The following is a response to Shabir Ally's article found in at least these places: , .
We begin our examination of Shabir's assertions.
It was very clear to the earliest followers of Jesus that Jesus was a prophet like the other prophets who came before him (see Luke 4:24; John 6:14; Jn 9:17).
Interestingly, when it suits his purposes Shabir will quote the Gospels to support his presuppositions. Yet when these very Gospel accounts refute his underlying assumptions Shabir is then all too quick to question their reliability. How does Shabir know whether these verses are not fabrications also? After all, there are many so-called scholars who doubt whether Jesus ever claimed that he was a prophet. In fact, some go so far as to argue that Jesus never claimed being the Christ!
Shabir does not reject the biblical evidence in support of the Deity of Christ due to any historical and/or archaeological evidence, since the evidence overwhelmingly supports the Christian position. His rejection is based primarily on his belief that Muhammad is God's prophet and the Quran is God's word. Since Islam rejects the Deity of Christ Shabir is forced to beg the question by assuming that Islam is true and then proceed to read this assumption into the biblical text. It is little wonder that Shabir tears God's Holy Word to shreds to suit his purposes. This is what we call cafeteria exegesis, namely taking only those passages that suit your taste buds and rejecting those that don't sit well with your stomach. The Holy Bible warns against the likes of Shabir Ally:
"Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction." 2 Peter 3:15-16
We find a similar statement in the Quran, Shabir's holy book:
"Of just such wrath) as We sent down on those who divided (Scripture into arbitrary parts),- (So also on such) as have made Qurán into shreds (as they please). Therefore, by thy Lord, We will, of a surety, call them to account, For all their deeds." S. 15:90-93
Furthermore, when we look at the respective contexts of the passages cited by Shabir we get a completely different picture:
"When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." Luke 3:21-22
"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread. Jesus answered, It is written: "Man does not live on bread alone." The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours. Jesus answered, It is written: "Worship the Lord your God and serve him only." The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. If you are the Son of God, he said, throw yourself down from here. For it is written: "He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone." Jesus answered, It says: "Do not put the Lord your God to the test." When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing. All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. Isn't this Joseph's son? they asked. Jesus said to them, Surely you will quote this proverb to me: "Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum." I tell you the truth, he continued, no prophet is accepted in his hometown ... Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath began to teach the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority. In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are - the Holy One of God! Be quiet! Jesus said sternly. Come out of him! Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him. All the people were amazed and said to each other, What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out! And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area." Luke 4:1-24, 31-37
"Jesus said, Have the people sit down. There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted. So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world. Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. But he said to them, I AM (ego eimi); don't be afraid. Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading." John 6:10-21
"When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, Rabbi, when did you get here? Jesus answered, I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal. Then they asked him, What must we do to do the works God requires? Jesus answered, The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent. So they asked him, What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: "He gave them bread from heaven to eat." 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. Sir, they said, from now on give us this bread. 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. They 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"?" John 6:25-42
No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life. I am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate the manna in the desert, yet they died. 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 ... Jesus said to them, I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever." John 6:46-51, 53-58
"Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, Do you believe in the Son of Man? Who is he, sir? the man asked. Tell me so that I may believe in him. Jesus said, You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you. Then the man said, Lord, I believe, and he worshiped him. Jesus said, For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind. Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, What? Are we blind too? Jesus said, If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains." John 9:35-41
When we examine the context of Shabir's citations we discover the following facts regarding the person of Christ:
Finally, since Shabir accepts John 6:14 as genuine this now poses a problem for his claim that Muhammad is the Prophet like Moses. Let us quote the verse in context to see why:
"Some time after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick. Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Feast was near. When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat? He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, Eight months wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite! Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peters brother, spoke up, Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many? Jesus said, Have the people sit down. There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted. So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. After the people SAW THE MIRACULOUS SIGN THAT JESUS DID, they began to say, Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world. Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself ... So they asked him, What miraculous sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our forefathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written: "He gave them bread from heaven to eat." 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." John 6:1-14, 30-32
After miraculously feeding the multitudes with a few loaves and fish, the people realized that Jesus was the prophet whom Moses had written about:
"The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die. The Lord said to me: What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him." Deuteronomy 18:15-18
"Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, who did all those miraculous signs and wonders the Lord sent him to do in Egypt - to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel." Deuteronomy 34:10-12
Hence, Jesus' miraculous feeding was an indication that THE Prophet had arrived. Compare the following citations:
"Now this was John's testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, I am not the Christ. They asked him, Then who are you? Are you Elijah? He said, I am not. Are you THE Prophet? He answered, No. Finally they said, Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself? 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" ... Philip found Nathanael and told him, We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote - Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." John 1:19-23, 45
"But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?" John 5:45-47
"On hearing his words, some of the people said, Surely this man is THE Prophet." John 7:40
Seeing that Shabir cites John 6:14 to prove the assertion that Jesus was nothing more than a prophet he must also accept the implications of this passage in identifying Jesus as the Prophet like Moses. By appealing to John 6:14 Shabir can no longer claim that Deuteronomy 18:15-18 is a prediction of Muhammad since John 6:14 identifies Jesus as the Prophet like Moses.
However, the Gospel writers were eager to teach that Jesus was not like other prophets, but that he was the Son of God. In their zeal, they did not stop to realise that their doctrine does not do justice to God. Some of what they reported in the Gospels reflect badly on God. But they did not seem to realise this. Take for example the parable of the wicked tenants reported in the first three Gospels.
This is a classic textbook example of circular reasoning. Shabir assumes that the Gospel writers turned Jesus into the Son of God. What is his proof? Contemporary historical writings that present a contradictory picture of Jesus from the one presented in the Gospels? No. Relevant archaeological data that refutes the reliability and authenticity of the Gospel material? No. In point of fact, many liberal and conservative NT scholars agree that the parable of the tenants is a genuine saying of the historical Jesus. These scholars also agree that the historical Jesus did believe and claimed to be God's unique Son. Noted Dead Sea Scroll Scholar James H. Charlesworth, who is by no means a conservative evangelical Christian holding to the inerrancy of the Bible, comments on the scholarly views regarding Jesus' self-understanding. All bold and capital emphasis ours:
Fortunately, there is no longer a consensus that we cannot discern and discuss Jesus' self-understanding or his purpose. My own research leads me to admit that Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah. That conclusion however does not warrant or entail the claim that he could not have had some messianic self-perception. His silence may well be an implicit indication that he may have thought of himself as Messiah. Numerous Jewish texts, like the Psalms of Solomon and 4 Ezra, indicate that only God can declare who is the Messiah. Any self-designation only proves that the proclaimer cannot be the Messiah. This insight certainly helps clarify the reticence (or refusal) of Jesus to accept Peter's confession according to Mark 8 ...
The parable of the wicked tenant farmers, despite signs of some editorial reworking by his followers, seems to derive ultimately from Jesus. He then may have referred to himself with the word son: He (the man who planted a vineyard= God) sent his son to the tenant farmers saying, "they will respect my son." These words are from the canonical version (Mk. 12:1-9; Mt 21:33-46; Lk 20:9-19). An early apocryphal work, the Gospel of Thomas, preserves the following version of these words: Then the master sent his son. He said: "Perhaps they will respect my son."
Is it conceivable that Jesus could have thought of himself as God's son? Working on other texts, numerous scholars have come to the conclusion that the answer is a simple YES: Jesus considered himself God's son. Some of the experts who have come to this conclusion are M.J. Borg, D. Flusser, and J.D.G. Dunn. (Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls, The Controversy Resolved, ed. James H. Charlesworth, Doubleday, 1992, pp. 141-142)
Research on the historical Jesus for more than two hundreds have shown one perennial penchant: TO PORTRAY JESUS IN TERMS OF ONE'S OWN IDEALS AND CUSTOMS [Sam- Interestingly, Shabir is guilty of this very thing]. It is certain that Jesus' authentic words were altered significantly in the forty years that separated his crucifixion from the composition of the first Gospel.
It is equally certain that Jesus' followers were not only interested in the Lord they affirmed was raised from the dead by God. They were also interested in the Jesus they had known earlier, and they always identified the risen Christ with the one they had known in Galilee and Jerusalem. For them the identity was not ideological by ontological.
In the last ten years scholars have shown far more confidence than their former teachers in knowing something with confidence about the pre-Easter Jew called Jesus. This confidence is due not only to refined methodology but also to an enlightened perception of pre-70 Palestinian Judaism, thanks to the fruitful work on the Dead Sea Scrolls and other pre-70 Jewish writings.
The following portrait of Jesus seems now to be WIDELY ACCEPTED by many New Testament specialists. Jesus had some relationship with John the Baptizer, who certainly baptized him. He began his public ministry in or near Capernaum and took the initiative in calling men and women to follow him.
He did select a special group, the twelve, and this action seems to indicate some revolutionary purpose to restore Israel. He performed healings and probably exorcisms. He was an itinerant preacher who proclaimed the nearness (even presence at times) of God's kingdom. He insisted that God is a loving Father; his favorite word for God was not the ineffable and common Jewish name for God, Yahweh, which according to our sources he never used. He customarily called God Abba, the Aramaic noun which for him denoted a beloved and intimate Father. He also taught his disciples, in the Lord's Prayer, to call God by this unsophisticated term of endearment.
He possibly faced without fear the premonition that he would be murdered, perhaps stoned. After an unknown period of public teaching in Galilee he moved southward to Jerusalem, where he boldly and successfully demonstrated his disdain for the corruption in the Temple during a public confrontation with the priestly establishment. He suffered through rejection by two especially close disciples (James and John the sons of Zebedee), the betrayal of Judas, and the denial of Peter. He eventually died ignominiously on a cross, outside the western wall of Jerusalem in the spring of 30 C.E.
Within a very short interval of time his followers began to claim boldly and openly that God had raised him from the dead. The memory of him lingered on among those who had lived with him. Slowly this memory faded in the claim to have met him alive in a resurrected form, in the daily endeavors to proclaim his messiahship, SONSHIP, AND LORDSHIP, and especially in the fervent belief that he was about to return as judge and fulfiller of God's promises. (pp. 150-152)
Charlesworth demonstrates the reasons for scholars accepting that the historical Jesus claimed to be God's unique Son. Interestingly, Charlesworth cites the parable of the tenants as an example of Jesus claiming to be God's Son! Here is his lengthy discussion of the reasons why scholars believe that this parable is authentic and the importance it has in our understanding of Jesus' self-awareness:
"Clearly he was not preoccupied with his self-understanding, but did he never ponder who he was and what his role was in God's drama of salvation? Surely his dynamic, underivative, and authoritative speech reflects a very strong ego. His ability to perform exorcisms and other mighty works would have forced upon him some self-reflections. To think otherwise, far from attributing messianic overtones to him, portray him as otherworldly figure [Sam- Which indeed he was!]. His expectation of being martyred must have evoked some reflections on who he was. The salutes and titles attributed to him by other Jews, whether Peter or the crowds, must have caused some self-reflections.
An answer to our search for Jesus' self-understanding is hidden in one of his parables, which are well-known art forms typical of Jesus' teaching. The parable of the wicked tenant farmers, though obviously edited by the evangelists (including Mark), probably derives ultimately from Jesus for the following reasons.
First, it is widely attested and cannot be attributed to the creativity of one evangelist. It is found within (Mk, Mt, Lk) and without the Christian canon (GThom).
Second, the essential core of this parable is different from the proclamations (kerygmata) of Jesus' early followers. The review of history seems more typical of tendencies in the Jewish apocalypses than the essential thrust of the kerygma, which was focused more on Jesus than on the past history of salvation.
The concept of son is thoroughly Jewish and contains none of the early christological reflections. The death of the son in the parable is not by crucifixion; the corpse is dishonored; and the death is in no way efficacious. The expectation that the Jewish tenants will respect Jesus clashes with the anti-Jewish polemic of the evangelists, especially Matthew and John.
Third, the parable bears the stamp of Jesus' own genius; it was not transferred to him from an unknown Jewish source. It is an eschatological parable and thus coheres with other well-known parables that are authentic to Jesus. The reference to killing the envoy, especially the son, coheres with other passages that clearly go back to Jesus and reflect his premonition of impending martyrdom. The mention of last (of all) may be in harmony with Jesus' futuristic eschatology; if so, it clashes with Matthew's and Luke's, and especially John's tendency to shift the spotlight from the future to the present. The ambiguity of some parts of the parable, especially the exact meanings of heir and inheritance, is in line with many of Jesus' sayings, which are sometimes opaque. The vagueness also clashes with the attempt by the evangelists to clarify ambiguities. The focus on God as the owner (kyrios, Lord) of the vineyard fits better within Jesus' theocentric theology and his dependence on early Jewish theology and its development of the Old Testament motifs than it does within the focus on Jesus by the post-Easter Church.
Fourth, the setting of the parable, especially the social and economic conditions portrayed, represents Jesus' own time and not that of the evangelists. The fruitful fields are owned by absentee landlords, which describes rural Palestine beginning with the heavy taxations by Herod the Great. It does not so representatively describe Palestine after its devastation by the Romans in 66-70 C.E. The ambiance is that of the Palestinian Jews from the time of Herod the Great until 70, when they, like Job, felt unjustly persecuted, and not that of the post-Easter community, which claimed to be justified by Christ's death and resurrection.
The refusal of the tenant farmers to pay what is owed to the landlord makes adequate sense only in Jesus' time; the land rightfully belonged to the so-called tenant farmers, who believed that their religious and legal right had been unjustly robbed from them. Such history fits precisely both the parable and the Palestinian countryside after 38 B.C.E. Seen with this perspective the parable rings with meaning.
The imagery - notably the reference to the meaning of trough, the time of harvesting, and the portion of the harvest due to the landlord - would have been familiar to Jesus' hearers, but it would have needed an explanation to many readers of the Gospel of Mark in Rome, Alexandria, or Antioch. The economic setting is rural, not urban, and goods are unequally distributed. Such is the setting of Jesus' authentic parables, which evoke empathy in the hearers.
Fifth, the reference to the son is impressively undeveloped and ambiguous. This factor accords well with the use of son in early Jewish theology, and especially with the words of some of the Galilean charismatics contemporaneous with Jesus, notably Honi (m.Ta'an 3:8), or the tradition that one of the Galilean charismatics, namely Hanina, was called my son by God (b.Ber 17b).
Sixth, the parable is one piece of cloth. In Mark it does reflect some editing (only interpolation and an expansion at the end), but it does not evidence reweaving. It is as if new threads were sewn into the whole cloth; it is not as if a new garment is woven out of reused pieces." (pp. 152-154)
"There is impressive evidence that it once circulated in an Aramaic oral form. Note the undeveloped sentences and the need to supply within parentheses the full meaning. The audience knew the historical; it was familiar to them from their daily lives. Note especially the need to supply objective pronouns within parentheses: him must be added for meaningful English not fewer than three times. Recall the following sentence: But they took him, beat (him), and sent (him) away empty-handed. Like English, Greek usually presents these objective pronouns, but Aramaic, Jesus' own language, frequently assumes them in oral and written language.
What is most impressive is the LACK of expansion of the story from the editing of the evangelist Mark. He has clearly supplied only beloved before son. [Sam- How does he know that Mark has "clearly supplied" this apart from opinion?] This adjective was one of Mark's favorites, as we know from the theophanic voice account of Jesus' baptism and transfiguration: You are (or this is) my beloved (agapetos) son (Mk 1:11 [the baptism] and 9:7 [the transfiguration]). NO OTHER CLEAR MARCAN EXPANSION IS EVIDENT, except perhaps the ending.
The theologian Mark did not clarify how the son was killed, and that is very impressive. For Mark the death of Jesus was extremely important. It was one of the key reasons he composed his Gospel. For him Jesus' death on a cross was salvific and essential for the forgiveness of sins; but according to this parable the death of the son benefits no one. Moreover, the death occurs within the vineyard, and the corpse is hurled over the fence that surrounds it. Jesus' crucifixion, as Mark knew it, was outside the walls of Jerusalem. IT IS SIMPLY NOT POSSIBLE TO CONCLUDE THAT MARK CREATED THIS PARABLE.
For the same reasons it must be concluded that it is highly improbable that any of Jesus' followers composed the story. The use of the noun son is left undeveloped. It does not appear to be a title, as it was most assuredly in the earliest Christian communities. The death of the son is against all records of how and where Jesus died. He died on a cross outside the city Jerusalem. The son in the parable dies within the vineyard by means unknown. Jesus' corpse according to the earliest traditions, was revered and accorded respect by his followers and even others. In the parable the corpse of the son is cast with contempt over the fence of the vineyard ...
The noun son COULD NOT HAVE BEEN ADDED BY MARK; it is also in a source independent of Mark. Mark and the compiler of the Gospel of Thomas inherited the noun son; Mark then edited it to beloved son. The noun son, therefore, like other parts of this parable, DERIVES AUTHENTICALLY FROM JESUS ... (pp. 155-156)
Continue with Part 2.
Rebuttals to Shabir Ally
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