Several weeks ago, a Muslim friend and I — we are classmates — had a good, thoughtful conversation after a school-related meeting. We talked a bit about the Qur’an, the Bible and Ramadan. One of the main arguments made against my Christian faith was that the Bible had been corrupted. Of course, I objected and gave some reasons for my understanding that the Bible has been preserved. Moreover, he clearly stated that it is wrong, and forbidden in the Qur’an, to believe that Jesus is God. After challenging him, he said he would do some more research as he was unsure how to carry forward in the conversation.
A few days after this encounter, he messaged me a couple of short videos from Youtube. One of them was entitled “The Bible Says Jesus Is Not God – (Shocking Evidence)” and gave three arguments showing that, from the Bible, Jesus is not asserted to be divine.
The title sounds a little click-bait-y and the argumentation itself is not convincing. It certainly isn’t “shocking”. However, given the opportunity for me to respond and clearly communicate the unambiguous teachings of scripture on the deity of Christ, I would like to take the time to publicly address these arguments from a Christian perspective.
Argument 1: God is Eternal and Unchanging
Indeed, God doesn’t change. Both the Old and the New Testaments affirm this attribute, and the video rightfully acknowledges this.
It’s important to understand that when God took on a human form, through the incarnation, it was not out of necessity or because God was forced to do so or was constrained in any way. God did not *need* to take on a human form as the video incorrectly states. Rather, Jesus took on the form of a man by volition (voluntarily) to fulfill God’s redemptive plan. (John 10:18)
But the video, on this point, also contradicts itself. At one point, it rightfully acknowledges that trinitarians, like myself, believe God, in his divinity, does not change, and did not change even as Jesus took on a human nature. However, the video previously asked the semi-rhetorical question whether God is more “Godly” pre- or post-incarnation. This question was meant to challenge the trinitarian. But, if you understand the Trinity and what orthodox Christians believe, you know this question doesn’t make any sense. It communicates a deep misunderstanding of the concept and that while one may accurately state what we as Christians believe, it is quite another to understand said doctrine. The taking on of a human form is not “adding to” or “changing” or “modifying” Jesus’ divine nature. We believe Jesus to be fully human and fully God (this is called the hypostatic union). He is not part human, part God. Not a mixture. Not sometimes man, sometimes God. Fully both. And this is not “philosophical wordplay”, as the video says, because the narrator in the video incorrectly assumes that in Jesus taking on a human nature, God is changing in his divine state which we’ve established is not the case because Jesus’ humanity is not a change/modification/addition to his divine nature which is eternal and unchanging.
Argument 2: Jesus Lacks God’s Attributes
The video presents the incident with the Fig Tree (Mark 11) as evidence against Jesus’ divinity. However, it is one that is obviously taken out of context. You have to interpret passages like this in light of the other teachings of Jesus, his other interactions, and the historical and cultural context of the Jewish people at the time. Matthew 7 and John 15 come to mind:
“By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.” – John 15:8
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” – Matthew 7:15-20
Therefore, it’s likely that his order to not partake of this tree, given its lack of production during the time of fruition, is an act that metaphorically represents that those who do not genuinely submit their lives to God and produce the fruit that comes from faith, will die spiritually. The cursing of the tree symbolizes the judgment of those who die in their sins.
There are, of course, other passages that (on the surface) seem to suggest that Jesus does not have omniscience (A popular example seems to be Matthew 24:36). But what I think needs to be understood is that for Jesus to effectively carry out his role as Savior, he chose to suspend some of his divine abilities and instead act in his human nature (again, not because he needed to, but by choice). For example, Jesus chose to suffer, though he could have easily overthrown the Romans by supernatural force, at the time of his trial (Matthew 26:53).
Argument 3: Jesus Affirms Pure Monotheism
Trinitarianism is monotheism by definition. To understand this, from a unitarian Muslim perspective, one has to make the distinction between “being” and “person”. God is one “being”, on monotheism. Trinitarianism holds that while God is one in his “being” (therefore, by definition, is monotheistic), he contains within his “being” three distinct, coequal, co-eternal “persons” (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). Let’s just get this out of the way.
The video posits that Jesus himself asserts unitarian monotheism. While Jesus certainly does affirm monotheism, as do all Christians and trinitarians, that there is only one, true God, what the video does not explore or acknowledge are the unmistakable claims to divinity made by Jesus elsewhere. And if you read the Gospels, you’ll know that Jesus was tried as a criminal by the Jewish and Roman authorities for blasphemy (John 10, Mark 14). The Jews believed Jesus had falsely and blasphemously identified himself as God.
For example, see John 8:58, with reference to Exodus 3:14. Jesus states “Before Abraham was, I AM.” In the Exodus passage, God, speaking to Moses through the burning bush, identifies himself as “I AM” when Moses asks what his people should call him.
Or, see Mark 10:45, which makes clear reference to Daniel 7. The title of “Son of Man” is one of high prophetic significance.
Another example is John 20:28-29 where Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples, approaches Jesus and calls him “My Lord and my God.” Why didn’t Jesus stop him or correct him? Yes, when Jesus affirmed to the people in Mark 12 that God is one, he did not give an explanation of the Trinity. He did not “correct” their prior misconception. But neither did he correct Thomas when he called Jesus “Lord” and “God”.
And there are more statements from Jesus, in the Bible, to consider that no mere prophet could make.
God in his sovereignty is fully able to take on any form he desires and is able to enter into his creation as a man if he pleases. The God of Christianity is without limitation. Therefore, while the concept of the Trinity may seem like a complex, excessive concept, truth is not measured by simplicity, and the inability to understand or comprehend the vastness of God’s being is not an argument against him. And if the Qur’an truly affirms the authority of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, then I urge Muslims to the let the Bible speak for itself on the matter of Jesus Christ, the Messiah.