Rafed English

Islam in the Bibile

Islam in the Bibile

by :

Thomas McElwin

Thomas McElwain was born into a devout family in the United States in 1949. He was occupied by religious subjects from an early age and wanted to become a pastor. He studied theology and history at the Seminaire du Saleve in France from 1968 to 1972, after which he continued studies in religion at Andrews University in Michigan. Already in France he was considered a rebel in terms of theology, but his expertise in languages earned him respect.

In 1974 he entered the University of Uppsala to study Biblical Languages and Ethnography. He completed a PhD degree in 1979 from the University of Stockholm with a dissertation on American Indian religious traditions, Mythological Tales and the Allegany Seneca. He has written several books and many articles on Native Ameri­can religion, Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

For many years he has lectured at various universities, especially the University of Turku in Finland where he was active from 1979-1984. He was editorial secretary for the Nordic journal of comparative religion, Temenos, for five volumes. He has been on the faculty of the department of Comparative Religion as docent at the University of Stock­holm since 1982.

His active participation in church work led to his ordi­nation to the ministry in 1988. He served a Baptist missionary society full time from 1986 to 1990. He was a voting delegate to the Baptist World Alliance at its session in Zagreb in 1989, representing the Seventh Day Baptist General Conference of USA and Canada.

Following the Baptist principles of Bible study, which encourage freedom of thought and objective examination of the text, he has come to conclusions which will surprise the reader no matter what his or her religious background.

Not only Judaism in its several varieties, but hundreds of different sects of Christianity all maintain that their beliefs and practices are based on the Bible. If so many different religions can be justified by the Bible, why not Islam?

Most of Christianity recognises the authority of the Bible, containing the Hebrew and Greek writings. There is some discussion of what writings to include and to what degree they are authoritative, but in principle Christians recognise the Bible. All forms of Judaism recognise the Torah and the other writings of the Tanach, which makes up the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. Islam appeals primarily to the Holy Qur'an, but in principle accepts the Bible. In practice, Muslims reject the Bible on the assump­tion that it is corrupted from the original in order to make it accommodate to Christian teaching.

The problem arises when we compare the beliefs and practices of any particular religious group with the book it appeals to. Inevitably there is much selectivity and interpre­tation, but beyond this remains the bare fact that the book is never the sole source of belief and practice. Where would the Christian year of festivals, the liturgy and a multitude of beliefs and practices be if all had to be founded on the Bible? Many of them would sadly fall by the wayside.

The decoupling of books from actual belief and practice first struck me a few years ago when I noticed how the books relate to the day of worship. The Hebrew Scriptures obviously maintain the observance of the Sabbath or seventh day of the week. Jewish tradition quite consistently puts this in practice. The observance of Sunday is characteristic of Christianity. But there is very little justification for this in the Greek Scriptures, the so-called New Testament. On the contrary, the Sabbath is men­tioned very often, sometimes quite favourably. I looked in the Qur'an to see how it dealt with the issue, and found that the Sabbath is maintained on a half-dozen occasions in the Qur'an as well. Friday prayer is also well established in the Qur'an, unlike Sunday in the New Testament, which can only be defended by doing violence to the text. But there is no Qur'anic justification for observing Friday as a special day from Thursday evening, as many Muslims do. We thus find the Sabbath to be a feature common to all of the sacred books. By contrast, the traditions vary on how they relate to the Sabbath, Judaism observing Saturday, Christianity Sunday, and Islam Friday.

By way of experiment I began to think how the Scrip­tures align themselves with the beliefs and practices of the various traditions. There might well be more features supporting Judaism in the Qur'an than mere reference to Saturday observance, and on the other hand, more features supporting Islam in the Bible than special recognition of Friday. Since Muslims generally do not know the Bible well, there is every reason to believe that they might be mistaken when they think the Bible supports Christianity. In sum, one question seems never to have been answered: how do Islamic belief and practice compare to the texts of Judaism and Christianity, that is, to the Bible?

I first came to the conclusion that the Bible might reflect Islamic features in unexpected ways through a reading of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. A closer look at this text will reveal how the Bible can express Islamic values even on a structural level. This passage contains the texts which the greatest numbers of Christians know by heart.

Some Christian sects, notably those who have descended from the Anabaptists, seem to base the core of their doctrine on this passage alone. The Sermon on the Mount is beloved by Christian and non-Christian alike. The non­religious person in Christian societies often appeals to its words. It is said that Gandhi based his practice of non­violent resistance on it.

Since this is indisputably one of the most important texts of Christianity, we can only wonder how well it supports the basic beliefs of Christianity. Some of the most important beliefs of Christianity are these three: Christians believe that God is one God eternally existing in three persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Christians believe that the man Jesus is also in one and the same person at one and the same time completely and wholly God Almighty, one and equal with the Father. Finally, Christians believe that salvation and correspond­ingly forgiveness of sins depend on the atoning sacrifice for sin made by Jesus in his death on the cross. By comparison, the well-known five pillars of Islamic practice are: testifying that there is no god but God; prayer, alms, fasting, and Pilgrimage.

The whole Sermon on the Mount implies time and again that there is only one being who is God, the one Jesus calls `Our Father'. Because we live in a world of permissive child-rearing, we fail to notice immediately that the basic relationship referred to is the relationship of submission and obedience. The God of the Sermon on the Mount is one to whom people owe submission and obedience. No trinity is mentioned at all. In no place in Matthew five to seven does Jesus even remotely suggest that he himself is God Almighty.

From the Christian point of view the vicarious sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for forgiveness of sin is the heart of the Gospel. Jesus does suggest a condition for forgiveness of sin, but that condition is not his vicarious death on the cross. He says that we shall be forgiven as we forgive (Matthew 6:15), and judged as we judge others (Matthew 7:2).

Christians have rightly divided the Sermon on the Mount into three chapters, for it does in fact present three subjects. Belief in the law and the prophets is the subject of chapter five. Certainty of the Day of judgement is the subject of chapter seven. Chapter six presents the faith of Jesus in practice.

Let us first take a look at chapter five. The subject here is to maintain the authority of the law and the prophets. When Jesus spoke to the crowd, he was faced with people who were suspicious of one thing, whether or not he upheld the law. The people had already seen miracles. They were ready to believe in Jesus provided that he could produce evidence that he was loyal to the lain, and that he upheld the Torah, the books of Moses. This was crucial. Without it he would not be accepted.

So Jesus set about the task. First of all he gained the people's confidence by giving a series of blessings. Luke 6:24-26 adds curses to these. The familiar covenant of blessings and curses, so well known from the book of Deuteronomy, immediately flooded into his hearers' minds. They were on familiar ground. They felt at ease.

Then Jesus came to the point. `Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.' Matthew 5:17-19. There it is: Jesus has had his say. Stronger lan­guage could not have been invented. In the rest of the chapter he gives illustrations, first from the ten command­ments and then from other parts of the books of Moses. He illustrates how he supports the law.

Modern interpreters might maintain that Jesus gave a new law, because he contrasted what he said with what was said earlier by saying, `But I say unto you...' But when Jesus says that anger is murder, surely no one with good sense will say that he means you can kill people after all as long as you are not angry with them. When he says to look in lust is the same as adultery, only an insane person would say he means that it is all right to go to bed with someone illicitly as long as you do not look at them with lust first. Jesus does not abrogate the law when he points out its spirituality. He does not give permission to disobey the law by striking out against hypocrisy.

In the same way Jesus supports the law of divorce and oaths. Untold misery has come from Christians who think Jesus abrogated the law of divorce by saying, `Whosoever shall put away his wife causeth her to commit adultery.' In all of his commentaries Jesus is attacking hypocrisy, which is keeping the law in letter, but having altogether different intentions. In this case Jesus is attacking the hypocritical practice in the Near East of marrying with the intention of immediate divorce in order to give a legal face to prostitu­tion. In a society where prostitution is not even given that legal basis, the true teaching here is likely to escape notice. Jesus affirms the law of Moses. He can do nothing else without discrediting himself. He accepts the legislation on divorce when it is used as originally intended.

When it comes to oaths, Christian interpreters have done little better. Jesus again attacks hypocrisy. In Matthew 23:16-23, Jesus tells precisely what kind of oath he is talking about. He is attacking the practice of clothing a lie with an oath that is formally defective. A seller in the market-place might swear by the temple. When an irate buyer returned with a complaint, he would then say, `Oh, I swore by the temple, so it is not binding. If I had sworn by the gold of the temple, it would have been binding.' Jesus attacks this hypocrisy, and in so doing upholds the law and acquires the confidence of his listeners.

Let us take a quick look at Matthew seven. The chapter shouts the subject from the very beginning. `Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged.' Matthew 7:1-2. Jesus gives many valuable hints on how to prepare for the judgement to come. He says to concentrate on yourself rather than on others. Most of us go through life spending a great deal of time talking and thinking about other people's faults and very little time correcting our own. Jesus is practical and knows what we are like. He says to ask God for help. No one can stand in the judgement without the infinite grace of God. He says that we will be judged according to the law and the proph­ets and sums up the law and the prophets very neatly. `Do as you would be done by.' Matthew 7:12. He warns us not to follow the crowd. Conformity will only take us to hell (verses 13-14). He warns us not to be taken in by false prophets and gives a hint on how to know them. He says that pretending to be religious will get you nowhere, but only those who do God's will can be saved in the judge­ment (verses 21-23). All in all, the chapter is about the Day of Judgement and how to prepare for it.

After establishing his authority on the law and the prophets, and before warning about the Day of Judgement, Jesus gives us a beautiful summary of his own teaching. Matthew six is above all the very teaching of Jesus Christ as presented in the Christian Scriptures. Anyone who truly desires to follow the faith of Jesus Christ can find the pillars of practical faith right here in this chapter. They are few and simple.

Most Christian creeds can be reduced to a few simple pillars, which are: belief in the Trinity, faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ for the forgiveness of sin, the Church as the channel of grace, and the eternal reward. Judaism can be summed up as belief in one God, the Torah, and the covenant of God with the people of Israel. Islam is summed up as confession of one God, daily prayer in prostration, alms in charity, fasting, and pilgrimage. So how does Jesus sum up his faith according to the Christian Scriptures?

When we turn to Matthew six, the first subject is cov­ered in verses one to four. We may be surprised to find that the first pillar of practice mentioned is giving alms in charity. Jesus warns us, aptly enough, to avoid hypocrisy in the giving of alms.

When we read on, the next pillar of practice appears in verses 5-15. That second pillar is prayer. Jesus does not tell us here how to pray. All of his listeners already knew this. They knew it from the law and the prophets. They knew that Daniel prostrated himself in prayer toward the house of God morning, afternoon and evening (Daniel 6:10). They knew from the Psalms of David, called The Prayers in Hebrew, that prayer should be done at set times in the day and should be preceded by ablutions. They knew from the same Psalms that prayer should be done standing, bowing, and prostrating. They knew that prayer, according to the Psalms, included raising the hands and crying time and again, Yigdal Adonai' or in English `The Lord be magni­fied' or in Arabic `Allahu akbar'.

What Jesus did tell the people was to avoid hypocrisy in prayer, to pray briefly and simply, and then he gave them a list of appropriate subjects for prayer. The so-called Lord's Prayer is that list. It is not a model prayer to be repeated word for word, or the version of it given in Luke would have been identical. So the second pillar of practice mentioned in Matthew six is prayer in brevity, simplicity, and lack of hypocrisy.

The third pillar in the practice of the faith of Jesus is found in Matthew 6:16-18. Here he mentions fasting, again with the warning that we must avoid hypocrisy. He does not tell us how to fast. But we already know how to fast, just as his listeners did. Is it the Christian fast of avoiding certain foods? No. It is a fast of total abstention from food and drink, just as Moses did on the mount (Exodus 34:28). That tradition came unbroken all the way down to Jesus, who practised it himself according to Matthew 4:1-2.

So far Jesus has attacked hypocrisy in the practice of faith. Now he comes to an entirely different problem. In Matthew 6:16-34 we are not faced with hypocrisy, which is the plague of almsgiving in charity, prayer, and fasting. We are faced with fear and excuses. Those are the plagues of pilgrimage.

Jesus goes straight to the problem of how to convince people to go on pilgrimage to the house of God as they should by the example of the Christian Scriptures and as they were commanded to do in the law of Moses. The first excuse he meets is, `Somebody might break in our house and steal our silver and gold while we are gone.' Matthew 6:19-21. The next excuse he meets is, `What are we going to eat and drink on the way? And how am I going to make up the lost time from work? I have to support my family. I have to buy new clothes for the children before school starts and I don't see how we are going to make ends meet. We can't go on pilgrimage this year.' Matthew 6:22-34.

In sum, Matthew six gives in order four of the tradi­tional Islamic pillars of practice as the very core of Jesus' message. Embedded as they are in the very structure of the passage, they suggest that other parts of the Bible might well be hiding features that may become clear only as we view them from an Islamic perspective.

Islamic belief and practice are not based on the Bible. They are based on the Qur'an and on the Sunna or example of the Prophet. The confrontation between Christian and Muslim is often largely a confrontation between books. For that reason Muslims assume that the Bible teaches what Christians believe and practice. They very often use the Bible to show that it does not teach Islam and shows evidence of not being valid. Whether or not the Bible has been corrupted, as Muslim commentators and Christian scholars maintain, is beside the point for the present study. There is no reason why the Bible could not be approached from the opposite angle. The conflict of books is generally a deadlock. A new approach might raise fresh issues among the traditions, and help us to see them in a new light. Does the Bible as we now have it, and as it has been used through centuries of Christian tradition, support Islamic beliefs and practices?

Some Muslims have appealed to the Christian Scriptures on behalf of their faith to some extent. Most such appeals surround the figure of the final prophet. Since much has been written about this, I have not given it a special chapter here. I shall merely summarise some of the more important arguments that Muslims have traditionally made.

The problem posed here is whether or not the Bible is complete and the faith finished, or whether it leaves the door open for prophets to come. The Bible on many occasions contends that people who rejected prophets and divinely appointed leaders in their own times, pretending to rely on earlier ones, no matter how valid these might have been, were lost. Are there any Biblical reasons for rejecting the idea of additions to the canon? Revelation 22:18 appears to be a serious obstacle to addition. `If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book.' The answer to this is obvious. These words refer to the whole book that was written in the scroll at hand, that is, the book of Revelation. They do not refer to the addition of more books to the collection of the canon. The book of Revelation itself was accepted in the canon only centuries after it was written. No other Biblical evidence is to be found against more prophets.

On the contrary much warning is given against false prophets and how to recognise them. `For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.' Matthew 24:24. If the prophetic revelation were closed, it would only remain to say that anyone claiming to be a prophet is false. The implication is that at least one more prophet is forthcoming.

Those who came to question John the Baptist reveal that the people of the time knew that another prophet was coming and were expecting him. John 1:19-25. `And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he con­fessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptisest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?'

From this it appears clearly that three figures were ex­pected: the promised Messiah or Christ, Elias or Elijah, and `that prophet'. Although John in his modesty denied it, Jesus later stated that John was the expected Elias (Matthew 11:14). Jesus himself was the expected Messiah or Christ. Who then is the prophet to come? It is a fact that he does not appear in the Bible. So we must look for him after the time of Jesus.

We know that prophets according to the Bible, speak by the inspiration of the Spirit of God. So we can expect to find information if there is any in the promises relating to the future working of the Spirit of God. The most compre­hensive of these are found in John 14-16. Looking through these chapters the following verses stand out.

John 14:26. `But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remem­brance, whatsoever I have said unto you.'

John 15:26. `But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.'

John 16:7-14. `Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgement: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgement, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you.'

Now the Spirit of God in the Bible narratives works not in a void but through human beings. This promise refers to a prophet who has ears and a mouth (John 16:13). What do we learn from this prophecy of Jesus about the prophet to follow him? Muslim scholars have pointed out that the Greek word translated `Comforter' is much like the Greek for `Most Praised' or Ahmed, which is a form of the name Muhammad. This alternative is found in the Gospel of Barnabas and in some Syriac sources.

First of all, there is a three-part message. He will reprove the world of unbelief in Jesus Christ. He will bring a message of righteousness, that is a renewed regard for obedience to the commandments. He will emphasise the importance of the Day of Judgement.

Secondly, Jesus remarks that there are many things to be said, but he cannot teach his hearers all of these things because they are not yet ready for them. The inference is that the prophet to come will teach some new points of doctrine and practice that the people of Jesus' time were not ready to receive. These things probably have to do with the change of the direction of prayer and place of pilgrim­age from Jerusalem to another place, and other details that could not be accepted as long as the temple existed.

Thirdly, the coming prophet would guide into all truth. That is, when his message is given, there will never be any need for another message, since with his revelation all truth which God intended to reveal will have been revealed.

Fourthly, he will not speak using his own words. He will be verbally inspired. He will actually hear the message of God in spoken form from the angel and will recite verbally what he hears. He will thus be different from some prophets who received the inspired message and wrote it in their own words.

Fifthly, he will reveal future events.

Sixthly, he will preach the things that Jesus himself taught.

It would appear that we have a good deal of information about the prophet to follow Jesus, probably enough to identify him with certainty. Nevertheless, on another occasion Jesus gave still more information. In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus points out that `by their fruits ye shall know them.' This is generally thought to refer to actions, bad fruits being evil actions and good fruits good acts. Psalm 1:3 describes this prophet `who brings forth fruit in his season.' The book of Revelation suggests that the tree has twelve different fruits (Revelation 22:2). It is very possible that Jesus is referring to the fact that the prophet to come should have twelve pure descendants or followers who would have authority and act as the final divine guides in their age. We can be sure of this only if we find a prominent contestant for the position of prophethood who actually had twelve such descendants or representatives.

Contemplation of the seven criteria shows immediately that most of them are subject to interpretation. It would be easy, for example, to construe the three-pronged message to fit almost any claimant to prophetship. The one criterion which is hard and fast is the prophecy on the means of revelation. We must look for a prophet who heard a voice and dictated the message word for word.

Joseph Smith, for example, claimed to receive the mes­sage on golden plates from which he translated in writing. Although he might fit all of the other criteria, he misses on the most objective one.

Ellen White, to take another prominent example, claimed to hear the voice, but she never claimed verbal inspiration, nor did she dictate the message of the angel in a book She wrote her books in words of her own choice. Besides, she, unlike Joseph Smith, was not followed by a succession of twelve. Nor did she herself in fact claim to be the promised prophet.

All of the criteria can be easily fitted to the case of Mu­hammad. But the one objective criterion, the means of revelation, seems so overwhelmingly appropriate that it is difficult to dismiss it. The story is that Muhammad was praying and meditating in a cave when the angel Gabriel suddenly appeared to him and he heard the words: `In the name of God the most gracious, ever merciful! Recite in the name of thy Lord who creates perfectly. He creates man from a clot. Recite! And thy Lord is the most honourable!' Qur'an 96:1-3.

The subject of Biblical prophecy as related to Muham­mad is widely dealt with by Ahmed Deedat, Abdul-Ahad Dawud, and many others. I have said little here in addition to such studies and left out much that has been said. I would only add something to Ahmed Deedat's excellent handling of Deuteronomy 18:18, `I will raise up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.' Christians often claim that this refers to Jesus. But the parallel between Moses and Jesus seems inconsistent, since Christians claim Jesus to be God and deny such status to Moses. If Jesus is God, he is definitely not like Moses and the passage cannot apply to him. If he is not God, then the Christian doctrine falls.

The history of Muhammad is tragic. After the death of Muhammad many Muslims followed unjust and irreligious caliphs. The later caliphs changed the religion to suit themselves. This is recognised by both orientalists and Muslims alike. The family of the prophet's daughter was hounded, persecuted, poisoned and murdered by the so­called Muslim State. It is only a miracle that some knowledge of the eleven descendants of the daughter of Muhammad has come down to us. These pure, humble, persecuted people might well be compared to the twelve fruits of the good tree Jesus mentions in Matthew seven.

Since we are examining the Bible as the traditional, his­torical text of Christianity I have chosen to use the King James Version in English and the Hebrew Massoretic text and received text of the Greek New Testament from which it was translated. The editions of the latter I have followed are The New Testament, The Greek Text Underlying the English Authorised Version of 1611, Trinitarian Bible Society, London, and Biblia Hebraica, Johanne Leusden, Everardo Van Der Hooght, Judah D'Allemand, London 1822. I have also referred to the Byzantine Greek text in the edition of Moscow, 1841.

The method will be to examine the whole Bible in terms of the various Islamic beliefs and practices. Critical method will be relevant to the extent necessary to identify Biblical beliefs and practices in context which show similarity or equivalence to Islamic ones. The method is rigorous and scientific, but approaches problems vastly different from those usually examined by scholars. It is not the goal to establish the original or source text. That would defeat the purpose. What is of interest is to what extent the Bible as it has come down to us through Christian tradition reflects not Christian but Islamic aspects. Such a study would be fortuitous except for the fact that the texts of Christianity and Islam share a geographical and to a great extent cultural heritage.

The examination of the Biblical text will entail first of all the establishment of linguistic equivalents for Islamic features. The second, and supporting method will be to establish conceptual equivalents. The second method obviously lacks the objectivity of the first, but will certainly prove fruitful, as it allows us to bring to bear on each subject texts which may be relevant, but which might be overlooked from a mere linguistic approach. The linguistic approach is used first and primarily in order to preserve objectivity.

Since Islamic approaches to written Scripture make a clear distinction between writings purporting to quote God directly (the Qur'an), and writings purporting to quote human beings (ahadith or traditions), I have indicated those distinctions in the use of Bible texts. Texts purporting to be quotations of the very words of God are marked with a star. Strangely that basic distinction is largely overlooked by Jewish and Christian readers.

Judaism and Christianity share many beliefs and prac­tices, some of which are considered fundamental to Islam. Among such fundamental beliefs in common are the belief in Scripture-bearing prophets, angels, and sacred Scriptures as such. The Day of judgement is a belief common to all three traditions as well. These fundamentals are copiously represented in the Bible, and they are the focus of a brief exposition in chapter one. Other aspects are common to all three traditions, but have features which distinguish them within the traditions. It will be of interest to focus on such distinguishing features in order to establish what precisely is described by the Biblical texts.

A study of this kind, because of its pioneering character as well as the limits of time and space, can only be partial. I cannot examine all of the texts bearing on a subject in detail, or even mention all of them for most subjects. Many questions will remain for further research, but I have tried to touch on the most important ones. I hope that the reader will thoughtfully consider whether or not the Bible supports the basic teachings of Islam.

The best way of establishing Islamic beliefs and practices is to refer to authoritative Islamic texts. I have taken as basic sources Islamic Teachings in Brief by Ayatullah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i, Ansariyan Publications, Qum, Islamic Republic of Iran, translated by Muzhgan Jalali; and the introductory notes of The Holy Qur'an, S.V. Mir Ahmed Ali, Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an, New York, 1988.

The specific issues I have identified as both representing Islam and showing distinctively Islamic features in contrast to other traditions are the following: the concepts of God and divine guidance, purity, prayer, fasting, pilgrimage, sacrifice, polygamy and concubinage. All of these are included in Ali's Introduction to The Holy Qur'an with the exception of polygamy and concubinage (Ali 1988:69a, 104a). He deals with polygamy and concubinage in brief notes on important topics (All 1988:139a, 140a). They are all dealt with in detail in Tabataba'i.

The pillars of Islam are well known: belief in God, angels, the prophets, the books of revelation, and the Day of Judgement. These are among the first criteria Muslim scholars use in evaluating the orthodoxy of any movement. The concept of God is a complicated subject, and is described in some detail in chapter two. There may be some differences in both theological detail and lore relating to angels, but the basic belief is common to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Although Muslims accept a number of prophets unknown to Christianity and Judaism, as well as Muhammad, the basic belief in prophets as such is common to all three faiths. Although there is some disa­greement about which books are true revelation, not only is the basic belief in written canons a common feature of all three faiths, but all three believe in at least the Torah or Books of Moses. There are also details of difference regarding the Day of judgement, but it too is a feature of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Therefore we shall merely note briefly the four pillars of belief angels, prophets, books and judgement. They are not only common to all of the faiths, but they are considered fundamental in Islam. These are features of the faiths which are not only a part of belief and practice, but which also appear in the canons themselves. I shall examine a few representative Biblical texts in order to establish the fact that these four beliefs are expressed in the Bible.

Genesis 28:12. `And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.' The knowledge of the existence of angels goes back to the very beginning. Angels are even mentioned in the story of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:24). This verse expresses the role of angels in the communication between God and human­kind.

Psalm 68:17. `The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels; the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.' The role of angels as bearers of the universe is expressed in this Psalm. This idea is found in the prophets as well, and has become a common feature of Bible visionary experience.

Psalm 91:11. `For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.' The role of angels in relationship to people is one of divine guardianship. The invisible presence of the angels has as its role not so much the guardianship from danger (as the adversary would have it in Matthew 4:6), but the guardianship from falling into sin. The way in which we are kept is the straight and narrow way.

Psalm 103:20. `Bless the Lord, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word.' The role of the angels is not only to carry out the commands of God, but also to carry out His praise and worship. The continual prostration and praise of some angels is described graphically in Revelation 5:11 et al.

Psalm 104:4. `Who maketh his angels spirits; his minis­ters a flaming fire.' Human curiosity as to the source of angels in creation is also satisfied in the Bible. Just as humans have come from spirit and earth (Genesis 2:7), so the angels have come from spirit and fire.

Matthew 13:49. `So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just.' The role of angels on the Day of judge­ment is an active one in dividing the just from the unjust.

Matthew 18:10. `Take heed that ye despise not one of these little ones; for I say unto you, That in heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven.' This warning refers to those who oppress the weak, thinking that they are invulnerable since their victims have no power. In fact, the cry of the oppressed is said to have direct access to God by the angels. The Bible would have us take this into account in our relations with others.

Matthew 26:53. `Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?' The prophets have immediate access to more than twelve legions of angels. It is only amazing that the prophets have shown so much forbearance in dealing with those who not only reject their messages but even oppress them.

I Corinthians 11:10. `For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.' Human beings are shy in their behaviour before other human beings who are visible. The Bible suggests we should be more shy in our behaviour when we are alone, since at such times we are still visible to the angels.

Hebrews 1:14. `Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?' Angels are spirits sent out to do the will of God.

Revelation 1:1. `The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.' Messages are brought to the prophets by the medium of the angels.

The central feature of Islamic belief in angels relates to their role in revealing Scripture to the prophets. But the Bible also reflects Islamic belief that the angels are essen­tially different from human beings as separate creations. The Islamic idea of being shy in the presence of angels, and thus avoiding bad behaviour is also Biblical. The angels' action of prostration is both Biblical and Islamic. The Biblical bearing up of the chariot of God is much like the Islamic idea of angels bearing the throne or arsh of God. All in all, the Biblical passages referring to angels are well within the Islamic configuration of belief.

Angels bring the divine revelation to certain people. Such people are called prophets. The belief in prophecy is basic to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The principle of prophetship is mentioned in the Bible many times.

`The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.' Deuteronomy 29:29.

Whether we can do as God tells us to do is a false ques­tion. Practically every story in the Bible is an illustration of the fact that God tells people to do things and holds them responsible if they do not. This is not to deny all of the ramifications of myth and history, symbol and poetry of the Bible. But it is to state a simple fact. God held Adam and Eve responsible for eating of the fruit of the tree of knowl­edge of good and evil. Whatever depths of metaphorical or spiritual meaning there may be in the story, it does strongly imply that they were responsible for their actions.

Again, when God told Noah to build an ark, something far beyond the possibilities of most of us, He expected Noah to build it and held him responsible. When God told Abraham to go, He expected him to do it. This is one of the obvious, incontrovertible facts of the Bible: God com­mands. A human being either obeys or disobeys. The human being either enjoys or suffers the consequences.

The true question is not whether we can fulfil the commandments of God, but how we can fulfil them. This text in Deuteronomy gives us the first step in how `we may do all the words of this law'. With the single possible exception of the ten commandments, all revelation has come through a prophet. Everything that is revealed is there so that we can know what to do. We cannot obey God unless we know what He is telling us to do. That is what the revelation of the prophets is for.

There is a good deal of Bible evidence for this principle. The following are some of the more important references in the Bible which show that God uses prophets in order to send His verbal revelation to humankind.

2 Kings 17:13. `Yet the Lord testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my com­mandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets.'

2 Chronicles 20:20. `And they rose early in the morning, and went forth into the wilderness of Tekoa: and as they went forth, Jehoshaphat stood and said, Hear me, O Judah, and ye inhabitants of Jerusalem; Believe in the Lord your God, so shall ye be established: believe his prophets, so shall ye prosper.'

2 Chronicles 24:19. `Yet he sent prophets to them, to bring them again unto the Lord; and they testified against them: but they would not give ear.'

Nehemiah 9:26. `Nevertheless they were disobedient, and rebelled against thee, and cast thy law behind their backs, and slew thy prophets which testified against them to turn them to thee, and they wrought great provocations.'

Jeremiah 7:25,1. `Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them.'

Jeremiah 29:19*. `Because they have not hearkened to my words, saith the Lord, which I sent unto them by my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them; but ye would not hear, saith the Lord.'

Jeremiah 35:15*. `I have sent also unto you all my ser­vants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return ye now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and go not after other gods to serve them, and ye shall dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your fathers: but ye have not inclined your ear, nor hearkened unto me.'

Daniel 9:10. `Neither have we obeyed the voice of the Lord our God, to walk in his laws, which he set before us by his servants the prophets.'

Hosea 12:10*. `I have also spoken by the prophets, and I have multiplied visions, and used similitudes, by the ministry of the prophets.'

Amos 3:7. `Surely the Lord will do nothing, but he re­vealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.'

Zechariah 1:4-5*. `Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts: Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the Lord.'

Zechariah 7:12. `Yea, they made their hearts as an ada­mant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the Lord of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the Lord of hosts.'

Matthew 5:17. `Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.'

Acts 3:21-23. `Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.'

James 5:10. `Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience.' This text is extremely important, since it almost uniquely in the Bible states clearly and overtly that the example of the prophets is normative. Bible religion is one which applies the example of the prophets to all the actions and institutions of life. It is the neglect of this principle which has created an unjust and secular society.

1 Peter 1:10. `Of which salvation the prophets have in­quired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you.'

The religion of the Bible is clearly a faith founded on the revelation of the prophets. The Bible also clearly states which prophets were true and which false. The message of the prophets is to focus attention on the commandments of God. Their purpose is to show what we should do in obedience to God. The prophet who 1) upholds the commandments of God and 2) is in agreement with the earlier prophets and 3) comes to call people to a return to obedience to God, is a true prophet.

The example and messages of the prophets can only reach later generations as they wrote or dictated the revelation in written form. The belief in sacred books is a direct and logical extension of belief in divine revelation through prophets.

In the chain of revelation from God to angels to proph­ets there is a continuity from prophets to the sacred Scriptures, the writings of the prophets which contain the words of revelation given to them. Such writings are referred to often in the Bible. Some representative exam­ples follow.

Matthew 22:40. `On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.' The two commandments referred to here are the proclamation of the unity of God in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and the command in Leviticus 19:18 to treat the rights of the other person with the same regard as one's own. The revelation of God thus deals with human responsibility toward God, toward others, and toward oneself. The law and the prophets in their entirety deal with these three issues.

Luke 24:44. `And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.' At the time of Jesus three categories of sacred prophetic writings were already known: these are the law of Moses or the Torah, the writings of the other prophets, and the Psalms.

2 Timothy 3:16. `All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correc­tion, for instruction in righteousness.' The three categories of scripture mentioned in Luke 24 are described here in terms of how they should be used. They can be used first of all to find out what they present as true teaching or doc­trine. This is basically the use that we have made of them here. We have tried first to find out their teaching about God, for example. But the writings can be used for reproof of wrong actions, for correction of our views, and for instruction in righteousness, that is, learning what we should do and how to do it. An example of instruction in righteousness would be in our examination of the Bible texts to find out how the Bible says people should pray.

2 Peter 1:20-21. `Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.' Here the apostle notes that what is written in the writings of the prophets is not merely their opinions. He says that what they have written is a revelation from God, inspired by the Spirit of God.

Revelation 1:3. `Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.' There is a threefold blessing on people's relationships to the writings of the prophets. There is a blessing on those who read or recite the words of their writings. There is a blessing on listening to the recitation of the sacred books. Finally there is a blessing on doing what the sacred books tell people to do.

Revelation of the will of God by the means of angels speaking to prophets who write or dictate the message is of little use unless God holds human beings responsible for how they relate to what He has revealed. This is a final point of common ground between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. There is nothing more clear in the Bible than the fact that God brings all creatures into account. He brought Adam and Eve into account. He brought Cain into account for killing his brother. He brought the people of Noah's day into account, and those of Sodom and Gomor­rah. He brought the Israelites into account for worshipping other gods, for rejecting the prophets, and for neglecting the example of those sent to guide them. The unity of God, the prophets, and the divine guides are the three great criteria of judgement.

The Bible abounds in overt references to the Day of Judgement. `It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement.' Hebrews 9:27.

Deuteronomy 32:41*. `If I whet my glittering sword, and mine hands take hold on judgement; I will render vengeance to mine enemies, and will reward them that hate me.'

Psalm 9:7-8. `But the Lord shall endure for ever: he hath prepared his throne for judgement. And he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgement to the people in uprightness.'

Ecclesiastes 11:9. `Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth: and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgement.'

Ecclesiastes 12:13-14. `Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.' This text points out two points in preparation for the Day of Judgement: 1) to acknowledge the one true God; 2) and to keep His commandments.

Matthew 12:36. `But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgement.' No Bible prophet speaks so much of the Day of judgement as does Jesus Christ. This text is only one example of many.

Hebrews 6:2. `Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgement.' The author of this epistle points out that the Day of judgement is preceded by three points of readiness: 1) ablutions, or means of purifying; 2) laying on of hands, or swearing allegiance to the divinely appointed; and 3) the resurrection from the dead. All three of these are acts of divine grace, the first through the prophets, the second through the divine guides, and the third directly at the hand of the angels.

2 Peter 2:9. `The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgement to be punished.' Readiness for the Day of judgement depends on the grace of God which delivers the godly out of temptations. This grace has already been described in four points: the proclamation of the unity of God, the justice of God, God's gracious revelation through the holy prophets by the angels and preserved in the holy books, and the divine guides who exemplify the will of God in flesh and blood, in active demonstration.

2 Peter 3:7. `But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgement and perdition of ungodly men.' This text suggests that the Day of judgement is cataclysmic. It is not merely metaphorical of the condition of human responsibility. It entails a real end of the world as we know it and the beginning of another. It includes real fire.

Revelation 14:7. `Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him, for the hour of his judgement is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.'

With this verse we have a summary of what is called the everlasting gospel in verse six. It tells in one sentence what we have been discovering and uncovering up to this point. It includes first of all the acknowledgement of the one true God who made all things and is thus sovereign over all. It includes three things that we are to do in relationship to this God: 1) we are to fear Him, that is, fear to act in any way contrary to His commandments; 2) we are to give glory to Him, that is we are to live in such a way that we as creatures glorify our Creator; and 3) we are to worship Him precisely in the way that we are commanded to do in the Bible. Finally, this text points to the final aspect of the gospel, that we are to live in view of the Day of judgement which is imminently upon us.

Although this final text is from the New Testament and thus not a part of the Jewish canon, the principles it expresses are common to all three Scriptural faiths. Human responsibility is an inherent principle throughout the Bible message, which comes to a pinnacle in the Day of judge­ment when all are finally brought to account.

Belief in angels, prophets, sacred books and the Day of judgement are fundamental to Islam. They are also beliefs which Muslims share in principle, if not in detail, with Jews and Christians. More importantly, from the point of view of this study, we have seen that all four beliefs are amply described in the Bible from a point of view which is remarkably consistent with Islamic belief.

We shall look at the first pillar of Islamic belief, the be­lief in God, with a little more attention.

Ali (1988:76a-79a) presents an Islamic concept of God. He expresses this in eight positive metaphysical attributes and eight negative ones. The positive attributes are Qadir, the Almighty; Aalim, the All-Knowing; Mudrik, the Ever­Perceiving; Hai, the Ever-Living; Mureed, the All­ Independent in will and action; Mutakallim, the Creator of Speech; and Sadiq, the Ever-Truthful. The negative attributes are Murakkab, compound; Makan, accommoda­tion; Holool, incarnation; Maryee, visibility; Ehtiyaj, need; Shirkat, association; Mahaile hawadis or Tagha'iyyar, change; and Sifate-zaid, addition of qualities. The negative attributes cannot be attributed to God. The final negative attribute, addition of qualities, forbids conceiving of the positive attributes as separable from the essence of God. Finally, according to All, God is a being consistent and not arbi­trary, whose essential attribute is justice. What is necessary to understand from a Christian point of view is that God in Islam is not conceived in terms of personhood or number, but as indefinably one. The doctrine of the Trinity and the deity of Jesus are clearly rejected by Muslims.

The very first words of the Bible are `In the beginning God'. The first and central issue of the Bible is God. The beliefs and practices involved with this issue are therefore fundamental. It is no use going on to establish other beliefs and practices before this issue is settled. Fortunately the Bible is clear and consistent on this matter. The most important thing happens to be the thing expressed most clearly.

It is also true that there are in existence beliefs and prac­tices relating to God which did not exist at the time when the Bible writers were writing. It must not surprise us then that these matters are not dealt with in the Bible at all. Throughout much of the Bible the issue is whether one must worship the God of the Bible uniquely, or whether it is permissible to worship other gods as well from time to time.

The Bible clearly states that the God of the Bible must be worshipped uniquely. No others may be worshipped. One of the main ways this is brought out is by the affirma­tion that God is one, or that there is only one God, the God of the Bible.

The text with the highest claim to authority in the Bible is the ten commandments. These are portrayed as being spoken by God Himself to a vast number of people, mostly descendants of Jacob, but including a vast internationally mixed multitude as well. The very first commandment is in Exodus 20:1-3: `And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.'

The import of these words is radical. The sentence does not imply a hierarchy with the God of the Bible as the head of a pantheon of lesser deities below Him. We are con­fronted with only one speaker, the God who says `f and `me'. His message is that He will not accept any relations whatsoever between human beings and other gods.

The second commandment in verses 4-6 shows what precisely is unacceptable and what is necessary. It is unacceptable to make an image of anything to bow down to or serve, because God is jealous, that is, He does not accept other gods before Him. What is necessary is to love God and to obey His commandments.

It has now been established on the basis of the most authoritative texts in the Bible that according to the Bible, people must acknowledge the one God of the Bible alone as God, avoid making any kind of image, mental or otherwise, of any deity to be bowed down to or served, but love God and do what He tells them to do. There are plenty of supporting texts for these first basic principles. Some of them are listed below. Those which claim to be the words of God are marked with a star.

Deuteronomy 4:35. `Unto thee it was showed, that thou mightest know that the Lord he is God; there is none else beside him. This text, purported to be the words of Moses, clearly states four things: 1) Something has been shown, that is, revealed. 2) This revelation is not a matter of opinion or even of faith, but it is a matter of knowledge. To deny it is to be ignorant. 3) The first point of this revelation is that the one referred to as YHWH (Lord) is God. 4) The second point of this revelation is that this one is the only God.

Deuteronomy 6:4-5. `Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.' Perhaps a better translation would be: The Lord is our judge, the Lord is one. Some commentators grasping at straws try to suggest that the word `one' in fact means a group of more than one. The word ahad in the original Hebrew of the text does in fact mean one entity. Just as the English word `one', it only rarely refers to a unity of several entities, and when it does so it is immediately apparent from the context. The following text shows clearly that there is no room for division in our love for God. It must be wholly directed to the one true God.

Deuteronomy 32:39*. `See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me.' This text is an important one in the Torah or books of Moses, because it claims to be the very words of God Himself. He states clearly here that by the nature of reality and definition, not merely because of divine jealousy, there is not nor can there be any associate with God. He alone is uniquely God Almighty.

Nehemiah 9:6. 'Thou, even thou, art Lord alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee.' The word 'thou' in the archaic English is a singular. In contrast to the word `you', it can refer to one person only. It never refers to three persons. It is an accurate reflection of the original Hebrew text. The word `alone' shows clearly that only the one being of God is included. The final phrase shows clearly that the Bible concept is one of a universal God, not merely a tribal god of the Hebrews competing with many other tribal gods.

Psalm 18:31. `For who is God save the Lord? or who is a rock save our God?' Here intensive affirmation is expressed in the Hebrew interrogative. The meaning is that no other being is God except the one person called YHWH or Lord in the text. The first part of the text defines who in fact is God. The second part says that only God is a rock. The Hebrew language abounds in double meanings based on metaphor. The rock expresses safe refuge. Only God is a secure refuge in trouble, the one to whom we can turn in perfect confidence.

Psalm 86:10. `For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.' The greatness of God and the wonderful character of His actions are taken here as evidence that He alone is God. This is an attempt to show that the unity of God is evident in the reality that we perceive and is the only logical conclusion to which we can come. This verse takes a different position from that seen earlier. No longer are we constrained to understand that the unity of God is revealed knowledge. Rather, here it is shown to be a product of reason, a logical deduction from the systematic examination of observable phenomena.

Isaiah 43:10*. Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.' This text claims higher authority than the preceding ones, since it claims to be a quotation of the very words of God. It rejects the idea of form being applied to God. The unity of God implies the rejection of otherness (`other' implies a minimum of two). Rejection of otherness implies no standard of comparison. Form requires space in compari­son, a perceptible edge. This is not applicable to God. God is not contained in a form.

The unity of God in this text is stated to have three cognitive bases: knowledge, belief, and understanding. This may refer first of all to revealed knowledge as already noted above. Understanding can be applied to the logical process described in Psalm 86:10. Finally a third basis is mentioned, that is, the basis of belief. These three bases may refer to the consecutive progression of cognition from revelation to belief in a given individual. On the other hand, it may refer to different coinciding aspects of cognition in a particular individual in such a way that they are all presently active at the same time. Finally, it is possible to understand them as referring to different types of cognition in different indi­viduals.

Isaiah 44:6-8*. `Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of Hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God... Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.'

This is another text claiming divine authority. The in­troductory expressions are in apposition, that is, they refer to one and the same personage who is stated to be 1) the Lord (YHWH), 2) the King of Israel, 3) the redeemer of Israel, and 4) the Lord of Hosts. This is not a reference to more than one individual. This is not only evident from the expressions themselves, but from what follows, where the first person singular 'I' is used. This accumulation of statements that God is one is supported with divine humour. It may be that human beings are so wise that they know any number of Gods. But the true God of heaven and earth knows only one.

Isaiah 45:5,21-22*. `I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:... Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the Lord? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.' This final text of Isaiah also claims divine authority. Here the affirmation of the unity of God is evidence of 1) His eternity, 2) His omniscience, 3) His justice, and 4) His savi

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