Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

More than a prophet

Addressing the claims of an alleged Muslim scholar of Christianity

Sam Shamoun


With this particular rebuttal we officially begin a new section dedicated to addressing and refuting the claims and assertions of Dr. Jerald F. Dirks, a convert to Islam who is being hailed by Muslims as a scholar of the Holy Bible and early Christian history. The readers can go to Dirks’ own website (*) and check out the various books he has either written or contributed to, most of which focus primarily on criticizing the Bible and Christianity with the purpose of convincing the true followers of the risen Lord Jesus that Islam is the only religious alternative they have after they realize that Christianity is “false”. Dr. Dirks’ lectures also have this same purpose in mind, many of which can be viewed on youtube (*).

The Argument and Reply

In one particular book that Dirks contributed several articles to he tries to make a case that Jesus was nothing more than a human prophet by quoting specific NT passages where Jesus’ contemporaries testified that he was a prophet. Dirks then proceeds to respond to those Christians who would contend that Christ’s contemporaries misunderstood him,

Having presented the above, it must be acknowledged that the Christian reader will probably be quick to claim that these contemporaries of Jesus were wrong and claim that they misperceived him and did not know him well enough to understand him and his “divine” nature. It is instructive to note, however, that neither Jesus nor the authors of the New Testament books cited above ever said that the contemporaries of Jesus were wrong in saying he was a prophet. Moreover, in several New Testament passages, Jesus appears to be referring to himself as being a prophet. (Dr. Jerald F. Dirks, Easily Understand Islam, F. Malik (compiler) [Desert Well Network LLC, November 30, 2006], Chapter 15. Jesus: Man and God?, p. 218)

Dirks references the following NT texts to prove his point,

“He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. He who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and he who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.” Matthew 10:40-41

“He went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him. And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom given him? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, ‘a prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.’” Mark 6:1-4; cf. Luke 4:16-24; John 4:43-44

“Nevertheless I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following; for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.” Luke 13:33

As Dirks himself admits, and as the readers can see, Jesus doesn’t come out and explicitly say that he is a prophet in any of these passages. Jesus’ statements certainly imply that he was identifying himself as a prophet, even though he never directly claims that he was. Certainly, there is no recorded instance of Jesus ever using those exact words in reference to himself, e.g., “I am a/the/God’s prophet”. Yet this fact doesn’t prevent Dirks from contending that Jesus was only a human prophet of Allah.

We want the readers to take notice of the two main contentions that Dirks posits to make his case, since his arguments will actually serve the purpose of affirming the historic Christian view of Jesus, not the Islamic (per)version. His first point is that Christ and the NT authors never said that Jesus’ contemporaries were wrong for thinking that he was a prophet. The second argument he proposed is that Christ gave tacit support that he was a prophet by appearing to have referred to himself as such, albeit indirectly.

It is amazing that Dirks overlooks the fact that his very own criteria can actually be used to prove that Jesus believed he was God Incarnate. After all, Jesus’ contemporaries accused him of claiming to be God on more than one occasion, and yet Jesus never once corrected them or said they were mistaken. Moreover, Jesus spoke in such a way as to show that he was claiming to be God (albeit not the Father or the Holy Spirit), since he made specific assertions that no mere God-fearing creature would ever dare to make.

Here is an example of Jesus speaking in such a manner that caused his contemporaries to assume that he was making himself out to be God without Christ ever correcting them:

“After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Hebrew called Beth-za'tha, which has five porticoes. In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed. One man was there, who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’ The sick man answered him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.’ And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked. Now that day was the sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who was cured, ‘It is the sabbath, it is not lawful for you to carry your pallet.’ But he answered them, ‘The man who healed me said to me, “Take up your pallet, and walk.”’ They asked him, ‘Who is the man who said to you, “Take up your pallet, and walk”?’ Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place. Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, ‘See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you.’ The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews persecuted Jesus, because he did this on the sabbath. But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is working still, and I am working.’ This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God.” John 5:1-18

The Lord justifies his miraculous healing of the man on the Sabbath on the grounds that he has the same Divine right to work on this sacred day as his Father does, a right which no creature could claim to have! This is similar to Christ saying that he, as the Son of Man, is the Lord of the Sabbath,

“I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of man is lord of the sabbath.’” Matthew 12:6-8

Astonishingly, in this very same context Jesus makes himself out to be greater than the very temple of God, the place where God’s presence dwelt!

“So he who swears by the altar, swears by it and by everything on it; and he who swears by the temple, swears by it and by him who dwells in it; and he who swears by heaven, swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.” Matthew 23:20-22

And instead of correcting the Jews Christ goes on to assert his essential coequality with the Father in the most direct way imaginable:

“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself is doing; and greater works than these will he show him, that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, EVEN AS they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. Truly, truly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself, and has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of man. Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment.” John 5:19-29

Christ claims to be the Son of God who can do whatever the Father does, such as give life and raise the dead both spiritually and physically. Christ further ascribes to himself the unique characteristics that God alone has, such as possessing life within himself, and says that everyone must grant him exactly the same honor that the Father receives.

Nor is this the only time where Christ claims to possess the exclusive attributes of God:

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not 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 him who comes to me I will not cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me; and this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that every one who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.’ The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, ‘I am the bread which came down from heaven.’ They said, ‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?’ … So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.’” John 6:35-42, 53-54 

Here, Jesus reiterates the assertion he made in the previous chapter that he is the One who gives life and resurrects the dead at the last day! And:

“Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. I and the Father are one.’ The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone me?’ The Jews answered him, ‘It is not for a good work that we stone you but for blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God.’” John 10:25-30

Anyone familiar with the inspired Hebrew Scriptures can see that Jesus spoke of himself in the same way that Yahweh does. For instance, according to the OT none can deliver out of Yahweh’s hand and he is the One who gives life and raises the dead from their graves:

“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; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” Deuteronomy 32:39

“There is none holy like the LORD, there is none besides thee; there is no rock like our God… The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.” 1 Samuel 2:2, 6

“‘You are my witnesses,’ says the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. I, I am the LORD, and besides me there is no savior. I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,’ says the LORD. ‘I am God, and also henceforth I am He; there is none who can deliver from my hand; I work and who can hinder it?’” Isaiah 43:10-13

I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death. Where, O death, are your plagues? Where, O grave, is your destruction? I will have no compassion,” Hosea 13:14

We are further told that the people of God are the sheep of his hand, i.e. elect individuals whom he preserves by his power, and who are commanded to listen to his voice:

“O come, let us worship and bow down, let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. O that today you would hearken to his voice!” Psalm 95:6-7

Jesus even raised a man who had been dead for four days to prove that he actually possessed these exclusive characteristics of God himself and could really do what only God does:

“Now a certain man was ill, Laz'arus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Laz'arus was ill. So the sisters sent to him, saying, ‘Lord, he whom you love is ill.’ But when Jesus heard it he said, ‘This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it.’ Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Laz'arus… Thus he spoke, and then he said to them, ‘Our friend Laz'arus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep.’ The disciples said to him, ‘Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.’ Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. Then Jesus told them plainly, ‘Laz'arus is dead; and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’ … When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary sat in the house. Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha said to him, ‘I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am THE resurrection and THE life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.’ … Jesus said, ‘Take away the stone.’ Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, ‘Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not tell you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. I knew that thou hearest me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that thou didst send me.’ When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, ‘Laz'arus, come out.’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go.’” John 11:1-5, 11-15, 20-27, 39-44

Lazarus’ resurrection was supernatural confirmation from God that Christ is indeed the Resurrection and the Life, names and titles which even Islamic theology testifies belong only to Allah:

That is because Allah, He is the Truth, and it is He Who gives life to the dead, and it is He Who is Able to do all things. And surely, the Hour is coming, there is no doubt about it, and certainly, Allah will resurrect those who are in the graves. S. 22:6-7 Hilali-Khan

Look, therefore, at the prints of Allah's mercy (in creation): how He quickeneth the earth after her death. Lo! He verily is the Quickener of the Dead, and He is Able to do all things. S. 30:50 Pickthall

No wonder the Jews thought that Jesus was making himself out to be God Almighty! And yet due notice that the Lord Jesus never once corrected them or said that they were mistaken to think that he was claiming to be God.

Nor did the risen Lord correct Thomas when the latter worshiped him as his Lord and 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!’ 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

He didn’t even correct the disciples when they proclaimed that he was omniscient, an exclusively Divine attribute, but actually agreed with them and plainly testified that he existed in heaven with his Father before the world was created: 

“I have said this to you in figures; the hour is coming when I shall no longer speak to you in figures but tell you plainly of the Father. In that day you will ask in my name; and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from the Father. I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father.’ His disciples said, ‘Ah, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure! Now we know that you know all things, and need none to question you; by this we believe that you came from God.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Do you now believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, every man to his home, and will leave me alone; yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.’ When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee, since thou hast given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him. And this is eternal life, that they know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent. I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which thou gavest me to do; and now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made.’” John 16:25-33, 17:1-5

“He said to him the third time, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ And he said to him, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.’” John 21:17

As if this weren’t enough, some of the very same NT authors that Dirks appeals to refer to Jesus as God and identify him as the Creator and Sustainer of the entire creation: 

“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 were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.” John 1:1-4, 18

“He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for IN HIM all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities -- all things were created THROUGH HIM and FOR HIM. He is before all things, and IN HIM all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Colossians 1:13-20

“See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fulness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” Colossians 2:8-10

“In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” Hebrews 1:1-3

With the foregoing in perspective, it is clear that neither Jesus nor the inspired NT authors ever said that Christ’s contemporaries were wrong in thinking that he was claiming to be God. Moreover, in several New Testament passages Jesus made certain claims that only someone who thought he was God would make, and the inspired writers even call him God and ascribe to him certain Divine functions.

Thus, if Dirks is going to apply his criteria consistently and honestly (which we highly doubt he will) he is going to have to concede and admit that according to the New Testament Jesus and his followers claimed and testified that Christ is the unique Divine Son of God.

Lord Jesus willing, there will be further rebuttals to Dirks’ lectures and published works which shall appear soon.

Unless noted otherwise, all scriptural quotations were taken from the Revised Standard Version (RSV) of the Holy Bible.