Saturday, 5 November 2016

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

Continuing from Part I

Gospel of John
There are many places in the Gospel of John that we can look to for proofs that Jesus is God. My favourite example in John is Thomas’s confession of faith to Jesus after he had risen from the dead and appeared bodily to him.

Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed. (John 20:28-29)

Notice that Thomas calls Jesus his Lord and his God. Instead of rebuking Thomas Jesus blesses his confession of faith showing that Jesus was not opposed to being identified as Lord God, but he welcomed it because he is the divine Son – the second person of the Trinity.

Muslim Objection:
Muslim apologists like Zawadi and Zaatari have provided a few objections to these passages. They will say that Thomas was only referring to Jesus as Lord and that he was referring to the Father as God right after. Or they will assert that when Thomas says “my Lord and my God” it was because he was surprised and joyful similar to someone saying “Oh my God!” Zaatari states:

Another very easy interpretation is that when Thomas said My Lord and My God, he was not actually referring to Jesus … I am saying that Thomas was joyful, happy, and he was PRAISING GOD. (14)

They will say that even if Jesus was the one identified as Lord and God the words kyrios and theos are not simply limited to God but other people were identified with them. They will also quote the 19th century Trinitarian J.D. Michaelis asserting that this verse doesn’t affirm the Deity of Christ:

“My Lord! and my God!”   do not understand this as an address to Jesus; but thus, "Yes: he it is indeed! He, my Lord, and my God!" Yet, in giving this interpretation, I do not affirm that Thomas passed all at once from the extreme of doubt to the highest degree of faith, and acknowledged Christ to be the true God. This appears to me too much for the then existing knowledge of the disciples; and we have no intimation, that they recognised the divine nature of Christ, before the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. I am therefore inclined to understand this expression, which broke out from Thomas in the height of his astonishment, in a figurative sense, denoting only, "Whom I shall ever reverence in the highest degree." If he only recollected what he had heard from the mouth of Jesus ten days before (chap. xiv. 9, 10), that recollection might have given occasion to an expression which probably Thomas himself could not have perfectly explained; as is often the case with such words as escape us when we are under the most overpowering surprise. But yet the expression might be equivalent to saying, "He! my Lord! with whom God is most intimately united, and is in him! - In whom I behold God, as it were, present before me!" Or a person raised from the dead might be regarded as a divinity; for the word God is not always used in the strict doctrinal sense. (15)

Christian Response:
In light of recent scholarship and the facts concerning the Greek language I am wondering how one might assume that Thomas was not addressing Jesus as God but instead identifying the Father as God. As the authors of ‘Putting Jesus in His Place: A Case for the Deity of Christ’ state:

There is essentially no controversy among biblical scholars that in John 20:28 Thomas is referring to and addressing Jesus when he says, “My Lord and my God
As Harris says in is lengthy study on Jesus as God in the New Testament, “This view prevails among grammarians, lexicographers, commentators and English versions.” Indeed, it is difficult to find any contemporary exegetical commentary or academic study that argues that Thomas’s words in John 20:28 apply in context to the Father rather than to Jesus. The reason is simple: John prefaces what Thomas said with the words, “Thomasanswered and said to Him” (v. 28a NASB). This seemingly redundant wording reflects a Hebrew idiomatic way of introducing someone’s response to the previous speaker. John uses it especially frequently, always with the speakers words directed to the person or persons who have just spoken previously in the narrative (John 1:48, 50; 2:18-19; 3:3. 9-10, 27; 4:10, 13, 17; 5-11l 6:26, 29, 43; 7:16, 21, 52; 8:14, 39, 48; 9-11, 20, 30, 34, 36; 12:30; 13:7; 14:23; 18:30; 20:28). It is therefore certain that Thomas was directing his words to Jesus, not to the Father. (16)

Muslims claim that kyrios (Lord) and theos (God) don’t have to mean God Almighty so therefore even if Jesus was identified as such other people were too and thus Jesus isn’t God. The problem with this argument is that it doesn’t address the fact that the Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament Hebrew scriptures uses the exact phraseology in reference to Yahweh and that John was most certainly drawing from this phraseology of the Septuagint on purpose to affirm the Deity of Christ. If we compare the Greek from some Old Testament passages in the Septuagint that are addressing and glorifying Yahweh as the Lord and God of men, to the Greek in John 20:28 that addresses Jesus as Lord and God, it becomes quite clear that John was drawing from these Old Testament sayings and applying the same language that belongs to Yahweh to Jesus Christ.

and the Lord my God (kyrios ho theos mou) shall come, and all the saints with him. (Zechariah 14:5)

O Lord my God (kyrie ho theos mou)
, in thee have I trusted: save me from all them that persecute me, and deliver me… O Lord my God (kyrie ho theos mou), if I have done this; (if there is unrighteousness in my hands;) … Arise, O Lord (kyrie), in thy wrath; be exalted in the utmost boundaries of mine enemies: awake, O Lord my God (kyrie ho theos mou), according to the decree which thou didst command. (Psalm 7:2, 4. 7)

Awake, O Lord, and attend to my judgment, even to my cause, my God and my Lord (ho theos mou kai ho kyrios mou). (Psalm 34:23)

Notice the similar Greek phraseology in John 20:28 now:

And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God
(Kyrios mou kai Theos mou)

This is phraseology that belongs strictly to God in the Old Testament and it was applied to Jesus. We know that the New Testament writers had access to and quoted this Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament on a continual basis. As the eminent scholar Dr. Bruce Metzger states:

 [When]… the New Testament writers quoted from the Old Testament, they almost always used the Septuagint version. (17)

To reiterate the point, whenever the two words kyrios and theos appear together in the same sentence they are never applied to anyone else but God himself. This helps to demonstrate that in John 20:28 Jesus is being identified as God Almighty.
John 20:28 serves as the Christological climax at the end of John’s Gospel. Jesus’ true identity is now realized by the Apostle. This is the whole point of the verse.

With respect to the Muslim appeal to the outdated “scholarship” of the 19th century Trinitarian J.D. Michaelis – he doesn’t address the argumentation based on the Greek parallels to the Septuagint or the Greek text in John itself. He was probably not even familiar with the argumentation. He merely gives his liberal subjective opinion based on rhetoric and the assertion that no one affirmed the Deity of Christ prior to the resurrection. Until and unless the issues that I raised are dealt with, the outdated quotation from Michaelis is simply irrelevant. I can quote Christian, Agnostic and liberal scholars who state that John 20:28 affirms the Deity of Christ which makes the Muslim appeal to Michaelis meaningless.

The Christian scholar Dr. Geoffrey W. Bromiley, author of the ‘International Standard Bible Dictionary’ states:

Jesus’ identification as God incarnate is evident when Thomas greets the risen Jesus, ‘My Lord and my God!’ (18)

The Agnostic scholar Dr. Bart Ehrman states:

The Gospel of John … goes a long way toward identifying Jesus himself as divine (see e.g., John 8:58; 10:30; 20:28). (19)

The late Dr. Raymond Brown notes that the extremely skeptical liberal New Testament scholar, the late Dr. Rudolf Bultmann acknowledged that John 20:28 affirms the Deity of Christ. Bultmann notes that in John 20:28 Jesus is, “… undoubtedly designated or, more exactly, addressed as God.” (20)

Merely quoting Michaelis is not going to get Muslim apologists very far in light of admissions like these. Instead of quoting outdated liberals who were unfamiliar with the modern arguments, Muslims ought to deal with what is actually being said about the verses today. To see a full discussion on John 20:28 where Brother Shamoun utterly refutes Zawadi go here (
1, 2, 3).

After examining this detailed assessment it therefore follows that John 20:28 is a weighty proof text for affirming the clear cut Deity of Christ.

Acts of the Apostles
In the books of Acts, as well as through out the entire New Testament, the apostles were ordered to, and were themselves baptizing people in the name of Jesus Christ. We see this in Acts 2:38:

Peter replied, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

This is often overlooked as some kind of interesting Christian ritual that doesn’t amount to much Christologically. However, recent studies have been conducted that convincingly demonstrate that the Christian baptismal rites or rituals involving the phrase “in the name of” were similar and probably in response to popular cults in whose said ritual the God was the one who they were baptised into or ritualized “in the name of.” As Lars Hartman notes:

The rites are performed ‘into the name’ of the god, to whose cult the rite belongs or who is otherwise associated with the rite in question.
This god is the fundamental referent of the rite; he/she is the one whom the worshipper ‘has in mind’ or ‘with regard to;’ whom the rite is performed and who thus makes it meaningful. (21)

Since Jesus is the one we are baptized in the name of, or into, it therefore follows that in light of these important previous cultural practices – Jesus is the God of the Christians.

Muslim Objection:

After searching for a Muslim objection to this argument I was not even able to find one.

Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen. (Romans 9:5)

Here Paul identifies Jesus Christ as God over all and forever praised. This is a very clear witness to the Deity of Christ and Muslims have very little to offer in response to this specific verse.

Muslim Objection:
Zaatari remarks: If Paul did teach that Jesus is God then he is indeed an anti-Christ since Jesus never claimed to be God, nor was it his mission to make people believe in that. Jesus made it clear that he was a prophet, a man sent from God to the children of Israel to bring them back to God. That was his mission; Jesus would rebuke Paul if Paul taught that Jesus is God.

Christian Response:
Here Zaatari implicitly admits that the Bible teaches that Jesus is God – debate over. However, with regard to Zaatari’s actual assertion which is in the form of an objection, we have already seen that in previous passages Jesus is identified as God and that Jesus believed he was God. The statements of Jesus that we have covered so far found in Matthew 12:6-8; Mark 14:61-65; and John 20:29 show that Jesus considered himself God and would thus never condemn Paul for teaching Jesus’ Deity. If Jesus would condemn Paul for saying he is God then why didn’t Jesus condemn Thomas for saying that he is God in John 20:28?
Jesus blessed Thomas in verse 29 after he said Jesus was God. If anything Jesus would bless Apostle Paul as well.

1 Corinthians
So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many "gods" and many "lords"), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom welive. (1 Corinthians 8:4-6)

1 Corinthians 8:6 establishes that the Father (who Paul commonly calls God) is distinct from Jesus (who is also called God by Paul in certain places) in personhood. However, Jesus and the Father are of the same being (nature/substance/essence) preexisting together with the Holy Spirit. Paul is communicating that they were both present at the time of creation and it is through Jesus that all things were made. Jesus is co-creator along with the Father. What Paul is indicating is that the Father and Jesus are distinct persons (“person” is who you are), yet of the same being (“being” is what you are). It is obvious that Paul is identifying Jesus as a member of the God-head because Paul was a scholar of the Old Testament and he knew that according to the Hebrew Scriptures God was alone when he created all things:

He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea. (Job 9:8)

This is what the LORD says—your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,” (Isaiah 44:24)

But the God of Israel is no idol!
He is the Creator of everything that exists, including his people, his own special possession. The LORD of Heaven's Armies is his name! (Jeremiah 51:19)

How could God be alone creating everything if Jesus was there with him and it was through Jesus that all things were made? It is because God is multi-personal and that Jesus is the second member of the God-head, which would allow for God to be alone yet with Christ and the Holy Spirit simultaneously.

Muslim Objection:
Muslim apologist Shadid Lewis states: We even see in some of the writings of Paul for example in 1 Corinthians chapter 8 verse 6.
“For us there is but one God.” Who is that? The Father, according to Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 8 verse 6. (23)

Christian Response:
Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries gives a lengthy discussion on Lewis’s misuse of 1 Corinthians 8:6 (
here). What Lewis doesn’t seem to understand is that while Paul is indeed affirming and quoting the Shema’ ("Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one," found inDeuteronomy 6:4), he is also including Jesus in the formula making it mandatory for Christians to honor and view Christ as they honor and view the Father. Lewis didn’t quote the rest of the verse either which inserts Jesus into this new Christianized version of the Shema’ affirming Christ’s co-creatorship as well.

yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

Paul is indicating that although monotheism is true, Jesus deserves our unique devotion along with God the Father by first affirming that God the Father is one, creator of all things, and then by saying that the Lord Jesus is one, creator of all things. To illustrate this further I will consult Dr. Richard Bauckham’s exegesis of 1 Corinthians 8:6 found in his work ‘God Crucified: Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament’:

Paul’s concern in this context is explicitly monotheistic. The issue of eating meat offered to idols and participation in temple banquets is an instance of the highly traditional Jewish monotheistic concern for loyalty to the only true God in a context of pagan polytheistic worship. What Paul does is to maintain this Jewish monotheistic concern in a Christian interpretation for which loyalty to the only true God entails loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ. He takes up from the Corinthians’ letter (at the end of verse 4) the typical Jewish monotheistic formula ‘there is no God except one’ in order to agree with it and to give, in verse 6, his own fuller monotheistic formulation, which contrasts the ‘many gods and many Lords’ of the Corinthians’ pagan environment (verse 5) with the one God and one Lord to whom Christians owe exclusive allegiance. Verse 6 is a carefully formulated statement … It should be quite clear that Paul is including the Lord Jesus Christ in the unique divine identity. He is redefining monotheism as Christological monotheism. (24)

The Muslim objection posed by Shadid Lewis demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of 1 Corinthians 8:6. This passage affirms the Deity of Christ and should be utilized by Christians in dialogues with Muslims once the Christians understand the true significance and meaning of the passage.

2 Corinthians
as you have understood us in part, you will come to understand fully that you can boast of us just as we will boast of you in the day of the Lord Jesus. (2 Corinthians 1:14)

Here Paul speaks of the day of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a common theme in Paul’s letters. He speaks of the day of the Lord in other passages as well such as 2 Timothy 1:18; Philippians 1:6, 10, 2:16; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-2. The day of the Lord Jesus is in reference to his second appearance, the glorious second coming. However, by using this kind of language about Jesus i.e., “day of the Lord Jesus,” Paul shows that he believes Jesus is Yahweh because according to the Old Testament they were expecting the day of Yahweh and his glorious return!

Alas for the day! For the day of the LORD is near, and as destruction from the Almighty it comes. (Joel 1:15)

Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near … The LORD utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful.
For the day of the LORD is great and very awesome; who can endure it? … The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. (Joel 2:1, 11, 31)

Therefore, on the day of the Lord Jesus, when he returns, it is actually the day of Yahweh because he is returning.
The conclusion is that Jesus is Yahweh.

Muslim Objection:
I was unable to find a response to this particular argument.

According to the Hebrew Scriptures men gained justification by believing in Yahweh. Apostle Paul understood this to be true and thus quoted Genesis 15:6 in his epistle to the Galatians:

In the same way, "Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith." (Galatians 3:6)

However, in the very same letter Paul makes it clear that it is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ that grants eternal justification. Thus, according to Paul, faith in Yahweh and faith in the person of Jesus Christ is the exact same thing.

know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. Sowe, toohave put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16)

Here belief in Christ has the same power as belief in Yahweh with respect to justification of human beings. Just as faith in Yahweh granted justification, so does faith in Christ. Jesus is Yahweh in that it is in him that eternal justification is found.

Show us your unfailing love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation. (Psalm 85:7)

Remember me, O LORD, in Your favour toward Your people; Visit me with Your salvation (Psalm 106:4)

Muslim Objection:
I was unable to find a Muslim objection to this argument.

and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, FAR ABOVE ALL RULE AND AUTHORITY AND POWER AND DOMINION, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him WHO FILLS ALL IN ALL. (Ephesians 1:19-23)

In these passages Paul is stating that the Lord Jesus has been exalted to the highest position imaginable, one belonging to God. He further describes Jesus as fully possessing the essential attributes and honor of God such as omnipresence, power, rulership, sovereignty, dominion, and the name or authority that is above all authority and rule. Amazingly, Paul says that the church is the body of Christ and that Christ spiritually fills his entire church with his presence and also filling everything else as well (cf. Ephes. 4:7-10). This is an attribute of Almighty God because only he is everywhere and is able to fill all things.

As Dr. B.W. Johnson puts it: The fullness of him. The church is a manifestation of the fullness of Christ, the body filled by his life, who filleth all in all. Filleth all things with his majesty and power. The object of the last four verses is to describe Christ's glories. These are: (1) His resurrection; (2) His Exaltation to God's Right Hand; (3) His Supreme Dominion; (4) His Headship to the Church, his Body, filled with His Fullness. These glories all follow his stooping unto the death of the cross. He abased himself that he might be exalted. See Heb 12:2. (26)

Professor Emeritus of New Testament Exegesis and honorary research professor at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, Dr. I. Howard Marshall notes: Now Christ is said to “fill” everything. Similarly, in Ephesians 1:23 Paul states that the church is “the fullness of him who fills everything in every way”. These statements indicate that the divine characteristic of being everywhere present is now shared with Christ. Probably the emphasis is on the fact that Christ is present in this way in the church, but the point of Ephesians 4:10 seems to be rather to emphasize the exaltation and omnipotence of Christ.

Muslim Objection:
I was unable to find a Muslim objection to this specific argument to Christ’s omniscience.

Continuing on Part III



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