We continue with our examination of Shabir Ally's Favorite Questions.
Shabir on God and Wine
In some of his debates, Shabir Ally accuses the Bible writers of teaching that wine cheers up God, presumably in the sense that God revels in personal drunkenness (cf. Judges 9:13).
Before discussing the intended meaning of the text, we quote the immediate context for further clarification:
"When it was told to Jotham, he went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim and cried aloud and said to them, Listen to me, you leaders of Shechem, that God may listen to you. The trees once went out to anoint a king over them, and they said to the olive tree, "Reign over us." But the olive tree said to them, "Shall I leave my abundance, by which gods and men are honored, and go hold sway over the trees?" And the trees said to the fig tree, "You come and reign over us." But the fig tree said to them, "Shall I leave my sweetness and my good fruit and go hold sway over the trees?" And the trees said to the vine, "You come and reign over us." But the vine said to them, "Shall I leave my wine that cheers God and men and go hold sway over the trees?" Then all the trees said to the bramble, "You come and reign over us." And the bramble said to the trees, "If in good faith you are anointing me king over you, then come and take refuge in my shade, but if not, let fire come out of the bramble and devour the cedars of Lebanon." Judges 9:7-15
It should be apparent to the reader that the statement that wine cheers God is made within a context in which a fable is being narrated to illustrate a specific point. Jotham was one of the sons of Gideon (JerubBaal) and directed this fable/parable to the people of Shechem who aided Abimelech, Gideons son from a concubine, in slaughtering the seventy sons of Gideon (Cf. Judges 9:1-6). In light of its fabulous or folkloric nature, the reader can see that Jotham wasnt making a theological statement about Gods view of wine.
With that said, let us assume for a moment that Shabir is correct and that Jotham was indeed making a theological observation regarding the nature of wine. The inference that Shabir is making is not supported by the text for a number of reasons.
To begin with the word for God in the Hebrew is Elohim/elohim, which can be a reference either to Yahweh or to the false gods. This is why a number of translations render the word as gods, not God:
"But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and men, to hold sway over the trees?’" NIV
But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I leave my wine which cheers gods and men, and go to sway over the trees?’ RSV
But the vine said to them, ‘Shall I stop producing my wine that cheers gods and mortals, and go to sway over the trees?’ NRSV
If this refers to the pagan gods, then the meaning would be that the vine produces a drink for them whereby they get drunk. After all, it was a common belief amongst the pagans that their gods ate, drank and engaged in wild sexual lusts. These gods were a lot like humans in their hedonistic perversions.
When God predicted Israels future apostasy he mocked their idolatry by saying:
"Then he will say, Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge, who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you; let them be your protection!" Deuteronomy 32:37-38
Aware of this answer, Shabir proposes the argument that if Jotham is referring to the pagan gods then this is a concession on the Bible writers that these other gods exist. Shabirs fallacy of false dilemma shatters when we realize that the Bible was written in an historical setting beset by paganism. When the writers speak of the "gods" of the heathen it is not because they believed they existed, but because the pagans worshiped them and they were speaking within this context. To help explain what we mean, oftentimes we refer to Allah sending down the Torah or the Gospel and yet we do not believe that the Allah of the Quran exists or is the real God. We speak in this manner since we are addressing individuals who do believe in Allah. To illustrate this point even further notice what the text we just cited says:
"He will say: Now where are their gods, the rock they took refuge in, the gods who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offerings? Let them rise up to help you! Let them give you shelter!" Deuteronomy 32:37-38
God sarcastically refers to these gods eating and drinking the offerings made by the Israelites, even though God knows that they dont exist! In fact, God even said so in the very same chapter:
"They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; Deuteronomy 32:16-17, 39
Hopefully, the reader can see just how weak Shabirs case is.
If Elohim were used in connection to Yahweh God, then this would be in reference to the drink offerings that God demanded of Israel, just like the mention of the olive tree in the fable would be a reference to the oil used for the light in the Tabernacle, along with a host of other things:
"You shall command the people of Israel that they bring to you pure beaten olive oil for the light, that a lamp may regularly be set up to burn." Exodus 27:20
"And with the first lamb a tenth seah of fine flour mingled with a fourth of a hin of beaten oil, and a fourth of a hin of wine for a drink offering. The other lamb you shall offer at twilight, and shall offer with it a grain offering and its drink offering, as in the morning, for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD." Exodus 29:40-41
"Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, When you enter the land which I am going to give to you and reap its harvest, then you shall bring in the sheaf of the first fruits of your harvest to the priest. He shall wave the sheaf before the LORD for you to be accepted; on the day after the sabbath the priest shall wave it. Now on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb one year old without defect for a burnt offering to the LORD. Its grain offering shall then be two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, an offering by fire to the LORD for a soothing aroma, with its drink offering, a fourth of a hin of wine Along with the bread you shall present seven one year old male lambs without defect, and a bull of the herd and two rams; they are to be a burnt offering to the LORD, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, an offering by fire of a soothing aroma to the LORD." Leviticus 23:10-13, 18
"The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, Command the people of Israel to bring you pure oil from beaten olives for the lamp, that a light may be kept burning regularly. Outside the veil of the testimony, in the tent of meeting, Aaron shall arrange it from evening to morning before the LORD regularly. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. He shall arrange the lamps on the lampstand of pure gold before the LORD regularly." Leviticus 24:1-4
In light of the foregoing we can understand Jothams expression, i.e. "cheers God," to mean that Gods anger is appeased and his divine pleasure is procured through the sacrificial and drink offerings which his people presented to him:
"Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done." Genesis 8:20-21
These offerings werent made for God to literally consume, as the following passage makes plain:
"Hear, O my people, and I will speak; O Israel, I will testify against you. I am God, your God. Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you; your burnt offerings are continually before me. I will not accept a bull from your house or goats from your folds. For every beast of the forest is mine, the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the hills, and all that moves in the field is mine. IF I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and its fullness are mine. Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of goats? Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me." Psalm 50:7-15
As this passage shows clearly, God doesnt need any of our sacrifices. We cannot give God anything that he does not have yet. Nevertheless, when his people act in faith and according to his laws and commands then God is pleased. He takes joy in people who follow his ordinances voluntarily and gladly. Moreover, God does not simply command sacrifices so that believers have something to do. There is a deeper meaning and purpose behind them.
According to both the Old and New Testaments the pouring out of wine as a drink offering, as well as all the other offerings, pointed ultimately to the blood of the Lord Jesus which is poured out on behalf of sinners:
"Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors." Isaiah 53:10-12
"And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." Matthew 26:27-29
"And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:2
Hence, unlike the offerings made to the false gods, Israel didnt offer their sacrifices so that God could literally eat or drink. They were done as a means of providing a temporary covering of sin in anticipation of the one ultimate sacrifice of the Lord Jesus who actually takes our sins away:
"The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1:29
"And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses," Colossians 2:13
"For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book. When he said above, You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings (these are offered according to the law), then he added, Behold, I have come to do your will. He abolishes the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin." Hebrews 10:4, 10, 14
Shabir on Luke 13:33
Shabir thinks that this verse is a contradiction and even proves that Jesus wasnt killed:
"Nevertheless I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem."
Shabir assumes that this text clearly contradicts the fact that Jesus was crucified outside of Jerusalem. In the first place, Jesus clearly says that he will be killed outside of Jerusalem:
"And he began to tell the people this parable: A man planted a vineyard, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country for a long while. When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, that they should give him some of the fruit of the vineyard; but the tenants beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent another servant; him also they beat and treated shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And he sent yet a third; this one they wounded and cast out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, "What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; it may be they will respect him." But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, "This is the heir; let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours." And they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those tenants, and give the vineyard to others. When they heard this, they said, God forbid!" Luke 20:9-16
The tenants refer to the Jewish leaders and the vineyard refers to Jerusalem. In this parable, Jesus says that he, as the beloved Son, will be thrown out of the vineyard and then be killed. To put it another way, Jesus was saying that the Jewish leaders would have him killed outside of Jerusalem.
Now we anticipate that Shabir will say that this doesnt resolve the problem and will wish to say that this only contradicts what Jesus said in Luke 13:33. Does it? Let us read the immediate context and see:
"Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him, "Go away, leave here, for Herod wants to kill You. And He said to them, Go and tell that fox, "Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal." Nevertheless I must journey on today and tomorrow and the next day; for it cannot be that a prophet would perish outside of Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it! Behold, your house is left to you desolate; and I say to you, you will not see Me until the time comes when you say, "BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD!"" Luke 13:31-35
We can glean from the immediate context that Jesus was addressing the Jews who warned him about Herods threat. Jesus responds by basically saying that Herod cant do anything against him since he has a goal to reach Jerusalem, and once there he will die. Now from this context we can see that Jerusalem stands for the Jewish leaders, in contrast to Herod, who will kill Jesus just as they killed the other prophets. Obviously, Jerusalem didnt literally kill the prophets but its leaders and people did. This serves to affirm that Jesus point was that Herod wouldnt be the one to condemn him to death, but the members of the Sanhedrin who were in Jerusalem. This is reiterated in the Matthaean parallel:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets. Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom YOU will kill and crucify, and some YOU will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, so that ON YOU may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom YOU murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord." Matthew 23:29-39
What Jesus was basically saying is that he could not be condemned to death by anyone other than the Jewish leaders. Jesus was obviously using Jerusalem as a metaphor for its leaders, personifying the city and blaming it for the bloodshed caused by its people, since the city is being identified with its people, specifically the Sanhedrin. As noted Bible expositor John Gill stated:
for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem;
because the great sanhedrim only sat at Jerusalem, to whom it belonged to try and judge a prophet; and if found false, to condemn him, and put him to death; the rule is this;
“they do not judge, neither a tribe, nor a false prophet, nor an high priest, but by the sanhedrim of seventy and one.”
Not but that prophets sometimes perished elsewhere, as John the Baptist in Galilee; but not according to a judicial process, in which way Christ the prophet was to be cut off, nor was it common; instances of this kind were rare, and always in a violent way; and even such as were sentenced to death by the lesser sanhedrim, were brought to Jerusalem, and publicly executed there, whose crimes were of another sort; for so runs the canon;
“they do not put any one to death by the sanhedrim, which is in his city, nor by the sanhedrim in Jabneh; but they bring him to the great, sanhedrim in Jerusalem, and keep him till the feast, and put him to death on a feast day, as it is said (Deuteronomy 17:13) "and all the people shall hear and fear."”
And since Jerusalem was the place where the prophets were usually put to death, ...
F5 Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 1. sect. 5. & T. Bab. Sanhedrin, fol. 18. 2.
F6 Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 10. sect. 4. (Source)
Jesus’ comments regarding a prophet not perishing outside of Jerusalem refers to the judiciary process which was necessary for an execution to be carried out lawfully. Christ was simply reiterating a known fact that those invested with authority are to make decisions regarding the death penalty, that there must be a judicial decision on the part of Jerusalem’s leaders before one can be rightly condemned. The reference to Herod proves this point. Since Jesus was in Herod’s district the latter had the judicial authority to kill Jesus. Now obviously, the Jerusalem council wrongly condemned Jesus to death, even though they thought that they were correct to kill him on the basis that they viewed him as a blasphemer. Jesus’ resurrection vindicated him of these charges and supernaturally confirmed that he was no blasphemer, but actually was who he claimed to be - the divine, unique Son of God.
Jesus essentially affirmed this very fact, namely, that the Sanhedrin would condemn him to death, elsewhere in Lukes Gospel:
"But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, saying, The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised up on the third day." Luke 9:21-22
"Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be HANDED OVER TO the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again." Luke 18:31-33
The Sanhedrin handed Jesus over to the Gentile rulers who then mocked, mistreated, spat, scourged and killed him by crucifixion. Note the process that takes place. The Sanhedrin condemned Jesus as worthy of death, but since they couldn’t kill him themselves they proceeded to hand him over to those who had the authority to do so.
It is therefore obvious from the preceding that there is no contradiction in the words of Jesus, but only Shabirs misunderstanding of what Jesus meant when he referred to not perishing outside of Jerusalem. Jesus wasnt using Jerusalem to refer to the city, but to its people, specifically to its leaders who condemned him to die.
But even if we were to assume that Jesus was referring to the city, and not to its leadership, Shabir still has no case. As we noted, Jesus’ statements are made in a particular context, standing in Galilee, being informed by others about Herod’s intention of killing him, and says he must first go to Jerusalem. That is his purpose, and not even Herod will keep him from getting to Jerusalem and being put on trial there. Jesus isn’t talking about his exact execution place. From the perspective of standing in Galilee, in a different province, several days journey away from Jerusalem, just outside the city wall was still Jerusalem. Moreover, every city always has some land around it that belongs to the city. The walls are for protection of the people and their houses, but they still would have land for agriculture that belonged to the city, but which would be outside the walls themselves.
Finally, that a text such as Luke 13:33 remains intact within the Holy Bible is an argument for the Scriptures veracity. It shows that Christian scribes, for the most part, tried to preserve the Scriptures as best as they could, no matter what difficulties a text may have posed to their theology and understanding.
Shabir on Jesus Prayer in Gethsemane
Shabir claims that the Jesus portrayed by John is a person who has supreme control even over his impending death, and yet Marks Jesus is frailer, more human.
Shabir cites the example of Jesus prayer in Gethsemane as proof. In Mark, Jesus prays for the cup to pass from him, that God would spare him from death. In John, however, Jesus refuses to pray such a prayer (Cf. John 12:27). And on that basis, Shabir concludes that the portrait of Jesus has evolved throughout time.
A careful analysis of the texts in question will show that this happens to be another time where Shabir has not understood what he is reading. His fascination with liberal critical scholarship has hindered his ability to carefully analyze the texts in question so as to see how they are easily harmonized, as we will now show.
We begin with John and work our way to Mark:
"Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But for this purpose I have come to this hour." John 12:27 ESV
Jesus says that the very purpose of his coming was to die, "hour" being a reference to his upcoming crucifixion. Mark agrees that Jesus mission was to come and die as a ransom:
"And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:32-34, 45
Note that even in John Jesus admits to being troubled in his soul regarding his impending death. More importantly, notice Jesus words carefully. Jesus says that he will not pray that the Father save him from the hour, the emphasis being on making a demand to God to act on his behalf to prevent his crucifixion. According to John, whatever Jesus asks or demands he receives since he always does what pleases God:
So when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. Martha said to Jesus, Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that WHATEVER YOU ASK from God, God will give you." John 11:20-22 ESV
"So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you ALWAYS hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me. When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, Lazarus, come out. The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, Unbind him, and let him go." John 11:41-44 ESV
Even the very immediate context of John 12 affirms this point:
"Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? "Father, save me from this hour"? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name. Then a voice came from heaven: I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again. The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, An angel has spoken to him. Jesus answered, This voice has come for your sake, not mine." John 12:27-30 ESV
It is rather obvious that the immediate answer to Jesus prayer was designed to show that whatever the Divine Son asks he receives. This is a crucial point as we shall shortly see.
With the foregoing in mind, we now turn to Marks Gospel:
"And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, Sit here while I pray. And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch. And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, IF IT WERE POSSIBLE, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. YET NOT WHAT I WILL, BUT WHAT YOU WILL. And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand." Mark 14:32-42 ESV
A careful reader will immediately see that Jesus didnt pray in the manner stated by John 12:27. We cite both these prayers side by side so as to allow the readers to see this point:
"Now my heart is troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour'? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour." John 12:27 NIV
"And He was saying, Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; YET NOT WHAT I WILL, BUT WHAT YOU WILL." Mark 14:36 NASB
The Matthaean parallel brings the contrast out even more clearly:
"And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, My Father, IF IT IS POSSIBLE, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, BUT AS YOU WILL." Matthew 26:39 NASB
In John, Jesus says he wont pray and demand that he be spared from death. In both Mark and Matthew, however, Jesus makes no such demand, but asks that if it is within the will of the Father for the cup to be taken away then may God spare the Son from having to drink from it. In other words, even though Jesus was troubled regarding his having to take on Gods wrath upon himself, he doesnt pray that God save him from the Cross. He instead prays that only if it is possible for God to take away the judgment that would befall him, if it were within the Fathers will that the Son should be spared, then let the impending death pass from him.
Putting it another way, one is a prayer that something should happen as demanded, the other is a request asking whether it is within Gods will for that same thing not to happen, a huge difference. The Divine answer was that it was Gods will for the Son to drink from the cup with Jesus response then being:
"He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done." Matthew 26:42 NASB
After all, didnt Jesus say that he came not to do his will but the will of the One who sent him?
"Jesus said to them, My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work." John 4:34 NASB
"I can do nothing on My own initiative As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." John 5:30 NASB
"For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me." John 6:38 NASB
It isnt coincidental that these statements are all found in Johns Gospel.
If Jesus prayed demanding that he be spared from death then God would be obliged to answer, which would result in there being no salvation for lost sinners. And if Jesus did pray that way and had the Father not answered such a demand then this would mean that the divine Persons of God are not in perfect union and accord. This would show that one Divine Person could pray a prayer that the other Divine Person does not answer which would therefore mean that there is disharmony and discord within the Triune Godhead. But since no such discord exists, Jesus doesnt pray that kind of prayer. Being Gods perfect Son, and the perfect servant, Jesus prays the perfect prayer which seeks to be in perfect union with the Fathers will, not seeking to impose his own will upon God.
Shabirs aim in citing this example was to try to show that the picture of Jesus has evolved from one Gospel to the other. As time went by, so Shabir thinks, Jesus came to be viewed as more divine than human. We have addressed and refuted this claim in the following articles:
The readers can also consult the following article which deals exclusively with the Markan evidence for the Deity of the Lord Jesus:
We have shown in the above links that even the earliest Gospel account, that of Mark, Jesus is portrayed as God in the flesh, the unique, Divine Son of God, and not simply a miracle-working prophet. Furthermore, both Mark and John portray Jesus as a real flesh and blood human being, having all the limitations and weaknesses of humanity with the exception of sin. What we are basically saying is that both Mark and John present Jesus as the God-man, the Son of God who is also the Son of man, one Divine Person who has two distinct natures simultaneously. It is in light of this background that we offer the following comments.
Even if Shabir had been correct about those two statements, and looking at this from a purely human perspective, leaving out all reference to Jesus being God, but seeing how humans react when they face dangerous situations, his comments would only confirm that Jesus was truly human.
In John the crucifixion is still five days away (Cf. John 12:1, 12-27) and Jesus admits that he is troubled at the thought of the separation that he was to experience on the Cross, but knowing that this is the purpose for which he came, how can he then ask God to spare him from this tribulation? SHOULD he pray to be spared from the wrath to come? The implied answer is NO. Jesus does not actually pray, he only says that it would not be the right thing to do. His response reflects his conviction or principle.
In Mark, the arrest and torture and crucifixion are immediate. As it is part of human nature, human makeup, that when the danger is closer it is much harder to be courageous than when the question how to react is still only a "hypothetical discussion" of something that is some distance away. Who would want to fault Jesus for being fearful of experiencing the broken fellowship and loss of intimate communion with his Father, as well as being the object of the Divine wrath as a result of being our sin-bearer, our substitute who takes upon him what we deserve, namely death and separation from God? Yes, seeing that this dreadful experience is coming so close, Jesus would rather not have it.
Since these statements were made at different times it is not a contradiction that at the same time X Jesus said A according to Mark, and B according to John. The two texts are clearly different in that Jesus said A at time X according to Mark and B at time Y according to John, and both are quite natural for a human Jesus to say since this is the way most human beings react.
Therefore, even though it is an entirely human response, it is not even a contradiction on formal grounds since these two statements were made in different situations. Moreover, as shown above, Jesus’ statements are not a contradiction as far as the contents of his statements are concerned. Those were two different statements, one an actual prayer which was said, and the other only a hypothetical prayer that was commented upon.
In light of our analysis we come to the conclusion that there is no contradiction between Johns and Marks portrait of Jesus, but rather a very consistent and harmonious picture that emerges from reading them in light of each other.
Shabir on Pauls Witnesses to the Resurrection
Shabir has a problem with Pauls list of witnesses to the resurrection in 1 Corinthians:
"For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me." 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
Shabir accuses Paul of being mistaken when he claims that Jesus appeared to the twelve apostles since Judas, one of the twelve, had killed himself before the resurrection. Shabir ignores the fact that scholars agree that Paul was citing a very old tradition which he received within six years of Jesus death and resurrection, if not earlier, from the very eyewitnesses of Christ at Jerusalem. He even ignores the position of liberal critical scholarship which believes that Paul penned this epistle roughly around 56-57 AD., approximately 23-27 years after the resurrection, within the very first generation of both friendly and hostile eyewitness. Shabir further chooses to pass over Pauls claim that the majority of over 500 witnesses to Christs resurrection were still alive during the time of his writing who could verify that the tomb was empty and that the risen Lord Jesus had appeared to them.
Instead, Shabir chooses to focus on a minor quibble regarding the improbability of Jesus appearing to the twelve apostles on the basis that one of them had committed suicide making it less than twelve!
Again, this is another instance of Shabir not reading his material carefully. To begin with Pauls reference to the twelve does not necessarily include Judas, but may be referring to his replacement, namely Matthias. In his debate with Dr. Anis Shorrosh, "The Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ," held in Glasgow on May 2005, Shabir responded to this by saying that Matthias wasnt an eyewitness to Jesus resurrection since he was chosen after the ascension, and therefore could not be included in Pauls list. Not only is this a non sequitur, since the timing of Matthias being chosen as a replacement is irrelevant to whether he was an eyewitness to Jesus bodily resurrection, but Shabir tried to pull a fast one over his audience by conveniently failing to mention the very criteria which the Apostles used when considering whether Matthias was a suitable choice:
"So one of the men WHO HAVE ACCOMPANIED US DURING ALL THE TIME THAT THE LORD JESUS WENT IN AND OUT AMONG US, BEGINNING FROM THE BAPTISM OF JOHN UNTIL THE DAY WHEN HE WAS TAKEN UP FROM USONE OF THESE MEN MUST BECOME WITH US A WITNESS TO HIS RESURRECTION. And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place. And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias, and he was numbered with the eleven apostles. Acts 1:21-26
Note carefully that one of the criteria that the Apostles used in determining a suitable apostle was that the person had to be an eyewitness of Jesus beginning from the time of his baptism all the way to his ascension. In other words, the replacement had to have been an eyewitness to Jesus resurrection! Thus, it is quite plausible that Paul had Matthias in mind when he spoke of Jesus appearing to the twelve.
But more importantly, our answer assumes that Paul was actually referring to the entire group of twelve. A careful reading of the text will show that Paul wasnt using the expression "twelve apostles" to refer to the actual number, but to the original apostolic band irrespective of how many they were. Putting it in another way, Paul was using the phrase as a technical term for the original followers of Jesus since it had become a common way of referring to the original apostles irrespective of their number. Pauls own words support this interpretation:
"and that he appeared to Cephas, THEN to the twelve." 1 Corinthians 15:5
Paul separates Peter from the twelve apostles, which would make the number of apostles less than twelve. The fact that Paul distinguished Peter from the twelve apostles, and yet still referred to them as twelve, shows that he wasnt referring to the actual number of the original apostles who saw Jesus. Paul used this expression since at the time of his writing this is how the original apostles became known to the other followers, i.e. "the twelve," irrespective of whether they were actually twelve or not.
The two following questions were posed by Shabir Ally in his debates with both Jay Smith and William Lane Craig. Shabir seeks to confuse Christians with these questions so as to convince them that belief in the Trinity and the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ poses irreconcilable "problems" that cannot be answered. It is for this reason that we have decided to respond, in order to demonstrate that there is no substance behind any of Shabir's criticisms against the blessed and holy Trinity.
Since Christians claim that the Son is the one that died for them, not the Father, how does one avoid loving the Son more than the Father? Could one love the Father as much as he/she loves the Son?
There are two primary responses. First, since the Father is God, the Father is deserving of the unconditional love due to God:
"Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is: "Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength." This is the first commandment." Mark 12:29-30
"Jesus answered, If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God." John 8:54
"To Timothy, a beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." 2 Timothy 1:2
Second, this falsely assumes that since the Father did not die he therefore did not express the same depth of love as the Son. This is both an unbiblical argument as well as something we all know to be contrary to reality. For instance, a father's willingness to sacrifice his beloved son in order to save others would be seen as an amazing display of self-sacrificial love. Two illustrations help demonstrate this point more clearly.
My following example takes for granted that God exists, and that Christianity is true. A pastor decides to take his son and his son's friend boating. All of a sudden, the boat capsizes and neither of the boys know how to swim and therefore start drowning. The pastor is caught in a dilemma since he is unable to save both boys. He can only save one at the expense of the other.
The pastor realizes that there are also eternal consequences involved in his decision. He knows that his son has received the Lord Jesus into his life, whereas the other boy has not. Hence, to save his son means that the other boy will not only die, but also face the possibility of experiencing a Christ-less eternity in hell. Yet saving the boy means that his son must die.
What does the pastor do? He chooses to save the boy, and allow his own son to die since he is convinced that his son will go to heaven and dwell in the eternal presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now tell us. Was this not a selfless act of love? Are we to assume that the father didn't love the boy as much as his son since the son died and not the father?
The father will continue to remember and suffer the pain of having lost his son for the rest of his earthly life, even though he has faith that he will see his son again in glory. Hence, if anything it is the father that actually suffers greater pain since, unlike the son who is now glorified in Christ's presence and no longer suffers pain, the father will continue to agonize and grieve till he dies.
Even though this example is not identical to what God the Father and the Son did on behalf of sinners, it serves to illustrate the point.
The other example is found in the Holy Bible and the Quran. It is the example of Abraham's willingness to kill his one and only beloved son for God. Are we to assume that Abraham didn't love God as much as his son Isaac since Abraham wasn't the one who was going to be sacrificed? Or are we to assume that both Abraham and Isaac equally displayed unconditional love for God in their willingness to sacrifice that which was dearest to them; the one his beloved son, and the other his own life?
Both the Holy Bible and the Quran answer this question for us:
"Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, Abraham! And he said, Here I am. Then He said, Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you. So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. And Abraham said to his young men, Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you. So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, My father! And he said, Here I am, my son. Then he said, Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering. So the two of them went together. Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, Abraham, Abraham! So he said, Here I am. And He said, Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; FOR NOW I KNOW THAT YOU FEAR GOD, SINCE YOU HAVE NOT WITHHELD YOUR SON, YOUR ONLY SON, FROM ME ... Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, and said: By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son - blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice." Genesis 22:1-12,15-18
"By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his one and only son, of whom it was said, In Isaac your seed shall be called, concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense." Hebrews 11:17-19
"Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness. And he was called the friend of God." James 2:21-23
"So We gave him the good news of a forbearing son. Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: O my son! I have seen in a vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: now see what is thy view! (The son) said: O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills, one of the steadfast! So when they had both submitted (to Allah), and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice), We called out to him O Abraham! ... Thou hast already fulfilled the vision! - thus indeed do We reward those who do right. For this was a clear trial - And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice:" S. 37:101-107
In a similar manner, God's willingness to give up his only beloved and eternal Son on behalf of unworthy sinners is just as much an act of self-sacrificial love as Christ's willingness to die, since God willfully gave up that which is dearest to his heart:
"When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, This is My BELOVED Son, in whom I am well pleased." Matthew 3:16-17
"Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah - because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid. And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is My BELOVED Son. Hear Him!" Mark 9:2-7
"No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is in the BOSOM of the Father, he has made him known." John 1:18
"For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel." John 5:20
"Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world." John 17:24
"to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved." Ephesians 1:6
"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." John 3:16-17
"Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father." John 10:17-18
(NOTE-This passage demonstrates that the Son's death was a voluntary act, and wasn't forced upon him. The Son freely chose to die for those whom he loves.)
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8
"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us." Romans 8:31-34
"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20
"This is how God showed his love among us: I sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another." 1 John 4:9-11
"and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen." Revelation 1:5-6
Yet this poses a dilemma for the Muslim. Since the Quran affirms Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son, this means that Abraham showed more love for God than God ever did for Abraham. The reason why this is so is because Muslims deny that God has a Son whom he sent to die for sinners. Hence, as long as they deny this biblical and historical truth, Muslims are left with the picture of a finite creature demonstrating unconditional and sacrificial love while the Creator failed to do likewise.
Why did the Son die. Why not the Father?
The answer is rather simple. The Father created all things for the Son as an expression of his love:
"He had one more to send, A BELOVED SON; he sent him last of all to them, saying, They will respect my son. But those vine-growers said to one another, This is the HEIR; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours! They took him, and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard." Mark 12:6-8
"All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." Luke 10:22
"The Father LOVES the Son and has given all things into His hand." John 3:35
"Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God," John 13:3
"All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you." John 16:15
"Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life ... and all things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them." John 17:1-2, 10
"For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redeption, forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities - all things were created by him AND FOR HIM. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; and he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy." Colossians 1:13-18
"in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed HEIR OF ALL THINGS, through whom also He made the world." Hebrews 1:2
The Father also chose a people to be the bride of Christ:
"Then John's disciples came and asked him, How is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast? Jesus answered, How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast." Matthew 9:14-15
"John answered and said, A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, "I am not the Christ," but, "I have been sent before Him." He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease." John 3:27-30
"For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin." 2 Corinthians 11:2
"And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready. And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, Write: "Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!" And he said to me, These are the true sayings of God." Revelation 19:6-9
"Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife." Revelation 21:9
Therefore, since all things exist for Christ and since the Church is his bride, the Heir and Bridegroom came to redeem what was his, the gift he had received from the Father:
"She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save HIS PEOPLE from their sins." Matthew 1:21
"For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." Luke 19:10
"And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day." John 6:35-40
"I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd." John 10:14-16
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church." Ephesians 5:25-32
"looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works." Titus 2:13-14
In light of the preceding verses, it is little wonder that the Son was sent to redeem the very gift that the Father had given him as an expression of his infinite love.
Shabir needs to spend less time criticizing the Trinity and more time on his knees, honestly and earnestly asking God to grant him the ability to see the clear biblical evidence for the eternal Trinity.
In the service of our eternal and blessed Triune God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen. Come Lord Jesus, come. We will forever and always be in love with you.
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