Peacemakers and Islam? - Matthew 5:9

Question

Islam says Matthew 5:9 refers solely to Muhammad. Is this true?

Answer

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Islam asserts that Jesus' statement did not refer to himself, but to Muhammad, because Jesus, as Matthew 10:34 says, did not come to bring peace, but a sword. They claim that Muhammad is the fulfillment of Matthew 5:9. They claim the word "Islam" means peace. In Semitic languages, some words are created by inserting different vowels between the three root consonants (e.g. "iSLaM" and "SaLaM" are two derivations from SLM). So, Islam claims this passage to speak of Muhammad.

First, as to the meaning of the word "Islam," this is what Bassam Darwich wrote in an article called "Islam & Peace":

In order to find the meaning of a certain word in the Arabic dictionary, it is essential to search for the three letter infinitive verb which is called the root. Many words can be derived from the same root, but they don't necessarily have to have any similarity in their meaning. The word Islam, which means 'submission', is derived from the infinitive Salama. So is the word Salam which means 'peace' and so is the verb Salima which means 'to be saved or to escape from danger'. One of the derivations of the infinitive Salama means 'the stinging of a snake' or 'The tanning of the leather'. Hence, if the word Islam has something to do with the word Salam i.e. 'Peace', does that also mean that it must be related to the 'stinging of the snake' or 'tanning the leather'?

Muhammad used to send letters to the kings and leaders of the surrounding countries and tribes, inviting them to surrender to his authority and to believe in him as the messenger of Allah. He always ended his letters with the following two words: "Aslim, Taslam!". Although these two words are derived from the same infinitive Salama which is the root of Salam, i.e. 'Peace', neither one of them implies the meaning of 'peace'. The sentence means 'surrender and you will be safe', or in other words, 'surrender or face death'.

Second, context is important to the meaning of any text of Scripture. Jesus speaks about peacemakers in the plural, not singular. It doesn't reference just one person, but many!

Third, when Jesus said "I did not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Matt. 10:34), we must again look at the context. Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6; cf. Psa. 72:3, 7; Luke 1:79; 2:14; 7:50; 8:48; John 14:27; 16:33; 20:19, 21; Rom. 5:1; 10:15; 14:17; Eph. 2:14; Col. 1:20; Heb. 6:207:2), is not telling his followers to be murders! Just as Israel's history foreshadows Jesus' history (Matt. 2:15), its turmoil and strife foreshawdowed the strife that resulted from the coming of the Messiah, even to the division of families. Embracing the Gospel often demands allegiance that supersedes the strongest ties of human life. In the next verse, Matthew 10:35, Jesus added, "He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." As Hendriksen and Kistemaker explain:

To belong to Christ is a privilege so inestimable that no other relationship can replace it. It is a duty so imperative that no other obligation is more binding. See Acts 5:29. If the choice is between a parent or Christ, the parent's wish, no matter how ardent, should be rejected; if between a child or Christ, the child's wish, no matter how vehement must be overridden. This must be done out of predominating love for Christ. Those who refuse this supreme loyalty to Jesus are "not worthy" of him, that is, not deserving of belonging to him and being honored by him.

Please see Christianity and Islam Contrasted.

References:

Darwich, Bassam. "Islam and Peace." www.answering-islam.org.

Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953-2001). Vol. 9: New Testament Commentary: Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew. New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

Richard Pratt, General Editor. Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2003.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

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