Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Is Muhammad predicted in the Gospel of John?

By Sam Shamoun

A Muslim sent me the following article via email. It concerns Jesus’ prophecy of the Paraclete and how this supposedly points to Muhammad. The Muslim challenged me to respond to this article. Even though the issue of whether Muhammad is the Paraclete has already been resolved and documented throughout our site, I decided to take certain parts of the challenge since this article raised a few issues that are so far not addressed elsewhere.

At times I will simply link to articles on our site that have already addressed a specific argument raised in the paper. With that said, we proceed to the article in question:

Muhammad was predicted to come in the Gospel of John:
Just a quick note, the Arabic word "Muhammad" is an expression which means "The honorable one" or "The glorified one" or "The admirable". Prophet Muhammad was the first in the Middle East to be named "Muhammad". Below, you will see how Jesus in today's Gospel of John had called this human Prophet which he predicted his coming[sic] "The honorable one". Jesus in the Greek Bible used the Greek word "Periklytos" which means the admirable or glorified one. He called that predicted human prophet "Periklytos". This word corresponds exactly to the Arabic word "Muhammad" which also means the "admired one" or "glorified one." In other words, "Periklytos" is "Muhammad" in Greek.

This is the first error of the author. Jesus did not use the word Periklytos, but Paracletos/Parakletos as the following citations demonstrate:

"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor (allon parakleton) to be with you forever - the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you." John 14:16-17

"But the Counselor (de parakletos), the Holy Spirit (pneuma to hagion), whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." John 14:26

"When the Counselor (ho parakletos) comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me." John 15:26

"But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor (ho parakletos) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." John 16:7

The Blue Letter Bible defines the word as:
# 3875
1) summoned, called to one's side, esp. called to one's aid
a) one who pleads another's cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense, legal assistant, an advocate

one who pleads another's cause with one, an intercessor

1) of Christ in his exaltation at God's right hand, pleading with God the Father for the pardon of our sins
c) in the widest sense, a helper, succourer, aider, assistant

1) of the Holy Spirit destined to take the place of Christ with the apostles (after his ascension to the Father), to lead them to a deeper knowledge of the gospel truth, and give them divine strength needed to enable them to undergo trials and persecutions on behalf of the divine kingdom (Source)

Furthermore, there is a noun that is related to the word Parakletos, namely paraklesis, that means comfort, consolation, exhortation, and entreaty. It is used on 29 occasions and is translated as "comfort" 20 times.

The verbal form, parakaleo, meaning "to beseech, call for, comfort, desire, exhort, and entreat" is used 107 times and was translated 24 times as to comfort.

The following NT citation helps us see the possible range of meaning these terms have depending upon the context:

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of allcomfort (paraklesis), who comforts (parakaleo) us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort (parakaleo) those in any trouble with the comfort (paraklesis) with which we ourselves are comforted (parakaleo) of God." 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

It is quite obvious that within this particular context that the only plausible meaning of these two words are "comfort" and "comforter". This point will become essential later on in our rebuttal since this helps us to see that Paracletos, and these other related terms, can have different meanings in different contexts. One thing to remember for now is that "admirable" or "glorified" do not fall within the possible range of meanings for Paracletos and therefore does not refer to a prophet who is admirable or glorious/glorified.

It should be finally pointed out that the word Periklytos is never used in either the New Testament or the Greek Old Testament Septuagint (LXX).

Let us start...
In the Bible we can find the following four passages wherein Jesus (peace be upon him) predicts a great event:
John 14:16 "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever"
John 15:26 "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, [even] the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me"
John 14:26 "But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."
John 16:7-14 "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew [it] unto you."

In these four verses, the word "comforter" is translated from the word "Paraclete" ("Ho Parakletos" in Greek). Parakletos in Greek is interpreted as "an advocate", one who pleads the cause of another, one who councils or advises another from deep concern for the other's welfare (Beacon Bible commentary volume VII, p.168). In these verses we are told that once Jesus (peace be upon him) departs, a Paraclete will come. He will glorify Jesus (peace be upon him), and he will guide mankind into all truth. This "Paraclete" is identified in John 14:26 as the Holy Ghost.

Please do notice that the author contradicts himself here. Earlier he claimed that Jesus in the Greek NT made reference to the Periklytos. Now, the author correctly states that the word "comforter" comes from the word Paraclete, not Periklytos.

It must be pointed out that the original Greek manuscripts speak of a "Holy pneuma." The word pneuma {pnyoo'-mah} is the Greek root word for "spirit." There is no separate word for "Ghost" in the Greek manuscripts, of which there are claimed to be over 24,000 today. The translators of the King James Version of the Bible translate this word as "Ghost" to convey their own personal understanding of the text. However, a more accurate translation is "Holy Spirit." More faithful and recent translations of the Bible, such as the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV), do indeed now translate it as "Holy Spirit." This is significant, and will be expounded upon shortly.

All Bibles in existence today are compiled from "ancient manuscripts," the most ancient of which being those of the fourth century C.E. Any scholar of the Bible will tell us that no two ancient manuscripts are exactly identical. All Bibles in our possession today are the result of extensive cutting and pasting from these various manuscripts with no single one being the definitive reference.

What the translators of the Bible have done when presented with such discrepancies is to do their best to choose the correct version. In other words, since they can not know which "ancient manuscript" is the correct one, they must do a little detective work on the text in order to decide which "version" of a given verse to accept. John 14:26 is just such an example of such selection techniques.

Several corrections are in order. First, Christians do not claim (informed Christians at least) that there are 24,000 GREEK MSS of the NT, since this number doesn’t include just the MSS written in Greek but also the other languages that the NT has been translated. There are actually over 5,300 Greek MSS of the NT.

Second, the KJV translators rendered the word pneuma as Ghost since the latter word was virtually synonymous with Spirit and would have been an acceptable rendering during their time. After all, a Ghost is a Spirit!

Third, the claim that no two NT MSS are alike is to be expected since no two copyists copy the same way, will corrupt the text (whether intentionally or unintentionally) in the same places or in the same manner, or make the same transcriptional mistakes.

Yet despite these differences the agreement amongst the extant MSS is far greater than Muslims would have one think. The NT is the best-attested document of antiquity, having superior MS evidence for its preservation and reliability than all the rest of the books of antiquity. It is even better attested than the Qur’an!

For instance, no two extant Qur’anic MSS are alike either, a fact admitted by Muslim authorities:

Thus saith Muhammad ibn Ishaq [al-Nadim]: I have seen a number of Qur’anic manuscripts, which the transcribers recorded as manuscripts from Ibn Mas‘ud. NO TWO QUR'ANIC COPIES WERE IN AGREEMENT and most of them were on badly effaced parchment… (Abu'l-Faraj Muhammad ibn Ishaq Al-Nadim, The Fihrist - A 10th Century AD Survey of Islamic Culture, edited and translated by Bayard Dodge [Great Books of the Islamic World, Inc., Columbia University Press, 1970], p. 57)

For further evidence on this subject we recommend the following articles:’an/Text/index.html’an_variants.htm

Fourth, the assertion that the most ancient MSS date to the fourth century is blatantlyfalse. There are many portions of Papyri that precede the fourth century and are used in compiling our Bibles in today's languages.

Since we are dealing with the Gospel of John, and more specifically the Paraclete passages, we present the following list of Papyri that are consulted by translators in translating the Gospel of John, all of which precede the fourth century:

1. Papyrus 66, (P66) 2nd Century AD.
This papyrus includes John 1:1-6:11; 6:35-14:26, 29-30; 15:2-26; 16:2-4, 6-7; 16:10-20:20, 22-23; 20:25-21:9, 12, 17.

Do note that this papyrus contains all the references to the Paraclete.

2. Papyrus 75 (P75) Late 2nd / Early 3rd Century AD.
The contents of this papyrus, which some scholars have dated the manuscript to the late 2nd century and others early 3rd century AD., include Luke 3:18-22; 3:33 - 4:2; 4:34 - 5:10; 5:37 - 6:4; 6:10 - 7:32, 35-39, 41-43; 7:46 - 9:2; 9:4 - 17:15; 17:19 - 18:18; 22:4 - 24:53; John 1:1 - 11:45, 48-57; 12:3 - 13:1, 8-9; 14:8-29; 15:7-8.
3. Papyrus 22 (P22) 3rd Century AD.
It contains John 15:25-16:2 and John 16:21-32.

Even though these are the oldest extant Papyri fragments that contain the Paraclete passages, there are other MSS that are just as old and even older. Here is the list of the oldest extant fragments of John in our possession to date:

1. Papyrus 52 (P52) 107 - 130 AD. Contains John 18:31-33 and 37-38.
2. Papyrus 90 (P90) 2nd Century AD. Contains John 18:36 - 19:1-7.
3. Papyrus 45 (P45) 2nd / 3rd Century AD. It includes parts of the Four Gospels and Acts. It contains John 4:51, 54; 5:21, 24; 10:7-25, 30-42; 11:1-10, 18-36, 42-57.
4. Papyrus 5 (P5) Early 3rd Century AD. It contains John 1:23-31, 33-41; 16:14-30; 20:11-17, 20:19-25.
5. Papyrus 39 (P39) 3rd Century AD. It contains John 8:14-22.
6. Papyrus 80 (P80) 3rd Century AD. Contains John 3:34.
7. Papyrus 95 (P95) 3rd Century AD. Contains John 5:26-29, 36-38.
8. Papyrus 106 (P106) 3rd Century AD. This fragment contains John 1:29-35, 40-46.
9. Papyrus 107 (P107) 3rd Century AD. Contains John 17:1-2, 11.
10. Papyrus 108 (P108) 3rd Century AD. This has John 17:23-24 and 18:1-5.
11. Papyrus 109 (P109) 3rd Century AD. This is the oldest papyrus to date that contains John 21:18-20, 23-25.
12. Papyrus 28 (P28) Late 3rd Century AD. Contents are John 6:8-12 and 17-22.
13. Papyrus 6 (P6) 4th century AD. Its contents include John 10:1-2, 4-7, 9-10; 11:1-8, 45-52.

If we turn our attention to the writings of the early Church Fathers then it becomes pretty evident that no corruption to the text has taken place. In fact, the Fathers provide attestation that the earliest Christians understood the Paraclete passages to be referring to the Holy Spirit.

Apostolic Father Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch, while on his way to being martyred wrote seven epistles between 107-112 AD. In one of his letters to the Philippians he referred to the Paraclete:

Chapter II.-Unity of the Three Divine Persons
There is then one God and Father, and not two or three; One who is; and there is no other besides Him, the only true [God]. For "the Lord thy God," saith [the Scripture], "is one Lord." And again, "Hath not one God created us? Have we not all one Father? And there is also one Son, God the Word. For "the only-begotten Son," saith [the Scripture], "who is in the bosom of the Father." And again, "One Lord Jesus Christ." And in another place, "What is His name, or what His Son's name, that we may know? " And there is also one Paraclete. For "there is also," saith [the Scripture], "one Spirit," since "we have been called in one hope of our calling." And again, "We have drunk of one Spirit," with what follows. And it is manifest that all these gifts [possessed by believers] "worketh one and the self-same Spirit." There are not then either three Fathers, or three Sons, or three Paracletes, but one Father, and one Son, and one Paraclete. Wherefore also the Lord, when He sent forth the apostles to make disciples of all nations, commanded them to "baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," not unto one [person] having three names, nor into three [persons] who became incarnate, but into three possessed of equal honour.

Chapter III.-Christ Was Truly Born, and Died.
For there is but One that became incarnate, and that neither the Father nor the Paraclete, but the Son only, [who became so] not in appearance or imagination, but in reality. For "the Word became flesh." For "Wisdom builded for herself a house." And God the Word was born as man, with a body, of the Virgin, without any intercourse of man. For [it is written], "A virgin shall conceive in her womb, and bring forth a son." He was then truly born, truly grew up, truly ate and drank, was truly crucified, and died, and rose again. He who believes these things, as they really were, and as they really took place, is blessed. He who believeth them not is no less accursed than those who crucified the Lord. For the prince of this world rejoiceth when any one denies the cross, since he knows that the confession of the cross is his own destruction. For that is the trophy which has been raised up against his power, which when he sees, he shudders, and when he hears of, is afraid. (The Epistle of Ignatius to the Philippians- Early Church Fathers, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I; online edition)

Second century writer Irenaeus wrote:

9. These things being so, all who destroy the form of the Gospel are vain, unlearned, and also audacious; those, [I mean, ] who represent the aspects of the Gospel as being either more in number than as aforesaid, or, on the other hand, fewer. The former class [do so], that they may seem to have discovered more than is of the truth; the latter, that they may set the dispensations of God aside. For Marcion, rejecting the entire Gospel, yea rather, cutting himself off from the Gospel, boasts that he has part in the [blessings of] the Gospel. Others, again (the Montanists), that they may set at nought the gift of the Spirit, which in the latter times has been, by the good pleasure of the Father, poured out upon the human race, do not admit thataspect [of the evangelical dispensation] presented by John's Gospel, in which the Lord promised that He would send the Paraclete; but set aside at once both the Gospel and the prophetic Spirit. Wretched men indeed! Who wish to be pseudo-prophets, forsooth, but who set aside the gift of prophecy from the Church; acting like those (the Encratitae) who, on account of such as come in hypocrisy, hold themselves aloof from the communion of the brethren. We must conclude, moreover, that these men (the Montanists) can not admit the Apostle Paul either. For, in his Epistle to the Corinthians, he speaks expressly of prophetical gifts, and recognises men and women prophesying in the Church. Sinning, therefore, in all these particulars, against the Spirit of God, they fall into the irremissible sin. But those who are from Valentinus, being, on the other hand, altogether reckless, while they put forth their own compositions, boast that they possess more Gospels than there really are. Indeed, they have arrived at such a pitch of audacity, as to entitle their comparatively recent writing "the Gospel of Truth," though it agrees in nothing with the Gospels of the Apostles, so that they have really no Gospel which is not full of blasphemy. For if what they have published is the Gospel of truth, and yet is totally unlike those which have been handed down to us from the apostles, any who please may learn, as is shown from the Scriptures themselves, that that which has been handed down from the apostles can no longer be reckoned the Gospel of truth. But that these Gospels alone are true and reliable, and admit neither an increase nor diminution of the aforesaid number, I have proved by so many and such [arguments]. For, since God made all things in due proportion and adaptation, it was fit also that the outward aspect of the Gospel should be well arranged and harmonized. The opinion of those men, therefore, who handed the Gospel down to us, having been investigated, from their very fountainheads, let us proceed also to the remaining apostles, and inquire into their doctrine with regard to God; then, in due course we shall listen to the very words of the Lord. (Irenaeus Against Heresies, Book III- Early Church Fathers, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I: online edition)

Tertullian, an African Father writing in the late second and early third centuries, mentioned the Paraclete in many places throughout his writings, some of which include:

Chapter IX.-The Catholic Rule of Faith Expounded in Some of Its Points. Especially in the Unconfused Distinction of the Several Persons of the Blessed Trinity.
Bear always in mind that this is the rule of faith which I profess; by it I testify that the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit are inseparable from each other, and so will you know in what sense this is said. Now, observe, my assertion is that the Father is one, and the Son one, and the Spirit one, and that They are distinct from Each Other. This statement is taken in a wrong sense by every uneducated as well as every perversely disposed person, as if it predicated a diversity, in such a sense as to imply a separation among the Father, and the Son, and the Spirit. I am, moreover, obliged to say this, when (extolling the Monarchy at the expense of the Economy) they contend for the identity of the Father and Son and Spirit, that it is not by way of diversity that the Son differs from the Father, but by distribution: it is not by division that He is different, but by distinction; because the Father is not the same as the Son, since they differ one from the other in the mode of their being. For the Father is the entire substance, but the Son is a derivation and portion of the whole, as He Himself acknowledges: "My Father is greater than I." In the Psalm His inferiority is described as being "a little lower than the angels." Thus the Father is distinct from the Son, being greater than the Son, inasmuch as He who begets is one, and He who is begotten is another; He, too, who sends is one, and He who is sent is another; and He, again, who makes is one, and He through whom the thing is made is another. Happily the Lord Himself employs this expression of the person of the Paraclete, so as to signify not a division or severance, but a disposition (of mutual relations in the Godhead); for He says, "I will pray the Father, and He shall send you another Comforter ... even the Spirit of truth," thus making the Paraclete distinct from Himself, even as we say that the Son is also distinct from the Father; so that He showed a third degree in the Paraclete, as we believe the second degree is in the Son, by reason of the order observed in the Economy. Besides, does not the very fact that they have the distinct names of Father and Son amount to a declaration that they are distinct in personality? For, of course, all things will be what their names represent them to be; and what they are and ever will be, that will they be called; and the distinction indicated by the names does not at all admit of any confusion, because there is none in the things which they designate. "Yes is yes, and no is no; for what is more than these, cometh of evil." (Against Praxeus- Early Church Fathers, Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume III: online edition)


Chapter XXV.-The Paraclete, or Holy Ghost. He is Distinct from the Father and the Son as to Their Personal Existence. One and Inseparable from Them as to Their Divine Nature. Other Quotations Out of St. John's Gospel.
What follows Philip's question, and the Lord's whole treatment of it, to the end of John's Gospel, continues to furnish us with statements of the same kind, distinguishing the Father and the Son, with the properties of each. Then there is the Paraclete or Comforter, also, which He promises to pray for to the Father, and to send from heaven after He had ascended to the Father. He is called "another Comforter," indeed; but in what way He is another we have already shown, "He shall receive of mine," says Christ, just as Christ Himself received of the Father's. Thus the connection of the Father in the Son, and of the Son in the Paraclete, produces three coherent Persons, who are yet distinct One from Another. These Three are, one essence, not one Person, as it is said, "I and my Father are One," in respect of unity of substance not singularity of number. Run through the whole Gospel, and you will find that He whom you believe to be the Father (described as acting for the Father, although you, for your part, forsooth, suppose that "the Father, being the husbandman," must surely have been on earth) is once more recognised by the Son as in heaven, when, "lifting up His eyes thereto," He commended His disciples to the safe-keeping of the Father. We have, moreover, in that other Gospel a clear revelation, i.e. of the Son's distinction from the Father, "My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" and again, (in the third Gospel) "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit." But even if (we had not these passages, we meet with satisfactory evidence) after His resurrection and glorious victory over death. Now that all the restraint of His humiliation is taken away, He might, if possible, have shown Himself as the Father to so faithful a woman (as Mary Magdalene) when she approached to touch Him, out of love, not from curiosity, nor with Thomas' incredulity. But not so; Jesus saith unto her, "Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren" (and even in this He proves Himself to be the Son; for if He had been the Father, He would have called them Hischildren, (instead of His brethren), "and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God." Now, does this mean, I ascend as the Father to the Father, and as God to God? Or as the Son to the Father, and as the Word to God? Wherefore also does this Gospel, at its very termination, intimate that these things were ever written, if it be not, to use its own words, "that ye might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? " Whenever, therefore, you take any of the statements of this Gospel, and apply them to demonstrate the identity of the Father and the Son, supposing that they serve your views therein, you are contending against the definite purpose of the Gospel. For these things certainly are not written that you may believe that Jesus Christ is the Father, but the Son. (Ibid; online edition)

The writings of these Fathers give us an unbroken chain of attestation going all the way back to the very Apostles themselves. In these writings we find concrete evidence showing that John’s Gospel always read Paraclete, not Periklytos, and that this clearly referred to the blessed Holy Spirit.

This concludes this section.



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