Tag Archives: death and resurrection

The Criterion of Embarrassment and the Women of Luke

The Criterion of Embarrassment is an oft-used historical tool by those who seek to authenticate and validate the New Testament Gospels insofar as they are understood as historical literature. However, a thoughtful review of this historical tool in light of the Gospel attributed to Luke presents with it a convincing counter-argument to the usefulness and authority of this tool. The role of women in antiquity, especially those in the Graeco-Roman period within Jerusalem and its surrounding area presents with it a complexity that is not always readily understood or consistent.

Women are revered and respected in the Hebrew Bible’s narratives, Jerusalem itself has had a woman ruler in the century previous to the time of Jesus the Christ.The presuppositional understanding then that the testimony of the women at the tomb were taken to be less authoritative and thus embarrassing for the Gospel authors to include due to their sex ignores the intra-Gospel narrative framework attributed to Luke and the normative gender standards during the first century of the common era.

Alternatively, the paper can be read on Academia.edu or downloaded here.

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)

 

 

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.