Sunday, March 2, 2014

Response to a Christian About the Biblical Story of Ishmael and Isaac - Part Six


Ishmael and Isaac in the Bible: A Response to a Christian’s Objections, Part Six

This article is a continuation of our discussion with a Christian from the IslamiCity Discussion Forum on the inconsistencies and contradictions of the Biblical story of Ishmael and Isaac.  In his new reply, the Christian stated:                                                            

“So it’s admitted that Isaac was the ‘only son’ of Abraham through Sarah but yet he still refutes it.”

As we explained, we never questioned that Isaac was Abraham’s only son through Sarah.  The Christian is claiming victory over a disagreement that never occurred!  What we “refuted” was the fallacy of claiming that the phrase “only son” was a reference to Isaac being the only son through Sarah.  As usual, the Christian has not offered a reasonable response.    

            He then stated:

“That is exactly what the verse is saying to its readers and that’s all I was saying.”

The Christian has provided absolutely no evidence for this claim.  It is a non-sequitur.  The verse does not say “take your only son through Sarah”.  It only says “take your only son”.  The Christian is making a leap of faith by claiming that God actually meant “take your only son through Sarah”.  No evidence has been provided because none exists in the text.

            Next, the Christian went off on tangents once again:

“But, for Muslims they feel slighted since Ishmael was left out of everything imaginable. Get over it! Esau and other first born in the Bible were left out of their inheritance as well. That is the price they had to pay for their error.”

Actually, Muslims feel slighted at the Bible’s insulting reference to a god who chooses people based on their ethnicity or race, rather than their righteousness.  Muslims believe that both Ishmael and Isaac were chosen by God, because God is not a tribal/national deity.  He is “Rabb-al-Alimeen”, Lord of the Worlds.   

            It is also strange that the Christian claims that Ishmael was left out by God as a price for his “error”.  What error?  If Isaac was somehow a better person than Ishmael, then how does the Christian explain his behavior in later life?  According to the Bible, Isaac lied to the people of Gerar when they asked him about Rebekah.  Fearing that they would kill him and take her, he stated that she was his sister instead.[1]  In other words, he was willing to sacrifice her in order to save himself!  I suppose chivalry is really dead.   

            And since the Christian brought up Jacob and Esau, we may as well point out that Jacob also resorted to lies and deception as well as blackmail.  The Bible claims that when Esau came back from a hunting trip, he was tired and hungry.  When he asked his brother for some food, Jacob exploited him by demanding that Esau give up his “birth-right”.[2]  Would the Christian consider this to be normal behavior?  We certainly do not.  

            Moreover, Jacob also lied to his father Isaac by pretending to be Esau, whom Isaac loved.  The Bible claims that Isaac blessed Jacob thinking him to be Esau and when Esau came to him and asked for a blessing, Isaac lamented that Jacob had taken the blessing through deception!  When poor Esau begged his father for a blessing, Isaac could only tell him that he would serve his younger brother.[3]  What is even more absurd is that God had nothing to say about Jacob’s blackmail and deception!  Is this the type of behavior that one would expect from God’s chosen ones?  Isaac and Jacob both exhibited deceptive behavior.  Isaac was even willing to protect himself at the expense of his wife Rebekah!  Yet, the Christian wants us to believe that Ishmael was not chosen by God because of some “error”.  This is surely nonsense!

            Next, the Christian stated:

“Abraham got over it! Even Hagar got over it! Why cannot Muslims?”

This is a pretty childish argument, which we have already refuted.  The Christian is again resorting to a circular argument.  How does he know that Abraham and Hagar “got over it”?  Do we have their actual testimonies?  Of course not!  

            In any case, the reason that Muslims do not accept the Biblical version is precisely because of the internal contradictions and nonsensical storyline.  We also take offense at the Bible’s description of a petty god who chooses people based on pretty low standards.  It is clearly not one’s righteousness that gets one chosen, as the Christian deceptively tried to claim.  

            Muslims, on the other hand, believe in a God who is just and fair.  We believe in a God who selected both of Abraham’s sons, because both were righteous.  The Bible’s hostility towards Ishmael can be seen in the Christian’s hostility towards him.  This is not a coincidence.

            Next, the Christian brought up the subject of plagiarism, no doubt in an attempt to distract from his own shameless copying:

“For the simple reason as I stated in the outset, they need Ishmael to be the child of sacrifice instead of Isaac, which by the way is the BIGGEST plagiarism in existence today; the Koran copying that Bible account of Abraham and then changing the name from Isaac being the child of sacrifice to Ishmael.”

So instead of having the integrity to admit that he is guilty of plagiarism and dishonest research, the Christian simply changed the subject and accused the Quran of plagiarizing from the Bible.  This issue is outside the scope of this article, but we can just point out that if the Quran had indeed plagiarized from the Bible, then why is it so different from it?  Why does the Quran lack the contradictions and nonsensical storyline of the Bible?  

            Ironically, the Christian contradicts himself as well.  He has been claiming all this time that the child of sacrifice was not specifically named as Ishmael in the Quran (which is correct), yet above he rants that the Quran “[changed] the name of Isaac…to Ishmael”!  Which is it?  This ludicrous claim is all the more absurd given that the Christian provided absolutely no support for his claim, yet he demanded evidence of the Bible’s alterations to the story (which we provided and will discuss further below).

            The Christian then stated:

“But, what else is there? Without Ishmael, Islam loses its roots and identity. And without that they have no prophet and no Koran, which means they have no future, much like Ishmael. But, that is the least of their worries.”

We don’t know what the Christian is talking about, since we already explained the Islamic position with regard to prophethood.  Islam teaches that God has sent prophets to all nations of the world, not just one particular nation.  A person did not need to be a descendant of Ibrahim (peace be upon him) in order to qualify as a prophet.  Furthermore, if the Christian had bothered to actually try to understand the Islamic position on the question of the sacrifice, he would realize that to Muslims it would not matter if Isaac was indeed the child.  Of course, the evidence clearly shows that it was Ishmael, but even if it was not, it would not be a big deal.  The reason is that we do not believe in a racial or tribal god, what the Bible refers to as the “God of Israel”.  God is not just the “God of Israel” but the God of All.  He also did not only choose people from the “Children of Israel” but rather from the “Children of Adam”.  He is an impartial God, who chooses the most righteous.  The Christian would be well-advised to rethink his view of God, because his current view is an insult to Him.

            Next, the Christian stated:

Islamispeace statement was and I quote “The problem is that the verse simply says “take your son, your only son…” without mentioning Sarah.

Seriously, that’s their hang up, “without mentioning Sarah” really? Does the Koran Mention Ishmael as the child of sacrifice? No! But, their hang up is the Bible say’s ‘only son’ without mentioning Sarah. Why would the Bible have to unless there was some foul intentions? Everyone knew Isaac belonged to Sarah and Abraham, even you as was admitted. Why didn’t the Koran mention Ishmael if it was truly him? Why didn’t Hagar mention it since she was the mother of Ishmael? Your denial may cost you. But, like Ahmed Deedat and other Muslim debaters they put the blame on the Bible rather than their Koran when it is Muslims who say it was Ishmael not Jews or Christians. Their line or reasoning is warp and suspect at BEST!”

So again, the Christian resorts to childish rants rather than a substantive rebuttal.  It is truly saddening to see so much immaturity in a person.

            Coming back to the issue, the Christian is simply assuming via his refusal to admit that the Bible has internal contradictions that the phrase “only son” meant “only son through Sarah”.  We are simply observing that the text does not say that.  The Christian wants to be taken at his word, but his word is not good enough.  

            But ironically, the Christian refuted his own argument (unknowingly of course).  He claims that the Bible did not have to mention “through Sarah” because “everyone knew Isaac belonged to Sarah and Abraham”.  This is exactly what we stated and which is why the argument falls apart!  If it was well-known that Isaac was Abraham’s only son through Sarah, then why even use the phrase “only son”?  Why not just say “take your son whom you love”?  If the latter phrase had been used, the Christian’s point would make sense since it would be obvious that Isaac was being referred to (given that Ishmael was no longer around).

            Next, the Christian finally attempted to reply to our use of scholarly material, which up to this point, he had been avoiding.  Unfortunately, he failed to take the full explanation into account.  He stated:

But, even in your own defense your references mentions exactly what I said before in point #5 . . .


Point 5 It was after Hagar and Ishmael was dismissed from Abraham’s household the promise and or covenant was made, who at that time the “only” son of Abraham and Sarah was Isaac.


***Your own references said “”Consequently, when God commands Abraham to sacrifice his only son (2 i 11), Isaac is quite literally…the only son the patriarch has.””***”

It is truly disconcerting to see someone so blinded by his denial and bias that he cannot even properly quote the scholarly source we referenced.  The Christian simply took one part of the source out of context and declared victory for his view.  Here is the quote again in its entirety (emphasis ours):

“…the author of 4Q225 develops a structure that creates a new backdrop for the narrative of the Aqedah. Prefacing the account of the Aqedah is a summary presentation of the promises of a son and multiple progeny in Gen 15:2–6 (2 i 3–7). Isaac’s birth is announced immediately thereafter (2 1 8–9a) and thereby is explicitly portrayed as the fulfillment of the preceding divine promise of a son. The Ishmael narratives that intervene between the promises of the covenant making in Genesis 15 and the birth of Isaac are omitted.  Indeed, in 4Q225 Ishmael is never born. Consequently, when God commands Abraham to sacrifice his only son (2 i 11), Isaac is quite literally…the only son the patriarch has.””

As we can see, the source was stating that only after the author of 4Q225 had completely removed the story of Ishmael from the narrative did it make Isaac “the only son the patriarch has”.  The meaning is clear and should not be difficult to understand.  We once again invite the Christian to use his reason.  Denial only hurts you in the end.

            Next, the Christian childishly gloated as if he had proven his point, declaring victory once again:

“Did you catch that? “Isaac is quite literally…the “only son” ….This is your references not mine. Case PROVEN once again!”

We hate to disappoint our critic but as the above shows, he did not prove anything except his own bias and childishness.  We would also like to point out that writing in all caps does not give an argument more weight.  

            Next, the Christian stated:

“Next, in an even more desperate attempt he uses Jewish apocalyptic literature. Apocryphal and Pseudepigrapha (literally meaning ‘falsely attributed writings’) books that were never accepted as canonical  as his primary reference tool. Books that promote astrology and angel worship and written by Jewish Theorist. Books full of unfulfilled prophecies. Books such as “The Assumption of Moses,” “The Apocalypse of Ezra” and the “Book of Jubilees.” This is really your best proof of alterations? Seriously? None of the Bible writers ever mention any of these books or authors by name, not even Jesus but obviously these books are your only line of defense.

Here we see an example of special pleading.  The Christian asked for evidence of the Bible’s alterations and when he was given it, he denied its significance claiming that the evidence had come from “Jewish apocalyptic literature”.  First, it should be pointed out that our previous example, 4Q225, was not from a non-canonical book.  It was a different version of the Genesis story of Ishmael and Isaac.  The last time we checked, Genesis was a canonical book!

            Furthermore, as we pointed out in our rebuttal to this same individual’s reply to our article “The History of the Bible and the Quran: A Comparative Analysis of the Holy Texts” (which he never responded to), the Christian Bible is filled with references to non-canonical books.  For example, the author of Jude referenced the apocryphal Book of Enoch.  Why?  If early Christians were quoting non-canonical books as scripture, why is this Christian rejecting any reference to the Book of Jubilees?  In addition, if the Christian would have been bothered to do some actual research, he would realize that the Book of Jubilees is considered to be scripture by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church and by Ethiopian Jews (Beta Israel).[4]

            Second, we also noted that variants of the story from Genesis 22 are found in the Septuagint and other translations of the canonical Hebrew Bible.  Whereas the Masoretic text uses the phrase “your only one”, the Septuagint uses the phrase “your beloved one”.  In other words, Greek-speaking Jews did not read “take your son, your only son” but rather “take your son, your beloved one”.  What better example of alterations can be given?  Those with eyes to see and ears to hear will readily admit that the different translations do not agree on the wording.     

            The Christian then stated:

And even in this sad attempt regarding the term only son, your references didn’t say Ishmael was the child of sacrifice. Whereas some of the Muslims scholars that I provided indeed said it was Isaac, so you can’t get more conclusive then that.

First, it should be noted that the Christian did not provide anything.  He simply plagiarized from a Christian apologetic source and tried to pass it off as his own research.  Blind copying is not an example of honest research.  

            Second, the point of referring to the scholarly sources was to show that the Bible does not agree with itself.  The Christian is simply moving the goal post (by saying that the scholarly sources do not state that Ishmael was the child of sacrifice), now that he realizes that the story has been altered (though he will not admit it).  The point is that the Bible’s inner contradictions have been exposed, so why would any reasonable person believe it?

            Third, as we showed in Part 5, the reference to some Muslim scholars who believed that Isaac was the child of sacrifice is fraught with difficulty.  These very same scholars are also quoted in other traditions as saying that Ishmael was the child of sacrifice!  Had the Christian done some honest research, instead of blindly and lazily being spoon-fed by deceptive Christian missionaries, he would have figured this out.  To further demolish the appeal to the plagiarized material, let us provide a specific example from Tabari (whom the missionaries deceptively quoted) to illustrate our point.  The Christian’s plagiarized report mentioned Abu Kurayb as relating a tradition that Isaac was the child of sacrifice:

“According to Abu Kurayb - Ibn Yaman-Mubarak - al-Hasan-al-Ahnaf b. Qays-al - 'Abbas b. 'Abd al-Muttalib: The quote, "Then We ransomed him with a tremendous victim," refers to Isaac.

Well, Tabari also mentioned that Abu Kurayb also related another tradition, which states the following:

“According to Abu Kurayb and Ishaq b. Ibrahim b. Habib b. al-Shahid – Yahya b. Yaman – Isra’il – Thuwayr – Mujahid – Ibn ‘Amr: The victim was Ishmael.”[5]

Other examples can be seen in Tabari’s account as well, with different traditions by Ya’qub, Ibn Humayd and Ibn Bashshar.[6]

            Hence, the Christian needs to realize that he is way out of his league.  Yet, we are not angry with him.  Rather, we pity him for being the victim of a vicious lie by his fellow missionaries.  Ultimately, he is the one being deceived.  Had he the courage to realize this, he could free himself from their lies.

            The Christian next stated:

But, again it does show zealousness to promote falsehood just like your hero Ahmed Deedat. Islamispeace then went on to say and I quote “Common sense would indicate that this verse makes no sense since Ishmael was also Abraham’s son. the Christian has failed thus far to offer a reasonable clarification”


So answer this question islamispeace, from a Muslims point of view where is the common sense in the Koran omitting Ishmael as the child of sacrifice?” 

The reader should notice that the Christian did not actually respond to our point but rather asked a question to distract from the issue.  Has he any reasonable reply to make to our claim that:

“Common sense would indicate that this verse makes no sense since Ishmael was also Abraham’s son.”

We await a substantive reply.

            With regard to his red herring about the Quran omitting Ishmael’s name, we have already proven beyond a doubt that Ishmael was indeed the child of sacrifice.  The Christian, as with other issues that he has been refuted on, ignored the evidence we have provided from the Quran itself which shows conclusively that it was Ishmael, not Isaac (peace be upon them both).  Again, we await a substantive reply.

            Next, he stated:

“It is clear as the Bible noted and as was admitted, Isaac was the ‘only son’ of Abraham by wife Sarah. On the other hand it is Muslims who desperately need Ishmael not Jews or Christian’s, a FACT that seems to escape the Muslim community. I don’t know who Muslims have talked to in the past regarding this subject but it is this Ahmed Deedat syndrome or this narcissistic approach of the Bible (a preoccupation on how much the Bible is wrong and the Koran correct) that prevents Muslims as a whole from moving forward, a trait that was exhibited in Ishmael from long ago.”

Again we see the Christian’s tendencies to launch into personal attacks and rants about Ahmed Deedat.  We should point out that Sheikh Ahmed Deedat was a bit before our time and we have actually not read any of his material.  Most of our references have come from our own research utilizing a variety of sources, both Muslim and non-Muslim.  On the other hand, the Christian has failed to provide anything beyond his own opinions and plagiarized material from deceptive Christian missionaries.

            Finally, the Christian wrote:

“To sum it all up, islamispeace does admit that there were disagreement among Muslim scholars where some of them believe Isaac was the son of sacrifice and not Ishmael. So, there are no contradictions as far as those Muslim scholars are concern and they didn’t need to resort to Jewish apocalyptic literature to disprove it.”

Contradictions among Muslim scholars do not prove the Christian’s theories.  He is simply making a leap of faith based on childish logic.  We refuted his appeal to the contradictory traditions involving some Muslim scholars.  Instead of actually responding to our points or having the dignity and maturity to admit that he was wrong, the Christian shamelessly tries to peddle the same irrational claims over and over again.

            To close this rebuttal, let us once again list all the issues which the Christian keeps ignoring:
  • The meaning of the Hebrew word “hay-ye-led” is “child”.
  • The status of Hagar as a legitimate wife of Abraham.
  • The absence of the story of Ishmael’s birth in the Dead Sea scroll 4Q225 (a clear attempt to eliminate the contradictory nature of the Biblical story).
  • The promise/covenant with Isaac was made before Ishmael and Hagar were sent out but after the “covenant of circumcision”.
  • The status of Ishmael as a legitimate son of Abraham and a member of his household even after the exile and at the time of the sacrifice.
  • The Masoretic text of Genesis 22 is contradicted by the Septuagint and other translations.
  • The evidence from the Quran and authentic ahadith show that the child of sacrifice was Ishmael (peace be upon him).
  •  Muhammad (peace be upon him) did indeed consider himself a descendant of Ibrahim and Ishmael (peace be upon them).
  •  The disagreements among Muslim scholars are due to weak narrations which often contradict themselves and each other.
Even if the Christian insists on living in his denial, we hope that other, more reasonable readers will accept the facts, and if these readers are Jews or Christians, we hope that they will have the courage to admit that the Biblical story is self-contradictory, inshaAllah. 

And Allah knows best!


[1] Genesis 26:7-10.

[2] Genesis 25:29-34.

[3] Genesis 27.

[5] “The History of Tabari”, Volume 2: Prophets and Patriarchs, p. 86.

[6] Ibid., pp. 86-89.

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