Category Archives: Conflicts

Terrorism in the Bible – Is the Godhead of the Bible Morally Upright?

Most Christians either completely gloss over or ignore the violence of the Old Testament. Such an apologetic is usually framed in the form of contextualising this violence as being for a specific period and people. We’re speaking about genocide, mass rape, mass torture, and horrendous acts of this nature. When compared with the New Testament, it is difficult to reconcile the two versions of God being presented to us. Our most read article also inspects some of these stories of the Old Testament.

The Old Testament contains the single most violent passage among any scripture in world history:

However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes. – Deuteronomy 20:16.

Rivaled by none, the scale of sheer violence and bloodshed in the Bible is not only disturbing, it is also extremely difficult to accept that this is the God that Christians want us to build a relationship with. Concerning the apologetic that such violence is meant for a specific place and time, this betrays the Bible’s teachings itself. To begin with, the Bible teaches that all of God’s laws are eternal:

All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal. – Psalm 119:160.

Pursuant to this belief, of the 613 commandments given in the Old Testament, several of them are to act upon the rules of Deuteronomy Chapter 20. This includes Deuteronomy 20:16. Some Christians in reading this chapter may state that it mentions Israel a number of times so it must only refer to the Children of Israel, however this is incorrect as the Church today is considered to be partakers in Israel, as is explained by one popular Christian ministry (emphasis mines):

Finally, Galatians 3:29 says, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” In other words, in Christ, believers are counted righteous by faith in the same way that Abraham was (Galatians 3:6-8). If we are in Christ, then we are partakers of the blessing of Israel and all nations in the redemptive work of Christ. Believers become the spiritual descendants of Abraham. Believers do not become physical Jews, but they may enjoy the same type of blessings and privileges as the Jews.

and God knows best.

Nestorianism in Light of Modern Christian Apologetics (Part 2)

In a previous post, I commented on an inter-Christian theological controversy regarding modern Christians and the heresy of Nestorianism. Many Christians were unaware that such a debate existed within their faith today, primarily between the Protestant sects of Lutheranism and Reformed/ Calvinist theology. I had first raised my argument using the study of the philosophy of religion regarding the ontology (nature of being) of the incarnate Christian God during my recent debate with Dr. Tony Costa. Quite a few lay-Christians thought I’d misidentified orthodox Christian beliefs (Dr. Costa and his supporter Anthony Rogers are guilty in this regard), that I as a Muslim did not understand Christian beliefs and as such my claim was based out of ignorance. Rather, through my subsequent posts a number of Christians have come to realise that I had actually raised an argument that Christian theologians themselves had raised, it was in fact the lay-Christians who were ignorant of their own modern day Christological controversies. In his erudite work on Systematic Theology, Louis Berkhof wrote:

1. UP TO THE NINETEENTH CENTURY. The Reformation did not bring any great changes in the doctrine of the person of Christ. Both the Church of Rome and the Churches’ of the Reformation subscribed to the doctrine of Christ as it was formulated by the Council of Chalcedon. Their important and deep-seated differences lay elsewhere. There is one peculiarity of Lutheran Christology that deserves special mention. Luther’s doctrine of the physical presence of Christ in the Lord’s supper led to the characteristically Lutheran view of the communicatio idiomatum, to the effect “that each of Christ’s natures permeates the other (perichoresis), and that His humanity participates in the attributes of His divinity.” It is held that the attributes of omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence were communicated to the human nature of Christ at the time of the incarnation.

Even prominent Calvinist theologian RC Sproul wrote in, “What Is the Trinity?”:

I have Lutheran friends, and I always refer to them as “my monophysite friends.” They refer to me as their “Nestorian friend,” but I always say, No, I don’t separate the two natures, I just distinguish them.”

It’s not an argument or claim invented by myself, it’s quite a well known common argument that many Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Christian sects regard Calvinists as Nestorians. It is not difficult to see why. I tried to convey an argument that lay-Christians would be able to understand during my debate with Dr. Costa, but I will have to use a little bit of mathematics to better illustrate my point. The heresy of Nestorianism, entails that despite Christ having two natures, they are distinguished from each other to the point that Jesus becomes two Persons. Jesus with a divine nature and Jesus with a human nature. Surely in Islam, this enters the realm of polytheism. For the time being, let’s express how Reformed/ Calvinistic Theology about Jesus’s Hypostatic Union is Nestorian.

  • Jesus is a Person.
  • Jesus has a Divine Nature.
  • Jesus has a Human Nature.
  • Jesus = {Divine Nature, Human Nature}

If we were to say that Jesus suffered, does that mean the Person of Jesus with two natures suffered? Calvinists would readily say yes, but they would then additionally say, as James White has claimed, that only the human nature suffered. Thus, logically speaking it is a contradiction in thinking.

  • Jesus the Person with a Divine and Human Nature suffered.
  • Jesus the Person’s Divine Nature did not suffer.
  • Jesus the Person’s Human Nature did suffer.

Thus, this in effect breaks Jesus up into two Persons. They speak of Jesus in terms of only his human nature and of Jesus in terms of only his divine nature. Hence, regardless of their cries of orthodoxy, their ideas concerning the nature of Christ are inherently self-defeating and self-contradicting, thus eliciting charges of advocating the Nestorian heresy. In conclusion, as we have seen, Christians themselves did not know of these inter-Christian debates. That’s why I raised the argument in the first place. To bring attention to a problem that only their scholars seem to argue about, I merely wanted to demonstrate that Christians after 2000 years fundamentally disagree about the nature of God and cannot reconcile the God-man doctrine about Christ.

Why wrestle with confusion, when the solution is simply, there is no God but Allah….

and Allah knows best.

Are Anti-Immigrant Christian Movements Biblical?

Most ‘right-wing’, ‘conservative’, anti-immigrant movements are spearheaded by what one would consider to be devout Christians. It is to these Christians that I pen this article. Have you honestly considered your actions? Here is an important point to consider.

cc-2015-christianspediga

Christians Attending PEDIGA March

Jesus himself was a refugee.

Mary, Joseph and Jesus were refugees:

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” – Matthew 2:13.

Jesus himself during his ministry fled persecution and crossed the Jordan:

Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp. Then Jesus went back across the Jordan to the place where John had been baptizing in the early days. There he stayed, and many people came to him. They said, “Though John never performed a sign, all that John said about this man was true.” And in that place many believed in Jesus. – John 10:39-42.

If you truly believe in the Kingdom of God, should bearing the burden of poor refugees shatter that belief? Of what use is a Kingdom of God, if the poor and destitute, cannot find homage or receive their daily bread?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. – Matthew 5:3.

If bearing the burden of those who are poor, fleeing terror and have different beliefs and cultures, is seen as a problem for you, could you truly say you are a believer in the Kingdom of God, a believer who trusts in the love and mercy of God?

We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. – 2 Corinthians 5:20.

For as the Qur’an declares:

“…and you will certainly find the nearest in friendship to those who believe (to be) those who say: We are Christians; this is because there are priests and monks among them and because they do not behave proudly.” – Qur’an 5:82.

and God knows best.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Were People Before Crucifixion Saved?

How Were People Before Crucifixion Saved?

Enquiring the validity of Vicarious Atonement in pre-Jesus (p) era

 

Question Mark

Introduction

 

Based on the teachings of the Old Testament it is extremely difficult to accept the Christian philosophy that sins before Jesus (peace be upon him) were forgiven in lieu of his future alleged death and resurrection.

On the fly, when we argued the same with a Christian at the Muslim Debate Initiative (MDI) Blog, Shamoun was particularly unhappy about it so much so that he published an official response to the comment.

It is now time that we respond Shamoun for his slanted interpretations but before it let us reiterate that it is not just the Old Testament but even the New Testament, as we would document in near future, overwhelmingly obviates the extreme necessity of Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged sacrificial death and resurrection for the remission of sins.

 

Was it predestined that the “Lamb” would be slain?

 

Quite probably if Shamoun had to make a case that sins before Jesus (peace be upon him) were forgiven in lieu of his future alleged death and resurrection then it must be first proven that the crucifixion was predestined. Shamoun quoted passages from New Testament to prove it. Nevertheless, except for a passage from Peter’s epistle none other even comes close to prove it. We leave it to the readers to decide.

Even if we accept for the sake of argument that Peter and John believed that Jesus’ (peace be upon him) crucifixion was foreordained yet this is not what Jesus (peace be upon him) seems to have believed about himself! Consider for example the following passages:

“They came to a place of Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John with him. Distress and anguish came over him, and he said to them, “The sorrow in my heart is so great that it almost crushes me. Stay here and keep watch. He went a little farther on, threw himself on the ground, and prayed that, if possible, he might not have to go through that time of suffering. “Father,” he prayed, “my Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet not what I want, but what you want.”” (Mark 14: 32-36, Good News Edition)

It is noticeable that given the first choice, Jesus (peace be upon him) would never had gone through the sufferings of the cross even if that would have allegedly remitted for the sins of the world!

Furthermore notice the way Jesus (peace be upon him) addressed God. He called Him very personally as “my Father”! Christians, especially the Trinitarians, interpret out of such personal expressions Jesus’ (peace be upon him) special and unique relationship with God so much so that because God is his Father he ought to share essence and divinity with God. Thus, given the Trinitarian interpretation, it is a divine “Son of God” requesting for the circumvention of the sufferings; and this further aggravates Shamouns case. Since as a co-equal “God” with Father, Jesus (peace be upon him) is expected to have known the plan of human salvation at its design stage. And Jesus’ (peace be upon him) reaction at Gethsemane seem to defy it all together. He seems to be more concerned about his suffering than for the eternal damnation of entire human race! Jesus (peace be upon him) seen to have neglected the Christian notion that there was not any other salvation plan other than his suffering on the cross! Thus, even if the alleged crucifixion was predestined, Jesus (peace be upon him), given an opportunity, never wanted to face it.

Such a state of affairs with Jesus (peace be upon him) settles nicely with the way he allegedly died. There was a sense of grudge and unwillingness to accept the “predestined plan of God which made him question God for his ill-fate:

 

“At noon the whole country was covered with darkness, which lasted for three hours. At three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why did you abandon me?” Some of the people there heard him and said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah!” One of them ran up with a sponge, soaked it in cheap wine, and put it on the end of a stick. Then he held it up to Jesus’ lips and said, “Wait! Let us see if Elijah is coming to bring him down from the cross!” With a loud cry Jesus died.” (Mark 15: 33-37, Good News Edition)

 

Firstly Jesus (peace be upon him) requests God to save him from the ordeal of the cross and then he dies with grievance against God that he was abandoned for an excruciating death on the cross. These reactions are hard to reconcile against the basic Christian notion that Jesus (peace be upon him) pre-planned and so knew about his crucifixion with other persons in the godhead even before the creation of the world! Furthermore, it is extremely implausible that remission of sins before Jesus’ (peace be upon him) actual crucifixion were taking place due his unwilling and future suffering on the cross.

As such the redactor(s) of later gospel (Luke’s gospel [1.]) deemed it prudent to remove the controversial moaning and expressions of anguish on the cross. So now Jesus (peace be upon him) is not complaining to God for his abandonment on the cross; rather he is now made to react as he should react. He is now in perfect harmony with the initial plan chalked before the creation of the world; he is now satisfied with the decision and plan of God:

 

“Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father! In your hands I place my spirit!He said this and died.” (Luke 23: 46, Good News Edition)

 

The oldest gospel – Mark’s gospel – has more problems for Shamoun. Remember that crucifixion alone is not enough for Christian version of salvation. Jesus (peace be upon him) must also resurrect after his alleged death!

 

…and if Christ has not been raised from death, then we have nothing to preach and you have nothing to believe” (1 Corinthians 15:14, Good News Edition)

 

However, the best and oldest manuscripts of Mark’s gospel end with absolutely no witness to the resurrected Jesus (peace be upon him). This would have become so serious in the light of the Pauline philosophy of salvation that a “new” ending was added to Mark’s gospel!

On the foregoing, we have a situation wherein Jesus (peace be upon him) is unwilling and acts contrary to the initial alleged plan of his suffering for the salvation of humanity. We have no witness to his resurrection according to the best and earliest gospel manuscript. Yet Shamoun would claim remissions of pre-Jesus (p) era (Old Testament era, say) were due to Christ’s alleged crucifixion which was to materialize in far future! It seems extremely far-fetched upon objective enquiry.

Let Lamb be slain at the Foundation of the World

 

 

Shamoun quotes a number of New Testament passages to claim that it was the pre-plan of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged death that allowed God forgive people even before he (peace be upon him) was actually sacrificed:

 

“Now how do these passages establish the fact that Christ’s death had been predestined from the foundation of the world? And how do they prove that the reason God was forgiving and saving his people even before Christ actually died is because Jesus’ death in their place had already been foreordained?

The answer comes from John’s description of the book of life as belonging to the Lamb who had been slain. 

The people whose names had been written in the Lamb’s book of life before the creation of the world are those whom Christ redeems by his blood:

“I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?’ And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; and one of the elders said to me, ‘Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.’ And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders A LAMB STANDING, AS IF SLAIN, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; FOR YOU WERE SLAIN, AND PURCHASED FOR GOD WITH YOUR BLOOD MEN FROM EVERY TRIBE AND TONGUE AND PEOPLE AND NATION. YOU HAVE MADE THEM to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.’ Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.’ And EVERY CREATED THING which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, AND TO THE LAMB, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen.’ And the elders fell down and worshiped.” Revelation 5:1-14”

 

The Revelation passage does talk about a weird type of a killed “Lamb” who assumedly has a book and the people who had their names registered in it are saved. However, it does not allude that these names are inclusive (or that they must include) of the names who lived before Jesus (peace be upon him). It is possible, in fact highly probable as we would soon observe, that the names previously written are those people who would eventually come to believe in Jesus (peace be upon him) either because of his or his apostles’ ministry. Now, consider the following passage which was ironically cited by Shamoun:

 

“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands; and they cry out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures; and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.’ Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, ‘These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?’ I said to him, ‘My lord, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the GREAT TRIBULATION , and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.’” Revelation 7:9-17

 

Notice the passage specifically identifies the people who got their sins remitted (“white robes”) in the blood of the slain Lamb. They are those who came out of the “great tribulation”. So the names previously written in the book of Lamb has to be of those who faced the great tribulation and yet came out of it as believers. Jesus (peace be upon him) identifies for us the timing of this “great tribulation”:

 

When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For THEN shall be GREAT TRIBULATION, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened. Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. (Matthew 24:15-25, King James Version)

 

It is clear from the passage that the “great tribulation” did not as yet materialized during the ministry of Jesus (peace be upon him). It was expected to happen sometime in the future. Thus, the people whose names were previously written in the Lamb’s book of life, in other words, those who got their sins remitted in the blood of slain Lamb must be those who would eventually face Jesus’ (peace be upon him) future prediction of the “great tribulation” and came out of it.

So names going into the Lamb’s book of life are contingent upon the experience of the “great tribulation” and a subsequent escape from it. This in turn implies that the Lamb’s book of life cannot possibly have the names of people before the generation of Jesus (peace be upon him)/or the era of “great tribulation”! Consequently, people of pre-Jesus (peace be upon him) era could not have been forgiven in lieu of his suffering and alleged sacrificial death.

 

That is the reason when Shamoun argues,

 

In other words, since the names of the redeemed were written in the Lamb’s book of life before the world’s foundation then the means of their salvation must have also been ordained before creation as well. This is precisely why it is called the book of life of the Lamb who had been slain, e.g. it is the book that includes all the names of those whom the Lord Jesus purchased by his sacrificial death on the cross.

This, therefore, establishes my point that everyone prior to Christ actually dying were being saved because of his vicarious sacrifice since God knew that the Lamb, i.e. the Lord Jesus, would be slain in their place in order to free them from their sins.

 

He merely assumes unwarrantedly that the Lamb’s book of life has names of every generation and era including those before Jesus (peace be upon him).

 

 

Conclusion

 

Jews have traditionally disagreed with Christian interpretation of the Hebrew Bible and this paper gave us hint towards it. Traditionally Jews never believed that the “Messiah” would have to be sacrificed for the sins of the world yet subjective Christians like Shamoun would claim that Jesus’ (peace be upon him) sacrifice and subsequent vicarious atonement were “predestined”.

Nevertheless, the Jesus (peace be upon him) of the earliest canonical gospel does not seem to behave according to the “predestined” plan. If he would have had a choice, Jesus (peace be upon him) would never had gone through the ordeal of the cross. More importantly, Jesus’ (peace be upon him) very last statement on earth belies all the “predestintion”. Either in frustrated despair or unknowing confusion, Jesus (peace be upon him) enquired why he was abandoned on the cross?

Shamoun quoted New Testament passages in support of his theory however, ironically, the same passage(s) established that it was not possible that people before Jesus (peace be upon him) were forgive in lieu of his prospective (alleged) sacrifice. This is because for people to have benefited from Christ’s (peace be upon him) alleged sacrifice it was necessary that they have their names registered in the Lamb’s book of life; and all the names which were eventually written in the book were of those who would come out of the “great tribulation”. And we know that the “great tribulation” was to occur after Jesus’ (peace be upon him) ministry! So if we are enquiring how people were saved before Jesus (peace be upon him) then we can be sure that they were not saved for prospective alleged sacrifice of the Messiah (peace be upon him); rather, they were saved as the Old Testament postulates it.

Therefore, when Shamoun rants such as,

 

Time for greenhorn and his partner in taqiyya, Sami Zaatari, to find another line of work. Attacking Christianity and defending the lies of Islam are simply not cutting it for them.

It sounds merely hyperbolic claims devoid of any objectivity.

 

Notes:

  • Unless mentioned, the biblical texts are quoted from Shamoun’s paper.
  • Emphasize wherever not matching with original, is ours.

 

 

Footnote

[1.] Christians have an “all-inclusive” theory wherein they would argue that Jesus’ (peace be upon him) complete statement on the cross is drawn by a holistic view of the gospels. And so Mark’s narrative must be supplemented with other gospels. Although the approach seems reasonable, however, it has at least the following twofold problems:

Firstly, it does not take care of the historical fact that not all gospels were present simultaneously. We know that at least a decade passed since Mark that Matthew and Luke came into existence. So there was hardly a chance for people in the interim to have knowledge of all narratives. Furthermore, even when all gospels came into existence, not all communities had them at one time given the incipient state of the religion and technological backwardness of the world. Add to it that even the canon was not decided until the fourth century.

Secondly, the approach does not recognize the efforts of authors and the sources at their disposition; since the authors had particular agendas that they wanted to portray while penning their gospels. So by having an “all-inclusive” approach to the scriptures, we do not allow a particular author to represent the life of Jesus (peace be upon him) as he knew (from his sources) and wanted to portray. Therefore, the “all-inclusive” approach engenders a motley description which can be unjust to individual gospel author(s) writing in his individual capacity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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