Among the gauntlets thrown down by Kornelius Kuku Palete Masiku was the concept that God is Trinity. The lynch-pin for him, and all Christians, is the incarnation of the Word and the textual proof that the Word is one of two people (The Fater and the Son) facing each other and communally ruling the world as One.
I would like to look at the role of the Word in creation. The Islamic scholars have broken down Allah’s decree and creation, from the evidence provided in the Quran and authentic hadiyth, into four stages.
- The invention (thought),
- the Will (forming),
- the Recording in the Book of Decrees (writing),
- and the Creation (speaking).
Two of these stages, the invention (thought) and creation (speaking) are intimated in John 1. Christian scholars comment on the word
Christian scholars comment on the word Λόγος (Logos), “The Word” concerning its underlying meaning, connecting it to the concept of logic in Christian Theological works. For example, Marvin R. Vincent, in his Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 2 says:
This expression is the keynote and theme of the entire gospel. Λόγος is from the root λεγ, appearing in λεγω, the primitive meaning of which is to lay: then, to pick out, gather, pick up: hence to gather or put words together, and so, to speak. Hence λόγος is, first of all, a collecting or collection both of things in the mind, and of words by which they are expressed. It, therefore, signifies both the outward form by which the inward thought is expressed, and the inward thought itself, the Latin oratio and ratio: compare the Italian ragionare, “to think” and “to speak.”
Not only does he relate thinking and speaking to “the Word“, but points out it is related to reckoning, account (Philippians 4:15, 17; Hebrews 4:13); cause or reason (Acts 10:29) and a decree, a precept (Romans 9:28; Mark 7:13).
But instead of carrying these concepts through to associating the Word as a manifestation of God, he still goes on to insist it is a separate person to God. One of the key phrases that lead Christians to this conclusion is the wording of John 1:1-3.
Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. Οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν. Пάντα δι ’αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν ὃ γέγονεν.
En archē ēn ho logos kai ho logos ēn pros ton theon kai theos ēn ho logos. Houtos ēn en archē pros ton theon. ennho logos panta di’ autou egeneto kai choris autou egeneto oude hen ho gegonen.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
The word πρὸς (pros) appears in two places in this passage, and the word χωρὶς (choris) is translated as its antonym. Οὗτος (autos) is translated as “Him” with a capital “H” and ἦν (ēn) is translated as “was”.
What does Strong’s Concordance have to say about these four words?
- The short definition of πρὸς is to, towards, with.
- Strong then goes into a detailed study concerning its voices.
- The largest section is listed under the accusative case category. It is this section that includes the basic idea of interaction between two objects. The idea of “facing” is derived from these definitions, and hence the Father and Son facing each other across a common core.
- However, the genitive case includes the idea of one thing belonging to, or pertaining to another.
- The dative case gives the idea of one thing proceeding from the other, which the creed includes in its formulation (the Son proceeds from the Father and the Spirit proceeds from both).
- Πρὸς, however, is described grammatically to be in the indicative case, which is not mentioned in the Strong’s detailed exposition. Perhaps what is meant is that the Word points to God and vice-versa.
Definitely, believers think that what God has created indicates not only His existence but also His Lordship, and His creation is brought about by the Word “BE”.
Looking even closer at the sentences, we encounter logos as in nominative case in every use and every position preceded by a definite article. This means that “the word” is always an agent or subject. The accusative or object case is logon (singular) or logous (plural).
On the other hand, God is in the accusative case with a definite article twice – “the God.” As I said before, this makes ton theon (singular) the object in each sentence. In English, the presence of a pronoun makes the object indirect, capable of acting on the subject of the sentence but nut under its direct active force.
Word, by the way, is masculine in gender, while god is feminine.
“the word was ‘facing towards’/’at’/’together with’/’pertaining to’ the god”
“it/he was in the beginning ‘facing towards’/’at’/’together with’/’pertaining to’ the god”
In Arabic, “ton theon” would be “al-ilah”, which could be denoting the only God or a thing taken as a god. Because a person must be personalized and “logos” is masculine, “autos” has been translated as “he” (He). However, if “the word” is not a person, that pronoun would be “it”.
Turning to the word “ēn”, it is the same verb as is used in the “I am” statement in John 8:48, but it is in the imperfect tense and accusative mood. Translated as ‘be’, it can also mean, according to Strong’s detailed exposition, “dwell (in)”, “associate (with)”, “pertain (to)”, or “originate (from)” an indirect object. All these meanings are mentioned under the genitive and dative cases, and are rare.
A Muslim would opt for one of the latter two connotations “pertain or belong (to)”, or “originate (from)”. To them, the verses would read
“The word pertains (timelessly) to the god” and “It belonged in the beginning to the god.”
That is, the Word was characterized by divinity.
God is in the nominative case in the second verse, without the definite article. That is Theos is being used as a name: the name of God. In Arabic, that would be Allah. In Hebrew, it may be Elohim, Eloh or El.
“God was the word.”
As both “the word“is nomative, here, but a non-person, and “God” is nomative and a person, one assumes that “God” is characterized by the word that originated with Him.
This is not a basis for conceptualizing Trinity, and many a churchman finds formulating the immutable God as Trinity becomes difficult when facing the so-called mutability “the Word” (as a person) displays. If the Islamic formula, God’s formula, is accepted, however, the word becomes the causal link between conceiving creation immaterially to conceiving it materially. The latter conceiving is an act of creation rather than fertilization by natural means.
Far better for the believer in God to take His warning and advice seriously. He tells the Christian in Quran 4:171:
“يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لَا تَغْلُوا فِي دِينِكُمْ وَلَا تَقُولُوا عَلَى اللَّهِ إِلَّا الْحَقَّ ۚ إِنَّمَا الْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ وَكَلِمَتُهُ أَلْقَاهَا إِلَىٰ مَرْيَمَ وَرُوحٌ مِّنْهُ ۖ فَآمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرُسُلِهِ ۖ وَلَا تَقُولُوا ثَلَاثَةٌ ۚ انتَهُوا خَيْرًا لَّكُمْ ۚ إِنَّمَا اللَّهُ إِلَٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۖ سُبْحَانَهُ أَن يَكُونَ لَهُ وَلَدٌ ۘ لَّهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۗ وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّهِ وَكِيلًا.”
Yaa ahl alkitabi laa taghlou fiy diynikum walaa taqoulou ‘ala Allahi illa alhaqq. innamaa almasiyhu ‘Eiysa ibnu Maryama rasoolu Allahi wa kalimatuhu alqahaa ilaa Maryama wa rouhun minhu. Faaminou bi Illahi wa rusulih. Walaa taqoulou thalaathatun. Intahou khayran lakum. Innamaa Allahu ilahun wahidun. Subhaanahu an yakouna lahu waladun. Lahu waladun ma fiy issamawati wama fiy il-ardi. Wakafaa bi-Illahi wakeela
“O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul from Him. So, believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, “Trinity”; desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs.”
This advice leads into the question Kornelius asked concerning verses 70:40-41 of the Quran and 19:21 of the Quran: Who is the word “we” and ” the word “I” in these verses? Do not Muslims worship Gabriel, Muhammad and Allah together?
The answer is, “Of course they do not.”
Many a scholar of all three Abrahamic religions points out that even Kings and Queens use honorific endings and pronouns the same way to denote nobility, rule, majesty. Allah does the same. It is a function of language, after all. And He does so in both the Quran and the Bible.
“فَلَا أُقْسِمُ بِرَبِّ الْمَشَارِقِ وَالْمَغَارِبِ إِنَّا لَقَادِرُونَ عَلَىٰ أَن نُّبَدِّلَ خَيْرًا مِّنْهُمْ وَمَا نَحْنُ بِمَسْبُوقِينَ.”
Fala oqsimu birabbi almashariqi wa almagharibi innaa laqadiroun ‘alaa an nubaddila khayran minhum wamaa nahnu bimasbouqiyn
“Nay, I swear by the Lord of risings and settings that indeed We are able to replace them with better than them; and We are not to be outdone.؟
The “I” and the “We”s are all Allah. When Allah uses the plural pronoun first person particle (ا) after “verily” He is emphasizing His Power and Ability. That is, one of His attributes. When He uses nahnu, He is still emphasizing His Power, but does not name an attribute (which is why He uses the full pronoun as the accusative in the sentence). When He uses “I”, He is reassuring His messenger in the intimate mode, swearing by His power over the cycling of day and night.
“قَالَ كَذَٰلِكِ قَالَ رَبُّكِ هُوَ عَلَيَّ هَيِّنٌ ۖ وَلِنَجْعَلَهُ آيَةً لِّلنَّاسِ وَرَحْمَةً مِّنَّا ۚ وَكَانَ أَمْرًا مَّقْضِيًّا.”
Qala kathaliki qala rabbuki huwa ‘alayya hayyinun wa linaj’alahu ayatan linnasi wa rahmatan minnaa wakana amran maqdiyya.
“He said, “Thus [it is]; your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, and We will make him a sign to the people and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter decreed.'””
The first “He” is the angel Gabriel talking to Maryam, peace be upon her. Gabriel then reports what Allah (Whom he reminds Maryam is her Lord). The first “It“ refers to the creation of a baby in Maryam’s womb without using a man as a means to fertilize her. Me,” “We” and “Us” are all Allah’s words put into the mouth of Gabriel. The Royal “We” and “Us” are used to describe Allah’s decree. The “Me”, however, is personal reassurance given in the direct and intimate mode to Maryam. The “him” that He makes “A Sign” and “A Mercy” is Jesus.
There is no hint of worshipping Trinity, though we are often told to obey Allah’s Messenger as we would obey Allah in the Quran. Allah, however, always mentions Himself first before enjoining us to obey His Servant.
Although it has been a long and convoluted answer to the challenges of Kornelius, I think he has had the challenge answered. This was the most fundamental of his challenges as it strikes at the differences between our two creeds. It is up to the reader to decide which way he is inclined towards: the worship of the One true God, or the worship of a human being believed to be the mutable form of the immutable God.