In the last few weeks, I have tried to show that Dr. Sayyed’s objections to the authenticity of the Bible is not sincere and lacks any objectivity. Dr. Sayyed is merely trying to embarrass and twist the Biblical stories to fit his motives. He picks up the story of David at his old age and writes:
“David sleeping with a girl to warm him (1 Kings 1:1-4).Is this doctrine? It cannot be a doctrine. Is there any reproof? There is no reproof, No need for correction and instruction in righteousness if there is no reproof.”
The words of Paul when he writes to Titus (1:15) seem very relevant here;
“To the pure, all things are pure; but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure. Indeed, both their minds and their consciences are defiled.”
First, Dr. Sayyed’s inclination to think that everything in the Biblical text should directly constitute doctrine undermines and misunderstand the biblical milieu as a whole. Dr. Sayyed laments the fact that Paul wrote to Timothy in his second letter (3:16) that;
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
He wrongfully assumes that every instance in the Bible should be imitated and patterned verbatim. This will not suffice as Paul writes that Scripture is not just given as an instruction, but also a ‘correction, reproof, and instruction in righteousness’ to ‘furnish the man for good works’ (not evil works). Nowhere is this instance of David and the young woman applied as an instruction, and nowhere has this been imitated as a Biblical imperative. Dr. Sayyed gives another example:
“Another example: Abraham asking his servant “put your hand under my thigh” (Genesis 24:1-4. Is this your doctrine? It cannot be doctrine. Is there any reproof? There is no reproof, no need for correction and instruction in righteousness if there is no reproof. Therefore the Bible is not word of God.”
Dr. Sayyed says: “Under my thigh means male generative organ or organ of circumcision.”
This is meanderings of a depraved mind. It should be noted that the translation “my thigh” (יְרֵכִֽי׃ (yə·rê·ḵî) in the Hebrew can be interpreted alternatively as “loin, flank, or side.” First, the promise was a severe and vulnerable form of Patriarchy, where the seriousness of this promise would be displayed. Again, nowhere was this a Biblical imperative given, but this was a unique cultural norm of adjuration (Genesis 47:29). The Pulpit commentary says;
“nothing analogous can elsewhere be discovered, – the practice alleged to exist among the modern Egyptian Bedouins of placing the hand upon the membrum virile in solemn forms of asseveration not forming an exact parallel, was probably originated by the patriarch. The thigh, as the source of posterity (cf. Genesis 35:11; Genesis 46:26; Exodus 1:5), has been regarded as pointing to Abraham’s future descendants (Keil, Kalisch, Lange), and in particular to Christ, the promised seed (Theodoret, Jerome, Augustine, Luther, Ainsworth, Bush, Wordsworth), and the oath to be equivalent to a swearing by him that was to come.
By others, the thigh was viewed as euphemistically put for the generative organ, upon which the sign of circumcision was placed, and the oath as an adjuration by the sign of the covenant (Jonathan, Jarchi, Tuch). A third interpretation considers the thigh as symbolizing lordship or authority, and the placing of the hand under it as tantamount to an oath of fealty and allegiance to a superior (Aben Ezra, Rosenmüller, Calvin, Murphy). Other explanations are modifications of the above.”
Why does Dr. Sayyed assume that this is appropriate for everyone now to imitate this as culturally relevant? Again, he is merely looking for obscure means to legitimize his objections against the Biblical premise. He then rants on about what he deems the X-Rated Bible where Samson spends a night with a Prostitute (Judges 16:1) Lot’s daughters deceive him to preserve their desire for children (Genesis 19:30-35), and the idolatry of Israel is described in very severe terms (Ezekiel 23:19-20). Again I want to stress what I read in Titus 1:15. We all know the end of Samson’s sensual life, and we know the uncomfortable reality of Lot’s daughters, even more, we can see in the most robust imagery the description of Israel’s deception. But again, we in no way are called to imitate these actions, but to instead learn about the reality of them. We see a God who is not embarrassed to reveal the explicit shortcomings of these historical biblical facts, and neither should we.
One cannot but notice the hypocrisy that Dr. Sayyed is displaying in his critique of these supposed X-Rated passages. For starters, the Quran and Hadith mention that the Prophet Muhammad was a man of the highest moral excellence who was made an excellent example for Muslims to follow (S. 68:4 and 33:21) yet we find a lot to be desired for when it comes to his supposed moral excellence. John Gilchrist writes:
“For all his greatness Muhammad’s character is very seriously compromised by the stories in the earliest works of Islamic tradition which disclose, in simple narrative form, how he deviously sanctioned the slaughter of his enemies, especially those who did him no other harm than to irk him with their poetic satires. Many of the prophets of Old Testament times can be shown to have acted just as callously at times, but this does not exonerate Muhammad. Between those prophets and his era stands a new dawn in human history when the man Jesus Christ projected a perfect human character and fulfilled God’s revealed purposes for mankind once and for all. Muhammad shows himself to be as much in need of the redeeming work of God’s Saviour as any other person in history – he cannot really be compared with him as God’s final representative on earth.”
Dr. Sayyed leaves a lot to be desired when he critiques the imperatives in his own venerated books and moral predicates of his own Prophet. Indeed, I will refrain from going into the details; I am just bewildered at the double standards and notice someone that seemingly lacks objectivity. Dr. Sayyed then mentions the Documentary (or JEDP) Hypothesis:
“God and Lord God. Genesis 1:1-2:3, Genesis 2:4-22. Jean Astrue, in 1753, discovers two different sources, Yahvist and sacerdotal. Other scholars see two more sources: Elohist and deuterocanonical. A Lods discover in 1941 CE, Elohist from 4 other sources, Yahvist from 3 other sources, sacerdotal from 9 other sources, deuterocanonical from 6 other sources.”
It should be noted that this is simply a theory and not a demandable fact! Dr. Sayyed’s very critique rests on the fact of vague speculations. There are clear reasons why we can dismiss the documentary hypothesis. Dr. Terry Mortenson and Bodie Hodge give a few reasons, but here I will only state one:
“the Pentateuch states that Moses wrote these books: Exod. 17:14; 24:4; 34:27; Num. 33:1–2; and Deut. 31:9–11. In his rejection of Mosaic authorship, Dr. Wellhausen nowhere discussed this biblical evidence. It is easy to deny Mosaic authorship if one ignores the evidence for it. But that is not an honest scholarship. We also have the witness of the rest of the Old Testament: Josh.1:8; 8:31–32; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6; 21:8; Ezra 6:18; Neh. 13:1; Dan. 9:11–13; and Mal. 4:4.The New Testament is also clear in its testimony: Matt. 19:8; John 5:45–47; 7:19; Acts 3:22; Rom. 10:5; and Mark 12:26. The divisions of the Old Testament were clearly in place in the Jewish mind long before the time of Christ, namely, the Law of Moses (first five books of the Old Testament), the Prophets (the historical and prophetic books) and the Writings (the poetic books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, etc.). So when Jesus referred to the Law of Moses, His Jewish listeners knew exactly to what He was referring.”
Dr. Sayyed then further laments that:
“Revelation cannot be Copy and Paste. If Scholars establish copy and paste from third source. Where the contention arises that it is coming from above from God. Therefore Bible is not the Word of God.”
The Irony escapes Dr. Sayyed in that the Quran in itself leans wholly on external material to give itself credibility. There are numerous sources the narrative of the Quran deduces its content from. What about the foreign elements prevalent in the Quran? [Jewish folklore, Gnostic sources, Zoroastrian and Buddhist]. What is was known to be false theologically, historically and pseudonymously is validated in the Qur’ anic text? Let look at a few examples:
S.21.51-70 = Midrash Rabba/Book of Jubilees.
S.5.30-35 = Pirke Rabbi Eliezer/ Misna Sanhedrin 4.5.
S.27.20-40 = Targum Sheni or the Second Targum of Esther.
S.19.29-31/3.46 = Arabic Gospel of the infancy of the Saviour.
S.3.49/5.110 = Arabic Gospel of the infancy of the Saviour.
S.18.10-22 = from the Orthodox folk tale of the ‘seven sleepers of Ephesus.’
Dr. Sayyed then tries to show explicit difficulties in the text. He then raised numerous accusations against the genealogies mentioned in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke. He suggests:
“Two lineages, 41 from Matthew, Luke give another set of grandparents to Jesus. It is not 14-14-14- but 14-14-13 Matthew 1:17. 2nd Set is not 14 but 18 in 1 Chronicles 3:10-12, 16-17.”
It is important to note that Mathew is tracing the biological lineage and Luke is taking into account of levirate marriage, and it is equally noteworthy to see that Luke traces Christ’s lineage through Mary and Matthew through Joseph. The husband would become the son upon marriage to keep up the family name. Therefore, Joseph, when he married Mary, became the son of Heli according to the Law of Moses and could legally be included in the genealogy. Dr. Sayyed will object and say that Heli was not the Father of Mary, Joachim was the father of Mary but most scholars today agree that Matthew gives the genealogy of Joseph and Luke gives that of Mary, making Jacob the father of Joseph and Heli the father of Mary. This is shown by the two narrations of the virgin birth. Matthew 1:18-25 tells the story only from Joseph’s perspective, while Luke 1:26-56 is told wholly from Mary’s point of view. A logical question to ask is why Joseph is mentioned in both genealogies? The answer is again, simple. Luke follows strict Hebrew tradition in mentioning only males. Therefore, in this case, Mary is designated by her husband’s name. Two lines of evidence support this reasoning. In the first, every name in the Greek text of Luke’s genealogy, with the one exception of Joseph, is preceded by the definite article (e.g. ‘the’ Heli, ‘the’ Matthat). Although not obvious in English translations, this would strike anyone reading the Greek, who would realize that it was tracing the line of Joseph’s wife, even though his name was used. The second line of evidence is the Jerusalem Talmud, a Jewish source. This recognizes the genealogy to be that of Mary, referring to her as the daughter of Heli (Hagigah 2:4). (Fruchtenbaum1993:10-13).
What about the accusation that there is a blunder with the number of names in the genealogy (14 14 14 but 14 14 13)? Commentators believe that the divisions of 14 generations are simply a literary structure by Matthew not intended to set forth a strict biological lineage but to account for the Hebrew Kings Chronology. You can look at some literary devices used by ancient Greek grammarians trying to depict the reality of Christ and His fulfillment of the Kingly lineage and its culmination in Christ and His Church (Heb.2:10, Gal.4:4-5). If Jesus was the King in line with his patriarchic father David (Mat 2) it could also be that the author is trying to communicate this fact. The Bible Project also comments that;
“Within the written language of Hebrew, the letters are also used as their numbers, and so each letter is assigned a numerical value. The name of David in Hebrew is “דוד,” and from here you just do the math. The numerical value of the first and third letter “ד” (called dalet) is 4. The middle letter “ו” (called waw) has a numerical value of 6. Put it into your mental calculator: 4+6+4=14, the numerical value of the name of “David.”
Matthew has created the genealogy so that it links Jesus to David both explicitly and in the very literary design of the list. In fact, Matthew wants to highlight this “14=David” idea so much that he’s intentionally left out multiple generations of the line of David (three, to be exact) to make the numbers work.
Wait, Matthew has taken people out of the genealogy?
Yes, but this is not a scandal. Leaving out generations to create symbolic numbers in genealogies is a common Hebrew literary practice, going all the way back to the genealogies in Genesis (the 10 generations of Genesis 5 or the 70 descendants of Genesis 46.
Ancient genealogies were ways of making theological claims, and Matthew’s readers would have understood exactly what he was doing and why.
Matthew didn’t make numerical adjustments only. He also adjusted a few letters in some names for the same purpose. For example, he changed the names of Asa and Amon to Asaph (the poet featured in the book of Psalms) and Amos (the famous prophet). Matthew is winking at us here, knowing that his readers would spot these out of place names. The point, of course, is that Jesus doesn’t just fulfill Israel’s royal hopes, but also the hope of the Psalms (Asaph) and the Prophets (Amos). Jesus is from a line of kingly succession that also culminates the rich tradition of worship and prophecy of Israel. This way, readers are thinking about all of Israel and her history as they meet Jesus for the first time. The irony is that some modern translations haven’t gotten the pun, and so have changed the names back to their “original” referents.”
Dr. Sayyed did not consider all the variables when making his points. I would encourage him to read more of the extent material and research more concerning his belated points.