Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Islam's Apologetic Bankruptcy (II)
01/25/2006 - James WhiteLet's inject just a little truth into the discussion of John 20:28 before looking at the amazing claims of Islam's apologists and then trace them back to their source in Bart Ehrman.
The meaning of this text has been clearly understood from the start. Only a tremendous prejudice and bias could cause any person to miss the intention of John, and that is only more clearly seen when we take John's testimony as a whole. Indeed, when you read the text through the lens of the prologue, follow the argument through the I Am sayings, hear the testimony from Christ's lips concerning His relationship to the Father, you are truly not left in a position of being surprised when you come to Thomas' confession. That is why enemies of the faith have to cut John up, disconnect his own words, posit unproven and unprovable theories about redaction and a late date for the work, etc., to avoid its plain teaching. There is no question--none--that the author of the Gospel of John believed in the full deity of Christ and the full humanity of Christ, and that his faith was picked up by his disciples in the earliest generations of the church. Indeed, Ignatius of Antioch, who tradition says was directly acquainted with John the beloved disciple, called Jesus "God" frequently in his letters, and plainly confessed the dual nature of Christ. Note just a few citations:
For our God Jesus Christ, being in the Father, is more plainly seen. The work is not of persuasiveness, but Christianity is a thing of might, whenever it is hated by the world (Romans 3)
There is one physician, of flesh and of spirit, generate and ingenerate, God in man, true life in death, both from Mary and from God, first passible and then impassible, Jesus Christ our Lord. (Ephesians 7)
Any fair reading of the text leaves the suggestions of Deedat, Badawi, and the original suggestion of Abdullah, refuted. Thomas was not present when the risen Lord had first appeared to the disciples. When the Lord does appear, He gives Thomas instant indication of His supernatural knowledge, for He relates to Thomas the very challenge that Thomas in his unbelief had given to his fellow disciples. Now keep something in mind: Thomas was refusing to accept the testimony of eyewitnesses to the resurrection. Thomas knew these men. He knew their character, and yet his unbelief withstood their combined testimony. So when the Lord appears and invites Thomas to do exactly what he had claimed he would have to do to believe, he needs no further evidence. Indeed, there is no reason to believe that Thomas did, in fact, stretch forth his finger as invited.
It is almost humorous to note one of the objections raised regarding the use of the common idiomatic phrase, "Thomas answered and said to Him...." One does not have to be asked a question to give an "answer." Any response, as Thomas is giving here to the appearance of Christ, is idiomatically an "answer." But notice the key phrase missed by Deedat and Badawi and Abdullah and Jehovah's Witnesses and just about everyone else on the planet who denies the deity of Christ: Thomas answered and said to Him. The Greek is ei=pen auvtw/| , eipen autw,, said to Him. These words are not addressed to the Father. These words are not a mere exclamation addressed to no one in particular, as they would have to be to fulfill the requirements of the wild attempts to get around the impact of Thomas' words. No, Thomas is speaking to Christ, and Christ alone.
If words have meaning, and language can, in fact, communicate anything at all to us, Thomas' words tell us that he recognized Jesus as his Lord and his God. The text reads, o` ku,rio,j mou kai. o` qeo,j mou. The fact that he uses the nominative form rather than the vocative is, as anyone familiar with the Greek language knows, irrelevant, for the nominative can, in fact, be used in this fashion, and examples are to be found from the time period before the New Testament, contemporaneous with the New Testament, and following it as well. Further, these words may well echo those of the Psalmist in Psalm 35:23 where the exact same phrase, only reversed in substantive order, is found. We will address the single bi-lingual manuscript (D) that has a textual variant in the phrase (the fact that it has the Latin on the facing page, and the vast differences between the Latin article and the Greek article is significant to those of you who are thinking ahead on this topic) at a later point, but for now suffice it to say that you have a fully united Greek manuscript tradition, representing all manuscript families, that on any sound principle of textual criticism, establishes the original text without question.
But we do not only have the witness of verse 28. Surely the Lord Jesus' response to Thomas is just as devastating to every pretended explanation of this text that robs Him of His deity. How should Jesus have responded to Thomas' words? In verse 27 Jesus had asked for Thomas' belief in light of his previous disbelief. If all Thomas manages is to exclaim something utterly irrelevant to the identity of Jesus, akin to our going, "Oh my God!" or "Gosh golly darn!" or some other deeply theological thought, why does Jesus respond, "Jesus said to him, 'Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.'" Jesus takes Thomas' words not as an exclamation of surprise, not as nothing but a word of amazement, but plainly, inarguably, He views Thomas as having made a profession of faith. Jesus does not rebuke Thomas, He commends him, and in that commendation, gives another commendation to those who did not need the visual evidence and yet exercised faith. And in verse 30, John makes reference to many "other signs" Jesus gave to the disciples, identifying this encounter with Thomas as yet another "sign" that is to lead to faith on the part of the reader.
And so we see that a fair, unprejudiced, contextual reading of John 20:27-29 leads inexhorably to the conclusion that it was, indeed, the intention of the Apostle John to provide in this encounter a testimony to the deity of Christ. The reading offered by Deedat, Badawi, Abdullah, and by any host of others who are not at all interested in the actual meaning of the text but who instead is seeking to come up with an excuse, a means around this text, is seen to be completely unnatural and to fail to come to grips with the most basic elements of the text.
Next, on the basis of the above exegesis of the text, we will work through Deedat and Abdullah, noting their many and consistent errors. Then, since Abdullah then went on to borrow, uncritically, of course, from Ehrman, we will examine Ehrman's comments on John 20:28 and once again demonstrate that for the Happy Agnostic, no evidence is too small, slight, or insignificant to fit into his pre-determined disbelief in the inspiration of Scripture.