December 14, 2004

The Islamic and Christian views of Jesus: a comparison

[taken from SoundVision.com]

The person of Jesus or Isa in Arabic (peace be upon him) is of great significance
in both Islam and Christianity. However, there are differences in terms of beliefs
about the nature and life occurrences of this noble Messenger.

Source of information about Jesus in Islam

Most of the Islamic information about Jesus is actually found in the Quran.

The Quran was revealed by God to Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon
him), and memorized and written down in his lifetime. Today, anyone who calls
him or herself a Muslim believes in the complete authenticity of the Quran as
the original revealed guidance from God.

Source of information about Jesus in Christianity

Christians take their information about Jesus from the Bible, which includes
the Old and New Testaments.

These contain four biblical narratives covering the life and death of Jesus.
They have been written, according to tradition, respectively by Matthew, Mark,
Luke and John. They are placed at the beginning of the New Testament and comprise
close to half of it.

Encyclopedia Britannica notes that none of the sources of his life and work
can be traced to Jesus himself; he did not leave a single known written word.
Also, there are no contemporary accounts written of his life and death. What
can be established about the historical Jesus depends almost without exception
on Christian traditions, especially on the material used in the composition
of the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, which reflect the outlook of the
later church and its faith in Jesus.

Below are the views of Islam and Christianity based on primary source texts
and core beliefs.

ISLAM

1. Do Muslims believe he was a Messenger of One God? YES

Belief in all of the Prophets and Messengers of God is a fundamental article
of faith in Islam. Thus, believing in Prophets Adam, Jesus, Moses, and Muhammad
(peace and blessings be upon them) is a requirement for anyone who calls him
or herself a Muslim. A person claiming to be a Muslim who, for instance, denies
the Messengership of Jesus, is not considered a Muslim.

The Quran says in reference to the status of Jesus as a Messenger:

 

“The Messiah (Jesus), son of Mary, was no more than a Messenger before
whom many Messengers have passed away; and his mother adhered wholly to truthfulness,
and they both ate food (as other mortals do). See how We make Our signs clear
to them; and see where they are turning away!” (Quran 5:75).

 

2. Do Muslims believe he was born of a Virgin Mother? YES

Like Christians, Muslims believe Mary, Maria in Spanish, or Maryam as she is
called in Arabic, was a chaste, virgin woman, who miraculously gave birth to
Jesus.

 

“Relate in the Book the story of Mary, when she withdrew from her family,
to a place in the East. She screened herself from them; then We sent to her
Our spirit (angel Gabriel) and he appeared before her as a man in all respects.
She said: I seek refuge from you in God Most Gracious (come not near) if you
do fear God. He said: Nay, I am only a Messenger from your Lord, to announce
to you the gift of a pure son. She said: How shall I have a son, when no man
has ever touched me, and I am not unchaste? He said: So it will be, your Lord
says: ?That is easy for Me; and We wish to appoint him as a sign unto men
and a Mercy from Us’: It was a matter so decreed” (Quran 19:16-21).

 

3. Do Muslims believe Jesus had a miraculous birth? YES

The Quran says:

 

“She (Mary) said: ?O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man
has touched me.’ He (God) said: ?So (it will be) for God creates what He
wills. When He has decreed something, He says to it only: ?Be!’- and it
is” (3:47).

 

It should also be noted about his birth that:

 

“Verily, the likeness of Jesus in God’s Sight is the likeness of Adam.
He (God) created him from dust, then (He) said to him: ?Be!’-and he was”
(Quran 3:59).

 

4. Do Muslims believe Jesus spoke in the cradle? YES

 

“Then she (Mary) pointed to him. They said: ?How can we talk to one
who is a child in the cradle?’ He (Jesus) said: ?Verily! I am a slave of
God, He has given me the Scripture and made me a Prophet; ” (19:29-30).

 

5. Do Muslims believe he performed miracles? YES

Muslims, like Christians believe Jesus performed miracles. But these were performed
by the will and permission of God, Who has power and control over all things.

 

“Then will God say: ?O Jesus the son of Mary! recount My favor to
you and to your mother. Behold! I strengthened you with the Holy Spirit (the
angel Gabriel) so that you did speak to the people in childhood and in maturity.
Behold! I taught you the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel. And behold:
you make out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and you
breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by My leave, and you heal those born
blind, and the lepers by My leave. And behold! you bring forth the dead by My
leave. And behold! I did restrain the children of Israel from (violence to you)
when you did show them the Clear Signs, and the unbelievers among them said:
?This is nothing but evident magic’ (5:110).

 

6. Do Muslims believe in the Trinity? NO

Muslims believe in the Absolute Oneness of God, Who is a Supreme Being free
of human limitations, needs and wants. He has no partners in His Divinity. He
is the Creator of everything and is completely separate from His creation.

God says in the Quran regarding the Trinity:

 

“People of the Book (Jews and Christians)! Do not exceed the limits in
your religion, and attribute to God nothing except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus,
son of Mary, was only a Messenger of God, and His command that He conveyed unto
Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in God and in His Messengers, and do
not say: ?God is a Trinity.’ Give up this assertion; it would be better
for you. God is indeed just One God. Far be it from His glory that He should
have a son. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth. God
is sufficient for a guardian” (Quran 4:171).

 

7. Do Muslims believe that Jesus was the son of God? NO

 

“Say: “God is Unique! God, the Source [of everything]. He has not fathered
anyone nor was He fathered, and there is nothing comparable to Him!” (Quran
112:1-4).

 

The Quran also states:

 

“Such was Jesus, the son of Mary; it is a statement of truth, about which
they vainly dispute. It is not befitting to the majesty of God, that He should
beget a son. Glory be to Him! When He determines a matter, He only says to it,
?Be’ and it is” (Quran 19:34-35).

 

8. Do Muslims believe Jesus was killed on the cross then resurrected? NO

 

“And because of their saying, ?We killed Messiah Jesus, son of Mary,
the Messenger of God’- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but the resemblance
of Jesus was put over another man (and they killed that man), and those who
differ therein are full of doubts. They have no knowledge, they follow nothing
but conjecture. For surely they killed him not (Jesus, son of Mary). But God
raised him (Jesus) up unto Himself. And God is ever All-Powerful, All-Wise”
(Quran 4:157-158).

 

CHRISTIANITY

1. Do Christians believe Jesus was a human being and
Messenger of God? YES & NO

With the exception of Unitarian Christians, who like
all the early followers of Jesus, still do not believe in the Trinity, most
Christians now believe in the Divinity of Jesus, which is connected to the belief
in Trinity. They say he is the second member of the Triune God, the Son of the
first part of the Triune God, and at the same time “fully” God in every respect.?

2. Do Christians believe he was born of a Virgin Mother?
YES

A chaste and pious human woman who gave birth to Jesus
Christ, the second member of the Trinity, the Son of God, and at the same time
“fully” God Almighty in every respect.

Christians believe however, that while she was a virgin,
she was married to a man named Joseph (Bible: Matthew:1:18). According to Matthew
1:25, Joseph “kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called
His name Jesus”.

3. Do Christians believe he had a miraculous birth?
YES

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When
His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she
was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit” (Bible: Matthew 1:18)

4. Do Christians believe he performed miracles? YES

 

“And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant
to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretches out
thy hand to heal, and sign and wonders are performed through the name of thy
holy servant Jesus (Bible: Acts 4:30).

 

Christians believe that Jesus performed these miracles
because he was the Son of God as well as the incarnation of God.?

5. Do Christians believe in the Trinity? YES

With the exception of the Unitarian Christians, who do
not believe in the Divinity of Christ, the Trinity, according to the Catholic
encyclopedia, is the term used for the central doctrine of the Christian religion.
The belief is that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three Persons, the
Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three Persons or beings are distinct
from each another, while being similar in character: uncreated and omnipotent.

The First Vatican Council has explained the meaning to
be attributed to the term mystery in theology. It lays down that a mystery
is a truth which we are not merely incapable of discovering apart from Divine
Revelation, but which, even when revealed, remains “hidden by the veil of faith
and enveloped, so to speak, by a kind of darkness” (Const., “De fide. cath.”,
iv). The First Vatican Council further defined that the Christian Faith contains
mysteries strictly so called (can. 4). All theologians admit that the doctrine
of the Trinity is of the number of these. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that
of all revealed truths, this is the most impenetrable to reason.

 

6. Do Christians believe that Jesus was the son of
God? YES

 

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only
Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For
God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world
might be saved through Him (Bible: John 3:16).

 

However, it is interesting to note that the term “son
of God” is used in other parts of the Bible to refer to Adam (Bible: Luke
3:38), Israel (Bible: Exodus 4:22) and David (Bible: Psalms 2:7) as well. The
creatures of God are usually referred to in the Bible as children of God.

The role of Paul of Tarsus in shaping this belief
and the belief in Trinity

The notion of Jesus as son of God is something that was
established under the influence of Paul of Tarsus (originally named Saul), who
had been an enemy of Jesus, but later changed course and joined the disciples
after the departure of Jesus.

Later, however, he initiated a number of changes into
early Christian teachings, in contradiction, for instance, to disciples like
Barnabas, who believed in the Oneness of God and who had actually lived and
met with Jesus.

Paul is considered by a number of Christian scholars
to be the father of Christianity due to his additions of the following ideas:

  •  
    • that Jesus is the son of God,
    • the concept of Atonement,
    • the renunciation of the Law of the Torah.

Paul did these things in hopes of winning over the Gentiles
(non-Jewish people). His letters are another of the primary sources of information
on Jesus according to the Christian tradition.

The original followers of Prophet Jesus opposed these
blatant misrepresentations of the message of Jesus. They struggled to reject
the notion of the Divinity of Jesus for close to 200 years.

One person who was an original follower of Jesus was
Barnabas. He was a Jew born in Cyrus and a successful preacher of the teachings
of Jesus. Because of his closeness to Jesus, he was an important member of the
small group of disciples in Jerusalem who had had gathered together following
the disappearance of Jesus.

The question of Jesus’s nature, origin and relationship
with God was not raised amongst Barnabas and the small group of disciples. Jesus
was considered a man miraculously endowed by God. Nothing in the words of Jesus
or the events in his life led them to modify this view.

The Gospel of Barnabas was accepted as a Canonical Gospel
in the Churches of Alexandria till 325 CE Iranaeus (130-200) wrote in support
of pure monotheism and opposed Paul for injecting into Christianity doctrines
of the pagan Roman religion and Platonic philosophy. He quoted extensively from
the Gospel of Barnabas in support of his views. This indicates that the Gospel
of Barnabas was in circulation in the first and second centuries of Christianity.?

In 325 (CE), a council of Christian leaders met at Nicaea
and made Paul’s beliefs officially part of Christian doctrine. It also ordered
that all original Gospels in Hebrew script which contradicted Paul’s beliefs
should be destroyed. An edict was issued that anyone in possession of these
Gospels would be put to death.

The Gospel of Barnabas has miraculously survived though.

7. Do Christians believe he was killed on the cross?
YES

This is a core Christian belief and it relates to the
concept of atonement. According to this belief, Jesus died to save mankind from
sin. However, this is not stated explicitly in the four gospels which form the
primary source texts of Christianity. It is found, however, in Romans 6:8,9.

Christians believe Jesus was spat on, cut, humiliated,
kicked, striped and finally hung up on the cross to endure a slow and painful
death.

According, to Christian belief, the original sin of Adam
and Eve of eating from the forbidden tree was so great that God could not forgive
it by simply willing it, rather it was necessary to erase it with the blood
of a sinless, innocent Jesus.

Resurrection

The four Gospels and the Epistles of St. Paul are the
main sources of Christianity which discuss the Resurrection of Jesus after his
crucifixion. According to St. Matthew, Jesus appeared to the holy women, and
again on a mountain in Galilee. Mark’s Gospel tells a different story: Jesus
was seen by Mary Magdalene, by the two disciples at Emmaus, and the Eleven before
his Ascension into heaven.

Luke’s Gospel says Jesus walked with the disciples to
Emmaus, appeared to Peter and to the assembled disciples in Jerusalem. In John’s
Gospel, Jesus appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the ten Apostles on Easter Sunday,
to the Eleven a week later, and to seven disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.

Another account of the resurrection by St. Paul is found
in Bible: Corinthians 15: 3-8.

According to Christian belief, Resurrection is a manifestation
of God’s justice, Who exalted Christ to a life of glory, as Christ had humbled
himself unto death (Phil., 2: 8-9). This event also completes the mystery of
Christian salvation and redemption. The death of Jesus frees believers from
sin, and with his resurrection, he restores to them the most important privileges
lost by sin (Bible: Romans 4:25).

More importantly, the belief in the resurrection of Jesus
indicates Christian acknowledgment of Christ as the immortal God, the cause
of believers’ own resurrection (Bible: I Corinthians 4: 21; Phil., 3:20-21),
as well as the model and the support of a new life of grace (Bible: Romans 4:
4-6; 9-11).

MORE ON ISLAM AND CHRISTIANITY

The
other Ansar: Companions of Prophet Jesus

John
the Baptist: A Prophet of Islam

Muslim-Christian
Relations, The Good, the Bad

For further study of a Muslim view of Jesus and Christianity read the following
books:
Jesus,
Prophet of Islam
by Muhammad ‘Ata’ur-Rahim
For
Christ Sake
by Ahmad Thomson and Muhammad ‘Ata’ur-Rahim

For a unique Christian view of the Islamic contribution
to the West read the following book:
Islam
and the Discovery of Freedom
by Rose Wilder Lane

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