‘Ahmad in the Bible’
I don’t normally do this — engage with Muslim apologetics in a blog. This is what I usually write about How to Read the Quran — Medium. I have a problem with apologetics, usually of the Christian variety, it tries to do too much, often badly. Our bad habits seem to have rubbed off on Muslim apologists, but more of that later perhaps. Just so you know, this is not a critique of Islam, I don’t have any problem with Islam.
I am writing this in response to ‘Jesus Said “Ahmad” in John 15–16!’ You can watch the video here Jesus Said “Ahmad” in John 15–16! — YouTube. I will note the claims made by the presenter and respond to them.
The video opens by introducing the Greek word ‘parakletos’ which appears in John 16.7 (translated ‘Advocate’ in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible). Glenn Neilsen in a Masters thesis to Concordia University comments that the word is a crux exegetica ( little agreement in the various attempts to explain its meaning and origin. It is suggested that there is a visible gap between the title and the functions ascribed to it. Various translators have offered a range of different words to translate it. It is suggested that none have met with widespread approval and failed to capture accurately and comprehensively John’s use of the title. The conclusion is that parakletos does not mean what is usually suggested but means something else. The presenter therefore offers a search for a different meaning, without referring to what New Testament scholars may have offered. The presenter therefore takes us to the Ahmad verse in the Qur’an (61.6). I have written on Surah 61 here, opening with verse 6 Column. Surah 61, As-Saff | by Julian Bond | How to Read the Quran | Medium.
Surah 61.6 says, ‘And [remember] when Jesus son of Mary said, “O Children of Israel, I am God’s Messenger to you, confirming what preceded me of the Torah, and announcing good news of a messenger who will come after me, whose name is Ahmad.”’
The meaning of Ahmad is ‘praised’. After some description of this, the presenter returns to parakletos. ‘Kletos’ is rooted in the verb ‘kaleo’ (to call or tell and includes ideas of fame and celebration) and, on its own, is usually translated as ‘praise’. I don’t know how this works when it forms part of another whole word. The presenter goes on to link the meaning of Ahmad with the meanings of the two parts of parakletos, seeking to establish equivalence. He actually says that parakletos could mean the same as Ahmad (‘praised’ or ‘more praised’), without offering examples of this as translation, remember all of the varying translations referred to at the beginning did not give an example of this hypothetical ‘translation’. The apparent lack of agreement about translation gives a reason for offering this speculative translation. This is essentially an uninformed approach to translation, or rather word play. Even so, the presenter, acknowledges that the ‘praised’ translation is one option out of three or more. The presenter then offers another argument about translating the Arabic Ahmad back into Greek, though Jesus was not speaking to his disciples in Greek. Of course this idea harmonises the Gospel and the Qur’an, though John’s Gospel is as far away from Islamic theology and belief as can be, Mark’s Gospel with a less developed Christology and Luke, which shares elements of the Nativity story with Surah 19 are closer. This continues with pointless speculation regarding the Greeks not knowing about ‘Ahmad’.
The video continues with discussion of some Christian, presumably apologetic, objections to the ‘praised’ translation. There is something very odd about Christians and Muslims debating New Testament Greek as either for or against a point of Islamic apologetic! They have nothing to do with each other. The fact that various lexicons and works of Greek literature are referenced shows how desperate the apologetic agenda is. Of course I do like the idea of Muslims, or even Christians, getting to know New Testament Greek! Though I have to wonder how all this time could be better spent … i.e. reading the whole Gospel in the vernacular first. This video, actually, provides a case study for us all in how not to do apologetics! Much would be gained by setting out appropriate parameters and understanding what might be considered as actual evidence. It’s such a shame that the presenter spends so much time engaging with Greek literature to no purpose.
After some time the presenter moves on to some more Christian discussion. He takes an interest in George Eldon Ladd and others referring to the parakletos as a teacher/prophetic teacher, including in the sense of revealer of Jesus. Christian apologetics, towards Jews, seems to have muddied the waters in that the presenter then brings in the famous apologetic verse, in two religions, of Deuteronomy 18.15.
Moving on, the presenter engages with the context of the parakletos reference in John 16.7 — ‘for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you’. Of course, there could be no suggestion, if the Paraclete is the Prophet Muhammad, that he could have been sent by Jesus. The idea of Muhammad testifying about Jesus, as he is presented in John’s Gospel, is very problematic. There is some engagement with the question of sending but the presenter does not seem to understand why ‘send’ is significant. Of course, this discussion is only building on the existing speculation that I have already described. It’s very hard to see any link between Jesus leaving and the Prophet Muhammad arriving, especially given what the Qur’an says about different revelations and scriptures for different people and that Muhammad came with a message for Arabs.