CHAPTER 1

God did choose Adam and Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of Amran above

    all people:

    Offspring, one of the other; and God hears and knows all things.

    Behold! a woman of the family of Amran was with child and said, O my Lord! I do  dedicate unto You what is in my womb for     Your special service, so accept it from me. For You hear and know all things.

    So when she brought it forth, she said, My Lord! surely I have brought it forth a female. (This she said because only a     male child could be dedicated to the temple service under the law of Moses, but God knew best what He had willed.) And     the male is not like the female. I name the child Mary and commend her and her offspring into Your protection from the  accursed devil.

    And the Lord accepted her with graciousness; He made her grow in purity and beauty and gave her into the charge of   Zacharias. (Note 1)

    Now Zacharias was a priest who used to burn incense in the temple and exhort people to pray and to glorify God; (Note 2)     his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth:

    And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

And they had no child because Elisabeth was barren and they both were now well stricken in years.(Note 3)

    And every time Zacharias entered the sanctuary to see Mary, he found her supplied with sustenance. He said, O Mary!     Whence comes this to you? She said, From God, for God provides sustenance to whom He pleases without measure. (Note 4)

    And as he watched and listened to Mary in the sanctuary, Zacharias prayed in a whisper, O Lord! surely my bones are     weakened and my head flares with hoariness, and my Lord! I have never been unblest in my prayer to You.

    Now I fear what my relatives will do after me, and my wife is barren, so grant me from Thyself an heir.

    Who receives my heritage and the heritage of the children of Jacob, and make him, O   my Lord, one in whom You are well     pleased. (Note 5)

    And it came to pass that Zacharias was burning incense in the temple and a multitude of the people were praying without.

    And there appeared to him angels, and they said, God gives you the good news of a son, whose name shall be John,     verifying a word from God. (Note 6)

    He will be honorable and chaste and a prophet and of the goodly company of the righteous. And God has not made any one     true to the name John before him.

    Zacharias said, O' my Lord! how shall I have a son, when my wife is barren and I have grown quite decrepit from age?

    The angels said, So it will be: your Lord says, It is easy for Me. I did indeed create you before when you had been     nothing.

    Zacharias said, O my Lord! Give me a sign. He answered, Your sign shall be that you shall speak to no man for three days     and three nights except by signs, although you are not dumb.

    Then Zacharias came out from the sanctuary, and he told people by signs to glorify God in the morning and in the evening.     (Note 7)

    And God cured the barrenness of Elisabeth, and she bore John that God may anoint him to be the priest of the house of     Aaron (Note 8) whom He promised to Israel aforetime.

    So peace on John, the day that he was born, and the day that he will die and the day that he will be raised to life     again!

    Go to Chapter 2

Notes (Chapter 1)

1Qur`an 3:33-37. [return]

2Qur`an 19:11. [return]

3Luke 1:5-9. [return]

4Qur`an 3:37. [return]

5Quran 19:3-6. [return]

6The words "verifying a word from God" can be understood in two ways:

        "A word from God" may be understood as a promise of God, and "verifying" may be interpreted as "fulfilling." Then the   sense would be that John came in fulfillment of a promise of God, meaning that he was one of the figures whose   coming was predicted in the Jewish prophetic tradition.

         In Qur`an 3:45, Jesus is called "a word from God," and so we may assume here a reference to Jesus and understand the  verse as saying that John came confirming Jesus' mission.

Both meanings are consistent with the Gospel tradition which presents John as a promised messianic figure (Mark 9:13; 1:6; Matt. 11:74; 17:12) as well as one who comes to prepare the way for Jesus (Luke 1:17, etc). Given the subtlety of the Qur`anic language, it seems likely that both meanings are intended. [return]

7Quran 3:38-41; 19:7-15; Luke 1:9-25. The word "sammiyya" used in Qur`an 19:7 can mean "namesake," but in the Quran, "name" is more than a word used to refer to a thing or a person: it is something that embodies the character of that thing (cf. Quran 2:31-33). Consequently, "sammiyya" means one sharing with a person or thing a name and the character described by that name. Now "John," in Hebrew Yohanan, means "God favoured him," and, therefore, the meaning of the Quranic verse would be that there was no one before John who was truly favored of God and was so named. [return]

8Mark (1:6; 9:13) and Matthew (11:14; 17;12) identify John with Elias, who was believed to return in the last days (Mal. 4:5-6). The Gospel of John, however, expressly and firmly denies this identification (1:19-25). A possible synthesis of the two traditions is provided by Luke, which says that John came "in the spirit and power of Elias" (1:17). To these facts we must add the observation that in the Jewish tradition, especially the Qumran tradition, which is known to influence Christianity greatly, there existed expectation of three messianic figures: a priest of the house of Aaron, a king of the line of David, and a prophet of the category of Moses; moreover, Elias was sometimes believed to return as the (messianic) priest of the house of Aaron, who was to come in the company of the messianic king. (See G. R. Driver, The Judean Scrolls, Schocken Books, New York, 1965, pp. 464-466.) All this seems to suggest the view, taken in this gospel, that John and Jesus corresponded to the figures of the messianic priest and the messianic king, and that we should not take the identification of John the Baptist with Elias made by Mark and Matthew literally, but, like Luke, take it to mean that the Baptist performed the same role that Elias was sometimes believed to perform at his return, namely, the role of the messianic priest. This view is also consistent with the Qur`an, which accepts Jesus as the Messiah (see Note 2, Chapter 2) and while making a distinction between John and Elias (6:85) does suggest that the Baptist was one of the figures promised to Israel. (See Note 6 above.)

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