A response to

John 20:28 (My Lord and my God)

John 20:28 (My Lord and my God)

24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.
25 So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it."
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!"
27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."
28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!"
29 Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.
31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Mr. Al Kadhi faces with a very serious problem with this entire chapter of the Gospel of John. According to John's Gospel, Jesus had been crucified, was buried in a tomb for several days, and was resurrected from the dead - all of these events contradict the teachings of the Koran. How does Mr. Al Kadhi attempt to dismiss this very serious challenge? He simply tries to discredit the statement of Thomas "My Lord and my God!".

Al Kadhi says: "Once again, when I was first quoted this verse, I immediately thought that I had at long last found my elusive goal. Finally, I had found a verse that explicitly claims that Jesus "is" God. However, it was not long after that, upon further research into Christian theological literature, I once again would come to find that the true meaning of this verse was quite different than what a casual glance might have me believe." Mr. Al Kadhi uses three arguments to dismiss the words of Thomas: Thomas simply used an expression that was a figure of speech, competing manuscripts, and the teachings of the Koran concerning Jesus. He also raises some incidental issues, perhaps to further confuse the reader, in the end of this chapter.

1. It was only an expression!

The first portion of this argument, according to Mr. Al Kadhi, is that: ‘the phrase "Thomas answered" is somewhat misleading since nowhere before this verses was Thomas asked a question. Thomas' words could more appropriately be referred to as an "outburst" or an "exclamation."’ This is really a simple issue of translation that Al Kadhi attempts to distort out of proportion. The King James translation says that Thomas "answered" and the NIV Bible translates "Thomas said". In any event, no question was posed to Thomas. Thomas was "answering" the invitation of Jesus to "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."

Al Kadhi continues with: ‘This is indeed why most translations of the Bible (excluding the King James Version) follow this exclamation with an "exclamation mark" as follows: "And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God!"’ The King James Bible was translated in the early 17th century, a time when English punctuation was not standardized and what we now know as an exclamation mark, was not widely used. In any case, the presence or absence, of an exclamation point has no relevance to the discussion of whether Thomas' statement was a figurative or literal expression.

To confuse the argument further, Mr. Al Kadhi says: ‘Christian scholars such as Theodore of Mopsuestia (c.350-428), the Bishop of Mopsuestia, interpreted this verse to not be directed at Jesus but at God "the Father."’ What Al Kadhi either does not know, or (more likely) omits to tell us, is that Theodore of Mopsuestia was condemned by the Church in 653 AD for heresy! Some historians believe that he laid the intellectual foundations for Nestorianism - a heretical Christian sect that was persecuted, and almost completely destroyed, by Muslim armies.

Al Kadhi continues: ‘Thus, it is similar in meaning to our modern exclamations of surprise "My God!" or "My Lord!." In other words, this was an outburst designed to display surprise and disbelief rather than an affirmation that Jesus was in fact God "the Father."’ This is unlikely for two reasons. First, the Jews of this time period would have considered taking God's name in vain a very serious offense. They simply did not use the name of God in such a way. Second, Jesus would have corrected Thomas if this had been the case.

Thomas is usually portrayed, at least when I was in Sunday School, in a somewhat critical light as the "doubting Thomas". Personally, I like Thomas, I empathize with him. He heard the prophecies of Jesus as well as the reports from his fellow Apostles and disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead. In my opinion, Thomas desperately wanted to believe that his Lord had indeed risen from the grave. However, Thomas wanted the facts, he wanted irrefutable proof, and he wanted to see this proof with his own eyes. His words "My Lord and my God!" reflected Thomas' joy of being in the presence of the Lord and a confirmation that his beliefs were, indeed, founded in the truth.

2. Competing Texts

Mr. Al Kadhi brings up a case of discrepancy between Greek Bible manuscripts: ‘Secondly, the word translated in this verse as "God" is indeed the Greek "Ho theos" (The God), and not "theos" (divine). However, when studying the history of this verse in the ancient Biblical manuscripts from which our modern Bibles have been compiled we find an interesting fact, specifically, that the ancient Biblical manuscripts themselves are not in agreement as to the correct form of this word. For example, the codex Bezae (or codex D) is a fifth century manuscript containing Greek and Latin texts of the Gospels and Acts, which was discovered in the 16th century by Theodore Beza in a monastery in Lyon. The predecessor of the codex Bezae and other church manuscripts do not contain the article "Ho" ("THE") in their text (The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, Bart D. Ehrman, p. 266).’

The Codex Bezae is one of the five most important Greek New Testament manuscripts in existence. It is probably the most interesting to scholars because of several of its peculiar readings of Scriptural verses which are unique to this particular Codex. The UBS Greek New Testament does use the phrase "Ho theos" (The God) in this case and "Ho theos" is the phrase which is accepted by Bible scholars as authentic.

Let us quote the passage in question in order to see what this author was trying to convey:

Another passage that can be taken to suggest that Christ is "God" himself (i.e., ho theos, with the article) occurs near the end of the Fourth Gospel, and here again one should not be surprised to find scribes modifying the text. Upon seeing the resurrected Jesus, Thomas exclaims, "My Lord and my God" (ho theos mou). The passage has caused interpreters problems over the years; Theodore of Mopsuestia argued that the words were not addressed directly to Jesus but were uttered in praise of God the Father. Modern commentators have also found the phrasing problematic, because unlike the statement of 1:1, where the Word is theos (without the article), here Jesus is expressly entitled ho theos. How can one avoid drawing from this designation the conclusion that he is the one and only "God"? Several scribes of the early church adroitly handled the matter in what can be construed as an anti-Patripassianist corruption: the predecessor of codex Bezae and other Gospel manuscripts simply omitted the article. Jesus is divine, but he is not the one "God" himself. (Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament [Oxford University Press, USA; paperback edition, 1993], p. 266)

Ehrman, in this particular section, is dealing with scribal variations which may have risen from the heated debates regarding Patripassianism, due to the heretical doctrines of Patripassianists. This heresy taught that Jesus was the same Person as the Father and that the Father died on the cross. In light of this controversy, Ehrman is postulating the theory that this may account for why in certain textual witnesses the Greek definite article ho was omitted before theos in John 20:28. Basically, Ehrman’s point is that the title ho theos (usually) refers to the Father, and to therefore call Jesus ho theos may have led some to conclude that he is the Father.

Note that Ehrman along with the vast majority of scholars considers the reading ho theos to be original. Ehrman cannot be appealed to in order to deny the validity of the definite article in this place.

Lest the reader misunderstand what Ehrman means that Jesus is divine but not God himself, we quote what follows right after:

The same motivation appears to have been at work in passages in which Jesus is not explicitly referred to as God, but in which the inference, for the orthodox, are nonetheless quite strong. In Mark 2:7 the Pharisees object to Jesus’ pronouncement that the sins of the paralytic are forgiven. In their view, only the One God (heis ho theos) can forgive sins. For orthodox interpreters, of course, Jesus was himself divine, and so was perfectly able to forgive sins. But at the same time, he was not "the one" God. And so it comes as no surprise to find one of our earlier manuscripts, codex Bezae again, modifying the text to allow for the orthodox construal. In this case the change has been made simply by omitting the emphasis heis. Now, by implication, Christ is still divine (contra the adoptionists), yet he is not the embodiment of the Father himself. (Ibid., bold emphasis ours)

It is evident what Ehrman means when he says that to the Orthodox Jesus was divine, but not the One God. He means that Jesus is fully God in essence, but not the Father, nor the only Divine Person, since this is what the Orthodox clearly meant. Ehrman doesn’t deny that John 20:28 calls Jesus God, but that it calls him the Father.

Mr. Al Kadhi recycles some of his older arguments to continue to discredit this passage: ‘What this means is that this verse in its original form, if it is to be understood to be addressing Jesus (pbuh) himself, only addresses him as "divine" and not as the "Almighty God." Thus, it is similar in meaning to the meaning conveyed when prophet Moses is described as being a "god" in Exodus 7:1 (or when all Jews are described as being "gods" in Psalms 82:6, or when the devil is described as god in 2 Corinthians 4:4), effectively reducing the exclamation of Thomas, if it were indeed directed to Jesus, to "My lord the divine!," or "my divine lord!"’ The issue of calling others "god" has been answered elsewhere.

3. What does the Koran really say?

Mr. Al Kadhi has been toying with us up to this point. He never believed in any portion of this passage and he believes that he solves the entire issue by saying: "For a Muslim the matter is simple. The Qur'an very explicitly states that Jesus was not forsaken by God to the Jews to be crucified, rather "it was made to appear so to them." So the claim that Jesus came to Thomas and asked him to witness the imprint of the nail in his hand and the spear in his side is, for a Muslim, clear evidence that this whole episode was a fabrication and later insertion. However, since a Muslim's claim in this regard would not be regarded as authoritative unbiased proof in this matter, therefore, it is necessary to use a little logic to arrive at the truth."

So, how simple and clear is this issue according to the Koran? Mr. Al Kadhi refers to Sura 4: 157-159 to put the issue to rest:

157 : That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah";- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-
158 Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise;-
159 And there is none of the People of the Book but must believe in him before his death; and on the Day of Judgment he will be a witness against them;-

According to this passage, Jesus was not killed on the cross, but was "raised up" to God, and those of us who disagree with this claim "are full of doubts with no certain knowledge" and if we do not believe the Koran's account, Jesus will be a witness against us on the Day of Judgment. Does this settle the issue? Not really! Incidentally, there is an interesting problem with this account. Why would the Jews "boast" that they killed the Messiah? Think about it for a minute. The Jewish followers of Jesus did not kill him. In fact, they were horrified when he was put to death. The Jewish enemies of Jesus were certainly happy to have Him out of their way, but they would never have called him the Messiah or a "Messenger" of God since they viewed such statements as blasphemy!

Sura 5:75 tells us : "Christ the son of Mary was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allah doth make His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth!"

But Sura 3:144 says:

Muhammad is but a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) have passed away before him. Will it be that, when he dieth or is slain, ye will turn back on your heels? He who turneth back on his heels doth no hurt to Allah, and Allah will reward the thankful.

Therefore, Sura 5:75 tells us that Jesus was only a messenger and Sura 3:144 says that all messengers have died. Therefore, since Jesus was only a messenger and all messengers have died, Jesus could not have been "raised up" as Sura 4:158 claims, he must be dead and in a grave! Sura 5:110 also confuses the issue of Jesus being "raised up" since the verse says that Jesus taught "when of old age": "When Allah will say: O Isa son of Marium! Remember My favor on you and on your mother, when I strengthened you I with the holy Spirit, you spoke to the people in the cradle and I when of old age, and when I taught you the Book and the wisdom and the Taurat and the Injeel; and when you determined out of clay a thing like the form of a bird by My permission, then you breathed into it and it became a bird by My permission, and you healed the blind and the leprous by My permission; and when you brought forth the dead by My permission; and when I withheld the children of Israel from you when you came to them with clear arguments, but those who disbelieved among them said: This is nothing but clear enchantment." Incidentally, Yusuf Ali, the great translator and commentator of the Koran believed that the ministry of Jesus ended when he was about 33 years old - hardly an "old age". (See his comment #388 on Sura 3:46).

To make matters even more confusing, Sura 19:33 (which Al Kadhi cites in a latter chapter) claims that the baby Jesus spoke in the crib saying : "So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)"! This verse not only contradicts the claim of Sura 4:158 (that Jesus did not die), it also says that Jesus, after his death, will be raised up to life again! This incident, which has no parallel in the Bible, can be viewed as a sign and prophecy. If the words of Jesus did not come true (that he would die and be raised to life), then he does not deserve the title of "prophet" which Muslims give him.

Mr. Al Kadhi ends this section by requesting that we write a twenty word essay on Thomas' "outburst".

4. Other Incidentals

Mr. Al Kadhi now wants us to take out our 20 word essay and compare our conclusions to what John wrote in the Bible.

John 20:30-31

30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book.
31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Mr. Al Kadhi claims that: ‘If the author of John had recognized Thomas' words to be a testimony that "Jesus is God" and if the author interpreted Jesus' silence to be his approval of this claimed testimony, then John would have written "that ye might believe that Jesus is the Almighty God" and not "that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ..."’ Once again, Mr. Al Kadhi attempts to confuse the reader by quoting a portion of this passage and conveniently omits the portion which clearly says the Jesus is the Son of God.

Continuing this somewhat convoluted line of reasoning, Mr. Al Kadhi also says: ‘To make this matter clearer let us first remember that Christian scholars tell us that the disciples did not fully comprehend who Jesus "was" until after the resurrection.’ This is partially true. Many of those who heard the words of Jesus had doubts, and that is perfectly human. The most important thing to remember is that those who followed Jesus became steadfast in their faith following his death and resurrection. Many endured cruel forms torture and bravely faced brutal executions rather than deny the truth of the Gospels. Would anyone suffer so much and forfeit their lives and families for a lie or an "textual insertion" in the Bible? Compare the behavior of the followers of Jesus after his departure with the behavior of many of Muhammad's followers after his death. After the death of Muhammad, three false prophets and a prophetess emerged in Arabia. In the northern, eastern and southern regions of the Arabian Peninsula, numerous tribes left the fold of Islam. Medina was also attacked during this period. The first Caliph, Abu Bakr spent a great amount of effort, and spilled a great deal of blood, to bring these tribes back to Islam.

What is the main message of Thomas' words according to Mr. Al Kadhi? "Obviously, it should be the instillation within us of the "fact" that "Jesus is the 'incarnation' of God Almighty!" Does this not stand to reason? Why then does the author now casually disregard such an earth shattering observation and choose to simply return to describing Jesus with the benign terms of "son of God" and "Messiah/Christ"?"

First, if Mr. Al Kadhi had objectively read the entire Gospel, he would be aware of the fact that Jesus is the incarnation of God since this is a major theme of the first chapter of the Book of John (verse 14)!

Second, does Mr. Al Kadhi honestly consider the title Son of God a "benign term"?

Mr. Al Kadhi, once again, attempts to create "lingering doubt" through the use of his rhetorical accusation of Biblical corruption: ‘Furthermore, some Christian scholars believe that the whole episode of "doubting Thomas" is a later "insertion." "The Five Gospels" marks this passage as being a complete fabrication and not the word of Jesus (pbuh)." Al Kadhi does not bother to cite any of these "Christian scholars", nor does his he mention any by name!

1 John 5:7

This passage is dealt with in another section.

Al Kadhi ends by setting up a series of "strawman" arguments:

1. ‘Does it not seem a little strange that God did not choose to include just one single explicit statement in the whole Bible where He said "I am three gods in one."?’

The Bible DOES NOT say that God is three Gods in one! That is not the definition of the Trinity!

2. ‘Does it not seem just a little strange that we have been reduced to picking and choosing implicit references to a "Duality" and trying to "piece together" the nature of God?’

It is strange that someone would skim any book to "pick and choose" statements, mostly out of context, that fit their pre-conceived conclusions! This is usually considered bad scholarship. When the Bible is read in its entirety, and in context, a much clearer picture of the nature of God emerges.

3. ‘Why did God feel the need to repeatedly explicitly state throughout the Bible that He is ONE, yet when it comes time for Him to explicitly state that He is THREE suddenly it is left up to our intellect to "observe" or "gather" that He "must" be a "Trinity."?’

Once again, Mr. Al Kadhi misunderstands the definition of the Trinity.

4. ‘Why was this matter not resolved back at the time of prophets Noah or Abraham or Moses (pbut)? Why do we not find a single Jew worshiping a "trinity"?’

Last, but certainly not least, Mr. Al Kadhi ignores the Old Testament evidence of the Trinity.

All right Mr. Al Kadhi, here is my essay on the meaning of Thomas' "outburst": Based on Old Testament prophecies concerning the Messiah and the fulfillment of these by Jesus, Thomas expressed the eternal truth. Mr. Al Kadhi is correct that the answer to this question is of eternal importance and that is why I believe that Jesus died for my sins as well as for Mr. Al Kadhi's sins. For me to accept the Koran's claim that Jesus did not die on the cross, I would have to believe that all of the predictions of God's prophets were wrong. I would also be required to accept that the testimonies of the Apostles and disciples of Jesus were false, and that the history written by the non-Christian historians of the era such as Tacitus, Porphyry, Celsus, Josephus, Suetonius, and Pliny (e.g., *) were also incorrect. The Koran gives absolutely no historical proof, or even a rational argument to convince me that Jesus did not die on the cross.

The Rebuttal to "What Did Jesus Really Say?"
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