Jesus Unique In The Quran As Well As The Bible
- Jesus as Unique in the Quran as Well as the Bible
- The Virgin-Birth of Jesus
- The Sinlessness of Jesus
- The Ascension of Jesus to Heaven
- Jesus the Messiah
- Jesus as the Word of God
- Jesus as the Spirit of God
- Implications of the Uniqueness of Jesus
Top of page Jesus as Unique in the Quran as Well as the Bible
As a Muslim, you know Allah, but do you know Isa, Jesus Christ, whom God sent? The Quran urges you to read about Isa in the Quran and in the Bible (Sura 5:46; 10:94-95). The purpose of this article is to demonstrate to our Muslim friends just how close the teachings about Jesus actually are in both the Quran and the Bible. The Quran teaches that Jesus is unlike any other prophet. It may be surprising to Muslims, but we believe that we can further show that the Quran actually confirms who Christians say that Jesus is! We hope you will review this information and give us feedback. Here is our email: email@example.com.
Before we begin with this study of the Quran, if you are willing to be challenged, check out this short video: Abdul's Testimony.
Top of page The Virgin-Birth of Jesus
The Bible records the unique conception of Jesus by a virgin woman, Mary, as a fulfillment of a prophecy made seven centuries earlier. See Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:26-31; and Matthew 1:18-21.
The Quran also records the vision to Mary and the virgin-birth of Jesus in two passages. See Surah 3:45-47 and Surah 19:16-22. If one had to ask why Jesus should be born in such a unique way, as no other human being has ever been so conceived, the Quran gives a clear answer. She was to conceive Jesus in a special way because there was to be something unique and special about her son. The virgin-birth is given constant emphasis in the Muslim scripture in the title it gives consistently to Jesus, namely ibn Maryam, the son of Mary. No other woman is named in the Quran. No other woman is given such veneration as it says in Surah 3:42 that "Surely Allah has chosen you and purified you, and preferred you above the women of the world." Why is Mary exalted in the Quran? It is because she was the mother of Jesus—because she mothered the greatest among men.
Why is this important? As we will see as we further explore who Jesus was from the Quran, he must be the Son of God.
Top of page The Sinlessness of Jesus
According to the Bible, Jesus is the only person who ever lived who was entirely without sin. The book charges all men, from Adam onwards, as being under the power of sin (Romans 3:9), and as having sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). Only Jesus is excepted. Numerous passages record the sinlessness of Jesus including 1 Peter 2:22; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 3:5, etc.
The Quran too declares that Jesus was without sin. When the Angel Jibril (Gabriel) appeared to Mary to announce her conception of Jesus, he said:
I am only a messenger of your Lord, to announce to you a faultless son (Surah 19:19).
The words used in Arabic to describe him are ghulaaman-zakiyyan, “a most-holy boy.” The word zakiyya, meaning “blameless,” appears only twice in the Quran. The other occasion is in the story about Moses in which he met a young man who is described as being innocent. But in this case, the word was only referring to the young man’s innocence of any crime deserving of death, but in Jesus’ case, the angel was describing his whole personality and character before he was even born. “Faultless” or “blameless” clearly means without sin. So the Quran confirms the biblical teaching that Jesus was the only sinless person who ever lived as the Quran nowhere describes anyone else in this way. On the contrary, the Quran acknowledges the sins of the other prophets and specifically refers to the sins of Adam (Sura 7:23), Abraham (26:82), Moses (28:16), Johan (37:142), and Muhammad (47:19, 48:2). In the case of Muhammad the Quran expressly commands him to ask forgiveness (wastaghfir) of his sins (dhanbika). The words used are employed throughout the Quran in the same context and there can be no doubt about their meaning, despite the subtle attempts of many Muslim commentators to reduce them to less imposing terms (such as to ask for “protection” from his “shortcomings”).
The Hadith also records that Jesus was sinless. Muhammad himself believed this! It is recorded in Sahih Muslim (Vol 4, pg 1261):
Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (saw) as saying: The satan touches every son of Adam on the day when his mother gives birth to him with the exception of Mary and her son.
Why is Jesus sinless? As we look in detail at the Quran further in this article, we can see that the only reasonable explanation is that he is the Son of God. Jesus taught that he and the Father are one (John 10:30), and he will, therefore, always do the will of the Father. If he did anything independently of the Father, he would no longer be one with him. One who is always doing the absolute will of his Father cannot be sinful—because, as the Son of God, he too is absolutely holy and always does what is pleasing to the Father (John 8:29).
Top of page The Ascension of Jesus to Heaven
The Bible teaches that after his resurrection from the dead, Jesus ascended to heaven in bodily form. Read Acts 1:9-11. In other passages the New Testament teaches that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1), that God made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule, authority, power and dominion (Ephesians 1:21), and that he taught that he was to return to heaven from where he had originally come (John 6:62, 16:28).
The Quran only has one statement to confirm the ascension of Jesus, but it has been enough to convince Muslims throughout the world that he is there to this day, alive in the very presence of Allah. The text reads:
But Allah took him up to himself (Surah 4:158).
This statement is made in contrast to the claim of the Jews that they had killed the Messiah Jesus, the son of Mary. Muslims believe he was rescued from crucifixion and taken to heaven without dying. Despite the different circumstances, both the Quran and the Bible teach the ascension of Jesus, alive and in bodily form, from earth to heaven. Significantly, the only Hadith records that mention the destiny of Jesus agree without exception that Jesus was taken to heaven.
Various Muslim teachings suggest a return of Jesus. These include various Hadiths such as Sahih Muslim (Vol 1, pg. 93), Sahih al-Bukhari (Vol 4, pg. 137), Ibn Sa’d, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir (Vol 1, pg. 47).
But what is the reason for his ascension into heaven? The reason is implied in his virgin-birth. He ascended to heaven because he came from there in the first place. If he had returned to dust as all other men do, no Christian would believe that he was the unique Son of God.
The Quran often speaks of the throne of God (Suras 10:4, 7:54, 13:2, etc.). This expresses the royal sovereignty which God enjoys over the whole universe. The Bible makes the same point but, to emphasize the unique ascension of Jesus to heaven and his ultimate place there, it declares that he sat down at his right hand as sons of kings in those days sat at their father’s side, being the heirs to the throne. Many passages make this clear:
God accomplishes his great might in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:20).
Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven (Hebrews 8:1).
When Stephen saw the heavens opened just before his martyrdom, he declared that he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:56). Jesus also declared that he would grant to all who conquer the right to sit at his right hand, just as he had conquered and sat down with his Father on his throne (Revelation 3:21). The Quran speaks of the throne of God—the rightful place of Jesus after his ascension to heaven is at the right hand of Him who sits on it.
Top of page Jesus the Messiah
Jesus alone is called the Messiah in the Quran. No other prophet, patriarch or priest is given this title. In Arabic it is simply al-Masih. The Quran awards this title to Jesus on eleven separate occasions, including in Sura 4:171, where a denial of Jesus’ divinity is also made. However, the Quran makes no attempt to define the title. So, in order to find the meaning of the term, one has to go to the Jewish and Christian scriptures to find its meaning. When we look there we find that the expressions Messiah and Son of God were synonymous!
- Over 300 Old Testament prophecies speak of the coming Messiah ("Christ") and describe him as a man that stands above all other men, including the other messengers of God, and that he would have a regality, majesty, splendor and excellence above all other men. Indeed, he would have divine attributes. Jewish believers in Jesus used the term Messiah and Son of God interchangeably. For example, Peter, one of the first Jewish followers of Jesus said, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16)." Nathaniel (John 1:49), Mark (Mark 1:1), and Martha (John 11:27) are examples of others who used the terms Messiah and Son of God interchangeably. Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest also used the terms Messiah and Son of God together. When Jesus was on trial, Caiaphas asked Jesus, "I adjure you, by the living God, tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God (Matthew 26:63)."
- Even demons recognized him in this way. They knew him from all eternity as the eternal Son from the Father and recognized him in human form when he commanded them with authority to depart: "And demons also came out of many, crying, 'You are the Son of God!' But he rebuked them, and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Messiah (Luke 4:41)."
Thus, by saying that Jesus is the Messiah, the Quran has duly given Jesus a title which implies that he is the very person that the Quran is otherwise at such pains to deny—the Son of God himself.
Top of page Jesus as the Word of God
In Sura 4:171, Jesus is called, “His Word.” In Sura 3:45 the Quran states that the angels, when announcing the unique conception of Jesus to Mary, told her that Allah was giving her good tidings “of a Word from him.” The expression here used, in the original Arabic, is kalimatim-minhu. Broken up, it means kalmia (word), min (from), hu (him). Note this—Jesus is the only human being who ever lived who is called a Word from God. The same title is applied to him in the Christian Bible:
He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is the Word of God. (Revelation 19:13).
Once again, Jesus is given a title in the Quran which the Bible gives him as well. Like the Messiah, this is a very distinctive and remarkable title. It is important to emphasize two specific features of this title. Jesus himself, in his actual person, is the Word. Secondly, the source of this Word is God. Neither book says that he delivered the word of God as other prophets did, or that he was learned in it, or that he embodied and represented it. He is expressly declared to be a Word from God, or THE Word of God. Other prophets received the messages of God, but Jesus, in a unique way, is himself the message of God to the world!
There is obviously something about the person of Jesus himself that makes him the Word of God in a way no other man has ever been or ever will be. Key to understanding the title is the emphasis of deity as its source. The Word is from God. He himself is the communication and revelation of God to men. He does not merely bring the word of God, he is the Word of God.
We have to turn to the Bible to find the ultimate meaning of the title in view of the fact that the Quran attributes it to Jesus without explanation. We go to the very beginning of John’s gospel where this subject is treated in more detail:
In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God. And the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him and without him was not anything made that was made (John 1:1-2).
When we amplify or paraphrase these words we get a clear picture of the meaning of the title. In the beginning, before God ever began to create, the Word already existed. Far from being part of the created order, the Word was in the realm of God and indeed the very nature of the Word was God. When God first began to fashion the created order, the Word already existed in the divine order. He himself was not created, but all other things were created by God through him as agent. Because he alone is the Word of God, and is therefore the ultimate means of communication between God and his creatures, nothing was created without being created by him.
But why is Jesus the Word of God? In what way was Jesus uniquely the communication of God in himself to mankind? We go a bit further down the first page of John’s gospel and find these words:
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth (John 1:14).
The title signifies two unique things about Jesus, and distinguish him from all other prophets of God:
- Every word of Jesus was the word of God. All the prophets who went before him spoke the Word of God when moved by the Holy Spirit, but in general conversation their speech was entirely their own. Muslims are taught to distinguish between the Quran—which Muhammad received and conveyed as the word of God—and his own teachings which are recorded in the Hadith as inspirational but not divine. Jesus, however, at all times spoke the word of God, whether in public preaching or in private conversation. He confirmed this on various occasions, such as:
I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me (John 12:49-50).
The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works (John 14:10).
- Jesus himself is God's final message to mankind. Being the Word of God, Jesus himself is the final and complete revelation of God to the human race. The following text expresses this perfectly:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:15-19).
Jesus himself is the Word of God. There is no independence, therefore, between God and His Word. In human form Jesus embodied the divine being. He was not a created messenger. He is, and for all eternity will be, the eternal Word of God.
Sura 4:171 tells Christians not to exaggerate in their religion and to say nothing of Allah but the truth. Yet, in view of these unique titles we are considering, it is hard to see where the exaggeration is. The text of the Quran denies the deity of Christ, yet, in the titles it applies to him, it simply affirms the very thing it takes such pains to deny. We have already seen that the titles Messiah and Son of God are synonymous. The title Word of God is also interchangeable with the title Son of God. If anything, this title is more emphatic and suggestive of deity as it implies no submission on the part of the Word of God as the expression Son to Father does.
Top of page Jesus as the Spirit of God
In Islam Jesus is given the title, Ruhullah, meaning “Spirit of God.” It comes from the same text, Sura 4:171, where Jesus is called wa-ruhun-minhu, “a spirit from him.” The same structure is used as for the Word of God: ruh (spirit), min (from), hu (him). In this case we do find some evidence in the Quran that helps us to define the title. The expression occurs again here:
These are those in whose hearts he has inscribed faith, and strengthened them with a spirit from himself (Sura 58:22).
These are the same words used as in Sura 4:171, ruhun-minhu, “a spirit from him.” Nowhere else in the Quran does this expression occur. In his commentary on the Quran, Yusuf Ali says that the “phrase used is stronger” than that for the Holy Spirit (Ruhul-Quds) in the Quran who is identified in Islam as the Angel Gabriel. Ali implies that this Spirit of God is greater than the mighty angel and says it is, “the divine spirit which we can no more define adequately than we can define in human language the nature and attributes of God.”
The Muslim commentator has, unintentionally but very impressively, given a precise definition of the Holy Spirit as Christians know him in the Bible. He is the “divine spirit” who cannot be defined in human language with terminology other than that used for God himself. Yet the Quran, in the only other place where this expression occurs, applies this same divine title to Jesus!
So Muslims have a third title in Sura 4:171—Spirit of God—which attributes divine features to Jesus just as the titles Messiah and Word of God do. Significantly, they are synonymous with titles used in the Bible for Jesus to further express his profile towards mankind as the eternal Son from the Father.
The Quran, in the very passage (Sura 4:171)—which contains a denial of the deity of Jesus (“Do not say Trinity! God is only one God. Far be it from his glory to have a son.”) —paradoxically attributes three titles to him which affirm his deity! He is the Anointed Son of God/Messiah; he is the divine Word of God, and he is a Spirit coming from God. Jesus was not just another prophet called to office at an appropriate point in time. He is the message of God, he came from God, his very spirit is the Spirit of God.
In fact, not only does the Quran affirm the deity of Jesus, it affirms the Christian understanding of the Trinity by its use of the expression ruhun-minhu! Yusaf Ali freely concedes that this is no created spirit of which the book teaches but the divine spirit, which comes from God, and must be defined in the same terms as God. Twice the Quran uses the expression, once for Jesus Christ, and once for the Spirit which comes from God (and strengthens believers), and must be defined in the same terms as God. A closer definition of the Trinity you could hardly hope to find. Sura 58:22 defines the Spirit of God in terms synonymous with those applied to the Holy Spirit in the Bible and Sura 4:171 expressly nominates Jesus in the same terms.
Top of page Implications of the Uniqueness of Jesus
It is clear from both the Bible and the Quran that Jesus is unique. There must be something really special about Jesus for the Quran to verify that he
- was virgin-born
- was the son the most exalted woman,
- was sinless
- ascended to heaven to be at the right hand of God
- was to come again
- was the Messiah
- was the Word of God
- possessed the Spirit of God
The reason was given by Jesus himself. He was not an ordinary man born in the normal course of procreation. He taught that he had existed in the heavens before the foundation of the universe and had even witnessed the fall of Satan (Luke 10:18).
He taught that he had come down from heaven (John 6:62), and that he came from the Father into the world and would leave the world and return to the Father (John 16:28).
This is why he had to be born of a virgin woman. He pre-existed his earthly life, had come into the world from heaven and had assumed human form. He had, therefore, a unique beginning to his life, just as it would end in a unique way. He came from heaven and would return there. Jesus himself drew a sharp contrast between himself and all other men when he said to the Jews, “You are from below, I am from above. You are of this world, I am not of this world (John 8:23).
Jesus is different from and superior to all the prophets who went before him. Indeed, he was greater than all other men. The Angel Gabriel gave the answer when he said to Mary:
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High...therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God (Luke 1:32, 35).
Yes, all prophets had some unique features, but in the case of Jesus, we find that his uniqueness is personal to himself. There is no comparison here with any other prophet. All these unique features, spanning the origin of his life, its conclusion and final destiny, are found in him alone. These unique features of Jesus—with one accord—support that Jesus is the Son of God.
To our Muslim friends, we ask you to consider seriously what your own holy book teaches you about Jesus. And further, to consider the implications. If Jesus is indeed the Son of God, in him alone can man be reconciled to God. There is no other name under heaven by which man can be saved (Acts 4:12). The good news is that
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son—that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).
As a Muslim, you know Allah, but do you know Isa, Jesus Christ, whom God sent? The Quran urges you to read about Isa in the Bible (Sura 5:46; 10:94-95). Why not begin a one week Bible study? Here is a link that will study the life of Jesus: Bible Study for Muslims.
To discover even more about this Jesus, we encourage you to take the next step and read the Bible for yourself. You might want to start by reading the Book of John first.
This is the first of 21 chapters in the book of John. At the bottom of the page at this link you will find arrows. The arrow to the right will take you to the second chapter and so forth. If you would like to read other highlights from the Bible, we have elsewhere on our website a “cram course” that one can use to quickly read through important topics in the Bible.
And as previously offered, we welcome your questions.
Please watch this video:
Note: This material came from an article by John Gilchrist in Christian Answers newsletter, Larry Wessels editor, Steve Morrison director of research. For more information, you may email firstname.lastname@example.org, or see www.muslimhope.com.