Category Archives: Calling Christians Debates

Debate: Was Jesus the Son of God Or Only the Prophet of God – Br. Ijaz Ahmad & Dr. Tony Costa

We’re happy to announce that the debate video regarding the debate between Dr. Tony Costa and myself, “Was Jesus the Son of God or Only the Prophet of God?,” has been uploaded on Br. Muslim By Choice’s YouTube channel:

One YouTube user commented:

Ijaz is wonderful to listen to, a complete fresh nature of debating style from him. The Christian was not able to counter his line of thinking.

Here are some debate reviews by viewers:

and Allah knows best.

Debate: Was Jesus the Son of God Or Only the Prophet of God – Audience’s Review #2

This is the second of several audience reviews from the debate between Dr. Tony Costa and myself. The following review is from Br. Muhammad Asad (UK):


Main Points / Arguments

Dr Costa made the following points in his opening statement:

• Jesus is both God’s prophet and the Son of God

• We need to go to earliest sources to know about the historical Jesus – the New Testament documents which were composed in the 1st century. All New Testament scholars go to the New Testament writings to know about the historical Jesus

• These earliest documents are unanimous in teaching that Jesus was the Son of God. According to Dr Costa, Ijaz has to produce a 1st century document which states that Jesus was only God’s prophet and no more

• The language of “sonship” is also found in the Jewish Bible. Dr Costa gave examples of how the term “son” is applied in the Jewish Bible (used for angels, for Israel as a nation, the Messianic king etc)

• According to Dr Costa, in Islam while God is the Master and humanity is slave, the Bible goes beyond this and presents God like a father to His people

• When Jesus spoke of himself as God’s son, it was in terms of a unique relationship – as a unique Son of God. Hence the charge of “blasphemy” levelled upon Jesus in the New Testament

• Historians do not go to the Quran to learn anything about the historical Jesus because the Quran came to the scene 600 years after Jesus. Hence the Quran is “historically worthless.”

• Sayings attributed to Jesus within the Quran come from apocryphal sources

•  Jesus never denied that he was God’s son. Gospel of John is cited at this stage as evidence for this claim and the Gospel of Mark is also referred to – Jesus being questioned about whether or not he was son of the most High

• Dr Costa referred to Prof. Tarif Khalidi, author of “The Muslim Jesus: Sayings and Stories in Islamic Literature” who supposedly asserts that the Jesus found in Islam is a “fabrication” and not the historical Jesus “found in the gospels.”

These are basically the points which Dr Costa proceeded to repeat in the rest of the debate. I will offer my reply to some of these points very shortly.

Ijaz Ahmad’s approach, in sharp contrast, was radically different. Ahmad took the philosophical approach to deny that Jesus was the son of God. According to Ahmad, it does not matter to him what the New Testament says. Ahmad explained that when Christians say “Son of God,” they actually mean “God.” Therefore, the title of the debate should be,“Is Jesus God or just a Prophet of God?”  Simply, he will set out to show why Jesus could not be the Son of God (as in “God”) philosophically, ontologically and rationally.

I breakdown Ahmad’s main points as follows:

• In typical Christian-Muslim debates, Christians argue: the New Testament asserts that Jesus is the Son of God, “prophecies” are cited from the Jewish Bible, a few quotations are presented from secular historians, it is asserted that the Quran denies Jesus being God’s son, that the Quran misunderstood the Trinity and that according to the Quran God needs a consort. Muslims respond that the Jewish Bible is cited out of context by Christians, the New Testament is not a reliable historical source, “son of God” is a diverse term and not unique to Jesus and that the Christians are misinterpreting the Quran. Ahmad says he will reject this script in this debate.

• “Son of God,” as used by Christians, means God

• Christians in general are tremendously confused and uncertain about the doctrine of the “Son of God” and even more when it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity. Ahmad quotes the polemicist Dr James R. White and R.C. Sproul in this regard, who acknowledge that Christians misunderstand the doctrine of the Trinity

• In Islam Jesus is God’s Nabi. Thus, Jesus is God’s Prophet and the Islamic position is rational and most probable

• In Islam a prophet does not inherently have future knowledge; this is given to him by God. The problem begins if Jesus is “Son of God,” as in God, Jesus would then be expected to have all knowledge (past, present, future). He would not be given this knowledge. Being God, he would already have it. Yet a prophet by nature cannot be God because they do not possess the knowledge of the unseen (unless God grants them this knowledge)

• The teaching of Islam is: there is nothing comparable to or like God. Ahmad asserted that this is the “best example of perfect-being theology.”

• The “Son of God,” in contrast, is not a perfect-being theology. If Jesus is said to be the Son of God, we then have ontological, philosophical and soteriological problems to deal with – Ahmad cites Michael Rea who asserts that God existing as a Trinity consisting of three persons with one nature could not be derived from a perfect-being theology

• Ahmad asked how God could suffer? To say that only the human nature suffered, argued Ahmad, caused one to fall prey to the heresy of Nestorianism – because the two natures of Jesus are eternally united. Therefore, it cannot be said that only one nature experienced something whereas the other nature did not. It is either Nestorianism or polytheism, argued Ahmad

• Arguing further, Ahmad explained that when Christians assert that God loves them or God speaks, they mean the collective persons of the Godhead. So when it is said that God died or God suffered – and given the claim that God is of one substance and undivided – then how can it be said that only one suffered?

• Ahmad mentioned that faced with this difficulty, there have been some Christians who believed that the Father also suffered alongside Jesus. This is the heresy of Patripassianiasm

• If Christians are to be theologically consistent, then they should worship Satan and not Jesus or God because Satan grants death (author of death), God is the author of life

• Jesus was not a maximally perfect being. He was ignorant of the hour. Therefore, ontologically, Jesus cannot be God as he does not fulfil the criteria of being a maximally perfect being. According to Ahmad, proto-Orthodox Christianity falls into the heresy of subordinationism

• Jesus was strengthened by angels, he was once overcome by death, he was ignorant of the hour and can, therefore, in no way be perfect. The Son of God lacks the attributes of God

Of course, much like Dr Costa, Ahmad too proceeded to repeat his above points throughout the remainder of the debate.

Thoughts on the Rebuttals

It seems that Dr Costa was not expecting such a presentation from Ahmad. Thus, there was really no significant engagement with Ahmad’s arguments. Instead, Dr Costa stated that Ahmad was making irrelevant arguments and avoiding the topic of the debate. This I consider to be a highly disingenuous claim because when discussing whether Jesus is God’s son – particularly when we know that people like Dr Costa take this to mean “more than a man” – then we are inevitably discussing the Trinity. Ahmad was rationally, philosophically and ontologically arguing why Jesus couldn’t be the Son of God, God, the second person of the Trinity, and was no more than a Prophet.

Even more unbelievable was Dr Costa’s following assertion: that by rejecting the authority of the Bible, Ahmad had declared himself to be a “kafir” because as per the Quran, a dreadful torment awaits you if you deny God’s revelation! But this understanding of Dr Costa is not an incontrovertible fact. According to Muslims, this is an example of Dr Costa’s esigesis of a passage of the Quran. Muslims dismiss his interpretation and understand the passage in a very different way (that God is referring to the original revealed books to the Prophets and not the Pauline epistles, the pseudonymous epistles of the New Testament and anonymous ancient biographical type documents such as the gospels).  Ahmad, later corrected Dr Costa and explained that the Quran was referring to the Injil revealed by God and not to ancient biographical type of documents such as the gospels.

This entire cockamamie argument regarding the “Quran endorses the Bible” has received a detailed refutation here: Does Islam Endorse The Bible?

Dr Costa asserted that while Ahmad rejects the New Testament documents and does not care about them, historians do care about what they have to say. I think Dr Costa may have misunderstood Ahmad. Ahmad stated clearly that he was taking a different approach, a philosophical approach, in order to argue why Jesus could not be “Son of God” – as in God, the second person of the Trinity. Hence, for him the assertions of the New Testament are irrelevant because they do not explain away the irrational nature of the Trinity as expounded by Ahmad. Of course, that does not follow that he believes that the New Testament documents should be tossed in the bin by historians who want to investigate historical issues.

Perhaps the most startling assertion by Dr Costa was as follows:

“…those who were eyewitnesses who compiled these documents, we’re interested in knowing what they say.”  Time slice: 48.56 – 49.03

Who are these eyewitnesses who “compiled” the New Testament documents? None. There really are none. The New Testament documents were not even authored by any “eyewitnesses” that we know of, let alone “compiled” by them.

We have no documents from any eyewitness from Jesus’ historical ministry.

Dr Costa also made the following analogy: Ahmad’s arguments are no different from the arguments made by Bahaullah, who claimed that Muhammad (saw) was not the last Prophet of God! But this is surely a false analogy. In a discussion pertaining to the person of Jesus, one is absolutely justified in arguing why Jesus couldn’t be the Son of God / God / second person of the Trinity – be it historically or philosophically. This is relevant. How is this even remotely akin to Dr Costa’s Bahaullah analogy? As Ahmad correctly explained, he was considering the topic through the prism of the philosophy of religion and attempting to ascertain if the Christian stance was rational. The Bahaullah analogy is nothing of this sort.

At one point in his first rebuttal, Dr Costa did attempt to engage with with some of Ahmad’s arguments: Jesus was not literally but only metaphorically the “son of God,” that Ahmad misunderstood Nestorianism because it taught that there were two persons in Christ and that Patripassianiasm was also rejected as a heresy by the Church. Ahmad, however, did not deny that these were heresies. As for God dying on the cross, Dr Costa said that in the incarnation it was only the humanity of Christ which died.  The little problem here is that Ahmad already explained why these answers were deficient – how the divine and the human nature cannot be separated – and how Christians such as Dr Costa are guilty of committing these heresies in their defences of the Trinitarian understanding of God.

Much like his opening statement, from time to time Dr Costa continued to have various goes at the Quran and the next section will be my take on his polemics.

Addressing Dr Costa’s outdated and irrational Polemics

1. Scholars do not approach the Quran to learn about the historical Jesus this is a strange comment. Indeed the Quran arrives at the scene some 600 years after Jesus. If we a priori dismiss the possibility of miracles and revelation, and deny a priori the possibility of Muhammad (saw) having received revelation from God, then naturally we would not use the Quran to know anything about the historical Jesus. We would go to the earliest sources. In a similar manner, historians deem to be “historically worthless” the words attributed to Jesus pertaining to the prophets of the old. They would go to the earlier pre-New Testament documents to learn about the prophets who were active much before the time of Jesus and would not be approaching the words of Jesus to learn, say, about the historical David, historical Moses, the historical Abraham etc. This does not cause any “problems” for Muslims. We believe that the Quran is the revelation of God. Therefore, it does not matter if this revelation occurred 600 years after the earthly ministry of Jesus. The source is God and God knows what happened.

2.  Historical Jesus Research – Jesus as God and “Son” – From time to time Dr Costa mentioned the “historical Jesus.” He talked about the title “son of God,” cited some New Testament passages and commented how “liberal” scholars deem them to be authentic.

People like Dr Costa are terrific salesmen who are selling a highly deficient product, namely, their evangelical Jesus. I say this because the historical Jesus studies, as a whole, has completely destroyed the evangelical conception of Jesus. For example, consider the divinity of Jesus (emphasis added):

“One of the cardinal principles of historical Jesus research is that the belief in Jesus’s divinity is a post-resurrection phenomenon. During his life, his acts of power were understood as signs that God (or Satan) was working through him– not that he was God.

The gospel of John presents Jesus teaching that he’s divine, but most scholars treat this as a later interpretation rather than a historical fact because it’s so much more highly developed here than in the earlier gospels and gospel sources …” 1

Apologists such as Dr Costa speak as if the historical Jesus research is on their side whereas the truth is the complete opposite.

Consider now the term “son of God.” I cite here the conclusions of two mainstream New Testament scholars (all emphasis added).

Christopher Tuckett (after discussing this title in details, concludes):

“The term ‘son of God’ was thus a very wide-ranging one at the time of the New Testament. But if one thing is clear it is that, at least within a Jewish context, the term was used not infrequently and with no overtones of divinity being ascribed to the person referred to in this way.” 2

John Meier:

“In any event, one must beware of reading into the title [son of God] the meaning it acquired in later Trinitarian controversies.” 3

It is this *new* meaning in the post Jesus environment which the Quran rightly denies.

The above are mainstream historical Jesus views.

3. Why the Historical Jesus Research? Don’t all New Testament Scholars go to the “reliable” 1st Century New Testament writings? – if the New Testament writings are reliable historically, then why is there a need to do historical Jesus research? Why can’t we just read off the New Testament and take its claims at face value?

The answer is simple. Besides the most conservative of Christians, Historical Jesus scholars do not deem the New Testament to be a historically reliable source on the life of Jesus. They have devised criteria to figure out what Jesus probably did or did not say/do as related in the New Testament.

Virtually all scholars acknowledge the fact that there are both reliable and unreliable pieces of information within the canonical gospels.

Generally, scholars agree that stories about Jesus and his words were changed in different ways as these were passed along orally. The changes also occurred when written gospel documents began to appear and even thereafter. The difference of opinion is over the question of “how much/many” changes occurred. But all agree that changes did occur. How can we be sure that stories about Jesus  and his words were altered in different ways? Simple: by comparing the same stories in the canonical gospels. When we do this we encounter some major and many minor differences between them.

1. Jesus preached and taught and left an impact upon many. 2. His followers (and some who didn’t join him) remembered him and talked about his words and teachings, passing them on to others. 3. Here stories and words began changing in different ways; 4. gospel authors tapped into some/many of these traditions – which were already undergoing alterations – and further adapted them to suit their own particular needs. Some stories were changed minutely, some were significantly changed and some stories were even invented and some words were also invented and subsequently attributed to Jesus.

Of course, ultimately we do not know precisely and exactly how (and why) the changes occurred. All we can be reasonably certain about is that changes did nonetheless occur.  All the above type of things must have occurred.

As a result, scholars have devised a number of criteria to evaluate the grade of authenticity of material within the canonical gospels in an attempt to determine the probable authenticity/inauthenticity of the stories and sayings within them. When scholars read words attributed to Jesus within the gospels, they do not just take them to be Jesus’ verbal wording. As Tuckett explains:

“Nevertheless the nature of the Gospel tradition means that we cannot simply take everything recorded in all the Gospels as unquestionably genuine reports about what Jesus said or did in a pre-Easter situation.”4

Given the nature of the material within the canonical gospels, we need to use some type of criteria to make sense of the material and know what is or is not probably historical.

The criteria are themselves not foolproof and the use of some continues to be hotly debated whereas others are widely accepted. Generally, it is believed that multiple criteria need to be applied before we can come to a reasoned conclusion. We cannot just rely upon one criterion.

Furthermore, at the end of the day, we really cannot be certain. We can only speak in terms of probability and not certainty.

All of these points are conveniently ignored by apologists such as Dr Costa and they often speak about the Historical Jesus research as if it is on their side.

4. Where is the 1st century document which denies that Jesus was God’s son and presents the Islamic Jesus? – easy, there is no such document in existence.  Dr Costa is correct, the earliest writings, and the only surviving writings from the 1st century, happen to be the New Testament documents.

But here is the problem: the New Testament documents are not deemed to be reliable by mainstream historical Jesus scholars in what they have to say about Jesus. Therefore, as explained in #3 above,  scholars treat these documents critically, having devised criteria to ascertain as best as possible the authentic and inauthentic details within these writings.  These reconstructions of the historical Jesus are not to be found in any ancient Christian document, whether from the 1st or later centuries.

Once these documents are treated critically, we frequently get a picture of Jesus which is most removed from the evangelical view of Jesus and closer to the Muslim view of Jesus, even if not 100% identical. Typically, while there are disagreements over matters of detail, the below components are frequently observed in historical Jesus reconstructions:

• Jesus in his historical ministry did not claim to be god, divine, the second person of the trinity or “more than a man”

• Jesus was looked upon as God’s Prophet and he presented himself as God’s messiah – though what type of messiah continues to be debated by scholars

• Jesus restricted his preaching to the Jewish people / he confined his activity to Israel (quoting Ed Sanders)

• Jesus did not bring about a new religion

• Jesus is unlikely to have preached that he would die and be raised back to life

• Jesus was an observant Jew and did not overwrite the law; at most, he intensified some aspects of the law

• Jesus was a miracle worker / was accused of being a sorcerer

• Jesus preached repentance and the kingdom of God

• Jesus had disciples

There are many diverse reconstructions of the historical Jesus. But, frequently, the historical Jesus reconstructions are more similar to the general Muslim outline of Jesus than they are to the evangelical Jesus. In fact, the latter is very thoroughly and routinely dismissed again and again by historical Jesus scholars.

Consider James D. Tabor as an example.  He is a very controversial scholar and Muslims would immediately reject a number of things he has to say about the historical Jesus. But Tabor’s reconstruction of the historical Jesus is still, broadly speaking, more similar to the Islamic view as is readily acknowledged by him:

“Muslims do not worship Jesus, who is known as Isa in Arabic, nor do they consider him divine, but they do believe that he was a prophet or messenger of God and he is called the Messiah in the Quran. However, by affirming Jesus as Messiah they are attesting to his messianic message, not his mission as a heavenly Christ. There are some rather striking connections between the research I have presented in The Jesus Dynasty and the traditional beliefs of Islam.The Muslim emphasis on Jesus as messianic prophet and teacher is quite parallel to what we find in the Q source, in the book of James, and in the Didache. To be the Messiah is to proclaim a message, but it is the same message as that proclaimed by Abraham, Moses, and all the Prophets. Islam insists that neither Jesus nor Mohammed brought a new religion. Both sought to call people back to what might be called “Abrahamic faith.” This is precisely what we find emphasized in the book of James. Like Islam, the book of James, and the teaching of Jesus in Q, emphasize doing the will of God as a demonstration of one’s faith. Also, the dietary laws of Islam, as quoted in the Quran, echo the teachings of James in Acts 15 almost word for word: “Abstain from swine’s flesh, blood, things offered to idols, and carrion” (Quran 2:172)

there is little about the view of Jesus presented in this book that conflicts with Islam’s basic perception.” 5

And this is the case we often encounter when examining other scholarly reconstructions of the historical Jesus.

5. The Quran is reliant upon Apocryphal Sources – This is a much outdated argument which is seldom made by modern Quranic scholars – except for the polemically inclined such as Dr Costa. In the last century, many non-Muslim scholars – who just so happened to be mostly Christians – envisaged the Prophet (saw) to have encyclopaedic knowledge,  with a treasure trove of Jewish and Christian writings at his (saw) disposal – both canonical and apocryphal – from which he (saw) was actively “copying” different stories, giving them twists in accordance with his (saw) taste.  Subsequent studies have disproved this hypothesis.

There are similarities as well as many differences between Quranic stories and parallels found in the canonical and non-canonical Jewish and Christian writings. There are no actual quotations and citations in the Quran from any Jewish-Christian writing. The closest similarity in wording is to be found in three tiny sentences:

A. “We have written in the Psalms after the reminder that ‘My righteous servants will inherit the earth.” – al-Anbiya 105 – compare with Psalms 37.29: “The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.”

B. “And God spoke directly with Moses.” – an-Nisa 164 – compare with Exodus 20:1:”And God spoke all these things to Moses, saying…”

C. “Indeed, those who have denied our revelations and rejected them arrogantly – the gates of heaven shall not be opened for them and they shall not enter paradise until the camel passes through the eye of the needle.” – al-Araf 40 – compare with Matthew 19:24: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

How is it that if Muhammad (saw) had so many documents at his disposal, that only in three small areas he (saw) decided to retain some similarity with the wording of his (saw) sources and didn’t bother to quote anything else? In the words of Prof. Griffith, there is a “…virtual non-existence of the text of the Bible in any of the Quran’s biblical reminiscences.” 6

On the contrary, scholars now tend to argue that the Quran was the very first Arabic document – the first book in Arabic. Stories about Jesus and stories about Biblical prophets were floating around orally during the time of Muhammad (saw) in his (saw) immediate environment. People knew about these stories orally. The Author of the Quran knew these stories and used them by “rectifying” them – correcting them and retelling them so as to say, “this is what really happened / this is how it actually happened.”

In his recent book, Prof. Sidney H. Griffith writes:

“For the past century or more, many Western scholars have studied the Bible in the Quran, looking for its sources and the presumed influences on its text in both canonical and non-canonical, Jewish and Christian scriptures and apocryphal writings. Most often they declared the Quranic readings to be garbled, confused, mistaken, or even corrupted when compared with the presumed originals. Most recent scholars, however, some more sensitive than their academic ancestors to the oral character, as opposed to a ‘written-text’ interface between Bible and Quran, have taken the point that the evident intertextuality that obtains in many places in the three sets of scriptures  … reflects an oral intermingling of traditions, motifs, and histories in the days of the Quran’s origins.” 7

And:

“The Bible is both in the Quran and not in the Quran. That is to say, it has virtually no textual presence, but the selected presence of an ‘interpreted Bible’ in Islamic scripture is undeniable. And the selection process involved in the inclusion of biblical reminiscences in the Quran, according to the hypothesis advanced here, is one determined by the Quran’s own distinctive prophetology … And what is more, the Quran is corrective of, even polemical toward the earlier the earlier readings of the ‘Scripture People’ …” 8

From a purely secular perspective, where we a priori dismiss the possibility of revelation and miracle, when faced with similarities and differences between two or more sources, we can only reach these type of explanations:

• text A copied from text B;

• text A and B are reliant upon the same source – oral or written;

• stories were circulating orally and used by multiple groups, ending up in different written sources

If two sources contain the same stories, whether with some differences or not, then there has to be an underlying explanation for this. Either a textual dependency between documents – with scholars debating the direction of this textual dependency – or both documents being reliant upon the same source,  both documents reliant upon oral traditions or a mixture of the two etc.

So in our case, the Quran mentions Jesus, Moses and David. The stories within the Quran about these and other prophets are similar to stories found in Jewish and Christian writings – with differences as well. How do we explain this? Secular historians who are a priori dismissing the possibility of revelation can only offer a variety of natural explanations, some more convincing than others.

This doesn’t cause any problems for Muslims. We believe that certain events did occur. These were recorded – in varying levels of accuracy – in written sources and circulated orally. God then gave a revelation to Muhammad (saw) and related the actual stories, what really happened, confirming the truth and negating the false elements in the stories of all the Prophets, from Adam to Jesus. Hence the similarities and differences between the Quran and parallel stories in Jewish and Christian writings.

The view proposed by most scholars such as Prof. Griffith, therefore, does not in any manner “negate” the Muslim belief or cause any “problems” for Muslims.

6. Prof Khalidi states that the “Muslim Jesus” is meta historical, he is not even a historical person, the Quranic Jesus is an argument, it has nothing in common with the Jesus of the gospels, in fact, he says that the Muslim Jesus is a “Muslim creation,” he is an artificial creation, he is “meta historical” – he is not even a historical person– Firstly, so what if this is Prof. Khalidi’s view? Dr Costa is more than happy to dismiss mainstream Historical Jesus studies and mainstream New Testament studies for the sake of his historically dubious evangelical Jesus, then why should Ahmad be concerned about the view of Tarif Khalidi? Surely, there are many more Christians who have objectionable things to say about Dr Costa’s view of the Bible than Muslims who say objectionable things about Ahmad’s view of the Quran.

Secondly, Dr Costa seems to have misunderstood Tarif Khalidi. Prof. Khalidi’s book is about the stories of Jesus in later post-Quranic writings from the second / eighth century to the twelfth / eighteenth century. Prof. Khalidi states:

“In referring to this body of literature, I shall henceforth use the phrase “Muslim gospel.” 9

It is this “Muslim gospel” which is labelled by Prof. Khalidi as “meta historical”:

“…the Muslim gospel assembled here has the advantage of a certain impact and novelty. Here is a Jesus who is on the one hand is shorn of Christology, but who on the other is endowed with attributes which render him meta-historical and even, so to speak, meta religious.” 10

Prof. Khalidi is not referring to the Quran. He is referring to the “Muslim gospel” i.e.  post-Quranic writings from the second / eighth century to the twelfth / eighteenth century.

Prof. Khalidi writes:

“… the Jesus of the Muslim gospel takes on an identity quite different from the one found in the Quran, the Quranic Jesus remains an important basis of his later manifestation.” 11

So the “Muslim gospel” and the Quran and two different writings – the former being the label given to a wide range of post-Quranic stories about Jesus.

Moving to the Quranic presentation of Jesus, Prof. Khalidi says:

“The Quranic Jesus is in fact an argument addressed to his more wayward followers, intended to convince the sincere and frighten the unrepentant. As such, he has little in common with the Jesus of the Gospels, canonical or apocryphal.Rather, the Quranic image bears its own special and corrective message, pruning, rectifying, and rearranging an earlier revelation regarded as notorious for its divisive and contentious sects. The Quranic Jesus issues, no doubt, from the “orthodox” and canonical as well as the “unorthodox” and apocryphal Christian tradition. Thereafter, however, he assumed a life and function of his own, as often happens when one religious tradition emanates from another.” 12

Indeed, the Quranic Jesus is unique, with points of similarities and differences from all writings – canonical and non-canonical.  It emanates from canonical / non-canonical  tradition as the Author interacts with these traditions, arguing and presenting what He deems to be the correct view of Jesus.

As explained in #5 above, this sort of explanation is perfectly valid from a purely secular perspective. It causes no “problems” if one believes in the Quran as the Word of God, who confirmed accurate details about Jesus  – preserved in a variety of written and oral sources – and who dismissed and denied the inaccurate and inappropriate elements of the Jesus story. This explains the differences and similarities between the Quranic retellings and parallels in other documents.

7. Quran gets the Trinity wrong and asserts that Mary was part of the Trinity? – not so according to modern non-polemical scholarship.  The Qu’ran nowhere spells out the Trinity in 5:116.  It does not mention the Trinity’s contents. In other words, the Quran does not state, “The Trinity consists of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; they are not three gods but one God.”

Rather than referring to the Trinity, or to a “deviant” formulation of it, the Quran presents an eschathological interrogation of Jesus in which his divinity and that of his mother is denied. Now we know that Christians do worship Jesus as god. We also know that not only in the past did some groups elevate the status of Mary, but that the largest group of Christians, the Catholics direct worship towards her as “mother of God.” From the Quranic perspective, this IS akin to the worship of two of God’s creatures besides Him.

Therefore, the Quran is only stating how these acts are viewed/seen/looked upon by its Author – God.

David Thomas explains that this passage is:

“…a denial that Jesus and Mary are equal with God, and a warning (q.v.) against making excessive claims about them. Thus, it can be understood as an instance of the warning against the divinization of Jesus that is given elsewhere in the Qur’ān and a warning against the virtual divinization of Mary…” 13

The verse is to be understood as:

“… a warning against excessive devotion to Jesus and extravagant veneration of Mary, a reminder linked to the central theme of the Qur’ān that there is only one God and he alone is to be worshipped …” 14

This is also confirmed by Sidney Griffith, who writes:

Surely the standard Christian proclamation that Jesus is God, the son of God, and Mary his mother, is the mother of God, would have been sufficient to elicit the Qur’an’s adverse judgment.” 15

It is equally plausible that the Quran intentionally simplifies the Christian belief in the divinity of Jesus to expose its weakness when analysed from the strict monotheistic perspective of the Quran.

This is how non polemicist western academics are reading the Qur’an.  Very different from the misreadings of the polemical authors such as Dr Costa and friends.

8. The Gospel of John and Historical Jesus scholars – Dr Costa likes to mention Historical Jesus scholarship now and then. But he does not inform people that the Gospel of John is deemed to be a highly unreliable source to know about the historical Jesus by mainstream New Testament scholars. Even scholars who attempt to make some use of the fourth gospel acknowledge that it is a highly interpretive account of Jesus. There are many conservative scholars who have made such acknowledgements and a sample of conservative scholarship can be viewed here:

http://www.call-to-monotheism.com/shamounion_straw_men_and_obfuscations__a_critical_commentary_on_sam_shamoun_s__the_purpose_and_cause_of_jesus__death

For now, I just present the view of one of the most prominent Historical Jesus scholar:

It is impossible to think that Jesus spent his short ministry teaching in two such completely different ways, conveying such different contents, and there were simply two traditions, each going back to Jesus, one transmitting 50 per cent of what he said and another one the other 50 per cent, with almost no overlaps. Consequently, for the last 150 or so years scholars have had to choose. They have almost unanimously, and I think entirely correctly, concluded that the teaching of the historical Jesus is to be sought in the synoptic gospels and that John represents an advanced theological development, in which meditations on the person and work of Christ are presented in the first person, as if Jesus said them. “16

Again note: mainstream scholarship has to be dismissed again and again by Dr Costa and friends.

+++++++

1. Catherine M. Murphy, The Historical Jesus For Dummies, 2007, John Wiley & Sons, Indianapolis: Indiana, p. 178.

2. Christopher Tuckett, Christology And The New Testament: Jesus And His Earliest Followers, 2001, Edinburgh University Press, p. 24.

3. John P. Meier, “Reflections on Jesus-of-History Research Today,” in James H. Charlesworth (Editor), Jesus’ Jewishness: Exploring the Place of Jesus in Early Judaism, 1996, The American Interfaith Institute, New York: The Crossroad Herder Publishing Company, p. 100.

4. Christopher M. Tuckett, Christology and the New Testament: Jesus and His Earliest Followers, op. cit., p. 203.

5. James D Tabor, The Jesus Dynasty: Stunning New Evidence about the Hidden History of Jesus, 2006, HarperElement, pp. 287 – 288.

6. Sidney H. Griffith, The Bible in Arabic: The Scriptures of the “People of the Book” In The Language of Islam, 2013, Princeton University Press, p. 91.

7. ibid p. 56.

8. ibid p. 95.

9. Tariff Khalidi (Editor & Translator) & Edward W. Said (General Editor), The Muslim Jesus: Sayings and Stories in Islamic Literature, 2003 Edition, Harvard University Press, p. 3.

10. ibid p. 45.

11. ibid p. 6.

12. ibid pp. 16-17.

13. EQ, Vol. 5, p. 370.

14. ibid.

15. Sidney H. Griffith, The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque: Christians and Muslims in the World of Islam, 2007, Princeton University Press, p. 29.

16. E. P. Sanders, The Historical Figure Of Jesus, 1993, Penguin Books, pp. 70-71.


To have your review or comments about the debate published on the website and on our Facebook page, submit them via our Contact Us page.

and Allah knows best.

Debate: Was Jesus the Son of God or Only the Prophet of God – Audience’s Review #1

This is the first of several audience reviews from the debate between Dr. Tony Costa and myself. The following review is from Abu Ilias (USA):


As a student of comparative theology, I am addicted to watching Christian/Muslim interfaith dialogues and debates. Different speakers have different oratory attributes, skills, knowledge, and of course deficiencies as well, and present their information in various ways. There are some who, to the discerning minds, seem to merely want to spout hate and animosity at the interlocutor’s person and faith conviction, not seriously interested in genuine dialogue or hoping to reach a fair and objective conclusion. And there are those that , bless them, seem to be very sincere and earnest but do not posses adequate knowledge in the scope of their debate endeavors and consequently end up creating straw men arguments, misrepresentations and false conclusions, albeit not intentionally.

This debate between Tony Costa and Ijaz Ahmed encapsulated the best of both worlds in my humble opinion. Ijaz was lucid, intelligent, respectful and up to date on the current landscape of Christian theological doctrine and textual criticism. He did not allow his Quranic or Islamic preconceptions to muddy the merit of his arguments nor did he allow the fever of religious debate to infiltrate and ruin the civility of the event (contrary to what others such as David Wood and Sam Shamoun frequently do on ABN). Tony Costa, is also one of the more respectable Christian personalities and apologists. He displayed a very professional level of dialogue and did not resort to some of the oft repeated bigoted slogans that ubiquitously occupy the lips of others who use the ABN platform. And while I believe some of Costa’s arguments to be weak or unfounded, I never found myself grinding my teeth or face palming at any time during his debate, which is a first for me as a listener of ABN’s material.

Ijaz (as well as some very intelligent Muslim questioners during the Q and A) did a terrific job using only christian and general biblical scholarship to support his claims on various topics and I learned much from his presentations as well as his style of delivery, in fact, I am shocked at his level of knowledge and wisdom at such a young age. I will definitely watch this debate numerous times in order to study the material he so eloquently presented and utilize it in the future! By my humble estimation, Ijaz clearly provided the more objective and faith-neutral arguments while Costa, although being respectful and polite, countered with little more than cliches that have long been discarded by modern studies in textual criticism and Christology. Examples include his continued claim that the Gospels were 1st century documents despite Ijaz’s elucidation of the fact that the oldest known manuscripts like P52 are dated by biblical scholars no earlier than the early second century and as late as the third century (even though Prof Dan Wallace claims to have been a part of the dating and discovery of a small late first century fragment of Mark back in 2012, it is now almost 2016 with still no verification.)

There are many more points, paramount ones, that can be expounded upon to show how Ijaz demonstrated the problematic nature of reconciling unitiarian passages in the NT with the trinity and the dual nature of Jesus peace be upon him, as well as how he academically clarified the dubious nature of the NT text as a whole, which in essence trumped anything Costa could have had to refute!


To have your review or comments about the debate published on the website and on our Facebook page, submit them via our Contact Us page.

and Allah knows best.

Debate Video: Was Jesus the Son of God or Only the Prophet of God – Br. Ijaz Ahmad & Dr. Tony Costa

Alhamdulillah!

The debate video has been added to our ‘Debates page‘, and is available on YouTube:

I’ve received a ton of positive feedback about the debate. There are a number of reviews expected to be published soon. The following review is from a Muslim YouTube user who watched all of the debates from the Trinity Channel’s Debate Marathon, featuring Dr. Shabir Ally, David Wood, Dr Costa and myself, he says:

I just found this channel, and during the past week or so watched all these debates against Muslims.

As a Muslim convert from Christianity, I must say that the Christians on here are good at debating but they do it in a slick way. That is that they always take the Qur’an and twist it back onto the Muslim by saying things like “According to your book, blah blah blah.”

This debate was the best one so far because Ijaz went into it know this was going to happen and in his initial statement didn’t even mention the Qur’an and used just Christian ideology to make his point. I was thinking that we would finally get a good discussion going.

Unfortunately, right in the first rebuttal, the Christian side went right into the same tactics as in all the previous debates. This is what made this one feel like a big rehash of the previous week.

Another popular Muslim author, and convert from Christianity, Br. Abu Zakariya of Many Prophets One Message posted on Facebook:

A big congratulations to our brother Ijaz Ahmad on last night’s debate with Dr. Tony Costa. It was a resounding victory for Ijaz, despite lacking the academic credentials and decades of experience that his opponent possesses.

May Allah increase Ijaz in goodness. Ameen.

One other mini-review which took place directly after the debate, is as follows by our esteemed and scholastic, Br. Mansur:

Dr. Costa misunderstood your arguments. He misunderstood the topic of the debate. Perhaps he had not given enough thought on the subject. It is strange indeed to see his logic at play here. Suppose the debate title was: ‘ Is the Qur’an the word of God’ or ‘is Muhammad a Prophet of God?’ Merely quoting the Qur’an or the early followers of Islam, or even contemporary non-Muslims who stated this belief of Muslims does not prove any of these propositions. Dr. Costa presumed wrongly that the debate was ‘ Does the Bible claim that Jesus is the son of God or …’. I can accept that the laity can be a victim of poor comprehension on this but I don’t expect that from learned individuals.

The approach I took in this debate has piqued the interest of the inter-faith dialogue community. I chose not to use the historical/ Biblical interpretation route (Son of God has many meanings). Rather, I accepted that my opponent believes that Jesus was God/ the Son of God. From that, I argued based on the philosophy of religion and on the ontology (nature of his God), that Jesus did not meet or fulfill the criteria of God (defined in the debate as a maximally perfect being).

In other words, I asked very important questions. If Jesus is God, does he demonstrate the qualities of a deity? Do the beliefs of Christians regarding the Son of God’s place in the Trinity, make any sense? Are those beliefs consistent, are they rational? Do they contain heretical teachings? Do Christians appeal to heresies to defend the Trinity?

P1: If the beliefs about the Son of God by Christians are inconsistent and irrational, then Jesus is not the Son of God.

P2: The beliefs about the Son of God by Christians are inconsistent and irrational.

C: Therefore Jesus is not the Son of God.

The debate was absolutely wonderful. I thoroughly enjoyed engaging with Dr. Costa, and I was very much pleased with the outcome. Quite a lot of Muslims thanked me for introducing these arguments, and for not repeating the same arguments that have traditionally been used for debates about this topic since time immemorial. I always try to introduce new information, new arguments, new research when I debate. The goals are to raise and advance the level of intellectual discourse, to discuss the fundamental and essential beliefs about our respective faiths, and finally to educate the public.

May Allah reward all those who take their time to watch the debate, Ameen.

And Allah knows best.

Live Debate: Was Jesus the Son of God or Only the Prophet of God?

Br. Ijaz Ahmad is debating Dr. Tony Costa on Friday October the 9th. The debate will be held on the Trinity Channel/ ABN TV, as well as livestreamed…on the Trinity Channel’s website, and on YouTube. The debate is carder for 7 PM EST (12 AM GMT). Both debaters will be using Skype. Br. Ijaz will be video calling from Trinidad, and Dr. Costa will be video calling from Toronto, Canada. Click this link for further details!

Upcoming Debate: Was Jesus the Son of God or Only the Prophet of God? – Dr. Tony Costa and Br. Ijaz

Quick Information:
Topic: Was Jesus the Son of God or Only the Prophet of God?
Debaters: Br. Ijaz Ahmad of Calling Christians/ MDI and Dr. Tony Costa of the Toronto Baptist Seminary.
Date: Friday 9th of October, 2015.
Time: 7 PM EST.
Location: ABN TV, Trinity TV and YouTube.
Moderator: TBA.
cc-2015-debatewithcosta
Note: Br. Ijaz is not an Imam, the error has been made aware to the channel.
and God knows best.

Upcoming Debate: Is the Muslim Denial of Jesus’s Death by Crucifixion Valid? – Br. Ijaz and Keith of Answering Islam

Quick Information:
Topic: Is the Muslim Denial of Jesus’s Death by Crucifixion Valid?
Debaters: Br. Ijaz Ahmad of Calling Christians and Keith Thompson of Answering Islam.
Date: Saturday 26th of September, 2015.
Time: 10 PM EST.
Location: Paltalk, Answering Christianity Room.
Moderator: Sister Waduha.
A little background on the Christian debater:
keith thompson

Keith Thompson of Answering Islam

Keith Thompson is a Christian apologist who runs Reformed Apologetics Ministries and has been writing for Answering-Islam.org since 2008. He is a debater having debated opponents such as Inamullah Mumtaz, Sami Zaatari, Nadir Ahmed, Peter Dimond and others. He resides in Canada and will be completing his seminary studies shortly.
This will be my (Br. Ijaz’s) third debate for the year, with one final (fourth) debate to be announced shortly. The final debate will be with a well known Christian scholar and will be televised (and is expected to be streamed live). The debate is to be held on Friday October the 9th, 2015 (tentative dating).


If you don’t use Paltalk and would still like to view the debate between Keith and myself, alternative arrangements may be made for a YouTube streaming of the event (tentative), or a recording should be available within a week’s time (on YouTube via Nazam44’s and MuslimByChoice’s channels).
cc-2015-debatewithkiethflyer
If you or someone you know is interested in debating me, do send a request via our contact us form.

and Allah knows best.

Debate Review: What Was the True Faith of Jesus’s Disciples? – Br. Yahya Snow

I review a debate entitled “What Was The True Faith of Jesus’ Disciples?

The Debaters:

  • Br. Ijaz Ahmad of Calling Christians
  • Rev. Steven Martins of Nicene International Ministries Canada.

Note: I did the bulk of the review a while ago but never managed to finish it in the detail I would have liked but never got back to it through procrastination and other priorities I’ve quickly tidied up what I had and rolled it out.

“None of the Apostles could have written or sanctioned these stories about themselves” – Br. Ijaz Ahmad

Were the Gospel Accounts eye-witness reports

Steven Martins’ approach was to draw upon the New Testament in his attempt to present what he believes the disciples believed. Steven believes the Gospels are the historical eye-witness records of  the disciples. This was rejected outright by Ijaz Ahmad who pointed out the 4 Gospels were not contemporary to Jesus p and nor are the writers of these Gospels known so how can somebody take these works as eye-witness accounts? None of the authors of the documents which make up the NT were eye-witnesses. Paul himself indicates this of himself (and his writings are the earliest written amongst the NT writings). On top of this the authors of the 4 Gospels are anonymous (these names Mark, Matthew, Luke and John were later given to the anonymous authors). So weighing up all these points it’s sad to hear Steven insist these writings were eye-witness accounts. Perhaps this is what he was taught by his mentors and other Christian apologists but that does not make it true.

Also, just knowing these two basic facts would preclude one from claiming the authors were eye-witnesses – the Gospels are written by highly literate Greek speakers while the companions of Jesus were considered to be illiterate and Aramaic speakers (these people were lower class men). This suggestion they were unschooled is backed up by the writer of Acts as Ijaz cites:

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. [Acts 4:13]

This may seem odd to us folk living in the 21st Century but the vast majority of the ancient world did not know how to read and write.

Ijaz Ahmad offers an analysis that many may have never come across – the alleged chains of transmission of the Gospel accounts. 4 out of the 6 lead to what Trinitarians would call heretical beliefs and the other two are anonymous – further highlighting the range of differing beliefs amongst early Christians. Ijaz states these chains of transmission indicate Peter, Matthew and John rejected a belief in the death of Jesus (which as Ijaz says, it sounds like they had an Islamic belief!).

Do the Gospels contain myths and legends

Ijaz argues there are erroneous stories in the Gospels. One of Steven Martins’ arguments against the claim the Gospels contains myth and legend is that there was not enough time between Jesus’ life and the recording of the Gospels for myth and legend to enter. He then concludes the Gospels are historical based on this.

Has Steven considered William Lane Craig’s unease at the biggest resurrection story in all of Christian literature – that of the resurrection of the many saints in Matthew. He finds it difficult to accept as a literal event, see here:

William Lane Craig Doubts Resurrection Story is Historical (‘The Resurrection of the Saints’) Matthew 27

Now, if Steven Martins believes this story literally then why does nobody else mention it? A story of many dead people coming out of their graves, is that not something that would get people writing according to Steven? Or does he think this is a myth that was added to the account?

However, a point that it is not unrelated to Steven’s theory, Ijaz Ahmad ran through early Christian history pointing out there were multiple competing Christian traditions which all differed from each other – there were even Gospels which differed from each other. So if at the time of Paul there were different Gospels (now lost) then how can Steven be so confident to believe there are no myths and legends in the four Gospels he has ended up with?

In addition the theology amongst various Christian groups in early Christianity was radically different to the Trinitarian theology the majority of modern-day Christians subscribe to.

There were Christian groups which believed in 2 gods, 12gods and 365 gods. Ijaz Ahmad mentions the Arian controversy as a case in point to demonstrate rival factions were competing with each other. This is a good example to highlight as Arianism is Non-Trinitarian and it drew upon the same scriptures as the Trinitarian faction/s as well as it being a good demonstration of how popularity and a sympathy with the ruling elite promoted one faction over another

Arianism taught that Jesus was created by God and was distinct from God. This belief had it’s scriptural basis in John 14:28

These varying theologies within early Christianity should be something Steven should look into further.

Ijaz taught Paul did not mention or use the four Gospels which modern-day Christians use today so even Paul did not sanction these Gospels. Is it possible Paul was unaware of these Gospels? Not that Paul is a criterion of right and wrong but is it possible Paul would have considered some of the writings in the four Gospels spurious?

Another point mentioned, by Steven I think, Paul abolished circumcision. The question is, who gave him authority to do so?

These are further points for Steven to consider.

Object of worship?

Steven Martins claims throughout the Gospels Jesus is the object of worship – paradoxically he mentions this in the same breath as his mentioning of Satan tempting Jesus p. Think about it, he effectively claimed Jesus was God and Jesus was tempted by Satan. Playing games with the belief of the hypostatic union is not going to get the Bible believing Trinitarian away from this problem. Ijaz Ahmad refers to original language of the scripture to show Steven that the word he uses does not denote the type of worship God receives.

‘Son of God’ title

Steven emphasises the ‘Son of God’ attribution given to Jesus in one of the Gospel narratives after Jesus performed a miracle (walked on water) but this just simply meant somebody who was chosen by God – as taught by Prof. Bart Erhman.

The Gospel of John

 

Rather predictably, Martins in his attempt to prove Jesus was divine, leans heavily on the Gospel of John. Almost as though the Gospel of Mark (the earliest Gospel) does not exist!

The irony is, Steven Martins tells Ijaz Ahmad to give priority to the earlier sources (Gospels) when Ijaz brought up the church history. Sadly, many Christians don’t do this with the Gospels and they lean disproportionately to the last Gospel – John’s Gospel.

Another Christian apologetics argument presented is that some doubted in the story where Jesus is said to have been worshipped. Martins claims the story must be true because it mentions ‘doubt’. I guess he’s utilizing the idea of a criterion of embarrassment argument here.

Martins rattles off the ‘he who has seen me has seen the Father’ argument in his attempt to prove Jesus was divine. Similarly Martins uses the Gospel teaching of  Jesus pre-existing before his birth and the ‘I am’ statements.

Martins states Jesus was omnipotent and omniscient as well as being capable of forgiving sins in order to prove his Trinitarian case. Martins also claims Jesus was called by the name of God, ‘my Lord my God’

Steven Martins would do well to look at where these things are written. Are they written in the Gospel of Mark, the earliest Gospel, or the latest one which is the most Christologically developed whose author is effectively described as a liar by Christian apologist Mike Licona (accused of changing stories to make theological points – thus he was forging stories to get his theology across).This anonymous author (later named John) is not the person Steven wants to be going to to get important aspects of theology or proof texts!

What Every Christian Should Know About The Gospel Of John

Peter
Gleeson Archer is cited by Martins to support the claim that the authorship of 2 Peter should not be corrected. Bart Ehrman teaches us that virtually all scholars (with the exception of conservative evangelicals) are unified that 2 Peter is not from Peter. The bombshell is that Prof.Ehrman does not believes 1 and 2 Peter are not written by Peter at all as hebelieves Peter was illiterate.

And would Ijaz’s citation of Acts not support the view that disciples were illiterate?

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. [Acts 4:13]

Miracles
Martins acknowledges other Prophets performed miracles but he tries to draw a distinction between the miracles performed by Jesus and the other Prophets. Martins intimates, erroneously, that these were done by Jesus independently while the miracles of the other Prophets were done by the authority of God. Has Steven got any proof of this? Does he even have a quotation attributed to Jesus to this effect?
There is something in the Gospel of John that militates against Steven’s claim:
but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” [10:32]
Steven Martins starts talking about the Quran
I’m not sure why he did this but he just presented dated and already refuted Christian missionary material.
Martins mentions the Quran 10:94 and 5:47. Martins claims the Bible was already in existence at the time of the Quran revealed. Martins just presents the standard intellectually dishonest and shallow Christian apologist material on this.
Ijaz touches on this here:

https://callingchristians.com/2013/02/14/does-quran-validate-bible/

Bassam Zawadi here:

http://www.call-to-monotheism.com/refuting_the_argument_regarding_the_qur_an_ordering_the_jews_and_christians_to_judge_by_their_scriptures

I think Steven Martins also used one of these missionary arguments too:

http://www.call-to-monotheism.com/does_the_quran_affirm_the_teachings_of_paul_

Steven Martins and IjazAhmad on Paul of Tarsus
Ijaz Ahmad focuses on the historicity of multiple traditions within early Christianity which were competing against each other contemporaneously. To support this claim, Ijaz cites Paul twice

Galatians 1:6

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel [ESV]

Romans 2:16

on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. [ESV]

Ijaz makes a point worthy of consideration, when Paul mentions ‘gospel’ he’s not referencing the 4 we see in the New Testament as he wrote his letters prior to those 4. Ijaz supports this conclusion through the absence of references from those 4 Gospels within Paul’s letters. So here, ‘my gospel’ is referring to ‘my teachings of Christ’.
Steven Martins offers his argument for Paul being truthful, yet if Steven thinks about it, the throwing yourself into hardship from comfort argument can be used with much greater force to show Prophet Muhammad (p) was truthful. Think about it, just read his life  – the Prophet risked his life and was rejected by his tribe. The argument Steven presents is better suited for Prophet Muhammad (p). If Steven is consistent and objective he would accept Prophet Muhammad (p).
When Reverend Steven Martins wrongly claimed Paul’s writing constituted 75% of the NT it suggested to me that Reverend Steven Martins WAS just eager to deliver a response to defend his already-held world view. Is Steven at home thinking about the points presented deeply and re-evaluating his beliefs, is he searching for the truth or is he simply searching for material to offer in defence of his already-held beliefs?
Ijaz argues Paul turned towards the Gentiles in his preaching because he was weak in his arguments and thus was rejected by the Jews, hence why he turned towards the Gentiles – whom Ijaz believes Paul considered to be an easier audience. Interestingly enough, the Gentiles came from pagan backgrounds where mythology was rampant, this fits in with why the stories about Jesus (p) would have presented him as a god-man, the pagans were accustomed to such stories.
This also ties in with the discussion Ijaz and Steven have on why Paul did not quote from the Gospels. The hardest hitting point as made by Ijaz: Paul was being rejected by the Jews yet he never quoted from the Gospels, why would he not quote something that he believes to be authority to people who were rejecting him?

Disingenuous claim by Christians about Bart Ehrman
I’ve heard this before from Christian apologists. Steven Martins makes the same appeal, claiming even Ehrman believed in the death of Jesus p. However, what Christian apologists always do, they never mention that Ehrman is not accepting miracles and thus is of course going to believe a man who was born over 2000 years ago has died. Thus Ehrman, as a historian, accepts the most popular early story about Jesus p and thus he believes he died. Christians really should stop making this point, it’s not like Ehrman believes in the resurrection belief despite the story of the resurrection is in the same account as the death by crucifixion story.
Controlled or Uncontrolled Texts
Ijaz Ahmad offers a good rebuttal to the James White-style attempt in trying to take a positive out of the lack of a controlled text within early Christianity. The Quran, which was controlled in it’s copying, was scribed in a more suitable environment for accuracy. Chunks were being added to the Gospels by dishonest scribes, so clearly the environment in which the scribes were operating in did not offer restrictions against such doctoring of texts.
If I recall correctly Steven mentioned Uthman. Many Christians are fed misinformation regarding Uthman’s burning of manuscripts. Here’s an expert to explain it:

Why did the Third Caliph Uthman Burn the Copies of Quran?

A really bad argument by Steven pounced on by Ijaz
Martins appeals to the fact that Herod, Pontius Pilate, the pool of Siloam are mentioned in the Gospel accounts as being testimony to the historicity of the Gospels. This is an odd argument – it’s absurdly odd.
To be honest, Steven opened himself up to ridicule when he continued with the argument that geographical locations being mentioned in the Gospels as being evidence for their authenticity. Ijaz hit back by pointing out that the same argument could be used on Harry Potter as it includes King’s Cross station (London). What I’d like to know is, from where did Steven get this line of argumentation? Was it an argument from a Christian apologetics school which he accepted blindly?  And would Steven be consistent enough to now claim Islam is true because in Islamic sources real people and real places are mentioned?

The Christian tradition in 7th century Arabia
I feel it’s misleading when Christian apologists bang on about how their canon was formed by this time and thus assume people in Arabia had the modern-day Bible in their possession in the 7th century as though they were Trinitarian Pauline Christians exactly as we find them in a Baptist church somewhere in Texas.

Christians really need to stop making this assumption and they need to stop basing arguments on this erroneous assumption that all Christians had the same books.
Ijaz Ahmad refutes the superficial (and intellectually dishonest) argument It’s obvious this is not the case. Ijaz mentions Christians and Jews converting to Islam during the time of Prophet Muhammad. I would recommend Reverend Steven Martins looks into the story of Salmam Al Farsi, who converted to Christianity, before the coming of Prophet Muhammad, from a Zoroastrian tradition.
Salman Al-Farsi, the son of a Zoroastrian priest, met a Christian monk inPersia and converted to Christianity at the hands of the monk. Salman Al-Farsi ran away to Syria and joined the monk’s Christian sect which was dying sect. Salman Al-Farsi learned, from his Christian sect, of a Prophet to come who was predicted by Jesus (p). He was told of three signs the Prophet would meet:

He shall appear in a land full of dates.

He will have a physical mark on his back.

This man will accept gifts but never accept charity.
From Syria, Salman Al-Farsi ended up in Yathrib after being enslaved. He wound up toiling away as a slave for decades. A time came when talk spread about Prophet Muhammad (p) emigrating to Medina. Salman Al-Farsi heard of this talk and came to Prophet Muhammad (p), he soon realised Prophet Muhammad (p) fulfilled all three signs and converted to Islam.
Salman’s story indicated how few real Christians were left at the time of Prophet Muhammad (p).

Another story illustrating this was that of the Emperor Heraclius, who received a letter from Prophet Muhammad (p). In the account, Heraclius mentions that there are Scriptures in which a Prophet is predicted to come after Jesus (p) and that Prophet Muhammad (p) fits the description.

Both stories indicate that there were Scriptures that the majority of Christians at the time did not have access.

http://thefactsaboutislam.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/christianity-before-islam-in-arabia.html

City of Village?

The difference between a village of a city – the village of Bethsaida. Ijaz Ahmad picks on the author of John for making an error of anachronism. Luke also calls it a city. Perhaps it was one of those loose Gospel scribes writing after it was changed to a city. Whatever the case may well be (the Gospel authors or the scribes), it’s an interesting point raised by Ijaz Ahmad to possibly further impugn the reliability of those texts.
Ijaz accuses the author of John of an anachronistic error regarding the city of Bethsaida and Ijaz spends some time relaying discrepancies concerning the Gospel accounts. I think he could have offered more examples to the audience of discrepancies but perhaps he wanted to focus on stories involving companions of Jesus rather than the standard show of contradictions between the Gospels such as what Barth Ehrman presents here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuvEmajcaiQ
If clear evidence is shown of discrepancies and changes within the Gospels then the question the truth-seeker may ask is, how can these texts be trusted to think they weren’t changed in other ways to the extent that the texts do not even represent the theology of Jesus?

Conclusion

What’s established from the debate, the Trinitarian narrative is not sound. The Gospels are not reliable. There were competing Gospels and traditions. Basing one’s beliefs entirely on the New Testament is effectively accepting conjecture.

Ijaz Ahmad

Clearly he, for such a young man, has a burgeoning apologetics CV. He and Zakir Hussain could well be the mainstay of Muslim debates with Christians for the next few decades.
It’s also nice to hear an accent other than a North American or British accent.
I think Ijaz rushed his positive case for the disciples being Muslims. Ijaz shows links between Jewish Christianity and Islam. His focus was heavily leaning on refuting Reverend Steven Martins and the Trinitarian narrative – this he achieved easily in clearly demonstrating the Trinitarian narrative is not sound.
Another point I would pick on here, Ijaz went for the more complex points which for an audience tuned in to apologetics may well have been suitable but I’d imagine the majority of the live audience and those viewers of the recorded debate are not too familiar with the bread and butter points regarding Gospel contradictions and textual criticism.

Ijaz possesses faith shattering information for the Christian, it would be wise to always ensure the audience is invited to Islam at the end of the debate. Most apologists and debaters don’t do this but surely we want them to come to the truth of Islam rather than not invite them to the truth after effectively destroying their faith.

Where does Ijaz go from here? Well, I’d imagine on his island the scope for engaging with seasoned apologists is quite limited so I’d personally like him to debate local pastors. People want to see apologists debate but let’s see Muslims go to churches to dialogue with pastors (who have flocks of people following them). I would also hope the pastors aren’t marred by some of the dishonest arguments Christian apologists are plagued with today so the discussion is easier – less rubbish to wade through before engaging the Christians productively.
Ijaz has charisma and seems like a nice guy too so these qualities could well endear him to Christians which can only be a good thing in witnessing the truth of Islamic monotheism to Christians

Steven Martins of Nicene International Ministries

For me, Steven was visibly struggling in this debate. This should be a sign to Steven that he’s not on the right side of the fence.

I think he’s a victim of bad information from those who has learned from. The person who gave him the argument he was making based on the mention of geographical locations should be banned from apologetics!

I really think Steven should not debate again. He’s better off just remove himself from Christian apologetics and begin a search for the truth. Think about some of the questions raised. Think about why Jesus p never mentioned a man called Paul or 4 books that he wanted people to believe were ‘Gospels’.

Research Islam with an open heart and mind.

From my experience with Christians, it appears many have been hooked by emotional preaching. It’s not that they have been convinced intellectually to accept the idea of the Trinity or the god-man concept.

Think deeper.

Reverend Steven Martins on the History of Mecca

Rebuking Rev. Steven Martins of Evangelium & Apologia Ministries – ‘Western Values’

Christian apologetics to Muslims, more women in Hell Hadith

Tackling Christian Apologetics on Polygamy (Polygyny) in the Bible and the Quran

More about the Paraclete

Prophecies of the Messiah – Reza Aslan

Christians having dreams and converting to Islam

Learn about Islam

Email: yahyasnow@yahoo.co.uk

Debate Release: What is the True Faith of Jesus’ Disciples – Br. Ijaz vs Rev. Steven Martins

We’re happy to announce that the first debate between myself and Rev. Steven has been published online. The topic, “What is the True Faith of Jesus’ Disciples?,” featured a lot of discussion on the early Christology of the proto-orthodox Christian tradition. There was also discussion on the New Testament manuscript tradition however the Reverend chose not to pursue that course of argument (I had with me several papyrological studies on hand but the debate did not follow that path). The claim that the disciples were eyewitnesses or the authors of the NT textual tradition was deeply discussed and the Reverend makes quite the statement during the debate, “it’s all hypothetical!,” which then led to some even more interesting remarks.

I focused on the chains of transmission as claimed by Church tradition, and examined them in light of the deutero-canonical traditions, the results would surprise many. I also compared and contrasted several “claims” by the early Church fathers as to from whom they took their testimony from about Christ, which led to quite a major contradiction given Papias’ witness. All in all, this was an extremely enjoyable debate and the audio is 100% clear. Again, I’d like to thank Br. Haseeb from IBN for the recording, Br. Asad (of Motorway Hall) and the MYTT for hosting the event, Br. Nazam for stitching the video together and then uploading to his channel, Pastor Kris for moderating the event and especially Rev. Steven for being my gracious interlocutor. The event was extremely well attended and I must thank the community for their participation.

Enjoy the recording!

and Allah knows best.

 

Post-Debate Remarks: What is the True Faith of Jesus’ Disciples

My friend and EAM Associate Apologist, Luis sent these books with Steven. Thanks Louie!

My friend and EAM Associate Apologist, Luis sent these books with Steven. Thanks Louie!

I’ve taken some time to think about the debate I had on Friday past with Reverend Steven Martins. Before, I speak on the debate itself I’d like to thank Br. Asad – the event’s host, Br. Haseeb – the videographer, MYTT – the organizers, and Pastor Kris – first time debate moderator and local host of Reverend Stevens. The event was well attended, some 200 – 300 persons, although we got off to a late start ~30 minutes, by the time the opening statements began we had a sizable crowd which grew steadily throughout our presentations. Due to our late start, we also had a late conclusion to the event, close to midnight according to our host and organizers. I however, having just come out of surgery, left 30 minutes after the debate. Reverend Steven’s timing wasn’t the best, but having just come out of surgery two weeks prior to the event, I was skeptical as to how I’d be able to manage a first time stage debate in front of such a large crowd. Thankfully, I was able to hold down my own and go through with the event.

The crowd seemed very well pleased with both presentations, occasionally I’d glance at the crowd and see quite a number of smiling faces, as well as a swelling crowd of guests. I have to admit that I was completely thrown aback by both Reverend Stevens and Pastor Kris’s (on the ‘s, see William Strunk Jr. and EB White’s, “The Elements of Style”) kind words. Pastor Kris’s introduction of, “I’ve only met Ijaz a few minutes now, but I must say he is a handsome young man”, was an excellent start to the night’s proceedings. No doubt, I do agree with the Pastor (why yes, I am being cheeky). Reverend Stevens is a very good orator and I must applaud him for speaking clearly, consistently and loudly enough. Myself on the other hand, had the mic adjusted a few minutes into the debate but the audio recording was not affected (the audience may have been affected, but that was a minor issue as far as I was told). Unfortunately, the Christian videographer had issues with his recording and thus despite having two cameras present, only one actually recorded the event.

Beyond that hiccup, the event proceeded smoothly. I have been told by persons who were at the event that the one on one between myself and the Reverend during our crossfire section was extremely thrilling and quite the spectacle to have watched. The question and answer following the main debate was quite interesting. Unfortunately there was one belligerent (Christian?) man who found my comments in relation to 2 Corinthians 12:6-7 to be somewhat offensive. Although my memory could be wrong, I have conferred with several others and they have agreed that my recounting of the events is indeed accurate (if I’m wrong, shoot me an email or place a comment, I’ll gladly correct myself), it proceeded as follows:

Questioner: Why are you using your intellect in reading scripture? The message of the cross is foolish to those who think they are wise! (He then proceeds to ask me a series of loosely related questions).

Me: I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you’re asking, can you please clarify?

Questioner: (Expressing his ire with my not understanding him proceeds to ask several more questions and shout after the mic has been taken from him; both Christian and Muslim sides agreed this would be done in the event someone wanted to start their own debate.)

 

I do fear that my reaction may have gone over his head. I have been told that some of my comments were too witty for certain sections of the crowd (I’m not sure how to respond to that), but essentially, if I turned off my intellect as the man was demanding I do, then it’s quite clear I wouldn’t be able to understand what he was asking. I will excuse him though, his anger and emotions may have gotten the better of him. Although the irony is difficult to escape, there was a deeper level of irony that occurred to me then but alas there was no time to mention it (time limit of 2 minutes had rushed quickly by!), here is a man who reads his scripture without using intellect, while those who constructed his scripture (textual critics) are required to use their intellects in their discipline! I seem to have angered the man with my being unable to understand him, but perhaps if he used his – intellect – it may have helped. Nonetheless, that was the only odd event for the evening and we proceeded to finish line shortly thereafter.

Following the event, I’ve received great feedback from both sides on the presentations for the debate. Fortunately, the questions the audience asked were directly relevant to the next topic, “What is the True Path of Salvation: Islam or Christianity?”, which sets a great stage for the next debate. I’m concerned that the Christian side which is arranging the recording may not be able to follow through on those arrangements for the next debate. I’d be quite disappointed if that is the case, but I do hope and pray that this next event goes as smoothly if not more smoothly than the first. Reverend Stevens and myself do certainly approach these topics quite differently, and I think the audience benefits greatly from our differences. I do look forward to our second and last event for his Trinidad Mission’s Trip. Please keep us in your prayers.

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