Residents and guests were invited to House A of the Berkeley Presbyterian Mission Home on Thursday, April 14, to hear a presentation by Dr. Ali Ataie, a scholar of both Islam and Christianity. Dr. Ataie is the first Muslim to earn an MA in Biblical Studies from the Graduate Theological Union. His PhD, also from the GTU, is in Islamic Biblical Hermeneutics. He teaches at the GTU and Zaytuna College, both schools on beautiful Holy Hill in Berkeley. The focus of Dr. Ataie’s presentation at the Homes was the role and identity of Jesus in Islam: Who is Jesus to the average Muslim?


Dr. Ataie began his presentation by establishing that the foundational theological principle in Judaism, Christianity and Islam is the same:  Love of God and love of neighbor.  Dr. Ataie quoted passages from the sacred texts of these three Abrahamic traditions to ground his premise and set the backdrop to his presentation.  From there, he went on to present other common threads that tie the two faiths to this mutually revered faith figure,  Jesus of Nazareth. Some of the Christian attendees were pleasantly surprised to learn that, for Muslims,Jesus is one of the most important prophets.  He was born of a virgin mother and spoke from his baby cradle; he ministered to the poor and the oppressed; he could heal the blind and the leper; he could bring life to the dead. Most importantly, Muslims, like their fellow Christians, await the return of Jesus at the end of time.  For Muslims, Jesus will return to defeat the anti-Christ and restore God’s order.

What Jesus is not to a Muslim is a deity.  God alone is God.  Jesus is not the Son of God in a Holy Trinity, nor is he God Himself. Dr. Ataie pointed out that Muslims would say that Christians deify Jesus (perhaps in their love of God and love of Jesus?).He cited the passage from Mark 10:18 as scriptural evidence that Jesus did not claim to be divine when he said, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good, but God alone.”  Mark is understood to be the earliest Gospel writer, nearest in time to the living Jesus.  Dr. Ataie maintains the position that other Muslim scholars hold: the Christian New Testament was pure and true in its original state, but that through scribal error and redaction, the text was altered.


The evening ended with a chance to ask questions.  Among the most provocative questions asked was: What did Muhammad bring to the world that was new and that adds to the teachings of Jesus on how to live? The answer was order.  Muhammad taught the means to use to set one’s self in the right relationship with God. He brought, for example, the five daily prayers, which help the Muslim keep his or her connection with God alive.


Those attending expressed hope that Dr. Ataie would return so that a Christian-Muslim dialog could go on. There was interest in Sharia: What is it? Why do some Christians fear it?  What does it even mean? Watch for an announcement on our next program on inter-religious dialog at the Homes and join the conversation.




Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *