Did the Bible Predict the Coming of Muhammad?
Both the Old Testament and the New Testament were scripted centuries before the Qur'an was. Yet, Islamic scholars can point to scriptures in the Bible that indicate the Prophet Muhammad's coming. Muslim scholars argue that there are prophecies of Muhammad in the Bible that predate his birth and his teachings. Muslims have expanded on these viewpoints and have claimed that they can recognize references to Muhammad in the Jewish Torah and the Christian New Testament. Christians may not think much about it, but to a Muslim, these scriptures validate their religion. One of the most referred to Bible verses is Deuteronomy 18:18-20
I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the Prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods must be put to death.
Today, many Muslim religious scholars suggest this scripture has four points. First, they claim that the reference to "brothers" in Deuteronomy 18:18-20 might consist of any person who is a descendant of Abraham. They feel that since Muhammad was an assumed descendant of Ishmael, Abraham's first son, Muhammad qualifies as a 'brother' to the Israelites. There is also a passage in Genesis 16:12 written about Ishmael referring to his "brothers" on Isaac's side of the family.
Second, in those verses, God told Moses that the Prophet would be "like you," which Muslims often bring up. Muslims list the similarities between Moses and Muhammad and the dissimilarities between Moses and Jesus as proof that Muhammad is the foretold Prophet. The argument poses that Muhammad is like Moses because of his ability to wage war, make and enforce laws, lead, govern tribes of men, be born with natural parents, and marry and have children. None of these things did Jesus do.
The third point is that the 18th verse says, "I will put my words in his mouth." The Muslims argue that the four gospels do not consist of God's words in Jesus' mouth. The story of Jesus that comes from the gospels only tells us the story as interpreted by outside observers. All the gospels' narrative is from an external third party who, in many cases, we cannot identify. Muhammad, unlike Jesus, was illiterate, and the words for the Qur'an were put "into his mouth" as exactly foretold in the prophecy.
The fourth point is that the verses indicate the coming of a prophet. A prophet was considered a mortal man, not a deity or the Son of God. Muhammad was considered a true prophet because of his mortality. If this passage were about Jesus, this would lend credence to the Muslim belief that Jesus was mortal and not the Son of God.
There is another story that involves this same verse in the Bible. At that time in history, Samaritans were different from Jews. They lived in the area north of Judaea but were also governed by the Romans. The Samaritans and the Jews were not friendly but believed in the same religion but with a different priesthood. Samaritan eschatology centered upon a figure known as Taheb, who the Samaritans came to see as the Prophet described in Deuteronomy 18:18. In 36 A.D., Taheb led a rag-tag armed force of Samaritans to Mt. Gerizim, now located in the Palestinian West Bank, to recover religious artifacts that he claimed God had told him about. In short, Pontius Pilate perceived this as an uprising and put it down with Roman soldiers. The Samaritan council complained to Pilate's superior, and Pilate was removed from his position.
In conclusion, both Muslims and Samaritans believe the verses from Deuteronomy 18 pertain to their Prophets. The verses say a Prophet is coming and, in a sense, those descriptions are lax enough to apply to almost any religious group in the Middle East.