Turretinfan presented a few probing questions concerning Imam Shabir Ally’s ideas pertaining to the Gospels as well as his “Christological evolution” theory with relation to the Gospels.
Of course I cannot answer for Imam Shabir Ally and nor am I attempting to but having planned to review the Shamoun-Ally debate in the near future I will add some insight of my own which may expand upon TurretinFan’s understanding with regards to the Islamic position and even Imam Shabir’s position. I also do this to depart from some of the yaa-hoo brigade of Christian apologists on the internet who I have recently been rebuking – TF certainly seems to be respectful and a serious thinker contrary to some of the Christian folks I have had the displeasure of countering of late
TF asked a few questions so I will respond with a few answers as well as questioning of my own.
TF begins by giving us a succinct summary of Imam Shabir’s claims:
Shabir Ally argues that Mark is the first gospel and the other three gospels show evidence of a progressive trend, with John having the "highest" Christology. Indeed, he sometimes even accuses the other synoptic gospels of omitting words or changing words that are found in Mark so as to move toward divinizing Jesus.
I do want to add in the way of explanation to our Christian readers, who may be taken aback by Imam Shabir’s thoughts, a quick explanation to add some flesh to the over-arching point of the progressive trend within the Gospels as a whole. Imam Ally has strong argumentation to back his ideas up; the Gospel of Mark has NO teachings of Jesus divinity and nor does it have a teaching of incarnation – simply put, Jesus is NOT God and has the profile of a human being (a Prophet) within the Gospel of Mark.
Why is this so significant?
As taught by Bart Ehrman the Gospels were written as separate documents and were not reliant upon other Gospels – they were meant to be read individually. Coupling this fact with that of the Gospel of Mark being the EARLIEST of the four Gospels we realise a conclusion quite profound
The reason behind the significance is that this points to early Christians (as well as the author of Mark) NOT believing in the Trinity, incarnation or divine-sonship of Jesus. This sounds very much Islamic as Islam teaches Jesus to be a Prophet rather than divine.
In the way of intellectual honesty I would state the virgin birth is not mentioned in the Gospel of Mark either
I have analytically combed through the Gospel of Mark with an Islamic comb and I am of the conclusion much of it is very much Islamic in nature.
Now, if your (Christian) EARLIEST source material NEVER mentions anything to do with the incarnation or “divinity” of Jesus then you have problems within Christianity as key theological teachings of Christianity are thrown into further doubt.
As a matter of fact the incarnation ONLY appears in the Gospel of John which is distinct from the Synoptics and is the most theologically evolved; not to mention the dubious nature of the alleged “quotes” attributed to Jesus within this Gospel. So we are now back to Imam Shabir’s ideas of evolution – ideas which make perfect sense in my view
I hope this gives the Christian reader some impetus for further study and TF some extra insight in order to aid his grasping of Imam Shabir’s argumentation
TF asks: So what is Shabir Ally's theory regarding what happened to the Muslim Injeel ("gospel")? That seems to be a tricky problem for Shabir Ally. Why on Earth would the Word of God be completely lost while various revisions of a false gospel be maintained?
Good question TF but as a Christian this question is problematic for yourself and is simple for a Muslim. How so? Well, open up your Bible and note Jesus preached the Gospel and all your four Gospels were NOT sanctioned nor EVER seen by Jesus – they came into existence AFTER Jesus departed from this world. Thus it is clear your four Gospels are not the Gospel of Jesus so I ask TF to answer his own question. It is a VERY tough question for a Christian; one which will bring one closer to Islam, God Willing.
I would also ask TF to produce the Q Gospel? Can he do this? No. He may lay claim to it being a “theoretical Gospel” but logic dictates a strong argument for the sayings Gospel (Q) being in existence at the time of “Matthew” and Luke. Where is it?
Why would the word of God be lost according to a Muslim? Well, Muslims believe the Prophets of the past (those before Muhammad) were sent to their respective people during those respective times and thus any Scriptures left behind after the passing of the said Prophets would NOT be guaranteed safeguard by God. Thus scriptures were corrupted and lost as God did not take responsibility to their preservation.
This belief manifests itself today as the Quran mentions the Suhuf of Abraham and mankind do not have these Scriptures today. In short, not having the Scriptures of past Prophets is not an issue for Muslims as we believe we are NOT meant to have them and the ONLY Scripture which we have in its entirety is the Quran.
In fact, ironically, the Bible backs the Muslim belief up:
Where is the Gospel of Jesus (I don’t see it in the Bible)
Where is the Suhuf of Abraham?
The Bible also points to the lying pens of the scribes (Jeremiah 8) thus indicating scriptures were manipulated, altered and ultimately lost – this sounds very much in agreement with Islam
Our friend TF queries further:
Also, why would the earliest Christians have attempted to preserve all four gospels, if they were simply revisions of one another - or if the Christology of Mark were too low? To put it another way, if Matthew were really just an editing of Mark, why wouldn't Mark just be thrown away or suppressed?
That is a good question posed by TF on the superficial level. However, the question does not negate the lack of Christology within the Gospel of Mark; this is the main point which can not be circumnavigated by a question of intent which effectively amounts to a red herring
Why did the Christians hold on to the Old Testament as the Christology within this document is lacking? In fact the Old Testament is at odds with the New Testament and contradiction plus confusion is impossible to avoid – just look at Marcionism.
In addition, I’d like to remind TF many Gospels were indeed lost (refer to the Lost Scriptures by B. Ehrman)
TF: There is really not a consistent theory of the textual transmission that makes sense from the Muslim standpoint. Basically, the Christians have to become experts at eliminating the true Word of God (such that it goes out of mention immediately, and none of the proto-Muslims are able to preserve even one copy of the Injeel), but for some reasons the Christians don't eliminate Matthew, Mark, and Luke (or any of them) but maintain them.
TF again asks a fine question. I do believe a thought out Muslim view of textual transmission is very much in line with textual criticism and modern scholarship.
TF is adamant Christians preserved Gospels. This is far from the case – where is “Q”? Surely Q is of more historical (and dare I say theological) value than the four passion narratives you have within your possession today? What about the 17 non-canonical Gospels Ehrman lists in his Lost Scriptures?
Our response to TF’s questioning and statement-making can conclude with a quick thought on why there are only four Gospels:
The earliest Christians don't even try to hide them - we find references to the four-fold gospel quite early in the patristic literature: Irenaeus died 202 and referred to the fact that the gospels are four in number, and argues that they cannot be more or fewer than four.
This is getting close to the heart of the matter now, TF. On whose authority do you rigidly stick to four Gospels? Did Jesus say four? Did James say four? Who said four?
This is indeed the type of questioning that comes with a powerful statement – pondering upon this should be done alone and in a serious fashion.
I throw in a further caveat of editing of the Bible, who told you the Church has authority to edit the Bible? Edits have indeed taken place through scribal error, forgery insertion (
and even forgery removal!) not to mention the unending “apocrypha” saga.
NOTE: This was a quick response, I do plan to do more short written responses to individuals in the future to help switch tack vis-a-vis this blog
Email suggestions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some encouragement to convert to Islam:
The Brothers of Jesus: Who are they?
Which incarnation? I personally feel both beliefs of incarnation are gateways to paganism: