Archive for the scripture Category

Pseudo-wisdom (Part 1)

Posted in Presuppositionalism, Resequitur, scripture, Theology on February 4, 2011 by Justin

On an introduction of biblical apologetics, that is as we saw in the last post, the reasoning that is under the presupposition that Christ is Holy (1 Peter 3:15), that all the treasures of  wisdom and knowledge are deposited in in Him (Col 2:3), and that we are either for Him or against Him (this includes our reasoning) {Matthew 12:30} . And having in mind the nature of His Word:

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, (2 Timothy 3:16)

knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.
For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:20-21)

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

We need to be able to recognize how not to think and do apologetics. We must recognize the distinction between Godly wisdom/knowledge  (or what James calls the wisdom from above {James 3:17}), and Worldly wisdom/knowledge, which according to the Apostle Paul, is founded on worldly principles (Col 2:8), that it is wisdom/knowledge that is falsely so called (1 Tim 6:20), because it is exalted against the knowledge of God (2 Cor 10:5). James calls this worldly knowledge/wisdom earthly, unspiritual, and demonic (James 3:15).

The reason we need to make this distinction is because the scripture contrasts this kind of Wisdom and Knowledge against each other. This is why we need to recognize where we are standing when we go into everyday life, much less apologetics. We are to oppose this “Pseudowisdom” or “Wisdom falsely so called”  by taking every thought captive to the knowledge and wisdom revealed to us by Christ in the Scriptures.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (2 Cor 10:5)

Pastor and Theologian Cornelius Van Til called this “Thinking God’s thoughts after Him”. That is, thinking according to that which has been revealed to us by God in the Scriptures, “which are for us, and our children forever”

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)

This is not something we can do on our own. This is something that relies on our being born again by the Holy Spirit, which every Christian has the gift of (John 14:16-18). Those of us who belong to Christ, and have been united with Him are now being sanctified in the truth (John 17:16,19). This all happens as a result of God’s grace and mercy (1 Peter 1:3).

This is contrasted against those who have not been born again, in which we all once walked, and in what unbelievers now walk, that is, according to the prince of this world, the Satan  (Ephesians 2:2) If it were not for God our desire would simply be following the desires of our corrupt flesh and mind (Ephesians 2:3). The modus operandi of non-believers (the unregenerate) are to carry out the will of their father the devil, just as Jesus pointed out:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44)

This kind of language is very strong, and can be absolutely horrifying. But we must realize what we are up against. Clearly, The apostles and Jesus used this kind of language about nonbelievers, and to gaurd against  these false teachers who would show up in the Church like ravenous wolves to stir up the sheep. (John 10:1; Matthew 7:15)

This is not to say that everyone who starts teaching false things should be marked as unbelievers. The case was for Peter who fell into false teaching for a time, but was restored after he was Rebuked by Paul (Galatians 2:11-15). None of us are above fault, and we all are very capable of falling into false teaching, but ultimately, it is God  who will keep us until the day of Christ Jesus ( Phil 1:6; Col 1:8), those of us who have been given His grace, through faith, which isn’t from ourselves, but a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8) and it is our salvation which is being guarded through God’s power (1 Peter 1:5).

More on this in Part 2

Quick Thought on Extreme Theonomy

Posted in Presuppositionalism, Resequitur, scripture on September 25, 2010 by Justin

Proponents of theonomy (or what I would like to call “extreme” theonomy) want to push God’s civil law in which He ordained for Israel onto the nation. As the Westminster Confessions of Faith affirm in 19th chapter and 4th part:

“To them also, as a body politic, He gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging under any now, further than the general equity thereof may require.”

Although a consistent proponent of theonomy would see Deuteronomy 22:22 :

“If a man is found lying with the wife of another man, both of them shall die, the man who lay with the woman, and the woman. So you shall purge the evil from Israel.”

and again in Leviticus 20:10:

““If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”

and have to push for both in his system of interpretation.

Yet Jesus the Christ brings up an outstanding point that His people should abide by in John the 8th Chapter v.3-7

“The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say? This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

In verse 7 our Lord says “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”

The very God , Whom instituted the law above, pointed out to the people that they had no basis in condemning her, as all of them had sinned.

To remain consistent, they would all have to stone each other (Matthew 5:27-28)

Why I Believe – The Testimony

Posted in History, scripture, Skepticism on July 21, 2010 by fisher219

What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life– and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.

(1 John 1:1-2)

I was recently posed with the question of how I know that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. Now, for a pretty short question, I must admit that there are so many things that need to be said regarding this topic. More than I could fit within a two hour timeframe (which is the amount of time I took to write this little article), so I shall try as best as I can to answer this question that was given me. Lord willing, I shall try to “give an answer for the hope that I have” (cf. 1 Peter 3:15, NIV). I know that my mind is limited, so may this be a good starting point for further study on this topic.

Now, I want to say that there are two aspects to my answer to this question. There is the objective aspect, and then there is the subjective aspect. I shall deal with the objective aspect first:

Look again at the passage which I quoted at the beginning of this passage. The apostle John talks about that which he has heard and seen. Many of the world’s religions (especially Eastern religions) focus on the esoteric and otherworldly, with no objective grounds by which we can determine whether they are true or false. Christianity is very different from that. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus Christ, the eternal Word by which all things were created, came down to earth, lived as a flesh-and-blood human being amongst us, died, rose again three days later and ascended into Heaven. The Bible that we have today was written down primarily to provide us with a witness to what happened during those thirty-odd years that our Lord walked upon this earth (true, it speaks of many other things as well, but ultimately Christ is the centre of divine revelation). I believe that the Bible is God’s Word because God has used the written Word to bear witness to the living Word. As the author of Hebrews put it, “in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world” (Hebrews 1:2).

Whether the Bible is to be recognized as the Word of God depends on whether it truly gives us a reliable and sufficient witness to Jesus’ life and work. After all, if this is God’s Word, then we should expect it to provide us with a truthful account of the primary object of revelation. Did Jesus really die on the cross and return to life three days later? If not, then the Bible is little more than an interesting museum artifact that we can spit upon and poke fun at. But if He indeed rose from the grave, then He is vindicated in all that He has claimed for Himself as the “Son of Man” who is “seated at the right hand of Power” (Mark 14:62). Paul said as much when he wrote,

Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.

(1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

Continue reading

Has the Tenakh Been Corrupted?

Posted in Islam, scripture on July 15, 2010 by fisher219

Introduction

First of all, I would like to acknowledge and thank a friend of mine who handed me a 28-page booklet entitled “Can We Trust Today’s Torah?,” which contains most of the arguments that I am about to present in this article. Thus, I must admit that I am deeply indebted to another’s research. What I am doing here is mainly rephrasing the arguments contained in the booklet, while expanding upon them with extra research taken from other sources.

Part One: Is the Tenakh Still the Word of God?

Now, many Muslims today have been taught that the Torah (and the entire Bible in general) have become lost due to corruption over time. I contend that this is not the case. Lord willing, I will present the case here that there are no solid grounds for supposing that the previous books (especially the Torah in this case, which is read in every Jewish synagogue and is the basis for the Old Testament of every Christian bible) have been corrupted and lost to us.

If we read the New Testament (Injil), we find that Jesus frequently appeals to the Tenakh (referred to by Christians as the Old Testament), of which the Torah (Tawrat), the Psalms (Zabur) and the Prophetic writings are all parts of. We frequently find Him appealing to the Tanakh, prefacing His quotes with the phrase, “it is written.” Also, we find Him using scripture to refer to Himself. As examples:

Have you not read this Scripture:

“‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”

(Mark 12:10, quoting Psalm 118:22-23)

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”
(Luke 4:16-21, quoting Isaiah 61:1-2)

Thus, we see that Jesus used the existing Hebrew Scriptures to prove that He was sent by the Father and that the Scriptures were speaking about Him. This accords with the Qur’an which states,

And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah. Let the people of the Gospel judge by what Allah hath revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel. To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah. it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute.
(Surah Al Mâ’idah, 5:46-48)

In the Arabic, (and those who can read the Arabic can confirm this for me), this verse literally says “The Torah that is between his hands.” What this means is that Jesus had access to the Torah (which thus could not have been corrupted at that time), and used it to confirm His message. In addition, we read from other parts of the New Testament that His companions also believed the same thing:

“Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus… For it is written in the Book of Psalms,

“‘May his camp become desolate,
and let there be no one to dwell in it’;

and

“‘Let another take his office.’
(Acts 1:16,20, quoting Psalms 69:25 and 109:8)

The apostle Paul also agrees here, saying,

For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
(Romans 4:3)

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.
(1 Timothy 3:16-17)

And these are the same companions of Jesus whom the Qur’an will prevail over the non-believers:

Behold! Allah said: “O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject faith, to the Day of Resurrection: Then shall ye all return unto me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute.
(Surah Âl ‘Imrân, 3:55)

O ye who believe! Be ye helpers of Allah: As said Jesus the son of Mary to the Disciples, “Who will be my helpers to (the work of) Allah?” Said the disciples, “We are Allah’s helpers!” then a portion of the Children of Israel believed, and a portion disbelieved: But We gave power to those who believed, against their enemies, and they became the ones that prevailed.
(Surah As Saff, 61:14)

Maulana Muhammad Ali writes regarding these two verses:

This verse contains four promises relating to Jesus’ triumph over his enemies as against their plans … And the fourth promise is that those who follow Jesus shall be made dominant over his rejectors till the day of Judgment. The truth of this fourth prophecy is witnessed to this day in the dominance of the Christians over the Jews.
(Maulana Muhammad Ali. Commentary on Surah 3:55.)

The description applies to the triumph of the teachings of Christ over those who opposed the dissemination of his teachings, and speaks prophetically of the ultimate triumph of Islam over all other religions of the world.
(Maulana Muhammad Ali. Commentary on Surah 61:14.)

Now, Muslims may object to my inclusion of Paul here. They say that Paul corrupted the original message of Christianity. Now, this argument has major problems with it. First of all, the apostles did not reject Paul. On the contrary, they actually commended his writings (for example, the apostle Peter regards them as scripture in 2 Peter 3:15-16). Second, if Paul did in fact corrupt Christianity, then this means Allah was not able to keep his promise to be with Jesus’ companions in the above mentioned Qur’anic verses. Finally, early Muslims did not reject Paul, but saw him as a legitimate disciple of Jesus and His companions. This is confirmed in the tafsirs (commentaries) of such prominent early Muslim commentators on the Qur’an as Imam Abu ‘Abdullah Al-Qurtubi. For more information on this, see this article by Sam Shamoun on the early Muslim view of Jesus’ companions.

Now that it has been demonstrated that Jesus and His companions regarded the Tenakh that they had with them during their time was trustworthy. And they are not the only ones. It can be shown that the Tenakh was also regarded as accurate by Muhammad during his time. There are 39 references to these books in the Qur’an, but I shall limit myself to quoting these particular instances:

Allah! There is no god but He,-the Living, the Self-Subsisting, Eternal. It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it [Once again, the Arabic literally says “between his hands,” meaning that whatever books are mentioned are extant during Muhammad’s time]; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong). Then those who reject Faith in the Signs of Allah will suffer the severest penalty, and Allah is Exalted in Might, Lord of Retribution.
(Surah Âl ‘Imrân, 3:2-4)

And Allah will teach him the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel…
(Surah Âl ‘Imrân, 3:48)

[Jesus says] “(I have come to you), to attest the Law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was (Before) forbidden to you; I have come to you with a Sign from your Lord. So fear Allah, and obey me…”
(Surah Âl ‘Imrân, 3:50)

All food was lawful to the Children of Israel, except what Israel Made unlawful for itself, before the Law (of Moses) was revealed. Say: “Bring ye the Law and study it, if ye be men of truth.”
(Surah Âl ‘Imrân, 3:93)

If thou wert in doubt as to what We have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the Book from before thee: the Truth hath indeed come to thee from thy Lord: so be in no wise of those in doubt.
(Surah Yûnus, 10:94)

And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, “We believe in the revelation which has come down to us and in that which came down to you; Our Allah and your Allah is one; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam).”
(Surah Al ‘Ankabût, 29:46)

Now, there is no way that the Torah (and Injil) could have been lost at the time of Muhammad, because if this was the case, then there is no way to make sense of the Qur’anic verses that have just been quoted. Also note that the Torah always comes with the prophets and the other writings of the Tenakh (such as the Psalms/Zabur), so when the Qur’an refers to the Torah, whatever it says about the Torah applies to the rest of the Tenakh as well.

In addition to the Qur’an, the Torah (which, by extension, comes with the rest of the Tenakh) is mentioned in various hadith quotes, where Muhammad accuses the Jews of not following their own books and uses those same books to prove his point:

Narrated Ibn ‘Umar:

A Jew and a Jewess were brought to Allah’s Apostle on a charge of committing an illegal sexual intercourse. The Prophet asked them. “What is the legal punishment (for this sin) in your Book (Torah)?” They replied, “Our priests have innovated the punishment of blackening the faces with charcoal and Tajbiya.” ‘Abdullah bin Salam said, “O Allah’s Apostle, tell them to bring the Torah.” The Torah was brought, and then one of the Jews put his hand over the Divine Verse of the Rajam (stoning to death) and started reading what preceded and what followed it. On that, Ibn Salam said to the Jew, “Lift up your hand.” Behold! The Divine Verse of the Rajam was under his hand. So Allah’s Apostle ordered that the two (sinners) be stoned to death, and so they were stoned. Ibn ‘Umar added: So both of them were stoned at the Balat and I saw the Jew sheltering the Jewess.
(Sahih Al-Bukhari. 8:82:809.)

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Umar:

A group of Jews came and invited the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) to Quff. So he visited them in their school.

They said: Abul Qasim, one of our men has committed fornication with a woman; so pronounce judgment upon them. They placed a cushion for the Apostle of Allah (pbuh) who sat on it and said: Bring the Torah. It was then brought. He then withdrew the cushion from beneath him and placed the Torah on it saying: I believed in thee and in Him Who revealed thee.

He then said: Bring me one who is learned among you. Then a young man was brought. The transmitter then mentioned the rest of the tradition of stoning similar to the one transmitted by Malik from Nafi’.

Narrated AbuHurayrah:

(This is Ma’mar’s version which is more accurate.) A man and a woman of the Jews committed fornication.

Some of them said to the others: Let us go to this Prophet, for he has been sent with an easy law. If he gives a judgment lighter than stoning, we shall accept it, and argue about it with Allah, saying: It is a judgment of one of your prophets. So they came to the Prophet (pbuh) who was sitting in the mosque among his companions.

They said: AbulQasim, what do you think about a man and a woman who committed fornication? He did not speak to them a word till he went to their school.

He stood at the gate and said: I adjure you by Allah Who revealed the Torah to Moses, what (punishment) do you find in the Torah for a person who commits fornication, if he is married?

They said: He shall be blackened with charcoal, taken round a donkey among the people, and flogged. A young man among them kept silent.

When the Prophet (pbuh) emphatically adjured him, he said: By Allah, since you have adjured us (we inform you that) we find stoning in the Torah (is the punishment for fornication).

The Prophet (pbuh) said: So when did you lessen the severity of Allah’s command? He said:

A relative of one of our kings had committed fornication, but his stoning was suspended. Then a man of a family of common people committed fornication. He was to have been stoned, but his people intervened and said: Our man shall not be stoned until you bring your man and stone him. So they made a compromise on this punishment between them.

The Prophet (pbuh) said: So I decide in accordance with what the Torah says. He then commanded regarding them and they were stoned to death.

Az-Zuhri said: We have been informed that this verse was revealed about them: “It was We Who revealed the Law (to Moses): therein was guidance and light. By its standard have been judged the Jews, by the Prophet who bowed (as in Islam) to Allah’s will.
(Sunan Abu Dawud. 33:4434-4435.)

These hadith quotes demonstrate that Muhammad himself did not regard the Torah at his time to be corrupted (he condemned the Jews’ misinterpretation of their books, but that is a different matter altogether). On the contrary, it was still considered God’s revelation at that time, and Muhammad had no qualms about appealing to the Torah as the word of God.

In addition to all of this evidence from the New Testament, the Qur’an and the hadiths, there is also much physical evidence to demonstrate that the Tenakh has been reliably preserved for us. This evidence comes in the form of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered between 1947 and 1956 in the caves of Qumran. These scrolls contain some of the oldest copies of the Tenakh that we have. Here is some very important information from the Royal Ontario Museum regarding the Dead Sea Scrolls:

The Dead Sea Scrolls are widely considered among the greatest archaeological finds of the past century. They include the earliest written sources for the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament), as well as other less well known writings. Many of the ideas and beliefs contained in this collection of ancient parchments have resonated through the centuries and remain influential today. Indeed, they reflect the foundations of important religions such as Judaism and Christianity and have influenced Islam.

Dating from around 250 Before Common Era (BCE) to 68 Common Era (CE), the Scrolls include some 207 biblical manuscripts representing nearly all of the books in the Hebrew Bible (Christian Old Testament). Approximately 900 Scrolls were discovered; some almost entirely preserved and others in fragments. Together, they comprise one of the most important collections of writings ever discovered. The Scrolls are a collection of biblical writings, apocryphal manuscripts, prayers, biblical commentary and religious laws. Prior to the discovery of the Scrolls, the oldest known copies of biblical texts were written 1,000 years later.
(Dead Sea Scrolls: Words that Changed the World)

To this, Richard Deem (of Godandscience.org) adds,

How do we know the Bible has been kept intact for over 2,000 years of copying? Before the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, our earliest Hebrew copy of the Old Testament was the Masoretic text, dating around 800 A.D. The Dead Sea Scrolls date to the time of Jesus and were copied by the Qumran community, a Jewish sect living around the Dead Sea. We also have the Septuagint which is a Greek translation of the Old Testament dating in the second century B.C. When we compare these texts which have an 800-1000 years gap between them we are amazed that 95% of the texts are identical with only minor variations and a few discrepancies.
(Richard Deem. Is Our Copy of the Bible a Reliable Copy of the Original?)

In conclusion, all of the evidence points to the fact that the Torah (and the rest of the Tenakh) has not been corrupted. It was not corrupted during the time of Jesus in the first century C.E., and it was not corrupted during advent of Islam during the seventh century C.E. And since the modern day Tenakh is based on the same Tenakh that they had back then (which can be demonstrated by comparing the Dead Sea Scrolls to more modern manuscripts such as the Westminster Leningrad Codex and Aleppo Codex), we have good reason to trust the Tenakh/Old Testament that we have today as the word of God.

Part Two: Did the Tenakh Predict Jesus’ Sacrificial Death?

Another problem that Muslims have with Christian teachings is the belief that Jesus died on the cross as a substitutionary atonement for sin. Muslims deny that Jesus died on the cross on the basis of one Qur’anic passage:

That they rejected Faith; that they uttered against Mary a grave false charge; That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Apostle of Allah”;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:- Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.
(Surah An Nisâ’, 4:156-158)

They also deny the Christian belief in substitutionary atonement on the basis of the following verses from the Qur’an:

On no soul doth Allah Place a burden greater than it can bear. It gets every good that it earns, and it suffers every ill that it earns. (Pray:) “Our Lord! Condemn us not if we forget or fall into error; our Lord! Lay not on us a burden Like that which Thou didst lay on those before us; Our Lord! Lay not on us a burden greater than we have strength to bear. Blot out our sins, and grant us forgiveness. Have mercy on us. Thou art our Protector; Help us against those who stand against faith.”
(Surah Al Baqarah, 2:286)

Nor can a bearer of burdens bear another’s burdens if one heavily laden should call another to (bear) his load. Not the least portion of it can be carried (by the other). Even though he be nearly related. Thou canst but admonish such as fear their Lord unseen and establish regular Prayer. And whoever purifies himself does so for the benefit of his own soul; and the destination (of all) is to Allah.
(Surah Fâtir, 35:18)

The Islamic rejection of substitutionary atonement based on these passages is rather ironic given the fact that a similar teaching is recorded for us in the hadith collection known as Sahih Muslim. In Kitab At-Tawba (Book 37), we find these passages which speak of Christians and Jews serving as substitutes for Muslims in hell:

Abu Musa’ reported that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: When it will be the Day of Resurrection Allah would deliver to every Muslim a Jew or a Christian and say: That is your rescue from Hell-Fire.

Abu Burda reported on the authority of his father that Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) said: No Muslim would die but Allah would admit in his stead a Jew or a Christian in Hell-Fire. ‘Umar b. Abd al-‘Aziz took an oath: By One besides Whom there is no god but He, thrice that his father had narrated that to him from Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him).

This hadith has been transmitted on the authority of ‘Aun b. Utba.

Abu Burda reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: There would come people amongst the Muslims on the Day of Resurrection with as heavy sins as a mountain, and Allah would forgive them and He would place in their stead the Jews and the Christians. (As far as I think), Abu Raub said: I do not know as to who is in doubt. Abu Burda said: I narrated it to ‘Umar b. ‘Abd al-‘Aziz, whereupon he said : Was it your father who narrated it to you from Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) ? I said: Yes.

Safwan b. Muhriz reported that a person said to Ibn ‘Umar: How did you hear Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying something about intimate conversation ? He said: I heard him say: A believer will be brought to his Lord, the Exalted and Glorious, on the Day of Resurrection and He would place upon him His veil (of Light) and make him confess his faults and say: Do you recognise (your faults) ? He would say: My Lord, I do recognise (them). He (the Lord) would say: I concealed them for you in the world. And today I forgive them. And he would then be given the Book containing (the account of his) good deeds. And so far as the non-believers and hypocrites are concerned, there would be general announcement about them before all creation telling them that these (people, i.e. non-believers and hypocrites) told a lie about Allah.
(Sahih Muslim. 37:6665-6669.)

The contradiction between what these hadith quotes say and what the Qur’an (as interpreted by most of the Muslims I’ve met) says is quite glaring.

Anyway, having had established the Tenakh as being reliably preserved for us as the word of God, perhaps we should start investigating what it actually teaches regarding this. We begin by looking at the Fall of Adam (an event that all three Abrahamic faiths affirm to be historically true). First off, we have God giving commands to Adam and Eve concerning the fruit of the tree of knowledge:

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
(Genesis 2:15-17)

Adam and Eve, of course, disobeyed. And we have God’s punishment recorded for us:

To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be for your husband,
and he shall rule over you.”

And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

(Genesis 3:16-19)

In addition, their fall caused sin to enter into creation, and has warped human nature ever since (something which those of us who are Reformed Christians refer to as Total Depravity). This is seen in the words of David (Dawood) in the Zabur:

The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
there is none who does good,
not even one.

(Psalm 14:2-3)

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.

(Psalm 51:5)

The wicked are estranged from the womb;
they go astray from birth, speaking lies.
They have venom like the venom of a serpent,
like the deaf adder that stops its ear,
so that it does not hear the voice of charmers
or of the cunning enchanter.

(Psalm 58:3-5)

To this, Solomon (Sulaiman) proclaims, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20). And the Prophet Jeremiah affirms this as well, saying, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Because of all this, there comes the necessity of substitutionary atonement. The Tenakh constantly affirms the necessity of blood sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins. This begins with the covering of Adam and Eve with animal coats, symbolizing the covering of sin: “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” (Genesis 3:21).

This lesson is passed on to Cain and Abel, who both perform sacrifices. Interestingly, God accepts the animal sacrifices of Abel, but rejects the plant offerings of Cain:

And again, she bore his brother Abel. Now Abel was a keeper of sheep, and Cain a worker of the ground. In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell
(Genesis 4:2-5).

We also see Noah (Nuh) bringing a blood sacrifice to God after the Great Flood:

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.
(Genesis 8:20-22)

We also find that Job (Ayyub) offered up blood sacrifices daily not only for himself, but for his children as well:

And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and consecrate them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually.
(Job 1:5)

Abraham (Ibrahim)himself also brought many blood sacrifices to God. In fact, the covenant God made with Abraham was inaugurated with blood:

And he said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out from Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to possess.” But he said, “O Lord God, how am I to know that I shall possess it?” He said to him, “Bring me a heifer three years old, a female goat three years old, a ram three years old, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.” And he brought him all these, cut them in half, and laid each half over against the other. But he did not cut the birds in half… When the sun had gone down and it was dark, behold, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch passed between these pieces. On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites.”
(Genesis 15:7-10, 17-21)

Jacob (Yakub) also offered blood sacrifices: “…and Jacob offered a sacrifice in the hill country and called his kinsmen to eat bread. They ate bread and spent the night in the hill country ” (Genesis 31:54).

The most significant example of blood sacrifice, however, is offered under the Covenant that God made with Moses (Musa) with Aaron (Harun) as the high priest.

Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself. And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil and put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.

Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses.
(Leviticus 16:11-16)

Now here is the problem: God declared that this statute is binding for all time: “And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins” (Leviticus 16:34). But we see that the sacrificial system is no longer in place. This means that this statute must be fulfilled in some other manner. But how?

The answer is given for us by the prophet Isaiah. In his prophecy, he talks about the coming of the Messiah (al Masih), and how He is to be the atonement for our sins:

For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away;
and as for his generation, who considered
that he was cut off out of the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people?
And they made his grave with the wicked
and with a rich man in his death,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him;
he has put him to grief;
when his soul makes an offering for guilt,
he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;
the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied;
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

(Isaiah 53:2-12)

Dawood in his Zabur provides a fuller description of what the Messiah will have to go through:

Many bulls encompass me;
strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
they open wide their mouths at me,
like a ravening and roaring lion.

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
you lay me in the dust of death.

For dogs encompass me;
a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet—
I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
they divide my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.

(Psalm 22:12-18)

And Jesus Himself predicts His death in a parable that He tells against the Pharisees:

And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this Scripture:

“The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes?”

And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.
(Mark 12:1-12, quoting Psalm 118:22-23)

If we look at the description of the crucifixion that is contained in the Injil, we see that this prophecy has been fully fulfilled therein. But how can this be if the Qur’an denies that Jesus even died on the cross? If Jesus did not die on the cross as our atonement for sins, then He has not fulfilled the messianic prophecies (which means He is not the Messiah). But both Christians and Muslims will agree that Jesus is the Messiah. But in order for Him to be the Messiah, He has to be killed just as the prophets have foretold. So the only conclusion that we can come to is that Surah 4:157 is false and that Jesus truly died on the cross. Thus, we may conclude, along with Jesus’ companion Peter:

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
(1 Peter 2:21-25)

And with the author of the epistle to the Hebrews:

But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
(Hebrews 9:26-28)

Part Three: Did Abraham Build the Ka’aba?

One of the more significant beliefs that Muslims have is their belief that Ibrahim attempted to sacrifice Isma’il (rather than Ishaq as Jews and Christians believe), and that they later went on to build the Ka’aba in Mecca. This is reflected in the following passages from the Qur’an:

He said: “I will go to my Lord! He will surely guide me! “O my Lord! Grant me a righteous (son)!” So We gave him the good news of a boy ready to suffer and forbear.

Then, when (the son) reached (the age of) (serious) work with him, he said: “O my son! I see in vision that I offer thee in sacrifice: Now see what is thy view!” (The son) said: “O my father! Do as thou art commanded: thou will find me, if Allah so wills one practising Patience and Constancy!” So when they had both submitted their wills (to Allah), and he had laid him prostrate on his forehead (for sacrifice), We called out to him “O Abraham! “Thou hast already fulfilled the vision!” – thus indeed do We reward those who do right. For this was obviously a trial- And We ransomed him with a momentous sacrifice: And We left (this blessing) for him among generations (to come) in later times: “Peace and salutation to Abraham!”

Thus indeed do We reward those who do right. For he was one of our believing Servants. And We gave him the good news of Isaac – a prophet,- one of the Righteous. We blessed him and Isaac: but of their progeny are (some) that do right, and (some) that obviously do wrong, to their own souls.
(Surah As Sâffât 37:99-113)

Remember We made the House a place of assembly for men and a place of safety; and take ye the station of Abraham as a place of prayer; and We covenanted with Abraham and Isma’il, that they should sanctify My House for those who compass it round, or use it as a retreat, or bow, or prostrate themselves (therein in prayer). And remember Abraham said: “My Lord, make this a City of Peace, and feed its people with fruits,-such of them as believe in Allah and the Last Day.” He said: “(Yea), and such as reject Faith,-for a while will I grant them their pleasure, but will soon drive them to the torment of Fire,- an evil destination (indeed)!” And remember Abraham and Isma’il raised the foundations of the House (With this prayer): “Our Lord! Accept (this service) from us: For Thou art the All-Hearing, the All-knowing.
(Surah Al Baqarah, 2:125-127)

It should be noted that the Qur’an doesn’t actually name who the son in Surah 37:99-113 is, and I am not aware of any hadith sources that specify that the son is Isma’il (if anybody knows of one, go ahead and give me the source and I’ll be happy to look it up). In fact, there are numerous documents written by Islamic scholars who admit that the passages are ambiguous.

Now, we see that God promises to establish a Covenant with Ibrahim:

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”… Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.
(Genesis 12:1-3,7)

When God promises something, it is something that will be established by supernatural means, rather than natural means. Muslims at this point will try to argue on the basis of God making promises to Isma’il (cf. Genesis 16:10, 17:20, 21:13, 21:18). Now, nobody would deny that God made promises to Isma’il; that God would give him many descendants and make a nation out of them. However, this does not mean Isma’il is the child of the promise (or that a prophet would come out of him, for that matter). This is simply stretching the text beyond what they clearly intend to convey.

For example, let us look at Genesis 17:20: “As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation.”

Note that it is necessary for Muslims who quote this passage to isolate it from its context. Why is that? Well, look at the verses that come before and after it:

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” And Abraham said to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” God said, “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son, and you shall call his name Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his offspring after him. As for Ishmael, I have heard you; behold, I have blessed him and will make him fruitful and multiply him greatly. He shall father twelve princes, and I will make him into a great nation. But I will establish my covenant with Isaac, whom Sarah shall bear to you at this time next year.”
(Genesis 17:17-21)

As we see, the focus of the passage is actually Ishaq, not Isma’il. This is the same case with Genesis 21:13: “And I will make a nation of the son of the slave woman also, because he is your offspring.” But once again, those who quote this verse fail to notice the verses that come right before it:

And the child grew and was weaned. And Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned. But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham, laughing. So she said to Abraham, “Cast out this slave woman with her son, for the son of this slave woman shall not be heir with my son Isaac.” And the thing was very displeasing to Abraham on account of his son. But God said to Abraham, “Be not displeased because of the boy and because of your slave woman. Whatever Sarah says to you, do as she tells you, for through Isaac shall your offspring be named.
(Genesis 21:8-12)

Once again, we see that the focus is on Ishaq, who is the son through whom his offspring shall be name.

After this is the story where Ibrahim attempts to sacrifice Ishaq on the altar (Genesis 22:1-19). Muslims at this point will argue that the passage in question has been corrupted and that the text originally said the child is Isma’il on the basis of Ibrahim’s calling the child his only son (Genesis 22:12,16). There are three problems with this, however: First, we already established in part one of this article that there is no corruption in the Torah. Second, we see that Isma’il had already left the household of Ibrahim in the previous chapter (Genesis 21:8-21). This leaves Ishaq as the only son left in Ibrahim’s household. Finally the Qur’an itself indicates that the only promised child that Ibrahim would receive would be Ishaq, not Isma’il:

There came Our messengers to Abraham with glad tidings. They said, “Peace!” He answered, “Peace!” and hastened to entertain them with a roasted calf. But when he saw their hands went not towards the (meal), he felt some mistrust of them, and conceived a fear of them. They said: “Fear not: We have been sent against the people of Lut.” And his wife was standing (there), and she laughed: But we gave her glad tidings of Isaac, and after him, of Jacob. She said: “Alas for me! shall I bear a child, seeing I am an old woman, and my husband here is an old man? That would indeed be a wonderful thing!” They said: “Dost thou wonder at Allah’s decree? The grace of Allah and His blessings on you, o ye people of the house! for He is indeed worthy of all praise, full of all glory!”
(Surah Hûd 11:69-73)

Finally, we have the claim the Isma’il came all the way to Mecca to build the Ka’aba, which Muslims believe on the basis of Surah 2:125-127, and argue that the Paran mentioned in Genesis 21:21 is actually the Sarawat mountains outside of Mecca. However, the Qur’an and hadiths never refer to “Paran.” Also, the context and usage of “Paran” in the Tenakh refutes this:

In the very verse quoted by Muslims, it is said that Hagar brought Isma’il a wife from Egypt: “He lived in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt” (Genesis 21:21). It is unlikely that Hagar would go 700 miles from Mecca to Egypt just to find a wife for Isma’il (and by the way, aren’t there hadith quotes that say Hagar got Isma’il a wife from Mecca?). In addition, the Israelites pass by Paran during their Exodus from Egypt to the promised land:

…and the people of Israel set out by stages from the wilderness of Sinai. And the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran.
(Numbers 10:12)

After that the people set out from Hazeroth, and camped in the wilderness of Paran.
(Numbers 12:16)

So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran, according to the command of the Lord, all of them men who were heads of the people of Israel.
(Numbers 13:3)

And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the people of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh. They brought back word to them and to all the congregation, and showed them the fruit of the land.
(
Numbers 13:26)

Did the Israelites pass by Mecca on their way to Canaan from Egypt? Nobody would take that assertion seriously, and there is no historical evidence for that claim. Besides, the Edomite Hadad is said to have passed by Paran during his flight towards Egypt:

And the Lord raised up an adversary against Solomon, Hadad the Edomite. He was of the royal house in Edom. For when David was in Edom, and Joab the commander of the army went up to bury the slain, he struck down every male in Edom (for Joab and all Israel remained there six months, until he had cut off every male in Edom). But Hadad fled to Egypt, together with certain Edomites of his father’s servants, Hadad still being a little child. They set out from Midian and came to Paran and took men with them from Paran and came to Egypt, to Pharaoh king of Egypt, who gave him a house and assigned him an allowance of food and gave him land.
(1 Kings 11:14-18)

What can we conclude from all this? Paran must be located in or around the Sinai Peninsula. It is nowhere near Mecca. Baker Encyclopedia of Bible Places confirms this when it says:

PARAN. A wilderness situated in the eastern central region of the Sinai peninsula, north-east from the traditional Sinai and south-south-east of Kadesh, with the Arabah and the Gulf of Aqabah as its eastern border. It was to this wilderness that Hagar and Ishmael went after their expulsion from Abraham’s household (Genesis 21:21). It was crossed by the Israelites following their exodus from Egypt (Numbers 10:12; 12:16), and from here Moses despatched men to spy out the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:3, 26). The wilderness was also traversed by Hadad the Edomite on his flight to Egypt (1 Kings 11:18).
1 Samuel 25:1 records that David went to the wilderness of Paran on the death of the prophet Samuel, but in this instance we may read with the Greek ‘wilderness of Maon’.

El-paran, mentioned in Genesis 14:6 as on the border of the wilderness, may have been an ancient name for Elath. Mount Paran of the Song of Moses (Deuteronomy 33:2) and of Habakkuk 3:3 was possibly a prominent peak in the mountain range on the western shore of the Gulf of Aqabah. (See also *ZIN.) (Source)

On top of all this, we find evidence that Ishmael’s descendants during the time of Jacob’s sons had moved to Gilead, which is directly to the east of Israel:

So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the robe of many colors that he wore. And they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

Then they sat down to eat. And looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels bearing gum, balm, and myrrh, on their way to carry it down to Egypt.
(Genesis 37:23-25)

Conclusion

We see here that there is a major flaw in at least four major Islamic beliefs: that 1) the books previous to the Qur’an have been corrupted, that 2) Jesus did not die on the cross to atone for anybody’s sins, and that 3) Ibrahim attempted to sacrifice Isma’il, and that 4) Ibrahim built the Ka’aba with Ismai’l, who went on to reside in Mecca. There are simply no solid grounds for believing any of these claims.