Talk about the Jesus in the Bible and the Jesus in the Quran.
On the one hand, it is kind of encouraging to see Muslims agreeing with us on so many things. Muslims agree with us on a lot of things about Jesus that most other people in the world do not agree with us on. For instance, Muslims believe that Jesus was born of a virgin. Who agrees with us that Jesus was born of a virgin? The Muslims do. Muslims believe that Jesus lived the most miraculous life in history. Of everyone else in history, they say Jesus was the most miraculous. They believe Jesus was the Messiah. They believe that He had a miraculous end to His earthly existence. They do not believe He died and rose from the dead, but they believe that Allah miraculously rescued Him. They believe that Jesus is going to return to play some important role in a future judgment.
We look at that and we see a lot of common ground between us and Muslims. Those can be very interesting points of to lead off in conversations. But, Muslims do that as well. Muslims draw attention to these similarities to say, “Hey, you know you Christians, you believe Jesus was born of the virgin? We do too. You believe that Jesus performed miracles? We do too. You believe that Jesus is the Messiah? We do too. Look at all this common ground we have.” Muslims will use that in their efforts at da’wah, which is sort of Muslim evangelism.
What is interesting is that when we look at the areas where they disagree with us on, it is kind of exactly what you would expect given what the Gospel is in the New Testament. In other words, when the Apostles went out and preached the Gospel, Jesus had taught them many things but when they condensed it, what is the core message of the Gospel, they always preached about Jesus death for sins, His resurrection, and that we have to submit to Him as Lord. Death, resurrection, and deity this was the take away message from the Apostles. When we look at Islam, Islam agrees with us on Jesus on almost everything else except those three things. They will say Jesus did not die on the cross, He did not rise from the dead, and He is not Lord.
The Christian response when Muhammad came along should have been something on the lines of “Wow, we have been expecting you because we have been told that false teachers and false prophets are going to come and corrupt the Gospel, and you have just nailed all the core of the Gospel while agreeing with us on so much else.”
Talk about the misunderstanding that a Muslim would have or the misapprehension with respect to the phrase “Son of God,” where Allah contends that this has to do with sexual procreation and whereas a Christian says that this has to do with special relationship.
It is really actually a problem for Islam. In other words, if a seventh-century Arab caravan trader like Muhammad hears Christians talking about the Son of God, misunderstands the phrase, and thinks that we are talking about God producing an offspring. That would not be very surprising. We would at least expect God to know what we mean by the phrase Son of God and to respond to what we actually believe. What we find in the Qur’an is that Allah says how can he have a Son when He has no wife (Surah 2:116; 6:100-102; 39:4). It is presupposed in the Qur’an that the only way for God to have a Son is to have a husband and a wife.
Now on a kind of side note, what is interesting about that is when the angel announces to Mary, in the Qur’an, that she is going to have a son, she raises the same objection. How can I have a son when no man has touched me. Allah’s response is that it is easy for Allah (Surah 3:45-47). In one part, it is impossible for God to have an offspring without having a wife, but Mary can have an offspring without having a husband. A bit of an inconsistency there.
When you look at the Bible, there are a variety of uses for the phrase “son of God.” It can mean that you sort of reflect God’s will. When it says blessed are the peacemakers they shall be sons of God (Matt. 5:9). God is not producing an offspring, it is where sort of we have a kind of family resemblance if we are doing God’s will. Israel is called God’s son because God plays a direct role in starting Israel and so on (Exod. 4:22-23). Jesus is the Son of God in a unique sense in terms of His relationship with the Father and because He is the Messiah (John 3:16; 20:30-31; Luke 22:66-71). What is interesting of all the different uses of “son of God,” angels are called sons of God in certain contexts and so on (Job 1:6; 2:1), but of all the different uses of “son of God” none of them have anything to do with God actually physically producing an offspring. Yet, according to the Qur’an that is the only thing Christians can mean.
Muslims look at this and say, “You Christians have a problem because you are saying God has a son” and the response should be “No, you Muslims have a problem because you God, who wrote your book, did not know what even mean by the phrase ‘son of God.’” It cannot be a revelation from God.
David Wood, PhD, is host of the Trinity Channel’s live talk show Jesus or Muhammad? He has participated in more than forty moderated public debates in the United States, Great Britain, and France.
For further study, see “Jesus in Islam” by David Wood in the Christian Research Journal 40-1.
Blog adapted from the February 2, 2017 Bible Answer Man broadcast.