Sunday, February 16, 2014

Jesus in the Bible and the Quran


Jesus in the Bible and the Quran: A Comparative Analysis

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“He [Jesus] was no more than a servant: We granted Our favour to him, and We made him an example to the Children of Israel.”

-         The Holy Quran, Surah Az-Zukhruf, 43:59

Without a doubt, Jesus (Isa in Arabic) is one of the most well-known, influential and beloved figures in human history.  For both Christians and Muslims, Jesus has spiritual significance, although for very different reasons.  For Christians, he was “both God and man at the same time”, a concept known as the “hypostatic union”.[1]  For Muslims, on the other hand, he was simply a man, albeit a very special man.[2]  So which view is historically correct?  What do the holy texts of Christianity and Islam actually say about Jesus?  In this article, we will investigate these questions and attempt to determine whether Jesus really was divine (as well as human at the same time), as the Christians claim, or whether he was simply human, as Muslims maintain.  We will present the Biblical and Islamic versions of Jesus and compare the two.  Through the evidence presented, it will be demonstrated, inshaAllah, that the Christian view of Jesus cannot stand the weight of objective scrutiny and that he really was what the evidence has always shown: simply human.


Jesus in the Bible

            The main source for information on Jesus in the Bible is of course the New Testament, and more specifically, the Gospels.  However, since Christians believe Jesus was the Messiah, it behooves us to also study the Tanakh (known to Christians as the Old Testament) in our attempt to discover the nature of the Biblical Jesus, since the Tanakh frequently references the Messianic age.[3]  In this section, we will concentrate on the nature of Jesus instead of the full account of his ministry, with special emphasis on the descriptions about him as found in the Gospels as well as his descriptions in other places in the New Testament.  This will help to demonstrate the inconsistencies in the New Testament with regard to Jesus.

The Birth of Jesus -         

            Our story begins of course with the birth of Jesus.[4]  Mary, who was engaged to Joseph, became pregnant through the Holy Spirit.[5]  She gave birth to a son, whom Joseph named Jesus.[6]  The infant Jesus was visited by three magi from the east, who had followed his star and had come to “worship” him.[7]    

            When he heard of this “king of the Jews”, Herod ordered a massacre of all male infants born in the city of Bethlehem who two years old or younger.[8]   Fortunately, the infant Jesus had escaped with Joseph and Mary to Egypt, having been warned ahead of time by an angel.[9]  

The Baptism of Jesus – 

            As an adult, Jesus went to the Jordan River to be baptized by John the Baptist.[10]  When it was done, the sky was opened and the “Spirit of God” descended upon Jesus “like a dove”, while a voice declared:


“This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”[11]

Jesus’ Temptation by Satan

            Sometime after the baptism, the Spirit led Jesus “into the wilderness”, where the devil was waiting for him.[12]  Jesus fasted for forty days and forty nights, not eating or drinking anything, and felt the pangs of hunger afterwards.[13]  The encounter between Jesus and Satan is described by the Gospel of Matthew as the following:


“The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”  Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”  Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.  “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”  Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”[14]

Jesus’ Teachings and Ministry

            Among the things Jesus taught his disciples was the importance of prayer:


“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”[15]

Moreover, Jesus also prayed himself, often going to isolated places to pray to God.[16]       

            Also, Jesus often taught his followers using parables.  For example, in the “parable of the weeds”, Jesus explained the significance of the “kingdom of heaven”, referring to himself as “a man who sowed good seed in his field”.[17]  

He also declared himself a prophet.[18]  Moreover, when he entered Jerusalem, the excited crowd referred to him as:


“…Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth in Galilee.”[19]
 
            When he entered the temple courts, he was questioned by the priests and elders.  They asked him to explain on whose authority he was preaching.  However, Jesus refused to tell them.[20]  

            Finally, while Jesus preached the importance of repentance and the approach of the end times, he admitted that he did not know when the events in question would occur.[21]  However, he did say that those who were present with him would live to see those events.[22]  In contrast, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus knew all things.[23]     

Jesus’ Miracles

            Reports of Jesus’ miracles are found throughout the Gospels.  The Gospel of Matthew states that Jesus traveled throughout Galilee healing people of various ailments, such as leprosy, seizures, paralysis and demonic possession.[24]  In some cases, his miraculous deeds so amazed some people that they actually “worshiped him” and referred to him as the “Son of God”.[25]  In addition, he was sought by certain people suffering from such ailments to “forgive” their sins, which he did.[26]


When the Pharisees accused of him of performing exorcisms through the power of Beelzebul (the prince of demons), Jesus refuted them, saying instead that he performed the exorcisms “by the Spirit of God”.[27]         

Jesus’ Death and Resurrection

            While he was on the cross and nearing death, Jesus is said to have uttered the words:


“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[28]

At this point, one of the Roman centurions present at the crucifixion marveled at Jesus and referred to him as the “Son of God”.[29]

            After the resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples.  When the women had seen him, they “clasped his feet and worshiped him”.[30]  Jesus then told them to instruct the disciples to meet him in Galilee, saying:


“Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”[31]

Furthermore, when Jesus was finally raised up to heaven at Bethany, he blessed the disciples, who “worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy”.[32]


Analyzing the Biblical Version of Jesus

            As stated above, Christians believe that Jesus was both human and divine.  The New Testament appears to confirm this belief, since it does describe Jesus as human in some cases and divine in others.  Hence, it may seem that Christians have good reasons to believe that Jesus was God, while simultaneously accepting that he was human.  But is this belief really on solid ground?  Let us investigate.

            As shown above, the Gospels state that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and was born to the Virgin Mary.  As an infant, he was worshiped by the Magi, so it is safe to say that he was allegedly divine at this point.  Why then was he so helpless?  Even as an infant, was he not both divine and human?  Why did he need to be whisked away to Egypt to avoid Herod’s murderous plot?  Clearly, it would be illogical to claim that the baby Jesus was divine and hence there was absolutely no reason for the Magi to worship him.  

            Moreover, who were these Magi?  The Gospel of Matthew describes them as coming somewhere from the east (perhaps from Persia), yet we find statements from 2nd century Christians, such as Justin Martyr, that differed from this.  According to Bruce Metzger:


“In addition to echoes and quotations from the Memoirs of the apostles, Justin also makes use of various extraneous traditions, probably oral, about the life of Jesus.  It perhaps was noticed above that in quoting [Matthew] Justin says the Magi came from Arabia (Dial. lxxxviii. 1).”[33]

Furthermore, since the “Magi” were clearly astrologers, having followed a star to visit Jesus and “worship” him, we have to question whether their views on Jesus (if the incident even occurred) are as reliable as the Gospel of Matthew claims.[34]  In the Tanakh, astrologers and “stargazers” are denounced in the strongest language:


“All the counsel you have received has only worn you out!  Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you.  Surely they are like stubble; the fire will burn them up.  They cannot even save themselves from the power of the flame.  These are not coals for warmth; this is not a fire to sit by.”[35]

Moreover, the gospel claims that when Herod heard the Magi’s incredible story, he asked them to search for the child so that he too could “worship” him.  Yet, we know that Herod was a Jew (albeit not a very good one), and an act such as worshiping an infant (even if it was just a ruse) would have been seen as idolatry by his Jewish subjects.  And what about the fact that though the Magi “worshiped” the baby Jesus in front of Mary,[36] the Gospels claim that Jesus’ family did not recognize his significance until much later in his life?  According to Mark 3:21, Jesus’ family even considered him to be insane:


“When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.””[37]

            Clearly, we can see the difficulties present in the story of the Magi.  It is because of these difficulties that scholars have largely rejected the story as a historical fiction that was probably borrowed by the author of the Gospel of Matthew from an actual event involving the Roman emperor Nero.[38]           

              Next, let us consider the baptism of Jesus.  The Gospels state that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and it was on this occasion that the heavens opened up and the “Spirit of God” descended on Jesus, while a voice (presumably the Father) declared that Jesus was his son.  On the surface, this story seems to confirm the Christian belief that Jesus was divine.  However, the reality is quite different.  

            First, even if this incident really happened, the fact is that this clearly confirms Jesus’ subordination in relation to God the “Father”.  Since the voice declared it was “well pleased” with Jesus, that can only mean that Jesus was the subordinate.  Yet, Christians still insist that Jesus is “co-equal” with the Father and worship him as such![39]

Second, the baptism symbolized repentance and the forgiveness of sins.[40]  When Jesus asked John the Baptist to baptize him, the latter was reluctant.  However, as Geza Vermes notes, Jesus considered it a religious duty to be baptized.[41]  Why would that be so if he was divine or “God made flesh”?  Incidentally, the Gospel of John omits the baptism scene completely!  Scholars see this as no coincidence.  As Vermes explains:


“The Fourth Gospel ignores Jesus’ baptism by John.  Such as act of self-abasement was by that time considered incompatible with the dignity of the incarnate Word of God.”[42]

            After the baptism, Jesus went into the wilderness to fast and to be tempted by Satan.  However, as shown above, the Gospels state that Jesus did not go there on his own, but instead was “led by the Spirit”.  Here again we see Jesus’ less than divine character, for if he was divine, then why did he need to be “led” to his next destination?  Did Jesus not know where he needed to go?  In addition, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus promised the disciples that he would send the Holy Spirit to them.[43]  Yet, it is clear that both Jesus and the Holy Spirit were subservient to the Father, who sent them both.[44]

            In addition, as mentioned above, Jesus went into the wilderness to fast.  After doing so for forty days and forty nights, he became hungry, which would not be strange except for the fact that Christians believe in Jesus’ divinity.[45]  Are we to believe that a divine being could be “hungry”?[46]  If Christians believe that Jesus’ very-human feelings of hunger do not prove that he was not divine (since they believe he was both divine and human), the appropriate question to ask is how do the two natures balance each other out?  Does one nature have precedence over the other?  In fact, it does.  According to the Sixth Ecumenical Council, held in Constantinople in the year 680, Jesus’ divinity took precedence over his humanity.[47]  If that is true, then surely Jesus should not have felt hunger or thirst at any time in his entire life.  Otherwise, his divine nature did not take precedence.[48]

            For this same reason, we have to question how it is possible to “tempt” a divine being, as Satan attempted to do with Jesus.  Satan was even so brazen as to offer the whole world to Jesus if only he would worship him![49]   Yet, during this strange incident, Jesus dis allegedly say to Satan:


“It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”[50]

It seems that Jesus himself is witnessing to his own divinity.  Yet, if that was the case, then why was he hungry?  The whole story is riddled with logical fallacies.  It is no surprise, then, that scholars consider it yet another concocted event.  Even then, these scholars recognize that the purpose of the story was to demonstrate Jesus’ service to God.[51]

            Moving on, let us analyze some of Jesus’ teachings as mentioned above.  We noted that Jesus instructed his disciples to pray to God, and also prayed himself.  If he was God incarnate, and if he had wanted Christians to pray to him,[52] then it certainly would not help if he did not actually tell them to pray to him or if he actually prayed himself!  Christians will no doubt refer again to Jesus’ divine and human nature, but as we pointed out above, his divine nature is supposed to take precedence over his human nature.  Therefore, why would he have prayed to the “Father” when he was supposed to be divine as well and “co-equal” to the Father?

            Some Christian apologists may argue that the only reason Jesus actually prayed was to simply show his disciples how to pray and that he was not really praying.[53]  However, this argument is refuted by the Gospels themselves, as shown above.  According to the Gospels, Jesus frequently prayed while he was alone.  If the intention was to show his followers the proper way to pray, being alone was not a good way to do it.  And if he was alone, then he would not have prayed anyway, if he was “God”!  

            Next, as we noted above, Jesus often taught his disciples by using parables, such as the “parable of the weeds”.  In the parable, Jesus specifically referred to himself as the “sower”, and called himself the “Son of Man”.[54]  Of course, since he was also called “Son of God”, Christians will consider this a moot point.  However, the phrase “Son of God” does not necessarily denote divine status since Luke refers to Adam as the “Son of God” as well.[55]  Also, since being the son of someone denotes inferiority according to Jesus himself, how would the title “Son of God” mean that Jesus was God Himself?  According to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus questioned the Pharisees’ belief that the Messiah was the “son of David” by pointing out that David referred to the Messiah as “Lord”:


“If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?””[56]

So, if Jesus was asserting his superiority to David by questioning whether he was his son, does it not stand to reason that being referred to as the “Son of God” means that Jesus is inferior to God?  

            Furthermore, as shown above, though Jesus refused to tell the Pharisees under whose authority he had come, he still acknowledged that he was under someone's authority.  In fact, after the resurrection, he was quoted as saying to his disciples:  


“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…”[57]

An even clearer affirmation of Jesus’ God-given authority is found, ironically, in the Gospel of John (which is the most adamant of all the Gospels regarding Jesus’ divinity):


“Then Jesus, still teaching in the temple courts, cried out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I am from. I am not here on my own authority, but he who sent me is true. You do not know him, but I know him because I am from him and he sent me.””[58]

Yet, Trinitarians insist that “God, the Son” is coequal to “God, the Father”


Furthermore, as shown above, Jesus declared himself to be a prophet, so how could he be “God”?[59]  When he entered Jerusalem, the people welcomed him, referring to him by various titles such as “son of David”, “…he who comes in the name of the Lord” and “the prophet from Nazareth…”  All of these titles denote a very human Jesus.  


But what about the passages from the New Testament which state that Jesus was “worshiped”, such as after the resurrection?  We already discussed the story of the Magi, which was nothing more than fiction.  However, there are other places in the Gospels where people are depicted as “worshiping” Jesus, and Jesus apparently accepted this devotion.  Yet, in the Gospel of Mark, no such incidents are related.  The Gospel of Matthew claims that Jesus was worshiped by his followers (Matthew 14:33, 28:9, 28:17), and so does the Gospel of Luke (Luke 24:52) and the Gospel of John (John 9:38).  However, scholars have pointed out that these verses do not prove that Jesus was worshiped as God.  According to James Dunn (emphasis in the original):


“..the use of proskynein in the sense of worship to Jesus seems to be rather limited.  And there is a hint of uncertainty or hesitation as to whether this is the appropriate way to speak of the reverence due to Jesus.”[60]

And as Laurence Brown has observed regarding the use of the Greek word “proskuneo” (emphasis in the original):


“Taken in total, proskuneo can only imply divinity if Peter, David, and Elisha, among others, are included.  Otherwise, selective translation must be assumed, for when the Roman soldiers proskuneo’ed to Jesus, they didn’t worship him, as the Bible translates.  Rather, they mocked him with the salute offered to the kings and leaders of their time.  Likewise, when the others proskuneo’ed to Peter, David, Elisha, the slave-master, et al. they showed their respect according to custom.  So, too, with Jesus.”[61]

Similarly, Geza Vermes notes:


“The only example in which the disciples call Jesus ‘Son of God’ and ‘worship him’ comes from a late legendary addition by Matthew to the story of Jesus walking on the water (Matthew 14:33).”[62]

Given that the divinity of Jesus is so central to Christianity, is it not rather amazing that the Gospels are so ambiguous about the worship of Jesus?  


Moving on, since Christians believe that Jesus was a divine Messiah, is there any evidence in the Tanakh that points to the divinity of this long-awaited ruler?  The evidence demonstrates clearly that the answer is no.  As Fatoohi observes:


“The Old Testament uses the term ‘Messiah’ 39 times, applying it to a number of different individuals who held various positions. […]

All of these historical ‘anointed’ individuals were human beings.  The Old Testament does not suggest any of them had any divine quality, so the term ‘Messiah’ is not associated with any form of divinity.”[63]

            Next, we stated above that Jesus preached the importance of repentance before the coming of the kingdom of God.  While he acknowledged that no one (including himself) knew when this would happen, he stated that it would occur within the lifetimes of the people present with him (i.e. the disciples).[64]  The importance of this cannot be understated, for not only does Jesus admit that he is not all-knowing, he is actually quoted as making a false prophecy about the imminent arrival of the kingdom of God:


“Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door.  Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”[65]

In this statement, Jesus clearly states that the generation that was alive in his time would live to see the events of the end times, including his second coming.  This becomes undeniable when we look at other verses from the Gospels which are even clearer:


“And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.””[66]

Obviously, this did not happen.  It has been 2,000 years since Jesus allegedly said this and the kingdom of God has not arrived, and the generation of the disciples has been dead for all that time.  Of course, Christian apologists have realized the implications and so have tried to reinterpret the word “generation”.  But Mark 9:1 and Matthew 16:28 refute this claim.  Jesus was clearly referring to the people who were with him (i.e. the disciples).  The last disciple (John) is said to have died around 100 C.E., and the “kingdom of God” has yet to come.


Even so, some apologists have posited an absurd explanation which actually turns the prophecy into an unnecessary and equally absurd statement.  The argument is that the word “generation” does not refer to the generation of the disciples or even of the Jews, but of mankind in general.[67]   In other words, according to these apologists, Jesus was saying that mankind will not pass away until the kingdom of God returns!  If that is what Jesus truly meant, then he was stating the obvious since it does not take a rocket scientist to realize that the end times and the second coming cannot occur if mankind has already passed away.  Clearly, this argument is untenable and illogical.  It was a false prophecy, and there is no other way to look at it.  But was it actually uttered by Jesus?  According to Geza Vermes, it is unlikely:


“The belief that the Second Coming would occur during the lifetime of the contemporaries of Jesus was part of the expectation of the early church.”[68]

In any case, since it is clear that Jesus had limited knowledge, how can Christians insist that he was “all-knowing”, as the Gospel of John claims?  How can Jesus “know all things” and yet not know all things at the same time?  No amount of mental gymnastics can reconcile this contradiction.  

            Additionally, we should note that the Gospel of John does not repeat the incident where Jesus admitted that he did not know when the end would come or his false prophecy about the generation of the disciples living to see his second coming.  Is that mere coincidence or is it that the author realized the contradiction between claiming on the one hand that Jesus knew all things and yet admitting on the other that he did not?  Clearly, the latter scenario is far more likely.

            Moving on, let us discuss the issue of Jesus’ many miracles.  According to the Gospels, Jesus performed various types of miracles, such as healing lepers, driving out demons and raising the dead.  Of course, the fact that Jesus performed miracles would not prove that he was divine, since miracles are part and parcel of Biblical stories and were performed by a select group of people.  Yet, the Gospels claim that this is exactly how many people reacted when they witnessed Jesus’ miracles.  For example, Matthew 14:33 claims that after Jesus calmed a storm, the people “worshiped him” and declared:


“Truly you are the Son of God.”

This is, of course, nothing more than an invention of the Gospels and has no precedence in the Bible.  As Fatoohi states:


“The fact is that the link between the title Messiah, sonship of God, and performing miracles is a first century Christian invention that had no origin in Judaism.”[69]

In addition, according to the Gospel of John, Jesus himself stated that his “works” proved that he was sent by God, and not that he was divine:


“I have testimony weightier than that of John [the Baptist]. For the works that the Father has given me to finish—the very works that I am doing—testify that the Father has sent me.”[70]

This is actually confirmed by the Quran as well, which states that Jesus did not perform miracles by his own power but by the power of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He).[71]  Surely, if Jesus was divine, he could have done all of the wondrous works by himself.

            But what about healing the sick and forgiving sins?  Does that mean that Jesus was divine?  Actually, it does not since, as we just saw, Jesus admitted that he did not do anything on his own authority but with the authority of God.[72]  Also, as Vermes observes (emphasis in the original):


“…the expression attributed to Jesus is in the passive form (‘your sins are forgiven’, not ‘I forgive your sins’, and consequently has no such implications.”[73]

Vermes also points out that in some Jewish sources, such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, the idea of forgiving sins by humans had a precedent but still implied the actual act of forgiving sins to God.  He explains that:


“The Aramaic Prayer of Nabonidus, among the Dead Sea Scrolls, is couched in less careful language.  There Nabonidus, the last Babylonian king, attributes his recent recovery from a long illness to the intervention of a Jewish exorcist who forgave his sins (4Q242).  Granting pardon figures in the active form when it is done by God himself.”[74]

Hence, Jesus’ alleged forgiveness of sins cannot be used as evidence of his divinity.

            From all of the evidence presented, we can see that the New Testament is dreadfully inconsistent regarding the nature of Jesus.  While in some places, his divinity is plainly stated, in far more places, his humanity is clearly advocated.  Christians may attempt to dismiss these inconsistencies by claiming that Jesus was both human and divine, but as we discussed above, the divine nature should have always taken precedence.  Hence, even if Jesus had a human body, he should not have felt hunger or fear and he should not have been ignorant of anything.  Since the divine nature clearly did not take precedence, it must not have been present and the idea of Jesus’ divinity was purely an invention.


Jesus in the Quran

            As we previously stated, Muslims regard Isa (peace be upon him) as a man and a prophet of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He).  This belief is clearly demonstrated by the descriptions of him as found throughout the Holy Quran. 

            First and foremost, the Quran declares that Isa (peace be upon him) is not divine, but a creation of Allah (Gloried and Exalted), in the same way that Adam (peace be upon him) was also a creation.  The Quran declares:


“The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: "Be".  And he was.”[75]

“He was no more than a servant: We granted Our favour to him, and We made him an example to the Children of Israel.”[76]

            Isa (peace be upon him) is also described as a servant of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He), who worshiped Him only.  It also denies that the blessed prophet ever claimed to be divine:


“Christ disdaineth not to serve and worship Allah, nor do the angels, those nearest (to Allah): those who disdain His worship and are arrogant,-He will gather them all together unto Himself to (answer).”[77]

“In blasphemy indeed are those that say that Allah is Christ the son of Mary. Say: "Who then hath the least power against Allah, if His will were to destroy Christ the son of Mary, his mother, and all everyone that is on the earth? For to Allah belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between. He createth what He pleaseth. For Allah hath power over all things."”[78]

“Christ the son of Mary was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allah doth make His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth!”[79]

“He [Jesus] said: "I am indeed a servant of Allah: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet; "And He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live; "(He) hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable; "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)"!”[80]

“[Jesus said] Verily Allah is my Lord and your Lord: Him therefore serve ye: this is a Way that is straight.”[81]

“Say: "If (Allah) Most Gracious had a son, I would be the first to worship." Glory to the Lord of the heavens and the earth, the Lord of the Throne (of Authority)! (He is free) from the things they attribute (to him)!”[82]

Hence, according to the Quran, Isa (peace be upon him) was no more than a man and a righteous servant of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He).[83]   Ironically, this belief is also found in the Gospels, which clearly demonstrate Jesus’ humanity, though they also simultaneously claim that he was “God-incarnate”.    


Conclusion

            In this article, we discussed the Biblical and Quranic views on Jesus/Isa (peace be upon him).  While the Quran emphatically and consistently shows him to be a creation of Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) and His servant/prophet, the New Testament fails to offer a consistent description of him.  While the New Testament does, in some places, propose the idea of Jesus’ divinity, such examples are contradicted by many more examples of his humanity.  Christian attempts to explain this using the concept of the “hypostatic union”, while simultaneously claiming that the divine nature always took precedence, are self-contradictory and illogical.  Hence, the only reasonable conclusion is that the New Testament is not a reliable source on the nature of Jesus, but that it does at the very least, show a very human Jesus who thus could not be “God incarnate”.  This view is in complete agreement with the Holy Quran.  Therefore, Christians must ask themselves why they continue to worship the man Jesus and more importantly, how can they justify it? 

And Allah knows best!




In addition, John 1:14 states:

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

[2] Louay Fatoohi, Jesus the Muslim Prophet: History Speaks of a Human Messiah Not a Divine Christ (Birmingham: Luna Plena Publishing, 2010), p. 9.  Fatoohi explains that (emphasis in the original):

“The Qur’an considers Jesus a man.  He was not God or a god.  He had no divine quality.  He is portrayed in the Qur’an as a prophet of Islam.”

[3] Christians maintain that the coming of Jesus was prophesied in the Hebrew Bible (the Tanakh), but as we have seen elsewhere, there is no evidence in the Tanakh to indicate this.  See our article “The Gospel of Matthew and the Tanakh: An Analysis of Alleged Prophecies About Jesus” for a thorough discussion of this issue.

[4] Of course, as previously noted, the Gospel of John claims that Jesus had always existed (John 1:14).

[5] Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:26-27.

[6] Matthew 1:25.

[7] Matthew 2:1-2.  As we will see in the analysis of the story, the exact origin of the Magi is not so clear-cut.

[8] Matthew 2:16.  As we have pointed out in the article mentioned above (note #3), the so-called “Massacre of the Innocents” is a historical fiction.  No historical source from the time, whether Christian, Jewish or Roman, mentions this horrible incident taking place.  The author of the Gospel of Matthew invented the incident in order to “fulfill” an alleged “prophecy” from the Tanakh.  However, this “prophecy” was not a Messianic prophecy.  If Herod actually did resort to murder to eliminate any perceived threat to his rule by the infant Jesus, the ensuing “massacre” did not happen the way the Gospel of Matthew claimed it did.  In any case, there is simply no historical evidence in either case. 

[9] Matthew 2:13.

[10] Matthew 3:13.

[11] Mark 1:9-11; Matthew 3:16-17; Luke 3:21-22.

[12] Mark 1:12-13; Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1.  Mark states that the “Spirit” sent him into the wilderness, while both Matthew and Luke state that he was “led” by the Spirit.

[13] Matthew 4:2; Luke 4:2.

[14] Matthew 4:3-11.  See also Luke 4:3-13.

[15] Matthew 6:6.

[16] Mark 1:35, Mark 14:35; Matthew 26:39; Luke 5:16; Luke 22: 41-44; John 17:1.

[17] Mark 4: 1-20; Matthew 13:24; Luke 8:1-15.  Jesus explained that the sower was himself when his disciples asked him to explain the meaning of the “parable of the weeds”:

“Then he left the crowd and went into the house. His disciples came to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”  He answered, “The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels” (Matthew 13:36-39).

[18] Mark 6:4; Matthew 13:57.

[19] Matthew 21:11.

[20] Mark 11: 27-33; Matthew 21:23-27; Luke 20:8.

[21] Mark: 13:32; Matthew 24:36.  Luke omits this section.

[22] Mark 13:30; Matthew 24:34; Luke 21:33.

[23] John 21:17.

[24] Matthew 4:23-25.  See also Mark 1:21-34, Matthew 8 and Luke 4.

[25] Matthew 14:33.

[26] Mark 2: 1-5; Matthew 9:2; Luke 5:17-20.

[27] Matthew 12:24-28.  In Luke 11:20, Jesus stated that he drove out demons “by the finger of God”.  According to John 5:19, Jesus also stated:

“Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”

[28] Mark 15:34; Matthew 27:46.

[29] Mark 15:39; Matthew 27:54.  However, Luke 23:47 has the centurion say something else entirely:

“The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.””

[30] Matthew 28:9.

[31] Matthew 28:10.

[32] Luke 24:52.

[33] Bruce M. Metzger, The Canon of the New Testament: Its Origin, Development, and Significance (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), p. x.

[34] It should be noted that, like the story of Herod’s massacre of the children of Bethlehem, the story of the Magi is not found in the other Gospels. 

[35] Isaiah 47:13-14.

[36] Matthew 2:11.

[37] See also Mark 6:4, where Jesus states that a prophet is “not without honor except…among his relatives…”  How could this be if Mary had witnessed the Magi worshiping her son right in front of her shortly after he was born?  Surely, she must have realized that he was no ordinary child!  She also knew that Jesus’ conception and birth was a miracle, so she had no reason to think that he was just a normal child. 

[38] Geza Vermes, The Nativity: History and Legend (London: Penguin Books, 2006), p. 112.  Vermes observes:

“It is conceivable that another relatively recent event influenced Matthew and prompted him to introduce the Magi into his narrative.  This was the visit to Rome in the late 50s or early 60s AD of the Armenian king Tiridates and his courtiers, whom Pliny the Elder designates as Magi (Natural History 30:6, 16-17).  This Tiridates is said to have come to Rome  to worship the emperor-god Nero in the same way as Matthew’s Magi came to worship the newborn Messiah of the Jews.  A further curious coincidence  which may have caught Matthew’s attention is a detail noted by the Roman chronicler Cassius Dio.  After Tiridates  had been confirmed by Nero as king, this group of ‘Magi,’ like the ‘wise men’ of the New Testament, did not return by the same route as the one they followed coming to Rome (Roman History 63:1-7).”

[39] Similarly, in Hinduism, the various “demigods” are worshiped despite the fact that they in turn worshiped Krishna, the “Supreme Lord”.  According to one Hindu source:

“Anyone who thinks that God and the demigods are on the same level is called an atheist, or pasandi. Even the great demigods like Brahma and Shiva cannot be compared to the Supreme Lord. In fact the Lord is worshiped by the demigods such as Brahma and Shiva (siva-virinci-nutam)” (http://krishna.org/worshiping-demigods-works-but/)

When we think about it, this sounds a lot like the Christian view of Jesus.  Jesus was clearly inferior to God and prayed to him.  Yet Christians still worship him as “God”, just like Hindus worship the so-called “demigods” even though these “demigods” worshiped the so-called “supreme lord” Krishna.  And of course, Krishna was the so-called “avatar” of God on earth.  In other words, he was allegedly “God” made flesh!

[40] Mark 1:4.

[41] Geza Vermes, The Authentic Gospel of Jesus (London: Penguin Books, 2003), p. 269.

[42] Ibid. 

[43] John 15:26.

[44] Mark 9:37; Matthew 10:40; Luke 10:16; John 14:26.

[45] Interestingly, Jesus’ amazing feat of fasting for forty days and forty nights without any sustenance is not without precedence.  According to Exodus 34:28, Moses also fasted for forty days and forty nights without sustenance:

“Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments.”

[46] In contrast, the Quran states unequivocally that Allah (Glorified and Exalted be He) does not need sustenance:

“Say: "Shall I take for my protector any other than Allah, the Maker of the heavens and the earth? And He it is that feedeth but is not fed." Say: "Nay! But I am commanded to be the first of those who bow to Allah (in Islam), and be not thou of the company of those who join gods with Allah"” (Surah Al-Anaam, 6:14, Yusuf Ali Translation).

“I have only created Jinns and men, that they may serve Me.  No Sustenance do I require of them, nor do I require that they should feed Me.  For Allah is He Who gives (all) Sustenance,- Lord of Power,- Steadfast (forever)” (Surah Ad-Dhariyat, 51:56-57).

Moreover, the Quran pointed to Jesus’ obvious humanity by referring to the fact that he had to eat food for sustenance just as all of humans do:

“Christ the son of Mary was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allah doth make His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth” (Surah Al-Maeda, 5:75).

[47] The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Theology, Edited by Alan Richardson and John Bowden.  Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1983, p. 169.

[48] This only further shows that the concept of Jesus’ divinity and consequently, the theory of the “hypostatic union” as well, are all later developments in Christian theology, concocted by the Church to explain the contradictory representations of Jesus in the Gospels.

[49] Add to that the fact that Satan was able to show Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world” simply by taking him “to a very high mountain,” a feat which would have been possible only if the earth was flat and not round.  It would also have to a very high mountain indeed!

[50] Matthew 4:7; Luke 4:12.

[51] Vermes, The Authentic Gospel of Jesus, op. cit., p. 195.

[52] For example, Acts 7:59 states that Stephen prayed to Jesus.

[53] In an email correspondence between a Christian and myself, the former wrote:

“Jesus was fully man and fully God. God the Son prayed to God the Father. I also believe He did this to show an example of how people are to approach God.”

[54] Matthew 13:37.

[55] Luke 3:38.

[56] Matthew 22:45.  See the aforementioned article on the Gospel of Matthew and prophecies about Jesus for an explanation of why the Psalm in question was not referring to the Messiah.

[57] Matthew 28:18.  In this verse, Jesus also instructed his disciples to preach to all nations and baptize them “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”.  However, as Geza Vermes notes, this verse is exclusive to Matthew and, furthermore, contradicts Jesus’ earlier statements:

“The saying is ascribed to the risen Jesus appearing on a Galilean mountain, an event foretold in Mark…but attested exclusively in Matthew.  The main message, viz. a worldwide mission of the envoys of Jesus, contradicts his prohibition on approaching non-Jews.  In fact, the passage contains further ideas unrecorded elsewhere in the New Testament.  Here Jesus claims all authority in heaven and on earth.  Previously he is said to be endowed only with authority on earth to forgive sins” (The Authentic Gospel of Jesus, op. cit., p. 333).

[58] John 7:28-29.

[59] In the Tanakh, the prophets are frequently referred to as the “servants” of God.  See 1 Kings 14:18, 2 Kings 9:7, 2 Kings 14:25, Ezra 9:11, Jeremiah 7:25, Daniel 9:6, Amos 3:7, and Zechariah 1:6.  Even the Book of Revelation refers to the prophets as such!  See Revelation 10:7 and 11:18.

[60] James D. G. Dunn, Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?  The New Testament Evidence (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2010), p. 12.

[61] Laurence B. Brown, MisGod’ed: A Roadmap for Guidance and Misguidance in the Abrahamic Religions (Booksurge, 2008), p. 171.  Kindle Edition.

[62] Vermes, The Authentic Gospel of Jesus, op. cit., p. 402.

[63] Fatoohi, op. cit., p. 29.  See also C. Dennis McKinsey, The Encyclopedia of the Biblical Errancy (New York: Prometheus Books, 1995), pp. 111-112.

[64] This is not even the only example of Jesus’ limited knowledge.  We find numerous examples in the Gospels such as the following:

“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry.  Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs.  Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it” (Mark 11:12-14).

“And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her.  She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.  “Who touched me?” Jesus asked.  When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”  But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me”” (Luke 8:43-46).

[65] Mark 13:29-31.  See also Matthew 24:34 and Luke 21:32.

[66] Mark 9:1.  See Also Matthew 16:28.

[68] Vermes, The Authentic Gospel of Jesus, op. cit., p. 299.

[69] Fatoohi, op. cit., p. 53.

[70] John 5:36.  See also 5:19 and 5:30.

[71] Surah Al-Imran, 3:49.

[72] In fact, even in those passages where Jesus specifically states that he can forgive sins, it nevertheless mentions that he has the authority to do so, which implies that the authority is not his own but that of God.  As Vermes states:

“…the phrase ‘that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ should also be understood in the sense of declaring on earth a heavenly pardon” (The Authentic Gospel of Jesus, op. cit., p. 41).

[73] Ibid., p. 40.

[74] Ibid., p. 41.

[75] Surah Al-Imran, 3:59.

[76] Surah Az-Zukhruf, 43:59.

[77] Surah An-Nisa, 4:172.

[78] Surah Al-Maeda, 5:17.

[79] Surah Al-Maeda, 5:75.

[80] Surah Maryam, 19:30-33.

[81] Surah Maryam, 19:35.

[82] Surah Az-Zukhruf, 43:81-82.

[83] For more on the Islamic perspective of Isa (peace be upon him), the reader may consult the following:

Suzanne Haneef, A History of the Prophets of Islam: Derived from the Quran, Ahadith and Commentaries (Chicago: Kazi Publications, Inc., 2003), Volume 2, pp. 339-479.

6 comments:

  1. If Jesus was just another prophet and Muhammed the greatest prophet of them all, why did Muhammed call Jesus Christ (=King)? Perhaps he did not know that he actually placed Jesus above himself when doing so.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello Anonymous! Welcome to the blog!

    Jesus (peace be upon him) was indeed a prophet. Even the New Testament says so, as I showed in the article. I am not sure where you got the idea that Muhammad (peace be upon him) called Jesus "king". Even if he did, how does that prove that Jesus is "God"? Muhammad (peace be upon him) certainly did not believe that.

    I also noticed that you did not actually respond to any of the arguments I made in the article. How do you explain the contradictions in the New Testament about Jesus? For example, how could Jesus be all-knowing yet not be all-knowing?

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Faiz! Christ or Xristos (Χριστός) is a Greek translation of Hebrew Mašíaḥ which literally means "the Annointed", i.e the King. In the text above, Jesus is refered to as Christ by Muhammed.

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    Replies
    1. Hello Anonymous. Jesus (peace be upon him) was indeed the Messiah. The title indeed means "the Anointed". But who "anointed" him? It was Allah, his Lord and Creator!

      Jesus being the Messiah does not mean he was regarded as being superior to Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Quran states Muslims do not prefer one prophet over another:

      "Say ye: "We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam)."" (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:136)

      They were all brothers. In fact, when Muhammad (peace be upon him) ascended to Heaven, he met all the prophets including Jesus (peace be upon him), who greeted him as a brother:

      "Narrated Malik bin Sasaa: That the Prophet talked to them about the night of his Ascension to the heavens. He said, "(Then Gabriel took me) and ascended up till he reached the second heaven where he asked for the gate to be opened, but it was asked, 'Who is it?' Gabriel replied, 'I am Gabriel.' It was asked, 'Who is accompanying you?' He replied, 'Muhammad.' It was asked, 'Has he been called?' He said, 'Yes.' When we reached over the second heaven, I saw Yahya (i.e. John) and jesus who were cousins. Gabriel said, 'These are John (Yahya) and Jesus, so greet them.' I greeted them and they returned the greeting saying, 'Welcome, O Pious Brother and Pious Prophet!"" (Sahih Muslim, Book 55, #640).

      You still have not responded to any of the points I raised about the New Testament's contradictions about Jesus. How could he be "all-knowing" yet not be all-knowing?

      Delete
  4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xn7WAtVrvSs

    May you too see the light one day - remember that everyone who seek will find. Bye Faiz, and good luck.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous, I hope you are not going away! Please stay and let us discuss further. See the following:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPt6fz1leT0

      Allah is the Light! If you seek Him, He will find you! If you take one step towards Him, He will come running to you!

      Delete