(and why they frustrate me)
Just recently, I was walking over to Domino’s Pizza, just a short distance from my house. I noticed a young lady holding up a sign for motorists that informed them the rapture of the Church would occur on May 21st of 2011, and the end of the world five months later on October 21st. I had seen these signs posted down in Baltimore County and was somewhat familiar with their source: a man by the name of Harold Camping, who previously made similar statements about the year 1990.
I asked the young lady (whose name was Deborah) about the sign and she immediately gave me a brochure from Camping guaranteeing both May 21st and October 21st as the end of all things. I asked her about the inaccurate 1990 date and she responded that the book Camping wrote, which was called “1990?” had a question mark in the title. She explained that back then, Camping wasn’t sure about the date, but that it had since been determined that the 5/21/11 date was written in stone in the Scripture. “Where?” I asked. She simply told me that the brochure would explain everything. So, I read the brochure in her presence. Camping’s logic was as follows.
One week prior to the Biblical flood, God spoke to Noah and told him that it would begin to rain in seven days (Genesis 7:4). Now, I personally don’t see anything in that verse that would imply the end of the world, but Camping assured us that there is a hidden meaning. In II Peter 3:8 we are told that, “to the Lord a day is as a thousand years and a thousand years is as a day.” So, some time prior to 1990, Camping concluded that the world would end exactly 7,000 (7 days x 1000 x 365.2) after the flood came. Now, most Biblical scholars would place the flood between 2500 and 2300 B.C. with the most common view being 2448 B.C. If you go 7,000 years after 2448 B.C., it will land you at the year 4553 A.D. (note that there is no year zero on the Victorian calendar, thus, placing it at 4553 rather than 4552). However, Camping knew well that a book about something not due for over two and a half millennium would spark very little interest. So, the date of Noah’s flood had to be moved back to the year 5007 B.C. in order to make the 1994 date seem feasible. Prior to that date, numerous disciples of Camping stood outside of department stores alerting the public and, in general, scaring young children.
When the 1990 prophecy failed to occur, Camping went back to his radio program, initially content that his newfound name recognition would lead to higher ratings. However, he was stunned to find himself labeled a false prophet and frequently listed alongside people such as William Miller, Edgar Wisenant, Charles Taze Russell, Joseph Rutherford, and others who had falsely predicted other dates. Camping’s reaction was one of desperately seeking to restore his me.
There is a striking similarity here between Camping and former President Jimmy Carter. The latter had entered the White House in 1977 on a tide of great ballyhoo. The Watergate scandal had forced the resignation of Richard Nixon and the humble peanut farmer was seen as the one to restore America’s pride. Four years later, Carter’s socialist-style of big government, huge tax increases, and inability to properly handle the Iran hostage situation had driven the country to the brink of economic collapse. He was soundly defeated by Ronald Reagan in 1980 and, at least initially, made some humble gestures. After the election, Carter stated, “The American people have made their decision and, of course, I support that decision although, I must admit, not as enthusiastically as I did four years ago.” At Reagan’s inauguration, Carter humbly shook hands with the new President and seemed ready to follow the old tradition of a former President not speaking out on the issues.
But then, something unexpected (at least in Carter’s eyes) happened. Ronald Reagan, you see, became everything Jimmy Carter had hoped to be. His massive tax cuts brought about a strong economy. Income was up. Unemployment was down. Even during the campaign, Reagan voiced some strong words toward Iranian leader Ayatollah Khomeini – words that Carter wouldn’t have dared to utter. The end result was that a yellow streak appeared on Khomeini’s back. Deep down inside he must have realized “This fellow means business.” So, even as Reagan was taking the oath of office: “I, Ronald Reagan, do hereby solemnly swear . . .” a newswire popped up on television screens all over the country. “THE IRANIAN HOSTAGES ARE FREE,” it proclaimed. Reagan’s tough image had worked even from the start. Khomeini had buckled, not wanting to risk seeing the United States military in his backyard, he called for an immediate release of the hostages.
So, while Reagan was being regarded on a par with Lincoln as the greatest of all U.S. Presidents, Jimmy Carter was left to sit back and ponder what might have been. Since that time, it seems that Mr. Carter has been on a one-man crusade to proclaim that maybe his Presidency wasn’t that bad after all.
The comparison to Harold Camping, here, is just too close to pass up.
Since the complete failure of the 1990 prophecy, Camping had been on a desperate mission to restore his name. So, in 2010, he once again began to proclaim the end of the world. He had been right all along. He just miscalculated the date of Noah’s flood. It had actually occurred in 4990 B.C. and May 21st of 2011 would mark the time of Christ’s return and October 21st the end of the world.
In talking with Deborah, I reminded her of William Miller’s failed prophecy of 1844 and how it had caused so many Christians to question their faith. Some, I told her, formed other cults and adjusted the date (such as the Seventh Day Adventists and the Jehovah Witnesses), while the majority of others simply abandoned the faith. The Bible had been proven wrong, they reasoned. Some became atheists, while others went in the direction of the occult. Madame Blavatinski came on the scene and pulled many in the direction of ouija boards, horoscopes, palm reading, etc.
“Yes, but this time we got it right,” replied Deborah.
I asked if Jesus Himself did not say that no man knows the day or the hour of His coming.
She responded, “This was back then. Today, Harold Camping has solved the mystery. He knows the time and it is all recorded in that brochure.”
“But, even Jesus Himself said that He did not know the time. Does Camping have greater knowledge than Jesus?” I queried.
“He just recently figured it out,” she responded.
“But if all it takes is to multiply the number seven by 1000 and add it onto the year 4990 B.C., wasn’t Jesus competent enough at math to do the same equation?” I probed.
“Well, of course; Jesus is God.” she returned.
So, Camping knows more than God?” I quizzed.
“Well, sort of.” she answered.
“That’s blasphemy.” I retorted.
“Well, all I know is that nobody can be saved after May 21st of next year and that I will be raptured away then,” she responded.
“Well, all I can do is ask a favor of you,” I said. “If May 22nd rolls around and you are not raptured away, please remember that God didn’t make the error, Camping did. Don’t run around screaming, ‘there is no God’ or begin consulting your horoscope. God is still God,” I admonished her.
Now, Camping is just one example of religious or anti-religious persons who has memorized a few select Bible verses or other facts out of context and begun to proclaim themselves experts on a particular subject. The three major groups that do this sort of thing and which frustrate me to no end are as follows: Atheists, Traditionalists (by that I mean those who have no regard for the original text of Scripture, but rather believe only what is traditional to believe), and Islamophobes (those who are on a mission to alert the world that Muslims are hateful people who adhere to a hateful religion and a book of hate). Let’s look at each group one at a time.
~ ATHEISTS ~
As previously noted, the strong attachment that millions of Americans have with both atheism and the occult stems back to the failure of William Miller’s 1844 prophecy. But today, atheists have developed a much more thorough defense for their beliefs.
Commonly, today they will approach the unsuspecting Christian with the proclamation that the God of the Bible is an evil deity. And, they have all the proof-texts memorized: Numbers 31, Deuteronomy 7, and I Samuel 15. It is in these passages that God calls for the destruction of the Caananites, the Amalakites, and the Midianites. Now, at first glance, this does seem to be a very cruel deity. Imagine instructing your followers to go down among a group of people and kill them off. Sounds like the tactics of former cult leader and mass murderer Charles Manson.
What atheists fail to realize here is the historical context of these passages. The Caananites, the Amalakites, and the Midianites were all practitioners of a pagan religion, which called for both the torture and the murder of the firstborn child of every family. Archaeologists have uncovered the remains of small children burned to death by fire or by placing them on hot irons. These are the people that God wanted removed from the earth. So, maybe the Bible doesn’t portray such an evil God after all.
But, having ignored or being ignorant of the above facts, the atheist will next present “evidence” that Jesus Christ Himself was a mythical figure whose attributes were copied from ancient pagan religions. Frank Zindler, S. Acharya (who recently changed her name to D. M. Murdock), and Earl Doherty frequently make the claims that pagan gods such as Buddha, Mithra, Zeus, Appolonius, Nimrod, and others were born of a virgin on the 25th of December (they presume Jesus was born on this day); laid in a manger; visited by angels, shepherds, and wise men; healed the sick; walked on water; was crucified; rose from the dead; and ascended into heaven. And, the unsuspecting Christian is at a loss to explain this. (Actually, the best way is to simply demand that the atheist produce any of these texts. The only ones that exist are those written hundreds of years after Jesus’ time, as with Appolonius.)
As regarding Jesus being a historical figure, I devoted numerous pages in the appendix of my book The Church & Terri Schiavo” to denouncing the atheist viewpoint. However, I think I may have left out the most important aspect, that being citations by Justin Martyr and Tertullian of a lost reference book written by Pontius Pilate himself (the man who begrudgingly approved Jesus’ crucifixion) entitled Acts of Pilate, which did indeed affirm Jesus’ miracles as well as the fact of the missing body on the third day after the crucifixion. The great 20th century theologian F. F. Bruce said the following:
About AD 150, Justin Martyr, addressing his Defense of Christianity to the Emperor Antoninius Pius, referred him to Pilate’s report, which Justin supposed must be preserved in the imperial archives. “‘But the words, ‘They pierced my hands and my feet,’ he says, “are a description of the nails that were fixed in His hands and His feet on the cross; and after He was crucified, those who crucified Him cast lots for His garments, and divided them among themselves; and that these things were so, you may learn from the ‘Acts,’ which were recorded under Pontius Pilate.” Later he says,
“That He performed these miracles you may easily be satisfied from the ‘Acts’ of Pontius Pilate.”
Then Tertullian, the great jurist-theologian of Carthage, addressing his Defense of Christianity to the main authorities in the province of Africa about AD 197 says, “Tiberius, in whose time the Christian name first made its appearance in the world, laid before the Senate tidings from Syria Palestina, which had revealed to him the truth of the divinity there manifested, and supported the motion by his own vote to begin with.”
Note the exact words of Justin himself:
And again in other words, through another prophet, He says, “They pierced My hands and My feet, and for My vesture they cast lots.” And indeed David, the king and prophet, who uttered these things, suffered none of them; but Jesus Christ stretched forth His hands, being crucified by the Jews speaking against Him, and denying that He was the Christ. And as the prophet spoke, they tormented Him, and set Him on the judgment-seat, and said, Judge us. And the expression, “They pierced my hands and my feet,” was used in reference to the nails of the cross, which were fixed in His hands and feet. And after He was crucified, they cast lots upon His vesture, and they that crucified Him parted it among them. And that these things did happen, you can ascertain from the ‘Acts’ of Pontius Pilate.” – Justin Martyr, First Apology 35
And that it was predicted that our Christ should heal all diseases and raise the dead, hear what was said. There are these words: “At His coming the lame shall leap as an hart, and the tongue of the stammerer shall be clear speaking: the blind shall see, and the lepers shall be cleansed; and the dead shall rise, and walk about.” And that He did those things, you can learn from the ‘Acts’ of Pontius Pilate.” – Justin Martyr, First Apology 48
Next, the typical atheist will quote from a book authored by Zindler, which claims that Nazareth did not exist until around 300 A.D.; so therefore, Jesus of Nazareth could not possibly have existed. They fail to realize that archaeologists have thoroughly debunked Zindler’s theory, thereby, presuming it to be ‘written in stone.’
But, here again are a group of self-proclaimed experts who are thoroughly bewildered when confronted with the facts. In 2002, I was invited to be a guest on the “Cygnus Atheist Site” on the Internet. The odds seemed a bit stacked against me. Cygnus had hundreds (perhaps thousands) of followers, including S. Acharya herself, each ready to debate with me. However, their words were predictable: the Bible calls for mass murder; Jesus never existed; the Gospel stories are borrowed from paganism; etc. So, I basically knew the questions before they were even asked. And, I was well prepared to answer. Initially, the atheists became angry with me. I was, after all, threatening their very philosophy of life. But, in time, many of them began reading their own words posted on the site and realized that the best they could do was to hurl insults at me. Some softened their approach, while others, including Acharya herself, refused to participate in the discussion any longer.
~ THE TRADITIONALISTS ~
Early on in the last century, the acclaimed astronomer and Kantian physicist, Albert Einstein, made an incredible discovery, which forced him to abandon his life’s philosophy. He realized that the universe was expanding. Previously, Kant had theorized that the universe was infinite and had always existed, leaving no need, nor room for a creator God. But, Einstein’s discovery ruled this out. If the universe were expanding, then it would not be infinite. And, there must have been a time when it was not – that is a point of creation. And, creation required a Creator. Upon learning of this and personally verifying it, Descartes uttered the phrase; “I have trod the lofty heights of intellectualism only to find a group of Christians waiting for me at the top.”
Einstein’s discovery could have spelled the death nail to atheism, except for two things: liberalism and traditionalism. Concerned by the thought of a Deity who might actually not approve of his womanizing, Einstein sought the help of a group of liberal theologians from the German Liberal School (the same one that later influenced Margaret Sanger and Adolph Hitler). “It appears that you have been right all along, but if there is really a God and He is just and loving, then how come there is so much evil in the world?” Einstein wanted to know. Oh, if he had only consulted the great apologist C. S. Lewis instead of a bunch of liberals. These theologians looked at him and responded, “We don’t know, but if you ever find out, let us know.”
Einstein’s reaction was to reject the Christian God and convert to Deism, a religion where God is recognized as an emotionless and non-caring creator, who set the universe in motion, but really wasn’t concerned how His creation lived their lives. This allowed Einstein to continue his womanizing with out fear of judgment. How sad to realize that the Deistic God is the one many people really want to exist.
But, Einstein’s discovery (now commonly called “The Big Bang Theory”) was completely rejected by many on the conservative side as well. For, you see, the traditional understanding of the Genesis creation is that it occurred in six 24-hour days (at least that is how most English translations render it) approximately 6000 years ago. Indeed, Bishop Usher’s calculations put the day of creation at 4004 B.C. But, the “Big Bang” would have had to occur approximately 4-1/2 billion years ago. The reason for this is that the stars in the Milky Way are traveling at a specific speed and are presently too far apart to have reached their present position in just 6000 years.
The reality is that the Bible says no such thing. The Hebrew word “yom,” often translated as “day” rather implies “a period of time of indeterminate length.” The only way of determining the exact length is if it is spelled out in the rest of the context (as in I Samuel 6:1, where the same word is used to designate seven months). Add to this the fact that the context of Genesis rules out the possibility of these “days” being 24 hours long: “dasha” (or sprout) in 1:11 indicates a normal growth process, certainly longer than 24 hours. Also, 2:9 has the garden growing again (tsamah), thus implying a longer period of time.
So, the bottom line is that one of the strongest apologetic principles for the existence of God has been abandoned because traditionalists, a group of self-proclaimed experts, don’t want to admit that they have been proclaiming a young earth; something for which there is no basis in Scripture.
~ ISLAMOPHOBIA ~
Finally, we come to another group of self-proclaimed experts whom, I believe, not only lead people astray, but also endanger the very planet on which we live.
There can be no doubt that the 9/11 attacks have created a justifiable fear of the Muslim people in our country. And, the failure of the Muslim Leadership in places like Saudi Arabia to denounce terrorism immediately, have added to that fear. Recently, National Public Radio (NPR) fired one of their most popular commentators, Juan Williams, for acknowledging that he is fearful when he sees Muslims traveling on an airplane. Williams is not alone. I experience the same fears. This is not what I mean by “Islamophobia,” though. Rather, Islamophobia is the presumption that Muslims themselves are inherently evil because they adhere to a religion that is inherently evil as was its founder. Elsewhere on this blog site, I will note that Muhammad himself was originally a desert orphan who sought in vain to obtain copies of the Bible so he could better educate his people in becoming Christians – a plan thwarted because the Church Leadership had decreed that only the clergy should have access to the Bible.
It is not my purpose to use this book to denounce a particular person or persons. However, I must note that there are two prominent individuals, and a local broadcaster here in Baltimore, who have profited greatly from promoting this concept of Islam and Muhammad himself being inherently evil. The first two are author, William Spencer, and former Bush Administration Advisor, Frank Gaffney. The broadcaster is Tom Marr, host of “The Tom Marr Program” on Baltimore’s WCBM.
Now, each of these gentlemen (and I believe each is a very well-meaning individual) will point to passages in the Muslim Qu’ran, which seem to advocate violent acts being carried out against Christians and Jews. Consider the following:
Surah 2:193 – Fight them until there is no [more] fitnah and [until] worship is [acknowledged to be] for Allah. But if they cease, then there is to be no aggression except against the oppressors.
2:216 – Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not.
5:33 – The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter;
5:51 – O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turn to them (for friendship) is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust. (see note below)
8:39 – And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do.
8:65 – O Prophet! Rouse the believers to the fight. If there are twenty amongst you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred: if a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand of the unbelievers: for these are a people without understanding.
9:5 – But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practice regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.
9:29 – fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.
Now, the above verses do indeed seem to endorse the claim that the Qu’ran endorses the killing of Christians and Jews and that Muhammad himself was a very evil person. There is only one thing wrong with this reasoning. These passages are not directed toward Christians or Jews, but rather toward the ancient Quraish and Collyridians. Please note the following from our “Open Letter:”
History tells of heretical groups known as the Quraish and the Collyridians, who existed in Asia at the time. This latter group taught that three gods existed in the heavens. In the beginning, a father god was said to have impregnated a goddess named Mary and their ensuing offspring was named Jesus. Muhammad is almost certainly describing these people in Surah 5:73, 75 and 116, passages often mistakenly seen as being directed to the Christian concept of the Trinity. It is known that the Quraish practiced human sacrifice in their worship and, because the Collyridian practice of offering cakes to Mary in worship seems to have evolved from the worship of Artemis and since the latter religion was also characterized by human sacrifice, it seems likely that the Collyridians sacrificed human beings as well. With this in mind, it would have seemed quite reasonable for Muhammad to decree war upon them. However, by contrast, he seems to have been at peace with the Christian community.
The reader will take note that Surah 5:51 (cited above) does seem to be directed toward Christians and Jews with whom the Muslim people are instructed not to be aligned. What is the answer here? Simply put, one must understand Muhammad’s term for Christians was actually “Nasara” or Nazarenes (as in followers of “Jesus of Nazareth”). The term “Collyridians” was actually a designation coined by the Roman Catholic Church, because the group in question used cakes (called collys) in their worship of the goddess Mary, the mother of Jesus, who had supposedly supplanted the father god in terms of significance. Collyridians was not a term they used for themselves, though. Rather, the Collyridian gentiles considered themselves Christians and Collyridian Jews considered themselves Jewish Christians or Messianic Jews. Muhammad, here, is using the term that the targeted group used in reference to themselves.
How do we know that? Because within the very context of this passage, Muhammad descries the Collyridians in detail: Surah 5:116 states, “Behold! Allah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah?” He will say: “Glory to Thee! Never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart.”
Now, at NO time has the Christian community ever taught that Jesus and His mother Mary were two distinct gods supplanting God the Father (although some have erroneously tried to see an image of the Trinity in this verse). Rather, that was a teaching of the Collyridians.
Instead, compare the following positive statements that Muhammad makes in regards to Christians:
Surah 2:62 – Verily, those who have attained to faith [in this divine writ], as well as those who follow the Jewish faith, and the Christians, and the Sabians – all who believe in God and the Last Day and do righteous deeds – shall have their reward with their Sustainer; and no fear need they have, and neither shall they grieve.
Surah 2:111 – And they claim, “None shall ever enter paradise unless he be a Jew” – or, “a Christian.” Such are their wishful beliefs! Say: “Produce an evidence for what you are claiming, if what you say is true! Yea, indeed: everyone who surrenders his whole being to God, and is a doer of good withal, shall have his reward with his Sustainer; and all such need have no fear, and neither shall they grieve.”
Surah 3:3 & 4 – ALLAH is HE besides Whom there is none worthy of worship, the Living, the Self-Subsisting and All-Sustaining. HE has sent down to thee the Book containing the truth and fulfilling that which precedes it; and HE has sent down the Torah (Law of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guidance to the people; and HE has sent down the Discrimination (judgment between right and wrong).
Surah 5:82 – . . . and nearest among them in love to the believers will you find those who say, “We are Christians (or Nazarenes),” because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant.
Several years back, I contacted Mr. Spencer and advised him to look into the possibility that he was falsely interpreting the aforementioned verses to be directed toward Christians when, in fact, they were directed toward the Collyridians. He wrote me back a very short reply instructing me to check out a particular website. I did so and found that it had nothing whatsoever to do with the subject.
Now, I met Frank Gaffney when he came to speak at an event in Lutherville, Maryland in 2009. Gaffney introduced a rather odd hypothesis to explain the contrasting positive and hostile passages, one, which I have since heard repeated almost verbatim by Pat Roberson and Sean Hannity. The verses which paint a positive picture of Christians, Gaffney says, were written early on when Muhammad was in hopes that they would declare him their Messiah. After they had rejected him, Gaffney says that Muhammad declared an all-out war on Christians and wrote the verses, which promote hostility.
This view is partially adapted from a text known as the “Gospel of Barnabas” (not to be confused with the earlier “Epistle of Barnabas,” which some attribute to the Biblical companion of the Apostle Paul). The Gospel of Barnabas does, indeed, proclaim Muhammad as Messiah. In fact, it quotes Jesus as saying such: “Then said the priest, ‘How shall the Messiah be called?’ Jesus answered, ‘Muhammad is his blessed name.’” – Chapter 97. However, such a claim is bogus. At no time did Muhammad ever make claim to be Messiah. In fact, he is adamant that Jesus Himself was the Messiah (see Surah 3:45) and no credible historian would say otherwise. Indeed, close examination of the text of “Gospel of Barnabas” indicates that it cannot have originated any earlier than the 13th century.
French theologian, Jan Slomp, in his “The Gospel in Dispute” (1978), notes various points of conflict, which would make the claims of the “Gospel of Barnabas” inaccurate and dubious.
It has Jesus sailing across the Sea of Galilee to Nazareth – which is actually inland; and from thence going “up” to Capernaum – which is actually on the lakeside. (Chapters 20-21)
It claims Jesus was born during the rule of Pontius Pilate, which actually began after the year 26. Barnabas appears not to realize that.
Christ and Messiah are translations of the same word (Christos), describing Jesus as “Jesus Christ,” yet claiming that ‘Jesus confessed and said the truth, “I am not the Messiah.’” (Chapter 42)
There is a reference to a jubilee, which is to be held every hundred years (chapter 82), rather than every fifty years as described in Leviticus 25. This anachronism appears to link the “Gospel of Barnabas” to the declaration of a Holy Year in 1300 by Pope Boniface VIII, a Jubilee which he then decreed should be repeated every hundred years. Pope Clement VI reduced the interval between Holy Years to fifty years in 1343.
Adam and Eve eat an apple (chapter 40), whereas, the traditional association of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2) with the apple rests on the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Latin, where both ‘apple’ and ‘evil’ are rendered as ‘malum.’
Barnabas talks of wine being stored in wooden casks (chapter 152). Wooden casks were a characteristic of Gaul and Northern Italy, and were not commonly used for wine in the Roman Empire until after 300 CE (Christian Era), whereas, wine in 1st century Palestine was always stored in wineskins and jars. The Pedunculate or English Oak (quercus robur) does not grow in Palestine; and the wood of other species is not sufficiently airtight to be used in wine casks.
Chapter 91, the “Forty Days” is referred to as an annual fast. This corresponds to the Christian tradition of fasting for forty days in Lent, a practice that is not witnessed earlier than the Council of Nicaea (325), nor is there a forty days’ fast in Judaism of the period.
Where the “Gospel of Barnabas” includes quotations from the Old Testament, these correspond to reading as found in the Latin Vulgate, rather than as found in either the Greek Septuagint, or the Hebrew Masoretic Text. However, it should be noted that the Latin Vulgate translation was a work that St. Jerome began in 382 AD, centuries after the death of Barnabas.
In chapter 54 it says, “For he would get in change a piece of gold must have sixty mites.” (Italian minuti) In the New Testament period, the only golden coin, the aureus, was worth approximately 3,200 of the smallest bronze coin, the lepton (translated into Latin as minuti), while the Roman standard silver coin, the denarius, was worth 128 leptons. The rate of exchange of 1:60 implied in the “Gospel of Barnabas” was, however, a commonplace of late medieval interpretation of the counterpart passage in the Canonical Gospels (Mark 12:42), arising from the standard medieval understanding of minuti as meaning ‘a sixtieth part.’
Chapter 91 records three contending Jewish armies 100,000 strong at Mizpeh, totaling 600,000 men, at a time when the Roman army across the entire Empire had a total strength estimated as 300,000.
So, at the meeting in Lutherville, I confronted Mr. Gaffney with the likelihood that the positive passages in question, rather than early statements seeking Muhammad’s designation as Messiah, were rather later passages and that the more hostile ones were, actually, earlier ones directed at the Quraish and the Collyridians, because of their hostility toward monotheism and their being prone to sacrifice anyone challenging their position. Gaffney seemed stunned at first. Perhaps he had never considered such an explanation. Finally, he responded, “Well, there are a whole lot of religious people out there who want some sort of pie-in-the-sky explanation and think everything will work out in the end. But, I just don’t buy it. These people are hateful.”
Now, I ask the reader. What kind of an answer was that? It strikes me that Mr. Gaffney knew full well that he had been caught in error and didn’t want to admit it.
I, next, tried introducing the point to Spencer when he was a guest on The Tom Marr Show” in Baltimore. Tom Marr is a rather interesting subject on his own. In spite of the fact that his brother is a Catholic priest, he maintains that both the Qu’ran and the Bible are bloodthirsty texts. “The only difference being that Christians have never practiced terrorism, even though their Bible prescribes knocking out your enemy’s teeth, gouging out their eye, and tying a millstone around their neck and throwing it into the water. The only difference being that Christians have never practiced these things.” (Apparently, he is unfamiliar with the history of the Crusades.)
Now, Spencer had made the claim that Surah 4:34 endorses wife beating among Muslims. As dealt with elsewhere, he is sorely mistaken. Instead, Spencer has chosen to canonize the interpretation of the radical Bahraini TV host Abdullah Aal Mahmud. I pointed out that the Arabic term “adribu” used here cannot possibly be rendered as to hit or to strike, but rather infers that, if a woman is ungodly, her husband should not seek to have children by her.
However, Tom Marr himself is not a very cordial host. Tom’s reaction to individuals who make points he cannot deal with is simply to hang up the phone. When it became obvious that I was at least somewhat familiar with the Arabic text and that neither he or Spencer were, Tom simply hung up.
Several weeks later, Marr was hosting the show when a Muslim by the name of Billy called in. Billy was from Syria and he initially described the country as being a good place to live (a point with which Tom disagreed). He next tried explaining the text of Surah 4:34 in basically the same way I had done. Once again, Tom hung up the phone. So, I e-mailed Tom the following:
Tom, the individual named Billy who was trying to explain to you that the passage in the Qu’ran was not intended to endorse wife beating was absolutely correct. I am baffled as to why you (who apparently has no knowledge of the Arabic language) constantly resort to attempting to change the direction of the conversation or simply hang up the phone when it is obvious that the other guy is winning. Just be adult enough to admit when you do not know the answer to something. Folks will respect you more as a professional journalist when you do so.
(Tom had ignored my previous e-mails, but the implication that he was unprofessional must have struck a nerve with him. He wrote me back.)
BILL, THE MUSLIM, THINKS SYRIA IS A GREAT COUNTRY . . . IT’S A HELLHOLE . . . THE SAUDI PRESS RECENTLY HAD TO ADVISE SAUDI MEN NOT TO BEAT THEIR WIVES TOO BADLY . . . .
I then responded:
I think it’s a hellhole, too. What does that have to do with the text in the Qu’ran?
DO YOU NEED MORE WONDERFUL QUOTES FROM THE QU’RAN THAN 4:34? THERE ARE LOTS OF THEM.
No. It does not say that in the Qu’ran and you would know that if you had bothered to research it, rather than taking the word of Mr. Spencer (a good man, but sorely wrong here, as he does not speak a word of Arabic, either). Such a translation originates with a nutcase from Bahrain by the name of Addullah Aal Mahmud. Again, see our quote below. What is there about saying the words, “I really don’t know the answers as I do not speak Arabic,” that is so hard for you to say? And, no, I don’t think the Qu’ran is so wonderful. I rather think it unwise to enrage people who respond so violently by distorting a text that they consider sacred.
Tom responded by challenging me to debate Mr. Spencer:
SORRY. I HAVE READ A GREAT DEAL OF RECOMMENDED VIOLENCE RIGHT FROM THE QU’RAN . . . OH YES; YOU CAN FIND SOME IN THE BIBLE, TOO. NO ONE IS DOING IT . . . WOULD YOU LIKE TO DEBATE MR. SPENCER . . . I CAN ARRANGE IT . . . .
I then responded:
I would be very happy to DIALOGUE with Mr. Spencer (I do not debate). I have previously done so with Frank Gaffney and have communicated through e-mail with Mr. Spencer. Both are very good men, though we disagree in some areas. Can I bring my friend, Kamal Nawash, President of the Free Muslim Coalition AGAINST Terrorism, along with me?
As to your statement that the Bible condones violence, I seem to recall you saying that your brother is a Priest. Check with him and see if the following exegesis is not accurate.
First, the Bible does not instruct one to tie a millstone around someone’s neck and cast it into the ocean, as I have heard you say previously. I believe you are thinking of passages in Matthew 18 & Luke 17, but you need to reread them before making such statements. The text, rather, says that it would be better if this had happened than to be forced to stand in judgment for having caused a child to stumble spiritually.
Secondly, you make frequent reference to the “eye-for-an-eye, tooth-for-a-tooth” passage in Exodus. Are you not aware that Moses is here quoting from the law code of the Chaldean King Hammurapi? He is, rather, saying that, while traveling through the wilderness (in Hammurapi’s backyard), the Hebrews would be forced to live under his laws.
Now again, Tom had challenged me to meet with Mr. Spencer openly. I accepted and suddenly Tom went silent. I can only conclude one of two things. Either, Tom abandoned the idea at the realization that I was not some idiot whose own dialogue would make him look foolish on the program, but may, in fact, present aspects that neither he nor Spencer were prepared to answer (as it is hard to hang up on someone when they are sitting right in the studio with you) or, he did, in fact, attempt to set up the dialogue with Spencer and it was declined.
Either way, I am left with the conclusion that Spencer, Gaffney, and Marr are simply self-proclaimed experts, who are profiting from, but unable to adequately defend, their positions. If that were the total problem, though, it would be advisable to simply ignore them. However, I have concluded that they are doing great harm in the quest for peace. Consider the following.
Since 2006, our “Open Letter” project has been producing positive fruit.
1. It has been adopted by at least three Bible Colleges.
2. It has been successful in persuading King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to call for open dialogue between Muslims, Christians, and even Jews.
3. It has persuaded Muslim scholars in Turkey to edit portions of the Hadith, which promote violence as well as the abuse of women.
4. It has motivated a renowned composer in Pakistan to write a song denouncing terrorism as unacceptable to God.
5. It has resulted in unprecedented and peaceful dialogue between Christian and Muslim leaders.
6. It has prompted an Iranian religious leader to take a stand against terrorism and the abuse of women.
7. It has seen a minimum of 7 individuals accept Christ as Savior and become Christians.
And, there are still more examples, which I am not at liberty to release in this book, because they have resulted in secret information being made available to high ranking officials, of whom I am told, because of the influence of the “Open Letter,” “It is safe to say that lives have been saved.”
Now, over that same period, Spencer, Gaffney, and Marr have been, contrarily, telling the public how evil Muhammad was, how hateful his Qu’ran is, and how stupid the Arab people are for believing it. What, pray tell, have they accomplished – except to anger people and to inspire more terrorism?