Thank you for your frank letter. Thank you also for sharing with me
your understanding of Nabi Isa, as you name Jesus in your devotional language. It is not
only the somewhat different name but also the different rôle he is ascribed to in the
Qur’an and the Bible that makes your perception and subsequent understanding of Jesus
different from ours. You made me aware of your sometimes rather strong feelings about the
biblical narrative regarding him. Naturally, our perception is largely
determined by the information we have. We will do well to diligently check on the
reliability of our respective sources of information to enable us to differentiate between
what is fact — and what is myth.
I suggest we first of all look for a token that can assure us of the
divine origin of our ‘holy Books’.
We are both not likely to question that our
respective Scriptures are inspired by God and revelation from Him. But since your Book and
my Book differ on crucial matters, they cannot really both be from the same source, you
will admit. Take for example the crucifixion and death of Jesus. This event is explicitly
and abundantly testified in the Bible, but, for whatever reason, denied by Islam. Both
cannot possibly be true. What I really want to say here is that I would like you to
approach this topic with an open, though not uncritical, mind. It is likely that I will
introduce to you something you are not familiar with.
How on earth can anyone be sure whether a Book comes from God, or is
the perhaps well-meaning composition of a concerned man who wants to reform a decadent
Christians believe in what God revealed in the Bible, because it
carries an undeniable imprint of His authorship. I am speaking here about absolutely
unpredictable events, which were foretold by the biblical prophets, and which were
fulfilled hundreds of years later. We are in fact told over and over again and in no
uncertain terms that a prophet whose prophecies do not come true is not to be believed or
You may say to yourselves,
‘how can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?’
If, what the prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true,
that is a message the Lord has not spoken,
that prophet has spoken presumptuously.
Sovereign Lord does nothing
without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets.
And God spoke through Isaiah:
I told you these things long ago;
before they happened I announced them to you so that you could not say,
‘My idols did them’. (Isaiah 48:5)
I am the Lord,
who has made all things...
who carries out the words of his servants
and fulfills the predictions of his messengers.
We can detect three main themes of prophecy in the Bible. One foretold
the very unique history of the Jews, right to the present time. The second pictures in
dramatic detail the time of the end of this world, and the third predicts, again in much
detail, the life of Jesus the Messiah. In graphic description the prophets also foretold
his suffering and death on the cross, as well as his resurrection from the dead. Had these
not been fulfilled, we might have a reason to question the message and the divine source
of our Book. But, excepting those describing the end of the world, these prophecies were
all fulfilled. This gives us the confidence to rely on the message of the Bible, for no
man could have predicted these historic happenings. Only God could have known and revealed
Little wonder then that throughout the Gospel we read phrases like
‘as it was written’, or ‘as the prophet has said’.
In the New Testament, we read:
I passed on to you as
of first importance that Christ died for our sins
according to the Scriptures, that
he was buried, that he was raised on the third day
according to the Scriptures, and
that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve
[Apostles of Jesus].
After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of
the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living,
though some have fallen asleep [have died].
(1 Corinthians 15:1-6)
The words "according to the Scriptures" refer to what
had been written down by the prophets who had lived hundreds of years before. It
was these Scriptures that had been fulfilled in Jesus.
They reported the time and place of His coming
(Micah 5:2, Daniel 9:24 [this passage needs introductory help to be understood]);
that He would be born of a
virgin (Isaiah 7:14), and what his name would be
(Isaiah 63:8 [Saviour in Hebrew is Yeshua,
this is the name Jesus actually had, while on earth]).
Also his divinity was foretold
(Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6 [Immanuel means ‘God with us’]) and it all
culminated in the prophecies predicting his crucifixion and death. May just two or three
of these prophecies be mentioned. David wrote about Jesus around 1000 BC, saying:
Dogs have surrounded
me; a band of evil men has encircled me,
they have pierced my hands and my feet.
I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me.
They divide my garments among
them and cast lots for my clothing. (Psalm 22:16)
Isaiah the prophet spoke 700 BC, saying:
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows,
and familiar with suffering.
Surely, he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to
his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth. ...
He was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. ... by his
knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities. ...
He bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.
Can any honest person ignore, side-step or ‘explain’ away
To amplify this even further, the Bible contains a number of eyewitness
reports, which would certainly have been rejected by the contemporaries had they not been
true. Just imagine, for example, what the Jews of Jerusalem would have done to Peter, one
of Jesus' disciples, had he lied when addressing a vast crowd of them just seven weeks
after the crucifixion, when stating:
Men of Israel, listen
to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and
signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed
over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of
wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from
the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep
its hold on him. (Acts 2:22-24)
What would the Jews have done, had Jesus not been crucified or killed?
They would have strongly denied it. But nobody ever queried this, because they all knew
what had happened.
While the Jews always objected that Jesus is the
Messiah, they never denied His death on the cross. And they knew that it happened, for
they were present at the scene.
May just one more noteworthy evidence be added in support of the
trustworthiness of the crucifixion report in the Gospel. We are aware that the life of
Jesus in a remote place like Judea was of no significance to the
Roman historians of his time, who wrote the annals of wars and mighty conquerors. Yet
Rome’s most prominent historian, Cornelius Tacitus, being an aggressive opponent of early
Christianity, wrote i.a.:
The name ‘Christian’ is derived from Christ,
who was executed under the government of the procurator Pilate.
Flavius Josephus was a Jewish general, fighting the last battle for
Jerusalem against the Romans (AD 70). Taken prisoner he became the Roman historian for
Israel. He lived shortly after Jesus, and wrote:
Now, there was about this time
Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful
works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both
many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was (the) Christ. And when Pilate, at the
suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that
loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third
day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things
concerning him. (Antiquitates Judearum)
Evidence of such magnitude must have been given for a reason. And that
is, no doubt, God’s concern to verify his message for generations to come, to those
who would depend on some kind of tangible proof or evidence to believe what He had
Why do I write all this? Why do I risk disturbing peace and harmony
between us? I hope you could detect that by now: Because I care for you! Up to now you
were probably not aware of the need to verify the basis of our faith. Most of the
world’s people follow their respective religion in the sincere belief that all is
well and that they follow the right path.
Even you would not have come up with these objections to the Bible, had
you not questioned its integrity and trustworthiness, and had you not been influenced in
Therefore I have to challenge you to
test the foundations on which your eternal future rests!
You must understand that I do not write this letter to destroy your
faith in God, but rather to amend and enhance it. That demands scrutiny.
The other day my wife and I wanted to visit someone in hospital. A
relative explained the way to get there. It was accurate, for the most part.
Only at one turn we were told ‘turn left’, when we should turn right.
Fortunately, I wanted to make sure we would get there and checked the route on the map,
where we discovered the mistake.
Otherwise our conviction, that we will get to the place we were looking for,
would have failed.
Sometimes this does not matter so much, but when it is direction to eternity, it does.
I am really curious to hear your reflections and expect your response
soon. My warmest greetings to you!