The Muslim Jesus

I finally got around to watching Melvin Bragg’s documentary ‘The Muslim Jesus.’ It was good, informative and well balanced. It of course inevitably raised the question of whether or not ‘Jesus’ was a bridge between Christians and Muslims or a barrier. In much the same vein last week a Dutch minister suggested that Christians should call God ‘Allah’ in an attempt to bridge the gap between Christians and Muslims. Whilst we have of course a shared vocabulary and share a common figure in Jesus the problems begin to arise when we come to definitions and understandings. As one Islamic scholar put it in this programme Christians had in fact a wrong view of Jesus as they had allowed tradition to colour their understanding. A Christian scholar laid much the same charges at the door of Islam.

Two particular issues were raised in my mind. The first was the issue of critical evaluation. There was it appeared to me little critical evaluation of the Christian tradition from the point of view of Islamic scholars. They naturally assumed that the Islamic view was correct but there seemed to me to be little critical evaluation of how the Christian view of Jesus emerged. Why from the 1st century onwards did Christians proclaim Jesus crucified and risen from the dead if these things did not happen? As those who emerge from a later tradition it seems to me the weight of proof is upon the Islamic scholars to show that the earlier view is incorrect.

The second issue that occurred to me was the theological one. If the Islamic view of Jesus is correct Christians are hopelessly misled. I am reminded of Paul’s words about the historical reality of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15, ‘if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins and your faith is futile.’ As has rightly been said Christianity is Christ. So the issue of the identity of Jesus is one not simply of historic interest but huge theological significance.

One thing that perplexes me considering the debate it this- and I am no Islamic scholar by any stretch of the imagination. It seems to me strange that Islam can respect Christians as ‘people of the book’ if our book is fundamentally flawed. In Christian theology the whole New Testament is centred upon Jesus Christ, the Son of God, crucified and raised from the dead. This also determines our understanding of the Old Testament. So I’m not quite sure why Christians are honoured as ‘people if the book’ if both their book and their interpretation of it is so fundamentally flawed.

So is Jesus a bridge or a barrier? I suppose he is both. He is a barrier in that there is a radically different understanding of Jesus between the two faiths. But He may also be a bridge if Christians and Muslims can engage in a constructive discussion over the key historical and theological issues.

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3 Responses to “The Muslim Jesus”

  1. Laurel Farrell Says:

    I like what C.S. Lewis had to say about it in Mere Christianity. …from Wikipedia:

    In the book Mere Christianity, Lewis famously criticized the idea that Jesus was merely a human being, albeit a great moral teacher:

    “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to” (Lewis 1952, pp. 43).

  2. sibbesian Says:

    Thanks Laurel for the comment. It’s a great quote. I’ve often used it in the course of evangelistic Bible studies where people have told me there must be another option. But no-one has been able to tell me what that other option is. It still raises the same issues for Muslims in their view of Jesus.

  3. sibbesian Says:

    Rod- I’m not sure if you will check back. Whilst I agree with the historical point you raise over Islam’s Jesus I will not post your comment. The rest of the comment is racist and certainly nothing to do with the Christian gospel. You need to examine your heart before God and repent.

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