Yahya thinks his “post-debate scrutiny” shores up the inequities that he couldn’t help but admit characterized Osama’s presentation. We have already seen some of the myriad ways that Yahya has failed to live up to this claim. The following picks up from where I left off in part one.
Since Yahya believes the debate primarily centered on and was to be won or lost on the basis of Deuteronomy 18, I will begin with the claim that this prophecy is about Muhammad. This will also set the tone for my response to his bald-faced and shameless admission that Muslims resort to an esoteric reading of Deuteronomy 33 in order to convince themselves that it is about Muhammad, and will also prepare us for a discussion of the predictions of the coming Servant in the book of the prophet Isaiah that Yahya completely skirted in his review (something you will see if you watch the debate instead of taking Yahya’s self-serving and fear-induced plea not to watch it).
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers, you shall listen to him. This is according to all that you asked of the Lord your God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, let me not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’ The Lord said to me, ‘They have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet from among their brothers like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.
In the debate I made three major points about what it meant to be “like Moses” relevant to the prophecy found in Deuteronomy 18. According to the immediate and broader context of this passage in the Torah the prophet would: 1) be an Israelite; 2) know God face to face and receive His revelations directly; and 3) perform signs and wonders in the sight of all Israel.
I argued that the prophet had to be an Israelite on a number of grounds:
a) The more primary meaning of a word or phrase rather than one of its secondary or more remote meanings holds unless contrary evidence can be provided. You don’t first select for a remote meaning if one of the more common meanings makes perfect sense when there are no good or better reasons to take it otherwise. In this case, taking “brother,” ach, to refer to the descendants of Ishmael rather than a fellow Israelite, someone from the tribes that descended from Jacob, is clearly to select for a more remote meaning. The verse itself clearly makes sense when understood as referring to a fellow Israelite, and there is no good reason to think it is referring to a non-Israelite. Indeed, the whole passage puts all the emphasis on Israel.
The Lord YOUR God will raise up FOR YOU a prophet like me FROM AMONG YOU, from YOUR brothers, YOU shall listen to him. This is according to all that YOU asked of the Lord YOUR God in Horeb on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let ME not hear again the voice of the Lord MY God, let ME not see this great fire anymore, or I will die.’ The Lord said to me, ‘THEY have spoken well. I will raise up a prophet FROM AMONG THEIR brothers like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak TO THEM all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.
Osama offered no response to this observation in the debate. Neither did Yahya in his “post-debate scrutiny.”
b) The immediate context of the passage clearly shows that the Israelites were not to look to someone from the other nations in order to discern God’s will. God would raise up a prophet for them in Moses’ stead so that they will not need to look outside the covenant community to know God’s will.
When YOU enter the land which the Lord YOUR God gives YOU, YOU shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of THOSE NATIONS. There shall not be found AMONG YOU anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the Lord; and because of these detestable things the Lord YOUR God will drive THEM out before YOU. YOU shall be blameless before the Lord YOUR God. For THOSE NATIONS, which YOU shall dispossess, listen to those who practice witchcraft and to diviners, but as for you, the Lord your God has not allowed you to do so.
It was precisely against this backdrop that Moses went on to speak the words of the prophecy in question, promising that God would raise up for the people a prophet from among their brethren, i.e. from among the children of Israel, rather than from among the nations outside of Israel that were given over to abominations in the sight of God.
Once again, Osama had nothing to say about this point in the debate, and nothing at all is said about it in Yahya’s “post-debate scrutiny.”
c) The broader context also argues for understanding that “the Prophet” would be an Israelite. The broader context is dealing with the three anointed offices of the Israelite economy: the offices of king (Dt. 17:14-20), priest (Dt. 18:1-14), and prophet (Dt. 18:15-22). According to the requirements of the former two offices, any person anointed to serve in those capacities had to be an Israelite, and so, not only would one expect, by way of symmetry, that the same would go for the prophetic office, but the fact that the very same language is used in all three cases puts the proverbial nail in the coffin. The relevant portion regarding each office follows:
When YOU enter the land which the Lord YOUR God gives YOU, and YOU possess it and live in it, and YOU say, ‘I will set a king over ME like all the nations who are around ME,’ YOU shall surely set a king over YOU whom the Lord YOUR God chooses, one from among YOUR BROTHERS you shall set as king over YOURSELVES; YOU may not put a foreigner over yourselves who is not your BROTHER. Moreover, he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor shall he cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, since the Lord has said to YOU, ‘YOU shall never again return that way.’ He shall not multiply wives for himself, or else his heart will turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself.
Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his BROTHERS and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left, so that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom IN THE MIDST OF ISRAEL. (Deuteronomy 17:14-20)
The Levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance WITH ISRAEL; they shall eat the Lord’s offerings by fire and His portion. They shall have no inheritance among THEIR BROTHERS; the Lord is their inheritance, as He promised them.
Now this shall be the priests’ due from the people, from those who offer a sacrifice, either an ox or a sheep, of which they shall give to the priest the shoulder and the two cheeks and the stomach. You shall give him the first fruits of your grain, your new wine, and your oil, and the first shearing of your sheep. For the Lord your God has chosen him and his sons FROM ALL YOUR TRIBES, to stand and serve in the name of the Lord forever.
Now if a Levite comes from any of YOUR towns THROUGHOUT ISRAEL WHERE HE RESIDES, and comes whenever he desires to the place which the Lord chooses, then he shall serve in the name of the Lord his God, like all his fellow Levites who stand there before the Lord. They shall eat equal portions, except what they receive from the sale of their fathers’ estates. (Leviticus 17:1-8)
The same language is used for these other offices to demarcate just who can serve in these capacities, and it plainly, nay, emphatically indicates that they had to be Israelites without exception.
Incredibly, while Osama does not address this in the debate, this is the only positive argument that I put forward that Yahya does say something about in his so-called “post-debate scrutiny” that we were told is going to make up for Osama’s failure. Yet, what Yahya had to say shows that he was completely stupefied and bereft of any answer just as much as Osama was:
Anthony Rogers then presents a case based on context as the word brethren earlier on in this chapter refers to Israelites. This is a GOOD POINT Rogers raises – one that must be given further thought.… Anthony did bring an interesting argument forward concerning context. (emphasis mine)
So of the three arguments I gave, not even one has been refuted in what Yahya has gratuitously called his “post-debate scrutiny.” Although it hardly needs to be said, scrutiny that does not scrutinize is not scrutiny at all. What makes this rather humorous is that Yahya’s excuse for Osama was that he had little time to prepare for the debate (truth be told, along with the other three debaters, I was only told I would be debating after Osama first agreed to it with George Saieg and The Center for Religious Debate/Ministry to Muslims). The reason this is humorous is because it means that Yahya did just as bad if not worse than Osama in his attempts to respond to my arguments even though he had time and leisure in which to craft his response. (Another line of argumentation showing that the prophet had to be an Israelite can be found in an appendix to my series on Deuteronomy 18: Appendix I: The Prophet and the Prophets.)
Because Yahya could not refute my points he decided to misrepresent (or possibly he just misunderstood) something I said about the range of possible meanings that the Hebrew word ach could have. Yahya represents me as saying that the word for “brother” cannot be used to refer to more distant relationships between people beyond those who have the same father or who come from the same tribe or nation.
All in all, Abdallah made the case that Arabs are indeed the brethren of Jews so strengthened the affirmative position and left Rogers with no room to manoeuvre. Or did he?
Rogers actually showed his staunch bias in this regard as he did not even grant the meaning which was offered by Abdallah. Erm, Strongs Accordance at Blueletterbible.com confirms the possible meaning of 'relative' and 'kinship' so is not simply restricted to blood brother. Rogers looked silly here due to his extreme bias which was a feature throughout the debate.
But this is not what I said in the debate. What I said was that the word “brother” to my knowledge is never specifically used to refer to the relationship between the descendants of Jacob and the descendants of Jacob’s uncle Ishmael. Osama said that Obadiah 1 uses the word “brother” in this way, i.e. to refer to the relationship between Ishmaelites and Israelites, but a cursory reading of the verse quickly reveals that it is not referring to Ishmaelites at all but rather to the descendants of Esau/Edom, the latter of whom actually was Jacob’s brother and not his uncle.
“Will I not on that day,” declares the LORD, “destroy wise men from EDOM and understanding from the mountain of ESAU? Then your mighty men will be dismayed, O Teman, so that everyone may be cut off from the mountain of Esau by slaughter. Because of violence to your brother Jacob, you will be covered with shame, and you will be cut off forever.” (Obadiah 1:8-10)
So for good reason I did not grant in the debate that it could specifically be used to refer to an Ishmaelite in relation to an Israelite. At the very least there is no unequivocal example of such a usage that I know of, and neither Osama nor Yahya showed otherwise. Even if they could show that it is used that way elsewhere, the fact that it could be used in this loose way in certain contexts does nothing to overturn the grammatical and contextual arguments I mentioned above for Deuteronomy 18 which Osama and now Yahya spectacularly failed to address.
A final point that Yahya brings up to show that Jews and Arabs are cousins who could be called “brothers” is Matthew 21:43 ("Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and be given to a people producing its fruits"). But this passage is not talking about the “Arab” nation as such and does not even use the word “brother.” This passage is part and parcel of the trajectory of Matthew’s Gospel which leads up to the great commission. In Matthew Jesus is presented as the true Israel, the one who would fulfill the promises made to Israel and be the founder of a new people of God, a people who come out of every nation, tribe, kindred and tongue. That is, the kingdom of God would no longer be defined along racial or geo-political lines, but would be proclaimed to all nations and would be entered by faith. All people, whether Jew or Gentile, solely on the basis of faith, would form this new nation.
Thus Yahya’s appeal to Matthew 21:43 suffers from profound ignorance of a central thesis of the book itself: the Kingdom is being taken away from the nation of Israel, and the new nation that it will be given to is Messiah’s nation or people, i.e. all those everywhere, whether Jew or Gentile, who are savingly united to Messiah by faith, a faith that is signified and sealed by baptism into the Triune name of God.
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)