Saturday, 13 February 2010

Final Analysis on John 1:19-21 with Sam Shamoun

The discussion with Sam Shamoun regarding John 1:19-21 has reached an impasse. The time has arrived for the readers to view the material on offer and draw their respective conclusions based on objectivity rather than partisan loyalties

Sam Shamoun offered a short written response in an attempt to respond further, however this written response brought little new material to the table. In the interest of thoroughness we have responded to his final comments in order to complete the debate. As Shamoun’s response contains very little new material as well as straw man arguments there is a touch of déjà vu about this article

Shamoun’s Helpers

It did surprise me somewhat that a discussion between Sam Shamoun and I has evolved into a dialogue which has seen David Wood and Semper Paratus (Anthony Rogers) come to offer material support to Sam Shamoun in this discussion.

This is extremely surprising as Shamoun did initially declare my response to him to be “pathetic” and dismissed it as laughable. If it was so feeble then why in the world did Shamoun’s colleagues feel they needed to add to Shamoun’s responses or even help him out? Obviously Mr Wood and Anthony (Rogers) either felt Shamoun was struggling or my response was a potent and difficult response to contend with.

As Shamoun was the original protagonist he gets first priority. In my last response to Shamoun I did make him aware of his convoluted and difficult to follow lines of argumentation. However it seems as though he did not take heed and he has only put his difficult to follow argumentation in writing which D.Wood has displayed on his blog. To Shamoun’s credit he did appear to be asking whether he could be understood by his fellow Christian, this Christian remains anonymous, perhaps this Christian thought my response was potent and made sense and thus went to Shamoun for his thoughts. If this is the case then I feel my work has been vindicated and indeed the object of inciting research and further thought has been achieved.

A Recap

Before addressing Shamoun’s latest efforts it will be wise to refresh ourselves with details coming out of previous dialogue concerning the topic in hand.

I did say from the outset that my response would be more analytical rather than partisan and thus it would be proved difficult to respond to by Shamoun. This certainly has been the case as Shamoun in all his responses has been somewhat difficult to follow and convoluted. I feel this should inspire Christians and Muslims to look into the bible for their selves and draw their own conclusions on this issue. That indeed was my purpose; to provoke thought and research.

My message has been a simple one, though it has been lost in the torrent of ridicule, incoherent arguments, convoluted spiel and insults from the Christian camp (a camp that includes supporters of Shamoun who directed their venom towards me).

I do feel it appropriate to bring my basic message to the fore again and allow my message or analytical argumentation to speak for itself. My message all along has been if we allow the passage (John 1:19-21) to speak for itself we realise that the Jewish elite (who included experts in the Torah) believed there were three SEPARATE individuals to come, namely Elijah, Christ and “the Prophet”. Nowhere in the Gospel of John we find any statement negating the view of the Jewish elite; no quote from John the Baptist, Jesus or even the narrator of the Gospel – this is quite telling and damaging for Shamoun’s views

Shamoun and his helpers tried to present the Christ and “the Prophet” to be the same person. This is not in the Biblical text at all and thus becomes an unauthorised addition on their part. Having, already condemned Shamoun for turning the Bible into the handbook of Sam Shamoun (due to his own interpolations into the text) he and his supporters persist with their claims that “the Prophet” is the Christ.

In my previous article it was stated:
So we realise the Jewish elite question John the Baptist, he tells them that he is not the Christ and they proceed to ask him whether he was Elijah or “the Prophet”. What we glean from this text is that the Christ, Elijah and the Prophet are three separate people and thus the Jews who were questioning John the Baptist were expecting the arrival of three distinct figures in the future; Elijah, the Christ and the Prophet. The Muslim suggests that the Prophet is Muhammed and not the Christ (Jesus), this is a reasonable suggestion in so far as “the Prophet” is distinct and independent from the Christ.

It should also be noted that John the Baptist did not question the Jews concerning “the Prophet” and nor did he seem perplexed once questioned about “the Prophet” which suggests he (John the Baptist), like the Jews, was aware of a Prophet to come who is not Jesus (the Christ). As a note to the lay reader, Christ simple means Messiah (literally the anointed one) in Greek and does not mean God or the son of God.

Well, quite apparently Shamoun and his colleagues are mistaken as this verse clearly indicates that there are three separate individuals, why they cannot accept this is beyond me. However this is old hat, we have already covered this in my previous article; I did illustrate how inconsistent Shamoun’s methodology of exegesis was, he seemed bent on manipulating the Bible rather than allowing the passage to speak for itself. Of course if we allow it to speak for itself we realise that “the Prophet” is distinct from the Christ and this leads to the question; who is “the Prophet”?

Lacking Clarity

Shamoun’s lack of clarity continued even in his latest written response, which was unfortunate, nevertheless it should still be discussed. To his credit he acknowledges his lack of coherency by asking “Let me know if it now makes sense”.
Well, to be honest Sam, it still does not make sense. It really does not! Suffice to say I will still try my best to comb through it and offer some cogent analysis.

Shamoun’s New Points Are Discussed

Firstly, before even attempting to explain John 1:19-21 Shamoun drifts onto a new tangent in trying to get people to believe John the Baptist thought his mission was to prepare the way for God.
He goes to John1:23 and points out John the Baptist was quoting from Isaiah, yes Shamoun is correct here, any comprehensive NIV Bible will state this in the footnotes. Shamoun offers nothing new, it is clearly stated John the Baptist quoted from Isaiah 40:3. He did not quote anything else.

Unfortunately Shamoun begins to misrepresent this and manipulate the Bible by going off to other parts of Isaiah and making his own unauthorised conclusions and cross-references. Shamoun has been condemned by me previously for interpolating his own ideas into the Bible and turning it into the handbook of Sam Shamoun. I condemn him once again and admonish him again in the hope he will desist from disrespecting the Bible in such a manner.

Just to illustrate Shamoun’s guilt he begins to quote Isaiah 3-5 and 9-11 (very selective indeed) even though the Baptist only quoted Isaiah 40:3. Shamoun is caught red-handed here. In fact Isaiah as a text is very vague and ambiguous due to its nature, one can see why people with Shamoun’s agenda/propensity to manipulate text favour quoting from it as it has much scope for manipulation.

Shamoun, after totally ignoring the Baptist’s small quotation from Isaiah, Shamoun selectively quotes different verses from Isaiah and bizarrely jumps to this conclusion:

According to Isaiah the voice, or herald, was to prepare for the coming of God, the appearance of the glory of Yahweh. In other words, Yahweh was going to appear visibly for all to see after the voice prepared the people for his coming. Since the Baptist explicitly says that he is that voice this means that Jesus is Yahweh God since John himself says that he came to prepare his way

This is real textual acrobatics, quite simply Shamoun’s own spin on things. As a matter of fact Shamoun’s statements are refuted by the Bible. I say this as the Bible does teach God is not a man (Numbers 23:19), so Shamoun is in a pickle if he wishes to cling to these new ideas he presented. I guess this is amongst the reasons why he appears to be convoluted and incoherent.

Shamoun is entitled to his belief, I am not ridiculing him for having his belief but merely admonishing him for trying to present his belief as a representation of the Bible though it is quite clearly misrepresenting the Bible due to the addition of Shamoun’s chosen words and conclusions into the text. Shamoun’s words can be read in their entirety and if the reader has enough time and energy he/she can try to comprehend them and view whether I am being fair to Shamoun or not.

About John the Baptist

Shamoun then quotes John 1:25-27, 29-34 and comes to a bold conclusion which is again somewhat confusing and convoluted, he concludes:

It now makes sense why the Baptist could say that Jesus existed before him since Jesus is the God of the OT who was coming to reveal himself to his people and therefore existed long before the Baptist was born.

I recognise Shamoun is desperate to prove to us that the Baptist believed Jesus to be God but using this form of textual acrobatics is simply disrespectful to the Bible. Surely if the Baptist really believed God was coming to Earth after him then he would have said it clearly. Quite simply the Baptist did not say this; thus Shamoun’s conclusion is not based on anything firm at all but mere conjecture. Shamoun has no theological reason to bring John the Baptist into the equation and certainly has no theological compulsion to attribute this conclusion to the Baptist’s thoughts.

In any case to pour further cold water on Shamoun’s claims we realise through the Bible that God is not a man and thus there was no way the Baptist believed Jesus was God as Jesus was a man. In fact he was baptised by John the Baptist; thus there is no way at all that the Baptist was going to believe Jesus was God. Can you really imagine the Baptist going home and telling his family he just baptised God? Of course not, so Sam please do not attribute your unorthodox ideas onto the Baptist. Let us have some decorum for John the Baptist by not misrepresenting him. I am sure that is not too much to ask.

The Gospel of John is the Least Reliable Gospel

Shamoun also brings into play the famous words of the Gospel of John 1:1. This of course is from the author of the first passage of the Gospel of John (whomever this maybe) and not from Jesus or John the Baptist. So it is unfair, incorrect and unscholarly of Shamoun to say:

Thus, according to both Johns Jesus is the human appearance, the visible manifestation, of the OT God of Israel.

As we have already stated the Gospel of John was the last to be written (out of the four accepted Gospels) and is believed to be the most theologically developed Gospel therefore it is the least reliable and very difficult to use to affirm your argumentation based on it as it is unreliable, especially so when put next to the Gospel of Mark. This does not mean Shamoun does not have the free will to believe in it nor does it mean that we should dismiss it. It merely means that Shamoun is quoting the opinion of the author of the first verse of the Gospel of John (whoever this unknown author was). As simple as that! Whoever authored the first verse/passage of the Gospel of John may have believed Jesus was more than a Prophet though the passage does somewhat contradict the idea of the Trinity but that is another matter.

So Shamoun should be careful when trying to impose these beliefs/views upon John the Baptist or even Jesus for that matter as there is no evidence for his claims.

Shamoun Lacks Comprehension

Having given this advice to Shamoun we can move on to address Shamoun’s lack of comprehension skills. He clearly did not comprehend my point (despite it being in audio as well as in writing). Shamoun stated:

Yahya tried to argue that the statements of these Jews who questioned the Baptist actually disprove my beliefs. He bases this on the fact that these Jews must have believed that the Christ would be born to human parents since they asked the Baptist whether he was the Christ

Well, Shamoun needs to go back and re-listen to what I said and re-read the material as it is clear that I was not claiming this. I said using Shamoun’s logic (Shamoun used faulty logic to conclude the inquiring Jews must have believed “the Prophet” was an Israelite, this was not in the text so in order to illustrate his poor method of exegesis I used HIS method of exegesis for the rest of the verse and it showed us that these Jews thought the Christ was born of a natural birth. This was to highlight to Shamoun his faulty reasoning, this was not my reasoning but merely an extension of Shamoun’s fanciful and inconsistent methods of interpreting text in order to bring the fallacious and inconsistent nature of his method of reasoning to light.Inconsistency is a sign of a failed argument!

Here is what was written previously (Shamoun should have taken the time to understand it before jumping to such a conclusion):

This is a peculiar understanding which Shamoun states rather forcefully, however it is not only a peculiar understanding which lacks proof from the passage in question but it is an inconsistent view as Shamoun fails to use the same “peculiar” method of exegesis concerning the passage when it mentions the Christ.

Shamoun’s lack of consistency is highlighted by John 1:20 where if he was to use the same far-fetched reasoning and assumption without any authority he should also conclude that John the Baptist believes that the inquiring Jews believed that the Christ was to have a natural birth as John the Baptist tells them that “I am not the Christ”. The inquiring Jews would have known that John the Baptist was not born of a virgin birth but that of a normal birth; therefore Shamoun (being consistent) would conclude the Jews believed Christ to be a man born of a husband and wife. Why Shamoun lacked the consistency to judge the whole passage by his own erroneous yardstick is a mystery. Shamoun simply interpolates his own unfounded assumption into the text; the text does not teach us that “the Prophet” is an Israelite; in fact it does not teach us anything about the lineage of “the Prophet” despite Shamoun’s inconsistent assertion.

Shamoun needs to stop misrepresenting me otherwise he is arguing a straw man. Sadly Shamoun builds on this straw man and builds his further arguments on this, needless to say they can be dismissed as they are built on a straw man and not on my arguments. Note I do not believe Shamoun did this deliberately I genuinely believe through his lack of time and the pressure upon him he misread (or did not read fully) what I was saying.

"Silly and Desperate"

After Shamoun completes his straw man arguments based on his misrepresentation of what I said he asks:

In light of this do you see just how silly and desperate Yahya’s counter-points truly are?

Yes, Mr Shamoun, the points would be silly if I actually made those points but due to your errors you misrepresented me, please go back and spend time understanding the arguments I made before attacking otherwise you will be the one who looks “silly” again. Shamoun, essentially wastes our time by misunderstanding what I have to say.

He goes full circle and goes back to the Jewish interlocutors (the inquiring Jews) and suggests they were wrong. He fails to offer a statement from John the Baptist to say they were wrong, he fails to offer any comment from the author (s) of the Gospel of John correcting them. Therefore Shamoun seems isolated when he suggests that these Jews were wrong to expect another Prophet to come who will not be the Christ but will be “the Prophet”. It is simply Shamoun’s unproven opinion against the opinion of the learned Jewish elite. Considering the Baptist did not correct the Jews concerning this view it points to the fact that the Baptist agreed with these Jews; thus Shamoun’s position appears even weaker

Shamoun Does Not Lose Ground

As stated previously:

Shamoun does not lose much ground, to his Muslim counterparts either, if he accepts what the Biblical text indicates namely; “the Prophet” was being expected by the Jews and was not Jesus (the Christ) but somebody else. I say Shamoun does not lose much ground to the Muslims in this discussion as Shamoun could quite easily counter and say there is no Biblical proof from this passage that it refers to the Prophet Muhammed and he could go further and say for all the average reader knows is that it could refer to Joseph Smith, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad or other figures believed to be prophets by their respective followers. The neutrals could point to the fact that the passage was contained within the Gospel of John which scholars view to be the most theologically evolved and thus the least reliable of the four Gospels and they too could argue that the passage is not proof of another Prophet to come yet alone Muhammed.

So Shamoun has room to manoeuvre if he is willing to free himself of his own bias and desire to manipulate the Scripture in order to realise this bias. Shamoun must always remember he is not an intermediary between his audience and the Bible as the audience are well capable of reading and deciding for themselves without the view of Shamoun, otherwise it stops becoming the Bible but becomes Shamoun’s handbook they are reading into.

I do ask Shamoun’s Christian audience (as well as any non-Christians amongst his audience) to maintain intellectual honesty and also re-evaluate his views based on my points of contention. It does seem as though Shamoun’s audience are doing this as proven by the confused Christian who was questioning Shamoun. Progress!

Related Links:

Previous article addressing S.Shamoun:

YouTube video responses on this topic:

2nd video respnose:

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