Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Trinity in the Holy Bible Pt. 3

Addressing Some Objections to the Deity of Christ

Sam Shamoun

[Part 1 , Part 2, 2b, Part 3, 3b, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6]

Is Jesus Worshiped as God in Luke?

We continue from where we left off.

In this section we will be addressing Joseph Islam’s attempt of explaining away the text of Luke 24:52 where Jesus’ disciples worship the risen Christ after physically ascending into heaven to be seated at the Father’s right hand as Lord over all creation:

“While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy,” Luke 22:51-52

“But he said to them, ‘How can they say that the Christ is David's son? For David himself says in the Book of Psalms, “The Lord said to my Lord (to kyrio mou), Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet.” David thus calls him Lord; so how is he his son?’” Luke 20:41-44 RSV(1)

“And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.’” Acts 1:9-11

“Brethren, I may say to you confidently of the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens; but he himself says, 'The Lord said to my Lord (to kyrio mou), Sit at my right hand, till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet.' Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Acts 2:29-36 RSV(1)

“The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)… And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.” Acts 10:36, 42

Islam writes:

As with the Quran, for an avid student / academic, one must attempt to study from the classical texts. The Greek 'Proskuneo' does not exclusively mean ‘worship’. The term is clearly nuanced as Greek lexicons clearly attest to simply imply 'reverence' / 'respect':

1. to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence
among the Orientals, esp. the Persians, to fall upon the knees and touch the ground with the forehead as an expression of profound reverence
in the NT by kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication
used of homage shown to men and beings of superior rank
to the Jewish high priests
to God
to Christ
to heavenly beings
to demons [1]


[1] - [online] [Accessed] 19th February 2013

Instead of quoting lexicons to show that the word proskyneo has a broad range of meaning, a point which no informed Christian denies, what Islam needed to do was prove from the context of Luke itself that the worship given to Christ was nothing more than homage or obeisance shown to an exalted figure, as opposed to worship which is to be given to God alone.  

The problem that Islam faces is that both the immediate and overall contexts of Luke’s writings clearly show that Jesus was being worshiped as God, or more specifically as the unique, divine Son of God who is essentially coequal with God the Father. Yet before we delve into the evidence it is vitally important that we quote more of the context of Luke 24:52 in order to see what it can tell us about Christ: 

“While they were telling these things, He Himself stood in their midst and said to them, ‘Peace be to you.’ But they were startled and frightened and thought that they were seeing a spirit. And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them. Now He said to them, ‘These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed IN HIS NAME to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I AM SENDING FORTH THE PROMISE OF MY FATHER UPON YOU; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.’ And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God.” Luke 24:36-53

With the foregoing in perspective we can now respond to Islam’s assertion.

To begin with, in Luke’s writings proskyneo is only employed in a religious sense, as worship that is to be given to God alone, just as the following text affirms:

“And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, ‘I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. Therefore if You worship (proskyneses) before me, it shall all be Yours.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, “YOU SHALL WORSHIP (proskyneseis) THE LORD YOUR GOD AND SERVE HIM ONLY.”’” Luke 4:5-8

This explains why Christ’s disciples such as Peter refused to accept proskyneo since he was a man and not God:

“When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him (prosekynesen). But Peter raised him up, saying, Stand up; I TOO AM JUST A MAN.’” Acts 10:25-26

The Apostles Paul and Barnabas responded the same way when the people at Lystra tried to offer sacrifices to them after miraculously healing someone there:

“At Lystra a man was sitting who had no strength in his feet, lame from his mother's womb, who had never walked. This man was listening to Paul as he spoke, who, when he had fixed his gaze on him and had seen that he had faith to be made well, said with a loud voice, ‘Stand upright on your feet.’ And he leaped up and began to walk. When the crowds saw what Paul had done, they raised their voice, saying in the Lycaonian language, The gods have become like men and have come down to us.’ And they began calling Barnabas, Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker. The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates, and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out and saying, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? WE ARE ALSO MEN OF THE SAME NATURE AS YOU, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, WHO MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM.’” Acts 14:8-15

This means that as far Luke is concerned proskyneo has no other meaning than religious worship which men are to render to God alone. As such, Jesus could only receive and accept worship if he is God in essence. This is why the following NT scholar could say that Luke held to a rather high Christology: 

24:52. Then they worshiped him. Compare Matt 28:17. This should be retained in the text. See comments on 24:36. In light of Luke 4:7-8 the disciples' worship of Jesus demonstrates that Luke's Christology is a high one indeed. Compare 5:20-26; 7:47-50. (Robert H. Stein, Luke: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture (New American Commentary) [B & H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN 1992], Volume 24, p. 624; italic and underline emphasis ours)


“A second emphasis is Christological. He who was heralded before his birth as Son of God and Christ (1:32-33)–who referred to himself as the Son of Man, is called 'Lord,' Son of God, prophet, and king–has finished his earthly ministry and entered his glory. He now sits at God's right hand (22:69; Acts 7:55-56). What the disciples believed and confessed in faith, that Jesus was 'Lord,' is now a reality. Jesus ascended to his rightful place at God's right hand. When he returns, it will be as Lord, King, and Judge over creation. The days of his humiliation have ceased. His physical presence with his church has come to an end. The period of salvation history inaugurated in Christ's coming has now entered a new stage. The exalted Christ will send ('has sent' for Luke's readers) his Spirit upon his church. In this sense it was better for his disciples to have him depart, for now he could send the promise of the Father upon them (cf. John 17:7). Thus, although Jesus had physically departed from his disciples, he would be present with them through his Spirit and in the breaking of bread (Luke 24:35). God's kingdom, which was manifested in Jesus' ministry, would come in a new way as his disciples experienced the baptism of the Spirit and tasted the firstfruits of God's kingdom (cf. 2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13). The worship of Jesus in Luke 24:52 brings the Christology of the Gospel to its culmination. 'Who is this Jesus?' is now fully answered. Plevnik notes: 'In the temptation accounts, Luke 4:8, Jesus answers Satan's request for worship by quoting Deut 6:13: "You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve." We find confirmation of this in Acts 10:25-26. Accordingly, worship is not be given to Satan or to any man, but only to God. The disciples' worshiping Jesus is thus their acknowledgment of his divinity.'"(Ibid., p. 625; bold emphasis ours)

We will revisit the issue of Jesus sending forth God’s Spirit shortly.

This brings me to my second point. The disciples were not worshiping or bowing down in front of someone who was physically standing before them. Rather, they were worshiping Jesus AFTER he had physically ascended into heaven, which rules out the possibility that they were merely showing honor or obeisance to someone whom they thought was a highly exalted figure like king David, but not God. This makes their act religious in nature, since even Muslims acknowledge that the only one in heaven that is to be worshiped and adored is God, a fact with which the OT agrees:

Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.” Psalm 73:25

To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens! Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, So our eyes look to the Lord our God, Until He is gracious to us.” Psalm 123:1-2

This explains why some of the finest Biblical expositors took Luke 24:52 as an explicit case of Jesus being worshiped as God:

They worshipped him – The word “worship” does not “always” denote religious homage. See the notes at Matthew 2:11. Compare Luke 14:10. But here it is to be remarked,

1. That they offered this worship to an “absent” Saviour. It was “after” he left them and had vanished out of their sight. It was, therefore, an act of religion, and was the “first” religious homage that was paid to Jesus after he had left the world.

2. If “they” worshipped an absent Saviour – a Saviour unseen by the bodily eye, it is right for “us” to do it. It was an example which we “may and should” follow.

3. If worship may be rendered to Jesus, he is divine. See Exodus 20:4-5. (Albert Barne’s Notes on the Whole Bible; bold emphasis ours)

They worshipped him – Let it be observed that this worship was not given by way of civil respect, for it was after he was parted from them, and carried back into heaven, that they offered it to him; but acts of civil respect are always performed in the presence of the person. They adored him as their God, and were certainly too much enlightened to be capable of any species of idolatry. (Adam Clarke Commentary; bold emphasis ours)

And they worshipped him,.... Not with a civil worship, as he was sometimes worshipped by men, in the days of his flesh, who, though they took him for some extraordinary person, knew him not to be the Son of God; but with religious worship as God: for by his resurrection from the dead, Christ was declared to be the Son of God, and both by that, and by his going to his Father, his ascension to heaven, the disciples were more confirmed in his proper deity, and divine sonship; and therefore worshipped him as God; by calling upon his name, ascribing blessings and honour, and glory, to him; by making him the object of their reverence and fear; and by trusting in him; and by doing every religious act in his name, and which they ever after continued to do: (John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible; bold emphasis ours)

Third, all throughout Luke’s writings Jesus identifies himself as the Son of Man in contexts which clearly point to his Deity:

“For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Luke 9:26

“And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” Luke 21:27 RSV

“When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes; and they led him away to their council, and they said, ‘If you are the Christ, tell us.’ But he said to them, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.’ And they all said, ‘Are you the Son of God, then?’ And he said to them, ‘You say that I am.’ And they said, ‘What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.’” Luke 22:66-71 RSV

These examples attest that Jesus was basically identifying himself as that particular Son of Man whom the prophet Daniel saw in a vision:

“I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him (yiplechun). His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14

It is evident from what Daniel says here that this specific Son of Man is a divine Being appearing in human form, or as a man, since he is worshiped in the same way that God is worshiped, rides the clouds as God does, and reigns forever just as God does:

“Then the sovereignty, the dominion and the greatness of all the kingdoms under the whole heaven will be given to the people of the saints of the Highest One; HIS kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom, and all the dominions will serve (yiplechun) and obey HIM.” Daniel 7:27

“All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, And all the families of the nations will worship before You. For the kingdom is the LORD'S And He rules over the nations. All the prosperous of the earth will eat and worship, All those who go down to the dust will bow before Him, Even he who cannot keep his soul alive. Posterity will serve Him; It will be told of the Lord to the coming generation.” Psalm 22:27-31

“Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And Your dominion endures throughout all generations.” Psalm 145:1

“He lays the beams of His upper chambers in the waters; He makes the clouds His chariot; He walks upon the wings of the wind;” Psalm 104:3

“The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, And the Lord will by no means leave the guilty unpunished. In whirlwind and storm is His way, And clouds are the dust beneath His feet.” Nahum 1:3 – cf. Exodus 13:21-22; 14:19-20, 24; 33:7-11; 40:34-38; Numbers 10:34; Deuteronomy 33:26; Isaiah 19:1; Matthew 17:5

Therefore, by identifying himself as the Son of Man seen by the prophet Daniel, Jesus was essentially claiming to be God in the flesh and the One who is to be worshiped by all the nations forever. As the late biblical scholar Dr. Gleason L. Archer explained it: 

13-14 At this point in his vision, Daniel saw the glorified Son of Man (v.13). This is the verse from Daniel that the NT quotes most frequently. The personage who now appears before God in the form of a human being is of heavenly origin. He has come to this place of coronation accompanied by the clouds of heaven and is clearly no mere human being in essence. The expression “like a son of man” (kebar ‘enash) identifies the appearance of this final Ruler of the world not only as a man, in contrast to the beasts (the four world empires), but also as the heavenly Sovereign incarnate.

During his earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus maintained this same emphasis on his incarnate nature, viz., that he was true man as well as true God. He constantly referred to himself as “the Son of Man” (i.e., the same one “like a son of man” foretold in Da 7:13). Moreover, v.13 is the only place in the OT where bar enash (or its Hebrew equivalent ben-‘adam) is used of a divine personage rather than a human being… But it should also be noted that Christ himself emphasized his return to the earth “in clouds with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26), or “on [epi] the clouds of the sky” (Matt 24:30), or “sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt 26:64). See also Rev 1:7: “Look, he is coming with [meta, closely corresponding with the Aramaic ‘im of the original] the clouds.” Nothing could be clearer than that Jesus regarded Da 7:13 as predictive of himself and that the two elements “like a son of man” and “with the clouds of heaven” combined to constitute a messianic title. Frequently in the OT God is said to come from heaven in a chariot of clouds to execute judgment (Pss 18:10; 97:2-4; 104:3; Isa 19:1; Nah 1:3)

The messianic Son of Man is brought before the throne of the Ancient of Days (v. 13) to be awarded the crown of universal dominion (v. 14). This refers, not to his inherent sovereignty over the universe as God the Son (as consubstantial and coeternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit), but to his appointment as absolute Lord and Judge by virtue of his atoning ministry as God incarnate–the one who achieved a sinless life (Isa 53:9), paid the price for man’s redemption (Isa 53:5-6), and was vindicated by his bodily resurrection as Judge of the entire human race (Acts 17:31; Rom 2:16). So also his ascension into heaven means that he will be enthroned in glory (Ps 110:1; Acts 2:33-36) till all his enemies have been subdued (Heb 10:12-13).

The universality of the rule of the Son of Man is emphasized in v. 14… Christ is to be the supreme source of political power on earth after his earthly kingdom is established; and all humans whatever their race, nationality, ethnic origin, or language, will worship and serve him (leh yiplehun), pelah being equivalent to the cultic use of the Heb. ‘abad)… The final outcome of human history will be a return of Adam’s race under the rule of the divine Son of Man to loving obedience and subjection to the sovereignty of God, never again to fall away from him. (Jesus probably had v. 14 in mind when he told his disciples at the Great Commission, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” [Matt 28:18). (Gleason L. Archer, “Daniel,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary with the New International Version, Frank E. Gaebelein (general editor) [Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI 1985], Volume 7: Daniel and the Minor Prophets, pp. 90-91; underline emphasis ours)

Archer also did a fine job of refuting the assertion of some liberal scholars that Daniel’s Son of Man is not an individual, but a symbol of the corporate people of God:

“Many liberal scholars (e.g., Montgomery, p. 319) take this cloud-borne son of man to be mere personification of the Jewish people as a holy nation and point to vv. 22, 27 (which speak of the ‘saints’ or ‘the saints of the Most High’ as taking possession of the kingdom). It is quite true that the ‘saints (qaddishe ‘elyonin, lit. ‘the holy ones of the Most High’), are to share in the eternal triumph of their all-conquering Lord (v. 22 says they ‘possessed the kingdom’), and that in the millennial kingdom they will have dominion over all the surviving nations on earth (v. 27), as well as in the eternal phase that will ensue after the Millennium is over. But it is plain that this vision makes a clear difference between the Son of Man and his people. Verse 21 states that these same ‘saints’ are locked in combat with the world dictator and are defeated by him in the earthly scene of battle; whereas the Son of Man comes from heaven in a chariot of clouds before the presence of God himself, and there without any prior warfare he is crowned sovereign over all the earth (v. 14). As Keil (KD, Daniel, p. 235) points out: ‘But the delivering of the kingdom to the people of God does not, according to the prophetic mode of contemplation, exclude the Messiah as its king, but much rather includes Him, inasmuch as Daniel, like the other prophets, knows nothing of a kingdom without a head, a Messianic kingdom without a King Messiah.’ Therefore it is out of the question to suppose that here only in the OT do we have a kingdom without a king, or that an earthly people could be represented as coming down from heaven in the clouds of the sky. Therefore the identification of the ‘son of man’ as the entire nation of Israel is untenable, not only because it contradicts the teaching of Christ himself (who appropriated this title to himself alone), but also because it is exegetically wrong to assume an author guilty of self-contradiction when an easy harmonization is available.” (Ibid., pp. 90-91; bold emphasis ours)

“… Observe that here the followers of the Son of Man are spoken of (v. 27) as ‘the saints, the people of the Most High’ (’am qaddishe elyonin), indicating that the Son of Man (v. 13) is to be equated with the Most High himself. Observe also that a clear difference is made between the plural ‘saints’’ and the singular ‘him’ in the final clause (‘and all rulers will worship and obey him [leh]’), the one who is called ‘the Most High’ (‘elyonin being plural of majesty, like the Heb. ‘elohim, “God”), whose kingdom will be an everlasting kingdom – words not applicable to a finite human being. Hence no possibility remains of equating the nations of ‘saints’ with the ‘Son of Man’ in v. 13, there being a definite distinction here in v. 27 between the Most High and his people.” (Ibid., pp. 94-95; bold emphasis ours)

This explains why the first Christian martyr worshiped Jesus in the same way that the OT saints worshiped Yahweh:

“But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God; and he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’ But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’ Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’ Having said this, he fell asleep.” Acts 7:55-60

Now compare this with the following OT passage:

“For You are my rock and my fortress; For Your name's sake You will lead me and guide me. You will pull me out of the net which they have secretly laid for me, For You are my strength. Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have ransomed me, O LORD, God of truth.” Psalm 31:3-5

Stephen knew that, as the exalted Son of Man, Jesus was worthy of the very worship due to God, which is why he prayed to him in the same way that the Psalmist prayed to Yahweh God. Being filled with the Holy Spirit, Stephen was aware that Christ is the divine Son of Man whom all the nations of the earth must worship.

We are not through yet with Luke’s testimony since there is more to come in the next installment.


(1) By identifying Christ as David’s Lord (to kyrio mou) who sits enthroned at God’s right hand, both Jesus and Peter were essentially stating that Christ rules over creation from God’s own heavenly throne, a fact which even liberal critical scholars readily admit:   

“We need not suppose that Jesus was denying his own descent from David, which the new Testament elsewhere abundantly affirms (Matt. 120, Luke 127, 24, Rom. 13, Rev. 55, 2216). Nor is it likely that he regarded Davidic descent as totally irrelevant to the status of the Messiah, for the whole messianic hope had its origin in God’s promise to David that there would never be lacking a son to sit upon his throne – a promise which was projected into the eschatological future when the dynasty of David was dethroned in 586 B.C. (2 Sam. 78-16, Ps. 893-4, Isa. 92-7, 111-10, Jer. 235-6, Ezek. 3423-24, 3724-25, Amos 911, Mic. 52, Zech. 126-131). He means that the Son of David, is, by itself, an inadequate and misleading description of the Messiah, and that the Old Testament contains intimations that the Coming One will be a far more exalted figure who, instead of merely occupying the throne of David, will share the throne of God.” (George B. Caird, The Gospel of St Luke: The Penguin New Testament Commentaries [Penguin Books, Reprint 1990], p. 226; bold emphasis ours)

However, the only Lord that a monotheistic Jew like David could ever acknowledge, especially one who is said to rule from heaven itself, is Yahweh God:

“Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God. Yahweh is one.” Deuteronomy 6:4 World English Bible (WEB)

Hear, O Israel, The Lord (kyrios) our God is one Lord (kyrios heis esti). LXX

“Preserve me, God, for in you do I take refuge. My soul, you have said to Yahweh, ‘You are my Lord (Adonay). Apart from you I have no good thing.’” Psalm 16:1-2 WEB

[A writing of David.] Keep me, O Lord; for I have hoped in thee. I said to the Lord, Thou art my Lord (kyrios mou); for thou has no need of my goodness.” Psalm 15:1-2 LXX

Yahweh has established his throne in the heavens. His kingdom rules over all.” Psalm 103:19 WEB

This also poses serious problems for Muslims such as Joseph Islam since the Quran denies that Allah would ever allow a true prophet to be worshiped as Lord by his followers:

And neither did he bid you to take the angels and the prophets for your lords: [for] would he bid you to deny the truth after you have surrendered yourselves unto God? S. 3:80 Muhammad Asad

And yet according to the Holy Bible, both the OT saints and prophets such as David and Christ’s own followers worshiped Jesus as their sovereign Lord.