Saturday, September 12, 2009

Jesus: First for the Jew, then for the Gentile

Many Muslims misrepresent the Bible. I am sure they do not do this as an act of dishonesty, but it is that the Qur’an forces them to engage in such dishonest behaviour.

But let us see what Jesus and the Bible actually teach. Firstly, we shall turn to Romans 1:16 – I believe this to be a succinct summary of Jesus’ earthly mission:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Romans 1:16 (NET)

It is true. Jesus was first for the lost sheep of Israel, and then to the Gentiles. This was clearly demonstrated within his public ministry. Early on we are told:

"Jesus sent out these twelve, instructing them as follows: “Do not go to Gentile regions and do not enter any Samaritan town. Go instead to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
Matthew 10:5-6 (NET)

But this is not where Jesus stopped. Just as the scriptures predicted, Jesus’ ministry was not to be forever limited to the Jews. In Luke, alluding to prophesy in Isaiah, we see Jesus’ full mission:

“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
Luke 2:29-32 (ESV)

He was to be “a light for revelation to the Gentiles” (Luke 2:32a) and a “a light for the nations” (Isaiah 42:6). Jesus was conscious of this and made it clear:

Then Jesus spoke out again, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
John 8:12

The light of the world? Hmm

At the end of the Jesus’ ministry he brought this in action. He commissioned his disciples to spread the gospel to all the nations of the world.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit
Matthew 28:19

and [Jesus] said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem
Luke 24:46-47 (ESV)

[Jesus said to them]… But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Acts 1:8 (ESV)

As is evident, Jesus fulfilled what said about him and he said of his self. He instructed his disciples to spread the message to all nations and this is what they did. Taking the message of Jesus to both Jews and Gentiles.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Reviewing the Jesus Puzzle: The Conspiracy of a Conspiracy of Silence

Following is a short examination of the first piece of the puzzle presented in Earl Doherty's The Jesus Puzzle: Pieces in a Puzzle of Christian Origins. Within the article, Doherty breaks down the evidence for Jesus into 10 pieces in an attempt to demonstrate a mythical origin of Christianity.

The first piece of the puzzle is the Conspiracy of Silence. The argument behind this piece simply put is that the early Christian writings do not contain the Gospel narrative. The absence of narrative includes the following:
  1. No reference to Jesus' life and ministry.
  2. No mention of miracles performed by Jesus
  3. No mention of physical teaching of Jesus
Furthermore, he attempts to diffuse the historical references in the epistles. For example, he alleges that 1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 is a later interpolation. Metzger's A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament makes no mention of a viable interpolation here on textual grounds. Paul's mention of the Lord's Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23 is simply written off as "a mythical scene Paul has himself developed" without justification. Evidently, the many exceptions to his rule are conveniently interpolations or myth.

When we get to the non-Christian sources, Josephus' mention in Antiquities of the Jews 18 is a "Christian interpolation" as is the mention of "James the brother of Jesus, the one called (the) Christ" in Antiquities 20.


Regarding the mentions in the epistles, we have seen that they are simply written off as (1) later interpolations and (2) mythical inventions of the author. This process does not seem to be a function of historical investigation but simply modifying the evidence and parameters to fit the pre-conceived conclusion. This same sort of evidence tampering continues with the mentions in the non-Christian sources. Josephus' clear and acknowledged mentions are placed into the realm of later Christian interpolations and tampering. In this way his thesis can once again be qualified.

It seems that the conspiracy of silence is one created by Doherty himself. With regard to the later pagan sources, they are beyond this investigation simply as they are a fallacious standard. Where historians mention Jesus, they are interpolations - when other historians who one would not expect to record the ministry of a Jew of Nazareth do not mention Jesus, this is evidence for his conclusions. At best, he is circular.

Now, regarding the claims of Josephus, Doherty is clearly against the consensus of scholars. The second mention of Jesus in the words of Professor Edwin Yamauchi, "Few scholars have questioned the genuineness of this passage." Any survey on the historical evidence for Jesus from both liberal and conservative commentators will make this fact known. With regard to the longer reference to Jesus there is evidence of Christian embelishments. However, once again, the consensus is that there was a clear mention of Jesus as a physical person placed in history here. Bruce Chilton, Craig A. Evans and Jacob Neusner in The Missing Jesus state:

"In the part of this embellished text that virtually all regard as authentic Josephus describes Jesus as a teacher and wonderworker who was accused by the leading men (i.e., ruling priests) before the Roman governor." (p.21)
From what scholars see as the authentic text of Josephus we can learn 10 facts about Jesus:

(1) Jesus was known as a wise and virtuous man, one recognized for his good conduct. (2) He had many disciples, both Jews and Gentiles. (3) Pilate condemned him to die, (4) with crucifixion explicitly being mentioned as the mode. (5) The disciples reported that Jesus had risen from the dead and (6) that he had appeared to them on the third day after his crucifixion. (7) Consequently, the disciples continued to proclaim his teachings. (8) Perhaps Jesus was the Messiah concerning whom the Old Testament prophets spoke and predicted wonders. We would add here two facts from Josephus’ earlier quotation as well. (9) Jesus was the brother of James and (10) was called the messiah by some. (Gary Habermas, The Historical Jesus : Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ)
The scholarly understanding of Josephus' mentions of Jesus are very different to that entertained by Doherty.

Now, with regard to Doherty's points on the silence of the various epistles. As was demonstrated above, those that conflict with his overall thesis are designated as either myth or interpolations. However, there are many more points that Doherty seems ignorant of. Regarding placing Jesus in history, from the Pauline epistles alone we can learn enough to blast Doherty's marginal thesis. These historical points are collated by prominent New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce in his book 'Paul and Jesus':
"Paul is out earliest literary authority for the historical Jesus. True, he does not tell us much about the historical Jesus, in comparison with what we can learn from the Evangelists, but he does tell us a little more than that Jesus was born and died. Jesus was an Israelite, he says, descended from Abraham (Gal 3:16) and David (Rom. 1:3); who lived under the Jewish law (Gal. 4:4); who was betrayed, and on the night of his betrayal instituted a memorial meal of bread and wine (I Cor. 11:23ff); who endured the Roman penalty of crucifixion (I Cor. 1:23; Gal. 3:1, 13, 6:14, etc.), although Jewish authorities were somehow involved His death (I Thess. 2:15); who was buried, rose the third day and was thereafter seen alive by many eyewitnesses on various occasions, including one occasion on which He was so seen by over five hundred at once, of whom the majority were alive twenty-five years later (I Cor. 15:4ff). In this summary of the evidence for the reality of Christ’s resurrection, Paul shows a sound instinct for the necessity of marshalling personal testimony in support of what might well appear an incredible assertion..

Paul knows of the Lord’s apostles, of whom Peter and John are mentioned by name as “pillars” of the Jerusalem community (Gal. 2:9), and of His brothers, of whom James is similarly mentioned (Gal. 1:19; 2:9). He knows that the Lord’s brothers and apostles, including Peter, were married (I Cor. 9:5), and incidental agreement with the Gospel story of the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:30). He quotes sayings of Jesus on occasion, e.g., His teaching on marriage and divorce (I Cor. 7:10f) and on the right of gospel preachers to have their material needs supplied (I Cor. 9:14); and the words He used at the institution of the Lord’s Supper (I Cor. 11:24ff).

Even when he does not quote the actual sayings of Jesus, he shows throughout his works how well acquainted he was with them. In particular, we ought to compare the ethical section of the Epistle to the Romans (12:1-15:7), where Paul summarizes the practical implications of the gospel for the lives of believers, with the Sermon on the Mount, to see how thoroughly imbued the apostle was with the teaching of his Master. Besides, there and elsewhere Paul’s chief argument in his ethical instruction is t example of Christ Himself. And the character of Christ as portrayed in the Gospels. When Paul speaks of “the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (II Cor. 10:1), we remember our Lord’s own words, “I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29). The self-denying Christ of the Gospels is the one of whom Paul says, “Christ did not please himself” (Rom. 15:3); and just as the Christ of the Gospels called on His followers to deny themselves (Mark 8:34), so the apostle insists that, after the example ofo Christ, it is our Christian duty “to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Rom. 15:1)….” (pp. 19-20)
Evidently, this is much more information than a conspiracy of silence. Similarly, Paul makes it clear that he is familiar with the teachings of Jesus such as on the issues of divorce.

However, the death blow to the epistle conspiracy occurs when one considers the circumstances of the epistles. These circumstances are two-fold:
  1. The epistles were written to communities that probably already knew gospel narrative. It would not be necessary to recount a biography of Jesus in every letter composed to another community acquainted with the narrative. Take for example, epistles from the Johannine community. They make few references to a historical Jesus yet they produced the Gospel of John which claimed to be based on the eyewitness testimony of the beloved disciple. Evidently, this community which was thoroughly acquainted with the gospel narratives made few references in the epistles. The logic behind such expectations is emphasised when we consider the genre of the epistles.
  2. The genre of the epistles were letters. Letters were not biographical narratives.
As prominent liberal New Testament scholar Marcus Borg states:
"But Paul’s letters tell us very little about the life and message of Jesus. This does not mean that Jesus’s historical life was unimportant to Paul, as some scholars have suggested. Rather, Jesus mattered greatly to Paul. Paul spoke of Jesus as Lord and as God’s Son, as did early Christians generally. He wrote about life “in Christ,” “Christ crucified,” and “imitating Christ.” But narrating the story of Jesus was not the purpose of his letters. Rather, as the literary genre of “letters” indicates, Paul was writing to Christian communities about issues that had arisen in their life together." (Marcus Borg, Jesus p.32)
As has been clearly demonstrated, the grounding for Doherty's thesis is questionable at best.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Codex Sinaiticus and the Media - Dan Wallace

Dan Wallace blogged about some of the errors in the hyped up media on Codex Sinaiticus. The full article can be found here.

  • “The world’s oldest Bible”—a headline in countless newspaper articles. It is the world’s oldest complete New Testament, but Codex Vaticanus is probably older than Sinaiticus. Both are incomplete in the Old Testament, and Vaticanus is also incomplete in the New Testament. Thus, if an incomplete manuscript can be considered as the oldest Bible, Vaticanus would be the one.

  • “The earliest surviving copy of the Gospels”—numerous sources, including New York Daily News and Welt (7-6-09). No, there are several manuscripts, especially papyrus fragments, that are older: P52 (c. 100-150 CE, thus a good 200 years older than Sinaiticus) contains five verses from John’s Gospel; P66 (c. 175 CE) contains most of John; P75 (early third century) contains most of John and Luke; P45 (third century) contains large portions of all four Gospels, etc. There are well over twenty papyri that are both older than Sinaiticus and have portions of at least one of the Gospels. In addition, Codex B has the complete Gospels and is probably older than Sinaiticus.

  • “In earlier centuries there were all manner of documents in scroll form of gospels, epistles and other Christian writings. As time went by, some were judged to be authoritative and included in the canon; others were deemed to be apocryphal or errant” (The Independent, 7-7-09). This is not exactly true. There are only three or four early Greek New Testament manuscripts on scrolls, and each of them is on the back side (or verso) or some other manuscript. From all the evidence available, Christians used the codex as the book-form of choice rather than the scroll. To be sure, some apocryphal books are on scrolls, but no early Greek New Testament books are. If the form of the book is any indication, this may suggest that very early on Christians recognized certain books as intrinsically of more worth than others. At the same time, some apocryphal books are also in codices. Nevertheless, the consistency of having the NT books in codex form while non-NT Christian and subchristian books were often on scrolls may suggest a trend that mirrors how the early church viewed the New Testament books.

  • “It includes two works which have since been dropped from both Catholic and Protestant Bibles”—the Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas (The Independent, 7-7-09). This presupposes that these books were considered canonical in the fourth century. But that is doubtful in the extreme. It is, in fact, doubtful whether such books would have been considered scripture at any time by a majority of Christian churches. That they are under the same cover as the OT and NT does not necessarily indicate that they were regarded as scripture, especially since we have no corroborating evidence to suggest this. In the least, the reason why Barnabas and Hermas are within Sinaiticus’s covers is open to more than one interpretation.

  • The same article says that Sinaiticus says that Jesus was angry, rather than compassionate, when he healed a leper (Mark 1.41), but this is not the case. Codex Bezae says this, but not Sinaiticus. The article also says that Sinaiticus omits “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever” from the Lord’s Prayer, even though these are “words which Protestants add to the end of the Lord’s Prayer.” In this instance, the author is right about Sinaiticus, but what his basis is for saying that Protestants add these words is not given. It certainly is not based on modern Bibles that Protestants use: neither the ASV, RSV, NRSV, ESV, NIV, TNIV, TEV, NEB, REB, or NET have this sentence, yet these translations account for the great majority of modern English Bibles in use today.

  • “You might suppose it [the virtual reunification of Sinaticus] would upset those who believe the Bible is the inerrant, unaltered word of God, since the Codex shows there have over the centuries been thousands of alterations to today’s Bible. But they can counter that there are earlier, individual manuscripts of almost all the books in the Bible; the Codex just pulls them together into a single volume. In any case, fundamentalists have long been adept at ignoring the evidence of historical biblical scholarship” (ibid.). A whole host of faulty assumptions occur in this paragraph, such as that inerrantists and fundamentalists are synonymous, that the changes made to the codex in later centuries can have any impact on one’s belief in the inerrancy of the autographs, that the whole issue of canonicity is in some way altered by this codex, or even that knowledge of this manuscript is only now coming to light. All this really shows is that the author is ignorant of both inerrantists and Sinaiticus.

  • “The first part of what is now considered the Bible — from Genesis to 1 Chronicles — is missing” (CBC News [Canada], 7-6-09). Not completely true. Portions of the early books of the Old Testament were discovered in 1975 at St. Catherine’s Monastery and are now on-line. As far as the extant Sinaiticus, this statement was true prior to 1975, but the article is a bit behind the times.

  • “The Codex is not a work of perfection but a work in progress, bearing the material traces of emendation and construction. You can see how the Christian narrative was constructed and revised” (The Guardian, 7-8-09). This is not exactly false, but it is misleading. It sounds as if the author is saying that the Christian faith was materially affected by the ‘corrections’ in this manuscript. But textual critics know that later corrections to a manuscript are generally done by a different standard and do nothing to help us determine the wording of the original text of said manuscript. In this case, as Klaus Wachtel of Muenster demonstrated at the Sinaiticus Conference in London this last week, the later correctors (after the manuscript left the scriptorium) were conforming the text of Sinaiticus to the medieval Byzantine standard text, not to the text(s) from which it was copied.

  • “And some familiar—very important—passages are missing, including verses dealing with the resurrection of Jesus” (CNN, 7-6-09). Another rather misleading statement. The one text that refers to the resurrection that CNN has in mind is Mark 16.9–20, a passage that biblical scholars for the past 125 have increasingly come to view as inauthentic. Yet, what is lacking in Sinaiticus has been known for centuries, since the same passage is not found in Codex Vaticanus, a manuscript known since 1475. Further, it’s not the resurrection, but resurrection appearances to the disciples that is missing from Sinaiticus’s ending of Mark. However, three times in Mark (in Sinaiticus) Jesus predicts his own resurrection, and the abrupt end of the Gospel at 16.8 thus seems to function as an open-ended invitation to those who would follow Christ. (See my chapter, ““Mark 16:8 as the Conclusion to the Second Gospel,” in Perspectives on the Ending of Mark: Four Views, ed. D. A. Black [Nashville: B&H Academic, 2008]).

  • “Juan Garces, the British Library project curator, said it should be no surprise that the ancient text is not quite the same as the modern one, since the Bible has developed and changed over the years” (ibid.). I can only assume that CNN garbled what Garces actually said. As this statement scans now, it seems that Garces is saying that modern Bibles are based on the latest copies of manuscripts, rather than the earliest ones. Of course that’s not true, nor would Garces have suggested that it is. In the past 125+ years, scholars are getting closer and closer to the wording of the autographic text of the New Testament because of improved methods of investigation, better historical reconstructions, new discoveries, and clearer photographs of these manuscripts.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Introducing Sheik Hilali

I believe this video makes an excellent introduction of Sheik Hilali, former Grand Mufti of Australia. His track record is disgusting and I believe Bolt makes a good point - if he isn't meant to represent the psyche of Australian Muslims, why is he still in?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

Examining Ehteshaam Gulam's Deceptive Use of Josephus

Here Gulam attempts to use Jesus' non-existence arguments against the historicity of the crucifixion. By dismissing the non-Christian evidence as such (in line with the extremely unsound hypothesis of G.A. Wells he cites in Who Was Jesus?) he is dehistoricizing Jesus. This approach is rather unsound.

The manner by which he approaches this is a clear demonstration of his inadequacy in historical investigation and complete ignorance of historical scholarship. For Josephus' accounts he states:

Josephus Flavius, the Jewish historian, lived as the earliest non-Christian who mentions a Jesus. Although many scholars think that Josephus' short accounts of Jesus (in Antiquities) came from interpolations perpetrated by a later Church father (most likely, Eusebius), Josephus' birth in 37 C.E., well after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus, puts him out of range of an eyewitness account. Moreover, he wrote Antiquities in 93 C.E., after the first gospels got written! Therefore, even if his accounts about Jesus came from his hand, his information could only serve as hearsay.

As is evident in his first sentence he is tainted greatly by the fringe Christ Myth theorists. He states Flavius was the earliest non-Christian to mention "a Jesus". Josephus mentions other Jesus' who we know are not the historical Jesus we have in mind. For example, there is Jesus the son of Sapphias (Wars 20.4.566) and Jesus the brother of John (Antiquities 7.1.298). Any reading of the primary source material (Josephus' various texts) or secondary text will make this fact abundantly clear.

The second point made is that, "many scholars" believe that Josephus' mentions of Jesus of Nazareth came from later interpolations. This is simply incorrect. Most scholars do not think this.

The shorter mention of Jesus:

... so he assembled the sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others,[1]

In line with the New Testament accounts we have James the brother of Jesus. This mention is not doubted by any major scholar as anything other than authentic. Also to note, this text is recounting a history that we do not find in the New Testament. Therefore, we have reliable extra-biblical witness to the events of Jesus and his early ministry.

This text in light of Gulam's snide 'a Jesus' remark makes it clear that this Jesus (of others mentioned in Josephus) is the Jesus we are after. The brother of James and the one who was called the Messiah (Christ).

Regarding the authenticity:

"Josephus (Ant. 20.200) describes how the high priest Ananus took advantage of the death of the Roman governor Festus in A.D. 62 to organize a mob to stone James, whom he identifies as "the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ." Few scholars have questioned the genuineness of this passage."
Professor Edwin M. Yamauchi

The next mention of Jesus is where we have some problems. This is a longer text that shows some Christian embelishment. However, the fact that Josephus mentioned Jesus here is not a question of doubt.

At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who received the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek [meaning “Gentile,” that is, non-Jewish] origin. And when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. And up until this very day, the tribe of Chris tians (named after him) has not died out.

What do scholars have to say on the authenticity?

"In the part of this embellished text that VIRTUALLY ALL REGARD AS AUTHENTIC Josephus describes Jesus as a teacher and wonderworker who was accused by the leading men (i.e., ruling priests) before the Roman governor."
Bruce Chilton, Craig A. Evans, Jacob Neusner, 'The Missing Jesus' p.21

So, from Josephus we can take away 10 facts that most scholars agree upon:
(1) Jesus was known as a wise and virtuous man, one recognized for his good conduct. (2) He had many disciples, both Jews and Gentiles. (3) Pilate condemned him to die, (4) with crucifixion explicitly being mentioned as the mode. (5) The disciples reported that Jesus had risen from the dead and (6) that he had appeared to them on the third day after his crucifixion. (7) Consequently, the disciples continued to proclaim his teachings. (8) Perhaps Jesus was the Messiah concerning whom the Old Testament prophets spoke and predicted wonders. We would add here two facts from Josephus’ earlier quotation as well. (9) Jesus was the brother of James and (10) was called the messiah by some.[2]

Gulam goes on to say that the source was probably Chrisitans anyway - however, this need not be so. A probable scenario as suggested by Marcus Borg is that "he learned about Jesus from non-Christian Jews, probably before moving to Rome in the 60s. Perhaps this is how non-Christian Jews commonly spoke about Jesus." (Marcus Borg, Jesus p.31)

As is evident, the scholars present a very different picture to that Gulam would insist everyone think

1. Josephus, Flavius ; Whiston, William: The Works of Josephus : Complete and Unabridged. Peabody : Hendrickson, 1996, c1987, S. Ant 20.200
2. Habermas, Gary R. ; Habermas, Gary R.: The Historical Jesus : Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ. Joplin, Mo. : College Press Pub. Co., 1996, S. 195

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Cost of Discipleship (Matthew 10:34-38)

Some commentaries on Matthew 10:34-49

10:34. Throughout the next section (vv. 34–39) the focus is upon the absolute priority of one’s relationship to Jesus (note the personal pronouns “I,” “me,” and “my”). The tone of the section is set by Jesus’ startling announcement that the purpose of his coming was not to bring peace, but a sword. The words are intended to counter the faulty notion (μὴ νομίσητε, mē nomisēte, cf. 5:17) that Jesus’ messianic vocation means that an era of peace and tranquility has now come. Although some Jewish traditions anticipated an age of peace when the Messiah arrives (see Isa 9:5–7; 11:6; 66:25; Zech 9:9–10; 1 Chr 22:9; cf. Luke 2:14), the peace that Jesus offers does not insure the absence of conflict or social disruptions. In fact, Jesus has not come to bring a stability associated with the absence of fighting, but rather his presence provokes a hostility associated with open warfare. The symbol of the “sword,” not the “dove,” is more appropriate when describing the impact of Jesus’ messianic vocation. The metaphor of “sword” is not intended to convey the use of violent force, but symbolizes divided loyalties, even within family units, because of the demands of the kingdom. As the next two verses make clear (vv. 35–36), the closest of human relationships are sometimes divided by the “sword” that Jesus brings.
10:35–36. Jesus’ coming has the effect of turning members of the same household against one another. Using the language of Micah 7:6 (see v. 21), Jesus envisions discord and animosity among family members because the message of the kingdom places people in a crisis of decision, either for or against. Basic conventional norms and loyalties are shattered by the priority of the kingdom of God as announced by Jesus. There is no neutrality or mutual toleration, one either responds favorably to the message or violently rejects it. The result is that a man’s enemies will be members of his own household. Such disruptions are inevitable in households because light and darkness cannot mutually coexist.
10:37. In the midst of such conflict and the loss of familial security it is tempting to compromise one’s loyalties. However, Jesus insists that absolute priority must be given one’s relationship to him, even over family ties. In other words, when the “sword” of the kingdom results in family divisions the disciple must make his allegiance clear. The failure to be aligned with Jesus, even against family members, means the forfeiture of one’s status as a disciple (=not worthy of me). Jesus’ demand of total allegiance on such a personal level is certainly unprecedented within the rabbinic tradition.
10:38–39. The extravagant devotion called for by Jesus in verse 37 is graphically spelled out in verses 38–39. The vivid metaphorical reference to taking up one’s cross captures the imagery of a condemned man forced to carry the means of his own execution. Jesus charges the one who would follow him to actively take up the cross and follow him in a voluntary act of self-denial and obedience. Their solidarity with Jesus demands that the disciples walk the same path of sacrificial obedience. As noted by Hagner: “Taking up one’s cross refers not to the personal problems or difficulties of life that one must bear, as it is sometimes used in common parlance, but to a radical obedience that entails self-denial and, indeed, a dying to self. To take up one’s cross is to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, who is the model of such radical obedience and self-denial (cf. 4:1–11).”11 With these words Jesus has provided the most explicit reference to the violent fate that awaits him (cf. 16:21–24). The paradoxical saying of verse 39 reinforces the message of verse 38 and puts it into proper perspective.12 If the disciples are to emulate Jesus’ sacrificial ministry they must embrace a perspective wherein “life” for Jesus’ sake is perceived as of greater value than even one’s physical life. While alignment with Jesus may result in the sacrifice of one’s present life, in the end the faithful disciple reaps the reward of eternal life. It is thus in the interest of life in the fullest that the disciple fearlessly faces the prospects of death.
11 Hagner, Matthew, p. 293.
12 Weaver, Missionary Discourse, p. 116.
Chouinard, Larry: Matthew. Joplin, Mo. : College Press, 1997 (The College Press NIV Commentary), S. Mt 10:34

The Cost of Discipleship

It was generally believed that there would be great sufferings before the end, and that the Messiah would lead his people in a triumphant war, followed by a time of peace. Jesus assures his listeners that the promised era of peace is yet some time off and goes on to explain the nature of the current sufferings and conflict.

The context of Micah 7:6, cited here, describes the awful evils in the land and the untrustworthiness of even the closest relatives and friends that would continue until the Lord would come to vindicate those who hoped in him. Given the belief held by many Jewish people that a time of sufferings would precede the end, the disciples would probably have understood this saying as suggesting that they were already experiencing the sufferings of that time.


Jesus here expounds on the text just cited (Mic 7:6) to make a point virtually inconceivable to most of his hearers. Loving family members, especially parents, was one of the highest duties in Judaism; the only one who could rightfully demand greater love was God himself (Deut 6:4–5; cf. Deut 13:6–11; 2 Macc 7:22–23).

A condemned criminal would carry on his back the horizontal beam of the cross out to the site of his execution, generally amid an antagonistic, jeering mob. This verse means a shameful, painful road to a dreadful execution.

Most Jewish people contrasted the life of this world with the life of the world to come.

Keener, Craig S. ; InterVarsity Press: The IVP Bible Background Commentary : New Testament. Downers Grove, Ill. : InterVarsity Press, 1993, S. Mt 10:32-39

A Price to Pay 10:34–39
As noted above in the preview of the unit, verses 34–39 stress the high cost of following Jesus. Matthew has combined several shorter sayings here (cf. Luke 12:49–53; 14:25–33; 17:33). In the first saying (vv. 34–36), Jesus speaks of the conflict (sword) that his mission evokes and contrasts this with the peace expected in the messianic era (cf. Isa. 9:2–6). The source of this conflict is the need to decide for or against Jesus, which divides households right down the middle. As a result, family members may turn against each other, a situation described with language from Micah 7:6 (cf. v. 21).
The second saying (vv. 37–38) continues to address the topic of family opposition, making it clear that discipleship must take precedence over all other relationships (cf. the even stronger language in Luke 14:26). In this saying we find the first of two references in Matthew to taking up one’s cross (cf. 16:24). Here the metaphor denotes a readiness to endure family hostility—and the violent end to which that ultimately might lead. The final saying, on finding and losing one’s life (v. 39), is found in one form or another in all four of the gospels (cf. Mark 8:35; Luke 17:33; John 12:25). According to Jesus, faithful witnesses who endure maryrdom will find life anew in the kingdom. Those who deny Jesus to preserve their lives, however, will lose the life that matters most.

Gardner, Richard B.: Matthew. Scottdale, Pa. : Herald Press, 1991 (Believers Church Bible Commentary), S. 178

Friday, May 1, 2009

Constantine and Christianity

Dr Greg Clarke of the Centre for Public Christianity discusses Constantine and early Christianity with Emeritus Professor Edwin Judge. This is just one of a number of interviews with Professor Judge on a number of historical issues and their relation to Christianity which can be found here.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Importance of the Historicity of Jesus (Quote)

"...despite numerous attempts in this century to turn Christianity into a philosophy of life, it is and has always been a historical religion - one that depends on certain foundational events, particularly the death and resurrection of Jesus, as having happened in space and time.

A faith that does not ground the Christ of personal experience in the Jesus of history is a form of docetic or gnostic heresy, for it implies that what actually happened in and during Jesus' life is inconsequential to Christian faith."

Ben Witherington III, 'The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth' p.11

Brief Commentary: Was Jesus Crucified? (

The claim by Ehteshaam Gulam of answering-Christian-claims goes:

Some Christian Apologetics claim that Jesus had to have been killed on the cross, due to the historical record. They claim that there are several documents in the 1st century that prove that Jesus was crucified. However the fact is that these "sources" of the crucifixion of Jesus come from authors who lived after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus.none of their accounts serve as eyewitness evidence for any alleged crucifixion of Jesus. There were over 60 historians in the 1st century in the Roman world. Yet only two non-Christian sources in the entire 1st century mention that Jesus was crucified. Here I'll analyze both Josephus and Tacitus sources and explain why they shouldn't be trusted as evidence.

Interestingly enough, a Muslim who bases their belief in the actions of Muhammad from traditions penned hundreds of years after the death of Muhammad is attacking the reliability of first century historians. The crucifixion of Jesus in the minds of even the most skeptical of historians is seen as a historical fact. As stated by John Dominic Crossan, “That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be, since both Josephus and Tacitus...agree with the Christian accounts on at least that basic fact.”[1]

We are informed that there were over 60 historians in the Roman world in the first century, yet we only have two non-Christians recording Jesus’ crucifixion. I invited anyone to take note of the size of the Roman Empire within the first century here. Now, tell me the logic behind expecting every non-Christian historian to record an event that occurred on the outskirts of the Empire in a region not even seen worthy enough to be ruled by the senatorial class or aristocracy of Rome.

If we look at what we do have, we have a substantial number of independent historical witnesses that testify to the crucifixion of Christ.

The author then goes on to dismiss Josephus and Tacitus without any solid justification. because they were not primary witnesses to the event. They claim that “many scholars’ believe Josephus’ reference to Jesus to be interpolations. This is incorrect, and a misrepresentation of textual critical scholarship on Josephus. It is to be noted, that the majority of scholars believe Josephus to have authentically mentioned Jesus and his crucifixion. The claims of interpolation refer to embellishments such as admission of Jesus being the Christ. To dismiss Josephus’ account on this bases is scholarly dishonest.

Furthermore, without establishing reasons against the historicity of Josephus and Tacitus they are simply dismissed for writing after the event. In fact, they go as far to say that Christians unwittingly or deceptively violate the rules of historiography by using after-the-event writings as evidence for the event itself.” With regard to this, I hate to point out that all literary historical evidence is composed after the event. That is why it is history and not the present – or a real-time media source such as a photograph or video from the first century.

As all historians know, simply dismissing a historical source as hearsay for being composed within a generation or two is simply bad history. This is especially significant in the case where oral testimony of historical matters was generally reliable and the true way in which the people of the time engaged in history. It is not Christian apologists who embarrass themselves by allegedly abandoning historical method but our Muslim friend. In short, no reason to reject the historical evidence is presented.

Our friend then turns to the Bible to prove his point, and I shall touch on this briefly before I end this part:

Now it gets interesting, nowhere in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John does it say that Jesus was resurrected. In the words of Dr.Naik "Not a single verse in any of the Gospels mention that Jesus was resurrected."

This is very interesting, especially as the historical account for the resurrection is so firmly grounded in these texts. I am sure this is another semantics game – although the text clearly and repeatedly state that Jesus was crucified, died, buried, rose again and visisted the disciples – it did not happen unless the text states verbatim “Jesus was resurrected on Easter.”

If we turn to the Gospel of John, for example:

  1. Jesus is crucified and died:

When he had received the sour wine, Jesus said, “It is completed!” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

John 19:30

  1. Jesus was checked and confirmed dead:

But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

John 19:33

  1. Just incase they double checked:

But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and blood and water flowed out immediately.

John 19:34

  1. Jesus’ body was laid in a tomb:

And so, because it was the Jewish day of preparation and the tomb was nearby, they placed Jesus’ body there.

John 19:42

  1. The tomb is then found empty:

So she went running to Simon Peter and the other disciple whom Jesus loved and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

John 20:2

  1. Jesus was then alive, visiting his disciples who confirmed the marks of his crucifixion:

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.

John 20:20

Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and examine my hands. Extend your hand and put it into my side. Do not continue in your unbelief, but believe.

John 20:27

This reminds me of an explicit resurrection. Some might even say that the text talks about that Jesus rose from the dead and the disciples were not expecting it, “For they did not yet understand the scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead.” (John 20:9)

…To be continued

See also:

[1] Crossan, John Dominic (1995). Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography. HarperOne. p. 145.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A 'Scholarly' Polemic/Apologetic site?

Another Muslim site that I probably would never have come across if David Wood had not debated its author. Wood recently debated Ehteshaam Gulam on the topic of Was Jesus Crucified?

What they do right...

I empathise with the motives of the site. Gulam wishes to propagate his beliefs and he wishes to do so at a convincing academic and scholarly level:
Because here I use the best scholarship possible to respond to various claims about Christianity and Islam. This site is a “academic” site in favor of Islam.[1]
This claim seems to be a hallmark which is often appealed to. Of course, it is a noble idea and he attempts to carry it out with integrity. For example, Gulam reviews the book What Did Jesus Really Say by Misha’al Ibn Abdullah. Gulam takes the initiative to critique the complete disregard for solid scholarship of a fellow Muslims polemicist against Christianity which is something I do not see from most amateur Muslim polemicists.

However, although he can recognise the flaws in other polemics what if we were to turn the light on his use of scholarship? It is one thing to claim to endorse a scholarly approach - and it is also another thing to employ it within your own writings.

Who are the scholars?

As a student of history, specifically Second Temple Judaism, Sectarian writings and Early Christianity, I am well aware of where the mainstream of academic scholarship stands. When illinformed critics present outdated and generally poor arguments about Christainity I can get rather irritated. So at the forefront of my mind when applying this historical method to early Islam, I am always conscious of where my sources stand within the generally accepted scholarly view.

In observing the references of Gulam's site, it seems his claims are far from the scholarly level he wishes to believe in. His main references seem to be those of fringe scholars at best, and often people who are neither scholars nor proficient in the topic they present. Among them:
  • Richard Carrier
  • Robert Funk
  • Gerald Massey
  • Zakir Naik
  • Ahmed Deedat
This is not all, but most of those whom I have seen cited or praised across the website. Within the list, only two would be considered scholars. Ahmed Deedat and Zakir Naik are by no stretch of the imagination scholars - nor can any of their works even almost be passed off as something scholarly. Their respective texts are generally no more than unreferenced fantastical criticisms or affirmations with a sole agenda of propagating Islam, often through deception. With regard to Gerald Massey, he was a 19th century poet and hobby Egyptologist.

Now, with the remaining two - they are indeed educated scholars. The late Robert Funk was one of the few real and reputable scholars of the controversial Jesus Seminar and Dr Carrier is prominent online Greco-Roman historian and naturalistic philosopher. However, these scholars and their works stand in a special place on the scholarly spectrum - that is, to the fringe. Their controversial theses are thoroughly contested by the mainstream of both believing and unbelieving scholarship. Personally, with my background in sectarian literature of the Second Temple periodS I feel very strongly against Dr Carrier's approach but that is another issue.

The Point...

When people claim to utilised scholarly argumentation you must ask yourself who are their scholars. If, like in the above case, the majority are not scholars and the few scholars only represent a fringe of academic thought - is their representation truly honest?

Just some final recommendations to Ehteshaam Gulam. To broaden your spectrum on the issues of the historical Jesus and early Christianity I recommend a few books:
  • Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth by Professor Ben Witherington III. This text covers where the majority of scholars stand on the issue of historical Jesus studies. It emphasises the Jewish context of the historical Jesus, among other things.
  • The Missing Gospels by Professor Darrell L. Bock - on early Christian diversity and 'alternative' texts.
  • A few books by N.T. Wright on the historicity of Jesus and the physical resurrection.

Post Script:

Just to reitarate something I have mentioned earlier while commenting on the abuse of scholarship. I am not setting a caveat against the use of fringe scholars. I myself have used fringe scholars - however, for my readers I do employ caution and point out that to most the thesis is not widely accepted. Why I use controversial scholars sometimes, as do others, is not for the personal affinity to the scholarship for polemic or apologetic reasons. I use them when I find their arguments convincing and sound in some way or another.

See also:

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Observations on Early Qur'an Manuscripts at San'a - Gerd R. Puin

I have recently digitised Gerd R. Puin's 1996 article Observations on Early Qur'an Manuscripts at San'a. The paper was originally published in English in The Qur'an as Text (edited by Stefan Wild).

If you leave your email address below I will forward a PDF copy of the article. Alternatively, in picture form:

Page 1
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[The order is currently incorrect, I will fix this shortly]

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Muhammad's Marriages

On a Muslim website there was a question in the category of "Many Allegations from a Christian." The question was answered in a very dishonest way.
16) Why did he instruct Muslims to only have 4 wives yet he changed it for himself to have more than 20?
The author answers, "This is yet another lie against Prophet Muhammad as he never married more than 20 wives."

The author intentionally avoids answering the question. It is a fact that the Qur'an stated that a man should have only up to four wives (Surah 4:3). Muhammad even forced men to divorce wives so they had less than four:
Narrated Al-Harith ibn Qays al-Asadi
I embraced Islam while I had eight wives. So I mentioned it to the Prophet (peace be upon him). The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Select four of them.
Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 12, Number 2233
However, Muhammad, who is exhorted as being the perfect example for human kind took more than four wives. This is attested to by mulitiple authentic hadith and accepted by Muslims:

Narrated Qatada:
Anas bin Malik said, "The Prophet used to visit all his wives in a round, during the day and night and they were eleven in number." I asked Anas, "Had the Prophet the strength for it?" Anas replied, "We used to say that the Prophet was given the strength of thirty (men)." And Sa'id said on the authority of Qatada that Anas had told him about nine wives only (not eleven).

Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 5, Number 268

Narrated 'Ata:
We presented ourselves along with Ibn 'Abbas at the funeral procession of Maimuna at a place called Sarif. Ibn 'Abbas said, "This is the wife of the Prophet so when you lift her bier, do not Jerk it or shake it much, but walk smoothly because the Prophet had nine wives and he used to observe the night turns with eight of them, and for one of them there was no night turn."

Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 5

Narrated Anas bin Malik:
The Prophet used to pass by (have sexual relation with) all his wives in one night, and at that time he had nine wives.

Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 142

Once again, we find the author employing deception to hide the hypocrisy of Muhammad.

Friday, April 24, 2009

A Critique of "We Love Jesus Too" (DiscoverIslamAustralia)

In an attempt to appeal to the Christian culture of Australia, Discover Islam Australia makes much use of Jesus. They attempt to propagate a similarity between the Jesus of the historical New Testament and the Jesus of Muhammad, the Qur'an and the spurious traditions.

They have taken the liberty to launch the blog "We Love Jesus Too". Here is a brief evaluation of some of the points:

His name is Esa in Arabic as well as in the Aramaic which is the language Jesus spoke.
This point is actually incorrect, and being such causes many problems for Islam.

Jesus' name in Aramaic was Yeshua from the Hebrew Yehoshua. Similarly, his Arabic name would not be Esa ('Isa) but Yasu.

With regard to the origins of Isa, scholars have this to say:

“The fact that Isa has no satisfactory derivation and no pre-Koranic history should have alerted scholars to the possibility that the word is a mistake”.
Professor James A. Bellamy, 'Textual Criticism of the Koran', Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol 121 No 1 (Jan-Mar).

Hence, there is no reason to suggest that Jesus' name was Isa. In fact, Professor Bellamy sees its origins in the Qur'an as a mistake.

"We do not believe that he was crucified but that God raised him to the heavens"
Regarding the claim that "We do not believe that he was crucified but that God raised him to the heavens" one is going against historical facts. Even the most anti-Christian historians agree that Jesus was crucified (which, ironically is in fulfilment of the scriptures). Some of these non-Christian scholars:

“One of the most certain facts of history is that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman prefect of Judea, Ponitus Pilate.”
-Bart D. Ehrman

“Jesus’ death as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable.”
- Gert Lüdemann

“That he was crucified is as sure as anything historical can ever be.”
- John D. Crossan

“The passion of Jesus is part of history.”
- Geza Vermes

“The single most solid fact about Jesus’ life is his death: he was executed by the Roman prefect Pilate, on or around Passover, in the manner Rome reserved particularly for political insurrectionists, namely, crucifixion.”
- Paula Fredriksen

“The support for the mode of his death, its agents, and perhaps its co-agents, is overwhelming: Jesus faced a trial before his death, was condemned, and was executed by crucifixion”
-L.T. Johnson

(I thank the team of for providing these references.)

Regarding the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, see an earlier post, A three part video series by Dr John Dickson of the Centre for Public Christianity (CPX).


I do not understand how you can believe in Jesus but not believe what he had to say about himself. You state, "We do not believe that Jesus is God or the son of God."

Jesus identified himself as the only "Son of God" (John 3:18); he stated "I and the Father are one." (John 10:30); he was worshipped by his disciples and called Lord and God, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28); He claimed to exist in the beginning, "And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” (John 17:5); the list goes on.

See also:

A Critique of Why Follow Muhammad? (DiscoverIslamAustralia)

A Critique of Why Follow Muhammad?

A short booklet titled Why Follow Muhammad? appears on the page. It makes a number of outstanding and dishonest claims, specifically towards Christianity.

The authors state:
None of these [New Testament] writings is dated prior to the year 70CE.
The claim that none of the writings of the New Testament are dated to prior 70CE is simply false. Scholars, including the liberal John A.T. Robinson, have dated the composition of the entire New Testament corpus prior to 70AD (see John A.T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament p.352 for an overview). Some of the dates by Robinson's hypothesis include the Epistle of James in 45-46 AD; the Gospel of Mark in c. 45-60; the Gospel of John c. -40-65+.

More mainstream dates among sceptical scholars still generally place the Pauline corpus of texts to before 70 AD with texts such as Galatians from around 45-55 AD.

In short, such a statement has no genuine scholarly support and for that reason it remains unreferenced.

Thousands of Greek manuscripts of the New Testament were collected, but none of them is older than the fourth century CE;...Some scattered papyrus fragments found in Egypt can lay claim to no greater antiquity than the third century.
Here we find a claim more alarming than that of above. The author claims that from the thousands of Greek manuscripts we possess, "none of them is older than the fourth century CE" and that we have "some" fragments that are no earlier than the third century.

There is no truth to the claim that we have no Greek manuscripts of the New Testament until the 3rd-4th century and those strained to be dated to the 3rd are fragmentary.

First thing to note, we do contain a substantial amount of the New Testament from before the 4th century AD. One of our oldest manuscripts (generally held to be the oldest by many) is a fragment of the gospel of John known as Papyrus 52. This text has been dated to as early as the first quarter of the 2nd century. In fact, from the second century alone there are 10-13 manuscripts.[1] According to the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung ten of these manuscripts from within the second century alone include:
P52 (100-150), P90, 104 (2nd century), P66 (c. AD 175-225), P46, 64+67 (c. AD 200), P77, P103, 0189 (2nd or 3rd century), P98 (2nd century?). [2]
From these manuscripts (which according to our Muslim friend do not exist) we find that, "over 43% of all the verses in the NT are already found in MSS within 100 years of the completion of the NT"[3]

Once again we find the claim to be unfounded conjecture.

The author then goes on to make some false claims with regard to the Bible and translations. For example, he asserts that the Greek was a 3rd century translation from Syriac. However, as is demonstrated above we have Greek manuscripts from the beginning of the 2nd century.

It is curious that some seventy different versions of the Gospel were prepared, four of which were approved by the leaders of the Christian religion

First, it is evident to note that the claim is unreferenced and the citation only links to their own false assertions.

With regard to the crux (that appeared within the text and not footnoted), the claim is made that Christian leaders chose four of seventy different versions of the Gospels. This is simply not true. The only case that is remotely similar to this is the following event: "About the year 332 the Emperor Constantine, wishing to promote and organize Christian worship in the growing number of churches in the capital city, directed Eusebius to have fifty copies of the sacred Scriptures made by practised scribes and written legibly on parchment."[4] First thing to note is this event, which took place 7 years after the Council of Nicaea, was with regard to distributing copies of the Scriptures. They were not many different versions. It is also important to note that the Council of Nicaea, which the author links to the council where the alleged events occured, did not deal with the issue of canon.

For the development of the canon in clear English see my previous post, Canon, Textual Criticism and More with Bruce Metzger.

These were the main objections made against the New Testament. As is evident, they have all been false. However, let us look at how they approach the Qur'an.

Although the author took the time to criticise the New Testament manuscript record, this is avoided in their evaluation of the critique. However, it is to be noted that the Qur'an has issues in this regard, unlike the New Testament, which puts it to the authors advantage to ignore:

"There is no hard evidence for the existence of the Koran in any form before the last decade of the seventh century, and the tradition which places this rather opaque revelation in its historical context is not attested before the middle of the eighth. The historicity of the Islamic tradition is thus to some degree problematic: while there are no cogent internal grounds for rejecting it, there are equally no cogent external grounds for accepting it…the only way out of this dilemma is thus to step outside the Islamic tradition altogether and start again.”

P. Crone, M. Cook (1977) Hagarism: the Making of the Islamic World, p. 3

That is a convenient point to avoid after making such false claims about the manuscript witness of the New Testament.

The Quran is the pure Word of God not one word in it is not divine. Not a single word has been deleted from its text. The Book has been handed down to our age in its complete and original form since the time of Muhammad.
First of all, we know that the Qur'an is not perfectly preserved. Earlier this year I posted a blog with regard to my careful exmination of a few lines of texts as found in one of our oldest Quran manuscripts and compared it to those in use by Muslims tooday. Not only were there many variants in so few lines, the meaning of the text was actually contradictory depending on which text was used. This post can be found here.

This is another false claim propagated by the Muslim apologist. Unlike the New Testament, the Qur'an suffers from primitive corruption. That is, the entire Qur'an suffered so much editing and the remnants of such were lost that it is impossible to reconstruct the text prior to this. The great debates over the variant and evolving contents of the Quran can be found in this exert of the scholarly article, Early Debates on the Integrity of the Qur'ān: A Brief Survey.

If we turn to the Islamic traditions, which the author defends as reliable, we find that there were in fact differences amongst the Quran verses delivered by Muhammad. As this narrative demosntrates, the differences were so great that the followers would physically fight:

"Umar bin Khattab [the second Caliph] said, 'I heard Hisham bin Hakim bin Hizam reciting Surat Al-Furqan ["Al-Furqan," the title of the 25th surah, has no meaning in any language.] during the lifetime of Allah's Apostle. I listened to his recitation and noticed that he recited it in several ways which Allah's Apostle had not taught me. So I was on the point of attacking him in the prayer, but I waited till he finished, and then I seized him by the collar. "Who taught you this Surah which I have heard you reciting?" He replied, "Allah's Apostle taught it to me." I said, "You are lying. Allah's Apostle taught me in a different way this very Surah which I have heard you reciting." So I led him to Muhammad. "O Allah's Apostle! I heard this person reciting Surat-al-Furqan in a way that you did not teach me." The Prophet said, "Hisham, recite!" So he recited in the same way as I heard him recite it before. On that Allah's Apostle said, "It was revealed to be recited in this way." Then the Prophet said, "Recite, Umar!" So I recited it as he had taught me. Allah's Apostle said, "It was revealed to be recited in this way, too." He added, "The Qur'an has been revealed to be recited in several different ways, so recite of it that which is easier for you." (Bukhari:V6B61N561)

The deception of this text is clear. The author maliciously lies with regard to the textual integrity of the New Testament to slander the texts reliability whilst on the other hand they lie about the perfect preservation of the Qur'an to increase the claims of its reliability.

1. Daniel B. Wallace, Second Century Papyri: "This means that there are at least ten and as many as thirteen NT MSS"
2. Ibid
3. Ibid
4. Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origins, Development, and Significance p.206 - An Examination of the Claims

I recently came across a website by the name of Discover Islam Australia. The site is flashy and attempts to propagate Islam - specifically to Christian audiences (as evident by the multiple references to Jesus.) After a few minutes reading the site acnd its literature - many dishonest claims popped up. I will use this page to document the many lies and provide meaningful rebuttals.

  1. A Critique of Why Follow Muhammad?
  2. A critique of "We Love Jesus Too"
I have recently started a new blog to respond to the deception of the site: discover islam australia "Discover Islam Australia"

Early Debates on the Integrity of the Qur'ān: A Brief Survey

This post in an exert from the scholarly article, "Early Debates on the Integrity of the Qur'ān: A Brief Survey" by Hossein Modarressi.

Sunnite literature contains many reports that suggest that some of the revelation had already been lost before the collection of the Qur'an initiated by Abi Bakr. It is reported, for example, that 'Umar was once looking for the text of a specific verse of the Qur'an he vaguely remembered. To his deep sorrow, he discove-red that the only person who had any record of that verse had been killed in the battle of Yamama and that the verse was consequen-tly lost. (16) 'Umar allegedly had a recollection of a Qur'anic verse on stoning as a punishment for adultery.(17) But he could not convince his colleagues to insert it in the Qur'an because nobody else came forward to support him,(18) and the requirement that there be two witnesses for any text to be accepted as a part of the Qur'an was therefore not met. Later, however, some other Companions recalled that same verse,(19) including 'A'isha, the Prophet's youngest wife. She is alleged to have said that a sheet on which two verses, including that on stoning, were recorded was under her bedding and that after the Prophet died, a domestic animal(20) got into the room and gobbled up the sheet while the
household was preoccupied with his funeral. (21) 'Umar also remembered other verses he thought dropped out (saqata) from the Qur'an(22) or were lost, including one on being dutiful to parents (23) and another on jihad. (24) His claim regarding the first of the two was supported by three other early authorities on the Qur'an: Zayd b. Thabit, 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas, and Ubayy b. Ka'b. (25) Anas b. Malik remembered a verse which was revealed in the occasion of some Muslims who were killed in a battle, but was later "lifted." (26) 'Umar's learned son, 'Abd Allah, (27) as well as some later scholars, (28) maintained that much of the Qur'an had perished before the collection was made.

Similar reports specifically addressed the official 'Uthmanic res-cension of the Qur'an. They reported that many prominent Companions could not find in that official text portions of the reve-lation they had themselves heard from the Prophet, or found them in a different form. Ubayy b. Ka'b, for instance, recited sura 98 (al-Bayyina) in a form he claimed to have heard from the Pro-phet. It included two verses unrecorded in the 'Uthmanic text. (29) He also thought that the original version of sura 33 (al-also Ahzab) had been much longer, from which he specifically remem-bered the stoning verse that is missing from the 'Uthmanic text. (30) His claim was supported by Zayd b. Thabit,(31) by 'A'isha (who reported that during the Prophet's lifetime the sura was about three times as long, although when 'Uthman collected the Qur'an he found only what was made available in his text), (32) and by IHudhayfa b. al-Yaman (who found some seventy verses missing in the new official text, verses that he himself used to recite during the lifetime of the Prophet). (33) Hudhayfa also contended that sura 9 (al-Bara'a) in its 'Uthmanic form was per-haps one-fourth (34) or one-third (35) of what it had been during the time of the Prophet, an idea later supported by the prominent 2nd/8th century jurist and traditionist Malik b. Anas, founder of the Maliki school of Islamic law.(36) There are also reports that suras 15 (al-Hijr) and 24 (al-Nur) had once been of a different length. (37) And Abf Musa al-Ash'ari recalled the existence of two long suras (one verse of each he still remembered) that he could not find in the present text. (38) One of the two verses he recalled ("If the son of Adam had two fields of gold he would seek a third one...") is also quoted from other Companions such as Ubayy,(39) Ibn Mas'ud,(40) and Ibn 'Abbas.(41) Maslama b. Mukhallad al-Ansari offered two further verses that are not in the 'Uthmanic text,(42) and 'A'isha came forward with a third.(43) Two short chapters known as Sarat al-Hafd and Sirat al-Khal' were recorded in the collections of Ubayy,(44) Ibn 'Abbas, and Abu Musa. (45) They were allegedly also known to 'Umar(46) and other Companions, (47) although no trace of either chapter is found in the official text. Ibn Mas'ud did not have suras 1, 113, and 114 in his collection, (48) but he had some extra words and phrases that were missing from the 'Uthmanic text. (49) He and many other Compa-nions also preserved some verses that differed from the official text.(50) There were also widely transmitted reports that after the death of the Prophet, 'All put all the parts of the Qur'an together(51) and presented it to the Companions; but they rejected it, and he had to take it back home. (52) These reports also sugges-ted that there were substantial differences between the various versions of the Qur'an.

Can we take the resurrection seriously?

A three part video series by Dr John Dickson of the Centre for Public Christianity (CPX).

Part 1

Can we take the resurrection seriously? Part 1 from CPX on Vimeo.

Part 2

Can we take the resurrection seriously? Part 2 from CPX on Vimeo.

Part 3

Can we take the resurrection seriously? Part 3 from CPX on Vimeo.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Beating the Dead Horse: Da Vinci Code


  1. Arianism = Islam?

1. It has been a while since the verbatim claims of the Da Vinci Code were levelled against myself. It was rather tedious, but this time there was an Islamic perspective attached. For example, apparently Arius and Arianism believed that Jesus was simply a prophet of God - no crucifixion, resurrection, atonement, et - and that the heretical sect lived on until Muhammad delivered the Qur'an in the 7th century.

This may not be the most effective way to deal with the issue, but it is historically correct and makes use of some good sources. So, was the Jesus of Arius the prophet of Islam 'Isa?

An Encyclopaedia
"Arius’s concept of the Christian godhead was monarchic, that is, it held that the first and unique absolute principle of divinity is the Father. Consequently, any other divine reality was considered by him as secondary to the Father. He applied this view first of all to the Logos, the Word of God, the Son who becomes the instrument of the divine plan of creation and salvation. The Son, being bound to the decision of the Father in the very process of his own generation as the Son, is not eternal in the same sense as the Father is eternal; more important, he is not eternal because only the Father is ungenerated. On the other hand, being the instrument of the fulfillment of the Father’s will, the Son is by nature linked with the divine creation. He is, so to speak, the first transcendent creature, the principle of all things."

Arianism, Gale Encyclopedia of Religion 2nd edition Volume 1.

A Sceptical non-Christian

"Arius tried to resolve the problem of the identity of Christ by maintaining that in the beginning there was only God the Father. But at some point in eternity past, God brought his Son into existence, and it was through this Son of God, Christ, that he created all things. Christ, then, was a divine being—but he was subordinate to God the Father as his first creation. And Christ was the one who brought into existence all else. He then became a human by being born of the Virgin; he died for sins, was raised from the dead, and continues to dwell with God, as God’s own Son, in heaven."

Bart D. Ehrman, Fact and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code, p.21

A Christian

Arius believed that Jesus was a god, a created being, who then co-created the universe with the Father. But there was a time when He was not, declared Arius.

D. James Kennedy et al (2006), The Da Vinci Myth versus the Gospel Truth, p.40
I assume this fuflfills a requirement of multiple attestation. An Encyclopaedia, a champion of anti-Christian criticism and a conservative Christian. In my opinion, it is clear that the Jesus of Arius is most definately not the mere prophet 'Isa of Islam.

First Thoughts on Barbara Thiering and 'Jesus the Man'

I will base this review on simply examining the unsound suppositions on which Thiering relies on building her fantastical thesis found on one single page of her book Jesus the Man. By no means will I attempt to deconstruct her entire thesis or delve into her gritty use and abuse of 'pesher'/'pesharim'[1].

The page to be examined is p.136 (which in actual fact is half a page of text as the chapter title takes up most of it). Page 136 is the first page of Chapter 30: 'Saul the Indignant Student'.[2]

1: In late AD 37, a young member of the order of Benjamin, by the name of Saul, was spending part of his prenovitiate year at Qumran.
2: Born in September, AD 17, he was just twenty years old.

Thiering makes a bold assertion. She adamantly claims that Saul (Paul of Tarsus) was spending time in Qumran near the Dead Sea. No footnote is provided and within the Pauline corpus of texts or the Dead Sea Scrolls (where Thiering's eisegetical approach is not employed) there is no evidence to backup this claim. She is using her own conjectural history as the starting point for the rest of her thesis on Paul.

We jump a head a few lines.

9. But it was not before Saul had taken part in the composition of a pesher on the prophet Habakkuk, a work that survived and has come to us in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Here, we find that Paul was not just at Qumran according to Thiering, but he also took part in composing the pesher of Habakkuk.[3] This assertion of Thiering is important in the framework of here thesis - however, does it stand up to scrutiny?

At the peripheral level, it is improbable that a man (whom by using Thiering's date was in their teens/early twenties at the time of composition) would be that "to whom God made known all mysteries of the words of His servants the prophets" (1QpHab 7:4-5; Vermes) and charged as the inspired interpreter of a couple of hundred year old community. One would also be left wondering why Paul would identify himself as a Pharisee (Acts 23:6; Philippians 3:5) while showing such contempt and distaste for the Pharisees in the pesher branding them defilers of the temple, seekers of smooth things, etc.

However, and more importantly, is the dating of the text 1QpHab that Thiering claims that Paul had a hand in composing. If we turn to the palaeographical findings as well as the AMS/C14 dating of the scrolls - there is no evidence to suggest a date as late as that which Thiering places the text.

If we turn to Geza Vermes in The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English:

[T]he Habakkuk Commentary, chief source of the history of the Qumran sect, is definitely put in the pre-Christian era between 120 and 5 BCE. (p.13)

The palaeographical dating of the manuscript (30-1 BCE) has been confirmed by radiocarbon tests (120-5 BCE...) (p.509)

Timothy H. Lim in Pesharim (2002) explains the results of an Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) test that took place in Arizona:

The results showed that 1QpHab has a calibrated age of 104-43 BCE in the one standard deviation range of confidence and of 120-125BCE (97%) in the two sigma range. These radiocarbon dates match the palaeographical date of 30-31 BCE of the early Herodian hand.(p. 21)

We find that the the bedrock for Thiering's hypothesis in regard to Paul, which can be tested, does not stand up to scrutiny. At the very least, there is a 60 year gap between the the dating of the text and when Thiering claims Paul composed it.

1. Pesher/Pesharim is a method used by the Sectarian community of Qumran in exegeting and contemporising biblical texts. Although the scholarly consensus (as indicated by all evidence found within the Dead Sea Scroll corpus) on this sort of Midrash is just that - Thiering claims that these communities also constructed cryptic histories that she, using her own method of pesher, can uncover. Ironically enough, she claims these communities constructed the New Testament.

2. A picture of p.136:

3. The pesher of Habakkuk is a Qumran Sectarian commentary on the minor prophetic book of Habakkuk found within the Hebrew Bible.