A Fancy for Fiction and Fables

MENJ has again taken issue with our harmonization of the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke.

As has been the case before, nothing stated by his sources even addresses our harmonization. They simply repeat ad nauseam that the differences within the narratives somehow prove that they are contradictory.

It has become quite apparent that our responses have unnerved MENJ to such a point that he is now getting really desperate to do anything to refute our claims. He thinks that appealing to more scholars will convince his readers that he has actually offered a meaningful response. All MENJ has shown is that he is incapable of responding to the issues and is a master of logical fallacies. He is guilty of what is commonly called "stacking the deck." He simply piles up quote upon quote from "scholars", as if he is actually saying something of substance. His "deck stacking" only moves from one fallacy of appealing to authority to another.

We had already explained the error of appealing to authority in one of our responses to MENJ’s team member, Bravo. Yet, it seems that our explanation has fallen on deaf ears. So we again repeat it here, but this time with added emphasis so that MENJ doesn’t miss it:

Presenting a long list of convenient opinions is not the same as giving proof. The western world has a long tradition of freedom of expression, including the freedom to publish wrong opinions, weak research, and unfounded conclusions. It is easy to find academic publications supporting nearly any opinion imaginable. Despite this being Bravo's favorite approach, nothing is actually established by quoting a hundred people, with or without academic degrees, who happen to hold the same opinion as I do, if I fail to carefully discuss also the arguments against my position and the data itself.   (Source)

In the newly added "Addendum", MENJ also takes issue with our questioning the Quran’s complete silence on Joseph, the towns of Nazareth, Bethlehem and the flight of Egypt by simply repeating his attack on the reliability of the narratives. He claims that the Quran largely omits these stories due to their being nothing more than "fictions invented by anonymous authors."

Not only has MENJ failed to prove that these accounts are fictions, he also fails to prove that the Quran is free from "fictions" and "myths". As we shall show a little later, the Quran is FILLED with myths and fables, a fact even admitted by Muslims themselves!

MENJ then takes issue with Matthew’s alleged "molding" of the Jewish Bible to prove his theology. Before responding to this issue, we would like to remind MENJ again that people living in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Since MENJ has a problem with Matthew’s "molding" of the Jewish Bible, he must therefore have a problem with Muhammad’s remolding of biblical history, as discussed in this article:


This means that MENJ’s criteria can be used more forcefully against Muhammad to prove that he was indeed a false prophet who didn’t mind twisting history to support his deceptions and lies!

As far as Matthew’s alleged "molding" is concerned, the evidence shows that Matthew didn’t do any such thing. Matthew accurately recorded the birth and life of Jesus and showed how these events were in fulfillment of OT typology and prophesies.

This leads us to our next point. MENJ can only make this claim against Matthew by ignoring the internal and external evidence which conclusively demonstrate that the Gospels were already in circulation during the first generation of eyewitnesses. This makes it highly improbable (if not impossible) that Matthew and the other writers simply concocted stories about Jesus and got away with it.

In fact, the New Testament authors often make the claim that they were not recording myths. They even went so far as to attack and speak against anyone using myths and fables:

"Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught." Luke 1:1-4

"As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain men not to teach false doctrines any longer nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. These promote controversies rather than God's work - which is by faith." 1Timothy 1:3-4

"Have nothing to do with godless myths and old wives' tales; rather, train yourself to be godly." 1 Timothy 4:7

"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths." 2 Timothy 4:3-4

"This testimony is true. Therefore, rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the commands of those who reject the truth." Titus 1:13-14

"We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain." 2 Peter 1:16-18

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched - this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ." 1 John 1:1-3

Those who have studied myths agree with the NT authors that their accounts are anything but myths and fables. J.B. Philips comments on the alleged mythical elements contained within the Holy Bible, specifically the Gospels:

"I have read, in Greek and Latin, scores of myths, but I did not find the slightest flavour of myth here. There is no hysteria, no careful working for effect, and no attempt at collusion. These are not embroidered tales. The material is cut to the bone." (Philips, The Ring of Truth [New York: The Macmillian Company, 1967], p. 77)

C.S. Lewis, former Professor of Renaissance Literature at Cambridge and Oxford and a modern myth writer himself, stated:

"First, then, whatever these men may be as Biblical critics, I distrust them as critics. They seem to me to lack literary judgement, to be imperceptive about the very quality of the texts they are reading... If he tells me that something in a Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read, how well his palate is trained in detecting them by the flavour; not how many years he has spent on that Gospel... I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like this." (Lewis, Christian Reflections [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967], pp. 154-155)

The late F.F. Bruce wrote:

"At any rate, the time elapsing between the evangelic events and the writing of most of the New Testament books was, from the standpoint of historical research, satisfactorily short." (Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? [InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove Ill 60515; Fifth ed. rpt. 1992], p. 14)

He continued to say:

"The evidence indicates that the written sources of our Synoptic Gospels are not later than c. AD 60; some of them have even been traced back to notes taken out of our Lord's teaching while His words were actually being uttered. The oral sources go back to the very beginning of Christian history. We are, in fact, practically all the way through in touch with evidence of eyewitnesses. The earliest preachers of the gospel knew the value of this first-hand testimony, and appealed to it time and again. ‘We are witnesses of these things,’ was their constant and confident assertion. And it can have been by no means so easy as some writers seem to think to invent words and deeds of Jesus in those early years, when so many of His disciples were about, who could remember what had and had not happened. Indeed, the evidence is that the early Christians were careful to distinguish between sayings of Jesus and their own inferences and judgments. Paul, for example, when discussing the vexed question of marriage and divorce in I Corinthians vii, is careful to make a distinction between his own advice on the subject and the Lord's decisive ruling: ‘I, not the Lord,’ and again, ‘Not I, but the Lord.’" (Bruce, pp. 45-46)

Finally, certain Muslim historians quote the canonical Gospels as authoritative. For instance, al-Tabari cites (albeit not always accurately) Matthew’s narratives as genuine events in the life of Christ:

That night a group set out to go to Christ, urged by the rise of an unknown star. They had been discussing that the rise of the star was one of the signs of the birth of the child, as indicated in the Book of Daniel. They set out on the road to reach the newborn, and carried gold and frankincense and myrrh. They passed by the king of Palestine. He asked them where they were bound, and they told him. He then asked, "Why of all things this gold, frankincense, and myrrh that you bring as a gift for him?" They replied, "They befit him because gold is the noblest possession, and this propjet is the noblest of his age, myrrh heals wound and fracture, and similarly, this prophet will be raised by God to heaven, uniquely in his time." Upon hearing this, the king resolved to kill the child. He told them, "Go, and when you have found him, bring me word, and I shall follow in your footsteps." They departed, and delivered the gifts to Mary. They wanted to return to the king to bring him word of the place of Jesus, but an angel met them, saying, "Do not return to him, and do not bring him word of the child’s place, for the king wanted to learn of it to slay the child." Thus they departed by another road.305 (The History of al-Tabari Volume IV - The Ancient Kingdom, Moshe Perlman trans. [The State University of New York Press; Albany, 1987], p. 116)

The translator’s note says:

305. Matth. 2

Al-Tabari continues:

Some historians mentioned that Jesus was born forty-two years after Augustus had become emperor. Augustus continued to live on, and his reign lasted fifty-six years; some add a few days. The Jews assaulted Christ. The sovereign in Jerusalem at the time was Caesar, and it was on his behalf that Herod the Great reigned in Jerusalem. Messengers of the king of Persia came to him. Sent to Christ, they came to Herod by mistake. They informed Herod that the king of Persia had sent them to offer Christ the gifts they carried, gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense. They told him that they had observed that Christ's star had risen - they had learned this from computation. They offered him the gifts at Bethlehem in Palestine. When Herod learned about them, he plotted against Christ, and looked for him in order to slay him. God commanded an angel to tell Joseph, who was with Mary at the sanctuary, that Herod intended to slay the child, and to instruct him to flee to Egypt with the child and its mother.

"When Herod died the angel told Joseph, who was in Egypt, that Herod was dead and that his son Archelaus reigned instead - the man who sought to slay the child was no longer alive. Joseph took the child to Nazareth in Palestine, to FULFILL the word of Isaiah [sic] the prophet, ‘I called you out of Egypt322 ..." (Ibid., pp. 124-125; bold emphasis ours)

The footnote reads:

322. The reference ascribed here to Isaiah is in Hosea 11:1. (Ibid., p. 125; bold emphasis ours)

Al-Tabari goes so far as to "borrow" Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus!:

The Persians assert that sixty-five years after Alexander seized Babylonia, and fifty-one years after Arsacid rule began, Mary the daughter of ‘Imran gave birth to Jesus. But the Christians assert that Jesus was born to here 303 years after Alexander conquered Babylonia, and that John the Baptist was born six months before Jesus. They report that Mary was pregnant with Jesus when she was thirteen years old. They also report that Jesus lived thirty-two years and a few days before his ascension, and that Mary lived six more years after his ascension, altogether over fifty years. They assert that John and Jesus met in the Jordan River when Jesus was thirty years of age, and that John was slain before the ascension of Jesus. Zechariah b. Berechiah, the father of Yahya b. Zechariah, and ‘Imran b. Matthan, the father of Mary, were married to two sisters. One was married to Zechariah- she was the mother of John, the other was with ‘Imran b. Matthan, and she was the mother of Mary. ‘Imran b. Matthan died when the mother of Mary was pregnant with her. When Mary was born, Zechariah provided for her after her mother’s death, because her aunt, the sister of her mother, was with him. The name of Mary’s mother was Hanna bt. Faqud b. Qabil; the name of the sister of Mary’s mother, that is, the name of John’s mother was Elizabeth bt. Faqud. Zechariah provided for Mary, and she was engaged to Joseph b. Jacob b. Mathan b. Eleazar b. Eliud b. Achim b. Zadok b. Azor b. Eliakim b. Abiud b. Zerubbabel, b. Shealtiel b. Jechonia b. Josiah b. Amon b. Manasseh b. Hezekiah b. Ahaziah b. Jotham b. Uzziah b. Joram b. Jehosaphat b. Asa b. Abijah b. Rehoboam b. Solomon b. David.

According to Ibn Humayd- Salamah- Ibn Ishaq: As far as I could learn from her lineage, Mary was the daughter of ‘Imran b. Josiah b. Amon b. Manasse b. Hezekiah b. Ahaziah b. Jotham b. Azariah b. Amaziah b. Joash b. Ahaziah b. Joram b. Jehosaphat b. Asa b. Abijah b. Rehoboam b. Solomon. (Ibid., pp. 103-104; bold emphasis ours)

Here we have one of Islam's greatest historians quoting Matthew's genealogy and birth narrative without so much as a hint that these reports are corrupt or inauthentic! This shows that MENJ’s claim that the Quran rejects these accounts as "fictions" is simply erroneous to say the least. The fact that historians like Al-Tabari could quote from these Gospel accounts demonstrate that nothing in the Quran even remotely suggests Matthew-Luke’s birth narratives are fables or frauds. It only shows that the Quran is an incomplete and imperfect record, failing to provide essential details and authentic eyewitness information on the life of Jesus, forcing the Muslim expositors and historians to consult with the earlier scriptures to get sufficient information for their accounts.

This is not the only time where Muslims had to do this. Muslims were forced to consult the biblical record in order to make sense of the Quranic story of Adam and Eve:

The story of Adam (30-38) is told in earlier surahs belonging to the later Meccan period. His creation, the obeisance of the angels to him, his dwelling in the garden and subsequent expulsion are all told in some detail. These verses may be seen as a commentary on an already well-known story, because they raise new issues and because they are placed before other and more explicit verses. These nine verses have raised many questions and controversies: Why did God tell the angels of His plan to establish a representative for Himself on the earth? How did the angels know that Adam's progeny would act wickedly? How could they question the will and wisdom of God? How was this vicegerent of God created and why did he soon disobey God's command against eating the forbidden fruit? What sort of fruit did the forbidden tree bear? Who was Satan and how was he able to enter the garden in order to lead the innocent Adam and his spouse astray? Adam's stay in Paradise, the creation of a mate for him, and their sin and expulsion are but briefly mentioned in the Qur'an. The Qur'an leaves many other questions UNANSWERED. It does not, for example, MENTION EVE BY NAME, or the manner in which she was created. For the answers to these and other questions, commentators HAD TO RESORT TO THE PEOPLE OF THE BOOK. (Mahmoud M. Ayoub, The Qur'an and Its Interpreters - Volume 1 [State University of New York Press, Albany 1984], p. 73; bold and capital emphasis ours)

The preceding factors show that MENJ’s claim regarding the narratives being "fictions" is itself a fiction and only further demonstrates his logical fallacies. He has failed to prove that there is a genuine error in the birth narratives. He has failed to show that these accounts are fictions. His only evidence is to appeal to certain scholars without telling us in what way their opinions constitute as evidence. All this simply shows is that there are individuals who, like MENJ, hold to erroneous and unscholarly views of the Gospels.

This leads us to our final section.


Since MENJ is fond of quoting individuals to support his claim that the Holy Bible contains myths, we now return the favor.

Just like there are "scholars" who claim that the Gospels contain fiction, Islam also has its fair share of scholars that claim the same thing for the Quran. These Muslim scholars actually have good reasons for making such claims, since the Quran is filled with myths and fables.

For instance, the Quran says that Solomon had conversations with animals just as one would have conservations with humans:

"And there were gathered together unto Solomon his armies of the jinn and humankind, and of the birds, and they were set in battle order; Till, when they reached the Valley of the Ants, an ant exclaimed: O ants! Enter your dwellings lest Solomon and his armies crush you, unperceiving. And (Solomon) smiled, laughing at her speech, and said: My Lord, arouse me to be thankful for Thy favour wherewith Thou hast favoured me and my parents, and to do good that shall be pleasing unto Thee, and include me in (the number of) Thy righteous slaves. And he sought among the birds and said: How is it that I see not the hoopoe, or is he among the absent? I verily will punish him with hard punishment or I verily will slay him, or he verily shall bring me a plain excuse. But he was not long in coming, and he said: I have found out (a thing) that thou apprehendest not, and I come unto thee from Sheba with sure tidings. Lo! I found a woman ruling over them, and she hath been given (abundance) of all things, and hers is a mighty throne. I found her and her people worshipping the sun instead of Allah; and Satan maketh their works fairseeming unto them, and debarreth them from the way (of Truth), so that they go not aright; So that they worship not Allah, Who bringeth forth the hidden in the heavens and the earth, and knoweth what ye hide and what ye proclaim ..." S. 27:17-25

Muslim scholar and translator Muhammad Asad felt the need to allegorize this passage since he was seemingly aware of the difficulty in viewing this historically:

"In this instance, Solomon evidently refers to his own understanding and admiration of nature (cf. 38:31-33 and the corresponding notes) as well as to his loving compassion for the humblest of God's creatures, as a great divine blessing: and this is the Qur'anic moral of the LEGENDARY story of the ant." (Asad, The Message of the Qur'an [Dar Al-Andalus Limited 3 Library Ramp, Gibraltar rpt. 1993], p. 578, fn. 17; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Compare this fable with the Holy Bible’s accurate and credible version:

"God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than any other man, including Ethan the Ezrahite - wiser than Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon's wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom." 1 Kings 4:29-34

The Bible reports the historical fact that Solomon knew botany and zoology and taught his knowledge of these disciplines to many people. A very credible and reasonable report of "Solomon speaking ABOUT animals" is turned by the author of the Quran into a ridiculous and clearly fictional story on "Solomon speaking WITH animals".

The Quran even claims that both the winds and jinns (demons) were subservient to Solomon:

"And to Solomon (We subjected) the wind strongly raging, running by his command towards the land which We had blessed. And of everything We are the All-Knower. And of the Shay‚tin (devils) (from the jinns) were some who dived for him, and did other work besides that; and it was We Who guarded them." S. 21:81-82

"So, We subjected to him the wind, it blew gently to his order whithersoever he willed, And also the Shay‚tin (devils) from the jinns (including) every kind of builder and diver, And also others bound in fetters. [Saying of All‚h to Solomon]: ‘This is Our gift, so spend you or withhold, no account will be asked’." S. 38:36-39

Here again is Muhammad Asad:

"In this as well as in several other passages relating to Solomon, the Qur'an alludes to many POETIC LEGENDS which were associated with his name since early antiquity and had become part and parcel of Judeo-Christian and Arabian lore long before the advent of Islam. Although it is undoubtedly possible to interpret such passages in a 'rationalistic' manner, I do not think that this is really necessary. Because they were so deeply ingrained in the imagination of the people to whom the Qur'an addressed itself in the first instance, these legendary accounts of Solomon's wisdom and magic powers had acquired a cultural reality of their own and were, therefore, eminently suited to serve as a medium for the parabolic exposition of certain ethical truths with which this book is concerned: and so, without denying or confirming their MYTHICAL character, the Qur'an uses them as a foil for the idea that God is the ultimate source of all human power and glory, and that all achievements of human ingenuity, even though they may sometimes border on the miraculous, are but an expression of His transcendental creativity." (Asad, p. 498, fn. 77; bold and capital emphasis ours)

We have so far only looked at the stories about Solomon found in the Quran. These examples show that MENJ just opened Pandora’s box. We are not done by far. Let’s unwrap some more goodies by turning to this interesting fable:

Or (take) the similitude of one who passed by a hamlet, all in ruins to its roofs. He said: "Oh! how shall Allah bring it (ever) to life, after (this) its death?" but Allah caused him to die for a hundred years, then raised him up (again). He said: "How long didst thou tarry (thus)?" He said: (Perhaps) a day or part of a day." He said: "Nay, thou hast tarried thus a hundred years; but look at thy food and thy drink; they show no signs of age; and look at thy donkey: And that We may make of thee a sign unto the people, Look further at the bones, how We bring them together and clothe them with flesh." When this was shown clearly to him, he said: "I know that Allah hath power over all things." S. 2:259

Asad claims:

"... The story told in this verse is obviously a PARABLE meant to illustrate God's power to bring the dead back to life ... The speculation of some of the earlier commentators as to the ‘identity’ of the man and the town mentioned in this story are without any substance, and may have been influenced by TALMUDIC LEGENDS." (Ibid., p. 58, fn. 253; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Another Quranic fable is found in Surah 18:9-22, 25-26, called the Story of the Sleepers of the Cave. According to this fable, several youths and their dog fled to a cave where according to one version of the story they slept for 309 years! Asad states:

"... We may, therefore, safely assume that the LEGEND of the Men of the Cave - stripped of its Christian garb and the superimposed Christian background - is, substantially, of Jewish origin ... But whatever the source of this LEGEND, and irrespective of whether it is of Jewish or Christian origin, the fact remains that it is used in the Qur'an IN A PURELY PARABOLIC SENSE: namely, as an illustration of God's power to bring about death (or ‘sleep’) and resurrection (or ‘awakening’); and, secondly, as an ALLEGORY of the piety that induces men to abandon a wicked or frivolous world in order to keep their faith unsullied, and of God's recognition of that faith by His bestowal of a spiritual awakening which transcends time and death." (Ibid., p. 439, fn. 7; bold and capital emphasis ours)


"The future tense in sayaqulun points once again to the LEGENDARY character of the story as such, and implies that all speculation about its details is irrelevant to its parabolic, ethical purport." (Ibid., p. 442, fn. 31; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Surah 18 of the Quran contains not only the legend of the Sleepers in the Cave, but also a fictional story about Moses and Al-Khidr. Asad comments on this story, specifically on S. 18:60:

"... In this instance, it evidently marks a connection, with verse 54 above (‘many facets have We given in this Qur'an to every kind of lesson [designed] for [the benefit of] mankind’), and introduces an ALLEGORY meant to illustrate the fact that knowledge, and particularly spiritual knowledge, is inexhaustible ... The subsequent PARABLE of Moses and his quest for knowledge (verses 60-82) has become, in the course of time, the nucleus of INNUMERABLE LEGENDS with which we are not concerned here ... There is no doubt that this Tradition is a kind of ALLEGORICAL introduction to our Qur'anic PARABLE ... As for the ‘junction of the two seas’, which many of the early commentators endeavored to ‘identify’ in geographical terms (ranging from the meeting of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean at the Bab al-Mandab to that of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean at the Straits of Gibraltar), Baydawi offers, in his commentary on verse 60, a purely ALLEGORICAL explanation ..." (Ibid., pp. 448-449, fn. 67; bold and capital emphasis ours)


"... In the Tradition on the authority of Ubayy ibn Ka'b (referred to in note 67) this mysterious sage is spoken of as Al-Khadir or Al-Khidr, meaning ‘the Green One’. Apparently this is an epithet rather than a name, implying (according to popular LEGEND) that his wisdom was ever-fresh (‘green’) and imperishable: a notion which bears out the assumption that we have here an ALLEGORIC FIGURE symbolizing the utmost depth of mystic insight accessible to man." (Ibid., p. 449, fn. 73; bold and emphasis ours)

Another Muslim named Faruq Sherif writes:

Some Legendary Figures

In the course of developing its teachings, the Qur'an frequently cites the example not of prophets and sages of ancient times, but also of some LEGENDARY, MYTHICAL or even FICTITIOUS persons. Chief among these is Khidr, the Evergreen who, though not mentioned by name, is recognised as the mysterious person (the possessor of divinely-inspired knowledge of the secret sources of life) whom Moses met on his ALLEGORICAL journey ... Another LEGEND prominently described in the Qur'an is that of the ‘seven sleepers’ or the ‘Companions of the Cave’ also mentioned in another section of this book. In this connection mention is made of the angels Harut and Marut who taught magic at Babylon, but warned the people that the teaching was imparted to them only to try them. In the commentaries of the Qur'an Harut and Marut have been identified with the two fallen angels of Jewish tradition who, having sinned on earth, were hung by their feet over a well for punishment.

A summary is given below of the contents of the Qur'an relating to three LEGENDARY figures: Dhulqarnain, Luqman, Qarun. A section is also included on Pharaoh who, although a historical person, often appears in the Qur'an as an archetype for autocracy. The experiences or characteristics of these MYTHICAL or SEMI-MYTHICAL figures are included to serve a salutary example or a dissuasive lesson to believers." (Sherif, A Guide to the Contents of the Qur'an [Garnet Publishing, 8 South Court South Street, Reading, RG1 4QS UK, 1995], pp. 94-95; bold and capital emphasis ours)

It is not over just yet! MENJ claimed that the Quran rejects the "fictions" of the canonical Gospels. What MENJ should have said is that the Quran rejects the authentic birth narratives of the Gospels and instead incorporates material from the rather inauthentic and unreliable second-third century infancy and apocryphal Gospel stories! For instance, the Quran in Surah 3:49 and 5:110 claims that Jesus fashioned clay birds and was able to tell people what they had hidden in their homes. The Quran also claims in Surah 3 and 19 that Zechariah was Mary’s guardian while she remained in the temple, that God miraculously fed her, that rods were cast for her, that Jesus spoke from the cradle and that Mary received refreshment from a palm tree.

All these details come from second and third century documents, as the following articles demonstrate:


For more info on the Quran’s use of apocryphal material, please consult the section "Sources of the Qur'an" at http://answering-islam.org/Quran/Sources/index.htm

This is a fact that even some Muslims have no problem admitting. In his note on Surah 3:44, A. Yusuf Ali states quite bluntly:

Christian apocryphal writings mention the contention between the priests as to the honor of taking charge of Mary, and how it was decided by means of rods or reeds in favour of Zakariya. (Ali, The Holy Qur’an - taken from the ALIM CD-ROM version)

Ali’s fn. 388 states:

... Some apocryphal Gospels describe him as preaching from infancy. (Ibid.)

Ali goes on to say in fn. 390:

The miracle of the clay birds is found in some of the apocryphal Gospels ... (Ibid.)

Neal Robinson is another Muslim who admits that some of the Quranic stories on Jesus are derived from apocryphal sources:

Some of the features of the Qur’anic representation of Jesus which cannot be traced to the canonical gospels or to the Diatesseron are reminiscent of the apocryphal infancy gospels. The Protoevangelium of James mentions that as a child Mary received food from an angel, that when she was 12 a guardian was chosen for her by casting lots, and that immediately before the annunciation she was occupied making a curtain for the temple. The Latin Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew includes the miracle of the palm tree and the stream but in the context of the flight into Egypt. Pace the anti-Muslim polemicists, there may have been Christians who believed that Jesus spoke in the cradle for this is mentioned in the Arabic Infancy Gospel. Finally, the miracle of creating birds from clay is found in the Infancy Story of Thomas. Syriac translations of the Protoevangelium of James and the Infancy Story of Thomas existed in pre-Islamic times. The Arabic Infancy Gospel and the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew are later works, but both probably drew on pre-Islamic Syriac sources. (Robinson, Christ In Islam and Christianity [State University of New York Press, Albany 1991], p. 19; bold emphasis ours)

Commenting on some of the differences between the Quranic account of Jesus’ fashioning clay birds to that found in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, Robinson noted:

The parallel is not exact. In the Qur’an Jesus creates birds; here he creates twelve sparrows. In the Qur’an he blows into them; here he claps his hands and issues an oral command. Nevertheless, it is striking that, in the Qur’an as in the The Infancy Story of Thomas, two distinct stages are envisaged. Jesus’ fashioning the birds from clay and his bringing them to life. Moreover the second Qur’anic version somewhat puzzling mentions God’s permission in connection with both stages. This makes admirable sense if on the basis of the The Infancy Story of Thomas we assume that the fashioning of the birds involved an infringement of the Sabbath. In other words the Qur’an SEEMS TO EXPECT PRIOR KNOWLEDGE OF THE STORY on the part of the hearers. Independent confirmation OF THIS is given by Ibn Ishaq, the biographer of the Prophet. He refers to the miracle of the birds and the raising of the dead in his account of the beliefs of the Christians of Najran who sent an embassy to Muhammad at Medina:

They argue that he is God because he used to raise the dead, and heal the sick, and declare the unseen; and make clay birds and then breathe into them that they flew away; and all this was done by the command of God Almighty, <<We will make him a sign to men.>> (19:21)

(Ibid., pp. 143-144; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Furthermore, our readers may be shocked to find out that the very scholars whom MENJ appeals to almost unanimously reject these documents! The great number of these scholars regard the apocrypha as inauthentic, providing little historical value for the life of Jesus. Amazingly, Gnostics and Docetists, groups that denied the real humanity of Christ, wrote some of these apocryphal Gospels that the Quran "borrows"!

From the second century and later come a large number of Christian writings, many of which purport to give an account of what Jesus said and did. These 'apocryphal gospels' vary from novelistic accounts of improbable marvels surrounding Jesus' birth and childhood (especially the Protevangelium of James and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas) to elaborate discourses on Gnostic cosmology presented as the post-resurrection teaching of Jesus to his disciples (several such were found at Nag Hammadi, notably the Sophia of Jesus Christ). A high percentage of these works are clearly written within the framework of a Gnosticized Christianity (indeed some are Christian adaptations of pagan Gnostic writings /6/), and their portrait of Jesus is tailored accordingly. The difference in tone from first-century Christian writings is thus remarkable, and leaves the historian with a fundamental choice: either he accepts the earlier accounts and so dismisses the 'Gnostic' Jesus as a later perversion, or he alleges a large-scale coverup by 'orthodox' Christianity which successfully suppressed earlier evidence of a Jesus whose magical propensities and esoteric teaching formed the historical basis of the 'Gnostic' version of Christianity-a more authentic version which is now labelled 'heretical' only because it had the misfortune to be the eventual loser in the battle with 'orthodoxy' /7/. This paper proceeds on the assumption that the earlier evidence is to be preferred. This is not to deny, however, that some authentic tradition about Jesus may have been preserved outside the New Testament. This is in fact inherently likely, and scholars have argued that some stories, such as that of the encounter of Jesus in the temple with Levi the Pharisee /8/, or sayings such as the frequently quoted 'Be approved moneychangers' /9/, are likely to have a basis in fact. Such isolated fragments, however, are not a significant contribution to our knowledge of Jesus. (Source)

Since Raymond Brown is obviously one of MENJ’s "heroes", here are his comments regarding the apocryphal books:

PROTEVANGELIUM OF JAMES. This work, preserved in many Greek mss. beginning in the 3rd, was in circulation by mid-2d century. Dealing with Mary’s family, her upbringing and marriage to Joseph, as well as the birth of Jesus, it claims to have been written by James (presumably because as "brother of the Lord" he would have known the family history). Its INCORRECT knowledge of Judaism shows THAT IT IS NOT A HISTORICAL ACCOUNT, even though it may contain some reliable items of earlier tradition. The Protevangelium gives the names of Mary’s parents as Joachim and Anne, has Mary presented at the Temple at an early age, describes the "brothers" of Jesus as children of Joseph by a previous marriage, and suggests that Mary gave birth to Jesus painlessly and without any rupture of the hymen. It has had great influence on religious art and the development of mariology. (Brown, Introduction To The New Testament [Doubleday, October 1, 1997; ISBN: 0385247672], p. 836; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Not only is this source not a historical document according to Brown, but it also contradicts the Quran’s claim that Mary underwent birth pains. (Cf. 19:23)

Brown continues:

INFANCY GOSPEL OF THOMAS. The original Greek survives only in very late mss., although there are Latin and Syriac texts from the 5th century. It consists of a number of LEGENDARY EPISODES showing the miraculous powers of the boy Jesus from age five through twelve. (The best known is how he made clay birds fly.) Christologically, it is meant to show that the boy Jesus had the same power (and the same opposition) as the adult Jesus. (Ibid., pp. 836-837; bold and capital emphasis ours)

In his work, The Birth of the Messiah, which MENJ claims "is the single most authoritative book on the subject", Brown writes:

quot;... As for their destination, one very popular tradition (Arabic Infancy Gospel 24; translated from a Syriac original of the fifth century or earlier) brings the family to Matariyah, just NE of Cairo, near ancient On (Heliopolis) and near the Jewish center at Leontopolis. Here Jesus was responsible for the growth of balsam trees or palm trees, a tradition that made its way with alterations into the Muslim Koran ..." (The Birth of the Messiah [Bantam Books; Updated edition, May 18, 1999; ISBN: 0385494475], paperback edition, pp. 203-204)

Commenting on this same apocryphal work, author Willis Barnstone noted:

quot;... The fact that the work was translated into Arabic made it available to Mohammed (or whoever compiled the Koran), who in turn adopted ITS LEGENDS in the Koran ..." (Barnstone, The Other Bible [Harper SanFrancisco, May 1984; ISBN: 0062500309], p. 407; bold and capital emphasis ours)

We wonder what MENJ will have to say about these authors' comments that the Quran includes apocryphal legends.

It should be stated that these legendary apocryphal books were mainly written to fill in details on aspects of Jesus’ life (mainly his infancy) which the authentic canonical Gospels do not say much about. The interesting part about this is that the above element in the Quran comes from a book which presents details on the holy family’s flight to Egypt, the very flight which MENJ has attacked as fictitious! Hence, the author of the Quran has "borrowed" from a highly fictitious book which contains details about a supposedly "fictitious" event in the life of Jesus!

Brown makes the following comments regarding the apocryphal books:

... In the second century, James "the brother of the Lord" who lived into the 60s, was thought to be a plausible source for information about Jesus’ infancy, but the resultant Protevangelium IS HIGHLY LEGENDARY, makes elementary mistakes about Temple procedure, and is obviously MORE FOLKLORIC than the canonical infancy narratives ... All of this means that, in fact, we have no real knowledge that any or all of the infancy material came from a tradition for which there was a corroborating witness. (Ibid., p. 33; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Brown’s statement here not only discredits the Gospels and the apocrypha, but the Quran as well since the latter is clearly dependent upon these sources for its info concerning the life of Christ.

We have no idea where the Protevangelium of James (1:1; 2:1), WHICH IS CLEARLY UNHISTORICAL ON MANY POINTS, got the tradition that the names of Mary’s parents were Joachim and Anne ... (p. 288; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Although treatment of the noncanonical infancy stories is beyond the focus of a commentary devoted to Matt 1-2 and Luke 1-2, they have been the subject of continued scholarly interest. In conveying Jesus’ life before the public ministry the apocryphal material is, in common estimation, later than AND DERIVATIVE FROM the canonical accounts or traditions ... (p. 583)

We conclude with Brown’s comments on John P. Meier’s view of the Protevangelium:

In Marginal (324) Meier dismisses virtually without discussion the earlier portrayal in the Protevangelium of James that identified these figures as children of Joseph by a previous marriage. He simply characterizes the Protevangelium as "a wildly imaginative folk narrative that is OUTRAGEOUSLY INACCURATE ABOUT THINGS JEWISH." THAT IS TRUE, but Vorster ("Annunciation" 42) wisely warns that it "does not imply that the story is completely worthless for historical construction" ... (Ibid., p. 606)

What these preceding examples have shown is that the very same scholars that MENJ appeals to can be used against him to prove that the Quran is nothing more than a literary fraud.


It has become quite evident that MENJ is incapable of interacting with the factual data presented in our responses. MENJ has been forced to resort to quoting source after source without ever addressing why our harmonization is invalid. He simply repeats the statement that Matthew and Luke contain vast differences, but fails to explain why these vast differences are necessarily contradictory or incapable of being harmonized.

Our response has shown that MENJ does not apply his methodology consistently, since if he did he would be forced to reject the Quran. The fact that he continues to affirm his belief in the accuracy and inspiration of the Quran, despite all of its variations and gross errors, serves only to expose his real agenda. MENJ will do anything to undermine God’s true word, the Holy Bible, even if it means adopting methods inconsistently.

What is even more amazing about all this is that MENJ concludes his "rebuttal" by appealing to the very Book he so vehemently attacks to prove that his god Allah is the true God!

And just to correct MENJ’s final straw man. We have no problem referring to the true God as Allah, since the name itself is not the issue. The real issue is that the Allah OF THE QURAN is not the Allah of the Holy Bible. The god of Islam is a false deity seeking to usurp the glory of the true God. This will never happen since the triune God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit sovereignly rules forever and ever! Amen.

Hallelujah! We come to you O Yahweh Elohim! For we are in the service of the risen Lord and eternal Savior, our beloved king Jesus Christ, for ever and ever. Since the god of Islam does not truly exist, we continue to reject the petty threats of this false deity’s worshippers and denounce Muhammad’s non-existent sterile Monad pagan god as a fantasy that shall be vanquished by Him who lives forever and ever. And if the "Terrorists" think that the Allah of Islam is the true God, then they only demonstrate that the god of this world has deceived them from seeing the truth - see http://answering-islam.org/Shamoun/god.htm

It is to our true Lord alone, the eternal TRIUNE God that we submit to in total obedience, even though the disbelievers may dislike it. Amen! Amen! And again Amen!

Sam Shamoun

Responses to Bismikaallahuma
Answering Islam Home Page