The Great Debate: Comments on Mary Jo Sharp Vs. Ehteshaam Gulam Debate:

Was Jesus Crucified? (2009)

Ehteshaam Gulam

On June 21, 2009 I debated the topic Was Jesus Crucified in Calvary Church in Romulus, Michigan. I was up againist Christian Apologist Mary Jo Sharp who runs Confident It was a fantastic event.  It was unique because I was debating a Woman-- I think this is the first time a Muslim Man and a Christian woman debated in public. Organized by the Center of Religious Debate and by  David Wood and Nabeel Qureshi, this was a lot of fun. You can watch the debate here.

Impressions of the Event

Praise be to Allah (God) the lord and creator of the heavens and the earth. Peace be upon Muhammad, his final messenger to humanity.

I was afriad that it might get weird. Really for my Men readers, have you ever noticed that anything between you and a woman is always weird? Be honest-- its always weird. Never has a Muslim Man debated a Christian woman. But I felt like giving Mary Jo a chance to debate her beliefs in public.

Though the event was hugely attended by Christians, everyone I met there was incredibly nice. After the debate these Christian folk were kind and friendly and respectful, and treated me humanely despite my being 'The Muslim'. After the debate, the Christians came up to me with good questions, comments and kind words. In all, I gained a lot of respect for the Christian  community. These were good people who believed in doing good and compassion. I do still think they have a lot of weird beliefs (the trinity, speaking in touges) and practices (singing in Church, baptism), but what do you expect-- I am still a Muslim who believes that Christianity can be proven false. They were nevertheless really, really nice. So there is a potential there to get along despite our differences. The only time I felt hated or disrespected (though never threatened or in danger) was on stage, and only by  the audience's unkind reactions to me and their clear cheering for Mary Jo Sharp when she tried to refute my arguements. I thought that was very disrespectful for me--- there was a clear "Woo" from the audiecne, most likely a man-- which was totally uncalled for. I did not appreciate his conduct. It was an unnecessary and inappropriate. Worse the moderator, David Wood said nothing. I am not sure why. I did everything a gentleman should do. But I did not feel I was treated like a gentleman when it was my time to speak.  To make things worse, a Christian woman came to me after the debate and said that I was hugely offensive to her and her beliefs. She didn't provide any examples. When I politely asked what it was she was talking about she got mad and left (but now I think I know what she is talking about) So I felt mistreated by some, but NOT all.

And of course there's Mary Jo Sharp. I actually like her, I consider her a friend. From what I am hearing, right now she is the only Christian Woman apologist. If women ever decide to do what she's doing-- then they have a real good example to follow. Mary Jo Sharp is one of the greatest people I've ever met.  No, I really mean that. She was polite and nice towards me during the debate. She is one of the very few Christian women I can get along with. In the past Christian women have lost their cool when speaking to me, even though I always try to be on my best behavior and try to be as respectful as possible (it's harder than you think). But when it came to Mary Jo Sharp-- I actually felt respected and honored by her. This actually surprised me-- in the past some women have been incredibly rude and disrespectful to me. But not this lady. She was nice and understanding. So there is a potential there to get along despite our differences.But I must say one thing in my defense, and I say this with all kindness and sincerity: those who were offended (that Christian woman) need to lighten up. Let's face it:  I think when you cease being able to laugh at something, you die a little inside--and take another step toward fanaticism, haughtiness, and intolerance. Laugh, learn, Live. Life is way too short not to do these things.

My Responses to Mary Jo's Arguements: The Historicy Arguement.

After going back and re-watching the debate I feel now I can adress some of the issues and points she brings up. I am not sure if Mary Jo started off with a prayer or not. But she's not the first one who has done this, in the past other Christian apologist have done this, I am not sure why. But she's certainly free to do so. But anyways, she began by saying the obvious that Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross by Roman crucifixion. She then quotes the Quran on the crucifixion:

That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah";- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:- (Quran 4:157)

And says the Quran is on shaky grounds because the crucifixion is "the most historical event in history".

She mentions the historical record, including Joesphus, Tacitus, Lucian, The Talmud, etc. First I'll adressed the two first century historians that mention Jesus alleged death on the cross, however I didn't adresses Lucian or the Talmud. Here I will do so:

The Talmud:  the Palestinian Talmud got written between the 3rd and 5th century C.E., and the Babylonian Talmud between the 3rd and 6th century C.E., at least two centuries after the alleged crucifixion! So the material is very late. Moreover some scholars doubt whether Jesus Christ is even mentioned in the Talmud. [1]

She also mentioned Lucian. However Lucian was born in 125 C.E. and died around 180 C.E. Therefore he can't be taken as an eye-witness to the event. He was simply spouting hearsay. Lucian's statement was written near the end of the second century, it seems rather unlikely that he had independent sources of information concerning the historicity of Jesus. Lucian may have relied upon Christian sources, common knowledge, or even an earlier pagan reference (e.g., Tacitus); since Lucian does not specify his sources, we will never know.Just as is the case with Tacitus, it is quite plausible that Lucian would have simply accepted the Christian claim that their founder had been crucified.

An author who writes after the alleged happening and gives no detectable sources for his material can only give example of hearsay.

Now getting to Joesphus. In My opening I attempted to discredit Josephus. However she attempted to save the Josephus account by saying even after the interpolations found in the text-- it still mentions Jesus death on the cross. What she didn't get-- is that even if the Josephus text came from Josepus hand--- it is still not an eye witness account. Josephus was born in 37 C.E. and wrote his work around 93 C.E. well after the crucifixion. But there are excellent reasons to suppose that this passage was not written in its present form by Josephus, but was either inserted or amended by later Christians:

  1. The early Christian writer Origen claims that Josephus did NOT recognize Jesus as the Messiah, in direct contradiction to the above passage, where Josephus says, "He was the Messiah." Thus, we may conclude that this particular phrase at least was a later insertion. (The version given above was, however, known to Jerome and in the time of Eusebius. Jerome's Latin version, however, renders "He was the Messiah" by "He was believed to be the Christ.") Furthermore, other early Christian writers fail to cite this passage, even though it would have suited their purposes to do so. There is thus firm evidence that this passage was tampered with at some point, even if parts of it do date back to Josephus.

  2. The passage is highly pro-Christian. It is hard to imagine that Josephus, a Pharisaic Jew, would write such a laudatory passage about a man supposedly killed for blasphemy. Indeed, the passage seems to make Josephus himself out to be a Christian, which was certainly not the case.

3. For more than two hundred years, the Christian Fathers who were familiar with the works of Josephus knew nothing of this passage. Had the passage been in the works of Josephus which they knew, Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen an Clement of Alexandria would have been eager to hurl it at their Jewish opponents in their many controversies. But it did not exist. Indeed, Origen, who knew his Josephus well, expressly affirmed that that writer had not acknowledged Christ. This passage first appeared in the writings of the Christian Father Eusebius, the first historian of Christianity, early in the fourth century; and it is believed that he was its author. Eusebius, who not only advocated fraud in the interest of the faith, but who is know to have tampered with passages in the works of Josephus and several other writers, introduces this passage in his "Evangelical Demonstration," (Book III., p.124), in these words: "Certainly the attestations I have already produced concerning our Savior may be sufficient. However, it may not be amiss, if, over and above, we make use of Josephus the Jew for a further witness."

Many Biblical scholars reject the entire Testimonium Flavianum as a later Christian insertion. Only a few scholars accept it as true, but admit that there are interpolations in the text.   I agree with many Biblical scholars-- the text is most likely a fabrication done by Eusebius. Clear evidence of textual corruption does exist. While Josephus may be the best non-Christian source on Jesus, that is not saying much... he was not an eye witness to Jesus crucifixion. [2]

As for Taticus.... In his Annals, Cornelius Tacitus (55-120 CE) writes that Christians "derived their name and origin from Christ, who, in the reign of Tiberius, had suffered death by the sentence of the procurator Pontius Pilate" (Annals 15.44).  In my opening the issues that I raised againist Tacitus were this: Did Tacitus really write this, or is this a later Christian interpolation? Or was Tacitus just repeating what some Christians told him?  Mary Jo's response was that Tacitus was a careful Roman historian and its unlikely that either of my objections to the passage happened. Although I don't 100% agree that Tacitus account was a fabrication done by Early Christians (although it is certainly possible)-- I believe that Tacitus was most likely repeating what he was told by Christians about Jesus. If so, then this passage merely confirms that there were Christians in Tacitus' time, and that they believed that Pilate killed Jesus during the reign of Tiberius. This would not be independent confirmation of Jesus's death by crucifixion. I was glad that Mary Jo agreed with me that we don't know where Tacitus recieved his information from--- further proving my point that we can't trust Taticus. So the Josephus and Taticus accounts aren't good evidence.

As for first century evidence for Prophet Muhammad's existence, one would only have to turn to Patricia Crone, the author of the infamous Hagarism. She says:

"There is no doubt that Mohammed existed, occasional attempts to deny it notwithstanding. His neighbours in Byzantine Syria got to hear of him within two years of his death at the latest; a Greek text written during the Arab invasion of Syria between 632 and 634 mentions that "a false prophet has appeared among the Saracens" and dismisses him as an impostor on the ground that prophets do not come "with sword and chariot". It thus conveys the impression that he was actually leading the invasions." (Source)

Now the reason why I didn't respond to when she brought this up is because its a fact that Prophet Muhamamd existed. All historians agree to it. Moreover I wanted to save time.

Spirtual Resurrection vs Physical Resurrection 

Mary Jo Sharp's arguements about impresiable and preishable are also weak in supporting the "phyiscal" resurrection. Impreishable vs perishable: Paul's distinction between "perishable" and "imperishable" bodies (1 Corinthians 15: 42) is based on a distinction between earthly things and things of heaven (1 Corinthians 15: 40, 47-9), and it was common belief in antiquity that the heavenly things were ethereal. Since Paul does not disclaim the common belief, he must be assuming his readers already accept it. This makes it  reasonable that Paul means the "imperishable body" to be an ethereal one, not a body of flesh.

She says that The Greek word Soma is never used for a disembodied spirit. Well, thats not true. Richard Carrier already covers this arguement. He does so well, I quote him directly:

"The above chart makes the meaning of these Greek words clear: psychikos and pneumatikos are adjectives, meaning something is made of, or is like, or shares the properties of the noun they are derived from, in this case psychê and pneuma respectively. When we look at the nouns, we find that their associations are clear: one is used typically to refer to a living body, hence a body of flesh and blood (a search of the letters of Paul shows this to be his usual use of the word); the other, always to a disembodied spirit. The word sôma, which they modify in 1 Corinthians 15:44, means only a distinct thing with volume and location, it does not entail what that thing is made of or what its properties are or where it came from. Paul calls the resurrected a pneumatikos sôma to distinguish this pneuma from "the" Pneuma, or Holy Spirit, which is not a sôma because it is everywhere, whereas a resurrected soul is not everywhere, but has a distinct and localized existence as an individual. Paul clearly means to say that when we are resurrected, we become like the Holy Spirit, and cease to be what we are when we were alive (a living body made of dust), but unlike the Holy Spirit, our spirit is still organized as a new kind of body, more like Casper the Ghost." (Source)

The first Resurrection account that we have has no empty tomb, no physical appearances. That's as close as we can get to the views of the early church. We know that the earliest Christians did not believe in a bodily resurrection of Jesus. But they did believe that Jesus had been resurrected, at least in a spiritual manner. The letters of Paul are the earliest known Christian writings. Yet he never explicitly says that Jesus was resurrected in bodily form. And in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, he adds his experience on the road to Damascus to the list of other post-resurrection appearances, suggesting that he thought they were all of the same nature.

The first word is the word "buried." The word there is "etaphe," which is from the Greek word for "taphos," which just means "burial." It does not mean "tomb," it does not mean "sepulchre." The word for tomb is "mnema," and sepulchre is "mnemeion," (if I pronounced it correctly). It's just a place of burial. And if Jesus was truly crucified by the Roman authorities, it was their practice in those days to throw the decayed corpses of the crucified people into a common grave.

Paul is not talking about a tomb here. He is simply talking about a man who died. Just like when Moses died, in Deuteronomy, he was thrown in a grave -- nobody knows where the grave was, somewhere in Moab -- yet Moses was seen resurrected bodily from the dead. Did you know that? But nobody assumes that therefore there must have been an empty tomb of Moses. Remember in Matthew 17, when Peter goes up into the mountain with Jesus, James, and John, and Jesus is transfigured, and suddenly, who does he see? Moses and Elijah. There he is. Are we to assume that there is an empty tomb of Moses because Peter saw Moses up there? Of course we don't assume that.

Paul did not have a belief in an empty tomb, and he doesn't say that he did. Now, if you think he did, you're committing a historical no-no here. What you are doing is you're committing a kind of "Back To The Future" kind of historical analysis. You think you know what is in Paul's mind because you know what the later Gospel writers in the 80s and 90s, you think you know what they said about a bodily resurrection, so you are imposing that, back in time, on to Paul's mind because you think you know better. Paul was just kind of simple, but you know what he really meant. But the earliest Christians didn't mention any of these exaggerated bodily things.

The second word I want you to look at is the word "raised." He said "he was buried. And he was raised on the third day." That's not the word "resurrected." The word resurrected is "anastasis [noun]," or "anistimi [verb]." The word that Paul used here for "raised" is the word "egeiro" -- "egergetai." That is the word that is used throughout the New Testament for the word "to wake up," to "awaken." Remember when the disciples were on this boat and there was a storm and Jesus was asleep down below? They were scared, and they went down below and they woke him up? [Matthew 8:25] They used that word "egeiro": They "woke him up." "Jesus, help, help!" And all through the New Testament we find this word "egeiro" being used not for a bodily resurrection, but for a spiritual awakening, or for just waking up.

We all know that Jesus did not physically appear to Paul. Paul said he did. He was blinded. He was knocked off his horse. He was in the habit of hearing voices and seeing lights in the sky. The people that were with Paul didn't see anyone. The people that were with Paul didn't hear anyone. Well, it depends on which account you take. In one account the men did hear the voice [Acts 9:7], and in another account they didn't [Acts 22:9] -- there's a biblical contradiction. They didn't hear or see anyone. So, what kind of a "physical" appearance is this? In fact, this was after Jesus' ascension. What was Jesus doing? Did he ascend up above the clouds for a while, and his body hung around, and he came back down and said, "Hi, Paul. I want you to know I'm still hanging around." Do you really think there was a physical, spatially limited body of Jesus hanging up there, coming down to Paul? No, I don't think most Christians today believe that.

The fact that Paul says that Jesus "ophthe" to him, and it was not a physical appearance, gives us a clue that he does not intend us to believe that the other appearances to these others were also physical. They were "spiritual" experiences, what they believed to be spiritual experiences.

And, to nail this thing shut, just a few verses later, Paul is talking about the Resurrection, right? He's explaining what the Resurrection means, and he says, in I Corinthians 15:50, "Now, I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God." So, how could he be talking about a physical resurrection and turn right around and say "flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God"? He obviously intends this to mean that Jesus resurrected, but in a spiritual way, not physically, not bodily.

The Quran on the Crucifixion/ Swoon theory

For hundreds of years Muslims have come up with four different interpretations to the Quran 4:157. Below I'll list them, however in order to stay on topic, I'll just provide evidence for the swoon theory. They are

1. Jesus soul left his body, and ascended to Allah. The Jews and Romans then took an empty body of Jesus and crucified                                                                 that. Then the empty body was probably misplaced, stolen or buried somewhere. Historians believe Jesus died.

2. Jesus was put on the cross, however he survived. He walked away and came back to his disciples.

3. Jesus was not put on the cross, rather someone else was. It could've been Judas, Peter, etc

4. The Whole story was made up. There was no crucifixion of Jesus, the early Christians made up the entire thing.

Anyone of these theories are fair game. Any of these situations could've happened. Which one is it? I am not going give out any spoilers, but next year, I think I know which theory is the best, and will finally wrap up the long mystery of the Quran 4:157. ANYWAYS, I agrued for point number 2, that Jesus was crucifed however he survived. I have written about the swoon theory a lot last year.  I personally think that the swoon theory is much better than the subsitution theory (the theory that someone else was put on the cross instead of Jesus). [3]  I used the same arguements as I did before, however I wasn't able to respond to a lot of my own points. What will say is this, there were a some errors on Mary Jo Sharp's part. For example there is no evidence that Jesus was nailed to the cross. Firstly, none of the gospels  mention Jesus being 'nailed to the cross'. Secondly, Jesus' two crossmates do not appear to be nailed to their respective crosses, for they are seen jesting Jesus along with the crowd. It is highly unlikely, that two fellows suffering from the excruciating pain of being 'nailed' to crosses an hour or so earlier would have the mental alertness or their 'sense of irony' intact to the point of reviling their third crossmate.(See Matthew 27:44) Rather he was most likely bound. Although I didn't get a chance to respond to this, I'll do so now. As for the scourging wounds, most experts doubt that they would have been fatal.Also According to Mark 15:44, Pontius Pilate was very surprised when he heard that Jesus was already dead.Jesus was on the cross for too short a period of time.Death by crucifixion would have typically taken days. Proponents of the Swoon Theory (like me) often argue that this could indicate that he was actually still alive. They say it is medically impossible for Jesus to have survived. But what evidence do we have that Jesus was dead? We are not told of doctors. Being mistaken for dead is not impossible.Ancient accounts of misdiagnosed deaths exist. Pliny the Elder, writing in the 60's and 70's AD, collects several of them in his Natural History (7.176-179). Also surviving Roman Crucifixion was not impossible. Josephus watched one of three particular victims of crucifixion survive (Life of Flavius Josephus § 420-21). Plus Jesus most likely wasn't speared (See John 19:34). This spearing of Jesus is probably an invention--there was a belief that the messiah came "with water and blood" (1 John 5:6-8), representing baptism and death. Consequently, several church fathers (Ambrose, Augustin, and Chrysostom in particular) understood this spearing passage symbolically, not literally: the blood represented the eucharist; the water, baptism.Moreover the account of his being speared is illogical and late. It appears only in John, the last of the gospels to be written (after 90 AD). There, soldiers decide not to break his legs because he is dead, and then spear him to make sure he is dead. This is contradictory and inexplicable behavior.Moreover Matthew, Mark and Luke do not mention Jesus being speared.

Many scholars however reject the swoon theory. However by some miracle from Allah-- it is still possible Jesus survived.  And as always Allah knows best.

       The Church Fathers

Contary to what Christians apologists claim, the church fathers don't provide independent confirmation of Jesus. Mary Jo says that the early Church fathers established tradition, or a line of tranmission on the reliablity of the Gospels (false claim) and to the alleged physical ressurected of Jesus. Although this may be true about the Church Fathers establishing a line of tradition, it certainly isn't saying much. We don't know where the church fathers got their information from.  She mentioned a few of them and here I will respond. She mentioned Polycarp, and his views on the crucifixion and physical resurrection. However Polycarp converted around 109 C.E. While he may have had access to one or more sources independent of the New Testament, our knowledge of his sources is uncertain. So the church fathers don't really prove anything. we may note that Origen (CE 185-ca. 254) was simply too late. As for Ignatius, there is no evidence that he had any sources other than the New Testament and so he cannot be used as an independent source.

  The Marytrs: Did any of the disciples die for the Resurrection?

As I said in my rebuttals, none of the Gospels or Epistles mention anyone dying for their belief in the "physical" resurrection of Jesus. The only martyrdoms recorded in the New Testament are, first, the stoning of Stephen in the Book of Acts. But Stephen was not a witness. He was a later convert. So if he died for anything, he died for hearsay alone. But even in Acts the story has it that he was not killed for what he believed, but for some trumped up false charge, and by a mob, whom he could not have escaped even if he had recanted. So his death does not prove anything in that respect. Moreover, in his last breaths, we are told, he says nothing about dying for any belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus, but mentions only his belief that Jesus was the messiah, and was at that moment in heavenAnd then he sees Jesus--yet no one else does, so this was clearly a vision, not a physical appearance, and there is no good reason to believe earlier appearances were any different.

The second and only other "martyr" recorded in Acts is the execution of the Apostle James, but we are not told anything about why he was killed or whether recanting would have saved him, or what he thought he died for.In fact, we have one independent account in the Jewish history of Josephus, of the stoning of a certain "James the brother of Jesus" in 62 A.D., possibly but not necessarily the very same James, and in that account he is stoned for breaking the Jewish law, which recanting would not escape, and in the account of the late 2nd century Christian hagiographer Hegesippus, as reported by Eusebius, he dies not for his belief in a physical resurrection, but, just like Stephen, solely for proclaiming Jesus the messiah, who was at that moment in heaven.[4]

So nobody died for any belief in the "resurrection". Christian apologists need to stop using that arguement.

              Inanna/ Pagan Influences on Christianity

Orginally Mary Jo Sharp wanted to debate me the Pagan Myth influences on Christianity. I wasn't interested and offered to debate either was Jesus crucified or Who Was Jesus. Hence this topic. Also this topic is misunderstood. What I mean when I bring up pagan saviors is not that the original Christians copied and stole the idea of worshipping a crucified deity from the Sumerians, etc but that the story of a crucified and resurrected deity is NOT unique to Christianity. Rather its been done before. This gets embarrsing  for my Christian friends.  The fact is the Sumerians used to worship the crucified and resurrected Inanna (the Babylonian Ishtar, Goddess of Love and "Queen of Heaven") around 1500 B.C.E. [5]  And of course there's Appolonis of Tyana. Around the 4th century Anti-Christian writers were pointing out striking similarities between Jesus and Apollonius of Tyana. Apollonius was a Neo-Pyhagorean teacher who was born just before the Christian era. Apollonius was referred to as the Son of God, did miracles, wa s killed, was "resurrected" in front of his followers and ascended into heaven. So to my Christian friends, the story of Jesus is NOT unique. Rather its been done before.  Mary Jo tried to argue that the story of Innana is different, and I agree the main story of Innana is different than the one of Jesus. However the fact is that she was crucified and resurrected. There is no denying that fact. And Apollonius was also resurrected and referred to as the son of God. So the story is not unique, its been done before. Many times in fact.

What about Islam? Does Islam also have paganistic roots? No it doesn't. The Prophet Muhammad rejected idolatry his entire life, he was never seen bowing to the false gods, and he adhered to the religion of Abraham known as Hanafi. I already covered this arguement in my first debate review.

  Misquotes from the Quran about the early Christians and the Bible/What the Quran says about the Crucifixion of Christ

However the Quran clearly says the Bible (Both the Old and New Testaments) are corrupt many times. Here are the Quotes I brought up from the Quran to prove it during the debate:

Can ye (o ye men of Faith) entertain the hope that they will believe in you?- Seeing that a party of them heard the Word of Allah, and perverted it knowingly after they understood it.  (Quran 2:75)

Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say:"This is from Allah," to traffic with it for miserable price!- Woe to them for what their hands do write, and for the gain they make thereby.  (Quran 2:79)

That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah";- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-  (Quran 4:157)

There are many other verses from the Quran that clearly say the Bible has been badly corrupted which the reader can refer to another article I wrote else where [6]. But Mary Jo's misrepresentation of the context of the Quran is nothing new. Christians have been misreading the Quran and coming up with their own interpretations of what the Quran is talking about it. The worse interpretation of the Quran I've heard was Mary Jo's interpretation of the Quran 61:14. The verse reads:

O ye who believe! Be ye helpers of Allah: As said Jesus the son of Mary to the Disciples, "Who will be my helpers to (the work of) Allah?" Said the disciples, "We are Allah's helpers!" then a portion of the Children of Israel believed, and a portion disbelieved: But We gave power to those who believed, against their enemies, and they became the ones that prevailed. (Quran 61:14)

Mary Jo Sharp makes up her own interpretation of this verse and says the disciples had the gospel, therefore Muslims can't argue that the New Testament has been corrupted. I feel like she misunderstood what I said in my first rebuttal, the Quran clearly says the New Testament has been corrupted in Quran 4:157. Other verses which speak of the Christians corrupting their message and their book would be the Quran 5:14-15. These verses clearly say Christians corrupted their message and that includes their scriputure (The entire New Testament). So her arguement doesn't really hold there.

The Problems with Paul

Some of the debate focused on the issues of Paul of Tarsus and his credibity. In defense of Paul's credibility--- Mary Jo said that Paul went up to Jerusalem and spoke with the disciples and talked to them, as well as lived with them (See Galatians 2 for example). However I argued that we can't trust Paul because he never knew Jesus. Paul seems unaware of Jesus life on earth. As G.A. Wells points out (Paul's epistles) "they give no indication of the time or place of Jesus earlthy existence. They never refer to his trail before a Roman offical nor to Jerusalem as the place of his execution. They never mention none of the miracles he is supposed to have worked" [7] . So None of Paul's epistles say anything about Jesus. No virgin birth, quotes nothing Jesus said, never mentions John the Baptist, Judas or Peter denying Jesus three times. Paul seems completely unaware of Jesus life. Morever he was not an eye witness to Jesus life. So there are no reasons for us to believe anything he says.

Paul, we know, never claimed to have met Jesus. And Paul talked about a lot of the same issues and would have benefited from quoting Jesus, for example, on divorce -- Paul talked about divorce a lot, and Paul said there should be no divorce. He forgot to take into account the fact that Jesus did allow for some divorce, in some case. He contradicted Jesus. So, Paul seemed to be pretty ignorant. I know this is an argument from silence, but wouldn't it have been good evidence if Paul had said something? It would have been good evidence if Paul had told us a few things about this man, Jesus that he supposedly had met physically.

Listen to what Paul says in Romans 3:7: "For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto God's glory, why yet am I also judged a sinner?" Paul said it's okay to tell a lie for the glory of God. Here's a man who admits that lying is okay. And we're going to trust his testimony? Look it up. Romans chapter 3, verse 7. The Greek word there is "pseusma," a "lie." So was Paul trustworthly? Doesn't look like it.

Of course there is a really good book called Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity by Walter Bauer. He documents that the early Jewish Christians were at odds with the Pauline Minstry. Its a really good book, I highly suggest everyone reads it.

The Truth about the Gospels

Its a fact, all Biblical Scholars agree on that we don't know who wrote the Gospels. We don't know what their sources were. All scholars agree that the Gospels are all annoymous. Below I quote some quotes from scholars who say so:

The articles on the Gospels in the Oxford Companion to the Bible (1993) give the following information on their authorship:

   * Matthew: Written by an unknown Jewish Christian of the second generation; probably a resident of Antioch in Syria.
   * Mark: Notes confusion in the traditional identification of the author but offers no hypothesis.
   * Luke: Possibly written by a resident of Antioch and an occasional companion of the apostle Paul.
   * John: Composed and edited in stages by unknown followers of the apostle John, probably residents of Ephesus.

"It is highly questionable that any of them [the gospels] was written by an eyewitness. Not only did Jesus himself write nothing, but the attribution of the gospels to his disciples did not occur until the late first century at the earliest. The one gospel for which the strongest case can be made that it was written by the man whose name it bears, Luke, acknowledges that its author was not himself an eyewitness of the events he portrays (Luke 1:1-2)" [8]

Bart Ehrman says: "The four Gospels that eventually made it into the New Testament, for example, are all anonymous, written in the third person about Jesus and his companions. None of them contains a first-person narrative ("One day, when Jesus and I went into Capernaum..."), or claims to be written by an eyewitness or companion of an eyewitness. Why then do we call them Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? Because sometime in the second century, when proto-orthodox Christians recognized the need for apostolic authorities, they attributed these books to apostles (Matthew and John) and close companions of apostles (Mark, the secretary of Peter; and Luke, the travelling companion of Paul). Most scholars today have abandoned these identifications, and recognize that the books were written by otherwise unknown but relatively well-educated Greek-speaking (and writing) Christians during the second half of the first century." [9]

There are many other quotes I can quote, but to save time and space I think these will suffice.  They're not biographies. They might contain some facts about Jesus but that's all we have. In a future essay I'll try to comment more about this. The point of me bringing this up was to show that the Gospels simply cannot be taken as historical annals of Jesus--- rather they are religious propaganda. The gospels were written in the second half of the 1st century long after Jesus left the earth, and derived primarily from oral traditions about his speeches and activities; oral narrations are adatped and reworked with each retelling. The gospels were not objective but passionate: they had a theological purpose and were writing for small groups of believers mostly outside of Palestine. When it comes to the New Testament gospels, We've got third- and fourth-hand testimony. We've got anonymous writers. We've got people whose character is impugned by telling lies and by being under emotional distress. We've got things that we can't check out. We have an obvious progression, evolution of events from simple to fantastic embellishments. So, I don't call this strong evidence. It is some kind of evidence, I agree. It's something.

After thoughts: Looking to the future of Islamic Apologetics

Looking back, I think I did say something offensive. I said that the disciples of Jesus were slow and dim witted. Of course I read this in the Gospel of Mark, but I realize that I was out of line saying that. So I apologize to any Christians I may have offended. And now I realize why that woman was so offended. But I don't care, its not like I'll ever see her again. If she was so offended by the statement, she needs to relax. Of course my Dad did not help, in fact he made things worse trying to talk to her. She ran away-- either from my dad or because I kept ignoring her-- but that was the only weird experience I had during the debate. Of course there was also another woman who came up to me (I don't think I have ever been aporoached by so many Christian women before) and she said she would "pray" for me. She didn't even know my name.

For the past four years I watched from the sidelines as Islamic apologists were debating and arguing againist Christian and atheist apologists. Now, I am actually an Muslim apologist. Let me make it clear that I am NOT an Ahmedyyia Muslim. I am a Sunni (Orthodox) Muslim. I don't support most of their views. I support and believe the belief that Jesus survived--- however there is one more explanation to the Quran 4:157 that explains everything, including the fact that the original resurrection was spiritual, what most historians agree to what happened to Jesus during the crucifixion, etc. Its a very powerful explanation of the facts that will disprove the resurrection and agree historically of what happened to Jesus. What is it? I am not going to give any spoilers away, but next year inshallah, if able to debate it with a Christian, lets just say, It will finally prove the Quran 4:157. It will be a very historically sound explanation.

Looking to the future, I hope to become more scholarly, professional and respectful when discussing religion. No longer do I go to Anti-Islamic websites and fight with them, no longer do I entertain discussions with hate mongers/Islam bashers. If I keep doing this, I am never going to get any where.  From now on (2009) I only discuss religion with scholarly people.

I am trying very hard to become less like David and Nabeel and more like Richard Carrier, professional, scholarly, etc. I think I am more or less suceeding in my goals. Only with the help of Allah, the only God who exists, will I be sucessful in doing what I want to do--- spreading the truth of Islam.

I think things are becoming better for Muslim Apologists. We have people Bassam Zawadi and Shabir Ally who know what their doing. And then there are people like me and Osama Abdullah who still have a long way to go. However we are improving. Things are getting better. But my advice to Muslim Apologists would be avoid large and complicated topics such as Is Muhammad a Prophet of God, and rather focus on smaller topics: Who was Jesus, Was Jesus crucified,etc. I think thats the best way to go.


In the end, I have no hard feelings. I think Mary Jo Sharp was a very nice lady. And I think she won the debate. But again I am not impressed with her arguements for Christianity, especially her defense of the physical ressurection. In fact I am not impressed at all with the answers most Christian apologists have to say about their faith. A lot of Christian apologists are masterful communicators while Muslim Apologists, sometimes find it very difficult to communicate with others about their faith.  Of course David Wood and Nabeel Qureshi usually get carried away when discussing Christianity or Islam. They even become insulting. But not this woman. She kept her cool and she was fun to work with. I look forwarded to debating her again. Whenever she wants she can contact me. In terms of production value, there is a high definition video of the debate here. It looks really good.

All in all, it was a superb time. I learned a lot, . I have already thanked in person those who bore most of the burden of bringing this event to fruition--most especially Pastor George Saiege and Nabeel Qureshi who all worked very hard. I am honored that Mary Jo Sharp flew all the way from Texas to Michgian for this debate,  and hear me defend a belief she certainly didn't share. Peace and blessings be upon this lady. I may have lost the debate-- but at least I won a new friend, Mary Jo Sharp.

       Notes and Bibliography

[1] For the exact reference see Massey, Gerald, "Gerald Massey's Lectures: The Historical Jesus and Mythical Christ," 1900

[2] More detailed information and references to other discussions on Josephus may be found in: Bruce, F. F. Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament. Eerdmans, 1974, Charlesworth, James H. Jesus Within Judaism. Doubleday (Anchor Books) 1988, France, Richard T. The Evidence for JesusIntervarsity Press, 1986.

[3] For more on the subsitution theory see Ehteshaam Gulam: Was Someone else put on the cross instead of Jesus? (2008)

[4] Acts 12:2. Cf. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, s.v. "James, St, 'the Great'." Also see Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200-1; Hegesippus apud Eusebius, History of the Church 2.23. Cf. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, s.v. "James, St, 'the Lord's brother'" and Jeffery Jay Lowder's discussion of the Josephus reference in Josh McDowell's "Evidence" for Jesus: Is It Reliable?.

[5] Samuel Noah Kramer, "The First Tale of Resurrection," History Begins at Sumer: Thirty-Nine Firsts in Man's Recorded History, 3rd ed. (1981): pp. 154-67. For more on Inanna, Tammuz, Adonis, and Attis: G. Sfameni Gasparro, Soteriology and Mystic Aspects in the Cult of Cybele and Attis (1997); Diane Wolkstein, Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer (1983); Eugene Lane, Cybele, Attis and Related Cults: Essays in Memory of M. J. Vermaseren (1996) and M. J. Vermaseren, Cybele and Attis: The Myth and the Cult (1977); Betty De Shong Meador, Lady of Largest Heart: Poems of the Sumerian High Priestess Enheduanna (2001).

[6] For more on where the Quran says the Bible has been corrupted see Ehteshaam Gulam: What the Quran says about the Bible? (2009)

[7] G.A. Wells page 364

[8] Kee, Young, and Froelich, 1965, p. 55

[9] Ehrman (2003) p235

Ehrman, Bart . Lost Christianities: Battle for the Scripture we never knew New York City, Oxford Press, 2003

Kee, H.C., Young, F.W., and Froelich, K. (1965), Understanding the New Testament, 2nd ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Ha

Wells, G.A. (1996), The Jesus Legend. Chicago: Open Court.