Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

More of Zaatari’s Lies and Deceptions Exposed

Sam Shamoun

On September 19, 2012, Dr. James R. White debated Muslim taqiyyist Sami Zaatari in London concerning the proposition, “The Qur'an's Denial of the Crucifixion.” I was able to view the debate as it transpired via livestream.

I must say right up front that Zaatari was totally outclassed and even embarrassed by Dr. White, whose presentation and rebuttals were more than a response to Zaatari’s entire presentation. To be quite honest, they were a total obliteration!

In fact, I would dare say that this was one of the most embarrassing debates that Zaatari has engaged in thus far,(1) and one of the clearest examples of Zaatari’s willingness to use some of the most absurd and irrational arguments to prove his position.

For instance, Zaatari appealed to alleged discrepancies among the Gospels concerning their reporting of the crucifixion and resurrection in order to show that the disciples misunderstood Jesus. He then tried to extrapolate from this that the disciples mistakenly assumed that Jesus had been raised from the dead when they saw that he was alive!

White did a superb job of showing just how desperate and ridiculous this argument truly is by noting that Jesus could have simply told the disciples that they were mistaken for assuming that he had been resurrected, since he hadn’t been killed by crucifixion.

In other words, Zaatari really wants people to believe that the disciples, whom his own false prophet claimed were supposedly Muslims to whom Allah is supposed to have given power to defeat Jesus’ enemies in order to become predominant till the day of resurrection,

“When Jesus found Unbelief on their part He said: ‘Who will be My helpers to (the work of) God?’ Said the disciples: ‘We are God's helpers: We believe in God, and do thou bear witness that we are Muslims.’… Behold! God said: ‘O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject faith, TO THE DAY OF RESURRECTION: Then shall ye all return unto me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute.’” S. 3:52, 55 Y. Ali

“O ye who believe! Be ye helpers of God: As said Jesus the son of Mary to the Disciples, ‘Who will be my helpers to (the work of) God?’ Said the disciples, ‘We are God's helpers!’ then a portion of the Children of Israel believed, and a portion disbelieved: But WE GAVE POWER to those who believed, against their enemies, AND THEY BECAME THE ONES THAT PREVAILED.” S. 61:14 Y. Ali

Were allowed by God, as well as Christ himself, to mistakenly believe, and then proclaim, that Jesus was killed by crucifixion and subsequently raised alive again on the third day!

This shows that Zaatari is willing to say the most ridiculous things, no matter how insulting such assertions may be to the intelligence of his audience, in order to win a debate. It is obvious that truth is not a priority for Zaatari, but simply deceiving people into falling for the lies of Islam is what matters to him the most. As such, the ends justifies the means for Zaatari.

Zaatari went on to cite the Gospels quite selectively in order to deceive the audience into thinking that none of Jesus’ disciples were eyewitnesses of Christ’s crucifixion. He mentioned that according to Mark 14:50, all of Jesus’ disciples fled and abandoned him.

White again did a masterful job of exposing Zaatari’s misleading selectivity by mentioning the fact that the same Gospels also report that there were many women followers of Jesus that were there at the crucifixion of Christ.

In fact, had Zaatari bothered to simply read a little past Mark 14:50, he would have seen that Mark himself confirms that Peter followed Christ from a distance all the way into the high priest’s courtyard:

“They led Jesus away to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes convened. Peter followed Him at a distance, right into the high priest’s courtyard. He was sitting with the temple police, warming himself by the fire… While Peter was in the courtyard below, one of the high priest’s servants came. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, ‘You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus.’ But he denied it: ‘I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about!” Then he went out to the entryway, and a rooster crowed. When the servant saw him again she began to tell those standing nearby, ‘This man is one of them!’ But again he denied it. After a little while those standing there said to Peter again, ‘You certainly are one of them, since you’re also a Galilean!’ Then he started to curse and to swear with an oath, ‘I don’t know this man you’re talking about!’ Immediately a rooster crowed a second time, and Peter remembered when Jesus had spoken the word to him, ‘Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.’ When he thought about it, he began to weep.” Mark 14:53-54, 66-72

Mark also mentions that there was a group of Jesus’ women followers who were present at the scene of the crucifixion:

“But Jesus let out a loud cry and breathed His last. Then the curtain of the sanctuary was split in two from top to bottom. When the centurion, who was standing opposite Him, saw the way He breathed His last, he said, ‘This man really was God’s Son!’ There were also women looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. When He was in Galilee, they would follow Him and help Him. Many other women had come up with Him to Jerusalem.” Mark 15:37-41

John independently confirms that Jesus’ women followers were there to witness Christ’s crucifixion, along with his mother and the disciple whom Jesus loved:

Standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw His mother and the disciple He loved standing there, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, here is your son.’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.’ And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.” John 19:25-27

Zaatari tried to discount these claims, but White easily refuted his feeble attempts since they all come from the very same sources which Zaatari tried to use (quite unsuccessfully I might add) to discount the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

The final point that I would like to touch on is Zaatari’s assertion that no Jewish person believed that the Messiah would be killed by his enemies, arguing that this is something that only Christians believe. This is simply another lie which simply illustrates the fact that Zaatari has no interest in the truth, but only in deceiving people into embracing his worldview.

In the first place, Zaatari keeps lumping all the Jews into one category, as if Judaism is a monolithic faith. Zaatari failed to mention the fact that not all the Jews believe in the same things or in the exact same way. Therefore, which Jews is Zaatari referring to? The Jewish believers in Jesus who believed that he was the Messiah whom the OT Scriptures prophesied would suffer, die, and rise again?

“Then He told them, ‘These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He also said to them, ‘This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.’” Luke 24:44-47

“And now, brothers, I know that you did it in ignorance, just as your leaders also did. But what God predicted through the mouth of all the prophets—that His Messiah would suffer—He has fulfilled in this way. Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus, who has been appointed for you as the Messiah. Heaven must welcome Him until the times of the restoration of all things, which God spoke about by the mouth of His holy prophets from the beginning. Moses said: ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from among your brothers. You must listen to Him in everything He will say to you. And everyone who will not listen to that Prophet will be completely cut off from the people.’ In addition, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those after him, have also announced these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your ancestors, saying to Abraham, And all the families of the earth will be blessed through your offspring. God raised up His Servant and sent Him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your evil ways.” Acts 3:17-26

“Then they traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonia and came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As usual, Paul went to the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and showing that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead: ‘This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah.’ Then some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, including a great number of God-fearing Greeks, as well as a number of the leading women.” Acts 17:1-4

“When they heard it, they glorified God and said, ‘You see, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law.” Acts 21:20

“Now brothers, I want to clarify for you the gospel I proclaimed to you; you received it and have taken your stand on it. You are also saved by it, if you hold to the message I proclaimed to you—unless you believed for no purpose. For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then He appeared to over 500 brothers at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one abnormally born, He also appeared to me.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-6

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that would come to you searched and carefully investigated. They inquired into what time or what circumstances the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when He testified in advance to the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you. These things have now been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Angels desire to look into these things.” 1 Peter 1:10-12

Does he mean Jews who are either atheists or agnostics, and therefore do not believe in revelation, let alone in a Messiah to come?

Or is he talking about the Jews that produced the Dead Sea Scrolls? If so then he has a problem since we do not have all of their writings and therefore do not know for certain whether they believed that the prophetic writings spoke of a dying and rising Messiah.(2)

Or is he speaking of rabbinic Jews, and if so, then is he referring to the rabbinic Jews that lived during the time of Christ? The problem with trying to appeal to them is that we really do not have any extant writings which has come down from them during that time period which would tell us whether these Jews believed in a slain and resurrected Messiah or not.

However, the NT documents inform us that a number of the Pharisees did become followers of Jesus:

“When they arrived at Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church, the apostles, and the elders, and they reported all that God had done with them. But some of the believers from the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them and to command them to keep the law of Moses!’” Acts 15:4-5

This opens up the question of why would these Jews believe in Jesus if there was absolutely no OT prophecy stating that the Messiah would be killed and raised from the dead?

Is he referring to the rabbinic Jews who don’t believe in Jesus? If so is he referring to the rabbinic Jews that flourished during the medieval period and who produced the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmuds? If his answer is yes then these Jews did believe that the Messiah would be killed in battle:

What is the cause of the mourning [mentioned in the last cited verse]?1 — R. Dosa and the Rabbis differ on the point. One explained, The cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph,7 and the other explained, The cause is the slaying of the Evil Inclination.

It is well according to him who explains that the cause is the slaying of Messiah the son of Joseph, since that well agrees with the Scriptural verse, And they shall look upon me because they have thrust him through, and they shall mourn for him as one mourneth for his only son;8 but according to him who explains the cause to be the slaying of the Evil Inclination, is this [it may be objected] an occasion for mourning? Is it not rather an occasion for rejoicing? Why then should they weep? — [The explanation is] as R. Judah expounded: In the time to come9 the Holy One, blessed be He, will bring the Evil Inclination and slay it in the presence of the righteous and the wicked. To the righteous it will have the appearance of a towering hill, and to the wicked it will have the appearance of a hair thread. Both the former and the latter will weep; the righteous will weep saying, ‘How were we able to overcome such a towering hill!’ The wicked also will weep saying, ‘How is it that we were unable to conquer this hair thread!’ And the Holy One, blessed be He, will also marvel together with them, as it is said, Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in those days, it shall10 also be marvellous in My eyes.11 (Babylonian Talmud, Sukkah 52a)

The following quotes are taken from the Jews for Jesus website:

A marginal reading to the Targum

At this point it is appropriate to note the relevant part of the Reuchlinianus marginal reading: And I shall cause to rest upon the house of David and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of prophecy and true prayer. And afterward the Messiah son of Ephraim will go out to do battle with Gog, and Gog will slay him in front of the gate of Jerusalem. And they shall look to me and shall inquire of me why the nations pierced the Messiah son of Ephraim."

Kevin J. Cathcart and Robert P. Gordon, editors. The Targum of the Minor Prophets: Translated, with a Critical Introduction, Apparatus, and Notes (Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1989), p. 218. This is volume 14 in the series The Aramaic Bible.

Rashi in his commentary to Sukkah 52a (11th c.)

The words, "The land shall mourn," are found in the prophecy of Zechariah, and he prophesies of the future, that they shall mourn on account of Messiah, the son of Joseph, who shall be slain in the war of Gog and Magog.

Cited in A. M'Caul, Rabbi David Kimchi's Commentary Upon the Prophecies of Zechariah, Translated from the Hebrew with Notes, and Observations on the Passages Relating to the Messiah (London: James Duncan, 1837), p. 161.

Ibn Ezra (12th c.)

All the heathen shall look to me to see what I shall do to those who pierced Messiah, the son of Joseph.

Cited in M'Caul, p. 158.

Abrabanel (15th c.)

It is more correct to interpret this passage of Messiah, the son of Joseph, as our rabbis of blessed memory have interpreted in the treatise Succah, for he shall be a mighty man of valour, of the tribe of Joseph, and shall, at first, be captain of the Lord's host in that war, but in that war shall die.

Cited in M'Caul, p. 159.

Moses Alshekh (16th c.)

I will do yet a third thing, and that is, that "they shall look unto me," for they shall lift up their eyes unto me in perfect repentance, when they see him whom they pierced, that is Messiah, the son of Joseph; for our rabbis, of blessed memory, have said, THAT HE WILL TAKE UPON HIMSELF ALL THE GUILT OF ISRAEL, and shall then be slain in the war to make an atonement, in such a manner, that it shall be accounted as if Israel had pierced him, FOR ON ACCOUNT OF THEIR SINS HE HAS DIED; and therefore, in order that it may be reckoned to them as a perfect atonement, they will repent, and look to the blessed One, saying that there is none beside Him to forgive those that mourn on account of him WHO DIED FOR THEIR SIN: this is the meaning of "They shall look upon me."

Cited in M'Caul, p. 163. (Jewish Messianic Interpretations of Zechariah 12:10; capital, italic, and underline emphasis my own)

Here we see rabbinic Judaism coming up with a slain Messiah, whom they identified as the Son of Ephraim/Joseph, in order to deal with OT texts such as Zechariah 12:10, which speak of the Messiah being killed or pierced through.

So much for Zaatari’s assertion that the Jews never believed that the Messiah would be killed by his enemies!

More importantly, if Zaatari is going to be consistent then he has no choice but to reject Muhammad as a false prophet since his prophet contradicted what these same rabbis taught/teach concerning the Person and work of the Messiah. For instance, these particular Jews do not believe that the Messiah would be conceived and born from a virgin, nor do they believe that he will be sent twice, which is precisely what Muhammad is said to have taught his followers!

They do believe, however, that the Messiah will be a human descendant of David from his father’s side who will rule forever and usher in universal peace, all of which Islam denies!

According to the teachings of Islam, Jesus is the virgin born Messiah whom God raised up to himself in order to save him from the disbelieving Jews who were plotting to kill him, and whom God will send back to rule the earth as a Muslim. Then after forty years of ruling and judging on the earth, Jesus the Messiah will die and be buried, and will subsequently be raised back to life on the Day of Judgment:

Narrated AbuHurayrah: The Prophet said: There is no prophet between me and him, that is, Jesus. He will descent (to the earth). When you see him, recognise him: a man of medium height, reddish fair, wearing two light yellow garments, looking as if drops were falling down from his head though it will not be wet. He will fight the people for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill swine, and abolish jizyah. Allah will perish all religions except Islam. He will destroy the Antichrist and will live on the earth for forty years and then he will die. The Muslims will pray over him. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 37, Number 4310)

In light of this fact, Zaatari must now come out and condemn Muhammad as a fraud, a false prophet, for believing that Jesus was the Messiah and for saying things about the Messiah which goes against the teachings of mainstream rabbinic Judaism. He has no other choice if he is truly a man of integrity, and not simply another typical Muslim taqiyyist who is not interested in consistency or truth, but only in convincing people to become Muslims by any means necessary, even if those means entail using lies and deceptions in order to do so.

To conclude, I must say that this was a very enjoyable debate for me personally, since Dr. White was able to easily refute Zaatari’s desperate polemics, as well as make a clear presentation and defense of the truth of the Gospel.(3) What made it even more enjoyable to watch is that, not only did Dr. White thoroughly manhandle Zaatari, this debate also provided another clear cut example of Sami Zaatari’s deceptive debate tactics. It provided further confirmation for what I have been saying about Zaatari. In my studied opinion, Zaatari is not only one of the worst debaters out there, he also happens to be one of the most dishonest, since he has no shame in twisting his opponent’s arguments, or misapplying and misquoting sources, in order to try and score points in the eyes of his fan base. Sadly, this is the taqiyyist that Muslims hail as one of their finest apologists, which only goes to show how intellectually and morally bankrupt Islamic dawah truly is, and perfectly illustrates the sad state of Islamic apologetics and polemics.

It is therefore time for Zaatari to find another line of work since Islamic apologetics isn’t cutting it for him. Unless, of course, Zaatari wants to continue to produce materials and debates which only end up helping Christians, such as ourselves, to expose him by furnishing clear cut evidence that Islam is a false religion and that Muhammad was a false prophet. If that is what he intends to do then by all means let him continue to do what he does best!

Lord willing, we will provide links to the debate once it is posted online so that the readers can see for themselves the outstanding job Dr. White did by God’s grace in refuting Zaatari and proving that the Quran contains a serious historical blunder for denying the crucifixion of our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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(1) The other times where Zaatari found himself being seriously embarrassed was when he debated both David Wood and Keith Thompson:

(2) However, one Jewish scholar named Israel Knohl has written a book titled, “The Messiah Before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls”, where he claims that there are in fact certain scrolls that apply the Suffering Servant passage of Isaiah 53 to one of their own who would suffer, die, and then be raised back to life in three days. Suffice it to say, this book is a fascinating read that, if correct, proves that the concept of a suffering and dying Messiah wasn’t alien to the Judaism of Jesus’ day. It also provides evidence that the Jews of that period had already begun interpreting Isaiah 53 along Messianic lines.

(3) Another embarrassing moment came when Zaatari kept harping against Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch, who wrote a book questioning whether the Islamic Muhammad ever existed. Zaatari claimed that Spencer isn’t a serious and credible historian, certainly not like the Biblical scholars and historians that Zaatari cited such as Geza Vermes, E. P. Sanders, and Paula Fredriksen. What made this so embarrassing is that, in his concluding statements, Dr. White had to remind Zaatari that he was the one who brought up Spencer, since Dr. White never even referred to him! To say that this was utterly humiliating would be a wild understatement.