Wednesday, 26 September 2018

The Name Yahya (Sura 19:7)


بسم الله الرحمٰن الرحيم

والصلاة والسلام على رسوله الكريم

وعلى اهل بيته الطيبين الطاهرين المظلومين

والعاقبة للمتقين

Another futile objection raised against the divine-authorship of the holy Quran is that it states that no one ever had the name of John (the Baptizer) before him:

يَا زَكَرِيَّا إِنَّا نُبَشِّرُكَ بِغُلَامٍ اسْمُهُ يَحْيَىٰ لَمْ نَجْعَل لَّهُ مِن قَبْلُ سَمِيًّا

“O Zechariah, verily We give you glad tidings of a boy whose name is Yahya. We have not assigned for anyone before (this) name.”

(Sura 19:7)

Yahya is identified as John the Baptizer. The name John is the Anglicization of the Hebrew name Yohanan. Yohanan or John was a common name before the birth of John the Baptizer, yet the Quran claims that no one bore that name before him? The truth is, however, that the name Yahya is a totally different name than Yohanan or John. In Arabic, Yohanan is Yuhana and not Yahya. The Islamic Awareness website has published a detailed and scholarly article answering this objection. In this entry I only wish to point to something that they oddly left out. According to the Gospel of Luke:

And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John. And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name. (Luke 1:60-61)

According to the Quranic narrative, Allah says He never designated this name “Yahya” for anyone before the birth of this boy. This does not necessarily preclude that anyone bore that name before him, only that no one was directly named with it by Allah. The narrative of Luke seems to suggest that the priestly family of Zechariah named their sons with a very specific set of names, and it was their custom to avoid novel names that had no precedent among them. It suggests that they received such names through divine inspiration, and so when John the Baptizer was born, his name was novel in the sense that no one among his relatives had received it before.

I see that the Quran has given its own take on the naming of Yahya, by stating that it was his name “Yahya” and not “Yuhana” (Johanan/John) that was a new name that no one before ever had. The problem with the Gospel account is that the family of Zechariah and Elizabeth, who were both of the Aaronide priestly family (Luke 1:5), did have in their history individuals with the name Yohanan/John. For example, Johanan, son of Joiada, the fifth high priest of Israel after their restoration from the Babylonian exile. So the irony is that while certain Christian apologists attempt to impugn the Quran for its claim that no one had the name Yahya before the birth of Zechariah the priest’s son (John the Baptizer), their own scripture, the Gospel of Luke, states that no one in the priestly family of Zecharias and Elizabeth had the name John before the birth of their son, John the Baptizer, which is clearly an error.

1 comment:

  1. According to Barnes' Notes (a Christian commentary of the Bible) for Luke 1:61: "There is none of thy kindred ... - The Jewish tribes and families were kept distinct. To do this, and to avoid confusion in their genealogical tables, they probably gave only those names which were found among their ancestors. Another reason for this, common to all people, is the respect which is felt for honored parents and ancestors."

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