After a week break – our lunchtime discussions resumed, and the students had the used the week wisely. They were ready.
One of them started of by saying that he was going to argue that Mohammed – the final Prophet of God, is a fulfilment of Biblical prophecy. We started of by looking at Deuteronomy 33, in which Moses gives his final blessing to the Israelites. Within his blessing he states that,
“The Lord came from Sinai,
and dawned from Seir upon us;
he shone forth from Mount Paran.
With him were myriads of holy ones;
at his right, a host of his own.“
This – the student expanded – refers to Muhammed, as Sinai is the place where God first revealed himself to Moses and is also in Arabia – where Muhammed originated from. Seir is a reference to the prophecy of Jesus as it refers to a range of mountains in Arabia – close to Bethlehem – where Jesus was born. And Mount Paran refers to Muhammed as this was where Muhammed was born – the final light of God to the world as it were. So this is a prophecy from Moses which gives the three major lights to world from God – including Moses, Jesus and then Muhammed – so the students told me.
Though their explanations sound convincing, I began to explain how in these verses Moses (first of all) is talking in the past tense about how God has already revealed himself to the Israelites – as Sinai, Seir and Mount Paran were all places that the Israelites travelled through/camped in and places in which god revealed himself in some way to them. Moreover, it doesn’t say that Moses is talking prophetically or figuratively to the Israelites – cant we simply take his words literally? As it would make sense in the context of the rest of the chapter. Moreover, the final assumption is that Muhammed is the final messenger of God and therefore fits the same description (or should do at least) as the other prophets of the Bible, including Jesus (as in he is a prophet in the eyes of Islam) which is a whole debate for another day.
Then we moved on to Deuteronomy 18 – where Moses proclaims that God will bring about a new prophet, like Moses, to the people of Israel – and he will put God’s words in his mouth:
‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.16 This is what you requested of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said: “If I hear the voice of the Lord my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.” 17 Then the Lord replied to me: “They are right in what they have said. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet[f] like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet,[g] who shall speak to them everything that I command. 19 Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet[h] shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable. 20 But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.” 21 You may say to yourself, “How can we recognize a word that the Lord has not spoken?” 22 If a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the Lord has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it.”
The students then went on to explain that the opening verse in this passage links to Mohammed on 2 accounts. Firstly, that Mohammed and Moses share lots of similar characteristics – both born naturally, both died naturally, both got married, both had children, both were leaders of nations, etc… – and therefore Muhammed is the prophet Moses was referring to as Jesus doesn’t share these characteristics. Moreover, this passage also refers to Muhammed as the prophet predicted is to be from ‘among your brethren’ – (according to the students) this means from the brethren of the Israelites which means the Arabs (harking back to Isaac and Ishmael) and as Muhammed was from the Arabs this makes the prophet predicted him.
Nevertheless, (when I finally got a turn to speak!) I explained that the following verses in the passage actually discredit their first argument – as the passage goes on to explain that the prophet will be recognisable by his words (that the Word of God will be on his lips) so this means that all these physical similarities between Muhammed and Moses don’t count for anything when it comes to verifying him as the predicted prophet here. Its about words. It also states that false prophets will be known by their words too – not by their lack of physical similarities to Moses. Furthermore, it seems quite clear to me that when Moses says – from among your own people – that he is referring to the Israelites – not the Arabs – this seems like a great leap of interpretation with no exegetical foundation.
The final Biblical passage we looked at was Genesis 16 – the portion that describes the birth and blessing of Ishmael –
And the angel of the Lord said to her,
“Now you have conceived and shall bear a son;
you shall call him Ishmael,[a]
for the Lord has given heed to your affliction.
12 He shall be a wild ass of a man,
with his hand against everyone,
and everyone’s hand against him;
and he shall live at odds with all his kin.”
The students explained that the final part of this passage explains that Ishmael will dwell in his brothers company forever – implying that Muhammed can therefore claim to be the final messenger of God (from Moses/Jesus/etc…) as it says that Ishmael’s descendants will dwell with their brothers (the two nations will be together – not separate). However, if we look into the original text of the final verse it could be translated as ‘at odds’ ‘in the face of’ or in fact ‘to the east of’ so I tried to explain that the students interpretation of this verse and subsequent reasoning doesn’t seem to fit with the actual language used – and considering there could be more than one interpretation it doesn’t make sense to draw huge conclusions on the basis of an ambiguous verse.
As the students took the lead on today’s session with their quotes (credit to them for being prepared) I will take the lead on thursday !