The Religion Of Islam vol.1


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  • The Religion Of Islam vol.1


  • Islam and the Four Gospels


     
    As already pointed out, Moslems do not admit the authenticity of the Gospels, or the creed contained therein, or the leading events life of Prophet Jesus, as depicted by these same Gospels. In this attitude Moslems are supported by the scholarly researches of devout Christians even. It seems, however, that the laity in Christendom are generally as ignorant, with regard to these vital questions, as non-Christians, to whom Christian literature is inaccessible in the main. A brief account of these questions is, therefore, likely to be o interest and use.  According to the doctrines of Islam, the four Gospels are revealed by God. Nor was it the Holy Ghost that moved the writers of the said Gospels to write them. But it was the example of other writers, that inspired them with the desire of compiling brief biographies of Jesus.

    1. St. Luke’s Gospel

    St. Luke’s own words to this effect are:

    “For as much as many have taken in hand to set forth, in order, a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us,

    “Even as they delivered them unto us, who from the beginning were eyewitness, and ministers of the word;

    It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things, from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus,

    “That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed” St. Luke : i-4.

    St. Luke as very plainly set forth the grounds of his inspiration namely:

    (1) the example of other writers of Jesus’ life; (2) his consciousness of possessing “perfect understanding of all things from the first”; and (3) to impart reliable information to Theophilus. Thus St. Luke does not call his Gospel a divine revelation, but he claims for it (a) diligence in collecting all available material, (b) fullness, (c) careful investigation, (d) orderly arrangement and (e) accuracy.

    The Rev. Grieve, M. A., D.D., Principal of the Congregational Hall, Edinburgh, and joint Editor of Peake’s famous Commentary explains Luke’s preface in the following words: 1:1-4. “The writer, influenced by the attempts of others, to record the primitive tradition of Christianity, as it was handed down by the first generation of disciples, essays the same task, and having taken pains to collect, examine, sift and arrange the contents of the written oral tradition, presents the result to Theophilus, a Roman official of some standing–a literary patron of the Evangelist’s who needed fuller acquaintance with the historic basis of the oral teaching about Christianity which he had received.” [1]

     

    God reveals books for the guidance of a nation or nations, as the case may be, but St. Luke dedicates his books to the “most excellent Theophilus

    The Encyclopedia Biblica throws further light on this dedication” “The dedication of Luke (i-14) shows, that we have passed into a new literary province. The Muratorian fragment calls attention to the fact, that the author writes in his own namea novelty among Evangelists. He also dedicates his work to someone who, if not an imaginary ‘God beloved’ would appear to be a patron, a man of rank. The apostles – the (1-2) ‘eyewitnesses and ministers of the word’ – appear to have delivered their testimony by oral tradition and to have passed away. To supply their places, (1-i) many had attempted to draw up a formal narrative concerning the matters fully established in the Church. These writers had clearly not been eyewitnesses, nor were they, in Luke’s judgment, so successful as to make unnecessary any further attempts. Apparently they had failed in the three points, in which he hopes to excel: (1) they had not traced everything up to the source, and this (2) as far as it went not accurately and (3) they had not written in order.”[2]

     

    The same book further discusses the point whether or not the work of St. Luke justifies the claims of that Apostle: “We are led to the conclusion that, though Luke attempted to write ‘accurately’, and in ‘order’, ye he could not always succeed. When deciding between an earlier and a later date, between this and that place and occasion, between metaphor and literalism, between what Jesus himself said and what he said through his disciples, he (Luke) had to be guided by evidence which sometimes led him aright, but not always.” [3]

    We further read in the same work: “Luke’s absolute omission of genuine and valuable traditions- especially in connection with Christ’s appearance to women after the Resurrection, and with Christ’s promise to go to ‘Galilee’ -….seriously diminishes the value of his work. It is probably the best adapted for making converts. But if bold bare facts are in question, it is probably the least authoritative of the Four.” [4]

     

    Luke’s failure has evidently been ascribed to his attempts being human, and his sources mortal, which could not always guide him aright. If his work had been revealed, he could not have been accused of having omitted some most important incidents, or of his book being “the least authoritative.” 

     

    The quotations cited above clearly buttress the Islamic belief, that the Christian gospels are but human attempts to draw up accounts of the life of Jesus, and as such are neither complete nor satisfactory. Revelation alone can make a recipient immune from error; for it suspends, for the time being, all other mental activity of the person, upon whom the Word of God descends. His Word and Will were revealed to prophets, like Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohammed. But the followers of Jesus were animated, or inspired, to compile what was already known to them. They had but to collect, sift and arrange the material which was in the possession of the people. As such the works of the Apostles are necessarily characterized by mortal shortcoming. Even the devout Christian scholar admits it, and is ready to bear testimony to the fact, that the record of the gospels is not altogether complete and reliable. We cannot do better than quote some of the most scholarly and popularly admitted opinions which carry weight and conviction in this connection.

    The Rev. Dummelow M.A., expresses his opinion as follows: “Speaking broadly, the Christians mean by their inspiration an impulse from God, causing, certain persons to write, and directing them how to write, for the edification of others. Though it is closely connected with revelation, it is not identical with it. By revelation, God makes known to a soul truths which were unknown to it before but it is not at all necessary, that an inspired writer should receive any new truths by way of revelation. Thus, St. Mark was inspired to write his Gospel, but he was inspired to write down truths which were already familiar to him and to others through the instruction given by St. Peter.” [5]

     

    1. The Gospel of St. Matthew and that of St. Mark

    The foregoing also applies to both St. Matthew’s and St. Mark’s Gospels. “St. Mark is the oldest of the Synoptists, and has been used by St. Matthew and St. Luke, who have incorporated the bulk of his Gospel into their own with comparatively few alterations.” [6]

    It is thus plain that Christian scholars of sacred literature do not claim divine origin for Christian Gospels. They, on the other hand, admit that the said books were complied by mere men who were by no means experts. They were consequently liable to mistakes. I quote the Rev. Dummelow once more on the point: “We must not regard the Bible as an absolutely perfect book, in which God is Himself the author, using human hands and brains only as a man may use a typewriter…Their inspiration did not involve a suspension of their natural faculties, nor abolish the differences of training and character; it did not even make them perfectly free from earthly passion. Therefore, we find that their knowledge sometimes is no higher than their contemporaries and their indignation against oppression and wrongdoing sometimes breaks out into desire of revenge. It surprises us in the Bible, because of our false preconception; because of our false theory of Verbal Inspiration.”

    The same Commentary further throws light upon the insufficiency and incompleteness of these sacred records, and thus precludes any chance of their claiming divine origin. “Today we realise that the life of Jesus can never be written. The material is wanting. Neither in quality, nor in extent, do the Gospels satisfy the requirements of a modern biography. At best, they offer us certain memorabilia of the public ministry of Jesus, hardly adequate to construct the story of the year or years, during which he evangelised his people, and barely sufficing to mirror the chief features of his message. Where the modern mind is most curious, the Gospels seem to be least communicative. Men would fain trace the development of innermost convictions which condition his activity as a prophet. But the facts that the Gospels tells us little or nothing of the early life of Jesus, and that almost every story consists of a simple record of outward act and utterance, with few hints as to inward feeling or historical setting, seem at first sight to defeat the hopes of analysing motive, and tracing growth.”

     

    ([1]) Peak’s Commentary, p. 725.

    ([2]) Encyclopaedia Biblica, P. 1790.

    ([3]) Ibid.

    ([4]) Encyclopaedia Biblica, P. 1793.

     

    ([5]) The Rev. Dummelow’s Commentary, p. 71.

    ([6]) Ibid p. 133.

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