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John the Baptist Day: The Quran and the Bible

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Epigraph

‘O Yahya (John the Baptist), hold fast the Book.’ And We gave him wisdom while yet a child, And tenderness of heart from Ourself, and purity. and he was pious and dutiful toward his parents. And he was not haughty and rebellious.  And peace was on him the day he was born, and the day he died, and peace there will be on him the day he will be raised up to life again.  (Al Quran 19:13-16)

Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.  (Matthew 11:11)

John the Baptist is baptizing Jesus, painting by Guido Reni, John the Baptist is shown as a towering figure, over-shadowing Jesus

Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD

Saint John the Baptist Day marks the birth of St John on June 24 each year. It is a public holiday in the autonomous community of Catalonia in Spain.

The Holy Quran paints a picture of John the Baptist, may peace be on him, entirely consistent with its theology but the same cannot be said about the account in the Gospels and the Christian theology.

Saint John the Baptist Day is a public holiday in the autonomous community of Catalonia on June 24. Public life is generally quiet. Most businesses and other organizations are closed. Most stores are closed but some bakers and food stores may be open. Public transport services generally run to a reduced schedule, although there may be no services in rural areas.

St John was a preacher and religious figure during Jesus’ lifetime, according to the Christian belief. Baptism rituals in the Jordan River were an important part of his ministry.

John the Baptist is the patron saint of many villages, towns and regions, including Catalonia. The Saint John the Baptist Eve and Day celebrations have their origin in ancient Midsummer solstice celebrations. These are reflected in the use of fire, water and certain herbs in the celebrations.[1]

The Holy Quran presents him as a Jewish prophet among the chain of prophets and it is entirely consistent with the Quranic theology that there are no regions of the world, where prophets were not sent by God to guide mankind.

One obvious dilemma created by the person of John the Baptist is that a person of higher religious standing baptizes a person, who is junior to him.  So, if John the Baptist baptized Jesus, in spiritual realm he had a status higher than Jesus?  If this be true it takes away from the theory of Jesus, may peace be on him, being literal son of God!  We read in the Gospel of Matthew:

Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’

Jesus replied, ‘Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then John consented. (Matthew 3:13-15)

John the Baptist is baptizing Jesus, presumably taking a superior role and not declaring his faith in ‘son of God,’ who has come to ‘die for sins of humanity,’ including those of John the Baptist’s, if any, and his followers.  He continues with his ministry rather than yielding to the alleged son of God!

According to Encyclopedia Britannica, “All four Gospels recognize in John the start of the Christian Era, and each in its own way tries to reconcile John’s precedence in time and Jesus’ acceptance of his message and of a baptism of repentance from his hands (elements suggesting subordination to John), with the author’s belief in Jesus as Messiah and son of God.” [2]

The myth making of Gospel of Luke knows no bounds, even in his mother’s womb John recognizes Jesus—also still in his mother’s womb—as his Lord.[2][5]   Yet in the Gospel of Matthew we read that John the Baptist is not sure about the status of Jesus, just a few years before crucifixion and sends his followers to make queries:

When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’

Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see:  The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.’

Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist.  (Matthew 11:2-11)

John the Baptist does not get to hear the story about his grandeur as his followers had left before Jesus praised him, but Jesus’ followers are told that John the Baptist is the greatest of all.  Presumably he is greater than Jesus also as he was born of Mother Mary.

No reason is offered as to why John the Baptist is greater than the Prophet Abraham or the Prophet Moses, who are the Founding Fathers of Judaism, in their own right, even though centuries apart?

It is strange that according to St. Paul a new religion is being launched in Jesus dying for the sins of humanity, yet both Jesus and John the Baptist are living the lives of Jewish prophets and both are circumcised and continue to follow other Jewish ethics, according to the Gospels.[3][4]

According to St. Paul a new Covenant is being signed between God and His people but through out the lifetime of Jesus, there is no mention of the new Covenant, he and his followers are practicing the old Jewish Covenant every day of the week, even as Jesus prays passionately to God the Father, for the bitter cup to be taken away from him.  He himself is circumcised and so is everyone of his followers and the person who baptizes him, until St. Paul signs a new deal more than 20 years after crucifixion, to ease pagan’s conversion to Christianity.

So, much for a new Covenant!

The external sign of the old Covenant, which is circumcision, is being practiced universally, until decades after crucifixion or the new Covenant, in the new Christian communities and is still practiced by the Coptic Christians.

Interestingly, in reading the account of John the Baptist in the Gospels, we do find a mention of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, as ‘the Prophet.’  We read in the Gospel of John:

Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Messiah.’

They asked him, ‘Then who are you? Are you Elijah?’

He said, ‘I am not.’

‘Are you the Prophet?’

He answered, ‘No.’ (John 1:19-21)

Incidentally, here we have another of the contradictions in the Bible, as John the Baptist refuses to be Elijah, but, Jesus calls him the Elijah. (Matthew 11:13-15)

At any rate, what is of greater interest in this account of the first chapter of Gospel of John, is the expression, ‘the Prophet,’ which is separate from Elijah or the Messiah and can most fittingly be applied only to the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him.

All the four canonical Gospels try to define and argue the relationship between John the Baptist and Jesus.  According to the Gospel of Mark and Matthew, John the Baptist is the Elijah.  But, how does the last of the four Gospels, Gospel of John, written 60 years after crucifixion tackles the issue at hand?  According to the Encyclopedia Britannica:

The Gospel according to John reduces the Baptist from an Elijah to a model Christian preacher, a mere voice; it omits any description of Jesus’ baptism. Its tendency has often been labelled polemic against a continuing group of disciples of John, but it is more plausibly explained by the evangelist’s desire that this ideal witness recognize the full character of the Christ as he is presented in the Gospel According to John and as a necessary consequence of the tension between the highly developed understanding of Christ in this Gospel and those details in early Christian tradition that suggested Jesus’ subordination to John.[2]

The biblical account about John the Baptist is contradictory at best.  But, the good news is that the Bible does tell us about ‘the Prophet,’ who did in the seventh century offer us resolution to all these and many other contradictions in the Bible.

On this holy day, let me extend an invitation to the two billion Christians that as we study the account of John the Baptist, in both the Holy Quran and the Holy Bible, as we celebrate his day, to try to compare and contrast the two theologies with the goal to find common themes.  Let me conclude in the words of the Holy Quran:

Say, ‘O People of the Book! come to a word equal between us and you — that we worship none but Allah, and that we associate no partner with Him, and that some of us take not others for Lords beside Allah.’ But if they turn away, then say, ‘Bear witness that we have submitted to God.’ (Al Quran 3:65)

References

1. http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/spain/sant-joan

2.  “Saint John the Baptist.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 02 Feb. 2012. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/305173/Saint-John-the-Baptist>.

3.  Luke 1:59.

4.  Luke 2:21.

5. Luke 1:39-45.

Posted by on June 23, 2013. Filed under Christianity,Highlight,Islam,Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

7 Responses to John the Baptist Day: The Quran and the Bible

  1. Jacob Frieden

    June 24, 2013 at 10:38 am

    This article is not well researched. The article is a good representation of the position of Islam, but it works off of assumptions, straw-man arguments, and deliberate cover up. 
    For starters, nowhere is there a revelation from God that the person who performs an ordinance is “superior” to the recipient of the ordinance. 
    Second, in brief, Muhamed lived at a time when the Arabs were mostly pagan polytheists, but Jews, Christians and Arab Monotheists lived among them. Mohamed liked the idea of monotheism, and he really liked the idea of The Bible. He did not like the disagreements of the Monotheists, nor did he like the fact that other scriptures that were popular in the region got excluded from The Bible. He felt inspired to form a loose alliance of Monotheists, one where the Monotheists would have mutual respect for each other’s similarities, differences and scriptures. This “league of Monotheists” came under attack from all sides. The hatred and violence practiced against them by those who feared the league would undercut their power and privilege started making the members of the league believe that their only hope for survival was unification. They also began collecting the other “excluded” scriptures into a companion tome meant to be a secondary support of The Bible. After Mohamed died the process came to a dramatic climax. The Jewish league members were told they went wrong by not accepting Jesus as a great prophet, the Christian league members were told they went wrong by elevating Jesus to The Son of God, and all the league members were told to drop the belief in the need for an Atonement and Sacrificemfor
    Sins. Their unique collection of scripture was then reworked to reflect the unification of theology, and The Quran was born.
    So the Quran is beautiful and full of great truths, but the greatest truth, The Son of God as The Sacrifice for Sin was removed.
    But God is great. He had raised up prophets in Ancient America, and Jesus visited these faithful people after His resurrection and ascension to heaven. These Ancient American prophets wrote a pure book of scripture that was translated in 1829. It is The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. In it Jesus tells the people “Study the words of Isaiah for great are the words of Isaiah.” 
    Okay, this article and my Muslim brothers say there is no Sacrifice for Sin. Okay, Tje Quran says that The Tawrat is okay, but The Injil got changed and Christians Dded “The Sacrifice for Sins”, well, read Isaiah 53: 1-12, from the Tawrat: 

    53 Who hath believed our report? 
    and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?

    2 For he shall grow up before him 
    as a tender plant, 
    and as a root out of a dry ground: 
    he hath no form nor comeliness; 
    and when we shall see him, 
    there is no beauty that we should desire him.

    3 He is despised and rejected of men; 
    a man of sorrows, 
    and acquainted with grief: 
    and we hid as it were our faces from him; 
    he was despised, 
    and we esteemed him not.

    4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, 
    and carried our sorrows: 
    yet we did esteem him stricken, 
    smitten of God, 
    and afflicted.

    5 But he was wounded for our transgressions, 
    he was bruised for our iniquities: 
    the chastisement of our peace was upon him; 
    and with his stripes we are healed.

    6 All we like sheep have gone astray; 
    we have turned every one to his own way; 
    and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

    7 He was oppressed, 
    and he was afflicted, 
    yet he opened not his mouth: 
    he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, 
    and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, 
    so he openeth not his mouth.

    8 He was taken from prison 
    and from judgment: 
    and who shall declare his generation? 
    for he was cut off out of the land of the living: 
    for the transgression of my people 
    was he stricken.

    9 And he made his grave with the wicked, 
    and with the rich in his death; 
    because he had done no violence, 
    neither was any deceit in his mouth.

    10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; 
    he hath put him to grief: 
    when thou shalt make his soul 
    an offering for sin, 
    he shall see his seed, 
    he shall prolong his days, 
    and the pleasure of the Lord 
    shall prosper in his hand.

    11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, 
    and shall be satisfied: 
    by his knowledge shall my righteous servant 
    justify many; 
    for he shall bear their iniquities.

    12 Therefore will I divide him 
    a portion with the great, 
    and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; 
    because he hath poured out his soul unto death: 
    and he was numbered with the transgressors; 
    and he bare the sin of many, 
    and made intercession for the transgressors.

    My Muslim brothers and sisters, come to true Faith. Your Quran is beautiful, and as The Book of The League of Monotheists it is a preparatory Gospel. The Quran says the Tawrat is fine, and to believe the Tawrat, so believe Isaiah 53, accept those whom Allah sent, and come to the true Faith. 

  2. Zia H. Shah MD - Twitter: @ZiahShah1

    June 24, 2013 at 11:02 am

    Jacob says that my article is not well researched and is based on false assumptions.

    My assumptions are very simple yet logical and very probable and true.

    The four Gospels were written in different time frames by different authors for different needs and in the early fourth century the Christians chose to put them together and call them the literal word of God.

    Given the process of formation of the New Testament, contradictions were inherent and these were ignored over the centuries for different reasons.

    Now there is something called horizontal reading of the Bible, which is a fancy expression for reading the same subject in different books of the Bible carefully.

    If one does that dramatic contradictions become apparent on any subject under discussion and Google and Bing make our lives even easier.

    The main contention of my article is well supported by Encyclopedia Britannica and my understanding of the Holy Quran.

  3. Al-mualim

    June 25, 2013 at 5:03 am

    Salaam

    Astagfirullah this article is complete utter false The Holy Quran has never painted pictures of such sort…..leading the Muslim Ummah astray

  4. umair

    June 25, 2013 at 11:42 am

    I believe Al-mualim is a bit outside of his league.

  5. adnan

    June 27, 2013 at 10:16 am

    In response to Brother Jacob: He should ponder over the verse “9 And he made his grave with the wicked,
    and with the rich in his death” which clearly shows he was somebody else other than Jesus. Because as it it claimed by our Christen brethren that Jesus was never put to grave with the wicked and the rich after crucifixion. And also he is shown as a humble man not SON OF A GOD in all these verses. So kindly come to the reality. Then again it says in verse 10: ‘he shall prolong his days’ His days were never prolonged as the Christian Brethren claimed that he died the same day and was resurrected. So those verses are not at all about a person called Jesus son of God.

  6. tuli

    August 20, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    I agree with Jacob for the most part. I think the article highlights the differences in principles between christianity and islam.

    The article above is riddled with inaccuracies, not necessarily due to a lack of research as suggested by Jacob but more down to a lack of understanding of the basic principles of christianity.

    I will address the specific point on john the baptist being superior to Jesus just because he baptised the latter, Christianity extols the leadership by servitude and humility principle ie he who leads must also serve. This is evidenced by Jesus washing the feet of his disciples in John 13. After completing the washing of the feet of his disciples, Jesus said ‘You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

    Another passage that clearly reiterates this principle is Mark 10:42-45 ‘And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’….

    Christianity preaches submission. At the time of his baptism, Jesus’ ministry was yet to begin. Also, as Jacob indicated, within chriatianity, there is really no heirachy in real terms…a bishop can be baptised by a priest working under him. The pope can receive communion from a more junior priest and so on. We are all subject to one another under God.

    There are other inaccuracies in your article but taking this comment would be exceedingly long if i was to address them all.

    In response to Adnan on the verse on Jesus making his grave with the rich and the wicked, he actually did. He died on the cross between two criminals and his body was buried in a tomb owned by Joseph of Arimathea in a cemetry which was for the rich only at the time, before he resurrected on the third day after his death. While this is physically the case, the verse in question is actually a metaphor for what Jesus did for us spiritually rather than literally ie he took on our sin when he dies for us and became as the rich and the wicked in order to make us right with God.
    I would like to make a kind suggestion if i may- read the bible for yourself front to back so that you get a full understanding of the context of the statements above and the basis of belief of the average christian. I have read the Quran myself and very happily educated about the islamic faith. My choice of religion is therefore not handed to me but an act of free will. I love God freely and without compulsion.

  7. Zia Shah

    August 21, 2013 at 1:27 am

    Dear Tuli

    You allege, “The article above is riddled with inaccuracies, not necessarily due to a lack of research as suggested by Jacob but more down to a lack of understanding of the basic principles of Christianity.”

    Could it be the other way round that your claims are more deserving of this assessment?

    Of course, no one knows Christianity as it is ever changing and contradictory. Politically successful keep labeling the others as heretics and procession keeps moving.

    For the Catholic Church in the past according to the Athanasian Creed salvation was only in Nicaene creed and now Pope Francis, given new realities is negotiating with the atheists and the Jews at least, if not the Muslims.

    Forget about washing the feet, if Christianity teaches such humility, why not the Catholic and Protestant leaders, bless the Muslim Times with their presence and an on going dialogue between Christianity and Islam.

    I have a few names in mind. The Pope himself, William Lane Craig and Rick Warren. Would they be willing to lower their peck order, a notch, by indulging us with their presence here?

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