Archive for the ‘Mohamed’ Category

Response to Zakir Hussain regarding Song of Solomon’s

September 27, 2012

The fourth and final prophecy that Zakir Hussain used in his recent debate with Dr. White is the fact (in the linked mp3, see 24:40 – 30:40) that there is a description of a beloved one in Song of Solomon.

Mr. Hussain quotes in part, but we will quote the whole description:

Song of Solomon 5:9-16
What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us? My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven. His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set. His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh. His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

Mr. Hussain argued that (a) one of the titles for Mohammed is “beloved;” (b) that Mohammed had white skin with redness in it; (c) that Mohammed had black, wavy hair; (d) that “raven” could also be translated “Arab”; and (e) that Mohammed was the leader of 10,000 men at the taking of Mecca.

First, Mr. Hussain is treating this description as though it were intended literally, although it is part of a large piece of poetry. In context, the passage is not intended to provide a physical description of any real person. It’s simply describing a person who is very beautiful in the eyes of a united monarchy Jewish woman.

Second, Mr. Hussain has selectively quoted. While he claims that the description matches Mohammed “to a T,” does it really? Were his eyes like the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters washed with milk? On the contrary, his eyes were black – not blue, blue-green, or green (any of the colors of rivers of water).

Were Mohammed’s cheeks like spice beds and sweet flowers? Were his lips like lilies dropping perfumed oil? Were his hands like gold rings set with beryl? Was his belly like bright ivory overlaid with sapphires and were his legs like marble pillars set upon sockets of fine gold?

What Mr. Hussein has done is simply identify a few characteristics of the person described and compare those characteristics to Mohammmed.

Third, in context there is no obvious reason to view this passage as a prophecy of someone to come. In context, the poem is either love poetry for Solomon (written from the perspective of one of his wives) or by Solomon, and this love poetry stands as metaphor, parable, or typology of the relationship between Christ and the church.

Moreover, Mr. Hussain’s claim about Mohammed’s title that he was “the beloved of Allah” does not really fit the text very well at all, unless Allah is being portrayed as a woman in the text (something that would be extremely surprising to any of my Muslim friends, I think).

Furthermore, “black as a raven” is definitely “black as a raven,” not “black as an Arab.” While the words for Arab and raven use the same Hebrew letters (though not the same vowel points), it is not true that the term here can be translated “Arab” even if we ignore the vowel points.

Likewise, “black as an Arab” would be a rather odd description of an Arab, no? It’s a simile, not an identity.

Mr. Hussain further argued that the term translated “altogether lovely” is actually the word “Mohamed.” And the word may actually come from a cognate root. But the text does not say, “His name is [word]” but rather “he is [word].”

Mr. Hussain continued by suggesting that the passage in question should be continued past verse 16 of chapter 5 (the last verse of that chapter) into chapter 6.

The passage at the beginning of Chapter 6 states:

Song of Solomon 6:1-3
Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee. My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies. I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies.

I’m not sure of a polite way of pointing this out to Mr. Hussain, but this discussion appears to be a sort of poetic way of describing a particular kind of physical intimacy that the woman receives. Hopefully no explanation is required, assuming Mr. Hussain is married.

Furthermore, even if we took this literally, while the “bed of spices” may be literally referring to a garden of balsam (an aromatic plant), the other of the items in this garden is the lily. As Dr. White pointed out during the debate, while Mecca may be known for Balsa, it is not known for lilies. So, again, we find Mr. Hussain simply selectively quoting.

– TurretinFan

N.B. It should go without saying, but this post should not be taken as in any way a criticism of Dr. White’s response during the debate. I was able to spend an unlimited amount of time preparing my response, and I am not required to fit my responses to each of Mr. Hussain’s arguments into a fixed amount of time or space. In a real debate, the debaters have to prioritize based on limited preparation time and limited response time.


Jesus – The Prophet Like Moses – Response to Zakir Hussain

September 26, 2012

The third prophecy that Zakir Hussain used in his recent debate with Dr. White is the fact (in the linked mp3, see 13:19 – 24:40) that God promised to give another prophet like Moses. This was indeed a prophecy given first to Moses:

Deuteronomy 18:15 
The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;
Deuteronomy 18:18
I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.

However, the Scriptures confirm that this prophecy was fulfilled by Christ:

Acts 3:19-24
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.

And again:

Acts 7:37 & 52This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear. … Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:

Thus, twice the New Testament confirms that Jesus is the one who was prophesied in this prophecy. Moreover, Acts is recording the words of the Apostle Peter and Proto-Deacon Stephen, the first martyr.

Moreover, “from the midst of thee, of thy brethren” and “from among their brethren” in context clearly means that the prophet will be an Israelite. Mohammed was not Jewish, therefore, the prophet like Moses could not possibly be Mohammed.

That meaning is confirmed by the usage in Deuteronomy 17:

Deuteronomy 17:15
Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.

Furthermore, contrary to Mr. Hussain’s suggestion that “put my words in his mouth” could not refer to the Son of God, Jesus himself claimed to speak what he received:

John 8:26
I have many things to say and to judge of you: but he that sent me is true; and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of him.
John 8:28
Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.
John 8:38
I speak that which I have seen with my Father: and ye do that which ye have seen with your father.
John 12:50
And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.
John 14:10
Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

Moreover, this casts no doubt on Jesus’ divinity, for the Spirit likewise is described as follows:

John 16:13
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.

Zakir specifically argued that Deuteronomy 34:10 states that there can be no prophet amongst the Israelites like Moses. In context, that passage states:

Deuteronomy 34:9-12
And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the Lord commanded Moses. And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in all the signs and the wonders, which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land, and in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel.

First, my inclination is to agree with the traditional view that these are the words of Moses, prophesying about what would come after him. Alternatively, these may be the words of a completer (such as Joshua), who completed the second giving of the law after Moses’ death. I would not ascribe the extremely late date that some modern scholarship has ascribed to the book.

Second, I would see the “arose not” as a use of the prophetic past tense. Namely, it is describing something future as past, because it is certain to occur.

Third, I would note that there is a question of the time frame involved. In context, the discussion is about conquest of Canaan under Joshua. In that time, there was no prophet in Israel comparable to Moses, in the various ways that are mentioned. No one whose face glowed with the visible presence of God, or who brought plagues like the plagues of Egypt.

Fourth, indeed, while there were mighty prophets before the coming of Jesus, none had that face-to-face experience or brought plagues like those brought in Egypt.

Fifth, we could grant that Jesus also did not bring plagues like Moses and did not visibly glow with the presence of God [Fn1]. Yet, in other ways, he could still be like Moses. In other words, a prophet can be like Moses, as to Deuteronomy 18 and yet be unlike Moses as to Deuteronomy 34.

Sixth, Mohammed was not like Moses in terms of speaking to God face to face or in terms of working signs like the ten plagues. We all know that Mohammed claimed to receive revelation from Allah through an angel named Gabriel, not face-to-face.

The alleged miracles of Mohammed include Koran-attested things like splitting and repairing the moon (Surah 54:1-3) and flying by night to Jerusalem (Surah 17:1). Other Hadith-attested things include the weeping stump and endless water from an ablution vessel. But none (to my knowledge) of the alleged miracles of Mohammed, whether attested by the Koran or Ahadith, include any nation-destroying miracles like those wrote by Moses in Egypt.

Thus, even if Deuteronomy 34 could be used to prove that the Deuteronomy 18 prophet had to be a non-Israelite, it would still not prove that the prophet was Mohammed. On the contrary, it would contradict such a view.

Zakir also argued that in John 16, Jesus denied teaching his apostles everything he had received, but left that for someone else. The passage states:

John 16:12-15
I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.

Does Zakir think that all the things that belong to God belong to Jesus and that Mohammed received Jesus’ things to shew people? Specifically, does Zakir think that God is Jesus’ Father? That would seem to contradict one of the fundamental tenets of Islam, that God does not beget.

However, to directly answer the point, the Deuteronomy text says that Jesus will say what God commands, not absolutely everything he knows. Moreover, it does not say how Jesus will reveal all in Deuteronomy, and Deuteronomy does not rule out the use of the Spirit. Furthermore, Jesus’ revelation continued after his ascent in the work of Paul (who saw Jesus after his ascent) and through John (as recorded at great length in the book of Revelation).

Mr. Hussain argued that 1 Maccabees reflects an expectation of a prophet that would solve legal problems. It is not clear whether Mr. Hussain realizes that the book 1 Maccabees is not a book within the Hebrew or Christian canon, nor whether he realizes that it comes from the inter-testamental period – the time prior to Jesus.

In any event, it seems that the passage he must be thinking of is this one:

1 Maccabees 4:38-48
And when they saw the sanctuary desolate, and the altar profaned, and the gates burned up, and shrubs growing in the courts as in a forest, or in one of the mountains, yea, and the priests’ chambers pulled down; they rent their clothes, and made great lamentation, and cast ashes upon their heads, and fell down flat to the ground upon their faces, and blew an alarm with the trumpets, and cried toward heaven.
Then Judas appointed certain men to fight against those that were in the fortress, until he had cleansed the sanctuary. So he chose priests of blameless conversation, such as had pleasure in the law: who cleansed the sanctuary, and bare out the defiled stones into an unclean place.
And when as they consulted what to do with the altar of burnt offerings, which was profaned; they thought it best to pull it down, lest it should be a reproach to them, because the heathen had defiled it: wherefore they pulled it down, and laid up the stones in the mountain of the temple in a convenient place, until there should come a prophet to shew what should be done with them.
Then they took whole stones according to the law, and built a new altar according to the former; and made up the sanctuary, and the things that were within the temple, and hallowed the courts.

It is also not clear whether Mr. Hussain is aware that this passage is not necessarily reflecting an expectation of any particular prophet, but of a prophet in general. At that time, during the intertestamental period, the people of Israel lacked any prophet (which is one reason that the book of Maccabees cannot be Scripture). 1 Maccabees itself records their plight:

1 Maccabees 9:25-31
Then Bacchides chose the wicked men, and made them lords of the country. And they made enquiry and search for Judas’ friends, and brought them unto Bacchides, who took vengeance of them, and used them despitefully.
So was there a great affliction in Israel, the like whereof was not since the time that a prophet was not seen among them.
For this cause all Judas’ friends came together, and said unto Jonathan, “Since thy brother Judas died, we have no man like him to go forth against our enemies, and Bacchides, and against them of our nation that are adversaries to us. Now therefore we have chosen thee this day to be our prince and captain in his stead, that thou mayest fight our battles.” Upon this Jonathan took the governance upon him at that time, and rose up instead of his brother Judas.

A similar comment on the absence of any prophet is found later in the book:

1 Maccabees 14:35-47
The people therefore sang the acts of Simon, and unto what glory he thought to bring his nation, made him their governor and chief priest, because he had done all these things, and for the justice and faith which he kept to his nation, and for that he sought by all means to exalt his people. For in his time things prospered in his hands, so that the heathen were taken out of their country, and they also that were in the city of David in Jerusalem, who had made themselves a tower, out of which they issued, and polluted all about the sanctuary, and did much hurt in the holy place: but he placed Jews therein. and fortified it for the safety of the country and the city, and raised up the walls of Jerusalem.
King Demetrius also confirmed him in the high priesthood according to those things, and made him one of his friends, and honoured him with great honour. For he had heard say, that the Romans had called the Jews their friends and confederates and brethren; and that they had entertained the ambassadors of Simon honourably; also that the Jews and priests were well pleased that Simon should be their governor and high priest for ever, until there should arise a faithful prophet; moreover that he should be their captain, and should take charge of the sanctuary, to set them over their works, and over the country, and over the armour, and over the fortresses, that, I say, he should take charge of the sanctuary; beside this, that he should be obeyed of every man, and that all the writings in the country should be made in his name, and that he should be clothed in purple, and wear gold: also that it should be lawful for none of the people or priests to break any of these things, or to gainsay his words, or to gather an assembly in the country without him, or to be clothed in purple, or wear a buckle of gold; and whosoever should do otherwise, or break any of these things, he should be punished. Thus it liked all the people to deal with Simon, and to do as hath been said.
Then Simon accepted hereof, and was well pleased to be high priest, and captain and governor of the Jews and priests, and to defend them all.

Mr. Hussain goes on to argue that the Jews had an expectation of “that prophet” as distinct from the Messiah. That may well be the case. Surely you remember the dialog at the beginning of John’s gospel between the John the Baptist and the Jewish leaders:

John 1:19-27
And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who art thou?”
And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”
And they asked him, “What then? Art thou Elias?”
And he saith, “I am not.”
“Art thou that prophet?”
And he answered, “No.”
Then said they unto him, “Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?”
He said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as said the prophet Esaias.”
And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, “Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?”
John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; he it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.”

So, we can readily concede that the Jewish leaders may well have been imagining three different men to fulfill the prophecies, rather than a single man. But their expectations are not our guide. Our guide is the self-revelation of Jesus Christ.

Recall that the passage that prophesied the coming of Elijah the prophet was this:

Micah 4:4-6
Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Whether known to John the Baptist or not, an angel had prophesied regarding his ministry, as follows:

Luke 1:17
And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.

So, while John the Baptist was not Elias, he was like Elias.  He was (at least) a preliminary fulfillment of the prophecy.  And indeed Elias himself came to testify of Jesus:

Luke 9:28-36
And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias: who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem. But Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep: and when they were awake, they saw his glory, and the two men that stood with him.
And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said. While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.
And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone. And they kept it close, and told no man in those days any of those things which they had seen.

It is easy to forget that testimony of Moses and Elias to Jesus, because the very voice of God from heaven calling Jesus his beloved Son is so much more important. Nevertheless, Elias did come at that time.  Some have suggested that Elias may be one of the two witnesses prophesied in the Revelation of Jesus Christ:

Revelation 11:3-12
And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed. These have power to shut heaven, that it rain not in the days of their prophecy: and have power over waters to turn them to blood, and to smite the earth with all plagues, as often as they will.
And when they shall have finished their testimony, the beast that ascendeth out of the bottomless pit shall make war against them, and shall overcome them, and kill them. And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
And they of the people and kindreds and tongues and nations shall see their dead bodies three days and an half, and shall not suffer their dead bodies to be put in graves. And they that dwell upon the earth shall rejoice over them, and make merry, and shall send gifts one to another; because these two prophets tormented them that dwelt on the earth.
And after three days and an half the spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet; and great fear fell upon them which saw them. And they heard a great voice from heaven saying unto them, Come up hither. And they ascended up to heaven in a cloud; and their enemies beheld them.

– TurretinFan

[Fn1] Jesus’ face did not glow with the reflected presence of God’s glory. That said, in the mount of transfiguration, Jesus’ countenance was changed and as explained in the Matthew account of the transfiguration:

Matthew 17:1-2
And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, and was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

But that shining was a demonstration of Jesus’ own divinity.  It was not merely a reflected shining.  Moses’ face shone with the reflected glory, but Jesus shown with the glory that he had with the Father.

John 17:5
And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

Notice also that unlike Moses, whose face shone, in the case of Jesus, his clothes were also shining white.  This is not the kind of glory that could be hidden by a veil, like Moses’ reflected glory.

2 Corinthians 3:13-16
And not as Moses, which put a veil over his face, that the children of Israel could not stedfastly look to the end of that which is abolished: but their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which vail is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart. Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away.
Exodus 34:28-35
And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of testimony in Moses’ hand, when he came down from the mount, that Moses wist not that the skin of his face shone while he talked with him. And when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone; and they were afraid to come nigh him.
And Moses called unto them; and Aaron and all the rulers of the congregation returned unto him: and Moses talked with them. And afterward all the children of Israel came nigh: and he gave them in commandment all that the Lord had spoken with him in mount Sinai. And till Moses had done speaking with them, he put a vail on his face.
But when Moses went in before the Lord to speak with him, he took the vail off, until he came out. And he came out, and spake unto the children of Israel that which he was commanded. And the children of Israel saw the face of Moses, that the skin of Moses’ face shone: and Moses put the vail upon his face again, until he went in to speak with him.

Hopefully this clarifies what I meant above.

N.B. It should go without saying, but this post should not be taken as in any way a criticism of Dr. White’s response during the debate. I was able to spend an unlimited amount of time preparing my response, and I am not required to fit my responses to each of Mr. Hussain’s arguments into a fixed amount of time or space. In a real debate, the debaters have to prioritize based on limited preparation time and limited response time.

Responding to Zakir Hussain’s "Land of Canaan" Argument

September 25, 2012

The second prophecy that Zakir Hussain used in his recent debate with Dr. White is the fact (in the linked mp3, see 12:40 – 13:19) that God promised to give the land of Canaan to the descendants of Abraham. This was indeed a prophecy given first to Abraham (then called Abram):

Genesis 15:18-21
In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates: the Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites, and the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.

Mr. Hussain argued that for the past 1000 years this land has been held by Muslims. First of all, this assertion is faulty. The crusaders established the kingdom of Jerusalem in 1099 and held land in the area for roughly 200 years. Moreover, at the present day there is a Jewish nation in the region.

More importantly, though, it was the Israelites under Joshua’s leadership that drove out the peoples of the land.

Joshua 24:11
And you went over Jordan, and came unto Jericho: and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I delivered them into your hand.

The expansion of Israel increased from the time of Joshua to that of David/Solomon. Thus, we read:

1 Kings 9:20-21
And all the people that were left of the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, which were not of the children of Israel, their children that were left after them in the land, whom the children of Israel also were not able utterly to destroy, upon those did Solomon levy a tribute of bondservice unto this day.

1 Chronicles 18:3
And David smote Hadarezer king of Zobah unto Hamath, as he went to stablish his dominion by the river Euphrates.

2 Chronicles 7:8
Also at the same time Solomon kept the feast seven days, and all Israel with him, a very great congregation, from the entering in of Hamath unto the river of Egypt.

Of course, subsequently the area was controlled by others. For example:

2 Kings 24:6-7
So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers: and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his stead. And the king of Egypt came not again any more out of his land: for the king of Babylon had taken from the river of Egypt unto the river Euphrates all that pertained to the king of Egypt.

And we may mention the fact that after the Babylonian, Chalean, and Persian empires both the Greek and Roman empires conquered the area. So the fact that Islamic forces likewise overran the area for a time (even for a long time) does not have particular significance.

It lacks particular significance because the boundaries of Euphrates to the Nile was never the boundary of any of the Islamic empire(s). Those empires that included that region (such as the Ottoman Empire) always included additional land on the other side of the Nile or on the other side of the Euphrates or both, like all the other empires that subsequently controlled the whole region.

It also lacks particular significance because it was the Israelites who actually drove out the Canaanite nations and took their land from them. Thus, the prophecy was in the immediate sense, clearly fulfilled in Israel, particularly in the height of the kingdom under David/Solomon.

Thus, there is no reason to apply this prophecy to Mohammed, whose successors conquered the area.

– TurretinFan

N.B. It should go without saying, but this post should not be taken as in any way a criticism of Dr. White’s response during the debate. I was able to spend an unlimited amount of time preparing my response, and I am not required to fit my responses to each of Mr. Hussain’s arguments into a fixed amount of time or space. In a real debate, the debaters have to prioritize based on limited preparation time and limited response time.

Responding to Zakir Hussain’s "Great Nation" Argument

September 24, 2012

The first prophecy that Zakir Hussain used in his recent debate with Dr. White is the fact (in the linked mp3, see 8:50 – 12:40) that God promised to make Ishmael into a great nation. This was indeed a prophecy given first to Abraham:

Genesis 17:20
And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation.

And later to Hagar:

Genesis 21:18
Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.

Zakir argued that what makes a nation great is monotheism or specifically worshiping the one true God, and that consequently the Arabian conversion to Islam is the fulfillment of this prophecy, since prior to that time the Arabs were mostly polytheists. He seemed to appeal to this passage as though it defines greatness as he has argued:

Deuteronomy 4:6-8
Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the LORD our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?

But that passage is not defining what makes a nation great, it was what makes a great nation wise. It is comparing Israel to the great nations.

In the Scriptures, the term “great nation” refers to any large, populous, and/or mighty nation. For example:

Deuteronomy 4:38
To drive out nations from before thee greater and mightier than thou art, to bring thee in, to give thee their land for an inheritance, as it is this day.
Deuteronomy 7:1
When the LORD thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou;
Deuteronomy 9:1
Hear, O Israel: Thou art to pass over Jordan this day, to go in to possess nations greater and mightier than thyself, cities great and fenced up to heaven,
Deuteronomy 11:23
Then will the LORD drive out all these nations from before you, and ye shall possess greater nations and mightier than yourselves.
Joshua 23:9
For the LORD hath driven out from before you great nations and strong: but as for you, no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day.
Psalm 135:10
Who smote great nations, and slew mighty kings;
Jeremiah 50:9
For, lo, I will raise and cause to come up against Babylon an assembly of great nations from the north country: and they shall set themselves in array against her; from thence she shall be taken: their arrows shall be as of a mighty expert man; none shall return in vain.

In short, it is not necessary for the prophecy that the nation be a monotheist or YHWH-worshiping in order to be considered “great.” That is because while in English these days the term “great” can mean “wonderful,” the primary significance of the Hebrew word it is translating is one of large size, power, or importance (which used to be the primary meaning of the English word, “great,” as well). A great nation is not necessarily one that is morally praiseworthy.

All this argues against the major premise of Mr. Hussain’s argument. The minor argument is also in dispute, since Islam does not worship YHWH, nor does it have laws that are as righteous as those of Old Testament Israel. However, even if we assumed that the minor premise were correct, the major premise fails as discussed above. Accordingly, in this post I haven’t provided a detailed argument about the minor premise.

Thus, as to the first prophecy, we have no reason to see Mohammed prophesied particularly in the Old Testament. The Ishmaelites were a great nation before Mohammed was born. For example, the Ishmaelites included the Midianites:

Judges 8:22-24
Then the men of Israel said unto Gideon, Rule thou over us, both thou, and thy son, and thy son’s son also: for thou hast delivered us from the hand of Midian. And Gideon said unto them, I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the Lord shall rule over you. And Gideon said unto them, I would desire a request of you, that ye would give me every man the earrings of his prey. (For they had golden earrings, because they were Ishmaelites.)

Moreover, the prophecy regarding Ishmael was fulfilled in his own lifetime:

Genesis 25:12-18
Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s handmaid, bare unto Abraham: and these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, and Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah: these are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations. And these are the years of the life of Ishmael, an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people. And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, that is before Egypt, as thou goest toward Assyria: and he died in the presence of all his brethren.

So, we know exactly who the twelve princes were, by name. Thus, there is no need to look for Mohammed as a fulfillment of this prophecy. There is a minor premise that is also in question, namely the question of whether the Arabians are actually the descendants of Ishmael. While I don’t have any particular reason to doubt their claim, I’m unaware of any genealogy that actually demonstrates the connection.

– TurretinFan

N.B. It should go without saying, but this post should not be taken as in any way a criticism of Dr. White’s response during the debate. I was able to spend an unlimited amount of time preparing my response, and I am not required to fit my responses to each of Mr. Hussain’s arguments into a fixed amount of time or space. In a real debate, the debaters have to prioritize based on limited preparation time and limited response time.

Response to Bassam Zawadi on Mohamed’s Belief in the Bible

April 11, 2009

Mr. Bassam Zawadi has provided an answer (link to answer) to my recent article (link to article), which demonstrated that Mohamed did not know of the currently prevalent Muslim view that the Bible is corrupt.

Zawadi’s first point of contention is over why Muslims claim that the Bible is corrupt. I had asserted that it is because they are aware that the Bible conflicts with the Koran. Zawadi asserts that this is not true, but that instead it is because “all of our major sources of Islamic authority say so.” There are two problems with Zawadi’s claim. First, the Koran does not say so (and yet must be considered a major source of Islamic authority). Second, while other sources of Islamic authority do say so, our assertion as that these sources say so because it was discovered that the Bible does not agree with the Koran.

Zawadi’s second point of contention is over Surah 62:5. After reviewing the argument presented, Zawadi responds, “However, this is not evidence that the Qur’an doesn’t teach that the Torah has been textually corrupted. This would only prove that this verse in specific does not teach this.” (emphasis is Zawadi’s) With respect to the latter of the two assertions, I would agree that we must limit the force of the verse to the verse itself. In other words, something could be taught elsewhere that is different from (and perhaps even contradictory to) what is taught in this verse. With respect to the first of his two assertions, however, I must respectfully disagree.

Surah 62:5 uses the analogy of a donkey carrying huge books. In this simile, the donkey has the books, but doesn’t understand them. The argument we hear from some Muslims today is that, in essence, we don’t even have the books. Those are conflicting claims. For example, in another article, Zawadi himself states:

There seems to be a misconception amongst Christians. They think that Islam teaches that there once was an original Bible and then the Bible got corrupted. This is not what Islam teaches. We don’t believe that there was an original book of Philippians or Corinthians, which then later on got corrupted. We don’t even believe that these books are divine in the first place. What we believe is that parts of the original revelations sent down to Moses (Torah) and Jesus (Gospel) peace be upon them both still exist in the Bible today. We believe that people came and wrote things from their own and claimed that it was from God. They then went and mixed their own writings with the original revelations (Torah and Gospel) and removed and added to them.

(paragraph breaks omitted)

In his present response, Zawadi goes on to explain that Islam today not only teaches textual corruption but also corruption via hermeneutic. We understand that this is the claim of Islam today, but our point is simply that it is not what Mohamed himself believed, based on the Koranic evidence.

Zawadi seems willing to admit that the portions of the Koran I had identified speak only to the corruption of interpretation (corruption via hermeneutic), for he writes: “What TurretinFan is doing is appealing to verses that only speak about the hermeneutical corruption and tries to give his readers the false impression that this is the only kind of corruption that the Qur’an alludes to.” (emphases are Zawadi’s)

It would be improper simply to highlight text speaking of one kind of change and ignore text speaking of the other kind of change. That, however, has not been done here. And there is a further problem for Zawadi.

Corruption via hermeneutic is corruption via misinterpretation. You cannot misinterpret a text that you don’t have. Since I don’t believe Mohamed was a prophet of God, I don’t have a problem with the idea that Mohamed might have taught two contradictory things. Surely, however, Zawadi does not think that Mohamed contradicted himself. What Zawadi would seem to need to explain is this. How can Jews and Christians misinterpret books that don’t exist?

Moving to the next section of response, Zawadi raises the idea that “Allah only misguides those who are worthy of being misguided.” I think, however, he has misunderstood the thrust of my criticism. I am not questioning whether the verse portrays Allah as someone who does not always tell the truth (perhaps that is something for another debate, if Zawadi believes that Allah can lie). Instead, I am suggesting that verse not only explains that the extant books were misinterpreted, but also suggests why they were misinterpreted. They were misinterpreted because they were not guided by Allah, according to the most natural reading of the verse. In other words, the books exist, but (for whatever reason) Allah did not guide these people and consequently they did not understand the books that they had.

With respect to Surah 2:285, Zawadi challenged the idea that belief in the books that Allah gave is inconsistent with the position that such books no longer exist. Recall that the relevant portion of that verse is:

The Apostle believeth in what hath been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one (of them) believeth in God, His angels, His books, and His apostles. “We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His apostles.”

Zawadi essentially argues that since men can believe in an unseen God and in unseen angels, they can also believe in unseen books and unknown and unseen apostles. Zawadi’s distinction here is a bit misleading. Allow me to explain:

1) By way of analogy, consider the idea that we believe that Jesus was crucified. We believe that this happened, though of course it is no longer happening today. We can believe that it happened, without seeing it happening. Likewise, we understand that someone could believe that Allah gave books, without seeing those books.

2) Likewise, by way of analogy, we believe that Jesus had brethren, without knowing all of their names. We don’t have to know their names to believe that Jesus had brethren. Likewise, we understand that someone could believe that Allah gave books, without knowing what those books were.

3) But I think a reasonable person will agree that the verse in question is not merely stating that Mohamed (“the Apostle”) believed that God, the angels, books, and apostles existed. Instead, it is saying that Mohamed believed what God, the angels, the books, and the apostles said.

4) If the content of the books is not only unknown but also unknowable (for example, if the text were hopelessly corrupted), to say that one believes the content of the books is quite strange, to say the least.

Zawadi attempts to explain his own beliefs this way:

Similarly, I believe in Allah’s books by acknowledging and believing that there were indeed revelations sent to the Messengers in the past (Surah 2:136-137). I believe in Allah’s books by believing that there was a true Gospel and true Torah sent to Prophets Jesus and Moses (peace be upon them both) respectively. It is not necessary for these two books to be in my presence in order for me to believe in them, any more than it is necessary for the previous apostles who have all died to be in my presence in order for me to believe in them.

Zawadi’s beliefs, however, are not what Surah 2:285 is talking about. Zawadi’s belief is a belief in the existence of the prophets and books, but not belief in any particular content. Zawadi’s belief then is not in “what has been revealed to him,” but in what has not been revealed to him – a reversal of the verse.

Zawadi also provides an alternative response, in which there is some sort of preserved tablet containing the uncorrupted text. This is not a tablet that Zawadi has seen, and I suppose Zawadi is not even dogmatic about the idea that it exists. Regardless, the preserved tablet’s content is not something that “has been revealed to him” but rather is something that has not been revealed to him. So, while he may (or may not) believe in its existence, he does not believe its content, for he does not even know its content.

In order for anyone to believe the books that Allah gave, one must know what they say. If someone claims to believe that Mohamed is a prophet, but imagines that Mohamed taught that men should eat pork as often as possible, we would all agree (I think) that the person does not believe what Mohamed taught or follow the teachings of Mohamed.

With respect to Surah 20:133, Zawadi argues that a mistake has been made based on reliance on English translations rather than the Arabic original. While I certainly agree that it is important to understand the original languages in order to minimize errors in understanding, Zawadi has not presented an explanation of how the original Arabic reading of the Surah leads one to a different understanding. As far as I know, the original Arabic is as follows:

Surah 20:133 ‏وَقَالُوا۟ لَوْلَا يَأْتِينَا بِـَٔايَةٍۢ مِّن رَّبِّهِۦٓ ۚ أَوَلَمْ تَأْتِهِم بَيِّنَةُ مَا فِى ٱلصُّحُفِ ٱلْأُولَىٰ

Zawadi states that, “The verse in Arabic does not say that the content of the previous books are clear signs. It is saying that there is a clear sign for Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) prophethood in the previous scriptures (i.e. namely its [prophesying] of him).”

I’m not quite sure that Zawadi understands the argument presented here. As I understand his argument, he views the verse as in essence saying, and here I paraphrase (without intending any disrespect and without intending this to substitute for a translation):

133 They ask, “Why doesn’t he give us a sign from Allah (that he is a prophet)?” But hasn’t there already been a clear sign (that Mohamed is a prophet of Allah) provided in(perhaps throughout?) the previous books? 134 And if they hadn’t already been disciplined so greatly before this, they would have said, “Why didn’t you send us a prophet, for then we would have followed your guidance without our present disgrace and shame.”

I can understand this proposed interpretation, but even this proposed interpretation is helpful to the point I was making.

How is it helpful to my point? Even if the point of the verse is to say that these people who are asking for a sign of Mohamed’s prophethood already have the sign in the previous books, it demonstrates that they had those previous books that include the sign. The value of appealing to a supposed sign in the previous books is that those books are trustworthy. If the books were not trustworthy, what good is their testimony for Mohamed’s prophethood?

Thus, even assuming that we should narrowly interpret 20:133 in light of 20:134 (which really seems not to be an issue of the Arabic language at all), Mohamed’s argument based on clear evidence or clear signs in the previous books, requires that these critics have access to the books and have a reason to trust the content of the books.

In response to my question about whether the shift in Islam (from Mohamed’s original position that the Bible was simply misunderstood by the Jews and Christians to the later (though still quite early) position of Islam that the Bible was both misunderstood and corrupted as to its content by Jews and Christians) bothered Muslims, as I think it should, Zawadi replied: “The only thing that concerns me is how you missionaries continue to grossly distort our scriptures. We kindly ask you to please stop and to start learning from the experts.”

I’m quite happy to learn from the experts, and I appreciate the attempts of Zawadi (who apparently views himself as an expert) to explain what he thinks the Koran means. On the other hand, Mr. Zawadi has presented nothing to rebut the argument I presented, namely that the Koran supports my thesis that Mohamed did not believe that the Old Testament was corrupt.

Instead, Mr. Zawadi’s comments, particularly with respect to what he viewed as the translation issues in 20:133-34, have only helped to confirm my original point that the assertion that the Old Testament was corrupt was a later development in Islam, not part of the Koran’s original teachings, and is even at least apparently contradictory to what the Koran has to say.


Question for My Muslim Readers

March 6, 2009

Today I stumbled across an interesting question for my Muslim readers. The question is, how can Mohamed be called the greatest prophet? The question provides evidence from the Koran itself to document the idea that, even based solely on the Koran, Jesus was a greater prophet than any other prophet. Please consider reading and thinking about this question before you answer (link).

I should be quick to point out that the reason why I believe that Jesus was greater than Mohamed was not only the sorts of things laid out in the linked question, but specifically the fact that Jesus was (and is) both God and man, in two distinct natures and one person.

In terms of specific evidence, I direct you to the fact that not only did Jesus himself raise the dead, but on the third day after the crucifixion of the Messiah, God raised Jesus from the dead.


Mohamed Did Not Believe that the Old Testament was Corrupt

September 26, 2008

Today, many Islamic apologists like to claim that the Bible (both Old and New Testaments) is corrupt. They feel the need to claim this, because they are aware of the fact that the Bible is inconsistent with Islam.

There is a problem for their position: it is not the position of their prophet, assuming that Surah 62:5 is itself not corrupt.

Surah 62:5 The similitude of those who were charged with the (obligations of the) Mosaic Law, but who subsequently failed in those (obligations), is that of a donkey which carries huge tomes (but understands them not). Evil is the similitude of people who falsify the Signs of Allah: and Allah guides not people who do wrong.

Notice that the Surah compares the Jews to Donkeys carrying “huge tomes” that they do not understand. Notice that the Surah alleges that the Jews “falsify the Signs of Allah,” but the most natural reading of the Surah (at least in this translation) is that they falsify not through destroying the text, but through misunderstanding or misinterpreting the text.

Notice that is says “huge tomes” not “no tomes” or “tattered tomes.”

And, in another translation, we see the same concept:

62.5 The likeness of those who were charged with the Taurat, then they did not observe it, is as the likeness of the ass bearing books, evil is the likeness of the people who reject the communications of Allah; and Allah does not guide the unjust people.

Notice how the text parallels “books” and “communications of Allah.” Notice also that in this translation they are described as rejecting them – presumably because like donkeys they don’t understand what is in them – perhaps simply because “Allah does not guide” them.

And it is not the only place in the Koran that such an idea can be found. Recall that it is recorded:

[2.285] The apostle believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord, and (so do) the believers; they all believe in Allah and His angels and His books and His apostles; We make no difference between any of His apostles; and they say: We hear and obey, our Lord! Thy forgiveness (do we crave), and to Thee is the eventual course.

And in another translation:

Surah 2:285 The Apostle believeth in what hath been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one (of them) believeth in Allah, His angels, His books, and His apostles. “We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His apostles.” And they say: “We hear, and we obey: (We seek) Thy forgiveness, our Lord, and to Thee is the end of all journeys.”

Notice that it is says “books,” not “book.” What’s even more interesting is that we are told that the Surahs were themselves orally proclaimed at first – which would suggest that the “books” do not even include the Koran. There is no need, however, to go that far. The fact that the plural form is used is enough to establish the fact that Mohamed did not hold to the idea that the books were corrupted, for if they were corrupted why would he teach that he believes in them?

And we need not rest on only those two places, for there is at least one more:

[20.133] And they say: Why does he not bring to us a sign from his Lord? Has not there come to them a clear evidence of what is in the previous books?

And again, in another translation:

Surah 20:133 They say: “Why does he not bring us a sign from his Lord?” Has not a Clear Sign come to them of all that was in the former Books of revelation?

Note how Mohamed here actually states that there is “clear evidence” or a “clear sign” as to what the content of the “former books” or “previous books.” These are not books hopelessly lost in obscurity in the mind of the author of this Surah.

The problem here is that Mohamed simply was not well informed. He did not know the content of the books himself, for we have no reason to believe he was ever provided with an Arabic Bible, and he could not read the Greek or Hebrew original languages.

If you are a Muslim, doesn’t this sort of thing cause you a bit of concern? Aren’t you bothered by the fact that your prophet accepted the books and “believed in them,” while you must not? For the books declare that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God – God incarnate – the sacrifice to satisfy the justice of God and bring forgiveness to all the people of God.


Response to Muslim Apologist

May 3, 2008

I recently came across the following Muslim apologetic video, which I do not endorse (obviously), but to which I have prepared a response. (link)

A quick personal note. This is one of the calmest, kindest, and most reasonable Muslim apologists I’ve seen on-line. He’s also one of the most well-dressed. The gold-bordered robe and turban are very nice. I also appreciated his kindness toward the Christian apologist (DrOakley1689) to whom he was responding.

The person in the video (mujtahid2006) uses three main arguments:

1) According to the man in the video, Mohamed taught caution toward the Bible. “Do not believe anything in the Bible and don’t disbelieve anything that is in the Bible.”

a) This doesn’t seem to be a fully accurate translation. There are two seemingly relevant alleged sayings in the Hadith, and the person in the video seems to be relying on the following one:

Narrated Abu Huraira: “The people of the Book used to read the Torah in Hebrew and then explain it in Arabic to the Muslims. Allah’s Apostle said (to the Muslims). ‘Do not believe the people of the Book, nor disbelieve them, but say, ‘We believe in Allah and whatever is revealed to us, and whatever is revealed to you.’ ” (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Holding Fast to the Qur’an and Sunnah, Volume 9, Book 92, Number 460)

Notice that this translation indicates that it is the people (not the books) that are not be believed or disbelieved. But to answer the man in the video, we do are not persuaded that this account in the Hadith is genuine – i.e. original. The bottom line is that it is not in the Koran. It is not an account that claims to be handed down from Allah, and to be unchanged.

b) But there is also another saying in the Hadith, which seems to be at variance with a portrayal of Muslim attitude toward the Bible as merely “caution.” Here is that second saying:

Narrated Ubaidullah: “Ibn ‘Abbas said, ‘Why do you ask the people of the scripture about anything while your Book (Quran) which has been revealed to Allah’s Apostle is newer and the latest? You read it pure, undistorted and unchanged, and Allah has told you that the people of the scripture (Jews and Christians) changed their scripture and distorted it, and wrote the scripture with their own hands and said, ‘It is from Allah,’ to sell it for a little gain. Does not the knowledge which has come to you prevent you from asking them about anything? No, by Allah, we have never seen any man from them asking you regarding what has been revealed to you!’ ” (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Holding Fast to the Qur’an and Sunnah, Volume 9, Book 92, Number 461)

Notice in this account the accusation of change and manipulation. Here Mohamed is described as saying that Muslims should not investigate the Bible, because they have newer revelation. Again, of course, this is not taken from Koran, but from the Hadith. Thus, it is not part of the supposedly “pure, undistorted, and unchanged” book that Allah supposedly gave to Mohamed.

It seems that this would, however, be the better quotation to provide to rebut the fact that early Muslims did not allege corruption of the Bible. Nevertheless, DrOakley1689’s view seems to be that this Hadith is a later addition – i.e. that it is not a genuine teaching of Mohamed.

2) There is support for the Islamic accounts of Jesus in other gospels.

The person in the video cites to a lot of works that he seems to believe provide support for an Islamic image of Jesus. One significant problem with this claim is that he cites to works that have no historical connection to Jesus. They are typically from books that are well recognized as having been written (at the earliest) about a century after Jesus’ resurrection.

3) Jesus was less than the Father – and therefore finite – and not God

The person in the video argues that Jesus says, that “The Father is greater than I.” The person then assumes that this is a reference to the infinite-ness of God. That’s not the case. The case is that Jesus is subordinate to the Father. The Father/Son metaphor is itself designed (at least in part) to convey that subordination within the Trinity, although that subordination does not imply inequality. Recall, that when Jesus indicated that he was the “Son of God,” the unbelieving Jews considered it blasphemy, because such a title indicated his equality with God.

Of course, the underlying danger is that the apologist using this verse does not believe it to be a true statement of Jesus. The “Jesus” (Isa) of the Koran could not possibly have said that “The Father is greater than I,” in reference to God, because the Koran claims that God does not beget. Thus, the Muslim cannot really use this verse to say that Jesus claimed to be less than the Father. Instead, the Muslim can really only try to use this verse to claim that the Bible is somehow inconsistent, as the person in the video appears ready and willing to admit. However, this alleged inconsistency is easily answered, as demonstrated above. Thus, the purity and consistency of the Bible is maintained.

I should note that, while I was writing this, DrOakley1689 himself had begun to provide a response in several parts, and I have now updated this post to include all four parts. Dr. White (DrOakley1689), in his videos, provides some response to other arguments that are presented in video.

Part I

Part II

Part III

Part IV


Were there ever FSM-Trinitarians?

March 7, 2008

In a previous post, we have demonstrated that Surah 5 of the Koran was directed at Christianity (and Judaism) generally, but with some errors regarding the discussion of the Trinity.

Some folks (most Muslim, but now one Roman Catholic) would like to imagine that Mohamed was not addressing Christianity, but rather some sect that held to a Trinity of Allah, Jesus, and Mary, which we refer to (for convenience) as FSM-trinitarianism.

Leaving aside the internal evidence of Surah 5 (which defeats that argument), there is a dearth of external evidence to substantiate the existence of such a sect.

David Waltz, the Roman Catholic mentioned above, quoted the following:

“The three gods in the Koran (c. 4, p. 81, c. 5, p. 92) are obviously directed against our Catholic mystery: but the Arabic commentators understand them of the Father, the Son, and the Virgin Mary, an heretical Trinity, maintained, as it is said, by some Barbarians at the Council of Nice, (Eutych. Annal. tom. i. p. 440.) But the existence of the Marianites is denied by the candid Beausobre, (Hist. de Manicheisme, tom. i. p. 532;) and he derives the mistake from the word Roxah, the Holy Ghost, which in some Oriental tongues is of the feminine gender, and is figuratively styled the mother of Christ in the Gospel of the Nazarenes.” (Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ch. 50, The Modern Library edition (n.d.), pp. 81, 82.)

Before we get to the rest of the analysis, it’s important to note:

1. That Gibbon, the historian providing the discussion, confirms the opinion set forth in my previous post, namely that Mohamed is attempting to interact with the doctrine of the Trinity. In fact, he goes so far as to say that it is obvious.

2. Gibbon notes that there is a dissent by the “Arabic commentators,” and identifies their source, but does not endorse that dissent.

3. Gibbon, in fact, cites evidence that undermines the dissent, and provides an explanation as to how Mohamed may have been confused by feminine reference to the Holy Ghost.

Incidentally, one can read the matter in context here: (link).

David wrote:

Until I read the above, I had never heard of attendees of the Councial of Nicea maintaining of a view of the Trinity that consisted of “the Father, the Son, and the Virgin Mary”. (any errors in original)

That’s not surprising of course. Gibbon mentions such evidence, but dismisses it. It’s interesting to note what David seems to observe and what he seems to overlook. Nevertheless, while we could simply dismiss the matter with Gibbon, let’s dig deeper into the matter.

David continued:

“Gibbon’s reference is to Eutychius’ (10th century Patriarch of Alexandria, and noted historian) Annals. This work is found in volume 111 of Migne’s Patrologiæ Græca, a volume, which until this morning, I did not have access to. I wanted to check Migne’s before mentioning Gibbon. ” (any errors in original)

Eutychius was a 10th century Melkite Patriarch in Alexandria. He reigned in the Coptic church in Egypt during a time when he was surrounded by the ruling majority of Fatamid Muslims. To maintain the position I presented on the previous page would have been dangerous to his health. As an interesting aside, he was also a Young Earth Creationist (placing Creation 5,500 years years before Christ).

There are several salient facts:

1) Eutychius lived more than 500 years after the council of Nicea.

2) Eutychius did not cite any evidence to support his claim, or explain in any way how he obtained this supposed information regarding Nicean attendees.

3) Eutychius’ claim was only that there were some who showed up at the Nicean council with such views. Eutychius, for example, did not even claim that they left with those views. Furthermore, Eutychius does not suggest that these folks left spiritual descendants that survived for centuries until the time of Mohamed.

4) Eutychius is criticized for his weakness as an historian, by historians such as E. W. Kemp and C. Wilfrid Griggs (adopting Kemp’s position) (link). Likewise David Cook indicated (and Gary W. Kronk adopted) that the Annales are “riddled with errors.” (link) See also, for similar comments (Philip Rousseau) (William Smith et al.) (William Scott et al.) (cf. response of Eutychian supporter)

Dave continued by providing a quotation:

Here is the quote from Migne’s: Mittens ergo Constantius rex in omnes passim regiones, patriarchas et episcopos convocavit, adeo ut post annum et duos menses Niceæ convenirent his mille quadraginta octo episcopi, sententiis et religionibus inter se discrepantes. Erant ex illia qui affirmarent Christum et Matrem ipsius duos esse deus præter Deuni [summon :] errant hi Barbari, et Marianitæ audierunt. (Patrologiæ Græca, Tomus CXI, col. 1005, sec. 439-440.) (errors in Waltz’s transcription are his own)

The correct quotation in key part is actually, “Erant ex illia qui affirmarent Christum et Matrem ipsius duos esse deos praeter Deum [summum:] erant hi Barbari, et Marianitae audierunt.” which being roughly translated is: “There were among them those that affirmed Christ and his Mother to be two gods besides God [the most high:] there were here Barbarians and Marianites heard.”

Furthermore, of course, this is only the Latin translation of what was presumably an Arabic original.

The full page can be read here (right hand column, clustered around the 440). A partial reproduction is shown below, click to expand the image for easier reading.

David concluded: “So, as you can now see for yourself, we now have Christian source for the existence of at least two Christian groups/sects that held to FSM (God [the Father], Christ, and Mother “in one”), backing up the testimony from the Qur’an.”

a) Leaving aside the question of the interaction between the Melkites and the Copts (on the one hand) and the Muslims (on the other hand), the fact that Eutychius was not Muslim is not very strong evidence against bias.
b) Eutychius suggests that the group came to Nicea, but does not call them Christians: in fact, he calls them Barbarians and Marianites.
c) Eutychius’ comment “Barbarians and Marianites” should probably be understood as heaped insults, rather than as a listing of two separate groups that held the same thing.


This is the best evidence that has been presented to try to rescue Mohamed’s claim about FSM Trinitarians, but it is more or less strawy. It’s a single witness who comes half a millenium after the alleged event took place. Furthermore, it’s an event that predates Mohamed’s claim by two centuries. Moreover, it is an event that is not described as having any geographical proximity to Mecca/Medina or even Arabia. It is an event alleged by a man living among Muslims. It is an event for which the man does not cite his sources. It is an event that is included in a book that has been repeatedly criticized for historical mistakes. It is an event that has (so far) only been conveyed to us in a Latin translation of an Arabic original.

In short, we can easily overcome the best evidence to support the existence of FSM-trinitarians, which was presented in order to provide an out for Mohamed under a hypothesis that Mohamed was (in some parts of Surah 5) addressing an heretical sect that has since disappeared. In short, the previously presented theory that Mohamed simply did not understand the doctrine of the Trinity has survived the challenge, and we may continue to safely assume that there were no FSM-trinitarians running around at the time Mohamed lived.

UPDATE: corrected Sunni to Fatamid, above, thanks to David Waltz.

Mohamed, Surah 5, and the Trinity

March 4, 2008

I have engaged recently in an internet dialog on the subject of whether Mohamed, the alleged prophet followed by Islam, understood the Trinity. I conclude that the answer is “no,” and I have a demonstration prepared.

1. Surah 5 is Mohamed’s Writing

Surah 5 is part of the Koran, and consequently one of the writings of Mohamed (though not necessarily penned by him personally). Because the early manuscripts of the Koran are limited, we will be dealing with a translation of the Koran into English based on the dominant family of Koranic texts, the Uthmanic rescension. For the purpose of this analysis, we will presume that Uthman made the correct textual critical choices, and – as well – that the English translation is reasonably accurate. There are certainly other English translation available. The English translation I am providing can be found here (link).

2. Surah 5 addresses the Jews and Christians generally

There are a number of issues addressed in Surah 5. In the first portion of the Surah, various dietary laws are stressed, main similar to Old Testament Jewish laws and the New Testament Council of Jersalem restrictions.

There is what seems at first to be an aside in verse 3:

“This day have those who disbelieve despaired of your religion, so fear them not, and fear Me. This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed My favor on you and chosen for you Islam as a religion; but whoever is compelled by hunger, not inclining willfully to sin, then surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.”

You will notice, however, that “those who disbelieve despaired of your religion” is a reference to the Jews and Christians that Mohamed views as the forerunners of Islam (the “perfected … religion”).

After a few more rules on cleanliness, Mohamed proceeds to some general remaks on good behavior (vs 8): “O you who believe! Be upright for Allah, bearers of witness with justice, and let not hatred of a people incite you not to act equitably; act equitably, that is nearer to piety, and he careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is Aware of what you do.”

And Mohamed attaches a promise to the good behavior, which we should understand to include not only the general goodness but also maintenance of the cleanliness laws (vs. 9): “Allah has promised to those who believe and do good deeds (that) they shall have forgiveness and a mighty reward.”

It is plain works salvation, contrary to the teachings of the Bible (both of the Old, but more especially of the New, Testaments).

Then in the next verse, Mohamed cautions against the “disobedient” paths (vs. 10): “And (as for) those who disbelieve and reject our communications, these are the companions of the name.”

In verses 11-14, Mohamed suggests that both the Jews and the Christians forsook Islam. He recounts the supposed covenant-breaking of both the Jews and the Christians:

“O you who believe! remember Allah’s favor on you when a people had determined to stretch forth their hands towards you, but He withheld their hands from you, and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; and on Allah let the believers rely. And certainly Allah made a covenant with the children of Israel, and We raised up among them twelve chieftains; and Allah said: Surely I am with you; if you keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate and believe in My apostles and asslst them and offer to Allah a goodly gift, I will most certainly cover your evil deeds, and I will most certainly cause you to enter into gardens beneath which rivers flow, but whoever disbelieves from among you after that, he indeed shall lose the right way. But on account of their breaking their covenant We cursed them and made their hearts hard; they altered the words from their places and they neglected a portion of what they were reminded of; and you shall always discover treachery in them excepting a few of them; so pardon them and turn away; surely Allah loves those who do good (to others). And with those who say, We are Christians, We made a covenant, but they neglected a portion of what they were reminded of, therefore We excited among them enmity and hatred to the day of resurrection; and Allah will inform them of what they did.”

After this condemnation of both Jews and Christians, Mohamed continues by grouping them together as the “people of the book.” He makes a proselytory message to them (I’d call it evangelistic if he were offering the gospel) (vss. 15-16): O followers of the Book! indeed Our Apostle has come to you making clear to you much of what you concealed of the Book and passing over much; indeed, there has come to you light and a clear Book from Allah; With it Allah guides him who will follow His pleasure into the ways of safety and brings them out of utter darkness into light by His will and guides them to the right path.”

The point of the message that Mohamed is giving is simple: I have the knowledge that was concealed, therefore you need me.

Next, Mohamed aims a dart at the Christians, arguing in verse 17: “Certainly they disbelieve who say: Surely, Allah– He is the Messiah, son of Marium [i.e. Mary]. Say: Who then could control anything as against Allah when He wished to destroy the Messiah son of Marium and his mother and all those on the earth? And Allah’s is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and what is between them; He creates what He pleases; and Allah has power over all things.”

In other words, the basic argument seems to be this: if Jesus is God, how could he have been destroyed and his mother? The answer, of course, is that Jesus gave his life freely, no one took it from him. He gave it as a sacrifice for the sins of his people.

Mohamed then turns to a joint critique of the Jews and Christians (vss. 18-19(: “And the Jews and the Christians say: We are the sons of Allah and His beloved ones. Say: Why does He then chastise you for your faults? Nay, you are mortals from among those whom He has created, He forgives whom He pleases and chastises whom He pleases; and Allah’s is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and what is between them, and to Him is the eventual coming. O followers of the Book! indeed Our Apostle has come to you explaining to you after a cessation of the (mission of the) apostles, lest you say: There came not to us a giver of good news or a warner, so indeed there has come to you a giver of good news and a warner; and Allah has power over all things.”

Here is the next point: Mohamed points to judgment on Jews and Christians as proof that they do not follow Allah. However, (a) God chastens us (Christians) and chastened them (Jews) because of our parent/child relationship to God, and (b) it is not as though judgments do not come on Muslims. The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami killed more than 200,000 people and left homeless more than a million – largely Muslims.

In verses 22-35, Mohamed essentially makes various arguments from Moses and warns against dibelief. Next, at verses 36-37, Mohamed provides a warning to disbeleivers (referring, essentially, to the Jews and Christians.

“Surely (as for) those who disbelieve, even if they had what is in the earth, all of it, and the like of it with it, that they might ransom themselves with it from the punishment of the day of resurrection, it shall not be accepted from them, and they shall have a painful punishment. They would desire to go forth from the fire, and they shall not go forth from it, and they shall have a lasting punishment.”

Then, Mohamed provides a the hand amputation for theft law, and a message of forgiveness from Allah upon repentence.

After that, at verses 41-46, Mohamed attacks the apostacy of the Jews, accusing them of failing to follow the Torah, and especially of failing to follow Jesus.

Then, at verses 47-50, Mohamed attacks the alleged apostacy of the Christians, accusing them of failing to follow the Evangel – the gospels, and especially the law.

Then, at verses 51-63, Mohamed exhorts Muslims not to befriend Christians and Jews, and provides some rather stern condmenation of them.

Verses 64-65 address the Jews failure to follow the Torah.

Verses 66-68 address both the Jews and the Christians.

Verse 69 suggests that if the Jews, Christians and Sabellians “believe … and [do] good– they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve.”

Verses 70-71 condemn the Jews for killing the prophets.

At verses 72-81, Mohamed launches a diatribe against Christians for believing in Christ’s divinity and for accepting trinitarianism, which Mohamed (as will be seen later) mistakenly thinks is a trinity of the Allah, Jesus, and Mary.

Certainly they disbelieve who say: Surely Allah, He is the Messiah, son of Marium; and the Messiah said: O Children of Israel! serve Allah, my Lord and your Lord. Surely whoever associates (others) with Allah, then Allah has forbidden to him the garden, and his abode is the fire; and there shall be no helpers for the unjust. Certainly they disbelieve who say: Surely Allah is the third (person) of the three; and there is no god but the one God, and if they desist not from what they say, a painful chastisement shall befall those among them who disbelieve. Will they not then turn to Allah and ask His forgiveness? And Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. The Messiah, son of Marium is but an apostle; apostles before him have indeed passed away; and his mother was a truthful woman; they both used to eat food. See how We make the communications clear to them, then behold, how they are turned away. Say: Do you serve besides Allah that which does not control for you any harm, or any profit? And Allah– He is the Hearing, the Knowing. Say: O followers of the Book! be not unduly immoderate in your religion, and do not follow the low desires of people who went astray before and led many astray and went astray from the right path. Those who disbelieved from among the children of Israel were cursed by the tongue of Dawood and Isa, son of Marium; this was because they disobeyed and used to exceed the limit. They used not to forbid each other the hateful things (which) they did; certainly evil was that which they did. You will see many of them befriending those who disbelieve; certainly evil is that which their souls have sent before for them, that Allah became displeased with them and in chastisement shall they abide. And had they believed in Allah and the prophet and what was revealed to him, they would not have taken them for friends but! most of them are transgressors.”

In verse 82, Mohamed even goes so far as to refer to Christians as polytheists: “Certainly you will find the most violent of people in enmity for those who believe (to be) the Jews and those who are polytheists, and you will certainly find the nearest in friendship to those who believe (to be) those who say: We are Christians; this is because there are priests and monks among them and because they do not behave proudly.”

Next, there are a number of additional laws.

Then, from verses 109-115 there is a fictional dialog with Jesus, culminating in verse 116: “And when Allah will say: O Isa [Jesus] son of Marium [Mary]! did you say to men, Take me and my mother for two gods besides Allah he will say: Glory be to Thee, it did not befit me that I should say what I had no right to (say); if I had said it, Thou wouldst indeed have known it; Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I do not know what is in Thy mind, surely Thou art the great Knower of the unseen things.”

This confirms the analysis above, that Mohamed was attempting (errantly) to attack the Christian doctrine of Trinitarianism, while mistakenly identifying Mary as the third person of the Trinitiy.

The remaining four verses of the Surah conclude the fictional dialog with Jesus, which emphasizes obedience to the law allegedly given by Allah.


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