Grace and Truth
08. GOOD NEWS FOR MUSLIMS
TRINITY 1 to 5 : Answering the Muslim accusation that God is not Father, Son and Holy Spirit
15 - WHY DOES THE KORAN DENY THE TRINITY?
CALLENGE: Today many Muslims are coming to faith in the triune God. They experience in their own lives the power of the love for enemies, of the humility and of joy of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. None of them, however, can undo the stage of their lives in which they were Muslims. Therefore, situations may sometimes arise, especially during a time of persecution, in which former Muslims are tempted to return to Islam. Are there arguments in respect to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, especially in connection with the Koran, that can be used to strengthen former Muslims to never again deny the Trinity of God, as they once did, when they were Muslims?
ANSWER: There is historical background information that can be helpful here. Such information can be found when we look for the reasons why the Koran denies the Tri-Unity of God. We get an answer to this question when we observe that Muhammad and his Muslim followers were not the first to dispute the Biblical message of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There were already groups in existence before the emergence of Islam that opposed the triune God of the Gospel. They belonged to Judaism and to sects that had been excommunicated from the Christian Church, as a result of their rejecting central elements of the gospel message of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In the following paragraphs, we will summarize such examples from pre-Islamic times.
Long before the rise of Islam, Jewish Rabbis vehemently denied the divinity of Christ. The central reason for their persecution of Christ, which finally caused them to see that He was put to death, was that they considered him to be guilty of the sin of blasphemy. The Gospel record makes this clear:
“63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, `I put you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God!` 64 Jesus said to him, `You say it. However, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.` 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, `He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard his blasphemy! 66 What do you think?` They answered and said, `He is deserving of death.`” (Matthew 26:63-66)
This attitude became even more firmly entrenched following the death and resurrection of Jesus, when Jews and heathen people began to believe in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God. This is one main reason why the religion of rabbinical Judaism came into being. It honors, alongside the Bible, further holy books: the Mishna and the Talmud. In the opinion of pious Jews, the Mishna contains a second revelation of God to Moses, that was not in writing, as the Torah, but that was to be transmitted only orally. At first the priests, from generation to generation, are said to have passed it on; later this is said to have been done by the judges, then by the prophets, later still by the wise men, and finally, by the rabbis. Only in about 200 A.D. was this supposed second oral "revelation" finally codified in the book of the Mishna. The Talmud contains the Mishna plus an extensive commentary on parts of the Mishna. In these holy scriptures of rabbinical Jews, which altogether came into being after Christ, yet before the rise of Islam, Jesus is called “Yeshu”, a contraction of “yimmach shemo u-zikro” = “extinguished be his name and the memory of him”. Because of that, there is no information about Jesus in the Mishna, and very little in the Talmud. To this belongs the fact that Jesus, according to the Talmud, is said to have been the greatest secret and public deceiver to ever lead Israel into idolatry – because he maintained that as the Messiah he was the Son of God. For this blasphemy he is said to have been rightly condemned and executed. When the Koran, and thus Islam, denies that Christ is the Son of God, it is only following the teaching of the Jews at the time of Muhammad.
In contrast to the Talmud, the Koran also contains positive statements about Christ; for example that He was born by a miracle from the Virgin Mary. Muhammad did not receive this teaching from the Jews, for they believed what is written in the Talmud (b Shab 104b / b Sanh 67a): That Mary was an unchaste woman, who had extra-marital relations with a Roman mercenary by the name of Pantheros, who is thought to be the father of Jesus, making him a bastard. Why does the Koran bring together decidedly Jewish with clear-cut Christian elements? Here, too, the answer can be found in pre-Islamic times. At that time there were Jewish-Christian sects that mixed together the Jewish and the Christian faith. Their texts are mostly lost to us today. Yet some of the pre-Islamic Christian fathers quoted from these Jewish-Christian sources in their works, so that it is possible to reconstruct what they believed in regard to Jesus:
The Ebionites, a Jewish-Christian sect from the early period of Christianity, had their own gospel. Epiphanius (haer. 30:13, 6) wrote the following regarding this sect: “They say that He (Christ) was not begotten from God, the Father, but was created, like one of the archangels …, yet he rules over the angels and over all the creations of the Almighty. According to their gospel, he came with this message: I have come to abolish the sacrifices, and if you do not cease from sacrificing, wrath will not escape you.” (Translated from German in Schneemelcher, volume 1, 141)
An additional Jewish-Christian sect, whose followers were called Nazaraeans, (similar to the name of Christians in the Koran: Nasara), had a gospel of the Hebrews. In it was written: “When Christ wanted to come to the people of the earth, the Father-God selected a mighty power in heaven, called Michael, and entrusted the care of Christ to him. And the power came into the world, and it was called Mary, and Christ was seven months in her womb.” (Translated from German in Schneemelcher, volume 1, 146)
The news of such pre-Islamic deniers of the triune God (who, however, as in Islam, still honored Christ) shows that Muhammad's own rejection of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit did not arise with him. Instead, his denial of the triune God was also influenced by the teaching of early Jewish-Christian sects, which existed in Arabia during the time of his life. In order to win these people to Islam, he incorporated their false teachings into the Koran.
SAD NEWS: The Koran's denial of Christ as the Son of God, and with it the denial of the triune God, was not revealed to Muhammad. Rather, this was taken over from rabbinical Judaism and early Jewish-Christian sects, both of which existed before the rise of Islam.
TESTIMONY: My name is Saidou, and I live in Burkina Faso, West Africa. In the past I was a Muslim according to my birth. I observed the law of Islam. I compelled myself, as far as possible, to keep my five daily prayers, each at its prescribed time. But I also had an inclination for the cinema, for I live in the big city of Ouagadougou where, in contrast to rural areas, cinemas are available. One day I went to the movies, where the film of the day was “The King of Kings”, taken from the time when Christ still lived among men. I followed the show from beginning to end. I even came to see the movie several more times. In this way I kept a picture of Christ in myself. Later I received a New Testament. After I read it, a verse spoke to me, just as if a person were speaking to another. The verse was John 14:6, where Christ said: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” I was overwhelmed. And the following part of the verse said: “Nobody comes to the Father, but by me.” Inwardly I asked myself the question: “And Muhammad … who is he?” I was gripped with fear. I prayed: “If there is nobody else than you, then to you I will come!” Since then my life has changed: I repented and gave my life to Jesus Christ.
PRAYER: Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we thank you that you revealed and prepared for us the way to the Father. Through your Spirit, whom you sent to us from the Father, you let us be born again to become children of the Almighty God. This way we have come to worship God as our Father, and do His will, on earth, just as it is in heaven. We praise and worship your holy name, God Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We thank you that the whole earth is filled with your glory. Keep us in your truth, so that your kingdom can come, not just in our lives, but through us also in the lives of people around us.