Tag Archives: Quran

How Does Paul’s Testimony Compare to Muhammad’s Testimony?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In a previous blog post, I was quoting from historical scholar Mike Licona on the importance of the apostle Paul’s testimony about Jesus’ resurrection.  There are skeptics, however, who want to discount Paul.  One such skeptic is atheist Michael Martin, who questions why Christians accept Paul’s testimony, but not Muhammad’s testimony about the angel Gabriel.

Mike Licona picks up the challenge in his book The Resurrection of Jesus:

Martin cites as a primary source of revelation the conversion of Muhammad from polytheism to monotheism based on an appearance to him of the angel Gabriel.  According to Muhammad, Gabriel directly communicated revelation from heaven: the Qur’an.  So why accept Paul’s testimony while rejecting Muhammad’s?

Martin’s point has some weight.  Muhammad’s testimony that Gabriel revealed the Quran to him appears four times in the Qur’an. Accordingly, both the Qur’an and Paul may qualify as providing eyewitness testimony.  However, Martin overlooks some very important differences.

What are the differences between Paul and Muhammad?  There are several that need to be examined:

First, the overall sources for the event are far from equal in quality.  Outside of the Quranic texts, the appearance of Gabriel to Muhammad is found in the early biographies and hadith, all of which were written more than two hundred years after Muhammad’s death.  These are secondary sources that are, in a sense, similar to Luke’s accounts of Paul s conversion.  However, Luke’s accounts are much closer to the time of the events they purport to describe and may even be provided by a traveling companion of Paul, whereas the Muslim sources are more than two hundred years removed from Muhammad.

For example, Luke is reporting events in Acts that allegedly occurred between A.D. 30-62 and is writing between A.D. 61-90.  He is writing 31-60 years after the events and may have personally known some of the subjects.  In the case of the biographies and hadith, the earliest sources are more than two hundred years removed from the subjects and could not have had any first-, second-, third- or fourth-hand acquaintance with them. Accordingly, although the biographies and hadith probably contain some traditions that go back to Muhammad, those traditions are not of the same historical quality of the traditions preserved in the New Testament literature.

Second, Paul’s experience is in a sense corroborated by other eyewitnesses who claimed that the risen Jesus had appeared to them.  Friend and foe alike reported that the resurrected Jesus had appeared to them in both individual and group settings.  On the other hand, Muhammad is the only one who claimed to have been visited by Gabriel in connection with the rise of Islam.

Third, Muhammad’s dissatisfaction with the paganism and idolatry in his society existed prior to his alleged revelations.  Thus no conversion from polytheism occurred as a result of his religious experience, even according to Muslim sources.  On the other hand, Paul seems to have been quite content with and extremely sold out to his strict sect within Judaism.  Indeed, he was on his way to arresting Christians on his own initiative when his experience occurred.  Muhammad’s experience confirmed his views, while Paul’s opposed his.

Perhaps most important of all, however, is that historians need not deny that Muhammad had an experience that he interpreted as a supernatural being appearing to him.  They are at liberty to support an alternate explanation to Muhammad’s for the experience just as they do for the experiences of Jesus’ disciples.

There you have it: a quick and concise summary of some key differences between the testimony of Paul and the testimony of Muhammad.  I consider Martin’s challenge answered.

Is the Qur’an Wrong about Jesus? – #9 Post of 2010

Post Author: Bill Pratt

It may surprise some Christians that the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, speaks about Jesus.  In fact, the Qur’an speaks of Jesus as a great prophet of God and records some of the miracles that Jesus performed.

However, the Qur’an denies one important event in the life of Jesus, his crucifixion.  According to the Qur’an, Jesus was never crucified by the Romans.  He was taken straight to heaven without being executed.

Herein lies a couple of significant problems, it seems, for Islam.  First, virtually every professional historian who has studied the events of Jesus’ life agrees that he was killed by crucifixion.  This fact is just not debated by any reputable scholars, as far as I am aware.

Second, we have another problem, what Jesus scholar Mike Licona calls the “Islamic catch-22.”  You see, Jesus predicted that he would die a violent death, predicted it several times.  According to Licona, “We find this reported in Mark, which is the earliest Gospel, and it’s multiply attested in different literary forms, which is really strong evidence in the eyes of historians.”

So what?  How is that a problem for Muslims?  Licona explains:

If Jesus did not die a violent and imminent death, then that makes him a false prophet.  But the Qur’an says that he’s a great prophet, and so the Qur’an would be wrong and thus discredited.  On the other hand, if Jesus did die a violent and imminent death as he predicted, then he is indeed a great prophet – but this would contradict the Qur’an, which says he didn’t die on the cross.  So either way, the Qur’an is discredited.

If the Qur’an, which Muslims claim is perfect, contains an error as egregious as denying the crucifixion of Jesus, it simply cannot be trusted to be a reliable historical document.

Did the New Testament Writers Record Fact or Fiction? Part 8

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In this series of posts, we have shown that the NT writers claimed to be eyewitnesses or associates of eyewitnesses; we have shown that we have multiple witnesses, and we have shown that the eyewitnesses were trustworthy.  How?  They included embarrassing details about themselves  and difficult details about their subject of worship, Jesus; their accounts contain divergent details, just as we would expect from independent witnesses; and they wrote about historical facts that have been thoroughly corroborated by ancient non-Christian writers and modern archaeology.

There is one final piece of evidence that you should consider, though.  I think it is one of the strongest historical evidences we have.

Here it is.  The apostles, some of whom wrote portions of the NT, were all killed for their beliefs, except John.  According to Christian tradition, Paul was beheaded and Peter was crucified upside down – both of them killed in Rome.  James, the brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem church, was thrown off the top of the Jerusalem temple and stoned to death.  The other apostles met similar fates.    Before they died, they were beaten, stoned, imprisoned, mocked, and persecuted, mostly because of their professed beliefs in Christ.

I was having lunch with a couple of bright engineers a few years back, and we started discussing religions, Christianity in particular.  They challenged my belief in the NT documents by saying that many people have created religions in order to gain fame, fortune, and power.  They thought it was quite possible that the NT writers were merely doing the same.  I asked them if they knew what happened to the apostles after Jesus died, and they did not know.  When I shared the facts above, they became silent.  Fame, fortune, and power eluded all of these men while they were alive.  Their lives would have been far easier if they had just kept quiet.

Maybe the apostles weren’t in it for the money, so to speak.  Maybe they had been lied to or deceived.  Maybe they just died for their false religious beliefs like so many other fanatics do.   Many people die for their religious beliefs, don’t they?  The Muslim fanatics on 9/11 certainly died for their beliefs.  Aren’t the apostles just the same?

No, they aren’t.  There’s a fundamental difference between the disciples and the 9/11 extremists.  The 9/11 fanatics died for contemporary beliefs that reflected someone’s modern-day interpretation of the Qur’an, a book which was written 1,400 years ago.  They had no way of knowing if the source of that book, Muhammad, was telling the truth or not.  They weren’t there to see it.  They believed based on what they had been taught by their contemporary religious teachers.

Not so with the disciples.  They all went to their deaths claiming that they saw Jesus risen from the dead.  But they knew this, not based on information delivered 1,400 years after the fact, but based on their own two eyes!!  If Jesus did not rise from the dead and the NT is a pack of lies, then the disciples knew it.  They were there.

But if they knew Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then we must explain why they willingly went to their deaths.  Many people die for a false belief, but nobody dies for a false belief they know is false, especially not 12 different people!  The martyrdom of the apostles is strong evidence for the truth of the historical resurrection of Jesus.  There exists no other theory which can adequately explain their behavior.

I conclude this series with an extended quote from Chuck Colson, who is often asked about why he believes that Jesus rose from the dead, which is the central event and miracle of the NT.  Here is Colson:

Watergate involved a conspiracy to cover up, perpetuated by the closest aides to the President of the United States, the most powerful men in America, who were intensely loyal to their President.  But one of them, John Dean, turned state’s evidence, that is, testified against Nixon, as he put it, “to save his own skin,” and he did so only two weeks after informing the president about what was really going on – two weeks!  The real cover-up, the lie, could only be held together for two weeks, and then everybody else jumped ship in order to save themselves. Now, the fact is that all that those around the President were facing was embarrassment, maybe prison. Nobody’s life was at stake.

But what about the disciples?  Twelve powerless men, peasants really, were facing not just embarrassment or political disgrace, but beatings, stonings, execution.  Every single one of the disciples insisted, to their dying breaths, that they had physically seen Jesus bodily raised from the dead.

Don’t you think that one of those apostles would have cracked before being beheaded or stoned?  That one of them would have made a deal with the authorities?  None did.

You see, men will give their lives for something they believe to be true – they will never give their lives for something they know to be false.

The Watergate cover-up reveals the true nature of humanity.  Even political zealots at the pinnacle of power will, in the crunch, save their own necks, even at the expense of the ones they profess to serve so loyally. But the apostles could not deny Jesus because they had seen Him face to face, and they knew He had risen from the dead.

No, you can take it from an expert in cover-ups – I’ve lived through Watergate – that nothing less than a resurrected Christ could have caused those men to maintain to their dying whispers that Jesus is alive and is Lord.  Two thousand years later, nothing less than the power of the risen Christ could inspire Christians around the world to remain faithful – despite prison, torture, and death.

Jesus is Lord: That’s the thrilling message of Easter.  And it’s an historic fact, one convincingly established by the evidence – and one you can bet your life upon.  Go ahead researchers – dig up all the old graves you want.  You won’t change a thing.  He has risen.