On the basis of a mention in Ibn Hesham’s Sira, a redacted version of Ibn Ishaq’s Biography of Muhammad, Muslims claim that Muhammad is foretold in the Bible. This article investigates this claim.

(For this analysis, I rely on Hesham’s Sira, ‘The Prophet’s Biography of Ibn Hesham’, translated by Mohammad Mahdi al-Shariff, published in Lebanon by Dar Al-kotob Al-Ilmiyah in 2006, 2nd edition. Page numbers references used refer to this edition of the book.)

Muhammad foretold in the gospel of John

On page 39 of Sirat Ibn Hesham, Ibn Ishaq is claimed to have said that Muhammad had been found in the gospel of John:

…but, when the Moonhamena (The Syriac citation form of the Arabic Mohammad and the Latin Barkalitus) comes to existence as sent from God, he will be a witness on me and you... (p. 39)

This claim is parroted and expanded by ‘Answering Christianity’ Team:

In the Bible, we can find the following four passages wherein Jesus (peace be upon him) predicts a great event:

"And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever." [John 14:16]

"But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, [even] the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me." [John 15:26]

"But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." [John 14:26]

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew [it] unto you." [John 16:7-14]

In these four verses, the word "comforter" is translated from the word "Paraclete" ("Ho Parakletos" in Greek). Parakletos in Greek is interpreted as "an advocate", one who pleads the cause of another, one who councils or advises another from deep concern for the other's welfare (Beacon Bible commentary volume VII, p.168). In these verses, we are told that once Jesus (peace be upon him) departs, a Paraclete will come. He will glorify Jesus (peace be upon him), and he will guide mankind into all truth. This "Paraclete" is identified in John 14:26 as the Holy Ghost.

Now, when I read the gospel of John, and the reader is invited to read it, I see no prophecy about Muhammad. In addition, the above claims are mere lies. Below, I provide quotes from the ‘Answering Islam’ team to show that the above claims are bogus:

Since a quick reading of the Gospel does not reveal such a prophecy in any obvious form, a more detailed search has continued over the years; and many Muslims now claim that Jesus' promise of the Counselor or Paraclete in John 14 is that very prophecy. Professor Katkat claims this in an article on the subject in Manr Al-Islm, and Yusuf Ali expresses the same idea in the following note on Sura 61:6, "Ahmad" or "Muhammad", the Praised one, is almost a translation of the Greek word periclytos. In John 14:16, 15:26 and 16:7, the word "Comforter" in the English version is for the Greek word "Paracletos" ...Our doctors contend that Paracletos is a corrupt reading for Periclytos, and that in the original saying of Jesus there was a prophecy of our holy Prophet Ahmad by name.

The first thing to be understood is that in Greek, unlike in Arabic, the vowels are written into the text. Thus to change from pErIclYtos to pArAclEtos would require the alteration of three written letters.

Secondly, there is absolutely no textual evidence for such a reading. Not one copy of the Gospel of John, from the oldest Greek copy dating 200 AD until now, shows periclytos in place of paracletos. Photograph 7 of Papyrus p75 from 200 AD shows John 14:9-26a. The last word on the page clearly shows "PARACLETOS" from verse 26. Verse 16 has been partly destroyed, but in the middle of the line marked by the two arrows one can still see "PARACL - N" for paracleton ("ON" signifies a direct object). In the first case, the whole word is visible and in the second, two of the three letters under discussion can be clearly seen.

Thirdly, although periclytos, meaning famous or renowned, was used by Homer when he wrote Iliad and Odyssey in the classical Greek of the 10th century B.C., there is not one instance where this word, or any of the other members of its word group, are used in the Koine Greek of the New Testament or the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament.

Thus there is neither textual nor linguistic support for "periclytos".

For a more thorough analysis of this matter, the reader is advised to go to ‘Answering Islam’ Website. The claim that Muhammad was mentioned in the Bible is a mirage. Christians, who understand their holy book better than tendentious Muslim scholars, certainly don’t go around claiming, nor do they agree to the Muslim claim, that Muhammad, that desert thief, is foretold in their book.

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