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Religious Studies Essay Semester 2. Comparative Scripture.

Nurulkamilah Matkamil
Micheal Agnew
Jan 31 2012
995 words
Question: Analyze and compare Surah 19:16-40 (Qur'an) to Luke 1:26-38 (New Testament)

             Both the Quran and the Bible share some similarity in the content. However, there are also some major differences in how this content is relayed, how it is structured and how these teachings shape the Muslim and Christian theology. To illustrate this, Surah 19, verse 16 to 40 is compared against Luke Chapter 1, verse 26 to 38.

            The two excerpts narrate the birth of Jesus Christ. In both accounts, the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ is an accepted doctrine. Both accounts also confirm that Jesus was born from Mary, and that the angel Gabriel approached Mary to tell her of his birth (Luke 1:28, Quran 19:18). The two scriptures are also consistent about Mary’s status as a virgin and her willingness to obey God’s commands (Luke 1:34, Quran 19:21). In a way, both accounts place Mary’s obedience in full praise and as exemplary attitude of a virtuous woman (Piper).

            However, there seems to be different emphasis on the details presented, as well as the style the story was told. In Luke, Mary’s betrothal to Joseph (Luke 1:27), a descendent of David, was mentioned, whereas the Quran only identifies Mary as the sister of Aaron (Quran 19:28). There is also a parallel story in Luke, which tells of another woman, Elizabeth, wife of Zechariah (Luke 1:26). She was barren, but was also given good tidings from Gabriel that she will bear a son, who will become John the Baptist. The Quran does not make note of this detail. In contrary, the Quran gave further details of how Mary gave birth to Jesus, which was under a palm tree (Quran 19:25), and the hardship Mary had to endure from the scrutiny of her own people speculating that Mary had done something immoral (Quran 19:27).

            Another striking difference between the Quran and the Bible is how they portray Jesus Christ. Verse 22 from Surah 19 is paralleled to verse 32 from Luke 1. Both these verses are regarding the status of Jesus. Luke identifies Jesus as the Son of God (Luke 1:32), but Jesus is only referred to as son of Mary and prophet of God in the Quran (Quran 19:34). Jesus’ status was exalted in the Bible as he is given the right to rule over Jacob’s descendants in a promised kingdom (Luke 1:33). The Bible also emphasizes Jesus’ genealogy to David (Osborne). The Quran does not mention any of this; instead, Jesus professes to be a servant of Allah, and was given a Scripture by Allah (Quran 19:30). The Quran goes further to refute Jesus being the Son of God, and give warnings for those who disbelieved (Quran 19:37-38).
            Luke narrates the story as himself. As at the beginning of the gospel, he indicates that he is addressing the gospel to a person name Theophilus, so that he knows whatever that he is taught in Christianity in its certainty.  The Bible was telling the story of Jesus to enforce the divinity of Jesus himself (Kistemaker). The Quran, however, is written in God’s voice, from a first person, narrating it to Mohammad. The story of Jesus’ miraculous birth in the Quran was treated as a clarification of the actual event, in which Muhammad had to warn the people of the misconception of the status of Jesus. The account ends with a statement of God’s absolute power over his creations to emphasize this point.
            The fact that there are such differences in both of these accounts was due to the different purposes the two scriptures served to the Christian and Muslim community. The Bible, as a whole, has more genealogical information than the Quran. Whereas, the Quran has a more reiterative tone, and assumes that such stories of Jesus and the previous prophets has already been known in general (Corrigan, 43). The Quran gives a brief overview of these stories and frames them in a way that the reader may reflect on the stories on how God has played His hands into those events. The stories also serve as a means to show exemplary behaviour as is the case with Mary. The Quran is more doctrinal as it seems to “correct” the false beliefs, and to reiterate previous teachings of the prophet. The Quran claims that all the previous prophets actually brought the same teaching from God and Muhammad was sent as the last prophet from God. The Bible is structured more chronologically like a historical record. Jesus was not only a prophet of God in the Bible, but he was the Son of God or God himself. Jesus was perceived as the Messiah that fulfilled God’s promises to the Jews and establishes a new covenant (Weaver). Laws in the Jewish scripture were considered null and void. This doesn’t seem to be the case for the Quran. The Quran does not identify Muhammad as a Messiah nor does the Quran consider previous teachings null and void. In keeping with the belief that Jesus was the Son of God, the Bible had to be structured to show the divinity of Jesus. The genealogy is described in detail, and in Luke, the genealogy is traced back to David, Jacob, Moses, Isaac, Abraham, all the way to Adam, to show that Jesus was a continuation of God’s covenant (Kistemaker). His blood tie to David also shows Jesus’ royal bloodline, and has the right to rule over the Jewish people. The account of Jesus’ life is also tied to Roman history as it further gives evidence that Jesus was a real person.

            In conclusion, as there are two sides of a coin, two scriptures can also give two sides to the same story. The way the story is structured and what details it emphasizes serve to present the story for different purposes. Despite the diversity of the scriptures and the construction of similar stories from different perspectives, we can still appreciate the fact that the scriptures actually discuss a common subject, which can become the common ground for these two religions.

Works Cited

Corrigan, John, et al. “Jews, Christians, and Muslims: A Comparative Introduction to  Monotheistic Religions.” 2nd Edition.  United States: Pearson Education Inc, 2012. Print.

Kistemaker, Simon. “The Structure of Luke’s Gospel.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 25 No 1:March 1982, p 33-39. ATLA Religion Database. American Theological Library Association. ATLAS.Web. January 17th, 2012.

Osborne, Grant. “Who Was Jesus’ Grandfather?”  Christianity Today. Vol. 53, No. 12: 2009, p 56. ATLA Religion Database. American Theological Library Association. ATLAS. Web. January 18, 2012.

Piper, Otto A. “The Virgin Birth: The Meaning of the Gospel Accounts”. Interpretation. Vol. 18 No. 2: April 1964, p 131-148. ATLA Religion Database. American Theological Library Association. ATLAS. Web. January 19, 2012.

The Noble Quran in The English Language: A Summarized Version of At-Tabari, Al-Qurtubi and Ibn Kathir with Comments from Sahih Al-Bukhari. Trans. Dr. Muhammad Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali and Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan. Saudi Arabia: Maktaba Dar-us-Salam, 1996. Print.

The Oxford Annotated Bible with The Apocrypha, Revised Standard Version. Herbert G. May  and Bruce M. Metzger, editor. New York: Oxford University Press, 1965. Print.

Weaver, Dorothy Jean. “Rewriting The Messianic Script: Matthew’s Account of The Birth of  Jesus.” Interpretation. Vol. 54, No 4: Oct 2000, p 376-385. ATLA Religion Database. American Theological Library Association. ATLAS.Web. January 18th, 2012.


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