Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Did Jesus Claim to be God?

A Dawagandist Indirectly and Tacitly Answers Yes! Pt. 2

Sam Shamoun

We continue from where we left off.

Interestingly, in his zeal to attack the Holy Bible in order to undermine the Deity of Christ, noted Muslim polemicist Shabir Ally ends up proving (albeit indirectly) that Jesus did claim to be God since he basically admits the phrase “I AM” is synonymous with the name Yahweh.

Here is what he wrote in a booklet aimed at discrediting the clear, explicit biblical witness to Jesus’ absolute, essential Deity:

1. The Yahwist version (Exod 6:28 - 7:7) says nothing about the name of God being revealed because for the Yahwist editors the name Yahweh was already known among the Israelites. They say that this name was being used since the time of Enosh, the grandson of Adam (Genesis 4:26).

2. The priestly version (Exod 6:2-13) contradicts this by saying that this name was not known before (Exod 6:2).

God's command to Moses here is So say to the Israelites, "l am Yahweh ..." (Exod 6:6), and Moses repeated this to them (6:9).

3. But in the Elohist version (Exod 3:13-22) God's instruction to Moses is different.

This is what you are to say to the Israelites. "I am has sent me to you" (Exod 3: 15).

It would appear from this that God's name is "I am," but it is clear upon careful study that in this passage the Elohist scribes substituted "I am" for "Yahweh" in the same instruction given in (Exod 6:6). (Ally, Is Jesus God? The Bible Says No [Al-Attique International Islamic Publications, Toronto, Ontario Canada: Reprinted, 1998], Some Misunderstood Verses of the Bible Now Put Back in Their Contexts, Before Abraham was, I am, pp. 57-58)

In order to argue his point Ally has to appeal to the largely debunked Documentary Hypothesis, a theory that has been thoroughly dismantled by conservative biblical scholars on the basis of the historical and archaeological data. What makes this rather ironic is that this same theory can be applied to the Quran in order to prove that it too is nothing more than a patchwork of various written sources, which have been poorly edited together. Please read the following articles and rebuttals for the evidence and details:

Essays on the JEDP Theory 

The Documentary Hypothesis— Its Effect on the Torah and the Qur'an 

Jamal Badawi's Misinformation and Misquotations – Part 4 

Responses to "Islamic Information" Confessions of the New American Bible or Fables As History 

Shabir Ally and the Use of the Bible for Dawah 

In the first place, the name Yahweh appears in the very next verse where God identifies himself to Moses as the “I AM”: 

“But Moses protested, ‘If I go to the people of Israel and tell them, “The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,” they will ask me, “What is his name?” Then what should I tell them?’ God replied to Moses, ‘I am who I am. Say this to the people of Israel: I am has sent me to you.’ God also said to Moses, ‘Say this to the people of Israel: Yahweh, the God of your ancestors—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you. This is my eternal name, my name to remember for all generations.’” Exodus 3:13-15 New Living Translation (NLT)

We, thus, have a supposed Elohist source employing both these names side by side in the same exact context to describe the God of Israel!

Secondly, Ally has grossly misunderstood the meaning of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob not knowing the name Yahweh. Here is the text in question, this time with added context so as to enable the readers to see the point Yahweh was making to Moses:

“Moses returned to the Lord. He said to him, ‘Lord, why have you brought trouble on these people? Is this why you sent me? I went to Pharaoh to speak to him in your name. Ever since then, he has brought nothing but trouble on these people. And you haven’t saved your people at all.’ Then the Lord spoke to Moses. He said, ‘Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh. Because of my powerful hand, he will let the people of Israel go. Because of my mighty hand, he will drive them out of his country.’ God continued, ‘I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as the Mighty God. But I did not show them the full meaning of my name, The Lord. I also made my covenant with them. I promised to give them the land of Canaan. That is where they lived as outsiders. Also, I have heard the groans of the Israelites. The Egyptians are keeping them as slaves. But I have remembered my covenant. So tell the people of Israel, “I am the Lord. I will throw off the heavy load the Egyptians have put on your shoulders. I will set you free from being slaves to them. I will reach out my arm and save you with mighty acts when I judge Egypt. I will take you to be my own people. I will be your God. You will know that I am the Lord your God when I throw off the load the Egyptians have put on your shoulders. I will bring you to the land I promised with an oath to give to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I lifted up my hand and promised it to them. The land will belong to you. I am the Lord.’” Exodus 5:22-23, 6:1-9 NIRV

It is evident that by not knowing the name, Yahweh meant that the patriarchs had not personally experienced or witnessed all that the name Yahweh entailed which, in this context, included the great redemption that Israel experienced as Yahweh brought them out of Egypt in order to possess the land which he had sworn to their forefathers. As the following translation puts it:  

“I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as God Almighty [El-Shaddai], but by My name the Lord [Yahweh—the redemptive name of God] I did not make Myself known to them [in acts and great miracles].” Exodus 6:3 Amplified Bible

The Scriptures are quite clear that people can know of the name Yahweh without personally knowing Yahweh or experiencing his power or presence. Note, for instance, the following examples:

Now the boy Samuel was serving the Lord under Eli. The Lord’s word was rare at that time, and visions weren’t widely known. One day Eli, whose eyes had grown so weak he was unable to see, was lying down in his room. God’s lamp hadn’t gone out yet, and Samuel was lying down in the Lord’s temple, where God’s chest was. The Lord called to Samuel. ‘I’m here,’ he said. Samuel hurried to Eli and said, ‘I’m here. You called me?’ ‘I didn’t call you,’ Eli replied. ‘Go lie down.’ So he did. Again the Lord called Samuel, so Samuel got up, went to Eli, and said, ‘I’m here. You called me?’ ‘I didn’t call, my son,’ Eli replied. ‘Go and lie down.’ (Now Samuel didn’t yet know the Lord, and the Lord’s word hadn’t yet been revealed to him.)… So Samuel grew up, and the Lord was with him, not allowing any of his words to fail. All Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba knew that Samuel was trustworthy as the Lord’s prophet. The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh because the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh through the Lord’s own word.” 1 Samuel 3:1-7, 19-21 CEB

Even though Samuel had been instructed in the ways of Yahweh he still didn’t know Yahweh personally.

“Jesus answered, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory is meaningless. My Father, who you say is your God, is the one who glorifies me. You don’t know him, but I do. If I said I didn’t know him, I would be like you, a liar. But I do know him, and I keep his word.’” John 8:54-55

Here Jesus accuses his Jewish opponents of not knowing God, even though they knew of him and had grown up hearing and/or reading about his laws and deeds as recorded in the Hebrew Bible.

This helps us better appreciate the point Yahweh was making concerning the patriarchs. Although they knew the name Yahweh, neither Abraham, Isaac or Jacob experienced all that this name entailed since they did not live to see Yahweh bring about all of his promises, which included delivering their offspring with great signs and wonders in order to cause them to possess the land which he had sworn to give to them. It was only the generation of Moses that lived to see the full power and glory which the name Yahweh entails: 

“The Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I’ve made you like God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. You will say everything that I command you, and your brother Aaron will tell Pharaoh to let the Israelites out of his land. But I’ll make Pharaoh stubborn, and I’ll perform many of my signs and amazing acts in the land of Egypt. When Pharaoh refuses to listen to you, then I’ll act against Egypt and I’ll bring my people the Israelites out of the land of Egypt in military formation by momentous events of justice. The Egyptians will come to know that I am the Lord, when I act against Egypt and bring the Israelites out from among them.’” Exodus 7:1-5 – cf. 14:4, 18 CEB

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Go to Pharaoh. I’ve made him and his officials stubborn so that I can show them my signs and so that you can tell your children and grandchildren how I overpowered the Egyptians with the signs I did among them. You will know that I am the Lord.’” Exodus 10:1-2 CEB

Fourth, Ally’s entire argument here is nothing more than a red herring and a classic case of smoke and mirrors tactics in order to divert the readers’ attention away from the real issue. After all, no one at the time of Christ would have ever heard of (let alone believed in) the Documentary Hypothesis. In fact, both Jesus and his contemporaries would have believed that the first five Books of the Old Testament, commonly referred to as the Pentateuch, were written by Moses under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. As such, none of these individuals would have a problem with the fact of God having revealed to Moses that his name was/is both “I AM” and Yahweh. This, therefore, means that the Jews would have viewed Jesus’ “I AM” statements as a self-reference to Deity, as Jesus’ way of identifying himself as the same Yahweh God who had spoken to Moses!

This leads us to our next point. Ally’s concession that the phrase "I AM" was used to substitute the name Yahweh basically means that, by claiming to be this very same “I AM,” Jesus was essentially making himself out to be Yahweh God Incarnate. Note how this works out logically:

  1. Scribes substituted the phrase “I AM” for the name Yahweh (according to Ally), thereby showing that the two names were viewed as being synonymous with each other.
  2. Jesus claimed to be the divine “I AM” that appeared to the OT saints such as Abraham.
  3. In making such a claim Jesus was, therefore, making himself out to be Yahweh God in the flesh.

Hence, in raising this objection Ally has tacitly and indirectly admitted that Jesus did in fact claim to be God Almighty in the flesh, even though Ally’s whole purpose in writing his booklet was to prove that Christ never did so!

With that said we are ready to proceed to the third part of our rebuttal.