Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Message For Muslims: Jesus as a boy

What things do you remember when you look back on your childhood? Do you remember times of being sick, or times when you were hurt, or do you remember things like birthday parties and celebrations? Do you have mostly good memories or bad memories? Can you remember your first day of school? Can you remember games that you played as a child? As a Muslim, do you remember your first prayers at the mosque? There are usually quite a few memories we retain from when we were children.

There is a story about Jesus, as a child, making clay birds, which he then proceeds to bring to life, which is not found in the Bible, but is recorded in a book called the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (not to be confused with the absolutely different sayings Gospel of Thomas), which is a non-canonical, pseudepigraphical, apocryphal work attributed to "Thomas the Israelite" (in a medieval Latin version), about the childhood of Jesus that dates to the 2nd and 3rd centuries.

Sura 3:49 says, “As a messenger to the Children of Israel: "I come to you with a sign from your Lord - I create for you from clay the shape of a bird, then I blow into it, and it becomes a live bird by GOD's leave. I restore vision to the blind, heal the leprous, and I revive the dead by GOD's leave. I can tell you what you eat, and what you store in your homes. This should be a proof for you, if you are believers.”

Sura 5:110 says, "GOD will say, "O Jesus, son of Mary, remember My blessings upon you and your mother. I supported you with the Holy Spirit, to enable you to speak to the people from the crib, as well as an adult. I taught you the scripture, wisdom, the Torah, and the Gospel. Recall that you created from clay the shape of a bird by My leave, then blew into it, and it became a live bird by My leave. You healed the blind and the leprous by My leave, and revived the dead by My leave. Recall that I protected you from the Children of Israel who wanted to hurt you, despite the profound miracles you had shown them. The disbelievers among them said, `This is obviously magic.'"

The Bible, in the book of Luke, records an account of Jesus as a boy, where Mary, Joseph and Jesus went to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem:

"When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you."
"Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." (Luke 2:42-52)

We learn from this story that, even as a boy, Jesus knew a great deal about God. He felt the temple was his “home,” and he called God his “Father.” Even as a boy, Jesus was thinking deeply about life, God and his responsibility to God.

These stories help us understand that Jesus was a unique, very special boy with exceptional knowledge about spiritual truth.

Now, back to Sura al-Maidah 5:110, where we read, "And when thou createst out of the clay, by My leave as the likeness of a bird, and thou breathest into it and it is a bird by my leave."

And once again, the same is claimed in Sura al-'Imran 3:49, "I have come to you with a sign from your Lord I will create for you out of clay as likeness of a bird; and it will be a bird by the leave of God."

Al-Tabari (7:127) says that Christ created birds out of clay when He was a child. Christians, on the other hand, believe He is the Word of God and that all things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made (John 1:3). Yet, they believe that, after He was born, He waited 30 years before starting to preach and work miracles (Luke 3:23).

The Bible affirms, definitely, that the first miracles He worked was at Cana in Galilee when He turned water into wine (John 2:11).

A book not found in the Bible, The First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ, Chapter 15, a non-canonical book (a gospel that was not accepted into the canon) that is also known as The Arabic Gospel of the Infancy of the Saviour, which was written around 400 CE., says:

1. “And when the Lord Jesus was seven years of age, he was on a certain day with other boys his companions about the same age. 2. Who at play made clay into several shapes, namely, asses, oxen, birds, and other figures. 3. Each boasting of his work and endeavoring to exceed the rest. 4. Then the Lord Jesus said to the boys, I will command these figures which I have made to walk. 5. And immediately they moved, and when he commanded them to return, they returned. 6. He had also made the figures of birds and sparrows, which, when he commanded to fly, did fly, and when he commanded to stand still, did stand still; and if he gave them meat and drink, they did eat and drink. 7. When at length the boys went away and related these things to their parents, their fathers said to them, Take heed, children, for the future, of his company, for he is a sorcerer; shun and avoid him, and from now on never play with him.”

Another book that was not accepted into the canon of the Bible, The Second Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ, Chapter 1, which is also known as The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, written around 140 CE., says:

1. “I, Thomas, an Israelite, judged it necessary to make known to our brethren among the Gentiles, the actions and miracles of Christ in his childhood, which our Lord and God Jesus Christ wrought after his birth in Bethlehem in our country, at which I myself was astonished; the beginning of which was as follows. 2. When the child Jesus was five years of age and there had been a shower of rain that was now over, Jesus was playing with other Hebrew boys by a running stream, and the waters ran over the banks and stood in little lakes; 3. But the water instantly became clear and useful again; they readily obeyed him after he touched them only by his word. 4. Then he took from the bank of the stream some soft clay and formed out of it twelve sparrows; and there were other boys playing with him. 5. But a certain Jew seeing the things which he was doing, namely, his forming clay into the figures of sparrows on the Sabbath day, went presently away and told his father Joseph, 6. Behold, your boy is playing by the river side, and has taken clay and formed it into twelve sparrows, and profanes the Sabbath. 7. Then Joseph came to the place where he was, and when he saw him, called to him, and said, Why do you that which is not lawful to do on the Sabbath day? 8. Then Jesus clapping together the palms of his hands, called to the sparrows, and said to them: Go, fly away; and while you live remember me. 9. So the sparrows fled away, making a noise. 10. The Jews seeing this, were astonished and went away and told their chief persons what a strange miracle they had seen wrought by Jesus.”

Now, some Muslims say that the original Bible contained the apocryphal story of Jesus making and animating clay birds, and that the Qur'an was merely correcting a wrongful exclusion of these apocrypha from the canon. However, this is erroneous, as the sira tells how Muhammad, far from receiving these stories from Allah (via the angel Jibreel/Gabriel), heard it from three Christians:

“[Those who talked to Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, were Abu Haritha Ibn `Alqama, Al-`Aqib `Abdul-Masih and Al-Ayham al-Sa`id.] They were Christians according to the faith of the king with differences between them; they say: He is Allah, and say: He is Son of Allah, and say: He is the third of three [i.e., part of Trinity] and these are the claims of Christianity. [They use as evidence for their claim that He is Allah the argument that] he used to raise the dead, cure the sick, create from clay bird-like structure then breathe into it to make it a [living] bird. All this was by the leave of Allah, the Praiseworthy the Exalted {to appoint him as a sign for men} (Maryam:21). They also argue for saying that he is Son of Allah by saying he had no known father and spoke in infancy which is something never done by any human being. They use as evidence for their claim that He is the third of three [i.e., part of Trinity] the argument that Allah says: We did, We commanded, We created and We judged [i.e., by using the plural for Himself], and whereas if He was one, He would say: I did, I judged, I commanded and I created; but it is He, Jesus and Maryam. The Qur'an was revealed addressing all these arguments.” (Abu Muhammad `Abd al-Malik Ibn Hisham al-Ma`afiri, Al-Sirah Al-Nabawiyyah, 1998, Volume II, Dar al-Hadith: Cairo (Egypt), p 181-182.)

“The names of the fourteen principal men among the sixty riders were: `Abdul-Masih the `Aqib, al-Ayham the Sayyid; Abu Haritha b. `Alqama brother of B. Bakr b. Wa`il; Aus; al-Harith; Zayd; Qays; Yazid; Nubayh; Khuwaylid; `Amr; Khalid; `Abdullah; Johannes; of these the first three named above spoke to the Apostle. They were Christians according to the Byzantine rite, though they differed among themselves in some points, saying He is God; and He is the son of God; and He is the third person of the Trinity, which is the doctrine of Christianity. 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 so that they flew away; and all this was by the command of God Almighty, 'We will make him a sign to men.' They argue that he is the son of God in that they say he had no known father; and he spoke in the cradle and this is something that no child of Adam has ever done. They argue that he is the third of the three in that God says: We have done, We have commanded, We have created and We have decreed, and they say, If He were one he would have said I have done, I have created, and soon, but He is He and Jesus and Mary. Concerning all these assertions the Qur'an came down.” (A. Guillaume, The Life Of Muhammad: A Translation Of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, 1998, Oxford University Press: Karachi (Pakistan), p 271-272.)

According to the sira (biographies of Muhammad used to develop the hadith), the purported sources of the story are three Christians who spoke to Muhammad. These “Christians” were either heretics or they were unsure of doctrine. These errancies include Jesus animating clay birds, the talking baby Jesus, and the Trinity comprising God, Jesus and Mary (Father, Son and Mother). No true, informed Christian believes that the Trinity is composed of the Father, the Son and Mary.

(Most of the above information is from "Jesus Gives Peace: Jesus In The Qur'an and the Bible," written by Yusuf Abdallah and from Infancy Gospel of Thomas and also from Parallelism: Jesus Christ and Clay Birds)

4 comments:

thekingpin68 said...

'There is a story about Jesus, as a child, making clay birds, which he then proceeds to bring to life, which is not found in the Bible, but is recorded in a book called the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (not to be confused with the absolutely different sayings Gospel of Thomas), which is a non-canonical, pseudepigraphical, apocryphal work attributed to "Thomas the Israelite" (in a medieval Latin version), about the childhood of Jesus that dates to the 2nd and 3rd centuries...'

Interesting.

thekingpin68 said...

'Now, some Muslims say that the original Bible contained the apocryphal story of Jesus making and animating clay birds, and that the Qur'an was merely correcting a wrongful exclusion of these apocrypha from the canon.'

This Islamic claim would need to be backed up by New Testament manuscripts and portions of.

Jeff said...

thekingpin68,

This Islamic claim would need to be backed up by New Testament manuscripts and portions of.

Agreed. Thanks, Russ.

thekingpin68 said...

The Hammer replies

thekingpin68 replies