Responses to Jamal Badawi's "Radio Al-Islam Channel RA 200"

Did Jesus Claim Divinity I : Approach of Study


This is the first segment entitled "Did Jesus Claim Divinity?". In this section, Dr. Badawi will attempt to prove that Jesus is not divine [the Son of God or God incarnate] by quoting passages from the Bible. Many of these arguments are fairly old and were originally formulated and used by Unitarians and Jehovah's Witnesses to attack orthodox Christianity. Another argument used by Badawi is that many "Christians" and "Christian" clerics agree with his interpretation. His definition of "Christian" appears to be very broad, including nearly everyone in the West. Another problem with the "Christian" clerics sited by Badawi, is that they are usually associated with either heretical movements or extremely liberal denominations.

Host: What can we do to avoid the problems of misinterpretation of the Bible as non Christians as non Muslims have interpreted the Qur'an?

Jamal Badawi: Of course it is only human that I would understand the Bible a little differently than the Christian, and the Qur'an, there is some evidence of different perception. I will try to be as less biased as you will, although I can not be 100%. I will not make any quotation of that which is not in the Bible, I am not going to give a partial quotation that gives a partial meaning, I am not going to quote something differently to distort...., nor am I am I trying to Islamize the language or try to explain the terms of the Bible in Arabic as some have done with the Qur'an. I invite the viewers to keep tract of everything that I am saying to jot down the Biblical references and check if they are honest quotations . The references that I am making are to the Revise Standard Version. I think that there is a big difference here because many of the Christian writers and missionaries who have quoted the Qur'an took advantage of the fact that many western have no ready access to the Qur'an nor are they aware that the Qur'an exists in its original language. The readers have ready access to the Bible.

Fortunately, we have ready and easy access to both Christian and Islamic texts. Historically, Muslims have not had easy access to the Bible, in fact, the Bible is virtually illegal in some Muslim countries today! Muhammad was able to pass off apocryphal tales as the truth because the Arabs, those who were literate, had few readily available New Testament texts at that point in history.

Host: How about the question of explaining the Bible according to Qur'anic terms, what problems should be avoided?

Jamal Badawi: These can be avoided if we try to quote the Bible in the context of other verses in the Bible and not the Qur'an, like Christians do with the Logos in the Qur'an and this will be obvious when will deal with the titles of Jesus in the Bible , like the Son of God, Messiah, Lord when we come to that, I will be referring to the context of the Bible and not to the context of the Qur'an. Of course, there are cases where two different verses of the Bible may not be consistent, may be two different messages sent, or delivered and this is a problem relating to the Bible itself and it has nothing to do with the references, if there is a problem of inconsistency, it is not because of my interpretation of the Bible, it is a problem of the language and references themselves. I hope that we will be discussing that in the Bible itself, within the context, if there is any reference in the Qur'an, it will be very limited.

We should always quote the texts [the Bible and Qur'an] within the context in which they were written. We will see how well Dr. Badawi does with his own injunction.

Host: Another problem, even if your references are Biblical, that you can't... as a Muslim.

Jamal Badawi: This reminds me of a conversation that I had with a friend of mine in the National Council of Churches is a theologian, the discussion we had was to determine whether Jesus ever claimed to be divine. In my presentation, I gave the evidence from the Bible. And then his turn came to make a comment, and he said that he had no problems with my explanation of the Biblical references at one point he said that some Christian theologians would interpret it the same way. They said they said that the presentation was influenced by his background as a Muslim and some of the audience said yes but he has presented this as a Muslim but you yourself said that Christian theologians would use the same references and present it in the same way. The way may differ but not the content. Let me clarify two points:

1. If by saying that a person is influenced by his background, the same exists when a Christian reads the Bible. Christians pre-suppose what the Bible says.

2. Everything that I will say has been stated by Christians in the hierarchy of different churches.

First, the National Council of Churches, as well as the World Council of Churches, is a very liberal collection of denominations with a wide variety of beliefs, some are orthodox and some are liberal. The beliefs of many liberal theologians are heretical to both Christians and Muslims. For example, many who deny the divinity of Jesus also deny His virgin birth as well as His miracles.

Second, Christians do not pre-suppose anything without proof. The Old Testament gives us many prophecies concerning the Messiah - all of which were fulfilled by Jesus. Jesus, unlike Muhammad, came to us with witnesses and proof concerning His identity.

Host: Do you have values of proofs for the divinity of Jesus as classified by Christian theologians and clergymen?

Jamal Badawi: There are five basic classifications:

1. Claims the Jesus was divine by the testimonies of others. 2. What Jesus claimed for himself 3. What evidence from his deeds and life to show that his miracles show him divine 4. The nature of the message and mission 5. The proof of the personal experience or mystery

Host: Can you explain the nature of the argument?

Jamal Badawi: The evidence is based on New Testament literature.

They say that Jesus was divine because according to Matthew 7:28-29 teaching was speaking with authority that was different than the scribes and that was unique.

When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

I am not aware of anyone who uses this passage as sole proof of the divinity Jesus. It is, however, interesting to note that the Greek word for "authority" in this passage [exousia] can also be translated as "power", "right", or "jurisdiction". In any event, this passage implies that the "teachers of the law" did not have this "authority", "power", "right", or "jurisdiction".

John 7:45-46 The soldiers reported that they never say a man speak like that, that's not human.

Finally the temple guards went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why didn't you bring him in?" "No one ever spoke the way this man does," the guards declared.

Once again, I am not aware of anyone who believes that this passage alone proves the divinity of Jesus. These words were the noble testimony of unsophisticated men who probably knew very little about the law and theology.

Paul said in him all the fullness of deity dwells bodily - Colossians 2:9

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,

Finally, Dr. Badawi gives us a passage which gives evidence for the divinity of Jesus! Incidentally, the Greek term for Deity [theotes] means the Essence and Nature of God, not merely the divine perfections and attributes of Divinity [Greek, "theiotes"]. In other words, Jesus as man, was not merely God-like, but He was God in the fullest sense. The "bodily form" refers to Jesus as the incarnate word (John 1:14,18).

Paul said that in the name of Jesus every knee shall bow - Philippians 2:6

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,

Paul said that Jesus is God manifest in flesh - 1 Timothy 3:16

if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God's household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.

Paul said that Jesus was the image of God Colossians 1:15-17

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

John said that in the beginning there was the Word and the Word was with God - John 1:1-2

Most of these references are made to Paul who never saw Jesus during His ministry, and John whose Gospel has been questioned by Biblical scholars. These were compiled by some clergy at the University of Indiana in a debate.

You question Paul, yet you believe the words of Muhammad who lived long after Jesus? Paul's messages DO NOT contradict the teachings of Jesus or the Old Testament, Muhammad's teachings contradict both! Also, which Bible scholars question the authenticity of the Gospel of John?

Some of the references do not show divinity, if you say that Jesus was speaking with authority, it means that he was unique as a prophet and messenger of Allah, and was different from the scribes whom he called hypocritical. Unique is not divine.

And no one said that this passage alone proved divinity. This is a "straw man" argument!

Some say that Jesus was the image of God. In Genesis Adam is in the image of God according to the Bible but no one is saying that Adam is divine. But even if we assume that some clear statements were said by the followers of Jesus, did the name of the follower appear on the book? This is another suspicion.

Adam was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), Jesus was the Word of God made flesh. Also, what difference does it make if we have a signed [by the author] copy of the book?

Suppose that there is a verse that says Jesus is the Son of God, or Trinity, suppose 100 persons came to you and said that a man was God in human form, does that testimony sufficient proof? I would first have to ascertain if the person himself claimed that, this is very important because many people in history have been deified by their followers and never claimed to be God. Rama never claimed to be divine. Was the saying recorded in his time or is it heresay? Even if we say that he claimed to be God and the reports are accurate even then you couldn't justify the claim without clarification, we should find out why he claims to be anything but a creature of God.

We are very fortunate that God, throughout history, has loved His creation - even though we do not deserve His love. He has sent us Prophets who proved their Prophetic credentials through performing miracles and giving us prophecies [detailed predictions of events that came to pass]. The Prophets revealed God's plan of salvation for the human race which points to the death and resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament and fulfilled God's plan of salvation. Would I believe 100 people who claimed that a man was God? No, I would not believe in something which contradicted the teachings and prophecies of the Prophets of God. That is also why I do not accept the "Prophethood" of Muhammad. He brought us no proofs [miracles and/or prophecies] and he contradicted most of God's Prophets.

Host: What did Jesus say about himself and how do we know that he actually said that?

Jamal Badawi: Jesus said that he and the father are one, that he is the way the truth and the life and no one comes to the father except through him, that whoever has seen him has seen God - these quotations are used as evidence. How do we know that this proves or disproves divinity? The answer relates to how the New Testament literature has been written, what languages, translations, conditions under which they wrote, purpose of what they wrote, evidence of chain of narration evidence of editing? We will assume for the sake of discussion that we will accept the text of the Bible as it is today, even if we make this assumption we fail to find any verse that Jesus says that I am God incarnate, I am the Son of God. The Bible is consistent that there is one God, so this should be clear. Based on the Bible itself, I will show that it cannot be interpreted this way.

What other Prophet ever said that he was the way, the truth, and the life? Also, how can you trust the "chain of narration" of the Qur'an and Ahadith? You might want to read A `Perfect' Qur'an OR "So it was made to appear to them"? for a reality check.

Andrew Vargo

Responses to Jamal Badawi's "Radio Al-Islam Channel RA 200"
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