The Dichotomy of Isa and Christ

By Owen Mudford - 10 February 2022

This article from Owen is part of Somali Bible Society Journal: Volume II, Issue 2

Jesus Christ is one of, if not the, most studied and significant person in history. This is seen through the effect he has had on society, religion, law-making and academia for the past two millennia and is widely accepted by those of ‘faith’ and seemingly secular organisations alike.1 The historical nature of Jesus’ life is also widely concluded to be accurate by most of academia. However, this does not mean that an identical picture of Jesus of Nazareth is accepted by all. The purpose of this essay is to analyse the Jesus that is spoken of within the Qur’an; compare this to traditional Christian doctrine of the person of Christ, and alongside historical sources put forward an argument for this viewpoint. This analysis will then be applied to Christian ministry when evangelising to Muslims.

The Origins of the Qur’an

The Qur’an is the primary authority for the Muslim life; recited in the 7th Century AD by the Prophet Muhammad.2 For Muslims it consists of the precise words of God conveyed to the Prophet, unmodified by character, personality or any other means [Q15:9-17].3 Orthodox Islamic history states that this occurred over twenty-three years with Muhammad memorising the words and others writing them on pieces of papyrus, flat-stone, leather, wooden boards and any other material available.4 Most Muslims also believe that Muhammad was illiterate, meaning that the Qur’an was mainly passed on through the oral tradition.5 It was not until after Muhammad’s death in 632AD that the first caliphs started to collate the texts and write them down into a definitive edition.6 This edition was made up of 114 sūras that are placed, for the majority, in order of length as opposed to thematic arrangement or even probably in order of revelation.7 Further teachings, words and actions of the Prophet Muhammad were then collected into other works called Hadith and Sunna, held second only to the Qur’an in terms of divine inspiration.8

Teachings in the Qur’an on the person of Jesus

Jesus, or Īsā, is one of the key figures in the Qur’an.9 He appears in fifteen sūras and ninety- three verses; usually characterised through honorific titles such as “example” [Q43:57-59], “Word from [Allah]” [Q3:45], and “Spirit from [Allah]” [Q4:171]. As one reads the Qur’an, it becomes increasingly clear that there are evident differences to the Jesus found in the New Testament. It is worth stating that there are some parts of the Qur’anic Jesus that emulate the biblical narrative: he is sent from God [Q3:50], he performs miracles [Q3:49], he teaches and he is involved with the events that we read about within the passion narratives of the Gospels. However, even within these similarities there are large differences to the gospels of Jesus in the Bible. Differences between the Qur’anic and biblical Jesus can be largely summed up in three key points: his role and status, his teachings and miracles and his death on the cross.

It is worth noting that from this point within this article I shall use ‘Isa’ as shorthand for the Qur’anic Jesus, whilst simply using Jesus to denote the biblical figure.

Jesus the Prophet

The largest and most significant difference is Isa’s identity as a prophet, rather than the Son of God.10 Sūra 19:31 shows Muhammad quoting Isa directly, stating his role as a prophet, which is then followed by an emphatic statement about Allah’s lack of offspring [Q19:35-37]. The fact that these verses are placed next to each other clearly show the desire of the author to allow no doubt within the reader’s mind to his viewpoint on this area of debate. It is not clear historically if Muhammad is writing against Christians, or merely against Arabs who were stating Jesus’ divinity at the time of writing.11 It seems clear though, that this must have been a belief within the region and so Muhammad is stating clearly that this is not of Allah.

Isa’s prophethood is highly revered within the Qur’an.12 He was given the Injil to convey to all people, confirming what was taught was in the Torah and foretelling the coming of Muhammad.13 There are some intricacies, though, that upon greater research raise questions. In some verses, Isa is named alongside other ‘prophets’ such as Moses and Isaac, suggesting that the writer is trying to show the reverence that Isa is given is akin to all other prophets of Allah [Q2:136] and he is no different to them.

On the other hand there are certain other verses that show Isa as the chosen servant and ‘truer’ prophet.14 This is first seen through the miraculous nature of his birth which parallels the biblical account of the virgin birth [Q19:19-22, Luke 1:31-32].15 Isa is the only prophet to be created outside of the natural order, the first human since Adam, and many scholars believe that this was incorporated into the Qur’an by Muhammad from the Christian tradition.16 Secondly, Isa is set apart from all other prophets, as the Qur’an seems to recognise that Isa was without sin, describing himself as being made “blessed” [Q19:31], using the Arabic word mubaarak, a word that is not attributed to any other human, however is used to describe things that the Qur’an considers to be perfect, such as the Qur’an itself [Q6:93, Q6:156], and the site of the first house of prayer [Q3:96].17 The figure of Isa stands apart from Muhammad, and all other prophets, on this subject whom are not without sin [Q40:55, Q48:2, Q47:19]. Shiite tradition would look to counter this as their traditions hold to the sinlessness of all prophet’s named in the Qur’an due to Allah’s mercy upon them [Q12:53], however I believe that this promotes further theological issues:

Firstly, the difference between an appeasement and sinlessness. When we discuss the nature of sinlessness, the bar must be the lack of sin – not sin that has been overlooked. Whilst prophets such as Ibrahim (Abraham), Ishaq (Isaac), Musa (Moses), and Dawud (David) may have their sins overlooked through the mercy of Allah this proves the fact that their sin existed in the first place. This is highly different within the figure of Isa. The use of mubaarak and the parallels between its use on the Qur’an, the true eternal word existing in physicality for all time with Allah, demand Isa to be different. The perfection accorded to the Qur’an means that it could never be demeaned or defiled in sin, therefore neither can a human who is blessed accordingly. Secondly, the larger theological issue that this promotes is the ease with which Allah disregards the sin of his people, and that his people seem to be unaware. There does not seem to be any part within the Qur’an that suggests that any of his divine prophets were aware of their sinless status or even the need to exist as such. Even Muhammed, the final prophet who brought all of Allah’s promises to fruition did not claim to be sinless and perfect as one might see the word that he brought – the Qur’an. All of these facts beg the question as to why this characteristic is solely given to Isa, and my only answer can be that this was taken from the existing Christian tradition as Muhammed assembled his recitation.

Teachings and Miracles

Within Islamic teachings one of Isa’s key roles was to bring the Injil – the good news.18 For the Christian, this may immediately bring to mind the euangelion – the good news of salvation. It may even highlight words that Jesus read from the great Isaiah scroll whilst in the temple:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Luke 4:18-19

With this parallel, one could assume there are many similarities to the teachings of ‘Īsā’ and of Jesus (NT); and, like the New Testament, the healings of Jesus are affirmed in the Qur’an. He gives sight to the blind, heals lepers and even to raises people from the dead [Q3:44-45, Q5:11].19 However, this is the only similarity between the accounts. Though Isa is said to bring the good news [Q3:43], this is very different to the soteriological good news that is spoken of in the Bible. Instead, this Jesus denies his deity [Q5:72-73], the trinity [Q4:169], and predicts the coming of Muhammad. The teachings of Isa promote monotheism – one God, Allah, who is eternal and single. This is essential in the Muslim tradition, the doctrine of Tawhid.20 Allah is intrinsically unknowable, and his will is such that it allows for contradictions as he is sovereign to decide what is so and what is not. Muslims would argue that this is only possible with a single will, which removes the possibility of trinity.21 This stands apart from the Bible, in which Jesus confirms his divinity and Trinitarian role both publicly and privately. This is seen within many passages but most clearly in John 14:9 where Jesus openly states he is the image of the invisible God, incarnate [Colossians 1:15,19].

The Conspiracy of the Cross

One of the largest differences between Isa and Jesus, however, is whether or not he died on the cross. The teaching of the Qur’an is clear; Sūra 4:156-157 has four key statements on the matter:

  1. 1. The Jews believe that they had killed Isa
  2. 2. Allah reveals that they did not; Isa was neither killed nor crucified
  3. 3. There was someone who looked like Isa who died in his place
  4. 4. Allah took Isa up into heaven (ascension) until the day of Judgement

These four statements are very important as they not only conflict with the biblical narrative but also are essential to understanding key Islamic doctrines.

The first statement is significant as the Qur’an highlights Jewish involvement with the death of Isa. Though the bible confirms that the Jewish leaders plotted against Him, the Qur’an leaves out all Roman influence over the events. There are two main reasons for this to be the case.

Firstly, the literary style of the Qur’an is not the same as the Bible. The Bible describes places, people, events and emotions within a narrative structure which means that there are very few periods of biblical history for which we do not have narrative context. Though we have other genre contained within the book, and sometimes the narrative format different due to time-specific literary choices; there are very few sections of biblical history for which we do not have accounts of the time. The Qur’an, on the other hand, speaks of events within a form of ‘rhymed prose’ which combines the poetic and the narrative throughout and removes the teachings from their historical context making them into ‘eternal truths’. This is in large part to the giving of the word to Muhammed directly from Allah rather than the way that the spirit is described to have inspired the writers of the Bible. The Qur’an does not contain extended narratives such as found in Genesis, the Gospels, etc, but rather gives shorter bursts of information about a given figure, leaving out dates, context etc.

Secondly, when discussing the ‘people of the book’; the Qur’an is often trying to make a wider theological point about the corruption that has taken place within Judaism and Christianity and the need for Islam.22 I believe that stating the Jewish involvement in the crucifixion of Jesus is a way of the writer reminding Muslims that those who state that Jesus was the Messiah and God incarnate were also of the same people who caused his death.

This Sūra then goes on to state that Jesus did not die but was replaced with a facsimile who died in his place.23 This is the key difference between the narratives of the two books, and is what brings the largest impact on the proclamation of the New Testament and further church history. Jesus avoiding the cross is key within Islam as firstly it shows Allah is true to his word that his sovereignty would not allow his prophets to suffer [Q3:183], and secondly as there is no need for the death of Jesus as an atoning sacrifice.24 The Islamic understanding of salvation does not provide a need for atonement either individual or corporate, but only the mercy of Allah on a devout individual.25 This doctrine of sin is fully opposed to the doctrine that we see within scriptures such Romans 3:23, 6:23 and Ephesians 2:8-10.

Christian Doctrine of Christ

It has been said that the Jesus of the Qur’an differs from the Biblical Jesus not in essence, but only in terms of description.26 Hopefully it is clear already that this cannot be the case and will only become clearer as I unpack the traditional Christian Doctrine of Christ and what impact this has on the teachings of the Qur’an.

Pre-Eminence and Deity

The largest difference between the Jesus of the New Testament and the Jesus found in the Qur’an is his claim of divinity and eternal nature as a member of the Trinity.27 Jesus’ claim is clear in passages such as the aforementioned John 14 where he describes himself as God incarnate to his disciples, showing to humanity a physical embodiment of what the Father is like [John 14:9]; however, also showing the nature of equality within the trinitarian godhead [John 14:10-11]. This claim of divinity can be found within the other three gospels [Mark 2:3-10, Matthew 28:19] as Jesus does the work of the Father in bringing forth the Kingdom of God. All of these statements stand opposed to the words of the Qur’an which declares that Jesus never claimed to be divine [Q5:116-117].28 Therefore Isa’s lack of divinity is one of the linchpins of the Qur’anic Jesus; proof of the deity of Jesus Christ of Nazareth greatly limits the authority of the Qur’an, the words of the Prophet Muhammad and the doctrine of Islam.29 Consequently I will later provide an argument for the deity of Christ using both Bible and Qur’an, consider their historical provenance, and combat arguments made by Muslim polemics.

Teachings and Miracles

There are many teachings and miracles of Jesus found within the Bible that are never mentioned within the Qur’an’s account of Īsā. This is not surprising upon closer inspection of the genre and purpose of each of these scriptures and their subsequent books within. The gospel accounts are intended to be close to the biographical genre, informing the reader of the works of Jesus and his death and resurrection.30 There is a theological bias in the writing with each author relating different events to show diverse aspects of Jesus’ character and life. However, each gospel is framed within a narrative structure. This is not the case with the Qur’an as the nature of prose recounts Allah’s description of events or statements of past prophets and their greater theological implications for the Muslim believer.

Jesus’ teachings seen within the gospels are diverse in many ways, some are revelations for his disciples, some are teachings of the Hebrew scriptures [Luke 4:14-22], some seem to be instruction on ways of life for those who believe in him [Matthew 5:3-10]. However, they all speak of the power, sovereignty and coming Kingdom of God. Jesus shows who God is, what must be done for salvation, and then what a life ‘in Christ’ should look like. He uses miracles as signs and wonders to show this to a greater extent by commanding nature to show the omnipotence of God, healing people as a sign of the physical and spiritual healing of the Kingdom and driving out demons to show that God has complete dominion over Satan and the demonic.31

Jesus is the embodiment of the Kingdom of God, as King. This is one main area of Jesus’ ministry that Islam does not manage to counter, or even comment on, due to a lack of belief in his divinity. The Qur’an speaks of Isa bringing the Injil for the people, which was then corrupted before Muhammad brought the final prophecy. However, the Islamic teachings fail to mention the growth of the church and the supernatural signs and wonders that occurred after the death of Jesus [Acts 2: 1-47]. The Isa of the Qur’an cannot be the same Jesus who taught the apostles, as it is their legacy that we see from the 1st Century onwards, 600 years before the coming of Muhammad, and the Jesus whose teachings they cite cannot be the Īsā of the Qur’an.

Death and Resurrection

The second most important difference of the Islamic and Christian doctrine of Christ is his death and resurrection, which is key to the Christian faith. This importance is highlighted when the apostle Paul laments the false teaching against this, as he believes it to be one of the most damaging heresies that the early church faced [1 Corinthians 15:12-28].

The doctrine of sin is clear within orthodox Christianity, that the fall of Adam and Eve brought sinful nature into man and also the affected creation [Romans 8:18-22].32 Within the Qur’an the same sinful act occurs [Q2:33-37]. However, the resulting sin does not fall on the descendants of Adam, thus there is no doctrine of original sin in Islam.33 This is important as it removes the need for atonement; Allah decides who will be with him in paradise, no matter their sin, the antithesis to the Christian teachings seen in Romans 3:23 and 6:23.34

The Bible is clear within these passages that the fall of humanity means that all humans are born into sin and cannot themselves become right with God. For this to be undone each human must both have to die, and then continue living – an impossibility. Except, the bible says that it is not impossible; that Jesus physically died without any sin and was bodily resurrected. Therefore, when Christians believe and die with Christ they too rise bodily with him [Romans 6:8]. If the Qur’an is correct however, and this death and resurrection did not take place, then a Christian’s “faith is futile and you are still in your sins” [1 Corinthians 15:17]. The historical death and resurrection of Jesus has been part of Christian belief since the first biblical writers in the first century wrote their eyewitness accounts; it has also been written about by non-biblical historical writers as an event that has shaped history.35 For the Qur’an to argue against this, there must be substantial evidence behind Muhammad’s assertions, as both accounts claim to have divine inspiration.


The impact that Īsā has on the proclamation of the NT can be detrimental to the Christian faith. If his statements and actions are true, the Bible cannot be infallible but in fact must be leading people away from the true faith. The traditional acceptance of the Qur’anic Jesus must mean the end of the Christian faith as salvation would be a falsehood. Similarly, if the biblical teachings of Jesus and his death and resurrection are seen to be historically accurate then it must show the Qur’an’s infallibility, along with showing the need for Muslims to believe in Jesus, repent and be baptised. The two figures of Jesus cannot exist alongside each other, and both be true, as it is blasphemy to lower the Jesus of the Bible to solely the role of human prophet, and it is blasphemy to state that Allah had begotten a son.

However, through closer study on the origins of the Qur’anic Jesus, I am going to argue that the impact that Īsā has on the Bible is limited due to the unreliability of the Qur’an as a historical source.

Origins of the Biblical and Qur’anic Jesus

The differences between Biblical and Qur’anic Jesus’ are vast and doctrinally significant for millions around the world. I have already highlighted many of these differences, however for the impact of the Qur’anic Jesus to be measured and evaluated, the source of these doctrines must be observed.

The source for the Jesus of the Bible can be traced back to the period in which he lived. There are multiple gospel accounts by eyewitnesses which speak of his life, ministry and death.36 These are well known and have been critiqued throughout history by scholars, both western and Arabian. There are also the letters of Paul, who was not with the disciples during Jesus’ lifetime.37 However, there is also extra-biblical documentation on the person of Jesus as a historical figure within the period which fits the biblical narrative. For example, Tacitus, writing in the late 1st Century, speaks of the founder of the Christian religion who “suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilate”.38 Josephus, the Hebrew historian in the late 1st Century, wrote about the death of Jesus, of John the Baptist and of Jesus’ brother James.39 There is also a section of his works in which he speaks about the death and resurrection of Jesus in more detail, but there are doubts as to whether this section was later edited by Christian scholars as there is no evidence Josephus ever converted to Christianity.40 A recently discovered Arabic translation of the Testimonium may be the key to finding the pre-edited writings, however. In this copy, Josephus speaks of the wisdom of Jesus and his teachings, followed by his death by crucifixion under Pontius Pilate and his disciples claim of a resurrection, which is more likely to be the true account.41

All these extra-biblical documents corroborate the biblical account of a historical death of Jesus, and his disciples’ claim that he was resurrected.42 From there the argument for divinity and resurrection of Jesus rests on the faith of the individual, however these documents show the historical validity of the gospel narratives and the Biblical Jesus.

The writings in the Qur’an, on the other hand, do not come from eyewitnesses of Jesus, or even from those who spoke to eye witnesses; therefore, the description of Jesus must come from one of two sources; divine inspiration or existing teachings of Jesus that differed from the biblical narrative.

The former would argue that Jesus upon his apparent death by the hand of the Roman and Jewish authorities was then deified by his disciples and the resurrection was falsified. However, Allah knew that this was not the case. He then unveiled the truth to Muhammad 700 years later to correct this. I do not believe this theory is likely. Firstly for the resurrection to have not occurred, but the disciples to spread this falsehood there must have been either mass hallucinations or deception.43 These arguments have been put forward many times before as alternatives to the resurrection. However, as Lane-Craig shows this is highly unlikely for many reasons.44 Secondly this would suggest that Allah allowed this idolatry to occur, and the church to grow, for almost a millennium before sending a prophet to bring the truth. From my reading on the character of Allah, this idolatry is unlikely to have gone unpunished for that long as Allah states it to be unforgiveable [4:48]; how much more so for the idol to be one of his prophets? Within Islamic tradition, for Allah to allow one of his prophets to die would be to allow his very nature and power to be questioned – how much more for one of his prophets to be deified for over half a millennium?

The latter theory, I believe, makes more sense when approaching the Qur’anic Jesus. This figure has been created from existing teachings on Jesus that differed from the biblical narrative that can already be found within the Arab world at the time of Muhammad. For this argument to be true, first we must put to one side the argument of divine inspiration as the sole impetus behind Muhammad’s creation of Islam and accept the adoption of other religious stimuli into the writing of the Qur’an.

There are quite a few areas concerning the narrative of Isa that can be found to mirror Pseudo-Christian doctrines that the early church deemed to be heretical and not in accordance with the canon of scripture. For example, in the 2nd and 3rd centuries the heretical doctrine of Monarchianism was adopted by some clergy. This taught that there was only one God, the Father, who existed alone and had no offspring.45 This relegated Jesus to being a man only and the Holy Spirit as the power of the Father made manifest on earth. This heresy became popular within the Syrian region, being taught by Paul of Samosata, Bishop of Antioch, and would have shaped how many Syrians, including the desert peoples, saw the Christian faith.46 It is highly likely that within the oral tradition this would have spread throughout the Middle East and is very similar to the doctrine of Allah that we see within the Qur’an [Q4:171, Q19:34].47

However, this view of Monotheism is close not only to Islam, but also to traditional Judaism. Therefore, we cannot say that Muhammad framed the Qur’anic Jesus on these principles. However, we can infer that this style of thinking shaped Muhammad’s doctrine on who Jesus was, along with other stories about Jesus which were denounced by the councils but were told by the desert traders and are found in Apocryphal Gospels. For example, Jesus’ cradle miracle [Q3:41, Q5:109, Q19:29-33], can be found within the Infancy Gospel of James, a gospel that was likely to have been written from stories of Syrian traders around the 5th Century; Jesus creating birds from clay [Q3:49, Q5:11] appears within the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, a gnostic gospel written around the 150CE.48 Neither of these gospels were accepted by the councils of the church fathers due to their late writing and deviation from the biblical narrative. On further literary study it is also clear that the styles of these writings do not match the time of the other gospel writers but the later style of gnostic writings.49 Similar to the doctrines of Monarchianism, these narratives would have likely been passed down the trade routes and framed the Meccan view of Jesus.

These are only some of the examples that western scholars and polemicists believe are the true source of the Qur’anic Jesus.50 The deviations of the Qur’an from the traditional history of Jesus are too similar to these other early Pseudo-Christian works for these to be coincidences. One may argue that they were around because they held truth, and this was what Allah showed through the Prophet Muhammad. However, there is no historical proof to suggest this is the case, as the closest documents we have to the historical person of Jesus hold closer to the biblical account than they do the Qur’anic version.

Argument for the Deity of Christ

Now that I have shown that the historical precedent of the Qur’anic Jesus is likely to have come from different sources, most of them discredited before Islam was created, I now need to show why the proclamation in the New Testament of the deity of Christ is true and important for Theists and Atheists alike.

As mentioned earlier, there are many examples where Jesus shows an awareness of his own divinity. These examples come during the time of His ministry, unlike the infancy claims of the Qur’an or the Nag-Hammadi Gospels.51 This is down to the great truth unveiled in Philippians 2:6-8 which speaks of Jesus voluntarily giving up omniscience and his omnipresent nature, so to be found in the likeness of a human. To what extent the child Jesus was aware of his divinity at that point is unknown, but I believe the scriptures point towards his awareness of the nuances found in the scriptures and that knew how those scriptures testified about him  [John 5:39, Luke 2:49-50].

By Luke 4, on the other hand, there is a definite awareness of his divinity and relationship with the Father. Having been baptised and declared to be God’s Son [Luke 3:21], then tempted in the wilderness overcoming Satan in a way Adam failed [Luke 4:1-13], Jesus opens the scriptures and confirms who he is in the temple [Luke 4:18]. Jesus shows himself to be the Messianic figure spoken of by Isaiah, the same figure whom Isaiah states will be born of a virgin [Isaiah 7:14] and called Immanuel, ‘God with us’. This open declaration of divinity so early in Jesus’ ministry shows to all that he is fully aware of the statement he is making about himself. Therefore, the reader of scripture must decide for themselves whether Jesus is who he claims to be.52 Many have discredited Lewis’ ‘Trilemma’ due to the lesser known fourth ‘L’ that they say he leaves out, and that is that the ‘legend’ of the Christ of Faith does not mirror to the historical Jesus of Nazareth, as indeed I have formerly argued for the Qur’anic Jesus.53 I personally, on the other hand, believe that there is sufficient evidence in historical sources to show that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified under Pontius Pilate due to his claim of divinity, and that an empty tomb three days later led to his disciples preaching his resurrection and starting the church.54 Therefore, I believe that Lewis’ three possibilities are the only alternatives for the character of the biblical Jesus.55 It is hopefully clear from my introduction and the respect in which Jesus is held throughout the world, including his nature as a Prophet in Islam, that the claim of lunacy is weak. Similarly, though Jesus could have been a liar, the motivations behind this are unlikely as all testimonies claim that he did not look for money, sex or power. This becomes even less likely at the point of his arrest and death where Jesus could have renounced all claims of divinity and the messianic title. Therefore, I believe that it is clear that Jesus was God incarnate, pre-eminent member of the Trinity, and atoning sacrifice.

Application within Christian Ministry

The impact that Islam has had on the Christian World has been highly significant. This is particularly clear in Africa, where Islam has spread from the North-East land bridge and converted 47% of the population.56 It is also clear in cities such as Jerusalem which acts as a microcosm for the greater Middle Eastern province where Jewish, Christian and Islamic influences push against each other for control and authority. Even within the UK, where less than 5% of the population would class themselves as Muslim, Islam has an increasing impact on culture, and consequently, UK Christianity. The challenge for Christians is to love Muslims and build relationships of trust and humility with them, whilst also sharing the gospel in a way that shows a knowledge of the Qur’an and the truth of who Jesus really is.

Polemicists such as Jay Smith are fond of stating that debating with Muslim believers over their views on the Qur’an is not the job of the ‘normal Christian’.57 I would argue that this is incorrect. I understand the rationale behind the statement – not all Christians should feel it is their duty to learn Arabic, understand the Qur’an and the Hadith fully, and to approach Muslims for eloquent debate on their doctrine – however I believe that 1 Peter is clear as to the duty of the Christian in giving “a defence of the hope that is inside you” [1 Peter 3:13-17] and the figure of the Islamic Jesus is a clear threat to the hope of salvation. With this in mind, I believe that every Christian who is building relationships with those of an Islamic background should have a basic understanding of Islam and why the faith that Muslims profess is different to Christian faith. This then can lead to many deeper fruitful discussions, all in “gentleness and respect” [1 Peter 3:15].

The subject of this essay is also important in the confidence that it gives to the Christian believer; that their beliefs are not built on blind faith but on logical arguments, historical sources and most importantly a resurrected saviour who has conquered death. Within a culture where some argue that all religions lead to the same God, and that the Biblical and Qur’anic Jesus are the same; the Christian should be confident that what Jesus says in John 14:6 is true. This confidence should be with every Christian as they look to fulfil the commission given to them by Jesus to “go and make disciples of all nations” [Matthew 28:19], no matter their current religion or culture.

For pastors within the local church this is even more important as they teach their congregations the truth about who Jesus is. I believe there is a large demand within most local churches for further teaching into apologetics and theology, not just those who pay for further theological training.

It is also important to always recognise that for Muslims who accept the Biblical Jesus there is often a cost. Nabeel Qureshi writes about the cost of leaving Islam: “family, friends, job, everything you’ve ever known and maybe even life itself”. For many who read this article, you have already taken this step, you have got to a point where you realised the value of the truth of who Jesus is, who he is not, and all that he has done for you. This is the beauty of the gospel and what we long and hope for, for our Muslim brothers and sisters.


The impact that the Qur’anic Jesus can have on the proclamation of Jesus in the New Testament is a great one. Paul is clear within 1 Corinthians 15 that Jesus’ divinity, death and resurrection are of the upmost importance to salvation; as I have demonstrated throughout this essay, the Qur’an seeks to remove each of these from history and without them we are most to be pitied [1 Corinthians 15:19].

However, the Qur’anic claims are greatly reduced in impact by their historical weaknesses. Firstly, due to textual variations, lack of verifiable evidence and the dating of the discovered manuscripts, it seems to me highly unlikely that the Qur’an can claim to be textually unchanged throughout history and perfect in every way. Secondly, the figure of Jesus within the Qur’an cannot be held alongside the biblical Jesus, his origins from gnostic writings and pseudo-biographical works cannot stand against the biblical and extra-biblical documentation with which it disagrees. What the apologetic discussion around the Dichotomy of Isa and Jesus shows, is the necessity of Christians to be well-versed in the bible and always looking to strengthen their defence of the eternal hope that they have.

[1] Steven Ward, “Who’s Biggest? The 100 Most Significant Figures In History | TIME.Com”, TIME.Com, 2018,

[2] William E Shepard, Introducing Islam (London: Routledge, 2014), 65.

[3] Shepard, Introducing Islam, 65.

All Quranic quotations (unless specifically referenced) are taken from: Richard Bell, The Qur’an – English Translation (London: T&T Clark, 1960).

[4] Shepard, Introducing Islam, 66.

Some polemicists would argue against this, suggesting that archaeological findings would point towards the Qur’an being created later under the time of Uthman ibn Affan. – See Jay Smith, An Historical Critique Of Islam’s Beginnings – Jay Smith, video, 2013,

[5] Richard Bell, Introduction To The Qur’ān (London: University Press, 1953).

[6] Shepard, Introducing Islam, 66.

[7] Āyā: “Verse, especially a verse in the Qur’an” – Netton, A Popular Dictionary Of Islam, 45.

    Sūra: “Chapter of the Qur’an…” – Netton, A Popular Dictionary Of Islam, 238.

[8] Netton, A Popular Dictionary Of Islam, 90.

[9] The name for Jesus in the Qur’an is Īsā. Accepted by many to be from the Syriac name Yeshu, which is itself derived from the Hebrew Yeshua. – Geoffrey Parrinder, Jesus In The Qur’ān (London: Oneworld Publications, 2013), 16. However the name Īsā has no definition nor is found in any writing or inscription before its use in the Qur’an – Jay Smith, Comparing Jesus Christ (God) Of The Bible With ‘Isa Of The Qur’an – Jay Smith (Pt 1/3), video, 2013,

[10] Maulvi Hafiz Muhammad Idris as quoted in: K.D.W Anand, “The Christ Of The Quran”, Indian Journal Of Theology 7, no. 2 (1958), 56.

[11] George Fry, “The Quranic Christ”, Concordia Theological Quarterly 43, No. 3: 207-221 43, no. 3 (1979), 211.

[12] Parrinder, Jesus In The Qur’ān, 16.

[13] Marianne Farina, “What Do Muslims Think Of Jesus?”, U.S. Catholic 81, no. 9 (2016): 49.

Injil – A proto-gospel that was given, that worked in accordance to the Qur’an – Netton, A Popular Dictionary Of Islam, 122.

[14] Idris as quoted in: Anand, The Christ Of The Quran, 56.

[15] Anand, “The Christ Of The Quran”, 57.

[16] See ‘Origins of the Biblical and Qur’anic Jesus’, 18.

[17] Samuel Green, “The Perfect Man”, Answering-Islam.Org, 2004, https://www.answering-

[18] Jay Smith, Comparing Jesus Christ (God) Of The Bible With ‘Isa Of The Qur’an – Jay Smith (Pt 1/3), video, 2013,

[19] Parrinder, Jesus In The Qur’ān, 84-85.

[20] Parrinder, Jesus In The Qur’ān, 39.

[21] Norman L Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002), 138.

[22] The People of the Book Ahl al-Kitab – “The name initially referred to the Jews and Christians whose

scriptures like the Torah and Gospel were completd in Muslim belief by the Islamic revelation of the Qur’an” – Netton, A Popular Dictionary Of Islam, 22.

[23] F. S Coplestone, Jesus Christ Or Mohammed? (Fearn: Christian Focus, 2000), 39.

[24] Emir Caner and Ergun Mehmet Caner, More Than A Prophet (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2003), 63.

[25] Marianne Farina, “What Do Muslims Think Of Jesus?”, U.S. Catholic 81, no. 9 (2016): 49.

[26] Thomas Zatel, “Jesus At The Mosque: Reading The Qur’anic Accounts Of The Death Of Jesus From A Christian Perspective”, Asia Journal Of Theology 29, no. 1 (2015): 149.

[27] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Leicester: Inter-Varsity, 2007), 543.

[28] Nabeel Qureshi, No God But One: Allah Or Jesus? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), 213.

[29] The doctrine of Islam comes primarily from the Qur’an as the verbatim words of Allah, unchanged in any way. It is completely trustworthy and accurate and so cannot be proved to be false. Otherwise Allah himself is false as he gave the word to Muhammad. Jesus cannot be the divine son of Allah as the Qur’an states it to be so [112:1-4]. See William E Shepard, Introducing Islam (London: Routledge, 2014), 65-68.

[30] For further study see: Richard A. Burridge, What Are The Gospels? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004).

[31] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 356.

[32] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 493.

[33] Farina, “What Do Muslims Think Of Jesus?”, U.S. Catholic 81, no. 9 (2016): 49.

[34] Qureshi, No God But One…, 40.

[35] See ‘Origins of the Biblical and Qur’anic Jesus’, 18.

[36] Mark L Strauss, Four Portraits, One Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 518.

[37] Strauss, Four Portraits…, 38.

[38] Cornelius Tacitus, Annals 15:44, trans. Moses Hadas, A.J. Church and W.J. Brodribb, The Complete Works Of Tacitus (York: Random House, 1942), 380-381.

See also – Sextus Julius Africanus, Chronographiae (Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 2007) for Thallus’ account.

[39] Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews trans. William Whiston, Josephus: Complete Works (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1963), 379.

[40] Strauss, Four Portraits…, 39.

[41] Strauss, Four Portraits…, 40.

[42] Strauss, Four Portraits…, 518.

[43] Craig, The Son Rises: Historical Evidence For The Resurrection Of Jesus (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2000) 102- 106.

[44] For greater study on the alternative arguments of the resurrection and their critiques see: Craig, The Son Rises… Or Andrew Wilson, If God Then What? (London: Inter-Varisty Press, 2012).

[45] Everett Ferguson, Church History: Volume 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), 142.

[46] Ferguson, Church History…, 142-143.

[47] Fry, “The Quranic Christ”, Concordia Theological Quarterly 43, No. 3: 207-221 43, no. 3 (1979), 211.

[48] J. K Elliott, The Apocryphal New Testament (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 68.

[49] Elliott, The Apocryphal…, 441.

[50] For further information see : Jay Smith, An Historical Critique Of Islam’s Beginnings – Jay Smith, video, 2013,

[51] Elliott, The Apocryphal…, 441.

[52] For further study into the decision as to what decision must be made from Jesus’ statements see : What Are We to Make of Jesus? In C. S Lewis, God In The Dock (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970). Or C. S Lewis, Mere Christianity (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1952), 55-56.

[53] Justin Taylor, “Is C.S. Lewis’s Liar-Lord-Or-Lunatic Argument Unsound?”, The Gospel Coalition, 2016,

[54] Shlomo Pines, An Arabic Version Of The Testimonium Flavianum And Its Implications, (Jerusalem: Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, 1971), 16.

[55] Mere Christianity (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1952), 55.

[56] Shepard, Introducing Islam, 60.

[57] Jay Smith, Comparing Jesus Christ (God) Of The Bible With ‘Isa Of The Qur’an – Jay Smith (Pt 1/3), video, 2013,


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