Oholah and Oholibah in the book of Ezekiel

The dawah team frequently focus their attacks on Old Testament passages, always taking them out of context, to attack the divine inspiration of the Bible. One such passage is in Ezekiel 23, which speaks of two sisters, Oholah and Oholibah, in particular these verses, in relation to the latter sister:

19 Yet she increased her whoring, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt20 and lusted after her lovers there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses.21 Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressed your young breasts.”

This has been attacked by the dawah team as pornographic, and comments have been made that God would not let young women be treated in this way, or even speak like this. As always, the dawah team ignores both the historical context of the passage and its genre.

  1. Israel as the metaphorical ‘Bride’ of YHWH

One of the metaphors of Biblical Israel as the People of YHWH in the Old Testament is that She was the ‘Bride of YHWH’, by virtue of the Covenant (in Biblical terms, an oath-bound promise with obligations enjoined on the recipient) imposed on the progeny of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This concept is also found in the New Testament, where the Church, as the New Covenant People of God, is the Bride of Christ, Ephesians 5: “31“Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Also, in 2 Corinthians 11:2: “For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” Marriage is presented as a covenant in Malachi 2:14: “But you say, “Why does he not?” Because YHWH was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.” Unfortunately, Israel was not a faithful Bride, as Hosea 2 demonstrates:

“Plead with your mother, plead—
for she is not my wife,
and I am not her husband
that she put away her whoring from her face,
and her adultery from between her breasts;
lest I strip her naked
and make her as in the day she was born,
and make her like a wilderness,

and make her like a parched land,
and kill her with thirst.
Upon her children also I will have no mercy,
because they are children of whoredom.
For their mother has played the whore;
she who conceived them has acted shamefully…

Likewise, Jeremiah 3, in language and content that resembles Ezekiel 23,presents the same story about Israel and Judah, referring to the Northern and Southern Kingdoms after the secession under Jeroboam, son of Nebat who led the northern rebellion:

YHWH said to me in the days of King Josiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? And I thought, ‘After she has done all this she will return to me,’ but she did not return, and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce. Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. Because she took her whoredom lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. 10 Yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, declares YHWH.”

By “adultery” and “prostitution”, YHWH is referring to Israel’s apostasy, by mixing the pure worship of YHWH and His revelation in the Torah with the polytheistic religion of the Canaanites and surrounding peoples and their ethical codes which were actually devoid of moral content, involving as they did homosexuality, incest, bestiality and child sacrifice. 

  • Israel as the metaphorical ‘Virgin Daughter’ 

Another metaphor used of Biblical Israel is that of ‘Virgin Daughter’:

Isaiah 37:22; “virgindaughter of Zion”

Jeremiah 14:17: “…the virgindaughter of my people is shattered with a great wound, with a very grievous blow.”

Lamentations 1:15: “…the virgindaughter of Judah.”

Lamentations 2:13: “What can I say for you, to what compare you, O daughter of Jerusalem? What can I liken to you, that I may comfort you, O virgindaughter of Zion?”

Similarly, we several times encounter the phrase ‘the virgin Israel’:

Jeremiah 18:13: “Therefore thus says YHWH: Ask among the nations, Who has heard the like of this? The virginIsraelhas done a very horrible thing.

Jeremiah 31:4: Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virginIsrael! Again you shall adorn yourself with tambourines and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers.

Jeremiah 31:21: “Set up road markers for yourself; make yourself guideposts; consider well the highway, the road by which you went. Return, O virginIsrael, return to these your cities.

Amos 5:2: “Fallen, no more to rise, is the virginIsrael; forsaken on her land, with none to raise her up.”

This metaphor influences the content of Ezekiel 23, where Oholah and Oholibah are guilty of prostitution, rather than being virgins. 

  • The historical context of Ezekiel 23

After the secession of the northern tribes, Jeroboam altered the nature of the religion in his kingdom, 1 Kings 12:

25 Then Jeroboam built Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim and lived there. And he went out from there and built Penuel.26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will turn back to the house of David.27 If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the temple of YHWH at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will turn again to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.”28 So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.”29 And he set one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan.30 Then this thing became a sin, for the people went as far as Dan to be before one31 He also made temples on high places and appointed priests from among all the people, who were not of the Levites.32 And Jeroboam appointed a feast on the fifteenth day of the eighth month like the feast that was in Judah, and he offered sacrifices on the altar. So he did in Bethel, sacrificing to the calves that he made. And he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places that he had made.33 He went up to the altar that he had made in Bethel on the fifteenth day in the eighth month, in the month that he had devised from his own heart. And he instituted a feast for the people of Israel and went up to the altar to make offerings.

These actions violated the Second Commandment, which forbade representations of YHWH; it violated the divine commandment that sacrifice can only be offered at the place YHWH would choose, which ultimately (in the Old Testament) was Jerusalem,Deuteronomy 12:2-27; and only Levitical priests could serve in the Temple. Matters deteriorated under later kings, such as Ahab (1 Kings 16):

29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. 30 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of YHWH, more than all who were before him. 31 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. 32 He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke YHWH, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. 34 In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of YHWH, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.

Ahab and Jezebel promoted a syncretistic religion whereby both YHWH and the Canaanite gods were worshipped, in defiance of the First Commandment demanding the exclusive worship of YHWH. The same features were found in some Kings of Judah, e.g. Manasseh, 2 Kings 21:

Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hephzibah.And he did what was evil in the sight of YHWH, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom YHWH drove out before the people of Israel.For he rebuilt the high places that Hezekiah his father had destroyed, and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them.And he built altars in the house of YHWH, of which YHWH had said, “In Jerusalem will I put my name.”And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of YHWH.And he burned his son as an offeringand used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. He did much evil in the sight of YHWH, provoking him to anger.And the carved image of Asherah that he had made he set in the house of which YHWH said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my name forever.And I will not cause the feet of Israel to wander anymore out of the land that I gave to their fathers, if only they will be careful to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the Law that my servant Moses commanded them.”But they did not listen, and Manasseh led them astray to do more evil than the nations had done whom YHWH destroyed before the people of Israel.

It was not limited to idolatry. The People of YHWH were supposed to depend on YHWH alone for security, since dependent alliances with other powers implied that YHWH was either unable or unwilling to defend His People, a falsehood which YHWH, through Isaiah 31, denounced:

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many and in horsemen because they are very strong, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult YHWH!

And yet he is wise and brings disaster; he does not call back his words, but will arise against the house of the evildoers and against the helpers of those who work iniquity. 

The Egyptians are man, and not God, and their horses are flesh, and not spirit.
When YHWH stretches out his hand, the helper will stumble, and he who is helped will fall, and they will all perish together.

At different times, the northern and southern kingdoms came under dependent alliances – vassalage – with Egypt, Assyria and Babylonia. This was not supposed to happen, since the People of YHWH were supposed to serve YHWH alone, and trust only in Hisprotection. Therefore, when Israel and Judah submitted to such unequal relationships, YHWH was angered by their unfaithfulness to His covenant – to their spiritual prostitution. Walther Eichrodt (Ezekiel: A Commentary, Philadelphia: Westminster, 1970, p. 3) refers to the historical situation:

The prophet’s struggle against the oppressor was soon justified by events. When Jehoiakim repudiated his position as a vassal of Babylon in 602 (II Kings 24.1), he returned once more to the old political manoeuvre practised by the Syrian states, according to which they seized the first opportunity to throw off such a galling yoke, and tried to have-their own way by playing off the rival powers of the Euphrates and the Nile against each other.

The Babylonian king Nebucharezzar reacted by, eventually, besieging Jerusalem (Ibid.):

A Babylonian army appeared before Jerusalem and began to besiege it… The palace and temple were indeed plundered, and the king and royal family led off into captivity in Babylon, and along with them large numbers of the upper and artisan classes of the country. At that time, young Ezekiel was one of those who underwent the bitter fate of deportation, which prevented him from taking up his priestly office, and annihilated all natural hopes.

We can see the fruit of departing from YHWH.

  • The genre of Ezekiel 23

Perhaps the most ridiculous aspect of the dawahteam’s polemic on this passage is to take the language literally. It is, quite obviously and self-evidently, an allegorical or rhetorical parable, as suggested by Walter Bruggemann and Tod Linafelt(An introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian imagination, Louisville; Westminster John Knox Press, 2003, 2012 second edition, p. 227 [bold type ours]):

In three extensive and remarkable chapters, Ezekiel traces the history of Israel with YHWH as a history of failure and obscene violation of trust (16; 20; 23). These are remarkable rereadings of that long history, not only because it is a history of failure (a theme differently articulated in Ps 106), but because the relationship of YHWH and Israel is imagined as an intimate relationship that became erotic, and that in turn became obscene in ways that display all of the distortions and betrayals of which an erotic relationship is capable.The impression given us of this rhetoricis that the prophet must find the most extreme and offensive imagery in order to voice what he knows to be the most extreme and offensive distortion of a relationship that began in generosity and compassion. The negation of the relationship is unspeakable in its abhorrence, and so Ezekiel finds a way to speak the unspeakable:

You played the whore with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, multiplying your whoring, to provoke me to anger. Therefore I stretched out my hand against you, reduced your rations, and gave you up to the will of your enemies, the daughters of the Philistines, who were ashamed of your lewd behavior. You played the whore with the Assyrians, because you were insatiable; you played the whore with them, and still you were not satisfied. You multiplied your whoring with Chaldea, the land of merchants; and even with this you were not satisfied. (16:26–29)

And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their lust; and after she defiled herself with them, she turned from them in disgust. When she carried on her whorings so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her, as I had turned from her sister. Yet she increased her whorings, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt and lusted after her paramours there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose emission was like that of stallions. Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians fondled your bosom and caressed your young breasts. (23:17–21)

Eichrodt likewise presents this as a parable and allegory (pp. 320-321): 

One can see from the very beginning that the narrative in which this is clothed has no importance whatsoever; this is no parablestory full of charm and poetic beauty, like ch. 16, 17 and 19. It is an allegory, which gives no more than the bare essentials, and applies only a few stereotyped pictorial imagesto bring out the point as clearly and unmistakably as possible. The images which it employs have no life of their own; their only purpose is to reproduce in quite coarse terms the unspeakable event they convey. This renunciation of all attempts to impart any artistic adornment to the parable can, of course, only result in a completely matter-of-fact and soberly plain and realistic narrative. To criticize it for its flatness, colourlessness, prosaic frigidity, or unpoetic repetitiveness shows a complete failure to understand its nature.

The kindest thing we can say about the dawahteam’s propaganda on this passage is that it is, in the words of Bruggemann, ‘a complete failure to understand its nature’. However, it is difficult to understand how anyone could possibly misunderstand the nature and genre of the passage. This is how the chapter begins:

The word of YHWH came to me:“Son of man, there were two women, the daughters of one mother.They played the whore in Egypt; they played the whore in their youth; there their breasts were pressed and their virgin bosomshandled.Oholah was the name of the elder and Oholibah the name of her sister. They became mine, and they bore sons and daughters. As for their names, Oholah is Samaria, and Oholibah is Jerusalem.

It is obvious from the start that this is the language of allegorical parable. Oholah is Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom, and Oholibah is Jerusalem, capital of Judah. So, clearly, we are not dealing with two literal women here, but rather with a metaphorical representation of the two Hebrew kingdoms – Israel and Judah. It follows, therefore, that the erotic language is likewise metaphorical. The ‘whoring’ of Oholah (Samaria) was with Assyria – its dependent alliances (and then treacherous breaches), and the whoredom of Oholibah (Jerusalem) was with Assyria, Babylonia and Egypt. Obviously, the contrast is between the ‘virgin Israel’ – where the People were faithful to YHWH and His Torah – with the ‘whoring’ of Samaria and Judah, in terms of their infidelity, their idolatry, vassalage to pagans, and general apostasy – ‘29 …Your lewdness and your whoring30 have brought this upon you, because you played the whore with the nations and defiled yourself with their idols.’ So, the opposite to the language of ‘virginity’ is that of ‘prostitution’ – whoring. 

It follows that to comprehend the sexual imagery of Ezekiel 23, we must understand the general teaching of the Old Testament about the Covenant, about the language of ‘virginity’ in relation to Biblical Israel as the metaphorical Bride of YHWH and of references to ‘the virgin daughter of YHWH’. Adultery is usually related to lust – a desire for someone’s body, and in the case of women, for the distinctive anatomy of the male, which explains the references in the following texts;

12 She lusted after the Assyrians, governors and commanders, warriors clothed in full armor, horsemen riding on horses, all of them desirable young men…14 But she carried her whoring further. She saw men portrayed on the wall, the images of the Chaldeans portrayed in vermilion,15 …all of them having the appearance of officers, a likeness of Babylonians whose native land was Chaldea…19 Yet she increased her whoring, remembering the days of her youth, when she played the whore in the land of Egypt20 and lusted after her lovers there, whose members were like those of donkeys, and whose issue was like that of horses.21 Thus you longed for the lewdness of your youth, when the Egyptians handled your bosom and pressedyour young breasts.

The imagery of a woman impressed by a handsome, well-built man in uniform, which causes her to be unfaithful to her husband. There is also the implication of her engaged in something just short of pornography, with her looking at pictures of men and lusting after them. A faithful wife would not be interested in the bodies of other men, whether their chests, their muscles or – most definitely – their private parts. The imagery is that of a totally sexually degenerate woman, in contrast to a pure virgin or faithful wife. YHWH responds with judgment – using the very ‘lovers’ after whom Samaria and Jerusalem ‘lusted’ – the Assyrians, Egyptians and Babylonians. The Assyrians destroyed Samaria in 722 B.C. and deported most of the population, the Babylonians did likewise to Jerusalem in 586. Before this, the Egyptians invaded and imposed a puppet ruler. The chapter ends on a note of judgment upon the adulterous whoring – idolatry – of His apostate people:

46 For thus says the Lord God: “Bring up a vast host against them, and make them an object of terror and a plunder. 47 And the host shall stone them and cut them down with their swords. They shall kill their sons and their daughters, and burn up their houses. 48 Thus will I put an end to lewdness in the land, that all women may take warning and not commit lewdness as you have done. 49 And they shall return your lewdness upon you, and you shall bear the penalty for your sinful idolatry, and you shall know that I am the Lord God.”

It follows that to present the metaphorical language of the text as literal is either to be guilty of ineptitude or wilful misrepresentation. As the quoted scholars have observed, it is obviously the language of an allegorical parable, reflecting the contrast between YHWH’s creation of the virgin Israel and her descent into spiritual lewdness.

Why did God become a man?

Image courtesy of VeronicaRomms

In our previous article we showed how  Allah takes on human form when his Ruh [Spirit] visits Mary “in the form of a man in all respects” (Sura 19:17, Hilali Khan). So if Muslims want to use the objection that a God who takes on human form cannot be God, they need to realise it applies to Allah as well. Even if they they concede that God could become a man, the next question is often – why would he need to?

Right from the beginning in Genesis, it’s clear God has a special affection for human beings. He makes men and women uniquely in His image (Genesis 1:27) and walks and talks with Adam and Eve in perfect relationship (Genesis 3:8). Instead of asking why God became man, ask rather – why ever would God make human beings like God, capable of personally relating with him? Why does He invest us with such dignity and honour? (The Qur’an never says we’re made in God’s image – this is an  important point.)

Disaster strikes when Adam and Eve think they can live independently of their Maker (Genesis 3:6), so God’s image in them becomes tainted. Worse still, as a result of their disobedience, sin and death enter the world. As their descendants  we are all tainted image-bearers, born in sin and subject to death: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And just as Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden, so we too are excluded from His presence . Sin is catastrophic: it is so much more serious than the Islamic understanding of sin as just mistakes and weakness- it is a deadly disease no human wisdom can cure. Don’t miss the strong language of Scripture: in our natural state we are “dead in transgressions and sins”  (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 2:13) and  “objects of wrath” Ephesians 2:3. We are cut off from God and powerless to change our natural state.

And crucially, sin is unique to humanity. A lion doesn’t sin when it eats an antelope. A lion’s taste for antelope may be a consequence of man’s sin, but it was man who fell, not the lion. So it’s man, not the lion, who is deserving of punishment. And yet, God in his extraordinary mercy, decides that it’s men and women, his image-bearers, who in spite of our depravity and rebellion, that He considers pre-eminently worthy of redemption.

How did God redeem his people in the Old Testament? Through the blood of a lamb. At the Passover, the Israelites were commanded to smear the tops and sides of their doors with a lamb’s blood to spare them from the destroying angel. “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment” (Exodus 6:6) Forgiveness through blood continued via the  sacrificial system under Mosaic law. But none of these sacrifices could provide perfect redemption. Hebrews 10:1-4

“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

Why was it never going to be enough for a human to be redeemed by an animal? In Genesis 3:15, God hints that the redeemer would be an offspring of the woman – a human – and male. To Satan he says:

And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

But it is no ordinary human male; it’s a  male who can crush the head of Satan, something only God can do. A God-Man. To re-iterate: the Bible anticipates a God-Man, not a God-Lion or a God-Beetle -because it is mankind who needs redemption, so a like-for-like sacrifice is required.  Note how carefully this is explained in Hebrews 2:11-18

Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.[a] 12 He says,

“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
    in the assembly I will sing your praises.”[b]

13 And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”[c]

And again he says,

“Here am I, and the children God has given me.”[d]

14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— 15 and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fearof death. 16 For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. 17 For this reason he had to be made like them,[e] fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. 18″

Now let’s turn back to the Qur’an. But why did Allah visit Mary “in the form of a man in all respects”? Why is it only birth of Jesus – not Muhammad – that warrants a visit from Allah in person? The well-explained (Sura 12:111), clear and detailed Qur’an (16:89) doesn’t tell us.

The Bible doesn’t leave us hanging: it teaches that Jesus needed to be fully human, as well as fully God, to be the perfect sacrifice to redeem mankind. He does this because he loves us so much, He would rather die in our place than let us carry on “dead in our sins.” And not only that, but through Jesus’ redeeming work, not just human beings, but one day the whole of creation will be made new:

“For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that[a] the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” Romans 8:20-21

The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6)

Freedom, forgiveness, redemption, peace; adopted as sons and daughters and ushers of the new creation.  John is spot-on when he writes “see what great love the Father has lavished on us!” – and at what cost. Muslims repent and believe in Jesus, our “righteousness, holiness and redemption” (I Cor 1:30) and stop worshipping a confusing and unknowable counterfeit.

Next time: Is Jesus the Messiah of the Old Testament?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Objection 2: How can God become a man?

Image of Jesus with halo

“How can the Creator of everything become a man? How can he limit himself?  It’s just not logical. It doesn’t make sense to me.”

Note the phrasing of the objection – “how can God do x?”- puts the questioner above God by implying there are things He shouldn’t be able to do. But why limit God?  Isn’t a better question “why shouldn’t God be able do x?” Someone might respond with a conundrum like  “is God able to create a stone too heavy for Him to lift?” where either answer puts you in a hole. (If yes, God is not all-powerful because he cannot lift the stone: if no, God is not the perfect creator because there is something he can’t create.) But don’t fall down that hole because it’s a conundrum that applies to Allah just as much as it applies to the God of the Bible.  If you’re going to raise objections against the Christian God on the basis of logic, then you have to be consistent and admit that Allah doesn’t conform to human logic either.

And the appeal to logic is disingenuous because Muslims’ highest authority isn’t logic, it’s revelation. They have to believe that Jesus was no more than a human creature not because it’s logical, but because the Qur’an says so. That same Qur’an also claims to confirm the previous Scripture (Sura  2:136, 2:4, 2:41, 3:2-3,  4:136, 5:46-48) which plainly teaches that Jesus is God in the flesh:

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage” (Phillipians 2:6)

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9)

This puts Muslims in a dilemma – to accept that Jesus is God in the flesh in contradiction to the rest of Qur’anic teaching or  accept the Qur’an’s teaching that Jesus is not God in the flesh and reject the teaching of the previous Scripture, which is to risk Allah’s wrath:

O you who have believed, believe in Allah and His Messenger and the Book that He sent down upon His Messenger and the Scripture which He sent down before. And whoever disbelieves in Allah, His angels, His books, His messengers, and the Last Day has certainly gone far astray.” Sura 4:136

(Most Muslims will pick the third way and claim the Bible has been corrupted, which the Qur’an doesn’t say: it was a theory first put forward by 11th century scholar Ibn Hazam.)

Then there is the issue that having a son is actually impossible for Allah:

He is the Originator of the heavens and the earth. How can he have children when he has no wife?” (Sura 6:101 Hilali Khan)

Wait – Allah is constrained by his singleness? Even single human beings can have babies if they put their mind to it. Are single human beings more powerful than Allah? It is very odd thing for Allah to say because he shows he is perfectly capable of creating a child when Maryam conceives Isa by his spirit (Sura 66:12). But according to Allah, creating a child is not how you confer sonship; rather sons are something you ‘take’. Sura 39:4:

Had Allah wished to take to Himself a son, He could have chosen whom He pleased out of those whom He doth create:but Glory be to Him! (He is above such things.) He is Allah, the One, the Irresistible. (Sura 39:4 Yusuf Ali)

Given he claims the previous scriptures as his own, it seems Allah has forgotten that divine Sonship has nothing to do with either fathering or adopting a human creature. According to the Bible, God the Father doesn’t ‘take’ a son, in the sense of fathering or adopting a child. Jesus is not a creation of God; he exists eternally as the Son of God and has done so both before and after his incarnation.  But Allah sees sonship in purely human terms, and he is above such things:

“It is not [befitting] for Allah to take a son; exalted is He!” (Sura 19:35, Salih International)

While fatherhood might be beneath him, it nonetheless ‘befits’ Allah to come to earth disguised in a burning bush. Sura 27:7-8 re-tells the story of Moses:

Behold! Moses said to his family: “I perceive a fire; soon will I bring you from there some information, or I will bring you a burning brand to light our fuel, that ye may warn yourselves. But when he came to the (fire), a voice was heard: “Blessed are those in the fire and those around: and glory to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.”O Moses! verily, I am Allah, the exalted in might, the wise!..”

So it’s logical to believe Allah can be constrained by a burning bush, but not within a human body? But Allah can be constrained by a human body, as we read in Sura 19:17 when the spirit of Allah visits Mary:

She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then We sent to her our Ruh [spirit] and he appeared before her in the form of a man in all respects.”

So even in Islam, Allah’s spirit becomes a man and is subjected to limitations. This isn’t logical, even by the Qur’an’s own ‘logic.’ How can a monad be constrained? Who is running the universe while Allah is in the bush or talking to Mary? Coming to earth and taking on flesh is not a problem for the Trinitarian God of the Bible – in fact it was predicted He would do so throughout the Old Testament. But why did He?  We will look at this in our next article.

With thanks to Sam Shamoun and David Wood.

Muhammad is not a prophet – 10 reasons (4)

4. Muhammad was not an Israelite

Muslims often go to  Deuteronomy 18: 18-19 as one of the Biblical ‘proof’ texts which prophesy about Muhammad, according to Sura 7:157.  In this passage the LORD tells Moses:

I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among you, from their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the Prophet speaks in my name.” (Deuteronomy 18:18-19)

Muhammad was not an Israelite, he was an Arab, so he can’t be the prophet the passage refers to. Objection quashed: or so you’d think. But no, the counter-argument goes, Muhammad is a descendant of Ishmael and therefore an Israelite by default. But is this true? Was Muhammad really a descendant of Ishmael? And are descendants of Ishmael really Israelites?

What does Muhammad’s genealogy tell us? According to some websites, Kedar is next in the list of forebears after Ishmael in Muhammad’s lineage:

“Prophet Muhammad- Abdullah- Abd Al Muttalib- Hashim- Abd Manaf- Qusaiy- Kilab (Ancestor of the Holy Prophet’s mother)- Murrah- Ka’b. Lu’ayy- Ghalib- Fihr- Malik- Al Nadr- Kinanah- Khuzaiymah- Mudrikah- Ilyas- Mudar- Nizar- Madd- `Adnan- Adad- Zayd- Yaqdud- Al Muqawwam- Al Yasa’- Nabt- Qaidar (Kedar)- Prophet Ismail”

But according to Muhammad’s earliest biographer, Ibn Ishaq, the genealogy has Nabit instead of Kedar:

“Muhammad was the son of “Abdullah, b. “Abdu’l-Muttalib (whose name was Shayba), b. Hashim (whose name was Amr), b. “Abdu Manaf (whose name was al-Mughira), b. Qusayy (whose name was Zayd). B. Kilab, b. Murra, b. Ka’b, b. Lu’ayy, b. Ghalib, b. Fihr, b. Malik, b. al-Nadr, b. Kinana, b. Khuzayma, b. Mudrika (whose name was “Amir), b. Ilyas, b. Mudar, b. Nizar, b. Ma’ add, b. “Adnan, b. Udd (or Udad), b. Muqawwam, b. Nahur, b.’Tayrah, b. Ya’rub, b. Yashjub, b. Nabit, b. Isma’il” (The Life of Muhammad, trans. Alfred Guillaume  pp. 3-4)

Why the discrepancies in genealogies which purport to follow the same patriarchal line?  Genealogies aside, is there a convincing historical case for Muhammad’s ancestry from Ishmael? According to Islamic sources, Muhammad was from Mecca. Where was Ishmael from? From Israel. Genesis 21 tells us that Hagar and Ishmael were sent away in the Desert of Beersheba (v14), that he married an Egyptian woman and settled in the Desert of Paran (v21.) Bukhari Volume 4, Book 55, Number 583 says that  Ishmael was present in Mecca from infancy:

Abraham brought her and her son Ishmael while she was suckling him, to a place near the Ka’ba under a tree on the spot of Zam-zam, at the highest place in the mosque. During those days there was nobody in Mecca, nor was there any water.”

Map of Middle East
Image courtesy of Brother Pete

Mecca is over 800 miles from the desert of Paran (either site). According to the Bible, Ishmael’s descendants settled in the area from “Havilah to Shur, near the Eastern border of Egypt as you go towards Ashur” (Genesis 25:18) Where’s this? Nowhere near Mecca:

Map of Middle East
Image courtesy of Brother Pete

Should we trust the Old Testament account with extant manuscripts from c.800 years before the life of Muhammad, or Bukhari, compiled 200 years after Muhammad’s death, earliest manuscript fragment 1000AD – 4 centuries after Muhammad and 29 centuries after the time of Abraham?There is no documentary evidence to suggest that Ishmael embarked on an epic journey south, and without any epigraphical or archeological evidence to support this, it becomes highly unlikely that Ishmael was ever in Mecca or that he was one of Muhammad’s forbears. (The existence of Mecca itself is highly questionable before the 9th century, but that’s for another post.)

But ultimately, genealogies don’t count, geography doesn’t count, and the previous Scripture doesn’t count – because Muhammad’s lineage is a matter of revelation, not of independently verifiable fact. Islamic tradition says Gabriel told Muhammad he can identify as a descendant of Ishmael, whatever the local tribespeople think:

“Ma’n Ibn ‘Isa al-Ashja’i al-Qazzaz (silk-merchant) informed us; he said: Mu’awiyah Ibn Salih informed us on the authority of Yahya Ibn Jabir who had seen some Companions of the Prophet and said: The people of Banu Fuhayrah came to the Prophet and said to him: You belong to us. He replied: Verily, (the archangel) Gabriel has informed me that I belong to Mudar.” (Ibn Sa’d, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, Volume I, p. 4)

Let’s move on to the second question: does the Bible conflate Ishmaelites with Israelites? Do they both have equal rights as God’s chosen people?  In Genesis 17, Abraham pleads for this very thing when God announces His covenant with him:

Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!

19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.[d] I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.

God considers Isaac the only legitimate son. We see this in Genesis 22:2:

“Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” 

As such, Ishmael does not inherit the same covenant promises as Isaac; Paul even uses the divergent lineages of Ishmael and Isaac analogously with the new covenant (through Christ) and the old covenant (though the Law):

These things are being taken figuratively: The women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother. 27 For it is written:

“Be glad, barren woman,
    you who never bore a child;
shout for joy and cry aloud,
    you who were never in labor;
because more are the children of the desolate woman
    than of her who has a husband.

28 Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise. 29 At that time the son born according to the flesh persecuted the son born by the power of the Spirit. It is the same now. 30 But what does Scripture say? “Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son.” 31 Therefore, brothers and sisters, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.”

But there is an even more straightforward answer to the question of who the Israelites are. Who was first given the name Israel? Jacob. Genesis 32:28:

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

Israelites are descendants of Jacob, the son of Isaac – not Ishmael.  This alone disqualifies Muhammad as the prophet of Deuteronomy 18, before we’ve even got on to whether Muhammad really spoke the words of God or not, whether what he said came true etc etc.

More to the point, the Bible already answers the question when it comes to who the Prophet of Deuteronomy 18:18 might be. In Acts 3:22, Peter says this is referring to Jesus:

Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders.18 But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets,saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. 22 For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you.

Not that Jesus is only a prophet (before you start, Muslims): but it is one of His titles, alongside His other divine titles – Messiah, Son of God, Word of God, Saviour, Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Holy and Righteous One. Our Saviour, Priest and King.

Muslims need to stop asking questions which the Bible has already answered and instead humbly admit they have the wrong man. Not only that, they need to be attentive to what the Scripture goes on to say:

“Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from their people.” (Acts 3:23) 

Listen to Jesus and find rest for your souls.

With thanks to Sam Shamoun, who has a lengthier article on this topic  here.

Was Peter the author of 2 Peter?

Peter's crucifixion Caravaggio

By A.P,  friend of DCCI.

The authorship of 2 Peter is attacked by many liberal New Testament scholars such as Bart Ehrmann. The claim is that because the Greek writing style of 1 Peter is so strikingly different to 2 Peter, they must have been written by different authors.

However there are good reasons to believe 2 Peter is still authored by Peter. It was common practice at the time to use an amaneunsis (scribe) or secretary to help with letter writing, and that Peter himself needed assistance as we see from 1 Peter 5:12:

With the help of Silas,[a] whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it.”

So it may be the case that Silas was acting as Peter’s amanuensis in 1 Peter whereas 2 Peter was written either by Peter himself or another amanuensis. This was Jerome’s view. So stylistic differences in themselves are not a strong argument against the Petrine authorship of 2 Peter.

Another argument for 2nd Peter’s authenticity is the strong internal evidence. Peter claims authorship right at the beginning of the letter:

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.”

He also says it is his second letter to the churches:

Dear friends, this is now my second letter to you

It claims to come from an eye-witness of Jesus:

 “For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”[b] 18 We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.”

The author uses the same words in 2 Peter 1:17 as the transfiguration account in Matthew 17:5:

“While he was still speaking, a bright cloud covered them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” (Matthew 17:5)

 “He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (2 Peter 1:17)

Is the author just plagiarising Matthew? Or does the author remember the words the same way because he was actually there? Peter seems to be making that very point – unless the author is a brazen liar.

The author of 2 Peter is also fully aware of the writings of Paul and calls him “our beloved brother” (2 Peter 3:15-16). Peter and Paul knew each other personally; Galatians 1 and 2 tells us that Paul became acquainted with Peter three years after his conversion  and that Peter, James and John  “extended the right hand of fellowship” to Paul.  The way the author writes about Paul in the present tense suggests he is still alive and they are contemporaries:

Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16 He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” (2 Peter 3:16) 
Given that Paul and Peter were both thought to be martyred n the 60s AD this suggests Peter wrote 2 Peter  much earlier than the late date given by sceptics (124-150 AD.) Archaeogist William F.Albright dates 2 Peter before AD 80. Its discovery as part of the Bodmer Papyri (P72, AD 250) suggests that it was also highly respected in Egypt at an early date.  While its authenticity was disputed by some of the patriarchs, 2 Peter was also cited as reliable by numerous early church fathers including Origen, Eusebius, Jerome and Augustine.
For a more detailed examination of this topic, read this article from Christian Worldview Press.

 

Jesus is God!

Jesus is God!

Lizzie shows a Muslim that Jesus is God in the flesh from John 8:58 and Isaiah 43:10. Isaiah uses the Greek formulation ‘ego eimi’ (Isaiah in the Septuagint) to refer to YHWH God – and Jesus uses the same forumalation to refer to Himself! Therefore Jesus is YHWH God.

John 8:52-58

“52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?” “54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” 57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” 58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

Isaiah 43:10

10 “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.

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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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