How do we understand the Qur’anic verse of Surah V; The Table,116:
“Remember when God said to Jesus son of Mary: Did you really say to people: ‘Take me and my mother as two gods, instead of God?’ He (Jesus) said: ‘Glory be to You! I could never have claimed what I have no right to. If I had said it, You would have known it; You know what is in my mind and I know not what is in Your mind, for it is you Who are the All-Knower of the Unseen.’”
Is the verse “I know not what is in Your mind”, a negation of Christ’s Divinity?
This verse is not a negation of Christ’s divinity. In order to understand it, one should:
a) Place it in its historical context in relation to the polytheist Arabs of the VIIth century.
b) Compare it with the Gospel’s text.
It was difficult to demonstrate to the polytheist Arabs that the unique God became incarnate in the person of Christ. It is clear that they understood Jesus and Mary as two separate gods, comparable to the multiple gods they worshiped. This verse comes to contradict that.
To Compare with the Gospel text
The words of Christ, addressing himself to God: “I know not what is in Your mind” are interpreted by some as a negation of Christ’s Divinity, since He is unaware of what is in God. We demonstrate -in comparing it to the Gospel text- that this hasty interpretation is false, especially that the Qur’an in Surah IV; The Women, 47 presents itself as a confirmation of the Gospel and invites us, moreover, to find the “best of arguments” (Qur’an XXIX; Spider,46), to follow the “Straight Path” towards God (Qur’an I; Al-Fatiha, 6-7).
The Qur’an confirms the words of Christ while addressing his Apostles in the Gospels. They asked him about the end of times and of the moment of his return:
“Tell us, when is this going to happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24,3). He answered them: “But as for that day and hour, nobody knows it, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, no one but the Father only” (Matthew 24,36).
This means that the Christ did not declare “what he had no right to” as this Qur’anic verse states because the Apostles were unable to understanding the immensity of the Divine Plan. This is what is “Unseen” according to the Qur’an.
Besides, the Christ “can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees the Father doing: and whatever the Father does the Son does too” (John 5,19). And also: “I do nothing of myself: what the Father has taught me is what I say” (John 8,28). Some would like to see a negation of Christ’s Divinity from these evangelical verses. This is not so! We explain why below.
Addressing himself to the Jews, Jesus says: “Before Abraham ever was, I am” (John 8,58). This so irritated the Jews that it made them want to stone him to death, understanding that He was presenting himself as God incarnate. How can the Christ already exist before Abraham? Certainly not in his body which was created by God in Mary’s womb, eighteen centuries after Abraham. It is therefore the Spirit of Christ, like God, that existed before Abraham and which itself became incarnate in Mary. Besides, Jesus says: “I came from the Father and have come into the world” (John 16,28). This is the reason for which Jesus adds: “Now, Father, it is time for you to glorify me with that glory I had with you before ever the world was” (John 17,5).
Therefore, we must discern in Christ the physical aspect, his created body, and the divine dimension. It is this eternal and divine dimension that animates and instructs this created body that takes its information from the Father. It is why Jesus had said: “I do nothing of myself. What the Father has taught me is what I preach”, which corresponds to the following verse in the language of the Qur’an: “You know what is in my mind, but I know not (in human form) what is in Your mind”. And in the Gospel’s verse: “I do nothing of myself. What the Father has taught me is what I preach; he who sent me is with me” (John 8,28). The corporal part of the Christ only knows what was revealed to him by the Divine Will. And “the Father loves the Son and shows him everything He does himself” (John 5,20).
However, because of the limit of human intelligence and its inability to grasp “what is unseen (indescribable)” (Qur’an V, The Table, 116), the Son cannot reveal everything, all at once, to a restricted human mentality, opaque to divine plans and to the Divine Essence (The Trinity, The Messiah’s Divinity, The Eucharist, The Crucifixion). In the same verse of the “Table”, Jesus, addressing himself to God, says: “You Who are the All-Knower of the Unseen”. These are such truths that Jesus in this same Qur’anic verse “has no right to tell” to people of limited intelligence.
So then, Christ’s answer is not a negation of his divinity, but a limit to what he could reveal at that moment. It is in a spirit of a paternal pedagogy and divine wisdom that the Christ also says:
“I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you now” (John 16,12).
This will be the Holy Spirit’s mission to reveal, later on, the fullness of the divine mystical plan to those who welcome it:
“The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything” (John 14,26).
“When the Spirit of Truth comes he will lead you to the complete Truth” (John 16,13).
Paul picks up this teaching again in addressing himself to the Corinthians:
1 Corinthians 3,1-3: “Brothers, I myself was unable to speak to you as people of the Spirit: I treated you as sensual men, still infants in Christ. What I fed you with was milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it; and indeed, you are still not for it since you are still not spiritual…”
One must have received the Holy Spirit to understand God and to judge:
“The spiritual person, on the other hand, is able to judge the value of everything, and their own value is not to be judged by other persons.” (1 Corinthians 2,15)
The Holy Spirit is given to us men so that “our minds are to be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that we can put on the New Self that has been created on God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4,23). “For the Spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God…” (1 Corinthians 2,10-15)
How many people in Christ’s time, Muhammad’s time in Arabia, were willing to believe in the divine truths? How many people, still today, twenty centuries after the Christ, are willing to believe in the truths revealed by the Holy Spirit, whose principals are:
- The Holy Trinity
- Jesus is the Christ announced by the prophets (Many do not believe in this amongst the so-called Jews, Christians or Muslims).
- Jesus is the divine incarnation on earth.
- The Kingdom of God as well as his Temple is IN US; this Kingdom being spiritual, not political. It is not a geographic location: Jerusalem, Rome, Mecca, etc…
- The bread and wine taken around Christ’s Holy Table are truly his Body and his Blood.
- Monogamy and marital fidelity.
- The uselessness of animal sacrifice, geographic pilgrimage, clean and unclean foods, etc… for the salvation of the soul.
All these truths -which the Christ revealed through the Holy Spirit after him- could not have been understood by his Apostles and the Arabs at their time… and still are not today by the vast majority of people. The Christ, who acts pedagogically according to the principles of God, could not strike the people of his time and reveal them all these truths to them frankly, at once. It is why he often spoke in parables, knowing that He was addressing himself to people whose hearts are hardened by pleasures, materialism and worldly irregularities. The Apostles themselves did not understand it. In speaking of monogamy and condemning divorce, they replied to him: “‘If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is advisable not to marry.’ But he replied: ‘It is not everyone who can accept what I have said…’” Divine pedagogy appears in these words of Christ: “‘It was because you were so unteachable, that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but it was not like this from the beginning’” (Matthew 19,1-12). The Qur’an also reveals this pedagogy in matters of marriage, passing from capricious polygamy and anarchic divorce to monogamy, passing through the reduction of marriage to four women, then indicating monogamy for salvation (See “A Look of Faith at the Qur’an”).
Neither the Apostles at the time of Christ, nor the Arabs at the time of Muhammad had received the fullness of the Holy Spirit to understand the immensity of the divine plan at man’s service, stubbornly drowned in his ignorance. St Paul himself declares that he received but “the first-fruits of the Spirit” (Romans 8,23).
Jesus followed the divine plan in confiding what is incommunicable to the Holy Spirit. By humbling himself up until the cross, he respected the fragile human condition. God lowered himself through Christ to speak to man face to face. St Paul expressed himself as follows:
“His (Jesus) state was divine, yet he did not cling to his equality with God but emptied himself to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are; and being as all men are, he was humbler yet, even to accepting death, death on a cross. But God raised him high and gave him the name which is above all other names so that all beings in the heavens, on earth and in the underworld, should bend the knee at the name of Jesus and that every tongue should acclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2,6-11).
So Christ was the Father’s instrument to speak to the heart of man, deaf and blind to the divine truths. He incarnated himself then, “to assume the condition of a slave, and became as men are”, to speak to man face to face, then send them his Holy Spirit.
This is why in our time, Christ, Himself again, to complete his work “will manifest himself a second time (but out of the body) to those who are waiting for him (the sensible bridesmaids: Matthew 25), to bring them salvation” (Hebrews 9,28 / 2 Timothy 4,8). He will no longer manifest himself in the body, but by the Holy Spirit.
Christ who said to the Apostles of not knowing the hour of his Return (Matthew 24,36) and who, in the Qur’an, tells the Father of not knowing his secrets, knew very well the hour and the day, and the divine secrets. But this was not the time to reveal the salutary truths, that only the Holy Spirit’s mission is to reveal to those who welcome him in our time.
Blessed are the pure hearts capable of hearing and understanding the whispers of the Holy Spirit.
(See the text “The Divinity of Jesus”).