[Scroll down to the section: “The Huge Contradiction Between History and the Qur’an” if you want a shortened read. This is divided into two parts. Part I is enough for the apologetic to stand alone.]
Part I: Freedom in the Truth: Jesus Died to Take-On Our Suffering and Death
Do We Believe Because We’re Scared or Because It’s True?
“The truth will make you free.” Mature adults accept a religion because they believe it is true and because they seek freedom and fulfillment in the truth. Mature and intelligent adults do not keep to a religion merely because people threatened them as children with punishment if they did not accept the religion of their forefathers. Only an immature religion – one for the childish and ignorant – is based on threats that continue even into adulthood. Yes, evildoers deserve punishment, but those who are genuinely seeking the truth deserve help and praise. The devil holds in bondage those who do not love the truth.
To not use one’s intelligence to find the truth is a failure to love what is good for the soul. God gave intelligence to every human in order that humans would not get trapped in false religion and so humans would love what is truly good. The time of humanity’s ignorance and immaturity ended with Jesus who gave us true Islam (the submission to God that makes humans like God when humans love what is truly good). From the most ancient of times, true law was seen as a reflection of God’s wisdom which leads all creatures into fulfillment. Service to God should be about the development of a human from immaturity into maturity. Mature and wise religions must satisfy intelligence and truthfulness, otherwise one will be held captive in immaturity and falsehoods. Children can be excused for following the ignorant religious ideals of their parents and forefathers, but not adults. Adults have too much experience to not be personally responsible for the injustice of passing along ignorance instead of truthfulness to their children.
The Muslim version of Islam is in accord with the more ancient Christian version of submission to God in that Muhammad upheld Jesus of Nazareth as a great prophet and worker of miracles. Islam is in accord with its predecessor because, like Christianity, it also upholds the truth of monotheism and rejects polytheism. However, the Muslim version of Islam is at odds with the more ancient Christian religion in that Muhammad denied the authentic historical record of Jesus’s death. Muhammad denied that Jesus of Nazareth actually died on the Cross. He even denied that Jesus was crucified. Because he had never read the Gospels, Muhammad and his followers did not originally know that Muhammad was denying the historical record and the importance of Jesus’s actual death when Muhammad taught that Jesus was never crucified or died. Whoops.
This matter of the historical record – of solid testimony observed by friendly and hostile witnesses who all recorded Jesus’s death long before Muhammad was born – raises the issue of Jesus’s death above the level of mere theological dispute or religious sentiment. The historical record actually reveals whether or not someone accepts reality or wishes to live according to fantasy or delusion. Religion must be based in history and real events to be worthy of human assent. Jesus’s death is recorded as historical fact by Christians, Romans, and Jews for half a millennium before Muhammad was born. This matter is a very serious question for those who desire to know what true Islam (submission to God) should be: the Christian version of becoming family with God through covenants or the Muslim version of being merely slaves rewarded by something other than God in an afterlife of sensual pleasures. It leads to serious questions about how trustworthy the spirit was that originally choked Muhammad upon its first manifestation to Muhammad. What kind of spirit chokes a human during its first manifestation?
Muslim denial of the historical record of Jesus’s death is what leads the Muslim version of Islam to misunderstand Jesus’s true theological identity. Jesus’s death proves his true identity as the fulfillment of Moses’s hopes and the line of Israel’s prophets. Jesus was more than a prophet as the Messiah. Denying the historical record and moral certainty of Jesus’s death necessarily undermines the religious possibility of Muslims coming to the truth of the metaphysical order: Jesus’s true identity as Logos of God (cf. John 1:1). It undermines the ability to begin to appreciate what the title “son of God” meant during the time of Judaism’s Second Temple (circa 450 B.C. to 70 A.D.) and at Jesus’s overcoming of death. The Muslim religion additionally demonstrates its lack of appreciation for history when Muslims think the originally Jewish title “son of God” is in any way related to God having a consort as the Qur’an 4:171 seems to misunderstand. Jews, Christians, and Muslims always agreed: God has no consort; never did and never will. Muhammad was only correcting his own misunderstandings.
Christian culture is full of hypocrites these days and has too many poor examples of true submission to God. It is hoped that just as I know many Muslims to be good, courageous and virtuous servants of God despite the hypocrites within Islam, so Muslims hopefully remember the many good Christians who love and serve God despite the many hypocrites amongst Christians. Please consider this essay as reaching out in friendship so as to highlight a matter of history so we can understand one another better. Authentic Christians like Francis of Assisi came in friendship because Christians believe every human is made in the image and likeness of God.
Christians believe that no matter your religion, you are made in the image and likeness of God. Every human has special dignity because every human is in the image and likeness of God. The first chapter of the Book of Genesis contains this teaching and Jesus reaffirmed it. Every human, no matter their race or religion is made in the image and likeness of God. Christians must therefore honor Muslims as made in the image and likeness of God despite our historical and theological disagreements. Only Christian hypocrites would teach otherwise.
History is something that happened in a shared time and space even if we interpret the events and their meanings differently. What is shared in common is the event, even if the interpretations of the event’s meanings differ. History belongs to humanity and not just one religion. I think that by discussing the event of Jesus of Nazareth’s death – and what Muslims and Christians teach about it – we can all get a better insight into why this prophet of God (we both share) wanted so badly to be a martyr (shahid). It is important to read about Muhammad’s denial of the event of Jesus’s death and the 500 years of Christian teaching which came before Muhammad’s birth. We must both ask, am I free to search for the truth about what I was taught as a child? I’ve studied the Qur’an and investigated it. Have you read the Gospel of John or the Letters of Saint Paul (who lived in Arabia where Jesus visited him soon after Jesus’s Ascension into heaven)?
How can we know what Jesus really taught?
For Muslims interested in this topic, I should tell you that I believe that your prophet Muhammad dictated the Qur’an to his followers. I believe he had real followers who really recorded what he said and who lived-on after Muhammad died and so compiled his dictations. I believe you can trust that the original followers of Muhammad under Zayen Ibn Thabit gave Abu Bakr the first official version (compilation) of the Qur’an and that it is the same Qur’an you have today which is copied and spread throughout the world. Even though Muhammad never got to see the official copy and never got to verify that it was correct, I believe you can trust it is what Muhammad transmitted.
Knowing the importance of an authoritative text, how would Muslims feel if two hundred years after Muhammad died a group of imposters declared that they were the real keepers of the real writings of the Qur’an and these imposters presented a totally different book than the Qur’an? What if the book they said was the real Qur’an taught people things Muhammad never said and went against what your real Qur’an recorded? What if it claimed Muhammad said there would be another Qur’an and another prophet to follow him? What if none of these imposters even came from the disciples of Muhammad and what if this group lived too far away for your armies to go and stop them from spreading their false book? What if some people now mistook the book of the imposters for the true Qur’an which Abu Bakr kept at the residence of Hafsah?
The very scenario above did not happen to Muhammad’s version of Islam because Muslims kept their armies wherever Islam spread. However, the very scenario above did sometimes happen to the Christians two hundred years after Jesus went into Heaven because the Christians did not have armies to stop people from spreading false writings about Jesus Christ. We were being persecuted the first three hundred years of our religion and becoming martyrs (shuhada) for God; we were being killed by the Romans and their soldiers who governed the lands. God wanted us to learn that he could spread the true religion without armies and God wanted true followers from people who were actually free to believe and embrace the truth. Such martyrs glorified God because they had freely chosen the way of God and freely given submission to God. They died for love of God, who revealed his love for us in Jesus Christ. They did not kill for God. Sadly, after the times of Roman persecutions, such martyrdom of Christians began again under Muhammad’s armies.
Christians knew who the real leaders of Jesus’s people were because the leaders were the ones who were being killed for teaching the Romans to abandon their idols and false gods. God wanted martyrs and not forced conversions and so he did not let the Christians have armies to protect them for the first 300 years. The Apostles who Jesus chose to spread his teachings appointed successors (bishops/eparchs) to protect the teachings of Jesus which they had been commissioned to spread by a set worship and a set proclamation.
These bishops only accepted four Gospels as the authentic presentation of Jesus’s life and teachings. These writings were the Gospels according to Matthew (Apostle), Mark (Bishop), Luke (Bishop), and John (Apostle). They also accepted some letters they knew were from the Apostles and Saint Paul. There is a continuous line of successors from the Apostles through the bishops they appointed and to the bishops of today. This record of succession protected the authentic teachings of Jesus (and worship of God) and is found in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches which have kept that direct line of succession from Jesus to today’s bishops.
This line has preserved for the world an easy way to confirm what Jesus actually taught. In the first three hundred years, Christians knew that all accounts of the Gospel had to agree with the successors of the Apostles (especially the bishops of Antioch, Rome, and Alexandria), just as followers of Muhammad made sure all things agreed with the Qur’an which was originally kept at the residence of Hafsah. Jerusalem was once of primary importance to Christians until the Romans destroyed it in 70 A.D. and again in 120 A.D. Christians kept records of who was lawfully appointed as heads of the churches where the Apostles once governed. Those who were united with the bishops easily knew which teachings were contrary to the Apostles and whether or not new accounts of Jesus were true by verifying if it agreed with what the lawful successors of the Apostles maintained in their worship and written Gospels.
While the enemies of God martyred the Christians these first three hundred years, the Christians showed they were God’s people by offering forgiveness for the ignorance of their enemies and by not seeking revenge. This is exactly what Jesus did from the Cross when he said: “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Christians memorized the true Gospels by heart and found the courage in Jesus’s promises and resurrection from the dead to face death. Apostles, bishops and followers of Jesus were willing to be martyrs for Jesus because they knew the truth about Jesus’ death and his rising from the dead in the writings which they protected (1 Jn 3:16), their daily worship, and in the bishops who kept them united with the Apostles.
The Huge Contradiction Between History and the Qur’an
The Qur’an teaches that Jesus was never crucified; that he did not die on a cross. It teaches that Jesus still has not died (but was simply assumed into heaven). In the fourth chapter of the Qur’an, the alleged angel tells Muhammad: “That [the Jews] said (in boast), ‘We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah’;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:- Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise;” (Qur’an 4:157-158). This writing and original understanding of Muhammad is in contradiction to the teachings of the Apostles of Jesus and the 500 years of constant Christian teaching before Muhammad was even born.
Muslims used to explain the above text of the Qur’an by simply saying the Jews were tricked into crucifying the wrong person while Jesus was secretly assumed into heaven. In their zeal for Jesus’s honor and greatness, and their dislike of Judaism, Muhammad and his followers mistakenly denied Jesus’s crucifixion. Muslims believed God would never let so great a prophet be murdered, but they did not grasp that they simultaneously denied the most important and ancient teaching of Christianity and a fact of history. They denied the central point of Jesus’s teaching and the writings of the Apostles which the bishops preserved and were martyred for protecting: Jesus died to save all of us and entered death to defeat death for all who die.
The Apostles and bishops were martyred for teaching that Jesus died on the cross (as Jesus foretold) and that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his true crucifixion. Jesus told the Apostles that in order for him to fulfill the Torah of Moses (cf. Qur’an 61:06) that he would have to become a sacrifice for the people; that he would have to die in order to free the world from sin and death (Matthew 16:21). Since Christ Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary (Mariam) in a miracle by the power of God, Christ Jesus was the power of God and could raise himself from death. For this reason, Jesus could truly die and death could not hold him. He would destroy death for all who submit to God by following his ways as God’s true representative. While sinful people meant harm by Jesus’s murder and death on a cross, God’s wisdom would reveal this foolishness through the glory of Jesus’s resurrection. Jesus would bring God even greater glory through Jesus’s submission even to death (true Islam). Humility, obedience to God, patience and charity would be revealed as the greatest of virtues.
Jesus publicly taught that it was part of God’s plan that he must die in order to free men from sin and destroy the power of the devil. Jesus taught that through his own death he would conquer death for all those who die. No longer would souls be apart from God after death. Through Jesus’s dying and resurrection, humans (past, present, and future) could immediately be taken into glory through union with Jesus’s death and acceptance of Jesus’s sacrifice. Jesus taught that he must die and that he had the power to raise himself from the dead because he was one in being with the Father (John 10:17-30). The whole message of Jesus and Jesus’s promises are tied to his death and anyone who has read one of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John) – which his real Apostles either wrote or supported – would know this. These accounts were in writing and records hundreds of years before Muhammed and so were all the records that show the Gospels contained this teaching. No one ever tampered with these teachings of Jesus.
Jesus died to give true Islam (Submission to God), but Muhammad denied Jesus’s Death
Mary (Mariam), the mother of Jesus (Isa), stood beneath the cross and watched Jesus die on it. John the Apostle – who wrote the Gospel which is in his name (John 21:24) – stood with Mary beneath the cross and watched Jesus die (John 19:26-27). John adamantly defends that Jesus spoke to him from the cross and told him to care for Mary (Mariam) who was standing next to him. John records that he watched a soldier thrust the spear into Jesus’s side and blood and water poured-out from Jesus. The soldier did this to confirm Jesus was dead. John tells us about the others who were with him and who knew Jesus and who cared for the dead body of Jesus when it was taken down from the cross. Are we to believe that Jesus’s closest friend and his mother Mary were liars? Did God deceive the Apostles and Mary the Mother of Jesus, too? Jesus spoke to them from the cross and they were there and held the dead body of Jesus in their arms.
Muhammad was not there. Muhammad wrote his book more than five hundred years after Jesus’s closest disciple and friend (John) witnessed the accounts that John recorded in his Gospel. Would Muhammad like us to believe that John was wrong or lied? Should we also believe that Mary, the Mother of Jesus, only appeared to be Mary but that she was also really someone else since Muslims teach that the man on the cross was someone else? Should we believe that John did not know Jesus’s Mother and that John took care of the wrong woman after Jesus’s death? Read John’s Gospel. John is the one who Jesus asked to care for his mother while Jesus was dying on the cross. Certainly, Mary would have corrected John and the other Apostles if Jesus really did not die. She would not let John or the other Apostles write lies. Even the Qur’an defends Mary’s holiness.
The Jewish leaders believed they killed the right person and recorded it in their Talmuds long before Muhammed was born. The Roman soldiers believed they killed the right person. Roman historians even record Jesus’s death (including Josephus a Jew in 90 A.D.) as do Pliny the Younger and Tacitus the Emperor hundreds of years before Muhammad. Jesus’s own mother, to whom the true Angel Gabriel appeared (the same mother of Jesus which the Qur’an testifies to as a virgin), believed and saw that the Romans killed her son by crucifixion. All of Jesus’s Apostles, disciples, friends and enemies believed the same person, Jesus of Nazareth, who they knew, was the same person who died on the cross and fulfilled what he said must happen. Jesus even showed them his healed wound marks three days after his death in his mysterious resurrection.
The Apostles claimed Jesus prophesied this would happen and it was very important to Jesus that it be permitted to happen. Jesus even rebuked his chief apostle Peter for wanting to prevent his death from happening (Matthew 16:23-24). Zealous for Jesus’s honor, even Peter didn’t want to believe that God would let Jesus die. Jesus was so upset by Peter for wanting to prevent his death that he rebuked Peter and called Peter the name “Satan.” He told Peter to stop thinking as men think and to see things the way God sees them. Jesus was teaching Peter that it was God’s will that he should die on the cross (in order to defeat death and rise again) and that only the enemies of God would want to deny Jesus his glorious death and martyrdom.
The Apostle Matthew wrote this Gospel and episode with Peter more than 500 years before Muhammad dictated the Qur’an. This particular lesson of Matthew was always kept in the Gospel, and copies of it were still under the protection of the true bishop successors appointed by the Apostles when Muhammad’s disciples started to distribute the Qur’an. There was no tampering with Matthew’s writings about Jesus’s death and they had never been called into question until Muslims realized that their writings contradicted the historical records of the Romans, Jews, and Christians. It is the Qur’an that violated the historical record and did what Jesus warned only Satan would do…deny Jesus his martyrdom.
Most importantly, and shown both inside and outside of the written Gospels, the central act of Christian worship since 33 A.D. has been to proclaim Jesus’s death under the signs of bread and wine whenever Christians gather to give thanks to God for his mercy and love. This worship which Jesus instituted is what the Apostles and bishops especially protected and faithfully transmitted. At every Christian liturgy and gathering for worship, the appearance of bread and wine are separated to show the separation of Jesus’s body from his blood when the soldier put a lance in Jesus’s side after Jesus died on the cross. Separation of the appearance of bread and wine always signified when blood and water flowed out of Jesus’s heart (pierced side). Separating bread and wine in sacrifice to God as Jesus showed us, is to show the glorious death of the Lord Jesus Christ in his ultimate act of submission to God’s will. God wanted Jesus to redeem humans from death by Jesus (the power of God) conquering death and so it was God’s will that Jesus submit to death and so give true Islam (true and TOTAL submission to God).
Jesus instituted the Christian ritual of bread and wine and prayers the night before he died. He commanded Christians to celebrate the ritual so we would always remember and celebrate his death and resurrection under these signs. These signs were his mysterious aids to help us learn submission to God and enter submission to God through him, with him and in him. Islam means “submission to God” and this submission can only be done truthfully through, with and in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of obedience on the Cross (which the mystical bread and wine help Christians to enter and learn). Christian celebration with bread and wine has always been about learning to die with Christ, so that through submission to God (Islam) we can also rise with Christ.
Jesus’s death is the greatest submission to God ever done on the face of the earth. There is no greater Islam than what Jesus did on the Cross. In Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians about 58 A.D. he explained that whenever Christians use bread and wine during worship, “they show the death of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:26) to recall how Jesus conquered death through his death and submission. The central act of daily Christian worship for more than 500 years before Muhammad, and still continuing today, is to proclaim Jesus’s death by joining him mysteriously in his great submission. We call this daily worship and thanksgiving celebration of Jesus’s death and resurrection the Eucharistic sacrifice.
Why would anyone follow Muhammad’s disciples instead of Jesus’s disciples over a question of historical fact? Who was closer to the event of Jesus’s crucifixion, Mariam or Muhammad? Everyone who had come in contact with Jesus recorded that Jesus was killed by the Romans. The Jews, even if they could not believe Jesus rose from the dead in a transformed and glorified human body, believed he died and recorded it. If Muslims will not believe the Jews, they should believe Mary (Mariam), the Mother of Jesus (Isa), who lived with the Apostle John after Jesus’s death. She watched Jesus die and helped John write his Gospel which also taught that Jesus died.
Only after his death did Jesus ascended into Heaven with a glorified and transfigured body. First, he died. All of Jesus’s Apostles and disciples celebrated Jesus’s death and resurrection in the Eucharist ever since Jesus ascended into Heaven. They joined him in the worship of submission to God’s love. The only people who did not believe Jesus really died were the ones who never met Jesus or the Apostles, and who wrote their accounts having never sought what the Apostles actually wrote and taught. One of the first imposters to spread such false accounts far and wide were the Manichaeans who spread the false gospels.
The Manichaean spirit gave teachings similar to Muhammad’s false teachings 300 years before Muhammad
Mani was a Persian who declared himself to be God’s final prophet in about 230 A.D.. His disciples were called Manichaeans. They were Gnostics who spread false stories about Jesus which survived in the Middle-East, China and India, and spread throughout the Roman Empire. The Manichaeans wanted to transform Jesus’s teachings to fit their teachings about a god of light and a god of darkness and other deities. Beginning around 230 A.D., Mani claimed an angel (spirit) appeared to him and gave him messages to establish the true religion.
Mani also claimed Jesus pointed to him as the final prophet when Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. The Manichaeans taught that Jesus only seemed to die, but this was an illusion (similar to Muhammad claiming Jesus’s death was a trick on the Jews). Mani was a polytheist and he taught all of this 300 years before Muhammad was born. Mani died about 276 A.D.. Non-Christian history books can verify that Muhammad’s claims to speak with angels (spirits) and to be the final prophet after Jesus were not new. Mani had made similar false claims long before Muhammad and just like Muhammad.
For some reason, both Mani and Muhammad (300 years after Mani) missed the fact that when Jesus promised the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the promise came 10 days after Jesus ascended into Heaven in 33 A.D. It was then that the Holy Spirit, the promised Paraclete, came upon the Apostles in the form of divine fire and filled them with his life and help (Acts 2:3-4). Since the time of the Apostles we celebrate this event every year as the Feast of Pentecost. Christians never believed there would be another prophet after Jesus because they understood what Jesus meant about the Paraclete and didn’t write the Gospels until after they received the Paraclete. When Jesus fulfilled the Torah, that ended the line of prophets who had prepared the way for the Messiah…Jesus, son of Mary (Mariam). There can be no greater prophet to come after Jesus because there can be no one greater than the Logos who became man (Jesus); the eternal life which overcame death.
END PART I
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PART II: Since Christians Are Monotheists, Can You Figure Which Prophet Is the Greatest?
The additional stone archaeological record about Jesus’s death
Perhaps those who will not listen to the Apostles who lived with Jesus will listen to archaeology written in stone. Those who study artifacts from the time of the Apostles and earliest Christians have uncovered many things that support the testimony of the Gospels which the Catholic Church has preserved. The symbol of the cross has been so important to Christians ever since Jesus’s death because the first Christians were always taught by the Apostles that Jesus died on the cross. The symbol of the cross is on the earliest stone tombs of the Christians who knew the Apostles. Historical writings from bishops who knew the Apostles and which are preserved today also record that Christians blessed themselves by tracing the cross on their foreheads before praying and eating. They would not have done this if the Apostles did not teach that Jesus died on a cross and resurrected from the dead; forever transfigured in glory as the true mediator between God and men.
During the time of the Apostles, the polytheist Romans persecuted Christians for worshipping a man who died on a cross. They carved insulting pictures in stone or wood. In their hatred for Jesus and Christians, these Romans used to make images of Jesus dying on a cross with a donkey’s head instead of a human head. The pagan message in the drawings was basically, “You god is a jackass!” Archaeologists discovered and preserved these blasphemous carvings to keep as historical records. While these drawings insulted Jesus and Christians, it proves the historical fact that the Apostles, in union with Mary, the mother of Jesus, believed that Jesus died on a cross. Thankfully, those same Romans who martyred Christians, eventually abandoned their polytheism and converted to Christianity through the martyrdom of Christians. In the end, Christianity defeated the pagan Romans without Christians having to raise the sword against their enemies. God raised up a pagan to deliver them and then converted the pagan who became the Emperor Constantine.
Christians cannot become followers of Muhammad because Christians do not believe that Jesus would lie to his Apostles or that he would teach his Apostles to lie about his death. Christians cannot become followers of Muhammad because Christians believe Jesus prophesied he would die and he really did die. Christians cannot become a follower of Muhammad because Jesus taught it was God’s will for him to die because God wanted to save all men from endless death (separation from Heaven) by having Jesus conquer death for us as a human. Now all humans can have life through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. This is why we teach “Jesus Christ Conquers” (IC XC NIKA). Jesus conquers death and frees us from sin, ignorance, and selfishness as he bestows eternal life upon us.
Christians do not believe God is a deceiver. Jesus said the devil is a deceiver. Christians believe that following Jesus gives us a share in the life of God so that we do not have to suffer endless death in what is called “the fires of Hell.” Therefore, the central reason Christians can never become followers of Muhammad is because the Qur’an clearly teaches that Jesus never died and it denies he was crucified. In so doing, the Qur’an denies Jesus was the true martyr (shahid) who showed the true way to life with God was through obedience to God even unto physical death and martyrdom. Jesus is true Islam. Muhammad never died a martyr, but he inspired the killing of many Christians. Jesus never had anyone killed because Jesus came to give his life as a ransom for every human.
Jesus Taught True Islam (Submission/Obedience) to Saint Paul in Arabia
Saint Paul was a Jew who hated the Christians. He was a growing power amongst the ruling Jews who had the Romans put Jesus to death. He tried to have the Apostles killed and had many of their followers killed. On his way to Damascus, Syria to capture Christians, Jesus appeared to Paul in blinding light from Heaven which knocked Paul off his horse and left him blind for three days. Jesus sent a man to heal Paul and baptize him at the end of three days. Before that time, Paul had been known as Saul. Saint Paul instantly understood how Jesus fulfilled the Torah of Moses and he converted to Christianity. Saint Paul not only taught that Jesus died and rose again, but he explained why Jesus’s death was in the wise plan of God and true Islam.
Saint Paul became one of the greatest defenders and promoters of Christian teaching. He knew the Apostles and worked closely with them. Most importantly, the Apostles confirmed the revelations Jesus showed and taught Paul while Paul was praying and fasting in Arabia after his initial conversion to Christianity (Galatians 1:12&17). Saint Paul suffered much for the faith and was eventually martyred. He was willing to die for Jesus, who appeared to him in Arabia and taught Paul all that he had taught the Apostles. Saint Paul explained the meaning of Jesus’s death: “Jesus loved me and gave himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20). Jesus did the same for every Arabian and for every human.
In Saint Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, Saint Paul taught submission to God’s will as the way to salvation: “Have the mind of Jesus, who, though Jesus was in the form of God he did not deem equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself taking the form of a slave…and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6-11). Again, Christians enter this very submission of Jesus at every celebration of the Eucharist. It is in the Eucharist where true Islam is practiced. The devil does all he can to keep people from this true worship which brings one to share in God’s likeness of self-giving love.
The same Saint Paul who received revelations from heaven while in Arabia, gave serious warnings about revelations from angels or spirits. This is why he always wished to first verify everything with the Apostles before teaching. Saint Paul had experiences with angels (spirits) and knew that sometimes demons (fallen angels) trick people into believing they are good angels with messages from God. In letters approved by the Apostles, Saint Paul wrote: “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel other than the one that you received [from Jesus and the Apostles], let that one be accursed!” (Galatians 1:8-9). In that same letter he makes clear that Jesus died for our sins and it was God’s will so that Jesus could save us by conquering death so as to give us eternal life. This means that anyone who denies Jesus’s death is denying the Gospel taught by Jesus, the Apostles, and Saint Paul. Christians can not follow a message from an angel (a spirit) that says Jesus really did not die; especially when this message is given more than 500 years after the constant and truthful witness of the Apostles. This is why we reject Mani and Muhammad.
Jesus’s death is only understood in light of his resurrection and divinity
Jesus’s death is so important to Christians because it was followed by Jesus’s greatest miracle of all…his resurrection from the dead in a transfigured human body that could never die again because it was subject to the Holy Spirit in every way. This miracle verified that all he taught came from God and that what the Apostles taught could be trusted. After his resurrection, Jesus’s ascension was witnessed by more than 500 people. It did not happen in secret or hidden as Muhammad’s alleged visions. Just as the Apostles did not lie about Jesus’s death, they also did not lie about his resurrection. The empty tomb of Jesus became a permanent witness against those who would continue to deny Jesus is the Messiah and savior of the whole human race. Salvation was not just for one generation but future generations (and past generations) and for all races on earth. Jesus reigns from heaven in a glorified state to continue to bring people into his kingdom through baptism of water and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promises to King David of an everlasting kingdom where all will submit to God’s life-giving law of true love.
The Apostles were not afraid to die and become martyrs because they knew Jesus died and conquered death. They knew Jesus would restore their bodies to their souls in a glorious and new existence at the Last Judgment and make them incapable of being subject to time (chronos) ever again. The disciples of Jesus knew that God would make them members of his family and kingdom by placing Jesus’s divine life (the Holy Spirit) in their souls. All who share in the Holy Spirit become family with God. Humans remain human but they are elevated into God’s family by a share in God’s very own life and Holy Spirit. They become divine like Jesus who came to restore this gift to humans. This gift was lost in Eden before it could be made permanent. Jesus, the new Adam (1 Cor 15:45) and one in being with God, came to make this gift permanent to humans. The gift begins here on earth and is completed after physical death. By conquering physical death, Jesus showed our future transformation and became the source for our transformation into sharing in eternal life.
Muhammad resisted this teaching about Jesus’s death. This is why Muslims are forbidden to read the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. If followers of Muhammad knew the Apostles taught that Jesus really died, then they would reject the Qur’an’s teachings for breaking with historical reality. They would believe that Jesus had risen from the dead and proved he was one in being with God. From eternity, before the world began, the “Son of God” came from God as light comes from light…one in being with God (one God not three gods). God did not need a consort or partner (as the Qur’an 4:171 misrepresents the teaching) for the one true God to have a “Son.”
The “Son” is a mystery that only God fully understands and God’s ways are above the ways of humans. To say the Trinity is not possible or denies monotheism is to think only in bodily and human terms instead of spiritual terms. Is not light one in being with the fire that generates it? Fire does not need a consort to generate light. God the Eternal Spirit/Light has generated an eternal light without beginning or end and this is the Logos. God the Eternal Mind knows the knowing of himself and generates within himself the mystery and inner concept of himself…the Logos or “Son.” It was the Logos which became man (cf. John 1:14) and is known as the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth. God is not three gods, but only one God, one Power beyond human comprehension. God is the highest unity and One while remaining a mystery of interpersonal and pure spiritual love. The Son can give us a share in his sonship through the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit.
Jesus talked about sending the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, who he sent 10 days after he ascended to God. He made the Apostles wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit’s coming. Jesus never said he would send “Ahmad” (Qur’an 61:06). He said he would send the Holy Spirit (“Roukh al Quddoos”). The Holy Spirit shares this one life of God with humans so humans can share in God’s oneness and eternal life which is love. A human lacks the power to live in heaven unless God shares his Spirit with that human. This is what Christians mean by saying God became man (Jesus) so humans could become divine (like God) through Jesus. Jesus teaches us submission to God’s Will (Islam) so that God’s Will can live in us and take us up into Himself…Heaven. In this elevation, we do not lose our human identity, but we gain a shared life with God. All earthly things pass away and are realized in greater spiritual and heavenly realities.
God created us not because he needed us. God needed nothing. He created us because he is Love and in his goodness he freely decided to make us to share in the mystery of his existence which is unending joy. Earthly life is just the place to be prepared for heavenly life. All life is a gift. For Christians, Heaven is partaking in God who is infinite and gives unending happiness. In heaven we no longer live as we did on earth because all our desires will be fulfilled in beholding God. There is no marriage in heaven because we possess something greater than we could ever possess on earth, the very direct vision of the Infinite, Good, and all beautiful God. God becomes our greatest treasure and unending joy in an experience of the Infinite and timeless (beyond chronos).
Who is greater? Jesus or Muhammad?
Jesus was born from a woman who remained a virgin and Jesus had no earthly father as even the Qur’an teaches. Muhammad had an earthly father and a normal conception. Whose birth was more important, Jesus’s by a Virgin or Muhammad’s which involved no miracle? Jesus performed great miracles, walked on water, healed lepers, healed the blind, forgave sins, and raised the dead. Muhammad performed no miracles. Whose words did God publicly confirm as true by miracles in front of hundreds of witnesses, Jesus’s or Muhammad’s? Who ever saw the angel Gabriel even speak to Muhammad? Jesus’s disciples saw angels with Jesus. Jesus gave up having a wife so he could serve as God’s true mediator and reveal that heaven was more important than earthly life. Muhammad took ten wives including a very little girl and contradicted Jesus about marriage and heaven. Muhammad made heaven sound earthly. Who gave up more to serve God, Jesus or Muhammad? Jesus ascended permanently into heaven with his body after he died on the cross and defeated death and sin. According to the Qur’an, all Muslims must agree that Jesus’s body is not on earth and definitely not in a tomb on earth. Muhammad’s body is in a tomb and shrine in Medina where it rotted. Did Muhammad defeat death and sin, like Jesus did? So….
If no one could punish you for your choice, and seeing the comparisons between Jesus and Muhammad above, who do you think was greater, Jesus or Muhammad?
The above article is revised from a previous 2006 version.
To read more about Jesus’s resurrection see: “Three Empty Tombs Witness to Jesus’s Resurrection”
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