Handling Islamic Objection to the Gospels
1. The argument that forms the objection
The objection sets forth that because there is a clear contradiction in the accounts of Matthew and Mark concerning Jesus' directions as to the proclamation of his message, there is clearly an error in the Gospels. In Matthew 10:5-6, we read that Jesus told his apostles to go only to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus also says in Matthew 15:24 that He “was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” However, Mark 16:15 seems to contradict those verses as Jesus says, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every living creature."
2. What is a contradiction?
It is vital that we define a contradiction: a contradiction is when two statements assert things to be true in the same way and at the same time, though they are in opposition to each other. For example, it would be a contradiction to state that today is Monday while also stating that today is Friday if both statements are refering to the exact same moment in time. If a pertinent reason or rationale can be given which demonstrates that the statements are not saying opposing things at the same time or in the same way, then no contradiction exists. A statement may add to or modify another statement if there is a legitimate rationale.
3.A legitimate answer
An excerpt from The True Guidance gives a brief demonstration of such legitimate rationales: “The reason the apostles begin with the house of Israel is that they were sent first on a training mission. It was appropriate they should first be sent to those who spoke the same language and had the same customs and Scriptures (3:76-77).”1 The reason is a good one, but it does not cover the ultimate rationale behind the two sets of instructions in Matthew and Mark related to the proclamation of Jesus's message. We will get a clearer picture by looking at the Old Testament.
1The True Guidance. 3rd ed., Villach, Austria, Light of Life, 1992.
4.Israel had a function
“But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. I have declared and saved, I have proclaimed, and there was no foreign god among you…Therefore you are My witnesses,’ says the LORD, ‘that I am God’ (Isaiah 43:1,12).” Israel’s function was to reveal God as the one true God to the nations; this included receiving the revelation of God to give to the nations. This function required that an initial presentation of the Gospel be made to them (as had also been done with the Law). Paul had this in mind when he wrote Romans 11:12: “Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!”
5. The Qur’an does not dispute this function
It is important to note that the Qur’an does not dispute Israel’s role to the nations but affirms it in the following two Suras: “So when he withdrew from them and what they worshipped besides Allah, We gave to him Ishaq and Yaqoub, and each one of them We made a prophet. And We granted to them of Our mercy, and We left (behind them) a truthful mention of eminence for them (19:49-50).” “And We granted him Ishaq and Yaqoub, and caused the prophethood and the book to remain in his seed, and We gave him his reward in this world, and in the hereafter he will most surely be among the good (29:27).”2
2The Quran. M. H. Shakir Edition, Medford, MA, Perseus Digital Library, n.d.
In conclusion, Israel had a distinct function to be a witness for the one true God. Paul indicates that Israel’s rejection of Messiah was riches for the world since it allowed the Gospel to go out into the world directly. This function of Israel to be God’s witness provides a rationale on God’s part for Jesus’s first set of instructions, given that Israel was to have the message first proclaimed to them. Jesus gives another set of directions as an expansion of the first set, given Israel’s rejection of the message. An expansion of these directions means that the second set of instructions is not in direct conflict with the first set at the same way, nor at the same time. Different conditions exist for the two sets of instructions based on God’s purposes. Therefore, the claim that there is a contradiction in the Gospels due to the difference in the directions Jesus gave is a faulty argument.