The Names and Titles of Christ in Islam and the Bible

Gerry Redman


Contents

Introduction

A. The Biblical View

  1. Lord Jesus Christ
  2. Son of David
  3. Son of God
  4. Son of Man
  5. Servant of the Lord
  6. Prophet
  7. Word of God
  8. Priest
  9. Saviour

B. The Islamic View

  1. ‘Isa Bin Maryam
  2. Prophet
  3. Al-Masih
  4. Servant
  5. Word
  6. Spirit

Conclusion

References


Introduction

Whilst both the Qur’an and the Bible affirm unique titles to Jesus, of which some are similar in meaning, there are also important differences between the nomenclatures ascribed to Him in the distinct holy books. To some extent this reflects the negative thrust of Islamic Christology, the emphasis of which is to deny (in the Islamic estimation, ‘to correct’) more than to affirm. On the other hand, the Biblical titles of Jesus point to the continuity of His ministry with the salvation-history revealed in the Old Testament – that is, His names and titles demonstrate that He is the fulfilment of prophecy, the culmination of the divine plan of redemption. As we shall see, the same is not true of Islamic Christology. This in itself points to the historical picture of Jesus in the Bible as being the genuine article. In this paper we will examine and compare the names and titles of Jesus in Islam and the Bible.


A. The Biblical View

1. Lord Jesus Christ

(a) Jesus: ‘Jesus’ is Greek and Latin for ‘Joshua’, Hebrew for ‘YHWH Saves’, appropriate as a description of the work of Christ – He is the Saviour. The name points to the human Jesus, a true Man, a Palestinian Jew of 1st century A.D. He was a Galilean, and tri-lingual because of that. He would have been as equally at home in Aramaic and Koine Greek, given the cosmopolitan nature and geographical position of Galilee, which bordered on Gentile areas. As a pious Jew, he would also know Hebrew – primarily as liturgical language, no doubt.

Thus the name indicates His true humanity and divine commission – not a demigod, but true man, man as we are, save without sin. It should be noted that the final Victory is one where Man is exalted – Philippians 2:9-10 – it is at the name of Jesus, not Christ, that every knee bows: we may also be encouraged by the fact that a man is reigning now over the Earth – Acts 2:32, 33-35, and especially v36.

(b) Lord: This is used in differing, but not contradictory ways.

(i) Honorific: i.e. ‘Sir’ – e.g. Matthew 21:30; John 4:19; 9:35. Morris writes ‘Minus the article the Greek term was an ordinary form of polite address, much like our “Sir” It is used in this fashion by the son who said “I go, Sir” (Mt. 21:30)…’. 1 In such cases, the term does not necessarily indicate faith, and often does not.

(ii) Authority: i.e. ‘Master’, indicating ownership – Luke 16:3; Colossians 4:1. Milne states ‘This title occurs in NT times in the general sense of “master” or “owner”…’ 2 Paul uses it to indicate that we are the slaves of Christ – Romans 1:1, Galatians 1:1.

(iii) Deity: ‘YHWH’ – the Tetragrammaton, the Divine Name. In practice born of reverence, Jews preferred the circumlocution adonai, ‘lord’ as the Divine Name was considered too sacred to utter. Adonai was rendered by kurios (kuriov) in the Septuagint.

The claim by Christadelphians that Jesus is never expressly termed ‘Lord’ in sense of ‘YHWH’ until after the Resurrection is questionable. Luke 3:4,.quoting Isaiah 40:3-5, is unintelligible unless Jesus is YHWH, and it clearly has present reference. John 20:28; Romans 1:4, etc. merely indicate that the resurrection openly establishes the Lordship of Christ in terms of deity (Acts 2:36 means ‘king’), not that he becomes divine: Matthew 16:18 states that Jesus was Messiah in His contemporary state, not future, yet Acts 2:36 seems to indicate that the Resurrection ‘made’ Him Messiah; clearly the sense is one of public declaration. If Jesus was Messiah before resurrection, He was also YHWH before that event. Several texts in the Epistles and Revelation explicitly identify Jesus with YHWH:

Romans 10:13 looks back to v9 and v12, where Jesus is expressly termed kuriov; v13 quotes from Joel 2:32 –’whoever shall call on the name of the Lord (i.e. YHWH) shall be saved’. Ephesians 4:8 quotes Psalm 68:18 in respect to the Ascension of Christ Whilst the Hebrew text does not mention YHWH, v18 of Psalm 68 speaks of yah ‘elohim; Paul applies this to Christ. Philippians 2:9-11 quotes Isaiah 45:23, which looks back to v21, where the subject is YHWH. Not only is Jesus termed kuriov by Paul, but the wording – that every knee shall bow to Jesus – reflects the wording of Isaiah 45:23, where it is to YHWH that every knee bows. Hebrews 1:10 quotes Psalm 102:25 (LXX) in its discourse on the Son, identifying Him as kuriov, yet in the Psalm YHWH is the subject. We may also note that the eschatological Last Day in the Old Testament – Day of YHWH – has become the Day of the Lord Jesus (Christ) in the New Testament – 1 Corinthians 1:8; 2 Corinthians 1:14; Philippians 1:6, 10; 2:16; 2 Peter 3:10, 12. The renowned New Testament scholar Donald Guthrie observed about the New Testament usage of the title ‘In view of the frequent use of the title in OT citations, it is probable that the LXX usage of kyrios should be regarded as a key to an understanding the term when applied to Jesus (i.e. as an appelative for God). In NT usage the implication is that the same functions assigned to God are assigned to Christ.’ 3

(iv) Messianic King

Mark 12:35-37, quoting Psalm 110:1 identifies Jesus as the Messianic King, and this would also seem to be the import of Acts 2:36, given the parallelism of ‘Christ’ and ‘Lord’.

(c) Christ (Messiah)

Christos, Greek for Maschiach – ‘Anointed One’ Priests, Kings and Prophets were anointed with oil, symbolising the Holy Spirit, Isaiah 61:1, Zechariah 4:1-6 – i.e. the impartation of grace for office and visible appointment to such, together with establishment of particular relationship with God – 1 Samuel 16:13; 24:6; 26:9; 2 Samuel 1:14.

Prophets – 1 Kings 19:16, cf Psalm 105:15; Isaiah 61:1. High Priests – Leviticus 4:3, 5; 16:6.15; cf Exodus 28:41. The King was called the ‘Anointed of YHWH’ – 1 Samuel 24:10. 2 Samuel 7:12ff connects the promise of eternal Davidic dynasty with the coming of Mashiach, clarified in Ezekiel 37:21ff and Zechariah 9:9ff. Christ was anointed by God the Holy Spirit at His Baptism, Matthew 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22; John 1:32; cf. Isaiah 11:2; 42:1. Together with His offices of Priest and Prophet, the term emphasises His role as the Perfect Official – the Restorer and Deliverer of Israel – Luke 24:21; Acts 4:26.

In terms of the Jewish expectation of the Messiah, the Qumran Essene community, authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, expected two figures, the Anointed of Aaron and the Anointed of Israel (1QS 9:11) – the former Priestly, the latter Kingly, and thus inferior to former, (remembering that Qumran was a priestly community). The common hope of most Jews awaited a political/military deliverer who would overthrow the Romans and establish the Davidic Kingdom. Because of this, Jesus was reluctant to employ the term Messiah publicly, especially early in His ministry, so as to avoid misinterpretation. Jesus considered Himself not only the Bringer of the Kingdom of God, but its embodiment – Matthew 12:28; Mark 1:15, Once He had explained His concept of Messiahship, He was willing to accept the term, e.g. John 4:25-26; Mark 8:29, He had to clarify three points in particular:

  1. That His Messiahship was characterised by universalism, rather than particularism – John 4:19-23, especially v21; Luke 13:29.
  2. His kingdom was spiritual, rather than political – John 18:36.
  3. He emphasised that the way to the Crown was the Cross – that the Messiah must suffer – Mark 8:31; John 12:32-34, a concept foreign to the Messianic concept held by current Judaism. For this reason, Jesus used the term ‘Son of Man’, which, whilst associated with authority, was not so linked to nationalistic aspirations.

Guthrie’s New Testament Theology examines the Hebrew background to the Messianic concept, and explains it as follows:

In the Old Testament much is said, especially in the prophets, about the coming messianic age which offered bright prospects to the people of God (cf. Is. 26-29; 40ff; Ezk. 40-48; Dn. 12; Joel 2:28-3:21), but little is said about the Messiah. The title is nowhere used of the coming deliverer. Indeed the agent for inaugurating the coming age was God himself. But though the absolute use of the term ‘Messiah’ does not occur, there are various uses of the word in a qualified way, such as the Lord’s Messiah (i.e. anointed one). The idea of anointing a person for a special mission appears in a variety of applications, but mainly of kings and priests (Lv. 4:3ff), also of prophets (1 Ki. 19:16) and patriarchs (Ps. 105:15) (cf 1 Sa. 24:6ff; 26:9ff), and even of a heathen king, Cyrus (Is. 45:1). This use of anointing to indicate a specific office became later applied in a more technical sense of the one who, par excellence, would be God’s chosen instrument in the deliverance of his people. The OT without doubt prepares the way for the Messiah and many OT messianic passages are cited in the NT.

During the intertestamental period, the meaning of the term underwent some modifications, in which the technical sense of the Lord’s anointed one becomes more dominant (cf. Psalms of Solomon 17-18). The hope of the coming Messiah took many different forms, but the predominant one was the idea of the Davidic king, who would establish an earthly kingdom for the people of Israel and would banish Israel’s enemies. The Messiah was to be a political agent, but with a religious bias. The concept was a curious mixture of nationalistic and spiritual hopes…

In the Apocalypses of Ezra and Baruch, both which were contemporary with the emerging church, the term occurs, and as in the intertestamental period seems to be linked with the idea of the Davidic son, specifically so in 4 Ezra 12:32-34.40 In the Targums there a frequent technical use of the word mesia, although in view of the difficulty of dating, the value of this evidence is doubtful.

From this brief survey of the background, it becomes clear that whereas the idea of a coming Messiah was widespread among the Jews, the origin and character of the coming Messiah was not clearly understood. Different groups tended to visualize a Messiah who would be conducive to their own tenets – priestly groups like Qumran in priestly terms, nationalist groups in political terms. In determining the approach of Jesus to the term ‘Messiah’ we must bear in mind that he would be concerned with the most popular understanding of the term and there is little doubt that popular opinion leaned heavily towards hope of a coming political leader who would deliver the Jewish people from the oppressive Roman yoke. When seen against this prevalent notion, it is understandable why Jesus avoided the use of the term. 4

We can see why Jesus was reticent about employing the term in public, because of the possibilities of misunderstanding. His kingdom was not of an earthly, political character, and he rejected the invitation to become a monarch of this nature, as can be inferred both from His rejection of Satan’s temptation to become the global ruler on the Devil’s terms, Matthew 4:8-10, and of the attempt of some Jews to install Him as their King, John 6:15. It is for this reason that He commanded His disciples to be silent about His Messianic identity, Matthew 16:20. A further problem was the means by which He would commence His Messianic reign – namely, His death. Immediately after the Petrine confession of faith in Jesus as Messiah in Matthew 16:16, Jesus begins to inform His disciples about His coming death, something they find it hard to understand. The Jews also did not understand, believing that the Messiah ‘remained forever’, John 12:34. This misunderstanding remained until after Jesus’ resurrection, when He informed the disciples about the necessity of His first enduring death as the means to obtaining His reign, Luke 24:26, and their misconceptions were not fully removed until after they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and then they realised how it was only after His death, resurrection and ascension that He could begin His cosmic reign.

An essential aspect of Messianic identity is Davidic ancestry. In 2 Samuel 7:12-14, we encounter the promise to David that his offspring will be king – ‘I will establish your offspring after you… 13 …I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. 14 I will be his father, and he shall be my son…’ Psalm 72:17 celebrates the eternal, universal reign of the Davidic King: ‘His name shall endure for ever; His name shall continue as long as the sun: All nations shall be blessed in him; And men shall call him blessed’. It is significant, as we shall see, that another, closely-related title of Jesus is ‘Son of David’. This in itself proves the so-called Gospel of Barnabas to be fraudulent, since the forgery claims that Muhammad, rather than Jesus, is the Messiah, leaving aside the fact that the Qur’an appends this title only to Jesus, it is obvious that Muhammad, not being a descendant of David, could not claim this prerogative.

2 Samuel 7:14 states that the son of David would also be the son of God, reiterated in Psalm 2:7, which Acts 13:33 states is fulfilled in the Resurrection. We should note that the Septuagint rendering of 2 Samuel 7:12 says ‘anastasw to sperma mou meta se [anastaso to sperma mou meta se] which may be translated ‘I will resurrect your offspring after you…’ 5 Most importantly, it is clear that the throne of David is simultaneously the throne of the Lord God – 1 Chronicles 29:23 – ‘Then Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king…’ [Significantly, the Kingdom is stated to be both God’s and Christ’s – Ephesians. 5:5]. It is clear that the aspect of divine sonship involved here is synonymous with kingship – when the son of David mounted the throne, then he became the son of God in this sense. As the Heir of David the King, he was the Heir of God, but he was only inaugurated as such and entered into the full exercise of his power when he ascended the throne. This necessitated His death and resurrection, and thus His Ascension into heaven. In this context, we should note the import of Matthew 16:16 and John 20:31, where the titular use of ‘Christ’ is obviously synonymous with ‘Son of God’.

This causes problems for Muslims, since the very title ‘Son of God’ is anathema to them. Yet it can be seen from the Old Testament references the inter-relation of the two terms is not a Christian invention, still less a ‘Pauline’ or Nicene innovation. If Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, then He simultaneously claimed to be the Son of God. All of this is particularly significant since the Qur’an nowhere explains the meaning of Al-Masih. The Arabic, like the Hebrew, means ‘anointed’, but we are never told as what. We can only learn this from the Christian Scriptures. This in itself demonstrates the dependence of the Qur’an upon the Bible. Of course, this immediately raises problems for Muslims, since we can see that the Biblical definition of a Messiah is at variance with important aspects of Islamic Christology.

R. H. Fuller observes some important aspects of the Messianic hope of the Old Testament. In regard to Isaiah 7:10-16, he suggests that the term ‘Immanuel’, which of course is used of Jesus in Matthew 1:23, ‘refers to an ideal king of the Davidic line.’ 6 He ‘will reign as the true embodiment of God’s presence with his people…’ 7 We can see how this can be linked with Jesus’ identification with the Temple, the traditional place of divine indwelling, now superseded in His person – John 1:14; 2:19 (Mark 14:58); Colossians 2:9. Jesus, being the ultimate Davidic King, eternally reigns, and perpetually brings the presence of God among His people. This, of course, points to the incarnation. Significantly, the Davidic King in Isaiah 9:6-7 is portrayed as an eternal monarch, and he is explicitly termed ‘Mighty God’:

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

These texts are rich with implications for Messianic identity, pointing to a figure who is not simply human, even if he is the scion of David. This is especially true of the title ‘Mighty God’, used of YHWH in Isaiah 10:21 and Jeremiah 32:18. The fact that this divine title is ascribed to the ultimate Davidic King – the Messiah – is a clue to the fact that the Messiah would be simultaneously divine-human. Again, this causes problems for Muslims in that this portrayal is not the result of Christian ‘innovation’, but rather is present in the Old Testament. The learned Old Testament scholar Alec Motyer comments on the passage and its meaning:

Wonderful Counsellor is (lit.) ‘wonder-counsellor’ and ‘wonder’ … means something like ‘supernatural’. The two possibilities are either ‘a supernatural counsellor’ or ‘one giving supernatural counsel’… The decisions of a king make or break a kingdom and a kingdom designed to be everlasting demands a wisdom like that of the everlasting God. In this case, like God because he is God, the Mighty God (‘el gibbor), the title given to the Lord himself in 10:21<22>. Plainly, Isaiah means us to take seriously the ‘el component of this name as of Immanuel… Mighty (gibbor, ‘warrior’) caps the military references in verses 3-5.

God has come to birth, bringing with him the qualities which guarantee his people’s preservation (wisdom) and liberation (warrior strength). Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace describe the conditions the King’s birth will bring. Father is not current in the Old Testament as a title of the kings. Used of the Lord, it points to his concern for the helpless (Ps. 68:5<6>), care or discipline of his people (Ps. 103:13; Pr. 3:12; Is. 63:16; 64:8<7>) and their loyal, reverential response to him (Je. 3:4, 19; Mal. 1:6). For similar ideas used regarding the Davidic King see Psalm 72:4, 12-14; Isaiah 11:4. Probably the leading idea in the name Father here is that his rule follows the pattern of divine fatherhood. As eternal/of eternity’, he receives such an epithet [as] could, of course, be applied to Yahweh alone’… When the people asked for a king they had in mind that a continuing institution would provide them with a security greater and more reassuring than the episodic rule of the judges. But total security requires more even than this stop-go rule and is achieved in a king who reigns eternally… The focal point of the kingdom is David’s throne… In the light of this, we understand that ‘son’ in verse 6 must mean ‘son of David’. Here is the Old Testament Messianic enigma: how can a veritable son of David be Mighty God and ‘Father of eternity’? This was precisely the tension in Old Testament truth which the Lord Jesus tried to make the blinkered Pharisees face in Matthew 22:41-46. 8

In Matthew 22:42ff, Jesus presents a question to the Jews about the Messiah which points to eternal, divine origins of the Messianic Son of David:

42 What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he? They said to him, The son of David.

43 He said to them, Then why did David in the Spirit call him Lord, saying,

44 The LORD said to my Lord, Sit on my right hand, till I put your enemies under your feet? (Psalm 110:1)

45 If David then called him Lord, how is he his son?

As R. T. France explains, ‘the point of the pericope is not that Jesus is not Son of David, but that he is more than Son of David.’ 9 The implications are that Jesus is the divine Messiah. Another indication of the divine nature of the Messiah is seen in Psalm 44:7f where the Davidic King is addressed as ‘God’ by God; this text is applied in the Epistle to the Hebrews 1:8f to Jesus. He is the divine Davidic King. This is also indicated by a point we noted previously that Guthrie observed about the Messianic Age – that ‘the agent for inaugurating the coming age was God himself.’ The nature of God is revealed in His acts. There is a relationship between the functional and ontological aspects of deity – what God does reveals who He is. When God brought destructive miracles upon the Egyptians, they were revelations to both the Egyptians and the Israelites as to the person and character of God – e.g. Exodus 6:7, 7:5, 8:22. The miracles of Jesus are called signs – John 20:30. They demonstrate His unity with the Father – John 14:9ff. In Acts 7 Stephen reviews the historical acts of God to demonstrate that Jesus is the Messiah. It follows from this that if Jesus causes the arrival of the Messianic Age, then He is God Himself. Again, the inference we draw is that the Messiah is divine.

2. Son of David

This title is, of course, closely related to the term ‘Messiah’ such as to be virtually a synonym. The linkage of the term ‘Messiah’ with the Davidic line has its foundation in divine promise to David conveyed through the prophet Nathan in 2 Samuel 7:16, and is witnessed in the canonical prophets (Jeremiah 30:9, Ezekiel 34:23f, 37:24, Hosea 3:5, etc.). It is also found in the intertestamental literature of Judaism (Ecclesiasticus 47:11, 22; 1 Maccabees 2:57; Psalms of Solomon 17:21 – ‘Behold O LORD, and raise up to them their king, the son of David… their king the Anointed [i.e. Messiah] of the LORD), in the Qumran literature and in 4 Esdras 12:32ff in the first century AD. The term does not merely imply descent from David, but rather that Jesus is His Heir – i.e. King-Messiah – Matthew 20:30-31. It indicates that He was the One to restore the Davidic State – Amos 9:11, looking back to 2 Samuel 7. This restoration was not just ‘political’, it was spiritual bringing the people to a holy relationship with God. This Jesus effects by the Cross and the gift of the Holy Spirit in regeneration.

Jesus accepted this title when others offered it, but did not employ it Himself because of likely misconceptions, as we observed in our examination of the term ‘Messiah’. The True Israel – those with faith in Jesus – acclaim Him as ‘Son of David’ – Matthew 21:9, 15, the gospel presenting the Davidic Kingdom as embodied in Christ – cf. Mark 11:10. Matthew points out that Jesus was born of the house of David, 1:20, in Bethlehem, 2:1ff. What is especially interesting is that the term is associated with ‘healing power, either requested ([Matthew] 9:27; 15:22; 20:30f) or experienced (12:22f; 21:14f)… Mercy and healing are apparently understood to be the proper activities of the son of David…’ 10

This conception of the miracle-working Son of David points back to the expectation of God effecting cosmological wonders, especially the granting of light to those in darkness, and similarly sight to the blind – Isaiah 9:lff, 29:18, 35:5, 42:7, 16, 43:8, 61:1ff. This also includes spiritual darkness; in Matthew 12:22ff, Jesus exorcises a demon, leading to the multitudes asking ‘can this be the Son of David’, which is followed by Jesus’ assertion that His exorcism has made the Kingdom of God immediate, v28, indicating that as Son of David, He causes the Kingdom to come in. 11 This can be specifically linked to Messianic identity; in Matthew 11:2ff, we read of the ‘deeds of the Christ’:

2 Now when John heard in the prison the works of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, Are you the Expected One, or do we look for someone else? 4 And Jesus answered and said to them, Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the good news preached to them.

The miraculous activity and preaching of the divine ‘good news’ reflects the passages in Isaiah we have already noted.

We also infer from Luke 1:68ff that the heir of David is the agent of salvation and redemption (cf. Acts 13:22ff). This Davidic heir causes the people to serve God in holiness and righteousness. The restoration of the Davidic State required – and effected – an ethical quality in the lives of its subjects – Isaiah 9:7; Jeremiah 23:5; 33:17- c.f. Romans 1:3; 2 Timothy 2:8; Revelation 5:5; 22:16. This in itself points to the spirituality of the Kingdom Jesus brought. Hence, when Jesus enters Jerusalem, recognised as Son of David, Matthew 21:9, He immediately cleanses the Temple, indicating the holy nature of His Reign. What is especially noteworthy is the linkage of the holy reign with miraculous activity. After Jesus cleanses the Temple, the blind and lame come to Him there for healing, v14. It can be seen that the Son of David simultaneously effects holiness and miracles. By doing so, He establishes the Kingdom of God.

3. Son of God

Three categories of person are given this title in the Old Testament: angels, e.g. Job 38:7, but this is always in the plural and played no part in the formation of Christology – Hebrews 1:5ff. The two others are:

a) Israel

Grogan points out that ‘In Exodus 4:22f. God appeals to Pharaoh as one father to another.’ 12 Israel was YHWH’s firstborn son – cf. Isaiah 1:2; 30:1; Hosea 11:1. The nature of this sonship is adoptive and its basis is election of purpose (i.e. redemptive mission – to be a blessing to the world – cf. Genesis 28:14; Exodus 19:6) expressed in Covenant relationship, and requiring obedience as its terms. Hence when Israel departed from terms of Covenant, the filial relationship with YHWH was cancelled – Hosea 1:9, The essence of sonship was obedience – Exodus 4:23 – the words of God through Moses to Pharaoh were ‘Let my son go, that he may serve me‘; Israel’s response to the divine revelation of the law was ‘All that the LORD has spoken will we do, and be obedient’, 24:7. Chesed, covenant-love, was not the experience of the infidel – Hosea 1:6. Cullmann writes: ‘In all these texts the title “Son of God” expresses both the idea that God has chosen this people for a special mission, and that this his people owes him absolute obedience.’ 13

This theme of obedient sonship is seen in the New Testament, in the life of Jesus. He is the Elect, i.e. Israel, because He is the Beloved Son – ‘o agaphtov ho agapetos – Mark 1:11, which is generally viewed as reflecting Isaiah 42:1 (and Psalm 2:7), and as such, is contrasted in the parable of the Wicked Tenants with infidel Israel of His day – 12:1-11, especially v6. Note especially the rejection of old Israel by God for killing His true Son – v9. As a result, as the Renowned Biblical scholar Alan Richardson observed, ‘The old Israel is rejected and is no longer God’s beloved “son”; the final act of disobedience is the killing of him of whom it might surely have been said, “They will reverence my son” (Mark 12:6).’ 14

Like Israel, the Son comes ‘out of Egypt’ to perform His mission and establish a new aspect of the eternal covenant, Hosea 11:1/Matthew 2:13-15. To quote Richardson again, ‘As Israel of old, the “son” whom God called out of Egypt, was baptized in the Red Sea and tempted in the Wilderness, so also God’s Son the Messiah is baptized and tempted; Matthew’s quotation of Hos. 11 (Matt, 2:15) contains profound theological truth…’ 15 Connected with this is the ‘love’ theme in the Gospel of John – 3:35 – ‘The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand.’ The son of Abraham was described as agaphtov – Genesis 22:2, 12 LXX. The ultimate Son of Abraham is greater – He is the beloved of God Himself. Similarly, the son of Abraham was meant to be sacrificed, only to be replaced by a lamb; Jesus, the unique, beloved Son of God, is the Lamb of God who gives His life to remove the sin of the world – John 1:29, 36. Further, the very phrase employed in John 1:29 echoes the words of Isaiah 40:9 – ‘Behold your God’.

Another parallel is that Israel alone possessed the knowledge of YHWH, by virtue of its election, Amos 3:2 – ‘You only have I known of all the families of the earth…’ Likewise, in the ‘bolt from Johannine blue’ Matthew 11:27/Luke 10:22 Jesus is described as possessing the unique knowledge of the Father – ‘no-one knows the Father except the Son’. The true knowledge of God is possessed only by the obedient Son. This demonstrates that Jesus is the ultimate Israel.

The setting of the Temptation by Satan in the desert, Matthew 4:1ff, is in the nature of fulfilment of prophecy. Jesus endures the same temptations as Israel faced whilst in the desert with Moses, but whereas Old Testament Israel miserably failed the test, Jesus passes with flying colours. Deuteronomy 8:2ff, looking back to Exodus 16:2-3, recalls how God tested Old Israel with hunger, a test, like the others, which would reveal whether Israel knew itself to be, and thus whether in truth it was the People of God. By its moaning and desiring to return to Egypt, Israel displayed itself devoid of faith and thus fails. Jesus, on the other hand, although hungry, does not respond to Satan, but quotes Deuteronomy 8:3 to display that His is the true Son of God, unlike the failed old ‘son’.

The Temple pinnacle temptation was to put God to the test. Faith in God does not require props, or constant dynamic displays. By threatening to stone Moses at Massah, Israel drew from the LORD the act that proved them to be His people – Exodus 17:1-7, so Satan tempts Jesus to seek outward evidence that He is God’s Son by forcing the hand of the LORD, but Jesus refuses, quoting Deuteronomy 6:16. The third temptation reflects the collapse into total lack of faith that characterised Israel in Exodus 34 when Moses was up the mountain. Israel committed idolatry. Deuteronomy 6:13-14 forbids the worship of other gods, and Jesus quotes this in passing the test here. The significance of this is that Israel was to secure its national existence by no compromises with the heathen, especially their gods. They were not to be a nation like any other, but rather to be a holy nation. Jesus refuses to the invitation to become a ruler like any other through the means Satan offers – obeisance to him, compromise with the forces controlling the world.

The consequence of all this is that ‘…Israel itself, the people of God, is seen as finding its “fulfilment” both in Jesus himself and in the community which is to result from his ministry.’ 16 Jesus is the ultimate Son of God – the fulfilment of Israel. This is a case of typological correspondence – Jesus is ‘something greater’ – than David, Matthew 12:3-4, so He is the ultimate Davidic King; greater than the prophet Jonah or the wisest of kings, Solomon, 12:41-42; greater than the temple, v6. Jesus is the climactic manifestation of that which they imperfectly represented. 17

(b) Davidic King

The King, of Davidic lineage, is termed Son of God in an adoptive sense – 2 Samuel 7:14; Psalm 2:7; 89; 27f. Jesus is such, John 1:49, but as He impresses upon Nathanael, He is more – He is supernatural and pre-existent, v51 – ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you shall see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.’ This reflects Genesis 28:12, of which a tradition interpreted the Hebrew as referring not to the ladder – ‘on it’, but ‘on him’, which is linguistically possible. The Midrash Bereshith Rabbah 68:18 reflects this tradition. The idea is that the ascending and descending angels symbolised the connection of the earthly Jacob with the heavenly image of the true Israel – remembering that Jacob’s name was later changed to ‘Israel’. The noted Biblical scholar Barnabas Lindars writes about this verse:

The meaning of 1.51 in its context must be deduced from the remaining words about the angels. There is widespread agreement today that John has composed the saying in such a way as to recall Jacob’s dream (Gen. 28.12), ‘And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it’. It is also recognized that the movement of the angels ‘upon the Son of Man’ has a parallel in rabbinic exegesis, in which ‘on it’ (the ladder) is taken to mean ‘on him’ (Jacob). This is possible in the Hebrew, but not in the Greek. In the rabbinic exegesis the angels are familiar with the heavenly archetype of the righteous man, and are now delighted to discover the earthly reality in Jacob. It may be conjectured that the ‘greater things (John 1.50) which Jesus’ audience will see are something that belongs to a similar line of exegesis. They will see an act in which the Son of Man on earth reflects a heavenly reality. There is a sense in which this is true of all the acts of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel. But it is especially true of the passion, in which death and glorification are two sides of a single reality. 18

In John 1:51, Jesus describes Himself as ‘the Son of Man’, which we will see describes a heavenly being. Jesus thus corrects or improves Nathanael’s perception – indeed Jesus is the royal Messiah, the Son of God in this sense, but He is something more – He is a heavenly being. Likewise, He corrects Nicodemus’ perception of Him as merely a teacher sent from God, John 3:2 – rather, He is the one who was actually of divine generation, being ‘born above’, John 3:3, who descended from heaven, 3:13, indicating that He is not just a human being.

(c) Messiah

Scholars have debated whether the Messiah was so-termed, but the context of 2 Samuel 7:14, together with the many linkages of ‘Son’ and ‘Christ’ would seem to underline this. The New Testament scholar Verseput notes that ‘the messianic reference of 2 Sam 7.14 – “he shall be my son” – was not entirely overlooked by first century Judaism. The Qumran text of 4QFlor 1.10 explicitly applies this promise to the eschatological “scion of David”, while 1QSa 2.11 may allude to Ps 2.7 in regard to the begetting of the Messiah.’ 19 Various texts such as Matthew 16:16; 26:63f; Luke 4:41; Acts 9:20,22; the expression of the High Priest in Matthew 26:63 indicates that contemporary Judaism identified the Messiah as such, in a moral-religious sense. Christ’s resurrection appoints Him, as the Son of God with power – Romans 1:4. It vindicates His claims and ministry. Moo notes an important consideration of this verse:

In speaking this way, Paul and the other NT authors do not mean to suggest that Jesus only becomes the Son at the time of His resurrection. In this passage, we must remember that the Son is the subject of the entire statement in vv. 3-4: It is the Son who is ‘appointed’ Son. The tautologous nature of this statement reveals that being appointed Son has to do not with a change in essence – as if a man or human Messiah becomes Son of God for the first time – but with a change in status or function. 20

That to which Moo is referring is the structure of Romans 1:1-4, which testifies to the simultaneous deity and humanity of Jesus, that Jesus was in His divine nature eternally begotten by the Father, and in human nature, of the seed of David:

1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, 2 which he promised before through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, 4 who was declared the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead; Jesus Christ our Lord…

To these aspects we add two categories of the term ‘Son of God’ that are unique to Jesus:

(i) Nativistic sonship

Matthew 1:18-24; Luke 1:35; John 1:13 – paternity by God through the creative act of the Spirit in Mary’s womb. What the virgin birth of Jesus in this regard does is to demonstrate His supernatural origins, cf. John 3:3. Jesus had no human father – His paternity was of a higher order.

(ii) Trinitarian sonship

Jesus is the Son of God because He is the Second Person of the Trinity – He is God; this is the primary meaning of the term as used by Jesus and New Testament writers. Significantly, at the Baptism, Jesus is hailed as the beloved Son of God by the heavenly voice (bat-qol). The baptism of Jesus is the climax of the ministry of John the Baptist, and it is significant how the ministry of the latter is described in Matthew 3:3 – ‘For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet, saying, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the LORD, make His paths straight.”‘ The quote from Isaiah 40:3 is unambiguously directed towards YHWH; yet here, John Baptist applies it to Jesus. Hence when the bat-qol describes Jesus as the beloved Son of God, the syntax and the theme of John presaging the ministry of Jesus indicates that the reference is not simply to concepts of royal Messiahship; something greater is contemplated. Jesus possesses a unique filial relationship to God.

There are several places where the absolute term The Son – rather than the technical phrase ‘Son of God’ – is employed with respect to Jesus. Whilst Israel and the reigning Davidic King could be described as the ‘Son of God’, the absolute term is unusual, and the contexts in which it is employed do not allow for the metaphorical usage associated with either the nation or the monarchy. We have previously noted that Matthew 11:27/Luke 10:22, ‘All things have been delivered to me by my Father: and no one knows the Son, except the Father, nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal him.’ The use of absolute terms ‘the Father’ and ‘the Son’ points to an intimate relationship that goes beyond any adoptive sense. What is especially interesting is the reciprocal nature of the intimate knowledge Father and Son possess of each other. It would be expected that God the Father would have intimate knowledge of Jesus as He would of any individual.

However, two bold, surprising claims are made here; firstly, that Jesus, as the Son, possesses a corresponding knowledge of God, this in itself indicating that Jesus is not just human, since God is incomprehensible, with one clause in the verse agrees. Secondly, the text asserts that just as the Father is incomprehensible, so is the Son. So much so, that only the Father possesses such knowledge. This in itself points to the absolute term ‘the Son’ as indicating deity. Ladd writes:

In the process of revelation, the Son fills an indispensable role. ‘All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’ (11:27). ‘All things’ refers to ‘these things’ in verse 25, namely, to the entire content of the divine revelation. God, the Lord of heaven and earth, has imparted to the Son the exercise of authority in revelation; it involves the act of entrusting the truth to Christ for communication to others. The ground of this impartation is Jesus’ sonship; it is because God is his Father (v.25) that God has thus commissioned his Son. Because Jesus is the Son of God, he is able to receive all things from his Father that he may reveal them to others. The messianic mission of revelation thus rests upon the antecedent sonship.

What is involved in this relationship is made clear in verse 27: ‘No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son.’ Something more is involved in this knowledge of God than a mere filial consciousness. Jesus knows the Father in the same way that the Father knows the Son. There exists between the Father and the Son an exclusive and mutual knowledge. God possesses a direct and immediate knowledge of the Son because he is the Father. It is very clear that this knowledge possessed by the Father is not an acquired knowledge based on experience, but a direct, intuitive and immediate knowledge. It is grounded in the fact that God is the Father of Jesus. In the same sense Jesus knows the Father. His knowledge of the Father is thus direct, intuitive and immediate, and is grounded upon the fact that he is the Son. Thus both the Father-Son relationship and the mutual knowledge between the Father and Son are truly unique and stand apart from all human relationships and human knowledge. Christ as the Son possesses the same innate, exclusive knowledge of God that God as the Father possesses of him.

Because Jesus is the Son and possesses this unique knowledge, God has granted to him the messianic mission of imparting to men a mediated knowledge of God. Man may enter into a knowledge of God only through revelation by the Son. As the Father exercises an absolute sovereignty in revealing the Son, so the Son exercises an equally absolute sovereignty in revealing the Father; he reveals him to whom he chooses. This derived knowledge of God, which may be imparted to men by revelation, is similar but not identical with the knowledge that Jesus has of the Father. The Son’s knowledge of the Father is the same direct, intuitive knowledge that the Father possesses of the Son. It is therefore on the level of divine knowledge. The knowledge that men gain of the Father is a mediated knowledge imparted by revelation through the Son. The knowledge of the Father that Jesus possesses is thus quite unique; and his sonship, standing on the same level, is equally unique. It is a derived knowledge of God that is imparted to men, even as the sonship that men experience through Jesus the Son is a relationship mediated through the Son.

It is clear from this passage that sonship and messiahship are not the same; sonship precedes messiahship and is in fact the ground for the messianic mission. Furthermore, sonship involves something more than a filial consciousness; it involves a unique and exclusive relationship between God and Jesus. 21

France echoes this observation, stating that ‘… “the Son” is seen to be in a unique relationship with God which is his by virtue of who he is, in contrast with the knowledge of the Father which others may indeed come to share, but only as a result of his mediation.’ 22 Jesus, as the Son, is unique. This must be emphasised, since whilst it is true that previous kings of Israel (and Israel as a nation) could claim metaphorical or adoptive divine sonship, Jesus is asserting something special – that He is uniquely the Son, that He possesses a unique knowledge of the Father, and that His own nature is unique such that only the Father knows Him.

Jesus also distinguishes Himself in His address to the Father. He uses the term ‘my Father’ distinctly; He calls God ‘My Father’, Matthew. 11:27; Luke 2:49; and ‘your Father’, Matthew. 5.16, 45; Luke 12:30; but never ‘our Father’, save as giving a prayer-form to disciples. He speaks in John 20:17 of ‘ my Father’ and ‘your Father’. The Jews recognised He claimed equality with God by the title – John 5:18. Again, the emphasis is on uniqueness. It has been noted that Jesus normally referred to God as ‘abba. This means ‘father’, and it has been claimed that it may also denote ‘daddy’, although this is now challenged. Although not unprecedented in Judaism, it not common for Jews to regularly address the Almighty in this intimate way, yet it was precisely by this form that Jesus generally spoke to God. The learned Biblical scholar James Dunn has observed ‘…Jesus regular approach to God as “Abba” appears to be unusual for his day.’ 23 Richardson comments with regard to Mark 14:36, ‘The use of ‘abba makes it difficult to deny that Jesus thought of himself as uniquely God’s Son, or to suppose that the church derived the idea of his Sonship from any other source than Jesus himself.’ 24

Another indication of the special character of the absolute term is found with relation to the end of the world. The date of the last day, Matthew 24:36/Mark 13:32, is known by ‘not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father’. Ladd observes, ‘The force of this saying is found in the fact that such things ought to be known to angels and to the Son as well as the Father. The point is that Jesus classes himself with the Father and the angels – all partaking normally of supernatural knowledge. At this point, contrary to expectations, the Son is ignorant.’ 25 Further, the use of the absolute term in the context of heavenly beings is significant, likewise a unique character the divine sonship of Jesus that is not comparable to the adoptive sonship of the Old Testament Davidic Kings.

We earlier noted the parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mark 12:1-6). The vineyard clearly represents the Land, the lord thereof is God, and the tenants are Israel – Leviticus 25:23 ‘…the land is mine: for you are aliens and my tenants’, cf. Isaiah 5:1-7. The servants sent by the lord of the vineyard are clearly the prophets, as Dunn recognises. 26 What is important in this context is that after the servants, the lord of the vineyard sends his ‘beloved son’ (‘uion agaphton) – the same term used at the Baptism and the Transfiguration in respect to Jesus. Again, the term ‘my son’ (‘uion mou) is employed in the Marcan text, v6. It would seem, therefore, that Jesus is distinguished from previous servants of God not simply by being the last or the greatest, but by being God’s Son. Ladd comments:

In the parable of the wicked husbandman (Mk. 12:1-12), sonship is again differentiated from messiahship and provides the antecedent ground of the messianic mission, After the visit of the several servants had proven fruitless, the landowner sent his son to receive the inheritance. It is because he was the son that the owner expects this last mission to be successful, and his sonship is quite independent of and anterior to his mission. It is because he is the son that he becomes the heir of the vineyard and is sent to enter into his inheritance. 27

A clear indication of the deity of the Son and the Trinity is found in the use of the absolute term in Matthew 28:19, where baptism is enjoined in the name (note the singular) of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Obviously the Father is divine, and it is clear from Matthew 1:18; 1:20; 3:11; 12:32 that the same is true of the Holy Spirit. The fact that the absolute term ‘Son’ is used in concert with ascriptions of the Deity. This becomes even more apparent in the Gospel of John. The use of the absolute term is found on the lips of Jesus several times there as well. 28 A clear indication of deity is found in John 5:23 ‘that all may honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him.’ The way one honours the Father is to worship Him – John 4:21ff. Hence, the same honour should be given to the Son – i.e. He should be worshipped, which means He must be God.

In John 5:21we read, unsurprisingly, that the Father ‘raises the dead’. What is arresting is that this statement is made in the context of analogy – ‘For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom he will.’ That is, the Son possesses what is normally seen as a divine prerogative – the action of resurrection, including the choice of whom to raise from the dead. The object of faith and obedience is not said to be first the Father, but the Son – 3:36 ‘The one who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.’ It is faith in the Son that leads to the resurrection of the righteous – 6:40 ‘For this is the will of my Father, that every one beholding the Son, and believing on him, should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.’

Furthermore, it is emphasised that the divine sonship of Jesus is unique – John 3:16 ton uion ton monogenhmonogenes has the sense of ‘unique’. William Walker observes ‘It is now generally agreed that monogenhv should be translated as “only” rather than “only-begotten”… monogenhv, as applied to Jesus, should be translated as “only one of its kind” or “unique”…’ 29 Jesus is not just any son of God – He is the unique Son. As the New Testament scholar Walter Kümmel writes, ‘Thus the relationship of Father and Son appears to be that of complete equality, so that the Son stands beside God as a divine being and cannot actually be distinguished from God.’ 30 Kümmel also comments with respect to 8:38a (‘I speak the things that I have seen with my Father’), that ‘the Son’s present seeing and hearing has its ground in the Son’s pre-existent being with the Father.31

Hence, when the New Testament epistles take up this title, as in Romans 1:3-4; Galatians 4:4 (which indicates pre-existence); Colossians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; Hebrews 1:2, 5, 8; 3:6, such usage is not a Pauline innovation, but rather reflects what Jesus Himself asserted – that He was the unique eternal Son of God. Ultimately, only God Himself – in the person of the Son, could effect the work of redemption.

4. Son of Man

This was the favoured self-expression of Jesus – used over eighty times by Him, and apart from only two occasions, by Him alone. The term is frequently misunderstood as an ascription of humanity. In fact, the term indicates that Jesus is a heavenly being. The existence of the Similitudes of Enoch, a Jewish apocalypse, does seem to indicate that there was a tradition of what Ladd describes as ‘a messianic title of a pre-existent heavenly figure who descends to earth…’ 32 The text of the Similitudes (62:7) presents the ‘Most High’ (i.e. God) as having ‘preserved him [i.e. the Son of Man] in the presence of his might…’He existed prior to creation, 48:2f. He is also described in 48:10; 52:4 as the ‘anointed one (Messiah) of the Lord of spirits’. The Son of Man later sits on his ‘throne of glory’, 62:5. The same chapter, v11, reveals his role in judgment.

A later Jewish work, 4 Esdras (Apocalypse of Ezra), displays a Son of Man (Syriac barnasa) identified with the Messiah (7:78, 29; 12:32), an apocalyptic Redeemer, who rides upon the clouds. Furthermore, God speaks of him as ‘my Son’, 13:32, 37, 52. He is described in 13:26 as the one ‘whom the Most High has been keeping for many ages, who will himself deliver his creation’. In 7:28-29, God refers to ‘my son the Messiah’, who will die. In 12:32-34 we read of ‘the Messiah whom the Most High has kept until the end of days, who will arise from the posterity of David, and will come and speak to them; he will denounce them for their ungodliness and for their wickedness, and will cast up before them their contemptuous dealings. For first he will set them living before his judgment seat, and when he has reproved them, then he will destroy them. But he will deliver in mercy the remnant of my people, those who have been saved…’ These works give an indication that the New Testament usage of the term was not innovative, nor was the connection between the Messiah and the Son of Man, nor the idea that this figure was also God’s Son.

(a) Origins of the Term

  1. Psalm 8:4 – the parallelism would suggest that Son of Man simply means ‘man’. With this would agree the natural rendering of the Aramaic term bar nasha ‘a man’, ‘Man’, ‘the son of the man’. The psalm is used in Christological fashion in Hebrews 2. That this is not the meaning of the term as used by Jesus can be illustrated from an examination of Luke 9:58 – ‘And Jesus said to him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the heaven have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head.’ The great Biblical scholar T. W. Manson observed ‘…the simple meaning “man” is ruled out, since men in general have somewhere to lay their heads: the homeless man is the exception.’ 33
  2. Ezekiel 37:3 – used vocatively ninety times in Ezekiel. Cf. similar usage in Daniel 8:17. In this case it would seem to indicate ‘Prophet’. Significantly, it is used of two men who had heavenly visions – Daniel and Ezekiel.
  3. Psalm 80:17 – the context suggests that the term is equivalent to ‘Israel’. In this respect many scholars have seen equivalence between Son of Man and the Remnant of Israel, as we shall see. The Targum (Aramaic paraphrase) on this identifies the Son of Man as ‘King Messiah’.
  4. Daniel 7:13, 14ff – a heavenly, supernatural being who comes to God to receive power and authority over all humanity. The contrast is with the beasts, representing the pagan nations, whilst the Son of Man represents, though is not identified with the Saints of the Most High – i.e. faithful Israelites. F. F. Bruce writes ‘…for Daniel the “one like a son of man” is not the symbolical personification of the saints but their heavenly representative.’ 34 In a sense, therefore, the Son of Man is the heavenly Israel – remembering the Midrash (rabbinic commentary) Bereshith Rabbah we observed earlier. It is clear that this is the usage employed by Jesus, so that this is the meaning intended by Him – e.g. Matthew 26:63-64; Mark 14:61-62; Luke 22:67-70 – as in Daniel 7, the Son of Man comes on the clouds. Matthew 28:18ff also reflects this – Jesus has been given cosmic authority. Stephen saw the Son of Man in heaven, at God’s right hand, i.e. the place of authority – Acts 7:56.

(b) Significance of the Term

(i) It stressed the heavenly origins and nature of Jesus – John 3:13-14. Jesus descended from heaven. There is no indication in the New Testament that Jesus is an angelic figure – in fact this is specifically rejected in Hebrews 1:4-7, 13. However, when we consider other aspects of the Gospel of John, especially Jesus’ clear affirmation of deity in 8:58, and the assertion of the Evangelist under divine inspiration in 1:1 of the deity of Jesus, we need have no doubt that when Jesus employed the term ‘Son of Man’, He was asserting His heavenly nature – i.e. that He was God.

To this we may add Luke 15:3-7; 19:10, which present the Son of Man as Shepherd of Israel – cf. Ezekiel 34:16; the Son of Man separates the Sheep from the Goats – and gives the kingdom to the saints – Matthew 25:31f, 34 – cf. Ezekiel 34:17, (and v13, 25). It is clear therefore, that far from indicating His humanity, the term implied His deity.

(ii) The term was His public substitute for Messiah – Mark 8:29, 31; John 12 v34; unlike the latter, the title ‘Son of Man’ possessed no ready-made Jewish ideas of nationalist aggression. It also allowed Jesus to indicate that He was the heavenly Messiah – E. J. Young in his commentary on ‘Daniel’ points out that ‘Among the Jews the Messiah came to be known as anani “Cloudy One” or bar nivli “Son of a Cloud.”‘ 35 Note also the connection of clouds with deity – Isaiah 19:1; Psalm 104:3. The noted Jewish scholar of early Judaism, Geza Vermes, observes the following points about the Messianic connotations of the Danielic figure in Jewish circles:

In the earliest comment available, that of Rabbi Akiba (died in AD 135), the mention of ‘thrones ‘in Daniel 7:9 is said to indicate that there will be two of them, one occupied by God, the other by ‘David’, the royal Messiah… A commentary on Genesis identifies the King Messiah as Anani, the last scion of the family of David mentioned in 1 Chronicles 3:24, by interpreting his name from Daniel 7:13, Anani = ‘clouds’ (‘anane): i.e. Cloud-Man. The same explanation is incorporated into the Targum of 1 Chronicles 3: 24:

Anani is the King Messiah who is to be revealed.

The second tour de force is that of the Babylonian Rabbi Nahman bar Jacob of the early fourth century AD, who obtained the obscure Messianic title, bar niphle (‘son of the Fallen One’ in Aramaic = the ‘son of David’) from Amos’s allusion to the raising up of the fallen tent of David. His Galilean interlocutor, Rabbi Isaac the Smith, was not impressed, no doubt because for him niphle was not an Aramaic but a Greek word meaning ‘cloud’ (nephele). It is in fact likely that in Galilee, where Jews were to some degree Hellenized, Daniel 7:13 was the source of the half-Aramaic, half-Greek Messianic title, bar nephele, ‘son of the cloud’. 36

In Mark 14:62 the High Priest questions Jesus ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ Jesus replies ‘I am: and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’ Bruce writes about this statement:

It is as though Jesus meant ‘If “Christ” (“Messiah”) is the term which you insist on using, then I have no option but to say “Yes”; but if I may choose my own words, I tell you that you will see the Son of man…’ In this reply the language of Daniel 7:13f. is fused with that of Psalm 110:1, where one whom the psalmist calls ‘my lord’ is invited in an oracle to take his seat at Yahweh’s right hand until his enemies are subdued beneath his feet. 37

The conflation of the Davidic King with the Son of Man figure shows that Jesus both wished to avoid nationalist concepts of Messiahship by employing the Danielic term, and also to underline that He was not simply human. It is clear that the High Priest understood what Jesus was claiming, since he then accuses Jesus of ‘blasphemy’. Rowe notes that the Hebrew equivalent of bar nasha is ben ‘adam. 38 Rowe observes that in various Psalms, especially 80:17, this phrase is used of the Davidic King. As with the figure in Daniel 7:13-14, he is so closely associated with Israel as to be their representative. 39 Rowe notes that C. H. Dodd, an important Biblical scholar, in his book According to the Scriptures (p. 101f), saw that Psalm 80:17 with its identification of ‘”God’s right-hand Man” (the one who “sits at God’s right hand”) with the divinely strengthened “Son of Man,” might well be regarded as providing direct scriptural justification for the fusion of the two figures in Mark 14:62.’ 40 It can be inferred from this, and from the other Jewish traditions identifying the Son of Man with the Messiah and as the divine Son that the New Testament portrayal of a divine Messiah was not arbitrary or the result of Hellenising or pagan influences as Muslims claims; rather, it reflected existing Palestinian Jewish traditions, including, of course, those in the Old Testament.

(iv) The Son of Man is connected with judgment – cf. Daniel 7:26. The Son of Man has authority to forgive sins – Matthew 9:6; Mark 2:10; Luke 5:24. Jesus has authority to judge because He is Son of Man – John 5:27. This shows the influence of Daniel 12:2, especially v28f. The Son of Man specifically judges Israel (i.e. the generation to which Jesus came) – Matthew 24:30, referring to the judgment on Jerusalem in AD 70, presents the Roman destruction of the city as the vindication of Jesus’ Messiahship (the same point is there in Acts 7:55-56) – cf. Matthew 26:64. The ‘Great Tribulation’ of AD 70 displays that Jesus is enthroned in heaven (not ‘sky’ as NIV) – cf. Acts 2:30, 33, 34-35, 36 – and note v40, cf. Matthew 24:34: that is, the Judgment on the Jews of AD 70 establishes that Jesus is the Messianic King. The Son of Man is also the universal judge – Matthew 25:32, despatching the Lost to Hell and the Righteous to their inheritance – i.e. Heaven.

(d) The Son of Man is a royal figure – He is given authority and sovereignty – Daniel 7:14; Jesus received this upon the Ascension – v13, Acts 2:30 – He sits on a throne. He judges from a throne, Matthew 25:31, as King, v34. Again, this universal authority reflects Messianic expectations, as witnessed in Psalm 2:8. Moreover, He gives the kingdom to the saints – Daniel 7:18, 22, 27; Matthew 25:34; Luke 21:28, 31. Note that this occurs through judgment – Daniel 7:22, 26-27; Luke 21:27-28.

(e) The Son of Man is associated with suffering. Whilst the actual figure in Daniel does not suffer, we must remember he represents the Saints who are enduring harassment. In Daniel 7:21ff, we encounter the ‘little horn’, usually considered a reference to Antiochus Epiphanes, King of Coele-Syria, who began the religious/cultural persecution of Judæa in 168-167 BC, of which the most serious abuse was the desecration of the Temple in 167 by the erection of a pagan altar to Zeus – the ‘Abomination of Desolation’. 41 Bruce informs us what this meant in practice:

The idea of centralization of the worship was abolished along with the other distinctive features of the old order; altars in honour of ‘the lord of heaven’ were now set up throughout Judaea – in the market place of Jerusalem and in every town and village throughout the territory. The inhabitants of each place were required to sacrifice at these local altars, and severe penalties were imposed on those who refused, as also on those who persisted in observing those Jewish practices whose abolition had been decreed by the king. What followed was in effect a thorough-going campaign of persecution on Religious grounds – perhaps the first campaign of this kind in history. To circumcise one’s children, to be found in possession of a roll of the sacred law, to refuse to eat pork or the meat of animals offered on these illicit altars, were capital offences. 42

This persecution, which involved brutal and often indiscriminate execution, was resisted by the guerrillas known as the ‘Maccabees’, more properly the surname of Judas, the son of the priest Mattathiah who began the resistance. After a four-year fight they prevailed against Antiochus, and eventually in 142 BC Judæa won its independence. Bruce notes the reference to this in the apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees 13:41 – ‘In the 170th year [of the Seleucid era] the yoke of the Gentiles was removed from Israel.’ 43 The Saints of the Most High, after their suffering, were vindicated by victory, and received the kingdom. The text of Daniel 7:21ff predicts this outcome:

21 I saw, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them; 22 until the ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the Most High, and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom… 25 And he shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High; and he will intend to change the times and the law; and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and half a time. 26 But the judgment shall be set, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it to the end. 27 And the kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High: his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.

Wright comments on the chapter: ‘But when the “most high”, the “Ancient of Days” takes his seat, judgment is given in favour of “the saints”/”one like a son of man” (verses 13, 18, 22, 27); they are vindicated and exalted, with their enemies being destroyed, and in their vindication their god himself is vindicated…’ 44 Later in the Book of Daniel, 9:25, we read of an ‘anointed one, a prince’. The Old Testament scholar John Goldingay suggests that since non-Israelite rulers in Daniel are otherwise described, the likelihood is that here we encounter an Israelite figure. 45 Later, this ‘anointed one’ is ‘cut off’, v26, as Rowe states, ‘presumably by an untimely death.’ 46 Rowe also comments that saints of the Most High ‘suffer persecution and apparent defeat at the hands of the final king (vv. 21, 25; cf. Rev. 13:7).’ 47 It is at this point that Rowe observes that ‘in some of the psalms the Davidic king is said to experience suffering, while in Psalm 80, as ben adam, he is identified with Israel in their tribulation prior to his exaltation.’ 48 Earlier, Rowe noted the suggestion that ‘the king appears in situations of profound suffering, as in Psalm 22. A consistent line of scholarship has maintained the likelihood that the king took part in a temple ritual… in which he suffered humiliation before being restored to his throne.’ 49 Bruce’s article on the background to the Son of Man sayings proposes a connection between the Isaianic Suffering Servant and the Son of Man, p. 58ff, and this seems to be borne out by the references in Enoch of the Son of Man being the ‘light of the Gentiles’, 48:4, and the ‘Chosen’, 46:2, terms usually attributed to the Servant, Isaiah 49:6; 41:8. In 4 Esdras 16:35 the subject is described as ‘servant of the LORD’. This suggests the existence of a tradition linking the Danielic and Isaianic figures.

From this, it can be understood that once the equation of the Son of Man with the Messiah is grasped, the New Testament concept of the suffering Messiah, as in Mark 10:45 (‘For the Son of Man also came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many’) is not a Christian innovation, but reflects Israelite history and Old Testament doctrine. The suffering Son of Man/Messiah that was Jesus died to ransom His people, but His suffering was vindicated when He rose again (and note the resurrection references in Daniel 12), and then came to God to receive universal royal authority, as does the son of man figure in Daniel 7. Just as the foes of the saints are destroyed in Daniel, Matthew 24:30 predicts the divine vengeance on the city where the Lord was crucified – and the days of vengeance did indeed invest Jerusalem in AD 70, the sign that Jesus is the Son of Man who ascended to heaven to receive cosmic kingship. It is important to note how this was achieved. Jesus spoke of His crucifixion as an exaltation and glorification, John 8:28; 12:23; 13:31. The cross was His avenue to the throne, and even on the cross He dies as King of Israel, John 19:19.

5. Servant of the LORD

In the prophecy of Isaiah, we encounter a figure called ebed YHWH – the Servant of the LORD. The ‘Servant Songs’ of Isaiah, 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12 deal with the activities of this figure. At times the figure appears to be Israel, at others he seems to be an individual. In Isaiah 42:1ff, the Servant appears to be an individual who is commissioned for service by being anointed with the Spirit, who brings forth justice (mishpat) to the Gentiles. In 49:1ff, at first the figure appears to be an individual, then is identified as ‘Israel’ in v3, and then in v5 is commissioned to return Israel to YHWH! It would appear from this description that the Servant is a prophet, and it should be noted that the phrase ‘my servants, the prophets’, is a frequent occurrence in the Old Testament – e.g. Jeremiah 44:4. In Isaiah 49:6, his commission is greater than a particular call to Israel – he is to be a light to the Gentiles. In 50:4ff, he seems to be definitely an individual, and in v6 is presented as suffering – ‘I gave my back to those striking me, and my cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not cover my face from humiliation and spitting.’ Despite this, the figure trusts in the vindication of YHWH, vv. 7-9.

The paradox becomes greater in 52:13-15. God declares that His Servant will be ‘exalted’ (or glorified) and ‘lifted up’, the Septuagint employing the very words (dokew and ‘uqow) Jesus uses in texts such as John 12:23, 32 to describe His crucifixion, which will provide salvation for all humanity. 50 In the Isaianic text the Servant is simultaneously exalted whilst suffering, v14 – again, a parallel with Jesus in the gospel texts mentioned. In v15 it is stated that it is precisely through this means that he will sprinkle many nations (‘many’ is a Semitism for ‘all’). Motyer comments: ‘…the Servant “shall sprinkle… many nations”; his work is priestly, and many nations receive his priestly ministry…’ 51 Thus, the Servant is not just a prophet, he is simultaneously a priest. In 53:1-12, the Servant becomes a figure whose suffering is seen by others as the judgment of God, yet paradoxically, he suffers not for any wrong-doing of his own, but for the sin of everyone else, vv. 5, 12, and this by the determinate plan of God – vv. 6, 10, and through his suffering those for whom he is undergoing this scourging are declared righteous, v11.

Hence, when John 12:38ff quotes Isaiah 53, and v41 declares that Isaiah saw the glory of Jesus and spoke about Him, the Gospel was not being arbitrary. Further, whilst other prophets may have suffered as a consequence of proclaiming their message to a sinful or apostate people, only this Servant suffers in the predestination of God as the very means of bringing salvation to those same sinners. We never encounter another person proclaimed to be a prophet whose suffering is seen as salvatory for others. Whatever privations Muhammad and his followers may have endured in Mecca prior to the Hijrah, it is never claimed that this suffering in itself was the actual means of salvation for those persecuting the Muslims. However vehemently Muslims assert the prophethood of Muhammad, they never claim that he was simultaneously a priest. Muslims are always loud in their denunciation of the idea of representative or vicarious suffering/sacrifice. 52 Yet it is precisely by the suffering of the Servant that redemption for all humanity is effected. His suffering does not bring salvation, justification, righteousness or anything similar for Himself, but rather for others. This figure cannot be Muhammad, but it clearly fits the Gospel portrayal of Jesus. As such, it demonstrates that the New Testament claims of His death being a priestly, sacrificial self-offering reflect the Old Testament and Jewish tradition.

(a) The Servant and the Son of Man

We earlier noted the suggestion in Bruce’s article on the background to the Son of Man sayings that there is a connection between the Isaianic Suffering Servant and the Son of Man, and parallel references in Enoch and 4 Esdras. 53 One of the reasons Bruce suggests this identification is that the sufferings of the Isaianic Servant ‘are explicitly said to procure the removal of sin for others… there is some reason to think that the Daniel texts we have been considering , and some others associated with them, had the Isaianic Servant Songs in view and were indeed intended to provide an Interpretation of them.’ 54 Bruce finds this association in the references to the ‘wise’ in Daniel:

One of the designations of the faithful in the time of trial depicted in Daniel’s visions is maskilim, the ‘wise’ or the ‘teachers’ (i.e. those who acquire wisdom or those who impart it, the latter activity naturally following from the former). The reference is especially to those who communicate to others the insight which they themselves have gained into the times of the end; ‘none of the wicked shall understand, but the maskilim shall understand’ (Dan. 12:10). Daniel himself is given such insight: when Gabriel is about to impart to him the revelation of the seventy heptads, he says, ‘I have come out to make you wise (le haskileká)… know therefore and understand (wetaskél) that… there are to be seven heptads…’ (Dn. 9:22, 25).

When the minds of many are shaken by the apostates, ‘those who make the people wise (maskilê ‘am) shall make many understand’, although their faithfulness involves them in severe persecution (Dn. 11:33). So severe will the persecution be, indeed, that some even of the maskilim will fall away, but their defection will but serve to refine those who remain faithful (Dn. 11:35). And when at last the righteous are delivered and the faithful departed are raised to everlasting life, ‘the maskilim shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness (masdiqê hárabbin) like the stars for ever and ever’ (Dn. 12:1-3).

It would be rash to draw too certain inferences from the coincidence between these instances of the hiph’il conjugation of skl and the opening words of the fourth Servant Song, hinneh yaskil ‘abdî, ‘behold, my servant will deal wisely’ (Is. 52:13); but that we have to do with more than a mere coincidence is suggested by the statement in Isaiah 53:11 that the Servant will by his knowledge ‘make the many to be accounted righteous’ (yasdiq… lárabbîm) -i.e. he will fulfil the role assigned to the maskilim in Daniel 12:3. But if Daniel is thus providing an interpretation of the figure of the suffering Servant, it is a corporate interpretation. 55

To Bruce’s observations I would add another. As we noted at the beginning of this section, the Servant at certain times seem to be Israel, whilst at others the figure appears to be an individual. In Daniel 7, the Son of Man represents the Saints of the Most High – in other words, faithful Israel. Israel was depicted as God’s son, and so when Jesus was described as the Son of God, one aspect of the term referred to His being the true Israel, a point emphasised in the Gospel of Matthew by the reference to Him as ‘the Son of Abraham’, 1:1, and by the Wilderness Temptations. In the Gospel of John, Jesus declares Himself to be ‘the true Vine’, 15:1, in a context of sonship – ‘my Father is the vine-dresser’. By this Jesus did not mean that other vines were impostors, but that He was the true Israel. In Psalm 80:8, 14, Israel is described as the ‘vine’ God brought ‘out of Egypt’.

Parallel to the latter clause, we find Israel depicted as the son of God He rescued out of Egypt – Hosea 11:1 ‘When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.’ This is interpreted in Messianic terms in Matthew 2:14-15 ‘And he arose and took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt; and was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the LORD through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt did I call my son.”‘ We have already examined the connection between Psalm 80 and the Son of Man figure, and it is significant that a variant of v15 in the psalm is ‘son’, rather than branch. At any rate, the representation of Israel as God’s Son, the link between faithful Israel and the Son of Man, and the fact that the Suffering Servant is depicted as Israel provides a connection between the different figures. Like the picture in Daniel, there is suffering, vindication and exaltation (cf. Isaiah 53:12).

(b) The Servant and the Messiah

There are indications in Isaiah itself that suggest a Messianic connection with the Servant. In 49:8 we read the following ‘Thus says the LORD, In an acceptable time have I answered you, and in a day of salvation have I helped you; and I will preserve you, and give you as a covenant for the people…’ As the Old Testament scholar Martens elaborates, ‘…the servant songs tapped the traditions of the exodus. Israel in exile is promise a return after the pattern of the earlier exodus… As at the exodus, Yahweh will have compassion on his afflicted (49:13; cf. Ex. 6:3)…. The servant delivers from a captivity which more than physical.’ 56 Earlier in Isaiah, we also read of the Second Exodus, but in this case, the agent is clearly a Messianic figure – ‘stem of Jesse’, a reference to David’s father. Motyer writes ‘The reference to Jesse indicates that the shoot is not just another king in David’s line but another David.’ 57 In this respect, we should note Grogan’s observation that the Servant in some ways ‘seems to sum up in himself elements of the three great offices of prophet, priest and king… like a king he wins victories and divides spoil (Isaiah 53:12) and is exalted to a place of great authority (Isaiah 52:13).58 Obviously, by definition, the Messiah is a king. Mark 1:11(the Baptism) conflates a messianic psalm, Psalm 2, with a Servant passage, Isaiah 42:1 – the Son is the Servant with whom God is pleased.

Like the Servant in 42:1; 61:1, the figure in Isaiah 11 is anointed with the Spirit, and like the Servant, whilst effecting the exodus, he also gathers the nations (Gentiles) to him:

1 And there will come forth a shoot out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots will bear fruit.

2 And the Spirit of the LORD will rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD…

10 And it will come to pass in that day, that the nations will resort to the root of Jesse, who will stand as a sign of the peoples; and his resting-place will be glorious.

11 And it will come to pass in that day, that the LORD will set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, who remain, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea.

12 And he will set up a standard for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

It should also be noted in 11:4 that the Davidic figure destroys the wicked – i.e. the enemies of God. We have previously noted the Isaianic references in John 12, and two aspects of the ‘lifting-up’, which is explicitly identified with the means of Jesus’ death in v32, is that this exaltation is the means of the vanquishing of the Devil, v31 ‘Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.’ Simultaneously this exalted death is the instrument for the gathering of all humanity to Himself – v32 ‘And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself.’ Again, in v20, Gentiles come and request to see Jesus, at which point He declares the time had come for the Son of Man to be glorified, v23, another allusion to His death. His crucifixion is the means of bringing the Gentiles as well as the Jews into a covenant relationship with God. In Luke 9:31, at the transfiguration, Moses and Elijah refer to Jesus’ death in Jerusalem as His ‘exodov exodos. This is accompanied by the bat-qol in v35 identifying Jesus in terms of the Servant as ‘My Chosen’, as well s being God’s Son. Jesus death is the ultimate exodus that delivers people from spiritual darkness, in the way Martens suggested the Servant effects in the Second Exodus from Babylon.

(c) The Servant and Miracles

Both Islam and the Bible present Jesus as performing miracles, so this point is not contentious. What is interesting for this study is that just as the Messianic term ‘Son of David’ is associated with healing and deliverance, the Servant figure is likewise. In Matthew 8:16-17, we read the following, with reference to Isaiah 53:4:

16 ‘And when evening arrived, they brought to him many demon-possessed people: and he cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all that were sick: 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying: Himself took our infirmities, and bare our diseases.’

It follows that it is a common function of the Son of David and the Servant to heal and exorcise, indicating a Messianic connotation with the Servant figure. So, when Jesus heals or drives out demons, He does so as Messiah – as Son of David, and as the Servant of the LORD. This is important for the Christian-Muslim debate. When Jesus died on the cross, He did so to ‘exorcise’ the Devil – to cast out his dominion, John 12:31. This exorcising action is effected by the Isaianic paradox – i.e. by the suffering of the Servant. Similarly, the spiritual healing Jesus wrought by His suffering is demonstrated by 1 Peter 2:24, quoting Isaiah 53:5 – ‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin, and live to righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed.’ Jesus clearly saw Himself as the representative suffering Servant of Isaiah 53:12 – ‘numbered with the transgressors’, as witnessed in Luke 22:37 ‘For I say unto you, that this which is written must be fulfilled in me, “And he was numbered with transgressors”: for that which refers to me has its fulfilment.’ Jesus definitely saw Himself as the one who would suffer death for sinners to bring them redemption.

(d) The Servant and ‘the Anointed One’

France points to another Messianic connection with the Servant to be found in Isaiah:

Isaiah 61:1-3 describes a figure closely similar to the Servant as depicted in Isaiah 42:1-7: both are endued with the Spirit of Yahweh, open blind eyes, and bring prisoners out of darkness. Both are, in other words, sent and equipped by Yahweh to deliver the oppressed and wretched, and both are characterized by their gentleness. This similarity has many to regard Isaiah 61:1-3 as a fifth ‘Servant Song’. 59

As France observes, Jesus identifies Himself with this figure in the Nazareth synagogue, at the beginning of His public ministry. 60 Jesus claims the immediate fulfilment of the passage – ‘To-day this scripture has been fulfilled in your ears’, Luke 4:21, which France describes as ‘a deliberate identification of his work as that described in Isaiah 61:1-3. He is the Lord’s anointed; the Messiah has come.’ 61 To France’s suggestions we should add that the pericope in Luke follows the Wilderness Temptations, when Jesus is assaulted for being the Son of God, which itself follows the Baptism, where the bat-qol describes Jesus as the ‘beloved Son, with whom I am pleased’, reflecting Psalm 2 and Isaiah 42:1. There is thus a logical progression in the events of Jesus’ ministry, as both Servant and Messiah, and as the Anointed Deliverer.

It is also significant that after being anointed by the Spirit at the Baptism, Jesus is said to enter the Wilderness being full of the Spirit, Luke 4:1, where he battles the Enemy, and then after His victory in the desert, He returns ‘in the power of the Spirit into Galilee’, 4:14. The implication in v23, and suggested by Gospel parallels (Matthew 4:23ff; Mark 1:23ff), is that Jesus had been performing ‘the deeds of the Messiah’ as we examined earlier – works of healing and exorcism. As France notes, the pericope identifying these acts, Matthew 11:5/Luke 7:22, is based on Isaiah 61:1 and 35:5-6 – ‘God’s time of salvation has come. Jesus is the one anointed to be the bringer of that salvation.’ 62 The two Isaianic texts are also linked by the common theme of divine judgment, retribution or vengeance, 35:4; 61:2. A further point of significance is that 35:4 warns ‘behold your God’, indicating a divine epiphany, just as 40:3, quoted of the ministry of John Baptist preparing the way for Jesus, Matthew 3:3. This indicates that the anointed figure we encounter in Isaiah is also divine.

(e) The Servant and Mark 10:45

A text that both conflates the Son of Man and Servant figures in pointing to the redemptive death of Jesus is Mark 10:45 (Matthew 20:28) ‘For the Son of man also came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many’, which reflects Isaiah 53:12 ‘he bore the sin of many’. Guthrie observes ‘The idea of suffering would naturally link with the Isaianic figure.’ 63 We may compare this verse with Mark 8:31 ‘And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, and the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again’; cf. also Luke 19:10 – ‘For the Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.’ At first glance this seems strange, for, as we have seen, the Son of Man, in Daniel does not suffer himself. However, he does represent people who are suffering, and as the Isaianic figure is presented, it is through such suffering that He enters into His glory (cf. Luke 24:25-26). Mark 10:45 does indeed seem to presents us with Jesus’ death being representative/vicarious, which definitely fits the description of the Servant figure. Thus the description of the Anointed One/Messiah/Son of Man/Servant is that he enters His reign by a sacrificial death which secures redemption for sinners.

Lindars writes about this text, and its Isaianic connotations, especially with respect to its sacrificial aspects:

The sacrificial significance of lutron in the present passage is fixed by the words which immediately follow it, ‘for many’ (anti pollon). An astonishingly similar phrase occurs in the formulaic passage 1 Tim. 2.6, ‘who gave himself a ransom for all’ (ho dous heauton antilutron huper panton); cf. Titus 2.14. Seeing that the sacrificial connotation of lutron derives from the idea of a ransom-price (e.g., for manumission of a slave), the most likely Aramaic equivalent would be kopher… The word ‘ransom’ (lutron) should be regarded as interpretative. It is not a quotation from Isa. 53:10, but… the ransom idea is a legitimate way of interpreting the prophecy as a whole… the feature which gives to the saying its sacrificial connotation, i.e. the prepositional phrase ‘for many’ (anti pollon), also occurs in Mark’s version of the eucharistic blessing of the cup (Mark 14:24, huper pollon), and this is reflected in Paul’s version of the blessing of the bread (1 Cor. 11:24, huper humon, ‘for you’). 64

The problem of ‘ransom’ (lutron) not being an exact equivalent of m#) (asham), the latter normally meaning an ‘offering for sin’, is answered by the fact that lutron usually translates into Hebrew as Kopēr, ‘a covering’, similar to the Aramaic term Lindars mentions. The noun in related to the verb kipper which in Leviticus 5:16 expresses the effect of the m#) – the term employed in Isaiah 53:10. France, explaining Mark 10:45 in terms of its Old Testament background, makes the following observations:

Firstly, the meaning of substitution is not absent from m#):aaa while in Numbers 5:7, 8 it is a restitution to the one wronged (though, presumably, except in cases of actual theft, the restitution of an equivalent), in other cases it signifies the sacrifice presented to make atonement for the sinner; he is guilty (m#)) but the presentation of an m#) in his place removes his guilt. This is hardly distinguishable from the substitution of an equivalent, or, therefore, from the meaning of lutron. So in Isaiah 53:10, ‘the Messianic servant offers himself as an m#) in compensation for the sins of the people, interposing for them as their substitute.’ lutron or whatever Aramaic word lies behind it, is therefore not far from equivalent to m#). Secondly, Isaiah 53 as a whole presents the work of the Servant as one of substitution, in that in his suffering and death he bears the sins of the people, resulting in their healing; God places their sins on him, and bruises him for their iniquities. This idea of substitution is admitted to be central to lutron, and is even more obvious in anti [i.e. ‘instead of’]. Even if no linguistic echo were established, dounai thn quchn autou lutron anti pollwn is a perfect summary of the central theme of Isaiah 53, that of a vicarious and redeeming death.

pollwn (‘many’). This is probably the most commonly noticed allusion to Isaiah 53 in Mark 10:45. mybr is used in Isaiah 53:11, 12 to describe the beneficiaries of the Servant’s sacrifice (LXX polloiv, pollwn). Jeremias describes it as ‘a veritable keyword in Isa. 53′. Most scholars take it for granted that its occurrence in Mark 10:45 is a deliberate echo of Isaiah 53; it is hardly the word unless it had some such purpose. The other allusions to Isaiah 53 in this verse suggest that this too is a feature drawn from that chapter, where it is no less peculiar, and rendered conspicuous and memorable by its repetition.

The cumulative effect of these parallels in word and thought between Mark 10:45 and Isaiah 53 is sufficient to demand a deliberate allusion by Jesus to the role of the Servant as his own…The fact that the allusion occurs almost incidentally, as an illustration of the true nature of greatness, far from indicating that the redemptive role of the Servant was not in mind (for it is specifically the redemptive aspects of Isaiah 53 to which Jesus alludes), is in fact evidence of how deeply his assumption of that role had penetrated into Jesus’ thinking, so that it emerges even in an incidental illustration. ‘It is as if Jesus said, “The Son of Man came to fulfil the task of the ebed Yahweh“.’ 65

Similarly, Guthrie argues for the propriety of Mark 10:45 reflecting the Servant passages, and also points to Isaianic references in the Eucharistic words of Jesus ate the Last Supper:

There is, of course, no mention of ransom (lytron) in Isaiah 53, but there is a close connection between ransom and vicarious suffering. There is no great step from the servant making himself an offering (āšām) for sin (Is. 53:10), and the Son of man giving his life as a ransom (or equivalent substitute). Yet another pointer in the same direction is the use of ‘many’ both in Isaiah 53:12 and in Mark 10:45.

Some reference must be made to the possibility of an allusion to the servant concept in the words of institution at the last supper (Mk. 14:24 et par). Although the major background is clearly Exodus 24 and Jeremiah 31, it is possible that Isaiah 53 may also have contributed. The references to the covenant, to the ‘pouring out’, and to the ‘many’ all find parallels in the servant songs. It is not too much to claim that Jesus is here giving a definite theological explanation of his own. His statement is a contributory factor in our understanding of his function as servant of Yahweh. 66

The Eucharistic words of Jesus are an essential sign of the historicity of the Cross, an indication, if one were needed, that the Islamic denial of the Crucifixion is unhistorical. Jesus clearly foresaw that the redemption of sinners and the fulfilment of the Covenant demanded His death. Against the Muslim argument that such predictions were vaticinia ex eventu (prophecies after the event), the obvious response is that the nature of the Servant of the LORD as prophesied in Isaiah demanded such suffering, and demonstrated that this Passion would be both redemptive and vicarious/representative. Centuries before the advent of the New Testament Church, Israel was expected a Suffering Servant – one whose Passion would bring salvation for sinners. It really would require a miracle of ingenuity to invent such close correlation between the picture of the Servant in Isaiah and what Jesus predicted at the Last Supper in Mark 14:24. To quote France again:

The phrase ‘the blood of the covenant’ is… a typological reference to Exodus 24:8. However, the Servant is twice referred to as a covenant to the people. O. Cullmann goes so far as to rank the re-establishment of the covenant as one of the two ‘essential characteristics’ of the Servant. There are, of course, many other Old Testament references to the covenant, and this alone could not constitute an allusion to the Servant theme, but it does not stand alone. The following words are to ekcunnomenon uper pollwn (‘which is poured out for many’; Mt. to peri pollwn ekcunnomenon).

The word ekcunnomenon is reminiscent of Isaiah 53:12 hreh ‘he poured out his soul’. But whereas in Isaiah 53 hreh is a strange and rather mysterious metaphor, in Mark 14:24 ekcunnomenon is the natural word for the shedding of blood, and need not in itself demand an Old Testament background. Like the reference to the covenant, its allusion to the Servant idea is only clearly established by its conjunction with the more obviously allusive phrase uper (peri) pollwn.

uper pollwn is as strange an expression for Jesus to use here as was anti pollwn in Mark 10:45, and the allusion to Isaiah 53 is as widely recognized here as there. In fact the two references reinforce each other. While ‘uper (and still more the Matthean peri) is not so clearly substitutionary as anti, it is a very appropriate word for the vicarious death of the Servant. So not only the word pollwn but the whole idea of ‘dying on be-half of’ which is central to Mark 14:24, renders an allusion to the Servant theme virtually certain.

The connection of these words with the covenant idea is significant. In Isaiah 42-53 Yahweh makes his Servant a covenant to the people, and this involves his vicarious death for their redemption. Jesus’ words at the Last Supper, whose primary purpose is to explain to the disciples how his coming death is to benefit them, are drawn not only from Exodus 24:8 (and probably Jeremiah 31:31), but also from Isaiah 53. His work is to re- establish the broken covenant, but this can be done only by fulfilling the role of the Servant in his vicarious death. To make this point Jesus chooses words from Isaiah 53 which are as deeply imbued as any with the redemptive significance of that death, in that they highlight its vicarious nature.

Thus here, if anywhere, we have a deliberate theological explanation by Jesus of the necessity for his death, and it is not only drawn from Isaiah 53, but specifically refers to the vicarious and redemptive suffering which is the central theme of that chapter. 67

(f) The Servant and the Triumphal Entry

Another Messianic connection, one indicating that the Messiah would suffer and die to establish His ministry, is found in the figure of the Shepherd-King of Zechariah 9-14. The Entry into Jerusalem, with Jesus riding humbly on an ass, Mark 11:1ff; Matthew 21:1ff; Luke 19:29ff, reflect the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9-10 – ‘9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, your king comes to you; he is just, and endowed with salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, even upon a colt the foal of an ass. 10 … he shall speak peace unto the nations…’ Humility, of course, is a characteristic of the Suffering Servant, and contrasts with the usual royal perceptions. 68 More suggestive analogies are found with respect to Zechariah 12:12 and 13:7. In Zechariah 12:10-12, we find the following reference to mourning:

10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and they will weep bitterly for him, like the bitter weeping for his first-born.

11 In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon.

12 And the land shall mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves.

France points out that this figure is both Messianic and causes salvation to be effected through his murder, and thus provides a link with the Isaianic figure of the Suffering Servant. He also suggests this provides the basis for Matthew 24:30 – ‘then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory’:

Whatever the explanation of the strange first person yl) the one pierced is clearly connected with the Messianic figures of 11:4-14 and 13:7; in the former passage the subject is the rejection of the good shepherd by the people, and in the latter his smiting by the sword of God… these passages predict the hostile reaction of Israel to the Messianic king of 9:9-10, involving not only contemptuous rejection, but (whether figuratively or literally) his murder. It is only after they have murdered him that the memory of his martyrdom will cause their repentance, and thus, after thorough purification, their final salvation. It seems, then, that in this martyrdom with its issue in the salvation of God’s people Jesus saw a prediction of his own fate. 69

Hence, here we have a picture of a suffering Messianic figure. It should also be noted that the one pierced in the Zechariah passage is God. However, In John 19:37 and Revelation 1:7 the object of piercing is clearly Jesus, referring to the spear piercing Him on the Cross, John 19:34. The interchange between the figures of God and David in the Zechariah passage is significant for the portrayal of Jesus in the New Testament. The other Zechariah text, 13:7, is further evidence both of a suffering Messianic character and also an indication of the divinity of the figure: ‘Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, says the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered…’ France comment that this shepherd ‘is described by Yahweh as ytym(rbgy(r (‘my shepherd, the man that is my fellow’, RV), implying a close relationship with Yahweh.’ 70 Later, France observes that this designation indicates a peculiarly close relationship to YHWH:

Yahweh describes him as ytym(rbgy(r (RSV ‘My shepherd… the man who stands next to me’). tym( implies kinship; its only other use in the Old Testament is to describe a ‘fellow-Israelite’, and it is probably derived from a root denoting ‘family connection’. This figure is thus more than Yahweh’s ‘associate’ or even ‘companion’; he is his ‘kinsman’. Thus the two passages Zechariah 12:10 and 13:7 together suggest a relationship between Yahweh and his representative, the smitten Shepherd-King, which amounts at least to a close ‘kinship’, even to identification. And these two passages are both applied by Jesus to himself. In neither case is the phrase in question actually cited) but the identification of himself with this Messianic figure, which Jesus’ allusions take for granted, could not have been made without an awareness of the implication that he was closely related to Yahweh, and that his suffering was the suffering of Yahweh himself. 71

Similarly, Fairbairn, the great expert on Biblical typology, observed how this passage indicated that this shepherd was divine, and that this was one aspect of what Jesus was claiming in Matthew 26:31, since the passage claims that the figure is the LORD’s fellow ‘or rather His near relation – for so the word in the original imports; and hence, when spoken of any one’s relation to God, it can not possibly denote a mere man, but can only be understood of one who, by virtue of His divine nature, stands on a footing of essential equality with God.’ 72 The other point of course, is that this is ‘a Messianic personage’, as France suggests, and the text clearly indicates that He is made to suffer by God:

The terminology strongly suggests this exegesis, and it is strengthened by the close correspondence with 12:10, for in both passages the wounding of a figure closely associated with Yahweh leads, through mourning or refining, to salvation.

Jesus’ application of the passage is explicit. He is this Messianic shepherd, and as such he is to be smitten. His Messianic work is to be accomplished through suffering, for only so can the predicted salvation come. 73

It can be seen from this that when Jesus, in His Eucharistic words at the Last Supper cited this prophecy as being of Himself, clearly with relation to the Cross (Matthew 26:31 ‘Then Jesus said to them, All of you will fall away because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered’), He was not being arbitrary in presenting an image of a suffering Messiah. It should be remembered that in the Old Testament, Israel is portrayed as the Flock of which YHWH is ‘Shepherd ‘- i.e. ‘Ruler’ – e.g. Psalms 23; 78:52; 80:1; 95:7; 100:3. The term is also used of the Kings – under God, Kings were shepherds of Israel -1 Samuel 17:34-36; Jeremiah 23:1-4. Interestingly, it appears to be a definite Messianic term – Ezekiel 34:23 predicts a Davidic Shepherd, as does Jeremiah 23:4f. By this title, then, Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, seen especially in His calling of the Gentiles, John 10:16. He was also making an implicit claim to deity. Most pertinently, This displays that there was a tradition that a Messianic figure would suffer, representing His people.

McKenzie comments on this representative royal role ‘…the Jerusalem king became the representative of Israel before Yahweh, the leader of his people in cult and the recipient of the divine oracles by which the will of Yahweh was communicated to Israel.’ 74 The King caused the people to be either holy or sinful. For example, under Manasseh, the people were led astray – 2 Kings 21:7-9; 2 Chronicles 33:7-9. The Rule of an evil king caused the people to forsake the covenant and thus cease to fulfil the purposes of God. When, chastised and repentant, Manasseh obeyed the covenant, the people likewise conformed to the covenant – 2 Chronicles 33:15-17. Hence Kingship in loyalty to the Davidic Covenant causes the People of God to be holy. In this light, we can understand the import of Jesus dying as the representative ‘King of the Jews’ – in connection with the Servant theme, His crucified glorification, representing sinners, enables their sanctification.

(g) The Servant, the Davidic Covenant, and the Gentiles

A further point in connection with this is how both the Servant figure and the Davidic King are related to the incoming of the Gentiles. The Davidic Covenant, 2 Samuel 7:19, promises that the Dynasty will be eternal, and David’s response is to exclaim that this is the ‘Law for Humanity’ – tôrat hā‘ādām – not just for Israel. Walter Kaiser suggests the best translation for this is ‘charter for humanity’. 75 Personally, I feel that the obviously covenantal aspects of the promise are best served by retaining the reference to ‘law’. Certainly, Kaiser is correct when he argues that ‘the ancient plan of God would involve a king and a kingdom. Such a blessing would also involve the future of all mankind.’ 76 The Kingdom of Israel was ultimately to be worldwide. We find indications of this in Psalms 2:7-8; 72:8-11, Amos 9:11-12, and of course, in Zechariah 9:9-10. This concept of the Davidic King being the ‘Law for Humanity’ parallels the ministry of the Servant in being ‘a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles’, Isaiah 42:6.

To conclude on the Suffering Servant/Messiah theme, Vermes notes rabbinical traditions of a slain Messiah connected with the figure of Zechariah 12, including the Targum on the passage. 77 Chilton observes that the Isaiah Targum ‘The Targum shows us that the term “servant” could he taken as a designation of the messiah (cf. 43:10). This is particularly the case at 52:13 and 53:10. The Targum indeed interprets 52:13-53:12 as a whole so as to insist on the glorification of the messiah, but it also …refers to the possibility that the messiah might die (53:12 “he delivered his soul to death”).’ 78 Kümmel observes that 4 Ezra 7:29 states that ‘my servant the Messiah shall die’. 79 There does seem to have been a definite Jewish tradition, both in the Bible and in interpretations based upon it, of a suffering or slain Messiah. Jesus could appeal to the Biblical traditions of a lowly, humble Shepherd King, who would suffer, be vindicated, and then enter His glory, whilst securing redemption for sinners by his action, including the Gentiles. France notes that the emphasis of Jesus falls ‘almost exclusively on Zechariah 9-14, Isaiah 53, and Daniel 7, …where it can plausibly be claimed that the suffering of the Messiah is predicted.’ 80

(h) The Servant and the sword

Before ending this section, we should return to the character of Jesus in Luke 22:37, the verse followed by the enigmatic reference to ‘two swords’, and preceded by the apparent injunction of Jesus to purchase a sword. Of course, we never encounter Jesus engaging in political violence as did some of His contemporaries, nor did he wield the sword like Muhammad. Muslims often find this pacifism incomprehensible, especially since all prophets brought the same message, and presumably believed in jihad, as indeed the Qur’an affirms the Injil does – Surah Tauba 9:111. However, the fact that we encounter a reference to the Suffering Servant in this passage in Luke argues against what the Qur’an affirms. Bruce explains the meaning of this difficult text:

Luke certainly does not intend his readers to understand the words literally. He goes on to tell how, a few hours later, when Jesus was arrested, one of the disciples let fly with a sword -probably one of the two which they had produced at the supper table – and cut off an ear of the high priest’s slave. But Jesus said, ‘No more of this!’ and healed the man’s ear with a touch (Luke 22:49-51).

So what did he mean by his reference to selling one’s cloak to buy a sword? He himself was about to be condemned as a criminal, ‘reckoned with transgressors’, to use language applied to the Servant of the Lord in Isaiah 53:12. Those who until now had been his associates would find themselves treated as outlaws; they could no longer count on the charity of sympathetic fellow-Israelites. Purse and bag would now be necessary. Josephus tells us that when Essenes went on a journey they had no need to take supplies with them, for they knew that their needs would be met by fellow-members of their order; they did, however, carry arms to protect themselves against bandits.

But Jesus does not envisage bandits as the kind of people against whom his disciples would require protection: they themselves would be lumped together with bandits by the authorities, and they might as well act the part properly and carry arms, as bandits did. Taking him literally, they revealed that they had anticipated his advice: they already had two swords. This incidentally shows how far they were from resembling a band of Zealot insurgents: such a band would have been much more adequately equipped. And the words with which Jesus concluded the conversation did not mean that two swords would be enough; they would have been ludicrously insufficient against the band that came to arrest him, armed with swords and clubs. He meant ‘Enough of this!’ – they had misunderstood his sad irony, and it was time to drop the subject. T. W. Manson rendered the words ‘Well, well’. 81

A modern New Testament expert, Professor Richard Hays of Duke University, has also examined the text in depth, and his conclusions are similar to those of Bruce about the rejection of militant attitude in the passage:

Again in this passage the reference to a sword has a figurative purpose. On the night of his arrest, just after his last supper with the disciples, Jesus reminds his followers of an earlier phase in their mission when they could rely on the goodwill and hospitality of those to whom they preached; however, they must now be prepared for a time of rejection and persecution. They will need to take along their own provisions, and the sword serves as a vivid symbol of the fact that they must now expect to encounter opposition. As I. Howard Marshall observes, ‘The saying can be regarded only as grimly ironical, expressing the intensity of the opposition which Jesus and the disciples will experience, endangering their very lives.’ The disciples, however, give continuing evidence of their incomprehension of Jesus’ destiny by taking the figurative warning as a literal instruction: ‘Lord, look, here are two swords.’ Jesus’ response is one of impatient dismissal, indicating that they have failed to grasp the point: ‘Enough, already!’ Joseph Fitzmyer explains that ‘the irony concerns not the number of the swords, but the whole mentality of the apostles. Jesus will have nothing to do with swords, even for defense.’ The truth of this reading is confirmed by the subsequent scene at Jesus’ arrest: The disciples ask, ‘Lord, should we strike with the sword?’ and one of them, without waiting for an answer, cuts off the ear of the high priest’s slave. Jesus, however, rebukes him (‘No more of this!’) and heals the injured slave (Luke 22:49-51). Here again, literal armed resistance is ex-posed as a foolish misunderstanding of Jesus’ message.

Such a misunderstanding is particularly ironic in view of Luke 22:37: the purpose of the figurative remark about buying a sword was to warn the disciples that the Scripture was about to be fulfilled. The passage cited is Isaiah 53:12: ‘And he was counted among the lawless.’ It should not escape the attention of Luke’s readers that this citation comes from the concluding verse of Isaiah’s prophetic description of the suffering servant, whose life was ‘handed over to death’ for the sake of the sins of many. This is the sort of dramatic irony that Luke, as an author, savors: while Jesus is trying to instruct the disciples about his destiny as the righteous sufferer, they are brandishing swords about, as though such pathetic weapons could promote God’s kingdom. No wonder Jesus impatiently puts an end to the conversation. 82

There are other indications that the Suffering Servant is a passive figure in this sense. In Matthew 12:14ff, we encounter the fulfilment of Isaiah 42:2-3. Jesus demonstrates that He is no Zealot, and is uninterested in the kind of militant confrontation that the Hadith presents of Him. The Suffering Servant is no Mujahid:

14 But the Pharisees went out, and took counsel against him, how they might destroy him. 15 And Jesus perceiving it, withdrew from there: and many followed him; and he healed them all, 16 and warned them not to make him known: 17 in order that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet it might be fulfilled, saying, 18 Behold, my servant whom I have chosen; My beloved with whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my Spirit upon him, And he shall declare justice to the Gentiles. 19 He shall not quarrel, nor cry out; nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets. 20 A bruised reed he not will not break, and smouldering flax he will not quench, until he leads justice to victory. 21 and in his name the Gentiles will hope.

Clearly, Jesus’ attitude and conduct reflects the picture of the Servant in Isaiah, demonstrating that the New Testament portrayal of Jesus is neither arbitrary nor contrived. Jesus acted exactly as the Old Testament prophecy predicted He would behave. The Islamic picture of Jesus, whereby after His Second Coming He literally slays the Antichrist with a lance, is wholly innovative and contradictory to the ancient traditions of how the Servant would conduct himself.

6. The Prophet

Deuteronomy 18:18 predicts another prophet like Moses; Acts 3:22-23 explicitly identifies this with Jesus (22 Moses said, ‘the LORD God shall raise up a prophet to you like me from among your brothers. You will listen to everything he says to you. 23 ‘And it shall be, that every soul that will not listen to that prophet, will be utterly destroyed from among the people.’), and 7:37 (This is that Moses, who said unto the children of Israel, ‘God shall raise up a prophet to you like me from among your brothers’) implicitly makes this identification.

It has been a consistent polemic of Islamic apologetics that Deuteronomy 18:18 predicts Muhammad, rather than Jesus. 83 Essentially, this rests upon the phrase ‘from among your brothers’. On the basis that Ishmael and Isaac were brothers, and on the claims that Arabs were descended from Ishmael, and so were brothers of the Israelites, the claim is presented that Muhammad is the eschatological prophet foretold in the passage. 84 Of course, the immediate objection is that even if the racial identification were correct, this would not be evidence that Muhammad was the prophet in question. Secondly, and a point that totally undermines the Muslim claim, it should be remembered that Isaac had two sons, Jacob, who became Israel, and Esau, also known as Edom, the father of the Edomites, later called the Idumeans, who were Judaised under the Maccabeans. Hence, the racial brothers of the Israelites were actually the Edomites/Idumeans, rather than the Ishmaelites. Logically, according to the Islamic position, the prophet should have come from this people, rather than the Ishmaelites/Arabs.

However, this ignores Deuteronomy 18:15 – ‘the LORD shall raise up to you a prophet like me from among you, of your brothers; you shall listen to him.’ The prophet is to come from the midst of the Israelites, and clearly this does not apply to Muhammad, though it does fit the picture of Jesus. Moreover, the Hebrew word used for ‘brother’ is x)= (‘âch). The term is also used elsewhere in Deuteronomy, notably in 17:15, where, permission having been granted Israel to establish a king over them, they are told of the restrictions upon his identity. Primarily, he must be the one chosen by the LORD. Secondly, he must be from ‘among your brothers; you may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother.’ Clearly, the Kings of Israel had to be Israelites, and since the same terminology is employed here as in 18:15, 18, this demonstrates that the prophet had to be an Israelite. It is noteworthy that when King Herod Agrippa, c. 40-41 AD, read the passage about the ethnic identity of the king in Deuteronomy 17:14-20, ‘he burst into tears, as he bethought himself of his Edomite ancestry.’ 85 Clearly, the reference to ‘brother’ was recognised as meaning ‘fellow-Israelite’.

(a) The Prophet and the Law

R. E. Clements observes that the text in Deuteronomy 18:15 is in the iterative imperfect tense, which ‘expresses a distributive sense.’ 86 For this reason he translates it ‘Yahweh your god will raise up for you from time to time a prophet like me from among you, from your own kin. Him you shall listen to.’ However, the Jews came to believe that an ultimate prophet ‘like Moses’ would arise from among them. Clements notes that ‘Early Jewish interpretation regarded the passage in an eschatological sense and took it to indicate the coming of of a special prophet in the future who would be like Moses, and who would fulfil a particular task in connection with the law.’ 87 Of course, this is what Jesus actually does perform such a work. Jesus claims authority to give a new Law – so like Moses, He is the Law-giver – the new Moses, antitype of the old. Moses was the Giver of the supreme revelation to Israel – the Torah: the parallel of John 1:17 suggests that Jesus brings a superior Torah (and we may link this with Hebrews 8:6). This is underlined by the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5:lff, e.g. v21, where Jesus, while not abolishing the Law, supersedes it by fulfilling it, rendering the perfect obedience to it, and dying on behalf of sinners, so that His faultless obedience could be accounted to sinners.

The Law was the revelation of the mind of God: it was His revelation to Man. The Torah was called the Ten Words (dabarim), Deuteronomy 4:13, and 5:5 terms it the ‘word of the Lord’. John 1:1 states that Jesus is the Word of God – the embodied expression of the mind of God, clearly associated with the Law, v17, and revelation, v18. This should be linked with 2 Samuel 7:19 – where, as we have seen, David responds to divine promise of an eternal dynasty by exclaiming ‘this is the Law for Mankind!’ – (tôrat hā‘ādām). Since Jesus is the eternal Davidic King, He is the embodied Torah. Moreover, torah basically means ‘a body of teaching’ – and Jesus is the Great Teacher – John 3:20. Jesus was

(b) The Prophet as the Servant and Taheb

The death of Jesus as the Righteous One who fulfilled the Law, and thereby being the one who would ‘fulfil a particular task in connection with the law’ is emphasised by two factors. As we have seen, Luke 9:31, at the transfiguration, Moses and Elijah refer to Jesus’ death in Jerusalem as His ‘exodov exodos – an obvious parallel with Moses. The bat-qol, identifying Jesus as ‘My Chosen’, in echo of the Isaianic Servant, points to how this special function of ‘the prophet like Moses’ involved His death for others, as the Servant. Fuller notes that the Isaianic Servant was considered ‘to be the eschatological prophet like unto Moses’. 88 he also observes ‘certain Mosaic functions are later ascribed to the Davidic Messiah…’ 89

Fuller also observes that the Samaritans had a Messianic expectation, though not linked to David, since they only accepted the Pentateuch as the canon. This Samaritan Messianic figure was called the Taheb, the ‘one who restores (or ‘returns’)’, and Fuller quotes Cullmann (Christology, p. 19) as observing that this figure ‘performs miracles, restores the law and true worship among the people, and brings knowledge to other nations’. 90 It should be remembered that Muhammad disavowed any claim to miracles, so clearly the passage in Deuteronomy 18 cannot apply to him if miracles are an essential function of the eschatological prophet. 91

The incident with the Samaritan woman in John 4:7ff should be understood in this light. When Jesus informs her that she has had several husbands, and is living with one who is not her husband, she replies, ‘Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet’, v19. Later, in v25, she states ‘I know that Messiah is coming (the one called Christ): when he comes, he will declare all things to us. 26 Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he.’ Clearly, in this case, Jesus was claiming to be the ‘Mosaic Messiah’ – the ultimate prophet, for that is how the woman would have understood it, and indeed, this is how she presents it to her compatriots – v29, on the basis of Jesus supernatural intuitive knowledge. It should be remembered that there is a special emphasis in the Gospel of John on Jesus as the divine revealer – His miracles are called shmeia ‘signs’, 2:11. Jesus is the specific revealer of God – 1:18.

(c) The Revelatory death of the Mosaic Prophet and ‘Righteous One’

Even the death of Jesus is revelatory – John 8:28 ‘When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am (‘egweimi)’, cf. Exodus 6:7; 7:5, where the exodus is a simultaneous revelation to the Israelites and Egyptians that the God of Israel is YHWH – ‘I am’. A further parallel is found in John 19:18 where Jesus is described as ‘enteuyen kaienteuyen enteuthen kai enteuthen ‘one on either side’. This is an allusion to Moses’ arms being upheld by Aaron and Hur in Exodus 17:12 LXX, where Israel battled the enemy (Amalek), and prevailed as long as Moses kept his arms up. John 19:18 is thus presenting Jesus as the new Moses, who saves His People by being crucified (even to the point of physical resemblance, His arms being raised), therein destroying the enemy – Satan. Fuller comments on the New Testament picture of Jesus – ‘Jesus as the Mosaic servant-prophet – the Redeemer and saviour – leads the eschatological people of God into the promised land of the kingdom of God.’ 92

Fuller also observes that another title associated simultaneously with the Davidic Messiah, the eschatological prophet and the Servant was that of ‘o dikaiov ho dikaios ‘the Righteous One’. 93 This was a title of the Messiah, Zechariah 9:9 – ‘…your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation’; Jeremiah 23:5 (cf. Psalms of Solomon 17:35). It was also employed of the Servant, Isaiah 53:11 – ‘my righteous servant’. Barclay observes that the existence of the righteous averts the vengeance of God – Genesis 18:23-33. 94 Jesus is the Righteous One – Matthew 27:19; Luke 23:47; Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14; 1 Peter 3:18 – ‘Because Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God’; 1 John 2:1 – ‘if any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous’.

(d) The prophetic silence and the bat-qol

One of the indications that Jesus was the ultimate prophet was the prophetic silence that had existed for four centuries. Dunn observes ‘The gift of prophecy was commonly thought to have ceased after the post-exilic period…’ 95 Especially significant in terms of Jesus’ experience of the bat-qol at both the Baptism and Transfiguration is the observation by Vermes that the bat-qol had been the only instrument of divine revelation during this prophetic silence. 96 He notes on the same page the famous decision by Judas Maccabaeus to remove the defiled Temple altar stones ‘until a prophet should arise who could be consulted about them’, 1 Maccabees 4:46. By contrast, the claimed prophetic ministry of Muhammad began totally in private – no public ‘heavenly voice’ confirmed his calling. The descent of the Spirit upon Jesus meant ‘that Jesus was both called and charismatically endowed to be God’s messenger…’ 97

The theological import of this is the context in which the heavenly voice speaks – eschatological fulfilment, the public announcement of Jesus’ ministry as divine Son, Messiah and Suffering Servant. The prophetic clock was now ticking again. The only prophet to immediately precede Jesus was John the Baptist, who proclaimed that he was only preparing the way for the one following him. Jesus claimed to be a prophet, Matthew 13:57; Luke 13:33. He was also recognised as ‘that prophet’ – the eschatological prophet. John the Baptist declined that designation, John 1:21, but Jesus was seen as fulfilling that role – 6:14 ‘This is truly the prophet who is to come into the world.’ Likewise the multitude in 7:40 exclaim ‘This is truly the prophet.’ The essence of a prophet was of a Man anointed with the Spirit, Hosea 9:7, commissioned by God to bring a message either condemning or encouraging, but always aimed at producing faith – cf. John 8:26-30. David saw his prophetic words as the work of the Spirit, 2 Samuel 23:2. Micah ascribes his prophecies to the Spirit, 3:8. Zechariah says that the ‘law’ (torah) and ‘words’ (dabarim) which the Lord spoke through the former prophets were ‘sent by His Spirit’.

Thus we see that the Spirit inspires the revelation of God; He is the author of prophecy. The Servant, the Superlative Prophet, who brings with His message social liberation and righteousness, Isaiah 61:1ff, does so because He is anointed with the Spirit, v1 (Isaiah 42 tells of how, because He is anointed with the Spirit, He brings Justice to the Gentiles, i.e. makes them worshippers of YHWH). We have already seen that in Luke 4:18f, Jesus declares Himself to be the fulfilment of Isaiah 61:1f. Significantly, Dunn observes that in the Qumran scroll 11QMelch, ‘the figure of Isa. 61:1 had been identified with the eschatological Prophet.’ 98 Dunn further notes that within Judaism, ‘to possess the Spirit of God was to be a prophet’. 99 David Hill, Reader in Biblical Studeis at Sheffield University, echoes this – ‘Within the Judaism of the time, the possession of the holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, was regarded as the mark of prophecy…’ 100 It is thus significant that John 3:34 records of Jesus ‘For He whom God sent speaks the words of God: for He does not give the Spirit by measure.’ In addition to Jesus’ possession of the Spirit, Dunn makes the important observation that Jesus’ actions were in themselves prophetic:

Jesus may have consciously set himself within the prophetic tradition by performing symbolic actions: the entry into Jerusalem, the purge of the temple, and above all the last supper (perhaps also the more obscure meal in the desert – ‘feeding the five thousand’ and the puzzling ‘cursing of the fig tree’) come to mind here. It is possible that Jesus thought of himself as the eschatological prophet, view of his application of Isa.61.1 to himself, but it would be more accurate to say that he saw his ministry as the fulfilment of several eschatological prophecies. 101

Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman demonstrated His possession of the gift of prophetic insight. Dunn comments: ‘This “ability” to lay bare “the thoughts of the heart” was regarded by Paul as the distinctive charisma which marked out the gift of prophecy (1 Cor. 14.24f…), and it appears to have been regarded as the mark of the prophet by Jesus’ contemporaries in the same way, if Luke 7.39 is any guide.’ 102 Jesus also predicted the future – e.g. Matthew 24:3-35. Of particular interest is that He predicted His own death and resurrection – Luke 9:22 presents Jesus as saying ‘The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up.’ In a sense, the Last Supper was a prophetic enactment of His death on behalf of sinners. Barclay makes the important observation that ‘the prophets were characteristically martyrs’, noting how Jezebel slew the prophets, 1 Kings 18:13; 2 Kings 9:7, cf. Jeremiah 2:30. 103 Jesus noted how the paradoxical characteristic of Jerusalem, the supposed holy city, was that it slew the prophets and messengers of God – Matthew 23:37. Jesus knew that Jerusalem would treat Him, as the ultimate prophet, in the same way – Luke 13:33. 

(e) The Prophetic message of Jesus

The central message of Jesus was the kingdom of God, i.e. the sovereign reign of God. He was the proclaimer of its restoration – Mark 1:15. This verse reflects Isaiah 52:7ff, which immediately precedes the Servant Song at v13. Ladd notes that ‘The prophets had promised a time when the good news would be proclaimed that God was visiting his people… A herald would appear publishing peace, announcing good tidings of salvation, saying to Zion, “Your God reigns…” In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus claimed that this gospel was no longer hope but event (Luke 4:18).’ 104 Jesus was both prophet and prophetic fulfilment. Moreover, the message of the kingdom was intrinsically a case of realised eschatology – ‘The gospel is itself the greatest of the messianic signs. The gospel was not a new teaching; it was itself event. Preaching and healing: these were the signs of the presence of the kingdom.’ 105 We have already noted the connection of these factors with the ministry of the Son of David and the Servant., and the ‘deeds of the Messiah’ in Matthew 11:4-5.

The Kingdom of God was characterised by the intervention of the Spirit against demonic power, and thus by the miraculous – Matthew 12:28. Ladd comments ‘The meaning of Jesus’ exorcism of demons in its relationship to the Kingdom of God is precisely this: that before the eschatological conquest of God’s Kingdom over evil and the destruction of Satan, the Kingdom of God has invaded the realm of Satan to deal him a preliminary but decisive defeat.’ 106

Jesus was the embodiment of this doctrine – Luke 17:21 – ‘the kingdom of God is in your midst’. Its dynamic expression culminated in the death of Jesus as King on the cross. We have already seen how the Cross exorcises Satan, demonstrating the dynamic, sovereign nature of the crucifixion, and the salvation its effects. Hence, Jesus as the ultimate prophet is a charismatic warrior against sin, Satan and sickness, bringing us back to the Servant and Anointed One figures of Isaiah. In this regard, His prophetic enactment of His death at the Last Supper was entirely in keeping with His being the Ultimate Prophet.

(f) Jesus as Apostle

Only once in the New Testament is Jesus explicitly termed an Apostle, in Hebrews 3:1 ‘Therefore, holy brothers, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession.’ It is significant that the term is parallel with ‘High Priest’. Barclay explains ‘The Greek word apostolos is really an adjective. It comes from the verb apostellein, which means “to send forth”…’ The nuance is similar, though not totally equivalent to the Muslim concept of rasul. Of course, even if the exact term is not employed, the concept is certainly present elsewhere in the New Testament, especially where apostellein is used. Jesus declared that He had been ‘sent’ – Matthew 10:40 ‘He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him that sent me.’

What is particularly striking, and an example of how Jesus united all these distinct but frequently related titles in Himself is how He could say that He was sent as the Son. The parable of the wicked tenants is especially helpful in this context. There, after the sending of several messengers, clearly the prophets, the prophetic climax is reached when the Son is sent. Moreover, this ultimate prophet, who is the Son, is killed. Jesus was clearly predicting His death as the ultimate prophet and divine Son. Again, we encounter this concept of the commission of the Son in the Gospel of John, e.g. 3.17, 28; 5.36; 6.29, 57; 8.42; 10.36; 12:49; 13:20; 14:24; 17.3, 8, 18, 21, 23, 25. We have previously noted the emphasis on revelation in the Fourth Gospel. On the one hand, this can be associated with the message Jesus brought – John 7:16 ‘Jesus therefore answered them and said, My teaching is not mine, but his that sent me’, cf. 3:34. The miracles attested His commission by the Father – 5:36. On the other, His ministry needs to be considered – as emphasised earlier, what is of special import is that Jesus was commissioned as the Son, who could be co-honoured with the Father, 5:23, and that the Son was sent to die – 3:16-17, so that those for whom He died could be saved. Jesus was sent to die.

Barclay observes an important aspect of the background to the term ‘apostle’ in Jewish usage:

Amongst the later Jews the word was in common use in its Hebrew form shaliach, which also means one ‘who is sent’. In all religious matters the Sanhedrin was the supreme governing body of all Jews not only in Palestine but also all over the world. When the Sanhedrin wished to despatch an instruction, a command, a warning to Jews in any part of the world, the bearer of it was known as a shaliach or apostolos… Saul, for instance, was the shaliach or apostolos of the Sanhedrin when he went to Damascus to organise a campaign of persecution against the Christians (Acts 9.1, 2). In Acts 28.21 the Jews of Rome say that they have received no letters from Judaea concerning Paul. That is to say, no shaliach or apostolos had come from the Sanhedrin with instructions as to how Paul was to be treated. 107

This understanding of apostolicity in Jewish usage aids our understanding of the revelatory ministry of Jesus. Jesus came as the representative of the Father to convey His will, John 4:34 ‘Jesus said to them, My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work.’ However, there is an even more pertinent nuance to the phrase that Barclay demonstrates:

It is here that a new and very important element enters the meaning of the word. To the Jew the apostolos or shaliach was not only a messenger; he was a delegate who for the time being and for the particular duty assigned to him exercised all the power and the authority of the Sanhedrin. Hence the rabbis said: ‘The one who sends (that is, his apostolos or shaliach) is the equivalent of the man himself.’ ‘A king’s ambassador is as the king himself.’ An apostolos is more than a messenger; on him power and the authority of the one who sent him. 108

This helps us understand the import of Matthew 9:6 ‘But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins (then he said to the paralytic), get up, and take up your bed, and go home.’ The One sent acted on the authority of the One who sent Him. The evidence was that the man was healed. To come back to the ‘prophet like Moses’, Barclay’s comments on the shaliach at this point are most illuminating:

To four great prophets the name of Shaliach was given, to Moses, to Elijah, to Elisha and to Ezekiel. It was given to them because God had in a very special way delegated his power to them so that they were able to perform miracles and to do the things which only the power of God could do. Moses brought water out of the rock; Elijah brought the rain, and restored to life one who had died; Elisha also restored one to life, and also opened a mother’s womb; and, based on Ezekiel 37, the rabbis said that Ezekiel would receive the key to the graves at the resurrection of the dead. The apostolos was not only the messenger of God; he exercised the power of God which had been delegated to him. It is in fact significant that in the passage of Hebrews in which Jesus is called apostolos the very next verse begins with a reference to Moses. By the power of God Moses delivered the people from Egypt; by the power of God Jesus delivered men from sin.

It is also to be noted that the writer to the Hebrews join in this same verse the two titles Apostle and High Priest. And one of the rabbinic titles for the High Priest was ‘the envoy, the shaliach, the apostolos, of the Merciful.’ And so the apostolos brings to men not only the power but also the mercy of God.

So, then, the word apostolos as applied to Jesus means that Jesus was uniquely sent by God, and that Jesus is delegated by God to bring to men both the power and the mercy of God. 109

It can be seen here that when Jesus indicated that the Father had sent Him to die, the priestly aspect of His ministry was inter-connected with that of His prophetic commission. To ensure that no one misconstrued that it was purely this commission which made Him equal to the Father, Jesus in his prayer in John 17:5 could speak of His pre-existent glory that He enjoyed with the Father. Finally, the concept of the shaliach helps us with an issue often problematic for Muslims – the fact that the gospels and epistles were not directly written by Jesus Himself, but by His apostles/disciples. In John 20:21, Jesus says ‘…as the Father sent Me, so I send you.’ Each Evangelist was the shaliach of Jesus, and so could speak (and write) on His authority. He commissioned them with His Spirit for this purpose. Thus, the New Testament most definitely is the revelation of Christ.

(g) Final thoughts on Deuteronomy 18

Hill comments on the employment of Deuteronomy 18 in the life of Jesus as follows, showing how the ministry of Jesus was seen as fulfilling this prophecy:

It is probable that we should understand the words ‘listen to him’ (Mark 9.7 and par.) as an intended allusion to the ‘him shall you heed’ of Deut. 18.15, and it is in the Transfiguration narrative of Matthew (17. 1-9), together with the Sermon on the Mount (chaps. 5-7) that the Mosaic-prophet theme comes to the fore with clarity, though not to the exclusion of other imagery and not just as ‘a second edition of Moses, as it were, on a grand scale, but one who supersedes him’. In John’s Gospel we find, as one aspect of the portrayal of Jesus, clear indications that he is the fulfilment of the Deuteronomic passage. The sayings in 7.40 and 6.14 are based on the expectation of the prophet like Moses. In the former verse the people affirm ‘This is really the prophet’, because it was expected that the prophet like Moses would repeat the miracle of the dispensing of water at Horeb: and if we adopt the reading of P66 in John 7.52 (as. in our view, we should) then what is contested is that the eschatological prophet (like Moses) will come from Galilee. After the miracle of the loaves it is said, ‘This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world’ (6.14), for what has been experienced is reminiscent of the miracle of the manna. In connection with this verse it should be noted that ho erchomenos is exactly the same expression as used in the Baptist’s question to Jesus: ‘Are voui he who is to come (ho erchomenos)?’ (Matt. 11.3, Luke 7.19) …this suggests that ho erchomenos had titular significance, possibly designation Messiah (cf. the LXX and Targumic interpretations of Gen. 49.10, and the Jewish interpretation of Hab. 2.3), but more probably a designation of the expected eschatological prophet. 110

7. The Word of God

John 1:1 presents Jesus as the ‘Word’. The context makes it clear that this means the divine Word, to the point that the Word is said to be God – ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ This is not a self-designation of Jesus, but rather a description employed by John of Jesus, though such depiction entirely agrees with Jesus’ own presentation of Himself as the ultimate revelation of God. Ladd states that John used it because it was ‘a term widely known in both the Hellenistic and the Jewish worlds in the interests of setting forth the significance of Christ.’ 111 Ladd notes that Greek philosophers such as Heraclitus (6th century BC) and the Stoics employed the concept of the Logos. The Alexandrian Jew Philo (c. 20 BC – AD 42) used the concept as a bridge between the Hellenistic and Jewish worlds. 112

For Philo, the Logos is the first-born son of God – protogonovuiov protogonos huios – to the extent that he even calls the Logos a ‘second god’ – deuterov yeov deuteros theos. Guthrie observes other interesting aspects of Philo’s concept:
  1. The logos has no distinct personality. It is described as ‘the image of God… through whom the whole universe was framed’. But since it is also described in terms of a rudder to guide all things in their course, or as God’s instrument (organon) for fashioning the world, it seems clear that Philo did not think of logos in personal terms.
  2. Philo speaks of the logos as God’s first-born son protogonos which implies pre-existence. The logos is certainly regarded as eternal. Other descriptions of the logos as God’s ambassador (presbeutēs), as man’s advocate paraklētos) and as high priest (archiereus), although offering interesting parallels with Jesus Christ, do not, however, require pre-existence.
  3. The logos idea is not linked with light and life in Philo’s doctrine as it is in John’s…
  4. There is no suggestion that the logos could become incarnate. This would have been alien to Greek thought, because of the belief in the evil of matter.
  5. The logos definitely had a mediatorial function to bridge the gap between the transcendent God and the world. It can be regarded as a personification of an effective intermediary, although it was never personalized. Philo’s logos has, therefore, both parallels and differences from John’s logos113
However, Ladd observes that ‘Philo’s Logos concept is employed in the interests of a dualistic cosmology that removes God from immediate contact with creation, whereas John uses the Logos concept to bring God in Christ directly into his creation.’ 114 Neither is the Logos personally distinct in this conception, and it should be remembered that Hellenistic thought regarded matter as evil, so the Johannine concept of incarnation would be foreign to Philo, as well as to Greek philosophy in general. Fuller observes that the Gospel Logos doctrine ‘is not derived from the Greek philosophical tradition. The Logos of Heraclitus and the Stoics was the immanent principle of law and order in the universe, whereas the Logos of the prologue [of John] is a transcendent being who comes into this world from outside.’ 115 Nonetheless, the existence of the Philonic Logos shows that there was a tradition of the personified (though not personalised) Logos in Judaism. The Christian concept was neither arbitrary nor contrived.

This becomes more explicit when we consider the Old Testament background to the Logos. The Hebrew term for ‘word’ is rb1d1 dabar. The great Old Testament scholar, Professor Edmond Jacob of Strasbourg University, observed ‘That God reveals himself by his word is a truth confirmed by every one of the Old Testament books. It is by his word that he reveals himself as the living God…’ 116 He notes that the term has a ‘dynamic’ quality:

This dynamic quality of the word already appears in the names by which it is denoted. The most usual term and the one which has become classical for the word is dabar, which must probably be associated with a root which in Hebrew has the meaning of: to be behind and to push; dabar could then be defined as the projection forward of what lies behind, that is to say, the transition into the act of what is at first in the heart. The realistic character of dabar is always strongly stressed, so that the term will denote thing as well as word (Gen. 20.10; 22.1, 20; 40.1; 48.1 etc.) and no term throws into clearer relief the fact that the Hebrew mind did not distinguish between thought and action. Realism and dynamism are features equally characteristic of the root ‘amar; derived from a root having the sense to be raised up or to be clear, the word would be the visible manifestation of the thought and of the will. In distinction from dabar, the stress with ‘amar is chiefly upon the spoken word; the expression lemor which introduces speeches is generally preceded by dabar (wayedabber lemor) which alone possesses creative dynamism. 117

This dynamism is realised in the creative power of the divine word. The obvious texts that relate to this are Genesis 1:3ff, Psalms 33:6, 9 and 47:15ff. It was by His word that God created the universe. Guthrie observes that there is a corollary to this creative aspect of the divine word:

But not only is the Word creative: it is also sustaining. Such passages as Psalm 147:15-18; 148:8 show God’s providential care for his creation through his powerful Word. Indeed that Word is so powerful that it cannot fail to accomplish its purpose in the world (Is. 55:11; Ps. 147:15). Moreover, judgment is executed by the Word of God (Ho. 6:5). In these senses the Word of God is seen as the powerful agency of God. 118

Immediately, we can see parallels with the Logos concept in the Gospel of John. Jesus was the Word that created the cosmos – John 1:3 – ‘All things were made through him; and without him nothing was made that has been made.’ Jesus definitely accomplished the divine commission – 17:4 ‘I glorified you on the earth, having accomplished the work which you gave me to do’; in 19:30 He exclaims from the cross tetelestai ‘It is finished’. It is worth noting that what Isaiah 55:11 asserts about the word of God (‘So shall my word be that goes forth from My mouth: it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish what I desire, and it shall succeed in the matter for which I sent it’) may provide the background to the Johannine motif of Jesus coming from, and going to God. 119 Jesus is also the Agent of divine judgment – 5:22. We also encounter Jesus as the Judge in the Synoptic gospels, e.g. Matthew 25:31ff.

We earlier noted the emphasis in the Gospel of John upon the revelatory nature of the ministry of Jesus. Jesus reveals the Father, 1:18; 17:26. His miracles are called ‘signs’; even His death is revelatory. In this respect, the concept of the Logos ideally fits the nature and ministry of Jesus. Both Islam and the Bible hold that God is incomprehensible apart from His self-revelation. The only totally adequate revealer of God is God Himself, who can express the infinite. Yet the infinite must be expressed in terms of the finite because it is revealed to the finite. Hence, the Incarnation is a necessary action because of revelation alone – God, taking human nature alongside His divine nature, expresses the infinite in terms of the finite – John 1:14 – ‘the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us’.

In this respect Jesus reveals the nature of God in terms of His holiness, His love, His power, and His revelatory action. He is the climax of revelation, Hebrews 1:1-2 – ‘God has in these last days spoken by His Son’. To encounter Jesus is to encounter God Himself, and thus experience the infallible revelation – ‘Whoever has seen me has seen the Father’, John 14:9. However, the bodily revelation of Jesus is itself not the completion of the divine revelation, because He is not eternally bodily present on the earth, and because the transformation He works is not complete apart from the divine indwelling, which is effected by the Holy Spirit. Since all three persons share the same essence of deity, whenever the Spirit indwells a person, the latter has experienced the inward revelation of the Triune God. The revelation of God was effected by the Word entering the human scene by dwelling among us; ultimately, this is secured by His dwelling within us – John 14:16-20 – the triune God, through the Holy Spirit, dwells within everyone born of the Spirit.

The Father reveals the Son by sending Him, the Son reveals the Father by His presence and work, (Matthew 11:27), the Spirit reveals the Son and thus the Father by applying this work with His presence. Revelation points to the Triune nature of God. We know what God is like when we experience the Father, by the Holy Spirit, revealing the Son in our lives. This revelation is in conformity to the way God made men – as beings capable of intelligent relationship, especially love. Man is made in God’s image, and is social – made for relationship and fellowship. The expression of divine love and desire for fellowship is effected through divine revelation. The theanthropic Person of Jesus is the climactic expression of revelation in that in a unique way, God comes to Man. The perfect Man who is also God can express in human terms the mind of the Creator.

We have noted earlier that Jesus is the fulfilment of the Law – the Torah. Indeed, he specifically fulfils the Davidic covenant of the Torah for Humanity. It is noteworthy that the Ten Commandments are actually entitled the dabarim of the LORD. Jacob notes that in Judaism, the authority of the dabarim ‘became merged with that of God himself.’ 120 Indeed, Morris observes that in some Targums, ‘the Word’ (represented in the Targums by the technical phrase Memra’, equivalent to Biblical Hebrew ‘amar, a synonym for dabar) is employed as a periphrasis for God, and that in a Genesis Targum, the First Couple heard ‘the voice of the Word of God’ walking in the Garden, Genesis 3:8. 121 The structure and wording of John 1:1 very obviously reflects Genesis 1:1, so, in the light of Targumic usage, when we read in v14 that the Word became flesh, we can understand that the Gospel is not being arbitrary or contrived in presenting the Word as God; the distinctive element is that the divine Word was incarnated.

This is strengthened by links between the divine Name YHWH and Memra’. C. T. R. Hayward, suggests that Memra’ directly represented the name which God Himself revealed to Moses from the burning bush, YHWH (or ‘HYH, vocalised as ‘ehyeh), translated as I AM/WILL BE THERE (cf. Exodus 3:14b, ‘Say to the people of Israel: I AM THERE: (‘ehyeh) has sent me unto you.’). He notes that Codex Neofiti I in the Palestinian Targum renders Exodus 3:12 (‘And He said For I will be there (‘ehyeh) with you, rm( hyh) yk…’) as ‘And he said: For I will be there, My Memra’ with you, rm( yrmm ywwh) swr)…’ Other Targums read, ‘And He said: For My Memra’ will be for your support…’ 122 Hayward suggests that this employment of Memra’ as representing the Name ‘HYH was the original usage of the term, and only when this original meaning had been lost, did it come to be used as a replacement of YHWH. The expression ‘Name of the Memra’ of YYY‘ (‘YYY’ being a Targumic representation of the ‘Tetragrammaton‘ – YHWH), frequent in Codex Neofiti, ‘reveals that the spheres of meaning and content’ of Memra’ and YHWH ‘are not coterminous. Memra is not a replacement for YHWH.’ He infers from this that Memra’ is ‘God’s Name’ ‘HYH which by midrashic exposition refers to His presence in past and future creation, history and redemption. Memra’ is God’s mercy, by which the world is created and sustained.’ Hayward applies this perception to John’s use of logov and concludes:

St, John may have presented Jesus as the Memra’, the revealer of God’s merciful, active presence in creation, redemption, and covenant, as having come in flesh to tabernacle among men. Jesus personifies God’s ‘HYH, the living proof that the God revealed to Moses at the bush is with His people … As Memra’, Jesus would represent God’s ‘HYH the self-naming of God, one with God kai Yeovhno logov …Jesus has manifested God’s Name to men, according to John 17:6. St. John, then, if our hypothesis be correct, depicts Jesus as the Memra’, who is God’s Name, manifesting God’s glory, full of the grace and truth of the covenant, dwelling with us in the flesh, which Jesus himself describes as a Temple (2.19), the very dwelling place of the Memra’ … if the Memra’s effect on the prologue is left out of account, an essential element of the Logos-doctrine will have been passed over in silence.’ 123

It should be noted that Targum Pseudo-Jonathan II on Exodus 3:14 reads ‘And the Memra’ of the LORD said to Moses…’ Where this becomes particularly relevant for the debate with Islam is the relationship between Logos and the ‘I AM’ sayings of Jesus. John 8:58, of course, clearly affirms the pre-existence of Jesus, and given the crowd’s reaction of attempting to stone Jesus for blasphemy, it is clear that they understood Him as claiming deity. Granted that Jesus does not explicitly proclaim Himself as Logos, the fact is that He does employ egw eimi ego eimi of Himself, as in 4:26; 6:20; 8:24, 58; 13:19; 18:5. Given that ‘the Word’ had become a representation of the divine Name YHWH, it can be observed that John’s usage was effectively reflecting Jesus’ own assertion of His identity as YHWH.

Similarly, H. Mowvley has suggested Exodus 33:7ff as a background to John’s use of Logos. The Tent of Meeting was where God used to speak to Moses, and ‘… just as Moses met God and heard his word in the Tent of Meeting, so men may now meet him and hear him in the flesh of Jesus.’ Behind John’s use of ‘eskhnwsen in 1:14, Mowvley sees reference to the Tent of Meeting in Exodus 33. Similarly the reference to his glory recalls the reference to the shining of Moses face (LXX dedoxastaihoqiv tou crwmatov tou proswpouautou) when he went in before the LORD in the Tent of Meeting. 124 The Biblical scholar M. D. Hooker sees the Prologue as concerned with the exegesis of the Divine Name and having a background in Exodus 33-34. 125 Ladd observes that ‘eskhnwsen ‘is a biblical metaphor for God’s presence.’ 126

With regard to the Palestinian Targum, represented by the Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan and Codex Neofiti I, Martin McNamara has noted the Palestinian Targum’s treatment of Numbers 7:89, a passage relating to the same matter as Exodus 33:7ff. The Hebrew Text of Numbers 7:89 reads, ‘And when Moses went into the Tent of Meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the Voice speaking with him from above the mercy-seat that was on the ark of the testimony from between the two cherubim and he spoke with him.’ Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan reads thus, ‘And when Moses went into the Tent of Meeting to speak with him, he heard the Voice of the Spirit that conversed with when it descended from the highest heavens above the mercy-seat above the ark of the testimony from between the two cherubim and from there the Word (Aramaic dibbēra’) conversed with him.’

Codex Neofiti I uses dibbēra’ twice in its paraphrase, ‘And when Moses used to go in to the Tent of Meeting to speak with him, he used to hear the Voice of the Word speaking with him … from there the Word used to speak with him.’ In similar fashion, Targum of Pseudo-Jonathan paraphrases Exodus 33:11, ‘Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend’, as follows ‘And the Lord spoke to Moses, speech to speech. He used to hear the Voice of the Word (dibbēra’) but the Glory of the countenance he used not to see, as a man speaks with his friend. And after the Voice of the Word had ascended, he returned to the camp and related the words to the congregation of Israel.’ 127 Again, we can see how the term ‘the Word of God’ was a synonym for YHWH Himself.

John’s employment of the term Logos also adequately conveyed a major emphasis of the Gospel we have already considered – the emphasis on Jesus’ ministry, including His death, as revelatory. In Exodus 3:14 God revealed Himself to Moses, specifically with a redemptive aim – to liberate the people of God from their demonic oppressors. We must remember that the conflict between YHWH (through Moses) and Pharaoh is presented as a cosmological conflict between YHWH and the false gods of Egypt – the demonic powers of darkness – Exodus 12:12. When YHWH brought the plagues upon the Egyptians, He demonstrated His superiority over the nature-gods of Egypt. When the Angel of death takes the life of every Egyptian first-born son not covered by the blood of the lamb, YHWH demonstrates His power over the living god of Egypt, Pharaoh. The deliverance from Egypt is presented as ‘redemption’ – Exodus 6:6, one that involves judgment. Equally, the redemption the Logos effects is a judgment against the demonic forces, John 12:31, whereby Jesus delivers people from the grasp of Satan. Just as the Exodus event was a revelation to Israel and the Egyptians, Exodus 6:7; 7:5, the death of Christ is both revelatory and redemptive, as well as being a judgment – John 8:28 ‘When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am (‘egweimi)’.

Guthrie comments on the relationship between the revelatory and legal characteristics of the dabarim:

Yet the more frequent idea of the Word in the OT is as the means of revelation. In the work and writings of the prophets, the expression ‘Thus says the Lord’ or similar words abound. Each prophet was conscious of being the mouthpiece of God… A development from this prophetical idea is when the ‘Word’ came to sum up the whole message of God to man as in Psalm 119:9, 105. It is virtually identified with the law, but the important feature is the emphasis on the divine revelation in its application to the psalmist’s way of life. 128

This becomes very pertinent to the Gospel of John when we consider tendencies within Judaism to regard the Torah as the pre-existent ‘first-born of God’, as God’s intermediary, Agent of creation, and means of spiritual life – the latter especially pertinent, since the Gospel asserts of Jesus in 1:4 that ‘In him was life; and the life was the light of men.’ We can see how this personification prepared the way for the incarnation, and how this explains the background of the Johannine concept, proving that it was not a contrived innovation:

The third Jewish source which has sometimes been appealed to is the rabbinic idea of the Torah, which was regarded as an intermediary between God and the world. There are several parallels between this and the Logos of John’s prologue.

First, the Torah was believed to have been created before the foundation of the world; in other words, its pre-existence is asserted. Secondly, the Torah lay on God’s bosom. Thirdly, ‘my daughter, she is the Torah.’ Fourthly, through the first-born, God created the heaven and the earth, and the first-born is no other than the Torah. Fifthly, the words of the Torah are life for the world.

In John’s prologue, however, the superiority of Jesus Christ, as the divine Logos, to Moses the law-giver is expressly brought out (Jn. 1:17). Moreover, whereas the law was ‘given’ through Moses, ‘grace and truth’ the distinguishing marks of the new law, ‘came through Jesus Christ’. In other words John’s assertions go beyond the assertions of the rabbis. Jesus more than fulfilled the function of the pre-existent Torah. 129

Indeed, the concept of the dabar in general was, in the progressive revelation of God, undergoing a personification that approached personalisation. Jacob observes this tendency:

The other attempt at crystallization appears in the tendencies towards making an hypostasis of the word. Although it is impossible to speak of an hypostasis of the word in the canonical hooks of the Old Testament, it must he recognized that many of the affirmations point in that direction. To speak of the word as a reality which. falls and which unlooses catastrophe (Is. 9.7), or as a devouring fire (Jer. 5.14; 20.8; 23.29), or as a reality which is present with someone like one person with another (2 Kings 3.12), is to look upon it less as an effect than as an active subject akin to the angel or the face of Yahweh. The same hypostatic function of the word, which receives its full development in the pseudepigrapha, has its roots in the Old Testament without any need to admit foreign influences. The tendency to hypostatize was more obvious in the case of wisdom than of the word, but it is the latter which provided a foundation for the theology of wisdom. 130

From all of this, we can understand what was involved in the Logos concept. Essentially, YHWH – the Word – became incarnate, John 1:14, to reveal Himself and redeem sinners. Moreover, the aim of the incarnation, revelation and redemption was similar to that of the Exodus – to bring Man into a spiritual relationship with God, one by which Man would enjoy personal knowledge of God through Jesus, John 10:14ff. 38. Because of the Incarnation, and through the reception of the Holy Spirit, human beings can know God, because in the person of Christ God has revealed Himself – His person, John 1:18, not just His will. Islam, by contrast, cannot wholly address this issue. Sunni Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the uncreated, eternal Word of God, which is almost a part of God – His Speech in fact. The purported revelation of Qur’an, according to Sunnis, is virtually equivalent to the Incarnation in Christianity, only that in the case of Islam, the Word became a Book, rather than flesh. In Islam, God reveals His will, not His person. Thus a Muslim, even if he memorises the Qur’an, never enters into an intimate, supernatural relationship with the person of God. Rather, he merely attempts to obey the divine precepts.

Moreover, as any Muslim will affirm, the Qur’an only truly exists when untranslated; that is, it is only really the Qur’an when it is in Arabic. The language of the Qur’an is an essential part of the revelation – S. 12:2; 13:37; 16:103; 41:44; 42:7; 43:30. Thus, despite its claim to be ‘mercy for mankind’, the Qur’an is contextually limited by time and space, especially in terms of accessibility. There is not the same revelatory action of interaction between God and Man, especially since the Qur’an is effectively limited to those who know Arabic. Jesus, however, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, is universally accessible, whatever the language or ethnic group, and this is demonstrated by His easy movement from Aramaic to Greek when He deals with Gentiles like the Centurion, and through the Spirit He still speaks to people of any language. The Word became Man, not specifically Meccan/Quraish (or any other language).

8. Priest

In the Old Testament the functions of Priest and King were rigidly separated, the former being reserved to the tribe of Levi, the latter to Judah, cf. 1 Samuel 13; 2 Chronicles 26:16ff. Clearly, Jesus, in order to be the Davidic King, had to spring from Judah, yet in order to offer sacrifice, He had to be a priest. Moreover, He had to be an eternal priest – Zechariah 6:12-13 states that the Messiah, who will build the Temple, will be a priest on his throne, uniting the two offices – ’12 …Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the LORD; 13 Indeed, He will build the temple of the LORD; and He will bear the glory, and will sit and rule upon His throne; and He will be a priest upon his throne; and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.”‘

We can see from this that the New Testament portrayal of Jesus as simultaneously a priest and king was not arbitrary or innovative, but rather a question of fulfilled prophecy. Before going further, we should note the following:

  1. In contrast to the Prophet, the Priest is Man’s representative to God.
  2. He has to be appointed by God – Hebrews 5:4, cf. 7:28.
  3. He offers sacrifice – 7:27.
  4. He blesses the people – Leviticus 9:22; cf. Luke 24:50-51.
  5. He makes intercession for them – Hebrews 7:25.
  6. The priestly ministry of Jesus does not depend upon ancestry, but life – v16.
  7. Unlike the Aaronic, His is an eternal ministry – vs. 3, 8, 17, 21, 24-25, 28.
  8. His ministry – i.e. the once-for-all sacrifice, v27, effects ‘perfection’ i.e. what Paul terms justification, which contrasts with the imperfect Levitical order – v11.
  9. Based on Psalm 110:4, Jesus’ ministry is a royal priesthood – Hebrews 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:17.

The last-mentioned is crucial: Psalm 110 is the most quoted Old Testament passage in the New Testament. 131 We have seen its usage at the trial of Jesus before the High Priest, where in answer to whether Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed, He responds ‘I am: and you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven’, Mark 14:61-62. This conflates Daniel 7:13ff with Psalm 110:1 – Jesus will sit at the right hand of God, i.e. enjoy the place of authority. We encounter the idea of the glorified Son of Man in Mark 13:26, in the Eschatological Discourse foretelling the destruction of the temple in AD 70. Hence, the sign of the heavenly Son of Man is in juxtaposition to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, and thus to the end of the sacrificial system of Judaism. This conclusion of the Jewish sacrificial cultus is also a theme of the Epistle to the Hebrews, 8:13.

The important point is that the ministry of the priestly order of Melchizedek is superior to that of the Levitical/Aaronic priesthood. Hebrews 7:6-8 points to Melchizedek, the Jebusite Priest-King of Salem, who received tithes from Abraham and blessed him, Genesis 14:18ff. The argument of the epistle is that Jesus derives His office from this priesthood – 7:17. Because Levi, in the loins of his ancestor, was blessed by Melchizedek, the latter priesthood is superior to the former, v9. Centuries after the incident with Abraham, Jerusalem, the city of Melchizedek, was conquered by David. As Bruce writes,

David thus became successor to the dynasty of which Melchizedek was the most illustrious representative. David belonged to the tribe of Judah, and so, therefore, did his descendant the Messiah, ‘great David’s greater Son’. There was therefore complete appropriateness in identifying Christ, of the tribe of Judah, with the one acclaimed by the divine oath as ‘a priest for ever after the order of Meichizedek’. And part of the argument of the letter to the Hebrews is designed to show that the priest of Melchizedek’s order is greater in every way than a priest of Aaron’s line. 132

Hence, the claim that Jesus was a priest after the order of Melchizedek is sound. Muslims might object that Jesus Himself does not use the self-designation of ‘priest’, but the fact is that He does employ the motif of Psalm 110 and apply it to Himself, indicating that He did see Himself as the Messianic priest-king after the order of Melchizedek. Moreover, inasmuch as He conflated the ministry of Isaianic Servant with that of the Son of Man and Messiah, He claimed a priestly ministry, the most obvious example being Mark 10:45. He had come to make a sacrificial offering to God on behalf of the people. Furthermore, He had been sent to do so by God the Father – John 3:16-17. We noted earlier the concept of shaliach/apostolos, and that, as we observed previously, one of the rabbinic titles for the High Priest was ‘the envoy, the shaliach, the apostolos, of the Merciful.’ The idea that Jesus was sent to perform a priestly ministry entirely agrees with this concept.

What is especially distinctive about the sacrifice Jesus offers is that unlike the Aaronic High Priest, He does not offer an animal, nor have to do this annually, and neither need He offer a sacrifice for Himself. Rather, He is Himself the sinless offering for the sins of the people. We have previously noted the connotations of the ‘Shepherd’ concept, but for our purpose here, we need only consider John 10:11 – ‘I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.’ The Messianic priest-king had come to sacrifice Himself for the sake of His sheep. We should also remember Mark 12:36-37, which quotes Psalm 110:1, and points to the deity of Jesus. The ‘Shepherd’ title was used of both God and the King. This points to a difference between the God of Islam and the God of the Bible. The former is depicted as demanding that His worshippers be ready to sacrifice their lives for Him; the latter is revealed as the God who takes human nature to die for human beings, specifically for sinners.

When Abraham was to sacrifice his son, he said ‘God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt-offering’. God indeed does precisely that, substituting a ram for Isaac – v13. The Binding of Isaac became known as the ‘Akedah. The daily sacrifice of a lamb in the Jerusalem temple was termed the Tamîd.The Midrash Leviticus Rabbah connects the Passover with the ‘Akedah – ‘When I see the blood of the Paschal Lamb… I will remember the blood of the ‘Akedah.‘ The Jerusalem Targum on Genesis 22, states ‘And now I pray for mercies before Thee, O Lord God that when the children of Israel offer in the hour of their need the Binding of Isaac, their father, Thou mayest remember on their behalf, and remit and forgive their sins, and deliver them out of all their need.’ Of course, the Passover lamb recalled the deliverance from Egypt, whereby the wrath of God did not fall upon those protected by the blood of the lamb. Guthrie asserts that the paschal lamb was intended as a sin-atonement, and draws attention to Pesahim 10:6 in this regard. 133

When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming to be baptised, He exclaimed ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’, John 1:29, cf. 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:18-19. Although the Baptist’s designation would draw on the cultic sacrifices we have examined, and thereby present Jesus as the priestly offering, it should also be noted that ‘the Lamb of God’ is also an allusion to the Servant in Isaiah 53:7 – ‘as a lamb that is led to the slaughter…’ Philip the deacon explains this passage as referring to Jesus in his encounter with the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:32ff. Guthrie observes that Isaiah 53:12 refers to the Servant bearing ‘the sins of many’ i.e. ‘all’ – which is the same as saying He bore the sins of the world. 134 Ladd observes that the Aramaic word talya may be translated as either ‘lamb’ or ‘boy, servant’. 135 There would appear to be a conflation of these closely-related concepts to underline that Jesus is the High priest who offers Himself for the life of the world. This is demonstrated by another passage in which Jesus stresses His heavenly origins, and that He came to die so that others might have eternal life – John 6:51 ‘I am the living bread which came down out of heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread which I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.’ That this was a priestly action is confirmed by John 10:15-18 – Jesus freely lay down His life for His sheep.

9. Saviour

This term in many ways sums up what has gone before. It has already been noted that Jesus means ‘YHWH saves’. Luke 2:11 presents Jesus as ‘Saviour’. The term is richer in meaning than is often appreciated. The Gospel of Luke has a strong emphasis on the restoration of the Kingdom, and of its liberating nature – 21:28, 31. In the Old Testament, the Judges have the title yasha – ‘saviours’, Judges 3:9, 15. The Septuagint terms Othniel and Ehud as soter – Greek for ‘saviour’, a title also given them by Nehemiah 9:27 – ‘en oiktirmoiv sou toiv megaloivedwkavautoiv swthrav kaieswsavautouvek ceirov ylibontwnautouv. The context makes it clear that the deliverance involved is political/military liberation from alien oppression.

  1. The same thought is apparent in Luke – note the liberation motif in 1:68-71, 2:30, and 3:6 – the idea of being rescued from ones enemies. Cf. 1 Samuel 11:13; 14:45; 19:4.
  2. ‘Saviours’ are characterised by charismatic endowment by the Spirit – ‘The typical charismatic figures …are all heroes, most of them military leaders, who deliver Israel from its foes.’ 136 Jesus was likewise endowed with the Spirit – Luke 3:22; 4:18. Immediately upon being so-endued, He was deliberately impelled by the Spirit to enter the desert to combat Satan.
  3. The saviour by His act wrought liberty and unity; the New Testament sees this in universal terms – John 4:42 – ‘Saviour of the World’, cf. Luke 2:31-32. His action unites Jew and Gentile – John 11:50-52. In this respect, Jesus is the ultimate and anti-typical Saviour – the ‘saviours’ of the Old testament typified His ministry. This provides a connection with the ministry of the Servant.
  4. John 12:31-33 sees the Cross as a military engagement against Satan. Salvation is also from sin, Psalm 51:14; and from death, Hebrews 5:7. These are our foes.
  5. God is Saviour – Psalms 24:5; 18.45:15,21; Luke 1:47; Titus 3:4, etc. Jesus is the Ultimate Saviour because He is divine.
  6. The dramatic nature of salvation is seen in John 19:18, which we examined earlier – the crucifixion of Jesus is described as ‘enteuyen kaienteuyen enteuthen kai enteuthen ‘one on either side’, an allusion to Exodus 17:12 LXX. John 19:18 is thus presenting Jesus as the new Moses, who saves His People by being crucified, therein destroying the enemy – Satan.

B. The Islamic view

1. ‘Isa bin Maryam

It is uncertain how the term ‘Isa emerged. The usual idea is that it derived from the Syriac Yeshū, which in turn derives from the Hebrew/Aramaic name Yeshua. 137 Normally, Arab Christians normally refer to Jesus as Yasu. In Christ in Islam, Ahmed Deedat makes a tremendous faux-pas about the origins of the name ‘Isa: ‘Actually, his proper name was Eesa (Arabic), or Esau (Hebrew); classical Yeheshua, which the Christian nations of the West latinised as Jesus.’ 138 In fact, Yeshua (0#$2334^w&hy” in the Old Testament is normally translated ‘Joshua’; ‘Esau’ r#51(9 means ‘rough’. The names have no connection with each other. The Greek for ‘Joshua’ is ‘ihsouv ‘iēsous, and this is not only used in the New Testament with regard to the Messiah, but is also used of Joshua the conqueror of Canaan and Joshua the High Priest (among others) in the Septuagint, e.g. Joshua 1:10′kaieneteilatoihsouv toiv grammateusin tou laou legwn‘ Zechariah 3:3’kaiihsouvhnendedumenovimatia rupara kaieisthkei pro proswpou touaggelou‘ Hence, since the Greek form is ‘ihsouv the ‘Latinised’ form to which Deedat objects is no arbitrary innovation of either the so-called ‘Christian nations’ or even the actual Christians themselves.

Deedat further compounds his incompetence by stating that ‘The word is very simply “ESAU” a very common Jewish name used more than sixty times in the very first booklet alone of the Bible, in the part called “Genesis”‘. In fact, it is only ever used of the brother of Jacob, which rather undermines Deedat’s assertions. Every reference in Genesis is to this individual. In Christ in Islam and Christianity, Gilchrist comments on Deedat’s blunder on this issue:

The Jews just simply did not call their children by this name. Jacob and Esau were enemies for most of their lives and their descendants, the Israelites and the Edomites, were often at war with each other. No Jewish children were ever named after the brother of Jacob, the father of the Israelites, for he stood against Jacob and was rejected by God (Hebrews 12:17). It is thus a fallacy to suggest that the original name of Jesus was Esau. 139

Zwemer considers the theory of one Dr Otto Pautz that ‘Isa did indeed derive from Esau, because the Jews in Medina caricatured Jesus in this way, although Zwemer rightly is guarded about this speculative hypothesis. 140 Gilchrist finds this theory attractive:

For reasons that have never been apparent Muhammad chose to call him Isa. Deedat’s interpretation of this name as “Esau” tends to lend support to the suggestion made by some that the Jews in Arabic cunningly misled Muhammad by subtly perverting the true name of Jesus into the name of their forefather’s irreligious brother. If Deedat’s conclusion is correct, it militates heavily against the supposed divine origin of the Qur’an.

There can be no doubt, however, that Esau is no nearer to the original and true name of Jesus than Muhammad’s Isa. This fundamental error sets the tone for the whole of Deedat’s treatment of the contrast between Christ in Islam and Christianity and it is hard to resist the conclusion that the Jesus of the Bible, rather than the Isa of the Qur’an, is the true Jesus. 141

Cotterell also notes this theory that ‘the Jews referred contemptuously to Jesus as ‘Isā because of the obvious near-homophony with Esau (Hebrew ‘Esā), the despised brother of Jacob… Nöldeke suggest that Muhammad adopted the name in good faith, unaware of the pejorative overtones.’ 142 This would be in keeping with the Qur’an’s borrowing from a mixture of Jewish and Christian canonical and apocryphal sources. Another theory noted by Zwemer is that ‘Isā was probably formed to rhyme with Moses – Musa. 143 The Qur’an is indeed fond of such rhyming techniques. The difficulty, as Zwemer observes, is that ‘Isā is used in five cases of conjunction with Musa. However, Zwemer’s objection is not insurmountable. Rhythmic considerations may well have been the original impetus for its usage, and thereafter the name simply continued to be used elsewhere. It would be interesting to know what name the Arab Christians of Najran used for Jesus. Significantly, a Christian inscription to Rahman has been found in Yemen, and Muslims also employ this term for Allah. Perhaps archaeology may eventually be able to assist in this question.

The term ‘son of Mary’ does not exist as a title in the Bible, but only once as a description – Mark 6:3 ‘Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon?’ The reference to Jesus as the ‘brother’ of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon demonstrates that the usage is not titular. With regard to its Qur’anic usage, the term is used both as a proper name and as a title in Islam. An example of its titular usage in the Qur’an is found in Surah Az-Zukhruf 43:57 ‘When (Jesus) the son of Mary is held up as an example behold thy people raise a clamour thereat (in ridicule)!’ In the hadith, there seems to be greater emphasis on its titular employment, e.g.:

Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 4.658

Narrated by Abu Huraira

Allah’s Apostle said “How will you be when the son of Mary (i.e. Jesus) descends amongst you and he will judge people by the Law of the Qur’an and not by the law of Gospel?

Zwemer notes that in the twenty-five places where ‘Isā is used, in sixteen He is called the Son of Mary. 144 It has been frequently observed that much of what Islam asserts about Jesus is negatory in character, informing us much more about what He is not than what He is. With respect to the Incarnation, Islam denies the deity of Christ:

Surah Al-Baqarah 2:116116 They say: ‘Allah hath begotten a son’; Glory be to Him. Nay to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and on earth; everything renders worship to Him.

 

Surah An-Nisaa 4:171171. O people of the Book! commit no excesses in your religion: nor say of Allah aught but truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an Apostle of an Apostle of Allah and His Word which He bestowed on Mary and a Spirit proceeding from Him…

The term ‘Son of Mary’ is not actually explained in the Qur’an or Hadith, but it appears to be related to the Islamic dogma of the virgin birth, as well as a polemical denial of the eternal divine sonship of Jesus. Yusuf Ali makes this suggestion:

401 …Jesus is no more than a man. It is against reason and revelation to call him Allah or the son of Allah. He is called the son of Mary to emphasize this. He had no human father, as his birth was miraculous. But it is not this which raise him to his high position as a prophet, but because Allah called him to his office. The praise is due to Allah, Who by His word gave him spiritual strength-“strengthened him with the Holy spirit. The miracles which surround his story relate not only to the “Clear Signs” which he brought. It was those who misunderstood him who obscured his clear Signs and surrounded him with mysteries of their own invention.(3.62)

Cotterell also examines a possible Ethiopian origin for the term, but finds the evidence inadequate:

The suggestion that the title ‘Son of Mary’ originated in Abyssinia, and indicated a high view of Mary rather than a low view of Jesus, fails at two points. Firstly, it is supposed that the title was brought back from Abyssinia by returning Muslim refugees, after the first hijra. However, the title occurs in Meccan Suras, decisively in Sura 19 which, according to tradition, was recited to the Abyssinian Nagash (Eth. negūs, ‘king’) by the refugees. Secondly there is no evidence that the title ‘Son of Mary’ was used by the Abyssinian church: it does not appear in the Ethiopic Qiddase. In any event the use of the title by the Abyssinian church is highly unlikely since its strong monophysite position ensured that the deity of Christ all but eclipsed his humanity. 145

In the Arabic Infancy pseudo-gospel, ‘Son of Mary’ is used of Jesus a few times, (although not necessarily in a titular sense, save possibly when Satan addresses Him in v34). This may be the source of the term in the Qur’an, especially since this apocryphal work presents Jesus as speaking in the cradle. This is an attractive proposition since the work has a high Mariology, referring to the mother of Jesus as ‘Lady Mary’. For example, in v3, the following is said of her ‘Thou art not at all like the daughters of Eve. The Lady Mary said: As my son has no equal among children, so his mother has no equal among women.’ Islam appears to give a higher status to Mary than does the Bible. Surah 21:91 presents the virgin birth as being as much about Mary as it is about Jesus. They are jointly held to be a sign from Allah:

Surah An-Anbiyaa 21:91And (remember) her who guarded her chastity: We breathed into her of Our Spirit and We made her and her son a Sign for all peoples. Surah An-Muminun 23:50And We made the son of Mary and his mother as a Sign: We gave them both shelter on high ground affording rest and security and furnished with springs.

The elevation of Mary herself to being a sign is perhaps an attempt to compensate for any pressing need for Jesus to be born of a virgin. This remains a major failing inadequacy of Islamic polemics – its failure to explain why Jesus had to be virgin-born. Yusuf Ali comments about this verse (21:91):

The virgin birth of Jesus was a miracle both for him and his mother. She was falsely accused of unchastity, but the child Jesus triumphantly vindicated her by his own miracles (xix. 27-33), and showed by his life the meanness of the calumny against his mother.

If the Infancy pseudo-gospel was indeed the source for this title, then whoever authored the Qur’an engaged in the most deliberate editing of a text to fit his/their presuppositions, since the text begins with the affirmation ‘In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, one God’ and as soon as Jesus is born, He speaks, saying ‘I am Jesus, the Son of God, the Logos, whom thou hast brought forth, as the Angel Gabriel announced to thee; and my Father has sent me for the salvation of the world.‘ The absence of any canonical background for the titular use of ‘Son of Mary’ demonstrates the contrived nature of the term, in contrast to the firm basis in the Old Testament and Jewish tradition for the titles of Jesus. Clearly, the historical Jesus is the Biblical one.

2. A Prophet/Apostle

The Qur’an presents Jesus both a prophet and an apostle:

Surah Maryam 19:30He said: “I am indeed a servant of Allah: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet… Surah Nisaa 4:171171. O people of the Book! commit no excesses in your religion: nor say of Allah aught but truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an Apostle of Allah…

According to Islam, Allah has sent messengers/apostles to every people. Every apostle (rasul) is a prophet (nabi) but not every prophet was an apostle. Surah Yunus 10:48 states that every nation has received a messenger. Islamic fiqh says the following about messengers:

AL-RISALA (Maliki Manual)

MESSENGERS AND MUHAMMAD

He sent Messengers to mankind to establish a plea against them. He completed their mission, admonition and prophethood with His prophet Muhammad – may Allah be pleased with him and please him – whom he made the last of the Messengers, giving glad tidings, warning and calling people to Allah, with His permission. The Prophet was an illuminating lamp and Allah revealed to him His book, which is full of wisdom. He explained through it His true religion and guided by it along the right path.

With regard to the distinction between prophets and apostles, the comments of Yusuf Ali on S. 19:51 are helpful:

Moses was (1) especially chosen, and therefore prepared and instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, in order that he might free his people from Egyptian bondage; there may also be a reference to Moses’s title of Kalimullah, the one to whom prophet (nabi), in that he received inspiration; and (3) he was a messenger (rasul) in that he had a Book of Revelation, and an Ummat or organised Community, for which he instituted laws.

Zwemer comments on the distinction as follows:

The number of prophets and apostles sent by God, according to Moslem teaching, amounts to 124,000. Others say 240,000, and others 100,000. These statements show that the words, prophet and apostle, in Moslem usage have not the same dignity, which we infer from their usage in the Old and New Testaments. Three hundred and thirteen are said to have been apostles who came with a special mission. A prophet, according to Moslem teaching, is a man inspired by God, but not sent with a special dispensation or book; while an apostle is one who comes either with a special dispensation or to whom a special book has been revealed. All apostles are prophets, but not all prophets are apostles. Jesus was both. 146

The Muslim author Suzanne Haneef appears to agree with this. She defines a prophet as one receiving divine revelations ‘…which constitute a source of guidance for men. If the revelation is in the form of a written scripture, the prophet is in addition a “messenger” (rasul) as well.’ 147 In the same passage she rejects predictive activity as part of the definition of prophethood. Vos defines the activity of the Biblical prophet (Hebrew nabhi) as ‘an authorized spokesman for the Deity’, in whose word ‘a divinely-communicated power resides.’ 148 This is the same as saying that a prophet was inspired by the Spirit of YHWH. Abraham is said to be a prophet, Genesis 20:17 and 2 Kings 16:13ff defines prophets as those servants of YHWH who attempt to restore the people to the covenant-law.

However, it is quite clear from the Old Testament that there was a predictive element, and from what we have seen earlier, much of this concerned the Messianic Age. Whilst there is some affinity between the Biblical and Islamic concepts of prophethood, the concept of apostleship held by Islam does not exactly correspond to the Biblical usage of the term, as can be inferred from what is said of the apostolic commission of Jesus. The Shaliach concept is rather different from the Muslim idea, and one suspects Muslims would find the notion objectionable. This in itself allows us to say that the Islamic concept of apostleship lacks Biblical and Jewish traditional background, being simply an innovation by Muslims.

As to the question of the prophetic message of Jesus, Muslims hold that He came to confirm the Shari’ah, the same legal-code revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. The Islamic exegete Mawdudi comments:

…Jesus did not bring any new religion but followed the same way that was followed by all the Prophets before him and invited people to the same. He believed in what was intact in his time from among the original teaching of the Torah. The Injil also testifies the same (Matthew 5:17, 18 ). The Qur’an reiterates this fact over and over again that each and every Prophets who was set by Allah to any part of the world, confirmed the message of all the Prophets who had gone before him and exerted his utmost to complete the work which they had left as the holy heritage, for he did not come to refute them or efface their religion or establish his own religion instead. Likewise Allah did not send down any of His Books to refute any of His own previous books, but to support and confirm them. 149

That is, the message and ministry of Jesus was the proclamation of Islam and the Shari’ah, as stated in Surah Maida 5:49:

And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary confirming the law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light and confirmation of the law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah.

In our examination of the Biblical concept of the Eschatological Prophet, we saw how the ministry of Jesus fulfils the law. He did not come simply to repeat it. Interestingly, the Qur’an appears to be self-contradictory in this regard, perhaps reflecting its borrowing from Christian sources which address this issue of fulfilment. Surah 3:50 states ‘(I have come to you) to attest the Law which was before me and to make lawful to you part of what was (before) forbidden to you; I have come to you with a Sign from your Lord. So fear Allah and obey me.’ Unlike the Biblical concept of fulfilment, this seems very arbitrary.

One difference between the Islamic and Biblical views is that Jesus is portrayed solely as a local prophet – to Israel – e.g. S. 3:49 – ‘And (appoint him) an Apostle to the Children of Israel’; S. 61:6 – ‘And remember Jesus the son of Mary said: “O Children of Israel! I am the apostle of Allah (sent) to you confirming the Law (which came) before me and giving glad Tidings of an Apostle to come after me whose name shall be Ahmad.”‘ Jamal Badawi asserts this restrictive mission – ‘MISSION specifically TO THE ISRAELITES (3:49, 5:75, 61:6)’. 150 Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 1.429 states that ‘…Every Prophet used to be sent to his nation exclusively but I [Muhammad] have been sent to all mankind.’

This reflects the traditional Muslim view as suggested by Badawi that Jesus was sent only to the Jews, although none of the texts Badawi mentions explicitly restrict the ministry of Jesus to Israel. Indeed, S. 5:110 could be interpreted as commissioning Jesus to speak to humanity as a whole – ‘When Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Remember My favour unto thee and unto thy mother; how I strengthened thee with the holy Spirit, so that thou spakest unto mankind in the cradle as in maturity…’ {Pickthall). Moreover, Surah An-Anbiyaa 21:91 states – ‘We made her and her son a Sign for all the worlds‘ (the proper translation of the Arabic – even though Yusuf Ali renders it ‘for all peoples’). The phrase is used of Muhammad in v107 of the same chapter. Only the Hadith establishes the unique claims of Muhammad to universal prophethood. It follows that Islam is intrinsically inconsistent with regard to this issue. This inconsistency becomes more glaring when consider the Return of Christ. If Jesus was only sent to Israel, why at His return does He become the ruler of the global Islamic State? Surely this prerogative should be restricted to Muhammad?

It is important to recognise that Jesus is viewed purely as a prophet, rather than as the Prophet. Given that S. 33:40 presents Muhammad as ‘the Seal of the Prophets’, it is clear that in Islamic terms, such a description would apply only to him. In regard to Jesus, the Qur’an effectively belittles Him – S. 5:75 ‘Christ the son of Mary was no more than an Apostle; many were the Apostles that passed away before him.’ Jesus does nothing out of the ordinary, beyond bringing the Injil. There is nothing distinctive about Him as a Messenger that is not true of other prophets according to Islam (at least not before the Second Coming). This naturally involves Islam ignoring what is involved in being the Eschatological Prophet. We have seen the connection of the term with the Suffering Servant, whose passion is of a vicarious nature, something that Islam does not claim for Muhammad. It is noteworthy that Baagil, rather ludicrously, attempts to apply Isaiah 42:1 to Muhammad, but in doing so, he ignores the vicarious suffering that brings salvation in the other Servant Songs, and Muslims do not believe that Muhammad experienced a representative Passion that brings salvation to those with faith in him. 151 The term also has Messianic connotations, and the Qur’an is clear that only Jesus is termed ‘Messiah’. Whilst Muslims, such as Deedat, like to claim that Deuteronomy 18 is a prophecy of Muhammad, it is instructive that the Qur’an makes no such explicit assertion. To be sure, it does claim that the Torah predicted his coming, S. 7:157, but no specific verse or passage is identified as the source of this.

Another aspect of the Prophet in regard to the Servant and Messiah is the performance of miracles. We have already noted that Muhammad disavowed any claim to miracles, and thus, on that basis, Deuteronomy 18 cannot apply to him, since miracles are an essential, identifying function of the Eschatological Prophet. The Qur’anic Jesus does indeed perform miracles, but again, according to Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 6.504 ‘Every Prophet was given miracles…’ (with the exception of Muhammad). The performance of miracles is viewed as a general prophetic function. The Islamic Jesus performs some miracles found in both apocryphal and canonical texts, and does so as an Apostle:

Surah Al-i’ Imran 3:49

“And (appoint him) an Apostle to the Children of Israel (with this message): I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I make for you out of clay as it were the figure of a bird and breathe into it and it becomes a bird by Allah’s leave; and I heal those born blind and the lepers and I quicken the dead by Allah’s leave; and I declare to you what ye eat and what ye store in your houses. Surely therein is a Sign for you if ye did believe.

3. Al-Masih (Messiah)

Islam believes that Jesus is the Messiah, e.g. S. 3:45, although it never explains or comments on the term, demonstrating that the term has been lifted from the Bible, and that Islam remains dependent upon Christian sources for an explanation of the title. Yusuf Ali comments: ‘Christ: Greek, Christos = anointed: kings and priests were anointed to symbolise consecration to their office. The Hebrew and Arabic form is Masih. (3.45)’ Given that neither the Qur’an nor the Hadith ever define the term, it is quite legitimate to point to the Biblical and traditional Jewish concepts as providing the only basis for the title – which, as we have seen, involves a Messiah who is the Son of God, divine Himself, and one who vicariously suffers for His people. Deedat comments on the term:

The word “Christ” is derived from the Hebrew word Messiah, Arabic Maseeh. Root word masaha, meaning “to rub”, “to massage”, “to anoint”. Priests and kings were anointed when being consecrated to their offices… Christos means “Anointed”, and anointed means appointed in its religious connotation. Jesus, peace and blessing be upon him, was appointed (anointed) at his baptism by John the Baptist, as God’s Messenger. Every prophet of God is so anointed or appointed. The Holy Bible is replete with the “anointed” ones. In the original Hebrew, he was made a Messiah… Although, every prophet of God is an anointed one of God, a Messiah, the title Maseeh or Messiah, or its translation “Christ” is exclusively reserved for Jesus, the son of Mary, in both Islam and in Christianity. 152

In presenting the concept this way, Deedat is forced to ignore the Biblical and Jewish traditional concept of a climactic Anointed figure, whether royal, prophetic or priestly. No one (and nothing else) in the Bible is ever presented as the Maschiach in the titular sense, a major failing of Deedat’s polemic. Neither the Bible nor the Qur’an present John the Baptist as ‘anointing’ Jesus; in the Bible, the Holy Spirit does that, as God’s Son, Messiah, Prophet and Servant, with its priestly connotations. There is nothing in the Qur’an to indicate that Jesus is King in the sense of a reigning executive. Nowhere in the Qur’an does Jesus ever rule. Nor is any implication that He was ‘anointed’, the meaning of ‘Messiah’, ever presented in either the Qur’an or the Hadith. Again, Deedat has to obscure the meaning by making it just mean ‘appoint’. No one in the Qur’an is ever presented as ‘anointed’, something Deedat also ignores.

At any rate, the Islamic use of the title is itself logically inconsistent, since a king is only a king if he reigns, and in the Qur’an, Jesus never does. The Hadith presents Jesus as ruling after His Second Coming, but He does so as Amir or Imam, rather than Messianic King. Moreover, even in this respect Islam is glaringly lacking in logical progression. There is no indication, and definitely no prediction in the Qur’an that Jesus would ever reign in any sense. The Hadith presents the Islamic Jesus ruling after His return, having slain the Antichrist and destroyed all other religions:

Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 3.656Narrated by Abu Huraira

Allah’s Apostle said, “… the son of Mary (i.e. Jesus) descends amongst you as a just ruler, he will break the cross, kill the pigs, and abolish the Jizya tax. Money will be in abundance so that nobody will accept it (as charitable gifts).

Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 3.425Narrated by Abu Huraira

Allah’s Apostle said, “…son of Mary (Jesus) will shortly descend amongst you people (Muslims) as a just ruler and will break the cross and kill the pig and abolish the Jizya (a tax taken from the non-Muslims who are in the protection of the Muslim government). Then there will be abundance of money and nobody will accept charitable gifts.

Another problem for Islam is that the Messiah, as Son of David, is specifically required to perform miracles. This, the Islamic Jesus does, it is true, but not as Messiah, but rather as an Apostle. We encounter no ‘deeds of the Messiah’ such as characterised the eschatological expected figure of Biblical hope and Jewish tradition. In fact, we see nothing in the Qur’an distinctive about the Messianic ministry of Jesus. Indeed, it is fair to say that in the Qur’an, Jesus has no ‘Messianic’ ministry – He does nothing as the Messiah. If the term were excised, the Qur’anic account would read just as well. The term is totally redundant and superfluous to His function and ministry in the Qur’an. This in itself demonstrates the borrowed nature of the term. The distinctive Christian belief over against Judaism is that Jesus is the Messiah, and Islam, claiming Muhammad was the climactic prophet in the line of Moses and Jesus, had to incorporate the title when it claimed Jesus as a prophet. However, by its ignorance of the connotations of the term, it has emptied the title of its meaning. Small wonder Deedat attempts to widen its employment, to play down its significance. This renders him dangerously close to heresy, since no one else in the Qur’an is entitled Al-Masih. Unwittingly, the Qur’an affirms the uniqueness of Jesus in this respect. This, and the emptiness of the Qur’anic use of the term indicates the Qur’an’s borrowing from Christian sources.

Largely as a result of a polemical debate with Medinan Jews, Islam denies the crucifixion, and so rejects the concept of a vicariously-dying Messiah – Surah An-Nisaa 4:157. That they said (in boast) “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary the Apostle of Allah”; but they killed him not nor crucified him but so it was made to appear to them…’ Hence, a major function of the Messiah – His vicarious suffering leading to His divine vindication – is lost. Montgomery Watt has argued that the Jewish-Muslim debate was the origin of the Qur’anic denial of the crucifixion. 153 The Medinan Jews are said to have responded to Muhammad’s claims of being a prophet in the line of Abraham, Moses and Jesus by denying the prophetic standing of Jesus, since they had been able to kill Him, which God would not have permitted if He had been a genuine divine emissary. Since that Muhammad claimed to be the prophetic successor to Jesus, the resultant implication is that if Jesus were a false prophet, Muhammad was likewise. Hence, we can comprehend Islam’s rejection of the reality of the death of Jesus, as being essential to safeguard not so much Him, but rather Muhammad against Jewish polemics. The Jews are not totally absolved of guilt, since the Qur’an definitely accuses them of attempted murder against Jesus.

4. A Servant of Allah

In Surah 19:30, the baby Jesus announces that He is ‘the servant (‘abd) of Allah’. However, whilst this is a description of Jesus, it does not appear to function as a title, and certainly not as a unique one (angels are described as servants in S. 4:172, and Zechariah is so-defined S. 19:2). There is no specific ministry that He accomplishes as a Servant. Zwemer in The Muslim Christ suggests that the statement in S. 4:172 ‘Christ will not scorn to be a slave unto Allah…’ (Pickthall) is a reference to ‘the title of the Messiah in Isaiah as the servant of Jehovah.’ 154 Whether this is so or not, there seems to be no specific theological necessity for Jesus to suffer according to Islam. Rather, the Qur’an simply makes the historical observation that this occurred, and notes that this was the common inheritance of the prophets:
Surah Al-Baqara 2:87ff87 We gave Moses the Book and followed him up with a succession of Apostles; We gave Jesus the son of Mary clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the holy spirit. Is it that whenever there comes to you an Apostle with what ye yourselves desire not ye are puffed up with pride? Some ye called impostors and others ye slay!

91 When it is said to them: ‘believe in what Allah hath sent down’ they say ‘We believe in what was sent down to us’; yet they reject all besides even if it be truth confirming what is with them. Say: ‘Why then have ye slain the prophets of Allah in times gone by if ye did indeed believe?’

Surah An-Nisaa 4:155155 (They have incurred divine displeasure): in that they broke their Covenant: that they rejected the Signs of Allah; that they slew the Messengers in defiance of right; that they said ‘Our hearts are the wrappings (which preserve Allah’s Word; we need no more)’; nay Allah hath set the seal on their hearts for their blasphemy and little is it they believe.

156 That they rejected faith: that they uttered against Mary a grave false charge.

157 That they said (in boast) ‘We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary the Apostle of Allah’; but they killed him not nor crucified him but so it was made to appear to them and those who differ therein are full of doubts with no (certain) knowledge but only conjecture to follow for of a surety they killed him not.

Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 6093Narrated by Ali ibn AbuTalib

Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) said to him, “You have a resemblance to Jesus whom the Jews hated so much that they slandered his mother…Ahmad transmitted it.

It is quite possible that the original references to Jesus being the Servant of Allah did reflect the traditional Christian usage, but its distinctives, being at odds with Islamic soteriology, were excised. We noted how a similar excision appears to have taken place with regard to material from the Infancy pseudo-gospel. This is likely, since the Qur’an has tampered with the prophecy of Genesis 3:15, where after the sin of the First Couple, God addresses the Serpent, saying ‘and I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed: he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.’ The text predicts a Deliverer who will undo the work of Satan at cost to Himself, pointing to the Sacrificial death of Christ. New Testament texts reflect this and apply the prophecy to Jesus, such as John 12:31, which specifically deals with the Cross – ‘now the ruler of this world shall be cast out’, and 1 John 3:8 ‘For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, to destroy the works of the devil.’

A comparison of Genesis 3:15 with the Qur’an reveals that instead of a promised Deliverer, there is a prediction of Guidance – S. 2:38 ‘We said: Go down, all of you, from hence; but verily there cometh unto you from Me a guidance; and whoso followeth My guidance, there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve’; S. 20:123 ‘He said: Go down hence, both of you, one of you a foe unto the other. But if there come unto you from Me a guidance, then whoso followeth My guidance, he will not go astray nor come to grief.’ It is clear that Guidance of this sort has a salvatory function from what is stated in S. 7:35 ‘O Children of Adam! If messengers of your own come unto you who narrate unto you My revelations, then whosoever refraineth from evil and amendeth there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve.’ Thus in Islam, the ministry of guidance is equates with the Biblical ministry of sacrifice. hence, we should not be surprised to find Islam presenting not a Jesus who, as Suffering Servant willingly and in the divine plan suffers a sacrificial death, but rather merely a prophet who relays divine revelation.

The Qur’an presents the ministry of Jesus is portrayed as being met by unbelief and hostility. The Jews are depicted in the Qur’an as being guilty of unbelief with respect to the ministry and message of Jesus, S. 3:52ff. In particular, a major aspect of the suffering of the Islamic Jesus is found in S. 4:156, which indicates that Mary was accused of immorality, implying that Jesus was illegitimate: ‘That they rejected faith: that they uttered against Mary a grave false charge.’ Yusuf Ali comments: ‘The false charge against Mary was that she was unchaste. Cf. xix. 27-28. Such a charge is bad enough to make against any woman, but to make it against Mary, the mother of Jesus, was to bring into ridicule Allah’s power itself.’

However, for all this, there is no indication in the Qur’an that Jesus vicariously suffers for all humanity in order that they may be saved. Instead, the sufferings of Jesus at the hands of the Jews is employed to explain and justify the removal of prophethood from that people to the Arabs, and thus argue for the Apostolic/Prophetic ministry of Muhammad, Surah Maidah 5:78 – ‘Curses were pronounced on those among the Children of Israel who rejected faith by the tongue of David and of Jesus the son of Mary: because they disobeyed and persisted in excesses.’ Thus, instead of the sufferings of Jesus leading to blessing upon those for whom He suffered, it leads rather to disaster for them! Neither does the ministry of Jesus as the Servant bring salvation to the Gentiles, since He is supposedly only sent to the Jews (but consider the significance of Jesus as a sign for mankind, indicating that the Qur’anic redactors failed to eliminate all traces of the historical Jesus who suffers for humanity as a whole).

Of course, it is theologically impossible for Islam to accept the need for the crucifixion, since it rejects the concept of Vicarious Reconciliation, affirming the necessity of submission to God by obedience to Islamic law (the Shari’ah). The Muslim writer Abdalati declares on this subject that ‘Islam rejects the …Crucifixion… This rejection is based on the authority of God Himself as revealed in the Qur’an and on a deeper rejection of blood sacrifice and vicarious atonement for sins.’ 155 Perhaps, however, Islam did not completely succeed in excising the concept of the Suffering Servant. The following Hadith may reflect the original Christian concept of the death of Christ (although the prophet is unidentified), especially as Luke 23:34 says: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’:

Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 9.63

Narrated by Abdullah

As if I am looking at the Prophet while he was speaking about one of the prophets whose people have beaten and wounded him, and he was wiping the blood off his face and saying, ‘O Lord! Forgive my people as they do not know.’

5. A Word from Allah

One interesting title of Jesus in the Qur’an is Kalimat’Allah – Word of God. This on the surface presents a parallel with the Biblical concept of the Logos. However, Muslim tend to deny this. For example, Yusuf Ali denies that the term has an absolute sense, i.e. He is only a Word from God, not the Word of God:

381 Notice: “a Word from Allah”, not “the Word of Allah”, the epithet that mystical Christianity uses for Jesus. As stated in iii. 59 below, Jesus was created by a miracle, by Allah’s word “Be”, and he was. (3.39)

Gilchrist quotes a Christian writer, speaking of Surah 3.45, makes the same point about the form of the words in the text:

Further, in the verse from the Qur’an which we have quoted, Christ is called ‘His Word’, that is, ‘God’s Word’. The Arabic shows that it means ‘The Word of God’, not merely ‘a Word of God’. (Kalimatullaah, not kalimatimmin kalimaatullaah). Thus we see that Jesus is the word or expression of God, so that by Him alone can we understand the mind and will of God. No other prophet has been given this title, because none other is, in this sense, the special revelation of God’s mind and will. (Goldsack, Christ in Islam, p. 15). 156

With respect to S. 3:39, this particular verse is difficult, since it refers to John the Baptist confirming a ‘Word from Allah’, and whilst this could refer to Jesus, it also could refer to Scripture. More obvious examples are found in the following two texts:

Surah Al-i-Imran 3:4545 Behold! the angels said ‘O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus the son of Mary held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah.

46 ‘He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity and he shall be (of the company) of the righteous.’

47 She said: ‘O my Lord! how shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?’ He said: ‘Even so: Allah createth what He willeth; when He hath decreed a plan He but saith to it ‘Be’ and it is!

Surah An- Nisaa 4:171171. O People of the Book! commit no excesses in your religion: nor say of Allah aught but truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an Apostle of Allah and His Word which He bestowed on Mary and a spirit from him…

Zwemer comments that ‘modern Arabic usage clearly distinguishes between the Word of God in the sense of Holy Writ, which is always referred to as Kalâm Allah and the Word of God as His Messenger, which is Kalimet Allah. There are, however, only these two passages in which this New Testament title is given to out Saviour.’ 157 As with Al-Masih, there is no clear definition of what the term means in the Qur’an, but from what S. 4:171 states, it would appear that it means less than deity. In that verse He is presented as an apostle, a spirit from God, and God’s Word, in the context of the denial of Trinity. However, it is difficult to understand exactly its import. Baagil claims that it means that Jesus was directly created ‘in the womb of Mary’ without ‘the agency of sperm, just only with the decree of Allah’. 158 Jamal Badawi says much the same: ‘A WORD FROM ALLAH (3:39,45; 4:170). Word is not the “Logos” or the second person in Godhead. It is the creative command of Allah “KON” or “be” (2:117, 3:47,59, 6:73, 16:40, 19:35, 36:82, 40:68). ‘Words’ of Allah is used in (18:109, 8:7, 31:27) and others.’ 159 Andrew Vargo, commenting on Badawi’s transmission on ‘Radio Al-Islam Channel RA 200’ on ‘Jesus in the Qur’an – Humanity’, reports Badawi as stating the following on the issue:

Host: The Qur’an calls Jesus the Word, just as the Bible, how is this different?

Jamal Badawi: The problem is the meaning of the term Word. There is a difference, the Christians believe that the Word is the absolute of God, John. This was the influence of Platonic philosophy. The Qur’an has nothing to do with the Logos, the Word means a command or sign from God. Sura 16:40:

For to anything which We have willed, We but say the word, “Be”, and it is.

We are all words of God because we are all created by God’s command. There are 12 places in the Qur’an where words of God are used, so it is not unique to Jesus. 160

On this basis, the thrust of the term is ontological, rather than functional, although Badawi has perhaps overstated his case, in that its unique usage in regard to Jesus would seem to indicate some connection with the virgin birth. Further, his comments about the Platonic origin of the term as used in the Gospel of John are plainly inaccurate, as we have seen, since it is obvious that the dominant influence has been Old Testament and Jewish tradition. Sam Shamoun heavily criticises Badawi’s Qur’anic exegesis:

In none of the examples that Badawi presents is a person ever called God’s Word. The verses without exception refer to God’s ability to create by his Word or refer to the fact that God’s words are inexhaustible… (see endnotes) We are again left wondering how do these verses parallel the fact that Jesus is the only being who is called the Word of God? Badawi cannot produce one single reference to show that other beings or prophets are called God’s very own Word. Instead, he hopes to confuse the situation by bringing in irrelevant issues such as the fact that the Quran mentions God’s words as being inexhaustible or that he creates what he likes by his command or Word. And? Whoever said that God’s words are not inexhaustible or that God cannot create whatever he chooses by his powerful Word? Yet, this still does not touch the issue that not a single being, including angels themselves, is ever called the Word of God except Jesus.

Badawi must assume that Jesus is called the Word of God solely because he was created by God’s command. There are two main problems with his argument. First, Jesus is not simply a by-product of God’s command, but is the very Word of God to man: Sura 3:39…John is to bear witness to a Word from God, namely Jesus the Christ. Here, Jesus is the one who is the Word from God. The fact that he is a Word from God implies preexistence, that Jesus preexisted as God’s Word. This point is brought out more clearly in the two following passages: Sura 3:45… According to this passage God’s Word is not a mere abstraction but rather a person. This is due to the fact that the Word of God is given a personal name, Jesus. This implies that Badawi’s argument that Jesus is only a by-product of God’s creative command cannot be sustained. Hence, according to this one passage the Word of God is personal and shall take on the name of Jesus.

[Commenting on 4:171] Jesus is both the Word of God, not just a word from him, given to Mary and a spirit that proceeds from God himself. Hence, in one sense the Quran denies the divinity of Jesus and yet in other places it affirms that he is the divine preexistent Word and Spirit from God. Secondly, if it were true that Jesus is God’s word solely because he was created by the command of God then we would expect to find Adam called the Word of God (according to Sura 3:59) since he was also created by God’s command. Yet, neither Adam nor anyone else is ever called the Word of God. 161

Even if we differ from Shamoun’s claim that the Qur’anic term definitely points to the pre-existence of Jesus, it is likely that the Biblical concept was the original form that the Qur’an adapted and emptied of meaning. It is definitely employed in a titular sense by Islam, both in the Qur’an and the Hadith, and only ever of Jesus, never any other prophet, not even Muhammad:

Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 5762

Narrated by Abdullah ibn Abbas

When some of the companions of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) were sitting he came out, and when he came near them he heard them discussing. One of them said Allah had taken Abraham as a friend, another said He spoke direct to Moses, another said Jesus was Allah’s word and spirit, and another said Allah chose Adam. Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) then came out to them and said, “I have heard what you said, and you wonder that Abraham was Allah’s friend, as indeed he was; that Moses was Allah’s confidant, as indeed he was; that Jesus was His spirit and word, as indeed he was; and that Adam was chosen by Allah, as indeed he was. I am the one whom Allah loves, and this is no boast…

Sahih Muslim Hadith 380Narrated by AbuHurayrah and Hudhayfah

The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: Allah, the Blessed and Exalted, would gather the people. The believers would stand until the Paradise is brought near them. They would come to Adam and say: O our father, open Paradise for us. He would say: What turned ye out from Paradise was the sin of your father, Adam. I am not in a position to do that; you should go to my son, Ibrahim, the Friend of Allah. He (the Holy Prophet) said: He (Ibrahim) would say: I am not in a position to do that. Verily I had been the Friend (of Allah) from a long time ago; you should approach Moses (peace be upon him) with whom Allah conversed. They would come to Moses (peace be upon him) but he would say: I am not in a position to do that; you should go to Jesus, the Word of Allah and His spirit. Jesus (peace be upon him) would say: I am not in a position to do that. So they would come to Muhammad (peace be upon him)…

It is the unique titular usage of Kalimat’Allah that is so interesting. The Qur’an makes other ontological points about Jesus, mainly negative, e.g. that He was not God, but none of them function as a title. Yet this term does just that. The question is why? The issue becomes even more intriguing when we consider that the titles of other prophets appear to be functional, rather than ontological in nature, again pointing to the uniqueness of Jesus. This last point undermines an assertion of Deedat:

Although, every prophet of God is an anointed one of God, a Messiah, the title Maseeh or Messiah, or its translation “Christ” is exclusively reserved for Jesus, the son of Mary, in both Islam and in Christianity. This is not unusual in religion. There are certain other honorific titles which may be applied to more than one prophet, yet being made exclusive to one by usage: like “Rasulullah“, meaning “Messenger of God”, which title is applied to both Moses (19:51) and Jesus (61:6) in the Holy Quran. Yet “Rasullullah” has become synonymous only with Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, among Muslims.

Every prophet is indeed a “Friend of God”, but its Arabic equivalent “Khalillullah” is exclusively associated with Father Abraham. This does not mean that the others are not God’s friends. “Kaleemullah“, meaning “One who spoke with Allah” is never used for anyone other than Moses, yet we believe that God spoke with many of His messengers, including Jesus and Muhammed, may the peace and blessings of God be upon all His servants. Associating certain titles with certain personages only, does not make them exclusive or unique in any way. We honor all in varying terms. 162

The titles of the prophets in Islam in each case describe a particular relationship that messenger enjoyed with God. It is significant that that the relationship that Jesus is said to enjoy with Allah is the only one that is ontological in nature. There surely must be more to the term than just the idea that Jesus was the result of a divine fiat. Gilchrist argues ‘The Qur’an says no more of Adam than that “he learnt from his Lord words of inspiration” (Surah 2.37), that is, the kalimaat were sent down mir-rabbihi, “from his Lord”, but in the case of Jesus it is said that he himself is the kalimatullah, the “Word of God”. As there is, nonetheless, no explanation of the title in the Qur’an, we shall have to turn, as we did with the title Al-Masih, to the Christian Bible to find its real meaning…’ 163 Zwemer observes about the term in relation to the titles of other prophets, ‘The title given to Moses is Kalim Allah, and the common explanation is that Moses was the mouth-piece of God in the sense that God spake to him, and made him His special confidant; but Jesus is the Kalimet Allah or Word of God, because He communicates God’s word, God’s will to men.’ 164 Zwemer further notes ‘If Christ were a Word of God, it would be clear that He was only one expression of God’s will; but since God Himself calls Him “the Word of God”, it is clear that He must be the one and only perfect expression of God’s will, and the only perfect manifestation of God.’ 165 Gilchrist’s observation is very pertinent:

There are two key factors that the Muslims are only too inclined to overlook – the application of the title to Jesus alone and the fact that he is clearly described in Surah 4.171 as “His Word”, meaning not a Word from God alone but the Word of God. Abdul-Haqq states the first factor quite plainly – the title is “an expression uniquely used of Jesus Christ”. The Qur’an, in Surah 3.59, states that “the likeness of Jesus with God is as the likeness of Adam” and promptly defines that likeness. God simply said “Be”, and he came to be (kun fayakuun), implying that both were made by the single word of God in the same way. If Jesus is called the Word of God purely as a result of the manner of his conception, then Adam too must be the Word of God for according to the Qur’an they were both created in the same manner. Now a real difficulty arises because Adam is not called the Word of God in the Qur’an. Nor are the angels, nor is any other creature so called in the Qur’an. Jesus alone is called the Word of God. 166

As stated earlier, the likelihood is that the title reflects the Christian usage, but that Qur’anic redaction has diluted its original significance. There appears to be no other reason for its employment. No doubt Muhammad and the early Muslims encountered Christians referring to Jesus as ‘the Word of God’, and so included it in their new religion, albeit in a slightly transformed fashion. It is important to recognise that the Christian usage claims a heavy background in the Old Testament and Jewish tradition, notably the targums. What background can the Islamic title claim, especially if it is interpreted as Badawi and Yusuf Ali assert? Especially as the Qur’an nowhere explains the function of the title? We noted earlier that probably because of the virgin birth, Jesus is described as a ‘sign’ to mankind. Possibly the concept of Jesus being ‘the Word’ is related to this as well. It would seem that the miraculous supernatural origins of Jesus are maintained even in the Qur’anic redaction, to some degree.

6. A spirit from Allah

Usually coupled with the previous title is the reference to Jesus as being a spirit from God – Ruh’Allah. The Spirit of God (Ruh’Allah) is to be distinguished from the Holy Spirit (Ruh-al-Quddus). The former is Jesus, the latter Gabriel. This often causes confusion for both Christians and Muslims. With regard to the title as used of Jesus, as in 4:171, Zwemer observes that ‘the commentators are not agreed as to its real significance, and whether it is a name that can be applied to Jesus Christ, or whether the passage simply signifies that Jesus, with all other mortals, was partaker of the creative Spirit of God.’ 167 Badawi observes about the term ‘A SPIRIT FROM ALLAH (4:171): same applies to other humans (15:29, 32:9, 38:72).‘ This makes it clear that he sees nothing singular about the term, although it should be noted that the texts to which Badawi refers concern the creation of Adam. The immediate question is that if this is all Islam means by the term, why has it become a defining title of Jesus, not least in the Hadith, as we have noted earlier with regard to ‘the Word’? For the text does not simply say that God breathed His spirit into the womb of Mary, but rather that Jesus was a spirit from Him. Gilchrist writes:

In Surah 3.45 we read that Jesus was a kalimatim-minhu, “a Word from him”. Now we read in Surah 4.171 that he was also a ruhun minhu, “a Spirit from him”. On both occasions it is clearly stated that the source of the man who bears these titles is God himself. Jesus is his Word and his Spirit. Once again no attempt is made to explain the title in the Qur’an, yet it frankly supports the Christian belief that Jesus was not a creature made out of dust but an eternal spirit who took on human form. It is the closest the Qur’an comes to admitting the pre-existence of Jesus before his conception on earth. The lack of any explanation of its meaning, however, or why it should be applied uniquely to Jesus just as the other two titles are, suggests that Muhammad once again heard and adopted Christian teachings and titles applying to Jesus without understanding them or seeing their ominous implications for his dogma that Jesus was only a prophet like all the other prophets.

Precisely in the passage already mentioned, where Muhammad uses the epithets ‘Logos’ and ‘Spirit’ with reference to Jesus and seems to approach the concept of trinity, it can be clearly understood that Muhammad did not realise the implication of these Christian expressions which he had acquired from hearsay. (Frieling, Christianity and Islam, p. 71). 168

The Muslim answer appears to be found in the Hadith, which gives the impression that all human spirits were characterised by some form of pre-existence, and that Jesus was simply one of these:

Al-Tirmidhi Hadith 122

Narrated by Ubayy ibn Ka’b

In regard to the words of Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, “Your Lord brought forth their offspring from the loins of the children of Adam.” (7:172) Ubayy said: He gathered them and paired them then fashioned them and endowed them with the power of speech and they began to speak. He then made an agreement and covenant with them. He made them bear witness about themselves (saying) Am I not your Lord. They said: Yes. He said: I call to witness seven heavens and seven earths regarding you and I call witness your father Adam regarding you lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection: We do not know this. Bear this in mind that there is no god besides Me and there is no Lord besides Me and do not associate anything with Me. It is I Who should be sending to you My messengers in order to remind you My agreement and My covenant and it is I who would send you My Books. They said: We bear witness to the fact that Thou art our Lord, Thou art our Object of worship. There is no Lord besides Thee and there is no object of worship besides Thee. They confirmed this (pledge). Adam was raised above them so that he would see them and he saw the rich and the poor, those having handsome faces and even those inferior to them and he said: My Lord, why is it that Thou hast not made Thy servants alike? He said: I wish that I should be thanked. And he also saw the Prophets, some amongst them like lamps with light in them, distinguished by another covenant regarding messengership and prophethood, viz. the words of the Blessed and the High: And when We made covenant with the prophets – up to His words: Jesus son of Mary (33:7). He was among those spirits and He sent him to Mary (peace be upon both of them). And it is narrated by Ubayy that he entered by her mouth.

Transmitted by Ahmad.

The doctrine of this tradition does not seem to agree with that of the Qur’an, and it smacks of being contrived, possibly with a view to countering Christian polemics about the eternal nature of Christ. At any rate, the provenance of the hadiths with regard to the Qur’an is debatable, whatever Muslims affirm. Certainly the text in S. 33:7 in no way implies the pre-existence of the prophets or human beings in general. If the term is simply a description of Jesus’ origins, it is strange that it has come to function as a title, and one that distinguishes Jesus from other Messengers. As with ‘the Word’, this title is never employed of any other prophet. Gilchrist observes how the term has come to be used in a titular sense:

Throughout the works of Hadith where purported sayings and anecdotes relating to Jesus are recorded, we find him always being addressed Ya Ruhullah (“O Spirit of Allah”). It is a very common title in many works. In one place his disciples are found saying to him:

“O Spirit of God, describe to us the friends of God (Exalted is He!) upon whom there is no fear, and who do not grieve”. (Robson, Christ in Islam, p. 86). 169

Even if the titles of the prophets are not exclusive as Deedat claims, it requires some explanation as to why an ontological description is applied uniquely to Jesus, whereas other prophets are known by functional or relational titles. No other human being in the Qur’an is ever described as a spirit in this way. Rather, the term Ruh is applied to angels, such as Gabriel, e.g. 70:4; 78:38; 97:4. In fact, the ‘Spirit’ in these texts is usually, though not universally identified as Gabriel. In this case, we have a heavenly being identified as a spirit. It is natural, consistent exegesis to interpret ruh in other cases as being of this nature. Gilchrist comments:

“Candid Muhammadan writers freely admit that this title ‘Spirit of God’ carries with it some speciality such as can be predicated of no other prophet” (Goldsack, Christ in Islam, p. 21). It is very interesting to note that the very expression applied to Jesus in Surah 4.171, ruhun minhu, appears in exactly the same form in Surah 58.22 where we read that God strengthens true believers with “a spirit from him”. The Muslim translator Yusuf Ali appends the following comment to this verse:

Here we learn that all good and righteous men are strengthened by God with the holy spirit. If anything the phrase used here is stronger, “a spirit from Himself”. Whenever anyone offers his heart in faith and purity to God, God accepts it, engraves that Faith on the seeker’s heart, and further fortifies him with the divine spirit which we can no more define adequately than we can define in human language the nature and attributes of God. (Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur’an, p. 1518). 170

Although Jesus is not described as ‘the Spirit of God’, the close relationship He enjoys with the Third Person of the Trinity, being born through the Holy Spirit overshadowing Mary, being anointed by Him at the Baptism, pouring out the Spirit on believers, no doubt led to confusion among early Muslims, very likely as the Qur’an misconstrues so many other Christian doctrines, not least the identity and nature of the Trinity, which it seems to view as God, Mary and Jesus, thereby excluding the Spirit. Of course, the Spirit is given the title ‘Spirit of Christ’ in Romans 8:9 and 1 Peter 1:11. In John 20:22 we read that Jesus breathed on the disciples saying ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’. In the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas the Israelite v10, (First Greek form) which many have suggested as one of the sources of the Qur’an, we find the crowd acclaiming the child Jesus after a miracle with the words ‘Truly the Spirit of God dwells in this child.’ In v15, we read of the child Jesus ‘He spoke by the Holy Spirit, and taught the law to those that were standing round.’ If Muhammad and the early Muslims misunderstood Christian doctrine on this point, their confusion might have led them to misconstrue the Spirit as another term for Jesus, and then they would have adapted and transformed the concept, diluting it to fit Islamic presuppositions. This would appear to be a likely source for the Qur’anic idea. Certainly, the title is ontological, rather than functional, and it is never actually explained in the Qur’an, suggesting that the Christian concept in some form is understood as its background.


Conclusion

It follows from our examination of the titles of Jesus in the Bible that the New Testament designations of Him were neither arbitrary nor contrived. They were rooted in the Old Testament and Jewish tradition. These names and titles described both the nature and function of Jesus. Even when a designation may not have been fully recognised as a title (or possibly, even at all), such as the term ‘Son of Man’, there was sufficient Old Testament and Jewish background to allow the hearers some measure of understanding. If people did misconstrue, such as thinking Jesus came to establish a political kingdom, His reference to the Suffering Servant helped to set the record straight. The tittles appear to be inter-related, and could only be fulfilled in their totality (as well as individually) by one person. There is an inner logical consistency in their concepts and in the application of them to Jesus. What emerges from the titles we examined is that Jesus is a divine figure who descended from heaven to die on our behalf, to atone for and liberate us from sin. We have been able to account for all the designations of Jesus in this way. Further, the titles explain both the ontological nature and functional roles of Jesus, the latter flowing naturally from the former.

With the Muslim titles, however, this logical coherence is largely absent. None of them can claim a background in the Old Testament and Jewish tradition. What background they possess appears largely to consist in a diluted transformation of canonical and apocryphal gospels. Throughout, their character betrays contrivance and innovation. They present a confused picture of Jesus’ origins, and frequently tell us little about His ministry. This is especially true of the cardinal title found in both the Bible and the Qur’an – the Messiah. The term is unexplained by the latter, and can only be understood by studying the former. In regard to other Biblical titles, it is clear that the Qur’an misunderstands the concept of ‘the Son of God’, and what it denies is not what Christians believe. It is possible that ‘Son of Mary’ arose as a Qur’anic title partly as a result of anti-Christian polemic. Other titles have been grossly diluted, such as the Servant, and virtually emptied of meaning. Titles such as ‘Son of Man’, ‘Son of David’, ‘Priest’ and ‘Saviour’ have disappeared altogether, probably because they could not be adapted, especially the priestly activity of the Servant. The understanding of Jesus’ prophetic and apostolic ministry in Islam is not identical to that in the Bible, not just to the New Testament, but to what the Old Testament and Jewish tradition expected of the Eschatological Prophet and the Shaliach. The lack of any basis in the Old Testament and Jewish tradition is crucial for the debate as to the identity of the historical Jesus. The Biblical Jesus conforms to this tradition, fitting the picture presented. The Islamic Jesus is frankly foreign to this picture. Naturally, because divine scriptural revelation ended with Jesus and those He appointed as His Shaliach representatives.


References

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  2. Milne, Bruce, Know the Truth, (IVP, Leicester, 1982), p. 137.
  3. Guthrie, Donald, New Testament Theology, (IVP, Leicester, 1981), p. 301.
  4. Guthrie, New Testament Theology, pp. 237-238.
  5. Wright, N. T., The New Testament and the People of God, (SPCK, London, 1992), p. 330.
  6. Fuller, R. H., The Foundations of New Testament Christology, (Fontana, London, 1965), p. 24.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Motyer, Alec, The Prophecy of Isaiah, (IVP, Leicester, 1993), pp. 102-103.
  9. France, R. T., Matthew – Evangelist and Teacher, (Paternoster, Exeter, 1989), p. 285.
  10. Ibid, p. 285.
  11. Carson, D. A., ‘Christological ambiguities in Matthew’, Christ the Lord: Studies in Christology presented to Donald Guthrie, Rowdon, Harold. H. (ed.), (IVP, Leicester, 1982), p. 105.
  12. Grogan, Geoffrey, I want to know what the Bible says about Jesus, (Kingsway, Eastbourne, 1979), p. 43.
  13. Cullmann, Oscar, Christology of the New Testament, (SCM, London, 1975), p. 273.
  14. Richardson, Alan, An Introduction to the Theology of the New Testament, (SCM, London, 1959), p. 150.
  15. Ibid.
  16. France, Matthew – Evangelist and Teacher, p. 207.
  17. Ibid., p. 189.
  18. Lindars, Barnabas, Jesus Son of Man, (SPCK, London, 1983), pp. 148-149.
  19. Verseput, Donald, ‘The Role and Meaning of the “Son of God” title in Matthew’s gospel’, New Testament Studies, Vol. 33, 1987, pp. 537-538.
  20. Moo, Douglas, Romans 1-8, (Moody, Chicago, 1991), pp. 40-41.
  21. Ladd, George Eldon, A Theology of the New Testament, (Eerdmans, USA, 1974), pp. 166-167.
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  23. Dunn, James, Jesus and the Spirit, (SCM, London, 1975), p. 23.
  24. Richardson, An Introduction to the Theology of the New Testament, p. 149.
  25. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, p. 167.
  26. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit, p. 36.
  27. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, p. 167.
  28. John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his unique Son, that whoever believes on him should not perish, but have eternal life.
    John 3:17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world; but that the world should be saved through him.
    John 3:35 The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand.
    John 3:36 He that believes on the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains with him.
    John 5:19 Jesus therefore answered and said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father doing: for whatever things he does, these the Son also does in like manner.
    John 5:20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all things that he himself does: and greater works than these will he show him, that you may marvel.
    John 5:21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom he will.
    John 5:22 For neither does the Father judge any man, but he has given all judgment to the Son;
    John 5:23 that all may honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father who sent him.
    John 5:26 For as the Father has life in himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in himself.
    John 6:40 For this is the will of my Father, that every one beholding the Son, and believing on him, shall have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
    John 8:36 If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.
    John 14:13 And whatever you shall ask in my name, I will do it, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
    John 17:1 Jesus spoke these things, and lifting up his eyes to heaven, he said, Father, the hour is come; glorify your Son, that the son may glorify you.
  29. Walker Jr., William O., ‘John 1:43-51 and “The Son of Man” in the Fourth Gospel’, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, (Issue 54, 1994, Sheffield), p. 41.
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  31. Kümmel, The Theology of the New Testament, p. 270.
  32. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, p. 148.
  33. Manson, T. W., The Teaching of Jesus, (C. U. P., Cambridge, 1931, 1935), p. 218.
  34. Bruce, F. F., ‘The background to the Son of Man sayings’, Christ the Lord: Studies in Christology presented to Donald Guthrie, p. 58.
  35. Young, E. J., The Prophecy of Daniel, (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1949), p. 154.
  36. Vermes, Geza, Jesus the Jew, (SCM, London, 1973, Second edition), pp. 171-172.
  37. Bruce, ‘The background to the Son of Man sayings’, p. 54.
  38. Rowe, Robert D., ‘Is Daniel’s “Son of Man” Messianic?’, Christ the Lord: Studies in Christology presented to Donald Guthrie, p. 88.
  39. Rowe, ‘Is Daniel’s “Son of Man” Messianic?’, p. 82.
  40. Ibid.
  41. Bruce, F. F., Israel and the Nations, (Paternoster, Exeter, 1963, 1983 revised edition), pp. 144-146.
  42. Bruce, Israel and the Nations, p. 146.
  43. Bruce, Israel and the Nations, p. 166.
  44. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, p. 294.
  45. Goldingay, John, Daniel, (Word, Dallas, 1987, UK edition 1991), p. 261.
  46. Rowe, ‘Is Daniel’s “Son of Man” Messianic?’, p. 93.
  47. Ibid.
  48. Ibid.
  49. Ibid., p. 75.
  50. Isaiah 52:13-15: 13′idou sunhsei ‘o paiv mou kai ‘uqwyhsetai kai doxasyhsetai sfodra 14on tropon ‘eksthsontai ‘epi se polloi ‘outwv ‘adoxhsei ‘apo ‘anyrwpwn to ‘eidov sou kai ‘h doxa sou ‘apo twn ‘anyrwpwn 15′outwv yaumasontai ‘eynh polla ‘ep‘ ‘autw kai sunexousin basileiv to stoma ‘autwn ‘oti ‘oiv ‘ouk ‘anhggelh peri ‘autou ‘oqontai kai ‘oi ‘ouk ‘akhkoasin sunhsousin
  51. Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, p. 426.
  52. Baagil, H. M., Christian-Muslim Dialogue, (Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, Kuwait, 1984), p. 32.
  53. Bruce, ‘The background to the Son of Man sayings’, p. 58ff.
  54. Bruce, ibid., p. 58.
  55. Bruce, ibid., pp. 58-59.
  56. Martens, E. A., Plot and Purpose in the Old Testament, (IVP, Leicester, 1981), pp. 207-208.
  57. Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, p. 121.
  58. Grogan, I want to know what the Bible says about Jesus, p. 39.
  59. France, R. T., Jesus and the Old Testament, (Tyndale, London, 1971), pp. 132-133.
  60. France, ibid., p. 134.
  61. France, ibid., p. 134.
  62. France, ibid., p. 134.
  63. Guthrie, New Testament Theology, p. 262.
  64. Lindars, Jesus Son of Man, pp. 77-80.
  65. France, Jesus and the Old Testament, pp. 120-121. (The quote about ebed Yahweh is from Cullman, Christology of the New Testament, p. 65.
  66. Guthrie, New Testament Theology, pp. 262-263.
  67. France, Jesus and the Old Testament, pp. 122-123.
  68. France, Ibid., p. 106.
  69. France, Ibid., pp. 106-107.
  70. France, Ibid., p. 108.
  71. France, Ibid., p. 154.
  72. Fairbairn, Patrick, Typology of Scripture Vol. 1, (1900; reprint by Kregel, Grand Rapids, 1989), p. 371.
  73. France, Jesus and the Old Testament, pp. 108-109.
  74. McKenzie, John, A Theology of the Old Testament, (Chapman, London, 1974), p. 250.
  75. Kaiser, Walter, Towards an Old Testament Theology, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1978), p. 155.
  76. Ibid.
  77. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, pp. 139-140.
  78. Chilton, Bruce, A Galilean Rabbi and his Bible, (SPCK, London, 1984), p. 200.
  79. Kümmel, The Theology of the New Testament, p. 109.
  80. France, Jesus and the Old Testament, p. 109.
  81. Bruce, F. F., The Hard Sayings of Jesus, (Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1983), p. 241.
  82. Hays, Richard B., The Moral Vision of the New Testament, (HarperSanFrancisco, New York, 1996), pp. 241-242.
  83. Deedat, Ahmed, What the Bible says about Muhammad, (IPCI, Birmingham, undated), p. 5ff.
  84. Ibid., p. 12.
  85. Bruce, Israel and the Nations, p. 209.
  86. Clements, R. E., Prophecy and Tradition, (Blackwell, Oxford, 1978), p. 12n.
  87. Ibid., p. 13.
  88. Fuller, The Foundations of New Testament Christology, p. 47.
  89. Ibid.
  90. Ibid.
  91. Sahih Al-Bukhari Hadith 6.504
    Narrated by Abu Huraira
    The Prophet said, ‘Every Prophet was given miracles because of which people believed, but what I have been given, is Divine Inspiration which Allah has revealed to me…’
  92. Fuller, The Foundations of New Testament Christology, p. 48.
  93. Ibid., p. 47.
  94. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit, p. 82.
  95. Barclay, William, Jesus as they saw him, (SCM, London, 1962), p. 367
  96. Vermes, Jesus the Jew, p. 92.
  97. Hill, David, New Testament Prophecy, (Marshall Morgan & Scott, Basingstoke, 1979), p. 49.
  98. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit, p. 57.
  99. Ibid., p. 82.
  100. Hill, New Testament Prophecy, p. 58.
  101. Dunn, Jesus and the Spirit, p. 83.
  102. Ibid.
  103. Barclay, Jesus as they saw him, p. 238.
  104. Ladd, George Eldon, The Presence of the Future, (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1974), p. 165.
  105. Ibid., pp. 151-152.
  106. Ibid., p. 151.
  107. Barclay, Jesus as they saw him, p. 322.
  108. Ibid. pp. 323-324.
  109. Ibid., p. 323.
  110. Hill, New Testament Prophecy, p. 54.
  111. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, p. 238.
  112. Ibid., pp. 238-239.
  113. Guthrie, New Testament Theology, pp. 322-323.
  114. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, p. 241.
  115. Fuller, The Foundations of New Testament Christology, p. 223.
  116. Jacob, Edmond, Theology of the Old Testament, (Hodder & Stoughton, London,1958), p. 127.
  117. Ibid., p 128.
  118. Guthrie, New Testament Theology, p. 324.
  119. Dahms, J. V., Isaiah 55:11 and the Gospel of John, (Evangelical Quarterly, April-June, 1981), pp. 78-88.
  120. Jacob, Theology of the Old Testament, p. 129.
  121. Morris, The Lord from heaven, p. 94.
  122. Hayward, C. T. R., The Holy Name of the God of Moses and the Prologue of St. John’s Gospel (New Testament Studies 25, 1978) pp. 16-32.
  123. Ibid.
  124. Mowvley, H., John 1:14-18 in the Light of Exodus 33:7-34:35′, (Expository Times).
  125. Hooker, M. D., The Johannine Prologue and the Messianic Secret, (New Testament Studies 21 1974), p. 40-58.
  126. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, p. 242.
  127. McNamara, Martin, The New Testament and the Palestinian Targum, (PBI, Rome, 1956), p. 184ff.
  128. Guthrie, New Testament Theology, p. 324.
  129. Ibid., p. 325.
  130. Jacob, Theology of the Old Testament, p. 134.
  131. France, Jesus and the Old Testament, p. 164.
  132. Bruce, F. F., The Work of Jesus, (Kingsway, Eastbourne, 1979, 1984), p. 74.
  133. Guthrie, New Testament Theology, p. 451.
  134. Ibid.
  135. Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, p. 250.
  136. McKenzie, A Theology of the Old Testament, p. 248.
  137. Cotterell, F. P., ‘The Christology of Islam’, Christ the Lord: Studies in Christology presented to Donald Guthrie, p. 284.
  138. Deedat, Ahmed, Christ in Islam, http://www.afi.org.uk/other/50.html
  139. Gilchrist, John, Christ in Islam and Christianity: A Comparative Study of the Christian and Muslim Attitudes to the Person of Jesus Christ, http://www.answering-islam.org/Gilchrist/christ.html
  140. Zwemer, The Moslem Christ, pp. 34-35.
  141. Gilchrist, Christ in Islam and Christianity, http://www.answering-islam.org/Gilchrist/christ.html
  142. Cotterell, ‘The Christology of Islam’, p. 284.
  143. Zwemer, The Moslem Christ, p. 33.
  144. Ibid., pp. 26-27.
  145. Cotterell, ‘The Christology of Islam’, p. 285.
  146. Zwemer, The Moslem Christ, pp. 30-31.
  147. Haneef, Suzanne, What everyone should know about Islam and Muslims, (Kazi Publications, Lahore, 1979), p. 20.
  148. Vos, Geerhardus, Biblical Theology, (Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, 1948, 1975), p. 193.
  149. Mawdudi, Abul A’la, The Meaning of the Qur’an, vol. 1 Al-Ma’idah, (Islamic Publications, Lahore, 1993), p. 47
  150. Badawi, Jamal,Jesus (peace be upon him) in the Qur’an and the Bible, http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/6808/Jesus.html
  151. Baagil, Christian-Muslim Dialogue, pp. 41-42.
  152. Deedat, Christ in Islam, http://www.afi.org.uk/other/50.html
  153. Watt, Montgomery, Muhammad in Medina, (Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 317.
  154. Zwemer, The Moslem Christ, p. 28.
  155. Abdalati, Hammudah, Islam in Focus, (American Trust Publications, 1975), p. 159.
  156. Gilchrist, John, The Christian Witness to the Muslim, http://www.answering-islam.org/Gilchrist/Vol2/
  157. Zwemer, The Moslem Christ, p. 29.
  158. Baagil, Christian-Muslim Dialogue, p. 21.
  159. Badawi, Jamal, Jesus in the Qur’an and the Bible, http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/6808/Jesus.html
  160. Vargo, Andrew, Responses to Jamal Badawi’s ‘Radio Al-Islam Channel RA 200′ http://www.answering-islam.org/Responses/Badawi/Radio/RA200B7.htm
  161. Shamoun, Sam, Jesus Christ in the Qur’an and Bible Part III, http://www.answering-islam.org/Shamoun/badawi-jesus3.htm
    Sura 2:117: ‘The Originator of the heavens and the earth. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it: ‘Be!’ – and it is.’
    Sura 3:47, 59: ‘She said: `O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me.’ He said: `So (it will be) for Allâh creates what He wills. When He has decreed something, He says to it only: ‘Be!’ and it is’… Verily, the likeness of ‘Iesa (Jesus) before Allâh is the likeness of Adam. He created him from dust, then (He) said to him: `Be!’ – and he was.’
    Sura 6:73: ‘It is He Who has created the heavens and the earth in truth, and on the Day (i.e. the Day of Resurrection) He will say: ‘Be!’, – and it shall become. His Word is the truth. His will be the dominion on the Day when the trumpet will be blown. AllKnower of the unseen and the seen. He is the AllWise, Well-Aware (of all things).
    Sura 16:40: ‘Verily! Our Word unto a thing when We intend it, is only that We say unto it: ‘Be!’ and it is.’
    Sura 19:35: ‘It befits not (the Majesty of) Allâh that He should beget a son (this refers to the slander of Christians against Allâh, by saying that ‘Iesa (Jesus) is the son of Allâh). Glorified (and Exalted be He above all that they associate with Him). When He decrees a thing, He only says to it, ‘Be!’ and it is.’
    Sura 36:82: ‘Verily, His Command, when He intends a thing, is only that He says to it, ‘Be!’ and it is!’
    Sura 40:68: ‘He it is Who gives life and causes death. And when He decides upon a thing He says to it only: ‘Be!’ and it is.’
    Sura 18:109: ‘Say (O Muhammad SAW to mankind). `If the sea were ink for (writing) the Words of my Lord, surely, the sea would be exhausted before the Words of my Lord would be finished, even if we brought (another sea) like it for its aid.’ ‘
    Sura 8:7: ‘And (remember) when Allâh promised you (Muslims) one of the two parties (of the enemy i.e. either the army or the caravan) that it should be yours, you wished that the one not armed (the caravan) should be yours, but Allâh willed to justify the truth by His Words and to cut off the roots of the disbelievers (i.e. in the battle of Badr).’
    Sura 31:27: ‘And if all the trees on the earth were pens and the sea (were ink wherewith to write), with seven seas behind it to add to its (supply), yet the Words of Allâh would not be exhausted. Verily, Allâh is AllMighty, AllWise.’
  162. Deedat, Christ in Islam, http://www.afi.org.uk/other/50.html
  163. Gilchrist, The Christian Witness to the Muslim, http://www.answering-islam.org/Gilchrist/Vol2/
  164. Zwemer, The Moslem Christ, p. 29.
  165. Ibid., p. 37.
  166. Gilchrist, The Christian Witness to the Muslim, http://www.answering-islam.org/Gilchrist/Vol2/
  167. Zwemer, The Moslem Christ, p. 30.
  168. Gilchrist, The Christian Witness to the Muslim, http://www.answering-islam.org/Gilchrist/Vol2/5c.html
  169. Ibid.
  170. Ibid.