It did not take long in the History of the Church to question the very central place of its founder, Jesus of Nazareth in the very community He started. We see Arius (256-336 A.D.), a Bishop in Alexandria questioning the nature of Jesus when ascribing a partial ‘divinity’ to Him or as RowanWilliams shows that:
“Arius seems to havebelieved that if the Father and the Son wereco-eternal, that proposition in some way impliedthat the divine essence had splintered, and thus theFather was somehow diminished in His deity, asimplied by Arius comment in his Confession: ‘Forthe Father did not, in giving to Him [the Son} theinheritance of all things, deprive Himself of whatHe has ingenerately in Himself’. Such a consequentposition was clearly intolerable to Arius – as indeedit was to the orthodox party.”
The central importance of Jesus as revealed in the New Testament mentions nothing that would imply a ‘splintering’ in the Divine. In fact what we seem to find all over the New Testament is a Jesus that demands we see His exclusive self-importance. Matthew 16:13-20 (NIV)Peter Declares That Jesus Is the Messiah
“When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
In both the Quran and in the Bible we find a mention of Jesus or Isa, which has a particular aim in the explication of his work and character. My contention in this article is that Jesus of the Bible is not the Isa of the Quran, or even more directly put, the Isa of the Quran is not the Jesus of the Christian Scriptures. Let us look at some central ideas evident in both the Bible and the Quran when looking at both these figures:
What was the central message of Jesus?
Well in Luke’s account (24:27) Jesus relates everything in Scripture to be explicated in Himself:
“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was written in all the Scriptures about Himself.”
In the Book of Acts (8:35) the Disciple Philip writes:
“So Philip proceeded to tell him the good news about Jesus, beginning from that Scripture.”
Sidlow Baxter writes:
“Fundamentally, our Lord’s message was Himself. He did not come merely to preach a Gospel; He himself is that Gospel. He did not come merely to give bread; He said, “I am the bread.” He did not come merely to shed light; He said, “I am the light.” He did not come merely to show the door; He said, “I am the door.” He did not come merely to name a shepherd; He said, “I am the shepherd.” He did not come merely to point the way; He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
It is interesting to note that the person of Jesus Christ is not only mentioned with great importance in the Christian Scriptures but also the Quranic text that is held dear by Muslims. What can we say about Jesus being the essential message of the Quran?Muslim author Mustafa Akyol in his 2017 book ‘The Islamic Jesus’ ventures to say:
“In the Qur’an, one never learns about the temptation in the wilderness, the preaching in Galilee, the cleansing of the Temple, the agony at Gethsemane, the trial at Pilate’s court, the drama of the Crucifixion, or the joy of the Resurrection. Such themes about the Jesus’ life and ministry simply do not exist in the Qur’an, and for one simple reason: Jesus is not the main character of the Qur’an.”
In the Christian Scriptures, the fact of Jesus is emphatic. John the Beloved disciple records that Jesus says to the Jewish leaders in John’s Gospel (5:39-40):
“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”
It would not be unfair to note that the essential difference between Jesus of Gospels and Isa of the Quran is that one is the object, and the other is merely a subject.
What did Jesus reveal about Himself?
John the Beloved Disciple of Christ writes in John 1:18;
“No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son—the One who is at the Father’s side—He has revealed Him [Greek: exē gēsato]”.
S.F. Davenport & F.R. Tennant writes;
“The Christian revelation of Jesus Christ has revealed…the essential nature of the Godhead. We have no absolute revelation of God’s nature without a transcendent act on the part of God. The Transcendent, which alone is able to reveal the nature of the Revealer, and which is never wholly comprehended by any immanental process. On the other hand, unless such a revelation consummates by completing God’s previous indwelling in the world, we have no continuity and no means of understanding that revelation. The Incarnation, the process is fulfilled by an act without the process; immanence is completed in Transcendence, in which it lives and moves and has its being.”
John the Beloved Disciple of Christ writes in John 14:7, 9;
“If you know Me, you will also know My Father…The one who has seen Me has seen the Father… Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?
Dr. Ken Samples makes the observation that:
“In equating Himself so intimately with the Father, Jesus became, at minimum, an extension of Yahweh.”
The required promise of Israel’s One God in the Old Testament is the fulfillment that they will Worship their God that would be known and present to them. In fact, the essential promise includes not only Israel but also the nations.
The prophet Zechariah (8:22) gives a prophecy;
‘So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD.’
In Genesis (22:18) Yahweh speaks to Abraham and mention;
‘And through your offspring, all nations of the earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”
Paul the Apostle mentions in Galatians 3:8& 16:
“The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and foretold the gospel to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” 16 The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say, “and to seeds,” meaning many, but “and to your seed,” meaning One, who is Christ.”
The Prophet Jeremiah (4:2) affirms:
‘and if you can swear, ‘As surely as the LORD lives,’ in truth, in justice, and in righteousness, then the nations will be blessed by Him, and in Him they will glory.”
By who and in who will the nations be blessed? By the full revelation of Jesus Christ. It should be noted that Jesus Christ is essential to the full conceptual understanding of the Father.The Apostle John (6:29) writes:
Jesus told them, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent.
The Apostle John writes to the Samaritans (4:22-23):
“You worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know”.. . 23But a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such as these to worship Him”.
The Samaritans confirm:
Verse 41-42 “Many more believed because of His word; and they were saying to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.”
Paul the Apostle understands that the full revelation of Christ gives life to the worship of God when he writes to the Philippians (3:8);
“More than that, I count all things as loss compared to the surpassing excellence of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish that I may gain Christ.”
S. D Gordon said:
“Jesus is God spelling Himself out in language that men can understand.”
Without the expressed revelation of Christ, there is ultimately no revelation of God. Here is the essential difference between the Biblical claim of Christ and the Quranic claim of Isa. Without the full self-revelation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, you do not have a full revelation of God. This leads us to the exact place that Scientific Naturalism believes in that ultimate reality is impersonal and void of any knowable substance.That is why Muslim Scholars maintain: “Kullu ma khatar fi balik fahwa halik, wallahu bikhi lafi thalik” which can be translated as ‘whatever you conceive in your mind, God [Allah] is not that!’ It could be affirmed that the Allah that Muslims worship is ‘above’ them in all aspects.
In the Maqalat al-Islamiyin by Al-Ashari, he asserts:
“Nothing that can be said of any of His creatures could be used to describe him…”
That is why the demand from the Quran that Christians should divorce the idea of Jesus Christ being associated with the full revelation of God is evident.
Sūrat l-nisāa (The Women) (4) 171 (Pickthall):
“O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not “Three” – Cease! (it is) better for you! – Allah is only One Allah. Far is it removed from His Transcendent Majesty that He should have a son. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allah is sufficient as Defender.”
The Isa of Islam leaves its adherents without any proximity as to the nature of Allah and the essential revealed character of His being. The Biblical account claims that without the self-revelation of the One God, as expressed in Jesus Christ the estimation of our understanding about God implodes upon itself! Is it good enough to maintain a belief in an ‘unknown’ Deity? Dr. J A Dorner mentions:
“an absolute hidden God is for man virtually no God, and such a pretended purification of the concept of Deity closely approaches to Atheism, but also because the concept of Deity cannot otherwise be preserved from self-contradiction. If God be thought as the pure Absolute, in the sense that He cannot come into contact with the finite, then is He no longer the Absolute; since He can have nothing to do with the finite, the latter is without Him; that is; He is no more the Absolute, if it is not He who reveals Himself in the finite… In Jesus of Nazareth… the unity of the Divine and the human has appeared in a personal and unique mode.”
Scripture makes it clear that in the one person Jesus Christ both the properties of transcendent infinitude and immanent finitude came together, not as one, but as one mediated whole.
Scripture does not give us the luxury to deny the life and potency of Jesus Christ but clearly affirms that the task and essential being as revealed in the Christian Scriptures show a God that came close.Sigurd Grindheim writes:
“there are some striking similarities in the portraits of Jesus presented in the Synoptic Gospel. They have all given considerable attention to the theme of Jesus acting in God’s place. For Mark, this means that Jesus is the fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecies regarding the new exodus, and he is the divine warrior who defeats Satan and his army of evil spirits. Jesus’ miracles show that the new creation is already a reality. For Matthew, Jesus’ equality with God means that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with Us. He is personally eternally present with his disciples and his presence is the presence of God. The proper response, therefore, is to worship him. For Luke, Jesus’ equality with God means that the earthly Jesus is also the heavenly Lord. He is present in the heavenly council while he is also present with his disciples on earth.”
John (1) in his Prologue describes this beautifully when he wrote:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men.” 10 He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not recognize Him. 14 The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 18 No one has ever seen God. The One and Only Son — the One who is at the Father’s side— He has revealed Him.”
For the Christian, in the Person of Jesus Christ, we have both the transcendent and the infinitude manifest alongside one another without them being monistic or one reality. It is important to understand that Christianity strongly maintains the creator-creature distinction as fundamental. When we speak about the Hypostatic Union of Christ, we hold that He embodies two radical perspectives; one of transcendent infinitude & one of immanent finitude. Now when we understand that Jesus embodies both these realities, a lot of misconceptions surrounding the Christian Scriptures and the mention of Christ’s glorification and sure humanity disappears. He was truly God, and truly man, without any contradiction.Paul affirms this reality when he writes to Timothy (1 Tim.2:3-6):
“This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (What is the knowledge of truth?) “Forthere is one God and one mediator between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, Himself human, who gave Himself—a ransom for all, a testimony at the proper time.”
Jesus is the full revelation of God’s own self-disclosure and the only mediator to all people of the earth. There is no other ”prophet” or ”sage” necessary. To get Jesus wrong is to get God wrong! Jesus sets Himself up as the standard by which we can know the only true God.That is why John the Beloved (John 17:1-5), after affirming the fact that Jesus was the full revelation of God, maintains that:
“Jesus spoke these things, looked up to heaven, and said: Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son so that the Son may glorify You, 2 for You gave Him authority over all flesh; so He may give eternal life to all You have given Him. 3 This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent—Jesus Christ. 4 I have glorified You on the earth by completing the work You gave Me to do. 5 Now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with that glory I had with You before the world existed.”
Jesus clearly maintains in this portion that in His task He shares the glory of the Father, and exalts the Father something no one else shares with Yahweh (Isaiah 48:11). Please note Jesus prays differently from Muslims in His posture looking into heaven and addressing God as Father. Jesus also has authority over all flesh and grants eternal life from His own volition. Both these prerogatives ascribe only to Yahweh. The very heart of salvation is to ‘know the Father’ as displayed by the Son Jesus Christ. Jesus also mentions that He completed the work of the Father. This is important because He shows that there is no future revelation or messenger necessary because He sufficiently completes this work Himself. Lastly, the Son shows He pre-existed with the Father and He will return to the glory he had with the Father before the world began. John the Beloved (John 17:6-7) also maintains that Jesus said:
‘I have revealed Your name to the men You gave Me from the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they know that all things You have given to Me are from You, because the words that You gave Me, I have given them.’
Because Jesus is the perfect mediator between God and Man, he can perfectly communicate who this God is. The God of the Bible is both “transcendent” and “immanent” where we see the demand of the Quran is that Allah is wholly “transcendent.” Christians maintain that Biblically, Jesus visibly displays to us two natures (100% God/Man) unified in the person of Christ (hypostasis). There is no violation of the “perfect being” of Jesus as God because as the perfect God He is also the perfect man. There is also no violation of the essential nature of the Father, as Arius of Alexandria would have claimed because Jesus exhausts what it means when we speak of God, yet, the Father also exhausts the very definition as do the Holy Spirit. Infinity cannot be diminished or divided to the place where it looses its essential potency or substance. God is wholly God, and the persons of the Triune God equally exempliies the very nature of God as One.
The Council of Nicaeacontends with this central issue, but in no way is the Person of Christ diminished, or the essence of the One God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) compromised. It is therefore quite clear that the Quran emphatically denies this reality. In Surah Al Maida (5) 116 it relates:
“And (remember) when Allah will say (on the Day of Resurrection): “O ‘Iesa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary)! Did you say unto men: ‘Worship me and my mother as two gods besides Allah?’ “He will say: “Glory be to You! It was not for me to say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, You would surely have known it. You know what is in my inner-self though I do not know what is in Yours, truly, You, only You, are the All-Knower of all that is hidden and unseen.”
In the Unitarians’ zeal to preserve the ‘otherness’ of Allah, their God ultimately becomes the unknown and he becomes solely dependent on His creation to make himself known. This is not the claim in all of the Christian Scriptures. Our God is made known by the revelation and incarnation of the Son, Jesus Christ. The Son distinctly separates and maintains the balance between the transcendent and the immanent. Paul the Apostle calls upon an early hymn in his letter to the Philippians (2:6-11) and writes:
“Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God (Greek: ’Hos en morphe Theo hyparchon’), did not consider equality with God (Greek: ‘Einai Isa Theo’) as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead, He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross. For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow— of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Why did Jesus humble himself? Well, for the sake of time I will give two reasons:
- To defeat the evil one.
The author of Hebrews (2:14-15) says:
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
John Owen writes;
“What is clear though is that in sharing our humanity Christ enters the sphere of the devil’s rule and through his own death deprives the devil of his power”.
Colossians 2:13-15 says:
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. 15 And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross”.
- To redeem us.
Galatians 4:4-7 affirm:
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ”.
Jesus was the remedy for all man’s sorrows. He was the final consummation of God’s redemptive people. He was the final Prophet, King, and Priest.
John Stott writes,
“So the divinity of Christ, the humanity of Christ and the righteousness of Christ uniquely qualify him to be man’s redeemer. If He had not been man, He could not have redeemed man. If he had not been a righteous man, he could not have redeemed unrighteous men. And if he had not been God’s Son, he could not have redeemed men for God or made them sons of God”.
In the Biblical understanding of Jesus Christ, we can see a functional subordination between the Father and the Son. In the Quran, we see an economic subordination of Isa to Allah. John Frame writes;
“There is no subordination within the ‘divine nature’ that is shared amongst the persons: the Three are equally God. However, there is a subordination of role amongst the persons, which constitutes part of the distinctiveness of each. Because of that subordination of role, the persons subordinate themselves to one another in their economic relationship with creation”.
NB! For the Biblical definition of subordination, a difference in function does not mean inferiority in nature.Dr Douglas Groothius comments in his book ‘’Jesus in an Age of Controversy” (Pg.285) writes:
“Jesus is not an ambiguous inkblot upon which we project our pet theories, hopes, or fears. He is a living reality who can be mastered by no one, since He is the Master of the universe. He challenges every counterfeit with His genuineness, every distortion with His veracity.”
Jesus of Nazareth says in John 5:38:
“You don’t have His word living in you, because you don’t believe the One He sent”….
Now before you say you possess a full understanding of Christ, here are some of the key claims Jesus made about himself.
Christ claimed to live a sinless life
Jesus could look at a crowd of people angry at his claims to share God’s nature and ask, “Which of you can point to anything wrong in my life?” Even more amazing is that none of them could give a reply! No human being has ever lived a sinless life, except for Jesus Christ.
John 8:28-29 “So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know who I am and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.'”
John 8:46-47 “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”
Jesus Christ claimed to be the ONLY way to God
Not one of several ways, but the one and only way. Not to teach the way, but to be the way to God. Nobody has ever made claims like that before and backed them, but Jesus did through his love, balanced life, and miracles.
John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”
Matthew 11:27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Note: No other world religious leader, such as Buddha, Confucius, or Mohammed ever made this claim.
Christ claimed to have shared the glory of God in Heaven
Jesus claimed to have pre-existed the people he spoke with. The apostle John–who shared bread with Jesus–wrote that Jesus was with God in the very beginning, and that “all things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.” (John 1:1-5)
John 17:5 “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”
This is a claim distorted by groups like the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Jesus Christ claimed to be able to forgive sins
One of the reasons that the Jewish leaders were so angry with Jesus was his continual practice of forgiving people’s sins. The religious leaders understood clearly that since sins were a rebellion against God Himself, only God could forgive sins.
Luke 5:20-21 “When Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’ The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, ‘Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?‘
Luke 7:48-49 “Then Jesus said to her, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ The other guests began to say among themselves, ‘Who is this who even forgives sins?’“
Christ claimed to be a Heavenly king
Luke 22:69 “But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”
Luke 23:1-3 “Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, ‘We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.’ So Pilate asked Jesus, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied.”
John 18:36-37 “Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.’ ‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.'”
Christ claimed to be able to give everlasting life
Jesus didn’t just tell people how they could find everlasting life, or deepen their own life experience. He actually claimed to give life himself.
John 6:40 “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.”
John 6:47 “I tell you the truth, he who believes has everlasting life.”
John 10:28-30 “I give [my followers] eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
John 11:25 “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die…'”
Jesus claimed that he would die and come back to life
John 10:17 “Just as the Father knows me and I know the Father–and I lay down my life for the sheep. The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life–only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
John 12:32-33 “‘But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.’ He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die.”
John 16:16 “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”
Luke 18:31-33 “Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, ‘We are going up into Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.'”
Christ claimed that he would return again to judge the world
Matthew 24:27-30 “So as the lightening comes from the east and flashes to the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man… At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.”
Matthew 25:31-32 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep and the goats.”
Mark 14:61-62 “Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.'”
I would claim that the Biblical idea of a Divine Son is not foreign to the overall context of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures. As for the Isa of the Quran, we recognize that it is definitely not informed by an orthodox deduction.I would also maintain that when you miss Jesus partially and divorce him from the earliest sources, you miss him ultimately and are left with a deduction, void of any reasonable pursuit! Reformer Abraham Kuyper writes;
“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, mine!”
 Transcendence and Immanence Pg.263.
 Pg. 6.
 The Doctrine of God: A Theology of Lordship. Pg. 720.