I have met Muslims and interacted with them directly and indirectly about their brief that the Islamic prophet Muhammad is mentioned in the Bible. One such claim is entered on Song of Solomon 5:16. The following is how Muslims usually reason in support of their view:

In Song of Solomon 5:16 the original text reads: חכו ממתקים וכלו מחמדים זה דודי וזה רעי בנות ירושלם. The original Hebrew word in the verse mentioning the name Muhammad is “מחמד”. [These letters in English are MHMD and in Arabic are محمد (Muhammad)].

But, does the above understanding base on exegesis or eisegesis?

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    Answered here: skeptics.stackexchange.com/q/9484/21255 – curiousdannii Jul 30 at 7:36
  • The answer to this question is already widely in the public domain. And what does this have to do with Christianity ? – Nigel J Jul 30 at 9:04
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    @NigelJ I hadn't encountered this view before, and therefore found this an interesting question - collecting such questions is surely the purpose of SE. That said, since it deals with the detail of the hebrew, I feel it may be a better fit for Bible Hermeneutics – Korosia Jul 30 at 9:11
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    It seems like rather common sense to me that even if the name did appear in the Bible, the conclusion that Muḥammad ibn ʿAbdullāh was named after the Biblical Muḥammad would make more sense than that the Bible was referring to Muḥammad ibn ʿAbdullāh. Does anyone think that Biblical references to Thomas are referring to Thomas Aquinas? – Acccumulation Jul 30 at 20:09

Q - Does the verse in Song of Solomon 5:16 contain the name of the Islamic prophet Muhammad?

A – No, it does not. In Song of Solomon 5:16, the maiden says of her lover, "His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, this is my friend, daughters of Jerusalem." The word translated as "lovely" is the Hebrew word ‘machamadim’. It is the plural of ‘machamad’, which means “lovely, cute, or desirable.” Although it is the root word of Muhammad, it does not follow that the verse refers to Muhammad, especially since the word used is a plural adjective, not the name of a person.

Q – Is the Muslim understanding of Song of Solomon 5:16 based on exegesis or eisegeis?

The process of exegesis involves 1) observation: what does the passage say? 2) interpretation: what does the passage mean? 3) correlation: how does the passage relate to the rest of the Bible? and 4) application: how should this passage affect my life?

Eisegesis involves 1) imagination: what idea do I want to present? 2) exploration: what Scripture passage seems to fit with my idea? and 3) application: what does my idea mean? Notice that, in eisegesis, there is no examination of the words of the text or their relationship to each other, no cross-referencing with related passages, and no real desire to understand the actual meaning. Scripture serves only as a prop to the interpreter’s ideas.

Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/exegesis-eisegesis.html

A – It is based on eisegesis. One reason is that the Muslim interpretation fails to adhere to the rules of grammar. It fails the literal principle because it tries to spiritualize or allegorize words that literally mean “lovely, cute, or desirable.” It also fails the historical principle because it interprets Hebrew Scripture according to a modern culture/religion rather than placing scripture in its historical context. Finally, the Muslim interpretation of this Bible verse fails the “Synthesis Principle” of good exegesis:

The best interpreter of scripture is scripture itself. We must examine a passage in relation to its immediate context (the verses surrounding it), its wider context (the book it’s found in), and its complete context (the Bible as a whole). The Bible does not contradict itself. Any theological statement in one verse can and should be harmonized with theological statements in other parts of scripture. Good Bible interpretation relates any one passage to the total content of scripture.

Source: https://www.gotquestions.org/Biblical-exegesis.html

Biblical exegesis does not support the Muslim interpretation of Song of Solomon 5:16.

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    I didn't know the word eisegesis before. Now I do. (+1). – Nigel J Jul 30 at 9:05
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    Neither did I till I looked it up! It's always good to learn something new. – Lesley Jul 30 at 9:55
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    Note that 'eisegesis' is almost always pejorative, I don't think I've heard of anyone who would claim the term as their approach. I'd think that some types of allegorical readings would qualify as eisegesis, but their adherents would obviously disagree. – curiousdannii Jul 30 at 10:52
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    I have noticed another method epigesis, which is to fill the page up with words, going round and round in circles, ignoring the actual text under discussion. Very common technique. – Nigel J Jul 30 at 12:35
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    I'm a fan of the word narcigesis - interpreting scripture as though it were all about you. – Thomas Markov Jul 30 at 16:13

But, is the above understanding based on exegesis or eisegesis ?

To answer a question with another question:

Just as Christians themselves have no moral qualms in enriching the basic literal meaning of the aforementioned Old Testament passages with a distinctly Christian understanding, despite the protestations of the Jews, to whom these scriptures were originally given, so also Muslims do not hesitate to add a distinctly Islamic layer of meaning to this and other Old Testament passages, despite protestations from both Jews and Christians, in whose possession the Bible was found long before Muhammad arrived on the world scene.

The Hebrew מחמד and the Arabic حمد {which gave rise to Muhammad (محمد), Mahmud (محمود), Ahmad, Hamid, and Hamida} are indeed etymologically related, both stemming from the same Semitic root, Ḥ-M-D, corresponding to the Hebrew ח־מ־ד and the Arabic ح_م_د.

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    We know from Luke 24 that Cleopas and another (some say his wife) received special instruction after the resurrection from the Lord in how to recognize Old Testament passages that speak of him. Presumably the Apostles received similar instruction. Therefore they had access to a third means (besides eisegesis and exegesis) of correlating ancient Scripture passages with the words and events of Jesus' life. Maybe call it "Jesus-gesis". – Paul Chernoch Jul 30 at 16:45
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    "despite the protestations of the Jews, to whom these scriptures were originally given" No, they weren't. Modern-day Rabbinical Jews are ideological descendents of the Pharisees, not the original Hebrew religion from which Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism derive. – nick012000 Jul 31 at 4:25
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    Stereotyping Christians by using emotional language [Christians themselves have no moral qualms] would blind readers to approach the issue objectively. The reason why Christians see Jesus Christ in the Jewish Scriptures is because the Christian Scriptures explicitly quote them and interpret them. Whereas Muslims make the above claim even though their Scriptures I.e. Quran, doesn’t make any explicit reference to the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. – TeluguChristian Jul 31 at 4:28
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    @Lucian: That's like comparing apples with oranges! What some Muslims do with Songs of Solomon 5:16 is not what Christians do with the Jewish scriptures [O.T.]. Rather it is the Christian scriptures [N.T.] that quote and interpret the Jewish scriptures [N.T.]. – TeluguChristian Jul 31 at 8:52
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    @Lucian It seems that you're glossing over the distinctions that Telugu is pointing out, (1) between (a) Christians (today) and (b) (ancient) Christian Scriptures / authoritative teaching from Jesus; and (2) between (a) Muslims (today) and (b) (medieval period) Muslim Scriptures / authoritative teaching from Mohamed. You're drawing an equivalence between 1b and 2a, as the Qur'an doesn't interpret SoS 5:16 as referring to Mohamed, nor does any other source that Muslims consider divinely inspired. – LarsH Jul 31 at 13:44

Song of Solomon 5:16.

Here in this verse, the word used in the original Hebrew is makhmadd’im [מַחֲמַדִּ֑ים], neither Mahmad nor Muhammad nor even Mahmaddim. Being in the family of the Semetic languages both Hebrew and Arabic have many words with similar meanings as well as sounds, but not necessarily always they mean the same thing. Here are a couple of examples:

(i) In Hebrew the word ‘allah’ [אַלָּה] doesn’t mean ‘God’ like in Arabic, but oak tree. [Joshua 24:26]

(ii) The Hebrew word ‘akbar’ [עַכְבָּר] doesn’t mean ‘great’ like in Arabic, but mouse.[Lev.11:29]

Likewise, the Hebrew word makhmadd’im [מַחֲמַדִּ֑ים] doesn’t mean Muhammad, but all together lovely. This word was never understood as Muhammad or a proper name, for that matter, by its context and meaning. Which is why even in ancient translations such as Septuagint, which is a Greek translation of the Old Testament made in 2n Century B.C, the word used is ‘holos epithumia’ [όλος επιθυμία = entirely desirable] in place of Hebrew ‘makhmadd’im’ [מַחֲמַדִּ֑ים]

In the same chapter in the very beginning we can see that the person described in it is a wine drinker [5:1 “I have drunk my wine”]. I am not quite sure how many Muslims believe that the Islamic prophet was a wine drinker!

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    I would only agree that this should be left to linguistics rather than to similar sounds judged by non-native speakers. Your examples are wrong, the hebrew word akbar starts with an ʿayin (ע), not an alif (א) it is not the same as أكبر rather than عكابر which is a different word in Arabic. Similarly אֱלוֹהַּ is the Hebrew word related to Allah in Arabic, not the word for oak. Makhmadd is related to the Arabic Muhammad with Chamad\Hamad being the root of both, although you can argue whether it means the Islamic Prophet. – user50452 Jul 31 at 5:20
  • In Hebrew the word that SOUNDS like ‘akbar’ is עַכְבָּר, which is used in Leviticus 11:29. Its meaning is ‘a mouse.’ biblehub.com/hebrew/5909.htm The other Hebrew word that SOUNDS like ‘allah’ [אַלָּה] has been used in the Hebrew Bible in Joshua 24:26 [שָּׁ֔ם תַּ֚חַת הָֽאַלָּ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּמִקְדַּ֥שׁ]. It is used along with the definite article ‘the’ [הָ/ha]. It’s an oak tree in Hebrew. If you assume it’s an Arabic word referring to God then replace the word oak tree with Allah/God in Joshua 24:26 and see if it makes any sense at all! Both words were translated by Jewish sholars. – TeluguChristian Jul 31 at 8:35
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    @UmH: I pointed out the same thing, resourcing it with several Wikipedia and Wiktionary articles, but my comment was deleted (most likely because it was considered a mini-answer). – Lucian Jul 31 at 22:58

There are a dozen other verses that contain the word מחמד, some even (unlike this one) without prefixes or suffixes. Among them:

"...whatsoever is pleasant (מחמד) in thine eyes, they shall put it in their hand, and take it away" (I Kings 20:6)

"...behold, I take away from thee the desire (מחמד) of thine eyes with a stroke" (Ezekiel 24:16); "I will profane... the desire (מחמד) of your eyes" (ibid. v. 21)

"...and slew all that were pleasant to (מחמדי) the eye..." (Lamentations 2:4)

So if we're going to be consistent, we would have to conclude that these verses are foretelling that Muhammad will be taken away and killed!

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