Jesus and Muhammad are two figures, two dominant figures, in a broad landscape that also features, as their peer and indeed their quite explicit prototype, the biblical Moses. The landscape is, of course, that of the three great monotheistic siblings—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—whose genesis, evolution, and confrontations I have spelled out in The Monotheists: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in Conflict and Competition, 2 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002). Earlier I had collected the pertinent textual evidence regarding all three in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: The Classical Texts and Their Interpretation, 3 vols. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990). Finally, the matter of both works is resumed more briefly, with supplementary reading, in my Children of Abraham: A New Edition (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004).
The long quests for Jesus and Muhammad have been recorded in some detail, particularly that for Jesus since it has been the subject of considerable argument. It can be joined in high-volume rivalrous progress in Marcus Borg, Jesus in Contemporary Scholarship (Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1994); Ben Witherington, The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1995); Luke Timothy Johnson, The True Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996); William E. Arnal and Michael Desjardins, eds., Whose Historical Jesus? (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 1997), particularly the contribution there of Larry W. Hurtado, “A Taxonomy of Recent Historical-Jesus Work,” 272–95; and finally, James D. G. Dunn, A New Perspective on Jesus: What the Quest for the Historical Jesus Missed (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005). The Muhammad quest, which is considerably less high-spirited, is also less caught up in reports of its own progress, perhaps because there has been so little; see, however, Clinton Bennett, In Search of Muhammad (London: Cassell, 1998), 93–138, “Non-Muslim Lives: From the Renaissance to Today.”
The position of Jesus in Christianity as Messiah, Lord, and Savior was already fixed before Paul; see Larry W. Hurtado, How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God? Historical Questions about Earliest Devotion to Jesus (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2005). All that remained was to work out its liturgical expression in worship and fashion an explanation in theology. For the first, Dom Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy (1945; rpt. with additional notes by Paul V. Marshall, New York: Seabury Press, 1985), remains the classic treatment, though with the progress noted in Paul F. Bradshaw, The Search for the Origins of Christian Worship: Sources and Methods for the Study of the Early Liturgy (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992); and for the second, Alois Grillmeier, Christ in Christian Tradition, rev. ed. (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975), is a reliable guide to the theology, and Jaroslav Pelikan, Jesus through the Centuries: His Place in the History of Culture (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985), sketches the broader cultural picture.
The role of Muhammad in the less institutionalized Islam is more complex, but Uri Rubin, The Eye of the Beholder: The Life of Muhammad as Viewed by the Early Muslims (Princeton: Darwin Press, 1995), and Annemarie Schimmel, And Muhammad Is His Messenger: The Veneration of the Prophet in Islamic Piety (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1985), cover the ground fully and well.
Looking across the Divide
The evolving, and highly polemical, Christian view of Muhammad is traced in detail in Norman Daniel, Islam and the West: The Making of an Image, rev. ed. (Oxford: Oneworld, 1993), and, more analytically and with an emphasis on more modern approaches, Maxime Rodinson, “A Critical Survey of Modern Studies on Muhammad,” in Merlin Swartz, ed., Studies on Islam (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981), 23–85. In addition to Georges Anawati’s article “”Isa” in the Encyclopaedia of Islam (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1961–) and its parallel by Neal Robinson, “Jesus” in the Encyclopedia of the Qur’an (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 2001–2006), 3:7–20, the comparative treatment by Robinson, Christ in Islam and Christianity (Albany: SUNY Press, 1991), is highly useful for the present purpose. And the surprisingly rich trove of Jesus’ sayings, which are revealing of Muslim attitudes though of no demonstrable historical value for Jesus himself, is presented by Tarif Khalidi, The Muslim Jesus: Sayings and Stories in Islamic Literature (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001).
Galilee and Palestine
There is a brief but richly detailed portrait of the Galilean political and social milieu in John S. Kloppenborg, Excavating Q: The History and Setting of the Sayings Gospel (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clarke, 2000), 214–61, with a full review of earlier work. See in particular Sean Freyne, Jesus, a Jewish Galilean: A New Reading of the Jesus Story (New York: Continuum, 2004), (p.185) and his survey of Galilean scholarship in Galilee and Gospel: Selected Essays (Tübingen: J. C. C. Mohr, 2000), 1–26. Also useful are the papers collected in Lee I. Levine, The Galilee of Late Antiquity (New York: Jewish Theological Seminary of America, 1992), and Richard Horsley, Archaeology, History, and Society in Galilee: The Social Context of Jesus and the Rabbis (Valley Forge: Trinity Press International, 1996).
The archaeological evidence from Palestine as it pertains to Jesus’ world is authoritatively collected and reviewed in Jack Finegan, The Archaeology of the New Testament (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), and in the papers more recently published in James Charlesworth, ed., Jesus and Archeology (Grand Rapids:William B. Eerdmans, 2006).
The literary sources that serve to fill in the background on Jesus’ time and place are set out in detail in Emil Schürer, The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, 175 B.C.–A.D. 135, revised and edited by Geza Vermes and Fergus Millar, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clarke, 1973), 17–124, “The Sources.” The biblical apocrypha are available in English in James H. Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, 2 vols. (Garden City: Doubleday New York, 1983), and H. D. F. Sparks, ed., The Apocryphal Old Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984). On the notion of a Scriptural canon for Jews and Christians, see my own The Voice, the Word, the Books: The Sacred Scriptures of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007), 39–67.
There is a full appreciation of Roman powers and practices and Jewish restrictions and privileges in Roman Judea between AD 6 and 41 in Schürer, History of the Jewish People, 1:359–98.
The portrait of first-century Jews and Judaism that emerges from Josephus and our other sources is displayed in Schürer, History of the Jewish People, 1:125–560 for the history, and vol. 2 (1979) for the religious background, with special attention to “Messianism” (488–554) and the Essenes of Qumran (555–90). For another illuminating perspective on the Jewish enterprise of that era, see Shaye J. D. Cohen, From the Maccabees to the Mishnah, 2nd ed. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006), and for the range of opinions, Robert Kraft and George W. E. Nickelsburg, eds., Early Judaism and Its Modern Interpreters (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1996).
Two presentations by scholars in the forefront of the quest for the historical Jesus are worthy of particular note. E. P. Sanders, Judaism, Practice, and Belief, 63 BCE–66 CE (Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1992), is a full-scale portrait of a religious culture (and Jesus is moved convincingly into it in Sanders’ Jesus and Judaism [Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985]); briefer but no less substantial and illuminating are the pages devoted to “First Century Judaism within the Greco-Roman World” in N. T. Wright’s The New Testament and the People of God (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), 145–338.
For the apocalyptic background of the New Testament, there are John J. Collins, The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to the Jewish Matrix of Christianity (New York: (p.186) Crossroad, 1985), and Adela Yarbro Collins, Cosmology and Eschatology in Jewish and Christian Apocalypticism (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1996).
The Dead Sea Scrolls are readily available in English in Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Penguin, 2004).
On the issue of messianism, the symposium papers edited by James H. Charlesworth, The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Christianity and Judaism (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1992), cover all the ground, but see too John J. Collins, The Scepter and the Star: The Messiahs of the Dead Sea Scrolls and Other Ancient Literatures (New York: Doubleday, 1995), and Stanley E. Porter, The Messiah in the Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2007), which survey the whole field. On Qumran messianism, see, more precisely, Lawrence H. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls (New York: Doubleday, 1995), 315–68; Vermes, Complete Dead Sea Scrolls, 84–90.
Muhammad’s Arab and Arabian Background
The classic studies on Muhammad’s background are those of Julius Wellhausen, Reste arabischen Heidentums (Berlin, 1897), relying heavily on Ibn al-Kalbi; the first volume of Leone Caetani’s monumental Annali dell’Islam (Milan: Hoepli, 1905); and, among the works of Henri Lammens, La Mecque à la Veille de l’Hégire (Beyrouth: Imprimerie Catholique, 1924). It is their work, particularly the extensive studies of Lammens, that provides the background for the influential analyses of E. Wolf, “The Social Organization of Mecca and the Origins of Islam,” Southwestern Journal of Anthropology (1951): 329–56; W. Montgomery Watt, Muhammad at Mecca (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1953); and the discussion in Maxime Rodinson, Islam and Capitalism (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1978), 254 n. 3.
For the pre-Islamic Arabs on the broad canvas of Arabia and the Middle East, there is Robert G. Hoyland, Arabia and the Arabs from the Bronze Age to the Coming of Islam (London: Routledge, 2001), and for recent work more precisely on the pre-Islamic background of Mecca and the Hijaz, see the studies reprinted in my Arabs and Arabia on the Eve of Islam (Aldershot: Ashgate Variorum, 1999), particularly those of Walter Dostal, Gerald Hawting, Uri Rubin, and Ugo Fabietti; and my own attempt to reconstruct something out of them in Mecca: A Literary History of the Muslim Holy Land (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), chap. 1, “A Speculative History of Mecca in the Age of Ignorance.”
For attempts at reconstructing the Arab paganism encountered by Muhammad, see the already cited Wellhausen, Reste; Gonzague Ryckmans, Les religions arabes préislamiques (Louvain, 1951); the studies by Henninger and Serjeant reprinted in my Arabs and Arabia; and Hoyland, Arabia and the Arabs, 139–45, with a bibliography, 296–98. For the evolution of many Islamic rituals out of pre-Islamic practice, see the articles collected in Gerald R. Hawting, ed., The Development of Islamic Ritual (Aldershot: Ashgate Variorum, 2006), and, on the difficulty of connecting Islam back to that past, Hawting, The Idea of Idolatry and the Emergence of Islam: From Polemic to History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999). Information on the origins and development of the hajj is collected in my book The (p.187) Hajj: The Muslim Pilgrimage to Mecca and the Holy Places (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), 3–59.
Of great importance are the pioneering efforts of M. J. Kister to sort out the various and scattered Muslim reports on the pre-Islamic era; his work was first collected in his Studies in Jahiliyya and Early Islam (London: Variorum Reprints, 1980), and his own and his students’ subsequent writing on the same subject fill the pages of successive volumes of the journal Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam. For the demolition of the myth of Mecca as a great pre-Islamic trading emporium, see Patricia Crone, Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987).