Who Do Men Say I Am?
This topic can began with how Jesus and Islam have become a critical debate among various groups. This conflict has sparked continuous social tension that leaves a lot of confusion and unrest. There have been numerous scholars who claim they are the same in order to resolve what has been said. The idea is that there is no actual debate between them concerning who Jesus really was. The following are what some people see in common between Christians’ and Muslims’ beliefs. These would include how both Islam and Christianity are monotheistic religions which maintain that the universe was created by God, that God has given humanity a special revelation, and that there will be a final judgement. (Carson, Cole, Sweeney & Netland, 2017) Furthermore, there has been widespread media attention concerning the relationships between Muslims and Christians. In particular, ‘Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?’ This is very controversial among Christians in the United States. Many would argue for full agreement or have already tried to prove which side is wrong and which side is right, without looking at doctrine. For this reason, there is still some confusion and misapplication of beliefs regarding issues, political and otherwise. Rather than giving a direct answer to the question about whether Christians and Muslims worship the same God we could instead begin by looking at the similarities and differences in the beliefs of Muslims and Christians, detailing how both agree and disagree. (gospelcoalition.org.) However, the question ultimately comes down to who Jesus is. ‘And they said, some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.’ (Matthew 16:14) He is the Son of God and coequal and coeternal in the Godhead.
Islam emerged in the seventh century in what is today Saudi Arabia. The traditional account maintains that God revealed his will to Muhammad (AD 570?’632) in a series of revelations dictated by the angel Gabriel over roughly 20 years. (britannica.com) These revelations, codified and put into writing after Muhammad’s death, compose the Qur’an, accepted by Muslims as the Word of God. The Qur’an is said to be God’s definitive revelation, the culmination of earlier revelations to numerous prophets, including Jews and Christians (called ‘People of the Book’ in the Qur’an).Muhammad is said to be the last and greatest of the prophets. The Qur’an is the definitive and final revelation. Muslims insist Muhammad did not author the Qur’an; he was the passive recipient of dictated revelations. (Carson, Cole, Sweeney & Netland, 2017)
Muslims are united in their belief in one God, the Qur’an as God’s revelation, and Muhammad as God’s final prophet. They find unity of practice in the Five Pillars: (1) the shahada, or declaration of faith (‘There is no God but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God’); (2) prayer five times daily; (3) alms giving; (4) the fast of Ramadan; and, if possible, (5) pilgrimage to Mecca. However, they believe the true name of their god is Allah, which is a moon deity from the preexisting pantheon of Arabian paganism (Robin, 2012).
Both Christians and Muslims believe God has given a special revelation to humanity, but they disagree over the nature of this revelation. Muslims believe God revealed his will to various prophets in the past, including to the Hebrew prophets and to Jesus, but that the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible have been corrupted and thus are not authoritative. Similar to how many believe Christianity has abrogated Judaism, Islam believes they have abrogated Christianity. Islam teaches that Abraham put Ismael on the altar instead of Issac, and that the Hebrew scribes lied and changed it.
In addition, along the line of prophets, Muhammad is said to be the last and greatest of the prophets, and they claim Moses prophesied about Him in Deuteronomy 18:15 with, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken”, although this passage has been held by both Jews and Christians as actually referring to the Jewish Messiah.
By contrast, it has been a solid belief by Christians that, in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament, God has revealed himself. This is the belief that each book was the actual writing of God. Christians believe God superintended the process, and human authors wrote distinctively what God wanted to be written and that God’s breathed-out word would be delivered through human authors. The Old and New Testaments to Christians are the total and complete revelations that are special and that no other writings are to be added to the canon. By the end of the first century, the last of the New Testament writings was completed. This being more than five centuries before Muhammad is said to have received revelations. (gospelcoalition.org) There is no historical or textual evidence to support claims that the Bible Christians study is a corruption of an earlier revelation from God consistent with that of the Qu’ranic teachings.
Within the New Testament, there is an awareness that directs the believer to the proof of the incarnation of Jesus Christ as the highest point of God’s self-revelation (John 1.1; Heb. 1:1-3). Currently, the difference between Islam and Christian gospel has become more obvious. Traditionally, Islam has always denied any doctrines concerning the incarnation and trinity. However, In Christianity, the deity teachings of Jesus Christ has a central message of the gospel.
It is true Jesus is given a prominent place in the Qur’an. He is called the Messiah, Son of Mary, Messenger, Prophet, Servant, Word, and Spirit of God. Jesus is always spoken of with reverence in the Qur’an. His virgin conception is indicated in Surahs 3:45’48 and 19:18’22. A popular tradition about the young Isa (Qur’anic “Jesus” figure) giving life to clay birds in also to be found in Surah 3 of the Qur’an. However, the Qur’an omits Jesus’s teachings and rejects the notion Jesus is divine. For example, Isa explicitly denies he is to be identified with God (5:109’119). Particularly offensive to Muslims is the title ‘Son of God.’ There can be little doubt that Muhammad understood this title to imply the physical generation of the alleged Son from the Father, an implication he detested (23:90’93; cf. 112). The Qur’an also includes numerous denunciations of what was taken to be Christian teaching on the Trinity (cf. 4:171; 9:30’31). In fact, the Qur’an seems to assume Christians believe the Trinity consists of God the Father, the Virgin Mary, and their child’Jesus. This, of course, is not what the Bible teaches nor what orthodox Christians have historically affirmed as the Trinity.
The heart of the Christian message is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The faith lives inside the Christian holds fast that there is no gospel without the cross, for it is through the death of Jesus’ atonement which was made on the behalf of sinful humans for justification and reconciliation to be made possible with God. This gospel is said to be the gospel of good news proclaiming Jesus Christ as the incarnate Word and the Savior and Lord, through whose life, death, and resurrection we have forgiveness and redemption from sin. This brings new life through the indwelling power of the Spirit, giving restoration again with God. (gospelcoalition.org)
What may be a great surprise to the Christians, is that most Muslim deny Jesus’ dying on the cross. Surah 4:155’159 has been taken by many as claiming that although the Jewish leaders tried to kill Jesus, they ‘did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but they thought they did.’ For Muslims it’s unthinkable that God would allow Jesus, God’s anointed prophet, to be crucified. As Kenneth Cragg observes, ‘The event which is the very fount and heart of Christianity is held by Muslims to be unhistorical and incredible’ (Jesus and the Muslim, 166). There is in Islam no need for something like Christ’s atoning death, for each person is responsible for his or her own actions, period (Surah 36:54; 53:38; 82:19). Sin is not a matter of the total depravity of human nature but is more a weakness, defect, or flaw in human character (cf. 4:28; 30:54; 7:19’25).
It is a fundamental article of faith of Muslims that Isa (who they claim is Jesus), was a messenger of One God, a prophet. ‘It is a requirement for anyone who calls him or herself to be a Muslim to believe in Prophets, such as Adam, Jesus, Moses and Muhammad’… Any person claiming to be a Muslim that denies the Messenger ship of Jesus, is not considered a Muslim.’ (Soundvision.com)
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).
Muslims believe in the Absolute Oneness of God, ‘who is the creator of everything a Supreme Being who is free of all human limitations, needs and wants” Muslims do not believe in the Trinity. Within their belief God has no partners and in His divinity and He is completely detached from His creations’. (Carson, Cole, Sweeney & Netland, 2017)
Furthermore, ‘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). (Carson, Cole, Sweeney & Netland, 2017)
Muslims do not believe that Jesus was the son of God. 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).
Certainly, today there are some Christians that still believe in the Trinity, however there is a sect called the Unitarian Christians who do not hold these same beliefs of the Trinity. Now most Christians believe in the divinity of Jesus which claims the attachment belief In the Trinity. They confess that he is the second member of the triune God, first part of the triune being confessed as the son all being the fullness of God in every respect. According to the Catholic encyclopedia, Trinity, ‘is the term 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.’ (Joyce, 1912) Making them distinct these three Persons 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” (Joyce, 1912). The First Vatican Council further defined that the Christian Faith contains mysteries strictly so called. All theologians admit that the doctrine of the Trinity is among these. The Catholic Encyclopedia has noted that of all revealed truths, this is the most impenetrable to reason. (newadvent.org)
Christians do believe that Jesus was the son of God. “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 (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 (Luke 3:38), Israel (Exodus 4:22) and David (Psalms 2:7) as well. (biblehub.com) The creatures of God are usually referred to in the Bible as children of God.
About the draw and traction of Islam in general, Iman Mohamad Jawad Chirri quotes; “There are many factors which contributed, and are still contributing, to the spread of Islam. One of the main factors is the Holy Qur’an’It is an undeniable fact that the Qur’an is a living book that has influenced millions of people through its beauty and style. The superiority of the Qur’anic discourse was, and still is, challenging. The Qur’an itself called upon its opponents to try to produce a discourse that measures up to it. The Qur’an repeatedly states that if the opponents will produce at any time a comparable discourse, they will automatically disprove the whole faith of Islam. The Qur’an has remained standing above and beyond any comparison in the whole Arabic literature ever since its revelation in the 7th century. The Holy Qur’an, therefore, has remained since the time of its introduction until now a great source of attraction for the Islamic faith.” (Chirri)
In summary, I would like to say that I learned a great deal from my research comparison of Islam and Christianity’s beliefs of who Jesus was. There are some quotations within my research that I found very interesting as well as disturbing. Case in point, in the Qu ‘ran, Jesus is accepted and given a prominent place and even accepts the virgin conception but it omits the teachings of Him along with Jesus being divine. As a Christian, I do believe in the teachings of Jesus as well as His son-ship because of the Old and New Testament prophecies of the lineage of Jesus, as well as the teachings that clearly relate to His divine nature. With this I conclude that He is the Son of God and coequal and coeternal in the Godhead. His sheep hear His voice, and know who He is.
(n.d.). Retrieved June 14, 2017, from http://biblehub.com/kjv
Don Carson & Graham Cole & Douglas Sweeney & Harold A. Netland. (n.d.). The Message of Islam vs. The Gospel of Jesus. Retrieved June 14, 2017, from https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-message-of-islam-vs-the-gospel-of-jesus
Joyce, G. (1912). The Blessed Trinity. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved June 14, 2017 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15047a.htm
Robin Christian Julien (2012). Arabia and Ethopia. In The Oxford Handbook of Late Antiquity. OUP USA. Pp. 304-305.
Tayyab, A. A. (n.d.). Quran in English Language. Retrieved June 14, 2017, from http://qurango.com/english.html
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