Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Paul Maier

Second Advisor

Dr. Howard Dooley

Third Advisor

Dr. Timothy McGrew


history, religious studies, pre-Islamic Arabia


This study examines which texts and religious communities existed that could well have contributed to Muhammad’s understanding of Jesus. The most important finding is that the Qur’anic verses mentioning Jesus’ birth, certain miracles, and his crucifixion bear close resemblance to sectarian texts dating as early as the second century. Accordingly, the idea that such verses from the Qur’an involving Jesus are original productions of the seventh century should be reconsidered.

The research covers a series of significant topics that support these findings. They include theological conflicts in third century Arabia; the interaction between Christian monks, Saracens, Arabs, and Ishmaelites; sectarian texts in and near Arabia that likely formed a model for the Qur’anic Jesus; initial reactions to Muhammad; and an overall analysis of the verses in the Qur’an that mention Jesus.

This study validates the conclusion that certain non-biblical, Jesus-based narratives remained current in and near Arabia and were accessible to Muhammad. As a result, Muhammad presented a Jesus considered unique to his personal religious experiences. This Jesus, however, appears to have developed from non-biblical, pre-Islamic texts and the groups who kept these stories alive.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access