Islam, Jack Chick and the Battle for Souls – “The Prophet”, Part II

Islam, Jack Chick and the Battle for Souls – Response to the Chick Tract “The Prophet”, Part II

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“To such as Allah rejects from His guidance, there can be no guide: He will leave them in their trespasses, wandering in distraction.”

–  The Quran, Surah Al-A’raf, 7:186

            This article is a continuation of the response to the Chick tract “The Prophet”.  In Part I, we provided a summary of the tract.  Part II will begin the analysis of the conspiracy theory posited by Alberto Rivera, whereas Part III will be a continuation of the analysis and will look at other issues in the tract. 

Analysis of “The Prophet”

            Let us now proceed to fact-check the conspiracy theory posited by Alberto Rivera and promoted by Jack Chick, namely that the Vatican started Islam with the goal of conquering Jerusalem.  But before we get into the details of the theory, let us discuss the man Alberto Rivera and his background.  Who was he?  Was he trustworthy?  What was his true background?  After discussing Rivera’s background, we will dissect his conspiratorial claims and expose the errors, shoddy logic and outright lies.  In this part, we will analyze Rivera’s shady background, and then look at the laundry list of historical errors that he made in his diatribe.

Alberto Rivera’s Background –

            Many people have researched Rivera’s background, and what they have found is a life of lies, cheating and criminal behavior.  In fact, Rivera was first exposed as a result of an investigation by a non-Catholic Christian named Gary Metz.[1]  In one article on Rivera’s shady and criminal past, Metz wrote:

“[o]ur intensive investigation reveals his police record, his investment schemes, his bad check-writing, his contradictory testimony, his fabricated educational record, and his reported family abuse…”[2]

Rivera was linked to at least three criminal actions, for which warrants were issued for his arrest.  According to Gary Metz’s investigation:

  1. “In 1965, a warrant for his arrest was issued in Hoboken, New Jersey, for writing bad checks. He also left debts in excess of $3,000.”
  2. “In 1969 two warrants were issued against him in DeLand and Ormond Beach, Florida. The first was for the theft of a Bank-Americard. […] The second warrant was for the ‘unauthorized use of an automobile.’ Alberto abandoned the vehicle in Seattle, Washington.”

Furthermore, according to author Gary D. Cearley, Rivere was also accused of defrauding a Spanish charity and for “swindling over $2000 related to church property”.[3] 

            In addition to his criminal behavior, it was revealed that his status as “Dr.” Rivera was also fraudulent.  In his investigational report, Metz stated that:

“Alberto commands great respect from many with his alleged numerous degrees including an N.D., a D.D., a Th.D., a Ph.D., and a master’s in psychology. However, he is ambiguous when asked where he received these degrees.”[4]

Why was Rivera so “ambiguous” about where he received such respectable degrees?  As it turns out, the reason is quite simple: he never earned such degrees!  According to Metz (emphasis ours):

“Rev. Plutarco Bonilla (a respected Christian leader in Central America), said that Alberto never finished high school in Las Palmas and that he was in the seminary program for non-high school graduates. The school in a letter said they were forced to expel Alberto for his ‘continual lying and defiance of seminary authority.’ The known chronology of his life does not allow time for him to have achieved the academic status he claims. When Rev. Wishart [former associate of Alberto, and once a pastor of the First Baptist Church of San Fernando] pressed Alberto concerning his degrees, Alberto admitted receiving them from a diploma mill in Colorado.”[5] 

            There are also contradictions in Rivera’s epic story of leaving the Vatican and converting to Protestantism.  According to Metz:

“Alberto’s account of his conversion is contradictory. In 1964 while working for the Christian Reformed Church, he said he was converted from Catholicism in July of 1952. Now he maintains it was in 1967 . . . 3:00 in the morning on March 20, 1967. He says he immediately defected from the Catholic Church. However, five months later, in August of 1967, he was still promoting Catholicism and the ecumenical movement in a newspaper interview in his hometown of Las Palmas in the Canary Islands.”[6]

Given Rivera’s life of dishonesty and cheating, on what basis was his “testimony” reliable?  Moreover, if he was such a “Godly” man who considered the Bible the “final authority”, why didn’t he follow the Bible’s commands on establishing every matter “by the testimony of two or three witnesses”?[7]  Isn’t it rather convenient that he seemed to be the only one privy to such groundbreaking “secret” information as the Vatican creating Islam?

Rivera’s Historical Errors –

                Let us now look at the laundry list of historical errors Rivera made in his ludicrous conspiracy theory, in the order they are mentioned in the tract. 

  1. The Roman Catholic Church in the 3rd century CE –

Rivera claimed that the Church was already well established and powerful institution by the end of the 3rd century and desperately wanted to control Jerusalem because of its religious and strategic importance.  But historians point out that the Church was not very powerful in the 3rd century.  In fact, at this time, Christianity had not yet achieved its status as the official religion of the Roman Empire.  The Edict of Milan (313 CE) made Christianity a legal religion, but it was not until the late 4th century that Christianity became Rome’s official religion.[8]  If Catholics were not even legally recognized by Rome in the 3rd century, how was the Vatican already hoping to control Jerusalem by controlling and influencing the Arab population?  And even if it was, how would it even have the power to do so?  In some cases, the Church was not even able to hold any property, as in the case of the reign of Marcellinus, who was the pontiff from 296-304 CE.  At the end of his reign, the Church’s property was confiscated by Rome and Marcellinus was said to have been martyred.[9]  It seems far-fetched to claim that such a weak institution was already making plans to use the vast power it did not have to secretly influence entire nations to do its bidding.       

     2. The “great untapped source of manpower” of the Arabs in North Africa –

Rivera claimed that the Vatican had developed a “scheme” to use the Arabs to conquer Jerusalem for the pope.  Besides the obvious far-fetched nature of such a “scheme”, historical reality makes it illogical and utterly ridiculous.  The fact is that at the time, the Arabs were mostly nomads, as Rivera stated, but they were mostly confined to the Arabian Peninsula, and not in North Africa.  As Cearley states:

“…most of the Arabs were simple Bedouins or were settled in the Hejaz or in Felix Arabia.  Even the Bedouins who moved around were fairly confined to the Arabian Peninsula…”[10]

So not only were these Arabs just simple nomads living in a harsh, desert environment, they were also geographically confined to Arabia.  Thus, to suggest that the Vatican had seen some military potential in the Arabs in the 3rd century is ludicrous.  As Cearley states:

“[t]hese Bedouins are least likely to have been the people to take up a religious mantle against Christians, as per the reported conspiracy.”[11]

            Nor had these Arabs been converted to Roman Catholicism.  Most were actually pagans and worshipped different deities.  As the late British orientalist Bernard Lewis stated:

“[t]he religion of the nomads was a form of polydaemonism related to the paganism of the ancient Semites.  The beings it adored were in origin the inhabitants and patrons of single places, living in trees, fountains, and especially sacred stones.”[12]

Even those Arabs that had converted to Christianity actually formed a distinct church, different from the Catholic Church.  Most Arabs who converted to Christianity were part of the “Syriac Church”,[13] which was regarded as a “heresy” by the Catholic Church (see Historical Error #6 for more).  According to the “Syriac Archdiocese for the Eastern United States”:

“[w]hen the Byzantine empire adopted the resolutions of the council of Chalcedon in 451, they began to oppress those who rejected these resolutions – first and foremost the members of the Syrian church. The church fathers and the believers had to endure various agonies like bans, killings and incarceration. Many of them, both clergy and laity, gained martyrdom.”[14]

The Council of Chalcedon (451 CE) was called to refute the “heresy” of the “Monophysites”.  According to the “Catechism of the Catholic Church”:

“[t]he Monophysites affirmed that the human nature had ceased to exist as such in Christ when the divine person of God’s Son assumed it. Faced with this heresy, the fourth ecumenical council, at Chalcedon in 451, confessed:

Following the holy Fathers, we unanimously teach and confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man, composed of rational soul and body; consubstantial with the Father as to his divinity and consubstantial with us as to his humanity; “like us in all things but sin”. He was begotten from the Father before all ages as to his divinity and in these last days, for us and for our salvation, was born as to his humanity of the virgin Mary, the Mother of God.

We confess that one and the same Christ, Lord, and only-begotten Son, is to be acknowledged in two natures without confusion, change, division or separation. The distinction between the natures was never abolished by their union, but rather the character proper to each of the two natures was preserved as they came together in one person (prosopon) and one hypostasis.[15]

     3. The headquarters of the Church was “Vaticanus”, one of the “7 hills” of Rome –

It does not take much effort to refute this claim.  As Cearley points out:

“[t]he Vatican is not even on the same side of the Tiber River as the Seven Hills of Rome.”[16]

Indeed, the Vatican is situated in the western side of the Tiber River, as shown in the map below,[17] so it is on the opposite side as the actual “seven hills of Rome”:

400px-Seven_Hills_of_Rome.svg

Not only that, but “Mons Vaticanus” was not even a part of the city of Rome until the 9th century![18]  Thus, Rivera’s attempt to associate the Vatican with the “Seven Hills of Rome” falls flat.

            River also claimed that “Vaticanus” was the site of the temple of Janus.  Janus was an Italian god who was worshipped by the Romans.[19]  However, “Vaticanus” was not the site of a temple dedicated to Janus.  As a matter of fact, it was the site of a temple dedicated to Mithra, a Persian deity known to the Romans as Mithras, whose cult was assimilated into the Roman Empire.[20]  The temple of Janus, on the other hand, was actually located within Rome itself.[21]        

     4. The “offspring of Ishmael total almost one billion souls” –

This is a laughable mistake by “Dr.” Rivera, but it is one that has been repeated in Chick tracts.  There is a repeated conflation between Arabs and Muslims.  But an educated person would know that not all Arabs are necessarily Muslims, and not all Muslims are Arabs.  It seems Rivera confused the total global population of the Muslim world, which in the 1980s was close to 1 billion (it is now close to 2 billion, alhamdulillah), and the population of the Arab world.  In the 1980s, the Arab population was around 200 million.  As of 2016, the population is estimated at more than 400 million, still nowhere close to the “1 billion” figure given by Rivera.[22] 

     5.  Augustine was the “bishop of Roman Africa” –

Another silly mistake that Rivera made was to claim that Augustine, the famous church father, was the “bishop of Roman Africa”.   In reality, there was no “bishop of Roman Africa”.  Rather, each city had a bishop, such as the bishop of Alexandria.  Augustine was the “bishop of Hippo Regius”, a Roman town known in modern times as “Annabas” (or “Annaba”) in Algeria.[23] This is why he was known as “Augustine of Hippo”. 

            Equally absurd is Rivera’s contention that Augustine’s two main works, “The City of God” and “Confessions”, had “greatly affected” the Arab world.  First, he claimed that the Arabs were unaware of this insidious influence, but how could that be if Augustine had converted many Arab tribes to Catholicism?  Wouldn’t Catholic Arabs be familiar with Augustine’s books?  Regardless, the chances of Augustine’s teachings having any influence on Arabs are virtually zero.  The main reason is geography.  As Cearley succinctly puts it:

“Rivera also ignores the very important fact that the distance between Hippo and Mecca is approximately the same as the distance from modern day Ankara, Turkey, to London.  And virtually all of the way being difficult desert.”[24]

     6.  Bahira, Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her), Waraqah and the Negus of Abyssinia were all “Roman Catholics” –

A key part of Rivera’s conspiracy is that the Catholic Church had various “spies” and “agents” who were all part of the grand conspiracy.  In that regard, he maintained that key figures in the history of early Islam were in fact Catholics.  These key figures were Bahirah, Khadijah (may Allah be pleased with her), the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), her cousin Waraqah ibn Naufal and the Negus of Abyssinia, who provided a safe haven for Muslim refugees fleeing persecution from the Meccan pagans. 

            Let us start with Bahira.[25]  Rivera simply identified the monk as a “Roman Catholic”, but offered no proof.  In reality, Bahira (or “Sergius”; see endnote #24) was most likely a follower of the Nestorian sect of Christianity,[26] which was branded as a “heresy” by the Catholic Church.  The “Catechism of the Catholic Church” states:

“[t]he Nestorian heresy regarded Christ as a human person joined to the divine person of God’s Son. Opposing this heresy, St. Cyril of Alexandria and the third ecumenical council, at Ephesus in 431, confessed “that the Word, uniting to himself in his person the flesh animated by a rational soul, became man.”[27]

However, John of Damascus, who is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church,[28] described Bahira (without naming him) as an “Arian monk”.[29] 

So since it is established that Bahira/Sergius was most likely a Nestorian or an Arian, then his alleged status as an “agent” of the Catholic Church is refuted.  

            But what about Khadija (may Allah be pleased with her) and Waraqah?  The claim that Khadija was a Catholic widow has already been dealt with in the article on the Chick tract “Men of Peace”:

“[a]ll of the Islamic sources agree that Waraqah was a convert to Christianity, but none of them say the same for Khadija (may Allah be pleased with her) or even hint that she was a Christian.”[30]

Even non-Muslim scholars failed to detect Khadija’s alleged “Catholic” background.  As Watt stated:

“…soon after the first revelation, [Muhammad] is said to have been encouraged to believe in his vocation by his wife Khadija, and more particularly, by her cousin Waraqah.  The latter had become a Christian and was reputed to be familiar with the Bible.”[31]

Notice that Waraqah is described as a convert to Christianity, but nothing is said about Khadija (may Allah be pleased with her)!              So, in light of all the scholarly evidence, what reason is there to believe Rivera’s unproven conspiracy theory?  The only “evidence” he provided was his alleged “secret” briefings with Cardinal Bea, which of course he was the only witness to and which cannot be independently verified!  Also, given Rivera’s proclivity to lie and cheat, as shown above, no reasonable person would have any reason to believe his ridiculous conspiracy theory.[32]   

            But there is another reason why the Catholic connection to Khadija (may Allah be pleased with her) fails.  Rivera claimed that she lived in a convent, which is where she was given her “strange assignment” to find a man who the Vatican could use to “create a new religion”.  Archaeological evidence makes this impossible.  As Cearley states:

“…even though there have been monastic ruins found in the Persian Gulf area of the Arabian Peninsula, there have been no ruins of monasteries or convents in the Hejaz region where Khadijah lived and worked.”[33]

            Finally, Cearley makes an excellent point which completely demolishes the claim that Khadija (may Allah be pleased with her) was “a faithful follower of the pope”.  It is well-known that she did not die a Christian (even though it is more than likely that she was never a Christian anyway), because she was the first person to convert to Islam.  But why would she do that if she was a follower of the pope?  As Cearley remarks:

“I can only suppose Alberto and his apologists would answer that it was all an act.  But it would be an act that makes no sense at all to a rational person who was at the same time a person of a faith that tells her that she would be risking eternal damnation for such acts.”[34]

            Regarding Waraqah, it is well-known that he was a convert to Christianity.  But which Christianity did he join?  As usual, Rivera claimed without proof that Waraqah was also a Catholic.  But yet again, the evidence discounts this claim.  Archaeologist Peter Hellyer states:

“It would be unlikely, I think, that he [Waraqah] would have been Roman Catholic, since the dominant sector of the Church in Arabia was either Nestorian or Jacobite…”[35]

So, most likely, Waraqah was not a Catholic.  Even if he was, Rivera’s next claim about Waraqah can be logically refuted.  He claimed that Waraqah helped Muhammad (peace be upon him) “interpret” the revelations he received, and that the Vatican had strategically placed him as his “advisor”.  Chick even illustrates Waraqah proclaiming to the Arabs at the Kaaba that Muhammad was a prophet to his people!  But this is laughable at best!  It is well-known that Waraqah actually died shortly after he was told of Muhammad’s first encounter with Gabriel (peace be upon him) in the cave of Hira.  This is mentioned in Sahih Bukhari:

“Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) asked, “Will these people drive me out?” Waraqa said, “Yes, for nobody brought the like of what you have brought, but was treated with hostility. If I were to remain alive till your day (when you start preaching), then I would support you strongly.” But a short while later Waraqa died and the Divine Inspiration was paused (stopped) for a while so that Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) was very much grieved.”[36]

So how could Waraqa have “interpreted” the revelations and been Muhammad’s “advisor” if he died shortly after the first revelation was made?  He did not survive to “interpret” anymore revelations! 

            Finally, Rivera also claimed that the Negus of Abyssinia was…yes…a Roman Catholic.  Again, no evidence was provided.  Historical evidence, however, once again discounts this theory.  In reality, the Negus would not have been a Catholic because Abyssinia was dominated by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which rejected the Council of Chalcedon in 451 CE.  The Encyclopedia Britannica states:

“The Ethiopian church followed the Coptic (Egyptian) church (now called the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria) in rejecting the Christological decision issued by the Council of Chalcedon in 451 ce that the human and divine natures of Jesus Christ were equally present in one person without commingling. Opposed to this dyophysitism, or two-nature doctrine, the Coptic and Ethiopian churches held that the human and divine natures were equally present through the mystery of the Incarnation within a single nature. This position—called miaphysitism, or single-nature doctrine—was interpreted by the Roman and Greek churches as a heresy called monophysitism, the belief that Christ had only one nature, which was divine.”[37]

Further proof for this can be seen by the fact that, in modern times, Ethiopia has a very small Catholic minority (0.9% as of 2012), whereas the Orthodox Church is followed by around 43% of the population, as seen the pie chart below:[38]

Ethiopia Religions

In short, the Negus could not have been a Catholic because his country was aligned with the “heretical” Orthodox Church.  Once again, history refutes Rivera’s conspiracy theory!

     7.  Muhammad’s “attacks on caravans” and “hostility” to Jews  –

This polemic has also been discussed previously in the article on the Chick tract “Men of Peace?”  Here is a brief summary regarding the “raids” on caravans:

“…there were seven attempted “raids” on the Quraish caravans, only one of which ended in some light fighting, some casualties and spoils being taken.  Where is the evidence of “robbing” caravans or “killing the merchants”?  Thus far, over a course about 2 years, only one so-called “merchant” had been killed!  In some cases, peaceful resolutions were reached to avoid any fighting, as in the Saif-ul Bahr mission, whereas in others, treaties were signed between the Muslims and previously hostile tribes, as in the case of the Al-Abwa/Waddan and Dhil-Ushairah missions.”[39]

            As for the “hostility” towards Jews, Rivera neglected to mention that when Muhammad (peace be upon him) first arrived in Yathrib, he actually made a peace treaty with the Jewish tribes.  This was called the “Constitution (or Pact) of Medina”.  Among its precepts was the following:

“The Jews of the B. ‘Auf are one community with the believers (the Jews have their religion and the Muslims have theirs), their freedmen and their persons except those who behave unjustly and sinfully, for they hurt but themselves and their families.”[40]

So where is the “hostility” to Jews?  If Muhammad (peace be upon him) had been “groomed” to hate the Jews, why was one of his first acts in Yathrib/Medina to make a peace treaty with them?  As Rabbi Reuven Firestone says of the “Constitution of Medina”:

“[t]his formal document placed all the various kinship and religious groups into one community called the umma…[41]

Specifically concerning the Jews, Firestone states that:

“Jews were clearly included in the Pact of Medina at the very outset of Muhammad’s residence there and were thus afforded the same rights as other groups.”[42]

As for the later “raids” against “Jewish settlements”, it has already been established that these were in response to hostile acts from the specific Jewish tribes themselves, and not from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).  One such tribe was the Bani Nadir, which was expelled from Medina and allowed to settle in Khaibar, but their continued hostility prompted an attack on Khaibar itself.  Here is a brief summary from the “Men of Peace?” article:

“The Bani Nadir had been previously expelled from Medina after their treachery against Muhammad (peace be upon him) had been exposed.  Even after being expelled yet being allowed to keep their wealth as an act of mercy (rather than being killed), the Bani Nadir remained a threat to the Muslims, despite repeated attempts by Muhammad (peace be upon him) to settle their differences peacefully.  As Al-Mubarakpuri explains:

The Jews of Khaibar, united by an ancient alliance with the Confederates, provoked Bani Quraizah to practice treachery, maintained contacts with Ghatafan and the Arabians and they even devised an attempt on the Prophet’s life.  […] Envoys were repeatedly sent to them for peaceful settlement, but all in vain.’”[43] 

So we can see that the raid on Bani Nadir was preceded by attempts to make peace, but these overtures were rejected by the hostility of this particular Jewish tribe. 

     8.  The “moon god” myth –

We have already dealt with this embarrassing low-point in the history Christian polemics against Islam in other articles.  Thus, a short summary will be provided here. Regarding the Sabeans and their alleged “moon god”, as stated in the article on the Chick tract “Allah Had No Son”:

“[i]n contrast to Chick’s claim, what the “history” really proves is that the Sabeans actually worshipped a “sun god”, who was called “Ilmaqah” or “Almaqah”.”[44]

Also, even Christian scholars refute the “moon god” nonsense.  As the scholar Miroslav Volf states:

“I have simply dismissed this view. But then, I do not believe that this view requires a rebuttal. I know of no serious student of Islam who advocates it. And none of the arguments I have read in favor of it struck me as plausible, either historically or theologically.”[45]

Even Christian apologist James White has commented that this polemic does have “any solid foundation” and that when Christians indulge in it, they always lose![46]

     9.  Muhammad (peace be upon him) was “groomed” by the Vatican –

Rivera claimed that the Vatican actually sent “teachers” to the young Muhammad (peace be upon him) to “groom” him.  This must have happened after Waraqah died suddenly!  Rivera also claimed that Muhammad (peace be upon him) “devoured” Augustine’s works!  Needless to say, these claims are “baloney” (as James White would put it)!

            The first problem is, once again, geography.  The Catholic Church simply did not have a presence in the Arabian Peninsula.  Moreover, as mentioned before, traversing the harsh desert to bring these “teachers” would have been a difficult task. 

            The second and most severe problem is that it is well-known that Muhammad (peace be upon him), like many Arabs in that time, could not read.  There is virtually no debate on this matter![47]  Compounding the problem is that, even if Muhammad (peace be upon him) was able to read, he would have had to know Latin, the language in which Augustine’s works were written.  As Cearley explains:

“[e]ven if Mohammad could read he would have to have had knowledge of Latin to read and study the works of St. Augustine as there were no known Arabic translations in this day.”[48]

Another problem is that after Augustine’s death, Hippo Regius and the surrounding areas fell under the control of the Vandals, who were followers of the Arian heresy and were extremely hostile to the Catholic Church.[49]  For this reason, Augustine’s works were only widely known in Europe and North Africa.[50]      

     10.  Muhammad’s “unpublished” works –

Rivera maintained that Muhammad (peace be upon him) had written the Quran, a claim that is universally denied by all serious scholars of Islam.  But other than that, Rivera also claimed that there were other “unpublished” works which link Muhammad (peace be upon him) to the Vatican.  Naturally, the conspiracy theorist had no actual proof, but rather only conjecture.  He claimed that these works are currently in the hands of “high ranking holy men” called “Ayatollahs”.  Apparently unaware that “Ayatollah” is a title only given to leaders of Shiite Islam, which only accounts for 20% of the Muslim world, Rivera made yet another blunder.  The word literally means “Sign of God” and is reserved for Shiite scholars, not Sunni ones.  Thus, it is inaccurate to say that these Ayatollahs are “high ranking holy men…of the Islamic faith”.  Regardless, the fact remains that Rivera’s only proof, yet again, for this outrageous claim is his own testimony of what he allegedly heard at the “secret” briefings with Cardinal Bea.      

     11. Muhammad’s revelations were put in the Quran in 650 CE –

In addition to claiming that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had “written” some works that have remained “unpublished”, Rivera also claimed that his published revelations were eventually put into the Quran in the year 650 CE.  That would mean that it was done during the reign of the third Caliph Uthman Ibn Affan (may Allah be pleased with him).  Rivera was obviously appealing to an oft-repeated, but ultimately baseless, claim that Uthman had been responsible for giving the Quran its final form.  It is actually well-established that the Quran was already completed before the death of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), and that Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) merely created a standardized text to avoid any future disagreements among Muslims.  As we stated in the article “The History of the Bible and Quran: A Comparative Analysis of the Holy Texts”:

“During the reign of the third Caliph, Uthman Ibn Affan (may Allah be please with him), disputes arose among some new Muslim converts over the correct pronunciation of the Quran. […]

…Uthman appointed a committee to prepare a master copy of the Quran (using the compilation of Abu Bakr), which was then sent to the major centers of Islamic rule, along with reciters who would teach the people.”[51]

            In addition, a recent discovery has confirmed that the Quran was actually written down during the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).  The discovery of the “Birmingham Manuscript” has shown that the Quran was not written down in 650 CE, as Rivera claimed.  Rather, it was written earlier than that.  According to Syed Mostafa Azmayesh:

“…the parchment on which the text is written has been dated to the period between AD 568 and 645, which coincides with the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (570 to 632 AD).”[52]

Based on this, scholars have concluded that:

“…the Qur’an manuscript is among the earliest written textual evidence of the Islamic holy book known to survive.”[53]

See below for the manuscript, which contains parts of Surahs 18 to 20:[54]

Birmingham Quran

            Compared to the oldest known manuscript of the New Testament, P52 (which has been dated by overzealous Christians as early as 125 CE, but actually the date is given as a range between 125-150 CE),[55] the discovery of the “Birmingham Manuscript” is far more remarkable. 

To make matters worse, compared to the “Birmingham Manuscript”, P52 is a very small fragment of the Gospel of John containing John 18:31:33 on the front and 18:37-38 on the back:[56]

P52

     12.  Muslim armies protected “Augustinian monks” and Catholics, but slaughtered Jews and “true” Christians –

One of the more egregious claims made by Rivera was that the Muslims had a deal with the pope to protect Catholics and their churches, but to kill Jews and “true” Christians.  First, it is not clear what Rivera meant by “true” Christians.  Who were they exactly?  Were the Byzantines “true” Christians?  Or the Copts?  Or the Christians of the other Eastern churches?  Regardless, the fact is that while there were certainly some immoral acts of violence by some of the Muslim troops, this was not the official policy of the Caliphs.  We discussed this issue previously in the article refuting the Chick tract “Camel’s in the Tent”.[57]  As Professor Fred Donner explains:

“…the arrival of the Believers in many areas may have been accompanied by widespread- though short and superficial- plundering and raiding, of a kind that would have been observed and reported by some early sources (such as the sermons and homilies of Sophronius in the 630s), but that would also leave little archaeological record since major towns were not involved. The reason for this petty plundering was simple. Many of the Arabian tribesmen who joined the Believer’s movement during the ridda wars were probably very undisciplined.”[58]

Even when major towns were involved, and this was rare, the extent of the damage would have been limited, as Donner explains:

“[i]t was only those cities and towns that refused to make terms that would have been subjected to siege, and these were few…But even in these cases we can expect the damage to have been limited, for the Believers’ goal was not to destroy these towns, but rather to bring their monotheistic populations under the rule of God’s law.  It was not the monotheist populations against whom the Believers were waging war, after all, but the Byzantine and Sasanian regimes, which they saw as tolerating (or even imposing) sinfulness.”[59] 

So the claim of widespread violence and killing of Christians is certainly not historically accurate. 

            Equally ridiculous is the claim that Jews were also on the hit-list.  As a matter of fact, Jews largely welcomed the Muslim army, since in comparison to the treatment meted out by the Christians, treatment under the Muslims was far better.  It is an interesting fact of history that when the Byzantine Christians controlled Jerusalem, Jews were not allowed to settle in the holy city, a continuation of Roman policy.  But when the Muslims arrived, Jews began to settle in Jerusalem for the first time in nearly 500 years (not including the brief period when the Persians occupied Jerusalem)!  The proof for this is found in Jewish sources themselves.  For example, the Encyclopedia Judaica states:

“…there is no doubt that during the Persian conquest (614–28) Jews lived in Jerusalem. It seems that even after the recapture of the city by Heraclius many of them remained in its vicinity. This may have caused Sophronius’ request that no Jews be allowed to stay in Jerusalem. […]

A document (in Judeo-Arabic) found in the Cairo *Genizah reveals that the Jews asked Omar for permission for 200 families to settle in the town. As the patriarch [Sophronius] opposed the action strongly, Omar fixed the number of the Jewish settlers at 70 families. The Jews were assigned the quarter southwest of the Temple area, where they lived from that time…”[60]

In a separate entry about the Caliph Umar (may Allah be pleased with him), the Encyclopedia Judaica states:

“Omar permitted the Jews to reestablish their presence in Jerusalem–after a lapse of 500 years–and also seems to have allotted them a place for prayers on the Temple Mount (from which they were driven out at a later date). Jewish tradition regards Omar as a benevolent ruler and the Midrash (Nistarot de-Rav Shimon bar Yoḥai) refers to him as a “friend of Israel.””[61]

Rabbi Reuven Firestone echoes this sentiment:

“[Umar] ended Christian rule over Jerusalem and allowed Jews to legally re-enter and live in the holy city for the first time since the failed Bar Kokhba rebellion in the 2nd century.”[62]

If Rivera’s claim of mass killings of Jews at the behest of the Vatican was true, then why were Jews being allowed to settle in Jerusalem, which the Vatican wanted for itself?  Clearly, Rivera was ignorant of history!  Rather than persecuting and killing Jews, the historical evidence shows that the Muslims did the exact opposite.  As Professor David Wasserstein succinctly puts it (emphasis ours):

Islam saved Jewry. This is an unpopular, discomforting claim in the modern world. But it is a historical truth.”[63]

It is also interesting that Christian sources refer to the generally just treatment by the Muslims of Christians too, even those which were critical of Muslim government.  Let us look at some of these Christian sources (which it will be noticed are not Catholic sources, and would have been hostile to the Vatican):

  • John of Nikiu (Coptic Christian) –

As the historian Hugh Kennedy states:

“John was no admirer of Muslim government and was fierce in his denunciation of what he saw as oppression and abuse, but he says of Amr [Ibn Al-As]: ‘He exacted the taxes which had been determined upon but he took none of the property of the churches, and he committed no act of spoliation or plunder, and he preserved them throughout all his days.”[64]

  • Isho’yahb (Nestorian Christian) –

Isho’yahb was the leader of the Nestorian church from 649-659 CE.[65]  In a letter addressed to a man named Simeon, Isho’yahb mentions the generally just treatment the Muslims afforded to Nestorian Christians:

“[a]s for the Arabs…you know well how they act towards us.  Not only do they not oppose Christianity, but they praise our faith, honour the priests and saints of our Lord, and give aid to the churches and monasteries.”[66]

     13.  The pope issued “papal bulls” giving the Muslims “permission” to invade North Africa and “financed” the Muslim armies –

Rivera claimed that the Vatican gave “permission” to the Muslims to invade North Africa, and provided funding for such a massive campaign.  As it happens, we do have a historical example of a Catholic pope who was accused of collaborating with the Muslims, but who was actually the victim of the many theological debates raging within Christendom at the time.  Pope Martin I (reigned 649-655 CE) had risen to the papacy in a time of great theological controversies, as well as heightened tensions between the church and the emperor.  Martin was a supporter of the Lateran Synod (649 CE), which condemned Monothelitism, a move which greatly angered the imperial authorities.[67]  As a result, he was arrested and tortured.  This incident also shows the limit of the pope’s power in the 7th century, as his authority was clearly not as strong as Rivera claimed.  If the pope was such a powerful and wealthy man, how was Martin I so easily arrested by Byzantine authorities on charges of collusion with the Arabs?[68] 

            Indeed, historical facts refute the claim that the pope would have been able to finance the Muslim invasion of North Africa.  As Cearley rightfully asks:

“…one still has to ask oneself how would a pope in Rome who lived in an era when the Christian churches were still in a period of development on so many levels be able to finance huge Arab armies to attack Christians and Jews?”[69]

Even 400 years later, when the Crusades began, it was not the Church which financed this Christian holy war.  Rather, the Crusades were financed by the Catholic kings.[70]  The pope simply did not command such wealth.

            Regarding “papal bulls”, Cearley points out that these edicts from the pope obviously “are directed to an audience of believers” and have “no authority over non-Catholics”.[71]  In addition, the earliest papal bull that actually called for a war, called “Quantum Praedecessores”, was issued in 1145 CE.[72]  Before that, the pope never issued any such orders, let alone to a non-Catholic army.

            But Rivera’s idiocy knew no bounds.  He even claimed that the Muslims, while now calling the pope an “infidel”, nevertheless still asked him to give them permission to invade Europe as well!  Based on the context of this part of the tract, it seems Rivera was referring to the time of the Crusades, which was more than 400 years later.  Why were Muslims still asking for “papal bulls”?  Indeed, Rivera’s chronology seems very confused.  In one section of the tract, he was talking about the 7th century.  Then the next part talks about the Crusades (11th century).  But then the next section talks about the Muslim invasion of Spain, which brings us back to the 8th century![73] 

            Regarding the Muslim invasion of Spain, Cearley notes that:

“[t]here is no record that the Berbers and Ummayad Arabs who took the Iberian Peninsula consulted anyone but their own hierarchy in this effort or that they sent any ambassadors to Rome…”[74]

Rivera also seemed to erroneously refer to Spain as a Catholic country.  But in the 8th century, Spain was ruled by the Visigoths, who were actually Arian Christians and thus considered “heretics” by Rome.[75]  In fact, if the Muslims had asked the pope for “permission” or for support in invading Spain, one would think that he would have been delighted to help them crush his Arian enemies, instead of reacting with anger at such a proposal!    

     14.  Under Waraqah’s direction, Muhammad (peace be upon him) declared that Ishmael (peace be upon him) was offered as Abraham’s sacrifice –

Rivera referred to this as “the great lie” (that Ishmael, rather than Isaac, was the sacrifice), and that it was Waraqah who told Muhammad (peace be upon him) to “write” this version in the Quran. 

            First, we have already refuted the claim that Waraqah was Muhammad’s teacher.  In fact, it is well-known that Waraqah died shortly after the first revelation came to Muhammad (peace be upon him). 

            Second, it is also well-known that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was illiterate and thus could not have “written” the Quran.  The evidence for this is overwhelming and beyond debate.

            So let us briefly discuss the Ishmael/Isaac controversy.[76]  While the Bible does state that Isaac (peace be upon him) was the sacrifice, a careful investigation of the Biblical record exposes contradictions and discontinuities in the story.  As was shown in the article “The Biblical Story of Ishmael and Isaac: An Analysis and Comparison with the Islamic Narrative”, the main contradiction in the Biblical story is that Ishmael (peace be upon him) was described as a young child (and perhaps even an infant) who was actually carried by his mother through the desert, when chronologically, he would have been a teenager!  As stated in the article:

“…a contradiction arises when we read the Genesis account of Hagar and Ishmael’s exile.  Since Ishmael would have been a teenager (older than Samuel was when he became a prophet) and more likely to be caring for his mother than the other way around, the Genesis account is most certainly erroneous because it describes him as if he was an infant!”[77]

There are of course other contradictions as well, but for the sake of brevity, we will not discuss them here.  However, it is important to note that some Jewish scribes apparently recognized the contradictions and attempted to remove them from the story.  In a 2006 article in the journal “Dead Sea Discoveries”, Betsy Halpern-Amaru made the following interesting observation about a variant of the story in the fragment of the Dead Sea Scrolls known as 4Q225:

“…the author of 4Q225 develops a structure that creates a new backdrop for the narrative of the Aqedah. Prefacing the account of the Aqedah is a summary presentation of the promises of a son and multiple progeny in Gen 15:2–6 (2 i 3–7). Isaac’s birth is announced immediately thereafter (2 1 8–9a) and thereby is explicitly portrayed as the fulfillment of the preceding divine promise of a son. The Ishmael narratives that intervene between the promises of the covenant making in Genesis 15 and the birth of Isaac are omitted.  Indeed, in 4Q225 Ishmael is never born. Consequently, when God commands Abraham to sacrifice his only son (2 i 11), Isaac is quite literally…the only son the patriarch has.”[78]

So, it would seem that the Biblical record was not as clear as Rivera made it out be!

     15.  The Muslims were poised to invade Italy from their strongholds in Sardinia and Corsica but were stretched too thin

     16.  Francis of Assisi negotiated with the Islamic generals

     17.  The pope signed “concordats” with the Muslims as a result of the negotiations

     18.  The Vatican and “Mecca” were “fully at peace” after the signing of the “concordats” –

This is yet another example of Rivera’s confused and incompetent retelling of history.  He claimed that from their positions in Sardinia and Corsica, the Muslims were poised to invade mainland Italy (and thus threaten Rome itself) and that Francis of Assisi, the venerated Catholic saint, represented the Vatican during the negotiations.  But the fact is that Muslim rule ended in these islands by 1090 CE, well before Francis of Assisi was even born (he was born in 1182 CE)![79] 

            While Francis of Assisi is often celebrated in Catholic circles for a famous encounter with Muslims, this encounter actually happened in Egypt during the Fifth Crusade, not Italy.[80]  In 1218 CE, the Crusaders had blockaded the city of Damietta, and the Sultan Al-Kamil even tried to hand over Jerusalem in exchange for the Crusaders’ withdrawal from Egypt![81]  If control of Jerusalem was the Vatican’s goal, then why did it not accept Al-Kamil’s proposal?  Instead, the siege of Damietta continued, and while it eventually fell to the Crusaders, Al-Kamil recaptured it later.  But here is the kicker (and which Rivera seemed to conveniently ignore – or was unaware of): the Crusaders actually succeeded in reconquering Jerusalem in 1229 CE![82]  The Catholic king Frederick II became king of Jerusalem and the city would remain under Christian control until 1244 CE when it was reconquered by the Muslims.[83]  The Vatican had its prize, for the second time (1099 CE being the first)!               

            So assuming that there were any “negotiations” to prevent the Muslims from invading Italy (but which clearly did not involve Francis of Assisi), we are told by Rivera that a deal was struck allowing the Muslims to “occupy” Turkey and the Catholics to occupy Lebanon.  Once again, Rivera was wrong.  Turkey was not conquered in full by the Muslim until the 1400s CE, after the Ottoman sultan Mehmet II conquered Constantinople and destroyed the Byzantine Empire.  Regarding Lebanon, Cearley points out that the Crusaders invaded it in 1109 CE.[84]  Again, this was decades before Francis of Assisi was even born!    

            Rivera also claimed that the signing of the “concordats” signaled a time of peace between the Vatican and “Mecca”.  As usual, Rivera’s ineptitude surfaced again.  To refer to the Muslim world as if its headquarters was in Mecca, like the headquarters of the Catholic Church is in Rome, is of course ridiculous.  Historically, Mecca was never the administrative capital of the various Islamic empires.  Instead, cities like Baghdad and Damascus served as the capitals of the Muslim world. 

            It is also inaccurate to claim that there was a peace treaty between the Vatican and the Muslim world.  If that were so, then why did the Vatican support the “Reconquista” of the Iberian Peninsula?  Lasting until 1492, when Granada fell to the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, the “Reconquista” had the full support of the Catholic Church.[85]  It seems the Vatican violated the alleged “peace”!

     19.  With the “concordats”, the pope tightly controlled the Muslims “from the Ayatollah down through the Islamic priests, nuns and monks” –

Yes, the reader should let that settle in.  The ludicrous nature of Rivera’s claim is plain to see.  He claimed that the pope exercised great power over the Muslim world via the “concordats” that he signed with the Islamic leaders.  Besides not providing any proof, Rivera once again repeated the same idiotic mistake he made earlier, by confusing the minority Shiite title of “Ayatollah” with the majority Sunni Muslim world!  As mentioned earlier, the title “Ayatollah” is not used in Sunni Islam! 

            Equally ridiculous is the claim that there were Muslim “priests, nuns and monks”.  This just shows the laughable ignorance of “Dr.” Alberto Rivera.  As Cearley correctly points out,“[t]here are no such positions in Islam.”[86]  In fact, asceticism like that practiced in Catholicism (living in convents or monasteries) is actually shunned in Islam. 

            But even if we set aside these embarrassing errors by Rivera, we are still left with the conundrum  of how the pope has expected to control the Muslim world, which was made up of many different languages, cultures and ethnicities living in a large geographical area.  Cearley spells out the problem:

“[w]ithout saying how he proposed it was that the Vatican could keep such a ‘[tight] control’ on millions of Muslims in a vast, disparate geography, many different cultures, who continued from those times to expand their presence, especially eastward, I have no idea how Alberto Rivera would even begin to back up this statement.”[87]

     20.  The Portuguese town of “Fatima” was named “in honor of Muhammad’s daughter” –

A significant part of Rivera’s conspiracy involves events in the Portuguese town of “Fatima”, where an apparition of the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared to some children in 1917.  Rivera claimed that the Church orchestrated the false miracle in order to stem the tide of socialism in the country and to convert Muslims to Catholicism. 

            But was the town of “Fatima” actually named by Muslims “in honor of Muhammad’s daughter”?  In actual fact, the answer is no.  The town was actually named after a Muslim princess who had been forcibly married and converted to Catholicism in 1158 CE.[88]  It was not directly named after the beloved daughter of Muhammad (peace be upon him).   

     21.  The Jesuits invented the “Novenas to Fatima” in order to spread “good public relations before the Islamic world” –

Having already goofed on erroneously identifying the Portuguese town of “Fatima” with the daughter of Muhammad (peace be upon him), Rivera then claimed that the Jesuits invented “novenas” in honor of “Fatima”,[89] in a plot to deceive Muslims into joining the Catholic Church.  The “poor Arabs” would think that they were “honoring” the Prophet’s daughter, but would in fact be honoring the Virgin Mary.  But again, Rivera was blowing hot air.  First, since it was a Catholic prayer, it is ridiculous to suggest that it would be uttered in Muslim countries in North Africa or anywhere else.[90]  Even if they were pronounced in public as a sort of “public relations” mission, one would think that it would be easy to detect it as a Christian prayer to the Virgin Mary, rather than to Fatima (may Allah be pleased with her), the daughter of Muhammad (peace be upon him).[91]  Second, even if some Muslims were to think that these Catholic prayers were directed towards Fatima (may Allah be pleased with her), they would still shun such prayers as they would constitute shirk, the act of setting up partners with Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He).  No serious and educated Muslim would dare do such a thing! 

            Finally, even if the Vatican wanted to use the alleged “miraculous” events at “Fatima” and the novenas to convert Muslims, this plan obviously has failed.  More than a century after the alleged appearance of the “Fatima” apparition, Catholics are now outnumbered by Muslims, a fact that even the Vatican does not deny.[92]

22.  The Prophet’s daughter Fatima (may Allah be pleased with her) died before he did –

Rivera quoted the late Catholic Bishop Fulton Sheen as claiming that Muhammad (peace be upon him) praised his daughter after her death and said that she “is the most holy of all women in Paradise, next to Mary”.  This is more or less an accurate paraphrase of what Sheen actually wrote, although the exact quote is:

“[b]ut after the death of Fatima, Mohammed wrote: “Thou shalt be the most blessed of all the women in Paradise, after Mary.” In a variant of the text, Fatima is made to say: “I surpass all the women, except Mary.”[93]

So for once, Rivera was right.  However, due to his ignorance, he did not realize that Sheen was wrong, for how could Muhammad (peace be upon him) have “written” anything after the death of Fatima (may Allah be pleased with her), when he died before she did?  In a well-known hadith, when the Prophet (peace be upon him) was on the verge of death, he informed his daughter that she would be the first in his family to join him:

“Narrated `Aisha: The Prophet (ﷺ) in his fatal illness, called his daughter Fatima and told her a secret because of which she started weeping. Then he called her and told her another secret, and she started laughing. When I asked her about that, she replied, The Prophet (ﷺ) told me that he would die in his fatal illness, and so I wept, but then he secretly told me that from amongst his family, I would be the first to join him, and so I laughed.””[94]

     23.  Pope Pius XII ordered the Nazis to destroy Russia –

According to Rivera, due to the “vision of Fatima” Pius XII (r. 1939-1958)[95] ordered the “Nazi army to crush Russia…and make Russia Roman Catholic”.  Pius XII has often been accused of being a Nazi sympathizer, mostly because of his public silence while the Nazis were rounding up Jews for extermination.  But as historian Antonio Spinosa explains, his silence was for practical reasons:

“…the Pope tried to avoid that his words would provoke a more vicious reaction from Hitler.”[96]

            In addition, while Pius XII was also accused of being complicit in the deportation of Jews from Rome, Spinosa explains that as many as 800,000 Jews may have been saved by his directives:

“[i]t was a silence that accompanied a powerful action in defense of the Jews: he opened the very doors of the Vatican to them in order to save the greatest number possible.  This happened not only in Rome, but also in other parts of Europe, to the point that at least 800,000 Jews owe their lives directly to [Pope Pius XII].”[97]

Also, if the Nazis were under the control of the Vatican, why did the latter allow the killing of more than 3 million Polish Catholics?[98]   

     24.  The pope asked “Islamic leaders” for an army to conquer Spain –

Rivera claimed that the Vatican was desperate to hold onto Spain after political events in the late 1800s and early 1900s threatened the Catholic monarchy there.  As a result, the Vatican supported the fascist regime of General Francisco Franco, and asked “the Islamic leaders” to pay their “debt” for betraying the Vatican over Jerusalem by providing an army.  A vast army, numbering 4 million men, was sent to conquer and occupy Spain and get “revenge” (presumably for the Reconquista 500 years earlier).[99]

            First, Rivera was ambiguous as to the identities of the “Islamic leaders” that the Vatican contacted.  Since the majority of the Muslim troops came from Morocco, which became a Spanish protectorate in 1912,[100] it seems these “leaders” must have been Moroccan tribal leaders.  Indeed, it was the Moroccan sultan who would have authorized the deployment of Moroccan troops.[101]  Second, where did Rivera get the idea that 4 million Muslim troops occupied Spain?  Since the majority of troops would have come from Morocco, it is ludicrous to suggest that there would have been 4 million troops involved.  In fact, the actual number was around 80,000.[102]

            However, it is true that the civil war was seen by Franco and his allies as a struggle against Communism.  To both the Spanish Nationalists and the Moroccan soldiers, the war was a struggle “…against a supposedly atheist enemy…”[103]  However, it is also true (but which Rivera ignored) that many Arabs actually fought on the side of the Republicans, although not as many as those who fought for the Nationalists.  In fact, there were thousands of volunteers from such countries as Morocco, Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt and Algeria, and many indeed identified themselves as communists.[104]     

25.  The pope made a deal with the “Islamic leaders” not to recognize Israel in exchange for Muslim troops to be sent to Spain –

Rivera claimed that since the “Islamic leaders” owed a “debt” to the Vatican and were bound to aid him as per the “concordats” signed by their ancestors, they nevertheless made a demand from the Vatican.  This demand was to never recognize the state of Israel.  Of course, Israel became a state in 1948, and the Vatican indeed did not recognize it until 1994.[105]  So, was it because of the secret Muslim demand that the Vatican did not initially recognize Israel?  The answer is no.  Instead, the Vatican was only following centuries of precedent, as it was its official policy that Jews should not be allowed to settle in the Holy Land (this was also the policy followed by all Christian sects, as we saw earlier).  Theodore Herzl, the father of Zionism, actually had a discussion with Pope Pius X in 1904, asking him to support the idea of a Jewish state, but to his disappointment, Pius X refused.  According to Herzl’s own account, the pope responded to his request (emphasis ours):

“[w]e cannot give approval to this movement. We cannot prevent the Jews from going to Jerusalem—but we could never sanction it. The soil of Jerusalem, if it was not always sacred, has been sanctified by the life of Jesus Christ. As the head of the Church I cannot tell you anything different. The Jews have not recognized our Lord, therefore we cannot recognize the Jewish people.[106]

Also of interest is the fact that Herzl told Pius X that Zionists were not asking for Jerusalem, but rather for the surrounding land of Palestine.  In his own words, Herzl told the pope:

“[w]e are not asking for Jerusalem, but for Palestine—only the secular land.”[107]

So, it is historically inaccurate to say that the Vatican refused to recognize Israel because of some “secret” agreement with Muslim leaders.  The reality is that it was the official policy of the church for centuries, and it was due to religious reasons.  

     26.  Pope John Paul II’s assassination attempt was planned by the Jesuits –

Another ridiculous conspiracy theory posited by Rivera was regarding the 1981 assassination attempt on John Paul II.  Rivera maintained that it was planned by the Jesuits to garner sympathy for the pope.  He even insisted that the assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, was under orders from the Jesuits to only wound the pope and not kill him.  Rivera described Agca as “one of Europe’s top hit men, and an expert marksman”.[108] 

            As is typical of conspiracy theorists, Rivera did not have solid evidence, only conjecture.  For example, it is quite a stretch to describe Agca as a “top” hitman and “expert marksman”.  While Agca was a member of the “Gray Wolves” organization, a radical paramilitary unit,[109] he can hardly be described as “one of Europe’s top hit men”.  As a matter of fact, aside from the assassination attempt on John Paul II, Agca was convicted of only one other assassination, that of a Turkish newspaper editor in 1979.[110]  That is hardly an impressive resume for a “top” hitman.  Moreover, Agca was clearly a confused, if not mentally unstable, man.  Upon his release from prison, he reportedly said that he was “…Christ eternal”.  He also said that he would “write the perfect gospel” since the ones in the Bible are “full of mistakes”.[111]  Interestingly, he has also provided contradictory conspiracy theories (perhaps these are what influenced Rivera and Chick).  In 1985, he testified that the Soviets had financed the assassination attempt on the pope.[112]  But in 2013, when his autobiography was released, he claimed that the order came from Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran![113]  According to a Vatican assessment, Agca had given “over 100 versions of the events”.[114]  Clearly, this man was either insane or a pathological liar. 

            Rivera also claimed, without evidence, that when the pope survived the attempt on his life, he joined the Muslim world in thanking the Virgin Mary!  Where is the evidence for this?  The truth, of course, is that pious Muslims would never thank the Virgin Mary, as this would constitute the sin of shirk. 

     27.  Ronald Reagan sent Marines to Lebanon to “defend” the “Roman Catholic” nation –

Rivera claimed that, after his assassination attempt, John Paul II became friends with President Ronald Reagan, who had also survived an attempt on his life.  Apparently using this leverage, the pope influenced Reagan to send US troops to Lebanon, since it was a “Roman Catholic” nation. 

            Of course, the real reasons for the American intervention were more complex.  Rivera ignored the fact that the Maronite Christians had Israeli support.  In fact, Israel’s secret alliance with the Phalangists went back as far as 1948, when Israel was founded.[115]  In addition, Israel supported the election of President Bashir Gemayel, who was a Maronite Christian (Gemayel was later assassinated).  If the Vatican wanted to protect the “Catholic” nation of Lebanon, it was on the same side as the Israelis, who also wanted to protect the Christian-led government![116]  But Israel’s invasion of Lebanon was one of the reasons why Reagan sent Marines in the first place as part of an international force.  After the infamous Shabra and Shatilla massacres of Palestinian civilians, which were carried out by Maronite militiamen with support from Israel, Reagan committed to sending more Marines.[117]  As can be seen, the conspiracy theory does not line up with the historical facts.  If the reason for asking Reagan to send troops to Lebanon was to “defend a Roman Catholic nation”, the Vatican was actually hurting its own cause.  From Reagan’s point of view, the Marines were deployed to oversee the withdrawal of PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization) forces from Beirut.[118]   

           Conclusion

            As we have seen in this exhaustive analysis, Alberto Rivera’s conspiracy theory is riddled with historical problems.  Based on an atrocious ignorance of history, Rivera concocted the ludicrous theory that the Vatican created Islam.  And by his support for Rivera, Jack Chick showed that he was just as inept and ignorant.  But their problems do not end here.  In Part III, we will examine other errors in the tract.                            

And Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) knows best! 


[1] http://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2017/11/jack-chicks-lies-real-alberto-rivera-exposed.html

[2] Ibid.

[3] Gary D. Cearley, Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness: The Truth About the Vatican and the Birth of Islam (USA: Aux Arcs Publications, 2006), p. 27.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

A diploma mill is considered to be a scam business.  According to the Federal Trade Commission (emphasis ours):

“[a] ‘diploma mill’ is a company that offers “degrees” for a flat fee in a short amount of time and requires little to no course work. Degrees awarded through diploma mills are not legitimate, and can cost you more than just your money” (https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0206-college-degree-scams).

That would explain how Rivera was able to accumulate so many degrees in such a short amount of time, all while “infiltrating” churches as a Vatican spy!   

Laughably, Chick and Rivera attempted to explain the lack of evidence for his various “degrees” by claiming, as usual, that it was a Vatican conspiracy!  As Metz explains:

“[a] typical example of Chick’s defense of Alberto: the evidence for Alberto’s degrees disappeared because the Vatican ‘erased Dr. Rivera’s name from all directories in schools, seminaries, and colleges’; Rivera’s former associates and acquaintances contradict his story because they are Vatican spies; the women he was involved with were from ‘the Legion of Mary or Catholic Youth.’ So with the magic wand of Vatican conspiracy, Rivera is exonerated from any evidence that can possibly be adduced against him” (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/davearmstrong/2017/11/jack-chicks-lies-real-alberto-rivera-exposed.html)

It seems rather convenient that Rivera exonerated himself from producing any evidence by simply claiming that said evidence was destroyed by his Vatican persecutors.  But even if this was accepted as a legitimate “excuse” (which it isn’t), shouldn’t Rivera still have copies of the diplomas with him?  After all, upon graduating from college or graduate school (even high school), the successful student is given a physical copy of the diploma.  Why didn’t Rivera have such copies? 

[6] Ibid.

[7] Matthew 18:16.

[8] Cearley, op. cit., p. 32.

[9] Ibid., p. 35. 

[10] Ibid., p. 38.

In the time preceding the birth of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), there were three main Arab states: the Ghassanids, the Lakhmids and Yemen (Ibid., pp. 38-39).  None of these were situated in North Africa.

[11] Ibid., p. 38.

[12] Bernard Lewis, The Arabs in History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), p. 25.

[13] Karen Armstrong, Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1992), p. 55.

However, Armstrong points out that most Arabs were “suspicious” of both Judaism and Christianity.

A key difference between the Syriac Church and the Catholic Church is in the rejection of the “Immaculate Conception” by the former.  Of course, there are other differences, but given the Catholic emphasis on Mary being free from “original sin”, this is a key theological difference (http://christianityinview.com/comparison.html).

Also, William Montgomery Watt stated that while Christianity did spread among some Arabs, often times among whole tribes (as Rivera stated), understanding “their grasp of Christianity” was “impossible” (W. Montgomery Watt, Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman (London: Oxford University Press, 1961), p. 6).  In other words, even though these tribes could be described as “Christian”, their actual beliefs may not have aligned with Christian theology, whether Catholic or otherwise. 

[14] http://syrianorthodoxchurch.org/2010/03/a-short-overview-of-the-common-history/

[15] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p122a3p1.htm

[16] Cearley, op. cit., p. 61.

The “seven hills of Rome” are: Aventine Hill, Caelian Hill, Capitoline Hill, Esquiline Hill, Palatine Hill, Quirinal Hill, and Viminal Hill. 

[17] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_hills_of_Rome

[18] Ibid.

[19] Arthur Cotterell and Rachel Storm, The Encyclopedia of World Mythology: A comprehensive A-Z of the myths and legends of Greece, Rome, Egypt, Persia, India, China, and the Norse and Celtic lands (London: Lorenz Books, 2006), p. 56.

[20] Ibid., pp. 298-299.

Interestingly, the association of Vaticanus with the cult of Mithra seems to be the origin of the English word “pope”.  As Cearley explains, the high priest of the cult of Mithra was known as “Pater Patrum”, a title that the bishops of Rome later adopted (Cearley, op. cit., p. 57).  The term was then shortened to “papa”, which then became the English word “pope”.  But while it was used for any bishop as early as the 3rd century CE, it was not until the 9th century that it was used exclusively for the head of the Catholic Church (https://www.britannica.com/topic/pope). 

[21] http://penelope.uchicago.edu/~grout/encyclopaedia_romana/imperialfora/nerva/geminus.html

According to the above source:

“The temple is said to have been situated between the Forum Julium and the Forum Romanum, close to where the Argiletum entered the forum.”

[22] https://data.worldbank.org/region/arab-world?view=chart

[23] Cearley, op. cit., p. 67.

[24] Ibid.

[25] The monk’s name was not actually “Bahira”.  According to Karen Armstrong:

“…the monk’s name Bahira has been confused with the Syriac bhira, the title ‘reverend’” (Karen Armstrong, Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1992), p. 78).

According to the 19th-century Anglican scholar Thomas Patrick Hughes, his “Christian name was supposed to be Sergius or Georgius” (as quoted by Cearley, op. cit., p. 68).

[26] Ibid., pp. 68-69.

[27] http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p122a3p1.htm

[28] http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/08459b.htm

[29] Robert G. Hoyland, Seeing Islam as Others Saw It: A Survey and Evaluation of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian Writings on Early Islam (Princeton: The Darwin Press, Inc., 1997), p. 486.

[30] https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/11/islam-jack-chick-and-the-battle-for-souls-men-of-peace/

[31] Watt, op. cit., p. 22.

[32] This is precisely why Christian apologist James White has described this claim as “baloney”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvXxTejjWP4

[33] Cearley, op. cit., p. 76.

[34] Ibid., p. 77.

[35] As cited in Cearley, op. cit., p. 78.

[36] Sahih Bukhari, 6:60:478.

[37] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Ethiopian-Orthodox-Tewahedo-Church

[38] https://www.britannica.com/place/Ethiopia/Religion

[39] https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/11/islam-jack-chick-and-the-battle-for-souls-men-of-peace/

[40] http://www.constitution.org/cons/medina/con_medina.htm

[41] Reuven Firestone, An Introduction to Islam for Jews (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society, 2008), p. 27.

[42] Ibid., p. 34.

[43] https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2018/02/11/islam-jack-chick-and-the-battle-for-souls-men-of-peace/

[44] https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2017/11/08/islam-jack-chick-and-the-battle-for-souls-allah-had-no-son/

[45] Ibid.  See the article for the actual citation of Volf’s scholarly discussion.

[46] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mL2fucCySQY

[47] This is also why Muhammad (peace be upon him) could not have “written” the Quran or other “unpublished works”.

[48] Cearley, op. cit., p. 81.

[49] Ibid.

[50] Ibid.

[51] https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/the-history-of-the-bible-and-the-quran/

[52] Syed Mostafa Azmayesh, New Researches on the Quran: Why and How Two Versions of Islam Entered the World (United Kigndom: Mehraby Publishing House, 2015), p. 7.

Some ignorant people may claim that this means that the Quran was written before Muhammad (peace be upon him), but of course this is not the case.  The parchment could be older, but it just means that it was used to write the Quranic text during the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), or shortly thereafter.  Moreover, the text itself has been identified by scholars to be:

“…an early form of Arabic script known as Hijazi script” (Ibid., p. 8).

Thus, it is highly probable that the manuscript may have been written either during the life of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) or shortly after his death, before definitely before 650 CE.

[53] https://www.birmingham.ac.uk/news/latest/2015/07/quran-manuscript-22-07-15.aspx

[54] https://www.livescience.com/51638-quran-manuscript-oldest-known-copy.html

[55] https://www.challies.com/articles/the-history-of-christianity-in-25-objects-rylands-library-papyrus-p52/

Regarding the possible date of P52, Brent Nongbri has clarified that:

“…any serious consideration of the window of possible dates for P52 must include dates in the later second and early third centuries.  Thus, P52 cannot be used as evidence to silence other debates about the existence (or non-existence) of the Gospel of John in the first half of the second century” (Brent Nongbri, “The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel.” Harvard Theological Review 98, no. 1 (2005): 23-48).

[56] https://www.challies.com/articles/the-history-of-christianity-in-25-objects-rylands-library-papyrus-p52/

[57] https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2017/12/18/islam-jack-chick-and-the-battle-for-souls-camels-in-the-tent/

[58] Fred Donner, Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam (Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2010), p. 116.

[59] Ibid., 118.

[60] Abramsky, Samuel, Shimon Gibson, Michael Avi-Yonah, Menahem Stern, Eliyahu Ashtor, Haïm Z’ew Hirschberg, Walter Pinhas Pick, et al. “Jerusalem.” In Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2nd ed., edited by Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik, 143-232. Vol. 11. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. Gale Virtual Reference Library (accessed May 26, 2018).

[61] Bashan, Eliezer. “Omar Ibn al-KhaṬṬĀb°.” In Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2nd ed., edited by Michael Berenbaum and Fred Skolnik, 419. Vol. 15. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. Gale Virtual Reference Library (accessed May 26, 2018).

[62] Firestone, op. cit., p. 47.                                 

[63] https://www.thejc.com/comment/comment/so-what-did-the-muslims-do-for-the-jews-1.33597

[64] Hugh Kennedy, The Great Arab Conquests: How the Spread of Islam Changed the World We Live In (Da Capo Press, 2007), p. 165.

[65] Hoyland, op. cit., p. 175.

[66] Ibid., p. 181.

However, Hoyland adds that the claim of “Muslim warmth towards the Nestorians…must be taken with a pinch of salt…”  Also, he adds while Isho-yahb was generally “on good terms with the Muslims”, he was imprisoned and tortured by an Arab governor after his Monophysite rivals reported that he had “considerable wealth”.  The governor even ended up ransacking several churches.  Of course, this unfortunate incident was the exception rather than the rule. 

[67] Ibid., p. 74.

[68] It should also be pointed out that Martin I was not the pope when Jerusalem was conquered by the Muslims in 637 CE.  The pope at that time was Honorius I (reigned 625-638 CE), so he would have been the pope depicted in Chick’s tract facing the Muslim generals and asking “well?”, expecting them to hand over Jerusalem to him.  It is interesting that Honorius I was also accused of allowing “the immaculate faith to be stained” by later church authorities, but no mention is made of any collusion with the Muslims, either by the later church authorities, or any of the other churches, nor was there any mention of the Muslims’ veneration of the pope as a “prophet of God”.  In fact, Honorius I was defamed for his apparent tolerance of Monophysitism and Monothelitism, both of which were branded “heretical” by the Catholic Church (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Honorius-I).  Given how busy Honorius I was in dealing with the theological controversies threatening to tear Christianity apart, it is ludicrous to say that he was instead busy financing the Muslims and planning the conquest of Jerusalem.   

[69] Cearley, op. cit., p. 98.

[70] Ibid.

[71] Ibid., p. 97.

[72] Ibid.

[73] Rivera also threw “Turkey” into the mix.  But as any student of history knows, the Anatolian Peninsula did not completely fall into Muslim hands until the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 CE. 

[74] Ibid., p. 107.

[75] Ibid. 

The Visigoths had converted to Arianism in the 4th century (https://www.britannica.com/topic/Visigoth).

[76] See the article on this subject for more details: https://quranandbibleblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/11/ishmael-and-isaac-in-the-bible-and-the-quran/

[77] Ibid.

[78] Halpern-Amaru, Betsy. 2006. “A Note on Isaac as First-born in Jubilees and Only Son in 4Q225.” Dead Sea Discoveries 13, no. 2: 127-133. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed May 27, 2014).

[79] Cearley, op. cit., p. 118.

[80] https://www.franciscanmedia.org/franciscans-and-muslims-eight-centuries-of-seeking-god/

[81] Thomas F. Madden, The Concise History of the Crusades, 3rd Edition (Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), p. 142.

[82] Ibid., p. 152.

[83] Ibid., p. 156.

[84] Cearley, op. cit., p. 119.

[85] https://www.britannica.com/event/Reconquista

[86] Cearley, op. cit., p. 121.

[87] Ibid.

[88] Ibid., p. 128.

[89] As the tract explains, a “novena” is a “special prayer for nine days”.  More specifically, Cearley explains that novenas are meant to “request special graces or privileges” (Ibid., p. 127).

[90] Cearley says that novenas were only meant to be said as private prayers, but according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, they could also be said in public (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11141b.htm).

[91] https://www.bluearmy.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Nine-Day-Novena-to-Our-Lady-of-Fatima.pdf

As the link above shows, the novena is clearly directed to Mary.  It also ends with the words “[t]hrough Christ our Lord.  Amen.”  To think that Muslims would be impressed by such a prayer is simply ludicrous!

[92] https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/vatican_muslims_now_outnumber_catholics

[93] http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2009/fsheen_maryandislam__jun09.asp

[94] Sahih Bukhari, 4:56:820.

[95] http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en.html

[96] As quoted in Cearley, op. cit., p. 130.

[97] Ibid.

See also: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/860-000-lives-saved-the-truth-about-pius-xii-and-the-jews

As the article states:

“The vindication of Pius XII has been established principally by Jewish writers and from Israeli archives. It is now established that the Pope supervised a rescue network which saved 860,000 Jewish lives – more than all the international agencies put together.

After the war the Chief Rabbi of Israel thanked Pius XII for what he had done. The Chief Rabbi of Rome went one step further. He became a Catholic. He took the name Eugenio.”

[98] Cearley, op. cit., p. 130.

[99] Of course, it wouldn’t make sense for Muslims to support the Vatican to get “revenge” on Spain for the Reconquista, when the Reconquista was supported by the Vatican!

[100] https://www.britannica.com/place/Spain/Isabella-II-1833-68#ref587798

[101] Tuma, Ali Al. “Moros Y Cristianos: Religious Aspects of the Participation of Moroccan Soldiers in the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939).” In Muslims in Interwar Europe: A Transcultural Historical Perspective, edited by Agai Bekim, Ryad Umar, and Sajid Mehdi, 151-77. LEIDEN; BOSTON: Brill, 2016. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1163/j.ctt1w8h1hd.11.

[102] Ibid.

[103] Ibid.

[104] http://english.ahram.org.eg/NewsContent/5/32/186720/Arts–Culture/Film/From-Palestine-to-the-Spanish-Civil-War-Documentar.aspx

[105] There is a barely visible footnote in the tract notifying the reader that the Vatican recognized Israel in 1994.  Perhaps this was out of embarrassment, since the original tract from 1988 had to be updated due to the 1994 agreement.  Rivera claimed that the Vatican promised “never” to recognize Israel, but it happened nevertheless. 

[106] http://www.ccjr.us/dialogika-resources/primary-texts-from-the-history-of-the-relationship/1253-herzl1904

[107] Ibid.

[108] One has to wonder whether the lesser known second assassination attempt on the life of John Paul II was also masterminded by the Jesuits.  In this case, it was an actual Catholic priest who stabbed the pope a year after the first attempt by Agca.  The priest accused the pope of being a communist (https://churchpop.com/2016/07/16/sspx-priest-john-paul-ii-assassination-attempt/).

[109] https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1983/07/03/the-gray-wolves/54877a34-5e2f-4604-a40f-394285a5d756/?utm_term=.c926145774d5

[110] https://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/19/world/europe/19pope.html

[111] Ibid. 

Of course, he was right about the Gospels.  They are indeed full of mistakes!

[112] http://articles.latimes.com/1985-06-12/news/mn-6106_1_soviet-official

[113] https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/on-faith/vatican-shoots-down-claim-that-iran-backed-john-paul-assassination-attempt/2013/02/01/bc0ae828-6caf-11e2-8f4f-2abd96162ba8_story.html?utm_term=.63daf7b6e50a

[114] Ibid.

[115] https://www.nytimes.com/1983/07/03/world/48-israeli-tie-to-phalangists-revealed.html

[116]  https://history.state.gov/milestones/1981-1988/lebanon

[117] Ibid.

[118] Ibid. 

The PLO had informed Phillip Habib, Reagan’s representative, that they would withdraw from Beirut if an international force was sent to protect Palestinian civilians.  Given that the Phalangists carried out the Shabra and Shatilla massacres, this request was clearly for good reasons.

 

 

8 thoughts on “Islam, Jack Chick and the Battle for Souls – “The Prophet”, Part II

  1. Stewjo004

    Wow… I had heard this “Islam is a creation of the Vatican” conspiracy theory before but I honestly didn’t think it was this stupid. So to sum this up a known liar and fraud priest started claiming a whole bunch secret documents were in the Vatican and then got a whole bunch of history wrong to prove his point.

    Also, Paulus said before that ALL the churches agree with one another and singing kumbaya as their guided by the Holy Spirit. So how can the Vatican declare the Syriac Church a “heresy” QB?

    Like

    1. And yes, the whole conspiracy theory is the brainchild (and I use the term lightly) of an ex-priest with a criminal record and a whole bunch of fake degrees. It’s amazing how desperate Christians are in promoting their religion. But what is really amazing is that there are idiots out there who actually believe this nonsense!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Stewjo004

        QB but the Holy Spirit is guiding all of “the Church” (whoever they may be ). I mean even though they all have different beliefs and canons Paulus said they’re all right QB. And our hatred of “the Church” is blinding us.

        So QB who is “the heresy” the Vatican or the Syriac Church? Which church is the one Isa(as) is said to have established? I mean I think this needs to be answered if Christians want to attempt to bring Muslims into “the Church” don’t ya think?

        Like

      2. LOL, absolutely! How can Christians claim to be “unified” when there have been so many schisms and councils and edicts? Each sect has historically accused the others of being “heretics”. Of course, they are all heretics. That’s the ultimate irony.

        Like

      3. Stewjo004

        Subhanallah. Hey, what Allah said is true you have to verify a source when an evil person comes bringing news. Think about all the people this man mislead and all they had to do was find the guy who started the lie and see his character. This really is a modern day example, of the importance of chains of narrations and characters of the people involved. And also how a lie can circulate so easily even with modern technology.

        But hey according to Christians, if enough people believed this one guy’s lie and all the other people who wrote it into their narration of events in 2018 the people in the year 4000 can be comfortable that this was the truth because so many people repeated the same lie.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Islam, Jack Chick and the Battle for Souls – “The Prophet”, Part III – The Quran and Bible Blog

  3. Pingback: Deceitful Christians are afraid of seeing the “Vatican-Islam” conspiracy theory being blown to smithereens… – The Quran and Bible Blog

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