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Does Islam allow husbands to beat their wives? 

Did Muhammad hit any of his wives?

How to begin research on the Qur’an & Hadith

Echoes of Jesus: Does the New Testament Reflect What He Said? briefly discusses Islam’s relationship to the New Testament. It is also a topic that I am often asked about and the subject of seminars that I present. Islam is often in the news due to many terrorist acts that are carried out by a very small minority of its followers. However, Islam’s teachings about women occasionally make headlines as well. The research I did for writing Echoes of Jesus often involved many hours trying to get to the earliest sources of information on the various topics covered.

I have written this article for two reasons. The first is in the hope that readers will see how easy it is to do their own basic research on a topic in Islam as taught in its sacred literature. Basically it involves reading the source material, investigating which parts of the source texts are discussed by other authors commenting on the topic of interest, learning about the context, history & culture, re-examining the source texts, and asking lots of questions. This article provides examples of accessing the source material.

The second reason is that the topic of husbands beating their wives has resurfaced in the Australian media. On 13 April 2017 the tax payer funded Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) broadcasted over the radio airways an interview with a women spokesperson – Silma Ihram – for the Australian Muslim Womens Association. This is one of the few times I have heard the ABC discuss Islam and domestic violence. The interview was in response to the release of a video by Women of Hizb ut-Tahrir Australia. According to an ABC website (abc.net.au), the ‘video on social media saying Islam allows men to hit women in a "symbolic" way. Two panellists in the video claim men are permitted — but not obliged or encouraged — to hit women.’

During the interview Silma was speaking of the importance of understanding Islam’s stance on women by thoroughly examining the core Islamic literature, taking into account the context and other information important for interpretation. Silma referred to this core material, stating how it encourages men to treat their wives well, and also that Muhammad – the originator of Islam – never raised his hand against any of his wives. Muhammad did have many wives, and some of the passages below refer to one of them called A’isha (also called Aisha). Muslims call Muhammad the Prophet, and Allah's Apostle. 

Like Silma I consider it important that people read the literature that Islam is founded upon, such as the Qur’an (also spelt as  Koran or  Quran) and the Hadith (a.k.a ahadith). So I have gathered a few relevant quotes from a free, publicly accessible website (Islam Awakened). Note that bracketed words within the quotes are from the translation, not from myself. For example the parentheses in the quote ‘beat them (lightly)’ is indicating that the word ‘lightly’ is not in the original Arabic language of the Qur’an. I have included an extra verse in order to help with the context. I have included two English translations for each verse from the Qur’an. Chapter and verse numbers are given, which in Islam are called sura and ayat. Quotes from the Hadith were taken from http://www.quranexplorer.com/hadithebook/english/index.html.

As I am unable to select all the statements about women in the Qur’an and the Hadith, readers should do much more research before coming to any conclusions. It is important to note that this article is not making any comments about how Muslim men should or shouldn’t relate to women according to their sacred texts, nor is it making any comments about how Muslim men around the world actually relate to women. No doubt many Muslim men treat their wives and other women as if they were part of their own bodies. It also appears that in all societies there are husbands that beat their wives; domestic violence is truly a global problem.

From the Qur’an 

Sura 2:222-223. Abdel Haleem translation. Women as fields

They ask you about menstruation. Tell them: "This is a period of stress. So keep away from women in this state till they are relieved of it. When they are free of it, you may go to them as God has enjoined. For God loves those who seek pardon, and those who are clean." Your wives are your fields, so go into your fields whichever way you like, and send [something good] ahead for yourselves. Be mindful of God: remember that you will meet Him.’ [Prophet], give good news to the believers.

Sura 2:222-223. Yusuf Ali (1985) translation. Women as fields

They ask thee concerning women's courses. Say: They are a hurt and a pollution: So keep away from women in their courses, and do not approach them until they are clean. But when they have purified themselves, ye may approach them in any manner, time, or place ordained for you by Allah. For Allah loves those who turn to Him constantly and He loves those who keep themselves pure and clean. Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will; but do some good act for your souls beforehand; and fear Allah. And know that ye are to meet Him (in the Hereafter), and give (these) good tidings to those who believe.

Sura 4:23-24. Abdel Haleem translation. Women & bride-gifts

You are forbidden to take as wives your mothers, daughters, sisters, paternal and maternal aunts, the daughters of brothers and daughters of sisters, your milk-mothers and milk-sisters, your wives’ mothers, the stepdaughters in your care- those born of women with whom you have consummated marriage, if you have not consummated the marriage, then you will not be blamed- wives of your begotten sons, two sisters simultaneously- with the exception of what is past: God is most forgiving and merciful-women already married, other than your slaves. God has ordained all this for you. Other women are lawful to you, so long as you seek them in marriage, with gifts from your property, looking for wedlock rather than fornication. If you wish to enjoy women through marriage, give them their bride-gift- this is obligatory- though if you should choose mutually, after fulfilling this obligation, to do otherwise [with the bride-gift], you will not be blamed: God is all knowing and all wise.

Sura 4:23-24. Yusuf Ali (1985) translation. Women & bride-gifts

Prohibited to you (For marriage) are:- Your mothers, daughters, sisters; father's sisters, Mother's sisters; brother's daughters, sister's daughters; foster-mothers (Who suckled you)*, foster-sisters; your wives' mothers; your step-daughters under your guardianship, born of your wives to whom ye have gone in,- no prohibition if ye have not gone in;- (Those who have been) wives of your sons proceeding from your loins; and two sisters in wedlock at one and the same time, except for what is past; for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful;- Also (prohibited are) women already married, except those whom your right hands possess: Thus hath Allah ordained (Prohibitions) against you: Except for these, all others are lawful, provided ye seek (them in marriage) with gifts from your property,- desiring chastity, not lust, seeing that ye derive benefit from them, give them their dowers (at least) as prescribed; but if, after a dower is prescribed, agree Mutually (to vary it), there is no blame on you, and Allah is All-knowing, All-wise. 

*I changed the words in parentheses slightly from the original.

Sura 4:33-34. Abdel Haleem translation. Husbands beating their wives

We have appointed heirs for everything that parents and close relatives leave behind, including those to whom you have pledged your hands [in marriage], so give them their share: God is witness to everything. Husbands should take good care of their wives, with [the bounties] God has given to some more than others and with what they spend out of their own money. Righteous wives are devout and guard what God would have them guard in their husbands’ absence. If you fear high-handedness from your wives, remind them [of the teachings of God], then ignore them when you go to bed, then hit them. If they obey you, you have no right to act against them: God is most high and great.

Sura 4:33-34. Yusuf Ali (1985) translation Husbands beating their wives

To (benefit) every one, We have appointed shares and heirs to property left by parents and relatives. To those, also, to whom your right hand was pledged, give their due portion. For truly Allah is witness to all things. Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband's) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill-conduct, admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all).

From the Hadith

Bukhari: Book 3: Volume 48: Hadith 825-827. The deficiency of a woman’s mind

Narrated Al-Miswar bin Makhrama: Some outer garments were received the Prophet and my father (Makhrama) said to me, "Let us go to the Prophet so that he may give us something from the garments." So, my father stood at the door and spoke. The Prophet recognized his voice and came out carrying a garment and telling Makhrama the good qualities of that garment, adding, "I have kept this for you, I have sent this for you."

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: The Prophet said, "Isn't the witness of a woman equal to half of that of a man?" The women said, "Yes." He said, "This is because of the deficiency of a woman's mind.”

Narrated Uqba bin Al-Harith: That he had married Um Yahya bint Abu Ihab. He said. "A black slave-lady came and said, 'I suckled you both.' I then mentioned that to the Prophet who turned his face aside." Uqba further said, "I went to the other side and told the Prophet about it. He said, 'How can you (keep her as your wife) when the lady has said that she suckled both of you (i.e. you and your wife?)" So, the Prophet ordered him to divorce her.

Muslim: Book 4: Hadith 2127. Muhammad beating his wife on her chest causing pain

Muhammad b. Qais said (to the people): Should I not narrate to you (a hadith of the Holy Prophet) on my authority and on the authority of my mother? We thought that he meant the mother who had given him birth. He (Muhammad b. Qais) then reported that it was 'A'isha who had narrated this: Should I not narrate to you about myself and about the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him)? We said: Yes. She said: When it was my turn for Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) to spend the night with me, he turned his side, put on his mantle and took off his shoes and placed them near his feet, and spread the corner of his shawl on his bed and then lay down till he thought that I had gone to sleep. He took hold of his mantle slowly and put on the shoes slowly, and opened the door and went out and then closed it lightly. I covered my head, put on my veil and tightened my waist wrapper, and then went out following his steps till he reached Baqi'. He stood there and he stood for a long time. He then lifted his hands three times, and then returned and I also returned. He hastened his steps and I also hastened my steps. He ran and I too ran. He came (to the house) and I also came (to the house). I, however, preceded him and I entered (the house), and as I lay down in the bed, he (the Holy Prophet) entered the (house), and said: Why is it, O 'A'isha, that you are out of breath? I said: There is nothing. He said: Tell me or the Subtle and the Aware would inform me. I said: Messenger of Allah, may my father and mother be ransom for you, and then I told him (the whole story). He said: Was it the darkness (of your shadow) that I saw in front of me? I said: Yes. He struck me on the chest which caused me pain, and then said: Did you think that Allah and His Apostle would deal unjustly with you? She said: Whatsoever the people conceal, Allah will know it. He said: Gabriel came to me when you saw me. He called me and he concealed it from you. I responded to his call, but I too concealed it from you (for he did not come to you), as you were not fully dressed. I thought that you had gone to sleep, and I did not like to awaken you, fearing that you may be frightened. He (Gabriel) said: Your Lord has commanded you to go to the inhabitants of Baqi' (to those lying in the graves) and beg pardon for them. I said: Messenger of Allah, how should I pray for them (How should I beg forgiveness for them)? He said: Say, Peace be upon the inhabitants of this city (graveyard) from among the Believers and the Muslims, and may Allah have mercy on those who have gone ahead of us, and those who come later on, and we shall, God willing, join you.

Muslim: Book 9: Hadith 3506. Men beating women

Jabir b. 'Abdullah (Allah be pleased with them) reported: Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) came and sought permission to see Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him). He found people sitting at his door and none amongst them had been granted permission, but it was granted to Abu Bakr and he went in. Then came 'Umar and he sought permission and it was granted to him, and he found Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) sitting sad and silent with his wives around him. He (Hadrat 'Umar) said: I would say something which would make the Holy Prophet (may peace be upon him) laugh, so he said: Messenger of Allah, I wish you had seen (the treatment meted out to) the daughter of Khadija when you asked me some money, and I got up and slapped her on her neck. Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) laughed and said: They are around me as you see, asking for extra money. Abu Bakr (Allah be pleased with him) then got up went to 'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) and slapped her on the neck, and 'Umar stood up before Hafsa and slapped her saying: You ask Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) which he does not possess. They said: By Allah, we do not ask Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) for anything he does not possess. Then he withdrew from them for a month or for twenty-nine days. Then this verse was revealed to him:" Prophet: Say to thy wives... for a mighty reward" (xxxiii. 28). He then went first to 'A'isha (Allah be pleased with her) and said: I want to propound something to you, 'A'isha, but wish no hasty reply before you consult your parents. She said: Messenger of Allah, what is that? He (the Holy Prophet) recited to her the verse, whereupon she said: Is it about you that I should consult my parents, Messenger of Allah? Nay, I choose Allah, His Messenger, and the Last Abode; but I ask you not to tell any of your wives what I have said He replied: Not one of them will ask me without my informing her. God did not send me to be harsh, or cause harm, but He has sent me to teach and make things easy.

Bukhari: Book 1: Volume 6: Hadith 300-302. Women in hell

Narrated Maimuna: When ever Allah's Apostle wanted to fondle any of his wives during the periods (menses), he used to ask her to wear an Izar.

Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri: Once Allah's Apostle went out to the Musalla (to offer the prayer) o 'Id-al-Adha or Al-Fitr prayer. Then he passed by the women and said, "O women! Give alms, as I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-fire were you (women)." They asked, "Why is it so, O Allah's Apostle ?" He replied, "You curse frequently and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. A cautious sensible man could be led astray by some of you." The women asked, "O Allah's Apostle! What is deficient in our intelligence and religion?" He said, "Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?" They replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her intelligence. Isn't it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?" The women replied in the affirmative. He said, "This is the deficiency in her religion.”

Narrated ‘Aisha: We set out with the Prophet for Hajj and when we reached Sarif I got my menses. When the Prophet came to me, I was weeping. He asked, "Why are you weeping?" I said, "I wish if I had not performed Hajj this year." He asked, "May be that you got your menses?" I replied, "Yes." He then said, "This is the thing which Allah has ordained for all the daughters of Adam. So do what all the pilgrims do except that you do not perform the Tawaf round the Ka'ba till you are clean."

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What about those who have never heard the Gospel?

Is it reasonable to believe that only those who hear the good news about Jesus,

and ask him for forgiveness, are accepted into heaven?

Echoes of Jesus: Does the New Testament Reflect What He Said?looks at a variety of questions regarding the reliability of the New Testament. For example: 

  • Is there evidence that people during Jesus’ lifetime could reliably record what He said and did while he was still alive? 
  • Has the New Testament been copied accurately? 
  • Are the Gospels true records of what Jesus said and did, given that the original authors were biased?

However these and the other concerns raised in Echoes of Jesusdo not focus on those questions that are of a moral nature. One such question is whether God should allow everybody into heaven and not judge us when we die. Consider these words of Jesus in which he talks of himself as the Son of Man.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve,

and to give his life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45; Matthew 20:28)   

This is one of my favourite sayings of Jesus because it says so much. To focus on a few points:

Jesus is stating that he came to serve us, not that we are to serve him. Jesus, who is God the Son, the maker of the universe, is telling us that he ‘is so full and so self-sufficient and so overflowing in power and life and joy, that he [does not need us, but wants us] …’ (J Piper)[1]

This sentiment was echoed later in the New Testament

And he [God] is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. (Acts 17:25)

Jesus’ goes on to say that he came to give his life as a ransom. He fully understood what his offer meant. Elsewhere he explained what this death would entail:

Now Jesus was going up to Jerusalem. On the way, he took the Twelve aside and said to them,We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. (Matthew 20:17-19).

But why did Jesus think any of us needed to be ransomed? It is for two reasons. Firstly he knew that without his sacrifice/ransom we would not be free of sin. Jesus said that everyone who sins is a slave to sin.’ (John 8:34, NIV). We are not basically good (as some argue), rather we are “slaves” to sin and can not free ourselves from it. Being sinful even in some small ways means that our actions and thoughts can never be 100% in harmony with God’s. The New Testament goes so far as to say that before we are rescued by Jesus we are his enemies. (Colossians 1:21, Romans 5:6-10)

Secondly, Jesus also wanted to save us from the punishment related to our sinful state, a punishment that he described as being of a terrible nature.

Fear him [God] who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. (Luke 12:5)

But the words of Jesus about him coming to serve and being a ransom have often caused people to wonder how fair is Jesus’ treatment of those who do not become Christians. What will happen to those who never get to learn about Jesus before they die?

Questions like these have often been phrased in the following way:

What about the good people who have not been fortunate enough to live in a country where Christians live and have spread the news of Jesus’ offer of being a ransom?

Two Christians with training in theology and philosophy (Dr R Douglas Gievett[2]and Dr W Gary Phillips[3]) made a noteworthy response,[4]which I have partly paraphrased here. They first looked at the assumptions that form the basis of the above question:

1) What part of the world you are born into is a matter of fortune or luck

2) Only those who live in such countries ever get to hear the good news and are saved by it;

3) If Jesus’ judgment is that someone goes to hell, then this is what God wanted or intended.

Gievett and Phillips respond by asserting that:

a) God is in control of all events in every person’s life, and this sovereignty includes the circumstances of their birth. So it is not a matter of fortune or luck.

b) That Jesus’ teachings which command Christians to tell others has ensured that many people have heard the goods news, even in lands where Christians have been largely absent. In modern times radio and the internet make this even easier.

c) That although…

‘God our Saviour … wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-6)

… God also allows people the freedom to choose their own destinies based on their responses to him. If they freely wish to make their own rules and ignore him in this life, then in the next life such people will live where God is absent. As God is love then such a place is hell.  

d) On the flip side, It is possible that even in countries where the good news of Jesus’ ransom is very accessible that still only a minority will take up Jesus’ offer, which is no doubt why he said: 

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. (Matthew 7:13-14) 

e) There is nothing inherently impossible with the proposition that God – the maker and owner of the universe – only allows those who hear and believe him to go to heaven. This in itself can be seen as entirely fair as God has ‘middle knowledge’. This means he knows all the free choice actions a person would perform in any possible scenario, even ones that will not actually happen in that persons life. Therefore it is reasonable that God, who is omniscient, knows ‘what a person in some non-Christian land would freely decide if that person were, contrary to fact, to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ'

f) ‘Some who accept the doctrine of middle knowledge hold that there are individuals who never hear the Gospel but would believe if they were to hear it and that God saves them on the basis of his foreknowledge of that fact.’ Some of these individuals may receive dreams and visions of God and them make the best responses they can based on such limited knowledge.

g) ‘But it is equally plausible philosophically that God knows that all individuals who never hear the gospel are individuals who would not believe if they were to hear the Gospel.’ 

Getting back to the words of Jesus where he taught that we needed him to pay the ransom we owe for our sins, J Piper put it well from God’s perspective:

Jesus did not come in search of slave labor. He does not need it. He came in search of those who would become his friends. That is, he came in search of those who would trust him to serve them… For these he laid down his life. For these he gave his life as a ransom. These are the many in Mark 10:45. Everyone who trusts the servant Christ as Satisfier, Supplier, Guide, Forgiver.

Every time that I choose to think about how Jesus has rescued me causes an immense feeling of freedom and happiness to rise up inside. This is what I mean when I say how great it is to be forgiven. Not just forgiven for the sins of today, but forgiven for who I was born as. We are all born separate from God. We are evil in the sense that we do that which is wrong; and even when we are rescued by Jesus Christ we continue to do evil to some extent. But the good news is that he transforms us so that we can become more like him. 

We get to choose to be his children. He will never “divorce” or abandon His children, but he want us to lead wise and fulfilling lives. We, as his children will disappoint Him at times, when we chose sin, but he will forgive us if we are genuinely sorry. He knows how tough life can be, He’s lived it here on earth. Although we know that there will be times when we fail, our one and only holy Father will never abandon His children.



[1]J Piper, The Son of Man Came to Give His Life a Ransom forMany: Christmas Eve Day24/12/1995. https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-son-of-man-came-to-give-his-life-a-ransom-for-manyAccessed 23/07/2018

[2]R. Douglas Geivett: author of Evil and the Evidence for God; co-editor of Contemporary Perspectives on Religious Epistemologyand In Defense of Miracles: A Comprehensive Case for God's Action in History; former president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society.

[3]W Gary Phillips: author of Making Sense of Your World: ABiblical Worldviewwas Distinguished Professor of Biblical Studies, has served as an officer in both the Evangelical Theological Society and the Evangelical Philosophical Society.

[4]R Douglas Gievett &Dr W Gary PhillipsA Particularist View: An Evidentialist Approach: ConclusionIn Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1996

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Was Jesus the Messiah?

A Journey into the New Testament, the Quran, and the Gospel of Barnabas

I first became aware of the widespread nature of Muslim awareness of the alleged Gospel of Barnabas when preaching at a church for Iranians. Many of those present had an Islamic background before becoming Christians, while others were Muslims (followers of Islam) interested in knowing more about Jesus. It was during an open question time during the church service that someone asked me about this manuscript. I have since learnt that many Muslims from other countries, such as Turkey, refer favourably to the Gospel of Barnabas believing that it was originally written by a disciple of Jesus called Barnabas. There appears to be several reasons why hundreds of thousands of Muslims are aware of the Gospel of Barnabas,  including the fact that it mentions several times the name of Muhammad (also spelt Mohammed). For example chapter 39 of the book has Jesus Christ teaching that as soon as Adam was created and sprung up on his feet, he saw bright writing in the sky which said 'There is only one God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.' Adam then asks God to write those words onto the nails of his thumbs.

The sermon I gave looked at how the Bible describes Jesus, and how much Jesus loves all of us. It also responded to questions concerning the accuracy and reliability of the New Testament as a record of Jesus’ life and teachings. I presented  evidence showing that the New Testament manuscripts have been copied accuratly over the centuries (the formal study of this copying  is called textual criticism). The sermon drew on some of the content found in Echoes of Jesus: Does the New Testament Reflect What He Said? – available in paperback and digital formats. This Christian apologetic book provides strong historical evidence that we can know what Jesus said and did by reading the New Testament. 

Many Muslims, not just those who were listening to my sermon, who are even a little familiar with the New Testament have a host of questions as to how it compares to the Gospel of Barnabas , including whether Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah is something that Islam teaches. I have talked with some Muslims who accept that Jesus was the Messiah – in some sense of the word but I am aware that other Muslims are not certain of what to believe about Jesus.

As Jesus’ identity is set out clearly in the four New Testament gospels – which have been shown to be historically reliable in Echoes of Jesus – then if the Gospel of Barnabas was also a book compiled by a first century disciple of Jesus it should agree with the four gospels. This agreement should be particularly strong when it comes to the question of whether Jesus was the Messiah.

The other agreement that should reasonably exist concerning the identity of Jesus, is that between the Gospel of Barnabas and the Islamic book called the Quran (also spelt Qur’an and Koran). This is because those Muslim scholars who heavily promote this debatable gospel also believe that the Quran provides a truthful account of Jesus’ life and teachings.  It is unlikely that someone who believes the Quran to be a book from Allah, would also be encouraging fellow Muslims to believe in a book that opposes its teachings in major ways. 

Here is what I discovered when exploring the original sources:

  • Christian scriptures emphasise that Jesus is the Messiah

In the New Testament, Jesus is referred to in a number of ways, including the Messiah and the Christ. The title Messiah stems from the Hebrew, and the term Christ comes from the Greek. Both terms refer to someone who is anointed or chosen, and so are interchangeable. The anointing was originally carried out by the chosen person having oil ceremoniously rubbed or daubed onto their body. In the Greek language of the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as Messiah – transliterated as Messias in the Greek New Testament manuscripts – only twice: John 1: 41 and John  4:45.[1] Elsewhere the New Testament uses Christ (Christos in the Greek) very frequently. All the New Testament gospels record Jesus being called the Messiah or Christ:

 The account written by the disciple John records that John the Baptist announced Jesus as the Christ (John 1:19-30);

 The disciple Simon Peter had his knowledge of who Jesus was brought to light when Jesus questioned him:

“But what about you?” he [Jesus] asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 16:16-20);

 The high priest of Judaism confronted Jesus with the question that many people are still grappling with:

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”

“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”. (Mark 14:61-62);

 Most importantly, Jesus referred to himself as the Christ immediately after his resurrection:

He said to them [his disciples], “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations … (Luke 24:44-48).

 • Muslim scriptures call Jesus the Messiah

The most important book in Islam is the Quran, which was written in Arabic nearly 600 years after Jesus' crucifixion. Jesus is mentioned in the Quran a number of times, but in Arabic (and often in English) by the name Isa. The author of the Quran gave this  Isa a story that has some similarities to the Jesus Christ of history – that is the Jesus of the New Testament – but also many differences. Isa in the Quran performs miracles such as the healing of people with leprosy and those who were born  blind, and bringing dead people back to life (Chapter/Sura 5:110). In all these ways Isa is the same as the historical Jesus of the four original gospels. But in opposition to these reliable accounts , the Quran's Isa isn't tortured to death on the cross so that he can be the ransom of those that ask  for forgiveness. The following words from the Quran refer to Jesus/Isa as the Messiah. Because English translations of the Quran differ, I have included two translations of the following verse from the Quran:[2]

"Behold," the angels told Mary, "God has given you the glad news of the coming birth of a son whom He calls His Word, whose name will be Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, who will be a man of honor in this life and the life to come, and who will be one of the ones nearest to God. (Chapter/Sura 3:45, Muhammad Sarwar)

When the angels said: ‘O Maryam (Mary), surely, Allah gives you glad tidings of a (particular) Word from Him named the Messiah, ‘Isa, the son of Maryam (Jesus, the son of Mary), who would be eminent and exalted, (both) in this world and in the Hereafter, and would be of those who are exceptionally intimate servants of Allah blessed with His nearness. (Chapter/Sura 3:45, Dr Mohammad Tahir-ul-Qadri)

I have also read that the Quran never calls Muhammad – who Muslims believe to be a prophet, and who began Islam – the Messiah. 

Another integral part of the Islamic scriptures are the Hadith. This voluminous collection refers to  the  'Messiah, the son of Mary' (Al-Bukhari Book 7, Volume 72 'Dress', hadith 789)

  • Gospel of Barnabas denies that Jesus is the Messiah, but confirms he is the Christ

Many scholars consider that the Gospel of Barnabas was fraudulently written in about the 1300s AD.[3],[4],[5] The 14th century author appears to have copied large amounts of written material from a version of the Bible called the Latin Vulgate, and from a book harmonising all four gospels into one account. He or she distorted these texts by fabricating new sayings of Jesus, editing out some of the original teachings, and inventing new scenarios. The aim was to produce a story that supported Islamic beliefs. As the Latin Vulgate was completed in 400 AD, and as the harmonisation may not have come into being until around the 1300s, then it is clear that the Gospel of Barnabas was not compiled by one of Jesus’ original disciples. As there is an abundance of evidence indicating that it is fictitious, one Muslim scholar stated that:

The vast majority of Muslim academics and scholars of comparative religion have deemed the so-called Gospel of Barnabas as pseudepigraphical, meaning that it is a forgery…[6]

Despite this view of many Islamic academics,  extremely popular Islamic websites continue to promote  the Gospel of Barnabas as as a reliable source of information about Jesus.

The Gospel of Barnabas declares that Jesus was not the Messiah:[7]

Then the disciples wept after this conversation with Jesus, and Jesus was too, when they then saw many coming to find him, for the chiefs of the priests decided among themselves to catch him [Jesus] in his talk. Therefore they sent the Levites and some of the scribes to question him, saying: 'Who are you?’

Jesus confessed, and said the truth: 'I am not the Messiah.’

They said: ‘Are you Elijah or Jeremiah, or any of the ancient prophets?’

Jesus answered: ‘No.'

Then said they: 'Who are you? Tell us clearly, in order that we may tell those who sent us.’

Then said Jesus: 'I am a voice that speaks out all through Judea, saying: "Prepare the way for the messenger of the Lord," even as it is written in Esaias.'

As the above quote is a greatly adulterated version of a New Testament account, then it is apparent that the author was intentionally purporting that Jesus was not the Messiah. However the next quote demonstrates that the same writer didn’t realise that the words Messiah and Christ are synonymous:

[Introduction: The] True Gospel of Jesus, called Christ, a new Prophet sent by God to the world: according to the description of Barnabas his apostle.

Barnabas, apostle of Jesus the Nazarene, called Christ, to all who dwell upon the earth desiring peace and consolation.

Dearly beloved, the great and wonderful God has during these past days visited us by his prophet Jesus Christ with great mercy and the provision of teaching and miracles…[8]

 • Conclusion

 I have written the above in the hope that all those interested in knowing more about Jesus will see that the earliest and most reliable documents, namely the four New Testament gospels, make it clear that Jesus is the Messiah. It is also clear that Muslims can agree that Jesus is the Messiah based on their own scriptures. Muslims need not be in doubt about Jesus being the Messiah, as the misleading Gospel of Barnabas is not part of their group of sacred texts. It seems ironic that although the Gospel of Barnabas  contradicts the Quran and the Hadith on the identity of Jesus,  many Muslim missionaries and preachers speak highly of it as a historically accurate account of Jesus .

The big question remaining is: What does it mean that Jesus is the Messiah? Here is part of what Jesus had to say about himself being the Christ:

[Jesus] looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do. (John 17:1-4)

LIke so many of Jesus' words, these sentences are rich with meaning. Jesus spoke these words just before he was arrested and sentenced to death by crucifixion. He begins this prayer by saying that he knows  he will soon die ('the hour has come').  He then describes his unique relationship with God the Father, wherein he is the Son.  Christians understand that whenever Jesus called himself the Son, he was not saying he was the offspring of God – as if God the Father had a wife, an abhorrent idea – but rather that he had  a one-of-a-kind relationship with God. Jesus goes on to  explain that based on this relationship he is able to give eternal life  to 'all people'.  He states that this eternal life  involves knowing 'the only true God, and Jesus Christ'.  But how is it that we can know Jesus the Messiah? How can we know him when all of us start off in life as his enemies? Jesus gave the answer a short time after his arrest and death by crucifixion, when he had come back to life and was talking with his disciples. In fact, from the time of Jesus' arrest, there is only one other time that  Jesus is quoted using  the word Christ:

The Christ [Messiah] will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem...(Luke 24:46-47)

So in order to know Jesus the Messiah – that is to change from being his enemies to his friends –  we can ask him to forgive us by taking our punishment.  I hope that everyone seriously considers this indescribably wonderful offer that he gives everyone.


[1] WD Mounce, Interlinear for the Rest of Us: The Reverse Interlinear for New Testament Word Studies, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, US, 2005, p. 859, entry 3549.

[2] For online translations of these verses from the Quran, refer to the Islamic website www.islamawakened.com/ and click Qur’an link for an index to suras in the Quran, accessed 20/03/2016.

[3] J Joosten, ‘The Gospel of Barnabas and the Diatessaron’, The Harvard Theological Review, 95(1), Jan 2002, pp. 73-96

[4] S Green, The Gospel of Barnabas, http://www.answering-islam.org/Green/barnabas.htm, accessed 24/03/2016

[5] NL Geisler & A Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent in the Light of the Cross,http://www.answering-islam.org/Barnabas/saleeb.html, accessed 24/03/2016

[6] UA Ataie, What is the Islamic View on the Gospel of Barnabas?, 15 July, 2013, http://seekershub.org/ans-blog/2013/07/15/what-is-the-islamic-view-on-the-gospel-of-barnabas/, accessed 24/03/2016.

[7] This is my own modern English translation of: The Gospel of Barnabas, trans. Lonsdale & L Ragg, London, 1907, digital copy available at http://www.sacred-texts.com/isl/gbar/gbar042.htm, accessed 20/03/2016. Jesus' denial of being the Messiah is written into the Gospel of Barnabas in several places, incuding chapter 96.

[8] This is my own modern English translation of: The Gospel of Barnabas, trans. Lonsdale & L Ragg, London, 1907, digital copy available at http://www.sacred-texts.com/isl/gbar/gbar000.htm, accessed 20/03/2016. 

 Post last updated 26 April 2016

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It is quite astounding to read in popular publications the many and varied claims about who was Jesus. These statements include that he was a Muslim, a Buddhist, the reincarnation of Krishna, a hypnotist, an illiterate peasant, and a revolutionary military leader called a zealot. To discover the truth about who Jesus said he was, it is first necessary to discover if Jesus was interested in motivating his disciples to preserve what he taught. If Jesus did not portray himself as being a teacher, then it is less likely that the words of the New Testament reflect his words and actions.

I hope you enjoy this extract from Echoes of Jesus: Does the New Testament Reflect What He Said? It is from the fifth chapter titled Jesus the teacher.

If Jesus wasn’t an author, how do we know what he said?

I am sure many have pondered why Jesus didn’t write any of the New Testament books. At first sight it would seem that if Jesus had actually written his teachings down, this would have been more ideal than having the messages written by those who followed him. Some people I have met believe we can’t know with any degree of certainty what Jesus actually taught because he didn’t author any of the New Testament books. Others have gone so far as to say that if Jesus was a charismatic teacher, he would not have given any thought to his teachings being preserved in writing. 

 

Even though Jesus didn’t compose a book of his teachings, he used techniques to make his lessons memorable. He taught using stories and images to help get his meaning across, and these in turn continue to carry the concepts through time and across language barriers. For example, in John 15:5, Jesus said:

 

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit …

 

No matter what time period or culture you come from, most people reading these words will create a mental picture of a vine, and then realise that a vine is nothing but branches continually intertwined and that every branch depends on the vine. They get the message that Jesus expects a close relationship with his followers. They will also understand these words to mean that unless they do have this intimate relationship with Jesus they will not be fruitful. Providing they read the words in context, they will not start believing that the fruit being talked about refers to grapes, oranges or bananas. Jesus’ words in this case create an immediate and vivid understanding, but also leave the reader hungering for more details.

 

When researching this chapter and the next, I wanted to know what evidence there was that Jesus intended his message to be preserved in a very precise way. Did Jesus’ disciples have the ability to read and write? If they did, what evidence was there that they used written language to record Jesus’ teachings? Were they capable of capturing what their master said in an almost word-by-word fashion or did they only have the prowess to capture the essence of his message?

 

Before further discussion of Jesus as a teacher, I will digress to cover a couple of concerns that people have frequently made. These matters relate to translation and interpretation. The first concern is that because translations appear to distort the original meaning, then the accuracy of the original documents is irrelevant. The second issue is whether the recorded words of Jesus’ can be interpreted to mean just about anything. If they can, then there is no value in them.

 

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Posted by on in Jesus' identity

Did Jesus say 'I am a Muslim'? 

I recently received a request to respond to a pro-Islamic YouTube clip claiming that Jesus said: “I am a Muslim." The clip is by Imran Ibn Mansur. Refer to  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2m_56PZ4Ko&app=desktop, and it seems to be part of a series called Da’wah Man. In the clip Imran is speaking to two young men.

This blog post looks at the first 36 seconds of the clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2m_56PZ4Ko&app=desktop. I have italicised those words spoken or written in the video. In my response, when I quote the Bible it is from the English version called the New American Standard Bible (NASB).

 Imran states that in the clip: 

a) Jesus said I submit my will to the will of the Father… 

Presumably Imran is referring to the words of Jesus recorded in John 5:30, (see below).

 b) A few seconds later, Imran states that the word Muslim means I submit my will to the will of GodA Muslim is someone who submits his or her will to the will of God

Here it is worth noting that a Muslim is someone who follows the religion of Islam, as started but Muhammad who was born in about 570 AD. He started the religion when he was about 40 years old.

 c) Then Imran says that if you were translate that verse in the Bible where Jesus says that I submit my will to the will of the Father, in Arabic, it would say that I am a muslim. Literally that’s what it would say, I am a Muslim. Do you follow me?

 There are a number of ways to respond to this series of statements. Here are four:

 1) Logic in understanding Jesus' words

Jesus said a number of things about himself, such as:

I am the way, the truth and the light, no one comes to the Father but through me. John 14:6 in English and Hebrew

Imagine that someone starts up a new religion in Malaysia in October 2014, and calls their religion Mohajit (Hindi for charming) and it’s followers Jalan. 

This would be a reasonable word to chose for the followers as the word jalan in their national language (Bahasa malaysia) has several meanings, including: a way for travel as in a literal road or a literal path, and can even mean a road or path in a metaphorical sense, such as the path for life.

Given the above scenario, would it be reasonable for one of the Jalan to claim that Jesus was saying that he was a follower of the religion called Mohajit? A religion that started about 2000 years after he spoke the words recorded in John 14:6. Or would it be reasonable to conclude that Jesus expected his followers should start following a religion called Mohajit 2000 years after he was crucified? Of course not. Using the same line of logic, it is not reasonable to conclude that Jesus expected his followers should start following a religion called Islam nearly 600 years after he was crucified simply because they called their followers Muslim. This is especially unreasonable when Islam is so radically different to what Jesus taught.

 2) Consistency in choosing Jesus' words

 In the YouTube video, Imran was building his argument on a verse found in the New Testament part of the Bible. It appears that this verse is from the Gospel of John, chapter 5, verse 30. It is interesting that Imran obviously believes these words to be a true record of what Jesus said, as otherwise he would not be basing his argument on these words.

 As this same book of the Bible records Jesus saying "I am the way, the truth and the light, no one comes to the Father but through me" (John 14:6), and as there is no valid reason based on the preserved ancient copies of the New Testament for accepting John 5: 30 as authentic while at the same time rejecting John 14:6, then Imran should be also saying on his video that all Muslims should start loving and following the words of Jesus as they are recorded in the New Testament. To learn more about how accurately the New Testament has been copied over the centuries before and after Muhammad was born, then read my book Echoes of Jesus: Does the New Testament Reflect What He Said?

 Similarly, as Jesus is recorded in John 11:25 as stating that: 'I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” then Imran should also be saying in his video clip that all Muslims should start following Jesus if they want to have certainty about being resurrected and going to heaven. This is particularly so as the sacred books of Islam (called the hadith) teach that even Muhammad stated that his good deeds were not enough to get him into Paradise. Here is a quote from one of the hadith:

Narrated Abu huraira: I heard Allah’s apostle [i.e. Muhammad] saying “The good deeds of any person will not make him enter Paradise. (i.e., None can enter Paradise through his good deeds.) They (the Prophet’s companions) said, ‘Not even you, O Allah’s apostle?’ He said, “Not even myself, unless Allah bestows his favor and mercy on me.” Bukhari, Book 7, Vol. 70 Hadith 577; words enclosed in ( ) are in the original hyperlink. 

3) The God of the Bible is different to the God of Islam

 Imran’s argument is based on the idea that the God Jesus referred to is the same as the God of Islam who is called Allah. Although Islam teaches this idea in their most sacred book called the Qur’an (also spelt Quran), it is actually not true. For example, the God of the Bible is recorded as expecting that we should not sin, for example we can read in the New Testament book 1 Peter 1:15-16 that:

 … but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16 in English and Urdu

This is very different to Allah, who demands his followers to do sinful acts. This teaching is recorded in the Islamic hadith called Muslim, book 37, Hadith 6622, which states:

'Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) having said: By Him in Whose Hand is my life, if you were not to commit sin, Allah would sweep you out of existence and He would replace (you by) those people who would commit sin and seek forgiveness from Allah, and He would have pardoned them.' Words enclosed in ( ) are in the original hyperlink.      

4) Did Jesus say 'I submit'

I am unable to find any English version of the Bible that records Jesus’ saying that: 'I submit my will to the will of the Father.' The closest words of Jesus I can find are: 

I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. John 5:30 in English and Spanish

 The next closest I can find is Jesus saying:

For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. John 6:38 in English and Arabic

In fact I could not find any verse in the New Testament where it records Jesus speaking the words 'I submit'. I checked the following English translations of the Bible: NASB, NKJV, KJV, NIV, NRSV, RSV, NET, or ESV. Therefore the foundation for Imran’s argument, namely that: Jesus said I submit my will to the will of the Father appears to be non-existent.

The above paragraphs largely deals with the topic of Jesus' relationship with God. But how can we have a relationship with God? Is it possible for us living in Iran or Australia in the 21st century to become God's children?

Here is how Jesus responded when one of his disciples asked how Jesus will make himself known to them in the future:

Jesus answered and said to him 'If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.' John 14:23 in English and Farsi (Persian)

As Jesus is making it clear that we can  share our our house – that is our everyday lives – with God if we obey his teaching, then the next question is; What did he teach? The best way to answer this question is to read the New Testament part of the Bible, where it faithfully records all that Jesus said and did. But for now, here is one of my most favourite sayings from Jesus' lips:

For even the Son of Man [Jesus speaking about himself in the third person] did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45 

It follows that if we ask him to be our ransom, we can be bought back by God; in other words we can be forgiven. That is how I and millions of other people around the world have started their jouney with Jesus.

Regards,

Jon

 

 

 

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This blog is the third in a series of modified excerpts from Echoes of Jesus: Does the New Testament Reflect What He Said?

The fourth chapter of Echoes of Jesus examines the relationship between miracles and gullibility. I hope you enjoy this brief look inside:

Christian beliefs, miracles and gullibility

The other belief that I mentioned earlier, in relation to miracles inducing gullibility, also warranted investigation. This belief posits that the miracles performed by Jesus and his followers were simply clever deceptions. These hoaxes then caused otherwise discerning people to become gullible, which resulted in the rapid growth of Christian communities. Gullibility can be described as a state in which people can be easily duped. Theoretically, people may become so awestruck by a miracle, or seeming miracle, that they suspend their normal thought processes and uncritically accept what is being spoken to them or asked of them. Leaving aside the question of whether the miracles were authentic, I wanted to consider whether the alleged miracles always induced a profound level of gullibility among large numbers of the first Christians.

Jesus’ miracles

When examining the New Testament records of the reactions of some of Jesus’ first and most loyal disciples — the inner group of 12 — it soon became apparent that they did not permanently suspend their ability to think critically. This is evident even after they had followed Jesus for years and observed many of his miracles. For example, these first disciples would not believe the eyewitness accounts from the women who visited Jesus’ tomb after he had been crucified and found it empty. The women relayed to these disciples that two angels appeared to them and explained that Jesus had come back to life. But the disciples didn’t believe the women ‘because their words seemed to them like nonsense’ (Luke 24:11). Their disbelief is even more surprising when one considers that Jesus had told them many times that he would come back to life (Matthew 27:63, Mark 8:31). The reason for the disciples’ disbelief cannot be explained as them simply being critical of women’s testimony in general for the text explicitly states that they simply could not make sense of the story. It is likely that they could not accept the message because they had reasoned that it would be impossible for anyone to come back to life after such a gruesome and protracted period of torture and killing. Thus their critical-thought processes were still well and truly intact.

 

This level of ongoing questioning, despite many direct observations of what the Bible texts report as miraculous, was not confined to the inner group of disciples. One of the Gospels records that other disciples who had witnessed Jesus performing a miracle still deserted him in large numbers because of his teachings (John 6:66). Their desertion wasn’t based on suddenly disbelieving the miracles they had seen, but rather in consciously deciding his teachings were too demanding. Jesus’ miracles weren’t so overpowering as to cause people to then become gullible to other aspects of his teachings.

 

Even those who were the beneficiaries of life-changing miracles did not necessarily become followers of Jesus, let alone cease to think critically. In fact, at one stage Jesus healed 10 lepers and only one of these bothered to show any appreciation (Luke 17:11–19). This report counters the idea that many people at that time were very gullible and that all it took for them to become a follower of Jesus was to witness one of the reported miracles.

 

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This blog contains another modified excerpt from Echoes of Jesus: Does the New Testament Reflect What He Said?  Hopefully this will encourage even more people to read this book’s vital information.

In the second chapter of Echoes of Jesus, titled Literacy in the ancient world, I investigated the prevalence of literacy around the time of Jesus. It has often been stated that literacy was rare in the Roman Empire at that time, and that reading and writing were confined to the wealthier classes. As a consequence of this, some argue that Christianity flourished in the first few centuries only because the vast majority were illiterate and, therefore, gullible. Others, such as the author Reza Aslan, underpin much of their historical revisionism on the assertion that Jesus, his disciples, and the apostles were all illiterate peasants. 

The chapter revealed evidence indicating that literacy existed in all levels of society at that time, and that it was not rare. I hope you enjoy this brief look inside:

Literacy across the Roman Empire

To gain a better appreciation of literacy across the vast Roman Empire, I examined evidence for literacy in three geographically diverse regions: Greece, Egypt and Britain. Since this book is concerned with the ability of the first Christians to make accurate recordings of Jesus’ life, I’ve devoted a subsequent chapter to literacy in their lands (Judea and nearby regions), and among the Jews. After all, many of the first Christians were Jews and Jesus was a Jew.

 Literacy in Roman-occupied Egypt

Egypt, having already been occupied by the Greeks, surrendered to Roman control upon the death of Cleopatra in August of 30 BC. Roman rulers remained in control for over five centuries after this. Although the first word many people associate with Egypt is pyramids, it should perhaps be Oxyrhynchus. This Egyptian town has one of the most startling examples of the prevalence of literacy as it was 2000 years ago. The town still exists today, and is about 160 kilometres south of Cairo. The ancient rubbish dumps from around this town have furnished a massive number of papyrus fragments since their initial discovery in 1896. During one season of exploration, the chief explorers had to employ over 200 men and boys for nearly 14 weeks to carry out the excavation.[1] By 2008 it was reported that 5476 documents (such as letters) and 2918 literary manuscripts (such as excerpts of books) from Oxyrhynchus had been published.[2] Of course, many fragments remain to be published.

 By 1975 over 1060 published documents from Oxyrhynchus were available.[3] A list of document types sourced from only the period of the first two centuries AD furnishes a staggering diversity of topics. The following is a partial list of document descriptions: contract for marriage, complaint against a husband, complaint against a wife, deed of divorce, application for remarriage, agreements on the nurturing of a child, apprenticeship contracts including one to a shorthand writer and another to a weaver, examination of a slave before a sale, complaint of extortion from a weaver against a tax-collector, trials concerning inheritance, birth and death notices, promise to attend court, receipts for beer, accident reports, monthly meat bill from a cook, receipt of wages for nursing, order for household utensils and supplies, dinner invitations, reports on mummifying, wrestling rules and medical prescriptions. This long list certainly illustrates the breadth of literacy in that society! 

 



[1] A Luijendijk, Greetings in the Lord: Early Christian and the Oxyrhynchus Papyri, Harvard Theological Studies, Cambridge, US, 2008, pp. 7– 9.

[2] A Luijendijk, p. 9.

[3] RLB Morris, ‘A study in the social and economic history of Oxyrhynchus for the first two centuries of Roman rule’, PhD dissertation, Department of Classical Studies,  Duke University, 1975, pp. 6–7

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To encourage even more people to read the vital information contained in Echoes of Jesus, the next several blog posts will include modified excerpts from various chapters.

In this excerpt from Echoes of Jesus: Does the New Testament Reflect What He Said? I have sought to engage with the common assumption that people who lived around the time of Jesus were unable to write accurate history. As a consequence of this, the small amount of literature that was produced is probably very inaccurate. One New York Times best selling author went so far as to say that those living at the time of Jesus had no notion of history being about verifiable events. 

In the first chapter of my book, titled Writing history and creating libraries, I demonstrate that there existed people, during and before the time of Jesus, who were able to write reliable historical records. The research I conducted revealed that not only did such people exist, but that there were vast numbers of ancient historians. These historians were quite aware of the what was needed in order to write accurate history. In other words the study of how history is written, namely historiography, was already an ancient discipline by the time Jesus began teaching his disciples. 

I hope you enjoy this brief look inside.

 

Vast Numbers of historians

At least 856 names of ancient Greek historians whose works have been mostly lost have been compiled based on ‘fragments of their works, whether in quotation and paraphrase, or through testimonia: that is, comments about their lives and writings’.[1] For example, the Latin author Aulus Gellius (born c. 125 AD) wrote a series of books called Attic Nights, which supplies:

valuable information in many fields of knowledge, and it contains extracts from a great number of Greek and Roman writers (275 are mentioned by name), the works of many of whom are otherwise wholly or in great part lost.[2]

Only the writings of six of the top-10 well-known ancient Greek historians have survived.[3] We know of the other four based on the mentions they receive in ancient writings. Between 323 BC and 146 BC (the Hellenistic age) many histories consisted of 30 volumes or more.[4] The writing of history continued after the birth of Christianity, and in geographically diverse regions.

The books of Appian of Alexandria (c. 95–165 AD) in Greece can still be read today, as can the books of Cassius Dio (c. 163–235 AD) from the Roman province of Bithynia in present-day Turkey.[5]

These are a few examples of the history books produced in ancient times:

·    Polybius of Megalopolis (203–120 BC) wrote about the history of the Mediterranean. Although his publication only covered the period 264–145 BC, it consisted of 40 books.[6]

·    The Syrian called Nicholas of Damascus (born c. 64 BC) wrote a world history comprising 144 books.[7]

·    Livy (c. 59 BC to 17 AD) wrote a history of Rome called From the Founding of the City, which consisted of 142 books. It might be conjectured by some that these were small books. However, some simple calculations estimated that in book 10 alone there are over 24,600 words.[8] To help put this in perspective, the book you are reading now consists of about 105,000 words exclusive of the footnotes.

·    The Jewish historian Josephus (37 AD to c. 100 AD) wrote several books, The Antiquities of the Jews being his largest and containing approximately 360,000 words.[9]

·    The Roman historian Tacitus (c. 56 AD to c. 125 AD) wrote two major historical works, The Annals being his latest although in reality it was a prequel to his Histories. The two of them together comprised about 30 books. Although most of The Annals have been lost (four complete books and part of four others survive), this series originally consisted of at least 16 books and book 1 alone consists of approximately 13,000 words.[10]

 

I hope this extract entices you to purchase Echoes of Jesus. Check out Echoes of Jesus.com for where to buy ebook and paperback versions. Readers living in Australia can purchase paperback versions from Koorong bookshops spread throughout the country, and from Christian Supplies in Brisbane.

Jon

[1] TJ Luce, ‘Fourth-century and Hellenistic historiography’, in The Greek Historians, Routledge, London, 1997, p. 106.

[2] Gellius, The Attic Nights of Aulus Gellius: with an English Translation by John C Rolfe, vol. 1, William Heinemann, London, 1970, pp. xvi–xvii.

[3] TJ Luce, ‘Fourth-century and Hellenistic historiography’, pp. 105–6.

[4] TJ Luce, ‘Fourth-century and Hellenistic historiography’, pp. 107–8.

[5] Bithynia would now be part of central and northern Turkey.

[6] TJ Luce, ‘Polybius’, in The Greek Historians, Routledge, London, 1997, p. 123.

[7] S Bowman, ‘Josephus in Byzantium’, in LH Feldman & G Hata (eds), Josephus, Judaism, and Christianity, Wayne State University Press, Detroit, 1987, p. 367.

[8] This is based on the English translation edited by Rev Canon Roberts as found on Tufts University’s Perseus Digital Library (www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper), where I calculated the number of words in the first 10 chapters, and then noted that there were 47 chapters.

[9] This is based on The Works of Josephus: Complete and Unabridged Translated by William Whiston, Hendrickson Publishers, Massachusetts, 1989. I calculated the number of words in the preface (excluding footnotes of the translator), noted that there were 515 pages and then subtracted 5% to be conservative in allowing for variable lengths of footnotes made by the translators.

[10] This word count based on The Annals by Tacitus: Translated by Alfred John Church and William Jackson Brodribb, accessed fromhttp://classics.mit.edu/Tacitus/annals.1.i.html on 6/04/2008.

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Posted by on in Look inside Echoes of Jesus
It has been an exciting week as the first batch of the paperback copies of Echoes of Jesus have arrived. It is a wonderful feeling seeing the book in the real world, and not just files on a computer. Matt and his team at Printcraft have produced a very high quality book with minimal fuss in a short period of time. The book looks great inside and out, and does justice to all the work involved in getting it completed.
 
Two separate processes are needed to make a book: the actual writing and then the publishing. Authors often comment that the writing stage is the easiest. My experience is that this phase was the most time consuming, taking about seven and a half years. However, the publishing process has taken longer than I ever expected, nearly a year having passed since the writing was completed. It is because the printed version of Echoes of Jesus represents this culmination of processes that it is surreal seeing the actual printed copies. 
 
I wrote Echoes of Jesus in the hope that its message will reach more people than if I simply continued to give seminars. Now that there are so many copies of the paperback, this dream looks that much closer to reality than ever before. 
 
For those who no longer read hard copies, the good news is that the ebook versions will be available in July. 
 
Jon
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