How to Explain the Religions of Abraham to the Hollywood Generation

If you don’t like humor, don’t click below – and if you are reading it on the RSS feature, don’t go any further.

Admittedly, we live in a world where people worry more about Star Trek Canon (and something called star Wars or something like that) than they do about the natures of things eternal – so, while I do not pretend to like contemporize Christianity, I found this slightly humorous.

No, Moslems don’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah.

Think of it like a movie. The Torah is the first one, and the New Testament the sequel. Then the Qu’ran comes out, and it retcons the last one like it never happened. There’s still Jesus, but he’s not the main character anymore, and the messiah hasn’t shown up yet.

Jews like the first movie but ignored the sequels. Christians think you need to watch the first two, but the third movie doesn’t count. The Moslems think the third one was the best, and Mormons liked the second one so much, they started writing fanfiction that doesn’t fit with ANY of the series canon.

This quote was was sent in by a reader.

Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

99 thoughts on “How to Explain the Religions of Abraham to the Hollywood Generation

  1. You are wrong about Muslims not believing that Jesus is the Messiah. The Qur’an states very explicitly

    “When the angel said, ‘O Mary! verily, God gives thee the glad tidings of a Word from Him; his name shall be the Messiah Jesus the son of Mary, regarded in this world and the next and of those whose place is nigh to God.”
    (The Qur’an (E.H. Palmer tr), Sura   3 – Imran’s Family)
    The problem here is that Christians themselves have forgotten what Messiah means. They think it means Savior when it fact it means Anointed One.


  2. The Jews did not believe that the Messiah would be God or the Son of God. As for being a prophet, Peter himself calls Jesus a prophet ‘like unto Moses”

    3:22 For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.
    (King James Bible, Acts)


  3. I’m not arguing that Muslims believe the same things about Jesus that Christians believe, but Muslims believe a good deal more about Christ than Christians typically recognize. For instance they believe Jesus was born of a virgin, that He is the Messiah and the Word of God and that He will come again.

  4. Incidentally, that seems a rather poor translation of Philipians you are using.  My recollection is that it says “Though in the *form* of God” rather than “Though he *was* God”


  5. Oh, this is the Living Bible. No, wonder, it isn’t even a translation, instead it represents a particular theological interpretation of the Bible. I’d rather have a translation that stated closer to the original Greek.

  6. ” ‘morphe of God’ means, mixed with, ‘didn’t think His divinity something to be held to’ means?”
    Morphe of God means ‘in the form of God” just like I’ve always heard the passage. And to say Jesus is divine is not the same as to say He is a diety.
    Incidentally, I found this website describing the NLT:
    It seems it still owes a good deal to the Living Bible”:

  7. I’d never heard of the NLT until you mentioned it here, but my atennas immediately went up when I realzied Phillipians was being mistranslated. As for whether one could have God’s nature and give it up without being God, it is an assumption on your part that this cannot be done. The Baha’i concept of Manifestation would match this perfectly, one doesn’t need incarnation which is unbiblical.

  8. Before the NLT came along it was always translated as the ‘form of God” and you just provided the Greek which confirms this is the correct translation. As for John 1:14 it says the Word was made flesh.  As I’m sure you must know the conception of the Word as the first born of God is very Platonic conception. Usually the word ‘manifest’ is found in the NT in relationship to Jesus’ relationship to God, not incarnate.

    1:20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you
    (King James Bible, 1 Peter)

    3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory
    (King James Bible, 1 Timothy)
    I can find more if you like.



  9. I’ve never paid much attention to the NIV either. I prefer the New English Bible, but since I don’t have an online version of that I stick to the Standard Revised or the KJV.
    As for the Word made flesh hearkening back to the Hebrew Wisdom rather than Platonic notions of the Logos, Philo of Alexandria had brought those two things together when he conceived of the Logos s as God’s thought, as His eternally generated first-born son.
    Whatever Tertullian may have said Greek thought influenced Christianity from the beginning and that influence only grew over time. In fact the Trinity which I believe Tertullian himself first articulated was an attempt to explain Jesus relationship with God in terms that were intelligible in Greek philosophical terms.
    As for the difference between manifestation and incarnation, the light of the sun is reflected, and therefore manifest in a clear mirror, but it cannot be incarnated in that mirror without destroying it.

  10. Just because Philo isn’t mentioned in the Bible does not mean he did not influence writers like John. He died twenty years after Christ but his writings would have naturally been earlier. It is Philo who connects the Greek Logos with the Hebrew Wisdom, without that it is not at all clear that is what he is doing. John’s Gospel is pretty late, written towards the very end of the first century. I think it is safe to say that John’s Gospel would have been written about fifty years after Philo wrote his works.
    Most scholars would reject Paul’s authorship of Timothy, though I realzie that is not the position of inerrantists.  Timothy is written in an entirely different style than the works which we know were penned by Paul. Also, Timothy describes a church organization which did not exist in the first century. It is most likely a second century work.  But I would not agree that ‘manifest in the flesh’ is the same as incarnated. The sun is manifest in the mirror but not incarnated.

  11. I wrote:
    “It is Philo who connects the Greek Logos with the Hebrew Wisdom, without that it is not at all clear that is what he is doing.”
    Let me clarify that. It is not clear what John is connecting the Logos to the Hebrew Sophia without reference to what Philo had previously written.

  12. Actually, he is Dutch Reform but he wrote a famous biography of Luther.
    And no, as a firm believer in Predestination he did not share my theology. But I doubt if he thought that Paul wrote the pastoral letters.  I studied the letters of Paul with a Catholic priest who taught at the same university. He didn’t think Paul wrote Timothy either.

  13. Fair enough. I think I addressed the issue of the verse itself. It does not have to be understood in the way Christians have typically interpreted it since Nicea.

  14. Oh yes, now I remember that bio of Luther, very good as I remember too?  I have RC priest friends, I count Fr. Fritzmeyer as one. But they are a mess with their presuppositions!  I am 59, so I have read much in the 20th century theology.
    Fr. R.

  15. A man dies and goes to heaven, and is being given a tour of the place. Good people of all the many faiths God has called people to (Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Shamanist, etc.) are all around, chatting amiably with each other, except for one group.

    The man is puzzled. “Who are those people over there, sitting behind that high stone wall?” he asks.

    The guide smiles. “Oh, those are the Evangelical Christians. They think they're the only ones here.”

  16. No – Messiah does mean Anointed One – Jesus means Saviour, as in God will Save His People. Muslims believe that Christ is a prophet – Christians know that He is God in the Flesh. He is son of Mary according to the flesh, son of David, son of man, but He alone is God, son of God.

  17. Susan – the Jews of the 2nd Temple Period expected something – but didn’t like what they got. We read John, and the times which Christ announced His deity – He was rejected. This was part of His rejection. Christ is a Prophet, indeed, but greater than Moses (Read Hebrews).

    Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God. And Moses indeed was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which would be spoken afterward, but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end. (Heb 3:1-6 NKJ)

    He is also God – Phil 2.5-9

  18. Considering that any translation is meant to explain the originals, we have to examine the author’s entire passage here. The NLT 1st edition actually gets the entire passage better. Though he was God, didn’t hold to His divinity – is the best translation of this first part. Thus, Christ is God.

  19. No, Susan – it is the New Living Translation. While it came from the Living Bible, in name only, it is a dynamic equivalent translation, but in many places, quite literal. Wrong against. This does stay close to the Greek – as most English translation. What you want is a translation which fits your ability to deny the actual meaning of the passage.

  20. Susan,

    Τοῦτο φρονεῖτε ἐν ὑμῖν ὃ καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ, ἀλλὰ ἑαυτὸν ἐκένωσεν μορφὴν δούλου λαβών, ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος· καὶ σχήματι εὑρεθεὶς ὡς ἄνθρωπος ἐταπείνωσεν ἑαυτὸν γενόμενος ὑπήκοος μέχρι θανάτου, θανάτου δὲ σταυροῦ. (Phi 2:5-8 BGT)

    What exactly do you think ‘morphe of God’ means, mixed with, ‘didn’t think His divinity something to be held to’ means?

    Or, try the NIV?

    Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross! (Phi 2:5-8 NIV)

    Had the nature of God, took on the nature of humanity. No man can say that, should say that. Instead, we know that Christ was God (John 1.1, and the ‘I AM’ statements in John) who took on the nature of a servant.

  21. Sorry, Susan, wrong again. You keep saying ‘morphe’ but you deny everything else that goes along with it – including the whole of the NT. ‘Morphe of God’ reflects the form of the servant. God became man. Because you miss this, everything else is worthless.

    The NLT, as I said, descended from the Living Bible, but that is about it. Have you read the NLT? I would doubt it as you are depending upon 30 year old information. Further, you never answered the NIV translation. One cannot have the nature of God, giving it up, and not be God.

  22. The Baha’i are wrong, and clearly missing the meaning of the text. Literalism presents a problem for many who cannot understand the original languages.

    Tell me, Susan, on what are you basing your idea that the NLT has somehow mistranslated it? Further, Incarnation is biblical (John 1.14, etc…) and essential to the correct faith, Christian.

  23. Uh, Susan, the NLT1 came out in 1996, the NIV much earlier (1984) and did not have ‘form of God.’

    Actually, Plato has nothing to do with the Word made Flesh, as this hearkens back to the Hebrew Wisdom as an attribute of God. While you may seek to understand this in the Platonic fashion, as Tertullian, said, ‘What does Athens have to do with Jerusalem?’ What did John mean? He said that the Word was God and was tabernacled in flesh. Pretty easy.

    You do know what ‘manifest’ means, right? Simply revealed, as the NLT has it. Considering what 1st Timothy 3.16 says, that God was revealed in the Flesh – Who? God. Yes, again, another sign of the deity of Christ.

    Further, we have Romans 9.5 – clearly pointing out that Christ is indeed God.

    Again, if you miss this, then nothing else matters.

  24. But, Philo – contrary to later Christian development, does not have a place in the Bible. We can trace John’s Logos back through Hebrew Wisdom (including Sirach and Wisdom) much easier, much more biblically speaking, than we can Philo. Further, Philo would have written 20 years after the death of Christ, and only a few years before the the Gospel of John – making it rather difficult for John to mimic Philo.

    Greek philosophy did, no doubt, help to influence segments of Christian thought – yet, not everyone holds to that production.

    You are further wrong with your facts about Tertullian. He used biblical words to describe the nature of the Godhead against those what would dismiss the Son as a mere figment, a nickname, or a manifestation.

    Considering that Paul wrote Timothy that God was manifested in the flesh (In Latin, it would be manifestatum est in carne, hence, Incarnation) you argument is faulty. God was Incarnated, in the flesh, Christ.

  25. No, Susan, for later theologians, Philo serves a purpose, but we can better draw a line between John and the Wisdom tradition – not Philo’s Logos. John’s gospel is not all that late, as a matter of fact (Revelation is) – many scholars even date John earlier. Your ‘safety net’ depends upon the facts which you choose to believe.

    Sorry, you are debating from another faulty standpoint. Further, after showing that the Bible clearly connects manifestation, God, Christ, and incarnation, you deny the biblical stance? Somehow, I see that no matter what, you have your preconceived notions and what the bible says, and if shown wrong, you simply ignore it based on what? Human logic?

    1st Timothy 3.16 – which you brought up as your defense – has been shown to mean something completely different than what you had hoped. Now, you deny Pauline authorship and the actual reading of the words. That makes sense how?

  26. Susan, Church History is fine, but theological speaking, you are grave error. The Incarnation, as you should know from Church History, is the paramount theological concept, and he or she who misses it misses all of it.

  27. We can match scholar of scholar – each resting on our own foundation, but in the end Susan, we are discussing Timothy because it is you who thought to use it as a defense. Before we sidetrack our discussion on Pauline authorship,we should really focus on the verse itself.

  28. Actually, it was understand that way long before Nicea, and that is the only interpretation which is merited. You like literalism – and you have it: God was manifested in the incarnated.

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