Republished from March 1902 edition of The Review of Religions
The Divinity of Jesusas Considered with Reference to the Extent of His Mission
The Divinity of Jesusas Considered with Reference to the Extent of His Mission
We may yet apply another test to the deity of Jesusas. If Jesusas was God, his mission should have been universal and not limited to any particular community, for the empire of God extends over the whole world and not over any particular portion of it. God is not the Lord of the Jews alone but He is equally the Lord of the Magi, the Christians, the Hindus and all other nations. The person who as a manifestation of the Deity appears for the guidance of the world, must extend his mission to all irrespective of creed and colour. The circle of his sympathy should naturally be so wide as to comprehend the different nations of the earth, for narrowness of ideas is quite inconsistent with the nature of a Divine incarnation. It strikes indeed very strange that one, who claims to be God on this earth of mortals, should have no concern or sympathy beyond the narrow circle of the Jewish tribe which unfortunately represented a very small section of the twelve tribes of Israel, and led a life of disgrace and subjection under the Roman rule. Jesus Christas, if he really was God (which he was not, his deity being only a creation of superstition and myth), set strange limits to the universal Divinity of God. It seems as if his design were to set up in opposition to the all-encompassing God-head of the great Lord of earth and heavens, an inferior divinity arbitrarily limited to a section of the Israelite nation. For, how can we imagine the Divinity of God reduced to such a narrow compass as not to extend beyond certain ruined and desolate Jewish settlements? How can we admit Jesusas to be an incarnation of the great God of all the nations of the earth when his purpose and object are so narrowly limited to a few cognate relations. He who was a true image of God and His perfect manifestation, did not, like Jesusas, limit his mission to the Meccans, his own people, but declared in open words that his mission like the Deity of God was universal. In setting the loftiness of purpose displayed by our Holy Prophetsa against the narrow-mindedness shown by Jesus Christas, I shall produce evidence from books respectively recognised by the followers of the two eminent Prophets. I shall quote verses from the Gospel and the Holy Qur’an to show to the reader’s satisfaction which of the two manifested a magnanimity of soul, a general sympathy and a yearning after the love of mankind, in preaching the Word of God, and whose liberality and kind-heartedness have their scope limited to a few houses of his own tribe and kinsmen. For it is a mark of the purity of the soul and of the complete manifestation of the Divinity of God that one’s sympathy should be so extensive, one’s purpose so lofty and one’s kind-heartedness so general as to embrace all individuals and peoples in one’s kind intentions. It is the man with these extraordinary qualifications, whom we can reasonably regard as possessed of Divine attributes and as being the image of God, whose benevolence for his kind walks side by side with the Divinity and Grace of God, which manifest themselves irrespective of all distinctions.
Searching for evidence as to the extent of Jesus’as mission, the only verses plainly bearing on this point which we meet with in the pages of the four Gospels, are those in which Jesusas either positively asserts that he is not “sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt, 5:24) and cannot receive others (whom he calls dogs) in the fold, or directs his disciples not to preach to the Gentiles or the Samaritans but only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt, 10:6). But the Holy Qur’an teems with verses clearly indicating that the Prophet Muhammadsa had been sent for all people. Thus it says and elsewhere “Say that I have been sent as an apostle of God for the reformation of all people”; and, “we have sent thee as an incarnation of Mercy for all the people.” In the matter of preaching salvation and eternal happiness, therefore, the Prophet’ssa mission has not left out any corner of the world which may be inhabited by men. It has, on the other hand, invited both men and jinn to the path of guidance, and has not been sparing in bringing salvation to the doors of all. Look, on the other hand, at Jesus Christas to whom the claim to deity has been attributed. He holds back the good tidings of salvation from all but the sheep of Israel, and his purpose is anything but lofty. And wonder of wonders that utter failure marks even the discharge of this slight duty.
It is admitted on all hands that dispersion had, long before the appearance of Jesusas, taken place among the Israelites, and those to whom the mission of Jesusas was originally directed were not all in Jerusalem. Ten out of the twelve great tribes of Israel, had, in the days of Nebuchadnezzar, been scattered far and wide. Even learned Christians have admitted that some of these tribes crossed the Persian border and settled in Afghanistan. The people who now inhabit that country and are known as Afghans, are their descendants. Others passed into India and took their abode in the valley of Kashmir, and it is beyond dispute that the Kashmiris are of Israelite origin. These tribes, afterwards, embraced Islam and on their accepting the truth, the promise of the Lord was fulfilled and power and dominion were once more restored to them, as the early kings of Kashmir and the Afghan sovereigns to this day, testify. Some of the Jews had also travelled in a westerly direction into Greece, and others went farther in the East so far as Tibet and China, but the majority occupied Afghanistan and Kashmir. To fulfil his mission, therefore, which was in his own words to gather the scattered sheep of Israel, it was incumbent upon Jesusas that after the crucifixion he should have travelled into the countries where the Jews had taken their abode. When he had despaired of the reclamation of the Jews of Judoea the proper course for him to adopt was that after being delivered from the cross, or in the words of a Christian, after his rising from the dead, he should have come into India, visited Persia and Afghanistan, passed a part of his life in Kashmir, preached the Word of God to all these scattered sheep of Israel, and invited them to that eternal life which the unfortunate Jews of Jerusalem had so cruelly rejected. Had he taken all these steps, we would have considered him to have performed the duty which lay on him, according to his own confession, like all conscientious and great men who are willing to sacrifice their lives in the fulfilment of their duties and do not lightly set aside the responsibilities which devolve upon them.
To us it seems quite ridiculous and irrational that he should have made a sudden ascent to heaven before he had acquitted himself of the heavy duty which rested on his shoulders, and while as yet the ill-lucked tribes whom he came to reclaim from the power of the evil one, were, with the exception of a very small section, absolutely ignorant even of his appearance. Or, did any of the sheep of Israel live in the heavens for whose sake the heavenly journey was so hurriedly undertaken? Is it not surprising that he should have taken a journey to the upper regions, which is an impossibility for mortals, and not attempted a visit to Kashmir or Afghanistan which in no wise was a difficult task? It is clear that the person who had power to undertake the former could much more easily have done the latter. Besides the settlement of the Israelites there, there were other attractions. The green and smiling land of Kashmir so like that of Galilee, his native land, in the charming beauty of its scenes and in the healthiness of its climate, should alone have invited the rejected prophet to begin a more glorious career there. We cannot imagine how the idea occured to him of a trip to heavens before he had done his duty upon earth. Why did he leave millions of the people, he said, he had come for, in ignorance and error? How could he proceed on a journey upwards when he was fully aware that vast numbers of the Jews who had for centuries been awaiting the deliverance of Israel by the Messiah and praying day and night for his appearance, had been exiled from their houses, and were as yet quite in the dark even as to his appearance. How was he satisfied with the justice of his conduct in thus neglecting them all and depriving them of an opportunity even to see their deliverer after centuries of waiting? Did he not know that all their hopes had for centuries been centred upon the Messiah? Was not his heart moved to sympathy and did it not melt or them?
There is not the least doubt that if he had discharged his duty, he would have commanded our respect and sincere admiration. He would then, on the heavens, have rightly been called a travelling prophet, and upon the earth regarded as a true martyr for his people, on account of the hardships he should have borne for their sake. But his sitting on the heavens is quite meaningless and of no use whatsoever either to his people or to himself. If he had really a mind to redeem his people, he ought to have traced their footsteps into the far east and there delivered to them the message of eternal happiness with which he was charged. And the proper memorial for his sacrifice in that ease was that he should have breathed his last among his exiled brethren, and his tomb in a foreign country would then have served as a lasting monument of his noble sacrifice. Then would every sensible person have praised him for the trouble and hardships which he bore for his people, and then would his death in the effort to reclaim his tribe been termed a true redemption. But the unmeaning doctrine of atonement, which is offered by the Christian missionaries, is quite a mystery to us. Millions of the Israelites for whom Jesusas came, were as yet quite ignorant of his appearance but he without doing any creditable work, chose an accursed death for himself. Such a course for a redeemer is extremely unphilosophical. If A were suffering from severe headache, it would avail him little if B were to break his own head in perplexity, and no intelligent person would take this rash action of his in any way beneficial to the sufferer. Likewise, if Jesusas really felt any sympathy for his people and had a mind to render them a service, the only course for him was that he should have willingly submitted himself to the hardships of travel and exposed himself to cold and heat, hunger and thirst, in search of his benighted people, and thus made a true sacrifice of all his interests to deliver others. And further as the word Masih also means one who travels much, he should therefore have thus been true to his name in this sense of the word. His example would then have been worthy of emulation, and every admirer of his would have longed to follow in the footsteps of the great exemplar and do service to his nation and country, patiently bearing the hardships of long and solitary journeys, as Jesusas did. Such a noble deed on his part would indeed have deserved to be written by the following generations in letters of gold. The silent stone on his tomb in some distant land would have spoken to the following generations that he was the kind and self-sacrificing Reformer who travelled into far and distant countries that he may lend a helping hand to his people and reclaim them from the power of Satan. He would also thus have fulfilled the Divine law of flight, which every great prophet had had to observe. And, in addition to all this, he would then have been honoured on earth as well as heaven in accordance with the words which he spoke that a prophet is not without honour save in his own country and house (Matt. 13: 57). But alas! that he did not pay any heed to all those advantages to himself and his people, but leaving undone the duty with which he had been entrusted, took rest in heaven as if he was tired of his mission upon earth and preferred a life of seclusion to the troublesome office of apostleship. We are sorry to note that he did not prove equal to the occasion, and his conduct is not only unjustifiable but far from the nobility and self-denial which we should expect in a true Reformer.
In short, a strange contrast is brought to light when we witness, on the one hand, the failure of Jesus Christas in the discharge of his duty towards a limited community, and see, on the other, the zeal and enthusiasm with which our Holy Prophetsa preached his universal mission. It clearly leads to the conclusion that the Holy Prophetsa pre-eminently possessed the noble quality of mercy towards all, and that he combined in his Holy Person all the merits which form necessary qualifications of a great and universal reformer, and that Christas sadly lacked the quality of philanthropy as well as the other merits which make a universal preacher. The absence of magnanimity made Jesusas limit the sphere of his mission to the unbelievers of his own tribe, for his very nature had not been endowed with more elevated qualities, and with this brief task ended his mission. But as the spirit and nature of the Holy Prophet (Muhammadsa) were sympathetically inclined towards all human beings without distinction of creed or color, and as his very soul had been so created that all other souls might avail themselves of its goodness, therefore his unlimited sympathy and high-mindedness could not rest contented with limiting his mission either to the Quresh or even to Arabia, but he invited the whole human race to accept the religion he preached. This expression of sympathy distinctly showed that the pure and perfect nature within him had been given an ardour and a zeal to do good to all intelligent beings breathing on the face of the earth.
The truth is, that the idea of a universal mission, extending to the corners of the earth, and an anxiety for the reformation of the various people who as distinct sects and tribes had permanently settled in distant lands with little or no connections with one another, thus inviting them all alike to the path of righteousness, is peculiar to the Holy Prophetsa of Arabia, and no prophet before him ever laid the foundation of such a universal mission. In narrowing his mission to a particular community, Jesusas is no exception to the former prophets, and cannot claim any superiority in that respect. The limit was removed by the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa, who laid the foundation of a universal and all-embracing mission. The noble office of a universal Reformer was granted to him alone, for he was the only person naturally fitted to bear that heavy burden. Therefore so far as men are concerned, the apostolic mission of the Prophet spreads out the skirt of its garment as wide as the Providence of God. Jesusas, being himself God, should have looked to the care of all his creatures, but his sympathies were limited only to his blood-relations. To avoid the difficulty, if it be suggested that although at first Jesusas admitted that his message was solely directed to the Israelites, yet later on he gave up the narrow view and laid claim to be a preacher to all nations, the fact betrays only fickleness and feebleness of mind. For, when he had once stated in plain words that he had come for none but the Jews, there was no room for him to forward an altogether inconsistent statement and say that he had been sent not for the Israelites alone but for the whole world. Suppose, for instance, a witness deposed before a Judge in the first instance that a certain rich man (John) had made, over to him one million sterling to buy an estate and make it over to one Peter who should be its sole owner, and that no other person should have a farthing’s worth in that estate. He then deposed in the supplement of his statement that the money was made over to him with the direction that the estate bought with it should not be the sole property of Peter, but that he should be its joint owner with fifty others who should have equal rights with him. Shall the Judge then on the strength of the witness’s latter statement award the estate in joint ownership to all the persons? Shall he not arrest the witness for giving false evidence and require him to state which of his allegations was true? In the same manner, to attribute to Jesusas two contradictory statements which, if made in a Court of Justice, would bring the punishment of law upon the head of the author, is to do him the greatest injustice. But the pity is that the Christian missionaries in their greediness to make Jesusas pass for a God, are blind to all serious objections and do not consider that, in their efforts to raise him to Deity they reduce him below ordinary mortals and heap up contradictory statements in his sayings of this there are many other instances in what relates to Jesusas. For instance, they would allege, on the one hand, that Jesusas is a perfect God, and on the other, that he is a perfect man. To human understanding, this is an insoluble mystery. For a perfect assumption of humanity it was necessary for him to be like to us in all points and to possess all the inclinations and weaknesses natural to humanity, and this is diametrically opposed to the attributes of a perfect Divine Being. On the one hand, we must consider Jesusas to be subject to all the human weaknesses, ignorance, forgetfulness and, on the other, we must believe him to have been eternally free from all ignorance and above all weakness. How these contradictory qualities may be assumed to exist in one and the same person at one and the same time, has never been and never shall be made clear.
In brief, it is highly objectionable on the part of the defenders of the Christian faith that to put a gloss upon the doctrine of Incarnation, the wise sayings of Jesusas should be made a jumble of nonsense and contradictory statements, and new material furnished to the Jews for animadversion. It is an attack upon the master to attribute to him two apparently irreconcilable statements, for in doing so, we shall be guilty of injustice and disrespect towards a righteous prophet of God. Even supposing that such words came from the lips of Jesusas, it was the duty of every earnest enquirer to try to reconcile the two statements, which to superficial and ignorant readers might strike as apparently contradictory. Such reconciliation can be effected easily. What Jesusas gave out was that he had been sent only to the Israelites. When, therefore, he was rejected by the Jews of Syria and saw their obstinate wickedness, he saw another way of discharging the duty he had been entrusted with. He made up his mind to preach the Word of God to the Israelites who had settled in lands far from the centre, as the settlers in Greece, India, Kashmir and Afghanistan. This interpretation commends itself to us, not only because it removes an apparent inconsistency and acquits Jesusas of the blasphemous charge of artfully devising a new scheme after his failure in his immediate mission, but also for its plainness and naturalness. Jesusas was well aware that his mission embraced the whole house of Israel, and not a particular section of it. Therefore when the Syrian section rejected him with obstinate and proved themselves hopelessly deaf to the reformers voice, it was his natural that he should have turned his attention to the other sections of the Community who had taken their abode in distant lands. Even if we were to suppose that the Founder of Christianity, when he gave up all hopes of the conversion of the Syrian Jews, did not turn his footsteps to the lost sheep of Israel, but in direct opposition to his own words commanded his disciples to preach the Kingdom of Heaven to the heathen world, we shall have to face another objection seriously damaging Christ’s uniformity of character. For, while as yet the ten tribes of Israel to whom it was his primary duty to preach the Gospel, were quite unaware of his appearance, what reason had he to neglect them and trouble his head about other people? In short, judge it however you will, the claim of Jesusas to a universal mission cannot stand. With the subversion of this claim, all argument as to the alleged Godhead falls to the ground, and so does the favorite doctrine of atonement.
If, as is alleged, evil cannot be avoided nor salvation attained except some one be hung upon the cross, the blood of the Jewish Messiah shall only atone for the house of Israel and like blood flowing from the veins of another Messiah is urgently needed to wash off the sins of the rest of mankind, and purify the human race, if purify it can. Nay, not only one but two other atonements are needed. It cannot be denied that Jesusas could not fulfil the object of his life, but leaving it in an imperfect state took rest on heaven, before even conveying the message with which he had been charged to the lost Jewish sects. His substitute is, therefore, now needed to undertake for him that heavy and important task which one God so utterly failed to accomplish, viz., travel over distant lands and visit the impenetrable tracts of land where the Jews were scattered at the time of their dispersion, deliver to them the message with which his great predecessor had been charged, and at last give up his ghost on cursed wood. A third Messiah is needed to suffer crucifixion for the rest of human race, the favored Israelites alone being excepted.
Having clearly shown that Jesusas never asserted the universality of his mission, and that such an assertion was put forward in clear and distinct words by our own Holy Prophetsa, it is clear that even in this respect Jesusas does not possess any peculiarity which may furnish the least ground for his highly exaggerated claim to be the divine being.