Muslims love Jesus too. At least, that’s what a new billboard campaign claims. The question, though, is which Jesus do they love?
There’s the Jesus described by the Gospel writers. These eyewitnesses walked with Jesus, ate with him, talked with him, and saw Him perform miracles. They knew Him.
Then, there’s the Jesus described 600 years later by the Qur’an. That author did not know Jesus, see Jesus, or live anywhere near where Jesus ministered.
As one would expect, the Jesus of the Qur’an looks a lot different than the biblical Jesus. That’s significant, since the billboard campaign gives the impression that Muslims love the same Jesus that Christians do.
But that’s not the case. The Jesus of the Bible is the son of God, the second person of the Trinity, was crucified, resurrected, and atoned for the sins of mankind. The Qur’an, on the other hand, denies every one of these points: the Trinity, His death on the cross, His resurrection, and the atonement. These differences aren’t merely incidental details. They are fundamental attributes of the identity and role of Christ. If you deny them, you deny the real Jesus.
Not only does the Qur’an paint a different picture of Jesus, it depicts an Islamicized version of Him. New Testament scholar Craig Evans points out, “All of the Qur'anic traditions are dependent on the New Testament and/or Christian teachings…Much of it reflects Islamic ideas. Some of it may reflect aspects of Jewish-Christian polemic. None derives from early, independent sources.”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against Muslims loving Jesus. I hope they fully embrace Him, His teachings, and His atoning work. But they need to love the Jesus of history, not the Christ of the Qur’an. The former is real while the latter is fictionalized.
Muslims, in fact, have good reason to accept the biblical Jesus. Their highest authority, the Qur’an, affirms the Gospel (and also the Torah and Psalms) as a divine revelation from Allah. It places the Gospel on par with the Qur’an, saying that Muslims should believe in both revelations (Surah 29:46) and “Make no difference between one and another of them” (Surah 2:136).
I realize that present-day Muslims might balk at these Qur’anic commands and claim the Christian scriptures are corrupted. This, though, is a Muslim belief and not a Qur’anic teaching. For four hundred years after Mohammed, no Muslim scholar claimed the Bible was corrupt. Now, however, the claim of corruption is deeply embedded in Muslim culture, but it’s not backed by their highest authority. I explain more about how Muslims can accept the Gospel in The Ambassador’s Guide to Islam.
The bottom line, though, is that anyone can claim to love Jesus. But who is this Jesus you’re claiming to love? While Jehovah’s Witnesses might love Jesus, they claim he is the archangel Michael. While Mormons might claim to love Jesus, they believe he is a god, but not the God. In the same way, Muslims claim to love Jesus, but they believe he is merely a human and a prophet like Moses or Mohammed.
It’s one thing to fashion Jesus to your liking and claim to love him. That’s easy. It’s a different thing to love Jesus as He truly exists.
So, while I think the billboard campaign is misleading, I think Christians can still use a Muslim’s love or commitment to Christ as a common denominator leading to further discussion. We may have the opportunity to eventually point Muslims to His true identity found in the Gospels.