Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Jesus a prophet of islam?

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This is the first chapter of a very interesting book I found called Jesus A prophet of Islam- a commendable effort to study the sacred life of Jesus (pbuh) using both Christian and Muslim sources- A penetrating scholarly study which explores the origins of Christinity by examining all the evidence with thoroughness and care to separate the facts from the myths. It includes a study of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Christian Scripture, Gospel of Barnabas, Quran and Hadeeth. It is the result of thirty years of study! I advise anyone who can get a hold of it to do so... or wait till summer cuz I plan on typing it all up inshAllah. The other chapters are A Historical Account of Jesus, The Gospel of Barnabas, The Shepherd of Hermas, Barnabas and the Early Christians, Early Unitarians in Christianity, Later Unitarians in Christianity, Christianity Today, Jesus in the Quran, Jesus in Hadeeth.


Historical research has shown that the animism and idol worship of primitive peoples in the world is in all cases a regression from an original unitive belief, and the One-god of Judaism, Christianity and Islam grew up in opposition to many-gods rather than evolving out of them. Thus in any tradition, the pure teaching is to be found at its beginning and what follows is necessarily a decline, and it is from this perspective that the history of Christianity should be viewed. It began with the belief in One God and was then corrupted, and the doctrine of the Trinity came to be accepted. The result was a confusion which led men more and more away from sanity.

In the first century after the disappearance of Jesus, those who followed him continued to affirm the Divine Unity. This is illustrated by the fact that the Shepherd of Hermas, written in about 0 A.D. was regarded as a book of Revelation by the Church. The first of the twelve commandments which it contains begins

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First of all, believe that God is One and that He created all things and organised them and out of what did not exist made all things to be, and He contains all things but alone is Himself uncontained...[The Apostolic Fathers, E.J. Goodspeed]

According to Theodore Zahn, the article of faith up until about 50 A.D. was, I belive in God, the Almighty [Articles of the Apostolic Creed, Theodore Zahn, pp. -7]. Between 180 and 10 A.D. the word Father was added before the Almighty. This was bitterly contested by a number of the leaders of the Church. Bishop Victor and Bishop Zephysius are on record as condemning this movement, since they regarded it an unthinkable sacrilege to add or subtract any word to the Scriptures. They opposed the tendencey to regard Jesus as divine. They laid great stress on the Unity of God as expressed in the original teachings of Jesus and asserted that although he was a prophet, he was essentially a man like other men, even if highly favoured by his Lord. The same faith was held by the Churches which had sprung up in North Africa and West Asia.

As the teaching of Jesus was spread, it came into contact with other cultures and into conflict with those in authority. It began to be assimilated and adapted by these cultures and was also altered to diminsh persecution by the rulers. In Greece, especially, it became metamorphosed, both by its being expressed in a new language for the first time, and by its realignment with the ideas and philosophy of that culture. It was teh many-gods viewpoint of the Greeks which largely contributed to the formulation of this doctrine of the Trinity, together with the gradual elevation of Jesus by some, notably Paul of Tasus, from a prophet to God.

It was only in 5 A.D. that the doctrine of the Trinity was declared to be the orthodox Christian belief. Even then some of those who signed the creed did not believe in it, as they could find no authority for it in the Scriptures. Athanasius, who is considered to be the father of this creed, was himself not very sure of its truth. He admits that, Whenever he forced his understanding to meditate on the divinity of Jesus, his toilsome and unavailing efforts recoiled on themselves- that the more he wrote the less capable was he of expressing his thoughts. At one point he even wrote, There are not three but ONE GOD. His belief in the doctrine of the Trinity was not based on conviction but on policy and apparent necessity.

That this historic decision was based just as much on political expediency as on the faulty reasoning of philosophy is shown by the part played by Constantine, the pagan emperor of Rome, who presided over the council of Nicea. The growing communities of Christians were a force whose opposition he had no wish for, who weakened his Empire and whose support would be invaluable in strengthening it. By remodelling Christianity, he hoped to gain the Churchs support and at the same time end the confusion which had arisen within it and which was the source of yet more convlict within his empire.

The process by which he partially acheived this aim may be illustrated by an incident which occured in the Second World War. Once, as the time for the Muslim festival of the Id drew near, propaganda from Tokyo began to concentrate on an Id prayer that was going to be held in Singapore, then under Japanses occupation. It would be an historic occasion, it was announced, and its effect would be felt throughout the Muslim world. This sudden emphasis on the prayer abruptly stopped after a few days. The mystery was solved when a Japanese prisoner was taken in a skirmish and interrogated. He said that Tojo, the head of the Japansese government, was planning to take on the role of the greates Muslim reformer of modern times. He had a scheme to adjust the teachings of Islam to the requirements of the modern age. It had therefore become necessary, according to him, that the Muslims, instead of facing Mecca in prayer, should start facing Tokyo, which would become the future centre of Islam under Tojo. The Muslims refused this reorientation of Islam, and so the whole project was dropped. As a result, there was no Id prayer allowedi n Singapore that year. Tojo had realised the imoprtance of Islam and he wanted to use it as a means to further his imperialistic designs, but he was unsuccessful. Constantine succeeded where Tojo failed. Rome replaced Jerusalem as the center of Pauline Christianity.

This degeneration of the pure teachings of Jesus, which resulted inevitable in the acceptance of a many-god Christianniy, never went unchallenged. When, in 5 A.D., the doctrine of Trinity was officially proposed as the orthodox Christian doctrine, Arius, one of the leaders of the Christians in North Africa, stood up agains the combined might of Constantine and the Catholic Church and reminded them that Jesus had alawys affirmed the Divine Unity. Constantine tried to crush the troublesome One-God people with all the force and brutality at his command, but he failed. Although, ironically, Constantine himself died a Unitarian, the doctrine of Trinity eventually became officially accepted as the basis of Christianity in Europe. This doctrine caused much confusion among men, many of whom were told to believe it without trying to understand it. Yet it was not possible to stop people from trying to prove aned eplain it intellectually. Broadly speaking, three schools of thought developed. The first is associated with St. Augustine, who lived in the 4th century and was of the view that the doctrine could not be proved but could be illustrated. St. Victor, who lived in the 1th century is associated with the second school, who believed that the docterine could be both demonstrated and illustrated. And the 14th century saw the growht of the third school, which believed that the doctrine of Trinity could be neither illustrated nor proved, but should be blindly accepted and believed.

Although the books into which Jesuss teaching had gone were either completely destroyed, supprressed, or changed in order to avoid any blatant contradictions of the doctrine, a good deal of truth remained in the ones which survived, and therefore to sustain belief in the doctrine of Trinity, there was a shift in emphasis from what the Scriptures said, to what the leaders of the Church said. The doctrine, it was asserted, was based on the special revelation made to the Church, the Bride of Jesus. Thus, for instance, Fr Fulgentio was reprimanded by the Pope in a letter saying Preaching of the Scriptures is a suspicious thing. He who keeps close to the Scriptures will ruin the Catholic faith. In his next letter he was more explicit, warning against too much insistence on the Scriptures ...which is a book if anyone keeps close to, he will quite destroy the Catholic Church. [Tetradymus, John Toland]

The effective abandoning of the teaching of Jesus was largely due to complete obscuring of his historical reality. The Church made religion not only independent of the Scriptures but also independent of Jesus, so that the man Jesus became confused with a mythological Christ. Belief in Jesus, however, does not necessarily mean belief in a resurrected Christ. Whereas the immediate followers of Jesus had based their lives on his example, Pauline Christianity was based on a belief in Christ after his supposed crucifixion, and the life and teaching of Jesus while he was alive was no longer important.

As the established Church distanced itself further and further from the teaching of Jesus, so its leaders became more and more involved in the affairs of those in authority over the land. As the distinctions between what Jesus had taught and what those in authority desired became blurred and began to merge into each other, the Church, while asserting its seprateness from the State, became more and more identified with it, and grew in power. Whereas in the early days the Church was subject to imperial power, once it had compromised iitself completely, the position was reversed.

There was always opposition to these deviations from what Jesus had taught. As the Church became more powerful, it became very dangerous to deny the Trinity, and led to almost certain death. Although Luther left the Roman Church, his revolt was only against the authority of the Pope, rather than against the fundamental doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. The result was that he founded a new Church and became its head. All the basic Christian doctrines were accepted, and remained. This led to the establishment of a number of Reformed Churches and sects, but pre-Reformation Christianity remained undisturbed. These two main bodies of the Pauline Church have continued to exist up to the present day.

In North Africa and West Asia the teachings of Arius were accepted by the majority of the people who readily embraced Islam when it later came to them. Because they had held to the doctrine of One-God and the pure teachigns of Jesus,, they recognised Islam as the truth.

In Europe the thread of unitarianism within Christianity has never been broken, and the mnovement has in fact grown in strength, surviving the continual and brutal persecution of the established Churches in the past and their indifference today.

More and more people are now aware that the Christianity they know has little to do with the original teaching of Jesus. During the last two centuries the research of the historians has left little room for faith in the Christian mysteries, but the proven fact that the Christ of the established Church has almost nothing to do wiht the Jesus of history does not in itself helpe Christians towards the Truth. The present dilemma of the Christians is illustrated by what the Church historians of this present century write. The fundamental difficulty is, as pointed by Adolf Harnack, that By the fourth century the living Gospel had been masked in Greek phiolosphy. It was the historians mission to pluck off the mask and thus reveal how different had been the original contours of the faith beneath. But then Harnack points out the difficult of fulfilling this task by saying that the doctrinal mask worn long enough can reshape the face of religion The mask acquires a life o its own- the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, infallibilty, and all propositions seconding these dogmas, were the product of historic decisions and of situations that might have turned out quite differently...nevertheless...early or late, product or reshaping fore, this dogma remains what it has been from the beginning, a bad habit of intellectualization which the Christians picked up from the Greek when he fled from the Jews [Outline of the History of Dogma, Adolf Harnack]

Harnack enlarges on his theme in another book, where he admits that

...the fourth Gospel does not emanate or profess to emanate from the apostle John, who cannot be taken as an historical authority... the author of the fourth Gospel acted with sovereign freedom, transposed events and put them in a strange light. He drew up the discussions himself and illustrated great thoughts with imaginary situations. He further refers to the work of the famous Christian historian, David Strauss, whom he describes as having almost destroyed the historic credibility not only of the fourth but also of the first three Gospels as well. [What is Christianity?, Adolf Harnack, p. 0]

According to Johannes Lehmann, another historian, the writers of the four accepted Gospels describe a different Jesus from the one who can be identified by historic reality. Lehman quotes Heinz Zahrnt who points out the consequences of this

If historical research could prove that an irreconcilable antithesis exists between the historical Jesus and Christ as preached, and therefore that belief in Jesus has no support in Jesus himself, that would not only be absolutely fatal theologically, as N.A Dahl says, but would also mean the end of all Christology. Yet I am convinced that even then we theologians would be able to find a way out- was there ever a time when we couldnt? - but we are either lying now or would by lying then [The Jesus Report, J. Lehman (quoting from Krewz Verlag, Stuttgart, nd ed., 160, p. 11)]

While these few short quotations illustrate the dilemma Christianity is in today, the words of Zahrnt also demonstrate something far more serious which underlies this that it is possible to get so involved with the details of what became of Jesuss teaching and the Churches and sects which followed after him, that the original pupose of his teaching is overlooked or forgotten. Thus Theodore Zahn, for instance, illustrates the bitter conflicts within the established Churches. He points out that the Roman Catholics accuse the Greek Orthodox Church of remodelling the text of the holy Scriptures by additions and subtractions with good and bad intentions, the Greeks in turn point out that the Catholics themselves in places depart very far from the original text, and, in spite of their differences, they combine to accuse the non-conformist Christians of deviating from the true way and condemn them as hereteics, and the heretics in their turn accuse the Catholics of having recoined the Truth like forgers. He concludes, Do not facts support these accusations? [Articles of the Apostolic Creed, Theodore Zahn]

Jesus himself is completely forgotten. Those who are aware of the degeneration that has taken place and who wish in all sincerity to return to and live by the original teaching of Jesus are prevented from doing so because the original teaching in its totality has disappeared and is irrecoverable.

Erasmus had this to say

The ancients philosophied very little about divine things... Formerly faith was in life rather than in profession of creeds.. When faith came to be in writings rather than in hearts, then there were almost as many faiths as men. Articles increased and sincerity decreased. Contentions grew hot and love grew cold. The doctrine of Christ which at first knew no hair-splitting came to depend on the aid of philosophy. This was the first stage in the decline of the Church.

Thus the Church was forced to explain what could not be expressed in words, and recourse was taken by both sides to with the support of the Emperor. Erasmus, commenting on this, continued

The injection of the authority of the Emperor into this affair did not greatly aid the sincerity of faith.. When faith is in the mouth rather than in the heart, when the solid knowledge of sacred Scriptures fails us, nevertheless by terrorization we drive men to believe what they do not believe, to love what they do not love, to know what they do not know. That which is forced cannot be sincere. [Erasmi Epistolai, 14 ed. P.S. Allen, V, pp. 17-]

Erasmus understood that the first Christians, the immediate followers of Jesus, had a recognition of the Unity which they never had to express, and that when his teaching spread and conflict between the Churches grew up, the mn of understanding were forced to try and explain their knowledge of Reality. They had by then lost the teaching of Jesus in its totality and the language of Unity that went with it. They only had recourse to the vocabulaty and terminology of Greek phiolosophy which looked not to Unity but to a tripartite view of existence. And so simple and pure trust in Reality became inevitably couched in a language foreign to Jesus, and led to the formulation of the doctrine of the Trinity, with the deification of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Confusion and schism were the inevitable results which followed when men lost sight of the Unity of Existence.

This understanding is essential to anyone who wants to know who Jesus was and what he really taught, together with the knowledge that once people no longer have recourse to all the everyday actions of a prophet, which are no less than the embodiment of his teaching, they are in loss, whether they believe in the doctrine of the Trininty or vocally affirm the Divine Unity.

Surah Al-Anam Ayah

And the life of this world is nothing but play and amusement. But far better is the house in the Hereafter for those who are Al­Muttaqun (the pious). Will you not then understand?

Surah Al-Ankabut Ayah 64

And this life of the world is only amusement and play! Verily, the home of the Hereafter, that is the life indeed (i.e. the eternal life that will never end), if they but knew

Surah Muhammad Ayah 6

The life of this world is but play and pastime, but if you believe (in the Oneness of Allah Islamic Monotheism), and fear Allah, and avoid evil, He will grant you your wages, and will not ask you your wealth.

Surah Al-Hadid Ayah 0

Know that the life of this world is only play and amusement, pomp and mutual boasting among you, and rivalry in respect of wealth and children, as the likeness of vegetation after rain, thereof the growth is pleasing to the tiller; afterwards it dries up and you see it turning yellow; then it becomes straw. But in the Hereafter (there is) a severe torment (for the disbelievers, evil-doers), and (there is) Forgiveness from Allah and (His) Good Pleasure (for the believers, good-doers), whereas the life of this world is only a deceiving enjoyment.

The Prophet (saw) said, There will be none among you but will be talked to by Allah on the Day of Resurrection, without there being an interpreter between him and Him (Allah) . He will look and see nothing ahead of him, and then he will look (again for the second time) in front of him, and the (Hell) Fire will confront him. So, whoever among you can save himself from the Fire, should do so even with one half of a date (to give in charity). (Saheeh Bukhari)

Abdullah bin Umar said, Allahs Apostle took hold of my shoulder and said, Be in this world as if you were a stranger or a traveler. The sub-narrator added Ibn Umar used to say, If you survive till the evening, do not expect to be alive in the morning, and if you survive till the morning, do not expect to be alive in the evening, and take from your health for your sickness, and (take) from your life for your death. (Saheeh Bukhari)

Imaam Ahmad ibn Hanbal, radhiallaahu `anhu, narrated that Abu-d-Dardaa', radhiallaahu `anhu, once said If only you knew what you will certainly see upon your death, you would never again eat a single bite out of a craving appetite, and you would never again drink an extra sip of water for the pleasure of unquenchable and insatiable thirst. Hence, you will remain outdoor in perpetuity, bewildered and awaiting the unexpected, and you will never again seek comfort in a shelter or seek a shade. You will wander aimlessly and climb the hilltops of every mountain, you will look up towards the heavens and beseech your Lord for mercy, and you will beat on your chest and cry endlessly, and you will wish that you were a little vegetable - a pant which is protected to grow, and then plucked to be eaten by a hungry person passing along.

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