Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Answers to emails

{ The below text is to be understood as a combined answer to a number of emails that I received in response to my articles published on Answering Islam. }

Dear Muslim:

Let me give you some help in writing to me. You want to respond to something I have written and that is what freedom in this country is all about. Unfortunately, if you come from an Islamic country I don’t have the same freedom there to speak my mind.

There are some things you need to keep in mind when writing to refute something I have said.

First, keep in mind that if you quote the Bible to prove a point, you are claiming that the Bible is correct. You undermine your credibility if you claim the Bible is right when you quote it but claim that it is wrong when I quote it. You can’t have it both ways.

Second, be more discriminating about the sources you use. If you quote the New World Translation to prove that the Trinity is not taught in Scripture, you are not doing yourself a good service. The Polyglott Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is not a credible translation of the New Testament. No Greek scholar would approve of some of the passages they claim to translate. In contrast, John Henry Thayer, who was a Unitarian, who rejected the Trinity, nevertheless translates the first verses of the Gospel of John as “He was with God and was God.” This is correct scholarship even when one does not personally believe it.

Along the same line, be more discriminating in who you quote as “Christian Scholars.” I have had a Muslim write me telling me about “Christians” who reject the deity of Christ and including in that list people like Bertrand Russell. Be aware that Russell wrote a book on “Why I am not a Christian” and he certainly does not claim to be a Christian and his views represent atheism, not Christian ideas.

In a similar sense, be aware that the so-called “Christian” group getting publicity under the name of the Jesus Seminar people affirm very little of Christian belief. Even though they reject 80 percent of the words of Jesus as being real, they are a very small group of people who receive great publicity out of proportion to their numbers. The media loves them because the media is often anti-Christian. When a group of men get together and vote on whether Jesus said this or that, there is no scholarship in the process.

Rabbi Jacob Neusner, the “Rabbi who defends the Gospels,” is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of South Florida, the author of about 500 works (which is more than the entire collective works of the JS), and is considered one of the leading experts of Jewish history of the first centuries of the Christian era recently stated:

“I think that the Jesus Seminar is a scholarly hoax in which people are pretending to know things that we cannot possibly know and no scholarly issue is settled by having scholars vote. At first I thought it was a joke, but it isn’t a joke. They really take themselves very seriously and they pretend to have informed opinions about issues that are very hard to settle. They also pretend to settle these by voting. I think that is absurd. If this isn’t a hoax then it signifies that the New Testament studies as we know them become intellectually bankrupt because they have used up all of the capital of rationality, logic and rigorous argument that sustains scholarship. You cannot give up on all of the rules and still be a going concern.” (Source)

Another example of examining the sources relates to the fraud being passed around by fellow Muslims is the so-called Gospel of Barnabas. A recent writer proposed to me a re-write of the Gospel of John based on the phony Gospel of Barnabas. If you will read the book critically you will see that the writer was not a first century companion of Paul, but a 16th century unknown person. The book has lots of errors. Do you want Islam to be established on falsehood? Unfortunately, Muslims are circulating the book around the world attempting to show that Christianity is false to uneducated people. Is there truth in Islam? Is there honesty in Muslims?

“At the very start of the Gospel of Barnabas Jesus is called the Christ: God has during these past days visited us by his prophet Jesus Christ (p.2). However, throughout the book Jesus denies being the Messiah: Jesus confessed and said the truth, "I am not the Messiah" (chap. 42). How can Jesus be the Christ and deny being the Messiah when both words mean exactly the same thing? Whoever wrote this book did not know the Greek meaning of the word Christ is Messiah” (The Gospel of Barnabas by Samuel Green). The Qur’an teaches that Jesus was the Messiah and never does it say that Muhammed is the Messiah. Barnabas does declare that Mohammed is the Messiah.

The Gospel of Barnabas writer thought that Nazareth was a sea port. The book is ignorant about the political situation asserting that Herod and Pilate ruled at the same time. If the writer really lived in the time of Jesus he would have known that Herod was dead long before Pilate was governor.

The paper on which the book was written could not have existed before the 15th century. There are many other problems with the Gospel of Barnabas. Muslims have made many claims that the Gospel was quoted by this or that ancient writer, but no evidence is given for these claims. Others who have looked up the works do not find any support for the Gospel of Barnabas.

Third, be discriminating about the culture you are seeking to use. I have received letters indicating that Mohammed was prophesied in Hindu literature. The claim of Muslims that each nation has had its prophets is difficult to prove. A Muslim sent me an article on the prophecy of Mohammed in Hindu, and also an article in Buddhist scriptures. The writer of that article used that Muslim favorite argument—their scriptures have been corrupted. The author used the word Abraham and suggested that the “A” had been moved to the end to make it Brahma. Without going into the Hindu roots of the word, Brahman is the supreme God in Hindu thought. The writer goes on to talk about Abraham’s wife, Sara as being Saraswati. However, Saraswati is a river not a person.

Fourth, think again about the parallels between Moses and Mohammed. Some one sent me a number of parallels between Moses and Mohammed suggesting that The Prophet was Mohammed, not Jesus, because Moses had a father and mother as did Mohammed. “Moses was born with a human mother and father, he married, had children, etc. Jesus was born miraculously, he had no human father, he never married, never had children, etc.”

“That there were some insignificant dissimilarities between Moses and Jesus, such as the fact that Moses was married and Jesus was not, proves nothing. There were numerous disparities between Moses and Mohammed. Moses was born in Egypt, Mohammed in Mecca. Moses was taken by God at the age of 120; Mohammed died a natural death at the age of 63, etc.

The reality is, however, there are significant similarities between the work of Moses and that of Christ. Consider the following:

1. Kings sought to destroy both Moses and Jesus when they were babies (Ex. 1,2; Mt. 2).

2. Both were sent by God to be deliverers (Ex. 3:8; Rom. 11:26).

3. Both Moses and Christ authenticated their missions with miracles (Ex. 4:1ff; Jn. 20:30-31).

4. Both gave laws from God (Jer. 31:31ff; Jn. 1:17).

5. Both mediated on behalf of their people (Ex. 32:32; Gal. 3:19; 1 Tim. 2:5).

6. Both supplied bread for the people (Ex. 16:15; Jn. 6:49ff).

7. Both Moses and Christ had a “baptism” which provided a transition from bondage to freedom (Ex. 14:30; cf. 1 Cor. 10:2; Gal. 3:27).

8. Both men were specially tended by God at the event of their deaths (Dt. 34:6; Lk. 23:46).

9. Moses and Christ united in song in praising the mighty works of God (cf. Ex. 15; Rev. 15:3).

It is not accurate, therefore, to assert: that “Jesus was unlike Moses in every way.” A comparison between Moses and Islam’s “prophet” cannot begin to compare with the parallels listed above” (Source)

The most important issue relates to what Moses did and what Jesus did and what Mohammed did not do. Moses delivered a nation from slavery, Jesus delivers people from their slavery to sin, and Mohammed enslaved people.

Fifth, read up on your history. Muslims try to argue that the Qur’an is the most perfect book in existence, preserved by Allah from all error and deviation. It may shock you to learn from your own history that there were a number of codices floating around the Muslim world.

“There is certainly no evidence to suggest that anyone had actually compiled the whole text of the Qur'an into a single manuscript, whether directly under Muhammad’s express authority or otherwise, and from the information we have about the collection of the Qur'an after his death.... we must rather conclude that the Qur'an had never been codified or reduced to writing in a single text.”

“A typical example worth quoting at this point is found in the following hadith which plainly states that portions of the Qur'an were irretrievably lost in the Battle of Yamama when many of the companions of Muhammad who had memorised the text had perished:

Many (of the passages) of the Qur'an that were sent down were known by those who died on the day of Yamama ... but they were not known (by those who) survived them, nor were they written down, nor had Abu Bakr, Umar or Uthman (by that time) collected the Qur'an, nor were they found with even one (person) after them. (Ibn Abi Dawud, Kitab al-Masahif, p.23).

The negative impact of this passage can hardly be missed: lam ya'alam - "not known", lam yuktab - "not written down", lam yuwjad - "not found", a threefold emphasis on the fact that these portions of the Qur'an which had gone down with the qurra who had died at Yamama had been lost forever and could not be recovered.” (Source)

Sixth. please read the contexts of the passages from the Bible that you claim proves your point. For example, the passage in the Gospel of John is often used to say that the Comforter refers to Mohammed. Read the whole passage. The passage says “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor know him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.”

If you read this carefully, the Counselor (parakleton)(comforter) was given to the disciples, (for he dwells with you), not an allusion to Mohammed 600 years later.It was a promise to the disciples now, not 600 years later. The world neither sees nor knows the Comforter, but the world began to know Mohammed in Arabia, and they saw him. Moreover, Mohammed does not dwell in anyone. He is dead. The Comforter is yet alive because He is God the Spirit. Any attempt to change the language from Greek to Aramaic is useless. The Gospels were written in Greek, not Aramaic.

Seven, when you attack the credibility of the Bible you attack your source of information. For example, how does the Muslim world know anything about Ishmael?

The only source we have about him is in the Bible. If you don’t accept the Bible story of Ishmael you have no basis for talking about Ishmael. Are we supposed to believe that the story was corrupted by Jews centuries before anyone ever heard of Mohammed? The Old Testament was translated into Greek around 250 BC. It refers to Isaac as the person Abraham was to sacrifice. Why would they change the story from Ishmael? The Jews had a sacred respect for the Scripture. As the story progresses in the Old Testament, Isaac and then Jacob are the main characters related to the promise of God, not Ishmael. Are we to suppose that the whole story has been changed.? Is this not ridiculous?

I always look forward to hearing from people who read the articles. Let’s have a useful dialogue together. But remember the most important issue is not debate, but the good news of the Gospel that Jesus died for us to establish a new covenant of forgiveness. You don’t have to sacrifice lambs anymore. Jesus is the Lamb of God who makes the new covenant. Mt. 26:26-29. You can have a relationship with Jesus now. Pray to Him and you will know the truth. Don’t forget it.

With best wishes, Dallas