The Diatesseron And Its Witness to the authority of the The New Testament Gospels:
Responding to the claims of Alleged Biblical Corruption

Sam Shamoun

One Muslim writer, named Jundullah, has written a brief criticism to my response to the Islamic Awareness' assertion that the Bible we have today is not the same as that which Muhammad would have known during his time. The Muslim writer deals mainly with Tatian's Diatessaron, presumably because of my response to IA's use of him against the authenticity of the NT documents.

The Muslim author begins with a quote from my rebuttal:

The Christian missionary Sam Shamoun writes in his rebuttal to Islamic Awareness' article, "Is the Bible in Our Hands the Same as During the Time of Muhammad(P)?" (1998, 1st ed.) as follows:

It seems that Saifullah confuses two issues when addressing the claims of Jochen Katz that the Holy Bible of Muhammad's day is the same as our present day Bible. Saifullah confuses the content of Scripture with the canon of Scripture. The point is not the canon per se, but whether the content of our present day Bible is the same as in the days of Muhammad.

Let us examine the claim made by the missionary. Before we proceed further it is important to make it clear the Muslim position on the Bible. There is ample proof to the believer that Islamic theology does indeed consider the Bible as corrupt and the Qur'an is the Guardian (muhaymin) over all other scriptures to filter out falsehood from the truth, regardless of how the missionaries misinterpret the Qur'an and ahadeeth. The purpose of this rebuttal is only to prove that the content of the Diatessaron is not the same as the current content in the New Testament gospels.


It seems that Muslims never tire of beating the same dead horse. The claim that the Arabic word muhaymin somehow implies that the Quran filters out the falsehood from the truth, specifically in connection to alleged Bible corruption, has already been thoroughly addressed in these articles:

We have documented from the earliest Muslim sources available that the first Muslims, such as Muhammad, believed that the Holy Bible is God's preserved Word. They did not believe that the Bible was corrupted and no longer reflected the original teachings of the prophets and messengers that wrote by inspiration. Therefore, since the Quran does affirm the purity of the Holy Bible, Muslims such as Jundullah must join both conservative Jews and Christians in defending the authenticity of the biblical text against those who seek to undermine it. Otherwise, to either attack the Bible or support those that do attack it, Muslims are denying what their own respective scriptures have to say about the purity and inspiration of the biblical books. Seeing that Jundullah's aim here is to undermine the purity of the Holy Bible, he has now falsified the Quran and Muhammad, indirectly labeling them as liars or mistaken about the Bible remaining pure, thereby becoming a disbeliever or kafir.

Yet to agree that the Bible is not corrupted doesn't solve the issue, but actually leaves Muslims such as Jundullah in a quandary. To agree with the Quran that the Bible has remained intact means that the Quran must be false, since it contradicts the core essential truths of the Holy Bible. But to attack the Bible is to falsify the Quran which says that the Bible is true. In either situation, the Quran loses.

The author continues:

A. Vööbus, a Biblical scholar informs us that thus,

Tatian did not only re-arrange the evangelical tradition into a harmony, but when composing the Diatessaron left his fingerprints on its pages.[1]

Let us take this opportunity analyze what these fingerprints were.

Divinity of Christ is a cornerstone of Christianity; therefore it is safe to conclude that if Divinity of Christ is not mentioned in the Diatessaron, then a major part of Christianity is missing. Lets see what scholars have to say about the Diatessaron:

Ishodad of Merv (bishop of Hedhatta ca AD 850) in his description of the Diatessaron said: "Tatianos...selected from the four gospels and combined and composed a Gospel and called it Diatessaron...and on the Divinity of Christ he did not write."[2]

It is an indisputable fact that Tatian was considered a heretic due to his Encratite tendencies. Let us now analyse whether Tatian’s Diatessaron reflects his Christology.


It bears repeating what I said in my original paper regarding Tatian's Christology being thoroughly orthodox as far as his views of the Deity of Christ was concerned. Here, again, are the relevant quotes to show this, adding some more quotes this time around:

"God was in the beginning... For the Lord of the universe, who is Himself the necessary ground of all being, was alone. For no creature was in existence yet." (David W. Bercot ed., A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs [Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody MS, 1998], p. 126; bold emphasis ours)

"Nevertheless, inasmuch as the Father was all power, Himself the necessary ground of all things visible and invisible, with Him were all things. The Logos Himself was in Him and subsisted with Him as Logos-Power. And by His simple will, the Logos springs forth. So the Logos, not coming forth in vain becomes the first-begotten work of the Father. We know the Logos to be the beginning of the world. But he came into being by participation, not by abscission. For what is cut off is separated from the original substance. However, that which comes by participation, making its choice of function, does not render him deficient from whom he is taken. From one torch many fires are lighted, but the light of the first torch is not lessened by the kindling of many torches. It is the same with the Logos. His coming forth from the Logos-Power of the Father has not divested Him who begat Him of the Logos-Power." (Ibid., bold emphasis ours; for the online version of Address of Tatian to the Greeks, from which these quotes were taken, please go here)

"We do not act as fools, O Greeks, nor utter idle tales, when we announce that God was born in the form of a man... (Address of Tatian to the Greeks, Chapter XX1; online edition)

... but the disobedient, rejecting the minister of the suffering God, have shown themselves to be fighters against God, rather than His worshippers. (Address, Chapter XIII; online edition; bold emphasis ours)

We even had quoted noted Church Historian, J.N.D Kelly:

"Tatian was a disciple of Justin's, and like his master spoke of the Logos as existing in the Father as His rationality and then, by an act of His will, being generated. Like Justin, too, he emphasized the Word's essential unity with the Father, using the same image of light kindled from light. ‘The birth of the Logos involves a distribution (merismon), but no severance (apokopen). Whatever is severed is cut off from its original, but that which is distributed undergoes division in the economy without impoverishing the source from which it is derived. For just as a single torch serves to light several fires and the light of the first torch is not lessened because others are kindled from it, so the Word issues out from the Father's power without depriving His begetter of His Word. For example, I talk and you listen to me; but I, who converse with you, am not, by the conveyance of my word to you, made empty of my word.' At the same time Tatian threw into sharper relief than Justin the contrast between the two successive states of the Logos. Before creation God was alone, the Logos being immanent in Him as His potentiality for creating all things; but at the moment of creation He leaped forth from the Father as His ‘primordial work' (ergon prototokon). Once born, being ‘spirit derived from spirit, rationality from rational power,' He served as the Father's instrument in creating and governing the universe, in particular making men in the divine image." (Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, revised edition [Harper San Francisco, 1978], pp. 98-99; bold emphasis ours)

"... Tatian, it is true, speaks of Him as ‘God in the form of a man'..." (Ibid. p. 145; bold emphasis ours)

Now some sources suggest that where Tatian went wrong was in relation to his view of Christ's real humanity. Certain sources claim that later in his life, and due primarily to Gnostic influences, Tatian started to deny the dual natures of Christ. The following online Catholic encyclopedia notes:


A second-century apologist about whose antecedents and early history nothing can be affirmed with certainty except that he was born in Assyria and that he was trained in Greek philosophy. While a young man he travelled extensively. Disgusted with the greed of the pagan philosophers with whom he came in contact, he conceived a profound contempt for their teachings. Repelled by the grossness and immorality of the pagans and attracted by the holiness of the Christian religion and the sublimity and simplicity of the Scriptures, he became a convert, probably about A.D. 150. He joined the Christian community in Rome, where he was a "hearer" of Justin. There is no reason to think he was converted by the latter. While Justin lived Tatian remained orthodox. Later (c. 172) he apostatized, became a Gnostic of the Encratite sect, and returned to the Orient. The circumstances and date of his death are not known. Tatian wrote many works. Only two have survived. One of these, "Oratio ad Graecos" (Pros Hellenas), is an apology for Christianity, containing in the first part (i-xxxi) an exposition of the Christian Faith with a view to showing its superiority over Greek philosophy, and in the second part a demonstration of the high antiquity of the Christian religion. The tone of this apology is bitter and denunciatory. The author inveighs against Hellenism in all its forms and expresses the deepest contempt for Greek philosophy and Greek manners. (Source)

Translator J. E. Ryland comments:

The following is the original Introductory Notice:-

We learn from several sources that Tatian was an Assyrian, but know nothing very definite either as to the time or place of his birth. Epiphanius (Haer, xlvi.) declares that he was a native of Mesopotamia; and we infer from other ascertained facts regarding him, that he flourished about the middle of the second century. He was at first an eager student of heathen literature, and seems to have been especially devoted to researches in philosophy. But he found no satisfaction in the bewildering mazes of Greek speculation, while he became utterly disgusted with what heathenism presented to him under the name of religion. In these circumstances, he happily met with the sacred books of the Christians, and was powerfully attracted by the purity of morals which these inculcated, and by the means of deliverance from the bondage of sin which they revealed. He seems to have embraced Christianity at Rome, where he became acquainted with Justin Martyr, and enjoyed the instructions of that eminent teacher of the Gospel. After the death of Justin, Tatian unfortunately fell under the influence of the Gnostic heresy, and founded an ascetic sect, which, from the rigid principles it professed, was called that of the Encratites, that is, "The self-controlled," or, "The masters of themselves." Tatian latterly established himself at Antioch, and acquired a considerable number of disciples, who continued after his death to be distinguished by the practice of those austerities which he had enjoined. The sect of the Encratites is supposed to have been established about a.d. 166, and Tatian appears to have died some few years afterwards.

The only extant work of Tatian is his "Address to the Greeks." It is a most unsparing and direct exposure of the enormities of heathenism. Several other works are said to have been composed by Tatian; and of these, a Diatessaron, or Harmony of the Four Gospels, is specially mentioned. His Gnostic views led him to exclude from the continuous narrative of our Lord's life, given in this work, all those passages which bear upon the incarnation and true humanity of Christ... (Source)

Yet, other sources deny that Tatian had embraced the Gnostic heresy:

... In defence of Tatian, Gerald F. Hawthorne has made the following points25:

Given these considerations it is less easy to dismiss Tatian out of hand as a heretic. The charge that Tatian was a Gnostic is difficult to substantiate. Tatian clearly declared his belief in Christ’s incarnation,28 His suffering29 and bodily resurrection.30 We can only guess at the real reason for Tatian’s condemnation at the hands of Irenaeus. Some have suggested that it may have been his status as an independent Christian teacher. In such a position he was outside of the control of the church hierarchy and may well have been seen as a threat to orthodoxy; "orthodoxy" at that point in history being increasingly defined as that which the bishops believed. (Source; bold emphasis ours)

Whatever the case, it is certain that Tatian's views of Jesus' Deity remained orthodox. For instance, regarding the Christology of the Encratites, Bercott quotes Hippolytus as writing:

Others, however, call themselves Encratites. They acknowledge some things concerning God and Christ in the same manner as the church. However, as to their manner of life, they spend their days puffed up with pride. They imagine that they make themselves better by foods. So they abstain from animal foods and drink only water. They forbid their people to marry. For the rest of their lives, they devote themselves to ascetic practices. But persons of this description should be considered Cynics rather than Christians. For they do not pay attention to the words spoken against them through the apostle Paul. For he foretold the novelties that would later be introduced by certain ones, saying, ‘The Spirit speaks expressly that in the latter times certain ones will depart from sound doctrine, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils... forbidding to marry, abstaining from meats that God has created to be partaken of with thanksgiving.' Hippolytus (c. 225, W), 5.124" (Bercott, p. 230)

"The Encratites have sprung from Saturninus and Marcion. They preach against marriage. They have thereby set aside the original creation of God. So they indirectly blame Him, for He made the male and female for the propagation of the human race. Some of their leaders have also instituted abstinence from animal food. They thereby show themselves to be ungrateful to God, who made all things. Furthermore, they deny the salvation of the first created man [Adam]. However, it is only recently that this last opinion has been introduced among them. A certain man named Tatian first introduced this blasphemy. Irenaeus (c. 180, E/W), 1.353." (Ibid., pp. 229-230)

The online Catholic Encyclopedia adds:


[’Egkrateîs (Irenæus) ’Egkratetai (Clement Alex., Hippolytus)].

Literally, "abstainers" or "persons who practised continency", because they refrained from the use of wine, animal food, and marriage. The name was given to an early Christian sect, or rather to a tendency common to several sects, chiefly Gnostic, whose asceticism was based on heretical views regarding the origin of matter.


Abstinence from the use of some creatures, because they were thought to be intrinsically evil, is much older than Christianity. Pythagorism, Essenism, Indian asceticism betrayed this erroneous tendency, and the Indian ascetics are actually quoted by Clement of Alexandria as the forerunners of the Encratites (Strom., I, xv). Although St. Paul refers to people, even in his days, "forbidding to marry and abstaining from meats" (I Tim., iv, 1-5), the first mention of a Christian sect of this name occurs in Irenæus (I, xxviii). He connects their origin with Saturninus and Marcion. Rejecting marriage, they implicitly accuse the Creator, Who made both male and female. Refraining from all ’émpsucha (animal food and intoxicants), they are ungrateful to Him Who created all things. "And now", continues Irenæus, "they reject the salvation of the first man [Adam]; an opinion recently introduced among them by Tatian, a disciple of Justin. As long as he was with Justin he gave no sign of these things, but after his martyrdom Tatian separated himself from the Church. Elated and puffed up by his professorship, he established some teaching of his own. He fabled about some invisible æons, as the Valentinians do; and proclaimed marriage to be corruption and fornication, as Marcion and Saturninus do, but he made the denial of Adam's salvation a specialty of his own." The Encratites are next mentioned by Clement Alex. (Pæd., II, ii, 33; Strom., I, xv; VII, xvii). The whole of the third book of the Stromata is devoted to combating a false encrateia, or continency, though a special sect of Encratites is not there mentioned. Hippolytus (Philos., VIII, xiii) refers to them as "acknowledging what concerns God and Christ in like manner with the Church; in respect, however, of their mode of life, passing their days inflated with pride"; "abstaining from animal food, being water-drinkers and forbidding to marry"; "estimated Cynics rather than Christians". On the strength of this passage it is supposed that some Encratites were perfectly orthodox in doctrine, and erred only in practice, but tà perì toû theoû kaì toû christoû need not include the whole of Christian doctrine. Somewhat later this sect received new life and strength by the accession of a certain Severus (Eusebius, Hist. Eccl., IV, xxix), after whom Encratites were often called Severians. These Severian Encratites accepted the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospels, but rejected the Book of the Acts and cursed St. Paul and his Epistles. But the account given by Epiphanius of the Severians rather betrays Syrian Gnosticism than Judaistic tendencies. In their hatred of marriage they declared woman the work of Satan, and in their hatred of intoxicants they called wine drops of venom from the great Serpent, etc. (Hær., xiv). Epiphanius states that in his day Encratites were very numerous throughout Asia Minor, in Psidia, in the Adustan district of Phrygia, in Isauria, Pamphylia, Cilicia, and Galatia. In the Roman Province and in Antioch of Syria they were found scattered here and there. They split up into a number of smaller sects of whom the Apostolici were remarkable for their condemnation of private property, the Hydroparastatæ for their use of water instead of wine in the Eucharist. In the Edict of 382, Theodosius pronounced sentence of death on all those who took the name of Encratites, Saccophori, or Hydroparastatæ, and commanded Florus, the Magister Officiarum, to make strict search for these heretics, who were Manichæans in disguise. Sozomen (Hist. Eccl., V, xi) tells of an Encratite of Ancyra in Galatia, called Busiris, who bravely submitted to torments in the Julian persecution, and who under Theodosius abjured his heresy and returned to the Catholic Church. On the other hand, we learn from Macarius Magnes (about 403–Apocr., III, xliii) of a certain Dositheus, a Cilician, who about the same time wrote a work in eight books in defence of Encratite errors. About the middle of the fifth century they disappear from history, absorbed, probably, by the Manichæans, with whom they had so much in common from the first. (Source)

It is, therefore, purely wishful thinking on the part of the writer to assume that Tatian's work somehow affects orthodox belief in the Deity of Christ, or that a major part of Christianity is missing as a result of Tatian's work. In fact, the author's claim will backfire against him as we shall show a little later.

The author even misunderstands the very sources which he wrenches out of context. Note for example the following citation provided by the writer:

Ishodad of Merv (bishop of Hedhatta ca AD 850) in his description of the Diatessaron said: "Tatianos...selected from the four gospels and combined and composed a Gospel and called it Diatessaron...and on the Divinity of Christ he did not write."[2]

The Muslim writer presumably thinks that Ishodad's statement that Tatian not writing on the Divinity of Christ means that Tatian denied Christ's Divinity. The most this proves is that Tatian remained silent regarding his view of Christ in the Diaterroson, since this work wasn't intended to be a treatise on the Divinity of Christ. As the sources above show, Tatian, when he did speak of Christ' Deity, was completely and thoroughly orthodox. In what way, then, does Tatian's work pose problems for Christianity is simply beyond us. The Muslim writer's comments are more a reflection of his wishful thinking than anything else.

In point of fact, it is obvious that the author hasn't bothered to read from the Diatessaron since if he did this is what he would have found:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God is the 3 Word. This was in the beginning with God. Everything was by his hand, and 4 without him not even one existing thing was made. In him was life, and the life 5 is the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness, and the darkness apprehended it not. (Section I; online edition)

18 And that day was a sabbath. And when the Jews saw that healed one, they said unto him, It is a sabbath: thou hast no authority to carry thy bed. And he answered and said unto them, He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take thy bed, Arabic, and walk. They asked him therefore, Who is this man that said unto thee, p. 86 Take thy bed, and walk? But he that was healed knew not who it was; for Jesus had removed from that place to another, because of the press of the great mul- titude which was in that place. And after two days Jesus happened upon him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art whole: sin not again, lest there come upon thee what is worse than the first. And that man went, and said to the Jews that it was Jesus that had healed him. And because of that the Jews persecuted Jesus and sought to kill him, because he was doing this on the sabbath. And Jesus said unto them, My Father worketh until now, and I also work. And because of this especially the Jews sought to kill him, not because he profaned the sabbath only; but for his saying also that God was his Father, and his making himself equal with God. Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son cannot do anything of himself, but what be seeth the Father do; what the Father doeth, that the Son also doeth like him. The Father loveth his Son, and everything that he doeth he sheweth him: and more than these works will he shew him, that ye may marvel. And as the Father raiseth the dead and giveth them life, so the Son also giveth life to whomsoever he will. And the Father judgeth no man, but hath given all judgement unto the Son; that every man may honour the Son, as he honoureth the Father. And he that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever heareth my word, and believeth in him that sent me, hath eternal. life, and cometh not into judgement, but passeth from Arabic. death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, An hour shall come, and now is also, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those which hear shall live. And as the Father hath life in himself, likewise he gave to the Son also that he might have life in himself, and authority to do judgement also, because he is the Son of man. Marvel not then at that: I mean the coming of the hour when all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth: those that have done good, to the resurrection of life; and those that have done evil deeds, to the resurrection of judgement. (Section XXII)

55 1 But the eleven disciples went into Galilee, to the mountain s where Jesus had 2 appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but there were of 3 them who doubted. And while they sat there he appeared to them again, and upbraided them for their lack of faith and the hardness of their hearts, those that saw him when he was risen, and believed not. 4 Arabic, Then said Jesus unto them, I have been given all authority in heaven 5 and earth; and as my Father hath sent me, so I also send you. Go now into 6 all the world, and preach my gospel in all the creation; and teach all the peoples, and 7 baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; and teach them to keep all whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you all the days, unto 8 the end of the world. For whosoever believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but 9 whosoever believeth not shall be rejected. And the signs which shall attend those that believe in me are these: that they shall cast out devils in my name; and they shall speak with new tongues; and they shall take up serpents, and if they drink deadly poison, it shall not injure them; and they shall lay their hands on the diseased, and they shall be healed. But ye, abide in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be clothed with power from on high.

12 And our Lord Jesus, after speaking to them, took them out to Bethany: and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And while he blessed them, he was separated from them, and ascended into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and at all times they were in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.

16 And from thence they went forth, and preached in every place; and our Lord helped them, and confirmed their sayings by the signs which they did. (Section LV)

Tatian, by citing the explicit Gospel references to the Deity of the Lord Jesus, showed that he did in fact confirm his belief in Christ's Divinity.

Jundullah continues:

Such touches have often been noted in the area of Tatian's attitude towards marriage and in particular to the parents of Jesus[3]. So, for example, the following changes were made:

Matt 1:19: "her husband Joseph, being a just man..."
Diatessaron: "Joseph, because he was a just man..."[4]

Luke 2:33: "his father and his mother"
Diatessaron: "Joseph and his mother"[5]

Luke 2:41, 43: "his parents"
Diatessaron: "his kinsfolk...Joseph and his mother."[6]

By means of these changes Tatian obscures the relationship between Joseph and Mary.[7]


Since the author believes in Jesus' virgin birth, we really do not see what his quotes are intended to prove, i.e. is he trying to show that the Gospel of Luke denied the virgin birth? If so, then he has failed his task since all early evidence, from the extant MSS and the early Church testimony, affirms that this Gospel (along with Matthew) explicitly taught the virgin birth of the Lord Jesus. Even Tatian's work supports this since he quoted the following:

27 And in the sixth month Gabriel the angel was sent from God to Galilee to a city called Nazareth, to a virgin given in marriage to a man named Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel entered unto her and said unto her, Peace be unto thee, thou who art filled with grace. Our Lord is with thee, thou blessed amongst women. And she, when she beheld, was agitated at his word, and pondered what this salutation could be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favour with God. Thou shall now conceive, and bear a son, and call his name Jesus. This shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father: and he shall rule over the house of Jacob for ever; and to his kingdom there shall be no end. Mary said unto the angel, How shall this be to me when no man hath known me? The angel answered and said unto her, The Arabic. Holy Spirit will come, and the power of the Most High shall rest upon thee, and therefore shall he that is born of thee be pure, and shall be called the Son of God. And lo, Elizabeth thy kinswoman, she also hath conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her, her that is called barren. For nothing is difficult for God. Mary said, Lo, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be unto me according unto thy word. And the angel departed from her. (Source)

Furthermore, the author committs a chronological fallacy since he assumes that the above changes reflect Tatian's views of marriage. What the author forgot to remember is that Tatian's views regarding marriage fell within the latter years of his life as an Encratite (circa. 172 A.D.), not during the time the Diatessaron had been compiled (150 A.D.). During that time, Tatian was thoroughly orthodox.

The reason for Tatian "obscuring" the relationship between Joseph and Mary maybe the result of his trying to prevent anyone from erroneously concluding that Joseph fathered Jesus. It is to be noted that during the time that Tatian wrote this, there were heretical groups that denied the virginal conception and birth of the Lord Jesus, i.e. groups such as the Carpocrates, Ebionites, Cerinthus etc.

Also, do remember that Tatian's work was an attempt of harmonizing the Gospels, which means his aim wasn't to transcribe word for word what all four Gospels wrote. Rather, his purpose of trying to harmonize the Gospels would entail making some changes and/or paraphrases in order to make the texts read more smoothly with each other, to make explicit what was only implicit, and/or to insure that specific passages wouldn't be misunderstood or perverted by the heretics.

The author continues to say:

Another notable tendency found in the Arabic Diatessaron is the substitution of "Jesus" for Luke's references to "the Lord" in the narrative settings:

Luke Arabic Diatessaron:[8]

7:13: "when the Lord saw her..."
11.19 "Jesus saw..."[9]

7:19: "sent them to the Lord..."
13.39 "he sent them to Jesus"[10]

10:1a: "the Lord appointed seventy"
15.15 "Jesus appointed..."[11]

10:41: "the Lord answered her..."
13.34 "Jesus answered..."[12]

11:39: "the Lord said to him..."
20.14 "Jesus said..."[13]

12:42: "And the Lord said...."
43.2: "Jesus said..."[14]

13:15:"Then the Lord answered..."
27.45 "Jesus answered..."[15]

19:8: "and said to the Lord..."
31.22 "...said to Jesus"[16]

22:61: "And the Lord turned..."
49.16 "Jesus turned..."[17]


As we mentioned earlier, here is where the author's argument backfires against him. The author tried to show that Tatian's harmony of the Gospels will provide evidence which will somehow undermine the orthodox Christian position regarding Christ's Divinity. Yet, the above examples actually affirm the historic Christian view of the Lord Jesus being perfect Deity. The Muslim author's examples show that the Gospels have always affirmed that Christ is God, debunking Muslim claims that Christians corrupted the original message of the Gospels in order to make them agree with official Church doctrine.

Note carefully that in the paragraph before this one, the author claimed that Tatian made changes to the original readings of the Gospels, specifically Luke:

... So, for example, the following changes were made: ...

By means of these changes Tatian obscures the relationship between Joseph and Mary.[7] (emphasis ours)

The author also says here that Tatian even substituted Luke's use of Lord for Jesus, with the conclusion being that what we find in Tatian is not the original readings of the Gospels but Tatian's changes and paraphrases. What this esentially means is that, per the argument of the author, Tatian didn't change the readings of the Gospels to reflect a higher view of Jesus, but actually watered down the explicit witness of the Gospels to Jesus' Divinity! In other words, Tatian took the original readings of the Gospels, the very explicit references to Christ's Deity, and made them less explicit. From this we can now argue that the tendency amongst scribes like Tatian wasn't to elevate Jesus to Divine status, but rather to demote him! Hence, if the so-called corruptions to the biblical text prove anything, they prove that heretics, not the orthodox, were trying to change the original meaning of the NT documents to reflect their heretical views of Christ.

Now it is obviously certain that, in light of his belief in the Deity of the Lord Jesus, Tatian wasn't seeking to undermine the Deity of Christ. His orthodox position leads us to safely assume that the reason why he substituted Jesus for Luke's Lord was to make explicit what should be obvious from the context, i.e. that the Lord referred to in all these passages is none other than Jesus Christ.

The author concludes:

Although this short exposition is not intended as an exhaustive rebuttal, it is sufficient to show that the missionaries are either pathological liars or extremely ignorant about the subject matter. The Diatessaron was in fact different at the time of the Prophet Muhammad(P) in content and in the canon as has been established by Islamic Awareness. Furthermore, from Sam Shamoun’s rebuttal, it is evident that the missionary has in fact accepted that Diatessaron was the only available Gospel at the time of Muhammad(P). Thefore [sic] it is also equally clear that if the Diatessaron did indeed differ in content and canon, his whole argument falls flat on its face.

And Allah knows best.


To begin with, not only has the writer misunderstood the scholarly sources which he cited, he hasn't even bothered to accurately read what I said about the Diatessaron. There is nothing in my rebuttal to suggest that I believe that the Diatessaron was the only Gospel available during Muhammad's time. This is a blatant distortion of what I wrote.

The author didn't even understand IA's statements regarding the use of the Diatessaron during Muhammad's time. Here is what IA writes about the use of Tatian's Diatessaron during that period:

... Syriac Churches used the Diatessaron, the four-in-one Gospel, introduced by Tatian, and was read in the Syriac Churches for quite some time before it was replaced by the Peshitta. The Peshitta has a different number of books in the New Testament. This represents for the New Testament an accommodation of the canon of the Syrians with that of the Greeks. Third Corinthians was rejected, and, in addition to the fourteen Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews, following Philemon), three longer Catholic Epistles (James, 1 Peter, and 1 John) were included. The four shorter Catholic Epistles (2 Peter, 2 and 3 John, and Jude) and the Apocalypse are absent from the Peshitta Syriac version, and thus the Syriac canon of the New Testament contained but twenty-two writings. The Old Testament consists of the usual books of the Hebrew Bible as well as books such as Baruch, Epistle of Jeremiah, Psalms additions, Prayer of Manasseh, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Wisdom of Jesus b. Sirach, I-IV Maccabees, Psalms of Solomon and Apocalypse of Baruch. Given these facts, it would be hard to demonstrate that the Christian "scriptures" are demonstrably the same today as in Muhammad's(P) time. (Source; bold emphasis ours)

IA clearly says that the Diatessaron had been replaced by the Syriac translation of the Holy Bible (called the Peshitta), which included the four Gospels, long before Muhammad's time. Elsewhere, IA places the date for the Peshitta's composition at 400 A.D., roughly one hundred and seventy years (170) before the birth of Muhammad! (Source)

The online Catholic Encyclopedia, which we already cited in regards to Tatian, went on to say:

The other extant work is the "Diatesseron", a harmony of the four Gospels containing in continuous narrative the principle events in the life of Our Lord. The question regarding the language in which this work was composed is still in dispute. Lightfoot, Hilgenfeld, Bardenhewer, and others contend that the original language was Syriac. Harnack, Burkitt, and others are equally positive that it was composed in Greek and translated into Syriac during the lifetime of Tatian. There are only a few fragments extant in Syriac but a comparatively full reconstruction of the whole has been effected from St. Ephraem's commentary, the Syriac text of which has been lost, but which exists in an Armenian version. Two revisions of the "Diatesseron" are available: one in Latin preserved in the "Codex Fuldensis" of the Gospels dating from about A.D. 545, the other in an Arabic version found in two manuscripts of a later date. The "Diatesseron" or "Evangelion da Mehallete" (the Gospel of the mixed) was practically the only gospel text used in Syria during the third and fourth centuries. Rabbula, Bishop of Edessa (411-435), ordered the priests and deacons to see that every church should have a copy of the separate Gospels (Evangelion da Mepharreshe), and Theodoret, Bishop of Cyrus (423-457), removed more than two hundred copies of the "Diatesseron" from the churches in his diocese... (Source; bold emphasis ours)

Another source writes:

Peshitta (the Bible of the Syrian Church)

At Edessa, capital of the principality of Osrhoëne (in eastern Syria), and western Mesopotamia neither Latin nor Greek was understood. Therefore, the native language Syriac (a Semitic language related to Aramaic) was used in Christian writings. The political fortunes of Edessa present a remarkable contrast to those of other centers of Christianity. Until 216 CE in the reign of the Emperor Caracalla, Edessa lay outside the Roman Empire. Christianity seems to have reached the Euphrates valley about the middle of the 2nd century, that is, while the country was still an independent state. Since its people did not speak Greek, like their neighboring Syrians in Antioch, it is not surprising that the Christianity of Edessa began to develop independently, without the admixture of Greek philosophy and Roman methods of government that at an early date modified primitive Christianity in the West and transformed it into the amalgam known as Catholicism.

According to early traditions and legends embodied in the Doctrine of Addai (~400 CE), the earliest New Testament of the Syriac speaking Church consisted of the Diatesseron, the Epistles of Paul, and Acts. The Diatesseron was written by Tatian by weaving the 4 canonical Gospels together into a coherent and continuous account. Tatian was born of pagan parents in the land of the Assyrians and received an education in Greek culture and its philosophical systems. Tatian came to Rome, made the acquaintance of Justin Martyr, and converted to Christianity. While there, he composed the Diatesseron about 150 CE. The original language of the Diatesseron (certainly either Old Syriac or Greek) is still a much-debated question. The term diatesseron borrowed from musical terminology and designated a series of 4 harmonic tones. It was Tatian's private judgment that the format of a fourfold harmony was the most convenient way in which to present the whole Gospel story at once instead of confusing people by offering them 4 parallel and more or less divergent narratives.

After Justin's martyrdom (~165 CE) Tatian broke with the Roman church, returned to Syria in 172, and founded the sect of the Encratites (i.e. the self-disciplined). This sect rejected matrimony as adultery, condemned the use of meat in any form, and substituted water for wine in the Eucharist service. While in the East Tatian introduced the Diatesseron among the local churches. His influence at Edessa must have been considerable, for he succeeded in getting his book read in the churches there, and afterwards its use spread throughout the region. It was quoted by Aphraat, Ephraem (who wrote a commentary on it), and other Syrian Fathers.

Because of Tatian's reputation as a heretic, however, a reaction set in against the use of his Diatesseron, and Bishop Rabbula of Edessa (d. 436 CE) instructed his priests to take care that in all the churches the 4 'separated' Gospels should be available and read. Theodoret, who became bishop of Cyrrhus on the Euphrates in upper Syria in 423, sought out and found more than 200 copies of the Diatesseron, which he 'collected and put away, and introduced instead of them the Gospels of the four evangelists'.

By the beginning of the 5th century, or slightly earlier, the Syrian Church's version of the Bible, the Peshitta ('simple' translation) was formed. For the New Testament it represented an accommodation of the Syrian canon with that of the Greeks. It contains 22 books - all of the present New Testament except:

II Peter, II John, III John, Jude, Revelation of John

For the eastern part of the Syrian Church this constituted the closing of the canon, for after the Council of Ephesus (431 CE) the East Syrians separated themselves as the Nestorians. There are many surviving manuscripts of the Peshitta, the oldest of which bears the date 442. For much more on Peshitta history, see the article at The Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism. It is noteworthy that exactly these 22 books are cited by John Chrystosom (~347-407) and Thedoret (393-466) from the School of Antioch. For a visual summary of these 22 books see the Cross Reference Table.

Among the Western Syrians, however, there were closer ties with their neighboring Churches, and a further accommodation with the Roman church took place in THE 6TH-7TH CENTURIES when the Philoxenian and Harclean versions of the Peshitta were issued containing all 27 New Testament books. Yet, even so the West Syrian Church was slow in making use of these parts of the New Testament.

Still today the official lectionaries followed by the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church, with headquarters at Kottayam (India); and the Chaldean Syrian Church, also known as the Church of the East (Nestorian), with headquarters at Trichur (India); present lessons from only the 22 books of the original Peshitta. (Source; bold emphasis ours)

It is rather obvious that, during Muhammad's time, the Syriac speaking Christian Churches were no longer using the Diatessaron since they had switched to reading the four Gospels instead.

Furthermore, whether one accepts the Diatessaron or the 22 NT books of the Eastern Syriac Christians, one is still left with the orthodox Christian faith. For instance, the very fact that conservative, orthodox Christians read and embraced the Diatessaron shows that it was orthodox in nature, especially since it was based on the Canonical Gospels as the above quotes from it show, otherwise it would have never been accepted. The reason why it was later abandoned wasn't because it contained heretical elements, but because Tatian was accused of being a heretic later in life. The Christians may have therefore felt that his writings needed to be expunged from the Church, regardless of their orthodoxy.

Or, the reason may simply have been that the Syriac speaking Churches wanted the four Canonical Gospels in one volume, since this is what the Evangelists gave the Church, as opposed to an harmonization of the four.

And, as we had already mentioned in our rebuttal to IA, choosing only the 22 books of the NT held by the Eastern Churches still leaves us with the following doctrines:

  1. The Deity of Jesus Christ.
  2. The Incarnation.
  3. The Triunity of God.
  4. The Divine Personality of the Holy Spirit.
  5. The Virgin Birth.
  6. Christ's Vicarious Atonement.
  7. Christ's Physical, Bodily Resurrection.
  8. Christ's Ascension to Heaven.
  9. Christ's Visible Return to Judge the Living and the Dead.
  10. Justification by Faith.
  11. Salvation through Grace.

Finally, we also like to reiterate the point made in our original response regarding the Diatessaron serving as early evidence for the authority and canonicity of the four Gospels. The fact that Tatian used only these written Gospel accounts in his harmonization shows the early and universal acceptance by the Churches of the New Testament Gospels, and these alone. As the translator to Tatian's address to the Greeks, Ryland, noted:

His works, which were very numerous, have perished, in consequence of his lapse from orthodoxy. Give him due credit for his Diatessaron, of which the very name IS A VALUABLE TESTIMONY TO THE FOUR GOSPELS AS RECOGNISED BY THE PRIMITIVE CHURCHES. It is lost, with the "infinite number" of other books which St. Jerome attributes to him. All honour to this earliest harmonist for such a work; and let us believe, with Mill and other learned authorities, that, if Eusebius had seen the work he censures, he might have expressed himself more charitably concerning it.

... Theodoret finds no other fault with his Diatessaron than its omission of the genealogies, which he, probably, could not harmonize on any theory of his own...

... Not withstanding this defect, we cannot but regret the loss of this earliest Gospel harmony; but the very title it bore is important, as showing that the Four Gospels, AND THESE ONLY, were deemed authoritative about the middle of the second century. (Source; bold emphasis ours)

The Arabic version ends with the following note:

Here endeth the Gospel which Tatianus compiled and named Diatessaron, i.e., The Fourfold, a compilation from the four Gospels of the holy Apostles, the excellent Evangelists (peace be upon them). It was translated by the excellent and learned priest, Abu'l Faraj 'Abdulla ibn-at-Tayyib (may God grant him favour), from Syriac into Arabic, from an exemplar written by 'Isa ibn-'Ali al-Motatabbib, pupil of Honain ibn-Ishak (God have mercy on them both). Amen. (Source; bold emphasis ours)

The preceding data shows that if anyone fits the accusation of being "pathological liars or ignorant about the subject matter," it is the author for grossly distorting and misreading even his own sources.

Recommended Reading:

A newsgroup discussion began as a result of the author's paper, which can be found here.

Responses to Bismikaallahuma
Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page