Eye-witness testimony in the Bible and Hadith

 

Lizzie and Paul Williams discuss eyewitness testimony in the Bible and Hadith. Paul brings up Matthew 27:52 which he says Christian scholars claim is legendarised; Lizzie brings up the fact no-one witnessed Muhammad’s revelations at all.

Matthew 27:51-52

“51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life.”

The Hadith of Gabriel:

Umar ibn al-Khattab said: One day when we were with God’s messenger, a man with very white clothing and very black hair came up to us. No mark of travel was visible on him, and none of us recognized him. Sitting down before the Prophet, leaning his knees against his, and placing his hands on his thighs, he said, “Tell me, Muhammad, about submission.” He replied, ‘Submission means that you should bear witness that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is God’s messenger, that you should perform the ritual prayer, pay the alms tax, fast during Ramadan, and make the pilgrimage to the House if you are able to go there.” The man said, “You have spoken the truth.” We were surprised at his questioning him and then declaring that he had spoken the truth. He said “Now tell me about faith.” He replied, “Faith means that you have faith in God, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day, and that you have faith in the measuring out, both its good and its evil.” Remarking that he had spoken the truth, he then said, “Now tell me about doing what is beautiful.” He replied, “Doing what is beautiful means that you should worship God as if you see Him, for even if you do not see Him, He sees you.” Then the man said, “Tell me about the Hour” The Prophet replied, “About that he who is questioned knows no more than the questioner.” The man said, “Then tell me about its marks.” He said, “The slave girl will give birth to her mistress, and you will see the barefoot, the naked, the destitute, and the shepherds vying with each other in building.” Then the man went away. After I had waited for a long time, the Prophet said to me, “Do you know who the questioner was, ‘Umar?” I replied, “God and His messenger know best. “He said, “He was Gabriel. He came to teach you your religion. ”

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The evidential basis for the Book of Acts

The evidential basis for the Book of Acts

Jonathan McLatchie shows how the book of Acts is historically reliable and how it gives credibility to the claim that Jesus really died and rose again.

For further reading on this topic:

Colin Hemer, The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History

John Saul Howson, The Evidential Value of the Acts of the Apostles

Craig Keener, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary

Stanley Leathes, The Religion of the Christ, Lecture 6

Lydia McGrew, Hidden in Plain View

William Paley, Horae Paulinae

James Smith, The Voyage and Shipwreck of St. Paul

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Adnan Rashid’s claims about Islam- part 2

James White and Adnan Rashid

James White and Adnan Rashid had a debate recently on whether or not the Cross is necessary for salvation. In my last post, I analysed the main points raised; in this post, I will hold Adnan Rashid accountable for what he said about Islam.

I will take four of Adnan Rashid’s statements to which I offer my own suggested rapid-fire responses. Each statement could be a debate topic in its own right, and there are deeper theological answers to all of them. But my experience at Speaker’s Corner tells me that more debates are won through a good come-back than through detailed theological explanation. Muslims use this tactic all the time, whether or not their come-backs have any theological support (they often don’t.) A good come-back sticks in the mind of the person watching; it’s the hook that leads them to dig deeper and is something all Christian debaters (myself included) can learn to practice more. Although (needless to say), for the sake of Christ and his truth, as well as our own personal integrity as ambassadors for the Gospel, our come-backs must also be well-grounded theologically.

I’ll try and keep the responses relative to the debate topic for the sake of brevity – for example with the first one, you could go on and on…

  1. “Islam is consistent with the Old Testament”

Is Islam consistent with Genesis 3:21, where the Lord makes ‘garments of skin’ for Adam and Eve, i.e. animal sacrifice, even before the institution of  the Mosaic law? Why does the Qur’an omit this detail? Why, according to the Qur’an, are Adam and Eve expelled from the garden at all, when the Qur’an says Adam received forgiveness from his Lord (Sura 2:37)?  The Bible doesn’t say Adam and Eve were forgiven, it says they were cursed –  in clear contradiction to the Qur’an. Genesis 3 also says that Eve’s offspring would one day crush the head of Satan. No mere human offspring can crush the head of Satan, so it must refer to a god-man – Jesus. That God can become a man is anathema in Islam.

In Exodus, Moses sprinkles blood on his chosen people as confirmation of God’s covenant with them(Exodus 24:8). The Qur’an mentions that Allah made a covenant with the Israelites as God’s people, but it is a covenant based on works, not on blood:

And certainly Allah made a covenant with the children of Israel, and We raised up among them twelve chieftains; and Allah said: Surely I am with you; if you keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate and believe in My apostles and assist them and offer to Allah a goodly gift, I will most certainly cover your evil deeds, and I will most certainly cause you to enter into gardens beneath which rivers flow, but whoever disbelieves from among you after that, he indeed shall lose the right way. S. 5:12

The Qur’an even says explicitly that vicarious blood sacrifice does not make a difference to Allah. Sura 22:37

“It is neither their meat nor their blood that reaches Allah, but it is piety from you that reaches him.”

This stands in direct contradiction to the whole sacrificial system. On the Day of Atonement, the High Priest made atonement for himself and the people through the sprinkling blood before the mercy seat of YHWH. In Leviticus 17:11, YHWH forbids the eating of blood because “it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”  If this system was abrogated by Allah, then how can he disregard  his own law without being inconsistent? If he fulfils it, then how? These questions are not answered according to the ‘clear’, ‘detailed’, ‘well explained’ Qur’an (Sura 12:111). Same goes for the role of the High Priest and the priesthood.

The OT repeatedly mentions that YHWH will come Himself to earth to rescue and redeem his people (Gen 3:15, Jeremiah 23:5-6, Job 19:25, Isaiah 9:6). Again – where is the evidence that Allah is a saviour, a redeemer? Why is it not one of his 99 names, when the theme of YHWH redeeming his people is such a consistent thread running throughout the OT?  According to Islam it is impossible for Allah, a monad, to come to earth.

Islam is not consistent with the Old Testament.

2. “Islam teaches just do the law and you will be forgiven.”

What law exactly does Islam teach? Do you mean the Mosaic law, which the Qur’an says is revealed by Allah (Sura 3:3-4, S29:46, S5:47-8) or sharia law, which doesn’t come directly from the Qur’an but is a man-made extrapolation of Islamic teaching? If you mean the Mosaic law – which you say is consistent with Islam – why are you not still sacrificing animals,  keeping the Sabbath, putting to death anyone who curses their father and mother etc? If you mean sharia, please support your statement from Islamic sources that this guarantees forgiveness?  And what do you mean exactly by ‘doing’ the law? Do you have to ‘do’ all of it? Will Allah forgive you if you keep only some, not all of it?

3. “Simply repent and Allah will forgive you.”

But wait, I thought you said ‘do the law’ and you will be forgiven? Now it’s ‘simply repent’? Which is it, and if you meant ‘repent’, where does the Qur’an say this exactly? The Qur’an even states there are circumstances where ‘simple repentance’ is not accepted, i.e. on your deathbed. Sura 4:18

“And of no effect is the repentance of those who continue to do evil deeds until death faces one of them and he says: “now I repent;” nor of those who die while they are disbelievers. For them we have prepared a painful torment.”

4. “We have been promised forgiveness as long as we die as Muslims.”

Now it gets even more confusing. How do you get saved exactly -through repentance, obeying the law (which law?) or dying as Muslims? According to the verse I just quoted, if you do evil deeds your repentance will not be accepted on your death bed. Presumably it’s possible to do evil deeds and still call yourself a Muslim?

In fact, there is a sahih Hadith that supports this statement, despite  contradicting the Qur’an. Bukhari 7:72:717:

Narrated Abu Dharr:

I came to the Prophet while he was wearing white clothes and sleeping. Then I went back to him again after he had got up from his sleep. He said, “Nobody says: ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah’ and then later on he dies while believing in that, except that he will enter Paradise.’ I said, “Even It he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and theft.” I said. “Even if he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and theft? He said. ‘Even If he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and theft,” I said, ‘Even it he had committed illegal sexual intercourse and thefts.’ He said, “Even If he had committed Illegal sexual intercourse and theft, inspite of the Abu Dharrs dislikeness. Abu ‘Abdullah said, “This is at the time of death or before it if one repents and regrets and says “None has the right to be worshipped but Allah. He will be forgiven his sins.”

Conclusion

So we see that despite Adnan Rashid’s attempts to make it sound simple and straightforward, every one of his statements about Islam is highly problematic. Islam doesn’t confirm the OT, but in fact either contradicts or denies it, while offering no clear means of salvation whatsoever as an alternative. This is hardly surprising, given Muhammad himself wasn’t sure of his eternal destiny. Sura 46:9 states:

“Say, (O Muhammad): “I am not a new thing among the messengers, nor do I know what will be done with me or with you. I only follow that which is revealed to me, and I am but a plain Warner.”

Compare this to how Jesus fulfils the OT, as summarised so beautifully in Hebrews 9:11-14  while simultaneously demonstrating the necessity of the Cross:

But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here,[a] he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. 12 He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Placeonce for all by his own blood, thus obtaining[b] eternal redemption. 13 The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. 14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death,[c] so that we may serve the living God!

We continue to pray and implore Muslims to see Jesus as He really is.

Thank you to Sam Shamoun for helping me understand this topic better. He has done his own rebuttal to Adnan Rashid here.

James White and Adnan Rashid debate – part 1

James White and Adnan Rashid

The recent encounter between James White and Adnan Rashid on “Is the Cross necessary for salvation?” was predictable enough. Dr White did OK on the apologetics, and preached the Gospel beautifully at the end to his credit. But this was not a debate. Everything was so terribly polite, with lots of rather pointed comments about how respectful everything was (subtext: not like nasty Speaker’s Corner!) The cross examination was more like a polite exchange of views – hardly worthy of the name. An hour in (trying not to nod off) I was still waiting for things to get a bit more feisty, more passionate, more real. You can respect someone and still be confrontational, right? They seem to manage it at the  House of Commons and Channel 4 News well enough – even at Speaker’s Corner, that’s always our aim. Vigorous debate is much more honest and engaging, and my own experience of debating Adnan Rashid is that he can certainly handle it.

James White’s first objective was to “demonstrate the centrality of the Cross in divine revelation…beginning with the writings of the Apostles.” I wasn’t sure why he didn’t start with Jesus himself – the many times He predicts His death, Jesus statement in Mark that He would give His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45), the Last Supper. He dwelt on the fact (Acts 2:36) of the crucifixion rather than its necessity (Acts 4:12) . JW elaborated on Paul’s teaching  on the power of the Cross (1 Cor 1:17) to reconcile mankind to God (Ephesians 2,Colossians 1:19-20) and how the suffering of the Messiah is prophesied in the Old Testament (Psalm 22, Isaiah 53) as stated by Jesus himself (Luke 24:44). This seemed to be slightly off-topic, as the central issue is atonement, not the suffering of the Messiah or his identity – the Qur’an states Jesus is the Messiah, so that shouldn’t be an issue for Muslims (although it does open for them a big can of worms.) There was no mention  about the necessity of blood sacrifice in the Mosaic law, fulfilled in Christ and explained at length in the book Hebrews. Although he made some strong points about Jesus’ identity, it felt like he missed the main meat of the argument, which was a shame.

Adnan Rashid argued that only Paul taught salvation by faith in the Cross of Christ, but that the OT doesn’t teach the necessity of blood sacrifice. It does! Exodus 24:3, Leviticus 17:11 and Hebrews 9:22:

In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

Instead his argument relied heavily upon cherry-picked, de-contextualised verses and appeals to scholarship. He tried to turn every reference from the Gospels into either an authorship issue or a textual criticism issue, for example asking why does Luke omit Mark 10:45? (As Lydia McGrew argues in her excellent lecture, “sometimes a variant is just a variant,” and an ‘omission’ presupposes the author’s intention, when they just might have remembered things differently.) The Mosaic law, the Last Supper, Hebrews etc were all,again, conspicuous by their absence.  His most interesting argument was whether or not the Book of James teaches salvation by works, therefore contradicting  the letters of Paul?

James White should have recognised this for the clever tactic it was, rather than allow for side-tracking  with his ‘just-read-my-book’ answer. This rather pompous response doesn’t work in a debate situation; a failure  to give a simple answer comes across like you have something to hide. But there is a reasonable, simple answer to the Paul vs James objection, which  John Piper summarises very well:

When Paul teaches in Romans 4:5 that we are justified by faith alone, he means that the only thing that unites us to Christ for righteousness is dependence on Christ. When James says in James 2:24that we are not justified by faith alone he means that the faith which justifies does not remain alone. These two positions are not contradictory. Faith alone unites us to Christ for righteousness, and the faith that unites us to Christ for righteousness does not remain alone. It bears the fruit of love. It must do so or it is dead, demon, useless faith and does not justify.

This was James White’s response, but not very succinctly put. It was unfortunate the rebuttal and cross-examination time were unnecessarily dominated by this issue.

Otherwise, while James White did correct some of Adnan’s misapplication of verses quite skilfully, he bypassed others. For example he didn’t refute Adnan’s claim that Psalm 91 “says the Messiah will be saved.” This is the Psalm quoted by Satan during Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness in Matthew 4: 5-7:

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[a]

How does Jesus respond? By rebuking Satan for misquoting scripture!

Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[b]

Why is Adnan using an argument from Satan on which to base his objection?

 In conclusion the debate (still not the right word for it) was fine, neither a triumph nor a disaster from an apologetics perspective; but the real disappointment  was how very one-sided it was. The Islamic perspective was mentioned only occasionally, let alone challenged. Statements like “Islam is consistent with the Old Testament”; “Islam teaches the law and you will be forgiven”; “simply repent and Allah will forgive you”; “we have been promised forgiveness as long as we die as Muslims” all slipped by unchecked. But check it we will – in our next post.