The defining Question about Sola Scriptura and Tradition

at the 1:03:48 mark:

“Has the Roman Catholic Church infallibly defined a single word of Jesus or an apostle, that is not found in Scripture?”  Dr. James White to Mitch Pacwa

“I cannot think of any.”  Mitch Pacwa

This shows that everything the church needed for ministry was written down in the Scriptures.  That is the clear implication of the verses below; and combined with the early church’s understanding of the rule of faith / apostolic tradition, when it is specifically spelled out, it indicates that everything needed was written down in the NT.

Jude 3 – the faith was once for all delivered to the saints

John 17:7 – Jesus praying to the Father – “the words that You gave Me, I have given to them”

John 14:26 – “when the Holy Spirit comes, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance everything I have told you”

John 16:12-13 – “I have many more things to tell you . . . when the Spirit comes He will lead you into all the truth.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17 – All Scripture is God-breathed . . . in order that the man of God may be fully equipped for every good work.  Verse 15 is about the OT,  but then verse 16 expands it to include all Scripture, and so this includes by principle, both all OT and NT books, even those not written yet in 67 AD, when 2 Timothy was written.  The fact that 1 Timothy 5:18 has both an OT quote and a NT quote shows that Paul understood this.

1 Timothy 5:18 – both quotes from the OT and NT (Luke 10:7; Matthew 10:10; 1 Corinthians 9:14)) are called Scripture.  Shows Paul understood those NT books written by that time as Scripture.

2 Peter 3:16 – Peter considers all of Paul’s writings as “Scripture”

1 Corinthians 4:6 – “do not go beyond what is written”.  This is Sola Scriptura in principle, even though all the NT Scriptures were not written yet. 1 Corinthians being written around 55 AD.

2 Peter 1:3-4 – God has given us everything we need for life and godliness

(the promises of His word and the Holy Spirit)  And Athanasius seems to be alluding to this by his statement, after listing the 27 NT books, “In these alone (Mono- Greek,  translated into Sola – Latin – alone, “Scripture alone”) is the teaching of godliness”.  That is Sola Scriptura in principle.  (Athanasius, Festal Letter 39, 367 AD)


Posted in Roman Catholicism, Sola Scriptura, Tradition | 1 Comment

The Rule of Faith in the early church

Roman Catholic apologists like to emphasize the tradition of the early church, and claim that other unwritten oral apostolic traditions that Paul mentions in 2 Thessalonians 2:15, are brought out later in church history.  The problem is, the main early church fathers, when they explicate what “the tradition of the apostles”, or “the faith” or “the preaching” or “the rule of faith” is, the content is all Biblical content.  It is all doctrinal points that are in Scripture, and based on and outlined from the baptismal formula of Matthew 28:19, organized around The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and these are very similar in content to the early creeds such as the Apostles Creed, and the Nicean-Constantinopolitan Creed.

Nowhere do these early fathers mention anything that Rome has deemed as dogmatic centuries later in these passages.  There is nothing about a Pope, or  Marian dogmas or piety (except for the virgin birth, which Protestants accept), nothing about indulgences, purgatory, or Transubstantiation, or priests, etc.  Nothing.

Since these are all in Scripture, this points to the truth that the early church held to Sola Scriptura, and the fact that no extra Biblical traditions or doctrines are included in these explications of “the tradition” or “the rule of faith” or “the preaching”, it shows that all that was necessary for the church to function and minister in the power of the Holy Spirit was written down in the Scriptures.

This is true apostolic succession – faithfully passing down sound doctrine to the next generation.

I will cite from 4 famous early church fathers who explicate the rule of faith / tradition of the apostles:

  1.  Irenaeus, writing, 180-202 AD

2.  Tertullian, writing, 190-220 AD

3.  Origen, around 250 AD

4.  Athanasius, ministry from 325-373 AD

Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1:10:1-2

1. The Church, though dispersed through our the whole world, even to the ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets the dispensations of God, and the advents, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our Lord, and His [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the Father “to gather all things in one,” and to raise up anew all flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father, “every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue should confess” to Him, and that He should execute just judgment towards all; that He may send “spiritual wickednesses,”and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, together with the ungodly, and unrighteous, and wicked, and profane among men, into everlasting fire; but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His commandments, and have persevered in His love, some from the beginning [of their Christian course], and others from [the date of] their repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory.

2. As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world. But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shineth everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth. Nor will any one of the rulers in the Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach doctrines different from these (for no one is greater than the Master); nor, on the other hand, will he who is deficient in power of expression inflict injury on the tradition. For the faith being ever one and the same, neither does one who is able at great length to discourse regarding it, make any addition to it, nor does one, who can say but little diminish it.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1:10:1-2

(Irenaeus wrote around 180-202 AD)

In another famous passage, Irenaeus calls it “the tradition of the apostles” in Against Heresies 3:3:1 ff

1. It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about. For if the apostles had known hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to “the perfect” apart and privily from the rest, they would have delivered them especially to those to whom they were also committing the Churches themselves. For they were desirous that these men should be very perfect and blameless in all things, whom also they were leaving behind as their successors, delivering up their own place of government to these men; which men, if they discharged their functions honestly, would be a great boon [to the Church], but if they should fall away, the direst calamity.

. . .

[ yes, I realize I am skipping the famous passage about the church at Rome (Against Heresies 3:3:2-3), but you can go to the link and see the flow and keep reading.  There has been lots of scholarly debate about what Irenaeus means there, about the church at Rome’s authority, which I am hoping to do a separate article on that soon.  The main point is that the tradition of the apostles is preserved, at the time of Irenaeus, against Gnostic heretics, in the churches, and he focused in on Rome because both Peter and Paul were there, and it is the capitol of the empire, but in order to understand the content of the tradition of the apostles, one must keep reading.  It is important to see that Irenaeus is making a long continuous argument.  Irenaeus’ point is not that all sorts of other teachings that come out later in history that Roman Catholics claim are apostolic or sacred tradition, are preserved in the apostolic churches, but rather what is explicated specifically as the rule of faith or the tradition or preaching here, that is what is preserved.  And Protestants agree with those doctrines, that are against Gnosticism and other heresies at the time of Irenaeus.]

but then later, if one keeps reading to 3:4:2, Irenaeus tells us what the content of the tradition is:  

2. To which course many nations of those barbarians who believe in Christ do assent, having salvation written in their hearts by the Spirit, without paper or ink, and, carefully preserving the ancient tradition, believing in one God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and all things therein, by means of Christ Jesus, the Son of God; who, because of His surpassing love towards His creation, condescended to be born of the virgin, He Himself uniting man through Himself to God, and having suffered under Pontius Pilate, and rising again, and having been received up in splendour, shall come in glory, the Saviour of those who are saved, and the Judge of those who are judged, and sending into eternal fire those who transform the truth, and despise His Father and His advent. Those who, in the absence of written documents, have believed this faith, are barbarians, so far as regards our language; but as regards doctrine, manner, and tenor of life, they are, because of faith, very wise indeed; and they do please God, ordering their conversation in all righteousness, chastity, and wisdom. If any one were to preach to these men the inventions of the heretics, speaking to them in their own language, they would at once stop their ears, and flee as far off as possible, not enduring even to listen to the blasphemous address. Thus, by means of that ancient tradition of the apostles, they do not suffer their mind to conceive anything of the [doctrines suggested by the] portentous language of these teachers, among whom neither Church nor doctrine has ever been established.

Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3:4:2

Tertullian, Prescription Against Heretics, 13

Chapter XIII.—Summary of the Creed, or Rule of Faith.

Now, with regard to this rule of faith—that we may from this point acknowledge what it is which we defend—it is, you must know, that which prescribes the belief that there is one only God, and that He is none other than the Creator of the world, who produced all things out of nothing through His own Word, first of all sent forth; that this Word is called His Son, and, under the name of God, was seen “in diverse manners” by the patriarchs, heard at all times in the prophets, at last brought down by the Spirit and Power of the Father into the Virgin Mary, was made flesh in her womb, and, being born of her, went forth as Jesus Christ; thenceforth He preached the new law and the new promise of the kingdom of heaven, worked miracles; having been crucified, He rose again the third day; (then) having ascended  into the heavens, He sat at the right hand of the Father; sent instead of Himself the Power of the Holy Ghost to lead such as believe; will come with glory to take the saints to the enjoyment of everlasting life and of the heavenly promises, and to condemn the wicked to everlasting fire, after the resurrection of both these classes shall have happened, together with the restoration of their flesh. This rule, as it will be proved, was taught by Christ, and raises amongst ourselves no other questions than those which heresies introduce, and which make men heretics.

Tertullian, Presciption Against Heretics, 13

The “Rule of Faith” according to Tertullian, Prescription Against Heresies, Chapter 13

Tertullian wrote around 190-220 AD

Origen, writing around 250 AD.

Origen, Preface to De Principiis 

He calls it the truth and the apostolic tradition and the teaching of the apostles.  I  include the first 3 points of doctrine about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  You can go to the link and see the other points about souls, angels, demons, and judgment day.

4.  The particular points clearly delivered in the teaching of the apostles are as follow:—

First, That there is one God, who created and arranged all things, and who, when nothing existed, called all things into being—God from the first creation and foundation of the world—the God of all just men, of Adam, Abel, Seth, Enos, Enoch, Noe, Sere, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the twelve patriarchs, Moses, and the prophets; and that this God in the last days, as He had announced beforehand by His prophets, sent our Lord Jesus Christ to call in the first place Israel to Himself, and in the second place the Gentiles, after the unfaithfulness of the people of Israel.  This just and good God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Himself gave the law and the prophets, and the Gospels, being also the God of the apostles and of the Old and New Testaments.

Secondly, That Jesus Christ Himself, who came (into the world), was born of the Father before all creatures; that, after He had been the servant of the Father in the creation of all things—“For by Him were all things made”.  He in the last times, divesting Himself (of His glory), became a man, and was incarnate although God, and while made a man remained the God which He was; that He assumed a body like to our own, differing in this respect only, that it was born of a virgin and of the Holy Spirit:  that this Jesus Christ was truly born, and did truly suffer, and did not endure this death common (to man) in appearance only, but did truly die; that He did truly rise from the dead; and that after His resurrection He conversed with His disciples, and was taken up (into heaven).

Then, Thirdly, the apostles related that the Holy Spirit was associated in honor and dignity with the Father and the Son.  But in His case it is not clearly distinguished whether He is to be regarded as born or innate, or also as a Son of God or not:  for these are points which have to be inquired into out of sacred Scripture according to the best of our ability, and which demand careful investigation.  And that this Spirit inspired each one of the saints, whether prophets or apostles; and that there was not one Spirit in the men of the old dispensation, and another in those who were inspired at the advent of Christ, is most clearly taught throughout the Churches.

Athanasius, who was a deacon at Nicea in 325 AD, and a few years later became bishop of Alexandria, Egypt, and stood for the Deity of Christ, the Trinity, was exiled 5 times, etc.  Athanasius wrote the famous list of the NT books in Festal Letter 39 in 367 AD.  Athansasius died in 373 AD.  

He described the tradition this way.  

In To Serapion 1:28, Four Letters on the Holy Spirit, against the Tropici heretics.

Here is more of the full quote: (It is all based on Matthew 28:19 and 2 Cor. 13:14, and Ephesians 4:6:
28. But, beyond these sayings, let us look at the very tradition, teaching, and faith of the Catholic Church from the beginning, which the Lord gave, the Apostles preached, and the Fathers kept. Upon this the Church is founded, and he who should fall away from it would not be a Christian, and should no longer be so called. There is, then, a Triad, holy and complete, confessed to be God in Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, [based on Matthew 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14] having nothing foreign or external mixed with it, not composed of one that creates and one that is originated, but all creative; and it is consistent and in nature indivisible, and its activity is one. The Father does all things through the Word in the Holy Spirit. Thus the unity of the holy Triad is preserved. Thus one God is preached in the Church, ‘who is over all, and through all, and in all’ [ Ephesians 4:6] — ‘over all’, as Father, as beginning, as fountain; ‘through all’, through the Word; ‘in all’, in the Holy Spirit. It is a Triad not only in name and form of speech, but in truth and actuality. For as the Father is he that is, so also his Word is one that is and God over all. And the Holy Spirit is not without actual existence, but exists and has true being. Less than these (Persons) the Catholic Church does not hold, lest she sink to the level of the modern Jews, imitators of Caiaphas, and to the level of Sabellius. Nor does she add to them by speculation, lest she be carried into the polytheism of the heathen. And that they may know this to be the faith of the Church, let them learn how the Lord, when sending forth the Apostles, ordered them to lay this foundation for the Church, saying: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ [ Matthew 28:19 ] The Apostles went, and thus they taught; and this is the preaching that extends to the whole Church which is under heaven.  (Athanasius, To Serapion, against the Tropici heretics,  Book 1:28, Translated, intro, and notes by C.R. B. Shapland.)

It is the same principle for the other 2 quotes; they are not exalting some kind of extra-biblical man made tradition over Scripture, but Athanasius is saying the proper interpretation of Scripture about the Deity of Christ and the Trinity is passed down by the fathers.

Addendum: (May 26, 2016)
Also, Irenaeus’ wrote that it was the Gnostics who pointed to a living voice and living oral tradition outside of Scripture, and this is what Roman Catholics attempt to do by point back to 2 Thessalonians 2:15 and John 20:30 and 21:25 – reading centuries later doctrines, practices, or “seeds” of those concepts back into those verses – this is what the Gnostics were doing in Irenaeus’ day, in order to try and establish an authority from the apostles outside of written Scripture.  See Against Heresies 1:8:1

Such, then, is their [Gnostics] system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but of which they boast that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge. They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures . . .

and 3:2:1.  

When, however, they are confuted from the Scriptures, they turn round and accuse these same Scriptures, as if they were not correct, nor of authority, and [assert] that they are ambiguous, and that the truth cannot be extracted from them by those who are ignorant of tradition. For [they allege] that the truth was not delivered by means of written documents, but vivâ voce (“living voice”) . . .   

This is exactly what Roman Catholics all the time when attacking Sola Scriptura.

Posted in apostolic succession, church history, early church history, The rule of Faith | 5 Comments

Unbelievers use other laws in Leviticus to get away from sin of homosexuality or to stop conversation

This is about 2 years old, but I forgot to work on it and publish it 2 years ago.  I just found it in my draft folder.   It is still useful for answers in evangelism with people, even though our culture and political liberals and the supreme court of the US have approved of homosexuality as ok and so called “gay marriage” as legal.

James White responded to Dan Savage’s tirade against the Bible.  Whenever a Christian points out that homosexuality is a sin by nature and it was the sin of Genesis 19 in Sodom and Gomorrah, and that it is an abomination in Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, many secular people, and in the media, respond by mentioning other laws.  In the cultural debates over homosexuality, people like to stop the conversation by mentioning other laws that are abominations – food laws, cleanliness laws, mixing 2 kinds of fabric, etc.  People attack the book of Leviticus and the cleanliness laws and laws against mixing 2 kinds of fabric, etc.  Dr. White does an excellent job of pointing out other laws in Leviticus that are positive, such as honoring the elderly and building protections/fences on flat house tops, (Ancient OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Administration type laws), etc. to protect people from falling and hurting themselves.

Over at Denny Burk’s blog, Suzanne McCarthy wrote a reply to my point to Nathan Cesal (earlier post, see here), who left out verse 50 when quoting Ezekiel 16:49, seemingly trying to say that the sin of Sodom and Gommorah was not homosexuality, but pride and inhospitality and selfishness.  I wrote that To’evah – תועבה (abomination) is clear that homosexuality is sin, and she responded with:

Suzanne McCarthy wrote:
To’evah is also having sex with your wife when she is having her period. This is an abomination. I realize this is still observed by some Jews but I have never heard it mentioned in church. So we talk about one certain kind of sexuality as an abomination, but never mention another kind. Clearly there is an emphasis on certain biological elements that are to be kept separate. I am not entirely sure that this law is related to how women feel about it, but rather what kinds of bodily effluent is in contact.

What is lacking is any consideration of how cruel and dehumanizing heterosexual sex can be within or without marriage. In this case the law of loving the one who is next to you as yourself is more relevant. Don’t betray your daughters or abuse your wife. This is the law reinforced by Christ in the gospel.

My reply:
“never heard it mentioned in church” – probably because it is not repeated in the NT, but homosexuality as sin is (Romans 1, 1 Cor. 6, 1 Tim. 1:8-11, Jude 7); and preaching on it would seem to force conversation to inappropriate details.

Bringing that up, in the context of the debate in our culture about homosexuality, along with other Levitical food laws, etc. always seems like a ploy to distract and stop the person from teaching on the clear things that are abominations. (like the famous West Wing episode in the early 2000s rant against a character that was obviously supposed to be Dr. Laura Schlesinger, etc.)


Actually, Leviticus 18:19 does not use the word To’evah specifically in that verse for having sex during the wife’s period. But it does seem to include it, by summarizing all the practices that are prohibited as To’evah in Leviticus 18:24-30. In other chapters in Leviticus it calls it “unclean”, but it doesn’t use the specific word, To’evah for it there. (Lev. 15:24ff; 20:18) That still does not negate all the clear verses that I mentioned above.

Cleanliness laws are not repeated in the NT as applicable, and food laws and Jewish feasts, circumcision, Sabbath Day laws, sacrifice laws – these are fulfilled in Christ in the new covenant. (Mark 7:19; Acts 10-11; Colossians 2:16-17; Galatians 4, Hebrews 7-10) There was an obvious change from the Old covenant to the New covenant in those areas. But homosexual sex is still sin. Marriage is still only between one man and one woman. Jesus said that also in Matthew 19 – “did not God create them male and female?” and “the two will become one flesh”. Jesus clearly spoke positively for marriage as grounded in creation and God as creator and one man (Adam) and one woman (Eve) as the ideal original plan.

Ancient desert culture needed rules for cleansing, sanitary cleanliness, right? We have whole modern systems of tampons, pads, etc. for helping women in that area – disposing of sanitary napkins, etc. – Is it ok to not dispose of that material and wash up? but mentioning that and violence and abuse to women still does not take away from the fact that the Bible is clear that homosexual sex is wrong by nature, ontologically. The word To’evah (abomination) is used for beastiality and adultery and other sins also.

“I am not entirely sure that this law is related to how women feel about it,”

– most women probably don’t want to have sex during their period, don’t you agree? God’s law seems to also be sensitive to the woman during that time.
Maybe the OT is kind to women after all . . .

“but rather what kinds of bodily effluent is in contact.” Sanitation and cleanliness laws.

“What is lacking is any consideration of how cruel and dehumanizing heterosexual sex can be within or without marriage. In this case the law of loving the one who is next to you as yourself is more relevant. Don’t betray your daughters or abuse your wife. This is the law reinforced by Christ in the gospel.”

“can be” – True. But heterosexual sex is not wrong by nature, or in itself. Homosexuality is always wrong by nature, within itself, by itself, ontologically.

You want abuse and cruelty to women in heterosexual relationships to also be mentioned in church and sermons; ok. Yes, those are wrong also, but the issue right now is that Matthew Vines and others are trying to overturn God’s creation intention (Genesis 1-2; and what Jesus said about marriage – Matthew 19:1-6) and overturn 10,000 years of history and all cultures and civilization by saying that one can be a Christian and be homosexual and have a loving, committed relationship – no, that is wrong. The NT repeats that homosexuality is sin in Romans 1:22-28; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Tim. 1:8-11, Jude 7 (“they went after strange flesh” – obviously saying that homo sex is sin.)

But, the point was that Nathan Cesal (in the blog comment)  left out a verse in Ezekiel, seemingly he was trying to imply that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was only pride and selfishness and not caring for the poor and lack of hospitality, when Genesis 19 is clear that the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah was primarily homosexuality. Their pride and selfishness and stubborn rebellion was also deep within their hearts.

Posted in Hollywood cultural agenda, Homosexuality, moral corruption of culture, The gay agenda | Leave a comment

Reza Aslan helps Christians prove the death and resurrection of Jesus

Although Aslan has a lot of mistakes and problems, many times he has enough good material that helps Christian apologetics. For here in this short video, David Wood and Mike Licona discuss how what Reza writes in his book Zealot, pages 175-176, helps us with the death and resurrection of Christ.

Reza Aslan affirm’s scholar’s knowledge that the apostle Paul’s tradition he is quoting in 1 Corinthians 15:1-9 is based on the preaching of the other apostles (Peter, John, James, and the rest) in Jerusalem (Acts 1-8) – that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead, according to the Scriptures, etc.

Mike Licona makes a great point about 1 Corinthians 15:11-14 – “whether then it was I or they . . . ” (whether I preach this gospel message or the other apostles (verses 5-8 of 1 Cor. 15 where he mentions Peter (Cephas), “the 12”, the rest of the apostles, James, the Lord’s brother, and Jesus’ appearance to 500 brothers at once. This word preached ( “proclaimed” – “preaching” = kerugma (verse 14), from karruso, κηρυσσω – verbal form, preaching, proclaiming, verses 11 and 12. This all points back to the early preaching of the gospel right after Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended to heaven. (Acts chapters 1-8)

Aslan wrote: “Paul may have written those words in 50 C.E., but he is repeating what is likely a much older formula, one that may be traced to the early forties. This means belief in the resurrection of Jesus was among the community’s first attestations of faith – earlier than the passion narratives, earlier even than the story of the virgin birth.” ( Reza Aslan, Zealot, page 175, my embolding)

Posted in Apologetics, Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, Gospel Truth, Islam, Muslims, Reza Aslan, The Resurrection of Jesus Christ | 33 Comments

Debate on the Trinity. James White vs. Adnan Rashid


Adnan asked where in the early church fathers did they mention the Deity of the Holy Spirit?  Here are a couple of good quotes on that from Tertullian, who wrote this book, Against Praxeas, against what is called Modalism/Sabellianism / Monarchianism (that the Father became the Son and then the Son became the Spirit, that they are one person with different masks on at different times, and that the Father suffered, “Patri-passionism”), written around 208 AD.

These are famous passages where Tertullian uses the Latin words, Trinitas and Unitas and three persona (for three persons, which in Greek, the equivalent  was hypostasis / ‘υποστασις ). * see correction below.

 * Addendum and Correction, thanks to David Waltz of Articuli Fidei blog:

“The Greek equivalent for persona in Tertulllian’s day was πρόσωπον. [prosopon = face of a person, countenance, presence; hence, “person, personality”]  It was not until after the Nicene Council of 325 that the Eastern/Greek Church Fathers consistently replaced πρόσωπον with ὑπόστασις (especially so, through the efforts of the three Cappadocians).” [my comments added in black]

I actually knew that before, but forgot; thanks again David for your accuracy and knowledge of church history and the early church fathers!

If the number of the Trinity also offends you, as if it were not connected in the simple Unity, I ask you how it is possible for a Being who is merely and absolutely One and Singular, to speak in plural phrase, saying, “Let us make man in our own image, and after our own likeness;” whereas He ought to have said, “Let me make man in my own image, and after my own likeness,” as being a unique and singular Being? In the following passage, however, “Behold the man is become as one of us,”  He is either deceiving or amusing us in speaking plurally, if He is One only and singular. Or was it to the angels that He spoke, as the Jews interpret the passage, because these also acknowledge not the Son? Or was it because He was at once the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, that He spoke to Himself in plural terms, making Himself plural on that very account? Nay, it was because He had already His Son close at His side, as a second Person, His own Word, and a third Person also, the Spirit in the Word,  that He purposely adopted the plural phrase, “Let us make;” and, “in our image;” and, “become as one of us.” For with whom did He make man? and to whom did He make him like? (The answer must be), the Son on the one hand, who was one day to put on human nature; and the Spirit on the other, who was to sanctify man. With these did He then speak, in the Unity of the Trinity, as with His ministers and witnesses. In the following text also He distinguishes among the Persons: “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God created He him.”

Tertullian, Against Praxeas, XII  (Bold my emphasis)

Chapter XXV.—The Paraclete, or Holy Ghost. He is Distinct from the Father and the Son as to Their Personal Existence. One and Inseparable from Them as to Their Divine Nature. Other Quotations Out of St. John’s Gospel.

“What follows Philip’s question [ John 14:5-9, see Against Praxeas XXIV, in previous paragraph ] , and the Lord’s whole treatment of it, to the end of John’s Gospel, continues to furnish us with statements of the same kind, distinguishing the Father and the Son, with the properties of each. Then there is the Paraclete or Comforter, also, which He promises to pray for to the Father, and to send from heaven after He had ascended to the Father. He is called “another Comforter,” indeed; but in what way He is another we have already shown, “He shall receive of mine,” says Christ, just as Christ Himself received of the Father’s. Thus the connection of the Father in the Son, and of the Son in the Paraclete, produces three coherent Persons, who are yet distinct One from Another. These Three are one essence, not one Person,  as it is said, “I and my Father are One,” in respect of unity of substance not singularity of number. Run through the whole Gospel, and you will find that He whom you believe to be the Father (described as acting for the Father, although you, for your part, forsooth, suppose that “the Father, being the husbandman,” must surely have been on earth) is once more recognized by the Son as in heaven, when, “lifting up His eyes thereto,” He commended His disciples to the safe-keeping of the Father.  We have, moreover, in that other Gospel a clear revelation, i.e. of the Son’s distinction from the Father, “My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” and again, (in the third Gospel,) “Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit.” But even if (we had not these passages, we meet with satisfactory evidence) after His resurrection and glorious victory over death. Now that all the restraint of His humiliation is taken away, He might, if possible, have shown Himself as the Father to so faithful a woman (as Mary Magdalene) when she approached to touch Him, out of love, not from curiosity, nor with Thomas’ incredulity. But not so; Jesus saith unto her, “Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father; but go to my brethren” (and even in this He proves Himself to be the Son; for if He had been the Father, He would have called them His children, (instead of His brethren), “and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God.”  Now, does this mean, I ascend as the Father to the Father, and as God to God? Or as the Son to the Father, and as the Word to God? Wherefore also does this Gospel, at its very termination, intimate that these things were ever written, if it be not, to use its own words, “that ye might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?”  Whenever, therefore, you take any of the statements of this Gospel, and apply them to demonstrate the identity of the Father and the Son, supposing that they serve your views therein, you are contending against the definite purpose of the Gospel. For these things certainly are not written that you may believe that Jesus Christ is the Father, but the Son.

Tertullian, Against Praxeas, XXV   (Bold my emphasis)

Posted in Apologetics, church history, Deity of Christ, early church history, Islam, Muslims, The doctrine of the Trinity | 26 Comments

Scholar Sidney Griffith uses a creative technique to try and save the Qur’an from embarressment


Paul Williams writes another article (against Sam Shamoun’s article that shows the Qur’an and Griffith is wrong) that uses Sidney H. Griffith’s book, The Bible in Arabic, to try and show that the Qur’an is aware of doctrinal Christianity at the time, but just exaggerates as a creative strategy and rhetorical device in it’s own ‘prophetology’.  (I would assume this means “The Qur’an’s own doctrine of prophetic ministry against idolatry”) [Note: Williams article only uses Griffith’s work up to page 34, and so the contents of this article only reflect that content so far.  Williams says he will continue, as he reads Griffith’s book.]

Since the Qur’an is inaccurate about the doctrine of the Trinity and the Sonship of Christ and the Deity of Christ, calling it’s inaccuracies a “creative strategy” and “rhetorical device” is indeed creative itself!

See the discussion in the comboxes.  I have corrected some of my typos and mistakes and also not included side issues about Athanasius and Augustine and the canon and Apocrypha and other side comments that the Muslims have made.  One can go to the article and see the whole conversation.

Some of my responses:

 Paul Williams use of Griffiths and Quotes from Griffiths are in blue.

Williams quoting Griffiths:

It seems clear, therefore, that here the Qur’an, aware of actual Christian usage, has for its own rhetorical polemical reasons, reversed the customary Christian order of words in these formulaic phrases in order the more effectively to highlight what it considers wrong about Christian faith in Jesus, and to criticise what it regards as the objectionable Christian doctrine that God has a Son and that He is the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

This point that Griffiths is trying to make is about as clear as mud. It is just an assertion. How could it be “more effective” if it is inaccurate? “God is the Messiah” is inaccurate, as Griffiths admits. “God is one of three” is inaccurate, he also admits. And seeing Mary as part of the Trinity is inaccurate (Surah 5:116). It seems to me the easiest explanation is the right one, since you admit that Muhammad was illiterate (Surah 7:157), he is just hearing things and seeing the popular piety around Mary (but ignorant of doctrinal creeds and the Scriptures) – Muhammad is seeing the icons, statues and emphasis on Mary, and prayers to Mary (all man-made traditions that were becoming some of the main heresies and problems that Protestantism has with Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox – they have exalted Mary too much. Praying should only be to God. It seems clear that Muhammad got things mixed up and garbled, and got info from heretical groups and apocryphal gospels and Jewish Midrash and Talmudic writings, all non inspired sources. Muhammad and the early Muslims may also have come across the Collyridians in N. Arabia (today’s Jordan), who worshipped Mary.

To have credibility in apologetics and intellectual arguments, the opposing side should accurately understand and communicate what it is critiquing. This is basic logic and courtesy. The Qur’an fails at that big time.

You (the Muslims objecting to my point about intellectual arguments) are not dealing with the specific issue here at this post; and divert the subject matter to the issue of the Tahreef Al Nass تحریف النصّ / Tahreef Al Matn تحریف المتن (Textual Corruption of the Bible).

Surah 5:47 and 10:94 are clear – given those verses, there cannot be corruption of the text in Muhammad’s day; which proves the Bible is not corrupted, since we have basically the same text today. (the textual variants that we freely admit and publish do not affect doctrinal matters, since the doctrinal matters are repeated in other firm texts)

Paul Williams objected to me saying that the Qur’an in 5:47 and 10:94 affirms the Bible and does not see the Bibe as corrupted in it’s text in Muhammad’s day.

Williams:  “It doesn’t. The NT for example cannot be the injeel that was given to Jesus. The NT was written after Jesus.

The Quran teaches:

And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which came before him in the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous.[5:46]”

My response:

Yes, it does. Yes the Father gave Him the gospel, the words of truth

John 17:8
praying to the Father:

“The words which You gave to Me I have given to them (the disciples) . . . ”

John 17:17 – “Your Word is truth”

Then they wrote it down later.

The Spirit guided them to write God-breathed Scripture.
John 14:26 – “all things” and “will bring to your remembrance all that I said to you”
John 16:13 – “all the truth”


But since all the accusations of the Qur’an against what Melkites (those that agreed with the Chalcedonian Creed – the Orthodox – “correct doctrine”), the Jacobites (Monosphysites in Syria), and Nestorians – they are all inaccurate – and all the charges are closer to the heretics or misunderstandings (Tri-theism , Mary as part of the Trinity (5:116), God having a wife and sex in order to have a son (6:101), saying “they say “God is the Messiah”- these three groups did not say any of those . . .

since those accusations of the Qur’an are inaccurate, the argument fails big time.

“creative” and “rhetorical strategies” is itself a strategy to avoid embarrassment of inaccuracy.

Monophysites or Mia-physites. (also the Coptic and Armenian Church are Mia-physite. ( one nature; that Christ’s human nature was swallowed up in His divine nature.)

All three groups agreed with the Nicene Creed of 325 AD and the Council of Constantinople of 381 AD – in the Trinity, the homo-ousias (same substance) of the Son and the Holy Spirit with the Father.

So, the Qur’an fails to argue against Christianity, because it cannot even describe what they believe accurately. (in those issues)

Griffiths suggests that the Qur’an’s criticism of Christian doctrines and practices indicate its polemical engagement with mainstream types of Christianity and not heretical Christians (see examples on page 27).

  1. Griffiths mentions the Gospel according to Luke, the Proto-evangelium of James, the Diatessaron (Harmony of the Four Gospels) of Tatian, and in a footnote on page 27, (footnote 63), the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew ( a real forgery, that has the Palm tree story of Mary that is repeated in the Qur’an in Surah 19.)

    Well, since the Qur’an changes the details of Luke (Luke 1:34-35 – “how can this be, since I am a virgin? . . . the Holy Spirit, and the Power of the Most High, for this reason the holy offspring will be called the Son of God”) , and argues against inaccuracies, that is a fail.

    The Proto-evangelium of James is a non-canonical work, and has elements of Gnosticism in it – Jesus is not born in the normal way from Mary as a human through the birth canal, but just “beams out” with light. That, and the vow of perpetual virginity from Mary, became part of the basis of the Roman Catholic later dogma that Mary remained a virgin even while Jesus was born and ever after He was born. “virgin before, during and after giving birth” – this is a contradiction to the Bible, which only says that Mary was a virgin until after Jesus was born (Matthew 1:25) and that since Jesus had “brothers and sisters” (Matthew 12:46-47; 13:55-56; Mark 3:31-32, Mark 6:3; Luke 8:19-21; John 7:3-5, 10) and since Greek has the word for “cousin” (Colossians 4:10), this is a false doctrine, and most Protestants today don’t agree with the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox on this issue. Roman Catholics use Revelation 12 to try and say that is Mary, but the woman had great pain in childbirth there (Rev. 12:2), and that is a Gnostic idea that Jesus and Mary did not experience pain or suffering or hunger or thirst or fatigue, etc.

    This shows further that the Qur’an is getting most of its information from heretical and Gnostic sources.

    This article gives the details on all the other heretical, legendary, myths, Jewish Midrash, and non-inspired works that the Qur’an draws from.


    Griffiths wrote:  (subsequently Griffith’s quotes are in italics)

    “But the quotations, while clearly meaning to censure Christian belief, do not in fact quote actual Christian usage of the era.”


    Yes, this shows the failure of the Qur’an to know and understand what Christians believed at the time, and the inaccuracy of the Qur’an.

    Rather, the Christians in the Qur’an’s milieu would have said, ‘the Messiah is God, the Son of God’, and they would also have said, ‘the Treble One, the One of Three, is God’. But for reasons of orthodoxy they would never have said that God is Jesus; rather, they would have said Jesus is God.

    ok, except that word “treble” is kind of a strange English word to use here. They said “Trinitas Unitas” (three in one) in Latin.

    It seems clear, therefore, . . .

    No, it is not clear. This is just a bold assertion of his in order to avoid the fact that the Qur’an does not know – it is ignorant of the doctrines.

    . . . that here the Qur’an, aware of actual Christian usage,

    no; the Qur’an is not aware, which shows it is not from God.

    . . . has for its own rhetorical polemical reasons, reversed the customary Christian order of words in these formulaic phrases in order the more effectively to highlight what it considers wrong about Christian faith in Jesus, and to criticise what it regards as the objectionable Christian doctrine that God has a Son and that He is the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth.

    The Qur’an seems to have picked up on some pious popular beliefs and practices of Christians – icons and statues of Mary, exalting Mary, praying to Mary, calling Mary, “the Mother of God” (Theotokos) – Nestorius objected to that, and he was right in one sense; calling Mary the Mother of God will lead to people misunderstanding the original intent of the phrase. the original intent was to say that Jesus was God by nature / substance from His conception in the womb of Mary, that when He was born He was God, not that He became God later at His baptism (which some heretics taught = Adoptionism). The Muslims sincerely thought that the Christians had three gods – the Father, the Son, and the Mother, but even the Orthodox Chalcedonians and the Latin Church, which later became both Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, did not beleive that. They exalted and emphasized Mary too much, and prayed to her, but they never thought she was part of the Trinity or a “goddess”.


Posted in Apologetics, church history, History, Islam, Muslims, Paul Bilal Williams | 9 Comments

Muslim scholar makes a mistake from church history and seems to dig his heels in when corrected

Paul Williams quoted from Dr. Jonathan Brown’s book, Misquoting Muhammad, where he makes a mistake and claims that “church fathers like Papias”,  “believed the Paraclete to be a human being, and not the Holy Spirit.”  Dr. Jonathan Brown is a western convert to Islam, and a scholar.  But as we shall see, even scholars make mistakes.

“Christians at the time of Papias believed the Paraclete to be a human being (a prophet) not the Holy Spirit:

‘Church Fathers like Papias heard of wandering prophets who drew crowds from Europe to Asia Minor, claiming to be the awaited Paraclete mentioned in John’s Gospel, bringing the final apocalyptic chapter of Jesus’ message. ‘

Misquoting Muhammad‘, Jonathan AC Brown p. 165

This shows that there were people, early in the history of Christianity, who understood the Paraclete to be a prophet who would come after Jesus (p). Christians should look into Prophet Muhammad (p) as indeed he is the Prophet after Prophet Jesus (p).

NB Brown references Robert M. Grant, ‘Historical Criticism in the Ancient Church,’ 188-189

(Thanks to Yahya Snow for this)

See here for more details and comments in the com-boxes:  (and updates)

I asked:


That info is nowhere in the extant fragments of Papias, so where does Robert M. Grant get that info ??

I think Brown is confusing Papias with a heretic, known as Montanus. He believed he was a prophet of God and that the Paraclete spoke through him, but he did not claim he was the paraclete. But one would have to see the full quote of Robert M. Grant, to understand where he is getting that idea.

Paul Williams rightly recognized this and I appreciate his honesty here.  Paul provided the pages from Robert Grant’s article, showing Brown’s mistake.  Robert Grant did not write what Jonathan Brown claims.

Paul later contacted Dr. Brown, asking about his mistake, and it seems Dr. Brown still would not admit the error of saying that Christians in the second century thought the Paraclete was a human being.  Dr. Brown admitted the Papias reference was wrong, but still stuck to his claim that ancient Christians thought the Paraclete could be a human being.  (see the updates at both blog articles.  First one:  “Christians at the time of Papias believed the Paraclete to be a human being,  – a prophet, and not the Holy Spirit”

The second one is here, and also linked below)

So I responded:

Even with the update, Brown is still wrong, as Montanus and his 2 women disciples, Maximillia and Pricilla, did not believe in a human Paraclete, but rather that the Paraclete was the Holy Spirit, a spirit and that He was indwelling them and speaking through them in tongues, prophesies, and ecstatic utterances. They connected this to the gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians chapters 12 and 14. They were like the first Charismatics.

This is standard church history knowledge.

To try and make a point out of this as somehow parallel with Muhammad as a human 600 years later, claiming to be the paraclete (Ahmad, Surah 61:6) is a big big stretch.

There is no textual variants in the manuscript tradition; no evidence whatsoever even close to periklutos, which is what is required to be close to the meaning of the word “Ahmad” (praised one).

Paul made another blog post with updated information:  Dr. Brown sets the record straight

So I repeated the same basic information, pointing out Brown’s mistake, at that post also.

Robert Grant is a recognized church historian.

Montanus and 2 women with him, Maximillia and Priscilla were like the first Charismatics – ( In Phrygia, around 150s-170s AD) they believed they filled with the Holy Spirit (the Paraclete) and spoke in tongues and went into ecstatic utterances and spoke prophesies about the end times. (see 1 Corinthians chapters 12 and 14) (speaking about the age of the Millennium, as in Revelation 20).

they believed they were filled with the Spirit and spoke prophesies and spoke in tongues; they were not claiming to be humans who were the Paraclete, they were claiming that the Spirit, the Paraclete was speaking in them and through them. Since there were three of them, they did not believe that one was the Paraclete Himself as a human, but that the Paraclete is a spirit who works in them and speaks through them spiritual prophesies and tongues.

This is not a very good parallel that Brown is trying to make to Muhammad, who claimed to be a human prophet/apostle.

Jonathan Brown is basically saying that there are those in the early Christian Church who believed that the paraclete was not the Holy Spirit but rather another person. [Patrice wrote, trying to defend Dr. Brown]

but this is not what Montanus, Maximillia, and Priscilla believed. they still believed the Paraclete was a spirit, namely the Holy Spirit, speaking through them in prophesies and tongues and ecstatic utterances. They put it together with 1 Corinthians chapters 12 and 14 and the “gifts of the Holy Spirit”.

Brown is still wrong, because they did not believe there was a human who was a Paraclete (like the way Muhammad was just a human who claimed to be the final prophet or apostle) – rather they saw the Paraclete as the Holy Spirit speaking through them, very much like modern Charismatics do today.

Later, even Patrice admitted I was right, as she did further research on the Montanus movement in ancient church history:

I had not seen your initial reply until after i posted mine so whoops!

After reading up a little about the Montanists and their beliefs I have to agree with you Ken that they still believed that the Paraclete was the Holy Spirit and that the Spirit gave them the ability to prophecy even such ‘revelations’ supercede the words of Jesus!

Although there wasn’t much information about them outside of the rebuttals of the Church Fathers so i am hesitant to think we know everything about them.


But, Dr. Brown still maintained that early Christians thought the Paraclete was a human being and that that is relevant to Muhammad’s claim of 600 years later.

And as of this point, Paul Williams wrote that he would not follow up to Dr. Brown.

No I wont be following this up any further.

That is not good.  The Muslim scholar needs to be accurate about church history.

Posted in Apologetics, church history, Islam, Muslims | 15 Comments