I explained in a recent post that I feel the alleged divinity of Jesus Christ is the central issue of theology. This is especially true for Christians, of course, but it is also a crucial issue for Muslims, Jews, and other monotheists. In today’s post, the second instalment in my “Understanding the Qur’an” series, I will compare a passage from the Qur’an that discusses Jesus’ supposed divinity with a contrasting passage from the Bible. It will be up to readers to decide which of the scriptures they find most convincing.
First, a passage from the Qur’an:
When God says, ‘Jesus, son of Mary, did you say to people, “Take me and my mother as two gods alongside God”?’ he will say, ‘May You be exalted! I would never say what I had no right to say—if I had said such a thing You would have known it: You know all that is within me, though I do not know what is within You, You alone have full knowledge of things unseen—I told them only what You commanded me to: “Worship God, my Lord and your Lord.”Sura 5, v116-117
The refutation of Mary’s divinity is a little confusing to me. This is because, while I understand that many Christians believe Jesus is God, I have not encountered Christians who believe Mary (the mother of Jesus) is God. I’m aware that in some denominations of Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism, there are Christians who have a very high view of Mary, calling her at times ‘the mother of God’, and perhaps praying to her in a way that could be considered worship. But I have never heard a Roman Catholic describe Mary as a god explicitly.
Supposing that the Qur’an is a revelation from God, it’s possible that God included the mention of Mary in this sura to emphasise the point that so-called ‘mariolatry’ (i.e. worship of Mary) is incredibly misguided, and it’s also possible that God (who knows the hearts of every human being) is referring to some Roman Catholics, and perhaps other Christians, who do actually believe Mary is a divine being. The Qur’an is saying that such a perspective is wrong and is not what Jesus taught.
Towards the end of the quoted passage there appears to be a clear refutation from Jesus of his alleged divinity. The phrase “you alone have full knowledge of things unseen” clearly distinguishes God’s omniscience from any claim that Jesus shares this attribute of God, and the phrase “Worship God, my Lord and you Lord” appears to be an indication that Jesus is merely a prophet and considers himself unworthy of exaltation.
Let us now look at a passage from the Bible, where Philip is speaking with Jesus in the Gospel according to John:
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak of my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.”John 14: 8-11 (ESV)
The book of John is recognised as the most ‘Christ-exalting’ of the four Gospels; indeed, I have heard it argued that it is the only gospel in which Jesus is depicted as divine. It is believed to have been the last of the four Gospels to be written, quite a few decades after Jesus’ death. Bart Ehrman (whose book Misquoting Jesus I reviewed on this blog recently) is an academic who argues that if we pay close attention, we can see that the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) do not contain an exalted view of Jesus at all. This is a controversial claim.
The striking phrase from the passage I have quoted in John 14 is, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father”. Can this statement be interpreted in any other way than being a direct claim by Jesus that he is God? Doesn’t this directly contradict the view of Jesus in the passage I quoted from the Qur’an?
Of course, in this blog post I have focused on only one passage from the Qur’an and one passage from the Bible. There are other passages in the Qur’an that dispute Jesus’ divinity, and there are other passages in the Bible that support Jesus’ divinity, so it’s well worth reading both of these Scriptures in their entirety to get a clearer picture.
A central problem, in my view, is this: If the Christian Scriptures have been corrupted to exalt Jesus in a way he never intended, how are we to know? Is there evidence of this corruption? There are very many places in the New Testament that contain clear references to Jesus as God, so the corruption of the Scriptures, if this did happen, would have to have been an incredibly vast act of deception.
What are your views on the alleged divinity of Christ? Are you drawn more to the Christian or the Muslim view, and if so, how do you refute the argument on the other side of the debate? Feel free to leave your thoughts in a comment below. People of all faiths and none are welcome to comment, but please be polite and respectful if you would like to comment. Thank you for reading.