Louay Fatoohi

Louay Fatoohi

May 032010

Adapted from The Mystery of the Crucifixion: The Attempt to Kill Jesus in the Qur’an, the New Testament, and Historical Sources

Comparing what the Gospels say about any episode of the story of the crucifixion of Jesus reveals many differences and contradictions. The significance of these differences is that they undermine the historical reliability of the main sources on the alleged crucifixion. This article deals with one of these contradictions.

The contradictions between the Gospels’ accounts of the crucifixion start as early as their specification of the date on which Jesus was arrested. All four Gospels state that Jesus was arrested and later crucified on the day of preparation: 

Now when evening had already come, since it was the day of preparation (that is, the day before the Sabbath). (Mark 15:42)

The next day (which is after the day of preparation) the chief priests and the Pharisees assembled before Pilate. (Matt. 27:62)

It was the day of preparation and the Sabbath was beginning. (Luke 23:54)

 Then, because it was the day of preparation, so that the bodies should not stay on the crosses on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was an especially important one), the Jewish leaders asked Pilate to have the victims’ legs broken and the bodies taken down. (John 19:31)

This designates Friday, on which all preparations for the Sabbath had to be done as no work could be done on the holy day. But John disagrees with the Synoptic assertion that this Friday was the first day of the Jewish festival of the Passover, suggesting that it was the day of rest of the Passover, i.e. one day earlier.

According to Jewish law, the lamb of the Passover is slaughtered in the evening of the 14th of Nisan, which is the first month in the Jewish calendar, and it is then eaten in that night (Exo. 12:1-8). As the Jewish day is reckoned from sunset to sunset, this night represents the start of the 15th of Nisan. The Synoptics claim that after having the Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus was arrested later in that night, i.e. the night of the first day of the Passover (Mark 14:12-46; Matt. 26:19-50; Luke 22:7-54), and was crucified in the morning, that is on the morning of 15th Nisan.

John states that after being arrested and questioned by the high priest, Jesus was taken to Pontius Pilate very early in the morning on the day of rest of the Passover, clearly implying that he was arrested on the previous night: “Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the Roman governor’s residence. (Now it was very early morning.) They did not go into the governor’s residence so they would not be ceremonially defiled, but could eat the Passover meal” (John 18:28). The crucifixion happened hours later, so it must have taken place on the 14th of Nisan. So John contradicts the Synoptic Gospels, placing the arrest and crucifixion one day earlier. According to John, the Friday of the crucifixion was the day of rest of the Passover, whereas the other three Evangelists make it the first day of the feast. So the agreement of the four that it was on a Friday hides a disagreement on when that Friday fell with respect to the Passover.

John’s timeline of the crucifixion makes Jesus die at the same time of the slaughter of the Passover lambs. This works very well for his description of Jesus as “the Lamb of God” in the opening chapter of his Gospel, which he attributes to John the Baptist: 

On the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

 Gazing at Jesus as he walked by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36)

John also applies to Jesus’ crucifixion, in the form of a prophecy, a description that the Old Testament applies to the Passover lamb: “For these things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled, ‘Not a bone of his will be broken’” (John 19:36). John, thus, suggests that in his crucifixion Jesus played the role of the true Passover lamb. The fact that John’s dating of the crucifixion is in such agreement with his theology has made some scholars reject the historicity of his dating as deliberately manipulated and favor the Synoptic date: 

In John 1.36 Jesus is called the “the lamb of God,” and the equation Jesus = lamb has determined John’s dating of the crucifixion. At the very time when the Passover lambs were being sacrificed in the Temple, the true lamb of God was dying outside the walls of the city. Once we see that the date in John agrees so strongly with its theology, we are inclined to prefer the Synoptics and conclude that Jesus was executed on Friday, 15 Nissan. (Sanders, 1995: 72)

Interestingly, while Mark makes it clear that Jesus was crucified on the first day of the Passover, it also states earlier that when, two days before the Passover, the chief priests and the experts in the law were conspiring to kill Jesus they did not want to kill him “during the feast, so there won’t be a riot among the people” (Mark 14:2). This passage may belong to a different tradition which is in line with the Johannine chronology of the crucifixion.

Not surprising, there have been attempts to harmonize the contradictory Gospel accounts. One popular attempt suggests that John used a different calendar from that used by the other three Evangelists. There is no evidence to support this suggestion, and there are strong arguments against it (Theissen & Merz, 1999: 159; also Vermes, 2005: 97-98).

This article has discussed only one of the contradictions between the Gospels’ accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus, but there are many more. Furthermore, the Gospel stories contradict established historical facts also, including Jewish trial law. The Gospels are the main sources on the supposed crucifixion of Jesus. In fact, they are the only sources that discuss this alleged incident in detail. Therefore, their numerous internal contradictions and disagreements with history, both of which undermine the Gospels’ value as historical sources, must also equally undermine their claim that Jesus was crucified.

Sanders, E. P. (1995). The Historical Figure of Jesus, Penguin Books: England.

Theissen, G. & Merz, A. (1999). The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide, SCM Press: London.

Vermes, G. (2005). The Passion, Penguin Books: London.

Bible translations are from the New English Translation (NET) Bible.


Copyright © 2010 Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved

Apr 022010
On the 15th of March 2010 I was invited to give a talk at an exhibition of the Qur’an organized at the University of Liverpool, UK. In the evening I had dinner with two of my hosts, both of whom are currently finishing a PhD at the University. Naturally, most of our discussions were focused on the Qur’an and, in particular its interpretation. One of the two gentlemen, who is a qualified medical doctor from Saudi Arabia, then asked me about “the best tafsir (exegetical work) of the Qur’an.” He meant to ask which of the classical works of atTabari (224-310 H / 838-922 CE), Ibn Kathir (700-774 H / 1300-1372 CE)….etc is best.
I have not read in full any of the massive classical exegetical works because this is not how I use those books. I consult a number of them on a certain topic when I am actively researching that subject, often in the course of a book I am writing. For instance, when I was writing my interpretation of the Qur’anic chapter of Joseph, I studied the full interpretation of this chapter in a number of those sources. When it comes to the Qur’an, I am more of a specialist than a generalist, so my reading list is very much populated by my specific interests. Nevertheless, I have read enough of the main classical sources to feel confident enough to form a view on them.
My reply was that, to start with, there is no perfect exegetical work. Any attempt to interpret any one verse may or may not succeed. Any book that tries to interpret the whole of the Qur’an is bound to have many shortcomings. This fact did not stop scholars from producing comprehensive exegetical works, and rightly so. If the possibility of making mistakes were to be allowed to prevent us from trying to interpret the Qur’an then that would have led to neglecting the Book of Allah. Reading and applying the Qur’an involve and require interpreting it. A text and its interpretations are not one and the same; they are two different and separate entities. But the process of using a text involves interpreting it. This is an inevitability, so we might as well understand its implication and learn how to best take into account.
Given that no exegetical work is perfect, is it possible to consider some to be better than others? The answer must be a definite yes. Some of them excel more or, put differently, have less problems than others.
My answer to the question, which is obviously based on the works I am familiar with, came as a surprise to my hosts for a number of reasons. First, it is a work that they had not heard of. Second, it is a modern rather than old exegesis. Third, it is the work of a Shia scholar. The exegesis I am talking about is that of Muhammad atTabatabai (1892-1981 CE).
Like any other exegesis, atTabatabai’s has its own problems. There are two aspects of his work that I consider as its main shortcomings. First, its interpretation of the Qur’an shows a great deal of influence by Shia beliefs. As someone who is not given to any one particular denominational set of dogmas, I disagree with any attempt to approach the interpretation of the Qur’an with preset, extra-Qur’anic concepts. Second, atTabatabai over-relies on old literature the value of which he accepts on the basis of its attribution to certain famous scholars. These are mainly sayings attributed to the Shia Imams.
Now, none of these two problems is specific to atTabatabai’s work. They are driven by Shiaism in his case, but the same problems are found in any of the other classical works where the exegete’s interpretations can be influenced by certain, prior beliefs and the selection of sources that reflect them. In my view, the overreliance on old literature, including alleged Prophetic sayings or reports about how he acted, has been one of the fundamental problems in Muslim scholarship and has given birth to all kinds of unfortunate consequences at both the thought and application levels.
AtTabatabai excels over others, however, in two significant ways. First, he has a much more rational approach to the interpretation of the Qur’an. He is capable of avoiding the kind of absurdness that has blighted many exegetical works. His failures here are often caused by allowing inherited literature to cloud his otherwise fine judgment and analysis.
Second, I also highly respect atTabatabai’s ability to see in the endlessly rich Qur’anic text things that are often missed out by others. This, in my view, is the one skill or talent that distinguishes the great scholar of the Qur’an from the average. I am talking about those textual observations that leave you with a strong appreciation of the depth, beauty, consistency, and interconnectedness of the Qur’anic text. This sense of overwhelming pious warmth is partly caused by the realization of the intellect that its own power is being used to drown it in humbleness.
But even if one has a particular exegesis that he thinks is the best, he should consult as many and different interpretations as necessary when researching any one particular issue or verse. Because there is no one exegetical work that is better than the rest in every respect, it is essential not to rely on any one work. This means that atTabatabai’s interpretation of a particular verse is not necessarily better than someone else’s. Different sources can also offer different benefits. For instance, being the oldest surviving specialist exegetical work of the Qur’an, atTabari’s work is particularly valuable in its compilation of the views of older scholars. Those who rely on one source make the same dogmatic mistake that I mentioned earlier, which even atTabatabai makes. I concluded a previous article on The Evolving Nature of Qur’anic Exegesis as follows: “Muslims need to keep an open-mind and be ready to raise questions rather than accept passively anything and everything they read or hear. Perhaps, scrutinizing the arguments of this article would be a good start.” This is a critical mindset to take when studying the Qur’an in order to avoid leaving the Qur’an behind us, separated from us by centuries of time.
Surprised by my unconventional choice of atTabatabai, my host went on to ask about specific exegetes he was familiar with, naming Ibn Kathir in particular. As the names he had in mind were well-known and highly respected, I thought of a way of showing the difference between studying those scholars among the sources that one may seek and seeing them as containing the final word on the Qur’an, which I know is how some think. So instead of giving a direct answer, I started by asking what looks like an unrelated question: “How old do you think prophet Joseph was when he was abandoned by his brother and was taken to Egypt?” The reply was: “Ten years.” I followed up: “What makes you think he was this young?” The brother replied: “Because he is described in the Qur’an as being ‘ghulam’ (12.19) at the time, and this word means ‘young boy.’” I said that I agreed with him. This is one reference in the Qur’an that Joseph was a young boy at the time. There are other, more subtle references which I discuss in my book The Prophet Joseph in the Qur’an, the Bible, and History: A new detailed commentary on the Qur’anic Chapter of Joseph.
Then I told the brother that many exegetes have suggested that Joseph was seventeen years old when his brothers threw him in the well! This view has been cited by, among others, atTabari, al-Qurtubi (578-668 H / 1178 – 1269 CE), Ibn Kathir, and atTusi (597-672 H / 1200-1273 CE) in their commentary on verse 12.100; al-Jalalayn in their interpretation of verse 12.15; and as-Suyuti (849-911 H / 1445-1505 CE) when commenting on verse 12.42. I then explained why these scholars have cited a view that is clearly in conflict with the Qur’anic account: their influence by the Bible! More specifically, this identification of Joseph’s age comes from the Book of Genesis (37:2). The fundamental point I was trying to make to that intelligent person is that his interpretation, which is based on analyzing a simple Qur’anic text, can be more accurate than an interpretation of an expert whose judgment was clouded by extra-Qur’anic literature some of which even contradicted the Qur’an.
To further explain why the authority of those classical scholars should not be taken for granted and that the modern student of the Qur’an must be open-minded and questioning, I gave an example about the kinds of absurdness that is found in exegetical works. This instance, which I discuss in my book on prophet Joseph (pp. 14-15), is met in commentaries on verse 80 of the chapter of Joseph. Joseph prevented his older ten brothers from taking his younger brother back with them and decided to keep him in Egypt, so the following verse explains what happened afterward:

So, when they (Joseph’s brothers) despaired of [convincing] him (Joseph), they conferred privately. The eldest among them said: “Do you not know that your father has taken from you a covenant in Allah’s name, and how you gave away Joseph before? Therefore I will not depart from this land until my father permits me or Allah judges for me, and He is the best of judges.” (12.80) 

In his commentary on this verse, al Qurtubi attributes the following narrative to the old exegete Ibn ‘Abbas: 

When Judah (one of Joseph’s brothers) would get angry and take the sword, not even a hundred thousand [fighters] would be able to repel him. The hairs of his chest would stand like large needles and penetrate his clothes. It was reported that Judah, who was the most volatile among his brothers, said to them: “Either you sort out the king (meaning Joseph who had detained his brother Benjamin) and I sort out the people of Egypt, or you sort out the people of Egypt and I sort out the king and those who are with him.” His brothers said: “You sort out the king and those who are with him, and we will sort out the people of Egypt.” So, he sent out one of his brothers to count the markets in Egypt, which they found to be nine. Each of them picked a market.

Judah then entered Joseph’s office and said: “O king! If you do not give us back our brother I will make such a cry that would make every pregnant woman in your city suffer a miscarriage.” That was a special attribute in them (Joseph’s brothers) when they got angry. Joseph angered Judah by saying something to him. Judah, therefore, got angry, his anger increased, and his body hair stood. This was the case with everyone of Jacob’s sons. When one of them would get angry, he would get goose bumps, his body would grow, the hairs of his back would protrude through his clothes, and a drop of blood would fall from each hair. If he would hit the ground with his foot, the earth would quake and buildings would collapse. If he would make a cry, every pregnant woman, animal, and bird would give birth, whether what they carried were fully developed or not. His anger would not go unless he shed blood or was touched by the hand of one of the offspring of Jacob.

When Joseph realized that the anger of his brother Judah had reached its climax, he asked in Coptic a young son of his to touch Judah between his shoulders without letting the latter see him. He did that, so Judah’s anger disappeared and he threw away the sword. He turned right and left expecting to see one of his brothers but he could not see any. He went out in a hurry to his brothers and asked them: “Was anyone of you with me [in the presence of Joseph]?” They replied: “No.” He said: “Where has Simeon (one of their brothers) gone?” They answered: “To the mountain.”

Judah left and met his brother who was carrying a massive rock. Judah asked Simeon: “What do you want to do with this?” Simeon replied: “I will go to the market that was assigned to me and smash the head of everyone there with this rock.” Judah said: “Return this rock or throw it in the sea, and do not say anything to anyone. I swear by the One who took [prophet] Abraham as His close friend that a hand of someone from Jacob’s offspring has touched me.”

Then, they entered Joseph’s office. The latter, who was the strongest among them, said: “O you Hebrews! Do you think that there is no one who is stronger than you?” He turned to a massive rock of the rocks of the mill and kicked it with his foot, pushing it through the wall. Then he caught Judah with one hand and wrestled him to the ground! 

This incredible narrative has absolutely nothing to do with the Qur’an. None of its many absurd details comes from the Qur’an, yet it is mentioned in the context of interpreting the Qur’anic chapter of Joseph. But this story is not confined to the exegesis of al Qurtubi. It occurs in different and similar, and longer and shorter, versions in many exegetical books, such as those of atTabari, al-‘Ayyashi (d. 320 H / 932 CE), al-Qummi (d. 329 H / 940 CE), as-Suyuti, and al-Huwayzi (d. 1112 H / 1700 CE). Any genuine attempt to interpret the Qur’an must be respected, but that respect must not prevent us from properly assessing it and taking a view on where it succeeds and where it falls short.

To sum up, I consider the exegesis of atTabatabai superior to other exegetical works, because of its modern tone and the higher depth and quality of its analysis. But atTabatabai’s work has its own problems. There is no perfect interpretation of the Qur’an. This is why it is essential that the student of the Qur’an does not rely on any one source but consults a number of works by scholars from different periods, denominations, and schools of thought.

Copyright © 2010 Louay Fatoohi
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Mar 172010

Many Muslims and non-Muslims do not know the difference between the terms “Qur’an” and “mushaf (pronounced mus haf).” They often even confuse them and use them interchangeably. This short article aims at clarifying the difference between the two terms.

God talks in the Qur’an about the concept of “Kitab (Book)”. This term denotes a special kind of knowledge that is revealed to a prophet in the form of a book, i.e. the revelations form one unit as opposed to separate revelations that, even if collected together, do not have a hidden or visible theme linking them all together. The prophet receives such revelations in his language, which means that they can be written down to form a physical “Book.” The “Torah” and the “Injil” — which God revealed to prophets Moses and Jesus, respectively — are two examples of divine Books. The “Qur’an,” which was revealed to Prophet Muhammad, is another. So the term “Qur’an” refers to the verses that the Prophet received from God in the form of 114 distinct “suras (chapters)”. The longest chapter has 286 “ayas(verses)” whereas the shortest three chapters consist of 3 verses each.

The term Qur’an is derived from the same root of the Arabic word “qara’a (read).” Indeed, the first word of the Qur’an to be revealed was “iqra’” or “read.” The name of this particular divine Book, “Qur’an,” is derived from the fact that it was “read” to the Prophet by the archangel Gabriel.

“Mushaf” (plural is “masahif) is another Arabic term that is related to “Qur’an” but is slightly different from it. This term is derived from the Arabic term “sahifa.” This word is not found in the Qur’an, but its plural, “suhuf,” occurs 8 times. In all of its 8 occurrences “suhuf” means “written pages” of something. Note that “page” in modern Arabic is “safha,” which is clearly the same word as “sahifa.”

In two of these eight verses, the term is used in the expression “early pages” (20.133, 87.18), in reference to divine revelations to earlier prophets. This expression is further clarified in the following verse: “The pages of Abraham and Moses” (87.19). The “pages of Moses” is how the term occurs in the fourth verse (53.36). It is also used twice to refer to the Qur’an, once in the expression “honored pages” (80.13) and another in “purified pages” (98.2). In its seventh appearance, the term is used in a verse that ridicules the disbelievers for behaving as if each would like to have divine “open pages” sent to him in order to believe in the revelation that has come from God (74.52). In the eighth and last verse in which “suhuf” is found, it is used to mean the pages of the record of every human being that will be examined on the Day of Resurrection (81.10).

So, the literal meaning of “mushaf” is “collection of pages.” Its technical meaning is, therefore, the “compiled, written pages of the Qur’an.” In other words, the term “Qur’an” refers to the specific “revelation that was read to Prophet Muhammad” whereas the term “mushaf” denotes the “written form” of that revelation.

Each mushaf follows a particular “Qira’a (reading)” of the Qur’an. A “reading” is a way of writing or pronouncing the Qur’anic text. There are seven readings of the Qur’an that are considered authoritative, another 3 that are accepted by the majority of scholars, and another 4 that some accept and others reject as unconfirmed. As an example of the differences between two readings, in the third verse of the first chapter of the Qur’an, some readings have the word “maliki,” with a long “a,” while others have “maliki.” Both mean “owner” or “possessor.” Another example is found in verse 1.6 where the word “assirata” may be written and pronounced as “as-sirata” i.e. replacing the letter “sad” with “sin.” Again, both pronunciations have the same meaning of “path” or “way.”

A mushaf may be written using any of a number of different Arabic scripts. For instance, one mushaf may be written using the Kufi script and another using Thulth. Furthermore, Arabic scripts developed over time, which means older mushafs that were written using the same script look different from new ones. For instance, the use of diacritical marks (dots above or under letters), which is known as “i’jam,” and the use of voweling marks (signs representing vowels), which is known as “tashkil,” were both introduced later into Arabic scripts, so early mushafs did not have them.

The availability of a number of readings and scripts means that different mushafs may look differently.

Many scholars also believe that Prophet Muhammad received Qur’anic verses that were later “withdrawn” by God. Those verses are considered by the scholars who accept this concept as part of the Qur’an. But these verses are not found in the mushaf, so they are considered as another difference between the Qur’an and mushaf. I do not share this view. I think the concept of withdrawn verses is based mainly on highly contradictory and completely unreliable extra-Qur’anic reports that were made up for a number of different reasons. As a result of accepting such reports as authentic, a couple of Qur’anic verses are then misinterpreted to try and show that they support this concept. As I do not think any verse of the Qur’an was ever withdrawn by God, I do not consider this a difference between the Qur’an and mushaf.

All mushafs have the same organization of chapters and the verses within each chapter. For instance, every mushaf starts with the chapter of “al-Fatiha (Opening)” and ends with the chapter of “an-Nas (people).” However, chapters and verses are not listed in the mushaf in the chronological order of their revelation. For instance, the first verses of the Qur’an that were revealed to the Prophet are from chapter 96 in the mushaf.

This is why there is only one Qur’an but different mushafs. But the differences between those mushafs are minimal, as they are written, compiled records of the one and same Qur’an.

Copyright © 2010 Louay Fatoohi
Blog: http://www.louayfatoohi.com
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Mar 062010

This is “Appnedix A” from the book Jesus The Muslim Prophet: History Speaks of a Human Messiah Not a Divine Christ

This is a listing of all Qur’anic verses that reject the claim that Jesus was divine. I have not included the many more verses that do not mention Jesus specifically but reject polytheism in general, confirm that God is one, and stress that everyone and everything was created by him. I have also excluded verses that indirectly stress that Jesus was a man, such as those that describe him as a messenger. I have restricted the compilation to those verses that directly reject the deification of Jesus — for instance, by rejecting the doctrine of the Trinity. The verses are listed in their order in the Qur’an.

The likeness of Jesus in Allah’s eye is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, then He said to him “Be!” and he is. (3.59)

O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion or utter anything concerning Allah but the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, His Word that He sent to Mary, and a Spirit from Him [that He sent]. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and do not say “Three.” Desist, it is better for you! Allah is one God. Far exalted is He above having offspring. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. Allah is sufficient a disposer of affairs. (4.171) The Messiah would never scorn to be a servant to Allah, nor would the angels who are nearest to Allah. As for those who scorn His service and are arrogantly proud, He shall gather them all to Himself to answer. (4.172)

They have indeed disbelieved those who say: “Allah is the Messiah son of Mary.” Say [O Muhammad!]: “Who then can do anything against Allah if He had willed to destroy the Messiah son of Mary, his mother, and everyone on earth?” Allah’s is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them. He creates what He wills. Allah is able to do all things. (5.17)

Surely they disbelieve those who say: “Allah is the Messiah son of Mary.” The Messiah himself said: “O Children of Israel! Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. Whoever joins other gods with Allah, for him Allah has forbidden paradise. His abode is the Fire. The evildoers shall have no helpers.” (5.72) Surely they disbelieve those who say: “Allah is one of three.” There is only one God. If they will not desist from what they say, a painful torment shall befall the disbelievers among them. (5.73) Will they not rather repent to Allah and seek His forgiveness? Allah is forgiving, merciful. (5.74) The Messiah son of Mary was no other than a messenger before whom similar messengers passed away, and his mother was a saintly woman. They used to eat food. See how We make the revelations clear to them, and see how they are deluded! (5.75) Say [O Muhammad!]: “Will you worship besides Allah that which has no power to harm or benefit you?” Allah is the Hearer, the Knower. (5.76) Say: “O People of the Book! Commit no excesses of falsehood in your religion, and do not follow the vain desires of folk of old who erred, led many astray, and strayed from the even path. (5.77) Those who disbelieved from among the Children of Israel were cursed by the tongue of David and of Jesus son of Mary. That was because they disobeyed and used to transgress. (5.78)

And when Allah said: “O Jesus son of Mary! Did you say to people: ‘Take me and my mother for two gods besides Allah?’” He said: “Glory be to You! I could never say what I have no right to say. If I have said it, then You know it. You know what is in my mind, but I do not know what is in Your mind. You know all unseen things. (5.116) I never said to them anything other than what You commanded me: ‘worship Allah, my and your Lord.’ I was a witness over them while I was among them, and when You took me You were the watcher over them. You are a witness over all things. (5.117) If You punish them, they are Your servants; and if You forgive them, You are the Invincible, the Wise.” (5.118)

The Jews say: “‘Uzayr is the son of Allah,” and the Christians say: “The Messiah is the son of Allah.” That is a saying from their mouths, imitating the saying of the disbelievers of old. May Allah fight them! How deluded they are! (9.30) They have taken their rabbis and monks as lords besides Allah, and so they treated the Messiah son of Mary, although they were not commanded to worship other than One God; there is no God save Him. Far exalted is He above their attribution of partners to Him! (9.31)

He (Jesus) said: “I am Allah’s servant. He has given me the Book and has made me a prophet. (19.30) He has made me blessed wherever I may be. He has enjoined upon me prayer and almsgiving so long as I remain alive. (19.31) And [He has made me] kind to my mother and has not made me arrogant or wretched. (19.32) Peace is on me the day I was born, the day I shall die, and the day I shall be raised alive.” (19.33) Such was Jesus son of Mary: this is the statement of the truth which they (Christians) dispute. (19.34) Allah would never take offspring [to Himself]. Far exalted is He above this. When He decrees a matter, He says to it only “Be!” and it is. (19.35)

And when the son of Mary was cited as an example, your people [O Muhammad!] turned away from him. (43.57) They said: “Are our gods better, or is he?” They raise this only by way of disputation; they are merely a contentious people. (43.58) He is only a servant on whom We bestowed favor and whom We made an example for the Children of Israel. (43.59) When Jesus came with clear proofs, he said: “I have come to you with Wisdom, and to make plain some of what you have disagreed on. Keep your duty to Allah, and obey me. (43.63) Allah is my Lord and your Lord. So worship Him. This is a straight way.” (43.64)


Copyright © 2010 Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved

Feb 212010

This article is extracted and adapted from chapter “The Qur’an’s Rejection of the ‘Sonship of God’” from the book Jesus The Muslim Prophet: History Speaks of a Human Messiah Not a Divine Christ

Unlike the God of the New Testament, the image of God in Islam is very clear, and it can be described in a number of simple statements:

(1) There is only one god: “There is no god save Allah” (47.19).

(2) He is the “creator of everything” (6.102).

(3) Before starting the creation, God was alone; eternity is strictly God’s: “He is the first and the last” (57.3).

(4) He is the supreme ruler of the universe: “Allah is able to do all things” (5.17); “Allah does what He wishes” (2.253).

(5) God is unique and dissimilar to anything: “There is nothing like Him” (42.11).

(6) He is subtle and out of the reach of anyone’s senses: “Vision cannot grasp Him, but He grasps all vision; and He is the Subtle One, the Aware One” (6.103).

(7) Everything and everyone is in submission to Him, whether by choice or by force: “To Him submits whoever is in the heavens and the earth, willingly or unwillingly” (3.83).

Almost all these statements are found in one form or another in the Bible. But the New Testament has other affirmations that blur the meanings of those fundamental statements, or even contradict them. One distinguishing feature of the Qur’an is the absence of such contradictory statements. For instance, while emphasizing that only God is eternal, the Qur’an does not go on elsewhere to qualify this statement by describing someone else as eternal. Similarly, there is a clear-cut ontological separation between God and His creation. No earthly or heavenly being is a god, part of God, or related to God in any form. There is one God, and everyone and everything else is created by Him.

The Qur’an considers any alleged god other than God to be false. It condemns polytheism, i.e. associating gods with Allah, in the strongest terms. It states more than once that assigning partners to God is the gravest sin and the one sin that may not be forgiven (also 4.116): 

Allah does not forgive that anything should be associated with Him, but He forgives anything other than this to whomsoever He pleases; and whoever associates anything with Allah, he devises indeed a great sin. (4.48)

One important difference between the presentations of God in the Qur’an and the New Testament, at least according to the most popular understanding of the latter, is that the God of the Qur’an is one whereas the God of the New Testament is a unity. Allah is not a number of persons in one, one person in multiple manifestations, one being in different aspects, one in more than one mode, or any such designations that Christianity developed. All that can be said about Him is that He is one. His oneness cannot be broken down into any smaller units or different aspects or forms.

In his effort to show that the Qur’an does not contravene Christian theology, the Methodist minister and professor of comparative religion Geoffrey Parrinder (Jesus in the Qur’an, Oneworld Publications, Oxford, 1995, p. 137) claims that the Qur’an affirms the unity of God. This suggestion is completely untrue. Under pressure to reconcile contradictory statements in the New Testament, Christian theologians work hard to stress that the concepts of divine oneness and unity are one and the same. The Qur’an rejects this equation, as logic does. The God of the Qur’an is one, not united.

According to the Qur’an, God’s divinity cannot be shared or divided. Everything and everyone other than God are merely His creation and servants. Spiritual development brings the servant closer to God, but it can never bring him close to divinity. It rather confirms his servanthood. Being nearer to God means getting closer to becoming the perfect Muslim, and the latter is one who has attained complete surrender and submission to God. This is the state in which the individual is no more a servant by compulsion only, but by will also. This means, for instance, that as Jesus was developing spiritually, he was getting closer and closer to attaining the state of perfect servanthood, not divinity.

The Qur’an ascribes to God what it calls al-Asma’ al-Husna (the Beautiful Names) (7.180, 17.110, 59.24): “Allah, there is no god but Him; His are the Beautiful Names” (20.8). These are different attributes that reflect God’s different modes of action, including names such as “The Merciful One,” “The Majestic One,” and “The Creator.” Verses 59.22-24 list about 15 of these divine names, with many more found in other parts of the Qur’an. Many verses, such as verse 6.103 above, end with a pair of Beautiful Names. Most scholars count 99 Beautiful Names. In some polytheistic religions, the different actions associated with these names may be assigned to or shared by different gods.


Copyright © 2010 Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved

Feb 112010

This is the “Preface” to the book Jesus The Muslim Prophet: History Speaks of a Human Messiah Not a Divine Christ

Like my books The Mystery of the Messiah (2009) and The Mystery of the Crucifixion (2008), this book is derived from parts of my comprehensive book The Mystery of the Historical Jesus: The Messiah in the Qur’an, the Bible, and Historical Sources(2007). The latter is a broad study of Jesus’ life and teachings, whereas the derivative works each focuses on and studies in more detail a specific aspect of the history of Jesus.

This book is based mainly on two chapters — “The Divine Son of God That Jesus Never Was” and “The Human Jesus” — from my book on the historical Jesus, as well as some material from my other writings. I have also expanded the study significantly with new material. Furthermore, I have changed the structure of the borrowed content for a better presentation, which was also necessary to incorporate the new material.

Like my other writings, this book tries to bring the Qur’an to the study of the historical Jesus which Western scholarship has mainly restricted to the Old and New Testaments, along with historical writings. My other, related goal is to get Islamic scholarship to show more interest in historical sources and to also look at the Old and New Testaments and other Jewish and Christian sources from a historical perspective.

This book focuses on contrasting the human Jesus of the Qur’an with the divine Jesus of Christian sources. Admittedly, this subject has been examined by Christian, Muslim, and other scholars considerably more than other topics of the historical Jesus. However, one new contribution to the literature that my book makes is to show that the human Jesus as presented in the Qur’an is the one that fits in history. The concept of a divine Jesus can only be an invention from the post-Jesus era.

This book, as is the case with all of my other works, has been significantly improved by the insightful comments and feedback of my dear wife Shetha Al-Dargazelli. Without Shetha’s support, it would have been very difficult for me to write my books.

The book has also benefited from the careful reading and comments of my ever helpful friend Tariq Chaudhry.


Copyright © 2010 Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved

Feb 112010

This is the “Introduction” to the book Jesus The Muslim Prophet: History Speaks of a Human Messiah Not a Divine Christ

Whether Jesus was a man or a god and man at the same time is one fundamental theological difference between Islam and Christianity. The Qur’an presents Jesus as a prophet of Islam, the one religion that all of God’s prophets from Adam to Muhammad preached. All Muslim prophets were human with no divine qualities, and so was Jesus. While the Qur’an says that God conferred so much favour on Jesus, it stresses that he was a mere mortal human being. It states that there was, is, and will always be one God. Christian sources, on the other hand, present Jesus as a man yet also elevate him to divinity.

The Gospels, other New Testament books, and Christian apocryphal writings make statements about Jesus that can only mean he was like any human being. For instance, Jesus is described as a “prophet” (e.g. Mark 6:2-5), “rabbi” (e.g. Mark 9:5), and even “servant” of God (e.g. Matt. 12:17-18). Yet the same sources contain passages that describe him in terms that can only mean that he was divine. For instance, Paul (Phi. 2:6) states that Jesus was “in the form of God.” Paul and other New Testament authors believed in the doctrine of Incarnation, which states that God descended as a human being in the form of Jesus. Most of the passages that deify Jesus also talk about his relation with God in a way that suggests that they are two separate beings, yet other passages confuse the two and all but remove any distinction between them. This, for instance, is what John (10:30) does when he makes Jesus declare: “I and the Father are one.”

This confusing language is not the result, as Christians believe, of Jesus’ complex nature. After all, there is no point in trying to use a human language to describe something that it is not equipped to do. The simple explanation of this confusion is that those different passages were written over a long period of time by different people who held irreconcilable beliefs. Not even any one Gospel is an authentic piece of work by any one man. It is a compilation of different traditions that the author gathered and to which he added his own views. Jesus’ appearance did not represent a shift in the concept of salvation. Otherwise, the coming of the one and only man-God would have meant that the billions who lived before him were unfairly denied the grace of the new salvation. The fact is that God did not change how He deals with man. It was, rather, some people who changed the truth about Jesus and succeeded in popularizing their unhistorical beliefs about him.

The confused relationship between God and Jesus has resulted in the development of competing Christian theological concepts to describe this unique relationship. For instance, some theologians, like John, believed that Jesus was divine from eternity. Adoptionists, on the other hand, claim that Jesus became divine at some point in his life. When this exactly happened is itself a point of disagreement among adoptionists.

How can someone be a god and man at the same time? Docetism tried to tackle this question by claiming that Jesus had only an appearance and did not have a physical body. Jesus did not suffer on the cross, Docetists argued, because he was god and did not have a body. Everything that happened to Jesus’ body, including the crucifixion, was an illusion. Others considered Docetism as sheer heresy.

The nature of the god-man unity that Jesus represented became a battleground for competing articulations of this concept — a concept that was unheard of in monotheism. The history of the development of the doctrine of Trinity, which I discuss in the book, epitomizes the struggle of theologians to cope with what sounds more like a logical fallacy than a meaningful concept.

Leaving aside the logical problems in any expression of a man-god unity, this book will try and show that history also rejects the suggestion that it was Jesus who taught that he had a divine nature. In fact, we will see how he put the efforts to preempt what he knew was going to happen after him, stressing that he was the “son of man” not the “son of God.”

The book has three parts consisting of 9 chapters and 1 appendix. Part I focuses on the historical, human Jesus and consists of two chapters. Chapter 1 presents the image of Jesus in the Qur’an. It first introduces the Qur’anic concepts of “Islam” and “prophethood” before explaining how Jesus is described as a Muslim prophet. This identity means that he was human not divine. The chapter then shows that Jesus’ image as a “prophet” is also found in the Gospels.

Both the Qur’an and Christian sources accept Jesus as the Messiah. Judaism also has the concept of the Messiah, but the Jews reject the identification of Jesus with the Messiah and argue that the latter is yet to come. Chapter 2 highlights the significant similarity between Judaism and Islam in that both religions consider the Messiah a human being. It also contrasts this image of the Messiah with its Christian counterpart which presents the Christ as divine.

The remaining two parts of the book focus on history’s rejection of the suggestion that Jesus was divine. This false divinity is what stops most Christians from seeing Jesus how he really was: a Muslim prophet.

Part II, which consists of four chapters, examines in detail the various forms of the concept of “son of God.” Chapter 3 shows that Jewish sources used the expression “sonship of God” figuratively. It did not suggest any form of divinity. The very different application of the concept of “son of God” to Jesus in Christian sources is discussed in Chapter 4. It also shows differences between the New Testament authors’ presentations of Jesus’ sonship of God. The Qur’anic rejection of Jesus’ sonship of God is the focus of Chapter 5. The expression “son of man,” which is found mainly in the Gospels in the New Testament, is highly significant for this discussion and is the subject of Chapter 6.

The last three chapters of the book make up Part III. This part looks at how Jesus was transformed into a divine individual by some of his followers, shows the historical and logical problems in this image, and discusses its refutation in the Qur’an. Chapter 7 explains how Paul developed the divine Jesus, thus playing a bigger role than Jesus himself in defining Christianity. It also discusses how the image of Jesus in the Gospel of John became the prevailing image in Christianity, despite its substantial difference with his image in the other Gospels. The Johannine image of Jesus removes any distinction between Jesus and God. Finally, the chapter explains a fundamental difference between the Qur’an and the Christian scriptures.

Chapter 8 studies one of the most important doctrines of Christianity and which is completely based on Jesus’ divine image: the Trinity. The chapter explains this doctrine, how it developed, and how it is rejected in the Qur’an. The last chapter of this part and the book, Chapter 9, draws on the previous 8 chapters to show how Jesus’ human image was changed over time to turn him from the human, Muslim prophet he claimed to be into a divine being that the apostle Paul and others who did not see or know Jesus preached. Naturally, his teachings were accordingly distorted to reflect his alleged divine nature.

For easy reference, I have compiled in Appendix A all Qur’anic verses that explicitly reject the divinity of Jesus.

For the reader’s convenience, the book has three indexes for the Qur’anic verses, Biblical passages, and names and subjects.

The book uses a number of styles. Each Qur’anic verse has been followed by a combination of two numbers identifying its sura or “chapter” and its position in that chapter. For instance, the combination 3.59 refers to the 59th verse of the 3rd chapter.

The translations of the Qur’anic verses are mine. Translation is an act of interpretation and therefore reflects the translator’s understanding of the text. This is why I always use my own translations of the Qur’an, even though I usually consult some existing English translations.

Square brackets have been used to enclose explanatory texts that are needed to clarify the translation. Alternative texts, such as the English meaning of a term that is quoted in its Arabic origin, are enclosed in parentheses.

All Biblical quotation are from the English Standard Version (ESV) Bible. First published in 2001, this modern translation is partly based on the King James Version.

The book uses a number of different printing styles. Different fonts have been used for the text, Qur’anic verses, and Biblical passages. Roman transliterations of Arabic terms are in italics.


Copyright © 2010 Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved

Nov 212009

This article is extracted and adapted from the chapter “Scriptural Names of the Israelites” of the book The Mystery of Israel in Ancient Egypt: The Exodus in the Qur’an, the Old Testament, Archaeological Finds, and Historical Sources

The Hebrew word for “Jew” is Yehudi. Scholars believe that this term is derived from the name of one of Jacob’s twelve sons, Yehudhah (Judah). According to the Bible, the child’s mother chose this name to praise the Lord. The New English Translation Bible states that the name means “he will be praised.” Yehudi, thus, is taken to have originally referred to a member of the tribe of Judah. This etymology is reiterated by some Muslim writers as well.

The term was then applied to the inhabitants of the southern kingdom of Judah or Judea, which consisted of the tribes of Jacob’s sons Judah and his half brother Benjamin. It is in this broader sense of an inhabitant of the kingdom of Judah that the term “Jew” makes its first appearance in the Bible late in 2 Kings 16:6.

The popular explanation of how the term “Jew” came to denote all adherents of Judaism is based on the Biblical narrative. When the Assyrians attacked the northern state of Israel in 721 BCE after its revolt they took its inhabitants captives and scattered them (2 Kings 18:9-11). The Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar attacked Judea three times in the first two decades of the 6th century BCE and took captives to Babylon (Jeremiah 52:28-30). Half a century later the two captive tribes of Judea were allowed to return to their homeland by the Persian king Cyrus. Judea was reestablished. The scattered ten tribes of Israel did not have such luck because they had already been assimilated by other peoples and were lost. So the inhabitants of Judea in exile were the only Israelites who retained their distinctive identity.

In the Qur’an, the Arabic masculine singular for “Jew” is Yahudi, whose plural cases are Yahud or Hud. But the Qur’an gives Yahudi a different etymology. The verb is hada which means “repented” or “returned to the right path.” This name comes sometimes in the plural verb form of Allathina hadu which means “those who repented.”

The Qur’an implies that the term “Jew” did not exist before Moses or, more precisely, the Torah. In other words, it was coined by God Himself, as He coined the term “Muslim” (22.78). The following verses confirm this fact by stressing that neither Abraham nor any of his sons and grandsons, including Israel (Jacob), could have been a “Jew” or Nasrani (Christian), because both the Torah and the Injil, where these terms came from, were revealed after them:

O People of the Book! Why do you argue about Abraham, when the Torah and the Injil were not sent down till after him? Have you no sense? (3.65) You have argued about things that you have knowledge of, so why do you argue about what you have no knowledge of? Allah knows and you do not know. (3.66) Abraham was not a Jew or Christian, but he was upright, a Muslim (someone who surrenders to God), and he was not one of the polytheists. (3.67) The people who are most worthy of Abraham are those who followed him, this Prophet (Muhammad), and those who believed [in Muhammad]. Allah is the patron of the believers. (3.68)

They said: “Be Jews or Christians so that you may be guided.” Say [O Muhammad!]: “Not so, but follow the religion of Abraham who was upright and was not one of the polytheists.” (2.135)

Or do you [O People of the Book!] say that Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Asbat (Jacob’s sons) were Jews or Christians? Say [O Muhammad!]: “Do you know best or Allah does?” And who is more of a wrongdoer than he who conceals a testimony that he has from Allah? Allah is not unaware of what you do. (2.140) This is a nation that has passed away. Theirs is what they gained, and yours is what you gain. You shall not be asked about what they have done. (2.141) 

For more about the term Nasrani (Christian), see our article The Name of the Followers of the Messiah in the Qur’an and New Testament.

The fact that the forefathers of the Israelites were not “Jews” leaves no doubt that this term, unlike “Children of Israel,” is not gentilic. It is a name for those who believed in Moses’ message and embraced his religion, regardless of their ethnic origin. Although Moses’ main goal was to deliver the Israelites and take them out of Egypt, his prophetic mission had a wider scope and his religious message did not target the Israelites only. Non-Israelite people in Canaan, for instance, would have converted to the new religion of Moses and become as much Jews as the Israelite believers. The domain of the activity of any prophet might well be limited for practical reasons, but not so as a matter of principle. For example, when two prison inmates in polytheistic Egypt asked prophet Joseph to interpret their dreams he started first by preaching about his monotheistic religion, obviously hoping to convert them (12.35-41). The Qur’an also tells us, in addition to Pharaoh’s wife (66.11), of an Egyptian man who believed in Moses:

A believing man from Pharaoh’s people who concealed his faith said: “Will you kill a man for saying ‘my Lord is Allah’ when he has come to you with manifest proofs from your Lord? If he is a liar then his lie would be against him, and if he is truthful then some of what he has threatened you with would fall on you. Allah does not guide one who is an extravagant liar.” (40.28) 

Significantly, the Qur’an does not describe this non Israelite who believed in Moses’ message as a “Jew” but rather a “believer.” Even more telling is the fact that throughout Moses’ struggle with Pharaoh, only the term “Children of Israel” is used for Moses’ people. At no point during the confrontation the Israelites were called Jews. This is due to the fact that the Torah had not been revealed then so those who believed in Moses had not been called Jews yet.

The earliest historical event in which the Qur’an calls the followers of Moses “Jews” is after the exodus when seventy of Moses’ people went with him to the mount where he used to converse with God in order to hear His words. A verse in one of the two accounts of this event reveals the Qur’anic etymology of the word “Jew”:

 Moses chose from his people seventy for our appointment. When the earthquake overtook them he said: “My Lord! Had you willed, you could have killed them and me before. Would You kill us for what the fools among us have done? This is not but Your trial with which You send astray whom You will and guide whom You will. You are our guardian, so forgive us and show mercy to us, and You are the best of forgivers. (7.155) Write down for us good in this world and in the hereafter. We have repented to You.” He said: “I will strike with My torment whom I will, and My mercy embraces everything, so I shall write it down for those who are pious, give alms, and believe in Our signs.” (7.156)

In 7.156, Moses prays to God saying inna hudna ilayka which means “we have repented to You.” According to the Qur’an, this event occurred after Moses’ reception of the “Tablets” which were inscribed by God. In his appeal to God, Moses used a term that was already coined by God in the Torah.


Copyright © 2009 Louay Fatoohi and Shetha Al-Dargazelli
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Oct 182009

On the 13th/October/2009, I gave a presentation to a group of postgraduate students and members of staff at the School of Philosophy, Theology, and Religion of Birmingham University, UK. The talk, which was part of their postgraduate seminars in Islamic Studies, was titled The Crucifixion of Jesus: History or Fiction? It was based on my book The Mystery of the Crucifixion: The Attempt to Kill Jesus in the Qur’an, the New Testament, and Historical Sources.

In my presentation, I reviewed problems in the Gospel accounts of the crucifixion of Jesus, the few references to this event in historical sources, and the Qur’an’s rejection of the crucifixion. Among the topics that I covered was the claim of the Gospels that one of the charges that the Jewish authorities laid against Jesus was blasphemy for claiming to be the son of God. Let me quote here what the four Gospels say about this:

But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. (Mark 14:61-64; ESV)

But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. (Matthew 26:63-65; ESV)

So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.” (Luke 22:70-71; ESV)

The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” (John 19:7; ESV)

The problem with all of these quotes is that the claim to messiahship and/or sonship of God was not an act of blasphemy or a religious crime in Judaism. Many Christians do not know that the term “son of God” is used in the Old Testament but never to mean any form of divinity. On the other hand, claiming divine dignity was blasphemous. In other words, the Gospels’ unanimous claim is unhistorical.

What we have here is a case of anachronism, as the concept “son of God” is given a meaning that it had not acquired yet at the time of the reported event. By the time the Gospels’ were written, the divinity of Jesus had become an established belief, even though not for all who believed in Jesus. So, the Gospels present Jesus’ claim to the sonship of God as how he announced his divinity to people. They then go on to use this claim as the reason for the Jewish high priest and Sanhedrin’s charging of Jesus of claiming to be divine and, accordingly, blasphemy. In other words, the Christian authors of the Gospels attributed their later understanding of the meaning of the son of God to the Jewish authorities at the time of Jesus. The Gospels’ account is unhistorical.

During the Q&A session that followed my presentation, one member of staff argued that the Jewish authorities did not accuse Jesus of claiming to be divine only because he said he was the son of God — a term that I had already shown did not mean any form of divinity. He suggested that the Jewish leaders quoted to Pilate other sayings of Jesus that clearly confirmed that he claimed to be divine, but he could not provide a reference.

Actually, the Jewish authorities are not reported to have provided any evidence to support their accusation of Jesus that he claimed divinity other that their suggestion that he called himself the son of God. This fact represents another argument against the suggestion that Jesus claimed divinity. Let me explain. There are certain sayings that the Gospel of John attributes to Jesus that can be seen as suggesting that he claimed divine attributes. The problem, however, is that none of these sayings is quoted by the Jewish authorities when accusing Jesus of claiming to be divine! Instead, the religious authorities are said to have accused him of blasphemy only on the basis of his claim to the sonship of God. Had Jesus uttered any of those reported sayings in John, or indeed any other sayings that could be understood as meaning that he was divine, the Jewish authorities would have quoted them and used them in their attempt to seek his crucifixion. In their attempt to show that the Jewish authorities were aware of Jesus’ claim to divinity, which they thought would serve as proof that he did indeed make that claim, the Gospel authors ended up making up a scenario that can only be unhistorical.

But this is only one of many historical and consistency problems that permeate the Gospels. For many, including those liberals who do not believe that every word in the Gospels is inspired, these books recount the history of Jesus more or less as it happened. Yet as soon as one starts examining the accounts closely, that sense of history evaporates, leaving one with the inevitable conclusion that these sources are no different from numerous ancient documents that confused history and myths and propagated a version of history that never managed to happen. They became the canonical Gospels and other books were ignored, forgotten, burned, or banned by the Church because certain early fathers of the Church managed to make their views win the influence and popularity battle with their rivals’.

But is it possible that only four writers — Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John — could have dictated what billions of people over many centuries should believe Jesus said and did and what happened to him? To answer this question we only need to remember that it was only one individual, Paul, who did not meet Jesus or witness any of his sayings and doings who developed much of Christian theology! 

Copyright © 2009 Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved

Sep 122009

This is Appendix A: The Qur’anic Verses that Mention the Title “Messiah” of the book The Mystery of the Messiah: The Messiahship of Jesus in the Qur’an, New Testament, Old Testament, and Other Sources

The Term al-Masih (the Messiah) occurs in the Qur’an eleven times. These are the nine different verses in which the term appears: 

When the angels said: “O Mary! Allah gives you the good news of a Word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, who is illustrious in this world and the hereafter, and who is one of those brought near [to Allah]. (3.45)

And because of their saying: “We killed the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger.” They did not kill or crucify him, but it was made to appear so to them. Those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof, but a conjecture they follow; they did not kill him for certain. (4.157)

O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion or utter anything concerning Allah but the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, His Word that He sent to Mary, and a Spirit from Him [that He sent]. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and do not say “Three.” Desist, it is better for you! Allah is one God. Far exalted is He above having offspring. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is on the earth. Allah is sufficient a disposer of affairs. (4.171) The Messiah would never scorn to be a servant to Allah, nor would the angels who are nearest to Allah. As for those who scorn His service and are arrogantly proud, He shall gather them all to Himself to answer. (4.172)

They have indeed disbelieved those who say: “Allah is the Messiah son of Mary.” Say [O Muhammad!]: “Who then can do anything against Allah if He had willed to destroy the Messiah son of Mary, his mother, and everyone on earth?” Allah’s is the kingdom of the heavens and the earth and all that is between them. He creates what He wills. Allah is able to do all things. (5.17)

Surely they disbelieve those who say: “Allah is the Messiah son of Mary.” The Messiah himself said: “O Children of Israel! Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord. Whoever joins other gods with Allah, for him Allah has forbidden paradise. His abode is the Fire. The evildoers shall have no helpers.” (5.72)

The Messiah son of Mary was no other than a messenger before whom [similar] messengers passed away, and his mother was a saintly woman. They used to eat food [like other human beings]. See how We make the revelations clear to them, and see how they are deluded! (5.75)

The Jews say: “‘Uzayr is the son of Allah”, and the Christians say: “The Messiah is the son of Allah”. That is a saying from their mouths, imitating the saying of the disbelievers of old. May Allah fight them! How deluded they are! (9.30) They have taken their rabbis and monks as lords besides Allah, and so they treated the Messiah son of Mary, although they were not commanded to worship other than One God; there is no God save Him. Far exalted is He above their attribution of partners to Him! (9.31)


Traslantion by Louay Fatoohi 2009