• Do Islam and Christianity share beliefs about Jesus?
• Can you recommend a study Bible?
Q. I have a Muslim friend at work and she says we basically believe the same things about Jesus. She says this in a very upbeat way, as if there are no real differences between our faiths because we hold Jesus in common. Is that true?
A. There is some overlap between what Muslims believe about Jesus and what Christians hold to be true. However, even some of those commonalities tend to be surface-level. When we delve deeper, we see that there are still significant differences in the way these two world religions view Jesus. What’s more, the essential beliefs about Jesus that Christians hold closest are the very ones most directly and vehemently denied by Islam.
On the side of common ground, Muslims believe Jesus was born of a virgin. Surah 66:12 in the Qur’an makes that clear. The Qur’an also affirms that Jesus performed miracles. Surah 5:110 says Jesus restored sight to the blind, healed lepers, and even raised the dead. On the other hand, that same verse says he breathed onto a clay bird and it became real – a miracle not described in the Bible but in later apocryphal writings.
Also, the Qur’an calls Jesus the Messiah no fewer than eleven times. That would seem to overlap with Christian teaching. However, the Qur’an never defines “messiah,” and Muslims insist that “Jesus was the Messiah for the Jews only; they limit his ministry to his own people group,” according to Dr. Abraham Sarker in his book Understand My Muslim People. Only Muhammad was sent to all people for all times, since Muslims believe he is the so-called “seal of the prophets.”
In addition, there is a common belief in Islam and Christianity that Jesus will someday return. Yet when we delve beneath the surface, there are vast differences between what each faith believes he will do when he comes back. Muslims believe when Jesus returns he will kill the antichrist, kill all the pigs, destroy the synagogues and churches, break the cross, establish the religion of Islam, live for forty years, get married, and die and be buried beside Muhammad in the prophet mosque of Medina. That’s quite different from the Bible’s description of the Second Coming!
But most significantly, Islam denies essentials about Jesus that are at the core of salvation according to Christian doctrine. As Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, a Muslim-turned-Christian-apologist, has pointed out, Islam teaches that believing Jesus is God is a form of shirk, the only unforgivable sin in Islam. Here’s what the Qur’an says in surah 5:72:
“They do blaspheme who say: ‘God is Christ the son of Mary.’ But said Christ: ‘O children of Israel! Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.’ Whoever joins other gods with Allah [literally, whoever commits shirk], Allah will forbid him the garden, and the Fire will be his abode.”
So this central tenet of Christianity – that Jesus is the unique Son of God – brings eternal condemnation according to Islam! What’s more, Muslims deny that Jesus died in the cross. “…They killed him not, nor crucified him….” says the Qur’an in surah 4:157.
Muslims believe it was the plan of Jesus’ enemies to crucify him, but God saved him and raised him up to himself. Most Muslims believe that the likeness of Jesus was put over another man (Judas, perhaps?), who was crucified in Jesus’ place. And if Jesus didn’t die on the cross, then there was no atonement for sin and he couldn’t have been resurrected.
“Think about it,” Qureshi said. “Romans 10 says, ‘If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ Yet those exact things that accord a Christian believer salvation – that is, faith in the deity, death, and resurrection of Jesus – are specifically denied by Islam.”
That’s the crux of the issue. And keep in mind there’s not just a difference of opinion between Islam and Christianity concerning the death and resurrection of Jesus. We have excellent historical evidence from the first century that Jesus died on the cross, that his tomb was discovered empty, and that the disciples encountered him after he was resurrected. For details, see my books The Case for Christ and The Case for the Real Jesus, which spell out the facts in detail through interviews with experts.
In contrast, Muhammad said he was told by an angel some six hundred years later that it isn’t true – an assertion contradicted by the historical data.
Q. What study Bible would you most recommend for somebody that likes a lot of explanation? – Kathleen
A. There are several good study Bibles available these days, Kathleen. One of them is The Case for Christ Study Bible, for which I served as general editor. It has hundreds of articles and notes about the faith, including sidebars that focus on why we as Christians believe what we believe. Stop by a local Christian bookstore and take a look at it when you’ve got a chance. See if it might fit your needs. (Note to readers: I did not plant this question!)
Have a question? Drop me a line at AskLee@LeeStrobel.com. We’ll answer as many as we can in upcoming newsletters.
This article is drawn from Lee Strobel’s free email newsletter Investigating Faith. Each issue features in-depth articles about Christianity, faith, apologetics, and the Bible. Subscribe to have each new issue of Investigating Faith sent directly to your inbox!