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The Gospel According to Islam

Copyright 1979 by Dr. Ahmad Shafaat

Chapter 1 Chapter 4 Chapter 7 Chapter 10 Chapter 13 Chapter 16 Chapter 19 Chapter 22 Chapter 25
Chapter 2 Chapter 5 Chapter 8 Chapter 11 Chapter 14 Chapter 17 Chapter 20 Chapter 23 Chapter 26
Chapter 3 Chapter 6 Chapter 9 Chapter 12 Chapter 15 Chapter 18 Chapter 21 Chapter 24 Chapter 27

CHAPTER 4

  1. And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which is how he was named by the angel of God before he was conceived in the womb.

  2. And when the days of Mary's purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord;

  3. As it is written, Every male that opens a womb shall be called holy to the Lord.

  4. And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is written in the law, A pair of turtle-doves, or two young pigeons.

  5. And, behold, there was a just and devout man in Jerusalem, Simeon by name.

  6. When he saw the child, he took him from his parents in his arms and blessed God and said, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rise of many in Israel and for a sign for the people.

  7. He shall prepare the way for a light to lighten the nations. (Note 1)

  8. And after some time, Joseph and Mary returned with the boy Jesus to Nazareth.

  9. And there he grew and waxed strong in spirit, being filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was with him. (Note 2)

  10. And none but a few knew that he was not Joseph's son but was created by God without a father, even as Adam was created without father or mother. (Note 3)

  11. Now Joseph and Mary went to Jerusalem every year of the Passover.

  12. And when Jesus was twelve or thirteen years old, they went up to Jerusalem with him, to make him a son of the law, after the custom of the Jews. (Note 4)

  13. This meant that Jesus was now responsible for the commandments of the law.

  14. And when the ceremony was completed, and the days were fulfilled, (Note 5) the caravan missed Jesus, and he was left behind in Jerusalem, but Joseph and his mother knew not of it.

  15. And they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day's journey; and they sought him among their kinfolk and acquaintances.

  16. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him.

  17. And it came to pass that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions.

  18. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. (Note 6)

  19. And when he went with Joseph and Mary, his mother said to him, Son, why have you thus dealt with us: Behold, your father and I have sought you sorrowing.

  20. And he said to them, You knew that I have to be in these matters that are God's. (Note 7)

  21. And the family returned to their home in Galilee.

  22. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.

Go to Chapter 5


Notes (Chapter 4)

1Luke 2:21-25, 28, 34. By a phenomenon rather frequent in the Gospels, this incident is duplicated in Luke 2:36-38, where it is an eighty-four years old woman, Anna, who acclaims the infant Jesus the future Savior. Although none of the incidents is mentioned by any other gospel, they are not implausible since there must have been quite a few poor old people roaming among the temple visitors and heaping adulations on infants in the hope of flattering their parents into greater alms. However, what Luke puts in the mouth of Simeon and Anna reflects in large measure his own view of Jesus as a universal messenger. But as modern critical scholarship has shown, such a view was not shared by Jesus himself. For if he hesitated even to heal a non-Jewish girl (Mark 7:24-28) and did not want to throw bread (i.e., teaching) to the Gentile dogs, and if he instructed the apostles to restrict their mission only to "the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. 10:5-6), it cannot be maintained that he presented himself as a light to lighten the Gentiles. Here the historical validity of the two Gospel reports cited is immaterial; for in any case they point to a serious conflict among Christians concerning the Gentile mission, and such a conflict could not have arisen if Jesus was as clear of his universal role as Simeon and Luke are.

The conclusion of critical scholarship that Jesus did not direct his teachings to the Gentile world is consistent with the Quran, which presents Jesus as "a messenger of God to Israel" (3:49, etc). However, the Qur`an does not lose sight of the fact that Jesus' story came to be told among all the nations but takes it into account by saying that God made Mary and "her son a sign for all the nations" (21:91), a description that is also applicable to Noah's story (29:15) and does not mean that Mary or Jesus or Noah was a universal Savior in the sense the Gentile Christianity came to regard Jesus. [return]

2Luke 2:40. [return]

3Qur`an 3:59. [return]

4The incident is reported by Luke only (2:41-51), who says that Jesus was twelve when it took place. But the ceremony of making a young Israelite a son of the law (bar mitzvah), for which Jesus was most probably taken to the temple, took place at thirteen. [return]

5The pilgrims were not obliged to spend the entire week of the Passover in Jerusalem. Luke's statement that Joseph and Mary "fulfilled the days" means that they completed the whole week or at least stayed until the day of matsoth when the ceremony of investing a boy as a son of the law takes place. [return]

6It is not unusual for great men to show signs of extraordinary intelligence in their youth or even childhood. Indeed, greatness always goes back to a deep childhood involvement with some issues. This deep personal involvement gives them a very special type of knowledge about these issues that escapes the learned and "the doctors." The fact, therefore, that the great Jewish historian of the New Testament times, Flavius Josephus, also showed extraordinary intelligence at age fourteen is not sufficient ground to attribute the incident we are reporting from Luke to Josephus' influence on that Gospel. [return]

7Luke's text is, "Know you not that I had to be in these that are of my Father's." Jesus' preoccupation with religious matters must have started earlier than his first Passover since only then could he have had ideas to express to "the doctors." And his parents must have known of their son's deep interest in that area. What Jesus is saying in his answer to Mary is that a compelling, deep involvement with religious matters, of which Mary and Joseph are well aware, had made him forget about the caravan and get sheathed in religious discussions. [return]

 


CHAPTER 5

  1. And John, the son of Zacharias, too, was given wisdom and good judgment even as a youth:

  2. He grew up in the wilderness to be tender to all creatures; and he was pure and devout;

  3. Kind to his parents; and he was not overbearing or rebellious. (Note 1)

  4. He renounced the pleasures of this world and preferred garments of camel's hair over soft raiment; and he did eat locusts and wild honey. (Note 2)

  5. And in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod Antipas was the Tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip the Tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the Tetrarch of Abilene; and when Caiaphas and his father-in-law were the high priests,

  6. A word from God came to John in the wilderness, and he began to preach in the country about the river Jordan,

  7. Saying, Repent and reform for the day of the Lord is drawing near.

  8. And he administered the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

  9. Then went out to him whole Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region round about Jordan,

  10. To be baptized of him in Jordan and to confess their sins.

  11. And baptizing them, he said, O generation of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

  12. Bring forth, therefore, fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say that we have Abraham to our father: for I say to you that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

  13. And now also the axe is laid unto the roots of the trees: every tree, therefore, which brings not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.

  14. And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then?

  15. He answered and said to them, He that has two coats, let him impart one to him that has none; and he that has meat, let him do likewise.

  16. And there also came tax collectors to be baptized and said to him, Master, what shall we do?

  17. And he said to them, Exact no more than that which is appointed to you.

  18. And soldiers likewise asked him, saying, And what shall we do?

  19. And he said to them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages. (Note 3)

  20. And as the people were in expectation, all men mused in their hearts of John whether he was the Messiah of Aaron, or the Messiah of Israel, or that Prophet. (Note 4)

  21. John answered, saying to them all, I indeed am anointed to be the priest of the house of Aaron, who was to come in the last days,

  22. And from among my disciples whom I have baptized there shall arise the Messiah of Israel.

  23. And as for that prophet, of whom God has been promising through the mouths of all his messengers, he will come after us to be a light for the nations.

Go to Chapter 6


Notes (Chapter 5)

1Qur`an 19:12-14. [return]

2Mark 1:6, Matt. 3:4. [return]

3Matt. 3:1-10; Luke 3:7-14. [return]

4Cf. Luke 3:15; John 1:20-23. Our messianic titles are derived from the Qumran scrolls, where, in the Community Rule IX, men of the Qumran community are commanded to stick to the primitive precepts in which they "were first instructed until there shall come the prophet and the messiahs of Aaron and Israel." The Gospel of John refers to the three messianic figures as "that prophet," "Elias," and "the Christ" (= "the Messiah"). We have already noted (see Note 8, Chapter 1) that the priestly Messiah of Aaron and Elias were sometimes identified and that in thinking of John's messianic role it is better to think in terms of the former figure than of Elias. [return]

 


CHAPTER 6

  1. And Jesus was approaching forty, (Note 1) and he came from Galilee to Jordan unto John to be baptized of him.

  2. And when he was baptized, he went up out of the water, and, lo, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Holy Spirit descending like a dove and lighting upon him,

  3. And he heard a voice from heaven, (Note 2) saying, You are of the three I have chosen. (Note 3)

  4. Then Jesus knew that this was the hour of his appointment (Note 4) as a messenger of God to Israel.

  5. That he may support and continue John's work (Note 5) of reform of Israel and prepare the way for the light which will lighten the nations.

  6. But in his mind the devil started to put doubts about this. (Note 6)

  7. And Jesus, perplexed, retired in the wilderness to be by himself; but the devil followed him.

  8. And when Jesus hungered, the devil said, if you are a chosen of God, command this stone that it be made bread.

  9. But Jesus answered to him, It is written that man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.

  10. Then the devil said to him, If you are a chosen of God, go to Jerusalem, set yourself on the pinnacle of the temple, (Note 7) and cast yourself down; for it is written, He shall give his angels charge over you to keep thee,

  11. And in their hands they shall bear you up, lest at any time you dash your foot against a stone.

  12. And Jesus, answering, said to him, It is said, You shall not test the Lord your God.

  13. And then the devil showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory and said to him, All this power and glory I will give you.

  14. if you, therefore, will worship me, all shall be yours.

  15. And Jesus answered and said to him, Get you behind me, Satan: for it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve.

  16. With the power of these words, the devil went away.

  17. And Jesus came to John and told him what happened to him, and John witnessed the truth of the voice from heavens. (Note 8) And he said to him, Wait for the word of God.

  18. And Jesus wandered with John in Judea and they went as far as Aenon near Salim. (Note 9)

  19. And John, fearing no one but God, boldly reproved Herod the Tetrarch of Galilee for marrying Herodias, his brother Philip's wife,

  20. Saying, it is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.

  21. And for many other things did John reprove Herod, and he also reproved Herodias for adultery.

  22. But Herod Antipas added yet this above all his evils, that he put John in prison. (Note 10)

  23. Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee (Note 11) and tarried in Nazareth, where he was brought up. (Note 12)

  24. And on a Sabbath day, as his custom was, he went to the synagogue.

  25. And the attendant stood up with the Scriptures waiting for someone to come and read a passage and explain it.

  26. And that Sabbath day it was Jesus who stood up to read.

  27. And there was delivered to him the book of the prophet Estes; and when he opened the book, he found the place where it was written,

  28. The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach the good news unto the meek; he has sent me to bind the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives.

  29. To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord and the day of vengeance of our God.

  30. And having read the passage, he closed the book and gave it back to the attendant and sat down; and the eyes of all those that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. (Note 13)

  31. And he stood up again and began to say to them, This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears.

  32. When people heard this, they said one to another, Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? and his brothers James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas: And are not his sisters here with us?

  33. And they were offended that one among them should speak of himself as a prophet of God.

  34. But Jesus said to them, Verily I say to you, no prophet is accepted in his own city.

  35. But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, (Note 14) when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land;

  36. But to none of them was Elias sent, save unto a widow of Sarepta, a city of Sidon.

  37. And many lepers there were in Israel in the city of Eliseus the prophet, and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.

  38. And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath,

  39. And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him into the brow of the hill whereon the city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. (Note 15)

  40. But he escaped them and went his way; and leaving Nazareth he went towards Capernaum, (Note 16) a city of Galilee.

  41. Preaching on the way, Repent, for the day of the Lord is drawing near. (Note 17)

Go to Chapter 7


Notes (Chapter 6)

1According to Luke, Jesus was born when Quirinus ordered the first census of Palestine (2:1-2), that is, in about A.D. 6-7, and he "began to be about thirty years of age" (3:23) when he went to be baptized by John. So the date of baptism would be around A.D. 36. Since it was Pilate who was governor when the ministry of Jesus came to an end, and since Pilate was dismissed in A.D. 36, it is probable that the baptism took place a year or two before A.D. 36, Matthew's Gospel does not effect this chronology but only pushes the date of birth back to about 5 B.C., since Matthew (2:1) says that the birth took place when Herod the Great was king, and it is definitely known that Herod died in March of the year 4 B.C. Today, a great many scholars of all persuasions prefer Matthew's citing of the birth over Luke's. However, a dating of the baptism based on Luke (say, about A.D. 34), which does not conflict with Matthew, may be accepted, especially because it is supported by some other considerations: According to the Gospels, Jesus' ministry is spanned by events like Antipas' marriage with his brother Philip's wife, the Baptist's condemnation of that marriage, and his resulting imprisonment and execution. All these events must have taken place after Philip's death, which, on the evidence of Josephus, took place around the end of A.D. 33.

If, therefore, we accept 5 B.C. and A.D. 34 as approximate dates of Jesus' birth and baptism, then he would be about thirty-nine when the latter event took place. That Jesus lived to be about forty also agrees with John's Gospel, where the Jews of Jerusalem say to Jesus, "You are not Yet fifty years old" (8:57). (Cf. Hugh J. Schonfield, The Passover Plot, Bantam Books, 1977, PP. 255-257.) [return]

2Mark 1:9-11; Matt. 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-23. The Gospels and the subsequent Christian tradition show great discomfort at the fact that Jesus went to John to be baptized by him and that it was this baptism that was in some way instrumental in opening the heavens to him. This discomfort is apparent as one follows tradition from the first Gospel to the fourth and beyond. Mark, and the other three Gospels, find it necessary to make John prophesy that there will come "one mightier than I after the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose" (1:7). Matthew apparently thought that after such a prophecy, it is not fitting that John should baptize Jesus without saying something in recognition of his inferiority and so he modified Mark 1:9-10 by putting the following words in the Baptist's mouth, "I have need to be baptized of you, and earnest you to me?" (Matt. 3:14). Luke so rewards the whole incident as to suggest that the opening of heavens to Jesus and the descent of the Holy Spirit in the shape of a dove might have taken place after the imprisonment of John (and not immediately after the baptism) and as a result of Jesus' own practice of praying (3:19-22). The unknown author of the fourth Gospel, probably realizing the inadequacy of the other Evangelists' solutions to the problem, omits all reference to the baptism and instead embarks on a systematic polemic against the Baptist (John 1:6-8, 15, 19-34; 3:22-36). The climax of all this reaches in the "Pseudo Clementines" where animosity against the Baptist completely overturns the original high regard for him in the heart of Jesus and his disciples as well as his usefulness as the forerunner of the Messiah and he is declared to be the Antichrist! (Hem. II, 17; cf. Recog. III, 61).

The Quran, which does not mention the baptism, presents both Jesus and John as great prophets without clearly suggesting the superiority of one over the other. It, indeed, does not seem to be profitable to concern ourselves with the question of who is superior to whom among the prophets, especially if the main object of our veneration is God and not His prophets, but in case of Jesus and John, the question is also not easy to settle. For, while Jesus was destined to have a tremendous influence on history, John was destined to be the prophet who influenced Jesus' thinking and provided the platform for his work. Without John, there may not have been the Christ Jesus, and without Jesus, John's mission may have died soon after his own death. In the Gospels, the stories of the births of Jesus and John, of their missions, and of their deaths are tied together in such a way that it is not possible to look at any one of them in isolation or to subordinate the work of one to the other. [return]

3This sentence, like the one used by the synoptics ("You are my beloved son, in you I am well pleased") under the influence of Psalm 2:7, implies Jesus' appointment as the Messiah of Israel. It avoids the connotations that later came wrongly to be attached with the word "son" in relation to Jesus. [return]

4Quite early in life, Jesus had no doubt an idea that he was meant for a religious vocation. (See Notes 6, 7, Chapter 4.) The experience he undergoes at his baptism was part of the mental process to define that vocation more clearly. It led Jesus to the awareness that he was meant for no ordinary role but was ready for taking up a role in the history of his people that was comparable even to that of great Israeli prophets of old, such as Elias and Elisha (cf. Luke 4:23-27). [return]

5The synoptic Gospels present Jesus repeating John's preaching (Matt. 3:2, 4:17, and parallels) after the latter's imprisonment. Only after John's death do we find Jesus taking a more independent direction. It is fair to say that Jesus supported and continued John's work, just as Jesus' own work was later carried further by the prophet Muhammad. Jesus was of the three God had chosen. [return]

6In his heart Jesus no doubt knows that be is meant for the role of an Israeli prophet, and at his baptism he began to be more conscious of it. But with consciousness came doubts and questions, for it is in the nature of the conscious mind to doubt and to question. [return]

7Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13. The two Gospels say that the devil actually took Jesus to the pinnacle of the temple, but this unnecessarily gives too much power to the devil over Jesus. The point of the story is not lost in any way if the whole incident is regarded as a mere dialogue between Jesus and the devil, or even as thoughts and counter thoughts arising in the mind of Jesus, the positive thoughts being rooted in Jesus' genuine knowledge of his existential situation, while the negative thoughts arising out of a vague, baseless, fear of the invisible future. [return]

8If in Qur`an 3:39 "a word from God" is understood as referring to Jesus (cf. Note 6, Chapter 1), then we may conclude that John witnessed the truth of Jesus' mission. The canonical Gospels, of course, also say that John affirmed that Jesus was the Messiah. But the most natural place for the Baptist's witness is not before the baptism, as in the New Testament, but after the experience accompanying the baptism. The exact nature of the way John supported Jesus' mission, and the time when he did so, cannot be determined from our sources. [return]

9All the synoptic gospels suggest that Jesus did not start his preaching until after he went to Galilee from Judea following John's imprisonment (Mark 1:14; Matt. 4:12-17, Luke 3:19-20; 4:14-15). The Gospel of John, however, says that Jesus was by himself baptizing in Judea, making more disciples than John the Baptist, who was in Aenon, near Salim (3:22-24; 4:1). Clearly, the fourth Gospel is trying to show by this (and by omitting reference to the baptism of Jesus by John) that Jesus was on his own from the very beginning and had nothing to do with the Baptist or his movement. [return]

10Mark 6:17-18; Matt. 14:1-4; Luke 3:19-20. [return]

11If we accept this statement from Mark 1:14 and Matt. 4;12, then it is difficult to imagine Jesus carrying independent preaching in Judea as the fourth Gospel states (see Note 9 above) since in that case he would have no reason to leave Judea for Galilee after hearing about (Matt. 4:12) John's imprisonment. The truth seems to be that Jesus was in Judea only to be with his teacher, and when the latter was imprisoned, he saw no reason to continue his stay in Judea and, consequently, returned to his home in Nazareth. [return]

12Mark 6:1-6; Matt. 4:13; Luke 4:16. Mark and Luke say that Jesus had started his preaching before he came to Nazareth. Matthew, probably rightly, states explicitly that the preaching started afterwards (4:17). We should probably think that after his return to Nazareth, Jesus thought over things for a while. What will happen to the work John had started? What should be his own role in the new situation arising out of Herod's action against John? Maybe he should assume the leadership of the Baptist movement and continue John's preaching. But where and how can he start? As Jesus' mind was occupied with such thoughts, the incident we record in the subsequent verses takes place. We have assigned to it the same place as Luke (4:16-30). The two other synoptics (Mark 6:1-6 and Matt. 13:54-58) delay it until the ministry is progressed quite far. In case of Matthew, it is easy to see why he delays the incident: he wants Jesus to start preaching in Capernaum to show that the light "sprang up" from the borders of Zebulon and Nephthalin in fulfillment of what he regards Esias' prophecy about the Messiah. [return]

13Jesus strongly felt that the Scriptural passage he had read talked about him personally. This seemed to him to be God's way of answering the questions that have occupied his mind lately (see Note 12 above) and His way of authorizing him to take up the leadership of John's movement by starting to preach and to proclaim the day of the Lord. Jesus may be imagined sitting lost and overwhelmed with such thoughts. After a while, he emerges from his thoughts, stands up again, and before the attentive gaze of the audience, makes the terse statement of the next verse. [return]

14The way Jesus talks about Elias does not suggest that the latter might be in Herod's prison under the name of John the Baptist. [return]

15The incident at Nazareth, in spite of its tragic overtones, provided valuable experience for Jesus. It had helped him, without his consciously planning it, to present himself as what he had to be, namely, a major religious leader and reformer of his people. It also brought him face to face with the external resistance he would encounter in his mission and had to get to know. [return]

16Mark 1:21; Matt. 4:13; Luke 4:31, Jesus naturally expected to be more favorably received by the followers of his imprisoned teacher. He therefore headed toward the country near Jordan where John used to preach and baptize and where those who believed in him were to be found in greater numbers. Mark 1:14-21 suggests that Jesus traveled and preached in the area before making Capernaum his temporary headquarters. [return]

17Mark 1:15; Matt. 4:17. Note that Jesus is repeating the message of John the Baptist. [return]

 


Chapter 1 Chapter 4 Chapter 7 Chapter 10 Chapter 13 Chapter 16 Chapter 19 Chapter 22 Chapter 25
Chapter 2 Chapter 5 Chapter 8 Chapter 11 Chapter 14 Chapter 17 Chapter 20 Chapter 23 Chapter 26
Chapter 3 Chapter 6 Chapter 9 Chapter 12 Chapter 15 Chapter 18 Chapter 21 Chapter 24 Chapter 27

 

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