Responses to Common Muslim Challenges
(as posted on Ali Ataies web site):
Grilled and Served Up to the Interested
Ali Ataie has published an online book titled In Defense of Islam: Confronting the Christians with their own Scriptures. In it, he makes many incorrect and misleading claims and arguments about Jesus, Christianity, and the Bible. Tonights debate (November 30, 2006) was to focus specifically on the first-century fate of Jesus, but I sense a strong possibility that Ali Ataie will use some of the material from his book that is off the topic of Jesus fate. In anticipation of this, I have tried to provide some brief answers to many of his arguments so that the following will be clear to the audience: If I do not answer some of the points Ali Ataie argues tonight, it is because of the constraints of time and my desire to stay as close to the topic as possible.
Note: All page numbers refer to Alis book In Defense of Islam.
ON THE SUBJECT OF THE NEW TESTAMENT
1. Did the early Christian church reject the Gospels of Thomas, Peter, Barnabas, Bartholomew, Andrew and Mary because they didnt agree with Pauls message? Or, in some cases, because they lack a Passion narrative?
No. Scholars are unanimous in their conclusion that all of these Gospels, except Thomas, were written at least 150 years after the life of Jesus by Gnostic sects that wanted to believe in their own version of Jesus. These later books also present Jesus as a Super-God who was not at all human. How does that support Ali Ataies case? As for the Gospel of Thomas, written only slightly earlier than the others, almost all scholars agree it was not actually written by the disciple, Thomas. The reason it lacks a Passion narrative is because it does not tell any narratives at all! It is a collection of purportedly "true sayings" of Jesus Christ, and records only His supposed words. More recently, Nicholas Perrin has argued persuasively that the Gospel of Thomas was originally written in Syriac after AD 170.
Only a few of the more radical scholars date the Gospel of Peter to the first century or early second century (and it does have something of a "Passion narrative); the Gospel of Mary is dated roughly
AD 120-180. The early Christian church rejected these gospels because they determined that they were not based on apostolic teaching and that they did not agree with the rest of the NT (not just Paul, but also Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the real Peter).
2. Must New Testament scriptures be completely free from error and contradiction and questions of origin for Christianity to be True?
No. I certainly believe in the divine inspiration of the entire Bible and a very strong case for the integrity of the scriptures we read today can be made. But tonights question asked whether concerning the first century fate of Jesus. Even if we had to regard the New Testament as corrupt and uninspired, we are still left with the 4 historical facts to which the large majority historians agree pertaining to the death and resurrection of Jesus and the mountain of evidence that supports them. You cannot avoid the conclusion that Jesus rose from the dead by questioning the inerrancy of Bible. For this is to import a Muslim view of the divine origin of the Quran and judge the Bible by other standards it never gave. Jesus made his resurrection from the dead the test by which we can know that His claims are true.
3. Did Jesus teach that Christianity should be spread "by the sword"?
No. In his online writings, Ali Ataie uses Matthew 10:34, "Think not that I have come to bring peace on earth, I have not come to bring peace, but a sword," to claim just this (iii). But he misrepresents what Jesus is saying in this passage. Read it for yourself, the entire passage (10:16-42), and you will see that Jesus is telling the crowds that they have to make a decision for or against Him, and that this decision will lead to controversy in their lives and in their families who do not believe as they do. For many people, choosing Jesus means turmoil in their relationships. But the pay-off is that Jesus will acknowledge before His Father those who acknowledge Him before men. Thus, the "sword" in this saying of Jesus is a metaphor.
4. Do the New Testament scriptures teach the oppression of women?
No. All the verses that Ali Atai cites in his online writings to "prove" this oppression are, again, taken out of context (iv). For instance, Ephesians 5:23 states, "For the husband is the head of the wife," but the rest of the sentence reads, "as Christ is the head of the church. . . . Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her." How is a command for husbands to "give themselves up" for their wives a teaching of oppression? And so it is with every verse Ali uses for this point: he only mentions a phrase or two that suits his argument, and in so doing distorts the actual teaching. Read for yourself the passages surrounding each of his examples. The New Testament actually teaches the full dignity and worth of women as human beings of equal value before God. In Christ, the apostle Paul wrote, "There is no longer any division between Jew and Greek, or between slave and free, or between male and female: all are one in Christ" (Gal. 3:28).
5. Do Christians believe that the Old Testament has been superseded and abrogated by the writings of Paul and the Apostles?
No. The writings of Paul and the Apostles affirm all that is in the Old Testament and explain the basics of what God had been doing throughout history. Paul teaches that the Jewish Law was made to tutor us to the true grace of God found in Christ.
6. Cultural influences and religious agendas are often noticeable in the books of the Bible, demonstrating that men wrote the Bible. Does this mean that the Bible is not inspired scripture?
No. There is a key difference between the Bible and the Quran that Ali Ataie repeatedly confuses in his online writings: Muslims believe the Quran is Allahs revealed wordthat it has existed for all eternity and that the words given to Muhammad were the actual words of Allah. Christians believe the Bible is Gods inspired wordthat God worked through human minds and human hands to write documents that reveal the truth about His Character, His Nature and His Plan for creation. Therefore, we would expect to find cultural influences and various personalities in Biblical literature. What is puzzling is why we find culturally specific details in the Quran. If the Quran has existed for all eternity, why does it have so much content relevant to the culture of 7th century Arabia? If it is written in pure Arabic the language of heaven, why are there more than 250 words from foreign languages such as Syriac?
7. Were the books Matthew, Mark, Luke and John anonymous until about the year 200, only to be later pseudonymously attributed to these authors?
The four Gospels are, strictly speaking, anonymous; they do not identify their authors by name. However, the author of the Gospel of Luke was writing to a specific individual named Theophilus (Luke 1:1) who knew the author, and the Gospel of John refers to the author as "the disciple whom Jesus loved" (John 13:23; 19:26; 21:7, 20), dropping various hints as to which one of the twelve he was. The later attributions "according to Matthew," etc., do not make the books "pseudonymous: they are simply identifying the authors according to the testimonies passed down from the original recipients of the Gospels. It was Irenaeus who first listed who was behind the four canonical Gospels around AD 170.
8. Is the Codex Sinaiticus, codified in 375 CE, the oldest Greek New Testament text? Did it include the Epistle of St. Barnabas that has since been expunged as a fabrication?
Sinaiticus is the oldest complete copy of the entire NT as one codex. It is not the oldest Greek NT text. The oldest Greek text of the New Testament is the John Rylands Library fragment of the Gospel of John, dated early second century c. AD 125. Sinaiticus contained Barnabas, which biblical scholars universally recognize as pseudonymous (i.e., the Barnabas who worked with Paul was not the author). Even in the third century, a century before the Sinaiticus codex, some Christian scholars recognized it not to be canonical. But this most likely is not the Gospel of Barnabas frequently appealed to by Muslim apologists which was most likely a Muslim forgery from the fifteenth-century or later. Not only does the Gospel of Barnabas contain numerous anachronisms such as medieval court procedures and wooden wine casks (rather than the wineskins used in 1st-century Palestine), it denies that Jesus was the Messiah and contradicts the Quran in doing so. One must also chuckle in light of this when after denying Jesus is the Messiah, the Gospel of Barnabas refers to Him as "Christ"the Greek word for "Messiah!" The real Barnabas would not have made this mistake.
9. Matthew, an eyewitness to Jesus ministry, does not record any of the "I AM" statements we find in John. So how could John be an eyewitness? Isnt it clear that hes making things up that those present didnt actually witness?
First, in his online writings, Ali Ataie argues that none of the authors of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were eyewitnesses and that their Gospels were pseudonymously credited (328). Its only for conveniences sake that Ali makes the above argument that Matthew was, after all, an eyewitness. More importantly, this is a poor way to determine authenticity of material. The Gospels simply report different sayings of Jesus; this doesnt make any of them wrong in what they include. In any case, Ataies premise is false: The Gospel of Matthew includes at least one "I am" (ego eimi) saying of Jesus that is also found in the Gospel of John and that appears to connote deity (Matt. 14:27; cf. John 6:20). Let me hasten to add that even conservative Christian scholars like F. F. Bruce and Craig Keener note that the Gospel of John is a dynamic presentation of what we find in the Synoptics, sort of like a paraphrase. However, one should not think of the Gospel of John as a paraphrase of the Synoptics. Even skeptical Johannine scholars believe that eyewitness testimony lays behind this Gospel. John is probably applying the sayings of Jesus to his readers is ways for them to understand more easily.
10. Luke explains in his Gospel that he is writing a letter to Theophilus to give an orderly account of the life of Jesus. He never claims "to be in a trance of the Holy Spirit." Therefore, how can we consider this the inspired word of God?
Again, Ali Ataie misunderstands what it means for scripture to be inspired. See above remarks for #2. If anything, Lukes explanation gives his document more historical appeal: he is setting out to provide an accurate history for Theophilus and others to read, not to write blatant religious propaganda.
11. Jesus says in Matthew 5:22, "But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell." But Paul calls the believers of the Roman church "fools" in Romans 1:22.
Paul did not call the Roman Christians fools. He said that people who deny the Creator and worship idols are fools (Rom. 1:21-23). In any case, Jesus was not asserting that it is always wrong to describe someone as a fool. Later in the same Gospel, Matthew reports Jesus addressing the Pharisees as fools (Matt. 23:17). Jesus point in Matthew 5:22 was that calling someone a fool in hateful anger was symptomatic of the same sin that is evident in the murderer (5:21-22). In 1 Corinthians 15:46 Paul uses a different word for "fool" than Jesus used in Matthew 5:22.
12. Doesnt the Bible present Jesus as a false prophet by Jewish and Christian standards? Ali Ataie deduces from the following verses 4 criteria for determining a false prophet (12-14):
Jesus didnt say that only false prophets would perform miracles, but that false prophets would perform miracles in order to mimic being true prophets (who often also performed miracles, just as Jesus and the apostles did) as a means of deceiving people into following them. Moreover, even the Quran attributes a few miracles to Jesus.
According to the Jesus of the Bible Jesus is not a false god, and Alis whole point here is to evaluate Jesus by Jewish and Christian understandings of a false prophet.
Christians have understood Jesus statements in different ways. One view is that in Mark 9:1 Jesus was speaking of the coming of Gods kingdom in the resurrection and exaltation of Jesus, and that in Matthew 24:34 what Jesus prophesied would happen in the lifetime of "this generation" was the fall of Jerusalem, not his second coming. But while were on the subject of Jesus prophesies, what can Muslims do with Jesus prophesies of His own violent and imminent death? If it did not happen, Jesus is a false prophet and the Quran is wrong. If it did happen, the Quran is also wrong.
Yes, this is why Paul writes, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us" (Gal. 3:13). Becoming a curse in obedience to His Father was part of Jesus sacrifice for us. But aside from this, the Deuteronomy verse here mentions nothing of false prophets.
CONCLUSION: 1) Jesus is not a false prophet according the Jewish and Christian standards. That is, the Bible does not paint a "mixed message" here. 2) More interestingly, we find a very serious problem for Islam in Alis own objection! If Jesus was a false prophet, the Quran is wrong to honor Him as a true one. And if Jesus is a true prophet, then He was crucified on a cross, died as a result, and rose from the dead shortly thereafter. Accordingly, the Quran is wrong in teaching otherwise in 4:157.
13. Did Pauls writings teach a different gospel message than what Jesus preached? Ali Ataies arguments to this effect are not unique and they are not new. In the interests of conserving space, I refer you to the following link. It is a well-written article of great length that answers each of the claims Ali Ataie puts forth in his book: http://www.christian-thinktank.com/muslix.html
But in brief: The Gospels were written after Paul had written his letters. Does this mean the Gospels reflect Pauline doctrine and not events as they really unfolded?
No. All four Gospels were either written by or contain eyewitness testimony to Jesus life. A careful comparison of the resurrection narratives in the Gospels with Pauls list of resurrection appearances in 1 Corinthians 15 shows remarkable congruence and yet independencethat is, Paul did not copy from the Gospels, nor did any of the Gospels copy from Paul. The best explanation is that their information derives from still earlier sources (as Paul himself says in 1 Corinthians 15:3). Furthermore, the evidence I shared tonight demonstrates that the message Paul preached was the very same message the pillars in the Jerusalem Church were preaching. Muslim apologists cannot claim that the Gospels reflect Pauls teachings while out of the other side of their mouth also claim that Paul was preaching a different gospel than what Jesus preachedsince the gospel proclaimed by Jesus is reported in the same Gospels accused of reflecting Pauls teachings.
ON THE SUBJECT OF JESUS
14. Are the origins of Christian beliefs in Jesus divinity rooted in pagan religions such as Mithraism, Isis or any others (24-26)?
No. This is an idea suggested decades ago and the vast majority of scholars, atheists included, have discarded it altogether. For every similarity a skeptic can draw between Jesus and one of the pagan deities, scholars can find a multitude of dissimilarities. The simple fact is that there is no record of a dying and rising god that pre-dates Jesus Christ. The most recent academic treatment on the topic is The Riddle of Resurrection by T.N.D. Mettinger. Mettinger announces that the consensus among scholars who study the subject is that no dying and rising gods precede Christianity. However, he takes issue with that conclusion and argues there are three and maybe as many as five dying and rising gods predating Jesus. However, the details behind these accounts are so different that Mettinger concludes that the assertion that the early Christians copied the dying and rising god theme from other religions is unwarranted. For a more thorough answer, an excellent article is at http://www.christian-thinktank.com/copycatwho1.html.
15. Doesnt the idea of Jesus Divine Sonship evolve throughout the four Gospels? For instance, Mark presents Jesus as a suffering Prophet, Matthew as a great teacher, Luke as a universal Messiah and, finally, John as the Divine Word (27).
While each writer presents a portrait of Jesus that would appeal to a specific audience, all 4 writers present Jesus as Gods Son. As Jan van der Watt explains, one gets the sense that the four Gospels are different rooms in the same house. Examples abound. But the earliest text, taken from Q and presented in Matthew 11:27 and Luke 10:22 is, "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Moreover, Marks portrayal of Jesus as the future Son of Man (14:61-64) refers to the Son of Man of Daniel 7 who is served (latreuo). This word nearly always means to pay the honor and respect belonging only to God.
16. Did Jesus accept worship from people as God?
Yes. In his book, Ali Ataie explains away several often-cited examples (28-32) but does not comment on this one: "On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel" (John 12:12-13, also recorded in Matthew 21:9 and Mark 11:9-10). "Hosanna" was a word of Jewish acclamation, shouted in praise of God and the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus accepted this praise and the blessing to Him "who comes in the name of the Lord." Moreover, after claiming that one is to worship the Lord God and serve (latreuo) Him only (Matthew 4:10; Luke 4:8), He claims to be the Son of Man in Daniel 7 who will be served.
17. Does Jesus expressly deny His deity in Mark 10:18?
No. When a young man approaches Jesus and calls him, "Good Master," Jesus asks him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone." Ali Ataie stops his reading and reaches his conclusion that Jesus denies being God (35-36). He rebuts the Christian response that Jesus here is challenging the man to consider what he has just professed about Jesus. That is, if the man really believes Jesus is the Good Master, then he is professing that Jesus is God. Even if there is some ambiguity in this verse, the rest of the passage that Ali leaves out makes things clear: This is a story about a man who is all talk and no walkhe can proclaim allegiance to Jesus, but when told to sell everything he has to follow Him, the young man turns away. Jesus discusses this with his disciples and then concludes, "'I tell you the truth, Jesus replied, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields--and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life" (Mark 10:29). If Jesus does not believe Himself to be God, then why would He promise blessings and eternal life to those who will sacrifice all and follow Him?
18. If Jesus is God, and if Jesus died on the cross, then dont Christians have to believe that for the 3 days before His resurrection, God was actually dead? And wouldnt the God-ness of Jesus have to die as well as His man-ness for there to be an atoning?
Ali Ataie argues that Christians are stuck with this belief if we insist on the Trinity (43-44). But he misunderstands the Christian view. Christians maintain that Jesus had two natures: human and divine. Although Jesus human nature died and His divine nature continued. This concept should not be too difficult for Muslims to understand it. Both Christians and Muslims maintain that, when we die, our person continues to exist in an afterlife. So, if Jesus is God in the sense that he is part of a Godhead, there need not be a time that God had ceased to exist when Jesus died in His human nature. Moreover, there is no reason to require that Jesus God-ness would hve to die for the atonement to be effective.
19. Was Jesus sacrifice really a sacrifice if He a) Got His life back and b) Was exalted for it?
Ali Ataie asks, "What did he really sacrifice then? Three days?" (50). It is impossible to calculate the degree of Jesus sufferingnot just the physical torture of His body, not just the physical pain of the nails and then the hours spent crucified, not just the humiliation of being lain naked before the masses as they jeered and taunted Him, not just the emotional turmoil of watching His mother and His dear friends watch Him endure all that, but all of this He suffered as an innocent man! Have you ever been falsely accused? Do you remember the grating of that injustice against your spirit? What Jesus suffered and sacrificed is beyond calculation, especially if He willingly accepted His Fathers wrath on Him for the sins of the world. Even if Ali Ataie doesnt think Jesus sacrificed much, it is still a sacrifice that will save his soul if he repents and accepts it.
20. If Christians believe that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are equal in the Triune God, then why would they cringe if asked to say, "Holy Spirit, the and Son and the Father"? (58).
I wouldnt cringe. The reason we express the Trinity in the order we do is because these are the words of Jesus Himself in Matthew 28:19. "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." See also 2 Corinthians 13:14. It is interesting to note that the New Testament also names them in the reverse order, as in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 and Ephesians 4:4-6. Moreover, the order Father, Son, Holy Spirit expresses their order of authority within the Godhead. Christianity teaches that men and women are equal in their essence and poison. However, within a marital relationship, the husband is the final authority in the home. This is not one of asserting dictatorial powers but of loving leadership (Eph. 5:25, 28; Col. 3:19).
21. A father can tell his son to go and defend freedom in the name of his country, his God, and his father, but this does not make his country, God, and father co-eternal, co-equal and co-substantial. How then can Christians use the above verse (Matthew 28:19) to support the doctrine of the Trinity? (60)
Ali Ataie is drawing a bad analogy. "Defending freedom," is not at all like "baptizing." The very nature of being baptized is to confess allegiance to one God and die to all other gods and idols in your life. Furthermore, the title "Holy Spirit" is not an impersonal or abstract description like "country." In the Bible, spirits are personal beings (e.g., God is a spirit; angels are spirits; Satan and the other fallen angels are spirits; departed human beings are spirits). Thus the title "Holy Spirit" is naturally understood as referring to a transcendent, sacred person. If the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were not co-eternal, co-equal and co-substantial, Jesus would be instructing his disciples to do something inherently impossible. To baptize in the name (singular) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit notes the unity of the three.
22. Didnt the whole idea for the Trinity come out of Christianitys tendency to absorb elements of pagan cultures as it spread around the world? After all, many of the earliest church fathers didnt even believe in the doctrine (62-65).
The list of church fathers Ali Ataie cites is the same list that Jehovahs Witnesses use in their argument against the Trinity. The problem with this list is that it doesnt included references. A few years ago, I read through all the writings of these church fathers and discovered that whoever compiled this list took bits and pieces of sentences and knitted them together to make it seem as though these men had believed something they did not actually believe. The simple truth is that each one of these church fathers believed that Jesus is God and that the nature of God is Triune. For my detailed article addressing this matter, please see http://risenjesus.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=25&Itemid=109
23. Wasnt Jesus actually a Muslim? After all, He does teach, "Blessed are the peacemakers" (Matthew 5:9), "and those who make peace (shlomo) are also those who make salam, the Muslims" (106). Also, Jesus preached submission to God, which is the heart of Islam (107). When translated into Hebrew by the Aramaic Bible Society, and from this translated back into English, Luke 6:40 reads, "The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect (Mushlam, Muslim!)" (106).
Islam is not the only religion to preach submission to God, and Muslims are not the only adherents of a religion to seek to make peace. Another example of such a religion is, quite obviously, Christianity! And even if Jesus had used the word, "Mushlam" in His day, He used it 6 hundred years before the followers of the Quran even called themselves "Muslims." But in Luke 6:40 Jesus did not use a proper noun meaning "those who submit." He used the participle katertismenos, which means "being made ready, prepared, or trained. If Ali has to use a translation of a translation to "discover" that Jesus spoke of Muslims 600 years before the word described followers of Islam, the self-identity of Jesus as a Muslim is probably not there to discover. Moreover, it waters down the meaning of the term "Muslim." Otherwise, since Christians are submitting to God, Muslims should not have any problem with them for rejecting their prophet Muhammad.
24. Didnt Jesus greet His followers with the greeting, "Peace be with you?" Ali Ataie asks, "Who other than Muslims continue to speak in such ways?" (108).
Catholics, Lutherans and Episcopalians, to name a few, as their liturgies all include the celebrants greeting the congregation by saying, "Peace be with you," and all include a moment of turning to greet one another "with a sign of peace." Most non-liturgical services include such a moment as well. "Peace be with you" is simply a Middle Eastern greeting. Its a nice one, but it doesnt function as a mark of true believers in God.
25. The New Testament also depicts people falling prostrate in worship, as Muslims still do. Also, Jesus tells the man He has healed of blindness to go wash in the pooljust as Muslims perform similar ablutions. Doesnt this demonstrate that Jesus was a Muslim? (108).
Christians in fervent prayer often do fall prostrate before God, though they do so spontaneously as did believers in the presence of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels and not at set times of the day as in Islam. The requirement to ritually purify oneself was fulfilled in the life and sacrifice of Jesus so ablutions, along with the rest of the ritual law of the Old Testament, has been satisfied. If Ali Ataie really wants to draw comparisons to Jesus example of prayer, he should consider why Muslims dont pray as Jesus taught His followers, with the Lords Prayer of Matthew 6:9-15.
MUHAMMAD IN THE OLD TESTAMENT?
26. Isnt Muhammad physically described in the Song of Solomon?
Ali Ataie argues that (1:5), "I am dark, but lovely, O daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar" refers to Muhammad who was of the same geographical region as Kedar. The problem here is that the speaker in this verse is a woman and shes having a dialogue with the "daughters of Jerusalem." The physical description Ali cites (5:10-16) might match the descriptions preserved of Muhammad, the physical details here are not so specific that they couldnt also match 1000 other men living in the Middle East today.
27. But isnt Muhammad specifically named in the Song of Solomon?
Ali performs a lengthy exegesis on 5:16 and determines that the Hebrew word for "desirable" should be translated into the name "Muhammad" (178). What Ali doesnt mention is that this very same word that he says is "Muhammad" is used at least 12 other times in the Old Testament (Hosea 9:6,16; 1 Kings 20:6; Lamentations 1:10,11; 2:4; Isaiah 64:10; 2 Chronicles 36:19; Ezekiel 24:16,21,25), all of which are used as a common noun, not a name, and definitely not "Muhammad." These include Ez 24:16, where the word applies to a woman, and Ez 24:25, where it is applied to the sons and daughters of idolatrous Jews.
28. In Deuteronomy 18:18, God reveals that He will raise up a Prophet like Moses. Christians believe Jesus to be this Prophet, but isnt Muhammad much more like Moses than Jesus?
Ali Ataie composes the following chart (166-167). I re-produce it here to demonstrate the beauty of how Jesus was not only a Prophet like Moses, but was the Ultimate expression of Prophethood. In his zeal to make his point for Muhammads case, Ali answers incorrectly or incompletely several times on behalf of Jesus:
Wives & Children
Prophet & Statesman
Prophet & Statesman
Forced Emigration (in adulthood)
In his lifetime
In his lifetime
Accepted by people?
Did Jesus have a wife? Not an earthly one, but the Church itself is His bride. Was Jesus a statesman? Yes! He was the Ambassador from Heaven to Earth. Did Jesus emigrate? Yes! Again, from Heaven to Earth. Moreover, he emigrated to and from Egypt as a child. Adulthood is a distinction Ali added. Did He wage battle? Yes! In His resurrection, He was victorious over Satan, and at His Second Coming, He will wage and win the last military battle on Earth. Was revelation written in His lifetime? Yes! Jesus was the revelation, the Word Himself. Were his teachings accepted by people? How can Ali answer "no"? Jesus had disciples and after His crucifixion the Church grew quickly and continues to grow. Finally, Ali gets into a bit of trouble by stating that the nature of Jesus teaching was "Spiritual only." Elsewhere, Ali argues that the gospel of faith alone and completion of the law were Pauls ideas, not those of Jesus. If Jesus taught on spiritual matters and not legal ones, then it seems Paul is not the author of Christianity after all. Moreover, Alis details are arbitrary, since another chart could lead one to a different conclusion. Consider the following chart:
Performed Miracles Attested in Scriptures
Heard from God directly rather than through an angel
Lived part of life in Egypt
Observed the Passover
King attempted to kill him shortly after his birth
Had at least a brother and sister
Had more than one wife
Questioned whether the revelation he received was from God
Convinced by a relative that he was a true prophet
In this chart, Jesus and Moses are much closer than Muhammad and Moses. (See more in question 36 below.)
MUHAMMAD PROPHESIED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT?
29. Who is the "rejected stone" of Matthew 21:42-44? "Jesus said to them, Did you never read in the Scriptures, `THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone. . . . And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust."
Ali Ataie argues that this stone is Ishmael (195). Again, Ali has ignored the context. Jesus had just finished telling the parable of the vineyard owner who sent his own son to the farmers who had beaten the previous sent workers (i.e., prophets), and these farmers killed the son. The very next verse after the conclusion of the parable is that which you read above. In other words, Jesus is equating the "rejected stone" of the Scriptures to the vineyard owners son, who was rejected and killed. Jesus is speaking of Himself and predicting his own violent death at the hands of the Jewish leadership. Muhammad was not killed.
30. John the Baptizer prophesied of one who would come after himself (Matthew 3:11-12), yet even after he himself baptized Jesus, he continued to baptize the penitent and preach his message. If Jesus was the one to come and baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire, why did John continue his ministry?
Matthew (11:10), Mark (1:2) and Luke (7:27) all record the understanding that Johns ministry was to "prepare the way of the Lord." Why would he be required to stop this ministry at the moment Jesus began His? Did people no longer need preparation to hear Jesus words? In John 3:30, the Baptizer says, "He (Jesus) must increase and I must decrease," which demonstrates that John was submitting his ministry to that of Jesus. Several more verses in John show that the Baptizer recognized that Jesus was the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. But most interesting is that in the very verses that Ataie cites, John the Baptist said that the one who would come after him would do two things: baptize people in the Holy Spirit and fire, and judge the world by dividing the wheat from the chaff and committing the chaff to unquenchable fire (Matt. 3:11-12). Muhammad did neither of these things. Jesus baptized people in the Holy Spirit (John 20:22) and with fire at Pentecost (Acts 2), and he is coming again in judgment to do the second thing John mentioned.
31. Who is the "Coming One" of Matthew 11:2-7?
While in prison, John the Baptizer sent his followers to ask Jesus specifically whether He was the "Coming One." Ali Ataie thinks that John should have known better by this point than to have to ask if indeed Jesus was the Coming One. But if Alis sole mission in life had been to help people prepare for this One, and if he were staring imminent execution in the face, he might want to do what he could to double-check that his life mission had been accomplished. Jesus answer is to quote the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 35:6 and 61:1 found also in the Dead Sea Scrolls (4Q521), that He had healed the blind as prophesied, and that the poor have heard the Gospel preached to them as prophesied. That is, instead of saying, "Yep, Im the One," Jesus said, "Dont just take my word for it, look at my actions and see for yourself that Im the Coming One." Anyone can claim to be a prophet. But Jesus understood that actions speak louder than words (John 10:24-26). Alis reading of Jesus response is that He simply sent a report of miracles. This conveniently ignores that this report came in the form of fulfilled prophesy of the Coming One.
32. We find in several places that the Jews of the time were expecting 3 distinct persons: Elijah, the Messiah and the Prophet. Christians have no reason to conflate 2 of these people into one. Isnt John the Elijah they awaited, Jesus the Messiah and Muhammad the Prophet?
Its clear that many Jews of the time had a 3-fold expectation. But Jesus is not speaking in any of the verses related to this expectation, nor is He being spoken to. He is only ever being spoken about. That is, He never confirmedactively or passivelythat the Jews were right to have this 3-fold expectation. The reason for their mistake was probably that they expected the Messiah to be a political reformer and deliverer, whereas they understood the Prophet of Deuteronomy 18:18 to be a spiritual office. They assumed these two different positions would be filled by two different people. Jesus and his early followers understood it to be the same person on two occasions. What they didnt understand is that Jesus did not come to establish His Kingdom on Earth as a politician or military hero. He came to be the Priestly Messiah for the moment but will return as the Regal Messiah. There was no reason to presume that the God-Man who was Messiah would not also be the promised Prophet.
That Jewish expectations of Jesus day varied is clear.
33. Is Muhammad the "Prince of this World"? In John 12:28-31, Jesus is in the midst of prayer and says, "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out."
Ali Ataie argues that "cast out" here is better rendered, "sent forth," and that this prophesies Muhammad. Furthermore, if Jesus is the "prince of the kings of the earth" of Revelation 1:5, then the "prince of the world" cannot be Satan, as Christians believe, because that would make Jesus the prince of Satan (209). But according to this logic, Jesus would likewise be the prince over Muhammad. Read the entire passage for yourself and ask whether his reading is one that would ever occur to you. Jesus is not speaking of a coming Prophet here. He is speaking of His enemy, Satan.
More importantly, this is a startling example of Alis overlooking inconvenient verses. In the very same prayer he cites above, just 4 verses earlier, Jesus says, "'unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit." And then, the verse immediately after what Ali quotes, in the same prayer, Jesus says, "'And I, if I am lifted up from the earth will draw all men to Myself. But He was saying this to indicate the kind of death by which He as to die." It looks to me like the passage Ali wants to use as evidence for Muhammad is in fact evidence that Jesus predicted His own death by crucifixion. And Jesus was acting in His capacity of a prophet when he taught that "bearing much fruit" would not be possible unless He died.
34. Can Muhammad be the Comforter spoken of in John 14:24-31?
Ali Ataie provides a lengthy argument for the affirmative (210-216) that is too long for summary here. Let me provide a few reasons why Muhammad cannot be the Comforter:
- There are 4 Comforter Statements made by Jesus; all in John. In every case the "Helper" is said to be the "Holy Spirit" or the "Spirit of truth."
- John 14:16-17: "[The Father] will give you another Helper that is the Spirit of truth"
- John 14:25-26: "the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send He will teach you all things"
- John 15:26 - 16:1: "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth He will testify about Me"
- John 16:7-30: "if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you .when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and disclose it to you."
- While the Comforter can only come after Jesus has left (John 16:7), it is in a different manner. In John 14:16-17, Jesus says that the Comforter abides (present tense) with you and he will be (future tense) in you.
- In Acts 9:31, we see that the Holy Spirit was indeed comforting after Jesus had ascended: "So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and going on in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase."
35. Is Muhammad the Prophet spoken of in the New Testament: Elijah (John the Baptist), Messiah (Jesus), Prophet (Muhammad)?
In Jesus day there were numerous interpretations of who the Prophet of Deut. 18:15, 18 would be. Neither Jesus nor John the Baptist mentioned a Prophet to come after Jesus. However, some of the Jews in his day expressed different expectations about these figures. Some Jews thought of the three figures: Elijah, Messiah, Prophet (Pharisees in Jn 1:25). The Dead Sea Scrolls (1QS Col. 9 vs. 11) reveals that some believed these three instead to be a Prophet, a royal Messiah, and a priestly Messiah. Some regarded Jesus as the Messiah (Jn 7:41) while others regarded him as the Prophet (Jn. 6:14; 7:40). Some combined the royal Messiah and the Prophet (Jn 6:14-15). But the early followers of Jesus regarded Jesus as the Messiah and the Prophet of Deut. 18:15, 18 (Acts 3:19-26 [esp. 3:22]; 7:37).
36. How can Jesus be the Prophet when the Jewish leadership trained in the Law stated plainly that the prophet does not come from Galilee?
The original language of the New Testament is Greek. In this passage there is no definite article before the word prophet. This means that it should be translated (as most English translations render) "See that a prophet does not come out of Galilee." Not only were the Jewish leaders denying that Jesus was a prophet, they said this out of jealousyand they were wrong: Jonah (2 Kings 14:25).
37. Did Jesus come only for the Jews?
In Matthew 22:2-9, Jesus says that the Jews are invited to a wedding feast for Gods son. They refuse to come. So the king invites everyone. In Matthew 24:14 (cf. 26:13), Jesus said his gospel will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations. In Matthew 28:18-19 (cf. Acts 1:8), where Jesus now commands that his disciples should now make disciples of Jesus from all nations. There are in fact more passages where Jesus speaks of reaching the Gentiles than those where he is primarily concerned for the Jews (Matt 10:5; 15:24)!
Take the Test: Is the True Furqan Plagiarism?
The True Furqan: Surat Al Mahabbah (Love)
In a Name of our Father, the Word, the Holy Spirit, the One and only True God
The Quran: Al Baqara (The Cow) (Transl. by Yusuf Ali, verses 1-10)
In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Ali Ataies response to this article can be found here, and this article provides a review of the life debate between Ataie and Licona as well as of Ataies response to this paper.
Rebuttals to Ali Ataie
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