Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Part XIII: The Gospel According to Muhammad

In this thirteenth section of my presentation on Islam I want to address the question of what Muslims believe about the Gospel, for they do indeed believe in the Gospel--but the meaning attached to that word for Muslims is radically different than what it means for Christians.

First though I think it would be useful to outline what exactly Christians believe about the Gospel. We actually use the word in several different ways. Often we simply use it to refer to the four books in the New Testament that record the events and teachings of Jesus' life: they include things like miracles, healings, sermons, short sayings, genealogy, events surrounding his birth, crucifixion, resurrection and his commissioning of the Apostles to carry forth his preaching.

We also use it very generally to refer to the central proclamation of how all those events relate to us, namely that we can be reconciled to God through Jesus, and that we can receive forgiveness of sins in his name. Of course, the initial proclamation of Jesus was simply borrowed from his cousin John the Baptist: Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand! But the focus on the Kingdom of God for various reasons is not used by our churches today. Rather, different Christian churches emphasize different ways of articulating the Gospel (atoning sacrifice, adoption as sons, sharers in his divinity, and so on), but the message always revolves around or centrally features the forgiveness of sins in and through Jesus.

But as to Muslims: the word Gospel in Arabic is injiil, which is actually derived (via Syriac) from the original Greek word found in the New Testament: euangelion. Muslims reject what we call the injiil because it does not match their criteria for a prophetic message. In Islamic though there is no cooperation between the prophet and God as we find in Judaism and Christianity. In the latter two religions the prophet is inspired by God's Spirit but nevertheless puts the message into his own words, using his own expressions, talents, backgrounds, phrases, and so on. This is also true for the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) of the New Testament.

In Islam God causes a message to descend from heaven, via an angel, to his prophet, who then utters verbatim the dictation he has received from the angelic mediator. (The exception to this is Moses/Musa whom the Quran says spoke to God face to face, as to a friend.) Thus the Quran teaches that God caused the injiil to descend to Jesus/Issa. This is clearly not the picture that we find recorded by the four Gospel-writers of the New Testament. They are simply giving their recollections of Jesus' ministry, and who can say if they are even trustworthy? Thus the true Gospel was revealed by Jesus who was a good Muslim prophet, as were interestingly his disciples, according to the Quran. Jesus was not crucified, but he was taken back into heaven by God with his revelation--the injiil. Thus the true Gospel/injiil is in heaven with God, preserved by him there. It is certainly nowhere present on earth, and the best that one may hope is that parts or portions of it continue to exist in the four Gospels. They are, though, generally judged by Muslims today to be untrustworthy and not worth reading.

Such is the general explanation given by Muslims today, but the questions that this explanation provokes are numerous: why would God send Jesus, begotten of a virgin, working great miracles, who ascends into heaven, and not protect his message from corruption? This is, I think, a difficult question for Muslims to answer. A few have agreed that the four Gospels of the NT are valid, but by and large that is a minority position. One seems to end up with a weak God who is unable to safeguard his revelation to his prophets from corruption (tahriif) by nefarious Christians. Or with a God who allows centuries of pre-Muslim Christians to believe in a counterfeit injiil for no good reason. For Muslims do teach that pre-Islamic Christians could be true believers for they were living within the light that had been revealed to them--but according to this account that light was in fact darkness.

Some also propose that the true injiil was preserved, but that it was later (after Jesus' ascension) corrupted, but where is the manuscript or historical evidence of this? Extensive parts of the New Testament had spread through three continents in more than four or five different languages by the third century. When and where and how did this corruption of the Gospel happen? Who did it? There is no historical evidence for this position at all.

Such is the account of the Gospel according to Muhammad: it is hidden and unknown, its prophet great and worthy, but his message unknown to us today.

Salaam min al Rab ma3kum. Peace from the Lord be with you.

Abu Daoud

4 comments:

SocietyVs said...

"Such is the account of the Gospel according to Muhammad: it is hidden and unknown, its prophet great and worthy, but his message unknown to us today." (Abu)

Just another reason why the Islam religion does not draw me in - the conclusions reached seem ridiculous. I don't even try to make claims like this about the Jewish faith or the Muslim one - yet in their grand wisdom - they feel free in taking a shot at dis-crediting the Christian faith based on some bunk idea - uhhh...Jesus brought the gospel - then we lost it somehow (it got corrupted by us). That position makes man look like a hero in the face of God (who could not keep the book untainted but humans outsmarted Him).

I am going to take a wild guess the true gospel (in heaven somewhere on a book-shelf - or did Joseph Smith get a more recent revelation of it - ha ha) says Jesus never died, Mary was not a virgin, and there is no such thing as a Trinity - and Isaac's brother was the true line from Abraham. Really? Textually the Qu'ran faces one small problem - 500 years between the gospel stories and Mohammed's 'sayings'...quite the glitch to overcome.

W&J said...

Did you mean Jacob and Esau who were brothers..the sons of Isaac? Esau sold his birthright to Isaac because he was hungry and could not fast ( to wait to eat ). God said He hated Esau because Esau would not exercise self control. His appetites meant more to him than heritage or future.

Abu Daoud said...

I think Society was talking about Abraham's sons: Isaac and Ishmael, and how Muslims put much more emphasis on THEIR ancestor Ishmael, while the OT puts more emphasis on Isaac and his offspring.

Scott Rayl said...

Thanks for the insights about the Gospel in Islam. It would be interesting to find ways to show Muslims that the Gospel HAS been "revealed" through Jesus, rather than taken back to heaven, and unknown to us (and them) today. May God's Spirit open up more and more Muslim hearts to His Word.