Tag Archives: early christianity

Debate Review: Are the New Testament Gospels Based on Eyewitness Testimony?

On Saturday 20th October, Attorney Yusuf Ismail debated a UK-based Biologist, Jonathan McLatchie on the topic of, “Are the New Testament Gospels Based on Eyewitness Testimony?”. Presented here is an amended review of the initial review posted on our Facebook page.

Roughly one year ago, the same Christian, UK-based Biologist was called out by this website for plagiarizing during another debate with Attorney Yusuf Ismail. We initially published a video detailing one instance of plagiarism:

Consequently, the Christian speaker issued a statement indicating that this was a one-off occurrence that did not happen throughout the rest of that debate or any debate previously. Contrary to this, we then published another video detailing multiple instances of plagiarism:

What followed was a tale of abject dishonesty and personal hostility on the part of the Christian speaker who became incensed due to our expose, we ignored this behaviour. He eventually conceded that he had in fact, had his opening statement (presentation) for that debate, written by another Christian speaker. This was not surprising given the evidence we had published. This year we had hoped that he learned his lesson and would be professional at this event. This was not the case (information forthcoming), but for a large part, his opening statement this year was largely written by him and consisted of a lecture he had been delivering in various Churches on “undesigned coincidences” in the Gospel narratives.

Jonathan McLatchie’s main and only argument was that the Gospels corroborate each other in some minor details therefore they must be based on eyewitness testimony. This approach is problematic because the manuscript record actually shows that the gospel authors and editors had a tendency to harmonize details between the gospels to make their stories more coherent:

“Colwell and Royse both recognize a tendency to harmonize readings with remote parallels in other Gospels (Colwell, 112-114; Royse, 536-544).”

This is as stated by the conservative New Testament British textual critic, Timothy Mitchell citing:

  • Royse, James R., “Scribal Habits in Early Greek New Testament Papyri.” NTTSD 36. Leiden: Brill, 2008.
  • Colwell, Ernest C., “Method in Evaluating Scribal Habits: A Study of P45, P66, P75,” pages 106-124 in “Studies in Methodology in Textual Criticism of the New Testament.” NTTS 9. Leiden: Brill, 1969.

This fundamentally undermines the Christian’s claims during the debate. In fact, I, myself lost count of the verses he quoted from the Gospel attributed to John where papyrus 66 (a manuscript of the gospel of John that is dated between 150 – 399), does not confirm what the modern English versions were saying. He was effectively quoting the gospel attributed to John where the initial author’s writing was changed by later correctors to match/ harmonize what the other gospels said by later editors. A simple review of basic textual critical resources would have easily indicated to him that this was both a bad line of reasoning and counter-evidential to his position.

cc-2018-media-jonnydebatesyusuf

(Left) Attorney Yusuf Ismail, (Right) Jonathan McLatchie

At the start of the debate the Christian speaker claimed his beliefs in Christianity were based on evidence, however when challenged on his views on the dead rising in the gospel attributed to Matthew he claimed he believed in a literal rising miracle of the dead in Jerusalem (back to life) without any evidence, thus proving himself wrong. At this point he also became hostile and in a raised voice, demanded to know why such a question was relevant in the first place, it is possible that he had a memory lapse at this point or had become plainly aware of his earlier statement, thus his reaction was largely based on embarrassment.

He also conceded during a rebuttal period that several verses in the gospel attributed to John were written by anonymous authors and therefore they were not authored by eyewitnesses thus conceding the debate to Attorney Yusuf Ismail.

On the other hand, I was duly impressed by Attorney Yusuf Ismail who is currently pursuing theological studies. I found his presentation and citation of classical Christian authorities on the anonymity of the Gospels to both be stringently academic and quite diverse. Meaning then, that he did not isolate these statements from “liberal” scholarship, nor did he quote-mine. In fact, during their cross-examination section, Attorney Yusuf Ismail produced a brilliant quote by Richard Bauckham which justified his position on the Gospels being anonymous in authorship. In addition to this, it was his opponent that had cited Bauckham as an authority in the first place, thus adding to the strength of Attorney Yusuf Ismail’s position. When reminded of this, the Christian speaker decried the reference, stating that he did not agree with everything Bauckham said, while this is a reasonable position, the Christian speaker did not clarify on what well-researched basis he made this distinction of agreeing and disagreeing with the author.

Surprisingly, Yusuf Ismail did not end there, he was on a roll. McLatchie was asked if he accepted Matthaean Priority (that is, the view that Matthew was authored first, followed by Mark and Luke). McLatchie (the Christian speaker) acknowledged that this was the position he was leaning towards. This is where I believe Yusuf Ismail showed his brilliance, he asked McLatchie if he accepted Papias’ (an unreliable early Church Father, as per Eusebius) claim that the gospel attributed to Matthew was initially written in Hebrew (and then translated into Koine Greek). McLatchie confusingly stated he did not study this position on the gospel attributed to Matthew. It therefore is problematic that he in one instance claims that he can lean towards one view on the original authorship of the gospel and then in another state he had not studied it at all. If he had not studied the genesis of Matthew’s gospel, how then can he lean to its position in authorship? This effectively summarized what was an overall brilliant evening for Yusuf and a disaster for McLatchie.

The debate can be viewed here on Facebook:

and Allah knows best.

 

The Christian God: Non Compos Mentis

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ,

Non compos mentis, a most suitable phrase to describe the behaviour of the Judeo Christian God. What truly behoves me has to be the complete change of character from the Old Testament God to that of the New Testament God. Therefore, in my judgement, I have no choice but to deem this God, “out of his mind“.  Before I begin to explain my argument, we must first examine the evidences my rationale is based upon, therefore let’s examine some verses from the Bible:

  • He also said to him, “I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it.” – Genesis 15:7.
  • When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty ; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. – Genesis 17:1.
  • That night the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.” – Genesis 26:24.
  • There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. – Genesis 28:13.
  • God also said to Moses, “I am the LORD. – Exodus 6:2.
  • “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am theLORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the LORD.’” – Exodus 6:6-8.
  • he said to him, “I am the LORD. Tell Pharaoh king of Egypt everything I tell you.” – Exodus 6:29.
  • And the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it.” – Exodus 7:5.
  • This is what the LORD says: By this you will know that I am the LORD: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed into blood. – Exodus 7:17.

The common and most frequently repeated statement in the aforementioned verses, clearly indicates that in the Old Testament, YHWH is God. There are no two ways about it, no one can interpret these verses to be understood that YHWH is not God. You open up the Old Testament and from Genesis to Zechariah, you will find, littered throughout the scripture, declarations by YHWH, that He is God, the Eternal, Everlasting Lord. These statements are frequent, explicit, extant, overtly repeated, bold, valiantly declared, boasted, rash and crystal clear. There is no way one can miss these declarations. No one has to find the need to imply that He is God, no one has to interpret an ambiguous verse, no one has to do anything to prove that YHWH is the God of the Old Testament, because as it is, He says so Himself.

Which brings me to my point. What happened to YHWH? According to the Christian version of events, He came to earth and got tired of declaring Himself to be God. There is not a single unequivocal statement in the New Testament where Jesus ever declared Himself God, as YHWH did (in the many verses above). Isn’t that strange? If Jesus the Christ, is the YHWH of the Tanach, shouldn’t He emulate the bold and rash declarative statements of the Judaic God? Yet, in spite of this jealous and glorious God, whose persona is magnificent, unashamed to announce His power, His position, we are left with nothing more than ambiguous, interpolated excuses, more or less, ‘chicken scratch‘, when it comes to the persona of Jesus as a God. Timid, perhaps shy, not even his own mother could have understood that Jesus was trying to indicate his Godly stature:

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. – Luke 2:49-50.

Such an amazing change, the Christian God went from boasting about His stature, to being relegated as incomprehensible by his own “mother“. Can you imagine giving birth to a God and for the entire childhood of the child, not recognizing the child as a God? So timid is Jesus, the alleged God, that even when his own mother whom he created does not realise he is God, he does nothing. Yet when a few men looked upon the Ark of the Lord, i.e. they disrespected him by looking at a sacred object, He killed 50,000 persons in retribution:

And he smote the men of Bethshemesh, because they had looked into the ark of the Lord, even he smote of the people fifty thousand and threescore and ten men: and the people lamented, because the Lord had smitten many of the people with a great slaughter. – 1 Samuel 6:19.

Yet, his own mother, his own creation, is denying his deity, she does not comprehend him to be a God, the worse kind of sin, disbelief in God is being committed and so shackled, so weak, so pathetic, so fragile is this “God”, that he does nothing. Where is the mighty God? The proud Lord of the Heavens and the Earth? Nowhere to be found. I have no choice but to declare this God to be MIA (missing in action), hence my statement that the Christian God has to be seen as ‘non compos mentis‘, that is to be, ‘out of his mind‘. The YHWH we’re accustomed to is missing. When we read the New Testament, we don’t have a clear, extant, explicit statement by Jesus declaring his deity, as opposed to that of the Old Testament.  Perhaps the Christian God suffers from selective mutism, social anxiety, or some other personality disorder. Whatever the case maybe, us Muslims are not alone in noticing this. So striking and clear is the view that these two Gods as represented in the Old and New Testaments are distinct, that even early Christians themselves declared YHWH and Jesus to be two different Gods. This group was called the Marcionites, named after Marcion, whose beliefs are as such:

Marcion’s teachings departed from traditional Christianity in a number of ways. Most dramatically, perhaps, Marcion rejected the idea that the Old Testament God and the New Testament God were the same being. Up until then, the traditional Church had considered the Old Testament to be sacred and assumed that Christianity was a fulfillment or continuation of Judaism. Marcion’s rejection of that idea affected many different doctrines and beliefs. – A Survey of Marcion’s Life and Legacy, by Chris Price.

In ending, I ask one pivotal question, would the real YHWH please stand up, is it the proud God of the Tanach or the selective mute of the New Testament?

wa Allaahu Alam,
and God knows best.

Update: See my response to James White’s attack on this article.