Copyright © 2001
The main difference between Islam and Christianity revolves around the divinity of Christ. Whereas the Koran states that Jesus was no more than a prophet of God, a human being, Christian doctrine insists that he was in some way divine, a son of God. The doctrine of God incarnate, whereby it is implied that that "word" that was divine became flesh, is central to almost all denominations of Christianity.
The concept of the Trinity, popular among the majority of Christian churches embodies within itself the notion that three distinct co-equals are God. The Koran on the other hand states unequivocally, that God is just one (indivisible) and that no one can be held equal to God. This absolute oneness of God forms the very heart and soul of the system called Islam. The Christian articles of God-Incarnate, Son of God, and Holy Trinity, clearly violate the oneness of God embodied in Islam.
In any logical/scientific study of religion, it is necessary to consider the facts and then go to the origin of the problem, as opposed to just dealing with the subjective claims of the followers of the various systems. The standard for Islam is the Koran that for Christianity is the Bible particularly the New Testament. Therefore, let us go to the sources and examine them to see if there is conflict or conciliation.
As a Muslim is writing this document, it is understood that the majority of people belonging to the "other camp" will be skeptical as to the intentions and purpose of this research. For this reason, it is request that the style of the document be considered, which will hopefully show that value judgments have been avoided and that the arguments and quotations are stated clearly and truthfully. If however it is still believed that some information has been presented incorrectly or misquoted from the source books, it is requested that corrections be sent to the author for comments and consideration and possible change of stand on issues.
The Athnasian Creed historically formalized the concept of the Holy Trinity. In its standard form, the wording runs as follows:
"There is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all one, the glory equal, and the majesty co-eternal.... The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Ghost is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God."
The concept of "God incarnate" that Christianity embodies, states that God became man, and that man was Jesus. It is claimed that Jesus shared the nature of God in every way and that he was in every way a God, and a man. He was the only "begotten" Son of God and hence a "Son of God" in a unique fashion, unlike anyone else.
Logic and the Trinity:
From the standpoint of mathematics and the English language, when we say that this is a person, that is another person and that that one is yet another, it is understood that there are three people involved and not just one. One plus one plus one will always be three and not one, no matter how its put. Therefore, the concept of Trinity is itself faulty logically speaking. If the three are separately and distinctly God then there are three distinct Gods, according to the language. If there is only One God, then each, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, on their own cannot be God but only parts of God. Yet God is supposed to be indivisible!
From the standpoint of the human mind's comprehension, when the preacher says, "In the Name of the Father," a certain distinct mental image or idea emerges. When he continues, "And the Son", the idea or image that one gets now is different. The same is the case when the preacher utters the words Holy Ghost. No matter how hard you try; you can never super-impose these three distinct pictures as one. When the "Son" is mentioned, most Christians see a Jesus, whatever image of him is popular in the culture, when the "Holy Ghost" is mentioned, the picture changes. Three persons can never be one person. One person can have parts to his/her personality. Together those parts form the person. However, the concept of the Trinity states it completely different. It is claimed that Jesus is not a part of God but 100% God on his own, so also the Holy Ghost and the Father. But then it is concluded that they are not three but One God. The premise of the statement does not support its conclusion about there being One God. It makes the assertion about the trinity impossible to prove logically and reduces it to just words, which can not have any meaning.
Jesus, according to the source of Christianity, in the records that we have of his sayings, never made a claim to be divine. In an answer to a question on what the first commandment was, he replied,
"The First is, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is One (Mark 12:29)."
The word translated "one" in the above verse is the Hebrew Ikhad. This word is the same as the Arabic Ahad. It means one whole, indivisible. It does not and cannot in anyway represent the Trinity but rather it disqualifies it. It is well documented and understood by scholars of the history of Christianity, universally, that the Trinity was a later invention, and was never preached by Jesus. Jesus talked about the one God and His kingdom. When the believers in the divinity of Christ are asked about whether Jesus himself ever made a claim to be God, in the sources that they have, a handful of basically similar references across the board are offered to the questioner. However, all of these references when studied in their context and in the context of other explicit statements made by Jesus, fail to prove that Jesus was claiming to be God in any way.
There are three main problems with the claims that are presented. They are either i) insufficient on their own to prove the divinity of any person, ii) or it is impossible, on the basis of the verse alone to prove the divinity of any person, or iii) They are ambiguous; in that they are open to alternative interpretations which are as valid as what is asserted.
Claim 1. Jesus says, " I and the Father are One (John 10:30)."
It is claimed on the basis of the above quotation (which is almost always presented without its context) that Jesus was claiming equality with God. The problem with this assertion is that the context has been taken out, either deliberately or out of ignorance. My experience with people presenting this claim is that often enough they are even unaware of where the quotation came from in the Gospel of John.
Beginning at verse 23 of the Gospel of John, chapter 10 we read (in the context of 10:30) about Jesus talking to the Jews. In verse 28, talking about his followers as his sheep, he states:
"...Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. 29) My Father, who gave them me, is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand. 30) I and the Father are one." (John 10:28-30)
above verses proves only that Jesus and the Father are one in that no man can
pluck the sheep out of either's hand. It does not at all state that Jesus is
God's equal in everything. In fact the words of Jesus, " My
Father, who gave them me is Greater than ALL..." in the same passage, completely
negates this claim, otherwise we are left with a contradiction. "All" includes
everyone even Jesus.
In the 17th chapter of John, verses 20-22, the same word ONE used in the above verses, in the Greek, i.e. HEN is used, not only to describe Jesus and the Father but to describe Jesus, the Father and eleven of the twelve disciples of Jesus. So here if that implies equality, we have a unique case of 13 Gods.
"That the ALL may be made ONE. Like thou Father art in me, I in thee, that they may be ONE in us. I in them, they in me, that they may be perfect in ONE (John 17:20-22)."
Of the verse in question, "I and the Father are One (John 10:30)," we also need to take note of the verses following the 30th verse in the passage. In those verses, the Jews accuse Jesus falsely of claiming to be God by these words. He however replies, proving their accusation wrong by their own text:
" The Jews answered him saying, 'For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy, and because that thou being a man, makest thyself a God '(John 10:33)."
Jesus replies to this accusation saying:
"Jesus answered them, 'Is it not written in your Law, "I said ye are gods." If He can call them gods, unto whom the word of God came, say ye of him whom the Father hath sanctified and sent into the world, "Thou blasphemeth," because I said I am the son of God?' (John 10:34-36)."
In the language of the Bible, in Psalms 82 from which Jesus quotes above, the word "gods" is used by God to describe the prophets ("to whom the word of God came"). Jesus argues with the Jews that if God can call the prophets "gods", then his saying that he is the "son of God," is no claim to divinity, just as the other prophets were not God just because they were referred to as gods by God himself.
The point that Jesus makes to the Jews is further proven by the use of the term "Son of God," in both the Old and the New Testament. Metaphorically speaking, God is the cherisher and sustainer and hence the "Father" of everybody. This doesn't mean that the person so described as a "Son of God" is physically begotten by God or of the same nature as God or literally the "son" as humans have biological sons. Otherwise the term "son of God" would not make any sense.
God by definition signifies one who received his existence from nobody, whereas son signifies someone who received his existence from somebody else. God and son are mutually exclusive terms, they cannot go together. The use of the term by Jesus and in other places in the Bible is metaphoric and not literal.
The many Sons of God in the Bible:
1. Luke 3:38 "...Adam which was the Son of God."
2. Genesis 6:2 &4 "That the sons of God saw the daughters of men...and when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men..."
3. Exodus 4:22 "Israel is my son even my first born."
4. Romans 8:14 "For as many as are led by the spirit of God are called sons of God,"
5. Matthew 5:9 "Blessed are the peace-makers for they shall be called sons of God."
By the above quotations from the Bible it should be clear that the term "Son of God," signifies only a righteous person. It does not mean that the person so titled is divine, or we would have hundreds of Gods according to the Bible. Jesus is described as the "son of man," 83 times in the New Testament whereas he's described only 13 times as the Son of God. What we also see is that Jesus used the terms, "Your Father," "Thy Father," describing God's relationship with people 13 times before the first time he ever said, "My Father," about God. All these show that he was in no way implying that God physically begot him or he was unique as a "Son of God".
It is claimed that in John 3:16 (the favorite verse of the evangelists) that Jesus is referred to as the only Son of God. A careful reading of the verse compared to Hebrews 11:17 shows that Isaac is described as the only son of Abraham, whereas literally speaking Isaac was never the only son of Abraham as Ishmael was born before him. The use of the word is metaphoric; Jesus was special among the sons of God but certainly not unique or begotten.
Peter in the Book of Acts testifies about Jesus:
"O you men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a MAN approved of God among you...(Acts 2:22)."
Jesus thus even to his disciples, as to early Christians, not poisoned by Pauline doctrine, was a man, not a God. Claim 2) Jesus was Immanuel, i.e. "God with us".
Another claim that is often times made is concerning Isaiah 7:14. In the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament of the Bible it states:
"Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign, behold a young woman (almah) will conceive and bear a child and shall call his name Immanuel."
It is claimed that the above was a prophecy about the birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary. It is further claimed that since the word Immanuel means "God with us," the person being talked about, i.e. Jesus was God.
The above quotation is from the King James Version of the Bible. The word translated as "virgin" is the wrong translation of the Hebrew word ALMAH. The word ALMAH in Hebrew means "young woman." The correct Hebrew word for virgin is BETHULAH. Since many young women begot children since those words were penned, it is not at all necessary that those words should apply to Jesus.
Another fact that is often ignored is that Jesus was never named Immanuel, nor did anyone ever address him as Immanuel when he lived. On the contrary, the Messiah was named Jesus (Luke 2:21) by the angel according to the gospels. Also, even if a person is named Immanuel, it doesn't mean that the person so named is God.
Consider for example all the people named ELI in the Old Testament. ELI means God in the Hebrew. It is also narrated that Jesus while talking to God referred to Him as ELI (Mark 15:34 & Matthew 27:46).
We cannot however on this basis of just a name accept all the people named ELI in the Old Testament as Gods. Similarly, we cannot accept a person named Immanuel (which means "God with us") as God. Jesus was never named Immanuel anyway, so both ways the argument and claim are false.
Claim 3) The word became flesh:
Another common claim is John 1:1 which reads:
"In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God."
This is often presented from the Gospel of John to prove that Jesus was God. There are however several problems with this claim. By the above verse it is assumed that Jesus was the "word" and since the word was God and became flesh, Jesus is God. The statement that John reproduced in his gospel however was uttered not by John but by a certain Philo of Alexandria, years before Jesus or John were born. It is therefore completely unlikely that Philo was even remotely referring to Jesus.
There is also another reason, considering the Greek of the above verse, which disproves the assertion that Jesus is referred to as God in the verse. In the verse above, the first time the word God is used, the Greek is HOTHEOS, which means "The God". The second time the word God is used, "and the word was God," the word for God is TONTHEOS, which means "A God". Europeans have evolved a system of capital and small letters non-existent in Greek. The God, HOTHEOS is translated as God with a capital G, whereas Tontheos, which means A or ANY God is translated with a small g, god.
In this case however, we see the unlawful translators trying to prove Jesus being God by putting capital G for both, whereas it doesn't belong in the case of the "word". Consider these other candidates for "a god" i.e. Tontheos, in the Bible:
Exodus 7:1 (God said to Moses)"See I have made you a god (in the Greek it would be Tontheos, doesn't mean God almighty but just a god.) to Pharaoh and Aaron thy brother will be thy prophet."
Consider this statement where the Devil is "The God", i.e. Hotheos, but the translators cover it up:
2 Corinthians 4:4 Paul states that the Devil is the God (should be Hotheos in Greek but the translators translate it with a small g instead of capital) of the world.
The word "a god", Tontheos, in the Bible is used for every other person including the prophets. It does not mean the person is God almighty. As examples consider the above quote from Exodus where Moses is referred to as God and also Psalms 82:6 where God allegedly refers to the prophets as gods:
"I said, Ye are all gods and all of you are the children of the Most High."(Psalms 82:6)
Claim 4) God in the plural?
Another common claim presented from the Bible to "prove" the divinity of Christ is presented surprisingly from the first chapter of the book of Genesis. God supposedly says: "Let US create." The word "us" is plural and has been used by God for himself in Genesis. Christians assert that this plural proves the Trinity, otherwise God would have used the singular. This claim is based on ignorance of Semitic languages. In most eastern languages, there are two types of plurals, i.e. plural of numbers and plural of respect. In the Koran, God speaks of Himself as "us" and "we" as well. Yet in those verses, no Muslim will ever doubt that God is referring to Himself alone.
Even in old English, the King or the Queen would use such plurals for themselves alone. An objective inquiry from Jewish scholars, whose book the Old Testament is, will reveal the same. Also, modern translators recognize this and therefore translate the word ELOHIM in the Old Testament as God and not Gods even though it is a plural. I have never seen a Bible with the word ELOHIM translated as "Gods". It is a plural of respect; it does not signify the Trinity.
Claim 5) Seeing Jesus is seeing the Father?
Yet another common claim that is presented is Philip's statement in John 14:9 where Philip asks to be shown God, and Jesus replies,
" If you have seen me you have seen the Father." (John 14:9)
By this statement the Christian claims that what Jesus is really saying is that "I am the Father." However, Jesus is not saying this. We need to read the context of the verse in question. Beginning from verse 4, we see that the disciples are misunderstanding Jesus from the beginning. Verse 4) Jesus is talking about a spiritual journey, i.e. going to God, whereas Thomas takes it to be a physical journey. In verse 7, Jesus makes clear that to know him would be to know God since Jesus was conveying knowledge about God. Philip then asks Jesus to show them the Father to which the response in 14:9 comes. Since God cannot be seen according to the law of the Jews (which says that No one can see God and live), the only way that He can be known is through His signs and messengers. Therefore, Jesus' response "If you have seen me you have seen the Father," is consistent with this. He is not claiming to be God.
However, to further prove that Jesus was not claiming to be God, consider what Jesus says in John 5:32:
"You have not heard him (God) at any time NEITHER seen His shape or form."
Now the Jews and the disciples were seeing Jesus. If Jesus was God then this statement by him is a gross error and a contradiction compared to John14: 9. However, to the contrary, Jesus says:
i) "The Father is greater than I." John 14:28
ii)" The Father is greater than ALL." (John 10:29)
iii)" I can of mine own self do NOTHING...I seek not my own will but the will of Him who sent me (John 5:30)."
Iv)"… the one who is sent is not greater than the one who sent (John 13:16)."
God according to Judaism, Christianity and Islam has knowledge of everything. Jesus according to the Gospels had limited knowledge and therefore can not be God:
"For of that hour (of Judgment) knows no man, no not the angels, NEITHER THE SON, but the Father in heaven (John 10:32)."A similar event is documented in Mark 11: 12-13 where Jesus appears ignorant of the season of fruiting of the fig tree.
Claim 6) Jesus raised the dead?
In trying to prove the divinity of Jesus, Christians assert that Jesus gave life to the dead, something that only God can do and hence he was God. The major problem with this assertion is the continual denial on the part of Jesus that he was doing the miracles on his own. In John 5:30 above, for example, we read that Jesus disclaims having the power to do anything. In Matthew 28:18 it is further asserted that all power to do everything was GIVEN to Jesus. In this context read John 12:49. Hence Jesus is the receiver (recipient) and not the originator of that power. A reading of John 11:40-43, which tells the story of the bringing back of Lazarus to life, clearly reveals that it was God who brought Lazarus back to life, using Jesus:
"Then he took away the stone from the place the dead was laid; and Jesus lifted up his eyes and said: 'Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me, and I know that you hear me always....' (John 11:40-43)
God heard Jesus, and Jesus knew that God would work the miracle through him.
Claim 7) Jesus had no father:
The Koran and the New Testament both suggest that Jesus was born without a father and only had a mother. This is sometimes presented by Christians to prove that God was the father of Jesus in a physical sense and hence Jesus was God the son or the Son of God.
The Koran clarifies this misconception by comparing the creation of Jesus to the creation of Adam (Koran 3:59). God, who created the first humans could create a man without a father. It is no big deal for God. Modern science can theoretically do the same using just the egg of the female through cloning. The New Testament points to another man also, born without a father or mother; with greater than Jesus, who is not God. Consider this passage in the Bible, New Testament:
"For this Melchizedec, King of Salem, priest of the Most High God.... Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days or end of life...." (Hebrews 7:1-3)
Can anyone match that? Therefore, it is insufficient on the basis of the above alone to prove that a person was God just because he had no father. According to the Christian assumptions about God, He has no shape or sex (see John 4:24), but Jesus had a human form and was of the male gender (Luke 2:21). Therefore, Jesus cannot be God. God has no beginning or end. Jesus had a beginning (Luke 2:6) and according to Christianity, a violent death on the cross. Therefore he cannot be God.
Claim 8: "My God and my Lord"?
It is often claimed that since Thomas referred to Jesus as "My God, my Lord" (John 20:28), that Jesus was God. An ignorance of the context of the verse and of Christian doctrine prompts this claim. The context of the verse talks about an unbelieving Thomas being surprised when Jesus offers him evidence. The exclamation, "My God," on his part was just astonishment. We use such an exclamation everyday while talking to people (abbreviated as OMG). This doesn't mean that the person we are talking to is God. For example, I see John cutting his wrist with a Rambo knife. I say: "My God, John what are you doing?" Do I mean that John is God? Similar is the use of the expression by Thomas. If you go into Jewish or Muslim societies even today, you'll hear people exclaim "My God, my Lord," at every situation which surprises them or causes them anguish or is astonishing.
In the verse above Thomas says: "My God, my Lord," he was not claiming that Jesus was his 1) God and 2) Lord. If he did then the Church and the disciples should have stamped him a heretic right there and then. That is because claiming that Jesus is Lord and God is a violation of Christian doctrine, which asserts that there is One God, the Father and One Lord, Jesus. Jesus can't be God and Lord.
"...Yet for us there is but one God, the Father...and one Lord, Jesus Christ." (I Corinthians 8:)
Believing the above (i.e. Jesus is Lord and God) would leave a person with unorthodox doctrine branded by the church as Sabellianism, Patripassianism, or Monarchianism.
Claim 9) "I am"! It is claimed that Jesus used the words, "I am", and since these same words were used by God to describe Himself to the people in the Old Testament, Jesus was claiming to be God. John 8:58, is presented to back this claim. In the verse, Jesus says:" Before Abraham was I am."
Now, if Jesus existed before Abraham did, that might be a remarkable thing, but does that prove that he was God? How many people existed before Abraham? The Bible presents Jeremiah as being a prophet before he was conceived in his mother's womb (Jeremiah 1:5), yet no one says that his pre-human existence qualifies him for being a claimant to deity.
In Exodus chapter 3, God allegedly says: "I am what I am." Long before the time of Jesus, there existed a Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. The key word, "I am," in Exodus, which is used by Christians to prove the deity of Jesus is translated as "HO ON." However, when Jesus uses the word in John 8:58 the Greek of the "I am," is EGO EIMI. If Jesus wanted to tell the Jews that he was claiming to be God he should have at least remained consistent in the use of words or the whole point is lost. How many people in that age would have said, "I am," in answer to questions in everyday life, hundreds of thousands. Are they all gods? If you ask me: "Are you Asadi," and I say "I am," am I claiming to be God just because God happened to use the words "I am?" The argument clearly is not valid.
Claim 10) ABBA, father
It is sometimes claimed that the use of the Hebrew word for father, ABBA, by Jesus for God, signifies a special relationship of a physical type. This however is unwarranted since every Christian is supposed to use the same word ABBA for God (see Romans 8:14, and Galatians 4:6)
Sometimes, certain other terms used by Jesus for himself are presented to prove that he was claiming divinity. Terms like "Messiah," and "Savior," are not only applied to Jesus in the gospels but have been applied to others in the Bible. Yet in their case, no one says that they prove divinity. If these claims were to be presented truthfully then we would have not one but many candidates for divinity.
As examples, Cyrus the Persian, who was a pagan is called Messiah in the Bible (Isaiah 45:1). It is however covered up by the translators who translate the word as anointed. The Hebrew and the Arabic word Messiah comes from the root Masaaha, which means to rub, message or anoint. Ancient kings and priests were "anointed" or appointed, into office. It does not mean that the person so named and termed is God at all. The title of "savior," or "saviors" is used for other people in the Bible (2 Kings 13:5 and Obadiah 21 and Nehemiah 9:27). Translators are well aware of this so they substitute the word savior for deliverer to throw off readers.
Jesus had a servant-master relationship with God. He never claimed to be equal to God, or to be of the same nature as God. Attributing divinity to Christ, a man, goes completely against his teachings as found in the New Testament of the Bible. He says for example that God was his God as well:
"...And go and tell my brethren that I ascend to My Father and Your Father, to MY GOD and your God (John 20:17)."
The Koran confirms this statement made by Jesus:
"Indeed they reject the truth, those that say, "God is Christ, the son of Mary." For indeed, Christ said, worship God, who is MY GOD and your God (Koran 5:75)."
Asadi, Muhammed. Islam & The Divinity of Christ. (1989, revised) Deedat, Ahmed. Is Jesus God. Miller, Gary. A Concise Reply to Christianity.
Christianity and its view of Muhammed:
Whereas Islam honors Jesus as a great prophet of God and mentions his mother Mary as being "chosen above the women of all nations," Christianity has harbored hate and contempt for Muhammed, the messenger of Allah, throughout history. Consider this summary by Greever (http://people.ucsc.edu/~slugbug/muhammad.doc, retrieved 12/01/'01)
"The famous Christian monk, John of Damascus, showed a complete lack of respect for Muhammad when he wrote of him as a “false prophet”, calling his pronouncements “heresy” and “worthy of laughter” (as quoted. in Phipps 3). In the twelfth century, Peter the Venerable wrote:
Muhammad, instructed by the best Jewish and heretical doctors, produced his Quran and wove together, in that barbarous fashion of his, a diabolical scripture put together both from the Jewish fables and the trifling songs of heretics. Lying that his collection was brought to him chapter by chapter by Gabriel, whose name he already knew from the standard Scripture, he poisoned with a deadly poison the people that did not know God. (as quoted. in Phipps 4)
Thomas Aquinas, the Catholic theologian, not only insulted Muhammad but his followers as well when he wrote,
“The truths that he taught he mingled with many fables and with doctrine of the greatest falsity . . . Those who believed in him were brutal men and desert wanderers, utterly ignorant of all divine teaching, through whose numbers Muhammad forced others to become his followers by the violence of his arms” (as quoted. in Phipps 5).
The Protestant Martin Luther likened Muhammad to :
“the warring horses of the Book of Revelation that bring great destruction to Christians”, described him as “course and filthy” (as quoted. in Phipps 6), and with the maturity of a child called him “an uncouth blockhead and ass” (as quoted. in Phipps 5).
Martin Luther also wrote that
“the spirit of lies had taken possession of Mohammed, and the devil had murdered men's souls with his Koran and had destroyed the faith of Christians”(as quoted. in Phipps 5-6),
“We are fighting that the Turk may not put his devilish filth and blasphemous Muhammad in the place of our dear Lord, Jesus Christ” (as quoted. in Phipps 6), once again associating Muhammad with lies, the devil, and destruction.
Phipps, William E. Muhammad and Jesus. New York: The Continuum Publishing Company, 1996.
"Let there be no compulsion in religion. Truth is clearly distinct from falsehood." (Koran 2:256)
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