Is the Qur’an in stark contrast to the Gospels in its depiction of Jesus? Answering Dr. Michael Licona.

The Qur’an’s Low Christology Compared to the Gospels

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

I was asked by a brother named Kaleef Karim on 9th February 2016 to give some comments on what Dr. Michael Licona wrote about Mark and his low Christology. The following is my feedback to what Dr. Licona said and you can check the attached image below to see his original statements that the following responds to.

Licona

Many scholars maintain that the Gospel of Thomas has a rather low Christology and depicts Jesus truly flesh and blood. The sparse instances where allusions to divinity may be attributed to him have been understood in the framework of Jesus being God’s “Shaliach”. The Didache, which may well preserve the teachings of Die Jerusalemer Urgemeinde (that was led by the earliest followers of Jesus and headed by James) which is an equally ancient witness has an even more pronounced low Christological conception of Jesus, identifying him only as the “servant of God”. Though the Qur’an maintains a fairly low Christology, emphasising time and again the humanity of Jesus Christ, the Gospel according to Mark does not entirely depart from this strand of thought. Granted that there are instances where traditional conservative scholars have interpreted some very isolated instances of the “Son of Man” quotations from Jesus as instances of his claim to divinity (e.g. Mark 14:62), the overall schema of Jesus as found in Mark seem to strongly indicate a low Christological conception: “Compared with the other Gospels, it is often said that Mark has a relatively ‘low Christology’ – meaning that, generally speaking, in Mark’s Gospel Jesus is relatively more ‘human’ than in the other Gospels, his divinity is more subtly and reticently conveyed.’ [1]

Echoing the same sentiment, Associate Professor of Ethics at the School of Theology, Claremont, California, Garth Kasimu Baker-Fletcher tell us that, “Mark’s Christology is considered low Christology, emphasizing Jesus’ humanity, and the title “Son of Man,” spending more time on that aspect of Jesus than on His divinity.” [2] And when one takes into consideration the stark absence of Patristic commentaries and interpretations on the Gospel of Mark, this point takes even greater root in studies on Mark’s Christology and this good point is no better observed than in the following:
“The many commentaries on Matthew, Luke, and John employing the range of patristic methods of interpretation demonstrate the relationship between the interests of the Fathers and the document being interpreted. The absence of commentaries on Mark, on the other hand, suggests that neither the interpretive nor ecclesiastical interests of the Fathers were excited by Mark.”[3]

Unitarian consistency throughout the passage of time

Unitarianism: From John Wright to Anthony Buzzard

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

With unwavering conviction in the Unitarianism of the lord Messiah, Unitarian author John Wright swiftly repels the Trinitarian belief that Jesus ever desired or sought religious adoration or worship from his Jewish monotheistic believers.

” If we examine the New Testament, we find no instance of prayers being offered to Christ in his absence; Jesus no where directed his followers to pray to him, or to worship him. When he taught his disciples to pray, it was to address the Father; and on different occasions he directed them to pray to the Father, The acts of the Apostles contains no instance of divine worship being paid to any but the Father, or of prayer being addressed to any one else, as the object of religious worship. The case of Stephen, though a particular one, is not an exception to what I say. Stephen was the first Christian Martyr, and was favored at that important moment, with a vision of Jesus. He did not see him as God on a Throne; but as “standing on the right hand of God.” He did not contemplate him as God, but as “the son of man,” he said, “I see the son of man,” Nor did he address him as the supreme God.” [1]

Some 100 years later, another Unitarian scholar, Professor (Dr.) Sir Anthony F. Buzzard testifies:

“There are other equally unambiguous statements confirming Jesus’ belief in the God of Judaism. There is no hint of the introduction of a second people into the Godhead in the farewell prayer Jesus offered at the conclusion of his ministry… No evidence is presented to show that the New Testament abandons its own roots in the Old Testament and ascribes to the title “Son of God” a meaning never hinted at in the Hebrew Bible. The Old Testament meaning of “Son of God” is devastating to the Trinitarian cause. “Son of God” was used in various ways — to describe the nation of Israel, its king, and, in the plural, even angels. In none of these instances does the title imply Deity in a Trinitarian sense.” [2]

Did doubting Thomas make Jesus God?

Thomas said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God”: Reconsidering John 20:28 in light of context and scholarship

By Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

This is a favourite verse for Trinitarians when they argue for the divinity of Jesus. They say confidently that here lies a clear declaration of Jesus’ Godhood by his own intimate disciple. Granted that the person being addressed by Thomas in John 20:28 is Jesus, does it finally prove that Jesus is biblically approved as “very God of very God” (theon ek theou alethinou) as the Creed of Nicea of 325 states? Several explanations have been proposed to show that one need not go home with the Trinitarian interpretation but may well retain a strict Unitarian theology whilst still affirming the text in question. The ‘New Evangelical Magazine and Theological Review’ of 1822 gives a non-exhaustive yet good overview of some of the common propositions that are made by concerned monotheists to affirm Jesus’ unbroken humanity and reject the Trinitarian view of John 20:28.

“Of these it is impossible here to take particular notice, but we would solicit attention to a remark or two on the exclamation of Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” These remarkable words have been variously interpreted. They are by some supposed to be a sudden, and almost involuntary, exclamation of conviction and astonishment: by others they are understood as an ejaculation of admiration and gratitude, addressed directly to God the Almighty Father: some suppose that the first member of the sentence was addressed to Jesus, and the next to God God the Father; and Unitarians, in general, refer the whole sentence to the Father.” [1]

While most interesting and one or two being rather favourable in our view, in this brief article, we are not interested in delving into any of the above Unitarian propositions as we shall instead consider three alternative interpretations that we feel are most probative.

If we read the context, Thomas’ testimony or exclamation ‘ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou’ (literally means ‘the lord of me and the god of me’) is preceded by his utter doubt in Jesus’ return (v. 25). The disciples had heard that their master had been fixed on a Roman cross to die on it, but we know from Mark that they were not eyewitnesses to that, “Then all the disciples deserted Jesus and ran away.” (Mark 14:50; International Standard Version) And so, basing their belief on hearsay, which was commonplace at the time as people did not have the time or sense of historical acuteness or sensitivity to verify rumours and gossip, that Jesus had died, they did not expect to see him again, but they did. Strangely though, the story goes that the disciples didn’t immediately recognise their master when he appeared to them (v. 19). It was only when he showed them “his hands and side”, allegedly having signs or bruises sustained from the crucifixion ordeal that they were “overjoyed when they saw the Lord.” (v. 20) Coming to verse 24, the author of John informs his readers that Thomas was not present when Jesus appeared to the other ten (Judas was not longer part of the original 12, diminishing the number to 11) and so those who were there informed Thomas of the meeting, but he did not believe it and said that he would only believe that Jesus had returned if he could put his finger where Jesus was alleged nailed and put his hand into Jesus’ side (in reference to John’s addition of the centurion’s spear thrust).* Before we proceed further, there is one important contextual point to be observed: The ten disciples who first met Jesus without Thomas were “overjoyed” at the sight of their master and their recognition dawned upon them through seeing the bruises that Jesus had sustained through the crucifixion ordeal, but conspicuously they did not declare Jesus’ lordship or godhood when they realised it was him. Returning to the story, one week after Thomas’ doubt and denial, the disciples all together including Thomas convened at the same house again and Jesus once again appeared and said, “Peace be with you!” after which, he told Thomas to put his finger on his hands and put his hand into his side to stop doubting and believe. To this, Thomas said, “ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou.” (My lord and my god” [I purposefully translate ‘kurios’ and ‘theos’ in the lower case as ‘lord’ and ‘god’ to indicate that capitalisation is only made based on a translator’s theological bias]). And Jesus finalised the meeting right after Thomas’ declarative statement that, “Because you have seen me, you have believed…” Now that we have gone through the context of the event of Jesus’ post-crucifixion appearance to the disciples in the Johannine tradition, we may critically assess the content and see whether the Trinitarian view actually holds water or is just hot air.

The Trinity was not there in the first century

Jesus, the apostles or Church Fathers? Who invented the Trinity?

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

Often Trinitarians claim that the Trinity (and by Trinity, they mean the mainstream dogma that says God is three persons in one being, i.e., God exists eternally as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit) is taught in the New Testament and can be found even in the first century of the Christian era. They will direct us to Patristic sources such as Ignatius, Tertullian and others.Typically, from the first century, the Patristic sources that are cited include Justin Martyr and Ignatius, but none of the available records that may have been penned by these individuals actually carry in them a clear description of the Trinity dogma as we know it today. None of these three individuals actually imparted Trinitarian formulations that could have typified the content of the Athanasian Creed. And so we move on to the second century where we have Patristic figures such as Iranaeus, Tertullian and Origen, but none of them save Tertullian and Origen actually wrote anything that may resemble the Trinity. Origen was born in 185 AD and so, one would be hard pressed to contend that he was teaching theological doctrines before the age of fifteen, which means that whatever teaching that he put forward that had some Trinitarian semblance must have been made after 200 AD,the third century of the Christian calendar. Thus, even if Athanasius was not the promulgator of the Trinity, the earliest that one can trace the doctrine to is Tertullian. And so the eminent German scholar Adolf von Harnack writes: “When the Nicene formulary is praised, it is always of Athanasius that we think; when the Chalcedonian decree is cited, it is the name of Leo the Great that is magnified. But that Tertullian is in reality the father of the orthodox doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ, and that in the whole patristic literature there is no treatise that can be compared in importance and influence with his tract Against Praxeas, it has necessarily been left to the investigations of our own day to exhibit.” [1]

But how can Tertullian be relied upon as the Father of Trinitarianism when he was officially condemned as a heretic for his Montanist leanings? Throughout church history, Tertullian of Carthage has been disparaged for his Montanism which disqualified him from receiving sainthood from the Church. He is the only prominent Patristic figure that was not awarded the title “Saint” and so he has remained throughout the ages as simply plain old Tertullian. According to official condemnations, he “…fell into the heresy of the Montanists, who blasphemously held that Montanus was that Paraclete or Comforter which our Saviour promised to send: and that better and fuller discoveries of God’s will were made to him than to the Apostles, who prophesied only in part.” [2] If Tertullian is the inauguration of early Trinitarian formulations, then Christians will have to contemplate receiving a fundamental dogma from a heretical source. In any case, Tertullian only came to the scene around 130 years after Jesus’ departure; therefore, it is hardly conceivable that his Trinitarian predilections should have any real relationship with Jesus or his apostles and earliest followers.

What is historically certain is that pre-Athanasian and pre-Chalcedonian sources do not contain in them the full blown and adequate Trinitarian formula. What we may see are rough patches that seem to resemble what later became orthodox church dogma through Athanasius and other such persons. And so, The New Catholic Encyclopedia says the following concerning the Trinity: “There is the recognition on the part of exegetes and Biblical theologians, including a constantly growing number of Roman Catholics, that one should not speak of Trinitarianism in the New Testament without serious qualification. There is also the closely parallel recognition on the part of historians of dogma and systematic theologians that when one does speak of an unqualified Trinitarianism, one has moved from the period of Christian origins to, say, the last quadrant of the 4th Century. It was only then that what might be called the definitive Trinitarian dogma “one God in three Persons” became thoroughly assimilated into Christian life and thought.” [3]

A cup of tea with Unitarian scholar Prof. (Dr.) Sir Anthony Buzzard MA (Oxon.), MATh, Hon. PhD

Psalm 110:1 is a proof text for Unitarian monotheism that refutes the Trinitarian hypostasis: A brief exchange with premiere Unitarian scholar, Professor (Dr.) Sir Anthony F. Buzzard of the Restoration Fellowship, Atlanta Bible College

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

Thoughts on Psalm 110:1. Does it say “the Lord (adonai) said to my Lord (l’adoni)” or does it say “the Lord (adonai) said to my Lord (adonai = Jesus)”?
Even at the outset, any novice of the Hebrew language knows that the phraseology in Psalm 110:1 which says “to my Lord” (l’adoni) is curiously an impossible as a phrase to be given to deity. In the Old Testament, this phrase is exclusively used for a human being and it is utterly distinct from the divine epithet ‘adonai’ (which is used as a substitute for the Tetragrammaton YHWH) that is exclusively used for deity. This is supported by the Septuagint rendering of ‘l’adoni’, i.e., ‘tou kuriou mou.’ This Septuagint phraseology is ever used for human beings and never once used for the Divine as Dr. Buzzard points out:
“In fact the Hebrew word for “my lord’ is not adonai but adoni, which is never used of God but often of the king of Israel and other human superiors.” (Buzzard, A. F. & Hunting, C. F. (1998). The Doctrine of the Trinity: Christianity’s Self-Inflicted Wound. Maryland: International Scholars Publications. p. 48 fn. 16)

The following is a question that I posed to Dr. Anthony F. Buzzard on a rather interesting quotation that I found in a German theological treatise on Ps. 110:1 by a notable Christian German theologian.

Dr. Buzzard, what do you think of Roth’s comments below? Do you think they are probative in our quest against Trinitarianism?

German theologian Ulli Roth has some interesting comments on Psalms 110:1 that I’d like to share with Dr. Anthony F. Buzzard and perhaps elicit some thoughts from the good professor on it. The following is the German text, followed by my translation (interpretation) of it and a short discussion of its content.

Bekanntlich gab die Septuaginta das Tetragramm mit dem Wort “Herr” wieder, d. h. genauer die uns uberlieferten christlichen Septuagintahandschriften setzen stets fur den Gottesnamen das Wort Herr.
Fur judische griechische Handschriften, soweit sie uns bewahrt sind, ist dies nicht belegt. Sie lassen das Tetragramm einfach stehen oder ersetzen es in geeigneter Weise. Wenn die lateinischen Ubersetzungen jedoch konsequent das griechische kyrios mit dominum wiedergeben, ist nicht mehr ersichtlich, wo einmal der Gottesname oder etwa das hebraische Aquivalent fur “Herr” stand. Da das Wort “Herr” sowohl fur Gott stehen kann – und so liest man noch heute statt des Gottesnamens das Wort ‘adonai – als auch fur einen irdischen Herrscher, kann es bei der Ubersetzung zu Unklarheiten oder sogar Sinnverschiebungen kommen.
Wenn in Ps 110,1 “der Herr sprach zu meinem Herrn” plotzlich ununterschieden von zwei “Herren” die Rede ist. so konnte dies allein schon als Schriftbeleg fur die Lehre von Gott Vater und Gott Sohn als zweier unterschiedener Personen ein und derselben gottlichen Natur gewertet werden.

(Roth, E. (2003). Die Philologische Freiheit Des Humanisten Johannes Reuchlin: Interpretation und Edition von Reuchlins Ubersetzung der Psalmen 110-115. In Barbara Becker-Cantarino (Ed.), Zeitschrift fur Mittlere Deutsche Literatur und Kultur der Fruhen Neuzeit (1400 – 1750). Amsterdam: Rodopi. p. 83)

The author writes that it is known that the Lxx (Septuagint) uses the word ‘Herr’ (Lord) and it is typically used for ‘Gottesnamen’ (the name of God). For Jewish Greek manuscripts, if they are preserved for us, this is not documented, The Tetragrammaton is left to stand as it is or it is replaced appropriately. The Latin translations, however, reflect the Greek ‘kyrios’ with the Latin ‘dominum’ , but it is no longer visible where once God’s name or the equivalent of the Hebrew for ‘Herr’ (Lord) was. Since the word ‘Lord’ can be used for both God — and so you read today instead of God’s name, the word ”adonai — as well as an earthly ruler and this may occur in the translation that confuses or shifts the meaning. In Psalms 11:1 ‘The Lord said to my Lord” is “suddenly indistinguishable from the two gentlemen mentioned”, this alone could be considered a signature document of the doctrine of God, the Father and God, the Son as two Distinguished persons of the divine nature.

Answering Islam’s Ringleader, Sam Shamoun has Acute Reading Problems

Why is Answering Islam only for those who dropped out of school or those who share the backward mentality of school dropouts? Exposing Shamoun as a sham.

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

In this kindergarten article (A Muslim Scholar’s Incriminating Statements on Islam Pt. 1: Muhammad’s Suicide Attempts), the new Christian prophet Sam Shamoun claims that Hadith expert Dr. Jonathan Brown recognises the historicity of Muhammad’s suicide attempt. In trying to find Muslim scholars that approve such fiction, Shamoun the Jester cited Brown:

“… Ibn Hisham found some of the material that Ibn Ishaq included objectionable, such as the story of the Prophet contemplating suicide after his first revelation and the Satanic verses (see below). He removed such reports…”

“his thoughts of suicide, and ultimate refuge with his loving wife. It is no accident that the mention of suicide, present in Ibn Ishaq’s original Sira, was removed in Ibn Hisham’s more orthodox edition. That Muhammad could have doubted his calling or thought of suicide was unacceptable to Muslim scholars.”

From these two sections taken from Brown’s ‘Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction,’ the court jester Sam Shamoun stupidly yells, “Brown isn’t the only scholar or authority who accepts the historicity of Muhammad’s attempt of killing himself after his initial encounter with a spirit being.”

Well, here’s the problem and it exposes Shamoun as having such poor reading skills that a seven-year-old would be embarrassed to sit next to him: In the given quotation, Dr. Jonathan Brown never says Muhammad s.a.w. actually ATTEMPTED suicide. When a person has the reading skills of a kindergarten child like the court jester Shamoun, I suppose it is not easy to see the huge difference between “contemplating” and “attempting,” between “thought” and “attempt.” To help our poor illiterate court jester out, we shall explain the difference. Contemplating or thought is the imagination that goes on in a person’s mind about a thing or an action. Attempt is the act of doing or putting to action what was imagined in the mind before. But we shouldn’t really blame Shamoun for his most embarrassing errors in language as he has literally zero academic credentials. He’s just a street urchin who discovered a colourful clown’s outfit that he sees as Joseph’s coat of many colours (kethoneth passim) and he sits in his plastic kindergarten chair pretending to be a king of kings.

When you have someone like Shamoun who crazily and insanely argues for the worship of a man in an inexplicable Trinity and uses such confusing language as one is three and three is one, man is god and god is man, you end up with the Shamounian stupidity of confusing “attempting” with “contemplating.”

What makes the article more amusing is that the [1] footnote that he gives to his claim that Brown and other scholars recognise Muhammad’s s.a.w. “suicide attempt” is the following:

“(1) Sadly, we still find Muslims today (1; 2) who are so embarrassed by Muhammad’s suicidal bouts that they are willing to go as far as distort the Islamic sources or rewrite history in order to avoid having to deal with the ramifications that such suicidal tendencies have on Muhammad’s mental sanity and prophetic claims.”

The 1 and 2 in brackets after “today” are links to Bassam Zawadi’s article and mine. He accuses us of distorting Islamic sources and rewrite history to avoid dealing with Muhammad’s s.a.w. “suicidal tendencies.” Well, anyone who has better reading skills than a kindergarten adolescent may well read my article on the subject and prove to themselves that nothing is distorted, but everything is treated with the utmost academic honesty, for example, the text of the relevant tradition is given and a technical discussion on the content and the chain of transmission are generously supplied by yours truly with proper citations to academic sources. And in the analysis, we prove that the story was a rumour, a gossip that was in circulation that has nothing to do with the Prophet’s s.a.w. real experiences with revelation. We address the issue from several different angles and securely come to the conclusion that the Prophet Muhammad s.a.w. was blameless. So Shamoun’s claim that I ran away from dealing with the issue is more proof of his utterly deficient reading skills. Perhaps I should offer some reading lessons to him.

My article that addresses this issue may be accessed at http://unveiling-christianity.net/2013/04/03/prophet-muhammad-intend-commit-suicide/

The following is a scanned image of the relevant part where Shamoun commits the blunders discussed above. The red boxes highlight the specific instances that show Shamoun’s utterly poor reading skills.

shamoun

Was Jesus the Messiah for the Whole World?

Jesus’ Ministry was Only for the Jewish people

by Ibn Anwar, BHsc (Hons), MCollT

Christians, especially Catholic (the name means universal) Christians, believe wholeheartedly that Jesus was sent to the world (John 3:16). They are correct insofar that later Christians after the departure of Jesus thought that Jesus was a messenger, a saviour for the entire world and not limited only to the children of Israel. This however is starkly at odds with the historical documentary evidence that we have of Jesus’ actual ministry. From the earliest strata of information, scholars have carefully gleaned that Jesus preached solely to the Jewish community and did not intend to promulgate a universal or Catholic Church (ekklessia) with a global network of believers. His message was exclusively for the “lost sheep of the House of Israel” and had absolutely nothing to do with the ‘goyim’ (Gentiles) and these were the fundamental parameters of religion upon which the primitive church or Urgemeinde operated.

The truth of the matter is recorded by Matthew in chapter 10 in spite of a contradictory instruction attributed to Jesus much later in the gospel (Matthew 28:19), which many scholars dismiss as ahistorical or a later historical development. In chapter 10 of Matthew we read a clear cut instruction from the lips of Jesus concerning the limits of his earthly ministry:

“These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 10:5-6; King James Version)

Jesus could not have been more unequivocal in his command to the 12 apostles who were his only disciples that they should only deliver the message of Jesus’ ministry to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (ta probata ta apololota oikou ‘Israel).

Commenting on the verse, Rev. Dr. Alexander J. Grieve, who was Principal and Professor of Systematic Theology in the Scottish Congregational Theological Hall, Edinburgh, writes:

X. 5-42. The Charge to the Twelve. — The section forms the second of five passages into which Mt. collected the sayings of Jesus. The Markan account (6:7-11) is followed by Lk. 91-5, but Lk. 10:2-6 (the Seventy) is from Q; Mt. 10:5-16 combines the two sources. The mission is limited to Jews, hardly, in view of 6, 23, to the Jews of Galilee. Lk. 10 omits the limitation; he wrote mainly for Gentiles. Indeed, when Mt. wrote, the limitation was obsolete. Yet it shows that Jesus came to realise the Jewish hope, and though Gentiles are not wholly barred from the Kingdom (8:11f), the enter only as an appendage. Not yet is humanity welcome without distinction.” [1]