Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Lord Jesus Christ – The God of the Miraculous!

Sam Shamoun

Muslim apologist Sami Zaatari has written an article (*) where he quotes John 5:4 to show that an angel of God would come down to stir the pool of Bethesda thereby healing anyone who would enter into the pool at that very moment. His purpose in mentioning this miracle is to show just how ignorant Christians are for appealing to Jesus’ miracles to prove that he is God since this argument would also demonstrate that the angel is God as well.

It seems that Muslim propagandists never tire of distorting the actual arguments made by Christians in regard to the Deity of Christ. The very fact that they have to repeatedly attack straw men is a clear indication that they are incapable of addressing the actual points raised by Christian scholars and apologists in defense of the Lord Jesus’ absolute and perfect Divinity.    

The Christian position is not that Jesus’ miracles prove that he is God. Rather, the signs and wonders Jesus performed provided Divine confirmation for his explicit and unambiguous claims of being God. In other words, the miracles proved that Jesus was speaking the truth and wasn't lying when he made himself out to be God.

In fact, if Zaatari had bothered reading the remainder of the chapter he would have seen how Jesus’ miraculous healing of a paralytic substantiated his Divine claims:

“One man was there, who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’ The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.’ And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked. Now that day was the sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, ‘It is the sabbath, it is not lawful for you to carry your pallet.’ But he answered them, ‘The man who healed me said to me, “Take up your pallet, and walk.”’ They asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Take up your pallet, and walk”?’ Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.’ The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews persecuted Jesus, because he did this on the sabbath. But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working still, and I am working.’ This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God.” John 5:5-18

Jesus’ miracle proved that he had the same Divine right that his Father does to work on the Sabbath. The Jews clearly understood from this that Jesus was basically claiming to be equal with God since only the latter had any right to perform work on the Sabbath day.

Jesus went on to make the following astonishing claims in response to the reaction of the Jews, statements which only further show that Christ believed that he is the Divine Son of God who is equal with the Father in essence and majesty:

“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself is doing; and greater works than these will he show him, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.’” John 5:19-23

No righteous god-fearing creature could ever say that s/he can only do what God does, and can do whatever God does in the same manner that God does it. A true servant of God would also never say that he could give life as God gives it or demand that people honor him/her in the same exact way that they honor God. 

Jesus further stated that he is the One who will resurrect the dead by the power of his voice since he has life within himself (i.e., he is self-existent and the Source of Life), just as the Father has it:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice [i.e. Jesus’ voice] and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.” John 5:25-29

Jesus also explains that the reason why the Father has entrusted all judgment to him is because he is the Son of Man, a direct allusion to the figure seen by the prophet Daniel who rules over all creation forever and who is worshiped by every creature:

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14

Nor is this the only time where Christ claimed to be the One who resurrects the dead and gives life:

“Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am THE Resurrection and THE Life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.’” John 11:23-27

Jesus then went on to resurrect Lazarus from the dead to confirm that he is indeed THE Resurrection and THE Life: 

“Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ he said. ‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’ Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.” John 11:38-45

In other words, the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead was done to glorify and prove that Jesus is the Divine Son of God who can spiritually and/or physically resurrect the dead, as well as grant both physical and eternal life:

“Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.’ … After he had said this, he went on to tell them, ‘Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up.’ His disciples replied, ‘Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better.’ Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’” John 11:1-4, 11-14

Yet according to the Hebrew Bible it is Yahweh who gives life and raises the dead:

“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” Deuteronomy 32:39

“Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I will open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people; and I will bring you home into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land; then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken, and I have done it, says the LORD.” Ezekiel 37:12-14

The inspired Christian Greek Scriptures concur:

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” Acts 17:24-28
“In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession,” 1 Timothy 6:13

Moreover, the religion of Islam also teaches that Allah is the resurrector and giver of life:

That is because Allah, He is the Truth, and it is He Who gives life to the dead, and it is He Who is Able to do all things. S. 22:6 Hilali-Khan

Look, therefore, at the prints of Allah's mercy (in creation): how He quickeneth the earth after her death. Lo! He verily is the Quickener of the Dead, and He is Able to do all things. S. 30:50 Pickthall

He is the Living (One): There is no god but He: Call upon Him, giving Him sincere devotion. Praise be to God, Lord of the Worlds! … It is He Who gives Life and Death; and when He decides upon an affair, He says to it, "Be", and it is. S. 40:65, 68 Y. Ali

And while He is the Resurrector of the dead after He resurrects them, He merits the same name before their actual resurrection. Likewise, He merits the name the Creator before their actual creation. (The Creed of Imam al-Tahawi (al-Aqidah al-Tahawiyyah), translated, introduced, and annotated by Hamza Yusuf [Zaytuna Institute, first edition 2007; source], p. 50; underline emphasis ours)

Thus, according to both the Hebrew Bible, God’s true Word, and the sources of Islam Jesus claimed to be God by ascribing to himself the very names and functions of God! And to repeat: Jesus performed miracles to prove that his claims of Deity were true.

Zaatari has ignored and overlooked all of these facts and has chosen to bring up a red herring instead since the angel in John 5:4 never claimed to be the Resurrection and Life like Jesus did.

Zaatari further overlooked the fact that Jesus also had the authority to grant his followers the power to perform miracles in his name, something which no angel or prophet ever claimed to have:

“And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons:” Mark 3:14-15

“And he called to him the twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics. And he said to them, ‘Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. And if any place will not receive you and they refuse to hear you, when you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them.’ So they went out and preached that men should repent. And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.” Mark 6:7-13

“John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work IN MY NAME will be able soon after to speak evil of me.  For he that is not against us is for us.’” Mark 9:38-40

“The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!’ And he said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.’” Luke 10:17-20

And here are several examples from the book of Acts where Jesus’ disciples performed mighty deeds and wonders in his majestic and glorious name:

“Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at that gate of the temple which is called Beautiful to ask alms of those who entered the temple. Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. And Peter directed his gaze at him, with John, and said, ‘Look at us.’ And he fixed his attention upon them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said, ‘I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's, astounded. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people, ‘Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name, by faith in his name, has made this man strong whom you see and know; and the faith which is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.’” Acts 3:1-16

“And when they had set them in the midst, they inquired, ‘By what power or by what name did you do this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders, if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a cripple, by what means this man has been healed, be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man is standing before you well. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, but which has become the head of the corner. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’” Acts 4:7-12

“There he found a man named Aene'as, who had been bedridden for eight years and was paralyzed. And Peter said to him, ‘Aene'as, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.’ And immediately he rose. And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. Acts 9:33-35

“As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by soothsaying. She followed Paul and us, crying, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.’ And this she did for many days. But Paul was annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, ‘I charge you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour.” Acts 16:16-18

The miracles that Jesus performed to confirm his Divine claims and his ability to grant others the authority to carry out supernatural signs and wonders in his name show that Christ is not simply an agent through whom God worked, but that he himself possessed Divine power which he could pass on to others. This further proves that, as far as the teachings of the NT is concerned, Jesus is fully God in nature since only God possessed this power according to the OT Scriptures and Jewish tradition. As Evangelical scholars Robert M. Bowman & J. Ed Komoszewski state in their monumental work on the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ:

“New Testament scholar Werner Kahl helpfully distinguishes three kinds of miracle workers. A person who has inherent healing power he calls a ‘bearer of numinous power’ (BNP). He uses the term ‘petitioner of numinous power’ (PNP) for those who ask God to perform the miracle. Between these two extremes is the category of ‘mediator of numinous power’ (MNP), which applies to persons who mediate the numinous power of a BNP in order to produce a miracle. Being a MNP or PNP clearly is not evidence of deity, whereas being a BNP could be evidence of deity.

“Eric Eve, in his published dissertation The Jewish Context of Jesus’ Miracles, observes that in the Old Testament, Yahweh is the only BNP; Moses is an example of an MNP; Elijah is an example of a PNP. Eve provides a comprehensive review of miracles in Judaism of the New Testament period. He considers beliefs about miracles in Josephus, Philo, the wisdom and apocalyptic literature of the period (e.g. Wisdom of Solomon; 1 Enoch), some Qumran texts, and in some examples of romantic, fanciful Jewish literature of the time (e.g., Tobit). He finds that with rare (and quite marginal) exceptions, Judaism in that period agreed with the Old Testament in viewing the Lord God as the only BNP.” (Bowman & Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place – The Case for the Deity of Christ [Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI 2007], Part 4. Infinitely Qualified: Jesus Shares in the Deeds That God Does, Chapter 16. He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands, pp. 198-199; underline emphasis ours)

The authors show how the NT breaks with Jewish tradition at this point by presenting Jesus as a BNP:

“According to Eve, the Gospel portrayals of Jesus break with Jewish tradition by characterizing Jesus as a ‘bearer of numinous power’ (BNP) and his miracles as pointing to him as Yahweh. Although some of the miracle reports resemble accounts of prophetic miracles (notably those of Elijah), the dominant theme in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ miracles with regard to his identity is that Jesus is unlike any other human being.

“A review of the Gospels confirms Eve’s assessment. The Gospels rarely record Jesus uttering any sort of prayer before performing a miracle, and the exception are prayers of thanks or blessing, not prayers asking God to effect a miracle… Thus the Gospel evidence uniformly contradicts any notion that Jesus was a ‘petitioner of numinous power’ (PNP). By way of contrast, the book of Acts reports both Peter and Paul praying prior to performing miracles (Acts 9:40; 28:8). Furthermore, on one occasion Jesus explained to his disciples that at least some demons could not be cast out apart from prayer: ‘This kind can come out only through prayer’ (Mark 9:29)… Jesus also never invoked anyone else’s name when performing a miracle. One might have expected him to pronounce healings ‘in the name of my Father’ or with some similar locution, but he never does. The apostles, on the other hand, healed in Jesus’ name. After they came back from their first venture of preaching and healing during Jesus’ earthly ministry, they joyously reported that the demons were subject to them in Jesus’ name (Luke 10:17-20). Once, having tried and failed to cast a demon out of a boy, they informed Jesus that they tried to stop someone outside of the apostolic circle from casting out demons in Jesus’ name (Mark 9:38-40; Luke 9:49-50)!

After Pentecost, the apostles characteristically conveyed healing and exorcism to others in the name of Jesus (Acts 3:6; 16:8; cf. 19:11-17). The first time this happened, Peter emphatically explained that it was not his piety or power that produced the healing, but that Jesus had healed the man through faith in his name (Acts 3:11-16; 4:7-11). On one occasion, Peter simply stated, ‘Jesus Christ heals you’ (Acts 9:34). When Paul performed a miracle of judgment on a magician who opposed the gospel, he told the man, ‘The hand of the Lord is against you’ (Acts 13:11), as an explanation of the blindness with which he was immediately stricken. Jesus never spoke in such a way with regard to his miracles.

“Jesus did not, of course, perform his miracles independently of the Father. Quite the opposite: Jesus claimed that all of his miracles – indeed all his works and deeds – were performed in union with the Father… Jesus considered his actions to be not merely his own but joint actions performed with the Father in him. Jesus was not a mere man through whom God occasionally chose to act by performing miracles. Jesus was the incarnate Son of God, and God the Father was acting in and through him in absolutely everything that Jesus said and did.” (Ibid., pp. 199-201; underline emphasis ours)

Challenge to Sami Zaatari

With the foregoing in mind we issue the following challenges to Zaatari in order to prevent him from repeatedly attacking straw men and distorting the Christian position.

  1. Please show us a single place in the entire Bible where an angel or prophet performed miracles to confirm their Divinity much like Jesus did. Produce a quote where a prophet like Moses performed a miraculous sign to prove that he is THE Resurrection or THE Life, titles which even Islam agrees belong exclusively to the one true God.

  2. Also produce a quotation where people performed a miraculous deed in the name of an angel or prophet much like the followers of Christ carried out their miracles in the name of Jesus.

  3. Provide a citation where an angel or prophet commanded people to perform a supernatural sign in the name of that respective angel or prophet much like Jesus commanded his followers.

This will hopefully put to rest Zaatari’s rather weak and desperate tirade against the explicit and unambiguous evidence of the NT that Jesus Christ is the eternal Divine Son of God who became flesh and will continue to be the fulness of God Incarnate forever by virtue of his physical, bodily resurrection from the dead.

And the Triune God does know best, knowing infinitely more than either Allah or his messenger ever knew!

Related Articles