Answering Common Muslim Claims: "Muhammad Is Prophesied About in the Bible"
While discussing religious matters with my Muslim friends, often they will tell me that Muhammad was prophesied both in the Old Testament and in the New. They say this because the Quran specifically makes the same claim:
Those who follow the messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (scriptures),- in the law and the Gospel;- for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure); He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them. So it is those who believe in him, honour him, help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him,- it is they who will prosper.(Quran 7:157, Yusuf Ali)
So they claim that both the Old and New Testaments testify of Muhammad. They usually appeal to three different scriptures in the Bible, so let us look at these scriptures to find out if they indeed refer to Muhammad. There are three main passages that are often appealed to:
- Deuteronomy 18:18-19
- Song of Solomon 5:16
- John 14-16
In future posts we will examine all of these, but this first post will be about the passage in Deuteronomy, where a promised prophet like unto Moses is mentioned:
I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.
There would be a prophet like unto Moses. What does that mean? Does it mean that he will look like him? Will he have a beard like him? Will he dress like him? Does this phrase "like unto thee" refer to something physical, or something spiritual?
It obviously would be a spiritual prophetic likeness, for who would recognize the physical attributes of Moses thousands of years later? Plus, the spiritual prophetic likenesses are listed later in the same book.
We also need to ask, Is he talking specifically or generally? Upon examining the context, we see that there are two ways that this prophecy would fulfilled: in a specific person, and in a group of people in general.
We know that from this time on, God would send prophets to speak to Israel. Up to this time, God had spoken to heads of families to give laws, a time which we call the “Patriarchal Dispensation.” But from this point on, God spoke to his people via a messenger, a prophet.
So, generally speaking, God is letting them know that there is now a shift in the way he will communicate His message to this group of Jews. He would speak to them through prophets.
Specifically, on the other hand, the text seems to imply that there would be one specific prophet that was to be like unto Moses. This is where the questions arise. Is the prophet Muhammad? Is it Jesus? Just who is this prophet?
If he was like Moses, in what way? The way he looked? The way he smiled? The beard? The sandals? How was he to be like Moses? As mentioned earlier, it could only be in his prophetic dealings. Not his fleshly appearance or his fleshly ties, but rather the spiritual prophetic nature of the man.
What was Moses like as a prophet?
And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, In all the signs and the wonders, which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land...(Deut. 34:10-11)
Two things that are shown of Moses’ prophetic calling are worthy of note:
- He would know the Lord “face to face,” i.e. God spoke to him directly.
- He would do many miraculous signs.
We will start with that second one. The prophet like unto Moses would be able to do miraculous signs.
This Prophet Would Do Miraculous Signs
One way people knew the prophets of God from false prophets was by the miracles that they could do. Reading through the book of Exodus, you will see the numerous miracles Moses did, proving that he was indeed a prophet from God.
Muslims also read in the Quran 7:103-118 that Moses was a prophet full of miraculous signs. So, this new prophet would also be someone who would do miraculous signs. So we will ask the question: Is the miraculous prophet Muhammad, or is he Jesus?
What about Muhammad?
And the Unbelievers say:(Quran 13:7, Yusuf Ali)Why is not a sign sent down to him from his Lord?But thou art truly a warner, and to every people a guide.
People who were familiar with Christian and Jewish prophets understood that miraculous signs followed them. So they began to ask Muhammad for proof. The people ask, “Where are the signs of the prophet? Where are the miracles that follow to prove that you are who you say you are?”
The answer from Allah? “No need for miracles, because you are simply a warner, a guide to people.” The Quran shows that Muhammad is not like Moses in his prophetic office, because he could not do miraculous signs.
Now, the later writers, i.e. those who would write the Hadith some 200 years afterwards, began to paint a picture of Muhammad as a man who could do some miracles. However, these are not found in the Quran, and in fact stand in contrast to what the Quran teaches. The Quran tells us that Muhammad did no miracles.
What about Jesus?
The Gospel accounts detail at least 37 examples of the miraculous works of Jesus during his earthly ministry. John also informs us that He did many other miracles that were not recorded. We will not list the miracles of Jesus here, as a simple search on the Internet will reveal the numerous miracles recorded in the Gospel accounts (John 21:25).
When we look at the lives of both Jesus and Muhammad, there is no doubt that Jesus far and away exceeded Muhammad in his miraculous work.
This Prophet Would Speak to God Directly
The second important attribute of Moses’ prophetic work was that Moses received his message directly from God, “face to face.” That is what the text reveals in Deuteronomy 34:
…like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.
What about Muhammad?
We know that Muhammad never spoke face to face with Allah. He only received revelation from Gibril (Gabriel) the angel. The Islamic sources are filled with the words of Muhammad as given to him by Gabriel the angel, but not of his direct discussion with Allah himself.
However, Moses did speak directly with God! There are numerous passages that prove this. Exodus 33 begins by saying “Jehovah said unto Moses”—not through an angel, not by a messenger, but God speaking to Moses. The whole chapter is a discussion between God and Moses. It is evident then, that there is a difference between how God spoke to Moses, and how He allegedly spoke to Muhammad. In Moses' case, God spoke directly to him, and Moses then spoke to the people.
What about Jesus?
Did Jesus receive revelation from an angel? Did he speak through an angel to the people?
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he.(John 4:24-26)
Jesus clearly claimed to be the Messiah. He has the very authority of God. Notice Jesus’ words in chapter 14:
And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.(John 14:13-14)
He even claimed that authority when discussing the Sabbath with some angry Jews:
But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.(John 5:17)
He could make these statements because Jesus was God, from the beginning:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.(John 1:1-3)
He prayed that God would restore to him the glory that was once His:
And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.(John 17:5)
To clarify this matter more, Jesus even explained that He was the prophet spoken of in Deuteronomy 18. Notice his words:
For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?(John 5:46-47)
So when did Moses write about him? Notice that when these Jews asked John the Baptist who he was, they asked "Are you that prophet?” (John 1:21) Clearly they were waiting for this special prophet.
Now notice John 1, when some people first experienced Jesus:
The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.(John 1:43-45)
It is clear that Jesus is the one Moses had written about in the Law. They understood who He was, and even claimed that He was that prophet:
Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet.(John 7:40)
Stephen said to the Jews on the day that he would lose his life for the sake of Christ:
Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers...(Acts 7:52)
Stephen is arguing that they had taken and killed “the Just One,” just as they had persecuted the prophets before. But let's back up just a moment to see where this is mentioned:
This is that Moses, which said unto the children of Israel, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear.(Acts 7:37)
The “prophet” of verse 37 is the “Just One” of verse 52, which He claims is Jesus the Christ. If that is not clear enough, Peter makes it absolutely clear in Acts 3:19-26:
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. 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. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.
There can be no doubt that the prophet being mentioned by Moses is Jesus, not Muhammad.
A “Fleshly” Argument by Muslims
After failing to prove their point in appealing to the spiritual aspect of the prophetic office of Muhammad, they then turn to a fleshly argument, appealing to the term “brother.”
I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth…(Deut. 18:18)
Muslims claim that
their brethren (brothers) refers to the Ishmaelites—half-brothers—who would be considered fleshly descendants of Abraham. They argue that the Arabs are descendants of Abraham, and that if you go far enough down Ishmael’s lineage, you will find Muhammad. They therefore conclude that Muhammad is the prophet of Deuteronomy 18. But is this valid reasoning? Or does this term “brothers” indicate that Moses is discussing someone else, perhaps from his fellow Israelites?
As with all studies, context is key. We could go back through all of the books beginning with Exodus, but for now let us simply look back to chapter 17 of Deuteronomy:
Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.(Deut. 17:20)
They were to make a king from the children of Israel, not from the Ishmaelites. Ishmaelites would have been considered strangers. Again, Deuteronomy 18:1-2 says:
The priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel: they shall eat the offerings of the Lord made by fire, and his inheritance. Therefore shall they have no inheritance among their brethren: the Lord is their inheritance, as he hath said unto them.(Deut. 18:1-2)
Moses is instructing the children of Israel. They are going to divide the land, and he expresses that the tribe of Levi would not receive the land as their inheritance. Verse 2 explains that they shall have no inheritance among their brethren… were the Levites to conclude that they could have land among Israel, just not among the Ishmaelites? Obviously not! This chapter has nothing to do with the Ishmaelites, but the Israelites only.
Then he shall minister in the name of the Lord his God, as all his brethren the Levites do, which stand there before the Lord.(Deut. 18:7)
Again, this instruction is not concerning the Ishmaelites, but rather refers to Israel. The brethren under consideration are the Israelites.
The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken...(Deut 18:15)
Moses is talking to Israelites. He has already made it perfectly clear who he is referring to when talking about “brethren,” so the right conclusion is that this Prophet would be an Israelite, not an Ishmaelite. The same thing is said again in verse 18:
I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.(Deut. 18:18)
The next time this word appears is Deuteronomy chapter 24:
If a man be found stealing any of his brethren of the children of Israel, and maketh merchandise of him, or selleth him; then that thief shall die; and thou shalt put evil away from among you.(Deut. 24.7)
Thou shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy, whether he be of thy brethren, or of thy strangers that are in thy land within thy gates...(Deut. 24:14)
It is clear to any honest Bible student that the prophet whom God would raise up would be from among the brethren—that is from Israel, not from Ishmael. Notice Jesus' conversation with the Samaritan woman:
Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.(John 4:9)
Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.(John 4:20-22)
The Hebrews writer records:
For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.(Hebrews 7:14)
Jesus came from Judah, one of the tribes of Israel—therefore, He was known as a Jew! He came from Israel, and Muhammad did not. Therefore, the honest Bible student should understand that the prophet whom Moses was referencing was Jesus, and not Muhammad.
We have shown extensively that the passage in Deuteronomy cannot refer to Muhammad. The prophet whom Moses referenced would be able to do miracles—Jesus' life and ministry was full of miraculous events. Muhammad’s was not. The prophet whom Moses referenced would speak directly with God—Muhammad received his revelations from Gibril the angel. Jesus, however, did receive his message directly from the God. The word "brothers" that is mentioned in Deuteronomy 18 is not a reference to the Ishmaelites, but rather to the children of Israel. Therefore, we conclude that this passage does not refer to Muhammad, but to Jesus.