A Response to a Muslim Neophyte
Muslim "apologist" Sami Zaatari tries to answer (*) my response to his assertion that John 5:23 doesnt teach that Christians are to honor Jesus just as they honor the Father. He writes,
However so the Trinitarian has miss-translated the verse again! The Greek word for "even as" is Kathos in Greek, and the word Kathos in Greek does not mean identical or exact. Hence a more appropriate translation of John 8:23 [sic] is that we must honour Jesus in a similar proportion to the Father, not in the exact way.
It is rather amusing, as well as ironic, that this lad can accuse Trinitarians of mistranslating a Greek word when he doesnt even know NT Greek!
We have already addressed his assertions in this response, as well as in the endnote to this article. And in that article we provide the comments of several expositors concerning the meaning of John 5:23. So there is no need to repeat ourselves again.
The Lords Prayer and Worshiping Jesus
Zaatari claims that I didnt refute his argument:
Notice Shamoun does not refute my claim that in Matthew chapter 6 verses 9-13 Jesus teaches the people to pray to God, not to him. Here is Matthew 6:9-13
Why would I need to refute the teachings of the Lord Jesus concerning praying to the Father when I believe all that the Holy Bible says concerning the subject of prayer? I also accept the other Biblical passages which plainly teach that we can also pray to Jesus directly.
So Jesus taught the people to pray to the Father, not to himself. This would have been the perfect opportunity for Jesus to tell the masses to pray to him, yet he did no such thing.
Wrong! Jesus never told his disciples that they could never pray to him. I even provided examples which prove the exact opposite of what Zaatari is saying.
Moreover, examining the Lords Prayer in light of what the inspired Christian Scriptures teach concerning Christ provides further attestation that the NT writers believed that Lord Jesus is God (*).
Therefore this proves we cant [sic] honor Jesus exactly as the Father since Jesus didn't teach us to pray to him.
Since Jesus did say that we could pray directly to him this proves that we are to honor him exactly as we honor the Father.
Furthermore, Matthews Gospel itself makes it abundantly clear that Jesus receives the very same honor that the Father does. For instance, Jesus said that loving God unconditionally, wholeheartedly, is one of the greatest commands:
"One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: "Love your neighbor as yourself." All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:35-40
And yet Christ demands this very same unconditional love from his followers, expecting them to love him more than anything, even more than their very own lives:
"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life FOR MY SAKE will find it." Matthew 10:37-39
"Then Jesus said to his disciples, If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life FOR ME will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done." Matthew 16:24-27
The Lord Jesus also receives and accepts worship in situations where it is clear that Matthew is presenting Christ as more than a mere man:
"During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. It's a ghost, they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: Take courage! I AM (ego eimi). Don't be afraid. Lord, if it's you, Peter replied, tell me to come to you on the water. Come, he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, Lord, save me! Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. You of little faith, he said, why did you doubt? And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped (prosekynesan) him, saying, Truly you are the Son of God." Matthew 14:25-33
Here it is evident that the disciples worshiped Jesus in recognition of the fact that he is the Divine Son of God. Christ has just identified himself as the I AM in the context of walking on water and enabling Peter to do likewise, all of which point to his Divine identity.(1)
Jesus followers also worshiped him immediately after his resurrection:
"The angel said to the women, Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you. So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. Greetings, he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped (prosekynesan) him. Then Jesus said to them, Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me." Matthew 28:5-10
In this next example the disciples worship their risen Lord in a context where Christ will claim to exercise universal sovereignty:
"Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him (prosekynesan); but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the NAME of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:17-20
Not only does the Lord assert that he has complete authority over the entire created realm, i.e. "in heaven and on earth", he further states that he shares the same Divine name of the Father and the Holy Spirit, and promises to personally be with all of his followers till the end of the age, a rather explicit claim to omnipresence.
What makes this all the more amazing is that Matthew records the Devil tempting Christ to worship him in order receive authority to rule the kingdoms of the earth. Jesus rebukes Satan by saying that such worship is to be given to God:
"Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. All this I will give you, he said, if you will bow down and worship (proskyneses) me. Jesus said to him, Away from me, Satan! For it is written: "Worship (proskyneseis) the Lord your God, and serve him only."" Matthew 4:8-10
And yet Jesus response in Matthew 28:18 suggests that he was assuring the disciples that their worship of him was thoroughly appropriate in light of his having authority over the entire universe!
Hence, what Jesus refused to accept from Satan he received from his Father, namely, the authority to rule over the entire created realm. Moreover, Jesus refused to worship Satan, insisting that such worship belongs to God, and yet he received this very same kind of worship from his disciples!
As if the foregoing wasnt clear enough that Jesus receives the very same kind of worship that his Father does, notice what he says in the following verses:
"But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, Hosanna to the Son of David! they were indignant; and they said to him, Do you hear what these are saying? And Jesus said to them, Yes; have you never read, "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast brought perfect praise"?" Matthew 21:15-16
The Lord Jesus justifies the praise he received from the children by quoting a Psalm that speaks of Yahweh receiving praise from the mouth of infants:
"O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger." Psalm 8:1-2
The only way for this quotation from the Psalms to count as valid justification for Jesus not to forbid, but to confirm, the praise of his own Person from those children is if he was equating himself with Yahweh God. In other words, Jesus is basically saying that to praise him is to praise Yahweh God!
In light of the foregoing it is abundantly clear that, according to the testimony of Matthew, Jesus is to receive the exact kind of honor that his Father receives.
Johns Gospel On Worshiping Jesus
Zaatari claims that John 14:12-14 doesnt prove that believers can pray to Jesus:
This verse does not show Jesus asking the people to pray to him. Jesus simply tells his followers that they may ask him for something, and that he will do it, this does not mean prayer [sic].
Really? Despite the fact that the same word "ask" is used in reference to people asking the Father?
"Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." Matthew 6:8
"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:7-11
"Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven." Matthew 18:19
"Lord, Martha said to Jesus, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask." John 11:21-22
"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruitfruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name." John 15:16
"In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete." John 16:23-24
"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind." James 1:5-6
"Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him."1 John 3:21-22
It is even used in a verse where the word for prayer occurs along with it:
"If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer." Matthew 21:22
Thus, just as asking the Father implies that we are to pray to him even so the context of John 14 shows that we are to ask Jesus by praying to him as well, especially since he is no longer physically present on earth where we can go up to him and ask directly.
This is the point that Shamoun conveniently left out. Jesus will be going to the Father; hence Jesus tells his followers if they ask for something from him, he will do it. The only reason he will do it is because he is in the presence of the Father, and therefore he will ask the Father and the Father will grant his request.
Jesus would always pray to the Father before he performed a miracle, and he would always thank the Father for giving him the miracles, it is no different in this case. Jesus will be in the presence of the Father, and when someone asks Jesus for something, Jesus will ask the Father to grant the request and therefore the Father will do it.
Zaatari accuses me of leaving out Jesus statement that he is going to the Father, when this is actually one of the main points of my argument. Jesus is telling the disciples that they can still pray to him directly despite the fact that he will be in his Fathers presence! One would imagine that THIS would be the perfect time to reinforce to his followers that they should continue to pray to the Father and not to him. After all, who besides God in heaven do the faithful direct their prayers to? Which angel or prophet ever told believers that they could pray to him in heaven?
To put this in a different way so Zaatari gets it, would the Islamic Jesus tell faithful Muslims to pray to him upon his return to heaven, or would he direct their prayers to Allah? Did Muhammad ever state in the Quran that, after he returns to Allah, Muslims could then ask him in his name and he would answer them?
Furthermore, Zaatari misinterprets or grossly misunderstands Jesus point in praying to the Father in connection with performing his miracles, even though we have addressed this time and time again. In the first place, Jesus didnt ALWAYS pray to the Father to carry out his miracles, so this is simply a distortion of the facts. More importantly, Christs purpose in praying was to show to his disciples that he was from God and that he always works in perfect union with the Father, never acting independently from him:
"So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me. When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, Lazarus, come out! The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, Take off the grave clothes and let him go." John 11:41-44
Besides, the question that Zaatari has to address, and not run from, is why would the Father answer the Sons request to perform specific miracles when they were carried out to substantiate and vindicate his Divine claims? After all, didnt Jesus say in this very same chapter that he is the Resurrection and the Life?
"Jesus said to her, Your brother will rise again. Martha answered, I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day. Jesus said to her, I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? Yes, Lord, she told him, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world." John 11:23-27
And doesnt Zaataris own theology teach that these are titles that belong to God alone (*)? Why then would God give his approval to such assertions if they werent true? Why to even ask the question is to answer it.
Moreover, Zaatari forgot to mention that Christ expressly told his followers that he would not need to ask the Father on their behalf:
"In that day you will ask in my name. I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you BECAUSE you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father. Then Jesus' disciples said, Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God. You believe at last! Jesus answered." John 16:26-31
Christ informs his disciples that there is no need for him to ask his Father since the Father delights to answer their prayers because they love Jesus and believe that he came down from God out of heaven and would return to him. The Lord repeated this fact of his coming down from heaven all throughout the Gospel:
"No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven the Son of Man." John 3:13
"Jesus said to them, I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. Then Jesus declared, I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. But as I told you, you have seen me and still you do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. At this the Jews began to grumble about him because he said, I am the bread that came down from heaven. hey said, Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, "I came down from heaven"? But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which a man may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!" John 6:32-33, 35-42, 50-51, 62
"But he continued, You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I AM, you will indeed die in your sins. Jesus said to them, If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad. You are not yet fifty years old, the Jews said to him, and you have seen Abraham! Truly, truly I say to, Jesus answered, before Abraham was born, I AM! At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds." John 8:23-24, 42, 56-59
Finally, Zaatari is erroneously assuming that if the Father answers then this somehow means that Jesus isnt the One who is actually answering the disciples prayers, despite the fact that Christ says he does! Zaatari thinks that it must be an either/or situation, e.g. either the Father is answering or the Son is, when it is a both/and situation, i.e. both the Father and the Son together answer all prayers since they work in perfect accord.
Therefore, the most that Zaatari has proven is that, a) both the Father and the Son answer prayers, and b) the Son asks the Father in order to get permission from him to answer the invocations of his followers since the Son always works in perfect accord and union with the Father; Christ never acts contrary to his will.
And since the Son always does what pleases the Father,
"The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him." John 8:29
The latter will always grant permission to his eternally Beloved to personally answer all the prayers of the faithful:
"So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you." John 11:20-22
In fact, the example of Lazarus resurrection corroborates our exegesis. Note that, even though Christ prayed to the Father to raise Lazarus, it was Jesus who actually resurrected him. In a similar manner, even though the Son may ask the Father in heaven he is still the One who is answering the prayers nonetheless.
The Apostle Paul On Worshiping Jesus
Much like he does with John, Zaatari imposes his false dilemma upon the words of Paul,
This is exactly how the disciples even believed it because we even read that Jesus is the MEDIATOR between God and man:
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;
As you can see Jesus is the mediator between man and God, he is the middle-man, hence you can ask Jesus for something, and since he is the mediator he will then ask the Father and the Father will grant the request.
Off [sic] course Shamoun wants to ignore all of this.
Zaatari again envisions an either/or situation, even though nothing that Paul says here denies that believers can pray to Christ directly. Pauls point is that our prayers are efficacious or effective (provided that they are in line with Gods will) because of Christs atoning death whereby he makes our righteous deeds acceptable and pleasing to God:
"I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all menthe testimony given in its proper time." 1 Timothy 2:1-6
Moreover, why cant believers still pray to Jesus despite the fact of his being the Mediator before the Father? In fact, doesnt his mediation actually prove that we can pray to him directly since he is the One who approaches the Father on our behalf?
And doesnt this same Apostle document how the first-century Christians rendered to Jesus the same kind of honor which God the Father receives just as the following examples prove?
Praying To Christ.
The Hebrew prophets emphasized the point that true believers are to call on the name of Yahweh:
"From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD." Genesis 12:8
"Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel was among those who called on his name; they called on the LORD and he answered them." Psalm 99:6
Paul, however, refers to the early Churchs practice of calling on the name of the Lord Jesus:
"To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christtheir Lord and ours:" 1 Corinthians 1:2
Paul himself mentions a time when he prayed to Jesus to deliver him:
"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for MY power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:7-10
The Lord who answered Pauls prayer is the One whose power enabled the Apostle to endure his trials. And yet Paul goes on to refer to Christs power resting on him, which means that Christ is the very Lord whom the Apostle prayed to!
Revering And Singing To Christ.
The OT further says that we are to fear and sing to the Lord Yahweh:
"Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name." Deuteronomy 6:13
"Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song." Psalm 95:1-2
"Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day." Psalm 96:1-2; cf. 104:33
And yet the inspired Apostle exhorts Christians to revere and sing to the Lord Jesus!
"And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ." Ephesians 5:18-21 NASB
Doxologies To Christ.
As if this wasnt astonishing enough Paul offers praises to the Lord Jesus such as in the following:
"In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that dayand not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen." 2 Timothy 4:1, 8, 18
In the context the Lord who is the righteous Judge that receives glory forever and whose heavenly kingdom Paul is awaiting to enter is the Lord Jesus Christ. The Apostles praise of Jesus is virtually identical to the way he praises God:
"To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." 1 Timothy 1:17; cf. Romans 11:33-36, 16:25-27; Philippians 4:20
Christ The Joint Possessor and Bestower of Grace and Blessings.
Paul even invokes the Son in his prayers to God to bless and grace all true believers:
"Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior AND of Christ Jesus our hope, To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father AND Christ Jesus our Lord." 1 Timothy 1:1-2 (cf. Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2, 6:23; Philippians 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philemon 1:3)
In other places the Apostle only mentions Christ in his invocations:
"then the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you." Romans 16:20
"The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen." 1 Corinthians 16:23-24
"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brethren. Amen." Galatians 6:18 (cf. Philippians 4:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:18; Philemon 1:25)
All of this presupposes that the Lord Jesus is co-equal with the Father in that the Apostle views all blessings and graces as coming from both the Father and the Son equally. As Evangelical Scholar Murray J. Harris writes:
"At the beginning of each of Paul's letters is a salutation that ends with a standardized formula: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ' (1 Cor. 1:3 and elsewhere). The apostle is not saying that there are two distinct sources of grace and peace, one divine and one human; significantly the preposition from (in Greek) is not repeated before the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather, Father and Son jointly form a single source of divine grace and peace. Of no mere human being could it be said that, together with God, he was a font of spiritual blessing. Only if Paul had regarded Jesus as fully divine could he have spoken this way." (Harris, Three Crucial Questions About Jesus [Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI 1994], p. 77; bold emphasis ours)
Reformed apologist Dr. Robert A. Morey agrees:
" Grammatically, the authors are looking equally to the Father and the Son for grace, mercy, and peace. They could do this only if they assumed that the Father and Son were equal in nature they are indications of what the author is praying for and to Whom he addresses those prayers.
"The apostles prayed to the Father and to the Son that They might grant the saints grace, mercy, and peace. The apostles looked up to heaven to both of them equally. The ontological relationship between the Father and the Son is clearly the assumption which underlies their prayers to them. The deity of the Son is seen from the fact that He has to be omniscient to hear their prayers and eternal, omnipresent, and omnipotent to answer them.
"The objection that the Father and the Son are only functioning as equals in all these passages misses the point. They can function as equals only because they are equal. The apostles assumed that the Father and the Son were ontologically one nature and equality. Thus, they could function as one." (Morey, Trinity - Evidence and Issues [World Bible Publishers, Inc.; Iowa, Falls, IA 1996], Chapter Nineteen. The Trinity in the New Testament, p. 444; bold emphasis ours)
With the foregoing in view it is apparent that Zaatari has committed the fallacy of false dilemma since he erroneously assumes that since Jesus is our Mediator this somehow proves that we cannot pray to him. Yet this only proves that Zaatari is Biblically illiterate, as well as ignorant of the basics of logic and even Islamic theology. Zaatari should therefore retire from doing apologetics and pursue other interests.
We conclude with Zaataris own words, but slightly modified. So therefore Zaatari has failed yet again, and continues to expose his Biblical illiteracy. Deep down inside he knows, but cannot admit, that Gods true Word emphatically commands that all true believers must honor the Lord Jesus in EXACTLY the same way they do the Father.(2)
(1) This refutes the assertion of Zaatari who writes:
So just because Jesus said ego eimi he must be God? Then I guess the blind man, as well as Paul should be God as well for saying the exact same thing!
Paul replied, "Short time or long?I pray God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am(EGO EIMI), except for these chains." (Acts 26:29)
So using Sam's logic we should all worship Paul because he said EGO EIMI. (Jesus the prophet of Islam Not the Son of the Living God; source)
Talk about attacking a straw man! I challenge Zaatari to quote where I said that the mere use of the I AM proves that Jesus is claiming to be God here. What I have said is that the context demonstrates that Jesus was identifying himself as the Divine I AM who comes to the aid of his people, the One who tramples on the waves and seas and stills the storms.
To help put this in perspective here is what happened to the wicked pagan tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes when he tried to make himself equal with God and claim that he was able to perform specific Divine functions:
"About that time, as it happened, Antiochus had retreated in disorder from the region of Persia. For he had entered the city called Persepolis, and attempted to rob the temples and control the city. Therefore the people rushed to the rescue with arms, and Antiochus and his men were defeated, with the result that Antiochus was put to flight by the inhabitants and beat a shameful retreat. While he was in Ecbatana, news came to him of what had happened to Nicanor and the forces of Timothy. Transported with rage, he conceived the idea of turning upon the Jews the injury done by those who had put him to flight; so he ordered his charioteer to drive without stopping until he completed the journey. But the judgment of heaven rode with him! For in his arrogance he said, When I get there I will make Jerusalem a cemetery of Jews. But the all-seeing Lord, the God of Israel, struck him an incurable and unseen blow. As soon as he ceased speaking he was seized with a pain in his bowels for which there was no relief and with sharp internal tortures -- and that very justly, for he had tortured the bowels of others with many and strange inflictions. Yet he did not in any way stop his insolence, but was even more filled with arrogance, breathing fire in his rage against the Jews, and giving orders to hasten the journey. And so it came about that he fell out of his chariot as it was rushing along, and the fall was so hard as to torture every limb of his body. Thus he who had just been thinking that he could command the waves of the sea, in his superhuman arrogance, and imagining that he could weigh the high mountains in a balance, was brought down to earth and carried in a litter, making the power of God manifest to all. And so the ungodly man's body swarmed with worms, and while he was still living in anguish and pain, his flesh rotted away, and because of his stench the whole army felt revulsion at his decay. Because of his intolerable stench no one was able to carry the man who a little while before had thought that he could touch the stars of heaven. Then it was that, broken in spirit, he began to lose much of his arrogance and to come to his senses under the scourge of God, for he was tortured with pain every moment. And when he could not endure his own stench, he uttered these words: It is right to be subject to God, and no mortal should think that he is equal to God (iso theos). So the murderer and blasphemer, having endured the more intense suffering, such as he had inflicted on others, came to the end of his life by a most pitiable fate, among the mountains in a strange land. 2 Maccabees 9:1-12, 28 RSV (Source)
Antiochus thought he could command the waves of the sea but later realized that he was mistaken since no mortal can ever be equal to God. In other words, commanding the waves is seen as a Divine function, one that only God can perform.
And yet not only does Jesus command the waves and the seas:
"On that day, when evening came, He said to them, Let us go over to the other side. Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke Him and said to Him, Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing? And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, Hush, be still. And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith? They became very much afraid and said to one another, Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?" Mark 4:35-41
He even believed that he was equal to God since he claimed to have the same Divine right that God his Father has to work on the Sabbath, something which was strictly forbidden for any Israelite to do:
"After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades. In these lay a multitude of invalidsblind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, Do you want to be healed? The sick man answered him, Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me. Jesus said to him, Get up, take up your bed, and walk. And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked. Now that day was the Sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed. But he answered them, The man who healed me, that man said to me, "Take up your bed, and walk." They asked him, Who is the man who said to you, "Take up your bed and walk"? Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you. The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, My Father is working until now, and I am working. This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God (ison heaton poion to theo)." John 5:1-18
For more on this point please consult this article.
When Jesus said I AM, it meant that he was the one, the Messiah, the person whom the people were expecting to come for them, and the person they should look to for guidance and help. Hence when Jesus says I AM, Peter gets curious and wants to see if it really is the Messiah, the one whom he has been waiting for. Peter would never believe that Jesus was God for several reasons, for one no Jew believed that God would be born out of a woman, or God would NEED to eat, and that God would be circumcised, as well as baptized!
There are several major problems with Zaataris claims. First, the context demonstrates that Jesus wasnt saying that he was the I AM merely in the sense of being the Messiah. See the above article for the details.
Second, Zaatari again erroneously assumes that there were no Jews who expected that the Messiah would be God, and mistakenly thinks that there was one single Jewish opinion during the time of Christ. The fact of the matter is that the Jews were divided over the person of the Messiah, e.g. some held him to be a mere human son of David whereas certain others believed he was a preexistent heavenly figure. For the details please consult the following articles (1, 2).
Third, OT prophets like Isaiah believed that the Messiah is God who chose to be born as a child:
"For to us a child is born, to us A SON IS GIVEN, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this." Isaiah 9:6-7
Thus, here is an inspired Israelite prophet who clearly affirmed that God can and would eventually become a man in order to rule on Davids throne forever!
The blessed and inspired Apostles John and Paul echoed Isaiahs words when they wrote:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16
"Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord," Romans 1:1-4
"For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?" Romans 8:3, 32
"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba! Father!" Galatians 4:4-6
For more on Isaiahs Christology we recommend the following articles (1, 2).
Fourth, it is obvious that Zaatari hasnt bothered reading the NT carefully since Peter did believe and preach that Jesus is God by ascribing to him certain roles and characteristics which belong only to God. For instance, Peter along with the Apostles prayed to the Lord Jesus:
"In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit. So when they met together, they asked him, Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel? He said to them: It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) and said For, said Peter, it is written in the book of Psalms, "May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it," and, "May another take his place of leadership." Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection. So they proposed two men: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs. Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles." Acts 1:1-8, 15-16a, 20-26
In the context Jesus is the Lord who chose the Apostles, thereby indicating that he is the same Lord that Peter and the others invoked to know which of the men he had chosen to replace Judas. And not only do the disciples pray to Christ they also proclaim that he knows everyones heart, a rather explicit testimony to Jesus omniscience!
This isnt the only time that Peter testified that Jesus is omniscient:
"When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these? Yes, Lord, he said, you know that I love you. Jesus said, Feed my lambs. Again Jesus said, Simon son of John, do you truly love me? He answered, Yes, Lord, you know that I love you. Jesus said, Take care of my sheep. The third time he said to him, Simon son of John, do you love me? Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, Do you love me? He said, Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you. Jesus said, Feed my sheep." John 21:15-17
Peter went so far as to identify Jesus as the Author of Life!
"You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the Author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this." Acts 3:14-15
Peter is picturing Jesus as the Source of all life, and in so saying this he is in complete agreement with the following NT writers:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." John 1:1-4
"For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself." John 5:21, 26
"Jesus answered, I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6
"So it is written: The first man Adam became a living being; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit." 1 Corinthians 15:45
Nor is this the only time that Peter calls Jesus the Holy One:
"You do not want to leave too, do you? Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God." John 6:67-69
It is interesting that Peter here identifies Jesus as Gods Holy One in a context where he refers to Christ having the words of eternal life, which is simply another way of saying that he is the Author of Life.
Peter further proclaimed that, after his ascension to heaven, Jesus poured out the Holy Spirit which he received from the Father upon his followers, a function which the OT says shall be carried out by God:
"Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It's only nine in the morning! 16No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: "In the last days, God says, I WILL POUR OUT MY SPIRIT on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I WILL POUR OUT MY SPIRIT in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that his soul was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his flesh see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit AND HAS POURED OUT what you now see and hear." Acts 2:14-21, 30-33
Note the implications of Peters preaching,
Zaatari now has to contend with the fact that by praying directly to Christ Peter and the others were recognizing that Jesus is more than a man, acknowledging that he is the exalted Lord and Divine Son of God. He further needs to come to grips with Peter ascribing omniscience to Jesus since this again proves that the inspired Apostle was honoring Christ as his God. He must also address the issue of Peter calling Jesus the Author of Life since this can only be said of one who is truly God. He then has to explain why Peter would say that Jesus pours out the Holy Spirit right after the Apostle had quoted an OT text, specifically Joel 2:28-32, which says that it is Yahweh who does so.
Fifth, if God did choose to become a man in order to experience human frailty then what kind of man would we expect him to be? One who doesnt eat, drink or sleep? Then he wouldnt really be a human being like us, now would he? And why should it surprise us that God chose to get circumcised when he became a man when he specifically came to fulfill his own Law as an example for us to emulate as well as to merit eternal life for us?
Zaatari further says,
Also when the text says that Peter worshiped Jesus, again the word the Trinitarians translate as worship here does not have to be worship, rather it could and does mean a sign of respect, a sign of respect for a higher authority, and since Jesus was both a prophet and the Messiah, he was a higher authority to Peter and was his leader.
This, again, is nothing more than a straw man which shows that Zaatari is incapable of refuting the actual arguments. It is not merely the use of the word which proves that Jesus is being worshiped as God, but the way the term is used in the specific context. In Matthew 14 it is clear that Matthew intended to show that the disciples were in fact worshiping Jesus since Christ had just said and done what the OT says Yahweh does, even though Jesus followers may have not fully understood the implications of his actions and statements.
(2) In a recent article (*) Zaatari tries to undermine the witness of Daniel 7:13-14 to the Deity of the Lord Jesus by arguing that since the text says that the Son of Man is given authority by the Ancient of Days he therefore cannot be God or his co-equal. This, once again, only further exposes the ignorance of this neophyte and shows why he has no business discussing and debating these points. Had he bothered reading the Holy Bible as a whole, and in context, he would see that the reason why the Son of Man receives authority is because the text is dealing with Jesus post-resurrection state, specifically to his ascension, since this is the time that Christ as the Son of Man received authority to rule over creation.
Now the reason why Christ is given authority at this point is because he had set aside his status and prerogatives as King in order to assume the role of a servant on earth so as to fulfill the will of the Father:
"just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28
"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross!" Philippians 2:5-8
And in response to Christs willingness to subject himself and become of no reputation the Father highly exalted Jesus to the status and position he enjoyed prior to becoming a man:
"Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Luke 22:24-30
"And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I HAD with you before the world began." John 17:5
"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:9-11
Zaatari then reasons that the Aramaic word pelach, which Daniel uses in reference to the Son of Man being worshiped, can also mean serve and therefore doesnt necessarily mean that the Messiah is worshiped as God. This completely ignores the fact that the book of Daniel insists that pelach should only be given to God, and not to someone else, since the type of service that this Aramaic word refers to is that which is given in a religious context, i.e. sacrifices, prayers etc.:
"There are certain Jews whom you have appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed'nego. These men, O king, pay no heed to you; they do not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up. Nebuchadnez'zar said to them, Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed'nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the golden image which I have set up? Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed'nego answered the king, O Nebuchadnez'zar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image which you have set up. Nebuchadnez'zar said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed'nego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants, who trusted in him, and set at nought the king's command, and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God." Daniel 3:12, 14, 16-18, 28;
"So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and threw him into the lions den. The king said to Daniel, May your God, whom you serve continually, rescue you!... When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?" Daniel 6:16, 20
"We also inform you that it is not allowed to impose tax, tribute or toll on any of the priests, Levites, singers, doorkeepers, Nethinim or servants of this house of God." Ezra 7:24
Thus, for the Son of Man to receive pelach from all the nations emphatically proves that he is receiving worship, being given the same kind of service and honor that God himself receives!
Besides, Zaataris points are nothing more than red herrings in an attempt to avoid dealing with the implications that these Biblical texts have on his faith as a Muslim. If these verses are correct then Muhammad was a false prophet for going against the explicit Biblical teaching that the Messiah will be worshiped by all the nations as he rules forever as King.
The discussion continued with a second round of rebuttals ([Part 1], [Part 2], [Part 3]).
Rebuttals to Sami Zaatari
Articles by Sam Shamoun
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