Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

How Good Logic Leads to Good Theology

And to a Rejection of Islam Pt. 2

Sam Shamoun

This is the second part of our reply to Williams' gross distortion and deliberate misreading of 1 Timothy 6:15-16. He writes:

Paul also said in that passage that God dwells in unapproachable light — that no one has seen God or can see him. Paul knew that many thousands of people had seen Jesus. Yet Paul can say that no one has seen God because Paul was sure that Jesus is not God.


Paul also knew that many people saw God throughout the OT period.

For instance, Jacob is said to have wrestled a man whom he identified as God:

“And Jacob was left alone. And A MAN wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob's hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day has broken.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’ And he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’ Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel (‘face of God’), saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” Genesis 32:24-30 – cf. 18:1-33; 19:24-29

God also appeared visibly to Moses himself along with a group of Israelites: 

“Then he said to Moses, ‘Come up to the LORD, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar. Moses alone shall come near to the LORD, but the others shall not come near, and the people shall not come up with him.’ … Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel. There was under HIS FEET as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness. And he did not lay his hand on the chief men of the people of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank. The LORD said to Moses, ‘Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.’ So Moses rose with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. And he said to the elders, ‘Wait here for us until we return to you. And behold, Aaron and Hur are with you. Whoever has a dispute, let him go to them.’ Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. Now the APPEARANCE of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.” Exodus 24:1-2, 9-18

Yahweh even explicitly told Aaron and Miriam that Moses was given the honor of beholding the form of Yahweh and speaking with him mouth to mouth, i.e. without any creaturely angelic mediation:

“And the LORD came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the entrance of the tent and called Aaron and Miriam, and they both came forward. And he said, ‘Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the LORD make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?’ And the anger of the LORD was kindled against them, and he departed.” Numbers 12:5-9

The translator(s) of the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible, commonly referred to as the Septuagint (LXX), understood this to mean that Moses saw the glory of the Lord:

“I will speak to him mouth to mouth apparently, and not in dark speeches; and he has seen the glory of the Lord (ten doxan Kyriou); and why were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” Numbers 12:8 LXX

Nor was Moses the only prophet who beheld the glory of God since Ezekiel also saw the God of Israel manifest his glory in the form of a man:

“Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with THE APPEARANCE OF A MAN. Then I noticed from the appearance of His loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His loins and downward I saw something like fire; and there was a radiance around Him. As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking. Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, stand on your feet that I may speak with you!’ As He spoke to me the Spirit entered me and set me on my feet; and I heard Him speaking to me. Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, I AM SENDING you to the sons of Israel, to a rebellious people who have rebelled AGAINST ME; they and their fathers have transgressed against Me to this very day. I am sending you to them who are stubborn and obstinate children, and you shall say to them, “THUS SAYS THE LORD GOD.” As for them, whether they listen or not—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them. And you, son of man, neither fear them nor fear their words, though thistles and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions; neither fear their words nor be dismayed at their presence, for they are a rebellious house. But you shall speak MY WORDS to them whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious. Now you, son of man, listen to what I am speaking to you; do not be rebellious like that rebellious house. Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you.’ Then I looked, and behold, A HAND WAS EXTENDED TO ME; and lo, a scroll was in it. When He spread it out before me, it was written on the front and back, and written on it were lamentations, mourning and woe.” Ezekiel 1:26-28, 2:1-10

The prophet Daniel was another righteous servant who saw God, whom he calls the Ancient of Days, appear to him dressed in a white robe with hair like pure wool:

“I kept looking Until thrones were set up, And the Ancient of Days took His seat; His vesture was like white snow And the hair of His head like pure wool. His throne was ablaze with flames, Its wheels were a burning fire. A river of fire was flowing And coming out from before Him; Thousands upon thousands were attending Him, And myriads upon myriads were standing before Him; The court sat, And the books were opened.” Daniel 7:9-10

Abraham saw God as well since Genesis 18-19 says that Yahweh appeared to him as a man alongside two other men who were angels accompanying him. In fact, the text goes so far as to say that Yahweh even ate food and had feet which could be washed!

Now the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him; and when he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them and bowed himself to the earth, and said, ‘My Lord, if now I have found favor in Your sight, please do not pass Your servant by. Please let a little water be brought AND WASH YOUR FEET, and rest yourselves UNDER THE TREE; and I will bring a piece of bread, that you may refresh yourselves; after that you may go on, since you have visited your servant.’ And they said, ‘So do, as you have said.’ So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah, and said, ‘Quickly, prepare three measures of fine flour, knead it and make bread cakes.’ Abraham also ran to the herd, and took a tender and choice calf and gave it to the servant, and he hurried to prepare it. He took curds and milk and the calf which he had prepared, and placed it before them; and he was standing by them under the tree AS THEY ATE.” Genesis 18:1-8

Hence, whatever Paul or the Bible writers meant by no one being able to see God,

“But He said, ‘You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!’” Exodus 33:20

No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us.” 1 John 4:12

They definitely did not intend their words to be taken to imply that God could never appear in a visible form so as to allow his servants to behold his glory, albeit to a very limited extent.

This leads us to our next point.

Christ as the Visible Image and Glory of God

Paul even knew and testified that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Colossians 1:15-17


“Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory. Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through CHRIST is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 3:7-18

Christ is the Lord whose Spirit removes the veil from anyone who turns to him so that they can then behold the glory of Christ the Lord. Paul then goes on to speak of Christ revealing or manifesting the glory of God in his own Person:

“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God's word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone's conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of [i.e. which contains and reveals] the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the FACE (i.e. the Person) of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:1-6

Paul’s point is obvious. God reveals himself visibly in the Person of the Lord Jesus since Christ perfectly images God to others so that they can see what God is like.

“The Exodus narrative forms the background to this passage. In response to Moses’ request God revealed his glory to him, but he was not permitted to see the face of God (Exod 32:18-23; cf. v. 6). On the Damascus Road, Paul, too, saw the glory of God. But there was a shape to it. Paul beheld ‘the image (eikon) of God,’ the glorified Christ. In the heavenly Christ the invisible God, who cannot be seen, has perfectly and fully revealed himself (cf. Col. 1:15). The glorified Christ is the ultimate and eschatological revelation of God. There is nothing more that can or will be seen of God.” (Paul Barnett, The Second Epistle to the Corinthians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament) [William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, MI 1997], p. 219; bold emphasis ours)


“When Paul affirms that Christ is eikon tou theou, he is not saying only that Christ subsists ‘in the form of God’ (en morphe theou hyperchon, Phil. 2:6), having the nature and attributes of God, or only that he is ‘the glory of God’ (cf. tes doxes tou theou en prosopo Christou, 4:6; Acts 7:55), being the outshining deity. As God's eikon, Christ both shares and expresses God's nature. He is the precise and visible representation of the invisible God (Col. 1:15, where tou aoratou is added to eikon tou theou). An eikon is ‘likeness’ (German Bild) or a ‘visible expression’ (Abbild). The degree of resemblance between the original and the copy must be assessed by the word’s context, but it could vary from a partial or superficial resemblance to a complete or essential likeness. Given passages such as Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:19; 2:9, we may safely assume that for Paul eikon here, as in Col. 1:15, signifies that Christ is an exact representation (Ebenbild) as well as a visible expression of God. estin is a timeless present, indicating that Christ is eternally the perfect reflection of God or at least that in his glorified corporeality Christ remains forever God's visible expression.” (Murray J. Harris, Second Epistle To The Corinthians (New International Greek Testament Commentary) [William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, MI 2005], pp. 330-331)

Paul is basically saying the same thing that the Apostle John says in his Gospel:

The Word became flesh and made His tabernacle among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth… No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, Who is Himself God, and Who is in the bosom of the Father, has made Him known.” John 1:14, 18

“And Jesus cried out and said, ‘He who believes in Me, does not believe in Me but in Him who sent Me. He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me.’” John 12:44-45

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the Way, and THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE; no one comes to the Father but through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.’ Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, “Show us the Father”? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.’” John 14:6-11

Hence, the God whom no is able to see because he is invisible by nature is the same God who visibly reveals himself in the Person of his beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ!

As if this wasn’t remarkable enough, Paul goes so far as to call Christ the Lord of glory!  

“None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” 1 Corinthians 2:8

Paul wasn’t the only inspired writer to refer to Christ as the Lord of glory:

“My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Glory (tes doxes).” James 2:1

To call Jesus the Lord of glory, which is to say that he is the Lord to whom glory belongs, or simply “the Glory” as James does, is to identify him as Yahweh. As one commentator explains:

Kyrion tes doxes, not ‘the dispenser of glory’ (Aug., De Trin. I. xii. 24, quod ipse glorificet sanctos suos), neither is it a Hebraism for ‘glorious Lord’ (Heydenr.), but ‘the Lord to whom glory belongs as His native right.’ It is genit. of characteristic quality (cf. Acts vii. 2; Eph. i. 17; 1 Thess. v. 23). Glory is the peculiar attribute of Jehovah among all the gods (cf. Ps. xxix. 1). The expression is theologically important because it implies that Jesus was Lord of glory, that is, Jehovah, and that this Lord of glory died (cf. Acts iii. 15)…” (Thomas Charles Edwards, A Commentary on the first epistle to the Corinthians, p. 54; bold emphasis ours)

And since Yahweh is identified as both the King and God of glory, then he must necessarily be the Lord of glory as well. This, perhaps, explains why the Jewish pseudepigraphal work titled 1 Enoch refers to the true God as the Lord of glory:

“Then I blessed the Lord of glory and said: ‘Blessed be my Lord, the Lord of righteousness, who ruleth for ever.’” 1 Enoch 22:14

“And he answered saying: ‘This high mountain which thou hast seen, whose summit is like the throne of God, is His throne, where the Holy Great One, the Lord of Glory, the Eternal King, will sit, when He shall come down to visit the earth with goodness.’” 1 Enoch 25:3b-4a

“‘… In the last days there shall be upon them the spectacle of righteous judgement in the presence of the righteous for ever: here shall the merciful bless the Lord of glory, the Eternal King. In the days of judgement over the former, they shall bless Him for the mercy in accordance with which He has assigned them (their lot).’ Then I blessed the Lord of Glory and set forth His glory and lauded Him gloriously.” 1 Enoch 27:3b-5

“And as often as I saw I blessed always the Lord of Glory, and I continued to bless the Lord of Glory who has wrought great and glorious wonders, to show the greatness of His work to the angels and to spirits and to men, that they might praise His work and all His creation: that they might see the work of His might and praise the great work of His hands and bless Him for ever.” 1 Enoch 36:3b

“And I heard the voices of those four presences as they uttered praises before the Lord of glory.” 1 Enoch 40:3

“In those days shall the mighty and the kings who possess the earth implore (Him) to grant them a little respite from His angels of punishment to whom they were delivered, that they might fall down and worship before the Lord of Spirits, and confess their sins before Him. And they shall bless and glorify the Lord of Spirits, and say: ‘Blessed is the Lord of Spirits and the Lord of kings, And the Lord of the mighty and the Lord of the rich, And the Lord of glory and the Lord of wisdom, And splendid in every secret thing is Thy power from generation to generation, And Thy glory for ever and ever: Deep are all Thy secrets and innumerable, And Thy righteousness is beyond reckoning. We have now learnt that we should glorify And bless the Lord of kings and Him who is king over all kings.’ And they shall say: ‘Would that we had rest to glorify and give thanks And confess our faith before His glory.’” 1 Enoch 63:1-5

“… For the signs and the times and the years and the days the angel Uriel showed to me, whom the Lord of glory hath set for ever over all the luminaries of the heaven, in the heaven and in the world, that they should rule on the face of the heaven and be seen on the earth, and be leaders for the day and the night, i.e. the sun, moon, and stars, and all the ministering creatures which make their revolution in all the chariots of the heaven.” 1 Enoch 75:3b-4a

“… And now, my son, arise and make petition to the Lord of glory, since thou art a believer, that a remnant may remain on the earth, and that He may not destroy the whole earth…” 1 Enoch 83:8b-9a

Interestingly, not only does the book of Enoch identify the true God as the Lord of glory, it also refers to him as the Lord of kings who is king over all kings. As we saw in the first part of our rebuttal, these are some of the very titles ascribed to the Lord Jesus Christ!

“and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the Firstborn of the dead, and the Ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 1:5-6

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.’” Revelation 19:11-16

Moreover, to call Jesus “the Glory” as James does in his inspired epistle is to identify Christ as the shekinah glory, or the manifest presence of Yahweh. As the following scholars explain:

The last genitive, “of glory” can be taken in two different ways. The first, and by far the most common, is as a descriptive or qualitative genitive, that is, “our glorious Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. Jas 1:25; 1Cor 2:8). The second, appropriate in such a strongly Christological context, is appositional, so that Christ is equated with the shekinah glory of God, the “localized presence of Yahweh.” If this reading is accepted, James’s letter displays a high Christology very early in the development of the church.

Moo argues against this second interpretation by claiming that “never in the OT or in the NT is the word ‘glory’ used by itself as a title of God or Christ.”  But, as Robert Sloan observes, the term “has a long prehistory in Jewish history and theology as a euphemism for Yahweh,” building on the light in the tabernacle (Ex 40:34) and temple (1 Ki 8:11) and Ezekiel’s vision of the heavenly throne (Eze 1:28), it is widely used throughout the NT in close association with God and Christ to refer to their presence, and in this context it is not occurring “by itself,” but with a triad of related titles. Furthermore, a simple descriptive genitive seldom puts the noun functioning as a modifier so far from the word modified; the unique syntax must be stressing the role of “glory” in some fashion. Baker observes:

Such a deft reference to Christ as the manifestation of God’s presence seems more compatible with the emphasis here on impartiality. This interpretation is reinforced by the reference to Christ as Lord and Judge upon his return in 5:7-9. “Glory” is best recognized, then, as signifying the presence of God as judge. (Craig L. Blomberg & Mariam J. Kamell, James – Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament [Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI 2008], pp. 106-107; bold emphasis ours)


“James speaks of our Lord by name only twice, and on both occasions he gives Him the full title of reverence: `the (or our) Lord Jesus Christ' (11; 21) coupling Him in the one case on equal terms with God, and in the other adding further epithets of divine dignity. Elsewhere he speaks of Him simply as ‘the Lord’ (57,8[14],15) in contexts which greatly enhance the significance of the term. The pregnant use of ‘the Name,’ absolutely, which we found current among the early Christians as reported in the Acts, recurs here; and James advises in the case of sick people that they be prayed over while they are anointed with oil ‘in the Name’ (514). The ‘Name’ intended is clearly that of Jesus, which is thus in Christian usage substituted for that of Jehovah. A unique epithet, equally implying the deity of the Lord, is applied to Him in the exhortation, `My brethren, hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Glory, with respect of persons' (21). `The Glory' seems to stand here in apposition to the name, `our Lord Jesus Christ,' further defining Him in His majesty. There is here something more than merely the association of our Lord with glory, as when we are told that He had glory with God before the world was (Jn 17:5), and after His humiliation on earth (though even on earth He manifested His glory to seeing eyes, Jn 114; 211; 1722) entered again into His glory (Lk 2426, Jn 1724, 1 Tim 316, Heb 29, cf. Mt 198; 2531; [Mk 1017]), and is to come again in this glory (Mt 1627; 2430; 2531; Mk 838; 1326; Lk 926; 2127, Titus 213; 1 Pet 413). We come nearer to what is implied when we read of Jesus being `the Lord of Glory' (1 Cor 28), that is He to whom glory belongs as His characterizing quality; or when He is described to us as `the effulgence of the glory of God' (Heb 13). The thought of the writer seems to be fixed on those Old Testament passages in which Jehovah is described as the `Glory': e. g., `For I, saith Jehovah, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and I will be the Glory in the midst of her' (Zech 25). In the Lord Jesus Christ, James sees the fulfillment of these promises: He is Jehovah come to be with His people; and, as He has tabernacled among them, they have seen His glory. He is, in a word, the Glory of God, the Shekinah: God manifest to men. It is thus that James thought and spoke of his own brother who died a violent and shameful death while still in His first youth! Surely there is a phenomenon here which may well waken inquiry.” (B.B. Warfield, The Lord of Glory: A Study of the Designations of Our Lord in the New Testament with Especial Reference to His Deity [Solid Ground Christian Books, Birmingham, Alabama, First Printing, 2003], pp. 264-265; bold emphasis ours)

Hence, the above citations prove that a first century Jew reading these particular NT verses would have no problem seeing that Paul (as well as James) equated Jesus with Yahweh God.

We have more to say in the final part of our rebuttal.