Jewish Christianity and the Origins of Islam and the Koran
by Ibn Warraq
Professor Peter Bruns of the Otto-Friedrich-UniversitÃ¤t (Bamberg, Germany), provides a very useful, critical survey of recent research on Islamic origins, but from an important dogma-critical perspective. He reminds us that not only GÃ¼nter LÃ¼ling and Christoph Luxenberg’s pioneering philological approach, but also the historical one which pays proper attention to tracing the origins of Islam by examining the history of the Christian church, will lead to insights and pay scientific dividends. There is a crying need, argues Professor Bruns, to interpret the Islamic sacred texts in the respective context in which they have developed — something quite common for Christianity but unexplored territory for Islam. “Much remains to be done in this area,” says Bruns, “and therefore an initial, rough, broad-brush sketch of problems from the perspective of dogma history is indicated, without losing ourselves too much in philosophical details. Finally, in evaluating the rich source materials, we must not completely lose sight of later polemic literature between Christians and Muslims in the Middle Ages.”
Bruns also takes to task Christian scholars such as Martin Bauschke, whose efforts, in their ecumenical frenzy to please Muslims in putative Muslim-Christian Dialogues are “attempts at new interpretation or re-interpretation of fundamental doctrines amount to the self abandonment of Christianity in the name of Christian-Islamic dialogue.”
Bruns mentions William Montgomery Watt, who is one of the first modern apologists of Islam — even in its fundamentalist mode — who were Christian scholars who perceived a common danger in certain economic, philosophical, and social developments in the West: the rise of rationalism, scepticism, atheism, secularism; the Industrial Revolution; the Russian Revolution and the rise of communism and materialism. Sir Hamilton Gibb writes of Islam as a Christian “engaged in a common spiritual enterprise”.  But let us beware of skepticism: “Both Christianity and Islam suffer under the weight of worldly pressure, and the attack of scientific atheists and their like,” laments Norman Daniel. 
Hence the tendency amongst Christian scholars to be rather uncritical; a tendency not to wish to offend Muslim friends and Muslim colleagues. Either there were explicit apologies if the writer felt there was something offensive to Muslim eyes, or to use various devices to avoid seeming to take sides, or to avoid judging whatever issue was under discussion.
Christian scholars such as Watt, who was curate of St. Mary Boltons, London, and Old St. Paul’s, Edinburgh and ordained Episcopalian minister, and who was one of the most influential Islamic scholars in Britain of the last fifty years, and Sir Hamilton Gibb saw skepticism, atheism and communism as the common enemy of all true religion. They followed Carlyle in hoping for spiritual inspiration from the East. Here is Watt: “Islam – or perhaps one should rather say, the East — has tended to overemphasize Divine sovereignty, whereas in the West too much influence has been attributed to man’s will, especially in recent times. Both have strayed from the true path, though in different directions. The West has probably something to learn of that aspect of truth which has been so clearly apprehended in the East.”
However, Bruns points to a number of recent Christian scholars who have dared to examine the Koran with a critical eye, scholars such as Dominique and Marie-ThÃ©rÃ¨se Urvoy, Karl-Heinz Ohlig, and Edouard-Marie Gallez. Along the way, Bruns examines pre-Islamic Christianity on the Arabian Peninsula, and summarises fascinating research into the religious development of the Yemen. Bruns has some scathing observations on Christian surrender in the section From Jesus to “˜ÃŽsÃ¢ : Christology in the Wake of the Christian-Islamic Dialogue. Bruns is quite right to point to the research into Jewish Christianity as of great importance in helping us to understand the Sectarian Milieu out of which Islam emerged: writings such as the Pseudo-Clementines, or the works of Epiphanius, and the Ebionites all give clues to the various sources of the Koran. Bruns clearly hopes that research into the Sectarian Milieu will provide new insights into the origins of Islam and the Koran, and ends with a quote from Hans Joachim Schoeps, who wrote as early as 1949:
“Although the exact demonstration of the connection may not be realized, the indirect dependence of Mohammed on sectarian Jewish Christianity is beyond all doubt. And a paradox of truly universal historical magnitude, is the fact that Jewish Christianity disappeared, to be sure, into the Christian church, but was preserved in Islam and reaches into the present day with some of its driving impulses.”
 This early work was published in the Beigaben zum Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte, vol. II., Die Entwicklung des kirchlichen Dogmas I. (TÃ¼bingen 41909, Darmstadt 1990), 529-538.
 Cf. HARNACK, Lehrbuch II, 529.
Professor Bruns’ piece “Islam — A (Jewish-) Christian Sect?” will follow in the coming days at Jihad Watch.