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

Trinity, Atonement & Blood Sacrifice XXV : Roots of "God Incarnate" 6


In this segment, Dr. Badawi gives us another program which attempts to convince us that Jesus was not God incarnate. Once again, Dr. Badawi calls on Francis Young, and others, who believe in the idea of the "Jesus myth" - which claims that the supernatural (or miracles) does not exist. Therefore, any reference in the Bible (or the Qur'an) to any miracle performed by Jesus indicates that the story is a myth and not an historic fact. The "Jesus myth" was very popular in intellectual circles many years ago. However, historic research and archaeological finding has discredited this hypothesis and few adhere to it today - except for Dr. Badawi!

Host: What are the basic background forces leading to the idea of God incarnate?

Jamal Badawi: Two according to Young: traditional mythology of god who became divine after living on earth as good humans. The second is the ruler-cult language from Egypt, Greece, and Syria. Some say that these myths came after Christianity or that they are not similar. There seems to be a possibility of connection which led to wide spread acceptance from the Greek converts that Jesus the Messiah was an incarnate divine being.

Issue 1: Christians DO NOT claim that Jesus became divine on earth because He lived as a "good human". Jesus, the incarnate Word of God, was divine from the moment of His conception.

Issue 2: Dr. Badawi is correct that many ancient civilizations had ruler cults. That is, they believed that the king or emperor was god, or at least a god. We must be careful when we use sociological or economic interpretations of the human belief in a supreme being because this argument also undermines the Muslim, as well as Christian, belief in God. It can also be argued that Muhammad's success in 7th century Arabia was, in part, the fact that much of his behavior fit into the superstitions and beliefs of that era, especially considering the historical context of Suras 113 and 114.

Host: What examples are there in the Roman environment which could have led to this belief?

Jamal Badawi: Two theories: Divine man (Ruler cult) Young refers to a collection which says that the early titles given to Jesus were similar to the Ruler Cults. Light from the East by Adolf Deissmann which says that an ancient inscription from 48 BC that speaks about Julius Caesar as god, son of god, and overseer of land and sea - similar to New Testament language. In another papyrus, Augustus is called god and lord. Terms like advent and gospel are used. A stone describes the birth of Augustus that he birth was for the world.

The fact that other cultures, even cultures which had no contact with the Christians or Jews of this era, had similar titles for their kings and gods, does not provide evidence that the early Christians, many of whom were Jews, copied these titles and applied them to Jesus.

Host: How do the scholars respond to this?

Jamal Badawi: We have to make a distinction between the religious and historical. We have a coherent connection between the parallels. A critic named Knock Essays on Religion and the Ancient World, he says that the is little indication that these rulers had supernatural power, no evidence that prayers were offered to them, the terminology applied were rather vague. Young answers that nevertheless, the divine language so closely parallels Jesus that it cannot be disregarded.

What is the "coherent connection"? If the average Roman citizen did not honestly believe that the Emperor possessed supernatural powers, then how could those they ruled, in this case the strictly monotheistic and very anti-Roman Jews, copy such an absurd idea?

Host: Is it possible that the Pagan titles were not taken as seriously as they were with Jesus?

Jamal Badawi: Young gives convincing evidence that it was. Josephus said that the Jews suffered torment rather than say Caesar was their master and the same happened to the early Christians. Young concludes that confession of Jesus as Lord was a counter part to the beliefs concerning Caesar.

This is where Badawi's argument self destructs before our very eyes. The Jews and early Christians (many of whom were Jews) suffered torment and often death rather then call Caesar master. Yet many early Christians (many of whom were Jews) also suffered torment and death rather the deny that Jesus Christ was God incarnate! Think about it for a moment. Most of the disciples of Jesus were tortured and put to death, some by stoning, some by crucifixion, while others were torn limb from limb by vicious wild animals in the Roman Coliseum, for public entertainment, rather than deny the divinity of Jesus! Should we believe Dr. Badawi's story that these people did not really understand what Jesus told them, or that so many suffered and died for a lie that they concocted?

Host: What about Young's second theory?

Jamal Badawi: Young refers to divine men which existed in the Greek world. L Bieler collected data that says that some were between men and gods, the oldest Gospel of Mark seemed to use this when he called Jesus a divine man. While this theory was criticized, the striking analogies cannot be dismissed. Young concludes that one can not dismiss this. The similarity between the Gospel account and Romulus, even though it is difficult to establish the connection other first century people produced similar stories.

Once again, Jesus did not become divine, He was also divine. Mark called Jesus the Son of God in the very beginning of his Gospel.

Host: Are there any other possible origins for the Christian creed suggested by Young?

Jamal Badawi: These stories are the context from which the stories emerged. In the Greco-Roman world, there were terms used by the mystery religions which provided salvation through a dying and rising god. Paul's God incarnate language is similar to the Gnostic myth. Was Paul influenced by or did he influence the Gnostics? Instead of studying this where there is no conclusive evidence, he looked at the Jewish roots from which Christianity split latter. Paul was the first witness to the notion of a supernatural being coming to earth. It is difficult to say that Paul was not influenced by the mystery religions. What religion did Christianity emerge? Was it monolithic, without ancient religious influences? The answer is no.

The issue of the dying and rising god was discussed in another segment. Most of this information was based on Dr. Badawi's rather sloppy analysis of T.W. Doane's work. For more information on this topic, please read ...was Jesus Christ just a CopyCat Savior Myth?. Jesus very clearly said that He was divine in many passages of the Bible, which we have discussed at length in this series and we have also seen Dr. Badawi's attempts to twist the word of the Lord or claim that they were "inserted". I also doubt that Paul, who was a very devout and conservative Jewish scholar, was greatly influenced by the mystery religions of the Roman Empire. In response to Badawi's statement about Christianity not being "monolithic", can we say that any religion is truly "monolithic" with universal agreement among all of its members on all issues?

Host: Did he give any evidence?

Jamal Badawi: Yes, the term son of God is common in the Jewish religion. Son of God described the ideal King Messiah. The Dead Sea scrolls show the same language was used to describe some human being. In the books between the Old and New Testaments, the term was also used to refer to wise men. In later Jewish literature the term referred to heavenly beings. Even the Jewish philosopher Philo, we find Logos is called the son of God and first born. The Jews used the term for those who were God-like.

No. Philo's Logos was an ambiguous and impersonal power. John's Logos was very well defined in the form of Jesus Christ, who was a very personal power. There is no historical evidence that John knew of Philo's concept of the Logos.

Host: If we are all the children of God how does this relate to Young's argument?

Jamal Badawi: Son of God and son is a distinction in action, not nature. The Son of God would be chosen to fulfill God but this applies to angels and other humans. We cannot trace the influence of Greek thought, there are parallels with the Jewish mystic rulers as divine people. This relates to the issue of how the Jews used the term son of God. The Jews were relatively unaffected by Greek thought.

The title "son of God" was used for other people in the Bible. As with all terms, we must be careful to read the context in which the terms is used. In the case of Jesus, the title “Son of God” is very different the term "son of God" which is used elsewhere, mostly in the Old Testament. For more information on this issue, please read this article.

I also found Dr. Badawi's claim that the "Jews were relatively unaffected by Greek thought" rather entertaining after he has spent so much time and effort attempting to convince use that the early Christians, many of whom were Jews, borrowed so many myths from Greco-Roman culture!

Host: How did Young arrive at his conclusion?

Jamal Badawi: The Jews were not entirely isolated. They appears to be some development in the Jewish faith about the ascension of Enoch. Moses is presented as a law giver and miracle worker but was seen as a god by the Egyptians. When Moses was going to embrace the Jews it appears that he disappeared. Philo said that a divine spirit fell on Moses before his ascension.

First Dr. Badawi tells us that the "Jews were relatively unaffected by Greek thought" and now he tells us "The Jews were not entirely isolated" - which is it? I also find it interesting that Dr. Badawi believes that the Egyptians saw Moses as a god when he was never the Pharaoh! Moses fled Egypt because he killed an Egyptian who was harshly punishing a Hebrew slave, there is no mystery about that!

Andrew Vargo

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