“Where did Jesus (pbuh) say, I am God”? – A Good Argument!
Responding to the Christian attempt to undermine the logic and reasonability behind the Muslim enquiry about divinity of Jesus (peace be upon him)
Christian Apologist Keith Thompson has attempted to countermine the viability of Muslim argument against the supposed deity of Jesus (peace be upon him). According to Keith, the Muslim argument to seek proof where Jesus (peace be upon him) unequivocally claimed that he is God is “very desperate and utterly fallacious” and “scripturally weak”.
Therefore, in this paper we intend to study Keith’s reasons and respond to him that the particular Muslim argument is not only good but it is logical and very reasonable! In fact as we would soon see it is Keith’s argument which is desperate and scripturally weak!
Scripturally Unsupported Christian Defense
Keith begins his “response” not by directly addressing the Muslim argument but by citing indirect verses which allegedly establish the deity of Christ (peace be upon him).
He brings in cliché Christian arguments like “First and the Last, Bridegroom, Savior, I AM and King of Kings and Lord of Lords, Thomas’ testimony”. He brings all of them but bring one scripture which would state that Jesus (peace be upon him) declared himself God-Almighty! At this point if any argument is scripturally weak then it is Christian argument!
Although we will deal with all of the above quoted biblical arguments in our future installment (inshallah), however, for the time being we want to observe that all the above arguments is not direct and explicit response to the Muslim query.
Those are biblical verses which have to be interpreted to indirectly allege deity of Christ (peace be upon him). Therefore, if certain biblical verses can be used to indirectly interpret Christ’s (peace be upon him) divinity then by the same token Christians should not neglect verses from the same document which militate against the divinity of Jesus (peace be upon him).
Consider the following verses:
“I can do nothing on my own authority; I judge only as God tells me, so my judgment is right, because I am not trying to do what I want, but only what he who sent me wants.” (John 5:30)
We need to ponder that which Omnipotent God would claim that He can do nothing on his own but that he needs someone else to guide him; that he has to obey some other entity?
A step further, Jesus (peace be upon him) even belittled the veracity of his own testimonies:
“If I testify on my own behalf, what I say is not to be accepted as real proof. But there is someone else who testifies on my behalf, and I know that what he says about me is true. (John 5:31)
A deity who was allegedly revealing verses to his prophets now claims that his testimonies are not to be trusted if it is unsupported by some higher, more authoritative source! Let alone a Deity, the above statement, does not behooves to even a mere prophet!
On the foregoing, noted Christian commentator Albert Barnes claims that Jesus (peace be upon him) would not even judge on his own behalf even on the Judgment Day!
Of mine own self – See Joh 5:19. The Messiah, the Mediator, does nothing without the concurrence and the authority of God. Such is the nature of the union subsisting between them, that he does nothing independently of God. Whatever he does, he does according to the will of God.
As I hear I judge – To “hear” expresses the condition of one who is commissioned or instructed. Thus Joh 8:26, “I speak to the world those things which I have “heard” of him;” Joh 8:28, “As the Father hath TAUGHT me, I speak those things.” Jesus here represents himself as commissioned, taught, or sent of God. When he says, “as I ‘hear,’” he refers to those things which the Father had “showed” him Joh 5:20 – that is, he came to communicate the will of God; to show to man what God wished man to know.
I judge – I determine or decide. This was true respecting the institutions and doctrines of religion, and it will be true respecting the sentence which he will pass on mankind at the day of judgment. He will decide their destiny according to what the Father wills and wishes – that is, according to justice. (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible, John 5:30)
Think about it, which absolute deity would not judge on His own authority and potency even on the Judgment Day!
Also note that Barnes portrays Jesus (peace be upon him) as a mere prophet, one who has been “commissioned, Taught and send by God” – these are specific traits of a mere messenger of God not befitting for an absolute Deity.
In fact Luke explicitly accounts Jesus (peace be upon him), not as a Deity, but as a mere messenger of God;
Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: (Acts 2:22, King James Version, e-Sword)
If Jesus (peace be upon him) was an absolute Deity, then why he was not performing miracles by himself? We all know that God can perform miracles! As a matter of fact, Jesus (peace be upon him) himself disowned that he can perform miracles on his own:
“No, it is rather by means of God’s power that I drive out demons and this proves that the Kingdom of God has already come to you.” (Luke 11: 21)
Similarly, Matthew also relates that Jesus (peace be upon him) did not used to exorcise unclean spirits on his own power but he used to depend on God (!):
“No, it is not Beelzebul, but God’s Spirit, who gives me the power to drive out demons, which proves that the Kingdom of God has already come upon you.” (Matthew 12:28)
Furthermore, he explicitly denied any divinity bestowed upon him when a rich man mistakenly attempted to claim Jesus (peace be upon him) with divine perfection and goodness:
“And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. (Mat 19:16-17, King James Version, e-Sword)
Coincidently the above emphatic declination of divinity is accounted in all the three synoptic Gospels, refer Mark 10:17-31 and Luke 18:18-30)
John was not much behind the other Gospel writers, he also accounted where in Jesus (peace be upon him) is portrayed as anybody but God:
“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (Joh 17:3, King James Version, e-Sword)
Witnessing that only the so called person of Father was divine, Jesus (peace be upon him) teaches that prayers have to be exclusively directed to Father:
“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be THY name. THY kingdom come. THY will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For THINE is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen. (Mat 6:9-13, King James Version, e-Sword)
We wonder if Jesus (peace be upon him) was also God then why did he ask his followers to direct their prayers exclusively to the so called “person” of Father! It was more natural that his followers directed their prayers to Jesus (peace be upon him) who was with them than Father whom they would never be able to see! [Or they could have directed their prayers to all three "persons" of the so called Trinity.]
There are more which can be quoted from the New Testament but for brevity we would limit to these few verses only.
Therefore, if Keith has a certain few verses to allegedly interpret that Jesus (peace be upon him) is God then we also have verses in the same documents which can be interpreted to disprove Jesus’ (peace be upon him) divinity.
This being said, we would now look Keith’s rationales why Muslim argument is not good.
Logical and Scriptural Weakness in Christian Defense
Keith “logically” wants to argue that the Muslim argument is false because,
“Moreover, there are other problems, logical fallacies and hidden premises with demanding that Jesus say “I am God” while discarding any other words/deeds/titles of Jesus or words from His Apostles. First, by demanding those specific words of Jesus is to invent or build up a criterion that Jesus must meet in order for Him to be God when, in all actuality, Jesus and the Apostles wanted to communicate Jesus’ deity, but just not in the way Muslims demand (i.e., with the exact words “I am God”). If it is true that Jesus and the Apostles believed Jesus was God and wanted to communicate this in other ways than the Muslims demand, and this is in fact true, yet the Muslims do not allow for any other evidence besides those exact three words, then they are, right off the bat, negating from the onset all the evidence for Jesus’ deity that Jesus and the Apostles did give. This method is highly problematic to any honest seeker of truth who wants to seriously study the whole of Scripture, its meaning and its implications.”
In a nut shell Keith’s argument is:
- A. Jesus (peace be upon him) and Apostles communicated that the former is God-Almighty.
- B. Muslims would not accept any “proof” other than the three words!
- C. Thus, the Muslim argument is “highly problematic”.
Recall that Keith complained Muslim argument is “Scripturally weak”. In this particular response we would soon witness that it is the Christian defense which is scripturally weak, so let us begin with our response.
Firstly, we have just seen in the above sections that to claim that Jesus (peace be upon him) and Apostles wanted to pass him as an absolute Deity is a wild assumption. We saw multiple verses which militate against this assumption.
However, even if we accept for the sake of argument that Jesus (peace be upon him) and his apostles wanted to communicate that he is God yet the Muslims should demand those exact three words because scripturally, historical Judeo-Christian God has always been communicating through that exact formulation:
And God said unto him, I AM GOD ALMIGHTY: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins; (Gen 35:11)
And he said, I AM GOD, the God of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation: Gen 46:3
And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. Exo 6:7
I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the morning ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God. Exo 16:12
For I am the LORD your God: ye shall therefore sanctify yourselves, and ye shall be holy; for I am holy: neither shall ye defile yourselves with any manner of creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. Lev 11:44
Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, I am the LORD your God. Lev 18:2
Ye shall do my judgments, and keep mine ordinances, to walk therein: I am the LORD your God. Lev 18:4
Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God. Lev 18:30
Speak unto all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say unto them, Ye shall be holy: for I the LORD your God am holy. Lev 19:2
Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God. Lev 19:3
Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God. Lev 19:4
(King James Version, e-Sword)
From the foregoing, and in the light of the Scriptures, declaring Himself with the exact formulation which the Muslims demand has always been an insignia of traditional Judeo-Christian God.
Therefore, the Christian defense is “very desperate” and “scripturally weak” when they do not want Muslims to demand for the exact formulation! In fact, following their Scriptures they should back Muslims into asking for such exact formulation.
Here is Keith’s second “logical” rationale why Muslim argument is a “straw man”:
Second, to demand these exact words “I am God” from the mouth of Jesus is a straw man since Christians have never claimed that Jesus said such words or that such words must be said in order for Jesus to be God. Christians, throughout history, have always affirmed Jesus’ deity on other equally persuasive grounds from the 1st century until today. Hence, to demand such words from Jesus is a misrepresentation of the Christian position since we have never argued that he did say such things or that he must say such things in order to be God.
Is not this ironical that in the light of the Old Testament verses quoted just above, Jesus (peace be upon him) must have uttered the formulation to be God!
In fact it is Keith’s argument which is straw man when he claims that, “Christians have never claimed that Jesus said such words”. Because the reason is, why did not Jesus (peace be upon him), in the New Testament, say those words if he was truly a traditional and historical Judeo-Christian Deity. Since he had, supposedly, no hesitation in saying those exact wordings to Israelites prophets in the Old Testament! And when on the same idea Muslims question Christians, it is deemed as “misrepresentation of the Christian position”!
As a matter of fact it is “misrepresentation” of historical and traditional Judeo-Christian insignia of God- when Christians do not want to allow the Muslim argument of seeking exact formulation.
Keith also provided an “analogy” to prove that Muslim argument is not logical enough:
Here is an analogy: would it be proper for me to demand that Jesus say “I am the Messiah” in the Quran, in those exact words when he doesn’t, and say that unless I get those exact four words from Jesus’ mouth nothing is good enough? Or is it rather fair to say there are texts in the Quran that strongly prove Islam teaches the Messiahship of Jesus but just not in the way I demand? Of course, there are. Therefore, to be consistent the Muslim must apply this approach to the Bible or else they are left employing double standards. Just because Jesus doesn’t say “I am God” it doesn’t mean His deity is not communicated in equally clear ways that have persuaded Christians for 2000 years. In like manner, just because Jesus, in the Quran, doesn’t say “I am the Messiah” in those exact words it doesn’t mean His Messiahship is not communicated in equally clear ways in the Quran.
In brief, Keith wants Muslims to provide the statement “I am the Messiah” or give up their argument. Well, we have multiple responses in order:
To begin with, Christians need to understand that when we demand that Jesus (peace be upon him) should state that “He was God”, we do so for the following reasons:
(i) For Muslims Jesus (peace be upon him) is the authority.
In the light of the above, we have instances in the Qur’an where let alone, Jesus (peace be upon him), we have Allah (SWT) – a higher authority than Christ (peace be upon him), testifying the Jesus (peace be upon him) is Messiah:
“O people of the Book! commit no excesses in your religion: nor say of Allah aught but truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an Apostle of Allah and His Word which He bestowed on Mary and a Spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His Apostles.” (Qur’an 4:171, Yusuf Ali Translation, Al-Alim CD-ROM Version)
Behold! the angels said “O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus the son of Mary held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah. (Qur’an 3:45, Yusuf Ali Translation, Al-Alim CD-ROM Version
When the angels said “O Maryem! Allah gives you the good news with a Word from Him that you will be given a son: his name will be Messiah, Isa (Jesus Christ) the son of Maryem. He will be noble in this world and the Hereafter; and he will be from those who are very close to Allah. (Qur’an 3:45, Malik Translation, Al-Alim CD-ROM Version)
(ii) Jesus (peace be upon him) need to be consistent with the insignia of Old Testament Deity.
Our second response is a rhetorical enquiry to Keith. Show us, in Islam, which individual(s) came before Jesus (peace be upon him) proclaiming “I am Messiah!”? This is because, when Muslims enquire Christians for Jesus’ (peace be upon him) statement, “I am God”- they ask it consistently under the light of Old Testament Scripture wherein God was frequently proclaiming “I am God” for Himself.
On the foregoing it is illogical and “scripturally weak” for Christians to claim that Muslims need to produce the statement “I am Messiah” for Jesus (peace be upon him) in the Qur’an.
However, on the other hand, because we have had individuals before Jesus (peace be upon him) who came from Allah (SWT) claiming that they are prophets/messengers/apostles etc (c.f. Qur’an 7:104), therefore, we do have written record of Jesus (peace be upon him) claiming such title(s) for himself:
“He said: “I am indeed a servant of Allah: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet;” (Qur’an 19:30, Yusuf Ali Translation, Al-Alim CD-ROM Version)
Therefore we request Keith and Christians to enquire consistent demands and, inshallah, Muslims will produce it.
In an attempt to not allow Muslims from demanding Christians Jesus’ (peace be upon him) statement “I am God”, Keith used indirect biblical verses to interpret that Jesus (peace be upon him) is a deity. However, that was not what Muslims demand. Therefore, if indirect biblical verses was good enough for Keith to claim deity for Christ (peace be upon him), then we had similar verses which militated against the purported deity of Christ (peace be upon him).
Secondly, we saw that God of the Old Testament used to frequently proclaim “I am God” for Himself and therefore it is very consistent and logical when Muslims demand the same formulation from Jesus (peace be upon him) if he be the same God as of the Old Testament.
Therefore, when Keith claims that Muslim argument is “scripturally weak”, in reality, it is his Christian defense which is scripturally weak. Scripturally he should also be searching for similar formulation in the New Testament accounts of Jesus (peace be upon him) while enquiring why did not Jesus (peace be upon him) utter the formulation which was so fond to him in the Old Testament (allegedly)!
If Christians really want Muslims not to use that argument then they should either produce such a verse or find some other argument stronger than what we just observed.
- Unless otherwise mentioned, all biblical texts are taken from Holy Bible, Good News Edition, Today’s English Version.
- Emphasize wherever not matching with the original is ours.