The Gospel of Jesus
One of the most exciting beliefs in Muslim tradition is about the Gospel of Jesus. The legend is that Moses was given the Torah, and Jesus was given the "Injil" or "Injeel," which most scholars interpret as a gospel like Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. Gospel translated from Greek means "good news," so the book is about the good news of Jesus Christ. The word "Injil" occurs 12 times in the Qur'an. It always refers to a book that was sent down or given to the Muslim Jesus. In my English version of the Qur'an, sura 57:27 reads:
"…We sent Jesus, son of Mary: We gave him the Gospel…"
Sura 5:46 reads
"We sent Jesus, son of Mary, in their footsteps, to confirm the Torah that had been sent before him: We gave him the Gospel with guidance, light, and confirmation of the Torah already revealed…"
According to Islamic tradition, several books of Allah's divination have been sent down to earth with select Prophets to prepare humans for the Day of Judgment. The Torah (Pentateuch) was given to Moses, the Zabur (Psalms) was given to David, the Qur'an was given to Muhammad, and the Injil (the Gospel) was given to Jesus. Allah thinks that humans forget and stray from the righteous path. These books given to the Prophets communicate Allah's hopes and desires for humans to find the correct path to help them achieve eternal life.
So, is there a Gospel of Jesus Christ? Muslim tradition says the Gospel has been corrupted, but bits and parts are still visible when you look at the other gospels and epistles.
Is there any evidence that Jesus could have written the Gospel of Jesus? First, in Biblical scriptures, Jesus could read. In Luke 4:16, Jesus went to Nazareth and read from the scroll of Isaiah in the synagogue. In John 8:6-8, there is a story of Jesus writing on the ground with his finger. Is that enough evidence to suggest Jesus could write? Not really! We know he could read from the scriptures, but we don't know if he could write well enough to write a gospel. Did Moses know how to read and write? Moses was a highly educated man being raised in the Egyptian Pharaoh's house. Muhammad, we know, was illiterate. Muhammad went into a trance while the angel Gabriel helped Muhammad memorize passages for the Qur'an, and scribes would document it later. That may be what happened to Jesus, but there is no mention of it.
Is there any evidence that the Gospel of Jesus did exist at all? Jesus refers to it in the Gospel of Mark. Paul refers to it in Acts, Romans, and 1 Thessalonians.
In my NIV Archaeological Study Bible, the verses from Mark 1:14-15 read like this:
"After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 'The time has come,' he said. 'The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!'"
In Acts 8:25, Paul wrote this:
"When they had testified and proclaimed the word of the Lord, Peter and John returned to Jerusalem, preaching the gospel in many Samaritan villages."
Again, in Romans 1:15-16, Paul wrote this:
"That is why I am so eager to preach the Gospel also to you who are at Rome. I am not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…"
In 1 Thessalonians 2:2, Paul writes:
"…but with the help of our God, we dared to tell you his gospel in spite of strong opposition."
It is believable that Jesus and his disciples were teaching a corpus body of knowledge related to God's righteous path. Some scholars suggest there is a Q source that connects Mark with Luke and Matthew. It just may be possible that the Q source is the Gospel of Jesus. If this body of knowledge was written, it will turn up someday in some dusty library or some archeologist's excavation. For now, we will assume the Gospel of Jesus is oral for the lack of evidence otherwise. Because of the extended length of time from when Jesus actually used his Gospel and it was written about in the New Testament's gospels and epistles, Muslims think it became corrupted. Most religious scholars believe Mark's Gospel was written first around 62 AD, Luke was written soon after Mark around 65 AD, Matthew around 75 AD, and John around 85 AD. Some of the epistles could be 10 to 15 years earlier. If these dates are close to correct, then the time gap would be 20 to 50 years.
The standard method of preserving Jesus' teachings was retracing what was said to who and when. This method corresponds with the Islamic tradition of verifying Hadith, where some 100 to 150 years after Muhammad died, religious scholars were going back to confirm what Muhammad did and said. Some of those Hadith were accurately verified, but the majority were either unverifiable or fraudulent. With these gospels and epistles being written 20 to 50 years after Jesus' death, Muslims believe there was much time for corruption to occur. First, Muslims believe that the four gospels have textual variants throughout the writings. These variants arise in manuscripts when a copyist makes deliberate or inadvertent alterations to the text that is being reproduced. Second, people pass along stories that put them in a good light or have the desired outcome, whereas, in reality, the result was different. That is the corruption that Muslims experienced in their effort to verify Hadith, and that is what they believe happened here as well. It happened in the search for Hadith; why would the Gospel of Jesus be any different.
Islamic tradition suggests that the New Testament, even while corrupted, is still holding remnants of the truth.