What Muslims Believe About Jesus

Joel C. Rosenberg and co-host Dr. Carl Moeller examine what the Quran teaches about Jesus, discussing its similarities to Biblical text and the surprising command for Muslims to read the New Testament. Rosenberg also underscores the significant and profound differences between the Muslim and Christian understanding of Jesus as the Messiah and how Believers should approach those distinctions in conversation.

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Transcript:

- [Carl] Coming up on this episode of Inside the Epicenter.

- [Joel] The Quran says that God chose the virgin Mary to be His servant and to give birth to Jesus. Jesus's birth was announced by the angels. Jesus is the Messiah according to the Quran, according to Muhammad, Jesus is the Messiah. That's the word that's used.

- [Carl] What do Muslims believe about Jesus? And what's changing in today's Muslim world? Hi, and welcome to Inside the Epicenter with Joel Rosenberg, a podcast of the Joshua Fund, a ministry dedicated to blessing Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus. I'm Carl Moeller, executive director of the Joshua Fund. And today we're talking with Joel Rosenberg in Jerusalem to answer that very question and to discuss what is happening in the Muslim world today and how Muslims see Jesus. Joel, welcome. Thanks for being on this episode of our podcast.

- [Joel] Absolutely, happy to do it. And this is an interesting topic to me. What do Muslims believe about Jesus? I don't think most Christians know, but it's a great question.

- [Carl] Well, I wanted to show you, while we were just recently in Arab countries, I got a couple different pamphlets at the mosque that we went to see in Bahrain. And of course they have material to discuss the relationship between Islam and Christianity and most particularly about this person, Jesus, since it's central to Christianity, obviously, we're followers of Jesus Christ, but Islam also has a view of Jesus. And what is it that they actually believe about Him? What are some of the things about Jesus in Islam that we should know about as Christians?

- [Joel] Oh, that's a great question, Carl, and let me begin by saying that if you'd asked me that question when I was in college, I would've had absolutely no idea. I first came here to Israel in August of 1987, and over the next six months of studying at Tel Aviv university, I had the chance to crisscross this country, and I not only met Jews and I not only met Christians and messianic Jews, but I met Muslims and it was calm then. Now, by the end of my time here in the country in 1987, the first intafada had exploded, and there were riots and it was really quite traumatic, and it set into motion many years of trauma. But in the months prior to that, you could just sit with Muslims and have a cup of coffee in the old city, or you could go into Bethlehem or Jericho or these places. And I would do that because I was a kid, and I was curious, and I didn't have any fear. Maybe I should have, it didn't seem scary. And people were very open. They definitely knew I didn't know what they were talking about, so I would ask them. And over the years, I've had a chance to crisscross the Muslim world from Morocco in the west, the Western end of the Arab Muslim world to Afghanistan in the east, well, India as well. But in terms of what you sort of generally think of as the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and I've gotten to ask this question of a lot of people and done a lot of studies. So let me walk our listeners and viewers through some of the things from the Quran, okay? This is not just like, oh, I think they think this, no, what does the Quran say about Jesus. Let's start by saying He's revered. Okay, Jesus is arguably the most revered prophet, but obviously Muslims believe Muhammad supersedes and is in many ways higher than Jesus because he came after Jesus, and their view is Abraham is good, and Moses is good and the Old Testament is good, except it was changed. And then Jesus came and He gave the Gospel and that's good, except that got changed, and then came Islam. But just to be clear about this thing about being changed, that is not actually said in the Quran. That comes later as Muslim clerics and scholars began to say, well, when Muhammad spoke of the Torah and of the writings and the prophets of the Old Testament, what we have today is different than what he was talking about. And he said the same thing about, the Quran actually commands people to read what's known as the Injil, meaning the gospels, meaning that it's the Arabic word for the New Testament. You're commanded as a Muslim to read the New Testament. So it was later that Muslim scholars said, whoa, no, I mean, the New Testament that Muhammad had is different than the New Testament we have today. And why would they say that? It wasn't true. I mean, Muhammad, I don't agree with him on most of the things he said, but he did say some things that were true. And he said, God gave Moses the Torah, and He gave the prophets all these writings, and we should read them. And he said that He gave Jesus the Gospel and His disciples, and we should read that. You should read that, that's what Muhammad said. He was right about that. But let's go through some of the things that the Quran does say about Jesus because what's really particularly interesting is in so many ways how close the Muslim understanding of Jesus is to the biblical true, real understanding of Jesus. Let's just pick some, okay? Now a lot of this, I'm not gonna mention each verse because it gets a little unwieldy, but I'll say generally a lot of what I'm about to say comes from the third chapter, or the third surah, that's the Arabic word for chapter in this case, the Quran surah, chapter three, and the title of that chapter's called the family of Imran. And without getting it all technical, Imran was believed by Muhammad to be the father of Mary. Mary, the virgin Mary. So this is sort of the story of Mary, and her family and her friends and the birth of Jesus, right? So what does Surah chapter three say about Jesus? Well, first it says that God chose Zechariah, like, wait, Zechariah's in the story? Yeah. And his wife to have a miraculous baby when Zechariah's wife was barren, Elizabeth, right? Wow, that's interesting, most people don't know that, right?

- John the Baptist, yeah.

- [Joel] God sends Zechariah a sign the Quran says, and what was the sign? That he couldn't speak until his baby was born, interesting. Right outta the Bible. God sent then John the Baptist, the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, right, he sent John the Baptist to prepare the way for the coming of Jesus. So far we're pretty much aligned.

- We're tracking, right.

- [Joel] Then the Quran says that God chose the virgin Mary to be His servant and to give birth to Jesus. Jesus's birth was announced by the angels. Jesus is the Messiah according to the Quran, according to Muhammad, Jesus is the Messiah. That's the word that's used, , Messiah. Now, to be clear at this point, their understanding of the Messiah is different. But interestingly enough, their understanding of the Messiah is pretty close to what Peter, James, John, and the disciples thought the Messiah was supposed to be before Jesus explained, no, you're not quite getting this right. So just to be clear. But Muslims do believe that Jesus is the Messiah.

- [Carl] Interesting.

- [Joel] We'll get to what they don't believe in a moment.

- [Carl] Right, right.

- [Joel] Okay, now Jesus will be honored around the world and will teach the world. Jesus will be righteous and thus sinless. That's what the Quran teaches, okay? God will teach Jesus what to say, which is interesting because in John 12:49, one of my favorite verses, Jesus prays to the Father and He says, Father, command me what to say and how to say it. But the Quran doesn't only say that God is going to teach Jesus what to say. It says, God will teach Jesus what to say from the Torah. Meaning from the Word of God, from the Old Testament, this is what Jesus will say. He will be speaking the Word of God that had already been established as the Word of God to the people. Let's keep going. The Quran says that Jesus will be the straight path. The Quran says that Jesus will be a prophet sent by God. Muhammad, through the Quran, says that Jesus did have a group of disciples. This is interesting. The Quran teaches that Jesus performed at least six miracles. And these included healing the blind, healing lepers, and raising people from the dead. The Quran says that disbelievers, people who do not believe in Jesus, will develop a plan against Jesus in His day, but that God will be in charge because He has the better plan. That's what the Quran say. The Quran says that those who do not believe in Jesus will be punished for eternity, and God will elevate those who do believe in Jesus, above disbelievers for all of eternity.

- [Carl] Wow.

- [Joel] Two other things that doesn't actually come from that particular chapter, but we won't get into those specifics right now. But that Jesus did in fact, deliver the gospel message known as the Injil, not literally just the four gospel accounts, but the entire New Testament, that's the Injil, Jesus delivered this on behalf of God. And as I mentioned, every Muslim is supposed to read the Injil, the New Testament. And Muslims believe because the Quran teaches it, and it comes from extra-Quranic sources too that Jesus is coming back in the last days in the end times.

- [Carl] Yeah.

- [Joel] This is fascinating. And we can talk in a moment about what they don't believe, what are their differences? There's some very interesting and important differences. Some are almost funny. I don't mean to be disrespectful, but when people hear them, they'll be like, wow, I wonder where they got that from. But some are like direct opposite of what the Bible teaches, but just starting with what a Muslim in the third chapter of the whole Quran is supposed to know about Jesus, who's really the most revered, certainly up there with Muhammad, that's pretty dramatic. Nobody is claiming that Muhammad raised anybody from the dead.

- But Jesus did.

- Jesus did.

- [Joel] Right, and these are just interesting. Or that, I mean, and again, that Jesus is righteous, that He's sinless, and that He's coming back again to be part of ruling the world. This is very, very, quite interesting.

- [Carl] Well, what you've pointed out here, and I think is really important, and maybe you can comment a little bit more on it is that instead of thinking that Islam rejects Jesus completely and everything that Christians stands for, sincere Muslims revere Jesus, and Jesus could actually be a common touchpoint. Of course, we're gonna go into some of the differences obviously, but their reverence for Jesus can be a real point of contact, can't it for us?

- [Joel] It can, and for a Muslim who's not a radical Islamist or an apocalyptic Islamist, right, which is most, the vast, vast majority. We've talked about that on a different podcast. The vast majority, 90 some percent of Muslims are not radicals, they're not extremists, they're not dangerous, they're not violent. So the vast majority could have a conversation with a Christian about Jesus and say, well, let's talk about what we both agree about. And this is not obscure teaching. This is central teaching to Islam. Jesus is such a highly revered figure, a prophet that it's not like, well, I guess somewhere it says it. Now to be clear, not every Muslim has read the Quran any more than every Jew has read the Old Testament, or every Christian has read the whole Bible. Like, of course there is Quranic, scriptural let's say illiteracy in all these Abrahamic faiths. And so that it doesn't mean that everybody's gonna know what the Quran actually teaches about Jesus, but they know that He's highly revered, and they would know most of these things. And I do think it's interesting because when we sit with Muslim leaders, they are happy to talk about Jesus. The challenge then is, are you in an environment where you can talk about some of the differences also, but there is certainly an initial bridge. The risk is always that if you're having this type of conversation, that you're gonna spend all your time saying, yeah, we basically agree. Well, we basically agree on the initial fundamentals of who Jesus is, but then the disagreements are so profound that we dare not act like it doesn't matter. You and I were sitting in one of these countries and we were meeting with a very prominent Arab Muslim leader who's involved in building faith centers, building mosques, and so forth. And we got into a conversation about how can Muslims in the Abraham Accords era interact with Abraham as your sort of touchpoint? Now, we all have very different views of Abraham too, but we all revere him. And that is a common point of agreement. And I made a point to this person, listen, I think you're absolutely right that there are a lot of commonalities, but I would encourage you as you for your country, focus on building relationships with Jews and Christians, I would encourage you to emphasize the differences. I'm not saying don't talk about the similarity, 'cause that's very interesting, and most people don't know it, and that is a bridge, and I'm not saying blow the bridge up once you build it. I'm not saying that. But I am saying you and I don't agree. You, Carl, you and I agree, but you, Arab Muslim leader, you and I don't agree about Jesus. You don't believe that He died on the cross. You don't believe that He rose from the dead. You do believe He's coming back, you don't believe He's God. There are some really profound differences.

- Fundamental.

- [Joel] And what we don't want. See, I'm not a big fan of the term interfaith dialogue. The term itself is not wrong, but what it has come to mean in my ears is look, we all pretty much agree, and let's just sing kumbaya, and not be at each other's throat. Well, I don't wanna be at each other's throats, but this is profound. If Jesus is who the New Testament says He is, then our individual eternity's risk whether we are, now, to quote the Quran for just one moment, those who believe in Jesus will be blessed for eternity, and those who don't will be punished for eternity. That's what the Quran says. So the question is who is the real Jesus? Because if you end up believing a wrong Jesus, then you're not believing in Jesus.

- [Carl] Yes.

- [Joel] If you believe in the right Jesus, then you'll be blessed. And that's where in the Quran, that question is central. Well, who is Jesus? What does the Injil actually say about Jesus? So anyway, I think that's an important element and I don't want any of our viewers or listeners to think that when we go to these countries that we're blurring differences.

- [Carl] Yeah.

- [Joel] We're being respectful and we're honoring them, but the differences are important, and I personally am willing, and you got to see it. I think you probably thought I would do that anyway, but I'm willing to talk about differences because I don't want there to be this sort of loosey-goosey feeling 'cause I would feel responsible. Again, we weren't there to have a full-on theological discussion, but we were talking about Jesus and how Muslims see Him, how Jews see Him, and how Christians see Him.

- [Carl] Well, Joel, that is absolutely, it was fascinating to be a part of, and it's fascinating to talk about with our listeners here. I'm gonna take a quick break right now, and we're gonna come back, and we are gonna focus on those things that bring us the distinctions, and the distinctives between Christianity and Islam, and how Muslims seeing Jesus can really rise or fall their eternal destiny on this one question. But we're gonna take a quick break right now. Our verse of the day today is John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only son "so that everyone who believes in Him "will not perish but have eternal life." Our prayer requests for today are number one, to pray for a softening of hearts towards Jesus throughout the Middle East. And second, to pray for the witness of believers in the Middle East. And third, to pray that Muslim leaders experience and encounter with the true Jesus. Joel, we're back. And what we were just talking about really speaks to me. I know you know that I was a pastor in Salt Lake City for a number of years prior to doing some other things. But one of the things that we recognized was that between Mormons and Bible-believing Christians, we used a lot of the same terminologies, but we had very different meanings associated with them. So I would love us to kind of take that framework to what we've just said about how many times Jesus is mentioned in the Quran and how He's revered by Islam and various other things, but to maybe draw some distinctive lines. While Jesus, Isa in Arabic is a good touchpoint and platform for engaging Muslims, we do have some significant differences in our understanding of Him. So maybe we can start there and maybe you can pick up where we left off before the break.

- [Joel] Sure. Well, we talked a little bit about the, that Muslims explicitly do not believe that Jesus died on the cross. Okay, and that's stated in the Quran, okay? And they therefore also do not believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. Why would He need to be raised from the dead if He was not crucified to begin with? Muslims do not believe that Jesus was God. Therefore their definition of Messiah is very different from ours, but their definition of Messiah is very similar to the Jewish definition of Messiah, even for the disciples before the death and resurrection of Jesus. So we should be sympathetic to the Muslim world that they have a real fervency. It's almost like Paul speaking about the religious Jews of his day in the book of Romans, where he's like, these people have zeal, they are convinced that they love God and they believe they know the right God, and they're convinced they're going the right direction, but they're not getting it, they're not seeing it. And our job is to help them at least hear the gospel, right? Paul says, faith comes by hearing. I mean, we could also say reading, but He was living in an oral society where there were no printing presses and there were no cell phones and there were no smartphones, and you couldn't read, who had access to the Bible, you had to hear it. And so that's true that faith comes by hearing, or reading the scriptures, the true Bible. And it's specifically by the word of Christ. So I'm saying that the Jewish people, even in Jesus's personal life didn't understand that Messiah meant God. It didn't just mean anointed one. It didn't just mean like an earthly king to get rid of the Romans, it had much more meaning. And Jesus explained that as the prophecies had pointed to, right? I mean, Daniel talks about how the coming one, the Messiah is gonna be imbued with the same quality as of ancient of days, right? That the ancient prophecies tell us that He's going to be God. And Jewish people had a hard time with that and Muslims do today. So those major points are very, very different, right? Muslims don't believe Jesus was crucified. They don't believe He was resurrected. They don't believe He's God. And their understanding of Messiah is very different from ours. Now those are the substantive, really critical ones. There's another one that's kind of humorous. They believe that Jesus spoke from the moment He was born, that He could miraculously speak in the cradle in the manger when He was born. And I don't know where they got that, but it's in the Quran. It's in chapter three, surah three. That's definitely extra-biblical, it didn't happen. But Muslims would tell you it did happen because they're reading from the Quran. I wanna make two central points again, but it's underscoring what I said before. The Quran commands Muslims to read the Injil, to read the New Testament, okay? And they also say that people who don't believe in Jesus are gonna be punished for eternity. And those who do believe in Jesus will be blessed for eternity. Those two central points are critical to the conversation that one would have if you weren't simply on a delegation, if you were really sitting down privately and quietly, or in a, you could be in a lecture setting, or in a setting where everyone knows that's what we're talking about. You don't wanna put a Muslim in a position of shame where you're sort of ambushing him or her, just like we don't wanna be ambushed, and Jews don't wanna be ambushed, and atheists don't wanna be ambushed. It needs to be done with love and respect, which is what Paul taught, what Peter taught, what Jesus and the apostles practice was respect, right, and love. But helping a Muslim understand that your text says to read the new Testament, then they'll immediately tell you, well, the New Testament's changed. Well, let's just take that for a second and ask the question, when did Muhammad say this? Well, he said it in the seventh century. The seventh century before the New Testament was written? Well, no, the seventh century after the New Testament written. Well, we have copies of the New Testament going back to the second century. We know with thousands of manuscripts that we have the exact same New Testament today that Muhammad had in the seventh century. And therefore, remember, anyway, it would be a more in depth conversation with them, but it's not the Quran that says that the New Testament was changed, that the Injil was changed. That came later, people said that later. What Muhammad actually said was, what he wrote down was you need to read this. What New Testament? The new Testament that he had, that was the same New Testament we have. And the same thing with the Torah and the prophets and the writings. He was referring to a cannon of the Old Testament that was as solid then as we have today. And the Dead Sea Scrolls.

- [Carl] We know that from the Dead Sea Scrolls.

- [Joel] Totally confirm that the Bible, the Old Testament Bible that we have today is exactly the same that they had back in the first century. So those are critical elements in a conversation. Or if maybe you never meet a Muslim, but at least be an understanding of and praying for people that they would read the New Testament, truly read it. You don't have to convince a Muslim. You can't. You can't convince a Jew either, but you can walk through the arguments. You can answer their questions, but only the Holy Spirit.

- [Carl] Amen.

- [Joel] Speaking through the Word of God will convince an atheist, an agnostic, a Buddhist, a Hindu, a Jew, a Muslim, or me.

- Or you.

- That's right. That's right.

- [Joel] We don't convert people. We can't persuade people. We can try, we can give them the information, but only the Holy Spirit of God can open their eyes and go, oh, this is telling me the truth about Jesus because it's in the New Testament, the book that He set into motion.

- Well, I have found, and I'm sure you have as well that the pursuit of questions in conversation is probably the best way to keep the conversation going with someone who's an Islamic believer, asking what does it mean to believe in Christ, and to have them search the scripture. I mean, if you go back to the book of Acts, the Ethiopian in the chariot that Philip met up with was reading scripture and had questions. And Philip just asked, do you understand what you're reading? I think those are immensely important as we engage Muslims with this good news that we don't preach at them. We question, we ask, and those things.

- I agree, but let me, I wanna underscore something you're saying, 'cause it's a nuance that might get missed if somebody's not listening to you carefully. Of course we wanna ask questions generally to get to know them. Especially, if we have time, if it's a real friendship, if we're gonna be in a relationship, and it doesn't all have to happen in the next five minutes, right? So yes, we wanna know what they think we wanna, you know? What do you think about Jesus? Well, let's just hear and where does that come from? And let's open up a Quran and where does that? You know, whatever, those are good questions, but ultimately the key to what you just said, talking about Philip and the Ethiopian state treasurer it seems to have been who had come to Jerusalem to worship and was heading back. This high level official was reading the actual Bible, and that's the key.

- Yes, that's what I mean. Yes.

- Too often I think that Christians get in a conversation, a long conversation, and they try to explain to a Muslim or to a Jew or to anybody, what they understand the scriptures to mean. Now you'd think, well, what's wrong with that? Well, the thing that's wrong about it is what you need to do is say, well, let's open up a Bible, and let's see what it actually says. Why, because Paul told us faith comes through hearing or in our case in the modern era, hearing and reading the Word of Christ. The more time we are talking and the less time we've got someone saying, let's just look at what the actual text says. You may not agree with it, but have you ever opened up a New Testament, no. Have you ever read? I mean, let's just see what Jesus actually said, what He did, what did disciples say about Him? That is the key. And I have been guilty of this myself especially in college. I would love to have conversations, all kinds of people, but I spent a lot of time hearing my own self talk explaining. And I didn't see that many people come to faith when I was blah, blah, blah. Again, it seems conversational. It seems like, well, let's not get into the scriptures. Let's just have a conversation. But the sooner you can get into the conversation where you're actually looking at text that's when the power of God is likely to move. Now it may not move then, right? Jews and Muslims have a lot of issues. And yet I know Muslims, I have friends and Muslims who, the first time they read the gospel, they came to faith in Jesus. It was that powerful. Now I'm not saying that's gonna happen every time. But most people, most Christians are not actually taking people in the scriptures. They're giving wonderful apologetic soliloquies.

- Yes.

- That doesn't always work.

- [Carl] I've talked to leaders in the Muslim world for many years. And one shared with me that Christians often want to scatter seed where God has not tilled the soil. And what's fascinating about Islam and Christianity in dialogue is as the Muslims call it, we are People of the Book, we are People of the Book. And if we can let them see that the Injil, the New Testament is the book that they are commanded to read. When we start diving into the New Testament, when we start diving into the Old Testament with Muslims, God has tilled that soil, God has broken up the soil, so that they're willing to receive and able to receive that. And just like you're saying, sometimes we scatter seed with great messages and logic and apologists. And all of that is good, maybe even better for us as Christians to have that. But for Islam and for Muslims, it's encountering this gospel, this good news message in the word of God. I think that it's fantastic.

- [Joel] Yeah, and this is an interesting contrast with talking to Jewish people because there's nowhere that Jews are commanded to read the New Testament.

- Right.

- Right? But Muslims are commanded by their most revered prophet to read the New Testament. Now where the parallel would come in with Jews is let's go look at the actual prophecies in the Jewish scriptures, the Hebrew scriptures that are about the Messiah. Let's go say like, do the prophets tell us where he'll be born? Do the prophets actually say that he'll be born of a virgin? Does it say that He will die and suffer? Do the Jewish prophets, not the New Testament, but the Hebrew prophets do they tell us that the Messiah will suffer for our sins as an atonement for our sins? Does it say he'll rise from the dead? Let's go look and see. That's because God had laid the bread crumb trail of these some 300 prophecies, so that Jews wouldn't miss it.

- [Carl] Yeah.

- [Joel] But they've missed it because they're not reading those prophecies. And I would add, I know we're talking about Muslims mostly, but in Deuteronomy, I think it's 18, Moses, the most revered prophet in Judaism tells the nation of Israel, there is a prophet coming after me. That's gonna be greater than me. And if you don't follow Him, you're gonna be cut off from God and from your people forever. He's speaking of the Messiah. And so that's the verse where you'd say, it's incumbent upon you to see, is Jesus the fulfillment of the prophecies, because Moses whom you revere says, if you don't end up believing in the actual Messiah that has come and fulfilled all these processes, you're gonna be in huge eternal trouble, right? So that would be a parallel passage, right to what we read in surah chapter three, where it says, look, if you believe in Jesus, you're gonna be blessed for eternity. But if you don't, you're gonna be punished for eternity. Okay, well, what Jesus, right? We better go read the New Testament and see if Jesus fits, and who He is, and does He fit the old Testament prophecies. But I think generally most Christians haven't spent any time picking up a Quran, or intimidated by it. And so I hope this podcast is helpful because it shows our respect, even our disagreement with our Muslim friends. But those of us who have spent some time trying to understand where are they coming from when it comes to Jesus, there are common bridges. And then once you've got the commonalities established, then you can start talking honestly about the differences. And you can hopefully go into the scriptures and say, well, at least let's see if the new Testament really says that. 'Cause if I'm just saying it, who cares? You don't have to believe what the New Testament says, but let's at least read it.

- [Carl] Yeah, and again, let the Holy Spirit work what His work is in the life of someone who reads the Word of God. The Word of Christ, the Word of God, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, these are all things that God is put for us to find out the truth. And he is not limited by only addressing people through the New Testament. God is moving and touching hearts through His spirit in this way remarkably. But I really wanted to quickly touch on a couple of the ways that it's important for Christians to understand who Jesus is in Islam. Let's start with the miracles that Muslims and Christians both believe Jesus did miracles. But what's the difference in how these miracles are positioned and maybe how it helps us communicate the deity of Christ to Muslims.

- [Joel] So that's a powerful verse. What makes it powerful is when you read the story of the actual experience of Jesus meeting these two women, and then commanding the stone be rolled away, and they're like, hey, he's gonna stink. Like He's been in there four days. It's not refrigerated, Jesus, like it's hot out. It's the Middle freaking East. Like, do you not understand? No, all right, I'm reading into the text a bit, okay? But I'm just saying most Muslims have never read that. Most Jews have never read that. So reading the story of Jesus raising somebody from the dead is powerful because faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. And it's true of, again, so they know that Jesus healed lepers and healed the death. Let's go see the stories themselves. Again, that time after time, it's better to read those actual stories than to just say it because the Word is very powerful. And it will probably provoke questions. This is an important point in the broader point. A lot of Christians are now hearing that many Muslims are coming to faith because they're having visions and dreams of Jesus. And that is absolutely true. I have to admit, I was a bit of a skeptic 20 years ago, or 25 years ago when I first started hearing this, but I started crisscrossing the Middle East from Morocco to Afghanistan. And I started meeting people and listening to their stories. And I was like, oh my gosh, these people are having dreams and visions. They are coming to faith in Jesus. Now Paul himself came to faith on the road to Damascus in an Arab country, an Arab capital mind you, through a vision. So Christians who are hearing this might think, well fine, we don't really need to do any ministry in that part of the world, Jesus is just saving these people, and He's using dreams and visions, but that's not a strategy that the Bible gave us. It's true that it happens. Joel, the Hebrew prophet, actual prophet Joel, not the one who runs the nonprofit, right? Joel, the prophet from the Old Testament said, in the last days God's gonna pour out His Holy Spirit and people are gonna see dreams and vision. We're seeing that come to pass. And it happened in Paul's life. But Paul in Romans chapter 10 does not say, hey, I came to faith through a vision. Let's just trust that everybody's gonna do that. He said, no, how are they gonna call on someone they don't believe in. How are they gonna believe if they haven't even heard the Word of God, the gospel message? How are they gonna believe unless someone tells them? How is someone gonna tell them unless they're sent? And we know that means sent, trained, encouraged, prayed for, financed. So that I think is important that yes, God is supernaturally drawing many Muslims to faith. But I will tell you in every single case, every single case that I have studied, and these are hundreds of cases, obviously not all cases, but every case that I have studied and personally looked into the Muslim had some exposure to the Word of God before the dream or the vision. Some it's minimal, but some, they actually, like, I know people who read the entire New Testament and then eventually started having dreams and visions. So Paul himself didn't just have a vision on the road to Damascus. The deacon Stephen had just laid out the gospel message prior. And Paul had presided, when his name was Saul, over the martyrdom of Steven. But of course, Paul himself, as Saul knew the Word of God, because he was a student of the Word of God. The word was in there. But he was blind, literally and figuratively blind to the very Word of God that he knew better than almost anybody in Israel because he'd been trained to know the Word of God. But he'd been trained by people who were giving the wrong interpretation on every key passage when it came to who the Messiah would be. And so Paul is not an example of, well, you don't need the Word of God. You don't need to talk about the word of God. You just pray for visions. Well, you're saying that about Paul. Like a Harvard trained like guy who practically had memorized the Bible? That that's what you're saying? No, it doesn't work. Faith comes by hearing, hearing by the word of God, by word of Christ.

- [Carl] Hearing by the Word of God. And I think it's really important that our listeners understand that recognizing what Muslims believe about Jesus and how that connects as a platform is just the beginning. We need to be praying. We need to be engaging in conversation and encouraging Muslims to be in the Word of God so that the Word can speak to them. And then we need to pray that the Holy Spirit enlightens their eyes and as the song says, open the eyes of their heart, to who Jesus truly is. Because even though He's revered in Islam, it's a very different Jesus than the Jesus of the New Testament or the Injil in Arabic.

- [Joel] It's like the Quran has a halfway built bridge to Christianity. Like it is a bridge-building exercise, but it doesn't get you to a saving knowledge of who Jesus is 'cause it's an incomplete knowledge. And several of the key points of course are contradicted. Here's one other that we really ought to bring up before we end. And that is in the Quran Muhammad says that God was not begotten and He does not beget. Now that sounds like King James, and admittedly, that's an English translation of Arabic. Now it's true the first half of that, we agree with, God is eternally existent, right? We know this from Colossians, we know this from Genesis, we know that we know this from all of the scriptures that the true God of the Bible was not begotten. Nobody gave birth to God the Father, God the Spirit, or God the Son, God existed. And He set into motion everything else. So the first half of that sentence we agree with. But the second half is a problem. The Muslims through the Quran are saying, God does not beget. Now at one reading of that, we'd say, well, yeah, he doesn't actually have sexual relations and have children. However, the uniqueness of the virgin birth that the Muslims themself in the Quran agree with can only happen if God supernaturally causes Mary to get pregnant. And Muslims do believe that God supernaturally caused Mary to get pregnant. So that is what we mean when we read John 3:16, "For God so loved the world "that He gave His only begotten son." Meaning the only person that He supernaturally created in a womb, not in the normal relationships between a man and a woman, the only person He did this with was Jesus. Because Jesus is actually God who becomes flesh and enters human society through the womb of Mary. And what's interesting is that Muslims in the Quran, they're so close to that understanding. And I wanna be respectful in how I'm saying this. So if you have a virgin birth that Muslims agree with because of surah of chapter three, that was superintendended by God himself to create Jesus then that is a begotten person, okay? Now, admittedly, they don't believe that He was begotten because He's God incarnate. They just believe He's a supernatural prophet, but that makes Him different, the virgin birth makes Him different from Muhammad, nobody's claiming, at least as I'm aware of, that Muhammad had this type of birth. So all that to say, there is so much that we would agree with, and that they would agree with us. But that, again, it's a critical difference. But that verse, when we were in one of the mosques on our trip right there on the wall, it said, God is not begotten, and He does not beget. Now that's a direct challenge in the Quran against John 3:16, right? Where God says through Jesus, that Jesus is His only begotten son. So this is where people who I know who've come to faith as Muslims, who came to faith in Jesus, when they read the Quran and the Bible there'd be moments where they say, oh, this seems similar. And then there'd be moments where like one of these things is not like the other, like you literally have to choose. The Bible says Jesus was begotten, and He is God. And that He's the only way to get saved. And the Quran says He was not begotten by God, because God does not beget. So one of them is not true. And it could be they're both not true, but they can't both be true. And that's one of these key elements. And it's interesting that it comes down to the very direct point of the verse that every evangelical child is taught, maybe the first verse that they learn is John 3:16. And I'll just say the last thing on this part. When I first came to Israel, 1987, I went up onto the Temple Mount. Now of course the Dome of the Rock is one of the most revered sites in Islam, along with the Al-Aqsa mosque. Now the mosque, you can't enter as a Jew, as a follower of Jesus. But at the time you could go into the Dome of the Rock. Okay, you can't now, super sensitive, super delicate, super tense right now, especially as you and I record this. But at the time you could. And so I did, and I had a Muslim guide who was teaching me all the inside workings of the Temple Mount, I mean of the Dome of the Rock, fascinating. And he said, "Now that verse is important. "That's one of our central verses as Muslims. "And it says, God was not begotten and He does not beget." I was like, whoa. I didn't say anything, I wasn't trying to pick a fight with him. It wasn't the time or the place. But I was like, wow, at the heart of Islam's, one of its most revered spots, on the very site where Abraham was told to sacrifice Isaac, and then was told at the last minute, don't, the very city where Jesus did die for our sins and rise again, right at that spot Muslims are saying, no, Jesus, I mean, they're saying, no, God does not beget. And I think that's important for Christians to know, because for all the things that we agree on, the things we disagree on are so profound. It doesn't mean we have to be angry about it. We have to have love. Paul didn't get Jesus until he did. I didn't get Jesus until I did. You didn't get Jesus until I did, nobody who was watching us who gets Jesus? There was a point where they didn't. So let's just be compassionate. These are people who want to love God. They have zeal, they bow down, they worship, they're so committed, but there's something missing. And what's missing is the true understanding of Jesus from the New Testament.

- [Carl] Boy, Joel, that has been so helpful as you've kind of outlined this. And I know that many of our listeners have asked us about what do Muslims believe about Jesus? And this has been so helpful. It's been helpful to me. And thank you very much for outlining all of what the scripture says and how we can use that scripture to help build the dialogue and to bring Muslims to encounter the real Jesus so that they might be saved. So thank you, Joel, appreciate it.

- [Joel] My pleasure.

- [Carl] For our listeners I if you found this podcast valuable, as I have, please get in touch with us, let us know who you are. What do you want us to talk about on this show? Do you have a question you want Joel to answer, go to the JoshuaFund.com and click on Contact Us. Feedback from you is incredibly important as we continue to develop this podcast. And as always check out our show notes for anything you heard on the podcast that you'd like more information on. For Joel Rosenberg, I'm Carl Moeller. Thanks for listening to this episode of Inside the Epicenter.

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