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Why Are There Four Gospels?

Why Are There Four Gospels?

Some people are confused why there are 4 gospels.  Are these gospels different and do they contradict one another?

Four witnesses were divinely chosen by god to become the writers of the four gospels.

God gave them this purpose of writing, so that each of them would present a specific portrait of Jesus.

Each gospel was meant to be a complete document/book. When you read a book, do you jump to page 154 and read the 46th line and then close the book and think you have understood the book?  Of course not. You start from page one.  In the same way, if you want to understand any gospel, you need to read from the first chapter to the last.

The 4 portraits of Jesus presented in the gospels blends into a perfect harmony like a four-part choir, to help us to see and know and understand who Jesus really is. I like to think of it as a 4-D portrait of Jesus!

When you understand the purpose of each Gospel, you will be amazed at the beauty and the power of the gospels and how they all fit in harmony.

Although all the Gospels are for everyone, each gospel writer had a specific focus in mind.

I urge you to please read on. Whether you’re Christian or Muslim, I am pretty sure you will be amazed if you have never known about these truths.

 

MATTHEW

Matthew presents Jesus as the MESSIAH / KING. He was writing primarily to the Jews. That is why you’ll find many references in Matthew’s book to the Old Testament writings and practices which the Jews were very familiar with.

Since Matthew was portraying Jesus as Messiah, he records Jesus’ legal genealogy right in Chapter 1; beginning from Abraham, to show Jesus was the one who was promised that would come as Messiah from the direct line of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David.

The first miracle recorded by Matthew is of a leper being cleansed. Why? Because to the Jews, leprosy was symbolic of sin. And when Jesus healed the leper, it was not just a miraculous physical healing but it symbolic of Jesus the Messiah saving us from our sins.

Matthew focuses on what Jesus, the Messiah, SAID. That is why you’ll find chapter after chapter of Jesus teachings’ like the famous Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6, 7 and so on. (By the way, Matthew used to be a tax collector, so he was very meticulous in record keeping and he knew short-hand, so he was well-prepared to write this gospel that contains so much of what Jesus spoke.

This gospel ends with the account of Jesus’ resurrection as He Himself prophesied.

 

MARK

Mark presents Jesus as a SERVANT of God. The FOCUS is on what Jesus DID. That is why in this gospel you will find the most number of miracles recorded, more than the others. Mark does not write as much as Matthew did in quoting the words of Jesus. His focus was on what Jesus worked as a servant of God.

Can you understand why Mark does not place a genealogy in his account like Matthew did? Because a servant’s genealogy does not matter!

Mark was writing primarily to the Romans. Mark was multi-lingual, fluent in Latin (the language of the Romans), Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic. (In fact, in this gospel, you will come across a number of “foreign” words which Mark uses but clearly explains to make sure his readers understand.)

Mark was the perfect writer for this gospel that presents Jesus as a servant because he himself was a servant and assistant to Paul and then later to Peter. He was also a helper for a brief period to Luke as well. Basically, this gospel was the eyewitness account of Peter. Mark was Peter’s scribe. This gospel is summarized perfectly in 10:45. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to SERVE, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” There you have it, the story of the servant.

 

LUKE

Luke was a doctor. He presents Jesus as a human, SON OF MAN. He was writing primarily to the Greeks. This gospel focuses on how Jesus FELT as a human being. As a doctor, he was perfect to write about Jesus’ humanity.

Luke’s focus was Jesus as a man. So it should come as no surprise that Luke records Jesus’ genealogy and his record goes back to the first man, Adam. Unlike Matthew, who traced Jesus’ legal kingly line as proof of being the Messiah, Luke traces Jesus’ human blood line through Mary (since he had no human father) and shows His humanity. Can you see why Matthew and Luke had differing genealogies and the reasons for them?

Luke ends the gospel with Jesus’ promise of the Holy Spirit, to set up his sequel, the Book of Acts where he picks up from where he left off with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, 40 days after the ascension of Jesus.

 

JOHN

John’s gospel was the last to be written, probably around 90 AD. The 3 earlier gospels were written around 50-60 AD.

In this gospel, John presents Jesus as the divine SON OF GOD. He focuses on WHO Jesus was. You will find in this gospel glimpses of His divinity. Just like the other gospels, this gospel is for everyone but John’s primary audience he had in mind were Christians.

Many people think there is no genealogy in John. Look carefully at verse one onwards. It is speaking of Jesus pre-existence, with and as God!  That’s His origin. Etenity!

Right from chapter one, John makes it clear that Jesus is divine and stepped into His own creation (John 1:14). In chapter 3, you will find that Jesus says He came from heaven. In John 5, 8, 10 and other places you will see evidences that Jesus is God.

In fact, there is no way you can miss John’s purpose in writing this gospel because he states in clearly towards the end of the book in 20:31, “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” If you read a verse in John and come to any other conclusion different from what John stated, then you have missed the message of this book. YOu contradict the author and you are wrong.

John ends this gospel with the promise of Jesus’ return, thus setting up John’s sequel book, Revelation, where he picks up again on the second coming of Jesus and what will happen then.

 

As you can see, the gospels are not just random verses or chapters thrown together. It is a book to be read and understood as a whole. Not picking a verse here and a verse there to create your own opinion or false theology.

Now when you read the gospel, you will have a clarity you never had before of what it all actually means. You will understand why certain things are in one gospel but not in another. And most important of all, you will see Jesus for who He truly is, Messiah, Servant, Man, God.

This diagram below summarizes these points.

gospel

adapted from the lectures of Chuck Missler.

I Will Accept That The Bible Is Corrupted If….

I Will Accept That The Bible Is Corrupted If….

Every Muslim believes that the Bible has been corrupted or lost, either partially or fully.

There is just one question Muslims need to answer.

WHEN was it corrupted or lost?

BEFORE or AFTER the time of Muhammad?

(By corruption, I mean a change in the original revelation or message or the doctrines as claimed by Muslims.)

 

Who can can give me a clear answer with evidence for this question? Please follow along with me as we make several things clear. And then, by all means please provide your evidence so that I can also agree with you that the Bible has been corrupted.

 

What The Quran Says

First of all, let’s find out what the Quran says about the earlier scriptures.

The Quran clearly speaks of the earlier revelation to be a true revelation of God and affirms faith in the earlier books.

Sura 3:70, 98,99 – states that in Muhammad’s time there were in Arabia both Jews and Christians known as the People Of the Book. (The Book refers to the earlier scriptures).

Sura 5:43 acknowledges they DID have a book.  It was not lost. Sura 35:25 talks about the earlier books as the scriptures that give light

Other verses that affirm and praise the scriptures are : Sura 32:3; 5:68; 7:169; 2:40-42,126,136,285; 3:3,71,93; 4:47,136; 5:47-51, 69,71-72; 6:91; 10:37,94; 21:7; 29:45,46; 35:31; 46:11

In addition, you find that in the Quran, the word Injil (Gospel) is mentioned 12 times. The word Zabur (Psalms) is mentioned 13 times. The word Torah is mentioned 18 times. Not once does the Quran associate any kind of alteration or corruption in all these many references.  If those books were indeed corrupted, Allah would have made it abundantly clear, not just once or twice but over and over again, in every instance that the words Injil, Zabur and Torah are mentioned. In fact, the references speak highly of the sciptures (e.g. Torah – 32:23, 21:48 ; Zabur – 17:57, 4:163 ; Injil – 5:46-48. 19:30. 57:27) Theese books existed during the time of Muhammad and were not lost or corrupted.

This is further confirmed by verses such as Sura 35:25 which says that the books were sent by God Most High and received with divine guidance, so they CANNOT be corrupted by mere humans.

Sura 5:48 says that the Quran was given to CONFIRM the the earlier revelations, not to REPLACE.

The previous verse 5:47 exhorts the Christians to judge by the earlier revelation: “And let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah has revealed therein…” How can the Christians judge by the earlier revelation if it did not exist anymore?

Sura 10:94: Allah says, “And if you are in doubt regarding what we have sent down to you, ask those (Christians) who read the scriptures before you.”

Note: the verb “read” is in present continuous tense meaning “those who are reading”. This means they had the book at the time this verse was revealed.  They were reading it at the time this verse was revealed. And, most importantly, it was not corrupt and not lost at the time this verse was revealed. Otherwise, it would not make any sense for Allah to tell Muhammad and Muslims to clarify doubts with a people reading a corrupt or lost book

 

Is there any verse in the Quran that implies the Bible has been changed?

Sura 3:78 says: “And indeed, there is among them a party who alter the Scripture with their tongues so you may think it is from the Scripture, but it is not from the Scripture. And they say, “This is from Allah ,” but it is not from Allah . And they speak untruth about Allah while they know.”

This is not referring to an alteration in the written word. It is pointing to individuals, or a group, who were teaching teaching false things from the scripture using their tongues. They were teaching lies by twisting the truth of the scripture and not that the written words of the previous scripture was changed.

Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas, Muhammad’s cousin and one of his companions confirms this:

“They corrupt the word” means “they alter or change its meaning”, yet no one is able to change even a single word from any Book of God. The meaning is that they interpret the word wrongly. 

(Kitaab (the book of) Al-Tawheed, Baab(chapter) Qawlu Allah Ta’ala, Bal Huwa Qur’aanun Majeed, fi lawhin Mahfooth) 

 

 The word “Tahrif” [corruption] signifies to change a thing from its original nature; and there is no man who could corrupt a single word of what proceeds from God, so that the Jews and Christians could corrupt only by misrepresenting the meanings of the word of God.” 

(Imam Muhammad Isma’il al-Bukhari in Dictionary of Islam, T. P. Hughes, Kazi Publications, Inc, 3023-27 West Belmont Avenue, Chicago Il. 60618, 1994, p.62)

 

What we can surmise from this is that DURING the time of Muhammad, the Bible was still true, genuine, authentic and uncorrupted and not lost.

Therefore, we can now come to the conclusion that: The Bible was NOT corrupted BEFORE the time of Muhammad.

 

After Muhammad

Thus, the Bible must have been corrupted AFTER the time of Muhammad? Could this be true?

Since the Quran was completed around the 8th century and so far we have the evidence from the Quran itself that the Bible was not corrupted before the 8th century AD. Now let’s hear from the great Muslim teachers, scholars and theologians who came AFTER the 8th century.

 

Could it have been corrupted in the 9th century AD?

Ali al-Tabari (died 855 AD) accepted the Gospel texts. So did Amr al-Ghakhiz (869 AD) and also Bukhari himself who has the most important collection of the Hadith (810-870 AD)

Al Tabari (838 – 923) openly acknowledged that the authentic Taurat and Injil remained in the hands of the Jews and the Christians. His only charge was that they did not always understand or accept the true meaning of their teachings

“… the first one which came into existence, is the Torah, which is in the hands of the People of the Book…As to the Gospel which is in the hands of the Christians, the greater part of it is the history of the Christ, His birth and His life.” (Tabari, The Book of Religion and Empire, p.51)

 

Al-Razi (865 – 925), a most famous Muslim scholar, known as “the Imam of Muslim Imams

“How could there be any alteration in the Book whose words’ sharpness has reached a great level of circulation in the East and in the West? … For no change can occur in a book that is well circulated among men. Every wise man can see that the alteration of the Bible was impossible for it was well circulated among men of different faith and backgrounds.” ( p.327 of his Third Volume)

 

Could it have been corrupted in the 10th century AD?

Al-Mas’udi (956 AD) says the Bible is preserved.

 

Could it have been corrupted in the 11th century AD?

Abu Ali Husain Bin Sina (1037 AD) says the Bible is authentic.

 

Could it have been corrupted in the 12th century AD?

Al-Ghazzali (1111 AD), one of the greatest Muslim scholars who ever lived, believed the Bible is true.

 

Could it have been corrupted in the 14th century AD?

Ismail ibn Kathir (1301–1373) was a Muslim Muhaddith (narrator), Faqīh, Mufassir, and Historian. He is the author of the most respected and widely used tafsir.

(Quoting Muhammad talking of the Jews and Christians) Ibn Kathir says: “David died in the midst of his friends. They were not led astray, nor changed [their books]. The Friends of Christ stayed in His ordinances and guidance for two hundred years.”  (Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya)

 

Could it have been corrupted in the 15th century AD?

NO says, Ibn-Khaldun (1406 AD) disagrees of such a possibility.

 

Could it have been corrupted in the 19th century AD?

According to Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817 – 1898) , famous Muslim philosopher & founder of the Aligarh College,

“In the opinion of us Mohammedans it is not proved that corruption (tahrif-i-lafzi)…was practiced. As far as the text of the Bible is concerned, it has not been altered. No attempt was made to present a diverging text as the authentic one.

(M. H. Ananikian, “The Reforms and Religious Ideas of Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan”, The Moslem World 14 (1934) p.61)

 

Muhammad ‘Abduh (1849 – 1905), was an Egyptian jurist and religious scholar wrote:

“… the charge of corruption of the Biblical texts makes no sense at all. It would not have been possible for Jews and Christians everywhere to agree on changing the text. Even if those in Arabia had done it, the difference between their book and those of their brothers, let us say in Syria and Europe, would have been obvious…We believe that these Gospel accounts are the true Gospel.”

(Jacques Jomier, “Jesus, The Life of the Messiah”, C. L. S., Madras, 1974, p.216)

 

So WHEN was the Bible actually corrupted? No one knows. Who made this allegation?  And what is their evidence to say this? Any Muslim who make the claim the Bible is corrupted will be going against the statements of all these famous Muslim scholars above.  They’d be rolling in their graves if they hear you saying such things. Are you greater in knowledge than any of these men?

 

Now let’s say, for argument’s sake that the Bible was ‘somehow’ corrupted and all these scholars don’t know what they were taking about. This would open up a can of worms and lead to further questions for you to answer.

Like these concerns, for example: By 400AD, more than 200 years BEFORE Muhammad was born, the Bible was already available widely on 3 different continents, distributed far and wide, in multiple translations.

How was the text corrupted or changed? Did someone go all over the world to collect all the original bibles to burn them?  How is it possible to locate and destroy every single copy? Couldn’t someone have kept their Bible hidden? When were the new Bibles written? Did they make the same changes/alterations in the hundreds of different translations?  Who were these expert linguists who were recruited for this gigantic tasks of re-writing the bible in different translations and languages? Wasn’t there even one good Christian or Muslim or Jew who saved his “original” uncorrupted Bible and then produce it to prove to the world that the “new” Bible is different from the old original one? And who would decide what changes to make in the text of the Bible to say something other than the original? If the Jews did it, Christians would not agree. If Christians did it, the Jews would retaliate. And why didn’t any Muslim speak up or provide the evidence of the “original” bible if there was indeed corruption at any point in history?

 

In fact, as early as the 11th century, Fakhruddin Razi, on the authority of Ibn Abbas, a nephew of Muhammad, had said,

“The Jews and early Christians were suspected of altering the text of the Taurat and Injil; but in the opinion of eminent doctors and theologians it was not practicable thus to corrupt the text, because those Scriptures were generally known and widely circulated, having been handed down from generation to generation.”

 

If you insist that somehow corruption did take place after the time of Muhammad, it leads to further difficulties that is detrimental to the Quran and directly to Allah himself.   The Quran claims that no one can change the Word of God. Sura 6:34, 10:34

Muslims would say that this only applies to the Quran. Really? Then you’re contradicting Sura 2:136 which says there is no distinction between Allah’s revelation. A true Muslim is obliged to believe in all the revelations of God. Sura  4:136; 29:46.

Even so, if the original revelations of Allah were corrupted, what does this speak of Allah? Why couldn’t Allah preserve his words?  Why couldn’t he allow his words to be preserved? Were the people who corrupted his words greater than Aallah since it is their corrupted words that have been preserved for more than 2000 years rather than Allah’s original words which have been corrupted or lost.  Any Muslim who claims the Bible is corrupted is claiming that Allah is too weak and impotent to be able to protect his own words!

Finally, archaeological evidence. This seals it.

Manuscripts discovered from the 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries, are virtually the same with the Bible today. They are available for any scholar, Muslim or Christian or Jewish or atheist, to study and examine and analyze. Even you can view the famous Codex Sinaiticus, containing the entire Bible, from 300+ AD, right this minute from your computer. This document was already available more than 300 years BEFORE Muhammad was born. Anyone can go ahead and compare this ancient document to the current Bible in your hands. Scholars who have conducted extensive research and studies on these manuscripts can say definitively that today’s Bible is virtually unchanged. Some minor variations due to copyist’s errors do not change anything in the message of the Bible or the doctrines of Christianity.

 

This means that AFTER the time of Muhammad, the Bible has still been proven to be true, genuine, authentic and uncorrupted and not lost.

Based on this, now we can come to the conclusion that: The Bible was NOT corrupted AFTER the time of Muhammad.

 

So why do Muslims still believe that the Bible is corrupted? Please tell me again when it was corrupted?

 

Quotes from more Islamic Scholars Who Say The Bible Is Preserved

Ibn Mazar and Ibn Hatim state, in the commentary known as the Tafsir Durr-I-Mansur, that they have it on the authority of Ibn Muniyah, that “the Taurat (i.e. the books of Moses), and the Injil (i.e. the Gospels), are in the same state of purity in which they were sent down from heaven, and that no alterations had been made in them, but that the Jews were wont to deceive the people by unsound arguments, and by wresting the sense of Scripture … Shah Waliyu ‘Illah (in his commentary, the Fauzul âl-Kabir), and also Ibn ‘Abbas, support the same view. 

(T. P. Hughes, Dictionary of Islam, Kazi Publications, Inc, 3023-27 West Belmont Avenue, Chicago Il. 60618, 1994, p.62)

 

Dr. Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub (born 1938), is a Muslim scholar and professor of Islamic Studies and Comparative Religion at Temple University (USA).

Contrary to the general Islamic view, the Qur’an does not accuse Jews and Christians of altering the text of their scriptures, but rather of altering the truth which those scriptures contain. The people do this by concealing some of the sacred texts, by misapplying their precepts, or by altering words from their right position. 

(“Uzayr in the Qur’an and Muslim Tradition” in “Studies in Islamic and Judaic Traditions”, ed. W. M. Brenner and S. D. Ricks, The University of Denver, 1986, p.5)

… both the Hebrew Bible and the N.T. took their final form long before the rise of Islam. The Qur’an speaks of both the Torah and the Gospel as in them is guidance and light. It calls on the two faith-communities to judge by what God had revealed in their Scriptures. It also speaks that both Jews and Christians altered words from their right places and had forgotten some of what God had revealed for them. This does not mean distorting, adding, and deleting of the Scriptures. Therefore, Qur’anic references to tahrif, or alteration, are more to interpretation rather than changing the texts.

 

 

Ismail ibn Kathir =(1301–1373) was a Muslim Muhaddith (narrator), Faqīh, Mufassir, and Historian. He is the author of the most respected and widely used tafsir/

… as God says in the beginning of the Qur’an: “And who believe in that which is revealed unto thee (Muhammad) and that which was revealed before thee, and are certain of the Hereafter. These depend on guidance from their Lord. These are the successful.” (2:4,5) ”Some Muslims imagine that the Injil is corrupted. But as far as corruption is concerned, not even one among all the verses of the Qur’an mentions that the Injil or the Tawrat is corrupted. In the concerned passages it is written that the Jews – yes the Jews, not the Christians – alter the meaning of the passages from the Tawrat while they are explaining them. At least the Christians are completely exonerated from this charge. Hence the Injil is not corrupted and the Tawrat is not corrupted. For it does not necessarily follow that these Scriptures are corrupt because of the wrong opinion of some uninformed persons.

 

Sayyid Ahmad Husayn Shawkat Mirthi

“The ordinary Muslim people acknowledge that the Injil is the Word of God. Yet they also believe through hearsay (taqlidi ‘aqida) that the Injil is corrupted, even though they cannot indicate what passage was corrupted, when it was corrupted, and who corrupted it. Is there any religious community in this world whose lot is so miserable that they would shred their heavenly Book with their own hands, and then, after restlessly patching it with sackcloth, they must throw dust in the eyes of the people? True, some religious communities change the meaning (tahrif-i ma’nawi) of their Scriptures. To say that God has taken the Injil and the Tawrat into heaven and has abrogated them is to defame and slander God. It is to pour ridicule not only upon the Qur’an but upon all the Books. Abrogation always arises because of error. Laws of earthly kingdoms are abrogated because experience has proved that they are harmful. But God makes no mistake, nor does He lack experience.”

 

Mawlawi Chirag ud-Din

The Qur’an commands us to believe and to honour the previous Scriptures and apostles. According to Surah (Nisa): “O ye who believe! Believe in Allah and His messenger and the Scripture which He hath revealed unto His messenger, and the Scripture which He revealed aforetime.” (4:136)

“When, therefore, it is commanded to believe in these Holy Scriptures, why consider the study of these Scriptures reprehensible? For when the order to believe the Qur’an and the Holy Scriptures is one and the same, how can one conclude that reading the Qur’an is a meritorious act, but that reading the Holy Scriptures is a punishable offence?”

 

Abdullah Saeed

Introduction to Abdullah Saeed’s The Charge of Distortion of Jewish and Christian Scriptures

A significant point of tension between today’s Muslims and the ‘People of the Book’ (Jews and Christians) is the common Muslim belief that the Jewish and Christian scriptures that exist today are corrupted and cannot be relied upon in any matters of faith, religion or law. Although this is a popular view, most classical scholars of the Qur’an were far more cautious in their understanding of Qur’anic texts on this issue. This article explores the Qur’an’s references to distortion of scriptural meaning and text, and the views of scholars, particularly Tabari, Qurtubi, Razi, Ibn Taymiyya and Qutb. Qur’anic words such as tahrif are popularly accepted today as referring to deliberate distortion of scripture; however, classical scholars have interpreted the Qur’an’s references in a number of different ways.Almost all suggested that distortion occurred mainly through interpretation and not in the text itself. Although the Qur’an refers to tahrif (distortion), it also exhibits the utmost respect for previous scriptures. Early Muslims adopted a narrow view of scripture, partly because of the nature of the Qur’an, and also in response to the more established religions of Judaism and Christianity, to assert the ‘purity’ of the Qur’an and Islam.

Saeed notes that the Jewish and Christian scriptures that exist today are, according to most scholars, largely unchanged since the time of Muhammad and should be respected now as they were then.

Prof. Abdullah Saeed – The Charge of Distortion of Jewish and Christian Scriptures – The Muslim World. Vol. 92, 2002

How Much Do You Know About Jesus?

How Much Do You Know About Jesus?

I always hear Muslims saying that they love and respect Jesus and follow his teachings. Is this true?

My question is do you Muslims really even know Jesus? How much do you know about him?

Where was he born? Where did he grow up? Did he have brothers and sisters? What was their name? What was the name of his great-grandfather? Who were his best friends? What were his teachings to his disciples? What did he teach about prayer? What did he teach about fasting? What are the miracles he performed? What did he say about Moses, Abraham and the other prophets? What did he say about scriptures? What did he teach about heaven and hell? What did he say about the future? What did he teach about love? About money? About family? About death? …etc…etc…

You see…there are so many things you don’t know about the life of Jesus. And yet you claim he is your messenger and your prophet. If you are sincere in your beliefs, you should learn more about Jesus’ life and his words and his deeds.

Read about it from the perspective of his own closest followers. If you are a genuine Muslim who believes and honors and loves Jesus, I challenge you to read about the life of Jesus from the Injeel, the gospel. (I know you don’t accept the gospel but these writings record the biography of Jesus from the viewpoints of eye-witnesses of Jesus.

For example, do you know where Jesus was born? Find out in the gospel.  You will not find the answer in the Quran but would you be surprised if I told you the hadith confirms the name of the city in Sunan An-Nasai Chapter No: 5, Hadith no: 451.

Why not read about the whole life of Jesus in the book of Matthew or Mark or Luke? You can get a translation in your own language. Or you can read it online in English here: http://biblehub.com/net/mark/1.htm

If you have any questions or doubts, just write it down, and we can discuss it later. Just take your time but keep reading till the end.