The Other Prophet

Jesus in the Qur’an

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Mouhanad Khorchide, Klaus von Stosch
Translator(s): 
Simon Pare
  • Chicago: 
    University of Chicago Press
    , November
     2019.
     332 pages.
     $39.95.
     Paperback.
    ISBN
    9781909942363.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

The Other Prophet: Jesus in the Qur’an provides an in-depth theological analysis of Jesus in the Qur’an and contributes to a better understanding of the Islamic and Qur’anic views about Jesus. What makes the book interesting and unique is that it is written by two authors, Mouhanad Khorchide and Klaus von Stosch, a Muslim and a Christian, respectively. They discuss the topic from the perspectives of both Christianity and Islam and provide their theological analysis of Jesus not only from the perspective of the Qur’anic statements about Jesus but also from the perspective of the whole Qur’an and its major themes. The book also provides a new perspective on interreligious scholarship and lays the groundwork for an interreligious theology that engages Muslim and Christian theologians and scholars in studying Christology for a better understanding of the Qur’an.

The main objective of this book is to provide Christians a deeper insight of Jesus Christ and a better understanding of Christology and Christian history. Khorchide and von Stosch achieve this objective by examining and providing a new reading of meaningful messages about Jesus in the Qur’an. The goal for this endeavor is to clarify the Christian-Muslim dispute about Jesus and to repair the breaking point in Muslim-Christian coexistence that resulted from this dispute. The authors identify three goals for their project that helped them succeed in achieving their objectives: (1) retrace the history of the dispute over Jesus in the Qur’an and come to terms with it for a fruitful coexistence between Christians and Muslims today; (2) provide a historical overview of Christological debate or the intra-Christian disputes about Jesus for a better understanding of the Qur’anic statements about Jesus; and (3) offer ways in which studying the Qur’an can help Christians deepen and purify their belief in Jesus.

The Qur’anic statements about Jesus did not emerge in a vacuum; rather, they were developed as a response to Christological debate that reached its height during the formative period of Islam. Without a thorough examination of this debate, our understanding of Jesus in the Qur’an, as well as the Qur’anic criticism of Christology, would be a pure misunderstanding of the message of the Qur’an. For this reason, the authors begin with a chapter on the state of Christology in the 7th century and in particular with the development of Christology after the Council of Chalcedon in 451. The decisions made at that Council had a significant effect on eastern Christianity leading up to the 7th century and the conflict intensified at the time when the Qur’an was revealed. The debate was between two schools of theology in Antioch and Alexandria. The former defined “the union of the human and the divine in Jesus Christ as a functional union in will or action” (8) while the latter school “emphasized the unity of the person of Jesus Christ to such a degree that it would not hear of his dual nature” (8). The authors nicely weave in the Christological debates in the Qur’an by discussing how the formulation of Qur’anic verses about Jesus are to be understood as a response to the debate between the schools.

For instance, in verse 4:171, the Qur’an stresses that Jesus is not only God’s word but also His spirit, therefore, connecting word and spirit––“the two historically tangible elements of the Trinity” (114)––to Jesus. Here, the Qur’an uses terminology Christians employ for trinitarianism and pulls “the rug from under any speculation regarding social trinitarianism” (114). In the same verse, the Qur’an warns Christians not to go so far in their trinitarianism to claim that there are three denumerable entities in God and to ascribe children to God in the biological sense. While the Qur’an chastises Christians who developed “asocial trinitarianism,” i.e., the deification of humans, which the Qur’an recognizes as polytheism, it does not take aim at social trinitarianism, which connects God’s word and spirit to Jesus. Thus, in the middle of this Christological debate on the nature of Jesus and the Trinity, the Qur’an intervened to criticisize a form of Christianity “that has lost all faith in God” (115).

After their attempts to clarify the relationship between Qur’anic statements about Jesus and Christology, the authors turn to modern developments in Christology. The goal is to present their own “proposed Christology . . . as the basis for a dialogue with the Qur’anic view of Jesus . . . to provide an overview of Christology’s new approach in modern times and to explore its potential for promoting Christian-Muslim dialogue” (42–43). In this chapter, the authors’ objective is to provide a fresh interpretation of Christology for the purposes of Muslim-Christian dialogue. Here, the authors focus on the singularity of Jesus. What constitutes Jesus’ singularity is not a statement about his nature, but rather statements about his singular relationship with the Father, and the “manner in which he mediates this relationship and makes us able to experience it” (50). Thus, the authors do not seek the singularity of Jesus in his nature or in his being, but in his relationship with God. This notion, therefore, marginalizes and undermines the emphasis on Jesus’ nature as divine and seeks to identify him with his role as someone who “comes entirely from God and devotes himself entirely to God” (52). This modern interpretation of Christology finds its equivalent in the Qur’an for, according to the authors, the content of the Qur’an is compatible with the “Christian concept of God’s pledging of Himself in the man Jesus of Nazareth” (61).

In chapter 6, the authors discuss the functional equivalents for Jesus’ work in the Qur’an and demonstrate how, like Jesus, the Islamic scripture is a medium for communication between God and human beings, which allows people to establish a trusting relationship with God. Like Christians who see Jesus’ divinity on the basis of his miracles, Muslims see the divinity of the Qur’an in its inimitability and miraculous nature. Like Christians who can experience the presence of God in the man Jesus of Nazareth, Muslims can hear God in God’s beauty whenever they recite the Qur’an. Like God who suffers in the man Jesus, the Qur’an also bears witness to the passion of God. Thus, for the authors, the “Qur’an constitutes a functional equivalent to Jesus Christ, insofar as the Qur’an also makes it tangible that God desires to be there for us and to enter into a relationship with us” (176). In this regard, the Qur’an draws parallels between itself and Jesus and modifies, rather than refutes, Christology.

The Other Prophet presents a fresh reading in Christology, which is compatible with modern thought and can be applied to the Qur’an. It also offers lessons on how we learn from the experience of working with theologians from other religions and how one can gain illuminating insights for Christology from the Qur’an. Lastly, this book successfully demonstrates how the Qur’an contains far less anti-Christian polemics than previously thought.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Hussam S. Timani is professor of philosophy and religion and co-director of the Middle East and North Africa Studies Program at Christopher Newport University.

Date of Review: 
October 6, 2021
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Mouhanad Khorchide is professor of Islamic Studies and head of the Center for Islamic Theology at the University of Münster. 

Klaus von Stosch is professor of Catholic Theology and Didactics and chair of the Centre for Comparative Theology and Cultural Studies at the University of Paderborn.

Simon Pare is a translator from French and German who lives in Paris.

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