Summary of 2.7 Jesus in The Qur'an – Humanity
The previous program clarified the Qur’an’s standpoint on Jesus as a word or spirit from God. According to the Qur'an, the usage of the word of God refers to a command of God; in that sense, all human beings are words of God because we are all created by the command of God. The Qur’an does say that Jesus is a spirit proceeding from God. The Qur’an also contains verses that show that all human beings have this spirit proceeding from God in the sense of their spirituality. So, both are used in ways that have nothing to do with the Platonic philosophy or the idea of trinity whatsoever. The term Holy Spirit, when used in the Qur’an, is not as the philosophy and theology of the trinity, but rather that it refers to the archangel Gabriel. Angles are creations of God, but not part of divinity.
The Qur’an is very clear on rejecting the argument of Jesus or his mother Mary being deities with God. It also rejects all forms of deification. The trinity is specifically rejected. Any exclusivity regarding Jesus being the son of God is also denied. There are many passages in The New Testament where the term the son of God is used similarly to the way the Old Testament uses it (which we referred to). The son of God is used to show a closeness to God, not as being a part of God.
We concluded with the fact that the notion of deifying Prophet Jesus (PBUH) is something that developed much later on. Reverend Dr. A. B. Bruce, a professor of Divinity (Encyclopedia Biblica) says that in the Gospel of St. Luke, Jesus is called Lord about a dozen times and if you compare that with the earlier Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Mark we find that he was simply referred to as “Jesus.” To quote him on this subject, he says that this is “a fact which seems to indicate the gradual evolution in the belief of his divinity.” This again is based on a specialist’s analysis of the writing in The New Testament.
A reprint from The Christian Science Monitor June 7, 1978 issue says, “Debate over age old Christian creeds on the divinity of Jesus has erupted with an explosiveness that has sent curious theologians looking for explanations. The controversy was touched off in Britain last year by the publication of a book The Myth of God Incarnate. In it a group of prominent Anglican and Presbyterian theologians called for an updating of Christianity by freeing it from definitions of early creeds. Creeds which portrayed Jesus as God incarnate. The second person of the three person in one Godhood, the pre-existent eternal only begotten son of the divine father.” In fact the article goes on indicating that there were lots of protests by many people and yet almost all never read the book. So if the subject is looked at without any prejudice or bias one way or the other, I think we will find that we are more faithful to the teachings of Christ when we go back to his simple decisive words.
2.8 Jesus in The Qur'an – Mission
Host: What does the Qur’an have to say about the scope of the mission of Jesus Christ on earth?
The Qur’an is very clear on the fact that the mission of Prophet Jesus (PBUH) was explicitly and exclusively to guide the people of Israel. The Qur'an says, “And (appoint him) an apostle to the Children of Israel, (with this message)” (3:49). It also says, “O Children of Israel! I am the apostle of Allah (sent) to you.” (61:6) Also, it discusses the various Israelite prophets saying, “And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him.” (5:46) Therefore, the Qur’an is very clear on what the mission of Jesus was, and the information found in The New Testament itself attests to this fact.
Two very explicit quotations regarding Prophet Jesus (PBUH) show the similarity between the Bible and the Qur'an on this point. The Gospel of Matthew tells the famous story of the Canaanite woman who wanted Jesus to cure her daughter. He says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” He was very explicit and refused and later on responded because of her faith. (15:24) In Matthew Jesus was giving instructions to the five disciples: “These twelve, Jesus sent out with the following instructions: "Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” (10:5-6) Again he is repeating the same principle that he was sent as an Israelite prophet. This is also implied in Matthew with a very similar confirmation (19:28). Indeed one can say that there is no evidence in the three synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, of any clear and decisive statements quoting Jesus that his message is universal and that he was sent for all human beings.
In fact, I would like to make two comments here to avoid any misunderstanding of these quotations. The conclusiveness of the expressions of the words of Jesus as quoted in the Gospels definitely overshadow any claim that was developed much later on. The words of Jesus are more credible than what developed later on when the notion of deifying Jesus gained momentum.
The other observation is though both the Qur’an and the Gospels support that Jesus’ mission was to the children of Israel, it doesn’t mean that none of his teachings can be valid and applicable for those who are not from the Israelites. In fact, the teachings of all the prophets are relevant for all time and all people, especially concerning the moral aspects and the knowledge of God. Even though the mission is valid for all time and people, God decided to send one final and universal message with Prophet Muhammad roughly 600 years after Prophet Jesus may peace and blessings be upon them both.
Host: What does the Qur’an have to say about the essence of the mission of Jesus Christ.
Like all other prophets mentioned in the Qur’an, Jesus’ message conclusively was to invite people to know, worship and obey God. A verse in the Qur’an, which combines the essence along with this message, says, “(I have come to you), to attest the Law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was (Before) forbidden to you; I have come to you with a Sign from your Lord. So fear Allah, and obey me.” (3:50) One part of Jesus’ mission was to confirm whatever remained unchanged of the law of the Torah. Another part was to make lawful to them that which they had made forbidden and restricted by way of punishment. In addition to his mission directed to the Israelites, he emphasizes that God should be feared and obeyed. The Qur'an continues, “'It is Allah Who is my Lord and your Lord; then worship Him. This is a Way that is straight.'” (3:51)
One peculiar thing about Prophet Jesus (PBUH) is that he actually gave tiding and mentioned to his people specifically that there was a prophet coming after him to complete the revelation (61:6). This was interpreted by Christians to be the Holy Spirit. Actually, the verse refers specifically to one of the attributes to Prophet Muhammad, Ahmmad, which in English is the Comforter.
In the book of Mark it says that “When the Jew asked Jesus what was the most important commandment he answered ‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, is one Lord.’” (12:29) The Qur’an says precisely this as well.
Host: What are the miracles of Jesus? Does the Qur’an touch upon that?
Well of course the discussion of the virgin birth as one of the miracles has already been covered. He was also given miracles, like other prophets, to support his mission. The Qur’an states, “And (appoint him) an apostle to the Children of Israel, (with this message): "'I have come to you, with a Sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allah’s leave: And I heal those born blind, and the lepers, and I quicken the dead, by Allah’s leave; and I declare to you what ye eat, and what ye store in your houses. Surely therein is a Sign for you if ye did believe.” (3:49) Some of Prophet Jesus’ miracles include healing, bringing people back from the dead, and knowing what people store in their home. But for each of these the Qur’an quotes Jesus as saying ‘by Allah’s leave’ because God gave him this knowledge and ability.
Host: Does the Qur’an mention that Jesus was given a divine book or the Gospel?
There is always mention, in the Qur'an, of a Holy Book or scripture given to the prophets. The Qur’an mentions specific books like the Zaboor (normally interpreted as the psalms from David), the Suhoof (leaves of Prophet Abraham) and the Torah. The Qur’an mentions the Gospel as Al Injeel, which in Arabic translates to The Good News. The Qur'an mentions Al Injeel not only once but twelve times in six different chapters.
The Qur'an mentions Al Injeel or the Gospel as a book given to Jesus in the context of other Holy Books, it leaves a distinct impression that the Qur’an is not referring to The Good News in general but to this specific one given to Jesus. This may sound quite fascinating that most of our Christian brothers believe that the Gospel simply is the biography of Jesus written by the four writers and not necessarily something that was explicitly revealed to Jesus the same way it was to Muhammad or Moses.
I have gone through some references that address a well known problem in Biblical studies called the Synoptic Gospels where they compare the content of the four to find what sources they were drawn from. In one reference they refer to a Gospel called Que from which some of the writers of the Synoptic Gospels used as a source of information. This means in accordance to Biblical studies, not Muslim sources, that there was probably a different Gospel from which earlier Gospel were copied. This could possibly be the original Gospel the Muslims believe was give to Jesus.
Let’s not forget that there is also the issue of the canonized Gospels. The history of the Church shows that there have been large numbers of Gospels and it was only in the fourth century that the church canonized the four Gospels and the others were burned. It is quite possible from both Christian and Muslim sources that Jesus did have a separate independent Holy book that was unfortunately lost to history.
Host: In The New Testament, the Gospels, is there any evidence as to the prophet-hood of Jesus? Did his contemporaries know he was a prophet?
There is plenty of evidence. Jesus believed himself as a servant of God, a prophet of God, a messenger of God and his contemporaries thought of him as a prophet. In the Gospel of Luke it says, “In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets…’” (13:33-34)
More explicitly even outside of the Synoptic Gospels, from a Biblical point of view, the Gospel of John (which has a lot of problems regarding its author) says, “As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God.” (8:40) So Jesus himself is admitting that he has heard certain truths from God and is conveying it to them. This is definitely a characteristic of a prophet.
As far as the other part of the question about whether his contemporaries thought of him as a prophet: definitely! The book of Luke talks of the visit Jesus made to the town of Nain, which regarded Jesus as “A great prophet has appeared among us.” (7:16)
People knew that he was a prophet. There were other indications such as people thought to lay hands on him but feared him as a prophet. The Gospels are filled with evidence that both Jesus (PBUH) as well as his contemporaries knew that he was a prophet. To theorize that he was hiding that secret definitely has no credibility.
Host: What about the end of his mission? Do Muslims agree with the Christian version of Jesus’ crucifixion and ascension?
There is very little information available concerning this question therefore I’ll stick to what the Qur'an has to say. Many of the early Christian sects disputed whether it was Jesus or Judah who had been put on the cross.
The Qur'an says, “That they rejected Faith; that they uttered against Mary a grave false charge; That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah.;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not. Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.” (4:156-158) According to this specific text of the Qur’an, it’s conclusive that Jesus was not the one put on the cross, no matter how commonly believed it may be.
Host: In the verse mentioned it is said that the Israelites did not kill Jesus but that he was raised by God to Heaven. What does this mean?
Going back to the original Arabic it translates, literally, to ‘God raised him unto Himself.’ The best way to understand this, without philosophizing, is to stick to the term rafa’e or raise as it appears in the Qur’an. This word appears under three different meanings or circumstances in the Qur’an. One, according to some interpreters, is that God raised Jesus in body and soul. This cannot be considered impossible even though it has not been proven scientifically, but God is definitely able to lift Jesus in body and soul.
The second is that the Qur’an uses the term rafa’e to refer to taking away the soul but the body would stay on earth, which could possibly mean that Jesus might have died somewhere else. Again we do not have any definite conclusive evidence that this is the correct interpretation. In fact there might be some indirect evidence to this in the Qur’an where God says to Jesus “I am mutawafika and raising you” the word mutawafika would have two meanings the common one would be causing you to die, the other means completing your mission and then raising you.
The other evidence is that the Qur’an says very clearly and conclusively “every soul will taste death” and Jesus being a prophet and human being would definitely have to taste death. Also, in the verse that I quoted in the first program on Jesus if of Jesus talking to his mother and he says “peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die.”
The third meaning that is used in the Qur’an is used allegorically to mean the raising of status of mosques or knowledgeable people. Examples are:
“(Lit is such a Light) in houses, which Allah hath permitted to be raised to honour; for the celebration, in them, of His name: In them is He glorified in the mornings and in the evenings, (again and again)”(24:36),
“"So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)"!”(19:33),
“And We raised him to a lofty station.”(19:57), and
“O ye who believe! When ye are told to make room in the assemblies, (spread out and) make room: (ample) room will Allah provide for you. And when ye are told to rise up, rise up Allah will rise up, to (suitable) ranks (and degrees), those of you who believe and who have been granted (mystic) Knowledge. And Allah is well- acquainted with all ye do.”(58:11)
These verses show that the term raising/lifting is not necessarily in the physical sense but the lifting of status. These are all possible interpretations as the Qur’an doesn’t tell us in a conclusive sense how Jesus was raised. From a practical point of view, had it not been for the Qur’an, it wouldn’t really make a difference whether he was crucified or not as many prophets were killed.
Host: What about the second coming of Christ?
Very briefly speaking there is nothing in the Qur’an that says that Jesus will have second coming. However, there are some Prophetic Traditions (sayings of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH)) in which he talks about the second coming of Jesus. However, it is quite different from the meaning understood among our Christian brothers and sisters. Jesus will not be coming as God to judge and rule but as a follower of Islam. As we mentioned before, Islam is the faith of all prophets not only of Prophet Muhammad, and Jesus was a Muslim according to Qur’an because he submitted to the will of God. The Prophetic Traditions says that Jesus will come to declare the truth about himself. He will break the cross, which is something he will regard as a pagan symbol or based on mythical ideals that came before Christianity, and has nothing to do with his teachings. Also, towards the end of time, he will fight with the believers against the anti-Christ.