Do Christians and Muslims Believe in the Same Jesus? - Radical

Do Christians and Muslims Believe in the Same Jesus?

When I lived in the Middle East, my Muslim friends and neighbors claimed to believe in Jesus. They told me that Jesus was the second greatest prophet in Islam, and they couldn’t be good Muslims without believing in Jesus. They wanted to build common ground and show that we aren’t as different as the news media makes us out to be. It was tempting to seize the opportunity to affirm how Jesus was important to me as well.

It was tempting to seize the opportunity to affirm how Jesus was important to me as well.

However, the Jesus that my Muslim friends claimed to believe in is not the Jesus of the Bible. If you find yourself in a similar situation, let me offer an alternative to agreeing with your Muslim friend on the importance of Jesus. Instead of affirming Jesus as common ground, let me provide three questions that will help you assess the Islamic Jesus character.

What Do You Believe Jesus Taught?

As you reflect on what your friend just said about believing in Jesus, one way to help clarify what they mean would be to ask what they believe that Jesus taught. There will certainly be some things that resonate with what you believe from the Scriptures. 

For instance, your Muslim friend might affirm that Jesus taught about a coming judgment and the fact that there is only one God. They might even say that Jesus taught the Law of Moses and the Ten Commandments.

However, the Qur’anic Jesus also taught that his followers should be looking for another messenger who would come. This is not the promised Holy Spirit of John 16:13. Instead, Qur’an 61:6 records its Jesus character promising the good news of a coming messenger named Ahmed, another name for Muhammad. The Islamic Jesus character does not teach that he is the way the truth and the life (John 14:6). Rather, he teaches that his disciples should be waiting for one more prophet who is yet to come.

What Do You Believe Jesus Did?

In addition to what Jesus taught, you should ask them what they believe about Jesus’s mission on Earth. They will likely affirm that Jesus was a messenger, that he performed miracles, and that he brought revelation to the people of his day.

Despite the general sense of similarity in these things, you might notice the conspicuous absence of Jesus’s death and resurrection. That is because
Islam denies the crucifixion of Jesus
and consequently rejects his resurrection. 

For people who are told that if Jesus is not raised, we are among all people most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:9), this is a significant issue. Again, the Islamic Jesus character does not from the cross declare, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) Instead, this Jesus character simply teaches people the way to remember God’s law and obey it for themselves.

Who Do You Believe Jesus Is?

Your Muslim friend is likely thinking of a Jesus character whose human identity has some parallels with the biblical Jesus. He is a prophet who
brings God’s word
and is strengthened by a holy spirit. He is the
miraculous son of a virgin named Mary
. The most common way that Jesus is named in the Qur’an is “Son of Mary.”

However, rather than a point of similarity, referring to Jesus as ‘son of Mary’ is actually used to dispute the vital biblical understanding of Jesus as the Son of God. In multiple places, the Qur’an rejects the idea that God could have a son, placing Jesus in the realm of a mere creature alongside the rest of humanity

While the Bible portrays the incarnate Son as fully human (John 1:14), it is essential that we also recognize its testimony to the fact that he is fully God (John 1:1; 14:8-9). In the Bible, Jesus’s teaching and work point to his mission to forgive sins and restore humanity. If Jesus is not God, he cannot forgive sins against God (Psalm 51:4; Mark 2:7). It is our faith in the substitutionary atonement of this Jesus—the incarnate Son of God—that is the Christian hope and truly good news.

Does Islam Include Jesus Too?

Having explored the Islamic answers to these three questions, it is clear that the Jesus character in the Qur’an is not the biblical Jesus. Not only is his teaching, salvation, and origin different in the Qur’an, but his central exaltation through the cross, over the grave, and at the right hand of heaven’s throne is missing.

It is clear that the Jesus character in the Qur’an is not the biblical Jesus.

At this point, your response might not be, “Jesus is very important to me too.” Instead, a more fruitful direction for the conversation might be to invite your Muslim neighbor to study the Bible’s Jesus with you. As they see the beauty of the biblical Jesus in the inspired Word of God, pray that the Spirit will awaken new belief in a Jesus who is worthy of their faith.

Matthew Bennett

Matthew Bennett is assistant professor of missions and theology at Cedarville University. He is the author of Hope for American Evangelicals: A Missionary Perspective on Restoring Our Broken House (B&H, 2023), The Qur’an and the Christian: An In-Depth Look into the Book of Islam for Followers of Jesus (Kregel Academic, 2022), and 40 Questions About Islam (Kregel Academic, 2020).


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