What did Jesus really say?
A book by Dr. Mishaal Abdullah Al-Kadhi
Chapter 1: Christian-Muslim Dialogue
"Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD" Isaiah 1:18
Christians believe that Jesus (pbuh) came to teach all of mankind the religion of God and to show them the path to salvation. All mankind is therefore required to follow his message and only those who believe in the crucifixion and the redemption will be saved. They believe that the Jews are also required to convert to Christianity since Jesus was sent to them, therefore, they are the most qualified people to recognize the word of God and the signs of Jesus (pbuh) to be found in their own book. Most Jews, on the other hand, tell us that Jesus (pbuh) was not a messenger of God, but rather a false prophet, a sorcerer, an offspring of adulterers, and many other allegations. They claim that there are no prophesies of Jesus (pbuh) in their book and that he was not the promised Messiah/Christ (anointed one). Their Messiah is yet to come. For this reason, they claim that they are not required by God to follow Jesus (pbuh) and were justified in killing him.
Muslims believe in both Moses and Jesus (pbut) as true prophets of God. We believe that both Moses and Jesus as well as Noah, Abraham, Jacob, and all the rest of the prophets of God were all truthful messengers as well as faithful and faultless servants of Allah Almighty. We also believe in the miracles of Jesus (pbuh), including his miraculous birth. Muslims believe that each time a messenger of God would pass away, mankind would begin to slowly fall back upon their evil deeds until they had managed to corrupt His original message. When this would happen, God Almighty would send a new prophet to renew His original message to these people and return them to the straight path. In this manner, the true message of Allah would always be available to all those who searched for it until the day of judgment. This can be seen in the Bible in such verses as Matthew 5:17-18 we read:
"Think not that I (Jesus) am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled, Fulfillment of Law of Moses."
The Jews know God as "Elohiym" or "Yahweh." The Christians know Him as "God," or "Father," or "Jehovah," etc.. Muslims know him as "Allah" (and more than 99 other venerable names). Muslims believe that Allah Almighty did not send down many messages to mankind but only one: The religion of submission to His will, the uniqueness of Himself, and the knowledge that He is the only one worthy of worship. The details of the religion were molded to suite each individual people, but the message was one message: "Allah is One. Worship Him alone!" This is made apparent in the verse of Aal-Umran(3):84 which states that which means:
"Say (O Muhammad): We believe in Allah, and that which is sent down unto us, and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the sons of Jacob, and that which was vouchsafed unto Moses and Jesus and the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them and unto Him we have surrendered."
Also, in Al-Nisaa(5):138 we read that which means
"O you who believe! Believe in Allah and His messenger, and the Scripture (Qur'an) which he has revealed unto His messenger, and the Scripture which He revealed aforetime. Whosoever disbelieves in Allah and His angels and His Scriptures and His messengers and the last day, he verily has wandered far astray."
Muslims are told in the Qur'an that the unscrupulous few had managed to pervert the words of God Almighty sent down to Jesus (pbuh) and the previous prophets after the passing of their prophets. The well meaning masses were then misled by what was claimed to be 100% the "inspiration" of God. The changes made by these people have resulted in countless contradictions between the verses. As we shall soon see, these contradictions and changes have been well recognized and documented in the West for centuries now. However, their actions have been excused because they are assumed to have been well meaning and were only trying to clarify that which was obscure and so forth when they changed the word of God (See chapter 2). Whatever their motives, these apologists forget the command of Deuteronomy 4:2
"Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God."
The liberties mankind has taken with God's previous scriptures is one of the reasons why God sent down the Qur'an as His last message to mankind and took it upon Himself this time to personally preserve it for all time from corruption or modification
Professor Arthur J. Arberry writes:
"Apart from certain orthographical modifications of the originally somewhat primitive method of writing, intended to render unambiguous and easy the task of reading the recitation, the Koran (Qur'an) as printed in the twentieth century is identical with the Koran as authorized by Uthman more than 1300 years ago."
On the other hand, Mr. C.G. Tucker says:
"...Thus Gospels were produced which clearly reflected the conception of the practical needs of the community for which they were written. In them the traditional material was used, but there was no hesitation in altering it or making additions to it, or in leaving out what did not serve the writer's purpose."
"The history of the Christians in the light of modern knowledge," C. G. Tucker, p. 320
Mr. C.J. Cadoux has the following to say in his book "The life of Jesus" :
"In the four Gospels, therefore, the main documents to which we must go if we are to fill-out at all that bare sketch which we can put together from other sources, we find material of widely differing quality as regards credibility. So far-reaching is the element of uncertainty that it is tempting to 'down tools' at once, and to declare the task hopeless. The historical inconsistencies and improbabilities in parts of the Gospels form some of the arguments advanced in favor of the Christ-myth theory. These are, however, entirely outweighed- as we have shown- by other considerations. Still the discrepancies and uncertainties that remain are serious- and consequently many moderns who have no doubt whatever of Jesus' real existence, regard as hopeless any attempt to dissolve out of the historically-true from the legendary or mythical matter which the Gospels contain, and to reconstruct the story of Jesus' mission out of the more historical residue."
Reverend Dr. Davies says:
"But to come to realities, no serious modern scholar believes that the speeches appearing in the New Testament are verbatim records of what the speaker said. Even as conservative a scholar as Headlam has to admit that the speeches are 'in a sense' - he does not say what sense - the author's 'own composition.' ... Schmidel, in his article on Acts in the Encyclopedia Biblica, says unreservedly that 'it is without doubt that the author constructed [the speeches] in each case according to his own conception of the situation.' Schweitzer thinks the speeches in Acts may be 'based upon traditions of speeches ... actually delivered, but in the form in which we have them they doubtless belong to the author of Acts and are adapted to his representation of the facts," Rev. Davies goes on to quote Thucydides who admits that "..[assigning fictitious speeches to Biblical characters] was the universal ancient custom."
"The First Christian," Reverend Dr. Davies, pp. 23-24
Prof. J.R. Drummelow says:
"A copyist would sometimes put in not what was in the text, but what he thought ought to be in it. He would trust a fickle memory, or he would make the text accord with the views of the school to which he belonged. In addition to the versions and quotations from the Christian Fathers, nearly four thousand Greek MSS of the Testament, were known to exist. As a result , the variety of reading is considerable."
"Commentary on the Holy Bible," page 16
Not long after my arrival in the United States, I had the pleasure of meeting a Christian gentleman who shall henceforth be referred to only as Mr. J. Unlike this lowly author, Mr. J. is a "professional" Christian. He also has a history of strong evangelical activity, at least with the Muslim students of our university. Mr. J made himself known to us through written letters to us, calls to our Muslim chaplain, and his appearance before us on other occasions wherein he called upon us to believe in Jesus (pbuh) and to accept his sacrifice. Mr. J. had sent our Muslim chaplain and myself books with many allegations against the Qur'an and a general condemnation of it. A series of friendly discussions ensued between us and we have since come to know each other quite well and have managed to remain friendly and outgoing towards one another even with our differing beliefs. However, the fact that this author is not a professional religious person or a professional preacher, but rather a simple science student, has made it necessary to schedule these matters around other more immediate scholarly concerns. It was first and foremost the will of Allah, then the continuous efforts of Mr. J., his claims regarding Islam, and his sincere efforts to convert me and grant me salvation which compelled me to step up my research of the Bible and the Qur'an and ultimately, publish this book. I therefore thank Allah Almighty that he sent Mr. J. to me as a blessing from Himself for me, and hopefully for many others.
Before this book was written, I had published a series of articles in a local publication which had been progressing slowly from exhibiting some of the more minor examples of human modification to the Bible, such as the fact that the authors of the Bible are not who they claim to be, and had been working up to more fundamental issues. Mr. J asked us to publish his counter viewpoint in our publication and we accepted.
Mr. J believed that the examples of contradictory statements in the Bible which we had been jointly discussing did not in any way affect the founding beliefs of Christianity (see examples in chapter two). He provided me with literature by men such as Mr. F.F. Bruce stating such things as
"...Does it matter whether the New Testament documents are reliable or not? Is it so very important that we should be able to accept them as truly historical records?"
and also"...the story of Jesus as it has come down to us may be myth or legend, but the teaching ascribed to him- whether he was actually responsible for it or not - has a value all it's own," and so forth.
Muslims know for a fact that Jesus (pbuh) was neither a myth nor a legend but a true prophet of God, but we do feel that an inspired book of God should contain no contradictions, historical or otherwise. For this reason we do not believe that his book has reached us as it was originally submitted by him.
Mr. J believes that such matters as knowing the true authors of the books of the Bible are not crucial to a Christian's faith and challenged us to prove that a Christian's basic faith is at all in error and not the same message preached by Jesus 2000 years ago. In compliance with his request, he was sent four very brief questions concerning the founding beliefs of Christianity. He was then asked to provide carefully researched and weighed answers to these questions. These four questions are presented below. They have been slightly modified in this book in order to ensure that they are as clear as possible. The basic questions, however, remain the same:
"Faith" is without a doubt one of the most basic and fundamental ingredients in the doctrine of any religious belief. However, when you wish someone to believe in a given fundamental doctrine which you propose, it is first necessary to prove the validity of your assertion before you can ask that person to "have faith." In other words, faith is indeed important, however, it can not precede the proof. Once the proof has been established, only then can faith come into play. This is indeed what prophet Jesus (pbuh) taught his followers during his lifetime. Jesus (pbuh) did not simply show up before the Jews one day and demand that the Pharisees, Sadducees, and everyone else accept him without proof. Rather, he performed many miracles for them and at the same time reasoned with them and used logic to convince them. The Bible is full of examples of how Jesus (pbuh) would go out of his way to explain things to his followers, reason with them and prove his case to them.
Obviously, when we ask for proof that a given person taught a given doctrine, the very first place to look for proof of this claim is the words of that person himself. If I believe that Jesus (pbuh) taught a given fundamental doctrine such as the Trinity, the "Son of God," the "original sin," or the "atonement," then not only would I be justified in expecting him to have mentioned it at least once throughout his whole ministry, but I would expect him to have spoken of practically nothing else. For this reason, the above four questions have been proposed in order to arrive at the command of Jesus (pbuh). If Jesus did indeed ever command that I should worship a Trinity or that I should believe that he is God, then I would expect him to say so clearly at least once in his whole life. If he says it at least once then others shall be justified in repeating it a thousand times. However, I want to first know ...
What did Jesus really say?
The Bible says:
"Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."
Jesus (peace be upon him) clearly outlines here that it is his words that we must keep and that shall lead to the love of God. Naturally, I wish to know what Jesus said so that I might follow his command, and his alone. Every one else's words without exception shall then be either accepted or rejected based upon their conformance to the words of the great and pious messenger of Allah, Jesus the son of Mary. Does this sound fair?
The Christian world has performed a very admirable job in providing us with Bibles in practically every size, language, shape and color. Among these Bibles are the series of Bibles titled the "Red letter editions." These Bibles are set apart from more conventional Bibles in that the words of Jesus are distinguished from the rest of the text by writing them in red ink. This makes the process of locating the words of Jesus and differentiating them from those of everyone else much simpler for the reader. Our goal in this book is to find evidence in the RED ink of where Jesus (pbuh) himself ever taught mankind any of the fundamental concepts of the religion which has been attributed to him and which is named "Christianity". We shall see in what follows that whenever someone tries to validate such doctrines they always attempt to do so with the words in the BLACK ink and never the ones in RED ink.
Muslims are told in the Qur'an that Jesus (pbuh) was one of the most pious and elect messengers of God Almighty for all time. However, we are also told that he was not himself a god, nor the physical son of God. We read in the Qur'an:
"And when Allah said: O Jesus, son of Mary! Did you say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah?* he said: Be You glorified. It was not mine to utter that to which I had no right. If I used to say it, then You knew it. You know what is in my [innermost] self but I know not what is in Yours. Truly! You, only You are the Knower of things hidden. I spoke unto them only that which You commanded me, (saying): Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord, and I was a witness over them while I dwelt among them, and when You took me You were the Watcher over them, and You are Witness over all things."
The noble Qur'an, Al-Maidah(5):116-118
Obviously, both claims can not be true. Either Jesus (pbuh) did indeed command mankind to worship him or he did not. Since my level of knowledge of the words of the Bible obviously can not compare with that of Mr. J., therefore, I was hoping that he could demonstrate to me where Jesus actually said any of these things. Since the issues of the Trinity, the Son of God, the original sin, and the atonement comprise the most fundamental differences in belief between the Islamic and Christian faith, therefore, I had hoped that in answering these four very brief questions it might be possible to once and for all arrive at the true command of Jesus. Mr. J's response follows:
1.1 Christian perspective
It is my great privilege and pleasure to have been invited to address the readers [of this publication] on some of the most important distinctions between Christianity and Islam. Four questions have been proposed as a means of clarifying the Biblical perspective in relation to the series of articles on Jesus and Christianity that appeared last semester.
As I see it, all four questions essentially come together in one basic question: Who is Jesus? The answer to that question, and the heart of the message that has been proclaimed by followers of Jesus since His advent, is that "you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name." (John 20:31).
Addressing each of these questions may now help clarify this historic Christian conviction.
1. Is there a Trinity?
The Biblical teaching of God's essential nature, summarized in the word "Trinity," rests largely on our understanding of the identity of Jesus, a question I will take up in some length under question #3.
At this point, perhaps a demonstration that the terminology for the doctrine of the Trinity is found throughout the New Testament:
The doctrine of the Trinity is perhaps best understood in terms of Christian salvation. Christians believe that God the Father wills that we be reconciled to Him from sin, and that He sent the Son, Who in His perfect life and substitutionary death provides the basis of that reconciliation, and that the Father now, in Jesus' name, sends the Holy Spirit, Who applies the salvation of Jesus to the Christian believers, thus saving them and empowering them to live lives of victory over sin. Thus is the Christian's experience and assurance of salvation in terms of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Yet they absolutely believe that there is only one God. How do we put this together? This is where the word "Trinity" comes in. It expresses this truth about God as it is found in the Bible.
This is certainly not an exhaustive explanation, but it may help to demonstrate the significance of the doctrine in practical Christian life.
2. Is Jesus the physical (begotten/sired) son of God Son of God?
Jesus is presented in the New Testament as the Son of God by virtue of His unique eternal relationship with the Father and by means of His unique virgin birth. We need to understand, then, how Jesus is the Son of God. The New Testament tells us how:
The question as stated implies that Jesus is somehow the result of a physical union between God and Mary, but this is not at all the case. Jesus' birth is a miraculous event through the agency of the Holy Spirit. Thus the Son's deity is incarnated, or made flesh; in this Jesus is the "God-man"
Begotten is the old English word that, while in human terms means to have a child, the emphasis even there is that what a human father "begets' shares in the essential nature of that father. It is in this sense that the King James translates the Greek word monogenes as "begotten ; Jesus shares the essential nature of the Father, but rather through some physical act, but a supernatural one.
3. Did Jesus Himself ever say in the Bible "I am God!" or "worship me!"?
What makes Jesus stand out from all other religious figures is the nature of His claims about Himself. He claims the prerogatives of God, the rightful object of a person's supreme allegiance, and receives with out censure the worship and obedience of those who believe.
A number of examples may help to illustrate this:
A. Forgiveness of sins
In Mark 2:1-12, we read the account of Jesus healing a crippled man. What is so surprising, and so shocking to His original audience, is the statement that Jesus makes before healing the man.
As Jesus sees a group of men bring the paralytic to Him, Mark records the scene:
When Jesus saw their faith , he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins..." He said to the paralytic, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.
Jesus in the Gospels appropriates two significant titles throughout His ministry:
1. The Son of Man
This is the title that Jesus Himself uses most frequently. It is a Messianic title derived from the Old Testament book of Daniel. When we read the passage in Daniel, the implicit claim that Jesus is making about Himself becomes apparent:
In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He (the son of man) was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14).
2. The Son of God
At His trial Jesus affirmed this title: Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" "I am," said Jesus. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven. (Mark 14:61-63).
C. Jesus' direct claims
At the climax of a lengthy argument, Jesus speaks of Himself: "Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad." "You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!" "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds." (John 8:56-59).
The shock of this claim are those two words "I am." It is the same designation that God used for Himself in His call to Moses: God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" (Exodus 3:14).
D. Jesus receives worship
Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, Jesus said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" "Who is he, sir?" the man asked. "Tell me so that I may believe in him.." Jesus said, "You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.." Then the man said, "Lord. I believe," and he worshipped him." (John 9:35-38).
Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him... (Matthew 28:16-17).
E. Jesus accepts divine entitlement
In what is a clear dialogue between Jesus and "Doubting" Thomas, we read: Then Jesus said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.." Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus held him," Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:27-29).
Does Jesus say, "I am God"? No, because that would have been misunderstood. Jesus is not the Father (as it would have been thought), Jesus is the Son. But He clearly claims an absolutely unique relationship with God whom Jesus calls 'Father." Jesus claims something about Himself that, through the various miracles, His statements as cited above, and the response He receives from other people, is slowly filled-out, and the meaning of His Sonship becomes clear.
In the very opening of his Gospel, the Apostle John presents Jesus as "the Word" and provides perhaps the clearest explanation of the identity of Jesus, the meaning of the incarnation, and a further glimpse into the reality of the Trinity:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-4; 14).
4. If it can be proven, through the Bible, that Jesus is not God, nor the physical/begotten/sired son of God Son of God, neither is there any trinity, then will this prove that the unscrupulous few have corrupted the word of God?
The Christian message about Jesus revolves around three facts: the incarnation, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. Prove from the Bible or otherwise that any one of these three things are not true, and like a three-legged stool the truth of the message would collapse.
Most "proofs" against the traditional teachings of Christianity consist of pitting one passage of Scripture against another, and almost always taking such passages out of context. Context, I believe, always vindicates the understanding of God and of Jesus as I have here tried to briefly present.
I would conclude, then, with an encouragement for the readers to read the Bible, particularly one of the Gospels, for themselves. There, I believe, the words and works of Jesus would provide a most convincing reason to embrace Him as Lord and Savior, and find in Him the spiritual satisfaction that so many today seek after.
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