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Last Updated: 2012/04/19
Summary of question
How can the contradiction between Islam and Christianity about God having a son be resolved?
question
Why do we believe that God was neither begotten nor did he begat, while the Christians believe Jesus to be the son of God? How can this contradiction amongst religions be resolved?
Concise answer

Based on what has been stated in surah Tawhid, the Muslims believe God to neither have begat a son, nor been begotten himself. All monotheistic religions also hold this same belief, with Christianity being no exception. The reason being that all divine religions are based on man’s primordial nature and the intellect, both of which dictate that God, creator of the universe, is all-sufficient and in need of nothing; clearly such a creator cannot have a child or son, because having a son means being material, which in turn entails need, while God is free and devoid of such deficiencies and negative qualities.

As to what Christians today believe in, it is proof that such a religion has suffered alteration and thus distancing from its original form.

Detailed Answer

In surah Tawhid we read: “God is Samad (He is the One whom all turn towards in need)[1], neither did He begat nor was He begotten”. Some commentators of the Quran believe the verse “neither did He begat nor was He begotten” to be the interpretation of the term Samad in the previous verse.[2] That is to say, what is meant by God being Samad, is that no one can be begotten from Him, nor can He be begotten from anyone.

Logically, it is impossible for a God who is Samad, to have the trait of begetting or being begotten, because when something is born from something else, it shows that it is divisible, and divisibility signifies composition. In other words, the one begetting will necessarily have parts, and anything made up of parts, is in need of those parts, because if those parts aren't combined, that particular thing will never exist. Therefore, it is logically impossible for something to be born from God, and if we believe that it is, we have made God in need of something, and this does not match up with His perfect essence; in reality, such a false belief shows that one hasn’t understood who He really is.

As for why He hasn’t been begotten, it is because the one being begotten is in need of the one begetting. In other words, if – God forbid – God was begotten, it would necessitate His need towards that being/thing begetting Him, and as we said before, it is impossible for God, who is All-Sufficient, to be in need of anyone/anything. So it makes no sense for God to either be begotten or to beget.

Now, if we find a proposition in religious teachings that goes against this certain and unquestionable verdict of the intellect that an all-sufficient God is in no need of anything and that everything is in need of Him, we have no choice but to say that such religion has deviated from its original monotheistic path for sure.

We believe that all divine prophets, Prophet Jesus being one of them, believed in this and would disseminate the message of “لم یلد و لم یولد” (neither did He begat nor was He begotten). As the Quran discloses, in the first hours after his birth, in the cradle, and in response to those with mistrust, Prophet Jesus says: “Indeed I am a servant of Allah! He has given me the Book and made me a prophet!”[3] So if there are some who, in contradiction with the intellect’s verdict, believe in him being son of God, it is due to the alteration their religion has undergone.

Scholars believe this alteration and deviation to be the work of one by the name of Paul.

Paul was initially a Jew, a Pharisee to be exact, who was at animosity with the Christians of that time, and wouldn’t hesitate to persecute, torture and kill them. It was then that he, all of a sudden, embraced Christianity and changed his name to Paul. He is one of the most influential and effective propagators of Christianity. He would present the religion in a way that everyone would embrace it. He would use verses of the Old Testament

to argue for his conversion and justify it for the people. He propagated for 20 years and spent years compiling Christian tradition.

The following are his main teachings:

1. That Christianity is a universal religion (not an exclusive one like Judaism).

2. The trinity and the divinity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

3. Jesus, the son of God, came down to earth to purify man of original sin.

4. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and ascension to the heavens and sitting next to the Father and his judgment.

Paul was the first to speak of Jesus’ divinity and to set the foundations amongst the people for such. He said that Jesus was savior, establisher of the Kingdom of God in the world and will return once again after his ascension to the heavens, making him savior of this world and the next. He is Lord; one who was before everything and everyone, and everything came into existence through him.[4]

Such deviant beliefs weren’t tolerable for many Christians, to the extent that even some of the disciples of Jesus countered them and rejected Paul. His claim of Jesus’ divinity and being the son of God is so unreasonable that even the New Testament cannot corroborate such a claim[5], rather, this same book itself can be used to refute this claim.[6]

The Bible is made up of the Old and New Testament; the Old Testament being the book of the Jews (although they don’t call it the Old Testament and just call it the Hebrew Bible, which is a neutral term compared to ‘Old Testament’) which is constituted of 39 books, while the New Testament is exclusive to the Christians.

In the Old Testament, there is no explicit mention of Jesus being son of God and in the New Testament, which the Christians believe in, sometimes Jesus has been described to be man (and not God or the son of God), and sometimes to be God or son of God.

Here, we will list some examples for this, and give our insight on them:

a) Jesus being man:

1. “Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased”.[7]

2. In the book of Acts, it reads: “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob-the God of our ancestors-has glorified his servant Jesus”.[8]

Based on these two verses, Jesus is the servant of God and His chosen one.

b) Divine Jesus

1. Mark 15:39 reads: “Truly this man (Jesus) was the Son of God”.[9]

First of all, although here, it has been said that Jesus is the Son of God, its literal meaning hasn’t been intended; in cases like these, being the son or father has a metaphorical meaning and that is what is actually intended. For example, in another part of the New Testament, it reads: “But those that received him, to them he gave authority to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his Name. Those who had not been born of blood, nor of the desire of the flesh, nor of the desire of a man, but of God”.[10]

Also, another part reads: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God”.[11]

So, anyone familiar with the way the Bible speaks will see that all believers and righteous people have been introduced as children of God, but no one has ever claimed that believers are born from God!

What is the difference between verses like these and those that speak of Jesus being son of God?! Not only has the term ‘son’ been used for the believers, it has also been used for special individuals as well.

Regarding Solomon, God says: “I will be his father, and he will be my son”.[12]

Yet no one claims Solomon to be the son of God.

Therefore, even if the book of the Christians is actually the book of Jesus, it doesn’t explicitly say that he was the son of God, and this was a deviation innovated later into the Bible.

Secondly, there are many discrepancies in the Bible that show this book cannot be a divine book in its entirety. One of these discrepancies is the fact that Jesus has been introduced as both the Son of God, and the servant of God (if we take being the son of God to mean that he was begotten).

It is discrepancies like these that have caused some prominent Christian figures to object and criticize this doctrine. Arius, a Christian presbyter in Alexandria, is one of those who spoke out against this doctrine in the year 325. He said: “God is totally separate from creation. So it isn't possible for us to see the Christ who came down to the world and was born like every other human, to be the same with God whom he was not familiar with.”[13]

These objections led to the first ecumenical council of the Church to be held in Nicaea, in which a creed was developed, namely, the Nicene Creed.

Although the one to pioneer the divinity of Christ was Paul, it was this council that established this doctrine which still holds till today.

So, to sum it up, there exists no contradiction between divine religions, unfortunately today, it is only Christianity that has distanced from Prophet Jesus’ (AS) original teachings. True Christianity never had any contradiction with Islam; Islam came to supplement and complete these very religions.

 


[1] Tawhid:2.

[2] Farsi translation of Al-Mizan, vol. 29, p. 672; Tafsir Nemouneh, vol. 27, p. 439.

[3] Maryam:30; “قالَ إِنِّي عَبْدُ اللَّهِ آتانِيَ الْكِتابَ وَ جَعَلَني‏ نَبِيّ”.

[4] Muballighi Abadani, Abdullah, Taarikhe Adyan va Mazahib, vol. 2, the section on the biography of Paul. See: Imam Jawad (AS) website.

[5] Although we believe that this book is not the same one revealed unto Prophet Jesus.

[6] Ashnayi va Barresiye Masihiyyat (the group for compiling educational books), Islamic Seminary Propagation Department, p. 25.

[7] Matthew 12:18.

[8] Acts 3:13.

[9] Mark 15:37-39.

[10] John 1:12-13.

[11] 1 John 4:7

[12] 1 Chronicles 17:11-14.

[13] Taarikhe Kelisaye Qadim.

 

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