In my previous post (https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/05/the-quran-confirms-the-prehuman-existence-and-incarnation-of-christ/), I showed how the Islamic scripture testifies to Jesus being the divine preexistent Word of God that became flesh. Note, for instance, what the following passage states:
O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not ‘Trinity’: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs.” S. 4:171 Yusuf Ali
Jesus is both the Word of God, not just a word from him, given to Mary and a Spirit that proceeds from God himself. This is the closest the Quran comes in affirming the prologue of John’s Gospel since this text clearly teaches that Jesus as God’s Word preexisted as a Spirit who then descended into the sanctified and blessed womb of Mary in order to take flesh:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind… The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-4, 9-10, 14
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:1-3
“He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.” Revelation 19:13
In fact, this particular Quranic text is merely echoing some of the things that the inspired Scriptures of God teach concerning Christ. For instance, the Holy Bible says that Christ is our Apostle/Messenger sent by/from the Father:
“Therefore, holy brothers and sisters, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, whom we acknowledge as our apostle and high priest.” Hebrews 3:1
“As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” John 17:18
“Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’” John 20:21
Christ is even called a life-giving Spirit:
“So it is written: ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.” 1 Corinthians 15:45
Thus, we discover that in one sense the Quran denies the divinity of Jesus and yet in other places, it affirms that he is the divine preexistent Word and Spirit from God.
In this post, I want to address the typical Muslim objection, which is often raised to refute the explicit and plain teaching of the Quran to Jesus being the eternal Word of God who became flesh.
Muslims try to evade this fact by arguing that Christ is called God’s Word solely because he was created directly by God’s command, kun fayakun – “Be and it is.” In other words, Jesus is God’s Word solely because he was created by the creative word/order of God.
There are several major problems with this argument. First, as we have already demonstrated, Jesus is not simply a by-product of God’s command but is the very Word of God sent down to mankind. This is not only based on the plain reading of Q. 4:171, but also because of Q. 3:39 and 45, which explicitly teach that the Word of God is personal and became the man Jesus:
Then the angels called to him as he stood praying in the sanctuary: That Allah gives you the good news of Yahya verifying a Word from Allah, and honorable and chaste and a prophet from among the good ones. S. 3:39 Shakir
Yahya, i.e. John the Baptist, is to bear witness to a Word from God, namely Jesus the Christ:
Mention when the angels namely Gabriel said ‘O Mary God gives you good tidings of a Word from Him that is a boy whose name is the Messiah Jesus son of Mary He addresses her attributing him to her in order to point out that she will give birth to him without a father for the custom is to attribute the child to its father honoured shall he be in this world through prophethood and the Hereafter through his intercession and the high stations al-darajāt al-‘ulā cf. Q. 2075 and of those brought close to God. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn https://www.altafsir.com/Tafasir.asp?tMadhNo=0&tTafsirNo=74&tSoraNo=3&tAyahNo=45&tDisplay=yes&UserProfile=0&LanguageId=2; bold and underline emphasis ours)
(believing in the Word from Allah) Al-`Awfi reported that Ibn `Abbas said, and also Al-Hasan, Qatadah, `Ikrimah, Mujahid, Abu Ash-Sha`tha, As-Suddi, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, Ad-Dahhak, and several others said that the Ayah…
(believing in the Word from Allah) means, “Believing in `Isa, son of Maryam.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir http://www.qtafsir.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=543&Itemid=46; bold and underline emphasis ours)
Note that Jesus is the one who is the Word from God. The fact that he is a Word from God implies preexistence, that Jesus preexisted as God’s Word. This point is brought out more clearly in the following passage:
(And remember) when the angels said: O Mary! Lo! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a word from him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (unto Allah). S. 3:45 Pickthall
Here is a different rendering of this last text:
“Behold,” the angels told Mary, “God has given you the glad news of the coming birth of a son whom He calls His Word, whose name will be Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, who will be a man of honor in this life and the life to come, and who will be one of the ones nearest to God.” Muhammad Sarwar
According to this verse God’s Word is not a mere abstraction or command, but an actual person. This is due to the fact that the Word of God is given a personal name, i.e., the Messiah Jesus, son of Mary. This in itself refutes the oft-repeated Muslim argument that Jesus is only called the Word of God because he is a by-product of God’s Word, being brought into existence by the creative command of God. After all, this text emphatically affirms that the Word of God didn’t make Jesus, but rather the Word of God IS Jesus himself.
Jesus is, therefore, the personal Word of God come down from heaven, a fact confirmed by Q. 4:171.
Secondly, if it were true that Jesus is God’s word solely because he was created by the command of God then we would expect to find Adam called the Word of God since he was also created by God’s command according to the Quran (cf. Q. 3:59). Yet, neither Adam nor anyone else is ever called the Word of God.
What the foregoing shows is that the Quran does, in fact, acknowledge that the eternal Word of God became flesh, two aspects (eternal and finite) united in one Person and that this eternal Word is none other than Jesus Christ.
To sum up my discussion:
The Quran calls Jesus the Word of God sent down to Mary, not because he was created by God’s Word, but because he himself is God’s Word.
The Quran, therefore, confirms that Jesus is the preexistent Word of God who became flesh.
Since Islamic theology recognizes that God’s Word is eternal and inseparable from him, this means that the Quran recognizes (albeit unwittingly) that Jesus is eternal and inseparable from God.
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