Wednesday March 19, 2008
Further clarification of the Muslim point of view of Jesus Christ, the Messiah
Hameed Abdul Karim
First let me thank Lucien Perera for praying for me in his response (DM 27 February, 2008) to my article on the Muslims’ viewpoint of Jesus Christ which I wrote out of my faith and love for Jesus Christ (peace be on him) as a Muslim. I too wish him well.
I am happy Mr. Perera accepts the contradictory reports of Judas’ suicide as found in the Bible. He then goes on to say the core point is that Judas did commit suicide and the manner in which it happened is a secondary point. That may be so. But the crucial issue we were discussing was the divinity of the Revered Jesus Christ. So the question that comes to mind is whether we can attach any reliability or significance to the statements by Gospel writers which Christians interpret to claim that Jesus Christ was divine (meaning God) if they cannot get right a non-controversial issue like the manner in which Judas committed suicide.
To support the claim of human authorship of the Bible I had quoted Dr. Hans Kung who says in his book ‘Infallible’ that ‘nowhere do the books of the New Testament claim to have fallen directly from heaven: on the contrary, often enough they quite candidly emphasise their human origin’.
To add to what Dr. Kung had said let me quote St. Luke. According to his Gospel St Luke seems to be writing for the ‘edification of one Theophilus whom he refers to as ‘Your Excellency’. Judging by the 2nd verse of the very first chapter it looks like the writer is not a disciple of Jesus because he says ‘what we have been told by those who were eyewitnesses and who proclaimed the message’. But what is significant is that Luke does not claim any divine guidance for his Gospel.
Furthermore a cursory glance of chapter 9 verse 9 of the Gospel of St. Matthew will indicate that it was not the disciple Matthew, the tax collector, who wrote this Gospel.
So, can one claim divinity for any person going by a book that is not of divine origin?
Far from claiming divinity or any equality with God almighty the Revered Jesus Christ, the righteous servant of God that he was, got so upset when someone called him ‘good master’ that he admonished him saying ‘why do you call me good: there is none good but one, that is God’ (Matthew 19:16-17).
Forgiving sins is the prerogative of any prophet of God and sure Jesus forgave many people. But remember that while he was on the cross he prayed to his God to forgive the sins of his enemies ‘for they know not what they do’. Isn’t that right?
I never said that the Revered Jesus is not the Christ. So 1 John 2:22 does not apply to me. I am a Muslim and I am proclaiming to the world that Jesus is the Christ! But the word ‘Christ’ is a Greek word that means ‘to anoint’. In Hebrew the word for ‘Christ’ is ‘Messiah’ and in Arabic ‘Masih’. The actual word in Greek is ‘Christos’: the West europeanised the word to ‘Christ’ by chopping off the last two letters.
But anointment does not confer divinity by any stretch of the imagination. In those days the Jews used to anoint a lot of person and even material things. Anointment was done for the purpose of seeking divine blessings. Consequently we read that pillars were anointed as reported in Genesis 31:13. Even priests were ‘messiahs’ according to Leviticus 4:3. The prophet Moses anointed a ‘tabernacle and all things that were therein’ (Leviticus 8:10)
Mr. Perera opens a new front saying that I have missed the ‘S’ factor claiming that when Jesus is described as a Son of God a capital ‘S’ is used but when the other Sons are mentioned a small ‘s’ is used. Then he announces ‘this is a great difference’. I am sorry to point out that the Greek language from which the Bibles are translated does not have capital letters in its system. As far as I know Eastern languages don’t have capital letters in their systems. So in this regard if anyone were to accuse Bible translators of an inconsistency and even dishonesty in translation then they would not be wrong.
Jesus is called savior because the name in Hebrew means ‘God Saves’. Once again we would be mistaken if we were to attribute divinity to Jesus on account of his name because there were many Jews who had the name Jesus before and after the Messiah. In fact the Revised Edition of Smith’s Bible Dictionary says that the book of Ecclesiastes was written by a person named Jesus.
Mr. Perera laments that ‘some Christians’ attempt to reshape the Bible to suit the spirit of the times adding that ‘that these distorted Bibles are irrelevant to the issue’. There is some merit in what he says. In fact, I have a book titled ‘New Paths to Muslim Evangelisation’ by a Phil Parshall. This is a handbook on how to convert Muslims to Christianity. On page 32 of this book the author, referring to certain theologians, says ‘liberals have deleted certain passages of the Bible which they consider unacceptable to the receptor community’ (Muslims). If liberal theologians can do such audacious changes in the Bible just to attract Muslims to Christianity then we can only sympathise with Mr. Perera when he says there are ‘Bibles and Bibles’.
There are other statements that Mr. Perera makes to claim that Jesus Christ is God. But since these are ambiguous I will refrain from countering them. Besides it’s bound to take too much space and I don’t want the editor to get mad at me.
So let me concentrate on Mr. Victor Silva who, on the same page of the Daily Mirror, has taken the trouble to refute what I have said. Due to space considerations I will take up only one point that he has raised. And that is that Jesus will be called Emmanuel. He quotes Isaiah to support his claim. Yes Emmanuel means ‘God with us’. But the fact of the matter is that during his entire ministry the blessed Jesus was never called Emmanuel, not even once. Mr. Silva, going by the statement made by St. Matthew (1:23-25), quite rightly says that it was Joseph who named Jesus. However, St. Luke contradicts St. Matthew by saying that it was the angel who gave Jesus his name (Luke 2:21). And in the same verse you will find the name Jesus was given him even before he was ‘conceived in the womb’, not Emmanuel. Why not? And yes as a Muslim I believe that the blessed Mary (peace be on her) was a virgin when she conceived Jesus. The Qur’an says so.
In the meantime perhaps it would be a good idea for both Muslims and Christians, in the spirit of humanity, to come to common terms and proclaim they believe in One God. The same God that Jesus Christ cried out to on the cross in a heart rending plea in the Hebrew language ‘Eloi, Eloi lema sabacthani’ which means ‘my God, my God why did you abandon me?’ (Mark 15:34) Translate Jesus’ Hebrew words into Arabic and what have you? ‘Allah…Allah….’
Daily Mirror Wednesday March 19, 2008.