Muhammad and Moses

Question
Muslims claim Deuteronomy 18:18-19 refers to Muhammad. Is this true?
Answer
Deuteronomy 18:18-19 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.

Islam claims this passage refers to Muhammad. This is one of their go-to verses! However, the Bible clearly affirms this to speak of Christ. Peter, speaking of Jesus, says in Acts 3:22:

For Moses said, "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you."

Muslims support their claim by producing a list of ways in which Muhammad was like Moses and in which Jesus was not like Moses.

Muslims claim:

1. Moses and Muhammad did NOT have a miraculous birth. Jesus did.
2. Moses and Muhammad were rejected by their respective people and then accepted. Jesus did not.
3. Moses and Muhammad encountered enemies in battle. Jesus did not.
4. Moses and Muhammad became national leaders. Jesus did not.
5. Moses and Muhammad had families (married with children. Jesus did not.

Claims Disproven:

1. Moses and Jesus BOTH had rather miraculous births. Moses was hid at birth, put in a river, and then finds grace from of all people, Pharaoh's daughter (Exod. 2:1-10). Jesus was born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-20) and hid (escaped) in Egypt. Moses was brought up by his mother as a nurse in Pharaoh's household, and Jesus was brought up by Mary. But Muhammad was an orphan. So, Islam is not correct.
2. Jesus was rejected by his people (Matt. 13:54-58; Mark 6:1-6; Luke 4:16-30). Matthew 21:42, Acts 4:11, and Mark 12:10 all talk of Jesus as the stone which the builders rejected. 1 Peter 2:7 discusses this rejection of Jesus as well. Many of the people who initially rejected Christ later received him (see the life of Paul). So, Islam is not correct.
3. Jesus encountered enemies in battle (Matt. 4:1-11; 1 Kings 20). Who is the "commander of the LORD's army" in Joshua 5:13-15? Christ, who is God! As 2 Chronicles 20:5 states, "This is what the LORD says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's." (cf. Psa. 121:1-2) So, Islam is not correct.
4. Jesus was born (Matt. 2:2) and crucified as a national leader (King of his Kingdom, Matt. 27:11; Mark 15:2; Luke 23:3; John 18:33-36; 19:20). And as God has always been sovereign over creation (Isa. 45:9; Dan. 4:28-37; Rom. 9:20-21), Jesus is "Lord of lords and King of kings" (Rev. 17:14) and is ruling over his Kingdom (1 Pet. 2:9). So, Islam is notcorrect.
5. While Jesus did not get married and have a physical family, he still has sons and daughters: "So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith" (Gal. 3:26; 4:1-7); "Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God" (John 1:12-13). What a family! So, Islam is not correct.

There are a number of other ways Jesus is like Moses: both were transfigured; Moses offered to take the sins of Israel on himself, and Jesus was sacrificed for the sins of his elect. But the writer of Hebrews sums it nicely saying:

Hebrews 3:1-5 Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest. He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. "Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house," bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. But Christ is faithful as the Son over God's house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

Limitations of Lists:

We should note that arguments from comparative lists have certain limitations - and they can be used to prove anything. Could I not compare a donkey to Moses? They both have eyes, a nose, teeth, and ears. They both eat. They both breathe. Both Baalam's ass (Num. 22) and Moses spoke the word of God. Does this prove that Deuteronomy 18:18-19 refers to an ass? Surely, not. So, while comparative lists may be useful, they must remain "in context."

Context of Deuteronomy 18:18-19

What is the context of Deuteronomy 18:18-19? We find it in the following verses, Deuteronomy 18:21-22, which say:

You may say to yourselves, "How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?" If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.

There is no doubt that Jesus worked miracles and spoke in the name of the Lord (John 10:25) and fulfilled what was spoken of him (Isa. 61; 58:6). The Gospels record many miracles:

The water changed into wine (John 2:1-11)
Healing of a nobleman's son (John 4:46-54)
Healing of a sick man (John 5:1-9)
Healing of a man who was born blind (John 9:1-41)
Raising Lazarus (John 11:1-44)
The hundred and fifty three fish (John 21:1-11)
Walking on the sea (John 6:19-21)
Feeding five thousand hungry people (John 6:5-13)
Freeing a man's soul which was possessed by demons (Luke 4:33-35)
Healing of Simon's mother in law (Luke 4:38-39)
The enormous catch of fish (Luke 5:1-11)
Healing of a leper (Luke 5:12-13)
Healing of a man who was paralyzed (Luke 5:18-25)
The restoration of the withered hand (Luke 6:6-10)
Healing of a centurion's slave (Luke 7:1-10)
The raise of a widow's son (Luke 7:11-15)
The storm (Luke 8:22-25)
Freeing Legion from the evil spirits (Luke 8:27-35)
Healing of Jairus' daughter (Luke 8:41-56)
Healing of a woman with hemorrhage (Luke 8:43-48)
Freeing a boy's soul which was seized by demons (Luke 9:38-43)
Healing a dumb demon possessed man (Luke 11:14)
Healing a crippled woman (Luke 13:11-13)
Healing a man with dropsy (Luke 14:1-4)
Healing ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19)
Healing of a blind man (Luke 18:35-43)
Healing of a slave's ear (Luke 22:50-51)
Healing of two blind men (Matthew 9:27-31)
Healing of a dumb demon possessed man (Matthew 9:32-33)
Healing of the Canaanite girl who was seized by demons (Matthew 15:21-28)
Feeding four thousand hungry people (Matthew 15:32-38)
The money in the fish's mouth (Matthew 17:24-27)
The withering of the fig tree (Matthew 21:18-22)
Healing a deaf and mute man (Mark 7:31-37)
Healing a blind man (Mark 8:2-26)

Now, this is is not a complete list as even John says, "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written" (John 21:25). But Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament. John the Baptist had his disciples asked of Jesus, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?" (Matt. 11:3). "Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me" (cf. Luke 4:16-19). The "I am" (Exod. 3:14; John 8:58; Heb. 13:8) had spoken - he was the One that fulfilled Scripture!

Even the Qur'an admits Jesus did certain miracles (e.g. Quran 2:87; 3:46; 3:49; 5:112-114; 19:30-33 and 21:91). However, Muhammad never performed a miracle! The lack of signs from Muhammad is throughout the Qur'an:

And they that know not say, "Why does God not speak to us? Why does a sign (ayatun) not come to us?" So spoke those before them as these men say; their hearts are much alike. Yet We have made clear the signs (bayyanna al-ayati) unto a people who are sure (S. 2:118).

Yet if thou shouldst bring to those that have been given the Book every sign (ayatun), they will not follow thy direction; thou art not a follower of their direction, neither are they followers of one another's direction. If thou followest their caprices, after the knowledge that has come to thee, then thou wilt surely be among the evildoers (S. 2:145).

They also say, "Why has no sign (ayatun) been sent down upon him from his Lord?" Say: "Surely God is able to send down a sign (ayatan), but most of them know not" (S. 6:37).

They have sworn by God the most earnest oaths if a sign (ayatun) comes to them they will believe in it. Say: "Signs (al-ayatu) are only with God." What will make you realize that, when it comes, they will not believe? (S. 6:109).

They say, "Why has a sign (ayatun) not been sent down upon him from his Lord?" Say: "The Unseen belongs only to God. Then watch and wait; I shall be with you watching and waiting" (S. 10:20).

The unbelievers say, "Why has a sign (ayatun) not been sent down upon him from his Lord?" Thou art only a warner, and a guide to every people (S. 13:7).

The unbelievers say, "Why has a sign (ayatun) not been sent down upon him from his Lord?" Say: "God leads astray whomsoever He will, and He guides to Him all who are penitent" (S. 13:27).

Naught prevented Us from sending the signs (bial-ayati) but that the ancients cried lies to them; and We brought Thamood the She-camel visible, but they did her wrong. And We do not send the signs, except to frighten (S. 17:59).

Regarding 17:59, the late Sunni scholar Muhammad Asad admits:

This highly elliptic sentence has a fundamental bearing on the purport of the Qur'an as a whole. In many places the Qur'an stresses the fact that the Prophet Muhammad, despite his being the last and greatest of God's apostles, was not empowered to perform miracles similar to those with which the earlier prophets are said to have reinforced their verbal messages. His only miracle was and is the Qur'an itself - a message perfect in its lucidity and ethical comprehensiveness, destined for all times and all stages of human development, addressed not merely to the feelings but also to the minds of men, open to everyone, whatever his race or social environment, and bound to remain unchanged forever.

Clearly, Muhammad does not fit the description given to us in Deuteronomy 18! Islam cannot have it both ways. If Deuteronomy 18 is from God then they must believe it and reject Muhammad, or they must claim Deuteronomy 18 is not from God, in which case they cannot claim it as a prediction of Muhammad.

As shown above, Jesus is the only viable fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18. "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

Please see: Christianity and Islam Contrasted

Reference

Asad, Muhammad, Message of the Qur'an Dar Al-Andalus Limited 3 Library Ramp, Gibraltar rpt. 1993, p. 427, fn. 71.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).