Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament

16 The Review of Religions – December 2003 Although it is commonly assumed that the New Testament was written in Greek, there is not a single version which is generally accepted by all Christians alike. The uninformed are mistaken in thinking that the New Testament is, like the Holy Qur’an, comprised of a specific preserved text. This could not be further from the truth and is most detrimental to the revealed status of the New Testament. The fact of the matter is that the New Testament that is presented to us today is compiled from the hand written manuscripts of pre printing days. These manuscripts were written down in various regions and in various languages on different types of papers and in disparate writing styles. There are thousands upon thousands of discrepancies among these manuscripts that number in their hundreds. Keeping these manuscripts in view, attempts are made to find out as to what the original scribes wrote. This has been turned into and is known as ‘Textual Criticism’. Here a brief introduction to the manuscripts is presented along with a short overview of their mutual discrepancies. (A substantial scholarly research article in response to the well- known orientalist Rev. Wherry’s objections on the Holy Qur’an) By: Syed Mir Mahmood Ahmad Nasir – Principal Jam’ia Ahmadiyya – Rabwah. (Translated from Urdu by Shermeen Butt) Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament Historical Facts – The mutual discrepancies and contradictions in the Gospels – Acknowledgments of Biblical scholars. 17The Review of Religions – December 2003 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament The present day versions of the New Testament are compiled from various manuscripts The manuscripts from which the present day versions of the New Testament are compiled have been divided into a few groups for expediency. The first group is comprised of those manuscripts that were written between the 4th century and the 10th century and are inscribed in Uncials. None of the manuscripts predating the 4th century. can be found in its complete form. These are called Scrolls because they are kept wrapped in the shape of a scroll. However, after the 4th century, manuscripts take the form of a book and are called Codex (plural codices). This group of manuscripts are considered most significant in the compilation of the New Testament these days. Some of the important Codices from among this group are as follows: 1.Codex Aleph or Codex Sinaiticus. The German scholar Konstantin Tischendorf found this codex at St. Catherine’s Monastery on Mount Sinai. He presented it to the Tsar as a gift. After the Russian Revolution it was bought and preserved by the British Museum. 2.Codex B or Codex Vaticanus: This manuscript was preserved in the Pope’s library in the Vatican. When Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Italy this manuscript was among the things he took with him as a mark of his triumph. The world of academia was thus able to benefit from this manuscript. 3.Codex A or Codex Alexandrinus: The Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church in Constantinople Cyril Lucar sent this manuscript to King James I of England and it is now maintained in the British Museum. 18 The Review of Religions – December 2003 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament 4. Codex D or Codex Bezae: This belongs to circa 5th century and was presented to Cambridge University by a scholar named Theodore Beza. It is currently in the University library. The second group of manuscripts that are used in compilation of the New Testament are those that were written up to the 9th century before the invention of the printing press. These were written in miniscule Greek letters by hand. Due to the fact that they are rather vast in number and closely match each other they were divided in text ‘Families’. From among these, Family 1 and Family 13 are considered the most important in formulating the New Testament. The third group of manuscripts does not comprise of complete manuscripts, rather these are fragments from manuscripts written prior to the 4th century. These are inscribed on papyrus, a brittle kind of paper made out of the papyrus plant, which grows on the shores of the River Nile in Egypt. This paper can be somewhat preserved in dry climates; however it dissipates in humid climates. In the past 150 years fragments of such manuscripts have been discovered in particular from the dry climate region of Egypt and these are kept in view when compiling the New Testament. The fourth group of manuscripts kept in view when compiling the edition of the New Testament are the old translations of the New Testament, which were done in Latin, Aramaic and two ancient Egyptian languages, Saedi and Bokhair. There are also translations of secondary significance that are done in Armenian, Gothic, Ethiopic and Slavonic. There is disagreement among the Biblical scholars as to whether an Arabic translation of the New Testament existed in pre- Islamic days or not. 19The Review of Religions – December 2003 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament The fifth group of manuscripts employed in compiling the text of the New Testament are those extracts of the New Testament that ancient Christian writers wrote in their writings during the past centuries. It is clear from the brief outline given above that a specific and complete text of the New Testament does not exist; rather the New Testament that is compiled and presented to the world by Christianity today is done so at the inclination of those who have inferred from numerous manuscripts. These manuscripts are mutually contradictory on up to 300,000 points. A renowned Biblical scholar Ronald Murphy writes regarding this: ‘ It may be thought in the case of the Bible there is no need for textual investigation; that God would not allow textual errors to creep into it during the years it has been handed down. But that is simply not true. God did not choose to exercise such a miraculous providence over the books of the Bible.’ (The Dead Sea Scrolls and The Bible by Ronald E. Murphy, O. Cram. P37-38) Papal decree regarding the sanction of the textual amendment of the New Testament. There is a Papal decree regarding the amendments made to the text of the New Testament through the art of Textual Criticism in light of the contradictory nature of these manuscripts. In 1943 the Papal decree mentioned that: ‘In the present day indeed this art, which is called Textual Criticism and which is used with great and praiseworthy results in the editions of profane writings, is also quite rightly employed in the case of the Sacred Books because of that 20 The Review of Religions – December 2003 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament very reverence which is due to the Divine Oracles. For its very purpose is to ensure that the sacred text be restored, as perfectly as possible, be purified from the corruption due to the carelessness of the copyists and be freed, as far as may be done, from glosses and omissions, for the interchange and repetitions of words and from all kinds of mistakes, which are wont to make their way gradually into writings handed down through many centuries.’ (Letter of Pope Pius XII entitled ‘Divino Afflante Spirtu’ 1943) The condition of the manuscripts, mutual contradictions, flaws in writing, deliberate rearrangements and additions It should be borne in mind that not only do these manuscripts contain mutual contradictions and flaws in writing, rather they also include deliberate rearrangements and additions. A well-known example of this is the last verse of Mark, that is 16:8-20. The foundation of the current day Christianity depended on Jesus (on whom be peace) ascending to heaven. However, as this is not mentioned in the ancient writings, in order to catalogue this unfounded creed, alteration and addition have been employed and the last verses of Mark that constitute Jesus’ (on whom be peace) ascending to heaven have been inserted. The traditional Christian beliefs have been defended most craftily in a renowned American Biblical commentary Interpreters Bible. It reads: ‘One of the oldest attempts to supplement and finish Mark is the so called ‘longer endings’ (Vss.9-20). This is not found in the best MSS (B SK sys, etc) and dates probably from the second century; it was compiled out of the data of other Gospels, and even of Acts, and may have been originally independent list of resurrection appearances. The author was probably, as Burkitt and Conybere held, the second century 21The Review of Religions – December 2003 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament presbyter Aristion or Ariston. It is attributed to him in an Armenian MS letter in 989.’ (The Interpreters Bible. New York, Abingdon. Cokesbury Press, Nashville. Parthenon Press, Nashville. USA) In this reference, having admitted the fact that the last verses of Mark, 9-20, were not in the original book, a cover up is being attempted in that it is maintained that this subject was taken from another gospel or that the author was 2nd century Bishop Aristion. In any case, even if both these matters are acknowledged, the question remains, does the original Mark now contain an amendment and insertion or not? If so, then not much remains of the revealed status of this book and should not Rev. Wherry have raised protestation of slander on the New Testament rather than on the Holy Qur’an? It is also worth noting here that the last verses of Mark do not prove to be insertion solely on the evidence of the manuscripts, rather the evidence within Mark is also the same. The eighth verse of the last chapter is translated in English as: ‘And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid’. This translation is not entirely correct. In the original Greek the last words of verse 8 are: ephobounto gar. The translation of this is: ‘they were afraid because’, NOT ‘for they were afraid’. It is quite clear that the original Mark would have explained a reason for their fright and that it had not seemed favourable to those who came later, so they omitted it and made the rearrangement. Another claim made in the above reference is that although the last eight verses are not part of the original Mark, they were compiled out of the data of other gospels. This claim tends to make the integrity of Interpreters Bible dubious because its authors know full well that 22 The Review of Religions – December 2003 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament from among the gospels, the two that are associated with disciples have no mention of Jesus’ (on whom be peace) ascension. Although Luke apparently contains this, yet the evidence from the certified manuscripts proves that the original Luke did not mention the ascension at all. Each page of Interpreters Bible presents two texts side by side, one from King James Version and the other from Revised Standard version before giving its own commentary. The last words from the King James Version of Luke’s Gospel are: ‘He was parted from them, and carried up in to heaven, and they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem.’ (Luke 24: 51-52) However, Revised Standard Version translates this as: ‘He parted from them and they entered Jerusalem with great joy.’ This indicates that neither did the original Luke mention Jesus’ ascending to heaven nor did it mention the disciples worshipping him. It is therefore evidently inaccurate of the authors of Interpreters Bible to maintain that the additional insertion of the last verses of Mark that mention Jesus (on whom be peace) ascending to heaven is adopted from other gospels. The contradictions and inconsistencies of various current editions of the New Testament. Leaving aside the above mentioned manuscripts, contradictions and inconsistencies are also to be found in the editions of the New Testament of the present day. In both the gospels of Luke and Matthew, the genealogy of Jesus (on whom be peace) is given through Joseph although Joseph had no direct connection with him. Quite apart from this, in both the genealogical records there is also 23The Review of Religions – December 2003 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament contradiction in the arrangement as well as the numbers of names. In Matthew there are 40 names from Abraham to Joseph and in Luke there are 54. Is it possible to envisage such a contradiction in two books of One God? In their genealogical records, both Matthew and Luke declare Jesus (on whom be peace) to be the son of David (on whom be peace). It is also a commonly held belief among the Jews that the awaited Messiah will be from among the progeny of David. It is possible that in order to establish him to be from the progeny of David, the writers of the gospels have given him the genealogy of Joseph. However, it was a matter of debate among the Jews as to which son of David, (on whom be peace) the awaited Messiah belonged. Some said that he would be from David’s son Solomon whereas others insisted that he would be from David’s other son, Nathan’s progeny. Observe how the gospel writers have resolved this matter within their own fraternities; Matthew declared Jesus to be from Solomon’s lineage and Luke from Nathan’s. One wonders what Rev. Wherry, who makes (God forbid) slanderous remarks about the Holy Qur’an, opines about the books of the New Testament? Another example of similar inconsistencies is that the gospels of Mark and Matthew clearly state that Jesus (on whom be peace) declared his divine commission after John was arrested. (Matthew 4:12-17 Mark 1:14) However the gospel of John clearly details that Jesus (on whom be peace) had announced his divine commission a while before John’s arrest and that he had started taking pledges of allegiance. Would Rev. Wherry, despite this evident inconsistency still, consider these three gospels to be the Word of God? 24 The Review of Religions – December 2003 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament Although Rev. Wherry makes slanderous remarks about the Holy Qur’an he cannot present any Qur’anic prophecy that has been proven false. This is because the Holy Qur’an is the word of the Knower of the Unseen God. However certain prophecies of the New Testament can be presented that have proved to be completely wrong. For example Paul says in ‘Thessalonians’: ‘For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.’ (1 Thessalonians 4:14-18) Even if Paul had made up this prophecy, its falsification would have been indictable for the New Testament because according to Christian belief, the four gospels and the letters of Paul and others are all word of God. However, here Paul, according to verse 15, lays the foundation of this prophecy on the word of Jesus (on whom be peace). The gospels also contain certain phrases of Jesus (on whom be peace) that are constituted of this prophecy. In chapter 24 of Matthew there is mention of the ‘second coming’ before the end of the current generation. Jesus (on whom be peace) says: ‘Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be 25The Review of Religions – December 2003 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament darkened and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken, at that time ‘the son of man’ will appear in the sky, and the tribes of the earth will mourn and they will see ‘the son of man’ coming on the cloud of heaven’ with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.’ (Matthew 24: 29-35) ‘For the son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the son of man coming in his kingdom.’ (Matthew 16:27-28) ‘Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the son of man will also be ashamed when he comes in glory of his father with the holy angels.’ (Mark 8: 38) ‘And he said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the 26 The Review of Religions – December 2003 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament kingdom of God has come with power.’ (Mark 9:1) It is evident from the above references that the authors of the New Testament considered the prophecy of Jesus (on whom be peace) about his second coming to manifest itself before the end of his first age to be a conclusive prophecy. However this did not happen and now even after two thousand years having elapsed, this prophecy has still not been fulfilled. Would Rev. Wherry still insist on the Holy Qur’an, God forbid, being slanderous and the New Testament being a holy book and Word of God? The fact that none of the writings of the New Testament are Jesus’ (on whom be peace) or indeed any of his disciple’s is most detrimental to its validation. Of the four gospels it is well known about two, Mark and Luke, that they are certainly not the writings of any disciple. However, the gospels of Matthew and John are at times attributed to be the writings of the two disciples: the Apostle Matthew and the Apostle John. However, this has now been proven to be incorrect by the research of Christian authors themselves. It is worth noting that both the books themselves do not even contain a hint of a claim of being writings of the disciples. Encyclopaedia Britannica (edition 1975) writes: Although there is a Matthew named among the various lists of Jesus disciples, more telling is the fact that the name of Levi, the tax collector who is Mark became a follower of Jesus, in Matthew it changes to Matthew. It would appear from this that Matthew was claiming apostolic authority for his gospel through this device but that the writer of Matthew is probably a n o n y m o u s . (Ref: Biblical Literature) 27The Review of Religions – December 2003 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament It says about the gospel of John: Irenaeus calls John the beloved disciple, who wrote the Gospel in Ephesus. Papias mentions John the son of Zebedee, the disciple, as well as another John, the presbyter, who might have been at Ephesus. From internal evidence the gospel was written by a beloved disciple whose name is unknown. Because both external and internal evidence are doubtful, a working hypothesis is that John and the Johannine letters were written and edited somewhere in the East (perhaps Ephesus) as the product of a “school,” or Johannine circle, at the end of the first century . (Ref: Biblical Literature) On the subject whether the writer of the gospel of Matthew was a disciple or not, The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible writes: ‘The Question of authorship is no easy problem. There is a strong and consistent tradition in the early Church that Matthew was the author. This tradition is confirmed: (1) by the conclusive evidence, furnished by the contents, that the writer of this gospel was a Jewish Christian emancipated from Judaism; (2) by the improbability that so important a book would have been attributed to so obscure an apostle without good reason; (3) by the likelihood that a publican would keep records; by the modest way in which the writer speaks of the feast given by Matthew to Jesus’. (ch.9:10ofLuke5:29) ‘On the other hand, many scholars feel that internal evidence makes it difficult to accept this tradition of the early Church. Matthew reproduces about 90 percent of the subject matter of Mark in language very largely identical with that of Mark. 28 The Review of Religions – December 2003 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament Now it is highly improbable that an apostle would have used as a major source the work of one who in all likelihood had not been an eyewitness of the ministry of Jesus. Papias, bishop of Hierapdis in Phrygia, writing C. A. D. 140, may provide a key to this problem. Eusebius (H. E. iii. 39, 16) quotes him as saying, “Matthew collected the logia (sayings, or oracles) in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as he was able.” This brief sentence is probably to be interpreted as follows. The Apostle Matthew (C.A.D 50) wrote down Jesus’ sayings in Aramaic. These sayings, with a brief frame of historical narrative were translated into Greek and thus constituted the document that scholars designate by the symbol (for German Quelle, source). This document and material from Mark and other sources were woven into what is now our First Gospel. By this hypothesis, the name Matthew, originally attached is the Aramaic source of Q, was transferred to the whole work which had incorporated it.” (The Westminster Dictionary of the Bible by John D. Davis, PhD., D, LL.D., late professor of Old Testament Literature, Princeton Theological Seminary Revised and Rewritten by H e n ry Snyder Gehman, PhD., S.T.D Professor of Old Testament Literature and chairman of the Department of Biblical Literature Princeton theological Seminary and Lecturer in Semitic languages, Princeton University London and New York. Collins Clear Type Press. Glasgow-Toronto- Sydney and Auckland.) The same book writes about the gospel of John: ‘Like the other gospels the Fourth does not mention the writer’s name but both internal and external considerations lend some support to the traditional belief that the work was 29The Review of Religions – December 2003 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament written by the Apostle John. …It must be stated, however, that many scholars today do not feel the cogency of the above reasoning. They believe that the author of the fourth gospel was distinct from John the apostle, who was the witness to whose testimony the author and his followers appeal (John 19:33:21:24) The Evangelist (the author proper) was, according to these Scholars a disciple and follower of John the son of Zebedee (the apostle) and wrote from the reminiscences and the teaching of his master, an eyewitness. His name is either unknown to us or, more likely, was John the presbyter or Elder (cf.11 John I and III John I). Thus though the Apostle John was responsible for the gospel, it was actually written by the pen of another; it is according to this view “the Gospel of John the Elder according to John the Apostle”’. (Ref: John The Gospel according to) Although Peter most lucidly says in II Peter: ‘Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.’ (II Peter 1:1) Christian writers generally maintain that this is not a letter of the Apostle Peter. In the past certain eminent Christians rejected this to be a letter of Peter whereas now the majority refutes Peter being the author. Interpreters Bible which, in general adheres to the traditional Christian creed, writes on this subject: ‘When Irenaeus (Ca.AD.185) quoted words “said by Peter’, he invariably had in mind passages from I Peter. His introductory formula, “Peter says in his epistle,’ implies that he recognised only one epistle as by Peter. He may have known only one epistle under Peter’s name. Conceivably, however, he knew II Peter but rejected its authenticity. Contemporary leaders in the West, such as the author of the Muratorian Canon, Tertullian, and Cyprian were similarly silent regarding II Peter. Clement of Alexandria was an Eastern contemporary of these Western leaders. Eusebius says that in his outlines Clement gave “Concise explanations of all the canonical scriptures,’ including “disputed” writings such as ‘Jude and the Apocalypse known as Peters.’ His statement clearly implies an acquaintance with II Peter. Clement’s extant writings, however, contain no quotations from II Peter and reflect no acquaintance with it. The earliest explicit reference to II Peter is made by Origin (AD. 217-51). He says that Peter “left only one epistle of acknowledged genuineness”. Without trying to account for or refute current scepticism about the authenticity of a second epistle under Peter’s name, he says simply, ‘This is doubtful”. Eusebius (ca AD.325) included II Peter in his New Testament with the other Catholic Epistles. He recognised, however that its canonisation, was the outcome of its being “read in public in most churches” rather than the result of any certainty of its authorship by Peter. Only I Peter he says, is recognised ‘as genuine and acknowledged by the elders of olden times.” II Peter is used ‘along with the other scriptures” despite the tradition that “it was not canonical.” The Judgement prevailing in the Church caused Eusebius to describe II. Peter as disputed, nevertheless familiar to the major- 30 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament The Review of Religions – December 2003 ity.”Athnasius and Augustine both recognized II Peter as canonical. Neither says anything about its authenticity. Essentially the same position is taken by the third council of Carthage (AD.397). Jerome at about this time expressed the judgement that Peter “wrote two epistles which are called Catholic.” ‘Because of differences in style, however, he says that II Peter is considered by many not to have been by him.’ The epistle names Peter as its author. Its message is said to be from “Simon Peter, a Servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.” (1:1) This ascription is further emphasised by the authors allusion to Jesus prediction of Peter’s martyrdom (l:14: cf. John 21: 18-19), his claim to have been with Jesus ‘on the holy mountain’ on the occasion of the Transfigurations (1:17-18 cf. Matthew. 17:5, Mark. 9:7; Luke 9:35) and his implicit reference to I Peter as also written by him (3:1). This zeal of the epistle for its own authenticity creates more doubt than confidence and other data fails to support its claim. Differences in style from I Peter create insuperable difficulties for the news that the two epistles have a common a u t h o r. Although both are probably pseudonymous, a strongest case can be made for the authenticity of I Peter. The possibility of Petrine authorship is definitely eliminated by data which locate the second epistle in the second century:(a) the incorporation of Jude as its second chapter; (b) the authors implicit classification of himself with a generation to whom the fathers were known by tradition (3:2,4); (c) the recognition of Paul’s letters as scripture(3:16);(d) the allusion to heretical misuse of Paul’s letters (3:16). Because he felt he wrote in Peter’s spirit, this unknown 31 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament The Review of Religions – December 2003 Christian leader of the second century felt justified in attributing what he wrote to Peter that this was legitimate by current literary standards is shown by the titles of other second-century (writings) such as the Gospel of Peter, the Acts of Peter, the teaching of Peter and the Preaching of P e t e r. Peter symbolised original and authoritative C h r i s t i a n i t y. By his authority, therefore, our author condemned heresy.’ (The Interpreters Bible New York, Abingdon Press Nashville. Vol. XII) In the above reference not only is the writer compelled to acknowledge that II Peter was not by the Apostle Peter but also that some anonymous person had written it in the second century and attributed it to Peter. In passing, he also acknowledges that I Peter was not Petrine either. Therefore, the four gospels as well as the other writings of the New Testament are not the writing of Jesus (on whom be peace) or of his disciples. Rather they are writings of a latter period, some of which have been attributed to the disciples. In the books of the New Testament, in particular the four gospels, Jesus’ miracles have been mentioned with the idea to establish his divinity. As it has been previously said here, neither is the New Testament a divine revealed book nor does it claim to be one nor do its authors call themselves prophets or divinely inspired. They did not display any miracles to validate any claim to prophethood or to establish their writing as the word of God. Leaving aside prophethood, if the four gospels are closely scrutinised, its writers do not even come across as substantial, authoritative historians. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) writes: ‘Another objection that I had made about the gospels was 32 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament The Review of Religions – December 2003 that all the miracles written in them that are used to seemingly prove Jesus’ (on whom be peace) divinity, are most certainly not verified. This is because prophethood of the gospel writers, which would have been pivotal to its verification, has not been authenticated; neither did they claim prophethood nor did they display any miracle. As far as their having chronicled the miracles as news-writers is concerned, the requisites of news-reporting are also not verified in them. This is because it is essential that a news- writer is not censorial. Secondly, that his memory is not impaired. Thirdly that he is a deep thinker and is not a person given to superficial ideas. Fourthly that his critique is judicious and that he does not suffice on what is outwardly apparent. Fifthly that whatever he writes, he has eye- witnessed and that he is not the one merely to present the good and the bad. However, the writers of the gospels do not possess any of these prerequisites. It is a proven fact that they have intentionally lied in the gospels. So, the connotation of Nazareth was inverted and Emmanuel’s prophecy was pointlessly imprinted on Jesus and it was put down in the gospel that if all of Christ’s works were written down, the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Whereas their power of recollection is such that certain references of earlier books were made erroneously and by writing down unreal accounts they have proven that they were not used to working with insight, reflection and research. In fact in certain parts the gospels contain utterly disgraceful untruth, like in chapter five of Matthew Christ says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy” (5:43) although the earlier books do not contain this phrase. Similarly their description that “all the dead came out of the tombs of the temple of Jerusalem and came into town” (reference to a narrative of 33 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament The Review of Religions – December 2003 Matthew 27:52-53) is extremely preposterous and none of the gospel writers, who wrote down the miracles, claimed at the time that this was their eye-witnessed account. Therefore it proves that they did not possess the requisites of news- reporting and their account is not at all worthy of being relied. Notwithstanding this unreliability, what they summon to is a most abject idea and a disgraceful creed. Does wisdom merit acceptance that a humble mortal that has all the requisites of mankind in him should be called god? Can rationale accept that creation whip-lashes its Creator and God’s people should spit on their ‘god’ who is the possessor of power and authority and that they should seize him and put him on the Cross and despite being ‘god’, he is helpless to contend with them? Can anyone comprehend that a person who is known as ‘god’ prays all night and even then his prayer is not accepted? Can any heart be at peace with the idea that ‘god’ could be in the womb like helpless babies for nine months feeding on the placenta and eventually is born screaming from the female private parts? Can any wise person accept the notion that God should embody after an innumerable era that was without a beginning and that part of him should take the form of man and part pigeon and that this body should harass him forever.’ (Kitaab al Bariya. Roohani Khaza’een, Vol. 13 Pages 85-87) An overview of the ethical teachings of the Gospel There is no sense of greatness regarding the revealed status of the New Testament even when viewed with reference to its subject matter. Western academics who have abandoned the traditional Christian beliefs of trinity, atonement and divinity of Jesus (on whom be peace) still seem to be influenced by Jesus’ personality and the ethical teaching of the New Testament. We shall submit a few comments 34 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament The Review of Religions – December 2003 regarding the personality of Jesus (on whom be peace) in response to the objections of Rev. Wherry. As far as the ethical teaching of the gospels is concerned, it has been called unequalled and matchless. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) has made four objections in principle about this teaching: a. This teaching is defective and incomplete because it irrigates only one branch of the human tree and renders the other branches useless. b.This teaching is not unequalled and matchless, rather, it was commonly available before the New Testament and is found word for word in the books of the Old Testament, Talmud and other books of the Israelites. c. This teaching is not in accordance with the attributes of God the Exalted that are reflected in the Book of Creation and the Laws of Nature. d.As a teacher in ethics, Jesus (on whom be peace) did not himself act upon the teaching that is associated with him. The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) says: ‘From among all the branches of human powers the gospel only stresses on the branch of forbearance and forgiveness while completely eradicating the other branches. Each and every person can understand that nothing is useless in whatever Nature has granted and that each and every human power has been created with its specific expediency. Just as at certain point in time forbearance and forgiveness are high morals, similarly at other times sense of honour and 35 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament The Review of Religions – December 2003 retaliation and reprisal and punishing the criminal are included in high morals. Neither forgiveness nor pardon is always expedient nor punishment and retaliation always advisable. This indeed is the Qur’anic teaching. Allah the Exalted says in the Holy Qur’an: And the recompense of an injury is an injury the like thereof; but whoso forgives and [his] act brings about reformation, his reward is with Allah’. (Ch.42:V.41) That is to say that the recompense of evil is as much as the evil committed. However, whoso forgives and that forgiveness has an objective of reformation, then the reward for that is with Allah. This is the Qur’anic teaching. However, the gospel instigates unconditional forgiveness and pardon thus crushing all the other human measures on which the succession of civilisation carries on. It has enthused about the growth of just one branch out of all the branches of the tree of human powers, completely abandoning any regard for the other branches. Also astonishing is that Jesus (on whom be peace) himself did not act upon the ethical teaching. Upon finding the fig tree fruitless he said a malediction while he taught others to pray and also commanded others not to call anyone foolish but according to the New Testaments, himself exceeded so much in abuse that he went as far as calling the Jewish elders ‘bastards’ and made harsh verbal abuses towards the Jewish clergy in each of his sermon calling them terrible names. It is the obligation of an ethical teacher to initially exhibit high morals. Could, therefore, a defective teaching, on which he himself did not act upon, be from God 36 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament The Review of Religions – December 2003 Almighty? The pure and perfect teaching is that of the Holy Qur’an that nurtures each and every branch of the human tree. The Holy Qur’an does not just stress upon one factor, rather at times it teaches pardon and forgiveness on the condition that forgiveness is prudent; and at times in accordance with the time and place it pronounces to punish the wrongdoer. In fact it is an image of the laws of nature of God Almighty that are ever in front of us. It is a most rational matter that both God’s Word and Act should be analogous in that it is imperative that God Almighty’s true Book teaches in accordance with the colour and style in which God Almighty’s Act is visible in the world, rather than the Word displaying something else and the Act something quite different. We notice that God Almighty’s Act is not always gentle and forgiving, rather He punishes the wrongdoers with various torments. The earlier books also mention these torments. Our God is not just a Forbearing God, rather He is also Wise and indeed His chastisement is also great. The true Book is one that is in accordance with His laws of nature and the true Divine Word is that which is not contrary to His Act. We have never observed God always treating His creation with compassion and pardon while no torment comes to pass. In the current age too, Allah the Exalted has informed the wicked natured people through me of an extraordinary and dreadful earthquake that shall destroy them. Plague has also not been quite eradicated yet. Prior to this what became the state of the people of Noah and what happened to the people of Lot! Therefore understand with certainty that the sum and substance of Shariah is to imbue the attributes of God, to attain the attributes of the Glorious God in us. Therein indeed is the excellence of the “self” (nafs). If we wish to inculcate in us a righteous attribute even greater than God, then that would be faithlessness and defiled effrontery and an 37 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament The Review of Religions – December 2003 objection on the attributes of God.’ (Chashma Masihi. Roohani Khaza’een. Vol. 20. pp.37, 43, 45) As regards the ethical teaching of Jesus (on whom be peace) as found in the New Testament and its reference of being found in its older books and about its adaptation from them, he writes: ‘If the author of Yana bi’ al-Islam has tried to [infer] that the Holy Qur’an is made up of such and such tales and books then this attempt of theirs is not even a thousandth of that eff o r t which a learned Jew has made to discover the origin of gospel. This scholar has, to his mind, proven that the ethical teaching of the gospel has been taken from the Jewish book Talmud and a few other books of the Israelites. This copying has been done so overtly that complete phrases have been copied exactly. The scholar has shown that the gospel is a compilation of stolen p r o p e r t y. In fact he went out of the way in particularly proving the Sermon on the Mount, of which the Christians are very proud to be word for word adopted from Talmud. He has demonstrated that these are the phrases of Talmud and has similarly astonished people about plagiarised phrases from other books. Thus even the European research scholars are attentively taking interest in this.’ (Chashma Masihi. Roohani Khaza’een. Vol. 20. Page 339) This research, which was introduced in that age, has now become an undisputed fact. Renowned Biblical scholar Geddes Macgregor writes about the ethical teaching of Jesus (on whom be peace): ‘His ethical teaching was in no way radically different from the loftiest traditions of Judaism into which he was born. This is plain from a careful reading of the Old Testament 38 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament The Review of Religions – December 2003 itself; the recently discovered Dead Sea Scrolls corroborate the already well established fact that as an ethical teacher Jesus gave his hearers a message, which, however powerfully presented and convincingly demonstrated was not so distinctive as to be accounted as novel. In his ethical teaching Jesus was in many ways conservative. True, he emphasised certain elements in the now rich Jewish tradition and disapproved of certain tendencies he noted in his development, but this would be true of any teacher worth listening to’. (The Bible In Making, p.24, by Geddes Macgregor) The renowned American religious personality, the late Rev. Charles Francis Potter writes: ‘Moreover, it is extremely embarrassing to read the best part of the Sermon on the Mount, for instance, in the Enochan and other similar Essene writings, such as Jubilees, the Psalms of Solomon and the Testament of the twelve Patriarchs, when we have found actual pre-Christian manuscripts of them in Cave 4.’ (The Lost Years of Jesus Revealed, p.75, by The Rev. Dr. Charles Francis Potter.) The teaching of the Gospel was for a specific era and a specific people. While maintaining that the Christian books are the Word of God and the Holy Qur’an, God forbid, defamatory, Rev. Wherry seems to forget that the sphere of those books, according to his own writings, is restricted to the Israelites rather than the entire world and for all time. Also their teaching is applicable to a specific period and within a limited sphere, and it is impossible for the entire world to act upon it for all time. 39 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament The Review of Religions – December 2003 The Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) says: ‘Over and above this, another argument for the need for the existence of the Holy Qur’an is that all the older scriptures, from Moses’ Torah to the Gospel, maintain their addressees to be an exclusive people, that is the Israelites, and say in open and lucid words that the guidance therein is not for universal benefit, rather is limited to the Israelites. However, the Holy Qur’an has the reformation of the entire world in view’. (Kitaab ul Bariyya) He goes on to say: ‘The Christian research scholars are also insistent that according to his religion, a Christian can neither live in human society nor can he do trade because the Gospel has forbidden one to become rich and to be concerned about the future. Similarly a true Christian cannot join the armed forces because one is commanded to love the enemy, just as if one is a perfect Christian, one is also not allowed to get married. All this informs us that the Gospel was a law for a specific era and a specific people and by maintaining that it is universal the Christians have invited objections to it.’ (Kitaab ul Bariyya) Indeed, the Christians themselves acknowledge that as far as the message and teaching of the Old Testament is concerned, these were limited to the Israelites. However, the New Testament also illustrates that contrary to the latter Christian thoughts, Jesus (on whom be peace) himself considered his mission to be for a limited period and also limited to just one nation. Therefore he says: 40 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament The Review of Religions – December 2003 ‘I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.’ (John 16:12-13) ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven’. (Matthew 5:17-20) Jesus (on whom be peace) said to his twelve disciples: ‘…Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ (Matthew 10:5-6) It says in Matthew: ‘Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David” my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ But he did 41 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament The Review of Religions – December 2003 not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the Israelites”. But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.’ (Matthew 15:21-27) Would Rev Wherry, despite the existence of his books, still not feel the need for the Holy Qur’an, which carries the message: ‘Say, O mankind! Truly I am a Messenger to you all from Allah…’ (The Holy Qur’an Ch.7:V.159) In response to the question raised by Rev.Wherry regarding, God forbid, the Holy Qur’an’s own testimony about its offensiveness, we conclude that the Holy Qur’an has, in itself, claimed to be a miracle and a perfect book. However, none of the four gospels makes a comparable claim about itself. While addressing Deputy Abdullah Aatham in the Amritsar Debate, the Promised Messiah (on whom be peace) says: ‘…This is the claim of the Holy Qur’an that it makes regarding its teaching and goes on to present its evidence as well. However, due to the time constraint right now, that will be stated in my written reply to his response. For now, it is requested to Deputy Abdullah Aatham Sahib that in line with the pre-arranged conditions about these matters that have already been put in writing, he presents a claim of the gospel 42 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament The Review of Religions – December 2003 at par with this style and this glory, because all authors know ‘what star outshines the sun?’ in particular the Glorious God Who is Powerful and has authority over everything and has insurmountable and extensive knowledge! A book that we attribute to Him has got to be self-subsisting and self- sustaining because if it is dependent on outside support about its claim and proof of claim then that can never be the word of God. Let it be once again reminded that right now the only objective is that just as the Holy Qur’an has claimed its universality and its perfection, the portion of Gospel attributed to Jesus (on whom be peace) should make the same claim and should at the very least constitute Jesus (on whom be peace) declaring his teaching as final and not leaving it in expectation of another time.” (Jang e Muqaddas) Among the references of the New Testament presented by Deputy Abdullah Aatham in response to this question, there is no claim of the universality, perfection and matchlessness of the New Testament or its books but there is a claim of Jesus’ (on whom be peace) teaching being obligatory. Whereas the issue was whether any book of the New Testament, like the Holy Qur’an, asserts itself to be matchless, universal and perfect? These books contain no such claim. Out of the references presented by Deputy Abdullah Aatham only one is from the four gospels. It is from John and reads: ‘Then Jesus cried aloud: “Whoever believes in me believes not in me but in Him who sent me. And whoever sees me, sees Him who sent me. I have come as light into the world, so that everyone who believes in me should not remain in the darkness. I do not judge anyone who hears my words and does not keep them, for I came not to judge the world, but to 43 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament The Review of Religions – December 2003 save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my word has a judge; on the last day the word that I have spoken will serve as judge, for I have not spoken on my own, but the Father who sent me has Himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak. And I know that His commandment is eternal life. What I speak, therefore, I speak just as the Father has told me.’ (John 12:44-50) The above text does not even hint at claiming that the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John were universal and perfect books. Neither were these books around when Jesus (on whom be peace) said these words, nor did Jesus (on whom be peace) have any knowledge of these books. Here Jesus (on whom be peace) is presenting his claim to be from God and of being worthy of obedience, with which we fully concur. Jesus (on whom be peace) was not God rather he was from God, that is, he was a prophet of God and those he addressed were obligated to obey him. This has nothing even remotely to do with the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John being universal. 44 Analysis of the Divinely Revealed Status of the New Testament The Review of Religions – December 2003 ABOUT THE AUTHOR Syed Mir Mahmood Ahmad Nasir is the Principal of Jamia Ahmadiyya, the Theosophic Seminary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. The author is an unmatched scholar with an undefeatable appetite for detail. His scholarly commentaries on Ahadith, the traditions of the Holy Prophet(sa), have been greatly admired by all. The author also served as one of the pioneering missionary in the United Kingdom and later the United States of America for several years. Coming soon from the same author, an analysis of Buddhism.

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