John Gilchrist | 20 July 2021 | 12 min read
For too long Christians and Muslims have debated their differences of belief about Jesus Christ in a context which has allowed scant room for discussion about those points in the Qur’an and the Bible where these two books are in agreement about certain features of His life and personality.
The time has come, surely, for Christians and Muslims to analyze these points of agreement, for we are unlikely ever to come to a consensus of belief about Jesus until we begin by seriously reflecting on those facts where the Qur’an and the Bible are in agreement. While these two books may differ in the interpretation of the facts they both admit, we can confidently study these points as a stepping-stone to the true knowledge of Jesus simply by virtue of the fact that the facts are themselves common cause between Islam and Christianity.
It can safely be assumed that where the Qur’an and the Bible agree in any matter, that matter can henceforth be accepted as true without further ado by Christians and Muslims alike. It may well be necessary for both of us to prove these facts to outsiders but it is not necessary that we prove them to one another if they are admitted in the books we respectively believe to be the Word of God. However, as in recent years a liberalistic trend has infected and diseased both religions, where some of their nominal adherents have abandoned the plain teaching of the Qur’an and the Bible about Jesus purely so that they can reduce this man to the level of common humanity and strip him of all His glory and honour, it will be profitable to begin by briefly mentioning and proving four very significant points about the life of Jesus where the Bible and the Qur’an are in agreement about the relevant facts.
Truths About Jesus in the Qur’an and the Bible
The Virgin-Birth of Jesus
This first feature – so strangely denied in some of the peculiar quarters of Islam and Christianity – is one of the most obvious and unambiguous teachings of the Qur’an and the Bible, and is fundamentally upheld by both books. It is referred to more than once in the Qur’an, and is particularly set out in some detail in Surah 19, verses 16 to 34. The following verses from this passage are here quoted to prove the point:
“And make mention of Mary in the Scripture, when she had withdrawn from her people to a chamber looking East, and had chosen seclusion from them. Then We sent unto her Our spirit and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man. She said: Lo! I seek refuge in the Beneficent One from thee, if thou art God-fearing. He said: I am only a messenger from thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a faultless son. She said: How can I have a son when no mortal hath touched me, neither have I been unchaste? He said: So it will be. Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. And it will be that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained. And she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a far place.”
If Mary had conceived by another man, why would the angel have appeared to her to explain the conception of her son? Clearly from the text we can see that the angel had come not only to set her mind at rest about the pregnancy she was about to experience but to explain that this unique event was simply the effect of God’s desire to make this son a revelation for mankind. She was to conceive him in a special way because there was to be something special about her son. Secondly, what other interpretation can be derived from the words “How can I have a son when no mortal hath touched me, neither have I been unchaste?” These words clearly imply that Mary was a virgin when the child was conceived.
It is surely not necessary to press this point further. The language of the Qur’an is unambiguous about the virgin-birth of Christ and further support for it is found in Surah 4.156. In that verse Mary is cleared from the base charge of the Jews that she had illegitimately conceived Jesus out of wedlock. Again Surah 21:91 explains the conception of Jesus as the direct action of God within an unmarried woman who was completely free of any unchastity.
Surely this is even more abundantly proved by the title Jesus is given more often than any other in the Qur’an – the son of Mary. It is common in Semitic communities to name a man as the son of his father, for example, Muhammad ibn Abdullah, Muhammad ibn Ishaq (early historian of Islam), Zaid ibn Sabet, etc., but we do not find men named as the sons of their mothers. Why then is Jesus so often called the son of Mary (Isa ibn Maryam) in the Qur’an?
Surely the striking repetition of this name as well as its exceptional character demand that Jesus was born of his mother alone. Is not the frequency of this title evidence of the unique manner of the birth of Jesus? In the Qur’an the names of women are conspicuous by their absence. Surely the mother of Jesus is mentioned by name so regularly because of her significant place in human history as the only woman to bear a son while still a virgin. This alone can explain the prominence Mary receives in the Qur’an. It is safe to conclude that the Qur’an teaches the virgin-birth of Jesus Christ.
No right-thinking man will deny that the Bible also teaches the virgin-birth of Jesus Christ. Throughout its history the Christian Church has held to this belief, and we need only quote this passage to prove that the doctrine is soundly based on the Bible:
“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said ‘Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!’ But she was greatly troubled at the saying and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.’”
Twice the mother of Jesus is plainly described as a virgin in this passage. When she replied to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?”, the angel then explained that the conception would not be by human means but by the power of the Holy Spirit of God. We are particularly privileged to have a second, independent account of the virgin-birth in the Bible and it is set forth in this passage:
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered this, behold an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’”
Once again the conception of Jesus is described as being the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and once again, as in the Qur’an, it is found that an angel appears to explain the phenomenon, in this case to Joseph. Why should there be these instances of angelic manifestations to explain the birth of Jesus if His mother had conceived Him through some other man? The texts speak plainly for themselves and there can be no question about the birth of Christ. The angel appeared to Joseph and Mary to explain to them both that the conception of Jesus was by the special intervention of the Holy Spirit.
Therefore, Christians and Muslims have, in the birth of Jesus, something about which the Qur’an and the Bible are agreed. These two books both teach as a fact that He was born of a virgin-woman by the will of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Sinlessness of Jesus
It is a simple matter to prove from the Qur’an and the Bible that Jesus was absolutely without sin throughout His life. When the angel appeared to Mary, the Qur’an says that he told her “I am only a messenger of thy Lord that I may bestow on thee a faultless son.” The Arabic word for “faultless”, zakiyya, implies that He was totally without sin.
In the Bible there are numerous proofs of the sinlessness of Jesus Christ. Passages proving the point are:
- “He committed no sin, no guile was found on his lips.”
- “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
- “You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in in him there is no sin.”
At this stage, however, it will be profitable to note that in the Qur’an and the Bible, Jesus Christ alone is described as sinless. He is emphatically described as such in both books. No other prophet or man is so described. Nevertheless, both books describe the sins of other prophets and both leave us with the firm impression that Jesus alone was without sin. (In the Qur’an, in Surah 19.19, the unique birth of Jesus is explained by the angel as the medium for the faultlessness of the son of Mary. This implies that a man cannot be faultless unless he is born of a virgin-woman. Hence Jesus Christ, being the only man to be born in this way, must of necessity also be the only sinless man who ever lived). The Qur’an attributes sin to the following prophets:
- Adam. “And their Lord called them, saying: Did I not forbid you from that tree and tell you: Lo! Satan is an open enemy to you? They said: Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If thou forgive us not and have not mercy on us, surely we are of the lost.”
- Abraham. “And Who, I ardently hope, will forgive me my sin on the Day of Judgment.”
- Moses. “He said: My Lord! Lo! I have wronged my soul, so forgive me.”
- Jonah. “And the fish swallowed him while he was blameworthy.”
- Muhammad. “So know, O Muhammad, that there is no God save Allah, and ask forgiveness for thy sin and for believing men and believing women.”
Jesus Christ was never commanded to pray for forgiveness because He was faultless. We also never find Him praying for any faults, wrongs, and sins such as the Qur’an attributes in the verses quoted to other prophets. He never wronged His soul, nor was He blameworthy. Instead, the Qur’an emphasizes that He was entirely without sin and was faultless. We can therefore conclude by saying that the Qur’an teaches that of all men, Jesus Christ alone was sinless.
In the Bible the universal effect of sin is recorded often, but it will be sufficient to quote these words to prove the point:
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands, no one seeks for God. All have turned aside, together they have gone wrong; no one does good, not even one.”
The Bible plainly teaches that no man, other than Jesus Christ, has ever faithfully sought out God and done good all his days. Every other man has at some time turned away from Him and sinned against Him. Once again, we find that Jesus Christ alone is sinless. So, we find that as the Qur’an and the Bible both teach the virgin-birth of Jesus Christ, so they both also teach that He alone was sinless and faultless.
The Ascension of Jesus
One of the standing orthodox beliefs in Islam about Jesus is that He ascended to heaven. The ascension of Jesus is explicitly mentioned in the Qur’an in these words: “Allah took him up to Himself.” The text plainly implies, not that Jesus was taken to the second sky or third heaven, as some suppose, but that God took Jesus to Himself. That is, He took Him into His own glorious presence in the highest heavens.
The Bible confirms this in some detail, but we need only quote a few passages here to prove both the ascension of Jesus and His exaltation at the height of the heavens in the presence of Almighty God. Consider the following biblical passages:
“And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.’”
“Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”
“Which God accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion.”
“I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which thou gavest me to do; and now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made.”
So, we see that both the Qur’an and the Bible teach the ascension of Jesus, not just into heaven, but indeed above the heavens into the ultimate presence of God. The only Hadith that exist on the ultimate destiny of Jesus confirm that He went to heaven. While there are many Hadith supporting the ascension of Jesus, there are none against it.
It is well-known to Christians and Muslims that the Qur’an and the Bible differ on the time and cause of the ascension of Jesus, but what is of extreme importance is that they both agree on the fact that Jesus did indeed ascend to heaven and is alive there to this day.
The Second Coming of Jesus
The last point of agreement between the Qur’an and the Bible on the life of Jesus that concerns us is the second coming of Jesus. As with the ascension, the Qur’an is backed by many Hadith on this point. The one verse in the Qur’an which does appear to clearly teach the second coming of Jesus is this one: “And (Jesus) shall be a sign for (the coming of) hour (of Judgement).” The text is somewhat briefer in the original Arabic, but the interpretation of it in the English is ostensibly correct. Again, Christians and Muslims differ on the manner and effect of the second coming but agree on the fact. The second coming of Jesus is one of the grandest and most extensive subjects of the prophetic texts of the Bible, but just a few quotes will suffice:
“Then will appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”
“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.”
“Behold he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, every one who pierced him; and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him.”
We can conclude by saying that the second coming of Jesus to herald the Day of Judgment is a fact upon which the Qur’an and the Bible are agreed. It is significant also to note that many illustrious titles of Jesus in the Bible are repeated in the Qur’an. For example, He is called the Word of God in both books. The Qur’an agrees with the Bible in calling Him the Messiah. Likewise, He is also called a Spirit from God in the Qur’an. As we intend to show presently that the four features dealt with thus far in this article make Jesus especially unique in His life and personality, it will be profitable to bear in mind, nevertheless, that the Qur’an and the Bible also give Him titles which are applied to no one else.
The Uniqueness of Jesus
We have outlined four features of the life of Jesus which are taught in both the Qur’an and the Bible. What can we learn about Jesus from these features? Firstly, they reveal to us a man who was quite unique in the history of mankind. Secondly, they show that this uniqueness implies singular greatness – such as no other man possesses. Let us briefly analyse the uniqueness of Jesus in the four features we have thus far considered.
Being born of a virgin-woman, Jesus had an exceptional and unique beginning to his life. He is the only man in all human history who was born in this unusual way.
The Sinlessness of Jesus:
He alone led a sinless life. Every other man has, at some time or other, thought or done evil as the Qur’an and the Bible jointly testify. But Jesus alone led a sinless and totally pure and holy life. Not only, therefore, did his life begin exceptionally, but it was conducted in a unique way as well.
The Ascension of Jesus:
If the life of Jesus began in unusual circumstances, it ended in an even more remarkable way. While other men return to the dust, Jesus ascended into heaven. In this He is unique as well – no other man without any change in his nature ascended to the very presence of the living God as the Qur’an and the Bible both teach. He alone could go where no angel dared to tread – to the ultimate throne of the God of glory. The Qur’an and the Bible do not teach that any other man ever did this. In this Jesus is unique as well.
The Second Coming of Jesus:
The Christian and Muslim worlds await the return of Jesus from heaven. The Qur’an and the Bible both teach that He alone is to herald the hour of Judgment. Christians and Muslims may differ in what they expect Jesus to accomplish on His return but both in any event expect him to take complete control of all the earth with Himself as Judge of all. This alone puts Him head and shoulders above all other men in accomplishment and again makes Him unique among men – a uniqueness which is vested in majesty and glory.
Though He has been in the highest heavens for nearly two thousand years, He will return looking not a day older than He was when He first ascended to heaven. Over all these centuries neither death nor time have been able to make any impression on Him. On this the Qur’an and the Bible are agreed as well.
Of no other man in history can we read of such a phenomenal beginning and end to His life on earth. And no other man than Jesus is now awaited by Christians and Muslims – and that from heaven as well. In the light of these admitted facts we can only conclude that Jesus Christ is a remarkably unique man. No one compares with Him. In His birth, His character, destiny and ultimate glory He is utterly unique among all other men who have ever lived on earth.
Be it noted that the uniqueness of Jesus is not the consequence of favourable circumstances, nor the result of the favour of men, but solely the effect of the special will of God who in every way alone is responsible for His eminent greatness. It is God who has made Jesus unique among men. It is by His power and will alone that we behold a man whose very being from start to finish is charged with exceptional greatness and honour. It is from heaven that His majesty originates and comes.
All this demands serious consideration. Certain questions are begged by these circumstances. Why did God vest Jesus with such uniqueness? What is implied by all these exceptional features of His life? What sort of man is this who does not share these features with other great men but has all of them vested in Himself alone? And lastly – and most importantly – who indeed is this man Jesus, when these exceptional features of His life and personality demand that He cannot just be an ordinary man like all other men?
Part 2 of this article will be devoted to a comparative study of the Qur’an and the Bible to find the ultimate answer to these questions.
Geisler, Norman L., & Saleeb, Abdul. Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2002.
Gilchrist, John. The Qur’an and the Historical Jesus. South Africa: Christian Resource Ministries, 2015.
Janosik, Daniel. The Guide to Answering Islam: What Every Christian Needs to Know About Islam and the Rise of Radical Islam. Cambridge: Christian Publishing House, 2019.
White, James R. What Every Christian Needs to Know About the Qur’an. Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2013.
The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the employees and members of Ratio Christi South Africa.
 Surah 19:16-22.
 Luke 1:26-31.
 Luke 1.34.
 Matthew 1:18-21.
 Surah 19:19.
 1 Peter 2:22.
 2 Corinthians 5:21.
 1 John 3:5.
 Surah 7:22-23.
 Surah 26:82.
 Surah 28:16.
 Surah 37:142
 Surah 47:19.
 Romans 3:10-12.
 Surah 4:158.
 Acts 1:9-11.
 Colossians 3:1.
 Ephesians 1:20-21.
 John 17:4-5.
 Surah 43:61.
 Matthew 24:30.
 1 Thessalonians 4:16.
 Revelation 1:7.