Some More Open Challenges For Muslims

Sam Shamoun

Muslims challenge believers in Christ to produce a verse in the New Testament, specifically the Four Gospels, in which Jesus says "I am God" or "worship me." They further assert that the Holy Bible doesn’t present a list of the books which God inspired, but that the canonization of the Holy Scriptures was a process over time based on the decisions of Church councils and clergy, what they deemed was worthy for inclusion within the canon.

However, by way of a reply and in the tradition of making sure that our Muslim friends are acting consistently, that they are not using a double standard but applying their criticisms against the Holy Bible and Christian truth fairly, we produce some more challenges for them to answer.

(1) The deity of Christ in the New Testament

In order to help put our challenges in perspective, note that there are at least eight specific NT texts which apply the term Theos to Jesus:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." John 1:1

"No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known." John 1:18

"Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’" John 20:28

"Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen." Romans 9:5

"while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ," Titus 2:13

"But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.’" Hebrews 1:8

"Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:" 2 Peter 1:1

There are a few more texts where Theos is applied to Jesus, but are not as explicit as the above examples:

"‘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 (Meth’ hemon ho Theos).’" Matthew 1:21-23

Matthew presents Jesus as "[the] God with us", that Christ is the visible presence and manifestation of God who came to redeem his people. Matthew supplies evidence at the conclusion of his Gospel that he was calling Christ God or Theos:

"and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always (ego meth’ humon eimi), to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:20

Jesus continues to be with his followers till the end of the age, showing that Matthew was portraying Christ as the God who came to be with man through the virgin birth. This connection is not lost on the NET Bible translators:

9 sn I am with you. Matthew's Gospel begins with the prophecy that the Savior's name would be "Emmanuel, that is, 'God with us,'" (1:23, in which the author has linked Isa 7:14 and 8:8, 10 together) and it ends with Jesus' promise to be with his disciples forever. The Gospel of Matthew thus forms an inclusio about Jesus in his relationship to his people that suggests his deity. (Source; underline emphasis ours)

Christ also made claims which led the people to conclude that he was presenting himself as God or Theos:

"‘My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one.’ Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’ ‘We are not stoning you for any of these,’ replied the Jews, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God (Theon).’" John 10:27-33

One specific text affirms Christ’s Deity without applying Theos directly to him:

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God (en morphe Theou huperchon), did not consider equality with God something to be grasped," Philippians 2:5-6

While another citation applies an abstract noun of Theos to communicate the same revealed truth that Jesus is fully God in nature, that the complete Divine essence dwells in Christ permanently:

"For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity (tes Theotetos) lives in bodily form," Colossians 2:9

Now what about Muhammad’s role in the Quran?

Yet in spite of all these references where Theos is applied to Jesus in one way or another, Muslims still demand that Christians produce a verse from the NT (specifically the four Gospels) where Christ expressly and emphatically says he is God. They reject the testimony of the writers or of Jesus’ contemporaries who correctly concluded that he was God.

In light of the foregoing, we insist that Muslims be consistent and apply the same challenge to the Quran and present a reference where Muhammad identifies himself as a prophet in those exact words. We are challenging Muslims to produce a verse exactly like the following:

Jesus said, ‘I am a servant of ALLAH. HE has given me the Book, and has made me a Prophet;’ S. 19:30 Sher Ali

Since the Quran quotes Jesus claiming to be a prophet, it should therefore be easy for Muslims to meet this challenge in reference to Muhammad.

(2) The inspiration and infallibility of the Bible

Moreover, Christians appeal to the following references to support the inspiration and infallibility of the Holy Bible:

"and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." 2 Timothy 3:15-17

"Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." 2 Peter 1:20-21

Yet Muslims object that these texts do not refer to the inspiration of the books which eventually became part of the NT canon, but to the Hebrew Scriptures. They further argue that the Holy Bible doesn’t present a list of the books which God inspired, but that the canonization of the Holy Scriptures was a process over time based on the decisions of Church councils and clergy, what they deemed was worthy for inclusion within the canon.

Now what about the Quran?

Again, in the spirit of fairness we rechallenge the Muslims to meet their own criteria and produce Quranic references delineating the exact length and breadth of their scriptures, as well as providing specific statements where their religious text expressly says that Allah revealed only a number of suras, specifically 114 in total. We will not accept any references outside of the Quran, especially when Muslims do not grant Christians this same right when it comes to demonstrating the canonization of God’s true Word, the Holy Bible.

Not that appealing to post-Quranic sources will prove beneficial to the Muslims, since the so-called authentic reports demonstrate that Muhammad did not canonize the Quran. Rather, the initial codification of the Quran took place after Muhammad’s death, during the caliphate of Abu Bakr:

Narrated Zaid bin Thabit:

Abu Bakr As-Siddiq sent for me when the people of Yamama had been killed (i.e., a number of the Prophet's Companions who fought against Musailama). (I went to him) and found 'Umar bin Al-Khattab sitting with him. Abu Bakr then said (to me), "Umar has come to me and said: "Casualties were heavy among the Qurra' of the! Qur'an (i.e. those who knew the Quran by heart) on the day of the Battle of Yamama, and I am afraid that more heavy casualties may take place among the Qurra' on other battlefields, whereby a large part of the Qur'an may be lost. Therefore I suggest, you (Abu Bakr) order that the Qur'an be collected." I said to 'Umar, "How can you do something which Allah's Apostle did not do?" 'Umar said, "By Allah, that is a good project." Umar kept on urging me to accept his proposal till Allah opened my chest for it and I began to realize the good in the idea which 'Umar had realized." Then Abu Bakr said (to me). 'You are a wise young man and we do not have any suspicion about you, and you used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah's Apostle. So you should search for (the fragmentary scripts of) the Qur'an and collect it in one book)." By Allah! If they had ordered me to shift one of the mountains, it would not have been heavier for me than this ordering me to collect the Qur'an. Then I said to Abu Bakr, "How will you do something which Allah's Apostle did not do?" Abu Bakr replied, "By Allah, it is a good project." Abu Bakr kept on urging me to accept his idea until Allah opened my chest for what He had opened the chests of Abu Bakr and 'Umar. So I started looking for the Qur'an and collecting it from (what was written on) palmed stalks, thin white stones and also from the men who knew it by heart, till I found the last Verse of Surat At-Tauba (Repentance) with Abi Khuzaima Al-Ansari, and I did not find it with anybody other than him. The Verse is:

'Verily there has come unto you an Apostle (Muhammad) from amongst yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty…(till the end of Surat-Baraa' (At-Tauba) (9.128-129) Then the complete manuscripts (copy) of the Qur'an remained with Abu Bakr till he died, then with 'Umar till the end of his life, and then with Hafsa, the daughter of 'Umar. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 509)

It would take the third caliph, Uthman ibn Affan, to produce an official codex while destroying (burning) other competing codices which were compiled by ear and eyewitnesses of Muhammad:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were waging war to conquer Arminya and Adharbijan. Hudhaifa WAS AFRAID OF THEIR (the people of Sham and Iraq) DIFFERENCES in the recitation of the Qur'an, so he said to 'Uthman, "O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Quran) as Jews and the Christians did before." So 'Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, "Send us the manuscripts of the Qur'an so that we may compile the Qur'anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you." Hafsa sent it to 'Uthman. 'Uthman then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, 'Abdullah bin AzZubair, Said bin Al-As and 'AbdurRahman bin Harith bin Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. 'Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, "In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any point in the Qur'an, then write it in the dialect of Quraish, the Qur'an was revealed in their tongue." They did so, and when they had written many copies, 'Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsa. 'Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur'anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt. Said bin Thabit added, "A Verse from Surat Ahzab was missed by me when we copied the Qur'an and I used to hear Allah's Apostle reciting it. So we searched for it and found it with Khuzaima bin Thabit Al-Ansari. (That Verse was): 'Among the Believers are men who have been true in their covenant with Allah.' (33.23) (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 510)

Carefully note that the reason why Uthman undertook the task of codifying the Quran is because the Qurans compiled by others were not uniform. These different Qurans contained verses not found in the others, or omitted verses contained in the rest, leading Muslims to accuse one another of corrupting and tampering with the Quran! Hence, this narration clearly refutes the typical Muslim myth that there were Muslims who had memorized the Quran, being the primary means of perfectly preserving the text. Don’t forget that these conflicting and contradictory codices were produced from the memories of certain reciters and scribes, showing that none of the compilers memorized the Quran exactly the same way!

Moses or Muhammad?

There is one text, however, which a Muslim may wish to bring up:

Say: "O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Apostle of God, to Whom belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth: there is no god but He: it is He That giveth both life and death. So believe in God and His Apostle, the Unlettered Prophet, who believeth in God and His words: follow him that (so) ye may be guided." S. 7:158

Some may think that this text has Muhammad identifying himself as a prophet. Yet this will not meet our challenge for the following reason. In the immediate context the messenger that is mentioned throughout is Moses:

Moses prayed: "O my Lord! forgive me and my brother! admit us to Thy mercy! for Thou art the Most Merciful of those who show mercy!" Those who took the calf (for worship) will indeed be overwhelmed with wrath from their Lord, and with shame in this life: thus do We recompense those who invent (falsehoods). But those who do wrong but repent thereafter and (truly) believe,- verily thy Lord is thereafter Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. When the anger of Moses was appeased, he took up the tablets: in the writing thereon was guidance and Mercy for such as fear their Lord. And Moses chose seventy of his people for Our place of meeting: when they were seized with violent quaking, he prayed: "O my Lord! if it had been Thy will Thou couldst have destroyed, long before, both them and me: wouldst Thou destroy us for the deeds of the foolish ones among us? this is no more than Thy trial: by it Thou causest whom Thou wilt to stray, and Thou leadest whom Thou wilt into the right path. Thou art our Protector: so forgive us and give us Thy mercy; for Thou art the best of those who forgive. And ordain for us that which is good, in this life and in the Hereafter: for we have turned unto Thee." He said: "With My punishment I visit whom I will; but My mercy extendeth to all things. That (mercy) I shall ordain for those who do right, and practise regular charity, and those who believe in Our signs;-Those who follow the apostle, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (scriptures),- in the law and the Gospel;- for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure); He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them. So it is those who believe in him, honour him, help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him,- it is they who will prosper." Say: "O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Apostle of God, to Whom belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth: there is no god but He: it is He That giveth both life and death. So believe in God and His Apostle, the Unlettered Prophet, who believeth in God and His words: follow him that (so) ye may be guided." Of the people of Moses there is a section who guide and do justice in the light of truth. S. 7:150-159

The context clearly shows that what we have here is Moses being commanded to supposedly inform the people to believe in the Gentile prophet and messenger who was to come after him. In other words, these are not the words of Muhammad but of Moses (allegedly)!

Is a Messenger the same as a Prophet?

There is another verse where Muhammad says he is a mortal messenger:

"Or thou have a house adorned with gold, or thou mount a ladder right into the skies. No, we shall not even believe in thy mounting until thou send down to us a book that we could read." Say: "Glory to my Lord! Am I aught but a man,- an apostle?" S. 17:93

This will not suffice to meet our challenge for several reasons. First, the Quran distinguishes between a messenger and a prophet:

Never did We send an apostle OR a prophet before thee, but, when he framed a desire, Satan threw some (vanity) into his desire: but God will cancel anything (vain) that Satan throws in, and God will confirm (and establish) His Signs: for God is full of Knowledge and Wisdom: S. 22:52

Second, prophets are given scriptures with the implication being that messengers do not receive them:

It is not (possible) that a man, to whom is given the Book, and Wisdom, and the prophetic office, should say to people: "Be ye my worshippers rather than God's": on the contrary (He would say) "Be ye worshippers of Him Who is truly the Cherisher of all: For ye have taught the Book and ye have studied it earnestly." Nor would he instruct you to take angels and prophets for Lords and patrons. What! would he bid you to unbelief after ye have bowed your will (To God in Islam)? Behold! God took the covenant of the prophets, saying: "I give you a Book and Wisdom; then comes to you an apostle, confirming what is with you; do ye believe in him and render him help." God said: "Do ye agree, and take this my Covenant as binding on you?" They said: "We agree." He said: "Then bear witness, and I am with you among the witnesses." S. 3:79-81

This suggests that prophets are greater than messengers. For more on this issue please consult this article.

Third, Jesus explicitly identifies himself as God’s Son:

"But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ And Jesus said, ‘I AM, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’" Mark 14:61-62

"All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." Luke 10:22

"do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, 'You are blaspheming,' because I said, 'I am the Son of God'?" John 10:36

"When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. John 17:1-2

Even though Jesus expressly says he is God’s Son in a unique and intimate way Muslims do not accept these statements as sufficient proof of his Deity. They say that Christ claiming to be God’s Son is not the same as saying that he is God. By the same token, we also reject this as sufficient grounds to prove that Muhammad believed he was a prophet since claiming to be a messenger is not the same as saying one is a prophet, just as the Quran itself shows.

We have challenged Muhammad’s role and calling and the Quran in the same way that Muslims challenge the New Testament and Christ’s Divine nature. It should be obvious that our challenge cannot be met. However, Muslims may reply that the Quran does not use those exact words, so it is unfair to level this challenge at them. The Quran affirms Muhammad’s status of prophet most emphatically and clearly using other words.

True. But will these Muslims extend the same criteria to the New Testament? It affirms most emphatically and clearly the Deity of Christ without using the exact words fabricated by polemical Muslims who simply want to win the debate before it even begins.

This should help the readers see why the Muslim challenges are without merit and fail to (dis)prove anything. Putting it simply, since Muslims will have no problem seeing how ridiculous some of our challenges are, they should therefore have no difficulty seeing that their challenges are just as ridiculous.

All Biblical citations taken from the English Standard Version (ESV) of the Holy Bible.

All quranic references taken from the Abdullah Yusuf Ali version of the Quran.

Articles by Sam Shamoun
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