Posted: Wed Jun 06, 2012 10:20 am Post subject: Contrasting Christianity and Islam
A Contrast of Christianity and Islam
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Both Christianity and Islam recognizes a Creator who has absolute sovereignty over His creation. The God of the Koran and Islam is Allah. Both Jews and Christians believe that Jehovah of the Bible is the sovereignty Creator and has absolute authority over His creation. They both cannot be correct because of the claims in each of the Holy Books - they contradict each other. The Bible claims that Jesus is the Son of God whereas the Koran denies it and consider the claims to be blasphemy.
This contrast of these two belief systems was written for both the Muslims and the Christians. The truth lies in the question: was Jesus, the son of Mary, also the Son of God? I have tried to be fair to the teaching of these truths.
In Islam, the expression is “if Allah wills”. In the Bible, the entire focus is about a personal God reaching down to take man’s hand and pulling him out of the bondage of his sins. The entire story is one of atonement and redemption. Here we have the great contrast between the world religious systems and the Bible.
Dr. Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School, in his book “Is the Father of Jesus The God of Muhammad?”, Zondervan, asked a question. “How would you characterize someone who believes in the literal, verbal inspiration of Scripture, who holds that Jesus is God’s virgin-born Messiah, that Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, bodily ascended into heaven, and will one day return to do battle with the antichrist and in the end truly reign on earth? This person knows that Satan is alive and well on planet Earth, that angels and demons are real forces to be reckoned with, and that after death everyone on earth will go to one of two places—the burning fires of hell or the beautiful palaces of heaven. This individual does not believe in evolution, but believes that God created the world in six literal days. This person happen to be a tee-totaler, is strongly pro-life, and is committed to traditional family values. Women are highly regarded in the religious community to which this person belongs, but they do not function as preachers and leaders there. This person is also deeply patriotic, regards pacifism as a weakness, deplores the separation of church and state and believes that government (ideally) should enforce God’s will in every area of society.”
“Do you recognize this person as a strict, conservative, Bible-believing Christian? Well maybe. But he or she might just as well be a devout, conscientious Muslim! More than any two religious traditions on earth, Christianity and Islam share both striking similarities and differences. Historically, the relationship between Christians and Muslims has been strained at best. All two frequently it has been marked by bloodshed and violence” (pp 19-20).
Now let us take a look at the nature of the two Gods they worship—they are not the same. The Muslims believe that at some point in the past they were one and the same God, the one true God, the creator of the universe.
However, over the years the Jews and Christians have changed the original revelation of God in the Bible and have corrupted the image of the true God into a false God. There is much in common in the Koran (also called the Quran) and the Bible. Many of the Bible stories recorded in the Bible are also recorded in the Koran—such as Adam and Eve, Noah and the great flood, Abraham, Moses, and David. However, in most cases the versions are different.
Muslims accept the Pentateuch, the book of the Psalms and parts of Gospels. However, they believe that the Gospels have been corrupted and that the Jesus now presented in the Gospels is not the same as the one who walked on the earth. They consider Jesus to be a great prophet and teacher but he was not divine. They now believe that God has sent the prophet Muhammad as the last and greatest prophet to correct the revelation recorded in the corrupted Bible. For the Muslims, the Koran has become the final authoritative word of God. They are taught that the Bible is accursed and they should not to read it.
One of their examples of the Jewish corruption is the promises given to Abraham. The Bible teaches that God entered in a covenant with Abraham in which he gave him promised lands. The Bible teaches that the covenant was also extended to all of the Jews through Isaac and Jacob. The Muslims believe that Ishmael, as Abraham’s first born, received the promises of the covenant and that the land belongs to the Arabs. Thus, we have the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews regarding the ownership of the land and the city of Jerusalem.
Dr. George says that “At the heart of the Christian faith are three fundamental beliefs Islam has always rejected—the Trinity, the Incarnation, and redemption by divine grace through the cross of Jesus Christ” (pp 41). We could also add the fact that the Muslims do not accept the bodily resurrection of Jesus. However, they do believe that he ascended into heaven without dying. From the Koran we read these words, “That they said (in boast), 'We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah'; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not. Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise" (Koran 4:157-158, Abdullah Yusuf Ali).
Dr. George adds these words, “Judaism, Christianity, and Islam share a common passion for the oneness of God, the transcendent Creator and Lord of all that is” (pp 45). “Among the many distinctive truths Christians proclaim, the one that set them apart from Islam most fundamentally is this: The God of the Bible is the God who has forever known him-self, and who in Jesus Christ has revealed himself to us, as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. The Trinity is the basis for the entire Christian life—the basis of everything we believe and teach. It is something confessed by all orthodox Christians—Greek Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholic Christian, historic Protestant Christian, and other as well” (pp 55).
Muhammad and the Muslims have a misconception of the Christian view of the Holy Trinity. Muhammad understood the Trinity to consist of the Father, the Virgin Mary, and their son, Jesus. They believe that Christians teach that the Father had physical sexual relations with the Virgin Mary and that Jesus was conceived from this relationship. Therefore, they consider the idea of the Holy Trinity as an abomination against the One Sovereign Holy God who they call Allah.
From another source and the Koran we get these statements, “Muslims believe in the Absolute Oneness of God, Who is a Supreme Being free of human limitations, needs and wants. He has no partners in His Divinity. He is the Creator of everything and is completely separate from His creation. God says in the Quran [Koran] regarding the Trinity: "O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not 'Trinity': desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far Exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs" (4:171, Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation). "And behold! Allah will say: 'O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah?' He will say: 'Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, Thou I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden'" (5:116, Abdullah Yusuf Ali).
There are other strong contrasts begin the God of the Bible and the God of the Koran. “On the Answering Islam” web site there is an article entitled “The Character of God in Bible and Qur’an (Koran)”. This is a very good article contrasting the two views and I have selected the following statement, “In a same way, when I pay close attention to the character of God portrayed for us through the biblical narratives and then I compare it with the Qur'an, I get the strong sense that the Qur'an plays a different tune, that it does not exactly match the God of the Bible, even though the Qur'an claims to be from the same God. Source: ("The Character of God in Bible and Qur’an (Koran)” ). This is a very good web site and you may want to visit it.
Now let us compare and contrast some the differences between the Bible and the Koran.
• The Bible - is a collection of books which, when taken as a whole, presents a living testimony of a Supreme Being who reins over the universe which He created. In the beginning, God established a master plan for this universe and throughout the ages, He has slowly and progressively revealed this plan to mankind. Except for the first two chapters of Genesis and the last two chapters of Revelation, the entire book is a story of redemption with God seeking a relationship with mankind. The Bible reveals a struggle between the forces of good and the forces of evil. It has been said that the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. The entire Bible looks forward to and back to the cross where God the Son died and became an atonement for the sins of mankind so that man could be redeemed from the bondage of his sins. The picture is that of God extending His hand to pull man out of the quicksand of sin. He established a relationship and companionship that is comparable to the marriage relationship between a man and woman—a relationship in which men and women could live abundant lives through the blessings of God’s grace and the infilling of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible was divinely inspired by God Himself and written over a period of 1800 years by 40 plus authors from all walks of life. It was written in different places and at different times. It was actually written on three different continents and in three different languages, yet it reads as if it were written by one person. Josh McDowell in his book “evidence that demands a verdict” writes an apologetic (defense) of the Bible. The above comments and what follows is taken from his book. He quotes from F. F. Bruce’s book “The Books and the Parchment”, Fleming H. Revell. “Any part of the human body can only be properly explained in reference to the whole body. And any part of the Bible can only be properly explained in reference to the whole Bible….The Bible is not simply an anthology; there is unity which binds the whole together. An anthology is compelled by an anthologist, but no anthologist compiled the Bible” (pp 19).
McDowell adds, “The Bible has been read by more people and published in more languages than any other book. There have been more copies produced of its entirety and more portions and selections that any other book in history. Some will argue that in a designated month or year more of a certain book was sold. However, over all there is absolutely no book that reaches or even begins to compare to the circulation of the Scriptures. The first major book printed was the Latin Vulgate. It was printed on Gutenberg’s press” (pp 21).
On the uniqueness of its survival he writes, “Written on material that perishes, having to be copied and recopied for hundreds of years before the invention of the printing press, did not diminish its style, correctness nor existence. The Bible, compared with other ancient writings, has more manuscript evidence than any ten pieces of classical literature combined” (pp 21).
• The Koran (Quran) - is a collection of revelations received by the prophet Muhammad from a spiritual being, claiming to be the angel, Gabriel. Islamic historians claimed that his revelations began in 610 AD and continued piecemeal over a period of twenty years. Muhammad was an illiterate man thus he could neither read nor write. In the beginning, Muhammad was not sure whether the spirit was of God or of Satan. His revelations, in the form of dreams, visions, and unpredictable trances were written by others on whatever was available — leaves, skins, mats, stones, or bark. There seems to be evidence that friends of Muhammad memorized the recitations and recounted them on to others. Those who memorized were called reciters. During a battle, one of the reciters was killed resulting in the loss of part of the revelations.
To understand the Koran, we must first understand Muhammad—what influenced him before the revelations and how his life was changed by the revelations. We need to go back to a world before Muhammad was born. The Arabs worshipped pagan gods. The center of their worship was a cube-like block structure, called the Kaaba, located in the center of the city of Mecca. Muslim legend holds that the structure was built by Adam and was restored by Abraham and his son, Ishmael. Surrounding the Kaaba were 360 pagan gods, one for each day of the lunar year.
During one month out of the year, the Holy month of Ramadan was celebrated. At one time Muhammad’s grandfather was curator of the Kaaba. Today, to the Muslim, it is the most Holy site on earth, the center of the earth and the entry door into heaven.
At an early age, Muhammad took a job working with a camel caravan. As time passed, he became the leader of the caravan and later married the owner of the caravan, Khadija. As Muhammad traveled across the country, he met many Jews, Christians and believers of other religions. Since Muhammad could neither read nor write, he relied on others to read to him. He remembered the stories he heard during his travels. Although history does not completely reveal the sources of his knowledge, it is obvious, as you read the Koran and Hadiths (saying and traditions of Muhammad) , that he was strongly influenced by what he had been told. There were probably many discussions about religion as the caravan workers sat around the campfires at night. Thus, the Koran reflects many strong Jewish and Christian influences. The teaching of Zoroaster and his belief in the oneness of God probably also influenced him.
The Koran also reflects the views of Christian heretical groups such as Arianism which taught that Jesus was not fully devine. Arius taught that the Father existed before the Son thus placing the Father and Son on a different level. This literally meant that the Son was a created being. This heretical teaching was later addressed and clarified by the church bishops at the Council of Nicene in 325 AD where they declared that Jesus was fully divine.
We also see the influence of another heretic, Marcion, who believed that the God of the Old Testament was different from the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was anti-Jewish and "rejected the entire Old Testament and also those New Testament writings which he considered favored Jewish readers — Matthew, Mark, Acts and Hebrews."
The Eastern Greek Church was strongly influenced by Platonism, and, in many ways , influenced the Church at Alexandria, Antioch and surrounding areas. Some Muslim scholars believe that Paul got the idea of the physical resurrection from the Platonic view of a spiritual resurrection.
The Koran also reflect the influence of several uncanonized books known as the Apocrypha, such as the “The Infancy Gospel of Thomas", "Gospel of James", perhaps the "Gospel of Barnabas", etc. The questions as to why these books were not cannonized could also have been discussed by the caravan workers around the campfires at night. Some believe that Muhammad’s wife, Khadija, may have been member of the Egyptian Coptic Church.
We need to look at the influence these revelations had on Muhammad's later life. Muhammad became a furious warrior fighting against the non-believers of Islam, slaying the unbelievers, raping the women and taking the spoils of warfare. He thought the killing of Christians and Jews were, not only divinely sanctioned, but also mandated. The Koran says, "And slacken not in following up the enemy" (4:104a, Abdullah Yusuf Ali). "O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protector" (5:51a, Abdullah Yusuf Ali). "They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One Allah. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them" (5:73, Abdullah Yusuf Ali). "Say: 'Obey Allah and His Messenger': But if they turn back, Allah loveth not those who reject Faith" (3:32, Abdullah Yusuf Ali).
In 630 AD, Mohammad marched on the city of Mecca with an army of ten thousand men. There he cleansed the Kaaba of idols and declared it to be the temple of Allah.
Muhammad died in 632 AD at the age of 62. His followers continued to spread the claims of Allah across the Arab nations, by the way of the sword, basing their efforts on the Islamic tenet of Jihad. For many years, under an Islamic leader who was head of the Islamic authority known as the caliphate, Islamic warriors swept across the Middle-East, Northern Africa, and parts of Europe killing and enslaving millions in the name of Allah.
Let us consider another factor. Whereas, the Bible was inspired and written by many authors over a period of many years, the Koran was a so called revelation to one man, Muhammad, who claimed to be the last and most authoritative of the prophets. There is no actual confirmation for his claims.
The Koran was canonized and standardized in 653 AD during the caliphate of Uthman. The revelations of Muhammad were collected from many sources and compiled into one book. When reading the Koran , you will notice that it is markedly fragmented in many places. Also, many of Muhammads sayings and traditions were compiled in different collections called the Hadiths. Muslims not only consider the Koran to be sacred but also the Hadiths.
Only in the Bible do we see God's revelation revealed in prophecy. We do not find this in any of the other world religion's sacred text. The study of Biblical prophecy foretells events that have unfolded and will continue to unfold across the pages of history. It has been said that the Old Testament is the New Testament hidden and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. There is as much design in God's word as there is in His creation. We can follow the golden thread of prophecy from the beginning of Genesis through the end of The Revelation.
Not only do we have the prophetic written word, but God uses types, shadows/patterns, numbers, covenants, and Jewish feasts to weave His prophetic word together. We should be aware that all of these point to the work which was completed by Jesus upon the cross. The Old Testament contains over 300 references to the Messiah that were fulfilled in Jesus. According to the book of Hebrews, the entire Mosaic Law was a shadow of the work completed upon the cross. For a deeper study of this subject, see my article on the "Introduction to Biblical Prophecy]" on this web site. Just click above.
Love of God
• Bible - The God of the Bible is a loving God who seeks intimacy with mankind. His very nature and character are pure love. In the Bible, God "draws near", "comes down" and “seeks after us“ in order to enter into an intimate relationship with us. The whole Bible portrays the story of God seeking man. "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Rom. 8:5). "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). The God of the Bible reveals Himself and seek fellowship and companionship with the people.
• Koran - In stark contrast, the Koran portrays God as one who is far away and transcendent. A Muslim theologian has said, “God reveals only his will, not himself. He remains forever hidden. Even though he is near as the jugular vein as the Koran states, this is a 'technical' nearness, since just as we are not 'aware' of our jugular vein most of the time and don't have a personal relationship with it, this only conveys that God is everywhere (far and near) like the air that is around us. Allah love is conditional and accidental. Love is something God does, not what God is." He does not love everyone, only the faithful Muslim. The conditional nature of Allah's love is shown in the following verses in the Koran, "On those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, will (Allah) Most Gracious bestow love" (19:96, Abdullah Yusuf Ali). The Koran also says, "Allah loves not transgressors" (2:190b, Abdullah Yusuf Ali).
• Bible - The Bible teaches that sin is contrary to the Holy character of God and His justice demands satisfaction. "The wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). The Bible teaches that when Adam sinned that all his descendants inherited a sin nature and thus are born with a sin nature. God has also imputed sin to our account because of the fall of Adam. This is called original sin. Yet, because of our sin nature, we have all committed personal sins against a Holy God and each of us has a rebellious spirit. Before God changes our hearts, we have a nature which desires to be independent from God, our Creator.
• Koran - The Koran does not teach the doctrine of the fall of man nor original sin. Muslims do not believe that sin is imputed–salvation is a process that we work through during our lifetime. According to the Koran, man was born free to live a sinless life. "The Koran says that Adam forgot to walk in the right way. Sin is forgetfulness, heedlessness, a failure to remember. This forgetting to obey is the result of inherent weakness, not active rebellion against God." According to Islamic teaching, one way to overcome forgetfulness is to be in constant prayer. Their definition of sin says that it is anything against the teaching of Islam or against the will of Allah. We should also note that teachings within the Koran assumed that physical death was natural and planned for all mankind before the fall and was not the result of Adam's sin.
• Bible - The Bible teaches that God's justice demands that sin be atoned for by the shedding of blood. "And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission" (Heb. 9:22). Immediately after Adam sinned, God killed two animals and offered a sacrifice for Adam's and Eve's sins. He then clothed Adam and Eve with the skins of the animals. From that day forward, until the cross, man was commanded to offer animal sacrifices for the covering of their sins. However, the book of Hebrews says that the animal sacrifices were not enough. "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins" (Heb. 10:4).
Therefore, in the fullness of time God, sent forth His Son to die on the cross for the atonement of all sins, past, present and future. "Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us" (Heb. 9:12). The shedding of Jesus' blood became a propitiation thus satisfying God’s wrath against us. The Apostle Paul said, "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God" (Rom. 3:25). By confessing and repenting of our sins and accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we are saved because of the shedding of His blood. The Apostle John wrote, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12).
• Islam - Allah does not require a blood atonement for sins. "Adam 'atoned' for his sin by saying 'My Lord I have sinned and if you do not forgive me and have mercy upon me then I shall indeed have lost.' So God forgave him. Similarly, all human beings have the door to forgiveness left open to them by God until the day they die. There are no intermediaries between mankind and God. If they sincerely repent to God, ask His forgiveness, and forsake their evil deeds before their hour comes then He shall forgive them and there is nothing more pleasing to Him than to forgive the sins of one who comes to Him in sincere repentance."
"If you have faith in God, believe in His messengers, and obey His commands then He shall multiply every single good deed that you do many, many times and erase your evil deeds, until on the Day of Judgment His mercy shall cause your good deeds to far outweigh your evil deeds and grant you passage into an ecstasy and Paradise so great that we cannot even imagine it, to abide there eternally. In the Hereafter there is only reward and no work"(source: from the book "What did Jesus really say", Web Site Islam.com). However, there will not be any fellowship with Allah as he will reside above the seventh heaven.
Dr. Timothy George in his book "Is The Father of Jesus The God of Muhammad?" makes the following statement, "Islam teaches that God's messengers and prophets have brought the very thing forgetful and ignorant human being most need, namely, divine guidance, the perfect distillation of which is the Quran. Obedience to God's revealed guidance is the way to salvation, and it involves both correct belief and righteous acts: "To those who believe and do deeds of righteousness hath God promised forgiveness and a great reward" ((Koran 5:10), pp 109). The Muslims finds salvation by walking "the straight path". Walking the straight path begins by keep the five Pillars of Faith: 1) Affirmation of the creed (Shahada), 2) Observance of Salat (obligatory Prayers), 3) Paying of Zakat (charity), 4) Observance of Sawm (fast) during Ramadan, and 5) Performance of Hajj (pilgrimage) to Mecca.
Shabada - Every Muslim must confess the creed: "There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger [Prophet] of God. By confessing this creed, a Muslim agrees to abide by all the teachings of Muhammad and to be faithful in living by the Koran. All authority is invested in the messenger, Muhammad. "O ye who believe! Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you. If ye differ in anything among yourselves, refer it to Allah and His Messenger, if ye do believe in Allah and the Last Day: That is best, and most suitable for final determination" (4:59, Abdullah Yusuf Ali). "It is not fitting for a Believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decided by Allah and His Messenger to have any option about their decision: if any one disobeys Allah and His Messenger, he is indeed on a clearly wrong Path " (33:36, Abdullah Yusuf Ali)
Salat - The prescribed prayer is prayed five times daily - at dawn, noon, midafternoon, sunset and later at night. Salat is considered a duty for the Muslim and ritual purification is required. The prayers must be said while facing the direction of Mecca , and congregational prayer is compulsory in the Mosque on Friday, the Muslim day of worship. Tradition says that Muhammad received the instructions from Allah for the five daily prayers when he made his "Night Journey" to heaven. Muslim's believe that the prayers keep the believer on "the straight path".
Zakat - Required charity of a Muslim. It is given by free Muslims (not slaves), who have a certain amount of wealth. A person with less than this does not need to give zakat. Generally the amount is about 2.5 percent of one's annual income.
Sawm - Required fasting during the month of Ramadan. Fasting during Ramadan last daily from dawn until sunset. Muslims are expected to abstain from all food and water during this time period. Sexual contact is also forbidden. "The purpose of the fast is to cultivate discipline and self-control and encourage contemplation."
Hajj - During a person lifetime, a person is expected to make a pilgrimage to Mecca unless prohibited by health or lack of finances.
We also need to keep in mind that Islam is a complete lifestyle: religious, social, legal and political. A good Muslim will commit to living out this complete lifestyle by keeping the commandments of the prophet Muhammad. Many countries are Islamic States and, therefore, practice Sharia law. "Most Muslims believe Sharia is derived from two primary sources of Islamic law: the precepts set forth in the Qur'an, and the example set by the Islamic prophet Muhammad" (Wikipedia).
Dr. Timothy George in his book "Is The Father of Jesus The God of Muhammad?" gives this summary of the Muslim concept of Salvation. "The Quran strongly emphasizes that everyone will reap the fruits of his or her own deed on the day of judgment. No soul will bear another's burden (Koran 6:164). The Muslim scholar Abul A'la Maududi has described the final accounting in this way:
'Man will stand by himself—helpless and alone—to render his account, and awake the pronouncement of judgment, which shall be in the power of God alone. Judgment will rest on one question: Did man conduct himself, in submission to God, in strict conformity with the truth revealed to the prophets, and with the conviction that he would be held responsible for his conduct in life on the Day of Judgment? If the answer is the affirmative, the reward will be paradise; if in the negative, the punishment will be hell'" (pp 113).
In the Bible, Christians are told to go into all the world and make disciples for Christ through the showing of love and ministry. According the teachings and examples of Muhammad, Muslims are told to go into all the world and make disciples for Allah by way of the sword. Those that do not believe should be killed or enslaved. The Koran says, " Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book [Jews and Christians], until they pay the Jizya [poll tax] with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued" (9:29, Abdullah Yusuf Ali). Some will say that this is the view of radical Islam and not the teaching of peaceful Islam. We must keep in mind that history has recorded that Muhammad preached and practiced Islam with the sword.
Last edited by wayne on Fri Jun 08, 2012 12:42 pm; edited 4 times in total
Now let us turn our attention to the claims of Christianity. Was Jesus the Son of God?. All of the secular world religions teach that Jesus was not the Son of God. Is there proof that He was?. Some even question whether He actually lived. We begin by considering some secular sources as given by Josh McDowell in his book entitled "Evidence that demands a verdict" (pp 84). The following list is abbreviated:
• Cornelius Tacitus (Born A.D. 52-54) - He was a Roman historian, in 112 A.D. and Governor of Asia. Writing of the reign of Nero, Tacitus alludes to the death of Christ and to the existence of Christians at Rome.
• Lucian - "A satirist of the second century, who spoke scornfully of Chirst and the Christians. He connected them with the synagogues of Palestine and alluded to Christ as: "... the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world."
• Flavius Josephus (Born A.D. 37) - "A Jewish historian, became a Pharisee at age 19; in A.D. 66, he was the commander of Jewish forces in Galilee. After being captured, he was attached to the Roman headquarters. He says in a hotly-contested quotation:
'Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as received the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day’…”
• Plinius Secundus, Pliny the Younger - "Governor of Bithynia in Asia Minor (A.D. 132) was writing the emperor Trajan seeking counsel as to how to treat the Christians. He explained that he had been killing both men and women, boys and girls. There were so many being put to death that he wondered if he should continue killing anyone who was discovered to be a Christian, or if he should kill only certain ones. He explained that he had made the Christians bow down to the statues of Trajan. He goes on to say that he also 'made them curse Christ, which a genuine Christian cannot be induced to do’…”
• Thallus, The Samaritan-born Historian - "One of the first Gentile writers who mentions Christ is Thallus, who wrote in 52 A.D. However, his writings have disappeared and we only know of them from fragments cited by other writers. One very interesting passage relates to a comment fromThallus. Julius Africanus writes:
'Thallus, in the third book of histories, explains away this darkness as an eclipse of the son—unreasonably, as it seems to me' (unreasonably, of course, because a solar eclipse could not take place at the time of the full moon, and it was at the season of the Paschal full moon that Christ died).'"
• Encyclopedia Britannica - The latest edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica used 20,000 word in describing this person, Jesus. His description took more space than was given to Aristotle, Cicero, Alexander, Julius Ceasar, Buddha, Confucus, Mohammad or Napolean Bonaparte."
From the above, we can, at least, conclude that the movement called Christianity began shortly after the death of Jesus. We can also conclude that His followers were willing to die of their faith.
Perhaps the greatest proof that Jesus was the promised Messiah and Son God came from the Old Testament prophecies. I have used the phrase: "The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed". Perhaps this is best understood in light of the prophecies of the Old Testament. The promises of a reigning king and a suffering Messiah are embedded throughout the Old Testament though the written word, types, shadows, patterns and other ways. The Old Testament contains over 300 references to the Messiah that were fulfilled in Jesus during his first advent.
Consider the following: "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel" [meaning God with us] (Isa. 7:14). "For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this" (Isa. 9:6-7).
Isaiah also said He would be a suffering Messiah. "He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed" (Isa. 53:3-5). The prophet Micah told us where he would be born, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting" (Micah 5:2). Notice that Micah says that the promised Messiah was eternal and that He had been active in the lives of the Jewish people throughout the Old Testament.
Now let me read the promise made to the Virgin Mary by the angel, Gabriel, "Then the angel said to her, 'do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:30-33).
Critics, such as the Muslims, have claimed that the Jewish and Christian Holy Scriptures have been rewritten to include the prophecies. For this to be done the entire Old Testament and New Testament would have had to be rewritten with all these prophecies interwoven. If this were true, every copy which has ever been produced would have to be located and either destroyed or rewritten. This would be impossible. Also, we need to remember that the Dead Sea Scrolls, written before Jesus was born, confirmed the accuracy of Isaiah Chapter 53 which says that the Jewish Messiah would be a suffering Messiah.
There is no doubt from today's New Testament that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. He referred to Himself as the "Son of Man", a term used in the seventh chapter of Daniel, which refers to the Jewish Messiah. In the Book of Matthew, we read these words. "When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, 'Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?' So they said, 'some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.' He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven’ " (Matt. 16:13-17).
Then Jesus began telling his disciples that he was going to be killed and that he would rise on the third day. "Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day" (Matt. 16:20-21). At least two other times, Jesus told his disciples that he must be killed and raised from the dead but they did not understand him. For more on the claims of Jesus see my Article, "Is Jesus the Son of God" on this web site. Just click on it.
In, answering the question, was Jesus the Son of God, we need to look at the claims that He arose from the dead on the third day. The Apostle Paul wrote these words to the church at Corinth. "Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable" (I Cor. 15:12-19).
We must question how reliable were the witnesses to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The witness was given by eleven of the disciples (Judus betrayed Him) who walk with him on earth for more than two years and, also, by the apostle Paul. Up until the death of Jesus, the disciples expected Jesus to set up a physical Messianic Kingdom on earth—this was their mind-set. Though, uneducated men, they thought they would be part of the inter-circle of the new Kingdom. They even argued as to who would sit on His right hand. Listen to Peter's reaction when Jesus said He was going to die. "Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, 'Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!' But He turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men'” (Matt. 16:22-23).
When Jesus was arrested, most of the disciple fled and hid themselves because of fear. Peter, himself, even denied Jesus three times. When the women, after the resurrection, told the disciples that the tomb was empty, they had doubts about what had happened. Listen, to the words of John as He looked into the empty tomb. "Then the other disciple [probably John], who came to the tomb first, went in also; and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not know the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead" (John 20:8-9). The witnesses were uneducated men who did not understand what was taking place but they knew exactly what they had witnessed.
After the resurrection, Jesus met and talked with the disciples for forty days. Even after that, we, without a doubt, see their mind-set. "Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, 'Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?' And He said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth'" (Acts 1:6-8). Does this sound like men who were about to start a new religion?
Now, just 10 days later, we see a complete new mind-set. At the feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and they began to speak with boldness. These were the words of Simon Peter, "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it" (Acts 2:22-25). It is completely unnatural for men to have a change in mind-set and boldness such as this especially in such a short period of time. This was God directed through the power of the Holy Spirit.
These men continued to preach with great boldness and without fear to the same men who had put Jesus to death. They moved out into different parts of the world and continued preaching, Jesus resurrected. Eventually, all except John were martyred for their faith. Over the years many more have died defending the claims of Christianity. How many are willing to die for claims that they know are lies?
Early in the history of the Christian movement, a highly educated young Pharisee had a different mind-set. He was zealous for the Jewish legal system and he considered the claims of Christianity as blasphemy against a Holy God. His name was Saul of Tarsus and he persecuted the Christians—putting many to death. As the Christians scattered to other parts of the country, he followed them.
Obtaining warrants for the arrest of Christians, he traveled to Damascus. Before he arrived, he had an encounter with the risen Christ. "As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, 'Saul’, the Lord said to him, 'Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do. Saul, why are you persecuting Me?' And he said, 'Who are You, Lord?' Then the Lord said, 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' So he, trembling and astonished, said, 'Lord, what do You want me to do?' Then the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one. Then Saul arose from the ground, and when his eyes were opened he saw no one. But they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank" (Acts 9:3-9).
On that day Saul, whose name was changed to Paul, had a sudden change in mind-set. Later, upon entering the city, he received his sight and was baptized. From that day forward, he became an apostle of Jesus and went on to write much of the New Testament. Over the years, he was beaten, imprisoned and later died as a martyr for Christ. The sudden change in the life of Saul is, without a doubt, a testimony to the claims of the resurrection.
Some have questioned as to how early was the history of the resurrection recorded. Dr. Craig Blomberg, author of the Historical Reliability of the Gospels, through the writing of Lee Strobel, says very early. It is noted by several Christian historians that Paul incorporated some of the very early creeds into his letters. One of these creeds probably was given to Paul on his first visit to Jerusalem where he went to meet with Peter, John, James and perhaps others.
Paul incorporated this creed in his letter as he wrote to the church at Corinth. "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God" (1 Cor. 15:1-9). Paul says that many of those who witnessed the resurrection of Jesus were still living at the time he wrote this letter. If the resurrection had not taken place, it most definitely would have been publicly reputed.
Over the years there have been several skeptics and atheists who have questioned the claims of the resurrection and then subsequently investigated so that they could refute the claims—as a result of these investigations, many have been convinced that the claims are true and thus have become believers. One such man is Lee Strobel, a former legal investigative reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Lee's wife, Leslie, challenged Lee to apply his investigative skill to disprove or prove the claims of the New Testament. Lee began a careful investigative of critics claims that the New Testament is fallible. He sought out and interviewed the best historians in the field. The following is a list of the areas of concern that he investigated.
• How reliable was the eyewitness evidence?
• Can the biographies of Jesus be trusted?
• Were Jesus' biographies reliably preserved and have those equally accurate biographies been suppressed by the church?
• Is there credible evidence for Jesus outside His biographies?
• Does archaeology confirm or contradict Jesus' biographies?
• Is the Jesus of History the same as the Jesus of Faith?
• Was Jesus really convinced that He was the Son of God?
• Was Jesus crazy when He claimed to be the Son of God?
• Did Jesus fulfill the attributes of God?
• Did Jesus—and Jesus alone— match the identity of the Messiah?
• Was Jesus' death a sham and his resurrection a hoax?
• Was Jesus' body really absent from the tomb?
• Was Jesus seen alive after his death on the cross?
• Are there any supporting facts that point to the resurrection?
• What does the evidence establish and what does it mean today?
Lee documents his investigation and findings in his book entitled "The Case for Christ". He found the claims of the New Testament were true. Today, he is convinced that Jesus was the Son of God, indeed died for our sins and was raised from the grave. He has become an apologist for the claims of Christ. I highly recommend his book for the serious student.
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