Reasons for Islam’s Rejection of Biblical Christology

Islam views Muhammad as the last of all the prophets. He is perceived as having had a special relationship with God similar to that of the prophets of Israel.1 He is presented as strong-willed with the conviction of a strong calling, for he spoke to the heart of a religious and social crisis with passionate and revolutionary zeal.

 

He insisted that he was proclaiming God‘s message and not his own. He untiringly proclaimed that there is one God and that He tolerates no other gods besides Himself. Muhammad preached that this God requires unconditional obedience and submission, and he announced judgment for the wicked and rewards for the righteous.

 

When Muhammad refused the teaching that Jesus is God (Surah 5:72), he was in essence passionately asserting his conviction about ―the boundless existential chasm which lies between Almighty God and his creatures.‖2 This naturally led him to the unequivocal rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity (though his view of it was derived from unorthodox sources), a view that was ―founded ultimately on his absolute inability to see it any other way.‖3 Frank concludes, ―One should. .. avoid underestimating the sincerity and depth of the religious meaning which the Koran does contain, as he should equally shun any refusal to see its real limitations.. .. it is better to begin by placing the data within the framework of what the Koran is rather than what it is not.‖4

 

The purpose this article is to show that the Muslim adherence to certain theological concepts informs the qur‘anic picture of Christ as taught by Muhammad.

 

This study is limited to Surah 5 of the Qur‘an for several reasons.5 First, Surah 5 is considered to be one of the last surahs written in the Qur‘an, if not the last.6  Second, Surah 5 includes some of the most polemical attacks against biblical Christology and Trinitarianism. Third, Surah 5 of the Qur‘an exposes much of the unbiblical theology that forms the bedrock of Islam‘s idea about Christology and the Trinity.7

 

The Christology of Surah 5 Examined

 

This surah can be divided into six major segments according to certain structural markers as well as subject matter, thus yielding an apparent argument for each segment.8

 

Three Christological assertions of Surah 5 (vv. 17, 72-77, 116-19) appear in its even-numbered segments (second, fourth, and sixth). In all three segments the deity of Christ is denied. These denials appear within contexts that reveal related theological presuppositions that need to be explored. This article discusses the first denial of Christ‘s deity, and the two other denials will be discussed in the next article in this series.

 

The first denial of Christ‘s deity (Surah 5:17) is based on strong opposition to the biblical concept of grace. This verse occurs in the heart of a chiastic structure that introduces God‘s covenant of works, which forms the emphasis of the second segment but is highlighted throughout the surah. The chiasm of the second segment is shown in the following table.

A The Jews‘ and Christians‘ breaking of their covenants with God (vv. 12–14) B Muhammad and the Qur‘an correct corrupted Scriptures (vv. 15–16) C The denial of Christ‘s deity (v. 17) B´ Muhammad revealed the truth to the unfavored People of the Book (vv. 18–19) A´ Israel‘s failure to possess the land was due to their lack of faith (vv. 20–26).

 

Verse 17 forcefully states, ―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—every one that is on the earth? For to Allah belongeth the dominion of the heaven and the earth, and all that is between. He createth what He pleaseth. For Allah hath power over all things.‘ ‖

 

In this verse the deity of Christ is rejected for two reasons: It is said to be blasphemous, and Christ, like His mother and all other creatures, is said to be destructible by God.9  Al-Baydawi indicates that for Christians to say that Christ possesses deity and also to assert that there is one God is to say that Christ is God.10  ‘Ibn Kathir states that for calling God ―Christ‖ the curses of God will fall on all Christians until the day of resurrection.11 Thus according to the Qur‘an the doctrine of the Incarnation12 is derogatory since it is unsuitable to God, and since it is related to Christian disobedience it is an evil doctrine.

 

First reason: Scriptural corruption

 

Working backwards in the chiasm, the theme of the corruption of the Bible appears in both B and B´, focusing on the qur‘anic reason behind the Christian claim to Christ‘s deity. Having spoken to the Jews and to the Christians separately in verses 12–14 (= A), verses 15–16 (= B) speak to both groups jointly as the People of the Book.13 These verses state that Muhammad went to the People of the Book to reveal what was concealed in their Scriptures, and the verses state that the Qur‘an came from God to guide them to the straight path. Muhammad and the Qur‘an came to compensate for the corruption of the biblical text at the hands of the Jews and the Christians.14

 

Verses 18–19 (= B´) resume the theme of Muhammad‘s coming to correct the People of the Book. Verse 18 first asserts that the claim of Jews and Christians to be God‘s children is false, since God punishes them for their sins. They are only creatures whom God may chose to forgive or to punish, and in fact everyone owes his or her destiny to Him. Verse 18 reads, ―(Both) the Jews and the Christians say, ‗We are the sons of Allah, and His beloved.‘ Say: ‗Why then does He punish you for your sins? Nay, ye are but men—of the men He hath created; He forgiveth whom He pleaseth, and He punishes whom He pleaseth: And to Allah belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between: and unto Him is the final goal (of all).‘ ‖

 

Muslims assert that this verse denies the exclusivism of Judaism and Christianity.15 This assertion, however, is based on the presupposition that God does not punish His children or the ones He loves. So if Christians and Jews are chastised by God, they cannot be His people. This strict conditionality in one‘s relationship with God appears repeatedly in the Qur‘an. Verse 19 asserts that Muhammad‘s coming to make things clear to the People of the Book was after an interval between messengers (Christ and Muhammad), so that they are without excuse. The subject of the altering of Scripture is discussed later in Surah 5 (especially vv. 41–71). The difference here is that in both B and B´ of the chiasm, the corruption of Scripture is seen as the epitome of evil.

 

Second reason: Covenant-breaking

 

Points A and A´ in the chiasm speak of the breaking of a supposed covenant with Jews (vv. 12–13, 20–26) and Christians (v. 14).

 

The only covenant with Israel that the Qur‘an speaks of is the Mosaic Covenant, which promises reward for obedience and punishment for disobedience (Surahs 2:40; 20:80).16 In verses 12–13 the character of the covenant God made with Israel is described as follows.

 

Allah did aforetime take a covenant from the children of Israel, and We appointed twelve captains among them and Allah said: ―I am with you: if ye but establish regular prayers, practice regular charity, believe in My messengers, honor and assist them, and loan to Allah a beautiful loan, verily I will wipe out from you your evils, and admit you to gardens with rivers flowing beneath; but if any of you, after this, resisteth faith, he hath truly wandered from the path of rectitude.‖ But because of their breach of their covenant, We cursed them, and made their hearts grow hard. They change the words from their (right) places and forget a good part of the message that was sent them, nor wilt thou cease to find them— barring a few—ever bent on (new) deceits: but forgive them and overlook (their misdeeds): for Allah loveth those who are kind.

 

This description of the covenant with Israel includes several points. First, it was made with the twelve tribes. Second, it promised blessings on the condition that Israel practice prayer, giving, the honoring of prophets, and giving in the knowledge that God gives in return. Third, the blessings promised are said to include the wiping out of sins and entrance into paradise (described figuratively as gardens with rivers). Fourth, the Israelites broke the covenant by corrupting their Scriptures (which is described by the words, ―They change the words from their right places and forget a good part of the message that was sent them‖). Fifth, as a result God cursed the Israelites and hardened their hearts. Sixth, those of the Jewish race who walk uprightly are but a few. Seventh, these upright Israelites along with all others who are upright will receive forgiveness of sin.17

 

Verses 21–26 state that the Israelites failed to possess the land ascribed to them. These verses tell of the twelve spies, of the two who had faith to conquer the land, and of the forty-years‘ postponement of entry because of Israel‘s unbelief. These verses also condemn the Israelites‘ unbelief for not claiming the land of Palestine which was ―written‖ to them.

 

Most Muslim commentators assert that the Israelites‘ possession of the land was conditioned on their obedience. They maintain that the land is no longer for Israel because they broke the covenant with God.18 Other Muslim commentators hold that ascribing the land to the Israelites refers only to the certainty of their possessing it in Joshua‘s day.19

 

While the Bible does present conditional elements in Israel‘s relationship to God, the Qur‘an is void of any signs of grace to the unworthy. Surah 5 as well as the entire Qur‘an makes no mention of God‘s unconditional covenants with Israel, namely, the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:1–3, 7; 15:1–21; 17:1–8), the Davidic Covenant (2 Sam. 7:4–17), and the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31–34).

 

Surah 5:15 describes a covenant made with Christians. This covenant is evidently said to be of the same nature as the one made with the Jews. Christians too are said to have broken their covenant by forgetting their Scriptures. As a result God caused them to do more acts of evil but then to be punished for them. This verse declares, ―From those, too, who call themselves Christians, We did take [sic] a covenant, but they forgot a good part of the message that was sent to them, so We estranged them, with enmity and hatred between the one and the other, to the Day of Judgment. And soon will Allah show them what they have done.‖

 

For breaking their covenant Christians are said to have been punished by experiencing constant feuds among themselves down through the centuries. These feuds are said to be reflected in the Christological and Trinitarian controversies leading to church councils and also in the strife between the many denominations, and they are said to continue as a punishment until the day of judgment.20 Muslim commentators add that true Christians are those who accept Muhammad and all the prophets who are sent by God (Surah 61:6).21

 

The chiasm of Surah 5:12-26 ends with verses 20–26. Muslim commentators hold that the word ―and‖ in verse 20 connects point A´ with verse 12 (of A) as a continuation of the discussion on the covenant God made with Israel.22 These verses assert that Moses commanded the Israelites to remember God‘s favor on them. But they failed to enter the land because they refused to trust God in giving them victory over the giants there.23

 

Again these verses emphasize the conditional elements in one‘s relationship to God. The unconditional is unthinkable. The Arabic word for grace (ni‘ama) occurs in the Qur‘an and is translated ―favor‖ in ‗Ali‘s English translation. It is the same word used in the Arabic New Testament to translate the Greek word χάρις. However, grace in the Qur‘an differs from the way grace is used in the Bible.

 

First, grace in the Qur‘an refers to God‘s bounty and favor in giving conditional and temporal blessings to His followers. The Qur‘an makes no mention of the concept of unconditional blessings to the unworthy. The giving of divine gifts depends on human merit. These conditional blessings are said to include establishing Islam as a religion (v. 3b), revealing what is forbidden and what is permitted (v. 3b), giving instructions on ablutions (v. 6), making a covenant with Muslims (v. 7), and protecting them from their enemies (v. 11). These favors are given on the condition that Muslims do His will.

 

Second, though the same Arabic word for grace (ni‘ama) is used to refer to God‘s favor on Israel (v. 20), it is said to have been for a limited time. The verse reads,―Remember Moses said to his people: ‗O my People! call in remembrance the favour of Allah unto you, when He produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave you what He had not given to any other among the peoples.‘ ‖ Muslim commentators insist that the special favor God bestowed on Israel applied only to Moses‘ lifetime. Thus it refers to God‘s miracles in splitting the Red Sea, providing manna, guiding the Israelites by the cloud and the pillar of fire, and other events. Muslims thus interpret the significance of prophets in a highly specialized way.24 The prophets are said to refer to the seventy on whom God‘s Spirit came and the twelve sons of Jacob, and possibly some of the descendants of Ishmael.

 

In summary verses 12–26 declare that the disobedience of the Jews and the Christians led them to break their respective covenants with God. The Christians‘ breaking of their covenant is said to have caused them to lose the truth in regard to Jesus‘ true nature and wrongly to ascribe deity to Him, a fault that was corrected by the Qur‘an as revealed to Muhammad. The Jews‘ breaking of the Mosaic Covenant caused them to lose forever the land promised to them. Qutub says that all the covenants God made with people and nations throughout history were essentially one: the call to humans to obey and surrender to God. Qutub adds that this is God‘s only religion, and in a nutshell this is Islam to which all God‘s apostles and prophets called people.25 The Qur‘an does not see God‘s work of grace in a chosen people, who nevertheless are sinful. In God‘s relationship with humankind nothing depends on His grace and everything depends on human merit.

 

In the final analysis the Qur‘an rejects the Incarnation and Jesus‘ deity and Israel‘s possession of the land because the Qur‘an has no understanding of the biblical concept of grace. A system that presents a relationship with God as strictly conditional excludes any possibility of God‘s acting in grace, and the same system that holds that the Bible is corrupted prevents people from ever finding His grace.

 

The theme of the dismissal of grace in the second segment of the chiasm is augmented by several features of the other segments of Surah 5. In the first segment the surah proclaims that God made a covenant with Muslims, which is also a covenant of works. Verse 7 states, ―And call in remembrance the favour of Allah unto you, and His Covenant, which He ratified with you, when ye said: ‗We hear and we obey‘: and fear Allah, for Allah knoweth well the secrets of your hearts.‖

Muslim commentators teach that this covenant has both a particular and a general sense. The particular sense points to the covenant taken by two groups at ‗Aqaba who pledged their loyalty to Muhammad. The general sense applies to humanity‘s responsibility to serve and obey God, to perform ceremonial cleansing (cf. v. 1), and to have clean thoughts and motives.26 This is said to differ from the exclusivism of Judaism and Christianity.27

 

Verses 7–11 then describe this covenant. It is regarded as a favor to be remembered, knowing that God knows the secrets of the heart no matter what words are said (v. 7). This covenant with them is the same as all God‘s covenants (v. 9). It is strictly conditional, by which God promises forgiveness and great reward for believers and those who do good, and hell to those who reject the faith and pronounce lies about God‘s signs (vv. 9–10). On this basis, justice, which is next to piety, is to be practiced by Muslims in the fear of God and without regard to the hatred of others (v. 8). Furthermore God‘s favor in thwarting the attack of the enemies against believers is to be remembered by the latter as they put their trust in Him (v. 11).

Observing the duties of the law is so important that it forms the opening of Surah 5. The surah begins with a statement that the call to fulfill the obligations of Islamic law is issued to those who believe (v. 1). The first seven verses emphasize that the ceremonial duties of what is forbidden and what is permitted are determined by God‘s will and decision, with no explanation given. Furthermore the command to fulfill these ceremonial duties marks Islam as God‘s appointed religion and forms the basis of the covenant described in the following verses. The first and fifth segments of Surah 5 give detailed instruction about laws as well as the verses connecting the fourth and fifth segments. In other words the denial of the Incarnation is couched in a denial of grace, which in turn is a call to a return to law.28

 

In fact Islamic law is woven through the entire Qur‘an and is viewed as the heart of its message. It is included in about 500 of the 6,236 verses, or one-twelfth of the Qur‘an.

 

Mathematically considered, this seems a small fraction. But when examined more closely, the result yields considerably more than this fraction in view of verse-length and repetition. ―The average length of a verse in the Qur‘an varies from one to three lines (in the Egyptian edition), while those of legal content usually comprise three to six, and some are considerably longer, e.g., verse 282 of the second Surah, which stretches over fifteen lines.. .. And there is another very important point to be considered. As is well known, the Qur‘an teems with repetitions; the same thing seems to be said over and again, often in the same words; in legal matters, however, repetitions are rare, and when they occur, they usually contain some progress in legislation.‖29

 

As verses 43–50 of Surah 5 indicate, these laws constitute only the birth of Islamic law.30 In verses 43–44 Muhammad was astonished that some Jews came to him to judge between them when they had the Torah, which the prophets, rabbis, and scholars used in settling matters. But it is said that a group of them rejected his decisions. Such an attitude, he said, was dangerous, and had to be changed. Therefore Jews and Christians are not to be taken for patrons, for they are said to be most unjust and therefore not guided by God (vv. 51–53). The real friends to Muslims are God, Muhammad, and other Muslims (v. 55). Commenting on these verses, Goitein concludes with the following words.

 

The repeated references in Surah v to the Jewish rabbis and scholars who gave judgments according to the Law revealed by God; the quotation from the Pentateuch, which deals not with theological matters, but with questions of criminal law; and, finally the very occasion which gave rise to the promulgation of Surah v. 41–52 [46-53 in Ali‘s version], suggest that Muhammad, at a certain stage of his prophetical and political career in Medina, suddenly became aware of the fact that the scriptures revealed before him contained not only religious and moral injunctions, but also detailed laws concerning matters which were religiously irrelevant. This new knowledge, together with some difficulties incurred in practice, created in him the belief—which was well in line with his original idea of religion as a constitution for a body politic—that he, too, had to recognize the details of civil law as inseparable constituents of God‘s message.31

 

In other words Islamic law did not result in post-qur‘anic developments but was formulated by Muhammad. The Hadith extensively adds to the rulings of Muhammad on every transaction of life. This is known as the Sunnah or Shari’ah, comparable to the Jewish Mishnah.32 Because salvation is obtained by following the details of this law, to reject it is therefore considered apostasy.33 Islamic law becomes synonymous with the Islamic religion, and the essence of its message was the mission of all previous prophets.34

 

Implications of Islamic law

 

The way the Qur‘an views God‘s relationship with people has several implications.

 

First, the covenant God made with Jews, Christians, and Muslims is all one and the same: a covenant of works. In fact this is God‘s only relationship with humanity. Only the Mosaic-like law is the basis of one‘s duty to God. Since it is said that the Jews and Christians broke this covenant, Islamic law and jurisprudence replaced the Mosaic Law and became the only way to salvation.

 

Second, Surah 5, as well as the entire Qur‘an, not only avoids the biblical notion of grace but it also includes no emphasis on human need. There is no mention in the Qur‘an of humanity‘s helplessness and need for divine enablement. People are expected to fulfill all obligations of Islamic law, which become synonymous with Islam, God‘s only and perfect religion (v. 3). The Qur‘an is the light that guides Muslims from ―darkness into light‖ (vv. 15–16), and what is necessary in order to escape judgment is ―not an act of salvation but an act of revelation.‖35 That is why there is no separation in Islamic states between religion, politics, law, and social order.

 

Third, according to the Qur‘an Muslims need instructions to guide them in their lives. This is not regeneration; it is the utopia of Islamic law. This explains why Muslims see no need for the Christian way of salvation. No mediator or sacrifice is needed. Forgiveness is possible only by divine decree. Thus in Islam punishment is not necessary for every sin. What is emphasized is God‘s freedom to forgive at His will. The theological doctrine of blood sacrifice and vicarious atonement for sins is rejected. ―The Qur‘an teaches that God is both Just and Merciful. But since He created humankind and knows its weaknesses, He does not require bloodshed to forgive. One who sincerely repents and inculcates a relationship of love for God, and obedience and submission to Him, can be assured of God‘s loving forgiveness.. .. If the All-Merciful and Loving God wanted to forgive, what prevents Him from doing so in a direct, simple and straightforward manner?”36

 

Fourth, the Qur‘an declares that good works are efficacious. Forgiveness is achieved by repentance and not by sacrifice. ―If anyone does evil or wrongs his own soul, but afterwards seeks Allah‘s forgiveness, he will find Allah is oft-Forgiving, most Merciful‖ (Surah 4:110). ―For those things that are good remove those that are evil‖ (Surah 11:114). These good deeds include fasting, pilgrimage, giving of alms, striving in the cause of Allah, reading the Qur‘an, accepting the testimony of the creed, obeying the will of Allah, and Jihad.37

 

Fifth, the Qur‘an strongly denies that Jesus Christ died on the cross. ―That they said (in boast), ‗We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the apostle of God‘; 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 an opinion; for of a surety they killed him not, but Allah raised him up unto Himself, and God is exalted in power, wise‖ (Surah 4:157-58).

These verses indicate two things. First, the death of Jesus was only in the minds of those who claim it, and second, belief in His death was only an opinion based on no evidence.38

 

Sixth, since ultimate forgiveness depends on good works, the Islamic religion knows nothing of assurance of salvation from hell. The closest one comes to assurance is as a reward for Jihad, and even then one wonders about the level of assurance such a Muslim has.39

 

Seventh, the Bible, especially the New Testament, is said to lack regulations about both religious and social duties. Aziz-us-Samad comments, ―Jesus did not live long enough to give a practical shape to his teachings and work out the social implications of his message. He did not have the chance to enlarge his teachings to cover all the situations of life.‖40 That is another reason there is no separation in Islamic states between religion, politics, law, and social order.

 

Eighth, Islamic law stands in stark contrast to the giving of the Mosaic Law, which, in the Book of Deuteronomy, was accompanied by the promise of internal regeneration.―Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear‖ (Deut. 29:4). ―Moreover the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live‖ (30:6). These promises provide a bridge between the obedience required by the Mosaic Covenant (Exod. 19–24; Deut. 4:44–28:68) and the enablement provided by the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31–34; Ezek. 36:26–28). They demonstrate that people do not need more instruction, which will inevitably bring more cursing (Deut. 28), but that Israel could be delivered only by Yahweh. Furthermore these promises show that the conditional Mosaic Covenant did not annul the Abrahamic Covenant, which promises unconditional blessing to the elect through whom He will bless the whole world (Gen. 12:1–3; 15:1–21; 17:1–8). The inferiority of the Mosaic Covenant is evident in light of the provisions made in the New Covenant (Jer. 31:31–34). The writer to the Hebrews explained that the Mosaic Covenant is obsolete because the people who lived under it did not continue in it (Heb. 8:8–13).41

 

Glaser perceptively points out that while in the Bible God‘s people are to act a certain way because they are His covenant people, in the Qur‘an it is reversed. Muslims are to act a certain way in order to become God‘s people.42 Thus for Muslims ―the practices, the obedience to regulations, are of primary importance.‖43

 

Ninth, Islam‘s clinging to an unrelational monadic concept of God leads eventually to a strict system of legalism. Boyd observes the same notion in Oneness Pentecostalism, which also believes in monadic monotheism.

 

One is not saved in this theology, by virtue of being in a gracious loving relationship with Christ alone. Rather, salvation is tied, in a most peculiar fashion, to what one does. Unless one speaks the exactly right words when baptized in exactly the right way, one‘s sins are not washed away. One must further show the one correct sign of having the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, or one is again lost. Furthermore, one must adhere to the ―standards‖ supposedly set by God— women never cutting their hair, men having short hair, and so on—or one is again not saved.. .. One‘s saving acceptance by God hangs on all this activity. The God who performs, we should not be surprised to see, creates a people obsessed with performing.44

 

Boyd adds that this legalism ―is no mere coincidence‖ with a non-triune concept of God.45

Tenth, for God to act in grace seems to be an act of weakness, a possibility that is totally abhored by Islam. This qur‘anic system of thought views the Incarnation not only as an unsuitable evil but also as an unnecessary evil.

 

 

Summary

 

Islam‘s rejection of the deity of Christ is based on a system of theology that presents a relationship with God as strictly conditional and that excludes any possibility of God‘s acting in grace as unmerited favor. In the Qur‘an Jews and Christians are viewed as having broken their covenants with God chiefly by corrupting their Scriptures. This corruption is said to be the reason for the Jewish unfounded claim of a future possession of the land and of the Christian unfounded claim to the deity of Christ. The same system that says the Bible has been corrupted also prevents people from ever finding grace, which from a biblical standpoint is supremely manifested in the incarnation of Jesus Christ and redemption through Him. Thus all hope of salvation in Islam rests on the will of Allah, which nevertheless cannot be assured to humans, even to those who obey Islamic law strictly. All this is consistent with the Islamic monadic concept of God‘s oneness.

 

The forth article of this series deals with additional reasons for Islam’s rejection of biblical christology. See:

https://iqri.org/additional-reasons-for-islams-rejection-of-biblical-christology/

 

 

Notes

 

  • (1) See Hans Küng, “Christianity and World Religions: The Dialogue with Islam as One Model,” Muslim World 77 (1987): 83.
  • (2) Richard Frank, “Review of Jésus selon le Coran, by Henri Michaud,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 25 (1963): 480.
  • (3) Ibid.
  • (4) Ibid.
  • (5) See Imad Shehadeh, “A Comparison and a Contrast between the Prologue of John’s Gospel and Qur’anic Surah 5” (Th.D. diss., Dallas Theological Seminary, 1990), chapter 1.
  • (6) Though there is agreement that Surah 5 is a late Medinan surah, there is wide disagreement on which parts of this surah were written Some hold that the whole surah was the last of Muhammad’s utterings, but various parts belong to considerably different times. Nöldeke thinks that the date of events of some of the verses may be determined by their content and style, while the date of others cannot be verified (Theodor Nöldeke and Friedrich Schwally, Geschichte des Qorans [Leipzig: T. Weicher, 1909–1938; reprint (3 vols. in 1), New York: Olms, 1981], 1:227–34).

Muslim commentators point to the parts of the surah they think were written last. Bell tabulates the chronological order for the various qur’anic texts: for the Muir text Surah 5 is the 109th surah; for Nöldeke it is the 114th surah with parts written earlier; for Grimme it is the 95th surah with verses 1–14 written earlier; for the Egyptian text it is the 112th surah (see W. Montgomery Watt, Bell’s Introduction to the Quran [Edinburgh: University Press, 1953], 207). It is safe to say that Surah 5 belongs to a late period in Muhammad’s career, certainly not earlier than the end of the fifth year of the Hijrah (S. D. Goitein, “The Birth-Hour of Muslim Law?” Muslim World 50 [1960]: 27; ‘Abdullah Yusuf ‘Ali, The Holy Qur’an [Brent-wood, MD: Amana, 1989], 245 n. 696; ’Ibn Kathir, Commentary on the Great Qur’an [Beirut: Al-Jil, 1988], 2:13; Al Fakhr Al-Razi, The Commentary of Al-Razi [Damascus: Dar-Al Fikr, 1981], 11:142).

  • (7) Craig A. Blaising shows that the early church creeds regarding the hypostatic union do reflect scriptural truth (“Chalcedon and Christology: A 1530th Anniversary,” Bibliotheca Sacra 138 [July-September 1981]: 326-37).
  • (8) For more on the message and structure of Surah 5 see Shehadeh, “A Comparison

and a Contrast between the Prologue of John’s Gospel and Qur’anic Surah 5,” chapter 4.

  • (9) Though it is not the intent of this qur’anic verse, it is more correct theologically to say “Christ is God” than to say “God is Chr” In referring to Christians the great Muslim mystic Ibn al-‘Arabi (A.D. 1185-1240) stated, “Verily those people became hiders of the truth who said God is Jesus, the son of Mary. It would not have been hiding the truth if they had said Jesus is God, or that Jesus is the son of Mary. They confined Divinity only to the form of Jesus” (Ibn al-‘Arabi, Ibn al-‘Arabi: The Great Muslim Mystic and Thinker, trans. Sayyid Abdul Qadir Hussaini [Lahore: Muhammad Ashraf, 1931], 64–65). However, ‘Affifi explains Ibn al-‘Arabi further in this way: “To say that Christ is God is true, he says, in the sense that everything else is God, and to say that Christ is the Son of Mary is also true, but to say that God is Christ the Son of Mary is false, because this would imply that He is Christ and nothing else” (Abul Ela Affifi, The Mystical Philosophy of Muhyid Din-Ibnul ‘Arabi [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1939], 20).
  • (10) Al-Baydawi, The Lights of Revelation and the Secrets of Explanation (Beirut: Dar Al-Kashaf, 1965), 145. Al-Jalalayn states that the qur’anic source for this Christian doctrine was the Jacobites (Jalal Al-Din Muhammad Bin Al-Mahali and Jalal Al-Din ‘Abi Bakr Al-Suyuti, The Commentary of the Jalalayn [Beirut: Dar Al-Wifaq, n.d.], 145).
  • (11) ’Ibn Kathir, Commentary on the Great Qur’an, 2:33.
  • (12) The word “Incarnation” is used in this study in both the ontological and functional It points to the deity of the Incarnate One as well as to the event of

the Incarnation.

  • (13) The phrase “the People of the Book” refers to Jews and Christians (Al Fakhr Al- Razi, The Commentary of Al-Razi, 11:194; and Al-Sabzawari, The New in the Explanation of the Glorious Qur’an [Beirut: Dar Al-ta‘aruf Lilmabu‘at, n.d.], 2:439).
  • (14) Muslim commentators claim that Christians deleted those texts from the Bible that speak of the true character of Muhammad (see Al-Razi, The Commentary of Al- Razi, 11:194; and Al-Jalalayn, The Commentary of the Jalalayn, 144).
  • (15) See ’Ibn Kathir, Commentary on the Great Qur’an, 2:33; and Al-Jalalayn, The Commentary of the Jalalayn, 145.
  • (16) The qur’anic Arabic language uses three words for cov They are mithaq

(“pact”), wa‘d (“promise”), and ‘ahd (“covenant”).

  • (17) Some Muslim commentators affirm that the command to forgive the few remnant Jews (v. 14) has been abrogated (e.g., Al-Jalalayn, The Commentary of the Jalalayn, 145; ’Ibn Kathir, Commentary on the Great Qur’an, 2:32). Others hold that the command refers to those few Jews who have converted to Islam and followed Muhammad (e.g., Al-Sabzawari, The New in the Explanation of the Glorious Qur’an, 2:437).
  • (18) Al-Sabzawari, The New in the Explanation of the Glorious Qur’an, 2:445; Al-

Baydawi, The Lights of Revelation and the Secrets of Explanation, 146; and ’Ibn Kathir,

Commentary on the Great Qur’an, 2:36.

  • (19) Al-Razi, The Commentary of Al-Razi, 11:202.
  • (20) See ’Ibn Kathir, Commentary on the Great Qur’an, 2:2; and Al-Sabzawari, The New in the Explanation of the Glorious Qur’an, 2:438.
  • (21) See ‘Ali, The Holy Qur’an, 246 715; ’Ibn Kathir, Commentary on the Great Qur’an,

2:32; and Al-Razi, The Commentary of Al-Razi, 11:192.

  • (22) See Al-Baydawi, The Lights of Revelation and the Secrets of Explanation, 146; Al- Sabzawari, The New in the Explanation of the Glorious Qur’an, 2:445; ’Ibn Kathir, Commentary on the Great Qur’an, 2:36; and Al-Razi, The Commentary of Al-Razi, 11:200–201.
  • (23) Verses 22–29 may be separated into two parts (v. 22 and vv. 23–29), with each part beginning with “O my people.”
  • (24) See Al-Baydawi, The Lights of Revelation and the Secrets of Explanation, 146; Al- Sabzawari, The New in the Explanation of the Glorious Qur’an, 2:445; ’Ibn Kathir, Commentary on the Great Qur’an, 2:36; and Al-Razi, The Commentary of Al-Razi, 11:200–201.
  • (25) Sayid Qutub, In the Shadow of the Qur’an (Jeddah: Dar Al’lim, 1986), 1:60–61.
  • (26) See ‘Ali, The Holy Qur’an, 248 705; Al-Baydawi, The Lights of Revelation and the Secrets of Explanation, 142; Shaykh Zadah, Marginal Notes on the Commentary of Qadi Al Baydawi, vol. 2 (Istanbul: Hakikat Kitabevi, 1988), 199; and Al-Sabzawari, The New in the Explanation of the Glorious Qur’an, 430–31.
  • (27) ‘Ali, The Holy Qur’an, 34 77.
  • (28) For a detailed description of Islamic law in Surah 5, see Shehadeh, “A Comparison and a Contrast between the Prologue of John’s Gospel and Qur’anic Surah 5,” 188ff.
  • (29) D. Goitein, “The Birth-Hour of Muslim Law?” Muslim World 50 (1960): 24.

(30)  Ibid., 26-29.

(31)   Ibid., 26-27.

  • (32) See S. Margoliouth, “On Moslem Tradition,” Moslem World (1912): 113. The Arabic word for Islamic law is “Shari’ah.” The word “fiqh” refers to Muslim

jurisprudence. The word “fatwah” refers to a legal opinion delivered by a muft, a

private or governmental judge of the law. Four permanent schools of Islamic law have developed: Abu Hanifah (died A.D. 767); Malik (died A.D. 793); Al-Shafi’i (died

A.D. 820); and Ahmad ibn Hanbal (died A.D. 855).

  • (33) See H. A. Gibb, “Law and Theology in Islam,” Muslim World 38 (1948): 189.
  • (34) See Jirjis Sal and Hisham Al Arabi, The Roots of Jurisprudence in Islam (Villach, Austria: Light and Life, n.d.), 5–6.
  • (35) Ida Glaser, “The Concept of Relationship as a Key to the Comparative Understanding of Christianity and Islam,” Themelios 11 (1986): 60.
  • (36) Jamal Badawi, “Jesus: Beloved Messenger of God,” in The Light of Truth (Halifax, NS: Maritime Muslim Students’ Association, n.d.), 2 (italics his).
  • (37) See Abd Al-Fadi, Sin and Atonement in Islam and Christianity (Rikon, Switzerland: Good Day, n.d.), 33–40.
  • (38) Muslim commentators point out that if Jesus died on the cross, His death is insufficient because no human, however perfect, can atone for the sins of all of

humanity. If the one who died is God, then who took care of the universe for three

days? Others are quick to point out that early Christian sects did not believe that Christ was killed on the cross, such as the Basalidans, Docetists, Marcionites, and those who appealed to The Gospel of Barnabas (see ‘Ali, The Holy Qur’an, 236 n. 663). For a list of possible background fictional stories to the qur’anic view of the Crucifixion, see C. George Fry, “The Qur’anic Christ,” Concordia Theological Quarterly 43 (1979): 219-20.

  • (39) For further discussion on these verses see Shehadeh, “A Comparison and a Contrast between the Prologue of John’s Gospel and Qur’anic Surah 5,” chapter 4.
  • (40) Ulfat Aziz-us-Samad, Islam and Christianity (Karachi: Begum Aisha Bawany Wakf, 1970), 25.
  • (41) The antecedent of “them” in Hebrews 8:8 is the people who lived under the Old Cov The fault was not in the Law or the Old Covenant, but with the people who did not continue in it. The New Covenant provides the remedy for this sinfulness.
  • (42) Glaser, “The Concept of Relationship as a Key to the Comparative Understanding of Christianity and Islam,” 59.
  • (43) Ibid.
  • (44) Gregory A. Boyd, Oneness Pentecostals and the Trinity (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), 194.
  • (45) Ibid., 196.

 

 

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