The Resolution to the Smokescreens of Usman Sheikh & Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi
MENJ (Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi) has tried once again to convince readers that there are contradictions in the Gospel birth narratives by attempting to respond to our rebuttal, this time by enlisting the help of Usman Sheikh.
Essentially ignoring most of what we wrote, the authors repeat the charge that these accounts contradict one another and cannot plausibly be harmonized, adding a few more comments and quotes for good measure. Like the earlier response, the present case against the veracity of the Gospel narratives falls way short of achieving the goal of refuting our harmonization. It seems that MENJ & Co. enjoy being refuted over and over again, delighting in our exposition of their inability to write an article with substance.
The authors begin:
Problems & Flaws In Harmonization
We would like to know how the author of Matthew invented some of the stories concerning the birth of Jesus(P). Matthew used certain key events in the Jewish Bible and and [sic] used them to relate the story of his Jesus(P). According to Matthew, the family of Matthew's Jesus flees to Egypt in order to escape the arath [sic] of Herod "in order to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, 'Out of Egypt I have called my Son'" (2:15). The quotation comes from the book of Hosea 11:1 and refers to the Exodus of the children of Israel from their bondage in Egypt. The author of Matthew in order to make it possible for his Jesus to go to Egypt to show that his Jesus "fills" this event with meaning. Similarly, Matthew has his Jesus born in Bethlehem because this is what was "predicted" by the prophet Micah (2:6) [sic].
A male child is born to Jewish parents, a tyrant ruler (Herod) learns of this and sets out to destroy him. The child is supernaturally protected from harm and is taken to Egypt. He then leaves Egypt to pass through the waters (of baptism) and goes into wilderness to be tested for a long time. Later he goes up on a mountain and delivers God's law to those who have been following him.
We see that Matthew had shaped the stories pertaining to Jesus(P) to "show" that Jesus'(P) life was a fulfillment of the stories of Moses(P) (see Exodus 1-20). Matthew's target market was the Jewish readers. Herod is made into a Pharoah [sic] like ruler, Jesus's [sic] baptism is like Moses(P) crossing the Red Sea, the forty days of temptation are like the forty years the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, and the sermon on the mount is like the law of Moses delievered [sic] on Mount Sinai. Jesus(P) is therefore portrayed by Matthew as the "new" Moses, come to set his people free from their bondage and give them new law and teachings. In order to present this picture of Jesus(P), the author of Matthew had to colour the traditions he used. Therefore not everything within his gospel is historical.
The authors have conveniently ignored our response to the claim that Matthew "shaped" the story of Jesus in order to fit OT history. As we had indicated the evidence demonstrates that Matthew accurately recorded the birth and life of Jesus. Matthew saw how the life of Jesus paralleled OT events.
The only way Matthew could make up events in the life of Jesus and get away with it is if he were writing at a time when no eyewitnesses were present who could contest these stories. The major problem for taking this position is that both the internal and external evidence points to Matthew being written at a time when both the hostile and friendly eyewitnesses were alive and present.
For instance, even liberal scholarship places the composition of Matthew somewhere between 80-90 A.D., some 50-60 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection (a date contested by more conservative scholars since the evidence points to Matthew being composed much earlier). Yet even this date does not allow enough time for an author to fabricate material and get away with it.
As authors Josh McDowell and Bill Wilson say in response to the form critics assertion that the Gospels contain legendary embellishments:
One of the major criticisms of oral tradition development is that the period of oral tradition (as defined by the critics) is not long enough to have allowed the alterations in the tradition. Speaking of the brevity of the time element involved in the writing of the New Testament, Simon Kistemaker, professor of Bible at Dordt College, writes:
Normally, the accumulation of folklore among people of primitive culture takes many generations; it is a gradual process spread over the centuries of time. But in conformity with the thinking of the form critic, we must conclude that the gospel stories were produced and collected within little more than one generation. In terms of the form-critical approach, the formation of the individual gospel units must be understood as a telescoped project with accelerated course of action. (KiS.G 48-49)
A.H. McNeile, former Regius Professor of Divinity at the University of Dublin, challenges form critics concept of oral tradition. He points out that form critics do not deal with the tradition of Jesus words as closely as they should. A careful look at 1 Corinthians 7:10, 12 and 25 shows the careful preservation and the existence of a genuine tradition of recording these words. In the Jewish religion it was customary for a student to memorize a rabbis teaching. A good pupil was like "a plastered cistern that loses not a drop" (Mishna, Aboth, 2, 8). If we rely on C.F. Burneys theory (in The Poetry of Our Lord, 1925), we can assume that much of the Lords teaching is in Aramaic poetical form, making it easy to be memorized. (McA.IS 54)
Analyzing form criticism, Albright [Sam- The late renowned archaeologist William F. Albright] wrote: "Only modern scholars who lack both historical method and perspective can spin such a web of speculation as that with which form critics have surrounded the gospel tradition." Albrights own conclusion was that "a period of twenty to fifty years is too slight to permit of any appreciable corruption of the essential content and even of the specific wording of the sayings of Jesus." (AIW.FSA 297-98) (McDowell & Wilson, He Walked Among Us Evidence for the Historical Jesus [Thomas Nelson Publishers-Nashville TN, 1993], p. 111)
Seeing that the authors like to appeal to the opinions of scholars in support of their claims, we too shall appeal to scholars responding to the opinions and claims of their sources. The following list of scholars that contest the claims of form criticism and Gospel redactionism is taken from Josh McDowell & Bill Wilsons book, unless stated otherwise. Any bold, underlined and/or capital emphasis is ours:
Concerning the primary-source value of the New Testament records, F.F. Bruce, former Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester, says:
And it was not only friendly eyewitnesses that the early preachers had to reckon with; there were others less well disposed who were also conversant with the main facts of the ministry and death of Jesus. The disciples could not afford to risk inaccuracies (not to speak of willful manipulation of the facts), which would at once be exposed by those who would be only too glad to do so. On the contrary, one of the strong points in the original apostolic preaching is the confident appeal to the knowledge of the hearers; they not only said, "We are eyewitnesses of these things"; but also, "As you yourselves know" (Acts 2:22). Had there been any tendency to depart from the facts in any material respect, the possible presence of hostile witnesses in the audience would have served as a further corrective. (BrF.NTD 16ff., 33)
Lawrence J. McGinley of Saint Peters College comments on the value of hostile witnesses in relationship to recorded events:
First of all, eyewitnesses of the events in question were still alive when the tradition had been completely formed; and among those eyewitnesses were bitter enemies of the new religious movement. Yet the tradition claimed to narrate a series of well-known deeds and publicly taught doctrines at a time when false statements could, and would be challenged. (McLFC 25)
New Testament scholar Robert Grant of the University of Chicago concludes:
At the time they [the synoptic gospels] were written or may be supposed to have been written there were eyewitnesses and their testimony was not completely discarded This means that the gospels must be regarded as largely reliable witnesses to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. (GraR.HI 302) (pp. 115-116)
Combining the presence of eyewitnesses with the short time period, E.B. Redlich, himself a form critic, states:
In point of fact, it is another weakness of form criticism that it sits too lightly on the results of literary criticism and assumes that the formative period lasted about two generations of forty years. Thus, in their investigations there is a tendency to overlook the presence and influence of those who were eyewitnesses and earwitnesses of the events of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and could therefore guarantee the historical value of the tradition. (ReE.FC 15-16)
James Martin, New Testament professor at Union Theological Seminary, Richmond, Virginia, emphasizes:
There was no time for the gospel story of Jesus to have been produced by legendary accretion. The growth of legend is always a slow and gradual thing. But in this instance the story of Jesus was being proclaimed, substantially as the gospels now record it, simultaneously with the beginning of the Church. (MarJ.RG 103-4) (p. 130)
James Martin adds:
There can be little doubt that, if the Christians had been guilty of inconsistency in the repetition of their tradition, their enemies would have been able to rout them ignominiously from the field, making them a public laughingstock and effectively ensuring that their preaching would have no impact on the minds of any who heard it. (MarJ.RG 68) (p. 142)
The work of the early Christian community, then, was to communicate, not create, the words and deeds of Jesus. In this communication process, as noted University of Cambridge New Testament scholar C.F.D. Moule recognized, "the synoptic gospels represent primarily the recognition that a vital element in evangelism is the plain story of what happened in the ministry of Jesus." (MoCF.IE 175-176) Thus, the role of eyewitnesses became extremely important and it has been overlooked or ignored by most form critics. Biblical studies professors Robert Thomas and Stan Gundry charge:
In effect, form critics see Christianity as cut off from its founder and His disciples by an inexplicable ignorance. The new sect had to invent situations for the words of Jesus and put into His mouth words that memory could not check and that He may not have said. But still living in those early days were leaders and disciples who had heard and seen what they recounted (Acts 2:1-4). The form critic either forgets or ignores the fact that Jesus had a surviving mother and followers who had many vivid memories of His life and ministry. There is no reason to suppose that the individuals mentioned in Mark 3:31-35, 4:10, 15:40, and 16:1-8 would not have remembered these things. (ThR.H 282)
Vincent Taylor recognized:
If the form critics are right, the disciples must have been translated to heaven immediately after the resurrection. As Bultmann sees it, the primitive community exists in vacuo, cut off from its founder by the walls of an inexplicable ignorance. (TaV.FGT/33 41) (p. 137)
Renowned NT and Evangelical scholar D.A. Carson writes:
This reconstruction has numerous weaknesses. The independent existence of collected testimonia is not certain. There is no evidence of Midrashim written on such a diverse collection of texts (if the collection itself ever existed). The presupposed antithesis between theology and history is false; on the face of it, Matthew records history so as to bring out its theological significance and its relation to Scripture. Matthew writes at so early a time that if Jesus had not been born in Bethlehem this claim would have been challenged. We are dealing with decades, not the millennium and a half separating Moses from Josephus. (The Expositors Bible Commentary with the New International Version, Matthew, Mark, Luke, Frank E. Gaebelein general editor [Zondervan, Grand Rapids MI, 1984], p. 83; underlined emphasis ours)
Carson responds to the charge that Matthew invented the Jesus story around OT events:
Some argue that the (to us) artificial way these chapters cite the OT shows a small concern for historicity. The reverse argument is surely more impressive: If the events of Matthew 1-2 do not relate easily to the OT texts, this attests their historical credibility, for no one in his right mind would invent "fulfillment" episodes problematic to the texts being fulfilled. The fulfillment texts, though difficult, do fit into a coherent pattern (cf. Introduction, section 11.b, and below on 1.22-23). More importantly, their presence shows that Matthew sees Jesus as one who fulfills the OT. This not only sets the stage for some of Matthews most important themes; it also means that Matthew is working from a perspective on salvation history that depends on before and after, prophecy and fulfillment, type and antitype, relative ignorance and progressive revelation. This has an important bearing on our discussion of midrash, because whatever else Jewish midrash may be, it is not related to salvation history or fulfillment schemes. Add to the foregoing considerations the fact that, wherever chapters 1-2 can be tested against known background of Herod the Great, MATTHEW PROVES RELIABLE (see details below). There is a good case for treating chapters 1-2 as both history and theology. (pp. 72-73; underlined and capital emphasis ours)
Commenting on Matthews use of Hosea 11:1, Carson notes:
If Hosea 11:1 refers to Israels Exodus from Egypt, in what sense can Matthew mean that Jesus return to the land of Israel "fulfilled" this text? Four observations clarify the issue.
1. Many have noticed that Jesus is often presented in the NT as the antitype of Israel or, better, the typological recapitulation of Israel. Jesus temptation after forty days of fasting recapitulated the forty years trial of Israel (see on 4:1-11). Elsewhere, if Israel is the vine that does not bring forth the expected fruit, Jesus, by contrast, is the True Vine (Isa 5; John 15). The reason Pharaoh must let the people of Israel go is that Israel is the Lords son (Exod 4:22-23), a theme picked up by Jeremiah (31:9) as well as Hosea (cf. also Ps 2:6, 12). The "son" theme in Matthew (cf. esp. T. de Kruijf, Der Sohn des lebendigen Gottes: Ein Beitrag zur Christologie des Matthausevangeliums [Rome: BIP, 1962], pp. 56-58, 109), already present since Jesus is messianic "son of David" and, by the virginal conception, Son of God becomes extraordinarily prominent in Matthew (see on 3:17): "This is my Son whom I love."
2. The verb to "fulfill" has broader significance than mere one-to-one prediction (cf. Introduction, section 11.b; and comments on 5:17). Not only in Matthew but elsewhere in the NT, the history and laws of the OT are perceived to have prophetic significance (cf. 5:17-20). The Epistle to the Hebrews argues that the laws regarding the tabernacle and the sacrificial system were from the beginning designed to point toward the only Sacrifice that could really remove sin and the only Priest who could serve once and for all as the effective Mediator between God and man. Likewise Paul insists that the Messiah sums up his people in himself. When David was anointed king, the tribes acknowledged him as their bone and flesh (2 Sam 5:1), i.e., David as anointed king summed up Israel, with the result that his sin brought disaster on the people (2 Sam 12, 24). Just as Israel is Gods son, so the promised Davidic Son is also the Son of God (2 Sam 7:13-14; cf. N.T. Wright, "The Paul of History," Tyndale Bulletin 29 ; esp. 66-67). "Fulfillment" must be understood against the background of these interlocking themes and their typological connections.
3. It follows, therefore, that the NT writers do not think they are reading back into the OT things that are not already there germinally. This does not mean that Hosea had the Messiah in mind when he penned Hosea 11:1. This admission prompts W.L. Lasor ("Prophecy, Inspiration, and Sensus Plenior," Tyndale Bulletin 29 ; 49-60) to see in Matthews use of Hosea 11:1 an example of sensus plenior, by which he means a "fuller sense" than what was in Hoseas mind, but something nevertheless in the mind of God. But so blunt an appeal to what God has absolutely hidden seems a strange background for Matthews insisting that Jesus exodus from Egypt in any sense fulfills the Hosea passage. This observation is not trivial; Matthew is reasoning with Jews who could say, "You are not playing fair with the text!" A mediating position is therefore necessary.
Hosea 11 pictures Gods love for Israel. Although God threatens judgment and disaster, yet because he is God and not man (11:9), he looks to a time when in compassion he will roar like a lion and his children will return to him (11:10-11). In short Hosea himself looks forward to a saving visitation by the Lord. Therefore his prophecy fits into the larger pattern of OT revelation up to that point, revelation that both explicitly and implicitly points to the Seed of the woman, the Elect Son of Abraham, the Prophet like Moses, the Davidic King, the Messiah. The "son" language is part of this messianic matrix (cf. Willis J. Beecher, The Prophets and the Promise [New York: Thomas Y. Crowell, 1905], pp. 331-335); insofar as that matrix points to Jesus the Messiah and insofar as Israels history looks forward to one who sums it up, then so far also Hosea 11:1 looks forward. To ask whether Hosea thought of Messiah is to ask the wrong question, akin to using a hacksaw when a scalpel is needed. It is better to say that Hosea, building on existing revelation, grasped the messianic nuances of the "son" language already applied to Israel and Davids promised heir in previous revelation so that had he been able to see Matthews use of 11:1, he would not have disapproved, even if messianic nuances were not in his mind when he wrote that verse. He provided one small part of the revelation unfolded during salvation history; but that part he himself understood to be a pictorial representative of divine, redeeming love.
The NT writers insist that the OT can be rightly interpreted only if the entire revelation is kept as it is historically unfolded (e.g., Gal 3:6-14). Hermeneutically this is not an innovation. OT writers drew lessons out of earlier salvation history, lessons difficult to perceive while that history was being lived, but lessons that retrospect would clarify (e.g. Asaph on Ps 78; cf. Matt 13:35). Matthew does the same in the context of the fulfillment of OT hopes in Jesus Christ. We may therefore legitimately speak of a "fuller meaning" than any one text provides. But the appeal should be made, not to some hidden divine knowledge, but to the pattern of revelation up to that time - a pattern not yet adequately discerned. The new revelation may therefore be truly new, yet at the same time capable of being checked against the old.
4. If this interpretation of Matthew 2:15 is correct, it follows that for Matthew Jesus himself is the locus of true Israel. This does not necessarily mean that God has no further purpose for racial Israel; but it does mean that the position of Gods people in the Messianic Age is determined by reference to Jesus, not race. (pp. 91-93)
Since the authors have called into question Matthews account, and hence Herods slaughter of the innocent children, we now quote another eminent NT scholar Ben Witherington:
Before leaving the subject of Jesus birth, one further incident needs to be considered from a historical point of view: the story about the slaughtering of the innocents in Matt. 2:16-18. As we have already seen, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that Herod was paranoid about potential rivals to his throne, and especially so toward the end of his life. At the very least, then, this story is historically plausible. We should also stress that Bethlehem was a very small town, meaning that we should not envision the slaughtering of dozens of children; indeed, one dozen may be the most that would have been involved. Furthermore, it must be remembered that this event, if historical, transpired after the time of Jesus birth and after the visit of the magi, and so presumably after the time when the town was crowded with registrants for the census. It is not an argument against the historicity of this story that Josephus does not mention it. His silence may reflect his ignorance of the matter, which would have been a small-scale action at most. Richardson argues that the account in Matt. 2:3-4 suggests an improbable relationship between Herod, the temple authorities and their scribes, and the Sanhedrin, but in fact, Richardson himself has pointed out that Herod had a firm hand on the temple authorities and the Sanhedrin, and would have had occasion to consult them on religious matters (e.g., he must have done so about the training of the priests for the building of the temple). A Herod who would not scruple at executing some of his own sons would have had few qualms about executing a few Jewish children if one of them was viewed as a potential threat to his throne. Thus, we can only say that while the historical substance of this story cannot be confirmed by outside sources, the essence of the story comports with what we know about Herod and his paranoia. Even the story about the flight into Egypt gains plausibility when we compare Herods story, for at one juncture, as previously noted, HE DID THE SAME. (Witherington, New Testament History A Narrative Account [Baker Academic, A division of Baker Book House; November 2001, ISBN: 0801022932], p. 72; bold and capital emphasis ours)
D.A. Carson concurs:
Many commentators think that this account [Sam- Matt. 2:13-15] has been created to flesh out the OT text said to be "fulfilled" (v. 15). On the broader crucial questions, see introductory comments at 1:18-25 and 2:1-12. Granted what we know of Herods final years, there is nothing historically improbable about this account; and precisely because the fulfillment text is difficult, one may assume that the story called forth reflection on the OT text rather than vice versa. (p. 90; underlined emphasis ours)
In conclusion, there is little evidence that the NT writers tried to rewrite the life of Jesus in a way that resembled OT peoples and events, let alone inventing whole events that did not take place.
On the other hand, we find that Muhammad rewrote the story of the prophets in a major different way. Instead of writing out his life in imitation of the OT prophets, Muhammad changed the stories of the prophets and made their lives resemble his own! See the article I am ALL the Prophets for details.
This accounts for why much of the stories of the prophets are garbled up and do not closely follow the more accurate, biblical accounts of their lives.
Finally, the authors criticisms of the Gospels are one of the greatest indications of their inconsistency and of their using a double standard. The authors believe that the Quran contains accurate narrations on the lives of the biblical prophets, despite all the evidence to the contrary, even though it was written hundreds to thousands of years after these men lived. The authors reason that since God revealed the Quran the time factor is irrelevant. Yet the authors call into question the Gospels despite their being first century documents, which Christians believe to be inspired! If it is possible for God to reveal accurate history in the Quran, then why couldnt he do the same with the NT documents?
The authors have chosen to reject the inspiration of the Gospels, much as we reject the Quran as Gods revealed word. This means that appealing to their belief in the divine revelation of the Quran does nothing to help their case, but would be a classic case of circular reasoning. The only way the authors can make a rational and historical case for their beliefs is by arguing on the basis that the Quran is an accurate historical document. But this introduces another problem. The Quran maybe an accurate source of information for the time of Muhammad (even that is debatable) but it is not an accurate record of events which transpired in the first century. For that we must turn to the NT documents which are first-century records and the only primary source material on the life of Jesus.
The authors face another monumental problem as far as the transmission of their book is concerned. The information regarding the formation and compilation of the text of the Quran come from sources which were written over one hundred years after Muhammads time, if even that early. This means that the only information the authors have for the compilation of their book come not from the eyewitnesses, but from individuals who didnt know the first Muslims. The authors may claim that the Muslims preserved the information regarding the Quran by oral tradition. If so, this would provide more evidence for their double standard. If oral tradition could accurately preserve information for more than a hundred years, then why couldnt oral tradition accurately preserve the life and teachings of Christ for a shorter period of time seeing that the Gospels werent compiled a hundred years after Jesus resurrection, but within 30-60 years?
In light of the foregoing, we need to ask what kind of report about fulfillment of prophecy would the Muslim authors accept? Assuming Matthew (and the other disciples) saw that events in the life of Jesus were fulfilling elements of OT prophecy, should he tell the story and also give us his interpretation of it (as Matthew did), or should he only tell the story and leave it to the reader to discover the fulfillment? But then MENJ and Co. would still charge him to be cleverer, trying to avoid the charge of fitting the story to the prophecy by not adding the fulfillment explicitly. To them, the fact that the story fits the prophecy is evidence that it was doctored up.
This raises the question: If history _IS_ truly fulfillment of prophecy (and certainly the Muslim authors believe that God can and does give true prophecy), how should it be reported??? If both whether adding or not adding the remark about the fulfillment of prophecy equally results in the charge of fitting the narrative to the OT story, then this means it becomes impossible to report about a fulfillment without being charged with fraud.
This shows that their attack is not based on sound principles of evaluation, but they have decided that Matthew has to be wrong, and then they seek reasons to reject him. This is hardly a scholarly approach, and it only exposes the authors real motives in attacking the Gospels.
The authors continue:
Another point to bear in mind is that if Herod and all within Jerusalem knew of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:3), so much so that Herod would send his army to kill the children of a town to hunt for Jesus (2:16), then why is it that later in his ministry, no one seems to know of his marvelous origin (13:54-55), and Herod's son recalls nothing about him (14:1-2)?
The statement that all Jerusalem was startled over the birth of the King of the Jews and that there was widespread awareness of the King's birth at Bethlehem (Herod, chief priests, scribes, and, to their regret, the people of Bethlehem) conflicts with the Gospel accounts of the public ministry where the people in Nazareth do not know this and are amazed that Jesus has special pretensions (Mark 6:1-6 and par.) and where people in Jerusalem do not know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (John 7:40-42). According to the Synoptic Gospels (Mark 6:14-16 and par.), Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, despite the measures his father is supposed to have taken against Jesus, is perplexed by Jesus and seems to have no previous knowledge of him. A possible explanation may be found for one or the other of these difficulties, but the overall thrust is clearly against historicity.
It is problems like these which are overlooked by the missionaries which is why there are serious implications to be considered if we were to accept their "harmonization" of the birth narratives.
This is perhaps one of the weakest arguments ever posited against the historical veracity of the birth narratives. In fact, it is one of the best examples that the authors have thus far provided exposing their gross misreading and misunderstanding of the texts. The authors gratuitously assume that Herod the Great and his son KNEW FOR CERTAIN that Jesus was the child whom the Magi came to honor. We again quote Matthew in order to demonstrate how the authors provide evidence that they are unable to accurately read passages:
"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him. When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. In Bethlehem in Judea, they replied, for this is what the prophet has written: "But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will be the shepherd of my people Israel." Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, Go and make a careful search for the child. AS SOON AS YOU FIND HIM, REPORT TO ME, SO I TOO MAY GO AND WORSHIP HIM. After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. Get up, he said, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him. So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: Out of Egypt I called my son. WHEN HEROD REALIZED THAT HE HAD BEEN OUTWITTED BY THE MAGI, HE WAS FURIOUS, AND HE GAVE ORDERS TO KILL ALL THE BOYS IN BETHLEHEM AND ITS VICINITY WHO WERE TWO YEARS OLD AND UNDER, IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE TIME HE HAD LEARNED FROM THE MAGI." Matthew 2:1-16
Notice that Herod never discovered the identity of the child AND THIS IS WHY HE HAD ALL THE MALE CHILDREN FROM THE AGE OF TWO AND UNDER KILLED. Had he known the childs identity there would have been no reason to kill the other children. Furthermore, seeing that Herod the Great never knew the exact identity of the child and his family, WHY SHOULD WE THEREFORE EXPECT THAT SOME TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS LATER HEROD ANTIPAS WOULD HAVE KNOWN THAT JESUS WAS THE VERY CHILD WHOM HIS FATHER WAS SEEKING TO KILL?
Thirdly, why would we expect that the people of Nazareth would have known about Jesus miraculous origins or that he was the reason why Herod slaughtered the children in Bethlehem? This assumes that Joseph and Mary went around telling their neighbors that their son was conceived supernaturally without any male intervention and/or that he was the reason that many young boys were killed in Bethlehem!
If the authors had simply read Matthew 2 carefully they would have found their answer:
"After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead. So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: He will be called a Nazarene." Matthew 2:19-23
The preceding shows that the reason why Joseph settled in Nazareth, instead of returning to Bethlehem, was to protect the child from any potential harm. If anything, this shows that Joseph would have kept the birthplace of Jesus, and the circumstances surrounding his life there, a secret from the people in order to protect the childs whereabouts from reaching Herods family.
With the foregoing in mind, we need to ask: Do the authors assume that Joseph and Mary were so dumb having just escaped Herods plot that they would make sure everyone knew about it, including Herods son so that he could finish the job his father left undone?
In light of the above, the authors "rebuttal" only serves the purpose of proving our contention that they cant read their sources carefully and simply fail to apply some common sense to them. So much for using this particular argument against the birth narratives!
The authors continue:
Earlier, we have stated that the missionaries have complained about our having overlooked basic similarities in the two narratives. It should be noted that we do not deny a broad and basic similarity between the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke. However, the differences between the accounts are striking, and as Brown comments, both cannot be factual. Hence one is fictional. To begin with, none of the specific story's of Luke occur in Matthew and vice-versa. In one narrative we find the shepherds whereas in the other we find the Magi, one has the journey to Bethlehem whereas the other to Egypt. One records an angels words to Mary whereas the other narrative records the angels word to Joseph. Hence the Christmas story recounted by Christians every December is a conflation of the two.
Commentators of times past have harmonized these different details into a consecutive narrative, so that the ordinary Christian is often not even aware of a difficulty when Lucan shepherds and Matthean magi fraternize in the Christmas crib scene. But if originally there was one narrative, how did it ever become fragmented into the two different accounts we have now? As I hinted above, the suggestion that Matthew is giving Joseph's remembrance of the events, while Luke is giving Mary's, is just a pious deduction from the fact that Joseph dominates Matthew's account, and Mary dominates Luke's. In point of fact, how could Joseph ever have told the story in Matthew and not have reported the annunciation to Mary? And how could Mary have been responsible for the story in Luke and never have mentioned the coming of the magi and the flight into Egypt?
According to Luke, Joseph and Mary make a trip to Bethlehem in order to register for a census. Mary, who is pregnant, gives birth there (2:1-7) and then they return home after about a month's time (2:39).
Relating the same event, Matthew gave no indication that Joseph and Mary had made a trip from Galilee in order to register for a census. Matthew simply intimates that they originally came from Bethlehem. In the story of the wise men, which is only found in Matthew, they arrive to worship Jesus after making a long journey in which they followed a star that appeared in the heavens to indicate his birth. These men find Jesus(P) in Bethlehem, in a house - not a stable or a cave (2:11). It seems that the house is where Joseph and Mary normally live according to Matthew.
Next we read that Herod sends forth his troops to slaughter every boy in Bethlehem who is 2 years and under (2:16). According to Matthew's account, Joseph and Mary are still in Bethlehem at this time presumably because this is simply where they live.
To continue with the story, Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to escape Herod. Some time after their escape, Joseph learns in a dream that it is safe to return home. Hence he intends to return to the place where he and Mary came from - Bethlehem. However, he learns that the ruler of Judea is now Archelaus, a man worse than his father Herod. Hence he realizes he cannot return home and for this reason Joseph decides to relocate his family in Galilee, in the town of Nazareth (2:22-23). Hence, the impression given is that Joseph and Mary lived in Bethlehem, but relocated to Nazareth and this is where Jesus was raised.
Similarly, in the gospel of Luke, Jesus is born in Bethlehem and raised in Nazareth, however, the way this comes about is very different from the version to be found in Matthew that has been explained above. In Luke's version, Joseph takes Mary from their hometown Nazareth to Bethlehem for a world-wide census ordered by Ceasar Augustus, while Quirinius was governor of Syria (2:1-5). Mary goes to labor while in the town, therefore giving birth to Jesus in Bethlehem. After about a months [sic] time (Luke 2:22-23, 39), the family returns to their home in Nazareth, where Jesus is raised (2:39-40). As one can fully realize, the family's return north in Luke does not seem to allow time for Matthew's wise men to visit them in their home in Bethlehem a year or so later, or for their alleged flight to Egypt.
By again appealing to Brown, the authors think that they will prove their contention that both stories cannot be true. As we had stated in our initial response, unless and until the authors provide concrete facts to support that these accounts are contradictory or cannot both be true, then citing Brown proves absolutely nothing except that they are masters at logical fallacies.
The authors are obviously operating under the erroneous assumption that unless the accounts of Matthew and Luke specifically overlap with each other then they cant be harmonized. It seems that we need to repeat ourselves ad infinitum ad naseum. Just because Matthew and Luke narrate things differently doesnt mean that they are necessarily contradictory. If anything, they are complementary. The different details show that the authors werent copying from each other's birth narratives, which provides support for the veracity of the birth accounts since it rules out collusion.
Here we briefly summarize how the accounts can be easily harmonized. Luke places the story of the shepherds at the time of Jesus birth, whereas the visit of the Magi occurred when Jesus was around two years of age. No contradiction.
Matthew states that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, with Luke giving the details of how the holy family ended up traveling to the place where Jesus was born. Both agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. No contradiction.
Luke shows that God sent his angel to Mary first in order to prepare her for the conception of his Son. Matthew tells us that God then sent an angel to Joseph in order to comfort his heart and insure him that Mary conceived supernaturally without sexual intercourse. And yet both agree that Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit and that Joseph was a Son of David. No contradiction.
It is little wonder that Christians combine both accounts in recounting the story of Jesus birth since they realize that the accounts are harmonious with each other, and blend in quite beautifully. Quoting scholars or refusing to accept the harmonizations due to ones a priori agenda does absolutely nothing to refute these facts.
The authors repeat their error of assuming that the events of Matthew 2 regarding the visit of the magi took place when Jesus was born. The fact that they ignored our exposition showing that their visit took place when Jesus was nearly two years of age, not during his birth, simply shows that the authors have no meaningful response. They simply repeat their emphasis of the differences in the birth accounts as if this proves their contention. Their use of "presumably," "gave no indication," "it seems," "does not seem," speaks more of the authors presuppositions which do not allow for harmonization than it does about the incompatibility of the texts.
The authors continue with their wishful thinking which does nothing to disprove our harmonization. In light of this, we simply ignore it and focus our attention on the authors false book to see if it passes their own test.
The Quranic Birth Narratives
According to S. 3:42-47 a group of angels appeared to Mary to announce the birth of Jesus:
And when the angels (al-malaikatu) said: O Mary! Lo! Allah hath chosen thee and made thee pure, and hath preferred thee above (all) the women of creation. O Mary! Be obedient to thy Lord, prostrate thyself and bow with those who bow (in worship). This is of the tidings of things hidden. We reveal it unto thee (Muhammad). Thou wast not present with them when they threw their pens (to know) which of them should be the guardian of Mary, nor wast thou present with them when they quarrelled (thereupon). (And remember) when the angels (al-malaikatu) said: O Mary! Lo! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a word from him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (unto Allah). He will speak unto mankind in his cradle and in his manhood, and he is of the righteous. She said: My Lord! How can I have a child when no mortal hath touched me? He said: So (it will be). Allah createth what He will. If He decreeth a thing, He saith unto it only: Be! and it is.
Surah 19:16-21 contradicts this since it isn't a group of angels that come, but God's Spirit which announces the Messiah's birth:
And make mention of Mary in the Scripture, when she had withdrawn from her people to a chamber looking East, And had chosen seclusion from them. Then We sent unto her OUR SPIRIT (Roohana) and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man. She said: Lo! I seek refuge in the Beneficent One from thee, if thou art God-fearing. He said: I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a faultless son. She said: How can I have a son when no mortal hath touched me, neither have I been unchaste? He said: So (it will be). Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. And (it will be) that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained.
The authors may claim that the Spirit that spoke was Gabriel who was accompanied by other angels. Sorry to burst their bubble, but there is not a single passage in the entire Quran where Gabriel is identified as the Spirit of God, the faithful Spirit, or the Holy Spirit.
Some Muslims claim that the two passages refer to two different episodes. For example, some Muslims like Shabir Ally claim that Surah 3:42-48 refers to the time when Mary was told that she would eventually conceive a child, whereas in Surah 19:16-21 the Spirit was sent to inform her that the time of conception had arrived (cf. this recording).
The problem with this view is that it would imply that Mary disbelieved God's ability to cause a supernatural birth on two separate occasions. Compare again the narratives:
"Behold! The angels said: 'O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah. He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous.' She said: 'O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?' He said: 'Even so; Allah createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, 'Be,' and it is!'" S. 3:45-47
"He said: 'Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord, (to announce) to thee the gift of a pure son. She said: 'How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?' He said: 'So (it will be): thy Lord saith, "That is easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us". It is a matter (so) decreed.'" S. 19:19-21
Hence, either the authors will accuse Mary of questioning Allahs ability to cause a supernatural conception not once, but twice, despite the fact that the angels explicitly told her the first time that Allah is able to do all that he wills! Or the authors must face the music and admit that these accounts are contradictory.
But it doesnt end there. Note the contradictions in the accounts of John the Baptists birth:
Then Zachariah prayed unto his Lord and said: My Lord! Bestow upon me of Thy bounty goodly offspring. Lo! Thou art the Hearer of Prayer. And the angels called to him as he stood praying in the sanctuary: Allah giveth thee glad tidings of (a son whose name is) John, (who cometh) to confirm a word from Allah lordly, chaste, a prophet of the righteous. He said: My Lord! How can I have a son when age hath overtaken me already and my wife is barren? (The angel) answered: So (it will be). Allah doeth what He will. He said: My Lord! Appoint a token for me. (The angel) said: The token unto thee (shall be) that thou shalt not speak unto mankind three days except by signs. Remember thy Lord much, and praise (Him) in the early hours of night and morning. S. 3:38-41 Pickthall
A mention of the mercy of thy Lord unto His servant Zachariah. When he cried unto his Lord a cry in secret Saying: My Lord! Lo! the bones of me wax feeble and my head is shining with grey hair, and I have never been unblest in prayer to Thee, my Lord. Lo! I fear my kinsfolk after me, since my wife is barren. Oh, give me from Thy presence a successor Who shall inherit of me and inherit (also) of the house of Jacob. And make him, my Lord, acceptable (unto Thee). (It was said unto him): O Zachariah! Lo! We bring thee tidings of a son whose name is John; we have given the same name to none before (him). He said: My Lord! How can I have a son when my wife is barren and I have reached infirm old age? He said: So (it will be). Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me, even as I created thee before, when thou wast naught. He said: My Lord! Appoint for me some token. He said: Thy token is that thou, with no bodily defect, shalt not speak unto mankind three nights. Then he came forth unto his people from the sanctuary, and signified to them: Glorify your Lord at break of day and fall of night. S. 19:2-11 Pickthall
As one carefully examines these parallel passages the following questions should naturally come to mind:
Now the authors can hide behind the excuse that these passages are referring to two separate occasions, but it wont work. Unless, of course, the authors want to believe that on two separate occasions Zechariah was told not to speak for three days.
Here is another birth narrative:
And certainly Our apostles came to Ibrahim with good news. They said: Peace. Peace, said he, and he made no delay in bringing a roasted calf. But when he saw that their hands were not extended towards it, he deemed them strange and conceived fear of them. . They said: Fear not, surely we are sent to Lut's people. And his wife was standing (by), so she laughed, then We gave her the good news of Ishaq and after Ishaq of (a son's son) Yaqoub. She said: O wonder! shall I bear a son when I am an extremely old woman and this my husband an extremely old man? Most surely this is a wonderful thing. They said: Do you wonder at Allah's bidding? The mercy of Allah and His blessings are on you, O people of the house, surely He is Praised, Glorious. So when fear had gone away from Ibrahim and good news came to him, he began to plead with Us for Lut's people. Most surely Ibrahim was forbearing, tender-hearted, oft-returning (to Allah): O Ibrahim! leave off this, surely the decree of your Lord has come to pass, and surely there must come to them a chastisement that cannot be averted. S. 11:69-76 Shakir
And inform them of the guests of Ibrahim: When they entered upon him, they said, Peace. He said: Surely we are afraid of you. They said: Be not afraid, surely we give you the good news of a boy, possessing knowledge. He said: Do you give me good news (of a son) when old age has come upon me? -- Of what then do you give me good news! They said: We give you good news with truth, therefore be not of the despairing. He said: And who despairs of the mercy of his Lord but the erring ones? He said: What is your business then, O apostles? They said: Surely we are sent towards a guilty people, Except Lut's followers: We will most surely deliver them all, Except his wife; We ordained that she shall surely be of those who remain behind (Illa imraatahu qaddarna innaha lamina alghabireena). S. 15:51-60 Shakir
And when Our apostles came to Ibrahim with the good news, they said: Surely we are going to destroy the people of this town, for its people are unjust. He said: Surely in it is Lut. They said: We know well who is in it; we shall certainly deliver him and his followers, except his wife; she shall be of those who remain behind (illa imraatahu kanat mina alghabireena). S. 29:31-32 Shakir
A careful analysis of these passages shows that even here we find major verbal differences:
The final example is the story of the birth of Moses:
When We revealed to your mother what was revealed; Saying: Put him into a chest, then cast IT down into the river, then the river shall throw him on the shore; there shall take him up one who is an enemy to Me and enemy to him, and I cast down upon you love from Me, and that you might be brought up before My eyes; When your sister went and said: Shall I direct you to one who will take charge of him? So We brought you back to your mother, that her eye might be cooled and she should not grieve and you killed a man, then We delivered you from the grief, and We tried you with (a severe) trying. Then you stayed for years among the people of Madyan; then you came hither as ordained, O Musa. And I have chosen you for Myself: S. 20:38-41 Shakir
And We revealed to Musa's mothers, saying: Give him suck, then when you fear for him, cast HIM into the river and do not fear nor grieve; surely We will bring him back to you and make him one of the apostles. And Firon's family took him up that he might be an enemy and a grief for them; surely Firon and Haman and their hosts were wrongdoers. And Firon's wife said: A refreshment of the eye to me and to you; do not slay him; maybe he will be useful to us, or we may take him for a son; and they did not perceive. And the heart of Musa's mother was free (from anxiety) she would have almost disclosed it had We not strengthened her heart so that she might be of the believers. And she said to his sister: Follow him up. So she watched him from a distance while they did not perceive, And We ordained that he refused to suck any foster mother before, so she said: Shall I point out to you the people of a house who will take care of him for you, and they will be benevolent to him? So We gave him back to his mother that her eye might be refreshed, and that she might no grieve, and that she might know that the promise of Allah is true, but most of them do not know. S. 28:7-13 Shakir
The preceding leads us to ask the following questions:
We advise our readers to look at the Arabic text, if possible, or simply look at the Arabic transliteration which can be accessed here:
When one compares the Arabic texts of these passages the major differences in wording becomes clearer than just simply looking at the English translations.
It is truly amazing that the authors could even question the integrity of the Gospels because of their differences while still believing that the Quran is Gods word, even though the same stories are retold with conflicting and contradictory wording throughout! This serves to expose the authors real agenda. If they were really concerned about the accuracy of the biblical material, then they would be equally concerned about the accuracy of the text of the Quran. That the authors never even bother applying their criteria against the Quran shows that they will do everything they can to discredit the Gospels since they realize that the NT exposes Islam as a false religion and Muhammad as a false prophet.
A major difference between the NT and the Quran retelling the same story with verbal variations is that this does more serious damage to the Quran than the Gospels. For instance, different authors, not one, wrote the Gospels. It is therefore perfectly normal to find different authors reporting the same event with verbal differences since one author may have wished to summarize an account, another provide additional details, and yet another arrange his material in a topical order as opposed to following a strict chronological sequence. As we have demonstrated here, these differences do not change the meaning or significance of the event and do not therefore call into question the accuracy of the Gospels. The Gospels are completely trustworthy, especially when they are viewed in light of the writing methods adopted by historians of that time period.
But the Quran is a different story. The authors do not believe that multiple writers wrote the Quran but erroneously assume that God authored it via dictation. It is this view which destroys the authors belief in the divine origin of the Quran since if God had dictated the Quran to Muhammad we would not expect to find major verbal variations and contradictions in the parallel accounts. In fact, we would expect that God would dictate a story once and include all the necessary details. The reason why we have several versions of the same story in the Holy Bible is because we have several human authors, i.e. Luke is not reporting his story three times. But if the Quran has only one author why do we find many stories repeated over and over and over again?
And if God does decide to narrate the same story several times, then one expects that he would be able to do so by repeating it exactly the same way, or at least without contradicting himself. Especially since Muslims claim that Allah supposedly dictated his revelation in contrast to the Christian view of God inspiring human agents to express his divine truths in human language. But we do not find this to be the case with the Quran which proves that the Quran is not from God, but is the work of multiple writers. Apparently, the final compilers of the Quran did a very poor job of editing their material since they left traces of these conflicting sources.
We conclude our rebuttal in the words of the authors. It is possible for these narratives to be "reconciled", albeit with the thorough use of some highly imaginative arguments, stretching all limits of reason and imagination and requiring quite a lot of hard work and effort. However, the fact remains that the narratives are quite different from one another.
For more information supporting the accuracy of the NT documents, and on harmonizations of the Gospels, we recommend these articles:
For another way of harmonizing the birth accounts please read the following:
POSTSCRIPT: Since the time of the completion of our rebuttal, the authors have added some additional quotes which do nothing to refute our arguments. It is simply the repeated fallacy of appealing to authority again. Yet, there is one quote which is quite interesting since it provides additional evidence for the authors double standards. The authors cite Millar Burrows:
Matthews way of using prophecy is not what a modern scholar could call historically accurate, but it is in accord with a type of interpretation customary in New Testament times, and for that matter still practiced now. According to this way of thinking, it is assumed that the text refers to events and persons in the present or the immediate past or future.
Sometimes, indeed, one can hardly avoid a suspicion that prophecy, understood in this way, led to imagining events that never occurred. Did Joseph and Mary really take their child to Egypt for a while, or did some early Christian infer that they must have done so because God says in the book of Hosea (11:1), "Out of Egypt I called my son"? Was Jesus really born in Bethlehem, or was it assumed that he must have been because the prophet Micah (5:2) had predicted that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem? More probably, the known fact of Jesus birth at Bethlehem was felt by his followers to confirm their conviction that he was the Messiah.
How should we understand and judge these familiar narratives? The whole Christmas story, mingled as it is now with Santa Claus and other more or less pagan additions, seems much like a fairy tale for children. Even so, to raise questions about the truth of the record is painful. A good deal of the story, however, is undoubtedly legendary.
A couple of comments here. First do note carefully what Burrows says about Matthews use of the OT:
Matthews way of using prophecy is not what a modern scholar could call historically accurate, but it is in accord with a type of interpretation customary in New Testament times, and for that matter still practiced now. According to this way of thinking, it is assumed that the text refers to events and persons in the present or the immediate past or future. (italic emphasis ours)
Burrows states that Matthews use of the OT was in accord with the standard practice of that time period, and hence thoroughly acceptable and reliable. It is simply a gratuitous assumption that adopting this method somehow leads to inventing events in order to have them align with OT themes.
Second, the authors have conveniently ignored the context of Burrows claims here. Burrows writes a couple of paragraphs before the part that was quoted by the Muslim authors:
The virgin birth of Jesus has become for many Christians a touchstone of faith in him and in the Bible. The modern scientific view of the universe, however, has made it a serious problem. Ones position on this question depends inevitably upon the presuppositions he brings to it. One view can no more be demonstrated than another. If Jesus was a unique being, different from any other person ever born, the process of his conception and birth could have been unique also. Not being accessible to scientific observation, it cannot be proved or disproved scientifically.
Those whose understanding of the Bible is accompanied by a modern world-view, however, find it easier to understand how the belief in the virgin birth may have arisen than to accept it as historical fact. Many of the people who encountered Jesus in the flesh were probably convinced that he was no ordinary man. Without attempting to explain or formulate the idea, they may have felt that in meeting him they had somehow met God. It was inevitable that stories and beliefs about him should grow up and multiply, and in the thought-world of that day they might easily include the idea of a miraculous birth.
Equally dedicated Christians differ so widely and feel so strongly on this subject that a closer look at the biblical evidence is advisable. There is no explicit reference to the virgin birth, or even any clear allusion to it. anywhere in the New Testament outside of the first chapter of Matthew, the first chapter of Luke, and the words "betrothed" in Luke 2:5 and "as was supposed" in 3:23. Possibly it was taken for granted; yet even so it would surely have been mentioned somewhere if it had been considered a vital point of Christian faith. It does stand, however, in Matthew and Luke; and the two accounts are so different that they evidently follow independent lines of tradition. In neither Gospel, moreover, can the story be plausibly explained as a later addition to the original text of the Gospel. There are, however, some features of both narratives that call for explanation. (Millar Burrows, Jesus in the First Three Gospels; italic emphasis ours)
After referring to the virgin birth, Burrows continues with the very statements that the authors quoted above. Now why is this important? Here are the concluding statements quoted by the authors demonstrating why:
How should we understand and judge these familiar narratives? The whole Christmas story, mingled as it is now with Santa Claus and other more or less pagan additions, seems much like a fairy tale for children. Even so, to raise questions about the truth of the record is painful. A good deal of the story, however, is undoubtedly legendary. (emphasis ours)
Burrows comments that a good deal of the birth narratives are legendary, in context, REFERS TO THE VIRGIN BIRTH STORY AS WELL! The astonishing part about this is that THE AUTHORS BELIEVE IN THE VIRGIN BIRTH OF CHRIST AND THEREFORE HAVE NO HISTORICAL OR ARCHAEOLOGICAL GROUNDS FOR CALLING THE NT ACCOUNTS OF JESUS VIRGIN BIRTH INTO QUESTION!!! What would Burrows say about the virgin birth of Jesus as it is found in the Quran? Would he view this claim any less legendary there than in the Gospels, simply because it is in the Quran? What about the story of Jesus speaking in the cradle? The answer is obvious. Would the Muslim authors accept his verdict on these stories as authoritative? If they will not, and they cannot, why do they expect that Christians should consider his rejection of the historicity of the gospels — based to a good part on the report of the virgin birth — as the last word on the matter?
Burrows comments regarding ones presuppositions affecting how a person reads these texts hits at the heart of the issue really. It is simply the authors Islamic presuppositions that the Quran is the word of God which even makes them question the NT documents due to the glaring contradictions between these books. And it is precisely these same presuppositions that forbid them from accepting our harmonization.
It has absolutely nothing to do with the implausibility of our harmonization since nothing the authors have written thus far even begins to call into question our reconciliation of the birth narratives. As we said, the authors "response" here is nothing more than a desperate attempt of trying to deny our harmonization based on the weakest of evidences.
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