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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Page 5

[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.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Christos Anesti! Alithos anesti!

Today is the day I, and the (majority of) Eastern Churches, celebrate Easter. Easter is the celebration of Christ conquering death and antoning for our sins. One of the earliest creeds we have, received by Paul no later than 37AD from the Apostles of Jerusalem the historicity of the crucifixion and resurrection is established. It states:

For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures,
and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures,
and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive,though some have fallen asleep.
Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
Last of all, as though to one born at the wrong time, he appeared to me also.

1 Corinthians 15:2-9 (NET)

I have attached an article by William Lane Craig on the historicity of the resurrection:

Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence
for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

William Lane Craig

After an appraisal of recent scholarship on the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, Professor William Craig contends that "the resurrection appearances, the empty tomb, and the origin of the Christian faith - all point unavoidably to one conclusion: the resurrection of Jesus".

Source: "Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ," Truth 1 (1985): 89-95.

"Man," writes Loren Eisley, "is the Cosmic Orphan." He is the only creature in the universe who asks, Why? Other animals have instincts to guide them, but man has learned to ask questions. "Who am I?" he asks. "Why am I here? Where am I going?"

Ever since the Enlightenment, when modern man threw off the shackles of religion, he has tried to answer these questions without reference to God. But the answers that came back were not exhilarating, but dark and terrible. "You are an accidental by-product of nature, the result of matter plus time plus chance. There is no reason for your existence. All you face is death. Your life is but a spark in the infinite darkness, a spark that appears, flickers, and dies forever."

Modern man thought that in divesting himself of God, he had freed himself from all that stifled and repressed him. Instead, he discovered that in killing God, he had also killed himself.

Against this background of the modern predicament, the traditional Christian hope of the resurrection takes on an even greater brightness and significance. It tells man that he is no orphan after all, but the personal image of the Creator God of the universe; nor is his life doomed in death, for through the eschatological resurrection he may live in the presence of God forever.


See also:

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter to everyone!
Christos Anesti!

When our perishable earthly bodies have been transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die--then at last the Scriptures will come true: "Death is swallowed up in victory."
1 Corinthians 15:54

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ehrman, Interrupted - A resource on Bart Ehrman's Jesus, Interrupted

  1. Ehrman on The Colbert Report
  2. Ehrman on the divinity of Christ?
  3. Dr James White's video response to Jesus, Interrupted
  4. Professor Ben Witherington's Detailed Analysis of Jesus, Interrupted
  5. Professor Darrell L. Bock's brief response and thoughts

1. Ehrman on The Colbert Report

Ehrman recently released a new book, Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them). An amazing title.

To start off with something a little lighter - Ehrman appears on The Colbert Report with Stephen Colbert to promote the book:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Bart Ehrman
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorNASA Name Contest

2. Ehrman on the Divinity?

Having read a lot of Ehrman's work, I find it odd that he is now arguing that the early traditions of Jesus did not believe him to be divine. In the interview he states, "Jesus who is portrayed as a human Messiah in the earliest parts of Christianity" For example, the earliest writings we have on Jesus portray him as divine. We have the creed in Philippians 2 which scholars believe pre-dates any other preserved Christian text. In fact, Ehrman argues this point in his 2003 book Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code.

For Paul—and presumably for the Philippians to whom he wrote—Christ was “in the form” of God and was, in some sense, equal with God, even though he became human.
Similar teachings can be found in other writings of the New Testament. One of Jesus’ common designations throughout these writings is “Son of God.” This is scarcely an epithet that came to be applied to Jesus on the basis of a close vote at the Council of Nicea hundreds of years later! Our earliest Gospel, that of Mark, begins by announcing its subject matter: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God” (Mark 1:1).
But wait, there is more:

"...the Gospels of the New Testament portray him as human as much as they portray him as divine;"

"This view of Jesus as divine is not restricted to Paul and the Gospels, however. It is the common view held among Christian writers of the early centuries."
This interview and what Ehrman has previously stated are difficult to reconcile.

In regard to the claim that the synoptic gospels do not present a divine Jesus, Dr James White has recommended the book Lord of Glory - A Study of the Designations of our Lord in the New Testament with Especial Reference to His Deity by Benjamin B. Warfield. The book may be purchased here, or freely (and legally) downloaded here.

3. Dr James White video response to Jesus, Interrupted

Dr James White addresses Ehrman's claims in Jesus, Interrupted including the issue raised by Ehrman with Colbert:

Dr James R. White - Ehrman vs. Luke and Mark

4. Professor Ben Witherington's Analysis of Jesus, Interrupted

Ben Witherington III is Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is author of a number of good books on the historical Jesus (and Paul) among others.

His two part analysis may be found on his blog:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 (Coda)

5. Professor Darrell L. Bock's short Analysis

Darrell L. Bock is the Research Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary. Bock is the author of a number of great books - his most famous among laymen being his Breaking the Da Vinci Code.

His short analysis can be found here

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Jay Smith vs Adnan Rashid: Muhammad in the Bible?

A great debate between Adnan and Jay. It is clear that the Qur'an (and this Adnan's claims) do not have a leg to stand on. Jay debates rather well, throwing the claim back in the Muslim corner - if you want to accept that this is Muhammad then you must accept what the Bible says about that person.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Rant on Wikipedia and Biblical Scholarship

To declare my agenda - I am in a ranting mood.

I have been working on a research project on the use of biblical interpretation in the Jewish Sectarians at Qumran. (I.e. the people from the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.) I decided to check out what the Wikipedia article had to say on the topic (yes, a very scholarly resource!) and to my surprise - it was terrible. Okay, I lie - it was not to my surprise.

This brings me to the question - can Wikipedia be trusted on issues of Biblical scholarship?

The answer is a big NO.

The articles and their use/abuse of scholarship is simply disgusting. I turned to the article on Pesher. It only scratches on the surface of what Pesharim is but - bam - we have time for a massive chunk on "Barbara Thiering's Interpretation". Nevermind the fact that no one other than Thiering agrees with Thiering, we will present it as a salient approach to the topic.

If you were to turn to the long standing Gospel of Mark page prior to a few recent edits - you would go away thinking that everyone believes Mark was written after 135AD. In reality, I can only think of one person who believes that (i.e. Detering) but I am sure there are a few others out there. And just a little note - if anyone has actually read Detering's building up of this thesis in the infamous Journal of Higher Criticism you would make me proud if you could resist laughing. Simply dismissing history because, umm? My thesis wouldn't work without doing such - isn't an all too sound approach. But I do not count myself Journal of Higher Criticism or even Jesus Seminar material.

[NB: If I am ever in desperate need of quick cash I may become worthy of such with the publication of my new thesis 'Elements of Michael Bay filmography in the Synoptic Gospels: A New Perspective'. In short, I clearly idenfy where the authors of Luke & Matthew do not just source from Mark and Q but also incorporate narrative elements of Transformers (2007) and The Island (2005). I am sure that if I were to run into problems in claiming that the New Testament was only written in 2008 Detering could help me out.

And just a further note - even though I do not agree with the majority of what I have read with said authors, I see no reason to impede on their right to do such. My belief is simply that when their view is propagated - it should be done so with consideration where it stands as a fringe form of scholarship.]

Honestly, from the multitude of Wikipedia articles I have visited you would be convinced that- the author of John was a Pythagorean because he mentioned the number "153"; Paul was a Gnostic because - well, someone on a website said so; Bart D Ehrman shares the views of every radical scholar (whether it be associating him with the Jesus Seminar or agreeing with Pagels); scholars are convinced of Jesus' non-existence; the original orthodoxy was Gnostic; etc, etc.

Wikipedians have a serious problem - they take fringe scholarship, present it as the academic consensus, and then take it a step further and add their own 'and this disproves Christainity/the Bible/etc' hypothesis summary. In the end, we end up with an unscholarly and unsound opinion built on what is generally unsound and fringe pseudo-scholarship.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The 'New' Atheist's Questionable History

A video by Dr John Dickson regarding the 'New Atheist's' use and abuse of historical evidence:

Dr John Dickson's article of a similar nature can be found here.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Islamic Higher Criticism of Luke

A few objections that were raised with me, copied from the infamous AC.

Who wrote Luke?

The following is from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

If Theophilus existed in either the 2nd or the 4th centuries then how could the writer of this gospel be the same Luke who is supposed to be with Jesus in the 1st century.

Did he live for 200 years?

Here, the claim is that the Gospel of Luke was written in either the 2nd or 4th century because - well, they identified two Theophilus' whom were alive in those periods. The arbitrary nature of this claim is simply laughable. How do we know it wasn't talking about Theophilus Lindsey (1723–1808)? Or some pre-Christian Theophilus? It seems that this very thorough investigative technique of typing 'Theophilus' into the New Advent search was sufficient to expose the heavly guarded secrets of the Roman Catholic Church.

Just to clarify - there is absolutely no reason to suggest that those two (of many) Theophilus' are whom the gospel of Luke was written to and for. Similarly, some reasons against the arbitrary dating would be that we physically have manuscript evidence of the Gospel of Luke dating to the 2nd half of the 2nd century (e.g. P4 & P75).

Pathetic Polemics: literary styles of the Bible

The state of Islamic polemics against Christianity is usually pathetic at best. Here is a clear example by 'Yahya Ahmed' in their article agrees with the Quran on the Bible's corruption.

The argument:
"That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah.;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-" (Quran 4:157)

Conjecture i.e Guesswork, fiction.

The above Quranic verse says that whoever differs in the matter of crucifixion and agrees that Christ (pbuh) was crucified are actually following conjecture(Guesswork,fiction).

See how confirms the Quranic verse.

"The Bible contains many different styles of writing such as poetry, narration, fiction, history, law, and prophecy and must be interpreted in context of those styles. It is the source of the Christian religion in that the Bible contains the words of God and how the Christian is to apply the words of God to his life."


First things first. Does anyone other than Yahya see how the quote from confirms the Qur'anic claim that:

  1. Jesus was not crucified?
  2. The Bible is corrupted?

The quote says nothing of Jesus' crucifixion or Biblical corruption - and if you were to read the site an honest individual would struggle to claim the authors hold such positions.

To examining the quote. It seems that Yahya is attempting to persuade us that is claiming the Bible is fiction. Even a cursory reading of the quote will not leave such a nonsensical belief in someone's mind - but alas, it is the deceptive meaning Yahya finds himself propagating.

The quote is rather clear- the bible contains "different styles of writing". No one can argue with that. As mentioned there is "poetry" such as is found in the Psalms, and there is "fiction" such as the parables. Although the parables were factually told the narrative recounted by Jesus is fiction - invented to illustrate a point.

I do not believe I have to comment any further. The pathetic nature of such dishonest attacks on Christianity, the Bible and apologists is what I have assuredly come to expect.