The gospel of Jesus, the Injil and the Quran

By Paul Williams

Looking closely at Jesus’s comments on salvation, forgiveness, justification, the Law, God, etc suggests a set of teachings quite different to Paul’s and the standard Christian view today.

NT scholarship long ago uncovered this fact (cf the work of Johannes Weiss) and this is readily acknowledged by more liberal scholars today (eg James Barr).   

A famous example would be the sacrifice-free forgiveness of sins taught by Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer. This can’t be just ignored.

– on our justification before God Jesus states unequivocally that ‘humility’ justifies a sinner in Luke 18 (cf Paul in Romans);

– obedience of the Jewish Law is *central* to discipleship in the Kingdom of God in Matthew 5:17-20, (cf Paul);

– how do we enter eternal life? by obeying the commandments says Jesus in Matt 19:17, (something Paul would never say);

– that salvation itself had come to Zacchaeus (by metanoia) was pronounced by Jesus in Luke 19 (but only available after the death & resurrection according to Paul);

– John the Baptist, revered as a great prophet in Islam, appeared proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in Mark 1. People were baptised in the Jordan – thus their sins were forgiven;     

– Jesus encouraged direct access to God the Father, (but Paul and later Christians introduced an intermediary between God and the believer);

There are numerous other examples I could recount. These sayings constitute the gospel *of* Jesus. Paul and later Christians preached a gospel *about* Jesus. The Proclaimer had become the one proclaimed. Jesus preached the Kingdom of God and it was the church that came.

The Quran acknowledges that the gospel of Jesus is to be found in the existing gospels but is not coterminous with it. Christians are called by God in his final Testament to mankind to judge what they believe by the gospel *of* Jesus, and this teaching is confirmed by the Quran. The Quran also corrects the mis-interpretations by Christians who wrongly believe Jesus is God. Jesus bears witness in the Quran that he is just a man.

Clearly the four gospels are not the Injil. They make claims (eg about the crucifixion) that God has made clear are quite unhistorical. The Quran suggests that the ‘Gospel’ (Injil) is something given to Jesus by God (surah 5:46).  So it is evident that in the Qur’an the divine Gospel was one revealed to Jesus and not books written about Jesus.

A concluding quote from Montgomery Watt (who was Professor in Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Edinburgh, and one of the foremost non-Muslim interpreters of Islam in the West):

“While it is stated that Jesus received from God a scripture called the Gospel (or Evangel – Injil), there is nothing to suggest that this was any more like our actual gospels in the New Testament than the tawrat received by Moses was like the actual Pentateuch. Indeed Muslims usually deny that our actual gospels are the book received by Jesus, since that consisted entirely of revelations from God and not of historical statements about Jesus.”

[William Montgomery Watt, Muslim-Christian Encounters. Perceptions And Misperceptions, Routledge, 1991, p. 24

I also refer you to the interesting discussion about the gospels/Injil in The Study Quran, surah 3: 3-4.

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