Is Jesus God? Paper 5. Melanie Zens' Rebuttal

20:31 Posted by Fuzail Ahmad
Debate on the topic, "Is Jesus God?" between Saaib Ahmed and Melanie Zens.


1. Opening statement by P1. (1500 Words)
2. Opening statement and rebuttal by P2. (2500 Words)
3. Counter rebuttal by P1. (2000 Words)
4. Response by P2. (3000 Words)
5. Response by P1. (2000 Words)
6. Conclusions published same date. (1500 words).

Introducing Melanie Zens: Melanie Zens is a non-denominational Christian. She has been a Christian for more than a decade now and for the same time she has been studying religion also. She is researching Quran also and the best part of it is that she is learning Arabic to comprehend and memorise Quran properly. She is also learning Greek which she requires for NT studies. She is not a staunch critique of Islam or its prophet. She takes a moderate approach between two extremes. She believes that Jesus came to earth in a human body, his human body was killed, and Jesus himself as a spirit went to sheol. He then rose back into his body and sent his disciples out to preach the Gospel to the whole world and then he ascended into heaven. She believes God created people for the purpose of serving, worshiping, and personally coming to know him.

Melanie Zens' Rebuttal.

In his response to me, Saaib has presented very little evidence or logic to support his case. Instead, he has made numerous unsupported claims, and from the very small amount of factual information that he has presented, drawn radical and painfully unjustified conclusions. In this response I intend to demonstrate just how lacking his case against the divinity of Jesus truly is.

Saaib reiterates that we know very little about Jesus's life. He maintains that only 3 facts of Jesus' life are knowable: that he lived, was crucified, and died. He says these are knowable since they happen normally in nature. God doesn't come down in human form every “yesterday, today, and tomorrow” so the probability of God ever taking human form, according to Saaib, is 0. Apparently Saaib doesn't believe that God can perform miracles. If it doesn't happen regularly, the probability of it ever occurring is 0. Does this claim merit a response?

We can know much more about Jesus' life than Saaib suggests. The Gospels give incredibly detailed accounts of his life, including events written unlike fabricated stories, since they contain embarrassing revelations for that culture. Many claims in the Gospels can also be confirmed by archaeological findings. Word count restrictions limit details that could be given here.

Saaib stated that very little was written about Jesus' life. Apparently 3,778 verses (only counting the 4 Gospels) seems like very little to Saaib. Clearly, a vast amount has been written about his life. Saaib wishes us to discount this information or deny that it exists altogether. Why should we do this? He says that historians admit that it is no longer possible to write a biography of Jesus. The number of historians he quotes is 0. Hmm... I guess we're supposed to take Saaib's word for it when it comes to the consensus of historians. But I highly doubt this view is broadly held. Gary Habermas composed a list of the views of scholars (over 500 pages long) from 1975 to the present. According to this list 75-95% of scholars agree that 6 aspects of Jesus' life are certain (google “minimal facts approach”.) 

Saaib says the Gospels were written as a Kerygma, and “not the Jesus of history”. But how exactly are the Kerygma and a historical account mutually exclusive? Yes, one of the sole reasons that the Gospels were written was to proclaim the faith that Jesus had risen. But why should that make it non-historical? Saaib does not explain. One of the reasons the Qu'ran was written was to proclaim the faith of Islam, making it a type of Kerygma as well. Does this mean it isn't historical?

Saaib's next reason for discounting the Gospels is that John Crossan says the Gospels aren't “history memorized but prophesy historicized.” From this quote, Saaib concludes that the Gospels are fabricated stories about a man who fulfilled the OT prophesies. Yep, he takes 1 quote from 1 scholar, and then acts like this quote makes the theory a fact. This is LITERALLY the extent of support Saaib provides for his theory. 

Saaib presses the point about the language of the Gospels, and the existence of GThom and GoJ. He claims I responded to the language issue by saying Jesus uses parables, but this is a misrepresentation. We can know what Jesus said through the MEANING of a passage rather than a word-for-word translation. This is why Jesus used examples and parables often in his speech so that the meaning of his message could survive multiple translations. The point is that the meaning of someone's words can be translated accurately even if their exact words can't. The meaning of what Jesus preached is understandable in any language. To state otherwise is to trivialize God’s efficiency in communication.

As for GThom, Saaib says some give it a date earlier than the Gospels. But actually no one would even consider dating the whole of GThom to a pre 140 date (which is about 70-135 years after the Gospels were written, and the VERY EARLIEST proposed date for the majority of the book.) Some scholars try to date PARTS of GThom earlier, and then make up complicated theories for how the other parts were interpolated in later. The theories I've seen are very unconvincing. The majority of scholars either consider GThom to be a gnostic Gospel or a deviant form of Syrian Christianity, both of which became prominent long after the canonical Gospels were penned. Regarding GoJ, no one even tries to date PARTS of it early. This Gospel is also a Gnostic one with 0 attestation to the author being Judas. So I stand by my first statement that to even place these 2 in the same category with the other 4 Gospels is laughable.

Saaib also says that church fathers attributing Gospels to the disciples does not mean they are authored by the disciples, and them saying a Gospel is heretical does not make it heretical. Certainly their testimony does not make it a hard fact, but if Saaib discounts their testimony and does not count it as evidence for or against a particular author of a document, then he is completely undermining the criterion of attribution used by historians to determine who wrote a document! Saaib should be able to understand why GThom and GoJ are not in the same league as the 4 Gospels if the 4 Gospels have numerous attestation to their authorship and the ONLY attestation GThom and GoJ have is that they're forged.

Summing up, Saaib falsely claims that very little material has been provided about Jesus' life in the Gospels. He attempts to undercut the vast material available by quoting 1 scholar and bringing up the existence of 2 much later and definitely forged Gospels. This concludes ALL of the evidence for his claim of the Gospels being unreliable. His case is lacking indeed!

Saaib presses the point that some doubted Jesus' divinity. He states that Jesus was not even able to convince his own disciples of his divinity. This is incorrect. Many of his disciples were martyred for proclaiming their faith in Jesus as their God. Jesus also brought multitudes of Jews away from Judaism when he performed many great miracles. But just like when God parted the seas for the Israelites, and even remained with them in a cloud of smoke and fire on a mountain, they continually doubted him and even made an idol while his fire was within view. This is simply the way of people. I brought up examples of this before, and Saaib decided not to address any of these. But he does try to make it seem like his Prophet was better than Jesus by showing that most of the Arab Peninsula had been converted once his Prophet had died. I don't care much about this point. The efficiency of a particular religion has no bearing on it's truth value. Otherwise Christianity would be true because there are more Christians in the world. But I'd like to point out that at first, many did not believe Muhammad and hated what he said so much that on many occasions they did things like dumping camel placenta on his head and eventually even killing his wife and uncle. When Muhammad and his followers went to Yathrib (later called Medina) and he became powerful, then attacked Mecca and forced the Quraysh to convert else become slaves, be exiled, or die. As his army grew more and more powerful he raided many parts of Arabia. Muhammad was successful with violence, Jesus was successful while loving his enemies, even allowing them to kill him. So the fact that Muhammad was successful should not be such a wonder being that he spread his religion mostly by the sword. 

I noticed that Hitler was among the scholars that Saaib quotes to show how successful his prophet was. I find that kind of funny. An evil psychopathic dictator who slaughtered millions of innocent Jews compliments the leader of your religion, and you want to brag about this? LOL!

Saaib mentions again the fact that the Bible differentiates between Jesus and God. He discounts my response to him by saying that I've simply given an extra Biblical interpretation. I pointed out that each member of the Trinity is called Lord or God at some point in the Bible. How is that extra Biblical if it's in the Bible? He also brings up many points that I had already addressed (Jesus being a servant of God, not knowing the time of figs, etc.) and he didn't refute my answers.

In the last part of this paper, I will clarify what is meant when we say Jesus died and is God and man. Saaib claims that someone's soul is not who they really are, it’s not their “self.” Saaib, who or what is your “self”? I believe that the soul is that which contains our personality, which feels, which reacts, the true “us” and our bodies are simply containers of our “selves”. Apparently, Saaib believes there's another part of us that does this and is our true self. He did not explain what that part is and leaves the reader clueless.

Jesus is Spirit (John 4:24) and he took on a human body. When I say he took on a body, I don't mean his spirit became human. Rather he manifested his spirit in human flesh, as the soul of humans are at conception. Jesus was not like other humans because his Spirit was divine, but he was living with the temptations and desires of the flesh.

Saaib asks how Jesus can be both creator and creation - how he can become human. Jesus the Spirit was put in a body, and in this way is he both creator and created. Now when Jesus died, the flesh that he took on was killed, but Jesus the Spirit did not stop existing since God is eternal. 1 Peter 3:19 tells us Jesus went to preach to the imprisoned Spirits once he (his body) died. Saaib says that we should not say God died for us if only his body died. But this is how everyone dies. We are not our bodies, we are our spirits, and when our bodies die our spirits sleep awaiting judgment, but they are never destroyed. The idea of death as being something where you no longer exist anymore is an atheist invention. Since Jesus “died” the way that all of us do, we can conclude that Jesus died on the cross.

How does Jesus grow in obedience and wisdom? The Spirit of God is too glorious for a human body. The human brain cannot access omniscience. The human body cannot act omnipotently. Thus, when the Spirit of Jesus went into human form it's not that he didn't have the power of God; it's that he no longer had access, due to bodily limits. As he grew, he gained wisdom and obedience. That passage doesn't suggest his Spirit grew. Jesus' brain developed just as ours does and he learned the way of his culture just as we do.

In my opening, I showed from Scripture how Jesus clearly states his divinity. Saaib has focused very little on any verses I cited and has instead made radical claims about the Gospels being untrustworthy. He used his misunderstandings of a few Scriptures to support this. He provides very minimal evidence to suggest the Gospels are unreliable and even goes against scholarly consensus in doing so. I have now responded to the verses and problems which he's presented, so it's up to him to refute what I have presented in my opening, either by showing that my sources are inaccurate, or by showing that I misconstrue the meaning my sources. I think he has abysmally failed in this task so far, but I very much look forward to his next response.

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