The Dilemma: the Christian Conception of Jesus vs. the Muslim Conception of Jesus

I am facing this dilemma, namely, the choice between accepting the Christian conception of Jesus or the Muslim conception of Jesus. The Christian argues that Jesus is the incarnation of God and unless I believe this I will go to hell. The Christian also argues that we know these things are true because the Holy Bible tells us so. The Muslim argues that Jesus is not the incarnation of God and if I believe in such a notion I will go to hell. The Muslim also argues that we know these things are true because the Holy Qur’an tells us so.

What should I believe? I don’t want to go to hell. I’m scared. Help me!

The Catholic Church does not teach that if you err in good faith you will go to hell. However, good faith is often tricky for us sinners, so it is indeed a serious decision.

You haven’t given us much to work on, because you don’t explain what arguments you find convincing on one side or the other.

It also isn’t true that Christians simply say that Jesus is the Incarnation of God because the Bible says so. We do believe that this is the best way to interpret the things the Bible says about Jesus, and we do believe, of course, that the Bible is authoritative. But speaking for myself, it would be truer to say that I believe in the Bible because of Jesus than the other way round.

The conventional Muslim conception of Jesus is, in my opinion, clearly wrong because it denies that Jesus was crucified. That’s where we should start–with the one thing historians are pretty much agreed on about Jesus. Muslims almost uniformly deny it (there is some question as to whether the Qur’an itself actually denies the crucifixion, but that’s certainly how it’s usually been interpreted).

I don’t, frankly, see why I should give much credence to what the Qur’an says about Jesus, or indeed to anything because the Qur’an says so. The Qur’an contains much truth and beauty, but I find the arguments for its inspiration rather unconvincing.

Edwin

The Bible seems to suggest otherwise.

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” John 3:36

However, if I am not required to believe that Jesus is God incarnated, then perhaps I should play it safe and just accept the Muslim view of Jesus. Right?

I don’t find one side more convincing than the other. That’s why it is a dilemma. I was hoping that God would just zap me with some faith to believe one way or the other and end my torment. But that has not happened.

Well, the Muslim makes the same argument concerning the Qur’an.

There is some question as to whether the Qur’an itself actually denies the crucifixion. So, let’s not start there.

Well, I don’t find the arguments for the Bible’s inspiration to be anymore convincing.

Although I find it hard to imagine being torn between Christ & Mohammed equally, I suggest you study the understanding of the Holy Trinity as found in the Koran/ Qur’an - it is a complete misunderstanding of a concept that was, by the 7th century, well developed in Christianity. This proves the falsehood of those writings, for even if the theology of the Holy Trinity were wrong, God Himself wouldn’t misunderstand it when dictating to His prophet, would He?

One other thing - Christians do have a concept of Jesus, of course, but it would be idolatry if that was all we had. We go beyond that, we seek to encounter Jesus the Person, God & Man, Then & Now. Do this and dilemmas will disappear.

Well Counterpoint, I’m glad to hear you believe in God, and hell. That is a good start. God will not send anyone to hell if they follow their conscience to the best of their ability. On the other hand it makes sense that God would give man some definite road map to heaven, some definite way to get there, that he would give us some concrete help. Why not read the Catechism of the Catholic Church and learn the story of God’s Revelation to man and use that for guidance. After all Judaism and Catholocism go back nearly five thousand years. Now they just might have something useful to say.

vatican.va/archive/ENG0015/_INDEX.HTM

Linus2nd

Why? Islam is the second largest religion in the world next to Christianity.

There is an explanation for this apparent misunderstanding.

Regarding the verse 5:116, some scholars have written that the version of the “Trinity” concept that the Qur’an is criticizing appears to be God, Jesus, and Mary; and that this is not a description of orthodox Christian belief, wherein the third part of the Trinity is the Holy Spirit. Edward Hulmes writes:

"The Qur'anic interpretation of trinitarian orthodoxy as belief in the Father, the Son, and the Virgin Mary, may owe less to a misunderstanding of the New Testament itself than to a recognition of the role accorded by local Christians (see Choloridians) to Mary as mother in a special sense."[9]

There is also debate about whether this verse is about the Trinity. For example, Thomas states that verse 5:116 need not be seen as discussing the Christian Trinity, but rather, giving examples of shirk (claiming divinity for beings other than God) and a “warning against excessive devotion to Jesus and extravagant veneration of Mary, a reminder linked to the central theme of the Qur’an that there is only one God and He alone is to be worshipped.”[1] When read in this light, it can be understood as an admonition, “Against the divinization of Jesus that is given elsewhere in the Qur’an and a warning against the virtual divinization of Mary in the declaration of the fifth-century church councils that she is ‘God-bearer’.”[1] (source: Wikipedia: Islamic view of Trinity)

The Bible seems to suggest otherwise.

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” John 3:36

However, if I am not required to believe that Jesus is God incarnated in order to be saved, then perhaps I should play it safe and just accept the Muslim view of Jesus. Right?

The Muslim conception of Jesus is utterly ahistorical, and unattested by any non-Muslim secular historian. Yet the Christian conception of Jesus, or at least biographical information about him, is widely seen as valid by secular historians. For example, a secular historian and a Christian will tell you that Jesus died on the cross under the accusation “INRI” (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews). Muslims deny this occurrence, because in Islam, crucifixion would be seen as defeat of God’s “messiah” (which Muslims do claim Jesus to be). Instead, the Quran and hadith require that Jesus was bodily assumed into heaven by God. Conveniently, according to Islamic teaching, God allowed one of Jesus’ innocent followers to take on the appearance of Jesus and die in his place. Now, am I just cynical, or does the Muslim account of the crucifixion of Jesus twist history to fit Islam’s conception of the Umma as a continually-victorious people?

Beyond the Quran itself, much of the content of Islam comes from the “hadith,” the supposed sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. But non-Muslim historians, like G.H.A. Juynboll and Joseph Schacht, have systematically analyzed the trails of transmission of hadith (the isnads), and found that they can link back to no earlier than the 2nd century post-Hegira.

And the content of the hadith themselves are very suspect. One ) isnadattributed to Muhammad’s cousin Ibn Abbas and accepted as valid by Sunni Muslims refers to the first followers of Jesus as originally being Muslims. The hadith tells the story of how “Islam” disappeared. After God supposedly allowed one of Jesus’ followers to take the appearance of Jesus and be crucified in his place, Jesus was bodily assumed into heaven (without dying). The remaining followers split into three camps, according to the hadith: the Muslims, the Jacobites, and the Nestorians. Well, that’s awfully interesting, because Jacobites were named for Jacob Barradaeus and the Nestorians named for Nestorius. Turns out that the Hijaz, where Islam got its start, happened to be located very close to the border between a Jacobite kingdom, the Ghassanids, and the kingdom in which Nestorian Christianity had taken major root, the Sassanid Empire. These lands were conquered during the “Rashidun” (Rightly-guided) caliphate, bringing them under the military control of the Arab invaders well before the first Hadiths were recorded. What’s this all mean? That the “hadith” was based on the Christians who the first followers of Muhammad conquered. If you look at Christian theological history, the Nestorian - Jacobite spectrum of belief DID NOT EXIST before the named founders, because earlier debates of Christology were more focused on the nature of the Trinity (e.g., the First Nicean Council) than the nature of Jesus Christ himself (e.g., the Council of Chalcedon – after which the Nestorians split from the Greek and Latin “Chalcedonian” west). Muslim apologists have no response, other than a rote statement of faith that in fact, Jacobites and Nestorians were around at the time of Jesus. It’s quite preposterous.

My personal view is that the Quran is a pastiche of Jewish and Christian folk stories and religious books. For example, the scene of the “Feast” at the end of Sura 5 (al Madiah) describes Jesus asking God to bring a table down from heaven. Then God announces that anyone who doesn’t believe this miracle will be punished like never before. To me, this is a clear editing of John 6’s “bread of life” discourse, with nearly exactly the same flow of narration. People ask Jesus to give them food from heaven, Jesus complies. Jesus (in John 6) says that unless you eat of his flesh, you shall have no life within you. Pretty harsh. Well, Sura 5 modifies that and has Allah saying that you’ll be punished if you don’t believe that the feast came down from heaven. Now think about it: why does Islam need a Eucharist? The body and blood of Christ, the central sacrament of Christian worship… has no role in Islamic understanding of divine revelation. So what is Sura 5? To me, it’s an attempt to convince poorly-educated Christians (originally, the largely illiterate populations of the lands Muslims conquered) that Islam and Christianity were saying the same thing. Propaganda.

Jesus is the promised messiah of Israel, who established the Kingdom of God on earth for all the world. And his kingdom is one where love is the law, not one that conquers with sword and spear.

May I suggest the following two books (the first written by a former Muslim)

shop.catholic.com/answering-islam.html

shop.catholic.com/islam-a-catholic-perspective.html

Also there are two more you can read as well:

shop.catholic.com/not-peace-but-a-sword-the-great-chasm-between-christianity-and-islam.html

shop.catholic.com/the-bible-and-the-qu-ran.html

May the Lord guide you on your journey.

God Bless

John was speaking of those who have had a reasonable and serious presentation of the Good News. The compassion of Christ covers all men for all time but it was his wish that all men should belong to his Church because the fullness of truth and the saving graces of the Sacrament reside in it.

No, I wouldn’t be satisfied with " playing it safe. " That is like the Ostrich who buries his head in the sand or like the child who covers his head with the covers when he has a bad dream or when he hears noises in the house. All are obliged to seek the truth.

Linus2nd

It is better to play it safe than to burn. And since I am not required to believe that Jesus is God incarnated in order to be saved (according to you), then I should play it safe and just accept the Muslim view of Jesus.

Thanks for the info.

One begins by being honest, absolutely honest. Don’t put God to the test, that would be the worst move to make.

Linus2nd

According to the Church, that refers to a choice not to believe even though your conscience is telling you that Jesus is the Son of God. It doesn’t refer to error in good faith.

However, if I am not required to believe that Jesus is God incarnated, then perhaps I should play it safe and just accept the Muslim view of Jesus. Right?

Of course not. That would not be acting in good faith. Playing it safe is the surest path to hell.

I don’t find one side more convincing than the other. That’s why it is a dilemma. I was hoping that God would just zap me with some faith to believe one way or the other and end my torment.

But why are you in limbo between the two in the first place? Do you have no religious background at all? Why not practice whatever religion you are already practicing until you are clearly convinced to do something different. Very rarely is any real person actually poised in exact equidistance from two traditions, but our culture has this silly and impossible idea that people are supposed to examine all religions impartially, and when combined with a conservative understanding of the consequences of making the wrong choice I can see how you would get into this state.

Well, the Muslim makes the same argument concerning the Qur’an.

I don’t follow that. What same argument? That they believe in the Qur’an because of Jesus? I think not. For Muslims, the Qur’an is fundamental. For Christians, Jesus is.

There is some question as to whether the Qur’an itself actually denies the crucifixion. So, let’s not start there.

Yes, let’s:). If we don’t start there, we aren’t giving Christianity a fair shake, since the crucifixion and resurrection are where Christianity starts, in every sense. I noted in my previous post that indeed the Qur’an can be interpreted as acknowledging the crucifixion and teaching the resurrection. But that isn’t how it’s been traditionally interpreted. I don’t know what local Islamic community, if any, you’re in contact with–perhaps you have found one that is OK with the view that Jesus was crucified. (I presume, by the way, that you know about the role of the hadith in traditional Islam, and that “Quran-only” Muslims are a fairly small minority and often regarded as heretical by others. I know of some in Louisville.)

However, that’s not really my point. My point is about historical credibility. The NT was written within a century (probably most of it within about 50 years) of Jesus’ death. While many scholars are skeptical about large parts of the Gospel accounts (perhaps partially bearing out Islamic claims about “corruption”), they are agreed on certain things about Jesus. These things don’t bear much resemblance to the “Islamic picture of Jesus.” The Islamic picture of Jesus, on the other hand, bears a lot more resemblance to later legends about Jesus, with of course Jesus’ divinity subtracted. We don’t have a clear reference to the crucifixion, and we don’t have (as far as I can remember) any of the miracles or sayings of Jesus found in the Gospels (I could be wrong about that). What we do have are Jesus turning clay birds into live ones; the early Christian legend of the Seven Sleepers; an account of hell that is strikingly similar to that of the non-canonical Gospel of Peter (which was certainly written quite a while after the canonical Gospels and is much more likely to have been “corrupted”); and so on. And then there’s the “Maryam sister of Aaron” issue. Sure, there are explanations, and there are similar difficulties in the Bible (more on that in a minute). But the simplest explanation is that the author of the Qur’an got genuinely mixed up between two Biblical women with the same name, separated by more than a millennium. . . .

Overall, then, the Qur’an looks to me exactly like what I’d expect from a brilliant, spiritually intense seventh-century Arab with a garbled view of Christianity. I see no reason to regard it as anything else. I can’t imagine being genuinely torn between its completely unhistorical picture of Jesus and the much more grounded picture (with multiple sources agreeing on key points) found in the NT.

The only reason to believe the Qur’an’s picture of Jesus is if you have put faith in the Qur’an as the verbally dictated Word of God. It doesn’t stand up historically at all. It requires blind faith.

Well, I don’t find the arguments for the Bible’s inspiration to be anymore convincing.

If you mean “arguments purporting to show why the Bible is what Muslims believe the Qur’an to be,” then I agree–in fact I think they are less convincing, if anything. Obviously the Bible isn’t what Muslims believe the Qur’an to be. I believe it is inspired, but I mean something different by that–something, in my opinion, much richer and more interesting. The Bible is obviously written by a lot of human authors over a long period of time, reflecting various perspectives.

The question is not between the Bible and the Qur’an, or fundamentally between two rival portraits of Jesus, but between a view of revelation in which God becomes incarnate, and one in which God becomes “inlibrate”–reveals Himself primarily through a book.

The “perennialists” would argue that both are true, in a way that surpasses language and logic. that may be the case, but if so we can’t know it or talk about it, so I will leave that truth, if truth it be, for the Beatific Vision where (if anywhere) it belongs.

Edwin

Playing it safe is the wisest decision to make. The Holy Qur’an clearly teaches that all Christians are going to hell. But, according to you, all Muslims are not.

If Jesus had played it safe, Christianity wouldn’t be one of your choices.

My conscience is not telling my that Jesus is God incarnated.

Good. Then I will stay pat and not accept any religion because I don’t believe in any. That’s acting in good faith. And since I am only required to act in good faith, then that is what I will do. I sincerely believe in whatever it is I believe (and it is not possible for me to believe otherwise.)

Where does the Qur’an teach this? I know it’s the traditional Islamic belief, but Surah 2.62 seems to state the opposite. I am not of course in any position to tell Muslims how to interpret their own Scriptures–I’m simply saying that those Muslims who take an “inclusivist” view have a passage of the Qur’an that they can cite on their side (and there are such Muslims, in fact).

But much more to the point, your suggestion of “playing it safe” is foolish and cowardly and seems to indicate a bizarre belief that you are smarter than God. Why would you think you could fool God by such a silly game?

Seek truth. Seek it with all your heart. I am beginning to wonder if your “dilemma” is real at all and you’re not just playing a mind game with us. Your words are not the words of someone who cares about truth.

Edwin

Alright. Stop right there. Close, but not quite. First the Bible must be determined to be an accurate source of historical information, before it can be said to be “holy”.

And furthermore, we’re not even talking about the whole Bible. Just the New Testament, which is the only part which deals directly with the man Jesus Christ.

The existence of the man Jesus, as an historical figure, is fairly certain. There is a scholarly consensus on the issue. The real issue in contention is the Resurrection - which is a thing the Moslems do not believe. (They also do not believe Jesus was crucified, which is counter to the historical consensus.)

An Anglican bishop historian name of N.T. Wright - and before I go further, I am not claiming an unbiased view in this - offers a question: where did the Christian conception of Resurrection come from? Christianity, from the first, was a movement that held the Resurrection as a central tenet. He sees this as an “historical problem”… The link included offers N.T. Wright’s analysis of the situation regarding beliefs in resurrection of the time.

The short of it, though, is that it takes a great leap of logic to believe any conclusion about Jesus’s death and resurrection. But the Resurrection, as described by the Apostles, is the easiest to believe simply because they’re the only ones to make a case. There is no counterargument, except from later religions and philosophies.

So, if no one else makes a case, and each option is as good as the others, the New Testament is probably true - not because it’s “God’s Word”, but because it’s the consensus of several men who claimed to see something extraordinary happen. It’s a consensus of witnesses not of a doctrine, but an event.

The Muslim argues that Jesus is not the incarnation of God and if I believe in such a notion I will go to hell. The Muslim also argues that we know these things are true because the Holy Qur’an tells us so.

Hold on again. Close again, but not quite. Dig a little deeper. Where did the Koran come from? It came from a man who claimed God gave it to him verbatim. That is, the Koran is, literally, the word of God.

But how can that be challenged? I’ll give you a good starter: none of the people mentioned in the Koran, despite what it says, were Arabic. (Except for Ishamel, and the Ishmaelites.) And, no, Semitic is not the same thing as Arabic.

For another, which are you going to believe about the things Jesus is and says: a single book, written 500-600 years after the fact, or a number of letters and books written anywhere from 19 to 50 years after the fact? I would put my money on the closer source.

What should I believe? I don’t want to go to hell. I’m scared. Help me!

Use your brilliant brain. Stop takin’ crack cocaine. :wink:

Drink your milk. Stay in school. Get 8 hours of sleep. And don’t do drugs.

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Nailed!
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