It has become quite obvious that one of Bassam Zawadis main goals is to discredit the Biblical witness to the absolute Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. In his most recent attempt (*), he seeks to refute the plain reading of John 20:28 where Thomas confessed Jesus as his Lord and God. He says:
Christians often quote Thomas's statement in John 20:28 where he said "My Lord and My God" to Jesus when he saw him. Muslims argue back that Thomas said it out of surprise. However, Christians argue back that Jesus blessed the testimony of Thomas and therefore acknowledging that Thomas was right in calling him God.
To see just how utterly desperate this common Muslim response is note what the following texts say about using Gods name in such a manner:
"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain." Exodus 20:7
"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain." Deuteronomy 5:11
A God-fearing Jew would not use Gods name in a derogatory manner such as shouting "Oh my God!" out of surprise or fear. Zawadi and the other Muslims who use such a weak argument are simply committing a chronological fallacy since they are reading into history a modern linguistic feature which was not in use back then. We may use such expressions today when we are surprised or scared, but that doesnt mean that Jews living back then did so.
Besides, if Thomas had used Gods name in such a manner we would expect Jesus to have rebuked him, much like he implicitly did for not believing that he had been raised.
Moreover, the following noted NT scholar presents four reasons why the exclamation explanation won't work:
Another interpretation, associated with the names of Theodore of Mopsuestia and Faustus Socinus, proposes that Thomas's cry was an exclamatory statement, expressing his astonishment and his praise to God for the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus: "Praise (or, glory) be to my Lord and my God!" Accordingly, ho theos mou sheds no light on the view of Jesus held by either Thomas or the evangelist.
Insuperable objections attend this Socinian interpretation. (1) It renders the preceding (apekrithe ... kai eipen) auto (= Jesus) inexplicable (cf. Bauer 227). Why would John (or Thomas) introduce an indirect expression of praise to the Father by a phrase that directs the ex hypothesi praise to Jesus? The least he might have expressed in this case would be something like eipen auto Eulogetos ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou (cf. Ps. 17:47 LXX [Engl. 18:47]; 143:1 LXX [Engl. 144]); eipen auto, Ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou touto epoiesen (cf. Matt. 13:28); or eipen auto, Ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou, hos megale he dunamis sou (cf. Rom. 11:33). (2) It is clear from the me after heorakas in verse 29a and the parallelism between pisteusantes in verse 29b (where eis eme must be inferred) and pepisteukas in verse 29a that eis eme (or a phrase of similar import) is to be supplied with pepisteukas. Verse 28 is therefore most naturally understood as an expression of Thomas's belief in the risen Jesus as his Lord and God. (3) All the previous uses of ho kurios in John 20 (viz., vv. 2, 13, 18, 20, 25; cf. v. 15) refer to Jesus. In the literary artistry of the chapter, there seems to be a marked progress in meaning (but not in referent) from Mary Magdalene's ho kurios mou (v. 13) to Thomas's ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou (cf. v. 17). (4) The preceding and following verses emphasize the relationship of Thomas to Jesus: legei to Thoma (v. 27), legei auto ho 'Iesous (v. 29). It would be unlikely that the oratio recta that follows the intervening apekrithe Thomas kai eipen auto (v. 28) would not be directed to Jesus. (Harris, Jesus As God: The New Testament Use of "Theos" in Reference to Jesus [Baker Academic, A Division of Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, July 1998 Paperback], pp. 108-109)
Even though Harris addresses a different form of the argument, his comments are nonetheless applicable to Zawadi's assertions.
However, we need to read the context and see why Jesus blessed the testimony of Thomas...
He then says after quoting the text:
The context in no way shows that Jesus blessed the testimony of Thomas for him calling Jesus God. Now after Jesus' alleged resurrection there were some who doubted that it was him (Matthew 28:17). Apparently Thomas was one of them. He did not believe that Jesus could have resurrected from the dead. He did not even believe the disciples when they told him that they saw Jesus resurrected. So Jesus in order to make Thomas believe that it was him who actually resurrected from the dead had Thomas put his finger in his wound.
Then after that Thomas made the exclamatory remark in verse 28, "My Lord and My God" because he finally recognized and acknowledged that it was truly Jesus that resurrected from the dead. So then Jesus blesses Thomas in verse 29 for finally realizing that it was him who resurrected from the dead.
That is all, plain and simple.
We will now quote the text to see how it utterly exposes Zawadis rather shallow and desperate attempt of evading the plain meaning of the passage:
"Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, WE HAVE SEEN THE LORD. But he said to them, Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe. Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, "Peace be with you. Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing. Thomas ANSWERED AND SAID TO HIM (Apekrithe Thomas kai eipen auto), MY LORD and my God! Jesus said to him, Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe." John 20:24-29
Note that the disciples told Thomas that they had seen the Lord which the latter refused to believe without proof. When Christ then appeared to convince Thomas that he had been raised the latter responds by calling Jesus his Lord and God. The statement of the disciples identifying Jesus as the Lord provides strong contextual proof that the One whom Thomas addressed as his very own Lord is none other than Christ. In fact, Jesus had already told his followers that he is their Lord and Teacher:
"You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, FOR SO I AM. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one anothers feet." John 13:13-14
Moreover, John in his prologue identified Jesus as the Logos or Word of God who is God in essence:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father." John 1:1-3, 10, 14
Furthermore, the Greek construction Apekrithe ... kai eipen auto ("answered and said to him") is a common idiom in the New Testament. This idiom always precedes a statement directed to the referent of the dative auto ("to him"). In other words, the statement "answered and said" refers to the referent signified by the indirect object ("to him") which in this context would be Jesus Christ. There is no lexical support in any of the standard Greek references (BAGD, M&M, and Louw & Nida) where this idiom is to be taken as a relative address, as not addressing the object that the pronoun auto points to, but to someone else. There is no grammatical support in any of the standard grammars for claiming that such a construction is to be understood as referring to someone other than the addressee of the indirect object.
As one writer and apologist put it:
There are 108 occurrences of a form of EIPON followed by AUTW(i) in the NT. 74 are EIPEN AUTW(i). 23 occur with a form of APOKRINOMAI. Ten of these are preceded by APEKRITHE. John uses EIPEN AUTW(i) 17 times. I checked all 108 occurrences. In every case, the words following AUTW(i) were addressed to the referent of AUTW(i). In addition, there are 127 examples of AUTW(i) preceded by a form of LEGW (20 combined with a form of APOKRINOMAI), and in every case I checked (about half), I did not find a single example where the person addressed was OTHER THAN the referent of AUTW(i). (Robert Hommel, Robert and MS on John 20:28; online source)
To help illustrate Hommels point we provide references where the words eipen auto, or their varying forms, are used in John:
They came to John and said to him (eipan auto), Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordanthe one you testified aboutwell, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him." John 3:26
"When he inquired as to the time when his son got better, they said to him (eipon oun auto), The fever left him yesterday at the seventh hour. Then the father realized that this was the exact time at which Jesus had said to him (eipan auto), Your son will live. So he and all his household believed." John 4:52-53
"Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him (eipen auto), See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." John 5:14
"Jesus brothers said to him (eipon oun pros auton), You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do." John 7:3
"You are not yet fifty years old, the Jews said to him (eipon oun hoi Ioudaioi pros auton), and you have seen Abraham!" John 8:57
"The third time he said to him, Simon son of John, do you love me? Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him (eipen auto) the third time, Do you love me? He said, Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." John 21:17
"Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him (eipon legei auto), Follow me!" John 21:19
The above references show that eipen auto are addressed to the referent of the pronoun auto. This conclusively proves that Thomas confession was directed to Jesus, that John deliberately used the Greek words eipen auto in order to show that Thomas was directly addressing Jesus as his Lord and God.
Moreover, Jesus wasnt merely addressing Thomas belief that he had been raised. Christ was also addressing Thomas confession of faith which he made as a result of Christ appearing alive to him after his death. Jesus was basically saying that those who believe in him as their Lord God and Gods Son without witnessing the resurrection are truly blessed. This is precisely why John the Evangelist went on to write immediately afterwards:
"Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name." John 20:30-31
And since Zawadi loves to quote Bible commentators such as John Gill we will quote a few for him here. The NET Bible translators note that:
52sn Should Thomas exclamation be understood as two subjects with the rest of the sentence omitted ("My Lord and my God has truly risen from the dead"), as predicate nominatives ("You are my Lord and my God"), or as vocatives ("My Lord and my God!")? Probably the most likely is something between the second and third alternatives. It seems that the second is slightly more likely here, because the context appears confessional. Thomas statement, while it may have been an exclamation, does in fact confess the faith which he had previously lacked, and Jesus responds to Thomas statement in the following verse as if it were a confession. With the proclamation by Thomas here, it is difficult to see how any more profound analysis of Jesus person could be given. It echoes 1:1 and 1:14 together: The Word was God, and the Word became flesh (Jesus of Nazareth). The Fourth Gospel opened with many other titles for Jesus: the Lamb of God (1:29, 36); the Son of God (1:34, 49); Rabbi (1:38); Messiah (1:41); the King of Israel (1:49); the Son of Man (1:51). Now the climax is reached with the proclamation by Thomas, "My Lord and my God," and the reader has come full circle from 1:1, where the author had introduced him to who Jesus was, to 20:28, where the last of the disciples has come to the full realization of who Jesus was. What Jesus had predicted in John 8:28 had come to pass: "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he" (Grk "I am"). By being lifted up in crucifixion (which led in turn to his death, resurrection, and exaltation with the Father) Jesus has revealed his true identity as both Lord (?????? [kurios], used by the LXX to translate Yahweh) and God (?e?? [qeos], used by the LXX to translate Elohim). (Source; bold and underline emphasis ours)
Gill wrote regarding Jesus response to Thomas confession:
Jesus saith unto him, Thomas
The word Thomas is omitted in the Alexandrian copy, and in Beza's ancient copy, and in some others, and in the Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions.
Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed;
which carries in it a tacit and gentle reproof for his unbelief, and suggests, that if he had not seen, he would not have believed; but is not so harsh as if that had been expressed; and which the Jews were wont to do in a severe manner.
"One said to R. Jochanan, expound Rabbi; for it is beautiful for thee to expound: for as thou sayest, so I see: he replied to him, Raka, (tnmah al tyar al almla) , "if thou seest not, thou wilt not believe"."
Christ here allows that Thomas had believed, that he was risen from the dead, and that he was his Lord and God; and though his faith was late and slow, it was sure and certain, and was appropriating; it was a faith of interest, though upon sight, and not on hearing, or the report of the other disciples: now faith on sight may be in persons who have no true spiritual faith; as in some that saw both the person and miracles of Christ on earth, and in others who will see him come in the clouds of heaven; and it has been in others who have truly believed in Christ, as the apostles of the Lamb: but yet, though it may be, as in many it has been, right, yet not so commendable as that without it. From hence may be observed, that Christ allows of the epithets and titles given him by Thomas, and therefore must be Lord and God; and approves of Thomas's faith, and therefore that must be right; though he prefers faith without personal sight of him to it, in the next clause.
Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.
The author of the apocryphal book of 2 Esdras 1:37 says of
"the people to come, whose little ones rejoice in gladness",
in the person of the Almighty Lord, "though they have not seen me with bodily eyes, yet in spirit they believe the thing that I say". It seems as if there were some at this time in the city of Jerusalem, who firmly believed that Christ was risen from the dead, upon the testimony of others, though they had not seen him themselves. Faith without sight, in other respects, may be considered as opposed to the beatific vision in heaven; and as destitute of sensible communion with God; and as giving credit to doctrines and things above carnal sense and reason; such as the doctrines of the Trinity, the sonship of Christ, his incarnation, and the union of the two natures in him, and the resurrection of the dead; and as believing whatever is said in the word of God, upon the credit of his testimony; and which has for its objects things past, as what were done in eternity, in the council and covenant of grace; the works of creation and providence in time, the birth, sufferings, death, and resurrection of Christ; and also things present, Christ, and the blessings of grace, and things to come, the invisible glories of the other world. Now such are happy that have true faith in these things, for they enjoy many blessings now, as a justifying righteousness, pardon of sin, adoption, freedom of access to God, and security from condemnation; they have spiritual peace, joy, and comfort in their souls, and shall at last be saved with an everlasting salvation.
FOOTNOTES:(Online source; underline emphasis ours)
F25 T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 75. 1. & Sanhedrin, fol. 100. 1.
Another reputable expositor, the late Albert Barnes, stated:
Verse 28. My Lord and my God. In this passage the name God is expressly given to Christ, in his own presence and by one of his own apostles. This declaration has been considered as a clear proof of the divinity of Christ, for the following reasons:
1st. There is no evidence that this was a mere expression, as some have supposed, of surprise or astonishment.
2nd. The language was addressed to Jesus himself-- "Thomas-- said UNTO HIM."
3rd. The Saviour did not reprove him or check him as using any improper language. If he had not been divine, it is impossible to reconcile it with his honesty that he did not rebuke the disciple. No pious man would have allowed such language to be addressed to him. Comp. Acts 14:13-15; Revelation 22:8,9.
4th. The Saviour proceeds immediately to commend Thomas for believing; but what was the evidence of his believing? It was this declaration, and this only. If this was a mere exclamation of surprise, what proof was it that Thomas believed? Before this he doubted. Now he believed, and gave utterance to his belief, that Jesus was his Lord and his God.
5th. If this was not the meaning of Thomas, then his exclamation was a mere act of profaneness, and the Saviour would not have commended him for taking the name of the Lord his God in vain. The passage proves, therefore, that it is proper to apply to Christ the name Lord and GOD, and thus accords with what John affirmed in John 1:1, and which is established throughout this gospel. (Barnes' Notes on the New Testament; online source)
The late renowned NT Greek grammarian and scholar A.T. Robertson noted:
My Lord and my God (Ho kurioß mou kai o qeoß mou). Not exclamation, but address, the vocative case though the form of the nominative, a very common thing in the Koin. Thomas was wholly convinced and did not hesitate to address the Risen Christ as Lord and God. And Jesus accepts the words and praises Thomas for so doing. (Robertsons Word Pictures of the New Testament; Online source; italic and underline emphasis ours)
Another late NT scholar, the liberal Catholic author Raymond E. Brown wrote:
#17. John 20:28: On the Sunday evening one week after Easter Jesus appears to Thomas and the other disciples, causing Thomas to confess HIM as "My Lord and my God." This is the clearest example in the NT of the use of "God" for Jesus. HERE JESUS IS ADDRESSED AS "GOD" (a nominative form with definite article, which functions as a vocative). The scene is designed to serve as a climax to the Gospel: As the resurrected Jesus stands before the disciples, one of their number at last gives expression to an adequate faith in Jesus. He does this by applying to Jesus the Greek (Septuagint) equivalent of two terms applied to the God of the OT (kyrios, "Lord," rendering YHWH; and theos, "God," rendering 'Elohim). The best example of the OT usage is in Ps. 35:23, where the psalmist cries out: "My God and my Lord." It may well be that the Christian use of such a confessional formula was catalyzed by the Roman empror Domitian's claim to the title "Lord and God" (dominus et deus noster). (Brown, Introduction to New Testament Christology [Paulist Press; Mahwah, NJ 1994], pp. 188-189; capital and underline emphasis ours)
Zawadi next says:
Why on earth would Thomas call Jesus his God anyways? What is the special thing that Jesus did to prove he was God? His resurrection? But we all believe that we are going to resurrect one day on the Day of Judgment by the will of God. Plus others resurrected...
52The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus' resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.
Prophets of the Old Testament resurrected people from the dead by the will of God. (2 Kings 4:18-37, 1 Kings 17:17-22 etc.)
Jesus did absolutely nothing special for Thomas to even call him God, so Thomas's remark is best explained as an expression of surprise.
What Zawadi fails to realize is what Jesus resurrection served to validate. The resurrection served as the greatest miracle, the greatest supernatural act, confirming and vindicating Jesus Divine Identity. Jesus had made specific claims regarding his identity and his relationship to God, ascribing to himself specific functions and attributes that no creature could make. For instance, Jesus professed himself to be the Divine Son of God and the Source of Life:
"My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father ARE ONE. Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me? We are not stoning you for any of these, replied the Jews, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God." John 10:27-33
The Lord Jesus attributes to himself the very prerogatives of God, namely the ability to grant eternal life and the sovereign power to prevent anyone from stopping him from preserving his sheep. These are abilities that only God has according to the OT Scriptures:
"See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand." Deuteronomy 32:39
"There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God ... The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up." 1 Samuel 2:2, 6
"All the nations gather together, and the peoples assemble. Who among them can declare this, and show us the former things? Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right, and let them hear and say, It is true. You are my witnesses, declares the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses, declares the LORD, and I am God. Also henceforth I am he; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work, and who can turn it back?" Isaiah 43:9-13
Yahweh asserts that he can give life and prevent anyone from stopping him from accomplishing his sovereign purposes. Thus, the foregoing demonstrates that Jesus statement that the Father and he are one quite obviously refers to their being one in essence and power since Christ is able to do what only the Almighty God can do. It is therefore little wonder that the Jews correctly concluded that Jesus was claiming to be God. They obviously realized that Jesus was making claims which the OT Scriptures emphatically state that only Yahweh could make. For more on John 10:27-33 please read the this article.
Here are some other statements Jesus made in reference to his Deity:
"Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, Lord, he whom you love is ill. But when Jesus heard it he said, This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it. Jesus said to her, Your brother will rise again. Martha said to him, I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day. Jesus said to her, I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? She said to him, Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world. Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, Take away the stone. Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days. Jesus said to her, Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God? So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that YOU ALWAYS HEAR ME, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me. When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, Lazarus, come out. The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, Unbind him, and let him go." John 11:1-3, 23-27, 38-43
"Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Fathers house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way where I am going. Thomas said to him, Lord, we do not know where you are going; how can we know the way? Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, AND THE LIFE; no one comes to the Father, but by me." John 14:1-6
If Jesus were lying or had been a blasphemer then God wouldnt have raised him from the dead. Yet since Christ did rise from the dead then this means that he wasnt a blasphemer or a liar, but truly was and is the Sovereign Lord and Gods beloved Son.
Putting it simply, Christians do not believe that Jesus is God merely because of his miracles. Rather, it is Jesus own Divine claims, which the miracles confirmed, that demonstrate Christ is God. And the greatest validation that God provided on behalf of Jesus Divine identity is his resurrection:
"concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord," Romans 1:3-4
Zawadi has it all mixed up.
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