Note: The following is a continuing discussion that began with “If a Creator exists, can we know Him?” — which can be found here.
In our pursuit of greater knowledge concerning the existence of a Creator of the Universe we have presented the argument that such a being would want to be known by those He created. It stands to reason that those communications would be through nature, as we’ve already discussed, through oral communication, and through the written word.
Finding God in the Written Word: Yahwah & Allah
There are three principal writings that claim to be the inspired communication of the monotheistic God: the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Qur’an.
As we dive into the written word, I feel the need to address any claim that God of the Jewish and Christian faiths, Yahweh (as revealed in the Old Testament), is the same God identified in Islam as Allah. If that is the case, then as we evaluate the written words of each text we should find identical pictures of how God describes himself and how he interacts with humanity.
Who is Allah? Who is Yahweh?
The Qur’an asserts Allah made promises to Abraham who fathered a son, Ishmael, and that those promises extend only to those who follow Allah and are descended from Ishmael. In the Old Testament, on the other hand, Yahweh extends those same promises through Abraham’s other son, Isaac, to his physical descendants, the Jews, and to his spiritual heirs, those gentiles who accept Christ as their Savior (Genesis 17:3-8).
The Qur’an teaches Allah is the author of evil (Surah 4:142) and that He changes over time (Surah 16:101). The Bible says that Yahweh is neither tempted by evil nor does He tempt His creation (James 1:13). Moreover, the God of the Bible does not change (Malachi 3:6).
These two differences alone suggest Allah and Yahweh are not the same. Although, Islam recognizes Jesus (Isa) as a prophet, it denies He is the Son of God. The Qur’an is clear; Allah did not have a Son who came to Earth in incarnate form (God becoming Man). This position is at odds with the New Testament; consequently, Islam’s deity cannot be the same as the God of Abraham and his descendents.
Jesus Christ Prophet or Messiah?
What about the Messiahship of Jesus? Both Judaism and Christianity accept the God of the Old Testament but differ over the New Testament claim that Jesus is the Incarnate God and the long awaited Messiah.
Christianity and Islam consider Jesus to be the Messiah; however, their views concerning His nature and work differ so significantly that they cannot be considered the same either. There’s need for greater discussion of this issue; however, I’ll leave it to a later discussion.
For now we must recognize that the sacred writings of Jews and Christians, on the one hand, and of Islam, on the other, make such radically different claims that one could not possibly conclude they are each describing the same Supreme Being.
From this we can conclude Yahweh is not the same as Allah.
So, if there is a Creator as we have argued, which one is the true Creator?
If Yahweh satisfies the criteria we established during our last discussion, He must be then One True Creator God (applying the principle of identity). If Yahweh fails this test, however, then we’ll examine Allah using the same methodology.
I realize some might consider using the Bible in any manner to determine if the Biblical God is the Creator is self-serving. Those who do so will argue the Bible is biased and should be summarily dismissed as a source of credible evidence. But as I noted in our discussion about Truth, if our analysis is to be of value, we must explore the best evidences and arguments presented by every source — even if we presumptively perceive it to be adverse to the worldview we embrace.
Remember, our quest is to determine if the God of the Bible possesses the nature and attributes we’ve logically ascribed to the Creator. We must therefore include among our search materials, the proofs presented in the Old and New Testaments, which tell of His nature.
The Old Testament describes God as being omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent (precisely the characteristics we’ve concluded a Creator would possess).
It prescribes a morality that is consistent with the “coincidental” moral code we previously observed exists. The Old Testament also reveals His purpose and begins to explain His plan for humanity. In the New Testament, Jesus claims to be God and asserts that when we observe Him we have observed God (John 14:6).
This is most important to our inquiry. If the claims of the New Testament are true (e.g., Jesus’ Incarnate birth, His Miracles, His public and private conversations, and the many other overt demonstrations of His Omniscience, Omni-presence, and Omnipotence) then we have living evidence concerning one who claims to be the True God.
The New Testament describes the character of Jesus, recounts His miracles and records His wisdom, all in a manner that reflects precisely the attributes we’ve identified the Creator must possess. Contrast Jesus/God of the Bible with Isa (Jesus) of the Qur’an. The latter did not assert a divine character and did not possess supernatural attributes. The two are not the same being.
It’s certainly appropriate at this point for you to question the reliability of both the Old and New Testaments as well as the question of miracles. For that reason, I’ll provide greater discussion on those issues at a later time. For now, let’s continue to focus upon the question we’ve asked.
Who is the Creator?
The gospel of John begins: “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God…and the word became flesh and dwelt among us.”
All through Jesus’ ministry are claims that he and God are one and the same. This claim is either blasphemous (and according to Jewish law, punishable by death) or it is the absolute truth.
If we explore the miracles of Jesus, His teachings, and His victory over death through the study of apologetic proof (i.e., that provided by forensics, archaeology, philosophy, independently corroborative historical accounts, etc.), we come to see that He was uniquely God. Given the increasing volume of evidence produced by the sciences to support the overt manifestations of Divine power by Jesus, His claim to having assumed incarnate form in order to give us verifiable evidence about the Creator is most credible.
As I’ve said before, don’t take me at my word. Continue to explore these questions for yourself. While space in this forum is limited, to aid your understanding, I want you to consider four facts almost all scholars (both secular and Biblical) agree upon when it comes to the life of Jesus.
First, Jesus lived during the period of time the Bible claims he lived and in the region it specifies. Second, he died on a Roman cross and his body was laid in a tomb. Third, his tomb was found empty three days following his burial. Finally, his disciples (who were devout Jews) so believed in something they thought they had personally seen and experienced that they radically modified their religious practices which, despite intense persecution, has spread worldwide and survives 2,000 years later.
These facts are indisputable.
The question they suggest and the one that you must answer is: “What was the experience of the Disciples?” Were they all lunatics or liars?
As a result of my studies of apologetic scholars and following an evaluation of the various (and numerous) non-supernatural accounts of the event, I have no doubt that Jesus miraculously rose from the dead as the New Testament claims and as the Disciples knew to be true. Mere man would be incapable of defeating death. Many arguments are available to provide convincing proof of the Resurrection and to satisfy our “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard. Let’s look at one particularly powerful proof.
Would you trade your life to protect a lie?
The non-Biblical versions of the death of James the Just, brother of Jesus are most instructive. James was a devout Jew. Following the resurrection, he was the only Apostle permitted to enter the Temple. When he did so, he spent all of his time praying that the Jews be forgiven for rejecting Jesus. He believed the Gentiles had no obligation to follow the Law God had given to Moses but he respected it so much that the members of all seven sects of Judaism referred to him as “James the Righteous.”
During the lifetime of Jesus, James did not affirm his brother’s deity. Like many of the other members of Jesus’ family, he denied it. However, following the crucifixion and the Resurrection, whenever asked his opinion by the Jews, he would emphatically state that Jesus was the Savior.
There are three historical, non-Biblical records of James’ death – Clement of Alexandria, Josephus (the well-known Jewish historian), and Hegesippus. The latter account is quoted in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, vol. II, chapter 23 (A.D. 323). Hegesippus notes that because James strictly observed the Law and because he had previously denied the deity of his brother, the Pharisees believed he could be forced to disavow Jesus as the Incarnate God. They took him to the top of the Temple and demanded he denounce his belief in Jesus as the Messiah or be thrown to his death. James’ response was reported by Hegesippus: “Why do you ask me about Jesus, the Son of Man? He sits in heaven at the right hand of the great Power, and he will soon come on the clouds of heaven!” [Note: “Son of Man” is a descriptive term used first in the Bible by Daniel to describe the Messiah.]
Because James refused to disavow his belief in the Risen Lord, he was pushed from the Temple by the angry crowd. He survived the fall and immediately began praying for the forgiveness of his tormentors. The frustrated and enraged Pharisees who stood on the ground began to stone him and a launderer who was with them beat him to death with a club used to pound the water from clothes.
This compelling account was not recorded in the Bible; most likely because much of the New Testament had been written before James was martyred. The account of James’ strong faith, and the brutal manner in which he was angrily put to death because of it, was a fate freely chosen by many of Jesus’ other disciples during the early years of the church. Today, many who share the faith of James are, like him, being put to death the world over.
Why is it that James, all the Apostles of Jesus (most of whom died as martyrs), and the tens of thousands of His disciples who refuse to deny their Christian faith to avoid death do so?
Many men and women have died upholding beliefs to which they had become committed based upon second hand knowledge. Only a fool; however, would go to his death declaring something to be true, if he knew it to be a lie.
Notice the distinction. The faith of Jesus’ Apostles was one based upon personal experience. They knew it to be True. They lived in the time of Jesus, heard what He had to say, saw Him perform miracles, recorded His Words and actions; and in the end, witnessed His death and resurrection. Their’s was not a blindly held, second hand faith. It was based upon what they had seen. The Biblical record of their faith serves as the foundation upon which today’s believers accept persecution and martyrdom.
Jesus Christ: Fully God, Fully Man, Fully the Creator
To summarize, God came to Earth in the person of Jesus so that we would have evidence in the flesh of the information He communicated to us through the inspired words of the Bible. How can we know that to be True? We began this inquiry noting that if the God of the Bible satisfied the criteria we’d established in our previous installment. Due to the principle of identity and to the fact that two Infinite Beings cannot exist, there’d be no need to analyze minor deities. If Yahweh passed our test, we’d conclude that He is the One True God.
I end this installment by noting how Jesus told his followers if they’d seen Him (Jesus) they’d seen the Father (God). The words and life actions of Jesus, His miracles, the Resurrection all validate Jesus Christ’s claim to be God in the flesh. This conclusion is unassailable. The central figures of all other religions remain in the graves in which they were placed many years ago. Only one has conquered death. The God of the Bible is the Creator. There can be no other.