Is Jesus God? Paper 4. Saaib Ahmed's Rebuttal.

20:33 Posted by Fuzail Ahmad

Format:

1. Opening statement by P1. (1500 Words)
2. Opening statement and rebuttal by P2. (2500 Words)
3. Counter rebuttal by P1. (2000 Words)
4. Response by P2. (3000 Words)
5. Response by P1. (2000 Words)
6. Conclusions published same date. (1500 words).

Introducing Saaib Ahmed: 

Shah Saaib Ahmed Rabbani is an experienced debater having countless informal debates and tens of formal debates under his name. This is Saaib Ahmed's 6th formal debate with a Christian. Out of these, 5 yeilded no results because the Christian side pulled out in the middle of the debate. We hope this doesn't happen this time around. Saaib Ahmed has authored many articles on Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Atheism and Politics/History. As far as faith is concerned Saaib Ahmed is a Muslim following Hanafi fiqh. Saaib is a pro-freedom Kashmiri.


Saaib Ahmed’s Rebuttal.

Jesus lived almost 2000 years back and we have no way of knowing what he said and how he lived. The more we read about him more we realize that we know nothing about him. Thus we can never reach a conclusion with respect to him which goes against what has been happening throughout the history of mankind. We can work as a historian and mark a few points which happen every now and then. We can say A MAN JESUS was born (billions of people are born), THE MAN JESUS LIVED (billions of people live), THE MAN JESUS WAS CRUCIFIED* (people can be crucified) and THE MAN JESUS DIED* (billions of people die). Because of the less and unauthentic material available about Jesus we have diverse opinions about him and the four points I mentioned above are the most probable things that could have happened. Note that these are not facts but probabilities based on what normally happens in nature. And we know that God normally doesn’t take human form. Islam attests to it, Judaism attests to it, Christianity takes exception and presents to us one occasion where God came in human form. Thus if we work out the probability of God taking human form we see that it comes equal to zero. We don’t see God coming down in human form every yesterday, today and tomorrow. Thus to prove Jesus was indeed God we need a very clear and strong evidence because we have to go against what we have been seeing happening around us which, sorry to say, we don’t have. Note this point as I move on to my next point. (This doesn’t rule out divinity of Christ though, but keep it in mind because you will need it in coming paragraphs).

Little has been written about Jesus and we know very less about his life. During the past thirty years theologians and historians have come increasingly to admit that it is no longer possible to write a biography of Jesus, since documents earlier than the gospels and gospels too tell us next to nothing of his life, moreover the gospels present the 'Kerygma' or proclamation of faith, not the Jesus of history. [1] Whatever writings we have today give us very less information about Jesus and we can never reach a conclusion which goes against the established norms of nature (see above paragraph). Now view this argument of mine in light of the first paragraph. You see that the thing which we are supposed to believe needs a strong proof and the candidate needs a detailed examination both of which are lacking here. We have less or no information about Jesus. Note this argument also; I need you to have this in your mind as we move to the authenticity of what we have.

Before talking about the authenticity of the small amount of information which we have, let me tell you a short story.  While traveling through a forest, a person noticed a circle marked on a tree with an arrow shot perfectly into the center. A few yards away he noticed several more targets, each with arrows in the center. Later, he met the talented archer and he asked him, “How did you become such an expert that you always get your arrows into the center of the bull’s-eye?” “It’s not difficult,” responded the archer, “First I shoot the arrow and then I draw the circle.” When examining Christian “proof texts” that Christians have given us, we should always ask the following question. “Has an arrow been shot into a circle or has a circle been drawn around an arrow?” When we examine we find that a circle has been drawn around an arrow. As G.A. Wells tells us, “the gospels present the 'Kerygma' or proclamation of faith, not the Jesus of history.” [1] John Dominic Crossan, a scholar, tells us Gospels are not history memorized but prophecy historicized, i.e. the NT writers took OT texts and wrote a historical setting whereby they made it seem that Jesus fulfilled the scriptures. [4] Thus they made circles around the arrows as per their faith and liking. Thus we can’t say that they are cent percent authentic. Anyways, we have texts which Christians consider canonical and we have texts which Christians consider forgeries. These authors built stories out of traditions which had reached them through different people who were definitely separated by distance and traditions that reached them were different in their details sometimes (many times?) and obviously these differences crept in their writings as well. That’s why we find contradictory reports between all these works. These writings are not eye-witness accounts and nor are they written in the language which Jesus and his disciples spoke. Thus we can hardly trust what they say. These works (the canonical ones) are Greek writings giving us the Greek translation (with exceptions) of what Jesus had said thus leaving us guessing about his exact words if only we consider these works worth referring to. Melanie accepts this and tells us that the problem is not such a big one because Jesus used parables so often. This doesn’t solve the problem because these parables are open for interpretation and hardly any of these parables talks about the divinity of Jesus. This hardly is an argument. The argument is how these writings came into being. These works which we have are not translations of Hebrew works but Greek works contrary to what Melanie said in her paper. Melanie also applies double standards to different texts she is dealing with, the arguments which she makes against GoT and GoJ better suite the canonical Gospels.  Gospel of Thomas is a forgery, but so are other gospels, forged in the name of Mathew, Mark, John and possibly Luke also. Gospel of Thomas is second century document and if this is because of hostile approach then so are the other Gospels. Though dating GoT is very difficult, most of the scholars date it from 40-140 and this means that it is possibly older than the canonical Gospels. Manuscript evidence of Thomas is late but same is the case with canonical Gospels. Interesting is the fact that the late manuscript evidence for Thomas is better than the poor evidence for others. Attestation of early Church doesn’t prove anything and if they called something as heretical doesn’t make that something heretical. GoT is, in fact, attested earlier than the date mentioned by Melanie and its existence was also known to early Christians. [2] So what we see here is that we have documents which came into being from oral traditions, written by people who were not eye-witnesses, written by people who didn’t even know the language which Jesus spoke, written in language which Jesus didn’t speak, written at places where Jesus never lived, written to suit a propaganda, written with bias and on and on and on. Even the copies of these writings are error ridden and centuries removed from their originals and differing witch each other, evidently, in thousands of ways. [3] (I will be talking about the authenticity of Gospels, and Bible as a whole, in our upcoming debate on the inspiration of Bible. The information I have provided here is enough for this particular paper.)

Even in such small and unreliable data we find Jesus, his apostles and St. Paul make statements which make us doubt Jesus’ divinity (though they are open for interpretation). We see the disciples worshipping whom Abraham, Moses and Jesus worshipped. [7] Paul makes us doubt Jesus’ divinity by the kind of language he uses on at least two different occasions. [7] Paul differentiates between God and Jesus on several occasions. [7] Paul maintains that Jesus is the servant of God, [7] and this is what Peter also thought, [7] and this is also echoed by Mathew [7] and if Mathew is right that the Isaiah prophecy refers to Jesus then even Isaiah refers to Jesus as “servant” of God. [7] Throughout the Acts of Apostles we find Jesus given human titles and we also notice the disciples differentiating between God and Jesus. Jesus’ own statements like “My father is greater than I”, “I can of my own self do nothing”, “My God your God”, “Oh God, Oh God, why…….” [7] The very insertion of Trinitarian passages into the text shows that the early Christians knew that the doctrine was not explicit.

This is what my entire argument is. In my first paper I never said that Jesus isn’t divine because he said so and so or he is divine because he said so and so. What Melanie did was responding to these things which were never the basis of my argument.

Thus we conclude that we can’t make a decision in favor of Jesus’ divinity because probability of such a happening is zero and we need strong, detailed, unambiguous, reliable, authentic and ample material to change our decision which we don’t have.

This being said, I think we can conclude that Christianity’s chaotic and uncertain defense of the divinity of Christ is unfair, nonsensical, and extremely inaccurate.

I am left with 1000 words and this I will dedicate to some of Melanie’s other responses. When we read Bible we see that Jesus’ disciples doubted Jesus many times and I gave a few examples such happenings in my opening statement. The disciples of Jesus doubted Jesus when he was alive, walking and having gossips with them. Jesus wasn’t able to convince his very near and dear about his divinity, how can Christians convince us after 2000 years about a thing which needs a very strong case in its favor, as I pointed out earlier. What about the other contemporaries of Jesus, the Jews. We see that they too rejected Jesus. Imagine if God himself is unable to prove that he is God how can we accept him to be God after 2000 years when he is no more between us? If Jesus was simply a prophet and then he was rejected we had a case because prophets are human and one human trying to prove to other human that he is a special needs some hard work but here we see that God himself is unable to convince people that he is God. Take for example the case of Muhammad (saw), he was human claiming to be a prophet and the pagan Arabs did doubt his prophethood saying that how can he be a prophet when he is no different from them, he walks, he eats, he prays, he works and on and on. The reason to doubt was there, Muhammad (saw) wasn’t God who could have convinced them within seconds but he was a human very like them, brought up with them. Same is the case with Jesus, he was doubted because he too was mere human, had he been divine the case would have been different. Here we find an interesting thing; the Arabs did accept Muhammad (saw) as a prophet of God. By the time of his death, most of the Arabian Peninsula had converted to Islam, and he had united Arabia into a single Muslim religious polity. You don’t need to wonder why Encyclopedia Britannica calls him “THE MOST SUCCESSFUL OF ALL RELIGIOUS PERSONALITIES” [5]. Same is what Michael Hart said, “HE WAS THE ONLY MAN IN HISTORY WHO WAS SUPREMELY SUCCESSFUL ON BOTH THE RELIGIOUS AND SECULAR LEVEL.” [6]. I can cite many other great scholars of all time who said the same, Alphonse De Lemartine, Thomas Carlyle, Hitler, Sarojini Naidu, Ramkrishna Rao, Karen Armstrong, Bosworth Smith, RVC Bodley, James Gaivin, Jules Masserman, John William Draper are a few who you can refer to. What God Jesus couldn’t do even after performing countless miracles (according to Christians) was done by Muhammad (saw) even after performing no miracles (according to Christians). We find that Muhammad (saw) is a better candidate for the second person in Trinity than Jesus – The God who failed.

Rest of my argument was to show you how the New Testament differentiates between God and Jesus every time. Instead of showing that there is no differentiation whatsoever Melanie gives us extra-Biblical interpretation which one is not bound to agree with.

With her other explanations Melanie (Christians as a whole) commits the fallacy of equivocation where you use an argument where a word refers to something and down below when somebody doesn’t notice the word refers to something else. Melanie starts with the word Jesus referring to God-man, then later on the word Jesus refers only to a man and later when you ask again it refers to the God-man again. One moment it refers to God, the next moment it refers to the Son of God, next moment it refers to both of them. We have to define our terms, what refers to what.

What is it that we are referring to when we say “Jesus”?

Suppose we have Tom in front of us. His hand is cut. Who will we call Tom, the hand or the body? Next his arm is torn apart from his body. Who will we call Tom, the arm of the body? In both the cases the Body will be called Tom, but what it the body is cut into two halves, which part is Tom? Now you understand what I mean, it is actually Tom’s body not Tom. We are left with Tom’s soul. Is Tom’s soul Tom? The very use of word “Tom’s” (that which belongs to Tom) proves that the soul is not. Here I introduce you to something which we call “self” in modern philosophy. Everything has a “self” and it is that “self” which we refer to when we refer to something. Here we need to check Jesus’ statement with respect his “self” not his body or soul. If we don’t do that Christians often play smart by associating all limits to Jesus’ human nature and all divine qualities to something which they don’t define and then reaching a conclusion that Jesus is God. We have to define our terms. If you say that God part of Jesus died on the cross then Christians should stop saying God died for our sins. If you want to say “only the human body of Jesus died” then say “Jesus the human being died”. 

You see that the problem is with the very understanding of Christians. Take for example Jesus growing in obedience. It refers to human Jesus. But what is that man part. If the body, we know that bodies don’t grow in wisdom. If the soul grew in wisdom then it can’t be God. The self grew in wisdom because one of its entities grew in wisdom. Where is God then?

Is Jesus God? Yes.
Did Jesus grow in wisdom? Yes.
Does God grow in wisdom? No is the straightforward answer.

Take the example of Jesus’ death:

Is Jesus God? Yes.
Did Jesus Die? Yes.
Did God die? No.

The soul was not God, the body was not God. What was it in Christ that made him God? If it was God who had come in human form then stop saying he was God, because he has already changed into a human. We change a spherical clay ball into a cubical ball, can we say “the cubical ball is the spherical ball”. Once it changed it is no more what it used to be. It can’t be cubical and spherical at the same time. Jesus was God who changed into man. If he changed into man or took human form then stop saying that he was God when he already is man. As a human, Jesus had some human characters like eating, drinking, laughing, crying, call of nature or even sex. But God doesn’t need such things. We ask did Jesus need such things, the answer can never be a simple one and moreover the answer will always be extra-Biblical having no basis either in the teachings of Jesus or in the teachings of his disciples. God has infinite knowledge but man has limited knowledge. If Jesus is both human and God how can he have infinite and finite knowledge at the same time. When we read the Bible it actually shows us Jesus was lacking knowledge [7] about some subjects which include knowledge of the hour [7] or growing up in wisdom [7] or learning obedience [7] or learning things from God. [7] The dual nature theory also fails on other grounds. Take the example of Jesus cursing the fig tree. The story goes something like this. “Jesus was hungry. Seeing a fig tree at some distance he went to find out if he had any fruits. He reached it and found nothing but leaves because it was not the season for figs”. Therefore Jesus curses the tree and it withers never to give fruits again. [7] Though the verses prove that Jesus was powerful (Christian explanation = God nature) but these verses also prove that he was ignorant of seasons and he also did not know from some distance that the tree had no fruits (Christian explanation – Human Nature). If the Christian explanation is accepted we find that God acted at the behest of the ignorance stemming from human nature. But surely God doesn’t act out of ignorance. Countless examples can be given, take for example God being all-powerful and humans having limited power. How can Jesus have limited powers and be all powerful at the same time. God is creator and man is creation, how can Jesus be creator and creation at the same time. Did he create himself? Doesn’t that make us question his eternal existence?

Jesus is not God? And here is the proof.

References:
[1] G.A. Wells, Did Jesus exist? P1
[2] Attridge 1989:103–12. See also The Gospel of Thomas by Velantasis especially the introduction.
[3] Bart Ehrman, Misquoting Jesus.
[4] Cited by Saaib Ahmed in, “Is the Bible God’s Word? Saaib Ahmed vs Rhoblogy.”
[5] Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th Edition.
[6] The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History, New York: Hart Publishing Company, Inc., 1978, p.33.
[7] I can’t provide all of the references here because of the word limit. Please refer to my paper “An inquiry into the divinity of Jesus Christ. Is Jesus God?” for references and detailed discussion on this.
* Muslims need not misinterpret these as facts.
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