Middle East Resources

The Primacy of Truth in the Christian Tradition

Bassam Michael Madany

12 March 2021

 

Truth in Christianity is of utmost importance. For example, the writings of the Apostle John are replete with references to truth. In the Gospel according to John, Jesus Christ said “to the Jews who had believed him, If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (8:31,32)

In his Letters, John drew attention to the fact that truth is manifested in the daily walk of the Christian. He began his Second Letter with these words: 

The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever. 

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father's Son, in truth and love. I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. And now I ask you, dear lady, not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning. And this is love that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.  

St John’s emphasized the primacy of truth, in his Third Letter:

The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul. For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 

The importance of maintaining and defending the truth was observed throughout the history of the Church. In AD 325, the First Ecumenical Council at Nicea, affirmed the deity of Jesus Christ, under the leadership of Athanasius. The Creed was further refined at the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451.

For Christians, the Bible and the Ecumenical Creeds are the standards of truth and orthodoxy. Any deviation from these authoritative documents is harmful to the essence of the Christian faith. Thus, Christians must be alarmed by the statements of Pope Francis during his recent visits to the Gulf States and Iraq, when he spoke about the “commonalities” between Christianity and Islam. 

It is noteworthy that prior to the pontificate of Pope Francis, the Roman Catholic Church had manifested a serious misunderstanding of Islam in Article 841 of “The Catechism of the Catholic Church,” where we find these puzzling words:

“The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."

Setting aside the obvious doctrinal differences between Christianity and Islam, the Catechism gives credence to the myth of the “Three Abrahamic Religions.” The implication is that Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, possess a common spiritual ancestor, namely Abraham. 

In fact, there are no historical or archeological grounds for asserting, as Muslims do, that Abraham had gone to Mecca with Ishmael, or that the latter is the father of the Arabs. The Biblical account tells of the journeys of Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees, in southern Mesopotamia, to the land of Haran (in present-day Syria), continuing his journey southward to Hebron, Palestine. After Abraham sent away Hagar and her young son Ishmael, we read  in Genesis 21, that “God was with the boy, and he grew up. He lived in the wilderness of Paran, and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.” (ESV) The wilderness of Paran is in the Sinai Peninsula, Egypt; the area that became the home of Ishmael’s descendants.

“The Three Abrahamic Religions” is a term of recent origin. Before the term became popular, the more exact designation was  the “Three Theistic Religions;” which set Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, apart from the Asiatic faiths, which were either polytheistic, or pantheistic. In Arabic, Muslims speak of the “Three heavenly religions,” or, “The Custodians of the Revealed Books.”

 I am indebted to the works of the German-Egyptian political scientist, Hamed Abdel-Samad, and his colleague, Professor Muhammad al-Musayeh, a Moroccan expert on Islamic History and the early  manuscripts of the Qur’an, for their research in the history of western Arabia. They found that there is no mention of the existence of Mecca, prior to the Third Century AD. Furthermore, there were in the Arabian Peninsula, several Kaabas, almost one for every tribe. The Mecca that existed in Muhammad’s days, was not there in Abraham’s time. Their opinion is that the Prophet Muhammad invented the account that Abraham, accompanied by Hagar and Ishmael, came to Mecca, and built the Kaaba. 

Now, even if Mecca had existed 1800 years BC, Abraham, an elderly man, could not have made the arduous journey of 1200 kilometers, from Hebron to Mecca, with Hagar and Ishmael, her young son. The Genesis narrative makes sense, since a move of 150 km. from Hebron to Paran, where Hagar and her son settled, was both possible and practical. 

While the concept of the “Three Abrahamic Religions” has found currency in the West, both in Academia, and in an official document of the Roman Catholic Church, it remains a myth. Two Arab scholars, have proven their case, and their findings should not be ignored! In fact, no one benefits from perpetuating a religious myth!