I would like to ask about John 20 : 28. While I was searching in Islamic websites, I found one that claimed that there are some manuscripts that don’t contain the word “the”, so the verse will mean that Thomas thought that Jesus was a god not God, like Moses. What is your comment, and how can we know the right reading? http://www.answering-christianity.com/john20_28.htm
I will answer the question below, but first let me make a comment:
Let’s get real here. Why should we engage in a discussion with a Muslim about a single word in a single manuscript of the Book of John? Here is the bottom line. According to the Qur’an Jesus was not crucified. Here is Sura 4:157. And [for] their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah .” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them.
A Muslim must believe that Jesus was not crucified. They are taught in their scripture that the entire thing was a hoax. Either that or they must reject their entire religion. Therefore the Muslim who is posting this claim believes that the entire book of John, or at least from John 12-20 is a pure fabrication. They believe that the Bible is “corrupt” to the point that the entire accounts in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John of the crucifixion are fabrications. They believe that there is absolutely no validity to John 20, never mind the specific verse John 20:28. They believe, either that John did not write this–that it is a “corruption,” or that if he did, he made up a story which is a lie and Jesus was not crucified. So, why should we engage with a Muslim over a single word in a single verse in a single manuscript in a book that they do not even believe reflects what happened? This is absurd. What we need to do with our Muslim friends is to ask them if they believe that the entire section in John, as well as Matthew, Mark and Luke on the resurrection is a fabrication and that these are corruptions. If so, what is their evidence that these entire several-chapter sections were corrupted. When was this corruption done and by whom? How do they respond to the fact that we have manuscripts of John from the second century? If they will not answer this question with evidence, then we should refuse to engage in discussions about a single word in a single manuscript in a single verse in a single chapter in one of only four books which describes in great detail the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus which they completely deny. By the way, they also deny the non-Christian authors such as Cornelius Tacitus and Josephus who agree that Jesus was crucified by Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem.
The Muslim who raises questions about whether the word “the” was in the original of John 20:28 is being completely disingenuous. They are trying to make trouble over an issue that they have nothing to do with. It would be like one of us getting involved in a Muslim debate over the interpretation of Sura 43:2–as if we would care about the meaning of a verse which we believe is not inspired at all. That is their problem, not ours, as we fully reject even the premise that their scripture is from God. Why would we get involved in this discussion? Therefore, I ask, why would we get involved with a Muslim over a single word in a single verse in John, when they believe that the entire book is a fabrication and is not inspired by God (despite the fact that the Qur’an says the Injil/New Testament is inspired, but that is another issue!).
Now, I will answer your question, not in order to answer to the Muslim, for whom this is none of his business, but in order to help you with this question. If we look at John 20:28 we will see that there is really no significant question as to what the original text was, as far as the scholars are concerned. Here is the issue. In this key verse, the question is whether the Greek word ho is in the original of ho theos (the God). This is an important question, because in this passage Thomas appears to be saying to Jesus that he is “my Lord and my God.”
This is the evidence. All ancient manuscripts but one agree that the definite article ho was in the original. The only exception is Codex Bezae. This manuscript is quite early–from the late fifth century–and it represents what is known as the Western type of manuscript. Bezae is famous for differing from other truly ancient manuscripts more than all others. As far as I know, scholars are unanimous in concluding that Codex Bezae does not reflect the original. Even the liberal, unbelieving Bart Ehrman argues that in Codex Bezae the word ho was taken out by a scribe for theological reasons due to concerns over the issue of patripassianism–the desire to see Jesus as less fully human that has been the commonly accepted view.
You should be aware that even today, some faithful believers debate the precise interpretation of John 20:28. There is a legitimate debate over whether Thomas is saying that Jesus is his Lord and his God, or whether he is blurting out something like “Oh my Lord (Jesus) and oh my God (the Father). The majority opinion is that Thomas is calling Jesus both Lord and God. The context certainly supports this conclusion and it is what I believe on this verse. No matter what, this verse certainly does not teach that Jesus is a god, rather than God-in-the-flesh, which is clearly taught elsewhere by John, for example in John 8:57-59 and John 1:14.
However, why should we let a Muslim who denies the very reality of the crucifixion and who believes this entire section is a pure fabrication in on this discussion? That is my question. I say that they have no business entering into this discussion, just as we have no business discussing the detailed interpretation of some passage in the Qur’an which we believe is not even from God in the first place.
I hope this helps.