Osama's Blooper Reel

A Critique of Some Polemics by Muslim Apologist Osama Abdallah

~Andrew Barton and "Wildcat"


Condemn the truth if you have the heart, but only after you have examined it.

-Tertullian 197 A.D.


Introduction

As one becomes increasingly aware of some of the anti-Christian literature that abounds in books and on the internet, one increasingly understands why JPH thought it necessary to write an article explaining why the work of critics of the Bible should be considered critically. This would apply to critics of all varieties, whether they are agnostics, anti-missionaries, atheists, etc. [1]

And then there are the Muslim polemicists. Despite the overwhelming evidence that supports the fact that the Bible has been accurately preserved, and even despite the abundant data that points persuasively to the fact that the Qur'an and other early Islamic sources (e.g. Hadith; early Islamic scholars) endorse that the Bible has been preserved, Muslims widely believe that the Bible has been corrupted to the point where it is no longer a pristine source of divine revelation. Once one realizes that such facts reported in the Bible as Christ's divinity, crucifixion, atonement, and resurrection are not amenable to Islam, this position is hardly surprising. With this being the case, Muslim apologists will attack the Bible from virtually every angle, although they will still resort to appealing to certain parts of the Bible in their polemics when they feel it suits their purpose(s).

The critic that is the subject of this particular article is Muslim apologist Osama Abdallah. Abdallah's website is one of the most popular (perhaps THE most popular) English Muslim websites involved in Christian-Muslim dialogue. As would be expected, Osama has quite a few articles presenting various attacks against the Bible. One that is not reasonably well-informed about Christianity and/or the Bible would likely come away with some strange ideas regarding the teachings and issues of both after reading from Osama's site. Osama has written, with the expected negative bent, about such Biblical issues as slavery, the treatment of women, alleged porn in the Bible(!), terrorism, harmony with modern Science, preservation, etc. Additionally, Christian doctrines such as Christ's divinity, the Trinity, and the crucifixion are also regularly attacked. OTOH, Osama addresses issues pertinent to Islam much more favorably. We would disagree with much of what Osama says regarding Islam, but that is beyond our scope (See, in the links section toward the end of this article for a couple of pages with direct and indirect responses to much of Osama's work regarding both Christianity and Islam). Needless to say, we would disagree with probably the vast majority of Osama's assertions regarding Christianity as well, some of which will be addressed in this article.

Recently, Andrew Barton noticed several errors in Osama's articles regarding Christianity. Barton, in hopes of informing Osama of 5 of these errors as well as persuading him to correct them, tried to contact him via e-mail and by posting messages on Osama's message board. The relevant articles, however, were not revised by Osama as a result. With this being the case, we decided to critically examine 11 of Osama's assertions relevant to Christianity and/or the Bible (including the original 5), with special focus on some of the most blatantly erroneous claims that we were able to find on his site. Barton's work, which forms the bulk of this article, is contained in sections 1,2,3,5,6,7, and 10 while mine are found in sections 4,8,9, and 11. This article was organized topically so that issues regarding contradictions and/or semantics are addressed first, followed by discussions of relevant historical issues pertaining to the New Testament (such as eyewitness testimony, Gospel authorship, dating, and preservation).

Section 1: Cross or Tree?

Cross, staurov, was a punishment introduced to the Palestine area upon the arrival of the Romans in 63 B.C. under Pompey. This was a notoriously painful way to die, and one usually reserved for criminals and traitors of Rome.

Jesus did certainly die on the cross [c.f John chapter 19, 1 Corinthians 1:17], but Osama's intent is to discredit the Bible's narratives of the events by conceiving a contradiction in their accounts. He wishes us to accept that there is an anomaly in the Bible as to the instrument of Christ's death-a Cross or a tree? We shall show that staurov [cross] is used synonymously with xulon [tree]- that which is made from wood (tree).

Semantics

Had Osama taken the time to research the appropriate standard sources of Koine Greek language before pronouncing finding a contradiction within the Bible, he would have discovered non-biblical texts that use xulon in a similar manner to the New Testament:

(1) Josephus, in "Antiquities of the Jews", book 11: setting up of gallows [xulon].

(2) Polybius, in "Histories", book 6: the commander took a cudgel [xulon].

(3) Herodotus, in "The Histories 9": stocks [xulon] that the feet were put in.

(4) The play "Lysistra" for wooden gallows [xulon]

The focus of our language study will be on xulon, which, according to an online Bible Greek Lexicon [note please that I use this specific lexicon because of its availability to everyone with the internet; there is no excuse for Osama's laziness], xulon is defined as:

1) wood 1a) that which is made of wood 1a1) as a beam from which any one is suspended, a gibbet, a cross 1a2) a log or timber with holes in which the feet, hands, neck of prisoners were inserted and fastened with thongs 1a3) a fetter, or shackle for the feet 1a4) a cudgel, stick, staff [Source]

To clarify it even further, xulon is a generic term [3]. There is, in fact, a different word for "tree" that could be used. This is dendron, which is not generic, and had that been used, the contradiction put forward would have had more substance.

Biblical Evidence

Wishing to express that there is disagreement within our Bible about the account of Jesus' death, should I be able to demonstrate the books/people that Osama suggests are in conflict actually agree, his position would crumble. In this case, if the books that list "tree" can be shown to use "cross," we have further proof of the synonymous link that exists between the two words. First, we have Luke [4] who uses "cross" in his gospel and "tree" in Acts. Osama specifically notes Galatians as supporting death on a tree [Gal 3:14 xulon], and so in turn rejecting death on a cross. Yet we find this a few chapters later:

emoi de mh genoito kaucasyai ei mh en tw staurw tou kuriou hmwn ihsou cristou di ou emoi kosmov estaurwtai kagw tw kosmw. (Galatians: 6:14)

This use of staurw further enhances the debunking of his claim.

In the Hebrew scriptures, Deuteronomy 21:22 states: "And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he is to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree." The Septuagint [5] translates the word "tree" into Greek using xulou. It is this, and the use of the Septuagint by the early Christians, that explains why they were inclined to occasionally use xulou.

Translation Evidence

In Anglo-Saxon English, the word "tree" [treow] was used to describe any tool made from a tree. The English word "tree" can mean anything made of wood. Chaunce says, "vessels of tre":

It also specifically to denote something made of wood, particularly a bar or beam, a meaning still preserved in the compounds axle-tree, cross-tree, whipple-tree. It has the latter meaning, with a special application, in several passages of the A. V., e. g. (Ac 5:30), "whom ye slew and hanged on a tree," rather, "whom ye slew by hanging him on a cross," literally, "on a beam of wood" (epi xulou); so (Ac 10:39, 13:29; Ga 3:13).

In like manner the Genevan version reads, in reference to the proposed hanging of Mordecai, "Let them make a tree of fifty cubits high" (Es 5:14), comp. (Es 6:4, 7:9, 10); and the cross in early English poetry is often called "Cristes tre" (Chaucer), "Godys tre," "the holy rode tre," or simply "the tree," as in the A. V., (1Pe 2:24). Noah's ark is called in Wycliffe's version of (APC Wis x:4), "a disposable tree, " where the A. V. reads "a piece of wood of small value.

[Source: Smith's Revised Bible Dictionary]

The Oxford Dictionary under the entry for "tree" states:

1. a woody perennial plant typically with a single stem or trunk growing to a considerable height and bearing lateral branches.

2. a wooden structure or part of a structure. archaic V poetic/literary

Xulon is used in several places in the Bible for wooden instruments, usually those relating to punishment/weapons:

"accompanied by a great multitude with swords and clubs [xulon], from the chief priests and elders of the people." (Matthew 26:47)

Who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks [xulon] (Acts 16:24)

Our early Church Fathers also help us to enhance our understanding of how contemporary people understood such terms as synonymous:

"By means of a tree, we were made debtors to God. Likewise, by means of a tree, we can obtain the remission of our debt." (Irenaeus [180 A.D])

"That he will come again in glory after his crucifixion was symbolised by the tree." (Justin Martyr [160 A.D])

We see from the examples of extra-biblical literature, early Christian writers, and the Bible itself in its other uses of xulon, that there is no contradiction between xulon and staurov. (For more on this issue, please see here and here [In the 2nd link, the relevant topic is the last one discussed in the article.])

Conclusion

I have demonstrated from all approaches that there is no contradiction between the crucifixion accounts on the instrument of Jesus' death. Osama's attempt to discredit the accounts as conflicting or unsure falls down under the most basic scrutiny. The word is used to describe any item [usually an instrument for punishment] made from wood throughout the Greek language as a whole, and even in Anglo-Saxon English as well. We see from the Bible itself the evident relationship between xulon and staurov, demonstrated even from the same author [Paul] in Galatians where he uses the two words synonymously. Jesus Christ died for the sins of mankind, enduring severe pain on the cross 1970 years ago, thanks be to God. The claims of Osama do not and cannot reverse the reality of that.

Section 2: Contradiction on Headcoverings?

Greek women rarely appeared in public. They lived in strict seclusion; even their rooms in the house were kept upstairs to avoid making contact with any males that were visiting their husband's quarters which was downstairs. Euripides said, "as to that which brings the reproach of a bad reputation upon her who remains not at home." This means that women who were uncovered on their head were seen as having a bad reputation. Prostitutes in Greek society [Corinth is in Greece] were identified by their lack of head coverings. Likening it to a situation today for Muslims, it would be a parallel situation for a woman who came into a mosque wearing provocative clothing.

Osama looks at 1 Corinthians 11 where Paul discusses the Church and head coverings, and believes that there is a contradiction within Paul's statements:

In 1 Corinthians 11:5 above, he clearly tells us that women must cover their heads. Then 1 Corinthians 11:6, he is telling us that for those women who refuse to cover their heads, they must get their hair shaven or cut off.

So, so far, covering the head INCLUDES covering the hair, and not just the scull, in case some smart Christian wants to explain this away.

Now, Paul goes again and confirms the head covering (i.e., wearing scarves) for women in 1 Corinthians 11:13, and he was so sure about it, that he even asked for people's common sense ("Judge for yourselves") to prove that women must not at all uncover their heads when they pray to GOD Almighty.

Then in 1 Corinthians 11:16, he tells us that the woman's long hair is her covering?!

I thought women had to cover their heads, including their hairs as clearly stated in 1 Corinthians 11:6!! And he was so sure about it and he so believed in it that he challenged the people's common sense by saying "Judge for yourselves".

So is he saying that women with short hair (perhaps?!) must cover their heads when they go to church or pray to GOD, and women with long hair (perhaps?!) don't have to cover their hair?

If this is so, then what the hell is the purpose of this nonsense??!!

With all due respect to Christians, but WHAT IS THIS JACKASS SAYING HERE?! He is not making any sense what so ever!!

The cutting of the hair remark in verse 5 Osama took to mean that the head covering should cover the hair as well. However, the "shaving of the hair" remark is not related to the covering; it is, rather, an open sign of the shame it brings on her by appearing in the same likeness as a prostitute. For example, the cutting off of hair is used by Isaiah in chapter 7:20 as a figure for destruction of people by divine retribution. Tacitus details the account of an adulteress who had her head shaven as an open sign of her actions. Paul is exaggerating the point [in rhetoric it is known as reduction ad asburdum]. C. S. Keener also comments:

"Women's hair was a prime object of male lust in the ancient Mediterranean world…societies which employed head coverings thus viewed uncovered married women as unfaithful to their husbands, that is, seeking another man." [Source: "Dictionary of Paul and his Letters." pg. 585]

The supposed contradiction comes from verse 15 [Osama mistakes it for verse 16] and the reaction from Osama is disgusting, as you were able to see:

The verse reads as such: "a woman, if she have long hair, a glory it is to her, because the hair instead of a covering hath been given to her." [1 Corinthians 11:15]

Osama can't understand why now a woman's hair is called a covering. First, this is not a replacement of the veil [as in an alternative]; instead here the word "ant" is used to mean: "[it is] indicating that one thing is equivalent to another" [6] and is also used correspondingly in these verses: Matthew 5:38, Romans 12:7, 1 Thessalonians 5:15, 1 Peter 3:9. The generic "woman's hair" in verse 15 is described as peribolaion, which is a word usually used to describe the putting on of clothing; whereas the covering in verse 6 is katakaluptw, which is the word meaning "to veil." Paul's statement is saying that it is God that gives the long hair (i.e. God has clothed women with long hair). As William Hoste says, "Clearly the covering there [the veiling] can be donned or doffed at will, that cannot be the same for the hair. [7]

Osama has not understood such a vital difference in the text. Not only does it reveal his ignorance on commenting on the Bible, but it also makes us keep in mind Osama's violent language that was directed towards Saint Paul and who really is the "jackass" in this situation. I feel it fitting to let Saint Paul have the final word: "I repeat again: Let no-one take me for a fool." (Incidentally, the reader may be interested in the following articles regarding Paul in light of early Islamic sources: (1); (2); (3); (4); (5) The reader is also encouraged to read Osama's response to the material in (1).)

Section 3: The Crucifixion and Hebrews 5:7

Trying to find support for his continuing belief that Christ was not crucified, Osama turns to the Bible once more. The text he uses is Hebrews 5:7, which reads as such:

"he [Jesus] offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission." (Hebrews 5:7)

Taking the word "heard" to mean "answered" [see Psalms 40:1, Psalms 116:1 for such a use] rather than merely "listening to," and that the answer is to the terms that was asked, this understanding seems plausible. However, this understanding leads to contradictions with the rest of Hebrews which testifies to the crucifixion, such as Hebrews 12:2 (see also 2:9; 9:15; 13:12).

Newly elected Bishop and prominent New Testament scholar, N. T. Wright, has comments on this verse that are profitable:

"[Hebrews 5:7] seems to suggest...that the father did not save him; but when the verse continues that 'he was heard because of his reverent submission', one likely meaning is that the father gave him a life beyond death, a salvation from death which did not consist in avoiding it but in going through it and out into a new, imperishable life beyond. This then becomes the foundation for the superior priesthood which Jesus holds [7:23-5]; he has become a priest not through physical descent 'but by the power of a indestructible life' [7.16]. It is true that Hebrews focuses its main attention not on the resurrection itself but on the effective sacrifice of the cross which preceded it and the ascension and enthronement which followed" [Source: "The Resurrection of the Son of God." pg. 460]"

Throughout Hebrews, the constant theme given attention by the author, especially throughout the early-mid chapters, is Jesus as a "High Priest," and this is particularly expressed by analogies to Jesus and Melchizedek. It is also interesting that Melchizedek was the subject of widespread speculation, markedly due to a Qumran Scroll known as "11QMelchizedek," and most of this speculation was on his genealogy and life span. His role/function as a High Priest was said to be eternal, never ceasing or dying [see also Psalm 110:4], which the author of Hebrews uses, since his fellow Jews were well acquainted with the stories about Melchizedek, to effectively communicate to them Christian belief of Jesus and his role [Hebrews 5:6]. Notably, the passage does not say that he was saved from "death on the cross"- but from death itself, the prayer was answered, i.e. immortality. The cross is not in view here. The author confirms this when he says:

"....having neither the beginning of days or end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually….And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood" (Hebrews 7:3,23-24)

Jesus does not die like all the previous high priests, and he does not need to be replaced every generation. By understanding this, we now realize the remarks in chapter 5, verse 7. Keeping the immediate and the overall context of Hebrews in view, we understand the meaning and purpose of Hebrews 5:7, and it is not as Osama supposes it to be.

Section 4: No Eyewitnesses to the Crucifixion?

Before beginning this analysis, it should be noted that the death of Jesus Christ by crucifixion is a fact accepted by virtually every New Testament scholar. In fact, there may not be a more widely agreed-upon fact among New Testament scholars than that concerning the crucifixion of Christ, and this is with good reason. Aside from this event being attested to all throughout the New Testament, including some very early creeds, there are also 11 non-Christian, extra-biblical sources that attest to Christ's death, 5 of which specifically mention the crucifixion. While most of these extra-biblical sources can be safely dated to around 160 A.D. or before, Tacitus and Josephus are probably the most reliable sources of the group. More detailed analyses can be found at the following pages: (1); (2); (3)

In this article, Osama attempts to argue against the eyewitness testimony to the crucifixion:

I was absolutely shocked to learn that none of Jesus' disciples had witnessed the crucifixion. This means that what ever is written in the Bible's New Testament (NT) of today is not the literal eye witness of those who wrote those books. This is very important, because we already know that the NT, except for the books of Paul (whom he never even met Jesus in person, and claimed that Jesus appeared to him while he was going to Damascus and appointed him to become his apostle), was written by mysterious people. Even the NIV and KJV Bible's theologians admit to this fact. Please visit:

Just who were the real authors of the Bible? Today's Books and Gospels' authors of the Bible are UNKNOWN. See the comments from the NIV Bible itself! Just why in the world should I believe in today's Bible?

So the absence of Jesus' disciples during the time of crucifixion does raise some serious questions and doubts about the reliability of what's written in the Bible about the entire event!

Here is the proof from the NT about Jesus' own disciples being absent:

"At that time Jesus said to the crowd, "Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. (From the NIV Bible, Matthew 26:55-56)"

"Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled." Then everyone deserted him and fled. (From the NIV Bible, Mark 14:49-50)"

As we can see, they "all fled" and "deserted" Jesus. They fled because they feared for their lives. The only POSSIBLE one that might have saw the crucifixion was Peter, because he followed Jesus and later disowned him 3 times when he was confronted by the people on whether or not he was with him:

Matthew 26

33 Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will."

34 "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times."

35 But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same.

Matthew 26

74 Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!"

75 Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: "Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Amazingly, according to the documentary film, "Banned from the Bible", which I watched on the History Channel, some of Saint Peter's Epistles were banned from the current Bible, and these Epistles contain what Islam claims - that Jesus didn't get crucified on the cross and it only appeared that he was. This banned part also says that Jesus was standing next to the cross laughing. These are the parts of the Bible that only few people in the world know about.

Jesus' POSSIBLE only eye witness from his disciples, Peter, claims that Jesus never got crucified in his "banned" Epistles. The other disciples never saw the crucifixion. Also, according to the Book of Hebrew, GOD Almighty heard Jesus' cries about not getting crucified, and GOD Almighty saved him from the cross. Please visit:

Hebrews 5:7-8 confirm Islam's claim about Jesus never got crucified and contradicts the Bible!

Osama's claims regarding Hebrews 5:7 and the "Apocalypse of Peter" (the one that was allegedly banned) have been covered elsewhere in this article (see sections 3 and 6, respectively) and some links challenging Osama's article on New Testament authorship can be found in section 9. As for the present claim, the disciples fleeing after Jesus was arrested does not mean that they did not witness the crucifixion that took place the next day. In fact, the verses Osama quotes that proves that Peter stayed in the area shows that too much should not be read into the initial fleeing of the disciples. After all, Peter fled too, but he was still in Jerusalem. The others may have been somewhere in the vicinity as well. In fact, we read the following exchange in John's Gospel:

"Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene, When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home." (John 19:25-27)

We see from this that the beloved disciple, probably John, not only witnessed the crucifixion, but spoke with Christ just moments before He expired on the cross! (cf. 19:28-30)

Aside from this instance, admittedly, the Gospel records do not record any activity regarding the disciples' at the time of the actual crucifixion. However, it is unwarranted to conclude that the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion are not based on eyewitness testimony, even if the authors were not present themselves. From the point that Christ was on the cross, we note the presence of the soldiers that gambled for Christ's clothing (Matthew 27:35); many mockers were present, including the chief priests, scribes and elders (Matthew 27:39-43); and a centurion (Matthew 27:54). Then, of course, besides the beloved disciple, we note that Christ's mother, Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the wife of Cleophas, were present (John 19:25-27). After Christ died, a rich member of the Sanhedrin and disciple of Jesus, Joseph of Arimathaea, after receiving permission by Pilate, wrapped up Christ's body and buried Him in his own new tomb (Matthew 27:57-60). So, there were plenty of eyewitnesses, both friendly and hostile, that could have imparted the details regarding Christ's crucifixion to the Gospel authors. Additionally, it is possible that information about the crucifixion could have been gleaned from public documents. Justin Martyr, writing around 150 A.D. in his First Apology, states the following:

"And the expression, 'they pierced my hands and my feet,' was used in reference to the nails of the cross which were fixed in His hands and feet. And after He was crucified, they cast lots upon His vesture, and they that crucified Him parted it among them. And of these things did happen you can ascertain in the 'Acts' of Pontius Pilate." [Gary Habermas. "The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ." pg. 216]

If Justin had access to this alleged report by Pilate, it is possible that the Gospel writers would have as well.

With the many possible sources of eyewitness testimony available to the apostles, which includes one of Christ's very disciples, Mary Magdalene (who frequently accompanied Christ and the disciples during Christ's ministry), and Christ's own mother, Osama's argument against historicity on this basis is groundless.

A few more notes on Peter may be in order as well in light of Osama's comments. Osama claims that the only possible eyewitness to the crucifixion, Peter, denies that Jesus was crucified. His support for this comes from the Gnostic "Apocalypse of Peter" (see section 6 of this article), a book that was allegedly "banned from the Bible." However, Peter was martyred in the late 60s A.D., and as Barton notes, the "Apocalypse of Peter" is dated well after this time (nearly 200 years later!). In addition, there is early evidence attesting to the fact that Peter clearly affirmed not only the crucifixion of Jesus, but the resurrection as well. Consider, for instance, what he says during his first sermon in Acts:

"Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know; Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it....Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day. Therefore being a prophet and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption." (Acts 2:22-24; 29-31)

This is especially revealing in light of the fact that scholars have determined that the material from this sermon as well as in others found in this book (e.g. Acts 3:12-26; 4:8-12; 5:29-32; 10:34-43) is very early. New Testament scholar John Drane writes:

"The earliest evidence we have for the resurrection almost certainly goes back to the time immediately after the resurrection event is alleged to have taken place. This is the evidence contained in the early sermons in the Acts of the Apostles....But there can be no doubt that in the first few chapters of Acts its author has preserved material from very early sources.

"Scholars have discovered that the language used in speaking about Jesus in these very early speeches in Acts is quite different from that used at the time when the book was compiled in its final form." [John Drane, "Introducing the NT," pg. 99; taken from Gary Habermas, "The Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ," pg. 149]

Additionally, church tradition records that Mark's source for his Gospel (which, of course, records the crucifixion, burial, and empty tomb of Jesus), was Peter. Peter's first epistle also acknowledges Christ's sufferings and resurrection (cf. I Peter 1:2-3; 11-12; 19-21). Petrine authorship of these epistles is disputed, but see Glenn Miller's defense of traditional authorship. Further confirmation comes from the early creed recorded in I Corinthians 15:1-7. This creed confirms the fact that Jesus died, was buried, was resurrected on the third day, and that He appeared to various individuals and groups, including Peter (see vs. 5; Cephas is Aramaic for Peter). Scholars agree that this creed is very early, and that Paul probably received this creed from the apostles within 3 to 8 years of the crucifixion! While some suggest that Paul received this creed immediately upon his conversion, when he was visited by Ananias (see Acts 9:17-18), it is more widely held that this was passed on to Paul when he visited Peter and James 3 years after his conversion:

"But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother." (Galatians 1:15-19)

In light of the preceding, it becomes clear that Osama's use of the "Apocalypse of Peter" in order to argue that Peter denied the crucifixion is irresponsible. Not only is this a document that was penned by an heretical sect that is to be dated nearly 200 years after Peter's death(!), but it is also contrary to the hoard of early data that we have regarding Peter.

Before leaving this section, we should also comment on one other possible source of information for the disciples regarding Christ's crucifixion, and that is Jesus Himself. This does, of course, depend upon the veracity of the resurrection accounts, something which Osama obviously would deny. However, the evidence supporting the historicity of the resurrection is compelling. We won't delve into that here so as to avoid a lengthy tangent, but the reader is encouraged to consider the following articles: (1); (2); (3); (4); (5); (6)

It is a common argument for skeptics, including Muslim apologists like Osama, to appeal to the divergences in the various resurrection narratives in order to try to cast doubt on the historical veracity of the resurrection (by arguing that the accounts are contradictory). The problem with such an approach is that historians would not necessarily declare an event to be unhistorical due to such divergences, even if genuine contradictions can be established in the various reports. To the contrary, our confidence that the reported event actually took place may be strengthened due to the fact that divergences indicate that the different reports detailing the event are independent of each other, providing multiple attestation. This is especially the case when the core of the story is consistent among the reports with the divergences existing only in the secondary details, like we find in the Gospel reports of Christ's resurrection. Thus, an argument thought to cast doubt on the resurrection turns out to be, in actuality, another positive indicator for its historicity. But, for the sake of argument, can the divergences be plausibly harmonized? The answer is a resounding "yes." Consider the following sources: (1); (2); (3); (4); (5)

It should be additionally noted that, from the Muslim perspective, if the Qur'an and the Bible are to be treated consistently, a Muslim may find it difficult to establish a standard by which all alleged Qur'anic contradictions (See (1) and (2)) can be resolved while those in the Bible remain unresolved.

Section 5: A Comment on Johannine Authorship

We enter the wacky mindset of Osama once again with the following diatribe challenging Johannine authorship. Despite saying that: "his name [John] is not mentioned in this Gospel," Osama, in this article, makes the following comments:

"When one reads this gospel, he would immediately notice that it was not written by John himself. Let us look at the following verses from the gospel:

'And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? (From the King James Version Bible, John 1:19)'

'John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; (From the King James Version Bible, John 1:26)'

'For John was not yet cast into prison.' (From the King James Version Bible, John 3:24)

etc.

Whoever wrote the gospel, was he appointed or inspired by GOD Almighty? If yes, then who is that man? It can't be John for it is quite obvious from the above verses and many more throughout the gospel that John wasn't the original author. One has to be ridiculously biased and blind in faith to deny that."

First, let it be known that it was perfectly acceptable to write about yourself in the third person. The following all did so: Xenophon did [Anabasis; Date: 5th century BC]; Julius Caesar did [Gallic War; Date: 1st century BC]; perhaps most significantly, since he too was a Jew living in the same time as John, Josephus did also [The Wars of the Jews; Date: 1st century AD].

Such an answer as given above, although showing his ignorance of ancient writing, really gives the false impression that Osama's objection is really an understandable and tolerable one to make, but note Osama's apparently blatant disregard to actually look at the verse he is quoting from. This is John the Baptist! We'll see below Osama's confusion that two people can share the same name [Apocaplyse of Peter, Theophilus], and it should be clear for anyone who reads the passages cited (hence the remarks about baptizing people and that John the disciple doesn't come onto the scene until later), that this sort of mistake really is inexcusable. His basic grasp of the Bible's main "character," his slap-hazard approach, and lack of simple Bible knowledge shows just how uninformed he really is.

Section 6: The "Apocalypse of Peter"

A more recent claim (found at http://answering-christianity.com/early_christians.htm ) by Osama, supposing to reveal historical evidence that Jesus was not crucified, and so paralleling the Qur'anic likewise claim (S. 4:157), comes from Osama watching a documentary on his television set about "lost books of the Bible." Osama, predictably from someone who learns his criticisms of Christianity from late night television, gets rather confused.

There are two books that call themselves the "Apocalypse of Peter," one is of Christian origin and the other is of Gnostic origin. The link given by Osama to the Gnostic "Apocalypse of Peter" is found here, and is the one which includes the mysterious account of Jesus and the cross. Osama apparently failed to perceive the fact that the "Apocalypse of Peter" here is the Christian "Apocalypse of Peter" and can be found from the same site. This is the "Apocalypse of Peter" that was popular with some Christians and is devoid of any denial of the crucifixion of Christ. We shall look first at Gnostic texts [8] in general and then at the two "Apocalypse of Peter" books specifically to assess how significant his argument actually is.

What reliability can Gnostic texts have when it comes to deciding matters of history? In this case, the Gnostic "Apocalypse of Peter" originates from around 250 A.D. Philip Jenkins makes a relevant comment on trying to draw "[the] idea that these documents have opened a window on the earliest days of Christianity":

The consensus is that most of the works found at Nag Hammadi belong to the late second and third centuries. This is much later than the canonical gospels, on which the Gnostic works can often be clearly shown to depend. Their value as independent sources of information is questionable, so that the canonical gospels really are both more ancient and authorative than virtually all their rivals….most of the lost gospels should rather be seen as the writings of much later dissidents who broke away from an already established orthodox church. [Source: "Hidden Gospels: How the Search For Jesus Lost Its Way." pg. 12]

Jenkins again comments regarding the "Apocalypse of Peter":

"It is as far removed from the world of Jesus as we are today from Thomas Jefferson or Napoleon, a third century gospel [or apocaplyse]......can tell us nothing whatsoever about the life of Jesus, or the enviroment of his earliest followers." [Ibid. pg. 93]

In light of the confusion about the criteria of canonization which some people have and the influx of conspiracy theories in such times (where the "Da Vinci Code" is the primary source of many people's opinions regarding the operation of the early Church), and with Muslim apologists utilizing such arguments, I find that it is fit to examine how popular, as Osama claims, the "Christian" "Apocalypse of Peter" really was. Its date and authorship explains why it was not included into the Canon of Scripture, and the evidence of its popularity appears to be relatively scant, especially when compared to the books we have in our canon today.

"Christian" Apocalypse of Peter

It is correct that the Christian pseudograph of the "Apocalypse of Peter" [written around 150 A.D] was popular, though it is doubtful if anyone considered it canonical due to its time of origin. The motif of the river of fire, which is one of the pregnant eschatological ideas among the Egyptian Christians, certainly goes back to ancient Egypt. In view of the abundance of traditions in Egypt and the prestige of the Petrine tradition there (veneration of Peter's disciple, Mark), an origin in Egypt is probable. For more information, see "Introducing the New Testament Apocrypha" by Detlef G. Muller. The "Christian" "Apocalypse of Peter" was mentioned favorably by Clement and The Muratorian Fragment, but Eusebius comments that it is suspicious due to its spurious nature. Clement is renowned for his indiscriminate quoting of sources. Throughout the writings of Clement available to us, he has around 8000 quotes from heretics and the apocrypha of the Old Testament. The Muratorian Fragment [a continuing debate between the traditional dating of around 170 A.D. and the late third century proposed in a recent study by G. F. Hahneman [9] makes it hard to be definite in labeling any certain date to its origin] lists it as scriptural but places this warning that: "of the revelations we accept only those of John and Peter, which (the latter) some of our people do not want to have read in the Church." [Note: "revelations" being another word for "apocalypse"; IOW, John's Apocalypse (The book of Revelation in the canonical NT) was regarded favorably by the Muratorian Fragment whereas the "Apocalypse(s) of Peter" was regarded somewhat less favorably.] Without diverting too far into a study of canonization, when compared to the support for the books that are in our canon, we realize why the "Christian" "Apocalypse of Peter" was not included, and to cite it as an error with our canon, or that it represents some lost information of Jesus, is a farcical slap in the face to the facts.

Gnostic Apocalypse of Peter

We once more are confronted with Osama's lack of any serious contribution to Muslim-Christian dialogue when we read the Gnostic "Apocalypse of Peter" and appreciate his distortion/mistake:

"and he [Jesus] said to me [Peter], 'be strong for you are the one to whom these mysteries have been given. To know them through revelation, that he whom they crucified is the first-born….But he who stands near him is the living Savior, the first in him whom they seized and released, who stands joyfully looking at those who did him violence, while they were divided among themselves. Therefore he laughs at their lack of perception, knowing that they are born blind. So then the one susceptible to suffering shall come, since the body is the substitute. But what they released was my incorporeal body. But I am the intellectual Spirit filled with radiant light. He whom you saw coming to me is our intellectual Pleroma, which unites perfect light with my Holy Spirit.'" - Gnostic Apocalypse of Peter

To understand exactly what is going on here, it is pivotal to understand the "Gnostic lingo" first before trying to understand the passage. The first heresy that the Church was confronted with was Docetism, which taught that the material world was an illusion. Paul talked about this. To Gnostics, reality was called the Pleroma: heavenly immaterial fullness that is truly and completely divine. The material world was imperfect and ever changing; to them the spiritual world was the only true reality. To use the term "Gnostic" so collectively betrays the fact that a lot of Gnostic writings disagreed/contradicted each other. However, this idea of Dualism is a common thread running throughout.

Darrell Bock notes with special reference to the Apocalypse of Peter:

This is the supreme God of these texts. Gnostic views held to a dualism, a radical opposition that taught that the world of ideas was a pure world, while the physical world was corrupt. The true God….was a part of this world of ideas and was light. He did not enter directly into physical creation. Second, there is the distinction between the Savior's physical body that suffered on the cross and the true [Pleroma.] [Source: "Breaking the Da Vinci Code." pg. 67]

Ronald Nash and Harold O. J. Brown talking about Platonic Dualism in General:

[The belief is that] human beings participate in two different worlds. One of these is the physical world that we experience through our bodily senses…. the other world in which we participate is a world of immaterial and eternal essences that we contact through our mind [gnosis]…. He believed that what we encounter in the physical world are imperfect examples. [Source: "The Gospel and the Greeks." pg. 207]

"Gnosticism not only opposed the idea that God could have been involved in act of creating a material world, but it also denied that the material world is meaningful in itself. There is no creation order as Christian theology teaches. The material world, if not totally illusionary, is meaningless." [Source: "Heresy and Orthodoxy In The History Of the Church." pg. 49]

This does not express any denial of the crucifixion, but instead, a support of Gnostic Dualism. The illusion is not that Christ's body was not put on the cross, but that the material world itself is illusionary. It is apparent throughout the "Apocalypse," since the text does not stipulate that the soldiers were physically blinded from birth [obviously], but rather they are not included in this "gnosis" [knowledge] of these supposed two realities; that it is the spirit that is real and the body that is not. The text actually adds its support to the crucifixion of Christ's body, since in the text Jesus refers to his body that was removed from the cross as "my incorporeal body."

Conclusion

To underscore this passage in order to support Islamic teachings, I must conclude that Osama is blissfully unaware of his incompetence to make comment on matters of a Biblical or Philosophical nature, made all the worse with his invective language flaunted throughout his inaccurate article. Sadly though, this sort of behavior is entirely consistent with his website.

Such approaches as the one refuted above are prominent it would appear among many Muslim apologists on the internet with the desire to discredit the crucifixion of Christ, and so a comment on their methodology needs be made. Make note that we do not find writings from contemporary authors that deny the death of Jesus. Rather, critics of Christ's work on the cross are restricted to gather their support from the furthest outreaches of mystical sects hundreds of years after the events while at the same time declining to acknowledge the events as written by the people who were there as the events unfolded. To act in this way indicates a wish to bend the facts around their beliefs, not their beliefs around the facts.

Section 7: Choosing from 24 000 Books?

Osama makes quite a foolish blunder with this one, almost topping the previous one, while engaged in a dialogue (which is posted on his website) between himself and a Christian. During the dialogue, he [the Christian] makes a reference to the availability of manuscripts, 24,000 of them, which testify to the accuracy of the New Testament. The point that the Christian was trying to get Osama to understand was this:

If we only had ten manuscripts, the New Testament would not stand on as much solid ground as it does today. The larger the amount of available manuscripts, the greater confidence/assurances we have of our Bible today in terms of its preservation. It's quite effortless for, say, Constantine, who seems to be most Muslims/Da vinci coders antagonist in their story of the corruption of the Bible, to have changed one bible, but not so easy for him to have changed all that were in existence in his day, scattered across the whole Roman Empire! Obviously, even if he had wanted to take on such a task, it would have been impossible. [Note: While the 24,000 manuscripts surviving today cover the period of time from the 2nd century A.D. up through the Middle Ages, Glenn Miller demonstrates that the New Testament was widely spread throughout the Roman Empire relatively early in the Christian period, and certainly by the time of Constantine. See the bottom of this page for the relevant data. Additionally, the manuscripts that are dated well before Constantine's era disprove any theories that target him as being responsible for corrupting the New Testament. (See Section 9)]

The Total Surviving New Testament manuscripts = 5,300 Greek MSS, 10,000 Latin Vulgates, 9,300 others = (about) 24,000 copies. (Note: The earliest fragment dates from around 125 A.D, containing John 18:31-33 [10])

However, Osama blunderingly mistakes "24 000 available (partial or complete) copies of the New Testament" to mean "24 000 different books that the Church had to choose from to decide which ones to canonize," and now proudly displays an article all about it (Again, see more in Section 9).

Section 8: A Note on New Testament Corruption

In the same article, Osama includes an interesting comment sent to him by a fellow Muslim regarding New Testament corruption:

From brother Amir AbdulRahim; may Allah Almighty always be pleased with him:

The subject of Mankind's Corruption of the Bible has interested me greatly, and I have taken a closer look at this subject. Its seems it's not only your site that brings this subject up, but a couple of Christian sites too.

For example, an article in the Catholic Encyclopaedia that you mentioned in regard to the 'Theophilus' mentioned in Luke's Gospel (from your Just Who Are The Real Authors Of The Bible? article) testifies to this fact (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14530a.htm):

"IV. TRANSMISSION OF THE TEXT

No book of ancient times has come down to us exactly as it left the hands of its author-- all have been in some way altered. The material conditions under which a book was spread before the invention of printing (1440), the little care of the copyists, correctors, and glossators for the text, so different from the desire of accuracy exhibited to-day, explain sufficiently the divergences we find between various manuscripts of the same work. To these causes may be added, in regard to the Scriptures, exegetical difficulties and dogmatical controversies. To exempt the sacred writings from ordinary conditions a very special providence would have been necessary, and it has not been the will of God to exercise this providence."

Lets just go through that again - "No book of ancient times has come down to us exactly as it left the hands of its author--all have been in some way altered." All have been in some way altered! In view of this blatant admission, how can anyone expect me, or any muslim, to follow an impure book?

When you compare this to the great lengths taken to preserve the original Qur'an, there's no contest!

What was quoted in the excerpt provided by the "New Advent" website should be known by anyone reasonably well-informed regarding the science of textual criticism. Unfortunately, it appears that Osama and his contributor have vastly overstated the significance of the presence of textual variants amongst the various New Testament manuscripts. What is interesting about the appeal to textual variants is that, if the NT falls because of their existence, then so does the Qur'an for the same reason (see the links below). However, the presence of these numerous variants in the textual history of either document does not necessarily substantiate claims of wholesale corruption of either document. For the NT, this is where the importance of the 5,000 plus Greek manuscripts (and app. 24,000 overall manuscripts, including translations) comes into play. New Testament textual critics can arrive with great confidence at what was originally recorded in the New Testament thanks to the overwhelming number of surviving manuscripts plus the fact that we have copies that, for a piece of ancient literature, date to within a short span of time since its original composition. As it turns out, the evidence for the preservation of the New Testament far exceeds that of any other ancient public document. See JPH's article for an in-depth analysis of New Testament textual criticism. The thousands of textual witnesses for the NT, some dated as early as the 2nd century A.D., overwhelmingly declare that the NT we have in our midst is essentially the same as that which was originally penned. In addition, no Christian doctrine is in doubt due to textual variants. Whether or not the Qur'an truly holds up as well as the New Testament in this regard is beyond our scope. However, evidence of Qur'anic corruption can be found here, here, and here. Muslim defenses of Qur'anic preservation, including interaction with some of the material found in the previous links, can be found on the following pages: here and here. See also here for counterpoints to some of the material found within the first Muslim page.

Section 9: Constantine, Author of the New Testament?

One article of Osama's to which he constantly makes appeal was written in order to attempt to cast doubt on traditional New Testament authorship. One of Osama's main appeals throughout the article is to quote from the NIV Bible commentary. Whether or not the commentary in the NIV Bible warrants the conclusions that Osama has drawn is beyond our scope here, but the reader may wish to see the series on this between he and Christian apologist Quennel Gale (See Quennel 1; Osama 2; Quennel 2). What is of concern for us here are a couple of claims that Osama makes at the end of his piece on Gospel authorship:

As we clearly see above, the books and gospels of the bible were written by mysterious authors. The New Testament of today was written in the third century by Constantine and his church. That is why you read things such as:

"...And as Jesus passed forth thence, HE (Jesus) saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and HE (Jesus) saith unto HIM (Matthew), follow ME (Jesus) and HE (Matthew) arose, and followed HIM (Jesus). (Matthew 9:9)"

"And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? (From the King James Version Bible, John 1:19)"

"John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; (From the King James Version Bible, John 1:26)"

"For John was not yet cast into prison. (From the King James Version Bible, John 3:24)"

etc.....

It is quite possible and very highly probable that Constantine and his church selectively collected some letters from among 24,000 letters and wrote the 30 books and gospels of the New Testament with their OWN WORDS. Keep in mind that the 2nd century Christians mostly and widely believed that Jesus never got crucified. See the proof at: www.answering-christianity.com/early_christians.htm.

The pertinent comments regarding the "24,000 letters" link reads as such:

Also, you just shot yourself in the foot! You further proved how corrupt your Bible really is! It's ridiculous that only 30 manuscripts out of the 24,000 represent the Bible's New Testament today. As you know, the New Testament consists of 30 or so letters. My question to you here is: What divine authority did the Church have for discarding 23,970 manuscripts and choosing only 30 or so to form what is called today the "New Testament"? If you have the least of a brain, wouldn't this be enough for you to prove that your entire Bible is pathetic and doubtful, with all due respect?

And later in the same article:

Osama- Where is the nonsense in my argument? When the Churches Historians and Theologians picked only 30 books to represent the New Testament in the Bible out of 24,000, is this what you consider "sense" and "logical"?

Who's to say that they shouldn't be 25 books instead? Or how about 40? Let's add a couple more books, shall we?

Barton already addressed Osama's apparent gross misunderstanding regarding the 24,000 manuscripts of the New Testament; that these manuscripts are of the SAME 27 books, specifically those 27 books that were canonized to form the New Testament. However, what of Osama's claim that Constantine and company "very probably" collected 24,000 letters and then wrote the New Testament with their own words? If this were true, then the New Testament was actually written in the 4th century (Note: Osama in this particular article mistakenly claims the 3rd century). However, this claim quickly collapses under the weight of substantial manuscript finds dated prior to the 4th century, including some dated as early as the 2nd century A.D. Glenn Miller summarizes the data:

"The Beatty papyri.

The major papyri in this collection are p45, p46, p47.

p45: 150-250ad; contains some (or all) of Mt 20, 21, 25, 26; Mr 4-9, 11-12; Lk 6-7, 9-14; Jn 10-11; Acts 4-17.

p46: 90-175ad; contains some (or all) of Rom 5-6, 8-16; all of I & II Cor, Gal, Eph., Philp., Col, I Thess 1,2,5; all of Hebrews.

p47: third century, contains Revelation 9:10-17.2

Depending on how one defines 'tiny', this set of mss ALONE comprise a 'non-tiny' fragment collection!

The Bodmer papyri

The major papyri in this collection are p66, p72, p75.

p66: 150-200 AD, contains almost all of the Gospel of John!

p72: 200's, containing all of I & II Peter, Jude

p75: 175-200 AD, contains most of Luke 3-18, 22-24; John 1-15.

Again, substantial portions of the NT (as opposed to 'tiny fragments'). And, notice that several of these large mss. date from the 2nd century and not from the third (contra Jim's statement)". (Source)

So, given that much of the New Testament, including material from all 4 canonical Gospels, is attested by manuscript evidence well before Constantine came on the scene, Osama's position that he and his alleged co-conspirators "used their own words" in writing the New Testament is untenable.

Additionally, Osama's comment demonstrates his misunderstanding of the "24,000 manuscripts" apologetic. Osama gives the impression that Constantine et al collected 24,000 "letters" and subsequently proceeded to write the 27 books (note: Osama mistakenly claims 30) of our New Testament. While the latter part of the argument is addressed above, it is noteworthy to discuss the former part as well. The 24,000 manuscripts of the New Testament are those which have been found that have survived to this day (See the note in Section 7). It has nothing to do at all with some fixed number of "letters" that Constantine et al (or anyone else for that matter) collected.

Lastly, revisiting Osama's statement:

"Keep in mind that the 2nd century Christians mostly and widely believed that Jesus never got crucified."

Osama's "proof" for this, as given in the links that he gives following this statement, is based on heretical Christian movements. Appealing to such movements clearly will not establish Osama's case that "the 2nd century Christians mostlly and widely believed that Jesus never got crucified." See our examination of Osama's groups for more information.

Section 10: Dating of "Acts of the Apostles"

We here reach one of the most mysterious arguments (found in this article) made by Osama. He sees the dedication of Acts to "the most excellent Theophilus" and locates two other people called Theophilus: one living in the mid 2nd century and one in the 4th, and concludes that the book of Acts must have been written 200 years after it is supposed to have been written. Words genuinely cannot articulate just how hopelessly appalling Osama's line of reasoning is. So I ask our biblical critic a question in return: What of Muhammad? How could the Quran have been written in the 7th century when Muhammad Ali is still alive today? Is he 1400 years old?

To take the affirmative position, I will try to show for who and when Acts was written. Theophilus was most likely a Roman official serving Nero [Emperor from 54-68 A.D] as a cognitionibus [investigator]; for this reason a title which we normally find given to Roman officials is used for Theophilus: "most excellent" [kratistw].

For another example of this title in use, see the below verse. In this instance, the title is given to the Governor Felix:

klaudiov lusiav tw kratistw hgemoni fhliki cairein (Acts 23:26)

Yet the men that Osama wishes us to believe the Acts was written for were Theophilus of Antioch, who was a Bishop, around 180 A.D, or Patriarch Theophilus in 385 A.D. Had they been the intended audience of the Acts, Luke would have addressed them with their proper title; for example, the Bishop of Antioch, the title episkopon [Bishop] would have been used, not a term for a Roman official. Over the past two years I have been involved in intensive study of Church Government and its history, using this as a "case study" to see if a late date for Acts stands up to further scrutiny:

The first sign of the evolution away from the original Church comes from Ignatius, writing around 115 A.D. Until then the two offices of Bishop and Elders were considered interchangeable titles for the same office [See Acts 20:18,28, for example, and for extra-biblical writing, see Didache 7.381 and Clement 1.17]. To summarise, Acts clearly presents Bishops and Elders synonymously, as is expected from a pre-115 A.D. date, yet the positions of the very people to which Osama believes Acts was written to contradict the Acts.

There is sufficient evidence to date Acts to around 62-70 A.D, which is easily obtainable both in print and on the internet. However, I shall highlight some information that is pertinent to further debunk Osama's claim. We possess several early writers, far earlier than the dates of the times of the other two men named Theophilus, which reference and even quote from Acts. Polycarp quotes Acts 10:42 in letters to the Philippians [around 120 A.D], and Clement [150 A.D] likewise quotes from Acts, as does Irenaus [180 A.D.] no less than 54 times. It becomes apparent just how ridiculous Osama's claim looks when measured against the evidence [Note: See also the next Section for more evidence of an early dating for Acts].

[For further information, see a detailed survey on Theophilus, dating, and purpose of Acts, from a recent book [2001] authored by John Mauck, Paul on Trial: The Book of Acts as a Defense of Christianity.]

Section 11: General New Testament Dating

A few comments are probably also in order regarding what follows from Osama's claim of Constantine's authorship of the New Testament (see Section 9). Before a brief analysis of this claim, consider another remark that Abdallah makes in a response to Sam Shamoun. This is probably my all-time favorite of Osama's assertions thus far:

Mr. Shamoun, I regretfully don't expect you to really understand any of this, but as I clearly proved above, the entire Bible, especially the New Testament, is not authentic at all! The problem with the book and gospels of the NT is that they were written in a 300-year span. Many of them have long years of differences between them. For instance, the book of Mark is believed to be 50 years older than the book of Matthew. This is what I personally heard from the commentary of Ministers on the movie "From Jesus to Christ". So as we can see, we can't really take every thing that was said from Jesus and about Jesus as authentic from the Bible, because the so-called books and gospels were not (1) Written by Jesus himself; (2) Nor were they written in the same time or year. There are even centuries between some of them! So it should be easy for you to see how easy it was to insert fabrications and lies into the Bible.

With all due respect to Osama and the ministers of the "From Jesus to Christ" television show, any student of any school across the wide spectrum of New Testament scholarship would recognize the fallacies in the above claims. First of all, virtually no New Testament scholar, including those of the ultra-liberal Jesus Seminar persuasion, would date the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) later than the end of the 1st century A.D. Furthermore, John was probably not written beyond 100 A.D. either. Some scholars may still opt for an early 2nd century dating for John, but given the finding of the Rylands manuscript (which contains a few verses from John's Gospel, dated to 125-135 A.D.), it would be extremely difficult to date it any later than that. As for the rest of the New Testament, most scholars would probably not suggest more than about a 60-70 year time frame between the writing of the 1st book to the completion of the last book of the 27 books of the New Testament. The latest that virtually any scholar would date any New Testament book would be around 110-115 A.D. (e.g. The Pastoral Epistles are commonly dated this late.) Citings from patristic authors would disallow a span of more than about 80-100 years between the composition of the 1st NT book and that of the last one, even according to the most liberal of dating. The 300 year time span that Osama proposes is sheer fantasy.

Secondly, the majority of scholars today operate according to the so-called "four source" paradigm. Within this paradigm, it is held that Mark and a hypothetical "Q" document represent the earliest written sources about Jesus. Matthew and Luke come next. Q is represented by the material found in both Matthew and Luke (but that is absent in Mark), while the materials peculiar to Matthew's Gospel and Luke's Gospel are designated "M" and "L," respectively. It should be noted that while evangelical and non-evangelical scholars each work within the framework provided by the "four source" theory, the validity of the theory is not beyond dispute. OTOH, it is interesting to see what happens with Gospel dating when we hold Osama's "50 year gap between Mark and Matthew" claim against the common dating of Matthew. Most scholars date Matthew to around 80-90 A.D. If we follow Osama's logic in this regard, we come up with a dating for Mark of between 30-40 A.D. Mark, however, is generally dated by scholars to around 70 A.D. (10-20 years prior to Matthew), although liberal scholars may push the dating of Mark back to around 80 A.D.

Clearly, the evidence does not warrant Osama's conclusions regarding Constantine's authorship of the New Testament, nor does it warrant his conclusions regarding the New Testament being written over a 300 year period of time. While the Gospels are generally dated to between 70-100 A.D. by New Testament scholars, a great argument can be made for a pre-70 A.D. writing of at least a couple of the Gospels, plus the book of Acts. A strong case can be made, for example, of a pre-70 A.D. dating of Acts due to the book's sudden ending. Consider the following comments by New Testament scholar John A. T. Robinson regarding the abrupt ending of Acts:

"Various reasons have been advanced to explain this ending. It is said that it suits Luke's apologetic purpose to close with Paul preaching 'openly and without hinderance' to the Roman public. But this must surely have been rendered less than cogent for Theophilus by glossing over in silence the common knowledge that he and Peter and 'a vast multitude' of other Christians in the city had within a few years been mercilessly butchered. There is no hint of the Neronian persecution, which because of its excesses won considerable sympathy for the Christians, as Tacitus says. Nor for that matter is there any hint of the death of James the Lord's brother in 62, which took place at the hands of the Sanhedrin against the authority of Rome. The high priest Ananus seized the opportunity of an interregnum in the procuratorship after the death of Festus to exercise capital jurisdiction for which the Sanhedrin had no authority. Agrippa took immediate steps to put himself and the Jewish people in the right with Rome by removing Ananus from office before the new procurator arrived. No incident could have served Luke's apologetic purpose better, that it was the Jews not the Romans who were the real enemies of the gospel. Yet there is not a hint of James ever falling foul of the Jewish authorities, unlike his namesake, James the brother of John (Acts 12:1f.). Nor is there any shadow in Acts of the impending Jewish revolt, let alone of the destruction of Jerusalem to bear out the earlier prophecies of the Gospel. When last we hear of them, the representatives of Judaism, alike of church (24.2f.; 24.1-5) and state (25.13-26.32), are living in a condition of courteous, if suspicious, detente with Rome. One could never guess from Acts what was to break within a few years." (John A. T. Robinson. "Redating the New Testament." 1976. 89-90.)

In addition, the impeccable accuracy with which Luke writes, even down to trivial details in some instances, is a witness to at least the relative earlieness of his work:

"Sir William Ramsay, who devoted many fruitful years to the archaeology of Asia Minor, testifies to Luke's intimate and accurate acquaintance with Asia Minor and the Greek East at the time with which his writings deal. When Ramsay first set out on his archaeological work, in the late seventies of last (19th) century, he was firmly convinced of the truth of the then fashionable Tubingen theory, that Acts was a late production of the middle of the second century AD, and he was only gradually compelled to a complete reversal of his views by the inescapable evidence of the facts uncovered in the course of his research.

"Although in his later years Ramsay was persuaded to don the mantle of a popular apologist for the trustworthiness of the New Testament records, the judgments which he publicized in this way were judgments which he had previously formed as a scientific archaeologist and student of ancient classical history and literature. He was not talking unadvisedly or playing to the religious gallery when he expressed the view that 'Luke's history is unsurpassed in respect of its trustworthiness'; this was the sober conclusion to which his researches led him, in spite of the fact that he started with a very different opinion of Luke's historical credit. His mature verdict was pronounced in the following terms:

'Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy; he is possessed of the true historic sense; he fixes his mind on the idea and plan that rules in the evolution of history, and proportions the scale of his treatment to the importance of each incident. He seizes the important and critical events and shows their true nature at greater length, while he touches lightly or omits entirely much that was valueless for his purpose. In short, this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.'" (F. F. Bruce. "The New Testament Documents: Are they Reliable? 6th ed." 1981. 91-92.)

While historical accuracy would probably not, by itself, ensure a pre-70 A.D. date, it would strongly suggest a reasonably early date. This data, when considered alongside the abrupt ending, however, argues persuasively for a dating no later than 62 A.D. This would place the Gospel of Luke some time even earlier, since Acts was the 2nd of a 2 book set (see Acts 1:1). Furthermore, if the "four-source theory," described above, is correct, Mark is to be dated even earlier than Luke. While not directly related to dating, it should be noted that the implications of Luke's historical trustworthiness, as has been established by dozens and dozens of archaeological finds, gives the material found in his Gospel (i.e. Christ's divine claims, miracles, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, ascension, etc.) an additional level of credibility. After all, it would be vastly more important for Luke to be accurate in these details than in any of the many less significant claims to which he has been proven reliable.

For some examples of archaeological finds corroborating Luke's records, as well as more info. regarding NT dating and reliability, see Sam Shamoun's article. See also JPH's comprehensive work on Gospel authorship and dating.

Finally, between the time of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ and the penning of the Gospels, the traditions contained therein were safely preserved through oral tradition, the preferred medium of communication of the day: see here, and here. Interestingly, Glenn Miller provides 9 data points in this article that, cumulatively, provide a persuasive argument for the assertion that written sources ("note taking") detailing Christ's teachings and/or actions would have been formulated very early, possibly even contemporaneously with the time of Christ. The reliability of oral tradition and the strong possibility of the existence of these very early written sources would have served as controls against the substantial distortion of Christ's words by the time the Gospel authors collated these traditions into the fourfold Gospel.

Conclusion

So with that, we have a sampling of the level of scholarship being applied to the Bible and Christianity by perhaps the most popular Muslim critic on the internet. Let the reader beware.

Links

The links below help the reader to find further evaluations of some of the arguments Osama's uses on his website other than those found in this article.

Osama lists numerous books that receive a mention in the Old Testament, but he mistakes them as books considered to be inspired, and subsequently lost. See here for an indirect response.

Osama decides to make a big issue of the anonymity of the Gospel texts. See here to consider this issue in its proper historical context.

For other websites that evaluate Osama's effort, see here and here

doxa kai nun kai eiv hmeran aiwnov amhn (2nd Peter 3:18)

"To him be Glory both now and for ever. Amen"

Notes and Acknowledgements

[1] This is certainly not to say, of course, that there are no critics out there that have actually done some homework in the relevant areas of scholarship and whose views should be taken seriously, nor is it to suggest, by any stretch, that the work of defenders of the Bible should be considered any less critically.

[2] For more references from ancient literature consult "The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature" commonly known as the BDAG.

[3] As in a word referring to a group, for example "Car". A "specific" would be "BMW," which in turn is included in the generic class of "Cars". No-one would claim that there is a contradiction between saying "I have a car" and "I have a BMW." For this study, "tree" is the generic term and "cross" is the "specific".

[4] I do not feel it would be useful to linger on this point since I suspect that Osama would not be in agreement with the traditional assurance that the Gospel of Luke was indeed written by Luke and the point I raised is contingent with the acceptance that Luke wrote both the Acts and the Gospel of Luke.

[5] A Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures for the benefit of Jews of the Dispersion and descendants of Jewish exiles with limited knowledge of the Hebrew texts. The early Christians, including the apostles, used and quoted from the Septuagint and "found it a useful source for terms and concepts, contents and symbols to help express the Christian faith" in this case the use of "xulon." Quotation taken from "A Dictionary of the English Bible and its Origins"

[6] BDAG, p.88

[7] Taken from "Plymouth Brethren Bible Problems and Answers" Hoste and Rogers, John Ritchie's Publications 2nd edition 1959

[8] My aim is to preemptively deter Muslims to argue that Gnostic Texts in general and the "Apocalypse of Peter" are valuable sources of history, similar as to how the "Gospel of Barnabas" is being used today.

[9] "The Muratorian Fragment" G. F. Hahneman Oxford University Press, 1992

[10] It is interesting to consider Osama's continual denials of the death and resurrection of Christ in light of the fact that this earliest manuscript of the New Testament is a discussion between Pilate and Jesus, and the former's sentencing the latter to death- crucifixion.