Archive for the ‘Prophet Like Moses’ Category

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.

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