Muhammad and the Bible
|Part of a series on|
|Part of a series on the|
|Bible book Bible portal|
Arguments that prophecies of Muhammad in the Bible presaged his birth, teachings, and death have formed part of Muslim tradition from the early history of Muhammad's Ummah (Arabic: أُمَّـة, Community), although Christians like John of Damascus, Martin Luther and John Calvin have interpreted Muhammad as being the Antichrist. However, many other Christian figures have taken alternate approaches.
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 Jewish Tanakh 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 Israelite's or members of the faithful community. The apocryphal Gospel of Barnabas, which explicitly mentions Muhammad, has also been identified as an ancient prediction about the Prophet, but this book is widely recognized by scholars as a fabrication from the Early Modern Age.
Biblical verses claimed to be prophecies of Muhammad
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 Muslim scholars. Al-Samawal al-Maghribi, a medieval Jewish mathematician who converted to Islam, pointed to Deuteronomy 18:18 in his book Confutation of the Jews as a prophecy fulfilled by Muhammad. 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. 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.
Historians interpret Deuteronomy 18:18 as referring to a future member of the community of Israel who reenacts the function of Moses, serving as act 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." The Gospels of Matthew and John both infer Jesus to be the prophet like Moses from Deuteronomy 18, not Muhammad.
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. Since, many Muslim scholars have looked to Deuteronomy 33 as containing a prophetic prediction of Muhammad.
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 enterance on the scene as a "formidable invading force."
The entire vision will be to you like the words of a sealed book, which when they give it to the one who is literate, saying, “Please read this,” he will say, “I cannot, for it is sealed.” 12 Then the book will be given to the one who is illiterate, saying, "Please read this." And he will say, "I cannot read."— Isaiah 29:11-12
Muslims interpret this verse as a prophecy of Muhammad, as tradition says that when the Archangel Gabriel commanded Muhammad to read something, he replied "I am no reader." Old Testament scholars believe that this passage refers to members of the Judahite community intentionally ignoring God's warnings of judgment.
"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. 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.
In 1892, Isaiah 42:1-4 was first identified by Bernhard Duhm as one of the Servant songs in the Book of Isaiah, 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. 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."
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.
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.
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 scholars have argued that the Greek words paraklytos (comforter) and periklutos (famous/illustrious) were used interchangeably, and therefore, these verses constitute Jesus prophesying the coming of Muhammad. However, there is not one Greek manuscript in existence with this reading, all Greek manuscripts read παράκλητος parakletos.
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. 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.
Gospel of Barnabas
Some Muslims including Muhammad Abu Zahra claim that changes were made to the present-day canon of the Christian Bible, by excluding material that represented the authentic message of Jesus, claiming that the authentic tradition is represented in the Gospel of Barnabas, which contains predictions of Muhammad. A later Muslim writer, Ata ur-Rahîm, claimed that "The Gospel Barnabas was accepted as a Canonical Gospel in the churches of Alexandria up until 325". The Gospel of Barnabas is generally seen to be a fabrication made during the Renaissance.
Early Christian writers claimed that Muhammad was predicted in the Bible, as a forthcoming Antichrist, false prophet, or false Messiah. According to 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. The earliest known exponent of this view was John of Damascus in the 7th century. 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...Muhammed, the heresiarch." 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".
The prophecy of the "Four kingdoms of Daniel" in Chapter 7 of the Book of Daniel has also been interpreted by Christians as a prediction of Muhammad. Eulogius argued that Muhammad was the Fourth Beast in the prophesy. 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? "
Since the seventh century, Muhammad's name has been the focus of several stereotypes. Greek and Latin sources presented exaggerated and sometimes wrong stereotypes in literature, and the orthographic forms, which varied among them, were shared by two Western cultures: Spain and France. These variants and forms of Muhammad's name formulated stereotypes that molded the opinion and feelings of the West toward the leader of the new religion. Their references played a principal role in introducing Muhammad and his religion to the West as a false prophet who wrote the Koran, a Saracen prince or deity, the biblical beast, a schismatic from Christianity, a satanic creature, and the Antichrist.
The 1910 Catholic Encyclopedia holds that "contradictory opinions have been expressed by scholars in the last three centuries" about Muhammad’s "moral character and sincerity" since "Many of these opinions are biased either by an extreme hatred of Islam and its founder or by an extreme admiration, coupled with a hatred of Christianity."
- 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.
- al-Maghribi, Al-Samawal; Confutation of the Jews (in Arabic). Syria: Dar Al Qalam, 1989, 75
- al-Maghribi, Al-Samawal; Confutation of the Jews (in Arabic). Syria: Dar Al Qalam, 1989, 77
- Muhammad Ali and Zahid Aziz, English Translation of the Holy Quran: With Explanatory Notes, Revised 2010 edition, 627, 732
- Gülen, Fethullah. The messenger of God Muhammad: An analysis of the Prophet's life. Tughra Books, 2000, 11. Link
- Brueggemann, Walter. Deuteronomy. Abingdon Press, 2001, 192-197
- Barton, John, and John Muddiman, eds. The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford University Press, 2007, 866, 963.
- al-Maghribi, Al-Samawal; Confutation of the Jews (in Arabic). Syria: Dar Al Qalam, 1989, 67
- Muhammad Ali and Zahid Aziz, English Translation of the Holy Quran: With Explanatory Notes, Revised 2010 edition, 211
- Brueggemann, Walter. Deuteronomy. Abingdon Press, 2001, 284-286.
- Barton, John, and John Muddiman, eds. The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford University Press, 2007, 458-459
- Zepp, Ira G. A Muslim Primer: Beginner's Guide to Islam. Vol. 1. University of Arkansas Press, 2000, 50-51
- Rubin, Uri. The eye of the beholder: the life of Muḥammad as viewed by the early Muslims: a textual analysis. Vol. 5. Darwin Pr, 1995.
- "Hadith - Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 246".
- Bernhard Duhm, Das Buch Jesaia (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1892),
- Barton, John, and John Muddiman, eds. The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford University Press, 2007, 467-477
- Goldingay, John. The theology of the Book of Isaiah. InterVarsity Press, 2014, 61-74.
- Boda, Mark J. "The NIV Application Commentary: Haggai, Zechariah. 2004, 124-125.
- 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.
- 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.
- Barton, John, and John Muddiman, eds. The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford University Press, 2007, 987-990
- Hurtado, Larry. Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. Eerdmans, 2003, 397.
- Leirvik, Oddbjørn (2002). "History as a Literary Weapon: The Gospel of Barnabas in Muslim-Christian Polemics". Studia Theologica. 56: 4. doi:10.1080/003933802760115417.
- Cirillo, Luigi; Fremaux, Michel (1977). Évangile de Barnabé. Beauchesne. p. 88.
- Ragg, L & L (1907). The Gospel of Barnabas. Oxford. pp. xi. ISBN 1-881316-15-7.
- 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.
- Hourani, Albert (1967). "Islam and the philosophers of history". Middle Eastern Studies. 3 (3): 206. doi:10.1080/00263206708700074.
- Esposito, John L., The Oxford History of Islam: Oxford University Press, 1999, p.322.
- McGinn, Bernard, Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with Evil, Columbia University Press. 2000, p.86; 212.
- Quinn, Frederick, The Sum of All Heresies: The Image of Islam in Western Thought, Oxford University Press, 2008, p.30
- John Tolan, Saracens: Islam in the Medieval European Imagination, Columbia University Press. New York: 2002, p.81.
- See Sbaihat, Ahlam (2015), "Stereotypes associated with real prototypes of the prophet of Islam's name till the 19th century"
- Oussani, Gabriel (1911). "Mohammed and Mohammedanism." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 10. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 11 Nov. 2018
- 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.