Volume 24, Issue 1, Spring 2019
Thinking with René Girard
The Quranic Jesus
Prophet and Scapegoat
A major theme in René Girard’s work involves the role of the Bible in exposing the scapegoating practices at the basis of culture. The God of the Bible is understood to be a God who takes the side of victims. The God of the Qur’an is also a defender of victims, an idea that recurs throughout the text in the stories of messengers and prophets. In a number of ways, Jesus is unique among the prophets mentioned in the Qur’an. It is argued here that while the Quranic Jesus is distinctly Islamic, and not a Christian derivative, he functions in the Qur’an in a way analogous to the role Jesus plays in the gospels. In its depiction of Jesus, the Qur’an is acutely aware of mimetic rivalry, scapegoating, and the God who comes to the aid of the persecuted. Despite the significant differences between the Christian understanding of Jesus as savior and the way he is understood in the Qur’an, a Girardian interpretation of the Qur’anic Jesus will suggest ways in which Jesus can be a bridge rather than an obstacle in Christian/Muslim dialogue.