Yahya Sabbaghchi, Assistant Professor, Center for Islamic Studies and Humanities, Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran
Muhammad Javad Balaaghi (1865-1933), a Shiite scholar of theology and jurisprudence in Iraq, is the author of several books and treatises regarding Islamic knowledge and also interfaith matters. With his good knowledge of English, Hebrew and Persian in addition to his native Arabic language and with his great knowledge of Judaism and Christianity, he wrote answers to some critical books and essays against Islam, including “al-Hoda ila din al-Mustafa” (Guidance toward the religion of Muhammad) in response to a Christian book of 17th century against Islamic teachings and “al-Tawhid wa al-Tathlith” (Monotheism and Trinity) in response to an anonymous writer who had written a letter to him and invited him to Christianity. In “Al-madrasa al-sayyara” (The moving school) he depicts a dialogue between three Christians: A young man called Emmanuel who seeks the truth, Emmanuel’s father (Eliezer) and the Priest. Several theological subjects are discussed during their dialogue including God, the Qur’an, mercy, Muhammad, Jesus, the battles, the gospels, the apostles, etc. His approach in his books represents part of the atmosphere around one century ago in the dialogues and discussions between Shiite Muslims and Christians.
Beginning with a brief introduction to Balaaghi’s interfaith works, this paper focuses on his major reviews pertaining to the canonical gospels. The majority of these reviews may be found in “al-Madrasa al-sayyara”. Generally speaking, he criticizes the usual belief among the Christian about the authenticity of the canonical gospels. His reviews may be summarized in four steps:
1- Enumerating several blames by Jesus Christ against the apostles in the biblical gospels, Balaaghi argues that a great religion like Christianity cannot rely on the writings of such disciples. This argument mainly criticizes the writings of John and Matthew.
2- If we accept that Christ asked the apostles after His resurrection to preach and teach people, what can validate the writings of Luke and Mark as they are neither apostle nor among the prophets and teachers mentioned in Acts, 13:1?
3- In the next step Balaaghi hesitates whether the four canonical gospels are written by their known writers.
4- Finally Balaaghi goes through the contents of the gospels enumerating some contradictions between the teachings of the gospels or between gospels and the Old Testament. He supposes that a sacred and divine text can’t be self-contradictory.