This is part 3 of a series. Click on the links to view part 1 and part 2.
Another verse commonly cited by Muslim scholars and apologists is Deuteronomy 18:18. (Here is one such article posted on Islam 101 written by well-known Muslim apologist Zakir Naik.) Use of this particular verse by Muslims comes with a unique set of challenges for Islam. Islamic scholars make the claim that the Bible has become corrupted (see my article on corruption of scripture here). Wherever the Bible and Qur'an agree, Muslims accept those portions of the Bible as intact and uncorrupt, but wherever they disagree, Muslims accept the Qur'an and reject the Bible. Since Deuteronomy 18:18 is used as a proof-text of a prophecy of Muhammad, they claim this portion of scripture is original and uncorrupt. This is a huge problem which I will address shortly.
Let's look at Deuteronomy 18:18 first.
I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him.
We know from the New Testament that this verse is a direct reference to Jesus Christ. In Acts 3:22 as Peter was preaching to the crowd and referring to Jesus, he stated, "Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you." According to the apostle Peter, Deuteronomy 18:18 speaks of Jesus, but according to Zakir Naik and others like him, it is direct reference to Muhammad. Both cannot be correct.
Muslim scholars argue that this verse must refer to Muhammad, because he was like Moses in a number of ways that Jesus was not. Moses and Muhammad both had natural parents; Jesus did not. Both Moses and Muhammad escaped persecution; Jesus did not. Both instituted a set of laws by which their followers should live; Jesus did not. Both were great leaders of their people, politically and militarily; Jesus was not. Both died; Jesus did not (according to Islam). Because of these and other parallels between Moses and Muhammad, this prophecy cannot possible be speaking of Jesus but rather is a direct revelation about Muhammad himself. So the argument goes.
Furthermore, the phrase "a prophet like you from among their brethren" refers to Muhammad because, like Moses, he claims to be of the lineage of Abraham and therefore is of the 'brethren' of Moses. And since Gabriel visited Muhammad and put the words of Allah in his mouth, this verse fits perfectly with the way revelation was given to Muhammad.
Jesus or Muhammad?
In context, the entire chapter of Deuteronomy is speaking about Israelites and nobody else. Just simply examining a few other verses in the chapter makes this abundantly clear.
Deut. 18:1-2 - “The priests, the Levites—all the tribe of Levi—shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and His portion. 2 Therefore they shall have no inheritance among their brethren; the LORD is their inheritance, as He said to them.
Deut. 18:15-16 - “The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, 16 according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, “Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.’ It was the Jews, the Israelites, who gathered at Horeb, not the descendants of Ishmael. So the one to come who would be like unto Moses must also be a Jew. That eliminates Muhammad, but opens the door perfectly for Jesus.
Deuteronomy 17:15, 20 clarify further what is meant by 'brethren,' "one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel.
Like Unto Moses
Jesus was like unto Moses in a myriad of ways that Muhammad was not and never claimed to be.
- Both brought covenant relationships between God and Man: Moses brought the Old Covenant, Jesus the New Covenant.
- Both performed miracles to attest to the divine authority of their message. Muhammad never performed a miracle and denied his ability to do so (Sura 17:90-93 and others)
- Moses released his people from bondage in Egypt, Jesus released all mankind from the bondage of sin if they confess, repent, and yield Lordship to Him.
- When both Moses and Jesus were born, death was ordered for all young boys. Not so for Muhammad.
- Moses knew God face-to-face (Ex. 33:11) as did Jesus. Muhammad did not.
- Moses and Jesus both gave specific, detailed, verifiable prophecy. Muhammad did not.
For these and many other reasons, the prophet spoken of by Moses, who would be from his brethren and who would speak the words of God must be Jesus Christ himself.
Muhammad a false prophet?
As stated earlier, for a Muslims to use Deuteronomy 18 as a prophecy of Muhammad is a grave error. If this passage of scripture is indeed intact and not corrupt, as Muslims must assume in order for their prophecy to make sense, what does this chapter really have to say about Muhammad?
But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ - Deuteronomy 18:20
Within the same paragraph of scripture - two verses later in fact - that Muslims use as a proof text of Muhammad in the Bible, we find the Blblical test of a false prophet.
- A false prophet is one who speaks in the name of God words which God has not given him
- A false prophet is one who speaks in the name of other gods
For background, see the article What Are the Satanic Verses? on this site. According to reliable and authoritative Islamic sources (ibn Ishaq and al-Tabari), Muhammad both spoke in the name of God words which God did not give him, and he spoke in the name of other gods when he recognized al-Lat, al-Uzza and Manat as three other valid deities. Muhammad is therefore a false prophet.
Muslims need to either abandon this verse as a prophecy of Muhammad or admit Muhammad is a false prophet. They cannot have it both ways with this passage of scripture.