Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Jesus Christ – Our risen Lord and our great God!

Muslim polemicist Paul Bilal Williams published a short post where he references the following passage from John’s Gospel,

“Jesus said to her, ‘Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, “I ascend to my Father and your Father, and My God and your God.”’” John 20:17

In order to show how Jesus’ message is in complete agreement with what the Quran says concerning him:

John 20:17

by Paul Williams







QUR’AN 19:36

Suffice it to say Williams’ implicit assertion is filled with problems, as we are about to show.

In the first place, it is rather ironic that of all the Gospels Williams could cite he chose the Gospel of John to prove his case, even though on other occasions he goes out of his way to assault its testimony, claiming that it is the least reliable of all the Gospels!

Be that as it may, since he quoted from this Gospel he no longer has any basis to object to our citing John’s witness to refute his argument. After all, if John’s Gospel is good enough to make William’s point then it is also good enough to expose his butchering of its testimony to the Person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

Second, the God whom Jesus glorified, the God that he came to reveal, is the Father, specifically the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and of all those who believe in him:

“Jesus said to her, ‘Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to MY brethren and say to them, “I ascend to MY FATHER and YOUR FATHER, and My God (theon mou) and your God (theon hymon).”’” John 20:17

Muhammad, on the other hand, taught that his deity was a father to no one, and even threatened Christians that Allah would destroy them for believing that Jesus is actually his Son:

And [both] the Jews and the Christians say, "We are God's children, and His beloved ones." Say: "Why, then, does He cause you to suffer for your sins? Nay, you are but human beings of His creating. He forgives whom He wills, and He causes to suffer whom He wills: for God's is the dominion over the heavens and the earth and all that is between them, and with Him is all journeys' end." S. 5:18 Muhammad Asad

AND THE JEWS say, "Ezra is God's son," while the Christians say, "The Christ is God's son." Such are the sayings which they utter with their mouths, following in spirit assertions made in earlier times by people who denied the truth!" [They deserve the imprecation:] "May God destroy them!" S. 9:30 Asad

This in itself proves that the god whom Muhammad proclaimed is not the same God revealed in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Third, even here Jesus shows that his relationship with God is different and unique from all the rest. Noted Evangelical scholar and apologist Robert M. Bowman Jr. brings this out in his reply to the arguments of Jehovah’s Witnesses as found in their now defunct publication Should You Believe in the Trinity?:

“The most basic sort of argument employed by JWs to show that Jesus cannot be God is this: There are several Scriptures that distinguish between Jesus and God, treating them as different individuals. Some of these Scriptures simply distinguish between Jesus and the Father (e.g., John 8:17-18). These texts present no difficulty for the Trinitarian position, since the Trinity doctrine also distinguishes between the Father and the Son as two ‘persons.’

“Then there are texts that speak of the Father as the God of Jesus Christ (e.g., John 20:17; 1 Corinthians 11:3). The Watchtower booklet argues, ‘Since Jesus had a God, his Father, he could not at the same time be that God’ (p. 17). But again, trinitarians do not hold that Jesus is his Father. They hold that Jesus, because he became a man, was placed in a position in which as man he was required to honor the Father as his God. At the same time, Trinitarians point out some aspects of the Bible’s teaching that show that JWs have misunderstood the implications of the Father being Christ’s God.

“First, Jesus made it clear that the Father was his God in a unique manner compared with the manner in which the Father is our God. Thus, in John 20:17 Jesus stated, ‘I am ascending to my Father and YOUR Father and to my God and YOUR God’ (NWT). Why did Jesus not simply say, ‘I am ascending to our Father and our God’? In fact, Jesus never spoke of the Father as ‘our Father,’ including himself along with his disciples. (In Matt. 6:9 Jesus told his disciples that they should pray, ‘Our Father…,’ but did not include himself in that prayer.) Jesus was careful to distinguish the two relationships, because he was God’s Son by nature whereas Christians are God’s ‘sons’ by adoption. Similarly, the Father was Jesus’ God because Jesus humbled himself to become a man (Phil. 2:7), whereas the Father is our God because we are by nature creatures.” (Bowman, Why You Should Believe in the Trinity: An Answer to Jehovah’s Witnesses [Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI: Seventh printing, 1993], 6. Does the Bible Deny That Jesus is God?, pp. 71-72; bold emphasis ours)

Bowman’s statement that believers are adopted by God to be his spiritual children is easily proven from the following texts:

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13

“See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is… By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.” 1 John 3:1-2, 10

Fourth, Christ goes on to say and do things in this same chapter which both the Hebrew Bible and the Quran agree only God can do:  

“So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” John 20:21-22

Here Jesus breathes on his followers the Holy Spirit, showing that he has the authority to grant God’s Spirit to whomever he desires, a point made elsewhere in this Gospel.

For instance, John the Baptist clearly testified that Christ has the power to baptize or immerse his followers in the Holy Spirit:

“John testified saying, ‘I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, “He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.”’” John 1:32-33

Christ himself taught that he would give the water of life or living water to all who come to him in faith:

“Jesus answered and said to her, ‘If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, “Give Me a drink,” you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.’… Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.’” John 4:10, 13-14

John tells us that the water of life refers to the Holy Spirit, whom Christ shall give to all that believe:

Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, “From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.”’ But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified." John 7:37-39

Christ also told his followers that he and the Father together would send the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ name, in order to abide with them forever, and teach them everything they needed to know concerning the faith:

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you… But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send IN MY NAME, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” John 14:16-17, 26

“When the Helper comes, whom I WILL SEND TO YOU from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” John 15:26-27

“But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I WILL SEND HIM to you I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.” John 16:7, 12-15

Yet the Hebrew Scriptures proclaim that Yahweh is the One who sends forth and pours out his Spirit upon mankind:

You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them, Your manna You did not withhold from their mouth, And You gave them water for their thirst… However, You bore with them for many years, And admonished them by Your Spirit through Your prophets, Yet they would not give ear.” Nehemiah 9:20, 30

“You hide Your face, they are dismayed; You take away their spirit, they expire And return to their dust. You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; And You renew the face of the ground.” Psalm 104:29-30

“But now listen, O Jacob, My servant, And Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus says the Lord who made you And formed you from the womb, who will help you, ‘Do not fear, O Jacob My servant; And you Jeshurun whom I have chosen. For I will pour out water on the thirsty land And streams on the dry ground; I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring And My blessing on your descendants;’” Isaiah 44:1-3

“Thus you will know that I am in the midst of Israel, And that I am the Lord your God, And there is no other; And My people will never be put to shame. It will come about after this That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.” Joel 2:27-29

Similarly, the Quran teaches that it is Allah who sends forth and breathes his spirit into people:

“When thy Lord said to the angels, 'See, I am creating a mortal of a clay. When I have shaped him, and breathed My spirit in him, fall you down, bowing before him!'” S. 38:71-72 Arberry

Thou shalt not find any people who believe in God and the Last Day who are loving to anyone who opposes. God and His Messenger, not though they were their fathers, or their sons, or their brothers, or their clan. Those -- He has written faith upon their hearts, and He has confirmed them with a Spirit from Himself; and He shall admit them into gardens underneath which rivers flow, therein to dwell forever, God being well-pleased with them, and they well-pleased with Him. Those are God's party; why, surely God's party -- they are the prosperers. S. 58:22 Arberry

Hence, Jesus must be God in order for him to be able to both breathe the Holy Spirit upon his followers and to send him from heaven itself, where Christ is now ruling from God’s throne.(1)

Fifth, a little later in the same chapter where Jesus speaks of his God we see him allowing one of his disciples to worship him as God, even going as far as to bless this confession of faith!

“But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, ‘We have seen the Lord!’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’ After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ Thomas answered AND SAID TO HIM, ‘My Lord and my God! (ho kyrios mou kai ho theos mou)’ Jesus said to him, ‘Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.’” John 20:24-29

Thomas’ confession of faith, and Jesus’ acceptance of such praise, are astonishing to say the least, since the implications which this has on monotheism are simply enormous as the following points show. 

1. Yahweh alone is God:

“To you it was shown that you might know that the Lord, He is God; there is no other besides Him… Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.” Deuteronomy 4:35, 39

And John agrees that there is only one God:

“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” John 5:44

“This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” John 17:3

2. As such, Israel was forbidden from serving or worshiping any other god besides Yahweh:

“Then God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me.” Exodus 20:1-3

“—for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God—” Exodus 34:14

3. Christ proclaims that the Father is his God and the God of his followers (cf. John 20:17).

Therefore, the Father must be Yahweh God.

4. At the same time, Thomas worshiped Christ as his God. Thomas wasn’t the only one to do so:

“looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus,  who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.” Titus 2:13-14

“Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:” 2 Peter 1:1

On a related point, Jesus himself proclaimed that all must honor him in the same way that they honor the Father:

“For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, so that all will honor the Son EVEN AS they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.” John 5:22-23

Jesus must, therefore, be Yahweh God as well.

5. However, Jesus is not the Father but the Father’s Son, and therefore personally distinct from him:

“Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Even if I testify about Myself, My testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone. But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and the Father who sent Me. Even in your law it has been written that the testimony of two men is true. I am He who testifies about Myself, and the Father who sent Me testifies about Me.’ So they were saying to Him, ‘Where is Your Father?’ Jesus answered, ‘You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.’” John 8:14-19

6. Yet, even though they are personally distinct, both the Father and Son are one in essence and ability:

“‘My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.’ The Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, ‘I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?’ The Jews answered Him, ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.’” John 10:27-33

Christ claims to be one with the Father in the context of having the power to give eternal life to all believers, no matter how numerous, and possessing the ability to preserve all of them from ever perishing. The only One who could make such assertions is God since he alone is able to preserve believers and grant them everlasting life (cf. Deuteronomy 32:39; 1 Samuel 2:2, 6; Isaiah 43:10-13).

7. Therefore, according to the testimony of both the Lord Jesus and his blessed Apostles, the one God eternally exists as Father and Son (as well as the Holy Spirit). There is simply no way around this since this is the inspired message of John’s Gospel, as well as the Holy Bible as a whole.

Finally, it doesn’t matter what the Quran says concerning Jesus since it is a book written centuries after the resurrection of our blessed Lord, and does not contain any genuine saying of the historical Jesus. Besides, the text of Q. 19:36 raises its own set of problems as we demonstrate in the following article: The Gods of Islam Unveiled.

So much for Williams appeal to John 20:17 to prove his position.

All Scriptural quotations taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB).



(1) Remarkably, the Quran itself bears witness that Jesus had the ability to impart life to non-living matter by simply breathing into it, and also testifies that Christ is now dwelling in the very presence of God or Allah:

“to be a Messenger to the Children of Israel saying, ‘I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. I will create for you out of clay as the likeness of a bird; then I will breathe into it, and it will be a bird, by the leave of God. I will also heal the blind and the leper, and bring to life the dead, by the leave of God. I will inform you too of what things you eat, and what you treasure up in your houses. Surely in that is a sign for you, if you are believers.’” S. 3:49 Arberry – cf. 5:110

But Allah raised him ['Iesa (Jesus)] up (with his body and soul) unto Himself (and he is in the heavens). And Allah is Ever All-Powerful, All-Wise. S. 4:158 Hilali-Khan

Suffice it to say, these assertions pose major problems for Williams and his cohorts since this basically means that Allah has granted Jesus the authority to create and grant life, as well as to share in his exalted status over the entire creation. Hence, Williams must either accept that Jesus is God or contend with the fact that his deity has committed the unforgiveable sin of shirk, or association (cf. Q. 2:22; 4:48, 116; 6:83-88; 39:65), since he has allowed a creature to share in his exclusive attributes and glory.