Categories
Internal Contradictions Of The Bible The Bible

Was Sarah The Sister of Abraham?

Ibn Hazm (994CE-1064CE) was a Muslim scholar of great repute in Cordoba during the Muslim Spain era and is widely regarded as the “Father of Comparative Religion”. In his celebrated magnum opus entitled Kitab al-Fasl fi al- Milal wa al-Ahwa’ wa al-Nihal, he predated modern Biblical textual criticism by several centuries and as Krentz admits, Ibn Hazm’s criticisms generally represents the first, albeit rudimentary, systematic historic criticism of the Bible1. He had demonstrated his prowess in Biblical textual criticism by giving many examples of internal contradictions of the Bible. The following Bible contradiction on the sister of Abraham is extracted from Muslim Understanding Of Other Religions: A Study of Ibn Hazm’s Kitab al-Fasl fi al-Milal wa al-Ahwa’ wa al-Nihal2 and insha’allah this will be part of an ongoing series to reproduce extracts of Ibn Hazm’s criticisms of the Bible and Christianity and we will make further elaboration on our part to refine his arguments and further strengthen our case against the Bible.

Was Sarah really the sister of Abraham? Ibn Hazm questions the status of Sarah as being Abraham’s sister as well as his wife, as accepting that viz., from the Biblical perspective, would result in various disagreements with other passages in the Old Testament concerning moral and theological issues that would contradict each other.

This is in reference to the stories of Sarah’s seizure by Pharaoh and Abime’elech which was narrated in Genesis 12:10-18 and Genesis 20, Genesis 17:17 and Genesis 20:1-18.

We cite the related passages on the story of the seizure of Sarah as follows.

Now there was a famine in the land. So Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there, for the famine was severe in the land. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to Sar’ai his wife, “I know that you are a woman beautiful to behold; and when the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife’; then they will kill me, but they will let you live. Say you are my sister, that it may go well with me because of you, and that my life may be spared on your account.” When Abram entered Egypt the Egyptians saw that the woman was very beautiful. And when the princes of Pharaoh saw her, they praised her to Pharaoh. And the woman was taken into Pharaoh’s house. And for her sake he dealt well with Abram; and he had sheep, oxen, he-asses, menservants, maidservants, she-asses, and camels. But the LORD afflicted Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sar’ai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh called Abram, and said, “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife?3

From there Abraham journeyed toward the territory of the Negeb, and dwelt between Kadesh and Shur; and he sojourned in Gerar. And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abim’elech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah. But God came to Abim’elech in a dream by night, and said to him, “Behold, you are a dead man, because of the woman whom you have taken; for she is a man’s wife.” Now Abim’elech had not approached her; so he said, “Lord, wilt thou slay an innocent people? Did he not himself say to me, ‘She is my sister’? And she herself said, ‘He is my brother.’ In the integrity of my heart and the innocence of my hands I have done this.” Then God said to him in the dream, “Yes, I know that you have done this in the integrity of your heart, and it was I who kept you from sinning against me; therefore I did not let you touch her. Now then restore the man’s wife; for he is a prophet, and he will pray for you, and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you, and all that are yours.” So Abim’elech rose early in the morning, and called all his servants, and told them all these things; and the men were very much afraid. Then Abim’elech called Abraham, and said to him, “What have you done to us? And how have I sinned against you, that you have brought on me and my kingdom a great sin? You have done to me things that ought not to be done.” And Abim’elech said to Abraham, “What were you thinking of, that you did this thing?” Abraham said, “I did it because I thought, There is no fear of God at all in this place, and they will kill me because of my wife. Besides she is indeed my sister, the daughter of my father but not the daughter of my mother; and she became my wife. And when God caused me to wander from my father’s house, I said to her, ‘This is the kindness you must do me: at every place to which we come, say of me, He is my brother.'” Then Abim’elech took sheep and oxen, and male and female slaves, and gave them to Abraham, and restored Sarah his wife to him. And Abim’elech said, “Behold, my land is before you; dwell where it pleases you.” To Sarah he said, “Behold, I have given your brother a thousand pieces of silver; it is your vindication in the eyes of all who are with you; and before every one you are righted.” Then Abraham prayed to God; and God healed Abim’elech, and also healed his wife and female slaves so that they bore children. For the LORD had closed all the wombs of the house of Abim’elech because of Sarah, Abraham’s wife.4

From the passages that we have cited briefly above, Ibn Hazm raises the following objections which we note as follows:

    (a) it is inconceivable that a woman of more than 90 years5 was fair and attractive enough to have lured Abime’elech;
    (b) they told a lie to both the kings, i.e., that Sarah was Abraham’s sister, which is not acceptable for a Prophet of God to have told a lie;
    (c) if Sarah was really Abraham’s sister as the passages suggest, then either Abraham had violated the Mosaic Law which forbids one to marry one’s sister or that the Torah had abrogated Abraham’s Shari’ah, hence implying that there is abrogation which Jews and Christians vigorously deny6

Thus, based on the objections above pointed out by Ibn Hazm, we thus say that this story of Sarah being Abraham’s sister is not without inconsistency when conferred with the other passages in the Bible and thus this is an internal contradiction of the Bible with no clear answer.

It should also be mentioned in passing that Ibn Hazm had discussed the issue with a contemporary Jewish scholar of his era named Samuel Ben Joseph, or Ibn al-Naghrilah. The question of the sister/wife motif still remains a puzzing and disturbing question to modern Biblical scholars who consider it to be different strands of traditions which were woven together in confusion. Ibn al-Naghrilah had told Ibn Hazm that the word ukht (sister) as used in the passage means just a relative and not neccessarily a sister as understood by him. Ibn Hazm replied to this by citing Genesis 20:12 which reads as:

“Besides she is indeed my [Abraham’s] sister, the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother, and she became my wife.”

Needless to mention, this answer left Ibn al-Naghrilah confused and silent.7 Perhaps the today’s Christian missionaries should take a leaf from the example of Ibn al-Naghrilah and remain silent as well.

And only God knows best!

Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "Was Sarah The Sister of Abraham?," in Bismika Allahuma, March 14, 2007, last accessed September 25, 2022, https://bismikaallahuma.org/bible/sister-of-abraham/
  1. Edgar Krentz, The Historical Critical Method (Fortress Press, 1975), p. 41 []
  2. See Ghulam Haider Aasi, Muslim Understanding Of Other Religions: A Study of Ibn Hazm’s Kitab al-Fasl fi al-Milal wa al-Ahwa’ wa al-Nihal (Adam Publishers, 2004), pp. 92-114 for extracts of Ibn Hazm’s major criticisms of the Pentateuch. []
  3. Genesis 12:10-18 []
  4. Genesis 20:1-18 []
  5. See Genesis 17:17 which indicated Sarah’s age: “Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” []
  6. Kitab al-Fasl, pt. 1, p. 135 []
  7. ibid. []
Categories
Bible Contradictions Internal Contradictions Of The Bible The Bible

Did Jesus, Mary and Joseph go to Egypt or to Nazareth?

In Matthew 2:14, we are told that Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt:


    “When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt.”

Yet in Luke 2:39, they went to Nazareth after Jesus’ birth:


    “And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.”

It does not need a rocket scientist to inform us that these verses are contradictory and hence irreconcilable.

In their alleged reply to this irreconcilable error, the missionaries made the claim that:

    Joseph and Mary went to Jerusalem to present the new born infant in the temple. From there, they went back to their home in Nazareth. A short time later, the holy family decided to return to Joseph’s ancestral hometown and Jesus’ birthplace, namely Bethlehem in Judea. This is where Matthew picks up. When the Magi found the child Jesus, he was already up to two years old. Being told in a dream about Herod’s desire to kill the child, Joseph left his home and took his family to Egypt until the death of Herod. Fearing that Herod’s son Archelaus would search them out if they returned to Bethlehem, the holy family once again returned to Nazareth and settled there.

We do not accept this explanation, simply because the two narratives in Matthew and Luke are vastly different in a number of details. As Brown himself notes:

…the two narratives are not only different – they are contrary to each other in a number of details. According to Luke 1:26 and 2:39 Mary lives in Nazareth , and so the census of Augustus is invoked to explain how the child was born in Bethlehelm, away from home. In Matthew there is no hint of a coming to Bethlehem, for Joseph and Mary are in a house at Bethlehem were seemingly Jesus was born (2:11). The only journey that Matthew has to explain is why the family went to Nazareth when they came from Egypt instead of returning to their native Bethlehem (2:22-39); this is irreconcilable with Matthew’s implication (2:16) that the child was almost two years old when the family fled from Bethlehem to Egypt and even older when the family came back from Egypt and moved to Nazareth…one must be ruled out, i.e., that both accounts are completely historical.1

In other words, only one of these narratives can be accepted as factual, and not both at the same time. Do note that Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem (2:6), the family’s flight to Egypt (2:14), Herod’s slaughter of the innocent children of Bethlehem (2:18), and the family’s decision to relocate in Nazareth (2:23) occur only in Matthew. Therefore, the more important question is if the missionary is bothered to know the fact that Luke, Mark and John do not mention these significant events. How could they miss mentioning these if they really did happen? Since the gospels circulated independently for quite some time, that means that many of the earliest Christians never got the oppurtunity to know of these stories. Those reading Luke, Mark and John, while they were independently circulating, certainly would not know of them.

Also, commenting upon the story in Matthew, Brown noted the following:

[t]here is no remembrance in the accounts of the ministry of Jesus of such an extraordinary event in this background [the flight to Egypt and massacre at Bethlehem – ed.], and a journey to Egypt is quite irreconcilable with Luke’s account of an orderly and uneventful return from Bethehem to Nazareth shortly after the birth of the child. An attempt has been made to detect independent support for an Egyptian sojourn in the Jewish stories of the second century which have Jesus going to Egypt…However, these stories introduce Egypt as a place where Jesus or his mother sought refuge because of the scandalous (adulterous) character of his birth and as a place where he became adept in black magic which he then used to decieve people. Most likely this is a Jewish polemic against the Gospel picture of Jesus (including the Matthean infancy narrative) and can scarcely be invoked as independent support for the historicity of that picture.2

It also needs to be noted that concerning Raymond Brown, his work on the infancy is the single most authoritative book on the subject, and he himself is a believing Christian scholar of immense repute. Now, if believing Christians cannot agree among themselves if certain passages are contradictory or not, then the missionary should first attempt to convince his own Christian scholars before worrying too much about the Muslims. The fact that Christians scholars themself hotly disagree on this matter indicates the problematic nature of the two accounts.

McDonald and Porter, two believing Christian scholars, also noted the differences in the narratives:

When we compare the birth stories in Matthew and Luke, we see that Matthew focuses on royalty (birth in a house, not a stable: the special gifts of the Magi from the east), while Luke focuses on the lowliness of the birth (the poor shepherds coming to the manger scene to witness the new birth: no room for Jesus in the inn). According to Matthew, evidently Joseph and Mary lived in Bethlehem after Jesus’ birth, and only after the threat to the life of the newborn child did they consider leaving Bethlehem, going first of all to Egypt and then to Nazareth. Luke tells nothing of the threat to Jesus’ life and indicates that Joseph and Mary originally came from Nazareth and returned there only after all that was necessary regarding purification and dedication of the child in the temple had taken place. Why does Matthew have Jesus taken down to Egypt while Luke simply says that Joseph and Mary returned to Nazareth with their child? In Matt 2:22. Joseph was warned in a dream to go to Nazareth to avoid dealing with Herod Archelaus. Nothing of this kind of threat is found in Luke, Luke says nothing of the massacre of children in Matt 2. Why are these birth and infancy narratives so different? These questions are not easily answered, but it is probable that the construction of each of these accounts was based on a different theological agenda. Meier says that the point of these widely differing stories is that the church, not Mary or Jesus, wished to make the major theological point that “what Jesus Christ was fully revealed to be at the resurrection (Son of David, Son of God by the Power of the Holy Spirit) he really was from his conception onward.” Because of the considerable differences in these narratives and because they appear to serve early church apologetics. Many, if not most, critical scholars do not see much historical evidence for the life of Jesus in the birth stories of Matthew and Luke. But if the criterion of multiple attestation is taken seriously in light of the fact that the birth stories of Matthew and Luke appear to represent independent traditions, much more credibility should be given to various dimensions of the account. There are basic facts, such as the agreement that Jesus was born in Bethlehem and that Jesus’ birth took place during the reign of Herod the Great (Matt 2:1; Luke 1:50), who died ca. 5/4 B.C. There are also more significant factors-angelic visitations, the special circumstances of conception and visitors attesting to the special qualities of this child that should not be neglected. These point to the significance of Jesus for both Matthew and Luke.3

Again we note that Christians scholars have admitted the fact that there are significant and considerable differences in the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke. McDonald and Porter argue that the points where Matthew and Luke agree are historical, yet they do not deny that their stories nonetheless have many differences. If Matthew and Luke were using independent traditions, and if the reports and stories were true and historical, then how do we explain the presence of significant differences in their story of the birth of Jesus? As Raymond Brown mentions, Matthew and Luke had their theological agenda and views to sell, and so they coloured/tainted the reports and traditions to “prove” their theology. Obviously both reports cannot be true, one of them is fiction, or both are fictitious containing an element of historical truth in them.

In light of these evidence, we thus conclude that the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke are undoubtedly contradictory to one another, and this is hence a irreconcilable error. And only God knows best.

Addendum: Responding To A Missionary Obfuscation

Naturally, the missionaries, as per their tradition of welling hatred towards the noble Qur’an, attempt to erect this straw-man in order to avoid the embarrassment of the irreconcilable error in the birth narratives of Jesus. Our answer to the provocative Christian missionary questioning follows.

    How do you explain that in the Quran the person of Mary’s husband Joseph as well as the towns of Nazareth, Bethlehem and the journey to Egypt all disappeared?

According to the various scholars of the Bible, the above are fiction invented by the anonymous author of the Gospel according to Matthew. Therefore there is no point blaming the Qur’an for rightfully excluding these fiction. Therefore, what the Qur’an is “lacking” is fictitious stories concocted by the authors of the Gospels.

So the question that should be asked now is that did the journey ever take place or was it an invention of the anonymous gospel author to “prove” and make his theological point? It is important to note how the author of Matthew made use of the Jewish Bible and molded some of its contents to “prove” his theology. A male child is born to Jewish parents, a tyrant ruler (Herod) learns of this and sets out to destroy him. The child is supernaturally protected from harm and is taken to Egypt. He then leaves Egypt to pass through the waters (of baptism) and goes into wilderness to be tested for a long time. Later he goes up on a mountain and delivers God’s law to those who have been following him. We see that Matthew shaped the stories pertaining to Jesus(P) to “show” that Jesus'(P) life was a fulfillment of the stories of Moses(P) (cf. Exodus 1-20). Matthew’s target market were the Jewish readers. No one can ignore these parellels. Herod is made into a Pharoah-like ruler, Jesus’ baptism is like Moses crossing the Red Sea, the forty days of temptation are like the forty years the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, and the sermon on the mount is like the law of Moses delievered on Mount Sinai. Jesus(P) is therefore portrayed by Matthew as the “new” Moses, come to set his people free from their bondage and give them new law and teachings. In order to present this picture of Jesus(P), the author of Matthew had to colour the traditions he used. Therefore not everything within his gospel is historical.

    but has it ever bothered him that the Quran is lacking so much information?

No, it has never bothered us to know that the Qur’an lacks the fictitious information of the gospels. We hope that this answer satisfies the missionary.

A more important question is if it has ever bothered the missionary that Herod’s slaughter of the children of Bethlehem is not mentioned in Luke? How could something so significant escaped the notice of Luke, who is supposed to be a “reliable” historian, and even Mark? What about the visit of the Magi, why is that only mentioned in Matthew and not in the other gospels? Why did the other gospels fail to mention such an important story in their writings if it did take place? Matthew even states that the King and all Jerusalem was upset over the birth of the Messiah in Jerusalem! If this is historical, then why has it not left any traces in Jewish records and elsewhere in the New Testament?

    This is all the more striking in this case, since the vast majority of all verses in the Quran speaking about Jesus deal with his miraculous birth.

The verses of the Qur’an dealing with the birth of the Messiah, Jesus(P) are collected here. The Qur’an mentions the miraculous birth of Jesus(P), that he was born to a virgin, and mentions that he was not the divine son of God or God, that he asked people to worship God whom he worshipped and accept him as His messenger. The Qur’an stays to the point, does not mention the fictions within the gospels, states who Jesus(P) was and rejects the lies attributed to him by the Christians, unlike the gospels whose anonymous authors had to distort traditions to “prove” and “support” their theology.

Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "Did Jesus, Mary and Joseph go to Egypt or to Nazareth?," in Bismika Allahuma, October 15, 2005, last accessed September 25, 2022, https://bismikaallahuma.org/bible/egypt-or-nazareth/
  1. Raymond E. Brown, The Birth Of The Messiah (Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1997), p. 36 []
  2. ibid., pp. 225-226 []
  3. Lee Martin Mc Donald & Stanley E. Porter, Early Christianity and Its Sacred Literature (Hendrickson Publishers Inc., 2000), p. 122 []
Categories
Bible Contradictions Internal Contradictions Of The Bible The Bible

Problems in Reconciling the Birth Narratives of Jesus

The missionaries had pathetically accused us of “suffering under [SIC!] a serious form of ‘attention deficit'”, among other low-down allegations, and then proceeds to claim that we have not “bothered” to respond to their arguments.

The following material will further supplement our case for the irreconcilable error regarding the birth narrative of Jesus(P). It remains to be seen as to how much “abuse” are the missionaries willing to take before they concede that we are not suffering from “attention deficit” and are truly “satisfied” with our charges.

Problems and Flaws In Harmonization

We would like to know how the author of Matthew shaped the stories concerning the birth of Jesus(P). Matthew used certain key events in the Jewish Bible to relate the story of his Jesus(P). According to Matthew, the family of his Jesus flees to Egypt in order to escape the wrath of Herod “in order to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my Son'” (2:15). The quotation comes from the book of Hosea 11:1 and refers to the Exodus of the children of Israel from their bondage in Egypt. The author of Matthew makes his Jesus go to Egypt to show that he “fills” this event with meaning. Similarly, Matthew has his Jesus born in Bethlehem because this is what was “predicted” by the prophet Micah (2:6).

A male child is born to Jewish parents, a tyrant ruler (Herod) learns of this and sets out to destroy him. The child is supernaturally protected from harm and is taken to Egypt. He then leaves Egypt to pass through the waters (of baptism) and goes into wilderness to be tested for a long time. Later he goes up on a mountain and delivers God’s law to those who have been following him.

Thus we note that Matthew shaped the stories pertaining to Jesus(P) to “show” that Jesus’(P) life was a fulfillment of the stories of Moses(P) (see Exodus 1-20). Matthew’s target market was the Jewish readers. Herod is made into a Pharoah like ruler, Jesus’s baptism is like Moses(P) crossing the Red Sea, the forty days of temptation are like the forty years the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, and the sermon on the mount is similar to the law of Moses delivered on Mount Sinai. Jesus(P) is therefore portrayed by Matthew as the “new” Moses, come to set his people free from their bondage and give them new law and teachings. In order to present this picture of Jesus(P), Matthew had to colour the traditions accordingly. Therefore not everything within his gospel is historical.

Another point to bear in mind is that if Herod and all within Jerusalem knew of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:3), so much so that Herod would send his army to kill the children in a town hunting for Jesus (2:16), then why is it that later in his ministry no one seems to know of his marvelous origin (13:54-55), and Herod’s son recalls nothing about him (14:1-2)? The body of the gospels shows that the people among whom Jesus had been raised knew nothing about extraordinary infancy. Furthermore, why is there no mention of these amazing events in the other gospels? These also indications of the fictitious nature of the story.

The statement that all Jerusalem was startled over the birth of the King of the Jews and that there was widespread awareness of the King’s birth at Bethlehem (Herod, chief priests, scribes, and, to their regret, the people of Bethlehem) conflicts with the Gospel accounts of the public ministry where the people in Nazareth do not know this and are amazed that Jesus has special pretensions (Mark 6:1-6 and par.) and where people in Jerusalem do not know that Jesus was born in Bethlehem (John 7:40-42). According to the Synoptic Gospels (Mark 6:14-16 and par.), Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, despite the measures his father is supposed to have taken against Jesus, is perplexed by Jesus and seems to have no previous knowledge of him. A possible explanation may be found for one or the other of these difficulties, but the overall thrust is clearly against historicity.1

It is problems like these which are overlooked by the missionaries which is why there are serious implications to be considered if we were to accept their “harmonization” of the birth narratives.

But What About The Basic Similarities?

Earlier, we have stated that the missionaries have complained about our having overlooked basic similarities in the two narratives. It should be noted that we do not deny a broad similarity between the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke. However, the differences between the two accounts are striking, and as Brown comments elsewhere, both cannot be factual. Hence one is fictional. To begin with, none of the specific stories of Luke occur in Matthew and vice versa. In one narrative we find the shepherds whereas in the other we find the Magi, one has the journey to Bethlehem whereas the other to Egypt. One records an angel’s words to Mary whereas the other narrative records the angel’s word to Joseph.

Most Christian scholars, who have studied and analyzed the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke have concluded that a vast amount of imagination would be required to reconcile these narratives.

Commentators of times past have harmonized these different details into a consecutive narrative so that the ordinary Christian is often not even aware of a difficulty when Lucan shepherds and Matthean magi fraternize in the Christmas crib scene. But if originally there was one narrative, how did it ever become fragmented into the two different accounts we have now? As I hinted above, the suggestion that Matthew is giving Joseph’s remembrance of the events, while Luke is giving Mary’s, is just a pious deduction from the fact that Joseph dominates Matthew’s account, and Mary dominates Luke’s. In point of fact, how could Joseph ever have told the story in Matthew and not have reported the annunciation to Mary? And how could Mary have been responsible for the story in Luke and never have mentioned the coming of the magi and the flight into Egypt?2

Relating the same event, Matthew presents no indication that would suggest that Joseph and Mary went from Galilee to register for a census. Matthew simply suggests that the family originally came from Bethlehem. In the story of the wise men, which is only found in Matthew, the men arrive to worship Jesus, making a long journey in by following a star that appeared in the heavens. These men find Jesus(P) in Bethlehem, in a house – not a stable or a cave (Matthew 2:11). So it seems that the house is where Joseph and Mary normally live according to Matthew.

Next, we read that Herod sends forth his troops to slaughter every boy in Bethlehem who is 2 years and under (2:16). According to Matthew’s account, Joseph and Mary are still in Bethlehem at this time because this is simply where they live.

To continue with the story, Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt to escape Herod. Sometime after their escape, Joseph learns in a dream that it is safe to return home. Hence he intends to return to the place where he and Mary came from – Bethlehem. However, he learns that the ruler of Judea is now Archelaus, a man much worse than his father Herod. So he realizes he cannot return home and therefore decides to move his family in the town of Nazareth in Galilee (2:22-23). Hence, the impression given is that Joseph and Mary lived in Bethlehem but had to relocate to Nazareth and this is where he, Jesus, was raised.

“Reconciliation”: Its Difficulties and the Realities

It is possible that these narratives be “reconciled”, albeit with the thorough use of some highly imaginative arguments, stretching all limits of reason and imagination and requiring quite a lot of hard work and effort. However, the fact remains that the two narratives are quite different from one another.

It is indicated that Jesus(P) was born in Bethlehem but raised in Nazareth, but this happens in a very different manner in their two narratives. The whole of Matthew 2:2-22 has no parallel in Luke, just as most of Luke 1 (outside 1:26-35) and most of Luke 2 have no parallel in Matthew. Only Luke makes mention of the following stories: the census bringing Joseph to Bethlehem, the acclamation of Jesus by the shepherds etc. Matthew, on the other hand, focuses upon a different series of happenings of which Luke makes no mention: the star, the magi, Herod’s plot against Jesus, the massacre of the children at Bethlehem and the flight to Egypt. Christian scholars Lee Martin Mc Donald and S. E. Porter suggest that

…it is probable that the construction of each of these accounts was based on a different theological agenda.3

Meaning they do not represent historical realities. Evangelical Christians, for understandable reasons, see no difficulties in the two narratives, however serious Christian scholars of the Bible have long realized the difficulties and have accepted them as such.

Matthew’s way of using prophecy is not what a modern scholar could call historically accurate, but it is in accord with a type of interpretation customary in New Testament times, and for that matter still practiced now. According to this way of thinking, it is assumed that the text refers to events and persons in the present or the immediate past or future.

Sometimes, indeed, one can hardly avoid a suspicion that prophecy, understood in this way, led to imagining events that never occurred. Did Joseph and Mary really take their child to Egypt for a while, or did some early Christian infer that they must have done so because God says in the book of Hosea (11:1), “Out of Egypt I called my son”? Was Jesus really born in Bethlehem, or was it assumed that he must have been because the prophet Micah (5:2) had predicted that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem? More probably, the known fact of Jesus? birth at Bethlehem was felt by his followers to confirm their conviction that he was the Messiah.

How should we understand and judge these familiar narratives? The whole Christmas story, mingled as it is now with Santa Claus and other more or less pagan additions, seems much like a fairy tale for children. Even so, to raise questions about the truth of the record is painful. A good deal of the story, however, is undoubtedly legendary.4

Baptist Minister William Hamilton, also the Associate Professor of Theology at Colgate Rochester Divinity School, writes that:

Luke, like Matthew, mentions Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, but otherwise, the two accounts differ somewhat In Matthew, Jesus is apparently born in Joseph?s house (verse 11); in Luke, he is born in a stable. Here, we read nothing about the visit of the shepherds or about the census that brought Joseph and Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Here, we read of the flight to Egypt; in Luke, the family returned to Nazareth (2:39).

This conflicting evidence has led some to question the historical basis of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem and to point out that it would be natural for primitive Jewish Christians to use the enigmatic saying of Micah 5:2 as a prediction. Throughout his life, Jesus is always referred to as a Nazarene.5

Conclusions

To escape the burden of admitting to an error in the birth narratives of Jesus(P) as related by Luke and Matthew, the Christian missionaries and apologists have always attempted to harmonize these two drastically different accounts. This is because:

Matthew and Luke agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the city of David. Matthew, however, says nothing of coming to Bethlehem from anywhere else, and he seems to imply that Joseph would have gone back to Bethlehem from Egypt if he had not been warned in a dream not to return to Judea (2:22-23).6

As we have demonstrated above, there are simply too many flaws and implications to be considered if we were to accept the general “harmonization” offered by the missionaries. Christian scholars who have studied and analysed the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke have concluded that a vast amount of imagination would be required to reconcile these narratives.

Hence our final conclusion in the matter remains starkly similar to that of Brown’s opinion, namely that:

…Luke’s infancy narrative is not only massively different from Matt’s, but also in details is virtually irreconcilable with it, e.g., about Joseph and Mary’s home (in Bethlehem in Matt 2:11 [house]; in Narareth in Luke 2:4-7, with no home in Bethlehem) and about their travels after the birth of Jesus (to Egypt in Matt 2:14; to Jerusalem and Nazareth in Luke 2:2239).7

And only God knows best!

Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "Problems in Reconciling the Birth Narratives of Jesus," in Bismika Allahuma, October 15, 2005, last accessed September 25, 2022, https://bismikaallahuma.org/bible/jesus-birth-narratives/
  1. Raymond E. Brown, The Birth of the Messiah, p. 189 []
  2. ibid., p. 35 []
  3. Lee Martin Mc Donald & Stanley E. Porter, Early Christianity and Its Sacred Literature (Hendrickson Publishers Inc., 2000), p. 122 []
  4. Millar Burrows, Jesus in the First Three Gospels [Online Document] []
  5. William Hamilton, Part One: Matthew and Luke in The Modern Reader’s Guide to the Gospels [Online Document] []
  6. Millar Burrows, op. cit. []
  7. Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, p. 114 []
Categories
Internal Contradictions Of The Bible The Bible

The Gospels’ Accounts Regarding the Call of the First Disciples

Ibn Hazm (994CE-1064CE) was a Muslim scholar of great repute from Cordoba, during the Muslim Spain era. He is widely regarded as the “Father of Comparative Religion”. In his celebrated magnum opus entitled Kitab al-Fasl fi al- Milal wa al-Ahwa’ wa al-Nihal, he predated modern Biblical textual criticism by several centuries and as Krentz admits, Ibn Hazm’s criticisms generally represents the first, albeit rudimentary, systematic historic criticism of the Bible1. He had demonstrated his prowess in Biblical textual criticism by giving many examples of internal contradictions in the Bible.

The following Bible contradiction regarding the call of the first disciples was extracted from an unpublished thesis entitled Ibn Hazm On The Doctrine of Tahrif which cites Kitab al-Fasl fi al-Milal wa al-Ahwa’ wa al-Nihal2 and insha’allah this will be part of an ongoing series to reproduce extracts of Ibn Hazm’s criticisms of the Bible and Christianity, as well as further elaboration on our part to refine his arguments in order to solidify the charges against the Bible.

So which is the correct Gospel account concerning the call of Jesus’ first disciples? Ibn Hazm quotes Matthew 4, 12-223; Mark 1, 14-204; Luke 5, 1-115 and John 1, 35-426 and concludes that there are four basic contradictions contained in the Gospel accounts of the first apostles. They relate to:

    (1) The time the first apostleship of Andrew and his brother Simon Peter commenced. Was it before the imprisonment of John the Baptist as Mathew and Mark records, or was it after the imprisonment of John as he himself claims?
    (2) The place where the first apostleship took place. Was it at the place where the Messiah found Peter and Andrew entering their nets into the sea as they were about to fish as Matthew and Mark relates, or was it at the place where Andrew was standing with John when he heard him remark when the Messiah walked past saying “Behold the Lamb of God!”, as John records?
    (3) The sequence of the first companionship. Did Simon, Peter and his brother Andrew jointly become the Messiah’s first apostles at the same point in time, or was it Andrew who became the Messiah’s first apostle and subsequently recruited his brother Simon?
    (4) The conditions in which the Messiah found his first two apostles. Was it as they were entering their nets into the sea or was it as they were getting out of their boat in order to wash their nets after they had spent the entire night without catching any fish?

According to Ibn Hazm, one of these four confusing stories on the call of the first disciples of Jesus must be untrue. Such untruths, however, cannot be attributed to God, nor a Prophet, neither of any truthful person.

Ibn Hazm also points out that Saint John had translated the Gospel of Matthew from Hebrew to Greek and therefore he must have come across the differences in the two accounts. These clear contradictions are sufficient proof, Ibn Hazm claims, “that the Gospels are the works of accursed liars (min ‘amal kadhibin mal’unin).”7

Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "The Gospels’ Accounts Regarding the Call of the First Disciples," in Bismika Allahuma, February 26, 2017, last accessed September 25, 2022, https://bismikaallahuma.org/bible/call-of-the-first-disciples/
  1. Edgar Krentz, The Historical Critical Method (Fortress Press, 1975), p. 4 []
  2. Abdul Rashied Omar, Ibn Hazm On The Doctrine of Tahrif (unpublished thesis, 1992), p. 34 []
  3. “Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee; And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up. From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.” (Mt. 4: 12-22) []
  4. “Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel. Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him. And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.” (Mk. 1: 14-20) []
  5. “And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship. Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless, at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake.And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord. For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken: And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.” (Lk. 5: 1-11) []
  6. “Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and saw them following, and saith unto them, What seek ye? They said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? He saith unto them, Come and see. They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two which heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.” (Jn. 1: 35-42) []
  7. As cited from Abdul Rashied Omar, Ibn Hazm On The Doctrine of Tahrif (unpublished thesis, 1992), p. 34 []
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Bible Contradictions Internal Contradictions Of The Bible The Bible

Who Fashioned The Golden Calf?

The Christian missionaries have accused the Qur’an of making a “contradiction” on the issue of who was responsible for the worship of the Golden Calf.

It is further interesting to note, however, that the New Testament contradicts the Old Testament on the matter of blaming Aaron(P) solely for the fashioning of the Golden Calf. Exodus 32:4 squarely puts the responsibility of making the calf upon Aaron himself:

“He [Aaron] took this from their hand, and fashioned it with a graving tool and made it into a molten calf.” (Exodus 32:4)

Clearly in this verse above, it is Aaron who is blamed here. This is also made clearer when we read in the subseqent verses (Q 32: 5-6) how Aaron was responsible for building an altar to the statue he had just created and made burnt offerings to it.

However, when we compare this with Stephen’s speech in the Acts of the Apostles, the blame of fashioning the Calf clearly shifts upon the Israelite people themselves, by employing the blame in plural:

“At that time they [the Israelites] made a calf and brought a sacrifice to the idol, and were rejoicing in the works of their hands.” (Acts 7:41)

Subsequent verses also suggests the same if it were read further (7:42-43). So who was responsible for the fashioning of the Golden Calf, Aaron or the Israelites? That is a question which behooves for the Christian missionaries to answer!

And only God knows best.

Categories
Bible Contradictions Internal Contradictions Of The Bible The Bible

An Eye-Opening Biblical Narration

The following is one of the most interesting Biblical stories I have come across. I thought I’d share it with the readers. Many Christians such as in the likes of Sam Shamoun, Craig Winn and others simply love going around bad-mouthing the Qur’an, saying that it contains “perverted, nonsensical teachings”.

Let us have a glimpse of their “sensical” Bible.

“And the sons of Noah, that went forth of the ark, were Shem, and Ham, and Japheth: and Ham [is] the father of Canaan. These [are] the three sons of Noah: and of them was the whole earth overspread. And Noah began [to be] a husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine and was drunken, and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid [it] upon both their shoulders, and went backwards, and covered the nakedness of their father; their faces [were] backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed [be] Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.1

Before I proceed further I would like to state for the record that Muslims are utterly shocked and offended that the Bible portrays great messengers of God as low-live drunkards.

Coming back to the story, notice how the story says Ham, THE FATHER of Canaan. This is rather interesting. Seems like it’s trying to prove or lead to something.

In summary, Noah became drunk and dropped naked in his tent. Ham, Noah’s second son found him in that state and told his brothers about it. According to many Biblical experts, Ham didn’t just tell his brothers about it, he also laughed at his father’s state. This is considered as an offence to Noah and is the reason why Noah made the curse. The two other sons Shem and Japheth were ashamed of their father’s nakedness and covered him without looking. When Noah gained consciousness, he knew what Ham did and started cursing, “And he said, Cursed [be] Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren.”

Did you catch the joke?

Noah had three sons: Shem, Ham and Japheth.

Ham had four sons2: Cush, Mizraim, Phut and Canaan.

When the narration is analysed, a question arises “who was responsible for looking at Noah’s nakedness?” The answer is Ham. Christians argue that the action of Ham was a sin, hence the curse. For the sake of argument, we agree. Yet, who was responsible and thereafter cursed? Ham was responsible, but, who was made to pay? Was it Ham? No. Canaan, an innocent little child, was made to pay for the error of Ham. The father who is responsible was reprieved and the son who’s innocent was punished. Furthermore, why was Canaan out of four siblings singled out? Is this justice or madness?

Can you imagine something like that happening today? I love analogies, so let us have one :

James has four children. He committed murder. He is apprehended, brought to court and is found guilty. The judge decided that the punishment is the “injection”, i.e. death. However, the injection is given to his youngest son and he, in turn, is released without cost.

Once again, is this justice or madness? I leave the verdict to the readers.3

Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "An Eye-Opening Biblical Narration," in Bismika Allahuma, December 14, 2007, last accessed September 25, 2022, https://bismikaallahuma.org/bible/eye-opening-biblical-narration/
  1. Genesis 9:18-25, KJV []
  2. Genesis 10:6 []
  3. In addition, how is this strange tale reconciled in light of the following:

    “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” (Deuteronomy 24:16) []