Shabir Ally's article attempts to debunk the NT witness to the deity of Christ. His approach is not much different than that of Jamal Badawi, who also happens to be Shabir's mentor. Much like Badawi, Shabir's arguments are based on the fallacy of false dilemma, i.e. since the Bible describes Jesus as human or as God's servant, he therefore cannot be God. This ignores a basic fundamental Christian teaching, namely that the Bible does not teach that Jesus is only God, but rather that Jesus is God who also became man for our salvation. Therefore, the one Person of Christ was both God and man at the same time while on earth. Hence, most of the verses that Shabir uses are ones where Jesus speaks in relation to his humanity.
By becoming man, Jesus completely subjected himself to his Father and became his servant. In his role as a servant, Jesus could only do that which his Father commanded him to do. With this just said, we proceed to examine the arguments put forth by Shabir.
"I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." (John 20:17 RSV 1952)
Jesus, at the end of his mission, made it clear that God is not only His father, but father of all, and God of all, and even his own God whom he worshipped throughout his earthly career.
First, it is not true that everyone can call God their Father, but only those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Messiah:
Jesus indicates that the reason why these unbelieving Jews were of the devil is because they had rejected his divine, messianic claims. Hence, all who reject the deity of Christ is not of God:
Since Islam has denied the divine sonship of Jesus, we are forced to conclude from the biblical record that it is not from God. As indicated, sonship can only be attained through Christ:
Secondly, Jesus' statement in John 20:17 does not prove that Christ was a son in the same fashion that the others are called God's sons. In fact, Christ clearly distinguishes both his sonship and relationship to the Father as his God from that of his disciples. He does not say "I am ascending to our Father and our God," but rather "I am ascending to MY FATHER and your Father, to MY GOD and your God."
The reason for the distinction is that whereas the disciples' sonship is derived through faith in Christ, Jesus' sonship is not something derived but is eternal:
As God's Son, Christ preexisted in heaven in eternal glory alongside the Father. He is not a mere creature who was simply adopted into God's family like the disciples were. Rather, he is the eternal Son that came down from heaven to do the will of his Father.
Finally, whereas the Father has always been the God of the disciples, he was not always Jesus' God since Christ was not always man. Before the Incarnation, the relationship was one of Father and Son, not of God and servant.
Here the writer is Paul and he made it clear that anyone can address God as "Father."
Actually, the writer Paul does not say that anyone can address God as Father, but only those who have received the Spirit of Christ:
This indicates that Shabir conveniently leaves out the context in which the verses appear since he knows that to cite the entire passage would undermine the very point he attempts to make.
"... Do not call anyone on earth 'father,' for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. (Matthew 23:1,9 NIV 1984)
According to Matthew, Jesus taught everyone to call God 'Father'. He said to them:
Shabir again misquotes the passages since in neither references was Jesus addressing unbelievers, but rather those who had come to believe in him. This can be seen by the verses that immediately follow:
The fact that Jesus is telling people that they have one leader who is the Christ presupposes that the crowds present had come to embrace his messiahship, serving to strengthen the case that one can only come to know God as Father through Christ.
According to the parallel account in Luke, Jesus' teaching on how to pray occurred when "one of his disciples said to him, `Lord teach us (i.e. his disciples) to pray just as John also taught his disciples." (Cf. Luke 11:1) Hence, Jesus' statements were directed to those who had come to believe in him.
Finally, since Shabir believes that Jesus allowed everyone to address God as their Father is he now willing to address Allah as his father? Will he be willing to call Muhammad the son of Allah, or refer to Allah as the father of Muhammad? If not, then to even attempt to use this type of argumentation against the uniqueness of Christ as the Son of God is invalid.
(It should be stated that we are not implying that no one before Christ ever addressed God as their Father since there certainly were individuals that did. [Cf. Psalm 89:26-27; Isaiah 63:16-17; Malachi 2:10] Rather, after the advent of Christ no one can come into a relationship with God as Father without believing that Jesus is the divine Messiah
Much like Badawi before him, Shabir presupposes an Islamic view of the life and mission of Jesus and therefore, cannot allow for a divine Christ to emerge from the pages of the New Testament. Since most of his arguments against the deity of Christ are based on the self-limitations Jesus imposed upon himself while on earth, it is essential to quote the references where Jesus clearly affirms his deity. Once this is done, it will become clear to the reader that the NT portrait of Christ is that he was both fully human and fully divine at the same time. Most of our citations will be from the Synoptic Gospels since Shabir seems to imply that it is only the Gospel of John where Jesus makes any explicit references to divinity.
Jesus Has Authority To Forgive Sins:
The scribes correctly understood that for Jesus to claim that he could forgive sins meant that he was identifying himself as God. Instead of correcting their understanding, Jesus reinforces it by affirming his authority to both heal and forgive the paralytic.
Jesus Is The Lord Of The Sabbath:
"Consequently, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." Mark 2:28
For Jesus to be the Lord of the Sabbath meant that he was Yahweh God since the Sabbath was instituted for the service of Yahweh. (cf. Leviticus 2:23)
Jesus' Name Is Sovereign:
Scripture clearly teaches that miracles occur solely through the power of God's name. Yet, we find that Jesus' name is capable of doing the very same thing. This is an implicit witness to the deity of Christ.
Jesus Is David's Lord:
The only way for the Messiah to be both the son of David and his Lord is if he was both divine and human at the same time.
Jesus Is The Judge And Ruler Of Both Angels And Men:
According to Jesus, he will come with HIS angels to gather HIS elect and sit on HIS throne to judge all the nations, deciding the eternal destiny of every individual.
Jesus Is Omnipresent:
"... and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Matthew 28:20
A mere creature could not claim to be present with believers to the end of the age. For Jesus to make such claims implies that he is God.
Jesus is the Son of God:
In this parable, the Owner represents God with the vineyard being Jerusalem (cf. Isaiah 5:1-7). The vine-growers represent the ruling Jewish class, and the slaves represent the prophets of God. Jesus' view of himself is not that of a slave, but the Owner's beloved Son and heir of the estate. This clearly affirms that Jesus felt that he was more than just a prophet and believed that he was greater than the rest of the prophets who were but God's servants.
Jesus also implicitly affirms his preexistence, since as the Son he was already present with the Father prior to his being sent to the vine-growers.
To summarize the preceding evidence from the synoptic Gospels, we find Jesus making both explicit and implicit claims to Deity. Hence, no matter what Gospel we read we do not get the Islamic view of Christ, but rather the orthodox Christian view. This poses a problem for Shabir who tries desperately to find within the NT the Islamic portrait of Jesus which, as we have seen, does not exist.
A man had ran up and knelt before Jesus and called him "Good Teacher." Jesus used the opportunity to make it clear to people that they must not praise him more than a human being deserves to be praised.
Is Jesus actually teaching people not to praise him more than a human being deserves to be praised? Well, let us see what Jesus actually says:
Jesus doesn't say to honor him as a great religious figure or prophet. Rather, he demands to be given the very same honor that the Father receives. The way believers honor the Father is to both worship him and make supplications to him. Amazingly, we find Jesus requesting that prayers be made directly to him:
For Jesus to be able to hear and grant the request of prayers offered directly to him implies that he is both omniscient and omnipotent. Since these are qualities that are true only of God, this indicates that Jesus is God.
Furthermore, Jesus does not say "I am not good, only God is good." Rather, he asks the rich man, "Why do you call me good?" The purpose behind this was to make the rich man aware of the implications of calling Jesus good. To call Jesus good is to make him God since only God is absolutely good. If the rich man really believed this, he should be willing to abandon everything, including his riches, for Jesus. This is precisely what Jesus goes on to say:
Jesus demands a devotion that is to be given solely to God. It should be stated that this request from Jesus was made right after the man had indicated his total devotion to the Mosaic law. For Jesus to then come back and demand that the man should abandon all he has and follow him is either blasphemous, or affirms that Jesus believed that he was God.
"I can do nothing of my own authority" (John 5:30)
"I do as the Father has commanded me." (John 14:31 RSV)
Needless to say, God does not receive commands from anyone.
"The words that I say to you I do not speak of my own authority." (John 14:10 RSV)
"I do nothing of my own authority but speak thus as the Father has taught me." (John 8:28 RSV)
God has full authority, and full knowledge. He cannot be taught, but He teaches.
Shabir commits a categorical fallacy, since he fails to distinguish between Jesus as God and Jesus in his role as a servant. As God's servant, Jesus willingly made himself nothing and subjected his will to the Father. Hence, as God's faithful servant Jesus did only what his God and Father commanded.
Furthermore, since Jesus was man as well as God he could both learn and grow in relation to his human consciousness. Therefore, Shabir commits the fallacy of false dilemma since he takes the limitations of Jesus' human nature and imposes it on his divine nature.
Finally, Shabir exposes an ignorance of what Trinitarian theology entails. Trinitarians do not believe that the three Persons function independently, but rather they work in perfect harmony and unity. Hence, any references of Jesus doing what is commanded of him reinforces the Trinitarian understanding of God.
"The Father is greater than I." (John 14:28 RSV)
People forget this and they say that Jesus is equal to the Father. Whom should we believe--Jesus or the people?
Again, Shabir commits a categorical fallacy since the Father was greater by virtue of the fact that Jesus was on earth in the form of a slave. The Father is greater in office, not superior in nature.
Speaking of the Last Day, Jesus said:
"But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only." (Matthew 24:36)
Shabir conveniently leaves out the references where Jesus is clearly seen as being omniscient:
The only Being who knows all things and needs no one to instruct him is God:
Amazingly, Jesus also knows the very mind of the Father in the same way that the latter has knowledge of him:
Other references on Christ's omniscience include:
Jesus affirms both his omniscience and his omnipotence since only an all-powerful Being can reward every individual according to what he has done. Compare Jesus' words with that of Yahweh God's in the Old Testament:
These passages serve to indicate that the one person of Christ, being the God-man, had both a divine and human consciousness. In his divine consciousness he was all-knowing whereas in his human one he was not.
Furthermore, what Shabir conveniently overlooked in the passage he cites is the fact that Jesus clearly presents himself as being superior to both men and angels, being only subject to the Father. This means that Jesus believed he was superior to all creation, including prophets. Since Shabir believes Muhammad was both a prophet and a part of creation, this implies that Jesus is superior to the prophet of Islam.
God raised him up. (Acts 2:24)
Jesus did not have power to raise himself up. God had to raise him up, as the author of Acts says.
Actually, the Bible teaches that all three Persons of the Godhead raised Jesus from the dead:
The One God:
The Scripture attributes the raising of Christ to all three Persons, as well as to the one God. It is precisely passages such as the above that drove the early Church to formulate the doctrine of the Trinity since the three Persons are identified and given functions of God. Yet the Holy Bible clearly teaches that there is only one God. This also serves to reinforce the point that the three Persons work in perfect unity, functioning as the one true God.
"Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what thou wilt." (Mark 14:32)
Jesus fell on his face and prayed to God, begging God to save him from crucifixion. This also shows that Jesus had a will different from God's will. The writers of Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us that it was Jesus's wish to be saved from crucifixion, but it was God's will to let the crucifixion take place. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46)
Again, there is no problem for the Trinitarian since prayer is intimate communion and fellowship with God. The three Persons of the Godhead engage in intimate personal fellowship and communion amongst themselves. Furthermore, the Person of Christ also related to the Father as a man since he was both God and man at the same time. As man, Jesus is what God intended for man to be, fulfilling all of God's commands faithfully. One of the commands is constant fellowship and communion in prayer with God.
Secondly, although Trinitarians can fathom the fact that a triune God can have interpersonal communion, it is beyond understanding how a uni-personal Being can pray as Allah does in the Quran:
Due to the fact that a Being who is a singularity-within-unity cannot pray (since if he did who would he be addressing when praying?), many translations obscure the meaning of the Arabic by inserting the word "blessing" as opposed to saying "pray". Yet the term for blessing is derived from "baraka" which does not appear in the above citations.
In fact, Sura 33:56 is interpreted by the Muslim scholar Al-Najjary as:
Ibn `Abbas says:
Perhaps Shabir can explain this for us.
He [Jesus] was hungry. And on seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. (Mark 11:12-13)
When he saw that the tree had leaves, he thought that he might find fruit on it. But when he came up close to the tree he realised there were no fruits. After all, it was not even fig season.
Actually, it does not follow that since Jesus did not know that the tree had no figs and that it was not fig season he therefore could not have been omniscient. Jesus could have known in his divine consciousness that the fig tree was barren and based on that fact could go ahead and curse it for being useless. Secondly, something called taqsh appear as an indication that the tree will produce figs in season. Jesus could have seen that there were no taqsh on that particular tree, serving to indicate that the tree would have been barren. Thirdly, Shabir failed to quote the rest of the passage where we find that the fig tree withered away after Jesus had cursed it. (cf. Mark 11:20-22) Perhaps the reason why Shabir does not mention it is because it would have reinforced the point that Jesus was more than human, and could have known whether the tree would have been fruitful or not.
F. F. Bruce notes:
Our critic continues:
"Behold my servant whom I have chosen." (Matthew 12:18 In this passage God calls Jesus His servant) The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus. (Acts 3:13)
For truly in this city there were gathered together against thy holy servant Jesus... (Acts 4:27) Everyone, except for God, are God's servants. Jesus, too, is God's servant.
And? Shabir's point? Who said that Jesus was not a servant, or was not a prophet, priest or king? Jesus was all this and more. The problem with Shabir is that he selectively quotes only those references that emphasize Jesus' humanity, overlooking those which emphasize his divinity.
Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: (Acts 2:22 KJV)
People say that since Jesus worked many miracles, he must be God. But here we see that God did the miracles; Jesus was the instrument God used to accomplish His work. Jesus was a man whom God approved of. This means he was a righteous man.
Shabir is incorrect since the Bible attributes the miracles to all three Persons:
Jesus is able to give power to others to perform miracles in his name. This is something that only God can do.
This is precisely what a Trinitarian expects to find, but a Muslim does not want to discover.
"To sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father" (Matthew 20:23)
Therefore if we want to secure our position with God in the life hereafter we must turn to God and ask Him.
Shabir continues to commit a categorical fallacy since the reason why Jesus could not grant positions of authority is that he himself was made subject to the Father while on earth. If Shabir does want to secure his position he must turn to the Son, otherwise he shall be lost for eternity:
I and the Father are one. (John 10:30)
People like to quote this saying, but they forget the following saying: John 17:11 Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
This shows that what was meant was one in purpose, not one in substance as people think. The disciples could not become one human, but they can pursue the same goal. That is to say, they can be one in purpose, just as Jesus and the Father are one in purpose.
Since we have already addressed this elsewhere in our response to Misha'al al-Kadhi, we would like to just summarize Jesus' meaning in John 10:30. The verses immediately preceding John 10:30 indicate the kind of oneness Jesus had in mind:
Jesus is able to do only what God can do, namely give eternal life and preserve individuals from perishing. It is in this sense that Jesus and the Father are one, namely that the two persons are equal in power and nature. Hence, they are one in all things, including being one in essence.
John 14:9 Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.
John 6:35 And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life.
John 8:12 I am the light of the world.
John 8:58 Before Abraham was, I am.
John 10:7 I am the door of the sheep.
John 11:25 I am the resurrection, and the life.
John 14:6 I am the way, the truth, and the life.
John 15:1 I am the true vine.
Christian scholars tell us that if Jesus had made all these fantastic claims about himself, the first three gospels would surely have recorded them. Mark was written around 70 C.E., followed by Matthew and Luke somewhere between 80-90 C.E. John, written around 100 C.E., was the last of the four canonized gospels. The Christian scholar James Dunn writes in his book The Evidence for Jesus:
Similarly, the New American Bible tells us in its introduction, under the heading How to Read Your Bible:
What we have in John, then is what people were saying about Jesus at the time John was written (about 70 years after Jesus was raised up). The writer of John simply expressed those ideas as if Jesus had said them. Rev. James Dunn says further in his book that, almost certainly, the writer of the fourth gospel "was not concerned with the sort of questions which trouble some Christians today -- Did Jesus actually say this? Did he use these precise words? and so on." (The Evidence for Jesus, p. 43)
Scholars have concluded that this gospel was originally written in a simple form. But this gospel was later on, as the New Jerusalem Bible says, "amplified and developed in several stages during the second half of the first century." (The New Jerusalem Bible: Introduction to John, p. 1742)
reached its final form." (p. 1742)
On a previous page, the same Bible says:
The New American Bible says that most scholars "have come to the conclusion that the inconsistencies were probably produced by subsequent editing in which homogeneous materials were added to a shorter original." (The New American Bible, Revised New Testament, p. 143)
God Reveals the Truth About Jesus
First, it should be stated that not all Christian scholars agree with either the dates given to the original composition of the Gospels or with the assertions of James Dunn and the other citations given by Shabir. For example, liberal theologian John A.T. Robinson in his book Redating the New Testament argues that all the books of the Bible were completed before 70 A.D. The late William F. Albright was considered to be one of the world's foremost archaeologists. His comments on the composition of the New Testament is noteworthy:
Albright also went on to say:
Critics who concur that the books of the New Testament, including John, are historically accurate include Tubingen's Dr. Peter Stuhlmacher. As a Western Scripture scholar, stated Dr. Stuhlmacher, "I am inclined to doubt these [gospel] stories, but as a historian I am obliged to take them as reliable." (Ibid.)
He also says, "The biblical texts as they stand are the best hypothesis we have until now to explain what really happened." (Ibid.)
Furthermore, both the archaeological and historical evidence supports Johannine composition. The N.I.V. Study Bible's introductory notes states:
The Dictionary of the Bible by John L. McKenzie notes:
In regards to the fact that John includes statements of Jesus affecting Christology that the other writers do not mention, McKenzie asserts:
Another line of evidence supporting both the early date and Johannine authorship of the fourth Gospel is the testimony of the contemporaries of the Apostles themselves and their followers. The early followers held to the belief that the author of the fourth Gospel was the Apostle John:
The fourth Gospel is that of John, one of the disciples. When his fellow-disciples. When his fellow-disciples and bishops entreated him, he said, `Fast now with me for the space of three days, and let us recount to each other whatever may be revealed to each of us.' On the same night, it was revealed to Andrew, one of the apostles, that John should narrate all things in his own name-as they called them to mind." Muratorian Fragment c. 200 (Ibid., p. 382)
What are we to say of him who leaned on Jesus' breast- namely, John? He left one Gospel, although he declared that he could make so many that world could not contain them." Origen c. 228 (Ibid., p. 381)
Finally, most of the scholars that Shabir appeals to are anti-supernaturalists, holding to a natural view of the world. These individuals deny the possibility of miracles occurring or that God would inspire men to record divine books. This essentially means that if these same scholars were to examine the Quran, they would also question the traditional Islamic view of its origin. In fact, this is already being done as can be seen in the recent article which appeared in Atlantic Monthly. To summarize, we really found nothing in Shabir's paper that seriously challenges the truth claims of the Bible and Christianity.
Responses to "Islamic Information"
Answering Islam Home Page