Summary: Here is a comparison of Jesus and Muhammad as relates to the announcement of their comings, their birth, their early childhood, and their formative years.

5. Setting.

Muhammad was born and raised in the land of Arabia. Seventh-century Arabia was a land of many gods, punctuated here and there with Jewish and Christian communities. The Christianity that came to represent Jesus in that area however was a far cry from the Jerusalem variety of the first century. In the first place, all of Christendom had entered a spiritual recession by this ime. Discipline was relaxed. Morality was decayed. The power of Roman politics had begun to snuff out the life of the once-vibrant fellowship of believers whose faith and example had toppled an Empire.

In its place was a power grab. All that the Roman Empire had been, the supposed church wanted to be. And powerful men determined church doctrine by their own standards, not those of God's Word. Monasticism had begun to rise as a response to this worldliness, but that in itself could not stem the tide of evil that appeared as unregenerate pagans had flooded the membership rolls in response to the church's own persecution of its neighbors.

In Arabia there were many variations of the theme Christian. None of them vibrant echoes of the life of Jesus Christ, the resurrected One. Miracles had all but ceased. Life transformation was all but forgotten. It would be very hard for a citizen of that land to get a good grasp of what being a Christian was all about.

One such manifestation of believers was the Ebionites, that I described earlier. Christian in name but very Jewish in practice. It was this Torah-following, Prophet-seeking, Paul-hating group that produced one Waraquah, relative and friend of the family of Muhammad. He is the one who was called alongside the family to encourage young Muhammad when he was suddenly the victim of a series of frightening revelations, that had him thinking he was demon-possessed.

Not to worry, said his Ebionite uncle, this is surely God. You are surely the Lord's prophet. Spoken by one who with his people had rejected the Lord's finest apostle, the endorsement was not worth a lot.

Jesus too was born and raised in a backslidden land. The Judaism of Jesus' day had fallen on hard times due to its stubborn rebellion against God and His ways. Jews had fallen so often into idolatry that it seemed they were abandoned. Babylonians, Assyrians, Medo-Persians, Greeks, and now Romans had moved into the Holy Land, a place made holy by the promises of God, not at present by His people.

But though it did appear bleak and forsaken, the Holy Land was once more to be visited. One Visit in particular, prophesied for this very time by the prophet Isaiah. See the unfolding of

circumstances through the prophet's eyes:

Isaiah 8:22-9:7. "Then they will look to the earth, and see trouble and darkness, gloom of anguish; and they will be driven into darkness.

Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed, as when at first he lightly esteemed the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali... in Galilee of the Gentiles. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined...

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called...Mighty God..."

Someone, whose name is God, will be born and given to this northern extremity of Israel, the place closest to the conquering hordes, thus the place mixed with the most evil, the place most vulnerable. He will eventually rule and reign all. Jesus Christ was born to a resident of Galilee, and lived most of His life and ministry there.

Though His setting was a place of darkness, within 30 years of His birth, a great light had shined here. Multitudes healed, some raised from the dead, many others delivered from demons, sins forgiven, life eternal shared, a church formed.

Muhammad managed to change his setting from a relatively calm polytheism to a divided and chaotic series of battles over a new religion. Though we applaud the move to one god, we regret that that god is not the one described in our Bible, so that the strivings of those awful years come to naught but continued strife for the world.

Jesus too caused serious changes in His setting, and eventually in the entire Roman Empire. But on the way, countless people have found eternal life with Him, and countless others have felt the positive effects of the Spirit of God in man's individual and societal life.

6. The City and the House.

Muhammad grew up in a pagan setting, believing that the Kabah of holy Mecca was the house of God. Later people would come to believe that this Meccan shrine had originated with Adam, had been destroyed, and then been rebuilt by Abraham and Ishmael, founders of the true faith of God. Protected by a snake it was, says Lings.

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