Tag Archives: theology

Paul’s Stolen Name

 

It is common knowledge or should be common knowledge that Paul’s former name was Saul. Being a Jew, Paul had a Jewish name before his conversion. The day Saul changed his name to Paul is quite peculiar, if not outright absurd to say the least. In the 13th Chapter of Acts, many strange incidents occurred:

They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus,  who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said,  “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord?

As it turns out Saul met the son of Jesus (Bar-Jesus) and Sergius Paulus. What happens next is quite unbelievable. After Saul meets Sergius Paulus, Saul’s name is then introduced in Acts as being Paul. Let’s break this down for some understanding:

  • Saul is a Jew who converts to Christianity after having a magical/ demonic experience on the road to Damascus.
  • After sometime, Saul and Barnabus travel to Cyprus to preach Saul’s new religion.
  • Saul meets a Roman General, a “Proconsul”, named Sergius Paulus or for short, “Paul” – verse  7.
  • Saul’s name then is for the first time in Acts, introduced as Paulus or for short, “Paul” – verse 9.

Strong’s Greek Lexicon, comments on the name of “Paul” by saying:

Paul or Paulus = “small or little”

  1. Paul was the most famous of the apostles and wrote a good part of the NT, the 14 Pauline epistles
  2. Paulus was a deputy or pro-consul of Cyprus and is said to be a prudent man, in the management of affairs, as a governor

According to famed Christian scholar and exegete, Adam Clarke, he says:

This is the first time the name Paul occurs, and the last time in which this apostle is called Saul, as his common or general name.

Another famed exegete, James Coffman of the Coffman Commentaries on the Bible, in his exposition of Acts 13:9, quotes J.W. Conybear’s analysis of the verse and makes the following comment:

Conybeare said, “We cannot believe it accidental that the words `who is also called Paul’ occur at this particular point.” He made the deduction that the conversion of Sergius Paulus brought the name Paul to the surface and precipitated the use of it.

Therefore, our conclusion has to be that Paul copied the name of Sergius Paulus, as the coincidences are too great and obvious, to simply be a name that Saul assumed for himself. As such, even Christian scholars such as J.W. Conybeare and John Gill (as quoted above) admit that Saul’s usage of the name Paul is due to his meeting with Roman General, Sergius Paulus. What are we supposed to understand from Paul’s stealing of another person’s name, especially of a man who had a Jewish magician/ sorcerer as his aide and teacher:

The fact of Bar-Jesus’ having been a Jew suggests that Sergius Paulus had made inquiry into the beliefs of the Jews and may therefore be presumed to have had some knowledge of the sacred Scriptures. As MacGreggor admitted, “there would be nothing extraordinary in a Roman official having a Jewish teacher in his house.” – Ibid.

This concession by Christian scholarship casts a shady aura upon Paul, sorry, Saul of Tarsus. For what reason he copied the person’s name, or began using it exclusively after meeting his namesake, is unknown, but most interesting indeed.

wa Allaahu ‘Alam.

 

  • Note: Originally published on Oct. 19th, 2012. 14:45. 
  • Fixed error referencing John Gill instead of James Burton Coffman.
  • Error noted by users flightjam and defendchrist.

More Issues with Vicarious Atonement

More Issues with Vicarious Atonement

Question Mark

Introduction

 

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

 

The Appeal to “Justice”

 

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

 

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

 

And the Jewish patriarchs were committed to the same:

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Bible commentator Adam Clarke concurs:

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

The same message is reiterated in even simpler words:

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

Conclusion

 

 

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

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

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

 

Footnotes:

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

 

by James Tabor

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

And there the gospel simply ends!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

End of Dr. Tabor’s post.

Notes:

  • Emphasize wherever not matching with original, is ours.

 

                                                                     Post Script           

Question Mark

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

Related Readings:

The Obvious Theological Biases Driving Gospel of Mark

Did Jesus (p) abolish Jewish Kosher?

Did Jesus (p) abolish Jewish Kosher?

Question Mark

Introduction

 

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

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

 

The Jesus (p) Yardstick

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Did Jesus (p) allow all kinds of food?

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Being Consistent

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

Paul was also against eating food offered to idols:

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

Notes:

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Were People Before Crucifixion Saved?

How Were People Before Crucifixion Saved?

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

 

Question Mark

Introduction

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

Let Lamb be slain at the Foundation of the World

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

That is the reason when Shamoun argues,

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

Conclusion

 

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

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

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

Therefore, when Shamoun rants such as,

 

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

It sounds merely hyperbolic claims devoid of any objectivity.

 

Notes:

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

 

 

Footnote

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strange Attributes of the New Testament “God”

 

A probable portrait of the Christian "God" as described in the Book of Revelation

A probable portrait of the Christian “God” as described in the Book of Revelation

Strange Attributes of the New Testament “God”

An enquiry into Christian faith beyond mere humanization of God

 

Question Mark

 

Introduction

 

 

The Qur’an does testify that the pagans of Mecca used to believe that it was Allah (SWT) who created everything that exists,

If thou ask them, who created them, they will certainly say, Allah:

Yet ironically in the same verse Allah (SWT) imputes them to have gone astray from the truth!

If thou ask them, who created them, they will certainly say, Allah: How then are they deluded away (from the Truth)? (Qur’an 43:87)

The pagans of Mecca even believed that it was Allah (SWT) who governed the universe,

 

And if indeed thou ask them who it is that sends down rain from the sky, and gives life therewith to the earth after its death, they will certainly reply, “Allah!” Say, “Praise be to Allah!” But most of them understand not. (Qur’an 29:63)

 

Yet noticeably Allah (SWT) disregards them by stating that they “understand not”. In other words, none of their aforementioned beliefs could make them monotheists; they were still condemned as “polytheists”. This was because although it is important that Allah (SWT) is to be accepted as the Creator, Sustainer etc it is, however, not enough!

To become believers of one True God it is important that God’s attributes be not violated, i.e., we should not assign the attributes of God to any of His creatures or vice-versa. This is extremely important to maintain Gods oneness of attributes. However, unfortunately, a lot of communities have stumbled upon this violation of God’s attributes including, sadly, Christianity.

Earlier we have documented how Christianity breached God’s attributes thereby violating monotheism itself. It was with regards to God’s humanization in the form of Jesus (peace be upon him). In this paper we would further continue beyond it.

 

Beyond Incarnation

 

Christians provide a number of explanations in defense of their incarnation theory. One of the leading amongst them is the Pauline passage that Jesus (peace be upon him) gave up his divine attributes to enter into humanity (c.f. Philippians 2: 6-8). Although humanization of God is open idolatry yet we are not concerned about it in this paper. We want to look beyond it into areas which are far grotesque than mere humanization!

It is interesting to note that John happens to be the only author amongst the gospel writers who has entitled Jesus (peace be upon him) as the “Lamb” (c.f. gospel of John 1: 29, 36); however, this usage of the title is figurative. Jesus (peace be upon him) is symbolized as the sacrificial animal or the “Lamb” to be slaughtered in commemoration of the Passover ritual of the Old Testament.

However, there is one more book in the New Testament attributed to “John” – the book of Revelation – which edifies that the title “Lamb” was not only figuratively used in the New Testament; it has plain literal meanings as well. In his fanciful “visions”, John goes overboard to portray Jesus (peace be upon him) as nothing less than a pagan mythical beast:

 

Then I saw a Lamb standing in the centre of the throne, surrounded by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb appeared to have been killed. It had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God that have been sent throughout the whole earth. The Lamb went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who sits on the throne. As he did so, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each had a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. They sang a new song:

You are worthy to take the scroll and to break open its seals. For you were killed, and by your sacrificial death you bought for God people from every tribe, language, nation and race. You have made them a kingdom of priests to serve our God, and they shall rule on earth.” Again I looked, and I heard angels, thousands and millions of them! They stood round the throne, the four living creatures, and the elders, and sang in a loud voice:…The four living creatures answered, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshipped. ” (Revelation 5: 6-14)

Thus, in the book of Revelation, Jesus (peace be upon him) – the assumed “God” – is morphed from a human being to a weird “seven horned, seven eyed” beast. More interestingly, this mythical creature not just stands on the magnificent Throne of God but also receives “worship” by some of the best Christians!

Christians typically understood the verse to signify Christ’s (peace be upon him) perfect power and wisdom – omnipotence and omniscience. It is because horn and eye represent power and knowledge and seven of each adds to it their respective perfections:

 

 

Seven horns – As horn is the emblem of power, and seven the number of perfection, the seven horns may denote the all-prevailing and infinite might of Jesus Christ. He can support all his friends; he can destroy all his enemies; and he can save to the uttermost all that come unto God through him.

 

Seven eyes – To denote his infinite knowledge and wisdom: but as these seven eyes are said to be the seven Spirits of God, they seem to denote rather his providence, in which he often employs the ministry of angels; therefore, these are said to be sent forth into all the earth. See on Rev_1:4 (note). (Revelation 5:6, Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible)

 

 

Christians might interpret seven horns and seven eyes to represent “God’s” divine power and knowledge; however, to any non-Christian monotheist these can only represent bestial (beast-like) qualities unjustly and blasphemously imputed upon God.

 

Furthermore, even if it be accepted for the sake of argument that horns and eyes represent some divine attribute, yet a number of other body parts of a “Lamb” cannot possibly represent any “divine” attribute of God!

 

It is unconceivable in any sensible monotheistic purview that God would transfigure into a mythical “Lamb” and grow horns – in fact seven of them – and seven eyes and stand on the Throne of God with his neck slit and blood oozing out. Given this grotesque portrayal of New Testament “God”, how feasible is it that this was the same “God” which was worshipped by Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and others (peace be upon them all)?

 

New Testament’s portrayal of God as animals has not yet ended. Since the gospels, very famously, has portrayed the third person of the Christian godhead – the Holy Ghost – as a “dove”:

 

 

And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased. (Luke 3:22, King James Version)

 

 

On the foregoing, qualified Bible expositor J.P. Lange makes some very intriguing remarks:

 
In a bodily shape, like a dove.—The mention of the dove by all the four Evangelists, plainly shows, that the descent of the Spirit was usually compared, by the Baptist who saw it, and afterwards by those who related it, to the descent of a dove. It is, however, by no means necessary to infer, from the σωματικν εδος of Luke, the actual form of a dove. Luke does not say, σωματικῷ εἴδει περιστερᾶς, but ὡς περιστεράν. By supposing a ray of light to have descended from the opened heaven, gently, swiftly, and evenly, like the downward flight of a dove, and to have shone around the head of the praying Saviour for some space of time, we escape many difficulties, and obtain a representation beautiful in itself, and becoming the divine majesty. It is by no means proved, that the dove was, in the days of Jesus, regarded by the Jews as an emblem of the Holy Spirit. The very shy nature of the dove renders it difficult to conceive its descending from heaven, and abiding on a newly baptized person, even in a vision. And if ancient Christian art, exchanging the figure for the fact, constantly introduced a visible dove into every representation of the baptism, it is only probable that this unæsthetic treatment was the result of an exegetical error. Our view also will satisfactorily explain why Justin Martyr (Dial. cum Tryph. c. 88), as well as the Gospel of the Hebrews (Epiphanius, Hœres. xxx. 13), mentions a vivid ray of light as suddenly surrounding the banks of Jordan. By a very natural symbolism, light was regarded by the Jews as an emblem of the Divinity; and we can see no reason why the descent of a ray of light should not also have been compared to the descent of a dove. (Luke 3:22, Lange Commentary by J. P. Lange)

 

 

Notice that commentator Lange is not willing to admit, unlike other Bible commentators like Robertson (c.f. Robertson’s Word Picture) [1.], that the “divine God” took the form of a “dove”. For Lange, it is not “necessary” that whatever descended had “the actual form of a dove”! In fact Lange provides his reasons why “dove” should not represent Holy Spirit. For this reason he is even willing to deem traditional and historical church practice as an “exegetical error”. And we must understand Lange’s tacit uneasiness to accept the more obvious meaning of the statements!

 

In fact, it is for obvious idolatrous issues that Lange is more willing to accept “descent of ray of light” in place of a “dove”! Lange has very expressly indicated that he has no problems in accepting the descent of a “ray of light” (not a “dove”) upon Jesus (peace be upon him) since “light was regarded by the Jews as an emblem of the Divinity”; unlike this, “It is by no means proved, that the dove was, in the days of Jesus, regarded by the Jews as an emblem of the Holy Spirit.” And therefore, rather than accepting the obvious imports of Luke’s statement which is corroborated by all other gospels (c.f. Matthew 3:16, Mark 1:10, John 1:32), Lange chooses to go by the views of mere church father Justin Martyr and a book – Gospel of Hebrews – which he himself rejects as apocryphal! [This creates another problem that the traditional Christian understand of Holy Ghost’s transformation into a dove is not supported by one of the earliest “apostolic” father!]

 

Lange rather candidly admits why he chose Justin Martyr and the Gospel of Hebrews to the views of the “inspired” author(s) Luke. It was because, “By supposing a ray of light to have descended from the opened heaven, gently, swiftly, and evenly, like the downward flight of a dove, and to have shone around the head of the praying Saviour for some space of time, we escape many difficulties, and obtain a representation beautiful in itself, and becoming the divine majesty.”

 

It must be enquired as to why Lange faced “difficulties” when Holy Ghost – the “God” – was represented as a “dove”? Why this representation of “God” as “dove” was not “beautiful” enough for Lange but an “unaesthetic treatment”? The answer is quite obvious. No claimant of monotheism can easily accept his/her God be represented as a “dove” without finding other “explanations” out of it! And so Lange “explained”, strangely enough, that the descent of the ray of light is represented by the descent of a dove! Lange is very strangely contended enough to relate the hovering of a dove to the straight downward descent of a ray of light; and we must understand this phenomenon!

 

There can be one more reason why Lange finds it unpalatable to represent Holy Ghost as “dove”. It was traditionally of Satan – the first time ever, even before God – to turn into animals for achieving objectives:

 

 

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: (Genesis 3:1-4, King James Version)

 

 

Just like the Holy Ghost was not initially a “dove” in the same way biblical Satan was not really a “serpent”; it was a “Dragon”. The book of Revelation illustrates us on it:

 

 

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (Revelation 12:9)

 

And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, (Revelation 20:2)  

 

And subsequently, using animal transformations as apparatus, which is a satanic modus operandi, could have troubled Lange to impute the same on his “God”!

 

 

Conclusion

 

Allah (SWT) has declared the following warning about the sin of polytheism (Arabic. Shirk – associating partners with God) very precisely in the Qur’an:

 

Allah forgiveth not that partners should be set up with Him; but He forgiveth anything else, to whom He pleaseth; to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin Most heinous indeed. (Qur’an   4:48)

 

If associating partners with Allah (SWT) is unpardonable sin then how saved are the Christians who ascribe bestial attributes to God. It comes extremely unpleasant and grotesque to accept that the “God” of “monotheists” would stand on the Throne with the appearance of a “Lamb” with seven horns protruding his head and an equal number of eyes, and a bleeding neck for people to prostrate “worship” it! How would a “jealous” God (c.f. Exodus 34:14) react when he comes to know that He was compared to a mere “Lamb”, albeit, seven-horned and seven-eyed and a “dove”!

Yet if Christians are still monotheists by believing in multiple animal-like “Gods” then we would have to justify why pagans are pagans for their belief. A lot of pagan cults have mythical beasts as their gods and this should not, at least, differentiate them from those who call themselves “Christians”!

That is why we adjure our Christian brethren to consider this paper beyond mere apologetics. We request you earnestly to have a talk with yourselves as to how correct is the belief wherein one of the gods of the Trinitarian godhead is said to look like a lamb with seven horns and seven eyes and a bleeding neck and other one resembles a dove! If you are true to yourself then you would agree that there are gross and colossal issues herein with the Trinitarian brand of “monotheism” and that such a description of God can only come out as figments of mere human imagination with nothing divine “inspiration” behind it. Will it then be not be much safer to follow the following Qur’anic injunctions?

 

Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute;  He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him. (Qur’an 112:4)

And,

(He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves, and pairs among cattle: by this means does He multiply you: there is nothing whatever like unto Him, and He is the One that hears and sees (all things). (Qur’an 42:11)

 

 

Footnotes:

[1.] In a bodily form (sōmatikōi eidei). Alone in Luke who has also “as a dove” (hōs peristeran) like Matthew and Mark. This probably means that the Baptist saw the vision that looked like a dove. Nothing is gained by denying the fact or possibility of the vision that looked like a dove. God manifests his power as he will. The symbolism of the dove for the Holy Spirit is intelligible. (Luke 3:22, Robertson’s Word Picture)

 

Notes:

  • All Qur’anic texts taken from Yusuf Ali Translation.
  • Unless otherwise mentioned, all biblical texts taken from Good News Edition.
  • We apologize if this paper has offended any sincere Christian believer. It was never our intention to hurt any feelings or jeer any belief. We respect your choices. Nevertheless, we quoted passages which are already registered in the Bible and made our arguments on it.

 

 

 

 

Examining New Testament’s Prediction of Jesus’ (p) Return

 

More on New Testament’s Miscalculation of the End of World

 

Question Mark

Introduction

 

In one of our earlier paper we documented how the gospel traditions impute inaccurate predictions of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) second return and subsequent end of the world on him. According to Jesus (peace be upon him), end of the world was so near that some of his disciples would have remained alive to experience it.

It is now time to further that issue with the New Testament disciples of Jesus (peace be upon him). The way they interpreted, perceived and reacted to Jesus’ (peace be upon him) prediction of imminent end of the world and his second coming!

Paul’s prediction Jesus’ (p) return

 

It would be good if we start with Paul. While writing to the Thessalonians, Paul had the following to predict:

What we are teaching you now is the Lord’s teaching: We who are alive on the day the Lord comes will not go ahead of those who have died.” (1 Thessalonians 4:15)

It is very straight forward and obvious that Paul believed some amongst them would still remain alive on Jesus’ (peace be upon him) return! However, unfortunately, all of them are dead and Jesus (peace be upon him) is yet to return to the world!

Nevertheless, it would be fair if we also consider standard Christian understanding of the passage. Well known biblical expositor Adam Clarke reconciles as follows while dealing with the passage:

We which are alive, and remainBy the pronoun we the apostle does not intend himself, and the Thessalonians to whom he was then writing; he is speaking of the genuine Christians which shall be found on earth when Christ comes to judgment. From not considering the manner in which the apostle uses this word, some have been led to suppose that he imagined that the day of judgment would take place in that generation, and while he and the then believers at Thessalonica were in life. But it is impossible that a man, under so direct an influence of the Holy Spirit, should be permitted to make such a mistake: nay, no man in the exercise of his sober reason could have formed such an opinion; there was nothing to warrant the supposition; no premises from which it could be fairly deduced; nor indeed any thing in the circumstances of the Church, nor in the constitution of the world, that could have suggested a hint of the kind. The apostle is speaking of the thing indefinitely as to the time when it shall happen, but positively as to the Order that shall be then observed.

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Does New Testament deny followers of Jesus (p) to be “Muslims”?

Does New Testament deny followers of Jesus (p) to be “Muslims”?

A look into New Testament beyond mere “Christian” disciples of Jesus (p)

 

Question Mark

 

Introduction

In the last installment we proved that Qur’an does not lend any veracity to the “Bible”. We also quoted that Qur’an does claim the original followers of Jesus (peace be upon him) to be Muslims (c.f. Qur’an 3:52, 5:111); this obviously offends Christians like Sam Shamoun who claims that Qur’an is at historical “error”.

Therefore, in this part, we would consider New Testament itself for the validity of the Qur’anic assertion. We would see that there were many “other-apostles” of Jesus (peace be upon him) albeit, sarcastically called as “chief-apostles” by Paul (c.f. 2 Corinthians 11:5), and put under extremely negative light (as expected) who, interestingly, had beliefs very similar to the Qur’anic claim!

Let Loose the Letters

 

Most of the Epistles of the New Testament were written to address specific issues which the fledgling first century (earliest) churches were facing. In this regard, Pauline epistles to Corinthians are of immediate interest to us since they relate to our investigation quite precisely.

However, before we actually delve into the epistle, it is important to observe the tone which Paul has used. Consider the following “verses”:

     “From Paul, who was called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Sosthenes –” (1 Corinthians 1:1)

Note that Paul starts off by strongly emphasizing that it was by the “will” of God Himself that he became an apostle of Jesus (peace be upon him). In other words, he wanted to assert his apostolic authority over the Corinthians. This phenomenon is interspersed throughout the epistle. Consider a similar emphasis again merely eight verses later:

     “By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ I appeal to all of you, my brothers…” (1 Corinthians 1:10)

Paul did not find it redundant to reiterate his “apostolic” authority one more time:

     “So then, we do not speak in words taught by human wisdom but in words taught by the spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:13)

Why was Paul so concerned to exert his apostolic authority so often? Probably because masses were not recognizing him as any so-called “apostle” of Jesus (peace be upon him). In fact, as we would soon explore, Paul was indeed unrecognized to have any “apostolic authority”. This would have a close link with our principal investigation: whether Jesus (peace be upon him) had Muslim followers? We would start from the very reason why Paul was made to write the letters to the Corinthians!

Paul had been informed that there was a vitriolic schism in the “Christian” community of Corinth and so he dispatches letters to the Corinthians addressing the issue; exhorting people to unite (c.f. 1 Corinthians 1:11). However, the nature of the dispute is very crucial because the earliest “Christian” community was divided over the apostles:

     “Let me put it this way: each one of you says something different. One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Peter”; and another,     “I follow Christ.”” (1 Corinthians 1:12, Good News Edition)

The above quotation indicates that the preaching of different apostles were different. (And they differed very arduously as we would subsequently observe.) Otherwise it makes no sense that the community would be divided over apostles if they were monolithic.

Moreover the last part of the citation is utmost important since it alludes to a particular group in the community which denied to follow any so-called “apostles” than Jesus (peace be upon him) himself! Who could be these people? New Testament provides meager information about these “Christ-followers”; however, we can be sure that they cannot be Jews since they recognized Jesus (peace be upon him) as “Christ”. Similarly, they cannot be “Christians” either, that is, the “orthodox” Pauline Christians – believing cross, alleged death and resurrection and deity of Jesus (p) – since they rejected Paul to follow Jesus (peace be upon him); be mindful that there was a certain group who was claiming to be “Paul-followers”; and these “Christ-followers” did not coincide with them in their declaration! Thus, if this group was neither Jewish nor Christian, then obviously there remains a big question as to who were these people?

Moreover, why this group choose to follow Jesus (peace be upon him) himself rejecting multiple “apostles” at their disposition who were readily, in turn, claiming to follow Jesus (peace be upon him), Paul for example (c.f. 1 Corinthians 11:1). Did not they know that these were “apostles” either handpicked or ‘supernaturally’ chosen en-route Damascus by Jesus (peace be upon him) himself? The only reason they would reject “apostles” to follow Jesus (peace be upon him) is when the apostles differed from Jesus (peace be upon him) so much so that they thought it is best to follow Christ (peace be upon him) himself rather than following differing apostles!

We cannot even dash off these Christ-followers as “heretics”; they can only be condemned as heretics when the condemner is presupposed to be an “orthodox”! In other words, it depends on the perspective one is looking from. For it is sure that Paul and his preaching were “heretical” for these “Christ-followers”, as we would soon observe through the pages of New Testament!

And thus, as discussed above, if this particular group was neither Jewish nor Christian then it certainly opens up the contention that followership of Jesus (peace be upon him) was not merely restricted to those who became positively famous through the pages of New Testament and subsequently in the “orthodox” churches as “Christians”. And so, for the rest of the paper we would further substantiate this notion. In the course, we would indirectly glean intriguing deductions that groups like “Christ-followers” denied deity of Jesus (peace be upon him) to consider him as mere mortal thus further corroborating the Qur’anic assertion that original followers of Jesus (peace be upon him) were Muslims.

Finally, it is worthwhile to note that the historical, Muslim followers of Jesus (peace be upon him) had to follow Jesus (peace be upon him) himself than any other “apostle” just like contemporary Muslims have to follow Mohammad (peace be upon him) than any other teacher no matter how influential s/he is and if s/he differs from Mohammad (peace be upon him) himself! So in this context, these Christ-followers come very close to the Qur’anic assertion that Jesus’ (peace be upon him) original followers were Muslims: following him (p); rejecting intricate philosophies (trinity, vicarious atonement) of “apostles”, to submit their wills to God alone.

“Apostle” Paul rejected at Corinth

Remember that the first Pauline letter to the Corinthians was written because particular groups in the community chose individual apostles for themselves. It was not merely an issue of choosing one from the wide range of apostles, rather it entailed with it rejecting others while choosing the one for the particular group. As such those group who chose apostles other than Paul, or even those who ultimately chose Christ (peace be upon him) himself, rejected Paul (obviously for his preaching):

“Am I not a free man? Am I not an apostle? Haven’t I seen Jesus our Lord? And aren’t you the result of my work for the Lord? Even if others do not accept me as an apostle, surely you do! Because of your life in union with the Lord you yourselves are proof of the fact that I am an apostle.” (1 Corinthians 9:1-2)

Recall that at the start of this paper we noted that Paul, in this first letter to the Corinthians, chose a tone to defend his apostleship at Corinth, albeit, hitherto, indirectly. However, at this point in the letter, things just went out of hand where he had to make explicit appeal for his apostleship. Nevertheless, in a way, they also provide information as to the objections which the opponents of Paul raised. Paul appeals that because he has “seen” Jesus (peace be upon him) and “worked” for him with results, therefore, he must be a bona fide apostle!

However, why did Paul felt the need to appeal these specific notions? Probably because these were the primary arguments, amongst others, raised against his apostleship!: Corinthians were sure that Paul never consorted with Jesus (peace be upon him) in real time and the only information about Paul “seeing” Jesus (peace be upon him) comes after Jesus’(p) alleged death and only through hearsay to the Corinthians (in fact to almost everybody for that reason).

Similarly, Paul’s “work” could well have been another reason for his opposition. To be sure, Paul’s primary “work”, in other words, his preaching, was salvation through the alleged death and resurrection of Christ (peace be upon him) on cross. This could have gone unintelligible with his Corinthian opponents:

“For God in his wisdom made it impossible for people to know him by means of their own wisdom. Instead, by means of the so-called “foolish” message we preach, God decided to save those who believe. Jews [1.] want miracles for proof and Greeks look for wisdom. As for us we proclaim the crucified Christ, a message that is offensive to the Jews and nonsense to the Gentiles, this message is Christ, who is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For what seems to be God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and what seems to be God’s weakness is stronger than human strength” (1 Corinthians 1:21-25)

And therefore, Paul appeals to support these notions with a hope that even if other factions have denied his apostleship, at least, those who are apparently loyal to him would not doubt them.

More Issues with Paul and His preaching in Corinth

It was not that opposing groups in Corinth were merely following their apostles or “Christ”; in fact they were on full-fledged ministry against Paul and his preaching:

“I wish you would tolerate me, even when I am a bit foolish. Please do! I am jealous for you, just as God is; you are like a pure virgin whom I have promised in marriage to one man only Christ himself. I am afraid that your minds will be corrupted and that you will abandon your full and pure devotion to Christ – in the same way that Eve was deceived by snake’s clever lies. For you gladly tolerate anyone who comes to you and preaches a different Jesus, not the one we preached; and you accept a spirit and a gospel completely different from the Spirit and the gospel you received from us!” (2 Corinthians 11: 1-4) [2.]

Notice that “apostles” in Corinth were teaching a “different Jesus” and a “gospel completely different”. This gospel preaching about Jesus (peace be upon him) was so fundamentally different from Paul that he had premonitions that people might abandon “full” and “pure” “devotion” to Christ (peace be upon him).

According to standard Pauline, Trinitarian theology, “devotion” to Christ (peace be upon him) means services to Jesus (peace be upon him) while bearing him as “divine” “God” – the “second” in the divinity of “three”! Thus, inferably, we have a proof in the above polemical passage that opposing “apostles” in Corinth were specifically preaching a non-divine Jesus (peace be upon him). As celebrated Bible expositor Albert Barnes specifically comments on the same:

Ye might well bear with him – Margin, “with me.” The word “him” is not in the Greek; but is probably to be supplied. The sense is, there would then be some excuse for your conduct. There would be some reason why you should welcome such teachers. But if this cannot be done; if they can preach no other and no better gospel and Saviour than I have done, then there is no excuse. There is no reason why you should follow such teachers and forsake those who were your earliest guides in religion. – Let us never forsake the gospel which we have until we are sure we can get a better. Let us adhere to the simple doctrines of the New Testament until some one can furnish better and clearer doctrines. Let us follow the rules of Christ in our opinions and our conduct; our plans, our mode of worship, our dress, and our amusements, engagements, and company, until we can certainly ascertain that there are better rules. A man is foolish for making any change until he has evidence that he is likely to better himself; and it remains yet to be proved that anyone has ever bettered himself or his family by forsaking the simple doctrines of the Bible, and embracing a philosophical speculation; by forsaking the scriptural views of the Saviour as the incarnate God, and embracing the views which represent him as a mere man; by forsaking the simple and plain rules of Christ about our manner of life, our dress, and our words and actions, and embracing those which are recommended by mere fashion and by the customs of a frivolous world. (2 Corinthians 11:4, Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

 

As expected Barnes has a tone-down for any gospel message portraying Jesus (peace be upon him) other than as portrayed by Paul simply because he assumes/believes Paul (and himself) to be an “orthodox” Christian! And therefore, the Pauline opponents, for him, would have to be “heretics” incompetent of producing anything better than Paul. Nevertheless, as we argued earlier, the other-apostles at Corinth would have assumed exactly the same for their opponents. For them, they were “orthodox” and Paul and his supporters were “heretics”. However, in any case, no matter from which perspective we are looking from, for sure, we had groups as early as Paul, preaching a Jesus (peace be upon him) who was a “mere man” than any pagan influenced “incarnate god”.

Likewise, noted New Testament commentator Vincent also informs that at Corinth a Jesus (peace be upon him) of different “identity” and “nature” was proposed:

Another Jesus – another Spirit (ἄλλον  – ἕτερον)

 

Rev., another Jesus, a different Spirit. See on Mat_6:24. Another denies the identity; a different denies the similarity of nature. It is the difference of “individuality and kind” (Alford). (2 Corinthians 11:4, Vincent’s Word Studies)

 

As touted in churches, the “orthodox” Pauline “identity” and “nature” of Jesus (peace be upon him) was that he was “divine” Son of God, a “divine” savior and intercessor, the very “divine” second god-person of Trinitarian godhead, same in essence with divine Father (the “nature”); nevertheless, inferably, all of these were categorically denied by Pauline opponents when preached a Jesus (peace be upon him) of different “identity” and “nature”.

No surprises that contemporary Bible giants like James Dunn assert that “earliest” Jesus (p) traditions have no hint for his divinity:

 “There is no real evidence in the earliest Jesus traditions of what could fairly be called a consciousness of divinity.” (James Dunn, Christology in the Making, p.60)

It is for such notions that professors like John Hick claim that to impute divinity upon “historical” Jesus (peace be upon him) is not merely “devoid” in sense but its gradual evolution has pagan influences:

“For to say, without explanation, that the historical Jesus of Nazareth was also God is as devoid of meaningthat Jesus was God the Son incarnate is not literally true, since it has no literal meaning, but it[s] an application to Jesus of a mythical concept whose function is analogous to that of the notion of divine sonship ascribed in ancient world to a king.” (John Hick, The Myth of God Incarnate (London: SCM Press, 1977), p. 178)

 

Interestingly all of this is expressly important for the Qur’anic assertion that original followers of Jesus (peace be upon him) were “Muslims” since as Muslims they would not recognize him as divine in any sort since. Consider the following was the express teaching of Jesus (peace be upon him):

And behold! Allah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah’?” He will say: “Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, Thou I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden. “Never said I to them aught except what Thou didst command me to say, to wit, ‘worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord’; and I was a witness over them whilst I dwelt amongst them; when Thou didst take me up Thou wast the Watcher over them, and Thou art a witness to all things. (Qur’an 5:116-117)

They do blaspheme who say: “Allah is Christ the son of Mary.” But said Christ: “O Children of Israel! worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.” Whoever joins other gods with Allah,- Allah will forbid him the garden, and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrong-doers be no one to help. (Qur’an 5:72)

The forgoing could well be the reason that respected Christian sources like Compton’s Encyclopedia states that it was difficult to distinguish earliest “Christians” from Jews since the “only” difference between them was that they accepted Jesus (peace be upon him) to be “Messiah” while their Jewish counterparts did not:

“The early Christians were all Jews. They remained in Jerusalem and partook in the religious observance in the Temple. They differed from their fellow Jews ONLY in that they believed that the Messiah had come. Had they kept quiet about their conviction, they might well have remained a sect within Judaism…” (Compton’s Encyclopedia, ‘Christianity,’ (CD-ROM Home Library, 1997.)

 

So, the only difference was Messiah consciousness as opposed to divinity consciousness. And “Muslim” followers of Jesus (peace be upon him) had to recognize him as “Messiah”! (c.f. Qur’an 3:45). Now compare this with Pauline opponents at Corinth who claimed that they were “Christ”-followers, denyingfull and pure devotion to Christ” (c.f. 2 Corinthians 11:3).

Furthermore, it would be incorrect to restrict the scope of the Pauline verse to divinity of Jesus (peace be upon him) alone since, we know, Paul centered his theology on crucifixion and its redemptive capacity as well. Therefore, if Paul so staunchly complains that other “apostles” were preaching a “gospel completely different” about a completely “different” Jesus (peace be upon him) then his opponents were disparaging the importance and implications of cross! As Paul clarifies that many were rejecting crucifixion and philosophies entailed around it:

For the message about Christ’s death on the cross is nonsense to those who are being lost; but for us who are being saved it is God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)

It is interesting to note the place where Paul places the above “verse”. He wrote them just after introducing the division in the Corinthian church implying strongly that it was inside the Corinthian church where crucifixion and subsequent redemption was rejected and Paul was reproaching the same. This is further proven by the words Paul has chosen in the quoted “verse”. Note he writes that for only a particular few in the community – “for us” – the “message” about crucifixion is “power”; Paul is obviously addressing to those few who were loyal to his preaching; implying again that there were other rejecting cross and its efficacy (if any).

Contemporary New Testament authority Bart Ehrman also speculates that the author of ‘Q’ – a contemporary with Paul and firsthand source, for evangelists Matthew and Luke – denied vicarious atonement through the cross of Jesus (peace be upon him) – a philosophy which was corner stone for Paul:

The author of Q, too, may have thought that it was the sayings of Jesus that were the key to a right relationship with God. If so, in losing Q we have lost a significant alternative voice in the very earliest period of early Christianity. Most scholars date Q to the 50s of the Common Era, prior to the writing of the Synoptic Gospels (Mark was some ten or fifteen years later; Matthew and Luke some ten or fifteen years after that) and contemporary with Paul. Paul, of course, stressed the death and resurrection of Jesus as the way of salvation. Did the author of Q stress the sayings of Jesus as the way? Many people still today have trouble accepting a literal belief in Jesus’ resurrection or traditional understandings of his death as an atonement, but call themselves Christian because they try to follow Jesus’ teachings. Maybe there were early Christians who agreed with them, and maybe the author of Q was one of them. If so, the view lost out, and the document was buried. In part, it was buried in the later Gospels of Matthew and Luke, which transformed and thereby negated Q’s message by incorporating it into an account of Jesus’ death and resurrection. One more form of Christianity lost to view until rediscovered in modern times. (Lost Christianities, The Battles of Scriptures and the Faiths We Never Knew, p. 59)

What is still interesting is the result which these opposing apostles were receiving in Corinth for their “missionary activity”! Reconsider the following passage:

 For you gladly tolerate anyone who comes to you and preaches a different Jesus, not the one we preached; and you accept a spirit and a gospel completely different from the Spirit and the gospel you received from us!” (2 Corinthians 11: 4)

The rapid success of his opponents frustrated Paul to such an extent where he even started to act like “fools”:

I am acting like a fool – but you have made me do it. You are the ones who ought to show your approval of me. For even if I am nothing, I am in no way inferior to those very special “apostles” of yours. The many miracles and wonders that prove that I am an apostle were performed among you with much patience. (2 Corinthians 12: 11-12)

Note that, according to the above citation, it is now not people of other camp who are deserting Paul rather they are the very people about whom Paul was confident will accept him as “apostle”. It is natural that in such scenarios people would act like “fools”!

In fact, to make matters worse for Paul, these much anticipated followers of Paul were the same who even demanded proofs from Paul for his apostleship:

You will have all the proof you want that Christ speaks through me.” (2 Corinthians 13:3)

Notice, even though Paul asserted that the “miracles and wonders” he ironically “performed among [them]” (c.f. 2 Corinthians 12:12, quoted above) were the very proofs for his apostleship yet Corinthians demanded proof from him! This certainly makes sense because according to Jesus (peace be upon him) even charlatans would be able to achieve miraculous feats:

“For false Messiahs and false prophets will appear. They will perform miracles and wonders in order to deceive even God’s chosen people, if possible. Be on your guard! I have told you everything before the time comes.” (Mark 13: 22-23)

It is very plausible that by “proof”, Corinthians demanded a doctrine compatible with Jesus’ (peace be upon him) message and human cognizance. They could neither see Jesus’ (peace be upon him) stamp or compatibility in the Pauline preaching about his deity nor could they fathom any logic in the theories of cross and vicarious atonement there from. Not much surprise, it came to them as “foolish”.

Such embarrassing response at Corinth by his own faction led Paul emotionally appeal against his rejection:

Dear friends, in Corinth! We have spoken frankly to you; we have opened our hearts wide. It is not we who have closed our hearts to you; it is you who have closed your hearts to us. (2 Corinthians 6:11)

Due to brevity of this paper we have not documented that Paul was strongly opposed at most places he preached like Galatia, Ephesus, Antioch, and even in Jerusalem. What is very interesting to note is that the oppositions in Antioch and Jerusalem did not come from any revolting “heretical” faction but from “brother of Christ” (peace be upon him) James himself! The one thing which all of these do prove is that there were various faiths prevailing amongst the earliest communities!

 

Conclusion

 

We saw that the earliest “apostles”, as early as Paul himself, were divided over doctrines. Many apostles contemporary to Paul at Corinth came to oppose him for his most fundamental theories, like, vicarious atonement through alleged crucifixion of Jesus (peace be upon him) and his divinity.

This made university scholars like Dr. A. Meyer (Prof. of Theology at Zurich University) to conclude that the “Christianity” we know of was not the religion Jesus (peace be upon him) came to promulgate rather it was a complex philosophy that Paul coined:

If by ‘Christianity’  we understand faith in Jesus Christ as the heavenly son of God, who did not belong to Earthly humanity, but who lived in the divine likeness and glory, who came down  from heaven to earth, who entered humanity and took upon himself a human form through a virgin, that he might make propitiation for men’s sins by his own blood on the cross, who was them awakened  from death and raised to God as the Lord of his own people, who believe in him, who hears their prayers, guards and leads them, who shall come again to judge the world, who will cast down all the foes of God, and will bring his people with him unto the house of heavenly light so that they may become like his glorified body – if this is Christianity, the[n] such a Christianity was founded by Paul and not by Jesus.” (Meyer, Jesus or Paul, p. 122)

All of this are conducive to conclude that earliest community of “Christians” were not merely composed of “Christians”, that is, those believing in redemptive capacity of cross and divinity of Jesus (peace be upon him). And thus, subjective Christians like Shamoun, merely to falsify Qur’an, try to restrict the followership of Jesus (peace be upon him) only to those who became positively recognized in the pages of New Testament. Consider the following parochial note that he wrote:

Contrary to the Quran’s assertions, Christ’s disciples proclaimed that Jesus is the divine Son of God who died on the cross and rose from the dead three days later. They also testified that he sits enthroned in heaven alongside the Father as the sovereign Lord of all creation, and that he will return to the earth in order to judge the living and the dead. They even went as far as to worship Christ as their risen and exalted Lord!

Note that some (self-claimed) “disciples” of Jesus (peace be upon him) did imply his divinity in some sort and did promulgate his alleged crucifixion and entailing salvation theories. However, these were not the “only” disciples. There were others contemporary to Paul (i) who denied “full and pure devotion to Christ”, (ii) they denied the preaching of Paul which, evidently, relied heavily around the alleged crucifixion and vicarious atonement there from, yet these at the same time also (iii) claimed that they were “Christ-followers”! So next time Shamoun claims that “There is simply no way around this fact”, he needs to suggest what name other than “Muslims” could he give to these opponents of Paul? Pick one! It seems like, “There is simply no way around this fact” that original followers of Christ (peace be upon him) were “Muslims”!

Even if we allow that these Pauline opponents were not “Muslims” yet there mere presence at such odds with “orthodox” Christians (Paul, for example) is enough to open up the contention that the followership of Jesus (peace be upon him) was not only restricted to those who were labeled as “Christians”. This in itself makes the Qur’anic fact further viable that original followers of Jesus (peace be upon him) were “Muslims”! Subsequently, from a historians’ point of view, the Qur’anic assertion is not at any “historical error”.

There is still vast amount of information which has to be unearthed from New Testament about Paul and his ways which we would definitely do in future, inshAllah. For the time being since Paul asserts that everybody else opposing him were “false apostles” and, Shamoun disdains original follower of Jesus (peace be upon him) to be Muslims; therefore, in the next installment – the final installment of the series – we would turn our attention to the well-known New Testament disciples and see how much of a ‘disciple’ they were! We do have some important stuff coming up, inshAllah.

Footnote:

[1.]       At first glance, many would be tempted to interpret that the “Jews” mentioned in the verse are those traditional Jews who hated Jesus (peace be upon him); and not the Corinthian Jews who came to believe in him. However, this cannot be precisely correct in the overall context of the epistle. Consider the following issues:

Firstly, in the context of the epistle we have differing factions in the Corinthian community split over apostles for their preaching. Now notice the sarcastic tone which Paul has used in the subject passage: “foolish message”. Therefore, the first target audience for this sarcasm has to be those Corinthians who rejected Paul to accept Christ (p) himself (or some other apostle for that reason) labeling his message as “foolish”. If this was not true then Paul’s sarcasm would make no sense since the letter was not going to Jerusalem – the haven of Christ (peace be upon him) killers; it was going to a supposedly “Christian” community of Corinth.

Secondly, we know for a fact that Paul’s most fundamental preaching was the alleged crucifixion and philosophies around it! Now as Corinthian opponents rejected Paul they did not reject the “man” Paul with two eyes and one nose. They precisely rejected his preaching which has to be the alleged crucifixion and this made Paul write that the crucifixion comes as “foolish” and “offensive” to the Jews – the believing Jews of Corinth in the context; and, likewise, “nonsense” to the Gentiles. If these were not valid, it makes no sense that many Corinthian groups “rejected” Paul.

[2.]       The King James Version of the Bible renders the word “simplicity” in place of your “full and pure devotion”:

“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3)

Nevertheless, it hardly makes any difference in the interpretation of the verse when we look at it like a Christian would. For this “simplicity” in Christ (peace be upon him) is the quality of him being the divine Son of God who desires pure and simple devotion to him; and the “simplicity” comes because of his alleged sacrificial death on the cross. Consider some standard expositions of this rendering:

From the simplicity that is in Christ –

 

(1) From simple and single-hearted devotedness to him – from pure and unmixed attachment to him. The fear was that their affections would be fixed on other objects, and that the singleness and unity of their devotedness to him would be destroyed.

(4) from the simplicity in worship which the Lord Jesus commended and required. The worship which the Redeemer designed to establish was simple, unostentatious, and pure – strongly in contrast with the gorgeousness and corruption of the pagan worship, and even with the imposing splendor of the Jewish temple service. (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, 2 Corinthians 11:3)

And,

3. The simplicity that is in Christ] i.e. the pure gospel that salvation is by faith in Christ alone. (A Commentary on the Holy Bible Edited By J.R. Dummelow)

 

Notes:

  • Unless otherwise mentioned, all Qur’anic text taken from Yusuf Ali Translation.
  • Unless otherwise mentioned, all biblical text taken from Good News Edition.
  • Emphasize wherever not matching with original is ours.

Does Qur’an validate Bible?

Does Qur’an validate Bible?

A response to Sam Shamoun’s critique: Qur’an Error – Were Jesus’ Disciples Muslims?

 

Part1

 

Question Mark

Introduction

 

Christian evangelists and missionaries apply a standard argument upon Muslims that the Qur’an “validates” Bible! They especially use this argument against Muslims who are uninitiated in missionary tactics. Once a gullible Muslim is sufficiently duped into this cunning deception, “winning souls” into Christianity is not far off [1.].

Read more

When a ‘Christian’ met Tawhid Al Asma Wa Sifat

A response to the unexpected Christian objections 

Question Mark

Introduction

A certain Christian named C.L.Edwards has objected to our paper wherein we discussed the problems which Christianity, especially the Trinitarian strand of it, faces while dealing with monotheism with regards to God’s attributes and names.

Throughout Edwards directed his response to Ijaz may be either due to careless negligence or sheer obsession as recently they were engaged in a debate. So whenever Edwards refers anything to Ijaz it is actually aimed at me.

Although it was an honor to read Edwards’ response, yet certain very important issues needed to be addressed which we intend to do in this paper.

Problem lies at the base

 

Edwards divides his response into twenty five bullet points. The most important of all lies at the very end! In fact as we would soon observe it shows the philosophy which Edwards as a Trinitarian endorses under the assumption of it being ‘doctrine of monotheism’. As such we would start our analysis from there. Here is Edward’s twenty fifth point:

25. Ijaz says…Monotheism simply means One God, the issue of God incarnating as a man and living the life of a man has nothing to do with whether God is One. The real issue clearly is Ijaz’s psychological hang ups about the incarnation.

Carefully observe the stress upon the definition of monotheism for Edwards. It simply and only means counting God as “One”. We assume this is a standard Trinitarian belief. Nevertheless, on one hand where it is extremely important to count God as one; on the other hand, it is not enough to merely count Him as one! Since even the pagans – by all sense of the word – also count God as one! Consider the following quotations from Hindu scriptures:

“There is only ONE God, not the second; not at all, not at all, not in the least bit.” (Concept of God in Major Religions, Brahma Sutra of Hindu Vedanta, pg. 8)

“He is One only without a second” (Concept of God in Major, Chandogya Upanishad 6:2:1, pg. 5)

Therefore, we do not think that by merely counting God as “one”, Edwards is any different from Hindus who are (generally) known polytheists. As such there has to be more to monotheism than just counting God as one. It is this lack of more qualifications to the imports of monotheism which drives Edwards towards beliefs wherein he allows all sorts of Idolatry under the aegis of Trinitarian Christianity:

24. He then says, “Nevertheless, they have no qualms when they ring their church bells about “God” being delivered out of Mary’s womb “in the crude way” or, “God” being poked on cross while he was almost naked or, still more weirdly, a dead “God” hanging on the cross with probably scavenger hovering over “His” head until his “dead body” was to be placed in a cave.” No we do not, just like the previous messengers had no qualms about this, nor Jesus disciples, nor Jesus himself. because this is what God had said would happen and it is what did happen. Your inability to accept or grasp how it could be is irrelevant, unless you only want a “god” that conforms to your mind(aka an idol).

To paraphrase Edwards’ stand: once a Christian has sufficiently “counted” God to be “one” then he is monotheist enough to allow God being delivered out of Mary’s womb in the crude way; God hanging almost nude on the cross; or even more embarrassingly, monotheists carrying God’s “dead body” into ‘His’ “grave”! So on and so forth.

In other words, a Hindu would be a polytheist since he is worshipping “God-man” like Krishna but a Trinitarian Christian would be a ‘monotheist’ destined to heaven since he worships Jesus (peace be upon him) – , albeit, another ‘God-man’; even though both a Hindu and a Christian “counts” God to be absolutely “one”! We do not really have any good explanation for this extremely biased and partisan approach towards different “God-mans” apart from the fact that either “God is God of Israel” – the nationalistic God and thus the biased approach or, the so-called philosophy of “hypostatic union”:

In fact Edwards readily accepted a number of utterly idolatrous acts for God under the name of hypostatic union. Following is the list,

1)      God being procreated out of the womb of Mary “in the crude way”.

2)      God contained inside His “mother’s” womb

3)      God sucking his life of his mother.

4)      God producing biological waste.

5)      God almost made naked on cross.

6)      God made to bleed and wounded.

7)      God being spat on his face.

8)      And, on top of all of that, “God” dying on the cross

9)      And, “God’s” dead body being enshrouded and placed in cave.

 

And following is Edwards’ acceptance of them under the explanation of hypostatic union!

“16. Ijaz then lists many things that happened to Jesus Christ while incarnate as a man, that he says do not befit God. In a sense I agree from the stand point of God in his essence would never be nailed to a cross(how could a incorporeal being be nailed to anything?), but God incarnate in the manner detailed by the doctrine of the hypostatic union could and did do all those things without violating his “God-hood”.

Edwards goes on to explain what hypostatic union means and how it justifies all of the above blasphemous attributes upon God:

13. Ijaz then says “On the same reasoning, Jesus (peace be upon him) cannot be imputed with some of the attributes which ill-fits a “God”” Correction Jesus as the incarnate God-man having two natures could not have attributes ”ill-fit” for a God ascribed to his divine essence(dhat). As for His second additional nature that he took upon himself, it is fully human in every sense of the word. Since Jesus two natures are not mixed or co-mingled causing a dilution nor a cancellation of the other, Christs human nature imputes nothing ”ill-fit” to his divine nature.

This is pure Greek philosophy than anything else since we cannot have a “union” of two mutually exclusive attributes at the same time and in the same entity. Although Edwards asserts that Jesus’ (peace be upon him) humanity would not interrupt his divinity yet this is not possible. To explain this let’s take a situation in Jesus’ (peace be upon him) life where he was in his mother’s womb. When the baby, in other words, the human Jesus (peace be upon him) was in the womb along with it the “God” of Trinitarians was also clinging to the uterine wall of Mary! So, where it is perfectly acceptable for a human Jesus (peace be upon him) to be contained in Mary; however, it is grotesque even to imagine “God” hanging in Mary’s womb! And yet this is exactly acceptable under the explanation of “hypostatic union”!

To further realize the absurd implications of the “hypostatic union”, we would go further earlier in Mary’s pregnancy. Think about the time when Jesus (peace be upon him) was not even a baby in the womb – the zygote state. By the very token of “hypostatic union” we would have to grant that the zygote was both a mere human-pre-natal state and at the same time (hypostatic union) “God” Almighty clinging to the womb of Mary as a mere two celled organism! So if the dual nature of Jesus (peace be upon him) – the divine and the human – by the virtue of “hypostatic union” allows him to be referred as “God-man” during his adult ministry, then by the same token of “hypostatic union” it should have been ‘doctrinally’ permissible to call him “God-zygote” during his incipient stages!?

The above explanations make it amply clear that the human nature of Jesus (peace be upon him) does interfere with his divine nature (if he has one). And this cannot be merely explained away by assuming that “two natures are not mixed or co-mingled causing a dilution nor a cancellation of the other, Christs human nature imputes nothing ”ill-fit” to his divine nature.”!

At last, some attributes are blasphemous

Edwards, however, does not allow everything for Jesus (peace be upon him):

15…For those unfamiliar with Christian doctrine it does not teach “the “Son of God” would procreate his “Son””. Ijaz does such things constantly and despite being corrected he continues on,  I can only speculate because it befits his attempts at dawah.

Note how precisely Edwards deny the notion that Jesus (peace be upon him) would beget any kid(s). He reasons that the “Christian doctrine…does not teach” so. However hardly does he care to enquire why the “Christian doctrine” is so? Why Jesus (peace be upon him) cannot procreate? The reason is simple. Jesus (peace be upon him) – the human – begetting a kid would be acceptable but because of the “hypostatic” phenomenon, the divine nature is also co-residing; thus, Jesus (peace be upon him) betaking kids would defy all monotheistic paradigms. And in this situation church mandated the Christian “doctrine” that Jesus (peace be upon him) cannot beget kids.

However, on one hand where the “Christian doctrine” disallows Jesus (peace be upon him) begetting kids, nevertheless, ironically it does allow Jesus (peace be upon him) himself being begotten off Mary! Furthermore, Christian “doctrine” does allow Jesus (peace be upon him) to bleed, sweat, feel for hunger, and so logically, have all other hormonal developments including reproductive as there is in any other human being – yet the only thing he cannot do is beget kids!

It was to circumvent these nasty implications that Islam qualified that there is more in monotheism than mere count of God as “one”. It made it necessary that besides recognizing and counting God as one, sufficient care has to be taken with regards to His attributes. His attributes should not be invested upon His creation and vice-versa.

In fact the Hebrew Bible also teaches the same! Therefore, we quoted Exodus20:4. Nevertheless, Edwards neglected it with the explanation that the verse merely speaks against the “making” of idols:

4. Exodus 20:4 does not prove the following statement, “Quite obviously Bible is denying that attribute of any creation can be imputed upon the Almighty”. Exodus 20:4 is a prohibition against making idols.

Similarly, for obvious Trinitarian reasons, Edwards also asserted that Deuteronomy 4:16 does not speak against any humanization of God:

18. Ijaz further exposes his lack of knowledge of Christian theology by supposing the incarnation of Christ is some how like the craving of a idol in his quoting of Deuteronomy 4:16. I am not sure how a command from God to Israel to not crave idols disproves God could have the ability(or will) to take on a second additional nature and co-exist as both God and man. Again ijaz ignores the actual topic of the passage(do not make idols) and feels free to make it say what he “feels” it should say.

We would consider Deuteronomy 4:16 only for brevity and check if it only concerns with “making” of idols. This is what the text reads:

Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, (Deuteronomy 4:16)

As usual Edwards neglects the reason why God is not to be represented in an idol. A verse earlier, Bible explicitly gives the reason:

And the LORD commanded me at that time to teach you statutes and judgments, that ye might do them in the land whither ye go over to possess it. Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: (Deuteronomy 4:14-15)

God’s reasoning is very clear: On the day when He spoke, Israelites could not observe His similitude to any of His creatures! As such it was forbidden that Israelites represent Him in any shape or form including human males. More specifically, God does not have any similitude to male humans and thus it would be idolatry to conceive Him in that form and worship.

However, when Edwards tries to limit the scope of the verse to mean merely forbiddance of idol making and worship, then he even goes against the standard Christian interpretation of the verse:

Deuteronomy 4:16

The likeness of male or female – Such as Baal-peor and the Roman Priapus, Ashtaroth or Astarte, and the Greek and Roman Venus; after whom most nations of the world literally went a whoring. (Adam Clarke’s commentary on the Bible)

the likeness of male or female; of a man or a woman; so some of the Heathen deities were in the likeness of men, as Jupiter, Mars, Hercules, Apollo, &c. and others in the likeness of women, as Juno, Diana, Venus, &c. Some think Osiris and Isis, Egyptian deities, the one male, the other female, are respected; but it is not certain that these were worshipped by them so early. (John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible)

Out of the many names which the commentator has provided many were real mennot mere idols. However, they are criticized as “Heathen deities” since God has no similitude to “males”! And so personification of God is here termed as paganism.

Nevertheless, Christians would never apply the same standards upon Jesus (peace be upon him) even though he is just another male like Hercules or Apollo! In Jesus (peace be upon him), Christians somehow do see (similitude of) God notwithstanding the premises of the preceding Hebrew biblical verses.

To further expose the weakness of the argument that the verse merely speaks about “making” of idols we would consider the era when, say, Krishna was physically moving around in the villages of India “preaching” about spirituality and performing “miracles” among masses. And consider the group of people worshipping him during his earthly ministry; now what would Edwards say about the religious practices of these people! Are they ‘monotheists’ (remember they (Hindus) staunchly count God as one) – or polytheists! Note that these people would not be into any idol business since they have their deity physically present with them. If Edwards would still deem them as polytheists for the mere reason that they worshipped a “God-man” then how is he himself with all other Christians a ‘monotheist’?

As such Christians should provide strong enough reasons why as a non-Christian we should reject all other “Heathen” god-men in the name of ‘monotheism’ but yet accept the deity of Jesus (peace be upon him), who was yet another god-man. One cannot accept such a notion unless s/he is flagrantly biased; since, if Jesus (peace be upon him) performed miracles and that makes him to be “God” then so did a number of other claimants of divinity in other religions. If Christians have a “scripture” which allegedly speak of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) deity; most other “Heathen” religions also have scripture, in fact many even predating New Testament, that also speak of their candidates as gods! And most importantly, if Jesus (peace be upon him) is a “God-man” so were a number of others!

But if the acceptance-rejection yardstick lies only on the mere fact that the “Heathens” in absence of their man-gods portrayed them in idols then we would have to accept that the few sects of Christianity, which are easily outnumbered by more dominant ones, are only a step behind in “Heathenism” since they do have full-blown image/idol of Jesus (peace be upon him) in their minds during their “services”.

Humanization in Islam

On the fly, Edwards accused Islam of humanizing God as well:

17. Ijaz a man who follows a religion that teaches God has a face, two eyes, a shin, feet, will be seen in the form of a man, and descends down into time and space then claims, “ What is disappointing in all of this is that Bible strictly speaks against any such idolatrous humanization of God”. Besides the fact that Christian theology doesn’t teach the humanization of God in the manner Ijaz accuses, see point 13, 15 and 16.

Islamic Scriptures does speak about face, shin but it also states that:

(He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves, and pairs among cattle: by this means does He multiply you: there is nothing whatever like unto Him, and He is the One that hears and sees (all things). (Qur’an 42:11)

Commenting on the above highlighted part of the verse, Shaikh Philips writes the following:

The attributes of hearing and seeing are among the human attributes, but when they are attributed to The Divine Being they are without comparison in their perfection. However, when these attributes are associated with men they necessitate ear and eye apparatuses which cannot be attributed to God. What man knows about the Creator is only what little He has revealed to him through His prophets. Therefore, man is obliged to stay within these narrow limits. When man gives free reign to his intellect in describing God, he is liable to fall into error by assigning to Allah the attributes of His creation. (The Fundamentals of Tawheed (Islamic Monotheism), Dr. Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, pp 28-29)

And,

Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten;  And there is none like unto Him. (Qur’an 112: 1-4)

Noted Qur’an commentator Yusuf Ali also reflects likewise:

This sums up the whole argument and warns us specially against Anthropomorphism, the tendency to conceive of Allah after our own pattern, an insidious tendency that creeps in at all times and among all peoples.

Thus when Allah (SWT) states that He has a Face or Hands etc the similarity lies only in the linguistic words, certainly not in the imports. On the basis of preceding Qur’anic verses, we do not have any warrant to make deductions/conclusions that if Allah (SWT) said about His Face then it would mean a face made up of two eyes, one nose, pair of lips and ears – comprising of epidermis, fat, muscles, nerves, blood etc; since in the end God also said “nothing whatsoever is like unto Him”. We need to be particularly careful with the last clause since God will question about it.

Conclusion

With regards to Edwards’ understanding of monotheism, we observed some peculiar and typical statements like,

18…I am not sure how a command from God to Israel to not crave idols disproves God could have the ability(or will) to take on a second additional nature and co-exist as both God and man.

25…Also Monotheism simply means One God, the issue of God incarnating as a man and living the life of a man has nothing to do with whether God is One. The real issue clearly is Ijaz’s psychological hang ups about the incarnation.

These give strong indication for the type of philosophy Edwards endorses as “monotheism”; and we assume that Edwards is trying his best to demonstrate the standard Christian doctrine of monotheism. As such the type of monotheism which Christianity offers to humanity is extremely narrow. It is just the count of God to one which matters added with the denial of idols.

However, Christianity does allow drawing similitude to God even though the Hebrew Bible expressly rejects it. In order to accommodate the “incarnation” or the humanization of God, Christianity neglects the reason why the God of Israel forbade representing Him through idols. It was because, as He explained, He does not have any similitude or resemblance to any of His creation, including “male” humans. And so it would be attributing “male” resemblance upon God which has to be rejected as paganism. If this essence and theme is neglected from the verse then it does not matter whether one worships Jesus (peace be upon him) or Krishna or any other “God-man” since, as we saw, even the Hindu scriptures counted God as “one” so a Krishna worshipper is still a ‘monotheist’ in that regard. Thus, until we filter out “incarnation” of God (i.e., attributing the qualities of humans upon God), as a non-Christian it is hard to see difference between Paganism and Christianity.

And so in all good spirit we request Edwards to ponder into the following words of God where He is addressing the very delusion of most humans who ‘think’ they believe in God but…

…most of them believe not in Allah without associating (other as partners) with Him! (Qur’an 12:106)

“Travel through the earth and see what was the end of those before (you):Most of them worshipped others besides Allah.” (Qur’an 30:42)

Notes:

  • Unless otherwise mentioned, all Qur’anic texts taken from Yusuf Ali Translation.
  • Unless otherwise mentioned, all biblical texts taken from King James Version.
  • All emphasize wherever not matching with original is ours.

 

P.S.: This paper was mostly responsive where we responded to a number of issues Edwards raised. During the course, we touched on issues which might hurt Christian feelings. Nevertheless, it was never our intention to hurt any sincere Christian sentiment. We apologize, in case, if any Christian sentiment has been hurt. We seek God’s guidance and mercy.

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