This is an excellent debate and I really appreciate the Muslims allowing a debate in their Mosque. (The East London Mosque, London, England) This debate took place in 2012. Abdullah Al Andalousi did a great job in moderating and Zakir Hossein had a good spirit and tried hard to make his case for the Islamic position.
Dr. James White said something very important at the beginning of his time: (at the 31 minute mark) My paraphrase – “We need to do this kind of thing more often, especially in the light of what is going on in our world today – communicate with each other with repect and honesty, to debate and disagree without being violent.” Amen! Some select points and notes of important issues in this debate:
All of my notes are based on Dr. White’s answers and I have expanded and explained things more at some points.
Because of Surah 7:157, Muslims are forced to try and find Muhammad in the Bible, because this verse in the Qur’an says, “whom they will find in the Torah and the Gospel”.
Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered prophet, whom they find written in what they have of the Torah and the Gospel, who enjoins upon them what is right and forbids them what is wrong and makes lawful for them the good things and prohibits for them the evil and relieves them of their burden and the shackles which were upon them. So they who have believed in him, honored him, supported him and followed the light which was sent down with him – it is those who will be the successful. Surah 7:157 (Sahih International version)
I just noticed that translation “in what they have of the Torah and the Gospel”. (see ten other Qur’an translations into English) “in what they have” is not there in the Arabic, and seems to imply that the Christians only have some of the original books.
Song of Solomon 5:16
“His mouth is full of sweetness. And he is wholly desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.” This is the weakest of all the Muslims attempts to find Muhammad in the Bible. Even weaker than John 14 and 16 and Deuteronomy 18:15-18. Muslims are trying to claim that this is about Muhammad, because of the similar sound of the Arabic word for Muhammad and the Hebrew word “pleasant, desirable” (מחמדים – Makhmadim). But the context is two lovers and the whole Song of Solomon is about romantic love and feelings for one another before they get married, and then their sexual love within marriage. It is a celebration of romantic love, communication with each other, husband and wife and speaking to each other describing each other, and holy sex within marriage. Sex was God’s idea and is pure within marriage. (Genesis chapters 1-2; Proverbs 5:15-19; Matthew 19:4-6; 1 Corinthians chapter 7) It is the bride’s description of her soon to be husband. So there is nothing about Muhammad here. Makhmadim – “desirable” מחמדים Mamtaqim – “sweetness” ממתקים – sweetness This is poetry; similar sounding ending to the other word (” . . .im” or “eem” – ים – ממתקים ) , in the Hebrew parallelism for “sweetness”. “Sweetness” and “desirable” are in what is known as Hebrew parallelism in poetry. Balsam wood/trees -Song of Solomon 5:13 and 6:2. Balsam wood is also from Arabia and Mecca. Genesis 37:25 mentions the Ishmaelites bringing “aromatic gum, balm, and myrrh” to Egypt. Ok, but Dr. White points out that Solomon brought a lot of things from a lot of different countries. He was rich and powerful. He had cedar trees from Lebanon (Song 5:15) and lilies (5:13; 6:2) there also, as described in the Song of Solomon. Song of Solomon 6:2 shows it was his garden in Jerusalem, nothing about Muhammad in Arabia. Dr. White – Surah 7:157 – “whom they find in the Gospel and the Torah” No Christian at the time of Jesus, nor the apostles, nor any early church father ever wrote or said they expected a prophet from Arabia.
back to Song of Solomon 5:16 – This is poetry; the bride speaking to bridegroom. The 2 words, ending with “eem”, rhymes with “sweetness” and “pleasant”. Balsam was in his garden in Jerusalem, so were cedars of Lebanon Solomon, and lilies and other things that Solomon brought from all over the world.
Lillies – Song of Solomon 6:2 – are lilies in Mecca? no.
Makhmad – to try and say this is Muhammad just because of the similar sound is not a good intellectual argument. The root word is in other verses – 1 Kings 20:6 – same root word, makhmad / מחמד – “desirable” – “whatever is desirable in your eyes, they will take in their hand and carry away.” Was Muhammad carried in their hands and taken away? מחמד same word used in these two passages also: 2 Chronicles 36:19 – was Muhammad destroyed by fire ? Isaiah 64:10 – did Muhammad become a ruin?
John chapters 14, 15, and 16 – the comforter, the paraklatos, the one called alongside to help, the helper, the advocate. Because of Surah 61:6 and the claim that “Ahmad” is in the gospel, Muslims try to find that “Ahmad” ( احمد – meaning, “praised one”, another form of Muhammad (محمد) in these passages by claiming that the “Paraclete” / paraklatos / παρακλητος (the helper, comforter, counselor) was originally “periklutos” (praised one).
There is no evidence of any textual change from Periklutos to Paraklatos. Muslims have to claim that originally the text said, “periklytos”, but that someone later changed it. However, there is no textual variant that would point to any evidence of periklutos in those texts in john 14 or 16.
παρακλητος – the helper, the comforter, the one called alongside to help
περικλυτος – “praised one” big difference.
And there is no textual evidence in any manuscript that backs up “periklutos” (praised one) Dr. White makes an excellent point about the vowels in Greek being part of the word. This is about the Holy Spirit when Jesus ascends to the Father (see also Acts 2:33-36); it is not about someone coming 600 years later. John 13-17 is a consistent whole. It is Trinitarian in structure; describes the different roles of Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and how they relate to one another. How they relate to one another in speaking to one another, communicating, etc. speaks of personal relationship and person-hood. that is why “person” describes the three-ness of the Trinity, and nature/substance describes the Oneness of the Trinity. another comforter of the same kind, Greek: allos / αλλος will be with believers forever (John 14:16) He will be in the disciples; in believers. (John 14:17) This verse alone defeats the Muslim’s arguments for the John 14 and 16 and Ahmad argument, because Muhammad cannot be “in” the disciples nor any Christian in the future. The world cannot see the Holy Spirit, but the world, the people knew Muhammad as a man – Muslims who accepted him as a prophet and the Quryaish pagans who rejected him and fought battles and wars and caravan raids against him. His life was “of this world”, physical, and in the context of much war. “Spirit” is not human, He is Spirit (John 14:17; 14:26; 16:13) dwells within believers – John 14:17 – “He abides with you and will be in you.” That alone makes it impossible for the paraclete to be Muhammad of Arabia. The paraclete is called, “the Holy Spirit”, and “the Spirit of Truth”. He is a spirit, not a man, like Muhammad. The Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance all things (John 14:26) that Jesus taught, yet there is nothing much in the Qur’an from Jesus’ teaching or the NT. There is no quote from the New Testament. The Qur’an knows nothing as quotes from NT – no new info. (there are references to Jesus as Al Masih, virgin born, son of Mary, taught the gospel, was given the “Injeel”, did miracles, etc. yes, but no direct quotes.) No quotes; only phrases like: Jesus is the Messiah, virgin born, prophet, “a Word from Allah”, a spirit from Allah. John 15:26 – proceeds from the Father. This is Deity language – proceeding out from the Father. Paraclete is sent by Jesus (John 15:26 – “I will send to you from the Father”) Testifies to Jesus (John 15:27) and glorifies Jesus. (John 16:14) if Mohammad is sent by Jesus then Jesus is God; since only God sends prophets. Guides the disciples into all the truth, not people 600 years later.
The context of Deuteronomy 18:15-18 totally defeats the Muslim’s claim that Muhammad is found there. Context in Deuteronomy 18:2 – Levites, among their brothers- verse 5 – out from the 12 tribes of Israel. context of a term is most important Deuteronomy 17:15 a king one from among your brothers, not from a foreigner; must be an Israelite. This alone defeats the Muslim’s arguments concerning Deut. 18:15-18. He will give revelation like Moses did Acts 3:22-25 shows the NT and Jewish disciples understood that Jesus fulfilled Deut. 18:15-18. John 14:24 Jesus’ words are divine words – from the Father John 8:28 – Isaiah 43:10 – “I am” I speak these things as the Father taught Me.
Jeremiah 6:22 – “a great nation” – same phrase used about Babylonians pagans. Zakir Hossein asks, “is a nation great that is pagan? the promise of “I will make a great nation” (Genesis 12:2; Genesis 17:20) must be fulfilled when Islam started, since only then did they turn from their idols and paganism. ” It was a pretty good argument, until Dr. White pointed out that the same phrase is used in Jeremiah 6:22 of a pagan idol worshiping nation – the Babylonians. Jeremiah 6:22 proves Zakir wrong, as the same phrase is used of the Babylonian pagans as a “great nation”. John 1 – the Jews asked John the Baptist if he was “the prophet” because he was a Jew, not because he was from Arabia or somewhere else.
Matthew 2:23 was not part of the subject of the debate about Muhammad in the OT, but Zakir Hossein asked about it, because he seems to be saying that the NT authors tried to just go back and find things in the OT that may be used to show Jesus fulfilled them. He was trying to say that finding Muhammad in Song of Solomon, etc. was legitimate, for example because of the prophesy of Jesus as a Nazerene (Nazer) of similar sound to the Hebrew word for branch in Isaiah 11:1.
Zakir Hossein asked about Matthew 2:23 and “where is it written in the prophets that Messiah would be called a Nazarene?”
First, notice it says, “through the prophets” – plural. So he is speaking of a general concept that is in more than one prophet. “that what was spoken through the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:23) “Nararene” – a Nazer – נצר – nzr – a rejected branch. Nazareth was a rejected city in the North, in “Galilee of the Gentiles”; it was rejected by the Jews in the south and around Jerusalem, since it was a Galilean town. (northern, Gentile, defiled by non-Jews). “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46; see also John 7:41 and 7:52)
So, “Nazareth” describes Jesus being rejected by the Jews. Isaiah 14:19 – “like a rejected branch” = כְּנֵצֶר נִתְעָב כ = like נצר = NZR, Nazer, branch נתעב = rejected, despised Isaiah 11:1 – “then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse (father of David); and a branch (Nazer – נצר ) from his roots will bear fruit.” (see rest of Isaiah 11:1-10 – a very Messianic passage in the Jews minds. This is referred to in Acts 13:22-23; and Isaiah 11:10 is quoted in Romans 15:12)
Isaiah 53:1-3 – concept of rejection, tender shoot, root out of dry ground
Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty That we should look upon Him, Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. 3 He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Isaiah 53:1-3
There is another word for the Messiah as a “branch” צמח used often, combined with the concepts of shoot, root, sprout, and despised, shows that Matthew had many passages in mind when he wrote, “as it is spoken through the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene” – despised, rejected. Jeremiah 23:5 – Messiah will be a righteous branch. (צמח) Jeremiah 33:15 – a righteous branch (צמח )of David will spring forth Isaiah 4:2 – “branch of the Lord” (צמח) Zechariah 3:8 – “they are a symbol, for behold, I am going to bring in My servant the branch.” (צמח) Zechariah 6:12 – the one whose name is “Branch” (צמח) There are several words for “branch”(צמח is used more often) with root and shoot (Isaiah 53:1-3; 11:1) and “Nezer” (נצר) is not always used in every passage. But the concept of a branch, with the concepts of “shoot” and “root” and “rejected”; and the concept of being rejected combines all these passages as demonstrating what Matthew 2:23 was referring to.