Friday, March 9, 2007

Islamic Christology

I wrote a paper last semester on the issue of Islamic Christology. Something that peaked my interest was the possibility of "familiarity with" Gnostic* documents (to use Mark Goodacre's wording).

For example, the Qu'ran states that Jesus created birds from clay, blew on them, and they were alive (Surahs 3:49; 5:110). The mention of this miracle in 5:110 is especially interesting because of the repitition "by My Permission" (referring to Allah). None of Isa's miracles in the Qu'ran are actually his own, but are done by the permission of Allah.

At any rate, the story is similar to that in the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (Chapter 2). In the Infancy Gospel, the child Jesus is playing by a river on the Sabbath and forms twelve sparrows out of clay. When Joseph came to Jesus and asked him why he was doing these "unlawful" things on the Sabbath, Jesus clapped his hands, spoke to the sparrows and they flew off.

The second story in the Qu'ran which seems to show some familiarity with Gnostic documents is that in Surah 3:46 where the Angel tells Mary (who earlier gives the Angel an objection based on her virginity much like the objection given in Luke) that Jesus will "speak from the crib" and teach the people "scripture, wisdom, the Torah, and the Gospel."

The idea of Jesus speaking from the crib is recorded in the "Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ", a 2nd Century Arabic text. In this text, Jesus says to Mary (as an infant):

...Jesus spake while in the cradle, and said to his mother, "Mary, I am Jesus, the Son of God, the Word, which you brought forth according to the declaration of the angel Gabriel, and My Father has sent me for the salvation of the world.

This is one self-aware infant! It's interesting that Muhammad has these two very distinct stories in the Qu'ran (or perhaps they're later additions? I'm no Qu'ranic scholar). It seems unlikely that he would create these on his own.

I haven't been able to find any books concerning interaction Muhammad may have had with Gnostic texts, but I'd be really interested in finding one. If you know of any, feel free to leave the suggestion in the comments or you can email me at Joshua.McManaway[at]

*I understand that texts which don't necessarily show signs of Gnostic theology are labeled as such. I use the term simply as a convenient way to reference a set of documents without being too specific about the theology contained therein.

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