What do they say about Jesus?
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StarIt is clear from the Gospels that Jesus was a Jew, but as Christianity developed its belief in Jesus as universal Lord and Savior, his early identity as a Jewish prophet and wonder worker began to fade. To the Jews, he was an apostate, whose name a pious Jew should never mention. In early Jewish sources, the only significant text about Jesus is a short passage from Flavius Josephus, a first-century Jewish historian. He describes Jesus as a "wise man", a "doer of startling deeds" and a "teacher" who was crucified and posthumously attracted followers called "Christians."

The Jewishness of Jesus is recognized by modern scholars. Christian as well as Jewish students of the Bible accept that much of what he taught can be found in the Jewish scriptures. In some Jewish seminaries, like New York's Hebrew Theological Union, a course in the New Testament is now required of rabbinical candidates. For Jews outside scholarly circles, there is less focus on Jesus as a Jew. Jews, of course, do not accept the Christ of faith. "They see Jesus as an admirable Jew," says theologian John Cobb, "but they don't believe that any Jew could be God."


Islam is a more recent religion; its tradition is based on its founder, Muhammad, who was born in A.D. 570 in Mecca (Saudi Arabia) and lived until A.D. 632. He intended to establish a new faith tradition, incorporating aspects of Judaism and Christianity, which he admired. As a result, among Islam's most revered prophets are Abraham, Moses, Jesus and, of course, Muhammad.

Muslims recognize Jesus as a great prophet and revere him as Jesus, the son of Mary, who is the only woman mentioned by name in the Koran. Many Christians today deny Jesus' birth to a virgin; Muslims find this story in the Koran and affirm it as a fact. Many also do not believe that Jesus ascended into heaven, but Muslims do. Indeed, some Muslims see themselves as Christ's true followers.

The Muslim Jesus enjoys unique spiritual prerogatives that other prophets including Muhammad lack. Only Jesus and his mother were born untouched by Satan. Even Muhammad had to be purified by angels before receiving prophethood. Again, in the Koran Muhammad is not presented as a miracle worker, but Jesus miraculously heals the blind, cures lepers and "brings forth the dead by Allah's leave." In this way Jesus manifests himself as the Messiah, or "the anointed one." Muslims are not supposed to pray to anyone but Allah. But in popular devotions many ask Jesus or Mary or John the Baptist for favors. (According to one recent estimate, visions of Jesus or Mary have occurred some 70 times in Muslim countries since 1985). right: star and crescent

Although Muslims believe that Muhammad supersedes Jesus as the last and greatest of the prophets, he still must die. But in the Koran Jesus does not die, nor is he resurrected. Muslims believe that Jesus asked God to save him from crucifixion, as the Gospels record, and that God answered his prayer by taking him directly to heaven.

When the end of the world approaches, Muslims believe that Jesus will descend to defeat the anti-Christ. "Jesus will return as a Muslim," says one authority, "in the sense that he will unite all believers in total submission to the one God."

The Cross: a witness to Jesus


What do they say about Jesus? Variations on the theme of Psalm 22
New hope for Jewish-Christian dialog Compassion in art
Editor's Note

Sign of the Passion

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