Appendix A: The Revelation of the Holy Injīl
The Revelation of the Holy Injīl
The opening section to the book of Luke in the Injīl appears to introduce something that is a human composition. Indeed, this book is called ‘Luke’ after its human author. This raises the question: how then can the Injīl be the word of Allah – a divinely revealed book? Has the Injīl come from humans or from Allah?
The Injīl is, in fact, both a divine and a human book. Some parts of the Holy Scriptures are directly spoken by the voice of Allah and heard audibly by people, eg the Ten Commandments.In other places, prophets frequently announced, ‘This is what the LORD says…’ (eg Book of the Prophet Isaiah 8:11, and many others) or, ‘This is the word of the LORD that came to the prophet…’ (eg Book of the Prophet Jeremiah 28:12, and many others). However, other parts of the Scriptures are clearly human writings, such as Injīl, Luke that we are looking at here. And yet Injīl, Luke is no less the word of Allah than the Ten Commandments or the message from Allah that came to the prophets (pbut)and was proclaimed by them.
The way Allah reveals his word
The difference between the Ten Commandments and Injīl, Luke is not in whether or how much each part is the word of Allah SWT, but in the wayAllah reveals his word to us.
Allah Ta’ālā is able to use human beings, using their minds, personalities, ideas, and experiences; using their research and use of historical and eye-witness sources; writing from their own situations, societies, languages, cultures, backgrounds; describing what they have experienced in their own words, using their own writing styles; producing different types of literature such as history, poetry, proverbs and letters; and yet through all of this Allah SWT is able to guide these human writers so that they wrote only and exactly what Allah wanted them to write. What they wrote is thus the word of Allah.It is the word (kalām) of Allah in the words (alfāz) of Allah.
The process of writing Luke
In the case of this book, Luke, there are at least eight steps in the process, based on what Hazrat Luke (pbuh)himself writes in Injīl, Luke 1:1-4:
Many have set out to write a narrative of the events (concerning ‘Īsā al-Masīh) that have taken place among us. 2In fact, those who from the beginning were eye-witnesses of these events and servants of the word passed on to us the account of what they had seen. 3 It seemed good to me also to write an orderly account for you, most noble Theophilus, after I had carefully investigated everything from that period of time. 4My purpose is that you may know for certain the truth of the message you have been taught (concerning al-Masīh ‘Īsā).
- Events took place in history, centred on ‘Īsā al-Masīh(hpbuu), which the book goes on to describe.
- In v1, ‘have taken place’ could be translated as, ‘have been fulfilled’. Luke (pbuh), the author understands the events he records to have fulfilled the plan and purpose of Allah SWT revealed over many centuries beforehand through many prophets (pbut).
- These events were eye-witnessed – they were seen and experienced by certain people.
- The eye-witnesses ‘passed on to us’ their testimony – to Hazrat Luke (pbuh)and his contemporaries. The word ‘eye-witnesses’ means that these people claimed that they had seen these events happen with their own eyes. If the events did not happen, these people were – na’udhu billāh - liars and deceivers of the worst kind.
- There were other oral and written accounts based on eye-witness testimony which were circulating.Many of the earliest eye-witness accounts would have been in Aramaic, the mother-tongue of ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)and his companions, or Hebrew, the language of the Taurāt, which was closely related to Aramaic. These were translated into Greek, which was the international language of that time, so that the message could be widely circulated, read and understood. The original language of the written Injīl is thus Greek.
- Luke (pbuh)does the work of a historian – ‘he investigated everything from that period of time’. He used the oral and written accounts, he interviewed eye-witnesses (who were still alive) and he visited the locations. He may have done research for the book in AD 57-59 when he spent time in Palestine. See Injīl, Acts 21:8-27:2.
- Hazrat Luke (pbuh)has an idea –‘it seemed good to me also’. He decides to set down his research in writing.
- Hazrat Luke (pbuh)writes ‘an orderly account’. He selects and arranges his material. He doesn’t include everything he knows about ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu). He is selective – he includes what will serve his purpose.
He addresses it to Theophilus (about whom we know nothing more than is written here) but he intends it to be read by many people - so he writes it for us as well - and his ‘purpose is that you may know for certain the truth of the message you have been taught (concerning ‘Īsā al-Masīh).’
And yet, Allah SWT guided and directed this whole process, so that what we have here before us is revelation from Allah.
What the Injīl says about ‘Scripture’
The book of 2 Timothy in the Injīl makes a clear statement that all Scripture comes from Allah SWT. It says,
All Scripture is breathed out by Allah and is useful for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, and for training in righteousness, so that the person belonging to Allah may be fully equipped and ready for every kind of good work.(Injīl, 2 Timothy 3:16-17)
The Noble Qur’an and Holy Injīl on the Method of Revelation
In the Introduction, we saw how the Qur’an confirms that the Injīl is ‘sent down’ by Allah and ‘a guidance to mankind’(Āl-’Imrān3:3-4). The people of the Injīl are to ‘judge with what Allah has revealed in it, and whoever doesn’t judge by what Allah has revealed are sinners’(al-Mā’idah5:46-47, MH). The people of the Book are told ‘You stand on naught till you observe the Torah and the Gospel (Injīl)’ (al-Mā’idah5:68) and believers (Muslims) are told to believe ‘in the Book He revealed to His Messenger, and the Book he revealed before (the Injīl)’(an-Nisā’ 4:136).
In Sūrah al-Mā’idah5:46, Allah says,
We gave him (‘Īsā son of Maryam) the Gospel (Injīl), in which there is guidance and light… (MH).
This description can be regarded as accurate shorthand for what we find in the Injīl regarding the process of its own composition.
Speaking to Allah SWT in du’ā, ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)says,
‘I have given them (the disciples)the message which you(Allah) gave to me, and they received it.’(Injīl, John 17:8).
Just before this du’ā, ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu), said to his disciples (pbut),
‘the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the heavenlyFather will send in my name, will teach you all things, and he will remind you of all that I have told you’(Injīl, John 14:26).
‘When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the heavenlyFather – the Spirit of Truth who goes out from the heavenly Father – he will bear witness about me. And you also must bear witness, for you have been with me since the beginning.’ (Injīl, John 15:26-27).
‘But when he, the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you in all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will tell you what is still to come. He will glorify me, because he will receive what is mine and tell it to you. (Injil, John 16:13-14)
(These words of ‘Īsā al-Masīh [hpbuu]begin to be fulfilled ten days after he was taken up into heaven, when the Advocate or Holy Spirit of truth was sent to the disciples. This is recorded in Injīl, Acts 2:1-4).
Similarly, in the Qur’an, in Sūrah Al-Mā’idah 5:111, Allah says about the apostles of ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu),
“And when I inspired the apostles to believe in Me and in My messenger, they said, ‘We believe. Bear witness that we are submitters.’”
The Study Qur’ancommenting on this ayat says, ‘God speaks in the first person to state that He inspired the apostles to believe, using a verb for “inspired” that is related to waḥy, which usually denotes prophetic revelation.’
From the above, we can work out the following sequence:
- Al-Masīh ‘Īsā (hpbuu)received his words from Allah Ta’ālā and gave them to his disciples (pbut).
- The disciples were commissioned to testify to those words, which they did through their preaching and teaching, and in writing the Injīl.
- The Holy Spirit of Allah taught and reminded the disciples of the words of al-Masīh ‘Īsā (hpbuu), enabling them accurately to pass on those words to others.
- Although it seems that Hazrat Luke (pbuh)was not himself an eye-witness of the teaching of ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu)and the events of his life, he accurately recorded the testimony of the disciples who were eye-witnesses.
The Injīl is thus the message of Allah SWT revealed through ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu).
The Qur’an accurately sums this process up with the words,
We gave him (‘Īsā son of Maryam) the Gospel (Injīl), in which there is guidance and light… (al-Mā’idah5:46, MH).
See Taurāt, Deuteronomy 5:4-22
The Lordspoke to you face to face on the mountain, from out of the fire... And he said:
‘I am the Lordyour God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
‘You shall have no other gods besides me....’
These are the words the Lordspoke in a loud voice to your whole assembly on the mountain, from out of the fire, and the thick dark cloud; and he did not add to them. Then he wrote the words on two stone slabs and he gave them to me.
These accounts probably included the book of Mark, and possibly the book of Matthew in the Injīl.
It is highly likely that al-Masīh ‘Īsā (hpbuu)spoke Greek and probably taught in Greek when that was more appropriate for his audience.
See also Injīl, Acts 1:1. Acts was also written by Hazrat Luke (pbuh)and is addressed to Theophilus.
The Injīl was written down within a period of about four to five decades from around the middle of the First Century AD.We are not sure exactly how long it took for the different books that make up the Injīl to be circulated and widely recognised by communities of believers as ‘Scripture’, on a level with the Taurāt and other Jewish Scriptures. However, a short passage from Injīl, Luke is quoted as ‘Scripture’ in 1 Timothy, another book within the Injīl.
Injīl, 1 Timothy 5 talks about how those who lead, preach and teach in the community deserve to receive a wage for their work. Then in verse 18 we read,
For the Scripture says, ‘You must not muzzle an ox when you are threshing the grain,’ and, ‘the worker deserves to be paid.’
The first quote is taken from Taurāt, Deuteronomy 25:4. The second quote is from Injīl, Luke 10:7, and are the words of al-Masīh ‘Īsā (hpbuu). What interests us here is that both quotations are classified as ‘Scripture’. Words we find only in Injīl, Luke are viewed as being ‘Scripture’ on a level with the Taurāt, which for many centuries had been revered as the word of Allah.
Nasr, Seyyed Hossein; Dagli, Caner K.; Dakake, Maria Massi; Lumbard, Joseph E.B.; Rustom, Mohammed. The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary(San Francisco, HarperOne, 2015).
In the Injīl there are three other accounts of the life of ‘Īsā al-Masīh (hpbuu): ‘Matthew’, ‘Mark’ and ‘John’. ‘Matthew’ and ‘John’ were written by disciples who accompanied al-Masīh ‘Īsā (hpbuu)throughout his public ministry as a prophet. From very early historical sources we know that ‘Mark’ records the eye-witness testimony of Hazrat Simon Peter (pbuh), ‘Īsā al-Masīh’s most prominent disciple.