Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Christian Convert Killed in Iraq
02/26/2005 - James WhiteThe following appears on numerous news websites, etc.:
Ziwar Muhammad Isma’il, a Christian convert from a Muslim background, has been shot and killed for his faith, according to Middle East Concern.
The tragedy seems to be part of a growing hostility towards Christians in the country as the threat of military action increases.
Ziwar, who worked as a taxi driver in Zakho, in the Kurdish authority area of North Iraq, was shot by Abd al-Karim Abd al-Salam at a taxi rank early in the morning on 17 February.
Abd al-Salam approached Ziwar and challenged him to return to Islam. When Ziwar refused he opened fire with an automatic rifle.
Other taxi drivers gave chase, apprehending Abd al-Salam and handing him over to the police. Abd al-Salam claims that the Islamic prophet Muhammad appeared to him in a dream and told him to kill Ziwar.
Ziwar converted to Christianity seven years ago. Unlike many converts from Islam Ziwar had been quite open about his faith and, as a result, he had been threatened by his relatives and other Muslims and twice arrested, though not charged. Ziwar leaves a widow and five children.
All the major schools of Islamic law (Shari’ah) agree that Muslim men who convert from Islam should be put to death, their marriages annulled, and their children and property taken away. This tradition is upheld and taught by many Muslim religious leaders around the world. In countries like Iran, Sudan and Saudi Arabia the death sentence for leaving Islam is part of the law of the land. In other countries they may be arrested on various pretexts and often beaten, tortured or imprisoned.
Even under more moderate Muslim authorities, such as those in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq, converts may still face widespread hostility and aggression from their own families and communities. In several countries converts have been murdered by Islamic extremist groups, others have been killed by individual Muslims who believe they are doing the will of Allah by taking the law into their own hands.
The Qur'an in the Light of God-breathed Scripture: Shirk, Trinity, Christ, in Surah 5
02/21/2005 - James WhiteVery few Christians have ever read the Qur'an, but the interest in the topic has grown steadily since 9/11. We have been looking at some passages from the Qur'an and comparing them with God's Word, the Bible. One will find a great deal of the most important passages relating to Islam and the Christian faith in Surahs 4, 5, and 6. Here is an example from Surah 5:
72. Certainly they have disbelieved who say: "Allah is Christ the son of Maryam (Mary)." While Christ himself said: "O children of Israel! Worship Allah, my Rabb and your Rabb." Whoever commits shirk (joins partners with Allah), Allah will deny him the paradise, and the hellfire will be his home. There will be no helper for the wrongdoers.Just a few quick observations on the text:
73. Certainly they are unbelievers who say: "Allah is one of three in a Trinity." There is no god except One Allah. If they do not stop saying what they say, a painful punishment will befall the disbelievers among them.
74. Will they not then turn to Allah and seek His forgiveness? Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
75. Christ, the son of Maryam, was no more than a Rasool; many Rasools had already passed away before him. His mother was a truthful woman; they both ate earthly food like other human beings. See how the Revelations are made clear to them to know reality; yet see how they ignore the truth!
76. Ask them: "Would you worship besides Allah someone who can neither harm nor benefit you? While Allah is He who hears all and knows all."
1) Mohammed did not understand the doctrine of the Trinity. This could be due either to unorthodoxy on the part of the Christians he encountered earlier in his life, or simple ignorance on his part of what they were attempting to communicate to him. In either case, the Qur'an is seriously flawed in its view of the Trinity, and as a result, Muslims who accept the Qur'an as the final authority will not even allow for the correction offered by a Christian.
2) Once again, remember that to believe in the Trinity is to commit "shirk" in Islamic belief, the joining of partners with Allah (despite our constant insistence that we are monotheists to the core). And though it seemed the Qur'an had offered forgiveness to Christians in v. 68 of the same section, here we see that such mercy from Allah is only for those willing to "believe." To believe in the Trinity is to "disbelieve" the message of the Qur'an. ...
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Islamic Apologetics and New Testament Transmission (#16)
02/16/2005 - James WhiteJames Bentley uses very poor, or at the least, misleading language, in his description of the text of a. He writes, "Persistently and disturbingly, the codex from Mount Sinai omits cherished sentences of Holy Scripture. In Matthew chapter 17, the disciples of Jesus fail to cast out a devil from an epileptic. Verse 21 in the received text gives Jesus's explanation that such a healing requires much prayer and fasting. Codex Sinaiticus omits the explanation." No, that is not completely true. Bentley seems ignorant of "parallel corruption," a very common phenomenon, especially in the Synoptic Gospels. When one gospel contains a particular phrase, or in this case, explanation, some scribes assumed each gospel would have to contain the same words. If one did not, someone, at some point, either inadvertently (i.e., if the longer version in, say, Luke, is the most commonly cited in the liturgy of the day, a scribe could expand the shorter version in, say, Mark, without even noticing it) or purposefully sought to "harmonize" the parallel accounts. And that is exactly what is taking place here. Compare the parallel passages in Matthew and Mark:
Matthew 17:17-21 17 And Jesus answered and said, "You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me." 18 And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was cured at once. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not drive it out?" 20 And He said to them, "Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you. 21 "But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."
Mark 9:25-29 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd was rapidly gathering, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and do not enter him again." 26 After crying out and throwing him into terrible convulsions, it came out; and the boy became so much like a corpse that most of them said, "He is dead!" 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and raised him; and he got up. 28 When He came into the house, His disciples began questioning Him privately, "Why could we not drive it out?" 29 And He said to them, "This kind cannot come out by anything but prayer."
So, as one can see, a does contain the line, only in Mark 9:29. This may seem like a small point, but it is not. Once again we see the danger of looking at textual critical issues "backwards." We look backwards upon the manuscript tradition. How else can we? We look into the past and seek to understand the genealogical relationships the manuscripts bear to one another. But the texts were created in "the other direction." When we try to move back to the point of origin and look forward at the tradition, we gain an important perspective. If Bentley wanted to be accurate here, he would say, "Sinaiticus displays a text marked at times by brevity, rather than the fuller, later ecclesiastical text, as seen here in an example where the phrase is found in Mark, but not included in the parallel passage in Matthew." But it is easier to simply isolate the manuscript and put it in opposition to the "traditional text," use all the emotional buzz words like "remove" or "delete," and move on from there. And surely that is the usefulness our Islamic authors find in this lengthy quote as well.
Islamic Apologetics and New Testament Transmission (#15)
02/14/2005 - James WhiteThe next variant noted by Bentley in reference to Codex Sinaiticus (a) is that found in Luke 24:51. The original reading of a does not have the phrase "and was carried up into heaven." D likewise omits the phrase, as does a wide spectrum of Latin sources and the Sinaitic Syriac. The 25th ed. of the Nestle-Aland did not place the phrase in the main text, but the 26th and following included it. Bentley writes,
The evidence of the manuscript from Mount Sinai was proving more and more difficult to digest. In the received text, Luke chapter 24, verse 51, tells how Jesus left his disciples after his resurrection. He blessed them, was parted from them, 'and was carried up into heaven'. Sinaiticus omits the final clause. As the textual critic C.S.C. Williams observed, if this omission is correct, 'there is no reference at all to the Ascension in the original text of the Gospels'.Once again, a is not the only witness to the end of Luke. We have even earlier witnesses, such as P75, that contain the phrase. It is anticipated by Acts 1:1-2 ("The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when He was taken up"), though using a different term (which argues for the inclusion, as a later scribal emendation to attempt to bring the shorter version of 24:51 into line with Acts 1:2 would have used the same verbal form, while Luke uses two different forms). So what accounts for the shorter version in a* and D and the Latin manuscripts? One interesting possibility is an error of sight known as homoeoarcton ("similar beginings"), the cousin of a better known error, homoeoteleuton ("similar endings"). While homoeoteleuton is more common, the eye can catch common openings to clauses and as a result skip a clause. In this case, the Greek text reads, into verse 52, ...
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Islamic Apologetics and New Testament Transmission (#14)
02/11/2005 - James WhiteWe continue responding to Saifullah and Azmy, and their very, very lengthy citation of various portions of Bentley's Secrets of Mount Sinai. The next portion cited is in reference to the pericope of the adultress, John 7:53-8:11. Bentley inaccurately comments,
Some well-loved stories also disappeared in the text so carefully and long preserved on Mount Sinai. The eighth chapter of St John's Gospel, in the received text, contains the story of a woman who had been caught committing adultery. The scribes and the Pharisees wish to stone her to death, following, as they say, the law of Moses. Jesus says, 'He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her'. One by one the woman's accusers slip away, until she and Jesus are alone together. Then he asks her, 'Where are your accusers? Has no-one condemned you?' She answers, 'No-one, my Lord'. Jesus responds, 'Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.'I say comments inaccurately because he makes a common mistake when speaking of the transmission of an ancient text: the pericope does not "disappear." The question is, was the pericope original to the most ancient form of the text itself? It is very common for authors to view the issue "backwards" so to speak, for to think of something "disappearing" would mean that it was present in the text prior to a. But the evidence on this one is rather overwhelming, and only a precommitment to a theory of Byzantine textual supremacy could lead one to a different conclusion. Metzger is quite correct to write, ...
We now know that some ancient manuscripts transfer this story elsewhere in the New Testament, to the Gospel of Luke. In some manuscripts the scribes have indicated that they doubt its authenticity. It nowhere appears in either Vaticanus or Sinaiticus.
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The Qur'an in the Light of God-breathed Scripture: Shirk, Surah 4:48
02/11/2005 - James White
Surely Allah does not forgive shirk (associating any partner with Him); and may forgive sins other than that if He so pleases. This is because one who commits shirk with Allah, does indeed invent a great sinful lie. (Surah 4:48, F. Malik Translation)One of the greatest stumbling blocks to communicating the gospel of grace to the Muslim is "designed into the system" itself through the fact that Mohammed did not understand the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Muslims today believe the Christian doctrine of the Trinity is actually a form of tri-theism, a belief in three gods, not the deeply, fundamentally monotheistic belief it truly is. As such, whenever they see Christians worshipping Christ, or speaking of Him as the Son of God, or using the word "Trinity," they automatically think of the most heinous and high sin of shirk, for they have been taught that Christians are in some sense "adding" partners to God in the person of Christ, who was, they have been told, a mere creature.
Imagine for a moment how effective this roadblock truly is. From the point of your earliest memories you have been told that the Trinity is tri-theistic, and that to worship in such a fashion is to commit the most horrible and unforgivable sin imaginable! And so when that Christian missionary speaks to you about "the Lord Jesus Christ" all you can hear is "idolatry, IDOLATRY, SHIRK!!!" I saw this with startling clarity in the debate in 1999 against Hamza Abdul Malik: there was a wall between me and the Muslims in the audience. As soon as I would open my mouth to answer a question, you could see the head start to shake, the mind already closed. Jesus can't be God. No amount of Scripture could change their mind. Elsewhere (Surah 4:171) the Qur'an states: ...
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The Qur'an in the Light of God-breathed Scripture: Surah 5:116
02/07/2005 - James WhiteFew conservative Christians have ever read the Qur'an, and as such, it remains a closed and mysterious book to them. But even if you have read it, it likewise remains a closed and mysterious book, for it is not written in such a fashion as to communicate with much clarity to the vast majority of the human race, and apart from the traditions (the Hadith) many portions of the Qur'an are unintelligible.
I am often asked about where the Qur'an contradicts the Bible. I would like to start providing some examples, as time permits, of such passages. One that strikes me every time I read it comes in the middle of a key passage in Surah 5, to which we will have to return numerous times in the future. It reads:
After reminding him of these favors, Allah will say: "O Isa (Jesus) son of Maryam (Marry), Did you ever say to the people, "worship me and my mother as gods beside Allah?" He will answer: "Glory to You! How could I say what I had no right to say? If I had ever said so, you would have certainly known it. You know what is in my heart, but I know not what is in Yours; for You have full knowledge of all the unseen. (Surah 5:116, Al-Maida, F. Malik Translation)Here we have two grand errors in one short space: the gross misidentification of the doctrine of the Trinity (to which we will turn at a later time), and the assertion, placed upon the lips of the Lord Jesus, "You know what is in my heart, but I know not what is in Yours." I often ask audiences as I lecture on the topic, "What portion of Jesus' teaching about His relationship to the Father does this passage directly contradict?" Sadly, I have never had anyone offer the appropriate passage in response. Not once. It seems to be one of Jesus' lesser-known sayings, possibly because it sounds like it should be in the Gospel of John, yet it appears in the Gospel of Matthew:
"All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him" (Matthew 11:27).The intimate, reciprocal knowledge of the Father and Son, a theme repeated often in John's Gospel (see esp. chapters 5, 10, 17), here finds expression in Matthew, once again in the context of Jesus' role as the perfect, sole revealer of the Father. Islam, of course, denies this intimate union, let alone the idea that God could be so fully known as He made Himself known in Christ. There is truly so much less revelation of God's nature and Person in Islam than in the Christian faith. And remember, these words were written more than half a millennia before Mohammed, and we in fact can document them in papyri manuscripts dating to the third century (the Qur'an being a production of the seventh century). So you might want to start a little list: Matthew 11:27/Surah 5:116.
Islamic Apologetics and New Testament Transmission (#13)
02/03/2005 - James WhiteBentley (as quoted by our Islamic writers) writes,
What really outraged men like Dean Burgon was principally that, however learnedly Codex Sinaiticus was edited, it revealed a text of the Bible that again and again differed from what they had revered and loved as Holy Writ. Take, for example, the Lord's Prayer. Generations of Englishmen had been accustomed to the version, in Luke chapter 11, verses 2 to 4:...
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done, as in heaven, so in earth
Give us day by day our daily bread.
And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive everyone that is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.
They learned to accept this as an alternative to the more familiar version in Matthew chapter 6, verses 9 to 13.
Now they were presented with an even more truncated version. The Lord's Prayer of Codex Sinaiticus reads simply:
Father, Hallowed be thy name,
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done, as in heaven, so upon earth.
Give us day by day our daily bread
And forgive us our sins, as we ourselves also forgive everyone that is indebted to us.
And bring us not into temptation
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Omar Bakri Muhammed on Jihad: Another "Must Read"
02/02/2005 - James WhiteChristianity Today has an important interview with this Islamic authority. It begins:
Islam is the final revelation, therefore those believing in it submit to Allah—the only One worthy of obedience in every sphere of life. To understand 9/11, we must go back to Tawhid— the exclusive worship of God in every sphere—religious, political, social, etc. Every human action must relate to this. 9/11 was undoubtedly an unpleasant moment for its targets or their relatives (Muslims and non-Muslim), but those committing it acted as a result of the predestined divine decree (although God does give man free will).