@Acts17 - Answering Muslims

@Acts17 - Answering Muslims

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There are more than 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, coming from a variety of ethnic and educational backgrounds. Many of these Muslims claim that there is strong evidence supporting Muhammad and the Qur’an, as well as strong evidence against Christianity.



Answering Muslims is a Christian apologetics website dedicated to responding to the questions, objections, and arguments of Muslims. The site is run by Christian debaters, lecturers, and writers who have a special interest in Islam.



Since one of the most common Muslim arguments is that Islamic morality and law would benefit Western nations, we also report relevant current events concerning the impact of Sharia on various cultures.

Did Christmas Come From Paganism?
Tuesday, January 16, 2018 7:13 PM




I know we are past the holiday season, but here is the next video in the series on Christmas. In this video I answer the question of whether Christmas came from paganism or non-Christian sources.
Six Bad Habits of New Testament Scholars (and how to avoid them): Dr. Lydia McGrew
Monday, January 8, 2018 4:35 PM



Here is the recording of Saturday's Apologetics Academy webinar featuring analytic philosopher Dr. Lydia McGrew (you can find her website here). Her subject was "Six Bad Habits of New Testament Scholars (and how to avoid them)". I regret that some people seem to be rather upset that I have sided with Lydia in regards to this topic over Michael Licona, Craig Evans, et al. I have even lost Facebook friends as a result. May I emphasize that this is scholarship and there is no ill-intent towards any of the people whose views I and Lydia depart from. If you put scholarly argumentation into the public realm, then you need to learn not to take it personally when others disagree and publicly voice their dissent. I invite you to watch the webinar for yourself and make up your own mind.
What Does Christmas Mean?
Monday, January 8, 2018 3:31 AM




In this video series on Christmas, Pastor Sule and I deal with the question of the meaning of Christmas and its etymological origins in Christianity.

Psalm 2, and its Messianic Implications
Saturday, January 6, 2018 3:16 PM

Psalm 2 is a well-known Psalm that is often quoted or alluded to in the New Testament. Until recently, I had always understood this Psalm to be an inauguration hymn whose primary application is David, but which then is applied secondarily to the Messiah by the New Testament authors as they communicate Christ's reign as the re-establishment of the Davidic monarchy. More recently, however, I have come to understand this Psalm's primary application to be the Messiah.

As always, the text of this Psalm is worth reproducing in full. I have taken the liberty to replace "LORD" and "Lord" in the English translation with the tetragrammaton "YHWH" ("Yahweh") and "Adonai" respectively, since these two Hebrew words appear in the original text:
Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against YHWH and against his Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; Adonai holds them in derision. 5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying, 6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” 7 I will tell of the decree: YHWH said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. 8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.” 10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve YHWH with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
It is often understood that verse 7-9 is King David speaking. But observe who the speaker is in verse 5-6. It says "Then he [i.e. Adonai referred to in verse 4] will speak to them in his wrath, and terrify them in his fury, saying 'As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.'" There is no indication in the text that the speaker changes between verse 6 and 7 from Adonai to David (note that the quotation marks are not in the original Hebrew text). In verse 7a, we read, "I will tell of the decree: YWHW said to me..." Thus, here we see a conversation taking place between Yahweh and Adonai. This should remind us of another Psalm which reports a conversation that we see taking place between Yahweh and Adonai -- Psalm 110, a Psalm which speaks of the divine-human Messiah (yes, I am aware that Psalm 110:1 says Adoni instead of Adonai, but see my article here on why this doesn't put a dent in the argument for interpreting the individual at Yahweh's right hand as Adonai).

Consider the parallels between what follows in Psalm 2, and the text of Psalm 110.
Psalm 2:9a: "You shall break them with a rod of iron."
Psalm 110:2: YHWH sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! 
Psalm 2:9b-12: "...and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.” 10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. 11 Serve the YHWH with fear, and rejoice with trembling. 12 Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Psalm 110:5b-6 he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. 6 He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.
As you can see, there are striking parallels between those two texts. This suggests that there is a unity between Psalm 2 and Psalm 110. Given that Psalm 110:5 identifies the one seated at Yahweh's right hand (and the one to whom Yahweh speaks) as Adonai, the most natural interpretation of Psalm 2 is also that Yahweh is speaking to Adonai. Note that, although Yahweh and Adonai are equivalent titles that denote absolute deity, Scripture sometimes uses two different titles of deity in order to distinguish between persons of the Triune godhead (we saw this previously when I discussed Deuteronomy 32, where the titles of "the Most High" and "YHWH" are used).

There is yet another reason for taking this individual spoken of in Psalm 2 to be a divine person.
Consider verse 8:
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.
The individual spoken of here in Psalm 2, therefore, is going to receive the nations as his heritage. But what do we read in Psalm 82:8?
Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!
Thus, the one who judges the earth with a rod of iron and who inherits all the nations according to Psalm 2 is the individual to whom Yahweh is speaking. But according to Psalm 82, it is God who will fulfill this role. Thus, again, we see reason for understanding Psalm 2 to refer to a divine Messiah.

This, of course, also raises the question as to who God is inheriting the nations from, since surely the nations are already his possession. This is illuminated in view of the New Testament revelation of the Trinity. Consider, for example, the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:27:
“All things have been handed over to me by my Father.” 
And Jesus' words in Matthew 28:19:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”
The references to God receiving the nations as his inheritance also connects with Deuteronomy 32:8-9:
8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. 9 But the Lord's portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.
I discussed the full significance of this text in a previous blog post.

There is also another interesting feature of Psalm 2. In verse 7, we read, "You are my Son; today I have begotten you." In what sense is it referring to Adonai as "Son"? The title of “Son” is not being used here in the sense of the Messiah being the eternal Son in relation to the Trinity. The Davidic heir is identified in Scripture as God’s “Son” (e.g. see 2 Samuel 7:12-16). By identifying Adonai as God’s “Son”, Psalm 2 takes Adonai to be the heir of David.

Thus, once again, we are left with a divine-human Messiah, a consistent theme throughout the Hebrew Bible.
What Does It Mean For Jesus to be the Divine Word? Investigating John's Logos Theology
Tuesday, January 2, 2018 5:35 PM

One of the most famous texts in Scripture is the prologue to the gospel of John, where the apostle John represents Jesus as being the divine Logos, or the Word. Here is John 1:1-5,14:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it...14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John begins his gospel by asserting Jesus' identity as being the very essence of God incarnate. The transliteration of the Greek of verse 1 reads, "En arche en ho logos kai ho Logos en pros ton Theon kai Theos en ho Logos." You will notice that the noun "Theos" for God at the end of verse 1 lacks a definite article "ho" ("the") but precedes the verb "en" ("was"). In Greek grammar, this renders it a qualitative. Thus, John 1:1 is most accurately translated, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and all that God was the Word also was." Moreover, this divine Word has existed from eternity past. "In the beginning was the word" indicates that in the beginning (as far back as you want to push it) the Word already was in existence. And yet even although the Word is the very essence of deity, "He was in the beginning with God" (verse 2). In other words, in some other sense the divine Logos was distinct from God. This is what Trinitarians believe with respect to the Son's relationship to the Father -- the Son is in very essence deity (possessing all of that which makes God God) and yet in some other sense He is distinct from God.

Just to drive the point home, John then continues in verse 3 by telling us that "All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made." Nothing exists that has not been created and fashioned by the divine Logos. Thus, the divine Logos is the very essence of God. He cannot Himself be a creature.

In case we still were not convinced about the deity of Jesus, John continues in verses 14 and 23 with a double citation of Isaiah 40:
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth...He [John the Baptist] said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
Compare these verses to the words of Isaiah 40:3-5:
3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Thus, not only does John the Baptist identify Himself with the voice crying out in the wilderness from Isaiah 40:3, but John the Apostle also alludes to Isaiah 40:5. But instead of saying that we have beheld the glory of Yahweh (as per Isaiah), he says, "...and we have seen his [Christ's] glory..." There can thus be no question that John is representing Jesus to be God Himself. John 1:14 literally says that the Word became flesh and tabernacled in the midst of us. Just as the very presence of God dwelt within the tabernacle of ancient Israel in the wilderness, so also now in the body of Christ, God dwells in the midst of His people. Just as the tabernacle is where the Hebrews could meet their God, so also Christ is where God's people meet their God. As the Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 2:9, "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily..."

John also tells us, in 1:18, that,
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
Here, he identifies Jesus as the monogenes Theos, meaning God the one and only. This monogenes Theos, he tells us, who is at the Father's side, has exegeted or explained to us the nature and essence of the unseen God. I shall have more to say about the significance of this later in this article.

But what does it mean for Jesus to be the divine Word, and how does John's prologue connect with the portrayal of Jesus throughout the rest of John's gospel? John in fact derives this concept directly from the Old Testament, as I shall show.


The Commander of the Lord's Armies is the Messenger of Yahweh

To begin our investigation, let's first examine the other place in the New Testament where John explicitly identifies Jesus as the Word of God. This is in Revelation 19:13. For context, let's read verses 11-16:
11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
Here, Jesus is identified as the commander and host of the Lord's armies. In fact, He is portrayed as treading the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty, the exact same picture as we see of the Lord Himself in Isaiah 63:2-6:
2 Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress? 3 “I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel. 4 For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption had come. 5 I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me. 6 I trampled down the peoples in my anger; I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”
Revelation 19 thus clearly contains yet another allusion to Christ's deity. There is also an allusion in verse 15 to Psalm 2:9, where we read that He will rule the nations with a rod of iron -- but I shall have more to say in a future article about the Messianic significance of Psalm 2. For now, I want to home in on the reference in verse 13 to His title as The Word of God, and explore its connection to Jesus as the commander of the Lord's armies.

Who is the commander of the Lord's armies according to the Old Testament? To find out, we can turn to Joshua 5:13-15, which records a narrative taking place shortly before the conquest of Jericho, of which we read in Joshua 6:
13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 14 And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” 15 And the commander of the Lord's army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
Interestingly, the commander of the Lord's armies speaking to Joshua, in Joshua 6, is identified as the Lord Himself (Joshua 6:1-2):
1 Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. 2 And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor.””
But there are other curious features about this commander of the Lord's armies. The first is that he appears in front of Joshua with his drawn sword in his hand. This reminds us of another occasion where the messenger/angel of Yahweh appears in the road with His drawn sword in hand. Turn over to Numbers 22:31:
"Then the Lord opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown."
This suggests that the commander of the Lord's armies from Joshua 5 is in fact the same individual as the messenger/angel of Yahweh figure. Remember, the Hebrew word malak can be translated either "angel" or "messenger", and thus the title, the malak Yahweh can be translated "the messenger of Yahweh". From this point on in this article I will be speaking of this individual as "the messenger of Yahweh" (to distinguish Him from celestial creatures).

There is another clue in Joshua 5 that the commander of the Lord's armies is in fact the messenger of Yahweh. Consider the account of the burning bush in Exodus 3:1-6:
Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Compare the command to Moses to remove his sandals from his feet, for the place where he is standing is holy ground, with the parallel command to Joshua in Joshua 5:5. But here in Exodus 3, again we see that it is the messenger of Yahweh who has appeared to him in the burning bush. This, then, corroborates further that the commander of the Lord's armies is in fact the messenger of Yahweh.

The Deity of the Messenger of Yahweh

Now, it is without question that, although the messenger of Yahweh represents Yahweh, he Himself participates fully in the essence of Yahweh. We see this, for example, in Genesis 31:10-13:
10 In the breeding season of the flock I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream that the goats that mated with the flock were striped, spotted, and mottled. 11 Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am!’ 12 And he said, ‘Lift up your eyes and see, all the goats that mate with the flock are striped, spotted, and mottled, for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.’”
Thus, here the messenger of Yahweh identifies Himself as the God of Bethel from Genesis 28. This gets rather interesting when we turn to Genesis 35:1, and find that God, when speaking to Jacob about God's appearance to him at Bethel, switches to the third person:
God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”
Is this just coincidence that God switches from speaking in the first person to the third person when describing the appearance of God to him at Bethel in Genesis 28? I don't think so. This is not an isolated occasion. Consider, for example, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In Genesis 18:1-2, we read,
And the Lord appeared to him [Abraham] by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. 
In verse 22, we read,
So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord.
At this point, Abraham intercedes with the Lord over the fate of the people of Sodom.

At the start of Genesis 19, we read,
The two angels came to Sodom in the evening…
Thus, one of the three men/angels who appeared to Abraham in Genesis 18 turns out to be the Lord Himself, since two of the angels have come to Sodom and one has evidently remained to talk to Abraham (and he is identified in Genesis 18:22 as the Lord Himself).

But then something interesting happens, in Genesis 19:24:
Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.
Thus, we read that Yahweh rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from Yahweh out of heaven. This suggests that there are two distinct individual persons who bear the title of Yahweh -- there is a Yahweh on earth and a Yahweh in heaven. This is consistent with the messenger of Yahweh Himself being in very essence Yahweh and yet in another sense distinct from Yahweh.

But this is where we come back to the switching between the first and third persons when describing actions carried out by the messenger of Yahweh (recall my comments on Genesis 35:1). Let's examine the references in Scripture to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

  • Isaiah 13:17-19: 17 Behold, I am stirring up the Medes against them, who have no regard for silver and do not delight in gold. 18 Their bows will slaughter the young men; they will have no mercy on the fruit of the womb; their eyes will not pity children. 19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them.
  • Jeremiah 50:39-40: 39 “Therefore wild beasts shall dwell with hyenas in Babylon, and ostriches shall dwell in her. She shall never again have people, nor be inhabited for all generations. 40 As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring cities, declares the Lord, so no man shall dwell there, and no son of man shall sojourn in her.
  • Amos 4:11: “I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord.
Another text that indicates the deity of the messenger of Yahweh is Genesis 48:14-16 where Israel (formerly known as Jacob) blesses the sons of Joseph:
14 And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn). 15 And he blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, 16 the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”
Thus, the angel/messenger who has redeemed Jacob from all evil (an allusion to the messenger of Yahweh who appeared on various occasions to Jacob) is taken as a parallelism for God Himself. Thus, again, we see that the messenger of Yahweh is in very essence deity.

Another fascinating text can be found in Exodus 23:20-22:
20 “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. 21 Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him. 22 “But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.
Thus, God says of this angel that God's very name is in Him. Moreover, He has the ability to forgive and withhold forgiveness of sins -- an exclusive prerogative of deity.

Indeed, we see this same angel identified in Isaiah 63 as "the angel of His presence". Here is Isaiah 63, which in fact reveals the whole Trinity:
7 I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. 8 For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely.” And he became their Savior. 9 In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. 10 But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them.
Check out my previous article here, where I show an interesting connection between this text and Isaiah 53. For even more discussion on the identity and nature of the messenger of Yahweh, please see another previous article of mine here.

The Functions of the Messenger of Yahweh

What are the functions of the messenger of Yahweh? One of them can be found in Zechariah 1:7-13:
7 On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying, 8 “I saw in the night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen, and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses. 9 Then I said, ‘What are these, my lord?’ The angel who talked with me said to me, ‘I will show you what they are.’ 10 So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered, ‘These are they whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth.’ 11 And they answered the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees, and said, ‘We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth remains at rest.’ 12 Then the angel of the Lord said, ‘O Lord of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?’ 13 And the Lord answered gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me.
Here, we see the messenger of Yahweh interceding on behalf of God's people, and in fact he is answered with gracious and comforting words from the Lord -- so great is the extent he has for God's people. Again, in this text, the messenger of the Lord is identified as the commander of the Lord's armies, to whom the other horsemen report -- this again connects the messenger of Yahweh to the commander of the Lord's armies in Joshua 5, and therefore in turn with Jesus in Revelation 19. I shall have more to say about the significance of this shortly. Myrtle trees, by the way, are elsewhere associated with Messianic blessing -- e.g. see Isaiah 55:13).

We also see that the messenger of Yahweh has the ability to forgive sins and remove iniquity. In Zechariah 3:1-5, we read,
“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” 3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.”
Thus, here we see Joshua, representing Israel, standing in filthy garments (a symbol for Israel's sin). The messenger of Yahweh instructs that his filthy clothes be removed, and then declares that he (i.e. the messenger of Yahweh) has taken away his iniquity. But this is something that only Yahweh has the authority to say.

There is in fact a fascinating foreshadow of the Messiah's purpose and mission in the actions of the messenger of Yahweh in Judges 13:19-20 after He has appeared to Manoah and his wife to announce the birth of Samson:
19 So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the Lord, to the one who works wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching. 20 And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the Lord went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching, and they fell on their faces to the ground.
This action typifies the sacrifice of Christ who, being God incarnate, was made a sacrifice unto the Father. The ascension of the messenger of Yahweh in the flame which rises from the burnt offering on the alter carries much symbolic significance and undoubtedly represents the coming sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin.

The Messenger of Yahweh is the Messiah

To show one example of the messenger of Yahweh being the Messiah in Hebrew prophecy, consider Malachi 3:1:
Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 
Thus, we learn that the Messiah is given the title of "the messenger of the covenant." Jesus in fact applies this text to himself in Matthew 11:10/Luke 7:27. As already noted previously, it is the same word for messenger (malak) used here that is used elsewhere in relation to the angel/messenger of Yahweh. But who is the messenger of the covenant? To find out, we turn to Judges 2:1:
Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you. 
Thus, the angel/messenger who delivered the covenant is the angel/messenger of Yahweh. We can thus see that the Messiah will be this angel of the covenant.

Moreover, in Judges 13:18, the messenger of Yahweh gives his name to Manoah as peli, meaning "Wonderful", the same name given to the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6 (pele, from the same root). In fact, the Greek Septuagint renders Isaiah 9:6 “the angel/messenger of the great council”, thus linking this Messianic figure with the messenger of Yahweh. I have already shown in a previous article the connection between the messenger of Yahweh and Isaiah 53, a text which also speaks of a divine person (for reasons discussed in my previous article) who is in another sense distinct from Yahweh (Isaiah 53:1).

But there is yet another reason to think that the Messiah is the messenger of Yahweh. Consider Daniel 7:13-14, in which Daniel has a vision of the Son of Man:
13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
Now, the Son of Man Himself can be identified as a fully divine person (for some of my reasons why, see my previous articles on this subject here and here). The Son of Man here can also be given the title of the prince of princes. How do I know this? Turn with me to Daniel 8:10-11,25:
10 It [the little horn] grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. 11 It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown...25 By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand.
The little horn here is Antiochus Epiphanes, and the host of heaven is God's heavenly council (1 Kings 22:19-22). The reference to "the stars that it threw down to the ground" is also an allusion to the members of God's council (see its parallel usage in Isaiah 14:12-15).

This same evil and wicked tyrant is said to oppose the god of gods in Daniel 11:36-37:
36 “And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done. 37 He shall pay no attention to the gods of his fathers, or to the one beloved by women. He shall not pay attention to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all.
Piecing these clues together, it appears likely that the prince of the host and the prince of princes is in fact the same individual, who is also identified as being the God of gods. Both are opposed by the little horn, and so it seems quite probable that these are in fact the same person, who is given multiple titles. And yet the prince of the host seems to be the same individual as the commander of the host from Joshua 5. Thus, the prince of princes can be identified as the messenger of Yahweh.

But here's the thing: The Son of Man's dominion is described in the same manner in which the reign of Yahweh is depicted. Compare Daniel 7:14 (above) to the words of king Darius in Daniel 6:26 when he speaks of the God of Daniel.
I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end.
Thus, the Son of Man must thus occupy the very highest office of authority. Therefore, he must be the prince of the host, which means he is the commander of the Lord's armies and thereby the messenger of Yahweh.

The Messenger of Yahweh is the Word of God

In the Hebrew Bible, we also see the messenger of Yahweh identified as the Word of God Himself (yes, the Word of God is a person in the Old Testament). The word of God is even assigned a masculine personal pronoun, e.g. in 1 Kings 19:9:
There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Consider, moreover, Zechariah 4:1-10:
And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. 2 And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. 3 And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” 4 And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” 5 Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” 6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. 7 Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” 8 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 9 “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. 10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.
In verse 8, we read that the word of the Lord comes to Zechariah with a message. In verse 9b, we read that the conclusion of what is said by the word of the Lord is "Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you." Thus, here we see that the word of the Lord is identified as a personal agent who has been sent with a message to Zechariah. In verse 1 of the same chapter, we learn that it was the messenger of Yahweh who had been speaking to Zechariah. This at least suggests that the word of the Lord and the messenger of Yahweh may be one and the same person.

To tighten this inference further, consider 1 Kings 18:31:
Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name."
According to this text, it was the word of the Lord who named Jacob Israel. But then turn over to 2 Kings 17:34:
To this day they do according to the former manner. They do not fear the Lord, and they do not follow the statutes or the rules or the law or the commandment that the Lord commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel.
According to this text, it was the Lord Himself who named Jacob Israel.

According to Genesis 32, it was the man who wrestled with Jacob who called him Israel. And according to Hosea 12:4-6:
4 He strove with the angel and prevailed; he wept and sought his favor. He met God at Bethel, and there God spoke with us— 5 the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord is his memorial name: 6 “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.”
Thus, in this text, we learn that the man with whom Jacob strove in Genesis 32 -- the man who named him Israel -- is in fact the messenger of Yahweh Himself. By putting these texts together, we learn that the messenger of Yahweh is in fact the word of God Himself.

Still not convinced? Consider this text from the Aramaic Pentateuchal Targumim, Section III (Genesis 12-17), where the angel of Yahweh is expressly identified as the word (memra) of God, showing that this is the understanding of the ancient Jews:
And Abram said to Sara, Behold, thy handmaid is under thy authority: do to her what is right in thine eyes. And Sara afflicted her, and she escaped from before her. And the Angel of the Lord found her at the fountain of waters in the desert; at the fountain of waters which is in the way to Chagra. [JERUSALEM. Chalitza.] And He said, Hagar, handmaid of Sara, whence comest thou, and whither does thou go? And she said, From before Sara my mistress I have escaped. And the Angel of the Lord said to her, Return to thy mistress, and be subject under her hand. And the Angel of the Lord said to her, Multiplying I will multiply thy sons, and they shall not be numbered for multitude. And the Angel of the Lord said to her, Behold, thou art with child, and thou wilt bear a son, and thou shalt call his name Ishmael, because thy affliction is revealed before the Lord. And he shall be like the wild ass among men: his hands shall take vengeance of his adversaries, and the hands of his adversaries be put forth to do him evil; and in the presence of all his brethren shall he be commingled, (yitharbeb, Arabized,) and shall dwell. And she gave thanks before the Lord whose Word spake to her, and thus said, Thou art He who livest and art eternal; who seest, but art not seen! · for she said, For, behold, here is revealed the glory of the Shekina of the Lord after a vision. (JERUSALEM. And Hagar gave thanks, and prayed in the Name of the Word of the Lord, who had been manifested to her, saying, Blessed be Thou, Eloha, the Living One of all Ages, who hast looked upon my affliction. For she said, Behold, Thou art manifested also unto me, even as Thou wast manifested to Sara my mistress.] Wherefore she called the well, The Well at which the Living and Eternal One was revealed; and, behold, it is situate between Rekam and Chalutsa. And Hagar bare Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son whom Hagar bare, Ishmael. And Abram was the son of eighty-six years when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.
Thus, here, the Word of God who appeared and spoke to Hagar is explicitly identified as none other than the messenger of Yahweh.

Making Sense of John's Logos Theology

Thus, with the background concerning the commander of the Lord's armies / messenger of Yahweh and His connection to the Word of God. we are now in a position to better understand what John means when he identifies Jesus as the divine Word. In Revelation 19, he specifically identifies Jesus by the title of "The Word of God" in the context of identifying Jesus as the commander of the Lord's armies, whom, as I have shown, is the messenger of Yahweh.

The Deutero-Canonical book, The Wisdom of Solomon 18:15-16, although not inspired, also reveals the understanding of the ancient Hebrews to be very consistent with this idea:
15 Thy almighty word leapt down from heaven from thy royal throne, as a fierce conqueror into the midst of the land of destruction. 16 With a sharp sword carrying thy unfeigned commandment, and he stood and filled all things with death, and standing on the earth reached even to heaven.
Notice the striking parallel between this text and the portrayal of Jesus in Revelation 19.

In Revelation 19:12, we are further told that Jesus, the commander of the Lord's armies, "has a name written that no one knows but himself." This connects with Judges 13:18, where, after Manoah inquires as to the name of the messenger of Yahweh, he is told, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” A similar reply is also given to Jacob in Genesis 32:29.

Indeed, it is through His Word that God, according to the Hebrew Bible, creates the world. For example, we read in Psalm 33:6,
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
This relates to John 1:3, in which we read that,
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In fact, the word translated breath in Psalm 33:6, is ruach, which means “spirit”. Thus, in Psalm 33:6 the whole Triune nature of God -- and the role of each member of the Trinity in creation -- comes into focus.

In a future post, I want to explore further the connection between John's prologue in his gospel and the rest of his narrative of Jesus' ministry that follows. I will largely save that for another day. For now, I will offer a couple of teasers.

Consider the words of Jesus to the pharisees in John 7:34:
You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.
Compare this to Amos 8:11-12:
11 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. 12 They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.
Thus, Jesus alludes to this text in Amos 8, thereby identifying Himself as the Word of God. Note also the context of these verses in Amos. Verses 9 and 10 speak of God's judgment:
9 “And on that day,” declares the Lord God, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. 10 I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on every waist and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.
This imagery is also employed in the gospel of Luke 23:44-45, with the darkening of the sun at Jesus' crucifixion.

Let's look at another connection in John's gospel to the word of God. Recall the statement in John 1:18, that,
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
No one has ever seen God? Of course, in Exodus 33:20, Moses is told by God that "you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live." But throughout the Old Testament, people do see God, which creates a kind of tension, one with which the ancients themselves often grappled. Often, upon a manifestation of the messenger of Yahweh, people in the Old Testament marvel at the fact they have been allowed to see God face-to-face and yet their life is spared. This is the reaction of Jacob in Genesis 32:30; of Gideon in Judges 6:22-23; of Manoah and his wife in Judges 13:22; of Isaiah in Isaiah 6:5, and many other Old Testament saints (see my previous article here for further discussion of this). How can this be? The distinction between the seen and unseen Yahweh, I would argue, can only be understood through the lens of the Triune nature of God.

There are similar texts also in the synoptics, which also reveal that Jesus, the Son, is the unique expression or exposition of God to mankind. In Matthew 11:27 (paralleled in Luke 10:22), we read,
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
John 1:18, and Matthew 11:27/Luke 10:22, again are drawing on the Old Testament. Turn over to 1 Samuel 3:6-7,21:
6 And the Lord called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him...21 And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.
Thus, we learn that God revealed himself to Samuel by the person of the word of the Lord which was sent to him.

Conclusion

I have barely scratched the surface of this subject. The more one examines the Scriptures, and uncovers the intricacy of its connections and cross-references, and the subtle consistency with which the Triune nature of God and the identity, nature and mission of the Messiah and presented across a timespan of 1500 years and across different genres of writing, the more one comes to appreciate that the Scriptures are not merely the work of man, but bear the very fingerprint of God Himself.

Investigating Alleged Contradictions in the Old Testament
Sunday, December 31, 2017 4:58 PM

Someone recently forwarded me a list of 21 alleged contradictions in the Old Testament, that were apparently assembled by a Muslim, and asked me how I would respond to them. I rarely take interest in apparent numerical discrepancies in the Old Testament, as they are of little consequence to the central truth claims of the Biblical worldview. Even if all of the apparent discrepancies turn out to be real, at best all they compel is a revision to one's view of the doctrines of inspiration and inerrancy (which we are not given much information on in Scripture anyway). But one need not be an inerrantist in the strictest sense in order to have rational confidence that the message of the gospel is true. Muslims often forget that we do not share their view of inspiration. Unlike our Muslim friends, we are not dictation theorists. For the most part, we do not believe the Bible was dictated or inscribed by God Himself (as Muslims do for the Qur'an, which is alleged to be inscribed in tablets in paradise and dictated by Gabriel to Muhammad). Whereas as far as the Bible is concerned, inerrancy could turn out to be false and the central claims of Christianity still be true, the truth of the central claims of Islam hinges on the inerrancy of the Qur'an.

That being said, the position I would advocate for is what I call methodological inerrancy. That is to say, when apparent discrepancies in the Scriptures are identified, one ought to assume that the texts do harmonize, and should seek to find plausible harmonizations. This safeguards one against giving up too early on finding plausible harmonizations where in fact they exist, and also ensures that one maintains a high view of and regard for Scripture.

Another point that is worth noting is that it is not necessary for the Christian to have an answer to every conceivable question or objection that might be raised against the Scriptures, in order for him or her to have a rational confidence that Christianity is true. Indeed, every worldview and system of thought has its share of unanswered questions. The real question is whether there are more numerous and more substantive objections to belief or to non-belief. I would argue that there are more numerous and far stronger objections to non-belief than to belief. Thus, on balance, even without answers to every objection that might be leveled against the Biblical text, we are rationally warranted in affirming Christianity to be true.

With all that said, I want to now move to investigate each of the objections one by one, to see how much merit they carry as claims of contradiction in the Hebrew Bible.



Objection #1: Who made David number Israel’s warriors? God (2 Samuel 24:1) or Satan (1 Chronicles 21:1)?

Here are the texts:

2 Samuel 24:1: Again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.”

1 Chronicles 21:1: Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.

The latter text is simply using the language of agency, since God apparently used Satan to incite David to number Israel and Judah, thereby exposing what was in David’s heart.

There are other occasions where we see the same thing. For example, read Exodus 4:22-23:

22 Then say to Pharaoh, ‘This is what the Lord says: Israel is my firstborn son, 23 and I told you, “Let my son go, so he may worship me.” But you refused to let him go; so I will kill your firstborn son.’”

Now flip over to Exodus 12:23:

23 When the Lord goes through the land to strike down the Egyptians, he will see the blood on the top and sides of the doorframe and will pass over that doorway, and he will not permit the destroyer to enter your houses and strike you down.

So who was it who killed the first born sons? God or the destroyer? The answer is both – God usedthe destroyer to accomplish his purpose, namely, the striking down of the first born sons.

Another example can be found in Job 2:7:

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.

And yet in verse 10, we read,

He [Job] replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

So, who was it that afflicted Job? God or Satan? The answer is both. God afflicted Job throughSatan.

When a Muslim makes this point, you can point out that there is a similar concept in Islam of God using devils to expose what is in people’s hearts. Here is Surah 6:112:

And thus We have made for every prophet an enemy - devils from mankind and jinn, inspiring to one another decorative speech in delusion. But if your Lord had willed, they would not have done it, so leave them and that which they invent.

And here is Surah 19:33:

Do you not see that We have sent the devils upon the disbelievers, inciting them to [evil] with [constant] incitement?

So, who was it that incited disbelievers to evil? Was it Allah or the devils? The answer, again, is both

Here is a similar example in the New Testament. Consider Matthew 8:5-9:
5 When he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, 6 “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” 7 And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8 But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
Compare this to the parallel account in Luke 7:2-8:
2 Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. 3 When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. 4 And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, 5 for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” 6 And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. 7 Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. 8 For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
Which is it, then? Did the centurion come to Jesus himself or did he send representatives? This is simply a literary device which is common in ancient literature. To do something via a representative or intermediary may be spoken of as one having done the task himself. Consider, for example, John 19:1, in which we read that "Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him." It was not literally Pilate who did the scourging, but rather the Roman soldiers carried it out at the instruction of Pilate.

We find another example of this device when we read in John 4:1:
Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John.
It wasn't Jesus who was doing the baptizing, but rather his disciples, which is clarified in verse 2:
...(although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples).
Returning, then, to our texts in 2 Samuel 24:1 / 1 Chronicles 21:1, God used Satan to incite David to number his warriors, in order to expose what was already in David's heart. Thus, this example does not represent a real contradiction at all.


Objection #2God gives David the choice between three forms of punishment. One of them is a famine to cover over the country. But for how long? Seven years (2 Samuel 24:13) or three years (1 Chronicles 21:12)?

Here are the texts:

2 Samuel 24:13: So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days' pestilence in your land? Now consider, and decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.”

1 Chronicles 21:11-12: So Gad came to David and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Choose what you will: either three years of famine, or three months of devastation by your foes while the sword of your enemies overtakes you, or else three days of the sword of the Lord, pestilence on the land, with the angel of the Lord destroying throughout all the territory of Israel.’ Now decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.”

This refers to God's judgment on David for having numbered his warriors.

The Greek Septuagint (LXX) renders 2 Samuel 24:13 as "three years" rather than "seven years", and the LXX reading here is followed by some modern Bible translations. But the Hebrew text of 2 Samuel 24:13 does say "seven years". Leaving the textual variants to one side and assuming the Hebrew text's reading to be original, let's see if these texts can be harmonized.

How long did the census actually take? To find out, we can look back at verse 8 of 2 Samuel 24:
So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.
The census itself, then, appears to have taken close to a year. And we also read in 2 Samuel 21:1 that there had already been a three year famine in the land. Thus, if we assume that God combined the initial three years of famine with another three years of famine, plus the intervening year that the census was conducted, we end up with a famine totaling about seven years. This seems to me to be one very plausible solution here.

Objection #3How many warriors were found in Israel? 800,000 (2 Samuel 24:9) or 1,100,000 (1 Chronicles 21:5)?

Here are the texts:

2 Samuel 24:9: And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to the king: in Israel there were 800,000 valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were 500,000. 

1 Chronicles 21:5: And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to David. In all Israel there were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword, and in Judah 470,000 who drew the sword.

This is one of the trickier ones to harmonize. 2 Samuel 24:9 specifies that the 800,000 figure refers to "valiant men", whereas 1 Chronicles 21:5 does not include this qualification. Thus, one possible solution here is that the 800,000 figure in 2 Samuel refers to the soldiers experienced in battle, whereas the additional 300,000 were those who were in reserve. 

This is the explanation given by Gleason Archer in An Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (1982, pp. 188-189):
A possible solution may be found along these lines. So far as Israel (i.e., the tribes north of Judah) is concerned, the 1 Chronicles figure includes all the available men of fighting age, whether battle seasoned or not. But from 2 Samuel 24 we learn that Joab’s report gave a subtotal of “mighty men” (‘ish hayil), i.e., battle-seasoned troops, consisting of 800,000 veterans. But in addition there may have been 300,000 more men of military age who served in the reserves but had not yet been involved in field combat. These two contingents would make up a total of 1,100,000 men—as 1 Chronicles reports them, with employing the term ‘ish hayil.
We are not, however, given any information on how exactly these respective figures were obtained, and thus it is difficult to say much with certainty.

Objection #4: How many warriors were found in Judah? 500,000 (2 Samuel 24:9) or 470,000 (1 Chronicles 21:5)?

One possibility here is that 1 Chronicles simply rounds to the nearest hundred thousand, thus giving an approximation of the number of warriors in Judah.

Another possible explanation is revealed by reading 1 Chronicles 21:6, in which we learn that the figure given does not include those of the tribe of Benjamin, since Joab had not yet completed the census before David came under conviction. We read in 1 Chronicles 7:6-11 that the tribe of Benjamin had already been numbered, and one possible solution therefore is that the author of 2 Samuel also includes the number for Benjamin in the counting. 

Gleason Archer again in An Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (1982, p. 189) comments:
So far as Judah was concerned, 2 Samuel 24 gives the round figure of 500,000, which was 30,000 more than the corresponding item in 1 Chronicles 21. Now it should be observed that 1 Chronicles 21:6 makes it clear that Joab did not complete the numbering, for he did not get around to a census of the tribe of Benjamin (nor that of Levi, either) before David came under conviction about completing the census at all. Joab was glad to desist when he saw the king’s change of heart. The procedure for conducting the census had been to start with the Transjordanian tribes (2 Samuel 24:5) and then shift to the northernmost tribe of Dan and work southward back toward Jerusalem (v. 7). This meant that the numbering of Benjamin would have come last. Hence Benjamin was not included with the total for Israel or that for Judah, either. But in the case of 2 Samuel 24, the figure for Judah included the already known figure of 30,000 troops mustered by Benjamin (which lay immediately adjacent to Jerusalem itself). Hence the total of 500,000 included the Benjamite contingent. Observe that after the division of the united kingdom into North and South following the death of Solomon in 930 B.C., most of the Benjamites remained loyal to the dynasty of David and constituted (along with Simeon to the south) the kingdom of Judah. Hence it was reasonable to include Benjamin with Judah and Simeon in the subtotal figure of 500,000—even though Joab may not have itemized it in the first report he gave to David.
Again, the lack of information on how exactly the respective figures were obtained makes it hard to say very much with certainty.

Objection #5: How old was Ahasja when he became king of Jerusalem? 22 (2 Kings 8:26) or 42 (2 Chronicles 22:2)?

Here are the texts:

2 Kings 8:26: Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem.

2 Chronicles 22:2: Ahaziah was forty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in Jerusalem.

This one is probably the result of a copyist error. In the Masoretic text, the numbers are spelled out (e.g. ‘two and forty’ or ‘two and twenty’). But if they were originally written in number form, this discrepancy could be easily explained since מ (mem, forty) and כ (caph, twenty) are very similar. Indeed, several ancient texts have 22 (or 20) instead of 42 as given in the Masoretic Text in 2 Chronicles 22:2. The Syriac and Arabic versions have 22. The Septuagint has 20. These early translations were clearly drawing from an earlier Hebrew text.

As it turns out, however, we have enough information to infer the age of Ahaziah when he became king. In 2 Kings 8:16-18, we read that Ahaziah’s father Jehoram was 32 when he began to reign:
16 In the fifth year of Joram the son of Ahab, king of Israel, when Jehoshaphat was king of Judah, Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, began to reign. 17 He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. 18 And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for the daughter of Ahab was his wife. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.
We also learn in 2 Chronicles 21:5,20 that he died eight years later at 40 years of age:
5 Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem...20 He was thirty-two years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem. And he departed with no one's regret. They buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.
Clearly, then, Ahaziah could not have been 42 at the time of his father’s death at age 40.

Objection #6 How old was Jehoiachin when he became king of Jerusalem? 18 (2 Kings 24:8) or 8 (2 Chronicles 36:9)?

Here are the texts:

2 Kings 24:8: Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem.

2 Chronicles 36:9: Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem.

Jehoiachin was in fact 18 when he began his reign. This can be seen by 2 Kings 24:9, where we read that,

And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father had done.

This makes more sense if applied to someone who is 18 rather than 8.

Moreover, in Ezekiel 19:5-9, Jehoiachin is portrayed as going up and down among the lions, catching prey, devouring men and knowing the widows of the men he devoured and the cities he wasted. This again makes it more likely if he is 18 than if he is 8. (Jehoiachin in 597 B.C. was carried to Babylon in a cage as in verse 9 – see 2 Kings 24:6-15). Although he reigned only three months, he was oppressive and unjust.

The discrepancy in this case is almost certainly due to a copyist error. The Hebrew system of numbering consisted of horizontal hooks representing values of 10. If one of the hooks were smudged then the dates would be off by values of 10 years. The numbers 8 and 18 would have been distinguished by a very small mark. It is thus understandable that a scribe could miscopy the number.

Objection #7: For how long reigned Jehoiachin? 3 months (2 Kings 24:8) or 3 months and 10 days (2 Chronicles 36:9)?

This is probably the silliest of the objections. 2 Kings 24:8 apparently rounded to three months, whereas 2 Chronicles 36:9 is more specific and says he reigned for three months and ten days. We speak in this manner all the time.

Objection #8: Jashobeam, David’s mightiest warrior, killed 800 men at once (2 Samuel 23:8) – or was it 300 men (1 Chronicles 11:11)?

Here are the texts:

2 Samuel 23:8: These are the names of the mighty men whom David had: Josheb-basshebeth a Tahchemonite; he was chief of the three. He wielded his spear against eight hundred whom he killed at one time.

1 Chronicles 11:11: This is an account of David's mighty men: Jashobeam, a Hachmonite, was chief of the three. He wielded his spear against 300 whom he killed at one time.

The Hebrew numerical symbols for 300 and 800 look very similar, and so this may well be down to a scribal error again.

Another possible solution is that these two texts are referring to different occasions.

Objection #9: When did David bring the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem – before the victory over the Philistines (1 Chronicles 3 and 14) or after that (2 Samuel 5 and 6)?

The answer here is, quite simply, that the events are recorded chronologically by 1 Chronicles but are arranged by topic in 2 Samuel. So, in 1 Chronicles the narrative of the Ark's return to Jerusalem is chopped in half because the conflict with the Philistines takes place mid-way through the story while the Ark is at the house of Obed-Edom. 2 Samuel, on the other hand, first tells the story of the battle with the Philistines and gets that out of the way in a single chapter, and then he narrates the story, without interruption, of the return of the Ark to Jerusalem.

Objection #10: How many pairs of pure animals did God command Noah to take with him into the ark? One (Gen 6:19, 20) or seven (Gen 7:2)? And in spite of these commands it was just one pair that finally went into the ark (Gen 7:8,9)

Here are the texts: 

Genesis 6:19-20: 19 And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. 20 Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. 

Genesis 7:2 Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate.

This one misread the text. It is only the latter reference (Genesis 7:2) that specifies that it refers to clean animals. There was an extra 6 pairs of clean animals and birds to be used for sacrifice (8:20) and food (9:3).

Objection #11: How many chavaliers did David capture when he fought against the king of Zoba in Hamath? 1700 (2 Sam 8:4) or 7,000 (1 Chron 18:4)?

Here are the texts: 

2 Samuel 8:4: And David took from him 1,700 horsemen, and 20,000 foot soldiers. And David hamstrung all the chariot horses but left enough for 100 chariots. 

1 Chronicles 18:4: And David took from him 1,000 chariots, 7,000 horsemen, and 20,000 foot soldiers. And David hamstrung all the chariot horses, but left enough for 100 chariots. 

This one probably results from a copyist error. Indeed, the LXX for 2 Samuel 8:4 reads “one thousand chariots and seven thousand charioteers.”

Objection #12: How many horses did Solomon have? 40,000 (1 Kings 4:26) or 4,000 (2 Chron 9:25)?

Here are the texts: 

1 Kings 4:26: Solomon also had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen. 

2 Chronicles 9:25: And Solomon had 4,000 stalls for horses and chariots, and 12,000 horsemen, whom he stationed in the chariot cities and with the king in Jerusalem.

Again, this is probably a copyist error. Whereas the Hebrew text for 1 Kings 4:26 has “40,000” (one Hebrew manuscript says 4000), some Greek manuscripts say 4000, as in 2 Chronicles 9:25.

Objection # 13: Which year of king Asa’s reign did Baesa, king of Israel, die? In the 26th (1 Kings 15:33-16:8)? But he’s still alive in the 36th (2 Chron 16:1)

Here are the texts: 

1 Kings 15:33-16:8: 33 In the third year of Asa king of Judah, Baasha the son of Ahijah began to reign over all Israel at Tirzah, and he reigned twenty-four years. 34 He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and walked in the way of Jeroboam and in his sin which he made Israel to sin. And the word of the Lord came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying, 2 “Since I exalted you out of the dust and made you leader over my people Israel, and you have walked in the way of Jeroboam and have made my people Israel to sin, provoking me to anger with their sins, 3 behold, I will utterly sweep away Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. 4 Anyone belonging to Baasha who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the field the birds of the heavens shall eat.” 5 Now the rest of the acts of Baasha and what he did, and his might, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? 6 And Baasha slept with his fathers and was buried at Tirzah, and Elah his son reigned in his place. 7 Moreover, the word of the Lord came by the prophet Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha and his house, both because of all the evil that he did in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger with the work of his hands, in being like the house of Jeroboam, and also because he destroyed it. Elah Reigns in Israel 8 In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah the son of Baasha began to reign over Israel in Tirzah, and he reigned two years. 

2 Chronicles 16:1: In the thirty-sixth year of the reign of Asa, Baasha king of Israel went up against Judah and built Ramah, that he might permit no one to go out or come in to Asa king of Judah.

The number “thirty-six” in 2 Chronicles 16:1 is probably a copyist error. The actual number was likely “sixteen”. The difference between the character representing the number 10 and that representing 30 was only two small strokes at the top of the character.

Objection #14: How many supervisors did Solomon get for the building of the temple? 3,600 (2 Chron 2:2) or 3,300 (1 Kings 5:16)

Here are the texts: 

2 Chronicles 2:2: And Solomon assigned 70,000 men to bear burdens and 80,000 to quarry in the hill country, and 3,600 to oversee them. 

1 Kings 5:16: besides Solomon's 3,300 chief officers who were over the work, who had charge of the people who carried on the work.

Turn over to 2 Chronicles 8:10: 
And these were the chief officers of King Solomon, 250, who exercised authority over the people.
And 1 Kings 5:16:
These were the chief officers who were over Solomon's work: 550 who had charge of the people who carried on the work.
Thus, if we add the additional supervisors (250 in 2 Chronicles 8:10 but 550 in 1 Kings 9:23), then 1 Kings and 2 Chronicles both concur that a total of 3850 men worked. The apparent discrepancy in the number of supervisors, therefore, appears to result from a difference in the way in which they were counted.

Objection #15: Solomon’s Building: Did it encompass 2,000 bath (72,880 litres) (1 Kings 7:26) or more than 3,000 (109,320 litres) (2 Chron 4:5)?

Here are the texts: 

1 Kings 7:26: Its thickness was a handbreadth, and its brim was made like the brim of a cup, like the flower of a lily. It held two thousand baths. 

2 Chronicles 4:5: Its thickness was a handbreadth. And its brim was made like the brim of a cup, like the flower of a lily. It held 3,000 baths. 

A bath equalled almost 6 gallons. These texts can be harmonized if we suppose that in 2 Chronicles 4:5 included are not only the water the basin held but also the water source essential for keeping it flowing as a fountain. This explanation is only possible, but lacks direct support. We are not given information on how these values were obtained, and so there may be a way in which these values go together. Another possibility again is that this apparent discrepancy resulted from a copyist error.

Objections #16-21: 

16: How many Israeli children were saved from the Babylonian capture? 2,812 (Ezra 2:6) or 2,818 (Neh 7:11)?

17: How many children were from Zattu? 945 (Ezra 2:8) or 845 (Neh 7:13)?

18: How many children were from Azgad? 1,222 (Ezra 2:12) or 2,322 (Neh 7:17)?

19: How many children were from Adin? 454 (Ezra 2:15) or 655 (Neh 7:20)?

20: How many children were from Hashun? 223 (Ezra 2:19) or 328 (Neh 7:22)?

21: How many children were from Bethel an Ai? 223 (Ezra 2:28) or 123 (Neh 7:32)?

Since objections 16-21 pertain to the same texts, I have grouped them together. The text concerns the list of returned exiles. There are 39 entries in total, 22 of which are identical and 17 of which do not match. Again, the lack of information on how exactly these figures were obtained makes it difficult to determine the most fitting explanation of the apparent discrepancies. 

One possible explanation is that Ezra listed those who intended to depart, whereas Nehemiah listed those who actually arrived (or some other unknown reason). These differences could also be accounted for by the fact that whereas Ezra was written approximately 538-516 B.C., Nehemiah is written during the reign of Artaxerxes I (464-423 B.C.). The numbers may therefore be explained if during the intervening period families had grown, people had died etc, and Nehemiah records the later figures.

Conclusion

Thus, in conclusion, we can see that the vast majority of these apparent discrepancies fall apart upon further inspection. There are a couple of more tricky ones. But, as I said previously, it is not necessary for the Christian to have an answer to every Bible difficulty in order to have rationally warranted confidence in the truth of the gospel. Even if these contradictions turned out to lack possible harmonization, at best the only outcome would be that we might be compelled to revise our understanding of inspiration or inerrancy. It would in no wise detract from the central truth claims of the Christian faith. Are we really to suppose that if either 2 Samuel or 1 Chronicles was wrong about the number of warriors that were numbered in Israel (800,000 vs. 1.1 million) that it then follows that the message of the gospel is false? Certainly not. For sure, I think it is important that the Scriptures be shown to be substantially reliable. An error in a few trivial matters of detail is not such a big deal. The truth of the gospel rests on the historical veracity of the resurrection of Jesus, and also the witness of the Hebrew Scriptures to His identity and mission.
Christ the Spiritual Rock: Deuteronomy 32 in Relation to the New Testament
Sunday, December 31, 2017 1:39 AM

The New Testament is rich with allusions to the Hebrew Scriptures. Regrettably, in modern Christendom, we are largely ignorant of much of the Old Testament, and so these allusions are lost on us. When they are discovered, however, they help to illuminate the Bible's teachings on the nature of Jesus Christ.

One such text is to be found in 1 Corinthians 10, in which we read that the Israelites in the wilderness "drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ" (verse 4). If your mind is not in tune with the Old Testament then it is easy to miss the implications of this text for understanding Christ's identity.

To properly understand what is going on here, it is necessary for us to take a look at the text of verses 1-22, and so I am reproducing it below -- pay especially close attention to the underlined sections in bold font:
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 14 Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. 15 I speak as to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say. 16 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. 18 Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? 19 What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? 20 No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
When we examine the text of Deuteronomy 32:15-22, we find that it is laced through 1 Corinthians 10:
15 “But Jeshurun grew fat, and kicked; you grew fat, stout, and sleek; then he forsook God who made him and scoffed at the Rock of his salvation. 16 They stirred him to jealousy with strange gods; with abominations they provoked him to anger. 17 They sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known, to new gods that had come recently, whom your fathers had never dreaded. 18 You were unmindful of the Rock that bore you, and you forgot the God who gave you birth. 19 “The Lord saw it and spurned them, because of the provocation of his sons and his daughters. 20 And he said, ‘I will hide my face from them; I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faithfulness. 21 They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. 22 For a fire is kindled by my anger, and it burns to the depths of Sheol, devours the earth and its increase, and sets on fire the foundations of the mountains.
The apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:4 identified Christ as the spiritual Rock that followed them. Deuteronomy 32 identifies God as "the Rock of his salvation" (verse 15) and "the Rock that bore you" (verse 18). Verse 16 also tells us that the Hebrews stirred God, i.e. the Rock, to jealousy with strange gods, whereas 1 Corinthians 10:9,22 says "We must not put Christ to the test...Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy?" Deuteronomy 32:17 says "They sacrificed to demons that were no gods", and 1 Corinthians 10:20-21 says, "No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons."

Thus, we can see that the Apostle Paul, in writing 1 Corinthians 10, has in mind the text of Deuteronomy 32. Deuteronomy 32 tells us that the Rock is the Lord God Himself. We also see the Lord God identified as the rock in other parts of the same chapter. Consider the following verses.


Deuteronomy 32:4: The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.

Deuteronomy 32:30-31: How could one have chased a thousand, and two have put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had given them up? For their rock is not as our Rock; our enemies are by themselves.

Notice also that 1 Corinthians 10:3 identifies Christ as "the spiritual rock that followed them." This distinguishes the rock from the physical, flinty rock from which they drank, alluded to in Deuteronomy 32:13:
He made him ride on the high places of the land, and he ate the produce of the field, and he suckled him with honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock.
The other rock in view throughout this text, however, is the spiritual rock. And unlike the physical flinty rock, the spiritual rock followed the children of Israel.

In context, the spiritual rock in 1 Corinthians 10:4 refers to the cloud (mentioned in verse 2). It was the cloud that followed the children of Israel on their journey, as we read in Exodus 13:21:
And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.
Thus, we see in 1 Corinthians 10 a positive affirmation of Christ's deity. We also see in 1 Corinthians 10 that it was Christ who was tempted and provoked by the peoples' idolatry, whereas in Deuteronomy 32 it was the Lord God who was tempted and provoked. There can therefore be no question that Paul believes Jesus to be the God of Israel.

We read in Exodus 14:19 that,
Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them,
We thus learn that it was the angel of God who was in the cloud. Plenty of texts in the Old Testament reveal that the angel/messenger of the Lord is God Himself. I have discussed this topic briefly before (here and here), but I will have more to say about this in future articles. In brief, though, the angel/messenger of the Lord is a fully divine person who participates in the titles and prerogatives of deity (yet in another sense being distinct from God) and is prophesied in the Old Testament to be the Messiah Himself.

There is also an allusion to the Septuagint version of Deuteronomy 32:43 (where all the angels are instructed to worship the Lord) in Hebrews 1:6:
And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God's angels worship him.”
Thus, again, we see that Christ is affirmed to be the Lord God Himself.

There is another interesting feature of Deuteronomy 32. Consider verses 8 and 9:
8 When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance, when he divided mankind, he fixed the borders of the peoples according to the number of the sons of God. 9 But the Lord's portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.
Liberal critics like to suggest that this passage lends support to their notion that the God of Israel was inspired from the Canaanite Baal myth (Baal was the son of the Most High God El). The liberal critics are thinking along the right lines -- but passages like this are best understood through Trinitarian lenses. When we interpret it in view of the revelation of the Trinity, the text makes perfect sense. Here we see Yahweh receiving an allotted heritage (his people) from the Most High. Like a number of other texts in the Scriptures, this one uses two titles of deity ("Most High" and Yahweh) to distinguish between two divine persons of the Triune God. In Luke 2:32, Mary is told by the angel Gabriel that "He [Jesus] will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High."

There is another possible allusion to Deuteronomy 32 in John 8. The setting of John 8 is the feast of booths (see John 7:2), which is the occasion of the song spoken by Moses in Deuteronomy 32 (see Deuteronomy 31:10,30). In John 8:58, Jesus asserts, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” One of the Old Testament "I Am" statements can be found in Deuteronomy 32:39:
See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
What is especially interesting about Deuteronomy 32:39 is the way in which it is interpreted in the Aramaic Targum of Pseudo Jonathan:
When the Word of the Lord shall reveal Himself to redeem His people, He will say to all the nations: "Behold now, that I am He who is, and was, and will be..."
John of course understands Jesus to be the divine Logos or Memra (John 1:1,14). I shall have more to say about this and its connection to the Old Testament in future articles. It is striking then that the Targum of Pseudo Jonathan speaks of the Word of the Lord appearing to redeem his people and saying "Behold now, that I am He who is, and was, and will be..." A look at the three "I AM" sayings in John 8 reveals the past, present and future tenses of the three statements:

He who is (present): “Unless you believe that I am [ego eimi], you will die in your sins” (8:24)
He who was (past): “Before Abraham existed, I am [ego eimi].” (8:58)
He who will be (future): “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [ego eimi].” (8:28)

John elsewhere appeals to this text from the Targum in Revelation 1:8:
“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
There can be no doubt that Revelation 1:8 refers to Christ, because the previous verse Revelation 1:7 says,
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
It is true that Revelation 1:4 also speaks of the father as he "who is and who was and who is to come." But this does not present a concern, since the title of Alpha and Omega is similarly applied both to the Father (Revelation 21:6) and to the Son (Revelation 22:12-13).

Turning back to our text in John 8, we read in verse 59, that upon the Jews realizing exactly what Jesus meant,
So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
This also resembles what we read in Deuteronomy 32:20, where the Lord God says that he will hide his face in judgment against Israel:
I will hide my face from them; I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation,
Finally, there is of course an allusion to Deuteronomy 32 in John 10:28:
I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
Jesus here again echoes the words of Deuteronomy 32:39:
See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
Again, we see Jesus taking an Old Testament text which applies to Yahweh and claiming it for Himself, thus representing Himself to be the God of Israel.

The New Testament is rich with allusions to the Old Testament, many of which are missed by modern readers who are ill-acquainted with the Hebrew Scriptures. In future posts, we will examine some more Old Testament passages to see how they relate to the person, nature and mission of the Messiah.
What Does It Mean for Jesus to be the "Good Shepherd"?
Wednesday, December 27, 2017 11:16 PM

In John 10, Jesus describes Himself as the "good shepherd" who "lays down his life for the sheep." Have you ever stopped to consider what the implications are of Jesus' statement in regards to His identity? I have shown previously that Jesus' statements in John 10:22-39 is a claim to divine status and co-equality with the Father. But Jesus' statements to be the "good shepherd" are similarly provocative.

To find out why, let's take a look over at Ezekiel 34. In verses 1-10, God speaks about the judges of Israel, whom He deems to be wicked, evil and corrupt shepherds. In verses 11-24, God tells us that He Himself will shepherd his flock in place of the corrupt and evil shepherds. Take particular note of the underlined sections in bolt print.
11 “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. 16 I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.17 “As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats. 18 Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet? 19 And must my sheep eat what you have trodden with your feet, and drink what you have muddied with your feet? 20 “Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: Behold, I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Because you push with side and shoulder, and thrust at all the weak with your horns, till you have scattered them abroad, 22 I will rescue my flock; they shall no longer be a prey. And I will judge between sheep and sheep. 23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken.
Compare these words from Ezekiel with the words of our Lord Jesus in John 10:1-11,14-16. Again, pay particular attention to the underlined words in bold font:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.7 So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly...14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
The parallels between these texts are striking. The words of Ezekiel 34:17,20 -- where God says He will judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and male goats, between fat sheep and lean sheep -- can also be compared to Jesus' statements in Matthew 25:31-34:
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
We also see the imagery of Ezekiel 34 employed in Jesus' statement in Luke 19:9-10: "For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost." Jesus tells the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:24 that He had been sent to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." Jesus also says to Simon Peter in John 21:15,16 to “Feed #cen-ESV-26902X" data-link="(#cen-esv-26902x"="" title="See cross-reference X">X)">my lambs” and "Tend my sheep"

In case there were any doubt left whatsoever that Jesus is asserting Himself to be Israel's God, consider his words slightly later in John 10 in verses 27-28:

27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.
This text alludes to Psalm 95:7-8, in which God Himself says (in reference to Israel's rebellion in the wilderness):
7For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture,  and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice,8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness...
The text is also an allusion to Deuteronomy 32:39:

“‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive;    I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
That Jesus claims the titles and prerogatives of the God of Israel in these texts is undeniable.

Thus far, we have seen that Jesus seems to have, on more than one occasion, drawn upon this text from Ezekiel 34 (and also related texts), where Yahweh is portrayed as the good shepherd who will seek out His sheep and lead them onto fresh pastures. There are, however, some other important features of this text that are important for us to consider. Take a look again at Ezekiel 34:23-24:
23 And I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. 24 And I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them. I am the Lord; I have spoken.
This is a curious statement. First we were told that God Himself would shepherd his flock, and then we are told that God will set up one shepherd who will feed them and be their shepherd -- and that shepherd will be His servant David. The only problem is that David was long dead by the time Ezekiel penned those words. How, then, can David be shepherd over God's flock? When we read the Old Testament as a whole, we realize that it makes perfect sense. There is a special blessing reserved for the house of David, one which has previously not been hitherto enjoyed. The Messiah Himself is one day to sit on David's throne and administer justice on the earth. He can truly be said to be the second David. One such text that springs to mind is Amos 9:11-12:
11 “In that day I will raise up the booth of David that is fallen and repair its breaches, and raise up its ruins and rebuild it as in the days of old, 12 that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations who are called by my name,” declares the Lord who does this.
Isaiah 9:7 also speaks of the Messiah, saying,
Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Words to the same effect can be found in many Messianic passages. Thus, we learn from Ezekiel 34 that the one shepherd of the sheep of Israel is both God and Messiah. Thus, again we see that the Messiah must be a divine person.

But it gets even more interesting still. In a previous post I highlighted some Messianic themes from the book of Zechariah. There is also interesting imagery of a shepherd in Zechariah 13:7:
7“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd,    against the man who stands next to me,”declares the Lord of hosts.“Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones.
Jesus interprets this text as a reference to Himself (Matthew 26:31, Mark 14:27). Here, we see that God is going to pour out his wrath (spoken metaphorically as his "sword") against His shepherd -- who is identified as "the man (geber) who stands next to me (amiti)." Who is the shepherd who is to be struck with God's wrath? Key to understanding this is the Hebrew word amiti, which is translated here as "stands next to me." The word appears nine other times in the Hebrew Bible, all of which are in Leviticus (Leviticus 6:2; 18:20; 19:11,15,17; 24:19; 25:14-15,17). In all of those instances, the word is used as a synonym for a fellow brother or a blood relative, or to one living nearest to another. Thus, the word refers to someone who belongs to the same genus -- or, who is of the same essence. This means that Yahweh and the shepherd, the man who stands next to him, are of the same category of being -- and yet this individual who shares His essence is both God and man.

This interpretation is granted by rabbinic interpreters. However, they attempt to escape the conclusion by arguing that the text is referring to wicked gentile rulers who merely think they are equal to Yahweh. A careful examination of the context, however, suggests against this interpretation. When we turn back to Zechariah 10:3, we read,
“My anger is hot against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the Lord of hosts cares for his flock, the house of Judah, and will make them like his majestic steed in battle.
Here again we see the contrast between the wicked shepherds and the good shepherd, the Lord Himself, who "cares for His flock, the house of Judah".

In Zechariah 11:7-14, we read of Israel's rejection of the true shepherd. God uses the prophet Zechariah to represent the part of the good shepherd and His rejection:
7 So I became the shepherd of the flock doomed to be slaughtered by the sheep traders. And I took two staffs, one I named Favor, the other I named Union. And I tended the sheep. 8 In one month I destroyed the three shepherds. But I became impatient with them, and they also detested me. 9 So I said, “I will not be your shepherd. What is to die, let it die. What is to be destroyed, let it be destroyed. And let those who are left devour the flesh of one another.” 10 And I took my staff Favor, and I broke it, annulling the covenant that I had made with all the peoples. 11 So it was annulled on that day, and the sheep traders, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the Lord. 12 Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. 13 Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter. 14 Then I broke my second staff Union, annulling the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.
Here, God identifies Himself as the good shepherd, as the thirty pieces of silver is said to be the "lordly price at which I [i.e. the Lord Himself] was priced by them." The Lord was worth no more to the people of Israel than the price of a common slave.

In the next chapter, Zechariah 12, we read in verse 10,
10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.
Again, this speaks of the good shepherd who was rejected by the people. This text dovetails with what we read in the very next chapter, with the shepherd being struck in Zechariah 13:7. Thus, the character of the shepherd who is stuck is consistent with the picture given previously by Zechariah of the Lord Himself.

In fact, Revelation 1:7, interprets this verse to be about the return of Jesus. Thus we again see the New Testament proclaiming Christ to be the God of Israel Himself:
Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
This text again is applied to Jesus in John 19:36-37:
For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled ... “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”
If my interpretation of the shepherd of Zechariah 13:7 being a divine-human person is correct, then it is especially interesting that we read in Zechariah 14:9 that,
...the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.
The Hebrew word used here for "one" is echad, which allows for a composite or compound unity (e.g. as in Genesis 2:24 and various other instances). This is very consistent with what we might expect in view of the Triune nature of God -- although there are two divine persons in view in Zechariah 13:7, they are essentially one in substance or essence.

The imagery of the sword in Zechariah 13:7 is given as a metaphor for God's wrath, which is employed here against the shepherd. In a previous article I showed that the picture of the Messiah given in Isaiah 53 likewise is that of a divine-human person who participates in the very essence of Yahweh and who is struck with God's wrath in order to redeem His people. The allusion to the sheep being scattered finds its partial fulfillment in the scattering of Christ's disciples upon His arrest, but it more probably refers more specifically to the dispersion of the Jewish nation in A.D. 70, as a consequence of their rejection of their Messiah.

What about the statement "I will turn my hand against the little ones" in 13:7? What does this refer to? A look at other usages of the phrase "turn my hand against" in the Scriptures reveals that it can have two meanings -- it can mean to pour out his judgment upon (e.g. Psalm 81:14, Amos 1:8) but it can also mean to protect or to interpose in favor of. We see this latter meaning in the case of Isaiah 1:24-26:
24 Therefore the Lord declares, the Lord of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel: “Ah, I will get relief from my enemies and avenge myself on my foes. 25 I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy. 26 And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.”
Here, the meaning is obviously that God will interpose in favor of Israel. Which meaning is to be preferred, then, in the case of Zechariah 13:7? Some commentators suggest the latter interpretation. For example, the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary state that "The hand of Jehovah was laid in wrath on the Shepherd that His hand might be turned in grace upon the little ones."

In view of the context of verses 8 and 9, however, it seems to me to be a plausible enough reading that it refers to God striking Israel for her rejection of the Messiah, only allowing a third to be spared -- a remnant that God will spare for Himself:
8 In the whole land, declares the Lord, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. 9 And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”
Another possible way of reading it is that the little ones are those on whom God turns his hand of protection and delivers, because this is the small portion of Israel that remains faithful to Christ and thus remains alive in the end. The elect remnant of Israel will thus see the Lord Jesus Christ, their Messiah, and they will call upon Him as their Savior, Redeemer, and Lord.

What another beautiful prophetic foreshadowing of God's Messiah in the Hebrew Scriptures. In future posts, we will continue to examine Messianic prophecy and what it tells us about the identity, mission and nature of Israel's Messiah.
What is the Relationship of Santa Claus to Christmas and Who were the Magi?
Tuesday, December 26, 2017 3:52 AM



Some Muslims will claim, as well as some well intentioned Christians, that Christmas developed from paganism and that there is nothing 'Christian' about this holiday. An example of a Muslim polemic against Christmas can bee seen here. Since this is a subject that Muslim apologists usually use to discredit Christianity I am posting this video and others that will follow where I and my good friend Pastor Sule Prince answer some of the most common questions raised about Christmas and its alleged ties to paganism. The goal of these video series is to dispel common misunderstandings and inaccuracies both among Muslims and Christians regarding this Christian celebration.
Behold Your King Is Coming to You: Unlocking the Meaning of Zechariah 9:9-10
Saturday, December 23, 2017 5:54 PM

#zClosurez" imageanchor="1" target="_blank">In a previous post, I discussed the true significance of Isaiah 53 in relation to Messianic prophecy, revealing how Isaiah 53 foretells of a divine Messiah who would absorb the wrath of God on behalf of God's people. I noted that one of the most compelling reasons to take the Bible as divinely inspired is the subtle consistency (over 1500 years and across different genres of writing) of its portrait of the coming Messiah and of the nature of the Triune God. 

In this article, I want to highlight yet another beautiful Messianic prophecy, and explore its implications for the Messiah's identity and mission. Our text is from Zechariah 9:9-10, a well known text which foretells of Israel's king coming to Jerusalem with salvation, mounted on a donkey.  
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
Here, we see that Israel's king, who is to come and establish peace on the earth, is to be a human who rides on a donkey (to ride on the back of a donkey, he must be physical). But Zechariah also tells us something else that is very important in relation to Israel's coming king. Turn over to Zechariah 14:1-9:
Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. 2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. 4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that lies before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley, so that one half of the Mount shall move northward, and the other half southward. 5 And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. 6 On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. 7 And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. 8 On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter. 9 And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.
This refers to a time yet future when all nations will be gathered for battle against Jerusalem, but God Himself will intervene against Israel's enemies. Verse 4 states something very intriguing: the feet of Yahweh will stand upon the Mount of Olives. For Yahweh's feet to stand upon the mount of olives, He must join to Himself a physical body -- for a non-material being has no feet. It seems that this allusion is intended to be taken literally rather than metaphorically, since the feet touching the mount of olives is responsible for the mountain literally being split in two from east to west. Thus, here we see a picture of Yahweh himself clothed with a physical body. Verse 9 further tells us that in that day "the Lord will be king over all the earth." Thus, the king of Zechariah 9:9-10, whom we read of coming to Jerusalem with salvation, physically mounted upon a donkey, appears to be Yahweh Himself. Here we thus see a foreshadow of the incarnation where, in the person of Christ, God will take upon Himself human flesh.

Notice that Zechariah 14:5 states that "Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him." The New Testament interprets this reference to Yahweh to in fact be the person of Christ Himself. When we turn to 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13, we read,
11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
The connection between verse 13 and Zechariah 14:5 should be obvious enough. The conclusion, then, that Paul affirmed Jesus to be Yahweh, is thus inescapable.

We also see a fascinating connection between Zechariah 14:4 and Acts 1:6-12:
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away.
Notice that verse 12 indicates that Jesus' ascension into heaven took place at the mount of olives, and the angels in verse 11 told the disciples that Jesus will come back in the same way in which they saw him go into heaven. Thus, when Jesus returns, his feet will again touch the mount of olives. Thus, the book of Acts makes Jesus out to be Yahweh, connecting Him with Zechariah 14:4.

Moreover, since Mark 11:1-10 / Matthew 21:1-11 / Luke 19:28-40 / John 12:12-19 all narrate Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem and connect it to Zechariah 9:9-10, all four gospels represent Jesus as claiming to be Israel's king who has come with salvation, and thus Jesus claims to be none other than the God of Israel who is identified as "king over all the earth" in Zechariah 14:9.

In future posts, I will continue to highlight some of the treasures of the Scriptures in respect to their portrayal of the Messiah. Stay tuned!
Unlocking the Meaning of Isaiah 53: Who is the Suffering Servant?
Friday, December 22, 2017 3:26 PM


The 'suffering servant' song of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is one of the most significant of Messianic prophecies that we find in the Hebrew Bible. It introduces to us the innocent suffering servant who would be slain for the sins of God's people. But few people realize the full significance of Isaiah 53 in relation to the identity of the Messiah. When one reads the suffering servant song in the context of the book of Isaiah as a whole, it becomes clear that the text unmistakably points to a divine Messiah -- i.e. the Christ must be God Himself veiled in human flesh. In this article, I aim to reveal why. But first, the text of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is worth reproducing in its entirety.
13 Behold, #cen-ESV-18710Z" data-link="(#cen-esv-18710z"="" title="See cross-reference Z">Z)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">my servant shall act wisely;
    he shall be high and lifted up,
    and shall be exalted.
14 As many were astonished at you—
    #cen-ESV-18711AA" data-link="(#cen-esv-18711aa"="" title="See cross-reference AA">AA)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
    and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
15 so #cen-ESV-18712AB" data-link="(#cen-esv-18712ab"="" title="See cross-reference AB">AB)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">shall he sprinkle many nations.
    #cen-ESV-18712AC" data-link="(#cen-esv-18712ac"="" title="See cross-reference AC">AC)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">Kings shall shut their mouths because of him,
#cen-ESV-18712AD" data-link="(#cen-esv-18712ad"="" title="See cross-reference AD">AD)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">for that which has not been told them they see,
    and that which they have not heard they understand.

Who has believed what he has heard from us?
    And to whom has #cen-ESV-18713B" data-link="(#cen-esv-18713b"="" title="See cross-reference B">B)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
    #cen-ESV-18714C" data-link="(#cen-esv-18714c"="" title="See cross-reference C">C)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">and like a root out of dry ground;
#cen-ESV-18714D" data-link="(#cen-esv-18714d"="" title="See cross-reference D">D)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
    and no beauty that we should desire him.
#cen-ESV-18715E" data-link="(#cen-esv-18715e"="" title="See cross-reference E">E)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">He was despised and rejected by men,
    a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
    he was despised, and #cen-ESV-18715F" data-link="(#cen-esv-18715f"="" title="See cross-reference F">F)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">we esteemed him not.
#cen-ESV-18716G" data-link="(#cen-esv-18716g"="" title="See cross-reference G">G)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    #cen-ESV-18716H" data-link="(#cen-esv-18716h"="" title="See cross-reference H">H)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">smitten by God, and afflicted.
#cen-ESV-18717I" data-link="(#cen-esv-18717i"="" title="See cross-reference I">I)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    #cen-ESV-18717J" data-link="(#cen-esv-18717j"="" title="See cross-reference J">J)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">and with his wounds we are healed.
#cen-ESV-18718K" data-link="(#cen-esv-18718k"="" title="See cross-reference K">K)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
#cen-ESV-18718L" data-link="(#cen-esv-18718l"="" title="See cross-reference L">L)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    #cen-ESV-18719M" data-link="(#cen-esv-18719m"="" title="See cross-reference M">M)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">yet he opened not his mouth;
#cen-ESV-18719N" data-link="(#cen-esv-18719n"="" title="See cross-reference N">N)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">like a #cen-ESV-18719O" data-link="(#cen-esv-18719o"="" title="See cross-reference O">O)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
    and as for his generation, #cen-ESV-18720P" data-link="(#cen-esv-18720p"="" title="See cross-reference P">P)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
    stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
    #cen-ESV-18721Q" data-link="(#cen-esv-18721q"="" title="See cross-reference Q">Q)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">and with a rich man in his death,
although #cen-ESV-18721R" data-link="(#cen-esv-18721r"="" title="See cross-reference R">R)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">he had done no violence,
    and there was no deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet #cen-ESV-18722S" data-link="(#cen-esv-18722s"="" title="See cross-reference S">S)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
    he has put him to grief;
#cen-ESV-18722T" data-link="(#cen-esv-18722t"="" title="See cross-reference T">T)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
    he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
#cen-ESV-18722U" data-link="(#cen-esv-18722u"="" title="See cross-reference U">U)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall #cen-ESV-18723V" data-link="(#cen-esv-18723v"="" title="See cross-reference V">V)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">the righteous one, my servant,
    #cen-ESV-18723W" data-link="(#cen-esv-18723w"="" title="See cross-reference W">W)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">make many to be accounted righteous,
    #cen-ESV-18723X" data-link="(#cen-esv-18723x"="" title="See cross-reference X">X)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">and he shall bear their iniquities.
12 #cen-ESV-18724Y" data-link="(#cen-esv-18724y"="" title="See cross-reference Y">Y)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
    #cen-ESV-18724Z" data-link="(#cen-esv-18724z"="" title="See cross-reference Z">Z)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
    and was numbered with the transgressors;
#cen-ESV-18724AA" data-link="(#cen-esv-18724aa"="" title="See cross-reference AA">AA)" style="box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; top: 0px; vertical-align: top;">yet he bore the sin of many,
    and makes intercession for the transgressors.
I will not dwell long on the popular understanding among orthodox Jews today that the servant here is simply a personification of the nation of Israel, or even a righteous remnant within Israel. Very briefly, this interpretation fails for a number of reasons. For one thing, consider verses 8-9:
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? 9 And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.
In context, the "my people" of verses 8 is clearly the Hebrews. How, then, can national Israel be "cut off out of the land of the living" and "stricken for the transgression of my people [i.e. Israel]" if Israel herself has done no violence and there be no deceit in her mouth? Moreover, Isaiah is quite explicit elsewhere, such as in Isaiah 6:5, where he exclaims concerning his own guilt before God:
“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
It seems unlikely that Isaiah 53 speaks of a righteous remnant if this is how even Isaiah felt about his own standing before God. Moreover, he says in Isaiah 64:6,
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
A further reason to think that this text is not personifying the nation of Israel is that God uses the nations to smite Israel for Israel's sins -- and Israel's smiting does not bring healing to the other nations. Rather, God then turns His hand in judgment against them for overdoing the punishment and for their haughtiness and arrogance (see Jeremiah 30 & 31, Zechariah 1, and Isaiah 10 & 29).

But if not national Israel or a righteous remnant, who then is the servant of Isaiah 53?


One of the most intriguing things about this passage is the exaltation language that is applied to the suffering servant in 52:13:
Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.
This is the very same exaltation language that is used exclusively of Yahweh elsewhere in the book of Isaiah. Consider, for example, Isaiah 6:1:
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up.
Or consider Isaiah 33:5,10:
The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high…“Now I will arise,” says the Lord, “now I will lift myself up; now I will be exalted."
Or Isaiah 57:15:
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
In case any readers were wondering whether this exaltation language of being "high and lifted up" can be applied to anyone who is not Yahweh, Isaiah 2:11-17 sets the record straight:
11 The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. 12 For the Lord of hosts has a day against all that is proud and lofty, against all that is lifted up—and it shall be brought low; 13 against all the cedars of Lebanon, lofty and lifted up; and against all the oaks of Bashan; 14 against all the lofty mountains, and against all the uplifted hills; 15 against every high tower, and against every fortified wall; 16 against all the ships of Tarshish, and against all the beautiful craft. 17 And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
Thus, we see, that the language that Isaiah 52:13 applies to the suffering servant can only be used of a divine person.

However, we see further evidence in the suffering servant song of a divine Messiah. Consider again Isaiah 53:11-12:
11 Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Thus, we read that the servant will justify many and make intercession for sinners. But here is the thing. We read in Isaiah 45:24-25 that Israel will be justified in Yahweh alone.
24 “Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him. 25 In the Lord all the offspring of Israel shall be justified and shall glory.”
We further read in Isaiah 59:16 that,
He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him.
Thus, there was nobody found worthy enough to intercede or bring about salvation -- so Yahweh did it Himself using His very own arm.

What then is the Lord's arm? Of course, when Scripture speaks of God's arm, it is using a metaphor for God's power. In another sense, however, Isaiah seems to almost treat the arm of the Lord as a divine person. For example, we read in Isaiah 40:10 that,
Behold, the Lord God comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.
Wait a minute... God's arm rules for him? This language seems to at least be implicit that the arm that rules for Yahweh is in fact a person. Further evidence to corroborate this suggestion is found in Isaiah 51:9-11:
9 Awake, awake, put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake, as in days of old, the generations of long ago. Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces, who pierced the dragon? 10 Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made the depths of the sea a way for the redeemed to pass over? 11 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
Read through the text of Isaiah 51 for yourself. The whole passage has Yahweh speaking all the way through. And yet in these three verses Yahweh speaks to and even invokes His own arm, treating His arm as a person, representing the very embodiment of His power -- and yet this person participates in His very own essence.

But it is about to get even more interesting. Now flip over to Isaiah 63. Again we see in verse 5 that Yahweh once more says:
I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me.
We go on to read in verses 7-10:
7 I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. 8 For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely.” And he became their Savior. 9 In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. 10 But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them.
Here, the whole Trinity comes into view. The Holy Spirit is alluded to in verse 10, and identified even as a person who was grieved by the Hebrew rebellion in the wilderness. In verse 9 we are told that "the angel of His presence saved them." This alludes back to Exodus 23:20-21, in which we read,
20 “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. 21 Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him.
Thus, this angel has the ability to forgive and withhold forgiveness of sins (an exclusive prerogative of deity), and He is no ordinary angel since God's very name is in Him. In future posts, I will show that the angel of the Lord (that this relates to) is not only God Himself and yet in a sense distinct from God (in a manner akin to how we Trinitarians believe Christ is God and yet somehow distinct from God), but that the Hebrew Old Testament prophecies that the angel of the Lord will be the Messiah. The Hebrew word translated "angel" in our Bibles is Malak, which can also be translated "messenger" (so it does not necessarily only refer to a celestial creature). Thus, the malak Yahweh can be rendered "the messenger of Yahweh".

To show one example of the messenger of Yahweh being the Messiah in Hebrew prophecy, consider Malachi 3:1:
“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts.
Thus, we learn that the Messiah is given the title of "the messenger of the covenant." Jesus in fact applies this text to himself in Matthew 11:10/Luke 7:27. Note that it is the same word for messenger (malak) used here that is used elsewhere in relation to the angel/messenger of Yahweh. But who is the messenger of the covenant? To find out, we turn to Judges 2:1:
Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you.
Thus, the angel/messenger who delivered the covenant is the angel/messenger of Yahweh. We can thus see that the Messiah will be this angel of the covenant. There is of course much more that can be said about this, but I will leave that for future blog posts. For now, we return to our text in Isaiah 63. We read in verses 11-12,
11 Then he remembered the days of old, of Moses and his people. Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit, 12 who caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name.
Again, verse 11 alludes to the Holy Spirit mentioned already in verse 10. But instead of speaking of the angel of His presence who went at the right hand of Moses, we are told that it was His glorious arm that went at the right hand of Moses (a parallelism for the angel of His presence mentioned in verse 9). Thus, we infer that the angel of His presence is the glorious arm of the Lord.

But how does this all relate to Isaiah 53? To find out, we read Isaiah 53:1-2:
Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For HE grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.
Here we see the arm of the Lord identified as the Messiah (the nearest antecedent to the "he" of verse 2 is the arm of the Lord -- and "he" is distinguished from "him"). Since we saw in Isaiah 63 that the arm of the Lord is the angel of the Lord, this text dovetails with passages like Malachi 3:1, where the Messiah is identified as the angel of the Lord. Indeed, supposing otherwise leads to an irreconcilable contradiction, since Isaiah 59:16 and 63:5 (as I showed above) tell us that no man was worthy enough to save, intercede or justify, since no one was righteous enough -- which is why God did it through his own arm. If it is not the servant who is the Arm of the Lord then that means that God empowered the servant to do what he did. But then why say that God found no one and so did it himself in His own arm, when God could have used His arm to empower anybody and everybody to do the work?

But there is yet further evidence for the deity of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53. Consider Isaiah 11:1-5,10:
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord— 3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked. 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist…10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.
This text is undisputably speaking of the Messiah -- the descendant of David (and therefore of his father Jesse). This means that this text connects with Isaiah 9:6-7, which speak of a divine Messiah (who is afforded the title of "Mighty God", a title used elsewhere, e.g. in Isaiah 10:21 of Yahweh) reigning from David's throne. While the title Elohim is sometimes used of figures who are not God (e.g. Exodus 7:1), the title El (used in Isaiah 9:6) is never used in any sense other than that of absolute deity. The conclusion that Isaiah 11 is speaking of the same individual as Isaiah 9 is further supported by the statement that "with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth", which resembles what is said of the child born in Isaiah 9 (verse 7):
Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Thus, the Messiah spoken of in Isaiah 11 is the same individual as that spoken of in Isaiah 9:6-7. The Hebrew word used in Isaiah 11:10 for "root" (verse 1 uses the same word in the plural) is sheresh, the very same word used of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:2: "For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground." We can further confirm the connection between Isaiah 53 and 9 & 11 by looking at Isaiah 42:2-7, which speaks of the same servant as that described in Isaiah 53:
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations. 2 He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. 3 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; 4 he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.” 5 This is what God the Lord says— the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out, who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it, who gives breath to its people, and life to those who walk on it: 6 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
Thus, like the Messiah of Isaiah 9 and 11, the servant is going to "bring justice to the nations" (verse 1) and "establish justice on the earth" (verse 4). Moreover, the servant is going to "open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness." But that is exactly what we read of the divine child in Isaiah 9:1:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.
Since Isaiah 42 refers to the same servant of Isaiah 53 and since Isaiah 42 connects with Isaiah 9 & 11, this in turn again connects Isaiah 53 with 9 & 11.

Thus, Isaiah 53 connects with Isaiah 11 and in turn with Isaiah 9, providing us with yet another reason to take the suffering servant as no less than a divine person.

For further discussion of Isaiah 53, I refer readers to this excellent article at BeliefMap.

One of the most compelling evidences for the divine inspiration of Scripture is the subtle consistency of the portrait of the Messiah and the nature of the Triune God throughout 1500 years of Scripture. Indeed, in the earliest Christian community, two primary arguments were used for the truth of the gospel -- (1) the historic reality of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead; and (2) Messianic prophecy in the Hebrew Scriptures. The latter has been sadly neglected in modern apologetics. It is time the argument from Messianic prophecy were revived once more and reclaimed for the powerful cumulative argument that it is. In future posts, I will reveal more of the Bible's buried treasures, which are hidden in plain view, pertaining to the Old Testament portrait of the Messiah.
"Is the Trinity consistent with the Old Testament?" Jonathan McLatchie vs. Yusuf Ismail
Saturday, December 9, 2017 3:06 PM



I recently engaged in a public moderated debate in South Africa with Muslim criminal defense lawyer and apologist, Yusuf Ismail. Our subject was the concept of God in the Hebrew Bible -- specifically, whether God reveals Himself as Triune in the Old Testament. Here is the recording of the debate.
Muhammad and the Poor Widows
Wednesday, December 6, 2017 3:44 AM

Part 3

by Tara MacArthur
 
Anas ibn 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.” [Another narrator said] that Anas had told him about nine wives only.#_edn1" name="_ednref1" title="" target="_blank">[1]

Early Muslims boasted about their Prophet’s sexual prowess without any fear that this behaviour might disgust anyone. Only in recent times have Muslim historians felt the need to explain Muhammad’s appetite for women in terms other than lust.

The rationale behind these marriages is clear. Many were performed to rehabilitate divorced and widowed women, especially widows of companions who had been killed in the early battles … Some were done as an act of compassion toward a conquered foe.#_edn2" name="_ednref2" title="" target="_blank">[2]

We have already studied Muhammad’s first eleven marriages without discovering a single wife who was poor or unprotected. We also saw above that historians were confused about exactly how many wives he had. That is because he continued to acquire women for the rest of his life. We wonder if any of them were vulnerable or poor. Let us find out.

Muhammad’s twelfth wife was Maymuna, a widow of 36. She was living in Mecca under the protection of her brother-in-law, Abbas, a wealthy spice-merchant and banker. Maymuna apparently had some wealth of her own, for she brought at least three servants into her new home in Medina.#_edn3" name="_ednref3" title="" target="_blank">[3]
#_edn3" name="_ednref3" title="" target="_blank">
Soon after this, Muhammad took Mariya, a household slave, as his concubine. Since she was a diplomatic gift from the Governor of Egypt, we can be certain that she was young and a virgin; and Aïsha was jealous of her beauty. Unlike Muhammad’s official wives, Mariya was poor. She possessed nothing of her own but was herself property. Nevertheless, her poverty does not explain why Muhammad made her a concubine. She lived in his household, receiving food and shelter at his expense, for over a year before he started sleeping with her. If she was performing domestic duties in exchange, there was no particular reason why she needed to add sex to her services.#_edn4" name="_ednref4" title="" target="_blank">[4]

When Muhammad conquered Mecca in January 630, he married Mulayka, a pretty girl deemed “too young to know her mind”. Although her father had been killed in the battle, she had plenty of other relatives, including a cousin who wanted to marry her; so she was not in need.#_edn5" name="_ednref5" title="" target="_blank">[5] 

In March he married the pretty Fatima al-Aliya, who was his only Medinan wife. Her father worked in the Islamic army and civil service. He was certainly not a poor man, for he made Muhammad a present of Mantle, “the prettiest camel in the world”. It was after Muhammad divorced Fatima that she became poor. She set up a business collecting camel-dung, drying it in the sun and selling it as fuel.#_edn6" name="_ednref6" title="" target="_blank">[6]If no pleasanter career was available, we know that neither her ex-husband nor her father was sharing his wealth with her.

In June or July Muhammad agreed to marry Asma, the daughter of a Bedouin nobleman who was anxious to avoid a war with Medina. Asma was a widow but she is described as “beautiful and youthful”. Her wealthy father hinted that he found Muhammad’s standard 400 dirhams a “stingy” dower; but he was obliged to accept that this was all his daughter would be paid.#_edn7" name="_ednref7" title="" target="_blank">[7]

Later that year, Muhammad married Amra, who had been recently divorced from a teenager. Nothing is known about her family beyond the fact that she had some relatives living. Perhaps they were poor. Nevertheless, Muhammad failed to save Amra from destitution, for he divorced her on their wedding night.#_edn8" name="_ednref8" title="" target="_blank">[8]

Muhammad also took another of his household slaves as his concubine. Tukanawas a war-captive from the Qurayza tribe, so she was only a slave because Muhammad had enslaved her. He did not need to sleep with her in order to save her from poverty, for she had been living at his expense as a domestic maid for some time before he noticed her and called her to his bed.#_edn9" name="_ednref9" title="" target="_blank">[9]Since a slave had no legal right to refuse her master’s advances,#_edn10" name="_ednref10" title="" target="_blank">[10]Tukana might have felt more preyed-upon than protected. Before we ask why she needed to become Muhammad’s concubine in order to earn the right to eat, we should ask why Muhammad had needed to attack and destroy her tribe.

Muhammad acquired yet another concubine just one month before he died. Nafisawas given to him as a present. Nothing is known about her beyond the obvious fact that she was a slave.#_edn11" name="_ednref11" title="" target="_blank">[11]Once again, we need to ask how Muhammad showed compassion and provision for his slaves by sleeping with them instead of setting them free or offering them honest labour.

Muhammad attempted to acquire even more wives than these, but the remainder of his marriages did not last long. He married a princess from Iraq, but she died on her journey to Medina. He then married her aunt in substitute, but she too died before Muhammad could meet her. He divorced one girl because she insulted him on the wedding day and another, sight unseen, when he became annoyed by her father’s boasting. A widow from Medina broke off their engagement before they had finalised the contract; and a newly-ransomed war-captive refused his proposal because she wanted to return to her husband. He accepted the proposal of an attractive widow living off a pension from Khaybar, then divorced her on the wedding day when he saw that she was “old” (although she was certainly younger than he was).#_edn12" name="_ednref12" title="" target="_blank">[12] What all these brides had in common was social security. Not all were rich, but all had strong family connections and a source of income.

In April 632 Muhammad married Qutayla, a Jewish princess from Yemen. Two months later, she was still on her journey to Medina when she heard that she need not proceed, for Muhammad had just died. Qutayla and her brother immediately declared their apostasy from Islam and returned to Yemen with great joy. The Apostasy Wars had begun.#_edn13" name="_ednref13" title="" target="_blank">[13]

Among all Muhammad’s wives, we have not found a single one who was poor or friendless. Though some endured considerable distress as a result of marrying him, not one married him as a relief from distress. Nor did he pretend otherwise. He chose women who were young and beautiful, with political or financial advantages being optional.

This is not news. In the words of the missionary-scholar William Gairdner, who worked among Muslims in Egypt:

It is high time that the ignorant or hypocritical statements of neo-Mohammedan writers, to the effect that allMohammed’s marriage and demi-marriage connections were made for humanitarian or political (etc., etc.) reasons, and that the women in question were elderly or otherwise unattractive, should be put a stop to. These statements are becoming stereotyped among apologist writers both of the west and the east. But they are false; and they are made either ignorantly of falsely. … We hope we shall now hear no more of the neo-Moslem pretence.#_edn14" name="_ednref14" title="" target="_blank">[14]

It is a hundred years since Gairdner hoped, yet the falsehoods are still being heard. Perhaps the internet will change that. Never before has it been so easy to spread the truth.

The story of Fatima al-Aliya has a happy ending. You can read more about her, as well as all the others, in my book Unveiled.


#_ednref1" name="_edn1" title="" target="_blank">References
[1] Bukhari 1:5:268.
#_ednref3" name="_edn3" title="" target="_blank">[3] Ibn Ishaq 113, 114, 309-310, 312-313. Waqidi 364. Ibn Saad 8:94. Ibn Hajar, Tahdhib 12:13898.
#_ednref4" name="_edn4" title="" target="_blank">[4] Ibn Ishaq 653. Ibn Saad 8:136-137, 148-149. Tabari 8:98; 39:193-195.
#_ednref5" name="_edn5" title="" target="_blank">[5] Tabari 8:187; 39:165.
#_ednref6" name="_edn6" title="" target="_blank">[6] Ibn Ishaq 577-579, 590-591. Waqidi 477. Ibn Saad 1:587; 2:201. Tabari 9:39, 136; 39:187-188. Ibn Kathir 4:421.
#_ednref7" name="_edn7" title="" target="_blank">[7] Ibn Ishaq 177. Ibn Saad 8:101-104. Tabari 39:188-191.
#_ednref8" name="_edn8" title="" target="_blank">[8] Guillaume, A. (1960). New Life on the Light of Muhammad, p. 55. Journal of Semitic Studies, Monograph 1. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Ibn Saad 8:100, 101. Muslim 5:2347. Tabari 39:188. Ibn Kathir 4:427.
#_ednref9" name="_edn9" title="" target="_blank">[9] Ibn Kathir 4:435.Majlisi 2:1180
#_ednref10" name="_edn10" title="" target="_blank">[10] Ibn Saad 8:94.
#_ednref11" name="_edn11" title="" target="_blank">[11] Ibn Hanbal 6:26908. Ibn Kathir 4:435.
#_ednref12" name="_edn12" title="" target="_blank">[12] Ibn Saad 8:106-113, 116. Tabari 9:136-139.
#_ednref13" name="_edn13" title="" target="_blank">[13] Ibn Saad 8:105. Ibn Kathir 4:424-425.
Muhammad and the Poor Widows
Thursday, November 30, 2017 1:53 AM

Part 2

by Tara MacArthur

Then [Muhammad] emigrated to Medina and began spreading the word of Allah. Thereafter, he married eight women, all of them widows or divorcees, all old or middle-aged … He had married many of them in order to give them protection and safeguard their dignity. It was hoped that the Muslims would follow his example and provide protection to aged women, widows and their orphaned children … Thus do we see that each of these marriages had some solid reasons behind it; passion and lust were not among them.#_edn1" name="_ednref1" title="" target="_blank">[1]
This is a popular explanation for why Muhammad resorted to polygyny. If it is an accurate assessment, we would expect his eight new wives to be mature-aged matrons whom the wars had left poor and vulnerable. Let us check the facts.

After Muhammad married Aïsha, he ordered fourteen military attacks on other tribes and he also had to fight twice in defence. Sixteen Muslim men, or about 4% of the total, were killed in these battles.#_edn2" name="_ednref2" title="" target="_blank">[2]Muhammad was not well placed to care for new family-members, for he was still poor. Aïsha said that they never ate bread for more than three successive days, and sometimes the family had nothing to cook for two months on end.#_edn3" name="_ednref3" title="" target="_blank">[3]

In January 625 Muhammad married Hafsa, a widow of 19.#_edn4" name="_ednref4" title="" target="_blank">[4]Her father Umar gladly accepted the honour of being the Prophet’s father-in-law;#_edn5" name="_ednref5" title="" target="_blank">[5]but he warned Hafsa never to ask her husband for money. “If you need anything,” he said, “come and ask me,”#_edn6" name="_ednref6" title="" target="_blank">[6]for he was “one of the richest of the Quraysh.”#_edn7" name="_ednref7" title="" target="_blank">[7]

The following month, Muhammad married Umm al-Masakin, a widow in her late twenties. She had plenty of protectors to hand, for she had three brothers and two brothers-in-law living in Medina. Since she was childless, she would not have been much of a burden on the combined resources of these relatives. She died, however, only eight months after marrying Muhammad.#_edn8" name="_ednref8" title="" target="_blank">[8]

The wars continued. Muhammad launched nine more attacks and was placed three more times on the defensive, which cost him the lives of at least 134 more Muslim warriors.#_edn9" name="_ednref9" title="" target="_blank">[9]Nevertheless, by 627 the Muslim community was the whole of Medina, so deaths in battle never exceeded 5% of the total fighting stock.#_edn10" name="_ednref10" title="" target="_blank">[10]Given how frequently women died in childbirth, it is unlikely that this created a gender-imbalance. After Muhammad took over the property of the Nadir tribe in September 625, he was no longer poor,#_edn11" name="_ednref11" title="" target="_blank">[11]so he could afford new wives.

In April 626 Muhammad married Hind. This attractive widow was 28 and had four young children.#_edn12" name="_ednref12" title="" target="_blank">[12]She does not sound poor. Her response to her first husband’s death was, “I shall hire a mourning-party that will be the talk of the town!” as if money were no obstacle.#_edn13" name="_ednref13" title="" target="_blank">[13]She inherited two businesses from her husband, a tannery and half a date-orchard.#_edn14" name="_ednref14" title="" target="_blank">[14]She was not worried about how she would manage these enterprises alone, for she had six slaves to help her.#_edn15" name="_ednref15" title="" target="_blank">[15] She refused marriage proposals from two other suitors and she refused Muhammad twice before accepting him.#_edn16" name="_ednref16" title="" target="_blank">[16]After their marriage, he asked her to tone down her display of gold jewellery and musk, for silver and saffron were more appropriate to a Mother of the Faithful.#_edn17" name="_ednref17" title="" target="_blank">[17]

In March 627 Muhammad married his cousin Zaynab, who was 37 and very alluring to men.#_edn18" name="_ednref18" title="" target="_blank">[18]She was not poor, for she was also a tanner, and her business was doing so well that she gave away all her profits to charity.#_edn19" name="_ednref19" title="" target="_blank">[19]Nor was she alone in the world, for her brother lived next door to Muhammad.#_edn20" name="_ednref20" title="" target="_blank">[20] In fact she was not even single, for she was the wife of Muhammad’s adopted son. Zaynab had no need to find a new husband; rather, her existing husband had to divorce her to enable her marriage to Muhammad. Although this caused quite a scandal around Medina, Muhammad was by this time powerful enough not to care.#_edn21" name="_ednref21" title="" target="_blank">[21]

Two months later, Muhammad married a beautiful war-captive named Rayhana. Her first husband had been one of the 600 men of Qurayza who were beheaded at Muhammad’s order. Therefore Rayhana was only a widow because Muhammad had killed her husband; and she was only poor because Muhammad had appropriated her property. In fact Rayhana did not need to remarry to survive, for she was only a Quraziya by marriage; her blood-relations were the Nadir.#_edn22" name="_ednref22" title="" target="_blank">[22] The Nadir tribe were desperately searching the Arabian slave-markets for their Qurazi friends, and they bought back as many of the women and children as they found there.#_edn23" name="_ednref23" title="" target="_blank">[23] Of course they would have bought Rayhana, who was Nadir-born, if Muhammad had been willing to sell her. But he had already selected her for himself.#_edn24" name="_ednref24" title="" target="_blank">[24]

It is likely that the influx of female slaves from 627 onward changed the gender-balance of Medina. There was now some justification for the claim that these “excess women” were unable to marry monogamously. Let us see if the widows whom Muhammad married after this date were the ones who would have otherwise been left destitute.

The sixth widow whom Muhammad married in Medina was Juwayriya. Twenty years old and fabulously beautiful, she was only a widow because the Muslim raiders had killed her husband in battle. Her father, the tribal chief, was a wealthy man. He was willing and able to pay the hefty ransom set on his daughter’s head so that he could bring her home. It was Muhammad who, after accepting this payment, insisted that Juwayriya had already agreed to marry him. The dower that he paid his bride was only worth one-ninth of the ransom that he had just received from her father.#_edn25" name="_ednref25" title="" target="_blank">[25]

A few weeks later, Muhammad proposed to Ramla, an attractive widow of 34.#_edn26" name="_ednref26" title="" target="_blank">[26]She was one of the Muslims who had emigrated to Ethiopia, where they made a comfortable living selling leather. It is possible that Ramla was not herself a tanner and that the death of her husband left her unable to continue his business. However, the successful Muslim community included two of her first cousins, so they had a duty to care for her. If she had wanted to remarry, the community boasted twelve single men (including one of the cousins) and no other single women under 65, so Ramla had her choice of suitors without needing to resort to polygamy. These Muslims were under the direct protection of the Emperor of Ethiopia, who not only underwrote Ramla’s dower but carelessly added an extra zero to the usual amount.#_edn27" name="_ednref27" title="" target="_blank">[27]It does not sound as if he would have left her to starve.

If Muhammad had wanted to open his home to poor widows exiled in Ethiopia, perhaps he should have proposed to the other two widows, who were elderly and of the peasant class.#_edn28" name="_ednref28" title="" target="_blank">[28]However, he never mentioned them. Muhammad’s real motive for marrying Ramla seems to have been political. She was the daughter of his arch-enemy, Abu Sufyan, so her marriage, a public exhibition of her loyalties, was a snub to him.

At the same time, Muhammad married Safiya, whom he captured in his war against Khaybar. She was 16 years old and of dazzling beauty. She was only a widow because Muhammad had murdered her husband, and she was only poor because Muhammad had appropriated her family’s wealth for himself. Nevertheless, her poverty had not reached the level of absolute destitution, for many of her relatives were still alive in Khaybar. They had persuaded Muhammad to let them remain on the land and farm the dates in exchange for giving him half the revenues.#_edn29" name="_ednref29" title="" target="_blank">[29]If Safiya had remained in Khaybar, she too could have farmed dates.

Muhammad’s extended family lived off the wealth of Khaybar for the rest of their lives. Since Safiya was the First Lady of the ruling family of Khaybar,#_edn30" name="_ednref30" title="" target="_blank">[30]there was a very real sense in which Muhammad’s whole clan was living at her expense. Muhammad was not providing for Safiya; it was she who provided for him.

These were the eight women whom Muhammad married in Medina. Only one part of our lead prediction has been proved correct: they were all matrons. None was poor. None lacked a male protector. None was elderly. We must look for some other reason why Muhammad chose to marry them. It may well be relevant that he married the first two when there was a shortage of women while the other six were noted for their beauty.

Another aspect of our lead prediction is wrong: this is not the end of the list of Muhammad’s wives. In the last four years of his life, eight more women entered his household. So this analysis is to be continued.

One question we have not addressed here is why all these women agreed to marry Muhammad. There are some answers to that question in my book Unveiled.


#_ednref2" name="_edn2" title="" target="_blank">[2] Ibn Ishaq 281-364, 369, 659-660.
#_ednref3" name="_edn3" title="" target="_blank">[3] Muslim 42:7083, 7084, 7085, 7086, 7087, 7089, 7092, 7093, 7097, 7098.
#_ednref4" name="_edn4" title="" target="_blank">[4] Ibn Saad 8:56, 58.
#_ednref5" name="_edn5" title="" target="_blank">[5] Bukhari 5:59:342.
#_ednref6" name="_edn6" title="" target="_blank">[6] Bukhari 7:62:119.
#_ednref7" name="_edn7" title="" target="_blank">[7] Ibn Ishaq 216.
#_ednref8" name="_edn8" title="" target="_blank">[8] Ibn Ishaq 218. Ibn Saad 8:82.
#_ednref9" name="_edn9" title="" target="_blank">[9] Ibn Ishaq 370-482, 659-662, 666, 673-675. Ibn Saad 2:42-76, 80-96, 115-117.
#_ednref10" name="_edn10" title="" target="_blank">[10] Waqidi 256.
#_ednref11" name="_edn11" title="" target="_blank">[11] Ibn Ishaq 438.
#_ednref12" name="_edn12" title="" target="_blank">[12] Ibn Saad 8:61, 66-67.
#_ednref13" name="_edn13" title="" target="_blank">[13] Muslim 4:2007.
#_ednref14" name="_edn14" title="" target="_blank">[14] Waqidi 186-187. Ibn Kathir 3:123.
#_ednref15" name="_edn15" title="" target="_blank">[15] Malik 37:6:5. Bukhari 5:59:613; 7:62:162; 7:72:775. Bukhari, Mufrad 9:184. Muslim 26:5415, 5416; 32:6186. Abu Dawud 29:3921. Tirmidhi 1:2:381. Tabari 9:145. Ibn Kathir 4:480.
#_ednref16" name="_edn16" title="" target="_blank">[16] Ibn Saad 8:61-65.
#_ednref17" name="_edn17" title="" target="_blank">[17] Ibn Hanbal 6:26681 (Cairo).
#_ednref18" name="_edn18" title="" target="_blank">[18] Tabari 39:9, 180-182.
#_ednref19" name="_edn19" title="" target="_blank">[19] Ibn Saad 8:74, 77.
#_ednref20" name="_edn20" title="" target="_blank">[20] Tabari 39:168.
#_ednref21" name="_edn21" title="" target="_blank">[21]Tabari 39:9, 180-182.
#_ednref22" name="_edn22" title="" target="_blank">[22] Ibn Ishaq 463-468. Tabari 39:164-165.
#_ednref23" name="_edn23" title="" target="_blank">[23]Waqidi 257.
#_ednref24" name="_edn24" title="" target="_blank">[24] Ibn Ishaq 466. Waqidi 255-256.
#_ednref25" name="_edn25" title="" target="_blank">[25] Ibn Ishaq 490, 493. Ibn Hisham #739, 918. Tabari 39 :182-184.
#_ednref26" name="_edn26" title="" target="_blank">[26] Ibn Saad 8:68-69. Muslim 31:6095. Tabari 9:133. Ibn Hajar, Isaba7:11185.
#_ednref27" name="_edn27" title="" target="_blank">[27] Ibn Ishaq 146, 148, 527-529. Ibn Saad 8:68-69. Tabari 6:98; 9:133.
#_ednref28" name="_edn28" title="" target="_blank">[28] Ibn Ishaq 179, 526-528
#_ednref29" name="_edn29" title="" target="_blank">[29] Ibn Ishaq 514-515, 521-523.Waqidi 349. Ibn Saad 8:88, 89, 90. Muslim 8:3329. Tabari 39:184.
#_ednref30" name="_edn30" title="" target="_blank">[30] Ishaq 437-438. Bukhari 1:8:367.
Muhammad and the Poor Widows
Monday, November 27, 2017 10:21 PM

by Tara MacArthur

Part 1
We say that the bent of thy Master’s life doth not answer to the boast that he “was sent a Mercy and Blessing to the human race.” On the contrary, his chief object and concern was to take beautiful women to wife; to attack surrounding tribes, slay and plunder them, and carry off their females for concubines. His chief delights were, by his own confession, sweet scents and women—strange proofs these of the prophetic claim!#_edn1" name="_ednref1" title="" target="_blank">[1]
With these words, a ninth-century Christian decried the character of Muhammad. A thousand years later, another Christian expressed similar disdain for Muhammad’s unchastity, for he
gratified the passion for fresh espousals, which was becoming a characteristic feature of his advancing years … The numerous marriages of Mahomet failed to confine his inclinations within the ample circuit of his harem. Rather its multiplied attractions weakened restraint, and stimulated desire after new and varied charms.#_edn2" name="_ednref2" title="" target="_blank">[2]
By this time, the Christian missionaries had made inroads to the Muslim world, and Muslims could no longer ignore Christian criticisms of their Prophet.
Some critics of Islam … have reviled the Prophet as a self-indulgent libertine. They have accused him of character failings which are hardly compatible with being of average virtue, let alone with being a prophet and God’s last Messenger and the best model for all mankind to follow.#_edn3" name="_ednref3" title="" target="_blank">[3]
The Muslims had to discover a defence of Muhammad’s polygamy that sounded reasonable to Christian ears. By far the most popular argument was that polygamy provided for poor widows.
With the solitary exception of A’ishah, the women whom the Rasool married were all elderly widows, homeless and friendless … As the war continued, the small community had neither the time nor the resources to provide home and subsistence to the widows and orphans.#_edn4" name="_ednref4" title="" target="_blank">[4]
He had married many of them in order to give them protection and safeguard their dignity. It was hoped that the Muslims would follow his example and provide protection to aged women, widows and their orphaned children …#_edn5" name="_ednref5" title="" target="_blank">[5]
This explanation has been accepted without much question even by Western historians.
… many were political marriages to cement alliances. Others were marriages to the widows of his companions who had fallen in combat and were in need of protection.#_edn6" name="_ednref6" title="" target="_blank">[6]
But is it true? Although everyone today “knows” that Muhammad married poor widows to rescue them from a life of destitution, it is a relatively new idea. Muhammad himself was apparently unaware of his own generosity, for his idea of how to choose a wife was:
A woman is married for four things: her wealth, her family status, her beauty and her religion. So you should marry the religious woman (otherwise) you will be a loser.#_edn7" name="_ednref7" title="" target="_blank">[7]
So were his wives poor widows, or did he marry them for some other reason? We will pass over his first wife Khadija, “a merchant of dignity and wealth”;#_edn8" name="_ednref8" title="" target="_blank">[8]since their marriage was monogamous,#_edn9" name="_ednref9" title="" target="_blank">[9]Khadija is not relevant to the question of polygamy.

Khadija died in April 620.#_edn10" name="_ednref10" title="" target="_blank">[10]At that time, the Muslims had not fought a single battle, so no men had died in the war; and the only Muslim who had died in the persecution had been a woman.#_edn11" name="_ednref11" title="" target="_blank">[11]Further, the lists of early Muslim converts consistently name far more men than women.#_edn12" name="_ednref12" title="" target="_blank">[12]It is very unlikely that there were not enough Muslim men to marry the available women. Rather, it seems that there were still not enough women to go around the men even some years after the Muslims fled to Medina.#_edn13" name="_ednref13" title="" target="_blank">[13]Muhammad’s problem in 620 was not how he might provide for a few widows but whether there were any available Muslim women at all.

At that time Muhammad was not an eligible bridegroom. He was not well placed to care for new family members, for he had no money of his own and Khadija had apparently died bankrupt.#_edn14" name="_ednref14" title="" target="_blank">[14]He was unpopular around Mecca.#_edn15" name="_ednref15" title="" target="_blank">[15]The only asset that he offered a woman was his divine status as the Prophet of Allah.

Yet within three weeks of Khadija’s death, Muhammad abandoned monogamy. He proposed to two women on the same day.#_edn16" name="_ednref16" title="" target="_blank">[16]

Neither of his brides needed rescuing. The first, Aïsha, was only a little girl.#_edn17" name="_ednref17" title="" target="_blank">[17]Her father, Abu Bakr, was a “a man of means,”#_edn18" name="_ednref18" title="" target="_blank">[18]“a merchant of high character.”#_edn19" name="_ednref19" title="" target="_blank">[19]He had to break Aïsha’s existing engagement to another man before he could marry her off to Muhammad.#_edn20" name="_ednref20" title="" target="_blank">[20]

The other bride, Saowda, was newly widowed. Her father gave her a free choice to accept or reject Muhammad’s proposal; if she had refused, she could have continued living in her father’s house. When she accepted, her brother doused his head with dust;#_edn21" name="_ednref21" title="" target="_blank">[21]apparently he would have rather paid his sister’s expenses for the rest of her life than seen her married to his enemy. Besides having a family, Saowda was a tanner and perfume-mixer who was quite able to support herself with her labours.#_edn22" name="_ednref22" title="" target="_blank">[22]In fact, we wonder whether Muhammad kept her or she kept him.

Neither Saowda nor Aïsha “needed” to marry Muhammad for economic reasons. Therefore we must ask, not only why he married both of them, but why he bothered to marry either of them.

The suggestion that he wanted Saowda as a housekeeper is weak, for Muhammad’s house was already being kept by his middle-aged daughter-in-law and two teenaged daughters.#_edn23" name="_ednref23" title="" target="_blank">[23]

The suggestion that he married Aïsha to strengthen his bond with her father Abu Bakr only raises the question: why did he not marry her sister Asma? Asma was about twenty years old#_edn24" name="_ednref24" title="" target="_blank">[24]and not engaged to anyone. She could have strengthened the bond with Abu Bakr, moved in immediately to run the household and (as her future proved) given birth to healthy sons.#_edn25" name="_ednref25" title="" target="_blank">[25]Muhammad would not have needed to marry Saowda or Aïsha if he had chosen Asma.

A possibly relevant observation here is that Asma and Saowda were both morbidly obese.#_edn26" name="_ednref26" title="" target="_blank">[26]It looks suspiciously as if Muhammad really only wanted Aïsha, who was pretty;#_edn27" name="_ednref27" title="" target="_blank">[27]but, knowing she was too young to move in immediately, he wanted an extra woman for the meantime. Since he could not marry two sisters at once,#_edn28" name="_ednref28" title="" target="_blank">[28]marrying Asma would mean never marrying Aïsha, so he chose Saowda. He would tolerate the fat woman as his housekeeper and bedfellow until Aïsha reached puberty. Then Aïsha would become his companion, and what might happen to Saowda afterwards was not his present concern.

So it was. Muhammad married Saowda immediately.#_edn29" name="_ednref29" title="" target="_blank">[29] He consummated his marriage with Aïsha three years later.#_edn30" name="_ednref30" title="" target="_blank">[30]Why he did not bother waiting until Aïsha hit menarche,#_edn31" name="_ednref31" title="" target="_blank">[31]and why he subsequently considered divorcing Saowda,#_edn32" name="_ednref32" title="" target="_blank">[32]are topics for another day. You can find the answers to these questions in my book Unveiled.




#_ednref2" name="_edn2" title="" target="_blank">[2] Muir, W. (1861).The Life of Mahomet, Vol. 3, pp. 151, 228. London: Smith, Elder, & Co.
#_ednref3" name="_edn3" title="" target="_blank">[3] Gulen, F. “The Prophets reasons for his various marriages.” Jannah: Islam the Path to Eternal Peace.
#_ednref6" name="_edn6" title="" target="_blank">[6] Esposito, J. L. (1988). Islam: The Straight Path, pp.19-20. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
#_ednref7" name="_edn7" title="" target="_blank">[7] Bukhari 7:62:27.
#_ednref8" name="_edn8" title="" target="_blank">[8] Ibn Ishaq 82.
#_ednref9" name="_edn9" title="" target="_blank">[9] Tabari 9:128
#_ednref10" name="_edn10" title="" target="_blank">[10] Ibn Saad 8:12.
#_ednref11" name="_edn11" title="" target="_blank">[11] Ibn Ishaq 145.
#_ednref12" name="_edn12" title="" target="_blank">[12] E.g., Ibn Ishaq 115-117, 146-148, 214-218. E.g., Suyuti 112.
#_ednref13" name="_edn13" title="" target="_blank">[13] For the apparent difficulty in finding a wife, see Quran 4:25 (which belongs to the year 625) and Bukhari 1:1:1; 1:2:51. For a concession to this problem, Ishaq 509-510 shows that Muslim men were allowed to marry polytheistic women until as late as 628.
#_ednref14" name="_edn14" title="" target="_blank">[14] Ibn Ishaq 160. Ibn Hanbal 6:24908 (Cairo). Ibn Saad 1:241.
#_ednref15" name="_edn15" title="" target="_blank">[15] Ibn Ishaq 161, 191. Ibn Saad 1:232, 243-244.
#_ednref16" name="_edn16" title="" target="_blank">[16] Tabari 9:129.
#_ednref17" name="_edn17" title="" target="_blank">[17] Tabari 39:171.
#_ednref18" name="_edn18" title="" target="_blank">[18] Ibn Ishaq 223.
#_ednref19" name="_edn19" title="" target="_blank">[19] Ibn Ishaq 114.
#_ednref20" name="_edn20" title="" target="_blank">[20] Tabari 9:129-130.
#_ednref21" name="_edn21" title="" target="_blank">[21] Tabari 9 :130.
#_ednref22" name="_edn22" title="" target="_blank">[22] Nasaï 4:4245. Tirmidhi #3108.
#_ednref23" name="_edn23" title="" target="_blank">[23] Ibn Saad 8:13, 26, 157.
#_ednref24" name="_edn24" title="" target="_blank">[24] Asma’s age is disputed. Ibn Hajar’s Isaba 7:1098 implies she was born in 595; Ibn Asakir 8:69 suggests 600; Dhahabi 2:143 gives a range between 595 and 601.
#_ednref25" name="_edn25" title="" target="_blank">[25] Ibn Saad 8:176.
#_ednref26" name="_edn26" title="" target="_blank">[26] Bukhari 6:60:318. Dhahabi 2:143.
#_ednref27" name="_edn27" title="" target="_blank">[27] Ibn Ishaq 495. Bukhari 3:48:829; 5:59:462; 6:60:435; 7:62:145.
#_ednref28" name="_edn28" title="" target="_blank">[28] Quran 4:23.
#_ednref29" name="_edn29" title="" target="_blank">[29] Tabari 39:170
#_ednref30" name="_edn30" title="" target="_blank">[30] Ibn Hisham #918. Ibn Saad 8:44. Bukhari 7:62:88, 90. Muslim 8:3309, 3310, 3311. Abu Dawud 41:4915, 4917. Ibn Maja 3:9:1877. Tabari 9:130-131.
#_ednref31" name="_edn31" title="" target="_blank">[31] Bukhari 8:73:151.
#_ednref32" name="_edn32" title="" target="_blank">[32] Ibn Saad 8:40.
Only 1 Quran? Hafs and Doori Quran Variants
Tuesday, November 14, 2017 2:06 AM


In this video, Ishmael demonstrates what many apologists who have studied Islam have been saying for decades. The Qur'an has many versions with different readings. Muslims make the same worn out argument that the Qur'an has never been changed, that it has remained the same for 1400 years since the time of Muhammad. The main weakness in this argument, is that the textual evidence that comes from Islam itself will not support such a claim. What is encouraging about Ishmael, who is a former Muslim, is that he not only shows the differences in the English translations of the Qur'an, but he also reads Arabic and shows the differences in the Arabic texts of two Qur'an versions: the Hafs and the Doori versions. Please pray for Ishmael as he is doing tremendous work in this area and continues to shed the light of Christ to our Muslim friends. While we oppose the ideology of Islam, which is unbiblical and dangerous, we need to show love to Muslims. I have taken the word ISLAM to mean "I Sincerely Love All Muslims". The Lord Jesus Christ commands us to love, even our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).
Answering Islam 11: Where Does the Bible Call Jesus the "Son of God"?
Tuesday, November 7, 2017 7:50 PM

Here's Episode 11 of our "Answering Islam" series, where I answer the question: "Where does the Bible call Jesus the 'Son of God'?" For the rest of the series, click on the playlist.


Here's the full text of the video:

Where Does the Bible Call Jesus the Son of God?

Christians and Muslims disagree about the identity of Jesus. Christians claim that Jesus is the divine Son of God, but the Qur’an denies this. In Surah 9, verse 30, Allah maintains:
The Jews say, “Ezra is the son of Allah”; and the Christians say, “The Messiah is the son of Allah.” These are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before. May Allah destroy them; how they are turned away!
According to this verse, when Christians call Jesus the Son of God, we’re imitating “those who disbelieved before.” We’re imitating the pagans.

But this is just nonsense, because Jesus was identified as the Son of God by an unparalleled cloud of witnesses. Let’s consider a few of these witnesses.

Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. And in Matthew 3, when Jesus comes out of the water, the Spirit of God descends as a dove and a voice out of the heavens declares, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

A voice out of the heavens says, “This is My beloved Son,” which means that the voice was the voice of the Father. But how do we know whom the Father was talking about? How do we know he wasn’t talking about John the Baptist or someone else? Well, the Holy Spirit descended from heaven and landed on Jesus. Notice: the Father and the Holy Spirit together identify Jesus as the Son of God.  

And Jesus repeatedly identifies himself as the Son of God. At his trial, for instance, in Mark 14, the high priest asks him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus answers, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

So, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in complete agreement that Jesus is the Son of God.

In Luke 1, the Angel Gabriel says to Mary,
Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.
Jesus is to be called “Son of the Most High,” according to Gabriel, chief spokesman of the angels.

What about the prophets? John the Baptist was a prophet, according to both Christianity and Islam. In John 1, he tells his followers about Jesus and says, “I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”

That’s the testimony of the prophets. How about Jesus’ apostles?

At the end of John 1, the Apostle Nathanael says to Jesus, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.”

In Matthew 16, Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter answers, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Now if Jesus were just a prophet, this would have been a really good time to rebuke Peter. Instead, Jesus says to him, “Blessed are you . . . because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”

In Matthew 14, Jesus walks on water during a storm. After stepping into the boat, the wind stops, and the disciples bow down and worship him, crying out, “You are certainly God’s Son.”

But it’s not just his male followers who call him the Son of God. In John 11, Lazarus dies, and Martha, the sister of Lazarus, meets Jesus on his way to raise Lazarus from the dead. We read:
Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”
Martha and the Apostles and John the Baptist were all Jews. But even some of the Romans called Jesus the Son of God. When Jesus died by crucifixion, there was an earthquake, and the Roman centurion and those who were with him shouted, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

Interestingly, demons would call Jesus the Son of God, as he was casting them out of people.  

Now think about the diversity of witnesses we have. The Father identifies Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus identifies himself as the Son of God. The Holy Spirit identifies Jesus as the Son of God. The Angel Gabriel identifies Jesus as the Son of God. The prophet John the Baptist identifies Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus’ Apostles identify him as the Son of God. Martha identifies him as the Son of God. The Romans identify him as the Son of God. Demons identify him as the Son of God.

Everyone who could possibly identify Jesus as the Son of God identifies him as the Son of God. Six hundred years later, Muhammad comes along and tells his followers that Jesus was not the Son of God. And this proves that Muhammad was a false prophet.
Answering Islam 10: How Does the Quran View Women?
Tuesday, November 7, 2017 3:16 AM

Here's Episode 10 of our "Answering Islam" series, where I answer the question: "How does the Qur'an view women?" For the rest of the series, click on the playlist.


Here's the full text of the video:

How Does the Qur’an View Women?

Individual Muslim men might be very loving towards their wives. My friend Nabeel’s parents had a beautiful relationship, and so do many other Muslim couples. But there’s definitely a problem in the Muslim world.  

In 2009, the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development released a report on Gender Equality and Social Institutions. They rated countries around the world based on the opportunities women have for education and employment, laws to protect women from physical violence, the percentage of women who are married and/or divorced by age 16, and so on. And they found that eleven of the twelve countries with the highest levels of discrimination against women were Muslim-majority countries.

A similar study in 2014, conducted by the World Economic Forum, using their own criteria, concluded that 19 of the 20 worst countries in the world, in terms of the gender gap between men and women, were Muslim-majority countries.

When you have a problem like this, you have to ask, “Why do so many Muslim countries have the same problem—namely, high levels of discrimination against women?” And what these countries have in common is their belief in the Qur’an.

Let’s look at three verses so we can see the source of the problem.

Surah 2, verse 282 of the Qur’an is a long verse dealing with contracts. But there’s an interesting part in the middle of the verse that says:
And get two witnesses out of your own men. And if there are not two men (available), then a man and two women, such as you agree for witnesses, so that if one of them (one of the two women) errs, the other can remind her.
The Qur’an says that, if two men aren’t available as witnesses, then get a man and two women. Here we find the Islamic principle that the testimony of a woman is worth half the testimony of a man. Why is this? Muhammad explains in Sahih al-Bukhari, where he says that the testimony of a woman is only half as reliable as a man’s testimony because women are intellectually deficient. They’re stupid.

This view of the reliability of a woman’s testimony has made it enormously difficult for Muslim women to testify against men in court. According to the New York Times, human rights workers have noted that as many as half of the women who report being raped in Pakistan are charged with adultery.

Another disturbing verses is Surah 2, verse 223, where Allah tells Muslim men:
Your wives are a tilth for you; so go to your tilth when or how you will . . .
We don’t use the word “tilth” much nowadays. A “tilth” is a patch of ground that you plow so you can sow your seed. The Qur’an says that women are a tilth that you approach whenever and however you want.  

The historical background of this verse, according to Sunan Abu Dawud, is that when Muslims moved to Medina, they began marrying women from Medina, and the women of Medina didn’t want to have sex in certain positions. One woman told her husband not to come near her if he wanted sex in these positions. She said, “Stay away from me if you want me to do that.” The issue was brought to Muhammad, and Allah’s response was Surah 2, verse 223: “She’s your tilth, your field for sowing your seed; plow her however you want.” Notice, the wife has no right to refuse her husband’s sexual desires.

Let’s consider one more verse. Some women aren’t as quick to obey their husbands as Allah and Muhammad demand, so what are Muslim men supposed to do about rebellious wives? Allah answers in Surah 4, verse 34:
Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom you fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them.
If your wife doesn’t obey you, you warn her, banish her to a separate bed, and beat her until she does what you say.  

A study by Human Rights Watch reports that more than 85% of Afghan women are victims of physical, sexual, or psychological violence or forced marriage, and that more than 60 percent are victims of multiple forms of violence? Why? Because of the Qur’an.

According to Allah and Muhammad, women are stupid; they’re the property of men and have to submit themselves fully to their husbands’ sexual whims; those who don’t are to be beaten into submission. Numerous studies show the real-world impact of these teachings. And yet we’re told, by politicians, reporters, and Muslim groups that the discrimination against women in Muslim countries has nothing to do with Islam. But as long as people refuse to confront the actual problem, women in Muslim countries will continue to suffer.
Answering Islam 9: Is the Qur'an Good for the 21st Century?
Monday, November 6, 2017 2:40 AM

Here's Episode 9 of our "Answering Islam" series, where I answer the question: "Is the Qur'an good for the 21st Century?" For the rest of the series, click on the playlist.


Here's the full text of the video:

Is the Quran Good for the 21st Century?

One of the biggest problems in Islam is that, according to the Qur’an (Chapter 33, verse 21), Muhammad is the pattern of conduct for Muslims. Muhammad had sex with a nine-year-old girl. He bought, sold, and traded slaves. He married the divorced wife of his own adopted son. He ordered his followers to assassinate people for making fun of him. He beat his wives. He had sex with his slave-girls. And he said that he had been commanded to fight non-Muslims, simply for being non-Muslims. This is not someone that people should be imitating, but the Qur’an tells Muslims to imitate Muhammad. So the Qur’an is bad for the 21st century just for making Muhammad a role model.

But it gets worse when we look at specific teachings in the Qur’an.

According to the Qur’an, Muslims are the best people in the world. In Surah 3, Verse 110, Allah says to Muslims:
You are the best of peoples ever raised up for mankind . . .
Well, what about Jews, Christians, and other non-Muslims? Surah 98, Verse 6:
Verily, those who disbelieve (in the religion of Islam, the Qur'an and Prophet Muhammad) from among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) and Al-Mushrikun (those are idolaters) will abide in the Fire of Hell. They are the worst of creatures.
Non-Muslims are the worst of creatures. Muslims are the best of peoples. The last thing we need in the 21st century is this kind of division. Here are the best people (the one’s who imitate Muhammad) and here are all the other people, and they’re the worst creatures in the world. They’re lower than cattle.

Not surprisingly, given the inferiority of Jews and Christians in the Qur’an, Muslims aren’t supposed to be friends with us. As we read in Surah 5, Verse 51:
O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other.
This doesn’t mean that Muslims are simply to avoid us. Muslims are commanded to actively persecute unbelievers. Surah 48, Verse 29 declares:
Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah, and those who are with him are severe against disbelievers, and merciful among themselves.
Those who are with Muhammad (i.e., Muslims) are severe against whom? Unbelievers. They’re merciful to whom? Only to their fellow Muslims.

Similarly, in Surah 9, Verse 123 Allah commands Muslims:
O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness.
Muslims are specifically commanded to fight Jews and Christians (the “People of the Book”) in Surah 9, Verse 29. Allah commands his followers:
Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the Religion of Truth, from among the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizyah with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
Notice that every criterion for fighting us in this verse has to do with our religious beliefs or practices. Muslims are commanded to fight us until we pay them not to fight us.

So the Qur’an is very bad for non-Muslims. We are to be violently subjugated in the name of Allah.  

But the Qur’an is also bad for Muslims themselves, and I don’t just mean that it’s bad for them because it keeps them from knowing and understanding the truth about Jesus. It’s bad for them because Muslims often get killed by their fellow Muslims, and this is because the Qur’an commands Muslims not only to fight against unbelievers, but also to fight against hypocrites.

Surah 9, verse 73, says:
O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them.
The word for “strive hard” here is a form of the word “jihad.” Muslims are commanded to wage jihad against hypocrites—Muslims who claim to follow Muhammad but aren’t really following him.

It seems like every few days we hear about Sunnis blowing up Shias, or Shias blowing up Sunnis. And every time, world leaders say, “You see, the terrorists aren’t real Muslims, because they’re killing their fellow Muslims. And Muslims aren’t allowed to kill their fellow Muslims.” Now it’s true that Muslims aren’t supposed to wage jihad against true Muslims, but we’ve already seen that the Qur’an commands them to wage jihad against hypocrites. And that’s what’s going on when Muslim groups launch terrorist attacks against each other. Jihadis don’t kill Muslims they regard as devout followers of Muhammad. They kill Muslims they regard as hypocrites. But no matter what Muslim group you’re in, there are always going to be other Muslim groups calling you a hypocrite, so Islam isn’t even safe for Muslims.

It’s not good for Muslims. It’s not good for non-Muslims. Muhammad isn’t a good role model. The Qur’an definitely isn’t a good book for the 21st century.
Zakir Naik, Muhammad, and the Comforter: An Examination of John 14:16
Sunday, November 5, 2017 8:44 PM

One of Dr. Zakir Naik's favorite topics is "Muhammad in the Bible." Dr. Naik claims that when Jesus spoke about the "Comforter" in John 14:16, he was referring to Muhammad. But there's a problem for Dr. Naik here. Jesus said, in John 16:7, that if he goes away, he will send the Comforter. So Jesus is the one who sends the Comforter. According to Islam, however, Muhammad was sent by Allah. So if Jesus sends the Comforter, and Allah sends Muhammad, and the Comforter is Muhammad, Jesus must be Allah!

Answering Islam 8: Are There Scientific Mistakes in the Qur'an?
Saturday, November 4, 2017 4:09 AM

Here's Episode 8 of our "Answering Islam" series, where I answer the question: "Are there scientific mistakes in the Qur'an?" For the rest of the series, click on the playlist.


Here's the full text of the video:

Are There Scientific Mistakes in the Quran?

One of the most popular arguments for Islam is what we might call the “Argument from Scientific Accuracy.” Muslim apologists claim that the Qur’an contains numerous scientific insights that couldn’t have been known by Muhammad apart from divine revelation and that were only verified centuries later. Now I’ve debated Muslims on this argument, and I find it very strange, because the Qur’an is a scientific disaster. Everything Muhammad could get wrong, he got wrong.

The Qur'an claims that semen is formed between the backbone and ribs (Surah 86, verses 6-7), that the earth is flat (Surah 88, verse 20), that there are seven earths (surah 65, verse 12), that the sun and the moon chase each other around the earth (surah 36, verses 38-40), that human embryos are blood-clots (surah 22, verse 5), that the sky would fall on the earth if Allah didn't hold it up (surah 22, verse 65), and that stars are missiles that Allah uses to shoot demons who try to sneak into heaven (surah 37, verses 6-10, and surah 67, verse 5).

But I don’t want people to think I’m making things up, so let’s read a few verses. Passages about stars being missiles are interesting. Surah 67, verse 5:
And indeed We have adorned the nearest heaven with lamps [lamps are the stars], and We have made such lamps (as) missiles to drive away the Shayatin (devils), and have prepared for them the torment of the blazing Fire.
Stars are missiles that drive away demons. How does this work? Surah 37, verses 6-10:
Verily! We have adorned the nearest heaven with the stars (for beauty). And to guard against every rebellious devil. They cannot listen to the higher group (angels) for they are pelted from every side. Outcast, and theirs is a constant (or painful) torment. Except such as snatch away something by stealing and they are pursued by a flaming fire of piercing brightness.
Demons who sneak into heaven to steal some information are “pursued by a flaming fire of piercing brightness.” Muhammad explained in the Hadith that this refers to shooting stars. When you see a shooting star, it’s because Allah or the angels caught a demon trying to steal something and hurled a star at the demon.

Now this is silly on multiple levels. Shooting stars aren’t really stars. They’re rocks that burn up when they enter the earth’s atmosphere. And how many Muslims really believe that when a rock hits the earth’s atmosphere, it’s to stop a demon from getting away with valuable information? Muslims today know more about stars than the author of the Qur’an did.

Let’s look at another passage. Surah 18, verses 83 to 86:
And they ask you about Dhul-Qarnain. Say: “I shall recite to you something of his story.” Verily, We established him in the earth, and We gave him the means of everything. So he followed a way. Until, when he reached the setting place of the sun, he found it setting in a spring of black muddy (or hot) water. And he found near it a people.
Dhul-Qarnain was apparently Alexander the Great. But whoever he was, the Qur’an says that he traveled so far West, he found the place where the sun sets. The sun sets in a muddy or warm pool.

Modern Muslims are embarrassed by this passage, so they say that what it really means is that Dhul-Qarnain saw the sun’s reflection in a pool, and it appeared to him as if the sun was setting in the pool. This obviously isn’t what the text says. But it’s important to note that Muslims who want to explain the passage this way are claiming to understand the Qur’an better than Muhammad, because Muhammad himself claimed that the sun sets in a pool. Let’s read Sunan Abu Dawud 4002. This is a sahih narration.
It was narrated that Abu Dharr said: “I was riding behind the Messenger of Allah while he was on a donkey, and the sun was setting. He said: ‘Do you know where this (sun) sets?’ I said: ‘Allah and his Messenger know best.’ He said: ‘It sets in a spring of water.’”
Notice, this hadith doesn’t say anything about Dhul-Qarnain, so it’s not telling us about what he saw. This is Muhammad telling one of his companions where the sun goes when it sets, and Muhammad says that it sets in a pool. So the obvious meaning of the Qur’an is confirmed by Muhammad, and Muhammad and the Qur’an are simply wrong.

When we put the Quran’s scientific claims together with the scientific claims in the hadith, we get a really silly picture of the universe. Muhammad believed that there are seven earths, all of them flat, stacked on top of each other like pancakes, except with a long distance between them. Out on the edge of the top earth, which is our earth, is a pool where the sun sets. There are also seven heavens above the earths, and they’re like domes that will fall on us if Allah doesn’t hold them up. In the lowest heaven are the stars, which Allah uses to hurl at demons. And all of this is sandwiched between a giant fish at the bottom and eight giant goats on top. What did Muhammad get right?

Muhammad’s view of human reproduction is just as bad. According to Muhammad, semen forms between the backbone and ribs (that’s wrong), then it joins with the female semen (wrong), and whichever parent’s semen is discharged first determines which parent the child will resemble (wrong). The child spends forty days as a drop of sperm (wrong). Then the child spends another forty days as a clot of blood (wrong). Then the child becomes a lump (wrong). Then the child becomes bones (wrong). Then the bones are wrapped with flesh (wrong). After the final shape is determined, Allah finally decides whether the child will be male or female (wrong).  

So here again, what did Muhammad get right? If this is the greatest evidence for the prophethood of Muhammad, we can only wonder why anyone believes in Islam.
Allahu Akbar! Muhammad's War Cry
Friday, November 3, 2017 6:18 AM

"Allahu Akbar" is an Arabic phrase that means "Allah is greater." In Islam, the expression signifies that Allah is greater than anything else, especially the gods of unbelievers. Muhammad himself would shout "Allahu Akbar" when attacking non-Muslims, including the Jews of Khaybar. In this video, I respond to attempts by CNN, the Huffington Post, and the New York Times to ignore the violent history of the phrase.

Answering Islam 7: Are There Historical Mistakes in the Qur'an?
Wednesday, November 1, 2017 11:38 PM

Here's Episode 7 of our "Answering Islam" series, where I answer the question: "Are there historical mistakes in the Qur'an?" For the rest of the series, click on the playlist.


Here's the full text of the video:

Are There Historical Mistakes in the Quran?

During the time of Muhammad, lots of stories were circulating in Arabia. Some of these stories were true, and some were false. Historians can often separate true stories from false stories by examining the evidence. They use the historical method. They ask, “What are our earliest sources for this story? Do we have multiple sources or just one? How reliable are these sources?” Things like that. But Muhammad didn’t know anything about historical investigation, and so he just couldn’t tell the difference between true stories and false stories. Let me give you a few examples to show you what I mean.

In Surah 18, Allah tells us that Alexander the Great traveled so far West, he found the place where the sun sets. Not only can I guarantee you that Alexander the Great never found the place where the sun sets, we know that this story was a popular story during Muhammad’s lifetime. The story was even circulating in a Syriac work titled “The Glorious Deeds of Alexander” towards the end of Muhammad’s life.

Earlier in Surah 18, we read about the “Companions of the Cave”—a group of people who supposedly went to sleep in a cave and woke up three hundred years later. This myth goes back to Bishop Stephen of Ephesus around the middle of the fifth century.

According to Surah 19, Jesus began preaching as soon as he came out of Mary’s womb. This story comes from the sixth-century Arabic Infancy Gospel.

The story of a bird teaching Cain how to bury his brother in Surah 5 comes from Mishnah Sanhedrin. The legend of Mary giving birth under a palm tree in Surah 19 comes from an apocryphal work called the History of the Nativity of Mary and the Savior’s Infancy, written in the early 600s. The account of Jesus giving life to clay birds in Surah 5 comes from a second-century work called the Infancy Gospel of Thomas.

It seems that Muhammad simply took the stories that were popular during his lifetime, gave them an Islamic twist, and included them in the Qur’an. What’s interesting is that even the pagans of Mecca were better at recognizing fiction than Muhammad was. Surah 6, verse 25 of the Qur’an says:
When they come to you to argue with you, the unbelievers say: These are nothing but fables of the men of old.
So according to the Qur’an itself, pagans were telling Muhammad that the stories in the Qur’an were known fables. They were myths. They were fairy tales.  

From a Christian perspective, the most important historical error in the Qur’an is the claim that Jesus wasn’t killed and wasn’t crucified. In Surah 4, verses 157 to 158 we read:
They [“they” here are the Jews] 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. Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.
Now there are multiple historical problems with this passage.

According to the Qur’an, Jews were boasting that they had killed “the Christ.” “Christ” means “Messiah.” I’ve never heard a Jew boast about killing the Messiah. The only people who would boast about killing Jesus were people who regarded him as a false Messiah.

The verse also says that Jews were boasting about killing “the Messenger of Allah.” Here again, the only people who would boast about killing Jesus were people who regarded him as a false prophet, not people who regarded him as a messenger of God.

Then we have the claim that Jesus wasn’t killed and wasn’t crucified. This is an amazingly inaccurate claim, because historians and New Testament scholars agree that Jesus’ death by crucifixion is one of the best-established facts of ancient history. And I don’t just mean Christian scholars. Even atheist and agnostic historians are certain that Jesus died by crucifixion.

Atheist New Testament scholar Gerd Lüdemann declares that “Jesus’ death as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable.” John Dominic Crossan, of the infamous Jesus Seminar, says that there is not the “slightest doubt about the fact of Jesus’ crucifixion under Pontius Pilate.” There are lots of Muslims nowadays who like to quote Bart Ehrman, because he criticizes the New Testament. But Ehrman writes: “One of the most certain facts of history is that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate.”

These scholars aren’t simply saying that Jesus may have died or that he probably died. They’re saying that Jesus’ death by crucifixion is indisputable, that there’s not the slightest doubt about the crucifixion, that it’s one of the most certain facts of history. And again, these aren’t even Christian scholars.

So the Qur’an clearly contains historical errors, not only because it denies Jesus’ death by crucifixion, but also because it contains numerous fables, even stories that were recognized as fables by the pagans of Muhammad’s time. This makes it very difficult to accept what the Qur’an says about history.
Jihad Returns to New York City
Wednesday, November 1, 2017 3:45 AM

In support of ISIS, Sayfullo Saipov, who immigrated to the United States from Uzbekistan, rented a truck from Home Depot. On October 31, 2017, he drove the truck down a Manhattan bicycle path and plowed it into a crowd of people before crashing into a bus. As usual, politicians and reporters are convinced that the attack had nothing to do with Islam, Islamic terrorism, the Qur'an, or Muhammad's teachings.

Answering Islam 6: What Are the Main Differences between Islam and Christianity?
Tuesday, October 31, 2017 7:51 PM

Here's Episode 6 of our "Answering Islam" series, where I answer the question: "What are the main differences between Islam and Christianity?" For the rest of the series, click on the playlist.


Here's the full text of the video:

What Are the Main Differences between Islam and Christianity?

Christians and Muslims agree on a number of issues. We agree that there is one God—all-powerful, all-knowing, and merciful. We agree that God has sent messengers into the world, and that people like Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David were mighty prophets. Concerning Jesus, we agree that he was born of a virgin, that he performed miracles, and that he is the Messiah.  

But there are some fundamental differences between Islam and Christianity, and we can break these differences down into three categories: theology, ethics, and evidence.

Let’s start with theology. According to the Bible, God is a Trinity. The Bible calls the Father “God”; it calls Jesus “God”; and it calls the Holy Spirit “God.” And yet the Bible consistently affirms that there’s only one God. This is the basis for the doctrine of the Trinity. The Qur’an declares that Allah is not a Trinity and that anyone who calls Allah a Trinity is a blasphemer.

In both the Old and New Testaments, believers (Jews and Christians) refer to God as their Father in heaven. The Qur’an repeatedly declares that Allah is a father to no one. This is why you don’t hear Muslims calling God “Father.” The highest relationship you can have with Allah, according to the Qur’an, is a slave to master relationship.

The Bible says that God loves everyone. The Qur’an says that Allah doesn’t love unbelievers; he doesn’t love the proud; he doesn’t love ungrateful sinners; he doesn’t love those who exceed his limits; he doesn’t love the extravagant; he doesn’t love mischief-makers. Allah doesn't love most people.

And this difference in God’s love leads to another important theological disagreement between Christians and Muslims. In Christianity, God loves us so much that he enters the world as Jesus of Nazareth to become the perfect sacrifice for our sins. When Muslims hear this, it makes no sense to them, because they have no concept of a God who loves people enough to do something like that.

Allah’s deficient love leads to the second category of disagreement between Christianity and Islam: the ethical disagreements.

Jesus commanded his followers: “I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Notice, as Christians, we have to love others. Why? Because God loves them. But as we’ve seen, Allah doesn’t love unbelievers. So the command in Islam is not, “Love your enemies”; it’s “Fight those who do not believe in Allah.”

The emphasis on love in Christianity affects all our relationships. In Ephesians 5:25, the Apostle Paul says, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Jesus was crucified for the church, and Paul tells husbands to love our wives the same way. In Christianity, husbands are supposed to love our wives so much that we should be ready to be crucified for them. In Islam, Allah says that you can beat your wife into submission. Very different attitude towards wives, and this ultimately goes back to differences in God’s love in Christianity and Islam.

The third category is evidence. In Christianity, we have good evidence for what we believe. I grew up as an atheist. I started studying Christianity because I wanted to refute a Christian I knew. I understood from reading and discussions that the Apostles based their faith on Jesus’ resurrection, so I started studying the resurrection, in order to prove that Christianity was false. What I found was that every shred of evidence we have tells us that Jesus died by crucifixion. We know this from ancient Christian writers, ancient Jewish writers, and ancient Roman writers. And every shred of evidence we have tells us that Jesus was alive again later. He appeared to more than 500 people at one time. The historical facts just can’t be explained without a miracle.  

But Jesus’ resurrection takes us even further. If Jesus was raised from the dead, he must have God’s stamp of approval. God confirmed Jesus’ message by raising him from the dead. So now we have to believe what Jesus claimed about himself, and Jesus claimed to be the divine Son of God who came into the world to die on the cross for the sins of others. I realized this as an atheist. I realized that if I wanted to go where the evidence pointed, I had to believe what Jesus said.

Islam just doesn’t have anything like this. The main argument offered by the Qur’an is that the Qur’an is so wonderfully written, it must come from God. And this is one of the strangest arguments ever offered by any religion. Even if the Qur’an were the most amazing book ever written, this wouldn’t make it the Word of God. It would just mean that the Qur’an had the best writer in history. But in fact, the Qur’an isn’t the most amazing book ever written. Far from it. Let me quote what the Iranian scholar Ali Dashti wrote in his book Twenty Three Years:
The Qur’an contains sentences which are incomplete and not fully intelligible without the aid of commentaries; foreign words, unfamiliar Arabic words, and words used with other than the normal meaning; adjectives and verbs inflected without observance of the concords of gender and number; illogically and ungrammatically applied pronouns which sometimes have no referent; and predicates which in rhymed passages are often remote from the subjects. These and other such aberrations in the language have given scope to critics who deny the Qur’an’s eloquence.
So the main argument of the Qur’an fails miserably, and other arguments for Islam are even worse. This means that there’s no good evidence for Islam, but we have very good evidence for Christianity. And since Christians have proof for what we believe, this confirms our theology and our ethics whenever our theology and ethics disagree with Islam.