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Question 69:

On your website it says in the text introducing Theme 2: “The Divinity of Jesus” (which corresponds to chapter 2 of the book “Muslims ask, Christians answer”), Section 3, Line 1: Jesus, whose coming was announced by John the Baptist (Yahyá), was born from the virgin Mary without a human father. How do you know that it was Yahyá (Peace be with him) who brought Jesus (Peace be with him) this message, whereas the Quran in sura 3:39 speaks of angels who brought Zakariyya a message from God?

 

Answer: What I want to say in the sentence you quoted is that according to the Quran ‘Isa ibn Maryam was believed by Yahya ibn Zakariyya to be a word of God. It is possible that my statement goes beyond the actual text of the Quran, in as far as I assume from the word “saddaqa” that Yahya also declared his belief concerning ‘Isa in public and that he therefore announced the coming of ‘Isa.

I refer to sura 3:39 and the usual interpretation of this verse (e.g. in the Tafsir al-Manar on this verse. Dar ul-Fikr Ausgabe, Band III, p. 297 ff.)

I am not saying, and the Quran text doesn’t really allow the interpretation that, as you put it: Yahya "brought the message to ‘Isa”, as you put it, but only that Yahya believed it to be true that ‘Isa "was a word from God".

1. Interpretation of sura 3, verse 39

As regards the interpretation of verses 39 of sura 3, you can find a summary of the interpretations of these verses and therefore also the words that we are discussing here, in Mahmoud M. Ayoub, “The Qur'an and its Interpreters”, Vol. II (The House of 'Imran) (Albany: State of New York University Press, 1992) , pp. 107-112. Ayoub shows that most of the famous classic commentators of the Qur'an share the view I described here.

2. His coming is announced in the words of the prophets.

I assume that you have read the scriptures of the Old Testament, or the First Testament, which represent a whole library of writings over many centuries and have been written under the most different circumstances. The books of the prophets are found in the Old Testament. Many of these prophets and their writings are not mentioned in the Qur’an. For Jews and Christians, they are an important part of the Bible. I cannot explain in detail here how Christians over the centuries have interpreted the prophetic writings of the Old Testament in the light of their faith in Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah. Contrary to the Jews, Christians consider the Old Testament, and especially the writings of the prophets, as announcing a future in which “God’s anointed one” (the Messiah) will come and with Him the Kingdom of God. Also contrary to the Jewish faith, Christians, many of whom came from the world of Jewish faith, especially in the early centuries, have always seen and confessed Jesus Christ to be the Messiah whom the Jews were expecting. Whereas the Jews still expect the Messiah to come, Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified and resurrected one, is the true expected Messiah (God’s Anointed One), who in the Jewish scriptures for centuries has been expected to come from God. More than this cannot be said here. If you are interested in understanding the principles of the Christian faith in more detail, I would refer you to the “Katholischer Erwachsenen-Katechismus: Das Glaubensbekenntnis der Kirche”, vol. 1,, ed. By the German Bishops’ Conference. Kevelaar: Butzon &Bercker, 1985, esp. pp. 60-63; 143 ff. See also the relevant chapters in Richard P. McBrien, “Catholicism”. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1981.

My statement that Jesus Christ has been announced by the prophets, is therefore to be understood as a one of the principles of the faith of the Church. Jewish believers interpret the relevant texts of the Old Testament differently. Regretfully, there does still not exist a consistent Muslim commentary on the writings of the Old and the New Testaments that would found and apply a Muslim hermeneutics of the Biblical Scriptures.

3. The Gospel according to St. John 16:12-13.

Christians have always understood these and similar verses to relate to the Holy Spirit. There is not enough space here to explain in detail why it would be wrong to read the Greek text as periklytos instead of parakletos. Nor can I summarize the Christian exegeses on these texts which fill volumes. I would like to make only one point: Christians understand the paraclete to be the supporter, the comforter, e.g. the Holy Spirit. It will reveal that Jesus was right to call himself the Son of God (see John 10:33; 19:7). The evidence for this is Jesus going to the Father (13:1; 20:17); it will show His heavenly origin and His heavenly nature (6:62). Through revealing Jesus, the Spirit will glorify Him. Jesus himself glorifies the Father (17:4). The revelation is therefore completely one; it originates in the Father, is effected through the Son, and is completed in the Holy Spirit to the glory of God, the Son and the Father. (see “Katholischer Erwachsenen-Katechismus”, pp. 221 ff. and the recent book publication: T. Güzelmansur (ed.),“Hat Jesus Muhammad angekündigt? Der Paraklet des Johannesevangeliums und seine koranische Bedeutung”. Regensburg:Pustet, 2012, passim)

4. Sura 61: 6

His name is Ahmad: or: whose name is more to be praised. This means that the word is not to be understood as a name. The Muslim commentators recognize the Prophet Mohammad under this name. The apologists of Islam have tried against the claims of Christians, to find a text in the gospels that contains this announcement of Jesus. There are 2 sides of the argument here: either they accuse Christians of having removed the relevant texts from the gospels, or, as happens more frequently, they point to His promise to His disciples that He would send them support (parakletos) (Gospel of John 14:16,26. In this case, “parakletos” was interpreted in the sense of “periklytos” (very famous)understood to be the Grek version of the Arabic word “ahmad”.

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