I want to thank James Swan for inviting me to post on Beggars All.
I have been involved in Muslim evangelism for 26 years; and teaching former Muslims (MBBs = Muslim Background Believers in Jesus Christ) in the Bible and sound doctrine and discipleship in church planting and discipleship contexts. Muslims have lots of questions about the canon of Scripture, issues that relate to church history, the doctrine of the Trinity, and salvation by grace alone and justification by faith alone. (But it does not stay alone; true faith results in good works, fruit, change, growth, confession and hatred of sin, deeper levels of repentance).
My interest in those apologetic issues over the years has also led me to study church history more deeply, especially because it is impossible to answer Muslims questions about the canon of Scripture issue and the doctrine of the Trinity without knowing something of church history. That is what led me to blogs that deal with church history, Roman Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy from a Reformed / Biblical Perspective. I also have visited a few Roman Catholic blogs in order to learn and grow and ask questions from them.
Therefore, I will be commenting on issues of theology, church history, missions, outreach to Muslims; things that bring these issues together. It is my sincere belief that Muhammad and the Arabs got the wrong impression of Christianity and Christ from a combination of many different beliefs and communities that were on the borders of Arabia and all over the Middle East, North Africa, and the Persian Empire of that time period. As Islam spread out, it encountered more of the different Christian, Jewish, and Zoroastrian faiths. These communities include the heretical and nominal churches on the borders of Arabia, Yemen and Abyssinia, the eastern Orthodox/Chalcedonian Churches in Syria/Palestine; the Monophysite Coptic churches in Egypt, the Monophysite Jacobite-Syrian churches in Syria and later in Armenia; the Jewish communities in Northern Arabia, particularly in Medina; and the Nestorians in Mesopotamia (now called Iraq) and Iran. (Both Iran and Iraq were part of the Persian Empire of those days. The Muslims also probably encountered Apocryphal heretical sects that used the Apocryphal gospels. Several indications in the Qur'an point to Muhammad getting a lot of his information from Apocryphal gospels. More on that later.
The Collyridians were a sect in Northern Arabia, mentioned by Epiphanius, around 374-377 AD, who worshipped Mary and offered cakes to her. (Epiphanius of Salamis, (lived from around 310-403 AD) (Panarion, or Against the Heresies, 79:4) The title of the work is Panarion, meaning Medicine-chest, but the Latin translations of the 16th century had the title Adversus Haereses, meaning Against the heresies. It is possible, though not likely, because of how small they were and that there is not much evidence that they survived into the 6th and 7th centuries; that Muhammad or other Arabs came into contact with this heretical sect and it helped form their opinions of what Christianity was.
As L. E. Browne points out, "The common explanation of this amazing charge [that the Trinity is God, Mary, and Jesus] is that some Christian heretical sect in the days of Muhammad believed in a Trinity consisting of God, Mary, and Jesus. The only evidence for the existence of such a sect is a statement of Epiphanius about some people whom he called Collyridians. This was more than two centuries before the time of Muhammad, and it is scarcely conceivable that Muhammad could have found out the existence of a sect which was so unimportant in the seventh century that Church history is ignorant of it, and would then have brought the peculiar views of this sect as a charge against Christians in general." (The Eclipse of Christianity in Asia: From the Time of Muhammad till the Fourteenth Century, L. E. Browne, Cambridge, 1933, p. 20.)
But no doubt, the images, icons, and statues of Mary, and seeing the eastern Christians bow down and pray before pictures and icons of Mary contributed to their mis-understanding of Christianity and the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity.
Later, Browne writes, "We may safely conclude that this curious Trinity of God, Mary, and Jesus was simply a misunderstanding of Christian teaching on Muhammad's part." (ibid, p. 21)
In 26 years of evangelism and discipleship with Muslims, most Muslims still think that the Trinity is God the Father, the Son Jesus, and Mary, "the Mother of the God" (See Qur'an Surah 5:116; also 5:72-73).
And behold! God will say: "O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of God'?" He will say: "Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, Thou I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden. (Qur'an, Surah 5:116, Yusef Ali translation)
They do blaspheme who say: "God is Christ the son of Mary." But said Christ: "O Children of Israel! worship God, my Lord and your Lord." Whoever joins other gods with God, - God will forbid him the garden, and the Fire will be his abode. There will for the wrong-doers be no one to help. They do blaspheme who say: God is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One God. If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them (Qur'an, Surah 5:72-73, Yusef Ali translation).
For 10 English translations of the Qur'an, (and Arabic transliteration) see
We will attempt to go more into these issues in my next post.