The Mission and Death of Jesus in Islam and Christianity (Faith Meets Faith Series)

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Press: Orbis Books (October 30, 2008)
Author Name:Zahniser, A. H. Mathias


This work is a comprehensive look into differing views on the mission and death of Jesus in Christian and Muslim Scripture. 
It considers the Qu'ran, the sayings of the prophet and later traditions as well as the Bible itself and its key interpreters.


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  •     The Mission and Death of Jesus in Islam and Christianity by A.H. Mathias Zahniser (Maryknoll, New York, Orbis Books, 2009).This book is intended for Christians who want to learn more about Islam and especially how to dialogue with Muslims in a knowledgeable way relating to key areas of difference between Islam and Christianity. The author, A.H. Mathias Zahniser, is professor emeritus of history of religions at Asbury Seminary, and now teaches at Greenville College in Illinois.Zahniser emphasizes common ground when speaking to Muslims. The Qur'ân even states that God placed various peoples here on earth for mutual understanding (Chambers 49:13). But Zahniser focused most of his book on the key area of Muslim-Christian disagreement, the issue of the crucifixion of Jesus. Woman 4:157 in the Qur'ân states, "..They killed him not nor crucified him..." Zahniser calls this verse the denial verse because it seems to deny the crucifixion. But some Christian interpreters have been able to read this verse not as the denial of the cross of Jesus per se, but strictly as a denial of a Jewish claim to have defeated Jesus.In the same chapter, Zahniser discusses an affirmation verse in the Qur'ân which occurs in Family of Imran 3:42-55. After the angel's announcement to Mary of the birth of Jesus, Jesus clarifies his mission in a lengthy testimony. A key verse in this passage is Family of Imran 3:55, which states, "Behold! God said: "O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee of the falsehoods of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject faith, to the Day of Resurrection."The phrase "I will take thee" could also mean "I will cause you to die." The plain meaning of this text could be that God caused Jesus to die as part of his plan to foil the unbelievers' plot and then raised him. According to Islamic tradition, Ibn Abbas (687/688) and Wahb ibn Munabbih (728 or 732), two early authorities on Qur'ân interpretation, held that this phrase in this context meant "I shall cause thee to die."Zahniser writes (25) that Qur'ânic evidence points most naturally to the death of Jesus on the cross, not to his rescue from it. Zahniser notes that Nolin (1980) claims the Qur'ân testifies to the death of Jesus in Mary 19:33 and in Family of Imran 3:42-55, and his death seems to be implied in Cow 2:87 (26).Zahniser notes that Qasimi and other modern Muslim interpreters criticize the reliability of the Christian gospels and generally appeal to the Gospel of Barnabas as the most reliable of the Gospels. But Zahniser joins other scholars of Islam, such as Cyril Glasse in saying that the Gospel of Barnabas is a medieval forgery. Aside from significantly departing from the canonical Gospels, the Gospel of Barnabas also contradicts the Qur'ân (90).In my mind the strongest evidence that Jesus was crucified is the fact that Jesus made as many as nine separate references to his death in the Gospels before he died (147-169). Jesus also understood that his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion was part of God's plan and he voluntarily submitted to that plan (191). Given the character of Jesus and the apostles, as revealed in the Gospel and the Qur'ân, it doesn't seem possible that Jesus would teach that he must suffer and die and be raised again and then at the last hour ask for someone else to take his place, or that his apostles would lie about what had transpired.Throughout the rest of his book, Zahniser demonstrates that, according to both biblical teaching and a significant stream of Islamic theology, Jesus actually was crucified. This book will be helpful to those who desire to bear witness to those who have been taught that Islam teaches unequivocally that Jesus never died.

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