Evidence from the Fourth Gospel
The Gospel of John was completed to its present form some seventy years after Jesus was raised up to heaven. This Gospel in its final form says one more thing about Jesus that was unknown from the previous three Gospels — that Jesus was the Word of God. John means that Jesus was God's agent through whom God created everything else. This is often misunderstood to mean that Jesus was God Himself. But John was saying, as Paul had already said, that Jesus was God's first creature. In the Book of Revelation in the Bible, we find that Jesus is,
"the beginning of God's creation" (ch. 3, v. 14; see also I Corinthians 8:6 and Colossians 1:15).
Shabir commits several errors right from the start. First he assumes that the Gospel of John was definitely written or completed in the form in which we have it today some seventy years after Christ was raised to heaven. We have documented elsewhere in our writings why this is not definitely so. See related article.
Second, as is his habit Shabir argues from silence. Shabir thinks that since John is the only writer that mentions Jesus as God's Word this then proves that the Synoptics were ignorant of this fact. Yet, the Synoptics hold to a Christology that in many ways is similar to John. In fact, although the Synoptics do not come right out and call Jesus the Word, they do however implicitly classify Jesus as the Wisdom of God:
"Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,' that the blood of all the prophets, shed from the foundation of the world, may be required of this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechari'ah, who perished between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, it shall be required of this generation." Luke 11:49-51 RSV
Compare what Jesus says above with what he says elsewhere:
"Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation." Matthew 23:34-36
Christ attributes to himself what he had earlier attributed to the Wisdom of God. This implies that Christ viewed himself as Wisdom Incarnate.
The Synoptics and John are not the only writers who viewed Jesus as the eternal, divine Wisdom and Word of God. Paul did as well:
"Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God… It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God-that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption." 1 Corinthians 1:22-24
Paul affirms Christ's omniscience and omnipotence since God's power and wisdom are unlimited and eternal. Hence, since Christ is the power and wisdom of God this then implies that Christ is unlimited and eternal. Paul reiterates this basic point in another letter:
"My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden ALL the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Colossians 2:2-3
It is impossible for a finite creature to retain within himself all of God's wisdom and knowledge. For Paul to say that God's entire wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ affirms that Christ is omniscient and therefore God.
Second, Shabir misapplies three biblical passages in order to derive the conclusion that both John and Paul taught that Jesus is God's first creature. Let us examine all three passages to see if the NT writers taught that Jesus was a creature, or the eternal Creator:
"And to the angel of the church in La-odice'a write: 'The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning (Greek- arche) of God's creation.'" Revelation 3:14 RSV
Shabir seems to think that just because Jesus is called the beginning of God's creation, this means that Jesus is the first thing God created. Yet, Shabir fails to consider that the term arche carries different meanings in different contexts.
Christian Scholar Robert M. Bowman Jr. in response to Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs) gives a detailed explanation of the different possible meanings for the word arche and its related forms:
"… If one considers the range of possible meanings of the Greek word arche translated 'beginning,' it must be admitted that the word might bear this meaning. However, that is not the only or even a likely meaning.
"The main argument presented by the JW booklet for taking 'beginning of the creation' in the sense of 'first creation' is that John (the author of the Book of Revelation) always uses arche 'with the common meaning of "beginning"' (p. 14) However, if by 'beginning' one understands 'first thing,' this is not so. In fact, it has this meaning only once in John's writings (John 2:11). Elsewhere in John's Gospel and Epistles it always refers to a beginning point in time (John 1:1, 2; 6:64; 8:25, 44; 15:27; 16:4; 1 John 1:1; 2:7, 13, 14, 24; 3:8, 11; 2 John 5, 6), not the first thing in a series. In the Book of Revelation, in fact, arche is used only three other times, and always of God as 'the beginning and the end' (Rev. 1:8; 21:6; 22:13). Yet Witnesses will rightly deny that God is a first thing in a series of other things.
"Thus it is at least possible, if not probable, that Revelation 3:14 does not use 'beginning' in the sense of 'first thing.' We must therefore consider two alternate interpretations, both of which are consistent with the Trinity.
"First, it might be that in Revelation 3:14 arche means 'ruler' or 'first over' creation. The argument for this view is a simple one. It would appear that wherever else in the New Testament the word arche is used of a person, it nearly always refers to a ruler of some sort. (The only exceptions are the three uses in Revelation of the expression 'the beginning and the end' for God.) In particular, the plural form archai frequently occurs in the New Testament and is usually translated 'principalities' or the like (Luke 12:11; Rom. 8:38; Eph. 3:10; 6:12; Col. 1:16; 2:15; Titus 3:1). Twice it is used in the singular to mean 'rule' or 'domain' (Luke 20:20; Jude 6). Three times it occurs in the expression 'all rule' or 'every ruler' (1 Cor. 15:24; Eph. 1:21; Col. 2:10).
"Moreover, in Colossians 1:18, the only other place in the New Testament where Christ is called arche, where it is usually translated 'beginning,' the meaning 'ruler' is practically certain. This is because the plural archai occurs three times in that context (1:16; 2:10, 15) with the meaning of 'rulers,' and since Colossians 1:18 ('the arche, the firstborn from the dead') is clearly parallel to Revelation 1:5 ('the firstborn from the dead, and the archon [ruler] of the kings of the earth').
"This line of reasoning has much merit, and it is possible that 'ruler' is the correct meaning of arche in Revelation 3:14. However, it is not certain, as it is also possible that arche means 'source' or 'first cause.'
"The Greek word arche could, in first-century Greek, bear the meaning of 'first cause' or 'origin' or 'source,' when used in relation to the universe or creation. Although this usage does not appear to be clearly found elsewhere in the New Testament, in the Book of Revelation arche appears to be used with this meaning in all three of the other occurrences of the word in that book. In these three verses, God is called 'the beginning and the end' (1:8; 21:6; 22:13). The best interpretation of this expression would seem to be that is the beginner and consummator of creation-that he is its first cause and its final goal. It is therefore reasonable to think that the same usage is found in 3:14." (Bowman, Why Should Believe in the Trinity [Baker Book House; Grand Rapids MI, 1989], pp. 65-66)
Walter Bauer's William F. Arndt & F. Wilbur Gingrich A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature concur with Bowman on the range of meaning carried by arche. They define the term as "beginning," "origin," "the first cause," "ruler," "authority," "rule," "office" (Ibid, pp. 111-112).
Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (abridged in one volume by George W. Bromiley) give the following meanings:
"A. The General and Philosophical Use of arche. The meaning is 'primary,' whether in time or rank…
2. In rank, the senses are a. 'dominion,' b. 'realm,' and c. 'authorities.'
"B. arche in the LXX.
1. The usual sense is 'temporal beginning,' sometimes 'primeval time.'
2.Fairly frequently arche signifies 'dominion,' 'power,' 'position of power,' 'person of influence.' In Dan. 7:27 all archai shall serve God's saints; these are earthly kingdoms but with a hint of supernatural powers (ch. 10)
"C. arche in the NT…
2. arche as 'power' means a. 'dominion' or 'power,' e.g., Lk. 12:11 for the secular or spiritual authorities, and 20:20 for the power of the Roman procurator (always with exousia except in Jude 6); b. (plural) supraterrestrial forces (cf. Daniel) which seem hostile to God (Eph 1:21), which have an overlord (Eph. 2:2), which govern different spheres, e.g. religious (1 Cor. 8:5), sexual (1 Cor. 6:15ff.), vital (1 Cor. 15:26), and social (cf. Eph. 6), which are spiritual (Eph. 6:12), related to angels (Rom. 8:38), and originally meant to be good (Col. 1:16), which are now confined to the lowest heaven (Eph. 3:10), which have been robbed of their power by the cross (Col. 2:15) and are now subject to Christ (Col. 2:15) their Lord (Col. 2:10, 16), but which still engage in conflict with Christians (Eph. 6:12) even though they cannot separate them from God (Rom. 8:38) and will ultimately lose their influence (1 Cor. 15:24).
3.In Col. 1:18 Christ himself is arche as the image of God and the firstborn of all creation 'before' all else. As arche he is the norm for creation by and for which all things were made (cf. 1:16b). He is also arche as the firstborn from the dead. Rev. 3:14 probably calls him arche in much the same sense (cf. 21:6; 22:13). Eschatology wit its relativizing of history brought some kinship in philosophical usage: Christ ion the throne is pre- and posttemporal…" (Ibid., Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids MI 2985, pp. 82-82)
All three of these sources affirm that arche means "source," "primary," "dominion," "power," "first cause" etc. It does not necessarily imply that Christ is the first created.
In fact, when looking at the passages Bowman alluded to in Revelation we discover that instead of portraying Jesus as the first creation of God, Revelation presents Christ as the sovereign Lord of creation:
"He said to me: 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning (Greek- arche) and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.'" Revelation 21:6-7
Obviously, no one would argue that John was trying to claim that God was the first thing created by calling him "the beginning." Interestingly, Christ uses these very titles to describe himself:
"Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. 'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty." Revelation 1:7-8
The One coming is identified as the very One that had been pierced, i.e. Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ speaking as the one who is to come claims to be both the Alpha and Omega as well as the Almighty.
"'Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning (Greek- arche) and the End'… He who testifies to these things says, 'Yes, I am coming soon.' Amen. Come, Lord Jesus." Revelation 22:12-13, 20
In light of the fact that Christ applies the very same titles that God uses for himself affirms that Jesus is not the first thing created. Rather, Jesus is the eternal God who is the first cause and the consummator of all creation. Therefore, Revelation 3:14 presents Christ as the source and ruler of creation, being the One that caused creation to come into existence from nothing.
"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn (Greek- prototokos) over all creation. For by him ALL things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; ALL things were created by him and FOR (Greek- eis) him. HE IS BEFORE ALL THINGS, AND IN HIM ALL THINGS HOLD TOGETHER. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy." Colossians 1:15-18
Shabir presumes that the term "firstborn" implies that Christ is literally the first one born or created. Yet, the term "firstborn" is used in the Old Testament to imply preeminence, not necessarily the first thing created. For instance in Job 18:13 we are told:
"It devours patches of his skin; The firstborn of death devours his limbs." NKJV
Firstborn is used to refer to the deadliest of diseases, affirming that the term is meant to imply preeminence and position, not necessarily birth or generation per se.
Ephraim is called God's firstborn in Jeremiah 31:9:
"… because I am Israel's Father, and Ephraim is my firstborn son."
Yet, Ephraim was anything but the firstborn son:
"But Israel reached out his right hand and put it on Ephraim's head, though he was the younger, and crossing his arms, he put his left hand on Manasseh's head, even though Manasseh was the firstborn." Genesis 48:14
David in Psalm 89:26-27 is also called God's "firstborn" due to the fact that God had made him "the highest of the kings of the earth." We know that Saul preceded David as king; and David was the youngest son, so the title cannot possibly refer to creation or time, but to position.
Interestingly the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, translates the Hebrew term "firstborn" in these passages as prototokos, the same word used for Jesus in Colossians. All these passages use the term to refer to preeminence, not the first thing or first one created.
That this is Paul's intended meaning is clear from the passage itself. Paul explicitly states that Christ is before all things and is the creator of all things. If Christ created all things then he could not be part of creation since it would mean that Christ created himself! Interestingly, Paul says that all things were created for Christ. Yet, according to both the Old and New Testament Yahweh alone created all things for his own glory and pleasure:
"He speaks to the sun and it does not shine; he seals off the light of the stars. He ALONE stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea." Job 9:7-8
"I will say to the north, 'Give them up!' and to the south, 'Do not hold them back.' Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth- everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made." Isaiah 43:6-7
"The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, 21the people I FORMED FOR MYSELF that they may proclaim my praise." Isaiah 43:20-21
"For from him and through him and FOR (Greek- eis) him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen." Romans 11:36 NAB
"You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created ALL THINGS, and by your will they were created and have their being." Revelation 4:11
Rob Bowman highlights another reason why the phrase "firstborn of creation" cannot be taken literally to mean that Christ was the first creature. In addressing JWs Bowman states:
"Second, the Witnesses point out that the parallel expressions 'firstborn of Pharaoh,' 'firstborn of Israel,' and so on, are always used to mean the first one born in that group, so that 'firstborn of all creation' must mean the first one created. To be more exact, however, what these expressions mean is the first child of the one named-thus, the firstborn of Pharaoh is Pharaoh's first son; the firstborn of Israel is Israel's first son; and so on. If the expression 'firstborn of all creation' is held to be parallel to these phrases, it would then mean the first son (or offspring) of all creation. However, this would be the exact opposite of what the text actually says, which is that all creation came into existence through Christ (Col. 1:16). Creation did not produce Christ; Christ produced creation! Therefore, since the meaning of 'first child of' will not fit the context, the meaning of 'heir' must be understood. Only this interpretation makes sense of the text, which then means that Christ is the heir of creation because all things were made through him and for him." (Bowman, p. 63)
Therefore, Christ is firstborn in that he is preeminent over all creation since he is the Creator and Sustainer of all things.
Here is the final passage in our discussion:
"yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through (Greek- di') whom all things came and through whom we live." 1 Corinthians 8:6
Shabir presumably feels that this verse pictures Christ as distinct from the one true God. This would therefore make Christ the first and only direct creation of God. Christ would then be God's created Agent, not the eternal Creator. Yet, Paul uses the terms "God" and "Lord" interchangeably in affirming that both the Father and Son are the one God, Yahweh. This is evident in light of the fact that the Old Testament states that Yahweh alone created all things, as we have already shown above. Here is another OT passage affirming that Yahweh alone is Creator:
"This is what the LORD says- your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, who has made all things, who ALONE stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by MYSELF…" Isaiah 44:24
Furthermore, Paul claims that our existence and life come from the Father through the Son, implying equality in essence and nature. In fact, Paul elsewhere states that all things came through God:
"Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 'Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?' 'Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?' For from him and through (Greek- di') him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen." Romans 11:33-36
"In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through (Greek- di') whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering." Hebrews 2:10
Hence, Lord here can only mean that Jesus is Yahweh God. Therefore, Paul by no means is teaching that Jesus is an inferior deity but that Jesus is the eternal Creator!
Anyone who says that the Word of God is a person distinct from God must also admit that the Word was created, for the Word speaks in the Bible saying:
"Yahweh created me" (Proverbs ch. 8, v. 22).
First, Shabir misquotes Proverbs 8 since there it is speaking of God's Wisdom, not his Word. Second, Shabir assumes much like JWs that Proverbs 8 is speaking of Christ whereas in actuality it is speaking of God's impersonal Wisdom. In fact, throughout Proverbs Wisdom is personified as a Woman. If Shabir insists that this is Christ then Shabir must tell us who the Woman called Folly is:
"The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge." Proverb 9:13
This demonstrates the weakness in Shabir's argumentation. Proverbs is part of what we call Wisdom literature. This type of literature often employs metaphor, hyperbole, allegory, simile and personifications of impersonal qualities and characteristics.
Third, Shabir is quite selective in his translation. Instead of comparing translations, he picks the one that translates the Hebrew word qanah as "created." He again does not take into consideration that there are other possible meanings for the word in question.
Robert M. Bowman Jr. comments on Proverbs 8 in response to JWs:
"First, the word that the JWs translate 'produced,' and that some versions have rendered 'created,' is the word qanah. This word is used frequently in Proverbs, never with the meaning 'create,' but always 'get' or 'buy,' that is, get with money (Prov. 1:5; 4:5, 7; 8:22; 15:32; 16:16; 17:16; 18:15; 19:8; 20:14; 23:23). That is also its consistent meaning in the some seventy instances in which it is used elsewhere in the Old Testament.
"Second, 'wisdom' is personified, not only in Proverbs 8:22-31, but throughout Proverbs 1-9. Nothing in Proverbs 8:22-31 suggests that this is a different 'wisdom' than is spoken of in the preceding and following chapters. Therefore, if we take 8:22 to speak literally about Christ, we must also assume that Christ is a woman who cries in the streets (1:20-21), and who lives with someone named 'Prudence' (8:12) in a house with seven pillars (9:1)!
"Third, the text reads quite naturally as a poetic way of saying that Wisdom preexisted eternally with Jehovah. In previous chapters Solomon has urged his son to 'get' (qanah) wisdom (Prov. 4:5, 7), and this challenge is continued in later chapters (16:16; 17:16; 19:8). In Proverbs 3:19-20 Solomon states briefly that God exercised wisdom in his work of creation. Throughout Proverbs 1-9, and especially 8 and 9, wisdom is personified as a woman who calls out to the city to take instruction from her (ch. 8) and to come eat at her table in her house (ch. 9).
"In the midst of this highly poetic section of Proverbs appears a passage (8:22-31) that speaks of God's getting (qanah again) wisdom before his works, and of his creating the world through wisdom-clearly parallel in meaning to 3:19-20, and just as clearly to be taken as a personification of God's attribute of wisdom. That is, the point is that after urging his son to 'get' wisdom, Solomon answers the child's question, 'When did God get wisdom?' by saying, in effect, 'God "got" wisdom in eternity,' that is, God always had wisdom. Thus 8:23 says, 'From everlasting I was established…' (NASB); the phrase from everlasting is the same phrase used of God in Psalm 90:2, where the JWs recognize that God is being described as having no beginning." (Bowman, pp. 60-61)
"It is unlikely, then, that Proverbs 8:22-31 should be understood as a description of Christ, though some things said of wisdom there may be fulfilled in a deeper sense in Christ, just as 2 Samuel 7:14 was actually speaking about Solomon, though in prophetic sense it had greater fulfillment in Christ (Heb. 1:5b). Thus, even assuming that Proverbs 8:22 was a description of Christ, it would be just as much a mistake to argue from Proverbs 8:22 that Christ was created as to argue from 2 Samuel 7:14 that Christ would be a sinner! In fact, it would be a worse mistake, because Proverbs 8:22, carefully interpreted, is not asserting the created origin of wisdom at all, as we have shown. Even if what is said of wisdom in 8:22-31 is applied in some way to Christ, then, it is a poetic affirmation of his having always existed, not a proof that he was created." (Ibid, p. 61)
Fourth, John begins his Gospel with the affirmation that Christ is God's preexistent Word, having no beginning to his life and who is also fully God in nature:
"In the beginning was (en) the Word, and the Word was with (pros) God, and the Word was God." John 1:1
The term en is the imperfect tense of the verb eimi, and denotes continuous existence or action in the past. Just how continuous depends on the context itself. In this passage, the Word is seen as already existing when the beginning of all things occurred. Not only was he already in existence at the time of the beginning, but was continually existing having no beginning in sight. This implies that the Word is eternal.
The Word is also seen has having eternally coexisted with a specific person called God (Greek, ton theon- "the God", with the definite article implying that John has a specific person in mind). The term pros implies that not only is there a distinction between the Word and God, but that the Word is personal. The Word is not just an impersonal attribute existing in the mind of God, but is a distinct person who has coexisted with God from eternity:
"John's use of the preposition pros 'with' is significant. It implies that the Father and the Son had an intimate as well as eternal relationship. Lenski explains:
The preposition pros, as distinct from heos, para, and sun, is of the greatest importance… The idea is that of presence and communion with a strong note of reciprocity. The Logos, then, is not an attribute inferring in God, or a power emanating from him, but a person in the presence of God and turned in loving, inseparable communion toward God and God turned equally toward him. He was another and yet not other than God.
"John's use of the preposition pros is also significant in that it shows that he did not view the Logos and the Father as being the same person. They are two distinct persons in an intimate eternal relationship of fellowship and communion." (Robert Morey, Trinity-Evidence &Issues [Word Publishing; Grand Rapids, 1996], pp. 321-322)
"… Here John uses the preposition... (pros). The term has a wide range of meanings, depending on the context in which it is found. In this particular instance, the term speaks to a personal relationship, in fact, to intimacy. It is the same term the apostle Paul uses when he speaks of how we presently have a knowledge comparable to seeing in a dim mirror, but someday, in eternity, we will have clearer knowledge, an intimate knowledge, for we shall see 'face to (pros) face' (I Corinthians 13:12). When you are face-to-face with someone, you have nowhere to hide. You have a relationship with that person, whether you like it or not... In John 1:1b, John says the Word was eternally face-to-face with God, that is, the Word has eternally had a relationship with God." (James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity- Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief [Bethany House Publishers; Minneapolis, MN, 1998], p. 52)
This Gospel, nevertheless, clearly teaches that Jesus is not God. If it did not continue this teaching, then it would contradict the other three Gospels and also the letters of Paul from which it is clearly established that Jesus is not God. We find here that Jesus was not co-equal with the Father, for Jesus said:
"The Father is greater than I" (John 14:28).
People forget this and they say that Jesus is equal to the Father.
Whom should we believe — Jesus or the people?
First, Shabir is wrong in saying that John's teaching that Jesus is God contradicts the Synoptic Gospels since the Synoptics also teach that Jesus is God. Several examples from Matthew's Gospel sufficiently demonstrates this point:
"All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel'--which means, 'God with us.'" Matthew 1:22-23
This is Incarnation theology that echoes John's prologue on the divine Word becoming flesh. For Matthew, God wasn't simply with Christ. Rather, Christ was actually God with us. Matthew begins and ends with this proclamation:
"For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." Matthew 18:20
"… and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20
Christ assures believers the world over that he will be present with them to the end of the age. This affirms that Christ is omnipresent since he is God with us. Compare this with what John says:
"'Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him'… Jesus replied, 'If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.'" John 14:21, 23
Christ claims to be able to dwell with believers in the very same way that the Father dwells with believers. Hence, Christ is claiming to be both equal with the Father and omnipresent. In light of these statements, it is clear that both Matthew and John present Jesus as the omnipresent God.
The other mistake Shabir commits is confusing nature with position. The Father is greater than the Son in position, not in nature.
Muslims and Christians agree that God is self-existent. That means that He does not derive his existence from anyone. Yet John tells us that Jesus' existence is caused by the Father. Jesus says in this Gospel: "I live because of the Father" (John 6:57).
Trinitarians believe that the triune God is self-existent since the three Persons of the Godhead do not depend on anything outside their own Being for life. Yet, the three Persons are interdependent since the life of the One is the same life shared by the Others within the Godhead. Hence, Jesus lives because of the Father due to the fact that the Father's life is the life of the Son and the life of the Holy Spirit. The three Persons function as one, not as three independent beings.
Furthermore, Christ is also speaking in relation to his position as God's servant on earth. As such, Christ submitted himself entirely to the Father and entrusted his very life into the Father's hand.
Finally, when this passage is read in context it actually proves that Jesus is God:
"Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of ME." John 6:57
Christ states that believers will live because of the life that Christ will give them, implying that Christ is omnipotent seeing that he can grant eternal life to all who come to him. This again reaffirms that the life of the Father is shared equally by Christ, making Christ self-existent. We are wondering why Shabir cut the verse in mid-sentence? He perhaps realized that by quoting the entire passage his argument would have been refuted.
John tells us that Jesus did not have any authority of his own when he quotes Jesus as saying: "I can do nothing of my own authority" (John 5:30). This agrees with what we learn about Jesus from the other Gospels. In Mark, for example, we learn that Jesus performed miracles by a power which was not within his control. This is especially clear from an episode in which a woman is healed of her incurable bleeding.
We have already addressed this issue elsewhere when addressing the claims of Shabir's mentor, Jamal Badawi. Badawi makes the same error when quoting this same verse out of its intended context much like Shabir. We quote the relevant passages from our article with slight modifications:
In fact, this is precisely the whole point of Jesus' discourse in John 5:19-23:
Jesus does nothing on his own, but everything that his Father does he can do. Much like his Father, Jesus is able to give eternal life, raise the dead and judge all men. In order for Jesus to be able to do all the works that his Father can do, he must be God since the Father does things that only God can do. This is precisely what Trinitarians believe, that Jesus works in perfect unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit since all three are equally God in nature, having the same infinite power to accomplish all that they desire. (cf. John 16:13) (see this article)
The woman came up behind him and touched his cloak; and she was immediately healed. But Jesus had no idea who touched him. Mark describes Jesus's actions thus:
"At once Jesus realised that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?" (Mark 5:30).
His disciples could not provide a satisfactory answer, so Mark tells us:
"Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it" (5:32).
This shows that the power that healed the woman was not within Jesus's control. He knew that the power had gone out of him, but he did not know where it went. Some other intelligent being had to guide that power to the woman who needed to be healed. God was that intelligent being. It is no wonder, then, that in Acts of the Apostles we read that it was God who did the miracles through Jesus (Acts 2:22). God did extraordinary miracles through others too, but that does not make the others God (see Acts 19:11). Why, then, is Jesus taken for God? Even when Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead, he had to ask God to do it. Lazarus' sister, Martha, knew this, for she said to Jesus:
First, we will be addressing Acts' Christology in one of our additional responses to Shabir. Second, Shabir attacks a straw man since informed Christians do not believe that Jesus' miracles make him God. Rather, it is Jesus' claims in relation to his miracles that make him God. Read the following article that addresses this issue.
Third, let us read the story in context to see if Jesus was in fact caught by surprise:
When we read the context we discover that Jesus was not asking who touched him because he did not know, but rather he wanted the woman to make a public confession. The reason why the woman kept her identity hidden was due to the Mosaic Law that forbid Israelites from making contact with women who suffered from blood flow, whether from menses or a bleeding disorder:
The Lord wanted her to come forward and acknowledge her faith in order to demonstrate his compassion on individuals who were considered unfit to associate amongst the children of Israel.
Here are some examples from the scriptures where God would question a person in order to procure a confession, not because he did not know:
God knew that Cain had killed Abel but wanted him to confess to his crime.
"While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 'What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?' 'The son of David,' they replied. He said to them, 'How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him "Lord"? For he says, "The Lord said to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.'" If then David calls him "Lord," how can he be his son?' No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions." Matthew 22:41-46
These examples demonstrate that Christ's questions were aimed at confounding the Jewish elders, not because he did not know the answers. Here is a final example to solidify this point:
"When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, 'Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?' 'Yes, Lord,' he said, 'you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Feed my lambs.' Again Jesus said, 'Simon son of John, do you truly love me?' He answered, 'Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Take care of my sheep.' The third time he said to him, 'Simon son of John, do you love me?' Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, 'Do you love me?' He said, 'Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.' Jesus said, 'Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.' Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, 'Follow me!'" John 21:15-19
Peter correctly stated that Jesus knows all things and knew that Peter loved him. Hence, this example serves to reinforce the point that Jesus asked questions in order to either confound his enemies or procure a confession of faith. His questions were not asked because he did not know the answers.
"I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask" (John 11:22).
Martha knew that Jesus was not God, and John who reported this with approval knew it also.
Interestingly Shabir isolates this verse from its relevant context:
Christ claims to do what God alone can do, namely raise people from both spiritual and physical death:
"The LORD brings death and makes alive; he brings down to the grave and raises up." 1 Samuel 2:6
"Then you, my people, will know that I am the LORD, when I open your graves and bring you up from them." Ezekiel 37:13
Compare this last verse with what Jesus says elsewhere:
"I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear THE VOICE OF THE SON OF GOD and those who hear will live… Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear HIS VOICE and come out-those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned." John 5:25, 28-29
In order for Christ to do that which the OT says Yahweh will do makes Jesus Yahweh God. Furthermore, in order for Christ to raise the dead by the sound of his voice implies that Christ is omnipotent, being God Almighty in the flesh. Finally, seeing that John recorded these statements with approval implies that the Evangelist clearly believed that Jesus was Incarnate Deity, a fact which John marvelously states in his prologue.
Jesus had a God, for when he was about to ascend to heaven, he said:
"I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (John 20:17).
Shabir once again demonstrates that he clearly has not understood Trinitarian theology. According to the Holy Bible, Christ became man. By virtue of the fact that Christ became man and continues to remain fully human, the Father became and continues to be Jesus' God. The Father was not always Jesus' God, but only became such when Christ took on human nature for our salvation.
John was sure that no one had seen God, although he knew that many people had seen Jesus (see John 1:18 and 1 John 4:12). In fact Jesus himself told the crowds, that they have never seen the Father, nor have they heard the Father's voice (John 5:37). Notice that if Jesus was the
Father, his statement here would be false.
Let us quote the passages in context to see what in fact the Evangelist was stating:
"No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the FATHER'S side, has made HIM known." John 1:18
"And the FATHER who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard HIS voice nor seen HIS form," John 5:37
"No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the FATHER has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world." 1 John 4:12-14
These verses state that God the Father has never been seen. That is why God the Son became man, in order to reveal the nature and character of God to man. Interestingly, Christ claims to be the only person who has seen the Father:
"No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father." John 6:46
In fact, Christ is in very nature God:
"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped," Philippians 2:6
"… but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven." Hebrews 1:2-3
This is precisely why Christ could say that he who sees him sees the Father that sent him since he is the exact imprint of the Father's nature:
"And Jesus cried out and said, 'He who believes in me, believes not in me but in him who sent me. And he who sees me sees him who sent me." John 12:44-45 RSV
"Jesus answered: 'Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, "Show us the Father"?'" John 14:9
"Notice that if Jesus was the Father, his statement here would be false."
Seeing that Trinitarians do not believe that Jesus is the same person as the Father we are left wondering how Shabir could make such a claim? Either he does not know what Trinitarians believe and is therefore ignorant of our position or he does know what Trinitarians believe and is willfully being deceptive.
Who is the only God in John's Gospel? The Father only. Jesus testified to this when he declared that the God of the Jews is the Father (John 8:54). And the God of the Jews is no other than Yahweh who declared that he is the only God. Jesus too confirmed that the Father alone is the only true God (see John 17:1-3). And Jesus said to his enemies: "You are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God" (Jn 8:40).
According to John, therefore, Jesus was not God, and nothing John wrote should be taken as proof that he was — unless one wishes to disagree with John.
First, Shabir assumes that the God of the Jews, Yahweh, is limited to the person of the Father alone. We have demonstrated elsewhere in a reply to Shabir why this is clearly false.
Furthermore, according to John the identity of God is not limited to the Father alone but also includes the person of the Son as well as the Holy Spirit:
"Jesus said to them, 'My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.' For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God." John 5:17-18
"'We are not stoning you for any of these,' replied the Jews, 'but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.'" John 10:33
"Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!' Then Jesus told him, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'" John 20:28-29
Jesus accepts and blesses Thomas's confession that Christ is Lord and God. In his debate with Tony Costa Jr., "Is Jesus the Divine Son of God?," Shabir tried to nullify Thomas' declaration of faith by claiming that the phrase "My Lord and my God" was used for the angel Raphael in the Apocryphal book, Tobit.
The problem with Shabir's assertion is that there is not a single place in the entire book of Tobit where Raphael is addressed as someone's Lord and God. Here is the concluding portion of Tobit where Raphael finally identifies himself to Tobit and his son:
"So he called the angel and said to him, 'Take half of all that you two have brought back.' Then the angel called the two of them privately and said to them: 'Praise God and give thanks to him; exalt him and give thanks to him in the presence of all the living for what he has done for you. It is good to praise God and to exalt his name, worthily declaring the works of God. Do not be slow to give him thanks. It is good to guard the secret of a king, but gloriously to reveal the works of God. Do good, and evil will not overtake you. Prayer is good when accompanied by fasting, almsgiving, and righteousness. A little with righteousness is better than much with wrongdoing. It is better to give alms than to treasure up gold. For almsgiving delivers from death, and it will purge away every sin. Those who perform deeds of charity and of righteousness will have fulness of life; but those who commit sin are the enemies of their own lives. I will not conceal anything from you. I have said, "It is good to guard the secret of a king, but gloriously to reveal the works of God." And so, when you and your daughter-in-law Sarah prayed, I brought a reminder of your prayer before the Holy One; and when you buried the dead, I was likewise present with you. When you did not hesitate to rise and leave your dinner in order to go and lay out the dead, your good deed was not hidden from me, but I was with you. So now God sent me to heal you and your daughter-in-law Sarah. I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One.' They were both alarmed; and they fell upon their faces, for they were afraid. But he said to them, 'Do not be afraid; you will be safe. But praise God for ever. For I did not come as a favor on my part, but by the will of our God. Therefore praise him for ever. All these days I merely appeared to you and did not eat or drink, but you were seeing a vision. And now give thanks to God, for I am ascen ding to him who sent me. Write in a book everything that has happened.' Then they stood up; but they saw him no more. So they confessed the great and wonderful works of God, and acknowledged that the angel of the Lord had appeared to them." Tobit 12:5-22 RSV
Unlike the angel, Jesus not only blesses Thomas' direct address but also commands his followers to give him the same honor that his Father receives:
"Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son JUST AS THEY HONOR THE FATHER. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him." John 5:22-23
Interestingly, Shabir also alludes to John 8:40 and 54 but failed to mention John 8:56-59:
"'Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.' 'You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, 'and you have seen Abraham!' 'I tell you the truth,' Jesus answered, 'before Abraham was born, I AM!' At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds." John 8:58-59
Jesus' use of the I AM is to contrast his timeless preexistence with Abraham's created origin. It also serves to equate Christ with Yahweh:
"Listen to me, O Jacob, and Israel, whom I called: I AM (ani hu); I am the First, and I am the Last." Isaiah 48:12 NRSV
The phrase I AM implies Deity, as the following verses demonstrate:
"Now then, listen, you wanton creature (i.e. Babylon), lounging in your security and saying to yourself, 'I AM, and there is none besides me'… You have trusted in your wickedness and have said, 'No one sees me.' Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, 'I AM, and there is none besides me.'" Isaiah 47:8, 10
God rebukes Babylon for claiming to be the I AM, believing herself to be a God like Yahweh:
"On the day the LORD gives you relief from suffering and turmoil and cruel bondage, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: How the oppressor has come to an end! How his fury has ended!… How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'" Isaiah 14:3-4, 12-14
In light of the preceding examples the title I AM as used by both Yahweh and Jesus denotes absolute Deity and timeless existence.
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched-this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ." 1 John 1:1-3
According to John Jesus is eternal life itself, which implies that Christ has no beginning to his existence. This makes him God.
"After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: 'Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began'… 'Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world." John 17:1-5, 24
Christ claims to have preexisted as the object of the Father's love, having existed alongside the Father in the same divine glory before the creation of the world. This makes Jesus Yahweh God:
"I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols." Isaiah 42:8
"For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another." Isaiah 48:11
Christ also claims in John 17:1-3 to be granted the sovereign authority to give eternal life to all flesh. In order for Christ to be granted this divine privilege affirms that Jesus is God Almighty since God alone has the power to grant eternal life to all flesh.
In light of these factors, Shabir is wrong to suggest that to John the Father alone is the true God.
Finally, John does not record Jesus as saying, "That they might know you ALONE as the only true God." Shabir inserts the word into his comments on John 17:1-3.
Christ is affirming the deity of the Father without denying that he himself is also truly God. In fact, to be in Christ is to be in the Father since they both make up the identity of the one true God. You can't have one without the other:
"Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist-he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also." 1 John 2:22-23
"And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, to know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life." 1 John 5:20 RSV
Due to the unity between the Father and the Son, John can say that being in one is to be in the other. This (i.e. the Father and the Son) is the true God and eternal Life.
Amen. Come Lord Jesus Come.
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