Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Shabir Ally’s Contradictions and Inconsistencies Pt. 3a

Sam Shamoun

It is time for another installment in our series dealing with the blatant contradictions and inconsistencies of Shabir Ally.

Continuity with the Old Testament

In the opening statement of one of his debates with Dr. David Wood, Ally made the following rather peculiar argument:

“For the New Testament to be true it has to agree with the Old… So you cannot have a new God in the New Testament. You have to have the same old one God.” (Was Jesus a Prophet of Islam?)

Ally made the same point in a more recent debate with Christian apologist Luis Dizon:

“But for the Christian Bible to be authentic or reliable, at least in the New Testament section, that New Testament section MUST conform to the dictates already given by God in the Old Testament. Since God does not change his mind what he said once this is given for all, unless he is given some... So the New Testament must conform, unless God was giving some legislation which are of a temporary nature, and then gives new legislation for a new time and a new place. But when it comes to theology, this is not going to change.” (The Bible and The Qur'an: Perspective On Nature & Intertextuality of The Scriptures)

Since Ally claims that the New Testament must conform to the teaching of the Old Testament in order for it to be valid, consistency demands that Ally be willing to apply this same standard to his own religious sources, specifically the Quran. Therefore, in the pursuit of keeping Ally honest we are now going to use his own criterion against his “holy” book so as to see whether it conforms to the dictates and theology of the Hebrew Bible. We will be focusing primarily on what the OT says in regards to the coming Messiah and contrast that with what Muhammad is purported to have taught concerning this same subject.

The OT Witness to the Divine Identity of the Messianic King

According to the Hebrew Bible, the Messiah is not just a human descendant of David, but he is also a divine figure that sits enthroned alongside God for all eternity. The OT also proclaims that the Messiah will be worshiped and praised forever by all the nations in acknowledgement of his being the sovereign King of all creation. Note, for example, what the following passages have to say concerning thus point:

“The Lord said to my lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’ The Lord shall send your mighty scepter out of Zion; rule in the midst of your enemies.” Psalm 110:1-2

“My heart overflows with a goodly theme; I address my verses to the king; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe… Your throne, O God (Elohim), endures forever and ever. Your royal scepter is a scepter of equity; you love righteousness and hate wickedness. Therefore God (Elohim), your God (Elohim), has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions… Hear, O daughter, consider and incline your ear; forget your people and your father’s house, and the king will desire your beauty. Since he is your lord, bow to him… In the place of ancestors you, O king, shall have sons; you will make them princes in all the earth. I will cause your name to be celebrated in all generations; therefore the peoples will praise you forever and ever.” Psalm 45:1, 6-7, 10-11, 16-17

Remarkably, not only does the Aramaic paraphrase of the Hebrew Bible known as the Targum view the passage of Psalm 45 as a Messianic prophecy, it also identifies the Messiah as Yahweh God! 

For praise; concerning those who sit in the Sanhedrin of Moses, which was spoken in prophecy by the sons of Korah; a good lesson, and a psalm, and a thanksgiving.

2. My heart desires fine speech; I will speak my work to the king; the utterance of my tongue is quick, like the pen of a fluent scribe.

3.Your beauty, O King Messiah, is greater than the sons of men; the spirit of prophecy has been placed on your lips; because of this the Lord[25] has blessed you forever.

4. Gird your sword on your thigh, O champion;[26] your glory[27] and your brilliance is to kill kings as well as rulers.

5. And your brilliance is great; therefore you will succeed in mounting the horse[28] of the kingdom, by reason of faithfulness and truth and humility and righteousness; and the Lord will teach you to do fearful things with your right hand.

6. Your arrows are drawn to kill Gentile hordes; beneath you they will fall; and the sons[29] of your bow will be released into the heart of the enemies of the king.

7. The throne of your glory, O Lord,[30] lasts forever and ever; the scepter of your kingdom is an upright scepter. (Targum Psalms: An English Translation, by Edward M. Cook; bold emphasis ours)

[30] O LORD: O God in heaven. (Bold and underline emphasis ours)

Notice how the compiler(s) of the Targum took the words of the Psalmist to God’s throne enduring forever as a clear-cut reference to Yahweh God Almighty himself! 

The reason he/they did so is because the Hebrew Bible is emphatically clear that Yahweh is the God who reigns from heaven as king of all creation, and it is his throne that endures forever:

“The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven. His eyes behold, his gaze examines humankind.” Psalm 11:4

“Sing praises to God (Elohim), sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises. For God (Elohim) is the king of all the earth; sing praises with a psalm. God (Elohim) is king over the nations; God (Elohim) sits on his holy throne.” Psalm 47:6-8

“But you, O Lord, reign forever; your throne endures to all generations.” Lamentations 5:19

Therefore, for the King to be regarded as the God who sits enthroned forever he must somehow share in Yahweh’s own divine identity.

We’ll have a lot more to say regarding Psalm 45:6-7 in the addendum.

Here is another remarkable prophecy concerning the identity of the Messiah:

“But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness—on them light has shined… For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God (El Gibbor), Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” Isaiah 9:1-2, 6-7

Not only is the Davidic Ruler said to rule forever he is even called the Mighty God, which is a divine title ascribed to Yahweh in the very next chapter of Isaiah!

“On that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on the one who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God (El Gibbor).” Isaiah 10:20-21

This again confirms that God’s anointed King shares in the very identity of Yahweh himself.

Although we do not completely agree with the assessment of NT scholar Bart D. Ehrman concerning the exact meaning of the foregoing OT texts, his comments are remarkable nonetheless seeing that they come from an agnostic and hostile critic of Christianity:

“The son of a human is human, just as the son of a dog is a dog and the son of a cat is a cat. And so what is the son of God? As it turns out, to the surprise of many causal readers of the Bible, there are passages in which the king of Israel is referred to as divine, as God.

“Hebrew Bible scholar John J. Collins points out that this honor ultimately appears to derive from Egyptian ways of thinking about their king, the Pharaoh, as a divine being. Even in Egypt, where the king was a god, it did not mean that the king was on a par with the great gods, any more than the Roman emperor was thought to be on a par with Jupiter or Mars. But he was a god. As we have seen, in Egyptian and Roman circles, there were levels of divinity, and so too in Jewish circles. Thus we find highly exalted terms used of the king of Israel, terms that may surprise readers who think–on the basis of the kind of thinking that developed in the fourth Christian century–that there is an unbridgeable chasm between God and humans. Nonetheless, here it is, in the Bible itself, the king is called both Lord and God

“For example, Psalm 110:1… The first term, LORD–traditionally printed in capital letters in English–is the Hebrew name of God YHWH, often spelled Yahweh. The four Hebrew letters representing that name were considered so special that in traditional Judaism they were not (and are not) pronounced. They are sometimes called the Tetragrammaton (Greek for ‘four letters’). The second term, ‘Lord,’ is a different word, adn (= adonai, or adoni), which is a common term for the Lord God but is also a term that could be used, for example, by a slave for his master. What is striking here is that YHWH is speaking to ‘my Lord’ and telling him to ‘sit at my right hand.’ Any being enthroned with God is sharing the glory, status, and honor due to God himself. There is not a question of identity or absolute parity here–the king, sitting at God’s right hand–is not God Almighty himself. That is clear from what is said next: God will conquer the king’s enemies for him and put them under his feet. But he is doing so for one whom he has exalted up to the level of his own throne. The king is being portrayed AS A DIVINE BEING who lives in the presence of God ABOVE ALL OTHER CREATURES.

“Even more stark is Psalm 45:6-7, in which the king is addressed in the following remarkably exalted terms, as a God…

“It is clear that the person addressed as ‘O God’ (Elohim) is not God Almighty but the king, because of what is said later: God Almighty is the king’s own God and has ‘anointed’ him with oil–the standard act of the king’s coronation ceremony in ancient Israel. And so God has both anointed and exalted the king above all others, EVEN TO A LEVEL OF DEITY. The King is in some sense God. Not equal with God Almighty, obviously (since the differentiation is made clearly, even here), but God nonetheless.

“A yet more astonishing example comes in the prophet Isaiah, chapter 9, which celebrates a new king who has been given to the people. Anyone who knows Handel’s Messiah will recognize the words: but unlike Handel, the passage in its original context in Isaiah appears to be referring not merely to the birth of the king, but to the birth of the king AS THE SON OF GOD–in other words, it is about his coronation. At this coronation, a ‘child’ has been given to the people– that is, the king has been made the ‘son of God.’ But what is said about the king is truly remarkable…

“That this passage is referring to the king of Israel is obvious by the final line. This is a king from the line of David: most scholars think it is reference to the king at the time of Isaiah’s prophecy, King Hezekiah. He is acclaimed as the ‘son’ of God, one with great authority and one who will bring endless peace. Clearly, this person is not God Almighty himself, since his authority is said to ‘grow continually,’ and one can hardly imagine God not having final, ultimate, and complete authority from the outset. Nonetheless, the epithets delivered for the king are astounding. He is called ‘Mighty God’ and ‘Everlasting Father.’ As the son of God he is exalted to the level of God AND SO HAS GOD’S STATUS, AUTHORITY, AND POWER–so much so that he can be called God.” (Ehrman, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee [HarperOne, First edition 2014], 2. Divine Humans in Ancient Judaism, pp. 77-80; bold and capital emphasis ours)

With that said we are ready to proceed to the second part of our discussion.