Sunday, 9 November 2014

A Reply to John Fontain on the Gospel

The Deen Show is an Islamic show broadcast via YouTube. Credit where credit is due, the show is well made with high production values and the host, Eddie, is obviously well spoken and passionate about his faith. Having said that, I'm a lot less impressed with the content of the show. The typical episode will feature Eddie interviewing a convert to Islam, usually, though not always, a former Christian. Normally, these ex-Christians will be presented as being very active in their churches, well versed in scripture and knowledgeable about their former faith. When one listens to them, however, they will frequently show little of sign of having much knowledge of Christianity and they frequently give the impression that their grasp of Christian belief is very shallow.

As an example of what I'm talking about, I offer this recent episode in which Eddie interviews John Fontain. Mr. Fontain is the author of the book "Jesus and the Injeel." For those who are unclear 'Injeel' in the Arabic word for Gospel.

Mr. Fontain tells us that when Christians hear the word "Gospel" they think of the written documents by Matthew, Mark etc. He then tells us that these scriptures refer to the Gospel as something else, he notes, for example, that the Bible talks about Jesus, himself preaching 'the Gospel'. He seems to think that this fact will be surprising to Christians. Actually, this will not surprise any well instructed Christian in the slightest.

If one looks up any good dictionary, one will find that for most words, there are several definitions given: definition one, two, three, etc. In the same way, the word Gospel has two main meanings. Of these, the primary meaning is the message preached by Christ, and preached by the Church since His time. The secondary meaning of he word refers to written biographies of Christ. Practicing Christians are well used to hearing about "the preaching of the Gospel" or "what the Gospel calls us to" and we are well aware that this refers to more than just the written biographies in the New Testament.

Mr. Fontain then claims that in the original Greek, the term used for the Gospel is 'Injeelion'. The Greek letters are generally transliterated as 'Evangelion' but we need not split hairs here. The point is, the word comes from the Greek terms meaning good news. This is a simple fact that can be checked by anyone with Google. Mr. Fontain objects to this claim, saying that it must mean more than good news because the 'Injeelion' makes commands, for example Paul talks about people obeying the Gospel. This, Mr. Fontain tells us, proves that "good news" is not an accurate translation. This seems to me to miss the point of how language is used. The name, good news was the name Jesus gave to the message He preached, that it also contained more than news is besides the point. "Good news" is a perfectly good translation of the Greek word which Mr. Fontain pronounces 'Injeelion'. 'Gospel' which comes from the English "God Spel", literally "good news" is an equally good translation.

If this basic confusion were not bad enough, Mr. Fontain insists that the salvation message which Jesus preached was not recorded accurately in the New Testament or Church tradition, the Injeel preached by Jesus has, according to him, been lost. This claim, however, is contradicted by his own book. The Qran, 5:46 explicitly says that the 'Injeel' given to Jesus contains "guidance and light." Verse 47 then goes on to say "And let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah has revealed therein. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed - then it is those who are the defiantly disobedient."  In other words, Mohammed, clearly believed that the 'Injeel' was something which people in his own day could read and judge by. By the time of Muhammed, Jesus' earthly mission had been over for some seven centuries. Clearly, therefore, no person listening to Mohammed could have physically listened to Christ's preaching. Any reasonable person will realise that the Injeel is something that Mohammed believed that Christians in his day had access too.

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