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The debate of CHRISTIAN FAITH between patriarch Timothy I and Caliph Mahdi in 781 A.D.



Part 3

Translation. By Alphonse Mingana



Our King then said to me: "Did Christ then worship and pray?"—And I answered his Majesty: "He did worship and pray."—And our King retorted saying: "By the fact that you say that He worshipped and prayed, you deny His divinity, because if He worshipped and prayed He is not God; if He was God, he would not have worshipped and prayed."—And I replied: "He did not worship and pray as God, because as such He is the receiver of the worship and prayer of both the celestial and the terrestrial beings, in conjunction with the Father and the Spirit, but He worshipped and prayed as a man, son of our human kind. It has been made manifest by our previous words that the very same Jesus Christ is Word-God and man, as God He is born of the Father, and as man of Mary. He further worshipped and prayed for our sake, because He Himself was in no need of worship and prayer."

And our King said to me: "There is no creature that has no need of worship and prayer."—And I replied: "Has Jesus Christ, the Word of God, sinned or not?"—And our King said: "May God preserve me from saying such a thing!" 31 —And I then asked: "Has God created the worlds with His Word or not?" And our King replied in the affirmative and said " Yes."—And I then asked: "Is the one who is neither a sinner nor in need of anything, in need of worship and prayer?"—And our King answered "No." —And I then said to him: "If the Christ is a Word from God, and a man from Mary, and if as a Word of God He is the Lord of everything, and as a man He did not commit any sin as the Book and our King testify, and if he who is the Lord of everything and a creator is not in need, and he who is not a sinner is pure, it follows that Jesus Christ worshipped and prayed to God neither as one in need nor as a sinner, but He worshipped and prayed in order to teach worship and prayer to His disciples, and through them to every human being.

"The disciples would not have yielded to His teaching, if He had not put it into practice in His own person. There is no creature that has not sinned except Jesus Christ, the Word of God, and He is the only created being who in His own humanity appeared above the dirt of sin. As He was baptised without having any need of baptism, and as He died on the Cross but not because of His own sin, so also He gave Himself to worship and prayer not for His own sake but in order to impart their knowledge to His disciples."

Our God-loving King ended the above subject here, and embarked on another theme and said to me: "How is it that you accept Christ and the Gospel from the testimony of the Torah and of the prophets, and you do not accept Muhammad from the testimony of Christ and the Gospel?" 32 And I replied to his Majesty: "O our King, we have received concerning Christ numerous and distinct testimonies from the Torah and the prophets. All of the latter prophesied in one accord and harmony in one place about His mother: "Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son," 33 and taught us that He shall be conceived and born without marital intercourse like the Word of God. It is inded fit that the One who was born of the Father without a mother should have been born in the flesh from a virgin mother without a father, in order that His second birth may be a witness to His first birth. In another place they reveal to us His name: "And His name shall be called Emmanuel, Wonderful, Counsellor, and Mighty God of the worlds." 34

"In another place the prophets reveal to us the miracles that He will work at His coming in saying, 'Behold your God will come. . . . He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall hear. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb shall be loosened.' 35 Yet in another place they disclose to us His passion and His death, 'He shall be killed for our transgressions, and humbled for our iniquities.' 36 Sometimes they speak to us about His resurrection, 'For Thou hast not left my soul in Sheol, nor hast Thou suffered Thy Holy One to see corruption,' 37 and 'The Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten Thee.' 38 Some other times they teach us concerning His Ascension to Heaven, 'Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive, and Thou hast made gifts to men,' 39 and 'God went up in glory, and the Lord with the sound of a trumpet.' 40

"Some other times they reveal to us His coining down from heaven in saying, 'I am one like the son of men coming on the clouds of heaven, and they brought Him near before the Ancient of days, and there was given Him dominion, and glory and a kingdom that all peoples of the earth should serve Him and worship Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom shall not pass away nor be destroyed.' 41 These and scores of other passages of the prophets show us Jesus Christ in a clear mirror and point to Him. So far as Muhammad is concerned I have not received a single testimony either from Jesus Christ or from the Gospel which would refer to his name or to his works "

And our benevolent and gracious King made a sign to mean that he was not convinced, then he repeated twice to me the question: "Have you not received any?"—And I replied to him: "No,

O God-loving King, I have not received any."—And the King asked me: "Who is then the Paraclete?"—And I answered: The Spirit of God."—And the King asked: "What is the Spirit of God?"—And I replied: "God, by nature; and one who proceeds, by attribute; as Jesus Christ taught about Him."—And our glorious King said: "And what did Jesus Christ teach about Him?"—And

I answered: "He spoke to His disciples as follows: 'When I go away to Heaven, I will send unto you the Spirit-Paraclete who proceeded from the Father, whom the world cannot receive, who dwelleth with you and is among you, who searcheth all things, even the deep things of God, who will bring to your remembrance all the truth that I have said unto you, and who will take of mine and show unto you.'" 42

And our King said to me: "All these refer to Muhammad." 43 —And I replied to him: "If Muhammad were the Paraclete, since the Paraclete is the Spirit of God, Muhammad, would, therefore, be the Spirit of God; and the Spirit of God being uncircumscribed like God, Muhammad would also be uncircumscribed like God; and he who is uncircumscribed being invisible, Muhammad would also be invisible and without a human body; and he who is without a body being uncomposed, Muhammad would also be uncomposed. Indeed he who is a spirit has no body, and he who has no body is also invisible, and he who is invisible is also uncircumscribed; but he who is circumscribed is not the Spirit of God, and he who is not the Spirit of God is not the Paraclete. It follows from all this that Muhammad is not the Paraclete. The Paraclete is from heaven and of the nature of the Father, and Muhammad is from the earth and of the nature of Adam. Since heaven is not the same thing as earth, nor is God the Father identical with Adam, the Paraclete is not, therefore, Muhammad.

"Further, the Paraclete searches the deep things of God, but Muhammad owns that he does not know what might befall him and those who accept him.44 He who searches all things even the deep things of God is not identical with the one who does not know what might happen to him and to those who acknowledge him. Muhammad is therefore not the Paraclete. Again, the Paraclete, as Jesus told His disciples, was with them and among them while He was speaking to them, and since Muhammad was not with them and among them, he cannot, therefore, have been the Paraclete. Finally, the Paraclete descended on the disciples ten days after the ascension of Jesus to heaven, while Muhammad was born more than six hundred years later, and this impedes Muhammad from being the Paraclete. And Jesus taught the disciples that the Paraclete is one God in three persons, and since Muhammad does not believe in the doctrine of three persons in one Godhead, he cannot be the Paraclete. And the Paraclete wrought all sorts of prodigies and miracles through the disciples, and since Muhammad did not work a single miracle through his followers and his disciples, he is not the Paraclete.

"That the Spirit-Paraclete is consubstantial with the Father and the Son is borne out by the fact that He is the maker of the heavenly powers and of everything, and since he who is the maker and creator of everything is God, the Spirit-Paraclete is therefore God; but the world is not able to receive God, as Jesus Christ said,45 because God is uncircumscribed. Now if Muhammad were the Paraclete, since this same Paraclete is the Spirit of God, Muhammad would therefore be the Spirit of God. Further, since David said, 'By the Spirit of God all the powers have been created,' 46 celestial and terrestrial, Muhammad would be the creator of the celestial and terrestrial beings. Now since Muhammad is not the creator of heaven and earth, and since he who is not creator is not the Spirit of God, Muhammad is, therefore, not the Spirit of God; and since the one who is not the Spirit of God is by inference not the Paraclete, Muhammad is not the Paraclete.

"If he were mentioned in the Gospel, this mention would have been marked by a distinct portraiture characterising his coming, his name, his mother, and his people as the true portraiture of the coming of Jesus Christ is found in the Torah and in the prophets. Since nothing resembling this is found in the Gospel concerning Muhammad, it is evident that there is no mention of him in it at all, and that is the reason why I have not received a single testimony from the Gospel about him." 47

And the God-loving King said to me: "As the Jews behaved towards Jesus whom they did not accept, so the Christians behaved towards Muhammad whom they did not accept."—And I replied to his Majesty: "The Jews did not accept Jesus in spite of the fact that the Torah and the prophets were full of testimonies about Him, and this renders them worthy of condemnation. As to us we have not accepted Muhammad because we have not a single testimony about him in our Books."—And our King said: "There were many testimonies but the Books have been corrupted, and you have removed them."—And I replied to him thus: "Where is it known, O King, that the Books have been corrupted by us, and where is that uncorrupted Book from which you have learned that the Books which we use have been corrupted? If there is such a book let it be placed in the middle in order that we may learn from it which is the corrupted Gospel and hold to that which is not corrupted. If there is no such a Gospel, how do you know that the Gospel of which we make use is corrupted?

"What possible gain could we have gathered from corrupting the Gospel? Even if there was mention of Muhammad made in the Gospel, we would not have deleted his name from it; we would have simply said that Muhammad has not come yet, and that he was not the one whom you follow, and that he was going to come in the future. Take the example of the Jews: they cannot delete the name of Jesus from the Torah and the Prophets, they only contend against Him in saying openly that He was going to come in the future, and that He has not come yet into the world. They resemble a blind man 48 without eyes who stands in plain daylight and contends that the sun has not yet risen. We also would have done likewise; we would not have dared to remove the name of Muhammad from our Book if it were found anywhere in it; we would have simply quibbled concerning his right name and person like the Jews do in the case of Jesus. To tell the truth, if I had found in the Gospel a prophecy concerning the coming of Muhammad, I would have left the Gospel for the Kur'an, as I have left the Torah and the Prophets for the Gospel."

And our King said to me: "Do you not believe that our Book was given by God?"—And I replied to him: "It is not my business to decide whether it is from God or not. But I will say something of which your Majesty is well aware, and that is all the words of God found in the Torah and in the Prophets, and those of them found in the Gospel and in the writings of the Apostles, have been confirmed by signs and miracles; as to the words of your Book they have not been corroborated by a single sign or miracle. It is imperative that signs and miracles should be annulled by other signs and miracles. When God wished to abrogate 49 the Mosaic law, He confirmed by the signs and miracles wrought by the Christ and the Apostles that the words of the Gospel were from God, and by this He abrogated the words of the Torah and the first miracles.50 Similarly, as He abrogated the first signs and miracles by second ones, He ought to have abrogated the second signs and miracles by third ones. If God had wished to abrogate the Gospel and introduce another Book in its place He would have done this, because signs and miracles are witnesses of His will; but your Book has not been confirmed by a single sign and miracle. Since signs and miracles are proofs of the will of God, the conclusion drawn from their absence in your Book is well known to your Majesty."



31. The Arab, a`udhu billahi.

32. That the name of Muhammad is found in Jewish and Christian Books is the claim made by the Prophet himself in Kur'an, vii. 156: "The ummi prophet whom they find written down with them in the Torah and the Gospel." See also lxi. 6.

33. Is. vii. 14.

34. Is. vii. 14 and ix. 6.

35. Is. xxxv. 4-6.

36. Is. liii. 5.

37. Ps. xvi. 10.

38. Ps. ii. 7.

39. Ps. lxviii. 18.

40. Ps. xlvii. 5.

41. Dan.vii. 13-14.

42. John xiv. 16, 26; xv. 26; xvi. 7; 1 Cor. ii. 10.

43. The Muslims have always believed that the Paraclete spoken of in the Gospel referred to Muhammad. See Kitab ad-Din of Ibn Rabban (pp. 140-141 of my translation), who even corroborates his statement by an appeal to the numerical value of the letters of the word. Many other writers (such as Yahsubi in his shifa) counts the name Paraclete among the various names of the Prophet.

44. Kur'an, vi. 50; vii. 188; xi. 33, etc.

45. John xiv. 17.

46. Ps. xxxiii. 6; cir. 30.

47. The bulk of Muslim testimony, based on Kur'an, vii. 156, is to the effect that the name of Muhammad is found in the Gospel. Almost all the work of Ibn Rabban entitled Kitab ad-Din wad-Daulah has been written for the purpose of showing that this name is found in Jewish and Christian scriptures. (See especially pp. 77-146 of my translation.) Cf. Ibn Sa'd's Tabakat, i., ii., 89 and i. i., 123, and see the commentator Tabari on Kur'an, vii. 156, and the historians Ibn Hisham and Tabari.

48. Read samya in sing. 

49. Read d-nishre.

50. Muslim tradition, somewhat against Kur'an, xxix. 49, etc., is full of miracles of all sorts attributed to the Prophet. All these miracles have apparently been invented in order to answer the objection of the Christians to the effect that since Muhammad performed no miracle he was not a prophet. Pp. 30-60 of my edition of Ibn Rabban's Apology, the Kitab ad-Din wad-Daulah, have been written for this purpose. The extent to which later tradition amplified this fabulous theme may be gauged by the references given in Wensinck's Handbook of Early Muhammadan Tradition, pp. 165-168. The theme of the lack of miracles on the part of the Prophet is emphasised by the Christian apologist Kindi, Risalah, pp. 62 sqq. and 67.

 End of part 3