Recently I watched a training video and the speaker affirmed that somehow 'Isa of Islam, as the Muslim "Jesus" is called, is somehow the same as Jesus in the Bible. Here are a sampling of his reasons for which he provided all 25 Qur'anic references. Yet a closer look will reveal that this Muslim "Jesus" is, in spite of a few superficial similarities to the Biblical one--mentioned 975x , is what the Apostle Paul would say, is "another Jesus" (2 Corinthians 11:4).
1. 'Isa is called righteous
2. 'Isa performed miracles
3. 'Isa was borne of a virgin
4. 'Isa was a prophet
5. 'Isa was sinless
6. 'Isa was called the Word of God
7. 'Isa was called the Spirit of God
8. 'Isa was called the Messiah
9. 'Isa is called a messenger or apostle of God
10. 'Isa was raised up to God and will come again
It is easy to imagine how a quick scan down this list could cause the reader to say, "I have seen Jesus--from the Bible--in the Qur'an." It happens all the time. In fact the lecturer of the training video seemed to think that with the Qur'an only one could pretty much convince a Muslim to follow Jesus of the Bible. But let us read some of the fine print here.
1. Whereas 'Isa is called "one of the righteous" in the Qur'an (Q.6:85), he is "The [singular] Holy and Righteous One in Acts 3:14-16
2. Whereas 'Isa is said to perform miracles, he does it by "Allah's leave" or as a subordinate of Allah of Islam, not as the Son of God incarnate. All of the miracles of the Islamic 'Isa are used to point to what Islam calls the greater miracle of the Qur'an and by default its messenger Muhammad.
3. 'Isa was borne of a virgin whom the angel Gabriel [sometimes known as the Islamic 'holy spirit'] blew his breath into. The story had enough similarities to help convince some Arabic Christians at the time of Muhammad that "there was not a twig of difference" between what Muhammad was saying and what the Bible was saying.
4. 'Isa might have been a prophet, but served only in a line of prophets to validate the prophethood of Muhammad. In fact the Qur'an asserts that 'Isa predicted the coming of Muhammad, who was the final prophet. Essentially the Muslim "Jesus" functions as a forerunner for Muhammad, in a similar fashion that John the Baptist did for Jesus.
5. As much as 'Isa was sinless, the Biblical Jesus was both sinless, and the "became sin" or became the atoning substitute for sinners. Islam knows of no such idea of atonement because it denies original sin, and says the solution to humanity's problem is "proper guidance".
6. A quick Christianizing read of the Qur'an in some translations will certainly give the idea that 'Isa is the Word of God. Not too fast, here, though. Even Yusuf Ali, whose translation is very popular said that the Logos doctrine [i.e. Jesus is the Word of God in John 1:1] of Christians has nothing to do with the exact phrase which reads "a word from Allah." Even the classical Islamic scholar al-Tabari noted that this phrase has nothing to do with Christian views, but simply means that 'Isa was ordered into being by Allah, and so he is just another created being.
7. Is 'Isa the Spirit of God? Just like the above, the trainer talked long and hard about Ruhallah or the Spirit of God, as if it is part of the Trinity. Great try, but al-Tabari and others violently disagree. They see this term literally as "a spirit from god" meaning that just as Adam received the breath of life from Allah, so 'Isa received the breath of life from Allah. Added to that, one might object and say that the Qur'an talks about the Holy Spirit, but the reading is "the spirit of the holy" which likely refers to the fact that the angel Gabriel is a messenger/slave of Allah.
8. Yes, 'Isa is called Masiah in Arabic. Muslim scholars like al-Tabari state that it is not a title, but a description of someone who was on a mission and had to be purified for it. Logically, in Islam, the mission of 'Isa was to bring the Jews and Christians back to Islam. Others say this word refers to the fact that he walked around a lot.
9. 'Isa was a messenger or rasul, but one needs to ask what was his message? Added to that, the messenger (rasul) who is talked about everyday in Islam is Muhammad. Contrast this with the words of Hebrews 3:1 "Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle [Arabic Bible reads 'rasul'] and high priest of our confession." Note that Jesus is both apostle and high priest.
10. 'Isa was raised up to Allah. True, according to the Qur'an. But why. According to the traditions, it is because he will come back to earth as a red-haired man, marry, kill all the pigs, break all the crosses, eliminate the tax on non-Muslims [by implication there will be no more Christians] die, and will be buried beside Muhammad. Contrast that with the Biblical Jesus who is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords who sits at the right hand of the Father.
I hope you can see that it is important to read the fine print in these matters. It is a far too frequent mistake of well-meaning Christians to read Biblical truth into the Qur'an, when in actual fact it does not exist. Now, perhaps you think I have a bias. Listen to these words from a Muslim himself, concerning the Muslim Jesus:
"In its totality this gospel is the story of a love affair between Islam and Jesus and is thus a unique record of how one world religion chose to adopt the central figure of another, coming to recognize him as constitutive of its own identity , . Jesus is always identified as a Muslim prophet... for he is, after all, a figure molded in an Islamic environment . Here, then, is the true Jesus, "cleansed" of the "perversions" of his followers, a prophet truly obedient to his Maker and offered up as the true alternative to the Jesus of the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Redemption"
(From the Muslim author Tarif Khalidi in his The Muslim Jesus: Sayings and Stories in Islamic Literature.)
How do you respond to this? Listen to the words of a former Muslim and one of the most respected missionaries to Muslims of all time.
A former Muslim, Elijah Abraham, from Living Oasis Ministries observes,
"The differences between Jesus of the Bible and Isa of the Qur’an cannot be reconciled and it should not be reconciled at the expense of the deity of Jesus of the Bible... In final analysis, Islamic Isa does not exist. He was a seventh century Arabian fable that Muhammad borrowed and added to."
"With regret it must be admitted that there is hardly an important fact concerning the life, person, and work of our Savior which is not ignored, perverted, or denied by Islam." (From the Christian author Samuel Zwemer in his The Moslem Christ)
May this short study give you the vision to share the Biblical Jesus with Muslims this Christmas, as the Only one who:
1. Is a Saviour, because his name, unlike 'Isa, will save his people from their sins.
2. Is a Redeemer, because he, unlike 'Isa, bought these people with his precious blood.
3. Is Lord and God, because he, unlike 'Isa, is one with the Father from all time.
4. Is the Son of God, because he, unlike 'Isa, is more than just the son of Mary.
5. Is the Only Mediator, because he, unlike 'Isa, is both God and man.
6. Is the Second Adam, because he, unlike 'Isa, is able to return humanity to Eden.
7. Is the promised Messiah, because he, unlike 'Isa, embodies all Messianic hopes.
...because of all of this, He is totally worthy of worship. That is what Christmas is all about and it is the gift Muslims need most.
PS. If you would like to read a more in-depth study on the Christmas in the Qur'an and in the Bible, please refer to an article I wrote a year ago.
The Islamic and Christian “Christmas” Stories:“A Twig of Difference” by Salaam Corniche