Monday, 25 January 2016

A Case for the Deity of Christ in Light of Muslim Objections, Part III

Continuing from Part II
Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:6-11 KJV) Here Paul explains that Jesus preexisted with the Father with the same nature as God. Jesus then lowered himself being found in appearance as a man. Paul then explains the crucifixion and states that every knee will bow to Christ and every tongue will confess that he is Lord. Aside from the explicit statements about Jesus having the nature of God, preexisting with the Father and then becoming a man, the fact that Paul said every knee will bow to Christ and confess him as Lord proves that Jesus is God Almighty. In the Old Testament Hebrew scriptures we read:
Declare what is to be, present it — let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, who declared it from the distant past? Was it not I, the LORD? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Saviour; there is none but me." Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. (Isaiah 45:21-23)
Notice that the Isaiah prophecy says that one day in the future every knee will bow to Yahweh and every tongue will swear by Yahweh. Well according to Paul in Philippians 2:10-11 this will be fulfilled as soon as every knee bows to Christ and confesses Christ is Lord by their tongue. This is because Paul is teaching that Jesus is Yahweh. Muslim Objection: Shabir Ally states: Paul’s letter to the Philippians ch. 2, vv. 6-11 is often quoted as proof that Jesus is God. But the very passage shows that Jesus is not God. This passage has to agree with Isaiah 45:22-24 where God (Yahweh) said that every knee should bow to Yahweh, and every tongue should confess that righteousness and strength are in Yahweh alone.  Paul was aware of this passage, for he quoted it in Romans 14:11. Knowing this, Paul declared, “I kneel before the Father” (Ephesians 3:14). (28)

Christian Response:
Ally’s objection doesn’t address a number of issues relevant to Philippians 2:6-11. He doesn’t address Jesus being in very nature God, Jesus being equal with God, or Jesus leaving his exaltation in heaven and becoming a man. Ally attempts to address the knee bowing and confessing issue. However, his response is full of holes. First of all, Ally doesn’t even acknowledge the fact that Christ is said to be bowed to by all people and confessed as Lord fulfilling Isaiah 45:21-23. Ally merely says Philippians has to agree with Isaiah about Yahweh alone being bowed to and confessed as Lord. Indeed, Paul does agree because to him Jesus is Yahweh and when Jesus is bowed to, Yahweh is bowed to. This is what Ally can’t see and won’t even acknowledge. Ally notes how Paul said he kneels to the Father in Ephesians 3:14. All that this establishes is that both the Father and the Son are bowed to in different contexts. The Father being bowed to once by Paul and the Son being bowed to by all people fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 45:21-23. Ally doesn’t try to address Philippians 2:6-11 exegetically and thus fails to make a compelling case. Indeed, Paul was aware of Isaiah 45:22-24 and since he believed Jesus is Yahweh he wrote about Isaiah 45:22-24 being fulfilled when Christ is bowed to and confessed as Lord by all people.

Muslim Objection:
Zaatari also takes a shot at debunking Philippians 2:6-11: Many Trinitarians use the above verse to claim that Jesus is God because Paul claimed that Jesus existed in the form of God. Yet what the Trinitarian failed to realize is this that this verse greatly refutes them! Notice Jesus is not called God! There is a difference between being called God, and being called to exist in the form of God! Why didn't Paul just simply say Jesus who was God! God is God! (29)

Christian Response:
When Muslims can’t refute a verse properly or address what the verse actually does say, they have to invent their own criteria and then claim the verse doesn’t meet them. Zaatari’s view is that unless Jesus is “called God” here it doesn’t matter what else is said. Jesus “being in very nature God” isn’t enough for Zaatari. Jesus taking on flesh leaving his exalted status behind isn’t enough. You can’t simply invent your own criteria and then claim that because the verse doesn’t meet them in your opinion, that therefore the verse doesn’t teach the Deity of Christ. That is not how to exegete scriptures. We believe Jesus and the Father are distinct in personhood yet both fully God. The Father is often called God and so Jesus is described as God, but not called God, because the title is reserved for the Father in some scriptures which, however, does not undermine our theology at all. The fact is that Jesus is described as having the very nature of God, preexisting in an exalted state with the Father, and then coming down from heaven becoming a man by his own will in perfect accord with the Father.
Muslim Objection:
Zaatari states: Furthermore, why does Paul state that Jesus did not regard equality with God to be something to be grasped, if Jesus is NOT God then such a statement makes sense, since Jesus is not God, he did not regard it as a major thing to be equal with God. An example could be given with a servant who is equal with a king, but does not consider that to be special, that statement only makes sense because he is a servant and not the king himself! Now off course Jesus was not fully equal to God, as Paul has demonstrated that Jesus is UNDER God, and God gave Jesus authority, and God made Jesus a leader, hence it's not a literal equality. One must understand the theology of Paul and certain Christians on this issue; they believe that Jesus is God's PERFECT representative on earth, and that Jesus fully carries out God's will and orders, for instance Jesus said that he who sees Jesus sees the Father, for these Christians they take that verse and say since Jesus is God's perfect representative, and fully does what God wants, then in that certain sense he is equal to God. It is indeed a very high exaltation of Jesus, but it is in no way meant to say that he is God. As one Christian writes: So what can we conclude about morphe? The Philippian church consisted of Jews and converted Greeks. From the Septuagint and their other writings, the Jews were familiar with morphe referring to the outward appearance, including the form of men and idols. To the Greeks, it also referred to the outward appearance, including the changing outward appearance of their gods and the form of statues. The only other New Testament use of morphe outside Philippians is in Mark, and there it refers to the outward appearance. Also, the words related to morphe clearly refer to an outward manifestation or appearance. We assert the actual evidence is clear: the word morphe refers to an outward appearance or manifestation. Jesus Christ was in the outward appearance of God, so much so that he said, "He who has seen me has seen the Father." Christ always did the Father's will, and perfectly represented his Father in every way. (
Now as Muslims we would never use such language or terminology, but that is a different issue, what does matter is that Philippians 2:6 was not meant to call Jesus God, it was terminology being used according to a specific theology and thought. (30)

Christian Response:
I have never seen so many errors in one explanation of a passage. Instead of accepting Zaatari’s Unitarian heretical exegesis of the scriptures, let us examine the assessment of Philippians 2:6-11 made by Robert M. Bowman, J. Ed Komoszewski, and Darrell L. Bock because they give a lengthy discussion on the passages. Notice that everything Zaatari just stated and quoted gets utterly refuted in this exegesis. One of the most important biblical passages for our understanding of the person of Jesus Christ is Philippians 2:6-11. In these six verses, Paul taught that Christ was a preexistent person who was fully God and yet humbled himself by becoming a human and dying on a cross (vv. 6-8). Then, in Christ’s resurrection, God the Father exalted him in order that he might be honoured by all creation as their divine Lord (vv. 9-11). Although this understanding of the passage has come under criticism, the evidence is decisive that Paul was, indeed, affirming the divine pre-existence of Christ. In verse 6, Paul says that Christ “though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited.” The natural way of understanding this statement – and the way that the vast majority of Christian interpreters historically have understood it – is that Christ existed “in the form of God” in heaven before he became a man. Thus, Paul goes on immediately to say that Christ “emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness,” and that he was “found in human form” (v, 7) …
Most of the scholarly debate regarding Philippians 2:6 focus’s on the meaning of the Greek word harpagmos. Since the word occurs only once in the Greek Bible and is rare in extrabiblical literature, scholars have limited lexical data on which to base their understanding of Paul’s intended meaning here. Some understand Paul to be saying that Jesus did not consider it “robbery” to be equal with God” (NKJV, following the KJV); others assert that Jesus did not consider equality with God something “to be grasped” (NASB, NIV, ESV). Still others maintain a more nuanced view, namely, that Jesus did not think of equality with God as “something to be exploited” (NRSV). Although the technical discussions of the meaning of harpagmos can be complex and confusing, this does not mean that we cannot really know what Paul was saying in Philippians 2:6. However harpagmos is translated, Paul is still affirming the divine pre-existence of Christ. The rendering “did not consider it robbery to be equal with God” (NKJV, following the KJV), which has the least support among biblical scholarship today, would mean that Christ was equal with God and did not think that he had taken that status wrongfully. The more common rendering “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” (NASB; cf. NIV, NET, ESV) would mean that the preexistent divine Christ did not try to seize recognition of his rightful status of equality with God, but chose to put the glory of the Father and the salvation of sinners ahead of his own glory. The rendering “did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited” (NRSV), now favoured by many and possibly a majority of commentators, would mean that Christ was equal with God but did not seek to take advantage of the status for his own persona; comfort or gain.
Although these ways of translating harpagmos are very different, the resulting ways of understanding the overarching thrust of the passage are essentially the same. Paul is saying that Christ was divine in his nature or glorious form but did not act in the self-serving manner one might have expected an omnipotent Deity to act, taking whatever he wanted and demanding to be treated as superior. This understanding fits the context well. Paul’s point is that although Christ was in God’s form and was (at least by right) God’s equal, he did not demand his divine rights but humbly took a servants form and became a human being. (31) Zaatari’s eisegetical mishandling of the scripture has no leg to stand on in light of scholarly research on the subject. Zaatari doesn’t address the argument that Philippians 2:6-11 fulfills Isaiah 45:21-24 either. Zaatari’s Unitarian handling of the Greek word ‘morphē’ (form) is also problematic. They claim that it only means that Jesus was a metaphorical outward appearance of the Father – perfectly representing him when it says “Who, being in the form of God.” This metaphorical representative interpretation doesn’t work. The passage is talking about Jesus being in heaven as the morphē (form) of God and then leaving that position thus becoming themorphē (form) of slave. Paul uses the same Greek word (morphē) in verse 7 describing Jesus becoming human in nature. With this in mind the only conclusion is that, just as Jesus was found in human morphē (lowered slave form), he was originally in the morphē (form of God) while in heaven before the incarnation. This is about Jesus having the glory and nature of God. Since Jesus Christ had the appearance (form) of God it means Jesus had the glory of God because God’s appearance or form is glory and divine exaltation. However, no creature can have the glory of God. Jesus isn’t a creature but instead the divine second person of the Trinity. Therefore Jesus preexisted having the glory of God and then he lowered himself having the nature of man in the first-century. That is what Paul is teaching here and that is why the Weymouth New Testament and the NIV translate this as Jesus being in the very “nature” (morphē) - God.
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have supremacy. (Colossians 1:16-18) Here Jesus is described as the creator of all things. Paul notes that Christ holds ALL THINGS together. In order to be able to do this Jesus would need to be all powerful, all knowing and everywhere. Creatorship, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence are attributes of God alone and thus when Paul proclaims that Jesus is the creator who holds ALL THINGS together he is affirming his Deity.

Muslim Objection:
Shabir Ally asserts: Paul believed that Jesus was an agent whom God used in creating the cosmos. (32)

Christian Response:
If we grant Ally’s interpretation it proves that Jesus is God according to Islam. Firstly, Ally doesn’t address the fact that it says Jesus sustains all things and holds them together. That alone entails Jesus’ Deity. In order for Jesus to hold all things together he would need to know what needs to be held together (all knowing), he would need to have the power to sustain it (all powerful), and he would need to be able to sustain all things at once in all places (everywhere). This means Jesus is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. These are attributes of God alone. But even with that said, in order for Christ to be the agent that the Father used to create the cosmos it would mean that according to Paul Jesus preexisted alone with the Father (and Spirit, Genesis 1:2). And it must mean that His existence and fellowship with the Father and the Spirit is eternal, for it doesn’t simply say He was before all things, as if there could have been a time before creation when the Son was not with the Father and the Holy Spirit; it says “He IS before all things” right now. This demonstrates that it was not the position of early Christians like Paul that Jesus was just a prophet who first saw life at birth. That is not the Jesus of the first-century. The Jesus of the first-century preexisted with the Father in glory, he had a part in creating all things (see also John 1:1-3), and he is now sustaining all creation.
However, according to Islam if this is true then that makes Jesus God. Remember the first classification of Tawheed (Islamic monotheism). Tawheed al-Rububiya: Unity of Lordship. Lest I be accused of re-defining the first classification of Tawheed, I will let Muslim apologists Zawadi and Zaatari define it: Allah is one in lordship. Muslims must believe that Allah is the sole lord who is in control of all things. He is the ultimate being who sustains and nourishes all things, and there is no one else who shares that kind of authority alongside with him. (33) Tawhid of Lordship, that there is only one God and that he is the creator of all things, in charge and owner of all things, and so on and so on. (34) Notice that according to these Muslim apologists Tawheed al-Rububiya means that God creates, sustains and controls all things alone. But wait, according to Colossians 1:16-18 Jesus had a part in creating all things. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who sustains and holds all things together! Thus, according to Islam Jesus is God. This should make people wonder why Shabir Ally asserts that the Bible doesn’t teach that Deity of Christ, when, in light of Islamic monotheism, Jesus has the unique attributes and characteristics of God. 1 & 2 Thessalonians
In the books of 1st and 2nd Thessalonians Jesus is said to return to earth with HIS saints/angels displaying great glory and might: so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all HIS saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:13) This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with HIS powerful angels. (2 Thessalonians 1:7) This very fact is reiterated in the gospel of Matthew and Mark:
‘For the Son of Man is to come with HIS angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.’ (Matthew 16:27) At that time men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.And he will send HIS angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. (Mark 13:26-27) Interestingly we read in the book of Psalms that the angels and saints belong to Yahweh! Yahweh is sovereign over all creation and thus it belongs to him. This shows that Jesus and Yahweh are one and the same since Jesus is said to own the angels and saints. Bless Jehovah, ye HIS angels, That are mighty in strength, that fulfil his word, Hearkening unto the voice of his word. (Psalm 103:20) Praise ye him, all HIS angels: Praise ye him, all his host. (Psalm 148:2)

Muslim Objection:
I was unable to find a Muslim objection to this argument or these passages. 1 Timothy
This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. (1 Timothy 2:3-6)

Muslim Objection:
Muslims often use these passages to assert that because it says that there is “one God” and then it later identifies Christ as “the Man Christ Jesus” therefore, according to their understanding, Jesus is distinct from God. Muslim apologist Shadid Lewis states: In first Timothy chapter two verse five, “there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” So God is on one side, mankind is on the other; in the middle is the mediator and the mediator is not God. The mediator himself is a man also. So I saw these claims and I said well Islam is speaking the truth then. (35)

Christian Response:
However, if Lewis was logically consistent he would have to also argue that Jesus cannot be man either since he is in the middle of BOTH God AND mankind, not just God. Thus, per his reasoning since Jesus is in the middle he must not be human after all! Moreover, despite the Muslim distortion of this scripture, 1 Timothy 2:3-6 can be used to establish the Deity of Christ if proper exegesis is utilized. Sedevacantist and traditional Catholic apologist Gerry Matatics argues that this verse actually affirms the Deity of Christ: Jesus Christ is the only unique mediator between God and man because he is the only one who is both God and man. That is what St. Paul is saying in 1 Timothy 2:4 when he says there is one God and one mediator between God and man the Man Christ Jesus. (36) To further clarify Mr. Matatics’ position I will say that according to Paul, all mankind is burdened with sin from birth. This doctrine of inherent sin can be found in the following passages: What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; (Romans 3:9) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23) So then, just as sin entered the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all people because all sinned. (Romans 5:12) The position of Paul, as well as the other New Testament writers, is that humanity is sinful inherently and in need of a saviour because of the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden. So it is clear that all humans have sinned according to Christian theology. However, these same New Testament authors exclaim that Jesus Christ became fully man, was sinless and the only one qualified to pay for our sin by dying on the cross as the unblemished lamb. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we areyet was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15) He committed no sin, nor was deception found in his mouth. (1 Peter 2:22) But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. (1 John 3:5) Since all humans have sinned and are unable to sufficiently atone for it themselves, the second person (Jesus) of the tri-personal God-head had to become a sinless man acting as mediator on our behalf. Man is corrupt and unable to save himself from his sinful ways but the God-man Jesus, who is 100% God and 100% man, incarnated himself into the world to redeem humanity. Matatics’ position on these passages is correct and it affirms the Deity of Christ because only God can live without sin, therefore God’s death in the cross has saving value and atonement. 2 Timothy
who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Timothy 1:9-10) This scripture indicates Christ’s preexistence with the Father and it implies his incarnation into the world. This is exactly what we would expect to find in Paul’s epistles if he supported the Deity of Christ. In order for Christ to be God he must have preexisted before his human life. New Testament scholar Dr. Gordon Donald Fee illustrates this point in his work ‘Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study’: Even though the “impoverishment” motif does not occur in this passage, the emphasis is once more on Christ’s preexistence and the genuineness of his incarnation. Christ’s preexistence is asserted by the clause “God saved us … in keeping with this own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” His incarnation is then expressed as, “but has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus.” Thus, this very Pauline concern finds expression in the corpus yet one more time. Christ preexisted with the Father, and at one point in human history he became incarnate in order to redeem. (37)

Muslim Objection:
I was unable to find a Muslim objection to this passage or argument. Continuing on Part IV

Monday, 11 January 2016

A Case for the Deity of Christ in Light of Muslim Objections, Part I

Keith Thompson
Is Jesus God? This is one of the main questions that have divided Christians and Muslims for hundreds of years. To the student who studies the Bible honestly there should be no question that Jesus Christ is presented as God in many Biblical passages. However, many Muslim apologists and liberal critics have attempted to take this notion to task. In this article I will build a Biblical case for the Deity of Christ and address the major Muslim objections to the Biblical data.

Muslim Admissions
Before we examine the Biblical proof texts for the Deity of Christ it is important to note that many Muslim apologists have already conceded that there are passages in the Bible that teach not only the Deity of Christ, but the Trinity as well. These admissions serve to show the utter inconsistency of Muslim apologists when it comes to Christian theology. Some will claim the Bible does not teach that Jesus is God anywhere and others will say that there are places that do teach it.
Muslim apologist Yahya Hayder Seymour not only conceded on radio that there are places in the Bible that teach Jesus is God, but he also concedes that the Gospel of John is a Trinitarian Gospel.
I would say definitely the Gospel of John is a Trinitarian Gospel. (1)
This is a contrast to what other Muslim apologists have said. For example Shabir Ally, a noted Muslim apologist, has remarked:
… both the Bible and the Qur’an teach that Jesus is not God. (2)
In an earlier article (3) I showed how Muslim apologist Sami Zaatari falsely assumed that the words in John 1:14 that were parenthesized in some English translations, were not originally in the Greek Biblical texts. The words which he said were added in later by English translators are these:
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, ASV)
In that article I demonstrated that those words, though parenthesized in some English translations, existed in the Greek texts and the early Church Fathers quoted them. Thus when Zaatari further states the following, he implicitly admits that the Bible teaches the Trinity:
As you can see, without the false biased brainwashing brackets the verse has no implications of any Trinity!
So in the realm of Muslim apologetics there is no consensus on this issue of what the Bible teaches about Jesus. Moreover, Muslim apologist Bassam Zawadi contradicts the other Muslim position which asserts that nowhere does the Bible teach that Jesus is God. Zawadi states:
I do not take the position that the entire New Testament (especially the writings of Paul) does not teach the Trinity. I only take the position that Jesus himself did not teach this doctrine in any of the four gospels. (4)
So it appears that although many Muslims are bold enough to claim that nowhere in the entire Bible is the Deity of Christ or the Trinity presented, other Muslim defenders take the more realistic yet flawed approach which says that Jesus didn’t teach the Trinity but some parts of the Bible do teach this.
Biblical Argumentation
In this article we will look at Biblical passages from every New Testament book which teach that Jesus is God or have Jesus presenting himself as God. We will go through the three synoptic Gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke – as well as the Gospel of John. Then we will look at Acts, Paul’s writings, James, First and Second Peter, First and Second John, Jude, and Revelation. I will systematically demonstrate that every New Testament book, with the exception of 3 John, teaches the Deity of Christ in one way or another. Then we will address the common Muslim objections to these verses. Although it can be shown relatively easily that Jesus is God in the Old Testament Hebrew scriptures, this article will focus solely on the New Testament data.
For proof that Jesus is God according to the Old Testament see the following papers:

(Though many of the narratives are often paralleled in the four Gospels, the point I am trying to make is that every single New Testament book affirms Christ’s Deity.)
Muslim apologists have attempted to address the majority of the passages I am about to present. However, they have not addressed a small number of them so the few that they have not yet attempted to address will be unchallenged in this article.
Gospel of Matthew
I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:6-8)
Here Jesus demonstrates his Deity by affirming that he is distinct from all creation and greater than the temple of God - the place that housed the glory of God. No creature can claim to be greater than God’s abode. He also states that he is Lord of the Sabbath, a glorious divine title which is very similar to how Yahweh is described in the Old Testament. Only God deserves these titles and this appears to be one of the reasons why the Jews wanted to kill him in Matthew 12:14.
Muslim Objection:
Typically Muslims will raise five objections to these passages. 1. They will say that in Matthew 12 Jesus allowed the disciples to pick some heads of grain and eat on the Sabbath when they were hungry and therefore since they violated the Sabbath along with Jesus in a sense this is nothing special. 2. They will say in Matthew 12 Jesus talks about David and his companions entering the temple on the Sabbath in the Old Testament where they consecrated bread which was not lawful for them to do. From that they will conclude that Jesus’ statements are nothing special. 3. They will cite John 7:23 where circumcision was practiced on the Sabbath – thus, it is not so uncommon and does not prove Jesus is God. 4. They will claim that when Mark 2:27-28 says the following; it means that everyone is Lord of the Sabbath: “Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’” 5. They will say that the titles “Lord of the Sabbath” and “Greater than the temple” are just titles and honours that were given to him by God in John 13:3, therefore they do not imply that Jesus is God.
Christian Response:
On point 1 and 2, Christ, being God and heir of all creation (Hebrews 1:2), had the power and authority to explain the Sabbath, redefine it, and to allow his disciples to do what they did, thus proving a very important point about who Jesus is and what unique authority he has. The Sabbath was created by God for man so he can rest. It is supposed to help man but if man is hungry on the Sabbath and has to work for his food then he should be able to do so. This is what is indicated here. This is why Christ referenced the OT story of David and his companions eating consecrated bread on the Sabbath. It is because the Sabbath is meant to help man, and since food helps to sustain man, there is no point in going hungry on the Sabbath. If Sabbath rest benefits the people with the rest it provides, going hungry defeats the purpose. Yes, breaking the Sabbath was punishable by death but there were some cases where it was allowed and was not considered breaking the Sabbath at all. Other people like David “breaking the Sabbath” before Christ doesn’t take anything away from Christ being called “greater than the temple” or “Lord of the Sabbath.” The titles bestowed upon him are not simply due to these Matthew 12 teachings and actions regarding the Sabbath. The titles belong to him because of his nature. The context answers point 1 and 2 and the Muslim argumentation is shown to be problematic and irrelevant.
With respect to point 3, Church Father Augustine provides the commentary: “Because circumcision refers to a particular sign of salvation, and people should not give themselves a rest from salvation on the Sabbath. ‘So then, do not be angry with me, because I have saved the whole man on the Sabbath. (John 7:23).’”(5) This is what Christ was communicating to his Jewish audience. This takes nothing away from the glorious titles of Jesus either.
Regarding point 4, the Muslims read too much into Mark 2 when they conclude that this means all men are Lord of the Sabbath. Mark 2:27-28 states:
Then he said to them, ‘The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So theSon of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.’
This verse declares that the Son of Man is Lord even over the Sabbath – not all men or mankind. This would be offensive to God, as God is the true creator and Lord of the Sabbath. Just because there were exceptions to the rule that were not really considered as breaking Sabbath, that does not mean that man is Lord of the Sabbath either; he was still strictly subject to it. The Sabbath day is the Lord’s Day. Only God is truly sovereign or Lord over the Sabbath with the power to overrule it completely – as Jesus did by becoming our Sabbath rest.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God's rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his. (Hebrews 4:9-10)
We are no longer bound to works of the law. We are set free and as such Jesus Christ is indeed Lord of the Sabbath. It is in him where we have rest. He becomes our Sabbath and thus the title ‘Lord of the Sabbath’ is very appropriate because it not only shows his divine authority and deity but it also shows how he is now our rest in place of the Sabbath day.
The scholar and former president of Columbia International University, J. Robertson McQuilkin explains why Mark 2:27-28 has it so that Jesus alone is Lord of the Sabbath as opposed to all mankind:
“Some interpret this to mean that all sons of men (mankind) are lord of the Sabbath and can do as they please on this day. But it is impossible to interpret the passage this way because “Son of Man” is a technical term that Christ uses in referring to himself as the Messiah. In the parallel passage in Matthew 12, immediately before he says “the Son of man is lord of the Sabbath,” he identifies the Son of Man as “greater than the temple,” a clear reference to himself. Christ is speaking of himself as being lord of the Sabbath.” (6)
Moreover, just a few verses before this statement, Jesus declared that “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mark 2:10). There cannot be any doubt that “the Son of Man” in this context does not refer to “man” in general.
Now, with respect to point five which is that according to John 13:3 Jesus was given the titles “greater than the temple” and “Lord of the Sabbath” by the Father (7), Muslims seem to think that because the Father gave Jesus those titles of honour and glory that therefore Jesus isn’t God. The whole crux of the argument is that according to Old Testament passages such as Leviticus 23:3, God is the Lord of the Sabbath because it is His. He created it and it therefore belongs to Him.
… It is the LORD's Sabbath day … (Leviticus 23:3)
… For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. (Matthew 12:8)
Secondly, only God Almighty is greater than the temple because it belongs to him and it is where God’s glory is contained.
… Solomon also made all the furnishings that were in the LORD's temple. (1 Kings 7:48)
I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. (Matthew 12:6)
Since Jesus is Lord, we are told in Malachi 3:1 that Yahweh’s temple is “his temple”:
Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lordwhom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts.
The reason why the Father gave the Son these glorious titles and honours is because they rightly belong to the Son and they demonstrate who he really is - God. He is the incarnate Son of God – the second person of the tri-personal God-head. Isaiah 42:8 tells us that God’s glory belongs to no one but him. It states:
I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.
The reason the Father could give Jesus this glory in the form of titles – the same Glory he says only belongs to him, is because Jesus is also fully God so there is no contradiction – he is giving the glory to himself in a sense. The Father, Son and Spirit are one being and three persons. Jesus was not simply given these titles because he is an exalted prophet. This would go against the Father’s previous exhortation in Isaiah 42:8. It would go against the clear Old Testament teachings that have God as Lord of the Sabbath and temple. Thus it is quite clear that after one assesses both the Muslim and the Christian point of view on Matthew 12:6-8, Jesus declares himself God by identifying himself as greater than the temple and Lord of the Sabbath.
As Dr. Frederick Dale Bruner remarks: … For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.’ Therefore what Jesus, the Son of Man, says about Sabbath observance is decisive. According to the law of God (Exod 20:10; Lev 23:3, Deut 5:14), the Sabbath day is “for” and “to” Yahweh; he is Lord of the Sabbath. Hence Jesus is making a second indirect reference, after his “a greater than the temple is here,” to what the later church rightly called Jesus’ deity. (8)
Gospel of Mark
But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are youthe Christ, the Son of the Blessed One? "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked. "You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?" They all condemned him asworthy of death. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, "Prophesy!" And the guards took him and beat him. (Mark 14: 61-65)
Here Jesus not only claims to be the unique Son of the blessed God, but he also claims that he will be seated at the right hand of the Father – co-occupying God’s throne. He claims to be the prophesied Son of Man from the Old Testament book of Daniel who happens to be God and is said to come on the clouds of Heaven.
In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nationsand men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlastingdominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)
In verse 14 where it says all peoples, nations, and men of every language worshiped him, the transliterated word for worship there is ‘pĕlach’ (Aramaic); which derives from the Hebrew root word ‘Peal’ פָּלַח. When the word appears in the Old Testament it is either used in reference to the special worship of God Almighty, or the special worship of false gods by people of other beliefs. This is divine worship yet this Son of Man, Jesus Christ, receives this worship indicating that he is God.
The statements of Jesus in Mark 14:61-65 that show he is the Son of Man referenced in Daniel 7 were considered so blasphemous that the high priest tore his clothes. They knew he was claiming Deity here. If the Daniel 7 Son of Man is a person who is able to approach the Ancient of days, receive authority, glory, power, worship from all people, and everlasting dominion then that person is above all humanity sharing the attributes and glory of God. This Son of Man would have to be God and the high priest understood this. Those at the trial likewise understood this to be a blasphemous statement of uniqueness and Deity and thus they spit on him, beat him, and demanded he be put to death.
Muslim Objection:
Commenting on this argument for Christ’s Deity popular Muslim apologist Shabir Ally states:
This is reported variously in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Matthew and Luke’s versions we have it that Jesus did not actually affirm the title, he said you are the ones claiming that I am in essence. And to say that Jesus comes on the clouds of heaven proves that he is God himself - that would be to say that God could not do this for one of his creatures. (9)
Christian Response: Both of Ally’s criticisms here are invalid. Historians and scholars recognize that Jesus was not merely saying “you are the ones claiming that I am the Son,” to these Jews, so as to deny that he is the Son. Jesus was in fact affirming that he is the Son in all three accounts – Matthew, Mark and Luke; two of which simply contain Jewish idiom’s to get the message across.
As Dr. Darrell L. Bock explains: Though there is variation and difference in detail, the gist of the replies is the same. Whether Jesus said “I am” or used the idiomYou are right in saying I am” – an ancient expression that means, “It is as you say but not with the sense you mean” – he affirmed his identification as Messiah, Son of God. (10)
Remember, when dealing with minor variations or inconsistencies we do not throw out the sources, we use the historical method to determine what the original statement probably was. In this case all three accounts have it so that Jesus is affirming that he is indeed the Son after being asked. The only difference is that the affirmative answer is given in two different ways – one in Matthew and Luke with a clever idiom and the other in Mark with a straightforward “I am.” The principle is there in all three narratives. Mark is the earliest so many would say his account is probably correct. However if the accounts in Matthew and Luke are correct and based on a tradition or source that pre-dates Mark then that is okay too. They all get the same message across. Moreover, in all three accounts Jesus goes on to say that he is the Son of Man seated at the right hand of God which is the main point of the passage in that it is an appeal to Daniel 7. By identifying himself as the Son of Man found in Daniel 7 he is identifying himself as God.
It becomes evident that one is justified in using these Biblical passages as evidence for Christ’s Deity, despite having examined the Muslim objection.
Ally’s second argument is that God can do this for one of his creatures. This assertion is not only blasphemous according to the Bible but it is also blasphemous according to Islamic teachings regarding monotheism. ‘Tawheed’ is an Islamic principle that means ‘Islamic monotheism’ and is often divided into three categories.
John Eberly explains: Tawheed: (or Tawhid, etc.) Is of three kinds: - Tawheed al-Rububiya: Unity of Lordship. - Tawheed al-Uloohiya: Unity of Worship. - Tawheed al-Asma was-Sifat: Unity of the Names and qualities of God. (11)
Sam Shamoun brought this excellent type of argumentation to my attention. Ally is violating Islamic monotheism when he asserts that it is okay for God to give a creature the attributes and privileges found in Daniel 7 and Mark 14. God giving this type of glory and honour to anyone but himself would result in a violation of these three classifications of Tawheed. For example Jesus receives sovereign power and Lordship over all peoples. This violates Tawheed al-Rububiya. Jesus receives worship from every nation. This violates Tawheed al-Uloohiya. Jesus is identified as the Son of the Most High. This would seem to violate Tawheed al-Asma was-Sifat in that when Jesus is called Son of the Most High it denotes his unique relationship to the Father as well as the fact that he bears the nature of God. And since the nature of God is a quality of God this violates Tawheed al-Asma - the names and qualities of God.
It is equally as blasphemous Biblically for a mere creature to receive this kind of honour and glory. We read in Isaiah 44:6-8, Jeremiah 10:10, and Joel 3:12 that God alone is the eternal King and eternal ruler, yet Jesus receives authority over every person and nation. Jesus has an everlasting kingdom and serves as the ruler.
Ally’s second response to Daniel 7 and Mark 14 is therefore incorrect. If Jesus isn’t God and yet receives this honour and glory it not only violates Islamic Tawheed but it also violates Biblical instruction.
The scholars Robert M. Bowman, J. Ed Komoszewski, and Darrell L. Bock point out that:
Thus, when Jesus answers affirmatively that he is the Son of God and then immediately adds statements claiming to sit on God’s throne at his right hand, exercising divine power in heaven, his response confirms that he is, indeed, claiming to be on the same level as God. (12)
Gospel of Luke
In the Old Testament book of Isaiah it was prophesied that God himself would appear to his people after a voice crying in the wilderness prepares his way:
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries: "In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealedand all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken." … Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, "Behold your God!" Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11, ESV)
This was fulfilled in the New Testament when John the Baptist, the voice crying in the wilderness, prepared the way for God Almighty.
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.'" (Luke 3:1-6, ESV)
John the Baptist, the voice of one crying in the wilderness, is making the way for Yahweh so that Yahweh God could appear to his people as the scriptures prophesied. John the Baptist declares that he is making the way for Jesus Christ:
John answered them all, saying, "I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. (Luke 3:16, ESV)
He [John the Baptist] said, "I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,'Make straight the way of the Lord,' as the prophet Isaiah said." (John 1:23, ESV)
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, 'After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.' I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel." And John bore witness: "I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, 'He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.' And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God." (John 1:29-34, ESV)
This means that when Jesus appears it is Yahweh appearing because Jesus is Yahweh.
To summarize: These verses affirm (1) that John the Baptist is the voice of one crying in the wilderness who makes the way for Yahweh God prophesied in the Old Testament book of Isaiah. However, (2) John the Baptist made the way for Jesus Christ! Therefore, (3) Jesus Christ is Yahweh God who was predicted to come to his people!
Muslim Objection:
Osama Abdullah takes issue with the Isaiah 40 prophecy itself when in verse 5 it says, “and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Osama responds:
“All flesh shall see it? I haven’t seen it yet.”(13)

Christian Response:
Although it’s quite clear that Isaiah says a voice in the wilderness will herald Yahweh’s coming and that this was fulfilled by John the Baptist introducing Christ, Osama is confused about “all flesh” seeing the salvation of God. Even though Yahweh God himself was seen, as promised in Isaiah, when Christ (Yahweh) was introduced by the Baptist and then appeared to his people, the salvation itself that this appearance entails would not be seen by all flesh until the Gospel message is spread all over the world. Knowing this, Christ gave these commands:
And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14, ESV)
And he said to them, "Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. (Mark 16:15, ESV)
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19, ESV)
Therefore, Yahweh God himself was seen in the first-century when Christ appeared, and the salvation of this appearing is seen all over the world in the form of the Gospel message contained in the Bible and in preaching. Therefore, Jesus is Yahweh who appeared to his people and his salvation is being seen now by all flesh.
Continuing on Part II