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The Other Prophet

The Other Prophet


Jesus in the Qur’an

by Mouhanad Khorchide and Klaus von Stosch

translated by Simon Pare

Publisher: Gingko Library
Published: October 2019
ISBN: 9781909942363
Number of pages: 332

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Jesus is considered one of the most important prophets in Islam. In the Qur’an he is called a sign of God, and yet his position in Islam is different from his status in Christianity. The Other Prophet is an unprecedented attempt to investigate the Qur’anic Jesus from both Muslim and Christian perspectives. This book has three principal goals: to chronicle various debates surrounding Jesus in the Qur’an and consider how a detailed analysis might contribute to the productive coexistence of Christians and Muslims today; to demonstrate the great hermeneutic importance of studying Christology for an enhanced understanding of the Qur’an; and, lastly, to show how an examination of the Qur’an for Christians can deepen their faith in Jesus.


1. Introduction

2. The State of Christology in the Seventh Century

2.1  The Chalcedon controversy

2.2  A political compromise on dogma

2.3  The neo-Chalcedonian doctrine of enhypostasis

2.4  Christological debates among non-Chalcedonians

2.5  The Arabian Peninsula as a confluence of heresies?

2.6  The situation in the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century

3. New Developments in Modern Christology

3.1  The starting point of consciousness Christology

3.2  The modern paradigm shift in relational ontology and its impact on Christology

3.3  Testing against the historical Jesus

3.4  Multiple incarnations?

4. A Holistic Reading of Surahs 19, 3 and 5 in the Context of a Diachronic Reading of the Qur’an’s Verses about Jesus

4.1 Jesus in Surah Maryam

4.1.1 Zachariah and John

4.1.2 Mary and her child

4.1.3 Jesus’s self-image

4.1.4 An anti-Christological intervention in Q 19:34–40?

4.1.5 Further themes in Surah Maryam

4.1.6 Prophetological consolidation in the late Meccan and early Medinan periods

4.2 Surah al ‘Imran

4.2.1 Prologue (verses 1–32)

4.2.2 Narrative core (verses 33–62)

4.2.3  Religio-political arguments (verses 63–99)

4.2.4  Self-assurance of the Muslim community (verses 100–200)

4.2.5  Jesus crucified?

4.3 Surah al-Ma’ida

4.3.1  Structure and themes of the surah

4.3.2  Criticism of any deification of human beings

4.3.3  A break with Christianity?

5. Jesus’s Position in Qur’anic Prophetology (Zishan Ghaffar)

5.1 the early Meccan surahs: eschatological prophecy

5.1.1 Imminent eschatological expectation?

5.2  The middle Meccan surahs: prophetology as a combination of salvation, election and mercy

5.2.1  The new context of the proclamation in the middle Meccan

period and its central topoi

5.2.2  The Qur’an’s apostolic doctrine in the middle Meccan period

5.2.3  The birth of prophecy out of God’s mercy

5.2.4  Muhammad as Moses redivivus – the consolidation of Qur’anic prophetology in the middle Meccan period

5.3  Late Meccan prophetology: the apology of the messengers

5.4  Qur’anic prophetology in Medina

5.4.1  from existential to textual typology

5.4.2  from community of fate to the universal community of the covenant: Qur’anic prophetology between universality and


5.4.3  the Messenger Muhammad as lawmaker and his special

prestige as a prophetic dignitary

5.4.4  Prophetology as a counter-discourse to Christology?

6. The Work of Jesus Christ and the Qur’an: A Forensic Search for Functional Equivalents

6.1 God’s self-revelation in the Islamic tradition (with the involvement of Darius asghar-Zadeh)

6.2 The relation between God and humans as a liberating relationship

6.3  On the soteriological relevance of the Qur’an (with the involvement of Darius asghar-Zadeh)

6.4 Can God suffer?

6.5 Qur’anic stimuli for conceiving of emotions in God

7. New Perspectives on the Qur’an

7.1  Systematic conclusions from a Christian perspective

7.2  Systematic conclusions from a Muslim perspective


Reference text



In essence, the Christian faith is the belief that Jesus is Christ. as such, it is hard to overstate the importance for Christians of ascertaining how their counterparts from a different religion see Jesus Christ. Conversely, from a Muslim theological perspective it is extremely enriching to study Jesus outside of a purely Islamic context. In the past this often resulted in an apologetic attitude towards Christianity, insofar as the Qur’an was understood as wholly critical of Christianity. Discussions within Islam have so far neglected to take a broader account of how Christian views of Jesus have varied throughout Christian history, especially during the period of the formation of the Qur’an. Yet the Qur’an expressly invites Muslims to engage with Christian views and to discuss them on the basis of a common belief in one God. the Qur’an explicitly states: ‘Say, “We believe in what was revealed to us and in what was revealed to you; our God and your God are one [and the same]; we are devoted to him”’ (Q 29:46).1 the Qur’an in no way distances itself from Christians. Quite the contrary, in fact, it even promises them eternal bliss (Q 2:62; Q 5:69).

But how are Muslims to interpret this commitment to Christians in the light of intermittent disputes between the Qur’anic and biblical conceptions? How can an intensive theological analysis of Jesus in the Qur’an add to Muslim understanding of the one God Muslims and Christians share – as the Qur’an points out – and how does this analysis ultimately contribute to a better understanding of the Qur’an’s statements about Jesus? This is where dialogue between Christians and Muslims becomes thorny, because Islam’s very own record of revelation grapples in detail with the subject of Jesus the Messiah, Son of Mary. In total, Jesus is directly mentioned in 108 verses in fifteen different surahs of the Qur’an, and many other passages allude to him. As we shall see, Christology is a central theme of the Qur’an, and one with which the proclaimer of the Qur’an2 and the early Muslim community fully and critically engaged.

If one considers that the Qur’an represents an exchange between God and the first recipients of Muhammad’s proclamation and that it was therefore of divine origin, then this finding constitutes an explosive combination in respect to Chris- tian-Muslim cohabitation. It is obvious that the Qur’an diverges significantly from the usual Christian view of Jesus and, at first sight at least, contradicts some of the latter’s core beliefs. One gets the impression at this point that the following choice is unavoidable: either one defends Christology against the Qur’an’s criticism at the risk of appearing to attack Islam; or one agrees with the Qur’an’s criticism of Christology, thereby potentially devaluing the Christian faith. For if the Qur’an is God-given, then God’s critical objection must lead one to revise one’s own religious views, but not to offer an apologetic reaction. The dispute over Jesus would appear to be a breaking point in Muslim-Christian coexistence, and repair- ing it would be one of the most urgent tasks facing theologians who wish to foster peaceful cohabitation between the religions.

Exploring Jesus’s representation in the Qur’an is not only important for dialogue between the two religions, though; it also poses major challenges within the Christian and Muslim communities. From a Muslim perspective, it is extremely vexing that the Qur’an makes a series of – from the standpoint of Islamic scholastic theology – provocative statements recognising Jesus’s special status. The Qur’an clearly honours the significance of Jesus Christ while also engaging critically with the Christian reception of this significance. A proper understanding of Qur’anic prophetology and Qur’anic self-reflection depends to a large extent on an analysis of its discursive engagement with Christology. That is why the manner in which Christ is acknowledged in the Qur’an is far more central to an adequate understanding of the Qur’an than has hitherto been recognised.

At the same time, the Qur’an’s representation of Jesus Christ also contains many lessons for Christian theology. In any case, it is one of this book’s principal objectives to demonstrate as much. Christians can gain a deeper insight into Jesus Christ and a better understanding of their own history by reading the Qur’an’s pronouncements regarding Jesus. The Qur’an offers Christians a great deal of enduringly meaningful messages about Jesus Christ, and it is well worth

Listening closely to these, even for purely intra-Christian reasons. this is far from an obvious case to make and one that is impossible to argue in these few lines. nonetheless, we present it here in this introduction as a kind of promise, and by the end of the book the reader will be in a better position to judge whether the authors have kept their side of the bargain.

So, in summary, this book has three goals. The first is to retrace the history of the dispute over Jesus in the Qur’an and to consider how coming to terms with it may contribute to fruitful coexistence between Christians and Muslims today. Second, it intends to show the considerable hermeneutic significance of Christo- logical debate for a proper understanding of the Qur’an. and third, it wishes to suggest ways in which studying the Qur’an can help Christians to intensify and purify their belief in Jesus Christ.

In pursuit of these goals we shall use four principal innovative methodological steps, none of which has previously been applied in this form to the subject of Jesus’s representation in the Qur’an. this is a particularly notable fact because countless books have been written on the subject and one might easily assume that everything that could be said about the questions that preoccupy us here has already been said. however, none of the books we are aware of uses a single one of the four distinctive methodological approaches that define our study.

For a start, this is the only book about Jesus in the Qur’an to date to have been co-authored by a Christian and a Muslim. this co-authorship should not be taken to mean that the Muslim author penned certain chapters while the Christian author wrote others. Instead, virtually all the chapters are the product of a joint creative process over a total of six years, and so both writers share responsibility for every one of them. a team of Muslim and Christian researchers assisted the authors, and we shall pay tribute in our subsequent acknowledgments to the precious support we received. the important point here is that we were able to call on exegetical skills that we ourselves will never possess and to take into account the views of other denominations within our respective religions. this allowed us to incorporate not just Sunni and Catholic opinions, but also Shi‘ite, Protestant and Syriac Orthodox perspectives. We would never claim that we have taken adequate account of all these perspectives or accommodated every one of their concerns; but we did at least try our very best to avoid placing too much emphasis on any one denomination, and to develop a form of ecumenical cooperation that can percolate across the full spectrum of our two religions.

Despite all our efforts to be inclusive, this text is of course first and foremost a rapprochement between two authors, who describe, in separate chapters at the end of the book, the reflections about their own religion they have gleaned from

This joint process. However, the final thoughts in the conclusion and the brief presentation of modern Christology in Chapter 3 aside, this is a joint text for which we bear equal responsibility. accordingly, neither of us has ever worked on a text before in which we have wrestled with every single sentence. there were so many revisions, particularly to the section presenting an exegesis of the Qur’an, that we are ourselves amazed at how far our positions shifted over the course of our conversations and how much we learned from and with each other.

Our book’s second methodological specificity is that we advance in strictly diachronic fashion during the whole description of Qur’anic exegesis and endeavour to provide a precise historical context for the evolution of the Qur’an’s pronouncements about Jesus. There are already, of course, many historical classifications of this kind, but few classifications are combined with a diachronic history of the evolution of the Qur’an’s messages. above all, though, none has been conducted that does not include new revisionist conceptions of the Qur’an. this book there- fore functions in a similar fashion to angelika neuwirth’s Corpus Coranicum project,3 taking as its starting point the heuristic assumption that the Qur’an was indeed largely written during the Prophet Muhammad’s lifetime. It also traces the evolution of the Qur’an’s statements about Jesus, son of Mary, in accordance with the same chronology as that laid out in the Corpus Coranicum.

This basic methodological assumption can certainly be questioned in terms of exegesis, and there are other options available. However, first, it strikes us as more historically plausible than contemporary revisionist models;4 and second, it has the advantage of not contradicting any Muslim convictions, making it possible that the findings presented in this book can be accepted by Muslims too. At the very least, our methodological approach contains no hermeneutic premises that conflict with Muslim beliefs.

The third methodological specificity of our approach to Jesus in the Qur’an consists of reading at least the most important surahs about Jesus in a holistic fashion. We therefore strive to avoid the otherwise common fragmentation of the Qur’an, focusing instead on the relevant surahs as literary entities. Of course, given the limited space for this study, we cannot do this for every surah featuring verses about Jesus. We will, however, analyse in their entirety the main surahs that discuss Jesus in order to take into account in our interpretation the literary context of the respective deliberations.

Our book’s fourth and final methodological particularity is that it is guided by the principles of comparative theology.5 for us both that means that we try to feel our way into the other’s beliefs and help each other to formulate our respective faith as persuasively as possible. This eventually gives rise to an explicit reflection on our respective theological stances, which preserves the denominational dimension of our personal theological reflections.

At the same time, we would like to resist any agonal definition of the relation- ship between our two religions. Our aim is not to compete to determine who has the better perspective on Jesus of nazareth, but rather to advance our perspectives by remaining faithful to the truths to which we are both committed. for that reason, we have worked historically and exegetically on the challenges and have tried to identify functional equivalents of Christology in the Qur’an. that is how we have gone about confronting the major challenges arising from our subject in philological, historical and systematic terms. In addition – as that all- important instance for comparative work, the third party – we have incorporated as many other perspectives as possible as a means of repeatedly testing our findings. however, we do not strive for an overarching, comprehensive result, but rather aim to produce separate yet interlinked theological conclusions.

To present our approach in detail: after offering an in-depth historical introduction to the state of Christology in the seventh century and to the presumed situation on the Arabian Peninsula (Chapter 2), we will proceed to reconstruct examples of Christological thought at the time (Chapter 3). this will serve on the one hand to clarify the tense situation in which the proclaimer of the Qur’an intervenes on discourses about Jesus. It should also, however, give some idea as to how those discourses have evolved to the present day and thereby highlight possible interpretations of the Qur’an in the light of the altered discursive situation. the systematic reconstruction provided in the third chapter is written entirely from a Christian point of view since it pursues the simple goal of surveying modern approaches to Christology and is designed to reveal the Christological perspective adopted by the Christian author of this book.

This is then followed by the real centrepiece of our book – the exegetical discussion of the Jesus verses in the Qur’an (Chapter 4). as already mentioned, this investigation will be conducted by studying the surahs in a holistic and diachronic manner, providing a set of exegetical findings that can be related in a very interesting way to the preceding presentation of the historical situation in the seventh century as well as opening up new potential for dialogue with contemporary Christological models. One of the most significant results of our exegetical and historical endeavours will show that the proclaimer of the Qur’an dissociates himself from the Christological discourses of his time and establishes his own prophetology. this prophetology, established by the Qur’an, is a subject of research in its own right, and it would take an additional book, at least, to give a proper record of it. We wanted to incorporate some initial points of reference from our considerations in this book and so we asked our Muslim project assistant Zishan Ghaffar to produce a first version of this prophetology. This is to be found in Chapter 5 and provides a more specific Qur’anic context for the statements about Jesus.

While our focus in the first five chapters is on the person of Christ, Chapter 6 aims to provide an outline of Jesus Christ’s work. to be more precise, the aim of this chapter is to discuss the revelation-theological and soteriological role of Christ. In these matters, it is clear that the Qur’an does not concord with Christian explanations, because it is not Christ who is at the heart of its conception of revelation but the Qur’an itself. here, we need to clarify whether, as a result, the Qur’anic discourse sees itself as the functional equivalent of the salvific work of Jesus Christ. As we have already noted, our book will conclude with separate final thoughts from the two authors, and we will summarise the historical and exegetical work we have done in our own systematic conclusions.

Before we plunge into the contents of our book, we would like to use this introduction to thank all those who made this project possible. first and foremost, we ought to mention the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DfG; the German research foundation), which funded several posts for four years, enabling us to proceed with our research. the DfG also funded three conferences – two in Germany, one in the United States – which, along with a research trip to the USA, allowed us to test our ideas against scientific discourse and develop them further. this book would never have come about without their support and encouragement.

We would also like to thank our project assistants who not only actively contributed to this book but also helped us with their exegetical, historical and methodological knowledge. Deserving of special mention on the Muslim side are Hamideh Mohagheghi and Dr Zishan Ghaffar, who tirelessly urged us to carry out more precise philological studies and assisted us most effectively. Dr Zishan Ghaffar also ensured an essential link to the work of the Corpus Coranicum project and to Professor Angelika Neuwirth, whose many and varied interventions advanced our studies and, time after time, gave us fresh inspiration. Without their cooperation, we would not have come close to being able to provide the exegetical and

Philological accuracy that we now hope to demonstrate. We are especially grateful to our Christian project assistant Cornelia Dockter, who maintained a firm grip on our project and did us an invaluable service at countless stages of our work, research and enquiries. this book would not have been possible without her unstinting aid. Last but not least, we acknowledge our project assistant Dr Darius Asghar-Zadeh, who was of great help regarding important sections of Chapter 6.

Alongside these staff members, whom the DfG’s funding allowed us to employ, there is a long list of other staff who have made major contributions to our project’s success. Dr Dina el Omari continually helped us out with her exegetical skills, Martina Aras made sure that the Syriac Orthodox perspective was represented, Professor Muna tatari and tolou Khademalsharieh provided precious assistance particularly at the beginning of the project, and Christine Schlichtig shared the burden of our work throughout its duration. eva-Maria Leifeld and Lena Steindl worked on the project for a long time as student assistants. In the latter stages, Katharina holtmann was central to supervising the publishing procedure of the German edition of the book.

Finally, we would like to present our thanks to all those who advised and assisted our project and who offered us valuable tips as we reviewed our manuscript. We would like to mention by name: Professor Reinhold Bernhardt, Professor Lejla Demiri, Professor Georg Essen, Professor hans-Peter Großhans, Dirk hartwig, Narjes Javandel, Professor Milad Karimi, Professor Elisa Klapheck, Professor Wolf Krötke, Professor Leo Lefebure, Professor hajj Muhammad Legenhausen, Professor Bernhard Nitsche, Professor Ömer Özsoy, Professor Ahmad Pakatchi, Professor Peter C. Phan, Professor Aho Shemunkasho, Professor Angelika Strot- mann, Professor Georges tamer and Professor Holger Zellentin.

We particularly wish to thank Professor Sidney Griffith and Professor Jürgen Werbick. During the Christian author’s research sabbatical in Georgetown, Sidney Griffith gave him the chance to discuss the first draft of this book sentence by sentence in a series of weekly conversations and provided countless stimulating comments on the topic. he was also the American host of a joint conference on the subject of this book at the Catholic University of America, which was of great assistance to both authors. As part of the Münster-based cluster of excellence on the topic of religion and politics, Jürgen Werbick helped the two authors to intensify their dialogue while assisting with the process by which this book came into being. his proposals have been, and still are, a special source of inspiration to both authors.

Paderborn/Münster on the feast of Jesus’s birth 2017

Klaus von Stosch and Mouhanad Khorchide


1 Unless specified otherwise, quotations from the Qur’an are from the English translation by M.a.S. Abdel Haleem (OUP 2008).

2 When we refer to the proclaimer of the Qur’an, we deliberately leave it open as whether this is God or Muhammad or both to ensure that a variety of readings of the book are possible.

3 See the introduction to Angelika Neuwirth, The Qur’an and Late Antiquity: A Shared Heritage, Oxford 2019.
4 for an overview and critique of these models see ibid, 91–104.

5 for our conception of the methodology of comparative theology, see Klaus von Stosch, ‘Komparative theologie als Wegweiser in der Welt der religionen’ (Beiträge zur Komparativen Theologie; 6), Paderborn 2012, 193–215.



‘One cannot recommend The Other Prophet too enthusiastically. It is a book of firsts on many fronts: the authors, one Christian, one Muslim, wrote the book together from the perspective of their two scholarly traditions; it is a book that discusses Jesus from the perspective of the whole Qur’an and its major themes, not just in relation to the passages that mention his name; and finally, it provides an exemplar for a rigorously scholarly, academic Muslim/Christian dialogue, which marks a major progress beyond the usual, popular, intercommunal dialogues. Khorchide and von Stosch have provided an exciting and new paradigm for interreligious scholarship.’

– Professor Sidney H. Griffith, Catholic University of America (CUA)

The Other Prophet: Jesus in the Qur’an is an engaging piece of scholarship. This book will be useful to specialists, who will appreciate its extensive bibliography. It should find its way onto many a graduate-course reading list. Khorchide and von Stosch believe that their study indeed “shows that the Qur’an depicts Jesus as more than simply the bearer of a message; it sees Jesus…as the content of the message.” What we have, they assert, “is a productive distinction between the two religions rather than an unreconcilable standoff” In the process of making their case, they give us much to ponder.’

– Dr Lucinda Mosher, Journal of Interreligious Studies