A Concise Reply to Christianity - A Muslim
By Dr. Gary Miller
If this booklet were written to announce my conversion to Christianity,
no Christian would complain that it is too blunt. So if I must reject
an aspect of Christianity in a succinct form, let me not be accused
of bluntness either. A Muslim believes in the religion of Jesus
but sees mainline Christianity as a religion constructed about Jesus.
Our protest is against two excesses: The apotheosis of Jesus and
the most frequent missionary tactic directed toward Muslims.
Christians and Muslims who learn something of one another's religion
find that a crucial issue is the nature of Jesus. The majority of
Christians deify Jesus while Muslims say that he was no more than
a prophet of God, a faultless human being. The doctrine of the Trinity
avows that three distinct co-equals are God. In particular, Jesus
is said to be God the Son, or the Son of God. As the Muslim questions
details of this theology, the Christian characteristically forms
a common explanation for our differences: He complains that Muslims
do not understand the Trinity; that we are actually accusing Christians
of Tritheism and other heresies.
So the Muslim seeks clarification of the teaching and asks at every
step: "How could that be so?" For example, we insist that
the term "Son of God" cannot have a literal interpretation.
Sonship and divine nature would be necessary attributes of such
an actuality, but these are incompatible. The first describes a
recipient of life while the second describes One who received life
from no one. These are mutually exclusive requirements then. To
be a son is to be less than divine, and to be divine is to be no
As a discussion proceeds, it is the Christian who will eventually
take refuge in the response: "These are things that we cannot
understand." His assessment of the Muslim's problem becomes
his own confession. The Christian explanation becomes self-defeating
so there is a change of tactic.
He complains that the Muslim refuses to accept what cannot be understood.
But the modified approach is a diversion. Now the concepts of verification
and understanding are confused. To illustrate: Chemical reactions
may be verified but the atom is not thereby understood. Facts are
catalogued but not always explained. This distinction is the key
to our concise reply. It is the Muslim who must redirect the discussion.
Our primary issue is more basic than resolving the incongruities
of Trinitarian doctrine. Rather than ask how the Trinity can be
so, we should ask why it must be so. We ask, "Why must Jesus
be divine? Can we verify the necessity of this belief?"
The Muslim Position
A few centuries ago, European Philosophers commonly felt that a
conjecture was proven if it could be shown to be equivalent to an
assertion made by Aristotle. Unfortunately, such an approach stopped
short of challenging Aristotle and discovering truth. Similarly,
testing the Trinitarian case on what people have said about Jesus
stops short of establishing the integrity of the authorities and
the truth of the matter.
Our purpose here is no more than the illustration that belief in
the Trinity can only be based on Church authority. Many Christians
admit that this is the case while others insist that the teaching
was elaborated by Jesus himself. "Let them produce their proof,"
is the repeated admonition of the Quran, that is, "provide
the documentation that Jesus himself claimed unqualified deity,"
(Quran 21:24). Unless this evidence can be produced, authorities
are subject to challenge. Then the Christian may not evade the Muslim's
questions concerning understanding. The Christian will have no justification
for maintaining an illogical position, unless he is content to rely
on the opinions of men. If he will probe no deeper than this, the
Christian-Muslim dialogue is finished.
For Christians, the only documents accepted as reporting the words
of Jesus are the accounts given in the Bible. We leave the Muslim
attitude toward the Bible for part II of this essay and find our
motivation now in the Quranic verse, "Say: 'O People of the
Book! You have no ground to stand upon unless you stand fast by
the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that has come to you
from your Lord." (Quran 5:68). Christians are advised to support
their claims by citing their books. Thus Muslims believe that no
saying of Jesus can be produced which shows him grasping at equality
with God. The primary issue is not whether Jesus is God. The first
question is whether he said that he was equal to God.
The Bible record of sayings credited to Jesus is quite meager.
After allowance for duplication in the four gospel accounts, these
sayings could be printed in two columns of a newspaper. None of
this handful of texts is an explicit claim of deity. All quotations
are implicit, that is, they require interpretation. We are told
what Jesus said and then told what he meant. So our methodology
takes an obvious form.
It is not our intention or obligation to reinterpret the Bible.
We are satisfied to merely verify that Christian interpretations
are insufficient, ambiguous, or impossible. We mean to argue: 1)
that where the meaning of a quotation is clear, it is still insufficient
to prove that Jesus claimed equality with God; 2) that other quotations
cited are open to various interpretation, ambiguous; 3) and that
still other quotations have been given interpretations that are
impossible. This means the evidence is either inadequate, inconclusive,
or unacceptable, respectively.
The virgin birth of Jesus and the miracles he demonstrated are
cited by some as proof of his divinity. The insufficiency of the
premise is obvious. We need only read the Biblical account of Adam's
creation, without father or mother, and the accounts of miracles
associated with the prophet Elisha (Genesis and 2 Kings chapters
4,5,6). In the case of these two men, no Christian asserts their
divinity, yet each has a qualification in common with Jesus.
Some maintain that Jesus was God because the Hebrew Scriptures
predicted his coming. The inadequacy here is only slightly less
apparent. The ancient Hebrew Scriptures are also cited as predicting
the role of John the Baptist (Malachi chapter 4). These three arguments
are mentioned to show that the ready claims of Christian betray
a selective or forgetful recall of scripture. They know the fact
of virgin birth as well as they know the account of Adam's origins,
yet they interpret the first and overlook the second.
Now to pursue our case indirectly. Does the Bible quote Jesus as
claiming equality with God? Bible texts are produced to show that
Jesus used the terms "son of man", "son of God",
"Messiah", and "savior". But each of these terms
is applied to other individuals in the Bible. Ezekiel was addressed
as "son of man" (Ezekiel chapter 3). Jesus himself speaks
of the peacemakers as "sons of God" (Matthew 5:9). Cyrus
the Persian is called "messiah" at Isaiah 45:1. The duplicity
of translators is manifested here, for they inevitably render only
the meaning of the word "Messiah" which is "anointed".
Where other Bible verses seem to refer to Jesus, they prefer to
transliterate "Messiah" or the Greek equivalent "Christ".
In this way they hope to give the impression that there is only
one Messiah. As for "savior", the word is applied to other
than Jesus (2 Kings 13:5). Christians choose to cite the forty-third
chapter of Isaiah as proof that there is only one savior. Again,
translators have tried to obscure the fact that God is the only
savior in the same ultimate sense that He is our only nourisher
and protector, though men also have these assigned tasks. By over
specifying this pronouncement in Isaiah they hope to have us believe
that God equals savior and Jesus equals savior therefore Jesus equals
God. The conspiracy of modern translation is easily demonstrated.
The King James Bible of 1611 is everywhere available. Compare it
to a more recent translation, say the New American Bible of this
century. In the earlier version we find 2 Kings 13:5 contains the
word "savior", but in the newer version the synonymous
word "deliverer" has been substituted. In fact, "saviours",
the plural, will be found at Obadiah 21 and Nehemiah 9:27. Here
again, by substituting a different word, the connotation of divinity
tied to the word "savior" has been guarded in modern versions
by less than honest translation.
Once more we have exhibited the insufficient warrant of arguments
offered: Those terms said to connote divinity are used of individuals
other than Jesus.
There is a quotation that should be mentioned here also. At John
8:58 it is reported that Jesus said, "Before Abraham was, I
am". Even if Jesus meant to claim by these words that he was
alive before Abraham was, is this sufficient ground to say that
he was divine? If Jesus lived in heaven then came to earth it might
mean something remarkable, but it would not be enough to establish
him as God incarnate. Additionally, it should be noted that these
words are open to other interpretation. Christians do not imagine
that the prophet Jeremiah had a pre-human existence and so they
find a suitable way of interpreting the words of Jeremiah 1:5 which
portray such a situation, if taken literally, Why not apply a similar
understanding in the case of John 8:58?
Some scholars have insisted that in this statement of Jesus just
discussed, he appropriated for himself a divine title. In Exodus
chapter 3, it is reported that God told Moses "I am what I
am," as most English Bibles translate the Hebrew text. At John
8:58 Jesus says, "before Abraham was, I am," as most English
Bibles translate the Greek text. But here is the key to another
deception. The original of the first text is in Hebrew while the
original of the second is in Greek. All but a few of Jesus' words
were recorded in Greek. For two hundred years before the time of
Jesus the Jews used a Greek translation of their Hebrew scriptures,
the Septuagint. This work translated the key phrase "I am"
of Exodus as HO ON. However, the words of Jesus, "I am",
have been given to us in Greek as EGO EIMI. If the gospel writer
of John 8:58 wanted to tell his Greek-speaking audience that Jesus
had imitated God he would have used the familiar words of the Septuagint,
otherwise the point would be lost. The evidence of John 8:58 is
far from conclusive.
There is another Greek word to consider which betrays suppression
or neglect of evidence. At John 10:30 Jesus is quoted as saying
"I and the Father are one." The Greek word translated
"one" is HEN. Certain scholars have insisted that the
only possible understanding of this word is "one in essence
or nature". One need not be a Greek scholar to refute this
unjustified claim. A counter example is sufficient. The same word
is used by Jesus in John 17:11,21,22,23, as he includes his disciples
in this oneness, whatever its meaning.
The most widely translated sentence on earth is said to be Jesus'
statement of John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He
gave His only begotten son..." While Christians wish to say
that the word "only-begotten" gives Jesus special status
among all the "sons of God", again there is a problem
if ambiguity. The same word translated as "only-begotten"
is found at Hebrews 11:17. In this verse the word refers to Isaac.
The Bible itself shows that Isaac's older brother Ishmael outlived
his father (Genesis 25:9). Therefore, at no time was Isaac, strictly
speaking, the only-begotten son of Abraham. Recognizing this, Christian
scholars qualify the meaning of the word in this case and give it
a less than literal interpretation. But if the meaning is subject
to interpretation here, why not also in the passage of John 3:16?
Once more the possibility of ambiguity means that John 3:16 is inconclusive
Whether or not Jesus really used the term "Father" when
speaking of God is another controversy. But here our point is again,
that suck use is inconclusive evidence that God was literally Father
to Jesus. All Christians use the term when addressing God. The Jews
themselves used the term (John 8:41). Jesus told them that the devil
was their father (John 8:44). Of course, he was not speaking literally.
Certain scholars stress the verse of Mark 14:36 where Jesus speaks
the Aramaic word for Father, "Abba". They insist that
this implies a very unique relationship between Jesus and God. This
displays a- schizophrenic forgetfulness. For favorite scripture
passages are Romans 8:14 and Galatians 4:6 where every Christian
is said to use this term of address for God.
An episode is recounted in the twentieth chapter of John and a
certain Thomas is quoted as saving, "My Lord and my God."
In interpreting this, Christians maintain that Thomas was addressing
Jesus by both of these titles. The Muslim would have no objection
to the term "Lord". As the Bible explains, the word means
"master" and Sarah is said to have called her husband
Abraham by this title (Peter 3:6). The suggestion that Thomas addressed
Jesus as literally being God is a different matter. Jesus has already
pointed out that the Hebrew scriptures themselves address men as
"gods" (John 10:34; Psalms 82:6). This would allow for
Thomas' use of the term. However, Paul gave new rules in 1 Corinthians
chapter 8, saying that there are many lords and gods "...yet
for us there is but one God, the Father.... and one Lord, Jesus
Christ..." Christians apply this verse to sort out the ambiguities
of Thomas' expression. But now we are left with an unorthodox doctrine,
namely that Jesus is the Father. This ancient heresy has been branded
by the Church as Patripassianism, Monarchianism, or Sabellianism.
The impossibility of an orthodox interpretation of Thomas is now
The distinction between Father and Son is essential to the doctrine
of the Trinity. This distinction is blurred again when John 14:9
is pressed into service. Here Jesus' reply to a man named Philip
is recorded as, "He who has seen me has seen the Father."
A strictly literal explication would mean the unacceptable doctrine
that Jesus is the Father. So interpreters say that "Father"
is here equivalent to "God". However, we cannot possibly
be obliged to understand that Jesus meant to say that seeing him
was exactly the same as seeing God because he was God. Our reason
is found in the contrariety of John 5:37. Here he told a crowd about
the Father saying, "You have neither heard His voice at any
time not seen his form."
The Total Evidence Did the Jews Understand?
Surprisingly enough, it is often conceded that individual verses
are insufficient, inconclusive, or even unusable in the case made
for the divinity of Jesus. However, there are those who insist that
while any given verse may be deficient, it is the total collection
of all such verses that proves the case. This betrays a misunderstanding
of the reasoning process. Each verse must prove something, or it
is dispensable. Given a verse, we must demand to know exactly what
it does prove, and why. Christian exegesis, the traditional explanation
of scripture, has been exposed as incredible within the church itself.
It has been shown to be enthymemic in the extreme. That is, premises
and conclusions are not clearly stated. (Exactly what is meant by
the "redemption of man" is still not clear to this date.
[This article was written in 1983]) Whether we probe the roots or
the outgrowth of the system, the structure becomes vague. (See for
example, THE MYTH OF GOD INCARNATE, a Christian publication.)
A final argument has been offered based on the understanding of
the Jews. Christians have said that our rebuttal given here is unimportant
because the Jews understood Jesus to grasp at equality with God.
They cite John 5:18, ' ...because ... (he) was calling God his own
Father, making himself equal with God." They pass over the
verses that follow immediately, where Jesus subjected himself to
God, naming those things which God gave him.
They cite the tenth chapter of John where the Jews tried to stone
Jesus for blasphemy. The point of the reply Jesus made is neglected.
He demonstrated to those Jews, by quoting their own scripture, that
they had no grounds for their accusation.
Curiously enough, in their haste to put claims on the lips of Jesus,
part of the Christian church constructs a very confused story. The
Hebrew scriptures made reference to a Messiah and the Church says
this can only mean an incarnate God and so when Jesus spoke of himself
as Messiah he was blaspheming because no man can be God, according
to Hebrew scriptures ... or so the reasoning seems to flow together
There is a legal point to be made here. If the a understood that
the Messiah was to be a man who was equal to God then a man who
claimed to be the Messiah could only be condemned as a false messiah.
He could not be condemned on the grounds that he uttered a statement
which must always be blasphemous in itself. At some future time,
the true Messiah would have to speak the very same words without
being condemned. When certain Jews declared Jesus' words as blasphemy
they could only have meant to condemn him as a false messiah. Any
supposed connection between the word "Messiah" and the
attribute of divinity has no bearing on this matter. (The fact is,
the Jews have never believed that the promised Messiah would be
a man who is equal to God.)
In the second chapter of Mark, Jesus tells a man, "Your sins
are forgiven." The customary interpretation takes the side
of the Jews then present, who asked, "Who can forgive sins
but God Alone?" But the verse at John 12:49, among others,
explains very well how a man could make such a statement. In this
verse Jesus denies any personal initiative. (See also John 8:40;
14:10.) The argument based on Jewish understanding makes the assumption
that the Jews understood Jesus. A more viable hypothesis is simply
that the enemies of Jesus misunderstood him. In fact Jesus repeatedly
alludes to this (e.g. Mark 4:11, 12). It is interesting to note
that today Jewish scholars find virtually no objections to anything
Jesus said. (See the reference under Jesus in the UNIVERSAL JEWISH
We have not merely used the Bible to suit ourselves. Verses have
been cited without any commitment as to their veracity. It has been
our intention only to show the defects in the Christian stand which
says: "Jesus claimed to be equal to God." If we decoct
the mixture said to establish that stand, we find inferior ingredients,
weak evidence and specious reasoning. Our position has been narrowed
enough to make almost any Christian response a step toward the Muslim’s
position. We have cited the most quoted and clear scriptures, so
if any others are brought forward, the Christian admits the deficiency
of previous arguments, and thus makes a short list even shorter
... the list of quotations said to prove his case. Or, if the Christian
builds a case on something other than the words attributed to Jesus,
he repeats exactly what we first protested: mainline Christianity
is based on what people have said about Jesus.
We asked, "Why must Jesus be divine?" By this we meant
to ask why a Christian believes so. If the question is asked without
reference to the foregoing discussion, a Christian will answer that
Jesus must be divine if his death is to be sufficient atonement
for the sins of mankind. In the Christian scheme of redemption,
it is held that sacrificial death was necessary that men might be
saved. Ask why the death of any man would be insufficient and the
Christian replies that all men are imperfect. Ask why they are imperfect
and we are told that this is an inheritance from our fathers. Jesus
had no father. By their own scheme he would have been an unblemished
sacrificial victim. Nevertheless, they still require that he be
divine to suit the role of redeemer. So we ask, "Did God die?"
He quickly replies, "No, only the man Jesus died." Jesus
is said to be a God-man and it was the human component that died.
But now he has said that the death of a man has atoned for sin.
The Infinite is required for this ritual of sacrifice but the Infinite
is not actually sacrificed.
There are many missionary tactics directed by Christians toward
Muslims. The bulk of these stands immediately condemned by the Bible
which speaks about their Master's path being straight (Luke chapter
3, Matthew chapter 7). Missionary strategies have included enticement
with money, women, alcohol and social status. These methods may
lead people, but do they lead by a straight path? A complete exposure
of such activities would be a worthwhile document, but this in not
our concern here. Christian authors who deal with the Quran and
the Bible in order to win converts are the subject now.
Disputing the Quran
Attacks on the Quran have abounded since the Book's first appearance.
In fact, in a remarkable verse the Quran invites examination; "Have
they not considered the Quran? If it was from other than God, surely
they would find in it many inconsistencies," (4:82). While
many theories have been offered to explain the Quran's origin, "today
no sensible person believes these theories. This leaves the Christian
in some difficulty," in the words of the NEW CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA.
We want to also mention that no theory has yet been suggested that
is not already commented on within the Quran itself ... the book
replies to its critics.
When a verse of the Quran is said to be in error, the Muslim's
natural urge is to correct the inaccurate interpretation. But we
perform more efficiently if we are realistic. There is a difference
in attitude between those who study the Quran and those who assault
the Quran. A sincere questioner has open-mindedly accepted the challenge
of the verse 4:82. But most often the missionary both attacks and
distorts the Quran, while pretending to be reasonable. This opponent
is not interested in the proper understanding of any given verse.
So, we may best proceed as outlined in Part I: We demonstrate only
that the so-called difficulty of any Quranic verse originates in
an interpretation which has not considered sufficiency, ambiguity,
We need only to show: (1) that a given interpretation is inadequate
to build a case; (2) or that the meaning of words has been overly
restricted and is not the only meaning possible; (3) or that a meaning
has been given which is actually impossible.
My experience has often been that Christians who question will
find their answers in the same place they found their questions.
Frequently they have studied the Muslim commentaries of the Quran
(TAFSEER), and when they find an obscure point, they bring it to
Muslims hoping that we are unaware of research and explanation already
done on the matter centuries ago.
What does the Quran say About the Bible?
Certain missionary writers intend to tell not only Christians about
the Quran, but Muslims also by their eristic methods they build
a flimsy case in order to provoke controversy where none exists.
They tell us that the Quran says the Bible is accurate. They tell
us that the Quran accuses Christians of changing the texts of their
scriptures. The Quran does not make either of these assertions.
By pointing to disagreements between the Quran and the Bible they
hope to make difficulty. By arguing for preservation of ancient
Biblical texts they intend to cause still more confusion for Muslims.
However, these tactics can only work if we admit the premises on
which they stand ... and we do not.
First, the Quran states that Christians have access to the truth
in their scriptures. But it does not catalogue the sixty-six small
books called the Bible and label them as accurate. In fact it condemns
those who would claim divine inspiration for something composed
by a man. Part of the Bible, as will be seen, falls into this category.
Second, the Quran does not accuse Christians of deliberately tampering
with the original texts of their scriptures. Rather, it accuses
them of manipulating the understanding of their scriptures. The
deceptive translations mentioned in part I illustrate this practice.
In short, the Muslim believes that the Bible contains the words
of God, and more words besides these.
Is Total Acceptance of The Bible Deserved?
The last sentence of the preceding section states the Muslim's
attitude toward the Bible. It is actually the attitude of many Christians.
It is only a certain collection of Christians (the Fundamentalists)
who maintain that ALL of the Bible originated with God. Adherence
to this belief is unwarranted for at least four reasons; (1) It
is not claimed within the Bible itself; (2) It is an unworthy attitude;
(3) It is not self-consistent; (4) It is logically impossible.
(1) ... The Bible nowhere names itself. The word "Bible"
is not in the Bible. Sixty-six books have been bound as one without
any divine command to do so. Compare, for example, the opening of
the book of Jonah: "The word of the LORD came to Jonah the
son of Amittai saying …" and the opening remarks of the
writer of the third gospel account: "... it seemed fitting
for me ... to write it out... ," (NEW AMERICAN BIBLE). The
first book claims divine inspiration, while the second author makes
no such claim.
By trading on the vagueness of the words "scripture"
and "book" the Fundamentalists try to make a case for
the Bible's total inspiration. For example, they quote 2 Timothy
3:16 where Paul wrote to Timothy, "... all scripture is inspired
of God ..." In the first place, it still remains to establish
the authority of Paul ... did he speak for God here? But the real
trickery is in the isolation of this verse. In the sentence before
this. Paul indicated what he considered as scripture, namely, that
which Timothy studied as a child. When Timothy was a child the last
twenty seven books of the Bible had not been written.
The antepenultimate verse of today's Bible seems to conclude the
whole of the Bible, as it warns against adding or subtracting contents
in "this book". However. "this book" can only
refer to this last book of the Bible and not to the Bible itself.
The reason is clear: Any Christian reference will acknowledge that
other books of the Bible were written after this one, that is, the
last book in today's Bible was not the last one written. In fact,
exactly which books should form the contents of the Bible was still
being debated three hundred years after Jesus.
(2) ... The official position of Fundamentalist churches is really
a modification of the blunt statement: "The Bible is the perfect
word of God." While they consider the modification only slight,
it is actually ruinous. They say that the Bible is "inerrant
in the original manuscripts". If all contradictions in the
Bible could be explained away as misunderstandings, why would they
rely on this excuse? By taking this position they admit to errors
in the Bible. These are said to be only small copying errors made
over the centuries as the scriptures were recopied. They have disregarded
the advice of Jesus who said that carelessness in the little things
means carelessness in large matters (Luke 16:10). Yet the unworthy
statement about today's Bible is really: "The Bible contains
small mistakes but no big ones."
(3) ... There are abundant copying errors in the Bible, the conflicting
statistics of Ezra 2:5 and Nehemiah 7:10, for example. On the one
hand the Fundamentalist admits this to be the case and excuses it
as a minor copying error. On the other hand, he puts his trust in
the statement of Isaiah 40:8 which says, "The word of our God
stands forever." This verse does not go on to accept minor
details due to flaws in the transcription of His word. According
to this verse, if God says it, it does not get lost. But mistakes
of transcription means something of the original has been lost.
It is inconsistent to excuse error and simultaneously disallow error.
The only solution is to drop the notion of total divine inspiration
of the Bible.
(4) ... Total inspiration is illogical because it is both disavowed
and disproved within the Bible. At 1 Corinthians 7:25 the Bible
writer specifically says that he is about to make a statement which
did not originate with God ... inspiration is disavowed. In the
first chapter of Titus we have a counter example which disproves
total divine inspiration. Paul quoted the famous Epimenides paradox,
specifying that the speaker himself was a Cretan: "Cretans
are always liars ...". He then says that the man spoke the
truth. But when the statement is spoken by a Cretan it is definitely
not true. If it was true then at least once, a Cretan was not a
liar, in which case the statement is false. The conclusion is the
denial of the assumption, so the statement is not true. The writer
Paul at least on this occasion, was without divine guidance for
he did not discern this subtlety.
The Christian who would preach to Muslims must first be prepared
to allow us to clearly establish our own position. Otherwise he
confronts a man of straw but misses the target of genuine Islam.
His comparisons of the Bible and the Quran are most often seen to
be shallow and misleading. As with the matter discussed in part
I, our most fruitful debates will be those that consider Why not
How. If the Christian wishes to prove his stand, he must justify
it after explaining it. Conversely, if he would attack out stand
he must understand it correctly before we can be asked to justify
Finally, this is not an attack on the Bible. It is an attack on
an unjustified attitude held by some concerning the Bible. Again,
the Muslim believes the Bible to contain God's words, but he does
not accept the entire contents as such. Deciding which portions
deserve our acceptance is not a matter of convenience. It is a matter
of consistency. Those portions, and only those portions, which are
self-consistent, compatible with reason, and self-proclaimed as
divinely revealed deserve our consideration.
Part Three - A Suggestion
Christian belief reduces to this: The Jews have cherished an incorrect
notion of the Messiah. That is, while Jews expect someone who is
only son of God in a figurative sense, Jesus told the Jews that
the Messiah was literally the son of God. In this frame of mind,
the Christian can point to every Biblical account of Jews being
angry with Jesus and claim that this new truth was the cause of
But there are important facts to consider. The concept of the Messiah
was gradually formed by the Jews and opinions differed. While several
men had already been called Messiah, son of God, son of man, in
scripture, the Jews came to expect a preeminent Messiah, a victorious
leader through whom their nation would be a blessing to all the
Our suggestion is this: Suppose instead that Jesus meant to tell
the Jews that while he also deserved to be called Messiah, he was
not to fulfill their unrealistic and misunderstood expectations.
Now several mysteries are clarified. Jesus could not have meant
to claim status for he charged his disciples not to tell anyone
that he was the true Messiah (Luke 9:21). Notice how he dissuaded
a man who may have had mistaken ideas (Matthew 8:20). While many
Jews believed that the Messiah would inherit his kingly rights from
David, Jesus pointed out the difficulty of this interpretation (Matthew
22:43). Note also that today's Jewish scholars have indicated that
"son of God" is given its Christian meaning not by Jesus,
but by Paul. (See "son of God" in reference 3.)
Meanwhile, some Jewish aspects have been adopted. Paul incited
Christians to find symbolic meaning in scripture (1 Corinthians
chapter 10). So we have impossible parallels like that of Matthew
2:15 which quotes a fragment of Hosea 11:1,2 and thus likens Jesus
to an idolatrous nation! We have the unprecedented case of a prophet
who supposedly would die then to return to fulfill all things expected
of him. While acts 3:20-23 promises the return of Jesus, Christians
understand that the prophecy yet to be fulfilled before he can return
is actually only a reference to Jesus... as though Jesus was the
one predicted by Moses in Deuteronomy chapter 18. The scripture
quoted here by the disciple Peter reports that God told Moses about
the future prophet "like you from among their brothers".
While Jesus was unlike Moses in being leader of a nation, Christians
believe that he will be victorious on his second visit. However,
they do not usually expect him to acquire a human father, a wife
and children and then die of old age like Moses. Moreover. "from
among their brothers seems to indicate not an Israelite, but a relative
of that nation.
There is another historical figure who fits the role as the prophet
promised by Moses better than Jesus. He was not an Israelite, but
Jesus said that God's special favours would be taken from Israel
and given to a nation which would become fruitful (Matthew 21:43).
It was Jacob or Israel the man himself, who prophesied that the
kingdom would be the possession of the family of his son Judah until
the coming of "the one whose it is" (Genesis 49:10). While
Christians see this one as Jesus, look again at these words. When
I give a man something and tell him to keep it until the owner comes,
do I mean to say that the item belongs to one of his descendents?
This would hardly be a natural understanding.
The many Quranic and Biblical references to the last prophet are
a new subject, a satisfying discussion that inexorably leads to
the Messenger who brought Islam to a nation and through them to
all nations. (Quran 6:89,90).
1. NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, 1977, The Lockman Foundation La
2. THE MYTH OF GOD INCARNATE; 1978, Edited by John Hick; Westminster.
3. UNIVERSAL JEWISH ENCYCLOPEDIA; 1948, Universal Jewish Encyclopedia
Co. Inc.; New York, N.Y.
4. NEW CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA; 1967, The Catholic University of America;
5. THE KORAN INTERPRETED; 1964, Arthur J. Arberry; Oxford University