To My Muslim Friends: The Following of Jesus Explained
- by R. Totten, MDiv. - (c) 2010
Assalamu alaikum (Peace be Upon You)
Hello and greetings. -- I am a Jesus-Follower who has had the privilege of enjoying Muslim friends and aquaintances for years from among university students as well as professional people --in person and on the internet. We have had informative and serious discussions about both the Islamic/Quranic view of reality and the world, as compared to the Biblical view.
Despite tensions between the western and the Islamic "worlds," I remain hopeful that many of us can continue a friendly dialogue of increased understanding. Furthering that dialogue is the purpose of this letter.
Jesus-Followers and Muslims do find substantial agreement in several areas, including: that there is only one true God who is the sovereign, all-knowing and all-powerful creator of everything; that God is just; and that God has revealed himself to mankind. We agree that there is a need for greater morality in the societies of the world, that the world as we know it will come to an end and God will ultimately judge all mankind.
However, there is disagreement between Jesus-Followers and Muslim sides of the discussion for two main reasons:
1. On one hand, there may be a mis-understanding of a religion. When this is the case, then people may be opposing a misrepresentation of that religion, and such a situation does not help to advance a useful dialogue between the two religions. This letter will seek to avoid and hopefully correct such inaccuracies or misrepresentations.
2. On the other hand, however, there are legitimate disagreements between the two religions as they are accurately portrayed by qualified teachers on either side. This letter seeks to advance the dialogue on this sort of a productive level, concerning the three most critical issues: The Scriptures, the nature of God, and Salvation.
To begin with, in writing to Muslim friends, I am urging you to adhere to and consistently follow the teaching of the Quran regarding the Bible.
-- So, what does the Quran teach about the Bible? ...Please note some Quranic quotes:
Sura 6:91 states: "No just estimate of Allah do they make when they say: 'Nothing doth Allah send down to man (by way of revelation).' Say: 'Who then sent down the Book which Moses brought? --a light and guidance to man."
-- We see in this sura, that the Quran says the "Book" which was "sent down" through Moses (which is the Torah, or Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) is true revelation sent down from God to man, and it provides "light and guidance" from God to mankind. This shows that the Pentateuch is given to Muslims as an instance of genuine and true divine revelation.
Sura 17:55 says: "And it is your Lord that knoweth best all beings that are in the heavens and on earth: We did bestow on some prophets more (and other) gifts than on others: and we gave to David (the gift of) the Psalms."
-- As proof that Allah knows "all things," we are told in this sura, that the Quran declares that the Psalms are a gift and true revelation from God.
Sura 5:46-47 says: "And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: and guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah. Let the people of the Gospel judge by what Allah hath revealed therein."
-- This sura not only confirms the biblical Law (Torah) again (along with Sura 6:91 above), but it also declares that the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were sent from God, and that it provides "guidance and admonition to those who fear Allah." The Quran commands people to "judge" all things by what Allah has revealed in the Gospels. --Thus, the four Gospels are a standard of truth by which to determine and judge what is true. --And to further confirm that Muslims are to consider the Gospels to be genuine revelation from God, see also Sura 4:163-165.
Sura 10:94 asserts: "If thou wert in doubt as to what We have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the Book from before thee: the Truth hath indeed come to thee from thy Lord: so be in no wise of those in doubt."
-- And here, we find that the Quran declares that the Bible ("the Book") is given as an instance of revelation from God. If someone wonders about revelation from God, this sura says they are to ask those who read and know the Bible. Here it is asserted that in the Bible truth has indeed come from God, and no one should be in doubt about that. Thus, this sura requires Muslims to not be among those who are "in doubt" about the Bible's authority and origin from God.
Therefore, the Muslim is brought to the fact that the Quran considers the Torah (the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), and the Psalms, as well as the four Gospels (Mattew, Mark, Luke and John) to be sent from God to man as genuine and true revelation. -- So, the Quran declares that these books are God-given Scripture.
...And most importantly, we must be aware that all of the above Quranic assertions are declared to be true of the Bible as of the year 630 AD (when the Quran was written down). -- So the above-mentioned Bible books (at least) are declared by the Quran to be authoritative Scripture as they existed in the year 630 AD.
Concern about Corruption
Now, some Muslims are concerned about a corruption of the wording in the Bible, however, in several places the Quran teaches that "there is nothing that can alter the words of God" (Sura 6:34 and 10:64 and 18:27)... and the Quran declares that the Pentateuch, Psalms and Gospels are the words of God. More than this, Allah makes the promise to watch over his revealed word and to guard it from corruption (Sura 15:9). -- Since the above Suras establish the Pentateuch and the Psalms and the 4 Gospels ...and the Bible overall... to be revealed Scripture from God, it is required of Muslims that they accept the Bible as not being corrupted, since God has promised to guard it from corruption.
At this point, it would be important for my Muslim friends to realize that the original manuscripts of the New Testament (written in Greek) were completed between the years 50 AD to 95 AD. In fact, most of the N.T. was completed by the year 67 AD (when Paul died), and all four Gospels were complete by the year 95 AD (in fact, Matthew, Mark and Luke were evidently written by the year 60 AD). The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and John were written down by eyewitnesses of the events, and Luke was mostly from Peter's recollections. And then, by the year 100 AD, Christians already considered the writings now included in the New Testament to be Scripture from God (see 2Peter 3:15,16). Therefore these Scriptures would have been very highly prized, venerated and carefully handled from that day forward. And these precious original manuscripts were probably still in existence and being studied and copied up until the year 350 or 400 AD --or later. (Note: A 300 year-old book is not extremely uncommon (if it is a precious book), as seen by many examples in many libraries and homes; --and in the next few paragraphs we will even refer to copies of the Bible which are right now about 1700 years old.)
These copies of the Scriptures were already guarded treasures hundreds of years before the Quranic endorsements of the Bible were given.
- - - Now, it should be remembered that we still today have a good copy of the first 14 chapters of John's Gospel from about the year 200 AD (the "Bodmer 2 Papyrus").
- - - And then too, from the year 240 AD we have fairly complete copies of all four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
- - - In addition, from the year 210 AD we have copies of most of Paul's writings, including Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2Thessalonians. And this collection of copies includes Hebrews (all of these are in the "Chester Beatty Biblical Papyri" in Dublin, Ireland).
In addition to the above important copies, the copy called the "Codex Vaticanus" has the entire Bible in Greek from the year 325 AD, ...except for a few pages from the book of Hebrews.
The "Codex Sinaiticus," now located in the British Museum (in London), is a copy of the complete Bible in Greek, copied in around 350 AD.
The "Codex Alexandrinus," also in the British Museum, is a copy of almost the whole Greek Bible from about 350 AD, but is missing about 40 pages.
Remember, that the original manuscripts (written personally by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, etc.) were most likely still in existence when all of the above copies were made. --We can rest assured that most all of the copying was quite close to the exact wording of the original manuscripts themselves. Wherever there are any little copying errors here or there in a particular copy, those variances are extremely easy to correct because almost all the other old copies have it right and they agree with each other! This is almost always quite simple to figure out.
Furthermore, there are about 5,300 copies (in Greek) of various portions of the New Testament --many of them from before the year 150 AD-- and taken all together, there are more than 24,000 copies of various parts of the New Testament --many of them were made when the original manuscripts were still existent (before the year 350 AD).
Since Bible scholars have relied heavily upon the large number of Bible-copies from before the year 400 AD, we know that the Bible to which Muhammad and the Quran refer was complete and very accurate. ---My Muslim friends should remember that the Quran affirms the revelation of God in the Bible, and it makes this affirmation in the year 630 AD. By this time, the established copies of the New Testament had been around for 250 years, and they have not changed at all until today. -- There is no good reason to imagine that the Bible was corrupted at the time of Muhammad, ...and the Bible texts (in Hebrew and Greek) which scholars use today for Bible-translation are exactly the same as back then. In fact, scholars today can be even more sure of the exact correct text than ever before, because almost all the available copies can be consulted at the same time by use of photographic images, or directly in person. The Bibles we have today come from the very same early copies of the Bible texts, and there is no significant corruption involved.
Now, of course, various copyists (since they are human) ended up putting (for example) a mis-spelling here and there, or including a word or phrase twice, or some such errors ---but the manuscript scholars are able to easily weed out almost all such errors just by looking at hundreds of other copies which do not have that particular mis-spelling, and the corrections are quite obvious and simple. There are a very small number of more puzzling copyist's errors, however, they do not occur in any place where there is in important teaching in the entire New Testament.
Therefore, all Muslims should rest assured that the Bible is not corrupted. The Quran does not say anywhere that the Bible (or any part of it) is corrupted. Please take note of that. In addition, Muslims have never said the Bible was corrupted --until very recent years. -- Muslims who now say the Bible is corrupted are standing in opposition to the Quran.
The clear and logical conclusion: Muslims should consider the Bible to be trustworthy revelation from God. This is the Quranic view. --And then, of course, although it is best to read the Bible in Hebrew (for OT) and Greek (for NT), it is quite acceptable to read a translation in English or Arabic or many other languages.
To read from the Bible, easily find any chapter HERE.
So, what is God like? -- Well, Muslims (the Quran) and the Bible agree that there is one and only one God who is the sovereign creator of the universe and all that exists; that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, merciful, compassionate and just, etc.; there is agreement that there will come a final judgment when all mankind will have to give a final accounting to God for their lives on earth, and God will punish the wicked and save others.
But it is critical to understand what the Bible teaches about the salvation of humans.
In the Gospel, Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). -- Jesus makes it clear that no one can really know God or end up with God (in heaven) except through Christ. He is the only way.
Similarly, Jesus was clear about this: "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved" (The Gospel, John 10:9). So, there is only one gateway to salvation and eternal life: ...Jesus Christ.
From what do people need to be saved?
Well, we read that at the time of Jesus' birth, God's angel instructed Jesus' step-father, "you are to give him the name 'Jesus,' because he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). -- Jesus saves people from sin.
Well, is sin really that serious a problem?
Yes it is. -- In Psalm 51:4, David speaks about his sin (against other humans) and he says to God: "Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight." - So, compared to everybody else who is affected and hurt by sin, God is the one who is fundamentally and most grievously offended of all. There is no comparison. God's sensitivity to sin can't be understood by us sinful humans, as Scripture says of God, "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil" (Hab. 1:13). So God is so absolutely sinless that he can't tolerate or stand a sinner in his presence at all. The fact of any human's sinfulness grieves God in the extreme, and it "fills his heart with pain" (Gen. 6:5,6). The sin in our human lives is so horrific in God's view, that it makes all human beings to be "enemies of God" (Rom. 5:10).
So, how does God deal with this sin?
Well, ultimately, God "does not leave the guilty unpunished" (Ex. 34:7). This is because he is a just and uncorrupt Judge who cannot let the offenders get by with it. Though God is merciful and often puts the punishment off, unless there is a just payment for it sin, it will be judged, and a fair penalty will be required. The basic penalty is: God puts sinners to death --as we read: "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23). In the end, this God of absolute justice won't even let unintentional sins go unpunished (Levit. 4).
So, who is such a sinner in God's view?
We read that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). This includes all of us. We read that "all are under sin," and "there is no one righteous, not even one" (Psa. 53:2-3). This is God's view of all mankind, which is grievously and painfully sinful to God, making all mankind his enemies (Rom. 5:10).
So, what are examples of "sin" with which all humans are involved?
In a nutshell: Godlessness. -- We see that God's anger and wrath is being revealed against "the godlessness of mankind" (Rom. 1:18). -- Godlessness exists in any human heart whenever God is not the most important thing and the most precious attachment in our heart. If at any time (even for a moment) we value or treasure a son, or a spouse, or family-member, a friend, a nation, a possession, a comfort --or our own selves or our honor-- more than we value God, then that is godlessness. Godlessness is also called idolatry, which is valuing or respecting anything ahead of God ...even for a moment. Even when we're asleep. -- The truly honest person must admit that they slip into godlessess many times every day, whenever we value, love or respect anything more than God. -- All such behavior and heart-attitude is sin, which elicits God's furious wrath.
And then similarly: Covetousness. -- Exodus 20:17 says, "You shall not covet your neighbor's house ...or anything that belongs to your neighbor." -- To "covet" means to look at anything that belongs to someone else (including any possession, or money, or a spouse), and wish it were, or desire it to be yours. Whenever we do this it is sin, which elicits God's wrath and fury against our behavior.
And finally: Adultery and Fornication. -- In Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus quoted the commandment which says, "You shall not commit adultery," but then Jesus clarified a deeper application of the command, as he said, "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." -- Therefore, God sees the initial form of adultery in the human heart, whenever the lustful desire or momentary imagining of any intimate or sexual contact with that other peson (who is not your spouse) arises in the heart. Even when we're asleep or dreaming. That is sin. Most masturbation includes this sin. Looking at pornography includes this sin. Even if we control our imagination and lustful urge --or even if we do the right thing and marry the other person first-- there was still the initial form of adultery (or fornication) there in the heart. -- Whenever we do this sort of thing, it is sin, which justly and fairly elicits God's furious wrath against such behavior.
As a just Judge who is not corrupt, God cannot overlook any sin, nor leave it unpunished. -- And all humans have sinned, as Romans 3:23 says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
Some Muslims then say, "Well, Christians believe in three gods." -- But no. This is an incorrect characterization. The Bible does not teach this, and no properly educated Bible teacher says this. - Rather, the Bible directly and clearly teaches that there is only one being who is God (Deut.6:4,5; 1K.8:60; 1Tim.2:5), and that one spirit-being has three eternal self-awarenesses or "persons" (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). Each divine "person" is distinct from the other, and yet, each person is completely and equally God. These three are one being... one God. --- God is a non-material spirit-being (Jn. 4:24), and for all eternity before the universe or anything was created, the Father was God (Gen.1:1), the Son was fully God (John 1:1-4; Jn. 20:27,28; Hebr.1:3,6,8), and the Spirit was fully God (Acts 5:3,4; 1Cor. 2:10,11). -- For all eternitybefore the divine "person" of the "Son of God" took on a human body (in the man Jesus), the eternal Son of God had already been fully God for all eternity (Jn. 8:58; Jn.17:5).
... More to come on this article ... Please come back.
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REMEMBER: ...You, dear reader, are valuable and loved by God, and that's why Jesus Christ came! May God bless you and enable you to come to know his great love and forgiveness through God who took on a human body (Jesus), and then died for our sins (Romans 5:8 and 1Peter 3:18) to pay the death-penalty for sins which God requires (Romans 6:23), so that we could become honorary "adopted sons" of God, if we will only trust and believe in this wonderful Lord and Savior, Jesus.
For many further discussions concerning Islam and Christianity
you may find help at: Answering-Islam.org