Gospel of Jesus

The Authen­tic Gospel of Jesus


Instead of writ­ing a full-scale biog­ra­phy of Jesus of Nazareth, I want to focus on some aspects of the life and teach­ing of Jesus of Nazareth that are com­mon­ly over­looked by most Chris­tians. Any attempt to recon­struct the his­tor­i­cal Jesus (as dis­tinct from the incar­nate deity of eccle­si­as­ti­cal faith) needs to take into account all the recov­er­able data about Jesus, much of which has been ignored by many Chris­tians because of its’ embar­rass­ment to Chris­t­ian ortho­doxy. Jesus’ report­ed say­ings in the Gospels are fre­quent­ly sub­ject­ed to tor­tu­ous exe­ge­sis by fun­da­men­tal­ist Chris­tians to make them fit lat­er church tra­di­tion. Para­dox­i­cal­ly, the data has been crit­i­cal­ly exam­ined by none oth­er than Chris­t­ian schol­ars themselves.

It is the time-hon­oured Chris­t­ian prac­tice to read the New Tes­ta­ment gospels through the per­spec­tive of cen­turies of lat­er church tra­di­tion. This lat­er tra­di­tion devel­oped in a very dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ment to the milieu of Sec­ond Tem­ple Judaism. Cer­tain titles and expres­sions which had been used of or by Jesus under­went a rad­i­cal seman­tic shift, result­ing (to give but one exam­ple) in a title such as son of God’ acquir­ing a total­ly new and non-Jew­ish mean­ing in the Hel­lenis­tic world of the third and fourth cen­turies. The Catholic Church came to rede­fine the ontol­ogy of the man from Nazareth into cat­e­gories of Greek phi­los­o­phy and meta­physics. Thus, the charis­mat­ic heal­er and prophet from Nazareth became a God. The doc­trine of the Incar­na­tion of God in Jesus has always scan­dalised Jews and, lat­er, Mus­lims would also find it blas­phe­mous, an unac­cept­able Chris­t­ian dogma.

West­ern bib­li­cal schol­ar­ship since the Enlight­en­ment has tried to strip away these ide­o­log­i­cal accre­tions and uncov­er, as much as pos­si­ble, the real Jesus of his­to­ry : Jesus the Mes­si­ah, a prophet of God. There is an extra­or­di­nary resem­blance between the his­tor­i­cal pic­ture pro­duced by many bib­li­cal schol­ars and the Jesus of the Qur’an. This con­ver­gence has not gone unno­ticed in recent works by New Tes­ta­ment schol­ars who see in it an excit­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty for rap­proche­ment between the two Abra­ham­ic faiths (I cite two exam­ples in my con­clu­sion below).

I want to explore four key issues that reveal cru­cial aspects of the teach­ing and life of Jesus that are com­mon­ly obscured or even sup­pressed by tra­di­tion­al Chris­t­ian apolo­get­ics and piety — whether Evan­gel­i­cal or Roman Catholic.

N.B. There is a Glos­sary of unfa­mil­iar terms at the end of this essay and Sug­ges­tions for Fur­ther Read­ing if you wish to explore the sub­ject further.

The Key Issues

The key issues I will explore come under four chap­ter headings :

  • Chap­ter 1 : The Jew­ish Law : Jesus did not declare all foods clean
  • Chap­ter 2 : What Jesus taught about being saved’, or inher­it­ing eter­nal life (and what St Paul wrote) 
  • Chap­ter 3 : Jesus is por­trayed in the Gospels as pre­dict­ing his own death : dif­fi­cul­ties with tak­ing this at face value
  • Chap­ter 4 : Jesus did not claim to be the Cre­ator of the universe

We will be cov­er­ing these issues in the fol­low­ing sections.

Chap­ter 1 : The Jew­ish Law — Jesus did not declare all foods clean

It is wide­ly believed that Jesus taught and declared that all foods are clean, that is, it is per­mis­si­ble for his fol­low­ers to con­sume every kind of meat. How­ev­er, pur­port­ed say­ings of Jesus in Matthews’ gospel sug­gest otherwise.

At the begin­ning of his min­istry Jesus is report­ed to have taught his dis­ci­ples this cru­cial teaching :

    Do not think that I have come to abol­ish the Law or the prophets ; I have not come to abol­ish them but to ful­fil them. Tru­ly I tell you, until heav­en and earth dis­ap­pear, not the small­est let­ter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means dis­ap­pear from the Law until every­thing is accom­plished. Any­one who sets aside one of the least of these com­mands and teach­es oth­ers accord­ing­ly will be called least in the king­dom of heav­en, but who­ev­er prac­tices and teach­es these com­mands will be called great in the king­dom of heav­en. For I tell you that unless your right­eous­ness sur­pass­es that of the Phar­isees and the teach­ers of the Law, you will cer­tain­ly not enter the king­dom of heav­enMatthew 5:17 – 20

(All quo­ta­tions are from the New Inter­na­tion­al Ver­sion of the Bible)

Towards the end of his teach­ing min­istry, eigh­teen chap­ters lat­er, we are told Jesus said :

    The teach­ers of the law and the Phar­isees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do every­thing they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not prac­tice what they preachMatthew 23:1 – 2

When Jesus said this, he must have known that any Rab­bi would say you could not eat pork, as it says in Leviti­cus 11:7 – 8 :

    And the pig, though it has a divid­ed hoof, does not chew the cud ; it is unclean for you. You must not eat their meat or touch their car­cass­es ; they are unclean for you. 

If you look at anoth­er New Tes­ta­ment book called the Acts of the Apos­tles you will read that at a coun­cil held in Jerusalem, the dis­ci­ples ruled that all believ­ers must stay away from

    Food sac­ri­ficed to idols, from blood, and from the meat of stran­gled ani­mals (Acts 15:29)

Inci­den­tal­ly, St Paul is report­ed to have agreed with this deci­sion. Blood is not to be eat­en, nor the meat of stran­gled ani­mals because they would have the blood still in them (see Leviti­cus 17:10 – 12)

For the meat to be fit for eat­ing the blood must be prop­er­ly drained out of the ani­mal (see v 13). The dis­ci­ples knew their Bible and act­ed accordingly.

Nev­er­the­less, many Chris­tians think that in the book of Acts the dis­ci­ples were told to give up obey­ing the Law on unclean foods. To sup­port this assump­tion they refer to Acts 10 where Peter has a vision, in which a voice tells him,

    do not call any­thing impure that God has made clean (verse 15)

It is impor­tant to read this verse in its com­plete con­text. If you have a copy of the New Tes­ta­ment to hand, I rec­om­mend you read the book of Acts, chap­ter 10, vers­es 1 – 35.

If you have read the whole pas­sage, you will see that this vision was not about clean and unclean foods, but about clean and unclean peo­ple. The voice from heav­en told Peter that human beings should not be called unclean’ just because they did not belong to Israel. Peter won­dered about the mean­ing of the vision (vv. 17, 19). Then he explains what he under­stood to be the import of the vision :

    He said to them : You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to asso­ciate with Gen­tiles or vis­it them. But God has shown me that I should not call any­one impure or unclean. (Acts 10:28)
    I now realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right (Acts : 10:34)

So it is evi­dent that, con­trary to what many Chris­tians assume, Peter did not pro­claim that all foods were now clean. Indeed, if we look at Acts 15 again, at the coun­cil of Jerusalem the dis­ci­ples ruled that all believ­ers must stay away from,

    Food sac­ri­ficed to idols, from blood, and from the meat of stran­gled ani­mals (Acts 15:29)

It may be of inter­est to note that these pro­hi­bi­tions are men­tioned in the Qur’an too,

    You are for­bid­den to eat car­rion ; blood ; pig’s meat ; any ani­mal over which any name oth­er than God’s has been invoked ; any ani­mal stran­gled, or any­thing sac­ri­ficed on idol­a­trous altarsSurah 5:3

(All quo­ta­tions are from The Qur’an : a new trans­la­tion by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem pub­lished by Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2004)

A Very Curi­ous Phenomenon

I have not men­tioned a very curi­ous phe­nom­e­non so far. Accord­ing to Mark’s Gospel 7:18 – 19, Jesus sup­pos­ed­ly said this :

    Don’t you see that noth­ing that enters you from the out­side can defile you ? For it does­n’t go into your heart but into your stom­ach, and then out of your body. (In say­ing this, Jesus declared all foods clean)

The words in paren­the­sis were added by Mark and were not spo­ken by Jesus.

An alert read­er would have noticed that this state­ment direct­ly con­tra­dicts the pas­sages quot­ed above (Matthew, 5:17 – 20 ; 23:1 – 2 ; Acts, Chap­ters 10 and 15).

In these pas­sages it is evi­dent that the dis­ci­ples were not told to aban­don kosher food laws by Jesus and that they had to strug­gle with the dif­fi­cult ques­tion of whether or not the Torah laws could be relaxed for con­verts (it is cru­cial to note that the issue was how the gen­tile con­verts should live, and not the dis­ci­ples them­selves who con­tin­ued to observe the Torah).

Chris­t­ian schol­ars have faced this prob­lem with com­mend­able hon­esty. The New Jerome Bib­li­cal Com­men­tary (ed. R. Brown et al, Pren­tice Hall, 1990) is a pres­ti­gious work of Roman Catholic bib­li­cal schol­ar­ship with con­tri­bu­tions from top schol­ars in Amer­i­ca and the UK.

It states :

Again the prob­lem : If Jesus had been so explic­it about the obser­vance of Jew­ish food laws, why were there so many debates on this mat­ter in the ear­ly church ? (p. 612)

In his­tor­i­cal fact Jesus did not abol­ish the cer­e­mo­ni­al law as such since oth­er­wise the strug­gles of the ear­ly church record­ed in Gala­tians, Acts 10 and 15 would be unin­tel­li­gi­ble (p. 658)

There­fore, I would con­clude that Mark has prob­a­bly read the atti­tude of the church of his time and place back into the orig­i­nal say­ings of Jesus. Mark is usu­al­ly believed to have writ­ten his Gospel about 65 – 70AD for a non-Jew­ish audi­ence, a gen­er­a­tion after Jesus. The Hel­l­eniza­tion of Jesus is already well underway !

The Plot Thickens !

Now this is not the end of the mat­ter. There is a fur­ther com­pli­ca­tion to consider.

Three dif­fer­ent posi­tions are pos­si­ble to adopt con­cern­ing Jesus’ real teach­ing about the Old Tes­ta­ment Law. They are :

i. Jesus com­plete­ly abol­ished the OT law.


ul>In the light of the dis­cus­sion so far we might be for­giv­en if we are tempt­ed to dis­miss this pos­si­bil­i­ty straight away. But it is found in Paul’s let­ter to the Eph­esians 2:15. Paul says that Jesus,

    Set aside in his flesh the law with its com­mands and its regulations

In Paul’s let­ter to the Romans 14:20 he says unequivocally :

    All food is clean

In 1 Tim­o­thy 4:1 – 3 Paul (though most schol­ars do not think the apos­tle Paul wrote the Pas­toral Epis­tles, I assume Pauline author­ship for argu­ments sakes) even con­demns those peo­ple (James and the oth­er apos­tles?) who order peo­ple to abstain from cer­tain foods, and accus­es them of aban­don­ing the true faith and fol­low­ing demons !

    The Spir­it clear­ly says that in lat­er times some will aban­don the faith and fol­low deceiv­ing spir­its and things taught by demons. Such teach­ings come through hyp­o­crit­i­cal liars, whose con­sciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They for­bid peo­ple to mar­ry and order them to abstain from cer­tain foods. 

Final­ly, as if it were not clear enough already, Paul in his let­ter to the Colos­sians 2:14 claims that Jesus

    can­celled the writ­ten code, with its regulations…

ii. Jesus taught that the Torah was still to be fol­lowed in its entirety. 

    The Let­ter of James, to be found towards the end of the New Tes­ta­ment, assumes the con­tin­u­ing nor­ma­tiv­i­ty of the law,
    For who­ev­er keeps the whole Law and yet stum­bles at just one point is guilty of break­ing all of it. For he who said, You shall not com­mit adul­tery,’ also said, You shall not mur­der.’ If you do not com­mit adul­tery but do com­mit mur­der, you become a law-break­er. 2:10 – 11

As we have seen even Jesus is quot­ed as say­ing that no one should think he came to abol­ish the law, but to ful­fil it (Matthew 5:17). Fur­ther­more, Jesus continues,

    Any­one who sets aside one of the least of these com­mands and teach­es oth­ers accord­ing­ly will be called least in the king­dom of heav­en Matthew (5:19)

So even the small­est com­mand in the Torah should be adhered to.

How­ev­er, para­dox­i­cal­ly, even in Matthew’s Gospel we read of Jesus can­celling some Old Tes­ta­ment Laws.

The Law of Moses states in Deuteron­o­my 24:1,

    If a man mar­ries a woman who becomes dis­pleas­ing to him because he finds some­thing inde­cent about her, and he writes her a cer­tifi­cate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house…

In Math­ew 5:31 Jesus clear­ly can­cels the Law about divorce and issues a new com­mand­ment to replace it,

    It has been said, Any­one who divorces his wife must give her a cer­tifi­cate of divorce.” But I tell you that any­one who divorces his wife, except for sex­u­al immoral­i­ty, caus­es her to become an adul­ter­ess, and any­one who mar­ries the divorced woman com­mits adultery

iii. Jesus con­firmed the con­tin­u­ing valid­i­ty of Torah Law in gen­er­al but abro­gat­ed some spe­cif­ic laws. 

    This view is a medi­at­ing posi­tion between posi­tions i and ii above and makes best sense of all the evi­dence. Con­fir­ma­tion of the cor­rect­ness of this inter­pre­ta­tion is found in Holy Qur’an, a book sent by God to dis­cern what is true and what is false in pre­vi­ous books. Jesus says,
    I have come to con­firm the truth of the Torah which pre­ced­ed me, and to make some things law­ful to you which used to be forbidden…(3:50)

Now, some read­ers might think this argu­ment is a ten­den­tious ploy to prove the Qur’an right. So it is instruc­tive to reflect on the find­ings of Chris­t­ian schol­ars who have wres­tled with this problem :

The New Jerome Bib­li­cal Com­men­tary makes the fol­low­ing observations :

The prob­lem aris­es because the plain sense of the words is that Jesus affirms the abid­ing valid­i­ty of the Torah ; but this con­tra­dicts Paul (e.g. Gal 2:5, 16 ; Rom 3:21 – 31). More­over no major Chris­t­ian church requires obser­vance of all 613 pre­cepts of the OT law, (p.641)

If Matthew is right about Jesus in chap­ters 5 and 23 then :

There is a gap between the teach­ing here and the teach­ing and prac­tice of the church­es p.641

The New Jerome Bib­li­cal Com­men­tary (p. 641) sug­gests that even if we deny the gen­uine­ness of Matthew 5:17 – 20,

The denial of the authen­tic­i­ty of 17, 19, and 20 does not make Jesus hold the same view as Paul. 

The Com­men­tary sug­gests that these verses,

Reflect the out­look of Jew­ish Chris­tian­i­ty, which, as a sep­a­rate move­ment, was even­tu­al­ly defeat­ed by Paulin­ism [church­es influ­enced by Paul] and died out, per­haps to be reborn in a dif­fer­ent form as Islam. (Empha­sis added) — p. 641.

This quo­ta­tion is an acknowl­edge­ment from top bib­li­cal schol­ars that Islam has much in com­mon with the prac­tice of the ear­li­est fol­low­ers of Jesus.

Paul, as we know, had very dif­fer­ent views.

As far as mod­ern Chris­tians are con­cerned, Paul won his fight and they fol­low him p.641

The authors of the Com­men­tary hold the view that nei­ther Matthew nor Paul is entire­ly cor­rect. They admit,

There are con­tra­dic­tions with­in the New Tes­ta­ment on penul­ti­mate mat­ters p.641

As we have seen, the Qur’an has pro­vid­ed us with the key to find­ing the authen­tic teach­ing of Jesus on the Law. As I dis­cuss in the con­clu­sion, recent stud­ies have demon­strat­ed the extra­or­di­nary resem­blance between the his­tor­i­cal pic­ture of Jesus pro­duced by many bib­li­cal schol­ars and the Jesus of the Qur’an. How is this so ? Mus­lims believe that the Qur’an is the word of God, revealed to the Prophet Muham­mad via the archangel Gabriel, and intend­ed as a guide for all times and places. Unlike the Bible we have today which con­tains Jesus’ words in an often cor­rupt­ed and altered state, God has giv­en mankind a book free from any errors, con­tra­dic­tions or alter­ations by man.

That said, I would like to reit­er­ate that my dis­cus­sion of the food laws in the Gospels has not been taint­ed’ or derived through Qur’an­ic lens­es. Putting the Qur’an aside and study­ing the Gospels accord­ing to the method­olo­gies of his­tor­i­cal enquiry — we would end up with a Jesus who has an uncan­ny resem­blance with the Jesus pre­sent­ed by the Qur’an. Thus in the case of clean and unclean food, most schol­ars believe that the his­tor­i­cal Jesus did not nul­li­fy the OT food laws. I rec­om­mend the dis­cus­sion of this issue in The His­tor­i­cal Fig­ure of Jesus by E.P. Sanders, pp. 218 – 223 (see my sug­ges­tions for fur­ther read­ing below).

(I am indebt­ed to Shabir Ally, Pres­i­dent of the Islam­ic Infor­ma­tion and Da’wah Cen­tre Inter­na­tion­al, Cana­da, for var­i­ous sug­ges­tions con­tained in his excel­lent pam­phlet What God said about Eat­ing Pork, Al-Attique Pub­lish­ers Inc. Cana­da, Sec­ond Edi­tion 2003).

Chap­ter 2 : What Jesus taught about being saved’, or inher­it­ing eter­nal life ; what St Paul lat­er wrote about salvation

If the read­er has fol­lowed the dis­cus­sion thus far he or she will have some idea of the dif­fi­cul­ties fac­ing the stu­dent in attempt­ing to uncov­er Jesus’ true mes­sage from the many ret­ro­spec­tive changes made to Jesus’ teaching.

Here I will sim­ply put side-by-side two answers to the fol­low­ing ques­tion : How is a human being to attain eter­nal life, that is, how are we saved ? The first answer is giv­en by Jesus and the sec­ond answer by St Paul. Fun­da­men­tal­ist Chris­tians often put this vital ques­tion to Mus­lims. They tell Mus­lims that if they want to be saved they need only put their faith in Jesus’. The read­er can judge for him­self if these Chris­tians are being faith­ful to Jesus’ teach­ing or not.

In Mark’s Gospel 10:17 – 19 we read,

    As Jesus start­ed on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. Good teacher’, he asked, what must I do to inher­it eter­nal life?’

    Why do you call me good?’ Jesus answered. No-one is good — except God alone.

    You know the com­mand­ments : You shall not mur­der, you shall not com­mit adul­tery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false tes­ti­mo­ny, you shall not defraud, hon­our your father and mother

Here is St Paul’s answer to the same ques­tion in Romans 10:9.

    If you declare with your mouth, Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved 

The dif­fer­ences are star­tling. Jesus’ answer to the ques­tion about sal­va­tion focus­es on obe­di­ence to the Torah. As a Prophet to the Jew­ish peo­ple, Jesus sees his faith­ful­ness to God expressed in adher­ence to the Cre­ator’s com­mands and pre­cepts in the Torah.

For Paul, how­ev­er, writ­ing decades lat­er, the Law itself has been abol­ished, and in place of faith­ful­ness to the Cre­ator, we are asked to put our trust in an event no human being wit­nessed — the alleged res­ur­rec­tion of Jesus from the dead, and the Lord­ship’ of Jesus.

Chap­ter 3 : Jesus is por­trayed in the gospels as pre­dict­ing his own death : dif­fi­cul­ties with tak­ing this at face value

Did Jesus clear­ly announce his suf­fer­ing and death to his dis­ci­ples ? Or did his arrest, cru­ci­fix­ion and report­ed res­ur­rec­tion take them com­plete­ly by sur­prise ? We will briefly sur­vey these ques­tions in this chapter.

The syn­op­tic gospels con­tain six sep­a­rate instances in which Jesus pre­dicts his suf­fer­ing and death, and four times he pre­dicts his res­ur­rec­tion. Here are three exam­ples from Mark and one from Luke.

  • And he charged them to tell no one about him. And he began to teach them that the son of man must suf­fer many things, and be reject­ed by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again Mark 8:30 – 31
  • And as they were com­ing down the moun­tain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the son of man should have risen from the dead. So they kept the mat­ter to them­selves, ques­tion­ing what the ris­ing from the dead meant…And he said to them,…How is it writ­ten of the son of man, that he should suf­fer many things and be treat­ed with con­tempt ? Mark 9:9 – 10
  • But while they were all mar­vel­ling at every­thing he did, he said to his dis­ci­ples, Let these words sink into your ears ; for the son of man is to be deliv­ered into the hands of men. But they did not under­stand this saying…and they were afraid to ask him about this say­ing. Luke 9:43 – 45
  • And they were on the road, going to Jerusalem…And tak­ing the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to hap­pen to him sav­ing, Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem ; and the son of man will be deliv­ered to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will con­demn him to death, and deliv­er him to the Gen­tiles ; and they will mock him, and spit upon him, and scourge him, and kill him ; and after three days he will rise. Mark 10:32 – 34

Note the detailed pre­dic­tion in Mark 10:32 – 34 (in bold) and how clear and unam­bigu­ous it is.

I wish to make the fol­low­ing obser­va­tions on these passages :

    1. Accord­ing to the evan­ge­lists (with one excep­tion, Matt. 12:40), all of the pre­dic­tions were made dur­ing the final peri­od of his life. They are all solemn in tone : Let these words sink into your ears…’ They are not mys­te­ri­ous but expressed in plain lan­guage. There is no doubt that Jesus had put the dis­ci­ples in the pic­ture about soon to tran­spire events, at least six times.

    2. Yet how did these same dis­ci­ples react when the recent­ly fore­told events start­ed to occur ? At the crit­i­cal time between his arrest and exe­cu­tion, absolute­ly no one seems to have remem­bered the repeat­ed warn­ings con­cern­ing the events lead­ing to the cross. All Jesus’ dis­ci­ples fled when he was arrest­ed (Mark 14:50). When Peter was con­front­ed he denied hav­ing any­thing to do with Jesus or that he even knew him (Mark 14:66 – 71). None of the apos­tles (or his fam­i­ly) went with him to Gol­go­tha, accord­ing to the Syn­op­tic Gospels.

    3. Jesus would cer­tain­ly have had good grounds for believ­ing that an attempt would be made on his life and that he may get killed. How­ev­er, at the same time he prayed that God would save him from death. Father, every­thing is pos­si­ble with you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will’ Mark 14:36

    4. All the apos­tles were ini­tial­ly extreme­ly reluc­tant to believe in the res­ur­rec­tion of Jesus. Amaz­ing­ly, after the death of Jesus and the women had returned from the tomb, the dis­ci­ples did not believe the women because their words seemed to them like non­sense’ Luke 24:11. The Greek word for non­sense is leros which lit­er­al­ly means sil­ly nonsense’.

    5. Would a group of peo­ple who had been assured in advance by their charis­mat­ic and prophet­ic teacher that the trag­ic events would be fol­lowed prompt­ly by a hap­py end­ing have shown such deep dis­be­lief ? Even if we allow for the ini­tial shock and fear caused by the arrest of Jesus at night, the apos­tles should sure­ly have remem­bered the chain of events so often and so recent­ly rehearsed before them by Jesus.

    6. The evan­ge­lists had to pro­vide some expla­na­tion for this curi­ous phe­nom­e­non to ensure the cred­i­bil­i­ty of their stories.

    7. All the Gospels end up by lay­ing the blame on the dis­ci­ples them­selves for fail­ing to grasp or sim­ply for­get­ting (!) the pre­dic­tions of Jesus.

So we are faced with some­thing of a his­tor­i­cal dilemma :

Either Jesus did not, in fact, pre­dict the events, and the weak­ness and dis­be­lief of the dis­ci­ples are quite nat­ur­al and understandable.

Or he did, in fact, warn them, and the igno­min­ious behav­iour of every sin­gle one of the dis­ci­ples is quite inexplicable !

Weigh­ing up the pros and cons, at a dis­tance of 2000 years, leads me to think that it is much more like­ly that the Evan­ge­lists invent­ed the pre­dic­tions and insert­ed them into their sto­ry (or it could also be that the pre­dic­tions were fab­ri­cat­ed pri­or to the com­po­si­tion of the Gospels and came to the authors though tra­di­tion), than all con­cerned should sud­den­ly for­get those clear, detailed and repeat­ed warn­ings. Fab­ri­cat­ed prophe­cies after the event are known to exist else­where in the Gospels. Matthew even went so far as to invent a prophe­cy about Jesus from the Old Tes­ta­ment : he shall be called a Nazarene’, see Matthew 2:23. There is no such pas­sage any­where in the Old Tes­ta­ment ! Schol­ars call this genre of cre­ative’ writ­ing pesh­er inter­pre­ta­tion, and it was wide­ly used by the teach­ers of the Qum­ran com­mu­ni­ty in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

We have seen that the final form of the Gospels is self-con­tra­dic­to­ry and occa­sion­al­ly bizarre. The apos­tles are por­trayed as hav­ing no idea what ris­ing from the dead meant (Mark 9:10), though his­to­ri­ans are aware that the idea of res­ur­rec­tion was wide­ly under­stood amongst 1st cen­tu­ry Jews. The evan­ge­lists tried to excuse the dis­ci­ples by say­ing that not only did they not under­stand Jesus, but also the mean­ing of his words was hid­den from them.

In the attempt to give the Gospels some coher­ence and sense the evan­ge­lists make the apos­tles look extreme­ly dense and dim-wit­ted, hard­ly the reli­able peo­ple Jesus would have cho­sen to con­tin­ue his mission !

(I am indebt­ed to Pro­fes­sor Geza Ver­mes, Direc­tor of the Forum for Qum­ran Research at the Oxford Cen­tre for Hebrew and Jew­ish Stud­ies, for var­i­ous sug­ges­tions con­tained in his book The Authen­tic Gospel of Jesus)

Chap­ter 4 : Did Jesus claim to be the Cre­ator of the universe ?

The short and incon­tro­vert­ible answer is No ! The fact that lat­er gen­er­a­tions of Chris­tians came to believe that Jesus is God from God, light from light, true God from true God’ (as stat­ed in the Nicene Creed) is there­fore in need of some explanation.

In this chap­ter, I will look at two his­tor­i­cal phe­nom­e­na which I hope will give us some under­stand­ing of this devel­op­ment. They are :

    i) the tra­di­tion­al Chris­t­ian belief that to con­fess Jesus as the Son of God’ is to con­fess his deity, and to say that Jesus is the Son of God’ means and always meant that Jesus is the pre-exis­tent, sec­ond per­son of the Trin­i­ty, who for us men and our sal­va­tion became incarnate’.

    ii) An illu­mi­nat­ing his­tor­i­cal par­al­lel to the diviniza­tion of Jesus : the diviniza­tion of the Buddha

i) The New Tes­ta­ment (NT) calls Jesus the Son of God’. But what does this mean ? It is impor­tant, if we wish to adopt a his­tor­i­cal approach (and most Chris­tians do not), to dis­cov­er the sig­nif­i­cance of words and ideas in their orig­i­nal lan­guage, as the orig­i­nal speak­ers meant the orig­i­nal lis­ten­ers to under­stand them. Jesus and his dis­ci­ples spoke Ara­ma­ic, a Semit­ic lan­guage relat­ed to Hebrew, and spo­ken by most Pales­tin­ian Jews. Jesus’ Ara­ma­ic teach­ing (except for a dozen words that are still found in the gospels) has not been preserved.

In the years after Jesus was tak­en up to God, the ear­ly church spread quick­ly in the Greek-speak­ing (i.e. non-Jew­ish) world, and the gospels and let­ters that came to com­prise the NT were all writ­ten down in Greek. It is impor­tant to grasp that this Greek NT is a trans­la­tion’ of the orig­i­nal thoughts and ideas of the Ara­ma­ic think­ing and speak­ing Jesus, a trans­la­tion not just into a total­ly dif­fer­ent lan­guage but also a trans­plan­ta­tion of the thought of the gospels into an utter­ly alien cul­tur­al and reli­gious envi­ron­ment of the pagan Grae­co-Roman world.

To dis­cov­er the authen­tic teach­ing of Jesus, and what oth­ers believed about him, it is, there­fore, nec­es­sary to be alert to any changes or devel­op­ments in mean­ing aris­ing from the trans­mis­sion of ideas through the chan­nel of Hel­lenis­tic culture.

There­fore, when we exam­ine the term son of God” in its orig­i­nal con­text of mean­ing’ we make an inter­est­ing dis­cov­ery. In Hebrew or Ara­ma­ic son of God” is always used fig­u­ra­tive­ly as a metaphor for a child of God, where­as in Greek addressed to Gen­tile Chris­tians, brought up in a reli­gious cul­ture filled with gods, sons of gods and demigods, the NT expres­sion tend­ed to be under­stood lit­er­al­ly as Son of God’ (with a cap­i­tal let­ter): in oth­er words as some­one pos­sess­ing the same nature as God.

In the fourth cen­tu­ry, the Catholic Church offi­cial­ly endorsed this new pagan idea at the Coun­cil of Nicea : Jesus was declared to be of the same sub­stance’ or nature’ (the Greek word used was ousia) as the Deity. Pagan phi­los­o­phy tri­umphed over the Jew­ish under­stand­ing of God.

The same trans­for­ma­tion, or rather defor­ma­tion of mean­ing occurred to anoth­er key term : Lord’. Accord­ing to the gospels, the title lord’ was reg­u­lar­ly used as an address to Jesus dur­ing his min­istry. In its Ara­ma­ic con­text, it was syn­ony­mous with teacher’.

Lat­er gen­er­a­tions of Gen­tile (non-Jew­ish) Chris­tians would com­plete­ly alter this mean­ing : the Ara­ma­ic def­i­n­i­tion of Lord’ = teacher became syn­ony­mous with the title of God him­self : the Lord Jesus = the Lord your God. As not­ed NT schol­ar James Dunn com­ments, express­ing the con­sen­sus view of New Tes­ta­ment schol­ars (includ­ing NT Wright who is much beloved of evangelicals),

The his­to­ry of this con­fes­sion of Jesus as Lord in ear­li­est Chris­tian­i­ty large­ly revolves around the ques­tion, How sig­nif­i­cant is the appli­ca­tion of this title to Jesus ? What role or sta­tus does this con­fes­sion attribute to Jesus or recog­nis­es as belong­ing to Jesus?…The prob­lem is that lord’ can denote a whole range of dig­ni­ty — from a respect­ful form of address as to a teacher or judge to a full title for God. Where do the ear­ly Chris­t­ian ref­er­ences to the lord­ship of Jesus come with­in this spec­trum ? The answer seems to be that over the first few decades of Chris­tian­i­ty the con­fes­sion of Jesus as Lord’ moved in overt sig­nif­i­cance from the low­er end of the spec­trum of dig­ni­ty’ towards the upper end steadi­ly gath­er­ing to itself increas­ing over­tones of deity.

We need not doubt that the Ara­ma­ic mari under­lies the Greek kyrie (voca­tive)…Mar was used of the first cen­tu­ry BC holy man Abba Hilki­ah, pre­sum­ably in recog­ni­tion of the charis­mat­ic pow­ers attrib­uted to him. More­over, lord’ was large­ly syn­ony­mous with teacher’ at the time of Jesus, and Jesus was cer­tain­ly recog­nised to have the author­i­ty of a rab­bi or teacher (Mark 9:5 etc). We can, there­fore, say that the con­fes­sion of Jesus as Lord was root­ed in the min­istry of Jesus to the extent that he was wide­ly acknowl­edged to exer­cise the author­i­ty of a (charis­mat­ic) teacher and heal­er (cf. Mark 1:22,27).

Whether Lord’ already had a high­er sig­nif­i­cance for Jesus him­self dur­ing his min­istry depends on how we eval­u­ate Mark 12:35 – 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?’

Even if it con­tains an authen­tic word of the his­tor­i­cal Jesus (as is quite pos­si­ble) it needs only mean that he under­stood Mes­si­ah to be a fig­ure supe­ri­or to David in sig­nif­i­cance and espe­cial­ly favoured by Yah­weh. It does not nec­es­sar­i­ly imply that he thought the Mes­si­ah was a divine fig­ure (Psalm 110 after all prob­a­bly referred to the king). 

From : Uni­ty and Diver­si­ty in the New Tes­ta­ment : An Inquiry into the Char­ac­ter of Ear­li­est Chris­tian­i­ty (empha­sis in the orig­i­nal) pp.53 – 54.

So Dunn recog­nis­es that the title lord’ orig­i­nal­ly denot­ed a human being. As the term began to be used in pagan con­texts as the Gen­tile mis­sion spread, where it was well estab­lished as a title for the cult deity in the mys­tery reli­gions (espe­cial­ly Isis and Ser­apis), and also in Emper­or wor­ship — Cae­sar is Lord’- a rad­i­cal alter­ation of the mean­ing of the term occurred. Above all, St Paul advanced this change in mean­ing quite delib­er­ate­ly. He uses Old Tes­ta­ment texts that speak of Yah­weh and applies them to Jesus (e.g. Romans 10:13). For Paul, Lord Jesus’ had become a title of divin­i­ty. In a pro­found sense, Paul found­ed the reli­gion of Chris­tian­i­ty we know today.

    (It is of inter­est to note that evan­gel­i­cal fun­da­men­tal­ists are bit­ter­ly resis­tant to these his­tor­i­cal facts. Typ­i­cal­ly, they are sim­ply ignored, per­haps in the hope that the evi­dence will just go away. I have noticed this reluc­tance to dis­cuss these key issues in my debates with Chris­tians. One of the most artic­u­late spokes­men of Evan­gel­i­cal­ism, Andy Ban­nis­ter, is on record express­ing his will­ing­ness to debate the his­tor­i­cal Jesus, as the read­er can see on my blog. How­ev­er, and I regret to say this is quite typ­i­cal of Evan­gel­i­cals, he repeat­ed­ly refus­es to engage the his­tor­i­cal ques­tions I sur­vey in this paper. In real­i­ty, Ban­nis­ter and his col­leagues demon­strate no inter­est in seri­ous debate at all. They advo­cate what they call a con­fronta­tion­al” approach to Islam and Mus­lims, and are a seri­ous men­ace to har­mo­nious rela­tions between peo­ple of dif­fer­ent faiths.) 

As time passed the title used exclu­sive­ly by Jesus to describe him­self, the Son of man’, came to denote Jesus’ human­i­ty in con­trast to his divin­i­ty. So in the thought of sec­ond-cen­tu­ry Catholic the­olo­gian Ire­naeus (bish­op of Lyons), the term Son of God’ is inter­change­able with God the Son’. Most Chris­tians today, in total igno­rance of the his­tor­i­cal trans­mu­ta­tion of the mean­ing of these words, still think this way.

The term son of man’ is a storm cen­tre of New Tes­ta­ment schol­ar­ship, and the debate is quite tech­ni­cal. There is no con­sen­sus as to its mean­ing for Jesus or the Judaism of his day. James D.G. Dunn in his mag­is­te­r­i­al sur­vey of the issue in Chris­tol­ogy in the Mak­ing gives his con­sid­ered view : the thought of the Son of Man as a pre-exis­tent heav­en­ly fig­ure [Dunn has Daniel chap­ter 7 in mind] does not seem to have emerged in Jew­ish or Chris­t­ian cir­cles before the last decades of the first cen­tu­ry AD’(p 96). I refer read­ers to the dis­cus­sion in Dun­n’s book and The Authen­tic Gospel of Jesus by Geza Ver­mes, chap­ter 7, Son of Man sayings’.

A pop­u­lar new evan­ge­lis­tic course in the UK called Chris­tian­i­ty Explored pro­vides par­tic­i­pants with an intro­duc­to­ry book about Jesus. It runs cours­es all over the Eng­lish speak­ing world. The course is unashamed­ly con­ser­v­a­tive evan­gel­i­cal in the­ol­o­gy and adopts a fun­da­men­tal­ist approach to the Bible. It repeats the claim that the terms son of God’ and God the Son’ are sim­ply inter­change­able titles. It sad­dens me that sin­cere seek­ers after spir­i­tu­al truth are being mis­led into an uncrit­i­cal fun­da­men­tal­ism, or far worse, the blas­phe­mous wor­ship of the Mes­si­ah. It is salu­tary to recall that Jesus is report­ed to have said in Mark’s Gospel, Why do you call me good ? No-one is good — except God alone.

The per­ils of fail­ing to ask the fol­low­ing sim­ple ques­tion are incal­cu­la­ble : what would those who first used this lan­guage about Jesus expect their hear­ers and read­ers to under­stand by the phrase ? (Dunn, Chris­tol­ogy, p.13). The answers, detailed in this paper, will show that Chris­tians need to re-eval­u­ate their under­stand­ing of who Jesus was. If Chris­tians would under­take this dif­fi­cult but nec­es­sary task, they will find that the results will bear a strik­ing resem­blance to the Jesus of the Qur’an, and that the two great faiths would be in sub­stan­tial agreement.

ii) We can see a com­pa­ra­ble reli­gious impulse behind this star­tling diviniza­tion of Jesus by look­ing at some devel­op­ments in India at about the same time. The Bud­dha had died at the end of the sixth cen­tu­ry BCE. A deep love devel­oped for him and a need to con­tem­plate his enlight­ened human­i­ty became so strong that in the first cen­tu­ry BCE the first stat­ues of the Bud­dha appeared in NW India. Bud­dhist spir­i­tu­al­i­ty became focused on the image of the Bud­dha, enshrined in stat­ues, despite devo­tion to a being out­side of the self being quite dif­fer­ent to the inte­ri­or dis­ci­pline advo­cat­ed by Gautama.

Devo­tion to Jesus arose in a sim­i­lar way, in dis­re­gard of his clear teach­ing about whole­heart­ed love of God and neigh­bour. As the Gospels unmis­tak­ably demon­strate, Jesus invit­ed peo­ple to turn in heart­felt repen­tance and obe­di­ence to God, nev­er to him­self. Lat­er Chris­tians invert­ed Jesus’ mes­sage by announc­ing the wor­ship of the pro­claimer rather than the God he pro­claimed.


As I men­tioned in my intro­duc­tion, recent stud­ies have demon­strat­ed the extra­or­di­nary con­ver­gence between the his­tor­i­cal pic­ture of Jesus pro­duced by many bib­li­cal schol­ars and the Jesus of the Qur’an. This sim­i­lar­i­ty has not gone unno­ticed in two sig­nif­i­cant recent works by New Tes­ta­ment schol­ars which were pub­lished in the last twelve months. Both cel­e­brate this remark­able cor­re­spon­dence. Jef­frey J. Butz is Pro­fes­sor of World Reli­gions at Penn State Uni­ver­si­ty and an ordained Luther­an Min­is­ter. His book is enti­tled The Broth­er of Jesus & the Lost Teach­ings of Chris­tian­i­ty. I high­ly rec­om­mend this book. The oth­er work is by James D Tabor, Pro­fes­sor of Reli­gious Stud­ies at the Uni­ver­si­ty of North Car­oli­na. His book The Jesus Dynasty (pub­lished by HarperEle­ment 2006) is a study of Jesus and the New Tes­ta­ment. His com­ments are a fit­ting con­clu­sion to my study :

Mus­lims do not wor­ship Jesus, who is known as Isa in Ara­bic, nor do they con­sid­er him divine, but they do believe that he was a prophet or mes­sen­ger of God and he is called the Mes­si­ah in the Qur’an. How­ev­er, by affirm­ing Jesus as Mes­si­ah they are attest­ing to his mes­sian­ic mes­sage, not his mis­sion as a heav­en­ly Christ.

There are some rather strik­ing con­nec­tions between the research I have pre­sent­ed in The Jesus Dynasty and the tra­di­tion­al beliefs of Islam. The Mus­lim empha­sis on Jesus as mes­sian­ic prophet and teacher is quite par­al­lel to what we find in the Q source, in the book of James, and in the Didache. To be the Mes­si­ah is to pro­claim a mes­sage, but it is the same mes­sage as that pro­claimed by Abra­ham, Moses and all the Prophets.

Islam insists that nei­ther Jesus nor Muham­mad brought a new reli­gion. Both sought to call peo­ple back to what might be called Abra­ham­ic faith.” This is pre­cise­ly what we find empha­sised in the book of James. Like Islam, the book of James, and the teach­ing of Jesus in Q, empha­sise doing the will of God as a demon­stra­tion of one’s faith. Also, the dietary laws of Islam, as quot­ed in the Qur’an, echo the teach­ing of James in Acts 15 almost word for word : Abstain from swine flesh, blood, things offered to idols, and car­rion” (Qur’an 2:172).

The Chris­tian­i­ty we know from the Q source, from the let­ter of James, from the Didache, and some of our oth­er sur­viv­ing Jew­ish-Chris­t­ian sources rep­re­sent a ver­sion of the Jesus faith that can actu­al­ly unite, rather than divide, Jews, Chris­tians, and Mus­lims. If noth­ing else, the insights revealed through an under­stand­ing of the Jesus dynasty can open wide new and fruit­ful doors of dia­logue and under­stand­ing among these three great tra­di­tions that have in the past con­sid­ered their views of Jesus to be so sharply con­tra­dic­to­ry as to close off the dis­cus­sion. (pp. 287 – 288)

And only God knows best ! The Authentic Gospel of Jesus 1

Appen­dix : What the Qur’an says about Jesus

The Qur’an describes the state of Chris­tian­i­ty and its doc­trines as they were in the sev­enth cen­tu­ry, a thou­sand years before the Protes­tant Ref­or­ma­tion. Most­ly, the Qur’an accepts and pro­mul­gates many teach­ings that are accept­ed in Chris­tian­i­ty. Jesus holds a par­tic­u­lar­ly high place in Islam. Mus­lims accept the vir­gin birth but do not see it as a sign of his divin­i­ty (after all Adam and Eve did not have a human father either). Jesus did many mirac­u­lous signs, rais­ing the dead, cur­ing blind­ness and heal­ing lep­ers. But these are not attrib­uted in the Qur’an to Jesus as God, but as pow­ers giv­en to Jesus from God. The Bible con­firms this impor­tant dis­tinc­tion, Peo­ple of Israel, lis­ten to this : Jesus of Nazareth was a man accred­it­ed by God to you by mir­a­cles, won­ders and signs, which God did among you through him.’ Acts 2:22.

(Inci­den­tal­ly, Mus­lims do not accept Paul as an authen­tic inter­preter of the teach­ing of Jesus).

The Holy Qur’an says :

Peo­ple of the book, do not go to excess in your reli­gion, and do not say any­thing about God except the truth : the Mes­si­ah, Jesus, son of Mary, was noth­ing more than a mes­sen­ger of God, His word, direct­ed to Mary, a spir­it from Him. So believe in God and His mes­sen­gers and do not speak of a Trin­i­ty’ — stop this, that is bet­ter for you — God is only one God, He is far above hav­ing a son, every­thing in the heav­ens and earth belongs to Him and He is the best one to trust. (Qur’an, 4:171)

Sug­ges­tions For Fur­ther Reading


    A His­to­ry of God by Karen Arm­strong, pub­lished by Vin­tage 1999.
    From Abra­ham to the present day : the 4000-year quest for God. An enlight­en­ing and intel­lec­tu­al­ly chal­leng­ing book, Arm­strong offers many valu­able insights.
    The Vari­eties of Reli­gious Expe­ri­ence by William James, var­i­ous editions.
    Though James focus­es main­ly on West­ern spir­i­tu­al expe­ri­ences, this clas­sic work reminds us of the stag­ger­ing diver­si­ty of reli­gious expe­ri­ence. A use­ful anti­dote to exclu­sivist con­cep­tions of the Divine. 


    The His­tor­i­cal Fig­ure of Jesus by E.P. Sanders, pub­lished by Pen­guin Books 1995. Amer­i­ca’s most dis­tin­guished schol­ar in the field of Jesus-research, he pro­vides a gen­er­al­ly con­vinc­ing pic­ture of the real Jesus, set with­in the world of Pales­tin­ian Judaism.

    The Chang­ing Faces of Jesus by Geza Ver­mes, pub­lished by Pen­guin Books 2001. Ver­mes gives an equal voice to both the New Tes­ta­ment and non-bib­li­cal Jew­ish writ­ings to uncov­er the his­tor­i­cal fig­ure of Jesus hid­den beneath the old­est gospels, show­ing how and why a charis­mat­ic holy man was ele­vat­ed into the divine fig­ure of Christ. Essen­tial reading.

    The Authen­tic Gospel of Jesus by Geza Ver­mes, pub­lished by Pen­guin Books 2004. The first Pro­fes­sor of Jew­ish Stud­ies at Oxford, he almost sin­gle-hand­ed­ly brought to the atten­tion of New Tes­ta­ment schol­ar­ship the sig­nif­i­cance of Jesus as a Jew.

    Chris­tol­ogy in the Mak­ing : A New Tes­ta­ment Inquiry into the Ori­gins of the Doc­trine of the Incar­na­tion by James D.G.Dunn, Sec­ond Edi­tion, pub­lished by SCM Press 1989. This clas­sic text is cru­cial read­ing for schol­ars and pub­lic alike. An advanced work, but it repays the effort.

    Uni­ty and Diver­si­ty in the New Tes­ta­ment : An Inquiry into the Char­ac­ter of Ear­li­est Chris­tian­i­ty by James D.G.Dunn, Third Edi­tion, pub­lished by SCM Press 2006. Dunn is an author who sim­ply must be read by all seri­ous stu­dents of ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty. Like his oth­er work on Chris­tol­ogy men­tioned above, it assumes the read­er is famil­iar with the basic crit­i­cal issues of NT scholarship.

    The Broth­er of Jesus & the Lost Teach­ings of Chris­tian­i­ty by Jef­frey J. Butz

    The Apoth­e­o­sis of Jesus of Nazareth by Paul A Williams. My attempt to sum­marise some of the issues dis­cussed in Dun­n’s work. The con­clu­sions though are mine.

    Escap­ing from Fun­da­men­tal­ism by James Barr, pub­lished by SCM Press 1990.
    Barr is vital read­ing for those trapped in the rigid world of fun­da­men­tal­ism. I owe him a per­son­al debt of grat­i­tude. Sad­ly, Pro­fes­sor Barr passed away a few months ago. 


    What God said about Eat­ing Pork, & Issues for Muslim/​Christian Dia­logue, by Shabir Ali, pub­lished by Al-Attique Pub­lish­ers Inc, 2003. A short work (32 pages) writ­ten with clar­i­ty and intel­li­gence, and unusu­al­ly for a Mus­lim apol­o­gist, Ali has a firm grasp of the New Tes­ta­ment material.

    Under­stand­ing The Qur’an, Themes and Style by Muham­mad Abdel Haleem, pub­lished by I.B. Tau­ris 2005. The tenets of Islam can­not be under­stood with­out a prop­er under­stand­ing of the Qur’an. This new book by a pro­fes­sor of Islam­ic Stud­ies at Lon­don Uni­ver­si­ty is acces­si­ble and erudite.

    The Mes­sen­ger, The Mean­ings of the Life of Muham­mad by Tariq Ramadan, pub­lished by Allen Lane 2007. The lat­est biog­ra­phy of the Prophet Muham­mad in Eng­lish, this book is des­tined, in my opin­ion, to become the stan­dard pop­u­lar work about this aston­ish­ing and much-mis­un­der­stood man. High­ly recommended. 


    Apolo­get­ics a branch of the­ol­o­gy devot­ed to the ratio­nal defence of Christianity.

    Bud­dha (Hin­di) The enlight­ened one. The title applies to the numer­ous men and women who have attained nir­vana, but it is often used of Sid­dhartha Gau­ta­ma, the founder of Buddhism

    Enlight­en­ment, the an 18th cen­tu­ry Euro­pean move­ment marked by a belief in uni­ver­sal human progress and the impor­tance of rea­son and the sciences.

    Incar­na­tion the embod­i­ment of God in human form, espe­cial­ly of Jesus.

    Islam self-sur­ren­der to God. The sur­ren­der of heart and will and mind to God is a basic prin­ci­ple of every authen­tic religion.

    Ontol­ogy a branch of phi­los­o­phy con­cerned with the nature of being

    Sec­ond Tem­ple Judaism

    Syn­op­tic gospels Matthew, Mark and LukeEndmark

    Torah the law of Moses as out­lined in the first five books of the Bible : Gen­e­sis, Exo­dus, Leviti­cus, Num­bers and Deuteronomy


  1. Bis­mil­lah wa As-Salam Alekom…

    Regard­ing your treat­ing of Mark 7:19.

    The words in the paren­the­sis are *com­plete­ly* miss­ing from the Ara­bic Cias­ca pub­li­ca­tion of the Diates­saron, which has its roots in the 150 or pre-150AD gospels. The MS that Cias­ca used are from the 11th and 12th cen­tu­ry, and would seem to be inde­pen­dent revi­sions of the same trans­la­tion from Ara­ma­ic, which was done by Isa Al-Mutatab­bib around year 1000.

    The eng­lish trans­la­tion by Rev. Hope W. Hogg says :

    Know ye not that every­thing that entereth into the man from with­out can­not defile
    him ; because it entereth not into his heart ; it entereth into his stom­ach only, and thence is cast forth in the cleans­ing which maketh clean all the food ?

    The ara­bic in Cias­ca’s ver­sion is as follows :

    ???? (7:18) ???? ???? ????? ?? ??????, ??? ?????? ?? ???? ???? ?? ??????? ?? ???? ?? ????? ?????? (19) ???? ?? ???? ??? ???? ???? ???? ??? ?????, ??? ?? ???? ????? ??????? ???????? ????? ??????

    From Cias­ca’s Tatiani Evan­ge­lio­rum Har­mo­ni­ae Ara­bice”, page 80 of the ara­bic side. A fac­sim­i­le is avail­able here : http://​bedr​.se/​d​i​a​t​e​s​s​a​r​o​n​-​1888​-​v​a​t​i​c​a​n​.​zip

    Also, the old syr­i­ac (both the Cure­ton­ian gospel and the Sinaitic Palimpsest) is miss­ing it, but phras­ing the sen­tence as such :

    Because not the heart doth it enter but the bel­ly, and it is thrown away and cleansed — †/​even/​all meat.†”

    F.C. Burkitt uses the dag­gers to mark a sus­pect­ed cor­rup­tion. Although, just includ­ing the word­ing between the dag­gers would not make it una­ceppt­able islam­i­cal­ly, because the believ­er nev­er becomes unpure (Nad­jis) regard­less of what happens.

    The Old Syr­i­ac cita­tion is from page 195 from F.C. Burkit­t’s Evan­ge­lion Da Mephar­reshe”, row 19 – 20. I have a 2003 pho­to­graph­i­cal reprint by Gor­gias Press of the one orig­i­nal­ly pub­lished. ISBN : 1593330618

  2. Very good arti­cle, but some­times the truth is hard to hear, even when it is obvi­ous and clear to see. May God guide all the good Chris­tians to the truth. Amen.

  3. Salam to everyone,

    first of all, thanks to Paul again for a very com­pre­hen­sive, yet sim­ple for­mu­la­tion of why Chris­tians should real­ly rethink what they believe in. I was among them, I was an Ortho­dox Chris­t­ian, but what prob­a­bly made me dif­fer­ent from the vast major­i­ty of Chris­tians (not every­one) was that I DID read the Bible, and the Gospels, and still as a Chris­t­ian I start­ed to read the Quran. You prob­a­bly know that most Chris­tians are not encour­aged by their respec­tive Church­es to read their own Holy Scrip­tures. If mass­es did read then how the priests would find it just impos­si­ble to han­dle all the log­i­cal ques­tions aris­ing. And because I read with my own eyes and was a lit­tle bit away from the typ­i­cal blind­ing pro­pa­gan­da, that helped me see the truth… Of course, I was helped a lot too, cause I had a Mus­lim hus­band. To all those Chris­tians that believe in those shame­ful lies that are spread by peo­ple who don’t respect any­thing in the world : I spent 2 years with my hus­band and we loved each oth­er more than words could tell… Dur­ing these 2 years I don’t remem­ber even one word from him that would sound to me as push­ing or forc­ing any­thing on me… Only once he said : I gave you the key, but you must open the door your­self, every­thing’s God’s will ! And mind you : when I gave him my con­sent, my only con­di­tion was that I was­not even think­ing to change my reli­gion, not for any­thing in the world, he could take my life, my soul, but not my faith…

    I think what Chris­tians real­ly need is to read the Bible, both Tes­ta­ments to see that those dis­tort­ed texts can­not be a trust­wor­thy account… The same con­cerns the divorce case dis­cussed here… Only God him­self and Jesus know what he said about that… Paul and lat­er Emper­or Con­stan­tine cut and past­ed Jesus words as they wished, changed them, scribes and trans­la­tors did atroc­i­ties with the texts over­writ­ing and includ­ing com­men­taries on the fields into the main text.

    How­ev­er, what remains of the accounts of Jesus’ life and teach­ings can open the eyes of many. These are trou­bling facts to real­ize and I used to try not to see them, avoid dis­cussing them… so obvi­ous­ly, there being no room here to take the arti­cle piece by piece” is such a famil­iar phrase. Let’s not be hyp­ocrites, my friends ! There’s room for every­thing, may God only give you inten­tion for that.

    And in con­clu­sion a lit­tle com­ment to Cor­pdir about Islam being hate­ful and such… Please, Please, Please… There is real­ly now no room to tell you how I almost lost all my fam­i­ly and friends because I showed I was inter­est­ed in Islam !

  4. Thank you Paul for the time you took writ­ing this paper.

    Paul : would you help me under­stand what is con­tra­dic­to­ry between Jesus say­ing one should only divorce his wife in case of adul­tery” and Moses ask­ing to give a cer­tifi­cate of divorce when divorc­ing ones’ wife”?

    Also, it also seems to me that one should dis­tin­guish between laws/​rules that are giv­en to a par­tic­u­lar peo­ple in a par­tic­u­lar con­text (see for exam­ple Paul’s exhor­ta­tion to abstain from cer­tain types of food for the sake of those present) and gen­er­al rules meant for every­one (do not mur­der, etc). For exam­ple, the Torah con­tains laws meant only for priests. There are also laws regard­ing where to wor­ship God and how often — which are vio­lat­ed by jews, chris­tians, as well as mus­lims, sim­ply because not all laws/​commands apply to all peo­ple at all times.

    With my best regards,

  5. What would make some­one love” to “…pick this apart piece by piece” and in what way could that pos­si­bly bring ben­e­fit ? How about adding to the infor­ma­tion or chal­leng­ing the infor­ma­tion with some oth­er well-resourced” infor­ma­tion of your own (if such infor­ma­tion is avail­able, as I would pre­sume, if you are mak­ing state­ments such as this)

  6. I’d love to pick it apart piece by piece, as I most cer­tain­ly could, but obvi­ous­ly, there’s no room here”

    why did an eye wit­ness called john omit And, behold, the veil of the tem­ple was rent in twain from the top to the bot­tom ; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent ; And the graves were opened ; and many bod­ies of the saints which slept arose, And came out of the graves after his res­ur­rec­tion, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.”

    why john’s tar­get audi­ence did­n’t need to know about the fan­tas­tic mir­a­cles on cru­ci­fic­tion day ?

    try your best to do a piece by piece on this

  7. Dear Arnold

    I am sor­ry you found my arti­cle so wanting.

    I still think that recent stud­ies have demon­strat­ed an extra­or­di­nary con­ver­gence between the his­tor­i­cal pic­ture of Jesus pro­duced by many bib­li­cal schol­ars and the Jesus of the Qur’an.

    I am obvi­ous­ly not infal­li­ble in my views, and I wel­come any con­sid­ered replies to my argu­ments. Please feel free to email me. I hope you will find me open to ratio­nal debate…

    best wish­es



  8. Paul, there’s enough holes in the assump­tions you used in your arti­cle to where it could qual­i­fy for swiss cheese. I’d love to pick it apart piece by piece, as I most cer­tain­ly could, but obvi­ous­ly, there’s no room here. All I can say is, no won­der you were hood­winked into Islam.

  9. Salam to you all

    I was a com­mit­ted Chris­t­ian for many years before I became a Mus­lim. I can say that for myself, I knew the grace and mer­cy of God as a Chris­t­ian. Becom­ing a Mus­lim has involved cor­rect­ing some wrong beliefs about Jesus but it did not mean find­ing God for the very first time


  10. Jim­bo, Jum­bo here. Com­ment on this arti­cle (by Paul Williams) here first. It needs to be dis­cussed. if we want to com­ment on that oth­er arti­cle then we can go to its web­site and make sub­mis­sions there.

  11. Very long arti­cle, com­ment first read later… :)

  12. peace

    please share your thought on this discussion :

    Can it be estab­lished that Jesus was cru­ci­fied under Pilate


    Please read every post and sum­ma­rize what you have under­stood here.

  13. eldon, Paul Williams has a blog here :


    he has also recent­ly writ­ten a detailed response to the Chris­t­ian mis­sion­ary Andy Ban­nis­ter here :


  14. Alham­dulil­lah and thanks to Bis­mi­ka Allahu­ma and Paul A. Williams for this excel­lant arti­cle. I would like to read more from broth­er Paul but can­not as yet find any source for his writ­ings besides the two arti­cles of his here.

    Could some­one post some links for him ? Thanks !

  15. In my expe­ri­ence it is bet­ter to talk and rea­son­ing with peo­ple who have faith (any faith) then those with­out one. So as a start, let them expe­ri­ence the faith first before fur­ther intro­duce Islam. No dri­ver can dri­ve an F1 car with­out gain­ing expe­ri­ence in slow­er, less pow­er­ful, less glam­orous rac­ing cars. And yet, with­out any inter­est to dri­ve those car, you won’t have the inter­est for F1 too. So to speak.…..

  16. Cor­pdir, I have met many Chris­tians who, like Fati­ma, claim that there can be no reli­gious expe­ri­ence out­side of Chris­tian­i­ty. Should I now con­clude that they give evi­dence why Chris­tian­i­ty is an intol­er­ant and hate­ful reli­gion ? This would be illog­i­cal right ? What about the many oth­er Chris­tians who are will­ing to admit the pres­ence of gen­uine reli­gious expe­ri­ence out­side of Chris­tian­i­ty ? Should that not lead us to con­clude that Chris­tian­i­ty is not an intol­er­ant reli­gion fol­low­ing your log­ic?”

    Sim­i­lar­ly, if you are will­ing to acknowl­edge that Islam may not be a hate­ful reli­gion, then you can­not blame Islam itself for the cor­rup­tion and intol­er­ance exhib­it­ed by some of its fol­low­ers. Oth­er fac­tors could have played a role to cor­rupt them, lack of knowl­edge of Islam being the fore­most factor.

    And do tell us what you think of this arti­cle by Br. Paul on Jesus (P)? :)

  17. Let me rephrase that…

    islam may not be hate­ful, but a major­i­ty of peo­ple who fol­low it have been cor­rupt­ed by it.

  18. Fati­ma gives us evi­dence why islam is an intol­er­ant hate­ful religion.

  19. Fati­ma, it is not good to com­ment upon a book with­out read­ing it. And you do not have the author­i­ty to say that any­one out­side of Islam can­not have a reli­gious expe­ri­ence. Of course, that does not mean that every teach­ing of anoth­er reli­gion is cor­rect and accu­rate. Islam is the ulti­mate truth, but Allah is not the Allah of only Mus­lims and He may help and assist one who is out­side of Islam.

  20. Assalam Alaikum.

    Why, broth­ers, are you rec­om­mend­ing The Vari­eties of Reli­gious Expe­ri­ence”? There is *no* reli­gious expe­ri­ence out­side Islam!!!!!

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