Does Moses predict Mohammed?
Islam enjoys the common perception that it is an ‘Abrahamic’ faith. Muslims believe that the one true God who revealed himself to Abraham is the God whom they worship. In their mind, the Prophet Mohammed brought the final revelation from God to mankind.
Christians need to be aware that Muslims believe the Bible predicts the coming of Mohammed. We need to know how to answer this.
Deuteronomy 18:15-18 is a key scripture passage which Muslims claim predicts Mohammed. In it, Moses predicts the coming of another ‘prophet like me’. It is the contention of Muslims that Jews and Christians have corrupted the Scriptures and that the Old and New Testaments as we have them can no longer be trusted.
However, when it is convenient to them, they are still willing to use certain passages to assert Mohammed’s primacy, and this in Deuteronomy is one passage they use.
Let’s examine, then, this assertion of Moses. First, the application of Moses’ prophecy to Mohammed relies heavily and superficially on the word ‘prophet’ rather than the content of what Moses actually says.
Christians have the frustrating problem when attempting to dialogue with Muslims about their ‘biblical’ claims that they are rarely willing to engage with what the text actually says. Moses certainly prophesies the coming of an important prophet, but it is a huge leap to make Mohammed the subject of this prophecy.
But what is Moses actually saying? What is the text and context (not the pretext!)?
Moses is speaking to Israelites who had been delivered from slavery out of Egypt; had passed through the Red Sea into the wilderness, received God’s law at Sinai and journeyed towards the promised land.
At this point, almost 40 years later, Moses is giving his parting sermon. He is about to leave the scene and pass the mantle on to Joshua, who will lead the next generation of Israelites into the promised land. It is in this context that Moses predicts the coming of a ‘prophet like me’.
Clearly, Moses is speaking, therefore, to the tribes of Israel. It is ‘from your midst, from your brethren’ (v.15) and ‘from among their brethren’ (v.18) that the prophet would be raised up. It is through the Israelites that God would raise up this prophet. Whoever the prophet is, his lineage must be traceable through Jacob and the twelve tribes.
It is insufficient to say that, because Mohammed could trace his lineage to Abraham through Ishmael, he adequately fulfils the prophecy. Just as Moses was raised up from the midst of his people, so the coming prophet would be a Jew. Mohammed is thereby ruled out!
Secondly, Moses describes the coming prophet as ‘like me’. This is an important identifier. What was Moses like? He was raised up to be the saviour or deliverer of Israel. Therefore the coming one must be a saviour of God’s people too.
Also, at the hands of Moses, many miracles were performed to authenticate him before Pharaoh and the people. No such record of the miraculous is attached to Mohammed’s ministry.
Furthermore, Moses was the mediator of the old covenant between God and the people (v.16). The people were too frightened to stand before God themselves, so they asked Moses to mediate for them (Exodus 20:18-21). So the coming prophet, like Moses, must be able to mediate a covenant between God and the people.
There is no evidence either in the Quran or elsewhere to show that Mohammed was the mediator of another covenant given by God. Indeed, Islam bears many hallmarks of previous old covenant law with its covenant of works.
Thirdly, Moses focuses on the authority of the coming prophet to speak the word of God directly to the people, and the dire consequences of not hearing that word. Though Moslems assert that the Quran is the word of God, it is believed that Gabriel the angel gave it by revelation to Mohammed, rather than him speaking it on any intrinsic authority of his own.
It is obvious then that it is a huge leap to assert that Mohammed is the fulfilment of Moses’ prophecy. There really is no basis for it, other than wishful thinking on the part of Muslim scholars. There is certainly no scriptural basis for it in the biblical text.
Christians rightly assert that this prophecy speaks of Jesus and not Mohammed. Jesus’ genealogy is without dispute. He was a descendant of Abraham through Jacob, Judah and David. He was a Jew, and said to the Samaritan woman: ‘Salvation is of the Jews’ (John 4:22).
Jesus’ ministry was filled with miracles, not just to impress but as signs to point people towards who he really was. Jesus came to ‘save his people from their sins’. His name means Saviour (Matthew 1:21) and salvation was his mission (Luke 19:10).
It is Jesus who at the last supper pointed his disciples to his coming crucifixion as the ratifying cause of the new covenant (Matthew 26:28). The Book of Hebrews testifies to Christ’s coming as ending the old and inaugurating a new covenant. And, when Jesus taught, he spoke with authority, and not as the scribes (Matthew 7:28-29). Jesus was under no illusion about the authority of his words (John 14:10) and neither were those who heard him (John 6:67-69).
Christians see no accident in the fact that, after Moses, it was Joshua who inherited the mantle of leadership to bring the Israelites into the promised land.
‘Joshua’ and ‘Jesus’ are the same Hebrew name, so God had in principle name the prophet who was to follow Moses and bring the people of God into their inheritance. So we see that the Bible does tell us who Moses prophesied about as we let scripture interpret scripture.
The New Testament both alludes to and directly applies the Deuteronomy passage. Firstly, it shows how the Jews were anticipating the fulfilment of this prophecy and looking for the Saviour-Prophet whom God would raise up.
In John 1:45 Philip, speaking to Nathanael, identifies Jesus as the subject of Moses’ prophecy. Again, in John 7:40-42, Moses’ prophecy is applied to Jesus.
It is true that Jewish expectation was a little confused as to whether the Prophet and the Christ were to be one and the same person (John 7:31), but John demonstrates that both Moses’ prophecy and the Davidic anticipation of Messiah are fulfilled in Christ (John 4:25-26, 39-44).
Jesus himself identifies with this prophecy of Moses, in John 5:45-47. ‘If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote about me’. But the most telling New Testament application is after Jesus’ death and resurrection, when the Apostles directly show how Jesus fulfils this prophecy.
In Acts 3:19-26 Peter quotes the Deuteronomy passage to show that God has fulfilled it not just by making Jesus appear before the people, but because God has raised him up from the dead.
It is Jesus’ resurrection which ultimately fulfils this prophecy in a most astonishing way. No one else has ever been raised up in such a way and the implication of this is laid out a number of times (Acts 2:31-33; 3:26; 4:8-12).
When Moses predicted the coming prophet, he spoke of the vital importance of hearing and responding to him. This is because the one crucified and raised up is to be the judge of the world (Acts 10:40-42; 17:31). Jesus spoke of this himself (John 5:19-30).
The only possible conclusion is that the Deuteronomy 18 prophecy does not speak of Mohammed, but of Jesus Christ, mediator of the new covenant, to whom we shall all give account on the Day of Judgement.
Getting this point across to Muslims in a sensitive manner is a difficult task, but one we should be willing to try. Though some may not listen – like those in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9) – there are others, like the Bereans, who are willing to consider what the Bible actually says (Acts 17:10-15).
We need to be ready, not just to give account for our faith with a robust, but tender answer (1Peter 3:15), but also be confident, that our faith in Christ is not misplaced (Hebrews 4:14-16).