Sunday, August 28, 2016
Debate: What Does the Qur'an and the Islamic Traditions Say About the Bible? (Luis Dizon vs. Ijaz Ahmad)
Saturday, August 27, 2016
Friday, August 26, 2016
The professional recording of my recent debate with Dr. Shabir Ally is now available! Check it out here! This is of much better audio and visual quality than the previous amateur versions which were on YouTube.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
It was a pleasure to meet with Shabir again. Here are a few post-debate comments for you to consider after watching the debate:
1. Shabir displayed the cover of, "The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible" translated by Martin Abegg et al, and claimed that it showed that some versions of Isaiah 53 do not have the servant die (21:44, 1:56:20). I asked for a reference to this claim during the debate (1:09:00) but none was given. I have this book and have now checked, and it does not make this claim. In this book the authors publish the text of the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) Old Testaments books. They list any variants within the DDS and also compare to the LXX and Masoretic Texts. So do any of the Isaiah DSS say that the servant does not die? The answer is no. What follows are the verses from Isaiah 53 (pages 359-360) which indicate the death, or otherwise, of the servant:
53:7 ... like a lamb that is led to the slaughter ... (DSS, LXX, MT, all agree about death.)
53:8 ... For he was cut off from the land of the living ... (DSS, LXX, MT, all agree about death.)
53:9 Then they made his grave with the wicked, and with rich people (his tomb, DSS)/(in his deaths, MT)/(in his death, LXX).
53:12 ... because he poured out his life to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sins of many, and made intercession for the their transgressions. (DSS, LXX, MT, all agree about death.)
The only variant about his death is whether the reading is “tomb” or “death” in 53:9. But as the death of the servant is also stated in verses 7, 8, and 12, and all sources agree, then it is impossible to conclude that the reference to “tomb” in DSS 53:9 is a denial of death because the death of the servant is stated elsewhere in verses 7, 8, and 12. For Shabir’s argument to work all of these other references to death would also need variants which offer an alternative to the death of the servant, but they do not. I am happy to be corrected but I cannot see any evidence from this book for the suggestion that in some Isaiah scrolls the servant does not die. Please read Isaiah 53 and make up your own mind.
2. He said there was no Old Testament prophecy about a specific individual called the Messiah to come (22:50). Again this is wrong. The Messiah is the son of David (2 Samuel 7:13-16, Psalm 2) and we are specifically told of a coming son (Isaiah 9:6ff et al) who will bring God's kingdom. This is basic teaching about the Messiah.
I will not go through every point. My hope is that debates such as these will help Christians and Muslims understand each others books and religions better. My concern is that Shabir presents his material with convincing confidence yet when I check these references they do not say what he claims. I hope that those of you who want to learn by watching these debates will check all of the references given by both speakers.
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
Sunday, August 21, 2016
The irony with Islam and its relationship with Christianity and Judaism is that, it agrees on the one hand with Christianity that Jesus is the Messiah over against Judaism, which denies Jesus is the Messiah. However, Islam agrees with the Jews that Jesus was not the Son of God over against Christianity. Muslims believe Jesus was the Messiah, but then agree with Judaism in trying to eradicate the messianic prophecies that point to Jesus as the Messiah! As I noted before, the Qur'an never defines what "Messiah" means which demonstrates that Muhammad simply appropriated that title to Jesus as he heard Arab Christians use it as we would use "Jesus Christ".
Saturday, August 20, 2016
The Archaeological and Historical Reliability of the Old Testament: Ted Wright to Talk to Today's Apologetics Academy
Participants can engage the speaker using live audio and video, submit questions anonymously, participate in the chatbox, or simply watch and listen anonymously.
In this session, Biblical archaeologist Ted Wright will talk to us about the use of Old Testament archaeology in apologetics.
The meeting takes place at our usual time of 8pm GMT / 3pm Eastern / 2pm Central / 12noon Pacific.
Please click the link below to join the webinar:
Or iPhone one-tap: 16465588656,457736238# or 14086380968,457736238#
Dial: +1 646 558 8656 (US Toll) or +1 408 638 0968 (US Toll)
Webinar ID: 457 736 238
International numbers available: https://zoom.us/
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
Sunday, August 14, 2016
According to Luke 9:10, the event of the feeding of the five thousand took place in Bethsaida. However, according to Mark 6:45, following the feeding of the five thousand miracle, Mark tells us,
Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.This presents an apparent contradiction. If Jesus and the disciples were already in Bethsaida, why does he tell his disciples to get into the boat and go to the other side of the lake, to Bethsaida? At first glance, it looks like a contradiction between the accounts. A closer inspection, however, reveals that it is no such thing.
The first thing to note is that we have independent confirmation that the event occurred in a deserted area near Bethsaida. In John 6:5, Jesus turns to Philip to ask where they should go to buy bread. John 1:44 and 12:21 tell us that Philip was from Bethsaida. It is Luke's account that tells us that the event took place in Bethsaida, thus explaining why Jesus turned to Philip in John's gospel. Luke does not tell us that Jesus turned to Philip, but rather that he turned to "the disciples" (Luke 9:14). This hand-in-glove fit, or undesigned coincidence, provides an independence of attestation.
Thus, there is good reason to believe that the feeding of the five thousand miracle took place in Bethsaida.
Moreover, in Matthew 11:21, Jesus says,
"Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes."This is paralleled in Luke 10:13. It is thus among the Q sayings of Jesus (those sayings of Jesus that are attested in Matthew and Luke but are absent in Mark, suggesting that they go back to an early source). There is no other record of mighty works in or near Bethsaida, but the feeding of the five thousand is said to have occurred after a day of healing miracles as well.
There is yet further confirmation of the location of the miracle as being somewhere "across the top" of the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum. It is Mark himself who says that they didn't even have leisure to eat before the feeding, because there were "many coming and going" (Mark 6:31), and that they got into the boat to get away from the crowds. That fits well with their being in the region of Capernaum prior to going away. There is still a further undesigned coincidence involved there which connects Mark and John. It was just before the Passover (John 6:4), and there would have been crowds coming through Capernaum, travelling down to Jerusalem. Thus, the picture is well-explained by their going from the Capernaum region (on the top west coat of the Sea of Galilee) across the top of the region around Bethsaida, and then, when they returned "to the other side", returned to the northwest side. In fact, Mark explicitly says (Mark 6:53) that they landed at Gennesaret when they had crossed over! Thus, this actually, far from contradicting, confirms the idea of which direction they were going. If they were really crossing over "to Bethsaida" as if to land at or near Bethsaida, they couldn't have landed at Gennesaret!
Thus, pros Bēthsaidan, even within Mark itself, cannot be taken to mean that the feeding of the five thousand occurred in a radically different location from the region of Bethsaida named explicitly in Luke and otherwise confirmed by undesigned coincidencces.
Saturday, August 13, 2016
On July 31, 2016 I had the privilege of moderating a debate with Dr. Ally and Rev. Samuel Green. During the Q & A session, both Dr. Ally and Rev. Green was asked what they believed would happen to people who did not become Christian or Muslim but lived pious lives. Dr. Ally's response was very surprising. His response is found in the video below starting at 22:55 and ends at 24:00.
Dr. Ally responded that if he was asked that question 20 years ago he would have given a different answer, namely, that only Muslims "go to heaven" and "everyone else goes to hell." Now, Dr. Ally asserts that he has changed his views on this question. Everyone he said has "a range of options" in terms of belief and unbelief. One needs to choose the best option and "do the best you can". Thus, in Dr. Ally's point of view, non-Muslims will make it to heaven without having to convert to Islam as long as they choose the best things to believe from the range of options that they have. Can a Muslim still be a Muslim and argue that conversion or reversion to Islam is not necessary and that all people have the opportunity to make it to heaven without affirming the Shahada? If so, then what is the purpose of Muslims practicing dawah seeking to convert people to Islam?
In the Meccan period, the Qur'an stated that Jews, Christians, and Sabeans (as well as Muslims) will make it to heaven as we see in the following surahs,
"Those who believe (in the Qur'an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians, - any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve" (Q 2:62; Yusuf Ali).
"Those who believe (in the Qur'an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians, - any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, - on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve" (Q 5:69; Yusuf Ali)
However, these passages are believed to have been abrogated by this later Medinan surah, "If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to God), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost (All spiritual good)" (Q 3:85; Yusuf Ali). It would seem then to deny Islam as the only religion of God for salvation would be tantamount to apostasy as the verse indicates.
Would our Muslim friends charge Dr. Ally as not being a true Muslim because of his views on the crucifixion of Jesus and on the question of how one is saved and enters heaven? The Christian's ultimate authority is the Holy Scriptures. There is only one God, and there is only one way to salvation, and that way is through the one Mediator between God and humans, the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). Jesus did not claim to be "a" way, or a "portion" of the truth, He did not point the way or show people where to find truth, He claimed to be the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to God unless they come through Jesus Christ alone (John 14:6). The early disciples of Jesus preached the same message, "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12; ESV). Let us continue to pray for our Muslim friends that God would be merciful and draw them to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ whom to know is life eternal.
Friday, August 12, 2016
Thanks Shabir for the debate. I thought it was a positive time with progress made. Here are a few followup comments to consider after watching the debate:
1. Shabir referred to the scholar Bruce Chilton and said that Jesus does not identify himself, in Mark, as the eschatological Son of Man of Daniel 7. However he does because he claims to be the Messiah who sits at God's right hand (Mark 12:35-37) and this is the position of the eschatological Son of Man in Jesus' confession (Mark 14:61-62). Also Mark 10:35-45 is a discussion about ruling in the coming kingdom. We agree that the Son of Man rules this coming kingdom, but notice what Jesus says, in this context, about the Son of Man:
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
Therefore Jesus again identifies himself as the eschatological Son of Man.
2. I pointed out that for a God that is only absolute oneness this God becomes a "what" not a "who", is unknowable, and is confused with creation. Shabir said that this was a problem for all monotheistic religions. But this is not the case because the Trinity has both oneness and diversity. Thus the Trinity is "who" by definition and not a "what"; is knowable because the attributes are an expression of distinction and the doctrine of the image of God means some of God's attributes are communicable; and there is no confusion with creation again because of an acknowledged distinction with God.
3. Regarding how three can be in one. I did not plan to explain this in the debate because my focus was to establish that God has both oneness and diversity. I established this, and I hope people realise how significant this is. However, regarding how three can be in one I offer this explanation.
Personal existence is not simple. For the Christian God personally dwells in us by his Spirit. God is present in our thoughts and mind. For the Muslim Allah is closer to us than our jugular vein and our own soul can speak to us (Qur'an 50:16). This shows how personal existence is not simple. Or consider spirit possession. Spirits have a degree of transcendence and a different type of spatial existence to humans. Here one or more spirits indwell one human, that is, there are many in one.
These examples are not presented as illustrations of the Trinity. God is unique. Instead they are meant to show that in both Christianity and Islam how persons exist is not straight forward. Therefore we cannot assume that one being can only have one person. Sometimes there are multiple persons in one being. Here is my booklet on the Steps Towards the Trinity
Thursday, August 11, 2016
The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.This is a popular argument with Jehovah's witnesses against the deity of Christ.
One might also argue that Jesus self-identifies as the Wisdom of God. In Matthew 23:34, Jesus says,
Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town.Compare this with Luke 11:49:
Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute,’Notice that the Wisdom of God in Luke 11:49 says what Jesus says in Matthew 23:34, again suggesting that Jesus is the Wisdom of God.
Does this, then, present a problem for the orthodox Trinitarian who believes Christ to be eternal? Not at all. Allow me to demonstrate why.
Take a look at verse 22. The Hebrew text says that Yah-weh qanani (in English, "Yahweh possessed me"). The word qanah can mean to buy, get, acquire, possess, create, give birth, beget etc.
Now let's take a look at verse 23:
Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.Note that wisdom was set up from eternity before the world began.
Now let's take a look at verses 24-25:
When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth,Thus, again, we learn that Wisdom was brought forth in eternity before creation. The word used for "I was brought forth" is cholalati. If one consults the lexicon, it means to writhe, to give birth in labor pains. Thus, Wisdom is describing itself as having been born from/out of someone.
The text is using birth imagery. Thus, in light of 22, where the verb qanah is used, this means that Yahweh beget or gave birth to wisdom. Note that this is different from saying that he created wisdom ex nihilo.
Now let's flip over to Genesis 4:1. We read,
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.”Again, in the Hebrew, the verb "I have gotten" is qaniti -- the very same word we saw in Proverbs 8! Note also that Eve says that she qanah a man from the Lord after giving birth to Cain. Now, did Cain exist before Eve qanah-ed him? Of course he did. She qanah-ed Cain when she bore him. But this was nine months after Cain was conceived. Thus, Cain already existed from nine months before he was qanah-ed by Eve.
Thus, when Wisdom says in Proverbs 8 that Yahweh qanah-ed her, and that she was born in labor pains, before creation, from eternity, that means Wisdom was already existing in someone's womb metaphorically-speaking in eternity before creation -- and came forth from that womb at the point when God wanted to use it to create all things. Thus, it is a metaphorical description of Yahweh bringing forth his own eternal wisdom in order to use it to create all things.
But let's press further. Where does Wisdom come from? Take a look at Proverbs 2:6:
For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.Thus, Wisdom, according to Proverbs, flows from the mouth of God Himself. So Wisdom was born out of the mouth of God. God gave birth to wisdom from out of Himself through His mouth.
One must distinguish between two kinds of creation. There is creation ex nihilo (out of nothing) and "creation" as begetting/birthing a "creation" that presupposes that the thing existed prior to its birth just like a child existed before it was born. Wisdom falls into the latter of those categories.
In conclusion, nowhere does Proverbs say that wisdom is a creation. Rather, wisdom is an eternal attribute residing with/in God from eternity that was then brought forth or birthed by God at the moment when God spoke creation into being.
Responding to Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus: Wesley Huff to Talk to the Apologetics Academy this Coming Saturday
In this session, Wesley Huff from Toronto, who has done graduate-level work in Biblical textual criticism is going to talk to our group about how to respond to Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus.
As usual, our group meets at 8pm GMT / 3pm Eastern / 2pm Central / 12noon Pacific. Please click the link below to join the webinar:
Doing so will immediately prompt you to download the Zoom webinar software we use. This should only take a minute or two. You will then be connected directly to our webinar room.
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.The man who had asked him the question had a unitarian concept of God. Notice that Jesus does not say to the man "You have entered the kingdom of God." Rather, He says "You are not far from the kingdom of God." In other words, he still had not yet reached it. But what does Jesus go on to say in verses 35-37?
While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”’ David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?” The large crowd listened to him with delight.Here, Jesus identifies the Lord of Psalm 110 seated at Yahweh's right hand as the Messiah. Since Muslims and Christians both accept Jesus to be the Jewish Messiah, we can agree that Jesus thus asserts Himself to be the Lord of Psalm 110. The Hebrew word used for "my Lord" in Psalm 110 is Adoni (the possessive form of Adon). Now, this is not necessarily a title of deity, as it can be used of individuals who are not God. However, in verse 5-7 of Psalm 110, we read,
The Lord is at your right hand; he will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth. He will drink from a brook along the way, and so he will lift his head high.In the Hebrew, verse 5 does indeed identify the one seated at Yahweh's right hand as none other than Adonai, a word used only ever of deity. Thus, Psalm 110 implies a plurality of divine persons within the Godhead. One might respond and point out that the masoretic vowel pointing which distinguishes between the terms Adoni and Adonai in fact developed centuries later and so we cannot have certainty about which meaning is intended by the Psalmist. How, then, can we tighten this argument further?
In Psalm 16:2, we read,
I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”Moreover, in Psalm 35:23, we read,
Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and my Lord.Clearly, David's Lord in those texts is God Himself. Yet without the later Masoretic vowel pointing, these texts are indistinguishable from Psalm 110:1. If one accepts the Masoretic vowel pointing in regards to Psalm 110:1, then one must be consistent and accept it in regards to Psalm 110:5, in which the one seated at Yahweh's right hand is identified as Adonai.
In our text in Mark 12, Jesus makes the argument (verse 37) that "David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?” The point Jesus is making is that none of David's descendants could be greater than David. This, then, cannot be referring to David's son. The question is thus raised as to what sort of Lord this could possibly be referring to.
But we can go even further than that. David's Lord also cannot be any human king, since in Psalm 2:10-12 all kings are to be subject to David, and Psalm 89:26-27 tells us that,
I will appoint him [David] to be my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth.It also cannot be a mere angelic creature since angels serve God's elect and are servants themselves (see Hebrews 1:7, 14 and Revelation 19:10 and 22:8-9). Who, then, is left? God.
Thus, Psalm 110:1 is a powerful proof-text for two divine Persons.
Moreover, David's Lord is said to be sitting at God's right hand. Now, where is God's throne? Psalm 2:4 tells us that,
The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.Psalm 11:4 tells us that,
The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne. He observes everyone on earth; his eyes examine them.Psalm 103:19 tells us that,
The Lord has established his throne in heaven, and his kingdom rules over all.Thus, if Yahweh is enthroned in heaven, then David's Lord must be seated in Heaven as well.
This presents yet further difficulties for Islam. For instance, Surah 3:80 in the Qur'an says,
Nor could he order you to take the angels and prophets as lords. Would he order you to disbelief after you had been Muslims?Surah 25:2, furthermore, says,
He to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and who has not taken a son and has not had a partner in dominion and has created each thing and determined it with [precise] determination.Thus, how could David and Jesus be Muslims if David worshiped Messiah as his Lord and speaks of him seated with God in heaven?
Jesus thus re-interprets the Shema in Mark 12:29 in light of Psalm 110:1 in 12:35-37 so as to include Himself as the Messiah within the Shema as Israel's one Lord. This also provides a basis for Paul's reformulation of the Shema in 1 Corinthians 8;6, when he writes,
...yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.In conclusion, then, it is no coincidence that Jesus immediately follows his quotation of the Shema up with Psalm 110:1 to affirm that the one Lord is multi-Personal. Thus, a read of the context surrounding Jesus' allusion to the Shema reveals his concept of God as multipersonal.