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:
         ")HE WAS LED AS A SHEEP TO SLAUGHTER;
         AND AS A LAMB BEFORE ITS SHEARER IS SILENT,
         SO HE DOES NOT OPEN HIS MOUTH.
    33 "IN HUMILIATION HIS JUDGMENT WAS TAKEN AWAY;
         WHO WILL RELATE HIS GENERATION?
         FOR HIS LIFE IS REMOVED FROM THE EARTH."

 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)

And:

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)

Finally:

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...


   


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
Tabari.
 
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).

 

Conclusion

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Notes

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Return to Refuting Sam Shamoun

Return to Homepage

 

click here to view site

HomeWhat's new?IslamChristianityRefutations LanguagesMultimediaE BooksLinksContact Me