From Jesus to “˜ÃŽsÃ¢ — Christology in the Wake of the Christian-Islamic Dialogue
Studies on the Koranic picture of Jesus are presently booming. On the surface, this is about a better human coexistence between Muslims and Christians, but this dialogue in the spirit of brotherhood often takes place on the basis of an arbitrary, not to say deficient, knowledge of the history of dogma and theology, for which reason patristics cannot be left out of this discourse. But first, the inquiry about the Jesus of the Koran begins with a philological monstrosity: 15 suras in the Koran in perhaps a hundred verses mention the name of a certain “˜ÃŽsÃ¢, son of Maryam. The proper names in the Koran are a chapter in themselves — one strange figure is given the name IdrÃ®s (Henoch?), but it has something special to do with the name of Jesus. Scholarship agrees in only one thing: that the Arabic “˜ÃŽsÃ¢ has a Syrian pre-history. An origin from the Ethiopian is out of the question, because the form Iasus in Ge’ez can hardly deny its connection to the Greek. In Christian Arabic, on the other hand, mention is always of IasÃ»” al-masÃ®h. Proceeding from the east Syrian Isho”, often written in manuscripts with a beginning Alaf, it then remains to be clarified how an “˜Ain in Arabic could come from Alaf.
NÃ¶ldeke/Schwally suspect a detour by way of the baptism sects of the Mandaeans, who — like modern Jews and Ethiopians — do not distinguish in pronunciation between “˜Ain and Aleph. For the Arabs, however, this does not come into consideration. Luxenberg considers a mis-writing of Ishai, David’s father (the Arabic yÃ¢ would then have to be pronounced as a diphthong) and in this case we would be dealing with a contaminated (Jewish-)Christian son of David tradition. To me, another possibility seems much more probable here: looking at the Arabic consonant sequence y-s-y as a kind of anagram of Syrian y-s-w. This does not seem so unusual if you consider that old south Arabic could be read “backwards,” i.e. left-to-right. Name magic is not an infrequent phenomenon in ancient Arabic. For instance, in the Syrian manuscript of the martyrdom of Arethas, when the name of the Yemeni Jew and Christian-hater, MasrÃ»q, is written, the “devil in human form” is always written at the head. It is quite understandable that the name of an opponent is distorted in the course of a religious polemic, and in such a case, it makes no difference whether the author of the Koran himself distorted the name Jesu or found this distortion already present in the tradition. No matter how the philological monstrosity of “˜ÃŽsÃ¢ in the Koran is deciphered, the fact of it continues to be annoying.
Although the author of the Koran has no dogmatically reliable information concerning Christianity in general and the figure of Jesus in particular at his disposal, the Holy Book of the Muslims is seen recently in the Islamic-Christian dialogue as the source of an authentic “Christology.” Bauschke’s Jesus book contains a detailed analysis of all Koranic statements on “˜ÃŽsÃ¢. Important Koranic concepts are explained, following Khoury’s translation. The comprehensive apparatus of notes processes the scholarly literature in broad scope, bringing in Muslim commentaries. A chapter on the return of the prophet “˜ÃŽsÃ¢ in Islamic interpretation completes the work, in which the author carefully distinguishes between the Jesus picture of the Koran and that of Muslim tradition. The result of the analysis is always the same: In the Koran, “˜ÃŽsÃ¢ is only a human being, earthly and mortal, to whom no similarity or equivalence to God can be attributed. The Koran contradicts reports that “˜ÃŽsÃ¢ was crucified, argues against any kind of Christ cult. “˜ÃŽsÃ¢ in the Koran is exclusively the servant and prophet of God; he is the “pointing finger” of God, who did not place himself in the epicenter of his message.
Bauschke’s analyses are quite impressive for a Christian reader — one learns a great deal about the technique of Muslim Koran exegesis, and even more about the condition of Protestant theology in Germany — but does this unChristian and unecclesiastical Jesus, whom the Koran falsely calls “˜ÃŽsÃ¢, compel a Christian theologian today to measure his Jesus of Nazareth against the Koranic one and re-think him anew, as the author repeatedly demands? What does a book that originated seven hundred years after the canonical Gospels and cannot even spell the name of Jesus correctly have to tell a Christian? Bauschke claims to have rediscovered in the “˜ÃŽsÃ¢ of the Koran the “historical Jesus of Nazareth” — that Jesus allegedly distorted by the Nicene doctrine. And with regard to the inter-religious dialogue of our day, the Christian theologian is encouraged to let himself be inspired and fructified by the Koran in his own reflections on Jesus. “Koranic Christology” thus becomes an instrument of criticism of church dogma. This is the theological thesis of the book, whose insufficiencies NiewÃ¶hner pointed out in his discussion. For it is impossible to speak of Christology, or of Jesuology at any rate, not of Isaology, in reference to the Koran. In many points, as for instance concerning the death of Jesu, the Koran is closer to the Gnostic Aprocrypha than to the Gospels. Its “˜ÃŽsÃ¢ has more in common with the Manichaean Jesus than the earthly Jesus of Nazareth whose suffering and death the canonical Gospels describe.
It is not objectionable per se to bring in Muslim Koran commentaries in the interpretation of difficult passages — the church fathers too have much that is intelligent to say about the Gospels. But the Christian reader should not be left in the dark about with whom one is fraternizing in the inter-religious dialogue and whose spiritual progeny the quoted authors are. Thus it is a gross faux pas to quote Sayyid Qutb as chief witness for his own semiotic theory (–˜ÃŽsÃ¢ as the sign of Allah”) and not at the same time indicate that we are dealing in the case of this Egyptian journalist executed in 1966 with a militant predecessor of Islamic terrorism.
Peter Bruns is Professor at the Zentrum fÃ¼r Mittelalterstudien, Otto-Friedrich-UniversitÃ¤t, Bamberg, Germany. This article appeared in German in Forum Katholische Theologie, 26 (2010) 1., pp. 1-23.
 From a plethora of materials, let us indicate here Martin BAUSCHKE, Jesus im Koran. Ein SchlÃ¼ssel zum Dialog zwischen Christen und Muslimen (Cologne 2001, repr. Erfstadt 2007). — This book contains an expanded and revised summary of his earlier work: Jesus — Stein des AnstoÃŸes. Die Christologie des Korans und die deutschsprachige Theologie (Cologne 2000), reviewed by Friedrich NIEWÃ–HNER in the F.A.Z., March 5, 2001, Nr. 54, p. 55. Bauschke’s Jesus is no longer a bone of contention for the Muslim reader. He is as bland as a pebble washed smooth in a stream bed.
 It borders on the strange that Bauschke touches only in passing on the problem of Jesus” name in Koranic tradition. He knows that he is committed completely uncritically to
the traditional dating of the sÃ»ras. In the otherwise ample index, Wansbrough’s newer investigations on the Koran are consciously ignored.
 As to the consonantal elements, we may consider a corruption of Syriac Andris (Andreas).
 Cf. Michael HAYEK, L”origine des termes “˜IsÃ¢ al-MasÃ®h (Jesus Christ) dans le Coran, in: L’Orient Syrien 7 (1962) 223-254, 365-382.
 Cf. the discussion in LUXENBERG, Lesart, 26-29. — Lexeme and phoneme are far apart in this case. The Koranic consonant cluster y-s-y is read today as “˜ÄªsÃ¢. The final yÃ¢ without diacritical mark is treated as long Ã¢, as e.g., in MÃ»sÃ¢, Arabic “Moses”. The change from sh to s is no problem in Semitic, as Hebrew shibboleth shows. Without diacritics, the reading of sh and s is not sure in Arabic, either.
 From an orthographic point of view, Hebrew “˜ÃŠsaw could also have been the model. Luxenberg as well has no plausible explanation for the change from w to y. Perhaps the name of Jesus was originally written completely without the mater lectionis.
 Cf. Maria HÃ–FNER, AltsÃ¼darabische Grammatik (Leipzig 1943, repr. OsnabrÃ¼ck 1976), 13. The direction of writing from right to left is by far the most common in Sabaean (in Ge’ez it is exactly opposite). But the opposite direction is also found in old inscriptions.
 Cf. WELLHAUSEN, Reste, 1-10. Names in the Semitic are not just for show–a special power inheres in the theophoric personal name.
 BAUSCHKE–ordained minister of the WÃ¼rttemberg regional church, in his work “Jesus im the Koran”, p. 7, even maintains the inspirational quality of the Koran: “There is no doubt about either the authenticity of Mohammed as a prophet or about his creative originality, speaking theologically in the sense of Islam–the revelatory character of the Koran.” This critical scholar of religion only practices Quellenforschung (distinguishing of sources) in reference to the Gospels. In the case of the Koran, however, methodological self-consciousness has deserted him. Even if one excludes Mohammed’s literary dependence on the New Testament, on the Aprocrypha and on the statements from Old Church synods, a religious scholar should take into account the religious environment in which a Holy Script arises.
 Cf. BAUSCHKE Jesus im Koran, 126. — Qutb, born in Assiut 1906, a city with a large Coptic population, was a religious autodidact, was active after his “awakening” as a journalist and writer. Executed in 1966, because of his obvious revolutionary views. Besides Koran commentaries, he published revolutionary pamphlets, cf. Olivier CARRÃ‰, Mystique et politique. Lecture rÃ©volutioinnaire du Coran par Sayyid Qutb, frÃ¨re musulman radicale (Paris 1984).