A CHRISTIAN CONSIDERS THE QUR'AN IN THE
LIGHT OF THE JUDEO-CHRISTIAN BIBLE.
Questions About the Nature of God.
By F. M. Perry, April 10, 2002.
In my first article in this series I reminded readers that the Qur'an refers to
the Judeo-Christian Bible as "the Book," and affirms "the Book" to be the
word of God. The following excerpts from an English language translation of
the Qur'an illustrate this fact.
"He has revealed to you the Book with truth, verifying that which is before it,
and He revealed the Taurat (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel) aforetime, a
guidance for the people, and He sent the Furqan (Criterion)." (Qur'an 3.3)
"Those to whom We have given the Book read it as it ought to be read. These
believe in it; and whoever disbelieves in it, these it is that are the losers."
As in my first article, I make the suggestion again that such commendation for
"the Book" by the Qur'an is incentive for Muslims to study "the Book" in
order to be fully informed concerning the word of God. My purpose in this
article is to help dispel, by closely examining the words of the Judeo-Christian
Bible, some misunderstandings that Muslims might have concerning the
nature of God as revealed in "the Book."
Both the Qur'an and "the Book" Affirm the Existence of Only One
The affirmation of the Qur'an is as follows:
"Allah bears witness that there is no god but He, and (so do) the angels and
those possessed of knowledge, maintaining His creation with justice; there is
no god but He, the Mighty, the Wise." (Qur'an 3.18).
"Say: He, Allah, is One. Allah is He on Whom all depend. He begets not, nor
is He begotten. And none is like Him." (Qur'an 112:1-4)
The affirmation of the Judeo-Christian Bible is similar.
"Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one! And you shall love the
Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
might." (From the Torah as given to Moses in Deuteronomy 6:4-5).
"'What commandment is the foremost of all?' Jesus answered, 'The foremost
is, Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord
your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,
and with all your strength.'" (The words of Jesus in Mark 12:28-30).
Since both the Qur'an and the Bible state that there is only one God, what are
the misunderstandings to which I have referred? It is not that the Qur'an and
the Bible disagree about the Oneness of God. I suggest that the problem is
perhaps that some Muslims and some Christians have disagreed concerning
the nature of God. We must be careful, indeed, in drawing conclusions about
the nature of God.
Moses learned that we must not question God as to who He is. When Moses
asked God His name, God replied, "I AM WHO I AM." God then told Moses
to tell the Israelites that "I AM" was sending him to them as a prophet. (As
revealed in Exodus 3:14). The lesson for us is that we can only know about
the nature of God what He has revealed to us in His word. Let us look
further into God's word. First, I will quote some additional passages from "the Book," the
Bible, that expand our understanding of the One Almighty God. (All
quotations are from the New American Standard Bible.)
God Is Incomprehensible and Unsearchable.
"Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the
Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His
understanding is inscrutable." (God to the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 40:28).
"'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,'
declares the Lord. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My
ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.'" (God to
the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 55:8-9).
"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How
unsearchable are His judgements and unfathomable His ways!" (From the
Apostle Paul in Romans 11:33).
"For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him?"
(From the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:16).
God Is Omniscient, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent.
"God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the
Lord looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:7).
"The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men; from His dwelling
place He looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, He who fashions the
hearts of them all, He who understands all their works." (Psalms 33:13-15).
"Your Father (God) knows what you need before you ask Him." (Words of
Jesus in Matthew 6:8).
"The foolishness of God is wiser than men." (From the Apostle Paul in 1
"And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and
laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do." (From the Hebrew
"'Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?' declares the Lord." (From the
prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 23:23).
"The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is the Lord of
heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; neither is He
served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself
gives to all life and breath and all things; and He made from one, every nation
of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their
appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek
God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far
from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of
your own poets have said, 'For we also are His offspring.'" (From the Apostle
Paul's sermon to the Athenians in Acts 17:24-28).
"Trust in the Lord forever, for in God, the Lord, we have an everlasting
Rock." (From the prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 26:4).
"Jesus said to them, 'With men this is impossible, but with God all things are
possible.'" (Words of Jesus in Matthew 19:26).
I have quoted these passages to remind us that we humans cannot make
assumptions concerning the nature of Almighty God. God cannot be limited
in any way except as He may limit Himself. Sadly, I believe many erroneous
assumptions have been made in the past by both Christians and Muslims.
Perhaps our most common mistake has been in assuming God's nature to be
limited in ways similar to the limitations in the human nature of mankind.
We must not jump to unsubstantiated conclusions concerning the person of
God. On the other hand, we can know much about the nature of God from
what He has revealed to us in His word. Let us further examine "the Book,"
the Judeo-Christian Bible, for revelations of God's nature. Further
understanding may be crucial to the relationship that God desires to cultivate
between Himself and us, His human creation.
God Reveals Himself to Have a Triune Personality.
In the earliest words of God penned by Moses, God revealed the multiple facets of His
personality by referring to Himself in the plural. The very first verse of the
Bible, Genesis 1:1, says,
"In the beginning 'God' created the heavens and the earth." (Genesis 1:1).
Here the word 'God' is translated from the Hebrew word ELOHIM which is
the plural form of the singular, EL, also meaning 'God.' The multiple
facets of personality are made very clear a few verses later in Genesis 1:26.
"Then God (ELOHIM) said, 'Let Us make man in Our image.'" (Genesis
Here, the plural form of 'God' is supported by the use of the plural pronouns
"Us" and "Our." This multiple nature of God's personality is revealed consistently
throughout the Hebrew Old Testament by this use of the plural form
ELOHIM where 'God' is identified in His fullness.
In the New Testament the multiple nature of God's personality is also translated from
Greek plural forms into English in three places:
"We ought not to think that the 'Devine Nature' is like gold or silver or stone,
an image formed by the art and thought of man." (Acts 17:29).
"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power
and 'divine nature,' have been clearly seen, being understood through what
has been made." (Romans 1:20).
"For in Him all the 'fullness of Deity' dwells in bodily form." (Colossians
The words "Divine Nature" in the first two examples, and the words "fullness
of Deity" in the third example, contain plural Greek words for God indicating
that the nature of God includes multiple facets of personality. In each case God
is first referred to by singular pronouns, His or Him, as antecedents of the
plural words "Divine Nature" and "Deity," because there is, after all, only One God. The
"Oneness" of Almighty God is not contradicted in these cases by the use of
plural forms of the word "God." But the nature of the One Almighty God is
intimated to include multiple facets of personality.
However, the multiple nature of God's personality is not established only by the
mere intimation of the grammar God utilized to describe Himself. The multiple facets are
established also by the actual naming of the personality facets and the revealing of how the Almighty God uses them in dealing with His human
creation. Even in the Old Testament God spoke of Himself and His salvation
for mankind in terms of the work of three different facets of His personality. Here are some
examples from God's revelations to the prophet Isaiah in which God spoke of
His actions throughout time in terms of the work of His three cooperative
facets of personality.
"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." (Isaiah 42:1).
In this example a personality aspect of God spoke as in supervision of another
aspect called "My Servant, My Chosen One," and still another
aspect called "My Spirit." The action of the three personality aspects together
is to "bring forth justice to the nations," truly an action that can only be
accomplished by the Almighty God.
In this example the context indicates that a personality aspect of God, who had taken
part in creation of the earth, spoke saying that He is being sent forth under
the direction of a second supervising aspect called "the Lord God," and along
with a third aspect called "His Spirit," to be the "Redeemer" and "Holy One of
Israel." The action of three facets or aspects of personality working together is to bring about
the redemption of mankind, again an action that can only be accomplished by
the Almighty God.
"Come near to Me, listen to this; from the first I have not spoken in secret,
from the time it took place, I was there. And now, the Lord God has sent Me,
and His Spirit." (Isaiah 48:16).
In this example a personality aspect of God spoke indicating that He is being sent by another personality aspect of God, along with an aspect of personality called
"the Spirit of the Lord God," " to bring good news to the afflicted," "to bind
up the brokenhearted," and "to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to
prisoners" from among mankind on earth. Again, we see foretold by the
prophet Isaiah the action of three different aspects of God's personality working together in the One
Almighty God to bring about the salvation of mankind.
"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to
bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the
brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners."
The Gospel of Luke reveals to us the miraculous way in which God "became
flesh and dwelt among us." The angel Gabriel appeared to the virgin girl
Mary and told her:
"The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will
overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son
Let us notice that the personality aspect of God known as "the Holy Spirit" also had
a part in "the Word" becoming flesh in that the Holy spirit "came upon" the
virgin girl Mary and the power of the Most High "overshadowed her." All
three of these aspects of God worked together through Mary, the willing
human vessel, to place God in the flesh as Jesus, a fellow human with
mankind. Thus we see that the personality aspect, known as "the Word," temporarily
gave up His place in the "Divine Nature" of Almighty God to serve as "Jesus,
the Son of Man." And thus came about the figurative names of the three
personality aspects of God: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
From the accounts in the Bible of these personality facets working together in unity
of purpose we arrive at some understanding of their different functions. God
the Father appears to be the central facet providing management over
the Three. God the Son appears to be the outreaching personality facet, especially
to fleshly mankind. And God the Holy Spirit appears to provide the spiritual
communion among the Three.
"Now it came about when all the people were baptized, that Jesus also was
baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit
descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of
heaven, 'Thou art My beloved Son, in Thee I am well pleased'" (Luke 3:21-22).
The Three Personalities of God Work Together To Save Mankind.
"And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority has been given
to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the
nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy
Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with
you always, even to the end of the age.'" (Matthew 28:18-20).
"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship
of the Holy Spirit, be with you all." 2 Corinthians 13:14).
"But when the fulness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a
woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were
under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you
are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying,
'Abba! Father!' Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son,
then an heir through God." (Galatians 4:4-7).
"Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who has loved
us and given us eternal comfort and good hope by grace, comfort and
strengthen your hearts in every good work and word." (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).
"And by common confession great is the mystery of godliness:
He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Beheld by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory." (1 Timothy 3:16).
"Peter, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, to those ... who are chosen according to the
foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that
you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and
peace be yours in fullest measure." (1 Peter 1:1-2).
What Does the Qur'an Say About the Nature of Allah?
In my brief study of the Qur'an in English language translation, I found no
passages that give as thorough an explanation of God's nature as the Judeo-Christian Bible. There are many descriptive terms about God (Allah) in the
Qur'an, terms known as the names of God. Ninety nine such terms or names may be
seen on the jannah.org web site.
(Please click here.)
"And Allah's are the best names, therefore call on Him thereby, and leave
alone those who violate the sanctity of His names; they shall be recompensed
for what they did." (Qur'an 7.180).
"He is Allah the Creator, the Maker, the Fashioner; His are the Most excellent
names; whatever is in the heavens and the earth declares His glory; and He is
Mighty, the Wise." (Qur'an 59.24).
I did not find in the Qur'an anything that revealed the triune personality facets of
God that are revealed in the Bible.
Of course, the Qur'an denies that there is more than one God, as does the
Bible. I notice that the Qur'an has a number of passages that deny specifically
that there are three gods. The question arises, why does the Qur'an deal
specifically with a question of three gods when it has already stated
unequivocally that there is but one God. The answer seems to be that there
was a corrupt teaching in the community that was especially
troublesome for monotheistic believers of the seventh century when the Qur'an
was being written. That problem is pretty well defined by the Qur'an itself in
the following passages:
"Certainly they disbelieve who say: Surely Allah is the third (person) of the
three and there is no god but the One God, and if they desist not from what
they say, a painful chastisement shall befall those among them who
disbelieve." (Qur'an 5:73).
"And when Allah will say: O Isa (Jesus) son of Marium (Mary)! did you say
to men, Take me and my mother for two gods besides Allah he will say: Glory
be to Thee, it did not befit me that I should say what I had no right to (say); if
I had said it, Thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in
my mind, and I do not know what is in Thy mind, surely Thou art the great
Knower of the unseen things." (Qur'an 5.116).
"Never did Allah take to Himself a son, and never was there with him any
(other) god-in that case would each god have certainly taken away what he
created, and some of them would certainly have overpowered others; glory be
to Allah above what they describe!" (Qur'an 23.91).
"And that He-exalted be the majesty of our Lord-has not taken a consort,
nor a son." (Qur'an 72.3).
The problem, to which these passages in the Qur'an are directed, seems to have
been a false doctrine that had arisen and was threatening to make inroads
upon the community of monotheistic believers of the seventh century. One such
false doctrine was that God had taken a consort, the woman Mary; that God
had produced a son, Jesus, through that consort; and that God had raised the
woman and her son to God status equal with Himself. Apparently, this gave
rise to the erroneous belief among some people that there were "three gods." This scenario is
borne out, at least partially, by secular history from the seventh century when
certain groups of so-called Christians were erroneously engaging in worship
of Mary, the mother of Jesus. This is a problem that continues in some areas
of Christianity even today.
Apparently this is the type of problem referenced in at least twenty other passages
throughout the Qur'an which deny that God could have a Son. Some people
believe that these passages put the Qur'an in direct contradiction to the Judeo-Christian Bible because the term "Son of God" is so often used in the Bible.
However, the Bible does not teach that God, in the manner of a human being,
took a consort and produced a son, thereby producing two more gods. This is
a doctrine as reprehensible to the Bible as it is to the Qur'an.
As I have been trying to make clear in this article, the terms "God the
Father," "God the Son," and "Son of God" are figures of speech dictated by
God Himself, apparently to give mankind an understanding of His completely
unified Divine Nature. The Personality of God who came to earth and lived as
"Son of Man" in the flesh was the one God, Himself, being able in His infinite
personality to be "the Son of Man" while simultaneously being "God the
Father" and "God the Holy Spirit."
This is the Almighty God who revealed to His writer of the Hebrew letter the
following summary of His good news to mankind:
"God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions
and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He
appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He
is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and
upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification
of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high; having become
as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name
than they." (Hebrews 1:1-4).
With love, F. M. Perry.
(If you would like to write to me concerning this article, please do so via my Contact Page).
© 2002, F. M. Perry