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18. Bible and Qur'an Series
(A Comparative Study of the Christian and Muslim Attitudes to the Person of Jesus Christ)
Answers to Ahmad Deedat's Booklet: CHRIST IN ISLAM

5. Jesus - the Eternal Son of the Living God

The latter part of Deedat's booklet contains a relentless and at times uncouth attack on the Christian doctrine and Biblical teaching that Jesus is the Son of God. Nevertheless he is obliged to concede that from at least one point of view, “he is pre-eminently the Son of God” (Christ in Islam, page 29). On page 28 he quotes a number of texts to show that the expression “son of God” is found often in the Bible in contexts where people are being described generally as children of God. He then concludes that when Jesus claimed to be the Son of God he was also only speaking in a metaphorical sense and that Christians err when they say that he was the eternal Son of God.

No one can possibly draw such a conclusion without overlooking a wealth of evidence in the Bible that shows that Jesus was the Son of God in a unique and absolute sense. On numerous occasions he made statements that make this point very clearly. Consider this verse:

All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. (Luke 10:22)

As the Jews once testified, “no man ever spoke like this man” (John 7:46). No other prophet used such language to identify himself. All things, said Jesus, had been delivered to him and no one could know the Father unless the Son actually revealed him. Here is a similar quotation which shows that Jesus considered himself the Son of God in an absolute sense, a quote which, like many others, is expediently ignored in Deedat's booklet:

The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him. (John 5:22-23)

If we are all children of God, as Deedat imagines (page 29), why did Jesus say that all men should honor him as the Son of God even as they honor the Father? Indeed throughout the Gospels we find teachings that show that Jesus regarded himself as the unique, eternal Son of God. On one occasion he told a parable about a householder who planted a vineyard and let it out to tenants. When the season for fruit came the owner sent his servants to the tenants to get his fruit, but one by one they maltreated them and sent them away empty-handed, beating one and wounding another. The owner of the vineyard then said to himself:

What shall I do? I will send my beloved son; it may be they will respect him. (Luke 20:13)

But when the tenants saw him, they promptly rejected him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. Jesus then concluded that the owner would destroy those tenants and let the vineyard out to others. Immediately the Jews “perceived that he had told this parable against them” (Luke 20:19). The perception was well-founded and the interpretation of the parable is obvious. God had allowed the Jews to live in a land he had given them as an inheritance, yet they constantly rebelled against him. He sent his servants the prophets but these too they rejected and often maltreated. Eventually after they had cast Jesus out of their midst and killed him, God brought destruction upon them and they were uprooted from the land of Palestine while Jerusalem became a heap of ruins (this was forty years after Jesus had ascended to heaven and occurred under the onslaught of the Roman tribune Titus).

The vital point in the parable is the identification of the last messenger to the tenants as the beloved son of the owner, as distinct from the former messengers who were only servants. Jesus clearly distinguished himself from the former prophets in this parable, showing that whereas they were only God's servants, he was his beloved Son. This was confirmed on at least two occasions when God himself spoke from heaven and said of Jesus:

This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased. (Matthew 3:17)

On another occasion Jesus asked his disciples who the people thought he was. They answered that it was generally believed that he was one of the prophets. So he asked them who they thought he was and Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16) to which Jesus answered that he was especially blessed for he had not perceived this through human wisdom but through a revelation from above. It is not possible to honestly conclude, from a genuine study of his teaching, that Jesus ever regarded himself as anything less than the eternal, unique Son of God. These words sum up his teaching:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him may not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

God sent his only Son, a teaching found constantly in the Bible. (For a treatment of the use of the word "begotten" in the King James Version and Deedat's arguments about it, see Nr.3 in this series, The Textual History of the Qur'an and the Bible).

Those who are God's children on earth, his sons and daughters in a lesser sense, are so because God has become their Father and has chosen to treat them as his children. But Jesus was his eternal Son, who came from him into the world so that others might become children of God. The whole distinction between Jesus as the absolute, eternal Son of God, and Christians who have become the sons of God is put exceptionally well in these words:

But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might attain adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4)

God sent forth his Son so that many others might attain adoption as sons. Jesus taught this quite plainly as well, saying “I proceeded and came forth from God” (John 8:42). Yet another verse makes this abundantly clear:

For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17)

Jesus was the only Son from the Father (John 1:18) and he regarded himself as such in all his teaching. He never claimed to be the son of God in the sense that all true believers are children of God. Speaking of the day of his return he said that no one knows the day, “not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matthew 24:36). Here there is a clear progression of authority, viz. men - angels - the Son - the Father. Quite clearly Jesus spoke of himself in only one ultimate context - above the angels as the only Son of the eternal Father. He describes his status in terms that relate to the Divine Being alone.

Deedat goes on to deal with the statement of Jesus, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), saying that its context shows that this does not mean that Jesus was one with his Father in omniscience, nature or omnipotence, but only “one in purpose” (Christ in Islam, page 37). To set the quotation in its context he quotes verses 27-29 before it and says:

How can anyone be so blind as not to see the exactness of the ending of the last two verses. But spiritual blinkers are more impervious than physical defects. (Christ in Islam, page 37)

One wonders where the blindness really is and who it is whose spiritual eyes are restricted by blinkers, for Deedat casually glosses over a remarkable statement made by Jesus in one of the very verses he is referring to, where Jesus says of those who are his true followers:

I give unto them eternal life. (John 10:28)

Who but God alone can give not only life but eternal life? One has to read such statements, not only in their immediate context, but in the whole context of Jesus' overall teaching about himself. At another time he said:

For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son gives life to whom he will. (John 5:21)

This statement shows that the Son indeed possesses the same omnipotence as the Father. At the end of his earthly course Jesus again spoke of the Father giving him “power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him” (John 17:2). The statement “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30) made by Jesus, is one which he made no attempt to qualify, and it does not behove any interpreter to restrict its meaning to “one in purpose”. At face value it clearly means “one in all things” and Jesus would hardly have made such a striking claim without qualifying it, if he had not intended to convey the impression that there was an absolute oneness between the Father and the Son and that he therefore possessed deity. It is no wonder the Jews so understood his claim (John 10:33).

Furthermore it is intriguing to find that Deedat has placed certain words in capitals in the verses referred to earlier, namely the statement of Jesus that no one could pluck his followers from his hand, nor from his Father's hand. How could Jesus make such a claim unless he possessed the same power to preserve his followers that his Father possessed? It is surely clear to those whose eyes are not blinded by their presuppositions against the teaching of Jesus in the Bible, that Jesus did not claim that he was one with his Father in purpose alone but also in the possession of the absolute, eternal power required to execute that purpose to complete effect.

The whole problem with Deedat is that, being a Muslim, he approaches the Bible with the presumption that Jesus is not the eternal Son of God and so could never have claimed to be such. He therefore cannot read the Bible with an open mind and interpret it consistently. When he is met with plain statements that show that Jesus again and again claimed to be the Son of God, he cannot simply accept them. His presumptions oblige him to either overlook and ignore them, when he cannot counter them, or misinterpret and pervert them whenever he thinks he can.

Towards the close of his booklet he mentions two incidents in the life of Jesus which prove this point very adequately. He finds an occasion where Jesus taught that to enter life, one must keep the commandments of God (Matthew 19:17) and makes much of this because such teaching seems to coincide with Islamic dogma. Here, however, he falls into the very trap he cautions against elsewhere in his booklet by wrenching this statement out of its context. What follows does not suit his argument so he ignores it. Jesus went on to show the young man he was addressing that no one can keep God's laws perfectly and so enter life in this way. The young man was very rich and Jesus said to him:

If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me. (Matthew 19:21)

It may be true today that “no one is perfect”, but God surely is and he will judge us by his own standards of perfection. A limited attempt to keep his laws is not acceptable to him, and who keeps them perfectly? When Jesus made this young man realize that he could not do so, he showed him another way to life: If you would be perfect ... follow me.

The second incident concerns the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Because Jesus was moved in his spirit and prayed to his Father about the matter, Deedat concludes that he could not have been the eternal Son of God. Once again, however, he casually ignores the context of this prayer and expediently overlooks an outstanding claim made by Jesus at the very time this wonderful miracle was performed:

I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. (John 11:25)

The words in the original Greek introducing this statement are emphatic, meaning, “I, I am the resurrection and the life,” or, “I myself am the resurrection and the life.” This means that Jesus himself, in a unique and absolute sense, is the resurrection and the life. It is little wonder that he is called the “Author of life” (Acts 3:15) elsewhere in the Bible. No one who did not have an eternal nature could ever have made such a claim. Such words can be spoken by one whose nature is deity alone.

The great mistake that Deedat makes when he reads the Bible is that he does not objectively seek to discover what it says, but approaches it with presumptions about what it should say. Christians read the Bible earnestly desiring to know what Jesus said about himself and throughout history they have universally drawn the conclusion that he taught that he was the eternal Son of God who came in human form to redeem the world. It is a conclusion they draw from an open assessment of the contents of the books they read. But men like Deedat have decided in advance, before they even pick up a Bible, what it should say about Jesus. Because he believes that Jesus was only a prophet and not the Son of God, he approaches the Bible with the presumption that it should support this belief and wherever he can he attempts to pervert or distort its teaching to yield this presumption.

Deedat is thus totally unqualified and unfit to interpret the Bible. How is it that the Christian Church has universally held that Jesus is the eternal Son of God if the Bible does not teach this? Deedat's attempts to disprove this do not arise from a sincere assessment of Biblical teaching but from a presumption that it should not yield such a doctrine. It is quite clear who is reading the book with “blinkers”. It is the Islamic propagandist whose ability to read the Bible sincerely and objectively is blinkered by his dogmatic presumption that it should not teach that Jesus is the Son of God.

In conclusion we can only say that he exposes himself in no uncertain terms when he attempts to treat John 1:1 in a supposedly scholarly way on pages 40-41 of his booklet. The whole verse reads:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

He says that the Greek word for God in the clause “and the Word was with God” is ho theos and that in the latter clause “and the Word was God” the word is ton theos. He relates a discussion between himself and a Reverend Morris in which his apparently exceptional knowledge of Greek allegedly enabled him to confound and silence the reverend completely. We stand absolutely amazed, for the supposed “Muslim scholar of the Bible” has done nothing but expose an appalling ignorance of the Greek text. It is in the first clause that the expression is ton theon and in the second it is simply theos, that is, God. On this palpable error Deedat builds an apparently convincing argument in his booklet!

He says, therefore, that ton theos means “a god” and that John 1:1 therefore teaches that “the Word was a god”. This supposedly disproves the deity of Jesus Christ. Yet the original Greek reads that ho logos, that is, “the Word”, was theos, that is “God”. The verse thus correctly reads “The Word was God”, a statement comprehensively endorsing the deity of Christ. Thus Deedat's arguments slide completely to the ground through a shocking error of his own making, caused by his ignorance of the Bible. His booklets against the Christian faith constantly reveal two extremes - a bold confidence in his points on the one hand matched only by an obvious lack of substance in them on the other!

Surely little further evidence is needed to show that Deedat has little qualification to pose as a “Muslim scholar of the Bible”. His arguments and confident manner might lead unwary Muslims who are ignorant of the Bible into thinking he is a great critic of the book but, as Jesus said, it is wrong and foolish to judge purely by appearances (John 7:24). As this reply to his Christ in Islam shows, a Christian with a sound knowledge of the Bible can disprove his arguments without much difficulty and at times with contemptuous ease. The glaring mistakes he makes and the perversion of Biblical teaching that he practices show conclusively that his crusade against Christianity is thoroughly unwarranted and that, in his attempts to expose the Bible, he really only succeeds in exposing himself.

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