IZHARUL HAQ READING CONTINUED
TWO CLAIMS TO THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE GOSPELS
Sometimes Protestant scholars try to misguide people with regard to the
historicity of the Synoptic gospels. They put forward their claim that authentic
proofs of the originality of the present gospels existed during the first and the
second centuries AD, by reason of the fact that Clement and Ignatius testified to
The second claim advanced by them is that Mark wrote his gospel with the
help of Peter while Luke wrote his gospel with the help of Paul. Since both
Peter and Paul were men of inspiration, the above two gospels are also divinely
It would seem to be our duty to examine the validity of these two misguiding
claims, each one separately, in the light of available historical data and general
ANSWER TO FIRST CLAIM
The main point of dispute regarding the originality of the present gospels is
the lack of an uninterrupted continuity in transmission of the reporting
authorities of any of the gospels. There is no evidence that any of the gospels
have come down to us direct from Jesus through his disciples to the subsequent
recipients so as to form a continuous chain of reliable reporters. To say it more
simply, there should be a reliable record of a recognised disciple of Jesus
bearing witness that whatever he has written was told to him by Jesus in the
presence of one or more people of such and such names. Then the next reporter
should bear witness to having received, heard or been told the same statement
by that particular disciple of Jesus in the presence of such and such people.
Then one or more of those present should have conveyed the same text to others
by the same procedure so that the texts would have been conveyed to us with an uninterrupted chain of reporters traceable directly back to Jesus himself (as is
the case with Qur’anic revelation).
Now we say, and without any fear of being wrong, that the Christians do not
possess any such succession of authorities from the authors of the gospels to the
end of the second century or the beginning of the third century AD. We,
ourselves, have dug into their books to find any trace of such proofs, and also
sought guidance from renowned Christian scholars but could not get anywhere.
The priest, French 32 during our public polemic with him, tried to explain this
away by saying that we do not have any such authorities due to the historical
calamities which befell the Christians during the first three centuries. It is,
therefore, not correct to say that the priest Clement and Ignatius had no such
authority with them in their time.
We do not necessarily refute the conjectures and suppositions by which they
ascribe these writings to their authors. What we are trying to say is that these
suppositions and conjectures cannot be accepted as an argument for the
genuineness of the word of God. Neither do we deny the fact that the present
gospels gained popularity towards the end of the second century or at the
beginning of the third century, with all their faults, errors, and contradictions.
We must be allowed to bring to light some facts regarding Clement and
Ignatius to eliminate any misapprehensions.
THE SOURCE OF CLEMENT’S LETTER
Clement, the Patriarch of Rome, is said to have written a letter to the church
of Corinth. There is a disagreement between the scholars regarding the exact
year that this letter was written. Canterbury puts it between 64 and 70 AD.
Leclerc claimed it to have been written in 69 AD, while Duchesne and
Tillemont have said that Clement did not become Pope until 91 or 93 A.D. How
Clement could have written letters to the church in 64 or 70 AD when he was
not yet Pope is not explained. However, setting aside all the differences, the
letter in question could have not been written later than 96 AD. Some sentences
of this letter, however, happen to be identical to some of the sentences in one of
the four gospels. This allowed the Christians to claim that Clement had copied
those sentences from the gospel. This claim is liable to be rejected for the
Firstly, it is not sufficient to copy only some sentences from a gospel. If this
were the case the claim of those people would be true who are considered
heretics 33 by the Protestants because they have claimed that all the moral
teachings contained in the gospels have been borrowed from the pagans and other philosophers (because some of their ideas were identical to some of the
ideas of the gospels).
The author of Aksihumo said:
The moral teachings of the Evangel, of which the Christians are very
proud, have been copied word for word from the Book of Ethics of
Confucius 34 who lived in the sixth century BC. For example he said under
his moral no. 24: ”Behave towards other as you want to be behaved towards
by others. You need only this moral because this is the root of all other
morals. Do not wish for the death of your enemy because to do so would be
absurd since his life is controlled by God.” Moral no. 53 goes: ”It is quite
possible for us to overlook our enemy without revenging him. Our natural
thoughts are not always had.”
Similar good advice can be found in the books of Indian and Greek
Secondly, if Clement really had copied it from the gospel, all its contents
would have been identical to the gospel, but such is not the case. On the
contrary, he differed from the gospel in many places, showing that he had not
copied what he wrote from the gospels. Even if it were proved that he had
copied from a gospel, it might have been from any of the many gospels which
were current in his time, as Eichhorn admitted in respect of the sentence spoken
by a heavenly voice at the time of the descension of the Holy Spirit.
Thirdly, Clement was one of the followers of the disciples and his
knowledge about Christ was no way less than that of Mark and Luke, which
allows us to believe, and logically so, that he might have written the letter from
reports received by himself directly. If there were an indication anywhere in his
writing that he had copied it from any of the gospels, our claim would certainly
have been out of place.
We quote below three passages from his letter.
He who loves Jesus should follow his commandment.
Jones claimed that Clement copied this sentence from John 14:15 which
If ye love me, keep my commandments.
The apparent similarity between these two statements led Mr. Jones to
suppose that Clement had copied it from John. However, he has chosen to overlook the clear textual difference between these two statements. The falsity
of this claim has already been proved by our showing that the letter could not
have been written after 96 AD, while, according to their own findings, the
Gospel of John was written in 98 AD. It is nothing but a desperate effort to
provide some authenticity to the present gospels.
Horne said on page 307, Vol. 4 of his commentaries printed 1824.
According to Chrysostom and Epiphanius, the early scholars and
according to Dr. Mill, Fabricius, Leclerc and Bishop Tomline, John wrote
his gospel in 97 AD, while Mr. Jones situates this gospel in 98 AD.
However, a true lover always follows what his love commands; otherwise he
would not be a lover in the true sense of the word. Lardner justly said in his
Commentaries printed 1827 on Page 40 of Vol., 2:
I understand that the copying of this letter from the gospel is doubtful,
because Clement was fully aware of the fact that any claim to the love of
Christ necessitated practical obedience to his commandments, because
Clement had been in the company of the disciples of Jesus.
THE SECOND PASSAGE OF CLEMENT’S LETTER
It appears in chapter thirteen of this letter:
We follow what is written, because the Holy Spirit has said that a wise
man is never proud of his wisdom. And we should keep in mind the words of
Christ who said at the time of preaching patience and practice:
”Be ye merciful, that ye be shown mercy, forgive that ye he forgiven;
ye will be acted upon, the same as you will act upon others, as you will
give so shall you be given, you will be judged as you will judge upon
others; as you will pity, so shall you be pitied upon and with the same
measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to You again.”
The Christians claim that this passage was taken by Clement from Luke
6:36-38 and Matt.7: 1,2,12. The passage from the Luke is this:
Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and
ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned:
forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: Give, and it shall be given unto you; good
measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be
measured to you mete.
The passage from Matthew 7:1,2 reads:
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye
shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you
And in verse 12:
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do
ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
THE THIRD PASSAGE OF CLEMENT’S LETTER
Chapter forty-six of his letter contains this passage:
Remember the words of Lord Christ who said, Woe unto the man who
has committed a sin. It would have been better for him if he had not been
born, that he should harm those chosen by me. And whosoever shall offend
my little ones, it will be better for him that a millstone were hanged about his
neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.
The Christians have claimed that the above passage was copied from
Matthew 26:24 and 18:6 and Mark 9:42 and Luke 17:2: reproduce these verses
The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by
whom the Son of man is betrayed! It had been good for that man if he had
not been born.
Matthew 18:6 contains the following lines:
But who so shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it
were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he
were drowned in the depth of the sea.
Mark 9:42 reads: “And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it
is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were
cast into the sea.”
The text of Luke 17:2 is this:
It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he
cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.
Having reproduced the passages from Clement and the above texts of the
gospels, Lardner said in his Commentaries printed 1827 vol. 2 page 37 that:
The above two passages of Clement are his longest passages and this is
why Paley confined himself to them to support the claim of authenticity for
the gospels. This claim does not, however, stand to reason because Clement
would at least have made a reference to the gospels had he copied any
passage from them and he would also have copied the rest of the related text
or, if that was not possible, the text reproduced by him should have been
totally consistent and similar to the text of the gospel. However none of these
conditions are met. Such being the case, there is no possibility of its have
been copied from the gospel.
It is surprising to see Luke being referred to as the teacher of Clement,
imparting to him the knowledge which he must already have had, being the
companion of the disciples just as Luke was.
In volume 2 of his commentaries, Lardner remarked about the above two
When we study the writings of those who enjoyed the company of the
apostles or of the other followers of our Lord who, like the evangelists, were
fully conversant with the teachings of Christ, we find ourselves very much in
doubt without the evidence of a clear reference. We are faced with the
difficulty of ascertaining whether Clement copied written statements of
Christ or whether he is simply reminding the Corinthians of the sayings
which he and the Corinthians had heard from the Apostles and their
followers. Leclerc preferred the former opinion while the Bishop of Paris
preferred the latter.
If we accept that the three Gospels had been compiled prior to that time,
in that case Clement could possibly have copied from them, though the word
and expression may not exactly be identical. But that he actually has copied
is not easy to confirm, because this man was fully acquainted with these
matters even prior to the compilation of the Gospels. It is also possible that
Clement would have described events already known to him without referring to the Gospels even after their compilation out of his old habit. In
both the cases, the faith in the truth of the Gospels is reaffirmed, obviously
so in first case, and in the second case because his words correspond to the
text of the Gospels, proving that the. Gospels were so widely known that the
Corinthians and Clement both had the knowledge of them.
Through this we achieve the belief that the evangelists faithfully
conveyed the words consisting of the true teachings of Christ. These words
deserve the most careful preservation, though there we have a difficulty. I
think that the most scholars will agree with the opinion of Leclerc, however,
as Paul advises us in Acts 20:35 with the words:
’And to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more
blessed to give than to receive.’
It is, I am sure, generally acknowledged that Paul did not copy the above
statement from any letter but just quoted the words of the Christ which were in
his knowledge and in the knowledge of others. This does not mean that it may
be accepted as a general rule but this method can possibly be applied in letters.
We know that Polycarp also used this method in his writings. We are quite sure
that he also copied from the written gospels.
It is clear from the above statement that the Christians are not certain that
Clement really copied from the canonical gospels, and any claim to this effect is
only based on conjecture.
We do not agree with the conclusion of Lardner that in both cases the truth
of the present gospels is proved because there can be no certainty in the
presence of doubt. As the evangelists incompletely recorded the words of Christ
in this particular instance, they might have done the same in other places too,
and they might have not recorded the exact words used.
Moreover, if we overlook this point for a moment, it only proves that these
particular sentences are the words of Christ, it does not in any way help us to
believe that all the contents of the gospels are the genuine words of Christ. The
knowledge of a certain statement cannot be an argument for the acceptance of
other statements. If that were the case, all the rejected gospels would have to be
accepted as genuine simply because some sentences of Clement bear some
similarity with them.
We are also confident in our refutation of the claim that Polycarp also used
the method of copying from the gospels in spite of his own knowledge, gained
by being, like Clement, also a companion of the disciples of Jesus. Both of them
are of equal status. His copying from the gospels cannot prove their
genuineness. It is, on the other hand, possible that like Paul he might have
ascribed some statements to Christ.
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