Posts tagged ‘Jesus’

September 16th, 2011

The Genealogies of Jesus and Muslims

Muslims have asked me umpteen times about the genealogies of Jesus Christ. One of them persistently asked me recently, “can you answer the two geneologies [sic] of Jesus?” Like many Muslims I have encountered, my friend uses differences in Luke and Matthew’s accounts to dismiss Jesus Christ and the Bible.

One thing my friend balks at, while Jesus Christ has two genealogies, Prophet Muhammad has none in the Qur’an or the Hadith. So much for Muslims’ claim the Bible has been corrupted because it lacks mentions of Muhammad. Islam’s own sources fail them. So much for Muslims’ claim Islam is an Abrahamic faith. Muslims can’t even trace their beloved prophet’s lineage to Abraham. Even Islamic sources that were concocted centuries after the demise of Muhammad raise more questions about Muhammad’s genealogy than they provide Muslims with answers. There is even an unresolved mystery surrounding when Muhammad was actually born. Isn’t it about time they explain?

Authoritative Muhammad biographies claim Muhammad’s father, Abdullah, was married to his wife, Amina, the year before the year of the elephant. Muhammad’s paternal grandfather, AbdulMuttalib, was also married the same day to Hala.  AbdulMuttalib’s wife gave birth to a son, Hamza, the same year—the year of the elephant—Muhammad was born. Abdullah died before his son was born. Muhammad and Hamza were supposed to be the same age. Hamza was killed at Battle of Uhud in 625 CE when he was 59 years old, which was quite a discrepancy because Muhammad was supposedly to be the same age as Hamza. He died at the age of 63 in 632 CE. How did Muhammad end up 4 years younger than Hamza if he were born the same year as Hamza? Mark you; Muhammad’s father died the same year Hamza was born. Was Muhammad in his mother’s womb for four years? Instead of explaining these discrepancies, Muslims attack Jesus even when he has two genealogies that make perfect sense.

Muslims study the Bible in order to find ammunition to attack the Bible and true mission of Jesus Christ. Let us use their questions to bring them to the Light of the Gospel and a little dose of reality regarding Islam.

I enlist John Gilchrist to answer my friend’s Muslim question. You can read John’s entire answers HERE.

1.10     The Genealogy of Jesus in the Gospels

Muslim: The genealogies of Jesus in the Gospels give very different lines of descent. How do you explain this contradiction? Also, some of the women mentioned among his ancestors were very great sinners – how could the perfectly pure Son of God have been descended from such an impure ancestry?

Very often Muslim arguments against the Bible reveal little more than a serious lack of awareness of what Christianity is really all about. In answering these two objections Christians not only have an opportunity to clarify misunderstandings but also to witness to the Muslims who raise them of the saving grace of Jesus Christ. It needs to be emphasized again and again that every Muslim argument against the Bible should be seen as an open door to witness to its essential message.

The Two Different Genealogies

The Hebrew line of Jesus’ descent is recorded in both Matthew 1:2-16 and Luke 3:23-38. There is no difference between these two records from Abraham to David but thereafter they diverge considerably. Matthew traces the line of Jesus’ genealogy through David’s son Solomon while Luke takes it through his son Nathan. From there on the two accounts are very different. Muslim writers have summarily concluded that they are contradictory and cannot be reconciled. The following points should be raised in reply whenever Muslims raise this issue:

1.   Every Child has Two Genealogies

It is hardly necessary to say that every man on earth has two lines of ancestry, one through his father and another through his mother. The one obvious thing about the two genealogies in the Gospels is that each is traced to a common source, David, and from there consistently to Abraham. What the two lines reveal, upon a close study of their context in each respective Gospel, is that Joseph, the legal guardian and registered father of Jesus (although not his natural father) was descended from David through Solomon while his mother Mary was descended from the same ancestor through Nathan. Thus there is no contradiction between them.

2.   Matthew and Luke Clearly State their Lines of Descent

It is not a convenient assumption that these two Gospel writers are recording the paternal and maternal sequences of Jesus’ ancestry respectively. Matthew makes it plain that he is recording the line of Joseph (Matthew 1:16) and throughout the first two chapters of his Gospel we find Joseph to be the central character. Each appearance of the Angel Gabriel recorded here is to Joseph. In Luke’s Gospel, however, Mary is always the central personality and only the appearance of Gabriel to her is mentioned.

3.   Luke Deliberately Qualifies his Genealogy

Luke himself states specifically that Jesus was the son, “as was supposed”, of Joseph (Luke 3:23) and it is in this little expression that the key to Jesus’ genealogy in his Gospel is found. Unlike Matthew he mentions no women in Jesus’ ancestry and, to maintain the general practice of outlining the masculine order only, Luke records Joseph as the supposed father of Jesus. He very carefully qualified Joseph’s role so that it would be clear that he was not recording the genealogy of Jesus through his representative father but rather his actual genealogy through his real mother Mary.
The Four Women Named in Matthew’s Genealogy

Muslim writers have often tried to discredit the absolute purity of Jesus as the Son of God by referring to the four women Matthew names in his record of Jesus’ ancestry. They are Tamar, who committed incest with her father Judah from which Perez was born as a forefather of Jesus; Rahab, the prostitute and Gentile woman who helped Joshua and the Israelites at the conquest of Jericho; Ruth, the wife of Boaz who was also a Gentile; and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah who committed adultery with David and from whom Solomon was born.

It is obvious that Matthew has deliberately named the very four women who disturbed the genealogy of Jesus by having moral or ethnic defects. He, clearly, did not think he was undermining the dignity of Jesus in doing so. Had there been any stigma attaching to such an ancestry he would assuredly have named some of more famous Hebrew women from whom Jesus was descended like Sarah and Rebecca. Why, therefore, did he specifically name the four women who supposedly unsettled the “purity” of his ancestry? The Apostle gives the answer himself. He records that, when the Angel Gabriel came to Joseph, he said of the child to be born:

You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

It was precisely for people such as incestuous Tamar, Rahab the harlot, Ruth the Gentile and Bathsheba the adulteress that Jesus came into the world. He descended from the holy portals of heaven and took human form in a sinful and decaying world so that he could save his people from their iniquities and make his salvation available to all men and women, Jew and Gentile alike. In another passage recorded in the same Gospel we find Jesus making his purpose very clear:

Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice”. For I came not to call the righteous but sinners. Matthew 9:12-13

Jesus did not come to set an upright example for pious, religious people to follow. He came, primarily, to save all who turn to him from their sins and to make it possible for them to receive the Holy Spirit so that they might have power to live genuinely holy lives. Here it is obvious how effectively an argument against the Bible can be turned into a very good opportunity for witness. Whenever a Muslim challenges the Bible on a point such as this it is essential that we look not only for ways of refuting the objection but also for openings to share what our faith is really all about.

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June 10th, 2011

When Jesus Died, Did the Trinity Reduce to two?

One of my Muslim Facebook friends asks:

If the father and Jesus are one, then if Jesus died, the father [sic] died. If they are separate and only Jesus died, then the father and the holy spirit [sic] remained, and thus Jesus and the father are not the same. Can you address this issue without talking about Muslims.

When Jesus died, the Father didn’t die. When Jesus died, the Three (Father, Son & Holy Spirit) did not reduce to the two. Please, read a good explanation HERE. I would like to enlist the Belgic Confession of Faith to answer my friend’s question further. The Confession reads:

According to this truth and this Word of God, we believe in one only God, who is the one single essence, in which are three persons, really, truly, and eternally distinct, according to their incommunicable properties; namely, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. The Father is the cause, origin and beginning of all things visible and invisible; the Son is the word, wisdom, and image of the Father; the Holy Ghost is the eternal power and might, proceeding from the Father and the Son. Nevertheless God is not by this distinction divided into three, since the Holy Scriptures teach us, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, have each his personality, distinguished by their properties; but in such wise that these three persons are but one only God. Hence then, it is evident, that the Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Father, and likewise the Holy Ghost is neither the Father nor the Son. Nevertheless these persons thus distinguished are not divided, nor intermixed: for the Father hath not assumed the flesh, nor hath the Holy Ghost, but the Son only. The Father hath never been without his Son, or without his Holy Ghost. For they are all three co-eternal and co-essential. There is neither first nor last: for they are all three one, in truth, in power, in goodness, and in mercy.

The Belgic Confession of Faith is available online on several websites. You can read this version HERE.

The Nicene Creed (circa 325 A.D.) and the Creed of Chalcedon (circa 451 A.D.) have some excellent explanations on the Three and the two natures of Jesus Christ respectively. How would you respond?

April 4th, 2010

Another Empty Grave for Jesus?

Christians are commemorating the passion of Jesus Christ. After all, without it culminating into his death and followed by resurrection three days later, our redemption would have been impossible. While our focus is on this momentous occasion, it is imperative that we do not forget to engage those who have different beliefs surrounding this Easter season.

Muslims believe that Jesus Christ was never crucified or died because Allah would not let his prophets suffer even though the Qur’an mentions at least three times how some of Allah’s messengers were slain. If one asks Muslims to provide the names of those slain, they wouldn’t. The Hadith also shows how Prophet Muhammad died an agonizing death, which spanned four years. (I discussed Muhammad’s death and also how Jesus Christ couldn’t be the same Jesus, Isa, Muslims refer to in an earlier post.)

They believe that Jesus is yet to die. The Hadith has references to how he is coming back to be married, have children, die and be buried according to Islamic customs. Muslims tell me to forget about the empty tomb in Jerusalem that Christians claim Jesus Christ vacated more than 2000 years ago. There is an empty grave next to Prophet Muhammad’s tomb, and it has been empty for about 1380 years and it does not belong to an Arab Muslim. Sunan Al-Tirmidhi states “Jesus, son of Mary, will be buried along with him [Muhammad]. …a place for a grave had remained in the house [a building that houses Muhammad’s tomb].”

Samuel Zwemer, the pioneer of Christian missionary work to the Arab world wrote, “The place of his [Jesus] future grave is already marked out between the graves of Omar, the caliph, and Fatuma, Mohammed’s daughter.” (Samuel Zwemer, Moslem World 1907 (Whitefish, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2003), 66.) Why it took the all-knowing Allah 600 years to refute the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is a question we should ask Muslims. Also, why Allah took his time and did not consider the highly publicized death and resurrection of Jesus Christ a problem at least through the first 12 years since the advent of Islam, and only turned in opposition when Muhammad moved to Medina, is another issue we should take up with Muslims.

February 22nd, 2010

Contextualization

Contextualization Gone Amok?

Contextualization is a brilliant Christian Missiology idea (C1, C2 and C3) that has gone amok (C4 and C5). As a former Muslim and a graduate of madrassa, I have concerns especially with C5. First, how can a Muslim claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ while he or she still believes in the Qur’an—a book that vehemently rejects his deity, death and resurrection? These three attributes make his salvation and lordship possible.

Secondly, some in C5 have stated that they were born into a Muslim family, which automatically makes them a Muslim and a part of the Muslim community; therefore, they cannot disavow themselves of their family, community and people. Their views are in agreement with Prophet Muhammad who advocated for fitra (every child is born a Muslim and should remain a Muslim). Sadly, they are incongruent with those of Jesus Christ (who they also claim is their savior), who taught, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matt 10:37, NIV.) This text is just one of the examples of his teachings.

Thirdly, they seem to confuse western culture with Christianity, the same way many Muslims do. They understand Christianity only from what they hear in the news about the actions of some celebrities in the West, or from what they read in the Qur’an and the Hadith. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. One can be a Christian (follower of Jesus Christ) without embracing western culture.

Fourthly, I know of some Muslim scholars who invent excuses for the behavior of Prophet Muhammad; but I have never heard of one who wants to be a follower of Jesus Christ yet still wants to defend Muhammad. Many instances in the Qur’an and the Hadith illustrate how Prophet Muhammad’s behavior is an embarrassment. For example, he married Zainab, who was previously married to Zaid (his adopted son). He supposedly received as a revelation from Allah a decree that Zaid should divorce Zainab so that he could marry her (Surah 33). Mark you, this happened when Muhammad already had at least five wives.

Muslim scholars are mocking the advocacy of contextualization in Christianity, mostly quoting Christian scholars who are known experts in the field. One of the first hits you get when you search online is the Muslim criticism. They claim that since there is no “truth” in Christianity, Christians have resorted to desperate tactics to get new converts. Is this what we need?

I hope those who advocate for contextualization, especially for C4 and C5, should change their mind because, regardless of how they spin it, a believer cannot be a follower of Muhammad and Jesus at the same time.

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Cracks in the Crescent discusses my upbringing as a Muslim, my conversion story to Christianity and the ensuring persecution. If you would like your copy, please clink on the link below. Thank you. For a limited time only, there is an offer for free shipping, which ends Friday, December 31, 2010.