The Misunderstanding of “the Messiah” in Islam and Its Ramifications, a post from Answering Muslims by Tony Costa


The irony with Islam and its relationship with Christianity and Judaism is that, it agrees on the one hand with Christianity that Jesus is the Messiah over against Judaism, which denies Jesus is the Messiah. However, Islam agrees with the Jews that Jesus was not the Son of God over against Christianity.

Muslims believe Jesus was the Messiah, but then agree with Judaism in trying to eradicate the messianic prophecies that point to Jesus as the Messiah!

As I noted before, the Qur’an never defines what “Messiah” means which demonstrates that Muhammad simply appropriated that title to Jesus as he heard Arab Christians use it as we would use “Jesus Christ”.

There is no indication in the Qur’an that Muhammad even knew what “Messiah” or its Greek equivalent “Christ” meant. Yet the Qur’an claims to be clear in its explanation of its contents, “We have sent down to thee the Book explaining all things” (Q 16:89; Yusuf Ali). If this is so, why is Messiah never defined?

What is strange however is that in the Qur’an 4:157 where it records the denial of the crucifixion and death of Jesus, it has the Jews claim that Jesus was the Messiah,

“And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger – they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain” (Pickthall; italics mine).

We know the “their” is referring to the Jews because in verses 154-156 of surah 4 the Jews are the intended referents. In Q 4:154 (cf. Q 2:63; 7:171) we have the story of Allah raising the mountain over the heads of the Jews and threatening to crush them if they do not keep the Sabbath according to the covenant Allah made with them. This story of course is nothing new as the Jews of Medina would have known about it as it is found in the Babylonian Talmud (Tractate Avodah Zarah 2b-3a), centuries before Muhammad, and the Jews of Medina would have relayed the story to Muhammad.

In Q 4:155 it speaks of the Jews slaying the prophets and being disbelievers except for a few. Then in Q 4:156 it mentions the Jews “speaking against Mary [the mother of Jesus] a tremendous calumny” (Pickthall). Where in the Qur’an does it mention this “tremendous calumny” against Mary? Nowhere. But scandalous statements are made against Mary (and Jesus) in the Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 106a,b; Shabbath 104b; Yebamoth 49b) including charges of adultery and licentiousness, which again Muhammad would have heard from the Jews of Medina.

In Q 4:157 we have a strange confession of the Jews that they slew “the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary”. While it would be understandable for the Jews to have said we slew the false Messiah Jesus, they do not according to the Qur’an. Which Jew in his / her right mind would have knowingly killed their Messiah, the King and Redeemer of Israel? Some Qur’anic translators have noted this peculiarity in the wording of the Qur’an to the point that they have tried to change the sense of 4:157 to mean that the Jews made this claim “in boast”. Notice of all the translations below of Q 4:157, they all correctly translate the verse but Yusuf Ali and Hilali-Khan insert the phrase “in boast” which I have highlighted in bold below.

Pickthall And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger – they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain.
Yusuf Ali That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Apostle of God”; – but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-
Hilali-Khan And because of their saying (in boast), “We killed Messiah ‘Iesa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), the Messenger of Allah,” – but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but the resemblance of ‘Iesa (Jesus) was put over another man (and they killed that man), and those who differ therein are full of doubts. They have no (certain) knowledge, they follow nothing but conjecture. For surely; they killed him not [i.e. ‘Iesa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary)]:
Shakir And their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, the apostle of Allah; and they did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but it appeared to them so (like Isa) and most surely those who differ therein are only in a doubt about it; they have no knowledge respecting it, but only follow a conjecture, and they killed him not for sure.
Sher Ali And for their saying, `We did slay the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of ALLAH;’ whereas they slew him not, nor did they bring about his death upon the cross, but he was made to appear to them like one crucified; and those who differ therein are certainly in a state of doubt about it; they have no certain knowledge thereof, but only pursue a conjecture; and they did not arrive at a certainty concerning it.
Khalifa And for claiming that they killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of GOD. In fact, they never killed him, they never crucified him – they were made to think that they did. All factions who are disputing in this matter are full of doubt concerning this issue. They possess no knowledge; they only conjecture. For certain, they never killed him.
Arberry and for their saying, ‘We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the Messenger of God’ — yet they did not slay him, neither crucified him, only a likeness of that was shown to them. Those who are at variance concerning him surely are in doubt regarding him; they have no knowledge of him, except the following of surmise; and they slew him not of a certainty — no indeed;
Palmer and for their saying, ‘Verily, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, the apostle of God’…. but they did not kill him, and they did not crucify him, but a similitude was made for them. And verily, those who differ about him are in doubt concerning him; they have no knowledge concerning him, but only follow an opinion. They did not kill him, for sure!
Rodwell And for their saying, “Verily we have slain the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, an Apostle of God.” Yet they slew him not, and they crucified him not, but they had only his likeness. And they who differed about him were in doubt concerning him: No sure knowledge had they about him, but followed only an opinion, and they did not really slay him,
Sale and have said, verily we have slain Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the apostle of God; yet they slew him not, neither crucified him, but he was represented [by one] in his likeness; and verily they who disagreed concerning him, were in a doubt as to this [matter], and had no [sure] knowledge thereof, but followed only an [uncertain] opinion. They did not really kill him;

Why was the word “in boast” added by Yusuf Ali and Hilali-Khan? Obviously because these two translators saw a problem that you and I see. Which Jew with full knowledge would have killed their Messiah? None. However, if the Jews wanted to mock Jesus as a false Messiah they would have boasted with sarcasm much like the Roman soldiers who mocked Jesus as King by crowning Him with a crown of thorns, placing a robe on Him, and giving Him a reed as a mock scepter (Mark 15:17-19; Matthew 27:28-30; John 19:2-4). To add the word “in boast” is to add to the Qur’an words that are not in the original Arabic text which Muslims always tell us is the true and authentic Qur’an. Are these translators guilty of corrupting the text of the Qur’an? The Qur’an claims to be “clear” as we see in Q 11:1, “Alif Lam Ra. A Bookwhose verses are set clear, and then distinguished, from One All-wise, All-aware” (Arberry; italics mine). Did you notice the Arabic letters at the beginning of this verse, “alif”, “lam”, and “ra”? What do they mean? Hilali-Khan states about these letters, “These letters are one of the miracles of the Qur’an and none but Allah (Alone) knows their meanings”. This is an incredible statement as these letters appear in the same verse that says the verses of the Qur’an are “clear” and yet the meaning of these Arabic letters are ….unclear! You will also notice that the translator Khalifa in his translation above tries to avoid the problem by not translating the quote of the Jews in the first person plural as the Arabic has it, “we” killed, slew, have slain Jesus the Messiah. Khalifa translates the phrase as a reference to the Jews in the third person plural, “And for claiming that they killed the Messiah, Jesus (italics mine)”. Notice the quote by the Jews in the first person plural is missing. Is Khalifa guilty of corrupting the Arabic text of the Qur’an here?

One of the reasons that Q 4:157 claims the Jews slew their Messiah knowingly is most likely due to the fact that Muhammad merely assumed that “Messiah” (al-Masih in Arabic) was simply another name or title for Jesus and that Muhammad was completely and utterly unaware of the doctrine of the Messiah in the Old Testament much less the Talmud including its ramifications. The ‘redeemer’ aspect of the Messiah in Judaism was completely unknown to Muhammad. He clearly did not understand the Jewish doctrine of the Messiah, and even much worse, he did not understand the New Testament understanding of Jesus the Messiah. As a result, Islam presents a Jesus who is completely foreign to the historical Jesus and has reduced Him to a copy cat of Muhammad. As a result Islam has given Muslims “another Jesus” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4).

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7 Responses to The Misunderstanding of “the Messiah” in Islam and Its Ramifications, a post from Answering Muslims by Tony Costa

  1. θ says:

    Qur’an just refers to a less-known “lay Moshiach” of the Jewish theologians in Qumran scroll, or a postulation of the slain Moshiach ben Joseph who is one of the important messianic figures in the Rabbinical circle especially at the Talmud. Qur’an depicts the term “Christ” or “Al-Masih” as a mere honorary title of Jesus so far, not (yet) for the role of an expected Messiah who was supposed to bring peace for all.
    It is like another title of “Peter” (Stone of church) which Simon received in Gospel long before he really run the 1st papacy of Rome.

    1QS lists a Prophet, a priest and a lay Moshiach. 1QS dates from around 100 BCE.
    Dead Sea Scroll. 1QS.
    Until the coming of the prophet and of both the priestly and the lay Messiah, these men are not to depart from the clear intent of the Law to walk in any way in the stubbornness of their own hearts. They shall judge by the original laws in which the members of the community were schooled from the beginning.
    Of the daily conduct of the faithful.
    These are the ordinances for the conduct of any man that seeks after inner vision, in regard alike to human relations, the regulation of affairs on specific occasions, and the balanced appraisal of his fellow men, to the end that he may perform at all time the will of God which has been revealed as pertinent to this or that occasion; that he may at all times accommodate theory to circumstance; and that he may come to make the proper distinctions and evaluate the sons of Zadok (i.e. the priests) and the elect of any particular epoch by the standard of their spiritual attitudes, and appraise them by that criterion, thus conforming to the will of God, as He has commanded.

    The four craftsmen are discussed in Talmud, both by Jerusalem Sukkah 5:2 and Babylonian Sukkah 52b. Simeon Hasida 300–273 BCE as cited by Hana bar Bizna (or others say Rabbi Isaac as cited by Rabbi Berekiah) identified Messiah ben Joseph as one of four craftsmen in Jerusalem Sukkah 5:2 and Babylonian Sukkah 52b.

    Nowhere is the Tanachic Moshiach prophesied to be a Son of God, let alone God.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The Messiah or the Son of God is not the main theme of Jesus’ preaching. In Pauline epistles are. Jesus keeps playing a riddle – of what he is – with Jews and disciples. Even John the Baptist was left in doubt on what Jesus really is. Moreover, apparently Jesus himself happens to agree with what contemporary Jews at his time have believed of what the Messiah is, as he tends to not correct them, such as:
    (i) Messiah is not that “like Son of Man” whom Daniel had spoken about (Jn 12:34).
    Jn 12:34
    The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?

    (ii) Messiah could be or may be not a David’s son (Mk 12:37).
    Apparently, there’s debate among Jews and other people on a possibility the Messiah is not a Judah person. The verse Mk 12:37 is certainly a difficult thing to understand in Jewish theology since almost all Jews believe Messiah shall be one Davidic branch. How can the people be glad hearing Jesus’ explanation that the Messiah shall not come from David’s lineage? Is the verse just a fiction, or is there another bloodline from which the Messiah shall come in the Jewish theology?
    Mk 12:37
    David therefore himself calleth him Lord; and whence is he then his son? And the common people heard him gladly.
    Jn 7:42
    Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was?

    (iii) There’s no belief in the early Christians and Jews that their Messiah shall be that very person of the suffering servant of Isaiah 53.
    Lk 9
    44 Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of man shall be delivered into the hands of men.45 But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying.

    (iv) Rather than being a dead servant of Isaiah 53, the Messiah whom Jews wait shall be rather an individual who abides forever (Jn 12:34, Jn 16:17-18). Even disciples don’t espouse the belief Jesus is that suffering servant.
    Jn 16
    17 Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father?18 They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? we cannot tell what he saith.

    (v) Messiah comes from the place nobody knows (Jn 7:27).
    Jn 7:27
    Howbeit we know this man whence he is: but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is.

    (vi) The title “Son of God” is just used very loosely for the man who has a cognitive potency above average people have. It has nothing to do with divine nature or preexistence (Jn 1:49).
    Jn 1
    48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.

    (vii) John the Baptist affirms that the term Son of God correlates with the external gift from heaven, not an internal nature (John 3:26-27). Hence, we have the foremost testimony from his own peer-Prophet that actually Jesus’ ability is not of his nature, but from the outside. Ny nature Jesus is just a man who can do nothing if not permitted to do so.
    Jn 3
    26 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Mostly the concept of Christ in the Pauline epistles is not based on the Tanach’s verses. It is Paul himself who invented and coined several new terms and new narratives for his theology. No one can find reference of Philippians 2:6-11 (Kenosis) in the Tanach. Not Romans 1:20 (Godhead) either. Not Colossians 1:15 (Firstborn of creation) either. Not Ephesians 4:9 (harrowing in hell) either. Not even a superfluous designation of the divine title “gods” for devil in 2 Corinthians 4:4.

  4. madmanna says:

    Paul interprets the life and death of Jesus. His theology follows logically the life of Christ. It’s not incoherently mixed up like the Koran. The tanach is not the time and place.

  5. Anonymous says:

    “madmanna says: Paul interprets the life and death of Jesus. His theology follows logically the life of Christ. ”

    Four Gospels also never teach Kenosis, Godhead, Firstborn of creation, harrowing in hell, let alone divinity of devil. No one can find reference of those terms in four Gospels.

    For instance, Kenosis.
    The verb form Kenoo (making void) occurs five times in the NT, but no one appears in Gospels or in epistles other than Pauline epistles. Only Paul uses it in Rom 4:14, 1 Cor 1:17, 1 Cor 9:15, 2 Cor .9:3, Phil 2:7.
    On other hands, it is John the Baptist who rather displays an attitude less than Kenosis – but using other word “elattousthai” for it – when he compares himself with Jesus, “he must become greater; I must become less” (Jn 3:30). Is John Son of God rather than Jesus?

  6. madmanna says:

    By God’s grace and wisdom the gospels are further revealed by the rest of the NT revelation.

    The gospels are not the whole of what God reveals about Christ.

    God gave Paul and others further revelation. The gospels are the foundation which God builds upon to make the house of revelation complete. 66 books in all.

    The incarnation is the Word making himself of no reputation:

    The Attitude of Christ
    (Isaiah 52:13-15)

    5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

  7. Anonymous says:

    “madmanna says: The gospels are not the whole of what God reveals about Christ.God gave Paul and others further revelation. The gospels are the foundation which God builds upon to make the house of revelation complete. 66 books in all.The incarnation is the Word making himself of no reputation:”

    We shall not believe all words of Paul. It is incumbent for everyone to be extra careful to test all words of Paul. If his words concur with what the Tanach and Jesus said, they are true. If his words are new things, they are false and his own folly on confidence of boasting.
    Paul contradicts Jesus in many things. Even worse he contradicts his own words in confusion. By his words Paul tells he isn’t sure that he shall be saved.

    Paul condemns himself when he preaches things of his inventions other than Gospel.
    1Cor 9:16
    For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel.
    2Cor 11:17
    That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting.

    The word of Jesus is what matters for salvation.
    Jn 5:24
    Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.
    Jn 6:68
    Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.
    Mt 24:35
    Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

    Paul confesses he is an appeaser of men in all things, hence he is not servant of Christ.
    Gal 1:10
    For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.
    1Cor 10:33
    Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

    Paul also isn’t sure that he shall be saved.
    1Cor 4:4
    For I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified.

    Paul ignorantly lied about the law. There’s no law whatsoever of forbidding women to speak in the churches except one of Rabbinical precepts.
    1Cor 14:34
    Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law.

    Paul confesses he inserts his own opinions. There are so many Paul’s opinions in his epistles that are not synonymous to the Word of God.
    1Cor 7
    6 But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment.12 But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away. 25 Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.

    Paul confesses he makes himself a servant of all men rather than a Christ’s servant.
    1Cor 9
    19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more.20 And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law;
    Gal 1:10
    For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.

    Paul even contradicts himself over the significance of head for the body in just one epistle.
    1Cor 11:3
    But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
    1Cor 12:21
    And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

    Paul says that the crucifixion or blood of Jesus doesn’t purge the sins whatsoever, and doesn’t make a valuable faith at all. At least his cross just reconciles all things but not atones sins.
    1Cor 15:17
    And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
    Col 1:20
    And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

    List of 25 Contradictions Expounded Below
    • Jesus Says Not To Eat Meat Sacrificed to Idols, But Paul Says It Is Ok
    • Jesus Says The Law Continues, But Paul Says No
    • Paul Says The Pharisees Followed The Law Rigorously, But Jesus Says They Were Lax About The Law
    • Jesus Says Salvation Initiates And Continues By Repentance From Sin and Obedience Besides Faith; Paul Says This is Heresy
    • Jesus Tells Apostles To Teach His Commands Given Prior to HisAscension While In The Flesh, But Paul Says Not To Do So
    • Paul Says Elders Are Entitled To Pay for ‘Preaching & Teaching,’ But Jesus Says No
    • Jesus Teaches There Are Only 12 Apostles Into Eternity, But Paul Adds Himself To The List As a Thirteenth
    • Paul Exhorts Celibacy, But Jesus Clearly Says It is A Choice Not Within Everyone’s Power
    • Jesus Says There Is One Pastor and Teacher (Himself), But Paul Says There Are Many Pastors and Teachers
    • Paul Says God Is The God of the Dead, But Jesus Says God Is Not The God of the Dead
    • Paul Says God Does Not Live in Temples Made of Human Hands, But Jesus Says He Does
    • Jesus says Nations Of The World Are Under Satan, But Paul Says Their Rulers Are Agents of God
    • Jesus Teaches Rapture is Of Evil Ones First, But Paul Teaches The Opposite
    • Jesus Says A Call Is Revocable, But Paul Says It Is Irrevocable
    • Jesus Says Some Are Righteous, But Paul Says It Is Impossible
    • Paul Excludes Eating With Sinners But Christ’s Example We Are To Follow, and the Lost Sheep Parable, Is Contrary
    • Paul Teaches We Are Eternally Secure, But Jesus Teaches Insecurity to a Sinning Believer
    • Paul Teaches In Original Sin But Jesus Contradicts
    • Jesus’ Command About Calling Anyone Fool Is Violated by Paul
    • Paul Denies Obedience Grants Any Righteousness Unto Life, But Jesus Says It Does
    • Jesus Sends The Apostles to Baptize, But Paul Says Jesus Did Not Send Him to Baptize
    • Jesus Says the Merciful Receive Mercy, But Paul Says Only Those God Chooses Arbitrarily Will Receive Mercy
    • Paul Says Salvation Does Not Depend Upon Exertion, But Jesus Says It Does
    • Paul Says He Could Be Justified of The Sin that Never Could be Justified under the Law given Moses (Blasphemy), but Jesus says to the contrary that it is The Unpardonable Sin.
    • Paul Says Flesh will not inherit the Kingdom of God, but Jesus in Flesh ascended to heaven, and promises to resurrect our bodies to heaven, giving us the same physical resurrection that Jesus had.
    Below, one by one we discuss in full each point.

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