Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Jesus Christ in the Gospel and the Quran

The first century Matthew is the first of four Gospel writers who documented the life of Jesus and he describes in chapters 5, 6, and 7 what Jesus taught to His followers. Compare Jesus' words in the memorable "Sermon on the Mount" to the teachings in the Islamic Koran. In spite of the Quranic teaching that Jesus is a great prophet, it would seem clear that two different G(g)ods are described in the Christian New Testament and the Quran written by Muhammed, each proposing contradictory principles.

Jesus, when he saw how great was their number, went up on to the mountainside; there he sat down, and his disciples came about him. And he began speaking to them; this was the teaching he gave.
  1. Blessed are the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
  2. Blessed are the patient; they shall inherit the land.
  3. Blessed are those who mourn; they shall be comforted.
  4. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for holiness; they shall have their fill.
  5. Blessed are the merciful; they shall obtain mercy.
  6. Blessed are the clean of heart; they shall see God.
  7. Blessed are the peace-makers; they shall be counted the children of God.
  8. Blessed are those who suffer persecution in the cause of right; the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
  9. Blessed are you, when men revile you, and persecute you, and speak all manner of evil against you falsely, because of me. Be glad and light-hearted, for a rich reward awaits you in heaven; so it was they persecuted the prophets who went before you.
You are the salt of the earth; if salt loses its taste, what is there left to give taste to it? There is no more to be done with it, but throw it out of doors for men to tread it under foot. You are the light of the world; a city cannot be hidden if it is built on a mountain-top. A lamp is not lighted to be put away under a bushel measure; it is put on the lampstand, to give light to all the people of the house; and your light must shine so brightly before men that they can see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Do not think that I have come to set aside the law and the prophets; I have not come to set them aside, but to bring them to perfection. Believe me, heaven and earth must disappear sooner than one jot, one flourish disappear from the law; it must all be accomplished. Whoever, then, sets aside one of these commandments, though it were the least, and teaches men to do the like, will be of least account in the kingdom of heaven; but the man who keeps them and teaches others to keep them will be accounted in the kingdom of heaven as the greatest.

And I tell you that if your justice does not give fuller measure than the justice of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. You have heard that it was said to the men of old. You shall do no murder; if a man commits murder, he must answer for it before the court of justice. But I tell you that any man who is angry with his brother must answer for it before the court of justice, and any man who says Raca to his brother must answer for it before the Council; and any man who says to his brother, You fool, must answer for it in hell fire.

If you are bringing your gift, then, before the altar, and remember there that your brother has some ground of complaint against you, leave your gift lying there before the altar, and go home; be reconciled with your brother first, and then come back to offer your gift. If any man has a a claim against you, come to terms there and then, while you are walking in the road with him; or else it may be that the claimant will hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the officer, and so you will be cast into prison. Believe me, you shall not be set at liberty until you have paid the last farthing.

You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. But I tell you that he who casts his eyes on a woman so as to lust after her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye is the occasion of your falling into sin, pluck it out and cast it away from you; better to lose one part of your body than to have the whole cast into hell. And if your right hand is an occasion of falling, cut it off and cast it away from you; better to lose one of your limbs than to have your whole body cast into hell.

It was said, too, Whoever will put away his wife must first give her a writ of separation. But I tell you that the man who puts away his wife (setting aside the matter of unfaithfulness) makes an adulteress of her, and whoever marries her after she has been put away, commits adultery.

Again, you have heard that it was said to the men of old, You shall not perjure yourself; you shall perform what you have sworn in the sight of the Lord. But I tell you that you should not bind yourselves by any oath at all: not by heaven, for heaven is God's throne; nor by earth, for earth is the footstool under his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king. And you shall not swear by your own head, for you have no power to turn a single hair of it white or black. Let your word be Yes for Yes, and No for No; whatever goes beyond this, comes of evil.

You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you that you should not offer resistance to injury; if a man strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other cheek also towards him; if he is ready to go to law with you over your coat, let him have it and your cloak with it; if he compels you to attend him on a mile's journey, go two miles with him of your own accord. Give to him who asks, and if a man would borrow from you, do not turn away.

You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I tell you, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute and insult you, that so you may be true sons of your Father in heaven, who makes his sun rise on the evil and equally on the good, his rain fall on the just and equally on the unjust.

If you love those who love you, what title have you to a reward? Will not the publicans do as much? If you greet none but your brethren, what are you doing more than others? Will not the very heathen do as much? But you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Be sure you do not perform your acts of piety before men, for them to watch; if you do that, you have no title to a reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in synagogues and in streets, to win the esteem of men. Believe me, they have their reward already. But when you give alms, you shall not so much as let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so secret is your almsgiving to be; and then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

And when you pray, you are not to be like hypocrites, who love to stand praying in synagogues or at street-corners, to be a mark for men's eyes; believe me, they have their reward already. But when you are praying, go into your inner room and shut the door upon yourself, and so pray to your Father in secret; and then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Moreover, when you are at prayer, do not use many phrases, like the heathens, who think to make themselves heard by their eloquence. You are not to be like them; your heavenly Father knows well what your needs are before you ask him.

This, then, is to be your prayer, Our Father, who are in heaven, hallowed be your name; your kingdom come; your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven; give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Your heavenly Father will forgive you your transgressions, if you forgive your fellow-men theirs; if you do not forgive them, your heavenly Father will not forgive your transgressions either.

Again, when you fast, do not show it by gloomy looks, as the hypocrites do. They make their faces unsightly, so that men can see they are fasting; believe me, they have their reward already. But do you, at your times of fasting, anoint your head and wash your face, so that your fast may not be known to men, but to your Father who dwells in secret; and then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Do not lay up treasure for yourselves on earth, where there is moth and rust to consume it, where there are thieves to break in and steal it; lay up treasure for yourselves in heaven, where there is no moth or rust to consume it, no thieves to break in and steal.

Where your treasure house is, there your heart is too. The eye is the light of the whole body, so that if your eye is clear, the whole of your body will be lit up; whereas if your eye is diseased, the whole of your body will be in darkness. And if the light which you have in you is itself darkness, what of your darkness? How deep will that be!

A man cannot be the slave of two masters at once; either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will devote himself to the one and despise the other. You must serve God or money; you cannot serve both.

I say to you, then, do not fret over your life, how to support it with food and drink; over your body, how to keep it clothed. Is not life itself a greater gift than food, the body than clothing? See how the birds of the air never sow, or reap, or gather grain into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them; have you not an excellence beyond theirs? Can any one of you, for all his anxiety, add a cubit's growth to his height?

And why should you be anxious over clothing? See how the wild lilies grow; they do not toil or spin; and yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If God, then, so clothes the grasses of the field, which to-day live and will feed the oven to-morrow, will he not be much more ready to clothe you, men of little faith?

Do not fret, then, asking, What are we to eat? or What are we to drink? or How shall we find clothing? It is for the heathen to busy themselves over such things; you have a Father in heaven who knows that you need them all. Make it your first care to find the kingdom of God, and his approval, and all these things shall be yours without the asking. Do not fret, then, over tomorrow; leave to-morrow to fret over its own needs; for to-day, to-day's troubles are enough.

Do not judge others, or you yourselves will be judged. As you have judged, so you will be judged, by the same rule; award shall be made you as you have made award, in the same measure. How is it that you can see the speck of dust which is in your brother's eye, and are not aware of the beam which is in your own? By what right will you say to your brother, Wait, let me rid your eye of that speck, when there is a beam all the while in your own? You hypocrite, take the beam out of your own eye first, and so you shall have clear sight to rid your brother's of the speck.

You must not give that which is holy to dogs. Do not cast your pearls before swine, or the swine may trample them under foot, and then turn on you and tear you to pieces.

Ask, and the gift will come; seek and you shall find; knock and the door shall be opened to you. Everyone that asks, will receive; that seeks, will find; that knocks, will have the door opened to him. If any one of yourselves is asked by his son for bread, will he give him a stone? If he is asked for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead? Why then, if you, evil as you are, know well enough how to give your children what is good for them, is not your Father in heaven much more ready to give wholesome gifts to those who ask him? Do to other men all that you would have them do to you; that is the law and the prophets.

Make your way in by the narrow gate. It is a broad gate and a wide road that leads on to perdition, and those who go in that way are many indeed; but how small is the gate, how narrow the road that leads on to life, and how few there are that find it! Be on your guard against false prophets, men who come to you in sheep's clothing, but are ravenous wolves within. You will know them by the fruit they yield. Can grapes be plucked from briers, or figs from thistles?

So, indeed, any sound tree will bear good fruit, while any tree that is withered will bear fruit that is worthless; that worthless fruit should come from a sound tree, or good fruit from a withered tree, is impossible. Any tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down, and thrown into the fire. I say therefore, it is by their fruit that you will know them.

The kingdom of heaven will not give entrance to every man who calls me Master, Master; only to the man that does the will of my Father who is in heaven. There are many who will say to me, when that day comes, Master, Master, was it not in your name we prophesied? Was it not in your name that we performed many miracles? Whereupon I will tell them openly, You were never friends of mine; depart from me, you that traffic in wrong-doing.

Whoever, then, hears these commandments of mine and carries them out, is like a wise man who built his house upon rock; and the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall; it was founded upon rock. But whoever hears these commandments of mine and does not carry them out is like a fool, who built his house upon sand; and the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it.

Afterwards, when Jesus had finished these sayings, the multitudes found themselves amazed at his teaching. For he taught them, not like their scribes and Pharisees, but like one who had authority. [For full New Testament, see the very readable translation by Dr. Ronald Knox.]