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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:

    Did Jesus, Mary and Joseph go to Egypt or to Nazareth? 1
    “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:

    Did Jesus, Mary and Joseph go to Egypt or to Nazareth? 2
    “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. Did Jesus, Mary and Joseph go to Egypt or to Nazareth? 3

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 December 4, 2021, https://www.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
Op-Ed Polemical Rebuttals

Missionary VS Terrorist: An Examination Of A Missionary’s Mental Imbalance And Behaviourial Problem

The recent barrage of missionary dementia gives us a marvelous opportunity to expose the character of the missionary Sam Shamoun, his mental disorder and the extremes he is willing to undertake in order to unleash his abuses and prejudice towards Muslims. Indeed, he convincingly demonstrates that he is a confirmed Islamophobe. Muslims should bear in mind that many missionaries, who claim to “love Muslims” and “care about Muslims”, in reality hold such prejudiced views concerning them as does this missionary. So we should not be fooled by his crocodile tears.

The discussion is concerning the use of the term “missionary”. The missionary claims that we should not refer to him as a missionary because even though he is a missionary, many Muslims nevertheless have alleged “negative” views concerning the title “missionary” according to his opinion. Hence he argues that we are making an ad hominem attack against him every time we rightfully call him a missionary. He claims that his arguments will be allegedly dismissed beforehand by Muslims when they find out that he is a missionary.

The missionary writes:

    Before responding, something needs to be said about […] use of the term “missionary.” As was noted in my response to MENJ, in Muslim vocabulary there can hardly be a worse insult than calling somebody a missionary. A person labeled a missionary will automatically be dismissed and not be taken seriously by Muslim readers. It is used to create anger towards that person. This is exactly what Bravo wants to achieve and why he uses this word. Understanding the Muslim use of language, it is the classical ad hominem.

The first point to note is that it is completely false and misleading to claim that in “Muslim vocabulary” to call somebody a “missionary” is an insult. We wonder who duped him to accept such a laughable claim. Christian missionary organizations have a rich and active participation in a variety of arenas all over the Muslim world, from Pakistan to the Middle East. A number of Christian missionary schools exist in Pakistan for instance with the majority of the pupils being Muslims. These schools and organizations openly proclaim themselves to be missionaries. Now, it is true that most Muslims look upon the activity of the propagation of Christianity by way of outright deception and distortions in a negative light. However, to claim that the word “missionary” itself is an “insult” in the “Muslim vocabulary” is quite a stretch of the imagination. Most Muslims treat anyone who claims to be a “missionary” with respect. They are not “automatically dismissed” as the missionary has deluded himself to imagine, nor does this term create “anger” towards a person who claims to be one. As proof, none of us at Bismika Allahuma, who are all Muslims, are “upset” or “angry” towards anyone for being a “missionary”. Amazingly he has the audacity to talk about “anger” when he has a very rich history of abusing and insulting Muslims in the most vulgar and vicious fashion!

It should be noted that the use of the term “missionary” is simply because the missionary, Sam Shamoun, is indeed a Christian missionary. However, he uses terms such as “clowns”, “pagans”, “cartoon character” and claims that we worship a “demon-god” not because we are “clowns”, “pagans”, “cartoon characters” or do worship a “demon god”, but because he wishes to insult and abuse his Muslim opponents and their religion in a low, cheap and vulgar manner when he is angry. Hence, his claim of ad hominem is simply his psychological projection upon us and reflective of his own mental disorder.

“Missionary” is a term used in reference to those Christians whose aim is to convert others to their religion by way of active preaching and propagation. If Shamoun is willing to admit that his purpose is most certainly not the propagation, preaching and defense of Christianity, and that his mission has never been to convert others to his religion, that he only wastes time authoring pro-Christian articles for no apparent reason perhaps because he is jobless and therefore has nothing else to do, then we will gladly stop referring to him as a missionary.

His next “argument” is even more foolish than the prior one. He argues that since we rightfully call him a “missionary” since he is a missionary, he will therefore start labelling us as “terrorists” even though we are not “terrorists”! Here his prejudice is quite transparent for all to witness. In recent years a number of prejudiced, racist and Islamophobic individuals have started to label all Muslims as “terrorists” and “potential terrorists” merely because they happen to be Muslims no matter how peaceful. The missionary?s choice of the label “terrorist” is only indicative of his own extreme prejudiced and hate-filled mind set towards the Muslims.

What if we start referring to him as a homosexual merely because we believe that he is “insulting” us by rightfully calling us “Muslims”? That a person labeled a Muslim will automatically be dismissed and not be taken seriously by Christian and Western readers and that it is used to create anger towards that person? Thus being called a “Muslim” is an insult even though we are indeed Muslims? We will, as such, refer to Shamoun as a homosexual every time he calls me a “Muslim” as an “educational device”! This is precisely the type of silly, childish attitude of this Christian missionary, a unique insight into his downright twisted way of thinking.

He writes:

    Therefore, throughout my response I will at times use the term terrorist in reference to Bravo. This will be done in order to demonstrate to our readers the disrespect intended in the title “missionary.” If Bravo objects to my labeling him a terrorist, then he needs to show more respect to the Christians he seeks to refute. This is strictly an educational device on my part, and should Bravo revise his articles accordingly, I will glady remove this term as well.

There is no “disrespect” intended by calling a missionary a missionary just as no “disrespect” is intended by referring to a policeman as a policeman.

In short, we call the missionary Sam Shamoun a missionary simply because he is a missionary whereas he calls me a “terrorist” not because I am a terrorist, but merely because we happen to be Muslims. In other words he is only abusing us. He believes that Muslims are terrorists by default for being Muslims, or at least potential terrorists, because they are “evil” and the religion they follow is “evil” and because they worship a “demon god”.

Naturally, those who worship a “demon god” cannot be any better than terrorists. Hence the only word that entered his mind was “terrorist” to label me because we happen to be Muslims. We have already read his statement that the Muslims worship a “demon god” and that they are “pagans”, so to call Muslim “terrorists” just for being Muslims, no matter how peaceful, does not come as a surprise. It only goes on to show the abusive, disrespectful and highly insulting behaviour and attitude of this missionary towards Muslims. These are simply his true feelings which get unleashed when he enters a fit of uncontrollable anger.

This outright prejudice, stereotypical abuse and vehement insult is then conveniently dressed up as an “educational device” as if that would somehow alter its appearance or minimise its intended purpose! How desperate can one get? Hence if anything, he is the only one who is required to revise his papers and offer an unconditional apology for heaping vicious stereotypical abuses and lies towards others merely due to their religious beliefs that he despises.

Our challenge to the missionary is to prove his claim that we are “terrorists”, the meaning of which is:

Definition 1. one who uses violence, torture, or physical intimidation to achieve one’s ends, esp. one’s political ends.”

If, however, he fails to demonstrate and prove the above, and of a surety he will, then not only does he prove himself to be a narrow minded, hate-filled, prejudiced, Islamophobic and bigoted individual, he also convincingly proves himself to be a bold-faced liar.

A few paragraphs later he makes a few more interesting statements that further shed light upon his stereotypical prejudiced mindset and hate towards the Muslim community:

    [Note: Just as “terrorist” is obviously a very negative word in the non-Muslim world, while for many Muslims those who “strike terror in the hearts of the unbelievers” are heroes and should they even loose their life in the process are venerated as martyrs, so the word “missionary” is despicable word in the Muslim world, while it is a title of honor in the Christian church for those who take upon themselves much hardship to bring God’s Gospel of salvation to the people who do not yet know it.]

This argumentation is still senseless and illogical because even if we assume that the term “terrorist” is “very negative” in the non-Muslim world whereas it is supposedly very “wonderful” in the Islamic world, the simple fact remains that we are still not terrorists. However, if we were a terrorist, then we would have argued using “Shamounian logic” as follows:

    “Don’t call me a terrorist because even though I am a terrorist this term is very negative in the non-Muslim world. No one will listen to what I have to say if you call me a terrorist. But since you still call me a terrorist even though I am one, I will call you a homosexual as an “educational device”.

Our stand on terrorism, however, is very clear, thus to label any writer at bismikaallahuma.org a “terrorist” is still simply a blatant lie, stereotypical prejudiced insult and vicious abuse. The fact is that no similarity exists between my referring to the missionary as a missionary because he is a missionary and me being labelled a “terrorist” by him when I am not a terrorist. My statement that he is a missionary is the solid truth whereas his claim that I am a “terrorist” is a cheap lie, stereotypical abuse, prejudice, and insult. He says I am a “terrorist” simply because I happen to be a Muslim. This is the basic flaw in the missionary’s “logic”.

The bizarre argument now is that the word “terrorist” is “negative” in the non-Muslim world whereas it is supposedly highly prized, respected and a much adored term in the Islamic world. Is there anything one can say regarding such a sick mentality? These words speak for itself and are a very good window and indicator to view the amount of hate, prejudice and bigotry of the missionary towards the Muslims and his character. Such is the typical mentality of all racist Islamophobes who live in the delusion that “terrorist” is a “respectable” title in the Muslim world.

The simple fact of the matter is that the term “terrorist” is as much negative in the Muslim world as it is in the non-Muslim world. If you travel to the Muslim word and call any person walking on the street a “terrorist”, they will feel extremely offended and highly-insulted as any human being. Muslims are also human beings, something missionary Shamoun does not realize. No Muslim will walk up to you shake your hands and proclaim “oh thank you, you called me a terrorist, I can’t tell you how proud and happy that makes me feel.” Instead, you will receive an extremely hostile reaction just as you would if you were to label any non-Muslim a “terrorist” just for the fun of it.

Unlike the Western world, most Muslims are horrified with the “collateral damage” terrorism actively practised by the Western world that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians in the past 2-3 years. Racist Islamophobes fail to realize that there are non-Muslim Judeo-Christian terrorists in the Western world, professing Christian and Jewish faiths, and that terrorism is not a unique property of Muslims. For instance in Gujarat in secular India, hardly a few months ago, no less than 2000 Muslims, mostly women and children, were murdered in the most cruel, gruesome and barbaric manner imaginable, with the wombs of pregnant Muslim women cut open and the fetuses thrown on fire.

But the missionary of course does not deem this as “terrorism”. He will probably find an excuse to justify this carnage. They fail to understand that Muslims take the word “terrorist” as much negativity as any other non-Muslim woul. The mentality of such prejudiced, hate-filled, bigoted and racist individuals — such as the missionary — leads them to believe that Muslims are sub-human creatures, “barbarians”, etc., who “like” terrorism because of their genetic make-up and because they are “evil” and their religion is “evil”. In this, their mentality is not much different from that of the Nazis who held similar beliefs concerning the Jews and their religion.

As for “striking terror in the hearts of unbelievers”, meaning those who wage war on Muslims, then yes, the martyrs who defend the innocent and die while fighting the aggressors will, insha’allah, go to heaven, unlike the aggressors.

Lastly, even if we assume that the title “missionary” is supposedly “despicable” in the Muslim world (which is a rather huge exaggeration), the demand that Muslims stop referring to missionaries as “missionaries” makes little sense. If it is admitted that the title “missionary” is one of highest honours in the “Christian Church”, should he then not be willing to suffer even more hardships and troubles for the sake of a title held in immense “honour” in the Church? For example, we will continue to refer to ourselves as Muslims because we are Muslims and will ask others to address us as such no matter how “despicable” the word “Muslim” may be be to them. But to suddenly refer to the opponent as a “terrorist” when he/she is only calling you by your true title, and to disguise this blatant, abusive behaviour as an “educational device” is simply nonsense, childish and an example of the mental instability of one’s own mind. Missionary VS Terrorist: An Examination of a Missionary's Mental Imbalance and Behaviourial Problem 4

Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "Missionary VS Terrorist: An Examination Of A Missionary’s Mental Imbalance And Behaviourial Problem," in Bismika Allahuma, October 15, 2005, last accessed December 4, 2021, https://www.bismikaallahuma.org/op-ed/missionary-vs-terrorist/
Categories
Bible Contradictions The Bible

On The Methodology For Determining The Various Bible Difficulties

The Christian missionaries in their initial response to our list of Internal Contradictions of The Bible have made the claim that we are:

    …more bothered with seeking excuses not to take the Bible seriously, than finding reasons for their [our] own faith.

In light of this “excuse” by the missionaries to avoid the gory details of the mass of contradictions within the Bible, we find it neccessary to hence outline our methodology for determining the various difficulties inherent in the Bible text, insha’allah.

We also aim to educate the Muslims about the criteria that the Bible sets for itself in order for it to be considered an “inspired” text from God, and hence the seriousness of the various Bible difficulties found are not to be taken lightly.

Judging The Authenticity of the Bible Literature

In judging the authenticity of the Bible, the criteria should be on scientific grounds — grounds which are helpful in defining the authenticity of any other old document. A document is first examined internally and then externally.

Internal evidence is the study of the text itself while the external evidence is the study of the historical process through which the text was transmitted to us. Internal evidence deals with the content of the text, and if there are any errors, it should be determined whether they are internal contradictions or external errors. If the text suffers from errors and inconsistencies of either the former or the latter, then it is clear that such text is contrary to what it is claiming. For an example of an internal contradiction, if a fragment in a passage talks about “a red chicken” in a context but then a few paragraphs later talks about “a blue chicken” in the same context, that is certainly a contradiction.

An example of an external error would be if supposing that same fragment purporting to be Shakespearean in origin talks about King James travelling in the Space Shuttle Columbia and using Pentium Computers, we would be obliged to reject it right there as a Shakespearean writing and would not waste time in examining it any further, since it is in contradiction with historical evidences, i.e. that there were certainly no such thing as space shuttles or computers in existence during Shakespeare’s era.

Based on the above methodology that we have outlined, we will look at a list of the many difficulties within the text of the Bible, whereby the reader is encouraged to read in order to verify it for themselves.

Bible Criteria For Determining “Divine Inspiration”

The Christian missionaries, as is their nature of making excuses, seek to trivialise the importance of these Biblical difficulties. They appear to have completely given up on refuting the proof of distortion and have now resorted to “spiritualizing” the Bible and adamantly refuse to believe that anyone has changed the “word of God” or that the Bible contain any conflicts whatsoever, no matter how much the evidence is presented. They are willing to either:

  • Explain it away using abstraction to explain the “true” meanings of the verses presented, or
  • Explain it based upon assumptions of their own not contained within the Bible, or
  • Explain it away by attributing it to “scribal error” (the most common explanation), but a few lines later they say that as long as the contradictions does not affect doctrine, it is OK for the Bible to have mistakes, or
  • Claim that these matters are all insignificant and that the words remain the inspiration of God even if we do not know who the “inspired” authors were and their narrations contradict one another.

The problem in many cases is that it is human nature when given a choice between two matters, to take the simpler of the two, sometimes even against one’s better judgement.

For example, let us look at an answer given for the numerical discrepancies in the Bible by a Christian:

    Linguistically, none of these verses contradict. One can have 40,000 stalls for horses and still have 4,000. If the verse said ONLY 4,000, then it would be a contradiction. Likewise, if you have three cars and you say “I have a car,” it does not mean you don?t have three, but you do have one.

So, using his standard of “explaining”, can I say that when I have three daughters and instead I say “I have a daughter”, does it mean that, linguistically, that it does not mean “I don’t have three daughters, but I do have one daughter”?

We are amazed at such an “abstract” explanation being used to brush away the difficulties in the Bible. For such people who have been very well-indoctrinated, the answer is very simple – all of the changes to the text are all “trivial” and “inconsequential”. For them, errors evident in the “inspired word of God” is very acceptable, and is just a matter of the “spirit” of the book. For them, some of the words of God are not really that important and can be disregarded. But to understand the criteria for “divinely inspired” writings, we would have to look at the nature of God as outlined in the Bible itself.

Firstly, we are told in the Bible that God does not lie or change His mind after He has made a promise:

“God is not a man that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should repent. Has He said He will do something and will not do it? Has he promised something and not fulfilled it?” (Numbers 23:19)

We are also told that God is not the author of confusion:

“…because God is not a God of confusion, but of peace.” (1 Corinthians 14:33)

We note that Jesus himself is reported to have said that

“But he [Jesus] answered and said, ‘It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.'” (Matthew 4:4)

In other words, if the Bible contains various irreconcilable difficults, it would be contrary to the nature of God as highlighted above, and hence the Bible is certainly not the “divinely inspired” Word of God as believed by Christians.

Hence, to charge us with that the difficulties in the Bible are merely “…excuses not to take the Bible seriously” is no doubt an attempt to trivialise and make a mockery of the nature of God, as outlined in the Bible itself.

Dr G.C Van Niftrik and Ds B.Y Boland themselves admit that:

Kita tidak usah malu bahwa terdapat berbagai kesalahan dalam Alkitab, kesalahan dalam angka-angka, perhitungan, tahun dan fakta-fakta. Dan tak perlu kita pertanggungjawabkan kesalahan-kesalahan itu berdasarkan caranya isi Alkitab telah disampaikan kepada kita, sehingga dapat kita berkata dalam naskah asli tentulah tidak terdapat kesalahan-kesalahan, tetapi kesalahan-kesalahan itu barulah kemudian terjadi didalam salinan-salainan naskah itu.

Translation: We should not be ashamed of the various errors in the Bible, the contradictions in numbers, calculations, years and facts. And we should not hold the transmission of the Bible text as responsible for the cause of these errors, for we say that in the original texts, there would not be any errors, but the errors only occur in the copies of that original text.1

The point here is that there are certainly grounds for the Muslim position that the text of the Bible has been tampered with by human hands, and thus the errors of the text of the Bible in our hands today are the result of this human tamperation. Muslims indeed hold that the Taurat, Zabur and Injeel are from God but do not accept that the various books added to these books and form the bulk of the Bible in our hands today as wholly “inspired” from God.

This is no doubt consistent with modern scholarship findings that say that the Bible is a “living text”2 and were “not even free from factual error(s)”3.

Conclusions

At the end of the day, belief in something does not make it so. For many centuries, scholars believed that the earth was flat. On later examination, it was discovered to be round – not flat. Those scholars did not change their minds simply because facts and truth proved them wrong, they continued to believe what they had always believed, because they were unable to face the fact that their belief had been disproved.

Thus, we do not expect to have the slightest effect on any bigoted Christian missionary who really think that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. Instead, our exposition on the matter is to educate Muslims who are the target of judgements, criticisms and accusations by the Christian missionaries and also for those who are honest enough to seek the truth.

And only God knows best! On The Methodology For Determining The Various Bible Difficulties 5

Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "On The Methodology For Determining The Various Bible Difficulties," in Bismika Allahuma, October 15, 2005, last accessed December 4, 2021, https://www.bismikaallahuma.org/bible/bible-difficulties/
  1. Dr G.C Van Niftrik & Ds B.Y Boland, Dogmatika Masa Kini. The translation into English was done by the author. []
  2. Aland & Aland, The Text Of The New Testament, p. 69 []
  3. See M. F. Wiles, Chapter 14 : Origen As Biblical Scholar in P. R. Ackroyd & C. F. Evans (eds.), The Cambridge History of the Bible: From the Beginnings to Jerome, Volume 1 (Cambridge University Press, 1970), p. 463 []
Categories
Christian Doctrines Christianity History

Saviour-gods Mutilated Throughout Antiquity

One of the big questions nobody has asked about Mel Gibson’s The Passion Of The Christ is this: If the crucifixion was a historic event and so central to the Christian Gospel, why is it that there is no evidence whatever of a man on a cross in Christian art and monuments for almost seven centuries?

Not until 692 CE, in the reign of Emperor Justinian II, was it decreed that henceforth instead of a lamb (the zodiacal sign of Aries) fixed on the cross, the figure of Jesus be placed there instead. Another question: How is it that the earliest known figure of any man on a cross comes from about 300 BCE and that “person” is not Jesus but Orpheus, a mythical Greek sun-god?

More significantly, why were there so many crucified or otherwise mutilated saviour-gods in antiquity? One has only to think of the cutting to pieces of the later resurrected Osiris, or of Horus, or Dionysus, or Prometheus, or many more similarly tortured hero-divinities. Scholar Kersey Graves once wrote a book titled The World’s Sixteen Crucified Saviours: Christianity Before Christ. Seminary didn’t tell me that.

Surely the question must arise in minds that are accustomed to thinking and not just to accepting every story presented by state, religion, or the media at its surface value: Could there be some deeper meaning to this whole dying-rising god myth that pops up everywhere in the ancient world? Was Mel Gibson’s greatest error not the ubiquitous and ever-so-carefully filmed gore in his two-hour sermon but the fact that he took absolutely literally something that can only be properly understood in the context of what crucifixion symbolism is all about?

Make no mistake: The ancient sages who devised the great myths of Sumer, Chaldea, Egypt, and Greece had not the slightest interest in external history as we know it. Their major concern was the eternal truths of the human heart and the secrets of our inner, spiritual evolution.

Every god in every ancient religion had to suffer and die to depict two realities:

That each of us is a bearer of a fragment or spark of deity. God has become flesh in each of us. This is the God within or, in Christian terms, “the Christ in you.” It’s the inner meaning of the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation.

This was a costly sacrifice, a divine outpouring in love and pity for the animal-human that could only be expressed symbolically as a tearing into pieces of God’s very being. The ancients said: “The gods distribute divinity.” The giving out of pieces of bread at a Eucharist — an almost universal phenomenon globally in every early culture — is precisely about this sacrificial distribution of divine energies. The body of humanity and the “body” of God are re-membered or put back into one grand harmony in this symbolic act. The same is true of the shared cup of wine — a ritual partaking of the spiritual essence of God’s life.

However, in the 3rd century CE, the Church succumbed to the temptation to pander to the ignorance of the masses and so took the old esoteric doctrine, simplified it and turned it into literalized history. The truth about God coming in man — i.e., into every human — to raise us up, became a literal story about God coming as a man.

To make sure this story stuck, all pagan opposition was quelled with an unequaled fury. Mystery schools and philosophical academies were closed down, libraries of books were burned, and anathemas were hurled at all who dared to raise objections. Those who risked everything by pointing out that the Christians had taken over all the old Pagan myths, rites, and ceremonies but transformed them by literalizing everything were either banished or killed.

That so-called “pious frauds,” forgery and deceit of every kind were widely used in a cover-up is testified to by some of the early Christian apologists themselves. Even the major church historian, Eusebius — as shifty a writer as one could imagine, according to Edward Gibbon — gloated over the fact that he managed (in his account) to “make everything right” for the Church.

There is glorious good news at the heart of the Christian message but Gibson’s film with its ponderously literalist approach doesn’t even come close to it. It’s small wonder there is so much violence in the world if the God behind and through it all condones — no, demands — the literal kind of violence Gibson has proved himself so proficient at putting on the screen.

But, it’s not only the violence that is so off-putting. It’s the misunderstanding of what the New Testament drama is actually about. One can’t blame Gibson. The Church itself has to face the enormity of the harm its failure to understand its own message has brought to millions through the centuries. Saviour-gods Mutilated Throughout Antiquity 7

Tom Harpur’s latest book is The Pagan Christ: Recovering the Lost Light (Thomas Allen)
Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "Saviour-gods Mutilated Throughout Antiquity," in Bismika Allahuma, March 30, 2007, last accessed December 4, 2021, https://www.bismikaallahuma.org/christianity/saviour-gods-mutilated-throughout-antiquity/
Categories
Bible Contradictions External Contradictions Of The Bible The Bible

Geographical Errors Within The New Testament

It is well known that the Gospel of Mark contains numerous geographical errors. This is summed up in Kummel’s classic, Introduction to the New Testament:

[T]he considerations against this assumption [that John Mark, companion of Peter, wrote the gospel of Mark] carry weight. The author obviously has no personal knowledge of Palestinian geography, as the numerous geographical errors show. He writes for Gentile Christians, with sharp polemic against the unbelieving Jews. He does not know the account of the death of the Baptist (6:17 ff) contradicts Palestinian customs. Could a Jewish Christian from Jerusalem miss the fact that 6:35 ff and 8:1 ff are two variants of the same feeding story? The tradition that Mk was written by John Mark is therefore scarcely reliable. The reference to I Pet 5:13 (“The elect of Babylon and my son Mark also greets you”) does not account for the tradition, but only the subsequent linking up of the author of Mk with the preaching of Peter. Accordingly, the author of Mk is unknown to us.1

In fact, one of the reasons why many scholars doubt that the anonymous author of Mark was a Jewish individual and a native of Palestine is precisely due to the presence of a number of geographical errors, mistakes and confusions in this gospel. If the author was a native of Palestine and a Jew, then how was he so ignorant regarding the region’s geography?

Essentially, the arguments against John Mark, a Jewish resident of Jerusalem and later the companion of Paul and also of Peter, writing this Gospel are that he does not appear to be familiar with the geography of Palestine in the first century (Mark 7:31; 11:1) or with Jewish customs, overgeneralizes about the Jews (7:3-4), from whom he seems to distance himself, and does not reflect the theology of either Paul or Peter as a companion might (Phlm 23; cf. Col. 4:10; 2 Tim 4:11).2

To give an example, we read in the gospel according to Mark the following account:

“As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt there which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you,’Why are you doing this?’ tell him, ‘The lord needs it and will send it back shortly.'” They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” They answered that Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had out in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming of the kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” Jesus entered Jerusalem and went to the temple. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late he went out to Bethany with the twelve.” (Mark 11:1-11)

In Mark 10:46 however, we read that Jesus was in Jericho. The sentence above shows that Jesus and his group were travelling from Jericho to Jerusalem via Bethphage and then Bethany. This, however, is quite impossible. Bethany is further away from Jerusalem than Bethphage is. The Biblical theologian, D.E. Nineham, comments:

The geographical details make an impression of awkwardness, especially as Bethphage and Bethany are given in reverse order to that in which travellers from Jericho would reach them…and we must therefore assume that St Mark did not know the relative positions of the two villages on the Jericho road…3

The missionaries would obviously deny the above glaring error in Mark with their multiferous explanations. However the author of Matthew fully realised that Mark, who was supposedly “inspired”, had made a gross factual error. Matthew, who copied Mark changed this passage to remove the error:

“When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives…” (Matthew 21:1)

Note that Matthew had removed the reference to Bethany completely from Mark’s account. Again the most likely explanation is that Matthew noticed Mark’s error and tried to correct it. As Randel Helms informs us:

Mark writes on the basis of a vague knowledge of Judaean geography, not knowing that one approaching Jerusalem from the east on the road from Jericho would reach first Bethany and then Bethphage, not the reverse order he indicates. However, the important location is the Mount of Olives; typology, not history, is at work here. The typological fiction continues on the basis of Zech. 9:9 LXX:

‘Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion; proclaim it aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, the king is coming to thee, just and a Saviour [sozon, “saving”]; he is meek and riding on an ass, and a young foal [polon neon, a “new (unridden) foal”].’

It is only with this passage that we can understand why Mark has Jesus specify that his diciples obtain a “colt [polon] which no one has yet ridden” (Mark 11:2). Mark ignores the danger and unlikelihood of riding on an unbroken, untrained animal, assuming its miraculous tractability; typology rather than history is operative here.4

Who is correct, Matthew or Mark? Was Mark “inspired” or was Matthew “inspired” as far as the above passage is concerned?

Bruce M. Metzger makes mention of several internal and geographical errors within the New Testament in which later scribes attempted to clear away:

A few scribes attempted to harmonize the Johannine account of the chronology of the Passion with that in Mark by changing ‘sixth hour’ of John xix. 14 to ‘third hour’ (which appears in Mark xv. 25). At John i. 28 Origen 1 altered in order to remove what he regarded as a geographical difficulty, and this reading is extant today in MSS. 33 69 and many others, including those which lie behind the King James version. The statement in Mark viii. 31, that ‘the Son of man must suffer many things…and be killed and aftee: three days rise again’, seems to involve a chronological difficulty, and some copyists changed the phrase to the more familiar expression, ‘on the third day’ . The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews places the golden altar of incense in the Holy of Holies (Heb. ix. 4), which is contrary to the Old Testament description of the Tabernacle (Exod. xxx. 1-6). The scribe of codex Vaticanus and the translator of the Ethiopic version correct the account by transferring the words to ix. 2, where the furniture of the Holy Place is itemized.5

Another Christian scholar, Raymond E. Brown, notes the inability of the author of Mark to identify the geographical places in ancient Palestine. He says:

That the author of this Greek Gospel was John Mark, a (presumably Aramaic-speaking) Jew of Jerusalem who had early become a Christian, is hard to reconcile with the impression that it does not seem to be a translation from Aramaic,82 that it seems to depend on traditions (and perhaps already shaped sources) receieved in Greek, and that it seems confused about Palestinian geography83 (The attempt to claim that Mark used geography theologically and therefore did not bother about accuracy seems strained).6

In footnote 83, Brown had in fact revealed another instance of the gospel author’s unfamiliarity with ancient Palestine geography. He states that:

83 Mark 5:1, 13 betrays confusion about the distance of Gerasa from the sea of Galilee (n. 17 above). Mark 7:31 describes a journey from Tyre through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee in the midst of the Decapolis. In fact one goes SE from Tyre to the Sea of Galilee; Sidon is N for Tyre, and the description of the Sea of Galilee in the midst of the Decapolis is awkward. That a boat headed for Bethsaida (NE side of the Sea of Galilee) arrives at Gennesaret (NW side: 6:45,53) may also signal confusion. No one has been able to locate the Dalmanutha of 8:10, and it may be a corruption of Magdala.7

Though Brown attempts to explain away these geographical errors by stating that “one must admit that sometimes even natives of a place are not very clear about geography”8, he does not deny their presence in the text. In another footnote, he states that:

Many other examples of improbable reconciliations could be offered. Since Matt has a Sermon on the Mount and Luke has a similar Sermon on the Plain (Matt 5:1; Luke 6:7), there must have been a plain on the side of the mountain. Since Matt has the Lord’s Prayer taught in that sermon and Luke has it later on the road to Jerusalem (Matt 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4), the disciples must have forgotten it, causing Jesus to repeat it. Mark 10:46 places the healing of the blind man after Jesus left Jericho, while Luke 18:35; 19:1 places it before Jesus entered Jericho. Perhaps Jesus was leaving the site of the OT Jericho and entering the site of the NT Jericho!9

Furthermore, the Gospel according to Luke, another anonymous gospel, also contains a number of geographical errors that have led scholars to the conclusion that its author was not from Palestine. Brown comments:

What happens when Jesus goes to a deserted place (Luke 4:24-44) exhibits typical Lucan universalizing, since the people rather than Simon and his companions come to seek out Jesus. Compared to Mark 1:39, which has Jesus going through the synagogues of all Galilee, Luke 4:44 localizes the synagogues in Judea. That may illustrate the vagueness of Luke’s ideas of Palestinian geography, since in the next verse (5:1) Jesus is still in Galilee, at the Lake. Or does Luke’s Judea simply mean “the country of the Jews”?10

Brown presents another example of Luke’s confusion with Palestinian geography:

3. Last Stage of Journey till Arrival in Jerusalem (17:11-19:27). This begins with the uniquely Lucan cleansing of the ten lepers, including the thankful Samaritan (17:11-19). Jesus has been travelling toward Jerusalem since 9:51, and in 9:52 his messengers entered a Samaritan village. That at this point in the story he is still passing between Samaria and Galilee tells us that the journey is an artificual framework (and also that Luke may not have had a precise idea of Palestinian geography).11

G. A. Wells in his The Historical Evidence for Jesus makes mentions a number of geographical errors within the gospel according to Mark together with quoting other Biblical scholars admiting the presence of these errors and confusions in this gospel:

Mark makes serious mistakes in his geographical references to Palestine. He knows the Galilean place names and the general relative positions of the localities, but not specific details. Hence he “represents Jesus as travelling back and forth in Galilee and adjacent territories in a puzzling fashion” (Kee, 117, pp 102 – 3). To go (as Jesus is said to in Mk. 7:31) from the territory of Tyre by way of Sidon to the Sea of Galilee “is like travelling from Cornwall to London via Manchester” (Anderson, 2, p 192). Again, Mark’s “references to movements across the Sea of Galilee are impossible to trace sequentially. Mention of specific location near the sea are either unknown sites, such as Dalmanutha (8:10), or are patently inaccurate, as in the designation of the eastern shore of the lake as the country of the Gerasenes (5:1)” (Kee, loc cit). Gerasa is more than thirty miles souteast of the lake, too far away for the setting of the story which demands a city in its vincinity, with a precipitous slope down to the water. Probably all that concerned Mark, collecting and adapting pre-existing stories about Jesus, was that the lake and its surrounding territories, some Jewish and some mainly Gentile, was an ideal setting for journey’s of Jesus and his disciples, showing how both Jews and Gentiles responded to him with faith. That place names in Mark caused perplexity among early readers is shown by the wide range of variants in the textual tradition where names occur in the gospel. Perplexity is also evidenced by Matthew, who changed Mark’s Gerasenes to Gadarenes (Mt. 8:28), Gadara being a well-known spa only eight miles from the lake.12

Michael T. Griffith makes note of this confusion between Gerasenes and Gadarenes, and says that:

According to most modern versions of the Bible, Mark 5:1 refers to the Sea of Galilee’s eastern shore as the country of the Gerasene:

“They [Christ and the disciples] came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes” (RSV; so also the NIV and the New American Bible).

This translation is based on the fact that the best and oldest manuscripts for this verse all read “the country of the Gerasenes.” However, the Sea of Galilee’s eastern shore cannot qualify as the land of the Gerasenes because Gerasa (modern Jerash) is more than thirty miles to the southeast. In addition, the account which follows verse 1 requires a nearby city with a steep slope leading down to the Sea of Galilee. This could not possibly be Gerasa. Gerasa is simply too far away, and there is no slope running all the way from that site to the Sea of Galilee.

In the KJV, Mark 5:1 reads, “the country of the Gadarenes,” but this is based on inferior readings from the Greek texts. As mentioned above, the best and oldest manuscripts read “the country of the Gerasenes.” In any event, Gadara, though closer than Gerasa, is still too far away to fit, since it is located about six miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee.

According to the KJV rendering of Matthew 8:28, the region in question is named “the country of the Gergesenes.” This reading is based on inferior manuscript evidence and represents a scribal addition by later copyists (Metzger 1971:23-24). The best textual evidence for Matthew 8:28 reads “the country of the Gadarenes,” which is how it appears in the better modern translations of Matthew. Again, though, Gadara is too far away from the Sea of Galilee. To add to the confusion, Luke 8:26 follows the geography attributed to Mark. Although the KJV reads “the country of the Gadarenes,” this is another case of this version’s reliance on inferior textual evidence. The better modern translations read “Gerasenes.”

Lindsey Pherigo sums up the situation with regard to Mark 5:1:

The general location [of the events spoken of in Mark 5] is reported [in vs. 1] to be the E shore of the Sea of Galilee but the exact location is reported in different ways. The oldest and best manuscripts have Gerasa, but this is too far from the Sea of Galilee to fit well. Matt. changes this to Gadara (“the country of the Gadarenes,” 8:28), but this, though nearer, is still too far from the water. Later copyists change both to “Gergesa,” which may correspond to some ruins on the E side of the sea. It remains a problem.13

Conclusion

We have thus shown that the scribes of the New Testament were certainly aware of the presence of errors, in this case geographical errors, within the New Testament text. That is why they had proceeded to clear up whatever obvious errors that recur within their texts. Many of such errors were thus “corrected” over the passage of time whereas others that escape “correction” are vehemently defended by current-day missionaries with the preference to use a number of highly-imaginative mental gymnastics.

And only God knows best! Geographical Errors Within The New Testament 9

Cite this article as: Bismika Allahuma Team, "Geographical Errors Within The New Testament," in Bismika Allahuma, October 15, 2005, last accessed December 4, 2021, https://www.bismikaallahuma.org/bible/geographical-errors-new-testament/
  1. Kummel, Introduction to the New Testament, p. 97 []
  2. Lee Martin Mc Donald and Stanley E. Porter, Early Christianity and its Sacred Literature, (Nov 2000, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.), p. 286 []
  3. Nineham, Saint Mark (Westminster John Knox Press, 1978), pp. 294-295 []
  4. Randel Helms, Gospel Fictions, p. 103 []
  5. Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament. Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration (Third Enlarged Edition, 1992, Oxford University Press), pp. 199-200 []
  6. Raymond E. Brown, S.S., An Introduction To The New Testament, The Anchor Bible Reference Library (Doubleday, 1997) pp. 159-160 []
  7. ibid., p. 160 []
  8. ibid. []
  9. ibid., pp. 109-110 []
  10. ibid., pp. 238 []
  11. ibid., p. 251 []
  12. G. A. Wells, The Historical Evidence for Jesus (Prometheus Books, 1982), p. 230 []
  13. Michael T. Griffith, Is The Bible Inerrant And Complete? (1994) [Online Document] []
Categories
Jesus

The Qur’anic Etymologies Of ”Nazarene” And ”Gospel” And Their Historical Implications

Journal of the Society for Qur’anic Studies, Number 1, Volume 1, 2001

The Qur’an and the New Testament agree on a number of issues regarding Jesus Christ. Both books, for instance, stress that Jesus, who is called ” ‘Isa” in the Qur’an, was conceived miraculously by his mother Mary. He had no father. This is what the Qur’an says about the miraculous birth of ‘Isa:

When the angels said: “O Maryam! Allah gives you good news with a word from Him, whose name is al‑Masih, ‘Isa the son of Maryam, illustrious in this world and the hereafter and of those who are brought near [to Allah]” (3.45)

“And he shall speak to the people when in the cradle and when of old age, and [he shall be] one of the righteous.” (3.46)

“She said: “My Lord! How can I have a child when no man has touched me?” He said: “It is so [because] Allah creates what He pleases; when He has decreed a matter, He only says to it: “Be”, and it is (3.47). And He shall teach him the Book and Wisdom and the Tawrat [Torah] and the Injil.” (3.48)

The New Testament states the following in the Gospel of Matthew1:

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily.”

“But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, sayin: “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.” (Matthew, 1:18-21)

Both books also give details about miracles performed by ‘Isa though, again, not without differences. For instance, the New Testament makes no mention of ‘Isa speaking while still an infant in the cradle or his creation of birds out of clay:

“When All?h said: “O ‘Isa, son of Maryam! Remember My favor on you and on your mother, that I have supported you with the Ruh al-Qudus [Spirit of al-Qudus], [and made you] speak to the people in the cradle and when of old age; and that I taught you the Book and Wisdom and the Tawrat and the Injil; and that you create out of clay the figure of a bird by My permission, then you breath into it and it becomes a bird by My permission; and heal he who was born blind and the leprous by My permission; and that you raise the dead by My permission; and that I withheld the Children of Isra’il [Israel] from you when you came to them with clear proofs, but those who disbelieved among them said: ‘This is nothing but clear magic’.” (5.110)

On the other hand, the New Testament refers to miracles that are not mentioned in the Qur’an, such as that of ‘Isa turning water into wine:

“And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there. And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him: “They have no wine”. Jesus saith unto her: “Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come”. His mother saith unto the servants: “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”

“And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them: “Fill the waterpots with water”. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them: “Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it.”

“When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was (but the servants which drew the water knew), the governor of the feast called the bridegroom. And saith unto him: “Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now.” (John, 2:1-10).

Given the fact that all forms of alcohol are proscribed in the Qur’an, the latter rejects implicitly the occurrence of this supposed miracle.

While there are obvious similarities between the picture of ‘Isa in the Qur’an and the Bible, the differences between both accounts are in fact substantial and by far more significant than the details they share. One such fundamental difference is that the Qur’anic ‘Isa who received revelation from All?h was human, whereas Jesus of the New Testament had a divine nature and origin and is referred to as “the son of God”.

Not surprisingly, Western historians and theologians have both shown great interest in Jesus of the New Testament. However, very little time and efforts have been invested in studying the Qur’anic ‘Isa. One obvious reason for this is the widely held belief that the Qur’an is nothing other than a freely edited version of the Bible, a view that implies that the Qur’an has no historical value. So, although historians have had a hard time trying to relate the Biblical Jesus to history proper, they never thought of seeking help from the neglected Qur’an.

The present study is an attempt to remedy this situation. We will examine particular so far unnoticed or ignored differences between the story of ‘Isa in the Qur’an and its equivalent in the New Testament. The first concerns the etymology of the word “Nazarene”. The ultimate aim is to unveil very important historical implications of this difference between the Qur’anic story of ‘Isa and its Biblical counterpart. We will also study the etymology of the word “Gospel” which is less complicated than that of “Nazarene”. Finally, we will mention the historical event which the Gospels misrepresent as the “last supper”.

1. The Etymology of “Nazarene”

In the Greek text of the New Testament,’Isa is called The Qur'anic Etymologies of ''Nazarene'' and ''Gospel'' and Their Historical Implications 10 (Nazorios) or The Qur'anic Etymologies of ''Nazarene'' and ''Gospel'' and Their Historical Implications 11 (Nazarenos), both of which are translated into English as “Nazarene”. Only the first form of the Greek epithet of ‘Isa is used in the Gospel of John (18:5, 18:7, 19:9) and in Acts (2:22, 3:6, 4:10, 6:14, 22:8, 26:9), and it seems preferred in Matthew (2:23, 24:71) and Luke (18:37) as well. However, Mark consistently uses the second form of ‘Isa’s appellation, (Mark, 1:24, 14:67, 16:6),2 which makes appearances also in Luke (4:34, 24:19). The first epithet is also used once in Acts (24:5) to refer to the Christians when Tertullus the orator accuses Paul of being “a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes”.

According to the writer of the Gospel of Matthew, ‘Isa’s epithet, the Nazarene, is derived from the name of the town where he was brought up, The Qur'anic Etymologies of ''Nazarene'' and ''Gospel'' and Their Historical Implications 12 or The Qur'anic Etymologies of ''Nazarene'' and ''Gospel'' and Their Historical Implications 13 (Nazareth):

“And he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene’.” (Matthew, 2:23)

Indeed, while The Qur'anic Etymologies of ''Nazarene'' and ''Gospel'' and Their Historical Implications 10 and The Qur'anic Etymologies of ''Nazarene'' and ''Gospel'' and Their Historical Implications 11 are sometimes translated as “Nazarene”, at other times they are rendered “of Nazareth”.

The Matthean etymology of Nazarene has been accepted by some scholars (e.g. Pellett, 1962: 525; Davies & Allison, 1988: 281), but a linguistic difficulty with this etymology has been pointed out. Some researchers have indicated that while deriving The Qur'anic Etymologies of ''Nazarene'' and ''Gospel'' and Their Historical Implications 11 from is not problematic, the same is not true of The Qur'anic Etymologies of ''Nazarene'' and ''Gospel'' and Their Historical Implications 10 . In its entry for “Nazarene”, Encyclopedia Britannica states that the exact meaning of this latter title is “not known”. However, it has been claimed that, though difficult, it is not impossible for to have come from (e.g. Moore, 1920: 428; Davies & Allison, 1988: 281). Cullmann has also pointed out that the spelling of the name of the home town of ‘Isa varies in the written tradition so it is not really possible to rule out the derivation of The Qur'anic Etymologies of ''Nazarene'' and ''Gospel'' and Their Historical Implications 10 from . He does, however, find it still unexplainable how “in Greek the unusual form maintained its position so consistently alongside the simpler form The Qur'anic Etymologies of ''Nazarene'' and ''Gospel'' and Their Historical Implications 11 which was, after all, available.” (Cullmann, 1962: 523)

There are other convincing reasons to reject the claim that ‘Isa was known by a title that meant “of Nazareth” which is how Matthew understood the word Nazarene. Nazareth is first mentioned in the New Testament and there is no older independent record that mentions that particular town. It is not mentioned in the Old Testament, the Talmud3, the Midrashim4 or Josephus5. The earliest mention of Nazareth outside the New Testament is from Julius Africanus (170-240 CE) which was cited by the bishop and historian Eusebius of Caesarea (d. ca. 340 CE). It is generally accepted that this absence of Nazareth from ancient historical records is due to the fact that it was a small, insignificant town (e.g. Pellett, 1962: 524; Moore, 1920: 429). The population of Nazareth is estimated from archaeological excavations to have been between 50-2000 at the time of ‘Isa (Theissen & Mertz, 1998: 165). This sounds quite possible. But then the obvious argument here is that if Nazareth was such an insignificant town then what sense would it have made to relate ‘Isa to it? After all, no person is introduced by relating him to a place that is equally unknown!

It is not only that ‘Isa could not have been related to an insignificant town such as Nazareth. The more fundamental problem lies in the very concept that ‘?s? could have been given a title after a city at all, even if it was a big and major city. Davies and Allison (1988: 281) have indicated that it was common custom among Jews to distinguish individuals according to the place of their origin. But then ‘?s? was by no means an ordinary person for this to apply to him. ‘?s? could not have been called after the city in which he was brought up or where he became known, because he acquired from the time of his infancy two unique titles after his unique, miraculous birth. It was inevitable that ‘?s? was called something that reminded people of his unique birth. This is indeed what the Qur’an tells us happened.

Accordingly to the Qur’an, the angels told Mary that her son would be known as “al-Masih” (the Messiah), “‘Isa” and “Ibn Maryam” (the son of Mary):

“When the angels said: “O Maryam! Allah gives you good news with a word from Him, whose name is al-Masih, ‘Isa the son of Maryam, illustrious in this world and the hereafter and of those who are brought near [to Allah].” (3.45)

In most of its occurrences in the Qur’an, “al-Masih” is mentioned in conjunction with ‘Isa’s second title, “the son of Maryam”. We will concentrate here on the title of “the son of Maryam” which occurs in the Qur’an as twice as al-Masih. While the latter is an equally important title, which is why it was used alongside “Ibn Maryam”, it is outside the scope of this study.

While naming him “‘Isa” and titling him “the son of Mary” and “al-Masih”, the Qur’an never refers to this Prophet with a title that corresponds to “Nazarene”, as the New Testament does, or relates him to a particular city.

‘Isa became known as “the son of Mary” from the time of his birth because he was conceived without a father. The nature of ‘?s? ?s birth would have made it inevitable that people used the title of “the son of Mary” when referring to him. The fact that ‘?s? had such very distinguished titles since his early days meant that there was no need at any later stage of his life to coin an epithet for him. Even when the news about his miracles started to spread there would have been no reason to give him a new title as his old titles already referred to the greatest miracle in his life. It would have been even more pointless to replace the unique title of “the son of Mary” with a general appellation that merely related ‘?s? to a certain place. Any person from that city could have been named after it, but only ‘?s? could have been given a title derived from the fact that he was conceived without a father. Furthermore, it just does not make any sense to suggest that ‘?s?’s followers in particular could have replaced the meaningful and distinguished title of “the son of Mary” with an unimpressive, inexpressive, blank and impartial title which merely related ‘?s? to a city, not to mention an insignificant one. The New Testament’s suggestion that ‘?s?’s title was “of Nazareth” is absurd.

But how can one explain the absence of ‘?s?’s historical title, “the son of Mary”, that the Qur’an reveals, from the New Testament? Well, it is not totally absent from the New Testament for it figures in a distorted form. The true title of “the son of Mary” is the origin of the false title of “the son of man” in the New Testament. But why this alteration? Indeed, what sense would it make to call someone “the son of man” when each and every man is a son of man? This title was intended to serve a more sophisticated purpose than simply referring to ‘?s?. Those who coined the term “the son of man” aimed at emphasizing what they perceived as the dual nature of ‘?s? as the son of man and the son of God. With “the son of man”, the inventors of this title implicitly stressed the second appellation that people gave to ‘?s?, “the son of God”. “The son of Mary” is really a unique epithet that referred and refers to ‘?s? only, but the inventors of “the son of man” were after something that refers to “the son of God” rather than to ‘?s?.

The combination of the New Testament?s claim that ‘?s? was known with the title “Nazarene” and the Matthean etymology of this word has yet another insurmountable problem. We have already mentioned that Acts 24:5, as well as later writings, use the plural word “Nazarenes” to refer to the followers of ‘?s?. Now, even if we assume for the sake of argument that there was some sense in calling ‘?s? a Nazarene, having lived in Nazareth, it would certainly not make any sense at all to extend this title to his followers who would have come from various places. Needless to say, the followers of a Nazarene, in the Matthean sense of this word, do not become Nazarenes themselves! Cullmann for one has noted that if Nazarene meant someone from Nazareth, as Matthew has it, then “it would certainly be unusual if [the Christians] were referred to as ‘people from Nazareth'” (Cullmann, 1962: 523). So, accepting the Matthean etymology of the word Nazarene as a title of ‘?s? is not really of much prudence as suggested by Davies and Allison (1988: 281).

In deriving Nazarene from Nazareth, the writer of the Gospel of Matthew cites a prophecy in the Old Testament:

“And he [Joseph] arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither, notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets. He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew, 2:21-23)

The Gospel writer has, in fact, been less than a reliable historian for the very simple reason that the prophecy that he cites occurs nowhere in the Old Testament! This false information undermines the credibility of the given etymology. Even neglecting the above problems with deriving Nazarene from Nazareth, this derivation still stands accused of having no foundation. There is really no reason to accept that Nazarene was derived from Nazareth rather than from a number of other possible origins (see, for instance, the possibilities compiled by Davies and Allison, 1988).

But there is another equally significant conclusion to draw from Matthew?s citation of a non-existent Biblical passage. Randel Helms (1989) has shown that the writers of the Gospels spared no effort in correlating Biblical passages with events in the life of ‘?s? to stress that ‘?s? was the fulfillment of those Biblical prophecies. But this attitude was so uncompromising that the history of ‘?s? was itself written in the Gospels to portray ‘?s? as the manifestation of those ancient Biblical sayings and prophecies. This suggests that in the case under discussion the reverse has happened. That is, as the title “Nazarene” was already in circulation, it was the correspondent Biblical passage that the Gospel writer needed to invent; and he did just that.

It is an acknowledged fact today that there is no evidence whatsoever linking the title “Nazarene” to the name of the town of Nazareth. There is also a very strong argument against such a derivation. Interestingly, the Qur’an has already implied some 14 centuries ago that deriving “Nazarene” from “Nazareth” is wrong as it gave a totally different etymology for “Nazarene”. Additionally, the Qur’an is absolutely clear that “Nazarene” was not a title of ‘?s? himself but of his followers. Even those researchers who thought of relating the word Nazarene to other than Nazareth worked on the wrong assumption that Nazarene was the title of ‘?s?; it never was (see also the discussion in ?10.5 in Fatoohi and Al-Dargazelli (1999)). ‘?s? was also known only as “the son of Mary” and “al-Masih”.

The Qur’anic words that correspond to “Nazarene” and “Nazarenes” are Nasrani and Nasara, respectively. Both singular and plural forms of this word were not coined from or introduced into Arabic by the Qur’an at the time of its revelation. These words were already used to refer to the Christians. They did not mean anything else in Arabic. This fact is also reflected in the unique way in which these singular and plural forms of the same word relate to each other. Therefore, the words Nasrani and Nasara which the Arabs were already using when the Qur’an was revealed would have been, or developed from, older non-Arabic words. Had the name Nasrani/Nasara been used for the Christians in the Qur’an without any clarification, it would have been very difficult to trace back its origin and meaning. Fortunately, there are two sets of ayat6, each set consisting of two ayat, when combined together the meaning of the word Nasrani/Nasara becomes absolutely clear. This is explained below.

The word Nasara is mentioned in several Qur’anic ayat. Two of these ayat refer to the followers of ‘?s? with the phrase “those who have said ‘We are Nasara'”:

“And from those who have said “We are Nasara” We took their covenant, but they forgot a part of what they were reminded of, therefore We caused among them enmity and hatred to the Day of Resurrection; and All?h will inform them of what they were doing.” (5.14)

“Certainly you will find that the most vehement of people in hostility to those who believed [to be] the Jews and the polytheists. And you will certainly find that the nearest of them in affection to those who believed [to be] those who have said: “We are Nasara”, for there are among them priests and monks and for they do not behave arrogantly.” (5.82)

Defining the Christians in terms of their declaration of being Nazarenes stems in fact from a specific event which involved ‘?s? and his disciples and which the Qur’an relates in the following ayat:

“But when ‘?s? sensed disbelief on their part, he said: “Who are my Ansar [supporters] on the way to All?h?” The disciples said: “We are the Ansar of All?h. We believe in All?h and [you] bear witness that we are Muslims.” (3.52)

“O you who believe! Be Ansar [supporters] of All?h, as ‘?s?, the son of Maryam, said to the disciples: “Who are my Ansar on the way to All?h?” The disciples said: “We are the Ansar of All?h”. And a party of the Children of Isra’il believed and another party disbelieved; so We aided those who believed against their enemy, and they became the uppermost.” (61.14)

It is thus obvious that the equivalent of Nasara in the Arabic of the Qur’an7 is Ansar. The verb of “Ansar” is nasara which means “supported, aided, helped, sided with…etc”. So, “Ansar” means “supporters”. The above two ayat reveal the religious context and the specific meaning of the word “Ansar” when used to refer to the Christians. The term Ansar occurs in the context of calling the Christians the Ansar of ‘?s? on the way to All?h which means ultimately the supporters of All?h to Whom ‘?s? was calling people.

Similar use of the verb nasara occurs in several ayat in the Qur’an when referring to the believers in Prophet Muhammad. For instance, in the following two ayat the first states that by emigrating from their cities to follow Prophet Muhammad who himself had fled persecution, the believers “supported All?h and His Messenger”. Here also, the support given to the Prophet is considered support to All?h Himself, meaning support to the cause of All?h. The second aya encourages the believers to “support All?h”, so that All?h may support them:

“[Some part of the alms is due] to the poor who have migrated, who have been driven out of their homes and their belongings, seeking favor from All?h and [His] pleasure, and supporting All?h and His Messenger: these are the truthful.” (59.8)

“O you who believe! If you support All?h He supports you and plant your feet firmly.” (47.7)

It is obvious, therefore, that the term Nasara was developed from an original word, presumably Aramaic, that meant Ansar in Arabic and which would also have been used in conjunction with a name of All?h to mean supporters of All?h. By the time of the Qur’an the Arabic speaking population of the Arabian Peninsula were using the words Nasrani/Nasara as a name for the Christians. But they were totally unaware of what they really meant as neither of these words were from the Arabic of the time and because their historical background was unknown. The Qur’an revealed to the Arabs a secret that neither they nor their ancestors had any knowledge of. However, this was not a secret to only the Arabs, but also to all those Christians and Jews who had lost contact with the Injil, the Book that All?h revealed to ‘?s? and in which He named the Christians “Nazarenes” or “supporters (of All?h)”. This ignorance is attested to by the Gospel of Matthew itself which gives a false etymology of the word Nazarene. The writers of the other Gospels implicitly accept the derivation of Nazarene from Nazareth, as do the Christians in general who also accept the New Testament?s claim that Nazarene was ‘?s?’s title.

In the event described in ayat 3.52 and 61.14, ‘?s? reminded his disciples of the name/description that All?h had already given to his followers in the Injil. Therefore, when asking them who were “[his] Ansar on the way to All?h”, the disciples replied to ‘?s? that they were the “Ansar of All?h”.

It is notable that All?h describes all the followers of ‘?s?, not only those who were contemporary to him, as “those who have said ‘We are Nasara'” (5.14, 5.82). This is in fact a reference to the original event mentioned in ayat 3.52 and 61.14, indicating that any person who declares himself/herself as a Nazarene implies by this claim that he/she has taken the same oath taken by the disciples when they declared themselves before ‘?s? as “Ansar of All?h”.

It should be noted here that some writers have felt it necessary to suggest a religious meaning for the word Nazarene and not (only) relate it to Nazareth. Moore has cited a number of such suggested etymologies. For instance, he cites an old comment on Matthew 2:23 which states that “Jesus was called Nazaraeus not only because his home was in Nazareth, but because he was the Saviour, ‘Servator’, from nasar, ‘servare’, (Moore, 1920: 430). We have already shown, however, that “Nazarene” wasn?t actually ‘?s?’s but his followers’ title.

Now, how does one explain the erroneous etymology of Nazarene suggested in Matthew? It is certainly intertwined with the misconception of Nazarene as a title of ‘?s?. The writer of that particular Gospel, like the writers of the other books of the New Testament, authored his book decades after the time of ‘?s?. By then, the word “Nazarenes” was already a name of the followers of ‘?s?. But by that time many details of the religion of ‘?s? had already been lost due to the fact that the Injil was no longer accessible to most people. The historical background of the name of ‘?s?’s followers, Nazarene, was one piece of information that had become unavailable to most people, including the writer of Matthew. However, Matthew reckoned that the similarity between the term Nazarene and the name of the town of Nazareth was too close to be fortuitous. So, he simply surmised that Nazarene must have originated from Nazareth, the name of the town where ‘?s? is supposed to have lived.

We now know that Nazarene was never derived from Nazareth. We also know that the similarity between Nazarene and Nazareth was not a mere coincidence, something that the writers of the Gospels have also noted. This leaves us with the very appealing conclusion that it is in fact Nazareth the town which acquired its name from the word “Nazarenes” and not the other way around as suggested in the New Testament. If that little town was indeed insignificant, as commonly accepted by scholars, then it could very easily have acquired the name “Nazareth” being the town “of the Nazarenes”. This means that the town could have been mentioned in older sources under its old name. There is no evidence to support the suggestion of some researchers that the silence of ancient writings on Nazareth indicates that this town was only later established.

2. The Etymology of “Gospel”

It might surprise some that the four Gospels of the New Testament should get the etymology of the word Nazarene totally wrong in this way. It should be remembered, however, that there is so much misunderstanding and confusion in the Gospels. Ironically enough, there is widespread ignorance concerning the full meaning of the word “Gospel” itself! The Qur’an , however, does explain to us the meaning of this word also.

The English word “Gospel”, which means “good news”, is known to be a translation of the Greek (Euaggelion: pronounced Euangelion). Yet scholars have struggled to find a convincing etymology for this word in the context of Christian thought. The Qur’an , on the other hand, leads us to the answer to this question by telling us that All?h revealed to ‘?s? a Book called “Injil”:

“And We sent after them in their footsteps ‘?s? , the son of Maryam, verifying what was before him of the Tawrat and We gave him the Injil in which was guidance and light, and verifying what was before it of Tawrat and a guidance and an admonition for the All?h-fearing.” (5.46)

It is clear that “Injil” is the same Greek word, and thus means “good news”. The following aya explains why the Book of ‘Isa was “good news”:

“And when ‘?s?, the son of Maryam, said: “O children of Isra’il! I am the Messenger of All?h to you, confirming that which is before me of the Tawrat and bringing the good news of a Messenger who will come after me, his name being Ahmad”; but when he came to them with clear proofs they said: “This is clear magic.” (61.6)

This aya reveals that the Book of ‘?s? acquired its name from the fact that it brought the “good news” about the forthcoming commission of Prophet Muhammad. The name “Ahmad” in the above aya is one of the names of Prophet Muhammad; both names Ahmad and Muhammad have the same meaning of “the most praised one”.

Bringing the “good news” about Prophet Muhammad and confirming the divine origin of the Tawrat were the main goals of the mission of ‘?s?. The former was so central in ‘?s?’s mission that All?h named the Book that He revealed to ‘?s? after it. A Book whose name effectively meant “the good news about Prophet Muhammad” must have contained lots of details about him. This is indeed mentioned in the Qur’an :

“Those who follow the unlettered Messenger-Prophet whom they find written down in the Tawrat and the Injil, [who] enjoins them good and forbids them evil, makes lawful to them the good things and makes unlawful to them impure things, and removes from them their burden and the shackles which are upon them. So, those who believe in him, honor him and support him, and follow the light which has been sent down with him, are the successful.” (7.157)

“Muhammad is the Messenger of All?h, and those with him are firm against the disbelievers, compassionate among themselves; you see them bowing down, falling prostrate, seeking favor from All?h and [His] pleasure; their marks are in their faces as a result of prostration; this is their similitude in the Tawrat and their similitude in the Injil: like a seed that puts forth its sprout, then strengthens it, so it becomes stout and stands firmly on its stem, delighting the sowers; so that He enrages the disbelievers on account of them. All?h has promised those among them who believe and do righteous deeds forgiveness and a great reward.” (48.29)

It is worth noting that there is nothing in the four Gospels themselves that objects to understanding the word “Gospel” in those books as meaning a “book”. In King James? version of the New Testament, the word “Gospel” occurs five times in the Gospel of Matthew (4:23, 9:35, 11:5, 24:14, 26:13), six times in Mark (1:1, 1:14, 1:15, 13:10, 14:9, 16:15), and four times in Luke (4:18, 7:22, 9:6, 20:1). Odd it may seem, this word doesn?t occur at all in John! What concerns us here, however, is the fact that the fifteen occurrences of this word in the Gospels make it difficult to understand “Gospel” as a “concept” of some sort and suggest instead that the “Gospel” is a “thing”. Moreover, the fact that the “Gospel” is described twelve times as something that is “preached”, by ‘?s? ” himself (e.g. Matthew, 4:23, 9:35) or his disciples (e.g. Mark, 16:15; Luke, 9:6), strongly suggests that the word was seen by the authors of the four Gospels as referring to a “book”. In the remaining three occurrences of the word “Gospel” in the Gospels of the New Testament, Mark describes it as something that should be “believed” (Mark, 1:15) and “published among all nations” (Mark, 13.10), and mentions it in the very first sentence of his book: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ” (Mark, 1:1).

The eighty occurrences of “Gospel” in the remaining books of the New Testament are more confused. The majority of cases, however, are in line with the use of the word in the three Gospels, with most occurrences describing it as something that can be “preached”. Other occurrences of the word “Gospel” include a reference in the book of Acts to “the word of the gospel” that the gentiles should “hear” and “believe” (Acts, 15:7).

It is obvious, therefore, that the word “Gospel” was at some point conceived as meaning or referring to a “book” and that it was later misused. In fact, the word “Gospels” has been used to refer to the first four “books” of the New Testament. In other words, the uses of the word “Gospel” in the Gospels themselves and the rest of the New Testament are in line with the Qur’an ic revelation that the term Injil, i.e. the “Gospel” in English, was actually the name of a book. That was the Book that All?h revealed to His Prophet ‘?s?.

3. “The Last Supper” or “A Table Spread with Food From Heaven”?

The terms “Nazarene” and “Gospel” are not isolated cases of the authors of the Gospels, like their peers who wrote the Old Testament, mixing true and false historical information. There are many other similar instances. One particularly interesting example of how the authors of the Gospels misrepresented the history of ‘?s? is that of the so-called “last supper”.

The four Gospels differ substantially in their detailed accounts of the event of the “last supper”. Contradiction between the Gospels, however, is not our concern here. We will confine ourselves, therefore, to their descriptions of how that supper was organized:

“Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him: “Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?” And he said: “Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him: “The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples””. And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover.” (Matthew, 26:17-19)

“And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him: “Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?” And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them: “Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water, follow him. And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house: ?The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?? And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared; there make ready for us”. And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them; and they made ready the passover.” (Mark, 14:12-16)

“Then came the day of unleavened bread, when the passover must be killed. And he sent Peter and John, saying: “Go and prepare us the passover, that we may eat”. And they said unto him: “Where wilt thou that we prepare?”. And he said unto them: “Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in. And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house: ?The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples??. And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready”. And they went, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.” (Luke, 22:7-13)

“Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him.” (John, 13:1-2)

This is another instance of the typical contradiction between Gospels. While Mark and Luke provide very similar descriptions of the event, Matthew and John come up with totally different accounts that contain nothing about the miracle mentioned by Mark and Luke.

The truth about this event was revealed by Allah in the Qur’an in the following ayat:

“When the disciples said: “O ‘Isa son of Maryam! Is your Lord able to send down to us a table spread with food from heaven?” He said: “Be fearful of All?h if you are believers.” (5.112)

“They said: “We wish to eat thereof and to satisfy our hearts and to know that you have indeed spoken the truth to us and that we may be of the witnesses to it” (5.113). `Isa the son of Maryam said: “O All?h, our Lord! Send down to us a table spread with food from heaven that should be a feast for the first of us and for the last and a sign from You, and give us sustenance, and You are the best of the Providers of sustenance.” (5.114)

“All?h said: “I will send it down to you, so whoever shall disbelieve afterwards from among you, surely I will punish him with a torment that I will not punish with anyone among the peoples.” (5.115)

Making a feast to descend from heaven, in response to a request from his disciples, is another miracle of ‘?s? that the New Testament never mentions. This is the real event behind the story of the “last supper” in the New Testament.

4. Conclusion

Unlike the Old and New Testaments of the Bible which are full of wrong, inaccurate and contradictory information, the Qur’an shows amazing accuracy and consistency. Two particularly interesting instances that illustrate this fact and which we have studied in this paper are the etymology of each of the words “Nazarene” and “Gospel” and their historical implications. The relevant information in the New Testament lacks accuracy and consistency, let alone being convincing. It is also impossible to reconcile that information with known historical facts. One result of all of this is distorting important aspects of the history of Prophet ‘?s?.

The Qur’an, on the other hand, offers an accurate etymology for each of the words “Nazarene” and “Gospel”. This Qur’anic information sheds the light on historical facts about Prophet ‘?s? that cannot be discovered from another source. This information and its historical implications are consistent with the rest of the Qur’an and well in line with established historical facts. We also saw how the event of the “last supper” in the Gospels is in fact a distorted version of a rather different event.

One significant fact about the different nature of the Bible and the Qur’an is that the more the Bible is studied the more its flaws become apparent, whereas the more the Qur’an is examined the more is seen of its infallibility. No better ending for this article than the following Qur’anic aya that stresses the above fact:

“Do they not ponder on the Qur’an? And if it were from anyone other than All?h they would have found in it much contradiction.” (4.82)

References

Cullmann, O. (1962). Nazarene. In: The Interpreter?s Dictionary of the Bible: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, K-Q, New York: Abingdon Press, 523-524.

Davies, W. D. & Allison, D. C. (1988). A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospels According to Saint Matthew, vol. 1: Introduction and Commentary to Matthew, Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark Limited.

Fatoohi, L. & Al-Dargazelli, S. (1999). History Testifies to the Infallibility of the Qur’an: Early History of the Children of Israel, Malaysia, A. S. Noordeen

Moore, G. F. (1920). “Nazarene and Nazareth”. In: F. J. Foakes Jackson & K. Lake (eds.), The Beginnings of Christianity, Part I, vol. 1: Prolegomena I; the Acts of the Apostles, London: Macmillan & co., 426-432.

Pellett, D. C. (1962). “Nazareth”. In: The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, K-Q, New York: Abingdon Press, 524-526.

Theissen, G. & Mertz, A. (1998). The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide, translated from German by John Bowden, London: SCM Press.

Helms, R. (1989). Gospel Fictions, New York: Prometheus Books.

  1. We use in this article the King James Version of the New Testament. []
  2. The first form is used in Mark (10:47). []
  3. The Talmud (3rd-6th century CE) is the written record of both the Mishnah, which is the earliest rabbinical codification and record of the oral Bible dating to about 200 CE, and the Gemara which consists of records of discussions on the Mishnah. []
  4. The Midrashim (singular: Midrash) are rabbinical commentaries on the Biblical text dating from about 300 CE. []
  5. The Jewish historian Joseph ben Matthias, better known with his Roman name Flavius Josephus (37-110 CE). []
  6. The Qur’an calls its verses “ayat”. The singular of ayat is “aya”. []
  7. At the time of the revelation of the Qur’an there were a number of different Arabic dialects in the Arabian Peninsula. []