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The Death of Jesus: Comparing Christian, Jewish, and Muslim Accounts
Christian, Jewish, and Muslim representations of how Jesus/Yeshu/`Isa died developed
over centuries, promoting very different understandings and valuations of the event
itself, its aftermath, and its significance. At stake in these competing narrations
were claims about messiahship, prophethood, divine sonship—and God’s favored people.
This talk involves a close weighing side by side of (a) select Christian interpretations
of the meaning of Jesus’s death in Gospels, creeds, and art; (b) two Jewish writings—a
parody of the life of Yeshu/Jesus and a 7th-century apocalypse foretelling the imminent
appearance of the messiah, Menahem; and (c) alternative treatments of `Isa’s/Jesus’s
death in the Qur’an, among its interpreters, and in Muslim paintings. The comparison
of these competing narratives concerning the death of Jesus exposes the sharp differences
of viewpoint and argument that contributed to the divergence and independent existences
of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam as religions. At the same time, all three communities
continue to have in common a core mentality and set of traditions that are eschatological
in nature; each is intently aware of the approach of the day of judgment.
Robert Gregg, Teresa Hihn Moore Professor in Religious Studies, Emeritus, Stanford
Robert Gregg’s teaching and writing focus on religious competition in the Mediterranean region from the 1st century BCE to the 15th century CE, with particular attention to interactions among Jews, Roman polytheists (“pagans”), Christians, and Muslims. His 2015 book, Shared Stories, Rival Tellings: Early Encounters of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, compares and contrasts five narratives present in the two Bibles and the Qur’an. He was the Dean for Religious Life at Stanford from 1987 through 1999 and director of Stanford’s Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies from 2003 through 2009.