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THE PORTRAIT OF JESUS IN THE QUR?

AN:
REFLECTIONS OF A BIBLICAL SCHOLAR
ι
Scholars have approached the portrait of Jesus in the Qur^än mainly
from three different points of view, the polemical, the dialogical, and
the historical.1
The polemical treatment is the oldest. For more than one thousand
years it was the common practice for Christians to write about Islam
polemically, branding Muhammad as an impostor and a liar. On the
other hand, the same Christian readers, studying the QurDân from a
specifically Christian perspective, concluded that even the liar acknowledges, if unwillingly, the divinity of Christ, for does he not, after all,
call Jesus the "Word" of God?
The polemical tradition survives in a more attractive form in missionary treatments of the theme. In 1912 S.M. Zwemer wrote: "To help
our Moslem brethren to answer this question ['What think ye of
Christ?'], we must...lead them up to higher truth by admitting all of the
truth which they possess."2 On other occasions, the tone of missionary
writers was much less tactful. E. Kellerhals, for instance, wrote that the
Quranic portrait of Jesus reveals Islam as a form of Satanic antiChristianity, devised by the father of lies. On the surface, Christ is accepted and honored, but all this is mere cunning and calculation.3
Obviously, missionary study of Quranic Christology fails to do
justice to the other religion. It is easy enough to compare the Quranic
portrait of Jesus with the picture that emerges from the NT or with later
Orthodox Christology and to conclude that the "Christian prophet as
Islam knows him" is "sadly attenuated."4 But such an assessment does
not do justice to Islam, which "is an autonomous expression of
religious thought and experience, which must be viewed in and through
its own principles and standards."5 Moreover, missionary critics of the
1
For details and a bibliography see Heikki Räisänen, Das koranische Jesusbild
(Helsinki: The Finnish Society for Missiology and Ecumenics, 1971). This paper as a
whole is based on the book to which I must refer the reader for all references. For a recent
brief treatment of the topic, see also Kurt Rudolph, "Jesus nach dem Koran," in Was
haltet ihr von Jesus? ed. by Wolfgang Trilling and Ingo Berndt (Leipzig: St. BennoVerlag, 1975), pp. 260 ff.
2
Samuel M. Zwemer, The Moslem Christ (Edinburgh: Oliphant, Anderson & Ferrier,
1912), p. 8.
3
Emanuel Kellerhals, Der Islam (Basel: Basileia Verlag, 1945), p. 180.
4
Kenneth Cragg, The Call of the Minaret (New York: Oxford University Press, 1956),
p. 261. Of course, Cragg's approach to Islam as a whole is nevertheless characterized by
sympathetic understanding.
5
Hamilton A. R. Gibb, Mohammedanism, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1962), p. vii.

122

Manichaean and Gnostic motives and traditions have been discovered.. There is a desire to achieve "fraternal understanding between the children of Abraham"6 in the search for social justice. 209. p. polemics and criticism have to a great extent given way to a new dialogical approach.7 But the Qur5än is not to be expounded by the NT. 7 See. Paradoxically enough. 1958). Against all dialogical claims it should be emphasized that a knowledge of the NT is not at all necessary for an understanding of the Qur5an in its historical setting. Whatever tradi* Denise Masson. It goes without saying that this fault does not lie with Christians alone. 173. 1965). the customary missionary approach both fails to do justice to the alien tradition and lacks a realistic picture of its own tradition. Zaehner.8 The third approach may be termed historical.g. I (Paris: AdrienMaisonneuve. At Sundry Times (London: Faber & Faber. C. One is eager to find in representatives of the other religion allies against the increasing encroachment of secularization. Missionary literature does not in general show much awareness of the differences between the Jesus of the NT and the Christ of Christological dogma. . pp. This tracing of sources is part of the historical task. During the last hundred years much work has been done to trace all sorts of traditions which went into the making of the QurDan. moral values and world peace. but by no means the whole of it or even the most important aspect. as opposed to later Islam. Especially clear is the influence of certain popular apocryphal traditions concerning Mary and the birth and childhood of Jesus. Laudable as such an enterprise is. Le Coran et la révélation Judéo-Chrétienne. e. does not (it is held) deny the divinity of Jesus or the Christian doctrine of the Logos. Standard Muslim criticism of Christianity and the Bible is certainly not less guilty in this respect. In recent times. The Qur5an is not just the sum of its 'sources. Nestorian and Monophysite. • Contra Geoffrey Parrinder. more or less ignoring the historical context of the book. Jewish and Judeo-Christian. Jesus in the Qur^Qn (London: Faber & Faber. however. Muhammad was not merely a collector of ideas. R.' The establishment of the origin of some of its elements does not add up to an 'explanation' of the book. 7. One can easily read the Qur5än with a Christian bias. Hence. 1958). certain claims belonging to the old polemical literature are time and again repeated in a new form in the dialogue: the Qw°an.THE PORTRAIT OF JESUS IN THE QUR'ÄN 123 Qur^an have usually been unaware of the inadequacy of their own yardsticks. the dangers inherent in the dialogical approach are those of superficiality and anachronism. p. 216. or of the existence of several rather different Christologies in the NT itself.

the Quranic portrait of Jesus stands out as coherent and clear. p. p. according to which "no statement about a religion is valid unless it can be acknowledged by that religion's believers. must be interpreted in the light of the new Quranic context. Montgomery Watt. W.11 I feel justified in speaking of the Qur3an in terms of Muham9 Cf. 1959). provided that the standards they apply are in fact the same. for instance. No matter what the Christians meant. The Idea of Divine Hardening. ed. p. On the contrary. The various stories of Jesus and the references to him. This is the lesson to be learnt from the 'redactioncritical' studies of the Old and the New Testament."10 I think Cantwell Smith is right as regards descriptions of what is believed today by adherents of a religion. Jesus. from the point of view of the QurDân the only relevant question is: "What could Muhammad possibly mean by that expression in the context of his total view?" Seen against the background of Muhammad's theology as a whole. as well as the more dogmatic Christian statements known to Muhammad. 2nd ed. 10 Wilfred Cantwell Smith. Cantwell Smith. see Heikki Räisänen. There is no reverting of the historical insights of the last two centuries. 1976). 42. 1 ' For an attempt to compare the Bible and the Qur3an from this perspective.124 THE MUSLIM WORLD tions were available to him. to avoid such language altogether. Muhammad at Mecca (London: Oxford University Press. formulated by W. Like other previous messengers of God. Parrinder.9 This kind of language also appears to violate an often cited canon. whatever its origin may be. Christian theologians have had to learn to cope with the strictly historical treatment of their holy Scripture. therefore. by Mircea Eliade and Joseph Kitagawa (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. They may be forgiven if they apply the same methods to other Scriptures. were reinterpreted by Muhammad in the light of his own personal experience. Jesus became an example and a precursor of Muhammad. the Biblical critic is likely to try to persuade the ordinary Christian to take another look at the historical evidence and rethink the whole thing. . when they spoke of Jesus as the "Word" of God. "Comparative Religion: Whither and Why?. x. To speak of the Qur^an as an expression of Muhammad's religious experience is bound to offend Muslims. When a NT scholar tries to reconstruct the teaching of the historical Jesus." in The History of Religions. 10. they all passed through his fervid religious experience and were transmuted by it. The QurDän must be explained by the Qur°an and not by anything else. a guarantor of Muhammad's message who had experienced similar things. Many Christian writers. attempt. (Helsinki: The Finnish Exegetical Society. Watt and Parrinder for instance. he does not and cannot stop to ask the average Christian believer what he thinks of the issue. But his statement should not be applied to the historical study of religions. Every detail in the QurDan. 1953).

61:6). 61:6. 3:45). a created being like Adam (S. 4:158). 3:50. displaying the characteristic Muslim virtues: prayer. Jesus also announced the coming of Muhammad (S. Nevertheless. 19:21) of God's omnipotence. Christians regard Jesus blasphemously as God's Son—in fact. II For my present purpose. and Henri Michaud. To acknowledge this does not necessarily detract from the value of the Scripture. 5:110) and taught the same ethical monotheistic message that countless other messengers before him had taught and that Muhammad was to teach after him. one of those who stand close to God (S. . 12 For details. since I use precisely the same kind of language when speaking of the NT. 5:46) and clarified some controversial points in it (S. a really penetrating dialogue between the two faiths can only begin when both sides are prepared to take historical criticism seriously. He was a righteous man (S. I would suggest that the same is true of the QurDan. almsgiving and piety toward his mother (S. Yet neither Jesus himself. just as Muhammad felt called upon to pronounce judgment on some matters debated between Jews and Christians (S.THE PORTRAIT OF JESUS IN THE QUR'ÄN 125 mad's personal experience. 116). The NT bears every mark of successive transformations and reinterpretations of religious tradition in new situations and in the light of new human experiences. 3:59. 4:171). The Jews tried to kill Jesus and boasted that they had indeed done so. But it took Christian theologians some seventeen centuries to get the historical criticism of the Bible started. A summary.4:171-172. They could not really kill him. nor his mother. Assuredly God is my Lord and your Lord. appropriate in the mouth of any messenger. 3:49. although I realize that Muslims are not willing to admit this.. his contemporaries rejected his message as "manifest sorcery" (S. 19:32). real Muslims (S. 6:85). but God raised him up to Himself (S. as one of three gods. 1960). Räisänen. except for his disciples who were. ever wished to be anything other than God's servant and messenger (S. 3:45. 43:63 f. but they were wrong. pp. Jesus worked great wonders "with God's permission" (S.: "Fear God and obey me. 5:110). Serve Him! This is a straight path. 61:14). 5:72. Jesusbild. Jésus selon le Coran (Neuchatel: Delachaux & Niestlé. Jesus confirmed the earlier Book of Torah (S." In addition. In my view. In comparison with that. like Jesus. although it compels one to view its authority in a different light. is given in S. 17 ff. a rapid survey of the main points in the Quranic picture of Jesus is sufficient. 27:78). cf. 43:63). Islam still has plenty of time. 3:46.12 The virginal conception of Jesus was a sign (S.

The Qur^an affirms the virginal conception of Jesus. If Muhammad was accused of sorcery and demonic possession. Jesus' disciples are seen as a paradigm for Muhammad's "helpers" (ansar) in Medina (S. he ought not to have accepted the Virgin Birth either (or vice versa). This charge is groundless. so was Jesus! If Muhammad suffered hardship. It is at least arguable that the idea of the virginal conception in Luke is to be seen as a climactic development of the OT motif of barrenness removed by God. This is an outline of the general picture. to the NT itself. should be integrated into his uncompromisingly monotheistic view. 61:6). Muhammad made it quite clear how the Virgin Birth. the meaning of the virginal conception for the Evangelist is debatable. was a source of deep comfort and consolation for Muhammad. If Luke perceived such a relation. If that is the case. But whatever the original meaning of the idea of the Virgin Birth. are Muslims (S. triggered off by his . as we shall see. like that of other messengers. the wonder of a new creation.126 THE MUSLIM WORLD This is a coherent and impressive picture of a messenger of the one and only God. 61:14). 5:111). In other parts of his work. A couple of points call for special comment. rather than giving an explanation for the relationship between the Father and the Son.E. just as Muhammad received the Qur^än. III. as he understood it. remember Jesus whom God saved from an ignominious death on the cross (probably letting him die a natural death later on). the Injïl. It was a creative reinterpretation on the part of the Arabian prophet. he at least seems to conceive the Sonship in a different light. too. too. In Matthew. they.27.3). some of the Jewish-Christian Ebionites. Jesus had been taught a Scripture by God. "God creates what He will" (S. Jesus' story. Many Western critics have accused Muhammad of inconsistency: since he rejects the divinity of Jesus. then Luke is speaking of God's miraculous creative power. but not least. and ask whether the idea of the virginal conception actually stands in anything like a causal relation to Jesus' divine Sonship in the Lucan Infancy narrative. who proclaimed the unchanging message in his own time and place. the eastern Christians in Muhammad's time certainly connected it with Jesus' divinity. he never says so in so many words. Interestingly enough. 19:21) that proves God's unlimited power. 3:47). 3:52. One can go even further back. according to Eusebius. Last. however. The manner of Jesus' birth is a "sign" (S. also combined a belief in the Virgin Birth with a denial of Jesus' "pre-existence as God" as well as of his being "the Logos and the Wisdom" (H. The coherence springs from the fact that Muhammad interpreted everything he heard about Jesus in the light of his own experience. Jesus had even prophesied the coming of the Arabian prophet (S.

Undoubtedly. This insight might in itself provide a fresh starting-point for a dialogue. Luke. It is futile to engage in a dialogue on this point in an attempt to Christianize the language of the Qur3än. that Christians have so frequently set out to criticize the 'attenuated' and 'impoverished' portrait of Jesus in the Qur?an. pp. etc. Luke gives us a Christology characterized by the emphatic subordination of Jesus to God. certainly not between different layers and conceptions within the NT itself. Muhammad emphasized that Jesus worked his wonders only "with God's permission. p. In the context mentioned. the title seems to refer to the manner of Jesus' birth by the power of God's creative word of command. Jesus is "only God's messenger and His word that He uttered to Mary and a spirit from Him" (S. On the whole. however. In a similar vein.. 13:38. Whereas the rest of the NT uses the title 'Christ' absolutely. 40:78). 14:13 f. to place all the emphasis on God's creative power in Jesus' birth.13 Ill No wonder.). But perhaps even more interesting is the fact that some layers of the NT bear a striking resemblance to the QurDanic portrait of Jesus. It is clear by now for NT scholarship that there is hardly anything in the NT that resembles even remotely the doctrine of the Trinity. 213. comparing it with the standard Christian picture. especially as regards the speeches in the Acts of the Apostles." but certainly not in the sense of the Christian Logos. suffer from a lack of differentiation. . neither does the title "Word" applied to him a couple of times. One does not distinguish sufficiently between the Bible and the later dogma. it is only with God's permission that a messenger can proclaim his message (S. But it is just as clear that Muhammad did not take over the specific Christian meaning of that term. 205. Christ.THE PORTRAIT OF JESUS IN THE QUR'ÄN 127 strictly monotheistic conception of God. Zwemer. Luke speaks of Jesus as God's Christ (Acts 3:18."14 The majority of such comparisons. the title "Word" goes back to the Christian use of Logos as a Christological title. Jesus is God's "Word." for "signs are only with God" (S. Coran. 4:171). "The task is to show forth the glory and beauty of the Christ revealed in the New Testament to those who ignorantly honour Him as a mere prophet. Lk 9:20. 6:109). Jesus is God's servant (Acts 3:13. then. If the virginal conception does not raise Jesus above other men. where he probably uses at least some old traditional material. 8. 4:27) and 13 14 Contra Masson. in analogy with the creation of Adam. 42:51) or give a sign (S. This is particularly conspicuous in the case of Luke.

which role Luke deliberately takes from John. as such having the uniqueness which is a gift of the spirit bestowed on man.18 15 John Hick... he is Son of David born in David's city. Jesus is God's chosen agent who does God's work. before he was born.17 Altogether. Longman & Todd."15 In his Infancy narrative Luke seems to indicate that Jesus was chosen for this role from the very beginning. and. A certain tension exists between this and the statement in Acts 10:38. most striking of all. submits himself to suffering and death according to God's plan. notoriously lower than some.. Monotheism reserves that transcendent uniqueness for God. 17 Ibid.and gives to Jesus. he also emphasizes God's creative activity in the whole matter. "Jesus and the World Religions. 36). His mighty acts were in fact worked by God through him (Acts 2:22). 123. ed. p.... 171. God raised him from the dead and made him Lord and Christ (Acts 2:23. for God was with him (Acts 10:38).. p. 18 Ibid.. p.. Tradition and Design in Luke's Gospel (London: Darton. and is raised to divine glory by God.. Acts 3:20). 12. One may compare Muhammad's contention that Jesus worked his signs with God's permission. It is in fact as high as traditional historical monotheism will allow and no higher. Luke's Jesus is the epitome and compendium of the men whom God raised up: he is Son of God like the kings.. Professor John Hick is quite justified in inferring from such verses that "the first Christian preachers did not draw the conclusion that he [Jesus] was himself God but that he was a man chosen by God for a special role and declared by his resurrection to be Messiah and Lord. . It does not seem necessary in the Lukan frame to posit that uniqueness of kind which has been the rampart of Christian separatism. wise men and Joseph in Joseph and Asenath. the total picture is not much affected by such differences. where Jesus' anointment with the Holy Spirit and with power is connected with his baptism. 1976)..16 Of the men raised up by God he is primus inter pares. 16 John Drury. 1977). 9. by John Hick (London: SCM Press.128 THE MUSLIM WORLD Chosen One (Lk 9:35. p. Jesus was killed according to God's plan (Acts 2:23). Nevertheless." in The Myth of God Incarnate.. Drury can speak of a "take off" rather than a "landing" Christology in Luke. teacher. In Luke 1 the anointment is dated further back.. Canon John Drury comments: Luke's Jewish historical faith determines his theology of Christ... a prophet in the mould of Elijah.

. The Evangelist. Luke does not picture such a unity as we find in the Pauline or Johannine Christology. the comparison with Luke should help one perceive that the Qw°anic portrait of Jesus is not so remote from the NT as might seem to be the case at first glance. makes Jesus speak of the glory which he had with God before the world was created (17:5). Lampe writes: "The union between him and the Father is. At any rate. discounts as evidence for Jesus' ipsissima vox. ." for instance. Christians engaged in a dialogue with other faiths would do well to take the debate on the 'Myth of God Incarnate' very seriously. W. The Lukan Christ plays a decisive. for instance. D. Lampe. Professor Ernst Käsemann comments on John's overall perspective: 19 Geoffrey W. The Origin of Christology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. From another point of view. Jesus is not God. Nevertheless. 1977). thus showing that at least some of the oldest interpretations of Jesus are closer to the Qur5anic portrait than subsequent ones."19 Of course. John. Professor G. this is not to claim that Quranic Christology is somehow identical with that of Luke. 20 Charles F." This is more than Muhammad would have said even about himself. They are joined by the Spirit on the one side and the human response of prayer. Obviously it is not. unique.on the other. II (1955-56). as it were. Here we have an example of a rather free reinterpretation of Jesus' teaching in the light of later experiences and reflections. H. The passage just quoted goes on: "Yet it remains true that the word of Jesus is the word of God. 172. even though he is divine in some way. the Christology of the Fourth Gospel calls for close attention. Luke's presentation of Jesus is of particular interest in that it seems to preserve very old material. To call Jesus the "Son of God. an external bond.THE PORTRAIT OF JESUS IN THE QUR'ÄN 129 There are no seeds of Trinitarian doctrine in Luke. p.. he is the agent of God's judgement and God's forgiveness. H. depending on the particular experience and cultural background of the group. meant rather different things to different groups from the start.20 In the Synoptic tradition the doctrine of préexistence is not attested. it should help one to realize that it is impossible to compare the Quranic Jesus with the Christology of the NT. such a unified Christology does not exist. unrepeatable role in the history of salvation. Moule. and Luke's attitude to the suffering of Christ is diametrically opposed to Muhammad's theologia gloriae. a statement which even Professor Moule. his authority and power are divine. to mention only some of the most prominent differences. certainly not a scholar to be suspected of theological radicalism." New Testament Studies. 138. "The Lucan Portrait of Christ.

so important to the Fourth Evangelist. The notion of Jesus' préexistence.21 And even C. the mediator of creation. The results were bound to be poles apart. . quite different from the later Quranic one. either explicitly or implicitly."22 The Johannine reinterpretation of older traditions is. John and his precursors interpreted their experience of the risen Christ through the lenses supplied by such speculations. could write concerning the statements about the Paraclete: "It would seem that the evangelist was conscious of putting forward a bold reinterpretation of what was believed to be the teaching of Jesus. Even the events of Good Friday. In other words. as is recognized almost universally by NT scholars today. whereas Muhammad's interpretation implies a far more radical break with previous tradition. 22 Charles Harold Dodd. p. who made out an attractive case for the existence of historical tradition in the Fourth Gospel. it may be argued. 406. As regards the préexistence of Jesus. 2 ff. it would seem that that notion simply did not exist. came to him through traditions molded by Jewish speculation as to the préexistent Wisdom of God. On the other hand.. Dodd. Essays on New Testament Themes (London: SCM Press.robs.. needless to say. 32. where it seems to be almost a projection of the present back into the past. on the other hand.23 that the Johannine interpretation is only a development of something that was there from the very beginning. They reflect different religious experiences and. and passim. p. the category of organic development is problematic. "reinterpretation" may turn out to be far too vague a category.130 THE MUSLIM WORLD Indeed. Of course. as Professor Moule does. in Jesus' own message or in the Synoptic tradition and that it may be taken as an extremely radical Christological reinterpretation. Origin. 1964). different cultural presuppositions. Muhammad. as Professor Moule himself admits.. repr.H. 23 Moule. interpreted the Jesus tradition known to him in the light of his strict monotheism and through his experience with Arabian polytheism. the Johannine symbolism. probably to an even greater extent.what happened once upon a time of all intrinsic significance and only allows it any significance as a reflection of the present experience. We must admit that nowhere in the NT is the life story of Jesus so emptied of all real content as it already is here. pp. So 21 Ernst Käsemann. 1968). but the phenomenological processes themselves look remarkably similar.. The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Easter and Ascension Day are no longer clearly distinguished. too.

Professor Moule also asserts that the Christians' arbitrary use of the words of Scripture is to be explained by the fact that they had "discovered in Jesus an overall fulfilment.. and it is futile to quarrel as to whose discovery was the more profound." This he takes to mean that. The Gospel of Matthew in particular offers a rich body of material in this respect. ¡bid. Such prophecies were detected everywhere. Christians have always objected that Muhammad falsely applied Biblical prophecies to himself. 61:6. Christian meaning. or the Church Fathers). but it is one that is likely to backfire. 1972). Even Professor Moule admits that Matthew "seems to be doing much the same" as the Qumran sect was doing in its "abuse" of the Scripture (as he chooses to call it). if not God Himself. p. searching for prophecies about Jesus. Most probably he only expected."25 But certainly the Qumran sect had also discovered an overall fulfilment of Scripture in a deeply religious sense in what was happening and what was expected still to happen to them. on the deepest level. and a deeply religious sense. 129. "in contrast to the Qumran sect's leader. at least. refers to). To be sure. of what Scripture as a whole reflected. there was found to be fulfilment in a far profounder. pp. One last example. of course. in the case of Jesus. p.. there are similarities between the Bible and the QurDan which have hitherto been largely overlooked. to set his seal on his preaching of repentance. Muhammad's procedure in his interpretation of what he knew of Jewish and Christian Scriptures was neither less nor more arbitrary than that of the Christians or that of the Qumran sect (or the Rabbis. It is doubtful whether the historical John ever expected anyone like Jesus to come after him. 128. conceived as a superhuman heavenly judge. This is exactly what happened to the Baptist with respect to Jesus in the Christian tradition. 25 . Precisely the same kind of thing happened when the early Christians read the OT. 34 ff."24 Exactly. Jesus became a precursor of Muhammad and a witness to him.. above all the promise of the Paraclete in John (if that is what the ahmad passage. Prophecies. I should like simply to point out that at a certain level.. Johannes der Täufer und Jesus von Nazareth (NeukirchenVluyn: Neukirchener Verlag. quite justified.THE PORTRAIT OF JESUS IN THE QUR'ÄN 131 there are problems on both sides. then the Danielle Son of Man. "Ignoring the original context and doing violence to the original meaning. the Evangelist fits the ancient words by force into a contemporary.26 24 Ibid. John the Baptist. In the Qw°an. 26 See Jürgen Becker. S. What happened to Jesus in the Qur5an resembles in many ways the fate of John the Baptist in the NT. Such a criticism is..

cf. omitting Mark's remark that John's baptism was for the forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4) and inserting a corresponding remark on forgiveness in the story of the institution of the Eucharist (Mt 26:28). faces a similar front of opposition and makes his disciples Muslims. where Matthew (differing from Luke and probably from the common source known as Q as well) makes the Baptist address "the Pharisees and the Sadducees. from a phenomenological point of view the processes that led to their respective formations look remarkably similar.28 Muhammad makes a clear distinction in rank between Jesus and himself. So does Jesus. Of course." Biblische Zeitschrift. identical statements recur in the mouths of John and Jesus (3:1 Ob/7:19. The most meaningful thing to do would seem to be to help one another to react in creative ways to our new situations and to find constructive 27 See Wolfgang Trilling. for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. In the Qur3än we can study the religious experience of a single individual within a relatively short period of time. . III (1959). we all exist within a living and constantly changing context of tradition and interpretation. In the Bible we are confronted with the experiences and reinterpretations of many succeeding generations in changing cultural circumstances. too. just as Matthew never allows John to interfere with Jesus' exclusive significance as the Redeemer. whereas the Bible is a library in itself. the "seal of the prophets. Wherever our personal roots happen to be. Matthew speaks of John as if he and his disciples were ordinary Christians." says John (Mt 3:2). At other points. in exactly the same words. IV Different as the Bible and the Qur^än are. The Pharisaic opposition to Jesus is retrojected into the mission of John. John's message is perfectly identical with Jesus' preaching of the Kingdom of Heaven. as he begins his preaching (4:17). "Repent. the Qur^än is a single book. 12:34). On the other hand. the clearest case being the editorial framing of John's proclamation of judgment in 3:7a.27 According to Matthew.132 THE MUSLIM WORLD The portrait of John in Matthew is particularly instructive. Nevertheless. 3:7b/23:33. the general similarities remain." Both the Baptist in the NT and Jesus in the QurDän point to the greater one who was to come." On the whole. 271 ff. This parallel results from Matthew's editing of his sources. "Die Täufertradition bei Matthäus. Jesus preaches just like Muhammad. both of whom have to face a similar front of opposition. 28 Matthew makes a sharper distinction than Mark. All these features recall Muhammad's treatment of the Jesus traditions.

the dialogue. Certainly. if it is impossible now. is what we need. is a dialogue true to history and sensitive to an historical-critical appraisal of even the most sacred tradition. rightly understood.THE PORTRAIT OF JESUS IN THE QUR'AN 133 ways of reapplying our respective traditions to our modern problems. Järvenpää. Finland HEIKKI RÄISÄNEN . then at least some time in the future. then. But what I would like to see flourish.