Archive for July, 2016

The Intercession of the Saints in the Bible and the Koran

July 9, 2016 Leave a comment

I spent a large portion of my life believing like a Protestant Christian. I became aware that Roman Catholic Christians often pray to the Mother of God and the Saints while watching TV and also after having come in contact with Roman Catholics in school and in other settings. As a Protestant, I was always told that praying to a Saint is idolatry. However, my views on the subject began to change while I was watching EWTN. I remember a priest telling about a time when he was on a Christian talk show. Two of the men on the show were Protestants. They were about to pray for a vast number of people who had sent in letters requesting prayer. The priest asked them, “Why they do not ask someone on the other side to pray for these people?” They answered that it was wrong to do that because Jesus is the only mediator between God and man. Then he asked them, “Why then are you praying for these people?” That got me to thinking. If people on this side pray for people, then it must be all right for someone on the other side to pray for them as well. When I was converting to Orthodox Christianity, I learned that not all prayer is worship. Prayer directed to the Saints or the Mother of God is not worship. It is called prayer, but really it is only communication. There is scientific evidence that people do not cease to exist after they die  and the Bible and the Koran provide some instruction pertaining to intercession. Muslims, like Christians, have different views on the subject of the intercession of the Saints.

First of all, it is important to realize that death is not the end of human existence. People have a consciousness that continues on after one dies. This consciousness is often referred to as the spirit or the soul. In the Bible, it is quite clear that the souls of dead people continue to exist. There is the story about Saul speaking to Samuel after he had died. Saul went to a medium and asked her to call up the soul of Samuel. She did. Then Saul had a conversation with Samuel. (I Samuel 25:1; 28:7-20) In the Book of Revelation, there are the souls of martyrs who pray in Heaven.

When He opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the testimony which they held. And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Then a white robe was given to each of them; and it was said to them that they should rest a little while longer, until both the number of their fellow servants and their brethren, who would be killed as they were, was completed. (Revelation 6:9-11, NKJV)

In the Koran, it says:

And call not those who are slain in the way of Allah “dead.” Nay, they are living, only ye perceive not. (Koran 2:154, Pickthall)

In modern times, there have been many studies done on near death experiences (NDEs). Thousands of cases have been examined by numerous doctors and scientists. The evidence is quite compelling that people really do have souls which survive the deaths of their bodies. Here are some videos on the subject. The first one is quite long and the others are considerably shorter.

 In the Bible and in the Koran, it says that we should pray for others. The Bible says to pray for everyone.

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (I Timothy 2:1,2, NKJV)

The Koran says that we should pray for our parents.

Thy Lord hath decreed, that ye worship none save Him, and (that ye show) kindness to parents. If one of them or both of them attain old age with thee, say not “Fie” unto them nor repulse them, but speak unto them a gracious word. And lower unto them the wing of submission through mercy, and say: My Lord! Have mercy on them both as they did care for me when I was little. (Koran 17:23,24, Pickthall)

Whenever one prays the Fatihah, one includes others in his prayer.

Thee we worship. Thee we ask for help. Guide us to the straight path. (Koran 1:4,5)

So, anyone who prays this prayer is also interceding for others while he prays. In the Old Testament, Abraham prayed for Abimelech.

But now return the man his wife; for he is a prophet, and shall pray for thee, and thou shalt live; but if thou restore her not, know that thou shalt die and all thine…  And Abraam prayed to God, and God healed Abimelech, and his wife, and his women servants, and they bore children. (Genesis 20:7,17, LXX)

According to the Koran, Abraham also prayed for his father.

He said: Peace be unto thee! I shall ask forgiveness of my Lord for thee. Lo! He was ever gracious unto me. (Koran 19:47, Pickthall)

There is for you an excellent example (to follow) in Abraham and those with him, when they said to their people: “We are clear of you and of whatever ye worship besides Allah: we have rejected you, and there has arisen, between us and you, enmity and hatred for ever,- unless ye believe in Allah and Him alone”: But not when Abraham said to his father: “I will pray for forgiveness for thee, though I have no power (to get) aught on thy behalf from Allah.” (They prayed): “Our Lord! in Thee do we trust, and to Thee do we turn in repentance: to Thee is (our) Final Goal. (Koran 60:4, Yusuf Ali)

Job prayed for Eliphaz, Baldad, and Sophar.

And it came to pass after the Lord had spoken all these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Thaemanite, Thou hast sinned, and thy two friends: for ye have not said anything true before me, as my servant Job has. Now then take seven bullocks, and seven rams, and go to my servant Job, and he shall offer a burnt-offering for you. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will only accept him: for but his sake, I would have destroyed you, for ye have not spoken the truth against my servant Job. So Eliphaz the Thaemanite, and Baldad the Sauchite, and Sophar the Minaean, went and did as the Lord commanded them: and he pardoned their sin for the sake of Job. (Job 42:7-9, LXX)

Simon Magus asked for the prayers of St. Peter.

Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.” (Acts 8:24, NKJV)

Muhammad prayed for some Muslims who did not fight.

It was by the mercy of Allah that thou wast lenient with them (O Muhammad), for if thou hadst been stern and fierce of heart they would have dispersed from round about thee. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult with them upon the conduct of affairs. And when thou art resolved, then put thy trust in Allah. Lo! Allah loveth those who put their trust (in Him). (Koran 3:159, Pickthall)

Muhammad also prayed for some women.

O Prophet, when the believing women come to you pledging to you that they will not associate anything with Allah, nor will they steal, nor will they commit unlawful sexual intercourse, nor will they kill their children, nor will they bring forth a slander they have invented between their arms and legs, nor will they disobey you in what is right – then accept their pledge and ask forgiveness for them of Allah. Indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. (Koran 60:12, Sahih International)

It is perfectly all right, therefore, according to both Christianity and Islam, for someone whose soul is still united to his body to pray for someone else.

In the Koran, it says that the angels pray for us who are on Earth.

The heavens may almost rend asunder from above them and the angels sing the praise of their Lord and ask forgiveness for those on earth; now surely Allah is the Forgiving, the Merciful. (Koran 42:5, Shakir)

The Bible teaches that those in Heaven know what happens to those on Earth. There are people all over the world who repent of their sins and cry out unto God. Many may live thousands of miles apart and repent at the same time. The angels and the souls of people who are in Heaven know when people repent and rejoice.

I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance… Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents. (Luke 15:7,10, NKJV)

In the Epistle of St. Paul to the Hebrews, many Old Testament Saints are mentioned in chapter 11. In the twelfth chapter, it says that those Old Testament Saints surround us like a great cloud of witnesses. They are aware of what we do.

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1, NKJV)

Since they are aware of what we do, it is possible to talk to them and ask for their prayers.

There are some people who obtain things in prayer more easily than others do. In the Catholic Epistle of St. James it says:

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. (James 5:16-18, NKJV)

This is why we should ask for the Saints to pray for us. The effective, fervent prayers of righteous men and women avail much.

Both the Bible and the Koran teach that there are differing degrees of glory the righteous experience and there are different rewards. Some have progressed further in righteousness and holiness than others. In the Bible, there is Jesus’ parable of the sower. Some seed falls on the wayside, others among the rocks, others among the thorns, and others on the good ground.

Then He spoke many things to them in parables, saying: “Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” … “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” (Matthew 13:3-9,23, NKJV)

Only the good ground bears fruit. They are the only ones who will inherit the Kingdom of God. Among them, nevertheless, there are some who bear a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. They will be rewarded according to how much fruit they bear. The more fruit one bears, the greater the reward. St. Paul says that we pass from one degree of glory to another.

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (II Corinthians 3:18, NKJV)

Some have advanced further in degrees of glory than others. The Koran, like the Bible, teaches that there are differing degrees of glory and rewards among the righteous departed.

Is one who followeth the pleasure of Allah as one who hath earned condemnation from Allah, whose habitation is the Fire, a hapless journey’s end? There are degrees (of grace and reprobation) with Allah, and Allah is Seer of what they do. (Koran 3:162,163, Pickthall)

Those of the believers who sit still, other than those who have a (disabling) hurt, are not on an equality with those who strive in the way of Allah with their wealth and lives. Allah hath conferred on those who strive with their wealth and lives a rank above the sedentary. Unto each Allah hath promised good, but He hath bestowed on those who strive a great reward above the sedentary; degrees of rank from Him, and forgiveness and mercy. Allah is ever Forgiving, Merciful. (Koran 4:95,96, Pickthall)

Whoso desireth that (life) which hasteneth away, We hasten for him therein what We will for whom We please. And afterward We have appointed for him hell; he will endure the heat thereof, condemned, rejected. And whoso desireth the Hereafter and striveth for it with the effort necessary, being a believer; for such, their effort findeth favour (with their Lord). Each do We supply, both these and those, from the bounty of thy Lord. And the bounty of thy Lord can never be walled up. See how We prefer one of them above another, and verily the Hereafter will be greater in degrees and greater in preferment. (Koran 17:18-21, Pickthall)

The Koran also says that he who has borne witness to the truth has power of intercession with Allah.

And those unto whom they cry instead of Him possess no power of intercession, saving him who beareth witness unto the Truth knowingly. (Koran 43:86, Pickthall)

The people who cry out to false gods to intercede for them do so foolishly because the false gods have no power of intercession with Allah. The words, “saving him who beareth witness unto the Truth knowingly,” refer to St. John the Baptist and Jesus. In St. John’s Gospel, Jesus said:

You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. (John 5:33, NKJV)

In St. Matthew’s Gopel, Jesus said:

Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11, NKJV)

St. John the Baptist is the greatest man born of a woman except for Jesus. (John 1:24-30)

Regarding Jesus, we have this verse from St. John’s Gospel.

Pilate therefore said to Him, “Are You a king then?” Jesus answered, “You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” (John 18:37, NKJV)

Jesus also has borne witness to the truth. Therefore, according to Koran 43:86, Jesus has power of intercession. In St. Paul’s writings, it says that Jesus intercedes for His followers.

Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. (Romans 8:34, NKJV)

Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:23-25, NKJV)

Jesus, like the Holy Spirit, is one of three hypostases of the Deity. Jesus is the Word of Allah which has become incarnate. (Koran 4:171; John 1:1-3, 14) The Holy Spirit also intercedes for those who follow Jesus and strive to obey His commandments. (The Father’s commandments are also the Son’s commandments. All things that the Father has are Mine.— John 16:15, NKJV) In St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, it says:

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26,27, NKJV)

False gods are not intercessors with Allah. Praying to a false god is useless and foolish. Both the Bible and the Koran teach the same thing regarding this matter.

Then maketh he prayer for his goods, for his wife and children, and is not ashamed to speak to that which hath no life. For health he calleth upon that which is weak: for life prayeth to that which is dead; for aid humbly beseecheth that which hath least means to help: and for a good journey he asketh of that which cannot set a foot forward: and for gaining and getting, and for good success of his hands, asketh ability to do of him, that is most unable to do any thing. (Wisdom 13:16-19)

They worship beside Allah that which neither hurteth them nor profiteth them, and they say: These are our intercessors with Allah. Say: Would ye inform Allah of (something) that He knoweth not in the heavens or in the earth? Praised be He and High Exalted above all that ye associate (with Him)! (Koran 10:18, Pickthall)

Shall I take (other) gods in place of Him when, if the Beneficent should wish me any harm, their intercession will avail me naught, nor can they save? (Koran 36:23, Pickthall)

Or choose they intercessors other than Allah? Say: What! Even though they have power over nothing and have no intelligence? Say: Unto Allah belongeth all intercession. His is the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth. And afterward unto Him ye will be brought back. And when Allah alone is mentioned, the hearts of those who believe not in the Hereafter are repelled, and when those (whom they worship) beside Him are mentioned, behold! they are glad. (Koran 39:43-45, Pickthall)

God  can also refuse to listen to the prayers of anyone who intercedes for someone else. St. John the Theologian said that we should not pray for someone who has committed a sin leading to death.

If anyone sees his brother sinning a sin which does not lead to death, he will ask, and He will give him life for those who commit sin not leading to death. There is sin leading to death. I do not say that he should pray about that. (I John 5:16, NKJV)

In the Old Testament, God said that even Moses and Samuel could not intercede for the Jews because of the magnitude of their sins.

And the Lord said to me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before My face, My soul could not be toward them: dismiss this people, and let them go forth. (Jeremiah 15:1, LXX)

In the Koran, it says that God told Noah not to intercede for the people who were about to be drowned.

Then We inspired in him, saying: Make the ship under Our eyes and Our inspiration. Then, when Our command cometh and the oven gusheth water, introduce therein of every (kind) two spouses, and thy household save him thereof against whom the Word hath already gone forth. And plead not with Me on behalf of those who have done wrong. Lo! they will be drowned. (Koran 23:27, Pickthall)

It also says in the Koran that God would not grant forgiveness to some people for whom Muhammad would intercede. God told him not to pray for them.

Ask forgiveness for them (O Muhammad), or ask not forgiveness for them; though thou ask forgiveness for them seventy times Allah will not forgive them. That is because they disbelieved in Allah and His messenger, and Allah guideth not wrongdoing folk. (Koran 9:80, Pickthall)

Whether thou ask forgiveness for them or ask not forgiveness for them is all one for them; Allah will not forgive them. Lo! Allah guideth not the evil-living folk (Koran 63:6, Pickthall)

In both of those verses from the Koran it says that God does not guide people who want to continue living evil, sinful lives and not adopt a righteous lifestyle. There is no point in praying for God to forgive someone who refuses to repent. This is what it means when it says in the Koran that no one can intercede for someone except by Allah’s permission.

Allah is He besides Whom there is no god, the Everliving, the Self-subsisting by Whom all subsist; slumber does not overtake Him nor sleep; whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is His; who is he that can intercede with Him but by His permission? (Koran 2:255, Shakir)

Indeed, your Lord is Allah, who created the heavens and the earth in six days and then established Himself above the Throne, arranging the matter [of His creation]. There is no intercessor except after His permission. That is Allah , your Lord, so worship Him. Then will you not remember? (Koran 10:3, Sahih International)

On that Day shall no intercession avail except for those for whom permission has been granted by (Allah) Most Gracious and whose word is acceptable to Him. (Koran 20:109, Yusuf Ali)

He knows what is before them and what is behind them, and they do not intercede except for him whom He approves and for fear of Him they tremble. (Koran 21:28, Shakir)

According to the Bible, the Saints pray for us. The High Priest Onias and the Holy Prophet Jeremiah prayed for the Jews. Both of them had already died when this vision was revealed.

And this was his vision: That Onias, who had been high priest, a virtuous and a good man, reverend inconversation, gentle in condition, well spoken also, and exercised from a child in all points of virtue, holding up his hands prayed for the whole body of the Jews. This done, in like manner there appeared a man with gray hairs, and exceeding glorious, who was of a wonderful and excellent majesty. Then Onias answered, saying, This is a lover of the brethren, who prayeth much for the people, and for the holy city, to wit, Jeremias the prophet of God. Whereupon Jeremias holding forth his right hand gave to Judas a sword of gold, and in giving it spake thus, Take this holy sword, a gift from God, with the which thou shalt wound the adversaries. (II Maccabees 15:12-16)

Therefore, it is all right to ask for their prayers, but we must be striving to live a virtuous life when we do ask for their prayers. Otherwise, their prayers on our behalf may not help us at all. However, one can also ask them to pray that we do live virtuous lives and keep God’s commandments. Their prayers  can help one advance spiritually.

In the Orthodox Christian tradition, it is acceptable to ask a pious deceased relative or friend to pray for one. I found this video on Youtube. I thought that it was interesting because this Hindu woman is doing what we Orthodox Christians do.

Here are some videos about how Muslims view the intercession of the Saints. You will notice that they all do not agree on the subject. Some think like Protestants and absolutely refuse to ask someone on the other side to pray for them. Others ask Muhammad and pious deceased imams to pray for them.

I conclude this blog with an Orthodox prayer.

O Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, for the sake of the prayers of Thy most pure Mother and all Thy Saints, have mercy on us and save us, for Thou art a merciful God, and lovest mankind. Amen.


Aqidahs of Believers

July 8, 2016 Leave a comment

I remember when I used to visit various Protestant churches in my younger years that I would see various statements of faith. Many of these statements of faith contained affirmations of basic Christian doctrines like the existence of only one God and the Triune nature of God. They would say various things about the infallibility and inerrancy of the Bible, the last days, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, etc. Many of the non-denominational churches that I visited had statements of faith that were probably less than ten years old. That is to say, they were written very recently as compared to the doctrinal confessions of the Presbyterians, Lutherans, and Episcopalians. These statements of faith are called creeds. In Arabic, the word is aqidah. In the Koran, Orthodox Christians are called believers, but many Muslims are unfamiliar with the creeds of Orthodox Christians. I am going to discuss creeds here as they pertain to Muslims and Christians.

In the Koran, it says:

Lo! Those who believe (in that which is revealed unto thee, Muhammad), and those who are Jews, and Christians, and Sabaeans – whoever believeth in Allah and the Last Day and doeth right – surely their reward is with their Lord, and there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve. (Koran 2:62, Pickthall)

and in another surah:

If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah), never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost (All spiritual good). (Koran 3:85, Yusuf Ali)

These verses seemed to be contradicting each other, but actually they do not. One can be a Christian and be a Muslim. The word, Islam, in Koran 3:85 refers to a way of life and not a theology. Islam means submission, obedience, surrender, sincerity, and peace. A person who sincerely surrenders his life to God and strives to obey Him is practicing Islam. This is why the disciples of Jesus are called Muslims in the Koran.

When Jesus found Unbelief on their part He said: “Who will be My helpers to (the work of) Allah?” Said the disciples: “We are Allah’s helpers: We believe in Allah, and do thou bear witness that we are Muslims.” (Koran 3:52, Yusuf Ali)

According to verse 2:62, Jews, Christians, and Sabeans who believe in God, the Last Day (that is, the Resurrection of the dead and the Last Judgment), and do righteous deeds will not be eternally damned. The Jews and Christians in this verse are not those who have become members of the Muslim community. Otherwise, they would not be called Jews and Christians in this verse. The Sabaeans are probably people who believe in one God, but have no particular religious affiliation. That is the view of some Koranic commentators.

Verse 3:85 is actually teaching the same thing that Jesus taught in the Gospels.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21, NKJV)

The disciples of Jesus were Muslims because they had surrendered their lives to God. A Muslim is one who has surrendered to God.

Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?” (Matthew 19:27, NKJV)

The Orthodox Christians are called believers in two surahs: Surah 30 and Surah 85. In Surah 30, it says:

The Romans have been defeated in the nearer land, and they, after their defeat will be victorious Within ten years – Allah’s is the command in the former case and in the latter – and in that day believers will rejoice In Allah’s help to victory. He helpeth to victory whom He will. He is the Mighty, the Merciful. (Koran 30:2-5, Pickthall)

Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall wrote this explanation of this Surah.

    Ar-Rûm, “The Romans,” takes its name from a word in the first verse.
The armies of the Eastern Roman Empire had been defeated by the Persians in all the territory near Arabia. In the year A.D. 613 Jerusalem and Damascus fell, and in the year Egypt. A Persian army invaded Anatolia and was threatening Constantinople itself in the year A.D. 615 or 616 (the sixth or seventh before the Hijrah) when, according to the best authorities, this Sûrah was revealed at Mecca. The pagan Arabs triumphed in the news of Persian victories over the Prophet and his little band of followers, because the Christian Romans were believers in the One God, whereas the Persians were not. They argued that the power of Allah could not be supreme and absolute, as the Prophet kept proclaiming it to be, since the forces of a pagan empire had been able to defeat His worshippers.
The Prophet’s answer was provided for him in this grand assertion of Theocracy, which shows the folly of all who think of Allah as a partisan. It opens with two prophecies: that the Romans would be victorious over the Persians, and that the little persecuted company of Muslims in Arabia would have reason to rejoice, “within ten years.”* In fact, in A.D. 624 the Roman armies entered purely Persian territory, and in the same year a little army of Muslims, led by the Prophet, overthrew the flower of Arab chivalry upon the field of Badr.
But the prophecies are only a prelude to a proclamation of God’s universal kingdom, which is shown to be actual Sovereignty. The laws of nature are expounded as the laws of Allah in the physical spheres, and in the moral and political spheres mankind is informed that there are similar laws of life and death, of good and evil, action and inaction, and their consequences — which no one can escape by wisdom and cunning. His mercy, like His law, surrounds all things, and the standard of His judgment is the same for all. He is not remote or indifferent, partial or capricious. Those who do good earn His favour, and those who do ill earn His wrath, no matter what may be their creed or race; and no one, by the lip profession of a creed, is able to escape His law of consequences.
It belongs to the middle group of Meccan Sûrahs.
*The word in the Arabic (bida’) implies a space of not less than three, and not more than nine, years.
(The Meaning of the Glorious Koran, by Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall, pp. 289,290, The New American Library, Inc., 1633 Broadway, New York, New York 10019, public domain)

Notice that Mr. Pickthall said, “Because the Christian Romans were believers in one God.” He had a much better understanding of Trinitarian theology than many Muslim clerics do today. Trinitarian Christians do not worship three gods. They worship only one God who consists of three hypostases: Father, Word, and Spirit. Each hypostasis is God in His entirety and not one-third of God or a completely different god from the other two. 1 + 1 + 1 = 1. This is a mystery which we do not try to explain. One Orthodox Christian theologian calls the Trinity a cross for the mind. The Koran says concerning God:

They encompass nothing of His knowledge save what He will. (Koran 2:255, Pickthall)

St. Paul says that “His ways” are “past finding out.” (Romans 11:33)

The Holy Prophet Moses said:

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children for ever, to do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29, LXX)

So, we back away from trying to explain the mystery and accept what has already been revealed to us concerning it.

In the 85th Surah, the Koran calls Christians believers there, too.

By the heaven, holding mansions of the stars, and by the Promised Day. And by the witness and that whereunto he beareth testimony, (self-)destroyed were the owners of the ditch of the fuel-fed fire, when they sat by it, and were themselves the witnesses of what they did to the believers. They had naught against them save that they believed in Allah, the Mighty, the Owner of Praise, Him unto Whom belongeth the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth; and Allah is of all things the Witness. Lo! they who persecute believing men and believing women and repent not, theirs verily will be the doom of hell, and theirs the doom of burning. Lo! those who believe and do good works, theirs will be Gardens underneath which rivers flow. That is the Great Success. Lo! the punishment of thy Lord is stern. (Koran 85:1-12, Pickthall)

Mr. Pickthall gave this explanation of this surah.

   Al-Buruj takes its name from a word in verse 1 which I have translated “mansions of the stars.” The word has the meaning of towers or mansions and is applied to the signs of the Zodiac. Verses 4 to 7 are generally taken to the massacre of the Christians of Najrân in Al-Yaman by a Jewish king Dhû Nawâs, an event of great historical importance since it caused the intervention of the Negus and led to the Abyssinian supremacy in the Yaman which lasted until the War of the Elephant (Sûrah CV) in the prophets year of birth. Professor Horowitz thinks that the words “owners of the ditch, of the fuel-fed fire” refer not to any historical event but the conditions of all persecutors in the hereafter.
An early Meccan Súrah. (The Meaning of the Glorious Koran, by Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall, p. 435, The New American Library, Inc., 1633 Broadway, New York, New York 10019, public domain, ISBN: 0-451-62305-3)

The believers who were being persecuted in this surah were Christians. In the commentary on verses 4-9 of this surah in The Study Quran it says this regarding the interpretation of most Koranic commentators.

Most say that the religion of those persecuted was Christianity. (The Study Quran, edited by Seyyed Hossein Nasr,  p. 1497, Harper Collins Publishers, 195 Broadway, New York, New York 10007, Copyright 2015 by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, ISBN: 978-0-06-112586-7)

The aqidah in the Koran and the one that forms the basis for the aqidahs of all Muslims consists of six articles of belief.

  • There is only one God and no other besides Him.
  • There are angels.
  • The teachings of the Old and New Testaments are true and should be obeyed.
  • The revelations of the prophets and messengers of God are true and their commandments which they have received from God should be obeyed.
  • There will be a general resurrection of the dead and a Last Judgment which will soon follow.
  • God is sovereign over the affairs of men and the rest of creation.

There is some disagreement between Sunni and Shiite Muslims regarding the last article of belief. The Sunnis emphasize predestination. The Shiites believe in neither complete free will nor complete predestination. The Mutazilis put a much heavier emphasis on free will than the Shiites.

For Protestant readers, these analogies apply regarding the subject of predestination among the Muslims. The Sunnis believe more like the Presbyterians and the Primitive Baptists. The Shiites are more like the Calminians (those who blend Calvinist theology with Arminian theology). The Mutazilis are more like the Free Will Baptists and the Methodists.

Some verses from the Koran which provide a basis for five of the articles of belief in this aqidah are:

O ye who believe! Believe in Allah and His messenger and the Scripture which He hath revealed unto His messenger, and the Scripture which He revealed aforetime. Whoso disbelieveth in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers and the Last Day, he verily hath wandered far astray. (Koran 4:136, Pickthall)

Who is an enemy to Allah, and His angels and His messengers, and Gabriel and Michael! Then, lo! Allah (Himself) is an enemy to the disbelievers. (Koran 2:98, Pickthall)

It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces to the East and the West; but righteous is he who believeth in Allah and the Last Day and the angels and the Scripture and the prophets; and giveth wealth, for love of Him, to kinsfolk and to orphans and the needy and the wayfarer and to those who ask, and to set slaves free; and observeth proper worship and payeth the poor-due. And those who keep their treaty when they make one, and the patient in tribulation and adversity and time of stress. Such are they who are sincere. Such are the Allah-fearing. (Koran 2:177, Pickthall)

The messenger believeth in that which hath been revealed unto him from his Lord and (so do) believers. Each one believeth in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers – we make no distinction between any of His messengers – and they say: We hear, and we obey. (Grant us) Thy forgiveness, our Lord. Unto Thee is the journeying. (Koran 2:285, Pickthall)

(The same are) those who say: Lo! Allah hath charged us that we believe not in any messenger until he bring us an offering which fire (from heaven) shall devour. Say (unto them, O Muhammad): Messengers came unto you before me with miracles, and with that (very miracle) which ye describe. Why then did ye slay them? (Answer that) if ye are truthful! And if they deny thee, even so did they deny messengers who were before thee, who came with miracles and with the Psalms and with the Scripture giving light. (Koran 3:183,184, Pickthall)

So believe in Allah and His messengers. (Koran 4:171, Pickthall)

Lo! those who disbelieve in Allah and His messengers, and seek to make distinction between Allah and His messengers, and say: We believe in some and disbelieve in others, and seek to choose a way in between; such are disbelievers in truth; and for disbelievers We prepare a shameful doom. (Koran 4:150,151, Pickthall)

Lo! We inspire thee as We inspired Noah and the prophets after him, as We inspired Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and Jesus and Job and Jonah and Aaron and Solomon, and as We imparted unto David the Psalms; and messengers We have mentioned unto thee before and messengers We have not mentioned unto thee; and Allah spake directly unto Moses; messengers of good cheer and of warning, in order that mankind might have no argument against Allah after the messengers. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise. (Koran 4:163-165, Pickthall)

Allah made a covenant of old with the Children of Israel and We raised among them twelve chieftains, and Allah said: Lo! I am with you. If ye establish worship and pay the poor-due, and believe in My messengers and support them, and lend unto Allah a kindly loan, surely I shall remit your sins, and surely I shall bring you into Gardens underneath which rivers flow. Whoso among you disbelieveth after this will go astray from a plain road. (Koran 5:12, Pickthall)

There are two Creeds (or aqidahs) which came out of the Ecumenical Church Councils. From the First Council of Nicaea (325 A.D.), there is this one.

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible; and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten of His Father, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not made, being of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made, both which be in Heaven and in Earth. Who for us men and for our salvation came down [from Heaven] and was incarnate and was made Man. He suffered and the third day He rose again, and ascended into Heaven, and He shall come again to judge both the living and the dead. And [we believe] in the Holy Spirit. And whosoever shall say that there was a time when the Son of God was not, or that before He was begotten He was not, or that He was made of things that were not, or that He is of a different substance or essence [from the Father] or that He is a creature, or subject to change or conversion — all that so say, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes them.

There are some disagreements among Muslims as to whether the Word of God is created or uncreated. Jesus is called the Word of Allah in Koran 4:171. Those Muslims who say that the Word of Allah is uncreated are the right-believing ones according to this Creed. St. John the Theologian, who was one of Jesus’ closest disciples (Matthew 10:2; 17:1-8) and a Muslim (Koran 3:52), wrote:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. (John 1:1-3, NKJV)

It is important that we accept what the apostles of Jesus wrote. Jesus Himself said to His apostles:

He that receiveth you receiveth Me, and he that receiveth Me receiveth Him that sent Me. (Matthew 10:40, KJV)

The First Council of the Constantinople wrote this Creed in 381 A.D.

   We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten not made, being of one essence with the Father, through whom all things were made, Who for us men and for our salvation came down from Heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made Man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into Heaven, and sitteth at the Right Hand of the Father. And He shall come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end.
And [we believe] in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.
And [we believe] in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. We acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, [and] we look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come. Amen.

In our personal prayers and in church we Orthodox Christians usually say I instead of we in order to personalize our confession of faith.

There are no contradictions in the Koran.

Then do they not reflect upon the Qur’an? If it had been from [any] other than Allah , they would have found within it much contradiction. (Koran 4:82, Sahih International)

We Trinitarian Christians do not believe that Jesus is a unipersonal Deity. We believe that He is one hypostasis of God who consists of three hypostases. He is distinct from the other two. These verses do not contradict the teachings of other verses regarding Christians in the Koran.

They indeed have disbelieved who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, Son of Mary (Koran 5:17, Pickthall)

They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the Messiah, Son of Mary. The Messiah (Himself) said: O Children of Israel, worship Allah, My Lord and your Lord. (Koran 5:72, Pickthall)

These verses are condemning the Sabellian heresy. In 5:72, Jesus calls another hypostasis of the Deity Allah. He does not deny that He is Allah. Since each hypostasis is God in His entirety, it is only appropriate that one hypostasis call another hypostasis Allah or God. The Koran does not provide all of the teachings of Jesus regarding Himself which are found in the Gospels. It does tell Muslims to believe the Gospels. (Some Muslim clerics say that Allah gave Jesus a book which was called the Gospel, but there is absolutely no historical evidence for such a book. Two of Jesus’ disciples wrote two of the Gospels — Sts.Matthew and John. St. Mark wrote what he had learned from St. Peter. St. Luke interviewed people who knew about the events and teachings of Jesus. The Injil is the Four Gospels. The other books of the New Testament should be accepted, too. — St. Matthew 10:40)

Koran 4:171 condemns the Tritheist heresy. Koran 5:116 condemns the Maryamite heresy. We Orthodox Christians do not believe that Allah took unto Himself a Son. We believe that the Son proceeded from the Father. The procession of the Son from the Father is different from the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father. The procession of the Son from the Father is called “being begotten.” These words do not mean that God had sex with someone and physically procreated a son. These words are theological words and we really do not know what they mean. Remember Deuteronomy 29:29 and Koran 2:255 as quoted earlier in this blog.

Whenever the Koran condemns the doctrine of Allah taking unto Himself a Son, it is speaking about the Adoptionist heresy. Paul of Samosata and Nestorius taught Adoptionism.

The Koran also condemns the Bitheist heresy. (Koran 9:30,31; 16:51)

We believe that Jesus is a sacrifice for our sins.(I Corinthians 15:3; I John 2:1,2) St. John the Baptist said that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29) The Koran speaks of Jesus’ death in three places. (Koran 3:55; 5:117; 19:33)

The Koran calls St. John the Baptist “a prophet of the righteous.”

And the angels called to him as he stood praying in the sanctuary: Allah giveth thee glad tidings of (a son whose name is) John, (who cometh) to confirm a word from Allah lordly, chaste, a prophet of the righteous. (Koran 3:39, Pickthall)

There are no textual variants of John 1:29 among the Greek manuscripts. Therefore, we can rest assured that what our Bibles say that St. John the Baptist said about Jesus is correct.

We believe that Jesus arose from the dead and will never die again. (Matthew 28; Mark 16:1-18; Luke 24:1-49; John 20,21) The resurrection of Jesus from the dead is implied in Koran 3:55. Jesus spoke about His resurrection in Koran 19:33.

We believe that He ascended into Heaven. (Mark 16:19,20; Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9-11) The Koran mentions Jesus’ ascension into Heaven in Koran 3:55 and 4:158. His death (Koran 3:55; 5:117) and His ascension into Heaven do, of course, imply that Jesus bodily arose from the dead.

The Holy Spirit is not the Archangel Gabriel as so many Muslim religious leaders say. Nowhere in the Koran does it say that the Holy Spirit is the Archangel Gabriel. The Holy Spirit is the third hypostasis of the Deity. He is God in His entirety. He is not one-third of God. (I have already spoken about Trinity math earlier in this blog.)

We believe in all things visible and invisible. Among the visible things are the angels. We believe in the existence of angels.

We believe in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. The Church will always exist. The gates of Hell will not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18) Anyone who tries to extinguish the Church has become an ally of Satan because he is trying to prevail against it along with the gates of Hell. The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth. (I Timothy 3:15) The Holy Spirit continues to guide the Church into truth by councils. (John 16:13; Acts 15:28)

We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. (Acts 22:16) I found this interesting verse in the Koran which seems to teach the same thing.

When He caused calm to fall on you as a security from Him and sent down upon you water from the cloud that He might thereby purify you, and take away from you the uncleanness of the Shaitan, and that He might fortify your hearts and steady (your) footsteps thereby. (Koran 8:11, Shakir)

Shaitan is the Arabic name for Satan. God baptized the Muslims with rain water.

Jesus commanded His followers to baptize (Matthew 28:19,20) and said that we need to be baptized. (Mark 16:16; John 3:3-5) The Koran says that we should obey Jesus. (Koran 3:50; 43:63)

Like the Muslims, we believe in a bodily resurrection of the dead and the Last Judgment. (John 5:28,29; Matthew 25:31-46) We believe in a blessed afterlife for faithful believers in God. (Isaiah 65:17-25, LXX)

We Orthodox Christians believe that God is sovereign, but man still has a free will. Although man has a free will, he still needs God’s assistance in order to work out his salvation in the fear of God.

We Trinitarian monotheists are believers. (Koran 30:2-5; 85:7) Therefore, according to the Koran, our two Creeds are acceptable in Islam.

Verily We have brought the Truth to you: but most of you have a hatred for Truth. (Koran 43:78, Yusuf Ali)

No One is Good but God

July 5, 2016 Leave a comment

One of the verses that gets thrown at Christians by non-Christians in order to substantiate the claim that Jesus never claimed to be God is in St. Mark’s Gospel. It is this text which I give here:

17 Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” 18 So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.” (Mark 10:17,18, NKJV)

A superficial reading of this passage would appear that Jesus was denying that He was good and that He was God. However, when one examines the text along with other passages of Scripture one can clearly see that that is not the case.

In the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament, there are two prophecies regarding the Messiah which indicate that He would never sin. The first is in the seventh chapter. It says:

For before the Child shall know good or evil, He refuses evil, to choose the good; and the land shall be forsaken which thou art afraid of because of the two kings. (Isaiah 7:16, LXX)

The Messiah, according to this text, will be someone who does not sin before He has a consciousness of the difference between sin and virtue. In other words, He will be sinless from birth. The second prophecy regarding His sinlessness is in the 53rd chapter. It says there:

For He practised no iniquity, nor craft with His mouth. (Isaiah 53:9, LXX)

These prophecies would be fulfilled because God cannot lie. (Titus 1:2) The Koran, likewise, affirms that God keeps His promises.

It is a promise of Allah. Allah faileth not His promise, but most of mankind know not. (Koran 30:6, Pickthall)

In the Koran, it says this about Jesus.

And make mention of Mary in the Scripture, when she had withdrawn from her people to a chamber looking East, and had chosen seclusion from them. Then We sent unto her Our spirit and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man. She said: Lo! I seek refuge in the Beneficent One from thee, if thou art God-fearing. He said: I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a faultless son. (Koran 19:16-19, Pickthall)

The Arabic word translated “faultless” in this passage is zakiyyan. It literally means “purified.” This idea of Jesus being purified or sanctified is in agreement with Orthodox Christian doctrine regarding the incarnation of God the Word. The Orthodox Church teaches that Jesus assumed a fallen human nature like ours and sanctified it or purified it as the Koran teaches. In Hebrews, it says:

Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Hebrew 2:17, NKJV)

We have a fallen human nature, a nature that is inclined toward sin and could die. Jesus had a nature like that, too, but in fulfillment of the prophecies in Isaiah, He never sinned. “That which is not assumed is not healed,” says one of the Church Fathers. (I think that it was St. Athanasius who said this, but I know that St. John of Damascus said something very similar in An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith. “That which is not taken is not healed.”) If God the Word never assumed a fallen human nature like ours, then He did not heal it.

Unlike Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians, we Orthodox do not accept Blessed Augustine’s view on original sin. The Holy Prophet Ezekiel said:

But the soul that sins shall die: and the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, nor shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the iniquity of the transgressor shall be upon him. (Ezekiel 18:20, LXX)

Everyone is guilty of his own sins and not the sins of his parents or ancestors. Mortality was transmitted to us from Adam, but the guilt of his first sin was not. Because we die, we sin. (Romans 5:12 – This verse is incorrectly translated in many Bibles.)

Jesus purified the mortal, fallen human nature that He assumed from His mother and He never sinned.

St. Peter, who was one of Jesus’ closest disciples (Matthew 10:2; 17:1-6) and a Muslim (Koran 3:52), said this about Jesus:

21 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22  “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness — by whose stripes you were healed. (I Peter 2:21-24, NKJV)

St. Paul said that Jesus knew no sin.

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (II Corinthian 5:21, NKJV)

The Church Fathers interpret the words “to be sin for us” to mean “to be a sin offering for us.” Remember that St. John the Baptist called Jesus “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)

Jesus said:

And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him. (John 8:29, NKJV)

So, if Jesus is “purified” (Koran 19:19), “knew no sin” (II Corinthians 5:21), “refused the evil, and chose the good” (Isaiah 7:16, LXX), “practised no iniquity” (Isaiah 53:9, LXX), “committed no sin” (I Peter 2:22), and “always does those things which please” God the Father, then Jesus is good. Since “no one is good but One, that is God” (Mark 10:18) and Jesus is good, Jesus, therefore, is God. Jesus never denied that He is good. Actually, He claimed to be good. (John 8:29) Jesus never denied that He is God. Actually, He claimed to be God. (John 8:58; Exodus 3:13,14) Therefore, Mark 10:17,18 is not a denial of Jesus’ Deity

Remember, we Christians do not worship three gods. We worship one God who has three distinct hypostases. Each hypostasis is God in His entirety. When we speak of the Trinity, we say:  1+ 1+ 1 = 1. Three wholes make one whole. This is a mystery which we do not try to explain. God transcends space, time, and even mathematics.

To my Muslim readers, I say that Koran 4:171 is talking about the Tritheist heresy taught by John Philoponus, Eugenius of Seleucia, and Conon of Tarsus, not the Orthodox Christian doctrine of the Trinity. The Tritheists committed excess by denying the unity of the three hypostases of the Deity into one God. In Surahs 30 and 85 (Koran 30:2-5; 85:7), Muhammad called Orthodox Christians “believers.” He called the Sabellian Christians disbelievers. (Koran 5:17,72) Jesus is Allah, but Allah is not Jesus. Allah often refers to Himself in the Koran using the first person plural pronouns, We, Us, and Our. The Sabellians believed that Jesus is a unipersonal God who became incarnate and who manifests Himself in one of three different modes: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Sabellians would say that Allah says, “We are Jesus.” We Orthodox Christians reject that heresy.

I have seen non-Christians on the internet using Mark 10:17,18 as a proof-text to support the notion that Jesus denied that He is God. I hope that my explanation of this text in this blog is helpful. Jesus never denied that He is good and He never denied that He is God. When this passage is interpreted using other passages of Scripture, one must reach the conclusion that Jesus is good and He is God.

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