Source: The Economist
Muslims, Christians and JesusA building and a book highlight an odd symbiosis between monotheistic faiths
A new theory about the Abrahamic faiths
It so happens that one of the most articulate of non-specialist writers in English about Islam, the Turkish journalist Mustafa Akyol, has just put forward a very different sort of proposal for terms on which Abraham’s children might co-exist. His concern is not with the sharing of hallowed space, more with doctrine and sacred narratives. Boldly, he suggests that despite all the theological contrasts, Jesus of Nazareth is a figure through whom historically-aware Christians, Muslims and Jews could come to closer mutual understanding. “Whether we are Jews, Christians and Muslims, we either share a faith followed by him, a faith built on him, or a faith that venerates him,” he notes at the opening of his book, “The Islamic Jesus”.
But he is honest about the gaps. Christians believe Jesus was both the Son of God and the Messiah, the anointed prophet for whom Jews were yearning; Muslims believe he was the second but not the former; Jews generally believe he was neither. Among secular writers, yet another theory is now in fashion: Jesus was one more among the many Jewish-nationalist rebels against Rome, but his message was distorted by Paul into a quietist one which suited Rome better.
Commendably, Mr Akyol sets aside the “one-more-Jewish-rebel” argument. His own theological antennae are strong enough to intuit that whatever Jesus may have been, his effect on world history suggests that he was not just “one-more” of anything. He must have been something vastly more than that. Mr Akyol also shares with writers like Karen Armstrong and Reza Aslan an aptitude for writing in an engaging way about arcane theology. To construct his case, he erects two familiar pillars and tries to make a bridge between them.