Thursday, May 23, 2013

James R. White's, What Every Christian Needs To Know About the Qur'an - A critical review, part 2



I am into the 8th day of a cold that may be the worst I have every had; but, I am finally beginning to sense that it is nearing it's end. Apart from laryngitis, and some occasional stuffiness, I am starting to feel almost 'normal'. So, now that the headaches, constant drainage, and overall sinus pressure has vanished, I am now able to focus on posting again, resuming my review of Mr. White's, What Every Christian Needs To Know About the Qur'an. The first installment of this review was published back on May 9th, 2013 (link), and focused on the book's introduction; this second installment shall delve into chapter 6, "The Qur'an and the Cross".

Chapter 6 (pages 129-143) is the most disappointing of the book (IMO), and this, for a number of reasons: first, Mr. White has chosen to limit his polemic to but one of the interpretations that has been offered by Muslim commentators—the "substitution theory"; second, only one translation is offered—for a section of the Qur'an (Surah 4.156, 157 - some "forty Arabic words") which many scholars have deemed the most difficult to translate, that is troubling; third, only ONE Muslim source is referenced in the entire chapter; and fourth, apart from the ONE Muslim scholar cited, no other scholarly author of Islamic Studies (Muslim or non-Muslim) is referenced, not ONE (comparing Mr. White's with Dr. Lawson's references on this issue we get: 1 vs. 300+).

I have already published 4 previous threads on Surah 4.156, 157 (link). Some of the key points covered in those threads include: first, some Muslims are fully convinced that the Qur'an does NOT deny the crucifixion and physical death of Jesus Christ; second, interpretations offered by Muslims who do believe that the Qur'an denies the crucifixion and physical death of Jesus Christ are varied and often contradictory; and third, given the fact that other passages in the Qur'an clearly affirm the death of Jesus Christ (Mr. White lists 2 such passages in his book: Surahs 3:55; 19:33 - page 141), the interpretation that the Qur'an does NOT deny the crucifixion and physical death of Jesus Christ is by far the most internally consistent one.

Now, I think the question that needs to be asked is this: why does Mr. White totally neglect the more internally consist understanding of 4.156, 157 ? To be sure, the vast majority of modern day Muslims reject this interpretation, but then, the vast majority of modern day Muslims also reject the understanding that the corruption of the "Torah and the Gospel" spoken of in the Qur'an pertains to interpretation and not wholesale textual corruption—Mr. White defends the minority position on this issue (see chapter 8, pp. 165-192). So, while Mr. White vigorously defends one minority position, he totally ignores another; his reasons are unknown to me, but one issue comes to the fore: the issue of consistency.

Moving from Mr. White's polemic, to that of Muslim apologists, the question of why the majority of Muslim commentators have rejected the internally consistent interpretation of 4.156, 157 remains. Dr. Lawson touches on a number of possible reasons in his exhaustive book, The Crucifixion and the Qur'an, but one very interesting possibility was not included. I shall now present what may be the most telling reason why the majority of Muslim commentators have rejected the internally consistent interpretation of Surah 4.156, 157. The following is from al-Kindi's, Apology, as found in N.A. Newman's, Early Christian-Muslim Dialogue [a book I recommended to my readers back on Dec. 2, 2011 (link); a book referenced numerous times by Mr. White in his book (pp. 49, 57, 102, 103, 192, 278), but NOT for what follows]:

They say [Muslims] that during his lifetime [Muhammad's] he told them not to bury him when he died. He said that God would raise him to heaven, as Christ our Lord was raised, and that he was too dear to God to be left on earth more than three days. They cherished this hope, and when he died on Monday, the 12th night of the first Spring moth in the 63rd year of his age, after an illness of 14 days, they laid him out, believing he would be raised to heaven as he had said. But when the third day had come, corruption had already set in, and their hope failed. They despaired of his vain assurance, and buried him in the earth on the 4th day. (N.A. Newman's, Early Christian-Muslim Dialogue, p. 444.)

N.A. Newman, in chapter note #48, adds the following important data:

[48] Though there appear to be no Muslim sources for Muhammad ever saying that he would be resurrected as Jesus was on the third day, al-Kindi's accusation is not entirely without merit...Shahih Bukhari, The Virtues and Merits of the Companions of the Prophet, ch. 6, hadith 18, vol. 5, p. 13 shows 'Umar as saying that Muhammad was to be resurrected...if Muhammad had said that he was to be resurrected and then was not, this would have been reason enough for a fairly well organized cover-up on the part of Abu Bakr, 'Umar and even the rest of the community...In view of the many inconsistencies concerning the death of Muhammad, it is quite possible that there were Muslim hadith in al-Kindi's day which reported that he was to be resurrected in a manner similar to Jesus. Moreover, it appears that none of the later Muslim apologists even tried to respond to al-Kindi's charge, though they must certainly have known of it at least through al-Biruni. (Ibid.. pp. 528, 529)

Nothing of this in Mr. White's book, nothing concerning important Muslim figures who affirmed the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ, nothing concerning Dr. Lawson's scholarly treatment—sure makes me wonder about the book's title...

More installments to follow, the Lord willing.


Grace and peace,

David


22 comments:

Ken said...

Hi David,
Glad you are getting over your bad cold.

You wrote:
third, only ONE Muslim source is referenced in the entire chapter; and fourth, apart from the ONE Muslim scholar cited, no other scholarly author of Islamic Studies (Muslim or non-Muslim) is referenced, not ONE (comparing Mr. White's with Dr. Lawson's references on this issue we get: 1 vs. 300+).

Lawson has 300 Islamic sources on the issue of Surah 4:157 ?

seems too incredible to be true.

In 30 years of dealing with many different kinds of Muslims(mostly Iranians, but I have dealt with other Muslims from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Palestinians, Syria, Egypt, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, India, Kenya, European and American converts to Islam, other Africans, and probably some others that don't come to my mind right now)

But -
I have never met any Muslim who held that view of Lawson or something close to it; that Surah 4:157 only means

a. The Jews didn't do the nailing /crucifying

(but I have met western missionary types who are not very Biblical or doctrinal who are promoting that view.)

b. Jesus really was crucified and dead, only just don't think of Him as dead, since He went to Allah, and He is like the Jihadists who have died in battle - do think of them as dead, etc. Surah 3:169 and 2:154

2. Also, I have never heard any Muslim debater give that interpretation, which seems more like the gospel of John in John 11:25

I don't doubt that there are those around like Lawson who teach in academic positions in the west; but who holds those positions in the Muslim countries and publishes it in public?



Ken said...

sorry for typo, I left out the key word, "NOT"

do NOT think of them as dead, etc. Surah 3:169 and 2:154

Ken said...

Never heard any Muslim debater give that view
like Shabir Ally
Hamza Tzortzis
Abdullah Kunde
Abduallah Al Andalousi
Sami Zaatari
Paul Bilal Williams (or any other Muslim in the comboxes at his blog)
Bassam Zawadi
etc.

not one

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

Thanks much for sharing your own personal experiences concerning Surah 4.156, 157. I am not surprised at all, for there is no question that the vast majority of modern day Muslims reject the internally consistent interpretation.

In my own personal dialogues with Muslims (dozens), only two have held to the internally consistent interpretation. But, the majority can be wrong. (As a Reformed Baptist, you reject a number of majority positions within the Christian paradigm.)

Anyway, with all that said, what did you think of the quotes from Al-Kindi and Newman?


Grace and peace,

David

Ken said...

I asked a bunch of Muslims over at Paul Bilal Williams, and my post was deleted because I linked to the book at Amazon, and the front cover appears to be a Persian or Turkish miniature painting and I am guessing that that is Jesus with a beard in heaven in between 2 angels. I did not find the info on the miniature painting. can you provide that info, since you have that book? I googled it, but didn't find anything.

I will try to address the Al Kindy quote and Newman in a subsequent post.

Ken said...

front cover of Lawson's book

Ken said...

The Al Kindy quote and Newman comments are very interesting. I don't remember that before when you did the posts on Lawson's book.

But there is no Islamic source on Muhammad saying that he would be raised just as Jesus was after being dead three days, as Newman points out.

What is the reference to Al Biruni ?

I am going to try and find the Al Bukhari reference on an online Hadith source; I don't have the books.

(Do you have all those books, both in Arabic and English ?) If so, that is amazing. That is something I have never been able to invest in - both money and books shelf space - my wife is amused that I have to keep getting more books - she things I already have enough.

ali khan said...

Hi David , thanks for posting your reflections on the book of James White .

Evangelical Christians can take a leaf or two out of your approach to Islam...scholarly and respectful.Most of the Christians engaging Islam or i should rather say all of them do not have any scholarly approach whatsoever and respect is a thing far off .

Thanks David for you respect and academic approach to Islam , may God almighty bless you and bring into the company Jesus Christ himself in the hereafter.

This is what the Quran says about you David

Quran 57:26-26

"We sent Noah and Abraham, and and placed in their descendants prophethood and scripture .Then We sent following their footsteps Our messengers and followed them with Jesus, the son of Mary, and gave him the Gospel. And We placed in the hearts of those who followed him compassion and mercy".

ali khan said...

Coming on to Sura 4:157 , i myself after an informal research on the same verse have come to the conclusion that Quran does not deny the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.The only thing which Quran negates is the Jewish boast of killing Jesus Christ , it says it was indeed God who caused Jesus to die .

David , i want to bring your attention to a presentation given on the same topic by Professor Suleiman Ali Mourad ,he received his Ph.D. from Yale University .Professor Mourad's research and publications focus on medieval Islamic history and religious thought, including Qur'anic studies, and the presentation of Jesus and Mary in the Qur'an and Islamic tradition .

In the paper which he presented at the conference titled 'The Quran in its historical context ' , which was held in 2009 at the University of Notre Dame, he has shown in a scholarly way that the Quran does not deny the reality of crucifixion, but rather it denies the theological implication of a Jewish boast of killing the messiah who they consider an impostor .


I want to say one more thing here , the death of Jesus Christ on cross however is not given any salfivic ramification in the Quran and according to me and also according to a vast number of Bible scholars is nothing less than a early Christian invention.

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

Yesterday, you posted:

== What is the reference to Al Biruni ?==

Me: Don't know with any certainty; I wonder if it has anything to do his work on the 'History of Religions'? Found the following book online, which seems germane:

Understanding Other Religions

==I am going to try and find the Al Bukhari reference on an online Hadith source; I don't have the books.

(Do you have all those books, both in Arabic and English ?)==

Me: I have Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Mishkat al-Masabih, and al-Lu' Lu' Wal Marjan.

The Bukhari which I have is the 9 volume Arabic-English set edited by Dr. Muhammad Mushin Khan. From volume 5, p. 13 (chapter 6, hadith 18 of "The Virtues and Merits of the Companions of the Prophet") we read:

>>Allāh's Apostle (PBUH) died while Abū Bakr was at a place called As-Sunah (Al-'Alīya). 'Umar stood up and said, "By Allah ! Allāh's Apostle (PBUH) is not dead !" "Umar (later on) said, "By Allāh ! Nothing occurred to my mind except that." He said, "Verily ! Allāh will resurrect him and he will cut the hands and legs of some men.">>

Grace and peace,

David

David Waltz said...

Hi Ali,

So good to see you back. Thanks much for your kind words to me, and the sharing of your thoughts on Surah 4.157. In your second post from yesterday, you wrote:

==Coming on to Sura 4:157 , i myself after an informal research on the same verse have come to the conclusion that Quran does not deny the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.The only thing which Quran negates is the Jewish boast of killing Jesus Christ , it says it was indeed God who caused Jesus to die .==

Me: Agreed.

==David , i want to bring your attention to a presentation given on the same topic by Professor Suleiman Ali Mourad ,he received his Ph.D. from Yale University .Professor Mourad's research and publications focus on medieval Islamic history and religious thought, including Qur'anic studies, and the presentation of Jesus and Mary in the Qur'an and Islamic tradition .

In the paper which he presented at the conference titled 'The Quran in its historical context ' , which was held in 2009 at the University of Notre Dame, he has shown in a scholarly way that the Quran does not deny the reality of crucifixion, but rather it denies the theological implication of a Jewish boast of killing the messiah who they consider an impostor .==

Me: Thank you so much for this !!! A little online research turned up the following sites:

http://sophia.smith.edu/~smourad/Introduction.htm

http://sophia.smith.edu/~smourad/Publications.pdf

http://quranconference.nd.edu/lecture-abstracts/

Tomorrow, I am going to email Dr. Mourad and see if he has an e-copy of his, "Does the Qur'an Deny or Assert Jesus' Crucifixion and Death?".

== I want to say one more thing here , the death of Jesus Christ on cross however is not given any salfivic ramification in the Quran and according to me and also according to a vast number of Bible scholars is nothing less than a early Christian invention.==

Me: As you probably already know, the 'penal-substitution' theory of the atonement is quite late (16th century), and the 'satisfaction' theory of Anslem comes from the 11th century. Some of theories of the atonement (e.g. 'moral-example' and 'governmental') seem to be reconcilable with both the Bible and the Qur'an ). See the following site for an overview of the various theories of the atonement:

http://www.theopedia.com/Atonement_of_Christ

Hope you are able to check back in later next week for my next installment (which should be up by Wednesday, the Lord willing).


Grace and peace,

David

Ken said...

In my own personal dialogues with Muslims (dozens), only two have held to the internally consistent interpretation. But, the majority can be wrong. (As a Reformed Baptist, you reject a number of majority positions within the Christian paradigm.)

Good point at the end.



But the history of Islam and their ijtima (consensus on the Qur'an, Interpretations, and Fiq rulings) and the focus of Islam on external conformity to Sharia law in society, and the Khalifate system (in Sunni Islam) that unified the Sunni world basically from 632 AD all the way until 1924 - is probably a big reason why we have never heard of any other views much, and why different opinions are mostly in the west and in modern more secular Muslim countries.

I praise God that Christianity in the west threw off the Roman Catholic strong hold on the church and state and culture of the Medieval Synthesis from after 500 AD that lasted until around 1517-1520s (basically) and state churches and there is freedom today to disagree with others.

I hope Islam can do that also; but it does not seem easy, as their open war texts (Surah 9) are last and basically over-ruled the nicer verses, as Islamic history confirms by their conquering of so many lands.

Ken said...

David,
Since you have Lawson's book, can you tell the information on the Persian or Turkish (or ?) miniature on the front cover?

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

The cover image of Dr. Lawson's book is Turkish, and is called, "The Ascension of Christ: Astonished Jews in a Grassy Landscape Watch Christ Ascend into Heaven with Two Angels, from Zubdat al-Tavarikh, completed after 1583 (vellum) by Lugman-i Ashur."

A Google search yielded the following:

The Ascension of Christ, to the astonishment of the Jews, from The Fine Flower of Histories


Grace and peace,

David

Ken said...

Thanks! It looks a little different.

Ken said...

A Muslim named Ibn Anwar at Paul Bilal Williams blog thinks Al-Kindi's musings are a pile of dung.

http://bloggingtheology.wordpress.com/2013/05/25/the-most-embarrassing-verse-in-the-bible/#comment-12362

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

Thanks much for the link—a very interesting thread—I am thinking about posting there later today, but I'm debating over whether or not it is worth it, given the apparent hostility evidenced by some of the contributors.

Earlier today, Dr. Suleiman Mourad gracious emailed me a pdf copy of his paper, "Does the Qur'an Deny or Assert Jesus' Crucifixion and Death?". As Ali earlier indicated, we have yet another Islamic scholar who has embraced the view that the Qur'an does not deny the physical crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus. From his lucid, scholarly paper we read:

>>The issue of Jesus’s crucifixion and death in the Qur'ān has been extensively examined in modern scholarship, primarily by scholars concerned with religious dialogue or polemics. One reason for this interest is the perception that the Qur'ān refutes the crucifixion and death of Jesus; this perception, which is often tied to a pair of verses (Q 4:157–58), places Islam’s scripture in direct opposition to the foundational doctrine of the Christian faith. Yet although Muslim scholars have overwhelmingly rejected the crucifixion of Jesus, they are divided regarding the reality of his death. The possibility that Jesus actually died and was resurrected from death was argued by a number of leading early Muslim exegetes, and became an essential view within the tradition. This shows that, on the one hand, the way the Qur'ān addresses the crucifixion/death narrative allows for conflicting interpretations, and, on the other hand, that what is perceived as the standard position in Islam is favored in some modern Muslim and non-Muslim circles because it is rooted in Christian–Muslim polemics; this position is often used in an attempt to legitimize one's own religion or prove the other religion wrong.>>

Towards the end of the paper, Dr. Mourad, states:

>> Reading verses 4:157–58 in light of their immediate context as well as verses 3:55, 5:117 and 19:33 leads us to the conclusion that the Qur'ān affirms Jesus’s death on the cross, followed by his resurrection. Indeed, stories about and references to Jesus’s physical death as an event that occurred in the past are found throughout Islamic scholarship, even in works by authors who affirmed otherwise.>>


Grace and peace,

David

Ken said...

Yeah, the Muslim named Ibn Anwar is especially hostile and aggressive, arrogant, and insulting.

I still cannot see how you get around the clear phrases

"the did not crucify Him, nor kill him,
. . .
for sure یقیناً they did not kill him. "

We have that word, Yaqinan یقیناً in Farsi, and it is a strong word of assurance and certainty.

http://aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=2334

Ken said...

I thought this was good also, Response to Shabir Ally, part 2 - follow-up from part 1 above by James White

http://aomin.org/aoblog/index.php?itemid=2337

David Waltz said...

Hi Ken,

Here's the 'deal': your interpretation of Surah 4.157 is a quite narrow, literalistic one, and it fails to successfully integrate other ayat that make a literal interpretation dubious. To be honest, you remind of Luther in his debate with Zwingli, who in frustration pounded the table in front of him and shouted out, ""Hoc est Corpus Meum !!!"

It truly baffles me that you are able to harmonize so many Biblical passages that seem contradictory, but are unable to do so with Surah 4.157; this ayah when read with ayat 2.154; 3.55; 3.169; 5.117, and 19.33 as necessary prerequisites for a correct understanding [i.e the clear (muh'kamātun) interpreting the unclear/allegorical (mutashābihātun) - see Surah 3:7], yields the harmonization that more and more Islamic scholars are adopting (e.g. Dr. Ayoub, Dr. Lawson, Dr. Mourad, Dr. Parrinder, Dr. Reynolds, et al.). Dr. Maurad's ( a scholar of Arabic and Islamic Studies) recent translation of Surah 4.157 'seals-the-deal':

>>For their saying: “It is we who killed the Messiah Jesus son of Mary, the messenger of God.” Nay, they did not kill him by crucifying him. They thought they did, and those who affirm that are uncertain; they have no knowledge about it except by speculation. In certainty they did not kill him because God raised him from death up to Him.>>

I shall end with an ayah from Ahmed Ali's translation:

"Do not say that those who are killed in the way of God, are dead, for indeed they are alive, even though you are not aware." (2.154)


Grace and peace,

David

Ken said...

If the Muslim scholars inside the Muslim world would adopt that interpretation and stop persecuting Christians, and announce that they have been wrong for centuries by denying the crucifixion and death of Christ, and allow for Christians to evangelize everywhere in the Muslim world , since your (and Lawson, et al.) interpretation seems like an appropriation of the Christian understanding of John 11:25; that might be valid, although it seems really anachronistic.

All of those scholars are in the comfort of the west.

Anonymous said...

The prophecy tells about Ahmad; 'Servant of God' whom will war to correct the wrongs and bringing judgement based on the law of God. He will liberate act of worshiping molten images and thus Arabia (wilderness desert, villages and cities) will glorify God since then. As can be seen today, inhabitants of Arabia are worshiping,praising God and singing words of God daily.

And we continue reading Isaiah 42:18 - 25; God remind the 'blind and deaf' about the wrath of God towards Children of Israel, who neglect the message brought by past Servant of God.

And not to repeat; the same mistake upon the coming of the new Servant of God,
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In Isaiah 42:1, it is not a coincidence upon seeing the writing of both אתמך (Atmc) אחמד (Ahmd). And the word before אתמך (Atmc), is עבדי (Abedi~My Servant). For indeed, It is indicating Ahmad; Abedallah (Ahmad; Servant of God).

Not to mention אתמך (Atmc) is a special term foretelling the coming of a righteous man and is used only ONCE throughout the entire Book. [could this be a copying error or an intended error?]

Children of Israel have been foretold upon the coming of Ahmad but sadly, only a few accepts.