Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Examining More of Abdullah Kunde’s Inconsistencies Pt. 2

Sam Shamoun

We continue with our analysis of Kunde's inconsistencies and distortions of the Holy Bible.

The Divine Son of Man and unique Son of God

In the debate, God of the Old Testament: Jesus or Allah?, Samuel Green mentioned that the Son of Man of Daniel 7:13-14 is worshiped and praised. Here is how Kunde responded:

“Now Daniel 7, the beauty of Daniel 7 and the prophecy here, is that Daniel actually asks in the very same chapter the angel that he is with to explain it to him. So if we read Daniel 7, verse 23 onwards to the end of the chapter 28, the angel explains that this prophecy is referring to a kingdom, not to an individual personality, but to a kingdom. You can read that, that’s in your own book. I’m not making it up, okay.” (*)

Kunde argues that the Son of Man is a symbol of the kingdom, or more specifically of the people of God who receive the kingdom, and therefore is not an individual.

However, in the Q&A session Kunde went on to contradict himself:

“Secondly, I’m glad you brought up the Revelation quote because it says ‘like a son of man coming on the cloud,’ and this is obviously a direct reference to Daniel 7. And who is the son of man coming on the cloud in a vision before Daniel? It’s an angel, okay. Now I think that if you read particularly the three synoptic Gospels and then the Gospel according to John with the understanding that, we sort of have a development from Jesus being this really powerful man to being an angelic figure – if you think angel and not God particularly when you’re coming to the Gospel according to John and Revelation – a lot of these things will make a lot more sense because in Daniel the son of man figure is an angel. And again this is in your own book, I’m not making it up… In terms of the son of man in the Revelation quote, well the son of man coming on the cloud in Daniel is an angel. So is Jesus an angel or is he God? The son of man goes to the ancient of days, the angel goes to God. It’s not even remotely consistent at all if you want to say it’s all God.” (*)

Here, Kunde argues that the Son of Man is an angel, which means that he is an individual personality, thereby contradicting his earlier assertion!

In light of this inconsistency we need to ask what does Kunde really believe about Daniel’s Son of Man? Does he believe that he is a symbol of the kingdom and therefore not an individual? Or does he really view the Son of Man as an angel, which means that he is an actual person and not a mere symbol of God’s kingdom?

Moreover, these contradictory statements expose Kunde’s unwillingness to accept the explicit Biblical evidence that the God of Israel is multi-personal in nature and that the Messiah is a divine Person who appears as (and actually becomes) a human being.

Kunde’s statements further expose his circular reasoning in that he assumes unitarianism and then proceeds to read this assumption back into the OT Scriptures in order to avoid having to admit that passages such as Daniel 7 do affirm that the one true God is a multi-personal Being.

For instance, his assertion that the Son of Man approaching the Ancient of Days somehow means that the former is not God imposes a unitarian interpretation upon the text. Kunde’s understanding is based on the assumption that God is uni-personal, which means that since the Son of Man is a figure that is distinct from the Ancient of Days, a title for God, he therefore cannot be God (at least in Kunde’s mind).

Kunde’s presuppositions can be seen more clearly from what he says concerning the Son of Man in another debate he had with Green:

“If we want to consider Daniel 7 and the Son of Man figure, well first of all we have the Ancient of Days described as being an old man with white hair and a long beard. This is God! And then we have the Son of Man come to him riding on a cloud. Two totally separate bodies, two separate individuals. Now the Son of Man is not worshiped [sic] but he’s given a kingdom. And indeed then the angel that is with Daniel explains his whole vision to him; the point of it is that it’s metaphorical, okay. So first of all there is a distinction between God and the Son of Man, the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man; so it can’t match up with Christian theology (sic). And secondly the angel explains the vision indicating that it’s all metaphorical. So it’s not a great use on Samuel’s part, and indeed you can read that yourself, Daniel 7 and onwards from verse 9.” (Islam v. Christianity Debate: Tawheed vs. Trinity)

The problem with this gross misreading of Daniel is that it either misunderstands or deliberately distorts Christian theology. Since the doctrine of the Trinity teaches that there is more than one divine Person how can Kunde therefore argue that Daniel’s depiction of the Son of Man as a figure who is personally distinct from the Ancient of Days does not comport with Christian theology?

It also ignores the evidence which clearly establishes that the Son of Man is neither a created angel nor a symbol for the saints of the Most High or their kingdom. Rather, the Son of Man is truly a divine Being that rules forever over the kingdom that God will eventually grant to his saints. At the same time, Daniel depicts the Son of Man as a divine entity who is personally distinct from the Ancient of Days, the other divine figure that Daniel saw.

We will quote the immediate context of Daniel 7 so as to get a clearer picture of who or what the Son of Man is supposed to be:

As I looked, THRONES were placed and the Ancient of Days took his SEAT; his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his THRONE was fiery flames, its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came forth from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened… In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped (yipelachun) him. His DOMINION is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his KINGDOM is one that will never be destroyed.” Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14

The first thing to notice is that the prophet sees thrones being set in place and then sees a figure whom he calls the Ancient of Days sitting on one of them. This means that there is at least one more throne for someone else to occupy. That someone else happens to be the Son of the Man, which brings us to our next point.

Notice that Daniel says that the Son of Man will come on the clouds of heaven and that all the nations shall worship/serve (yipelachun) him.

What makes this interesting is that, throughout the OT and ancient near eastern (ANE) literature, the cloud(s) was/were seen as the vehicle of the God/gods. For instance, in ANE mythology Baal, the storm god and son of El, was known as the rider of the clouds. And as far as the OT is concerned, it is Yahweh who rides on the clouds of heaven:

“There is none like God, O Jesh'urun, who rides through the heavens to your help, and in his majesty through the skies. The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms. And he thrust out the enemy before you, and said, Destroy.” Deuteronomy 33:26-27

“Sing to God, sing praises to his name; lift up a song to him who rides upon the clouds; his name is the LORD, exult before him! … Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth; sing praises to the Lord, [Selah] to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens; lo, he sends forth his voice, his mighty voice. Ascribe power to God, whose majesty is over Israel, and his power is in the skies.” Psalm 68:4, 32-34

“who has laid the beams of your chambers on the waters, who makes the clouds your chariot, who rides on the wings of the wind,” Psalm 104:3

“An oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.” Isaiah 19:1

“The LORD is slow to anger and of great might, and the LORD will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” Nahum 1:3 – cf. Exodus 13:21-22; 14:19-20, 24; 33:7-11; 40:34-38; Numbers 10:34

Even Allah himself rides in the clouds!

Do they then wait for anything other than that Allah should come to them in the shadows of the clouds and the angels? (Then) the case would be already judged. And to Allah return all matters (for decision). S. 2:210 Hilali-Khan

This provides strong evidence that the Son of Man is a fully divine Person who has assumed or taken on human appearance.

Moreover, the Aramaic verb used for the worship/service which the Son of Man receives, namely pelach, always refers to the worship that is given to God alone. This is the type of service which priests offered to God in the temple (cf. Ezra 7:24). It is also the kind of worship which Daniel and his three friends refused to give to any one other than their own God. They were even willing to die for their conviction that Yahweh alone was worthy to receive such glory and honor (cf. Daniel 3:12, 14, 17-18, 28; 6:16, 20).

In fact, Daniel 7 itself uses this very same verb for the service/worship that all the kings of the earth will eventually render unto the Most High:

“Then the sovereignty, power and greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be handed over to the saints, the people of the Most High. His kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all rulers will worship (yipelachun) and obey him.” Daniel 7:27

Thus, God commands and expects all the nations to worship the Son of Man in the same exact way that they worship him!

Now unless Kunde wants to claim that the saints or a created spirit messenger shall receive the same exact worship that God receives, thereby implying that God is commanding people to commit idolatry by worshiping a creature, it is clear that the Son of Man CANNOT be a symbol of God’s holy ones or their kingdom. Rather, the Son of Man is a fully divine figure who represents the people of God. Nor can he be a created messenger like the angels Gabriel or Michael.

Our third point is really a continuation of the above. The Greek translation of Daniel renders pelach as latreuo, thereby indicating that the Jewish translators viewed this latter term as the Greek equivalent of the Aramaic verb.

In light of this it is vitally important to note that whenever latreuo is used in a positive sense, whether in the Old or New Testament, it always refers to the worship which must be given to God alone. When it is used negatively it refers to individuals who wrongly worship others besides the one true God.

In fact, according to the Lord Jesus himself latreuo can only be given to God:

“Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and SERVE him ONLY (kai auto MONO LATREUSEIS).”’” Matthew 4:10; cf. Luke 4:8

Thus, the only way for the Son of Man to receive pelach/latreuo is if he is a fully divine Person. This again proves that he simply cannot be a symbol for the kingdom of God’s saints, nor can he be a created angel, since no creature can ever be given pelach/latreuo with God's approval since this would be idolatry.

Fourthly, according to the oldest Jewish interpretation the Son of Man is a preexistent, heavenly being and Israel’s Messiah. This can be seen by simply reading the Jewish pseudepigraphal writings known as 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra. According to both of these works, the Son of Man is a heavenly messianic figure dwelling in God’s presence that shall be revealed at the last day.

As the liberal Biblical scholar John J. Collins explains:

“IV. Traditional Interpretations. The earliest interpretations and adaptations of the ‘one like a human being,’ Jewish and Christian alike, assume that the phrase refers to an individual and IS NOT a symbol for a collective entity.263 In the Similitudes of Enoch (1En 46:1), the white-headed ‘head of days’ is accompanied by one ‘whose face had the appearance of a man, and his face [was] full of grace, like one of the holy angels.’ He is explicitly called ‘messiah,’ or anointed one, in 48:10; 52:4, and ‘his name was named’ before creation (48:3). In 4 Ezra 13 the man who rises from the sea and flies with the clouds of heaven is also a messianic figure, but like ‘that Son of Man’ in the Similitudes, he is a preexistent, supernatural figure (13:26; ‘This is he whom the Most High has been keeping for many ages’). The messianic interpretation prevails in rabbinic literature264 and remains the majority of opinion among the medieval Jewish commentators. The tradition is not entirely uniform. In some circles the two figures in Dan 7:9-14 were taken as two manifestations of God, apparently to the heretical view that they represented two powers in heaven. The collective interpretation is not clearly attested in Jewish circles until the Middle Ages… In summary, the traditional interpretations of the ‘one like a human being’ in the first millennium overwhelmingly favor the understanding of this figure as an individual, not as a collective symbol. The most usual identification was the messiah, but in the earliest adaptations of the vision (the Similitudes, 4 Ezra, the Gospels) the figure in question had a distinctly supernatural character.” (Hermeneia – A Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible, A Commentary on the Book of Daniel, by John J. Collins with an essay, “The Influence of Daniel on the New Testament,” by Adela Yarbro Collins, edited by Frank Moore Cross [Fortress Press, Minneapolis 1993], pp. 306-308)

263… Montgomery (320), who argues for the collective interpretation, nonetheless writes, “It must be admitted that the earliest interpretation of ‘the Son of Man’ is Messianic.” See also Vermes, Jesus the Jew, 170-172; and the list of passages in H. L. Strack and P. Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch (Munich: Beck, 1922) 1.486.

264. Undisputed examples include b. Sanh. 98a; Num. Rab. 13:14; ‘Aggadat Ber’esit 14:3; 23:1 (Casey, Son of Man, 80). It is probably implied in Akiba’s explanation of the plural “thrones” as one for God and one for David, which we noted at v. 9, above (so, e.g., Montgomery, 321). Casey (Son of Man, 87) points out that it is not a necessary inference in the case of Akiba, but his arguments do not lessen its probability… (Pp. 306-307; underline emphasis ours)

As Collins shows, there simply isn’t any early extant textual evidence which interprets the Son of Man as a mere symbol for the saints of the Most High. All the data that we have confirm that the Son of Man is an individual personality, one who has been dwelling in God’s very own presence even before the creation of the universe.

Collins has a lot more to say about this issue, all of which can be found in the following rebuttal to Shabir Ally.

Finally, the identity of the Son of Man is settled by the testimony of Christ himself (at least for Christians who believe the Gospel). The Lord Jesus claimed that he was the Son of Man whom Daniel saw coming on the clouds of heaven:

“At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.” Mark 13:26-27

“Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” Mark 14:61b-62

As the divine Son of Man, Jesus has been entrusted with all judgment so that everyone will recognize his divine authority and worship him in the same way that they worship the Father:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by MY Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46

“Jesus gave them this answer: ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do ONLY WHAT HE SEES HIS FATHER DOING, because WHATEVER the Father does THE SON ALSO DOES. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, EVEN SO THE SON GIVES LIFE TO WHOM HE IS PLEASED TO GIVE IT. 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. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, 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. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge BECAUSE HE IS THE SON OF MAN. Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear HIS [THE SON’S] VOICE and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.’” John 5:19-29

Since Jesus clearly testified that he himself is the Danielic Son of Man the issue is therefore closed as far as true believers are concerned.

The above evidence conclusively proves that Daniel’s Son of Man is not a mere symbol nor is he a created angel. Rather, the Son of Man is a fully divine Being that appears as a man. Furthermore, Daniel’s depiction of two distinct divine Persons, i.e. the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man, who are worshiped in the same exact way and who sit enthroned forever, serves as a powerful OT witness to the fact that the God of the OT prophets is not a uni-personal Being. Rather, Daniel’s testimony confirms that the inspired OT writers knew and believed that the one true God is multi-personal in nature. Finally, by identifying himself as that very same Son of Man whom Daniel saw, the Lord Jesus was basically claiming to be God in the flesh, the eternal divine King whom all creatures must and will eventually worship:

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and EVERY TONGUE acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

“And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’ Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’ Then I heard EVERY CREATURE in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: ‘To him who sits on the throne AND TO THE LAMB be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!’ The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.” Revelation 5:8-14

This concludes our refutation of Kunde’s objections against the blessed and glorious Trinity.

Further Reading

God's Uni-plurality and the Cohortative Mood
Trinity: plural references to God in the Old Testament: Plural nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs
Trinity Proof Texts: Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isa 6:8
The Godhead