Jesus as God’s Son in Luke-Acts

Responding to the Distortions of a Muslim Taqiyyist

Sam Shamoun

It is not uncommon to hear one of Islam’s premiere taqiyyists (*), Shabir Ally, assert that Paul was the first to preach that Jesus is God’s Son, and even quoting from the book of Acts to prove it:

"Now who was the first person according to the Acts of the Apostles who went into the synagogue and preached that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Paul! Acts chapter 9 verse number 20." (Dr. James R. White versus Shabir Ally, Was Jesus Christ Crucified as a Willing Sacrifice for the Sins of God's People?; Seattle, October 19, 2007; YouTube video)

Here, in this rebuttal we will document why this is simply another case of Shabir shamelessly distorting the Biblical data in order to defend his false religious beliefs. We will show, by God’s grace, that Shabir has committed several logical fallacies and has overlooked and/or ignored the massive amount of evidence from Luke-Acts which clearly proves that Paul wasn’t the first to proclaim that Jesus is God’s Son.

Shabir’s Logical Fallacies

The first major problem with Shabir’s point is that even if we were to assume, for the sake of argument, that Acts 9:20 is the first recorded instance of someone calling Jesus the Son of God this still wouldn’t prove that no one prior to Paul believed or taught this. The text itself does not say that Paul was the first one to preach this truth so the most that can be proven from this verse is that this is the first mention in Luke-Acts of anyone making this proclamation. Shabir is therefore arguing from silence and guilty of the fallacy of hasty generalization, as well as committing a non sequitur since the verse doesn’t support his assertion in the least.

Luke’s use of the title ‘Son of God’

Secondly, since Shabir appealed to the book of Acts, and since the great bulk of NT scholarship agrees that Luke-Acts were penned by the same author, we will consult what the writer of these particular books has written concerning the issue of Jesus being the Son of God. We will look to see whether this is a Pauline innovation or whether this is the consistent teaching of the Lord Jesus himself and his followers.

The Testimony of God the Father

According to Luke God personally bore witness that Jesus is his Son whom he chose and loves:

"When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’" Luke 3:21-22

"About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ (He did not know what he was saying.) While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.’" Luke 9:28-35

The Testimony of Jesus

Luke further testifies that Jesus himself knew from a very young age that he was God’s unique and beloved Son:

"Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. 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?’ Jesus asked. ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father's house?’" Luke 2:41-49

Christ also believed that, as God’s Son, all things were under his control and that he alone is capable of perfectly revealing God to man:

"At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’" Luke 10:21-22

The Lord Jesus claims an intimate, reciprocal knowledge of God the Father which presupposes both his incomprehensibility and his omniscience. A finite creature cannot know God in the same way that s/he is known by God; nor can a temporal being make the assertion s/he can only be known by God since this implies that the person making this assertion is incomprehensible, and therefore requires an infinite mind or omniscient entity to fully know and understand such an individual.

Amazingly, this is precisely what Jesus says about his own Person and knowledge of the incomprehensible God. It is therefore not surprising that it is within this very context that Jesus states that he chooses to reveal the Father to whomever he is pleased since, having perfect and intimate knowledge of God, he alone can adequately and completely reveal God’s essence, his character and nature to mankind.

In other words, Jesus’ point here is that God has clearly and fully made himself known in and through the Person of his beloved Son since the Son has complete knowledge and comprehension of the nature and Person of the Father.

Moreover, by claiming that all things were entrusted to him Jesus is indicating that, as the Son of God, he is the Heir of God’s estate or household, the One who owns everything that belongs to the Father.

In this next citation Jesus reaffirms his status as God’s Heir and contrasts his unique relationship as the Son with the prophets’ relationship to God:

"He went on to tell the people this parable: ‘A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out. Then the owner of the vineyard said, "What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him." But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. "This is the heir," they said. "Let's kill him, and the inheritance will be ours." So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.’" Luke 20:9-15

Jesus believes that he is God’s beloved Son and Heir, in marked contrast to the prophets who are God’s servants,

"From the time your forefathers left Egypt until now, day after day, again and again I sent you my servants the prophets." Jeremiah 7:25

"Again and again I sent my servants the prophets, who said, ‘Do not do this detestable thing that I hate!’" Jeremiah 44:4; cf. 26:5

This proves beyond any reasonable doubt that Jesus thought that his relationship with God went far beyond anything that the prophets and/or righteous servants experienced.

Jesus also claimed that his Father had given him a kingdom, much like he had given one to his disciples:

"And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel." Luke 22:29-30

Jesus even taught that he would send the Spirit from his Father to be poured out upon the believers:

"He said to them, ‘This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’" Luke 24:44-49

"In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God. On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So when they met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.’" Acts 1:1-7; cf. 2:33

And on more than one occasion Christ addressed God as Father in his prayers:

"Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, ‘Pray that you will not fall into temptation.’ He withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’" Luke 22:39-42

"Jesus called out with a loud voice, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.’ When he had said this, he breathed his last.’" Luke 23:46

The foregoing passages make it abundantly clear that, according to the witness of Luke-Acts, Jesus believed and taught that he is God’s unique and beloved Son long before Paul had ever become a Christian.

We’re not finished yet since there is a lot more.

The Testimony of the angel Gabriel

Islamic theology asserts that Gabriel is the angel of revelation, the one whom Allah sent to communicate the message of the Quran to Muhammad. According to the writer of Luke-Acts it was this very angel who came to Mary to inform her that she was to conceive and give birth to God’s holy Son:

"In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.’ ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.’" Luke 1:26-35

The testimony of Gabriel that Jesus would sit on David’s throne in order to rule over the Israelites forever is a direct allusion to the following OT text:

"For to us a child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this." Isaiah 9:6-7

Here, the Son that shall be given, the child who will be born to reign forever on David’s throne is said to be the Mighty God himself! Since Isaiah applies this same title to Yahweh in the very next chapter,

"In that day the remnant of Israel, the survivors of the house of Jacob, will no longer rely on him who struck them down but will truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. A remnant will return, a remnant of Jacob will return to the Mighty God." Isaiah 10:20-21

It is therefore evident that the inspired prophet believed that this Son was no ordinary human being, but a fully Divine Person who chose to be born as a man!

The Testimony of Satan and demons/evil spirits

As if this weren’t astonishing enough even the devil knew that Jesus is the Son of God:

"And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, ‘If/since (ei) you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, "Man shall not live by bread alone."’… And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, ‘If/since (ei) you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, "He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you," and "On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone."’ And Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, "You shall not put the Lord your God to the test."’" Luke 4:1-4, 9-12

Lest Shabir try to also pervert this and assume that Satan wasn’t certain whether Jesus is God’s Son we need to point out that the Greek conjunction ei (if/since) doesn’t necessarily express doubt. Rather, the conjunction suggests that Satan is tempting Christ precisely because he knows he is God’s Son and wants him to fail. As NT commentator Donald A. Hagner explains in relation to the Matthean parallel:

"… The question has been prepared for in the baptism narrative, where Jesus is designated the Son of God (see on Comments 3:17). In the temptation pericope the relation of the Son to the will of his Father is called into question (cf. the likening of Israel to a son in Deut. 8:5). The testing is accomplished here by the suggestion of something that, looked at from another perspective or in a different context, is within the power and prerogative of the Messiah. The tempter does not suggest uncertainty on his part concerning the divine sonship of Jesus by use of ei, ‘if’ (in a first-class condition). Indeed, the situation here is like the narrative about the demons, e.g. in Mark 1:24, where with the invasion of their realm, the demons have an intuitive knowledge of the true identity of Jesus. Thus, from the perspective of the devil, we might well translate ei here as ‘since’ …" (Hagner, World Biblical Commentary: Matthew 1-13 [Word Books Publishers, Dallas TX, 1993], pp. 64-65)

Satan wasn’t the only wicked spirit who believed that Jesus is God’s Son:

"Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ." Luke 4:41

"When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, ‘What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torture me!’" Luke 8:27-28

Concluding Remarks

It is evident from our examination that the inspired author of Luke-Acts did not think for a moment that Paul was the first one to proclaim that Jesus is God’s Son. The writer produces statements from various individuals testifying that Jesus is the Son of God long before Paul had ever become a believer.

Shabir may contend that the testimony of Luke is suspect since his writings were written after Paul’s letters were penned and in light of Pauline theology. The problem with such an assertion is that Shabir was the one who appealed to the writing of Luke to prove his position concerning Paul being the first to preach that Jesus is God’s Son. He cannot simply dismiss what this same writer says concerning the fact that the proclamation that Jesus is the Son of God clearly predates the conversion of Paul. Shabir must contend with the testimony of the author of Luke-Acts that, long before Paul had even embraced the true faith, God the Father, Christ himself, the angel Gabriel, and even wicked spirits such as Satan bore witness that the Lord Jesus is God’s Son.

If Shabir does disregard or undermine the explicit and emphatic witness of the very same author that he initially quoted to establish his case then this simply provides further evidence for his blatant inconsistency and outright dishonesty. It only proves that Shabir is one of Islam’s finest and leading taqiyyists.

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