A Concise Reply to
Christianity – a Muslim View
If this booklet were written to announce my conversion to
Christianity, no Christian would complain that it is too blunt. So if I must
reject an aspect of Christianity in a succinct form, let me not be accused of
bluntness either. A Muslim believes in the religion of Jesus but sees mainline
Christianity as a religion constructed about Jesus. Our protest is
against two excesses: The apotheosis of Jesus and the most frequent missionary
tactic directed toward Muslims.
Christians and Muslims who learn something of one another's
religion find that a crucial issue is the nature of Jesus. The majority of
Christians deify Jesus while Muslims say that he was no more than a prophet of
God, a faultless human being. The doctrine of the Trinity avows that three
distinct co-equals are God. In particular, Jesus is said to be God the Son, or
the Son of God. As the Muslim questions details of this theology, the Christian
characteristically forms a common explanation for our differences: He complains
that Muslims do not understand the Trinity; that we are actually accusing
Christians of Tritheism and other heresies.
So the Muslim seeks clarification of the teaching and asks at
every step: "How could that be so?" For example, we insist that the
term "Son of God" cannot have a literal interpretation. Sonship and
divine nature would be necessary attributes of such an actuality, but these are
incompatible. The first describes a recipient of life while the second describes
One who received life from no one. These are mutually exclusive requirements
then. To be a son is to be less than divine, and to be divine is to be no one's
As a discussion proceeds, it is the Christian who will
eventually take refuge in the response: "These are things that we cannot
understand." His assessment of the Muslim's problem becomes his own
confession. The Christian explanation becomes self-defeating so there is a
change of tactic.
He complains that the Muslim refuses to accept what cannot be
understood. But the modified approach is a diversion. Now the concepts of verification
and understanding are confused. To illustrate: Chemical reactions may be verified
but the atom is not thereby understood. Facts are catalogued but not
always explained. This distinction is the key to our concise reply. It is the
Muslim who must redirect the discussion. Our primary issue is more basic than
resolving the incongruities of Trinitarian doctrine. Rather than ask how
the Trinity can be so, we should ask why it must be so. We ask, "Why
must Jesus be divine? Can we verify the necessity of this belief?"
The Muslim Position
A few centuries ago, European Philosophers commonly felt that
a conjecture was proven if it could be shown to be equivalent to an assertion
made by Aristotle. Unfortunately, such an approach stopped short of challenging
Aristotle and discovering truth. Similarly, testing the Trinitarian case on what
people have said about Jesus stops short of establishing the integrity of the
authorities and the truth of the matter.
Our purpose here is no more than the illustration that belief
in the Trinity can only be based on Church authority. Many Christians admit that
this is the case while others insist that the teaching was elaborated by Jesus
himself. "Let them produce their proof," is the repeated admonition of
the Qur'an, that is, "provide the documentation that Jesus himself claimed
unqualified deity," (Qur'an 21:24). Unless this evidence can be produced,
authorities are subject to challenge. Then the Christian may not evade the
Muslim's questions concerning understanding. The Christian will have no
justification for maintaining an illogical position, unless he is content to
rely on the opinions of men. If he will probe no deeper than this, the
Christian-Muslim dialogue is finished.
For Christians, the only documents accepted as reporting the
words of Jesus are the accounts given in the Bible. We leave the Muslim attitude
toward the Bible for part II of this essay and find our motivation now in the Qur'anic verse, "Say: 'O People of the Book! You have no ground to stand
upon unless you stand fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that
has come to you from your Lord." (Qur'an 5:71). Christians are advised to
support their claims by citing their books. Thus Muslims believe that no saying
of Jesus can be produced which shows him grasping at equality with God. The
primary issue is not whether Jesus is God. The first question is whether
he said that he was equal to God.
The Bible record of sayings credited to Jesus is quite meager.
After allowance for duplication in the four gospel accounts, these sayings could
be printed in two columns of a newspaper. None of this handful of texts is an
explicit claim of deity. All quotations are implicit, that is, they require
interpretation. We are told what Jesus said and then told what he meant.
So our methodology takes an obvious form.
It is not our intention or obligation to reinterpret the
Bible. We are satisfied to merely verify that Christian interpretations are
insufficient, ambiguous, or impossible. We mean to argue: 1) that where the
meaning of a quotation is clear, it is still insufficient to prove that
Jesus claimed equality with God; 2) that other quotations cited are open to
various interpretation, ambiguous; 3) and that still other quotations
have been given interpretations that are impossible. This means the
evidence is either inadequate, inconclusive, or unacceptable, respectively.
The virgin birth of Jesus and the miracles he demonstrated are
cited by some as proof of his divinity. The insufficiency of the premise is
obvious. We need only read the Biblical account of Adam's creation, without
father or mother, and the accounts of miracles associated with the prophet
Elisha (Genesis and 2 Kings chapters 4,5,6). In the case of these two men, no
Christian asserts their divinity, yet each has a qualification in common with
Some maintain that Jesus was God because the Hebrew Scriptures
predicted his coming. The inadequacy here is only slightly less apparent. The
ancient Hebrew Scriptures are also cited as predicting the role of John the
Baptist (Malachi chapter 4). These three arguments are mentioned to show that
the ready claims of Christian betray a selective or forgetful recall of
scripture. They know the fact of virgin birth as well as they know the account
of Adam's origins, yet they interpret the first and overlook the second.
Now to pursue our case indirectly. Does the Bible quote Jesus
as claiming equality with God? Bible texts are produced to show that Jesus used
the terms "son of man", "son of God", "Messiah",
and "savior". But each of these terms is applied to other individuals
in the Bible. Ezekiel was addressed as "son of man" (Ezekiel chapter
3). Jesus himself speaks of the peacemakers as "sons of God" (Matthew
5:9). Cyrus the Persian is called "messiah" at Isaiah 45:1. The
duplicity of translators is manifested here, for they inevitably render only the
meaning of the word "Messiah" which is "anointed". Where
other Bible verses seem to refer to Jesus, they prefer to transliterate
"Messiah" or the Greek equivalent "Christ". In this way they
hope to give the impression that there is only one Messiah. As for "savior",
the word is applied to other than Jesus (2 Kings 13:5). Christians choose to
cite the forty-third chapter of Isaiah as proof that there is only one savior.
Again, translators have tried to obscure the fact that God is the only savior in
the same ultimate sense that He is our only nourisher and protector, though men
also have these assigned tasks. By over specifying this pronouncement in Isaiah
they hope to have us believe that God equals savior and Jesus equals savior
therefore Jesus equals God. The conspiracy of modern translation is easily
demonstrated. The King James Bible of 1611 is everywhere available. Compare it
to a more recent translation, say the New American Bible of this century. In the
earlier version we find 2 Kings 13:5 contains the word "savior", but
in the newer version the synonymous word "deliverer" has been
substituted. In fact, "saviours", the plural, will be found at Obadiah
21 and Nehemiah 9:27. Here again, by substituting a different word, the
connotation of divinity tied to the word "savior" has been guarded in
modern versions by less than honest translation.
Once more we have exhibited the insufficient warrant of
arguments offered: Those terms said to connote divinity are used of individuals
other than Jesus.
There is a quotation that should be mentioned here also. At
John 8:58 it is reported that Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I am".
Even if Jesus meant to claim by these words that he was alive before Abraham
was, is this sufficient ground to say that he was divine? If Jesus lived in
heaven then came to earth it might mean something remarkable, but it would not
be enough to establish him as God incarnate. Additionally, it should be noted
that these words are open to other interpretation. Christians do not imagine
that the prophet Jeremiah had a pre-human existence and so they find a suitable
way of interpreting the words of Jeremiah 1:5 which portray such a situation, if
taken literally, Why not apply a similar understanding in the case of John 8:58?
Some scholars have insisted that in this statement of Jesus
just discussed, he appropriated for himself a divine title. In Exodus chapter 3,
it is reported that God told Moses "I am what I am," as
most English Bibles translate the Hebrew text. At John 8:58 Jesus says,
"before Abraham was, I am," as most English Bibles translate
the Greek text. But here is the key to another deception. The original of the
first text is in Hebrew while the original of the second is in Greek. All but a
few of Jesus' words were recorded in Greek. For two hundred years before the
time of Jesus the Jews used a Greek translation of their Hebrew scriptures, the
Septuagint. This work translated the key phrase "I am" of
Exodus as HO ON. However, the words of Jesus, "I am", have been given
to us in Greek as EGO EIMI. If the gospel writer of John 8:58 wanted to tell his
Greek-speaking audience that Jesus had imitated God he would have used the
familiar words of the Septuagint, otherwise the point would be lost. The
evidence of John 8:58 is far from conclusive.
There is another Greek word to consider which betrays
suppression or neglect of evidence. At John 10:30 Jesus is quoted as saying
"I and the Father are one." The Greek word translated "one"
is HEN. Certain scholars have insisted that the only possible understanding of
this word is "one in essence or nature". One need not be a Greek
scholar to refute this unjustified claim. A counter example is sufficient. The
same word is used by Jesus in John 17:11,21,22,23, as he includes his disciples
in this oneness, whatever its meaning.
The most widely translated sentence on earth is said to be
Jesus' statement of John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His
only begotten son..." While Christians wish to say that the word
"only-begotten" gives Jesus special status among all the "sons of
God", again there is a problem if ambiguity. The same word translated as
"only-begotten" is found at Hebrews 11:17. In this verse the word
refers to Isaac. The Bible itself shows that Isaac's older brother Ishmael
outlived his father (Genesis 25:9). Therefore, at no time was Isaac, strictly
speaking, the only-begotten son of Abraham. Recognizing this, Christian scholars
qualify the meaning of the word in this case and give it a less than literal
interpretation. But if the meaning is subject to interpretation here, why not
also in the passage of John 3:16? Once more the possibility of ambiguity means
that John 3:16 is inconclusive evidence.
Whether or not Jesus really used the term "Father"
when speaking of God is another controversy. But here our point is again, that
suck use is inconclusive evidence that God was literally Father to Jesus. All
Christians use the term when addressing God. The Jews themselves used the term
(John 8:41). Jesus told them that the devil was their father (John 8:44). Of
course, he was not speaking literally.
Certain scholars stress the verse of Mark 14:36 where Jesus
speaks the Aramaic word for Father, "Abba". They insist that this
implies a very unique relationship between Jesus and God. This displays a-
schizophrenic forgetfulness. For favorite scripture passages are Romans 8:14 and
Galatians 4:6 where every Christian is said to use this term of address for God.
An episode is recounted in the twentieth chapter of John and a
certain Thomas is quoted as saving, "My Lord and my God." In
interpreting this, Christians maintain that Thomas was addressing Jesus by both
of these titles. The Muslim would have no objection to the term
"Lord". As the Bible explains, the word means "master" and
Sarah is said to have called her husband Abraham by this title (Peter 3:6). The
suggestion that Thomas addressed Jesus as literally being God is a different
matter. Jesus has already pointed out that the Hebrew scriptures themselves
address men as "gods" (John 10:34; Psalms 82:6). This would allow for
Thomas' use of the term. However, Paul gave new rules in 1 Corinthians chapter
8, saying that there are many lords and gods "...yet for us there is but
one God, the Father.... and one Lord, Jesus Christ..." Christians apply
this verse to sort out the ambiguities of Thomas' expression. But now we are
left with an unorthodox doctrine, namely that Jesus is the Father. This ancient
heresy has been branded by the Church as Patripassianism, Monarchianism, or
The impossibility of an orthodox interpretation of Thomas is now apparent.
The distinction between Father and Son is essential to the
doctrine of the Trinity. This distinction is blurred again when John 14:9 is
pressed into service. Here Jesus' reply to a man named Philip is recorded as,
"He who has seen me has seen the Father." A strictly literal
explication would mean the unacceptable doctrine that Jesus is the Father. So
interpreters say that "Father" is here equivalent to "God".
However, we cannot possibly be obliged to understand that Jesus meant to say
that seeing him was exactly the same as seeing God because he was God. Our
reason is found in the contrariety of John 5:37. Here he told a crowd about the
Father saying, "You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen his
The Total Evidence Did the Jews Understand?
Surprisingly enough, it is often conceded that individual
verses are insufficient, inconclusive, or even unusable in the case made for the
divinity of Jesus. However, there are those who insist that while any given
verse may be deficient, it is the total collection of all such verses that
proves the case. This betrays a misunderstanding of the reasoning process. Each
verse must prove something, or it is dispensable. Given a verse, we must demand
to know exactly what it does prove, and why. Christian exegesis, the traditional
explanation of scripture, has been exposed as incredible within the church
itself. It has been shown to be enthymemic in the extreme. That is, premises and
conclusions are not clearly stated. (Exactly what is meant by the
"redemption of man" is still not clear to this date. [This article was
written in 1983]) Whether we probe the roots or the outgrowth of the system, the
structure becomes vague. (See for example, THE MYTH OF GOD INCARNATE, a
A final argument has been offered based on the understanding
of the Jews. Christians have said that our rebuttal given here is unimportant
because the Jews understood Jesus to grasp at equality with God. They cite John
5:18, ' ...because ... (he) was calling God his own Father, making himself equal
with God." They pass over the verses that follow immediately, where Jesus
subjected himself to God, naming those things which God gave him.
They cite the tenth chapter of John where the Jews tried to
stone Jesus for blasphemy. The point of the reply Jesus made is neglected. He
demonstrated to those Jews, by quoting their own scripture, that they had no
grounds for their accusation.
Curiously enough, in their haste to put claims on the lips of
Jesus, part of the Christian church constructs a very confused story. The Hebrew
scriptures made reference to a Messiah and the Church says this can only mean an
incarnate God and so when Jesus spoke of himself as Messiah he was blaspheming
because no man can be God, according to Hebrew scriptures ... or so the
reasoning seems to flow together in confusion.
There is a legal point to be made here. If the
Jews understood that the Messiah was to be a man who was equal to God then a man who
claimed to be the Messiah could only be condemned as a false messiah. He
could not be condemned on the grounds that he uttered a statement which
must always be blasphemous in itself. At some future time, the true Messiah
would have to speak the very same words without being condemned. When certain
Jews declared Jesus' words as blasphemy they could only have meant to
condemn him as a false messiah. Any supposed connection between the word
"Messiah" and the attribute of divinity has no bearing on this matter.
(The fact is, the Jews have never believed that the promised Messiah would be a
man who is equal to God.)
In the second chapter of Mark, Jesus tells a man, "Your
sins are forgiven." The customary interpretation takes the side of the Jews
then present, who asked, "Who can forgive sins but God Alone?" But the
verse at John 12:49, among others, explains very well how a man could make such
a statement. In this verse Jesus denies any personal initiative. (See also John
8:40; 14:10.) The argument based on Jewish understanding makes the assumption
that the Jews understood Jesus. A more viable hypothesis is simply that the
enemies of Jesus misunderstood him. In fact Jesus repeatedly alludes to this
(e.g. Mark 4:11, 12). It is interesting to note that today Jewish scholars find
virtually no objections to anything Jesus said. (See the reference under Jesus
in the UNIVERSAL JEWISH ENCYCLOPEDIA.)
We have not merely used the Bible to suit ourselves. Verses
have been cited without any commitment as to their veracity. It has been our
intention only to show the defects in the Christian stand which says:
"Jesus claimed to be equal to God." If we decoct the mixture said to
establish that stand, we find inferior ingredients, weak evidence and specious
reasoning. Our position has been narrowed enough to make almost any Christian
response a step toward the Muslim’s position. We have cited the most quoted
and clear scriptures, so if any others are brought forward, the Christian
admits the deficiency of previous arguments, and thus makes a short list even
shorter ... the list of quotations said to prove his case. Or, if the Christian
builds a case on something other than the words attributed to Jesus, he repeats
exactly what we first protested: mainline Christianity is based on what
people have said about Jesus.
We asked, "Why must Jesus be divine?" By this we
meant to ask why a Christian believes so. If the question is asked without
reference to the foregoing discussion, a Christian will answer that Jesus must
be divine if his death is to be sufficient atonement for the sins of mankind. In
the Christian scheme of redemption, it is held that sacrificial death was
necessary that men might be saved. Ask why the death of any man would be
insufficient and the Christian replies that all men are imperfect. Ask why they
are imperfect and we are told that this is an inheritance from our fathers.
Jesus had no father. By their own scheme he would have been an unblemished
sacrificial victim. Nevertheless, they still require that he be divine to suit
the role of redeemer. So we ask, "Did God die?" He quickly replies,
"No, only the man Jesus died." Jesus is said to be a God-man and it
was the human component that died. But now he has said that the death of a man
has atoned for sin. The Infinite is required for this ritual of sacrifice but
the Infinite is not actually sacrificed.
There are many missionary tactics directed by Christians
toward Muslims. The bulk of these stands immediately condemned by the Bible
which speaks about their Master's path being straight (Luke chapter 3,
Matthew chapter 7). Missionary strategies have included enticement with money,
women, alcohol and social status. These methods may lead people, but do they
lead by a straight path? A complete exposure of such activities would be a
worthwhile document, but this in not our concern here. Christian authors who
deal with the Qur'an and the Bible in order to win converts are the subject now.
Disputing the Qur'an
Attacks on the Qur'an have abounded since the Book's first
appearance. In fact, in a remarkable verse the Qur'an invites examination;
"Have they not considered the Qur'an? If it was from other than God, surely
they would find in it many inconsistencies," (4:82). While many theories
have been offered to explain the Qur'an's origin, "today no sensible person
believes these theories. This leaves the Christian in some difficulty," in
the words of the NEW CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA. We want to also mention that no
theory has yet been suggested that is not already commented on within the Qur'an
itself ... the book replies to its critics.
When a verse of the Qur'an is said to be in error, the Muslim's
natural urge is to correct the inaccurate interpretation. But we perform more
efficiently if we are realistic. There is a difference in attitude between those
who study the Qur'an and those who assault the Qur'an. A sincere questioner has
open-mindedly accepted the challenge of the verse 4:82. But most often the
missionary both attacks and distorts the Qur'an, while pretending to be
reasonable. This opponent is not interested in the proper understanding of any
given verse. So, we may best proceed as outlined in Part I: We demonstrate only
that the so-called difficulty of any Qur'anic verse originates in an
interpretation which has not considered sufficiency, ambiguity, or
We need only to show: (1) that a given interpretation is
inadequate to build a case; (2) or that the meaning of words has been overly
restricted and is not the only meaning possible; (3) or that a meaning has been
given which is actually impossible.
My experience has often been that Christians who question will
find their answers in the same place they found their questions. Frequently they
have studied the Muslim commentaries of the Qur'an (TAFSEER), and when they find
an obscure point, they bring it to Muslims hoping that we are unaware of
research and explanation already done on the matter centuries ago.
What does the Qur'an say About the Bible?
Certain missionary writers intend to tell not only Christians
about the Qur'an, but Muslims also by their eristic methods they build a flimsy
case in order to provoke controversy where none exists. They tell us that the Qur'an
says the Bible is accurate. They tell us that the Qur'an accuses Christians
of changing the texts of their scriptures. The Qur'an does not make either
of these assertions. By pointing to disagreements between the Qur'an and the
Bible they hope to make difficulty. By arguing for preservation of ancient
Biblical texts they intend to cause still more confusion for Muslims. However,
these tactics can only work if we admit the premises on which they stand ... and
we do not.
First, the Qur'an states that Christians have access to the
truth in their scriptures. But it does not catalogue the sixty-six small books
called the Bible and label them as accurate. In fact it condemns those who would
claim divine inspiration for something composed by a man. Part of the Bible, as
will be seen, falls into this category.
Second, the Qur'an does not accuse Christians of deliberately
tampering with the original texts of their scriptures. Rather, it accuses them
of manipulating the understanding of their scriptures. The deceptive
translations mentioned in part I illustrate this practice.
In short, the Muslim believes that the Bible contains
the words of God, and more words besides these.
Is Total Acceptance of The Bible Deserved?
The last sentence of the preceding section states the Muslim's
attitude toward the Bible. It is actually the attitude of many Christians. It is
only a certain collection of Christians (the Fundamentalists) who maintain that
ALL of the Bible originated with God. Adherence to this belief is unwarranted
for at least four reasons; (1) It is not claimed within the Bible itself; (2) It
is an unworthy attitude; (3) It is not self-consistent; (4) It is logically
(1) ... The Bible nowhere names itself. The word
"Bible" is not in the Bible. Sixty-six books have been bound as one
without any divine command to do so. Compare, for example, the opening of the
book of Jonah: "The word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai
saying …" and the opening remarks of the writer of the third gospel
account: "... it seemed fitting for me ... to write it out... ," (NEW
AMERICAN BIBLE). The first book claims divine inspiration, while the second
author makes no such claim.
By trading on the vagueness of the words "scripture"
and "book" the Fundamentalists try to make a case for the Bible's
total inspiration. For example, they quote 2 Timothy 3:16 where Paul wrote to
Timothy, "... all scripture is inspired of God ..." In the first
place, it still remains to establish the authority of Paul ... did he speak for
God here? But the real trickery is in the isolation of this verse. In the
sentence before this. Paul indicated what he considered as scripture, namely,
that which Timothy studied as a child. When Timothy was a child the last twenty
seven books of the Bible had not been written.
The antepenultimate verse of today's Bible seems to conclude
the whole of the Bible, as it warns against adding or subtracting contents in
"this book". However. "this book" can only refer to this
last book of the Bible and not to the Bible itself. The reason is clear: Any
Christian reference will acknowledge that other books of the Bible were written
after this one, that is, the last book in today's Bible was not the last one
written. In fact, exactly which books should form the contents of the Bible was
still being debated three hundred years after Jesus.
(2) ... The official position of Fundamentalist churches is
really a modification of the blunt statement: "The Bible is the perfect
word of God." While they consider the modification only slight, it is
actually ruinous. They say that the Bible is "inerrant in the original
manuscripts". If all contradictions in the Bible could be explained away as
misunderstandings, why would they rely on this excuse? By taking this position
they admit to errors in the Bible. These are said to be only small copying
errors made over the centuries as the scriptures were recopied. They have
disregarded the advice of Jesus who said that carelessness in the little things
means carelessness in large matters (Luke 16:10). Yet the unworthy statement
about today's Bible is really: "The Bible contains small mistakes but no
(3) ... There are abundant copying errors in the Bible, the
conflicting statistics of Ezra 2:5 and Nehemiah 7:10, for example. On the one
hand the Fundamentalist admits this to be the case and excuses it as a minor
copying error. On the other hand, he puts his trust in the statement of Isaiah
40:8 which says, "The word of our God stands forever." This verse does
not go on to accept minor details due to flaws in the transcription of His word.
According to this verse, if God says it, it does not get lost. But mistakes of
transcription means something of the original has been lost. It is inconsistent
to excuse error and simultaneously disallow error. The only solution is to drop
the notion of total divine inspiration of the Bible.
(4) ... Total inspiration is illogical because it is both
disavowed and disproved within the Bible. At 1 Corinthians 7:25 the Bible writer
specifically says that he is about to make a statement which did not originate
with God ... inspiration is disavowed. In the first chapter of Titus we have a
counter example which disproves total divine inspiration. Paul quoted the
famous Epimenides paradox, specifying that the speaker himself was a Cretan:
"Cretans are always liars ...". He then says that the man spoke the
truth. But when the statement is spoken by a Cretan it is definitely not true.
If it was true then at least once, a Cretan was not a liar, in which case the
statement is false. The conclusion is the denial of the assumption, so the
statement is not true. The writer Paul at least on this occasion, was without
divine guidance for he did not discern this subtlety.
The Christian who would preach to Muslims must first be
prepared to allow us to clearly establish our own position. Otherwise he
confronts a man of straw but misses the target of genuine Islam. His comparisons
of the Bible and the Qur'an are most often seen to be shallow and misleading. As
with the matter discussed in part I, our most fruitful debates will be those
that consider Why not How. If the Christian wishes to prove his stand, he must justify
it after explaining it. Conversely, if he would attack out stand he must
understand it correctly before we can be asked to justify it.
Finally, this is not an attack on the Bible. It is an attack
on an unjustified attitude held by some concerning the Bible. Again, the Muslim
believes the Bible to contain God's words, but he does not accept the entire
contents as such. Deciding which portions deserve our acceptance is not a matter
of convenience. It is a matter of consistency. Those portions, and only those
portions, which are self-consistent, compatible with reason, and self-proclaimed
as divinely revealed deserve our consideration.
Part Three - A Suggestion
Christian belief reduces to this: The Jews have cherished an
incorrect notion of the Messiah. That is, while Jews expect someone who is only
son of God in a figurative sense, Jesus told the Jews that the Messiah was
literally the son of God. In this frame of mind, the Christian can point to
every Biblical account of Jews being angry with Jesus and claim that this new
truth was the cause of their upset.
But there are important facts to consider. The concept of the
Messiah was gradually formed by the Jews and opinions differed. While several
men had already been called Messiah, son of God, son of man, in scripture, the
Jews came to expect a preeminent Messiah, a victorious leader through whom their
nation would be a blessing to all the world.
Our suggestion is this: Suppose instead that Jesus meant to
tell the Jews that while he also deserved to be called Messiah, he was
not to fulfill their unrealistic and misunderstood expectations. Now several
mysteries are clarified. Jesus could not have meant to claim status for he
charged his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the true Messiah (Luke
9:21). Notice how he dissuaded a man who may have had mistaken ideas (Matthew
8:20). While many Jews believed that the Messiah would inherit his kingly rights
from David, Jesus pointed out the difficulty of this interpretation (Matthew
22:43). Note also that today's Jewish scholars have indicated that "son of
God" is given its Christian meaning not by Jesus, but by Paul. (See
"son of God" in reference 3.)
Meanwhile, some Jewish aspects have been adopted. Paul incited
Christians to find symbolic meaning in scripture (1 Corinthians chapter 10). So
we have impossible parallels like that of Matthew 2:15 which quotes a fragment
of Hosea 11:1,2 and thus likens Jesus to an idolatrous nation! We have the
unprecedented case of a prophet who supposedly would die then to return to
fulfill all things expected of him. While acts 3:20-23 promises the return of
Jesus, Christians understand that the prophecy yet to be fulfilled before
he can return is actually only a reference to Jesus... as though Jesus was the
one predicted by Moses in Deuteronomy chapter 18. The scripture quoted here by
the disciple Peter reports that God told Moses about the future prophet
"like you from among their brothers". While Jesus was unlike Moses in
being leader of a nation, Christians believe that he will be victorious on his
second visit. However, they do not usually expect him to acquire a human father,
a wife and children and then die of old age like Moses. Moreover. "from
among their brothers seems to indicate not an Israelite, but a relative of that
There is another historical figure who fits the role as the
prophet promised by Moses better than Jesus. He was not an Israelite, but Jesus
said that God's special favours would be taken from Israel and given to a nation
which would become fruitful (Matthew 21:43). It was Jacob or Israel the man
himself, who prophesied that the kingdom would be the possession of the family
of his son Judah until the coming of "the one whose it is" (Genesis
49:10). While Christians see this one as Jesus, look again at these words. When
I give a man something and tell him to keep it until the owner comes, do I mean
to say that the item belongs to one of his descendents? This would hardly be a
The many Qur'anic and Biblical references to the last prophet
are a new subject, a satisfying discussion that inexorably leads to the
Messenger who brought Islam to a nation and through them to all nations. (Qur'an
1. NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, 1977, The Lockman Foundation
La Habra, California.
2. THE MYTH OF GOD INCARNATE; 1978, Edited by John Hick;
3. UNIVERSAL JEWISH ENCYCLOPEDIA; 1948, Universal Jewish
Encyclopedia Co. Inc.; New York, N.Y.
4. NEW CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA; 1967, The Catholic
University of America; Washington D.C.
5. THE KORAN INTERPRETED; 1964, Arthur J. Arberry;
Oxford University Press; Oxford.
[ Message of Islam to Humankind ]