Critique of H.M. Baagil's "Christian - Muslim Dialogue"

Some time ago one of my former students asked me about a little booklet entitled a "Christian-Muslim Dialogue" by H.M Baagil. It is a Muslim attack on Christianity. I thought I'd post some of my responses over the next few days. Part 1 is below:

Much of Baagil’s book is an imaginary dialogue between a Muslim and a Christian. I say imaginary because the dialog often seems very contrived and the Christian responses appear to be nothing more than the vehicle for Baagil’s propaganda. In places the Christian response is amazingly ignorant of Christianity and yet on page 18 suddenly this Christian knows about the Greek textual history of Matthew 28:18!

It is hard for me to believe that a Christian who was so uninformed about so many other basic matters was suddenly knowledgeable about the scholarship behind Matthew 28:18. I have no doubt that the dialogue is contrived.

On page 5 the Muslim says, “Some Christian Denominations are making tremendous progress now by acknowledging for the first time in history that Muhammad PBUH [Peace be upon him] descended from Ishmael through his second son Kedar.” Baagil then cites references which say that Muslims trace the linage of Muhammad through Kedar.

This argument entirely misses the point. The issue is not how Muslims trace the lineage of Muhammad. The issue is that Muslims deny the clear teaching of Genesis which says that God’s special covenant with Abraham was passed down through Isaac to Jacob (aka Israel) and not through Ishmael. God blessed Ishmael too, of course, but according to Genesis, his special covenant went through Isaac to Israel.

According to Genesis 17:15-21 God promised to bless Abraham’s wife Sarah and give her a son (Abraham already had a son—Ishmael—through his servant Hagar). Abraham responded saying, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you! God said, No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him a great nations. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”

Muslims of course, will argue that Christians or Jews corrupted the text. The Dead Sea Scrolls, however, were discovered in about 1948. These were copied about 200 years before the time of Jesus and contained every book in the Old Testament except Esther. Not only that, but the Dead Sea Scrolls were copied by the Essenes, a group of people who thought the Jews controlling the Temple in Jerusalem were corrupt.

Finally! A very ancient group of scrolls come to light which might support the Muslims’ claim that the Old Testament had been corrupted by Jews.Unfortunately for Muslims, the Dead Sea Scrolls do not support any of the places where Muslims claim Jews changed the text of the Old Testament! To be more specific, although the text of Genesis is very fragmentary in the Dead Sea Scrolls, it is clear that the story line goes from Abraham, through Isaac, to Jacob (Israel); not through Ishmael.

Muslims could, of course, argue that the copyists of the Dead Sea Scrolls changed the story but there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever to support this. We’ll return to this point later.

On pages 5-6 the Muslim argues, “The biggest asset brought by Muslim immigrants to the Western hemisphere is not their manpower but the Islam which is now taking root here. Many mosques and Islamic centers are established and many are reverted into Islam…This is also a proof that Islam is not spreading by the sword but simply by propagation by individuals or groups of Muslims.”

Actually, it is proof that Saudi Arabia is pouring enormous amounts of money into America to spread Islam, while refusing to allow Christian missionaries to tell Muslims about Jesus in Saudi Arabia. Why is that? Are the Saudi’s afraid that Islam can’t compete with Christianity on a level playing field? Why won’t they give Muslims freedom to hear and choose for themselves?

Baagil is right, however, that Islam is not currently being spread by the sword in America, but he conveniently ignores the fact that Islam has been one of the most imperialistic forces in the history of mankind!

Even during the times of Muhammad, Islam was spread by violence. According to Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad himself personally slaughtered many people, and his followers continued those violent practices for hundreds of years (see Islamic Imperialism by Efraim Karsh; The Sword of the Prophet by Serge Trifkovic, and The Dhimmi by Bat Ye’or). Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch has documented over and over and over again who this same violence continues in countries all over the world to this day.

Muslims will often respond, however, by point out how violent Christianity has been. The difference is:

1) that the total number of people estimated to have been killed by Catholics in the inquisition over the course of three hundred years or so, is miniscule compared to the number of people slaughtered by Muslims in Sudan in the last 20 years, or the number of people slaughtered by Saddam Hussein in only a few years, or the number of Armenians slaughtered by Muslims in just a few weeks! The examples could go on and on and on.

2) Muslims could argue, I suppose, that those who did such slaughtering were not true Muslims, and that is exactly what Christians will say about all the violence committed in the name of Christianity over the years—it was often done by people who were not true Christians. The difference is that those who call themselves Christians cannot find any justification in the New Testament for slaughtering or torturing innocent people merely because those people are from a different religion, or doctrine. Muslims, on the other hand, often find all kinds of justification for their violence in the life of Muhammad and his teachings in the Qur’an.

On page 6 the Muslim says, “Unlike the names Judaism and Christianity, this name Islam has been given by Allah, the Creator Himself, as mentioned in Surah 5:3…Neither the name Judaism nor Christianity is found in the Bible or even in a Bible dictionary.”

A little later the Muslim continues, “The first Muslim on earth is not Muhammad but Adam who submitted totally to Allah.”

If the name “Islam” was given by the Creator and goes back to Adam, then why don’t the words “Muslim” or “Islam” appear in any Hebrew text of the Old Testament? I mean, if Baagil is going to argue that it is significant that the words “Judaism” and “Christian” were not given by God, but that Adam is the first Muslim, you would think that Adam or at least one of the Old Testament prophets whom Muslims revere would have been called “Muslim” in the Bible.

The fact is that whether the Bible uses the words “Judaism” or “Christianity” is entirely irrelevant. Judaism and Christianity are simply words we use to describe groups of people which appear in the Bible. We all know what we are talking about when we use the words Judaism and Christianity.

On page 6 the “Christian” says, “How could Abraham be a Muslim? He is known as a Jew!” When the Muslim asks “Who told you that” the “Christian says, “We are taught that; it must be confirmed in the Bible too.”

Knowledgeable Christians would say that Abraham is the father of the Jews, just like Abraham is the father of the Arabs. Even Baagil’s own chart between pages 5 and 6 shows his acknowledgement of this fact.

On page 7 the Muslim says, “So Moses was not a Jew because he was not descended from Judah but a Levite. Moses was the ‘lawgiver’ (Torah is law) to the children of Israel.” The “Christian” responds, “How can you explain that” [Explain what? This appears to be a made-up question by a made-up “Christian” simply for the purpose of promoting Baagil’s propaganda].

The Muslim answers, “Because we are using the Noble Qur’an as standard. You can explain the Bible and correct Jewish and Christian prejudice with the content of the Qur’an. It is the last revealed Book which has never been corrupted or adulterated.”

First, the idea that Moses was not a “Jew” because he was not descended from Judah is deceptive. The word Jew probably comes from the name Judah, but the fact is that Christians, Jews and even Muslims use the word “Jews” to refer to all the “children of Israel” (Jacob) regardless of which tribe they came from.

Second, the idea that the Qur’an has never been corrupted is just simply not true. Ibn Warraq writes,
“While modern Muslims may be committed to an impossibly conservative position,Muslim scholars of the early years of Islam were far more flexible in their position, realizing that parts of the Koran were lost, perverted, and that there were many thousand variants which made it impossible to talk of the Koran. For example, as-Suyuti (died 1505), one of the most famous and revered of the commentators of the Koran, quotes Ibn Umar al-Khattab as saying: “Let none of you say that he has acquired the entire Koran for how does he know that it is all? Much of the Korah has been lost, thus let him say, ‘I have acquired of it what is available’ (As-Suyuti, Itqan, part 3, page 72). ‘A’isha, the favorite wife of the Prophet, says, also according to a tradition recounted by as-Suyuti, ‘During the time of the Prophet, the chapter of the Parties used to be two hundred verses when read. When Uthman edited the copies of the Koran, only the current (verses) were recorded” (73).
Because there were so many different and disagreeing versions of the Koran, Uthman had an authoritative version of the Koran created (authoritative, because Uthman was the ruler and ordered all other competing versions to be destroyed)! Ibn Warraq comments, however, that
“Despite ‘Uthman’s order to destroy all texts other than his own, it is evident that older codices survived. As Charles Adams says, ‘It must be emphasized that far from there being a single text passed down inviolate from the time of ‘Uthman’s commission, literally thousands of variant readins of particular verses were known in the firest three (Muslim) centuries. These variants affected even he Uthmanic codex, making it difficult to know what its true form may have been” (The origins of the Koran; edited by Ibn Warraq, 12-15).

On page 7 of the Christian-Muslim Dialogue, the “Christian” says, “It feels strange to hear the name Allah. Why don’t you say God if you speak English?” The Muslim answers, “Yes, indeed, the name Allah seems to be strange to non-Muslims, but this name has been used by all Prophets since Adam until Muhammad PBUT.”

The word “Allah” is simply the Arabic word for God. Even Arabic speaking Christians use the word Allah to refer to God the Father of Abraham, Isaac and Jesus. According to the Old Testament, however, when God first revealed Himself to Moses, Moses asked what His name is. God responds saying, “I AM who I AM…Say this to the people of Israel, I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14).

The Hebrew letters for I AM are YHWH. This name was so sacred to early Jews they would not even pronounce it. Modern scholars speculate that the pronunciation may have been Yahweh. However it was pronounced, it is certain that it was not "Allah."

God then goes on to describe Himself as “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:15). Note carefully, that according to Exodus, God is the God of Isaac (not Ishmael) and Jacob aka Israel.

This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t care for the sons of Ishmael. On the contrary, God blessed Ishmael also. But the idea that God’s special covenant blessing going through Ishmael rather than Isaac is simply not supported by the facts.

I should point out, by the way, that I don’t have any horse in this race, so to speak. In other words, I’m not Jewish. My descendants were from Norway, so I’m not making this argument to support my own linage. I make this argument because it is clearly what the Bible teaches.

On page 8 the Muslim says, “Although Paul made many changes in Jesus’ teaching….”

Whenever anything the Qur’an says anything that disagrees with the Bible, the Muslims’ answer is that Paul, Christians, or Jews, etc. changed the original teaching. They have absolutely no evidence for this, mind you, and they ignore the fact that there are over 5,000 ancient handwritten manuscripts of New Testament books still in existence and not one of them supports Muslim doctrines that disagree with our New Testament.

This doesn’t matter to Muslims, though. They continue to argue that the New Testament must have been corrupted! Christians could play this game too. We could argue that Muhammad actually believed in the Trinity and crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus but that later Muslims changed the Qur’an and Hadith and have corrupted Muhammad’s true views.

Muslims, of course would say we have no evidence for this and we could respond by saying, yes, we do! When Uthman rounded up all the Qur’ans he did so specifically to destroy what Muhammad originally taught about Jesus and to replace it with his own views.

And even Muslims admit that there are thousands of forged Hadith. Uthman’s Qur’an (from which all others descend) and the “official” collections of Hadith by al-Muslim and al-Bukhari are the corrupted teachings of Muhammad. Everything which showed that Muhammad believed in the deity, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus were destroyed.

This of course is total nonsense…but it is no more nonsense than the Muslim propaganda about how Christians and Jews corrupted the Bible. Muslims seem happy to quote the Bible when it suits their purposes, but every time the Qur’an contradicts the Bible Muslims fall back on the same tired old argument about Christians and Jews corrupting the Bible. It is academically dishonest and very offensive.

On page 8 the Muslim says, “A Christian will shiver in hearing that the Pilgrimage or Haj as is now done by Muslims by circumambulating around the sacred stone Ka’bah in Mecca, had been performed by many Prophets, even by Israelite Prophets.” The “Christian” responds saying, “I never read Pilgrimage or sacred stone in the Bible” and the Muslim answers “This has been mentioned clearly several times but overlooked by Bible readers.”

First, notice how carefully parsed this imaginary conversation is. It begins with the Muslim talking about the Muslim practice of walking around the Ka'ba in Mecca (a large cube-shaped structure made with bricks). It is significant that the words put into the Christian's mouth are NOT "I never read about the Ka'ba in the Bible," because the Ka'ba is NOT in the Bible. Instead, the words put in the Christian's mouth are, "I never read "pilgrimage" or "sacred stone" in the Bible."

The Muslim then provides a list of verses about biblical character setting up a stone or stones as an alter to worship God. This of course has absolutly nothing whatsoever about worshiping at the Ka'ba, but the impression (deception) is left to unknowledgable readers, that the Bible teaches the Muslim practice of circumambulating the Ka'ba!

For example, the Muslim cites the following:

1. Genesis 28:18-19 in which Jacob “took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar…”

First, the Ka’ba is not just one stone and it is not a pillar.

Second, Genesis 28 says Jacob had left Beersheba and went toward Haran. Check a map. You will find that Beersheba and Haran are not in Arabia and when you go from Beersheba to Haran you are heading north, away from Arabia not south toward Mecca. Remember, the Muslim’s original argument was that Israelite prophets marched around the Ka’bah in Mecca and these verses are supposedly the proof!

2. Genesis 35:4, 14, 15 In this chapter, Jacob went back to the same place as in Genesis 28 above—which is NOT Mecca. There he set up another pillar of stone and poured oil on it. Again, the Ka’ba is not a pillar. It is not just one stone. And this was done in Bethel, not Mecca.

3. Genesis 31:45-49. In this passage Jacob was fleeing from Laban in Haran (in the neighborhood of modern Syria or Iraq). He set up stones “in a heap.” The Ka’ba is not a heap of stones! After pacifying Laban, Jacob now feared his brother Esau. Esau was coming from Edom (Gen. 32:3). If you are traveling from Haran you will come to Edom long before coming to Mecca. In other words, as Jacob was traveling south, he would have crossed paths with his brother hundreds of miles before he would have come to Mecca! The "heap of stones" Jacob set up was hundreds of miles from Mecca.

Despite the assertions of Baagil, there is no evidence that the Israelite prophets ever went anywhere near Mecca!

On page 9 the Muslim says, “we propagate only to those who want to listen” and “yes, there is no compulsion in religion (Surah 2:256).”

It is true that the Qur’an says, “there is no compulsion in religion” but from the time of Muhammad himself there has been nothing but compulsion in Islam. According to Ibn Ishaq, the earliest Muslim biographer of Muhammad, Muhammad personally ordered the execution of people who turned back from his religion. Islam was spread by the edge of the sword from Arabia all the way to Spain and Iraq and beyond. In fact, Muhammad’s last words were that no two religions should be allowed to remain in Arabia. If that isn’t compulsion, I don’t know what is.

On page 9 the Muslim says, “Also, Isaiah mentioned in chapter 21:13, “The burden of Arabia,” which means the responsibility of the Muslims, Arabs, of course all Muslims now, to spread Islam.”

Isaiah was written over a thousand years before Muhammad was even born. The “burden of Arabia” means “the oracle concerning Arabia.” It has nothing whatsoever to do with Muslims.

Also on page 9 Baagil quotes Isaiah 21:7 “And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels, and he harkened diligently with much heed.”

Baagil says the “asses” in this passage refer to Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey, and the camels refer to the camels on which Muhammad rode. The context of the whole chapter in Isaiah, however, has nothing to do with Jesus or Muhammad. It is about the destruction of ancient Babylon by the Medes! To pull out words about donkeys and camels and assume—entirely apart from context—that they must refer to the donkey and camel that Jesus and Muhammad rode is absurd.

On page 9-10 the Muslim then discusses how Muhammad is supposedly mentioned in the Bible. The Muslim says Muhammad was predicted by Jesus in John 16:14. The Muslim comments on this passage saying, “He (the Paraclete, Comforter, Helper, i.e. Muhammad PBUH) shall glorify me.”

But the context of John 16:12-14 says that this “Paraclete” or “Comforter" is the “Spirit of Truth.” In what sense was Muhammad a “spirit”? Earlier in John (14:26) Jesus called this “Helper” the Holy Spirit. But according to Muslims the Holy Spirit is a reference to Gabriel. So which is it? Is the “Helper” Muhammad or is he Gabriel? The fact is that neither John nor Jesus said anything about Muhammad or Gabriel.

The Muslim continues saying that Jesus “supplication in John 17:3 was: ‘And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou has sent.’ It is clear here that the possessors of eternal life are only the Muslims who believe in only one God Allah and Jesus PBUH as his messenger.”

Really? If it is so clear, why is it that only Muslims see it? If Jesus is referring to Muslims then why doesn’t he say so? If Jesus is referring to Muhammad then why doesn’t he say so? What the Muslim leaves out is that just two verses later Jesus continues by praying, “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5)!

This very passage the Muslim tries to use to say Jesus prophesied about Muhammad actually teaches that Jesus thought of himself as the Son of God and that he existed in heaven with the “Father” before he was incarnate! The idea of incarnation in this passage is important because the Muslim goes on to say that those who believe in Jesus’ incarnation are going to hell! In other words, the passage the Muslim used to support his position, actually teaches the very thing the Muslim said would send us to hell!

By the way, the Muslim cited this passage in an attempt to prove his point so he must be acknowledging that the passage is genuine and not corrupted by Christians.

On page 11 the Muslim quotes Luke 1:2-3 and asks, “If Luke said that he himself was not an eyewitness and the knowledge he gathered was from eyewitnesses and not as words inspired to him by God, do you still believe the Bible is God’s word?” The imaginary Christian implausibly responds, “Maybe only this part is not God’s word.”

The whole dialogue here demonstrates a lack of knowledge of the difference between Christian and Muslim views of inspiration. Muslims believe that the Qur’an was verbally dictated by the angel Gabriel to Muhammad. Christians do not have the same view of inspiration.

Christian theologians believe that the Holy Spirit guided the authors of Scripture (using their own vocabularies, backgrounds, etc.) so that what they wrote was accurate regardless of whether they got it directly from God (as in direct revelation given to Moses, for example), or whether it was a record of historical events (as for example, when Moses was instructed to write down all the places the children of Israel stopped in the wilderness), or the recording of eyewitness accounts (for example, Luke 1:1-4).

On page 11 the Muslim then asks the Christian if “holy” (as in Holy Bible) means free from error and the imaginary Christian says yes.

The fact is that the word “holy” means “set apart.” It does not mean, "free from error." Some Christian theologians think that inspiration guarantees the truthfulness and general reliability of the Bible. Other Christian theologians think inspiration guarantees that the Bible is entirely without error. Either way, the word, “holy” does not mean “without error.”

The Muslim then provides a list of supposed errors in the Bible. Some of these supposed errors are matters of textual variations in manuscript copies (Christians do not believe that copies of the Bible are without error).

Other alleged errors are differences in translating names from Hebrew into English. But this is like saying the Qur’an is in error because one version uses the word Qur’an while another version uses the word Koran.

Other alleged errors are deliberate misinterpretations. For example, Baagil points out that Genesis 6-7 says that Noah was supposed to take the animals in the ark two-by-two and seven-by-seven. He asks, which is it, “Two or seven? Both in the same Genesis.”

In fact, Baagil even quotes from Genesis 7:2-3: “Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the mail and his female…of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and his female.”

But note carefully what Baagil deliberately leaves out. Read the entire quote: “

“Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee by sevens, the mail and his female and a pair of animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and his female.”

Genesis makes it very clear that Noah was to take ceremonially "unclean" animals by twos, and ceremonially "clean" animals by pairs of seven. This was undoubtedly because unclean animals could not be used as sacrifices, but if you only took a pair of clean animals and sacrificed one of them, the species would soon be extinct!

The point is that Baagil deliberately omitted part of the quote in order to make it look like a contradiction. This is dishonest.

Another of the “contradictions” alleged by the Muslim are doctrines of the “Trinity, Divinity of Jesus Christ, Divine Sonship of Jesus, Original Sin and Atonement…”

Muslims may disagree with these Christian doctrines but to say they are, therefore, “contradictions” is factually untrue. Just because Muslims don’t believe these doctrines does not make them contradictions.

For example, just because I don’t believe that Muhammad traveled 700 miles to Jerusalem and returned on the same night doesn’t make it a contradiction.

Christians might argue that a true contradiction is when Muhammad contradicted himself when he taught there was no compulsion in religion, but then ordered the execution of those who turned away from Islam!

The Muslim in Baagil's book also thinks the Bible is in error by “degrading of many Prophets in the Bible as worshipers of false gods and accusing them of incest, rape and adultery.” The Muslim points out that according to the Bible Solomon worshiped false gods (I Kings 11:9-10), Aaron made a golden calf (Exodus 32:4), Lot had incest with his daughters (Gen 19:36), David committed adultery (2 Sam 11:4-5) etc.

Apparently, the Muslim wants to believe that the prophets and heroes of the Bible were all perfect. But this is a very strange argument for a Muslim to make, because there is a hadith in which Muhammad says “By Allah! I ask for Allah’s forgiveness and turn to Him in repentance more than seventy times a day.” It seems strange for a Muslim to argue about the sinlessness of the prophets when their own prophet did not claim such a thing.

The fact is that the Bible records that some of its heroes and prophets had “feet of clay” so to speak. The Bible says “there is none righteous, no not one.” But our God is so great that he can accomplish His purposes even through, and in spite of, sinful man.

The Muslim, however, thinks that he is disproving the inspiration of the Bible by producing his little list of alleged errors. Christians, of course, could play the same games with the Qur’an. The Qur’an, for example contains the “Satanic verses” in which Muhammad thought God told him that three goddesses were legitimate intercessors before Allah. When Muslims pointed out that this contradicted everything Muhammad taught about monotheism, the prophet conveniently gets another revelation about how he was deceived by Satan and that his teaching about the three goddesses was a mistake (How do we know it wasn't the second revelation that was the deception and how do we know that Muhammad didn’t make other mistakes of revelation as well)?

The Qur’an also teaches that the child Jesus made clay pigeons come alive and fly away. This story originally came from a Gnostic document written about 200 years after the time of Jesus--the Infancy Gospel of Thomas--and absolutely no one believes that Jesus really did this—no one except Muslims that is.

The fact is that the Qur’an is simply in error on this story. An entire book could be written on alleged errors in the Qur’an. The web page, http://www.answering-islam.org/Quran/Contra/#bible provides literally hundreds of contradictions and problems in the Qur’an. For example,

In the Qur’an, Muhammad is described as the first Muslim (Surah 39:12). But according to the Qur’an, Jesus’ disciples were Muslims before Muhammad (Surah 3:52). And long before Jesus' disciples were born, Abraham was called a Muslim in the Qur’an (Surah 3:67). How can Muhamamd be the first Muslim when Abraham and Jesus’ disciples were Muslims before him?

According to Surahs 7:155-157 Allah spoke to Moses about “Those who follow the Apostle, The unlettered Prophet” (i.e. Muhammad) “Whom they find mentioned in their own Scriptures—in the Law and Gospel.” But in Moses’ time the Gospel had not yet been written or given, and Muhammad had not yet been born!

Surah's 2:106 and 16:101 say that Allah "substitutes" some of his revelations with better ones (why didn't he give the better ones in the first place)? But Surah 10:64 is pretty clear that "No change can there be in the words of God" (see also Surah 2:106 and 16:101). Excuse the skepticism but substitution sure sounds like change to me.

Surah 2:62 (cf 5:69) sounds like Christians will go to heaven but 5:72-73, and 3:85 are pretty clear that Christians will go to hell.

According to Surah 7:54; 10:3; 11:7 and 25:59 God created the universe in six days. But the actual number of creation days listed in Surah 41:9-12 add up to eight days.

Informed Christians readily admit that we do not have the original manuscripts of biblical books. We have copies of copies and by comparing copies we can come up with a very close reconstruction of the original. Many of the alleged contradictions in the Bible have to do with differences in copies and no informed Christian thinks the copies are without error.

Muslims and Christians also have different views of inspiration. Christians believe inspiration is the work of the Holy Spirit guiding the authors of Scripture so that what was originally written was accurate. Some Christians believe the Holy Spirit guided the authors so that what was written was 100% accurate. Other Christians believe the Holy Spirit guided the authors so that the main story and important doctrinal matters are accurate, even if there are minor errors due to human frailty.

Apparent errors or alleged contradictions, therefore, do not constitute a major problem to the foundation of Christianity which is based not in inerrancy, but on the general reliability of the Bible which is something that has been demonstrated over and over again.

For Muslims, however, the Arabic Qur’an is exactly—word for word-- as it was given to Muhammad from God. Because of the difference in the way Christians and Muslims view inspiration, alleged errors in the Bible may affect some minor teachings, but alleged errors in the Qur’an call the foundation of entire religion into question.

For example, as a Christian, if I came to believe that the Bible had genuine errors in it, this would change my doctrine of “inerrancy” but my confidence in the fundamental reliability of the Bible and its message would not be affected (just like finding some errors in a CNN report doesn’t mean they fabricated the entire report). But for Muslims, errors in the Qur’an mean that God himself—or Muhammad—was in error and the foundation of the entire religion begins to crumble because they believe the Arabic Qur’an was dictated word for word from God himself (through Gabriel).

On page 11 the Muslim says, “History has shown that the Bible suffered changes throughout the ages. The Revised Standard Version 1952 and 1971, The New American Standard Bible, the new World Translation…”

This evidences a lack of understanding of Bible transmission/translation. In our library, for example, we have several translations of the Qur’an. I could compare each of these translations, note all their differences, and argue that the Qur’an has been changed.

This is absurd, of course, but that is basically what the Muslim is doing when he points out the different English Bible translations. Even Muslims will agree that differences in translation does not mean the original text has been changed.

There are at several issues involved in Bible translation (or in translating any language, for that matter). One involves the translation of one language (Hebrew or Greek) into another language, e.g. English, Arabic, Spanish, etc. One reason for numerous English translations is because the English language changes over the years. For example, “gay” in 1610 when the KJV was translated, meant something entirely different than it does today. Translations need to be updated to reflect current English usage.

Another reason for numerous translations has to do with the philosophy of translating. Some translators insist on reflecting the original language as literally as possible (e.g. NAS). Literal translations are generally the most accurate, but are sometimes difficult to read.

Some translators, on the other hand, use a more paraphrased approach which makes the translation more “readable” but accuracy and precision is often lost. These philosophies of translation affect the Qur’an just as much as they do the Bible so for the Muslim to say that the Bible has “changed” because of the different translations is disingenuous.

Another reason for different translations is that more ancient texts of the Bible are sometimes discovered. Since we do not have the actual manuscripts of the biblical books (just like Muslims do not have the original manuscripts of the Qur’an) we compare ancient manuscripts to get as close to the original as possible (and with over 5,000 handwritten Greek manuscripts to compare—we can get very, very close. Some have estimated about 98-99%).

Of course, Christians have a difficulty that Muslims don’t have. We have over 5,000 manuscripts to compare. Muslim Qur’ans ultimately all go back to the Muslim ruler, Uthman—because he destroyed all the other versions of the Qur’an and established his own official version!

Imagine that the original Constitution of the United States was lost and now all we have are copies. Even if the copies were all handwritten, we have so many copies that we could reconstruct the Constitution with remarkable accuracy. This analogy is vastly oversimplified but that is kind of how it works with the Christian Bible.

Now imagine that the original Constitution of the United States was lost and that one of our early Presidents made his own copy and then ordered all the other copies to be rounded up and destroyed! In other words, imagine that all we have are copies of the Constitution created by this one President who may have had his own agendas to promote. That is the situation with the Qur’an.

On page 15 the Muslim says “We believe in all Divine Scriptures, but in their original form.” Then, referring to the Old Testament and Gospels he says, “None of these Scriptures remain in their original form now.”

The skeptic might ask, if Allah did preserved the Qur'an perfectly, why he didn’t preserve the Law, Prophets and Gospels too since they—in their original form, of course—were also sacred to Muslims?

The fact is that what Muhammad says in the Qur’an is often in direct disagreement with what is written in the Old Testament and the Gospels. Either Muhammad was wrong…over and over and over again, OR the Gospels and Old Testament books were all corrupted in exactly those places which disagree with Muhammad.

Muslims, of course are forced to take the latter position. Even though there are thousands of biblical manuscripts, ancient translations and ancient quotations, and not one of them supports Muhammad when he disagrees with the Bible. According to Muslims, every one of those thousands and thousands of manuscripts must have been corrupted in precisely all of the places where Muhammad disagrees!

In 1948 the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered which date back a couple hundred years before the time of Jesus. If the Old Testament had originally supported Muhammad’s views, certainly here were some manuscripts that should demonstrate that—especially since they were hundreds of year older than any of the Hebrew manuscripts in existence and the Dead Sea Scrolls came from a group that opposed the ruling Jews in Jerusalem!

But alas for Muslims, the Dead Sea Scrolls support the message of the Jewish-Christian Bible. They do not support the Muslim mistakes in the Qur'an.

So where do the Muslims get the idea that the Bible’s teaching was corrupted when it supposedly originally agreed with the Qur’an? Can they find even one ancient Greek manuscript of the Gospels which supports Muhammad’s view of Jesus when Muhammad disagrees with the Christian view? For example, can they find even one ancient manuscript or ancient translation of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John that says Jesus was not crucified? No. Not a single one.

Can Muslims find even one ancient Hebrew manuscript that supports Muhammad’s views on the Old Testament when he disagrees with the Jewish-Christian Old Testament? For example, can they find even one ancient Hebrew manuscript saying that God’s covenant was passed down through Ishmael rather than Isaac and Jacob? Again, not a single one.

Let’s press this one step farther. Moses—whom Muhammad recognized as a prophet—clearly taught, not only in Exodus 20:15, Leviticus 19:11 but also in Deuteronomy 5:19—“Thou shalt not steal.” Yet according to Ibn Ishak, Muhammad got rich stealing from the innocent caravans that passed by Medina! So was Muhammad breaking the Law of Moses and the law of God? It would certainly seem so.

Muslims could argue that those wicked Jews and Christians just corrupted the text. Think about this. Is it really reasonable to conclude that every single reference to “Thou shalt not steal” in every single manuscript and every single ancient translation, not only of Exodus , Leviticus and Deuteronomy, but also Jeremiah 7:9; Matthew 6:19-20; 19:18; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20, John 10:10, Romans 2:21; 13:9, Ephesians 4:20 and 1 Peter 4:15 which also condemn stealing—was somehow corrupted by Christians and Jews?

This is thousands and thousands of ancient manuscripts! Are we supposed to believe that the evil Jews and Christians managed to corrupt every single one of these manuscripts? Is it really reasonable to think that not one of the alleged original Torah or Gospel readings survived?

Isn’t it much more likely that Muhammad the prophet was either not aware of the biblical commands against stealing, or just ignored the commands in his personal life? Even worse, although Muhammad got rich stealing other people's property, his penalty for other thieves was to cut off their hands (Surah 5:38).

On page 16 the Muslim writes, “…St. Paul who is described as the true founder of modern Christianity.”

Described by whom as the founder of modern Christianity? Christians believe that Christianity sprang from Jesus and that Paul was basically proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ (See Paul; Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity by David Wenham). Certainly Paul believed that he was proclaiming Jesus.

On page 17 Baagil quotes some Bible dictionaries and encyclopedias as saying that the word Trinity does not appear in the Bible, as if this somehow disproves the doctrine of the Trinity or as if this is going to be a surprise to Christians. Baagil’s argument demonstrates a profound ignorance of Christianity.

Christians are very well aware that the word Trinity is not found in the New Testament. What is found in the New Testament is the teaching that there is ONE God who exists eternally as Father, Son and Spirit. Later theologians chose to call this the doctrine of the Trinity. They could have also called it the Tri-unity or something else. But regardless of what they decided to call it, absence of the word Trinity in the Bible proves absolutely nothing.

Also on page 17 Baagil quotes from critics who attack the Bible. Apparently Baagil is unaware that these critics are generally people who do not believe God ever intervenes in human affairs…not even in supposed “revelations” given to Muhammad. The “sword” Baagil uses to cut up the Bible is the sword the same critics would use to cut up the Qur’an.

Also on Page 17 Baagil quotes a critic as saying, “The speeches in the Fourth Gospel (even apart from the early Messianic claim) are so different from those in the Synoptics, and so like the comments Fourth Evangelist himself, that both can not be equally reliable as records of what Jesus said:”

I know this is what a lot of critics say but it is absurd. It would be like saying that because the Qur’an and the earliest biography of Muhammad are so different in style they cannot possibly be accurate.

On page 17 Baagil quotes another critic as writing, “Literary veracity in ancient times did not forbid, as it does now, the assignment of fictitious speeches to historical characters.”

This is another sword that cuts both ways. If this was true (its not), then we can’t be sure that the sayings attributed to Muhammad in the Qur’an or Hadith were not just made up either.

The fact is that the critics arrive at this conclusion by taking the Greek historian, Thucydides out of context. Thucydides (5th c. BC) wrote, “I have put into the mouth of each speaker the sentiments proper to the occasion.” That’s about as far as some critics ever quote. But Thucydides doesn’t stop there. He continues his sentence by saying, “expressed as I thought he would be likely to express them, while at the same time I endeavored, as nearly as I could, to give the general purport of what was actually said.”

In other words, Thucydides may have summarized speeches to give the gist of what was said, but he tried very hard to give the general idea of what was actually said. He was not just making things up. This is what we see in the Gospels. The Sermon on the Mount, for example, can be read in just a few minutes. It is almost certain that the actual sermon was much longer than that.
What we have is a reliable summary of what Jesus actually said.

Contrary to the assertion by Baagil, “The practice of free invention of speeches was explicitly condemned by Polybius in the second century (Stott, Acts, 71). It was not acceptable to just fabricate speeches out of thin air. Those who made up sayings of Jesus in the second, third and fourth centuries AD were condemned by the church as heretics.

On pages 17-18 regarding the authenticity of the Qur’an, Baagil writes, “Every time he received a revelation, he used to communicate it to his companions and asked them to commit it to memory and to write it down. Thus the whole revelation was written and preserved in the hearts of many followers.”

The same skepticism used by the critics Baagil likes to quote would undoubtedly be used by these same skeptics to challenge the memory of those who recorded Muhammad’s sayings.

How do we know Muhammad’s followers remembered him accurately?

How do we know they didn’t change the sayings to accommodate their own political agendas?

How do we know that scribes who copied their sayings didn’t change the sayings? After all, it is a fact that there were numerous varying editions of the Qur’an before Uthman.

How do we know that Uthman didn’t add, change, edit, modify and delete sayings to fit his own political agendas (and then destroy all those copies that disagreed with him).

The fact is that there were thousands of Hadith (sayings of Muhammad) that even Muslims admit were fabricated over the years. How can we be sure the same thing didn’t happen to the Qur’an?

The thing about skepticism is that it can become a game in which absolutely anything can be questioned and challenged. In the Western world, critics are free to ask these questions and Christians have been made stronger by having to answer them. Some Muslims use these critics in their attempt to attack Christianity, apparently unaware that the same arguments critics use against the Bible, can be also used against the Qur’an.

In some Muslim countries, Muslims do not have the freedom to ask these questions of their own Qur’an and many Muslims, therefore, wrongly assume that the foundation of their Qur’an is strong.

Personally, I don’t think this extreme skepticism is warranted against the Qur’an any more than it is against the Bible. But I think Muslims should be consistent. If they are going to side with the critics against the Bible, they should be honest enough to ask the same questions of, and use the same degree of skepticism on their own Qur’an.

On pages 18-26 Baagil challenges the deity of Jesus, the sonship of Jesus and the Trinity. He repeats the same tired old argument that the word Trinity cannot be found in the Bible as if he honestly believes this proves something.

As has been explained time and time again, the word Trinity is a word that later theologians used to describe the data found in the Bible. Some would prefer the world Tri-unity. Regardless of what we call it, the doctrine of Trinity is taught in the Bible even if the actual word is not used.

First, the Bible is very clear that, contrary to Muhammad, Jesus is much more than just a great prophet.

Jesus is specifically called God in the New Testament. For example, Thomas says to Jesus, “My Lord and my God” and neither Jesus nor the writer of John say anything to correct this statement (John 20:28). Jesus accepts this worship.

John 1:1 and 18 says “The Word was with God and the Word was God…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” The context leaves absolutely no doubt that the Word who was God is Jesus (In fact, even Muhammad said Jesus was a word from God, but more on that below).

John 1:18 says “the only God who is at the Father’s side has made him known.” Again, the context makes it clear that “The only God” is referring to Jesus.

Titus 2:13 refers to “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” The way this sentence is constructed in Greek leaves no serious doubt that Paul was intending to call Jesus, God.

Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” The writer of Hebrews says that God “makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire, but of the Son He [God] says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.”

Second Peter 1:1 refers to “the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Again, the Greek construction of this phrase leaves no serious doubt that the writer intended to attribute deity to Jesus.

Philippians 2:6 says that although Jesus “was in the form of God” he “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself…to the point of death, even death on a cross…so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth [this includes Muhammad] and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Here Jesus is both deity and yet somehow distinct from the Father.

Colossians 1:15 says that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” and that “by him [Jesus] all things were created in heaven and on earth…”

The new Testament also applies Old Testament passages to Jesus that clearly referred to God in their original contexts. For example, Mark combines quotes from Isaiah and Malachi about a messenger preparing the way for YHWH. In Mark, the messenger is John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus (Matthew and Luke do the same thing).

In Romans 10:13 Paul says of Jesus, “Whoever will call on the name of the LORD will be saved.” This is a quote from Joel 2:32 which says, “Whoever will call on the name of YHWH will be saved.”

Jesus also claims to forgive sins (Mark 2:1-2; Luke 24:47) and backs it up by supernatural healing (something Muhammad never did, by the way). In a Jewish context, only God could forgive sin and the people in Jesus’ audience understood that Jesus was claiming to do something that only God could do and they accused him of blasphemy!

Jesus also claimed to be “lord of the Sabbath.” But God instituted the Sabbath. No one is lord of the Sabbath but God. If we take the Gospels seriously, Jesus was either a liar, a nutjob, a blasphemer (which no Muslim would claim) or Jesus is truly God.

The idea that Jesus was actually the embodiment of God is not just found in the New Testament. For example, Ignatius, a church leader who lived shortly after the last book in the New Testament was written, says, “There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made; God existing in flesh..."Ignatius understood very well what the New Testament taught about Jesus deity. But Ignatius continued this sentence saying that Jesus was "both of Mary and of God." Even Muhammad affirmed that Jesus was born of Mary as a result of a virgin birth.

Clement of Rome (first century), Polycarp, Justin, and Irenaeus (second century) are just a few of the other very early church leaders who understood and believed the New Testament claims about Jesus’ deity.

About the same time as Ignatius (roughly 110 AD) there was a Roman governor, named Pliny, in a province located in the modern country of Turkey. Pliny didn’t know what to do with all the Christians in his province so he wrote to the Roman emperor Hadrian to ask for advice. Pliny wrote that his investigations showed that Christians “were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god.”

Pliny wasn’t a Christian so he had nothing to gain by lying. He was simply reporting what Christian churches did and what they did was to worship Jesus as God (Pliny would naturally say “a god” because Pliny was a polytheist and the concept of just one God was foreign to him).

Lucian was another anti-Christian. He wrote, “and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.” Lucian clearly understood that Christians believed in Jesus’ deity and worshiped him. He also affirms that Jesus was crucified, something that Muhammad denied.

The idea that Jesus was much more than just a great prophet should also be clear from Muhammad’s own teachings. For example

To Muslims, Muhammad was a prophet, but Muhammad taught that Jesus was a “Word” or “Spirit” coming from Allah himself!

Muhammad didn’t do any miracles but Muhammad said that Jesus healed the blind, healed lepers and even raised the dead (Surah 5:110).

There was nothing unusual about Muhammad’s birth but Muhammad said that Jesus was born of a virgin (Surah 3:47-49).

Muhammad never thought of himself as anything more than a prophet but he called Jesus the “Christ”(Surah 3:45-46) and admitted that Jesus was “strengthened with Holy Inspiration (Surah 2:87; 5:110) and given revelation from God (Surah 3:47-49; 5:110).

Anyway, regardless of how Muhammad's teachings about Jesus are interpreted, the New Testament is very clear that Jesus was the incarnation of God himself.

So God is obviously God and according to the New Testament, Jesus is God. But the Bible also attributes deity to the Holy Spirit (compare Isaiah 6:8-9 with Acts 28:25-26. Also compare Jeremiah 31:31-34 with Hebrews 10:15-17). The deity of the Holy Spirit is confirmed by the fact that the Holy Spirit is said to have the attributes of God (Gen 1:2; Job 26:13; 1 Cor 2;9-11; Hebrews 9:14) and the Holy Spirit performs the works of God (Job 33:4; Ps 104:30; Luke 12:11-12; Acts 1:5; 20:28; 1 Cor 6:11; 2:8-11; 2 Peter 1:21).

The Muslim in Baagil’s imaginary dialoge, however, argues that the Spirit of God is Gabriel. In the fabricated “conversation” between the Muslim and the imaginary Christian, the Muslim asks the Christian to Read Matthew 1:18 which says that Mary “was found with child of the Holy Ghost.” The Muslim then tells the Christian to read Luke 1:26-27 which says that Gabriel was sent to Mary. The Muslim concludes that Gabriel and the Holy Ghost are the same.

Baagil’s imaginary Muslim actually rips Luke 1:26-27 out of context. What the context of Luke 1:26-35 actually says is that the angel Gabriel came to Mary to announce that she will become pregnant. When Mary objects saying that she is a virgin, the angel Gabriel says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” Gabriel says that the Holy Spirit will come upon Mary. Gabriel and the Holy Spirit are not the same.

The idea that the Holy Spirit is Gabriel is actually refuted by the very passage this Muslim uses to make his case. I would think it would be rather difficult for the Muslim to argue that this passage has been corrupted by Christians, since Baagil's Muslim used it as a proof text for his own argument! The very passage this Muslim cites to make his case, however, actually alludes to the Trinity: “The Holy Spirit [NOT Gabriel!] will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35)!

The Muslim could argue, I suppose, that since God is Spirit, the “Holy Spirit” is simply another way of referring to God. Muslims won’t make this argument, however, because they are committed to Muhammad’s mistake of thinking that the Holy Spirit is Gabriel.

The argument that the Holy Spirit is just another way for saying God doesn’t hold up either because the New Testament makes a distinction between God the Father and God the Spirit.

For example, Father, Son and Spirit are all present, yet distinct, at the baptism of Jesus (Mark 1:9-11; Matthew 3:16-17; Luke 3:21-22; cf. John1:32-34).

Another example of the distinction between God the Father and God the Spirit is in John 14:26 in which Jesus (God the Son) says that God the Father will send the Holy Spirit. It doesn’t make much sense to say that God is sending Himself.

Yet another example of the distinction between God the Father and God the Spirit is that God the Spirit is said to intercedes for us in our prayers to God the Father (Romans 8:26-27).

In the Gospel of John, The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus (John 16:14). The Bible never says that Jesus "glorifies the Holy Spirit."

Blasphemy of the Spirit is apparently even more serious than blasphemy of the Father or Son (probably because it is the Spirit who draws people to the Father and Son).

The Spirit is “sent” by the Father (Jn 14:16-17, 26). The Bible never says the Spirit sends the Father.

The Spirit is also "sent by the son" (Jn 16:7), the Bible never says the Spirit sends the Son, and Jesus was not "sending" himself.

Jesus was crucified. The Father and Spirit were not crucified.

Jesus said that after he died, the Father would send another Helper. In this passage, Father, Son and Spirit are somehow distinct (John 14:26).

The Bible clearly teaches a distinction between Father, Son and Spirit. Are we supposed to believe that Christians managed to corrupt all of these passages in thousands of ancient manuscripts, translations and quotations, and that Muhammad alone has the truth?

Anyway, it is for all of these reasons (and more) that orthodox Christians have affirmed that the Bible teaches there is ONE and only ONE God (Deuteronomy 6:1; Matthew 12:29) who exists eternally in three “persons”: Father, Son and Spirit. The Bible doesn't have a name for this phenomena so theologians chose to call it the Trinity (I think Tri-unity may have been a better term).

Muslims may disagree with this doctrine. They may think it is illogical, irrational, or contradictory, but for anyone to say that Christians believe in three gods is simply a profound ignorance of Christianity.

The fact is that we worship a Creator who created a universe so unbelievably huge and complex (from tiny but incredibly complex micro-organisms to billions of gigantic galaxies) that human beings do not yet comprehend or understand it all. This being the case, there just might be some things about our awesome Creator that our feeble minds just do not understand.

Imagine, for example, trying to explain a long distance cell phone call to someone from the 1700’s. They wouldn’t understand the concept of telephones, much less cell phones. If you tried to explain it to them, they wouldn’t understand frequencies, or satellites or electronics or even plastic! In other words, they wouldn’t even understand the concepts necessary to understand the principles behind cell phones! How much less do we understand God! So when God reveals himself as ONE God eternally existing in Father, Son and Spirit, Christians believe it even if we can’t explain it.

Baagil’s book then has his imaginary Christian provide arguments for the deity of Jesus. These arguments are "straw men" which the Muslim easily refutes. So for example the imaginary Christian argues that Jesus is God because he could do miracles, and could heal leprosy and could cause a blind man to see, and could raise the dead and could walk on water and could cast out devils. The Muslim refutes this by pointing out that other prophets (like Elijah or Elisha; but not Muhammad) also healed people or raised the dead.

This is true, but for informed Christians, Jesus' healing is not, by itself, proof of Jesus’ deity. They are, however, reasons that Christians take seriously what Jesus taught about himself. None of the prophets ever taught that they were above the Sabbath, or could forgive sins, or could overturn God's dietary laws, or were "one" with the Father. Jesus' miracles and resurrection give us reason to believe that Jesus was telling the truth.

But now that we’re on the subject, the non-Muslim might ask, what reason do we have to believe that Muhammad was telling the truth? Why should we believe Muhammad just because he said he received revelations from God? Other people have said they have received revelations from God too.

Why should we believe Muhammad just because he said he went on an overnight trip to Jerusalem (a roughly 1,400 mile round trip long before Saudi Airlines was developed) even though both his bed-partner for that night and his wife A’isha admitted that Muhammad's body didn’t go anywhere that night? Some of us want evidence.

Muslims will say that the Qur’an is evidence. I’ve read the Qur’an. While Muslims may see the Qur’an as a thing of beauty, most non-Muslims do not see it that way. We do not see it as evidence that Muhammad was a genuine prophet. In fact, quite the contrary.

On the other hand, Jesus’ miracles—which even Muhammad admits Jesus did—and Jesus' resurrection are evidence that Jesus really was who he claimed to be and who others claimed him to be, i.e. the Messiah, Savior, and incarnation of God.

On page 23 of the book, one of the arguments Baagil's imaginary “Christian” gives for Jesus’ deity is his resurrection from the dead. The Muslim’s response is to say that this idea comes from Paul “who never saw Jesus alive” and that “The gospel of the resurrection in Mark 16:9-20 has also been removed in many Bibles.” With that, the Muslim apparently thinks he has disproved the resurrection of Jesus.

First, it is true that two very ancient manuscripts—Vaticanus and Sinaiticus—which contain the Gospel of Mark, do not have Mark 16:9-20, which is why some English translations have “removed” it or place it in a footnote.

But there are thousands of New Testament Greek manuscripts and almost all of them that contain the Gospel of Mark, include Mark 16:9-20.

Second, Irenaeus and Tertullian, both of whom lived before the Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were copied, quoted from Mark 16:9-20. In other words, Mark 16:9-20 was certainly part of the Gospel of Mark in some (or all) manuscripts before codex Vaticanus and Sinaiticus were copied.

Third, Tatian’s Diatesseron (an early harmony of the Gospels) also has Mark 16:9-20 and it was written before Vaticanus and Sinaiticus also. In other words, Mark 16:9-20 was also part of whatever manuscripts Tatian used to create his harmony of the Gospels--which was earlier than either Vaticanus or Sinaiticus.

Nevertheless, the Muslim is right that most scholars do not believe Mark 16:9-20 is genuine, but that doesn’t mean the Gospel of Mark didn’t know of Jesus’ resurrection. Indeed, Jesus predicts his own resurrection both in Mark 9:9 and Mark 14:28. There is, therefore, no question that Mark knew of Jesus’ resurrection.

But even aside from Mark, the teaching that Jesus rose from the dead is also found in numerous other first century AD sources including several of Paul’s letters. For example, in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (which even the critics believe in genuine), Paul tells of how he had once persecuted Christians and tried to destroy Christianity, but then he converted and began proclaiming the very religion he had tried to destroy! Paul went up to Jerusalem and met with the apostles of Jesus and they personally gave him their blessing to preach the Gospel—the Gospel which included the resurrection, which Paul mentions in the very first verse of Galatians.

Likewise, in first Corinthians (which even the critics believe is genuine), Paul is so convinced that Jesus has risen from the dead, he says that if Jesus had not risen all Paul's effort and suffering has been for nothing!

Paul also talks about the resurrection of Jesus in Romans, First Corinthians, Second Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, First Thessalonians, and Second Timothy.

In addition to Paul’s letters, the resurrection is found in Matthew, Luke/Acts, John, 1 Peter, Revelation, the edited version of Josephus, and in Clement of Rome.

The resurrection is also affirmed in many second century AD sources as well, including, Ignatius (d. 98/117), Polycarp (wrote 110), Didache (2nd cent), Epistle of Barnabas, Hermas (ca 150), Papias (60-130), Epistle to Diognetus, Irenaeus (194), Justin (100-165), Tertullilan (160-220), Athenagoras (2nd cent), Theophilus (2nd cent), Minucius Felix (2-3 cent), Hipolytus (170-236), Origen (185-254), Tatian (110-172).

Even some of the so-called “lost gospels” of the second century affirmed the resurrection of Jesus: Ascension of Isaiah, Apocalypse of Peter, Acts of Thomas, Odes of Solomon, 5th Ezra, Epistula Apostolorum, Acts of Paul and Thecla, Gospel of Thomas, Gospel of Philip, Gospel of the Savior, Gospel of Peter, Acts of Peter, Acts of Thomas, Apocryphon of James, Ascension of Isaiah, Wisdom of Christ, and Treatise on the resurrection.

In fact, about 40 authors mention the resurrection of Jesus within 150 years of his death. By contrast, only 10 authors mention Tiberius Casear—the ruler of the entire Roman Empire—within 150 years of Tiberius’ death!

Besides the extensive documentary evidence, the resurrection of Jesus explains some otherwise difficult-to-explain events.

First, it explains why Paul and James—two committed anti-Christians—came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, Savior and Son of God.

Second, the resurrection explains why the earliest Christians—who were all Jews—suddenly started worshiping on the first day of the week (the day on which Jesus rose) rather than on the Sabbath (seventh day). This change is of huge significance since rest on the Sabbath was commanded by God. It would be like Muslims suddenly deciding to worship on Sunday rather than on Friday. Such a radical change would cry out for an explanation.

Third, the resurrection explains why the earliest Christians, who were all monotheistic Jews, began actually worshiping Jesus and referring to Jesus in ways that other Jews would only refer to God (Phil 2, Col 1, John 1, Hebrews 1, Romans 10:13 ref to Joel 2:32, Mark 1 ref to Isa 40:3, John 1). No matter how much Jews respected Moses or their other prophets, they would never worship them or attribute actions that only properly belong to God. Something must explain this radical change—and belief in the resurrection explains it.

Fourth, the resurrection explains why the Jesus movement would even continue at all after Jesus’ death. In the Jewish mind, the Messiah was a king who would save the Jews from their enemies. But Jesus wasn’t a king in any earthly sense, and not only did he not rescue the Jews from their enemies—he was executed by them!

Jesus' "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem is a good illustration. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey deliberately fulfilling the prophet Zachariah’s prophecy of Israel’s king coming to them on a donkey and he was hailed by waving palm branches and shouts of “hosanna, hosanna” (save us, save us!). But only days later the people were yelling “crucify him, crucify him.”

There was a change because the Jews who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem were hoping that Jesus--the miracle working prophet from Galilee--was their long awaited Messiah-king. They were disparately hoping that he would now act to kick out the oppressive Romans. But only days later, there was Jesus—chained to Roman soldiers, mocked, beaten and bloodied.

Those who yelled “crucify him” turned on him because they assumed he must be an impostor and deceiver! In their minds it was absolutely impossible that their Messiah-King would ever be subdued by their enemies. In fact, when Jesus died, even his disciples lost hope for awhile. A Messiah just couldn’t die at the hands of their enemies.

So why didn’t the Jesus Movement die out just like every other messianic movement we know about? The answer is that Jesus’ followers became absolutely, positively convinced that they had seen Jesus alive and well physically after his death. They were so convinced that they were willing to suffer beatings, imprisonments, stoning and even death—not for some good cause (many people will suffer for good causes)—but because they knew Jesus was alive! As Paul says in First Corinthians, if Christ has not risen, everything is in vain (my paraphrase).

The resurrection—in addition to Jesus’ miracles and fulfilled prophecies—was enough evidence to convince them that Jesus really was who he had claimed to be: their Messiah and Savior!

Some people make a big deal out of the supposed discrepancies in the four Gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection.

First, in the book Easter Enigma, Oxford scholar John Wenham does a remarkable job showing that these supposed discrepancies are not really contradictions at all.

Second, even if there were minor contradictions in the Gospel’s resurrections stories, that is precisely what you would expect in any testimony by multiple people. For example, if all you knew about 9/11 was what you read in Newsweek, New York Times, the Washington Post and Time, you probably wouldn’t assume the event never happened just because you could find discrepancies and contradictions in the various stories!

Critics’ attacks on the resurrection stories due to minor disagreements are really nothing more than smoke and mirrors designed to distract from the fact that the gospels have a remarkable agreement on the main points of the resurrection story, i.e. that: 1) Mary and other women 2) found the stone rolled away from Jesus’ tomb, 3) and found the tomb empty, 4) on the first day of the week (Sunday, not Monday, Tuesday, etc.), 5) on the third day after Jesus was crucified, and that 7) Jesus physically appeared to the women and 8) to his disciples.

It is significant that the Gospels agree that Jesus appeared first to the women because in those days women were not considered to be competent to give testimony. For example, the first century Jewish historian, Josephus writes, “But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of their sex” (Antiquities 4.219).

So if the Gospel writers were just fabricating a story about Jesus’ resurrection, the last thing they would do is make up a story about women being the primary eyewitnesses! If I lived back then and wanted to make up such a story, I’d make one up about how Pilate, or Herod or the chief priests found the empty tomb and saw Jesus alive!

All of this just scratches the surface. Those who are really interested in pursuing this topic of the resurrection of Jesus, should purchase the outstanding book, “The Resurrection of Son of God” by N.T. Wright (740 pages).

As an aside: some people play a little mental game with all of this evidence. They say to themselves, in effect, "If you Christians can't prove to me with absolute, scientific proof that Jesus rose from the dead, I am justified in not believing." This is a game because absolutely nothing can withstand that degree of skepticism. Atheism can't. Evolution can't. Certainly Islam cannot.

But Baagil doesn't just deny the resurrection. He also denies Jesus' crucifixion. More on that tomorrow or Monday.

Not only do Muslims deny Jesus’ resurrection, they even deny that he was crucified!

On pages 27-28 Baagil says, “The Noble Qur’an states in Surah 4:157-158 that Jesus PBUH was not crucified.” Baagil then quotes the Qur’an which says, “And their [Jews] boasting: ‘We killed Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, the apostle of Allah,’ but they [Jews] killed him not, nor crucified him, but the resemblance of Jesus was put over another man (and they killed that man).”

In support of the Qur’an, Baagil argues that Jesus prayed not to be crucified so, Baagil reasons, God must have answered him.

Notice, however, how Baagil’s argument works. In spite of the fact that the Gospels all agree that Jesus was crucified, Baagil assumes that the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion are inaccurate.
But Baagil takes Jesus’ prayer out of context, assuming that this prayer is authentic and accurate!

Not even this “cherry-picking” of evidence will work for Baagil, though, because in this same prayer that Baagil treats as authentic, Jesus also prayed, “thy will be done.” God did answer Jesus’ prayer. God’s will was done, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah 53:10 (cf. also Acts 2:23 and 1 Peter 1:2). This is the essence of the Christian message: that "God so loved the world (even Muslims!) that he sent his only Son that whover believes in him might not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

Baagil then argues that when Jesus said “touch me not” this must be understood in the Muslim sense that Jesus was a male Muslim who couldn’t let a woman touch him.

Aside from the fact that Muslims didn’t even exist for another 600 years after Jesus’ time, Baagil’s argument ignores the context of John. In the context of John, Jesus’ command “touch me not” cannot be a denial of Jesus’ crucifixion because Jesus gives this command after he was already crucified and raised! We must always beware of people who continually pull passages out of context.

Baagil then argues that Jesus asked his disciples “to examine his hands and feet that there were no signs of nailing on the cross (Luke 24:36-41).”

Once again, Baagil pulls yet another passage out of context. In context, the events of Luke 24:36-41 occur after Jesus’ resurrection. Luke 24:36-41 was merely making the point that the resurrected Jesus was not a spirit but had flesh and bones. Luke does NOT deny that the risen Jesus had nail prints.

Baagil conveniently neglects to mention that according to John 20:27 Jesus invited Thomas to “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side.” Jesus was using the nail prints and spear wound as proof that he really was the same Jesus who was crucified.

Not only do Luke and John affirm Jesus’ crucifixion, but so do Matthew, Mark, Acts, Romans, First Corinthians, Second Corinthians, Galatians, Hebrews and Revelation, all written in the first century AD.

The crucifixion of Jesus is also confirmed by other ancient Christians whose writings were not included in the New Testament—sources all written from about 400 to 500 years before Muhammad; for example, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, the letter of Barnabas, Hegesippus, Mileto of Sardis, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origin, and Tatian (Diatessaron).

(Note: The Letter of Barnabas mentioned above is not to be confused with the so-called Gospel of Barnabas. On page 37 Baagil cites the Gospel of Barnabas as if it were genuine but even Muslim scholars acknowledge that the Gospel of Barnabas is a medieval Muslim forgery).

Even ancient non-Christians affirmed Jesus’ crucifixion. For example, the first century Jewish historian, Josephus says Jesus was crucified as does the early second century non-Christian, Lucian. Even the Roman historian Tacitus confirms Jesus execution saying that Jesus "sufferred the "extreme penalty" under Pontius Pilate.

The crucifixion of Jesus is an accepted fact in the scholarly world. Even radical anti-Christian skeptics believe Jesus was crucified. In fact, the only ones who reject this fact are Muslims who must reject Jesus’ crucifixion because Muhammad rejected it. If Jesus was crucified, Muhammad was wrong.

So why did Muhammad—who lived about 600 years after Jesus--teach that Jesus was not crucified? The answer is very simple. Muhammad was deceived by a group of people we often call "Gnostics" who believed that Jesus was divine but not truly human. As a result of their philosophy, the Gnostics concluded that Jesus couldn't really die. So starting about 200 to 300 years after Jesus’ death, these Gnostics argued that Jesus was not really crucified and that he died only in appearance. They were not doing history, mind you, they were just trying to twist history to fit their philosophy.

The idea, found in the Qur’an, that a substitute died in Jesus’ place comes from this group of Gnostic pseudo-Christians who didn’t even believe Jesus was truly human!

That Muhammad got his ideas from these Gnostics is evidenced by the fact that Muhammad got other ideas from this group as well. For example Muhammad’s teaching that Jesus made clay birds come to life and fly away comes from the “Infancy Gospel of Thomas which is another gospel written about 200 years after Jesus. Absolutely no one thinks this story is true, except Muslims who must believe it because Muhammad taught it! Muhammad probably got it from his “Christian” uncle or other heretical “Christians” with whom he had come in contact.

We know about these ancient Gnostics from ancient writings they left. For example, a writing called The Second Treatise of the Great Seth, probably written about 200 years after Jesus was born, puts these words into the mouth of Jesus:

“They struck me with the reed; it was another, Simon, who bore the cross on his shoulder. It was another upon whom they placed the crown of thorns.”

This treatise says that Jesus died not in reality but in appearance and that he was laughing at them.

Likewise the so-called Apocalypse of Peter, written over 200 years after the time of Jesus, says,:

“The Savior said to me, ‘He whom you saw on the tree, glad and laughing, this is the living Jesus. But this one into whose hand and feet they drive the nails in his fleshly part, which is the substitute…”

So supposedly, while “the living Jesus” was being crucified—one of the most brutal tortures imaginable—he was laughing because the nails had been driven into the hands of a substitute!

This is the pool of ideas from which Muhammad got his idea when he said, "That they [Jews] said in boast, 'We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Apostle of God'--but they killed him not nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them..." (Surah 4:157).

Some of these early Gnostic heretics taught that the Trinity was God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit the Mother (e.g. The Gospel of the Hebrews—not to be confused with the biblical book of Hebrews).

No wonder Muhammad was shocked! He apparently thought that Christians believed that God the Father had sex with God the Mother (whom they identified with the Holy Spirit) and produced God the Son! But this is not what orthodox Christians believed! The virgin birth of Jesus—which is something taught even in the Qur’an—is a mystery which is not to be thought of in terms of sexual relations.

But this raises an interesting question: Since the Qur’an teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin (Surah 3:47-49) how could this possibly happen unless it was directly the work of God? According to the Muhammad, Jesus was of great honor, righteous, a prophet (Surah 43:59), God's Apostle (Surah 4:157) and even the Christ (Surah 3:45-46). He was one to whom God imparted his revelation (3:47-49; 5:110) and one who was strengthened with holy inspiration (Surah 2:87; 2:253; 5:110). According to Muhammad, Jesus healed the blind, healed lepers and even raised the dead (Surah 5:110), none of which Muhammad could do.

In fact, so great is Jesus that according to the Hadith, “Narrated Abu Huraira: The Apostle said, “So they will go to Jesus and say, “O Jesus! You are Allah’s Apostle and His Word (6.200-201; 60.178.236)” and “Narrated Anas: The Prophet said, “Go to Jesus, Allah’s Slave, His Apostle, and Allah’s Word and a Spirit coming from Him (6.4).” In other words, Muhammad called Jesus the very “Word of God.” Muslimis need to ask themselves how you can separate the word of God from God himself? It’s like trying to separate the sun’s rays from the sun, or heat from fire or the spirit from the body.

Bottom line: Jesus is the holy, righteous miracle-working Word of God! There is none like him.
There is none above him. He is the ONE to whom every person who ever lived will give account at the last judgment. He is the ONE to whom every knee will bow. He is the ONE to whom we must bow and confess with the apostle Thomas, “My Lord and my God!”

Concluding Post-Script for Christians

In 2002, three Christian missionary hospital workers were murdered while providing medical care for Muslims in Yemen, another Christian missionary was shot to death while providing medical care for Muslims in Lebanon and yet another missionary Martin Burnham, was killed after ministering to Muslims in the Philippines.

In 2001 fifteen Christians were murdered by Muslims during a morning church service in Pakistan and the year before that (Dec 2000) ninety-three Christians were slaughtered in Indonesia for the crime of refusing to convert to Islam. All of this, however, pales in comparison to the atrocities of rape, slavery, torture and murder being committed on a mass scale by Muslims against Christians in the Sudan. Considering all of this, is it only human to respond with anger and desire to seek retaliation. In a country like America, in which so many people call themselves Christians, it may be well to ask the question, “What would Jesus do about Muslims?”

The question may seem a little silly since Islam was not founded until hundreds of years after Jesus lived, so Jesus never addressed the issue of Islam. In Jesus’ time, however, there was an interesting parallel that may provide some insights. To explore this parallel we need to take a brief excursion back through history to a tale of two kingdoms.

In the tenth century BC, Palestine was divided into two Jewish kingdoms: The northern kingdom of Samaria and the southern kingdom of Judea. The political tension between these two kingdoms escalated into religious strife when Samaria established an alternate place of worship in opposition to the Law of Moses.

In 722 BC the Assyrian empire forcibly relocated large numbers of conquered peoples to Samaria. The result was that the Jews of Samaria began to intermarry with these foreign peoples. Political and religious strife intensified as ethnic considerations where added to the mix.

Eventually, Judea was also conquered and most of its inhabitants were deported. When these Jews were finally allowed to return to their homeland, the Samaritans used everything in their power, including threats of violence, to prevent the Jews from rebuilding Jerusalem and their temple. The political, religious and ethnic strife escalated into hatred of the two groups for each other. The situation, however, eventually went from the frying pan to the fire.

By the mid 100’s BC a ruthless Syrian king known as Antiochus IV Epiphanes is said to have slaughtered and/or enslaved 80,000 Jews! Even if the numbers were exaggerated, the extent of the terror and grief felt by the Jews is impossible to exaggerate. There was probably not a single family in all of Judea that had not personally been affected by this terror--so when the Jews discovered that their Samaritan neighbors to the north actually supported this campaign of terror, we might imagine that the level of Jewish hatred for Samaritans was almost beyond comprehension.

This hatred continued all through the lifetime of Jesus. In fact, not long before Jesus’ public ministry began, a group of Samaritans defiled the Jewish temple in Jerusalem with dead carcasses. While to us this may sound like an act of vandalism and intolerance, to first century Jews for whom the temple was sacred, this act was undoubtedly an atrocity. By the time Jesus began his public ministry, therefore, the Jewish people felt very justified in their hatred toward Samaritans.

It is with this background in mind that a story about Jesus recorded in the fourth chapter of John stands out in startling contrast. According to this story, Jesus was traveling back to Galilee from Jerusalem. Rather than crossing the Jordan in order to avoid traveling through Samaria as was the usual Jewish practice, Jesus deliberately traveled through the heart of Samaria and started a conversation with a Samaritan woman. This was notable not only because she was a Samaritan but because first century Rabbi’s didn’t usually engage women in public discussions.
After extended conversation which eventually included the local townspeople, Jesus and his followers accepted an invitation of hospitality and stayed with the Samaritans for several days before continuing on their way.

So what does all this have to do with Islam? Notice the similarities: 1) Samaritans recognized Moses as a prophet and the Jewish Torah (with modifications), as authoritative. Islam recognizes Jesus as a prophet and the gospels (with modifications), as authoritative. 2) Samaritans and Jews had both perpetrated violence against each other. Islam and Christianity have both perpetrated violence against each other. 3) Samaritans and Jews felt they had good, solid reasons for hating each other. Many Christians and Muslims feel they have good, solid reasons for hating each other.

In fact, if any people had good reasons to hate another group of people, it was the Jews against Samaritans! Yet even though Jesus was fully Jewish, according to the story in the Gospel of John, he did not hate Samaritans! He was not violent toward them and he did not insult or verbally abuse them. Instead, he apparently treated them with kindness and respect, conversing with them and accepting their hospitality.

So what would Jesus do about Muslims? Since Jesus did not directly tell the Jewish rulers how they should address the Samaritan problem, this article is not intended to address the complicated political issues involved in international relations. On a personal level, however, since Jesus treated even Samaritans with kindness and respect, it is hard to imagine that he would have treated Muslims differently. Christians should be known as those who reach out in love to our Muslim neighbors just as Jesus reached out to Samaritans.