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Jesus (peace be upon him)

Jesus1 (peace be upon him) represents the common link between the two religions having the most followers on the earth today, Christianity and Islām. The following study of Jesus’ message and his person is based on this link. It is hoped that through this study, both Muslims and Christians will better understand the significance of Jesus (peace be upon him) and the importance of his message.

The topic ‘The True Message of Jesus (peace be upon him) is comprised of two basic parts:
1.The Message and
2.The Person of Jesus (peace be upon him). 
Each one is inseparable from the other.  In order to understand Jesus’ message, we must know who he was.  However, for us to understand who he was, it is also necessary to identify and comprehend his message.

There are two possible avenues which may be taken to look into the identity of Jesus (peace be upon him) and the content of his message.  One is based on the historical record compiled by modern historians from the writings and relics of that period and the other is based on the reports contained in the revealed Scriptures.  

In reality, there is very little historical evidence available to inform us about who Jesus (peace be upon himwas or to determine what his message was.  The official historical documents of that time contain virtually no record of Jesus (peace be upon him).  A biblical scholar, R.T. France, writes, “No 1st century inscription mentions him and no object or building has survived which has a specific link to him.” (Time, 18/12/1995).  This fact has even led some Western historians to mistakenly claim that Jesus (peace be upon him) never actually existed.  Therefore, research has to be primarily based on the scriptures which address the person and the mission of Jesus (peace be upon him).  The scriptures in question are those officially recognized by both Christianity and Islām.   However, to accurately analyze the information contained in these religious texts, it is essential to first determine their validity.  Are they reliable sources of documentary evidence, or humanly concocted tales and myths, or a mixture of both?  Are the Bible’s Old and New Testaments divinely revealed scriptures?  Is the Qur’ān authentic?

For the Bible and the Qur’ān to be the divine word of God, they must be free from inexplicable contradictions, and there should be no doubt about their content nor about their authors.  If this is the case, the material contained in the Old and New Testaments and the Qur’ān can then be considered reliable sources of information concerning the message and the person of Jesus (peace be upon him)...


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1 Jesus is an anglicised name and the most widely recognised.  In other parts of the world, he is also known as Yeshua, Yasu, `Eesa (peace be upon him). 




The True Message of Jesus Christ: Book Summary / Excerpts

Chapter One: THE SCRIPTURES

For the religious scriptures to be the divine word of God, they must be free from inexplicable contradictions, and there should be no doubt about their content nor about their authors. If this is the case, the material contained in the religious texts can then be considered reliable sources of information concerning the message and the person of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him)...

A group of theologians from the major Protestant sects, along with noted Roman Catholic Biblical scholars in the U.S., after a detailed examination of the earliest manuscripts of the New Testament, concluded that the only words of the 'Lord's prayer' that can be accurately attributed to Jesus  is "Father". That is, according to these learned church scholars, all the words that came after the beginning phrase, "Our father", of the most fundamental Christian prayer, were added centuries later by church scribes who copied the early manuscripts of the Gospels. (Ref: "O Lord, Who Wrote Thy Prayer?', Newsweek, 31/10/88, p. 44)

‎...'U.S. News & World Report' further quoted the team of scholars as saying that over 80% of the words ascribed to Jesus in the Gospels may be apocryphal (i.e. untrue or invented).

Versions of the English Bible

From the preface of the Bible, the Revised Standard Version: "...the King James Version [of the Bible] has grave defects. By the middle of the nineteenth century, the development of Biblical studies and the discovery of many manuscripts more ancient than those upon which the King James Version was based, made it manifest that these defects are so many and so serious as to call for revision of the English translation."

In the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, a number of key verses from the King James Version of the Old and the New Testaments, which Biblical scholars concluded were added in later centuries, were removed from the text and placed in the footnotes. For example, the famous passage in the Gospel of John 8.7 about an adulteress who was about to be stoned. Jesus was supposed to have said: "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." Biblical scholars have concluded that these words cannot be attributed to Jesus!

Another example is the passage attributed to Jesus and used as evidence of reference to the Trinity. In John 5.7, Jesus was supposed to have said: "There are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." These words cannot be attributed to Jesus either. The well·known Biblical scholar, Benjamin Wilson, writes that this text is not contained in any Greek manuscript which was written earlier than the 15th century! Consequently, in the Revised Standard Version, this verse was deleted from the text without even so much as a footnote.

Apocrypha

The Old Testament of the Roman Catholic Version of the Bible contains 7 more books than the King James Version recognised by the Protestants. The extra books are referred to as the "Apocrypha" (i.e., of doubtful authority) and were removed from the Bible in 1611 by Protestant Bible scholars.  

The Gospels

Aramaic was the spoken language at the time and place Jesus (peace be upon him) lived and his disciples spoke and taught in Aramaic. However, the 4 Gospels were written in an entirely different speech, common Greek, to serve the majority of the Church, which was becoming Hellenistic (Greek-speaking) instead of Palestinian.

The New Testament Gospel of Mark, though considered by Church scholars to be the oldest of the Gospels, was not written by a disciple of Jesus (peace be upon him).  Biblical scholars concluded, based on the evidence contained in the Gospel, that Mark himself was not a disciple of Jesus.  Furthermore, according to them, it is not even certain who Mark really was. 

The same is the case with the other Gospels.  Although Matthew, Luke and John are the names of disciples of Jesus, the authors of the Gospels bearing their names were not those famous disciples, but other individuals who used the disciples' names to give their accounts credibility. In fact, all the Gospels originally circulated anonymously.  Authoritative names were later assigned to them by unknown figures in the early church.

The discrepancies in the Gospels cast a shadow of doubt on their authenticity as divinely revealed texts. Consequently, most Christian scholars today look at the Old and New Testament books as human accounts which they believe were inspired by God. However, even the claim that they were inspired by God is questionable as it implies that God inspired the authors to write mistakes and contradictions in His scriptures.
  • E.g. 1. In the Old Testament, the authors of Samuel and Chronicles relate the same story about Prophet David taking a census of the Jews. However, in 2nd Samuel, it states that David acted on God's, while in 1st Chronicles, he acted on Satan's instructions ("And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.")
  • E.g. 2. In 2nd Chronicles, Jehoiachin was described as being 8 yrs old when he began to reign, while in 2nd Kings he is described as being 18 years old. The author of 2nd Samuel described the number of Syrians who died during a battle with Prophet David as being 700 hundred, while the author of 1st Chronicles gave their number as 7,000. 
  • Although some may say that the adding or dropping of a '1' or a '0' is not significant, as it is only a copying mistake, here that is not the case because the Jews spelled out their numbers in words and did not use numerals. Such discrepancies cannot be accepted as part of a divinely revealed text.
  • E.g. 3. In describing the length of a plague prophesied by Gad, the author of 2nd Samuel listed it as 7 years, while the author of 1st Chronicles listed it as 3 years.
  • E.g.4. The Gospel accounts vary regarding who carried the cross on which Jesus (peace be upon him) was supposed to have been crucified. In Matthew, Mark and Luke, it was Simon of Cyrene, and in John, it was Jesus.
  • E.g.5. After Jesus' alleged crucifixion, the Gospel accounts differ as to who visited his tomb, when the visit took place, as well as the state of the tomb when it was visited.
  • E.g.6. The New Testament accounts vary regarding the fate of Judas Iscariot and the money he received for betraying Jesus (peace be upon him).
  • E.g.7. When the genealogy of Jesus (peace be upon him) from David in Matthew 1:616, is compared to that of Luke 3:23-31, there are major discrepancies. Firstly, Matthew recorded that Jesus has 26 parents between himself and Davidt but Luke recorded 41. Secondly, the names in both lists vary radically after David, and only two names are the same!

Having established that the authenticity of both the New and the Old Testament is questionable (see previous post for details), it can then be said that the Bible cannot be used by itself as an authentic reference source for establishing who Jesus (peace be upon him) was, nor the content of his message. 

The Qur'ān

On the other hand, the Qur'ān - believed by Muslims to be the word of God revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) - was written down and memorized, from beginning to end, during the lifetime of the Prophet himself. Since the Prophet's death in 632 CE, an increasing number of people in each successive generation have memorized the complete text of the Qur'ān from beginning to end.

The same principles of analysis which were applied to Bible manuscripts by Bible scholars and which exposed the flaws and changes, have been applied to Qur'ānic manuscripts gathered from around the world. Ancient manuscripts found in the Library of Congress in Washington, the Chester Beatty Museum in Dublin, Ireland, the London Museum, as well as Museums in Tashkent, Turkey and Egypt, from all periods of Islamic history, have been compared. The result of all such studies confirm that there has not been any change in the text from its original writing. For example, the 'Institute für Koranforschung' of the University of Munich, Germany, collected and collated over 42,000 complete or incomplete copies of the Qur'ān.  After some 50 years of study, they reported that in terms of differences between the various copies, there were no variants, except occasional mistakes of copyists, which could easily be ascertained.
.........

Chapter Two: JESUS, THE PERSON

A Messenger

‎"And remember when Jesus, son of Mary. said: 'O Children of Israel, I am the messenger of God sent to you, confirming the Torah which came before me" (Al-Qur'ān, 61:6).  Also, there are many verses in the New Testament supporting the prophethood of Jesus (peace be upon him); the following are only a few: 
  • “And the crowds said, ‘This is the prophet Jesus of Nazareth of Galilee’.” (Matthew, 21.11)
  • “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John, 17.3)“
  • “And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honour, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house’.” (Mark, 6.4)
A Man

All praise is due to God, Who feeds but is never fed. Requiring food is a human act not befitting to God. "The Messiah, Son of Mary, was no more than a messenger and many messengers passed away before him. His mother was exceedingly truthful, and they both ate food. See how God has made the signs clear for them" (Al-Qur'ān, 5:75).  There are numerous accounts in the New Testament which deny Jesus' divinity; the following are only a few:
  • In Matthew 19: 17, Jesus responded to one who addressed him as "O good master'" saying: "Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is God." If he rejected being called "good",66 and stated that only God is truly good, he clearly implies that he is not God. [Jesus here rejects being called 'perfectly good', because perfection belongs only to God. He was 'good', but, being the "Son of man" (Mat. 19:29) - as he liked to call himself - he was capable of error]
  • In John 14:28, Jesus said: "The Father is greater than I" By stating that the "Father" is greater than himself, Jesus distinguishes himself from God.
  • In John 20: 17, Jesus told Mary Magdalene to tell his followers: "I ascend unto my Father and your Father; and to my God and your God" Jesus' reference to God as "my Father and your Father" further emphasises the distinction between himself and God. Furthermore, by referring to God as "his God", he left no room for anyone to claim that he was God.
  • In 1st Timothy, 2:5, Paul writes: "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."

An Immaculate Conception

‎"When the angels said: 'O Mary, indeed God gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary. He will be honoured in this world and the next and will be of those close to God'." 
"She said: 'O my Lord, how can I have a son when no man has touched me?' He said: 'Even so - God creates what He wishes. When He decrees something, He only has to say to it: "Be!" and it is'."  (Al-Qur'ān, 3:45, 47)

The Qur''ān mentions Jesus' miraculous birth; his creation by God was like the creation of Adam, who had neither father nor mother.  "Surely, the example of Jesus, in the sight of God, is like that of Adam. He created him from dust and said: 'Be!' and he was."  (Al-Qur'ān, 3:59) 

The Miracles

Jesus (peace be upon him) performed miracles by the permission of God; he is quoted as saying: "I can of mine own self do nothing..." (John 5:30).  Paul wrote: "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know..." (Acts 2:22)...

...Sadly, those who claim divinity for Jesus (peace be upon him) usually hold up his miracles as evidence. However, other prophets were recorded to have done the same or similar miracles in the Old Testament:
  • E.g.1, Jesus raised the dead - and so did Elijah (I Kings 17:22) and Elisha (II Kings 4:34 and 13:21). 
  • E.g.2, Jesus caused the blind to see - and so did Elisha (II Kings 6:17&20).
  • E.g.3, Jesus healed lepers - Elisha cured Naaman the leper (II Kings 5:14). 
  • E.g.4, Jesus fed 5,000 people with 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish - Elisha fed 100 people with 20 barley loaves and a few ears of corn (II Kings 4:44).
  • E.g.5, Jesus walked on water: Moses and his people crossed the dead sea (Exodus 14:22).

"EVIDENCE" FOR JESUS' DIVINITY

There are a number of verses which have been interpreted by the Catholic and Protestant Churches as evidence for the Divinity of Jesus (peace be upon him).  However, on close examination of these verses, it becomes clear that, either their wordings are ambiguous, leaving them open to a number of different interpretations, or they are additions not found in the early manuscripts of the Bible.  The following are some of the most commonly quoted arguments.

1. "The Alpha and Omega"

In the Book of Revelation 1:8, it is implied that Jesus said the following about himself: "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending..."  However, the above-mentioned wording is according to the King James Version.  In the Revised Standard Version, biblical scholars corrected the translation.  A correction was also made in the New American Bible produced by Catholics.  The translation of that verse has been amended to put it in its correct context as follows: “The LORD GOD says: ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the one who is and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.’”  With these corrections, it becomes evident that this was a statement of God and not a statement of Jesus.

2. "In the beginning was the Word"

The statements: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. and the Word was God..." were not made by Jesus nor were they attributed to him by the author of the Gospel according to John.  The Bible scholars who authored "The Five Gospels" said: "The two pictures painted by John and the synoptic gospels cannot both be historically accurate... The words attributed to Jesus in the 4th Gospel are the creation of the evangelist for the most part, and reflect the developed language of John's Christian community."

3. "Son·of God"

Another of the evidences used for Jesus' divinity is the application of the title "Son of God" to Jesus.  However, there are numerous places in the Bible where this title has been given to others:  
  • E.g.1: Psalms 2:7 states that God said David is His BEGOTTEN son.
  • E.g.2: Exodus 4:22-23 states that God called Israel (Jacob) His son.
  • E.g.3: 2nd Samuel 8:13-14 states that God called Prophet Solomon His son.
  • E.g.4: Job 1:6 states that Angels are "sons of God".
  • E.g.5: Luke 3:38 states that Adam is the son of God.
  • E.g.6: Psalms 89:26-27 states that God promised to make Prophet David His son.

Ancient Thoughts

According to the ancient Church historian, Irenaeus (c. 185 CE) the Nazarenes (Jerusalem Church, under the leadership of James) believed in one God, the Creator; taught that Jesus was the Messiah; used only the Gospel According to Matthew, and rejected Paul as an apostate.  (The New Encyclopaedia Britannica)

There was serious conflict between the Pauline and the Jerusalem interpretations of Jesus and his message.  This conflict, after simmering for years, finally led to a complete break, by which the Pauline Christian Church was founded, comprising, in effect, a new religion separated from Judaism.  On the other hand, the Jerusalem Nazarenes did not sever their links with Judaism, but regarded themselves essentially as practicing Jews, loyal to the Torah, who also believed in Jesus, a human Messiah figure. (The Myth-maker, Hyam Maccoby)

In the late 3rd and early 4th centuries, Arius (a presbyter of Alexandria, Egypt, d. 336 CE) also taught the finite nature of Christ and the absolute Oneness of God, which attracted a large following until he was declared a heretic by the council of Nicaea in May 325 CE.  During the council, he refused to sign the formula of faith stating that Christ was of the same divine nature as God.  However, influential support from colleagues (in Asia Minor and from the emperor Constantine's daughter) succeeded in effecting Arius' return from exile and his readmission into the church. (The New Encyclopaedia Britannica)

The movement which he was supposed to have begun, but which was in fact an extension of Jerusalem Nazarene/Jewish Christian belief, came to be known as Arianism and constituted the greatest internal threat to the Pauline Christian orthodoxy's belief in Jesus' divinity.    

Modern Thoughts

There are many modern scholars in Christianity who hold that Jesus Christ was not God.  In 1977, a group of seven biblical scholars, including leading Anglican theologians and other New Testament scholars, published a book called "The Myth of God Incarnate".  In the preface, the editor, John Hick, wrote the following:
  • "The writers of this book are convinced that another major theological development is called for in this last part of the twentieth century.  The need arises from growing knowledge of Christian origins, and involves a recognition that Jesus was (as he is presented in Acts 2.21) 'a man approved by God' for a special role within the divine purpose, and that the later conception of him as God incarnate, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity living a human life, is a mythological or poetic way of expressing his significance for us."  (Ref: The Myth of God Incarnate, p. ix)
There is a broad agreement among New Testament scholars that the historical Jesus did not make the claim to deity that later Christian thought was to make for him; he did not understand himself to be God, or God the Son, incarnate [in the flesh].  (Ref: The Metaphor of God Incarnate, pp. 27-8)

The late Archbishop Michael Ramsey, who was himself a New Testament scholar, wrote that "Jesus did not claim deity for himself."  (Ref: Jesus and the Living Past, p. 39)

In a major study of the origins of the doctrine of the incarnation, James Dunn, concludes that "there was no real evidence in the earliest Jesus tradition of what could fairlv be called a consciousness of divinity."  (Ref: Christology in the Making, p. 60)
Brian Hebblethwaite, a staunch upholder of the traditional Nicene-Calcedonian Christology, acknowledges that "it is no longer possible to defend the divinity of Jesus by reference to the claims of Jesus." (Ref: The Incarnation. p. 74)
  • Hebblethwaite and Dunn, and other scholars like them who still believe in Jesus' divinity, argue instead that Jesus did not know he was God incarnate!  This only became known after his resurrection!

.........

Chapter Three: THE MESSAGE  

Submission

The foundation of Jesus' message was submission to the will of God, because that is the foundation of the religion which God prescribed for man since the beginning of time.

"Truly, the religion in the sight of God is Islām (Submission)."  (Al-Qur'ān, 3:19)  [In Arabic, submission to God's will is expressed by the word 'Islām']

In John 5:30, it is narrated that Jesus said: "I can do nothing on my own authority; as I hear, I judge; and my judgement is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me."

The Law

The "will of God" is contained in the divinely revealed laws which the prophets taught their followers.  Consequently, obedience to divine law is the foundation of worship.
  • "Indeed, God revealed the Torah in which was guidance and light, by which the prophets, who submitted to God's will, judged (the Jews) ... and whoever does not judge by what God has revealed is a disbeliever."  (Al-Qur'ān, 5:44)
  • Jesus was also reported in the Gospel according to Matthew 19:16-17 to have made obedience to the divine laws the key to paradise: "Now behold, one came and said to him, "Good teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?"  So he said to him, "Why do you call me good?  No one is good but One that is God.  But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments."
  • Also, in Matthew 5:19, Jesus was reported to have insisted on strict obedience to the commandments saying, "Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
This was the religion conveyed in the message of Jesus: submission to the will of the one true God by obedience to His commandments. Jesus stressed to his followers that his mission did not cancel the laws received by Prophet Moses.  As the prophets who came after Moses maintained the law, so did Jesus.  God said in the Qur'ān: "And in their footsteps, I sent Jesus, son of Mary, confirming the Torah that had come before him and I gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirmation of the Torah tbat bad come before it."  

In Matthew 5:17·18, Jesus stated: "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the way on the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them..."  However, Paul, who claimed to be a disciple of Jesus, systematically cancelled the laws.  In his letter to the Romans, chapter 7:6, Paul stated, "But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit."

Unitarianism

Jesus called people to worship God alone, as the prophets before him did: "Surely, God has sent to every nation a messenger (saying): 'Worship God and avoid false gods." (Qur'ān 16:36).  In Luke 3:8, the Devil asks Jesus to worship him, promising him the authority and glory of all of the kingdoms of this world, "And Jesus answered him. 'It is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve'."  Thus, the essence of the message of Jesus was that only God deserves to be worshipped and that the worship of anyone or anything besides God or along with God is false.  Jesus not only called people to this message but he also practically demonstrated it for them by bowing down in prayer and worshipping God himself.  In Mark 14:32, it states: "And they went to a place which was called Gethsemane; and he (Jesus) said to his disciples, 'Sit here, while I pray'."

Jesus called them to worship the one true God who is unique in His qualities.  God does not have the attributes of His creation, nor does any creature share any of His attributes. In Matthew 19:16-17, when the man called Jesus 'good', saying, "Good teacher, what good thing shall I do that may have eternal life?"  Jesus replied, "Why do you call me good?   No one is good but One, that is, God." He denied the attribution of 'infinite goodness' or 'perfect goodness' to himself, and affirmed that this attribute belongs to God alone.

Jesus' message, which urged mankind to worship one God alone, became distorted after his departure.  Later followers, beginning with Paul, turned that pure and simple message into a complicated trinitarian philosophy which justified the worship of Jesus, and then the worship of Jesus' mother, Mary, the angels and the saints:
  • Mary became an object of veneration in the Christian Church since the apostolic age.  She was given the title theololeos, meaning "God-bearer" or "mother of God" in the 3rd or 4th century.  Popular devotion to Mary in the form of feasts, devotional services, and the rosary has played a tremendously important role in the lives of Roman Catholics and the Orthodox. (The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, vol. 7 and vol. 16).
  • The angels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael were made saints and the religious celebration known as Michaelmas (called, "the Feast of St. Michael and All Saints" by the Anglicans) was dedicated to them on the 29th of September by the Western churches, and 8th of November by the Eastern Orthodox Church.  The cult of St. Michael began in the Eastern Church in the 4th century CE.  Due to St. Michael's traditional position as leader of the heavenly armies, veneration of all angels was eventually incorporated into his cult.  (Ref: The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, vol. 8, p. 95). 
  • Catholics have a long list of saints to whom they tum in times of need.  If something is lost, Saint Anthony of Thebes is prayed to in order to help find it. I19 St.  Jude Thaddaeus is the patron saint of the impossible and is prayed to for intercession in incurable illnesses, unlikely marriages or the like.  (Ref: The World Book Encyclopedia vol. 1 and vol. 11).  
  • The patron saint of travellers was Saint Christopher, to whom travellers used to pray for protection up until 1969, when he was officially struck off the list of saints by papal decree, after it was confirmed that he was fictitious (Ref: The World Book Encyclopedia vol. 3).
Worshipping 'saints' contradicts and corrupts the worship of One God; and it is in vain, because neither the living (from amongst God's creation) nor the dead can answer the prayers of mankind.  The worship of God should not be shared with His creation in any way, shape or form: "Surely, those whom you call on in prayer besides God are slaves like yourselves."  (Qur'ān, 7:194)


Images

Jesus did not condone the pagan practice of making images of God.  He upheld the prohibition mentioned in the Torah: "'You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth" (Exodus, 20:4).  Consequently, the use of religious images, called icons, was firmly opposed by the early generation of Christian scholars.
  • The "Iconoclastic Controversy" was a dispute over the use of religious images (icons) in the Byzantine Empire during the 8th and 9th centuries.  The Iconoclasts (those who rejected images) objected to icon worship for several reasons, including the Old Testament prohibition against images in the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:4) and the possibility of idolatry...
  • In the early church, the making and veneration of portraits of Christ and the saints were consistently opposed.  The use of icons nevertheless steadily gained in popularity, especially in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire.  Toward the end ofthe 6th century CE and in the 7th, icons became the object of an officially encouraged cult, often implying a superstitious belief in their animation.  Opposition to such practices became particularly strong in Asia Minor.  In 726, the Byzantine emperor Leo III took a public stand against icons and by 730 their use was officially prohibited.  This led to the persecution of icon worshippers that reached great severity in the reign of Leo's successor, Constantine V (741-775 CE)...
  • In 787, however, the empress Irene convoked the seventh ecumenical council at Nicaea, at which Iconoclasm was condemned and the use of images was re-established.  The Iconoclasts regained power in 814 after Leo V's accession, and the use of icons was again forbidden at a council (815 CE).  The second Iconoclast period ended with the death of the emperor Theophilus in 842.  In 843 his widow finally restored icon veneration, an event still celebrated in the Eastern Orthodox Church as the Feast of Orthodoxy.  (Ref: The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, vol. 6, p. 237) 
Despite opposition of religious images by the early generation of Christian scholars, in time, the Greek and Roman tradition of image-making and portraying God in human form eventually won out.  The prohibition is to prevent the eventual deterioration of worship of God into the worship of His creation.  Once a human being makes a picture in his or her mind of God, the person is, in fact, trying to make God like His creation, because the human mind can only picture the things which it has seen, and God can not be seen in this life. 

Christians with a tradition of worshipping through images often question how God can be worshipped without visualizing Him.  God should be worshipped based on the knowledge of His attributes which He revealed in authentic scripture. 
  • For example, God describes Himself in the Qur'ān as being All-Merciful, so His worshippers should reflect on God's many mercies and give thanks to God for them.  They should also contemplate on the nature of His mercy to them and show mercy to other human beings.  
  • Likewise, God refers to Himself as being Oft-Forgiving, so His worshippers should tum to Him in repentance and not give up hope when they commit sins.  They should also appreciate God's forgiveness by being forgiving to other human beings.

Prophesy

Part of Jesus' message was to inform his followers of the prophet who would come after him.  As John the Baptist heralded the coming of Jesus Christ, Jesus in turn heralded the coming of the last of the prophets of God, Muhammad.  In the Gospel according to John 14:16, Jesus is quoted as saying, "And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor (paraclete) to be with you for ever."  The Greek word paraclete is translated as "Comforter" in the King James Version, and as "Advocate" and "Helper" in other translations.  Parakletos means one who pleads the cause of another, one who counsels or advises another from deep concern for the other's welfare. (Ref: Beacon Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 168)

Christian laymen usually interpret the "Counsellor" mentioned in John 14:16 as the Holy Spirit.  However:
  • Firstly, in 1st John 4:1, the term "Spirit" is used to refer to a prophet, "Beloved. believe not every spirit, but try thy spirits whether they are of God, because many false prophets are gone out into the world." 
  • Secondly, the phrase "another Counsellor" implies that it will be someone else like Jesus and not the Holy Spirit.  "Another" is translated from the Greek allan, which is the masculine accusative form of alios meaning "another of the same kind".  
  • Also, in John 16:7, Jesus is reported to have said, "Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you."  The term "Counsellor" could not be referring to the Holy Spirit here, because - according to the Gospels - the Holy Spirit was already present in the world prior to Jesus' birth, as well as during his ministry.  This verse implies that the "Counsellor" had not already come.
Jesus' declaration that the Prophet-Counsellor "will be with you forever" could be interpreted to mean that there would be no need for additional prophets to succeed this Counsellor.  He would be the last of the Prophets of God, whose message would be preserved until the end of the world.

Jesus' foretelling the coming of Muhammad - may God's peace be upon both of them - confirmed the prophesies about Prophet Muhammad in the Torah.  In Deuteronomy 18:18-19, it is written that the Lord said to Moses: 
  • "I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren;
The brethren of the Jews - who are themselves descendants of Abraham's son Isaac - are the Arabs, descendants of Isaac's brother Ishmael.)
  • ...and I will put my words in his mouth, 
The Qur'ān literally means "the recital".  Prophet Muhammad taught that the Qur'ān was the words of God.  His own explanations and instructions are referred to as Hadeeth.)
  • ...and he shall speak to them all that I command him.  And whoever will not give heed to my words which he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him." 
Each of the 114 chapters of the Qur'ān begins with the prayer "In the name of God, the Beneficent, the Most Merciful." (except chapter 9).

Isaiah 42 prophesies about a chosen "Servant of the Lord" whose prophetic mission would be to all mankind, unlike the Hebrew prophets whose missions were limited to Israel:  "...he will bring forth justice to the nations...  He will not fail or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law...  Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar [i.e., the Arabs] inhibits."  Ishmael's descendants came to be known as Arabs, a term which in Hebrew, meant those who inhabited the 'arabah or desert  (Dictionary ofthe Bible, p. 47).  The most prominently mentioned of Ishmael's twelve sons is Qaydar (Kedar in Hebrew).  In some Bible verses Qaydar is synonymous with Arabs in general (Jeremiah 2:10; Ezekiel 27:21; Isaiah 60:7; Song of Solomon 1:5).

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Chapter Four: THE WAY  

The other aspect of Jesus' message was his invitation of people to follow his 'way'.  Prophets brought divine laws or confirmed those brought by previous prophets, and invited people to worship God by obeying the divinely revealed laws.  They also practically demonstrated for their followers how one should live by the law.  Consequently, they also invited those who believed in them to follow their way as the correct way to come close to God.  

This principle is enshrined in the Gospel according to John 14:6: "Jesus said to him, "I am the way and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me."  

Although those who worship Jesus commonly quote this verse as part of the evidence for his divinity, Jesus did not invite people to worship himself instead of God, or as God.  If these words were actuaJly spoken by Jesus, what they mean is that one cannot worship God except in the way defined by the prophets of God.  Jesus emphasized to his disciples that they could only worship God by the way which he had taught them. 

The way of the prophets is the only way to God, because it was prescribed by God Himself and the purpose of the prophets was to convey God's instructions to mankind.  Without prophets, people would not know how to worship God.  Consequently, all prophets informed their followers of how to worship God.  Conversely, adding anything to the religion brought by the prophets is incorrect.

Jesus' Way

First and foremost, it must be realized that Jesus was the last in the line of Jewish prophets.  He lived according to the Torah, the law of Moses, and taught his followers to do likewise.  In Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus stated: "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the {way on the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them.  For, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished."  

Sadly, about five years after the end of Jesus' ministry, a young rabbi called Saul (of Tarsus) claimed to have seen Jesus in a vision and began to change Jesus' way.  Paul (his Roman name) had considerable respect for Roman philosophy and he spoke proudly of his own Roman citizenship.  His conviction was that non-Jews who became Christians should not be burdened with the Torah in any respect.  The author of Acts 13:39 quotes Paul as saying, "And by him every one that believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses."  It was primarily through the efforts of Paul that the Church began to take on its non·Jewish character.  Paul wrote most of the New Testament letters (epistles), which the Church accepts as the official doctrine and inspired Scripture.  These letters do not preserve the Gospel of Jesus or even represent it; instead Paul transformed the teachings of Christ into a Hellenic (Graeco-Roman) philosophy. 

The following are some examples of teachings which Prophet Jesus followed and taught, but which were later abandoned by the Church.  However, most of these teachings were revived in the final message of Islām brought by Prophet Muhammad and remain a fundamental part of Muslim religious practices until today.
  • Circumcision
According to the Old Testament, this tradition began with Prophet Abraham, who was himself neither a Jew nor a Christian.  In Genesis 17:10, it is written that God said to Abraham "This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your descendants after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised."
In the Gospel according to Luke 2:21: "And at the end of 8 days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb."  Consequently, to be circumcised was a part of Jesus' way.  
However, today most Christians are not circumcised, because of a rationale introduced by Paul.  He claimed that circumcision was the circumcision of the heart.  In his letter to the Romans 2:29, he wrote: "He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal."  In his letter to the Galatians 5:2, he wrote: "Now I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you."  This was Paul's false interpretation. On the other hand, Jesus did he say anything about "circumcision of the heart"; he kept the "everlasting covenant" and was circumcised in the flesh. 
  • Pork
Jesus followed the laws of Moses and he did not eat pork.  Leviticus 11 :7·8 says: "And the swine, because it parts the hoof and is cloven-footed but does not chew the cud, is unclean to you.  Of their flesh you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch; they are unclean to you." (see also, Deuteronomy 14: 8).   
  • Blood
Jesus also did not eat anything containing blood, nor did he eat blood.  God is recorded as having instructed Prophet Moses in the Torah, Leviticus 19:26,"You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it."  Particular rites of slaughter were prescribed by God for all the nations to whom prophets were sent, in order to ensure that most of the blood was effectively removed from the slaughtered animals and to remind human beings of God's bounties.
Jesus and his early followers observed the proper method of slaughter by mentioning God's name and cutting the jugular veins of the animals while they were living to allow the heart to pump out the blood.  
  • Alcohol
Jesus consecrated himself to God and therefore abstained from alcoholic drinks according to the instructions recorded in Numbers 6:1-4: "And the Lord said to Moses, 'Say to the people of Israel, When either a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of the Nazirite, to separate himself to the Lord, he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink..."
As to the 'miracle of turning water into wine', it is found only in the Gospel of John, which consistently contradicts the other three gospels.  As mentioned earlier, the Gospel of John was opposed as heretical in the early Church, while the other three Gospels were referred to as the Synoptic Gospels because the texts contained a similar treatment of Jesus' life (The New Encyclopaedia Britannica, vol. 5, p. 379).  Consequently, New Testament scholars have expressed doubt about the authenticity of this incident.  
  • Ablution before Prayer
Prior to making formal prayer, Jesus used to wash his limbs according to the teachings of the Torah.  Moses and Aaron are recorded as doing this in Exodus 40:30-1, "And he set the laver between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it for washing, with which Moses and Aaron and his sons washed their hands and their feet... as the Lord commanded Moses. "  
  • Prostration in Prayer
Jesus is described in the Gospels as prostrating during prayer.  In Matthew 26:39, the author describes an incident which took place when Jesus went with his disciples to Gethsemane: "And going a little farther he fell on his and prayed..."
Christians today kneel down, clasping their hands, in a posture which cannot be ascribed to Jesus.  The method of prostration in prayer followed by Jesus was not of his own making.  It was the mode of prayer of the prophets before him.  In the Old Testament, Genesis 17:3, Prophet Abraham is recorded to have fallen on his face in prayer; in Numbers 16:22 & 20:6, both Moses and Aaron are recorded to have fallen on their faces in worship; in Joshua 5: 14 & 7:6, Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshipped.  In Kings 18:42, Elijah bowed down on the ground and put his face between his knees.  This was the way of the prophets through whom God chose to convey His word to the world; and it is only by this way that those who claim to follow Jesus will gain the salvation which he preached in his Gospel.
  • Modest Dress and Veiling
The women around Jesus veiled themselves according to the practice of the women around the earlier prophets.  Their garments were loose and covered their bodies completely, and they wore scarves which covered their hair.  In Genesis 24:64-5: "And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she alighted from the camel, and said to the servant, 'Who is the man yonder, walking in the field to meet us?'  The servant said, 'It is my master.'  So she took her veil and covered herself."  Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians, "But any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonours her head - it is the same as if her head were shaven.  For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair: but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil."  Some may argue that it was the general custom of those times to be completely veiled.  However, that is not the case.  In both Rome and Greece, whose cultures dominated the region, the popular dress was quite short and revealed the arms, legs and chest.  Only religious women in Palestine, following Jewish tradition, covered themselves modestly.
According to Rabbi Dr. M. Brayer (Professor of Biblical Literature at Yeshiva University), it was customary that Jewish women went out in public with a head-covering which, sometimes, even covered the whole face, leaving only one eye free.  He further stated that "during the Tannaitic period, the Jewish woman's failure to cover her head was considered an affront to her modesty.  When her head was uncovered she might be fined four hundred zuzim for this offence (Ref: The Jewish Woman in Rabbinic Literature).
The famous early Christian theologian, St. Tertullian (d. 220 CE), in his famous treatise, 'On The Veiling of Virgins' wrote, ''Young women, you wear your veils out on the streets, so you should wear them in the church; you wear them when you are among strangers, then wear them among your brothers..."  Among the Canon laws of the Catholic church until today, there is a law that requires women to cover their heads in church (Ref: Clara M. Henning, Religion and Sexism).  Women from Christian denominations, such as the Amish and the Menonites for example, remain veiled to the present day
.
  • Greeting
Jesus greeted his followers by saying Peace be upon you.  This greeting was according to that of the prophets, as mentioned in the books of the Old Testament.
E.g.1: John 20:19: "Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you..."
E.g.2: 1st Samuel 25:6, Prophet David instructed emissaries whom he sent to Nabal: "And thus you shall salute him: 'Peace be to you and peace be to your house, and peace be to all that you have.'" 
  • Fasting
According to the Gospels, Jesus fasted for forty days.  Matthew 4:2: "And he fasted forty days and forty nights."  This was in accordance with the practice of the earlier prophets.  Moses is also recorded in Exodus 34:28, to have fasted: "And he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water."
In the Qur'ān, the believers are instructed to observe fasting: "O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, in order that 
you may become pious." (Qur'ān, 2:183)

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