuscitated corpse in Jerusalem, walking about, eating, and showing his wounds, as recounted by Matthew, Luke, and John, those stories are simply allowed to “fill in” for his assumed deficiency. In other words, no one allows Mark to have a voice. What he lacks, ironically, serves to marginalize and mute him!

2. Alternatively, if we decide to listen to Mark, who is our first gospel witness, what we learn is rather amazing. In Mark, the last night of Jesus’ life, he had told his intimate followers following their meal, “But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee” (Mark 14:28). What Mark believes is that Jesus has been “lifted up” or “raised up” to the right hand of God and that the disciples would “see” him in Galilee. Mark knows of no accounts of people encountering the revived corpse of Jesus, wounds and all, walking around Jerusalem. His tradition is that the disciples experienced their epiphanies of Jesus once they returned to Galilee after the eight day Passover festival and had returned to their fishing in despair. This is precisely what we find in the Gospel of Peter, where Peter says:

Now it was the final day of the Unleavened Bread; and many went out returning to their home since the feast was over. But we twelve disciples of the Lord were weeping and sorrowful; and each one, sorrowful because of what had come to pass, departed to his home. But I, Simon Peter, and my brother Andrew, having taken our nets, went off to the sea. And there was with us Levi of Alphaeus whom the Lord …

You can read more about this fascinating “lost” Gospel of Peter here, but this ending, where the text happens to break off, is most revealing. What we see here is precisely parallel to Mark. The disciples returned to their homes in Galilee in despair, resuming their occupations, and only then did they experience “sightings” of Jesus. Strangely, this tradition shows up in an appended ending to the gospel of John–chapter 21, where a group of disciples are back to their fishing, and Matthew knows the tradition of a strange encounter on a designated mountain in Galilee, where some of the eleven apostles even doubt what they are seeing (Matthew 28:16-17).

The faith that Mark reflects, namely that Jesus has been “raised up” or lifted up to heaven, is precisely parallel to that of Paul–who is the earliest witness to this understanding of Jesus’ resurrection. You can read my full exposition of Paul’s understanding “the heavenly glorified Christ,” whom he claims to encounter, here. And notably, he parallels his own visionary experience to that of Peter, James, and the rest of the apostles. What this means is that when Paul wrote, in the 50s CE, this was the resurrection faith of the early followers of Jesus! Since Matthew, Luke, and John come so much later, and clearly reflect the period after 70 CE when all of the first witnesses were dead–including Peter, Paul, and James the brother of Jesus, they are clearly 2nd generation traditions and should not be given priority.

Mark begins his account with the line “The Gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). Clearly for him, what he subsequently writes is that “Gospel,” not a deficient version thereof that needs to be supplemented or “fixed” with later alternative traditions about Jesus appearing in a resuscitated body Easter weekend in Jerusalem.

Finally, what we recently discovered in the Talpiot tomb under the condominium building, not 200 feet from the “Jesus family” tomb, offers a powerful testimony to this same kind of early Christian faith in Jesus’ resurrection. On one of the ossuaries, or bone boxes in this tomb, is a four line Greek inscription which I have translated as: I Wondrous Yehovah lift up–lift up! And this is next to a second ossuary representing the “sign of Jonah” with a large fish expelling the head of a human stick figure, recalling the story of Jonah. In that text Jonah sees himself as having passed into the gates of Sheol or death, from which he utters a prayer of salvation from the belly of the fish: “O Yehovah my God, you lifted up my life from the Pit!” (Jonah 2:6). It is a rare thing when our textual evidence seems to either reflect or correspond to the material evidence and I believe in the case of the two Talpiot tombs, and the early resurrection faith reflected in Paul and Mark, that is precisely what we have.[2] That this latest archaeological evidence corresponds so closely to Mark and Paul, our first witnesses to the earliest Christian understanding of Jesus’ resurrection, I find to be most striking.

  1. “The last twelve verses of the commonly received text of Mark are absent from the two oldest Greek manuscripts (א and B), 20 from the Old Latin codex Bobiensis, the Sinaitic Syriac manuscript, about one hundred Armenian manuscripts, 21 and the two oldest Georgian manuscripts (written a.d. 897 and a.d. 913)” Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, 2nd edition []
  2. We offer a full exposition of these important discoveries in our recent book, The Jesus DiscoveryThe book is a complete discussion of both Talpiot tombs with full documentation, with full chapters on Mary Magdalene, Paul, the James ossuary, DNA tests, and much more. You can read my preliminary report on these latest “Jonah” related findings at the web site Bible & Interpretation, here, and a good account of the controversy here. During March and April, 2012 I also wrote a dozen or more posts on this blog responding to the academic discussions, see below under “Archives” and you can browse the posts by month. []

 

End of Dr. Tabor’s post.

Notes:

  • Emphasize wherever not matching with original, is ours.

 

                                                                     Post Script           

Question Mark

 

There is a lot of vital information that Dr. Tabor has pointed out. Notice the following:

 

  1.  “Later” Christians found Mark’s gospel to be deficient consequently it was placed second in the New Testament canonization of gospels along with suitable appendix. This undoubtedly indicates that (i) “earliest” Christians – the Markan community – did not consider the gospel to be “deficient” in need of any “fixation”. For them the evangelist – supposedly Mark – was providing the “Good News” of Jesus (p) (c.f. Mark 1:1). (ii) The process of canonization was very subjective. It was left to the theological experiences of later Christians, and not the texts themselves, to decide upon the canonization.

 

  1. Dr. Tabor provides two reasons for the “concocted” ending of the gospel to be “patently false” and “patently bogus”: (i) Earliest gospel – the gospel of Mark – which does not has the post-crucifixion appearance of Jesus (peace be upon him) will have precedence of antiquity on her counterpart gospels (Matthew, Luke, John) which do have post crucifixion sightings of Jesus (peace be upon him). So, the additional ending to the gospel is “forgery”. (ii) Hundreds of best and earliest manuscripts do not include the fabricated ending as attested by multiple “orthodox” fathers.

 

 

  1. Dr. Tabor’s choice of word for Jesus’ (peace be upon him) post-crucifixion appearance is very intriguing. Notice on multiple occasions he has used “resuscitated” body than resurrected body! This alludes that Jesus (peace be upon him) would have “appeared” to be dead in the wake of his crucifixion (compare Qur’an 4:157), when in reality he was only senseless and later his body was “resuscitated” to strength. This further implies that Jesus (peace be upon him) did not die and thus, probably, Dr. Tabor did not choose the word “resurrected”. Modern Muslim theologians like Dr. Shabbir Ally do endorse the theory of resuscitation in their exegesis of Qur’an 4:157.

 

Related Readings:

The Obvious Theological Biases Driving Gospel of Mark

Did Jesus (p) abolish Jewish Kosher?

Did Jesus (p) abolish Jewish Kosher?

Question Mark

Introduction

 

It is highly probable that the Christian next-door is into an all-inclusive dietary practice. S/he would not be scrupulous with the foods being consumed as Jew (or a Muslim) would be. It is almost considered lawful to consume food items which are prohibited in the Bible. Sadly enough, many Christians try to prove their position from the Bible itself! In fact some Bible versions have taken it for granted that Jesus (peace be upon him) allowed every food for them rescinding Mosaic Laws! One such incident happened at this very blog when a Christian used biblical passages to support his view.

Therefore, we have decided to take a close look into the matter if it is really permissible that a Christian consume any food that s/he like even those forbidden in the Bible. We would consider one of the most famous of the New Testament passage herein.

 

The Jesus (p) Yardstick

 

The Jews to this date scrupulously observe what is called as the “Kosher”. Kosher is basically the Jewish dietary law. The practice of Kosher does get its support from the Bible. Consider the following passage for instance:

 

Whatsoever goeth upon the belly, and whatsoever goeth upon all four, or whatsoever hath more feet among all creeping things that creep upon the earth, them ye shall not eat; for they are an abomination. Ye shall not make yourselves abominable with any creeping thing that creepeth, neither shall ye make yourselves unclean with them, that ye should be defiled thereby.  For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. For I am the LORD that bringeth you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: ye shall therefore be holy, for I am holy. This is the law of the beasts, and of the fowl, and of every living creature that moveth in the waters, and of every creature that creepeth upon the earth: To make a difference between the unclean and the clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten.  (Leviticus 11:42-47, King James Version)

 

Jesus (peace be upon him) for the known fact that he was a “Jew” must have observed the dietary Law. In fact, not just “dietary” Law, Jesus (peace be upon him) wanted to surpass every Pharisee and Scribe of his time by observing all the Laws of the Old Testament:

 

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20, King James Version)

 

 

Did Jesus (p) allow all kinds of food?

 

 

 

On the foregoing it is hard to assume that Jesus (peace be upon him) would have allowed dietary practices against God’s Laws! Then what did Jesus (peace be upon him) mean when he said,

 

 

There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. (Mark 7:15, King James Version)

 

 

Apparently it seems like Jesus (peace be upon him) allowed consumption of all foods irrespective of the Old Testament rulings on them. In fact the Good News Edition of the Bible has already construed Jesus’ (peace be upon him) statement as permission for every kind of food. In between verse 19 and 20, Good News Editions brackets the following declaration:

 

 

In saying this, Jesus declared that all foods are fit to be eaten

 

Nevertheless, a closer look into the passage reveals that Jesus (peace be upon him) never intended to allow all foods lawful for his disciples. It is vitally important to understand the setup and context which led to Jesus’ (peace be upon him) statement:

 

Chapter 7 begins with Pharisees and doctors of the Law in a dispute with Jesus (peace be upon him). For the Pharisees, Jesus’ (peace be upon him) disciples were not up to the mark as far as observing the rituals were concerned. The Pharisees were particularly upset with the disciples not ritually cleaning their hands before eating food:

 

 

Some Pharisees and teachers of the Law who had come from Jerusalem gathered round Jesus. They noticed that some of his disciples were eating their food with hands which were ritually unclean – that is, they had not washed them in the way the Pharisees said people should” (Mark 7:1-2)

 

 

For the Pharisees it was important to wash hands ritually since they inherited it from their forefathers (c.f. Mark 7:3). However, Jesus (peace be upon him) had other views. For him the act (of cleaning hands) was mere show of hypocrisy devoid of any sincere God-consciousness:

 

 

Jesus answered them, “How right Isaiah was when he prophesied about you! You are hypocrites, just as he wrote: These people, says God, honor me with their words, but their heart is really far away from me….” (Mark 7:6)

 

 

Jesus (peace be upon him) also recognized that the ritual of washing hands before eating was a man-made innovation which was never part of God’s Laws:

 

 

It is no use for them to worship me, because they teach man-made rules as though they were God’s laws!’ “You put aside God’s command and obey the teachings of men”” (Mark 7:7-8)

 

 

It is not difficult to understand the perspectives of Pharisees and Jesus (peace be upon him). While the Pharisees would act as sticklers, ironically, not to God’s Laws but to mere mundane innovations, Jesus (peace be upon him), on the other hand, would not only denounce any innovation in God’s religion but he also would strive for spirituality and God-consciousness even in the rituals. It was under this context that Jesus said,

 

 

Listen to me, all of you, and understand. There is nothing that goes into a person from the outside which can make him ritually unclean. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that makes him unclean” (Mark 7: 14-15)

 

 

Consider the construction of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) statement in the first place: If Jesus’ (peace be upon him) intent would have been merely to allow all foods permissible for his disciples then he would not probably had started his statement with a strong exhortation to “listen” him carefully and “understand”. Obviously there was much more to be understood than what would apparently appear from his words. Through such a cautious expression, Jesus (peace be upon him) wanted his disciples to be careful to second part of his statement where he alarms his audience from the evils that “comes out of a person that makes him unclean”.

 

 

As obvious as it is, Jesus (peace be upon him) definitely shifted the focus from mere man-made formalities to higher acts of spirituality. For him, the need of the hour was not bickering over “rituals” and systems but inner uprightness. In fact, Jesus (peace be upon him) explicitly chided the Pharisees, in the same context, merely a few statements earlier, towards their moral degradation in the name of observing “rituals”:

 

 

And Jesus continued, “You have a clever way of rejecting God’s law in order to uphold your own teaching. For Moses commanded, ‘Respect your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever curses his father or his mother is to be put to death.’ But you teach that if a person has something he could use to help his father or mother, but says, ‘This is Corban’ (which means, it belongs to God), he is excused from helping his father or mother. In this way the teaching you pass on to others cancels out the word of God. And there are many other things like this that you do”” (Mark 7:9-13)

 

 

Understand that for Jesus (peace be upon him) the Pharisees were not qualified to be talking about ritual niceties when they had devised ways how they could be excused from helping their own aging parents! For Jesus (peace be upon him) the demand of ritual cleaning was as folly as the excuse of the “Corban”, let alone the fact that the ritual it was an innovation. In this context, therefore, when Jesus (peace be upon him) stated that nothing that goes in defiles a person, then Jesus (peace be upon him) was not really talking about permissibility of foods as he was concerned about refuting the snares of Pharisees.

 

We can further appreciate that (i) Jesus (peace be upon him) did not construct his statement more obviously as “nothing that a person eats”; rather he said “nothing that goes into a person”! This is more than just a hint that Jesus (peace be upon him) was not really concerned about food here. Furthermore, (ii) Jesus (peace be upon him) is comparing food (goes in) and actions (comes out), or at least talking about both of them simultaneously, when both are quite disparate! These should help us interpret Jesus (peace be upon him) correctly that he was not as much concerned and discussing food and its rulings as he was vexed with the inner corruption of the same Pharisees advocating their (man-made) rituals. This understanding is further corroborated by the fact that where Jesus (peace be upon him) devotes only a verse (v.19) for things going into a person, he devotes four verses (vv. 20-23) into explaining about the evils emanating out of men.

 

 

 

 

 

Being Consistent

 

 

We expect persisting Christians to argue that Jesus (peace be upon him) allowed all foods since it does not enter into the heart – where intentions for actions emanate – rather it goes straight into the stomach where it is digested and is done with:

 

 

You are no more intelligent than the others,” Jesus said to them. “Don’t you understand? Nothing that goes into a person from outside can really make him unclean, because it does not go into his heart but into his stomach and then goes on out of the body.”(Mark 7: 19)

 

 

Obviously the reasoning is very narrow and does not accommodate the context. Furthermore, such an argument is awfully inconsistent with the food offered to idols since, of surety, they also do not enter the heart but go to stomach and yet Christians are forbidden to eat them:

 

 

It is my opinion,” James went on, “that we should not trouble the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead, we should write a letter telling them not to eat any food that is ritually unclean because it has been offered to idols;” (Acts 15: 19-20)

 

Much like the Pharisees, James is also concerned with “ritual uncleanness”. If Jesus (peace be upon him) has declared that “nothing” going in defiles men then James should not be concerned about the food offered at idol altars especially when James and every other Christian believer knows that every eatable is in reality created by the living God and not dead idols. Consequently, Christians should consistently obey Jesus (peace be upon him) and eat the food offered to idols as, “because it does not go into his heart but into his stomach and then goes on out of the body.

 

 

Paul was also against eating food offered to idols:

 

Consider the people of Israel: those who eat what is offered in sacrifice share in the altar’s service to God. Do I imply, then, that an idol or the food offered to it really amounts to anything? No! What I am saying is that what is sacrificed on pagan altars is offered to demons, not to God. And I do not want you to be partners with demons. You cannot drink from the Lord’s cup and also from the cup of demons; you cannot eat at the Lord’s table and also at the table of demons. Or do we want to make the Lord jealous? Do we think that we are stronger than he? (1 Corinthians 10: 18-22)

 

 

 

If food is just-food without any scruples of God-consciousness since they merely have to enter stomach and not heart then why is Paul so concerned about food offered to idols! If, “Nothing that goes into a person from outside can really make him unclean” then why is it an issue whether the food is offered at the altar of God or “demon”? Similarly, how does one become a partner of demon when Jesus (peace be upon him) declared the “outside” food cannot really make him “unclean”?

 

On the same line of reasoning, if that “what comes out of a person that makes him unclean” (Mark 7:20) and the (Christian) believers have become pure in their association with Christ (peace be upon him) then how come anything constitute “the cup of demons”.

 

These queries are irreconcilable if we continue to misinterpret Jesus’ (peace be upon him) statement merely to satisfy our eating appetites.

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

 

 

Therefore, it seems that Jesus’ (peace be upon him) expression is more about moral sanctity of men than rulings on foods. In fact, we do not find any real reason why Jesus (peace be upon him) need to discuss food-rulings at all since (i) Jews were abreast of Mosaic commandments already and Jesus (peace be upon him) had initially upheld every facet of the Laws. And (ii) there is no hint that Jesus (peace be upon him) ever ate food which was condemned as defiling by the Laws. Add to it that Jesus (peace be upon him) considered the act of ritually washing hands as mere innovation. Consequently, a mere innovation could not possibly decide cleaning/defiling of men and thus Jesus (peace be upon him) could say that nothing going “in” without this man-made ritual cleansing could defile men as an expression to debunk innovations in the religion! Furthermore, if Jesus (peace be upon him) is (mis) understood for permitting “any” food then, consistently, even food offered to idols would become lawful! This obviously is a problem.

 

On the foregoing, if we are to be careful towards the text and sincere towards the speaker, especially when he himself is not around to explain the imports, then we would have to accept that Jesus (peace be upon him) did not really gave permission to the Christians to choose dietary at their free will.

 

 

Notes:

 

  • Unless otherwise mentioned, all biblical texts taken from the Good News Edition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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