Continuing from where we left off https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2017/06/06/turning-the-tables-pt-6a-the-three-witnesses-of-1-john-57/, we are now going to see how the Quran attacks a mistaken notion of the Trinity while affirming the historic, orthodox understanding of this most glorious biblical truth.
The Quran’s Misunderstanding of the Trinity
The Muslim scripture censures those who would dare say that Allah is the third of three:
They surely disbelieve who say: Lo! Allah is the third of three (inna Allaha thalithu thalathatin); when there is no God save the One God. If they desist not from so saying a painful doom will fall on those of them who disbelieve. Will they not rather turn unto Allah and seek forgiveness of Him? For Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him. And his mother was a saintly woman. And THEY BOTH used to eat (earthly) food. See how We make the revelations clear for them, and see how they are turned away! S. 5:73-75 Pickhtall
As both the immediate context and the following verse indicate,
And when Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah? he saith: Be glorified! It was not mine to utter that to which I had no right. If I used to say it, then Thou knewest it. Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Thy Mind. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Knower of Things Hidden? S. 5:116 Pickthall
By “third of three,” the Quran is condemning those who take Allah, Mary and Jesus as three gods, which is not the belief and teachings of the historic Christian faith.
In fact, the Islamic scripture never says that they are disbelievers who say that Allah is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, or that Allah, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one God. Nor does it even employ the technical language which Arabic speaking Christians had coined to denote the Trinity, i.e., the Quran never rebukes Christians for affirming that Allah/God is Al-Aqanim-Al-Thalatha (“The Three Hypostases”), or that God is jawhar wahid thalatha aqanim (“one substance, three hypostases”). The reason why it doesn’t is because the author(s) and/or editor(s) were ignorant of what Christians actually believed about the Trinity, and the language they used to express it.
Lest the Muslims accuse us of misrepresenting the Quran’s teaching on the subject of the Trinity, note what the Muslim scholars responsible for producing the first major English study Quran have to say about this issue:
“In addition to reaffirming the full humanity of Jesus, the present verse commands Christians to say not ‘Three.’ This is understood as a command to abandon the doctrine of God as Trinity. Here they are merely told to refrain from asserting this doctrine, as it is better for them. In 5:73, Christians who call God ‘Three’ are more seriously criticized, but this verse is embedded in a larger discussion that seems to be addressing those Christians who took not only Jesus, but also his mother, Mary, to be divine (5:73c). In both the present verse and 5:73, however, the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity as three ‘persons,’ or hypostases, ‘within’ the one God IS NOT EXPLICITLY REFERENCED, and the criticism seems directed at those who assert the existence of three distinct ‘gods,’ an idea that Christians themselves REJECT.” (The Study Quran, by Seyyed Hossein Nasr [HarperOne, 2015 First Edition], p. 267; bold and capital emphasis ours)
The Quran’s Affirmation of the Trinity
With that said, it make come as a shock to both Christians and Muslims that the Muslim “revelation” actually confirms the Trinity, albeit unwittingly.
For instance, the Quran confirms that Jesus is the preexistent Word of God who came forth as a Spirit from him in order to become incarnate from the blessed virgin Mary:
O People of the Book! Go not beyond the limits in your way of life and say not about God but The Truth: That the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was a Messenger of God and His Word that He cast to Mary and a Spirit from Him. So believe in God and His Messengers. And say not: Three (wala taqooloo thalathatun). To refrain yourselves from it is better for you. There is only One God. Glory be to Him that He have a son! To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in and on the earth and God sufficed as a Trustee. S. 4:171 Dr. Laleh Bakhtiar http://www.islamawakened.com/quran/4/st46.htm
Here is another version:
O ye people of the Book! do not exceed in your religion, nor say against God aught save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, is but the apostle of God and His Word, which He cast into Mary and a spirit from Him; believe then in God and His apostles, and say not ‘Three.’ Have done! it were better for you. God is only one God, celebrated be His praise that He should beget a Son! His is what is in the heavens and what is in the earth; and God sufficeth for a guardian. Palmer
This passage echoes John’s teaching that Christ is the eternal Logos (Greek for Word) that became flesh, just as the authors/editors of the Study Quran candidly admit:
“… The understanding of Jesus as a messenger of God is consistent with several Gospel verses that state Jesus was sent by God (see, e.g., John 5:23; 5:30; 5:36-37; 6:39; 6:44; 6:57; 8:16; 8:18; 8:39; 8:43; 10:36; 12:49; 14:24; 17:21; 17:25; 20:21.) Yet the Quran ascribes unique distinctions to certain prophets, which then become the basis of their honorific titles in Islamic tradition. For example, God is said to have taken Abraham for a friend (v. 125), the basis of his honorific title Khalil Allah (the intimate friend of God), and to have spoken to Moses ‘directly’ (v. 164), the basis of his honorific title Kalim Allah (one who speaks with God).
“In the present verse, the uniqueness of Jesus among the messengers is affirmed in several ways, including his title Ruh Allah (‘Spirit of Allah’). He is referred to here and in certain places, however, as the Messiah (al-Masih), a term that in Arabic is understood to refer to his having been purified by God of sin (T). This is not unrelated to the concept of being ‘anointed,’ the root meaning of the word in Hebrew.
“He is also identified as God’s Word (see also 3:45; 19:34), an idea that has CLEAR RESONANCE with the Gospel tradition, where Jesus is identified as the ‘Word’ of God (See John 1). Christian and Islamic tradition, however, derive different theological conclusions from this appellation. In the Islamic context, the identification of Jesus as God’s Word does not preclude or overshadow his function as the bringer of the Gospel, which, like the Torah and the Quran, represent God’s Word and message to humanity. Some commentators interpret His Word here as the tidings Mary received of his miraculous conception in her womb or as an allusion to the Divine Creative Command Be! by which Christ was formed in Mary’s womb (see 3:45, 59; R, T). HOWEVER, while all created beings are brought into existence through God’s Word, Christ ALONE is specifically identified as ‘a Word from God.’ Some might argue, therefore, that Jesus, by virtue of being identified as God’s Word, somehow PARTICIPATES (UNIQUELY) in the Divine Creative Command, although this is not the traditional Islamic understanding of Jesus’ identification as a Word from Him (3:45).
“The miracle of Jesus’ virgin birth is also alluded to here in that he is identified as God’s Word committed to Mary (alqaha ila Maryam), which could also be rendered ‘cast upon Mary.’ Cf. 66:12, where it is said that God breathed His Spirit into Mary. Consistent with the implicit representation in 66:12 of Jesus as God’s ‘Spirit’ breathed into Mary, in the present verse Jesus is also identified as a Spirit from God. Cf., 2:87, 253; 5:110 where Jesus is strengthened… with the Holy Spirit. It is on this basis that Jesus is given the honorific title ‘Spirit of God’ (Ruh Allah) in the Islamic tradition. Some commentators, however, understand Jesus’ description a Spirit from God metaphorically and consider Spirit here to be either a reference to Jesus’ purity or a metaphor for God’s mercy (rahmah; R).” (The Study Quran, p. 267; bold and capital emphasis ours)
The Muslim scripture also describes the Holy Spirit or Spirit of God as a divine Person whom God sends to create and give life, just as we see in the following passages:
(Muhammad), mention in the Book (the Quran) the story of Mary how she left her family and started living in a solitary place to the East out of her people’s sight. We sent Our Spirit to her, who stood before her in the shape of a well formed human being. Mary said, “Would that the Beneficent God would protect me from you. Leave me alone if you are a God fearing person”. He said, “I am the Messengers of your Lord. I have come to give you a purified son“. S. 19:16-19 Muhammad Sarwar http://www.islamawakened.com/quran/19/st23.htm
And Mary, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her private parts, so We breathed into it of Our Spirit and she established as true the Words of her Lord and His Books and she had been among the ones who are morally obligated. S. 66:12 Bakhtiar http://www.islamawakened.com/quran/66/st46.htm
In these examples, the Spirit appears to Mary as a perfect looking man to announce to her that God has sent him to give her an absolutely pure son. The Spirit did this by God breathing him into Mary’s body in order to cause her to conceive Jesus in her blessed womb.
God also breathed his Spirit into Adam,
And when thy Lord said to the angels, ‘See, I am creating a mortal of a clay of mud moulded. When I have shaped him, and breathed My spirit in him, fall you down, bowing before him!’ S. 15:28-29 Arberry
For the obvious purpose of animating Adam’s body so he could become a living being. This shows that the Spirit is the personal divine breath of God through whom God creates and imparts life.
The Holy Spirit was also sent to strengthen Jesus during his earthly ministry,
When Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Remember My favour unto thee and unto thy mother; how I strengthened thee with the holy Spirit, so that thou spakest unto mankind in the cradle as in maturity; and how I taught thee the Scripture and Wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel; and how thou didst shape of clay as it were the likeness of a bird by My permission, and didst blow upon it and it was a bird by My permission, and thou didst heal him who was born blind and the leper by My permission; and how thou didst raise the dead by My permission; and how I restrained the Children of Israel from (harming) thee when thou camest unto them with clear proofs, and those of them who disbelieved exclaimed: This is naught else than mere magic; S. 5:110 Pickthall – cf. Q. 2:87, 253
Here we have an explicit reference to God’s Triunity, i.e., God/Allah, Jesus and the Holy Spirit all working together as Jesus carries out his earthly mission. The Quran is doing nothing other than parrot the Holy Bible at this point:
“Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee. And His fame went throughout the surrounding region. He taught in their synagogues, being glorified by everyone. He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day. And He stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. When He had unrolled the scroll, He found the place where it was written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.’ Then He rolled up the scroll, and He gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all those who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And He began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” Luke 4:14-21
“The word which He sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all, the word, which you know, that was proclaimed throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.” Acts 10:36-38
The Spirit is further sent to strengthened believers to remain faithful to the will of God:
Thou wilt not find folk who believe in Allah and the Last Day loving those who oppose Allah and His messenger, even though they be their fathers or their sons or their brethren or their clan. As for such, He hath written faith upon their hearts and hath strengthened them with a Spirit from Him, and He will bring them into Gardens underneath which rivers flow, wherein they will abide. Allah is well pleased with them, and they are well pleased with Him. They are Allah’s party. Lo! is it not Allah’s party who are the successful? S. 58:22 Pickthall
In order for the Spirit to strengthen all believers everywhere he must be omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. Yet the only way the Spirit could possess such attributes is if he is God in essence, a fact that is even admitted by the late Muslim translator and commentator Abdullah Yusuf Ali:
“… Cf. ii 87 and 253, where it is said that God strengthened the Prophet Jesus with the holy spirit. Here we learn that all good and righteous men are strengthened by God with the holy spirit. If anything, the phrase used here is stronger, ‘a spirit from Himself’. Whenever any one offers his heart in faith and purity to God, God accepts it, engraves that faith on the seeker’s heart, and further fortifies him with THE DIVINE SPIRIT, which we can no more adequately define in human language the nature of God.” (Ali, The Meaning of the Holy Quran, p. 1518, fn. 5365; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Hence, instead of condemning the Trinity the Islamic scripture actually bears witness to it by affirming that Jesus is the preexistent divine Word who became flesh, and that God’s Spirit is a divine Person who does what only God can do.
With that said, we want to be clear in stating that we do no believe that the god of the Quran is the one true God of the Holy Bible, or that the trinity of the Quran is the same exact Trinity found in the inspired pages of the God-breathed Scriptures. Rather, what we have in the Quran is a satanic counterfeit set up to mislead and deceive people from discovering and believing in the one true God revealed in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the words of the blessed Apostle Paul:
“I would to God you could bear with me a little in my folly. Indeed, bear with me. For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy. For I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear that somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve through his trickery, so your minds might be led astray from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if you receive another spirit, which you have not received, or another gospel, which you have not accepted, you might submit to it readily enough… For such are false apostles and deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.” 2 Corinthians 11:1-4, 13-15
Our only purpose in mentioning this is to show Muslims that their own scripture testifies to the Trinity in that it acknowledges the one true God of Abraham, his eternal Word who became Jesus and the Holy Spirit, even though the Quran’s depiction of them is not identical to the same named Persons revealed in the Holy Bible.
So much for the Muslim criticism of 1 John 5:7.
Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptural references taken from the Modern English Version (MEV) of the Holy Bible.