Thursday, April 30, 2009

Has the Bible been Corrupted?

Undoubtedly, if you have had discussion with a Muslim regarding the Bible, you would have heard them say that the Bible has been corrupted. This brief video will examine that claim and you'll soon realise that that position is simply untenable.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How many Wives did Muhammad have?

By James Gee

On a Muslim website there was a question in the category of "Many Allegations from a Christian." The question was answered in a very dishonest way.

16) Why did he instruct Muslims to only have 4 wives yet he changed it for himself to have more than 20?

The author answers, "This is yet another lie against Prophet Muhammad as he never married more than 20 wives."

The author intentionally avoids answering the question. It is a fact that the Qur'an stated that a man should have only up to four wives (Surah 4:3). Muhammad even forced men to divorce wives so they had less than four:

Narrated Al-Harith ibn Qays al-Asadi
I embraced Islam while I had eight wives. So I mentioned it to the Prophet (peace be upon him). The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Select four of them.
Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 12, Number 2233

However, Muhammad, who is exhorted as being the perfect example for human kind took more than four wives. This is attested to by mulitiple authentic hadith and accepted by Muslims:

Narrated Qatada:
Anas bin Malik said, "The Prophet used to visit all his wives in a round, during the day and night and they were eleven in number." I asked Anas, "Had the Prophet the strength for it?" Anas replied, "We used to say that the Prophet was given the strength of thirty (men)." And Sa'id said on the authority of Qatada that Anas had told him about nine wives only (not eleven).

Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 5, Number 268

Narrated 'Ata:
We presented ourselves along with Ibn 'Abbas at the funeral procession of Maimuna at a place called Sarif. Ibn 'Abbas said, "This is the wife of the Prophet so when you lift her bier, do not Jerk it or shake it much, but walk smoothly because the Prophet had nine wives and he used to observe the night turns with eight of them, and for one of them there was no night turn."

Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 5

Narrated Anas bin Malik:
The Prophet used to pass by (have sexual relation with) all his wives in one night, and at that time he had nine wives.

Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 142

Once again, we find the author employing deception to hide the hypocrisy of Muhammad.

Source of the article: The Logos Blog

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Independent Sources for Jesus' Burial and Empty Tomb


Dr. Craig,

I am having a difficult time understanding something that you have said with respect to the historicity of Jesus' resurrection. You say that the 4 gospels are "independent" attestations of events and therefore things like Jesus' burial in a rock-hewn tomb and the discovery of that rock-hewn tomb empty are virtually certain to be historical. But couldn't the gospels all be dependent on common oral traditions or on those gospels written first (i.e., didn't at least Matthew and Luke have Mark available to them?). Basically, my question is: How do you arrive at your conclusion that the 4 gospels are independent instead of dependent attestations of events?


Dr. William Lane Craig responds:

I'm glad to clarify this issue, Dave, because some people seem to have misunderstood me when I argue that Jesus' burial and empty tomb are multiply and independently attested. The claim here is not the naïve assertion that because these events are mentioned in more than one Gospel they thereby enjoy multiple, independent attestation. Rather as I stated in my recent debate with Richard Carrier,

The burial account is part of Mark's source material for the story of Jesus' Passion. This is a very early source which is probably based on eyewitness testimony and dates to within several years of Jesus' crucifixion. Moreover, Paul in his first letter to the church of Corinth also cites an extremely early source for Jesus' burial which most scholars date to within a few years or even months of the crucifixion. Independent testimony to Jesus' burial by Joseph is also found in the special sources used by Matthew and Luke and in the Gospel of John. Historians consider themselves to have hit historical pay dirt when they have two independent accounts of the same event. But we have the remarkable number of at least five independent sources for Jesus' burial, some of which are extraordinarily early.

Mark's Passion source didn't end with Jesus' burial, but with the story of the empty tomb, which is tied to the burial account verbally and grammatically. Moreover, Matthew and John rely on independent sources about the empty tomb. Jesus' empty tomb is also mentioned in the early sermons independently preserved in the Acts of the Apostles (2.29; 13.36), and it's implied by the very old tradition handed on by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthian church (I Cor. 15.4). Thus, we have multiple, early attestation of the fact of the empty tomb in at least four independent sources.

Notice the focus is on the early, independent sources used by the New Testament authors.

First and foremost is the Passion source which Mark used in writing his Gospel. Whereas most of Mark's Gospel consists of short anecdotal stories strung like pearls on a string, when we get to the final week of Jesus' life we encounter a continuous narrative of events from the Jewish plot during the Feast of Unleavened Bread through Jesus' burial and empty tomb. The events of the Last Supper, arrest, execution, burial, and empty tomb were central to the identity of early Christian communities. According to James D. G. Dunn, "The most obvious explanation of this feature is that the framework was early on fixed within the tradition process and remained so throughout the transition to written Gospels. This suggests in turn a tradition rooted in the memory of the participants and put into that framework by them" (J. D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered, 2003, pp. 765-6.) The dominant view among NT scholars is therefore that the Passion narratives are early and based on eyewitness testimony (Mark Allen Powell, JAAR 68 [2000]: 171). Indeed, according to Richard Bauckham, many scholars date Mark's Passion narrative no later than the 40s (recall that Jesus died in A.D. 30) (Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 2006, p. 243). So we're dealing here with an extraordinarily early source.

Now Matthew and Luke probably knew Mark's Gospel, as you note, and used it as one of their sources. But the differences between Mark and the other Synoptics point to other independent sources behind Matthew and Luke. These differences are not plausibly explained as due to editorial changes introduced by Matthew and Luke because of (i) their sporadic and uneven nature (e.g., Mark: "tomb which had been hewn out of rock"; Matthew: "tomb which he hewed in the rock"; (ii) the inexplicable omission of events like Pilate's interrogating the centurion; and (iii) Matthew and Luke's agreeing in their wording in contrast to Mark (e.g., Matt. 27.58 = Lk. 23.52 "This man went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus." Also the phrase translated "wrapped it in linen" is identical in Matthew and Luke. How could Matthew and Luke have independently chosen exactly the same wording in contrast to Mark? They both probably had another source. Indeed, as we'll see when we get to the empty tomb account, differences between Matthew and Luke emerge that suggest multiple sources.

Moreover, John is generally believed to be independent of the Synoptic Gospels. As Paul Barnett points out, "Careful comparison of the texts of Mark and John indicate that neither of these Gospels is dependent on the other. Yet they have a number of incidents in common: For example, . . . the burial of Jesus in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea" (Jesus and the Logic of History, 1997, pp. 104-5).

Finally, the old tradition handed on by Paul to the Corinthian church, which is among the earliest traditions identifiable in the NT, refers to Jesus' burial in the second line of the tradition. That this is the same event as the burial described in the Gospels becomes evident by comparing Paul's tradition with the Passion narratives on the one hand and the sermons in the Acts of the Apostles on the other. The four-line tradition handed on by Paul is a summary of the central events of Jesus' crucifixion, burial by Joseph of Arimathea, the discovery of his empty tomb, and his appearances to the disciples.

What about the empty tomb account? First, it was also part of the pre-Markan Passion narrative. The empty tomb story is syntactically tied to the burial story; indeed, they are just one story. E.g., the antecedent of "him" (Jesus) in Mk. 16:1 is in the burial account (15:43); the women's discussion of the stone presupposes the stone's being rolled over the tomb's entrance; their visiting the tomb presupposes their noting its location in 15.47; the words of the angel "see the place where they laid him" refer back to Joseph's laying body in the tomb.

As for the other Gospels, that Matthew has an independent tradition of the empty tomb is evident not only from the non-Matthean vocabulary (e.g., the words translated "on the next day," "the preparation day," "deceiver," "guard [of soldiers]," "to make secure," "to seal"; the expression "on the third day" is also non-Matthean, for he everywhere else uses "after three days;" the expression "chief priests and Pharisees" never appears in Mark or Luke and is also unusual for Matthew), but also from Matt. 28.15: "this story has been spread among Jews till this day," indicative of a tradition history of disputes with Jewish non-Christians. Luke and John have the non-Markan story of Peter and another disciple inspecting the tomb, which, given John's independence of Luke, indicates a separate tradition behind the story. Moreover, we have already seen that John's independence of Mark shows that he has a separate source for the empty tomb.

The early sermons in Acts are likely not created by Luke out of whole cloth but represent early apostolic preaching. We find the empty tomb implied in the contrast between David's tomb and Jesus': "David died and was buried and his tomb is with us to this day." But "this Jesus God has raised up" (2:29-32; cf. 13.36-7). Finally, the third line of the tradition handed on by Paul summarizes, as I have said, the empty tomb story.
The German NT critic Klaus Berger concludes: "Without a doubt the grave of Jesus was found to be empty, and, moreover, the texts about it are not in general dependent upon Mark" (ZKT, 1993, p. 436).

Thus, the burial and empty tomb of Jesus enjoy multiple, early, independent attestation. While some of these traditions could be variations on a common tradition (such as Luke and John's tradition of the disciples' inspection of the empty tomb in response to the women's report), they cannot all be so regarded because they narrate different events. Even in the case of variations on a common tradition, we are pushed back so early, as Dunn emphasizes, that we must now ask what events occurred to leave such an early impression on the tradition, and the obvious explanation is the burial of Jesus in the tomb and the discovery of the empty tomb. While multiple, independent attestation alone would not render the burial and empty tomb "virtually certain," keep in mind that this is but one line of evidence among many, so that the cumulative case for these facts is very powerful, indeed.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Analyzing Muhammad’s Scientific Blunders

By David Wood

Due to renewed interest in Islam in the West, the historical Muhammad is finally starting to come into public view.  Muhammad was an extraordinary man, but he was nevertheless flawed.  He was often ruthless towards his adversaries, he commanded his followers to assassinate those who insulted him, and he beheaded hundreds of Jews.  Although his revelations permitted other men to have only four wives, Muhammad had at least nine wives at one time, and more than thirteen throughout his life.  One of these wives was a nine-year-old girl; another was the divorced wife of his adopted son.  He also allowed men to beat their wives.  Further, Muhammad showed signs of mental and spiritual instability.  His first impression of his encounter with the angel Gabriel was that he was under demonic attack.  Even after he became Allah's Apostle, Muhammad believed that he was the victim of magic spells.[1]   

All of these facts call Muhammad's reliability into question.  Muslims can no longer turn to Muhammad's "flawless" character as evidence for their faith, for history shows that Muhammad had numerous flaws.  Hence, Muslims must defend their religion by other means.  The most popular method is currently to argue for the "miraculous" scientific accuracy of the Qur'an.  Muslim reverence for Muhammad's scientific brilliance can hardly be exaggerated: 

It was [Muhammad] who turned the course of human thought away from superstition, the unnatural and the unexplainable, towards a logical approach illustrating a love for truth and a balanced worldly life. . . . It was he who, in the place of baseless speculation, led man to use logic and reasoning on the basis of observation, experimentation and research.  He was the one who clearly defined the limits and functions of sense perception, reason and intuition.[2] 


[I]t is inconceivable that many of the statements in the Qur'an which are connected with science could have been the work of a man.  It is, moreover, perfectly legitimate, not only to regard the Qur'an as the expression of a Revelation, but also to award it a very special place on account of the guarantee of authenticity it provides and the presence in it of scientific statements which, when studied today, appear as a challenge to human explanation.[3] 

Muhammad's supposed scientific precision is notorious for being singularly unimpressive to anyone who isn't already a committed Muslim.  The tactic employed by Muslim apologists is (1) to read a simple verse from the Qur'an, (2) to twist and stretch the interpretation as far their imaginations will take them, (3) to insert a bunch of scientific terminology into the interpretation, and (4) to proclaim that there is absolutely no way an illiterate, seventh-century leader could have revealed all these scientific insights without the help of God.  After hearing such arguments, Muslims typically stand in awe.  Others stand there wondering, "Where did the verse say that?" 

The purpose of this article is not to respond to the many supposed instances of scientific accuracy in the Qur'an.  Instead, I hope to show that the Muslim approach is unpromising, for the argument from scientific accuracy cuts both ways.  That is, one cannot reasonably point to Muhammad's scientific insights while at the same time turning a blind eye to his numerous scientific inaccuracies.  As it turns out, this is exactly what Muslims do.  Yet such a method could be used to prove the prophetic authority of people throughout history.  

For instance, Thales of Miletus was able to predict a solar eclipse in 585 B.C.  One could use this to argue that he must have been inspired by God.  However, Thales also proclaimed that everything is composed of water, an idea that now seems absurd.  Similarly, in the fourth century B.C. Democritus correctly suggested that everything is composed of atoms.  Yet no one considers this to be evidence of divine inspiration, for the atomic theory of Democritus was almost completely inaccurate. 

We run into a similar problem when we come to Muhammad.  While Muhammad's proclamations aren't nearly as impressive as the atomism of Democritus, Muslims have put forth a number of arguments for Muhammad's scientific intuitions.  However, the following examples of Muhammad's scientific blunders should be sufficient to convince an unbiased examiner that Muslims have overstated their case. 

I must note here that I do not believe that it is necessary for all of a prophet's statements (i.e. statements not intended as revelation) to be in line with modern science.  Prophets are, after all, human, and as humans they may believe in superstitions and fables.  However, when a prophet proclaims a message from God, it must be accurate.  Thus, some of the popular critiques of Muhammad are somewhat misplaced.  For example, consider the following claims, which have provided Islam's critics with much ammunition: 

A Fly In Your Drink 


The Prophet (the blessing and peace of Allah be upon him) said:  "If a house fly falls in the drink of any one of you, he should dip it (in the drink), for one of its wings has a disease and the other has the cure for the disease."[4] 

Here Muhammad proposes a rule for living:  If a fly lands in your Pepsi, you should dunk the fly all the way into the drink.  He also provides us with a reason for his rule:  One of the fly's wings has a disease, but the other wing has the remedy for the disease.  His reason is, of course, completely false.  A fly may indeed be carrying bacteria that it contracted while feeding, but the idea that flies carry antidotes on their wings would be universally rejected by microbiologists.  Muhammad's rule for living is unwise, and his reason for proclaiming it is false.  But notice that this command isn't said to have come from a divine revelation.  Muhammad, then, may have simply been passing on an old wives' tale that he had appropriated at some point during his life.  Taken alone, this doesn't cast much doubt on his prophethood (though it does cast doubt on Mawdudi's claim that Muhammad "turned the course of human thought away from superstition"). 

How Tall Was Adam? 

The Prophet (the blessing and peace of Allah be upon him) said:  "Allah created Adam, making him 60 cubits [i.e. 90 feet] tall. . . . People have been decreasing in stature since Adam's creation."[5] 

Allah's Apostle (the blessing and peace of Allah be upon him) said:  "The first group of people who will enter Paradise, will be glittering like the full moon, and those who follow them, will glitter like the most brilliant star in the sky. . . . All of them will look alike and will resemble their father Adam (in stature), sixty cubits tall."[6]   

Muhammad repeatedly proclaimed that Adam was ninety feet tall, and that people have been shrinking ever since Adam.  If this were true, we would expect paleontologists to find fossils of extraordinarily large femurs and skulls.  But they don't.  Once again, Muhammad seems to be asserting fables.  Nevertheless, just as in the case of the fly, this doesn't disqualify Muhammad as a prophet, for he doesn't claim that the story is from God. 

Other passages, however, are much more problematic.  Muhammad made numerous scientific statements that he claimed to have received from God through the angel Gabriel, and many of these revelations are clearly at odds with modern scientific knowledge.  These claims cast doubt not only on his scientific accuracy, but on his status as a prophet.  Two of the most striking examples of scientific blunders are Muhammad's revelations concerning astronomy and human reproduction.  

Muhammad On Astronomy 


Muhammad clearly believed that it is the sun, not the earth, that is moving: 

Abu Tharr (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated:  "The Prophet (the blessing and peace of Allah be upon him) asked me at sunset:  'Do you know where the sun goes (at the time of sunset)?'  I replied:  'Allah and His Apostle know better.'  He said:  'It goes (i.e. travels) till it prostrates itself underneath the Throne, and takes the permission to rise again, and it is permitted and then (a time will come when) it will be about to prostrate itself but its prostration will not be accepted, and it will ask permission to go on its course, but it will not be permitted, but it will be ordered to return whence it has come and so it will rise in the west.'"[7]  

I would be willing to accept this passage as another example of Muhammad's understandable belief in myths if it weren't for the rest of the passage, which says that this hadith provides the interpretation of a particular passage in the Qur'an: 

And the Sun Runs its course For a period determined For it; that is The decree of (Him), The exalted in Might, The All-Knowing.  And the Moon-We have measured for it Mansions (to traverse) Till it returns Like the old (and withered) Lower part of a date stalk.  It is not permitted To the Sun to catch up The Moon, nor can The Night outstrip the Day:  Each (just) swims along In (its own) orbit (According to Law).[8]  

The Qur'an, then, declares that the celestial bodies swim along in their orbits.  We could stretch the interpretation to mean that the universe is a sphere and that everything is "swimming" in it, or that Muhammad is really talking about the orbits of the planets and moons.  However, Muhammad seems to have both the moon and the sun in mind: 

It is [Allah] Who created The Night and the Day, And the sun and the moon:  All (the celestial bodies) Swim along, each in its Rounded course.[9] 

Further, Muhammad's belief about the sun's motion is clear from the interpretation in the hadith:  The sun is moving around or above the earth, and it travels under God's throne when it sets.  If we decide to reinterpret Muhammad's explanation so that it conforms to our knowledge of astronomy, we will be giving an interpretation of an interpretation.  The only option for Muslims is to conclude that Muhammad must have been speaking figuratively (i.e. he is merely using metaphorical language to show that God has power over the heavenly bodies).  Such a conclusion seems desperate, however, especially when we combine these passages with Muhammad's other statements on astronomy. 

The following report, taken from the Qur'an, claims that a man (thought by many Muslims to be Alexander the Great) once reached the place where the sun sets: 

They ask thee concerning Dhu al Qarnayn.  Say, "I will rehearse to you Something of his story."  Verily We established his power On earth, and We gave him The ways and the means To all ends.  One (such) way he followed, Until, when he reached the setting of the sun, He found it set In a spring of murky water:  Near it he found a People.[10] 

This verse states that the sun is small enough to set in a pool of murky water on earth.  Indeed, many of the stars we see are at least small enough to be flung at demons whenever they overstep their bounds: 

And We have (From of old), Adorned the lowest heaven With Lamps, and We Have made such (Lamps) (As) missiles to drive Away the Evil Ones, And have prepared for them The Penalty Of the Blazing Fire.[11] 

It is We Who have set out The Zodiacal Signs in the heavens, And made them fair-seeming To (all) beholders; And (moreover) We have guarded them From every evil spirit accursed:  But any that gains a hearing By stealth, is pursued By a flaming fire, bright (to see).[12] 

We have indeed decked The lower heaven with beauty (In) the stars-(For beauty) and for guard Against all obstinate Rebellious evil spirits, (So) they should not strain Their ears in the direction Of the Exalted Assembly But be cast away From every side, Repulsed, for they are Under a perpetual penalty, Except such as snatch away Something by stealth, and they Are pursued by a flaming Fire, of piercing brightness.[13] 

It is difficult to give this strange doctrine a favorable figurative interpretation.  This difficulty is compounded by similar references in the Hadith: 

Takemotos Nebula

Abu Qatada mentioning Allah's saying:  "And we have Adorned the nearest Heaven with lamps" (67:5) said:  "The creation of these stars is for three purposes, i.e. as decoration of the sky, as missiles to hit the devils, and as signs to guide travelers.  So, if anybody tries to find a different interpretation, he is mistaken and just wastes his efforts and troubles himself with what is beyond his limited knowledge."[14] 

As we were sitting during the night with Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him), a meteor shot gave a dazzling light.  Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said:  "What did you say in the pre-Islamic days when there was such a shot (of meteor)?"  They said:  "Allah and His Messenger know best (the actual position), but we, however, used to say that that very night a great man had been born and a great man had died," whereupon Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said:  "(These meteors) are shot neither at the death of anyone nor on the birth of anyone.  Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, issues Command when He decides to do a thing.  Then (the Angels) supporting the Throne sing His glory, then sing the dwellers of heaven who are near to them until this glory of God reaches them who are in the heaven of this world.  Then those who are near the supporters of the Throne ask these supporters of the Throne:  'What your Lord has said?'  And they accordingly inform them what He says.  Then the dwellers of heaven seek information from them until this information reaches the heaven of this world.  In this process of transmission (the jinn snatches) what he manages to overhear and he carries it to his friends.  And when the Angels see the jinn they attack them with meteors."[15]   

It is easy to see how Muhammad would have come to this view.  He could see the stars in the sky, but he would also occasionally see a "shooting star."  But what are these stars shooting at?  They must be shooting at demons.  The problem with Muhammad's position is that he proclaimed it, not as a hypothesis, but as an authoritative revelation from God.  Astronomical observations have shown that Muhammad's revelation from God was false. 

Yet Muhammad's astronomical difficulties don't stop there.  The Qur'an also implies that the lowest heaven (the sky) is some sort of tangible substance that would fall on us if God didn't hod it up: 

Do you not see that Allah has made subservient to you whatsoever is in the earth and the ships running in the sea by His command?  And He withholds the heaven from falling on the earth except with His permission; most surely Allah is Compassionate, Merciful to men.[16] 

Do they not then consider what is before them and what is behind them of the heaven and the earth?  If We please We will make them disappear in the land or bring down upon them a portion from the heaven.[17] 

Putting the data together, we are able to get a glimpse of Muhammad's picture of the universe.  Everything, including the sun, travels around the earth.  The sun doesn't travel completely unhindered, however, for it sets in a pool of murky water.  The sky is a solid or liquid object over the earth that must be held up by Allah, so that it doesn't fall on us.  This explains why Muhammad described celestial objects as "swimming"; the sun and the moon must swim through the substance of the sky.  Nevertheless, pieces of the sky may occasionally flake off and hit us.  The stars are potential missiles to be used by angels whenever the demons try to steal information from heaven, and shooting stars are missiles that have been activated in defense of God's message.  That this picture of the universe is far from accurate goes without saying. 

Muhammad On Human Reproduction 

The Qur'an and the Hadith give us a detailed description of Muhammad's view of human reproduction.  To his credit, Muhammad recognized the importance of sperm in this process (though this had been noted long before Muhammad): 

Verily We created Man from a drop Of mingled sperm, In order to try him:  So We gave him (the gifts), Of Hearing and Sight.[18] 

Unfortunately, Muhammad's scientific accuracy stops there, for the Qur'an states that semen comes from an area between the ribs and the backbone (quite a way from the testicles, where semen is produced): 

Now let man but think From what he is created!  He is created from A drop emitted-Proceedings from between The backbone and the ribs.[19] 


Since Muhammad's life and character provide strong evidence that he is not a credible source of divine teachings, any argument for the authority of the Qur'an will have to be especially strong.  Without sufficient evidence to overcome the overwhelming evidence against Islam, an honest investigator's only reasonable option is to conclude that Muhammad was not a prophet of God, and that the Qur'an has no authority over man.  

In order to overcome the obvious shortcomings of their prophet, Muslim apologists argue that Muhammad's scientific accuracy proves his status as a prophet.  Yet we have seen that Muhammad made numerous false statements, many of which were claimed to have come from God.  We covered two broad categories of scientific problems in the Qur'an and Hadith, but there are a number of other difficulties that haven't been addressed.  For instance, the Qur'an reports that Solomon once overheard a short speech given by an ant and afterwards listened as a bird gave an account of its whereabouts.[31]  The Qur'an also states that nothing holds birds in the air except Allah,[32] whereas air surely has something to do with flight.  These verses are problematic for the Muslim apologist.  Nevertheless, Muslims continue to proclaim Islam's scientific heritage as evidence for its validity.  They can only do this, however, by employing a peculiar method of investigation.  This method requires only two steps:  

(1)  Find anything that can possibly be interpreted as an accurate scientific statement, dress it up, add a few scientific terms, and declare it to be a miracle. 

(2)  Ignore any obviously inaccurate scientific claims or insist that they are merely figurative statements. 

Such a technique makes sense for Muslims, since they have been taught that the Qur'an is perfect.  However, to use this method in an argument is an entirely different story.  Muslims can't expect everyone to interpret Muhammad's statements in the most favorable light imaginable when his reliability as a prophet is what is being investigated.  The Muslim argument is meant to prove that Muhammad was a true prophet, but in order to prove their point, Muslims have to assume that Muhammad was a true prophet and that he therefore couldn't have made any errors.  This makes the Muslim method of scriptural interpretation a classic example of circular reasoning.  Indeed, as stated above, Muslim logic could be used to justify any position in history.  For instance, if I were to use Muslim tactics in defending Thales' position that everything is made of water, I could make the following argument: 

The Prophet Thales claimed that everything is made of water.  That's obviously not true, but Thales was a prophet, so he couldn't have been wrong.  So what could he have meant?  Well, consider the composition of water.  It is made of hydrogen and oxygen.  Most of the mass in the universe is in the form of hydrogen, and all living things use oxygen in some way.  Thus, we have in Thales' statement a full description of the universe, the non-living, predominantly hydrogen part, and the living, oxygen-using part!  But how could Thales have known these things unless God revealed them to him?   

This sort of reasoning will seem almost comical to anyone who isn't a committed Muslim, but it is almost universally accepted as valid in the Islamic world.  We can picture the following conversation taking place:   

Muslim:  "There is only one God, and Muhammad is his prophet!"

Questioner:  "I have my doubts about that second part.  Why should I accept it?"

Muslim:  "You should accept the fact that Muhammad is God's prophet because Muhammad said that he was God's prophet!"

Questioner:  "You're assuming that everything Muhammad says was true, but how can I know that?"

Muslim:  "You can know it because of the amazing scientific accuracy of the Qur'an!"

Questioner:  "But what about talking ants, stellar missiles that hit demons, the sun setting in the ocean, and man forming from a blood-clot?  What about all these passages?"

Muslim:  "Those passages are metaphorical!"

Questioner:  "But how do you know they're metaphorical?  Muhammad didn't say that he was using figurative language when he said those things.  Indeed, he seems to take them quite literally."

Muslim:  "Muhammad couldn't have meant those verses to be taken literally."

Questioner:  "Why not?"

Muslim:  "Because he's God's greatest prophet, and a prophet would never believe such things!" 

If there were some compelling reason for us to regard Muhammad as a prophet, perhaps we would be justified in interpreting his statements as completely accurate, as Muslims do.  For example, if Muhammad had risen from the dead (as Jesus did), we would have God's stamp of approval on his message.  But we have nothing of the sort.  In the absence of strong evidence, we must take Muhammad's statements for what they appear to be:  the sometimes accurate, mostly erroneous speculations of an intelligent but superstitious man.


[1] See my article "Islam Beheaded" for references. 

[2] Abul, A'la Mawdudi, Towards Understanding Islam (New York: Islamic Circle of North America, 1986), p. 62.

[3] Buacille, Maurice,  The Bible, The Qur'an, and Science (Elmhurst: Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an, Inc., 2003), p. 269.

[4] Sahih Al-Bukhari, Dr. Muhammad Matraji, tr. (New Delhi: Islamic Book Service, 2002), Number 3320.

[5] Ibid., Number 3326.

[6] Ibid., Number 3327.

[7] Ibid., Number 3199.

[8] Qur'an 36:38-40.  Unless otherwise noted, Qur'an quotations are taken from The Meaning of the Holy Qur'an, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, tr. (Beltsville: Amana Publications, 1989).

[9] Ibid., 21:33.

[10] Ibid., 18:83-86.

[11] Ibid., 67:5.

[12] Ibid., 15:16-18.

[13] Ibid., 37:6-10.

[14] Sahih Al-Bukhari, Number 3198.

[15] Sahih Muslim, Abdul Hamid Siddiqi, tr., Number 5538.

[16] Qur'an 22:65, M.H. Shakir Translation (Elmhurst: Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an Inc., 2002).

[17] Ibid., 34:9.

[18] Qur'an 76:2

[19] Ibid., 86:5-7.

[20] Sahih Muslim, Number 608.

[21] Ibid., Number 3328.

[22] Ibid., Number 3329.

[23] Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah (The Life of Muhammad), A. Guillaume, tr. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), p. 255.

[24] Sahih Muslim, Number 614.

[25] Qur'an 22:5.

[26] Ibid., 40:67.

[27] Sahih Muslim, Number 6397.

[28] Sahih Al-Bukhari, Number 3208.

[29] Sahih Muslim, Number 6392.

[30] Ibid., Number 6393.

[31] See Qur'an 27:16-22.

[32] Ibid., 16:79.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

An Introduction to the Qur'an

To aid you in defence of the Christian Faith, it is very useful to know about the Muslim scriptures. This article should give you a good overview of it and its inconsistencies.

The word Qur'an means 'recitation'. It was a word used in churches for the reading of the Bible in the time of Mohammed. They are verses that Mohammed recited while exhibiting behavior resembling seizures. His followers wrote the verses on any material that was at hand.

The Qur'an

As detailed earlier in this book, the respect for the Qur'an grew rapidly after Mohammed's escape to Medina. His followers believed that Mohammed was building on the credibility of the Bible. They revered him as a Biblical prophet equal to Abraham, Moses and David. They believed the content of the Qur'an to be lofty in its laws and so beautiful in its poetry that it surpassed the many poets among the idol worshipers.

Decades after Mohammed's death, many of those who claimed to have committed his verses to memory were dying fighting for Islam. Thinking that the verses would be lost, a committee gathered and compiled the first Qur'an but a problem developed after the Qur'an was copied and distributed. A successor to Mohammed, Caliph Uthman, discovered that the copies of the Qur'an did not agree. The fact that they were different was a scandal. Uthman had a committee of a few leaders establish a standardized copy. Uthman then attempted to have all other copies of the Qur'ans burned.

The collection of sixty-one verses in this chapter reveals several things. These verses, recited by Mohammed, made lofty claims about the Qur'an. The Qur'an purported to agree with the Bible, which had been completed for centuries before the Qur'an, and commanded Muslims to believe in both the Qur'an and the Bible. It claims to be perfect Arabic, a copy of an eternal tablet in heaven, without equal in literary style and without error. The Qur'an claims to reveal hidden details to astound mankind. For example, the Qur'an announced that nineteen angels guard Hell (74:26-31). This news was expected to amaze the Christians into believing in the Qur'an.

The reasons that many of Mohammed's contemporaries did not believe in the Qur'an can be found in the text of the Qur'an itself. For example, when certain 'revelations' were changed, it caused doubt about the perfect divine source of the verses. The direction for prayers was changed from Jerusalem to Mecca with the explanation given that Allah allowed this correction to be made to the Qur'an as a test to see who would still believe in a 'divine revelation' that needed to be altered. Another example would be the verses Mohammed recited which allowed for the veneration of the daughters of Allah. These were erased and replaced by other verses with the explanation that they were Satanic verses that Mohammed received and later had to retract. For a strategic moment in time, these 'satanic verses' appeased the idol worshipers.

The Qur'an reveals several other reasons the people of Mohammed's day rejected the Qur'an. Some rejected Islam because of the manner in which Mohammed recited the verses. It looked too much like the seizures of demon-possession or insanity. Others, who knew the Bible, realized that Mohammed was reciting Arab, Jewish and Christian fables as if they were actual Biblical history. These people rejected the Qur'an because of its content.

The Qur'an Says...

  1. Satanic Verses   Mohammed had spoken some verses to be a part of the Qur'an which really came from Satan, but this was not unusual since every prophet and apostle before him has had the same problem. The Satanic verses were removed. The purpose of Satanic verses is to test the unbelievers and divide them into sects which will be a sign that the Qur'an is true to those who believe (22:52,53). The Satanic verses were deleted and replaced by better verses or similar ones (2:106).
  2. Validity Questioned   When one of the verses, Mohammed had given as part of the Qur'an, was replaced by another verse, the non-Muslims decided that he was an impostor only claiming to be a prophet (16:101).
  3. Changes Cause Doubt   The foolish wonder why Mohammed's earlier instructions were replaced with different ones (in relation to which direction a Muslim should face when praying, Jerusalem or Mecca). The answer to these "foolish doubters" is that the first revelation was given as the first part of a tough test.  This change (in the Qur'an) was performed in order to see which followers would remain Muslims and which would defect as a result. It was a great test which true Muslims withstood (2:142,143).
  4. Verses Memorized and Forgotten   The verses Mohammed spoke were to be repeated by the Muslims so that they would not forget any of them except those which Allah wanted to be forgotten (87:6,7).
  5. Heavenly Tablet   The Qur'an is written on a preserved tablet (presumably on a stone tablet in heaven) (85:21,22).
  6. Detailed Exposition   The Qur'an confirms the Bible and gives all the details of everything which took place in history (or an explanation of all things) (12:111).
  7. Tutored   The unbeliever accused a specific person of helping Mohammed compose the Qur'an (16:103).
  8. Possessed   The non-Muslims glared at Mohammed with their eyes and said, 'No doubt, he is possessed' (68:51 25:8).
  9. False Prophet   The non-Muslims said that Mohammed invented his verses himself with the help of others (46:8, 52:33, 25:4).
  10. Insane   The non-Muslims said that Mohammed was insane (68:2). The idol worshipers said that since Mohammed performed no miracles they would not leave their gods just because of Mohammed's words. They decided that their gods had cursed him with madness (11:53-54).
  11. Fairy Tales   The non-Muslims objected to the content of the Qur'an because they recognized in it familiar old fables which were presented in the Qur'an as history. Someone, who spent a great deal of time helping Mohammed learn them, taught these tales to him (16:24, 25:5, 68:15, 83:13).
  12. Nineteen Angels   Nineteen angels guard Hell! This is such a startling revelation that those who believe in the Bible may now believe in the Qur'an as well and Muslims may be strengthened in faith. At the same time, the numbering of the angels will be a point of ridicule for the unbelievers. It is meant to sound stupid to unbelievers because Allah misleads some and guides others (74:26-31).
  13. Idolater's Challenged   Idol worshipers say that the Qur'an is invented. They are challenged to write one chapter like it with the help of their gods (10:38).
  14. Many Poets in Mohammed's Day   Poets are found walking aimlessly in every valley. They gathered followers who believe errors. The poets teach things they do not practice (26:224-226).
  15. Unchanged   No one can change Allah's words (18:27).
  16. Confirms the Bible   The Qur'an, written in Arabic, agrees with and confirms the Book of Moses which was revealed as a guide and blessing to all men (46:12). The stories in the Qur'an are not invented tales but validate and confirm the Bible (12:111). The Qur'an is from Allah and that is why it fully explains the Bible which came before it (10:37). "If you (Mohammed) doubt the reliability of the Qur'an, you should ask those who are reading the Bible, which was revealed prior to your life (10:94). There is nothing new in the Qur'an which was not revealed to former apostles (41:43).
  17. Qur'an in Heaven   The Qur'an is given in Arabic so that it may be easily understood and its Mother Book is in Allah's presence, highly exalted and full of wisdom (43:4).
  18. Never Finished   The writings of Allah's words could never be finished even if all the trees on the earth were pens and the sea were ink with seven other seas to replenish it (31:27).
  19. Genies Kept Away   Genies are kept far away from hearing the reading of the Qur'an. It is impossible for them to hear it (26:212).
  20. Genies Converted   Some genies flew up to heaven and eavesdropped on the reading of the Qur'an taking place there. They saw the comets and flaming darts which are thrown at the genies to keep them away from hearing what is taking place in heaven. They heard the message that Allah is one and that he has no wife or children and believed the message. They became Muslims. Thus, some genies are believers in Islam. Others are the fuel for the fires of hell (72:1-15).
  21. Eye of a Needle   Those who deny the Qur'an will not get into the gates of Paradise until a camel passes through the eye of a needle (7:40).
  22. No Errors   The Qur'an is the best Scripture with no inconsistencies (39:23). It is written in Arabic free of all faults (39:28). It is free from all contradictions (4:82).
  23. Belief in Bible and Qur'an   True believers are those who believe in the Qur'an and the Bible (2:4).


Friday, April 10, 2009

Are the Claims in Zeitgeist true? Part 2

This is the second part of the article refuting the claims made in the Zeitgeist movie. Take a read of Part 1 first.



Charlie Campbell writes, “Zeitgeist claims that the events surrounding Mithra’s life were stolen by the New Testament authors. These claims are not credible. Even the Encyclopedia Britannica concedes that Mithraism (the religion associated with Mithra) could not have influenced the Gospel writers. It states, “There is little notice of the Persian god [Mithra] in the Roman world until the beginning of the 2nd century, but, from the year AD 136 onward, there are hundreds of dedicatory inscriptions to Mithra. This renewal of interest is not easily explained. The most plausible hypothesis seems to be that Roman Mithraism was practically a new creation, wrought by a religious genius who may have lived as late as c. AD 100 and who gave the old traditional Persian ceremonies a new Platonic interpretation that enabled Mithraism to become acceptable to the Roman world” (Article entry: Mithraism 2004 edition). The four Gospels were done well before the close of the first century. If Mithraism wasn’t even known in the Roman world in the first century, as the Encyclopedia Britannica says, then it is misguided to suggest that teachings regarding Mithra influenced the Gospel writers.”

Ron Nash writes, "Allegations of an early Christian dependence on Mithraism have been rejected on many grounds. Mithraism had no concept of the death and resurrection of its god and no place for any concept of rebirth—at least during its early stages.... During the early stages of the cult, the notion of rebirth would have been foreign to its basic outlook….Moreover, Mithraism was basically a military cult. Therefore, one must be skeptical about suggestions that it appealed to nonmilitary people like the early Christians." (Christianity and the Hellenistic World, p. 144).

Ben Witherington writes, “We really do not have ancient sources on Mithra, comparable to what we have on Moses and the Israelites. Most of what we know about Mithraism comes from the NT era and later. There is no good historical reason to think Mithraism is the origins of either Judaism or Christianity.” ("The Zeitgeist of the 'Zeitgeist Movie'")

The apostle Peter wrote, "We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For He received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to Him from the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with Him on the sacred mountain" (2 Peter 1:16-18).



Dr. Edwin Bryant, is Professor of Hinduism at Rutgers University and a scholar on Hinduism. He translated the Bhagavata-Purana (life of Krishna) for Peguine World Classics and is the author of Krishna: A Sourcebook. When asked about the claim that Krishna [a Hindu god] had been crucified, he replied, "That is absolute and complete non-sense. There is absolutely no mention anywhere which alludes to a crucifixion." He added that Krishna was killed by an arrow from a hunter who accidentally shot him in the heal. He died and ascended. It was not a resurrection. (Cited in "A Refutation of Acharya S's book, The Christ Conspiracy" by Mike Licona. The Christ Conspiracy is the source for many of the claims in Zeitgeist).

Zeitgeist claims the idea of the crucifixion was stolen.Edwin Yamauchi says, "All of these myths are repetitive, symbolic representations of the death and rebirth of vegetation. These are not historical figures, and none of their deaths were intended to provide salvation. In the case of Jesus, even non-Christian authorities, like Josephus and Tacitus, report that he died under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius. The reports of his resurrection are quite early and are rooted in eyewitness accounts. They have the ring of reality, not the ethereal qualities of myth." (Quoted by Lee Strobel in The Case for the Real Jesus, p. 178).


Joel McDurmon writes, "Zeitgeist goes on to claim that “probably the most obvious of all the astrological symbolism around Jesus regards the 12 disciples,” which, the movie states, are “the 12  constellations of the  Zodiac, which Jesus, being the Sun, travels about with.” Why anyone would consider this “the most obvious” of such evidence I don’t know—I’ve never heard it until now. Were it so obvious you would expect it to be widely claimed. Further, what makes it so “obvious”? The only similarity between the two is the number twelve, for which examples can be found anywhere. The most “obvious” of these, to any “real” researcher is the  twelve tribes of Israel. Since Jesus was fulfilling the Old Covenant, and was instituting the New Covenant, He was choosing the Jesus with disciples.jpg“New” twelve tribes. Jesus himself said that the disciples would sit as judges over the  twelve tribes (Matt. 19:28). This is a genuine historical parallel which is reinforced in the book of Revelation, when these two twelves are joined together in New Jerusalem (Rev. 21:12–14). Why stretch for such wild  parallels in the stars when the Bible is self-consistent in its symbolism? Biblical theology needs no help from the  astrologers that it despises anyway. The movie even notices that “the number 12 is replete throughout the bible,” but then misses the impact of that fact and concludes arbitrarily, “This text has more to do with astrology than anything else.” If the Bible contains the number twelve throughout, why go outside the Bible to interpret what significance “12 disciples” may have? To do so betrays a desire to impose a non-Biblical meaning onto the Biblical text." (Zeitgeist The Movie Exposed: Is Jesus an Astrological Myth?, p. 56).

Dr. Ben Witherington says, “What about the claim that the twelve disciples represent the 12 constellations of the Zodiac? Well once again, Mr. Joseph [the producer of Zeitgeist] has not bothered to do his homework. There was this little entity called the 12 tribes of Israel, going back to Jacob and his 12 sons. Those stories in Genesis are not astrological in character at all, but rather are explanations of a historical origins of a people. The 12 disciples are chosen by Jesus, not because he was a stargazer, but because he was attempting to reform, and indeed re-form Israel. The twelve disciples represent the 12 tribes of Israel, and you will remember that Jesus promised that at the eschaton [Jesus’ coming kingdom] they will be sitting on 12 thrones, judging those 12 tribes [see Matthew 19:28]. Once more, this is a sort of historical and eschatological thinking, not a sort of astrological thinking, and the claim that the Bible has more to do with astrology than anything else, can only be called a category mistake. Clearly, Mr. Joseph has done no work whatsoever in the study of the various genre of Biblical literature which he could have gotten from any standard introduction to the Bible, even those written by agnostics and skeptics.” ("The Zeitgeist of the 'Zeitgeist Movie'")


Dr. Ben Witherington says, “Unfortunately it [Zeitgeist] gets most of the story of Horus wrong. He claims the Horus myth says he was born on Dec. 25th, born of a virgin, star in the east, worshipped by kings, and Were stories about Horus the source for the life of Christ?was a teacher by 12. This he claims was the original form of the myth in 3000 B.C. It would be nice to know how Mr. Joseph learned this, since we don’t have any ancient Egyptians texts that go back that far on this matter. Furthermore this disinformation he gives in the film is refuted by numerous analysis of the proper sources.…again not only is Mr. Joseph guilty of falsely blending together various different religions which developed largely regionally and independently of each other, he is actually guilty of falsifying some of the claims made in the Egyptian myths…Ironically he does a disservice to all the religions he discusses….I could go on about the egregious errors in his presentation of Horus, who was not called the lamb of God, and was not crucified and resurrected, even in the myth. The story of Horus is of course the story of the rebirth of the sun in east, and it is based on the cycles of nature, not on any sort of historical claims at all, unlike the story of Jesus. But more to the point the story of Horus does not include many of the elements that Joseph claims it does–shame on him for not doing his homework properly even on Egyptology.” ("The Zeitgeist of the 'Zeitgeist Movie'")

Dr. Ben Witherington says, “There was no such thing as the concept of bodily resurrection in Egyptian religion, and certainly not of a mythological deity, Horus, was not believed to have a human body. Sometimes commentators will use the term resurrection to speak loosely about an afterlife in another world, not a bodily return to this world.” ("The Zeitgeist of the 'Zeitgeist Movie'")


Dr. Ben Witherington says, “Mr. Joseph [producer of Zeitgeist] thinks it [the origin of the symbol of the cross] derives from the cross in the Zodiac imposed on the circle of the 12 astrological signs of the Zodiac. ZodiacThere are various problems with this theory. First of all consider the most basic ancient zodiac pattern we have-- for example in the floor of the synagogue at Sepphoris. Jews, like every other group of agrarian peoples were interested in the weather and the seasons. Do we find a cross pattern? [See the picture of the Zodiac to left]....My point is symbol. Mr. Joseph has done no first hand historical work on ancient Zodiac symbols, he has simply believed the pablum he has imbibed from various of his out-dated, and inaccurate sources. The origin of the symbol of the cross of course derives from the Roman practice of crucifixion, not from some supposed astrological pattern. Jesus died in 30 A.D. on a cross outside of Jerusalem, a victim of Roman injustice as even the Romans admitted.” ("The Zeitgeist of the 'Zeitgeist Movie'")


Josephus, the first century Roman historian mentions Jesus in two different places.Dr. Ben Witherington says,“The works of Josephus are certainly not fraudulent. As is typical of Mr. Joseph [producer of Zeitgeist] he may have heard there are probably some Christian interpolations in the later editions of Josephus, since Christians loved and used the work, but all of the Josephus scholars I know in the guild, and there are some good ones (Greg Sterling and Steve Mason come to mind) are quite clear that these are genuine works from Josephus. The important point for our purposes is that no Josephus scholar, known to me, including Jewish ones, thinks that the passages in his works about John the Baptizer and Jesus are all later interpolations.” ("The Zeitgeist of the 'Zeitgeist Movie'")

Louis Feldman, the prominent Josephus scholar and author, who is not a Christian, said, “My guess is that the ratio of those [scholars] who in some manner accept the Testimonium [to those who reject all of it as an interpolation] would be at least 3 to 1.  I would not be surprised if it would be as much as 5 to 1.” (In an email to New Testament scholar Mike Licona)


Joel McDurmon writes, "Zeitgeist tells us that the story of Noah’s Ark and the Flood is not unique: The concept of a Great Flood is ubiquitous throughout the ancient world, with over 200 different cited claims in different periods and times.” It is nice to see the Zeitgeist gang finally catching up to Christian scholars on an issue. We have been pointing out Was the account of Noah's flood plagiarized?the world-wide phenomenon of flood stories for decades now, trying to make people realize that the flood actually happened! Now Zeitgeist comes along and tries to use this fact against us? These guys are so eager to find parallels that they haven’t stopped to think: sometimes parallels may actually work in support of the Bible, not against it. After all, if there really was a world-wide flood thousands of years ago, finding multiple traditions of the same story all over the world is exactly what we should expect. This is what we do find. Almost all these flood traditions record a universal flood in which only a tiny remnant of the population is saved. Some add the building of an ark and saving of the animals. Some recall the ark landing on a mountain; some the sending out of birds, etc. It only stands to reason that a few older legends, especially ones that remained geographically close to and close in language, might just have a similar tradition to that of the Bible. (Zeitgeist The Movie Exposed: Is Jesus an Astrological Myth?, p. 61-62)." 


(1) Arguments offered to "prove" a Christian dependence on the mysteries illustrate the logical fallacy of false cause. This fallacy is committed whenever someone reasons that just because two things exist side by side, one of them must have caused the other. As we all should know, mere coincidence does not prove causal connection. Nor does similarity prove dependence.

(2) Many alleged similarities between Christianity and the mysteries are either greatly exaggerated or fabricated. Scholars often describe pagan rituals in language they borrow from Christianity. The careless use of language could lead one to speak of a "Last Supper" in Mithraism or a "baptism" in the cult of Isis. It is inexcusable nonsense to take the word "savior" with all of its New Testament connotations and apply it to Osiris or Attis as though they were savior-gods in any similar sense.

(3) The chronology is all wrong. Almost all of our sources of information about the pagan religions alleged to have influenced early Christianity are dated very late. We frequently find writers quoting from documents written 300 years later than Paul in efforts to produce ideas that allegedly influenced Paul. We must reject the assumption that just because a cult had a certain belief or practice in the third or fourth century after Christ, it therefore had the same belief or practice in the first century.

(4) Paul would never have consciously borrowed from the pagan religions. All of our information about him makes it highly unlikely that he was in any sense influenced by pagan sources. He placed great emphasis on his early training in a strict form of Judaism (Phil. 3:5). He warned the Colossians against the very sort of influence that advocates of Christian syncretism have attributed to him, namely, letting their minds be captured by alien speculations (Col. 2:8).

(5) Early Christianity was an exclusivistic faith. As J. Machen explains, the mystery cults were nonexclusive. "A man could become initiated into the mysteries of Isis or Mithras without at all giving up his former beliefs; but if he were to be received into the Church, according to the preaching of Paul, he must forsake all other Saviors for the Lord Jesus Christ....Amid the prevailing syncretism of the Greco-Roman world, the religion of Paul, with the religion of Israel, stands absolutely alone." This Christian exclusivism should be a starting point for all reflection about the possible relations between Christianity and its pagan competitors. Any hint of syncretism in the New Testament would have caused immediate controversy.

(6) Unlike the mysteries, the religion of Paul was grounded on events that actually happened in history. The mysticism of the mystery cults was essentially nonhistorical. Their myths were dramas, or pictures, of what the initiate went through, not real historical events, as Paul regarded Christ's death and resurrection to be. The Christian affirmation that the death and resurrection of Christ happened to a historical person at a particular time and place has absolutely no parallel in any pagan mystery religion.

(7) What few parallels may still remain may reflect a Christian influence on the pagan systems. As Bruce Metzger has argued, "It must not be uncritically assumed that the Mysteries always influenced Christianity, for it is not only possible but probable that in certain cases, the influence moved in the opposite direction."[22] It should not be surprising that leaders of cults that were being successfully challenged by Christianity should do something to counter the challenge. What better way to do this than by offering a pagan substitute? Pagan attempts to counter the growing influence of Christianity by imitating it are clearly apparent in measures instituted by Julian the Apostate, who was the Roman emperor from A.D. 361 to 363. (Excerpted from his article "Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions" that first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, Winter, 1994).


Dr. Ronald Nash says, "It is not until we come to the third century A.D. that we find sufficient source material (i.e., information about the mystery religions from the writings of the time) to permit a relatively complete reconstruction of their content. Far too many writers use this late source material (after A.D. 200) to form reconstructions of the third-century mystery experience and then uncritically reason back to what they think must have been the earlier nature of the cults. This practice is exceptionally bad scholarship and should not be allowed to stand without challenge. Information about a cult that comes several hundred years after the close of the New Testament canon must not be read back into what is presumed to be the status of the cult during the first century A.D. The crucial question is not what possible influence the mysteries may have had on segments of Christendom after A.D. 400, but what effect the emerging mysteries may have had on the New Testament in the first century." (Article "Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions")

Dr. Ronald Nash says, "Many Christian college students have encountered criticisms of Christianity based on claims that early Christianity and the New Testament borrowed important beliefs and practices from a number of pagan mystery religions. Since these claims undermine such central Christian doctrines as Christ's death and resurrection, the charges are serious. But the evidence for such claims, when it even exists, often lies in sources several centuries older than the New Testament. Moreover, the alleged parallels often result from liberal scholars uncritically describing pagan beliefs and practices in Christian language and then marveling at the striking parallels they think they've discovered." (Article "Was the New Testament Influenced by Pagan Religions")


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Are the Claims in Zeitgeist true? Part 1

Zeitgeist (a German phrase that means "the spirit of the age") is the name of an online video (first released in June 2007) that is making quite an impact on its viewers. In this video, Peter Joseph, the writer and director, seeks to persuade his viewers that the authors of the New Testament borrowed the idea of Jesus' virgin birth, December 25th birth date, twelve disciples, miracles, crucifixion, and resurrection from astrological sources and ancient pagan mystery religions that were around long before the time of Christ. The video even goes so far as to claim that Jesus never existed. Well, these claims are so outrageous, we're glad you've taken the time to investigate them for, as you will see shortly, there is an abundance of evidence that Peter Joseph has greatly erred in his claims. 

Below you'll find some of the claims in the video followed by helpful responses and quotations by scholars, historians, world religion experts, Christian apologists and others, as well as links to in-depth articles and books that offer a much more thorough refutation of many of the errors in the first part of the film. (The second and third part of the film deal with areas outside of the scope of this ministry.) 



Charlie Campbell, Director of the Always Be Ready Apologetics Ministry, says, "Many of the charges put forth in Zeitgeist are based on outdated, disproved ideas that were in circulation at the Was Jesus' resurrection stolen from earlier sources?beginning of the last century. Here is one example. Zeitgeist states that Attis (a Roman deity) was crucified, dead for three days and then resurrected. This is absolutely not true to the mythological account. In the mythological story, Attis was unfaithful to his goddess lover, and in a jealous rage she made him insane. In that insanity, Attis castrated himself and fled into the forest, where he bled to death. As J. Gresham Machen points out, "The myth contains no account of a resurrection; all that Cybele [the Great Mother goddess] is able to obtain is that the body of Attis should be preserved, that his hair should continue to grow, and that his little finger should move." Zeitgeist's claims that Attis was crucified and resurrected are not only inaccurate but very misleading. And that is just the tip of the iceberg. The alleged resurrection of Attis isn't even mentioned until after 150 A.D., long after the time of Jesus."

Dr. Norman Geisler, author of more than 70 books, writes, “The first real parallel of a dying and rising god does not appear until A.D. 150, more than a hundred years after the origin of Christianity. So if there was any influence of one on the other, it was the influence of the historical event of the New Testament [resurrection] on mythology, not the reverse. The only known account of a god surviving death that predates Christianity is the Egyptian cult god Osiris. In this myth, Osiris is cut into fourteen pieces, scattered around Egypt, then reassembled and brought back to life by the goddess Isis. However, Osiris does not actually come back to physical life but becomes a member of a shadowy underworld...This is far different than Jesus’ resurrection account where he was the gloriously risen Prince of life who was seen by others on earth before his ascension into heaven....even if there are myths about dying and rising gods prior to Christianity, that doesn't mean the New Testaments writers copied from them. The fictional TV show Star Trek preceded the U.S. Space Shuttle program, but that doesn’t mean that newspaper reports of space shuttle missions are influenced by Star Trek episodes!” (I Don't Have Enough Faith to be An Atheist , 2004, p. 312).

Dr. Alister McGrath, Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University, says,Parallels between the pagan myths of dying and rising gods and the New Testament accounts of the resurrection of Jesus are now regarded as remote, to say the least...If anyone borrowed any ideas from anyone, it seems it was the gnostics who took up Christian ideas." (Intellectuals Don't Need God and Other Modern Myths, 1993, p. 121).

Charlie Campbell says, “Zeitgeist claims that Mithra, a mythological Persian deity, was dead for three days and then resurrected. I am no scholar on ancient Mithraism, but nowhere in any of the reading I’ve done on the topic has Mithra’s death even been discussed, let alone Zeitgeist’s story about three days in a grave and a resurrection. Edwin Yamauchi, a historian and author of the 578 page Persia and the Bible concurs. He says, ‘We don’t know anything about the death of Mithras’ (The Case for the Real Jesus, p. 172).”

Dr. Gary Habermas and Dr. J.P. Moreland write, "Not one clear case of any alleged resurrection teaching appears in any pagan text before the late second century A.D., almost one hundred years after the New Testament was written." (Cited by Dan Story in The Christian Combat Manual: Helps for Defending your Faith: A Handbook for Practical Apologetics, 2007, p. 206).

Dr. William Lane Craig, says, "(W)e find almost no trace of cults of dying and rising gods in first century Palestine. Moreover, as Hans Grass observes, it would be "unthinkable" in any case that the original disciples would come sincerely to believe that God had raised Jesus from the dead just because they had heard myths about Osiris!" (Dr. William Lane Craig, "Reply to Evan Fales: On the Empty Tomb of Jesus," 2001).

Dr. Ronald Nash, the author of many books including The Meaning of History and The Gospel and the Greeks: Did the New Testament Borrow from Pagan Thought? writes, "Which mystery gods actually experienced a resurrection from the dead? Certainly no early texts refer to any resurrection of Attis. Attempts to link the worship of Adonis to a resurrection are equally weak. Nor is the case for a resurrection of Osiris any stronger. After Isis gathered together the pieces of Osiris's dismembered body, he became "Lord of the Underworld."....And of course no claim can be made that Mithras was a dying and rising god. French scholar Andre Boulanger concludes: "The conception that the god dies and is resurrected in order to lead his faithful to eternal life is represented in no Hellenistic mystery religion." (The Gospel and the Greeks: Did the New Testament Borrow from Pagan Thought?, p. 161-162)

H. Wayne House writes, Various mystery religions did exist from early times in Greece; however, it only after the first century A.D. that we begin to have much data on them. It is more likely, therefore, that the mystery religions, observing the success of orthodox Christianity, began to mimic its beliefs and practices, rather than the other way around. (Cited by Dan Story in The Christian Combat Manual: Helps for Defending your Faith: A Handbook for Practical Apologetics, 2007, p. 207).

Dr. Ben Witherington, an eminent New Testament scholar and author of more than 30 books, writes, “Here’s the big point:  Joseph [the producer of Zeitgeist] reads the story of Jesus back into these other mythological stories, and then claims–shazam–the story of Jesus comes from these other stories, which he has anachronistically read in light of the Jesus story. This is both bad history and bad religious analysis. To my knowledge there is no story that dates from before the time of Jesus that has most of the specific elements listed in the film as distinguishing the Jesus story. For example the story of a virginal conception, crucifixion, or bodily resurrection of a divine son of God.” ("The Zeitgeist of the 'Zeitgeist Movie'")



Charlie Campbell says, "The claim in the movie Zeitgeist that Christianity borrowed the idea of “three kings” for its nativity story from ancient religions is ludicrous. The Bible knows nothing of “three kings” showing up after Jesus’ birth. Three kings is an idea that occasionally appears on some poorly researched Christmas cards, but not in the Bible. Matthew’s gospel simply says, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem” (Matt. 2:1). The magi were known as wise men, not kings. During the Middle Ages legend did develop that the magi were kings and that they were three in number, but this is purely legend, not something taught in the Scriptures. Zeitgeist’s deceptive attack on the credibility of the Gospel accounts only reveals its lack of credibility when it comes to scholarly research."

Joel McDurmon writes, "Zeitgeist informs us that the “three kings” are the three brightest stars in the constellation Orion’s belt, which align with Sirius (the Star in the East) to point to the place of the  sunrise (Birth of the Sun). The movie assures us that, “These 3 bright stars are called today what they were called in ancient times: The Three Kings.” Same old problem, however: no sources except for their pet nineteenth-century authors; nothing before 1822." (Zeitgeist The Movie Exposed: Is Jesus an Astrological Myth?, p. 42).



Charlie Campbell says, “To insist that Jesus Christ is a myth—that He never existed—as the Zeitgeist movie does, is foolish. Beside the twenty seven New Testament documents that verify He lived, there are thirty nine sources outside of the Bible, written within 150 years of Jesus life that mention Him. These sources include the Jewish Talmud, the Roman historian Tacitus, the Didache, Flavius Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, the Gnostic gospels (e.g., the gospel of Thomas), etc. These There is abundant historical evidence for Jesus' existence.extrabiblical sources reveal to us more than 100 facts about His life, teaching, death and even resurrection. The Encyclopedia Britannica, fifteenth edition, devotes 20,000 words to the person of Jesus Christ and never once hints that He didn’t exist. Don’t be fooled by Zeitgeist, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (2 John 7)."

Ben Witherington says, "Both Jewish historians like Josephus, and Roman ones like Tacitus and later Suetonius are perfectly clear Jesus actually existed, and Tacitus tells us he died on a cross, being executed under Pilate. Apparently, Mr. Joseph [producer of Zeitgeist] couldn't even give this one fact straight. There is more historical evidence for the existence of Jesus than there is for the historical existence of Julius Caesar for example....The only persons who doubt the existence of Jesus of Nazareth are those who either hate Christianity and so want it to disappear, or those who have not bothered to do the proper historical homework." ("The Zeitgeist of the 'Zeitgeist Movie'")

For additional help on this issue, read: "Did Jesus Really Exist?" by Dr. Paul L. Maier or "Ancient Non Christian Sources for the Life of Christ" by Dr. Gary Habermas



Charlie Campbell says, “Another pitiful criticism put forth in the movie Zeitgeist is that the authors of the New Testament borrowed the December 25th date for Jesus’ birth from ancient pagan sources. This is Where in the New Testament does it say Jesus was born on December 25?ridiculous. Have the producers of Zeitgeist even read the New Testament? Where in the New Testament do we read of any date associated with the birth of Jesus? Nowhere! We have no idea when Jesus was born. The December 25 date originated long after the Gospels were written. Edwin Yamauchi, an author, professor, first rate historian and authority on the world of the first Christians, says that it was not until about 336 A.D. that the December 25 date became the official date to celebrate Jesus’ birth. The sheer absence of any date in the New Testament documents is sufficient enough to overturn Zeitgeist’s claim; Yamauchi’s word on the matter is another nail in the coffin.”

Dr. Ben Witherington says, “The Bible says nothing about the specific date or time of Jesus’ birth. Most scholars think it was in the spring due to the description of the shepherds being in the fields with their sheep.” ("The Zeitgeist of the 'Zeitgeist Movie'")



Daniel B. Wallace writes, "The virgin birth of the pagan god Dionysus is attested only in post-Christian sources...several centuries after Christ." (Reinventing Jesus, p. 242).

Edwin Yamauchi says, "There's no evidence of a virgin birth for Dionysus. As the story goes, Zeus, disguised as a human, fell in love with the princess Semele, the daughter of Cadmus, and she became pregnant. Hera, who was Zeus's queen, arranged to have her burned to a crisp, but Zeus rescued the fetus and sewed him into his own thigh until Dionysus was born. So this is not a virgin birth in any sense." (The Case for the Real Jesus, p. 180).

Edwin Yamauchi says, "Despite the claims of obvious and profound parallels between Christianity and Mithraism, when one looks at the evidence an entirely different picture emerges. First, Mithra was not thought of as virgin born in the most ancient myths; rather, he arose spontaneously from a rock in a cave." (Cited in Reinventing Jesus, p. 242). Lee Strobel adds, "Unless the rock is considered a virgin, this parallel with Jesus evaporates." (The Case for the Real Jesus, p. 171).

Charlie Campbell says, "The virgin birth of the Messiah spoken about in Matthew and Luke was not lifted from pagan religions. It was the fulfillment of a prophecy given in the Old Testament book of Isaiah (7:14) six or seven hundred years before Jesus' birth. And many Bible commentators also believe Genesis 3:15 prophesies the virgin birth seeing that the Messiah would be born solely of the woman's seed."

Charlie Campbell says, "The Zeitgeist movie says that Krishna, a supposed incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, was born of a virgin. Edwin Yamauchi says, "That's not accurate. Krishna was born to a mother who already had seven previous sons, as even his followers concede." (Quoted by Lee Strobel in The Case for the Real Jesus, p. 182).


Ben Witherington writes, “Much is made by Mr. Joseph [producer of Zeitgeist] about how in 1 A.D. a new ‘age’ or astrological cycle begins, after the age of the Ram. Unfortunately for Mr. Joseph, Jesus was born somewhere between 2-6 B.C. He was not born in 1 A.D. How do we know this? Because Jesus was born whilst Herod the Great was still king of the Holy land, and the records are clear that Herod died about 2 B.C. ergo Jesus had to be born before then (see my articles on these matters in the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels). How then do we have our modern calendar? Well it was set by a gentleman named Dionysius the short…who had to much time on his hands, and estimated the turn of the era to be at the juncture we now have it, based on when he thought Jesus was born. He was off by four or so years. In any case, the birth of Jesus transpires before the supposed turn of the ages in the astrological schema touted by Mr. Joseph. Jesus’ birth certainly did not usher in the age of Pisces or the fish. The fish symbol comes into Christianity from the gematric value of the Greek word ICHTHUS–with each letter standing for a word, in this case Insous, Christos, theos, uios and soter–Jesus Christ, God's Son, Savior. It would be nice as well if at least he could get the astrology and symbology part right–but alas, abandon hope, he hasn’t even properly done his homework on that subject either.” ("The Zeitgeist of the 'Zeitgeist Movie'")


Read Part 2 of this article.