As we have observed already (page 17) Islam's hopes are
We are sad to confess that Islam has been most successful in doing so, at least among Muslims. We are sad, because this is an effort to cull revealed truth - revealed truth backed by evidence that is divine.
Contrary to Islamic accusations, the Bible has never been tampered with any time and as regards the New Testament has certainly not undergone any changes since it was canonized. This can be proved a thousand times. and has been investigated already (p. 36). We have also looked at the prophetic aspect to prove the Divine Hand in the message of the Bible (pp. 40ff.). We have established the fact, that although God chose to inspire men with the idea of the message rather than with a mechanical dictation, this message has definitely been verified. Other evidence will still be added later. In the study of the revelation of God's plan in the Bible - which is rejected by Islam - we see a totally harmonious line of development right through the Bible although it consists of two Covenants (the Old and New Testaments, one a national contract with the Jews, the other with all who are willing to submit to God's offer of pardon), written in 66 "books" or portions by about 40 different writers over 1,600 years. May this consistency be illustrated with regard to the subjects under dispute, namely:
Again the critical quotes are taken from the book by Mr Joommal.
Islamic objections to the doctrine of atonement
What is atonement? It is simply reconciliation with God after having rebelled against Him by breaking the Covenant or Contract that He made with man. We call that sinning. For that matter, anything done in thought, word or deed that is contrary to His Word, Law and purpose for man, is sin. Every sinner, having committed treason or rebellion in God's sight, has been rejected by God. The result of that is death - spiritual death - which must result in eternal separation from God as well:
God ordained in the Old Testament that after sins (not wilful! Leviticus 4:2) were committed the offender should seek to atone for them in order to be reconciled with God. The way this should be done was commanded in great detail (Leviticus chapters 1-7, 16, etc.). It was by means of a sacrifice. In the New Testament the place of an animal sacrifice was taken by Jesus who then suffered in the place of the offender.
It appears that the basic problem a Muslim sees in atonement, is that in the atoning act of God a substitute is to be sacrificed for the repenting sinner. This is accepted by God instead of the offender, and the just punishment is executed on the substitute. Muslims reason that it would be unjust of God to punish the innocent for the offence of the guilty. The just should be rewarded with goodness just as surely as the unjust should be rewarded with tribulation. Jesus, the just, therefore can not really suffer; but it would certainly be impossible for God to allow Him to suffer for the unjust, for this would be offensive to God's concept of righteousness and justice. This argument, however, is contrary even to the Qur'an, for there it is mentioned that the prophets of old did indeed suffer and were killed. (Sura 3:183).
Since Mohammed himself also suffered by being poisoned, almost dying on one occasion (the Hadis says that he suffered from the consequences of this until the end of his life); and since he suffered defeat at the Battle of Uhud, (where he himself was wounded in the face and lost two front teeth), it is not far-fetched to assume that again we are facing a rhetorical argument by Muslim clergy.
Furthermore we should like to refer to the "Bismillah", where Allah is called al-Rahman and al-Rahim (gracious and merciful). Grace is an undeserved gift - in legal terms it means pardon. Mercy is an act of compassion that does not consider whether or not a person deserves help, but is in fact spontaneous aid.
Pardon or the act of atonement is, in the strictest sense of the word, unjust. The offender does not deserve it. But God's love provided a way by which the act of sin would be punished (to satisfy His righteousness), but the offender could be restored. This is what atonement is all about. Besides all this we must accept that
When God makes a plan to rescue those whom He loves and that love Him, we can either accept His Way - or reject it. We cannot question God and His revealed Way by arguing:
Who are we, after all, to question or advise Almighty God? All we have to do is to check the scriptures that oppose one another while claiming to be revelation for their evidence and live according to the established truth.
We are forced to assume that the Islamic concept of the righteous God who does not allow the righteous to suffer, is merely an argument of expediency to invalidate the atonement of Jesus on the cross.
Muslims always incorrectly assume that:
We see in these words an attempt to promote self-redemption. This is the very sin that can never be forgiven, because it is the sin against the Holy Spirit. Man sees himself fit to deal with his sin. Taking this theme to its logical conclusion would mean that man does not need God, as he is capable of dealing with his sins by compensating therefor with "good deeds" or a "rigorous, practical form of worship" and we assume this to be the purpose of the "five pillars of Islam". But doing good deeds is our duty.
There is no merit at all in doing them. If we try to compensate for sin by doing good deeds we are self-righteous, and the Bible distinctly says that "our own righteousness is as filthy rags"! (Isaiah 64:6).
Have you ever heard that an offender in court is acquitted on the grounds that he promises never to do it again or to "be good" in the future?
The underlying problem is that Muslims have a view of what the Bible terms "sin" which is quite different to the Biblical concept. Sin is seen in the Bible as the principle that enslaves all mankind and compels each man to commit sins. It is man's attitude of independence, of open rebellion against God - whether it be a "big sin" like murder or a "small sin" like telling a lie in business or stealing something from the firm. Both presuppose the absence of God in the centre of the will and conscience of man. There may be a lot of religious exercise and devotion, but the sincerity of the worshiper is often disproved by deeds. We cannot regard these sins as similar to receiving a ticket for speeding. Sins separate us from God!
Critics assume that every church member is in fact a Christian and they also assume that repentance (= turning away from sin) is either not necessary or is otherwise part of a church ritual. No love for God, for His redemptive deed, therefore results, and consequently the believer does not lead a devout live. This is not so! The Christian is devout in gratitude for the fact that his sins have been forgiven; and that he can have fellowship with God again and enjoy the fruit of salvation, which, no doubt, is
Without giving his source, Mr. Joommal suggests that Dr. Martin Luther claims that as a result of atonement, a believer
(This statement does not coincide with the rest of Luther's teaching, nor with his actions and therefore we do not accept it. If, however, these words can be attributed to Luther, they must have been stated in a different context, for this statement is inconsistent with Biblical teaching). The consequences of this teaching, according to Mr. Joommal, is seen to be responsible for the:
We know of no Christian continent or Christian nation. Unfortunately, the false impression may be gained that all church members are Christians and the superficial onlooker may reach such a conclusion. The Bible itself, however, refutes this most strongly:
"The works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing and the like. I warn you as I warned you before, that those who do such things, shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (Galatians 5:19-24).
To overlook this would indeed be a false presentation of atonement, for we are always saved from something and for something. It is therefore, wrong to conclude: "that they have no more need to follow the law".
That Christians are no longer under the law is true.
"For I bear them record that they (i.e. the Jews) have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. For Moses describeth the righteousness which is of the law, that the man which doeth those things shall live by them. (Romans 10:2-5).
"... a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." (Galatians 2:16).
No law in the world makes a man righteous. The law determines what is right and wrong, but it cannot make a person right. It is simply the standard by which judgement shall be passed.
"Thus Abraham, 'believed God, and it was reckoned to him
as righteousness.' So you see that it is men of faith
who are the sons of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing
that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the
gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 'In you shall all
the nations be blessed.' So then, those who are men of
faith are blessed with Abraham who had faith.
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed be every one who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, and do them.' Now it is evident that no man is justified before God by the law for 'He who through faith is righteous shall live'; but the law does not rest on faith, for 'He who does them shall live by them.' Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us - for it is written, 'Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree' - that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
To give a human example, brethren: no one annuls even a man's will, or adds to it, once it has been ratified. Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, 'And to offsprings,' referring to many; but referring to one, 'And to your offspring,' which is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came four hundred and thirty years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance is by the law, it is no longer by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained by angels through an intermediary. Now an intermediary implies more than one; but God is one. Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not; for if a law had been given which could make alive, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the scripture consigned all things to sin, that what was promised to faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian; for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith." (Galatians 3:6-26).
This, however, does not mean the believers may act lawlessly in any way
Christ distinctly taught His disciples to love God and to love one another.
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." (John 13:34).
"Jesus answered and said to him 'If a man loves me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him." (John 14:23).
In this all the commandments of the Old Testament are fulfilled:
Concerning atonement, our critics poses the following question:
We do not quite see how the law of nature fits in here, (think, for example, of the sacrificial love of mothers!), but some of us are able to fathom what love is, however incomplete our concept of it may be. God is love, (I John 4:8), and because He revealed Himself as such and committed Himself in His Word to it, we can believe that the heavenly God sacrificed Himself according to His Word, not for the insignificant, but for those that He loved.
For when love is present, insignificance disappears. Just consider the fact that even on a human level when some "insignificant" person becomes the object of love and returns that love, he becomes highly significant. Of course, this idea is totally opposed to "common sense", but the believers are encouraged:
We can believe our heavenly Father, because in His Word He committed Himself and we can trust Him!
Another allegation by our critics is that believers in Christ die as all other mortals do and consequently atonement has no value. Nowhere in the Bible are we told that a person who has been reconciled to God becomes through that fact immortal on earth, but we are told:
In another passage we read:
The value of atonement is not physical, but spiritual; and although we die physically, we will be raised again at the Last Day as all other mankind, but will not face judgement and condemnation - which was passed to Jesus already.
Muslims have suggested that Christ did not give His life as a ransom willingly:
The critics again overlook the context. Shortly before His arrest Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying. The above words were part of His prayer. He also said:
He closed His prayer, however, with:
Another record of the Gospel reports that Christ
What appears to have happened, taking medical factors into account, is that Christ was severely tempted by Satan and that He was about to die in Gethsemane ("sorrowful unto death"), which is demonstrated by the sweating of blood, a very rare phenomenon which according to medical evidence, leads to death through extreme anxiety or terror. We must bear in mind, that what lay before Him was not "a little chastisement" (A.S.K. Joommal), but was physically the most gruesome torture imaginable. In the case of Christ, however, the spiritual suffering was greater still, in that He, the undefiled and Holy One, was polluted with all the sin of all the world.
It is revealing to read some explanation offered in Hebrews 5:7:
If this incident refers to the cross, he was not heard, for he died there. So we must conclude, that the "passing of the cup" was not a prayer for deliverance from the cross, but rather for a deliverance from a death that would have prevented Him from going to the cross.
The act of atonement offers the solution - which Islam cannot find - to the great problem:
By punishing sin He expresses His righteousness and by taking the punishment on Himself, He expresses His mercy. Apart from this method, there is no way for a righteous God to be a merciful one as well! A happening from history may illustrate this point:
Shamuel was a Caucasian prince living a couple of hundred years ago. His people were at constant war with the Turks. Once he besieged a Turkish city with his army. As usual his mother was with him in his camp. One night he planned a surprise assault. But the enemy was lying in wait. The secret plans had been betrayed. The battle was lost. In anger Shamuel announced that the traitor would be punished with 100 lashes of a whip, if found out. Again in great secrecy another surprise attack was planned. With the same result. But the traitor was discovered! It was Shamuel's mother.
For three days and nights he withdrew to his tent. What should he do? If he were to spare his mother, all would rightly say that he was unjust. Were he to punish her, however, all would say "Look at Shamuel! He does not even have pity for his own mother!" At long last he appeared. His army gathered expectantly. Serenely he addressed his people: "We lost two battles because of treason. Our men have been killed. There were no extenuating circumstances. The crime was committed, and therefore the guilty person shall be punished according to my law: with 100 lashes! Righteousness and judgement must be maintained."
His mother was led to the circle. She was pale and shivering with fear. The executioner lifted his whip - but before the first lash came down, Shamuel cried: "Wait! - This is my mother. I am of her flesh and blood. I shall take the punishment for her!" He went into the circle, took off his garment and commanded: "Executioner, dare not hit more lightly than you did with your last victim. Do your duty. Hit on!" Lash after lash found its mark, until he broke down, unconscious. He survived though, against expectation.
This event, perhaps more than any other in history, fits the picture of Jesus. He was God in a body. He had and has to execute righteous judgement. But in His perfect love He took on Himself our (my own, your own) sin and suffered the cruel, but just consequences on the cross. But we are aware, that it was not only the physical suffering, bad though it was, that was so cruel, but that the very pure and holy God Himself took upon Himself all the ugly filth of our sin.
Righteousness and love met at the cross of Christ.
This happened once and for all. This sacrifice for sin is good enough for all men at all times. It is God's grace, God's gift to us, which we did not deserve. A gift is, however, only mine, when I accept it. And keep it.
When a sculptor creates a statue and he then draws the same statue on a piece of paper, he will have to change a three dimensional object into a two-dimensional one. Let us liken man to a being who in his natural capacity, can fathom only two dimensions, and for whom the depth dimension can be added only by revelation. We always start from a false premise when we try to explain God and His ways to man, from man's point of view. Exactly that happens when critics speak of the punishment of a sinner as a means of correction and reform? They have apparently not understood what sin is from a divine point of view. If we ignore this, we must inevitably come to the conclusion that religious observances will compensate for our "little mistakes". Sin is, however, self-will in all aspects of practical life and is only supposedly compensated by religious duties and rites. Sin being the principle of conscious and unconscious revolt against God, separates the sinner completely and eternally from God. No correction that can deal with the sins of the past is possible except it comes from God. The need of man is much deeper than a need for reform. There must be a transformation of the whole nature of man:
We cannot effect this transformation ourselves, neither is it effected by mechanical religious deeds. It is the result of God's salvation by grace.
There is one last point that we shall have to consider on this matter. If God's punishment aims at being corrective, how can it be of any use on the Day of Judgement when sinners shall receive this punishment? If we reject God's eternal plan and substitute religion for it, we deceive ourselves and choose the way of separation from God. Hell in this case is - not punishment - it is our own choice. Atonement is the only alternative offered by God to restore lost communion with Him. This affects every sphere of our lives and results in our lives being changed or converted. The imagined faculty of man being able to please God in his own righteousness, which we have already discovered to be the only unforgivable sin, is recognised and repented of and a new life begins. Many indeed refuse Jesus and His atonement, because they are so bewildered, that they are not even able to think the concept through to the end.
The surprised Christian is informed by Mr. Joommal that it was Paul "whose ingenuity gave birth to this idea of atonement." He relates that Jesus was not really dead on the cross, but only appeared to be so, for he was taken as dead and placed in a sepulchre. This is in direct contrast not only to the Bible, but also to the Qur'an, which says in Sura 4:155-156:
Mr. Joommal's statement is the Ahmedian belief introduced by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. His views are rejected by Sunni Muslims, and yet are very often propagated for expediency. His account then goes on to say that Jesus:
The Jews on the other hand, exultantly declared that Jesus died, because he was an accursed man and an imposter 'for he that is hanged is accursed of God', says Deuteronomy 21:23."
This assumption is totally foreign to the New Testament eye-witness record - the only detailed one-of the death of Christ.
We would like to know more about the sources of Mr. Joommal's unique type of information. In addition he refers to a book by a Professor Dr. Arnold Meyer entitled "Jesus or Paul". We are told that:
"Meander in his 'History of the Christian Religion and the Church' says, 'that the doctrine of Atonement as it is now believed by the Christian Church, was not definitely and distinctly formulated until the twelfth century.' "
"We also do not find any mention of atonement being made in either the Talmud or the Torah."
We should like to refute these allegations.
"We rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received our reconciliation (or atonement)."
The entire 16th chapter of the Book of Leviticus (B.C. 1500) is devoted to the "DAY OF ATONEMENT" and in chapter 17:11, it is expressly stated:
"The life of the flesh is in the blood and I have given it to you on the altar to make an atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul by reason of the life."
Islamic tradition relates that the custom of slaying the qurban originates from this Day of Atonement, which Mohammed together with the Jews of Medina observed in his first year after the Hejira.
The books of Exodus and Leviticus in particular, abound with reports about and instructions for atonement and all are based on the need for a sacrifice that may become the substitute for the believer who had become an offender against God's Law. The offender had to bring the sacrifice or sin-offering to the altar, and confess his sins resting his hand on the head of the sacrifice - the sacrifice was then slaughtered, which showed the offender the seriousness in the sight of God of his misdeeds for which only the death penalty could be the verdict. Of course, "the blood of goats or bulls can never wash away sins," (Hebrews 10:-4, 9:9b-19), but these sacrifices foreshadowed the sacrifice, which was ratified in Jesus.
The claim that the doctrine of atonement was never preached by Christ at any time is equally untrue. We are not quite sure whether we should blame this on the critic's ignorance or deceit. We refer to Matthew 20:28:
"This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:28).
"God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16). (See also notes on "Son of God" pp. 93ff.).
"I am the living bread, the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh." (John 6:51) (My emphasis).
"The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep ... I lay down my life for the sheep ... No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord." (John 10:11,15 and 18) (My emphasis).
And turning back to the Old Testament, we have the classic prophecy of Isaiah 53 where it distinctly says:
In closing, we should like to answer two of the rhetorical questions on atonement as posed by the critic:
The Bible replies:
"Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. For He is our peace ... and might reconcile us to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end." (Ephesians 2:13-16) (i.e. hostility between man and God).
"The grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men ... awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds." (Titus 2:11-14).
The other question has been formulated thus:
Our emphatic answer would be yes, indeed! No Christian can live in the mire of sin after he has been redeemed - every true Christian, I mean. (pp. 130ff.). The very pages of the Bible label all in whom this has not been effected, as hypocrites.
The Bible, and particularly the New Testament, has many admonitions on this subject:
"Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you." (Romans 8:8-9).
"You were called to freedom, brethren, only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another." (Galatians 5:13).
"Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves." (Philippians 2:4).
"What is true, ... honourable, ... just, . . pure, ... lovely, gracious, ... think on these things!" (Philippians 4:8-9).
"Put on ... compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness and patience, forbearing one another and forgiving each other ... put on love which binds everything together in perfect harmony." (Colossians 3:12-15).
Many other texts could be quoted.
This does not mean that Christians attain a state of sinlessness. But they hate sin, even minor ones and do not live in a state of sin - it has no dominion over them - though they may give way to it sometimes:
How then can we account for the gross immorality and moral depravity prevalent in Western countries professing the Christian faith? The vast majority of the people have no better profession than a mere membership card of their church or at least believe in the existence of a God somewhere. This is not Christian faith! It would be totally out of keeping with the New Testament meaning of the word to call them Christians. A Christian is committed to God and lives by His Word!
In conclusion, we can sum up by saying that atonement, i.e. reconciliation between man and God, has been the call of God to man and has been practised from the very first pages of the Bible till the consummation of the sacrifice on the cross. Since then all Christian believers have begun their Christian lives by availing themselves of the at-one-ment already provided by Christ Whom they then proceeded to serve:
Islamic objections to the divinity of Jesus and his sonship
A Reverend H.D.A. Major, principal of Repon Hall, Oxford, is reported to have said at a religious conference at Oxford in 1921:
"Dr. Rashdall, Dean of Carlisle, who presided at this conference, further threw a bombshell on the Christian world when he said that his reading of the Bible did not allow him to accept Jesus as God. Jesus, said the learned Dean, was man in every sense of the word and not God." ("The Bible: Word of God or Word of Man?" by A.S.K. Joommal).
Again "liberals" are called upon to express their views. How do their statements match up with the Bible?
The divinity of Christ is not the opinion of popes, deans, bishops or priests, for their opinions are by no means always Biblical, and those of the Reverend H. Major and Dr. Rashdall are definitely not so. Christians draw their information and instructions from the Bible and do not accept fanciful, private and personal interpretations. I consider it necessary to mention also, that there may be a distinct difference between a Biblical doctrine and a church dogma.
It is sad, that Muslims, when hearing the words "Trinity", "Son of God" or "Divinity of Christ", reflect exclusively on such statements in the Qur'an, as:
The Trinity here is understood to consist of God, Mary and Jesus, (Sura 5:119) which suggests physical union in order to beget. This is utterly contrary to Biblical Scripture and Mohammed was correct to reject physical union. This type of "Trinity", however, was never taught by Scripture or the church, except, perhaps, where Mary was falsely called "Mother of God" by the instituted church of the Middle Ages. Ignorance of Biblical Scripture very often causes the Muslim to reach an ill-considered conclusion.
Even the Qur'an makes allowance for the sonship of Christ in an unique sense: The angel spoke to Mary, saying:
"His name will be Jesus Christ, the son of Mary, held in honour (or illustrious) in this world and the Hereafter." (Sura 3:45).
In Sura 19 we are introduced to the mother of Jesus - and God is the Father figure of the holy son, as indicated by the phrase "that is easy for me". We cannot, but agree that this could not possibly have been by physical union, but by His Holy Spirit. Since one cannot separate the spirit of a person from the person himself the miracle of the immaculate conception happened - and the "holy son" Jesus was born.
The Qur'an by no means belittles the fact that Jesus was unique and incomparable to any other person who ever lived:
Another consideration may be taken from the Qur'an, where it is rightly stated:
We all agree that only God can create life. Let us then look in the light of this at Jesus:
We are careful to note that it was Jesus who created life (in the dead people and the birds) and health. From the text it is clear that he was not used by God as an instrument to create, but that He created Himself.
Another interesting thought regarding the oneness of God in His plurality is given by Dr. A. Haqq:
Another problem about the Muslim concept of the absolute unity of God arises in the context of revelation. The Qur'an speaks of revelation as a record in heaven whence angel Gabriel brought it to the prophets. This record or original in heaven is called "the Mother of the Book" (13:39). This heavenly book contains all revelation and a record of all things and happenings (57:22; 17:37; 6:38). Muslim theology itself has raised the thorny question, "Is this Book in heaven eternal or created?" The Qur'an itself furnishes no information at this point. However, a later orthodox theology settled for the eternity of the Mother of the Book. Al-Ghazali regarded it as a part of the essence of God. If the Mother of the Book is eternal, then it could exist either in God or alongside Him. If the Book exists with God, there will be two eternals which amounts to belief in two gods. Al-Ghazali saw this difficulty, therefore, he chose the other alternative - the Book subsisting in the essence of God. At this juncture, a Christian can encourage a Muslim to judge for himself whether the Christian belief in the eternal Word or Son of God (Sura 4:171), who is with the Father in one Godhead, is less meaningful than a recorded Book subsisting in God? God does not need to record His decrees like humans who are liable to forgetfulness. But all things are upheld by His Word (Hebr. 1:1-3). The same Word or Son of God is the Source of both creation, revelation and salvation; who at a given point in human history was made flesh, and lived among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the onlyborn of the Father), full of grace and truth." (John 1:14).
Can anyone, in the light of these statements, claim, that Jesus was an ordinary man or prophet? Where is a prophet with like qualities and attributes?
Muslims seem to confuse the Sonship of Christ with the "sonship" of believers or spirits also mentioned in the Bible. The Gospel according to John in chapter 3:16 speaks of God's only begotten, or only son:
The word "begotten" is from the translation of 1611 and expressed something that is phrased differently today. A living language changes. In the original Greek manuscripts the word is 'monogenes' ('mono' = a single one, 'genes' = born). There is no suggestion of a begetting act!
In addition to this, we are informed in the Bible that all judgement is given to the Son:
The reason for the persecution of Christ by the Jews was this very fact:
There are various factors that have repeatedly motivated Muslims, as well as humanists, to deny the deity of Christ. They point out from the Bible that when Christ was tempted to worship Satan, He replied:
This statement is supposed to prove that Christ is not divine. We fail to see the point, for Christ steadfastly refused to worship Satan!
Then there is the passage in Luke 18:19, where Jesus said to the enquiring ruler:
At first sight the quoted passages seem to imply that Jesus rejects the honour and the title because they are not His. But was that really so?
despite the fact that He had "equality with God" (Philippians 2:7,6). But we must view the situation in its context: The enquirer addressed Jesus as good rabbi' (teacher, sheikh). By implication Jesus said: "A rabbi is not good, but God alone! It is well that you call me good, but I am more than a teacher!"
There is a limitation placed on Jesus, too:
Christ's apparent lack of omniscience has also led many critics to reach the same conclusion. They are fond of quoting:
"'God has put all things in subjection under his feet', but when it says, 'all things are put in subjection under Him', it is plain that He is excepted who put all things under Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subjected to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be everything to everyone." (I Corinthians 15:27-28).
If these statements are seen in the wider context of Scripture, everything will take its proper place, namely that Christ, while in human form, suffered many of the limitations of man. For instance:
He could be at only one place at a time. He was subject to human emotions and also to a somewhat limited knowledge, despite the fact that He performed miracles that are totally beyond human capability, after all He was also fully man.
It is quite clear then that in the case of Christ the attribute "Son of God" differs widely from the other two concepts that sound so similar, namely:
It is necessary to underline the fact that Christ's deity is well documented in both Testaments. We shall consider the Old Testament evidence regarding the Trinity in the following chapter. We shall now look at the New Testament evidence:
"He was in the world, and the world was made through HIM, yet the world knew HIM not. HE came to his own home, and his own people received him not. But to all who received him, who believed in HIS name, HE gave power to become children of God;" (John 1:10-12).
"And he said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven.' Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, 'Who is this, who even forgives sins?'" (Luke 7:49).
"In Him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell ... in Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible ... all things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things and in Him all things hold together." (Colossians 1:19 and 16-17).
"In these last days God has spoken to us by a Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He also created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of His nature, upholding the universe by His word of power." (Hebrews 1:2,3).
"Jesus Christ, though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." (Philippians 2:6,7).
To the Jews "belong the covenant, the giving of the Law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ (Messiah). God who is over all be blessed forever." or "Christ, (who is) God over all, be blessed forever." (Romans 9:4,5). (The meaning here depends on punctuation, which is not present in the original documents).
" ... Christ is the likeness of God." (II Corinthians 4:4).
"Take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the church of the Lord (God), which He obtained with his OWN blood." (Acts 20:28) (My emphasis).
"We know that the Son of God has come and given us understanding, to know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life." (I John 5:20).
"For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men, training us to renounce irreligion and worldly passions, and to live sober, upright, and godly lives in this world, awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity ..." (Titus 2:11-14).
It may be objected that all these quotations are not direct records of the words of Christ Himself. This may be so, and yet we have the words of Christ to confirm this:
"Then He said to Thomas (after the resurrection); '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 Him, '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 20:27-29).
What did Thomas believe? He believed that his Lord Jesus was God. Christ did not deny this fact, but commended his belief. He certainly did not intend to deceive Thomas - or us!
Christ did not try to avoid stoning by explaining that He was just a man, which He surely would have done if He had been. In fact, He said just the opposite:
Whereas all prophets are seen as normal men who were also sinners (see p. 87) it is remarkable that the Bible explicitly states that Jesus was sinless:
This is actually confirmed by the Qur'an (Sura 19:19) when it speaks of "the faultless son" of Mary. No "explanation" can undermine the meaning of all these statements. How can such things be? The following chapter will provide the answer.
Islamic objections to the doctrine of trinity
Little has been more misunderstood than this mystery. Right at the start we acknowledge that the word Trinity is a theological term and not a Biblical phrase; is implied more than stated as a doctrine; and is beyond human comprehension. We must frankly admit that all attempts by man, even by way of analogy, to understand the Trinity are futile, simply, because we cannot comprehend the personality of God. What a man can comprehend and what is necessary for salvation, is laid down in the Scriptures. All we can know about God is revealed, but we cannot through revelation, experience the knowledge of all that God is. If that were so, God would be smaller than our minds. Accordingly, we reject such silly arguments by Muslim "scholars" as the following:
"by all rules of Mathematics, three times one equals three. But in Christian arithmetic three times one equals one ... We are told by the priests not to use our reason and trying to understand the dogmas of the church. So that is the crux of the matter. We are not supposed to use our god-given power of reasoning in order to understand that which we are asked to believe. Our belief in these doctrines must be blind, unquestioning, absolute! Whoever questions these beliefs, be it in all sincerity in order to understand them, is doomed to eternal damnation."
If the first part of this quotation is silly, the latter part is a malignant lie. Everyone who knows even a little bit about the Bible is aware that understanding is the aim of all its teaching:
"He may grant you to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith that you, being rooted and grounded in love may have power to comprehend with all the saints (believers) what is the breadth and length and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge that you may be filled with all the fulness of God." (Ephesians 3:16-19).
Many more passages in like vein could be quoted. We are encouraged to reason, but there are things past our comprehension. Critics may feel challenged to define in a plausible way concepts like infinity, not to mention eternity, heaven, God, etc.
If one were to write a religious book claiming it to be inspired by God, one would no doubt leave out everything that the hearers or readers would fail to comprehend; firstly to make it understandable, but secondly because the author himself could not conceive the incomprehensible! The very accusation that the reason for not understanding the Trinity is that it is 'merely a man-made theory", is therefore nonsense.
We often hear the question: "If Jesus is God, who was running the universe when he was in the womb of Mary, in the cradle or in the grave?" Let an analogy give the answer: I go down to the ocean with a bucket and fill it up with sea-water. What will happen to all the fish in the ocean? You may logically say: "Why, what has that to do with the fish?" I reply: "Fish cannot live without water - and the water is now in the bucket!"
When God was in Christ, being omnipresent, He was still everywhere else, of course.
We must get one point quite clear. It is not Christ that became God. No, God became Christ; not to the point, however, that God was nowhere else at that time. That would be a total limitation of God. "God in Christ reconciled the world to Himself!" (II. Cor. 5:19).
Careless statements are often made:
Critics suggest that this verse, which in the more modern translations is printed in italics, was not part of the Church's teaching until it was incorporated in the Bible at the Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325). This suggests wilful interpolation of this text by Christians. The critc (A.S.K. Joommal in his book 'The Bible: Word of God or Word of Man?') claims that all the New Testament Scriptures were actually incorporated into Christianity at the Council of Nicaea". It is true that at that time Eusebius [AD 326] and Athanasius  with other Christian scholars were, very successfully, researching which of the then circulating Christian writings were of apostolic origin, and by that token 'Scripture', and which were later legendary additions. It is, however, not true, that the Council of Nicaea canonised the New Testament. It must be stated here, that already in the second Century almost all of the later canonised New Testament books were in general circulation and unanimously accepted by the Churches.
This is evidenced by a great number of writings by the scholars of the first Church in Asia, Africa and Europe.
Is the criticism that only one reference in the Bible implies the Trinity valid or not?
I open the first page of the Bible and I read there:
The word "God" and, of course, the whole text, was written in Hebrew and since "God" is an English word, we find "Elohim" in the original "God" would actually be El or Elah. What then does "Elohim" mean exactly? It means "Gods". A little further in verse 26 we read:
and in Chapter 11 we again read:
Who is "we"?
Answer: Elohim. How can we understand this? Is this the use of the royal plural? No, for such usage is unknown in Hebrew. Since God reveals Himself in Scripture progressively, more and more light is cast on the subject later. God says (in Deuteronomy 6:4ff.):
Throwing most light on the subject is, however, the short sentence:
In Hebrew it would read like this:
Literally translated it would, mean: "The Lord our Gods, the Lord is one", or "a unity".
The same word "echad" was also used where God says of Adam and Eve after their creation:
We all realize, of course, that married people are not one person, but they are one couple. In Isaiah still more light is shed on the subject. The full understanding of this mystery, as far as man may comprehend it, is revealed here:
Further we read:
Quite unmistakably the prophet says to King Ahaz, who for motives of expediency refuses to choose a sign from God:
"For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder, and his name will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6) (My emphasis).
We are sometimes told that it actually should read "Wonderful counsellor OF the mighty God". This is untrue! There is no "shel" or "of" in the Hebrew original!
Jesus, according to the Gospel of John (8:58) made an apparently queer statement:
Why? Because the "I am" means "Yahweh" and the grammar (Before Abraham was I am) indicated Christ's eternal nature.
This is in perfect keeping with the Old Testament and as such we accept it. Only in the light of the Old Testament revelation, are we able to understand and rightly evaluate the statements made by and about Christ in these and other texts:
The Bible replies:
Although any type or analogy is only a very inadequate picture, the following is a simple illustration to make us aware of one way of looking at the Trinity:
Take a drop of water to a chemist and ask him for an analysis. He will tell you that it is H2O. Take the same drop to a physical scientist. He will say it is a liquid. Take a little ice and do the same. The chemist will maintain that it is H2O; the physicist will say it is a solid. Then we take a test tube full of steam and get the same result from the chemist, but a different result from the physicist, who says, "This is a gas."
In a very reverent way I wish to point out the similarity between this and the Trinity. As water, ice or steam are consistently H2O, notwithstanding all their physical differences, so God in His diverse "appearances", is always God. Perhaps we can liken the water, the originator and maintainer of life, to the Creator-Father; the ice, that which can be handled, to the Son of God who became the Saviour and the steam, often unseen and unmanageable, representing power, to the Holy Spirit, who reveals God to all who seek Him and gives the power for the believer to live righteously. Yet all three facets of God are God.
There are other analogies. Man consists of body, soul and spirit. Sunshine contains light, heat and chemical action. Fire, light and heat are three, yet one. In the same way, mind, thought and speech belong together and yet are distinct from one another.
Islamic objections to the crucifixion
The crucifixion is another most vital issue in the Christian-Islamic controversy, which is often hotly debated. For the Christian any possibility of compromise on this issue is impossible. Neither is compromise possible for the Muslim for one of the basic Qur'anic statements is that:
What prompted a statement like this to be written down in total contrast to the Gospel, and not 'confirming' it at all? (see pp. 5-6). It is not easy to reconstruct the situation, but it appears that relationships between Mohammed and his Jewish contemporaries in Medina had become increasingly strained, and consequently their attitude towards each other grew more hostile. Since he esteemed Jesus as the highest of all prophets he no doubt had a very high opinion of Him.
Mohammed is reported to have stated:
This opinion could not tolerate that His enemies, the Jews, could have had sufficient power over such a Messenger of God to have destroyed Him.
According to chronologers, Sura 4 was written about the middle of Mohammed's stay in Medina, i.e. in approximately 5 A.H. This period saw much antagonism between the Jews and the Muslims, judging from the many occurrences and remarks recorded in the Hadis.
Since a prophet is of infinitely higher status than an ordinary man, suffering or even defeat (which was what the cross seemed to Mohammed) were out of the question. To Mohammed, Jesus was a very great person. This is supported by the fact that of all the prophets, Jesus, according to Mohammed's teaching, was the only one that was born of a virgin raised to heaven alive; is to come back; was sinless; is called "the word of God" and a "Spirit from God"; and "is illustrious in the world and the hereafter" (see p. 87). Mohammed had not been made aware of the atoning work that Christ came to do, without which His death on the cross cannot be understood. Mohammed, as we shall see, appears never to have been introduced to the Gospel in its original form. All knowledge of Jesus in the Qur'an can be traced to the Apocrypha or legends that were current among Coptic Christians in Arabia.
Besides all this, we still need a convincing exegesis and interpretation of the texts in Suras 3:55 and 19:33: "O Jesus, I will cause thee to die" as many of the old traditionists like Ali ibn Abbas, Abdullah ibn Salih, Muaweheh, Ibn Ishaq, Salma and Wahab ibn Munabbih understood it, and "so peace is on me the day I was born, the day I die and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)." We cannot overlook the sequence: born - die - raised up!
If Jesus did not die on the cross, as the Bible clearly teaches, then WHEN did He die? He had to die according to the Qur'an (Suras 4:59; 19:33; 3:55) (Dr. A. Haqq)
Christians have boundless confirmation in the Bible (and elsewhere) for the crucifixion. Just under one third of the Gospel narrative is all about the last week in the life of Jesus and His death. It is in total harmony with the doctrine of atonement and the practice of offering sacrifices, which we can trace throughout the entire Old Testament period.
But besides this, "we have the more sure word of prophecy", for the sacrificial death of the Messiah was foretold in the Old Testament:
"... You have brought me into the dust of death ... they pieced my hands and my feet, they look and stare upon me. They part my garments and cast lots upon my vesture." (Psalm 22:15-18).
Secular history confirms the crucifixion.
The New Testament documents enjoy an extremely high degree of acceptance by historians. The more than 5,000 documents available to us to date are of such high reliability that the fact of the crucifixion cannot be denied, even though the manuscripts, except perhaps for a few fragments, do not date from the first century, which was when the original documents were written.
Nevertheless, considering the remoteness of time, there are no other historical events of that era that are remotely as well documented as those described in the New Testament.
History is often said to provide no evidence concerning Biblical events. During the time of the philosophical period known as the 'Enlightenment' it was commonly thought that the Christian faith was an outdated commodity and no time was taken to check on the legitimacy of such a criticism. Since then, few people have bothered to put things in perspective again. It is sad that so-called theologians (modern) have readily accepted and taught this misconception stemming from the 'Enlightenment'. But with the acceleration of scientific progress in many fields, it has been found that of all people Christians have received more support for their faith than anybody else!
We shall look briefly at some facts.
"Perhaps we can appreciate how wealthy the New Testament is in manuscript attestation if we compare the textual material for other ancient historical works. For Caesar's 'Gallic War' (composed between 58 and 50 B.C.) there are several MSS (manuscripts), but only nine or ten are good, the oldest being some 900 years later than Caesar's day. Of the 142 books of the Roman Historian of Livy (59 B.C. - A.D. 17) only thirty-five survive; these are known to us from not more than twenty MSS of any consequence, only one of which, and that containing fragments of books iii-vi, is as old as the fourth century. Of the fourteen books of the 'Histories' of Tacitus (c. A.D. 100) only four-and-a-half survive; of the sixteen books of his 'Annals', ten survive in full and two in part. The text of these extant portions of his two great historical works depends entirely on two MSS, one of the ninth century and one of the eleventh. The extant MSS of his minor works (Dialogus de oratoribus, Agricola, Germanis) all descend from a codex of the tenth Century."
"The History of Thucydides (c. 460-400 B.C.) is known to us from eight MSS, the earliest belonging to A.D. 900 and a few papyrus scraps, belonging to about the beginning of the Christian era. The same is true of the History of Herodotus (c. 488-428 B.C.). Yet no classical scholar would listen to an argument that the authenticity of Herodotus or Thucydides is in doubt because the earliest MSS of their works which are of any use are over 1,300 years later than the originals."
"But how different is the situation of the New Testament in this respect! In addition to the two excellent MSS of the fourth century (the Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus), which are the earliest of some thousands known to us, considerable fragments remain of papyrus copies of books of the N.T. dated from 100 to 200 years earlier still. The Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri, the existence of which was made public in 1931, consists of portions of eleven papyrus codices, three of which contained most of the N.T. writings. One of these, containing the four Gospels with Acts, belongs to the first half of the third century; another containing Paul's letters to churches and the Epistle to the Hebrews, was copied at the beginning of the third century (i.e. just after A.D. 200); the third, containing Revelation, belongs to the second half of the same century." (ibid).
We all know that old historical annals and records hardly ever deal with anything other than wars, heroes and contemporary leaders. Consequently, it can hardly be expected that occurrences in such remote places as Galilee and Judea would merit mention. And if they had, the events of war and Royalty would have been the main features. Even so, there are references that support the Biblical record.
The Roman Historian Pliny was sent by the Emperor Trajan as a kind of governor to the Province of Bithynia of Asia Minor (Acts 16:7) in A.D. 112. He wrote a number of letters to the Emperor, one of which was concerned with the Christians. He said that wherever he went in the province, in villages and rural areas, he met Christians. Their rapid expansion had become a big social problem. The heathen temples had to be closed for lack of visitors; their holy festivities were not celebrated and there was no longer a demand for animals for sacrifices. Rejection of the rapidly expanding Christian faith, or religious or economical sanctions, could not alter the situation. Pliny reported that from now, under his able supervision, this would be changed! Those who kept the Christian faith would be executed. These men were obviously stubborn and deserved to die. He had to admit, however, that he was confounded by the type of crimes they committed. Those who under pressure recanted their faith let him know that Christians did not commit atrocities at their meetings. Their only guilt was that they refused to pay obeisance to the statutes of Emperors and deities but gathered at certain days (Sundays) before sunrise and sang to Christ as their God (quasi deo). They made an oath (at their baptism) to commit no crimes. Their lives were exemplary. There was no deception, adultery, theft or dishonesty among them.
At their communal meals they ate common food and not slaughtered children (Christians were often accused of cannibalism, as they "partook of the body of Christ"). (Translated freely from 'Es komme mir keiner mit Tatsachen' by Michael Green. English title: 'Runaway World').
Cornelius Tacitus, a contemporary of Pliny, was the greatest historian of the Roman Empire. He relates (the emphasis on 'love' for the brethren and sisters was often interpreted falsely by the heathen who suspected the Christians of being immoral and of being cannibals) how the Christians were hated by the populace for their crimes and made scapegoats to suffer punishment for the Great Fire of Rome which Nero caused in A.D. 64.
"The name Christian," he writes, "is derived from Christ, who was executed under the government of the procurator Pilate. The corruptible superstition, which was subdued for a time, ignited anew and expanded not only throughout Judea, from where this sickness originated, but even in Rome itself where all the bad comes and is celebrated."
It is obvious that the patrician Tacitus had no sympathy for Christianity to which generally the lower classes belonged, particularly the Orientals. Therefore this historical evidence is all the more valuable. (ibid).
The Historian Thallus wrote in Rome around A.D. 52. His works were lost but a fragment thereof appears in a book by Julius Africanus in the 2nd Century. The latter writes about the darkness which fell over the land at the time of the crucifixion (Mark 15:33) and says,
We must respect the objection offered by Julius Africanus; at full moon - and it was full moon at the Passover Feast at which Christ died - there cannot be a total solar eclipse. The really remarkable part of his citation is, however, that he shows that around the middle of the first century, the death of Christ and its circumstances were known even in Rome. It was so well known that a non-Christian historian thought it worthy of comment.
The heathen of Rome knew not only about the cross in the fifties of the first century (about 20 years after the crucifixion). They also knew of the resurrection of Jesus, if we judge rightly the probable meaning of the following material or evidence. Dating from the reign of Emperor Claudius Caesar (A.D. 41-54) is a remarkable inscription in which the Emperor expresses his indignation about reports that had reached him concerning the removal of the dead from the grave. He warns that repetitions of this kind will definitely result in capital punishment. And where was this inscription found? Of all places, in Nazareth! (ibid)
Josephus was one of the Jewish leaders involved in the insurrection against Rome. After A.D. 70 (the year of the fall and destruction of Jerusalem) he tried to restore respect for Judaism in Roman society in general and at the imperial Court in particular. So he wrote in his "Antiquitates iudaicae" (A.D. 93) and "De bello iudaicae" (A.D. 75-79) to inform the Roman public more adequately about the religion of his fathers ... In these we meet many figures known to us from the New Testament: Pilate, Annas, Caiaphas, Herod, Cyrenius, Felix, Festus and others. He also writes about John the Baptist, his preaching, baptizing and execution. James "the brother of Jesus, the so called Christ", has a good write-up. But most significant of all is his extended reference to Jesus himself:
When we visit a Planetarium around Christmas time we may witness a most fascinating event. A Planetarium must not, of course, be confused with an Observatory from which one may view stars through a telescope. A Planetarium consists of a large domed room. In the centre is a most complicated device which projects thin strong beams of light against the black dome above. When the observer looks up he has the impression of being under a beautiful night sky. The stars can, however, be moved at random by the built-in computer. All the stars, planets and even remote nebulae (star clusters) may be seen exactly as in the constellation of the natural sky at a given time and place. As the sky changes, so the artificial "sky" of the Planetarium can change. At Christmas the night sky above Bethlehem at around the time of the birth of Christ may be viewed. Such is the precision of the course of the stars that one can reconstruct any night sky in history! This is Cosmos = order!
The untrained spectator in the Planetarium will detect no difference in any ancient night sky. The guiding astronomer will point out how the planets Jupiter and Saturn, both prominent lights on the "sky", move together until they appear to be one super bright star. This conjunction occurred three times within a short period - in the year 6 B.C. Is there any significance? Let us see:
This story is well known, but not that Herod died in the year 4 B.C. Why did he order all the children of Bethlehem under 2 years of age to be killed? Cannot one distinguish between a new born baby and a toddler? One can. But so much time must have elapsed since the Wise Men of the East came, that he wanted to make sure. So we can safely accept, as historians do, that Christ was neither born in the year 0 nor in December.
We conclude, therefore that the above-mentioned conjunction took place at the time of the birth of Christ. Johannes Kepler, one of the greatest pioneer astronomers, reconstructed this constellation on paper in 1604 and calculated that it took place in 6 B.C.
"Since Nebuchadnezzar's time many thousands of Jews had lived in Babylon. Many of them may have studied at the School of Astrology in Sippar. This wonderful encounter of Jupiter with Saturn, guardian of Israel, in the constellation of the 'West country' of the Messiah, must have deeply moved the Jewish astrologers. For according to astrological ways of thinking it pointed to the appearance of a mighty king in the West (of Babylon) country, the land of their fathers. To experience that in person, to see it with their own eyes, that was the reason for the journey of the wise astronomers from the East." ("The Bible as History", by W. Keller).
Even Kepler was moved to work out details of the said constellation after he had read of the rabbinic writer Abarbanel's reference to
In the Gospel according to Matthew we read (2:1-12):
We do not know whether the Biblical account has anything to do with the observers at Sippar and whether the wise astronomers of the Bible saw the above-mentioned constellation and knew the Jewish concept of interpretation, but there is a striking significance in the discoveries.
The disciples marvelled:
This was after the stilling of the storm on the Lake of Galilee. Perhaps we can say:
This is by no means an encouragement to engage in modern astrology! The Bible condemns this practice outright. But God was so gracious as to let seeking men find the King of Kings even here!
Every writer of a Gospel narrative describes the scene of the crucifixion in great detail.
The Muslim's argument would be that all this may seem to have happened (Sura 4:157), but in reality God took Jesus away and the one actually nailed to the cross had only the appearance of Jesus, but was not Him. This argument is negated completely by the fact:
Again the whole thrust of the argument against this event, like everything else in Islam, rests on the testimony of one person, and that is in contrast with all the other evidence.
Another question often raised refers to Matthew 12:38-40:
Critics ask: "HOW was Jonah in the belly of the sea monster? Was he alive or dead? This is obviously shifting the emphasis, for the text says: "As Jonah - was three days and three nights in the belly ...". A parable or metaphor is trying to illustrate a point. In this case it concerns the length of time!
We observe that Christ had given many signs already and continued doing so after this request. The sign to the unbeliever remains essentially the death of Christ and His resurrection according to the Scriptures. Now, critics tell us, Jesus was crucified on Friday morning, died at about 3.00 p.m. and was laid in the grave before the feast day began, i.e. before the setting of the sun. That allows at best the days of Friday and Saturday (two), because on Sunday before sunrise, Christ had already arisen. He was in the grave during the night from Friday to Saturday and from Saturday to Sunday, so we cannot make up the figure of three days. We are dealing with a difficult question, for it requires the reader's appreciation of the customs.
First of all with regard to the use of language, we must realise that the words "days and nights" were always used with the identical number ("three days and three nights" or "Forty days and forty nights" etc., and never for instance "three nights and two days" or "Five days and four nights"). Consequently the Hebrew idiom "yom-layelah" corresponds to our use of the word "a day", meaning 24 hours or part thereof. (See also: Jonah 1:17; I Sam. 3:12; Job 2:13; Gen. 7:4; Exo. 24:18, 34:28; Deut. 9:9-10,18,25, 10:10, 28:66; I Kings 19:8 and Matth. 4:2).
A day began with the setting of the sun, i.e. about 6 p.m. Jesus was dead by 3 p.m. on Friday. This is considered a day. He was dead and "in the heart of the earth" the whole of Saturday, which would be the second day, and rose probably halfway through the third day, i.e. at sunrise on Sunday, which constitutes the third day. That He rose on the third day is confirmed in several places in the New Testament (Luke 24:21, I Cor. 15:4 etc.).
To substantiate this we read in the book 'Esther' and find the passage where Esther says to Mordecai: "... hold a fast on my behalf ... for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do ... On the third day ... Esther said, 'If it please the king, let the king ... come this day to a dinner that I have prepared for the king." (Esther 4:16-5:5). They fasted three days but had dinner on the third day. Likewise the book Tobiah, narrating from the time of the Old Testament (± BC 200) reads (3:12-13): "At such words she went into an upper room in the house and did not eat and drink three days and three nights, and continued to pray and weep asking God to keep her from shame (she was accused of murder). Thereafter, on the third day, having completed her prayer, she praised God ..." This coincides with the N.T. reports that Jesus "was raised on the third day" (1 Cor. 15:4 etc).
Islamic objections to the claim of the Universality of Jesus
Muslims have tried their best to deny Christ His universal claim.
The best way of achieving this, has been to demote Him to being a national prophet of Israel. Thus He loses significance for the Gentiles to whom Mohammed claimed to be sent.
Islam argues that Christ repeatedly claimed to be this national prophet:
Here the universality of the Gospel is disputed. Is this claim correct? Why did Jesus Christ stick to the Jews? The answer has its origins in Genesis 12:2:
through Abraham, or more correctly through his seed. This is in the covenant line of Isaac, and this leads to Jesus. In His conversation with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4), Jesus confesses that "salvation is of the Jews." Note: Not "to the Jews"!
Only the Jews could understand the significance of Jesus. No Roman, Indian or Japanese could have accommodated Him, because He was embedded in the history and the inspired writings of Israel alone. The Jews were waiting for Him. He had to be a Jew (Deuteronomy 18:15); he had even to provide His genealogy to prove His descent from the tribe of Judah and the house of David (Genesis 49:10, II Samuel 7:13). So every Jew expected the Messiah, even though they did not recognize Him at His coming.
Only the Jews - and only after they had recognized and understood Him - could proclaim Him universally; hence all the Apostles and almost all the first Christians were Jews. But even they at first, had great difficulty in comprehending this. They proclaimed the Gospel to the Jews only - until God spoke to Peter on the housetop in Joppa (Acts 10); to Saul on the way to Damascus (Acts9) and to Philip in the loneliness of the desert road in the Gaza strip (Acts 8). Even after Christ had given the Great Commission to go to all the world, to bring the Good News to all nations (Matthew 28:19-20), the Apostles preached exclusively to the Jews. Then the Holy Spirit guided them further afield. (See also Acts 1:8, Luke 24:47)
Shortly before His death Jesus told His disciples:
This experience began with Pentecost.
Only after a strange experience at Joppa and in the house of Cornelius were the Apostles able to see the Great Commission in a different light, namely that it was not a national, but universal Gospel.
The next day, as they were on their journey and coming near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. And he became hungry and desired something to eat; but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heaven opened, and something descending, like a great sheet, let down by four corners upon the earth. in it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him, 'Rise. Peter; kill and eat.' But Peter said, 'No, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.' And the voice came to him again a second time, 'What God has cleansed, you must not call common.' This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.
Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision which he had seen might mean, behold, the men that were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon's house, stood before the gate and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, 'Behold, three men are looking for you. Rise and go down, and accompany them without hesitation; for I have sent them.'
After Cornelius had explained to Peter what happened, Peter replied:
Perhaps an illustration will help our understanding. Without an irrigation system a desert has no water; so a dam is constructed. Without pipes or channels, however, the water from the reservoir cannot flow on to the fields. The channels for the life-bringing water were the Jews. Christ called Himself the Water of life. So the Apostles were, likewise, the final sluice-gates which issue the water to the fields that represent the world.
It is consistent that in His lifetime, Christ prepared the channels that would issue the water to the fields. This makes His life universal quite apart from His death. In the early part of His ministry, Christ discerned great faith in a Roman captain. He then said:
When His work was fully accomplished He gave His last order, the Great Commission, as it is known:
To the Muslim reader it may be an additional confirmation to read Sura 21:91: "We made her and her son (Jesus) a sign for all peoples."
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