Birth of Jesus in Gospels and Qur’an
Out of the four Gospels only two, Matthew and Luke mentioned the birth of Jesus. Both agree that birth was a miraculous event and that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary but in detail, the two accounts differ greatly. Matthew has described the birth briefly (I: 18) while in Luke (1:27-38) it is in more detail. The birth of Jesus in the Qur’an has been mentioned in two Surahs; Al-Imran (3:42-49) and Maryam (19:16-35). Qur’an agrees, adds, differs, corrects or criticizes the Gospels account.
Following is a description of events as mentioned in Gospels and Qur’an.
1. Angel’s visit
Luke says that the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a Virgin Mary. The Angel came to her and said: Hail thou art a highly favoured women And when she saw him she was troubled at his saying and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the Angel said unto her; Fear not, Mary, for thou hast found favour with God. And behold, thou shall conceive in thy womb and bring forth a son and shall call his name Jesus Then said Mary unto the Angel; How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the Angel answered With God nothing shall be impossible. (Luke 1:26-39)
The same is Described in Qur’an
When the angels said; O Mary Allah has chosen you and made you pure and has preferred you above the women of creation. O Mary! Allah gives you good news of a Word from Him. His name will be the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and shall be one of those who are nearest to Allah. She said My Lord! How can I have a child when no man has touched me? He said Even so. Allah creates what He wills. When He has decreed something, He says to it only,
“Be and it is” (Qur’an 3:42-45)
Qur’an adds to the Gospel’s Account
According to Qur’an Mary had secluded herself in the eastern part of the temple for prayer and devotion to Allah. It was in this state of purity that angel Gabriel appeared before her in the form of a man. Seeing a man in her privacy she became frightened (rather than being tempted towards a handsome man) and said I seek refuge from you to (Allah)
Most Gracious: (come not near) if you do fear Allah. At this point, the angel introduced himself by saying I am only a messenger from your Lord to (announce) to you the gift of a righteous son. (Qur’an 19: 18-19)
2. Different places in different scriptures
Luke and Matthew differ greatly as to where Mary used to live when she conceived Jesus and where she went after the birth. Luke says When angel came to Mary she was living in Nazareth (a town in Galilee). She and Joseph then went to Bethlehem (a town in Judaea); Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and after the birth they went to Jerusalem and then back to Nazareth.
Matthew says Mary and Joseph used to live in Bethlehem, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, they then went to Egypt and from Egypt to Nazareth.
Qur’an says Mary lived in Jerusalem and secluded herself to the private eastern chambers of the temple. It was there that Angel Gabriel came. After she conceived Jesus she went to a distant area (could be Bethlehem) and after birth came back to Jerusalem.
3. Place of Birth
Luke and Matthew agree that Jesus was born in Bethlehem. Qur’an says she went to a distant area away from Jerusalem and it was there that Jesus was born. The name of this ‘distant area’ is not mentioned but many Quranic scholars say that it could be Bethlehem.
4. Events at birth
In the Gospels the events at birth are only mentioned in Luke who says that Mary and Joseph found shelter in a stable. Jesus was born there and Mary made a cradle for him in a manger. Shepherds near Bethlehem saw angels in the sky, singing glory of the Lord.
Qur’an says that when the pains of childbirth started, Mary went to a palm tree in a deserted area. Jesus was born there. In the moments of her anguish and grieve, angel spoke to her. By a miracle, a water stream came out around her and fresh ripe dates fell close to her.
5. Events shortly after the Birth
Matthew and to some extent Luke say that news of Jesus’s birth spread as King of Jews has been born. A promised Messiah who will restore the kingdom of Israel. Such news disturbed King Herod, who was the Roman ruler at that time so he ordered all boys above the age two, to be killed. According to Matthew, King Herod found out about Jesus by some men who studied stars and had come from the east to see the newborn Messiah. They first asked about him at Herod’s court in Jerusalem and then they followed the light of a star to Bethlehem. There they found Jesus and gave him gifts of gold.
Qur’an says after birth, Mary carried Jesus in her arms and returned back to her own people. According to Qur’an:
“They said O Mary! Indeed you have brought a thing that is mighty unheard of. O sister of Aaron, Your father was not a man who used to commit adultery nor your mother was an unchaste woman. Then she pointed to him. They said how could we talk to one who is child in cradle. He (Jesus) said; Verily I am a slave of Allah, he has given me the scriptures and made me a prophet. And he made me blessed wheresoever I be, and has enjoined on me prayer, and charity as long as I live.” (Qur’an 19:27-31)
It was probably this miracle, Jesus, speaking in the cradle, which spread as the news that a ‘Saviour’ of Israel has been born. News like these could have urged Herod to search for the baby and that ultimately led to flight of Mary with Jesus to Nazareth.
Genealogy of Jesus
Although Luke and Matthew say that Jesus was born without human intervention but then contradicts themselves by giving a human genealogy to Jesus. This was an attempt to prove that Jesus was the same Messiah, who according to biblical traditions, would have been a descendent of David. Luke and Matthew showed Mary as married to a person, named Joseph, called him as father of Jesus and then tried to portray Joseph as a descendent of David. While creating genealogy they again differed.
Matthew gave names of twenty-six persons between Adam and Jesus, while Luke gave names of forty-two persons of the same period.
Qur’an says that Mary was told that the Jesus would be the Messiah but always calls Jesus as son of Mary. Human genealogy of Jesus, Dividic descent of Jesus or Mary marrying to Joseph are the concepts, which Qur’an contradicts.
Doctrine of Divine sonship of Jesus
The early Christian theologians didn’t relate birth of Jesus with his divinity. But later it was connected with the doctrine of Divine sonship. The usual argument is, since he had no father so his father must be God.
Qur’an answers that birth of Adam was also a miracle as he was born not only without a father but without a mother also. Both were created by words of God. Qur’an says:
“The likeness of Jesus with Allah is as likeness of Adam. He created him with dust, then He said to him; Be! And he is.” (Qur’an 3:59)
By Mansoor Alhameed