Lack of Atonement in Luke/Acts

This is our third rebuttal to Shamoun (previous rebuttals can be seen here *,*). We will respond to all of Shamoun's shoddy polemics, though not in the precise order in which he raised them.

I. Jesus (peace be upon him) as a righteous martyr in Luke/Acts

Consider the following passage in Mark 10:45:

"For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many"

The bit in italics conveys an atoning salvific value and significance to Jesus' (peace be upon him) death.

The author of Luke/Acts (henceforth known as 'Luke' for the sake of convenience), who is using Mark as his source, does not quote the above saying.

Some, however, claim that Luke does reproduce the above Marcan passage, albeit in a severely altered form, in Luke 22:27:

For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

If so, then Luke has removed from Mark 10:45 the atoning significance of Jesus' (peace be upon him) death. There is no mention here of Jesus (peace be upon him) being a 'ransom' or giving his life 'for many'.

Luke also alters the confession of the centurion. Unlike the Marcan centurion, who says (15:39), "Surely this man was the Son of God," the Lucan centurion says (Luke 23:47):

"Truly this man was innocent." (or: "Surely this was a righteous man" - New International Version)

Even putting the above aside, consider the following passage from Acts 8:

25 So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans.

 26 But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, "Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza." (This is a desert road.)

 27 So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship,

 28 and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah.

 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, "Go up and join this chariot."

 30 Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, "Do you understand what you are reading?"

 31 And he said, "Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?" And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

 32 Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this:

 34 The eunuch answered Philip and said, "Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this? Of himself or of someone else?"

 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.

Above, Luke has an Ethiopian eunuch read a passage from Isaiah 53 - a passage which came to be employed by Christians to explain Jesus' (peace be upon him) death as a vicarious atonement. It is precisely here where we should have expected a reference from Luke to Jesus' (peace be upon him) atoning death. But astonishingly enough, Luke makes no reference to the Servant of the Lord who was "wounded for our transgressions" (Isaiah 53:5), who was "bruised for our iniquities" (53:5) and who made himself "an offering for sin" (53:10). Luke stops citing Isaiah at a crucial point. He avoids citing the statement regarding the servant who was "stricken for the transgression of my people" (53:8).  Instead, Luke uses Isaiah to argue that Jesus (peace be upon him) died as an innocent victim who was subsequently vindicated.

Luke also refers to Isaiah's Song of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52:13) in Acts 3:13, where Peter says that God "glorified his servant" (Jesus (peace be upon him).  But here too he makes no reference to Jesus' (peace be upon him) atoning death. Once again, Luke uses the Isaian passage to argue that Jesus (peace be upon him) was killed unjustly but was then vindicated/glorified by God.

Based on the above, it appears that Luke goes out of his way to eliminate references to the atonement theology from his two-volume work. At no place does he say that Jesus (peace be upon him) died "for you" or "for your sins." Likewise, there is also a complete absence of the atoning sacrifice theology in the speeches presented in Acts.

Prominent British scholar, Prof. James Dunn, explains (bold ours, italics by Dunn):

An important corollary to the Acts sermons' concentration on the resurrection is the absence of any theology of the death of Jesus. His death is mentioned, but only as a bare fact (usually highlighting Jewish responsibility). The historical fact is not interpreted (2.23, 36; 3.13-15; 4.10; 5.30; 7.52; 10.39; 13.27f.). It is never said, for example, that 'Jesus died on our behalf' or 'for our sins'; there are no suggestions that Jesus' death was a sacrifice. The few brief allusions to Jesus as the Servant (of Second Isaiah) pick up the theme of vindication following suffering, not of vicarious suffering as such (3.13, 26; 4.27, 30; so also 8.30-35). Similarly the allusion to Deut. 21.22f. in Acts 5.30 and 10.39 ('hanging him on a tree' - cf. 13.29) seem to be intended (by Luke) to highlight Jesus' shame and disgrace, and so to serve the same humiliation-vindication motif; to draw the theology of Gal. 3.13 from them is to read more into the text than sound exegesis permits . (James D. G. Dunn, Unity And Diversity In The New Testament: An Inquiry into the Character of Earliest Christianity, 2006, Third Edition, SCM Press, pp. 17-18.)

It should be emphasised that Luke is eliminating references to Jesus' (peace be upon him) atoning death rather than merely overlooking or innocently avoiding making such references. Throughout the speeches in Acts, Luke consistently portrays Jesus' (peace be upon him) death as a miscarriage of justice - not an atoning sacrifice - which God reversed through Jesus' (peace be upon him) resurrection. The theme of Jesus (peace be upon him) being innocent is very strong in Acts.

Nowhere (with one exception, to be discussed below) in Luke's two-volume work is Jesus (peace be upon him) said to die "for" anyone. The Lucan Jesus (peace be upon him) is a righteous martyr who is vindicated/glorified by God; he does not die for the sins of mankind.

One passage which is occasionally used by some commentators to argue for the presence of the atonement theology in Luke, even if slender, is Acts 20:28, which says:

Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. [Or: Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of the Lord which he purchased with his own blood.]

Commenting upon the above passage, Dunn observes (ibid, p. 18 - bold ours, italics by Dunn):

. even 20:28 ('the church of the Lord - or of God - which he obtained with his own blood - or with the blood of his own'), not properly speaking part of an evangelistic proclamation, remains more than a little puzzling and obscure. In short, an explicit theology of the death of Jesus is markedly lacking in the kerygma of the Acts sermons. 

Acts 20:28 makes no reference to Jesus' (peace be upon him) death as an atoning sacrifice for sin, but of God's acquiring the church through the use of Jesus' (peace be upon him) blood. The themes of repentance and the forgiveness of sins are close to Luke's heart. For Luke, repentance leads to forgiveness whereas a lack of repentance results in God's judgement. In Acts 5:28 Luke employs similar wording when he mentions the accusation of the high priest who claims that the disciples are working to make the Jewish leadership guilty of "the blood of this man. [or, this man's blood]" In response, Luke cites Peter who says:

The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead-whom you killed by hanging him on a cross. 31 God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might bring Israel to repentance and forgive their sins.

Thus, the unjustly Jesus (peace be upon him) was exalted by God so that he could "bring [give] Israel to repentance and forgive their sins". This suggests that God acquires the church through the use of Jesus' (peace be upon him) blood because the blood creates awareness of guilt and leads to repentance. It is repentance which results in forgiveness of sins.

Prof. Dunn rightfully concludes (ibid - bold ours):

. so far as the kerygma of the Acts sermons is concerned, we have to say that it lacks a theology of the cross, it makes no attempt to attribute a definite atoning significance to the death of Jesus. 

II. Luke 22:19-20 [1]

In the whole of the gospel of Luke and Acts, there is only one passage where Jesus (peace be upon him) is clearly said to die "for you". The passage is (we will label it the "longer form"):

17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you.

18 For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."

19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."

20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

However, there are reasons to believe that the above is not what Luke originally wrote. There is a shorter form of the above passage preserved in Codex Bezae (also known as 'D'), which reads:

17 And taking the cup

giving thanks he said

Take this

divide it amongst yourselves

18 For I say to you

henceforth I shall not drink of

the fruit of the vine,

until the Kingdom of God comes.

19 And taking bread, giving thanks he broke it, and gave it

to them, saying

This is my body.

The shorter text is shared by most of the oldest Latin manuscripts such as: e a b ff2 i 1. [2]

The shorter form conforms completely with Luke's theology - viewing Jesus (peace be upon him) as a righteous martyr whom God vindicated. It does not convey the notion of Jesus' (peace be upon him) death as atonement. The longer form, if accepted as original, would be the only passage in the whole of Luke's two-volume work where Jesus (peace be upon him) is said to have clearly given his body "for you" and to have shed his blood "for you"  - a notion which, as we saw above, Luke goes out of his way to eliminate. Luke 22:19b-20 would be the only exception. In the words of Prof. Parker:

It is in the absence of any reference to the death of Jesus that shorter Luke stands out most markedly as an original contribution. (D. C. Parker, The living text of the Gospels, 1997, Cambridge University Press, p. 155.)

Despite the fact that the longer form stands in stark contrast to Luke's consistent portrayal of Jesus (peace be upon him) as a vindicated righteous martyr, it is, nonetheless, regarded as original by most scholars.

There are, however, very good reasons for believing that the shorter form is more likely original. A few prominent textual critics have mounted arguments in defence of the originality of the shorter form. In this paper we will offer a brief critique of the late Bruce Metzger's defence for the originality of the longer form.

The Christian neophyte, dawagandist and greenhorn, Sam Shamoun, has cited Bruce Metzger in a desperate attempt to support the originality of the longer form. After critically examining Metzger's arguments, we will address the comments made by the neophyte polemicist himself.


Shamoun quotes Metzger from: A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament - A Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament Fourth Revised Edition, Second Edition, pp. 148, 150.

Metzger says:

49 tc Some important Western mss (D it) lack the words from this point to the end of v. 20. However, the authenticity of these verses is very likely. The inclusion of the second cup is the harder reading, since it differs from Matt 26:26-29 and Mark 14:22-25, and it has much better ms support. It is thus easier to explain the shorter reading as a scribal accident or misunderstanding. Further discussion of this complicated problem (the most difficult in Luke) can be found in TCGNT 148-50. (Source; underline emphasis ours)

In response:

a) Metzger offers an unconvincing explanation for the existence of the shorter form since it does not solve the problem of the sequence of the longer form (the presence of the cup twice). Both in Matthew and Mark we do not find the cup-bread sequence, as we find in Luke's shorter form.  If the scribe wanted to harmonize the account with its parallels, then why did he eliminate the second cup instead of the first? The first cup is the problematic one since it appears prior to the giving of the bread. Thus, the shorter form does not harmonize with the other New Testament institution accounts. On the contrary, the longer form harmonises in wording with 1 Corinthians and "in the sense with Mark (who is here Pauline in thought)" - (D. C. Parker, The living text of the Gospels, 1997, p. 155.)

More importantly, why were the words of institution over the bread in verse 19b omitted? How could a scribe "accidentally" omit these?

 b) "Better manuscript" support does not necessarily mean originality. An earlier reading could be represented poorly in the manuscript tradition, particularly if the alteration was made fairly early in the transmission process. See the response to the "majority of manuscripts" argument below.

Metzger writes:

Considerations in favor of the originality of the longer text include the following: (a) The external evidence supporting the shorter reading represents only part of the Western type of text, whereas the other representatives of the Western text join with witnesses belonging to all the other ancient text-types in support of the longer reading.

Metzger is right when he says that the external evidence is in favour of the longer form. But that does not necessarily follow that it is the original reading. Not only does the shorter reading appear to be original based in internal grounds - and bearing in mind that there is some documentary support for it as well, it also presents the opposite pattern of corruption witnessed in the Western tradition. The Western text is said to have an expansionistic tendency - the text is expanded to clarify its meaning. In this case, however, we are faced with an unexpectedly shorter text in the face of Alexandrian expansion. Thus, one needs to consider both the intrinsic and transcriptional probabilities, which strongly favour the originality of the shorter form. Hence, the shorter reading deserves our utmost attention even though it is lacking in the majority of the manuscripts. 

Metzger writes:

(b) It is easier to suppose that the Bezan editor, puzzled by the sequence of cup-bread-cup, eliminated the second mention of the cup without being concerned about the inverted order of institution thus produced, than that the editor of the longer version, to rectify the inverted order, brought in from Paul the second mention of the cup, while letting the first mention stand.

But why would the scribe eliminate the second cup? The first cup is problematic whereas the second cup is familiar due to the close parallel between the words of institution and 1 Corinthians. Moreover, as noted above, how do we account for the omission of verse 19b, where the cup is not mentioned? If the scribe desired to eliminate the second cup, why did he also remove the words of institution over the bread?

In light of the above, it is much easier to account for an interpolation of the disputed words into Luke's account of Jesus' (peace be upon him) last supper than to explain the existence of the shorter form. 

(c) The rise of the shorter version can be accounted for in terms of the theory of disciplina arcana, i.e. in order to protect the Eucharist from profanation, one or more copies of the Gospel according to Luke, prepared for circulation among non-Christian readers, omitted the sacramental formula after the beginning words.

This is merely a convenient - not to mention desperate - presumption. There is no proof for it. If it were true that the shorter form came into existence because of disciplina arcane, then why did the scribes not eliminate them completely? Why was 19a left intact? And why did disciplina arcane play no role in similarly affecting the transmission of other New Testament passages that reflect Christian liturgical passages as well as other institution narratives? Why were the texts of Matthew, Mark and 1 Corinthians not altered for the same reason?

Metzger writes:

Considerations in favor of the originality of the shorter text include the following: (a) Generally in New Testament textual criticism the shorter reading is to be preferred. (b) Since the words in verses 19b and 20 are suspiciously similar to Paul's words in 1 Cor 11.24b-25, it appears that the latter passage was the source of the interpolation into the longer text. (c) Verses 19b-20 contain several linguistic features that are non-Lukan.

The weight of these considerations was estimated differently by different members of the Committee. A minority preferred the shorter text as a Western non-interpolation (see the Note following 24.53). The MAJORITY, on the other hand, impressed by the OVERWHELMING PREPONDERANCE OF EXTERNAL EVIDENCE supporting the longer form, explained the origin of the shorter form as due to some scribal accident or misunderstanding. The similarity between verses 19b-20 and 1 Cor 11.24b-25 arises from a familiarity of the evangelist with the liturgical practice among Pauline churches, a circumstance that accounts also for the presence of non-Lukan expressions in verses 19b-20. (Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament - A Companion Volume to the United Bible Societies' Greek New Testament Fourth Revised Edition, Second Edition, pp. 148, 150; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Metzger leaves out a significant reason in support of the originality of the shorter form. Besides the reasons he has submitted, the shorter form conforms to Luke's theology whereas the longer form does not. The longer form makes Luke say something which he has elsewhere gone out of his way to remove and eliminate. The longer form contains non-Lucan features which comprise its key elements: it contains the phrase "for you" twice, which occurs nowhere else in the whole of Luke-Acts, the word "remembrance" occurs only here in Luke-Acts and nowhere else does Luke speak of the "new covenant in my blood." The total absence of these words and phrases elsewhere in the entirety of Luke-Acts is quite striking to say the least. But, more importantly than this, it remains that the shorter form conforms perfectly to Luke's theology.

In conclusion, it is not possible to explain the shorter form if the longer form is said to be original. It is, however, quite easy to account for an interpolation into Luke's account of the last supper. 

Stephen Finlan in his recent book writes:

Another devastating fact is the likelihood that the gospel with the most teaching content (Luke) originally contained not a single hint of atonement. The institution passage in Luke appears to have been altered to conform to the Pauline version of the Eucharist, which was becoming prevalent in the church's liturgical practice in the generation after Luke's composition. There is a huge disagreement among the manuscripts of Luke as to the presence or absence, as well as the verse ordering, of the "longer version" of the eucharistic passage, which speaks of his body being "given for you ... the new covenant in my blood" (22:19b-20). These verses are absent altogether from the oldest manuscript in the "Western" Greek tradition (D) and from the oldest Latin, Syriac, and Bohairic versions but are present in most Greek manuscripts. Even when those verses are present, their location varies in different manuscripts, strongly suggesting editorial insertion rather than scribal error. Westcott's and Hort's argument for the authenticity of the "shorter version," which does not contain those verses at all, is still good.31 The saving power of "the blood" is not found anywhere else in Luke, and the verses contain substantial non-Lucan vocabulary.32 (Stephen Finlan, Options on Atonement in Christian Thought, 2007, Liturgical Press p. 38.)

Now that we have dealt with Metzger, we need to consider Shamoun the greenhorn's appeal to James White in support of the longer form.

Shamoun presents one citation from James White, which, however, contains nothing new. The greenhorn cites James White arguing that the longer form is to be found in all Greek manuscripts "except D." For James White, "In almost all instances this overwhelming manuscript consensus would be sufficient to conclude the issue." We have already dealt with the argument of appeal to the majority of manuscripts above; so there is nothing more to add here.

III. Shamoun's attacks upon Shabir Ally and straw man arguments

We now turn our attention towards some sneerful remarks and allegations which Shamoun desperately heaped towards Shabir Ally. Often Shamoun directs such unnecessary rage towards Shabir Ally (and others) and does not appear to have the ability to discuss an issue without the name-calling. His true (lowly) character can be viewed here:

Sam Shamoun said:

What makes the statements of Metzger all the more interesting is that he happens to be one of the scholars that Ally quotes ad nauseam ad infinitum;

My Response:

This assertion is a blatant lie. We can see it is a lie by going through the papers authored by Shabir Ally. He does not cite Metzger "ad nauseam ad infinitum."

Ad nauseam  = To go on endlessly; literally, to continue "to seasickness": "The candidate told us the details of how he overcame his childhood problems ad nauseam."

Ad infinitum = "continue forever, without limit" and thus can be used to describe a non-terminating process, a non-terminating repeating process, or a set of instructions to be repeated "forever", among other uses.

At no time has Shabir Ally cited/used Metzger in the above fashion. Instead, he has always cited Metzger and made references to his works at the appropriate and relevant places.

It would seem that the purpose of Shamoun's above lie is to generate anger and resentment towards Shabir Ally in the minds of his Christian readers.

Sam Shamoun said:

and yet when this same scholar soundly refutes Shabir's assertions or happens to say something that Ally doesn't like Shabir then conveniently ignores or doesn't bother to refer to him at all.

My Response:

Two problems here:

1) Shabir Ally is not obligated to accept everything which Metzger says and to endorse all of his viewpoints. There is absolutely nothing wrong if Shabir Ally agrees with some of Metzger's observations and, at the same time, disagrees with some of his other arguments/assertions.

2) The same 'argument' can be more forcefully applied upon the greenhorn. Shamoun often cites scholars who, he purports, support some of his arguments (be it on the Bible or against Islam etc), but when the same scholars soundly refute Shamoun's assertions or happen to say something that Shamoun doesn't like, he conveniently ignores and doesn't bother to refer to them at all.  To give a few examples, consider Shamoun's use of scholars and writers such as Bruce Metzger, Raymond Brown, F. F. Bruce, Geza Vermes, C. F. D. Moule, Ali Dashti, Yasir Qadhi, W. M. Watt, John Burton, M. A. Ayoub, N. Perrin etc (not to mention his references to classical scholars e.g. Ibn Kathir, Imam Tabari, Razi, Qurtubi etc). There are so many more writers and scholars whom Shamoun appeals to in support of some of his claims/arguments but who, at the same time, soundly (according to us) refute many (or some) of his other arguments and assertions. When they happen to say the latter, or something Shamoun doesn't like, he conveniently ignores or does not bother to refer to them at all.  A lengthy article can be devoted just to deal with this topic: Shamoun's use of certain scholars on some issues and his avoidance and utter lack of mention of the same scholars on other issues. For example, Shamoun is very unlikely to cite Bruce Metzger and Howard Marshall on the historicity of the gospel of John (see their comments here), but he will likely cite them (as he has cited Metzger above) on other issues if they agree with his presuppositions.

Is Shamoun in the right state of mind to tread along such a disastrous self-destructive path? It seems his hatred towards Shabir Ally has blinded him.

The conclusion is inescapable: Shamoun is a hypocrite and is inconsistent.

Predictably, Shamoun is likely to argue that just because he cites a scholar, it does not mean he has to agree with all of the views of the scholar in question. Shamoun would be perfectly justified in presenting such an argument. But why is the same courtesy not extended to Shabir Ally?

Shamoun quotes Shabir Ally and writes:

Did Jesus Really Say, "Do this in remembrance of me!"?

These words are attributed to Jesus in the Bible in Luke's Gospel 22:19b-20: "Do this in remembrance of me!" In this way, we learn, Jesus instituted the regular observance of the Eucharist, the use of bread to symbolize the eating of Jesus' flesh; and wine to symbolize the drinking of his blood. I pointed out in the debate that these words are missing from some very important early manuscripts, and for this reason many scholars deem it a later addition. Hence this cannot be taken as a reliable proof that Jesus said these words.

James seems to have forgotten what the point was. On DL he asserts that I reject these words simply because they disagree with Quranic teaching. He then uses this as a starting point to launch an attack on the prophet Muhammad. But I think it is important that we do not become side-tracked. These problems exist apart from Muhammad and the Quran. If I reject the words on the basis that they disagree with Islam, on what basis do many Christian scholars reject them? And on what basis were they removed from the 1952 edition of the Revised Standard Version of the Bible? (More Comments on the Dividing Line of Oct. 23, 2007)

Shabir commits several fallacies here, namely, hasty generalization, appealing to authority, non sequitur and red herring, to name just a few.

My Response:

Shamoun has managed to pile up too many terms in one sentence but he will, as we will show below, miserably fail to demonstrate their validity upon Shabir Ally's judicious observations.

There are only two assertions which Shabir Ally makes above which may be legitimately questioned:

1) The claim that "many scholars deem it [the longer form] a later addition" seems to convey the impression as if most scholars regard the longer form to be secondary;

2) That the reason for thinking that the longer reading is secondary is because "they are missing from some very important early manuscripts." While this is a secondary reason (they are only missing from codex Bezae and a number of early Latin and Syriac versions), the primary reasons for thinking they are secondary are internal considerations and the assessment of the transcriptional and intrinsic probabilities.

Shamoun writes and quotes:

For instance, it simply does not follow that if the Lukan pericope is a later scribal interpolation that this then somehow refutes the fact that Jesus didn't die as a willing sacrifice:

"And he said, 'The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he MUST BE KILLED and on the third day be raised to life.' . 'Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.'" Luke 9:22, 44

"It is written: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors [cf. Isa. 53:12]'; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment." Luke 22:37

My Response:

The above is a straw man, which, no doubt, came about through Shamoun's legendary comprehension problem. That Jesus (peace be upon him) died as a "willing sacrifice" and whether or not the wordings of the longer Lucan form are Jesus' (peace be upon him) reliable words are two different issues. Shamoun is conflating two separate discussions. Shabir Ally has correctly reasoned that since the longer form is an interpolation, the interpolated words, therefore, cannot be taken as reliable proof of what Jesus (peace be upon him) said. Note, he has not argued above that "Jesus didn't die as a willing sacrifice" because the longer form is an interpolation.

Shamoun cannot move an inch ahead in his polemics without constructing straw man arguments.

Certainly, Christians can legitimately argue that even if the longer Lucan form is secondary, it could still be shown/reasoned - based on other New Testament texts - that Jesus (peace be upon him) did die as a willing sacrifice. Shabir Ally is aware of this and deals with the other Christian arguments and proof-texts throughout his talks and writings on the subject.

As if the above was not enough, we witness more reading difficulties faced by Shamoun since both Luke 9:22, 44 and 22:37 nowhere mentions that Jesus (peace be upon him) died as a "willing sacrifice." Shamoun has 'read' these presuppositions of his into the above Lucan passages. To say that Jesus (peace be upon him) "must be killed" does not mean he died "as a willing sacrifice." Likewise, to say that "this must be fulfilled in me" does not mean that Jesus (peace be upon him) claimed to have died "as a willing sacrifice." These are examples of Shamounion eisigesis.

If the presuppositions of a "willing sacrifice" are put aside and we read these passages for what they are and for what they are saying, we cannot find within them claims of Jesus (peace be upon him) being a "willing sacrifice."

Sam Shamoun said:

Nor would this refute the fact that Luke plainly presents Jesus as dying on the cross and rising from the dead:

My Response:

Shamoun then proceeds to cite Luke 23:46-56 and 24:1-8.

Shamoun constructs his second straw man argument here since Shabir Ally has not argued and reasoned that the secondary status of the longer form "refutes" that Luke presents Jesus (peace be upon him) dying on the cross and rising from the dead. Shabir Ally knows well that all canonical gospels - Luke included - claim that Jesus (peace be upon him) died on the cross and was then resurrected.

So what is the point of Shamoun's above argument?

It is as if Shamoun desperately desires and would have liked Shabir Ally to have argued that it is "refuted" that Jesus (peace be upon him) died on the cross and rose from the dead according to Luke because the longer form is not original. But this is an argument which Shabir Ally has never constructed.

It appears Shamoun's desire for Shabir Ally to have made this non-existent argument was so intense that it caused him to 'read' this invisible argument in Shabir Ally's writings.

Sam Shamoun said:

Furthermore, appealing to certain scholars to support the position that the words "do this in remembrance of me" are not part of the original text doesn't prove much when there are other scholars who believe otherwise. What Shabir must do is supply the relevant textual data or the specific reasons why these scholars he cites happen to be correct and why those that disagree with him are mistaken.

My Response:

Shamoun is absolutely right - a rare achievement. In any case, above we have engaged with the arguments presented by Metzger for the originality of the longer form and have argued why they are wanting.

IV. I Corinthians 11:23-26

Shamoun writes and quotes:

The reference to 1 Corinthians 11 by both Metzger and White leads us to our next point. The words of institution are found in Paul's letter to the Corinthians, an epistle which even Shabir agrees predates the composition of Luke's Gospel:

"For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, 'This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.' For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes." 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

There are several vitally important points concerning this text. First, there is no textual dispute concerning the authenticity of this passage, so Shabir cannot call it into question. Second, Paul is claiming to be passing on a tradition that he received from the Lord, which either means that he received it from Christ directly and verified it with the Apostles (cf. Gal. 1:11-24) or that this is a tradition which the Apostles passed on from the Lord to the community of believers including Paul.

My Response:

First note carefully that Paul claims to be passing a revelation which he acquired from the risen Jesus - something original rather than reproduce a transmitted tradition. He is not claiming to be citing a "tradition" which reached him through other Christians, but is claiming to be presenting something which he received from a non-human source - the risen Jesus.

Shamoun's assertion that Paul received it from the risen Jesus and "verified it with the Apostles" is his convenient presupposition which he has 'read' into the passage. 1 Corinthians does not claim that Paul did this - that after receiving the information from the risen Jesus, he had it verified with other disciples. This is simply a speculation - a convenient one at that. We do not know if Paul did this; he may or may not have done so.

Nonetheless, why would Paul commit this "verification," especially when the source is his risen Jesus (as he claims)? Did Paul have doubts about the accuracy of the information conveyed by the risen Jesus, hence the need to verify it with the apostles? Paul did not confer and verify with the apostles when he first had an encounter with his risen Jesus; instead only after 3 years, by which time his beliefs were already formed, did he bother to meet Peter and James.  But here we are to suppose that Paul went to the trouble of verifying, with none other than the apostles, information conveyed to him by his "risen Jesus".

Galatians 1:11-24 does not in any way support Shamoun's "verification" hypothesis. It supports our above argument (emphasis ours):

11 For I make known to you, brethren, as touching the gospel which was preached by me, that it is not after man.

 12 For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ.

 13 For ye have heard of my manner of life in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and made havoc of it:

 14 and I advanced in the Jews' religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers.

 15 But when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me, even from my mother's womb, and called me through his grace,

 16 to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles; straightway I conferred not with flesh and blood:

 17 neither went I up to Jerusalem to them that were apostles before me: but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned unto Damascus.

 18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and tarried with him fifteen days.

 19 But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.

 20 Now touching the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not.

 21 Then I came unto the regions of Syria and Cilicia.

 22 And I was still unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:

 23 but they only heard say, He that once persecuted us now preacheth the faith of which he once made havoc;

 24 and they glorified God in me.

How does it follow from this passage in Galatians that when Paul received the information he relates in 1 Corinthians from his risen Jesus, that we are to suppose that he "must have" had it verified with the apostles?

In Galatians, Paul insists that he did not confer with "flesh and blood." He insists he did not receive information "from man, nor was I taught it" but that it came to him "through revelation of Jesus Christ" (that is, his risen Jesus). Paul stresses he did not go to Jerusalem after his Damascus road episode, but, strangely, went into Arabia, to return to Damascus, and only after 3 years to go to Jerusalem. Once in Jerusalem he met James and Peter, spending only fifteen days with them. We have no idea what discussion took place between them.

This tells us nothing about Paul allegedly verifying (or not verifying) the information in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 with the apostles.

Nor does Paul say that "this is a tradition which the Apostles passed on from the Lord to the community of believers including Paul." Instead, Paul says explicitly that he received the information from the risen Jesus, unless, of course, Shamoun wishes to argue that Paul was not being truthful in this instance.

But, for arguments sake, let us suppose that Paul was passing a tradition. What then? This is dealt with below.

Sam Shamoun said:

Third, the fact that this epistle predates Luke's Gospel and that it is based on a very early tradition establishes beyond any reasonable doubt that this is a genuine saying of the Lord. At the very least it shows that this is a saying which the very earliest Christian witnesses believed was instituted by the Lord himself.

My Response:

Shamoun has not shown that 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 is based on "a very early tradition." On the contrary, Paul claims to be relating something (a revelation) which he supposedly received from the risen Jesus.

A Christian who already accepts Paul's claim to be an apostle may accept Paul's assertion of having received information from the risen Jesus in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (and all other locations). This would be a faith based decision (not that there is anything wrong with this). But since we do not accept Paul to be a genuine apostle of Jesus (peace be upon him), we are faced with two possible alternatives:

1. Paul made up the story and then passed it off as a 'revelation' from the risen Jesus, after which it became a tradition and was used by the gospel authors.

2. Paul is indeed passing along a tradition which he heard/received from other Christians.

The first option is certainly possible since Paul explicitly claims to be relating the words of the risen Jesus. Therefore, Mark, Matthew and Luke would simply be rehashing - with some editing of their own - Paul's story or "revelation." In other words, Paul's revelation subsequently transformed into tradition.

We may, however, accept the second alternative. Even so, if Paul is presenting a "very early tradition," it does not automatically follow that we have here "beyond any reasonable doubt" a genuine saying of Jesus (peace be upon him). It is not necessary that every "very early tradition" - simply for being early - is therefore a "genuine saying" of Jesus (peace be upon him) as well.  There could also be a "very early" non-genuine saying/tradition of/about Jesus (peace be upon him), or a "very early" contaminated saying/tradition of/about Jesus (peace be upon him) - consisting of both genuine and non-genuine elements.

Second, one should be careful not to make generalizations. The "very earliest Christians" were not monolithic; they were divided as is amply demonstrated by Paul's own epistles. Just because Paul relates a tradition, it does not mean that all Christians everywhere at the time accepted it as such or followed the exact same Pauline wording of it, or were even aware of it. Paul could be influenced by his Antioch teachers and was drawing upon their martyrological tradition. Thus, Paul's use of a tradition should not lead us to extract generalized and sweeping conclusions about the early Christians.

Since Paul is the earliest witness to the Eucharist, there is a real possibility that the later versions of Mark, Matthew and Luke were influenced by him. Moreover, the variations in the wording in the accounts of Mark, Matthew and Luke are ample indications of a process of editing and re-wording. Hence, while there is no need to be sceptical and suppose that Paul invented the whole of the tradition related in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, neither can we afford to be overly gullible nor suppose we have here the ipsissima verba of Jesus (peace be upon him).  The most we may say is that Jesus (peace be upon him) shared a meal with his disciples during which he may well have relayed to them his fear of getting killed/harmed by his enemies. But what precisely was said during the meal can no longer be known. 

Third, originally the event could have been devoid of sacrificial imagery. This is what we find in the version in the Didache:

9 Regarding the Eucharist. Give thanks as follows: First concerning the cup:

2 " We give Thee thanks, Our Father, for the Holy Vine of David Thy servant, which Thou hast made known to us through Jesus, Thy Servant."

"To Thee be the glory for evermore."

3Next concerning the broken bread:

"We give Thee thanks, Our Father, for the life and knowledge which though hast made known to us through Jesus, Thy Servant."

"To Thee be glory for evermore."

There is an absence here of the blood-body language. Also, in a thoroughly Jewish setting of Jesus (peace be upon him), the notion of consuming body and drinking blood would be inconceivable, even if used symbolically. But such a notion could be expressed in a setting where Christians, such as Paul, were operating in a majority Gentile setting. Thus, the original form of the Eucharist could be similar (or the same) to the form we find in the Didache, which conforms well to Jesus' (peace be upon him) Jewish context/setting.

Finally, we may be seeing covenant sacrifice (as in Exodus 24) in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, which establishes a new community, in which case it would have nothing to do with atonement. Here Jesus (peace be upon him) may have been acting as a new Moses (peace be upon him) anointing the community. The context of the passage would appear to support this view as we find mention of the difficult times the apostles would have to face in the future.

Sam Shamoun said:

In light of all of these considerations on what grounds then does a variant reading in Luke 22:19 call into question the historicity of the words "do this in remembrance of me" when there is a tradition that goes back long before Luke's Gospel was ever composed which establishes that they were part of the very instructions which the Apostles passed on by the authority of the Lord himself?

My Response:

Shamoun needs to show, rather than to presume, that the instructions within the "tradition" in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 was passed on by "Apostles" (plural) on the authority of Jesus (peace be upon him) in exactly the same wording. If we are to believe Paul, then he is submitting a revelation received from the risen Jesus. It is not a "tradition" which he is passing on from others. But if he is passing on a tradition, then it is merely speculation to assert that its instructions were passed on by the "Apostles" on Jesus' (peace be upon him) (risen or historical) authority as well since we know nothing about its transmission history. Through a comparison of the wording in the gospels, we can note the differences between them which tell us that the words were being edited. So what precisely did Jesus (peace be upon him) say on the occasion? We cannot know.

V. Irrelevance

As usual, Shamoun also includes too much irrelevant material in his paper. In a sub-section entitled "A Summation of the Biblical Teaching Concerning the Death of Christ," Shamoun attempts to show that the New Testament teaches that Jesus (peace be upon him):

1. "died in our place in order to bear the punishment or penalty ("penal") we deserved" - Penal substitution theory;

2. "sacrificed his life (died) in our place so as to bear the penalty for our sins" - Sacrificial theory;

3. by dying in our place, "reconciled us to God, making peace between God and man" - Reconciliation/Redemption theory;

4. "provided the payment, or ransom, to set us free from our bondage to the power of sin and the Devil" - similar to the above, ransom theory;

He also comments on the word "propitiation," according to which "Christ's vicarious death fully appeased God's righteous anger and justice thereby making him propitious (favorable) toward us."

Shamoun wants to demonstrate that all of the above is to be found in different parts of the New Testament. He is right. But we (and Shabir Ally) are not denying the presence of the above in the New Testament; the question is what Jesus (peace be upon him) taught and whether or not the above teachings make sense. We commented upon the 'logic' of these theories and the teachings of the historical Jesus (peace be upon him) in our previous paper and pointed out that the Jews were not waiting for such a Messiah. Hence, this "summation" by Shamoun is irrelevant.

(On a side note, it is interesting to see Shamoun unable to cite a single passage from Luke's two-volume work in this section of his paper. That is understandable since these types of theologies find no place in the gospel of Luke and Acts, which present Jesus (peace be upon him) as a righteous martyr who was vindicated by God).

VI. Argument from silence

Sam Shamoun said:

If Jesus didn't die on the cross, but simply swooned as Shabir erroneously contends, wouldn't we at least expect that Christ would have somehow communicated this point to his followers? Wouldn't it behoove Jesus to tell his disciples that God allowed him to pass out on the cross and then revived him instead of allowing them to believe that he did actually die and rise from the dead? Case in point:

"While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, 'Peace be with you.' They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, 'Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.' When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, 'Do you have anything here to eat?' They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. He said to them, 'This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.' Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, 'This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and RISE FROM THE DEAD on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.'" Luke 24:36-47

And if Jesus did tell them that he swooned wouldn't we expect to find some first century reference somewhere, or even among the second century writings, which stated that this is precisely what his followers were told and subsequently taught? Why don't we find this view in any of the extant writings of the first two centuries when we have Gnostic forgeries of the second century onwards promoting an alternate position from that of the orthodox camp, e.g. it appeared as if Jesus was crucified when in reality he wasn't since he didn't have an actual physical body? Surely we would expect some NT writer or second century father addressing the apparent-death or swoon theory if such a view did exist among some group claiming ascendancy to the apostles. Why, then, do we not find this theory being touted among the early Christians or those groups competing with them for the claim of orthodoxy? Why no rebuttal from the orthodox if such a position did exist at that time?

My Response:

There are a couple of problems with Shamoun's above questions.

1. He is heavily reliant upon argument from the silence. How does he know that Jesus (peace be upon him) did not inform the apostles that he did not die through crucifixion? He says this because we do not find any first century references to this. How does he know that the apostles of Jesus (peace be upon him) did not believe that Jesus (peace be upon him) did not die through crucifixion? He says this because there are no first and second century references to this. But this is precisely the problem: we do not have any writings from the apostles. We do not have all the writings and traditions in vogue in the first (and the second) century. Every scholar that we know of admits that we have only some writings from the first century representing a particular viewpoint. Therefore, we cannot say and speculate what was and was not present in writings/traditions which no longer exist. The non-existent writings/reports may well have contained details which could have notably changed our view of early Christianity or rendered suspect some or many of the details which, otherwise, are widely accepted as probably historical by scholars today. Perhaps they may have contained claims which denied Jesus' (peace be upon him) death on the cross and affirmed his miraculous rescue by God. Or it could be that they may well have affirmed every piece of detail to be found in the preserved canonical documents. Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing.

We have nothing directly from any of the apostles of Jesus (peace be upon him). Some of their views can only be inferred (in degrees of probabilities) through writings produced by later non-apostolic writers. Nor do we have any writings from Paul's first century opponents. Again, some of their views may also be inferred - in degrees of probabilities - through an examination of Paul's epistles, assuming Paul is attacking their actual views rather than attacking straw man. Paul's own preserved epistles (letters) are occasional in nature. In them he sometimes engages with his opponents or considers specific issues of immediate relevance and importance. The occasional nature of the Pauline epistles means that we cannot be getting the "full picture." Even the full scope of Paul's disagreement with other rival Christians cannot be known. Paul must have written much more than what is today attributed to him and it is reasonable to suppose that his opponents had a fair deal more to say against him than what is reflected in the extant epistles. In light of the fragmentary nature of the evidence, one has to recognize that there are more than likely things we do not know and cannot know. There is not much from the first century to begin with and even the little which exists is wholly one sided and often occasional and incomplete. One cannot proceed far based on heavy reliance upon arguments from the silence in light of the incomplete nature of our sources. The inadequacy of the sources need to be recognized and we should acknowledge that we do not know as much as we would have liked about the make-up/composure of first century Christianity and the full breadth of the diversity therein.

The following example will suffice to demonstrate the pitfalls of arguments from the silence. Above we saw Shamoun cite 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, where Paul informs us about Jesus' (peace be upon him) Last Supper and the words he said on the occasion over the wine and the bread. We know from this passage that the Eucharist was observed by Paul's churches. But this is the only reference in Paul's epistles to the observance of the Eucharist. Paul makes this reference only because he had to deal with a problem in a particular church of his, where members indulged in immoral acts and behaviour during the occasion. Had this problem not arisen, it would have been highly unlikely that Paul would have made any reference to the Eucharist, in which case we would never have known if Paul approved, let alone knew, about the practise. We can readily imagine many scholars arguing for the lack of observance of the Eucharist in the Pauline churches and/or Paul's unfamiliarity about it precisely because he made not one mention of it in any of his writings and because his opponents - to whom occasional references are made - seem to betray no knowledge of this institution. But thanks to the sole reference in 1 Corinthians, we are no longer in a position to launch such an argument. What else did Paul believe or know which he did not mention in his extant epistles? What other minor or significant views of opponents did he not mention in his extant epistles simply because there was no reason to mention them on the occasions of writing these particular epistles? This should warn us how dangerous arguments from the silence can truly be.

Thus, we do not have any writings from the apostles and we do not know what they said and did. At most, we know some of what they likely believed - assuming Paul has been faithful in his reproduction in these instances - but a lot of what they believed, said and did is unknown to us.

2.  Let us suppose that Jesus (peace be upon him) did not die on the cross and he did not inform the apostles about this. So what? Belief in Jesus' (peace be upon him) survival is not a doctrine, an article of faith, or a core belief. As long as the followers of Jesus (peace be upon him) accepted him as God's servant, prophet, and Messiah, then they would be counted among the believers even if they mistakenly (with no fault of their own) believed that Jesus (peace be upon him) had died on the cross. In order to achieve salvation and to be counted among the righteous and believers, it was not necessary for the followers of Jesus (peace be upon him) to have known that Jesus (peace be upon him) did not die on the cross. Therefore, even if the apostles of Jesus (peace be upon him) believed that he died through crucifixion, then that does not negate the Quran's claim: that the fact was that God had rescued Jesus (peace be upon him) and saved him.

3. It should be pointed out that the swoon theory is not mentioned in the Quran; nor is any other theory proposed. Simply, God says that Jesus (peace be upon him) was not killed and not crucified. The procedure and details of this rescue, however, have not been spelled out by the Quran. The swoon theory may or may not be likely, and the same applies upon all other theories. On faith we accept the Quran's claim - for having accepted it as God's Word - that God saved Jesus (peace be upon him). All miracles are accepted on faith, be it the virgin birth of Jesus (peace be upon him), Jesus' (peace be upon him) raising of the dead through God's permission and all the rest. The crucifixion, however, is not a later Christian invention or forgery even according to the Quran as it says "but it was made to appear to them," which suggests that the crucifixion was seen by the people present at the time. But the Quran insists that, in fact, God did save Jesus (peace be upon him). There is nothing "wrong" for Muslims to accept this miracle on faith.

Sam Shamoun said:

The answer is rather obvious. such a theory didn't even occur in the minds of the early witnesses or the subsequent generations of orthodox and heterodox writers. This is simply a novel view which only recently came into fashion, one which serves as an expedient explanation for Shabir as he attempts to salvage the gross error of the Quran in its denial of the historicity of Jesus' death by crucifixion.

My Response:

Once again he is making an argument from silence. We do not know what is or is not "obvious" and what would or would not occur "in the minds" (!) of individuals whose writings we do not posses. Secondly, even if none of the apostles and followers of Jesus (peace be upon him) of the first century believed that Jesus (peace be upon him) was saved, then we come back to point no. 2 made above.

Third, the Quran's assertion that God saved Jesus (peace be upon him) is not a "gross error" since, as pointed out in no. 3 above, the crucifixion is not suggested to be a later invention or concoction of the Christians by the Quran. The words of the Quran suggest that the onlookers did view a crucifixion, but God in fact managed to rescue Jesus (peace be upon him). The latter is a miracle which we can accept on faith.

Therefore, one cannot object to the Quran with the argument, "the Quran says Jesus (peace be upon him) did not die through crucifixion, but it is wrong because the gospels and all other earliest sources state that Jesus (peace be upon him) died on the cross. So the Quran, for being wrong, cannot be God's word." Instead, when faced with the Quran's claim of the miraculous saving of Jesus (peace be upon him), the enquirer is required to then ascertain if the Quran is likely correct in its claim at being the Word/Message of God or not. If, based on whatever reason(s), it is concluded that the Quran is God's Word/Message, then the miracle it claims (God saving Jesus (peace be upon him) from death through crucifixion) can be accepted on faith just as all other miracles (including the ones mentioned in the Bible) are accepted on faith.

Shamoun writes and quotes Shabir Ally:

This is much like his novel interpretation of Q. 4:157(1), one which even he is forced to admit finds no support among the earliest, classical Islamic writings:

James made a passing reference to the view of the Ahmadiyyah with regards to the crucifixion. I should clarify here the differences between the classical Islamic view, a Sunnite view that is becoming increasingly popular, and the Ahmadiyyah view.

The view found in ALL the classical commentaries I have checked is that someone else was made to look like Jesus and that this someone else was put on the cross whereas Jesus was taken up to heaven.

In modern times several writers have adopted the view that the Quran is not denying that Jesus was put on the cross, but is only denying that he died on the cross. The details of this position have yet to be fully articulated with all its nuances and support from classical Islamic sources. Tarif Khalidi made a brief remark showing that he has this view in his introduction to The Muslim Jesus. Ruqayyah Waris Maqsood gave this a more detailed treatment in The Mysteries of Jesus. It is this view with which I align myself. (Comments on the Dividing Line, Part 1; bold, capital and italic emphasis ours)


The term 'crucifixion' and its related forms have been used in a variety of contexts with varied meanings that need to be defined before we proceed. For our purposes here, 'crucifixion' has two meanings: (1) merely hanging a person on a cross; and (2) killing a person by hanging him on a cross. I have maintained that the classical interpreters of the Quran took the Quranic statement, 'they did not crucify him' in the first sense, whereas we should really take it in the second sense [sic]. Hence, they thought that the verse means, 'they did not even hang him on a cross'; but we should really take the verse to mean 'they did not kill him by hanging him on a cross'. (A Rejoinder to James (Part 1); 1, 2; bold emphasis ours)


My exposition, according to James, is a minimalist view, an attempt to make the verse say as little as possible. According to him my view has the advantage of being "far easier to defend" than "the view dogmatically expounded in much of Islam today." But to him my view became necessary because the verse is "not clear, but confusing, muddled, and without context." In response, I have shown that the confusion is not due to the text, but to the expositions of it which failed to consider the meaning of the verb salaba as it occurs in the Quran. Once the meaning of the verb as it occurs everywhere else in the Quran is applied also in 4:157, the said verse becomes clear. It also seems that a part of the confusion James is experiencing is due to that fact that the exposition I have advanced is true to the Quran and yet it does not deny anything that is reasonably established in any historical reminiscence regarding Jesus. Against the classical Muslim view James has a ready defense; against mine he has no reasonable defense[sic]. (Rejoinder to White (Part 2A); source; bold and italic emphasis ours)

My Response:

So then, the explanation given by Shabir Ally finds no support in classical Islamic commentary and is a recent explanation. So what? That does not mean that Shabir Ally is wrong (see comments in next section).

Sam Shamoun said:

As Dr. White stated in his first debate with Shabir, "Inconsistency is a sign of a failed argument." Shabir's gross inconsistencies and novel interpretations are clear indications of his failure as an apologist. They also provide persuasive evidence that he is not an honest seeker of God's truth.

My Response:

Here Shamoun has merely articulated abuse. In response:

1. Inconsistency is not a sign of a failed argument. A person may be inconsistent and still use a valid argument (one of the two statements/arguments may still be correct).

2. What are the alleged "gross inconsistencies" committed by Shabir Ally? In none of the statements of Shabir Ally cited above (or anywhere else) do we find instances of "gross inconsistencies". In anger Shamoun is childishly heaping unsubstantiated allegations upon Shabir Ally

3. "Novel" (as in new) interpretations do not become false for being novel neither does an apologist become a "failure" for using a new interpretation, or one which is not widely endorsed by others. Shabir Ally has offered a possible interpretation, among others. Instead of name-calling the proponent of a particular interpretation - who in this case sincerely believes in its validity - a serious scholar/student would critically analyse the interpretation and then determine how likely or unlikely it is.

On the contrary, we have seen that James White is inconsistent. More than that, we have provided examples of Shamoun's inconsistencies and double standards in this and other papers (*,*,* - in the third paper Shamoun transforms into an anti-supernaturalist who rejects miracles to attack Islam).  To use Shamoun's 'logic': surely these are examples of gross inconsistencies on Shamoun's part and are clear indications of his utter failure as an 'apologist'. They also provide more than persuasive evidence that he is not an honest seeker of God's truth.

In fact, Shamoun is a disgrace and embarrassment to Christians as is amply documented by his own words here:

VII. Pitting Shabir Ally against Gibril Haddad

In a final desperate move Shamoun makes a lot of unnecessary noise over the different views of Shabir Ally and Gibril Haddad. Briefly, according to the former, Jesus (peace be upon him) was put on the cross, but taken down alive and then ascended to God. Shabir Ally understands "crucifixion" (salaba) as death via crucifixion. According to the latter, Jesus (peace be upon him) was not even put on the cross and ascended to God. Gibril Haddad argues that salaba means to be put on the cross, irrespective of whether one survives or dies. Shamoun quotes Gibril Haddad's critique of the argument that the word salaba is used in the Quran (4:157) to mean death by crucifixion.

As noted above, the Quran only states that Jesus (peace be upon him) did not die. It does not tell us how God managed to save him. The most popular view among Muslims has been that someone else was made to look like Jesus (peace be upon him) (with commentators differing over the identity of the replacement) who was then crucified while Jesus (peace be upon him) was saved by God. More recently, however, some Muslim scholars and writers have come out with another theory according to which Jesus (peace be upon him) was put on the cross but taken down alive. Thus, Jesus (peace be upon him) was taken down alive from the cross, after which he ascended to God.

Shamoun conveys the misleading impression when he applies the word 'spin' to describe Shabir Ally's position as it contains negative connotations. But it could also be that Shabir Ally sincerely, though being honestly mistaken, adopts such a view and not for any motivations having to do with 'spin'.

We do not support or oppose any one of these theories. It is up to the reader to decide which one he/she should adopt/discard. In any case, both theories are possible, though it may be argued that one is more likely/reasonable than the other. Shabir Ally has offered one possible theory and he, presumably, would be able to offer a counter reply to Gibril Haddad's critique (he might argue that not always does salaba mean merely being put on the cross but that it is also used to denote death on the cross/pole in certain other places). Likewise, Gibril Haddad has all the right to critique Shabir Ally's theory and would (presumably) be able to offer a counter rebuttal to any defence put up by Shabir Ally in support of his theory. Both of these gentlemen have the right to engage in this scholarly activity as there is nothing "wrong" with it.

But note that BOTH agree - as has the overwhelming consensus of Muslims in all the ages - that Jesus (peace be upon him) did not die through crucifixion and God saved him. The how part has been left unstated by the Quran and scholars have the right to propose various theories should they wish to do so, as long as it does not contradict any clear statements from the Qur'an or authentic Sunnah. The most crucial point of agreement between Shabir Ally and Gibril Haddad has been completely ignored by Shamoun, who opportunistically focuses, instead, upon the difference of opinion between the two over an irrelevant detail having no theological/doctrinal significance.

Ultimately, for a Muslim it is unimportant to know precisely how God managed to save Jesus (peace be upon him). The important point is that He saved Jesus (peace be upon him) from death.

Shamoun writes and quotes:

Shabir claims that the word salaba is used in the Quran in reference to death by crucifixion:

All the Quranic uses of the verb salaba (to crucify) is in the second meaning identified above: to kill by means of impaling. In one instance (Quran 5:33), the verb salaba (to crucify) is juxtaposed with the verb qatala (to kill). The choice there is between killing a person and crucifying him. In that verse it is clear that whereas qatala (to kill) means 'to kill by some unspecified means other than crucifixion', salaba (to crucify) means 'to kill by the specific means of crucifixion'. The juxtaposition of the two verbs in Quran 5:33 is similar to their juxtaposition in Quran 4:157. Hence a reasonable manner of translating the relevant portion of 4:157 is: "They neither killed him in general, nor did they kill him by the specific means of impalement on a cross." (A Rejoinder to James (Part 1); bold emphasis ours)

This is not the case at all since in one place it is used in connection with the baker in Joseph's story who was beheaded and impaled on a stake:

Fellow-prisoners, as for one of you, he shall pour wine for his lord; as for the other, he shall be crucified, and birds will eat of his head. The matter is decided whereon you enquire.' S. 12:41

The Quran is parroting the earlier biblical account which says:

"When the chief baker saw that the interpretation was favorable, he said to Joseph, 'I also had a dream: there were three cake baskets on my head, and in the uppermost basket there were all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, but the birds were eating it out of the basket on my head.' And Joseph answered and said, 'This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days. In three days Pharaoh will lift up your head-from you!-and hang you on a tree. And the birds will eat the flesh from you.' On the third day, which was Pharaoh's birthday, he made a feast for all his servants and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. He restored the chief cupbearer to his position, and he placed the cup in Pharaoh's hand. But he hanged the chief baker, as Joseph had interpreted to them." Genesis 40:16-22

Sine the chief baker was beheaded and then hung the author of the Quran could not be using the verb to mean death by crucifixion, that is unless Shabir wants to admit that the Quran is in error by contradicting the earlier account and recorded history (1, 2).

My Response:

Besides not "parroting" the Biblical story (consider the many differences between the two versions), neither does the Quran state that the prisoner was first beheaded and then impaled on a stake (that is, a headless body was impaled). Shamoun can only read this into the Quran by looking at it with Biblical glasses - otherwise known as esigesis. Instead, the prisoner was impaled on the stake and then birds ate of his head, which is presumed to be still attached to the impaled body.

Imam Qurtubi commenting on this...

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And as for you, you will be called for in three days. Then you will be crucified and then the birds will eat from your head. (Abu 'Abdullah Al-Qurtubi, Tasfir al Jami' li-ahkam al-Qur'an, Commentary on Surah 12:41, Source)

Qurtubi is stating the events in sequence for the second man who would die. He said that first the man will be called for in three days. Secondly, he will be crucified. Thirdly, the birds will eat from his head. No where does Qurtubi mention that the man will die first before getting crucified.
The same goes for
Ibn Kathir in his "stories of the Prophets" states:

Prison was Joseph's third test. During this period Allah blessed him with an extraordinary gift; the ability to interpret dreams. At about the same time two other men landed in the prison. One was the cupbearer of the king; the other was the king's cook. The two men sensed that Joseph was not a common criminal, for an aura of piety glowed on his face. Both men had vivid dreams, and they were anxious to have them explained. The king's cook dreamed that he stood in a place with bread on his head, and two birds were eating the bread. The cupbearer dreamed that he was serving the king wine. The two went to Joseph and told him their dreams, asking him to give them their meaning.

First, Joseph called them to Allah. Then he said that the cook would be crucified until he died and that the cupbearer would return to the service of the king. Joseph told the cupbearer to remember him to the king and to say that there was a wronged soul called Joseph in prison. (Ibn Kathir, The Stories of the Prophets: The Story of Joseph (Yusuf): Part 2, Source)

So even Ibn Kathir understood it this way DESPITE HAVING ACCESS TO THE OLD TESTAMENT.  If you go earlier in his writings on Prophet Yusuf you would see that Ibn Kathir was aware of the story of Joseph in the Old Testament:

The pages of the Old Testament say that Joseph told them his dream, whereas the Qur'an does not say that that happened. (Source)

Thus, Ibn Kathir knew the Biblical story of Yusuf in the Old Testament. However, he refused to interpret the Qur'an in light of the Bible. He did not interpret the story regarding the man to be crucified in light of the Bible (i.e. him being beheaded first) because he saw no Qur'anic basis for such a thing. Muslims have no problem with the account of Prophet Joseph (peace be upon him) or any other Prophet contradicting the Bible (see here), since we don't hold it in authority.

Without the Bible being imposed upon us, there is no reason to even think that the man was beheaded first.

Second, "earlier account" does not mean "recorded history." Shamoun is using a circular argument. He presumes the Biblical account is allegedly "recorded history" due to his a priori acceptance of the Bible as God's inerrant word.  Where is the proof that this episode (or any other) in the Bible is "recorded history"? There is none.

We will, however, admit that the Bible is in error since it contradicts the original account related by God in the Quran (yes, we too can apply circular arguments if that's the way Shamoun wants to play).


We saw that the greenhorn applied the same old cheap tactics to counter Shabir Ally: straw man, double standards, and arguments from silence, irrelevance, non-sequitur among others. At one stage he even directed rather nasty comments upon Shabir Ally in anger, which is a reflection of the greenhorn's true lowly character.

Besides this, we saw that a strong case could be made that Luke/Acts do not view Jesus' (peace be upon him) death as an atonement for sins. The author most likely viewed Jesus (peace be upon him) as a righteous martyr who was then vindicated by God. The only passage which could be used to clearly impute the atonement theology to Luke was most probably interpolated into the gospel of Luke by a scribe and we critically examined the late Bruce Metzger's defence of the longer Lucan form at this point. Thus we see an interesting example of theological difference of opinion and diversity within the gospels.  Thereafter we briefly commented upon the historicity and the interpretation of the Last Supper accounts in the gospels, Paul and in the Didache.

In short, many of the typical evangelical beliefs about Jesus (P) are severely undermined when we study the New Testament with the critical tools of investigation applied upon it by New Testament scholars. Further, we note that the New Testament writings are often open to a variety of interpretations and readings and are not limited to the ones touted by some evangelicals.


1. The subsequent arguments are based on the detailed discussions in D. C. Parker, The living text of the Gospels, 1997, Cambridge University Press, pp. 151-157 and Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament, 1993, Oxford University Press, pp. 197-209.

2. D. C. Parker, The living text of the Gospels, 1997, Cambridge University Press, p. 151.

Appendix 1

An obtuse internet dolt, greenhorn, tyro and neophyte troll is proclaiming to have managed to offer two "replies" to our exposition of his error-ridden propaganda ranting published 11 years ago. Our paper is to be found here.

The dolt’s first reaction is here.

There isn’t really anything new in his latest “response.” Predictably, we encounter mostly irrelevancies and repetition of claims which were already answered.

Furthermore, as before, strawman arguments are regularly encountered in his “replies.” We also have blatant cases of inconsistencies and highly selective use of sources, as will be highlighted and happily exposed below.

With just minor removals, we will reproduce the greenhorn’s doltish diatribe and expose his grave errors.

Greenhorn, dolt, neophyte:

In this series I intend to refute the claim that Luke-Acts does not have a doctrine of substitutionary atonement, meaning, that the inspired writer of these two canonical works either did not emphasize or rejected the vicarious nature of Christ’s sacrificial death for the express purpose of saving people from their sins. 

I first begin by highlighting the historical reliability of Luke-Acts as well as Luke’s personal acquaintance with some of the eyewitnesses of the historical Jesus.


The dolt subscribes to the questionable assumption of the inspiration of Luke-Acts even though the author of these works does not make any such claim about his own writings. 

Secondly, the dolt neophyte indulges in an utter irrelevancy. The alleged historical reliability of Luke-Acts has no bearing on the question of whether the author of these works attached vicarious significance to the death of Jesus. It could be that the author is, just for arguments sake, historically reliable and also believed that Jesus died as a righteous martyr and not necessarily to atone for sins.

Greenhorn, dolt, neophyte:

Luke’s reliability and association with the Apostles such as Paul

In Luke’s prologue, the inspired author states that his written account is based on information that he personally received from the very eyewitnesses of the historical Jesus:

“Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as they were HANDED DOWN TO US by those who from the beginning WERE EYEWITNESSES and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.” Luke 1:1-4


The neophyte reads too much into the passage. The uninspired author does not assert that his written account consists of traditions that he “personally received from the very eyewitnesses of the historical Jesus…” He merely states in a generalised manner that the stories about Jesus were handed down by eyewitnesses. Who is the “us” (ἡμῖν)[1] to whom they were handed down? Obviously, the ones who believed in Jesus and who were telling his stories, including the “many” (πολλοὶ) who were writing competing Jesus stories, including the author of Luke-Acts. In short, that the stories in circulation were believed to have been handed down to the community of believers by eyewitnesses does not necessarily follow that a Jesus story being told by Luke or another Christian around the same time was directly acquired from an actual eyewitness in a 1-to-1 meeting.

We know that for around 60% of his gospel, Luke was reliant upon the Greek stories found in a non-eyewitness account: the gospel of Mark. There’s nothing “wrong” with this. If Luke believed that the stories which he copied from Mark were handed down from eyewitnesses, he could then say that “these accounts were handed down to us from eyewitnesses” even if he did not literally extract any story from an actual living and breathing eyewitness. Simply put, stories believed to have been allegedly handed down by eyewitnesses could have been extracted from later/secondhand sources and not directly from eyewitnesses.

Note also: First, even if Luke[2], for arguments sake, asserted that he personally took his details from eyewitnesses (a claim which he does not make), then that by itself does not mean that he is correct.

Secondly, likewise, just because Luke believed that the stories about Jesus were handed down to the community by eyewitnesses, then that does not follow that all of the stories which he came to include in his works and all of the stories in circulation during his time were really handed down by eyewitnesses.

Third, Luke we know changed the contents of his sources to suit his needs. While not as much creative as Matthew, he did not hesitate to alter the material which he lifted from Mark. So, we are not dealing with an author who innocently reproduces his acquired material unaltered. Therefore, even if eyewitnesses lay underneath the Lukan accounts, we still must deal with the fact that Luke was using interpreted Greek stories which he too altered to suit his presuppositions. Therefore: we cannot presume his accounts to be presenting brute historical facts about Jesus.

Fourth, since we know that his primary source was Mark and not an actual living eyewitness, we must ask: how do we figure out what probably comes from an eyewitness in Luke. Even when such units are identified – and note, we can only make educated guesses here and no more – we then have to deal with the second problem: how did Luke adapt this material? Once the Lukan redactions – once again, we are making educated guesses here – have been removed, we are then left with an earlier form of the material, lacking Lukan redactions. Yet there is another difficulty to counter here: not only is there no way for us to know if our pruning exercise has left us with an earlier form of the material,[3] but there is also no way to reverse translate this material into Aramaic. Thus, we cannot know what Jesus originally said and what precisely may have transpired on various occasions. Perhaps, we must be content with making only the most generalised and broad constructions of what we suspect might have happened.

We are facing a quagmire of insurmountable problems when using the gospels to learn about the historical Jesus.

The above is just mainstream New Testament scholarship. These are routine views summarised above.

Greenhorn, dolt, neophyte:

Luke further narrates events that he himself was an eyewitness to:

“Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, WE got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called US to preach the gospel to them. From Troas WE put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day WE went on to Neapolis. From there WE traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And WE stayed there several days. On the Sabbath WE went outside the city gate to the river, where WE expected to find a place of prayer. WE sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited US to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded US.  Once when WE were going to the place of prayer, WE were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and the rest of US, shouting, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.’ She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ At that moment the spirit left her.” Acts 16:6-18

“When it was decided that WE would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment. WE boarded a ship from Adramyttium about to sail for ports along the coast of the province of Asia, and WE put out to sea. Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica, was with US. The next day WE landed at Sidon; and Julius, in kindness to Paul, allowed him to go to his friends so they might provide for his needs. From there WE put out to sea again and passed to the lee of Cyprus because the winds were against US. When WE had sailed across the open sea off the coast of Cilicia and Pamphylia, WE landed at Myra in Lycia. There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship sailing for Italy and put US on board. WE made slow headway for many days and had difficulty arriving off Cnidus. When the wind did not allow US to hold our course, WE sailed to the lee of Crete, opposite Salmone. WE moved along the coast with difficulty and came to a place called Fair Havens, near the town of Lasea. … Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that WE should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest… The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so WE gave way to it and were driven along. As WE passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, WE were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure, so the men hoisted it aboard. Then they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Because they were afraid they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. WE took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship’s tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, WE finally gave up all hope of being saved… On the fourteenth night WE were still being driven across the Adriatic Sea, when about midnight the sailors sensed they were approaching land. They took soundings and found that the water was a hundred and twenty feet deep. A short time later they took soundings again and found it was ninety feet deep. Fearing that WE would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight… Altogether there were 276 of US on board.” Acts 27:1-8, 12, 15-20, 27-29, 37

“Once safely on shore, WE found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed US unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed US all because it was raining and cold. Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, ‘This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.’ But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god. There was an estate nearby that belonged to Publius, the chief official of the island. He welcomed US to his home and showed US generous hospitality for three days. His father was sick in bed, suffering from fever and dysentery. Paul went in to see him and, after prayer, placed his hands on him and healed him. When this had happened, the rest of the sick on the island came and were cured. They honored US in many ways; and when WE were ready to sail, they furnished us with the supplies we needed. After three months WE put out to sea in a ship that had wintered in the island—it was an Alexandrian ship with the figurehead of the twin gods Castor and Pollux. WE put in at Syracuse and stayed there three days. From there WE set sail and arrived at Rhegium. The next day the south wind came up, and on the following day WE reached Puteoli. There WE found some brothers and sisters who invited US to spend a week with them. And so WE came to Rome. The brothers and sisters there had heard that WE were coming, and they traveled as far as the Forum of Appius and the Three Taverns to meet US. At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged. When WE got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.” Acts 28:1-16


This is good to know. Of course, this does not tell us that Luke expressed the view that Jesus died as a vicarious atonement for sins or that he acquired amazing insights about the historical Jesus from actual people who knew Jesus and that he is always correct in whatever he says. But thanks for sharing these passages.

The dolt merely assumes that Luke is always right in everything he says. Yet given the inconsistencies between what Luke says about Paul and what Paul says about himself, plus the fact that he used and edited stories from Mark, it seems more straightforward to suppose that Luke was simply lying or exaggerating on these occasions, wanting to pass himself off as a travel companion of Paul. (More on this below).

Greenhorn, dolt, neophyte:

Not only was Luke a traveling companion of the Apostle, but he also personally met James the Lord’s brother in Jerusalem:

“After WE had torn ourselves away from them, WE put out to sea and sailed straight to Kos. The next day WE went to Rhodes and from there to Patara. WE found a ship crossing over to Phoenicia, went on board and set sail. After sighting Cyprus and passing to the south of it, WE sailed on to Syria. WE landed at Tyre, where OUR ship was to unload its cargo. WE sought out the disciples there and stayed with them seven days. Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. When it was time to leave, WE left and continued on OUR way. All of them, including wives and children, accompanied US out of the city, and there on the beach WE knelt to pray. After saying goodbye to each other, WE went aboard the ship, and they returned home. WE continued our voyage from Tyre and landed at Ptolemais, where we greeted the brothers and sisters and stayed with them for a day. Leaving the next day, WE reached Caesarea and stayed at the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven. He had four unmarried daughters who prophesied. After WE had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Coming over to US, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, ‘The Holy Spirit says, “In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.”’ When WE heard this, WE and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, ‘Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.’ When he would not be dissuaded, WE gave up and said, ‘The Lord’s will be done.’ After this, WE started on OUR way up to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples from Caesarea accompanied US and brought US to the home of Mnason, where WE were to stay. He was a man from Cyprus and one of the early disciples. When WE arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received US warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of US went TO SEE JAMES, and all the elders were present.” Acts 21:1-18


And what amazing insights about the historical Jesus did Luke reveal he personally gained from James? Simple: Luke gives us no details about his supposed conversations with James and we cannot point out any story in his gospel where we can proclaim, “Voila! This story about Jesus was acquired by Luke directly from James during dinner that evening.”

Greenhorn, dolt, neophyte:

To say that the foregoing is truly remarkable would be to put it quite mildly.


To say that there is nothing remarkable here would be, well, to be factual. I have not even bothered to get into the topic of how experts analyse the “we” passages and what sorts of views abound out there in academia. There are certainly those out there who conclude that the author of Luke-Acts was indeed Paul’s traveling companion. Yet even going along with this view does not absolve the basic problem: there’s no reason to presume Luke’s supposed amazing “reliability” from the above; we learn absolutely nothing regarding what he supposedly acquired from James about the historical Jesus.

We do know, however, that Luke’s reliance is mainly on a non-eyewitness account (Mark) and that he was happy to alter it. As such, all professional scholars in academia, particularly those who are involved in historical Jesus research, treat all canonical gospels – Luke included – critically. That is, they do not merely presume that what Luke presents are brute facts. On the contrary, they ask: is this likely historically reliable or unreliable? Critical analysis is then conducted to reach a conclusion.

In short, no sober minded critical scholar that I know of is persuaded by the above cited “we” passages to treat Luke-Acts as historically reliable in all the details therein.

The dolt next engages in excessively extreme selective quotations for support of his a priori belief in Luke-Acts inerrancy.

Greenhorn, dolt, neophyte:

Noted Christian philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig brings out the significance of Luke’s having known and interviewed the very disciples of Christ: 

“… The gospel writers have a proven tract record of historical reliability. …


Just to be clear, no they do not. Craig is literally making it all up. This is not taught in any mainstream Biblical Studies course, apart from in extreme circles where it is presumed that the Bible is inerrant or very close to it.

All engaged in historical Jesus research are agreed on one point: the gospels present us with mixed details, and we have to determine, as best we can, what is likely to be historical and unreliable.

Notice also how the dolt just presumes that Luke “interviewed the very disciples of Christ.” Where does Luke say this and why are his alleged assertions being kept a secret from the world? Where is this interview; where can we read the questions posed to eyewitnesses by Luke and the replies of the eyewitnesses? And even assuming Luke says this somewhere out there, what is the reason for assuming that he is right or that he accurately presented the views of the ones whom he supposedly interviewed?

All that we encounter here are feel-good doltish desires.

Greenhorn, neophyte and dolt continues with his quotation:

Again let’s look at just one example: Luke. Luke was the author of a two-part work: the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. These are really one work and are separated in our Bibles only because the church grouped the gospels together in the New Testament. 

“Luke is the gospel author who writes most self-consciously as a historian… This [Luke’s] preface is written in classical Greek such as the great Greek historians used; after this Luke switches to a more common Greek. But he has put his reader on alert that he can write, if he wants to, like the learned historian. He speaks of his lengthy investigation of the story he’s about to tell and assures us that it’s based on eyewitness information and is accordingly the truth. 

“Now who was this author we call Luke? He was clearly not himself an eyewitness to Jesus’ life. But we discover an important fact about him from the book of Acts. Beginning in the sixteenth chapter of Acts, when Paul reaches Troas in modern-day Turkey, the author suddenly starts using the first-person plural… The most obvious explanation is that the author had joined Paul on his evangelistic tour of the Mediterranean cities. Eventually he accompanies Paul back to Israel and finally to Jerusalem. What this means is that the author of Luke-Acts was, in fact, in firsthand contact with the eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life and ministry in Jerusalem.

“Skeptical critics have done backflips to try to avoid this conclusion. They say that the use of the first-person plural in Acts should not be taken literally; it was just a literary device that was common in ancient sea voyage stories. Never mind that many of the passages in Acts are not about Paul’s sea voyage but take place on land! The more important point is that this theory, when you check it out, turns out to be sheer fantasy. There just was no literary device in the ancient world of sea voyages in the first-person plural–the whole thing has been shown to be a scholarly fiction! There’s no avoiding the conclusion that Luke-Acts was written by a traveling companion of Paul who had the opportunity to interview eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life while in Jerusalem.” (Craig, On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision [Published by David C. Cook, 2010], Personal Interlude: A Philosopher’s Journey of Faith, Part Two, 8. Who Was Jesus?, pp. 191- 193)


As noted above, there is absolutely no need to subscribe to any competing hypothesis which offers a possible explanation for the “we” passages because the problems highlighted above remain.

Secondly, a much easier solution is this: much like Craig, Luke too was making it up and exaggerating as he went along. After all, we know he makes up stuff and does not hesitate to change stories when we compare his gospel with its primary source: the gospel of Mark. A quick look at a synopsis will demonstrate this point.

I’ll say more about Luke’s “reliability” in the next note (see also our comments above regarding the problems in using the gospels as sources to learn about the historical Jesus).

Greenhorn, neophyte and dolt:


“Was the author reliable in getting the facts straight? The book of Acts enables us to answer that question decisively. The book of Acts overlaps significantly with the secular history of the ancient world, and the historical accuracy of Acts is indisputable. This has recently been demonstrated anew by Colin Hemer, a classical scholar who turned to New Testament studies, in his book The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History. Hemer goes through the book of Acts with a fine-tooth comb, pulling out a wealth of historical detail, ranging from what would have been common knowledge down to details that only a local person would know. Again and again Luke’s accuracy is demonstrated. From the sailings of the Alexandrian corn fleet to the coastal terrain of the Mediterranean islands to the peculiar titles of local officials, Luke gets it right.

“According to Professor Sherwin-White, ‘The confirmation of historicity in Acts is overwhelming. Any attempt to reject its historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd.’ The judgment of Sir William Ramsey, a world-famous archaeologist, still stands: ‘Luke is a historian of the first rank…. This author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.’

“Given Luke’s care and demonstrated reliability, as well as his contact with eyewitnesses within the first generation after the events, this author is trustworthy.” (Ibid., pp. 193-194)


With extreme selectively the dolt is using a few sources he can lay his hands on which he thinks support his a priori commitment to the belief in Luke’s inerrancy and “reliability.” It is remarkably easy for me to present many more counter quotes, which freely acknowledge Luke’s shortcomings and unreliability in places, without being selective. It is simply a fact that New Testament scholars do not treat Luke-Acts as 100% reliable, or reliable in every/many things therein. They treat it critically.

Rather than presenting counter quotations highlighting problems in Luke-Acts, here I will bring to the readers’ attention just one very mainstream and representative example of scholarship on this matter: E. P. Sanders, Paul: The Apostle’s Life, Letters, and Thought, (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2015), pp. 13-56. Sanders presents a sympathetic discussion regarding the reliability of Luke and has this to say on the question of using Acts to learn about Paul[4] (p. 15, bold added):

“The author of Acts was dependent on sources, and, as a good Hellenistic historian, he had his own views, to which he bent his account. Since the same author wrote the Gospel of Luke, we can study his use of his main source, Mark … “Luke” revised Mark freely. Doubtless when writing Acts the author did not hesitate to revise his sources so that they presented the “correct” views of Paul. It is easy to spot some of the author’s preferences and tendencies, which led him to stress some points and downplay or omit others.”

The above is the standard representative view of New Testament scholars. Some scholars will be more pessimistic about Luke’s accuracy; some will give more benefit of the doubt to Luke, though still treating his writings critically. Then there are those who are in the middle. In short, the author of Luke-Acts is acknowledged as an author who did not hesitate to change his sources and, as a result, his writings are treated critically by scholars.

Greenhorn, neophyte and dolt:

This brings me to my next point. The blessed Apostle Paul went out of his way to affirm and emphasize the substitutionary nature of Christ’s sacrificial death as the means by which God reconciles the world to himself. This is a point that Paul stresses all throughout his inspired epistles, aa the following verses prove:

God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:25-26

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:8-11

“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,” Galatians 1:3-4

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” Galatians 3:13-14

“to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” Ephesians 1:6-8

“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:2

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.” Ephesians 5:25-30

“He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins… He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. And you, who once were estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him, provided that you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which has been preached to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.” Colossians 1:13-14, 18-23

“waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”


There is no response or any sort of engagement with our arguments. We argued that the metaphors which Paul applies in his uninspired letters to describe the significance of Jesus’ death create certain theological problems. Moreover, it was never denied that Paul believed that Jesus’ death somehow atoned for sins.[5]

Secondly, the greenhorn dolt is operating under a convenient a priori belief: that Luke just accepted all of Paul’s theological presuppositions. It could be that Luke did not agree with Paul on every point, one of them being on the significance of Jesus’ death.

But wasn’t Luke travelling around with Paul all over the place? We can exercise our right to be gullible at this juncture, much like the dolt, or we can use our brain to think critically: that Luke is not presenting brute facts, that he could be exaggerating and making stuff up at times, possessing an imprecise knowledge of Paul’s theological positions.

The fact that we know, thanks to the presence of his major source, that he was more than capable of altering material should caution all sensible readers.

The dolt is not at all interested in critical thinking. He has some cherished presuppositions to parade, so damned be commonsense!

We continue with part 2 of our commentary refuting the bizarre “response” of the greenhorn, dolt and neophyte.


[1] This is a first person plural personal pronoun, in the dative case.

[2] I am calling him ‘Luke’ just for the sake of simplicity, not because I believe that Luke really composed these writings. I am agnostic on the matter of authorship.

[3] Because we cannot compare it against anything.

[4] Using Luke to learn about the historical Jesus is even more difficult!

[5] In fact, we wrote, “…Shabir Ally has never denied that the gospels of Mark & John, 1 John and the Pauline epistles claim that Jesus (peace be upon him) died for the sins of humanity, or that Jesus (peace be upon him) died "vicariously."”

Appendix 2

This is a continuation of our rebuttal to an obtuse internet dolt, greenhorn, tyro and neophyte troll. Here we will expose more of his egregious errors, irrelevancies, selective quotations, and strawman arguments.

Our paper uploaded 11 years ago specifically on the topic of the lack of vicarious atonement in Luke-Acts can be seen here.

The Greenhorn, dolt and neophyte writes:

The Scholarly views concerning the death of Christ in Luke-Acts

Here is the list of scholarly opinions concerning Luke’s depiction of Jesus’ death:

1) Christ’s death fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant whose death has propitiatory value.

2) His death was a part of his atoning work.

3) His death was necessary to make the resurrection, glorification, and exaltation possible.

4) Christ died the death of a righteous martyr.

5) The death of a righteous man whom God later vindicates in the resurrection.

6) The death of the lowly and humble, the death of which provides specific benefits that are then passed on to others who walk in lowliness of life.

7) The death of a great benefactor.

The fact is that Jesus’ death encompasses all these positions since no one particular viewpoint is able to totally capture the extent and significance of Christ’s vicarious sacrifice.

With that said, I am going to focus specifically on points 1, 2 and 4, as well as attempting to show that Luke affirms that Jesus’ death not only fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah 53 but that his death was a part of his atoning work in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy and other Old Testament texts.


#2 to #7 do not magically translate to #1 and the fact that there are multiple variant theologies which scholars “read” into Luke-Acts to understand Jesus’ death shows that the matter, at the very least, is quite fuzzy.

Neither is there any “prophecy” of a future event in Isaiah 53. In fact, there is no “prophecy” in any pre-Christian Jewish writing according to which an individual in the future will come to die as an atonement for sins, thereby making void the existing system of atonement provided in the covenant.  

We will address the dolt’s obfuscations and irrelevancies below.

Greenhorn, dolt and neophyte:

Jesus as a Righteous Martyr

Books such as Maccabees provide us with a glimpse of how the Jews viewed the deaths of their righteous at the hands of tyrants and despots:

“I, like my brothers, give up body and life for the laws of our fathers, appealing to God to show mercy soon to our nation and by afflictions and plagues to make you confess that he alone is God, and through me and my brothers to bring to an end the wrath of the Almighty which has justly fallen on our whole nation.” 2 Maccabees 7:37-38

“For their virtues, then, it is right that I should commend those men who died with their mother at this time in behalf of rectitude; and for their honours, I may count them happy. For they, winning admiration not only from men in general, but even from the persecutors, for their manliness and endurance, became the means of the destruction of the tyranny against their nation, having conquered the tyrant by their endurance, so that by them their country was purified.” 4 Maccabees 1:10-11(Sir Lancelot C.L. Brenton, The Septuagint LXX: Greek and English

“Beholding him so high-minded against misery, and not changing at their pity, they led him to the fire: then with their wickedly-contrived instruments they burnt him on the fire, and poured stinking fluids down into his nostrils. And he being at length burnt down to the bones, and about to expire, raised his eyes Godward, and said, Thou knowest, O God, that when I might have been saved, I am slain for the sake of the law by tortures of fire. Be merciful to thy people, and be satisfied with the punishment of me on their account. Let my blood be a purification for them, and take my life in recompense for theirs. Thus speaking, the holy man departed, noble in his torments, and even to the agonies of death resisted in his reasoning for the sake of the law.” 4 Maccabees 6:24-30

“These also avenged their nation, looking unto God, and enduring torments unto death. For it was truly a divine contest which was carried through by them. For at that time virtue presided over the contest, approving the victory through endurance, namely, immortality, eternal life. Eleazar was the first to contend: and the mother of the seven children entered the contest; and the brethren contended. The tyrant was the opposite; and the world and living men were the spectators. And reverence for God conquered, and crowned her own athletes. Who did not admire those champions of true legislation? Who were not astonished? The tyrant himself, and all their council, admired their endurance; through which, also, they now stand beside the divine throne, and live a blessed life. For Moses saith, And all the saints are under thine hands [Dt 33:3]. These, therefore, having been sanctified through God, have been honoured not only with this honour, but that also by their means the enemy did not overcome our nation; and that the tyrant was punished, and their country purified. For they became the ransom to the sin of the nation; and the Divine Providence saved Israel, aforetime afflicted, by the blood of those pious ones, and the propitiatory (tou hilasteriou) death.” 4 Maccabees 17:10-22


[Just for the information of some readers, these are sectarian texts, with I and II Maccabees in particular, relating the events of the Maccabean revolt against Antiochus IV Epiphanes, led initially by Mattathias and then by his sons. Not everything in such documents are to be taken as uniformly reflecting the views of all Jews.].

This opinion in some Jewish writings does nothing to “prove” that i) Luke-Acts contains the theology of Jesus dying as an atonement for sins in such a way that the means of atonement already provided by the covenant became redundant; ii)  that pre-Christian Jewish writings “predicted” the coming of a Messiah, or an eschatological figure, or any type of an individual in the distant future, who would die as an atonement for sins, thus rendering redundant the means of atonement already available in the covenant; iii) that the historical Jesus preached that his purpose on earth was to die as a vicarious atonement for sins, nullifying the existing means of atonement in the covenant; iv) that Paul’s soteriological outlook is correct (that is, salvation is only through believing in Jesus crucified and not through any other path).

We will elaborate in detail on the topic of atonement in Judaism and how to view the above cited texts from II and IV Maccabees in the larger context.

While Luke-Acts is silent and does not attach any theological significance to Jesus’ death, but even when, for arguments sake, we suppose that the author may have thought that  that Jesus’ death as a martyr would unleash atonement for the followers he was leaving behind – similar to the martyrdom of the Maccabean martyrs – then such a view can be seen through the larger context of the existing Jewish system of atonement, in no way “ending” or “replacing” the latter. Details below.

Greenhorn, dolt and neophyte:

These sources are crystal clear in highlighting the fact that the death of a righteous Jewish martyr was believed to bring about atonement for sins, which resulted in God having mercy upon his covenant people and reconciling them to himself.

[Elsewhere in his paper, the greenhorn, dolt and neophyte also quotes the Christian propagandist, Michael L. Brown, to elaborate further on his deranged thoughts above. We are including that quotation below and will then offer our response]

Noted Messianic Jewish scholar Dr. Michael L. Brown provides some further insights into the Jewish thinking concerning the slaughter of the righteous martyrs:

“Another consideration tinged the Jewish response to the slaughter of its people. It was an old Jewish tradition dating back to Biblical times that the death of the righteous and innocent served as expiation for the sins of the nation or the world. The stories of Isaac and of Nadav and Avihu, the prophetic description of Israel as the long-suffering servant of the Lord, the sacrificial service in the Temple – all served to reinforce this basic concept of the death of the righteous as an atonement for the sins of other men.

“Jews nurtured this classic idea of death as an atonement, and this attitude towards their own tragedies was their constant companion throughout their turbulent exile. Therefore, the wholly bleak picture of unreasoning slaughter was somewhat relieved by the fact that the innocent did not die in vain and that the betterment of Israel and humankind somehow was advanced by their ‘stretching their neck to be slaughtered.’ What is amazing is that this abstract, sophisticated, theological thought should have become so ingrained in the psyche of the people that even the least educated and most simplistic of Jews understood the lesson and acted upon it, giving up precious life in a soaring act of belief and affirmation of the better tomorrow. This spirit of the Jews is truly reflected in the historical chronicle of the time:

“‘Would the Holy One, Blessed is he, dispense judgment without justice? But we may say that he whom God loves will be chastised. For since the day the Holy Temple was destroyed, the righteous are seized by death for the iniquities of the generation’ (Yeven Metzulah, end of Chapter 15).” (Dr. Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Theological Objections [Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2000], Volume Two, pp. 154-155; bold emphasis ours)


Generally speaking, the following is largely acknowledged in Jewish sources from before the time of Jesus and up to the days of Paul and onwards: The making of the covenant was through the Grace of God and one stays within the covenant by observing the laws and commandments as best they can. Believers are never expected to be perfect. They are expected to err and make mistakes. This, however, is not at all a problem because God forgives the transgressor, thereby restoring the previous state of grace – a relationship with God which is perfectly good and requires nothing more. For all types of transgressions, specific acts of atonement were in place and sincere repentance had to be made which returned one to their prior state of grace. In the words of E. P. Sanders (all emphasis added):

All the rabbis whose views are known to us took the position that all the law must be accepted … No rabbi took the position that obedience must be perfectPharisees and rabbis of all schools and all periods strongly believed in repentance and other means of atonement in the case of transgression … Even in Qumran, where perfection of way was stressed, allowance was made for transgression and atonement.” E. P. Sanders, Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983). P. 28.

Furthermore (ibid):

The common Jewish (including Pharisaic, to the degree that it can be known) view on the matters under discussion here would be this: the law is not too difficult to be satisfactorily fulfilled; nevertheless more or less everybody sins as some time or other… but God has appointed means of atonement which are available to all.”

Thus, sin was never a conundrum in Judaism in the manner constructed by Paul and we know of no pre-Christian Jewish thought/hope according to which at some distant time in the future, God would send someone who would, once and for all, atone for the sins of humanity through his vicarious sacrifice and make null the existing system of atonement provided by the covenant. Such a thought is absent in Jewish writings – just as it is absent in II and IV Maccabees – precisely because the system of atonement and forgiveness in place was believed to re-establish the previous right relationship one enjoyed with God and restore the sinner to his previous state of grace.  

The quotations presented by the dolt from II and IV Maccabees are not in tension with the Jewish view summarised above.  Sins are forgiven by God through multiple means of atonement and these texts present us with an additional means of atonement. Thus, during times of extreme persecution and subjugation, some Jewish writers came to believe that when in the face of persecution and even death, if an individual or a group remained steadfast in their faith in God, remained obedient to God and refused to renounce His commandments despite the hardships, then upon attaining martyrdom, God would not only accept these martyrs with open arms, but would also extend His mercy and forgive the sins of the larger community of oppressed believers.

This is one means of atonement among several others. All means of atonement required sincere repentance, some being: animal sacrifices,[1] non-sacrificial means such as even sincere repentance on its own, prayers, fasting, good deeds, suffering resulting in atonement and restitution for transgressions against fellow men.[2] So, if God forgives sins upon the repentance of a sinner and he sins again, then he can again reconcile with God by repenting and utilising a means of atonement meant to counter his specific transgression.

Likewise, when a community’s sins were believed by some to have been forgiven due to the martyrdom of some of their members – as related in II and IV Maccabees – it was not the case that the existing system of atonement was thought to have now become redundant. Instead, the community which attained atonement through the martyrdom of some among them would be expected to sin and transgress again in the remaining course of their lives and could again reconcile rightly with God through sincere repentance and an appropriate means of atonement.

Our position regarding Luke-Acts: Luke does not attach an atoning significance to Jesus’ death in his writings, in the Pauline manner (i.e. for Paul, salvation and atonement is only through believing in Jesus as crucified for all and no other system of salvation/atonement was valid). In this case, Jesus would, presumably, be a righteous martyr for Luke, with sins and transgressions committed by members of the believing community being managed, presumably, through the existing means of atonement and repentance already in place, which would restore the sinner’s original state of grace and rightly reconcile him with God.

Death of a righteous martyr could be seen as producing atonement for a larger group of fellow oppressed believers; but it is not necessary that every death of a righteous martyr is viewed as such by all.  But even if we suppose that perhaps Luke thought – (because he did not write it) – that the suffering of Jesus brought about atonement for the followers he was leaving behind – and we can say that while Luke does not assert this, but it is possible that he thought this – then we still have no reason to suppose that Luke deemed null and void the existing Jewish methods of atonements for sins. Neither would it mean that Luke thought that the atonement of sins which Jesus’ immediate followers attained through his martyrdom would somehow remain “active” forever, even benefitting newcomers to his movement who did not meet/see him on earth. Such later converts, however, could be thought to receive atonement for sins if they came to believe in Jesus as a prophet and messiah of God and endorsed his teachings. This conversion could be conceived as cleansing the pre-conversion sins of the convert who has now come to acknowledge a true prophet of God and accepted his teachings. But unless it is specified in words, this atonement is from coming to believe in an individual as a genuine prophet of God and not because “he died for sins, we only need to believe this to be saved, and the existing means of atonement are now nullified.”  Therefore, if this convert transgresses or sins after his conversion, then the existing means of atonement and sincere repentance would again successfully restore his earlier state of grace and relationship with God. In this model, the mere death of Jesus itself would not be a permanent everlasting atonement force. In short, this atonement is no different in type from the martyrdom atonement mentioned in the Maccabean texts.

Therefore, Jesus’ followers could be expected to sin and transgress again and again but could again and again reconcile with God by applying the means of atonement catering to their specific transgression and by repenting sincerely to God. Likewise, the oppressed Jewish people whose sins were forgiven due to the martyrdom incident during the Maccabean crises, they would sin again and again in the remaining course of their lives, but would be able to restore their previous state of grace again and again by utilising the existing means of atonement provided by the covenant.  This would be an ongoing thing till the day one days.

In short, the atonement of sins of a believing oppressed community on account of the suffering and martyrdom of one or more righteous among them – a notion which came to be expressed in some Jewish writings in times of persecution – or by any other means of atonement, would not be permanently active. Thus, multiple means of atonement would continue to be utilised to atone for sins and transgressions as life goes on and this would restore one’s earlier state of grace. The transgression-atonement cycle is an ongoing process till the day we die.

In the words of Sanders (italics original), “… (1) that there was a means of atonement for every transgression; (2) that the Rabbis were concerned with atonement as a living religious issue; (3) that, since atonement for individual sins restores the penitent sinner to the right relationship with God, he originally had a right relationship with God, a relationship established with God’s mercy and maintained by the individual’s obedience and repentance and by God’s forgiveness.” E. P. Sanders, Paul And Palestinian Judaism: A Comparison of Patterns of Religion, (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, London: SCM Press Ltd, 1977), p. 235.

Greenhorn, dolt and neophyte:

As the following scholar notes: 

“… To die a martyr also means serving as a ransom through suffering, expiating the faults of the community, purifying the fatherland, gaining peace for the nation and chastisement for the tyrants, whose arrogance is already conquered by the martyr’s endurance (1:11; 6:29; 9:24; 12:17; 17:20-22; 18:4). These affirmations go further than 2 Macc. 6:12-17; 7:37-38. Some occur again in the New Testament; see Matt. 20:28. They may also have been influenced by Isa 53:8-12.” (M. Gilbert, “Wisdom Literature,” in Jewish Writings of the Second Temple Period: Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Qumran Sectarian, Writings, Philo, Josephus, edited by Michael E. Stone [Van Gorcum Fortress Press, Philadelphia 1984], Chapter Seven, p. 318,+Pseudepigrapha,+Qumran+Sectarian,+Writings,+Philo,+Josephus&printsec=frontcover&source=bl&ots=vNYXrlqYj3&sig=rH4PerfMzC9SjJgV-ciMnJ9lznU&hl=en&ei=qX_fSuyUGMmPtge6iq0B&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CAgQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=&f=false; bold emphasis ours)


Now that the larger Jewish picture has been summarised above and we know that there were multiple means of atonement for different transgressions available in Judaism, the above is perfectly understandable and unproblematic. Gilbert is discussing how IV Maccabees specifically talks about martyrdom, going much further in its description than the author of II Maccabees. It is understandable that the rhetoric and descriptions would become even more intense over time in difficult circumstances. The author of IV Maccabees is describing the martyrdom as an artist (17:7), deploying rhetoric and oratory. In light of the forgoing discussion, this creates no problem whatsoever and offers no vindication for Paul’s convoluted thoughts on the subject.

Greenhorn, dolt and neophyte writes:

Hence, the death of Jesus on behalf of his people is something which would be thoroughly acceptable within the Jewish worldview of his day. At the very least, his death would have fallen under the category of the righteous martyr, e.g. a faithful, pious Jew whose death God accepted as an atonement for others.(1)


Yes, that’s indeed possible i.e. followers of Jesus, much like the author of IV Maccabees, may have hoped for the atonement of sins in the face of persecution and the unjust killing of God’s Prophet and Messiah who, in the face of death, remained steadfast and stayed on the path of God. It is quite possible that his followers believed and hoped that God would also extend his mercy over them and forgive their sins. And if later in the course of their lives these followers committed any transgressions, then they could easily reconcile again with God through sincere repentance and an appropriate means of atonement. And when someone new comes to accept Jesus, one who did not know the historical Jesus but who now comes to acknowledge him as God’s genuine prophet and messiah, his sins would be forgiven by God. In the course of his life should he sin and transgress, then he can offer sincere repentance and use a means of atonement in place, thereby restoring his right relationship with God.

In the case of Luke, he does not state that Jesus’ death resulted in the atonement of sins. But, who knows, perhaps he too subscribed to this view, though he did not articulate it. We are basically attempting to enter his mind, but it's certainly possible that he thought this, though we can never know. God knows best. If he did adopt this view even though he did not articulate it, then that would not make redundant the means of atonement already in place.

Greenhorn, dolt and neophyte:

After all, if the death of imperfect human souls brought about expiation and reconciliation, how much more the death of Jesus whom Luke-Acts describe as the holy and righteous One of God, God’s uniquely beloved Son who had committed no sin, but was perfectly pleasing to his Father?

“But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Listen, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest. And the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. And of His kingdom there will be no end.’ Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’ The angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you. Therefore the Holy One who will be born will be called the Son of God.’” Luke 1:30-35

“and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form like a dove on Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, ‘You are My beloved Son. In You I am well pleased.’” Luke 3:22

“In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon. And he cried out with a loud voice, Leave us alone! What have You to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!’” Luke 4:33-34

“A voice came from out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son. Listen to Him.’” Luke 9:35

“And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Having said this, He gave up the spirit. When the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God and said, ‘Certainly, this was a righteous Man.’” Luke 23:46-47

“The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His Son Jesus, whom you handed over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. You denied the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Creator of Life, whom God has raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.” Acts 3:13-15

“Indeed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were assembled together against Your holy Son Jesus whom You have anointed… by stretching out Your hand to heal and that signs and wonders may be performed in the name of Your holy Son Jesus.” Acts 4:27, 30

“Which of the prophets have your fathers not persecuted? They have even killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, of whom you have now become the betrayers and murderers,” Acts 7:52

“God has fulfilled to us, their children, raising Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: ‘You are My Son; today I have become Your Father.’ That He raised Him from the dead, no more to return to corruption, He has spoken in this way: ‘I will give You the holy and sure blessings of David.’ So He says in another Psalm: ‘You will not let Your Holy One see decay.’ For after David had served by the counsel of God in his own generation, he fell asleep, was buried with his fathers, and saw decay. But He whom God raised up saw no decay.” Acts 13:32-37

“Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will and to see the Just One and to hear His voice,’” Acts 22:14


The neophyte greenhorn dolt can show nothing whatsoever from Luke-Acts which demonstrates that according to its author, Jesus’ death brought about a greater, more tremendous, lasting and definitive expiation, reconciliation and forgiveness than the level of forgiveness that was believed to have been issued by God when the innocent were martyred, as related in II and IV Maccabees.  Being righteous, just, God’s son in the Jewish sense, and holy does not magically follow that Luke thought that something more long-lasting or permanent occurred when Jesus died as a martyr, assuming Luke thought that Jesus’ martyrdom brought about atonement for the followers he was leaving behind. Neither would it mean that Luke thought that the existing means of atonement were now of “no use” and that Luke thought that all that one needed to do was to believe that Jesus had died for his sins.  

We’re faced with nothing more than doltish eisegesis, where the dolt is reading his desires and fantasies into Luke-Acts, attributing his views to Luke’s thoughts.

I’m not done with this dolt, tyro, neophyte and greenhorn. Just wait. There’s more for him in the next segments of our refutation to his absurdities.

Greenhorn, dolt and neophyte:


(1) Even this Muhammadan greenesthorn admits as much when he writes:

Shamoun has presented one view, another view is as follows. Notice that the arguments here differ from Shamoun’s in a number of ways although the conclusion is the same. Briefly: In Jesus’ time there existed a view in Judaism according to which the sins of others could be expiated through the suffering and violent death of just persons. In fact, the martyrdom of even one righteous person could expiate the sins of others (a good example of this belief are the Maccabean texts – 2 and 4). Thus, it is possible that when the threat of death loomed up, Jesus applied this belief to himself. Furthermore, although Isaiah 52:13-53:12 may be used to support reflections on vicarious atonement, it is, however, never quoted in later writings of the Jewish Bible or even the non-canonical writings. Where allusions to this material about the Suffering Servant do exist in later texts, the notion of a death representatively atoning for others is missing [sic]. Be that as it may, the Isaiah texts played a role in shaping early Christian preaching and it may be argued that the motif of vicarious atonement found in Isaiah 52-3 goes back to Jesus himself. Nonetheless, one needs to be cautious. No clear texts exist from pre-Christian Judaism which mentions the Messiah’s vicarious suffering in connection with Isaiah 53 (more on Isaiah 53 below). Furthermore, the pre-Christian belief of representative expiation did not envisage vicarious atonement through death by crucifixion [sic]. Judaism could not accept the atoning meaning of the cross since death on a cross signified being cursed by God. Yet Paul’s epistles contain pre-Pauline traditions which mention Jesus’ death “for us,” or as an atonement for sins, thereby running counter to the pre-dominant Jewish beliefs. How do we explain this type of an understanding of the significance of Jesus’ death? Such an interpretation could not have merely emerged when the disciples encountered the risen Jesus; rather, it is probable that Jesus had already in some way claimed to be the Messiah and indicated that his forthcoming death would have an atoning value. (Shamounion Straw men and Obfuscations: A Critical Commentary on Sam Shamoun’s: The Purpose and Cause of Jesus’ Death:; bold emphasis ours)

I want to personally congratulate greenesthorn for affirming that the historical Jesus believed that his death has an atoning effect since this admission basically condemns Muhammad as a false prophet since he not only denied the atoning significance of Christ’s crucifixion but even went as far as to deny his crucifixion altogether! (Cf. Q. 4:157-158.)


We want to personally congratulate the dolt for demonstrating once again that he is a dolt, lacking basic elementary comprehension skills. When the dolt asserts that we had “affirmed” that the “historical Jesus believed that his death has an atoning effect…” he is then either suffering from a massive comprehension problem or, worse, is lying. Although we know that he is a confirmed liar, we will, however, give him the benefit of the doubt on this occasion (as his misreading is embarrassingly massive). Being a dolt, it is perhaps not his fault for being unable to comprehend discussions composed in straightforward and simple English. As he is a dolt, we must break simple discussions down for him in simpler baby-step format to increase the possibility of him being able to process a simple discussion:

1. The paragraph pasted above from our earlier paper is presented under this subheading: “3. The significance, if any, the historical Jesus (peace be upon him) may have attached to his possible death is a much convoluted subject. A number of diverse views are to be observed, with some common views listed below.

2. After the above subheading, we wrote: “The New Testament data is open to diverse interpretations when it comes to assessing the significance, if any, of the death of Jesus (peace be upon him). A few popular views:”

3. We then shared a summary of a few competing views among scholars, the first view summarised being that of Gerald O'Collins. What the dolt pasted above was our partial summary of O’Collins’ position. We even wrote: “The above is a very quick summary of the arguments found in Gerald O'Collins, Christology: A Biblical, Historical and Systematic Study of Jesus Christ, 1995, Oxford University Press.

4. We did not assert that we shared O’Collins’ take on the matter. Neither did we assert that O’Collins’ view was indeed how the historical Jesus presented himself. Nowhere did we assert that we were presenting the views of the “historical Jesus.” We were simply presenting O’Collins’ view, without offering an endorsement, after which we listed other competing views.

5. We then proceeded to share with the readers other competing views among scholars.

Conclusion: the point being made was simply this: “The New Testament data is open to diverse interpretations when it comes to assessing the significance, if any, of the death of Jesus (peace be upon him).”

How on earth can someone fall victim to such a crass and gross case of misreading? Minor slips here and there are understandable and pardonable, but a vile misreading of this magnitude? This should never take place in discussions. But the neophyte, dolt and greenhorn, besides being frequently ignorant, also lacks basic comprehension and reading skills. Thus, he constructs strawman arguments and then attempts to overwhelm an opponent with irrelevancies and fuzzy doltish reasoning.

And this neophyte, dolt, tyro and greenhorn thinks he is actually refuting our arguments!

[1] For unintentional sins.

[2] Rather than quote text after text, we list a few examples of different modes of non-sacrificial atonements available in the Jewish Bible, God offering forgiveness when sincere repentance is made, and God forgiving sins even in the absence of repentance: Numbers 5:5-8, 31:50; Leviticus 5:11; I Kings 8:46-50; Jeremiah 29:12-14, 36:3; II Chronicles 7:4; Proverbs 21:3, 16:6; Isaiah 55:7; Micah 7:18; Psalm 78:36-39, 103:7-18; Isaiah 43:23-25; Hoseah 14:1-2; II Chronicles 6:21.

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