Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

A Rebuttal to Shabir Ally’s Response to Dr. James White Pt. 5a

Sam Shamoun

We now come to the fifth part of our rebuttal.


What was that about John?

In this section we are going to tackle Ally’s comments concerning the testimony of John’s Gospel to the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.



Fifth, James argues above that since Paul was a monotheistic Jew and yet not a unitarian, we should not presume that the disciples of Jesus were unitarians either, though they too were monotheistic Jews. But I question James’ premise that Paul was not a unitarian. Yet that is not the topic of our debate, and I want to avoid expanding the discussion here unnecessarily. If it should prove necessary, I am prepared to defend the view that Paul was not a Trinitarian. But I must leave that aside for the moment. More to the point, since we agree that the disciples were monotheists, and that they were Jews, it is natural to expect that they believed that Jehovah is the only God. And the fact that Jesus was not Jehovah is so clear that in John’s Gospel Jesus, speaking to the Jews, identifies his Father as the One whom the Jews claim as their God. Since the Jews claim that Jehovah is their only God, it is thus clear from the speech here attributed to Jesus that Jesus is merely Jehovah’s Son but not Jehovah himself. And since Jehovah alone is God, Jesus is not God. As I pointed out in the debate, although Muslims would deny John’s depiction of Jesus as the only begotten Son, it is nonetheless clear even from this Gospel that Jesus is not Jehovah, and therefore that we have no reason for thinking that the original disciples took Jesus for God.


“… Moreover, even in John, it is not clear that the word of God is actually God, for John 1:1 is ambiguous. On one interpretation it means that the Word of God was God. On another interpretation it means that the Word of God was divine. Hence White is here a few steps removed from what he wants to prove. He needs to show clear evidence that the original disciples of Jesus thought that Jesus was God, not merely that some writers of intertestamental literature personified the Word of God…”

And here is what Ally stated in his debate with Dr. White:

“John's Gospel takes the same view as Paul, saying that God created the universe through Jesus. But even in John's Gospel we have it that Jesus is subordinate to the Father.”



Is John 1:1 really ambiguous? Let us see what the following Greek NT scholar has to say about this assertion:

“The nominative case is the case that the subject is in. When the subject takes an equative verb like ‘is’ (i.e., a verb that equates the subject with something else), then another noun also appears in the nominative case–the predicate nominative. In the sentence, ‘John is a man,’ ‘John’ is the subject and ‘man’ is the predicate nominative. In English the subject and predicate nominative are distinguished by word order (the subject comes first). Not so in Greek. Since word order in Greek is quite flexible and is used for emphasis rather than for strict grammatical function, other means are used to determine subject from predicate nominative. For example, if one of the two nouns has the definite article, it is the subject.

"As we have said, word order is employed especially for the sake of emphasis. Generally speaking, when a word is thrown to the front of the clause it is done so for emphasis. When a predicate nominative is thrown in front of the verb, by virtue of word order it takes on emphasis. A good illustration of this is John 1:1c. The English versions typically have, ‘and the Word was God.’ But in Greek, the word order has been reversed. It reads,

kai   theos  en    ho  logos

and  God   was  the  Word.

"We know that ‘the Word’ is the subject because it has the definite article, and we translate it accordingly: ‘and the Word was God.’ Two questions, both of theological import, should come to mind: (1) why was theos thrown forward? and (2) why does it lack the article? In brief, its emphatic position stresses its essence or quality: ‘What God was, the Word was’ is how one translation brings out this force. Its lack of a definite article keeps us from identifying the person of the Word (Jesus Christ) with the person of ‘God’ (the Father). That is to say, the word order tells us that Jesus Christ has all the divine attributes that the Father has; lack of the article tells us that Jesus Christ is not the Father. John's wording here is beautifully compact! It is, in fact, one of the most elegantly terse theological statements one could ever find. As Martin Luther said, the lack of the article is against Sabellianism; the word order is against Arianism.

kai ho logos en ho theos 

‘and the Word was the God’ (i.e., the Father; Sabellianism)

kai ho logos en theos 

‘and the Word was a god’ (Arianism)

kai theos en ho logos 

‘and the Word was God’ (Orthodoxy).

"Jesus Christ is God and has all the attributes that the Father has. But he is not the first person of the Trinity. All this is concisely affirmed in kai theos en ho logos.” (William D. Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar [Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI 1993], Chapter 6. Nominative and Accusative Definite Article (First and Second Declension), pp. 28-29; bold emphasis ours)

Thus, instead of being ambiguous John 1:1 is one of the clearest and most explicit testimonies to the Deity of the Lord Jesus since it proclaims that Christ is the eternal Logos who had intimate fellowship with God (the Father) even before creation came into being.

In fact the text goes on to identify Christ as the divine Agent of creation, the One whom the Father employed to bring every created thing into existence:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. ALL THINGS came into being THROUGH HIM, and APART FROM HIM NOTHING came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men… There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-4, 9-10, 14 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Here is another translation which helps bring out John’s intended meaning:

“At the beginning God expressed himself. That personal expression, that word, was with God, and was God, and he existed with God from the beginning. All creation took place through him, and none took place without him. In him appeared life and this life was the light of mankind… That was the true light which shines upon every man as he comes into the world. He came into the world—the world he had created—and the world failed to recognise him. He came into his own creation, and his own people would not accept him… So the word of God became a human being and lived among us. We saw his splendour (the splendour as of a father’s only son), full of grace and truth.” J. B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)

In light of the foregoing could John have been any clearer regarding the eternal nature and absolute Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ?

But that’s not all that John has to say regarding Christ’s Deity.

For instance, in this very same Gospel one of Jesus’ disciples makes an explicit Christological confession which equates the risen Lord with Yahweh God:   

“Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and place my finger in the mark of the nails, and place my hand in his side, I will not believe.’ Eight days later, his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. The doors were shut, but Jesus came and stood among them, and said, ‘Peace be with you.’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side; do not be faithless, but believing.’ Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God (ho kyrios mou kai ho theos mou)! Jesus said to him, ‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.’” John 20:24-29

After seeing the resurrected Christ Thomas worships him as his Lord and his God, with the risen Lord blessing this proclamation as a sign of true belief.

What makes this act of worship truly astonishing is that Thomas’ statement resembles that of the prophet David who made a similar confession in a prayer to Yahweh his God:  

“Awake, O Lord, and attend to my judgment, [even] to my cause, my God and my Lord (ho theos mou kai ho kyrios mou).” Psalm 34[Heb. 35]:23 LXX

Just as remarkable is that the Israelites were absolutely forbidden from looking to any other god besides Yahweh since they were expressly told that Yahweh is the only God that they were to worship and obey:

“And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me.’” Exodus 20:1-3

“(for you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),” Exodus 34:14

Hence, the only way that Jesus could ever accept Thomas’ confession that he is his Lord and his God is if Christ actually believed himself to be (and actually was/is) Yahweh God Incarnate. Otherwise, both Thomas and the risen Lord would be guilty of blaspheming Yahweh if in fact Christ wasn’t actually God in the flesh.

Another way that this Gospel identifies Jesus as Yahweh Incarnate is through the “I Am” statements (Gr. ego eimi) of Christ, some examples of which include the following:

“Jesus knew everything that was to happen to him, so he went out and asked, ‘Who are you looking for?’ They answered, ‘Jesus the Nazarene.’ He said to them, ‘I Am.’ (Judas, his betrayer, was standing with them.)  When he said, ‘I Am,’ they shrank back and fell to the ground.’” John 18:4-6 Common English Bible (CEB) – cf. 4:26; 6:20; 13:19

The Lord’s use of the “I Am” forces the soldiers to fall backwards to the ground, clearly showing that the Evangelist intends this to be more than a simple response to their reply that they were looking for Jesus. Here is another:

“He said to them, ‘You are from below; I’m from above. You are from this world; I’m not from this world. This is why I told you that you would die in your sins. If you don’t believe that I Am, you will die in your sins.’… So Jesus said to them, ‘When the Human One is lifted up, then you will know that I Am. Then you will know that I do nothing on my own, but I say just what the Father has taught me. He who sent me is with me. He doesn’t leave me by myself, because I always do what makes him happy.” John 8:23-24, 28-29 CEB

Jesus makes salvation dependent on a person realizing that he is the “I Am” who is from above and not from the world below. He also says that his exaltation will result in people realizing that, as the One who is the “I Am,” he is in perfect union with the Father and therefore always does those things that please him. 

This next one is most interesting:

“‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.’ Then the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham? Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.’ Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.” John 8:56-59 NKJV

Jesus claims that he and Abraham saw one another, which caused the patriarch great joy. This shocked the Jews who couldn’t fathom how he could have seen one of Israel’s physical ancestors/progenitors who had been died for approximately two thousand years. The Lord responds by saying that, unlike Abraham who came into existence, he has always been and will always continue to be.

In other words, Jesus used the “I Am” to denote his eternal, timeless existence, a point which is brought out more clearly in the following translations:

“I tell you the truth; I AM before Abraham was born.” John 8:58 The Voice (VOICE)

“‘I tell you in solemn truth,’ returned Jesus, ‘before there was an Abraham, I AM!’” PHILLIPS

“Jesus said to them, ‘For sure, I tell you, before Abraham was born, I was and am and always will be!’” New Life Version (NLV)

Therefore, as someone who is eternal by nature Christ not only existed before Abraham came into being, he even existed before the creation of the world itself!

“Now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I shared with you before the world was created.” John 17:5 CEB

It is little wonder that this claim to eternal existence has led many scholars to see a direct connection between Jesus’ words here with what God told Moses at the burning bush:

“Then Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” what shall I say to them?’ God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.” And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, “I am has sent me to you.”’” Exodus 3:13-14

Thus, the same “I Am” that appeared to Moses had now become a flesh and blood human being in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ!

These are just some of the many ways in which John’s Gospel identifies Christ as the eternal God himself who had become a flesh and blood human being.

We are not through yet since we have more to say in the next part.