What did Jesus really say?

by Misha'al Abdullah Al-Kadhi

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1.2 Muslim perspective

(Note: the rest of chapter one is an expansion of the original response to Mr. J's letter)

Thank you Mr. J for your most thought provoking letter. I would also like to thank you for the knowledge you have provided therein. In what is to follow I have striven to avoid objectionable or disrespectful wording. This is an academic exchange and not a slug-fest. I am however human. If one or two cases have slipped by me then I apologize in advance for them. They were not intentional. I also realize that this is quite a lengthy response for someone to read in one sitting. However, I ask the reader to try to do so and not to pass judgment until they have managed to receive a complete picture. Now, the response:

The three faiths, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, all purport to share one fundamental concept: belief in God as the Supreme Being, the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe. Known as "Tawhid" in Islam, this concept of Oneness of God was stressed by Moses (pbuh) in the Biblical passage Known as the "Shema," or the Jewish creed of faith:

"Hear, O Israel The Lord our God is one Lord"

Deuteronomy 6:4

It was repeated word-for-word approximately 1500 years later by Jesus (pbuh) when he said

"...The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord."

Mark 12:29

Muhammad (pbuh) came along approximately 600 years later, bringing the same message again:

"And your God is One God: there is no god but He"

The noble Qur'an, al-Bakarah(2):163

Christianity has digressed from the concept of the Oneness of God, however, into a vague and mysterious doctrine that was formulated during the fourth century CE (see historical details in section 1.2.5). This doctrine, which continues to be the source of controversy both within and outside the Christian religion, is known as the Doctrine of the Trinity. Simply put, the Christian doctrine of the Trinity states that God is the union of three divine persons - the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit - in one divine being. Christians must guard themselves from ever claiming that they worship three gods since this would be a heresy of the worst kind. Christians are commanded to always refer to them all as ONE God. This belief, as we shall soon see in coming chapters, was first put to words in the famous "Creed of Nicea" in 325C.E. Among other things, it says:

"Whoever wishes to be saved must, above all, keep the Catholic faith. For unless a person keeps this faith whole and entire he will undoubtedly be lost forever. This is what the Catholic faith teaches: we worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity. We distinguish among the persons, but we do not divide the substance. For the Father is a distinct person; the Son is a distinct person; and the Holy Spirit is a distinct person. Still the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit have one divinity, equal glory, and coeternal majesty. What the Father is, the Son is, and the Holy Spirit is. The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, and the Holy Spirit is uncreated. The Father is boundless, the Son is boundless, and the Holy Spirit is boundless. The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, and the Holy Spirit is eternal. Nevertheless, there are not three eternal beings, but one eternal being. Thus there are not three uncreated beings, nor three boundless beings, but one uncreated being and one boundless being. Likewise, the Father is omnipotent, the Son is omnipotent, and the Holy Spirit is omnipotent. Yet there are not three omnipotent beings, but one omnipotent being. Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. But there are not three gods, but one God. The Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord. There as not three lords, but one Lord. For according to Christian truth, we must profess that each of the persons individually is God; and according to Christian religion we are forbidden to say that there are three gods or lords. …But the entire three persons are coeternal and coequal with one another….So that, as we have said, we worship complete unity in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity. This, then, is what he who wishes to be saved must believe about the Trinity….This is the Catholic faith. Everyone must believe it, firmly and steadfastly; otherwise He cannot be saved. Amen."

Christian sects are many and varied. However, the majority of Christians the world over believe in the following four basic concepts:

  1. The Trinity,
  2. The divine Sonship of Jesus (pbuh),
  3. The original sin, and
  4. The death of "the Son of God" on the cross in atonement for the original sin of Adam.

Everything else is pretty much relegated into the background. A Christian can be saved and enter heaven by simply believing in the above creeds. According to St. Paul, the previous law and commandments of God are worthless, this simple belief will guarantee for all comers eternal salvation. For example, St. Paul is quoted to have said:

"Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law."

Romans 3:28.

The words of Saint Paul are held by most of Christianity in the highest regard, and this is understandable since he is the primary author of the majority of the books of the New Testament. However, no matter what role St. Paul played in the definition and spread of Christianity, when displaying respect for the teachings of Paul, it is necessary not to lose sight of the fact that he is in no way equal to Jesus, nor should his command be placed before the command of Jesus if we were to find them to differ from one another. No one, not even Paul or the apostles of Jesus has this right, since they are all, after all, subordinate to Jesus Christ himself.

However, were we to study the religion known today as "Christ"ianity, we would find that it is the interpretation of St. Paul of what he personally believed to be the religion of Jesus(pbuh). Christianity as it stands today has been reduced to an interpretation of the words of Jesus (pbuh) within the context of what Paul taught rather than the other way around which is the way it should be. We would expect Christianity to be the teachings of Jesus (pbuh) and that the words of Paul and everyone else would be accepted or rejected according to their conformity to these "Jesuit" teachings. However, we will notice in what follows that Jesus (pbuh) never in his lifetime mentioned an original sin, or an atonement. He never asked anyone to worship him, neither did he ever claim to be part of a Trinity. His words and actions are those of a loyal messenger of God who faithfully and faultlessly followed the commands of his Lord and only told his followers to do the same and to worship God alone (John 4:21, John 4:23, Matthew 4:10, Luke 4:8 ...etc.).

Just one of the countless examples of this placement of the words of Paul above the words of Jesus can be seen in the following analysis: Jesus (pbuh) is claimed to have been prepared for his sacrifice on the cross from the beginning of time and was a willing victim (otherwise we would have to claim that God is a sadistic and torturous God who forced Jesus into such a savage end). However, whenever Jesus (pbuh) was asked about the path to "eternal life" he consistently told his followers to only "keep the commandments" and nothing more (Matthew 19:16-21, John 14:15, John 15:10). Not once did he himself ever mention an original sin or a redemption. Even when pressed for the path to "PERFECTION" he only told his followers to sell their belongings. He departed this earth leaving his followers with the very dire threat:

"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 fulfilledJesus, Fulfillment of Law of Moses. 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 5:18-19.

Obviously, heaven and earth have not yet passed. The fact that you are reading this book bears witness to this very simple fact. So Jesus (pbuh) is telling us that so long as creation exists, the commandments will be required from his followers. Anyone who will dare to say otherwise, until the end of time, will be called "the least in the kingdom of heaven." Jesus (pbuh) had foreseen mankind's attempt to distort and annul his commandments, the commandments of Moses (pbuh), which he had taught his followers to keep and himself had kept faithfully till the crucifixion, and was warning his followers in no uncertain terms to be wary of all those who would attempt to do so.

Not long after, Jesus departs. Now Saul of Tarsus (St. Paul), a man who never met Jesus (pbuh), a man who by his own admission persecuted the followers of Jesus (pbuh) by every means within his power and presided over their execution (see below), comes along. Suddenly one day St. Paul receives a vision from Jesus (pbuh), and his whole life is turned around. He now takes it upon himself through the authority of his visions to spread the word of Jesus to the whole world and to explain what Jesus really meant. Paul claims that the law of God through Moses (pbuh) is worthless, decaying and ready to vanish away and faith in the crucifixion is the only requirement for a Christian to enter heaven (Romans 3:28, Hebrews 8:13...etc.). Who do Christians listen to, Jesus or Paul? They listen to Paul. They take the words of Paul literally and then "interpret" the words of Jesus (pbuh) within the context of the words of Paul. No one takes the words of Jesus (pbuh) literally and explains the words of Paul within the context of Jesus' words.

According to this system of explaining the words of Jesus within the context of Paul's teachings, Jesus never actually means what he says but is constantly speaking in riddles which are not to be taken literally. Even when people attempt to cite the words of Jesus as confirming the teachings of Paul with regard to the original sin, the atonement, ...etc. they never bring clear and decisive words where Jesus actually confirms these things. Instead, they say such things as "When Jesus spoke of the exodus he was really speaking of the atonement" or so forth. Are we to believe that Paul is the only one who can say what is on his mind clearly and decisively while Jesus (pbuh) is not capable of articulating what he means clearly and decisively but requires interpreters to explain the "true" meaning of what he said, and to explain how, when he spoke of the commandments, he was not talking of "the commandments" but of a spiritual commandment and that they will now tell you what this spiritual commandment is that Jesus never managed to talk clearly about?.

It is interesting to note that Jesus was not talking in riddles when he commanded his followers to keep the commandments but was talking of the actual physical commandments of Moses. This can be clearly seen by reading for instance Luke 18:20 where Jesus spells out in no uncertain terms what he means by "keep the commandments."

"And I (Jesus) have come confirming that which was before me of the Torah, and to make lawful for you part of that which was forbidden upon you. And I have come to you with a sign from your Lord so seek refuge in Allah and obey me"

The noble Qur'an, Aal-Umran(3):50

In the past, I have searched for a logical answer to this puzzle by posing the following questions to respected Christian clergy:

  1. According to you, Jesus is supposed to have been prepared for the "atonement" from the beginning of time. He should know that it is coming.
  2. Whenever he was asked about the path to "eternal life" (i.e. Matthew 19:16-22 ..etc.) he consistently told his followers to only "keep the commandments" just as he had "kept my father's commandments" ..etc.
  3. Even when he was pressed for more, he only told his followers that in order to be PERFECT they needed only to sell their belongings.
  4. Not once did he mention an "atonement" or and "original sin."
  5. The commandments he spoke about were the commandments of Moses and not some "spiritual" commandments. This can be seen in the text itself where Jesus (pbuh) explicitly spells out some of the commandments of Moses one by one.
  6. St. Paul, a disciple of a disciple, is the one who is followed by Christianity and not Jesus. Jesus' teachings are explained within the context of Paul's teachings and not vice versa. 

Whenever this question would be presented to a respected member of the Christian clergy the response would always be the same: "Well, don't take Jesus' words literally. St. Paul has told us in Romans ...," or "Yes, but St. Paul tells us in Galatians ...," or "St. Paul tells us in Corinthians .." Yet my question remains: where did JESUS every say it? Where does the RED ink say it? Doesn't St. Paul's authority come from Jesus? I simply want a single clear statement from Jesus himself where he endorsed Paul's claims and then it would be possible to accept Paul's claim that he was indeed preaching the "command of Jesus." If Jesus were only to say it once then I can accept Paul repeating it a thousand times. However, as we shall soon see, never, not even once in his whole lifetime did Jesus (pbuh) endorse the preachings of Paul.

Getting back to the matter at hand, the reader will notice in Mr. J's response a surprising absence of certain very fundamental verses usually quoted by any Christian man or woman off the street in defense of the "Trinity" and other issues. The reader may further surmise that Mr. J might not be well versed enough in the Bible to have referred to these verses. This is far from the case. His occupation requires that he know those verses. The fact of the matter is that I have had an ongoing correspondence with Mr. J for a number of months now which he has now asked be publicized. In this correspondence, many of these fundamental verses were dealt with in detail and refuted for various reasons. This is why he did not quote them here. However, in order that all may benefit from this information we will quote these same verses that he has elected not to. We will also study the other verses he has presented.

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