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An essay donated by Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Part 2: How Muslims and Jews view Jesus

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This topic is continued from the previous essay.

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The Qur'an states:

“Allah is only One God. Far be it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son. All that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth is His. Allah is sufficient as a Defender." (Qur'an 4:171)

Both Jews and Muslims agree that the One God is sufficient to provide suitable religious guidance to each and every people on earth without help from anyone else; including a son.

The Qur'an also states:

“It is not suitable for Allah, Glory be to Him, that He should take unto Himself a son. When He decrees a thing, He only says to it: Be! and it is.” (Qur'an 19:35) When Allah created Adam, Adam did not become the 'Son of God'.

God says:

“Lo! the likeness of Jesus with Allah is as the likeness of Adam. He created him from dust, then he said to him: Be! and he is.” (3:59)

No one thinks Adam is the Son of God'.

It is true that Jesus often did refer metaphorically to God as his father. He did this in accord with the metaphorical style of the Torah. He never expected that any Jew who heard him speak about God as his father would take his words literally.

As the Qur'an states:

It is not (possible) for any human being to whom Allah had given Scripture, wisdom and prophethood, that he should afterwards have said to mankind: Be slaves of me instead of Allah; but (he said): Be ye faithful servants of the Lord by virtue of your constant teaching of Scripture and your constant study of it. (Qur'an 3:79)

Unfortunately, after Jesus was gone, many of his followers began to believe and teach that the close connection Jesus felt to his father in Heaven meant he was not just the 'Son of Man” as he so often stated, but also literally the 'Son of God'.

This new interpretation by some of Jesus' apostles, of the metaphors 'father' and 'Son of God', was a major mistake that Jesus did not foresee.

The Torah does refer both to the whole People of Israel metaphorically as God's first born son. (Exodus 4:22) and also refers to all those who are duty bound to act, even when mourning, as God commands us; as sons/children of God: “You (Plural) are Children of the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 14:1)

Does this mean that Jews either as individuals or as a people are Divine? Of course not. No Rabbi from the most Orthodox to the most Reform has ever taken these verses of the Torah literally.

The term son/child of God should never be taken literally. It is a metaphor. It must be interpreted just as we interpret all the other verses in the Bible.

To say that every verse of Sacred Scripture must be interpreted; is not being disrespectful. To the contrary. It means that we have to give some thought and study to each verse in a Divine text. We cannot read Torah the way we read an ordinary book or magazine.

Jews dialogue with Torah. She challenges, inspires and questions us, and we examine and embrace her. The Jewish mystics asserted that each verse in the Torah is capable of being interpreted in seventy different ways.

This interaction between the text of sacred scripture and the community of believers over many generations is what keeps both the text and the believers alive.

Muslims are blessed by the sunnah of Prophet Muhammad, as related by Al-Hadith, and Jews are blessed by the Oral Torah and Midrash of the Rabbis. While the Rabbis did not preserve the teachings of Jesus, there are several Al-Hadith that do so, and I find myself in total agreement with them.

It was revealed by the tongue of Jesus: “A land is cursed if its rulers are young boys.” (Muhammad ibn Sa’d) But this is not written anywhere in the Gospels.

Perhaps Jesus was simply repeating Ecclesiastes 10:16 “Woe to you, O land, when your king is a young boy.” Or perhaps it is a sacred oral teaching that was not written down as part of Sacred Scripture, what Muslims call a Hadith qudsi and Jews call an Oral Torah teaching.

Hadith and Oral Torah are important expansions of the written revelation. For example: God revealed to Jesus: “O Jesus, admonish yourself. Once admonished, admonish other people. Otherwise, be modest in my sight.” (Ahmad ibn Hanbal) in another Hadith qudsi. Judaism is in full agreement with this teaching.

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Jesus met a man and asked him, “What are you doing?” “I am devoting myself to God,” the man answered. Jesus asked, “Who takes care of you?” “My brother,” replied the man. Jesus said, “Your brother is more devoted to God that you are.” (Abdallah ibn Qutayba) and I say “Amen”.

A disciple of Jesus the son of Mary, who was in charge of collecting and distributing charity complained to Jesus that, “these activities 'steal' lots of valuable time from me that I would prefer to devote to prayer and meditation."

Rabbi Jesus replied, "It is not true that acts of generosity and kindness 'steal' your time. If anything, these Mitsvot give you more time!"

The disciple continued his charitable activities and the prophecy of Jesus that; “acts of generosity and kindness do not steal one's time, but rather give one more time” was fulfilled. He lived an additional seven good years after becoming very ill and then passed away quickly.

These teachings of Jesus fit in much better with the words of Moses and David than the words attributed to Jesus by the Gospel of John (14:6), “Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Although some Protestant Christians have become Unitarian 1 Christians, the vast majority of Protestant and all Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches are confirmed Trinitarians. Perhaps this will change over the next few centuries.

Meanwhile we should all be guided by the Qur'an's admonition:

“If God had so desired he could have made you all the same, but he made each person an individual, and divided you into many languages and religions, so that God (and other humans) might measure your faith, by seeing how many of you, compared to others, live up to the teachings of your own religion.” (Qur'an 5:48)

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Note:

  1. The term "Unitarian" has two meanings:
    • The belief, as found in Judaism, Islam, etc. that God is an indivisible unity, as contrasted with the common Christian belief that God is a trinity.

    • The name of the The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (commonly called the Unitarian Universalist Association or UUA). It is a liberal religious organization, serving the Unitarian Universalist (UU) congregations of North America.

The two different meanings often cause confusion. Among UU members is the belief that God is a unity, a trinity, non-existent, etc.

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Originally posted: 2015-JAN-13
Last updated 2015-JAN-13
Author:
Rabbi Allen S. Maller
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