Saturday, July 24, 2021

How many wives did the Prophet Muhammad have?

One possible answer is twenty-six.

In fact the answer to this question depends on how we define a “wife”. Only eleven of Muhammad’s wives are officially known as “Mother of the Faithful”, which is why the number eleven appears so frequently among traditional Muslim answers. However, Muhammad was legally married to at least twelve other women, although nine of these marriages were never consummated. He also had three concubines, which is the opposite situation - sexual partners who did not hold the status of wife. These 11 + 3 + 9 + 3 add up to a total of 26. Here are their names.

1. Khadija bint Khuwaylid (Asad clan of Quraysh tribe) (c.568–620), Mother of the Faithful. A wealthy merchant from Mecca, she was about 27 while Muhammad was 24 when they married in July 595. Khadija was the mother of seven of his children (Zaynab, Ruqayya, Umm Kulthum, Qasim, Abdmanaf, Abduluzza and Fatima) and she remained his only wife as long as she lived. It was at her urging that Muhammad declared himself a prophet. At her death on 22 April 620, he was distraught. (Ibn Ishaq 69, 82-83, 106–107, 191. Ibn Hisham #127; #918. Ibn Saad 1:150-152; 8:10-12, 44, 54. Muslim 31:5975. Tabari 39:4, 161. Ibn Kathir 4:417, 436-437.)

2. Sawda bint Zama’a (Amir ibn Luayy clan of Quraysh tribe) (c.581–674), Mother of the Faithful, but later retired from active service. She was a tanner and perfume-mixer from Mecca. Muhammad married her within three weeks of Khadija's death, when he was 49 and she was about a decade younger. He considered divorcing her in late 626 but she talked him out of it. She died “at a great age”. (Ibn Ishaq 148, 530. Ibn Hisham #918. Ibn Saad 8:39-43, 55, 99, 152. Bukhari 2:26:740; 3:47:766; 3:48:853; 7:62:5, 134; 8:78:677. Muslim 8:3312, 3451, 3452, 3455. Abu Dawud 2:2130. Tirmidhi 6:44:3040, 3108. Tabari 9:128-130; 39:170-171. Tabrizi 1:662. Ibn Kathir, Tafsir on Q4:128.)

3. Aïsha bint Abi Bakr (Taym clan of Quraysh) (614–678), Mother of the Faithful. She was the favourite wife (after Khadija). The daughter of Muhammad’s best friend, Aïsha was 6 when Muhammad married her legally in May or June 620 and 9 when the marriage was consummated in April 623 (he was 52). Muhammad died when Aïsha was 18, having forbidden his widows to remarry, and her father succeeded him as leader of the Muslim community. Among Muhammad’s widows, Aïsha was recognised as first among equals. She proved an expert on Islam, becoming a career-teacher and a developer of Islamic law. She opposed Ali, for which she became hated by the Shia. She died on 16 July 678. (Quran 33:53. Ibn Ishaq 117. Ibn Saad 2:480-481; 8:45-47, 55, 124, 148. Bukhari 1:3:103; 1:5:251; 3:47:755; 6:61:515; 7:68:473. Muslim 8:3311; 31:5984. Tirmidhi 6:46:3883, 3884. Ibn Maja 3:9:1877. Tabari 9:129, 183-184; 39:171-173. Ibn Kathir 2:91.)

4. Hafsa bint Umar (Adiy clan of Quraysh) (605–665), Mother of the Faithful. The daughter of Muhammad’s close friend, the future Caliph Umar, Hafsa married Muhammad in January or February 625 when he was 53 and she was 19 or 20. He considered divorcing her in July 629 but retracted the divorce in August. Hafsa’s claim to fame lies in her having been the custodian of the first written Quran. (Quran 66:3-5. Ibn Ishaq 329. Ibn Hisham #918. Ibn Saad 8:56, 58-59, 82-83, 124-125, 134-140, 149, 152. Bukhari 1:8:395; 3:43:648; 5:43:648; 5:59:342; 6:60:10, 201, 434, 435; 6:61:509; 7:62:55, 60, 75, 119; 7:63:192, 193; 7:72:734; 8:78:682; 9:86:102. Muslim 9:3496, 3497, 3506, 3507, 3508, 3511. Abu Dawud 12:2276. Nasaï 4:36:3410, 3411. Tabari 7:105; 9:131 f 884; 39:174).

5. Zaynab bint Khuzayma “Mother of the Poor” (Hilal tribe of Amir group) (c.596–625), Mother of the Faithful. She was in her late 20s when Muhammad married her, a month after Hafsa. It was at this point that he decreed that a Muslim should not have more than four wives. Zaynab died in September or October 625 after only eight months. (Quran 4:3. Ibn Hisham #918. Ibn Saad 8:82. Tabari 7:150 f 215, 216; 9:138ff; 39:163-164.)

6. Umm Salama (Hind) bint Abi Umayya (Makhzum clan of Quraysh) (597–679), Mother of the Faithful. Muhammad married her c.28 March 626 when he was 55 and she was about 28. A tanner, wool-carder and date-merchant who brought four children into the marriage, she was one of Muhammad’s favourites. She is revered by the Shia as a partisan of Ali. She died in September 679. (Ibn Ishaq 41, 44, 56, 146. Ibn Hisham #918. Waqidi 167, 186-187. Ibn Saad 1:583; 2:70-71; 3:183; 8:6, 61-67, 81. Bukhari 9:83,commentary between #6512 and #6513. Muslim 4:1999. Abu Dawud 19:2998. Tabari 7:167; 39:175-176. Ibn Kathir (Le Gassick) 3:123-124.)

7. Zaynab bint Jahsh (Ghanm clan of Asad tribe, but allied to the Umayya clan of Quraysh) (590–641), Mother of the Faithful. Muhammad married her on 27 March 627 when he was 55 and she was about 37, soon after receiving a revelation from Allah that the limit of four wives did not apply to prophets. She was his first cousin and she was another of his favourites. She worked as a tanner and leather-worker and gave away all her profits to charity. She died in summer 641. (Quran 33:37-38, 40, 50. Ibn Hisham #918. Ibn Saad 8:74, 77, 81, 123, 143. Bukhari 3:48:829; 5:59:462; 6:60:274, 310; 9:93:516. Muslim 1:338 f 358; 8:3240, 3241, 3330; 31:5984. Abu Dawud 32:4060. Tabari 8:1-4; 39:180-182. Tabari, Tafsir on Q33:37. Qurtubi, Tafsir on Q33:37. Ibn Kathir, Tafsir on Q 33:37-38.)

8. Rayhana bint Zayd (Nadir tribe) (died 632), a Jewish slave. Her first husband was one of the 600 men of Qurayza who were beheaded in Qaynuqa Market in May 627. Rayhana’s status is controversial. Some say that Muhammad manumitted and married her in May or June 627. Others say that she was only a concubine. A third variant is that Muhammad later divorced her and sent her back to her family. Possibly, after divorcing her, he recaptured her at Khaybar, hence it was as his concubine that she died in late March 632. (Ibn Ishaq 464-466, 693. Waqidi 250, 254-256. Ibn Saad 8:92-94, 129-130, 133. Bukhari 5:59:448, 362. Tabari 8:39; 9:137, 141; 39:164-165. Ibn Kathir 4:416, 426, 433-435. Ibn Hajar, Isaba #11197)

9. Juwayriya bint al-Harith (Mustaliq clan of Khuza’a tribe) (608–670 or 676), Mother of the Faithful. The daughter of a pagan chief, she was captured at the Ambush of Muraysi on 13 January 628 (but some variants claim it was in 627), where her first husband was killed. Muhammad married her on the same day: he was 56 and she was 19 or 20. (Ibn al-Kalbi 12-13. Ibn Ishaq 490, 493. Ibn Hisham #918. Waqidi 198-201. Ibn Saad 2:77-78; 8:83–85. Bukhari 3:46:717. 718; 5:59:459; 9:93:506. Muslim 2:2349, 3371; 19:4292. Abu Dawud 14:2627; 29:3920. Tabari 8:57; 9:133; 39:182-184. Ibn Kathir 4:420. Ibn Hajar, Tahdhib #13754.)

10. Umm Habiba (Ramla) bint Abi Sufyan (Umayya clan of Quraysh), Mother of the Faithful (594–664). She was a noblewoman from Mecca, sister of the future Caliph Muaawiyah. Muhammad married her by proxy in May 628, when he was 57 and she was 34, and she arrived in Medina in July. This marriage had a clear political motive, as Umm Habiba was a devout Muslim while her father, Abu Sufyan, was the leader of the opposition to Muhammad in Mecca. (Ibn Ishaq 99, 146, 168, 187, 203, 210, 274, 277, 323, 526–530, 784. Ibn Hisham #918. Ibn Saad 8:68-71. Bukhari 7:62:38. Muslim 2:3413, 2963, 1581, 3539; 31:6905. Abu Dawud 11:2081, 2102, 2103. Nasaï 4:66:3352. Ibn Maja 5:3974. Tabari 8:109-110; 9:133-134; 39:177-180. Ibn Hajar, Isaba #11185.)

11. Safiya bint Huayy (Nadir tribe) (612–672), Mother of the Faithful. Originally a Jew from Medina, she was among the war-captives from Khaybar. Muhammad married her in July 628 when he was 57 and she was 16, on the same day as he killed her second husband. He had previously killed her first husband, father, brother, three uncles and several cousins. (Malik 21:3:8. Ibn Ishaq 367-368, 464-465, 511, 515-517. Ibn Hisham #760, #918. Waqidi 91-95, 179, 193, 251-252, 278-279, 318-319, 328-334, 348-349. Ibn Saad 2:37, 112-113, 139-140, 144-145; 8:85-89, 129–130. Baladhuri 1:41-48. Bukhari 1:8:367; 2:14:68; 3:12:2272; 3:34:431, 437; 3:45:687; 4:52:143; 5:52:143; 5:59:369, 370, 371, 372, 512, 513, 522, 523, 524, 622; 7:62:22, 89, 98; 7:65:299, 336; 8:75:374. Muslim 8:3325, 3328, 3329; 19:4436. Abu Dawud 19:2991, 2992, 2994, 2999, 3000; 27:3735. Nasaï 4:26:3382, 3383, 3384. Tirmidhi 2:6:1095. Ibn Maja 3:9:1957. Tabari 9:120, 134-135; 39:184-185. Bayhaqi 4:1575, 1576. Ibn Kathir 3:265, 268, 271.)

12. Maymuna bint al-Harith (Hilal ibn Amir tribe) (593–671), Mother of the Faithful. She was a middle-class widow from Mecca whom Muhammad married in March 629 when he was 57 and she was 36. She died on 21 December 671. (Malik 20:20:70. Ibn Ishaq 531. Ibn Hisham #782; #918. Waqidi 363-365. Ibn Saad 2:152; 8:94-99. Bukhari 3:29:63; 5:59:559. Muslim 8:3284. Tirmidhi 2:9:845. Tabari 8:136-137; 9:135; 39:185-186, 201. Dhahabi 2 #118. Ibn Kathir 3:310-311; 4:419-420. Ibn Hajar, Tahdhib 12 #13898.)

13. Mariya bint Shamoon (died 637), an Egyptian concubine. The Governor of Alexandria gave her to Muhammad as a gift in April 628 and she had become his concubine by July 629. She gave birth to his last son, Ibrahim, in March or April 630. Along with Muhammad’s his other slaves, Mariya was manumitted at his death. She died in February or March 637. (Quran 66:1-4. Ibn Ishaq 653. Ibn Ishaq, cited in Guillaume (1960) 55. Ibn Hisham #129. Ibn Saad 1:151-153, 160, 163; 8:59, 77, 124-125, 135-138, 148-151. Bukhari 3:43:648; 6:60:434; 7:62:119; 7:63:192, 193; 8:78:682; 9:86:102. Muslim 9:3496, 3497. Nasaï 4:36:3410, 3411. Tabari 8:100, 131; 9:38-39, 141, 147; 10:58–59; 13:58; 39:22, 161, 193-195 & f 845. Ibn Kathir 4:431, 433.)

14. Mulayka bint Kaab (Layth clan of Bakr ibn Kinana tribe) (c.617–630), wife. Her father was killed at the Khandama resistance to Muhammad’s conquest of Mecca in January 630. Muhammad married Mulayka a few days later when he was 58 and she was about 13. He divorced her at her own request a few months after that, and she died before she had completed her three-month waiting period. (Ibn Ishaq 291, 549, 566. Waqidi 406. Ibn Saad 2:167-168; 8:106, 154. Baladhuri 1:64. Tabari 8:176, 187; 39:165.)

15. Fatima “al-Aliya” bint al-Dahhak (Abu Bakr clan of Kilab ibn Amir tribe) (died 680), wife. She was the daughter of a middle-weight Muslim warrior who had settled in Medina. Muhammad married her in late March 630 and divorced her about six months later for not veiling properly. She too seems to have been a teenager. After working for a while as a gong-woman, she remarried and returned to her ancestral tribe. At her death in 680 she had outlived all Muhammad's other wives. (Ibn Saad 8:100-101, 153-154. Nasaï 4:27:3446. Tabari 9:39, 136-138; 39:186-188. Ibn Kathir 4:420-428, 509.)

16. Jundub’s Daughter (Layth clan of Bakr ibn Kinana tribe). This marriage was never consummated, but the details are unknown. (Ibn Saad 8:100, 106.)

17. Asma bint al-Numan (Jaown clan of Kinda tribe), wife. She was a Bedouin noblewoman from southern Arabia. Muhammad married her in June or July 630, when he was 59 and she was “most youthful”. He divorced her on the wedding night because she misspoke. She remarried twice and died during the caliphate of Uthman (644–656). (Ibn Ishaq, cited in Guillaume (1960) 55. Ibn Hisham 794 #918 (but note that Ibn Hisham makes a mistake over the name). Ibn Saad 8:101-104. Bukhari 7:63:181, 182; 7:69:541. Tabari 9:137; 10:190; 39:188-191. Ibn Kathir 4:421, 423.)

18. Umm Sharik (Ghaziya) bint Jabir (Amir ibn Luayy clan of Quraysh). Muhammad married her not earlier than 629 and divorced her on the wedding day. She seems to have been about forty years old at the time; she died in 670. (Ibn Ishaq 176-177. Ibn Hisham 794 #918. Waqidi 313. Ibn Saad 8:110-114. Muslim 26:5561. Tabari 9:136-139; 39:204. Ibn Kathir, Bidaya 8:50.)

19. Sana or Saba (“al-Nashshat”) bint Asma (Rifa’a) ibn al-Salt (Sulaym tribe). Muhammad married her legally but he divorced her before they met. She seems to have been a teenager. (Ibn Saad 8:106-107. Tabari 9:135-136; 39:166. Ibn Kathir 4:423.)

20. Khaowla bint al-Hudhayl (Thalaaba clan of Taghlib tribe), a princess from Mesopotamia. She died on the way to the wedding, so Muhammad never met her. (Ibn Saad 1:373; Ibn Saad 8:116. Baladhuri 1:284-286. Tabari 39:166 and Landau-Tasseron’s commentary in f 748.)

21. Sharaf bint Khalifa (Kalb tribe), a noblewoman from northern Arabia and maternal aunt of Khaowla. She also died before Muhammad could meet her, immediately after the wedding contract was finalised. (Ibn Saad 8:116. Tabari 9:138.)

22. Amra bint Yazid (Kaab clan of Kilab ibn Amir tribe), wife. She was probably a Bedouin. Muhammad married her in late 630 or early 631, when he was 59 and she was about 15. He divorced her on the wedding night when he saw that she was leprous, and she died a few months later. (Ibn Ishaq, cited in Guillaume (1960) 55. Ibn Hisham 794 #918 (note that Ibn Hisham mistakes the name). Ibn Saad 8:100-101. Ibn Maja 3:2054; 3:2030. Tabari 9:137-139; 39:95-96, 186-188, 201-202. Ibn Kathir 4:416, 421-427.)

23. Tukana “Jamila” (Qurayza tribe) was a Jewish war-captive who became a concubine. She was captured in May 627 at the siege of Qurayza but she probably did not become a concubine before 630. Muhammad manumitted her on his deathbed, and she married his uncle Abbas. (Ibn Kathir 4:435. Majlisi 2:1180.)

24. Al-Shanbaa bint Amr (Ghifar clan of Bakr ibn Kinana tribe). Muhammad married her in January 632, when he was 60 and she was of childbearing age, but he divorced her on the wedding day. (Tabari 9:136.)

25. Qutayla bint Qays (Jabala clan of Kinda tribe), a princess from Yemen. Muhammad married her legally in April 632, when he was 61 and she was presumably a teenager. He never met her because he died that June while she was still travelling toward Medina for the wedding. She was still alive in 635, after which no more is recorded of her. (Ibn Saad 8:105. Tabari 9:138; 39:87, 302. Ibn Kathir 4:424.)

26. Nafisa (of unknown origin), concubine. This slave was given to Muhammad as a gift in May 632 and she immediately became his concubine. Nothing is known about her family or subsequent career. (Ibn Hanbal #26908. Ibn Saad 8:90. Dhahabi 2:117. Ibn Kathir 4:435.)

We cannot be certain that there were not other wives; historians had a hard time keeping track of so many. But it’s unlikely that there were any others who actually lived in Muhammad’s household as his companions.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Discussing Some Jewish Objections against Jesus as the Messiah: Tony Costa and Michael Brown


On Friday July 16, 2021 at 7:30 p,m. (Eastern Standard Time)  Dr. Michael Brown will be joining me to discuss some Jewish objections against Jesus being the Messiah. Islam recognizes Jesus as the Messiah as he is called 'Isa al-Masih' (Jesus the Messiah) throughout the Qur'an. The problem however is that the Qur'an never defines what "Messiah" means. Jews and Christians know what it means, but the Qur'an leaves the term undefined. Some Muslim commentators even argued that "Messiah" means that Jesus was a wandering prophet which is grossly erroneous. Join us this Friday evening. If you have not subscribed to my YouTube channel please do so and you will be notified of many other upcoming shows. You can access my YouTube channel by clicking here

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Tawhid vs. Trinity Debate: Dr. Jonathan McLatchie vs. Dr. Shabir Ally

This coming Thursday, at 6pm Eastern, I am going to be engaging in a friendly dialogue with Dr. Shabir Ally on the nature of God (Tawhid vs. Trinity). You can join the YouTube livestream by clicking on the video embedded above. You are also invited to join the Zoom room, for participation in the live Q&A. Here is the link. I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Angels and Demons: A Biblical Analysis

Dr. Tony Costa will be teaching an online course on 'Angels and Demons' starting June 13, 2021 from 7:00 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. EST. For information on registration see the description book under the video or email us at

Thursday, April 8, 2021

No Other Gospel

Starting Sunday April 11, 2021 from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm (Eastern Standard Time), Dr. Tony Costa is going to lead an online course for 8 consecutive Sundays that will take us to May 30, 2021. We will cover such topics as Islam, Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormonism, as well as the New Age Movement and other groups. The registration fee is $99 (Canadian dollars). If you are interested in registering, please email us at

Friday, December 18, 2020

Unveiled - The Family Of Muhammad

Muhammad’s private life is UNVEILED in this somewhat stylised presentation, which introduces the men, women and children who shared his roof from the womb to the tomb.

Welcome to “Unsheathed”, the story of Muhammad as the original Muslim historians told it.

(If you want to read the text commentary, you may wish to play the video at reduced speed or pause it.)

Update: Now available as a picture book at

Monday, September 28, 2020

The Necessity of Scripture in the Christian Life: Online Course with Dr. Tony Costa

Beginning October 4th, I will be teaching an 8-week online course on the Necessity of Scripture in the Christian life. The course will run for 8 Sundays (October 4 - November 29) from 7 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.Registration fee is $99 (Canadian dollars). The deadline for registration is September 30th. To register, contact

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Unsheathed - The Story of Muhammad is now on YouTube

How much do you know about the life of Muhammad? Perhaps very little, or perhaps a few episodes here and there? Or do you know enough to become annoyed by popular propaganda pieces that deliberately misrepresent Muhammad’s story?

Welcome to Unsheathed, the story of Muhammad as the original Muslim historians told it.  Connor O’Grady has combined his pictures here with Rosa Terry's beautiful narration of my text.

The first episode (below) is about Muhammad’s childhood. What were his early years like? What shaped him into the man he became? What attitudes, assumptions and ideas contributed to the religion that he founded?

There are sixteen episodes, each 12-14 minutes long, available at  *

If you enjoy these videos, please subscribe.

* Unless you're in Pakistan, that is.  The videos are now banned in Pakistan.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Four Views on Christian Apologetics: Roundtable Discussion Tomorrow, July 17th

Don't miss this exciting round table discussion tomorrow, Friday July 17th at 9pm Eastern, on apologetic systems. Participants in the dialogue will be Dr. James White (representing presuppositionalism), Dr. Richard Howe (representing Thomistic classical apologetics), Dr. Randal Rauser (representing reformed epistemology) and myself (representing evidentialism). The discussion will be moderated by Samuel Nesan of "Explain Apologetics". Hope to see you there!

Monday, July 13, 2020

Are You a Christian Who is Struggling with Doubts?

Fighting your Doubts - Physical Therapy in Wesley Chapel

Are you a Christian who is seriously struggling with doubts? A non-Christian seeker who has sincere questions about the Christian faith? Or have you recently lost your faith and want to explore whether your reasons for loss-of-faith were really rational?

If that describes you, please fill out this form on my website, and I and my small team of volunteers will see what we can do to help.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Is the New Testament or Qur'an a Better Successor to the Hebrew Bible? Dr. Jonathan McLatchie vs. Bashir Vania

Here is my latest debate, with Islamic scholar Bashir Vania, on whether the New Testament or Qur'an is a better successor to the Old Testament. This debate was recorded at South African Theological Seminary in January. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Monday, June 29, 2020

New Website Launch

I have just launched my new official website which, going forward, will host many of my articles on the Bible, theology, apologetics and science. There are already many articles published to the site, and there will be many more forthcoming. You can also sign up for my monthly newsletter on the site for email updates on my article publications and new videos.

Click here to access the site.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Why I Am No Longer a Muslim: Catch the Live-Stream with Al Fadi This Evening at 6pm Eastern

Today, Saturday, at 6pm Eastern time, I am going to be talking to Al Fadi about his journey out of Islam and how he came to be a follower of Christ. You can catch the YouTube livestream at the link above. There will be opportunity to put your own questions to Al Fadi by interaction in the live chat. All are welcome. I hope to see you there!

Friday, June 5, 2020

Understanding the Assumptions of Bart Ehrman

Muslims and atheists love the arguments of Bart Ehrman against Christianity, and they use these argument against us. Therefore, it is important for Christians involved in apologetics to understand what the background is to Ehrman's argument. This video does just that. It explains the history, assumptions, and errors of Bart Ehrman. It is the best video I have seen on this subject.

There is also this site The Ehrman Project

Monday, May 25, 2020

A New Translation of the Qur'an with Variants Listed

A common argument from Muslims is that the Bible is corrupt and there is one perfect Qur'an, and therefore Muslims can dismiss the Bible, or pick and chose which verses they want to accept. This new translation of the Qur’an helps to show Muslims that this is not the case. It is a translation with the variants from the 10 accepted versions of the Qur'an indicated in red and translated in the footnotes. It is the first translation of its kind. This is a very powerful tool, both for your own reading of the Qur'an, and because you can quickly show a Muslim, in English, that the Qur'an has variants, and therefore they should stop exaggerating. The PDF of this book only costs a few dollars and is well worth it.

Muslim attitudes to the variants vary. Some say all the variants are inspired and are to be harmonized, others, that the variants come from the early Readers and are to be judged. Either way, this translation gives you the resources to have this conversation.

And here are two short videos from Shabir Ally discussing the variants. He really takes the conversation to a new helpful level, for which I am thankful.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Responding to Kermit Zarley on John 20:28

In John 20:28, upon beholding the risen Christ, Thomas said to Him, “My Lord and my God.” In a paper written by unitarian Kermit Zarley (aka “Servetus the Evangelical”), he rightly points out that the prima facie reading of this passage as a declaration of the deity of Christ is held by scholars across the board, both conservative and critical. Nevertheless, Zarley believes there are good reasons to conclude that this consensus is wrong. The following is my evaluation of Zarley’s arguments. 

First, Zarley argues that because Jesus called the Father “My God” in John 20:17, the apostle John could not have meant that Thomas, later in the context, was calling Jesus “My God” (v. 28). However, it is presumptuous to tell an author what he could have meant. This is not the job of a responsible exegete. Moreover, saying that John could not have meant this is all the more egregious since we have clear evidence that John could, in fact, do this very thing. At the beginning of his gospel, in the space of a single sentence, John wrote that the Word was “with God” and also that the word “was God” (1:1). If Zarley’s reasoning were valid, John could not have said this about the Word. But there it is. Moreover, John also wrote, once again in the space of a single verse, that no man has seen God (“the Father”) and also that God (“the one and only”) has been seen (1:18). According to Zarley’s reasoning, John could not have said this. But there it is again. Since John, in the space of a single verse, twice did what Zarley said he couldn’t, there is no reason to believe he couldn’t do the same thing in the space of several verses in John 20.

Second, Zarley argues that the thesis statement in 20:31 (“Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God”), which concludes the narrative proper, would be anticlimactic if Thomas, immediately prior to this, is quoted by John in order to affirm that Jesus is God. This is so, according to Zarley, because “calling Jesus ‘the Son of God’ does not mean that he is God.” But this assumes a reductionistic and patently non-Johannine understanding of Christ’s Sonship. Contrary to Zarley’s assertion, and according to what John actually wrote, Christ’s Sonship is unique (1:14, 1:18, 3:16, 3:18), entails His equality with the Father (5:17-18), and was regarded as a blasphemous claim to deity by the Jews (John 19:37). Since this is the case, then calling Jesus the Son of God is not even a hairs breadth below Thomas’s confession of Christ’s deity. In addition, in light of the fact that  John’s Gospel begins on the high note that the Word who became flesh (1:14) is the very Word and Son who has always been God (1:1, 1:18), what would be anti-climactic is if Thomas’ confession (20:28) and John’s thesis statement (20:31) mean something less than that.  

Third, according to Zarley, the “key” to understanding Thomas’ confession is tucked away in John 14. As Zarley would have it, when Thomas said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God,” he “was acknowledging what Jesus had taught him,” namely that “the Father is in me” (14:10), a concept that Zarley, quite ironically in light of its classically Trinitarian origins and implications, refers to as “mutual indwelling.” On the basis of this, Zarley goes on to appeal to a concept of agency whereby one person can be called by the name of the person who sent him: “This indwelling of God in Christ, and God sending Christ, reflects the concept of agency.” In other words, as the agent of God, Thomas was calling Jesus “God” in a representative sense or was referring to the Father in Him as God. But Zarley’s argument here suffers from a fatal inconsistency. Even though Zarley refers to this as a mutual indwelling, his argument completely glosses over the fact that the “key” verse (John 14:10) on mutual indwelling is about, well, a mutual indwelling. Not only did Jesus say, “the Father is in Me,” but He also said, “I am in the Father.” But if the Father being in Jesus reflects the concept of agency, and if this is the basis for Jesus being called God, then, mutatis mutandis, it would also establish that the Father is the agent of Jesus and can be called God or Lord because of Jesus dwelling in Him. Surely this isn’t a conclusion that Zarley wants to maintain as a unitarian and accounts for why he ignored that his "key" has two sides rather than one.

At the conclusion of his article Zarley says his treatment of John 20:28 is the pinnacle of his research and contribution to the unitarian case against the deity of Christ, something he has laid out more fully elsewhere. Unless Zarley, in distilling his larger case down, chose to use his weakest rather than his strongest arguments, which strikes me as unlikely, then the pinnacle of his contribution rises no higher than an anthill. In any case, with respect to the article herein reviewed, a good case against the prima facie reading of the text has not been offered by Mr. Zarley.