Is "the Holy Spirit" Only Another Name for the Angel Gabriel?

Sam Shamoun


It is a common Muslim belief that "the Holy Spirit" is just another name for the Angel Gabriel. In an article at "Understanding Islam", Laura M. Poyneer claims that there are Jewish and Christian sources which support this Muslim belief. She makes the following arguments concerning Gabriel:

Dated: 01 February 2001
Written by: Laura M. Poyneer

Article: Regarding the Christian Concept of Gabriel

In one of your pages, you report that Mr. Jochen Katz claims that there is a contradiction in the Qur'an, when it in one place (2:97) identifies the angel Gabriel as the entity which brought the Qur'an to the Prophet Muhammad (sAas), while in another place (16:102) it identifies the entity as 'the Holy Spirit'. Muslims do not see any contradiction in this, but instead take 'the Holy Spirit' to be a name or title for Gabriel, since after all angels and spirits are both celestial beings.

[ Note: The name of the author and the URL of the article as given above were correct at the time of publication of our response. In January 2004 we discovered that the article has been moved to another location and the identity of the author was changed to "anonymous". ]

Response:

It might be true that Muslims take "Holy Spirit" as another name for Gabriel, yet the simple fact is that the Quran does not support this. There is not a single verse in the entire Quran where it explicitly refers to Gabriel as the Holy Spirit. More on this later.

Laura P.:

However, to a Christian, the Holy Spirit is part of God in the Trinity and thus can hardly be the same as an angel. So, Christians are not satisfied with the Muslim response.

Response:

Correction. It is not just Christians who believe that the Holy Spirit is God. The Holy Bible also explicitly teaches this as well. Both the Old and New Testaments clearly teach that the Holy Spirit is an eternal divine Person, not a created entity like the angels. Again, more on this later.

Laura P.:

But did Christians at the time of the revelation of the Qur'an have the same understanding as today? Mainstream Christians certainly did, but there were many Christian movements that are now considered heretical, such as the Nestorians (who believed that Jesus only became divine as an adult) and the Monophysites (who believed that Jesus was only divine and not human), which were still popular at the time of the Prophet (sAas) even though they had first come onto the scene one or more centuries previously. Could there have been any heretical belief concerning the Holy Spirit that dated to only a few centuries before the coming of Islam?

Response:

Seeing that the Christology held by these two groups has absolutely nothing to do with their particular view regarding the Holy Spirit the author is guilty of bringing up irrelevant issues. In doing so the author chases after red herrings.

Furthermore, the author misrepresents the views held by these respective groups regarding the nature of Christ. For instance, the Nestorians have never believed that Jesus only became divine as an adult. Rather, the early writings of the Nestorians clearly demonstrate that they held to a very orthodox Christology. Author Gerry Redman writes:

This term is perhaps a misnomer, for Nestorius was not guilty of holding to the heresy that bears his name... Formerly, it was held that Nestorius believed in dual personality of Christ, but the discovery of ‘Book of Heraclides’, where he accepts the Chalcedonian Definition, has undermined this. His position was that the two natures remain distinct in the union. The Godhead exists in the man mind and vice versa, without mixture or confusion. The Incarnation cannot affect the impassible Logos in change or suffering. Christ experienced genuine human emotional development. Such is impossible if deity and humanity fused. Thus the two natures were parallel and undiminished as to their respective properties and economy.

For Nestorius, the term ‘nature’ was equivalent to the concrete character of a thing. - the quality of being human or divine; e.g., humanity is circumscribed by finiteness. Prosopon was equivalent to the external form as an individual; nature is not an abstract concept - human nature demands a real, external body & soul to exist. This also demands hypostasis (equivalent to concrete subsistence), thus the human nature of Christ was not a cloak, pace ‘Word-flesh’, but was objectively real - without dichotomising Christ, His human nature had real personality - as did His deity of course, though there was only one Person. Nestorius rejected Paul of Samosata’s dogma of the two Sons: the Incarnate was a unity - God the Logos and the man are not numerically two. Never divided in purpose or will. Thus there are not two Persons, but one prosopon, with two ousiai - divine and human. Nestorius preferred to use ‘conjunction’, rather than ‘union’, as the latter could imply confusion of natures.

The man was the temple in which God dwelt: it was a voluntary conjunction - gracious condescension on the part of the divine, willing submission with regard to the human. Christ was a single being with a single will and intelligence -inseparable and indivisible. ‘Christ’ is the prosopon of union - the prosopon is not identified with the eternal Logos or the man, but is the consequence of the ‘coalescence’. With regard to the communicatio idiomatum, the human actions of Christ should be predicated of the human nature, the divine of the deity, but both could be predicated of the Person. The trouble occurred because either party had differing starting-points, one stressing the distinction of natures, the other the unity of the Person. (Source; bold emphasis ours)

Redmand produces quotations from early Nestorian writings predating Islam (c. 486 and 596 AD) illustrating their orthodox Christology. Here are some relevant portions:

It seemed good to his fatherhood and to all the metropolitans and bishops to write this composition of the faith... which accurately and plainly teaches us the confession... the same by which... all heresy is convicted and condemned which denies the Godhead and manhood of our Life-giver, Jesus Christ, accepting it with the exact meaning of the holy fathers, which the illustrious among the orthodox, the blessed Theodore the Antiochian, bishop of the city of Mopsuestia, ‘the Interpreter of the Divine Scriptures,’ explained, with which all the orthodox in all regions have agreed and do agree, as also all the venerable fathers who have governed this apostolic and patriarchal see of our administration have held, while we anathematize and alienate from all contact with us everyone who denies the nature of the Godhead and the nature of the manhood of our Lord Jesus Christ, whether through mixture and commingling, or compounding or confusing, introducing, with regard to the union of the Son of God, either suffering, or death, or any of the mean circumstances of humanity in any way, to the glorious nature of his Godhead, or considering as a mere man the Lordly temple of God the Word, which, in an inexplicable mystery and an incomprehensible union, he joined to himself IN THE WOMB OF THE HOLY VIRGIN in an eternal, indestructible, and indivisible union.

Again, we also reject... one who calls the one Christ, the Son of God, two sons or two Christs, or one who does not say that the Word of God fulfilled the suffering of our salvation in the body of his manhood. Though he was in him, with him, and toward him IN THE BELLY, on the cross, in suffering, and for ever, inseparably, while the glorious nature of his Godhead did not participate in any sufferings, yet we strongly believe, according to the word and intent of the writings and traditions of the holy fathers, in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only-begotten Son of God, who was begotten before the foundations of the world in his Godhead, spiritually, without a mother, and in the last times WAS BORN from the holy Virgin in a fleshly manner without the intercourse of a man through the power of the Holy Spirit. He is, in his eternal Godhead and in his manhood from Mary, one true Son of God, who in the nature of his manhood accepted suffering and death for us, and by the power of his Godhead raised up his uncorrupted body after three days, and promised resurrection from the dead, ascension to heaven, and a new and indestructible and abiding world for ever. (Synod of Mar Sabris, AD 596) (bold and capital emphasis ours)

These citations clearly demonstrate the error of Laura’s claims regarding Nestorian Christology.

The author is also wrong in claiming that Monophysites believed that Jesus was only divine and not human. The Monophysites did believe in Jesus’ humanity. Yet they believed that Jesus’ divine nature took over his human nature so that the human nature ceased to exist.

Laura P.:

This essay will look at the Holy Spirit in Jewish thought during the Talmudic era (circa 50-400 CE) since this is the background for the development of Christianity, and then at some Christian writings on the Holy Spirit from around 50 CE and from around 360 CE.

Response:

The author should have first consulted the Hebrew Bible to see what the OT prophets said regarding the Holy Spirit. It is only after consulting the OT that the author would have been able to know whether the rabbinic material accurately interpreted the data on the Holy Spirit. It is the Hebrew Bible, not the rabbinic traditions, which provide primary source material regarding early Jewish belief on the Holy Spirit.

Near the end of the article we will present both the OT and NT data regarding the person and work of the Holy Spirit. We will then present the Islamic data. This will help the reader to see if whether the evidence supports the Muslim view that the Holy Spirit and Gabriel are identical, or if in fact the data shows that they are distinct entities.

Laura P.:

The Holy Spirit in Jewish thought

The book 'Everyman's Talmud' by Abraham Cohen provides an introduction to the Holy Spirit in Talmudic thought:

"Another Rabbinic concept to indicate the nearness of God and His direct influence on man is that of Ruach Hakodesh (the Holy Spirit). Sometimes it seems to be identical with the Shekhinah as expressing the divine immanence in the world... More often it is employed to describe the endowment of a person with special gifts. Prophecy, in the sense of the ability to interpret the will of God, is the effect of which the Holy Spirit is the cause. Its possession also endows one with foreknowledge" (p. 45).

The similarity between this belief and the Qur'an's statement that 'the Holy Spirit' brought down the Qur'an should be obvious.

Response:

When one does read the passage in its intended context one will see that the rabbis viewed the Holy Spirit as God’s very own Presence. We present part of Laura’s own quotation, this time with added emphasis:

"… Sometimes it seems to be IDENTICAL with the Shekhinah as expressing THE DIVINE IMMANENCE IN THE WORLD ..."

According to Cohen, the Holy Spirit and God’s Shechinah were viewed as being identical. The rabbis understood the Shechinah as God manifesting and interacting within time and space. Cohen states:

"What, in Rabbinic teaching, is God’s relation to the world? Is He thought of as transcendent and far removed from His creatures, or is He considered as being near to, and in contact with, them? The true answer is to be found in a combination of both ideas. The Rabbis did not look upon the two conceptions as contradictory or mutually exclusive, but rather as complementary.

When they reflected upon the ineffable Majesty of the Creator, His absolute perfection and boundless might, they reverentially spoke of Him as a Being immeasurably removed from the limitations of the finite world. But they, at the same time, realized that such a transcendent God was of little use to the human being who was grappling with the problems of life and yearned for communion with a Helper and Comforter and Guide amidst his perplexities and struggles. They, accordingly, stressed the doctrine that God was immanent in the world, and was very near to all who call upon Him in sincerity.

We have seen that in the cosmology of the Talmud, the Deity is located in the seventh heaven. His habitation was therefore infinitely removed from earth...

Much more prominent, however, in the Talmudic literature is the conception of God’s immanence in the world and His nearness to man. It follows as a corollary from the doctrine of His omnipresence... the Holy One, blessed be He, appears to be afar off, but in reality there is nothing closer than He... Can there be a God nearer than this, Who is close to His creatures as the mouth is to the ear?’ (p. Ber. 13a)...

With the object of utilizing the doctrine of the immanence of God in the world, while avoiding the suggestion that He could be located in any spot, the Rabbis invented certain terms to express the Divine Presence without giving support to a belief in His corporeality. The most frequent of these terms IS SHECHINAH, which literally means ‘dwelling.’ It denotes the manifestation of God upon the stage of the world, although He abides in the far-away heaven. In the same way that the sun in the sky illumines with its rays every corner of the earth, so the Shechinah, the effulgence of God, may make its presence felt everywhere (Sanh. 39a)." (Cohen, Everyman’s Talmud, pp. 40-42; bold and capital emphasis ours)

And:

"The Talmud offers this demonstration of divine omnipresence: ‘The messengers of God are unlike those of men. The messengers of men are obliged to return to those who sent them with the object of their mission; but God’s messengers return at the place wither they had been dispatched. It is written: "Canst thou send forth lightnings, that they may go and say unto thee, Here we are?" (Job xxxviii. 35). It is not stated "they returned" but "they go and say", i.e. wherever they go they are in the presence of God. Hence it is to be deduced that the Shechinah is in every place’ (Mech. to xii. I; 2a; B.B. 25a).

The question how God could be everywhere at the same time received various answers. The problem was elucidated by this analogy: ‘It may be likened to a cave situated by the seashore. The sea rages and the cave is filled with water, but the waters of the sea are not diminished. Similarly the Tent of Meeting was filled with the lustre of the Shechinah, which was not diminished in the Universe’ (Num. R. XII. 4)...

‘A heretic said to R. Gamaliel: "You Rabbis declare that whenever ten people assemble for worship the Shechinah abides amongst them; how many Shechinahs are there then?" He called the heretic’s servant and struck him with a ladle. "Why did you strike him?" he was asked, and he replied, "Because the sun is in the house of the infidel." "But the sun shines all over the world!" exclaimed the heretic; and the Rabbi retorted: "If the sun, which is only one out of a million myriads of God’s servants, can be in every part of the world, how much more so can the Shechinah radiate throughout the entire Universe!"’ (Sanh. 39a)." (Cohen, pp. 9-10)

We see therefore that the Shechinah refers to God’s omnipresence and nearness to his creatures. That the rabbis identified the Holy Spirit with the Shechinah clearly demonstrates that the Holy Spirit is neither a creature nor angel Gabriel. Rather, the Holy Spirit is God personally manifesting himself and interacting with his creation.

Messianic Jewish Scholar Dr. Michael L. Brown concurs:

"Interestingly, there are several references in the Rabbinic literature to the Holy Spirit speaking, announcing, crying out, rebuking, and even serving as the counsel for the defense. For example:

The Talmud (m. Sotah 9:6; b. Sotah 46a) states that when the elders performed the rite of the red heifer (Deut. 21:1-9), ‘They did not have to say, "And the blood shall be forgiven them" [Deut. 21:8], instead the Holy Spirit announces to them, "Whenever you do this, the blood shall be forgiven you."’

Commenting on Exodus 1:12, ‘But the more they [i.e., the Israelites] were oppressed [by the Egyptians], the more they multiplied and spread,’ the Talmud states (b. Pesahim 117a) that the Holy Spirit announced to them, ‘So will he [Israel] increase and spread out!’ This is explained by Rashi and other major Jewish commentators to mean that the Holy Spirit said to the Egyptians, ‘Just as you seek to oppress them more, the more so will they increase and spread out!’

In Pirke D’Rabbi Eliezer 31, as Ishmael (Abraham’s son) and Eliezar (his steward) argue about who will be Abraham’s heir—seeing that they are going together with Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to the Lord (Genesis 22) — the Holy Spirit answers them and says, ‘Neither this one nor this one will inherit.’

In a late midrash cited in Yalkut Reubeni (9d) to Genesis 1:26, after Ben Sira shared the secret, mystical teachings with his son Uzziah and his grandson Joseph, the Holy Spirit called out, ‘Who is it that revealed My secrets to mankind?’ Ben Sira replied, ‘I, Buzi, the son of Buzi.’ The Holy Spirit said to him, ‘Enough!’

Lamentations Rabbah 3:60, 9 relates that after the Roman emperor Hadrian indiscriminately executed two Jews, the Holy Spirit kept crying out, ‘You have seen O LORD, the wrong done to ME. Uphold MY cause! You have seen the depth of their vengeance, all their plots against ME’ (Lam. 3:59-60). This provides an example of the Spirit making intercession.

According to Leviticus Rabbah 6:1, the Holy Spirit is a defense counsel who speaks to Israel on behalf of the Lord and then speaks to the Lord on behalf of Israel. To Israel the Spirit says, ‘Do not testify against your neighbor without cause’ (Prov. 24:28), and to the Lord the Spirit says, ‘Do not say, "I’ll do him as he has done me"’ (Prov. 24:29).

"In all these citations, which can easily be multiplied (see, e.g., Genesis Rabbah 84:11; Song of Songs Rabbah 8:16; Lamentations Rabbah 1:48), there can be no question that we are dealing with a ‘who’ and not just a ‘what’, WITH A PERSONAL DIMENSION OF GOD and not just an impersonal power, WITH GOD HIMSELF and yet with a ‘separate’ entity who can mediate between God and man. And these citations closely parallel some of the New Testament descriptions of the Holy Spirit, although virtually all the Rabbinic texts cited were written many years later ..." (Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus—Volume Two, Theological Objections [Baker Books; Grand Rapids MI, 2000], pp. 55-57; bold and capital emphasis mine)

Interestingly, the Quran also refers to God’s Shechina called Sakinah in Arabic:

And their Prophet (Samuel) said to them: Verily! The sign of His Kingdom is that there shall come to you At-Tbt (a wooden box), wherein is Sakinah (peace and reassurance) from your Lord and a remnant of that which Mus (Moses) and Hrn (Aaron) left behind, carried by the angels. Verily, in this is a sign for you if you are indeed believers." S. 2:248 Hilali-Khan

This passage states that the At-Tabut, i.e. the Ark of the Covenant, provided Sakinah to Israel. The ark contained images of two golden cherubs, the mercy seat, the tablets of stone, a gold jar of manna and Aarons’ budding staff. The ark was a symbol of God’s abiding presence amongst his people. This indirectly links God’s presence with the Sakinah. (Cf. Exodus 25:8-23; Hebrews 9:3-5)

Ibn Kathir notes:

"Their Prophet informs them that the sign of Talut’s blessing upon you is that Allah will bring you back at-Tabut (The Ark of the Covenant) which had been taken away from you.

<Wherein is Sakinah from your Lord.> meaning the Ark contains tranquility and glory. ‘Ata commented on the verse saying that the more you know the signs of Allah, the more you seek His Help.

<And a remnant of that which Moses and Aaron left behind.> Ibn Abbas said that the verse refers to Moses’ Stick, and the relics of the Tablets, ‘Ikrima added that it refers to the Torah, while Abu Salih added it refers to Manna. <Carried by the angels.> Ibn Abbas commented on this verse saying: ‘The angels came carrying the Ark of the Covenant between the heavens and the earth, until they placed it between Talut’s hands as people watched. Then, they believed in the Prophethood of Sham’un and obeyed Talut.’" (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Part 2, Surah Al-Baqarah, ayat 142-252, abridged by Sheikh Muhammad Nasib Ar-Rifa’i [Al-Firdous Ltd., London 1998 first edition], pp. 263-264)

Other Quranic references to the Sakinah include:

Then Allh did send down His Saknah (calmness, tranquillity and reassurance, etc.) on the Messenger (Muhammad SAW), and on the believers, and sent down forces (angels) which you saw not, and punished the disbelievers. Such is the recompense of disbelievers. S. 9:26 Hilali-Khan

If you help him (Muhammad SAW) not (it does not matter), for Allh did indeed help him when the disbelievers drove him out, the second of two, when they (Muhammad SAW and Abu Bakr) were in the cave, and he (SAW) said to his companion (Abu Bakr): "Be not sad (or afraid), surely Allh is with us." Then Allh sent down His Saknah (calmness, tranquillity, peace, etc.) upon him, and strengthened him with forces (angels) which you saw not, and made the word of those who disbelieved the lowermost, while it was the Word of Allh that became the uppermost, and Allh is All-Mighty, All-Wise. S. 9:40 Hilali-Khan

He it is Who sent down As-Sakinah (calmness and tranquillity) into the hearts of the believers, that they may grow more in Faith along with their (present) Faith. And to Allh belong the hosts of the heavens and the earth, and Allh is Ever All-Knower, All-Wise. S. 48:4 Hilali-Khan

Indeed, Allh was pleased with the believers when they gave their Bai' (pledge) to you (O Muhammad SAW) under the tree, He knew what was in their hearts, and He sent down As-Sakinah (calmness and tranquillity) upon them, and He rewarded them with a near victory. S. 48:18 Hilali-Khan

When those who disbelieve had put in their hearts pride and haughtiness the pride and haughtiness of the time of ignorance, then Allh sent down His Sakinah (calmness and tranquillity) upon His Messenger (SAW) and upon the believers, and made them stick to the word of piety (i.e. none has the right to be worshipped but Allh), and they were well entitled to it and worthy of it. And Allh is the All-Knower of everything. S. 48:26 Hilali-Khan

According to these passages the Sakinah is something that comes down on and/or indwells believers. This clearly shows that the Sakinah cannot be an angel since an angel is unable to dwell within a group of individuals at the same time. Only an omnipresent entity is capable of such a function.

Finally, the author attacks a straw man since the issue is not whether the Holy Spirit brings revelation to prophets and men. All informed Christians believe that he does. Rather, the issue is whether the Holy Spirit is the angel Gabriel. Thus far, we have seen that the rabbinic data comes closer to the NT view than it does with the general Muslim position.

Laura P.:

This belief is expressed in a number of other passages from the Talmud, which are quoted below:

"The Holy Spirit alighted on Solomon and he composed three books: Proverbs, the Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes" (Midrash Rabbah, Song of Songs 1.1)

"Hezekiah said to him, 'The reason is that I have seen by the aid of the Holy Spirit that worthless children will issue from me'" (Berachot 10a)

"By means of the Holy Spirit, Rabbi Meir knew what had happened..." (Sotah 16d)

"When these workmen came to Solomon, he foresaw by means of the Holy Spirit that they were to die in the course of the year..." (Pesitka 34a)

"Which [David] foresaw by the Holy Spirit would enslave Israel..." (Midrash 66b)

"As Abigail told David through the medium of the Holy Spirit ..." (Midrash Rabbah Ecclesiastes iii. 21)

Response:

It seems that the author has misunderstood or misrepresented the Christian argument. The argument is not whether the Holy Spirit inspires, brings down, or reveals God’s truth to the prophets. The issue centers on the Spirit’s identity, whether he is Gabriel or not. Thus far, the author has attacked a straw man by presenting passages that have no bearing on the real issue.

Laura P.:

The Holy Spirit in early Christian thought

In the Bible book Acts of the Apostles, after the Holy Spirit has come and given the apostles the gift of speaking in foreign languages they did not know before, Peter quotes the Book of Joel from the Old Testament to explain what has happened:

"But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy. And I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth beneath, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke; the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and manifest day. And it shall be that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’" (Acts 2:16-21).

This is clearly referring to various forms of God's discourse with human beings. Thus Peter's understanding was the same as that of any Jew of the period, which has been described above.

Response:

We agree with the author regarding Peter’s understanding being the same as that of the Jews in general. Yet when we consider Peter’s words in light of the historical and cultural context one will soon discover that Peter’s views are incompatible with the author’s as Acts reports:

"When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven AND FILLED THE WHOLE HOUSE where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT and began to speak in other tongues AS THE SPIRIT ENABLED THEM." Acts 2:1-4

The Holy Spirit is seen manifesting as tongues of fire and settling on the entire group of believers numbering 120. (Cf. Acts 1:15)

This means that the Holy Spirit is omnipresent and omnipotent since he is able to both fill and empower more than one person at the same time. In fact, the very passage Peter cites indicates that God will pour out his Spirit on all flesh. This means that God’s Spirit is fully divine, perfectly sharing God’s omni-attributes.

Yet this poses a serious problem for the author. Unless the author wants to claim that Gabriel also perfectly shares God’s omni-attributes then this passage does not help her cause in the least. We therefore see the author misapplying biblical texts since these passages do not lead to her desired conclusion.

Laura P.:

Furthermore, in his Epistles, Paul often describes the workings of the Holy Spirit in ways that are consistent with this understanding:

"To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are inspired by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills." (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)

"By the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Holy Spirit, so that from Jerusalem and as far round as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ," (Romans 15:19)

"And my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power," (1 Corinthians 2:4)

"Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says "Jesus be cursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit." (1 Corinthians 12:3)

"For our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake." (1 Thessalonians 1:5)

From this we can see that the first generations of Christians held views of the Holy Spirit that were consistent with Jewish thought of the time.

Response:

Since we have already shown that the Jewish view of the Holy Spirit is incompatible with the Muslim claim, this means that Paul’s views are also incompatible with the author’s position.

In fact, had the author carefully noted Paul’s statements she would have found them inconsistent with the Muslim view. In 1 Corinthians 12:3, 7-14 Paul states that the Holy Spirit distributes different gifts to different individuals and enables them to confess Jesus as Lord. As was noted, for the Holy Spirit to empower all Christian believers with diverse gifts means that the Spirit is omnipotent and omnipresent.

Furthermore, since Paul states that one of the Spirit’s functions is to enable a person to embrace Jesus as Sovereign Lord this implies that we are not dealing with one and the same Spirit. In Islam, to say that Jesus is Lord is to commit the sin of association called shirk. (Cf. S. 4:48. 116)

Yet from the biblical perspective, to deny that Jesus is the risen Lord and the Son of God is to have the spirit of Antichrist. (Cf. 1 John 2:22-23; 4:1-6)

Both positions may be wrong, but both can’t be right. It is the duty of every individual to examine the evidence and see where the truth lies, i.e. either Christianity or Islam, or perhaps neither!

Laura P.:

Let us now look at the situation about the year 360 CE. In her book 'A History of God', Karen Armstrong, a noted British scholar of religion, describes Christian beliefs regarding the Holy Spirit during the fourth Christian century. It should be noted that the Gregory of Nazianzus quoted in this passage lived from 329-391 CE, so he was probably writing in the year 360 or later:

"The Cappadocians were also anxious to develop the notion of the Holy Spirit, which they felt had been dealt with very perfunctorily at Nicaea: 'And we believe in the Holy Spirit' seemed to have been added to Athanasius's creed almost as an afterthought. People were confused about the Holy Spirit. Was it simply a synonym for God or was it something more? 'Some have conceived [the Spirit] as an activity,' noted Gregory of Nazianzus, 'some as a creature, some as God, and some have been uncertain what to call him'" (p. 115).

From this, it does not sound like the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity had been developed at all until that time! Armstrong goes on to describe how the Cappadocians (Gregory of Nazianzus was one of them, from Cappadocia in what is now Turkey) studied the Bible, decided that the Holy Spirit must be divine and from this worked out the doctrine of the Trinity that is familiar today.

Response:

The author commits a gross fallacy. She erroneously assumes that unless the early Church also held the fully developed doctrine of the Holy Spirit then it simply cannot be true. Yet the author fails to realize that the data leading to the development of these doctrines existed prior to the fourth century. In fact, it was primarily the biblical data that led the Church to convene Councils in order to accurately define and canonize its position regarding the Trinity and the Holy Spirit. This was done to safeguard the biblical teaching regarding the Trinity from the false views that had crept in due to the influence of heretics.

Near the end of our rebuttal we will present the biblical data establishing the Deity and personhood of the Holy Spirit. For now we would like to quote the early Church Fathers’ views on the Holy Spirit. The following citations are taken from David W. Bercot, The Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs—A Reference Guide to More Than 700 Topics Discussed by the Early Church Fathers (Hendrickson Publishers Inc., P.O. Box 3473, Peabody Massachusetts 01961-3473). The editor, David Bercot states:

"The following passages reveal that the early church believed in the divinity of the Holy Spirit. They also reveal that, while believing in the consubstantiality of all three persons of the Trinity, the early church also believed in a hierarchy of order among the members of the Trinity." (Bercot, p. 345; bold emphasis ours)

Bercot has a list of citations from the early Church Fathers, some of which include:

The Holy Spirit Himself, who operates in the prophets, we assert to be an effluence of God, flowing from Him, and returning back again like a beam of the sun. Athenagoras (c. 175, E), 2.133.

He [Isaiah] attributes the Spirit as unique to God, whom in the last times He pours forth upon the human race by the adoption of sons. But that breath [of life] was common throughout the creation, and he points it out as something created. Now that which has been made is a different thing from the one who makes it. The breath, then, is temporal, but the Spirit is eternal. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.538.

GOD here assumed the likeness, not of man, BUT OF A DOVE, for He wished, by a new apparition of THE SPIRIT in the likeness OF A DOVE, to declare his simplicity and majesty. Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.578.

He says, "I will pray the Father, and He will send you another Comforter—even the Spirit of truth," thus making the Paraclete distinct from Himself, even as we say that the Son is also distinct from the Father. So He showed a third degree in the Paraclete. For we believe the second degree is in the Son, by reason of the order observed in the "Economy." Tertullian (c. 213, W), 3.604.

He has received from the Father the promised gift, and has shed it forth, even the Holy Spirit—the third name in Divinity, and the third degree of the Divine Majesty. Tertullian (c. 213, W), 3.627.

Up to the present time, we have been able to find NO statement in Holy Scripture in which the Holy Spirit could be said to be made or created—not even in the way in which we have shown that the Divine Wisdom is spoken of by Solomon. Origen (c. 225, E), 4.252.

It was not by progressive advancement that He came to be the Holy Spirit... For if this were the case, the Holy Spirit would never be counted in the unity of the Trinity—along with the unchangeable Father and His Son—unless He had always been the Holy Spirit. Indeed, when we use such terms as "always" or "was", or any other designation of time, they are not to be taken absolutely, but with due allowance. Origen (c. 225, E), 4.253. (Bercot, p. 345; bold and capital emphasis ours)

And:

Do we not have one God and one Christ? Is there not one Spirit of grace poured out upon us? Clement of Rome (c. 96, W), 1.17.

The most true God, is the Father of righteousness... We worship and adore Him, the Son (who came forth from Him and taught us these things, along with the host of the other good angels who follow and are made like Him) and the prophetic Spirit. Justyn Martyr (c. 160, E), 1.164.

Who, then, would not be astonished to hear men called atheists who speak of God the Father and of GOD THE SON, and of the Holy Spirit, and who declare both their power in UNION and their DISTINCTION in order? Athenagoras (c.175, E), 2.133.

Christians know God and His Logos. They also know what type of oneness the Son has with the Father and what type of communion the Father has with the Son. Furthermore, they know what the Spirit is and what the unity is of these three: the Spirit, the Son, and the Father. They also know what their distinction is in unity. Athenagoras (c. 175, E.), 2.134.

Christians know a God, and a Son (His Logos), and a Holy Spirit. THESE ARE UNITED IN ESSENCE—the Father, the Son and the Spirit. Now the Son is the intelligence, Reason, and Wisdom of the Father. And the Spirit is an emanation, as light from fire. Athenagoras (c. 175, E) 2.141.

We pray at a minimum not less than three times in the day. For we are debtors to Three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Tertullian (c. 198, W), 3.690.

For the very church itself is—properly and principally—the Spirit Himself, in whom is the Trinity of the One Divinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Tertullian (c. 212, W), 4.99. (Bercot, p. 652; bold and capital emphasis ours)

These citations demonstrate that both Gregory and the Cappadocians were faithfully preserving the teachings of the Apostles and their followers. Their position regarding the Holy Spirit faithfully represents the true historic view held by all orthodox Christians.

Laura P.:

Conclusion

During the Talmudic period (c. 50-400 CE), most Jews understood the Holy Spirit to be something sent by God that was responsible for prophecy and revelation. The early Christian writers like Paul understood it the same way, and it appears that many Christians continued to do so even as late as 360 CE. If Gabriel was accepted as the angel of revelation, then none of these people would have been surprised that the Qur'an referred to Gabriel as 'the Holy Spirit'. They certainly would not have thought of the Holy Spirit as God, or as part of God in a Trinity. It is not unlikely that many Jews, and perhaps some Christians as well, even a couple of centuries after this period continued to understand the Holy Spirit as the spirit of revelation, and thus the Jews and Christians of Arabia may not have been surprised at all by the Qur'an's identification of the Holy Spirit as Gabriel.

Response:

As most of the author's claims have been plain wrong, her conclusion has no support. Let us now see whether the Biblical data supports the author’s conclusion that the Jews and Christians would not have been surprised that Gabriel is the Holy Spirit.


Who is the Spirit?

We will present the Old Testament and New Testament witness as well as the Islamic sources regarding the nature and actions of the Spirit and will examine whether the angel Gabriel can in any way be identified with the Spirit.

Old Testament Witness

The Old Testament clearly presents the Holy Spirit as God, having all the attributes of Deity and personhood:

The Holy Spirit is Called God

"The Spirit of the LORD spoke through me; his word was on my tongue. The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: ‘When one rules over men in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God.’" 2 Samuel 23:2-3

The Holy Spirit is the Creator

"Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters." Genesis 1:2

"The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life." Job 33:4

The Holy Spirit is Omnipresent

"I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take of the Spirit that is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you carry the burden of the people so that you will not have to carry it alone... So Moses went out and told the people what the LORD had said. He brought together seventy of their elders and had them stand around the Tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke with him, and he took of the Spirit that was on him and put the Spirit on the seventy elders. When the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied, but they did not do so again. However, two men, whose names were Eldad and Medad, had remained in the camp. They were listed among the elders, but did not go out to the Tent. Yet the Spirit also rested on them, and they prophesied in the camp." Numbers 11:17, 24-26

"Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, 'Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,' even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you." Psalm 139:7-12

The Holy Spirit Manifests Personal Traits

"By the waters of Meribah they angered the LORD, and trouble came to Moses because of them; for they rebelled against the Spirit of God, and rash words came from Moses’ lips." Psalm 106:32-33

"Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor has informed Him?" Isaiah 40:13 NASB

"Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. So he turned and became their enemy and he himself fought against them." Isaiah 63:10

"Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me to the gate of the house of the LORD that faces east. There at the entrance to the gate were twenty-five men, and I saw among them Jaazaniah son of Azzur and Pelatiah son of Benaiah, leaders of the people. The LORD said to me, ‘Son of man, these are the men who are plotting evil and giving wicked advice in this city. They say, "Will it not soon be time to build houses? This city is a cooking pot, and we are the meat." Therefore prophesy against them; prophesy, son of man.’ Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon me, and he told me to say: ‘This is what the LORD says: That is what you are saying, O house of Israel, but I know what is going through your mind.’" Ezekiel 11:1-5

"For many years you were patient with them. By your Spirit you admonished them through your prophets. Yet they paid no attention, so you handed them over to the neighboring peoples." Nehemiah 9:30

The Holy Spirit is Israel's Redeemer

"Then his people recalled the days of old, the days of Moses and his people—where is he who brought them through the sea, with the shepherd of his flock? Where is he who set his Holy Spirit among them, who sent his glorious arm of power to be at Moses' right hand, who divided the waters before them, to gain for himself everlasting renown, who led them through the depths? Like a horse in open country, they did not stumble; like cattle that go down to the plain, they were given rest by the Spirit of the LORD. This is how you guided your people to make for yourself a glorious name." Isaiah 63:11-14

The Holy Spirit is the Author of the New Birth and the Cause of Regeneration

"The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person." 1 Samuel 10:6

"When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth." Psalm 104:30

"The fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city deserted; citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever, the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks, till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest." Isaiah 32:14-15

"For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people, and I will be your God." Ezekiel 36:24-28

The Holy Spirit Empowers and Distributes God's Gifts to Believers

"Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts—to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of craftsmanship. Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you.’" Exodus 31:1-6

"Then Moses said to the Israelites, ‘See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts.’" Exodus 35:30-31

"Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the Spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the LORD had commanded Moses." Deuteronomy 34:9

"After that you will go to Gibeah of God, where there is a Philistine outpost. As you approach the town, you will meet a procession of prophets coming down from the high place with lyres, tambourines, flutes and harps being played before them, and they will be prophesying. The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you. Go down ahead of me to Gilgal. I will surely come down to you to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, but you must wait seven days until I come to you and tell you what you are to do.’ As Saul turned to leave Samuel, God changed Saul's heart, and all these signs were fulfilled that day. When they arrived at Gibeah, a procession of prophets met him; the Spirit of God came upon him in power, and he joined in their prophesying. When all those who had formerly known him saw him prophesying with the prophets, they asked each other, ‘What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Saul also among the prophets?’" 1 Samuel 10:5-11

"He gave him the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the LORD and all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God and for the treasuries for the dedicated things. ‘All this,’ David said, ‘I have in writing from the hand of the LORD upon me, and he gave me understanding in all the details of the plan.’" 1 Chronicles 28:12, 19

"A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on himthe Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD." Isaiah 11:1-2

"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn." Isaiah 61:1-2

"On the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: ‘Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to the remnant of the people. Ask them, "Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing? But now be strong, O Zerubbabel," declares the LORD. "Be strong, O Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land," declares the LORD, "and work. For I am with you," declares the LORD Almighty. "This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear."’" Haggai 2:1-5

"So he said to me, ‘This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: "Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,"’ says the LORD Almighty." Zechariah 4:6

New Testament Witness

The New Testament, in agreement with the Old Testament, clearly teaches that the Holy Spirit is fully God, having all the attributes of Deity and personhood. Due to space limitations we will only cite the specific NT references pertaining to each specific category:

  1. The Holy Spirit is called God. Acts 5:3-4
  2. The Holy Spirit is called Lord/Jehovah. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
  3. The Holy Spirit is eternal. Hebrews 9:14
  4. The Holy Spirit is Omnipresent, Omniscient and Omnipotent. John 14:16-17; Romans 8:11; 1 Corinthians 2:10-12, 3:16, 6:19, 12:7-14; Galatians 5:22-23
  5. The Holy Spirit is a Person, having intellect, emotions and will. Luke 12:11-12; Acts 10:19-20; 11:12, 28; 13:2; 21:10-11, 28:25-27; Romans 5:5, 8:26-27, 15:30; 1 Corinthians 12:11; Ephesians 4:30; Hebrews 3:7-11, 10:15-17; Revelation 1:4; 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22; 14:13, 22:17
  6. The Holy is the Author of the new birth and the Cause of regeneration. John 3:5-6, 7:37-39; Acts 2:1-4, 8:14-17, 10:44-48, 11:15-18; Galatians 5:25

These passages clearly prove that the Holy Spirit IS NOT the angel Gabriel. Rather, the Holy Spirit is God. This is further proven by the following NT citation:

"In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.’ ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ THE ANGEL ANSWERED, ‘THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL COME UPON YOU, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.’" Luke 1:26-35

The Angel Gabriel distinguishes between the Holy Spirit and himself, showing quite clearly that Gabriel and the Holy Spirit are not one and the same. In light of the preceding points, it becomes rather impossible to prove from the Holy Bible that the Holy Spirit is the angel Gabriel.

Interestingly, in the Pseudepigraphical writing titled "Ascension and Martyrdom of Isaiah", Gabriel is said to be the angel of the Holy Spirit:

And that (Gabriel) the angel of the Holy Spirit, and Michael, the chief of the holy angels, on the third day will open the sepulchre:" Ascension 3:16

And:

AFTER this I saw, and the angel who spoke with me, who conducted me, said unto me: "Understand, Isaiah son of Amoz; for for this purpose have I been sent from God." And I indeed saw a woman of the family of David the prophet, named Mary, and Virgin, and she was espoused to a man named Joseph, a carpenter, and he also was of the seed and family of the righteous David of Bethlehem Judah. And he came into his lot. And when she was espoused, she was found with child, and Joseph the carpenter was desirous to put her away. But the angel of the Spirit appeared in this world, and after that Joseph did not put her away, but kept Mary and did not reveal this matter to any one. And he did not approach May, but kept her as a holy virgin, though with child. And he did not live with her for two months. And after two months of days while Joseph was in his house, and Mary his wife, but both alone. It came to pass that when they were alone that Mary straight-way looked with her eyes and saw a small babe, and she was astonished. And after she had been astonished, her womb was found as formerly before she had conceived. And when her husband Joseph said unto her: "What has astonished thee?" his eyes were opened and he saw the infant and praised God, because into his portion God had come. And a voice came to them: "Tell this vision to no one." And the story regarding the infant was noised broad in Bethlehem. Some said: "The Virgin Mary hath borne a child, before she was married two months." And many said: "She has not borne a child, nor has a midwife gone up (to her), nor have we heard the cries of (labour) pains." And they were all blinded respecting Him and they all knew regarding Him, though they knew not whence He was. And they took Him, and went to Nazareth in Galilee. Ascension 11:1-15 (Source)

According to this passage the angel that appeared to Joseph was none other than the angel of the Holy Spirit:

"This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel' -which means, 'God with us.' When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus." Matthew 1:18-25

What is said to be the Lord's angel in Matthew is said to be the Holy Spirit's angel in the Ascension of Isaiah. This implicitly demonstrates that the Holy Spirit is God.

This clearly affirms that both Jews and Christians would have been shocked to hear Muslims identifying the Holy Spirit with Angel Gabriel, or with any angel for that matter.

Islamic Witness

It might come as a surprise to some Muslims, but much like the teachings of the Holy Bible and the Talmud both the Quran and certain Muslim traditions portray the Holy Spirit, the Faithful Spirit, or God’s Spirit as being divine. These sources also portray the Spirit as God’s active Agent and manifesting Presence that interacts within time and space.

"Behold! thy Lord said to the angels: ‘I am about to create man, from sounding clay from mud molded into shape; When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My Spirit, fall ye down in obeisance unto him.’" S. 15:28-29

"He Who created all things in the best, and He began the creation of man from clay, And made his progeny from a quintessence of despised fluid: But He fashioned him in due proportion, and breathed into him of His Spirit. And He gave you (the faculties of) hearing and sight and understanding: little thanks do ye give!" S. 32:7-9

"Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: ‘I am about to create man from clay: When I have fashioned him and breathed into him of My Spirit, fall ye down in obeisance unto him.’" S. 38:71-72

These passages indicate that after fashioning man God presumably gave him life by breathing his Spirit into him, echoing Genesis 2:7. This implies that at least in these contexts the Spirit is God’s life-giving Agent. This being the case, how can the Spirit be Gabriel without this implying that God used a finite creature to assist him in the creation of man?

Continuing further, we are told elsewhere that Mary conceived Jesus by God’s Spirit:

"And (remember) her who guarded her chastity: We breathed into her of Our Spirit, and We made her and her son a sign for all peoples." 21:91

"And Mary the daughter of mrn, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into it of Our Spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His Revelations, and was one of the devout (servants)." S. 66:12

We are also told that God’s Spirit appeared to Mary in the form of a man:

"And had chosen seclusion from them. Then We sent unto her Our Spirit and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man." S. 19:17

These passages indicate that the Spirit is not a force but a divine personality. The context of this last passage shows that the Spirit which visibly appeared is actually the very same Spirit referred to in 21:91 and 66:12:

"She said: Surely I fly for refuge from you to the Beneficent Allah, if you are one guarding (against evil). He said: I am only a messenger of your Lord: That I WILL GIVE YOU a pure boy." S. 19:18-19 Shakir

The Spirit says that he has come to GIVE Mary a son, implying that this is the one whom Allah breathed into Mary in order to create Jesus.

Yet according to certain Muslim commentators this Spirit who both appeared to Mary and was breathed into her was Gabriel. Ibn Kathir comments on S. 66:12, noting that Jibril is the Arabic pronunciation of Gabriel:

<And Maryam, the daughter of 'Imran who guarded her chastity (PRIVATE PART).> meaning who protected and purified her honor, by being chaste and free of immorality,

<And We breathed INTO IT (PRIVATE PART) through Our Ruh,> meaning, THROUGH THE ANGEL JIBRIL. Allah sent the angel Jibril to Maryam, and he came to her in the shape of a man in every respect. Allah commanded HIM TO BLOW INTO A GAP OF HER GARMENT and that BREATH into her womb through her private part; THIS IS HOW ‘ISA WAS CONCEIVED. This is why Allah said here,

<And We breathed INTO IT through Our Ruh, and she testified to the truth of her Lords Kalimat, and His Kutub,> meaning His decree and His legislation. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir - Abridged, Volume 10, Surat At-Tagabun to the end of the Qur'an, abridged by a group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Houston, New York, London, Lahore; September 2000], pp. 75-76; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Al-Tabari’s comments on Mary’s conception are:

"... She entered the cave, and found Gabriel there—God made him appear to her as shapely human—and he said to her, ‘O Mary, God has sent me to you to give you a boy most pure.’ At this she exclaimed, ‘I take refuge in the All Merciful from you, if you fear God!’ (She had thought that he was a man, a mortal.) But he said, ‘I am but a messenger come from your Lord.’ She then said, ‘How shall I, whom no mortal has touched, have a son; neither have I been unchaste?’ He replied, ‘Even so. The Lord has said, "Easy is that for Me, and We may appoint him a sign unto men and a mercy from Us; it is a thing decreed."’

That is, God has decreed that it is so. When the angel spoke thus, she submitted to the divine decree, and he breathed into HER BOSOM. Then he left her, and she filled her pitcher.

According to Muhammad b. Sahl b. ‘Askar al-Bukhari- Isma’il b. ‘Abd al-Karim- ‘Abd al-Samad b. Ma’qil, the son of the brother of Wahb- Wahb: When God sent Gabriel to Mary, he appeared to her as a shapely man. She then said, ‘I take refuge in the All Merciful from you, if you fear God!’ Then he breathed into the opening of her garment, THE BREATH REACHED HER WOMB, and she conceived Jesus..." (The History of al-Tabari, Volume IV, The Ancient Kingdoms, trans. Moshe Perlmann [State University of New York Press, Albany, 1987], pp. 112-113; bold and capital emphasis ours)

And:

"… ‘Then We sent unto her Our Spirit [that is, the angel Gabriel] that presented himself to her a man without fault’...

She wore a gown. He held her sleeves and breathed into the opening of her garment which was split in front. The breath entered her breast, and she conceived ..." (Ibid., p. 119; bold emphasis ours)

The claim that Gabriel breathed into Mary would logically make Gabriel the speaker in S. 21:91 and 66:12. According to these passages the One speaking states that he will breathe his Spirit into Mary. Nowhere do the passages even hint to someone else being used to impregnate Mary. Seeing that Muslims claim that the Quran is the word of Allah, implying that Allah is the One speaking here, logically makes Gabriel Allah!

This also means that Gabriel has a Spirit that he uses to create and impart life. This would therefore make Gabriel the Creator, since Muslims claim that Allah was the one who created Jesus by breathing his Spirit into Mary’s womb! Otherwise the text would imply that Allah actually breathed Gabriel into both Mary and Adam since, as Muslims claim, the Spirit of Allah is actually Gabriel.

Furthermore, seeing that Muslims do not equate Gabriel with Allah inevitably leads to more than one Creator. Yet the Quran clearly states that there is no other Creator besides Allah:

"It is He Who created you from a single person, and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her (in love). When they are united, she bears a light burden and carries it about (unnoticed). When she grows heavy, they both pray to Allah their Lord, (saying): ‘If Thou givest us a goodly child, we vow we shall (ever) be grateful.’ But when He giveth them a goodly child, they ascribe to others a share in the gift they have received: but Allah is exalted high above the partners they ascribe to Him. Do they indeed ascribe to Him as partners things that can create nothing, but are themselves created?" S. 7:189-191

"O men! Remember the grace of Allah unto you! Is there a Creator, other than Allah, to give you sustenance from heaven or earth? There is no god but He: how then are ye perverted?" S. 35:3

"He created you (all) from a single person: then created, of like nature, his mate; and He sent down for you eight head of cattle in pairs: He creates you, in the wombs of your mothers, in stages, one after another, in three veils of darkness. Such is Allah, your Lord and Cherisher: to Him belongs (all) dominion. There is no god but He: then how are ye turned away (from your true Lord)?" S. 39:6

Therefore, the only plausible explanation is that the Spirit of Allah is not the angel Gabriel.

As a side note, the readers may find it interesting to know that some Muslim exegetes were of the opinion that the Spirit which came to Mary in S. 19:17 was actually the Lord Jesus Christ! Muslim author Neal Robinson writes:

"Alternatively it might be thought (on the basis of 4:171) that the Spirit who presented himself to Mary was none other than the Messiah to whom she subsequently gave birth. At first this seems improbable because of the way in which the Spirit refers to himself as a messenger. There is, however, an apocryphal writing which furnishes a precedent for identifying the agent of the annunciation with the Word who became flesh. This is the so-called Epistula Apostolorum which purports to be a letter addressed to the worldwide Church by the 11 disciples recording a conversation which they had with Christ after the resurrection. In the course of the conversation he told them:

At that time I appeared in the form of the archangel Gabriel to [the virgin] Mary and spoke with her, and her heart received [me]; she believed and laughed and I, the Word, went into her and became flesh; and I myself was servant FOR MYSELF, and in the form of the image of an angel." (Robinson, Christ In Islam and Christianity [State University of New York Press, Albany 1991], p. 157; bold and capital emphasis ours)

And:

"Tabari assumes that the Spirit who was sent to Mary was Gabriel. He reports that this was the view of Qatada, Ibn Jurayj and Wahb. The other commentators agree that this is the correct interpretation but none the less mention THE ALTERNATIVE VIEW, namely that the Spirit was the Messiah. Ibn Kathir gives the following report traced back by a single isnad TO THE COMPANION UBAIY:

The spirit of Jesus is one of the group of spirits with whom [God] took a pact in the time of Adam [cf. 33:7 and 7:172]. It is he, that is to say the spirit of Jesus, who presented himself to her in the form of a perfect human being. So she conceived the one who addressed her and he became incarnate in her [entering her through her mouth].

DESPITE ITS PEDIGREE, Ibn Kathir dismisses this interpretation as reprehensible and supposes it to have been derived from the People of the Scripture." (Ibid. p. 161; bold and capital emphasis ours)

"Some of the Mu'tazilites including Abu Muslim favoured the view that the Spirit who presented himself to Mary was not Gabriel but the Messiah. Others followed Abu Haywa in reading rawha-na (Our refreshment) instead of the canonical ruha-na (Our Spirit) ..." (Ibid. p. 162)

Accepting this alternative view would imply that Islam not only teaches the preexistence of the Lord Jesus, but also posits Christ as Creator; being the only messenger to create or conceive his own physical body/humanity! There should be no problem for a Muslim in accepting this view, especially when the Quran elsewhere admits that Christ gave life to birds which he fashioned from clay. (Cf. 3:49; 5:110.)

Another verse supplying additional proof that the Spirit is not Gabriel is the following:

"Thou wilt not find any people who believe in Allah and the Last Day, loving those who resist Allah and His Messenger, even though they were their fathers or their sons, or their brothers, or their kindred. For such He has written Faith in their hearts, and strengthened them with a spirit from Himself. And He will admit them to Gardens beneath which Rivers flow, to dwell therein (forever). Allah will be well pleased with them, and they with Him. They are the Party of Allah. Truly it is the Party of Allah that will achieve Felicity." S. 58:22 Y. Ali

Believers are strengthened by a spirit from Himself, i.e. a spirit from God. In order for the Spirit to be able to strengthen believers everywhere implies that the Spirit is omnipresent. Yet only God is omnipresent which essentially means that the Spirit is God. This is precisely the conclusion that one Muslim scholar comes to. In his footnote, A. Yusuf Ali states:

"Cf. ii 87 and 253, where it is said that God strengthened the Prophet Jesus with the holy spirit. Here we learn that all good and righteous men are strengthened by God with the holy spirit. If anything, the phrase used here is stronger, ‘a spirit from Himself’. Whenever any one offers his heart in faith and purity to God, God accepts it, engraves that faith on the seeker's heart, and further fortifies him with the Divine Spirit, which we can no more define adequately than we can define in human language the nature of God." (Ali, The Meaning of the Holy Quran, p. 1518, f. 5365)

Yusuf Ali wasn't alone. Shia writer Irshaad Hussain, in his The Soul: Between Spirit and Clay, says in regard to God's Spirit which was breathed into Adam:

The Spirit, which derives from God, IS A REALITY THAT POSSESSES ALL THE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES. IT REPRESENTS A DIRECT MANIFESTATION OF GOD. Remember, it is only after this Spirit is breathed into Adam that God orders the angels to prostrate themselves before Adam. It is only after this receiving of the Spirit that Adam is given knowledge of the names of all things. The Spirit then MANIFESTS in some way THE ATTRIBUTES OR NAMES OF GOD. It is luminous, alive, subtle, unseen, knowing, unified etc. The body on the other hand has many parts and is overcome by darkness, ignorance, inanimate matter, and a lack of divine attributes. So spirit and body have no common measure - One is from God who is Unique, who is One. The other is from the material world which is characterized by multiplicity and dispersion. (Source; capital emphasis ours)

We see that the Spirit is of the divine essence, incomprehensible, omnipresent, personal, and the source of Life, qualities belonging to God alone.

These qualities clearly show that the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit, the Faithful Spirit cannot be the angel Gabriel since Gabriel is neither omnipresent nor divine.

Second, both the Quran and hadiths clearly demonstrate that the Holy Spirit is not Gabriel. For instance, there is not a single verse in the entire Quran which states that Gabriel is the Holy Spirit or the Faithful Spirit, or even God’s Spirit. Here are all the references to Gabriel in the Quran:

Say (O Muhammad, to mankind): Who is an enemy to Gabriel! For he it is who hath revealed (this Scripture) to thy heart by Allah's leave, confirming that which was (revealed) before it, and a guidance and glad tidings to believers; Who is an enemy to Allah, and His angels and His messengers, and Gabrieland Michael! Then, lo! Allah (Himself) is an enemy to the disbelievers. S. 2:97-98

"If ye twain turn unto Allah repentant, (ye have cause to do so) for your hearts desired (the ban); and if ye aid one another against him (Muhammad) then lo! Allah, even He, is his Protecting Friend, and Gabriel and the righteous among the believers; and furthermore the angels are his helpers." S. 66:4

Here are some additional references to the Spirit:

"We gave Moses the Book and followed him up with a succession of apostles; We gave Jesus the son of Mary Clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit. Is it that whenever there comes to you an apostle with what ye yourselves desire not, ye are puffed up with pride?—Some ye called impostors, and others ye slay!" S. 2:87

"Those apostles We endowed with gifts, some above others: To one of them God spoke; others He raised to degrees (of honour); to Jesus the son of Mary We gave clear (Signs), and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit. If God had so willed, succeeding generations would not have fought among each other, after clear (Signs) had come to them, but they (chose) to wrangle, some believing and others rejecting. If God had so willed, they would not have fought each other; but God Fulfilleth His plan." S. 2:253

"When Allah will say: O Isa son of Marium! Remember My favor on you and on your mother, when I strengthened you I with the Holy Spirit, you spoke to the people in the cradle and I when of old age, and when I taught you the Book and the wisdom and the Taurat and the Injeel; and when you determined out of clay a thing like the form of a bird by My permission, then you breathed into it and it became a bird by My permission, and you healed the blind and the leprous by My permission; and when you brought forth the dead by My permission; and when I withheld the children of Israel from you when you came to them with clear arguments, but those who disbelieved among them said: This is nothing but clear enchantment." S. 5:110

"Say: The Holy Spirit has revealed it from your Lord with the truth, that it may establish those who believe and as a guidance and good news for those who submit." S. 16:102

"And most surely this is a revelation from the Lord of the worlds. The Faithful Spirit has descended with it," S. 26:192-193

"The Exalter of Ranks, the Lord of the Throne. He causeth the Spirit of His command upon whom He will of His slaves, that He may warn of the Day of Meeting," S. 40:15

"(Whereby) the angels and the Spirit ascend unto Him in a Day whereof the span is fifty thousand years." S. 70:4

"The Day that the Spirit and the angels will stand forth in ranks, none shall speak except any who is permitted by (God) Most Gracious, and He will say what is right." S. 78:38

"The angels and the Spirit descend therein, by the permission of their Lord, with all decrees." S. 97:4

The last three passages make a distinction between the angels (of which Gabriel is obviously one) with the Spirit. This again implicitly supports our position that Gabriel is not the Spirit. Had the Spirit been Gabriel there would be no need to distinguish him from the angels.

Additionally, there are two hadiths from Sahih Muslim affirming that the Spirit is not Gabriel:

"Narrated Aisha: The Messenger of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) used to pronounce while bowing and prostrating himself: All Glorious, all Holy, Lord of the Angels and the Spirit." (Sahih Muslim, Book 4, Number 0987)

Again, in agreement with the Quran, this tradition distinguishes between Angels and the Spirit. This strongly suggests that Gabriel is not the Holy Spirit.

"... Aisha said:

I heard Allah's Messenger (peace_be_upon_him) saying to Hassan: Verily Ruh al-Qudus (The Holy Spirit) will continue to help you so long as you put up a defense on behalf of Allah and his Messenger...

... and Gabriel, the Apostle of Allah is among us, and the Holy Spirit who has no match." (Sahih Muslim, Book 30, Number 6081)

This hadith distinguishes clearly between Gabriel and the Holy Spirit, affirming that they are not one and the same entity.

The preceding factors clearly demonstrate that the Quran provides no substantiation for the claim that "Holy Spirit" is an attributive noun used for Gabriel. In fact, a case has been made that the Quran clearly distinguishes the Holy Spirit from the angel Gabriel.

In conclusion, we found Laura’s article failing to deal with the real issues. We also found the author misrepresenting and misapplying her sources. In certain cases the very sources used by the author actually refute her very own argument.

In the service of the eternal Triune God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the one true God and eternal life! Amen. Come Lord Jesus. We love forever.


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