Muhammad and the Bible

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Arguments that prophecies of Muhammad exists in the Bible have formed part of Muslim tradition from the early history of Muhammad's Ummah (Arabic: أُمَّة‎, community).[1] Christians like John of Damascus and John Calvin have interpreted Muhammad as being the Antichrist of the New Testament. The name "Muhammad" does not occur in the Bible.

Muslim writers have expanded on these viewpoints and have argued that they can specifically identify references to Muhammad in the text of the Bible, both in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament and in the Christian New Testament. Several verses in the Quran, as well as several Hadiths, state that Muhammad is described in the Bible. On the other hand, scholars have generally interpreted these verses as referring to the community of Israel or Yahweh's personal soteriological actions regarding the Israelites or members of the faithful community. The apocryphal Gospel of Barnabas, which explicitly mentions Muhammad, is widely recognized by scholars as a fabrication from the Early Modern Age. Some Muslim scholars also claimed Paraclete (Greek New Testament) as Muhammad, which also has been criticised and rejected by scholars.

Muslim interpretations[edit]

Deuteronomy 18:18[edit]

I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him. 20 But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.'

— Deuteronomy 18:18-20 (New American Standard Bible)

Deuteronomy 18:18 has often been considered a prophecy of Muhammad by Muslims.[2] Al-Samawal al-Maghribi, a medieval (12th century) Jewish mathematician who converted to Islam, pointed to Deuteronomy 18:18 in his book Confutation of the Jews as a prophecy fulfilled by Muhammad.[3] Samawal argued in his book that since the children of Esau are described in Deuteronomy 2:4-6 and Numbers 20:14 as the brethren of the children of Israel, the children of Ishmael can also be described the same way.[4] Some Muslim writers, like Muhammad Ali and Fethullah Gülen, have interpreted several verses in the Quran as implying that Muhammad was alluded to in Deuteronomy 18:18, including Quran 46:10 and 73:15.[5][6]

Scholars interpret Deuteronomy 18:18 as referring to a future member of the community of Israel who reenacts the function of Moses, serving as a mediator for the covenant between YHWH and the Israelites. Walter Brueggemann writes that "The primary requirement for the prophet, like the king in 17:15, is that he or she must be a member of Israel, thoroughly situated in the traditions and claims of the Yahwistic covenant."[7] The Gospels of Matthew and John both infer Jesus to be the prophet like Moses from Deuteronomy 18, not Muhammad.[8]

Deuteronomy 33:2[edit]

Mount Sinai depicted on late medieval Georgian manuscript.

He said, "The Lord came from Sinai, And dawned on them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran, And He came from the midst of ten thousand holy ones; At His right hand there was flashing lightning for them.

— Deuteronomy 33:2

Al-Samawal al-Maghribi referred to this verse also in his book as a prophecy of Muhammad. He said that Mount Sinai refers to Moses, Mount Seir "the Mount of Esau" refers to Jesus, and Mount Paran "the Mount of Ishmael" refers to Muhammad.[9] Since, many Muslim scholars have looked to Deuteronomy 33 as containing a prophetic prediction of Muhammad.[10][2]

Deuteronomy 33:2 is part of the poem known as the Blessing of Moses spanning Deuteronomy 33:1-29. Scholars consider that the poem serves as Yahwistic declaration for the blessing of the future of Israel as a socially unified whole that will benefit and prosper through YHWH's beneficence. The poem relates YHWH's movement from the south from Mount Sinai, the mountain where He resides, to His entrance on the scene as a "formidable invading force."[11]

Isaiah 42[edit]

"Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 "He will not cry out or raise His voice, Nor make His voice heard in the street. 3 "A bruised reed He will not break And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 "He will not be disheartened or crushed Until He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law."

— Isaiah 42:1-4

Muslim tradition holds that Isaiah 42 predicted the coming of a servant associated with Qedar, the second son of Ishmael and who went on to live his life in Arabia, and so interpret this passage as a prophecy of Muhammad.[12] According to the Hadiths, Muslims like Abd Allah ibn Amr ibn al-As have believed that Muhammad was the servant of Isaiah 42 during his very lifetime.[13]

In 1892, Isaiah 42:1-4 was first identified by Bernhard Duhm as one of the Servant songs in the Book of Isaiah,[14] along with Is. 49:1-6; Is. 50:4-7; and Is. 52:13-53:12. The Old Testament identifies the servant of the Servant songs as the Israelite's in Is. 41:8-9; Is. 44:1; Is. 44:21; Is. 45:4; Is. 48:20 and Is. 49:3.[15][16] John Barton and John Muddiman write that "The idea of a 'servant' played a small part in the earlier chapters, being used as a designation of the unworthy Eliakim in 22:20 and of the figure of David in 37:35, but it now comes to the fore as a description of major significance, the noun being used more than 20 times in chs. 40-55. Its first usage is obviously important in establishing the sense in which we are to understand it, and here it is clear that the community of Israel/Jacob is so described."[15]

Haggai 2:7[edit]

I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts.

— Haggai 2:7

According to some Muslim interpreters, Haggai's promise for the coming of wealth in the future to be a reference to Muhammad's advent. The wealth, himada in Hebrew, is closely rooted to the Arabic hemed, which is personalized in the Arabic name Ahmad, an abbreviation of Muhammad. Muslims believe this is further indicated by Haggai's saying that the himada will go on to bring shalom, something Muslims believe was accomplished by Muhammad.[12]

According to scholars, Haggai 2:1-9 is discussing YHWH's eschatological return in the future in order to restore and rebuild the Temple. In verse 6, the passage says that God's return is in "a little while once more" (Haggai 2:6), the language being used to accentuate its imminence, while the Hebrew phrase for "once more" refers to earlier events, specifically in the context of Haggai 2, alluding to God's initial appearance on Mount Sinai. YHWH's return causes all of creation ("the heavens and the earth") and the nations (v. 7) to shake, and the nations respond in submission by bringing all their wealth to YHWH's house, the temple.[17][18]

Song of Solomon 5:16[edit]

His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem. (Hebrew: חִכּוֹ מַמְתַקִּים וְכֻלּוֹ מַחֲמַדִּים זֶה דוֹדִי וְזֶה רֵעִי בְּנוֹת יְרוּשָׁלִָם‎, romanizedḥik·kōw mam·ṯaq·qîm wə·ḵul·lōw ma·ḥă·mad·dîm zeh ḏō·w·ḏî wə·zeh rê·‘î bə·nō·wṯ yə·rū·šā·lim.)[19]

As inspired by verses of the Qur'an, a number of Muslims insist that Muhammad (Arabic: مُحَمَّد‎, consonant letters: m-ħ-m-d) is mentioned in the Song of Songs (5:16) as 'Mahammaddim' (Hebrew: מַחֲמַדִּים‎, consonant letters: m-ħ-m-d-y-m), even though the latter word is usually translated as "desirable" or "lovely".[20]

In contrast, imam and scholar Salih Al-Munajjid states,[21]

"We also referred to some experts in the Hebrew language, who confirmed the soundness of these translations, and confirmed that the word mahammadim is not a proper noun or name; rather it signifies beauty and desire, and it is mentioned in many places in the Old Testament with such meanings. Furthermore, the context here rules out any interpretation of the word as referring to Muhammad. The entire book of the Song of Solomon is a love poem between a man and a woman, with erotic phrases. The context is far removed from referring to the Prophet who would come at the end of time, namely Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him). As for the English translation of this word (mahammadim), they mentioned words such as loveliness, charm, desire and delight, which do not even come close to the meaning of names such as Ahmad or Muhammad.

John 14:16-17[edit]

I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

— John 14:16-17

Many Muslim believe that the Paraclete in this passage from the Gospel of John is referring to Muhammad.[22] The first recorded attempt to connect the Paraclete in John to Muhammad is recorded in Ibn Ishaq's Kitab al-Maghazi in the second half of the 8th century, and the passage of the Paraclete had a pre-Islamic history of being tied to leaders of heterodox Christian sects, such as the Montanists tying the Paraclete to the found of the sect Montanus, and the Manichaeans doing so with Mani.[23] Ibn Ishaq modifies the Johannine passage several times when translating it into Arabic in order to make it consistent with Islamic teachings on Muhammad, and so while the passage says that Jesus is responsible for sending the Paraclete, Ibn Ishaq rewrites this to say that God sent the Paraclete, and Ibn Ishaq also replaces all references of "the Father" with the Arabic term for "Lord" in order to accommodate for the Islamic teaching that God is no Father to anyone.[23] A few Muslim commentators, such as David Benjamin Keldani (1928), have argued the theory that the original Greek word used was periklytos, meaning famed, illustrious, or praiseworthy, rendered in Arabic as Ahmad (another name of Muhammad), and that this was substituted by Christians with parakletos.[24][25] However, there is not one Greek manuscript in existence with this reading, all Greek manuscripts read παράκλητος parakletos.[26]

Critical scholarship recognizes that the Paraclete, or Advocate, is mentioned five times throughout John's Gospel (John 14:16-17; 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:7-11; 16:13-17). The Advocate, called the "Spirit of Truth" is considered the Holy Spirit; a replacement for Jesus into the world after Jesus leaves, still dependent on Christ (14:6) and sent by the Father at Jesus' demand (14:16, 24). The Spirit is said to permanently remain with the disciples (14:18-21). John's Gospel says that the world cannot receive the Spirit though the Spirit can abide within the disciples (14:17). The Spirit will accuse the world of sin (16:9) and glorify Jesus (16:14), and though it is 'the spirit that gives life', the spirit does not add new revelations to those of Jesus.[27] Jesus promise to send the Advocate in the Gospel of John is later fulfilled in John 20:19-23 as Jesus bestows the Spirit upon his disciples.[28]

8th century Christian commentary[edit]

In Łewond's version of the correspondence between the Byzantine emperor Leo III the Isaurian and the Umayyad caliph Umar II,[29] the following is attributed to Leo:

“We recognize Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as the authors of the Gospel, and yet I know that this truth, recognized by us Christians wounds you, so that you seek to find accomplices for your lie. In brief, you admit that we say that it was written by God, and brought down from the heavens, as you pretend for your Furqan, although we know that it was `Umar, Abu Turab and Salman the Persian, who composed that, even though the rumor has got round among you that God sent it down from heavens…. [God] has chosen the way of sending [the human race] Prophets, and it is for this reason that the Lord, having finished all those things that He had decided on beforehand, and having fore-announced His incarnation by way of His prophets, yet knowing that men still had need of assistance from God, promised to send the Holy Spirit, under the name of Paraclete, (Consoler), to console them in the distress and sorrow they felt at the departure of their Lord and Master. I reiterate, that it was for this cause alone that Jesus called the Holy Spirit the Paraclete, since He sought to console His disciples for His departure, and recall to them all that he had said, all that He had done before their eyes, all that they were called to propagate throughout the world by their witness. Paraclete thus signifies "consoler", while Muhammad means "to give thanks", or "to give grace", a meaning which has no connection whatever with the word Paraclete.” [30]

Gospel of Barnabas[edit]

The Gospel of Barnabas is not a part of the Bible, and is generally seen as a fabrication made during the Renaissance.[31][32][33] It has at times been claimed to be at least partly apocryphal or part of an "original" Bible.[citation needed]

The name of "Muhammad" is frequently mentioned verbatim in the Gospel of Barnabas, as in the following quote:

Jesus answered: "The name of the Messiah is admirable, for God himself gave him the name when he had created his soul, and placed it in a celestial splendour. God said: 'Wait Mohammed; for thy sake I will to create paradise, the world, and a great multitude of creatures, whereof I make thee a present, insomuch that whoso bless thee shall be blessed, and whoso shall curse thee shall be accursed. When I shall send thee into the world I shall send thee as my messenger of salvation, and thy word shall be true, insomuch that heaven and earth shall fail, but thy faith shall never fail.' Mohammed is his blessed name." Then the crowd lifted up their voices, saying: "O God, send us thy messenger: O Admirable One, come quickly for the salvation of the world!"

Christian interpretations[edit]

Daniel 7[edit]

The prophecy of the "Four kingdoms of Daniel" in Chapter 7 of the Book of Daniel has been interpreted by Christians as a prediction of Muhammad. Eulogius of Córdoba argued that Muhammad was the Fourth Beast in the prophesy.[34] Another medieval monk, Alvarus, argued that Muhammad was the "eleventh king" that emerged from the Fourth Beast. According to historian John Tolan,

In Daniel's description of this beast, Alvarus sees the career of the Antichrist Muhammad and his disciples. This eleventh king who arises after the others, "diverse from the first," who subdues three kings, is it not Muhammad, who vanquished the Greeks, the Romans, and the Goths? "And he shall speak great words against the most High": did he not deny the divinity of Christ, thus, according to Saint John, showing himself to be an Antichrist? He "shall wear out the saints of the most High": is this not a prediction of the persecutions inflicted by the Muslims, in particular of the martyrdoms of Córdoba? He will "think to change times and laws": did he not introduce the Muslim calendar and the Koran? "[35]

New Testament[edit]

Martyrdom of Eulogius of Cordova, 17th century

Early Christian writers claimed that Muhammad was predicted in the Bible, as a forthcoming Antichrist, false prophet, or false Messiah. According to historian Albert Hourani, initial interactions between Christian and Muslim peoples were characterized by hostility on the part of the Europeans because they interpreted Muhammad in a biblical context as being the Antichrist.[36] The earliest known exponent of this view was John of Damascus in the 7th century.[37] In c. 850 CE about 50 Christians were killed in Muslim-ruled Córdoba, Andalusia after a Christian priest named Perfectus said that Muhammad was one of the "false Christs" prophesied in Matthew 24:16.42. The monk Eulogius of Córdoba (c. 800-859 AD) justified the views of Perfectus and the other Martyrs of Córdoba, saying that they witnessed "against the angel of Satan and forerunner of Antichrist...Muhammad, the heresiarch."[38] John Calvin argued that "The name Antichrist does not designate a single individual, but a single kingdom which extends throughout many generations", saying that both Muhammad and the Catholic popes were "antichrists".[38] According to Martin Luther, Muhammad was "The Second Woe" in the Book of Revelation 9:13–21.[39][40]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Griffith, Sidney. "[ The Gospel, the Qur’ān, and the Presentation of Jesus in al-Ya‘qūbī’s Ta’rīkh]", in Reeves, John C., ed. Bible and Qurʼān: Essays in scriptural intertextuality. Vol. 24. Brill, 2004, 139-142.
  2. ^ a b McAuliffe, Jane Dammen. "Connecting Moses and Muhammad". In Andrew Rippin and Roberto Tottoli, eds. Books and Written Culture of the Islamic World: Studies Presented to Claude Gilliot on the Occasion of his 75th Birthday (Brill 2014): 335.
  3. ^ al-Maghribi, Al-Samawal; Confutation of the Jews (in Arabic). Syria: Dar Al Qalam, 1989, 75
  4. ^ al-Maghribi, Al-Samawal; Confutation of the Jews (in Arabic). Syria: Dar Al Qalam, 1989, 77
  5. ^ Muhammad Ali and Zahid Aziz, English Translation of the Holy Quran: With Explanatory Notes, Revised 2010 edition, 627, 732
  6. ^ Gülen, Fethullah. The messenger of God Muhammad: An analysis of the Prophet's life. Tughra Books, 2000, 11. Link
  7. ^ Brueggemann, Walter. Deuteronomy. Abingdon Press, 2001, 192-197
  8. ^ Barton, John, and John Muddiman, eds. The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford University Press, 2007, 866, 963.
  9. ^ al-Maghribi, Al-Samawal; Confutation of the Jews (in Arabic). Syria: Dar Al Qalam, 1989, 67
  10. ^ Muhammad Ali and Zahid Aziz, English Translation of the Holy Quran: With Explanatory Notes, Revised 2010 edition, 211
  11. ^ Brueggemann, Walter. Deuteronomy. Abingdon Press, 2001, 284-286.
  12. ^ a b Zepp, Ira G. A Muslim Primer: Beginner's Guide to Islam. Vol. 1. University of Arkansas Press, 2000, 50-51
  13. ^ "Hadith - Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 246".
  14. ^ Bernhard Duhm, Das Buch Jesaia (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1892),
  15. ^ a b Barton, John, and John Muddiman, eds. The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford University Press, 2007, 467-477
  16. ^ Goldingay, John. The theology of the Book of Isaiah. InterVarsity Press, 2014, 61-74.
  17. ^ Boda, Mark J. "The NIV Application Commentary: Haggai, Zechariah." 2004, 124-125.
  18. ^ Coggins, Richard J., and Jin H. Han. Six Minor Prophets Through the Centuries: Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Vol. 34. John Wiley & Sons, 2011, 142-147.
  19. ^ "Song of Solomon 5:15-16". Bible Hub. Bible Hub. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  20. ^ Richard S. Hess; Gordon J. Wenham (1998). "Teaching the Old Testament in the Context of Islam". Make the Old Testament Live: From Curriculum to Classroom. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 138–139. ISBN 978-0-8028-4427-9. Retrieved 4 April 2013.
  21. ^ Salih Al-Munajjid (4 January 2017). "He is asking about the meaning of the word "Mahammadim" in the Song of Solomon in the Old Testament - Islam Question & Answer". Retrieved 11 August 2019.
  22. ^ Reynolds, Gabriel Said. The Emergence of Islam: Classical traditions in contemporary perspective. Fortress Press, 2012, 126
  23. ^ a b Anthony, Sean W. "Muḥammad, Menaḥem, and the Paraclete: new light on Ibn Isḥāq's (d. 150/767) Arabic version of John 15: 23–16: 1 1." Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 79.2 (2016): 255-257.
  24. ^ Donzel, E. Van and B. Lewis, Ch. Pellat. "Isa" in Encyclopedia of Islam Volume 4, 1997, 83.
  25. ^ Watt (1991) pp. 33–34
  26. ^ Reuben J. Swanson, ed., New Testament Greek Manuscripts: John. William Carey International University Press, 1998. Variant Readings Arranged in Horizontal Lines Against Codex Vaticanus – see John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7. Also see Nestle-Aland, eds., Novum Testamentum Graece, 28th ed. Stuttgart: Deutsche Biblegesellschaft, 2012.
  27. ^ Barton, John, and John Muddiman, eds. The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford University Press, 2007, 987-990
  28. ^ Hurtado, Larry. Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. Eerdmans, 2003, 397.
  29. ^ Hoyland, Robert G. Seeing Islam as others saw it: a survey and evaluation of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian writings on early Islam. Darwins Press, 1999, 499.
  30. ^ Arthur Jeffery, Ghevond's Text of the Correspondence Between `Umar II and Leo III. Harvard Theological Review. XXXVII, 1944, 269–332.
  31. ^ Cirillo, Luigi; Fremaux, Michel (1977). Évangile de Barnabé. Beauchesne. p. 88.
  32. ^ Ragg, L & L (1907). The Gospel of Barnabas. Oxford. pp. xi. ISBN 1-881316-15-7.
  33. ^ Joosten, Jan (April 2010). "The date and provenance of the Gospel of Barnabas". Journal of Theological Studies. 61 (1): 200–215. doi:10.1093/jts/flq010.
  34. ^ Quinn, Frederick, The Sum of All Heresies: The Image of Islam in Western Thought, Oxford University Press, 2008, p.30
  35. ^ John Tolan, Saracens: Islam in the Medieval European Imagination, Columbia University Press. New York: 2002, p.81.
  36. ^ Hourani, Albert (1967). "Islam and the philosophers of history". Middle Eastern Studies. 3 (3): 206. doi:10.1080/00263206708700074.
  37. ^ Esposito, John L., The Oxford History of Islam: Oxford University Press, 1999, p.322.
  38. ^ a b McGinn, Bernard, Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with Evil, Columbia University Press. 2000, p.86; 212.
  39. ^ Melloni, Alberto (2017). Martin Luther: A Christian between Reforms and Modernity (1517-2017). Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co KG. p. 659. ISBN 9783110499025. Retrieved 14 August 2019.
  40. ^ Luther, Martin; Wengert, Timothy J. (2007). Luther's Spirituality. Paulist Press. p. 52. ISBN 9780809139491. Retrieved 14 August 2019.


  • al-Maghribi, Al-Samawal; Taweile, Abdulwahab. بذل المجهود في إفحام اليهود [Confuting the Jews] (in Arabic) (1st 1989 ed.). Syria: Dar Al-Qalam.
  • Brueggemann, Walter (2001). Deuteronomy. Abingdon Press.
  • Goldingay, John (2014). The theology of the Book of Isaiah. Tughra Books.
  • Gülen, Fethullah. The Messenger of God Muhammad (1st 1989 ed.). Tughra Books.
  • Muddiman, John; Barton, John (2007). The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford University Press.
  • Rubin, Uri (1995). The eye of the beholder: the life of Muḥammad as viewed by the early Muslims: a textual analysis. Darwin Press.
  • Zepp, Ira (2000). A Muslim Primer: Beginner's Guide to Islam. Vol. 1. University of Arkansas Press.