The following article discusses some of the points that Shabir Ally tries to use against the Holy Bible in his debates and writings.
Shabir on Piercing Hebrew Servants
Shabir claims that the Bible commands Hebrew servants that wanted to devote themselves perpetually to their master to have their heads placed against a doorpost and have their ears pierced. Here is the passage in question:
"These are the laws you are to set before them: If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything. If he comes alone, he is to go free alone; but if he has a wife when he comes, she is to go with him. If his master gives him a wife and she bears him sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall belong to her master, and only the man shall go free. But if the servant declares, "I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free," then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life." Exodus 21:1-6
The Quest Study Bible comments:
Why marking a lifelong servant with a pierced ear? - Some think this custom carried symbolic meaning: the slave was attached physically to the doorpost of the owner's house to symbolize his emotional attachment there. Pierced ears may also have had a ring or something that identified the one to whom he belonged.
First, I fail to see Shabir's problem with the passage. Why exactly does he complain? What is so bad about act of piercing an ear? Millions of women in most cultures and increasingly men of many cultures do it all over the world. Furthermore, this was a voluntary act. The servant was not forced to it. That he was protected from being forced was ensured by the fact that this had to be certified by the judges at the city council first. The servant has already stated "I love my master ..." which shows he was treated very well in this household. He has declared before witnesses that he wants to stay in this household. Certainly this symbolic act of piercing his ear will be done in the least painful way by this master who has treated him so well for years already. There is no cruelty or mistreatment in this at all.
Is there a general principle why Shabir is against this symbolic act of piercing an ear? Maybe it is forbidden in Islam? But he can't complain about different cultural practices and symbols that the Jews employed to show a certain meaning, or to ratify a certain legally binding contract as in this case. There is nothing morally objectionable in the act. Whether slavery as such is acceptable is another issue, but this can't be Shabir's problem, since the Qur'an accepts slavery.
If it is not ear piercing, nor the issue of slavery as such, is it then the a problem that the piercing is done at the location of a doorpost? Hardly a strong objection and reason to reject the Bible.
Shabir on Deuteronomy 34
Shabir attacks the Mosaic authorship based on the fact that Deuteronomy 34 records Moses' death and burial. There are basically two positions which both Jews and Christians accept. One is the belief that God might have possibly revealed to Moses the manner of his death prior to the latter actually dying. God did something similar when he revealed to Moses Israel's eventual apostasy and captivity thousands of years before it ever happened:
"The LORD said to Moses, 'Now the day of your death is near. Call Joshua and present yourselves at the Tent of Meeting, where I will commission him.' So Moses and Joshua came and presented themselves at the Tent of Meeting. Then the LORD appeared at the Tent in a pillar of cloud, and the cloud stood over the entrance to the Tent. And the LORD said to Moses: 'You are going to rest with your fathers, and these people will soon prostitute themselves to the foreign gods of the land they are entering. They will forsake me and break the covenant I made with them. On that day I will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and difficulties will come upon them, and on that day they will ask, "Have not these disasters come upon us because our God is not with us?" And I will certainly hide my face on that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods. Now write down for yourselves this song and teach it to the Israelites and have them sing it, so that it may be a witness for me against them. When I have brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey, the land I promised on oath to their forefathers, and when they eat their fill and thrive, they will turn to other gods and worship them, rejecting me and breaking my covenant. And when many disasters and difficulties come upon them, this song will testify against them, because it will not be forgotten by their descendants. I know what they are disposed to do, even before I bring them into the land I promised them on oath.' So Moses wrote down this song that day and taught it to the Israelites. The LORD gave this command to Joshua son of Nun: 'Be strong and courageous, for you will bring the Israelites into the land I promised them on oath, and I myself will be with you.' After Moses finished writing in a book the words of this law from beginning to end, he gave this command to the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD: 'Take this Book of the Law and place it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God. There it will remain as a witness against you. For I know how rebellious and stiff-necked you are. If you have been rebellious against the LORD while I am still alive and with you, how much more will you rebel after I die! Assemble before me all the elders of your tribes and all your officials, so that I can speak these words in their hearing and call heaven and earth to testify against them. For I know that after my death you are sure to become utterly corrupt and to turn from the way I have commanded you. In days to come, disaster will fall upon you because you will do evil in the sight of the LORD and provoke him to anger by what your hands have made." Deuteronomy 31:14-29
The second view is that God used inspired prophets to either amend or add material that God wanted to include to earlier prophetic writings. Hence, Jews and Christians have no problem with the fact that God used his prophet Joshua to amend the book of Deuteronomy by adding Moses' obituary. (See for example Glenn Miller's article.)
Shabir on Psalm 137:8-9
Shabir accuses the Psalms of desiring the unnecessary brutal deaths of infants. Let us quote the Psalm in context to see what in fact the Psalmist meant:
"By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, 'Sing us one of the songs of Zion! How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget [its skill]. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy. Remember, O LORD, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell. 'Tear it down,' they cried, 'tear it down to its foundations!' O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, HAPPY IS HE WHO REPAYS YOU FOR WHAT YOU HAVE DONE TO US - he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks." Psalm 137:1-9
When the Psalm is read in context, we discover that the Psalmist was asking that justice be served. The Psalmist was echoing the following Mosaic injunctions where the punishment of a criminal must match the crime that he/she committed, no more no less:
"Anyone who takes the life of someone's animal must make restitution - life for life. If anyone injures his neighbor, whatever he has done must be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. As he has injured the other, so he is to be injured. Whoever kills an animal must make restitution, but whoever kills a man must be put to death." Leviticus 24:18-21
"Show no pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." Deuteronomy 19:21
It was a common practice for invading armies to kill and dash children and women as the following OT citations show:
"Hazael went to meet Elisha, taking with him as a gift forty camel-loads of all the finest wares of Damascus. He went in and stood before him, and said, 'Your son Ben-Hadad king of Aram has sent me to ask, "Will I recover from this illness?"' Elisha answered, 'Go and say to him, "You will certainly recover"; but the LORD has revealed to me that he will in fact die.' He stared at him with a fixed gaze until Hazael felt ashamed. Then the man of God began to weep. 'Why is my lord weeping?' asked Hazael. 'Because I know the harm you will do to the Israelites,' he answered. 'You will set fire to their fortified places, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women.' Hazael said, 'How could your servant, a mere dog, accomplish such a feat?' 'The LORD has shown me that you will become king of Aram," answered Elisha.'" 2 Kings 8:9-13
"But you have planted wickedness, you have reaped evil, you have eaten the fruit of deception. Because you have depended on your own strength and on your many warriors, the roar of battle will rise against your people, so that all your fortresses will be devastated - as Shalman devastated Beth Arbel on the day of battle, when mothers were dashed to the ground with their children. Thus will it happen to you, O Bethel, because your wickedness is great. When that day dawns, the king of Israel will be completely destroyed." Hosea 10:13-15
"Yet she was taken captive and went into exile. Her infants were dashed to pieces at the head of every street. Lots were cast for her nobles, and all her great men were put in chains." Nahum 3:10
Interestingly, Isaiah even predicted that Babylon would also be ravaged and have their children dashed to pieces in the same way they had done to others:
"Whoever is captured will be thrust through; all who are caught will fall by the sword. Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be looted and their wives ravished. See, I will stir up against them the Medes, who do not care for silver and have no delight in gold. Their bows will strike down the young men; they will have no mercy on infants nor will they look with compassion on children. Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians' pride, will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah. She will never be inhabited or lived in through all generations; no Arab will pitch his tent there, no shepherd will rest his flocks there. But desert creatures will lie there, jackals will fill her houses; there the owls will dwell, and there the wild goats will leap about. Hyenas will howl in her strongholds, jackals in her luxurious palaces. Her time is at hand, and her days will not be prolonged." Isaiah 13:15-22
Hence, the Psalmist was not being cruel in his request but was demanding what God's Law required, "eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth" etc. This is something that the Quran completely agrees with:
"Lo! We did reveal the Torah, wherein is guidance and a light, by which the prophets who surrendered (unto Allah) judged the Jews, and the rabbis and the priests (judged) by such of Allah's Scripture as they were bidden to observe, and thereunto were they witnesses. So fear not mankind, but fear Me. And My revelations for a little gain. Whoso judgeth not by that which Allah hath revealed: such are d isbelievers. And We prescribed for them therein: The life for the life, and the eye for the eye, and the nose for the nose, and the ear for the ear, and the tooth for the tooth, and for wounds retaliation. But whoso forgoeth it (in the way of charity) it shall be expiation for him. Whoso judgeth not by that which Allah hath revealed: such are wrong-doers." S. 5:44-45
"The forbidden month for the forbidden month, and forbidden things in retaliation. And one who attacketh you, attack him in like manner as he attacked you. Observe your duty to Allah, and know that Allah is with those who ward off (evil)." S. 2:194
That the Psalmist is not literally requesting the brutal deaths of children, but is asking that justice be served, can be easily seen from the phrase, "dashing them against the rocks (stones)." As anyone familiar with Babylonian geography can tell you, there were no rocks and stones in Babylon. As noted Old Testament scholar Walter C. Kaiser Jr. writes:
"... Surely someone who goes about stealing babies and slamming them down on the pavement or over a rocky embankment is more than a brute; but is that what we have here? Not at all, for the expression is a hyperbole, typical of the emotional Near East, which consciously exaggerates. The writer, however, locates this psalm in Babylon. One thing Babylon is devoid of is rocks or rocky cliffs. This is so different from Palestine where rocks are all over the place; but not in Babylon. If one were to build in Babylon, he would need to bake mud bricks first; rocks or stones simply do not exist there." (Kaiser, The Old Testament Documents: Are They Reliable and Relevant? [InterVarsity Press (IVP) 2001], p. 213)
Thus, the text is clearly a poetical cry for righteous retribution, i.e. do to them as they did to others, and not a literal description of the kind of punishment to be inflicted on Israel's enemies.
After all, doesn't the Quran itself make the claim that prophets such as David and Jesus cursed unbelievers?
Cursed were the unbelievers of the Children of Israel by the tongue of David, and Jesus, Mary's son; that, for their rebelling and their transgression. S. 5:78
Should it therefore surprise Shabir that an inspired Psalmist cried out by the Holy Spirit to God to enact the righteous judgment upon the Babylonians for the evils and crimes which they committed against God's people? And if Shabir really has problems with the Psalmist's comments about the children then what of the following Quranic curse?
And whoso disputes with thee concerning him, after the knowledge that has come to thee, say: 'Come now, let us call our sons and your sons, our wives and your wives, our selves and your selves, then let us humbly pray and so lay God's curse upon the ones who lie.' S. 3:61 Arberry
Muhammad, or the author of the Quran, invokes Allah's curse upon both the children and the women, specifically the wives, requesting that Allah condemn those who are lying about God. Why should Muhammad include innocent children and risk their physical well-being when they have nothing to do with it? Perhaps Shabir can explain this since he is the one having a problem with the Psalmist's prayer for judgment to befall God's enemies.
Furthermore, Shabir cannot deny the inspiration of the Psalms if he truly believes in the Quran. The reason why he cannot is that the Quran affirms that God personally revealed the Psalms to David and to the rest of the writers:
"And if they deny thee, even so did they deny messengers who were before thee, who came with miracles and with the Psalms (Zuburi) and with the Scripture giving light." S. 3:184
"Lo! We inspire thee as We inspired Noah and the prophets after him, as We inspired Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and as We imparted unto David the Psalms (Zabuuraa);" S. 4:163
"And thy Lord is Best Aware of all who are in the heavens and the earth. And we preferred some of the prophets above others, and unto David We gave the Psalms (Zabuu-raa)." S. 17:55
"And if they deny thee, those before them also denied. Their messengers came unto them with clear proofs (of Allah's Sovereignty), and with the Psalms (Zuburi) and the Scripture giving light." S. 35:25
Finally, If Shabir is troubled by Psalm 137:8-9 then he should definitely have problems with the following Quranic passages:
"The power of Abu Lahab will perish, and he will perish. His wealth and gains will not exempt him. He will be plunged in flaming Fire, And his wife, the wood-carrier, Will have upon her neck a halter of palm-fibre." S. 111:1-5
Abu Lahab was Muhammad's uncle. Both he and his wife were bitter enemies of Muhammad. Hence, it is not surprising to find Muhammad cursing his uncle and his wife for giving him a hard time. Ali Dashti claimed that these words were uttered by Muhammad seeing that it would be unbefitting for a merciful God to utter such curses:
Another utterance which, by the nature of its subject, cannot be attributed to the Sustainer of the Universe is sura 111 (ol-Masad), the retort to Abu Lahab. The Prophet had invited some relatives and influential Qorayshites to hear him expound the principles of Islam. When he began to speak, Abu Lahab angrily interrupted him, shouting "Perish you, Mohammad! Did you invite us here for this?" The sura, with its repetition of Abu Lahab's word, "Perish," voices the Prophet's indignation at the rudeness of Abu Lahab and the malice of his wife, Omm Jomayyel, who had strewn thorns along the Prophet's route. The retort as such is not out of proportion. On the other hand, it ill becomes the Sustainer of the Universe to curse an ignorant Arab and call his wife a firewood carrier. (Dashti, 23 Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Mohammad, Translated from the Persian by F.R.C. Bagley [Mazda Publishers, Costa Mesa, CA 1994], p. 149)
The Quran says elsewhere:
"And the Jews say: Uzair is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them (qaatalahumu llahu anna yu'fakoona); how they are turned away! S. 9:30 Shakir
And the Jews say, `Ezra is the son of ALLAH,' and the Christians say, `the Messiah is the son of ALLAH;' that is what they say with their mouths. They only imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before them. ALLAH's curse be on them! How they are turned away. Sher Ali
The Jews said, "Ezra is the son of GOD," while the Christians said, "Jesus is the son of GOD!" These are blasphemies uttered by their mouths. They thus match the blasphemies of those who have disbelieved in the past. GOD condemns them. They have surely deviated. Rashad Khalifah
"Some of the Jews have said that Ezra is the son of God and Christians have said the same of Jesus. This is only what they say and it is similar to what the unbelievers who lived before them had said. May God destroy them wherever they exist!" Muhammad Sarwar
Interestingly the word for "destroy,", "condemns,", "curse" also appears in verse 29 where it says to kill or fight against the people of the Book, unless they pay the Jizya tax. Hence, we find Muhammad calling upon God to curse and destroy Christians and Jews who believe that Ezra and Jesus are the sons of God, respectively.
The Quran, in another place, even condones the killing of an innocent young boy:
"So they journeyed on till when they met a young boy; he slew him. Moses said, ‘What! hast thou slain an innocent person without his having slain anyone! Surely, thou hast done a hideous thing’ ... ‘And as for the youth, his parents were believers, and we feared lest on growing up he should involve them into trouble through rebellion and disbelief;’" S. 18:74, 80 Sher Ali
Moses' companion justifies the killing of a young innocent boy on the grounds that the boy may have grown up to be a rebellious unbeliever. Hence, if Shabir has issues with the Holy Bible he needs to take issue with his own book which condones the killing of a young boy who may have, or may have not, grown up to be a disbeliever.
In other places the Quran, in agreement with the Holy Bible, says that God destroyed the people of Noah and Lot. It even mentions other places that were completely annihilated by Allah, such as the people of Ad, Madyan and Thamud (Cf. Surahs 7:59-102; 11:25-95; 69:3-12). What this basically means is that Allah decreed the utter death and destruction of not just men, but of women, children and infants also!
For example, noted Muslim historian al-Tabari stated that the so-called prophet Salih allegedly commanded certain persons of Thamud to kill the children so as to prevent one of them from growing up and killing the she-camel:
According to Hajjaj- Ibn Jurayj: When Salih told the eight evildoers that a boy would be born at whose hands they would be destroyed, they said, "What do you command us?" He said, "I command you to kill THEM" (that is their male children). SO THEY KILLED THEM except one... (The History of Al-Tabari: Prophets and Patriarchs, translated by William M. Brinner [State University of New York Press (SUNY), 1987], Volume II, p. 43; capital and underline emphasis ours)
Hence, unless Shabir wants to argue that there were no women, children and infants in all these places, or that Allah's prophets never commanded the death of children in any circumstances, then it is pretty clear that the Quran has no problem with God killing infants.
What is more, the so-called sound Islamic narrations permit the killing of women and children in specific situations:
Narrated As-Sab bin Jaththama:
The Prophet passed by me at a place called Al-Abwa or Waddan, and was asked whether it was permissible to attack the pagan warriors at night with the probability of exposing their women and children to danger. The Prophet replied, "They (i.e. women and children) are from them (i.e. pagans)." I also heard the Prophet saying, "The institution of Hima is invalid except for Allah and His Apostle." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 256)
Chapter 9: PERMISSIBILITY OF KILLING WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN THE NIGHT RAIDS, PROVIDED IT IS NOT DELIBERATE
It is reported on the authority of Sa'b b. Jaththama that the Prophet of Allah (may peace be upon him), when asked about the women and children of the polytheists being killed during the night raid, said: They are from them. (Sahih Muslim, Book 019, Number 4321)
It is narrated by Sa'b b. Jaththama that he said (to the Holy Prophet): Messenger of Allah, we kill the children of the polytheists during the night raids. He said: They are from them. (Sahih Muslim, Book 019, Number 4322, also Number 4323)
In light of the foregoing, it should be obvious that Shabir really has no business critiquing the Holy Bible for what he perceives to be excessive cruelty.
On Isaiah 7:20 and God Shaving the Assyrians
Although we have never personally heard Shabir bring this up, Ahmad Deedat has. Here is the passage in question:
In that day the Lord will use a razor hired from beyond the River - the king of Assyria - to shave your head and the hair of your legs, and to take off your beards also.
Deedat took offense at the thought of God shaving the head and hair of the Assyrians. It never dawned on Deedat that God is speaking metaphorically. The act of shaving one's head and hair was done during the times of mourning:
"When you go to war against your enemies and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take captives, if you notice among the captives a beautiful woman and are attracted to her, you may take her as your wife. Bring her into your home and have her shave her head, trim her nails and put aside the clothes she was wearing when captured. After she has lived in your house and mourned her father and mother for a full month, then you may go to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife." Deuteronomy 21:10-13
"Dibon goes up to its temple, to its high places to weep; Moab wails over Nebo and Medeba. Every head is shaved and every beard cut off." Isaiah 15:2
Hence, God is predicting that Assyria will soon mourn due to the destruction and calamity that God would bring upon it.
Shabir on Jeremiah 8:8
Shabir claims that Jeremiah was affirming that the scribes corrupted the Torah. Shabir puts words into the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah since he never states that the Torah was corrupt. This is what he actually did say:
"How can you say, 'we are wise, for we have the law of the LORD,' when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?" Jeremiah 8:8
The accusation is that the scribes have falsified the Torah by their lying pens. Shabir presupposes that the manner in which the Law was falsified is by corrupting the text. Shabir assumes that this is the only possible meaning since he is convinced, as a Muslim, that the Holy Bible is no longer in its true pristine form.
But is this what Jeremiah meant? Did his hearers understand him to mean that the text of the Torah had been corrupted? Did the prophets after him agree that the Torah had been corrupted? In order to answer these questions we must look to Jeremiah and to the Holy Bible as a whole to see what indeed did Jeremiah mean.
"Say to them, 'This is what the LORD says: If you do not listen to me and follow MY LAW, which I have set before you, and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened) then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city an object of cursing among all the nations of the earth.'" Jeremiah 26:4-6
How could Israel follow the Law, i.e. the Torah, if it had been corrupted? This presupposes that the Torah was uncorrupt and available during the time of Jeremiah. Furthermore, since Jeremiah wrote Jeremiah 8:8 he would know best the meaning of the passage in question. Clearly, we see Jeremiah appealing to the availability of the Law in Jeremiah 26:4-6 implying that he did not believe that the scribes had corrupted the text.
The prophet Daniel writes:
"In the first year of Darius son of Xerxes (a Mede by descent), who was made ruler over the Babylonian kingdom- in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. So I turned to the LORD and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes." Daniel 9:1-3
Daniel is reading Jeremiah 25:11, 12 and 29:10 where God predicts that Israel would be taken into captivity to Babylon for 70 years. After reading this, Daniel continues to pray and says:
"Therefore the curses and sworn judgments written in the Law of Moses, the servant of God, have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against you. You have fulfilled the words spoken against us and against our rulers by bringing upon us great disaster. Under the whole heaven nothing has ever been done like what has been done to Jerusalem. JUST AS IT IS WRITTEN IN THE LAW OF MOSES, all this disaster has come upon us, yet we have not sought the favor of the LORD our God by turning from our sins and giving attention to your truth." Daniel 9:11b-13
In order for Daniel to appeal to what was written in the Law of Moses presupposes that an uncorrupt Torah was available during the time of Daniel. Furthermore, after having read Jeremiah Daniel never concludes that the Torah had been corrupted, put appeals to it as the inspired word of God. This would be a strange conclusion for Daniel to come to if Jeremiah 8:8 indeed meant that the text of the Torah had been corrupted during Jeremiah's time.
"They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read... On the second day... they gathered around Ezra the scribe to give attention to the words of the Law. They found written in the Law, which the LORD had commanded through Moses, that... Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God..." Nehemiah 8:13-14,18
This occurred approximately 430 B.C. nearly 180 years after Jeremiah's temple address which took place in 609 or 608 B.C. (see Jeremiah 26:1). Again, in order for Ezra the scribe to be able to both read from the Law of Moses and expound it presupposes that a true, uncorrupt copy of the Torah was available at that time.
Finally, the Lord Jesus and his followers quoted from the Torah as we know it today and never assumed that it was corrupt. (cf. Matthew 4:4,7,10; 22:31-32; 1 Timothy 5:18) In fact, Jesus claimed that the Torah as it exists would not pass away until all was fulfilled:
"I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." Matthew 5:18
If Jeremiah 8:8 does not mean that the text of the Torah had been corrupted what did Jeremiah mean by the statement that the lying pens of the scribes have falsified it? Presumably, Jeremiah could have been referring to the written commentary of the scribes whereby they falsely interpreted the Law of God, leading people astray by their traditions. A similar situation arose between Jesus and the scribes and Pharisees:
"Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked, 'Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don't wash their hands before they eat!' Jesus replied, 'And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?... Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you: 'these people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.'" Matthew 15:1-3,6b-9
Jeremiah could have been rebuking the scribes for traditions that was leading the people astray and to rejecting the word of God. This can be seen from the passage that immediately follows:
"The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have." Jeremiah 8:9
Shabir on Matthew's Flight to Egypt
Shabir accuses Matthew of fabricating Jesus' flight to Egypt and misapplying Hosea 11:1 to Jesus when it actually refers to Israel. Hence, Matthew desired to make Jesus resemble Israel. It never dawned on Shabir that Matthew saw similarities in the event of Jesus' flight to and return from Egypt with what had happened with Israel during the Exodus. Hence, Matthew was not fabricating this event, but highlighting the similar experiences shared by both national Israel and God's Messiah, who is the ideal and true Israelite.
In fact, one of Messiah's names is Israel!:
"Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver. He said to me, 'You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will display my splendor.' But I said, 'I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the LORD's hand, and my reward is with my God.' And now the LORD says - he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD and my God has been my strength - he says: 'It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.' This is what the LORD says- the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel - to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: 'Kings will see you and rise up, princes willl see and bow down, because of the LORD, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.' This is what the LORD says: 'In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, "Come out," and to those in darkness, "Be free!" They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill.'" Isaiah 49:1-9
We find Isaiah making a distinction between national Israel and God's servant who himself is called Israel!
Matthew was being thoroughly biblical in applying a passage originally dealing with national Israel to God's true Israel, the Messiah Jesus.
In fact, certain Muslim historians such as at-Tabari quote this episode on Jesus' flight to and return from Egypt as being a genuine event in the life of Christ. Tabari even alludes to Hosea 11:1 as predicting this very event! At-Tabari writes:
"Some historians mentioned that Jesus was born forty-two years after Augustus had become emperor. Augustus continued to live on, and his reign lasted fifty-six years; some add a few days. The Jews assaulted Christ. The sovereign in Jerusalem at the time was Caesar, and it was on his behalf that Herod the Great reigned in Jerusalem. Messengers of the king of Persia came to him. Sent to Christ, they came to Herod by mistake. They informed Herod that the king of Persia had sent them to offer Christ the gifts they carried, gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense. They told him that they had observed that Christ's star had risen - they had learned this from computation. They offered him the gifts at Bethlehem in Palestine. When Herod learned about them, he plotted against Christ, and looked for him in order to slay him. God commanded an angel to tell Joseph, who was with Mary at the sanctuary, that Herod intended to slay the child, and to instruct him to flee to Egypt with the child and its mother.
"When Herod died the angel told Joseph, who was in Egypt, that Herod was dead and that his son Archelaus reigned instead - the man who sought to slay the child was no longer alive. Joseph took the child to Nazareth in Palestine, to FULFILL the word of Isaiah the prophet, 'I called you out of Egypt'..." (Tabari, The History of al-Tabari Volume IV - The Ancient Kingdom, Moshe Perlman trans. [The State University of New York Press; Albany, 1987], pp. 124-125)
The footnote reads:
"The reference ascribed here to Isaiah is in Hosea 11:1." (Ibid, p. 125)
Hence, one of Islam's premiere historians endorses Matthew's narrative on the flight to Egypt without ever hinting that this Gospel story is corrupt or inauthentic.
Shabir on Matthew 2:23
"But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene." Matthew 2:22-23
This exposes Shabir's fundamental ignorance of first century Palestinian Judaism. Had Shabir done a little research he would have discovered that the Jews used many different methods in their exegesis of the Scriptures, some of which include the following:
P'shat ("simple") - This method applies a literal approach in interpreting Scripture.
Drash or Midrash ("search") - An allegorical approach to interpreting Scripture.
Remez ("hint") - This approach seeks to find a word, phrase or other element in the text that provides hints for a specific event.
Sod ("secret") - This applies a mystical or hidden meaning to Scripture.
These four methods are known as PaRDeS in Hebrew.
Matthew evidently is using remez here in finding scriptural hints that the Messiah would be a Nazarene. Interestingly, Matthew does not say the "prophet" predicted that the Messiah would be a Nazarene, but rather "prophets" in plural. Hence, we find several prophets hinting to the fact that the Messiah would be a Nazarene.
The first hint comes from Isaiah 11:1:
"A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse: from his roots a branch (Hebrew - netzer) will bear fruit." Isaiah
The Messiah is called a "netzer", i.e. the "branch." The word netzer sounds like the Hebrew Natzrati, i.e. a "Nazarene". Matthew is using a play on words, a common technique in Hebrew.
The second hint is derived from the fact that Nazareth was a place despised and rejected by the Jews:
"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.' 'Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?' Nathanael asked. 'Come and see,' said Philip." John 1:45-46
Hence, Nazareth symbolized the rejection of Jesus by his brethren. This is precisely what the prophets predicted, namely that the Messiah would be despised and hated by the people:
"But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: 'He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him.'" Psalm 22:6-8
"For I endure scorn for your sake, and shame covers my face. I am a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my own mother's sons; for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me." Psalm 69:7-9
"See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him - his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness - so will he sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand. Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Hence, Matthew is using a pun on Nazarene in identifying the Messiah as the one despised and rejected by the people.
Lest one accuse us of making up the preceding exegesis regarding Isaiah 11:1 being one possible source behind Matt. 2:23, or that this is a modern novel explanation, we only have to cite Church history to see how fathers like Jerome (347-420 A.D.) explained this passage:
Once more it is written in the pages of the same evangelist, ‘And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.’ Let these word fanciers and nice critics of all composition tell us where they have read the words; and if they cannot, let me tell them that they are in Isaiah. For in the place where we read and translate, ‘There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots,’ in the Hebrew idiom it is written thus, ‘There shall come forth a rod out of the root of Jesse and a Nazarene shall grow from his root.’ How can the Septuagint leave out the word "Nazarene," if it is unlawful to substitute one word for another? It is sacrilege either to conceal or to set at naught a mystery. (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 2, Volume 6, Epistle 57, To Pammachius; online source)
Shabir on Matthew's Prophecies
Shabir presumes that Matthew 10:23, 16:28 and 24:34 all speak about Christ returning within the lifetime of his disciples. This clearly has not happened.
There are no false predictions, but a misunderstanding of Jesus' words. Not every usage of the term "coming" refers to Christ's visible return to earth. To be sure, Christ will return visibly. Yet, the Holy Bible clearly demonstrates that the phrase "coming" can either mean a visible coming or it can refer to God invisibly manifesting his power, wrath or blessing in some form or another.
"What misery is mine! I am like one who gathers summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard; there is no cluster of grapes to eat, none of the early figs that I crave. The godly have been swept from the land; not one upright man remains. All men lie in wait to shed blood; each hunts his brother with a net. Both hands are skilled in doing evil; the ruler demands gifts, the judge accepts bribes, the powerful dictate what they desire - they all conspire together. The best of them is like a brier, the most upright worse than a thorn hedge. The day of your watchmen has come, the day God VISITS you. Now is the time of their confusion." Micah 7:1-4
"They were all filled with awe and praised God. 'A great prophet has appeared among us,' they said. 'God has COME to help his people'." Luke 7:16
These passages illustrate that God's coming was not something physical or visible, but something invisible. God manifested himself through human agents such as Christ and his preaching ministry, or through calamities that he brought upon Jerusalem as the consequence for their sins.
The term "coming" is also used to refer to Christ appearing to his disciples after his resurrection and also to his coming to dwell with believers by the Holy Spirit:
"I will not leave you as orphans; I will COME to you." John 14:18
This either refers to Christ's post-resurrection appearance to his disciples or to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
"Jesus replied, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will COME to him and make our home with him." John 14:23
This was fulfilled when Christ sent forth his Spirit to dwell in believers:
"Don't you know that you yourselves are God's temple and that God's Spirit lives in you?" 1 Corinthians 3:16
To have God's Spirit living in believers is the same as having Christ living in believers since God's Spirit is the Spirit of Christ:
"Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you - unless, of course, you fail the test?" 2 Corinthians 13:5
The term can also refer to Christ returning invisibly to bring judgment against the Churches that were either abandoning the faith or had compromised with the world:
"Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will COME to YOU and remove your lampstand from its place." Revelation 2:5
"Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon COME to YOU and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth." Revelation 2:16
"Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; obey it, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will COME like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will COME to YOU." Revelation 3:3
In light of these verses, we can now examine the passages Shabir and other Muslims use to prove that Christ made false predictions. In relation to Matthew 10:23 Jesus' saying "before the Son of Man comes" is not a reference to his Second Coming. It refers to his being reunited with his disciples after their evangelistic outreach. This becomes evident from Matthew 11:1 where it states that "after Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee."
Hence, Jesus had departed into Galilee while the disciples were traveling throughout the towns of Israel. Afterwards, Jesus met up with the disciples where "they reported to him all they had done and taught." (Mark 6:30)
As far as Matthew 16:28 is concerned, Jesus was referring to the visible manifestation of his kingdom where he would visibly manifest his glory and power. Jesus was promising his disciples that some of them would get a foretaste of Christ's visible appearance when he returns to the earth accompanied by the proclamation of the two witnesses that scripture indicates must come before Christ. (cf. Malachi 4:5; Rev. 11:1-12) This understanding becomes evident from Mark's account:
"And he said to them, `I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power.'" Mark 9:1
The fulfillment of this promise took place shortly afterwards:
"After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus." Matthew 17:1-3
Hence, Jesus did appear in kingly power and glory alongside the two witnesses, fulfilling his promise to the disciples. It can also refer to Christ manifesting his kingly rule and glory at Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit was poured out miraculously upon believers. This event marked the birth of the Church where Christ reigns as King in the heart of believers. (cf. Acts 2)
In relation to Matthew 24:34, there are three possible responses. First, the term "generation" is the Greek geneous, a synonym of genes which can mean race. Hence, the race of Jews whom Jesus was addressing would not pass away until the culmination of the age. Secondly, Jesus may not have been referring to his generation per se, but the generation that would witness the signs that Christ predicted would occur before his Second Coming. (cf. Mat. 24:15-33)
Thirdly, Christ may not have even been referring to his Second Coming. Rather, Christ could have been referring to his coming in judgment against Jerusalem where he had predicted the temple and the people would all be destroyed. This bears out in light of what is said elsewhere in Scripture:
"They produced false witnesses, who testified, 'This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.' All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel." Acts 6:13-15
Although these men were trying to falsely accuse Stephen there was some truth to what they were saying since Jesus had in fact predicted the destruction of the Temple:
"Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. 'Do you see all these things?' he asked. 'I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.'" Matthew 24:1-2
"As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, 'If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace-but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you.'" Luke 19:40-44
Hence, there is no false predictions but only Shabir's misinterpretation of the Holy Bible.
Shabir On Matthew's Citation of Jeremiah
Shabir claims that Matthew falsely attributes a prophecy made by Zechariah to Jeremiah:
"So they decided to use the money to buy the potter's field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: 'They took the thirty silver coins, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter's field, as the Lord commanded me.'" Matthew 27:7-10
Matthew's citation is actually a conflation of Zechariah 11:12-13 and Jeremiah 19:1-13 and 32:6-9. There is a very simple explanation why Matthew would attribute the prophecy to Jeremiah:
"... Why did Mattiyahu ascribe the words to Jeremiah? One suggestion is supported by Talmudic references: the scroll of the Prophets may have originally begun with Jeremiah (the longest book, by word count), not Isaiah; if so Mattiyahu, by naming Jeremiah is referring to the Prophets as a group; not naming the particular prophet quoted." (Dr. David Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary [Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc.; Clarksville, Maryland 1996 fifth edition], p. 83)
Furthermore, it was a common Jewish exegetical practice to link together passages which had identical words or phrases. Liberal NT exegete John C. Fenton, a Muslim favorite, while commenting on Matthew 2:5-6, noted:
"The prophecy is from Mic. 5.2, but it is not given in the LXX translation, nor is it an exact rendering of the Hebrew text, 2 Sam 5.2 MAY have been combined with the Micah prophecy; combining of similar Old Testament passages WAS A REGULAR FEATURE OF RABBINIC STUDY OF THE SCRIPTURES." (Fenton, Saint Matthew - The Penguin New Testament Commentaries, Penguin Books, 1963, p. 46; bold and capital emphasis ours)
This practice is known as gezera shewa, and demonstrates that Matthew was thoroughly Jewish in his use and exegesis of the OT text.
Shabir on when Jesus was crucified
Shabir claims that Mark and John contradict each other on the time Jesus was actually crucified:
"It was the third hour when they crucified him." Mark 15:25
"It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. 'Here is your king,' Pilate said to the Jews." John 19:14
First, John does not contradict Mark since John does not mention when Jesus was actually crucified. John only points out that Jesus' trial before Pilate where Pilate petitioned the crowd in deciding Christ's fate occurred at the sixth hour.
Furthermore John may have been using Roman time, with Mark using Jewish time. In light of this, John would be suggesting that Christ's trial before Pilate took place at 6:00 A.M. Mark would then be implying that the actual crucifixion occurred several hours later at 9:00 A.M.
Shabir on John 1:28
Shabir claims that John made a mistake in claiming that there was a Bethany on the other side of the Jordan. The reason being is that there was no Bethany at the other side of the Jordan. The only Bethany that existed was the one located two miles away from Jerusalem. Yet, this is an argument from silence since there is no proof that there was no other Bethany. As archaeologists continue to excavate we might as well discover this other Bethany.
Here is one example of how archaeology debunked the attacks from silence. At one time critics attacked the Holy Bible for claiming that Jesus was from Nazareth since they believed no such place existed at that time. Yet, in time the critics were proven wrong and the Holy Bible was proven right. Glenn Miller presents the evidence:
"Here are a couple of quotes on the archeological data:
"Despite Nazareth's obscurity (which had led some critics to suggest that it was a relatively recent foundation), archeology indicates that the village has been occupied since the 7th century B.C., although it may have experienced a 'refounding' in the 2d century b.c." ([MJ]A Marginal Jew - Rethinking the Historical Jesus, (vol 1), p.300-301)... cites Meyers and Strange, Archeology, the Rabbis, and Early Christiannity, Abingdon:1981. pp. 56-57
Although I do not have the Meyers/Strange work, more detail from it is given by Paul Barnett[BSNT], Behind the Scenes of the New Testament, IVP:1990, p.42:
"Despite the Hellenization of the general region and the probability that Greek was known to many people it seems likely that Nazareth remained a conservative Jewish village. After the Jewish war with the Romans from AD 66-70 it was necessary to re-settle Jewish priests and their families. Such groups would only settle in unmixed towns, that is towns without Gentile inhabitants. According to an inscription discovered in 1962 in Caesarea Maritima the priests of the order of Elkalir made their home in Nazareth. This, by the way, is the sole known reference to Nazareth in antiquity, apart from written Christian sources... (next paragraph) Some scholars had even believed that Nazareth was a fictitious invention of the early Christians; the inscription from Caesarea Maritima proves otherwise."
Quoted from http://www.christian-thinktank.com/nazy.html.
In light of this, we have sufficient reasons to trust that John is right. This is due to the fact that John has been accurate in areas where archaeologists have been able to test John's geographical details. The NIV Study Bible furnishes some of the evidence supporting John's accuracy in reporting:
"The author is the apostle John... 'the disciple whom Jesus loved' (13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7,20,24). He was prominent in the early church but is not mentioned by name in this Gospel - which would be natural if he wrote it, but hard to explain otherwise. The author knew Jewish life well, as seen from references to popular Messianic speculations (e.g., 1:20-21; 7:40-42), to the hostility between Jews and Samaritans (4:9), and to Jewish customs, such as the duty of circumcision on the eighth day taking precedence over the prohibition of working on the Sabbath... He knew the geography of Palestine, locating Bethany about 15 stadia (about two miles) from Jerusalem (11:18) and Cana, a village not referred to in any earlier writing known to us (2:1; 21:2). The gospel of John has many touches that were obviously based on the recollections of an eyewitness - such as the house at Bethany being filled with the fragrance of the broken perfume jar (12:3). Early writers such as Irenaeus and Tertullian say that John wrote this Gospel, and all the evidence agrees..."
Author Paul Barnett claims in relation to John's knowledge of the buildings and landscapes of ancient Palestine that, "the archaeological evidence is that the author had minute local knowledge which, however, he discloses in quite inconspicuous ways." (Barnett, Is The New Testament History? [Ann Arbor, MI; Servant 1986], p. 64)
Noted NT Scholar F. F. Bruce continues:
"The evangelist [John] was evidently a Palestinian. Although he may have been far from his native land when he wrote his Gospel, his accurate knowledge of places and distances in Palestine, a knowledge which appears spontaneously and naturally, strongly suggests one who was born and brought up in that land, not one whose knowledge of the country was derived from pilgrim-visits. He knows Jerusalem well; he fixes the location of certain places in the city with the accuracy of one who must have been acquainted with it before its destruction in AD 70.
"The author was also a Jew; he is thoroughly conversant with Jewish customs; he refers to their purification rites (ii. 6) and their manner of burial (xix. 40). Of their feasts, he mentions the Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles, and the Feast of Dedication, held in winter, together with the unnamed feast of v. 1 which was probably the Feast of the New Year. He shows himself intimately acquainted with the Old Testament passages which the Palestinian Jewish lectionary prescribed for reading in the synagogue at the festivals and other periods of the year.1 He knows the Jewish law of evidence (viii. 17). He is familiar with the superior attitude of those who had received a rabbinical training towards those who had not enjoyed this advantage - 'These people who do not know the law are accursed' (vii.49) - an attitude expressed even by the liberal Rabbi Hillel: 'No ignorant person is pious.'..."
"John's accurate knowledge of Jewish customs, beliefs, and methods of arguments led a great rabbinical scholar, the late Israel Abrahams, to say: 'My own general impression, without asserting an early date for the Fourth Gospel, is that the Gospel enshrines a genuine tradition of an aspect of Jesus' teaching which has not found a place n the Synoptics.' Abrahams also emphasized 'the cumulative strength of the arguments adduced by Jewish writers favourable to the authenticity of the discourses in the Fourth Gospel, especially in relation to the circumstances under which they are reported to have been spoken."
"The internal evidence supports the claim that the author not only witnessed but understood the great events he records. The external evidence for the Gospel is as strong as for the Synoptics..." (Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? [InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove Ill 60515; Fifth ed. rpt. 1992], pp. 49-50)
"John's accurate knowledge of Jewish customs, beliefs, and methods of arguments led a great rabbinical scholar, the late Israel Abrahams, to say: 'My own general impression, without asserting an early date for the Fourth Gospel, is that the Gospel enshrines a genuine tradition of an aspect of Jesus' teaching which has not found a place n the Synoptics.'3 Abrahams also emphasized 'the cumulative strength of the arguments adduced by Jewish writers favourable to the authenticity of the discourses in the Fourth Gospel, especially in relation to the circumstances under which they are reported to have been spoken." (Bruce, p. 50)
Shabir on Romans 3:7
Muslim apologists accuse Paul of actually admitting to lying in Romans 3:7. When we actually read the verse, Paul was speaking of God's justice and how man's unrighteousness affirms that God's judgment upon sinners is righteous. Hence, Paul is speaking hypothetically of one who might ask if by a person's falsehood God is proven righteous, why then does God condemn the person? This becomes crystal clear from the text itself:
"But if our unrighteousness brings out God's righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? Someone might argue, `If my falsehood enhances God's truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?' Why not say - as we are being slanderously reported as saying and as some claim that we say - `Let us do evil that good may result'? Their condemnation is deserved." Romans 3:5-8
Paul clearly denies ever using deception in preaching the Gospel:
"Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." 2 Corinthians 4:2
Interestingly, it is Muhammad who condoned deception and the use of lying. The Quran states:
"Whoso disbelieves in God, after he has believed - excepting him who has been compelled, and in his heart is still at rest in his belief - but whosoever's heart is expanded in unbelief, upon them shall rest anger from God, and there awaits them a mighty chastisement." S. 16:106
"It has been reported that the Quraish compelled 'Ammar, his father Yasir, and his mother Sumayya to renounce Islam. So they tied Sumayyya to two camels and pointed a spear to her heart, saying to her that she converted for the men, and killed her. Later they killed Yasir. Thus, these two were the first martyrs in Islam. As for 'Ammar, he told them, unwillingly, what they wanted to hear. So it was told the Messenger of God that 'Ammar disbelieved. He said, 'No, 'Ammar is full of faith from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet; belief has been mingled with his flesh and blood.' 'Ammar came weeping to the Messenger of God. Therefore, the Messenger of God started to wipe his tears, and said, 'If they come back to you, repeat to them what you said.' This is the evidence for the admissibility of speaking unbelief under compulsion." ('Abdallah 'Abd al-Fadi, Is the Qur'an Infallible? [Light of Life PO Box 13 A-9503 Villach Austria], p. 97)
The Traditions tell us that there are three instances where deception can be used:
Humaid b. 'Abd al-Rahman b. 'Auf reported that his mother Umm Kulthum daughter of 'Uqba b. Abu Mu'ait, and she was one amongst the first emigrants who pledged allegiance to Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him), as saying that she heard Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: A liar is not one who tries to bring reconciliation amongst people and speaks good (in order to avert dispute), or he conveys good. Ibn Shihab said he did not hear that exemption was granted in anything what the people speak as lie but in three cases: in battle, for bringing reconciliation amongst persons and the narration of the words of the husband to his wife, and the narration of the words of a wife to her husband (in a twisted form in order to bring reconciliation between them).
More information is provided by William Muir's "Life of Mahomet", Volume I, footnote 88:
The common Moslem belief is that it is allowable to tell a falsehood on four occasions:
1st, to save one's life;
2nd, to effect a peace or reconciliation;
3rd, to persuade a woman;
4th, on the occasion of a journey or expedition.
To save one's life
The first is borne out by Mahomet's express sanction. Ammar ibn Yasir was sorely persecuted by the pagans of Mecca, and denied the faith for his deliverance. The Prophet approved of his conduct: - "If they do this again, then repeat the same recantation to them again." Katib al Wackidi; p. 227 ½.
Another tradition preserved in the family of Yasir, is as follows: - "The idolators seized Ammar, and they let him not go until he had abused Mahomet and spoken well of their gods. He then repaired to the Prophet, who asked of him what had happened." - "Evil, oh Prophet of the Lord! I was not let go until I had abused thee, and spoken well of their gods." - "But how," replied Mahomet, "dost thou find thins own heart?" - "Secure and steadfast in the faith." - "Then," said Mahomet, "if they repeat the same, do thou too repeat the same." Ibid. Mahomet also said that Ammar's lie was better than Aba Jahl's truth.
To effect a peace or reconciliation
The second is directly sanctioned by the following tradition:- "That person is not a liar who makes peace between two people, and speaks good words to do away their quarrel, although they should be lies." Mishcat, vol ii. p.427
To persuade a woman
As to the third, we have a melancholy instance that Mahomet did not think it wrong to make false promises to his wives, in the matter of Mary his Egyptian maid.
On the occasion of a journey or expedition
And regarding the fourth, it was his constant habit in projecting expeditions (excepting only that to Tabuk) to conceal his intentions, and to give out that he was about to proceed in another direction from the true one. (Hishami, p. 392; Katib al Wackidi, p. 133 ½.)
Muhammad treated truth and deception according his own style of situational ethics. Muhammad condoned, and actually permitted, lying to further his goals:
In fact, Sahih Bukhari Volume 5, Number 369 records how Muhammad allowed Masalaama to use outright deception to achieve his purpose of murdering Kab Ibn Ashraf. The tradition goes on to record that Masalaama brutally stabbed and beheaded Ashraf. Another treacherous murder took place when Muhammad sent Umar ibn Adai to kill Asma bint Marwan, a poetess who wrote poetry insulting Muhammad. According to Nisa Muhammad (Muhammad's Women), p.102, authored by Muslim Sania Qur'aa, Adai "came to her at night and put away her baby (editor: she was nursing her infant) and killed her by the sword; then he went to Mohammed and Mohammed said, 'you've revenged God and his Apostle, Omeir.'" (See also Haykal, The Life of Muhammad, p. 243)
In Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Number 361 we are told:
Once we were in the house of Abu Musa who presented a meal containing cooked chicken. A man from the tribe of Bani Taim Allah with red complexion as if he were from the Byzantine war prisoners, was present. Abu Musa invited him to share the meal but he (apologised) saying. "I saw chickens eating dirty things and so I have had a strong aversion to eating them, and have taken an oath that I will not eat chickens." Abu Musa said, "Come along, I will tell you about this matter (i.e. how to cancel one's oath). I went to the Prophet in the company of a group of Al-Ashariyin, asked him to provide us with means of conveyance. He said, 'By Allah, I will not provide you with any means of conveyance and I have nothing to make you ride on.' Then some camels as booty were brought to Allah's Apostle and he asked for us saying. 'Where are the group of Al-Ash'ariyun?' Then he ordered that we should be given five camels with white humps. When we set out we said, 'What have we done? We will never be blessed (with what we have been given).' So, we returned to the Prophet and said, 'We asked you to provide us with means of conveyance, but you took an oath that you would not provide us with any means of conveyance. Did you forget (your oath when you gave us the camels)? He replied. 'I have not provided you with means of conveyance but Allah has provided you with it, and by Allah, Allah willing, if ever I take an oath to do something, and later on I find that it is more beneficial to do something different, I will do the thing which is better, and give expiation for my oath."
Shabir on 1 Corinthians 7:12 and 25
Shabir uses Paul's statement in the Bible to show that Paul claimed that he was not inspired. Paul made no such admission. If one does read Paul's writings in their intended context one will discover Paul's actual meaning:
"Now about virgins; I have no command from the Lord, but I give judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think it is good for you to remain as you are." 1 Corinthians 7:25-26
In light of 7:26, Paul's statements in 1 Corinthians 7:12 and 25 are not a denial of inspiration. Rather, they constitute an acknowledgment that the Lord, while on earth, has given no commands to the disciples in regards to these particular issues. Therefore, Paul gave "judgment as one who by the Lord's mercy is trustworthy."
Being guided by the Holy Spirit, Paul could speak authoritatively and infallibly on matters not addressed by Christ while on earth. This is precisely what Paul goes on to say at the conclusion of his discussion:
"In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is - and I think that I too have the Spirit of God." 1 Corinthians 7:40
Paul specifically states that his decisions were not simply fallible human ones, but commands given by the Spirit. His statement here is not a denial on his part that he had the Spirit, but is equivalent to someone today saying, "I think I know what I'm talking about."
Hence, Paul knows that what he says is true since it is the Spirit who is speaking through him. This point becomes more apparent in the following verses from the very same book of 1 Corinthians:
"This is what we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words." 1 Corinthians 2:13 NIV
"If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that WHAT I AM WRITING TO YOU IS THE LORD'S COMMAND. If he ignores it he himself will be ignored." 1 Corinthians 14:37
We find it amazing that Shabir was not able to find these passages seeing that they are in the very same book that he quotes from to establish his case that Paul denied being inspired. Paul elsewhere states:
"And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe." 1 Thessalonians 2:13
"Finally, brothers, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know the instructions we gave you by the authority of Lord Jesus." 1 Thessalonians 4:1-2
In light of all these passages, the last thing Paul had in mind was to deny inspiration for the instructions he gave to the churches.
Shabir on 2 Corinthians 11:1,17,21 and 12:11
Shabir complains against Paul's usage of foolish talk in order to silence the bragging of the Corinthian Christians:
"I hope you will put up with a little of my foolishness; but you are already doing that." 2 Corinthians 11:1
"In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool." 2 Corinthians 11:17
"To my shame I admit that we were too weak for that! What anyone else dares to boast about-I am speaking as a fool - I also dare to boast about." 2 Corinthians 11:21
"I have made a fool of myself, but you drove me to it. I ought to have been commended by you, for I am not in the least inferior to the 'super-apostles,' even though I am nothing." 2 Corinthians 12:11
Shabir seemingly thinks that Paul's use of foolish talk affirms that Paul was not inspired. What Shabir fails to consider is that Paul is speaking on the level of the people, applying their criteria against them in order to silence these Christians. This technique is even used by Allah in the Quran!:
And (the unbelievers) schemed and planned, and Allah schemed also, and the best of schemers is Allah. S. 3:54
Remember how the unbelievers schemed against thee, to keep thee in bonds, or to slay thee, or get thee out (of thy home). They scheme and plot, but the best of schemers is Allah. S. 8:30
So they schemed a scheme: and We schemed a scheme, while they perceived not. S. 27:50
The term for "scheme" in Arabic is makara and denotes one who is a deceiver, conniving, a schemer. It is always used in a negative sense. Allah is thus seen as the best of deceivers, the premiere schemer and the supreme conniver.
This is not simply a Christian perspective but one thoroughly endorsed by Muslim theologians as well.
For example Dr. Mahmoud M. Ayoub in his book, The Quran and Its Interpreters, Vol. II, The House of Imran, brings up the question of "how the word makr (scheming or plotting), which implies deceitfulness or dishonesty, could be attributed to God." (Ibid. [1992 State University of New York Press, Albany], p. 165)
After listing several Muslim sources he quotes ar-Razi as arguing that "scheming (makr) is actually an act of deception aiming at causing evil. It is not possible to attribute deception to God. Thus the word is one of the muttashabihat [multivalent words of the Quran]." (Ibid, p. 166)
Hence, Shabir should have no objections with inspired messengers adopting the language and tactics of their opponents or audience in order to convey spiritual truths. If he does object then Shabir must also object to Allah stooping to the level of his enemies and adopt their method of deceptive tactics.
Shabir also appeals to 2 Corinthians 11:17 for proof that Paul denied inspiration:
"In this self-confident boasting I am not talking as the Lord would, but as a fool." 2 Corinthians 11:17
Paul is not denying inspiration. Paul is simply pointing out that he is speaking in a manner that Christ did not when addressing believers, seeing that Christ spoke in meekness and gentleness and was never boastful:
"By the meekness and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you - I, Paul, who am 'timid' when face to face with you, but "bold" when away!" 2 Corinthians 10:1
Nothing in Paul's statement denies inspiration.
Here are some passages that we have not heard Shabir mention before, but are pretty certain he eventually will bring up either in his articles and/or debates.
Snakes Don't Eat Dust
"So the LORD God said to the serpent, 'Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life." Genesis 3:14
Snakes do not eat dust. Yet, snakes do take particles into their mouths on their tongues to "taste" the air. This is the sense in which snakes smell things.
Furthermore, eating dust is a Hebrew idiom signifying humiliation and defeat.
"The desert tribes will bow before him and his enemies will lick the dust." Psalm 72:9
"Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet. Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed." Isaiah 49:23
"They will lick dust like a snake, like creatures that crawl on the ground. They will come trembling out of their dens; they will turn in fear to the LORD our God and will be afraid of you." Micah 7:17
The snake "eating dust" is a metaphor that implies that God has humbled the serpent for instigating the fall of man.
Rabbits Don't Chew the Cud
"The rabbit, though it chews the cud, does not have a split hoof; it is unclean for you." Leviticus 11:6
Rabbits do not regurgitate food (i.e. cud). Hence, this seems to imply an error. Yet, when we look at the original Hebrew words we discover an entirely different picture.
The term for cud is gerah, a word that is never used elsewhere in Scripture besides here and in Deuteronomy. Gerah can mean, "grain, berry," even "a 20th of a shekel". Hence, gerah can imply something of little value. Rabbits go through a process called refection wherein they take their dung and chew on it in order to get at the remaining partially digested food. In this way, rabbits are able to get the most nutrients possible from the food they digest.
The term "gerah" conveys the fact that what rabbits chew has some value. Yet, the Hebrew word for "dung" is used in Scripture to imply something defiled, unclean or useless and would not be suitable in describing what rabbits eat.
Secondly, the term used for "chew" is alah and literally means to "bring up." Here are some passages highlighting this point:
"It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt..." Joshua 24:17
"While Samuel was offering up the burnt offering..." 1 Samuel 7:10
"... while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouts and the sound of trumpets." 2 Samuel 6:15
"... therefore the Lord is about to bring (up) against them the mighty floodwaters of the River..." Isaiah 8:7
"He makes clouds rise (up) from the ends of the earth..." Psalm 135:7
These few examples sufficiently demonstrate that the term does not necessarily imply regurgitation, but can refer generally to any type of movement such as lifting or bringing up an object. Hence, Leviticus 11:6 is completely acceptable and poses no serious problem with what we know of rabbits.
There are some that actually do not believe Leviticus is actually speaking about rabbits. They rather feel that the verse is speaking of an animal that is no longer in existence:
"11:6 cheweth the cud. This is one of the classic 'mistakes of' the Bible, since it is well known that the hare does not chew the cud. In fact, this would also have been known to the ancient Israelites, so that they would make no such mistake. The problem is simply the mis-translation of the Hebrew arnebeth. This animal was not a hare, but is an unknown animal. Modern translators seem constrained to equate all the ancient animals of the Bible with modern animals. They overlook the fact that many animals have become extinct in the last four thousand years, especially during the traumatic centuries of climactic upheaval immediately following the great flood, the period known to evolutionists as the Pleistocene Epoch, or Ice Age. There is no reason whatsoever to equate the arnebeth with the hare. The identities of several of the other animals listed in this chapter are equally uncertain." (Dr. Henry M. Morris, The Defenders Study Bible King James Version [World Publishing; Grand Rapids, MI 1995], p. 145)
Either way, there is no error in the Holy Bible.
For more on this subject please read the following:
"There are, however, some winged creatures that walk on all fours that you may eat: those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. But all other winged creatures that have four legs you are to detest." Leviticus 11:21-23
The argument goes that insects such as locusts have six legs, not four. Yet, there is a simple reason why the Holy Bible describes these particular insects as having four legs. The NIV Study Bible states it best:
"11:20 all fours. Although insects have six legs, perhaps people in ancient times did not count as ordinary legs the two large hind legs used for jumping."
This is supported by the fact that the passage seems to imply that along with four legs, these insects are "those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground," suggesting that the legs for hopping are seen as distinct from the rest. Furthermore, these insects were to be eaten by the Israelites. This being the case, the Israelites would definitely have been able to see the insect's six legs. Hence, the NIV explanation makes sense in light of the preceding factors.
Muslims complain that the ritual purification of a woman who conceives a baby girl is twice as long as that of a baby boy. Admittedly, this is a difficult passage. Yet, the text itself provides one of the reasons why a mother would be declared unclean only for seven days in the case of male children:
"Say to the Israelites: A woman who becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son will be ceremonially unclean for seven days, just as she is unclean during her monthly period. On the EIGHTH DAY the boy is to be circumcised." Leviticus 12:2-3
The length of uncleanness is interrupted by the command to circumcise the male boy on the eighth day. Being ceremonially unclean on the eighth day may have prohibited the mother from witnessing her own sons circumcision.
The Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary provides another (possible) reason for the command in counterbalancing cultural influences:
"In many countries girls are less desired than boys. Thoughtless husbands might have taken better care of baby boys and their mothers; so a longer time at home might have been positive help for a mother with a baby girl. No difference is made in the temple ritual between the birth of a boy or a girl. The only difference is in the periods of uncleanness and seclusion." (Kenneth L. Barker & John R. Kohlenberger III, ed. Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary - Volume 1: Old Testament [Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids, MI 1994], p. 139)
Furthermore, the context clearly shows that no implication of female inferiority can be inferred from the prolonged period of uncleanness:
"When the days of her purification for a son OR DAUGHTER are over, she is to bring to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering. He shall offer them before the LORD to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood. These are the regulations for the woman who gives birth to a boy OR A GIRL. If she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean." Leviticus 12:6-8
Please observe that the sacrifices for male and female infants are identical, supporting the point that both the male and female infants, as well as all males and females in general, have equal value in the eyes of God. In fact, if one reads Leviticus in the overall context of the Pentateuch, this conclusion becomes inescapable:
"Then God said, Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and FEMALE he created THEM." Genesis 1:26-27
"When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male AND FEMALE AND BLESSED THEM. And when THEY were created, he called THEM man." Genesis 5:1-2
The female is just as much an image-bearer of God as the male. The New Testament reflects this very same point:
"In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God." 1 Corinthians 11:11-12
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one IN CHRIST JESUS." Galatians 3:28
Finally, the ceremonially laws regarding male and female infants are less difficult to accept than the following purification rite that Muhammad enjoined on Muslims:
"Ali narrated that the Messenger of Allah said: 'The urine of a baby boy should have water sprinkled upon it. The urine of a baby girl is to be washed off.' Says Qatadah, 'This refers to a male baby that has not yet begun to eat. If he already eats, then the garment is to be washed.'
"This hadith is related by Ahmad, Abu Dawud, at-Tirmidhi and Ibn Majah. In al-Fath, Ibn Hajar says its chain is sahih.
"Sprinkling is sufficient as long as the boy is still nursing. If he eats solid food, his urine must be washed from the clothes and body. There is no disagreement on this latter point. Perhaps the reason for this exemption to the male baby's urine is that people have a tendency to carry their male babies around, and it would have been difficult to clean the clothes after their frequent urinations." (Fiqh us-Sunnah Volume 1 Purification and Prayer [American Trust Publications, Indianapolis Indiana 1991], pp. 9-10)
The explanation above doesn't work since infant girls are also carried around. So why the difference? Perhaps Shabir can answer.
God or Satan?
According to 2 Samuel 24:1. God moved David to number the fighting men of Israel, whereas according to 1 Chronicles 21:1 it was Satan who moved David to do so. There is no difficulty at all with these passages, since God allowed Satan to incite David to number Israel, something which displeased the Lord.
The reason why this angered the Lord is that rather than trusting God, David was evidently placing his trust in the number of his people. Even David's commander-in-chief, Joab, was not totally pleased with the king's decision:
"But Joab said to the king, `May the LORD your God increase the number of the people a hundred fold, while the eyes of my lord king can still see it! But why does my lord the king want to do this? But the king's word prevailed against Joab and the commanders of the army..." 2 Sam. 24:3-4a NRSV
Evidently, David had purposed within his heart to number Israel, something which the Lord was aware of.
Realizing this, the Lord in his anger moved David through the agency of the Devil to act upon his heart's desire.
Hence, although Satan was the direct cause, God was also indirectly responsible since the Devil can only do that which God allows him to do.
This is something that the Quran wholeheartedly agrees with, that the devils can only do what Allah allows them to do:
"Likewise did We make for every Messenger an enemy - Satans among men and Jinns, inspiring each other with flowery discourses by way of deception. If thy Lord had so willed they would not have done it: so leave them and what they forge." S. 6:112
"Seest thou not that We have set Satans on against the unbelievers, to INCITE them to fury?" S. 19:83
Muslim commentator al-Zamakhshari's note on S. 2:7 is noteworthy:
"It is now in reality Satan or the unbeliever who has sealed the heart. However, since it is God who has granted him the ability and possibility to do it, the sealing is ascribed to him in the same sense as an act which he has caused. (John Gilchrist, The Textual History of the Qur`an and the Bible [Light of Life, P.O. Box 13, 9503 VILLACH, AUSTRIA], p.37)
This ends our rebuttal for now. We pray that the Lord Jesus Christ will bless everyone who reads this with an open heart and mind.
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