Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Shabir Ally’s Contradictions and Inconsistencies

Addendum: The God Who Reigns Forever

Sam Shamoun

In this section we are going to take another look at the following Psalm,

Your throne, O God (Elohim), endures forever and ever. Your royal scepter is a scepter of equity; you love righteousness and hate wickedness. Therefore God (Elohim), your God (Elohim), has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions;” Psalm 45:6-7

And see how the inspired authors of the NT understood it, i.e., whether they took this passage to mean that Jesus as the Messiah was some kind of inferior deity, or a mere human being who was exalted to the status of God. Or did the inspired writers rather view this text as providing further confirmation that Christ is God Almighty himself (though not the Father or the Holy Spirit) who had come in the flesh.

Here is how Hebrews interprets this particular OT citation:

“And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’… But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God (ho Theos), is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God (ho Theos), your God (ho Theos), has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.’” Hebrews 1:6-9

The author employs this passage to highlight Christ’s essential superiority and supremacy over the entire angelic host. What makes this rather shocking is that, not only has the inspired writer ascribed to Christ the status and worship that Yahweh himself receives from his angelic creatures,

The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, obedient to his spoken word. Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will.” Psalm 103:19-21

He has also taken specific verses from the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible (called the Septuagint [LXX]) where God’s angels are commanded to worship Yahweh and applied them to Christ!

“Rejoice, ye heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him; rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him; for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and he will render vengeance, and recompense justice to his enemies, and will reward them that hate him; and the Lord shall purge the land of his people.” Deuteronomy 32:43 LXX

“Let all that worship graven images be ashamed, who boast of their idols; worship him, all ye his angels… For thou art Lord most high over all the earth; thou art greatly exalted above all gods.” Psalm 96[Eng. 97]:7, 9 LXX

The following NT scholar explains:

6 is a quotation from Dt 32:43, LXX, which has a longer text–now attested in a Qumran fragment–than MT; cf. Ps. 97:7 In Dt IT IS GOD who is to be worshipped at the completion of his work… 8 But the Son is granted a higher dignity, as the citation of Ps. 45:6 shows; he is addressed as ‘God’, his throne is everlasting, and his righteous government has won him supremacy over all other rulers. RSVn ‘God is thy throne’, as though the Son were upheld by God, is an improbable rendering; whatever be the merits of the RSV rendering of Ps. 45:6 (‘Your divine throne endures for ever and ever’), our author certainly understood ‘God’ as a vocative, expressing a title of the Son (cf. Isa. 9:6, ‘Mighty God’)… (F. F. Bruce, “Hebrews,” in Peake’s Commentary on the Bible [Thomas Nelson and Sons Ltd, 1963], p. 1009; capital and underline emphasis ours)

That’s not all that Hebrews does. The author also describes Jesus as the Agent and Sustainer of creation who perfectly embodies the uncreated substance of God’s very own infinite Being! 

“Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Hebrews 1:1-3  

Yet according to the Hebrew Bible it is Yahweh alone who created and sustains all things:

“And Ezra said: ‘You are the Lord, you alone; you have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. To all of them you give life, and the host of heaven worships you.’” Nehemiah 9:6

“Thus says God, the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it:” Isaiah 42:5

“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, who made all things, who ALONE stretched out the heavens, who BY MYSELF spread out the earth;” Isaiah 44:24

“I made the earth, and created humankind upon it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host.” Isaiah 45:12

The OT further testifies that there is no creature that perfectly resembles the true God, let alone one who perfectly embodies Yahweh’s substance in all its fullness:

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord, nor are there any works like yours. All the nations you have made shall come and bow down before you, O Lord, and shall glorify your name. For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God.” Psalm 86:8-10

“Let the heavens praise your wonders, O Lord, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies can be compared to the Lord? Who among the heavenly beings is like the Lord, a God feared in the council of the holy ones, great and awesome above all that are around him? O Lord God of hosts, who is as mighty as you, O Lord? Your faithfulness surrounds you.” Psalm 89:5-8

Even more shocking is that Hebrews even goes as far as to take the following OT reference, which identifies Yahweh as the unchanging Creator and Sustainer of all things,

“Hear my prayer, O Lord; let my cry come to you… But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever; your name endures to all generations… ‘O my God,’ I say, ‘do not take me away at the midpoint of my life, you whose years endure throughout all generations.’ Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you endure; they will all wear out like a garment. You change them like clothing, and they pass away; but you are the same, and your years have no end.’” Psalm 102:1, 12, 24-27

And ascribes it to the Son!

“And, ‘In the beginning, Lord [the Son], YOU founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of YOUR HANDS; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like clothing; like a cloak YOU will roll them up, and like clothing they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never end.’” Hebrews 1:10-12

Here the writer has the Father addressing the Son in the very words of Psalm 102:25-27!

We will allow Dr. James R. White bring out why the application of this particular Psalm to the Lord Jesus is so remarkable, and how this proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the inspired authors of Scripture believed that Jesus is God in the sense of being Yahweh Almighty Incarnate:

The Psalmist speaks in these verses of the unchanging and eternal nature of Yahweh. He does so by contrasting the changing creation with the unchangeable Creator. One of the primary ‘evidences’ God uses to demonstrate His unique nature and sole standing as the one true God is that He is the Creator. This is the case here. Yahweh founded the earth (Psalm 24:1; 78:69; 89:11; Proverbs 3:19; Isaiah 48:13), and the heavens are described as a ‘work’ of His hands (Psalm 19:1). On the most basic level, then, the universe itself is a dependent creation, while God is eternal and unchanging. They are temporal and will pass away, but God is eternal, and He will ‘endure.’ They are like an old garment that we throw away when it becomes old and useless. But He does not age. He does not change. His years have no number and will never come to an end. As Moses had said, ‘from everlasting to everlasting, You are God’ (Psalm 90:2).  

“Why is it important to focus on what this passage means? Because it is speaking of characteristics that are unique to the one true God. This will become vitally important when we look at the means some use to avoid the weight of these passages as they are used in the New Testament.

“The writer to the Hebrews shows no compunctions in taking this passage from the Psalter–a passage fit only for describing the eternal Creator–and applying it to Jesus Christ…

“An entire string of Old Testament passages are presented, each intended to demonstrate the superiority of Christ. Verse 8 begins by introducing the words of the Father regarding the Son. Verse 10 continues the same theme, again giving us the words of the Father relevant to the Son. It is vital to understand that verses 10 through 12 are, in fact, addressed to the Son. It is Jesus who is addressed as ‘LORD’ in verse 10, and it is His activity in creation, and His unchanging nature, that is revealed in the rest of the passage. The significance of this is clear when one realizes that the writer to the Hebrews is directly applying the passage from Psalm 102:25-27 to the Son. The meaning of the original is beyond dispute. The fact that it is speaking of unique characteristics of the true God is likewise unarguable. Therefore, the fact that Hebrews applies such a passage to the Son tells us what the writer himself believed about the nature of Jesus Christ. One simply could not meaningfully apply such a passage to a mere creature, no matter how highly exalted.

“What does it mean that the writer to the Hebrews could take a passage that is only applicable to Yahweh and apply it to the Son of God, Jesus Christ? It means that they saw no problem in making such an identification, because they believed that the Son was, indeed, the very incarnation of Yahwehciting a passage about a unique characteristic (creatorship, immutability, eternality) of Yahweh does make Jesus Yahweh, for no one else shares that characteristic. Being a king didn’t make Solomon who he was, but being eternal and unchangeable does define who Yahweh is.

“Allow me to illustrate. If I wanted to identify someone as Solomon by using a citation from the Old Testament, I would not do it by citing a passage that is merely about Solomon as a king, for that would not prove identity but rather position. There were other kings, like David or Hezekiah. Simply identifying someone as a king wouldn’t tell me which king I had in mind. If I instead applied a unique description of Solomon, that would convey identity. If I, for example, said that such and such a king had 700 hundred wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3), who else could I be referring to but Solomon? That would distinguish which king I had in mind and would communicate identity. In the same way, if I were to merely call a person ‘loving,’ I would not, by so doing, be identifying that person as God, even though God is, indeed, loving. God is love, but there are others who express love and are loving. It is not unique to God to love. But if I were to say that someone is eternal, the Creator of all things, and unchanging, that would communicate identity, for there is only one who is eternal, unchanging, and the Creator of all things. And this is what the writer to the Hebrews does in 1:10-12. Hence the error of the attempt to avoid the force of the identification of Jesus as Yahweh here in Hebrews 1.” (White, The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief [Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, MN 1998], 9. Jehovah of Hosts, pp. 132-135; bold emphasis ours)

This in turn establishes that Hebrews’ cites Psalm 45:6-7 for the purpose of showing that Christ is God in an absolute sense, not merely in a functional or positional sense. In the words of Dr. White:

“… Without going into a lot of detail, the writer to the Hebrews is demonstrating the superiority of Jesus Christ to the angels. He says that all the angels of God worship the Firstborn. This is true religious worship, as the context demands. Such worship is only given to God. He contrasts this worship by the angels of the Son with the description God uses of angels as mere 'winds' and 'flames of fire.' But, in opposition to this, the description God uses of the Son is striking. Quoting from Psalm 45:6-7, God (the Father) makes reference to God (the Son), saying, 'Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.'

“It should be noted that the passage the writer quotes, Psalm 45, was a 'wedding' psalm written in reference to the king of Israel. As with so many other passages in the Old Testament, it takes on a much greater meaning when applied to the King of kings, Jesus Christ. While the Israelite king's reign was temporary, the reign of Christ will truly be forever and ever. In summarizing the teaching of this passage, Murray Harris said:

The appellation ho theos that was figurative and hyperbolic when applied to a mortal king was applied to the immortal Son in a literal and true sense. Jesus is not merely superior to the angels. Equally with the Father he shares in the divine nature (ho theos, v. 8) while remaining distinct from him (ho theos sou, v. 9). The author places Jesus far above any angel with respect to nature and function, and on a par with God with regard to nature, but subordinate to God with regard to function. There is an ‘essential’ unity but a functional subordination.

“That Dr. Harris is correct is seen by noting how the context supports his conclusions. Not only is Jesus the object of divine worship in verse 6, but we will see that in verses 10 through 12 He is identified as Yahweh. Since Christ is shown receiving worship immediately before this passage, and identified with Yahweh immediately thereafter, there can be nothing strange about the Father referring to the Son as ‘God’ in verse 8.

“Finally, in another place where Christ is identified as God, Isaiah 9:6… the same truth that Christ’s kingdom is an everlasting kingdom is found. The only One whose throne will truly be forever and ever is God himself.” (White, 5. Jesus Christ: God in Human Flesh, pp. 74-75; bold emphasis)

The fact that the inspired writer identifies Jesus as Yahweh God Almighty in the flesh explains why he could ascribe the very worship that God alone receives to Christ, and assign to the risen Lord the very exalted status which Scripture plainly states belongs to Yahweh alone: 

“Let them know that you alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth.” Psalm 83:18

“Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high,” Psalm 113:5

“Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.” Psalm 148:13

What this means for Shabir Ally is that, unlike the Quran, the NT perfectly agrees with and conforms to the theology of the OT, especially in respect to the Person and work of the Messiah. Therefore, Ally has no choice but to condemn Muhammad as a false prophet and an antichrist whose message contradicted both the Old and New Testaments respectively.

All Scriptural citations taken from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Holy Bible.