Sam Shamoun and Jochen Katz
Bassam Zawadi claims that Sam Shamoun contradicted Jesus when he stated that Jesus is the greatest man who ever lived and then cites Matthew 11:11 to refute him! The passage says:
"I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."
Zawadi presumes that Jesus was including himself since he too was born of a woman. This would essentially mean that John was greater than Christ despite the fact that John said otherwise:
"I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire. Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?" Matthew 3:11-14
"John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, This was he of whom I said, "He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me."" John 1:15
"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, "A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me. I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel. Then John gave this testimony: I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, "The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit." I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God. The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, Look, the Lamb of God!" John 1:29-36
"To this John replied, A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, "I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him." The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegrooms voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less. The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." John 3:27-36
These verses already show that Zawadi greatly misunderstood Jesus statement. Had Zawadi taken the effort to carefully read Jesus words in both their immediate and greater contexts he would have seen that Jesus is not a subject of the Kingdom. Rather, Christ is the sovereign Ruler and the eternal King of Gods kingdom:
"Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers!" Matthew 7:21-23
“For the Son of Man is to come with HIS angels in the glory of HIS Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done. Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in HIS kingdom.” Matthew 16:27-28
“Then the mother of the sons of Zeb'edee came up to him, with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, ‘What do you want?’ She said to him, ‘Command that these two sons of mine may sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.’ But Jesus answered, ‘You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?’ They said to him, ‘We are able.’ He said to them, ‘You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.’” Matthew 20:20-23
“Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, ‘What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?’ They said to him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, “The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, till I put your enemies under your feet”? If David thus calls him Lord, how is he his son?’ And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did any one dare to ask him any more questions.” Matthew 22:41-45
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on HIS THRONE in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world Then he will say to those on his left, Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." Matthew 25:31-34, 41
“And the high priest said to him, ‘I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” Matthew 26:63b-64
"Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king. So Pilate asked Jesus, Are you the king of the Jews? Yes, it is as you say, Jesus replied." Luke 23:1-3
"Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, 'Are you the king of the Jews?' 'Is that your own idea,' Jesus asked, 'or did others talk to you about me?' 'Am I a Jew?' Pilate replied. 'It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?' Jesus said, My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place. You are a king, then! said Pilate. Jesus answered, You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." John 18:33-37
In these passages Jesus not only identifies himself as the Sovereign King that sits on the throne, but also claims to have the power to determine the eternal destiny of every single individual.
Furthermore, in one of his parables Jesus likened the kingdom to a sown field:
"Jesus told them another parable: The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed IN HIS FIELD. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner's servants came to him and said, "Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?" "An enemy did this," he replied. The servants asked him, "Do you want us to go and pull them up?" "No," he answered, "because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn."" Matthew 13:24-30
Jesus proceeds to identify himself as the owner of the field, which happens to be the world, with the enemy representing Satan:
"Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.’ He answered, ‘The one who sowed the good seed IS THE SON OF MAN. The field IS THE WORLD, and the good seed stands for the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out HIS angels, and they will weed out of HIS kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.’" Matthew 13:36-43
Thus, Jesus basically claimed to be the very Owner of the entire world! Jesus reiterates this point elsewhere:
"And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET, and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other." Matthew 24:30-31
These passages clearly demonstrate that the world, the angels, the elect and Gods kingdom belong entirely to the Lord Jesus Christ. This is because Jesus is the Heir of all things:
"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Matthew 11:27
"Last of all, he sent his son to them. They will respect MY SON, he said. But when the tenants saw THE SON, they said to each other, This is THE HEIR. Come, lets kill him and take his inheritance. So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him." Matthew 21:37-39
"Then Jesus came to them and said, All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." Matthew 28:18
Seeing that Jesus explicitly claims to be the very King of the kingdom, Gods Beloved Son, and Gods Heir this should expose Zawadis assertion that Christ was somehow saying that John was greater than him. A King is always greater and superior to those living within his kingdom, and since John is only a subject of the kingdom he can never be greater or even equal to Christ, the eternal King of Glory.
Moreover, Jesus even said that those who are considered least in the kingdom would be greater than John:
"Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has risen no one greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."
So not only is John not at all comparable to Christ the eternal King he isnt even as great as the least of the members of Christs Body, the Church, those who will reign with Jesus forever in his kingdom!
"Jesus said to them, I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Matthew 19:28
"To him who overcomes and does my will to the end, I [Jesus] will give authority over the nations He will rule them with an iron scepter; he will dash them to pieces like pottery just as I have received authority from my Father. I will also give him the morning star." Revelation 2:26-28
"To him who overcomes, I [Jesus] will give the right to sit with me on MY throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne." Revelation 3:21
In fact, Christ also likens himself to a bridegroom with the Church being his bride:
"Then John's disciples came and asked him, How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast? Jesus answered, How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast." Matthew 9:14-15
"I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that. I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ." 2 Corinthians 11:1-3 Cf. Ephesians 5:25-33; Revelation 19:7-9; 21:1-2, 9-21)
John openly admitted to being a friend of the Bridegroom:
"He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him rejoices greatly because of the bridegrooms voice. So this joy of mine has been made full." John 3:29
This implies that both Christ the Bridegroom and his Bride the Church are superior to the Baptist. To summarize Johns testimony regarding Jesus:
As if this werent enough to prove that Jesus was NOT saying that the Baptist was greater than him, we quote the verse preceding Matthew 11:11 so as to see what OT text Jesus believed prophesied the coming of John:
"This is the one about whom it is written: I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you." Matthew 11:10
The above quote is taken from Malachi 3:1. More on this text shortly.
Matthew wasnt the only author who connected Malachi 3:1 with Johns ministry:
"The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in Isaiah the prophet: I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way' - 'a voice of one calling in the desert, "Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him." And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins." Mark 1:1-4
Mark states that John came to fulfill the words of Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3. Both John the Evangelist and Luke agree with Matthew and Mark on these points:
"John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, I am the voice of one calling in the desert, "Make straight the way for the Lord."" John 1:23
"Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous - to make ready a people prepared for the Lord And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him," Luke 1:11-17, 76
The above verses allude to the language of the texts of Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 to describe Johns ministry, with the Baptist himself applying Isaiah 40:3 to his own person.
What makes this connection so astonishing is that when we look at these specific OT passages we see that Johns role as the voice and messenger means that he was actually sent to prepare the people for the visible manifestation and appearing of Yahweh God Almighty! Here are the verses in question along with some of their immediate contexts:
"A voice of one calling: In the desert prepare the way for Yahweh; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of Yahweh will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of Yahweh has spoken." Isaiah 40:3-5
"See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly THE LORD (Ha Adon) you are seeking will come to HIS TEMPLE; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,' says the Yahweh of Hosts." Malachi 3:1
The word Ha Adon is never used for anyone other than Yahweh. These passages expressly say that Yahweh was to come and enter his temple, and that all mankind would see Yahwehs Glory.
As we have already shown, Jesus was the One for whom John came to prepare the way. This means that Jesus is Yahweh God! To put it simply, by identifying John as the messenger of Malachi 3:1 Jesus was essentially claiming to be the very Lord that was coming to his own temple!
We break this down in a logical fashion in order to show how Jesus essentially identified himself as that very Lord whom John came to prepare for:
With this background in mind, particularly paying attention to the statement of Matthew 11:10 that John was a messenger sent to prepare the way for Jesus, it should be obvious that Jesus in v. 11 was not including himself among those who were not greater than the Baptist. John is the greatest of all those who came before Jesus, because he was honored by God to be the one to prepare the way for Jesus, God incarnate himself. Johns greatness is derived from his close association with the One who is infinitely greater than, namely, the Lord Jesus. Jesus was making a comparative statement about all the great men of God in the past. Note also that Jesus began his Galilean mission only after Johns ministry ended with his arrest and imprisonment (Mark 1:14-15). Lets look at Matthew 11:11 again:
"I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he."
The first statement is about what was in the past. And in regard to that past, John was the greatest. However, with Jesus, who is the one who announced the arrival of the kingdom of God, something entirely new has begun. Anyone belonging to this new phase, i.e. belonging to the kingdom, will be greater than the greatest of the era that is past. The statement about those in the kingdom being greater than him, although they are born of women as well, makes it clear that the first part of the statement was never supposed to be understood in an absolute sense. As a second step one only needs to realize that Jesus himself belongs to the kingdom — he actually is the king of this kingdom as we have seen above — and Zawadi's problem completely disappears.
What makes this even more intriguing is that the Quran also affirms that John was sent to prepare the way for the Messiah:
"And the angels called to him (Zechariah) while he was he was standing at prayer in the sanctuary, 'God gives you glad tidings of John, confirming a word of God, a master, chaste man and a prophet, one of the righteous." S. 3:39 Mahmouds Translation
Islamic scholars almost unanimously affirm that the Word of God here, which John came to confirm, is Jesus Christ. The two Jalals stated the following in regard to this text:
And the angels, namely, Gabriel, called to him, standing in the sanctuary, in the temple, at worship that (anna, means bi-anna; a variant reading has inna, implying a direct speech statement) God gives you good tidings (read yubashshiruka, or yubshiruka) of John, who shall confirm a Word, being, from God, namely, Jesus, that he is God's Spirit; he is referred to as [God's] 'Word', because he was created through the word kun, Be; a lord, with a following, and one chaste, forbidden from women, and a prophet of the righteous: it is said that he never sinned and never so intended. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source)
Here is how the Tafsir attributed to Ibn Abbas explains this verse:
(And the angels) i.e. the Angel Gabriel (called to him as he stood praying in the sanctuary) in the mosque: (Allah giveth thee glad tidings of John) a son whose name is John, ((who cometh) to confirm a Word from Allah) Jesus son of Mary that he will be a word from Allah, created without a father, (lordly) who is clement when wronged, (chaste) has no desire for women, (a Prophet of the righteous) among the messengers. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn Abbâs; source)
Muslim scholar Mahmoud A. Ayoub, citing Muslim Tabarsi, states:
"Tabarsi argues that John was obligated by God to be a witness to the fact that Jesus was in truth the word of God and His Spirit." (Ayoub, The Qur'an and Its Interpreters, The House of Imran [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany 1992], Volume II, p. 109; bold emphasis ours)
Muslim exegete al-Zamakhshari substantiates this by saying:
"It is related that John was the first to believe in Jesus. Jesus was called Word because he came to being only by God's word. It was His saying, 'kunn' (be), and no other cause." (Ibid, p. 108; italic emphasis ours)
The most amazing part about all of this is that certain Muslim commentators asserted that John actually worshiped Jesus while both were still in their mothers wombs! For instance, Al-Qurtubi mentions Elizabeths visitation (called Marys sister) shortly after both women had conceived:
"The sister visited Mary and said, 'O Mary, do you perceive that I am with child?' Mary answered, 'Do you see that I am also with child?' Her sister went on, 'I feel the child in my womb bowing down to the child in your womb."
"It is reported that she felt the fetus in her womb bow down with its head turned toward Mary's womb." (Ayoub, p. 108; bold and italic emphasis ours)
"She [i.e. Mary] came to her sister who was then pregnant and to whom the birth of the Baptist had been announced. When the two met, the Baptist's mother felt that her child was bowing within her in recognition of Jesus..." (History of Al-Tabari, Volume 1V [State University of New York Press, Albany 1987], p. 114; bold emphasis ours)
" Her sister, the wife of Zechariah, came to visit her at night. When Mary opened the door for her, the sister clung to her. The wife of Zechariah said, Oh Mary, do you know I am with child? Mary replied, Do you know, that I too am with child? Zechariah's wife then said, I felt that the child in me was bowing to the child in you, as t is written, confirming the Word of God." (Ibid., p. 119; bold emphasis ours)
Thus, even Islamic sources acknowledge Jesus superiority over John the Baptist!
Zawadi maybe confusing the immortal Lord Jesus with Muhammad. It was Muhammad, not the risen Lord of glory, who emphatically said that he was not the greatest and even named several prophets who were superior to him:
The Prophet said, "None has the right to say that I am better than Jonah bin Matta." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 127)
Narrated Abu Huraira:
The Prophet said, "Whoever says that I am better than Jonah bin Matta, is a liar." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 128)
Narrated Abu Huraira:
"A man from the Muslims and a man from the Jews quarreled, and the Muslim said, By Him Who gave superiority to Muhammad over all the people! The Jew said, By Him Who gave superiority to Moses over all the people!' On that the Muslim lifted his hand and slapped the Jew. The Jew went to Allah's Apostle and informed him of all that had happened between him and the Muslim. The Prophet said, Do not give me superiority over Moses, for the people will fall unconscious on the Day of Resurrection, I will be the first to regain consciousness and behold, Moses will be standing there, holding the side of the Throne. I will not know whether he has been one of those who have fallen unconscious and then regained consciousness before me, or if he has been one of those exempted by Allah (from falling unconscious)." (See Hadith No. 524, Vol. 8) (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 564)
Muhammad actually believed that Abraham was the best creature:
Anas b. Malik reported that a person came to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: O the best of creation; thereupon Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: He is Ibrahim (peace be upon him). (Sahih Muslim, Book 030, Number 5841)
This must always be kept in mind: Jesus never denied his surpassing greatness, nor claimed that another prophet was greater than himself. Christ went as far as to say that he was greater than Solomon, greater than Jonah, and that prophets like Abraham eagerly awaited to see his day arrive:
"The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomons wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here." Matthew 12:41-42
"But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it." Matthew 13:16-17
"I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death. At this the Jews exclaimed, Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are? Jesus replied, If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. 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! I tell you the truth, 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 8:51-58
It is Muhammad who emphatically said that he was not the greatest and even named several prophets who were superior to him. Thus, Muhammad was inferior to these great men of God by his own admission. Moreover, since his message contradicts theirs, he is a false prophet who deceived mankind with his false teachings, and he has therefore no right to be named in the same breath as them. For detailed discussions on this issue, see the articles in the section on Muhammad.
To conclude our discussion of Jesus status in comparison to Johns, the plain teaching of the entire NT conclusively demonstrates that Christ is the greatest human who ever walked this earth. It even goes beyond that and shows Jesus to be the very One and Only who has no equals since he is infinitely greater than all creation by virtue of being the God-man!
Sidenote: Osama Abdallah had a few irrelevant words to say regarding the accuracy (or the lack thereof) of the Bible and its alleged contradictions. He also tries to demonstrate why John could not be the greatest man who ever lived up until the time of Christ, but in so doing he only exposes his inability to read and understand context. He says:
2- John the Baptist did not perform any Miracle to even prove that he was a Messenger from GOD Almighty.
3- As we are told in the New Testament, John and the rest of the disciples ran for their lives when Jesus got arrested:
Osama has confused John the Baptist with John the Evangelist and Apostle! The Baptist was already dead, having been beheaded by Herod (cf. Mark 6:14-29), long before Jesus arrest. Osama is clearly confused, and yet this is the gent who wants to convince people that he has refuted our website and even Christianity itself!
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