And our King said to me: "Who gave you the
Gospel?"— And I replied to his Majesty: "Our Lord Jesus Christ"—And our
victorious King asked: "Was it before or after His ascension to heaven?"—And I
replied to him: "Before His ascension to heaven. As the Gospel is the narrative
of the Economy of the works and words of Jesus Christ, and as the works of Jesus
Christ were done and His concrete words were uttered before His ascension to
heaven, it follows that the Gospel was delivered to us before His ascension to
heaven. Further, if the Gospel is the proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven, and
this proclamation of the Kingdom of Heaven has been delivered to us by the mouth
of our Lord, it follows that the Gospel was also delivered to us by the mouth of
And our King, invested with power, said to me:
"Was not a part of the Gospel written by Matthew, another part by Mark, a third
part by Luke, and a fourth part by John?"—And I replied to his Majesty: "It is
true, O our King, that these four men wrote the Gospel. They did not write it,
however, out of their own head nor from the fancies of their mind. Indeed they
had no literary attainments of any kind, and by profession they were generally
fishermen, shoemakers or tentmakers. They wrote and transmitted to us what they
had heard and learned from Jesus Christ, who had taught them in actions and
words during all the time He was walking with them in the flesh on the earth,
and what the Spirit-Paraclete had reminded them of."
And our King said to me: "Why are they different
from one another and contradict one another?"—And I answered his Majesty: "It is
true that there is difference between their words, as to contradiction there is
not any between them, not even in a single case. Different people write
differently even on the creation of God, the Lord of all: some of them speak of
the great height of heaven, some others of the brilliant rays of the sun, some
others of the wonderful phases of the moon, some others of the fine beauty of
the stars, some others of the atmosphere, some others of the land and sea, and
some others of some other topics. Further, among the people who write on heaven
alone some speak of its immense height and some others of the swiftness of its
movement, and among those who speak of the sun alone, some write on the high and
dazzling resplendence of its light, some others on its heat, some others on the
roundness of its sphere, some others on its purity and clearness, and some
others on its multitudinous powers and effects.
"Let your Majesty order some men to write on the
topic of the resplendent glory of your Majesty, and some others on the great
quantity of your gold and silver, and some others on the lustre of your pearls
and precious stones, and some others on the beauty and fine features of the face
of your Majesty, and some others on the power, might and strength of your
Kingdom, and some others on the wisdom and intelligence of your Majesty, and yet
some others on your gentleness, virtue, and piety. In what they will write there
might be differences of words in their statements of facts, but there will not
be any contradiction between them, not even in a single item. They will all be
right in all that they will write, although some of them might omit some items,
because there is no one who is able to speak with accuracy of everything dealing
with the works of God nor with the greatness of the glory of your Majesty. The
above applies to what the evangelists wrote concerning the words, deeds, and
natures of Jesus Christ. There are here and there differences in their
statements, but as to contradictions there are none whatever. The four of them
write in the same way and without discrepancies and differences on the main
topics of His conception, birth, baptism, teaching, passion on the cross, death,
burial, resurrection, and ascension to heaven."
And our powerful King said to me: "You should
know, O Catholicos, that as God gave the law through the prophet Moses and the
Gospel through the Christ, so He gave the furkan 78 through Muhammad"—And I
replied: "O my victorious King, the changes that were to take place in the law
given through Moses, God had clearly predicted previously through the prophets
whom we have mentioned. God said thus through the prophet Jeremiah and showed
the dissolution of the law of Moses and the setting up of the Gospel, 'Behold
the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of
Israel and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made
with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of
the land of Egypt, which covenant they nullified, and I also despised them,
saith the Lord: but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house
of Israel: After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their minds
and write it in their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be my
people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour nor his brother,
saying. "Know the Lord," for they shall all know me from the least of them unto
the greatest of them.' 79 In the above words God demonstrated both the
dissolution of the law of Moses and the setting up of the Gospel.
"Through another prophet, called Joel, God
disclosed the signs which would occur at the time of the dissolution of the
Torah and the setting up of the Gospel, and the signs concerning the Spirit-Paraclete
which the Apostles, the commanders of the army of the Gospel, were to receive,
because He said through him, 'And afterwards I will pour out my spirit upon all
flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your old men shall
dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. And on my servants and on my
handmaidens I will pour my spirit in those days.' 80 This is said of the Spirit-Paraclete
who descended on the Apostles after the ascension of Jesus to heaven, according
to the promise that He had previously given. And the prophet adds, 'And I will
show wonders in the heavens and the earth, blood and fire, and pillars of smoke.
The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood.' 81 All this
took place at the Passion of Jesus Christ on the Cross. And he further adds,
'Before the great and the terrible day of the Lord;' he calls the 'great and
terrible day of the Lord,82 the day on which the Word-God will appear in our
flesh with great power and glory of angels, and the day on which the stars will
fall from heaven, as Jesus Himself said in the Gospel.' 83 And the prophet
further adds, 'Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved,'
that is to say whosoever shall receive the Gospel of God shall live an
"God, therefore, pointed clearly to the
transition from the Law to the Gospel when He showed us a new covenant, and
signs, witnessed by men, that appeared in heaven and earth, in sun, moon, and
stars, and when He showed us the gifts of the Holy Spirit which He imparted to
the Apostles: wonders, signs, and miracles. God nowhere showed such irrefragable
signs for the transition from the Gospel to something else. The Law that was
given by Moses was the symbol of the Gospel, and the Gospel is the symbol of the
Kingdom of Heaven, and there is nothing higher than the Kingdom of Heaven."
And our powerful King said to me: "Did not God
say clearly to the children of Israel, 'I will raise you up a prophet from among
your brethren like unto me.' 84 Who are the brethren of the children of Israel
besides the Arabs,85 and who is the prophet like unto Moses besides
Muhammad?"—And I answered his Majesty: "The Israelites have many other brethren
besides the Arabs, O our Sovereign. First of all the six sons of Abraham by
Keturah are nearer to the Arabs than the Israelites, then the Edomites composed
of three hundred clans are also nearer to the Israelites than the Arabs. Jacob
from whom descended the Israelites, and Esau from whom sprang the Edomites are
indeed brothers and sons of Isaac, and Isaac from whom the Jews descend and
Ishmael from whom the Arabs spring, together with Zimran and Jokshan 86 and
their brothers, the sons of Keturah, are children of Abraham. If the sentence of
the prophet Moses refers to the brethren of the children of Israel and not to
their own twelve tribes, it would be more appropriate to apply it to the
Edomites, because it has been shown that they are nearer to the Israelites than
the Arabs. It is not only the Arabs who are the brethren of the Israelites but
also the Ammonites and the Moabites.
"Further, Moses said to the children of Israel
that God will raise up from among their brethren a prophet to themselves and not
to the Arabs, because he says that the prophet whom the Lord your God will raise
up will be from among yourselves and not from outside yourselves, from your
brethren and not from strangers, and then that prophet will be similar and not
dissimilar to him in doctrine. This Biblical passage resembles that other
passage in which God said to them concerning a king, 'I will raise up for thee a
king from thy brethren.' 87 As in the subject of a king God does not refer to
the children of Ishmael by the word 'their brethren,' so also in the subject of
a prophet He does not refer to them through the same word.
"Further, you assert that Muhammad has been sent
as a prophet to his own people.88 We must examine in this respect the
construction of the words. It is said: a prophet from yourselves, from among
your brethren, and like unto me. If Muhammad be a prophet like Moses, Moses
wrought miracles and prodigies; and Muhammad, who would in this case be a
prophet like Moses, should have wrought many miracles and prodigies. And then,
if Muhammad be a prophet like Moses, since Moses practised and taught the Law
that was given to him on Mount Sinai, Muhammad should similarly have taught the
Torah and practised the circumcision, and observed the Jewish Sabbath and
festivals. Muhammad did not teach the Torah, and Moses taught the Torah, the
prophet Muhammad is not, therefore, like unto Moses, because the one who was to
be a prophet like unto Moses, would not have changed anything from Moses, and
the one who is different in one thing from Moses is not a prophet like unto
Moses. The prophet Moses spoke the above words concerning the prophets who from
time to time rose after him from this or that Jewish tribe, such as Joshua son
of Nun, David, Samuel, and others after them, who from generation to generation
were sent to the Israelites." 89
And our victorious King said to me: "What is the
punishment of the man who kills his mother?"—And I replied to his Majesty: "And
what is the punishment of the man who does not respect the honour of his
mother?"—And our King said to me: "Strokes, fetters, and death."—And I said to
his Majesty: "The decision of your Majesty is just. And the man who kills his
mother is also liable to the same punishment."—And our King said to me: "Jesus
Christ is, therefore, liable to the same punishment, because He let His mother
die and so killed her."—And I asked the King: "Which is the highest, this world
or the world to come?" And our King answered: "The world to come."—And I then
replied to his Majesty: "If Jesus Christ let His mother die, and through death
He transferred her to the next world, which as your Majesty asserts is better
than this one, He therefore invested His mother with a higher dignity and more
sublime honour; and since the one who honours his mother is worthy of all
blessings, Jesus Christ who transferred His mother from the mortal life to the
immortal one and from the land of troubles to the Kingdom of Heaven, is,
therefore, Worthy of all blessings.
"What should Jesus Christ have done? While He
takes up everybody from earth to heaven, and while, as God said, He causes them
to be immortal after having been mortal, should He only have left His own mother
in this mortal life? This would have been a great disgrace; but her death which
took place like that of every other human being, was only natural and did not
bring the smallest disgrace to her. As it was not a dishonour to her to have
been born from a womb, so also it was not a dishonour to her to have been born
again to eternal life from death and earth.90 If Mary had not died, she would
not have risen; and if she had not risen, she would have been far from the
Kingdom of Heaven, and it is fair that Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ through
whom the Kingdom of Heaven was revealed, should have been raised up first to
heaven. It was, therefore, imperative that she should have died. He who
demolishes a house in order to renew it and ornament it, is not blameworthy but
And our King said to me: "Is Jesus Christ good
or not?"— And I replied to his Majesty: "If Jesus Christ is the Word of God, and
God is good, Jesus Christ is, therefore, good. He is one nature with God, like
light is one with the sun."—And our King said: "How then did Jesus say, 'There
is none good but one, that is one God?" 91—And I replied to him: "Was the
Prophet David just or not?"—And our King said: "He was just and head of the
just."— And I said then: "How then did the prophet David say, 'There is no one
that is just, no, not one,'" 92 —And our King said: "This saying does not
include David. It has been said of the wicked ones."— And I said: "So also the
sentence, 'There is none good but one' cannot possibly include the Christ. As
the sentence, 'There is no one that is just' embraces many others to the
exclusion of David, so also the sentence, 'There is none good' embraces many
others to the exclusion of Jesus Christ, and as David did not include himself
when he said, 'There is no just man, no, not even one,' so also the Christ did
not include Himself when he said, ' There is none good but one, and that is one
"The very same Jesus Christ who said about
Himself, 'I am the good shepherd,' 93 could not have said the above sentence,
'There is none good' about Himself. Indeed, He said this sentence about the one
whom He was addressing. The latter was thinking this in his heart: how difficult
are the laws that Jesus Christ is establishing! There is none good but one God
who gave us all the good things found in the land of promise. As to Jesus
Christ, He disclosed to him his hidden thoughts and showed to him that his words
were in flagrant contradiction with his thoughts, in calling Him in his words
'good master' while in his thoughts he was saying ' This one was no good,' and
wishing to rebuke him He disclosed to him his thoughts and said to him, 'Why
callest thou me good with thy tongue while in thy thoughts thou sayest about me,
"This one is no good, because He orders me to squander my fortune; there is none
good but one that is God " '? Jesus Christ makes mention both of a good man and
a good tree.94 How is it possible that there is a good man and a good tree, and
Jesus Christ alone is not good? How can this be possible?"
And our King said to me: "If you accepted
Muhammad as a prophet your words would be beautiful and your meanings fine"— And
I replied to his Majesty: "We find that there is only one prophet who would come
to the world after the ascension of Jesus Christ to heaven and His descent from
heaven.95 This we know from the prophet Malachi and from the angel Gabriel when
he announced the birth of John to Zechariah."
And our King said: "And who is that
prophet?"—And I replied: "The prophet Elijah. The prophet Malachi who is the
last of the prophets of the Law, said, 'Remember ye the law of Moses, my
servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes
and judgments. Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet, before the coming of
the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the
fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I
come and smite the earth with a curse.' 96 And the angel Gabriel when announcing
to Zechariah the birth of John reminded him of these very words, because he said
to him, 'Fear not, Zechariah, for thy prayer is heard, and thy wife Elizabeth
shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have
joy and gladness, and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in
the sight of the Lord, and shall be filled with the Holy Ghost even from his
mother's womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord
their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of the prophet
Elijah, to turn 97 the hearts of the fathers to the children and the disobedient
to the wisdom of the just, and to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.98
"Think, O our victorious Sovereign, how the
angel called Jesus 'the Lord their God.' It is this prophet Elijah who, as we
have learned, will come into the world after the ascension of Jesus to heaven.
He will come to rebuke the Antichrist, and to teach and preach to everybody
concerning the second apparition of Jesus from heaven. As John, son of
Zechariah, came before His apparition in the flesh, and announced Him to
everybody in saying, 'Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the
world' 99 'He is that shall baptise with Holy Ghost and fire,' 100 'He is the
one the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloosen' 101—so also the
prophet Elijah is going to come before the divine apparition of Jesus Christ
from heaven in order to announce beforehand to all His glorious apparition, and
to make them ready for His presence.
"Both messsengers, John and Elijah, are from one
power of the Spirit, with the difference that one already came before Christ and
the other is going to come before Him, and their coming is similar and to the
same effect. In the second coming He will appear from heaven in a great glory of
angels, to effect the resurrection of all the children of Adam from the graves.
As the Word of God, He created everything from the beginning and He is going to
renew everything at the end. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and
there is no end and no limit to His Kingdom."
And our highly intelligent Sovereign said: "If
you had not corrupted the Torah and the Gospel, you would have found in them
Muhammad also with the other prophets."—And to set his mind at rest on this
subject I replied to him: "To the mind of your Majesty, O my illustrious
Sovereign—you to whom God has granted that intelligence and broad-mindedness
which are so useful for the administration of public and private affairs of the
people, and you who speak and act is a way that is congruous with the dignity of
your Majesty—it is due to inquire why and for what purpose we might have
corrupted the Books. Both the Torah and the prophets proclaim as with the voice
of thunder and teach us collectively the divinity and humanity of Christ; His
wonderful birth from His Father before the times, a birth which no man will ever
be able to describe and to comprehend. It is written, 'Who shall declare his
generation,' 102 and, 'His coming out is in the beginning, from the days of the
worlds' 103 and, 'From the womb before the morning-star I have begotten Thee'
and, 'His name is before the sun.' 104
"So far as His temporal birth is concerned it is
written, 'Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and shall call his name
Emmanuel.' 105 David and Isaiah and all the other prophets reveal to us clearly
and distinctly the signs and miracles that He was going to perform in His
appearance in the flesh, and the accurate knowledge of God with which the earth
was going to be filled through this appearance. They tell us about His passion,
His crucifixion, and His death in the flesh, as we have demonstrated above. They
tell us about His resurrection from the dwelling of the dead and His ascension
to heaven. Finally they enlighten us concerning His second appearance from
heaven and concerning the resurrection of the dead which He is going to effect,
and the judgment which He is going to hold for all, as one who is God and the
Word of God. O our Sovereign, while all the corpus of the Christian doctrine is
embodied in the Torah and the Gospel like a clear symbol and mirror, for what
reason could we have dared to corrupt these living witnesses of our faith? They
are indeed the witnesses of our truth, O our Sovereign, and from them shines on
us the resplendent light of the duality of the natures of the divinity and
humanity of Christ, and that of His death, resurrection, and ascension to
heaven. It could never have been possible for us to stir ourselves against
ourselves, and tamper with the testimony of the Torah and the gospel to our
"Even if we were able to corrupt the Books of
the Torah and the Gospel that we have with us, how could we have tampered with
those that are with the Jews? If one says here that we have corrupted those that
are in our hands while the Jews themselves corrupted those that are in theirs,
how is it that the Jews have not corrupted those passages through which the
Christian religion is established? The Christians never have had and will never
have such deadly enemies as the Jews; if the Jews had, therefore, tampered with
their Book, how could we Christians induce ourselves to accept a text which had
been corrupted and changed, a text which would have shaken the very foundations
of the truth of our religion? No; the truth is that neither we nor the Jews have
ever tampered with the Books. Our mutual hostility is the best guarantee to our
"If the Christians and the Jews are enemies, and
if there is no possibility that enemies should have a common agreement on the
line that divides them, it was therefore impossible for the Christians and the
Jews to agree on the corruption of the Books. Indeed the Jews disagree with us
on the meaning of some verbs and nouns, tenses and persons, but concerning the
words themselves they have never had any disagreement with us. The very same
words are found with us and with them without any changes. Since the Torah and
the Prophets teach the truth of Christianity, we would have never allowed
ourselves to corrupt them, and that is the reason why, O our victorious
Sovereign, we could have never tampered with the Torah and the Prophets.
"The very same reason holds good with regard to
the Gospel, which we could not and would not have corrupted under any
circumstances. What the ancient prophets prophesied about the Christ is written
in the Gospel about the Christ. The ray of light that shines on the eyes of our
souls is the same from the Torah, from the prophets, and from the Gospel. The
only difference is that in the first two Books the light is in words uttered in
advance of the facts, while in the last Book it is in the facts themselves. What
the prophets had taught us about the divinity and humanity of Christ, and about
all the Economy of the Word-God in the flesh, the Gospel proclaimed to us
without corruption in a glorious manner. Further, God, the giver of both the
Torah and the Gospel is one, and if we had changed them in any way, we would
have changed those things which according to some people are somewhat
undignified in our faith."
78. I.e. the Kur'an. This Kur'anic word is the
Syriac furkana, "salvation."
79. Jer. xxxi. 32-34. This prophecy is with much
ingenuity ascribed to Muhammad and to Islam by the Muslim apologist, `Ali b.
Rabban Tabari, who concludes his statement as follows: "These meanings cannot be
ascribed to any other besides the Muslims." Kitab ad Din, p. 125 of my
80. Joel ii. 28-29.
81. Joel ii. 30.
82. The Cod. repeats inadvertently.
83. Cf. Matt. xxv. etc.
84. Deut. xviii. 18.
85. Lit. Ishmaelites.
86. Cod. Joktan ex errore see Gen. xxv. 2.
87. Cf. 1 Kings xiv. 14; Jer. xxx. 10.
88. Arab. Kaum.
89. Great ingenuity is shown by the Muslim
apologist, `Ali b. Rabban Tabari, to ascribe this prophecy to Muhammad. We will
quote him here in full: "And God has not raised up a prophet from among the
brethren of the children of Israel except Muhammad. The phrase, 'from the midst
of them' acts as a corroboration and limitation, viz. that he will be from the
children of their father, and not from an avuncular relationship of his. As to
Christ and the rest of the prophets, they were from the Israelites themselves;
and he who believes that the Most High God has not put a distinction between the
man who is from the Jews themselves and the man who is from their brethren,
believes wrongly. The one who might claim that this prophecy is about the
Christ, would overlook two peculiarities and show ignorance in two aspects; the
first is that the Christ is from the children of David, and David is from
themselves and not from their brethren; the second is that he who says once that
the Christ is Creator and not created, and then pretends that the Christ is like
Moses, his speech is contradictory and his saying is inconsistent." Kitab
ad-Din, pp. 85-86 of my translation.
90. The following pronoun and verb are probably
to be used in feminine: lah for lan, tithiledh for nithiledh.
91. Matt. xix. 17.
92. Peshitta Version.
93. John x. 11.
94. Luke vi. 43, etc.
95. That the line of defence of the Christians
against the Muslims of the eighth and ninth centuries was to the effect that no
prophet will rise after Christ is borne out by the Muslim apologist, `Ali b.
Rabban Tabari, who in his Apology (Kitab ad-Din, pp. 15, 17-18 of my edition)
quotes against the Christians, Acts xi. 24; xiii. 1; xxi. 9, in which St. Luke
speaks of prophets. On the Christian side it is well emphasised by the apologist
Kindi in his Risalah, p. 78.
96. Mal. iv. 4-6.
97. Read d-naphne with a Dalath.
98. Luke i. 13-17
99. John i. 29.
100. Matt iii. 11.
101. Luke iii. 16.
102. Is. liii. 8.
103. Cf. Is. li. 9; Prov. viii. 23-24.
104. Cf. Ps. ii. 7; Ixxii. 17; Is. xliv. 2, 24.
This prophecy of David, "His name is before the sun" is referred by the Muslim
apologist, `Ali b. Rabban Tabari, to Muhammud himself. Kitab-ad-Din, pp. 90 and
115 of my translation.
105. Is. vii. 14.
106. That the Jews and Christians are enemies
and that this enmity is a guarantee of the genuineness of the Biblical text is
also emphasised by Kindi in his Risalah, p. 150.
of part 5