Friday, February 12, 2016

The Parables of Jesus in Islamic Literature (Part 3)

This post is one I did not expect to write, but its impetus stems from some of the responses I have received to my previous two postings about the parables of Jesus in Islamic literature. Here are two examples of very disappointing responses to my posts:

The Quran is merely Satan's deception of the Islamic peoples. It is a perversion of the Word of God and as such should be shunned.

Why do you attempt to make peace with those whom God is against ? God is against false religion false teachings and false prophets .So whose side are you on ?

I will not engage directly with the people writing such comments, but I do find it extremely troubling that some people are so scared of knowledge and of dialogue with other human beings. Such comments also parallel, in my view, the unfortunate Islamophobia in parts of the United States population.

Since I am a New Testament scholar, none of my publications have been about other religions, but I do from time to time teach an Introduction to Religion course at Oxford College of Emory University. Our students are fantastically diverse, religiously and otherwise, and I never fail to learn from them. We all cultivate an appreciation of and respect for traditions and beliefs that are different from our own, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and so on.

In one of my first posts on this blog, I used a quote from Mikhail Bakhtin to illustrate one reason why I did reception history, and that quote seems to apply here as well: “Truth is not born nor is it to be found inside the head of an individual person, it is born between people collectively searching for truth, in the process of their dialogic interaction” (The Problem of Dostoevsky’s Poetics, p. 110).

The negative comments in red above, however, are not completely foreign to me. They are vaguely reminiscent of remarks from some people who reject the need for careful scholarly study of the sources, traditions, and development of the traditions in the Gospels about Jesus--including the rejection of any "quest of the historical Jesus," when a simple reading of the Gospels side-by-side illustrates the necessity of such a scholarly exploration.  

In response to those arguments against reading historical Jesus scholarship, here is what I wrote in the conclusion of my book, What Are They Saying about the Historical Jesus?:

When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, "What are you looking for?'' They said to him, "Rabbi . . . where are you staying?" He said to them , "Come and see" (John 1:38-39a).
. . . . [deleted two pages]

Why should we take the effort to search for Jesus and to reconstruct his message? This effort is fascinating on a purely historical level , but Charles Hedrick suggests another very important reason for Christians to ponder:
The savior worshiped in song and prayer seems so easy to understand . . . [but] studying Jesus, rather than simply affirming creedal statements learned in childhood, can bring new insights, a broader understanding, and a deeper appreciation for the complementary relationship between faith and history (When History and Faith Collide, xii).
Many Christians, at first, discover that academic reconstructions of the historical Jesus can be disconcerting if not troublesome for their faith. In the long run, however, such efforts most often lead to a more authentic, robust, and mature faith. The historical Jesus still challenges our hearts, minds, and imaginations, and, as we search for "where he is staying," he is there before us, dialogically inviting us to "Come and see . . . ."

We learn from others. The historical Jesus may not be who or what you currently think he is. He probably didn't even look like what the vast majority of people think he looked like:

"The Real Face of Jesus" according to some scientists


  1. Keep on teaching. We need so much education these days.

  2. Jesus said "The truth shall make you free" (John 8:32). I believe that is true, yet my experience is that it often makes us angry first! Thank you, David, for your patience in teaching and writing the Truth, and often taking flack for it!


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