Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

John the Baptist Proves that Muhammad Was a False Prophet! Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun

Paul Bilal Williams is at it again. He has posted a blog where he once again perverts the inspired Scriptures by wrenching texts out of their respective contexts in order to give his readers the misleading impression that the Holy Bible teaches something which it doesn’t actually teach.

Williams claims that John the Baptist proves that the Cross of the Lord Jesus isn’t necessary to obtain the forgiveness of sins:

Is the Cross necessary for forgiveness of sins? John the Baptist proves it isn’t…

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.

The Gospel of Mark chapter 1

It is therefore time to, once again, expose William’s deliberate manhandling of Mark’s Gospel by examining the text in both its immediate and wider contexts. That will show how Williams has twisted the passage to his own destruction (cf. 2 Peter 3:16).

Here is the immediate context of Williams’ citation:

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, who shall prepare thy way; the voice of one crying IN THE WILDERNESS: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight—’ John the baptizer appeared IN THE WILDERNESS, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And there went out to him all the country of Judea, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel's hair, and had a leather girdle around his waist, and ate locusts and wild honey. And he preached, saying, ‘After me comes he who is mightier than I, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’ In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.” Mark 1:1-9

There are several points which need to be highlighted from the way Mark has composed his narrative regarding the Baptist and his testimony concerning Christ.

To begin with, Mark cites two OT passages, namely Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3, in order to show that the prophets of God had already foretold these events. What makes these particular texts all the more relevant to Mark’s theme is that both OT citations speak of a messenger or envoy being sent ahead of Yahweh in order to prepare the way for God to come and dwell in the midst of his people.

The Lord Who Purifies

This brings me to my second point. According to these inspired prophets, the Lord was coming for the purpose of redeeming his people through the forgiveness and purification of their sins. Note what the prophet Malachi says concerning this very point:

“Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord (ha ’Adon) whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? ‘For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will PURIFY (watihar) the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the LORD. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.’” Malachi 3:1-4

Here we are told that the Lord himself would be coming to his temple, an explicit reference to Deity, since the words ha ‘Adon are never used for anyone other than Yahweh:

“Therefore the Lord (ha ’Adon) says, the LORD of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel: ‘Ah, I will vent my wrath on my enemies, and avenge myself on my foes.’” Isaiah 1:24 – cf. 3:1; 10:16, 33; 19:4; Exodus 23:17; 34:23; Micah 4:13

The inspired Scriptures further teach that the temple was built specifically for God to dwell in:

“And David the king said to all the assembly, ‘Solomon my son, whom alone God has chosen, is young and inexperienced, and the work is great; for the palace will not be for man but for the LORD God.’” 1 Chronicles 29:1

“Then Solomon said, ‘The LORD has said that he would dwell in thick darkness. I have built thee an exalted house, a place for thee to dwell in for ever.’” 2 Chronicles 6:1-2 – cf. 1 Kings 8:12-13

In light of this, it is simply inarguable that the Lord whom Malachi said was coming is none other than Yahweh himself!

The Lord is also said to come for the purpose of purifying the sons of Levi, meaning the priests of Israel whose job it was to offer vicarious sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins. In fact, the Hebrew word for purify is used in connection to the sacrifices offered by the high priest on the Day of Atonement in order purify Israel from all of its transgressions:

“And it shall be a statute to you for ever that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict yourselves, and shall do no work, either the native or the stranger who sojourns among you; for on this day shall atonement be made for you, to CLEANSE (lataher) you; from all your sins you shall be CLEAN (titaharu) before the LORD. It is a sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute for ever. And the priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father's place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen garments; he shall make atonement for the sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. And this shall be an everlasting statute for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.’ And Moses did as the LORD commanded him.” Leviticus 16:29-34

It is also employed in reference to God cleansing his servants from their wickedness and rebellion out of his infinite love, grace and mercy:

“To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love; according to thy abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse (tahareni) me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me… Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean (wa'etahar); wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Fill me with joy and gladness; let the bones which thou hast broken rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence, and take not THY HOLY SPIRIT from me. Restore to me the joy of thy salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors thy ways, and sinners will return to thee.” Psalm 51:1-3, 7-13


“Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security. I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first. I will cleanse them (watiharatim) from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me.” Jeremiah 33:6-8

This next text not only speaks of Yahweh purifying his people from all their filth and evil, but it also mentions Yahweh pouring out his Spirit upon them in order to empower them all to obey his commands and sin no more:

“For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean (utaharatem) from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you (‘ataheretkem). A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put MY SPIRIT within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances. You shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses; and I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good; and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominable deeds. It is not for your sake that I will act, says the Lord GOD; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel. ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: On the day that I cleanse you (tahari’etkem) from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt.” Ezekiel 36:24-33

We will have more to say about Yahweh and his Spirit a little later.

Jesus Christ – The Lord God Who Purifies

This places Williams in a dilemma since Mark identifies the Baptist as the messenger of Malachi 3:1, the one whom Yahweh would send ahead of himself to prepare for his, i.e. the Lord’s, sudden appearance to his own temple. According to Mark, as well as some of the other NT writings, the Lord that the Baptist came to prepare the way for was none other than the Lord Jesus Christ!

Jesus is the One whom John in Mark 1:7-8 says he is not worthy to stoop down and untie the straps of his sandals, meaning that the Baptist wasn’t even good enough to be the slave of Christ. Jesus is also he whom John says would baptize individuals with the Holy Spirit, which is unlike the Baptist who is only able to immerse people with/in water.

As we noted, Mark isn’t the only writer who says this about the Baptist:

“While Apol'los was at Corinth, Paul passed through the upper country and came to Ephesus. There he found some disciples. And he said to them, ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ And they said, ‘No, we have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’ And he said, ‘Into what then were you baptized?’ They said, ‘Into John's baptism.’ And Paul said, ‘John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, Jesus.’ On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Spirit came on them; and they spoke with tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve of them in all.” Acts 19:1-7

Redemption through the death of Christ

Hence, by citing Malachi 3:1 in order to identify Jesus as the Lord whom the Baptist came to prepare the way for, Mark is essentially telling his readers that Christ has come to purify his people from their sins.

Mark brings this out more clearly a little later in his Gospel since he quotes the Lord Jesus as expressly proclaiming that he came to offer his life as a sacrifice for the redemption of many:

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (kai dounai ten psychen autou lytron anti pollon).” Mark 10:45

“And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.’” Mark 14:22-24

The language employed in these texts connects Jesus with the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, the One who bears the sins of many in order to make atonement:

“Therefore I will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he poured out his soul to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 53:12

Here is how the Greek version reads:

“Therefore he shall inherit many, and he shall divide the spoils of the mighty; because his soul (he psyche autou) was delivered to death: and he was numbered among the transgressors; and he bore the sins of many (pollon), and was delivered because of their iniquities.” LXX

We will have more to say about Isaiah 53 in the second part of our response.

What makes Jesus’ assertions all the more remarkable is that the Hebrew Bible is clear that no human being is capable of ransoming the life of another, since this is a work which God alone is able to carry out:

“A brother does not ransom (lytroutai); shall a man ransom (lytrosetai)? He shall not give to God a propitiation for himself, or the price of the redemption (lytroseos) of his soul (tes psyches autou), though he labor for ever, and live to the end, [so] that he should not see corruption… But God shall ransom my soul (ho theos lytrosetai ten psychen mou) from the power of Hades, when he shall receive me.” Psalm 48:8-10, 16 [Eng. 49:7-9, 15] LXX

Hence, Jesus was basically claiming to be God by making such statements.

Mark isn’t the only inspired author to teach this. In fact, some of the NT writers even employ the same word that the Greek version of Malachi uses in describing the purification which the Lord brings to the Levites.

Here is the Greek of Malachi:

“He shall sit to melt and purify (katharizon) as it were silver, and as it were gold: and he shall PURIFY (katharisei) the sons of Levi, and refine them as gold and silver, and they shall offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness.” Malachi 3:3 LXX

Now compare this with the way the following authors describe the atoning death of the Lord Jesus:

“awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem (lytrosetai) us from all iniquity and to purify (katharises) for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.” Titus 2:13-14

Jesus is our great God and Savior who came to redeem and purify a people from their sins in order to be his own possession:

“The Son is the light of God’s glory and the [exact] imprint of God’s being. He maintains everything with his powerful message. After he carried out the cleansing (katharismon) of people from their sins, he sat down at the right side of the highest majesty.” Hebrews 1:3 Common English Bible (CEB)


“but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses (katharizei) us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

Christ is God’s Son and the exact imprint of God’s infinite being, who providing cleansing from sins by his blood which he shed on the cross. Finally:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed (katharisas) her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-27

Christ loves his Church so much that he cleansed her in order to present her as a chaste and spotless spiritual bride to himself.

With the foregoing in perspective, does Williams really want us to believe that Mark intended to undermine his own explicit testimony to the fact that salvation is based on Christ’s vicarious sacrifice, which a person receives by repenting from their sins and following Jesus, just because Mark happens to also mention John’s baptism for repentance?

It is obvious that the purpose of John’s baptism (at least as far as Mark’s Gospel is concerned) was to bring people to the realization that they had to turn to Christ by making them aware of their need for purification from sins. After all, by receiving John’s baptism, a person was basically making a public confession that s/he was a sinner who had to repent. To, therefore, undergo John’s baptism meant a person had basically come to a point in which s/he realized and acknowledged his/her sinfulness which then made him/her ready to accept Christ’s vicarious sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins.

In the words of the Baptist himself as recorded in John’s Gospel:

“John answered them, ‘I baptize with water; but among you stands one whom you do not know, even he who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.’ This took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks before me, for he was before me.” I myself did not know him; but for this I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ And John bore witness, ‘I saw the Spirit descend as a dove from heaven, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him; but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.’ The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said,Behold, the Lamb of God!’” John 1:26-36

The Baptist plainly testifies that salvation comes from Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, not from baptism itself. It is, therefore, evident that, in light of such a statement, John’s baptism served the purpose of preparing individuals to accept Christ by helping them come to the realization that they are sinners who need a Savior to purify them from all their transgressions.

We now come to the conclusion of the first part of our rebuttal. Please proceed to Part 2.