If you open a Bible, you will find four Gospels. So why does the Qur’an speak of only one Gospel? This fourth episode of Reasons for Our Hope will lead us to discover two distinct visions of God and God’s speech in Islam and Christianity


If you open a Bible, you will find four gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. So why does the Qur’an, the scripture of Islam, speak of only one Gospel? In order to answer this question, we have to step back and ask more basic questions: What is the place of the gospels in Christianity? What is the Qur’an’s view of scripture?


These questions will lead us to discover two distinct visions of God and God’s speech. In Islam a scripture is a divine book, brought from heaven to earth by an angel to a prophet. The author of the scripture is God. The prophet is only the mouthpiece of the divine word. This is why Qur’an 3:48 declares that God will teach Jesus “the Scripture and wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel.” In other words, God is the author of the Gospel and He gives this book to Jesus.  Jesus is just one in a line of prophets honored with a holy book: Moses received at-Tawrah (the Hebrew Torah), David received az-Zabur (the Psalms), and Muhammad received the Qur’an.


There are some debates in Islam over these scriptures: how many are they? are they eternal or created? But the basic picture of scripture in Islam is widely agreed upon. Yet Muslims disagree about exactly what the Gospel of Jesus looked like—a topic we will address in a future video. So what is the Christian idea of the “Gospel”?


Saint Paul, writing about 25 years after Christ: 


“For I am not ashamed of the Gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith.” (Rom 1:16).


What did he mean by “Gospel”? “Gospel” comes from a Greek word that means “good news”—it is related to the Hebrew verb basar, which is used in the Old Testament for the good news of victory in battle. The same root is also found in the Qur’an in the word bushra.


The earliest Christians described Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection as good news, a “Gospel.” At first this was a proclamation shared in communities as an oral message, based on the eyewitness reports of the apostles. When it came time to compose written accounts of Jesus’ saving work, authors naturally employed the term Gospel for them. Thus, at the very opening of Mark we read: “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1)


For this reason early Christians did not speak about a “gospel of Mark” but “the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Mark”. Thus, the Gospel for Christians was not conceived as a book given to Jesus or taught to him by God. Rather, the Gospel is Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection made up of “deeds and words in inner unity” (DV 2). To this the four gospels give authoritative witness.


God willed that the witness to Christ be enriched by four complementary proclamations. Sometimes the same word is used to mean different things—dessert can mean fruit to some but ice cream to others. So [too] the word “Gospel” means distinctive things in Islam and Christianity.


Why does this distinction matter to the larger vision of both Islam and Christianity? That is the question for our next video.


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Missed our previous episodes? Here you go:


Jesus in the Bible and the Qur’an - An Overview


Many Prophets, One Message. The Place of Jesus in the Qur’an


The Savior. The Place of Jesus in the Bible


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