Modern-day Christianity stands as a mixture of pagan rituals and ideas. Almost every aspect of Christianity has been altered, changed, and interpolated – having practically no resemblance to what is described in the final, pure, and pristine divine word, i.e., the Noble Qur’ān. From Christmas to Easter, from the altar to the cross, somewhere in history, the original teachings of Sayyidunā ‘Īsā ‘alayhi as-salām (Jesus) have been deformed and cast aside. For this reason, it would be extremely difficult to use the interpolated Christian scriptures as a basis for an important belief.
When discussing the great messenger of Allah Ta’ala, Sayyidunā ‘Īsā ‘alayhi as-salām (Jesus), we find that the Noble Qur’an and the final messenger of Allah, Sayyidunā Muhammad sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam are clear and compelling in their explanation, structure, and content. Moreover, the Sahabah radiyallahu ‘anhum, i.e., companions of Sayyidunā Muhammad sallallahu ‘alayhi wa sallam had plainly explained the Qur’anic teaching regarding Sayyidunā ‘Īsā ‘alayhi as-salām (Jesus) in front of the Christian Abyssinian king and his knowledgeable Christian priests when called to the royal court after migrating from the Arabian Peninsula.
The cousin of the messenger of Islam, Sayyiduna Ja’far Ibn Abi Talib radiyallahu ‘anhu responded to the Negus during his historic speech with the verses of Surah Maryam when asked about Sayyidunā ‘Īsā ‘alayhi as-salām (Jesus).
And mention, [O Muhammad], in the Book [the story of] Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place toward the east. And she took, in seclusion from them, a screen. Then We sent to her Our Angel [i.e., Gabriel], and he represented himself to her as a well-proportioned man.
She said, “Indeed, I seek refuge in the Most Merciful from you, [so leave me], if you should be fearing of Allah.” He said, “I am only the messenger of your Lord to give you [news of] a pure boy [i.e., son].” She said, “How can I have a boy while no man has touched me and I have not been unchaste?”
He said, “Thus [it will be]; your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, and We will make him a sign to the people and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter [already] decreed.’
So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a remote place. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She said, “Oh, I wish I had died before this and was in oblivion, forgotten.” But he called her from below her, “Do not grieve; your Lord has provided beneath you a stream. And shake toward you the trunk of the palm tree; it will drop upon you ripe, fresh dates. So eat and drink and be contented. And if you see from among humanity anyone, say, ‘Indeed, I have vowed to the Most Merciful abstention, so I will not speak today to [any] man.’
Then she brought him to her people, carrying him. They said, “O Mary, you have certainly done a thing unprecedented. O sister [i.e., descendant] of Aaron, your father was not a man of evil, nor was your mother unchaste.” So she pointed to him.
They said, “How can we speak to one who is in the cradle a child?”
[Jesus] said, “Indeed, I am the servant of Allah. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet. And He has made me blessed wherever I am and has enjoined upon me prayer and zakah as long as I remain alive And [made me] dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me a wretched tyrant. And peace is on me the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I am raised alive.”
That is Jesus, the son of Mary – the word of truth about which they are in dispute. It is not [befitting] for Allah to take a son; exalted is He! When He decrees an affair, He only says to it, “Be,” and it is. [Jesus said], “And indeed, Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. That is a straight path.”
Then the factions differed [concerning Jesus] from among them, so woe to those who disbelieved – from the scene of a tremendous day.
The Negus of Abyssinia responded calmly and positively to the verses recited before him. He embraced Islam and passed away as a Muslim.
One of the major problems faced by Christians is the deification of Christ. The theory of having to believe a human as a God, or, God as human, and then God dying for one’s sins is at best irrational and absurd at worst. If such a belief was in line with the fitrah given to man, then even a child would be able to comprehend it.
Coming back to the focus of the topic, when we know and understand that modern-day Christianity has been so dreadfully tainted with hues of paganism, we ask, could the deification of Christ also be part of the same problematic picture?
For a start, the Noble Qur’an tells us that Sayyidunā ‘Īsā ‘alayhi as-salām (Jesus) did not claim divinity. However, the Gospel of John portrays him as a divine who became human. On the other hand, the Gospel of Mark portrays him as a human who became divine. In hindsight, consider the Jewish position on ‘Uzayr, i.e., Ezra – said to be the son of God by them.
Even after so many centuries, the debate amongst Christians about the nature of Sayyidunā ‘Īsā ‘alayhi as-salām (Jesus) continues to rage – exactly as portrayed by the verses of Surah Maryam quoted above.
This article will concentrate on one angle only: how pagan ideas had a role to play in rolling out the divine nature of Jesus and son of God theories as accepted by and believed in by modern-day Christians. Our objective is to remove the pagan hues and establish the Quranic teaching.
Apollonius of Tyana was a remarkable and complex person. In the Ancient World, he was called a magician, a fraud, a scientist and many even believed that he was a divine figure who could save humanity. Many saw him as a pagan messiah and indeed, he was more popular than Jesus for a time in the Roman Empire.
Apollonius was also viewed as an alleged son of God. In fact, there are many characteristics of Apollonius that are strikingly similar to those of Sayyidunā ‘Īsā ‘alayhi as-salām (Jesus) as promoted and taught by modern-day Christians, like his birth, his preaching ministry, his followers, his miracles and, his ascension to heaven. Apollonius was a pagan, a polytheist whose followers thought him to be immortal.
In bygone times, pagans would think that divine beings could be human and humans could be divine. However, as Muslims, we believe, know, and understand that a divine being and a human being are completely different things. However, in Christianity, the divine being and human being meet.
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. [Colossians 2:9-10]
This is the point of difference. Considering a human being as a divine being and vice-versa is classified as polytheism.
Has the pagan type of thinking affected Bible authors and scholars, priests, and pastors in forming their belief structure?
“Jesus Christ is God in human flesh, and the story of His life, death, and resurrection is the only Good News the world will ever hear.” — Billy Graham
“Only by being both deity and humanity could Jesus Christ bridge the gap between where God is.” — David Jeremiah
“To see what God is like, we must look at Jesus. He perfectly represents God to men in a form which they can see and know and understand.” — William Barclay