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

Trinity, Atonement & Blood Sacrifice XXIV : Roots of "God Incarnate" 5


In this segment, Dr. Badawi repeats many of his previous arguments implying that the idea that Jesus was God incarnate came from Pagan sources. There is very little new information here, however, some of Badawi's remarks are so inaccurate and incorrect that we must address them.

Host: What were Goulder's conclusions?

Jamal Badawi: The Samaritans were an established community before Christ and did not need to borrow from the Dead Sea scrolls. They had powerful influence in the early Church and introduced doctrines of knowledge and wisdom, de-emphasized the humanity of Jesus and realized eschatology. Goulder concludes that this historical study does not negate divine activity in history but makes the old models implausible. Jesus did not return. The Samaritan eschatology of the incarnation is also speculative and these two cannot be combined. The creation of a myth which was believable in the past was important, he was a Catholic theologian, but are not believable now. He believes that Christianity should be reformulated. He rejected the concept of God incarnate.

I am not sure of the point that Dr. Badawi is attempting to make with the statement that the Samaritans did not need to borrow from the Dead Sea Scrolls. I do not believe that Goulder made such a claim. There is a claim that Luke borrowed from the Dead Sea Scroll's "Q" Manuscript (see Mark S. Goodacre, (1996), p. 158). Goulder's main argument is that the resurrection account of Jesus is a type of Midrash, or allegorical story that was accepted as the literal truth by Christianity as it moved away from itsí Jewish roots. Goulder may not have negated divine activity, however, he tends to dismiss any accounts of miracles without analysis. Also, a minor point is that Michael Goulder was an Anglican Minister, not a Roman Catholic Theologian.

Host: Do other theologians have opinions that differ from Goulder?

Jamal Badawi: Not really, Francis Young does not contradict him he says that Goulder focuses on two specific roots : the Galileen and Samaritan. Young adds that there are other roots such as the Greco-Roman environment.

There are no theologians who disagree with Goulder and/or Young? This is complete nonsense, and essentially repeats the argument made by John Shelby Spong! In his book Liberating the Gospels, Spong writes:

It is fair to say that Michael Goulder is not a power in religious or ecclesiastical circles. Indeed, his work is generally ignored by that world. One reason is that his books are not written for popular consumption. They will never be part of the table talk of ordinary folk. They are closely argued...They are also challenging to the orthodoxy of the contemporary religious consensus. Since they are not likely, therefore, to come to public attention, the traditional theological "defenders of the faith" do not have to deal with Goulder's arguments and insights." (p.xi-xii)

This is simply not true! N.T. Wright and James D. G. Dunn have refuted both Goulder and Spong. An on-line response was written by Brent Hardaway who says:

There is, of course, another possibility, and that is that Goulder's ideas are nonsense and serious scholars don't want to waste time, paper, ink refuting them.

Host: Where does Goulder begin to discover these roots?

Jamal Badawi: He began with the writings of Origen, who looked at Celsus who objected to Christian beliefs. Young noticed that Origen's reply appeals to parallels in terms of Pagan stories to prove his point. Celsus did not see this as strange to believe in the incarnation of God in human form but he did not accept that he would be born or die. Young concluded that in this cultural climate the idea of incarnation was acceptable.

Issue 1: Origen

Origen responded to Celsus some 80 years after Celsus made his claims and one of the major issues was the nature of the supernatural acts of Jesus. Celsus did not deny these, he simply claimed that they were either myths or magic tricks. Origen presented his arguments against this position. Origen was a somewhat mystical man and had a tendency to allegorize his arguments, however, he did not appeal to Paganism to defend Christian beliefs!

Issue 2: Celsus

Celsus was probably this first major critic of Christianity and many of his arguments are used today, especially by Dr. Badawi. Celsus became the father of the "stolen myth argument" when he compared the virgin birth of Jesus with the stories of virgin births in Danae and the Melanippe, and Auge and the Antiope, and claimed that Christianity was just another version of these. Incidentally Dr. Badawi, Celsus said that the story of Noah, is a "debased and nonsensical version of the myth of Deucalion (the Greek version of Noah)." (pp. 57, 80). I wonder how far Dr. Badawi wants to accept Celsus' arguments? Is all of the Bible a myth, or only the parts that do not agree with what Badawi believes?

It is also interesting to note that Celsus never argued against the existence of Jesus or the fact that Jesus claimed divinity, - he takes both of these for granted. This suggest, in contradiction to what Dr. Badawi has been telling us, that such arguments were either never used, or else if they were used, they were so poor that Celsus, the major critic of Christianity at the time, could not make use of them! To learn more about Celsus, please read this article.

Host: What was the basis of his argument?

Jamal Badawi: He refers to Lucian who speaks about someone who flung himself into the flames and after that there was an earthquake and someone said I am through with the earth and to Olympus I go. Goulder says that this man was the transfiguration of Persus. The second example is Appollonius who entered the temple and disappeared and voices were heard saying hasten though to heaven and his remains were never discovered and he was immortal. To claim that these stories were imitations of the NT is not a good explanation. The culture was continuous back then.

Host: What clues was Young referring to?

Jamal Badawi: He speaks about divine parentage of Plato which existed before the New Testament. The story of Plato was not the only one, Pythaogoras was an incarnated son of a god. Alexander the Great was considered the son of Zeus. Romulus was of divine origin who was god's son who disappeared. In Act 14:11 we read about Paul and Barnabas and how the people thought that they were Roman gods. The Priest of Zeus brought oxen and garlands to them.

Host: Are there other examples of these roots close to the advent of Jesus?

Jamal Badawi: In 60 BC, people said that Cicero was a divine man who came from heaven, in 40 BC Virgil wrote about the arrival of the Golden Age associated with the birth of a child called the offspring of the gods. Augustus said that he was sent by god to be a sign of the incarnate.

Once again, is the Bible only a myth when it disagrees with Dr. Badawi's beliefs? This is intellectually inconsistent and dishonest since, if the accounts presented in the Bible are mythical (i.e. the virgin birth of Jesus), then the Qur'an suffers from the same fault.

Andrew Vargo

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