One Injil to Jesus, or Four to his Followers?
“The Qur’ān only mentions one Injīl given to Jesus himself, but the Injīl of today is written by his followers”
Neither Muhammad (pbuh) nor Jesus wrote down a scripture, though many people seem to hold that imaginary idea. Their scriptures were first written down by their companions after their death.
However, Jesus’ Injīl was given in a different way than the other scriptures. In the case of most prophets, like `Īsāiah and Jeremiah, God entrusted them with a specific message as the “Word of God,” and so that prophet’s scripture was that specific “Word of God.” However, in both the Injīl and the Qur’ān , Jesus is uniquely called the “Word of God,” meaning that he himself is the primary message1. While other prophets came to bring a written “Word of God”, it was the reverse in the case of Jesus. He himself was the living Word of God, and so his Scriptures (the Injīl ) were not the primary focus, but Jesus is the focus. The Injīl is simply the divinely-inspired eyewitness reports describing the life and teachings of that living Word of God. Jesus assigned his disciples the task of testifying or witnessing to the world about all his teachings (Matthew 28:18-20). He also promised them that the Holy Spirit would remind them of his teachings (John 14:26) To preserve this sacred message about the living Word of God, his twelve disciples and their immediate companions under Divine Inspiration recorded Jesus’ biography and teachings in the Injīl.
What about the ‘Injīl’ spoken of in the Qur’ān ? Qur’ānic scholars2 agree that the Arabic word اِنْجِيل Injīl is not an Arabic word but is a transliteration of the Greek word εὐαγγέλ (euangel), just like the English word “gospel”. So to find the meaning of Injīl, we need to find what it meant to those who used the term. Injīl is the term used for their scriptures by millions of Arabic, Farsi, Urdu and Turkish speaking Christians. There are three parallel meanings for euangel used both by early Christians and by the Qur’ān :
The Message of Jesus – In its literal meaning, Injīl simply means a message of “good news.” With Jesus, this means his teaching about salvation, and God’s kingdom.
An Account of Jesus’ Life – euangel also refers to an account of Jesus’ life, such as those by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which early on together came to be called simply ” the euangel.”
The Christian Scriptures – thirdly, in a general sense euangel refers to the Christian scriptures in 27 sections, that which is also called in English the New Testament.
Just as the word “Khulna” refers to both a town, a district and a division, so ‘ Injīl’ simultaneously refers to (1) Jesus’ core message, (2) an account of that message, or (3) the scriptures about that message. When the Qur’ān says that Jesus was given the Injīl it is perfectly correct, for his role was to give mankind the euangel message of salvation and the Kingdom of God. In this general sense of a gospel message, Jesus was taught the “Injīl” just as he was taught ” Hikmot ” or wisdom (Maidah 3:48). When the Qur’ān says that the Injīl is a book, this also fits with the early meaning of euangel or Injīl . It is clear from historical records that the early Muslims understood the Injīl to mean the existing Christian scriptures, and history abundantly proves how reliable these scriptures are.
By the beginning of the 2nd century, the term euangel was used by Christians to refer to the fourfold Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The noted scholar F. F. Bruce explains this:
“At a very early date it appears that the four Gospels were united in one collection. They must have been brought together very soon after the writing of the Gospel according to John. This fourfold collection was known originally as `The Gospel’ singular, not `The Gospels’ in the plural; there was only one Gospel, narrated in four records, distinguished as `according to Matthew’, `according to Mark’, and so on. About A.D. 115 Ignatius, bishop, of Antioch, refers to `The Gospel’ as an authoritative writing, and as he knew more than one of the four `Gospels’ it may well be that by `The Gospel’ sans phrase he means the fourfold collection which went by that name.”3
So to a person living in Muhammad’s day “the Injīl” referred to the fourfold Gospel (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) or the Christian scriptures generally. The apostle Peter wrote:
We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty .. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:16, 20-21)
And elsewhere in the New Testament:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Therefore, he who rejects this instruction does not reject man but God, who gives you his Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 4:8)
- For evidence that Jesus is the unique Word of God according to the Qur’ān , see Is Yahya Word of God also?.
- For example, Zamakhshari and Baidhawi
- F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Intervarsity Press; Downers Grove Il., rpt. 1992), p.23 as quoted by Sam Shamoun.