Some Misunderstood Verses of the Bible
Now Put Back in Their Contexts :
With the Necessary Corrections to Shabir's Misinterpretation of these Same Passages,
A Virgin Will Give Birth
Isaiah 7:14 is one of the most misunderstood verses of the Bible. This passage in a defective translation reads: "a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." The word Immanuel means "God is with us" (see Good News Bible, p. 673). Now, because Matthew (ch.1, v. 23) applies this prophecy to Jesus, it is mistakenly believed that this proves Jesus is God.
Notice Shabir's assertions that are at play in his exegesis of this passage. He claims that translations that render the Hebrew text of Isaiah as a virgin that shall conceive and give birth to a son called Immanuel are "a defective translation." He then assumes that Christians are mistaken for believing that this passage teaches the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Shabir has allowed his theological presuppositions to influence his exegesis of the text, as opposed to allowing the text to determine his theology. This is a classic case of eisegesis, not exegesis.
First, Matthew never meant to portray Jesus as God. The belief in Jesus divinity was formulated long after Matthew's gospel was written. Matthew's gospel proves throughout that Jesus was a servant of God (e.g. Mt. 12:18; 24:36; 27:46).
What Shabir should have actually said is that his presupposition will not allow for Matthew to portray Jesus as God. Shabir assumes, without any shred of fact, that the Deity of Christ was formulated long after Matthew's Gospel was written. Shabir then assumes that the Matthean portrayal of Jesus as God's servant somehow denies the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Inherent in Shabir's assumption is the belief that God is unipersonal, as opposed to being tripersonal, i.e. that since Jesus is the servant of God he cannot at the same time be that God. Shabir's reasoning is therefore flawed from the outset.
First, Jesus can be both God and the servant of God at the same time since the God of Scripture is a Triune Being. When Christians say that Jesus is God, they mean that Jesus is fully God in nature. Jesus is all that God is without being the only person who is fully God in nature. The Father and the Holy Spirit are also fully God as well. The one Being of God exists in three eternally distinct and inseparable Persons or centers of consciousness.
Second, the entire intent of Matthew is to present Jesus as the divine Messiah coming to fulfill the promises of the OT scriptures. A brief sampling of passages should demonstrate that Matthew's intended point is to present Jesus as God Incarnate:
Jesus acts and speak with unprecedented Divine Authority
One astonishing aspect of Jesus is his confidence to speak on his own authority on matters pertaining to spirituality and the kingdom of God. In fact, Christ overrides certain aspects of the Mosaic Law solely on the basis of his own authority. Three examples will illustrate this point more clearly:
"You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matthew 5:27-28
"It has been said, Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery." Matthew 5:31-32
After citing the Mosaic Law, Jesus proceeds to reinterpret it on the basis of his own authority. Unlike the OT prophets who often began their utterances with "Thus saith the Lord," Jesus simply exclaims "But I tell you." Noted Christian Apologist William Lane Craig states:
"... The typical rabbinical style of teaching was to quote extensively from learned teachers, who provided the basis of authority for one's own teaching. But Jesus did exactly the opposite. He began, You have heard that it was said the men of old ... and quoted the Mosaic Law; then he continued, But I say to you ... and gave his own teaching. Jesus thus equated his own authority with that of the divinely given Torah. It's no wonder that Matthew comments, When Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught as one who had authority, and not as their scribes (Matt 7:28-29).
"But it's not just that Jesus placed his personal authority on a par with that of the divine Law. More than that, he adjusted the Law on his own authority. Although Jewish scholars have attempted valiantly to assimilate Jesus' ethical teachings to the tradition of Judaism, Jesus' opposition of his own personal authority to the divine Torah given through Moses is the rock upon which all such attempts are finally broken. Take, for example, Jesus' teaching on divorce in Matt 5:31-32 (cf. Mark 10:2-12). Here Jesus explicitly quotes the teaching of the Law (Deut 24:1-4) and opposes to it, on the basis of his own authority, his teaching on the matter. In the Markan passage, he declares that Moses does not represent the perfect will of God on this matter and presumes to correct the Law on his own authority as to what really is the will of God. But no human being, no prophet or teacher or charismatic, has that kind of authority. Jesus, observes Witherington, seems to assume an authority over the Torah that no Pharisee or Old Testament prophet assumed the authority to set it aside.
"In his provocative dialogue A Rabbi Talks with Jesus, the eminent Jewish scholar Jacob Neusner explains that it is precisely on this basis why he, as a Jew, would not have followed Jesus had he lived in first-century Palestine. Explaining that for a Jew the Torah is God's revelation to Moses, he asserts,
Jews believe in the Torah of Moses ... and that belief requires faithful Jews to enter a dissent at the teachings of Jesus, on the grounds that those teachings at important points contradict the Torah ...
And therefore, because that specific teaching was so broadly out of phase with the Torah and the covenant at Sinai, I could not then follow him and do not now either. That is not because I am stubborn or unbelieving. It is because I believe God has given a different Torah from the one that Jesus teaches; and that Torah, the one Moses got at Sinai, stands in judgment of the torah of Jesus, as it dictates true and false for all other torahs that people want to teach in God's name.
"Given the supremely authoritative status of the divinely revealed Torah Jesus' teaching can only appear presumptuous and even blasphemous. In effect, as Robert Hutchinson put it, Neusner wants to ask Jesus, "Who do you think you are God?" Neusner himself recognizes that no one can encounter Matthew's Jesus WITHOUT CONCURRING THAT BEFORE US IN THE EVANGELIST'S MIND IS GOD INCARNATE. But if Jesus' opposition of his personal teaching to the Torah is an authentic facet of the historical Jesus AS EVEN THE SKEPTICAL SCHOLARS OF THE JESUS SEMINAR CONCEDE then it seems that Jesus did arrogate to himself the authority of God. According to Robert Guelich, one must not shy away from the startling antithesis between God has said to those of old / But I say to you since here lies not only the key to the antithesis but to Jesus' ministry." (Craig, Reasonable Faith - Christian Truth and Apologetics [Moody Press, Chicago 1984; revised edition 1994], pp. 246-247; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Craig goes on to say in regard to Jesus "Truly, truly I say to you" statements:
"Second, Jesus' use of amen expresses his authority. The expression frequently attributed to Jesus, Truly, truly I say to you, is historically unique and is recognized on all hands to have been used by Jesus to preface his teaching ... Ben Witherington in his acclaimed study of the Christology of Jesus explains the significance of Jesus' use of the phrase Amen, I say to you:
It is insufficient to compare it to thus says the Lord, although that is the closest parallel. Jesus is not merely speaking for Yahweh, but for himself and on his own authority.... This strongly suggests that he considered himself to be a person of authority above and beyond what prophets claimed to be. He could attest to his own truthfulness and speak on his own behalf, and yet his words were to be taken as having the same or greater authority than the divine words of the prophet. Here was someone who thought he possessed not only divine inspiration... but also divine authority and the power of direct divine utterance. The use of amen followed by I say unto you; must be given its full weight in light of its context early Judaism.
"That Witherington's analysis is correct is evident from the complaint of the orthodox Jewish writer Ahad ha' Am: Israel cannot accept with religious enthusiasm, as the Word of God, the utterances of a man who speak in his own name not "thus saith the Lord," but "I say unto you." This "I" is in itself sufficient to drive Judaism away from the Gentiles forever." (Ibid., p. 248; bold emphasis ours)
Craig concludes with the words of Horst Georg Pöhlmann:
"Horst Georg Pöhlmann in his Abriss der Dogmatik reports, In summary, one could say that today there is virtually a consensus concerning that wherein the historical in Jesus is to be seen. It consists in the fact that Jesus came on the scene with an unheard of authority, namely with the authority of God, with the claim of the authority to stand in God's place and speak to us and bring us to salvation. This involves, says Pöhlmann, an implicit Christology. He concludes:
This unheard of claim to authority, as it comes to expression in the antithesis of the Sermon on the Mount, for example, is implicit Christology, since it presupposes a unity of Jesus with God that is deeper than that of all men, namely a unity of essence. This ... claim to authority is explicable only from the side of his deity. This authority only God himself can claim. With regard to Jesus there are only two possible modes of behavior: either believe that in him God encounters us or nail him to the cross as a blasphemer. Tertium non datur.
There is no third way." (Ibid., p. 252; bold emphasis ours)
Amazingly, Shabir tries to deny what Neusner and the rest claim is the obvious, namely that to Matthew Jesus is God in the flesh!
Jesus is the Lord of Judgment
Jesus claims to be the sovereign Lord that determines the eternal destiny of every human being:
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world'... Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.'" Matthew 25:31-34, 41
"In those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will enter into judgment against them concerning my inheritance, my people Israel, for they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land... Let the nations be roused; let them advance into the Valley of Jehoshaphat, for there I will sit to judge all the nations on every side." Joel 3:1-2, 12
Jesus is the Bridegroom
Matthew portrays Christ as the Bridegroom of God's people:
Yet, according to the OT the Bridegroom is Yahweh Elohim:
Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath
Jesus claims to be greater than the temple of God. Just how much greater becomes evident from the following citation:
Jesus is greater than the temple because he himself is the Lord of the Sabbath, i.e. Jesus is Yahweh God. Therefore, Jesus is the very Lord of the Temple who had come to dwell visibly with his people. This point is brought out more clearly from Jesus' own words:
Jesus claims that John is the Messenger that Malachi had predicted would come to prepare the way for the Messiah:
According to Malachi the one whom John was preparing for was actually the very Lord of the Temple himself. Seeing that Jesus is the one whom John prepared the way for, this makes Jesus Yahweh God the very One to whom the temple had been erected!
Jesus is the Lord of the World, Angels and of God's Elect
Jesus likens the kingdom to a sown field:
Jesus goes on to identify himself as the owner of the field, with the enemy representing Satan:
Jesus again goes on to say:
Jesus even identifies himself as the Lord of the harvest since he says:
"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.'" Matthew 9:36-38
After telling the disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers Jesus proceeds to send out his disciples!
"And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity... These twelve JESUS SENT OUT, charging them, 'Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And preach as you go, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand." Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying, give without pay... Behold, I SEND YOU OUT as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings FOR MY SAKE, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all FOR MY NAME'S SAKE. But he who endures to the end will be saved.: When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of man comes.'" Matthew 10:1, 5-8, 16-23
Thus, Jesus is essentially identifying himself as the Lord of the harvest whom believers need to pray to so that he can send forth laborers!
Jesus claims that the world, the angels, the elect and the kingdom belong to him. In light of Psalm 24 this makes Jesus Yahweh:
"Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, 'Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.' At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, 'This fellow is blaspheming!' Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, 'Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, "Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...' Then he said to the paralytic, 'Get up, take your mat and go home.' And the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men." Matthew 9:2-8.
Interestingly this passage shows that Jesus knew what the teachers of the law were thinking within their hearts without them having to speak out loud. This implicitly attests to Jesus' omniscience. Compare this with the following OT citations:
"O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins." Psalm 130:7-8.
The fact that in the NT it is Jesus that both redeems men from their sins and heals people of their infirmities argues quite persuasively that Matthew's Jesus is none other than Yahweh God!
Jesus is Omnipresent
According to Matthew, Jesus is omnipresent:
"and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20
In order for Jesus to be omnipresent he must be God since God alone is present everywhere, especially till the end of the age.
Jesus is Omnipotent
Christ claims to have sovereign authority over all creation:
It is impossible for a finite creature to sustain the entire universe and preside over it as its Sovereign ruler. God alone is able to sovereignly control the universe. Therefore, in order for Christ to exercise sovereign authority over the entire universe implies that Jesus is God Almighty. This is solidified by the fact that Jesus also shares the very same Divine name of both God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Seeing that the term "name" also signifies authority, Jesus is therefore claiming to have the same divine authority that Yahweh God has. This again indicates that to Matthew Jesus was Yahweh God Incarnate!
Jesus is also able to grant others the authority to perform miracles and wonders in his name:
Jesus gives his followers the power to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the leprosy and drive out demons. In order for Christ to grant such authority to others he must be the Almighty God since God alone has such power and authority, especially to delegate to others.
In order for Jesus to grant rest to all who come to him Christ must be omnipotent. A finite creature is unable to grant rest to all who draw near to him. Compare this with the claims made by Yahweh in the OT:
"I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint." Jeremiah 31:25
Hence, Jesus again claims to perform a function that the OT attributes to Yahweh God.
Jesus is Omniscient
For a man to claim to have the same intimate knowledge of God that God has of him is either blasphemous or makes that man God. Seeing that Matthew has no intention of presenting Christ as a blasphemer only demonstrates once again that the Matthean Jesus is God Incarnate.
Jesus receives the praise of Yahweh
Amazingly, Jesus applies to himself Psalm 8:2 where Yahweh is seen as receiving the praise of infants and children!:
Jesus is therefore claiming that to praise him is to praise Yahweh God! The only way for this quotation from Psalms to count as valid justification for Jesus not to forbid, but to confirm and encourage the praise of his own person from those children, is the assumption of his identity with Yahweh God.
In light of the preceding lines of evidence there can be no doubt left that to Matthew Jesus was indeed Yahweh God Incarnate.
Second, the name given to an individual in the Bible cannot prove that he is God. "Elijah" means "Jehovah God." Does that prove that Elijah is Jehovah God? Absolutely Not. Similarly, the name Immanuel does not prove that Jesus is God with us. Neither does the name "Elihu" (meaning "God himself") prove that the name Elihu is God himself (see I Sam 1:1).
Here, Shabir fails to make a distinction between proper names and the use of titles and/or names as descriptions of a person's nature or character. Whereas Elijah and Elihu are the personal names of specific individuals, the name Immanuel is not a personal name but rather a description of the child's nature.
In our response to Shabir's assessment of his debate with Alan Storkey as well as to the first part of this article, we had already noted that the Holy Bible often uses names to describe certain characteristics, qualities and/or functions of an individual. For instance, we had commented on the Angel of Yahweh and the fact that God's name is contained within him:
Hence, the personal name of the child would not be Immanuel. Rather, the name Immanuel describes the child's nature and function. Edward J. Young in his commentary on Isaiah states:
Therefore, Shabir's entire argument crumbles since the passage in Isaiah is not predicting the Messiah's personal name. Rather, Isaiah is indicating that the Messiah would be the complete embodiment of what the name actually represents. Hence, Immanuel signifies that the Messiah would be God himself coming to dwell with his people in visible form, being the fullness of Deity in the flesh. (cf. Matthew 1:22-23, 28:20; John 1:18; Colossians 2:9)
Third, although the prophecy is taken, in Matthew 1:23 to refer indirectly to Jesus, the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 actually refers directly to a child born during the lifetime of the prophet Isaiah. That child was called "Immanuel", meaning "God is with us," and he was God's sign given to King Ahaz that God will help King Ahaz and his people. God's promise to King Ahaz, in the 7th chapter of Isaiah, is that before the child is old enough to distinguish right from wrong the enemy kings will be defeated by God's help. You have to read the entire chapter to get the full meaning. It is not right to pull one verse out of context and give it a different meaning. That child was indeed born, and God called him Immanuel (Isaiah 8:8). If King Ahaz had to wait seven hundred years for Jesus to be born before God's help comes, he and his people would be long dead before God's help comes. What, then, will be the significance of such a promise? The promise had a timely fulfillment. The prophecy referred not to Jesus who was to be born hundreds of years later, but to a child who was born in the time of King Ahaz.
Shabir objects to the Messianic application of this passage since it was meant as a sign for King Ahaz. Hence, the passage states that before the maiden's child would be old enough to choose good and refuse evil, Syria and the Northern Kingdom would lose their kings, and Assyria would attack Judah. This all took place in the eighth century BC. (vv. 10-17)
In reply to Shabir's assertion we must state that the context includes all of Isaiah 7, a point that Shabir himself noted. When we take into consideration the entire context of Isaiah we discover that the sign of v.14 was for the entire "House of David" since the term for "you" in verses 13-14 is in the plural. Yet, the sign for King Ahaz in vv. 11 and 16-17 was for him only since "you" is singular in these passages.
Therefore, Ahaz's sign was that before the child (Hebrew- na'ar meaning a toddler, never a baby) should know how to choose good, refusing evil, the events of vv. 16b-17 would transpire. This child was Isaiah's son, Shear Jashub, who was with the prophet at the time and at whom Isaiah directed this sign. (Cf. Isaiah 7:3)
Yet, the son (Hebrew- ben) of v.14 would be a sign to come for all of David's descendants since he would be the long-awaited Messiah who was born approximately 700 years later to the young virgin maiden, Mary.
Furthermore, rabbinic interpretation applied Isaiah 7, specifically Isaiah 7:21, to messianic times:
The point that sticks out from the preceding quotation is the constant reapplication of OT passages to messianic times. Hence, Matthew was being thoroughly Jewish in his application of Isaiah 7:14 to the Messiah seeing that this is precisely what the rabbis did with Isaiah 7:21!
Finally, Shabir's argument against Matthew's alleged misapplication of Isaiah 7:14 backfires against him. In one of his articles, Shabir claims:
Unlike Isaiah 7 where we find ancient rabbinic commentary applying specific portions of the passage to the Messiah, Shabir cannot show us a single pre-Islamic source where either Jews or Christians applied Song of Solomon 5:16 prophetically to an Ishmaelite prophet whose name would be Muhammad. Yet this does not stop Shabir from misapplying this specific passage by wrenching it out of its immediate context and forcing it to agree with his preconceived notions. Shabir is guilty of the very thing he accuses Matthew of, namely misapplying OT passages to suit his own theological presuppositions. The only difference is that whereas Matthew was being thoroughly Jewish in his application of OT passages to the Messiah, Shabir distorts the scriptures to his own destruction. (Cf. 2 Peter 3:15-16)
Therefore, we only need to remind Shabir of his own advice to Christians:
A further point to notice is that the child spoken of in Isaiah will at first not be able to differentiate between good and evil. Those who say that Jesus was that child should not turn around and say that Jesus is God, because there has never been (and will never be) a time when God does not know the difference between good and evil.
Shabir attacks a straw man here. Shabir knows well enough that the historic Christian position has always been that the one person of Christ is both God and man at the same time. As God, Christ's knowledge was complete and immediate, not needing to conceptualize anything in order to gain an accurate understand a thing or item. Yet as man, Christ grew in relation to his human consciousness as the following citations prove:
"And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him." Luke 2:40
"And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor before God and men." Luke 2:52
Therefore, Isaiah 7:14-16 actually proves the very point Shabir has unsuccessfully tried to refute! Namely, that the Messiah is the God-child and the God-man, being both omniscient in relation to his divine nature and finite in understanding in relation to his human nature.
Matthew mistakenly applied this prophecy to Jesus because Jesus was born of a virgin, and the text speaks of a virgin giving birth. Matthew was relying on the Greek Septuagint version of the Bible where in Isaiah 7:14 the Greek word "parthenos" meaning "virgin" is used. But the book of Isaiah was originally written in Hebrew. To find Isaiah's meaning it is necessary to go back to the original language than to refer to a translation alone. The Hebrew manuscripts has instead of "virgin" the Hebrew word "almah" meaning "a young woman of marriageable age." If the writer of Isaiah wanted to say "virgin" he would have used the Hebrew word "bethulah" meaning "virgin". But he did not. This is why the Revised Standard Version of the Bible (and many other versions) read "young woman" instead of "virgin".
Shabir's allegation is that the word translated virgin in the Christian Bibles is more properly translated "young maiden" since this is the proper meaning of the word almah. The Hebrew word for virgin is b'tulah.
Although it is true that almah refers to a young maiden, this maiden by necessity would be a virgin since the Mosaic Law made it forbidden for women to engage in sexual intercourse prior to marriage. (Cf. Deuteronomy 22:13-21)
Furthermore, the Bible itself testifies that the word almah can be used in reference to a virgin since Rebecca, Isaac's wife, is called an almah in Genesis 24:43. Yet in Genesis 24:16 it states that "neither had any man known her," i.e., that she was a virgin.
The most famous medieval Jewish Bible commentator Rashi (AD. 1040-1105) explained that alamot (plural of almah) in Song of Solomon 1:3 means b'tulot ("virgins") as a metaphorical reference to the nations. Hence, we find at least one Rabbi agreeing that almah and b'tulah are virtually synonymous terms.
In Exodus 2:8, almah is used to describe Moses' older sister Miriam who is an obvious virgin from the context. Moreover, more than two centuries before the birth of Jesus, the Jewish translators of the Greek Septuagint used parthenos for almah. Depending upon the context parthenos can either mean young maiden or virgin, much like the term almah. This indicates that even the Jews translating Isaiah into Greek knew that the context of the passage demanded that a virgin be meant and used the proper Greek term to signify this fact.
Shabir might argue that the Septuagint is not a Jewish document. The Septuagint is the translation into Greek of the Hebrew Scriptures, made for the benefit of Greek-speaking Jews in Egypt. Shabir in his articles, like many others before him, has tried to discount the value of the Septuagint. However, that is not the view of most scholars.
Suzanne Daniel, Associate Professor of Judeo-Hellenistic Literature, Hebrew University, Jerusalem states:
It is assumed that the project was initiated by the Greek-speaking Jewish community itself, which needed a version of the Pentateuch for worship and instruction.
On the Prophets and the Writings portions of the Septuagint:
It is... generally held that the versions of the Former and Latter Prophets must be placed before the end of the third century B.C.E., and that at least some of the Hagiographa were already translated at the beginning of the second century B.C.E., since the prologue to the Greek Ben-Sira (132 B.C.E.) refers to an already existing version of "the Law, the Prophets, and the other writings." It is therefore accepted that a complete version of the Hebrew Bible existed at least at the beginning of the first century C.E. ("Bible," section "Greek: The Septuagint," Encyclopedia Judaica) (See the following link.)
Cyrus Gordon, a leading Jewish scholar who was formerly Professor of Assyriology and Egyptology, Dropsie College, wrote:
... From Ugarit of around 1400 B.C. comes a text celebrating the marriage of the male and female lunar deities. It is there predicted that the goddess will bear a son... The terminology is remarkably close to that in Isaiah 7:14. However, the Ugaritic statement that the bride will bear a son is fortunately given in parallelistic form; in 77:7 she is called by the exact etymological counterpart of Hebrew 'almah "young woman"; in 77:5 she is called by the exact etymological counterpart of Hebrew betulah "virgin". Therefore, the New Testament rendering of 'almah as "virgin" for Isaiah 7:14 rests on the older Jewish interpretation, which in turn is now borne out for precisely this annunciation formula by a text that is not only pre-Isaianic but is pre-Mosaic in the form that we now have it on a clay tablet. (Gordon, "Almah in Isaiah 7:14," Journal of Bible and Religion 21 (1953), p. 106)
Jewish sages have sometimes had something to say about the possibility of a virgin birth:
Abraham Farissol, medieval Jewish sage:
The Nizzahon Vetus, medieval work of polemics:
Contemporary scholar Adam Kamesar:
These citations again implicitly affirm that the Jews realized that the context of Isaiah 7:14 demanded that a virgin be meant here.
This is further strengthened by the fact that Isaiah 7:14a states that this was to be a "sign" (Hebrew- ot) from the Lord. The word ot almost always means an extraordinary event demonstrating God's power and direct involvement in human affairs. There is nothing miraculous for a woman to conceive a child through sexual intercourse since this is something common. Yet it is truly amazing for a virgin to conceive a child as in the case of Mary and Jesus.
Jesus was indeed born of a virgin; both the Bible and the Qur'an confirms that. But Isaiah chapter 7, verse 14, does not speak of a virgin birth, and does not refer to Jesus. Jesus is never called "Immanuel" in the Bible. The angel announced his name as "Jesus" (Luke 1:31).
We have already addressed all of Shabir's points. The one thing we would like to say is that although the Quran does in fact teach the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, it fails to explain the reason and the significance behind it. It is the Holy Bible that tells us the reason for the virgin birth:
The reason for the virgin birth is that this was the only suitable manner for the Son of God to take on actual flesh.
Whoever has seen me has seen the Father
In John 14:9 Jesus (peace be upon him) is quoted as saying: "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father." This is often misunderstood to mean that Jesus is God. But Jesus clearly said that no one has seen God at any time (John 5:37). Those who say that Jesus is God, are disagreeing with what Jesus himself said. If Jesus was God why would he say to the people looking at him that they never saw God? And why would the author of the 1st Letter of John in the Bible, writing some seventy years after Jesus was taken up, say that no one had ever seen God (1John 4:12) although he knew that multitudes had already seen Jesus? The meaning of John 14:9 is not that Jesus is God, but that by knowing Jesus, one gets to know God, since Jesus teaches about God. This meaning is confirmed by John 1:18 where the writer says that no one had ever seen God, but Jesus had made God known to the people. In the 17th Chapter of the same Gospel, Jesus declared that eternal life means knowing that the Father whom Jesus worshipped is the only true God and that Jesus is the Messiah who was sent by God.
Amazingly, Shabir manages to pull one of the greatest attempts of scripture twisting we have ever read. Shabir again assumes what he has yet to prove. He assumes that God is unipersonal and therefore whenever the NT says that God has never been seen this proves that Jesus is not God. Yet, had Shabir quoted the passages accurately he would have realized that the NT teaches that God the Father has never been seen. That is why God the Son became flesh in order to reveal God to man:
"No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the FATHER'S side, has made HIM known." John 1:18
Interestingly Shabir quoted this passage to give the impression that Jesus was not God. Yet, the whole point of this verse is that the only way Jesus could reveal God to man is because he himself is God in nature.
"No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the FATHER has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world." 1 John 4:12-14
These verses state that God the Father has never been seen. That is why God the Son became man, in order to reveal the nature and character of God to man. Interestingly, Christ claims to be the only person who has seen the Father:
Shabir also assumes, albeit erroneously, that Jesus' worshiping the Father as the only true God somehow diminishes Christ's Deity. Yet, Shabir forgets to mention that Jesus also demanded that his followers worship him as God in the same way that they worship the Father:
Jesus does not say to honor him as a prophet, but rather to honor him just as one would honor the Father. This honor includes praying to Christ directly:
In order for Christ to answer prayer he must be all-powerful and all-knowing, which again proves that Jesus is God!
John also records Jesus making the following personal claims with the Jewish crowds responding accordingly to such claims:
"'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
"Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!' Then Jesus told him, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'" John 20:28-29
Jesus accepts and blesses Thomas's confession that he is both Lord and God.
Hence, far from proving Shabir's point that Jesus is not God, these passages are quite emphatic in stating that Jesus is indeed God. John goes out of his way to show that Christ is the only One to have seen the Father's essential nature, having eternally coexisted with him in intimate personal communion:
"And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began." John 17:5
That is precisely why John says that Jesus is able to reveal God perfectly, since he is the fullness of Deity in bodily form. (Cf. John 1:1, 10, 14)
He was manifest in the flesh
1 Timothy 3:16 is often quoted to show that "God was manifest in the flesh." This is how it appears in later manuscripts of the Bible. The earlier and more reliable manuscripts (Notably Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus) read "He was manifest in the flesh," and "He" from the context clearly refers to Jesus. This passage does not show that Jesus was God. It reflects Paul's doctrine that Jesus before he appeared in the flesh was a being higher than men but lower than God. "The head of every man is Christ, the head of every woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God," writes Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:3.
Seeing that 1 Timothy 3:16 is not the only passage affirming the Deity of Christ and seeing also that there is a textual dispute over the original rendering, we have no major qualms with Shabir. We do however recommend the following book which deals with the textual issues surrounding 1 Timothy 3:16:
The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust the Modern Translations? James R. White Paperback - 286 pages (March 1995) Bethany House; ISBN: 1556615752 specifically pp. 207-209
In regard to Paul's view of Jesus, whether he believed Christ was God or an exalted heavenly creature please read the following rebuttal located here.
Finally, as far as 1 Corinthians 11:3 is concerned this again demonstrates Shabir's logical fallacies. Shabir commits a categorical fallacy by confusing position with nature. He somehow thinks that just because God the Father is superior in position this then makes Jesus inferior in nature. Yet, you can have one Person who is superior in rank without this implying superiority in nature.
For instance, the Holy Bible clearly teaches that both man and woman were created in the Divine image, making them both equal in nature. (Cf. Genesis 1:26-30; 5:1-2)
Therefore, Paul's teaching that man is the head of the woman relates to position, that man holds a higher position over woman. Paul is not claiming that men are essentially superior to women since elsewhere Paul clearly states that all are one in Christ. (Cf. Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11)
Likewise, God is the head of Jesus in that the Farther is greater in position, not in nature. Both the Father and Son are equal in nature and essence, yet not in position.
Mighty God, Everlasting Father
Isaiah 9:6 speaks of one whose name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. We are often told that this is a prophecy about Jesus, and that it proves that Jesus is God. But the problem this prophecy presents cannot be ignored by any honest person. If it is taken literally then Jesus is the "Everlasting Father." But Jesus clearly taught that he was not the Everlasting Father.
According to Matthew, while Jesus was on the earth he declared:
Do not call anyone on earth "father," for you have one father, and he is in heaven.
(Matthew 23:9, New International Version).
If Jesus was not the "Everlasting Father," neither was he "Mighty God." Either we take the passage literally in which case it contradicts the clear teaching of Jesus, or we take it figuratively, in which case "Everlasting Father" doesn't really mean "Everlasting Father," and "Mighty God" doesn't really mean "Mighty God."
Shabir commits the fallacy of equivocation, assuming that the term "Father" carries the same meaning at all times. Yet, "Father" can carry a whole range of meanings as the following examples clearly demonstrate:
In this passage, we find that both God and Abraham are said to be the Father of the Jews. Therefore, applying Shabir's logic we would be forced to conclude that Abraham is actually God the Father!
Again, if Shabir's logic were sound we would once more conclude that Abraham is God the Father since he is said to be the father of all believers.
This means that Paul is also God the Father as well.
In light of the preceding examples, the term "Father" means different things in different contexts. For instance, the term can mean Source, Creator and/or Author as the following citations demonstrate:
Here, God is referred to as Father in his role as Israel's Redeemer. Hence, the term in this context refers to God as the Source of Israel's redemption from Egypt.
"Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?" Malachi 2:10
The term is used in these passages to refer to God as Creator.
Jesus is called Everlasting Father in the sense that he is both the source and giver of eternal life. This understanding bears out in light of the fact that the literal Hebrew phrase in Isaiah 9:6 is not "Everlasting Father." Rather, it is "Father of Eternity" (Hebrew- Avi Ad). Dr. Robert Morey notes:
"After a great deal of research on the many issues involved, we have translated... as 'Father of eternal life.' Calvin correctly pointed out, 'The name Father is put for Author.'
The word... 'father' thus does not mean the One who possesses eternity but the One who gives it to others. The word... 'eternal' is not the normal word for absolute eternity. Thus, we conclude that it means that the Son of God will be the Author of eternal life for those who believe in Him." (Morey, Trinity, pp. 184-185 bold emphasis ours)
This is precisely the picture the NT gives of the Lord Jesus Christ, namely that he is the source of eternal life:
"You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this." Acts 3:14-15
"who has saved us and called us to a holy life-not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." 2 Timothy 1:9-10
Therefore, in light of the preceding factors we again find Shabir's entire argumentation crumbling from under his feet. Even in his attempted rebuttal to our criticism of his misuse of Bruce Metzger, Shabir failed to offer anything of substance. This fact will become evident in our rebuttal to his attempted rebuttal that is to appear soon on Answering Islam, Lord willing.
In the service of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who is Lord over all! Amen. Come Lord Jesus.
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