Monday, April 25, 2011

A Muslim Dawagandist Refutes the Qur'an With the Help of Josephus

Although I don’t believe there is anything close to a good case to be made for Islam or against Christianity, every once in a while I like to remind a certain Muslim dawagandist just how much efforts to defend Islam and refute Christianity are better left by him to others. The longer he persists in trying to be an apologist for Islam the less he is doing anything that could be considered good even if one adopts the misguided perspective of his false prophet which he delivered in the name of a false god. The reason for this is simple: more often than not, when this dawagandist departs from his preferred approach of attacking and slandering Christians and actually tries to mount an argument, he ends up shooting the very platform on which he is standing.

Not content with previous efforts at undermining his credibility as an apologist, he decided to take one of his occasional romps out of his comfort zone of gossip and slander into the area of historical apologetics. His recent appearance in this arena involves an attack on “Trinitarian Christians” for corrupting one of the important evidences for the historical existence of Jesus. According to him, “Trinitarian Christians” are guilty of corrupting the account of the first century Jewish historian Josephus, who was, among other things, an eyewitness to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

In various places in his writings Josephus makes mention of both John the Baptist and James the Lord’s half-brother. Josephus’ remarks about John the Baptist are not questioned by historical scholars, and his remarks about James are questioned by very few. However, and this is where our Muslim friend renders a disservice both to himself and his prophet, he brings up the famous Testimonium Flavianum, a portion of Josephus that, admittedly, has been debated by scholars. The passage in Josephus reads as follows:

"At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was a doer of amazing deeds, a teacher of persons who receive the truth with pleasure. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. And when Pilate condemned him to the cross, the leading me among us having accused him, those who loved him from the first did not cease to do so. For he appeared to them the third day alive again, the divine prophets having spoken these things and a myriad of other marvels concerning him. And to the present the tribe of Christians, named after this person, has not disappeared." (Ant. 18.3.3)

Scholars have taken three basic approaches to this portion of Josephus: 1) the passage is entirely spurious; 2) the passage is entirely authentic; and 3) the passage is partly authentic and partly inauthentic.

By far and away, historical scholars take the third option. A few of the reasons why most scholars do not reject the entirety of the passage as inauthentic or entirely a product of Christian hands can be given here.

In the first place, a number of the statements that appear in the Testimonium Flavianum are not characteristically Christian forms of expression or ways of speaking about Jesus. For example, although Christians believe that Jesus was/is, as He Himself said, “Greater than Solomon”, calling him “a wise man” is not a way that the early Christians did or would be expected to refer to Jesus, their Lord (and ours). Early Christians also did not refer to themselves as “the tribe of Christians”, a fact that once again points away from the idea that a Christian is responsible for at least this portion of the passage. A second observation that inclines scholars away from understanding the entire passage to be the product of Christian tampering comes from a later reference to Jesus in Josephus, a reference scholars do not contest. The way the later passage in question is worded presupposes an earlier mention of Jesus by Josephus, and the Testimonium is the only candidate for such an earlier reference.

More could be said in favor of the fact that the passage cannot be written off in its entirety as being from Josephus, but the scholarly work on this is so well known, widely spread, and easily accessible that this would be an unnecessary waste of time, especially in the present context and the real reason I have for bringing all of this up. The actual reason for bringing this up derives from one of the MAIN reasons that scholars have for saying that the passage contains at least some Christian interpolations. Just how my Muslim friend missed the significance of this and walked right into an incredibly embarrassing situation is truly beyond me, though I guess I shouldn’t have put it past him. Here is the list of reasons as it was provided by this Muslim:

"The principle arguments against the genuineness of the account in the Jewish Antiqiuities are as follows:

(i) The Jewish Josephus could not have described Isa [Jesus] as al-Masih [Messiah]

(ii) While the bishop and historian Eusebius of Caesarea (d. ca. 340 CE) mentions the controversial passage, the Greek theologian Origen (ca. 185-254 CE) had expressly stated that Josephus did not believe Isa [Jesus] to be al-Masih; and finally

(iii) The suspicious passage breaks continuity of Josephus’ description of a series of riots (Feldman, 1965:49)" (Emphasis original)

To this I want to give as loud and emphatic an “AMEN” as I possibly can: Josephus, as scholars agree, in so far as he was a Jew and not a Christian, “could NOT have described Isa [Jesus] as al-Masih [Messiah].”

And that, noble readers, is why we not only must understand that the text of Josephus at this point cannot be entirely the product of his hand; it is also one of the MANY reasons why we must reject the Qur’an as the Word of God, for it contains just such an obvious and glaring error – or should I say “interpolation”? – as even our Muslim friend admits in the above case. It does this when it attributes the following statement to those first century Jews who rejected Jesus: “Surely we have killed THE MESSIAH [al-Masih], Isa the Son of Marium, THE MESSENGER of Allah” (S. 4:157). The simple fact of the matter is, unbelieving first century Jews “could not have described Isa [Jesus] as al-Masih [Messiah],” and therefore the so-called “perfectly preserved Qur’an” has perfectly preserved for us one of the many errors of the Allah of the Qur’an and his only messenger – Muhammad.

In light of this I must once again appeal to this Muslim to consider hanging up his apologetic hat. "If the hat doesn't fit, you ought to quit."

For more on this, see here:

The Qur’an: A Book Full of Conjecture and Doubt


Hogan Elijah Hagbard said...

Did Yahya Snow bring up the argument?

Typically an example of Yahya's amateurish aspersions.

Interestingly, the only argument for the whole or partly falsity of the passage are:

No writers quote the passage prior to Eusebius

Josephus was a Jew and would never employ such wordings on Jesus, e.g.: more than a man, Messiah, doer of great things and his resurrection.

However, these are arguments of silence, there is no evidence that Eusebius did not write this passage. Simply stating that scholars agree, is not an evidence, I'd wish Muslims and atheists would figure this matter out. In fact not all scholars agree about the inauthenticity of the passage. Scholars such as Bammel and Meir, among others believe that the passage portrays what Josephus originally wrote. Secondly, taking into account the enormous amount of Christian writing that did not survive from the time prior to Eusebius, such as the writings of Hegesippus, it is virtually impossible to prove that the text did not appear in this manner prior to that.

In fact another text referred to as the Michael's text, in Arabia contained almost the same wording, also from the fourth century. I have a hard time believing that Christians distorted such a work so early within Christian era.

Anthony Rogers said...

Yes, it is amateur hour again Hogan.

The argument based on Eusebius appeals to the fact that the passage IS quoted prior to Eusebius - namely, by Origen - and not in its Eusebian form.

As for the Arabic text of Josephus, as I recall, and correct me if I am wrong but I don't feel like searching for the book at the moment and I am going from memory, but doesn't the Arabic text of Josephus that you refer to add the word "perhaps" before its reference to Jesus as the Messiah? Also, when you say Meier and Bammel are among those who except the entirety of the passage, to your knowledge are they referring to the Arabic text?

Thanks, bro. God bless.

Anonymous said...

I enjoy your posts and your youtube videos....but one thing I notice that appologists do wrong is speak arrogantly. I think you should show more respect towards muslims to let them know that you are not constantly making fun of them in comments that are in joke form that look more arrogant than helpful...remember we are to love them. People are dying due to suicide bombings and persecution from Islam and I cant joke about their violence. It is a serious matter. I know you are intelligent and I agree with your views but I am only asking you to remember that we are trying show truth and expose lies more than constantly laugh at them. God bless you and your ministry.

Michelle Qureshi said...

Good article, my friend. I hadn't interpreted the Quran's words that way, but I now wonder why not :-) I'm undecided on the TF, although I lean towards partial fabrication.

God bless your good work, my friend! In Christ,

Fisher said...

Lol, it took be a few minutes to figure out exactly what the argument is supposed to be, but once I've figured it out, I was like "Hah! Epic fail!"

Anthony Rogers said...

Thanks for the comment and prayer for God's blessing on me, Nabeel. And may our God bless you as well; may He make you steadfast and willing to bear the reproach of Christ before a proud world that despises His Lordship; and may He cause you to be fruitful in your desire to defend the cause of God and truth. Amen.

Fisher, sorry if I wasn't clear enough. But I am glad you got it eventually. I will try to communicate better in the future.

Leah, sorry if you disagreed with the way I expressed myself in the article, but please don't impute what you think to be an error on my part to anyone else on the blog. Also, although you spoke of "arrogance", I assume you are referring to certain remarks I was willing to make about the disreputable character of the individual to whom I am replying. To this I would simply say two things: 1) I don't speak to every, most, or even a lot of Muslims this way; and 2) there is a long backstory to all of this, and I can only say it is clear to me and many others that this individual should find someting better to do with his time.

Unfortunately you are walking into this movie towards the end and you are trying to understand what is going on on the screen. All I can say is, the little old lady that was sentenced to the electric chair wasn't as innocent as she looked.

GreekAsianPanda said...

Inconsistency: Islamic apologetics' greatest flaw.

To be honest, I think it's entirely possible that the Quran's Jews are being "sarcastic," as many Muslims would argue, which is why I don't usually regard it as an error. But Muslims can't throw away the entire Testimonium Flavianum with absolute certainty based on "He was the Messiah" without ending up applying different standards to the Quran and Antiquities. (I assume the Quran, according to Islam, is supposed to be without error, including historical errors, correct? Then it is supposed to be read as history, like Josephus' work, also meant to be read as literal history. Maybe Josephus was being sarcastic, too! =O)

Anthony Rogers said...

I don't think the "sarcasm" reply is very plausible, and I explained some of the reasons already in the link that appears at the bottom of this blog post. I will have more to add to that in the near future, Lord willing.

Hogan Elijah Hagbard said...

Thanks for the reminder Leah, I understand where you are coming from.

Unfortunately, the way of arrogant writing runs frequent in apologist feedback, it has become a language of its own, probably due to the debate atmosphere. Such an environment often requires crocodile skin.

However, there is a reason why I used the phrase 'amateurish aspersions', namely to pinpoint out the nature of a specific writing.

I am just thinking that both Jesus and Paul, showed sometimes harshness in their communication. As to Yahya Snow, who seems to give a heck about Christians being tormented in Muslim countries and even apparently backs such attrocities up by claiming that such information is propaganda, categorizes Mr. Snow as someone who represents a diabolical cause, and such I have no problem to point out.

As to 'amateurish', that is the case with many of his writings.

But anyway, Leah, yeah I guess we needed that.

God bless