Hard Questions

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Posts Tagged ‘Early Christianity

Ebionites Theology and Early Christians’ Beliefs

with 24 comments

Watch Prof. James Tabor talk about the letters of James and Jude, and how and why the church tried to suppress them.

Readers of this blog would remember that I referred to Prof. Tabor’s book “The Jesus Dynasty”,  in my previous post.

Well, this video confirms what I have written about the Ebionites, the early Christians led by Jesus’ brother James. According to a very ancient Christian text called “The Teachings”, those early Christians knew nothing of a divine Jesus, they knew nothing of an atoning sacrificial death on the cross, nor did they recognise Jesus as the Son of God.

In fact, almost all of the major teachings of Islam about Jesus and his message are echoed faithfully including the definition of Jesus as a servant of God and teacher/ prophet.

Here is another piece of information that casts a light on the original teaching of Jesus, for those who care to to know.

(I first saw this video in Paul Williams‘ brilliant blog: Exploring Life, The Universe and Everything.)

Written by Rasheed Gadir

November 3, 2008 at 5:03 pm

The Original format of Christian Prayers

with 11 comments

Muslim students kneeling in prayer

Did you know that the early Christians used to pray five times a day ?

Did you know that their prayers involved kneeling and prostrating themselves to God in a similar fashion to the way Muslims pray?

Yes this is the same number of prayers that Muslims perform daily and there is also a similarity in the way prayers are performed.

Tertullian, the founder of Latin Christianity wrote:

But who would hesitate every day to prostrate himself before God, at least in the first prayer with which we enter on the daylight? At fasts, moreover, and Stations, no prayer should be made without kneeling, and the remaining customary marks of humility; for (then)89178917 i.e. at fasts and Stations. [Sabbath = Saturday, supra.] we are not only praying, but deprecating, and making satisfaction to God our Lord.89188918 For the meaning of “satisfaction” as used by the Fathers, see Hooker, Eccl. Pol. vi. 5. Touching times of prayer nothing at all has been prescribed, except clearly “to pray at every time and every place.
Sourcre: Tertullian – Of kneeling

He added:

in accordance (of course) with Israel’s discipline—we pray at least not less than thrice in the day, debtors as we are to Three—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: of course, in addition to our regular prayers which are due, without any admonition, on the entrance of light and of night.
Source: Tertullian- Of Time of Prayers

The last paragraph clearly describes a community that prays five times daily.

In fact, kneeling must have been prevalent amongst Christian worshippers, that the bishops gathering for the First Council of Nicaea thought it necessary to include an explicit prohibition in their declaration.

Here what God tells us in the Quran:

Therefor, bear with what they say, and celebrate the praises of thy Lord ere the rising of the sun and ere the going down thereof. And glorify Him some hours of the night and at the two ends of the day, that thou mayst be well pleased. (Quran 20:130)

And, about Mary, God tells us in the Quran

And when the angels said: O Mary! Lo! Allah hath chosen thee and made thee pure, and hath preferred thee above the women of creation. (3:42)
O Mary! Be obedient to thy Lord, prostrate thyself and bow with those who bow (in worship). (Quran 3:43)

I see this as evidence that Islam is the preservation of the true religion of God as preached by all his messengers, unfortunately, our Christian brothers had their teachings eroded over the centuries by church officials and leaders.

Written by Rasheed Gadir

September 4, 2008 at 5:13 pm

The Ebionites: True followers of Jesus who converted to Islam

with 55 comments

Burning of heretics Books by Papal Mandate

Burning of heretics' books by Papal mandate

We look today at the Jesus movement in Jerusalem formed by early followers of Christ, and headed by the disciple James. Their understanding of Christianity differed fundamentally from the religion later formulated by Paul, whom they considered to be a false teacher. They had a gospel written in Aramaic which is now lost to us . Modern scholars have described their theology in terms that closely resembles the religion preached by Muhammad (ص).

This group of early Christians, known as The Ebionites (the poor) and sometimes Nazarenes (Some scholars believe the Nazarenes to be a different group from the Ebionites, others maintain they are the same)- were labelled ‘heretics’ and persecuted by the Orthodox church which adopted the teachings and interpretations of their arch rival Paul of Taurus.

According to Biblical scholar Barrie Wilson, the main features of the Ebionite’s theology can be summerised in the following:

  1. Jesus was a created human and not divine
  2. Jesus was a teacher
  3. Jesus was the expected Messiah
  4. The Law of the Torah must be observed
  5. Theirs was the earliest congregation of followers to Jesus, starting from around 30 AD

Several church fathers described how Ebionites rejected The Divinity of Jesus and The Atoning Death of Jesus. According to those church fathers, the Ebionites emphasized the oneness of God and the humanity of Jesus. They considered Paul an apostate of the law who corrupted Jesus’ message.

Church father Irenaeus, wrote in “Against Heresy”:

Those who are called Ebionites agree that the world was made by God; but their opinions with respect to the Lord are similar to those of Cerinthus and Carpocrates. They use the Gospel according to Matthew only, and repudiate the Apostle Paul, maintaining that he was an apostate from the law. As to the prophetical writings, they endeavour to expound them in a somewhat singular manner: they practise circumcision, persevere in the observance of those customs which are enjoined by the law, and are so Judaic in their style of life, that they even adore Jerusalem as if it were the house of God.

What is really significant, from the Muslim point of view, is Dr. Barry Wilson suggestion that, the Ebionites survived until the Muslims’ conquest of the Middle East, when they [the Ebionites] were absorbed in Islam.

This can help explain why the Christians of Syria and Egypt were converting to Islam en-mass in the 7th. century AD. It is possible that, people who were in contact with Ebionites or, were Ebionites themselves, recognised as truthful, the revelation of the Quran.

The Quran, with its uncompromising monotheism, its insistence on humanity of Jesus, and rejection of the trinity closely echoed the Ebionites beliefs, and was in complete harmony with what they new about God and Jesus [The only exception is the virgin birth which the Quran confirms and the Ebionites were said -by their opponents -to reject] . They probably recognised Islam as a continuation of the same message of God delivered by Jesus, Moses, Abraham, and the prophets.

Allah describes the reaction of some Christians and Jews in the Quran, chapter 28:

[Quran 28:51] And now verily We have caused the word to reach them, that haply they may give heed.
[28:52] Those unto whom We gave the Scripture before it, they believe in it,
[28:53] And when it is recited unto them, they say: We believe in it. Lo! it is the Truth from our Lord. Lo! even before it we were of those who surrender (unto Him).
[28:54] These will be given their reward twice over, because they are steadfast and repel evil with good, and spend of that wherewith We have provided them,
[28:55] And when they hear vanity they withdraw from it and say: Unto us our works and unto you your works. Peace be unto you! We desire not the ignorant.

There is little doubt that the church in Jerusalem pre-dated the churches established by Paul in Roman cities. There is no doubt that the church members in Jerusalem were the ones who actually saw and heard Jesus directly, unlike Paul, who never met Jesus.

I, therefore, have no doubt that the teachings of the Ebionites on Jesus are closer to the truth.

Related Posts: On Jewish Christianity, Islam and The Gentiles

A Muslim listening to an early church father 2

with one comment

by Rasheed,

I am still reading the works of Clement of Rome, still listening to his beautiful words.

Another citation from his epistle, has a remarkable similarity to the description of Muslims in the Quran. Clement quotes the scripture:

And in another place [the Scripture] saith, “Behold, the Lord taketh unto Himself a nation out of the midst of the nations, as a man takes the first-fruits of his threshing-floor; and from that nation shall come forth the Most Holy.”

Now this quotation can not be found in the Bible today, but it is echoed in the Quran chapter 2:

[Quran 2:143] Thus We have appointed you a middle nation, that ye may be witnesses over mankind, and that the messenger may be a witness over you.

The Arabic word for middle is [wasat], which has the following meanings:

1- Just. 2- Of high standing. 3- Middle in rank or location.

Since the scriptures quoted was addressed to the children of Israel, it is only reasonable to assume that the “nation” referred to here is different people from the Israelites themselves.

The Israelites had received many prophets and messengers from God, the passage “and from that nation shall come the “most Holy” is a strong indication that:

  1. It is from a nation other than themselves that this promised prophet will emerge.
  2. That this prophet will be the most Holy of all other prophets.

Clement’s interpretation of the passage gives the impression that he considered himself part of this chosen nation, he was a gentile and therefore, he too interpreted “that nation” to be outside Israel. He wrote, immediately after the passage:

Seeing, therefore, that we are the portion of the Holy One, let us do all those things which pertain to holiness

It is clear that Clement interpreted the Most Holy to be Jesus, and the nation to be Jesus followers; but the original verse can equally apply to prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as the Most High, in which case, the ‘nation’ would be Muslims, the followers of Mohammed, the prophet of Islam.

I do not know for sure if, why or when this passage disappeared from the Bible, and I came across an attempt to interpret the passage as a combination of more than one verse from different Books from the Bible: (Numbers 18:27) plus (2 Chronicles 31:14), but the passage cited in the epistle is markedly different in construction and meaning, and the epistle gives the impression that it is quoting a single passage from the scriptures.

Written by Rasheed Gadir

December 1, 2007 at 1:36 am

A Muslim listening to a church father

with 5 comments

by Rasheed,

It was a fascinating and a captivating read, that which I found in an epistle attributed to Clement of Rome [30-100 A.D.]. Although the letter itself does not say who wrote it, and whether it was Clement or another person, Clement’s authorship is the prevailing view amongst Christian scholars.

In any case, and regardless of who wrote the letter, I found myself listening to a pious man, who clearly wanted to serve God, who distinguished between God the Most High, and Jesus the High Priest. He believed in resurrection of the Dead to be judged by God, believed in Heaven and Hell, preached righteousness and the avoidance of evil. I really enjoyed reading his words.
Well, … I think he was ….. a … Muslim.

Clement apparently thought of the Hebrew Bible as divine scriptures, he repeatedly referred to Sayings of Jesus [not fount in New Testament] as authoritative. Apostolic epistles were important to him but not divine nor inerrant. He mentions the Gospel but there is no mention of the documents known collectively today as the New Testament.

I have found very interesting quotations from this early church father, two passage that caught my attention. In the first passage he quotes Proverbs 1:23-31, but his quotation has a major difference from text found in all current translations:

Clement’s: “Behold, I will bring forth to you the words of My Spirit, and I will teach you My speech.”

The current translations is:

[Prov. 1:23] “If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you.” (NIV)

The remaining verses (24-31) are very similar to current translations, and tell of God displeasure with the Israelites for disregarding his teaching and ill treating his prophets. The only major difference is in verse 23 above.

In the Hebrew Bible, The Spirit of God is that which comes to the Prophets.

Clement’s citation of the verse mentions the future coming of a prophet who shall teach the Speech of God, i.e. something very similar to The Quran. It is also very significant that the ONLY missing leaf from the manuscript of this letter is the one IMMEDIATELY after this quotation. Why is it significant, because this where we could have seen his comments on the verses he just cited. What a great loss this missing leaf represents.

Written by Rasheed Gadir

November 26, 2007 at 7:14 pm

The Gospel of the Birth of Mary and the Quran

with 12 comments

Revisiting my discussion with my wordpress blogging friend, hkevinderr, where he asked for proof that Mary was from the tribe of Levi and not a descendant of David as most people seem to think.

Furthermore, he categorically refused to accept that Mary was raised in the Temple on the grounds that women could not enter the temple proper, only the women quarters. In particular, he stressed that only the male, high priest of the tribe of Levi could enter the Holy of Holies.

Well, I did find support for my theory from a wholly unexpected quarters! My opinion that Mary was from the tribe of Levi, and a descendant of Aaron was shared by one great church father, who not only believed Mary was fro the tribe of Levi, but had a an ancient Gospel which said precisely that. This church father is the renowned Faustus of Britain. He was known for his piety, humility and knowledge.

I have arrived at my conclusions about Mary solely by reflecting on her story as told in the Quran. I was, therefore amazed when I read an ancient Gospel, one which was apparently accepted as truthful by some of the great church fathers, lending support to my ideas.
These gospels give great credence to the accuracy of the story of Mary as told in the Koran.

I quote from of the introduction to :The Gospel of the Birth of Mary {The Lost Books of The Bible, Testament Books}, originally published in 1890, reprinted in 1926, and again in 1979:

In te primitive ages there was a Gospel extant bearing this name, attributed to St. Mathew, and received as genuine and authentic by several of the ancient Christian sects. It is to be found in the works of Jerome, a father of the church who flourished in the fourth century, from whence this translation is made. His contemporaries Epiphanies, bishop of Salamis, and Austin also mention a Gospel under this name.

The ancient copies differed from Jerome’s; for from one of them, the learned Faustus, a native of Britain, who became Bishop of Riez, in Provence, endeavored to prove that Christ was not the Son of God till after his baptism; and that he was not of the House of David and tribe of Judah, because according to the Gospel he cited, the Virgin her self was not of this tribe but of the tribe of Levi; her father being a priest of the name of Joachim.

Furthemore, from the Gospel attributed to James known as “The PROTEVANGELION” I quote:

8.1: And her parents went away filled with wonder, and praising God, because the girl did not return back to them. 2 But Mary continued in the temple as a dove educated there, and received her food from the hand of an angel.

Also from the same Gospel, chapter 10, when Mary was pregnant, Joseph is quoted saying:

For I received her a Virgin from the temple of the Lord my God, and have not preserved her such! Who has thus deceived me? 4 Who has committed this evil in my house and, seducing the Virgin from me, has defiled her? 5 Is not the history of Adam exactly accomplished in me? 6 For in the very instant of his glory, the serpent came and found Eve alone, and seduced her. 7 Just after the same manner it has happened to me.” 8 Then Joseph, arising from the ground, called her and said, “O you who have been so much favored by God, why have you done this? 9 Why have you thus debased your soul, who were educated in the Holy of Holies, and received your food from the hand of angels?

These writing absolutely confirm the story as told in Koran, and demonstrate that Mary grew up in the Temple, had access to the Holy of Holies and was fed by angles- exactly as told in the Koran:

[Quran 3:37] And her Lord accepted her with full acceptance and vouchsafed to her a goodly growth; and made Zachariah her guardian. Whenever Zachariah went into the sanctuary where she was, he found that she had food. He said: O Mary! Whence cometh unto thee this (food)? She answered: It is from Allah. Allah giveth without stint to whom He will.

One additional argument, I would lke to put forward here:

Anna, Mary’s mother was a cousin to Elizabeth, the wife of Zacharias. Anna was a Levite (Luke), therfore: At least one of Anna’s parents was from the tribe of Levi.

Jesus himself is said to be “from David by the flesh”, and since he had no human father, this could only be a reference to his ancestry through his mother. If we accept ancestry through mothers, then surely we can say that Anna and Mary were also from Levi, because we are certain that at least one of Anna’s parents was from the tribe of Levi.

If we do not accept ancestry through mothers, then it is impossible to say that Jesus was from David by the flesh. This, of course, will cause great difficulties with other doctrinal and faith issues such as the very important question “Was Jesus message intended for the Gentiles?“. I will try to answer this question in a future post.

This whole discussion, is an attempt to fend of the charge that the mention of Mary, sister of Aaron in the Koran is erroneous. I set out to prove that there are a strong grounds for Mary to be addressed as “sister of Aaron”. To summerise, here are my points:

  1. It is quite possible that Mary was a descendant of Aaron and from the Tribe of Levi, There is evidence of some older Gospels attesting to this; and at least one prominent church father believed so.
  2. Mary grew up in the Temple, and was considered to be a holy person; something closely linked to- if not exclusive to the descendants of Arron- as was later discovered in the Dead Sea Scrolls
  3. Many parts of her story as mentioned in the Koran, and omitted by the canonical Gospels, can be confirmed by other very important writings of early Christians, including Gospels which were accepted by many Church Fathers.

In light of the above it is exremely unreasonable to say that Muhammad [[pbuh]erred when the Koran reffered to Mary as “sister of Aaron”.

Written by Rasheed Gadir

October 26, 2007 at 1:06 am